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The Atlantic Council & Latin American Regime Change

Putting Northern interests first, Washington DC think tanks weaken democracy in the South

Brasil Wire

December 28, 2017

 

Founded in 1961, the Atlantic Council (AC) is part of the NATO offshoot Atlantic Treaty Association, described as an umbrella organization which acts as a network facilitator in the Euro-Atlantic and beyond, that claims to draw together “political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats in an effort to further the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty, namely: democracy, freedom, liberty, peace, security, and the rule of law”.

Atlantic Council’s board members include Henry Kissinger, former CIA chiefs Michael Hayden and Mike Morell, and Bush-era head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. Its Digital Forensic Research Lab is led by a former Obama National Security Council advisor, and it is partnering with Facebook to carry out a purge of pages it deems to be “fake news”.

Together with the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA), the Wilson Center and other  organisations (between which there is a revolving door for personnel), the Atlantic Council has been an international platform and promoter for both the controversial anti-corruption operation Lava Jato (Car Wash), which helped paralyse the Brazilian economy, and the 2016 removal of the Rousseff Government from power.

The organisation insists it is independent from both the US Government and NATO, however it receives the majority of its funding, of an undisclosed total, from various NATO member governments.

It was recently in the news for donating a million dollars, provided by the US State Department, to an opposition group in Venezuela, the latest in an estimated USD$45+ million in US funding to pro-opposition groups since 2008.

AC think tank funding

In October 2013, one year ahead of a crucial run of regional elections and after a burst of destabilisation in Brazil, the Atlantic Council launched its new Latin America effort, named the ‘Adrienne Arsht Center’, with a stated aim to “study, educate, and strengthen the trends transforming Latin America into a strong Western partner”.

The center was founded by Peter Schechter, a consultant who also hosts Altamar, a foreign policy podcast. Until June 2017 he was the Atlantic Council’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives as well as founding director of its latest Lat Am-focussed wing.

Born in 1959 in Rome, Schechter was raised in Italy, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In 1993, he co-founded Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, a DC-based consultancy which advises politicians, companies, non-profits, and international organizations. Their clients’ tasks included fighting “regulatory encroachment” on US banks in Latin America, to spinning Hunt Oil’s Camisea project in Peru, which was threatened by protest from indigenous groups.

The bulk of his work, however, was serving as election advisor to conservative and neoliberal candidates across Latin America, including a number of current presidents. Clients included Venezuela opposition leader Henrique Capriles, Alvaro Uribe (his fourth client in Colombia), and 1994-2002 Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

His expertise in the region has made him a regular talking head on Latin American politics. He is a frequent guest analyst for television shows across the region as well as on US-based Spanish language networks Univision and Telemundo, noted for their right-wing bias.

In September 2009, Schechter’s firm signed a contract with the interim Honduran government of Roberto Micheletti to provide public relations services following the June 28, 2009 coup d’état. According to Foreign Agents Registration filings with the US Department of Justice, the firm received over $292,000 to boost the post-coup regime’s image in the US. His work for the Honduran putschists attracted negative publicity for Schechter’s company and sparked indignation both in Honduras and in the US, including letters of condemnation and a protest in front of the firm’s Washington, DC office.

On Brazil, Atlantic Council personnel could be found quoted in the press and on television networks eulogising Operation Lava Jato, normalising the judicial/parliamentary Coup d’état which removed Dilma Rousseff, and also promoting the neoliberal programme of Michel Temer’s post-coup government, such as fiercely resisted cuts to workers rights and a programme of pension reform which would raise retirement age as high as 74 for millions of ordinary Brazilians, which is above life expectancy in some areas of the country.

When these commentators would talk about “anti-corruption” and “poor economy” as the reasons for her impeachment, they would never indicate any relationship between the two. Yet Rousseff’s removal stemmed in part from both the public fervour generated by the partisan anti-corruption operation, and also perversely the economic effects it had created – with some economists estimating that the resulting Lava Jato mandated shutdown of economic sectors in 2015 accounted for half a million unemployed in construction alone, and 2.5% of GDP – turning a mild recession into something Wall Street talking heads in its corporate media could portray as the “worst economic crisis in a century“.

Lava Jato not only had profound effects on Brazil’s economy and democracy, it has also indirectly enabled capture of the country’s strategic resources, and corporations such as Embraer, which is now a target of takeover by US competitor, Boeing, sparking outcry amongst Brazilian developmentalists, nationalists, and the left as a whole.

