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Colombia’s Genocidal State

By |11/May/2021|

The violence being carried out against protesters is a continuation of the Colombian state’s history of repression.

As police and military forces in Colombia use violence to try to repress the massive mobilisations that grew out of a national strike, demonstrators have seen flagrant violations of their human rights.

Mainstream media in Colombia and the South American continent have been selectively silent about the atrocities, and so those seeking to either learn or share information on the situation have had to turn to social media to break the media blockade. During the day, photos are shared of the colourful marches and joyful mobilisations. At night, videos of terror start appearing with a distressing frequency: the mobile anti-riot squad (ESMAD) and police shooting firearms at defenceless protesters, agents of security forces chasing after young people in the poor neighbourhoods to either shoot at them or arrest them and instilling terror in the population, and mothers crying and screaming because their children were killed.

According to Temblores and Indepaz, two human rights organisations that have been tracking reports of police violence, from 28 April to 8 May, the violent actions of the state security forces resulted in the death of at least 47 people, the arbitrary detention of 963 people, 28 victims of eye-related injuries, and 12 victims of sexual violence. In total, they registered 1,876 cases of police violence.

It has also been reported that in addition to the constant and systematic attacks by security forces on protesters, people carrying out roles of accompaniment and verification in the mobilisations – such as human rights defenders, journalists, and medical first aid workers – have also been the target of attacks and human rights violations by the police. The armed attack against a group of Colombian human rights defenders who were accompanying the verification mission of the United Nations in Cali on the night of 3 May was condemned widely, but far from being an exception, it is part of a strategy of terror and intimidation against those who speak out against the state’s repression.

After several nights of terror, the silence of the international community was broken. The United Nations Human Rights Office released a strong statement on the morning of 4 May expressing that it is ‘deeply alarmed’ at what is happening in Cali where ‘police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against tax reforms, reportedly killing and injuring a number of people.’ The international body reminds the authorities of the Colombian state that they have the ‘responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to life and security of person, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.’ After the UN declaration, the EU, US, and others joined it in condemning the situation and calling on the Colombian government to withdraw the army from the streets and for an end to the violence against the civilian population.

However, instead of withdrawing the security forces or trying to limit their violent actions, the national

Colombia’s Genocidal State

By |11/May/2021|

The violence being carried out against protesters is a continuation of the Colombian state’s history of repression.

As police and military forces in Colombia use violence to try to repress the massive mobilisations that grew out of a national strike, demonstrators have seen flagrant violations of their human rights.

Mainstream media in Colombia and the South American continent have been selectively silent about the atrocities, and so those seeking to either learn or share information on the situation have had to turn to social media to break the media blockade. During the day, photos are shared of the colourful marches and joyful mobilisations. At night, videos of terror start appearing with a distressing frequency: the mobile anti-riot squad (ESMAD) and police shooting firearms at defenceless protesters, agents of security forces chasing after young people in the poor neighbourhoods to either shoot at them or arrest them and instilling terror in the population, and mothers crying and screaming because their children were killed.

According to Temblores and Indepaz, two human rights organisations that have been tracking reports of police violence, from 28 April to 8 May, the violent actions of the state security forces resulted in the death of at least 47 people, the arbitrary detention of 963 people, 28 victims of eye-related injuries, and 12 victims of sexual violence. In total, they registered 1,876 cases of police violence.

It has also been reported that in addition to the constant and systematic attacks by security forces on protesters, people carrying out roles of accompaniment and verification in the mobilisations – such as human rights defenders, journalists, and medical first aid workers – have also been the target of attacks and human rights violations by the police. The armed attack against a group of Colombian human rights defenders who were accompanying the verification mission of the United Nations in Cali on the night of 3 May was condemned widely, but far from being an exception, it is part of a strategy of terror and intimidation against those who speak out against the state’s repression.

After several nights of terror, the silence of the international community was broken. The United Nations Human Rights Office released a strong statement on the morning of 4 May expressing that it is ‘deeply alarmed’ at what is happening in Cali where ‘police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against tax reforms, reportedly killing and injuring a number of people.’ The international body reminds the authorities of the Colombian state that they have the ‘responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to life and security of person, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.’ After the UN declaration, the EU, US, and others joined it in condemning the situation and calling on the Colombian government to withdraw the army from the streets and for an end to the violence against the civilian population.

