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Whiteness & Aversive Racism

FARC-EP : The Politically Illiterate

FARC-EP Colombia, Peace Delegation

Libya 360

January 25, 2016

“Spectacle is the sun that never sets over the empire of modern passivity.” — Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

 

Global hegemony has developed mechanisms to introject and naturalize political illiteracy

 

By Julián Subverso, member of the Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP
@Subverso_FARC

 

Despite of multiple civil wars, rebellions and struggles waged from various Colombian social sectors in specific moments of history, a large portion of the population,  primarily in urban sectors, consciously or unconsciously,  practice political illiteracy, which is  reinforced and disseminated by both the national dominant class and global imperialism.

The aversion towards reading, the rejection of curiosity, the desire to know what is happening in the world and ambivalence towards the press, the radio or news reporting on the most important political, social and economic events concerning not only one´s country but also concerning neighboring or distant countries, is a habit rooted in contemporary societies, and it is not by accident.

FARK-EP

“Formed on May 27, 1964, the FARC-EP succeeded the rural self-defense groups originally formed by the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) to protect peasant communities from attacks by liberal and conservative government forces. Since then, the USA has backed military operations against the communist forces and continues to do so today (Brittain, 8). The mainstream media attacks on the FARC-EP are well known.” [Source]

Undoubtedly, Etienne La Boétie was right in his discourse on voluntary servitude, but surely global hegemony has developed various modern mechanisms to introject and naturalize this odious and slavish political illiteracy, that makes the poor favor the rich, the oppressed admire the oppressor, and to believe that banal events in the of life of a celebrity from the cultural industrial complex, is more important than the decisions and political events that directly affect their present lives, their future and thus define their historical path.

In Colombia, after the so-called times of “La Violencia” (the violence, TN), the proportion of people living in the countryside and the cities reversed. Today, cities are home to 70% of the population, while countryside houses the other 30%, which like every step taken by the oppressors has a specific purpose that will not be addressed here. Despite that a large majority of that 70% has experienced terrible suffering from poverty, instability, anxiety, hunger and precariousness, they maintain their practice of political indifference towards the very same society whose torment they continue to endure.

Phrases like: “I’m not really interested in politics”, “it is boring”, “ … just don’t get it”, “I care only about my family”, “to each his own”, “every one thinks differently”, “same old, same old”, “I am not a politic person”, “there is no end to this”, “the world will change when it changes… no one changes the world”, etc. are common sentences, deeply entrenched in Colombian society and lead to a religious conformism that frustrates and infects us.

This system of entrenched political illiteracy is not gratuitous;  it was elaborately  executed for many years under an alienating disinformation policy of providing amusement and spectacle to distract and numb critical thought.  The mass media and entertainment industry that were mere propaganda outlets at the service of particular interests, built alternate realities, enemies, idols, villains, all backed by an army of intellectual mercenaries sold to the highest bidder, and by an educational system that presents content that is increasingly distant from criticism, humanism, and social justice, all to render people passive amidst the ruthless land of predatory capitalism, private profit and the uncritical, unquestioning acceptance of the social order, creating the political illiterate.

It is necessary, in order to emancipate our society and achieve well-being and social justice for all Colombians, that we build an education alternative to that created under imperialist operations such as “operación Cacique”, an education that forms human beings, that builds a culture based on permanent criticism not only of society, its decisions and paths, but also critical of our own actions, reconciling and evaluating what is thought and what is done apart from mere formalisms that builds power from its base, a society where the fool is not who reads and actively participates in politics or who wants to enter into discussions regarding social issues, because it is objectively true that fool is the one who doesn’t.

I’m not sure if appealing to an education in the style of the Platonic Paideia, or maybe installing an educational ” dictatorship ” as Marcuse wrote it, or perhaps a pedagogy of the oppressed as Freire taught, or even better, nurturing our selves of all the positive contributions of the great thinkers and successful experiences, thus building our own road, a road in a Colombian way.

What if it is true and necessary in the first instance is to wake up from the slumber  of indifference that global and local power holders made us fall into, awakening to empower ourselves,  our transformative power enhanced and taken to its revolutionary realization.

2016 must be the year of large mobilizations for people, the year of vindications, the beginning of the construction of a truly stable and lasting peace, the year of the constitutional assembly, of political participation of all the sectors of society that have been historically excluded from the public limelight of national events, it must be the year for all those who never thought that peace, sovereignty and social justice for all was possible, to take in their hands, not only their destiny, but together, the destiny of Colombia.

This coming year should be the beginning of the New Colombia, bringing to reality the longing and dreams of millions of forever oppressed and forgotten Colombians, the year of awareness, leaving behind the political illiterate, the guilty incapacity, and building the new Colombia for the power of the people, of individuals with identity who are politically active, because as we have always held, there is no transformation without people.

 


 

La analfabetopolítica

por Julián Subverso, integrante de la delegación de paz de las FARC-EP

A pesar de los múltiples hechos de guerras civiles, rebeliones y lucha de ciertos sectores colombianos en determinados momentos de la historia del país, grandes cantidades de la población, sobre todo en el sector urbano, han practicado consciente o inconscientemente un analfabetismo político alentado y difundido por la clase dominante del país y el imperialismo mundial.

La aversión al leer, el rechazo a enterarse de lo que acontece en el mundo, a la prensa, escuchar la radio o ver noticias que informen sobre los acontecimientos políticos, sociales y económicos más importantes no solo del país que se habita, sino aún más de otros países por más cercanos o lejanos que estén, es un habito que se ha arraigado no de manera casual en las sociedades contemporáneas.

Sin duda Etienne La boétie tenía razón en su discurso sobre la servidumbre voluntaria, pero de seguro la hegemonía mundial ha desarrollado diversos mecanismos modernos para introyectar y naturalizar ese odioso y esclavizante analfabetismo político, que hace que pobres elijan ricos, que oprimidos admiren a los que siempre los han oprimido y que piensen que los banales acontecimientos de la vida de cualquier “estrella” de música, de cine o de cualquier índole de la industria cultural, sea más importante que las decisiones y acontecimientos políticos que afectan directamente su presente, su futuro y el devenir de su historia.

En Colombia después de la llamada época de la violencia, la proporción de personas en el campo y las ciudades fue a la inversa, hoy, las ciudades albergan el 70% de la población, mientras que el campo un 30%, y como todo paso dado por los opresores, tiene una finalidad que aquí no abordaremos; y de ese 70% habitante en las ciudades, una gran mayoría, a pesar de sufrir en carne propia la miseria, la inestabilidad, la zozobra, la incertidumbre, el hambre y la precariedad, viven y practican la indiferencia política en la sociedad que padecen.

Frases como: “no me interesa la política”, “eso es muy aburridor”, “yo no entiendo nada de eso”, “solo me preocupo por mi familia”, “cada loco con su tema”, “todo el mundo piensa diferente”, “eso es lo mismo de siempre”, “yo no soy político”, “el mundo no lo cambia nadie”, “el mundo cambia solo cuanto tenga que cambiar”, etc. son frases que se han arraigado dentro de la sociedad colombiana y que han llevado a un conformismo religioso que frustra y contagia.

Este sistema de analfabetopolítica arraigada no es gratuito, fue elaborado y puesto en ejecución desde hace muchos años bajo la desinformación alienante de diversiones y espectáculos construidos con el fin de distraer y adormecer, de igual manera a través de periódicos, radio, televisión, programas, hoy aglomerados masiva y sistemáticamente bajo los mass media que, funcionando como empresas de publicidad al servicio de intereses particulares, crean realidades, enemigos, ídolos y villanos, sustentado todo esto en un ejercito de intelectuales mercenarios que trabajan al mejor postor y una educación directa e indirecta con modelos y contenidos que se alejan cada vez más de lo crítico, del humanismo y lo social, para instalarse en los despiadados terrenos de la razón instrumental del capitalismo, del lucro privado y la aceptación acrítica del orden social, creando el analfabeto político.

Es necesario, con el fin de emancipar nuestra sociedad y alcanzar el bienestar y la justicia social para todos los colombianos, que construyamos una educación diferente a la creada bajo operaciones imperialistas como la Cacique, una educación que forme seres humanos, no que los adiestre, que construya una cultura basada en la critica permanente no solo de nuestra sociedad, sus decisiones y devenires, sino además crítica con nuestras propias actuaciones, que reconcilie y evalué lo que se piensa con lo que se hace, que salga de los formalismos, que construya poder desde sus bases, una sociedad donde el tonto no sea quien lea o se interese por participar activamente de la política o que quiera entablar conversaciones respecto del acontecer social, pues es objetivamente cierto que el tonto es quien no lo hace.

No sé si apelando a una formación al estilo de la Paideía platónica, no sé si instaurando una “dictadura” educacional como lo escribía Marcuse, o quizás una pedagogía del oprimido como enseña Freire, o mejor, nutriéndonos de todos los aportes positivos de los grandes pensadores y experiencias exitosas, construyendo así nuestro propio camino, un camino a la colombiana.

Lo que si es cierto y necesario hacer en primera instancia, es despertarnos del letargo de indiferencia en el que nos han hecho caer los detentores del poder mundial y local, de espabilarnos, de empoderarnos de nuestra fuerza transformadora hoy potenciada y llevarla a su concreción revolucionaria.

Este año 2016, debe ser el de grandes movilizaciones para pueblo, el de las reivindicaciones, el del inicio de la construcción de una verdadera paz estable y duradera, el año de la constituyente, el año de la participación política de todos los sectores de la sociedad históricamente excluidos del protagonismo del acontecer nacional, debe ser el año en que todos aquellos que nunca pensaron en que la paz, la soberanía y la justicia social para todos era posible, tomen en sus manos, no solo su destino, sino todos juntos, el destino de Colombia.

Este año que comienza debe ser el del inicio de la nueva Colombia, el que traiga a la realidad el anhelo y los sueños de millones de colombianos siempre oprimidos y olvidados, el año de la toma de conciencia, de dejar atrás al analfabeto político, la incapacidad culpable y construir la Colombia nueva de poder popular, de individuos con identidad y políticamente activos, pues como siempre lo hemos sostenido, sin pueblo, no hay transformación.

 

FARC-EP : Mobilization, not Demobilization

 

THE HOLY SPIRIT

Wrong Kind of Green

February 4, 2016

By Jay Taber

 

Mayan Religion

Maya culture: mural, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

 

While (at age 63) I am now a deist, I was raised Lutheran, until (in my adolescence) I began my quest for freedom from institutionalized religion–seeking a more personally meaningful spiritual identity. As a child living next door to a Yakama Indian family, I was vaguely aware of other points of view regarding the Holy Spirit, but in the dominant Euro-American culture — prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up — cross-cultural sacred interaction was unusual.

In the 1970s, thanks in part to the hippie movement – which rejected consumerism, racism, sexism, institutionalized religion, and militarism – my perspective on holiness slowly began to change. While I did not attempt to emulate any Native American religions, I became increasingly aware of their authenticity, and began to incorporate some of their philosophical values into my life.

Salish

An armada of paddlers from Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations journey between their territories in opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, on September 2, 2012. Photo by Zack Embree.

After departing Yakima Valley Community College and arriving at Western Washington University, I encountered Coast Salish Nation–an extended kinship society of tribes surrounding the Salish Sea. After university, I worked in the coastal fisheries of Alaska and Washington as a cannery vessel captain, where I got to know Lummi, Nooksack, Samish, Swinomish, Tlingit and Tsimshian fishermen.

In the 1990s, through my human rights work, I became acquainted with American Indian scholars at the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) in Olympia, Washington. One of the elders at CWIS, Russell Jim, is the director of environmental cleanup for Yakama Nation, focused on remediation of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where one of the bombs that annihilated Japan in World War II was made. I had grown up across the Columbia River from Hanford – which, until Chernobyl, was the most contaminated site on earth – and knew this was a job that few would be willing to commit their lives to.

Mkayla Tahkeal, a member of the Yakama Tribe, pilots her family's boat while fishing for salmon on the Columbia River on a blustery morning in early September, 2015. Her cousins BJ Whitefoot and Alec Yallup were aboard as well.

Mkayla Tahkeal, a member of the Yakama Tribe, pilots her family’s boat while fishing for salmon on the Columbia River on a blustery morning in early September, 2015. Her cousins BJ Whitefoot and Alec Yallup were aboard as well.

In a 2001 videotaped talk – Nuclear Attack on the Yakama Culture – that Russell delivered at the University of Washington, he recounted his childhood, during which his aunt rescued him from a Lutheran-run Indian boarding school, in order to raise him in the Yakama Longhouse tradition–even if she had to take him to live on Mt. Adams, which borders the vast Yakama Indian Reservation. In the video, he sings a short excerpt from a Lutheran service, that begins with the words, “Holy, Holy, Holy”.

When I joined a human rights speakers bureau in 1996, I encountered a Lummi Nation elder, who said that emotional bonding between people of different faiths and Native Americans is fine, but that people with good hearts need to prioritize intelligence over emotion. Otherwise, the pitfalls of reconciliation and atonement can lead to unintended consequences, some of them harmful.

Boarding_School_visual

“The first American Indian Boarding School was established in 1860 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. By 1879 using a model curriculum implemented by retired Army Colonel Richard Henry Pratt, the schools became “militarized”.  By 1879 these school had enrollments of 12,000 students, by 1973 enrollment of 60,000 students… Children were forbidden to speak their native languages, forced to shed familiar clothing for uniforms, cut their hair and subjected to harsh discipline for the least infraction of the rules. The daily activities for the children were strictly regimented to keep the children continuously occupied with vocational level education and training, work activities, Christian teachings, maintaining the school and its farms, and removing any vestiges of their former lives to the point that these children no longer spoke their native language.” [Source]

Reconciliation — currently in vogue with progressive churches and synagogues – is a risky, sometimes dangerous process. Little understood by kind-hearted people of faith, it can be a form of torture for those who experienced (and live with) the intergenerational trauma of institutionalized genocide. As Susie Linfield remarked in her essay Living with the Enemy, “What becomes clear is that forgiveness and reconciliation are of far less interest to the victims than they are to perpetrators”.

totem_journey- lummie -keeler

September 2015: Children pose on the 3,000-pound totem pole as it makes its way from Washington State to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation on a journey protesting coal mines and rail terminals. Photo:  Jacqueline Keeler

In response to the Totem Pole Journey – a sacred act of diplomacy by Lummi Nation in 2015, the Unitarian Universalist Association held a national conference of support in Portland, Oregon. This holy Public Witness, however, has not been accompanied by any ‘right action’ from the Earth Ministry interfaith alliance in Seattle, of which they are a participating religious body.

To date, none of the progressive churches in the Pacific Northwest has confronted the “portentous movements intent on promoting interracial discord and a growing politics of fear” targeting the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. None of these institutionalized religions have opposed the ongoing, anti-Indian, hate radio programs, or any other forms of mainstream media racism.

2013_RH_ Lummi _totem

A ceremony held at Cherry Point, a part of the Lummi anti-coal totem pole journey. 09/30/2013 Photo: Ryan Hasert

If people of faith want to help defeat White Power on the Salish Sea, they need to call out the promoters of this interracial discord. Otherwise, they become yet another instance of white people assuaging their guilt over the institutionalized mistreatment of Native Americans by indulging in the consumption of Indian acts of spiritual generosity, without committing themselves to acts of reciprocity.

As Lummi elder Jewell Praying Wolf James remarked at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Portland, “Talk’s good, but action’s better”.

