|Progressive Calendar 04.21.08||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2008 20:32:08 -0700 (PDT)|
w P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 04.21.08 1. Kamakazi/film 4.22 5pm 2. Homeless GLBT 4.22 6pm 3. Guatemala 4.22 6:30pm 4. Iraq 4.22 6:30pm 5. TC trolley 4.22 6:30pm 6. RNC/rights 4.22 7pm 7. New Deal hist 4.22 7pm 8. Mizna 4.22 7:30pm 9. Women's rights 4.23 12noon StCloud MN 10. RNC/speech 4.23 1pm 11. Castro/film 4.23 6:30pm 12. Red Elvis/f 4.23 7pm 13. Patrick McDonnell - Paraguay elects ex-bishop as new president 14. Simon Romero - Ecuador's leader moves to expel American base 15. James Petras - Venezuela: democracy, socialism & imperialism pt3 --------1 of 15-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Kamakazi/film 4.22 5pm Tuesday, 4/22, 5 pm, MSP Film Fest documentary "Wings of Defeat" about the Japanese kamikazi pilots who survived, a story of the dangers of fanaticism and militarism, St Anthony Theater, 115 Main St NE, Mpls. http://www.mspfilmfest.org/2008/ --------2 of 15-------- From: hosthome [at] avenuesforyouth.org Subject: Homeless GLBT 4.22 6pm SEEKING COMMUNITY On any given night in Minnesota, there are 204-215 GLBT youth who are homeless. (Wilder Research 2006) One of the ways that the Twin Cities' community is addressing this problem is through the GLBT Host Home Program of Avenues for Homeless Youth, which offers an exciting approach to providing homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth with safe homes. As volunteers of the program, adults open their homes and their hearts to young people who need and are looking for a healthy and nurturing connection. If you are interested in hearing more about this community-based program, please come to one of the following informational meetings: Tuesday, April 22, 6-8pm Midtown YWCA 2121 East Lake Street Minneapolis, MN 55407 www.ywca-minneapolis.org OR Wednesday, April 23, 6-8pm @ Family and Children's Service 4123 East Lake Street Minneapolis, MN 55406-2028 www.fcsmn.org OR Thursday, April 24, 6-8pm @ Avenues for Homeless Youth 1708 Oak Park Ave. N. Minneapolis, MN 55411 www.avenuesforyouth.org Come learn about the history of the GLBT Host Home Program and about the application and screening process for potential volunteers. You will also have an opportunity to hear from hosts who shared their homes with youth. See you there! Questions? Call Raquel (Rocki) at Avenues for Homeless Youth: 612-522-1690, ext. 110. --------3 of 15-------- From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Guatemala 4.22 6:30pm Pax Salon: Guatamala Tuesday, April 22, 6:30 p.m. Mad Hatter's Teahouse, 943 West 7th Street, St. Paul. Two human rights observers in Guatamala will give a review of the history of Guatamala, the war and the current situation. Suggested donation of $3.00 to $5.00 includes treat and program. FFI: Call 651-227-32281 or visit <www.justcomm.org/pax-salon>. --------4 of 15-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Iraq 4.22 6:30pm Tuesday, 4/22, 6:30 to 8:30 pm, free Community Forum on the Middle East with career Foreign Service officer Tom Hanson, St John/St Benedict poly sci prof Gary Prevost, in a panel about policy choices in the war in Iraq, followed by audience questions, Washburn High Auditorium, 201 W 49th St, Mpls. 612-668-3450 or http://www.micglobe.org --------5 of 15-------- From: PRO826 [at] aol.com Subject: TC trolley 4.22 6:30pm The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul Book Signing & Talk: John Diers and Aaron Isaacs, authors of _Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul_ (http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/D/diers_twin.html) Tuesday, April 22, 2008 6:30 pm Washburn Community Education Washburn High School 201 W. 49th St. Minneapolis, MN 55419 See the city as it once was-a pictorial history of the trolleys that traversed Twin Cities neighborhoods. --------6 of 16-------- From: rnc08 [at] riseup.net Subject: RNC/rights 4.22 7pm 2008 RNC Training Know your rights. Know your options. Protect yourself! Protect your community! Coldsnap Legal Collective National Lawyers Guild - MN Chapter & MPJC-SDS present "Know Your Rights" For the 2008 RNC Tuesday, April 22, 2008 7:00 pm-8:30 pm Macalester College Saint Paul, MN 1600 Grand Avenue in the basement of Weyerhauser Chapel Southeast corner of Grand Ave & Macalester Street For directions, please visit: http://www.macalester.edu/about/directions.html Campus Map: http://www.macalester.edu/about/mapbynumber.html . All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact: coldsnap [at] riseup.net For more on the Coldsnap Legal Collective visit: http://coldsnaplegal.wordpress.com/ --------7 of 15-------- From: Peter Rachleff <rachleff [at] macalester.edu> Subject: New Deal history 4.22 7pm "Untold Stories," the annual labor history series sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, continues on Tuesday evening, April 22, with Colin Gordon, Professor of History at the University of Iowa, discussing "The Promise and Limits of the New Deal." Gordon explored these issues in his widely read book, NEW DEALS: BUSINESS, LABOR, AND POLITICS IN AMERICA, 1920-1935 (Cambidge University Press, 1994), and his talk continues this year's series theme, "The 75th Anniversary of the New Deal." Gordon is also the author of DEAD ON ARRIVAL: THE POLITICS OF HEALTH CARE REFORM IN 20TH CENTURY AMERICA (Princeton University Press, 2004). Gordon's talk is free and open to all. It will be held at the Rice Street Library, 1011 Rice Street, St. Paul, at 7PM. For more information, call 651-222-3242. --------8 of 15-------- From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] GMAIL.COM> Subject: Mizna 4.22 7:30pm Journal Release Party with invited writer Susan Abulhawa. 5/22 @ 7:30 pm, @ Open Book, 1011 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis, $5 Join Mizna to celebrate their publication of Volume 10, Issue 1 of their literary journal - the Family Issue. See local writers read from their work and join them for a reception. This event is coupled with the visit of Arab American writer, Susan Abulhawa. Cosponsored by the Loft, Dunn Bros Coffee and the University of Minnesota. Mizna is a forum for Arab American art. For more information: http://www.mizna.org --------9 of 15-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: Women's rights 4.23 12noon StCloud MN Wednesday, April 23: Women's Center St. Cloud State University. Women on Wednesday - Still Fighting for Our Rights 30 Years Later presents Activism & Social Change in the Anti-Sexual Assault Movement with Dresden Quinn Jones, Program Coordinator for the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at the MN Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Noon-1 PM. Atwood Theatre, Atwood Memorial Center. --------10 of 15-------- From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at] visi.com> Subject: RNC speech 4.23 1pm Communities United Against Police Brutality KEEP UP THE FIGHT FOR FREE SPEECH! PS&RS Meeting Wednesday, April 23 1:00 p.m. Minneapolis City Hall 350 S 5th Street, Rm 317 When we last reported on the machinations of free speech in Minneapolis, the "Free Speech" Working Group was looking at three proposals - two would require mandatory permits and one would "encourage" voluntary permits, even for demonstrations on sidewalks that don't block the streets or pedestrian traffic. We are, of course, opposed to all of these measures - even the "voluntary" scheme would allow the police chief to be the sole arbiter on who gets permits and would allow the cops to change the rules "on the fly" - while an event is in progress. See the statement below for a full analysis of why we oppose these measures. The fight for free speech has moved to a new stage as the city council essentially relieved the "Free Speech" Working Group of their duties after it appeared that the group was leaning strongly in favor of the proposal for voluntary permits. This didn't square well with certain more reactionary city council members, who want to use this opportunity to force through a highly restrictive ordinance that would hamstring the community for years to come. At its last meeting, the Public Safety & Regulatory Services (PS&RS) committee thanked the working group for its efforts and took the ball back out of their court, ordering the city attorney's office to prepare a "staff recommendation" [read: legal justification for what the council president wants] to be presented at the next meeting. April 23rd is this next meeting. The meeting after, May 7, other members of the "Free Speech" Working Group will have their turn to talk, including the police chief and fire chief. Finally, on May 21 there MAY be a public hearing (no guarantees) and then the committee will take a vote. Note the elaboate effort to block out all input from the community. THAT'S WHY YOU NEED TO BE AT THIS NEXT MEETING. We need to sit right out front and let it be known that we will not go passively away while they decimate our First Amendment rights. And we need to be at every meeting along the way, objecting to their efforts to clamp down on free speech. So mark your calendars now: April 23, May 7, May 21, all at 1:00 p.m. STATEMENT ON PERMITS FOR FREE SPEECH In recent months, the city councils of Minneapolis and St. Paul formed "Free Speech" Working Groups ostensibly to "protect" free speech during the Republican National Convention. However, these groups have met secretively and pressed for new ordinances that would clamp down on dissent and criminalize activities that are perfectly legal if engaged in for purposes other than protest. St. Paul has already passed a draconian ordinance and has begun "practicing" use of it on protesters. Protest on sidewalks that doesn't obstruct pedestrian or vehicle traffic has always been legal and has never required a permit, since it is no different than people gathering to cheer on their sports team, watch a parade, or for any other purpose. The St. Paul ordinance has changed this, and individuals protesting peacefully at an embassy in St. Paul recently felt the "iron heel" of the state when police announced a dispersal order and rushed in to arrest people as they were dispersing. The Minneapolis "Free Speech" Working Group is working to craft a similar law. There are three proposals on the tabletwo requiring mandatory registration and one on voluntary registration. We oppose all proposals for regulation of free speech on general principle. We reject the "need" for government "protection" of our free speech. The First Amendment to the Constitution IS our permit to protest. Under this amendment, the government is prohibited from "abridging the freedom of speech...or the right of the people peaceably to assemble..." We neither need nor ask the City of Minneapolis or any other governmental entity to "protect" or "guarantee" our right to free speech. The proper role of the government regarding free speech is not to protect it, but to GET OUT OF OUR WAY as we practice what is already guaranteed to us as a right. The First Amendment is there to protect US from THEMthe government. Permitting schemes are unneeded and won't be obeyed. Permitting schemes are a solution in search of a problem. Twin Cities activists have a long history of well organized protest. We do a far better job at marshalling our own crowds than the police ever could. No one has ever been injured during a protest except by actions of police. Even during protests in the streets (which already require permits), protesters are quick to move aside for ambulances and other emergency vehiclesfar faster than the cars that would normally be on the streets. Members of the Minneapolis "Free Speech" Working Group have repeatedly stated that their primary interest in creating a permitting process is to "gather information" on protestsinformation they are simply not entitled to. Why would the city need to know when people are going to use a sidewalk? The bottom line: People are going to protest the Republican National Convention. Some will cooperate with the permit scheme but the vast majority will not even be aware of it or will choose to ignore it on principle. No one else gathering on a sidewalk is required to get a permitwhy should people practicing free speech be any different? Permitting schemes are an invitation to police violence against protesters. Current law requires permits for demonstrations that block the streets. Proposals under consideration by the Minneapolis city council would criminalize merely gathering on the sidewalk with the intent of expressing political speech. Not only is this unconstitutional but would give copswho often look for excuses to violate the rights of protestersanother tool for repressing dissent. With the city spending large sums of money on Tasers and other weaponry, police will be eager to ply these weapons on protesters. We have already seen this in action at the September 2007 Critical Mass bicycle ride, in which hundreds were pepper sprayed, Tased and beaten while legally riding their bicycles. The Bush Administration and other Republican leaders are the REAL lawbreakers. What are the cities doing to protect US from them? While Minneapolis and St. Paul are expending great energy figuring out ways to clamp down on free speech, they are giving free reign to real lawbreakersof national and international laws regarding wars of aggression, torture, human rights, and so much more. These are people who are responsible for the deaths of millions. They kill people to steal their oil. They ply oppressive measures such as roadblocks and checkpoints throughout Iraq and Palestine. Why are the cities spending enormous amounts of money and effort to control protests when true criminals will be openly coming to our cities? Shouldn't