However, instead of withdrawing the security forces or trying to limit their violent actions, the national

Delivery Drivers’ Struggles in Mexico are an Inspiration to Fight Precariousness Everywhere

By |11/May/2021|

The spike in delivery work throughout the pandemic in countries like Mexico can be a catalyst for the wider struggle against precariousness.

Delivery work became a lifeline for many workers and small businesses during the pandemic. But so far only the major platforms reaped the benefits off the back of workers. If delivery drivers manage to organize their struggle against the conditions of what is now an ‘essential service’, it could inspire workers’ struggles everywhere.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the closure of various activities across the world, as well as social distancing measures for large parts of urban populations, was required. This led to changes in mobility patterns as well as the flourishing of new activities and jobs. Among the latter, a spike in product delivery – deemed an essential activity crucial to maintaining lockdown and social distancing and avoiding infection surges – has been registered. In Mexico alone, delivery services registered growth rates of up to 80 per cent because of the health crisis, with a market estimated at $1,832 million, according to Statista.

This same health crisis has led to a worldwide economic crisis, leaving many unemployed and many businesses, such as small restaurants, on the verge of bankruptcy. The lack of opportunities in other parts of the economy turned delivery work into a booming business, and a basic service that kept many businesses afloat.

Smartphone apps have made employment as a delivery driver relatively simple. Having a vehicle (such as a bicycle or motorcycle), a phone to access an electronic platform (Rappi, Didi Food, UberEats, among others), and meeting some basic requirements is enough to start receiving orders and payments. Thousands in need of an income in the midst of the economic crisis have registered to provide these services and many small restaurants and businesses have benefited from enlisting them.

However, the type of jobs that have been created are very precarious and employment is subject to exploitative conditions reminiscent of the 19th century. A delivery driver provides their own equipment – some are even acquiring debt to do so – and does not have medical insurance. In case of a problem, such as an accident, the companies usually evade responsibility (and are more concerned with orders). Delivery drivers, along with colleagues, family and friends, are often forced to cover medical expenses. The income per order in Mexico varies from 15 to 30 pesos ($0.75 to $1.5) plus tips, which forces them to work long days on the street (without minimally decent places to rest) in order to cover their basic needs. If a family depends on them, the result is undoubtedly a job that guarantees poverty.

The companies that hire delivery drivers call them ‘partners’, ‘self-employed’, or ‘freelancers’, to avoid the recognition and granting of social benefits inherent to formal employment. If the companies have a problem with them, it is enough to ‘rest’, block or delete them from the application – since they have thousands of delivery drivers at their disposal. It can even

Colombian Security Forces Are Massacring People on the Streets

By |6/May/2021|

In Colombia the right-wing government of Iván Duque is killing people protesting its economic policies and widespread human rights abuses.

More info here.

For more information on the situation in Colombia visit AlboradaJustice for ColombiaProgressive International and Red Condors.

Para ver el video con subtítulos en español presione ‘Spanish (Latin American)’ en la sección ‘Settings’ en el video en YouTube.

Colombian Police are Killing Civilians. British Police are Training Them.

By |3/May/2021|

Following the recent killings of several civilians in protests in Colombia, Britain’s training of Colombian security forces is at odds with its stated commitment to human rights.

Leer versión del articulo en español aquí

Over recent days, the Colombian national police have killed a number of civilians protesting a proposed tax hike on basic goods. Many more civilians have been injured, and Colombia’s riot police reportedly sexually assaulted a woman.

Though numbers remain unclear, human rights group Isais Cifuentes de Cali has estimated up to 14 people have died.

Documents obtained by The Canary can reveal that the UK’s College of Policing has been training Colombian police over the past three years. This is despite Colombia being one of only 30 countries the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCD) lists as “Human rights priority countries”.

National strike

Colombia’s unpopular president Iván Duque has been rocked by a national strike. The strike is in response to proposed tax hikes on everyday items. According to a recent poll, his disapproval rating has fallen to 69 per cent – the lowest level since he was first elected in 2018.

