Progressive Calendar 04.21.08
From: David Shove (
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]>
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.

--------2 of 15--------

From: hosthome [at]
Subject: Homeless GLBT 4.22 6pm

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
Wednesday, April 23, 6-8pm
@ Family and Children's Service
4123 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55406-2028
Thursday, April 24, 6-8pm
@ Avenues for Homeless Youth
1708 Oak Park Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55411

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]" <wamm [at]>
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 <>.

--------4 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
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

--------5 of 15--------

From: PRO826 [at]
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_
( 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]
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

"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:
Campus Map: .

All events are free and open to the public.
For more information, contact: coldsnap [at]
For more on the Coldsnap Legal Collective visit:

--------7 of 15--------

From: Peter Rachleff <rachleff [at]>
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
(Princeton University Press, 2004).  Gordon's talk is free and open to

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:

--------9 of 15--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
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]>
Subject: RNC speech 4.23 1pm

Communities United Against Police Brutality
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

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.


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

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]>
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] or

--------12 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
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.

--------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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        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.


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] Read other articles by James, or visit James's

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.


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