they be making plans to arrest and prosecute these criminals? Why are blatant lawbreakers welcomed as an "opportunity" while protesters are seen as "the problem"? Both groups will bring large numbers of people to the Twin Cities, spending money, and bringing the attention that our city leaders crave. Both will cause some disruptions in the daily lives of our local community. Yet the cities have been working for over a year to accommodate the RNC while pulling out all the stops to thwart and frustrate the planning efforts of protest leaders with excessive delays and constructive denials of the permits we have applied for, unnecessary restrictions on our activities and other tactics. Through this conduct, the cities already show a preference and take a political stand in favor of rich lawbreakers over the community. Whatif anythingshould the cities do toward free speech? If members of the city councils really wished to respect our First Amendment rights, they would remove the burdensome permit processes in place in both cities' parks. They would eliminate ordinances blocking the use of amplified sound at demonstrations. They would craft policies that reign in police and reduce the risk of police violence during protests. These, rather than new restrictions on the practice of free speech, would leave a positive legacy long after the RNC leaves town. --------11 of 15-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Castro/film 4.23 6:30pm Wednesday, 4/23, 6:30 pm, MN Cuba Committee presents Oliver Stone's documentary "Comandante" about Fidel Castro, Anderson Hall, room 250, U of M West Bank, 257 - 19th Ave SE, Mpls. mncuba [at] gmail.com or http://groups.msn.com/minnesotacubacommittee --------12 of 15-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Red Elvis/film 4.23 7pm Wednesday, 4/23, 7 pm, documentary "Red Elvis," about singer/cowboy/activist/sometime filmmaker Dean Reed, who spent 10 days in Hannepin County jail on a hunger strike with Marv Davidov. Reed had defected to East Germany. St Anthony Theater, 115 Main St NE, Mpls. http://www.mspfilmfest.org/2008/ --------13 of 15-------- [USA NO! Latin America SI! -ed] Paraguay Elects Ex-Bishop as New President By Patrick J. McDonnell The Los Angeles Times Sunday 20 April 2008 The ruling party concedes power after six decades. Left-leaning Fernando Lugo ran on a platform of "change." Asuncion, Paraguay - A former Roman Catholic bishop who championed the downtrodden and challenged the long-entrenched political elite was elected Paraguay's president Sunday, ending six decades of one-party rule in this South American nation. Fernando Lugo, 56, dubbed "the bishop of the poor," was leading by 10 percentage points with more than 90% of the results in, electoral officials said. He had about 41% of the vote to about 31% for his chief opponent, Blanca Ovelar of the ruling Colorado Party. Ovelar called the margin of victory "irreversible" and conceded defeat in the evening. Lugo's victory was historic in Paraguay, where the Colorado Party has held power even longer than the communist regimes of China, North Korea and Cuba. Spurring his triumph was widespread discontent with the ruling party's long record of corruption, cronyism and economic stagnation. The election of Lugo was the latest triumph by a left-leaning leader in Latin America, where a so-called pink tide of democratically elected presidents has altered the region's political map in recent years. "The humble citizens are the ones responsible for this change," Lugo said at a downtown news conference as his lead grew. "Paraguayans have taken a great step toward civic maturity.... We have opened a new page in this nation's political history." Thousands of Lugo's backers, many waving Paraguayan flags, gathered Sunday evening in the streets of this tropical capital to celebrate. Joyous supporters sang, banged drums, set off fireworks and honked vehicle horns as word spread that the upstart ex-cleric was headed for victory. The bearded, bespectacled Lugo, who has never held political office, ran on the same "change" motto that has become a buzzword of the U.S. presidential race. Lugo vowed to alter the course of his landlocked nation of 6.6 million best known in much of the world for its rampant contraband, crushing poverty and bleak history of dictatorship under a former Colorado Party leader. Many Paraguayans immigrate to neighboring Argentina and Brazil, as well as to Europe and the United States, in search of economic opportunities. Lugo said he would fight endemic corruption, institute long-delayed agrarian reform, invest in education and social needs, and renegotiate Paraguay's income from two huge hydroelectric projects with Brazil and Argentina. He argued that Paraguay was failing to benefit from the massive amounts of excess electricity its dams produce. The days of relying on ruling-party contacts for jobs and other needs will end, Lugo declared. Supporters said his time as a priest and bishop cemented his honest image in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation. "This country needs a change," said Natalia Talavera, 26, a first-time voter and mother of two who cast her ballot at a public school downtown. "I voted for change, for Fernando Lugo. I just hope they let him have the victory he deserves." Lugo had been leading in polls, but many experts had doubted that he could overcome the Colorado Party's well-oiled political machine. However, the Colorados suffered a divisive primary fight that weakened support. And Ovelar, a former education minister, lacked charisma and the political skill of other party stalwarts. Lugo survived a nasty campaign during which opponents tried to link him to terrorists, guerrillas, kidnapping gangs and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Lugo denied any links to armed groups and denied that he would be a puppet of Venezuela's leftist leader. The U.S. Embassy kept a low profile during the heated campaign, as diplomats sought to avoid any hint that Washington was meddling in Paraguayan affairs. Even before Lugo's election seemed assured, international observers said the voting appeared clean and without disruptive incidents, apart from some scuffles at polling sites. Lugo and others had voiced fears that ruling-party operatives would attempt widespread fraud. "My congratulations go out to Paraguayans," said former Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia, who headed an observation mission from the Organization of American States. "People were able to exercise their democratic right to vote. This is a historic day for Paraguay and for Latin America." Lugo, who stepped down from the priesthood to seek the presidency, is believed to be the first former Catholic bishop to be elected a chief of state. Despite his rhetoric, he has refused to be labeled a leftist, saying he is a centrist responding to the needs of the downtrodden