Characteristically, the Colombian police, a long-time recipient of US and British assistance, have responded with grim brutality.

In a particularly disturbing video, a police officer in Colombia’s third largest city, Cali, is seen shooting a protester as he runs away. The protester died later.

Some scenes were also grimly reminiscent of Augusto Pinochet’s Chilean regime, with the Colombian police using sports centres to detain strikers.

Repression was also widespread in the Colombian capital, Bogotá. The country’s notorious ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron) unit filled streets with tear gas and assaulted protesters in the capital.

British training

According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the UK’s College of Policing has been training Colombian police. This has been happening over the past three consecutive years – 2018, 2019, and 2020. All of the training took place in Colombia.

The issue is of public concern in light of the UK government’s possible complicity in human rights abuses abroad. But the College has refused to disclose where exactly the training occurred, the nature of the training, and the cost.

In recent years, the College has come under fire for receiving millions of pounds to train repressive police regimes. These include Saudi Arabia, where the death penalty remains legal.

What’s more, the College insisted that it ‘can neither confirm nor deny whether the above information represents all the information held that would meet the terms of your request’, citing National Security concerns. To this end, the College absurdly claimed that it didn’t know how many Colombian police officers it had trained during 2018-2020. In response to an internal review, it was unable to offer even an estimate.

The College’s website adds that:

‘The UK police service works closely with government departments… to ensure that any assistance provided is consistent with the UK’s national objectives.’

Given that Colombia is a resource-rich nation in a

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Hundreds of Ex-Rebels Murdered in Colombia Despite Peace Agreement

By |3/May/2021|

Despite the Peace Agreement of 2016, the killing of ex-rebels, social leaders and trade union organisers continue at alarming rates.

By Rodrigo Acuña for Truthout.org

So far this year alone, Colombia has seen 33 massacres of social leaders, trade union organizers and ex-guerrilla fighters belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). At least 119 people have been murdered by paramilitary groups, state security forces or unidentified assassins as of April 27, according to the Instituto de Estudio para el Desarrollo y la Paz, or Institute of Study for Development and Peace. According to Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office, in the first three months of 2021, more than 27,000 Colombians were forcibly displaced due to violence by groups fighting for territorial control and control of the drug trade — an increase of 177 percent compared to last year.

Colombia has a long history of political violence. For over five decades, beginning in the 1960s, it was gripped by a civil war between numerous left-wing rebel movements, right-wing paramilitaries and a corrupt U.S.-backed authoritarian state. This conflict resulted in more than 7 million people internally displaced and over 220,000 people killed. Of those murdered, 10,000 are considered “false positives” — often poor peasants who were murdered by the Colombian military and then dressed up as rebels so soldiers could boost their statistics in the war against leftist insurgents. In 2013, in one of the most comprehensive studies into the conflict, the National Center of Historical Memory noted that between 1980 to 2012, 1,982 massacres occurred in Colombia with 1,166 attributed to the paramilitaries, 343 to the rebels (i.e., multiple armed groups such as the FARC, ELN, M19 and EPL) and 295 to government security forces. In November 2016, after years of delicate negotiations in Norway and Cuba, the FARC and the Colombian State reached a historic peace agreement.

Under the 2016 peace deal, the FARC guerrillas were allowed to create their own political party according to Nick MacWilliam, a trade unions and programs officer at Justice for Colombia in the United Kingdom. As a result, several of their leaders won seats in congress while more than 13,000 rebels surrendered their weapons, commencing a process to integrate themselves into civilian life. MacWilliam notes that, “based in specially created ‘reincorporation zones’ scattered around the country, former guerrilla combatants developed sustainable projects, enrolled on educational courses and undertook vocational training” taking up “diverse new roles in medicine, journalism, tourism, textiles, agriculture and even beer brewing.”

Heading the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia last year, Carlos Ruiz Massieu stated that, “despite continued attacks and stigmatization against them, the vast majority of those who laid down their weapons remain engaged in the reintegration process.”

