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The Americas Uncovered – Mexico’s Spectres of Revolution w/ Alex Aviña

By |6/February/2023|

In the latest episode of our podcast, Peter Watt interviews Alexander Aviña about his book Specters of Revolution.

You can now listen to episode three of our podcast, The Americas Uncovered, hosted by Dr Peter Watt of Sheffield University in the UK. In this episode, Peter speaks to Alex Aviña, Associate Professor of History at Arizona State University (ASU) in the USA, about his book Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside.

Presented by Dr Peter Watt (University of Sheffield, UK)

Produced by Pablo Navarrete

Music by Peter Watt

Artwork by Simon Díaz-Cuffin

Listen to the podcast here or below.

The Americas Uncovered – Mexico’s Spectres of Revolution w/ Alex Aviña

By |6/February/2023|

In the latest episode of our podcast, Peter Watt interviews Alexander Aviña about his book Specters of Revolution.

You can now listen to episode three of our podcast, The Americas Uncovered, hosted by Dr Peter Watt of Sheffield University in the UK. In this episode, Peter speaks to Alex Aviña, Associate Professor of History at Arizona State University (ASU) in the USA, about his book Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside.

Presented by Dr Peter Watt (University of Sheffield, UK)

Produced by Pablo Navarrete

Music by Peter Watt

Artwork by Simon Díaz-Cuffin

Listen to the podcast here or below.

What’s Driving ‘Irregular’ Cuban Emigration to the United States?

By |6/February/2023|

Until the United States alleviates the punishing blockade that is suffocating the Cuban people, economic hardship will continue to drive Cuban emigration.

In 2022, an unprecedented number of Cubans arrived in the United States through irregular, or ‘illegal,’ channels. Historically, the United States has encouraged and weaponised Cuban emigration. Cuban migrants fuel US propaganda about the failure of socialism and about political persecution and the lack of freedom and human rights on the island. However, it is an issue which can spiral out of control, forcing US administrations into dialogue with the Cuban government in the past. The current surge is creating political problems for President Biden as his opponents exploit the issue for electoral gain. As a result, in January 2023 the administration introduced legislation that it hopes will halt the wave of ‘illegal’ Cuban entrants and that threatens to undermine the blanket privileges granted to Cubans in the United States. However, until the United States alleviates the punishing blockade that is suffocating the Cuban people, economic hardship will continue to drive Cuban emigration. The United States’ policy towards Cuban migrants is characterised by paradox and contradictions.

In 2022, over 313,000 Cubans arrived in the United States, most of them without visas and entering from Mexico. This is more than double the previous peak of Cuban migration during the Mariel Boatlift of 1980. They were admitted after claiming asylum. However, these are economic migrants. Once settled, like many of the Cubans who preceded them, most will return to the island when possible to visit their families without the slightest fear of retribution from Cuban authorities.

Pull factors: Cubans are drawn to the United States by the unique privileges that Cuban migrants receive there; one year and one day after arrival, Cubans can petition for permanent residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act, whether they arrived legally or not and without needing to claim asylum or refugee status. Although formally discretionary, permanent residence is systematically granted. Cubans are the only nationals to receive this privilege in the United States. They resort to irregular channels and long, complicated journeys because from 2017 to 2022 legal channels for Cubans to travel to the United States for any reason or duration (study, work, family reunification or residence) were effectively closed. In November 2021, the Nicaraguan government removed the visa requirement for Cuban travellers. This gave Cubans an alternative route: instead of risking the perilous Florida Straits seaborne, they could fly to Nicaragua and risk the journey north through Central America and Mexico, treading the same path as millions of Latin Americans en route to the United States. In the last fiscal year, more than two million people were arrested trying to cross into the United States, a 24 per cent increase on the previous year. For many, the journey subjects them to human traffickers and criminal gangs who make a lucrative trade from migrant desperation.

