Articles2017-09-08T23:48:22+01:00

Ten Reasons Why OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro Has to Go

By |19/January/2022|

While the US-influenced Organization of American States has never been a friend to the peoples of the Americas, current secretary general Luis Almagro is quite possibly the worst leader since it was founded in 1948.

The Organization of American States (OAS) has never been a friend to the peoples of the Americas. This institution, ostensibly a space for multilateralism, has instead always been a tool for the US Department of State. As Fidel Castro said in 1962, it is nothing but the US Ministry of Colonies. That is truer now than ever before under the leadership of Secretary General Luis Almagro, who has been at the helm since March 2015. He is quite possibly the worst leader since the OAS was founded [1] in 1948.

Here are ten reasons Almagro has to go:

1) Almagro and the OAS lit the fuse for the 2019 coup in Bolivia. They falsely claimed the presidential results showing Evo Morales being re-elected were ‘inexplicable’, which set off unrest and activated a plot that overthrew him. These claims were so thoroughly debunked that members of the US Congress requested an investigation into the OAS’ role in the coup. Almagro immediately recognised the coup government, which committed ‘summary executions and widespread repression’ [2] during its year in power. After saying nothing about the coup regime’s victims, the OAS issued a statement condemning Bolivia’s judicial system the day after coup leader Jeanine Añez was arrested. This blatant interference in the domestic affairs of a member state runs counter to the OAS charter and led Mexico to chastise the OAS [3] for its behaviour towards Bolivia.

2) Almagro’s cravenness helped legitimise four more years of the Honduran narco-dictatorship led by Juan Orlando Hernández. The 2017 elections in Honduras were actually riddled with fraud, and initially, Almagro and the OAS did the right thing: they denounced the fraud and called for new elections. But the Trump administration was happy with the results and recognised the elections. Within a month, Almagro backtracked, which ‘called his own credibility into question’ according to diplomat [4] Sir Ronald Sanders. Despite the documented crimes of the Juan Orlando Hernández regime, Almagro embraced and legitimised the Honduran government.

3) Almagro continued the OAS’s long history of interfering in Haiti [5]. In 2020, when President Jovenel Moïse ruled without a parliament and gave himself an extra year on his term, the OAS issued a press release telling Haitians they should ‘comply’ [6]. Almagro, acting without the approval of OAS member states, sent a delegation to Haiti (which was in the country for just five hours [7]) to prop up the Moïse government in the face of intensifying protests. Just before Moïse’s assassination in 2021, the OAS recommended that he appoint a new prime minister and set elections before the end of the year – precisely what the majority of Haitians did not want.

4) Almagro embraced the 2016 coup and the Temer regime in Brazil. Right after a meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff before her impeachment, Almagro denounced [8] the proceedings

The Fight for Victims’ Rights in Chile

By |11/January/2022|

During 2019’s mass protests against inequality, Chilean police blinded or partially-blinded almost 500 people yet have faced little accountability. We spoke to victims’ spokesperson Marta Váldes, whose son was one of those targeted.

Marta Valdés is a spokesperson for the Coordinating Committee of Victims of Eye Injuries (CVTO), a Chilean human rights organisation established to represent victims of state violence. Her 17-year-old son , Estebán Navarro, was one of nearly 500 people blinded or partially-blinded by police during mass protests in late 2019. Valdés’ son was, in her words, ‘one of the first injured’ on 27 October 2019 and ‘that’s when the issue started to appear in the media a lot because they were just shooting people in the face.’

Conscious of the difficult situation facing victims in general and her son in particular, Marta decided to seek truth and justice. Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, started to face numerous lawsuits over humans rights violations. These lawsuits were supported by the Chilean Human Rights Commission and led to meetings with the Chilean Parliament to build support that would carry the demands into international courts.

So far, CVTO’s campaigning has seen few advances beyond the implementation of the Comprehensive Eye Reparation Programme, a government programme administered under former Health Minister Jaime Mañalich. However, the exclusion of victims from developing this programme raised fresh concerns over potential detriments to their recovery and emotional wellbeing.

