Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Blog moving

All new posts will appear at my new blog, jointly operated with Kevin Funk, Que Se Vayan Todos.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Take action for the Bauen Hotel workers attacked in Parliament

The recuperated workplaces in Argentina are the beginnings of a model for a future society. Their successes could eventually inspire campaigns for workers' democratic rights around the world - if they aren't nipped in the bud first. Hotel Bauen is one of the most visible worker managed workplaces and serves as a meeting place for various progressive movements in the country. If the government succeeds in restoring hierarchical rule it will be a serious blow to the project of worker control in Argentina. See the context and action planned for this Thursday below.


Early on Dec. 8, a delegation of 12 cooperative members from the
autonomous worker-controlled Bauen hotel were violently ousted from the
Buenos Aires municipal legislature as they sought to attend a debate
concerning their dispute with the hotel's former owners. A larger group
of Bauen workers had been waiting for eight hours outside the
legislature, but when the debate finally began at around 2:30am, only 12
of the 60 workers remaining outside were allowed to enter the chambers,
even though the sessions are supposed to be open to the public.

Shortly after the debate began, the 12 Bauen workers--most of them
women--began to whistle their disapproval at deputy Mario Morando,
author of a bill which seeks to return the Bauen hotel to the Iurcovich
family, its original owners. Legislature president Santiago de Estrada
responded by ordering the workers removed. Nearly 50 police agents
arrived and attacked the 12 Bauen workers, beating them and spraying
some kind of irritant gas in their eyes. After the workers were ejected
from the chambers, the legislature continued its discussion, finally
approving the creation of a commission of seven deputies to head a
four-month negotiation process between the worker cooperative and the
former owners. The workers' cooperative is determined to maintain its
control of the hotel. [ANRed 12/8/05 via Resumen Latinoamericano] The
owners shut down the hotel in 2001. Two years later, 40 of the original
workers reoccupied it and opened it for business; the workers'
cooperative that runs it now has 150 members. [Resumen Latinoamericano

ISSUE #828, DECEMBER 11, 2005
(212) 674-9499


Please forward widely, and send the email at the bottom on THURSDAY, DEC.15

We are looking for a huge, international flood on Thursday, but email after that date will still help!

At 2 a.m. on Wednesday December 6, the Buenos Aires city Legislature passed a law that will in effect evict the workers' cooperative at the Hotel Bauen. This law, which was voted on by 29 legislators, "invents" a boss for a workplace without bosses.

When the workers decided to occupy the hotel to demand their unpaid salaries, the Hotel Bauen was bankrupt and the company had millions of dollars in debt, among them, the cost of the building located at 360 Callao.

As the ownership of the building was in dispute (the person who had bought the building paid only 4 of the 12 million peso price, and the person who sold it promised to return the 4 million and never came through) the hotel was legally without anyone to take care of it. So the workers decided to put it back into operation.

They started to work with nothing but the strength of their conviction. Now there are 140 men and women who maintain the hotel, 24 hours a day, opening a space for meetings, assemblies and social movement events, all entirely out of solidarity.

Ignoring all of their efforts, the Legisture decided to approve a law that ignores the dictates of justice and attempts to destroy all of the work that the cooperative has put into the hotel. Despite the workers' protest at the time of the vote, the legislators ordered their eviction. They threw them out with batons and tear gas.

Now, the workers demand that the head of the Buenos Aires city government - Jorge Telerman, veto the law. The veto must take place within 15 days of when the law was passed.

If Mr. Telerman does not veto the law, the workers may be evicted.

Next Thursday December 15th at 2pm, the workers at the Hotel Bauen are marching to Jorge Telerman's office to demand that this law be annulled.

To support the Bauen workers cooperative, we are asking that you email the message below ON THURSDAY to this email address:

Señor Jorge Telerman:

Hoy el destino del Hotel Bauen, recuperado por sus trabajadores, está en sus manos. Miles de personas en el mundo lo están mirando. Vete la ley que consagra la impunidad de los empresarios inescrupulosos y apoye a los 140 hombres y mujeres que todos los días están demostrando cómo construir trabajo digno en ese espacio que es modelo de eficiencia y solidaridad.

Mister Jorge Telerman:

Today the destiny of the Hotel Bauen, recovered by its workers, is in your hands. Thousands of people all over the world are watching. VETO the law that creates impunity for the unscrupulous impresarios and support the 140 men and women that each day show how to create dignified work in this place that is a model of efficiency and solidarity.


Sign the petition in support of the Hotel Bauen workers!

The petition will be submitted as part of the campaign

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Anarchist Critique of the Zapatistas

An interesting article on the Zapatistas, supportive but critical, appears in Andrew Flood, The Zapatistas: A New Strategy in Mexico, Ireland, Red and Black Revolution #10, 2005. Click here for the full article.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The U.S., World Bank, & IMF gang up on Ecuador

This arrived in my inbox the other day and is worth a read.

November 22, 2005
IMF Continues Washington’s Harassment of Ecuador
Soren Ambrose
50 Years Is Enough Network / Solidarity
Africa Network in Action

After the most recent presidential resignation forced by
popular pressure in Ecuador, a progressive, Alfredo
Palacio, was made interim president. His skepticism about
the neo-liberal ideology has concerned the U.S. government
a great deal, especially in light of the fact that the
Ecuador is not far from Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, the one
of the Bush Administration’s major irritants (apart from
its incompetence in Iraq and at home, of course).

It is also threatening to block the desires of Occidental
Petroleum, longtime Amazon oil explorer and a good friend
of the Administration, by nationalizing oilfields. There
have been threats to exclude Ecuador from the nascent
Andean Free Trade Agreement if it does not play ball with
Occidental (which may not strike many readers as a reason
to change course).