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website:www.jaytaber.com]

 

Let It Shine

Culture of Imbeciles

February 2, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

shine a light

Oskar Schlemmer | Der Taucher – costume from Das Triadische Ballett (The Triadic Ballet), 1922

 

Authentic human rights networks ought to be calling for the arrest and prosecution by the International Criminal Court of the leaders and agents of Avaaz, Purpose, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (essentially subsidiaries of convicted inside-trader George Soros’ Open Society Institute) for crimes against humanity. While these shady organizations (in tandem with the U.S. Government-funded National Endowment for Democracy and USAID) continue undermining international law at the behest of Wall Street, NATO and the Pentagon, we can at least shine a light on these voices of death. Sing along with us:

This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

avaazkilllhashtag

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website:www.jaytaber.com]

The Dark Side of Clean Energy in Mexico

CIP Americas Program

January 29, 2016

By Santiago Navarro F. and Renata Bessi

 

Companies and governments have used a rhetoric of  “clean development” to continue exponential economic growth, with megaprojects and so-called clean technologies. International mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism for developing countries (CDM) promote this strategy. However, there are contrary positions, especially in the geographical areas where these projects considered alternative are developed.

In southern Mexico the generation of clean energy in the form of giant wind energy projects has divided communities.  Opposing positions claim indigenous and peasant ancestral lands are being dispossessed and that the projects have important negative impacts on the ecosystem that are being overlooked.

Loaded with a series of questions, this reporting team travelled to one of the largest wind farms in the world, built in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, a region that is home to the indigenous Huaves, Mixes, Zapotec, Zoque and Chontales. In this area least 21 wind farms have been installed in the last 21 years, comprising the Tehuantepec Isthmus Wind Corridor. Developers have plans to build 28 parks for clean energy generation in the region

 

Celestino Bortolo Teran is an Indigenous Zapotec whose land has been surrounded by the company Gas Natural Fenosa’s wind farm. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

ISTHMUS OF TEHUANTEPEC EPICENTER OF CLEAN ENERGY

A palm hat worn down by time covers the face of Celestino Bortolo Teran, a sixty-year-old indigenous Zapotec man. He walks behind his ox team as they open furrows in the earth. A seventeen-year-old youth trails behind, sowing white, red, and black corn, a ritual of ancient knowledge shared between local people and the earth. Neither of the two notices the sound of our car as we arrive, “because of the wind turbines,” says Teran. Just fifty meters away, a wind farm has been installed by the Spanish company Natural Gas Fenosa. It will generate, at least for the next three decades, what governments and energy companies have declared clean energy.

Along with this farm, twenty others have been set up forming what has come to be known as the Wind Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.  The Corridor occupies a surface area of 17,867.8 hectares across which 1,608 wind turbines have been installed. The Secretary of Tourism and Economic Development of Oaxaca (STDEO) claims that they will collectively generate 2,267.43 MW.

The Tehuantepec Isthmus stretches just two hundred kilometers from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, making it the third narrowest strip of land connecting the Americas after the isthmuses in Nicaragua and Panama. Mountains converge here to create a geological tunnel that funnels extremely high-speed winds between the two oceans. Energy investors have set their sights on the region since the government of Oaxaca claimed that the region is capable of producing 10,000 MW of wind energy in an area of 100,000 hectares.

Isthmus of Tehuantepec, 200 kilometers of land connected with the Atlantic and Pacific. The arrow marks the direction of the wind.

“Before, I could hear all the animals living in the areas. Through their songs and sounds, I knew when it was going to rain or when it was the best time to plant. Now though, it seems the animals have left due to the wind turbines,” Teran told us, with sadness and rage in his voice. Teran does not know if the claims that the turbines, are generating alternative energy to help to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of large corporations and industrialized countries are true or not. The project was built in accordance with the Clean Development Mechanism (MDL) as defined in the Kyoto Protocol. The main objective is to prevent global temperatures from rising 2°C before 2100, according to the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), better known as the COP 21, held in Paris, France Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2015. “I don’t know what climate change is and I don’t know about the COP. I only know that our ancestral lands are being covered by these turbines,” “I don’t know what climate change is and I don’t know about the COP. I only know that our ancestral lands are being covered by these turbines,” said Teran.

At the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, participating countries passed the UNFCCC in response to climate change. With this accord, states set out to maintain their GHG emissions at the levels reached in 1990. At the Third Conference of Parties (COP 3), held in Japan in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was approved by industrialized countries with the aim of reducing national emissions to an average of five percent below the 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. In order to help reduce the costs of this reduction, three “flexibility mechanisms” were designed: Emission trading, Joint Implementation (JI), and the aforementioned Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under which a large number of the wind farms in the Tehuantepec Isthmus have been constructed.

According to the Kyoto Protocol, these mechanisms are meant to permit industrialized countries and private companies to offset their emissions by developing clean energy projects in other parts of the world where it is more economically viable and then include these reductions in their national quotas. Joint Implementation targets projects in Eastern European countries, many formerly members of the Soviet Union, while the CDM is only applicable to developing countries that were not given a GHG emission limit under the Kyoto Protocol.  The second period of engagement of the Protocol is 2013-2020. In this period, countries in the European Union (excluding Iceland) have agreed to a collective emission reduction of twenty percent with respect to 1990 emission levels.

“The investment of polluting companies and countries in CDM projects and carbon credits is a form of speculation that has turned pollution into a business”Biologist and coastal ecology and fishery sciences professor and researcher Patricia Mora, of the Interdisciplinary Research Center for Integral Regional Development of Oaxaca (CIIDIR Oaxaca) based at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, affirms that many studies show that as temperatures continue to increase, “The investment of polluting companies and countries in CDM projects and carbon credits is a form of speculation that has turned pollution into a business”.

The secretary general of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, speaking in Berlin on the national plans published by 146 countries to combat climate change last October, that if the international community does not take urgent action, global temperatures will rise four or five degrees Celsius by 2100 according to estimates of the International Energy Agency.

The Clean Energy Extraction and Energy Transition Financing Law states that Mexico will install technology to generate 25,000 MW of clean energy by 2024. “Mexico has an obligation to limit the electrical energy generated by fossil fuels to sixty-five percent (from the current eighty percent) by 2024,” the law states.

Here, I have everything – milk, corn, fruits, vegetables. It is all a product of my work and produced naturally.Teran continues sowing his corn as we ask him about the benefits he’s gained from the Wind Corridor. A bit irritated, he responds, “They have not provided me or anyone in my family a job, and I don’t want anything to do with these companies or the government. I just want them to leave me in peace on my land, to let me live as I did beforehand. Here, I have everything – milk, corn, fruits, vegetables. It is all a product of my work and produced naturally. Here, I have everything – milk, corn, fruits, vegetables. It is all a product of my work and produced naturally. We don’t use any agrochemicals.”

Wind farms for sale

Most wind turbines are stained with lubricants in the blades and in the engine. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F)

Most wind turbines are stained with lubricants in the blades and in the engine. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

WIND FARMS FOR SALE

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) published an atlas in 2004 that mapped wind potential in the state of Oaxaca, with the goal of accelerating the use of wind energy technologies in the state.

“This wind resource atlas is an example of collaboration between Mexico and the United States, besides being an important element of the Mexican strategy to ensure availability of the necessary information and to define specific renewable energy projects, as well as tools to access financing and development support. The goal in creating this wind atlas and other assessments of renewable resources is to ensure that communities of Oaxaca in the end receive social and economic benefits of renewable energy,” explains the document.

The mapping confirms that the Isthmus is the region with the largest wind potential, with winds up to 60 km /h. “This region of the Isthmus provides an excellent wind resource, especially the regions of La Mata, La Venta and La Ventosa”, the Atlas concludes.

The first project was developed at La Venta in 1994. The first project of its kind in Latin America, it was named “La Venta I”. Later followed La Venta II and La Venta III. The first two are operated by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and the latter by the Spanish company ACCIONA.

The researchers say they will not share specific maps related to the respective areas of wind potential, due to the confidentiality required in possible contracts signed between companies and the government of Mexico. A decade later, with the arrival of more wind parks in the region, it has become clear that the majority of these sites are located on the shores of Lago Superior.

Map of the wind resource assessment conducted by USAID
Energy Map
To further promote the development of wind energy in Mexico and the possibility of export,  USAID released another document in 2009 called “Study of Export Potential Wind Energy of Mexico to the United States”. This document confirms that the greatest potential for wind energy is concentrated in the states of Oaxaca (2,600 MW) and Baja California (1,400 MW). In August 2015 the government of Mexico officially announced that the wind farm “Energía Sierra Juárez” Baja California, the first wind project between Mexico and the United States, will export energy to California. And they are waiting for an interconnection to export the energy produced in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.“This mapping is only one part of a series of mega-projects that are designed for this area. Not only is it wind energy, but also oil and gas, mining, and infrastructure for the transport of goods. Therefore, this wind mapping is only a pretext to map the full potential of this whole geostrategic area, which functions as a type of catalog to offer it to businesses,” says biologist Mora.The wind corridor was designed under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed in 1994 by Mexico, the United States and Canada. NAFTA implementation began with the international agreement called Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), now remade into Proyecto Mesoamerica. The project’s main objective is to create favorable conditions for the flow of goods, oil, minerals and energy, which was necessary, according to the official document of the PPP, for “the creation of roads, paths, steps, bridges, railways, pipelines , aqueducts, power lines, ports, airports and telecommunications. “The president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, recently announced the creation of three special economic zones in the south of the country, including the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, “in order to generate new poles of industrial development and diminish the economic and social backwardness of these regions,” the report said.

“Clean energy is part of this context. It’s part of the continuity of the exponential economic growth of capital, it is not something alternative to it. It’s another link that is painted green,” Mora states.

THE COSTS OF CLEAN ENERGY

There is currently no established wind farm that respects biodiversity. (Photo: Renata Bessi)
There is currently no established wind farm that respects biodiversity. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

The dominant development model in the production of electricity from wind power in the Tehuantepec Isthmus, is presented as a  formula in which  everyone wins – the government, developers and industry. It’s a self-supply model, in which a private developer of wind power generates energy production contracts for a wide portfolio of industrial customers (Coca-Cola, CEMEX, Wal-Mart, Bimbo, for example) for a certain period. In this way, companies can obtain energy prices lower than the market for the  long-term and they also enjoy the financial benefits of carbon trading, which allows them to continue polluting and, to speculate on the sale of pollution permits to other companies. Developers can also access financing schemes for “green” projects through organizations like the Inter-American Development Bank and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UN.The communities are also presented as winners in these projects for the development of self-sufficiency and the income they receive from the lease of their land. But two decades after the first wind farms were installed,  what benefits gains have these Clean Development Mechanism projects left to the peasant and indigenous communities?

¿Why the resistance?

In response to constant harassment and persecution, the Alvaro Obregon community created a community police force called “Binni Guiapa Guidxi” In November of 2012, the consortium Mareña Renovables set out to build the largest wind farm in Latin America in the Barra de Santa Teresa, in San Dionisio del Mar, Oaxaca. The Barra is a strip of land between two  lagoon that later connects to the sea in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Here the indigenous community of binniza (Zapotec) and ikojts (Huave), together with the community of Alvaro Obregon, opposed and blocked all access to this strip of land. In response, the State sent about 500 troops from the state police to unblock access, acting with extreme violence. The Indians resisted until the government suspended construction of the wind park. In response to constant harassment and persecution,the Alvaro Obregon community created a community police force called “Binni Guiapa Guidxi” on February 9, 2013.

Also in  February 2013, the situation in Alvaro Obregon–the only access to the Barra Santa Teresa–became tense. Police established a checkpoint  at the entrance of the community. Two Americans spoke with the commander of the local police. One of them was Andrew Chapman, a member of the management team of the company Mareña Renovables.

Bar Santa Teresa

Three researchers, Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer, both of Rice University, and Edith Barrera of Universidad del Mar, who were in the region studying the resistance against the company, approached Chapman. He explained his work in the area to the researchers: “My job is to open dialogue and listen (…) We have this project, which I really think is good for the planet, good for the region and good for the people here” .

The director was clearly displeased at the opposition from the community to the wind project. “One cannot but be amazed at the beauty of this place. And then you see how people live. And I’m not just trying to impose my American values here, but I don’t think that bad health care is a good thing, I don’t think that poor education is a good thing … So we can channel resources to these communities to improve services. Imagine where they could be here in five or ten years. They can still continue fishing in the lakes (…) “, the researchers cite Chapman as saying in their text, “The Margins of the Wind State: Autonomy and Development of Renewable Energy in Southern Mexico”.

Chapman questioned the suggestions of the police to not enter the community for lack of security. “I find it frustrating and sad, and the consequence is that the investor group I represent is sitting in their offices and can put their money here, or they can put their money somewhere else. I don’t need these problems. I’m not really in the business of saving the world, I’m in business to make money for my trust, and I have to do it under low risk. “

Since 2013 what was known as Mareña Renovables has changed its name and form several times. The Spanish energy company, called the Preneal group, that signed exploration contracts and obtained the permits from the state government, sold the rights to the project (which at that time were two separate projects) for $89 million to FEMSA, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, and Macquarie Group, the largest investment bank in Australia. These companies quickly merged the two projects and sold part of their stake to Mitsubishi Corporation and the Dutch pension fund PGGM, signing at the same time a power purchase agreement with FEMSA-Heineken for 20 years.

They also sought to speculate with the reduction  of 825,707 tons of carbon dioxide a year, equivalent to the emissions of 161,903 cars.

Under the pretext of reducing global warming they come to our territories to control our forests, mountains, our sacred places and our water.“Mother Earth is sick. The disease is global warming, caused by the owners of money. They believe that money can buy life. They want to profit with the same disease that they have caused to Mother Earth. Under the pretext of reducing global warming they come to our territories to control our forests, mountains, our sacred places and our water. They are causing devastation in our social fabric,” said Carlos Sanchez, Zapotec Indian who participated in the resistance against the installation of wind farm in Barra Santa Teresa Park and the installation of a park by Gas Natural Fenosa in Juchitan de Zaragoza.

Juchitán-Oaxaca-Zapotec-Indian-resistance-to-building-one-of-largest-wind-farms-in-Latin-America-despite-death-threats-from-paramilitary-groups-paid-by-companies-Photo-Santiago-Navarro-F.

Juchitán Oaxaca: Zapotec Indians show solidarity with resistance to building one of the largest wind farms in Latin America, despite death threats from paramilitary groups paid by companies and protected by the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Sanchez is also founder and member of the community radio Totopo, created to report on megaprojects in the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. During an intermission of his radio programming, we threw a question at Sanchez about what the Zapotec people know about the CDM. “It is a discourse between businessmen. They are labels exchanged between companies to justify their pollution and they don’t explain anything to indigenous peoples,” he replied.

“Could we, with our forests, also sell carbon credits, bypassing these companies? Who will buy? It is no coincidence that only those who understand these mechanisms are the only ones who benefit as employers and the state. It is a farce that is presented as very nice and green.”

Sanchez continues, “We do not even benefit from the energy produced. Instead, the energy is more expensive for ordinary consumers. While the transnational corporations that are supplied with this clean energy are paying prices that make you laugh. If you walk by the communities you will notice what the clean development they have brought consists of, and I challenge one of the owners of the companies to actually live in the midst of these turbines. They live in their mansions. “

The Environmental and Social Management, published by the IDB in November 2011, noted the possibility of short-term “economic dislocation” of the population because of the interruption of fishing during the construction phase of the Marena Renovables park. But the long-term impacts of the presence of the park on the local population engaged in fishing were not mentioned.

Following demonstrations by indigenous peoples, on May 8, 2013, the Oaxaca State Secretary of Tourism, José Zorrilla Diego, announced the cancellation of the proposed Renewable Mareña project in the Barra de Santa Teresa. Shortly after the announcement of the cancellation, the state government said the project would continue in other areas of the Isthmus.

