Political talk from outside of the UK
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
Good article on Venezuela from Bhaskar Sunkara.
Among Venezuelan workers, still overwhelmingly supportive of the Bolivarian Revolution, the mood is less Obejas’ “we are all Venezuelans” and more “they will never come back.” They being such scions of privilege as Leopoldo López Mendoza, María Corina Machado, and Henrique Capriles Radonski, whose class had a stranglehold on the nation’s future until the rise of Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian movement in the late 1990s, and who have been struggling ever since to regain their advantage.

The years of left-wing activity that followed were hardly without setbacks or failures, but they witnessed the politicization of many who were previously neglected. Though unevenly implemented, assembly councils and worker cooperatives were constructed, representing a depth of democratic participation rarely seen in human history. Materially, poverty fell by well over a third during Chávez’s tenure, and extreme poverty by 58 percent. Quality healthcare and education became accessible to ordinary people.

It should be of little surprise, then, to find that every block in Venezuela is not the scene of anti-state unrest. Even the New York Times headlined a piece, “Slum Dwellers in Caracas Ask, What Protests?” In working-class communities across Venezuela, the grassroots demonstrations thriving elsewhere provoke only fear that the social and economic gains of the last decade will be rolled back and the old neoliberal regime, along with its daily humiliations of poverty and powerlessness, restored.
http://inthesetimes.com/article/16511/t ... _movements" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
Another good piece from Seumas Milne.
The rightwing Venezuelan opposition has long had a problem with the democracy business, having lost 18 out of 19 elections or referendums since Chávez was first elected in 1998 – in an electoral process described by former US president Jimmy Carter as "the best in the world". Their hopes were raised last April when the opposition candidate lost to Maduro by only 1.5%. But in December, nationwide elections gave the Chavista coalition a 10-point lead.

So the following month, US-linked opposition leaders – several of whom were involved in the failed US-backed coup against Chávez in 2002 – launched a campaign to oust Maduro, calling on their supporters to "light up the streets with struggle". With high inflation, violent crime and shortages of basic goods, there was plenty to fuel the campaign – and protesters responded, literally.

For eight weeks, they have burned universities, public buildings and bus stations, while up to 39 people have died. Despite claims by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, that the government is waging a "terror campaign" against its citizens, the evidence suggests a majority have been killed by opposition supporters, including eight members of the security forces and three motorcyclists garrotted by wire strung across street barricades. Four opposition supporters have been killed by police, for which several officers have been arrested.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre ... uro-elites" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
A multinational mining company has been accused of launching "a direct assault on democratic governance" by suing El Salvador for more than US$300m (£179m) in compensation, after the tiny Central American country refused to allow it to dig for gold amid growing opposition to the exploitation of its mineral wealth.

More than 300 NGOs, trade unions and civil society groups have signed a strongly worded letter accusing the Canada-based company Pacific Rim of using a little-known international tribunal to "subvert a democratic nationwide debate over mining and environmental health".

Pacific Rim, now owned by OceanaGold, a Canadian-Australian firm, applied in 2004 for a permit to start operations at its El Dorado mine in the northern province of Cabañas.

The company seeks $301m from El Salvador in a protracted investment dispute that began in 2009. Pacific Rim claims El Salvador violated its own investment law by not issuing it a permit to dig for gold at the El Dorado mine.

But El Salvador argues that the company not only lacked environmental permissions for the project, but that it did not own, or have rights to, much of the land covered by its concession request, and did not submit a final feasibility study for the mining operation.
http://www.theguardian.com/global-devel ... governance" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Assaulting democratic governance is precisely what international trade treaties are designed to do, of course. Insulating capital and the market from democratic pressure.
Good article on state violence in Colombia. Curious lack of outrage from the usual suspects.
The issue is gradually penetrating public consciousness in other areas of the world. In October 2013, former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe gave a talk about the peace process in the country at Senate House, London. The negotiations attempted to mediate the conflict between the government and the Marxist guerilla insurgency FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

However, outside the lecture hall where Uribe was speaking, roughly 50 people joined together to condemn the invitation to lecture. Protesters carried placards accusing Uribe of complicity in extra-judicial murders of peasants and trade-union members.

In February 2010, Human Rights Watch published a report noting that the “massacres, forced displacement and rape” are primarily committed by paramilitary organizations and not the FARC. The communist revolutionaries had previously shouldered most of the responsibility for the violence.

French newspaper Le Monde diplomatique notes that between 1988 and 2003 paramilitaries accounted for nearly 15,000 civilian deaths alone.