U.S. concern about Ecuador’s trajectory seemed to find a
sympathetic ear at the World Bank, which recently
condemned the government’s move to adjust the percentage
of oil profits that is mandated to be devoted to debt
payments. That move, in light of skyrocketing oil prices
and domestic economic turmoil, did not seem outlandish to
many observers, especially since the net amount of cash
devoted to debt did not diminish. Even the IMF, which had
been the most vocal in warning against the move, did not
react with draconian steps. But the World Bank diverged
from its own customary procedures and stopped its lending
to Ecuador, reportedly because of personal intervention by
new World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, another good
friend of the Bush Administration. As one observer put it,
the rationale seems to be that the Bank was saying that
the move meant it would not fulfill its IMF program
requirements, even when the IMF had come to no such
conclusion. As the same observer noted, this would be a
new level of overreach for the Bank.

The Bank’s abrupt decision resulted in the forced
resignation of Ecuador’s Finance Minister, Rafael Correa,
considered among the most progressive Finance Ministers in
the hemisphere, and an important voice anchoring Palacio
on the left.

All this is to provide context for the article below,
which was circulated on the listserv. The IMF’s
concerns about public spending echo those it has been
making for the last few months, though they have been
framed in an analysis of a “broadly positive” outlook for
Ecuador. That they are choosing to publicize them in this
manner, with the laughable (even for the IMF) idea that 4%
inflation could portend a crisis, suggests the IMF is
being brought into Washington’s great game.

[I havn't included the article]

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Must read articles on Venezuela and Argentina

Michael Albert, a founder of Zmag and co-creater of the concept of Participatory Economics with Robin Hanel, recently published two articles based on short trips he made to Venezuela and Argentina. They are: Venezuela's Path and Argentine Self Management.

Because Albert has political convictions very close to my own, the articles address what I think are some of the key points in the struggles of both countries better than any other articles I've seen. He finds much to admire in both the Bolivarian Revolution and the recuperated factory movement in Argentina and identifies legitimate points of concern. I am very heartened by his optimistic interpretations of what he saw and heard in Venezuela.

Bolivia overview from Le Monde Diplomatique

An excellent overview on the current state of affairs in Bolivia:

Le Monde diplomatique
November 2005
Bolivia: an Amayra for president
By Maurice Lemoine

Bolivians will go to the polls on 4 December - unless a last-minute ploy by the right leads to a postponement - in what will be a historic general election. For despite chronic divisions and rivalries, Bolivia's social movements are in a position to take power and make Evo Morales South America's first indigenous president.

Full article

The article hints at structures of popular organization that seem quite promising. An excerpt:
...the people do not always follow those who claim to represent them. In El Alto, as Nestor Guillon of Villa el Ingenio [Federation of Neighbourhood Committees](Fejuves) explains, the demonstrations were originally organised by the leaders -"Comrades, we must take to the streets". But the situation gradually changed. Now, local residents decide: "We must get out and march." The demand comes from below. "El Alto's capacity for mobilisation doesn't depend on the Fejuves," says Guillon, "but on what neighbourhood and block-based assemblies decide. Without them, Mamani can call all the demonstrations he likes; no one will follow him." The majority of El Alto's inhabitants voted in the referendum on hydrocarbons, despite their leader's calls for a boycott. In so doing, they implicitly backed MAS and look
likely to do so again in the forthcoming elections.

The view of Venezuela from two anarchists

Venezuela, El Libertario, Of Chavistas and Anarquistas: Brief Sketch

(November-December, 2004) By Michael Staudenmaier, with Anne Carlson
For almost a month, from mid-November until mid-December, 2004, we traveled in Venezuela, meeting an array of politically engaged activists from a variety of perspectives. Without a doubt, the foremost lesson we learned during our brief time there concerned the complexity of the social and political situation in the country, which has been consistently over-simplified in the United States. Where the mainstream media in this country portrays President Hugo Chavez as the next Fidel Castro, busily turning Venezuela into a Communist (or at least anti-US) dictatorship, the US left in general has welcomed Chavez uncritically as the new face of progressive struggle in Latin America. North American anarchists, meanwhile, struggle to understand the situation, and are too often torn between these two opposing but comparably one-sided perspectives.

Full article

Letter from a Bolivian libertarian socialist group

Organizacion del Poder Popular Libertario

Dear comrades, this message is in the form of a letter of presentation...
As part of the participational process of the "Encuentros Latinoamericanos de organizaciones autonomas" [Latin-American Encounters of Autonomous Organizations], which began in parallel with the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2003, and the anarchist "Jornadas libertarias" [Libertarian Days] organized by the FAG in Porto Alegre in 2003, in Cochabamba in 2004 and in La Plata in 2005, the libertarians of Bolivia decided during a National Assembly on 26th March to come together organically in the "ORGANIZACION DEL PODER POPULAR LIBERTARIO" (Organization for Libertarian Popular Power - OPL).
The Assembly was attended by comrades from the "Tinku" Movement from Cochabamba ("Utopía Libertaria"), "Tenta Rebelde" from Santa Cruz, "Najas" from Tarija and several comrades from El Alto and La Paz. Having agreed on the Andean-Amazonian libertarian principles of the Organization and deciding on the name (O.PP.L.), we set about working quietly and discreetly (for reasons of security) within our organizations and grassroots collectives, as well as within the various social movements in Bolivia.
We are part of the new process of transition that Bolivia is currently going through, after the Water War, the Coca & Land War, the Gas War, and the struggle for the Nationalization of Hydrocarbon Resources. In this process, the contribution of libertarians working daily with the grassroots social movements is important in the building of our Utopia from out of our daily lives.
The O.P.L. of Bolivia has as its basis the "Tinku" Movement, a nationwide organization with more than 7 years experience in continuous social activism, that will soon be holding another NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, shortly before the presidential election. Regarding the election, it should be noted that it is polarized between the Indigenous Left of the MAS (Evo Morales) and the rightist neo-liberal representative of the oligarchy, "Tuto" Quiroga of the Yankee Embassy.
Finally we request contacts with libertarian, anarchist and autonomous organizations so that our comrade Ramiro Saravia can take advantage of the invitation to the "Foro Eurolatinoamericano de la Juventud (FEULAT) to be held in Malaga, Spain and then, from 19th October to 9th November, visit Social Centres in Spain and Italy to give a series of talks, conferences, video showings etc. on the perspectives of the Social Movements in Bolivia with the aim of looking for solidarity and concrete support for the self-managed grassroots projects of our Organization and of the "Tinku" Movement.
We await messages of international solidarity for our new, though already active, libertarian organization and our autonomous collectives.
Libertarian greetings from Bolivia-Kollasuyu.
Council of the O.P.L. - Bolivia
Note: We are trying to get a new e-mail address from Riseup or Nodo50, but so
far without success. Can anyone help us to set up a website on an alternative
For the moment, you can find out more about what we do at:
Translation by ainfos
From: "Organización del Poder Popular Libertario O.P.L. - Bolivia"