The roots of the operation can be traced back as far as a 2002 Bush-era initiative, encouraged by infamous Office of Public Diplomacy propagandist, former Venezuelan ambassador, and one time head of Council of the Americas, Otto Reich, which made anti-corruption the principal tool for enabling political and economic outcomes in the region.

Mr. Reich, like Schechter was also hired to propagandise on behalf of Honduras Post-Coup Government. Following the Coup, Reich sent his thoughts to members of Congress by e-mail. “We should rejoice,” he wrote to one member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “that one of the self-proclaimed 21st Century socialist allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen.”

Also in 2009, leaked cables reveal that Lava Jato’s main protagonist, inquisitorial prosecutor/judge Sergio Moro, was already in collaboration with the State Department and Department of Justice on an embryonic strategy which would evolve into Operation Lava Jato. Brazil, a one-time ally of Venezuela, has seen its democracy, economy and sovereignty severely impacted by the operation, which has been deemed “Lawfare” and “War by other means” by observers. The ongoing role of public relations from within or around organisations like Atlantic Council and AS/COA and their relationship with large commercial news organizations warrants maximum scrutiny, and is indicative of whom is directing the real power being wrought in the region.

Using these non-conventional weapons, the so called ‘Pink Tide’ of leftist governments across the continent has been reversed, to the delight of Washington, London and Wall Street. Corruption allegations are affecting the political scene across South America, in Chile, Argentina and Peru, and frontrunner for Brazil’s own 2018 election, former President Lula, faces an appeal on 24th January in what amounts to a kangaroo court, a trial which could shape the country’s future for a generation.

And the impact is not only economic and political but military and strategic. Joining its beachhead in Colombia, which is becoming an official NATO partner, comes the establishment of new US Military presences in ArgentinaParaguayPeru and now Brazil’s Amazon and North East. It is telling that Liliana Ayalde, US Ambassador to Brazil from September 2013, throughout the 2014 election and subsequent Coup d’état, is now serving as civilian deputy commander of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

The Right’s New Clothes – Are the Latin American Youth

A network of Conservative Think-tanks & Foundations from the United States, such as Koch, Cato & Templeton, are financing young Latin Americans to fight Left Governments and defend old positions with a new language

Brasil Wire

June 15, 2015

By Marina Amaral

 

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” – John Kenneth Galbraith.

 

Original version in Portuguese at Agência Pública. English Translation for Brasil Wire by Angela Milanese. Republished under Creative Commons license.


Our body is the first private property we have. It is up to each of us to decide what to do with it,” says a young blonde woman in Spanish with a firm voice while moving gracefully across the stage at the Liberty Forum, which is adorned with the logos of the event’s official sponsors: Tobacco company Souza Cruz, Gerdau Group, Petróleo Ipiranga and the RBS Group (a local Globo TV affiliate).  A sold out crowd at the 2000-seat auditorium of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre (PUC-RS) bursts into laughter and applause for Gloria Álvarez, a 30-year-old Guatemalan daughter of a Cuban father and a mother descended from Hungarian immigrants.

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Glória Álvarez, a star of the Latin American youth. Photo: Fernando Conrado

Gloria, or @crazyglorita (55,000 followers on Twitter and 120,000 on Facebook) rose to stardom among Latin American rightwing youth at the end of last year, when a video shot at the Ibero-American Youth Parliament held in Zaragoza (Spain), in which she attacks Latin American “populism,” went viral. At the Liberty Forum, the most high profile event promoted by Brazil’s rightwing, Gloria and the former Republican governor of South Carolina, David Bensley, are the only two people – among the 22 Brazilian and foreign speakers – scheduled to deliver keynote speeches at the three-day event, called “Roads to Freedom.”

A radio broadcaster for 10 years, now hosting her own TV show, Gloria is a captivating showoman. She addresses the audience with ease, which is mostly made up of PUC-RS students, one of the best and most expensive universities in southern Brazil. “Who here calls themselves conservative or libertarian, raise their hands,” she asks the audience. When she sees a roomful of raised hands, she relaxes. “Ah, ok,” she replies. Alvarez is the young leader of the National Civic Movement (MCN), a small Guatemalan organization that sprung up in 2009 in the wake of movements that unsuccessfully demanded the impeachment of the social democrat President Álvaro Colom. Her mission, she explains, is to teach her ideological peers how to “charm and seduce people on the left and how to defeat the bearded and beret-cladded Che Guevara crowd.”