THE UNDERESTIMATED ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS

After the resistance in Barra Santa Teresa in 2013, the Zapotec community of Carlos Sanchez, in the city of Juchitan de Zaragoza, received the news that a park would be installed on their land. Despite resistance from the community, the Spanish company Gas Natural Fenosa installed the Biío Hioxo park (“strong wind” in the Zapotec language). With 117 wind turbines, the company estimates that they will prevent the emission of 400,000 tons of CO2 annually.

The environmental impact study conducted by the URS Corporation Mexico in 2008, contracted by the company Gas Natural Fenosa, testifies that the development of the wind farm “in this area of Oaxaca state is a clear example of sustainable development” and that “the project is environmentally viable because it uses renewable resources and does not generates significant impacts on the environment.”

The study finds no significant impacts on wildlife; the biggest impact and one that will be given the necessary attention, according to the report, is the risk of birds colliding with the turbines. Regarding flora, the same study found that the removal of vegetation would also have no significant impact.

Local communities and environmentalists report that in fact wildlife is being affected. The regions of Barra Santa Teresa, in Alvaro Obregon, and Playa San Vicente in Juchitan de Zaragoza are particularly special because of the close interaction of the species inhabiting these ecosystems. “That is where the border of several closely related ecosystems are, of water and land, called ‘ecotones’. What happens to them separately affects the dynamics in a way that threatens the very existence of all the ecosystems as a whole “, biologist Patricia Mora states.

The biologist analyzes two levels of impacts at different phases of the Project. The first is the direct impact. When installing the project they have to “dismantle”, that is, remove the vegetation. This implies destruction of plants, as sessile organisms – those that don’t have a body to serve as a foot or support. There are also slow displacements of animals and organisms, including reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians, insects, arachnids, fungi, viruses etc.

Generally, we only consider the macro, that is, the larger organisms, and not the tiny microscopic organisms. Yet often that’s where there’s the most damage. Many micro-organisms have yet to be identified and interestingly enough, these organisms are really what keep the ecosystems living and in balance. In many Mexican ecosystems, there are only a few of these species documented, which means that one cannot quantify their precise function or the actual damage. Many endemic, native species are in some degree of danger that is recognized on national and international lists.

After completing the construction phase, indirect impact continues. Ecosystems are disrupted and fragmented and therefore there is a greater likelihood of their disappearance, due to changing land use and climate change.

“These are considered very fragile ecosystems. Due to the geographical location, we are talking about  semi-arid zones where the water cycle is vital. These ecosystems act as moisture retainers and their disappearance drastically changes the soil’s moisture capacity. As the vegetation disappears these will become totally uninhabited deserts, because solar radiation changes the dynamics of the soil and it doesn’t allow new vegetation”, Mora says.

The biologist questions the way the environmental impact studies are done. “Usually there are ‘agreements’ behind closed doors, between consulting or research centers and government offices, prior to the studies. Standard templates  are used, where information is copied, sometimes poorly copied; where lies or half-truths are told. The focus on specific aspects of the project deviates, but it apparently meets the ‘requirements’ on paper.  I know this because I’ve worked with the consultants who develop such projects. Additionally, many of the projects in operation today do not even have an environmental impact study,” says the biologist.

But there is no consideration for the chain of production.Mora argues that, in order to consider a clean energy project it would have to meet rigorous environmental impact studies that consider the entire chain of energy production. “It is true that the wind is clean,” says the researcher. But there is no consideration for the chain of production. They have to consider the types of metals using a single generator. For example, the steel is usually mined in open pit mines; there they use water, energy, and ecosystems were also devastated. Oil was used for the smelter and transportation. The same applies to the lubricants used. The life of each turbine that is 20 to 30 years is added and then must be replaced with new ones.

Missing accompanying studies

Environmental impact studies were not mandatory until recently, and much less those studies that analyze continued impact  after construction. As for social impact, there  simply are no studies. An indigenous man, Teran,  lives within 50 meters of the Biío Hioxo turbines of Natural Fenosa Gas. He is one of the few peasants who did not agree to lease their land for the installation of wind turbines.

We do not know what awaits the next generation of children to be born. I’ve never seen this in my life“After the park came, I noticed that the animals changed. An example is with the first generation of calves. They were born with a deformity in the navel. A type of hernia hanging up to 50 centimeters long and some of them did not survive,” says Teran. “I sincerely wish that committed scholars would come to investigate these effects on animals because the second generation comes next year in 2016. We do not know what awaits the next generation of children to be born. I’ve never seen this in my life,” adds Teran.

The farmer tells about declining rainfall and increased thunderstorms. “It rains a lot less and thelightning strikes the turbines or the trees. It is dangerous to remain in the middle of the park when these storms come, “ says Teran. He adds that the well water used for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene, which is a few meters from the turbines, “is no longer the same water. There is a distinct taste that irritates the skin.”

Roberto Martinez, a local fisherman, tells us that traditionally migratory birds came there to drink at Cienegas, where there was water in abundance. “I think the birds are shifting their migration path because they no longer come as before.”

The  environmental impact study foresaw effects on the birds. “The fauna directly affected during the operation phase of the Project are the mortality of birds and bats caused by collisions with wind turbines, by habitat fragmentation and the noise”, says  the study.

In the same park, Carlos Sanchez says, “We know that companies have found veins of water and are closing them off with the foundations of the projects. They’re  using a special liquid to slow the flow of water, we do not know exactly what kind of substance it is.”

Not so clean energy

To set the turbines hundreds of tons of cement that interrupt the water flows are used. “It is worth mentioning that they are using the cement company CEMEX, which also has a wind farm in the Isthmus,” Mora notes.

Park EURUS wind turbines

The population of La Venta, where the first wind farm was built, was literally surrounded by turbines. Under the argument of increasing self-sufficiency,  another wind park called Eurus was built in 2009, and later auctioned off with capital of the Spanish company Acciona and the transnational construction materials company CEMEX.

CEMEX can be seen as a role model of the (MDL) CDM. The company has been listed as a clean and responsible company and has registered several projects under the mechanism. In its 2013 report CEMEX boasts of expanding their projects with the CDM model. “Six new initiatives were registered as (MDL) CDM in 2013, which include four alternative fuel projects in Mexico and Panama and two wind farms located in Mexico, among those Eurus and Ventika.”

In 2015 the Eurus wind farm won the prize awarded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB Infrastructure 360 °) in the category of “Impact on Population and Leadership,” which recognizes outstanding sustainability practices in infrastructure investments in Latin America and Caribbean.

In February 2015, community activists and social organizations of Venta denounced that, “about 150 wind turbines of the wind farm Eurus and Oaxaca III, owned by Acciona, have spilt oil on the blades and main coil, which has polluted the subsoil and water, and the farmers and ranchers who have ranches surrounding the place,”  defenders of the Earth and Sea asserted. Both wind farms have 1500 MW turbines, which need 400 liters of synthetic oil, while the 800 MW turbines only require 200 liters of oil per turbine per year.

Continuity resistance

The company Natural Gas Fenosa has anounced it will use a gate to prevent access of peasants and indigenous to the enclosed polygon of the wind farm. Only employees and local residents and workers would have access. “That would prevent fishermen’s access to the sea and the hunters’ access to the Lago Superior hunting areas,” explains Zapotec indigenous Faustina Martinez Lopez, who lives in the area. Also in this area there are seven sacred sites for indigenous peoples.

Women in resistance by the construction of the wind farm on the bar Santa Teresa

Local resistance began with the complaint of a farmer on the community radio Totopo, which transmits in the native Zapotec language as many do not communicate in Spanish. “Other farmers, fishermen and indigenous people heard that complaint and began approaching the radio. There began a process of organization. This is when the Juchiteco Peoples Assembly  (APPJ) was founded,” recalls Sanchez. “It was when the community organized to resist and prevent the enclosure of wind turbines. A barricade was built to block access to Playa Vicente (Lago Superior), where the polygon began. The barricade remained for two months. But the company began using police and hit men and death threats to evict,” says Sanchez.

One of the worst clashes between the community and the police happened when a group of us went for a tour in the location where the company had already begun their work. Women and children remained at the barricade. 25 vans and cars arrived and violently pressured them to leave the barricade. “Quickly the sisters called us by phone and we mobilized the community through Radio Totopo and a battle broke out,” said Sanchez, who later was ambushed and beaten by a group of subjects.

In the end, the company finished construction of its wind turbines without fences, keeping the polygon open to hunters and fishermen.

Justice

In 2013 the APPJ filed an agricultural  injunction against the company Gas Natural Fenosa for not having conducted a free and informed  prior consultation, as required by the International Labour Organization. “The company will initiate the second phase of the project, and the judge has yet to issue a judgment. They said they would send an anthropological expert to evaluate whether these lands are where our ancestors lived. Only in this way, the injunction will continue. There are studies and testimonies that have been here since long before the formation of the Mexican State. We are a Zapotec Indian village, an ancient people, we retain our language, our traditions, it is offensive that the judge would even say that. He should not even be considered Mexican, because he does not know the history of the people of Mexico,” said Sanchez.

VIOLATED SACRED LANDS

Carlos Sanchez walks slowly with downcast eyes, mapping each centimeter he steps on the sand of Playa Vicente, in the Lago Superior. The seaside landscape painted with pelicans and herons flying above the fishermen, contrasts sharply with the line of wind turbines. Sanchez seeks traces of his ancestors to share with the reporting team. “There are so many traces around these territories that it’s possible to find pieces on the surface,” he says.

Vestiges buried on the shores of the beach San Vicente

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec has been occupied by different cultural and linguistic groups from more than 3, 500 years ago, by speakers of Mixe and Zoque languages. It is very likely that large and stable populations existed around1200 BC. “This indicates the amount of time that these communities have been associated with the environment, creating knowledge and transforming it in such a way that one can say that the natural environment of the Isthmus is a cultural construct, and that culture is a construct that has a close relationship with the nature of the geographical area in question, “explains Alfredo Saynes, Faculty of Sciences of the UNAM.

Sanchez steps forward, stops suddenly and points to two objects on the sand. Once up close, you can see two clay pots buried with just part revealed on the surface. “When the tide is low we can  see several vestiges of ancient temples, such as these,” he tells us.

According to archaeologist Agustín Andrade Cuautle, of the National Institute of Archaeology and History, the state of Oaxaca has the largest number of registered archaeological sites in Mexico. Of the 4,000 registered throughout Oaxaca, 100 are in the Isthmus.

Land of refuge – The land where the wind estate company Gas Natural Fenosa is installed is suitable for agriculture thanks to the river water of Los Perros. The Los Perros River through these lands and floods them throughout the rainy season. “The environmental impact study states that this is eroded land, which has only garbage and flies, but it’s not true. These lands have given life to the Zapotec civilization of this region, precisely because of its fertility, “Sanchez shares.

The Istmeños are the last real Zapotecs after the Aztecs converted the Zapotecs in the north into their subjects, assimilating them culturally and linguistically. Throughout their history they resisted several attempts of domination, even fought against the invasion of the French, when they tried to colonize Mexico. To date they are recognized as people who resist and struggle.

In each of their sacred sites that are within the wind polygon -Santa Cruz Paso Cnu, Santa Cruz Guelaxada ‘, Santa Cruz Chigue’ze’, Santa Cruz Guelabe’ne ‘Guiiguidxita Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Guuzebenda–there are the tombs of Zapotec Indians who participated in the Mexican revolution of 1910, which allowed them to keep their land in their hands.

Santa Cruz sacred site MAY 12

Historically, this town had already taken up arms, since the independence of Mexico until the Mexican Revolution in order to defend their territory. When the government sent troops, the village would empty everything in order to not leave any food for them. They took their chickens, animals and took refuge in these very same sacred places. “This area provided protection to the people, for being fertile. And there the resistance survived. These places have served as protection in many moments of our history. That is why an attack on these parks are an attack against us,” says Faustina López Martínez.

According to Sánchez, part of the site called Guelabe’ne ‘was destroyed because of the wind park. “They filled it with stones to build a road.” In addition, the paths of two other sites were also affected. “The road to Santa Cruz Chigue ‘ze’ was cut by a road in the wind energy business. The road to Santa Cruz Guelabe’ne ‘was completely destroyed, the pilgrimage can only pass coming in other ways. “

“The roads are critical to our rituals,” said Faustina. As each year, the community makes a pilgrimage to their holy sites. “They conducted no impact study for our sites,” she adds.

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND PERSECUTIONS

The radio station has suffered several attempts to close it down, with raids by police federal and Navy.Community organization against the wind farm in the Barra de Santa Teresa was the first major resistance against the ways in which these companies are developing their projects on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Sanchez reports that, not coincidentally, it is in this period that the companies began hiring hit men, with the backing of the state.“We see gunmen escorted to the state police. The community is so small, so we know who they are. Because of the threats we began to receive three companions had to leave the community. Some of us have been persecuted with absurd lawsuits, accusing us of kidnapping, attacks on the roads, and damage to other people’s private property. They began to detain people involved in the movement. We have received threats by phone. The radio station has suffered several attempts to close it down, with raids by police federal and Navy. They have now another sign mounted above ours to interfere,” says Sanchez.Sanchez reports that since 2013 he does not go to public places. His mobility is restricted to the community. “We were offered the protection mechanism of the Ministry of Interior. But we have realized that the task of protection has been given to the state police, the same people who attacked us. I didn’t know whether they have come to protect me or arrest me. So I rejected this protection mechanism and started a small personal protection protocol, “says Sanchez. APPJ members filed a complaint in court and still have not received averdict. “The state supports the wind companies,” Sanchez concludes.The Committee for the Integral Defense of Human Rights Gobixha (CódigoDH) Oaxaca demanded the immediate intervention of the federal and state governments to stop the wave of violence against supporters of the Popular Assembly of the People of Juchitan (APPJ) who have been victims of threats , harassment, persecution and attacks, including the murder of one of its members. This followed the conflict rooted in the construction of the Bii Hioxo wind farm, according to the Committee. But there was no response.The company Gas Natural Fenosa rejects the accusations, ensuring that: “While certain groups have filed several allegations regarding violations of human rights of communities affected by the project, Gas Natural Fenosa says they are unfounded, that they lack objective justification, and are incompatible with the commitments made by the company’s Human Rights Policy. “

 

NEW STRATEGY, NEW PARK, OLD PROBLEMS

It did not take long for the government’s promise made in 2013 to relocate the project from the Barra de  Santa Teresa to another zone in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to take shape. In 2014, the company Mareña Renovables, now called Eolica del Sur (Southern Wind), found a new place to develop clean energy and contribute to the goals of reducing greenhouse gases, in the Lago Superior.

In 2016, the project foresees the installation of 132 wind turbines of 3 MW each in an area of 5,332 hectares, avoiding the emission of 879,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year, according to the company.

An independent report released by researchers from different fields and universities – UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), UCCS (Union of Scientists Committed to Society), UAM (Metropolitan Autonomous University) and ENAH (National School of Anthropology and History), points out various inconsistencies in the environmental impact study submitted by the company and approved by the Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources (SEMANART).

The first contradiction regards the company that made the study. The company responsible is Especialistas Ambientales (Environmental Specialists). According to the Constitutive Act of the company, the founding partner is the engineer Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, current Undersecretary of Planning and Environmental Policy of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources. “Based on the above, we have a concern regarding the independence and objectivity in both the development of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as well as the approval” states the report.

The document warned that there are many inconsistencies with respect to Baja Espinoza Forest (Selva Baja Espinosa), which is to be cleared for the construction of this project, since the study did not produce a map of land use and vegetation at the scale of the polygon. Evaluating the information available on the MIA’s own field research, “our analysis shows that the developer intends to cut 100% of the tree surface without proposing any measure of compensation.”