Colombia updates

A few items from ABColombia Group's November 8 email edition of Colombia This Week

In yet another indication of the ties between the Colombian government and the paramilitaries, the conservative Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo,:
reported that DAS [Colombian intelligence agency] officers were secretly taped while discussing alleged plans by a close aide to former DAS Director Jorge Noguera to sell intelligence data to paramilitary leaders. The newspaper claimed that DAS deputy Jorge Narvaez asked for the recording to be made to ensnare his boss in the scandal, revealing deep divisions within the agency. The vice-minister of defence, Andres Peñate, has taken over the DAS while the government investigates the allegations.

A few more excerpts:

The Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) denounces to the national and the international community the recent death threats against Manuel Rozental, an internationally recognised Colombian activist who has been helping to coordinate the communications strategy of the ACIN indigenous organisation that has vociferously opposed the signature of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement. It is not known which armed group is behind the threats.

As approved, Colombia's "Justice and Peace" law has too many loopholes. There is hardly any penalty for "forgetting" to confess a massacre or an illegal asset. In short, the full truth is not required. Too few prosecutors with too little time for investigation and case preparation virtually guarantees that many atrocities will go unexamined. A notorious narco-trafficker who confesses to every drug offence will face a sentence of as little as two to three years for all crimes, -and his extradition to face those charges in the US will be blocked through a prohibition on double jeopardy. Evidence of the law's failings comes from a new Human Rights Watch report. It says that of 5,000 AUC combatants disarmed so far, only 25 have been detained or charged; combatants, moreover, aren't being asked to divulge details of crimes, criminal networks or illicit assets, Miami Herald reports.

The Colombian government has lobbied hard to win international respectability for a peace plan that human rights organisations believe will entrench the political and economic power of a mafia guilty of drug trafficking, extortion and gross human-rights abuses. The endorsement given by the EU's council of ministers last month is counted as a major diplomatic victory. There is little hope of justice for the victims; of the 5,000 paramilitaries who have demobilised, only 25 had been detained for atrocities up to April. The government claims there is a paramilitary ceasefire, but has turned a blind eye to repeated violations; one commander is being legitimised even though he has been accused of ordering the assassination of a congressman in April. The government has ignored criticism of the law from the UN high commissioner for human rights, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, several US senators and many non-governmental organisations, Isabel Hilton reports in The Guardian.

The US Congress has agreed to help fund the demobilisation of thousands of Colombian paramilitaries. It approved a contribution of $20m from next year's budget, but set several conditions for releasing it. Congress said the state department had to certify that Colombia was co-operating fully with the extradition of paramilitary commanders. Many of them are sought by the US on charges of human rights abuses or drug trafficking. The contribution agreed by the US Congress is less than Bogota wanted, but the Colombian Ambassador to Washington, Andres Pastrana, said it was a diplomatic boost, BBC reports.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Newmont Mining in Peru

The New York Times published an excellent article on Newport Mining Corporation's activities in Peru.

The piece details how Newmont enlisted the help of U.S. government officials and a man on the CIA payroll whom U.S. Intelligence likened to Darth Vader to further its exploitation of the natural resource of local Peruvian communities. The lesson of the whole saga for mining companies and corporations in general seems to be: put a little money into social programs locally so people don’t get angry enough to force you out - they'll never like you, because you are exploiting them, but you can buy them off enough to dampen their anger.

Some excerpts:

Then, an unmistakable sign that this land, too, may soon be devoured: Policemen with black masks and automatic rifles guarding workers exploring ground that the mine's owner, Newmont Mining Corporation, has deemed the next best hope.
"This is the Roman peace the company has with the people: They put in an army and say we have peace," said Father Arana as he surveyed the land where gold lies beneath the surface like tiny beads on a string.
Yanacocha is Newmont's prize possession, the most productive gold mine in the world.

The armed guards are here because of what happened in the fall of 2004 at a nearby mountain called Cerro Quilish. For two weeks, fearing that the company's plans to expand Yanacocha would mean Quilish's desecration and destruction, thousands of local people laid siege to the mine. Women and children were arrested, tear gas was thrown, the wounded hospitalized after clashes with the police.
In the end, the world's No. 1 gold-mining company backed down. Father Arana, who runs a local group formed to challenge the mine, helped negotiate the terms of surrender. Newmont withdrew its drilling equipment from Quilish - and the promised reserves from its books. Now, in large part because of the loss of Quilish, the company says production at Yanacocha may fall 35 percent or more in two years.