The first lesson is to use “#PopulismovsRepública,” a hashtag she created to overcome the “obsolete division between right and left.”

“An intellectually honest leftist must recognize that the only way out is employment and a modern, 21st century rightwinger must recognize that sexuality, morality and drugs are individual problems. He is not the moral authority of the universe,” she continues, amid thunderous applause.

There should be no guilt, neither moral nor social, she teaches. The message is individual freedom, youth “empowerment,” low taxes and a minimal state – the agenda of the neoliberal right (in economic terms) across the world. “Wealth is not transferred, ladies and gentlemen. Wealth is created, starting in each one of your little heads,” she says. In the same vein, Gloria also criticizes social welfare programs for the poor, affirmative action programs for women, blacks, people with disabilities, even the very concept of minorities. “There are no minorities. The smallest minority is the individual and he is best served in a meritocracy.”

“There is a truth that every human being must reach to find peace, if they don’t want to live as a hypocrite. All of us, seven-and-a-half billion human beings inhabiting this planet, are selfish. This is the truth, my dear friends in Brazil. We are all selfish. Is this bad? Is this good? No, it’s just the reality,” she says categorically. “There are people who don’t accept this truth and come up with this wonderful idea: ‘No! [Gloria shouts, imitating a man’s voice] I will build the first unselfish society!’ Be careful, Brazilians, be careful, Latin America! Those wise guys are like Stalin in the Soviet Union, or Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Fidel Castro in Cuba or Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Why do we keep following those hypocrites like sheep?  Because [Gloria grimaces and imitates a frail woman elderly voice] they teach us that it’s wrong to be selfish and that to think of ourselves is a sin. How many of you haven’t heard someone say we need a good man who doesn’t care only for himself,” she says, bending as she speaks, and then standing up to regain her proud upright posture.

“Look, gentlemen, unless it’s a Martian, this man does not exist, never existed and never will exist.”

Frantic applause.

But, she explains, the “champions of freedom” also bear their share of responsibility. They do not know how to communicate their ideas, or how to use technology to “empower citizens” and “liberate” Latin America. If you keep discussing macro-economics, GDP and so on, “we will lose the battle. We need to learn with the populists and talk in a way that people understand, make them identify with what we’re saying,” she explains. “And let me give you another piece of advice. Since they say that us, conservatives are damned exploiters,” she quips ironically. “I’ve found a wonderful way to define the concept of private property, which makes the leftists go like ‘wow!’”

“Private property is what we amass in our lifetime, starting with our first properties: body and mind.” The past, she explains, isn’t the same to everyone, so this amassing is personal. She continues, “This humanizes us, gives us, disgraceful conservatives, a bit of a heart.”  Laughter. Applause.

“There are people who want the right to health care, education, work, housing. The UN even wants to establish a human right to internet access,” she scoffs disdainfully, even though she had just declared that technology is the key to changing the world. “Imagine that, in this auditorium, some of you want the right to education, others the right to health care, and others want the right to housing. So if I give you education, everyone here will pay for it, and you will be VIPs, while they will be second-class citizens. If I give them health care, everyone in this auditorium will pay for their health, and they will be VIPs. If I give them houses, I will take from you to provide houses for them, and they will be the VIPs. This isn’t social justice, this is inequality before the law,” she concludes, again amid laughter and applause.

“If everyone in Latin America is entitled to life, liberty and private property, then everyone goes after education, health care and the house they want, without the need of a super-Chávez, super-Morales and super-Correa.” Ovation. Whistles. Before closing her 40-minute speech, Gloria invites the public to challenge the “victimization of Latin-Americans” and “blaming the Yankees” worldview, which undermines self-esteem and the courage to take risks, required by the entrepreneurial spirit. The audience gives her a standing ovation.

Neoliberals and Libertarians

Gloria Álvarez does not really represent anything new. The main difference is the language she uses. The MCN movement receives “funding from some of the largest companies in the traditional business elite,” according to investigative journalist Martín Rodríguez Pellecer, who is the director of the Guatemalan online media site Nómada (an Agência Pública partner). “I came to know, from sources close to them, that one of the companies that support their public campaigns and congress lobbying is Azúcar de Guatemala, an extremely powerful cartel of 13 companies. (Guatemala is the world’s fourth largest sugar exporter). Guatemalan companies, by the way, have investments in Brazilian plants.”