San Vicente Beach

“This is particularly worrying because the polygon project affects the Biological Corridor in Oaxaca in the Isthmus-Chimalapas Region, which in turn is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. According to CONABIO, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor in Mexico was established with the purpose of coordinating policies for the conservation and sustainable management of resources in priority areas in the southeastern region of the country  regarding conservation of biodiversity. (…) The Selva Baja Espinoza forms a biological corridor connecting the Priority Marine Regions: Continental Shelf Gulf of Tehuantepec, and Upper and Lower Laguna; and Terrestrial Priority Regions: Northern Sierras of Oaxaca Mixe and Zoque-La Selva Sepultura “says the document.

According to Eduardo Centeno, director of the Eolica del Sur  company, the MIA was submitted in accordance with Mexican law and contains mitigation measures and preventive measures for the environment, including reforestation. “One benefit is that [by means of reforestation programs and mitigation] it will enable environmental surveillance and protection of archaeological sites that would not exist if the project were not done”, he explains.

Another concern of communities relates to water pollution in the lagoon and ocean as a result of the oil that will drain on the beaches, estimated at 300 liters per windmill. According to Mora, Genoveva Bernal of Semarnat, the institution responsible for approving the MIA, says the park will not affect Lago Superior at 3.9 km. She notes that the ministry does not guarantee, “that it will not affect, like it has done to other parks in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the groundwater of the region.”

Alejandro Castaneira, professor and researcher at the ENAH, who participated in writing the Report, says the SEMANART authorized an environmental impact study that was wrongly produced. “It is  announced that parks are generating clean energy. Are we going to use clean energy to produce Coca-Cola and Lays Chips while poverty continues?” asks Castaneira.

Participatory process?

After the events of 2013, Eolica del Sur and the State convened for the first free, prior and informed consultation, under Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for indigenous peoples, 22 years since the arrival of the first wind farm in the time Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This consultation began in November 2014 and was completed in July 2015, and is regarded as a essential element for the project to become effective. The federal and state government as well as the company claim that the consultation fulfilled its role, which justifies the project since most of the participants approved. On the other hand, there is enormous pressure for the cancellation of the consultation because of the irregularities denounced during the Consultation and, since they were not taken into account they limited the  assembly and thus the presence of those affected.

At a press conference, Bettina Cruz Velázquez, a member of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Defense of Land and Territory, said that the consultation was carried out after local and federal permits and approvals of land use had already been given by authorities and claimed this shows the federal government’s decision to strip Binni Záa (Zapotec) of its territory. “The consultation is a simulation, the ground was already prepared to start the operations of the company and they also play with the ignorance of communities in regards to this. They do not respect international standards,” says Cruz Velasquez.

A petition for relief was filed for the 1,166 indigenous  binni’zaa, in order to protect indigenous rights and defend their  territory against the wind project. On September 30, the Seventh District Judge of Salina Cruz, Isaiah Corona Coronado accepted the injunction against the construction and operation of the megaproject Eolica del Sur in its territory and issued an order to suspend all licenses, permits, goods, approvals, licenses and land use changes granted by federal and local authorities, until the final judgment is issued.

According to the lawyer Ricardo Lagines Gasca, adviser to the community, the company is affected by the petition as a third party. But those who are really being sued are municipal authorities, Energy Regulatory Commission, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, the City of Juchitan, and the National Institute of Anthropology and History, which stated that the area would be free of any effects against archaeological pieces or remains.

“The state allows these projects one the one hand, allowing all the state and federal agencies to expedite permits. Yet indigenous peoples are not aware of these legal proceedings, so that they can actually participate in decisions and not simply be consulted after the decision was already taken. The whole Isthmus territory has been divided between companies based on the lack of awareness of the peasant and indigenous communities who live here, “says Garza.

Even with the temporary cancellation of the park, the governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cue, in his report released in November, states the project installation as a given and as a result of the consultation. “In collaboration with the Federal Government, the State Government managed to confirm one of the most important investments in Latin America in the field of wind power generation, worth a billion dollars, in the upcoming construction of the wind farm with the company Eolica del Sur, which will generate 396 MW, “ says the document.

Informed consultation?

Independent consultant Isaac Portugal Rosas was invited by the organizers of the Consultation to describe the operation of the energy system in the country. During his presentation, he explained with technical details how energy circulates throughout the national network. In answering a question he himself posed: Why is the energy generated in the parks not necessarily used here in the communities where it is produced?, he responded. “Energy is not like any good, like an orange, for example, that can be sold anywhere one wishes. There is a system, the National Power Control Center dedicated to balance the entire national energy system, because it can not be stored. This center facilitates the distribution of energy which is released into the national system at all times. We have no way to verify that the energy produced here is used by a company in Monterrey, for example, “he explains.

What seems like a technical explanation on behalf of the consultant, who appears as independent, reveals that the wind energy produced in the isthmus has specific destination – consumption for companies – even before they begin to generate.

According to the Commission for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples of Mexico, of the federal Ministry of Government, in a  document titled Wind Energy in Mexico: a social perspective on the value of the land, states that unequal access to electricity is produced from wind energy because of international financial institutions, developed countries and multinational wind companies that fund and define the general guidelines that orient wind power projects on a large scale in Mexico. Their interests are guided more by the pursuit of profit in the short term, rather than to solve environmental problems.

“It was an `uninformed´ consultation. The company and the government stated what they wanted. What we heard there is not very reliable,”says Sanchez.

COMMON LANDS: AN OBSTACLE FOR COMPANIES

“As children we took advantage of the wind that exists in our land to move small pinwheels much like the wind turbines. We also found ways that would allow the wind to move something small. All rustic. Now you can do it with technology on a large scale,”says Juan Regalado, Zapotec Indian, from Union Hidalgo village of Juchitan, where the wind company Demex came in 2011.” The damage these businesses are doing the social fabric of our communities is not right” said Regalado referring to the park installed in his community, which does not even have an environmental impact study.

One of the major impacts is the conflict generated over land where the wind resource is located. The distribution of land after the revolution in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, is marked by a series of conflicts and changes in legislation. “The legal status of the lands of Juchitan to this day has not been clarified, which prevents clarity regarding how much it is, where communal land is located, and who regulates the sale of ejido. This situation is now aggravated by the change in land use for the installation of wind farms, “says the NGO DH Code.

According to Regalado, there is no doubt that wind turbines are on their communal lands. “There is a 1964 presidential decree where the titles to the common goods were confirmed. What is certain is that there are no private lands,” he explains.

According to him, the company’s interest is to deal with smallholdings because this way they make direct contact with a single person. “In communal lands, deals are made with the villagers. Not only the possessor of land must see advantages, but all the people of the community, because we are all affected,” he explains.

Based on the decree of 1964, Regalado and 16 others Hidalgo Union filed a lawsuit in the Agrarian Court requesting the cancellation of their contracts with the company. The legal question is whether the land is communal or private. If they are found to be communal, the contracts are automatically dissolved.

“The last judge we had of the Agrarian Court of the District of Tuxtepec said the contracts must be canceled, because they are within communal lands. But to support this decision, he decided he needed a survey by us and the company. Our expert argued that our land is within the communal estate of Juchitan, using the decree of 1964. The company hired an expert, who missed the deadline and could not answer. So they contracted a second expert, who missed the first deadline and are now expected to be late in the second, which still must be done this year, “Regalado said.

The Agrarian Court also consulted the Oaxaca Agrarian Office and the National Agrarian Registry, confirming that these lands are communal.

It is not surprising that Juchitan has this conformation. This is characteristic of the state of Oaxaca. According to the Ministry of Agrarian Development, 78% of the land in Oaxaca is collectively owned—shared ejidos, or indigenous communal lands.

“The aim is to cancel the contract with the company. It will be a precedent for other communities in the Isthmus. The sad thing is that the company, realizing that they will lose in court, has been looking to each of us individually to finish the contracts offering some money. It is a political issue, the group is strengthened and we are convinced that it is the Court that must rule that annulment with their respective damages to the company, “said Regalado.

Recurrent practices – The Commission for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples of Mexico said that opponents to wind farms generally have said that the contracts do not provide clear information on the rights that owners have to lease their land.

“The contracts do not establish a clear distinction between productive farms and vacant land [which would generate different payments], and lack clauses regarding the renovation of payments. This is understood as the co-optation of community representatives, with simulation of ejido assemblies with signatures of dead people and others that do not appear in the ejido census to expedite the signing of contracts and individual negotiations between owners and companies, in order to exclude ejido assemblies to the processes of decision making,” says the document.

CLEAN ENERGY: THE REPRODUCTION OF INEQUALITY

According to documents from the Commission for Dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico, international experience has shown that remuneration paid by energy companies erecting wind farms on leased lands oscillates between one and five percent of the gross income of the energy produced by the turbines. According to the European Association of Wind Energy, land rental there represents 3.9 percent of total costs. “However, the case of Mexico is drastically different if you take into account the much lower value compared to international standards: here, remuneration is between .025 and 1.53% [of gross income].”

In Europe, the value of land rental for wind farms far exceeds that which landholders can expect from other forms of land usage. The document highlights the case of Spain, where returns on land in Galicia, for example, go from 90,000 Euros for wind farms, 18,000 Euros for common land forestry, 4,500 Euros for woodland areas with high wind potential and 6,000 Euros for livestock areas.

According to the Tepeyac Human Rights Center, in the case of the energy company Fenosa Renovables’ contract with farmer Anastasio Toledo of Juchitán, it is stated that during the first phase of development, the construction of the wind park, they will begin paying him 150 pesos annually (9 Euros) per hectare. Payment for the installation of a wind turbine slides from 8,000 and 18,000 pesos (454 and 1,022 Euros) and afterwards a small percentage is added from the energy generated during the period.

“Because there is no organization that regulates the value of land in Mexico, energy companies pay landowners far less than the actual value, which can provoke tension in communities in which wind farms are set up,” states the human rights organization. “It is necessary to establish the laws and regulations which will define the range of value and the protocol for rights disputes when projects are set up on communal lands. This will help to protect the interests of indigenous communities,” the Commission for Dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico claims.

Who benefits from clean energy? The criteria that have been used to justify the implementation of wind parks in Mexico as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel energy production, are insufficient to determine the benefits, risks and broader implications of wind energy production, the Commission for Dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico upholds. “The criteria ignore or underestimate the complexity and cognitivist and ethical uncertainty of the risks and impacts created by wind parks on a large scale. They cannot be seen as a viable energy alternative if they continue to reproduce and deepen socioeconomic and environmental inequalities between countries and between social groups within individual countries.”

 

In collaboration with Armando Carmona

 

Renata Bessi is a freelance journalist and contributor the Americas Program and Desinformémonos. She has published articles in Brazilian media: The Trecheiro newspaper magazine, Página 22, Repórter Brasil, Rede Brasil Atual, Brasil de Fato, Outras Palavras.]

[Santiago Navarro is an economist, a freelance journalist, photographer and contributor to the Americas Program, Desinformémonos and  SubVersiones.]

EMPIRE TARGETS BURUNDI: “Humanitarian” NGOs Escalate Momentum in Beating the Drums of War

Wrong Kind of Green

February 1, 2016

 

“The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies is a key NGO within the Network and it is also a member of the International Federation of Human Rights.  It was founded in 1993 by Bahey El Din Hassan who was elected member of the Executive Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network at its second meeting in 1997.  In December 2011, he participated in a meeting of the Atlantic Council co-organised by the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East dealing with Egypt which is his country or origin. That meeting discussed the arrest of members of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the National Endowment for Democracy who were accused of interference in Egyptian internal affairs.” — Centre for the Study of Interventionism

 

As Empire targets Burundi, force multipliers at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex such as Avaaz, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch beat the drums of war. NGOs, perhaps now the most instrumental tools in the West’s war chest, are financed by (and in many cases created by) the world’s most powerful oligarchs and institutions. The latest signatories demanding “humanitarian intervention” in the sovereign country of Burundi, come in the form of an open letter (article follows) signed by: Dr Mohamed (Mo) Ibrahim – Founder and Chair (Mo Ibrahim Foundation), Mr Jay Naidoo (Chair of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Partnership Council of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition), Mr Victor Ochen (Director, African Youth Initiative Network), Dr Chidi Odinkalu (Chairperson, Governing Council of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission), Judge Navi Pillay (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008-2014 and President of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda from 1996-2003) and Mr Ashish J. Thakkar (Founder, Mara Group and Mara Foundation).

This is a rinse lather and repeat method as witnessed prior to the illegal war on Libya, based on manufactured lies by the West. [Further reading: Libya and the Big Lie: Using Human Rights Organizations to Launch Wars, September 24, 2011] [From Libyan sources: 500,000 dead, 30,000 in terrorist-run prisons, 2.5 million exiled, tens of thousands of refugees]

As the tiny East African nation of Burundi and its president Pierre Nkurunziza refuse to bow down to foreign interests, despite the increasing pressure, Empire accelerates all destabilization tactics. Evidence of manufactured atrocities strategically disseminated by Empire’s force multipliers in order to flood both the infosphere and human psyche – is not required.

Power Interview Keyna 2

Powers Interview Patronizing

 

This interview (January 23, 2016, screenshots above) demonstrates how media (as another force multiplier) kowtows to imperialism. Note the body language of Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza in reaction to U.S. ambassador Samantha Power’s patronizing language under the guise of white superiority. Power states: “there is a cri de coeur from many, many people in Burundi for outside help and for urgent, urgent mediation…” It is at this point (3:10) Nkurunziza closes his eyes. (Imagine having to bear words choreographed to incite destabilization by Power, on behalf of the most violent, hypocritical and racist country in the world – to a media serving as an foreign policy echo chamber.) The media hones in on Power, hanging on her every word, as though the position by the Burundian Government,  as represented by it’s president, is of secondary importance with little significance. In five minutes of coverage on Burundi, Nkurunziza’s comments amount to a total of approx. 9 seconds. In this way, the media demonstrates racism, bias and subservience to the West. Indeed the task at hand is to frame the crisis to better advance foreign interests. [“UN Security Council Meets with Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza to Push for Peace Talks” | “The 15 council members were greeted on arrival Thursday by pro-government demonstrators telling them to stop meddling. Hundreds lined the road leading from the airport to greet the envoys with signs that read ‘genocide will not happen’ and ‘stop interfering in Burundian affairs'”. Source]

“No one more adamantly challenged the Western consensus than Pan Africanist scholar Dr. Randy Short, speaking to Press TV. Dr. Short said that the Burundian crisis is really all about the resources that Western powers are taking out of Burundi’s neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 

“Burundi is a conduit into Congo. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. They don’t have anything. They (U.S. policy makers) care as much about Burundians as they do about the people in Baltimore who were rioting a few weeks ago. This is a sham. It’s a shibboleth… an effort to do is to steal from sovereign nations in Africa and to compete with the Chinese and the BRICs countries to hold onto Africa as a treasure house for the benefit of white Western powers.” — Challenging the Western consensus on Burundi June 5, 2015

Video: Pan-African Analysis of Burundi Destabilization with Dr Randy Short (Video published May 31, 2015):

 

 

May 17, 2015: The President of Burundi: Pierre Nkurunziza travels back home to Bujumbura (from Tanzania) on May 15, 2015, after failed coup attempt:

 

 

Excerpt from the article “Human Rights Want AU to intervene in Burundi, South Sudan Wrangles” (The Star, January 31, 2016):

MO 1

Former US President Bill Clinton, Christine Lagarde IMF Managing Director, and Mo Ibrahim Founder and Chairman, Mo Ibrahim Foundation attend the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on September 24, 2013 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Mehdi Taamallah

“The group consisting of eminent Africa personalities including Mo Ibrahim Foundation founder Mo Ibrahim want the AU to address the issues of political violence in the continent.