Newmont gained undisputed control of Yanacocha in 2000 after years of back-room legal wrangling. Behind the scenes, Newmont and its adversaries - a French company and its Australian ally - reached into the upper levels of the American, French and Peruvian governments, employing a cast of former and active intelligence officials, including Peru's ruthless secret police chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.
Much of that arm-twisting has been dragged into the light, in secret recordings by the spy chief. The tapes, apparently intended to blackmail and manipulate Peru's powerbrokers, surfaced in 2000 and led to the downfall of Mr. Montesinos and the president he served, Alberto K. Fujimori.
The tapes captured everything from plotting to fix elections to shopping bags of money being unloaded for payoffs in Mr. Montesinos's office at the Peruvian National Intelligence Agency.
They captured Newmont's maneuverings, too. In one audio recording, the No. 3 Newmont executive at the time, Lawrence T. Kurlander, is heard offering to do a favor for Mr. Montesinos.
"Now you have a friend for life," Mr. Kurlander tells the spy chief.
"You have a friend for life also," Mr. Montesinos replies.
Last year, a Justice Department investigation into whether Newmont's victory resulted from bribing foreign officials was dropped after the Peruvian government failed to cooperate fully and the statute of limitations expired, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the case. The Peruvian government investigated the Yanacocha affair without bringing charges.

At first, people here saw possibility in the mine. Yanacocha - "black lake" in the indigenous Quechua tongue - sits in one of the poorest agricultural regions of Peru.
"When Yanacocha began its operations, we would only hear about how everyone was happy," Father Arana said. "The mine was going to bring jobs, improve roads." No one thought much, he said, about the inevitable collisions.
The collisions began almost immediately.
In the Andean peasants' universe, water is the heart of the land. The people depend on it - for their animals, for drinking, for bathing. Community life is organized around it.
But the mine lives on water, too. The bits of gold here, so small they are called "invisible gold," can be mined profitably only by blasting mountains, then culling the gold with vast quantities of cyanide diluted with similarly vast quantities of water.
It was not long before the peasants began to complain. Streams and canals were drying up, they said. They were filled with murky sediment. The water smelled foul.

The World Bank's investment arm, the International Finance Corporation, later took a 5 percent stake,

From Lima, in the days after the Supreme Court agreed to take the case, Mr. Kurlander headed to Washington to enlist help on the American side. By the end of October 1997, Stuart E. Eizenstat, under secretary of state for economic affairs, wrote Peru's prime minister to press for "a fair and impartial hearing," according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
"A politically tainted decision would adversely affect U.S. investment in Peru," he wrote

Vladimiro Montesinos's titles never matched his stature. Officially, he was "counselor" to Mr. Fujimori and de facto head of the National Intelligence Service. In reality, he was the second-most-powerful man in Peru - "Rasputin, Darth Vadar, Torquemada and Cardinal Richelieu" rolled into one, according to an American Army intelligence report.
The National Intelligence Service was also on the payroll of the C.I.A., which gave Mr. Montesinos a million dollars a year for his supposed help in combating the narcotics trade, according to former C.I.A. officials who approved the payments.
This was the man Mr. Kurlander headed to see alone on Feb. 26, 1998. While he says he knew that Mr. Montesinos was "an extremely bad man," he maintains that the extent of the government's corruption and human rights abuses were not well known at the time. There was, however, one case he was aware of.

Soon Mr. Kurlander raises the Ivcher case. Mr. Montesinos assures him that the pursuit of Mr. Ivcher is not an anti-Semitic "persecution," and Mr. Kurlander offers to help by lobbying his fellow Jews in the United States and abroad.
"Tell him I going to help him with the voting," Mr. Montesinos directs his translator. He is well aware of the "tricky practices of the French government," he says, making a joke about "The French Connection."

Peter Romero, then assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, acknowledged in an interview that he had twice called Mr. Montesinos to show that the case was being "monitored" in Washington.
"He seemed to be a nice enough fellow," he recalled.
The "compelling reason" to get involved, he said, came from Peruvian and American Embassy officials who confirmed the direct involvement of President Chirac and others at the top of the French government.
"We wanted to ensure that that was neutralized," Mr. Romero said.
Two and a half years later, Mr. Romero left government and was hired by Mr. Kurlander as a consultant on Peru for Newmont, where he remained for 18 months.
On April 14, six weeks after the Montesinos-Kurlander meeting, the video cameras were rolling for a visit from the C.I.A. station chief, Don Arabian.
As the meeting nears its end, Mr. Montesinos says he has been collecting information on the French attempt to influence the case and will not let them use "extortion, blackmail and other gangster" methods.
"I'm not working with the telephones, but we will if necessary," Mr. Montesinos says, an apparent reference to wiretapping. "We'll sort out the technical support." The men laugh.
Mr. Arabian, who recently retired, declined a request for an interview.
On May 8, the sixth Supreme Court justice voted in favor of Newmont and Buenaventura. With the vote deadlocked, 3-3, the court administrator appointed a final judge, Jaime Beltrán Quiroga. He was summoned the next day by Mr. Montesinos.
A videotape shows the justice settled on the couch as Mr. Montesinos talks about how, as a lawyer he, too, would normally "keep a distance" from events. But "in these cases," he says, "one has to intervene directly."
Mr. Montesinos avoids direct pressure - "as if we are imposing on you" - but reminds the judge that the case is a matter of national interest: the United States is a key guarantor of coming deliberations over Peru's border conflict with Ecuador.
There is no discussion of payoffs, but the spy chief does question the judge about his professional ambitions. The men reminisce.
"Well, doctor, you have a friend here," Judge Beltrán says.
"My dear, Jaime, then, a pleasure to see you, brother," Mr. Montesinos replies, assuring his guest that he will soon be transferred to Peru's Constitutional Court.
Judge Beltrán's vote was announced two weeks later: Newmont and Buenaventura were awarded BRGM's share - at the purchase price set in 1993: $109.7 million.
When the final transfer was negotiated a year later, the stake was valued at more than five times that.