and the teachings of Liberation Theology, a Catholic doctrine favoring the poor and subjugated. The Vatican has assailed Liberation Theology for Marxist tendencies. The Vatican also contends that Lugo remains a priest and has violated church law by seeking political office. But Lugo says he is no longer a priest. How that dispute will be resolved remains unclear. Rumors have swirled here that some resolution is in the works between Rome and Asuncion. The election is a clear rebuke of outgoing President Nicanor Duarte Frutos, who is barred by the constitution from seeking reelection. He pushed for the controversial candidacy of Ovelar, who will go down in Paraguayan history as the Colorado Party's biggest loser. She would have been the country's first female president. The Colorado Party's time in power includes the 35-year dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, the anti-communist strongman who was ousted in 1989. But the party survived Stroessner and went on to dominate almost two decades of shaky democracy - until Sunday's stunning defeat. Once his victory is certified, Lugo will take office Aug. 15 for a five-year term. --------14 of 15-------- Ecuador's Leader Purges Military and Moves to Expel American Base By Simon Romero The New York Times Monday 21 April 2008 Manta, Ecuador - Chafing at ties between American intelligence agencies and Ecuadorean military officials, President Rafael Correa is purging the armed forces of top commanders and pressing ahead with plans to cast out more than 100 members of the American military from an air base here in this coastal city. Mr. Correa - who this month dismissed his defense minister, army chief of intelligence and commanders of the army, air force and joint chiefs - said that Ecuador's intelligence systems were "totally infiltrated and subjugated to the C.I.A." He accused senior military officials of sharing intelligence with Colombia, the Bush administration's top ally in Latin America. The dismissals point to a willingness by Mr. Correa, an ally of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, to aggressively confront Ecuador's military, a bastion of political and economic power in this coup-prone country of 14 million people. Mr. Correa's moves mark a clear break with his predecessors, illustrating his wager that Ecuador's institutions may finally be resilient enough to carry out such changes after more than a decade of political upheaval. The gambit also poses a clear challenge to the United States. For nearly a decade, the base here in Manta has been the most prominent American military outpost in South America and an important facet of the United States' drug-fighting efforts. Some 100 antinarcotics flights leave here each month to survey the Pacific in an elaborate cat-and-mouse game with drug traffickers bound for the United States. But many Ecuadoreans have chafed at the American presence and the perceived challenge to the country's sovereignty, and Mr. Correa promised during his campaign in 2006 to close the outpost. So far Ecuador's armed forces, arbiters in the ouster of three presidents in the last 11 years, have bent to the will of Mr. Correa, a widely popular left-leaning president who has sought to assert greater state control over Ecuador's petroleum and mining industries while challenging the authority of political institutions like the country's Congress. Still, tensions persist over his clash with top generals, which emerged after Colombian forces raided a Colombian rebel camp in Ecuador last month. The raid against the rebel group, the Marxist-inspired Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, put Ecuador and its ally Venezuela on edge with Colombia. Twenty-five people were killed, including Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorean operative for the group, known as the FARC. The face-off between Ecuador and Colombia ended at a summit meeting in the Dominican Republic, but it has begun again over revelations that Ecuadorean intelligence officials had been tracking Mr. Aisalla, information that was shared not with the president, but apparently with Colombian forces and their American military advisers. The leak became evident when video and photo images surfaced in Colombia and Ecuador showing Mr. Aisalla meeting with FARC commanders. --------15 of 15-------- Venezuela: Democracy, Socialism and Imperialism pt3 by James Petras / April 18th, 2008 US-Venezuelan Relations More than in most current Latin American societies, the Venezuelan ruling and middle classes have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice their immediate economic interests, current remunerative opportunities, lucrative profits and income in pursuit of the high risk political interests of the US. How else can one explain their backing of the US-orchestrated coup of April 2002 at a time when Chavez was following fairly orthodox fiscal and monetary policies, and had adopted a strict constitutionalist approach to institutional reform? How else can one explain engaging in an executive and bosses 2-month lockout of industry and oil production, leading to the loss of billions in private revenues, profits and salaries and ultimately the bankruptcy of hundreds of private firms and the firing of over 15,000 well-paid senior and middle level oil executives? Clearly the "ultra-hegemony" of the US over the Venezuelan elite and middle class has a strong component of ideological-psychological self-delusion: a deep, almost pathological identification with the powerful, superior white producer-consumer society and state and a profound hostility and disparagement of "deep Venezuela" - its Afro-Indian-mestizo masses. Typifying Theodor Adorno's "authoritarian personality", the Venezuelan elite and its middle-class imitators are at the feet and bidding of those idealized North Americans above and at the throat of those perceived as degraded dark-skinned, poor Venezuelans below. This hypothesis of the colonial mentality can explain the pathological behavior of Venezuelan professionals who, like its doctors and academics, eagerly seek prestigious post-graduate training in the United States while disparaging the "poor quality" of new neighborhood clinics for the poor where none had existed before and the new open admission policies of the Bolivarian universities - open to the once marginalized masses. The deep integration - through consumption, investments and vicarious identification - of the Venezuelan upper and middle classes with the US elite forms the bed-rock of Washington's campaign to destabilize and overthrow the Chavez government and destroy the constitutional order. Formal and informal psychosocial ties are strengthened by the parasitical-rentier economic links based on the monthly/yearly consumer pilgrimages to Miami. Real estate investments and illegal financial transfers and transactions with US financial institutions, as well