International criticism of Uribe, like the London protest, hopes to bring attention to the impunity with which paramilitary violence in the country is carried out.
http://www.theinternational.org/article ... -to-displa" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
By new puritan
Membership Days Posts
Seamus Milne on state/paramilitary violence (and corporate collusion with it) in Colombia:
Colombian officials talk peace and human rights with an evangelical zeal and a dizzying array of flipcharts. But, as one independent report after another confirms, there is a chasm between the spin and life on the ground. Laws are not implemented or abusers prosecuted. Thousands of political prisoners languish in Colombia’s jails. Political, trade union and social movement activists are still routinely jailed or assassinated.

A quarter of a million have died in Colombia’s war, the large majority of them at the hands of the army, police and government-linked paramilitaries. Five million have been forced from their homes. Although the violence is down from its peak, the killing of human rights and union activists has actually increased in the past year.

One of those jailed is the trade union and opposition leader Huber Ballesteros, arrested last year as he was about to travel to Britain to address the Trades Union Congress. Speaking in La Picota prison in Bogotá last week, Ballesteros told me: “There is no democracy in Colombia, we are confronting a dictatorship with a democratic face.”
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre ... r-colombia" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
By Abernathy
Membership Days Membership Days Posts
Reports coming in of a 8.3 scale earthquake hitting Santiago. That is a big fucking quake.

A tsunami warning has been issued. This could be awful.
By Zuriblue
Membership Days Posts
Abernathy wrote:Reports coming in of a 8.3 scale earthquake hitting Santiago. That is a big fucking quake.

A tsunami warning has been issued. This could be awful.
I fear so. Chilenos are no stranger to quakes - when I was commissioning a filter there last year there were little quakes every day and the reaction was basically "meh" but 8.3 is fucking big.

Most modern buildings in Santiago are built to withstand this kind of thing but out in the country or the poor areas things could be a lot worse.

Certainly if I was in Valparaiso or Antofagasta I'd be heading for high ground.

Looking at the Grauniad site there aren't any reports of casualties yet. Let's hope it stays that way.
By youngian
Membership Days Posts
In Woody Allen's Bananas a rebel Latin American leader comes to power only to find he's gone mad wanting to make everyone wear underpants on their heads and change the national language to Swedish.

Meet Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro who many worry has gone loco. He claims a bird has been delivering messages to him from Hugo Chavez and is worrying his neighbours with his batty sabre rattling
Less than 24 hours after at least tentatively resolving a conflict with Colombia, reports began to emerge that Maduro was massing marine and ground forces along Venezuela’s eastern border with English-speaking Guyana.

Guyana’s President David Granger decried “extraordinary military deployments” along the country’s resource-rich Essequibo region, and described the buildup to the AP as “hostile and aggressive.”

Granger also retaliated by deploying Guyanese troops along the frontier, although it’s doubtful if the nation’s small army could withstand an all-out assault from its much larger neighbor. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2 ... nsane.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Grave danger for Dave Granger
A very grim sequence of events is transpiring in Brazil.
On a dark night, arguably the lowest point was when Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right deputy from Rio de Janeiro, dedicated his yes vote to Carlos Brilhante Ustra, the colonel who headed the Doi-Codi torture unit during the dictatorship era. Rousseff, a former guerrilla, was among those tortured. Bolsonaro’s move prompted left-wing deputy Jean Wyllys to spit towards him.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, his son and also a deputy, used his time at the microphone to honour the general responsible for the military coup in 1964.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/a ... -president" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

There's a very informative Perry Anderson essay on the subject in the latest LRB. Worth reading for his dismissal of the Guardian and New York Times as 'intellectual scrublands' alone.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n08/perry-ande ... -in-brazil" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Welcome to Venezuela where you can barter for medicine

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/m ... are_btn_tw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Venezuelans barter for leftover medicine as economic crisis deepens

Scarcity forces people to trade drugs on social media as country faces public health emergency

Bartering with strangers for leftover prescription drugs in Venezuela has become as commonplace as asking a neighbour for a similarly scarce cup of flour, as the country’s economic crisis morphs into a public health emergency. So desperate is the situation that television and radio stations have taken to broadcasting requests for drugs and medical supplies, and people are turning to social media to seek out life-saving medicine.