In late December, Alborada spoke to Marta about the ongoing campaign to support victims and their families.

First of all, what is the current situation for victims of eye injuries, a little over two years after the uprising?

There is great anger and frustration that the state that harmed them has abandoned them. People are angry because they are unable to continue their normal lives. What victims resent the most is the abandonment and impunity.

In that sense, I imagine that this can impact heavily on the families.

Yes, because often families don’t have the tools. The fact that we recently had the suicide of Patricio Pardo, another victim of eye injury due to police brutality, also reflects this abandonment: our colleague ended up having a breakdown, with little hope that the situation would change, which may have led him to take this decision.

We’ve been raising this issue since 2019, the need for truth and justice. And there has been no truth or justice and that generates and increases hatred.

What is the mental health situation of the victims?

Complicated, very complicated. The [government] programme provides a single therapist for more than 300 victims. No matter how willing a therapist is, it is not possible to provide serious treatment to such a large number of victims. We have colleagues whose prostheses have expired and not been replaced. This has not been resolved.

So the mental health issue is one thing, but in the end the problems come one after the other. And they always end up damaging your mental wellbeing. What I am saying is that our colleagues have been re-victimised, due to the issue of getting dignified health

Brazil’s MST on Land Occupation and Resistance to Bolsonaro

By |3/January/2022|

Interview with Alexandre Conceiçao from the Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, MST) – an organisation that has been active in Brazil since 1984 and is one of the largest social movements in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million members.

Focusing their aims on a single issue of land reform, the MST argues it is legally and constitutionally justified to occupy unproductive lands for poor workers. Through the focus on land reform, they also campaign on other related issues such as unequal distribution, racism, sexism and media monopolies.

Editorial note: The movement is currently regaining momentum after a hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic and a lower frequency of new occupations at the beginning of Bolsonaro’s presidency. Faced with multiple challenges – driven by long-standing inequalities that have only been exacerbated by President Bolsonaro and the pandemic – the movement has adopted new political lines and more occupations to fight the current crisis are now planned.

At the start of October, three new occupations were carried out by the MST in the states of São Paulo, Bahia and Rio Grande do Norte, in the context of the struggle for popular agrarian reform. And more occupations are coming, says Alexandre Conceição, member of the MST’s national coordination: this process ‘could be extremely significant due to the political conditions and the current crisis, but also due to the government’s incompetence in not meeting the needs of the Brazilian people in the economy, employment and income’. Conceição spoke with Nanci Pittelkow about this moment in an interview with De Olho nos Ruralistas.

De Olho nos Ruralistas: In the last few days, we have seen that the MST carried out new occupations. What is the context for these occupations? Are there any plans for new occupations?

Alexandre Conceição: During the pandemic we decided, as an organisation, that we would follow the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines and help prevent the spread of the virus. While we were taking care of our health and tried to preserve lives, we also adopted some political lines.

First, resistance and productive isolation. By resistance we mean the need to resist the violent evictions coming from Bolsonaro and his allies –  active resistance is resisting in our territories. The ‘productive’ part is to continue producing food despite Bolsonaro dismantling Incra (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform), implementing regressive public policies and depleting the budget for Agrarian Reform.

The second element of our political orientation is solidarity like producing food as people were starting to go hungry again in Brazil. A year and a half ago, we had already understood that the reality of hunger had returned to Brazil and that the pandemic would aggravate it even further. Therefore, our territories should be spaces for building solidarity, in other words, to produce food.

The third is precisely to denounce issues such as the ownership of large private estates and denounce all forms of violence:  racial violence, violence against women, children and the elderly, which increased during the pandemic. In this sense, throughout our productive isolation

WATCH: Is The Far Right Returning to Chile?

By |17/December/2021|

Alborada co-editor Pablo Navarrete looks ahead to this Sunday’s presidential election in Chile between leftist Gabriel Boric and far-right pinochetista José Antonio Kast.

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ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT:

Latin America, the 21st century’s leading region for progressive victories, is in the midst of a resurgence of the Left.

Left-wing forces are in power in a number of countries and could win a number of upcoming presidential elections.