as the lucrative illegal profit sharing between the former executives of PDVSA and US oil majors provided the material basis for pro-imperialist policies. US policy makers have a "natural collaborator class" willing and able to become the active transmission belt of US policy and to serve US interests. As such it is correct to refer to these Venezuelans as "vassal classes". After the abject failures of Washington's vassal classes to directly seize power through a violent putsch and after having nearly self-destructed in a failed attempt to rule or ruin via the bosses' lockout, the US State Department oriented them toward a war of attrition. This involves intensified propaganda and perpetual harassment campaigns designed to erode the influence of the Chavez government over its mass popular base. Imperial academic advisers, media experts and ideologues have proposed several lines of ideological-political warfare, duly adapted and incorporated by the Venezuelan "vassal classes". This exercise in so-called "soft-power" (propaganda and social organizing) is meant to create optimal conditions for the eventual use of "hard power" - military intervention, coup d'etat, terror, sabotage, regional war or, more likely, some combination of these tactics.34 The predominance of "soft power" at one point in time does not preclude selective exercises of "hard power" such as the recent Colombian cross-border military attack on Venezuela's ally Ecuador in March 2008. Soft power is not an end in itself; it is a means of accumulating forces and building the capacity to launch a violent frontal assault at the Venezuelan government's "weakest moment". Imperial-Vassal Three Part "Soft Power" Campaign: Drugs, Human Rights and Terrorism In the period between 2007-2008, the US and the Venezuelan elite attempted to discredit the Venezuelan government through the publication and dissemination of a report fabricated to paint Venezuela as a "narco-center". A DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) report named Venezuela as a "major transport point" and ignored the fact that, under Washington's key client in Latin America President Alvaro Uribe, Colombia is the major producer, processor and exporter of cocaine. This is beyond bizarre. Blatant omissions are of little importance to the US State Department and the private Venezuelan mass media. The fact that Venezuela is successfully intercepting massive amounts of drugs from Colombia is of no importance. For US academic apologists of empire, lies at the service of destabilizing Chavez are a virtuous exercise in "soft power".35 The US, its vassal classes and the Washington-financed human rights groups have disseminated false charges of human rights abuses under Chavez, while ignoring US and Israeli Middle East genocidal practices and the Colombian government's long-standing campaigns of killing scores of trade unionists and hundreds of peasants each year. Washington's attempt to label Venezuela as a supporter of "terrorists" was resoundingly rejected by a United Nations' report issued in April 2008.36 There is no evidence of systematic state sponsored human rights violations in Venezuela. There are significant human rights abuses by the opposition-backed big landowners, murdering over 200 landless rural workers. There are workplace abuses by numerous FEDECAMARAS-affiliated private employers.37 It is precisely in response to capitalist violations of workers rights that Chavez decided to nationalize the steel plants. No doubt Washington will fail to properly "acknowledge" these human rights advances on the part of Chavez. The point of the "human rights" charges is to reverse roles: Venezuela, the victim of US and vassal class' coups and assassinations is labeled a human rights abuser while the real executioners are portrayed as "victims". This is a common propaganda technique used by aggressor regimes and classes to justify the unilateral exercise of brutality and repression. In line with its global militarist-imperialist ideology, Washington and its Venezuelan vassals have charged the Venezuelan government with aiding and abetting "terrorists", namely the FARC insurgency in Colombia. Neither the Bush or Uribe regimes have presented evidence of material aid to the FARC. As mentioned above, a UN review of the Washington-Uribe charges against the Chavez government have rejected every allegation. This fabrication is used to camouflage the fact that US Special Forces and the Colombian armed forces have been infiltrating armed paramilitary forces into Venezuela's poor neighborhoods to establish footholds and block future barrio mobilizations defending Chavez. The Hard Power Campaign: Three Part Strategy: Economic Boycotts, Low-Intensity Warfare and the Colombia Card Complementing the propaganda campaign, Washington has instumentalized a major oil producer (Exxon-Mobil) to reject a negotiated compensation settlement, which would have left the US oil giant with lucrative minority shares in one of the world's biggest oil fields (the Orinoco oil fields). All the other European oil companies signed on to the new public-private oil contracts.38 When Exxon-Mobil demanded compensation, PDVSA made a generous offer, which was abruptly rejected. When PDVSA agreed to overseas arbitration, Exxon-Mobil abruptly secured court orders in the US, Amsterdam and Great Britain "freezing" PDVSA overseas assets. A London court quickly threw out Exxon-Mobil's case. As with other countries' experiences, such as Cuba in 1960, Chile in 1971-71 and Iran in 1953, the oil majors act as a political instrument of US foreign policy rather than as economic institutions respecting national sovereignty. In this case, Washington has used Exxon-Mobil as an instrument of psychological warfare - to heighten tensions and provide their local vassals with an "incident" which they can elaborate into fear propaganda. The Venezuelan private media cite the threat of a US oil boycott and evoke a scenario of a collapsing economy causing starvation; they attribute this fantastic scene to the Chavez government's "provocation". By evoking this illusion of US power and Venezuelan impotence, they obfuscate the fact that the new oil contracts will add billions of dollars to the Venezuelan Treasury, which will benefit all Venezuelans. US-military strategy options have been severely limited by its prolonged and open-ended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and its military-buildup threatening Iran. As a result, US-military strategy toward Venezuela involves a $6 billion dollar military build-up of Colombia over the last eight years, including arms, training, combat advisers, Special Forces, mercenaries and logistics. US advisers encourage Colombian armed forces to engage in cross frontier operations including the kidnapping of Venezuelan citizens, armed assaults and paramilitary infiltration capped by the bombing in Ecuador