Still, the number of ongoing murders of ex-FARC combatants is staggering. Mariela Kohon, a senior international officer at the Trades Union Congress

How Kowtowing to Trump Guided British Support for Juan Guaidó

By |27/April/2021|

Recently published ministerial diaries reveal the cynicism of British support for Juan Guaidó.

The recently published diary of former minister of state for Europe and the Americas Alan Duncan provides crucial details on the decision-making process behind Britain’s recognition of Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó as president in January 2019.

On 23 January, the day that Guaidó declared himself president, Duncan writes,

I insist on tweeting something supportive, but speak to Andrew Soper, our Ambassador [in Caracas] first, as we don’t want him to be chucked out. So we are one step away from saying we recognise Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim President, but choosing only to say for the time being that we consider Maduro illegitimate.

The next day, then foreign minister Jeremy Hunt visited Washington, attending a ‘mid-morning meeting with SofS Mike Pompeo, and then Vice-pres Mike Pence. [Hunt] then takes us a little by surprise and ramps it up by suddenly saying that we will consider recognising Guaidó. It throws us somewhat, but we will adjust accordingly.’

US pressure, it seems, was key to forcing Hunt’s hand on Venezuela. Indeed, Duncan continues by writing on 25 January that the foreign secretary, Hunt

confides that we need to use Venezuela as an issue on which we can be as fully in line with the US as possible, because [Hunt] is out of line on a number of issues such as Syria. It’s one of those trade-off moments which we need if we are to handle the Trump administration cleverly.

Such declarations detail how concern for human rights is a veil for a far more cynical policy. Apparently quoting Hunt, Duncan continues: ‘Venezuela is in their back yard, and it’s probably the only foreign adventure they might just pursue.’

Just one month prior, Hunt had contradicted Donald Trump’s statements regarding the defeat of ISIS and withdrawal of US troops from Syria, seemingly embarrassing the president.

On top of geopolitical concerns, Duncan’s past remarks highlight Britain’s interest in Venezuelan oil. In 2018, Duncan declared: ‘The revival of the oil industry [in Venezuela] will be an essential element in any recovery, and I can imagine that British companies like Shell and BP, will want to be part of it.’

Duncan’s diary also suggests how humanitarian concerns are prompted by foreign policy interests. On 4 February, Duncan notes that he had

a very friendly phone call with DfID Secretary Penny Morduant, which I’d been trying to achieve for a week. My pitch was clear – when we lift the lid [on recognising Guaidó], Venezuela will be seen as the most pressing country of need in the western hemisphere; it affects its neighbours too, who are hosting 3 million migrants; our current activity comprising two humanitarian advisers and aid through multilateral organisations looks too flimsy; this is a Global Britain moment; it needs to be part of our broader policy in the continent; it allies us with all the Lima Group countries, along with the US and Canada; we need to gear up now in anticipation; we need to brand

Gabriel García Márquez and Magical Internationalism

By |26/April/2021|

Gabriel García Márquez was a militant journalist with a lifelong dedication to revolutionary internationalism.

Sometimes what is obvious hides what is important. Gabriel García Márquez is best known as the craftsman par excellence of the genre ‘magical realism’, rather than his profound passion for the profession of journalism that led him to traverse – with the eagerness of a chronicler and a vallenato rhythm in his step – countless cafes, newsrooms, and continents.

Gabo, or Gabito, as he was known to his friends in Aracataca, a town camouflaged among the banana plantations of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, produced a journalism that few recognise, journalism militantly committed to a national and global context. International affairs, and in particular the people that rose up against US imperialism, were the ink for his pen. Instead of hiding behind the sudden fame produced by the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967, over the years he became radicalised and refined his writing with an acidic humour indebted to those brought up in that ‘village of twenty houses of mud and reed built on the shore of a river of diaphanous waters that rushed down a bed of polished stones, as enormous and white as prehistoric eggs.’