“In South Sudan, which should be reaping the benefits of the August 2015 peace agreement and seeking accountability for past crimes, distrust and animosity is running high between former foes and the return to war is a possibility,” states the letter.

The group says violence has been spreading to previously unaffected parts of the country and nearly 200,000 civilians remain under UN protection in crowded camps and the threat of famine is looming.

The AU and its leaders, have the opportunity and a responsibility to respond to these crises, before they get any worse.

In December last year, the AU Peace and Security Council resolved to send an AU force into Burundi to prevent a further escalation of violence.

Similarly, in response to the peace deal in South Sudan, the AU Commission pledged to set up a hybrid court to prosecute those who had masterminded the civil war.

Unfortunately, neither of these decisions has yet been fulfilled and the contexts in both countries have worsened and Nkurunziza vowed to block entry of 5000 AU peace forces.”

+++

The “Open letter to AU Peace and Security Council Heads of State” can be found here.

Signatories:

  • Dr Mohamed (Mo) Ibrahim – Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
  • Mr Jay Naidoo – Chair of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Partnership Council of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)
  • Mr Victor Ochen – Director, African Youth Initiative Network
  • Dr Chidi Odinkalu – Chairperson, Governing Council of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission
  • Judge Navi Pillay – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2008-2014) Judge and President of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) (1996-2003)
  • Mr Ashish J. Thakkar – Founder, Mara Group and Mara Foundation

 

Further reading on the Mo Ibrahim Foundation: The Imperialist NGOs Recolonizing Africa and the African Leaders Who Serve Them | Emasculation of the African with Awards, Grants and Prizes

 

The U.S. and EU Sponsoring are Terrorism in Burundi: Interview with political analyst Gearóid Ó Colmáin, May 25, 2015:

 

 

Burundi: Nkurunziza Refuses to Bow to Samantha Power’s Demands

The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper

January 26, 2016

By Ann Garrison

US-UN-Ambassador-Samantha-Power-Burundian-President-Pierre-Nkurunziza-Angolan-UN-Ambassador-Ismael-A.-Gaspar-Martins-press-conf-012216-by-Reuters

At a press conference held Jan. 22 by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, center, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power stands to his left, Angolan Ambassador to the U.N. Ismael A. Gaspar Martins to his right. – Photo: Reuters

The tiny East African nation of Burundi and its president remain unbowed despite pressure from Western officials.

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Transcript (to listen, click above radio icon)

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, speaking to the press yesterday, remained firm in his rejection of a proposed African Union peacekeeping force in his country. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has more.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza told a visiting delegation of the U.N. Security Council that the African Union “must respect Burundi as a member state, and we must be consulted.” In mid-December last year, the African Union Peace and Security Council voted to deploy 5,000 peacekeeping forces in Burundi without the government’s consent.

Burundi-map

Burundi borders Rwanda to the north, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west and Tanzania to the east. U.N. officials and the NGO Refugees International have documented Rwanda’s recruitment of Burundian refugees into a new rebel army.

However, international law prohibits the deployment without a two-thirds vote of African Union member states, and the approval of the U.N. Security Council, whose five permanent members, China, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., have veto power. The Burundian government was no doubt encouraged by remarks of the Russian and Chinese ambassadors on the importance of protecting Burundi’s national sovereignty.

U.N. Ambassador to the U.S. Samantha Power expressed her disappointment.

In Berkeley, for Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

 

WKOG UPDATE JANUARY 30, 2016: The African Union has voted against military intervention in Burundi. The intervention in Burundi continues to rightfully oppose.

 

 

[Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.]

Fundación Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA Part VIII [Final Segment]

February 1, 2016

Part eight of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer.

Fundación Pachamama Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII

guayasamin

“Maternidad” by Oswaldo Guayasamin

Cultural Imperialism, Trends & Expanding Markets

“Cultural imperialism is defined as the cultural aspects of imperialism. Imperialism, here, is referring to the creation and maintenance of unequal relationships between civilizations favoring the more powerful civilization. Therefore, it can be defined as the practice of promoting and imposing a culture, usually of politically powerful nations over less potent societies. It is the cultural hegemony [1] of those industrialized or economically influential countries, which determine general cultural values and standardize civilizations throughout the world.” [Source] In this way, Eurocentric NGOs serve as the faux social constructs avec philosophic roots as key instruments of social-class domination.

Cultural imperialism can take various forms, so long as it reinforces cultural hegemony. Ecotourism easily fills the role of an opaque vellum that attempts to cover cultural imperialism.

[C]ultural imperialism promotes the interests of certain circles within the imperial powers, often to the detriment of the target societies … or forms of social action contributing to the continuation of Western hegemony…. Cultural imperialism can refer to either the forced acculturation of a subject population, or to the voluntary embracing of a foreign culture by individuals who do so of their own free will…. According to one argument, the “receiving” culture does not necessarily perceive this link, but instead absorbs the foreign culture passively through the use of the foreign goods and services. Due to its somewhat concealed, but very potent nature, this hypothetical idea is described by some experts as “banal imperialism.” For example, it is argued that while “American companies are accused of wanting to control 95 percent of the world’s consumers,” “cultural imperialism involves much more than simple consumer goods; it involves the dissemination of American principles such as freedom and democracy,” a process which “may sound appealing” but which “masks a frightening truth: many cultures around the world are disappearing due to the overwhelming influence of corporate and cultural America. [Source]

One could quite easily make the argument that Pachamama Alliance is a specialized, elite tourist agency that employs brilliant, emotive marketing strategy targeting today’s wealthy spiritual capitalists – all under the guise of a tax-exempt NGO – in essence, what amounts to a bourgeois front and agreed upon alibi for the shared white guilt espoused by the white saviours.

Kaypocoke

We convince the Indigenous to participate in their own demise by encouraging and teaching them to replicate our models and become consumers. For, as we consumers (formerly known as citizens) lose what little remains (if anything) of our own culture, we seek to not just taste, but devour other cultures … because we, collectively as consumers, have become insatiable in an unprecedentedly ugly way. We long to devour what we have collectively destroyed.

In the book Ecotourism and Conservation in the Americas, Arnaldo Rodriguez remarks that the difference in principles between the community and private enterprise can be so conflicting that, at times, the community prefers to destroy the enterprise, even if it belongs, in part, to them, noting that communities in the Amazonian region are very hesitant to create enterprises where benefits are not distributed immediately and equally, making it very difficult for them to partner with private enterprise.

Rodriguez concluded that community?based ecotourism in the Amazon was subject to an overdose of enthusiasm and that the time and cost involved in partnering with communities is substantial.

One can imagine the difficulty a healthy capitalist would have in appreciating the concept of the sharing of all wealth equally. Private economic “solutions” (which protect the capitalist system at all costs) always protect the Eurocentric, white-privileged mode of life: market-based, deregulated, with ever-expanding commodification.

It is said that today, after a slow and difficult process, 70-86% (reports are conflicting) of the Kapawi Ecolodge (cooks, cleaners, waiters, boatmen and guides, i.e., service industry positions) are Achuar (“32 staff at the reserve and two at the urban offices,” Source). One must ask who holds the remainder of positions (30%). It is likely that the more prestigious, decision-making positions are held by foreigners (espousing and upholding Western ideologies) who are likely paid high wages, in stark contrast to what the Achuar are paid.

As an example, personnel who were contracted outside of the Achuar, such as Kapawi Ecolodge general manager Andres Ordoñez, still maintain their positions today. [Source]

Andres Ordoñez

Ronald Sanabria, Vice President of Sustainable Tourism, Rainforest Alliance (left), and Andrés Ordóñez, General Manager, Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve Source: The Rainforest Alliance 2013 Annual Gala

One “cultural management challenge” for Canodros was that of time, an imaginary concept that keeps the West in a stranglehold of productivity: “In the first six months after the lodge first opened, the Achuar did not appreciate the importance of the concept of time to the guest of the lodge. When guests at the lodge book a tour, the tour guide is expected to be at the designated place at the agreed upon time. When the tour guide is not there, guest satisfaction declines precipitously. This problem was resolved through lots of meetings, and lots of explanation. Canodros provided watches to the employees, but ultimately time is a philosophical concept, and the Achuar could not understand why the outsiders were always in a hurry. Now the Achuar accept the outsiders’ philosophy of time and work within the philosophy….”

Here it is critical to note that the Achuar are/were a dream-based culture. That is, every aspect of their daily lives is lived through the interpretation of their dreams – meaning there is no sense of time, destiny, or fate in their beliefs. [Source] [emphasis added]

Many of the Achuar employed by the Kapawi development must travel several days by foot to get to the lodge. They then work for approximately one month before returning to their community. In a 1999 study it was reported that “[A]t Kapawi, employees work on a 22 day cycle, and off for eight days to help with families and community needs.” If one considers the travel to the lodge takes up to 3 days (one way), the eight days off to help with families and communities is in reality, tantamount to a mere 2 days per month.

Because of the long excursion (4 full days of travel to and from the lodge), it is reasonable to assume that eventually Kapawi employees may decide to purchase a canoe similar to the Kapawi’s motorized canoes (diesel engines and at least one solar: “our canoes are equipped with four-stroke outboard motors“) used for the tourists. Perhaps this is already occurring. It must be acknowledged that prior to the Kapawi development, there was no development whatsoever: no motorized canoes, no generators, no diesel. Upon opening the development, diesel (pollution) to transport, entertain (canoes) and serve (generators) the wealthy was introduced to the communities. The Canodros Tours website boasts that “in addition, the update and improvement of the photovoltaic system was made, which will allow a saving of 1,500 gallons of diesel consumption per year.” The actual consumption of diesel per year is not publicly disclosed. Solar provides 60% of the electricity as of December 2012.

Further to the introduction of diesel into an area formerly free of pollution, airplane flights were also introduced as each and every guest must fly in. The private flight (about one hour each way) over the rainforest is part of the exclusive allure. One blog writer comments that 5 planes were employed to transport her and her group to the Kapawi development.

Does anyone recognize the irony in the development of an “eco” resort that created and perpetuates a new dependency upon fossil fuels among the Achuar? In a development where 1800 visitors are required each year just to break even, the more “successful” the development, the more fossil fuels required to fly in the international tourists. Although the foundation for these developments is said to be “eco-tourism as an alternative economic model to the exploitation of oil,” the eco-tourist developments are in fact absolutely dependent on the further expansion of oil. These developments do not replace the market – rather, they participate in expanding the market.

The number of tourists to visit Kapawi is approximately 550-1000 per annum (the highest reported number found being 1500). The goal of the Achuar, now fully responsible for the corporation, is to increase the number of tourists to 2,000 per year. Perhaps they will achieve this. Perhaps they will achieve 3,000 per year. Yet does this constitute success? More oil, more diesel, more flights, more canoes, more lodges, more dependence on the purchase of outside supplies to accommodate the Euro-American tourist. This represents an unintentional, yet very real, strengthening of the very system annihilating our planet and her most vulnerable peoples; a strengthening of the very system that demands ever-expanding exploitation of pristine living ecosystems and locations such as Achuar territory.

Rainforest Alliance is just one NGO that openly works with capital in “reaching new markets.” In this conference (Innovations in Sustainability and Certification, sponsored by Citibank, May 15, 2013) on the discussion: “Innovations in Travel: Reaching New Markets – Panelists discuss consumer trends towards experiential tourism,” the stage is shared by Andrés Ordóñez, General Manager, Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve, and a consultant for Rainforest Alliance.

Yet another new market (aside from environment markets, certification, REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, etc.) is the Ecuadorean Amazon’s “vast network of slow-moving, interconnected river ways.” Recognizing this market, a group is currently designing and constructing a system of solar-powered boats and recharge stations on the rivers of Achuar Territory. [“Our project will not only sustain the welfare of a nation and protect a biodiverse ecosystem, but will also provide an innovative model that can be replicated around the globe.”] To make this venture possible, the group is working with the Pachamama Foundation with a grant from the Foreign Ministry of Finland. Further development in formerly untouched and pristine territories (“new markets”) – as the world burns.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is identified as one of the national and international funders that provided the Kapawi Corporation with the bulk of the finance capital for the development of this project, which resulted in the first solar engine canoe announced on June 14, 2012. GIZ is a federally owned organisation. It works worldwide in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development and its mandate is to support the German Government in achieving its development objectives. The GIZ has been criticized on various occasions for being engaged in funding projects and programmes that are violating the human rights of the people actually living in the countries being “developed.” In March 2013, it was criticized by human rights groups for its engagement with Namibia’s Land Reform programmes and policies, that are violating the rights of indigenous peoples as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, by dispossessing Himba people and Zemba off their traditional lands and territories. [Source]

Experiential tourism is a new product of the tourism industry. “Catering to the imaginations of experience-seekers, personalized, customizable or theme innovations that stimulate imagination or cater to fantasies are enticing consumers looking for uncommon experiences. The addition of an unconventional ‘experience’ piques interests and raises the perceived value of a good or service.” This new trend fits well with the 21st century trend of spiritual capitalism.

Recently, the Kapawi development has expanded with a secondary location in the village of Ti’inkias. In the Pachamama Journeys itinerary for June 7-19th, 2014,it states the following: “Head to the nearby town of Shell where we’ll take a 45-minute flight deep into the Amazon rainforest to the Achuar village of Chichirat. After a traditional Achuar greeting with their traditional beverage, nijaamanch (known as chicha) and visit with the local elder and his family, we’ll walk to the Bobanaza river for a beautiful motorized canoe ride down to the village of Ti’inkias.” The cost of this trip, per person, is $3,475.00 not including your flight to Ecuador. An additional charge of $10.00 (per guest) will go directly to the Achuar community.

Such ventures quench incessant desires not unlike heroin or any other self-indulgent drug: a self-absorbed search for the affirmation of one’s superiority. In the age of a starved and toxic Western commodity culture, induced by an acquiescent, pathological, collective insanity, even a taste will suffice.

In the US states of North and South Dakota, the land of the Lakota Indians is under siege due to the intense fracking boom in the Bakkens. And yet US Big Greens do not assist these communities. Why the need to travel thousands of miles to the jungles of the Amazon located in a sovereign state when the natives on the soil we walk upon are under siege? It’s simple: the Lakota are not “exotic,” they are not easily co-opted by the non-profit industrial complex. When Americans collectively acquiesce to the development of Bakken oil to continue rampant consumptive patterns, corporations/foundations/oligarchs need not destabilize their own governments whom they fully control and run.

While in theory (marketing/branding is perhaps more precise) Pachamama voices the necessity for the modern world to heed the vision of the Achuar, in reality they have transferred and continue to transfer Western ideologies, standardization, and values onto the Achuar – slowly altering the Achuar to reflect us. There are no signs whatsoever of the Achuar culture and knowledge influencing the Western mindset or culture in any meaningful way. At the end of the day, the white saviours – the foundations, NGOs and academia – believe that we understand how the world must work better than the Achuar, better than anyone.

If you want to help the Amazon rainforest and her peoples, then help. To name just a few tangible actions, get off the grid, use public transit, transition to a plant-based diet, plant a garden, and stop consuming – separating what is essential to a healthy life from mere wants that are not necessities whatsoever. One thing is certain. Flying to any luxury resort (in the name of ecology no less) will only escalate our accelerating planetary collapse. It is also certain that this kind of consumption guarantees and expands the exploration for and drilling of oil – the very fossil fuel we claim to wish to keep in the ground. Above all, say no to imperialism.