In Chile, the main left-wing candidate Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old member of parliament and former student leader, has made it through to a presidential election run off set for Sunday the 19th of December. The person he has to beat is José Antonio Kast, a far-right politician and open admirer of former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet came to power in a 1973 US sponsored military coup that overthrew the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende. Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship oversaw the murder and disappearance of more than 3,000 people and hundreds of thousands of people were tortured, imprisoned and exiled. Formal democracy only returned in 1990.

The 55-year-old Kast came just over two points ahead of Boric in the first round of the presidential elections held in November, a result that shocked many.

This was because in late 2019 massive public protests over the countries right-wing neoliberal economic model engulfed Chile.

These protests were met with brutal repression by the right-wing Sebastian Piñera government, which shared the Colombian state’s tactic of blinding protestors.

The Piñera government was eventually forced into accepting a referendum on a new constitution to replace the existing one, which was put in place under Pinochet.

In October 2020 people voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new people’s constitution and since April a progressive majority have been working on its drafting. This new constitution will be put to another referendum.

If Kast were to win the election there is a real fear he would try and derail this process to bury Pinochet’s constitution.

This is because Kast is closely associated to the dictatorship. His brother Miguel served as Pinochet’s Minister of Planning and central bank president and when Jose Antonio Kast ran for president in 2017 he said of Pinochet: “If he were alive, he would have voted for me.” “We would have had tea together” in the presidential palace.

Kast has tried to hide these past statement as he has his own family’s past.

His German born father Michael Kast was a member of the Nazi party and was a lieutenant in Hitler’s army.

On the 1 December Kast travelled to the United States and met with amongst others Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a far-right Cuban American who has a long history of supporting the Latin American right and attempts to overthrow the left in the region. Kast has said that if he becomes president he will break relations with a number of left-wing governments and coordinate with fellow right-wing government to repress left-wing activists in the region.

It is hard to understand how despite these

International Solidarity Once Failed the People of Chile. It Must Not Fail Today.

By |9/December/2021|

Parliamentarians and public figures from over 15 countries unite in defence of Chilean democracy ahead of the 19 December election.

We write to express our grave concern ahead of Chile’s presidential election on 19 December.

For the first time since Chile’s transition to democracy in 1990, a leading presidential candidate – José Antonio Kast – has not only endorsed the legacy of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, but also put forward a policy programme to revive it. Foreign governments played a sordid role in financing, facilitating and legitimating Pinochet’s rise and rule. We, parliamentarians and public figures from around the world, will not repeat their mistake.

José Antonio Kast has time and again defended the military dictatorship and the violent coup that brought it to power in 1973. ‘I thank them for giving us freedom,’ Kast has said. During the 2017 presidential campaign, he said, ‘In the military government, they did many things for the people’s human rights,’ flatly denying the horrors perpetrated against thousands of Chileans. Kast makes no secret of his affinity for Pinochet. ‘If Pinochet were alive, he would have voted for me,’ Kast has said.

Not only does Kast defend pinochetismo; he also promises to restore its legacy in government. Kast’s proposed plan of government would eliminate the Ministry of Women and prohibit abortion; introduce a Chilean ICE [The US’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to detain migrants and deploy security forces to hunt down political dissenters; withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council and pardon the torturers of the military dictatorship; and introduce new presidential emergency powers to deploy security forces. This same programme denies climate change, ‘redefines’ the status of Indigenous peoples and terminates their internationally-recognised rights to prior consultation and aggressively privatises Chilean natural resources.

Elected officials from Kast’s Republican Party have already provided some clues as to what his governance would mean: an extraordinary threat to women, migrants and Indigenous nations. Newly elected deputy Johannes Kaiser recently wondered if women’s right to vote ‘was a good idea.’ To quote him in full: ‘Women stop going to the park because they are afraid of immigrants who might rape them, but they keep voting for the same parties that are bringing those people in, and you really wonder if [women’s] right to vote was a good idea,’ he said.