Crossing a huge diversity of literary and journalistic genres, García Márquez managed to hybridise both professions by deepening his political thought and extending his journalistic interventions to a range of spheres, stretching from reflections within a national and regional context, to international relations and the reality of other continents. The development of Gabo’s personal and professional life went hand in hand with the development of the twentieth century, meaning that many of the major, transcendental social and historical events in mankind’s history in turn became the fundamental building blocks of his own being: the fall of Nazism and fascism in Europe; the Bogotazo and the war between the liberals and conservatives in Colombia; the deployment of Colombian troops in the Korean War; the consolidation of the Soviet Union and the socioeconomic model of Eastern Europe; the triumph of the Cuban revolution; the dictatorship of Rojas Pinilla and Operation Condor in Latin America and the Caribbean; the development of what’s called the Cold War; the hegemonic anti-communist discourse; and the battles for national liberation on the African and Asian continents. All of this, amongst many other events, were key elements in the publications of the writer from Aracataca.

Born and raised in a humble family on the fringes of the Caribbean – with all that this implies including his revolutionary identification with that famous socialist island – García Márquez was, however, a pilgrim of the world. His passion to know the truth, that age-old fetish of journalists, led him to travel and engage with the reality of the different people that he met, and with that he constructed a committed, situated, and militant journalism, that until his last days, sought to create scenarios and platforms which many, many journalists from the continent could publish from without fear of censorship.

After passing through numerous towns

In Che Guevara’s Veins Flowed the Blood of Irish Rebels

By |20/April/2021|

A shared anti-imperialist cause has forged a deep bond between Ireland and Latin America.

‘In my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels’, once proclaimed Ernesto Guevara Lynch, father of the legendary Che Guevara, who was proud of his Irish roots and how his family built a new life in Argentina after fleeing Ireland during the Cromwell era.

Rebellious Irish blood was essential during Latin America’s emancipatory struggles – and it remains so today. Latinos and the Irish have been fighting imperialism together since the nineteenth century, when Irish immigrants, fleeing the famine and oppression caused by the British Empire, found in Latin America a new battleground to challenge the cruelty of colonialism.

The Irish and their descendants contributed to the formation of many of the new Latin American republics, such as in Chile with Bernardo O’Higgins or those Irish present in the Bolivarian army. The converse is also true – recall the Irish-Argentine Eamon Bulfin: it was he, born in Buenos Aires, who raised the Irish Republican flag at the General Post Office during the Easter Uprising in 1916.

Che, the Irish

 The most famous ‘Irish representative’ and central character of the Cuban revolution was Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara: his Celtic ancestors, the Lynches, suffered at the hands of Oliver Cromwell, the man who overthrew the monarchy and instituted his own control of England for several years.

Members of Che’s family fled Ireland and went to Spain, later leaving for Argentina, while the country was still a Spanish colony. Che’s great-grandfather even fought in the War of Independence against Spain in the middle of the nineteenth century. Like many other members of the Irish diaspora, the Lynches had important ties to their ancestral lands, although Che only ever spent one day in Ireland.

On that day, an Aeroflot flight to Havana from Moscow was diverted at Shannon Airport. The plane stopped to refuel but was unable to take off due to the fog. During his brief visit, Che said he was proud of his Irish ancestry and Irish connection, declaring that the Irish had overthrown the British Empire, referring to the Irish War of Independence, waged from 1919 to 1921.

Cuba

These ties were not just in ancestral history. Fidel Castro became a revolutionary during his time as a student political organiser at the University of Havana, inspired by Julio Antonio Mella, a well-known founder of the Cuban Communist Party.

The militant Mella was exiled to Mexico after becoming a threat to the bloody dictatorship of Cuban president Gerardo Machado. There, he mobilised with other communists. Mella’s mother, Cecilia McPartland, was born in Ireland – meaning one of the greatest heroes in Cuban history, who inspired Cuban revolutionaries during the 1950s, was of Irish descent.

In 1981, when Irish Republican prisoners were in the middle of a historic hunger strike against the British state, it was Fidel Castro who once again sided with the oppressed.

The hunger strike was the result of a five-year battle between Irish nationalists and the British autocracy, which broke out

Chile’s Piñera to the International Criminal Court?

By |17/April/2021|

Since 2019, Piñera’s government has systemically violated human rights. An interview with Mauricio Dazza, the prosecutor trying to take him to the ICC.