And finally, in an age of Western peak consumption/commodification, let us also share one of the most disturbing displays of our commodity culture, waste and decadence… yet which must be considered correct and beneficial from our perspective and pedestal of whiteness and superiority:

“The children of the Amazon according to their culture and beliefs did not celebrate Christmas, after the entrance of the Catholic Church, this has been changing but with a low impact, and as a company each year we organize a celebration for the children not focused in the Christmas celebration but dedicated to them, in the year of 2010 I had the opportunity to participate in the organization of the event with donations of friendly companies to give the Achuar children a small present. [Source] Dec 11, 2010

 

“On December 15th of 2012 we did at Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve the Christmas party for all the communities, we had more than 250 people that belong to different communities which surround the hotel. It was a day full of emotion and joy, because we did many games not only for children but for adults too.” [Source]

One must wonder if the introduction of Christmas is to “give” to the Achuar or appease the wishes of the tourists.

ChristmasGifts

Photo: “With our co workers in Quito, we organized the program with many games, surprises and the distribution of gifts for the kids that went to Kapawi. After a formal invitation that is transmitted by radio to the communities, around 250 children came with their representatives. We were lucky to have with ourselves a television program cast called Vele Vele Vele helping us with the animation of this main event.” [Source]

Like a Greek tragedy, concerned and well-intentioned citizens (including the majority of self-proclaimed environmentalists and activists) seek the solutions for an unprecedented ecological crisis from the very institutions that have contributed the most to unparalleled ecological devastation, running hand in hand with the ongoing genocide of indigenous peoples on a global scale. The non-profit industrial complex makes palatable the unpalatable on behalf of the establishment, whom they answer to and depend upon for their existence.

Rather than break away from the unprecedented destructiveness of industrialized capital or Western culture, tragically and willingly, we in the North collectively contribute to its re-articulation.

Wealth for the Chosen (Predominantly White) Few

 

tourism

Ecotourism was and continues to be big business. Lead authors in this field have gone on to consult for influential organizations (such as the UN, the Nature Conservancy, USAID, state governments), lecture, found prosperous organizations and opened tourism-related businesses, and become senior fellows of prestigious institutes, professors, directors, and authors of best-selling textbooks and guidebooks. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), founded in 1990, is the oldest and largest non-profit organization in the world “dedicated to making ecotourism a tool for sustainable tourism development worldwide.” [TIES was founded by Megan Epler Wood who founded the firm EplerWood International in 2003.]

In the mid-1990s, the TIES organization launched a national review of community benefits of ecotourism in Ecuador. Dr. David Western, TIES founding president/chairman, recently appointed as the new Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), would insist on bringing his “international expertise” on ecotourism in Kenya to improve community ecotourism development methodologies in Ecuador. The conference that followed (Ecotourism at the Crossroads) was then both funded and managed by KWS in partnership with TIES. [Source] KWS is somewhat notorious for corruption and scandals as well as complicity in “conservation” deals, more recently, one in which Kenya’s Samburu peoples were violently evicted from their land.

Kenya Wildlife Services has become one of the more parasitic NGOs working in partnership with USAID and Nature Conservancy. (“The court has turned a blind eye to the pleas of the Samburu community and allowed these illegalities to subsist. The transfer [of the land to the KWS] is totally unlawful and it’s in flagrant violation of the interests of the Samburu community.” | Source)

“We decided that a national conference could galvanize interest from industry in more community involvement in development on community managed lands. This conference came to be known as Ecotourism at the Crossroads. It was funded by KWS and managed by KWS and TIES…. By the end of 1998, TIES had galvanized national forums on community benefits from ecotourism in two landmark countries, Ecuador and Kenya.” — Community Ecotourism on the Frontiers of Global Development Part 1, part of our special series Ecotourism Then and Now, commemorating the 20th anniversary of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) |Source

Daniel Koupermann (Amazon guide at EcoTrek, later to be an executive at Canodros and Pachamama co-founder, see Part I ) has established Andean Paths, an Ecuadorian travel company. According to Ecuador Travel Vacations website, Koupermann was “one of the first developers of ecotourism in Ecuador. The designer and builder of Kapawi Eco-Lodge…” This statement is misleading to some extent considering that 140-150 men (the majority Achuar) devoted two years of their lives in building Kapawi. (“He has developed strong relationships with most of the leaders and the powerful shamans in Achuar territory. In addition, he has been involved with yacht operations in the Galapagos Islands, the development of a community-based tourism program on Isabela Island and the implementation of a condor-viewing program in Cajas National Park. He is President of Fundación Pachamama (www.pachamama.org.ec), the Ecuadorian arm of The Pachamama Alliance, (www.pachamama.org) which is a well-known non-profit organization that supports the indigenous groups in the Amazonian Region of Ecuador.”)

Soft Power: Eco-Colonial Tourism

“The historical legacy of colonialism frames tourism in a way that is based on an economy in which the host culture continues to be extracted. Culture tourism is a new form of extractive resource colonialism.” — Devon Peña

 

“The hardest part of the transition process is to change their way of thinking, their culture.” – Miguel Carrera, Kapawi Lodge [Source]

 

“The tremendous lack of communication and trust between indigenous groups and the private sector has been the foremost hurdle for development in Latin American countries. Indigenous organizations have seen private enterprises as abusive institutions eager to exploit indigenous culture and resources. The private sector, on the other hand, tends to consider indigenous people untruthful and indolent. If these misunderstandings are resolved, a new niche for socially responsible development will evolve….” — Arnaldo Rodriguez, Pachamama Founder, 1999

Tourism has always been culturally destructive and exploitative by nature. In most cases, if not all, this seems inevitable. The reality is that when a tourist meets the Achuar, the encounter is a commercial transaction. This cannot be disputed. As the commodity (and main selling feature) within the exclusive “package” being sold is the Achuar people themselves, it would be difficult to argue that the Achuar identity is being commodified, appropriated, and sold for consumption to the bourgeoisie classes.

The production and consumption that ecotourism embodies could only be considered sane in a world of planetary crisis where risk of total annihilation now appears a blasé certainty. The spectacle is of an unbridled privileged class for whom care and regard for future generations is secondary to fulfilling one’s own material desires and ego.

The global economic context of ecotourism is created on a foundation upholding centuries of colonialism, imposed slavery, misery, violence and ethnocentrism. While on the surface the rhetoric ratifies the claim that eco-tourism ensures local participation, autonomy, and global democracy, below the surface, critical social and environmental crises are not only simply and brilliantly re-articulated, they are also being perpetuated.

“It took time but now we are about to select the best [of the Achuar employed by Kapawi] and send them away to learn English and management skills” [Source]

“Equally, the Himba in Namibia survived everything that a hostile arid environment could throw at them for centuries until they became a tourist attraction in the 1970s. Their communities were overrun and many Himba are now beggars and alcoholics. These days, tribes are regularly diminished in the name of economic advancement. The refugee Burmese Kayan women in Thailand, who wear brass coils round their necks, each year attract thousands of tourists, who pay to visit them in their camps. Their communities are disintegrating as alcoholic dependency grows.” [Source]

Could such cultural degradation and disintegration happen to the Achuar?

coke1

2010: Amazon indigenous leaders in Quito to see “Avatar” on the big screen in 3D.

Indeed, signs of disintegration showed themselves almost from inception. In 2004, disintegration was shared by Chalalan, Posada Amazonas, Kapawi (Achuar) representatives. Dire warning signs were documented in a 2003 study group paper titled Lessons in Community-based Ecotourism, funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). CEPF is a joint program of l’Agence française de développementConservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. [The role of WWF: In a 2 year study, WWF coordinated the preparation of an Ecosystem Profile for the Caucasus ecoregion with the help of 130 “international and regional experts”.] Private sector partners included De Beers Namaqualand Mines in South Africa, Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in Ghana and Unilever in the Philippines.

In the paper, the troubling signs (which aptly mirror a deteriorating Western society) were minimized by using the terminology “*perceived threats.” The very real threats/warnings, shared by the Indigenous participants, were documented as follows:

  • Less time with family
  • Distance from family, saving money and they go to the city to have fun instead of returning home to family
  • Less time for family work: in the chacra and house and so now there’s a need to contract labor
  • Customs about family gifts, such as food have disappeared. Family solidarity is missing.
  • The mingas before were more common in the community of Kapawi; now they want money for community work
  • Abandoned children
  • Tourism has taken time away from the Community Council to address other community matters
  • More drunkenness
  • There is a greater number of decisions to make but the process remains slow
  • Greater separation between parents and children
  • Because they work in the lodge, people believe they are richer and so they get charged more for things
  • Now we change money for communal work, with individual contracts, or, alternatively, we pay to get out of communal work obligations.
  • Greater neglect of families
  • Some engage in fewer everyday activities, such as hunting, fishing, farming and extraction because they are waiting for profits from tourism and other opportunities for work.
  • Some have misunderstood how much they were going to benefit from ecotourism, and so they do nothing.
  • Instead of tending to their chacra, etc., there are just waiting for tourism money.
  • Personal interests for developing ecotourism apart from the community enterprise

Aside from the Indigenous peoples in such “experiments” adopting aspects of neoliberalism (erosion of cooperation, rise of competition), we can safely assume that the manifestations of Western culture since this publication of this paper in 2005 have only further amplified.

“One of the main challenges of our work is finding a balance between respecting the Achuar culture and way of living, while at the same time having them respect the needs of the business. You have to be patient and have limits. Often things come up. Someone comes from community, misses his family, or needs to go hunting. They tell me, ‘You white people need money, but I don’t need it.’ Then they take a machete and just go in the forest. I’ve had cases when I have to go and do a job for them.” — Gabriel Jaramillo, longtime administrator at Kapawi

 

“No-one yet knows whether today’s children, armed with 21st century skills, will still want to preserve their traditional way of life.” [Source]

The socially appeasing terminology “monitoring impacts” has given licence to implement and study the further expansion of globalized markets under industrialized capitalism, Western influence and its effects on Indigenous populations and cultures – via NGOs.

“Eco-tourism is a transformative policy of inclusion and democratization, as well as a product of racialized justification for modernization, in which marginalized peoples are subject to a new dependency and a new colonialism.” – The PostColonial Exotic, Marketing the Margins

Competition to gain access to Western commodities (guns, etc.) has created tension, disputes and violence between neighbouring Indigenous tribes for many decades. It is telling that for almost two years after Canodros signed the contract with the Achuar, tensions and dissatisfaction arose due to a key misunderstanding. The Achuar were under the impression that Canodros was an NGO. (“The company assumed the role of an NGO, and people from the communities went for books and medicines.” “One of the first areas for disagreement was that the Achuar thought Canodros was a NGO and should provide health care and other services.”) Thus, the Achuar (in thanks to conditioning of the missionaries and non-profits) were expecting that “gifts” would commence after signing the contract. It took at least two years of dialogue before this misconception was resolved. This perhaps shows that it is merely healthcare and very basic services (education, agricultural support, etc.) that the Achuar/Indigenous desire. Indeed, one researcher estimated that the said need for monetary income was probably less than $300 per family, per annum (Rodríguez, 1996).

Perhaps the greatest threat to the oligarchs is that with left-leaning governments gaining power, these governments will be (and increasingly are) finally able to provide these basic needs – thereby making the acceptance and embracing of imperial non-profits and missionaries obsolete. No imperial NGOs/missionaries on the ground effectively means no access. Thus, ensuring people’s basic needs are met (which is only possible when states are sovereign and free from foreign interference) must be considered an invaluable and key tool against destabilization efforts by imperial forces.

If neocolonialism is defined as the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural forces to control a country (usually former European colonies in Africa or Asia) in lieu of direct military or political control, then surely REDD and carbon market mechanisms fall under this definition. Further, if such control can be economic, cultural, or linguistic, by promoting their own culture, language or media in the colony, corporations embedded in that culture can make greater headway in opening the markets in those countries, so surely ecotourism can also fall under this term.

Going yet further, if neocolonialism can be considered the end result of relatively benign business interests leading to deleterious cultural effects, then surely this applies to Indigenous populations all over the planet that have, via good intentions and misplaced trust, tragically been manipulated, thus succumbing to the jaws of predatory institutions such as USAID, Conservation International, the World Bank, etc., and now live with the consequences slowly taking hold.

In the spirit of role-playing, once again, imagine this same scenario where it is the Arabs “helping” the Achuar. Imagine the Muslims were teaching the Achuar adults and children Arabic. It is safe to conclude that such a scenario would unleash an angry outcry from the Western world, where the falsehood of Euro-American superiority and racism are invisibly woven into the very fabric of society. This begs the question (or perhaps it answers the question) as to why these concepts/developments, initiated and guided by Euro-Americans, are embraced and applauded by the global community, with no objections to be found.

Let it be noted: we object.

The Irony

“So it is clear to us that imperialism is not a product of capitalism; it is not capitalism developed to its highest stage. Instead, capitalism is a product of imperialism. Capitalism is imperialism developed to its highest stage, not the other way around…. Finance capital, the export of capital, monopoly, etc., are all articulations of a political economy rooted in parasitism and based on the historically brutal subjugation of most of humanity…. This is not something that only happened a long time ago. The world’s peoples are suffering the consequences of capitalist emergence even now…. Today’s white left is also locked into a worldview that places the location of Europeans in the world as the center of the universe. It always has.” — Omali Yeshitela

The left does not wish to acknowledge that under an industrialized capitalist system, everything depends on infinite expansion of capital – capital with far higher value than the interests of the people. The supremacy of capital ensures alternative political processes (as we witness in ALBA states: Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and several Caribbean countries) are counteracted on both the national and international level by international / corporate media, international capital, and the oligarchy that seeks to subdue sovereign states and lock them within the confines of imperialism.

Until there is a global conversation as to how we are going to achieve a true virtual zero carbon existence in the near-term future, judging Venezuela, Ecuador, or any other petro-state is nothing but denial, ignorance or bravado. All roads lead to the Global North and to the US specifically, with the entire infrastructure entirely dependent on oil, gas and coal. Vulnerable states can give up their resources with their own conditions, or by force. Citizens of the Global North are not about to give up their Western lifestyles, which is tantamount to giving up one’s privilege.

Consider that “America’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 105 percent. Ecuador’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 23 percent. The real problem lies in those who run the economy, who run the society, because they protect the interests of the financial capitalists. It’s the capital, financial capital in particular, that runs the economy. The real problem is that the capital owns the society, it owns the people.” [Source]

And as the US administration continues to demonize Venezuela, millions of US citizens have to choose between paying the heating of their homes or covering other basic needs. The irony is that in order to help, the government of Venezuela implemented a programme, in collaboration with state-owned oil company PDVSA’s largest subsidiary CITGO, which provides heat to 500,000 US citizens annually. The program was initiated in 2005. [Published on Dec 13, 2013 teleSUR] Video (running time: 1:28)

 

 

Coming full circle back to Pachamama Alliance’s co-founder John Perkins, the message from Perkin’s link on his Dream Change website to “buycott” is most profound:

“Have you ever wondered whether the money you spend ends up funding causes you oppose?”

For once we agree.

We consider the closure of the U.S. Fundación Pachamama by the Ecuadorian government a small victory against imperialism and a victory for all Ecuadorians. We applaud all governments taking measures to do the same. Anyone who is against imperialism / colonialism should support such efforts.

The future of capitalism (strengthened or dismantled?) will be determined by the collective resolve bound with struggle against parasitism and imperialism. Yet perhaps the best determining factor of whether or not we succeed in dismantling and obliterating capitalism will be our smashing of the pedestal within the ivory tower, upon which capitalism depends for its survival.