For decades, the Chilean people struggled to bury the legacy of pinochetismo in their country. Thousands lost their lives during the dictatorship, and millions more mobilised to overthrow Pinochet and restore dignity to the country. Three decades later, in the protest movement that began in October 2019, the people of Chile once again rose up in defence of popular sovereignty, winning the right to a Constitutional Convention – a process that José Antonio Kast has opposed, decried and promised to undermine.

International solidarity failed the people of Pinochet’s Chile. It must not fail Chileans today. We write now in defence of Chilean democracy, in defence of the overwhelming apruebo vote to write a new constitution and in defence of the women, Indigenous nations, migrants

Why Colombia’s Peace Deal Hangs in the Balance

By |7/December/2021|

In 2016, the Colombian government and FARC signed a landmark agreement to end decades of conflict – but five years on, President Duque’s reactionary politics are putting peace at risk.

Colombian president Iván Duque has been busy using COP26 to cultivate his image as a ‘green’ leader. The UK government and parts of the media have obliged, often painting him as a beacon of morality in Latin America, in stark contrast with his counterparts in countries like Brazil. But Duque has much more in common with his authoritarian counterparts than he would care to admit.

Despite Duque’s much-hyped green credentials, in 2020, 65 environmental activists were murdered on his watch. And from March 2020 to April 2021, 22 trade unionists were murdered, making Colombia the deadliest country in the world to be a trade unionist, human rights activist or environmental campaigner.

The situation for former FARC combatants is even more extreme, with over 296 assassinated since being incorporated into civilian life. In fact, almost one thousand activists have been murdered in the last four years – on average, that’s more than four a week.

The 2016 Colombian peace process was supported by Colombian and international trade unions. Justice for Colombia, a British and Irish trade union campaign, was crucial in supporting it, even organising exchanges between Northern Irish politicians involved in the Good Friday Agreement and Colombian negotiators.

The Conditions for Peace

In 1985, during an earlier attempt to end the armed conflict, thousands of Colombian left activists and former guerrillas organised in the Patriotic Union Party were exterminated in a prolonged episode of state-backed paramilitary violence – a political genocide.

Colombia is often praised for being one of Latin America’s oldest democracies, but as the massacre of the Patriotic Union shows, its democratic system was built on the violent persecution of organised opposition.

The 2016 peace agreement proposes fundamental democratic reforms which would open the door for broad political participation, but the escalation of politically-motivated violence taking place in Colombia today lays bare the failure of the Colombian government to act on the democratic reform demanded by the accords.

Another important part of the agreement is on comprehensive rural reform, which addresses the problematic concentration of land ownership and huge levels of inequality which have driven the conflict from the very beginning. Here, too, the Colombian government is reneging its obligations, and Duque is committed to a staunchly neoliberal economic settlement – putting the structural reform elements of the accords at risk of becoming a dead letter.

Despite triumphant rhetoric and greenwashing, even the state’s obligations to dismantle Colombia’s notorious rightwing paramilitaries and financing sustainable crop-substitution to support farmers away from growing coca has fallen dramatically short of what is needed.

Where the FARC have acted honestly, handing in their weapons and submitting to the transitional justice process, the Colombian state has failed to consistently or completely uphold many of its most important commitments.

An Opportunity for Democracy

Continued democratic exclusion and tenacious opposition to the peace process from the far-right culminated in the election of a government determined to ignore, impede or

Honduras Rises Up to Reclaim Its Democracy

By |1/December/2021|

A statement from the Observatory on Sunday’s historic election.

On Sunday, delegates from the Progressive International Observatory witnessed history: the election of Xiomara Castro, the first woman to become president of Honduras.

For millions of Hondurans, the election not only offered a chance to endorse Castro’s programme of national ‘refoundation’ and the extension of social and economic rights it contained. It also presented the opportunity to turn the page from a decade of bloodshed, uncertainty and instability, since the armed forces led a coup against President Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

The triumph of democracy in Honduras reflects the courage of its citizens to overcome efforts to suppress their participation in Sunday’s election. Targeted political violence, mass disinformation and rampant corruption threatened to derail the democratic process. A cyberattack of unknown origins crashed the electoral authority’s webpage in the morning, and just hours later – with no votes counted and no clear exit poll – the ruling National Party declared victory in a major press conference: a clear effort to dissuade turnout among remaining voters.