of a campsite of a FARC negotiating team preparing a prisoner release. The US dual purpose of these low-intensity military pressures is to probe Venezuela's response, its capacity for military mobilization, and to test the loyalties and allegiances of leading intelligence officials and officers in the Venezuelan military. The US has been involved in the infiltration of paramilitary and military operatives into Venezuela, exploiting the easy entrance through the border state of Zulia, the only state governed by the opposition, led by Governor Rosales. The third component of the military strategy is "to integrate" Venezuela's armed forces into a "regional military command" proposed by Brazilian President Lula da Silva and endorsed by US Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice.39 Within that framework, Washington could use its friendly and client generals to pressure Venezuela to accept US military-political hegemony disguised as "regional" initiatives. Unfortunately for Washington, Brazil ruled out a US presence, at least for now. The US-military strategy toward Venezuela is highly dependent on the Colombian Army's defeat or containment of the guerrillas and the re-conquest of the vast rural areas under insurgent control. This would clear the way for Colombia's army to attack Venezuela. A military attack would depend crucially on a sharp political deterioration within Venezuela, based on the opposition gaining control of key states and municipal offices in the up-coming November elections. From advances in institutional positions Washington's vassals could undermine the popular national social, economic and neighborhood programs. Only when the "internal circumstances" of polarized disorder can create sufficient insecurity and undermine everyday production, consumption and transport can the US planners consider moving toward large-scale public confrontation and preparations for a military attack. The US military strategists envision the final phase of an air offensive-Special Forces intervention only when they can be assured of a large-scale Colombian intervention, an internal politico-military uprising and vacillating executive officials unwilling to exercise emergency powers and mass military mobilization. The US strategists require these stringent conditions because the current regime in Washington is politically isolated and discredited, the economy is in a deepening recession, and the budget deficit is ballooning especially its military expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only marginal extremists in the White House envision a direct military assault in the immediate future. But that could change to the degree that their vassals succeed in sowing domestic chaos and disorder. Diplomatic and Economic Confrontation: Chavez Versus Bush Diplomatically and economically, President Chavez has gained the upper hand over the Bush Administration. No country in Latin America supports Washington's proposals to intervene, boycott or exclude Venezuela from regional trade, investment or diplomatic forums. No country has broken diplomatic, economic or political relations with Caracas - nor has the US, despite strong moves in that direction by Bush in March 2008 (by labeling Venezuela a "terrorist" country). Even Washington's principal vassal state, Colombia, shows no enthusiasm for shedding its $5 billion dollar food and oil trade with Venezuela to accommodate Bush. Chavez has successfully challenged US hegemony in the Caribbean. Through Petro-Caribe, numerous Caribbean and Central American states receive heavily subsidized oil and petroleum products from Venezuela, along with socio-economic aid in exchange for a more favorable diplomatic policy toward Caracas. The US no longer has an automatic voting bloc in the region following its lead against a targeted country. The Venezuelan government has successfully contributed to the demise of the US-led Free Trade for the Americas (ALCA) proposal and has substituted a new Latin American free trade agreement (ALBA) with at least 6 member states. Venezuela's proposal for a Latin American Bank of the South, to bypass the US-influenced IDB (BID), has been launched and has the backing of Brazil, Argentina and a majority of the other Latin American states.40 Washington's arms embargo, that included Spain, has been a failure, as Venezuela turned to arms purchases from Russia and elsewhere. Washington's effort to discourage foreign investment, especially in oil exploration is a complete failure, as China, Russia, Europe, Iran and every major oil producer has invested or is currently negotiating terms. Despite vehement US opposition, Venezuela has developed a strategic complementary link with Cuba, exchanging subsidized oil and gas sales and large-scale investment for a vast health service contract covering Venezuela's needs in all poor neighborhoods.41 Venezuela has consolidated long-term finance and trade ties with Argentina through the purchase of Argentine bonds, which the latter has had difficulty selling given its conflict with the Paris Club. Venezuela had significantly improved its image in Europe through Chavez' positive role in mediating the release of FARC prisoners while the US vassal Uribe regime is perceived in Europe as a militaristic, dehumanized narco-driven entity. US militarism and its economic crisis have led to a sharp decline in its image and prestige in Europe, while eroding its economic empire and domestic living standards. Chavez' opposition to Bush's global war on terror and his calls for upholding human rights and social welfare has created a favorable international image among the poor of the Third World and within wide circles of public opinion elsewhere. Vulnerability, Opportunities and Challenges Presently and for the near future, Venezuela is vulnerable to attack on several fronts. It is experiencing several internal contradictions. Nevertheless it possesses strengths and great opportunities to advance the process of economic and social transformation. Key weaknesses can be located in the state, social economy and national security sectors. In the sphere of politics, the basic issue is one of democratic representation, articulation and implementation of popular interests by elected and administrative officials. Too often one hears among the Chavista masses in public and private discussions that, "We support President Chavez and his policies but" - and then follows a litany of criticism of local mayors, ministry officials, governors and Chavez' "bad advisers".42 Some - not all - of the elected officials are running their campaign on the bases of traditional liberal clientele politics, which reward the few electoral faithful at the expense of the many. The key is to democratize the nomination process and not simply assume that the incumbent in office - no matter how incompetent or unpopular - should run for office again. Clearly