And with every ton of earth sifted, it became ever clearer that the mine had not just ripped up the landscape; it had remade the social architecture, too.
There were growing class divisions, between the many campesinos who had received well-paying jobs - Yanacocha would eventually employ as many as 2,200 people, two-thirds locals, full time, and up to 6,000 on shorter-term contracts - and the tens of thousands more who had not. People migrating to the region in pursuit of work brought overcrowding and rising crime.
In June 2000, a truck contracted to carry canisters of mercury, a byproduct of mining, spilled 330 pounds of the poisonous metal over 25 miles of road around Choropampa, 53 miles from the mine.
The villagers believed that the mercury was mixed with gold. They scooped it up. Some took it home to cook on their stoves. A World Bank report later said the mine delayed reporting the accident to the national authorities and initially played down its seriousness to the bank.

Mr. Kurlander found "a high level of mistrust" of the mine.
But the 44 findings of Mr. Kurlander's audit, which was given to The Times, also confirmed many of the villagers' specific complaints: that fish were disappearing and that lakes, streams and canals were being contaminated, at least one with cyanide.
One stream, Quebrada Honda, had 13 fish per kilometer in 1997, but none by 2000, the audit said. Thousand of tons of rock not processed for gold recovery were generating dangerous acidic runoffs.
In a letter after the audit, Mr. Kurlander says that as the mine expanded, "we eliminated many environmental safeguards that were in the construction and environmental management plans." In all, he wrote to Newmont's new chief executive, Wayne Murdy, the findings were so serious that they could jeopardize the mine's continued operation and leave senior executives subject to "criminal prosecution and imprisonment."

To Mr. Kurlander, the spill showed the folly of a company ignoring the people, particularly the people most set against the mine. In a memo, he warned that with the mine sunk so low in the peasants' esteem, Newmont would never be able to mine Quilish.

Back in 2000, the local government had passed an ordinance declaring Quilish and its watershed a protected natural reserve. But Newmont had persuaded a Peruvian court that it had the right to mine because it had acquired the concession years before. In August 2004, the machines moved in.
To many people, that was the final betrayal, said Mr. Vera, the former Newmont consultant. He quit this summer, saying his advice had been ignored.
On Sept. 2, deploying boulders, vehicles, anything they could find, hundreds of campesinos blockaded the narrow mountain road that runs from Cajamarca to the mine.
Several hundred armed officers, including 150 special operations police officers from Lima, were sent in to guard the mine.
The first day was the most violent; protesters were arrested, many of them women and old people, according to Father Arana's colleague, Jorge Camacho. At times during the siege, the police used tear gas. One man was shot in the leg. The company kept the gold coming out of Yanacocha, but only by helicoptering the workers in.
On Sept. 15, there was a regionwide strike, with street demonstrations in Cajamarca. The message, on one of the blizzard of placards in town, was: "Listen Yanacocha. Cajamarca is to be respected."
The protests were organized by the peasants themselves, Mr. Camacho and others say. But the 43-year-old Father Arana, son of teachers from Cajamarca, had been nurturing the movement for many years, even before he founded his group, Grufides, in the late 1990's. (These days, it receives financial assistance from Oxfam.)

Newmont's Peruvian partner, Mr. Benavides, argued that exploration of Quilish had not been abandoned, simply suspended.
"We have the concession, and we have the land," he said. He added: "I do not understand what social license means. I expect a license from the authorities, from the minister of mines. I expect a license from the regional government. I don't expect a license from the whole community."
Still, the idea of social license is at the heart of the agreement that ended the siege: If Newmont hopes ever to mine Quilish, it first must win the community's consent.
So to promote Yanacocha's well-being and expansion, Mr. Hinze has become the kind of mine manager he never imagined being. He says he had asked for the job running Yanacocha because of its sheer scale - "it's big, it's profitable," is how he puts it. Fifty years old, silver-haired and steely eyed, 6 foot 3 and 255 pounds, he is a man of scale himself. His idea of recreation, he says, is riding his Harley or swimming with hammerhead sharks.
Now, he says, he spends 70 to 80 percent of his working time on social issues. On a recent day, he ate roasted guinea pig at a lunch with a peasant group. A few days later, he attended a ceremony celebrating a gift of $500,000 for a new road around San Cerillo.
"Modern mining can coexist with cattle, agriculture and tourism," he told one gathering. "Today we begin a new history for communities around here."
Newmont says that it paid $180 million in taxes to Peru's government last year, and that under a new law, half was returned to the Cajamarca region. But to its frustration, the company says, the local government has largely been unable to use the money to benefit the people - and most of the people here remain achingly poor.
So the company, albeit ambivalently, has become something of a surrogate government. It is contributing money for schools and clinics and building some small water treatment plants in the villages. In all, the company says it will spend nearly $20 million this year on social programs.
Water remains a divisive issue: Father Arana and his allies argue that a new, every-three-weeks testing protocol is insufficiently independent. The peasants continue to complain.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

On the eve of the Haitian election

Some excerpts from a recent COHA analysis [Haiti: Headed Down The Path Towards An Electoral Farce, October 6, 2005]:

A totally unencumbered vote inexorably would end up with a Lavalas victory.

Washington’s surrogate says that he wants to promote free and fair elections in Haiti where any candidate from any party may run for office. However, his actions contradict this by throwing into jail the two possible major candidates from Lavalas, Haiti’s most popular political party, Jean-Juste and Neptune. Essentially, Latortue’s government is making a mockery of democracy by violating the 1987 Constitution, while at the same time breaking international and regional democratic charters as well as international laws meant to safeguard political and civil rights.

U.S. officials, who are largely footing the bill for the upcoming election, should take this opportunity to remind the Haitian cabal now ruling the country that no one elected it and that it must respect such democratic principles.

Noriega's resignation

COHA wrote a post-mortem [Noriega's Latin American Policy: A Disservice to the Nation, October 4, 2005] of Roger Noriega's service as the State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, ended when he resigned a few months ago. The piece raises an interesting question of to what extent the Bush Administration's radical right-wing policies, exemplified by Noriega, have contributed or caused the weakening of U.S. standing in Latin America. A case can be made that Clinton's presidency was far more effective at maintaining imperial power. Presumably, elites are thus dissatisfied with Bush and yet the business class still appears supportive. Clearly Bush is good for short-term profit but I'm surprised there isn't more visible opposition from the more far-sighted.