Push factors: Those Cubans leave behind an economy in crisis as a result of suffocating US sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic. The resulting scarcities

Colombian State Responsible for ‘Extermination’ of UP Political Party

By |4/February/2023|

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has found that the Colombian state participated in an intense campaign of violence that killed thousands of members of the leftwing Patriotic Union (UP) party in the 1980s and 90s.

For more than two decades, the Colombian state participated in intense human rights abuses against the leftwing Patriotic Union (UP) party in a campaign of ‘extermination,’ a landmark ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has declared. From 1984, more than 6,000 UP activists, members and supporters were targeted. The ruling reaffirms the state’s role in atrocities committed against civil society during the armed conflict.

The UP was founded in 1985 under the terms of a peace agreement between the then-government of Belisario Betancur and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It brought together former guerrillas and other leftist groups as they pursued political change through electoral means, a major shift from the armed struggle that the FARC had previously enacted.

However, after the UP made electoral gains at regional and local levels, state forces colluded with paramilitaries, politicians and business groups to carry out brutal violence against the party, in a campaign commonly referred to as a ‘political genocide’ in Colombia. The objective was simple: to prevent the UP’s emergence as a credible alternative to long established power structures and, as the ruling finds, ‘to counteract the UP’s rise in the political arena.’

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an autonomous tribunal tasked with carrying out investigations into human rights violations across the Americas. Some of these investigations cannot easily be held in the countries where they are alleged to have taken place.

The ruling says that among the acts of ‘systematic violence’ suffered by victims and carried out on a nationwide scale were forced disappearances, massacres, extrajudicial executions and murders, threats, physical attacks, stigmatisation, legal persecutions, torture, forced displacement and others. This was facilitated by investigations which, if carried out at all, were woefully ineffective and characterised by ‘high levels of impunity which operated as forms of tolerance on the part of authorities.’ Aligned with the active collusion of authorities in the violence, the absence of repercussion enabled the killings and other abuses to continue unimpeded.

Additionally, the Court found the state responsible for violating victims’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association. This manifested through ongoing stigmatisation of a party depicted as an ‘internal enemy,’ a discourse which legitimised persecution against the UP. High-ranking state officials were most prominent in feeding the climate of aggression through political discourse, which had the effect, in the words of the Court, of ‘aggravating the situation of vulnerability … and generating a motive to promote attacks against them.’ As well as impacting their physical safety, this generated a severe psychological impact on many UP members and supporters.

Victims’ rights remain violated today, as the state has failed to properly investigate the violence, to prosecute those responsible or to uphold the right of victims to the truth.

In its ruling the Court issued several forms of state reparation:

  • Ensure

Why Brazil’s Fascists Should Not Get Amnesty

By |19/January/2023|

The 8 January riot by far-right Bolsonaristas should close the doors of Brazilian institutions to fascism forever.

From all the excited cries echoing from the red tide that took over Brasília during Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s (known as Lula) inauguration as the Brazilian president on 1 January 2023, the most significant – and challenging, especially from the institutional stance of the new government – was the call for ‘no amnesty!’ The crowds chanting those words were referring to the crimes perpetrated by the military dictatorship in Brazil from 1964 to 1985 that still remain unpunished. Lula paused his speech, to let the voices be heard, and followed up with a strong but restrained message about accountability.

Lula’s restraint shows his respect for the civic limitation of the executive, standing in sharp contrast to former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s notion of statesmanship. After all, one of the characteristics that allow us to properly qualify ‘‘Bolsonarismo’ as fascism is the deliberate amalgamation between the institutional exercise of power and counter-institutional militancy. As a president, Bolsonaro went beyond mixing those roles; he occupied the state in constant opposition against the state itself. He constantly attributed his ineptitude as a leader to the restrictions imposed by the democratic institutions of the republic.

While Bolsonaro projected an image of being a strongman in front of cameras, which eventually helped him climb the ladder of power, he maintained a low profile in Congress and his three-decade-long congressional tenure is a testament to his political and administrative irrelevance. His weak exercise of power revealed his inadequacy as a leader when he finally took over as president. Bolsonaro catapulted to notoriety when he cast his vote for impeaching former president Dilma Rousseff in 2016.