the PSUV has to break free from the personality-based electoral politics and establish independent criteria, which respond to popular evaluations of incumbents and party candidates. Communal councils need to be empowered to evaluate, report and have a voice in judging inefficient ministries and administrative agencies which fail to provide adequate services.43 The dead hand of the reactionary past is present in the practices, personnel and paralysis of the existing administrative structures and worst of all influences some of the new Chavista appointments. The tactic of creating new parallel agencies to overcome existing obstructionist bureaucracies will not work if the new administrators are ill prepared (late or miss appointments, derelict in rectifying problems, fail to meet commitments etc.). Nothing irritates the Chavista masses more than to deal with officials who cannot fulfill their commitments in a reasonable time frame. This is the general source of mass discontent, political alienation and government vulnerability. In part the issue is one of incompetent personnel and, for the most part, the solution is structural - empowering popular power organizations to chastise and oust ineffective and corrupt officials. In the economic sphere, there is a need for a serious re-thinking of the entire strategy in several areas. In place of massive and largely wasted funding of small-scale cooperatives to be run by the poor with little or no productive, managerial or even basic bookkeeping skills, investment funds should be channeled into modern middle and large scale factories which combine skilled managers and workers as well as unskilled workers, producing goods which have high demand in the domestic (and future foreign) markets. The new public enterprise building 15,000 pre-fabricated houses is an example. The second area of economic vulnerability is agriculture where the Agriculture Ministry has been a major failure in the development of food production (exemplified by the massive food imports), distribution networks and above all in accelerating the agrarian reform program. If any ministry cost Chavez to lose the referendum, it was the Agriculture Ministry, which over 9 years has failed to raise production, productivity and availability of food. The past policies of controlling or de-controlling prices, of subsidies and credits to the major big producers have been an abysmal failure. The reason is obvious: The big land-owner recipients of the Government's generous agricultural credits and grants are not investing in agricultural production, in raising cattle, purchasing new seeds, new machinery, new dairy animals. They are transferring Government funding into real estate, Government bonds, banking and speculative investment funds or overseas. This illegal misallocation of Government finance is abundantly evident in the gap between the high levels of government finance to the self-styled agricultural "producers" and the meager (or even negative) growth of production-productivity on the large estates.44 In April 2008, President Chavez recognized that fundamental changes in the use and ownership of productive land is the only way to control the use of government credit, loans and investment to ensure that the funds actually go into raising food and not purchasing or investing in new luxury apartments or real estate complexes or buying Argentine bonds. In March and April 2008, President Chavez, with the backing of the major peasant movements and workers in the food processing industry, expropriated 27 plantations, a meat processing chain, a dairy producer and a major food distributor. Now the challenge is to ensure that competent managers are appointed and resourceful worker-peasant councils are elected to insure efficient operations, new investments and equitable rewards. What is abundantly clear is that President Chavez has recognized that capitalist ownership even with government subsidies is incompatible with meeting the consumer needs of the Venezuelan people. Thirdly, as mentioned above, inflation is eroding popular consumer power, fomenting wage demands by the unionized workers in the export sector while eroding wages and income for contingent and informal workers. The government has announced a decline in the rate of inflation in January-February 2008 (2.1%). This is a positive indication that urgent attention is being paid. The outrageous rates of profit in both consumer and capital goods industries has increased the circulation of excess money, while the lack of investment in raising productivity and production has weakened supply. The inflationary spiral is embedded in the structure of ownership of the major capitalist enterprises and no amount of regulation of profit margins will increase productivity. President Chavez moves into 2008 to accelerate the socialist transformation through the nationalization of strategic industries. The key is to invest large sums of public capital in a vast array of competitive public enterprises run with an entrepreneurial vision under workers- engineers control. Relying on "incentives" to private capitalists in order to increase productivity has run afoul in most instances because of their rentier, instead of entrepreneurial, behavior. When the government yields to one set of business complaints by offering incentives, it only results in a series of new excuses, blaming "pricing", "insecurity", "inflation", and "imports" for the lack of investment. Clearly counting on public-private cooperation is a failed policy. The basis of the psychological malaise of business can be boiled down to one issue: They will not invest or produce even in order to profit if it means supporting the Chavez government and strengthening mass support via rising employment and workers. income.45 They prefer to merely maintain their enterprises and raise prices in order to increase their profits. In the social sphere, the government faces the problem of increasing political consciousness and above all encouraging the organizing of its mass supporters into cohesive, disciplined and class-conscious organizations. The government's socialist project depends on mass social organizations capable of advancing on the economic elite and cleaning the neighborhoods of right-wing thugs, gangsters and paramilitary agents of the Venezuelan oligarchs and the Uribe regime. The peasant movement, Ezequiel Zamora, is establishing the kind of political-educational cadre schools necessary to advance the agrarian reform. By pressuring the Agrarian Reform Institute, by occupying uncultivated land, by resisting landlord gunmen from Colombia, this emerging movement provides a small-scale model of social action that the government should promote and multiply on a national scale. The principle obstacle is the counter revolutionary role of the National Guard, led by General Arnaldo Carreo. He directed a raid on the peasant