China moving into the US backyard

A recent Council On Hemispheric Affairs memo [China’s Economic Invasion of Mexico: A Threat to the U.S. or an Opportunity for Mexico?, October 14, 2005] contains the following interesting passage:

"...the growth potential of any likely long-term symbiosis between China and Latin American countries has disturbed many on Capital Hill. As a result, several congressional hearings have being held to address the question. For example, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), in an opening statement entitled 'China’s Influence in the Western Hemisphere,' voiced his concerns that, 'Until we know the definitive answer to this question of whether China will play by the rules of fair trade, and engage responsibly on transnational issues, I believe we should be cautious and view the rise of Chinese power as something to be counterbalanced or contained, and perhaps go so far as to consider China’s actions in Latin America as the movement of a hegemonic power into our hemisphere.'"

Mining Companies in El Salvador

An update from the Asociación de Comunidades Rurales de Chalatenango in El Salvador on the recent activity of foreign mining companies in the country notes the successful resistence of communities in Chalatenango.

An excerpt:
In the midst of the catastrophe caused by the rains, Au Martinique Silver tried to enter the region of the organized communities of the CCR in Chalatenango to begin mining exploitation and the environmental destruction which that will bring.

We the organized communities of the CCR-CRIPDES, along with mayors and the legislative representative for the FMLN in Chalatenango, Marco Tulio Mejía, understanding the grave damage which could be inflicted on the environment and the health of the population, gave a identity and defense class of how citizens struggle to protect the lives of present and future generations. On the 10th of October at 7:00 am, we the inhabitants of the affected communities of Guarjila, San José Las Flores and Nueva Trinidad formed a human chain in the community of Guarjila, carrying signs that rejected the presence of the transitional and chanting slogans in favor of organization and defense of the environment. We blocked the entrance of 2 Canadians and a group of workers, representatives of the mining company Au Martinique Silver Inc., who are in charge of initiating the excavations.

The representatives of the company, tried to convince us that mining would benefit the development of the Chalatenango region and that they had authorization from the central government. We the communities declared that the government never consulted us about the decision, thus we are ready to make our own decisions and we will make them responsibly. We asked that they leave the region, and a group of citizens accompanied them out of Chalatenango, to be sure that they would not return.

The piece also notes that "The USA transnational Commerce Group Corporation is currently exploiting the mining zone of San Rosa de Lima in the province of La Unión and plans to earn 600 million dollars."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Fact Sheet on why the U.S. must leave Iraq now

I put this together for people I encounter who fear the consequences of immediate U.S. withdrawal. Feel free to use it or email me for a formatted copy in Word. Some of the unsourced sentences are direct quotes from the sources cited at the bottom that I felt were unnecessary to cite given that it is merely a fact sheet.

U.S. Out Of Iraq Now:
A Response to Concerns about the Consequences of Immediate Withdrawal

There are two factors that might justify US forces not leaving immediately: (1) a likelihood that civilian deaths will increase if the US leaves now, and (2) a majority of Iraqis preferring that US forces remain for the time being.

Given that occupation forces are consistently responsible for far more civilian deaths than the insurgency, Schwartz and Youssef the burden of proof in demonstrating the above two points is on those who would have US forces remain in Iraq.

1) Civilian Deaths Will Increase?
On the first point, no plausible argument has been advanced to show civilian deaths are likely to increase if the US leaves. On the contrary, a lessening in violence is quite plausible.

Given that the situation has been deteriorating ever since the occupation began, it is certain that a U.S. presence in Iraq will continue to inflict and engender violence and chaos - it is not a certainty that violence will continue if the U.S. withdraws.

It is precisely the horrors of the occupation that make any guarantee of peace after withdrawal impossible and the worst-case scenarios become more likely the longer the occupation continues so this cannot be an argument for continuing the current madness.

The U.S. Presence Contributes to the Atmosphere of Civil War
Divide and rule is one of the oldest imperial strategies. The U.S. occupation has heightened sectarian tensions in Iraq tremendously and continues to do so through the use of Kurdish and Shia forces to attack Sunni areas.

Shiite militias and death squads are tied to the U.S.-supported regime in Baghdad. Dreyfuss

Two of the major motivations for Sunni on Shiite violence are to punish perceived collaborators with the occupation and because Sunnis are unhappy with their marginal representation in the government. The first motivation will disappear when U.S. forces leave. The second issue can only be resolved with elections free of foreign occupation.

The killing and imprisonment policies of the occupation itself are the main generating and sustaining force for the rising levels of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. The sooner the occupation ends, the sooner Iraqi civil violence is likely to begin to subside. Schwartz

Abu Musab al Zarqawi's goal is to launch a holy war against the Shi’a but his success in doing so is directly linked to a continuing U.S. presence. Zarqawi’s primary appeal among Sunnis rests on the claim that the Shi’a are aiding the occupation. Schwartz

The Occupation Puts a Lid on Full Civil War?
U.S. forces could militarily intervene to subdue full-scale warfare between Iraqi factions. However, if the U.S. pulls out now, the probability of long, brutal, full-scale civil war is low because:
1) The sectarian jihadists, though well publicized, represent a tiny minority of the resistance. Other Sunni armed groups have asked Zarqawi and similar foreign extremists to leave Iraq and have disassociated themselves from groups that attack Iraqi civilians. Cobban and Schwartz
2) The marginal position of the jihadists would make it difficult for them to convert into an army capable of fighting the Shi’a or Kurds head on.