Before casting his vote, Bolsonaro took that opportunity to pay homage to Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, ‘convicted of torture‘ during the military dictatorship, whom he jestingly referred to as ‘the dread of Dilma Rousseff!’; Ustra was responsible for systematically torturing the former head of state when she, then a young Marxist guerrilla, was jailed by the dictatorship. From that day until Bolsonaro’s last public appearance – after which he fled the country to make his way to Orlando, Florida, before Lula’s inauguration – the only opportunity he ever had to stage his electoral persona was by instigating his supporters through incendiary speeches. That combination led to an impotent government, run by someone who encouraged his supporters to cheer for him using the ridiculously macho nickname ‘Imbrochável,’ which translates to ‘unfloppable.’

By endorsing the need for accountability while respecting the solemnity of the presidency and allowing people to call for ‘no amnesty,’ Lula restores some normality to the dichotomy that exists between the representative/represented within the framework of a liberal bourgeois democracy. A small gesture, but one that will help establish the necessary institutional trust for fascism to be scrutinised. Now, the ball is in the court of the organised left; the urgency and radicality of the accountability depend on its ability to theoretically and politically

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Which Government Does the US Recognise in Venezuela?

By |9/January/2023|

Despite the Venezuelan opposition having dissolved Juan Guaidó’s ‘interim government,’ and as President Nicolás Maduro floats negotiations, the US is clinging to its failed strategy.

On 3 January 2023, Shaun Tandon of Agence France-Presse asked US State Department spokesperson Ned Price about Venezuela. In late December, the Venezuelan opposition after a fractious debate decided to dissolve the ‘interim government’ led by Juan Guaidó. From 2019 onward, the US government recognised Guaidó as the ‘interim president of Venezuela.’ With the end of Guaidó’s administration, Tandon asked if ‘the United States still recognise[s] Juan Guaidó as legitimate interim president.’

Price’s answer was that the US government recognises the ‘only remaining democratically elected institution in Venezuela today, and that’s the 2015 National Assembly.’ It is true that when the US government supported Guaidó as the ‘interim president’ of Venezuela, it did so because of his role as the rotating president in that National Assembly in 2019. Since the presidency of the National Assembly rotates annually, Guaidó should have left the position of ‘interim president’ by the end of 2020. But he did not, going against Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999, which he cited as the basis for his ascension in 2019.

Price said, ‘The 2015 National Assembly has renewed its mandate.’ However, that assembly was dissolved since its term expired and it was replaced – after an election in December 2020 – by another National Assembly. The US government called the 2020 election a ‘political farce.’ But when I met the leaders of Venezuela’s two historic opposition parties in Venezuela in 2020 – Pedro José Rojas of Acción Democrática (AD) and Juan Carlos Alvarado of Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente (COPEI) – they told me that the 2020 election was legitimate and that they just did not know how to overrun the massive wave of Chavista voters. Since the members of the new assembly took their seats, the 2015 assembly has not set foot in the Palacio Federal Legislativo, which houses the National Assembly, near Plaza Bolívar in Caracas.

In essence, then, the US government believes that the real democratic institution in Venezuela is one that has not met in seven years, and one whose political forces decided –against the advice of AD and COPEI – to boycott the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, in early January 2023, Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro spoke with veteran journalist Ignacio Ramonet. Maduro told Ramonet that he is ‘prepared for dialogues at the highest level and with relations of respect.’ He hoped that ‘a halo of light’ would reach the office of US President Joe Biden and allow the United States to put its ‘extremist policy aside.’ Not only did Ned Price refuse this olive branch, but he also said that the US approach to ‘Nicolás Maduro is not changing.’ This is an awkward statement since members of Price’s own government went to Caracas in March and June of 2022 to meet with the Maduro administration and talk about the normalisation of oil sales and the release of detained US citizens.

Meanwhile, Tandon’s question hangs over the White House.