When the people of Chile rose up against the neoliberal government of Sebastián Piñera in 2019, they were met with brutal repression. Today, they are calling for Piñera to be held accountable for these crimes at the International Criminal Court.

Editor’s Note: There have been a series of systematic violations of human rights in Chile, especially during the period of the “social outbreak”. National and international human rights organisations have recorded eye injuries caused by the impact of rubber bullets, torture, deaths, sexual abuse and a series of other abuses and serious violations. These have been compiled into a dossier of evidence to take Sebastián Piñera to the International Criminal Court. In order to find out more, Bruno Sommer interviewed prosecutor Mauricio Daza on the Cable a Tierra video channel. This is an excerpt of the interview by Wire partner El Ciudadano. The full interview is available in Spanish here.

BS: There is talk in presidential circles that one of Piñera’s main concerns is being tried in an international court. In your opinion, do you think that all Piñera can do is protect his image abroad, given that his image has already been totally destroyed in Chile? What can you tell us about this?

MD: Yes, it is clear from official communications that the government is concerned about the criminal prosecution of Sebastián Piñera for crimes against humanity. This is evident in the way the Piñera administration confronts the issue of attacks on the civilian population by the Carabineros de Chile (Chilean national police force) and military forces during the State of Emergency, decreed after the social outbreak of 2019.

There are grounds for this as, generally speaking, Piñera has been involved in many legal proceedings, mostly related to economic offences. We must remember he was prosecuted for fraud in the famous Banco de Talca case and there were further cases linked to companies in which he held a management or board position. The charges related to breaking free competition rules and securities market laws including, among others, insider trading.

However, he is now facing a very different type of accusation that he will not be able to avoid the way those with economic power in a country like Chile usually can, with a telephone call, through his own or his supporters’ influential networks or through the business or political groups in which he has some influence.

BS: How did the idea of filing this lawsuit come about, who will take it forward and how do you think it will be arranged because the lawsuit is for crimes against humanity?

MD: That’s right, it’s for crimes against humanity.

BS: I understand that there is no statute of limitations on these crimes. What elements would help us establish them as crimes against humanity?

MD: In truth, the idea came from observing a reality that was evident for several months from 18 October 2018 onward. The police

Biden and Latin America

By |8/April/2021|

It is not clear that a Joe Biden presidency is good news for an independent Latin America.

Late in the morning of 8 November 2020 cheering and honking erupted throughout Washington, DC as news outlets announced that Joe Biden was the projected winner of the US presidential election. Thousands of mostly young Washingtonians gathered in Black Lives Matter Plaza, across from the White House, to celebrate the defeat of a blatantly racist, sexist, and xenophobic president.

Relief and joy were also palpable in the city’s well-heeled neighbourhoods, where senior civil servants and government contractors could at last envision a return to the more normal and predictable politics of the pre-Trump era. Washington’s foreign policy elites were jubilant: the US would soon cease to be an international embarrassment; its leaders would reengage with traditional allies and work to restore US leadership in multilateral institutions.

Within Washington’s foreign policy community, expectations are particularly high for US relations with Latin America. During his stint as vice president, Biden focused on this region far more than any other and forged personal bonds with many heads of state. As a headline in the Atlantic put it, ‘Joe Biden’s Reset [with the world] Would Start in Latin America.’

For those who dream of greater independence for Latin America, it’s not clear that Biden’s election is such good news. To be sure, Trump played a disastrous role in the region: imposing deadly economic sanctions on Venezuela, hardening the US embargo against Cuba, and throwing his support behind Brazil’s racist, anti-Indigenous far-right president, among other horrors. But many will remember that during the Obama-Biden era progressive Latin American movements experienced major reversals in which the US all too frequently played a role.

The Obama administration may have sought to normalise relations with Cuba’s socialist government, but it also helped to enable coups against left-leaning governments. It supported a neoliberal trade and investment agenda, promoted militarised drug and security programmes, and provided unconditional support to right-wing governments with horrifying human rights records.