training and educational school with attack helicopters and 200 soldiers, arrested and beat educators and students and wrecked the institute. No official action against the military officers responsible for this heinous action was taken.46 Apart from the reactionary and counter-revolutionary nature of this assault on one of the most progressive Chavista movements, it is indicative of the presence of a military sector committed to the big landlords and most likely aligned to the Colombian-US military golpistas. Labor legislation still lags. The new progressive social security law is tied up in Congress and/or buried by the dead hands of the Administration. Contingent (non-contracted, insecure) workers still predominate in key industries like oil, steel, aluminum, and manufacturing. The trade unions - both the pro-Chavez and the plethora of competing tendencies and self-proclaimed "class unions" - are fragmented into a half dozen or more fractions, each attacking the other and incapable of organizing the vast majority (over 80%) of unorganized formal and informal workers. The result has been the relative immobilization of important sectors of the working class faced with big national challenges, such as the 12/2 referendum, the Colombian-US military threats and the struggle to extend the agrarian reform, public enterprises and social security. The government's relative neglect of the organized and unorganized manufacturing workers has changed dramatically for the better, beginning in the first half of 2008. President Chavez. forceful intervention in the steel (Techint Sidor), cement (CEMEX), meatpacking and sugar industries has led to massive outpouring of worker support. A certain dialectic has unfolded, in which militant worker conflicts and strikes against intransigent employers has induced President Chavez to intervene on their behalf, which in turn has activated the spread and depth of worker and trade union support for President Chavez. This dialectic of reinforced mutual support has led to meetings of inter-sector union leaders and militants from the transport, metallurgic, food processing and related industries. In response to increased trade union organized support, Chavez has raised the prospect of nationalizing banks and the rest of the food production and distribution chain. Much depends upon the unification and mobilization of the trade union leaders and their capacity to overcome their sectarian and personalistic divisions and turn toward organizing the unorganized contingent and informal workers. The sectarianism of the ultra-leftist sects and their supporters among a few trade union bureaucrats leads them to see Chavez and his government and trade union supporters as "the main enemy" leading them to strike for exorbitant pay increases. They organize street blockades to provoke "repression" and then call for "worker solidarity". Most of the time they have had little success as most workers ignore their calls for "solidarity". The unification of pro-Chavez union leaders around the current nationalizations and the growth of a powerful unified workers' trade union movement will isolate the sects and limit their role. A unified working class movement could accelerate the struggle for social transformation of industry. It would strengthen the national defense of the transformative process in times of danger. notes == 34. The phrase .soft power. is credited to Harvard political science professor and long time US presidential adviser, Joseph Nye, who offers his expertise on empire management and the uses of imperial power. See Joseph Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, 2004. # 35. Venezuelan drug interdiction has captured 360 tons of drugs between 2000-2007, according to the National Anti-Drug Office, January 2008. # 36. On the Colombian State.s mass terror, see the annual reports of the International Labor Organization, Via Campesino, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. # 37. Interview with peasant leaders from the Frente Nacional Campesino Ezequiel Zamora, February 27, 2008. # 38. Throughout the dispute between Exxon-Mobil and the PDVSA, the European press sided with their more conciliatory multi-nationals while the Washington Post, NY Times and Wall Street Journal engaged in vituperative attacks on Venezuela. # 39. While Condeleeza Rice gave her backing to the .Regional Command., Lula immediately informed her that the US was not part of it. # 40. The Bank of the South is already financing development projects without the usual onerous conditions imposed by the World Bank and IMF. # 41. In interviews with both Fidel Castro (Feb 10, 2006 Havana) and with Hugo Chavez (March 2, 2008) both confirm the long-term, large-scale ties, which bind them in a strategic alliance. # 42. The testimony of a militant female peasant leader at a meeting organized by the Ministry of Popular Power was very demonstrative: .We support President Chavez; we defend President Chavez; but he has to replace those incompetent officials in the ministry who fail to provide us with credit so we can buy seed and fertilizer in time to plant our crops.. February 27, 2008. Ministry of Popular Power # 43. While I have noticed improvements in the punctuality and preparation of more agency officials, there are still too many highly placed functionaries who fail to keep appointments, comply with their professional responsibilities or inform themselves about the subject matter of their ministries. # 44. The anti-production behavior of the big land owners and cattle barons has been the practice for decades. Back in the mid-1970.s, President Carlos Andres Perez also pumped hundreds of millions into .making Venezuela food self-sufficient. in a program he called .ploughing the oil wealth into agriculture. with the same miserable results as the present. The reason is clear, many of the big landlords are the same people. The lessons from the past are very clear: As long as the present government tries to develop agriculture through the existing land owners it is doomed to repeat the failures of the past. # 45. Interview with an oil executive from British Petroleum, Caracas, March 6, 2008. # 46. .El Frente Nacional Campesino Ezequiel Zamora es atacado por militares. March 22, 2008 report from the FNCEZ. # James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). His latest books are The Power of Israel in the United States (Clarity Press, 2006) and Rulers and Ruled (Bankers, Zionists and Militants (Clarity Press, 2007). He can be reached at: jpetras [at] binghamton.edu. Read other articles by James, or visit James's website. This article was posted on Friday, April 18th, 2008 at 5:05 am and is filed under Colombia, Culture, Democracy, Human Rights, Imperialism, Labor, Socialism, South America, Venezuela. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney
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