Regional War
Some argue that a U.S. departure will lead to a regional war or a political vacuum. It is just as plausible to argue that it is precisely the U.S. presence that provokes a regional war. Respected foreign affairs analyst Andrew Bacevich believes it is likely that Iraq’s neighbors will seek to promote order in Iraq once the U.S. leaves.

Peace is More Likely with the U.S. Out
Stability -- defined as preserving a unified Iraq and reducing the insurgency -- cannot be imposed. It can only be negotiated by the various factions constituting the Iraqi polity. Bacevich

A political solution that includes the Sunnis is only possible with the U.S. out because they will not participate in the government until that happens. Even the hard-line Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars has repeatedly stated that, as soon as the U.S. withdraws, it will join wholeheartedly the political process. Achcar, Second Reply to Juan Cole

University of Chicago political scientist and expert on suicide terrorism Robert Pape, asserts that every suicide bombing campaign “is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The [U.S.] operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.” Pape notes that, in the last 20 years, suicide bombings almost never continue after the withdrawal of the occupying power. Schwartz

Imperial powers have a terrible historical record in ‘pacifying’ other lands.

2) Iraqi Opinion
As to Iraqi opinion on US troops leaving immediately, the results are not clear. Recent public opinion surveys have been rare and have produced contradictory results. Project on Defense Alternatives and Bloomberg However, while the Kurds and some Shi’a support the U.S. presence, “the overwhelming majority of those in whose territory occupation forces are most active militarily” want the U.S. out of Iraq. Gilbert Achcar, An Open Letter to Juan Cole

About 120 out of 275 Iraqi members of parliament have called for the withdrawal of US troops. If the parliament contained a representative number of Sunni members (making it more legitimate), there would be a clear majority in parliament calling for the U.S. to leave now. This is despite the very limited sovereignty of an Iraqi government both constrained by and reliant upon the overwhelming force of the U.S.

Therefore, the proponents of US forces remaining fail to meet the burden of proof on either point.


Gilbert Achcar, An Open Letter to Juan Cole, September 23, 2005, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=8802

Gilbert Achcar, Second Reply to Juan Cole, September 25, 2005, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=8815

Andrew J. Bacevich, “Call It a Day: We've Done All We Can Do in Iraq,” Washington Post, August 21, 2005; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/20/AR2005082000114_pf.html

“U.S. Poll Shows Iraqis Oppose Presence of Coalition Troops,” Bloomberg, July 01, 2005, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000087&sid=a8bOqxuFldV0&refer=top_world_news

Helena Cobban, http://justworldnews.org/archives/001464.html, September 24, 2005, citing a September 20, 2005 Arabic article in Al-Hayat

Robert Dreyfuss, “Death Squads And Diplomacy,” Tompaine.com, October 05, 2005, http://www.tompaine.com/articles/20051005/death_squads_and_diplomacy.php

“What do Iraqis want? Iraqi attitudes on occupation, US withdrawal, governments, and quality of life,” Project on Defense Alternatives, February 01, 2005, http://www.comw.org/pda/0501br17append.html

Michael Schwartz, Why Immediate Withdrawal Makes Sense, TomDispatch; September 22, 2005, http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=23549

Nancy A. Youssef, “More Iraqi Civilians Killed by US Forces Than By Insurgents, Data Shows,” Knight-Ridder, September 25, 2004, http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0925-02.htm

Send questions or comments to freeradical83@gmail.com

More on the limits of the Bolivarian "Revolution"

This article adds to my overall impression that for people's lives to improve beyond the gains already accrued through the policies of Chavez, powerful independent social and political movements must arise. A genuine revolution can never occur from the top down.

Pro-Chavez Union Leaders in Venezuela Urge Chavez to Do Better
Saturday, Oct 08, 2005
By: Alessandro Parma - Venezuelanalysis.com

Caracas October 07, 2005
During a protest rally last Thursday, Orlando Chirinos, the leader of the National Union of Workers (UNT), said he is pushing for trade union elections to take place quickly and criticized how slow the progress for workers in Venezuela has been. Also, Ramon Machuca, a leading trade unionist and head of a steelworkers union, has alleged that the Governor of Bolivar State, Rangel Gomez, is corrupt. As a result, both men are criticizing President Hugo Chavez and his party, the MVR, due to their connection with these issues.

The increasing criticism from Chirinos and Machuca is significant because both occupy significant leadership roles in the pro-Chavez union movement. Two years ago, unions sympathetic to Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution split from the Venezuelan Confederation of Workers (CTV) and formed a new national union federation, the National Union of Workers (UNT). Ever since its formation, factions within it have been debating how close the new federation should be to the Chavez government and who should lead it. Chrinos and Machuca are seen as leading opposing factions in this debate.

On Wednesday, Orlando Chirinos put pressure on the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to set a date for elections in his trade union federation. He has done this by saying publicly that the National Electoral Commission will reply to his request for an election date by October 10. Chirinos, speaking in Plaza O’Leary in Caracas said, “We want a clean and transparent election. We want one without intimidation. I have spoken with the CNE to make sure that this happens.” UNT elections were originally to take place in early 2005, but have been announced and postponed for most of the year now.

Chirinos also expressed concern about the workers situation in Venezuela. “We have a public sector that pretends its workers are happy when they aren’t. We need conditions that suit the needs of the workers. For the defense of the country it’s sovereignty and independence against Imperialism.”

In an interview this week with the newspaper El Mundo, Chirinos as quoted making several critical comments about government labor policy. He said that President Chavez, “has to cease making unilateral declarations on the minimum wage. We have demanded this for two years and accomplished it, but there is a problem… workers are not receiving the minimum wage country-wide.”

Chirinos also criticized some of the labor laws that the government passed at the beginning of Chavez’s presidency, saying that they left too much power in the hands of bosses. He said, “The employers can unilaterally dismiss their workers when they like.” He said that part of the problem was the lack of internal debate in the unions, just as there is in political parties at this time.