What will Biden do? Will he dust off and reapply the Obama administration’s playbook for Latin America? Will he adopt some of Trump’s overtly interventionist measures, particularly those that have received bipartisan support? Or will he seek to draw lessons from the unfortunate outcome of many of the policies of both the Obama and the Trump administrations? The early signs coming from the new administration are anything but promising.

Biden as senator and vice president

Joe Biden’s first significant foray into Latin America policy began in the early 2000s when he was a US senator.  As the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he helped President Bill Clinton secure funding for Plan Colombia, an initiative that equipped and trained Colombian military and police forces engaged, in theory, in counternarcotics activities. In a joint press conference with Colombian president Andrés Pastrana in August 2000, Biden declared that US support for Plan Colombia would continue so long as human rights were respected and no US aid was used in

Ecuador’s Democracy at Stake

By |7/April/2021|

With progressive candidate Andrés Arauz the favourite to become Ecuador’s next president, attacks on the country’s democracy are escalating rapidly.

In 11 April, the people of Ecuador will cast their final vote to elect the country’s next president.

But as we approach the second round of Ecuador’s presidential election, the attacks on its democracy are escalating rapidly.

In the last month alone, we have seen calls for a military coup published in Ecuador’s most popular newspapers, efforts to disqualify candidates with false accusations of fraud and an attempt to confiscate its voting databases for an illegal ‘audit’ of the first-round votes.

The presidential elections in Ecuador arrive in a context of severe economic, social and political crisis. Mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated communities across the country, with poverty rates soaring over 10 per cent since the start of the pandemic and economic output falling by over 10 per cent over the same time period. Doctors in Ecuador are now reporting a major spike in Covid-19 cases, adding to a death toll that ranks among the highest in the region.

Meanwhile, the Lenin Moreno government has been rocked by a vaccine scandal in which its members were caught red-handed giving out vaccines to their rich and powerful friends before the rest of the country. A wave of resignations from the Moreno government has ensued, fuelling discontent with a president who already had the lowest approval rating on record at just 7 per cent.

The 11 April elections therefore present a critical opportunity for the people of Ecuador to reclaim the constitutional rights that have been denied by the Moreno government. The right to health, to the right to decent work, and the right to popular sovereignty: Moreno and the creditors at the International Monetary Fund have threatened all three of them with an agenda of austerity and privatisation. The stakes of this election for all Ecuadorian citizens could not be higher.

But a range of political actors are conspiring against them. Over the course of the last several weeks, we have once again seen attempts by actors inside and outside Ecuador to interfere and undermine the integrity of the electoral process.

Inside of Ecuador, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Office of the Comptroller have come together to attack the National Electoral Council with false charges of electoral fraud, calling to confiscate their digital databases and annul their first-round vote count.

Outside of Ecuador, the Attorney General of Colombia has colluded with the Office of the Prosecutor to attack candidate Andrés Arauz with absurd lies about a loan from the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army [based in Colombia] to his presidential campaign.

It is for this reason that the Progressive International is mobilising again to Ecuador. During the first round of these elections, international observation delegations like ours played a critical role in resisting these antidemocratic pressures. Now, once again, bringing parliamentarians and data scientists from around the world, our delegation will travel across the country to help ensure free, fair and transparent elections.

This article was originally

Will Lula Make a Comeback?

By |1/April/2021|

Will Brazil move away from fascism and towards a social democracy that once again puts economic justice and anti-imperialism first?

That is the question on Brazilian minds right now, as earlier this month the Supreme Court dismissed all charges against former president Luis Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva. A colossal figure in domestic and world politics, Lula was falsely convicted of fraud in 2017, and spent more than 18 months in prison, becoming, in the words of renowned academic Noam Chomsky, ‘the world’s most prominent political prisoner’.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court also ruled that the judge who sentenced Lula, Sergio Moro, made a biased decision. Secret documents show that Moro was actually working with the prosecution to ensure Lula was convicted, paving the way for fascist candidate Jair Bolsonaro to assume the presidency. In a staggering display of quid pro quo, Moro then accepted the job of Bolsonaro’s minister of justice.