One could argue that the authors of this paper demonstrate paternalism in rejecting the notion that the Achuar were/are free in all decision-making capacity and have embraced Western values of their own free will. There is no doubt that these dynamic men, women and communities embody an ethical intelligence far exceeding any intellect claimed by the Euro-American. That being said, an ethical intelligence is no match for the pathology espoused by defenders of and believers in a predatory capitalist system dependent upon infinite growth, where white “values” embodied in the global economy are forever sacrosanct and must/will always dominate and prevail.

The colonization of Latin America has never ended. Like a chameleon, it simply changes its colours. Like a parasite, it simply changes its hosts.

One may argue that Western writers/thinkers/activists/citizens have no right to make judgments on whether or not such cultural influences and shifts, brought on by projects teeming with ethical and philosophical conflicts, are to be tolerated or accepted. Yet this line of debate effectively shuts down the urgent need to look at these interactions under a much needed critical light, thereby effectively securing and protecting the very hegemonic power structures that slowly erode and deteriorate autonomous nations via soft-power manipulation.

In real life, we call this well-orchestrated genocide.

+++

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet if I tell you that capitalism must be defeated, you smirk and walk away.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet you acquiesce to the voice of the colonizer while you dismiss the Indigenous voice with an unspoken superiority.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet you accept that the words and thoughts of Indigenous Peoples must be conveyed by way of white mouths.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

Yet I witness your acceptance of blatant, highly financed, white paternalism.

I hear you cry, “Save the Amazon!!!”

And I know you are a liar.

 

END

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, Counterpunch, Political Context, Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

Western Aggression: The Highest Form of Terrorism

Image: Mark Gould

Aggression is arguably the highest form of terrorism as it invariably includes the frightening of the target populations and their leaders as well as killing and destruction on a large scale.. The U.S. invaders of Iraq in 2003 proudly announced a “shock and awe” purpose in their opening assault, clearly designed to instill fear; that is, to terrorize the victim population along with the target security forces. And millions of Iraqis suffered in this massive enterprise. Benjamin Netanyahu himself defined terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.” This would seem to make both the Iraq war (2003 onward) and the serial Israeli wars on Gaza (2008-2009; 2012; 2014) cases of serious terrorism.

How do the responsible U.S. and Israeli leaders escape this designation? One trick is the disclaiming of any “deliberateness” in the killing of civilians. It is “collateral damage” in the pursuit of proper targets (Iraqi soldiers, Hamas, etc.). This is a factual lie, as there is overwhelming evidence that in both the Iraq and Gaza wars the killing of civilians was on a large scale and often not comprehensible in terms of genuine military objectives. (I give many illustrations in “They kill reporters, don’t they?” Yes–as Part of a System of Information Control That Will Allow the Mass Killing of Civilians, Z Magazine, December 2004. That this goes back a long way is well documented in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, Metropolitan, 2014).

But even if the killings were only collateral damage, the regular failure to avoid killing civilians, including a built-in carelessness and/or reliance on undependable sources of information, is both a war crime and terrorism. Recall that the Geneva Conventions state that combatants “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and, accordingly, shall direct their operations only against military objectives” (Part IV, Chap. 1, Article 48). Also, if civilian casualties are extremely likely in bombing attacks against purported military targets, even if the specific civilians killed were not intended victims, their deaths—some deaths—were predictable, hence in an important sense deliberate. Michael Mandel, while dismantling the claim of non-deliberateness in the usual collateral damage killing of civilians, points out that even in Texas a man who shoots someone dead while aiming at somebody else is guilty of murder.1

A second line of defense of U.S. and Israeli killing of civilians, only occasionally made explicit, is that the civilians killed are helping out the enemy armed forces–they are the sea in which the terrorist fish swim—so this makes them legitimate targets. This opens up vast possibilities for ruthless attacks and the mass killing of civilians, notorious in the Vietnam war, but also applicable in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. Civilian killings are sometimes admitted to be an objective by official sources, but not often, and the subject is not focused on by the mainstream media. This rationale may placate the home population but it does not satisfy international law or widely held moral rules.

The same is true of the retaliation defense. The United States and Israel are always allegedly retaliating for prior aggressive acts of their targets. Deadly actions by the target military or their supporters, even if they clearly follow some deadly action by the United States or Israel, are never deemed retaliatory and thus justifiable. It has long been a claimed feature of the Israeli ethnic cleansing project that Israel only retaliates, the Palestinians provoke and virtually compel an Israeli response. In fact, the Israelis have long taken advantage of this bias in Western reporting at strategic moments by attacking just enough to induce a Palestinian response, that justifies a larger scale “retaliatory” action by Israel.

Of course, all of these tricks work only because an array of Western institutions, including but not confined to the media, follow the demands of Western (and mainly U.S.) interests. For example, although the Nuremberg judgment against the Nazis features aggression as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” because the United States is virtually in the full-time business of committing aggression (attacking across borders without Security Council approval), the UN and “international community” (i.e., Western and even many non-Western leaders, not publics) do nothing when the United States engages in aggression. The brazen 2003 invasion of Iraq called forth no UN condemnation or sanctions against the U.S.aggression, and the UN quickly began to cooperate with the invader-occupiers. The word aggression is rarely applied to that massive and hugely destructive attack either in the media or learned discourse, but it is applied with regularity to the Russian occupation of Crimea which entailed no casualties and could be regarded as a defensive response to the U.S.-sponsored February 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was surely not defensive, and was rationalized at the time on the basis of what were eventually acknowledged to be plain lies. (For an exception to the establishment’s villainization of Russia in the Ukraine conflict.2 )

Perhaps the most murderous aggression and ultra-terrorism of the last 40 years, involving millions of civilian deaths, has been the Rwanda-Uganda invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), beginning in 1996 and still ongoing. But the invasion’s leaders, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, were (and still are) U.S. clients, hence they have been subject to no international tribunal nor threat from the Security Council or International Criminal Court, and there has been no media featuring of the vast crimes carried out in this area. You have to be a U.S. target to get that kind of attention, as with Iran, Syria and Russia.

These rules also apply to the major human rights groups. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have a rule that they will not focus on the origins of a conflict but will attend only to how the conflict is carried out. This is wonderfully convenient to a country that commits aggression on a regular basis, but it flies in the face of logic or the UN Charter’s foundational idea that aggression is the supreme international crime that the world must prevent and punish. Thus, neither HRW nor AI condemned the United States for invading Iraq or bombing Serbia but confined their attention to the war crimes of both the aggressor and target — mainly the target. HRW is especially notorious for its huge bias in featuring the war crimes of U.S. targets, underplaying the criminality of the aggressor, and calling for international action against the victim (see Herman, Peterson and Szamuely, “Human Rights Watch in the Service of the War Party,” Electric Politics, February 26, 2007.). During the period leading up to the U.S.-UK attack on Iraq, HRW head Kenneth Roth had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Indict Saddam” (March 22, 2002). Thus beyond failing to oppose the imminent war of aggression, this human rights group leader was providing a public relations cover for the “supreme international crime.” His organization also failed to report on and condemn the “sanctions of mass destruction” against Iraq that had devastating health effects on Iraqi civilians, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths. For HRW these were “unworthy victims.”

In the case of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s invasion and massacres of 1990-1994, HRW and its associates (notably Alison Des Forges) played an important role in focusing on and condemning the defensive responses of the Rwanda government to the military and subversive advances of the U.S.-supported invading army of Tutsi from Uganda, thereby making a positive contribution to the mass killings in Rwanda and later in the DRC.3

Similarly the ad hoc international tribunals established in the last several decades have always been designed to exclude aggression and to focus on war crimes and “genocide.” And they are directed at U.S. targets (Serbia, the Hutu of Rwanda) who are actually the victims of aggression, who are then subjected to a quasi-judicial process that is fraudulent and a perversion of justice.4  The International Criminal Court (ICC) was also organized with “aggression” excluded from its remit, in deference to the demands of the Great Aggressor, who still refused to join because there remained the theoretical possibility that a U.S. citizen might be brought before the court! The ICC still made itself useful to the Great Aggressor by indicting Gaddafi in preparation for the U.S.-NATO war of aggression against Libya.

In short, terrorism thrives. That is, state terrorism, as in the serial U.S. wars—direct, joint and proxy–against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Syria and the still more wide-ranging drone assassination attacks. In the devastating wars in the DRC by Kagame and Museveni. And in Israel’s wars on Gaza and Lebanon and ordinary pacification efforts in Gaza and the West Bank. And in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and Turkey’s proxy war in Syria and war against the Kurds.

All of these wars have evoked mainly retail terrorist responses to the invading, bombing, and occupying forces of the United States and its allies, responses that have been shocking and deadly, but on a much smaller scale than the state terrorism that has evoked them. But in the Western propaganda systems it is only the responsive terrorism that surprises and angers politicians, pundits and the public and is called “terrorism.” There is no recognition of the true flow of initiating violence and response, no recognition of the fact that the “global war on terrorism” is really a “global war OF terrorism.” The propaganda system is, in fact, a constituent of the permanent war system, hence a reliable supporter of wholesale terrorism.

 

• First published in Z Magazine, February 2016

 

  1. How America Gets Away With Murder, Pluto, 2004, 46-56 [?]
  2. John Mearsheimer, “The Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” Foreign Affairs, September-October, 2014 [?]
  3. Herman and Peterson, Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later, Real News Books, 2014, 66-70. [?]
  4. On the Yugoslavia tribunal, see John Laughland, Travesty, Pluto, 2007; on Rwanda, Sebastien Chartrand and John Philpot, Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scale of International Criminal Justice, Baraka Books, 2014. [?]

 

[Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.]

CONSTRUCTION OF A SITUATION

Wrong Kind of Green

January 31, 2016

By Jay Taber

31 3

Darkfeather, Bibiana and Eckos Ancheta, Tulalip Tribes. Photographer Matika Wilbur

 

In April 2013, when I received an email from the editor of the Cascadia Weekly requesting background on CERA (“The Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country”) — which had just held an Anti-Indian conference in his city — I sent him a Letter to the Editor (LTE), which he published. My letter connected the organized racism to propaganda by coal terminal developers. Responding to my LTE, the PR guy for fossil fuel export developers next to the local Indian reservation phoned the editor, expressing his displeasure at his publishing my opinion.

Shortly after, the editor published a column titled A History of Violence, based on my exclusive feature story at IC Magazine a week earlier. Ten days later, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights in Seattle published a special report titled Take These Tribes Down, which cited two reports on the Public Good Project website.

Reading my LTE, a local researcher, Sandy Robson, contacted me, requesting historical background on the Anti-Indian Movement in the Pacific Northwest. By October 2013, she was ready to go, launching her first expose in Whatcom Watch–a local free community newsletter. In January 2014, Sandy published her detailed account of money-laundering by the export consortium into the hands of CERA-supporting, Tea Party-led PACs.

In February 2014, the PR guy threatened Whatcom Watch with a SLAPP suit, which led to online discussions on local blogs and Facebook about Sandy’s article, and eventually to organizing in local churches, in particular the Unitarians. At this point, a local Unitarian social justice committee contacted me, asking for reading materials they could use in adult education and community forums. In March 2014, Indian Country Today published a feature story on CERA, in which the reporter quoted me three times. (Her story was based on mine.)

The PR guy’s response to all this was to get the local corporate-friendly news monopoly to publish an article claiming the SLAPP suit issue had been amicably resolved, and that the racism charge was overstated by Robson and me, whom she quoted in her article. This article, in turn, propelled the incident into the Greater Seattle Earth Ministry milieu (progressive churches), which began hosting speakers from the targeted Indian tribes, culminating in a national conference of Unitarians in Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2015.

Video: American Indian Movement:

“This video is intended to raise awareness about the American Indian Movement. Often times educators are prepared and expected to educate students about the Civil Rights Movement. But, the American Indian Movement is often left out of the history curriculum. ”

 

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

Further reading:

FLASHBACK: The Responsibility of the Intellectuals: Cuba, the U.S. and Human Rights

The James Petras Website

April 18, 2003

by James Petras

42435 cuba _web.ae.5.19.revolutionarycuba.picao

Cuba 1959. In all of Cuba’s armed forces, women play an important role.


Isn’t it time that we, in the United States, with our illustrious and prestigious progressive intellectuals with all our majestic moral sensibilities recognize that there is a vital, heroic revolution struggling to defend itself against the U.S. juggernaut and that we modestly set aside our self-important declarations, support that revolution and join the one million Cubans celebrating May Day with their leader Fidel Castro?

Rebelion

Once again the intellectuals have entered into the center of a debate – this time over the issues of U.S. imperialism and human rights in Cuba.

“How important is the role of the intellectuals?”, I asked myself as we walked past the Puerto del Sol in Madrid on a sunny Saturday afternoon ( April 26, 2003 ) and heard the anti-Castro slogans of a few hundred protestors echoing through the near empty plaza. Despite a dozen articles and opinion columns by well known intellectuals in the leading Madrid newspapers, and hours of television and radio propaganda and endorsements by the major trade union bureaucrats and party bosses, only 700-800, mostly Cuban exiles turned up to attack Cuba. “Clearly,” I thought, “the anti-‘Cuban intellectuals have little or no power of convocation, at least in Spain.” But the political impotence of the anti-Castro writers does not mean that intellectuals in general do not play an important role; nor does the lack of a popular audience mean that they are without resources, especially if they do have the backing of the U.S. war and propaganda machine, amplifying and disseminating their word throughout the world. In order to come to reason about the debate raging between intellectuals on the issues of human rights in Cuba and U.S. imperialism it is important to step back and consider the role of the intellectuals, the context and major issues that frame the U.S.-Cuba conflict.

The Role of the Intellectuals

The role of the intellectuals is to clarify the major issues and define the major threats to peace, social justice, national independence and freedom in each historical period as well as to identify and support the principal defenders of the same principles. Intellectuals have a responsibility to distinguish between the defensive measures taken by countries and peoples under imperial attack and the offensive methods of imperial powers bent on conquest. It is the height of cant and hypocrisy to engage in moral equivalences between the violence and repression of imperial countries bent on conquest with that of Third World countries under military and terrorist attacks. Responsible intellectuals critically examine the political context and analyze the relationships between imperial power and their paid local functionaries who they describe as “dissidents” – they do not issue moral fiats according to their dim lights and their political imperatives. Committed intellectuals who claim to speak with moral authority, especially those who lay claim to being critics of imperialism, have a political responsibility to demystify power and state and media manipulation particularly in relation to imperial rhetoric of human rights violations by independent Third World states. We have in recent times seen too many self-styled “progressive” Western intellectuals supporting or silent on the U.S. destruction of Yugoslavia, the ethnic cleansing of over 250,000 Serbs, gypsies and others in Kosovo, buying into the U.S. propaganda of a “humanitarian intervention”.

All the U.S. intellectuals (Chomsky, Zinn, Wallerstein etc…) supported the U.S.-financed violent fundamentalist uprising in Afghanistan against the Soviet-backed secular government in Afghanistan – under the pretext that the Soviet Union “invaded” Afghanistan and the fundamentalist fanatics entering the country from all over the world were the “dissidents” defending “self-determination” – an admitted propaganda ploy successfully executed by the boastful former National Security Adviser, Zbig Bryzinski. Then and now prestigious intellectuals brandish their past credentials as “critics” of U.S. foreign policy to give credibility to their uninformed denunciation of alleged Cuban moral transgressions, equating Cuba’s arrest of paid functionaries of the U.S. State Department and the execution of three terrorist kidnapers with the genocidal war crimes of U.S. imperialism. The practitioners of moral equivalents apply a microscope to Cuba and a telescope to U.S. – which gives them a certain acceptability among the liberal sectors of the empire.