“We found the heart disease drug Manidon, which my mum takes daily, using WhatsApp. We bartered the drug for four rolls of toilet paper,” says Carlos Gonzalez, 35, an IT worker whose wife is expecting a baby next month.
Nick Cohen on fine form as usual.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre ... are_btn_tw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Radical tourists have been deluded pimps for Venezuela

Lefty westerners who trawl the world for revolutions to praise are no better than sex tourists in search of ‘exotic’ thrills

The thoughts of Venezuelans, who watched as westerners treated their country as an ideological playground, cannot be dismissed lightly, either. “There should be a special circle in hell for them,” Thor Halvorssen, the founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum, told me. The regime shot his mother and jailed his Venezuelan father. It holds his cousin, the opposition leader, Leopoldo López, as a political prisoner because he had the nerve to oppose it. Halvorssen thinks the Chavistas would not have gone so far in debasing the constitution and looting the state if it had not been able to count on a herd of bovine leftists mooing down all who raised concerns about fundamental rights.

These are the worst leftists imaginable as they show solidarity with oppressive states rather than oppressed peoples. So they stayed silent when Chávez – in the words of the International Trades Union Confederation – engaged in persistent discrimination against organised labour. They neither knew nor cared that corruption is the most brutal of burdens on the poor because the poor cannot pay bribes to obtain the services they should receive by right.
Wonder how it long it will take the Tories to remind people that Corbyn and McDonnell were big supporters of Hugo Chavez.
It's not surprising that Corbyn and McDonnell don't want to talk about Venezuela.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... r-survival" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
That Venezuela is fast spiralling downwards can hardly be doubted. There are tense scenes of citizens lining up long before dawn in front of supermarkets. Riots break out when people discover, after a gruelling wait, that nothing will be available. Hospitals and maternity units lack essential medicine. Families are going hungry, and parents skip meals so their children can eat – a scandal in any country, but absurd in a country with the world’s largest oil reserves.

Confronting attempts to overturn his presidential mandate, President Maduro has resorted to denial and grandstanding. He has refused to acknowledge that his government has failed to address an economic breakdown brought on by the collapse of global oil prices. Nor has he tried to reach out to the opposition in any way that might make compromise possible. Instead, there is the arbitrary detention of opponents, and documented cases of torture. Not unlike Hugo Chávez, President Maduro has also fallen back on a conspiratorial narrative of Chavismo under attack from “forces of imperialism”. None of this has defused public anger
By youngian
Membership Days Posts
Its frightful to look up what Chavez's even dimmer successor Nicolas Maduro is up to next (the Latin American Richard Burgon). He's taken time off from tackling 200% inflation to extend "grassroots democracy."
Venezuela's unpopular president Nicolas Maduro has said all state workers must take part in a vote on July 30 for candidates to his controversial new superbody assembly, seeking to avoid an embarrassingly low turnout in a country seething with discontent.

Maduro has called for the Constituent Assembly, with powers to reform the constitution and supersede other institutions, in what he says is an attempt to bring peace after three months of anti-government protests in which at least 90 people have died.

Opponents say the leftist president is trying to formalize a dictatorship in the South American OPEC nation through what they view as a sham poll. They plan a rival, unofficial referendum on July 16 to give Venezuelans a say on his plan.

Maduro has been trying to drum up his base, which mostly encompasses state workers and poorer Venezuelans.

"If there are 15,000 workers, all 15,000 workers must vote without any excuses," he told red-shirted supporters in the jungle and savannah state of Bolivar on Thursday night.

"Company by company, ministry by ministry, governorship by governorship, city hall by city hall, we're all going to vote for the Constituent Assembly. Do you understand? Do you agree," he said to a chorus of "Yes!".

Venezuela's roughly 2.8 million state employees, a sizeable part of the population of around 30 million, are often obliged to attend government rallies, and some say they are already coming under pressure to vote on July 30.

"This is crazy. (They're saying), workers who don't go to vote will be sacked," said one employee of state oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL], asking to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to media.

"I'll vote, but null. I'm not going to vote for any of these nuts running for the assembly," he added.

Many familiar faces of the ruling Socialist Party are vying for a seat, including former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and powerful party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello. Maduro's wife and son are also running.

The opposition says Maduro's pressure on workers is another sign he is violating democracy. Opponents are calling on him to agree to elections to replace him amid a brutal economic recession that has Venezuelans unable to afford basic food and medicine.

According to a recent survey by pollster Datanalisis, seven in 10 Venezuelans are opposed to rewriting the constitution, which was reformed by late leader Hugo Chavez in 1999. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venez ... SKBN19S229" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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