But the Honduran people could not be deterred. Nearly 70 per cent of the country turned out to vote on Sunday, delivering a crushing defeat for the ruling National Party – and, by extension, the militarisation of Honduran society that the United States government had financed.

In the first test for the Progressive International Observatory, delegates worked closely with local activists and national electoral experts to bring transparency to the Honduran election. The delegation raised the alarm around failing physical infrastructure and preparation before days polls opened. The delegation denounced electoral irregularities and attacks to the democratic process on election day. And the delegation will remain watchful of potential ‘lawfare’ against Honduran democracy – until every vote is counted, and long after.

The return of democracy to Honduras is a staggering achievement. But is also fragile. In the decade since the 2009 coup, the armed forces have only become better supplied, better financed and more deeply connected with US military allies.

The Progressive International therefore calls for sustained global vigilance to ensure a fair conclusion to the vote count, and to resist the possibility of a military intervention in subsequent days.

Such vigilance is a necessary companion of the reconstruction process already underway in Honduras – to repair its democratic institutions, but most of all, to build a fairer society and bring justice for the crimes its people have so recently endured.

This article was originally published by Progressive International and has been edited for style.

Alborada is a member of the Progressive International wire service.

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The World Is Watching Honduras

By |26/November/2021|

The Progressive International is in Tegucigalpa to conduct official observation as escalating violence threatens Sunday’s election.

Sunday is the decisive moment for democracy in Honduras.

Observers from the Progressive International arrive to Tegucigalpa as Honduras prepares to elect a president, three vice-presidents, 298 mayors, 128 national lawmakers and 20 deputies for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN).

Combining observation at voting centres with real-time analysis of the vote count, the delegation will work with the Centro de Estudio para la Democracia (CESPAD) and the National Electoral Council (CNE) to ensure transparency and accountability in the country’s democratic process.

The delegation arrives at a decisive moment for democracy in Honduras. Following a decade of military force, foreign intervention and documented irregularities in its electoral process, the country now faces a stark choice: respect the popular will, or repress it.

Honduras has yet to recover political stability after the 2009 coup – led by the country’s armed forces and aided by US military officers – against president Manuel Zelaya.

The presidential elections that followed – in 2013 and 2017 – were again mired in allegations of fraud, low technical capacity and outright corruption. In 2017, even the Organization of American States (OAS) itself went as far as to say ‘the OAS General Secretariat cannot give assurance regarding the outcome of the elections.’

The country now faces both domestic and international threats to its democratic process.

Disinformation runs rampant across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as candidates spread conspiracy theories and slander opposition candidates in an attempt to suppress participation in the election.

Meanwhile, political violence is on the rise. In July, the former lawmaker Carolina Echeverría from the Liberal Party was assassinated in her own home as she planned for a congressional re-election campaign.

This was hardly an isolated attack. Just last month, opposition deputy Olivia Zúñiga Cáceres, daughter of slain Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, faced an assassination attempt similar to that of Echevarría. Activists across the country report regular violence and intimidation in the run-up to Sunday’s election.

The rise in political violence has raised questions over the role of the armed forces in the country’s political system. Since the coup in 2009, the Honduran armed forces have enforced Zelaya’s exile, taken over key roles government administration and assumed police duties.

The power of the country’s armed forces is backstopped by the US government. Through its hemispheric ‘War on Drugs’, the US has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in military training and aid to these same armed forces.

The strategy has proved disastrous both for Honduras as for the stated aims of US drug policy – exemplified most clearly by the indictment of sitting president Juan Orlando Hernández for his alleged attempts to ‘leverage drug trafficking to maintain and enhance his political power.’

Concern is now mounting – within Honduras and internationally – that Sunday’s election will see widespread fraud, violence and repression. Opposition forces have organised courageously to demand the restoration of democracy to the country. But careful monitoring will be necessary to guard against the deployment of authoritarian

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