This article was produced by

Indestructible Podcast #16 – Operation Condor Through Film

By |24/December/2022|

In the 16th episode of Indestructible Rodrigo speaks to Argentinian filmmaker Rodrigo Vázquez about Operation Condor, a US-backed campaign of state terror in South America.

Indestructible: Latin America with Rodrigo Acuña is a podcast from Alborada bringing you monthly discussions with some of the most interesting voices working on and from Latin America.

In this 16th episode of Indestructible Podcast, Rodrigo interviews Argentinian filmmaker Rodrigo Vázquez about Operation Condor, a coordinated operation between the intelligence organisations of the dictatorships of the southern cone of South America during the 1970s and 80s.

The podcast is available on Spotify and other podcast streaming website.

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Please consider supporting the podcast on Patreon.

::: Episode 16:

Operation Condor Through Film. With Rodrigo Vázquez

Listen to episode 16 on Audioboom and a range of other podcast streaming websites

Watch the episode here or below. 

Click here to go to the Indestructible homepage.

Presented by Alborada contributing editor Rodrigo Acuña

Produced and edited by Pablo Navarrete

Music by Chylez Productions.

Please consider supporting the podcast on Patreon.

Get in touch with the podcast: info [at] alborada [dot] net

The Americas Uncovered – Central America’s Forgotten History w/ Aviva Chomsky

By |16/December/2022|

In episode two of our new podcast, Peter Watt interviews Aviva Chomsky about her recent book Central America’s Forgotten History.

You can now listen to episode two of our new podcast, The Americas Uncovered, hosted by Dr Peter Watt of Sheffield University in the UK. In this episode, Peter speaks to Aviva Chomsky, Professor of Latin American Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts, USA, about her recent book Central America’s Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration.

Presented by Dr Peter Watt (University of Sheffield, UK) // Produced by Pablo Navarrete and Nick MacWilliam // Music by Peter Watt // Artwork by Simon Díaz-Cuffin

Listen to the podcast here or below.

The US Egged on the Coup in Peru

By |15/December/2022|

The US swiftly legitimised last week’s coup against President Pedro Castillo, the culmination of Fujimori-led attempts to destabilise his government.

On 7 December 2022, Pedro Castillo sat in his office on what would be the last day of his presidency of Peru. His lawyers went over spreadsheets that showed Castillo would triumph over a motion in Congress to remove him. This was going to be the third time that Castillo faced a challenge from the Congress, but his lawyers and advisers – including former prime minister Anibal Torres – told him that he held an advantage over the Congress in opinion polls (his approval rating had risen to 31 per cent, while that of the Congress was just about 10 per cent).

Castillo had been under immense pressure for the past year from an oligarchy that disliked this former teacher. In a surprise move, he announced to the press on 7 December that he was going to ‘temporarily dissolve the Congress’ and ‘[establish] an exceptional emergency government.’ This measure sealed his fate. Castillo and his family rushed toward the Mexican embassy in Lima but were arrested by the military along Avenida España before they could get there.

Why did Pedro Castillo take the fatal step of trying to dissolve Congress when it was clear to his advisers – such as Luis Alberto Mendieta – that he would prevail in the afternoon vote?

The pressure got to Castillo, despite the evidence. Ever since his election in July 2021, his opponent in the presidential election, Keiko Fujimori, and her associates have tried to block his ascension to the presidency. She worked with men who have close ties with the US government and its intelligence agencies. A member of Fujimori’s team, Fernando Rospigliosi, for instance, had in 2005 tried to involve the US embassy in Lima against Ollanta Humala, who contested in the 2006 Peruvian presidential election. Vladimiro Montesinos, a former CIA asset who is serving time in a prison in Peru, sent messages to Pedro Rejas, a former commander in Peru’s army, to go ‘to the US Embassy and talk with the embassy intelligence officer.’ to try and influence the 2021 Peruvian presidential election.

Just before the election, the United States sent a former CIA agent, Lisa Kenna, as its ambassador to Lima. She met Peru’s Minister of Defence, Gustavo Bobbio, on 6 December and sent a denunciatory tweet against Castillo’s move to dissolve Congress the next day (on 8 December, the US government – through Ambassador Kenna – recognised Peru’s new government after Castillo’s removal).