ChirinosÂ’ critical comments do not appear to have hurt his relations with the government. Yesterday afternoon he met with the Minister of Labor María Cristina Iglesias to discuss the details of the benefits for his union members. It is expected that his unionÂ’s terms will be agreed to. He is also expected to meet with the Vice President, José Vicente Rangel, on Monday to discuss UNT elections.

Similarly, another pro-Chavez union leader, Ramon Machuca, who is the leader of SUTISS, the steelworkers union of the SIDOR steel production plant in eastern Venezuela, has been attacking one of his political rivals. In an interview on Thursday with the weekly paper Quinto Dia, Machuca alleged that Rangel Gomez, the pro-Chavez Governor of Bolivar State, was involved in defrauding Machuca’s members of millions of dollars when he was the head of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guyana, the CVG. The CVG is a state holding company that has a 40% share in the SIDOR steel plant. According to a collective agreement the workers in the plant are supposed to receive 30% of the profits. Machuca said, “I have the numbers of deposits and receipts that SIDOR made at the CVG and the amount is in the millions of dollars.” However, the private consortium that owns the other 60% has apparently paid them none of this for several years.

There have been many protests about this recently, but this is the first time that Machuca has alleged wrongdoing on the part of Governor Rangel Gomez and the CVG. He said, “I don’t have a concrete explanation what happened with this money or with the workers’ part of the money. Undoubtedly something shady has occurred.” He also said, “As a Trade Union we are not permitted to find out precisely what has happened with the surpluses in the bank and we cannot get a reply from Rangel Gomez.”

Machuca has said that he will take this matter to Hugo Chavez, “He is a friend of mine, he respects my revolutionary position and I respect his leadership.” He added, “I have much information to give to the President on the topic of effectiveness and the quality of the revolution in government.” He also said that Chavez was becoming distant from the common people and didn’t always understand what was happening. “The situation down here is not what the President is hearing. Down here it is very worrying. There are many problems with the situation of the workers and of the people. The President knows a lot about what is happening at the higher levels of society but less about what is going on at this level.”

Some say that Machuca’s attack on Rangel Gomez is because of his personal rivalry and is politically motivated. On last Sunday’s Alo Presidente, Hugo Chavez called Machuca a friend and urged him to accept that he had lost the election to Rangel Gomez and not to “make trouble in Bolivar.” Rangel Gomez is not Machuca’s only rival. In Plaza O’Leary, on Thursday, Orlando Chirinos said, “It’s no secret that Ramon Machuca is a very ambitious person and that he wanted to be the president of the UNT.” He also said, “We don’t agree on things… he has a caudillo-like vision, an individualist vision and an individualist movement is not a trade union movement.

Monday, October 03, 2005

White House attempting to postpone Bolivian elections?

An article in the Cuban news organ Granma:

Evo Morales condemns attempt to avert MAS win in Bolivia

PARIS, September 28.—Evo Morales, leader of the Bolivian Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), today exposed in Paris how the Constitutional Court (TC) of his country is trying to postpone the December elections with the involvement of foreign elements which he identified as the White House, DPA reports.

In a press conference at the French National Assembly, the indigenous leader exposed attempts to put off the elections at a point when the MAS is the favorite candidate, in response to the demands of foreign agents who are utilizing the national oligarchies from Santa Cruz.

During the press conference Morales attacked the neoliberal model and once again defended the nationalization of the country’s natural resources.

"It is not the social groups, it is not the indigenous movement that are challenging the country or destabilizing it. It is the state institutions, the Constitutional Court and behind them are the transnationals, the U.S. embassy, which wants to avert any triumph of the indigenous movement," he stressed.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Gaza pullout exchange

The Boston Phoenix carried this exchange I had with the "chair of the journalism department at Boston University who served as the ABC News correspondent in Israel from 1984-86" and author of an article on the Gaza pullout.


Bob Zelnick’s article "The Gaza pullout" (News and Features, September 9) contains several distortions. Zelnick considers security a major motivation in the Sharon government’s decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. It has been clear for a very long time that the safety of its citizens is a decidedly secondary concern for the government (a situation we Americans should be familiar with). If security were valued, the first step would be to agree to a minimally just settlement with the Palestinians (roughly, a return to pre-1967 borders, full autonomy for a Palestinian state, and the return of at least the original refugees with full compensation to those not returning). Instead Israel, with the full and crucial support of the United States, has sought to expropriate the most valuable land and water sources while expelling the indigenous inhabitants — a surefire way to engender hatred. Further, Zelnick calls the right of return "a formula for Israel’s demographic suicide." It is remarkable that liberal opinion is still unable to perceive the bigotry in valuing racial purity. Was the 1954 Brown decision a formula for the demographic suicide of white schools? Given the balance of power, it is possible that refusing to budge on the right of return could "doom future [peace] talks" but let us be clear about where justice lies. Who can deny that refugees have a right to return to homes they were driven from? Nor can Zelnick resist recycling the usual distractions about Palestinian leaders being unwilling or unable to control terrorism. Does anyone really expect the PA will ever effectively police its own population while under colonial rule?

Steve Fake


Bob Zelnick replies:

Mr. Fake accuses me of "distortions" but cites only policy disagreements. My article makes clear that I have never been a supporter of Israeli settlement policies on the West Bank or Gaza Strip. But in the moment of truth at Camp David and later at Taba, Arafat and his colleagues rejected a good if not perfect withdrawal proposal proferred by Prime Minister Barak without so much as a counter-offer. Of course, it is clear that Mr. Fake’s real problem is with the very existence of a Jewish state, despite the fact that from Oslo to the present the official Palestinian position is support for two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian, living side by side in peace and security. Brown is not the issue. The issue is whether after centuries of pogroms culminating in the Holocaust the Palestinian leadership is, as it claims, truly prepared to accept a permanent Jewish state in the region.

Issue Date: September 30 - October 6, 2005
Web stevefake.blogspot.com