Moral Imperatives and Cuban Realities: Morality as Dishonesty Intellectuals are divided on the U.S.-Cuba conflict: Benedetti, Sastre, Petras, Sanchez-Vazquez and Pablo Gonzalez Casanova and scores of others defend Cuba; right-wing intellectuals including Vargas Llosa, Savater, and Carlos Fuentes have predictably issued their usual diatribes against Cuba; and a small army of otherwise progressive intellectuals – Chomsky, Galeano, Saramago, Sontag, Zinn and Wallerstein – have joined the chorus condemning Cuba, waving their past critical postures in an effort to distinguish themselves from the right-wing/State Department Cuban opponents. It is the latter “progressive” group which has caused the greatest harm among the burgeoning anti-imperialist movement and it is to them that these critical remarks are directed. Morality based on propaganda is a deadly mix – particularly when the moral judgments come from prestigious leftist intellectuals and the propaganda emanates from the far-right Bush administration.

Many of the “progressive” critics of Cuba acknowledge, in passing and in a general way, that the U.S. has been a hostile aggressor against Cuba, and they “generously” grant Cuba the right to self-determination – and then launch into a series of unsubstantiated charges and misrepresentations devoid of any special context that might serve to clarify the issues and provide a reasoned basis for …”moral imperatives”. It is best to begin with the most fundamental facts.

The left critics, based on U.S. State Department labeling, denounce the Cuban government’s repression of individuals, dissidents, including journalists, owners of private libraries and members of political parties engaged in non-violent political activity trying to exercise their democratic rights.

What the “progressives” fail to recognize or are unwilling to acknowledge is that those arrested were paid functionaries of the U.S. government. According to the Agency of International Development (AID), the principal U.S. federal agency implementing U.S. grants and loans in pursuit of U.S. foreign policy, under USAID’s Cuba Program ( resulting from the Helms-Burton Act of 1996) AID has channeled over $8.5 million dollars to Cuban opponents of the Castro regime since 1997 to publish, meet, propagandize in favor of the overthrow of the Cuban government in co-ordination with a variety of U.S. NGO’s, universities, foundations and other front groups. (Profile of the USAID Cuba Program – on the AID web site ). The U.S.AID program, unlike its usual practice, does not channel payments to the Cuban government but directly to its Cuban “dissident” clients. The criteria for funding are clearly stated – the recipients of payments and grants must have demonstrated a clear commitment to U.S. directed “regime change” toward “free markets” and “democracy” – no doubt similar to the U.S. colonial dictatorship in Iraq. The Helms-Burton legislation, the U.S.AID Cuba Program and their paid Cuban functionaries, like the U.S. progressive manifesto, “ condemn Cuba’s lack of freedom, jailing of innocent dissidents, and call for a democratic change of regime in Cuba”. Strange coincidences that require some analyses.

Cuban journalists who have received $280,000 from a Cuba Free Press -AID front- are not dissidents they are paid functionaries. Cuban “Human Rights” groups who receive $775,000 from CIA front “Freedom House” are not dissidents – particularly when their mission is to promote a “transition” (overthrow) of the Cuban regime. The list of grants and funding to Cuban “dissidents” (functionaries) by the U.S. government in pursuit of the U.S. policy is long and detailed and accessible to all the progressive moral critics. The point is that the jailed opponents of the Cuban government were paid functionaries of the U.S. government, paid to implement the goals of the Helms-Burton Act in accordance with the criteria of the U.S.AID and under the guidance and direction of the head of the U.S. Interest Section in Havana. Between September 2, 2002 and March 2003 James Cason, head of the US Interest Section, held dozens of meetings with his Cuban “dissidents” at his home and office, providing them with instructions and guidelines on what to write, how to recruit, while publicly haranging against the Cuban government in the most undiplomatic manner.

Washington’s Cuban functionaries were supplied with electronic and other communication equipment by USAID, books and other propaganda and money to fund pro-U.S. “trade unions” via the U.S. front, the “American Center for International Labor Solidarity”. These are not well-meaning “dissidents” unaware of their paymaster and their role as U.S. agents, since the USAID report states ( under the section entitled “The US Institutional Context”), “The Cuba Program is funded through Economic Support Fund, which is designed to support the economic and political foreign policy interests of the US by providing financial assistance to allies (sic) and countries in transition to democracy”. No country in the world tolerates or labels domestic citizens paid by and working for a foreign power to act for its imperial interests as “dissidents”. This is especially true of the U.S. where under Title 18 ,Section 951 of the U.S. Code , “anyone who agrees to operate within the United States subject to the direction or control of a foreign government or official would be subjected to criminal prosecution and a 10 year prison sentence”. Unless , of course, they register as a paid foreign agent or are working for the Israeli government. The U.S. “progressive” intellectuals abdicate their responsibilities as analysts and critics and accept at face value the State Department characterization of the U.S. paid functionaries as dissidents striving for “freedom”. Some defenders of the U.S. agent-dissidents claim that the functionaries received “scandalously long sentences”.

Once again empirical myopia compounds mendacious moralizing. Cuba is on a war footing. The Bush government has declared that Cuba is on the list of military targets subject to mass destruction and war. And in case our moralistic intellectuals don’t know it : What Bush, Rumsfeld and the war-mongering Zionists in the Administration say — they do. The total lack of seriousness in Chomsky, Zinn, Sontag, Wallerstein’s moral dictates is that they fail to acknowledge the imminent and massive threat of a U.S. war with weapons of mass destruction, announced in advance. This is particularly onerous given the fact that many of Cuba’s detractors live in the U.S., read the U.S. press and are aware of how quickly militaristic pronouncements are followed by genocidal actions. But our moralists are not bothered by context, by U.S. threats to Cuba immediate or proximate, they are eager to ignore it all to demonstrate to the State Department that they not only oppose U.S. foreign policy but also condemn every independent country, system and leader who opposes the U.S. In other words, Mr. Ashcroft, when you crack down on the “apologists” for Cuban “terror”, remember that we are different, we too condemned Cuba, we too called for a change of regime. The critics of Cuba ignore the fact that the U.S. has a two-pronged military-political strategy to take over Cuba that is already operative. Washington provides asylum for terrorist air pirates, encouraging efforts to destabilize Cuba’s tourist-based economy; it works closely with the terrorist Cuban American Foundation engaging in attempts to assassinate Cuban leaders.

New U.S. military bases have been established in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, El Salvador and there is an expanding concentration camp in Guantanomo – all to facilitate an invasion. The U.S. embargo is in the process of being tightened with the support of the right-wing Berlusconi and Aznar regimes in Italy and Spain. The aggressive and openly political activity of James Cason of the Interest Section in line with his Cuban followers among the paid functionaries/ “dissidents” is part of the inside strategy designed to undermine Cuban loyalties to the regime and the revolution. The inter-connection between the two tactics and their strategic convergence is ignored by our prestigious intellectual critics who prefer the luxury of issuing moral imperatives about freedom everywhere for everyone, even when a psychotic Washington puts the knife to Cuba’s throat. No thanks, Chomsky, Sontag, Wallerstein – Cuba is justified in giving its attackers a kick in the balls and sending them to cut sugar cane to earn an honest living. The death penalty for three ferry boat terrorists is harsh treatment – but so was the threat to the lives of forty Cuban passengers who faced death at the hands of the hijackers. Again our moralists forgot to discuss the rash acts of air piracy and the plots of others uncovered in time. The moralists failed to understand why these terrorists desperadoes are seeking illegal means to leave Cuba. Bush’s Administration has practically eliminated the visa program for Cuban emigrants wishing to leave.

Visa grants have declined from 9000 for the first four months of 2002 to 700 in 2003. This is a clever tactic to encourage terrorist acts in Cuba and then denounce the harsh sentences, evoking the chorus of ‘yea’ sayers in the ‘Amen’ corner of the progressive U.S. and European intellectual establishment. Is it simply ignorance which informs these moral pronouncements against Cuba or is it something else besides – moral blackmail? , to force their Cuban counterparts to turn against their regime, their people or face the opprobrium of the prestigious intellectuals – to become further isolated and stigmatized as “apologists of Castro”. Explicit threats by Saramago to abandon his Cuban friends and embrace the cause of U.S. paid functionaries. Implicit threats of no longer visiting Cuba and to boycott conferences. Is it moral cowardice to pick up the cudgels for the empire and pick on Cuba when it faces the threat of mass destruction over the freedom of paid agents, subject to prosecution by any country in the world? What is eminently dishonest is to totally ignore the vast accomplishments of the revolution in employment, education, health, equality, and Cuba’s heroic and principled opposition to imperial wars – the only country to so declare – and its capacity to resist almost 50 years of invasions.

That counts for nothing for the U.S. intellectuals – that is scandalous!! That is a disgrace, a retreat in search of respectability after “daring” to oppose the U.S. war along with 30 million other people in the world. It is not time to “balance” things out – by condemning Cuba, by calling for a regime change, by supporting the cause of the “market oriented” Cuban functionary-dissidents. Let us remember the same progressive intellectuals supported “dissidents” in Eastern Europe and Soviet Union who were bankrolled by Soros and the U.S. State Department. The “dissidents” turned the country over to the Russian mafia, life expectancy declined five years ( over 10 million Russians died prematurely with the sacking of the national health system), while in Eastern Europe “dissidents” closed the shipyards of Gdansk , enrolled in NATO and provided mercenaries for the U.S. conquest of Iraq. And never among these current supporters of Cuban “dissidents” is there any critical reflection on the catastrophic outcomes resulting from their anti-communist diatribes and their manifestos in favor of the ‘dissidents’ who have become the soldiers of the U.S. Middle Eastern and Central European empire. Our U.S. moralists never, I repeat, never, ever reflected critically on their moral failures, past or present because, you see, they are for “freedom everywhere”, even when the “wrong” people get into power and the “other” empire takes over, and the millions die from curable diseases and white slavery rings expand. The reply is always the same: “That’s not what we wanted – we were for an independent, free and just society – it just happened that in calling for regime change, support for dissidents, we never suspected that the Empire would ‘take it all’, would become the only superpower, and engage in colonizing the world.”

The moral intellectuals must accept political responsibility for the consequences and not hide behind abstract moral platitudes, neither for their past complicity with empire building nor their present scandalous pronouncements against Cuba. They cannot claim they don’t know the repercussions of what they are saying and doing. They cannot pretend innocence after all they we have seen and read and heard about U.S. war plans against Cuba. The principal author and promoter of the anti-Cuban declaration in the United States (signed by Chomsky, Zinn and Wallerstein) was Joanne Landy, a self-declared “democratic socialist”, and lifelong advocate of the violent overthrow of the Cuban government – for the past 40 years. She is now a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), one of the major institutions advising the U.S. government on imperial policies for over a half century.

Landy supported the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and the Albanian terrorist group, the KLA – calling publicly for overt military support – responsible for the murder of 2000 Serbs and the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Serbs and others in Kosova. It is no surprise that the statement authored by this chameleon right-wing extremist contained no mention of Cuba’s social accomplishments and opposition to imperialism. For the record, it should be noted, that Landy was a visceral opponent of the Chinese, Vietnamese and other social revolutions in her climb to positions of influence in the CFR. For all their vaunted critical intellect, the “progressive” intellectuals overlooked the unsavory politics of the author who promoted the anti-Cuba diatribe.

 The Role of the Intellectual Today

Many critics of Cuba speak of “principles” as if there were only one set of principles applicable to all situations independent of who is involved and what are the consequences. Asserting “principles” like “freedom” for those involved in plotting the overthrow of the Cuban government in complicity with the State Department would turn Cuba into another Chile – where Allende was overthrown by Pinochet – and lead to a reversal of the popular gains of the revolution. There are principles that are more basic than freedom for U.S. Cuban functionaries , that is , national security and popular sovereignty. There is, particularly among the U.S. progressive left, a certain attraction to Third World victims, those who suffer defeats ,and an aversion for successful revolutionaries. It seems that the U.S. progressive intellectuals always find an alibi to avoid a commitment to a revolution.

For some it is the old refrain “Stalinism” – if the state plays a major role in the economy; or it can be mass mobilizations – that they dub “plebicitary dictatorships”, or it can be security agencies which successfully prevent terrorist activity which they call a “repressive police state”. Living in the least politicized nation in the world with one of the most servile and corrupt trade union apparatus in the West, with virtually no practical political influence outside a few university towns, the practical intellectuals in the U.S. have no practical knowledge or experience of the everyday threats and violence which hangs over revolutionary governments and activists in Latin America. Their political conceptions, the yardsticks they pull out to condemn or approve of any political activity, exists nowhere except in their heads, in their congenial, progressive, university settings where they enjoy all the privileges of capitalist freedom and none of the risks which Third World revolutionaries have to defend themselves against.

A little modesty, dear prestigious, critical, freedom preaching intellectuals.

Look deep inside and ask yourself if you would like to be pirated by a Miami-based terrorist organization. Ask yourself if you would enjoy sitting in a café in a major tourist hotel in Havana when a deadly bomb goes off – greetings from the terrorists taking a beer with the President’s brother, Jeb. Think about living in a country which is on the top of the hit list of the most violent imperial regime since Nazi Germany – and then perhaps your moral sensibilities might awaken to the need to temper your condemnations of Cuban security policies and contextualize your moral fiats. I want to conclude by establishing my own “moral imperatives” – for the critical intellectuals.

The first duty of Euro-U.S. intellectuals is to oppose their own imperial rulers set on conquering the world. The second duty is to clarify the moral issues involved in the struggle between imperial militarists and popular/national resistance and reject the hypocritical posture that equates the mass terror of one with the justified if at times excessive security constraints of the other. To establish standards of political and personal integrity with regards to the facts and issues before making moral judgments. Resist the temptation to become a “moral hero of the empire” by refusing to support victorious popular struggles and revolutionary regimes which are not perfect which lack all the freedoms available to impotent intellectuals unable to threaten power and therefore tolerated to meet, discuss and criticize.

Refuse to set themselves as Judge, Prosecutor and Jury condemning progressives who have the courage to defend revolutionaries. The most appalling instance is Susan Sontag’s scurrilous attack on Colombian Nobel Prize winning novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who she accused of lacking integrity and being an apologist of Cuban terror (sic). Sontag made her blood libelous accusations in Bogata, Colombia. The Colombian death squads working with the regime and the military kill more trade unionists and journalists than any place in the world, and do so , for far less than being an “apologist” of the Castro regime. This is the same Sontag who was an enthusiastic supporter of the U.S. imperial invasion and bombing of Yugoslavia, apologist for the fundamentalist Bosnian regime and who was a silent witness to the killing and ethnic cleansing of Serbs and others in Kosova. Moral integrity indeed! The precious sense of moral superiority found among New York intellectuals allow Sontag to finger Marquez for the death squads and feel that she has made a great moral statement. U.S.-European intellectuals should not confuse their own political futility and inconsequential position with that of their counterparts among committed Latin American intellectuals. There is a place for constructive dialogue and debate but never personal assaults that demean individuals facing daily threats to their lives.

It is easy for critical intellectuals to be a “friend of Cuba” in good times at celebrations and invited conferences in times of lesser threats. It is much harder to be a “friend of Cuba” when a totalitarian empire threatens the heroic island and puts heavy hands on its defenders. It is in times like this – of permanent wars, genocide and military aggression, when Cuba needs the solidarity of critical intellectuals, which they are receiving from all over Europe and particularly Latin America. Isn’t it time that we, in the United States, with our illustrious and prestigious progressive intellectuals with all our majestic moral sensibilities recognize that there is a vital, heroic revolution struggling to defend itself against the U.S. juggernaut and that we modestly set aside our self-important declarations, support that revolution and join the one million Cubans celebrating May Day with their leader Fidel Castro?

 

[James Petras has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. In 1973-76 he was a member of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. He received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.]