A key figure in the pressure campaign appears to have been Mariano Alvarado, operations officer of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG), who functions effectively as the US Defence attaché. We are told that officials such as Alvarado, who are in close contact with the Peruvian military generals, gave them the greenlight to move against Castillo. It is being said that the last phone call that Castillo

Peru’s Oligarchy Overthrows President Castillo

By |11/December/2022|

The coup against Peruvian president Pedro Castillo is a major setback for the current wave of progressive governments in Latin America and the people’s movements that elected them.

6 June 2021 was a day which shocked many in Peru’s oligarchy. Pedro Castillo Terrones, a rural schoolteacher who had never before been elected to office, won the second round of the presidential election with just over 50.13 per cent of the vote. More than 8.8 million people voted for Castillo’s programme of profound social reforms and the promise of a new constitution against the far-right’s candidate, Keiko Fujimori. In a dramatic turn of events, the historical agenda of neoliberalism and repression, passed down by former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori to his daughter Keiko, was rejected at the polls.

From that day on, still in disbelief, the Peruvian oligarchy declared war on Castillo. They made the next 18 months for the new president a period of great hostility as they sought to destabilise his government with a multi-pronged attack that included significant use of lawfare. With a call to ‘throw out communism,’ plans were made by the oligarchy’s leading business group, the National Society of Industries, to make the country ungovernable under Castillo.

In October 2021, recordings were released that revealed that since June 2021, this group of industrialists, along with other members of Peru’s elite and leaders of the rightwing opposition parties, had been planning a series of actions including financing protests and strikes. Groups of former military personnel, allied with far-right politicians like Fujimori, began to openly call for the violent overthrow of Castillo, threatening government officials and left-leaning journalists.

The right wing in Congress also joined in these plans and attempted to impeach Castillo on two occasions during his first year in office. ‘Since my inauguration as president, the political sector has not accepted the electoral victory that the Peruvian people gave us,’ Castillo said in March 2022. ‘I understand the power of Congress to exercise oversight and political control. However, these mechanisms cannot be exercised by mediating the abuse of the right, proscribed in the constitution, ignoring the popular will expressed at the polls,’ he stressed. It turns out that several of these lawmakers, with support from a rightwing German foundation, had also been meeting regarding how to modify the constitution to quickly remove Castillo from office.

The oligarchic rulers of Peru could never accept that a rural schoolteacher and peasant leader could be brought into office by millions of poor, Black and Indigenous people who saw their hope for a better future in Castillo. However, in the face of these attacks, Castillo became more and more distanced from his political base. Castillo formed four different cabinets to appease the business sectors, each time conceding to rightwing demands to remove leftist ministers who challenged the status quo. He broke with his party Peru Libre when openly challenged by its leaders. He sought help from the already discredited Organization of American States in looking for political solutions instead of mobilising the country’s major peasant and Indigenous movements. By the end,

The Americas Uncovered Podcast #1 – The Condor Files

By |2/December/2022|

In the first episode of our new podcast The Americas Uncovered, host Dr Peter Watt speaks to Dr Francesca Lessa about her book The Condor Trials.

Peter Watt speaks to Dr Francesca Lessa about her book The Condor Trials: Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America. 28 November 2022 marks 47 years since the beginning of Operación Cóndor (Operation Condor) a US government backed campaign of state terrorism implemented by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America.

Presented by Dr Peter Watt (University of Sheffield, UK) // Produced by Pablo Navarrete // Music by Peter Watt

Listen to the podcast here or below.

Photography

Kiev, 26 May 2018

By |27/May/2018|

Liverpool supporters attending the Champions League final carry banners in solidarity with Brazilian former president Lula Da Silva and Catalan political prisoners. Polls show that if Lula ran in this year’s presidential election, he would win by a landslide and restore the Workers’ Party to government.