A massive turnaround

 ‘There is a sense of elation for [Lula’s] supporters and those that stood by him for so many years’, said Michael Fox, a filmmaker based in the southern city of Florianópolis, who likened following Brazilian politics to a ride on a rollercoaster: ‘In just a few weeks, Lula’s charges have been annulled and now the once super-star judge Sergio Moro is under formal investigation for judicial bias, a felony charge. It’s a massive turnaround and it can’t be understated.’ ‘This is victory for democracy. We again have hope of a better Brazil with Lula free’, one jubilant supporter of the former president told Fox.

Lula was the runaway favourite to be re-elected in 2018; just six weeks before the election, polls showed that more than twice as many people intended to vote for him as for Bolsonaro. But the courts ruled that he was barred from running, even from the prison cell Moro put him in, a decision that virtually ensured a Bolsonaro victory. A recent poll found that more than half of Brazil said they would definitely or possibly vote for him in next year’s presidential election, despite the fact he has not yet even made a decision about standing.

‘The chances of Lula’s re-election are huge’, Brazilian journalist Nathália Urban told MintPress. ‘He is still tremendously popular, and is being especially favoured in the face of this polarised scenario, which places him as the only one capable of beating Bolsonaro.’

‘Bolsonaro is scared. His approval rating is dropping’, Fox noted. ‘If Lula decides to run, and he is not somehow again blocked from running, like in 2018, he has every chance of winning in 2022.’ Fox added that, after a year of Bolsonaro’s downplaying or outright denying the virus that has killed over 300,000 Brazilians, Lula’s freedom has spurred the current president to act more responsibly. Things got so bad at one point last year, armed, criminal gangs chastised Bolsonaro’s recklessness, unilaterally imposing a lockdown in areas under their control. ‘We want the best for the population. If the government won’t do the

Cuba Libre to Covid-Libre

By |31/March/2021|

The achievements of Cuba’s Covid vaccination programme highlight the failure of the market.

On 23 March 2021, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a group of Conservative Party backbenchers: ‘The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.’ Johnson was articulating the dogma that the pursuit of private profit through capitalist free markets leads to efficient outcomes. In reality, however, Britain’s accomplishments in developing the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and in the national vaccination rollout have more to do with state investments than the market mechanism. Government money subsidised the vaccine development at the University of Oxford, and it is the state-funded National Health Service that has carried out the vaccination programme. Johnson did not admit that it is due to capitalism and greed that Britain now has the fifth worst Covid-19 mortality rate in the world with over 126,500 deaths (almost 1,857 per million people in the population) and counting.

The British government, like most neoliberal regimes, refused to take the measures necessary to slow and halt community transmission, it failed early on to provide health care and social care workers with adequate PPE and other resources which could have saved the lives of hundreds of frontline staff who died as a result. It contracted private businesses to carry out essential activities, most with little or no relevant experience, for example, instead of equipping the community-based GP system of the National Health Service to take charge of ‘track and trace’, the government dished out £37 billion to Serco to manage part of the system. In public health terms it has been disastrous; but measured by Boris Johnson’s celebrated standards of capitalism and greed it is has indeed excelled. The greatest beneficiaries of Britain’s response to the pandemic have been the private corporations making huge profits. Around 2,500 Accenture, Deloitte and McKinsey consultants are on an average daily rate of £1,000, with some paid £6,624 a day.

Johnson has now laid out a road map for reopening the economy. As a result, even the most optimistic scenario predicts a third wave between September 2021 and January 2022 resulting in at least 30,000 additional deaths in Britain. These deaths are preventable. But it precisely because the British government is driven by the capitalism and greed that it insists that we have to learn to ‘live with the virus’ so that the business of business can continue.

Contrary to Johnson’s claims, this pandemic has affirmed that public healthcare needs cannot be adequately met under a profit-based system. Indeed, it is the absence of the capitalist profit motive which underlies the outstanding domestic and international response to Covid-19 by socialist Cuba, which now has five vaccines in clinical trials and is set to be among the first nations to vaccinate its entire population.

By reacting quickly and decisively, by mobilising its public healthcare system and world-leading biotech sector, Cuba has kept contagion and fatalities low. In 2020 Cuba confirmed a total of 12,225 coronavirus cases and 146 deaths in a population of

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|

(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|

(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|

(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’