Video

Chile’s Student Uprising (Documentary)

By |2/April/2020|

Watch this documentary on the student protest movement in Chile in 2011 (Director Roberto Navarrete, 35 mins, Alborada Films, 2014).

Mass student protests took place in Chile between 2011 and 2013 demanding a free and state-funded education system and radical change in society. The documentary puts these protests in their historical context of widespread dissatisfaction with the economic model put in place under the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), but that still remains largely in place.

The film’s director travelled to Chile between 2011 and 2013 to speak to then student leaders (now Members of Congress) such as Camila Vallejo and Giorgio Jackson, and also to other students, to explore why their protests had caused such effect in Chile and inspired others in the country and beyond.

“Roberto Navarrete’s is the most complete and compelling visual account of Chile’s student uprising to date. All the lessons from Patricio Guzmán’s path-breaking style of documenting in film are there: poetic visuals, an engaged narrative, the focus on personal feelings and stories combined with subtle and accessible analysis, plus a sense of the tragic tempered by the optimism of the will. Navarrete adds to it the passion and distance of the exile’s gaze, and a Latin American Beckettian flare for celebration while thinking. This is a must see for all those interested in the current sway of global rebellions that show us all the shape of things to come. Superb!”

Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Professor in Law, Birbeck, University of London and author of ‘Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup Against Salvador Allende, September 11th, 1973’

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Video

Chile’s Student Uprising (Documentary)

By |2/April/2020|

Watch this documentary on the student protest movement in Chile in 2011 (Director Roberto Navarrete, 35 mins, Alborada Films, 2014).

Mass student protests took place in Chile between 2011 and 2013 demanding a free and state-funded education system and radical change in society. The documentary puts these protests in their historical context of widespread dissatisfaction with the economic model put in place under the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), but that still remains largely in place.

The film’s director travelled to Chile between 2011 and 2013 to speak to then student leaders (now Members of Congress) such as Camila Vallejo and Giorgio Jackson, and also to other students, to explore why their protests had caused such effect in Chile and inspired others in the country and beyond.

“Roberto Navarrete’s is the most complete and compelling visual account of Chile’s student uprising to date. All the lessons from Patricio Guzmán’s path-breaking style of documenting in film are there: poetic visuals, an engaged narrative, the focus on personal feelings and stories combined with subtle and accessible analysis, plus a sense of the tragic tempered by the optimism of the will. Navarrete adds to it the passion and distance of the exile’s gaze, and a Latin American Beckettian flare for celebration while thinking. This is a must see for all those interested in the current sway of global rebellions that show us all the shape of things to come. Superb!”

Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Professor in Law, Birbeck, University of London and author of ‘Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup Against Salvador Allende, September 11th, 1973’

Chile’s Student Uprising (Documentary)

By |2/April/2020|

Watch this documentary on the student protest movement in Chile in 2011 (Director Roberto Navarrete, 35 mins, Alborada Films, 2014).

Mass student protests took place in Chile between 2011 and 2013 demanding a free and state-funded education system and radical change in society. The documentary puts these protests in their historical context of widespread dissatisfaction with the economic model put in place under the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), but that still remains largely in place.

The film’s director travelled to Chile between 2011 and 2013 to speak to then student leaders (now Members of Congress) such as Camila Vallejo and Giorgio Jackson, and also to other students, to explore why their protests had caused such effect in Chile and inspired others in the country and beyond.

“Roberto Navarrete’s is the most complete and compelling visual account of Chile’s student uprising to date. All the lessons from Patricio Guzmán’s path-breaking style of documenting in film are there: poetic visuals, an engaged narrative, the focus on personal feelings and stories combined with subtle and accessible analysis, plus a sense of the tragic tempered by the optimism of the will. Navarrete adds to it the passion and distance of the exile’s gaze, and a Latin American Beckettian flare for celebration while thinking. This is a must see for all those interested in the current sway of global rebellions that show us all the shape of things to come. Superb!”

Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Professor in Law, Birbeck, University of London and author of ‘Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup Against Salvador Allende, September 11th, 1973’