The same can be said about her ideas. Despite their seductive title, libertarians are “a minority segment among the schools of thought that gained influence in the post-war era, in opposition to the Keynesian-inspired interventionist policies,” explains the economist Luiz Carlos Prado, from the Rio de Janeiro Federal University.

After the 1970s oil crisis, pro-market economists such as Friedrich Hayek (Nobel Prize 1974), monetarists from the Chicago school of economics led by Milton Friedman (Nobel Prize 1976) and neoclassicists associated with Robert Lucas, Jr. (Nobel Prize 1995) came to dominate global economic thought, and became known to the public under the single label “neoliberal.” Their concepts were brought to Latin America by the most conservative sectors of American society, represented mainly by think thanks with ties to Ronald Reagan. After losing Republican primaries in 1968 and 1976, Reagan was finally elected president in 1980, with Friedman as a major adviser. The same ideas also dominated the government of Margaret Thatcher (1979-1991) in the United Kingdom.

“The supporters of classical liberalism also supported political freedom, but this school of economic thought called ‘neoliberalism’ advocates non-intervention of the state in the economy, without demonstrating a particular concern for political freedom. In some cases, and without any shame, they allied themselves with dictatorships, such as the military regime of Pinochet in Chile,” says Prado.

Gloria Álvarez’s Guatemala is a good example of how libertarian ideas came to fruition in Latin America. In 1971, “a significant part of the Guatemalan economic elite embraced neoliberalism and adopted it as its political project. That was when they founded the Francisco Marroquin University (UFM),” explains Rodríguez.

“The University was founded by Manuel Ayau, known as El Muso, in allusion to Mussolini. Ayau adopted the fascist, anti-communist platform of the National Liberation Movement [MLN, a Guatemalan political party]. Since then, the UFM has been preparing political and academic cadres trained to discredit the very concepts of government and social justice.”

As a result, Guatemala was transformed into the Latin American country that collects the least in taxes (11% to GDP) and the one that least redistributes them,” he says.

Álvarez studied at UFM and “became a libertarian, but she is a little less conservative than her professors, who are a mix of neoliberalism and Opus Dei [a conservative religious institution]. She declares herself to be an atheist and a supporter of abortion rights. Although she has become a star on the Latin American right, she is a minor figure on the Guatemalan right. She has no political base and is not a political candidate for elected office. I see her more as a libertarian enfant terrible,” concludes Rodríguez.

Libertarians resurfaced with full force in the United States after the 2008 financial crisis (and the subsequent clamor for market regulation) and as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama.

Libertarians preach the supremacy of the individual over the state, absolute market freedom and the unfettered defence of private property. Libertarians claim that the economic crisis, which threw 50 million people into poverty, was not caused by the lack of financial market regulation, but rather by government protectionist policies towards certain sectors of the economy. They also emphatically reject the social policies promoted by the Obama administration. However, a significant portion of libertarians distance themselves from traditional rightwing positions on social issues. In the name of individual freedom, they defend positions usually associated with the left, such as the legalization of drugs and a more tolerant approach towards homosexuals. GOP Senator Rand Paul, a presidential hopeful, is one of the best known faces of the libertarian movement.

“Libertarians that are Tea Party supporters (a radical rightwing faction of the Republican Party) are also associated with think thanks such as the Cato Institute. They make up the post-modern right, represented, for example, by David Cameron in the UK, who modernized the ‘rolling back’ of the welfare state agenda,” says Prado.

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“Who is John Galt?”, “Less Marx More Mises”. Photo: Instituto Liberal do Nordeste

Prado looks amused when I mention Brazilian libertarians, followers of the Austrian school of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. “The Austrian school is a very minor strain, even in academia,” he declares. “Who are those libertarians? In Brazil, we have sophisticated economists who follow schools of economic thought, such as the neoclassical school of Nobel Prize winner Robert Lucas and other similar approaches. Rightwing politicians lacking depth, such as Ronaldo Caiado [a senator from the centre-western state of Goiás, affiliated with the Democratic Party (DEM)], and a conservative middle class that reads [popular rightwing columnist] Rodrigo Constantino of Veja magazine,” he concludes.

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Senator Ronaldo Caiado. Photo: Fernando Conrado

Caiado and Constantino are veteran participants of the Liberty Forum in Porto Alegre. The novelty is that the Tea Party’s libertarians are at last able to present themselves, to Brazilian youth, as an attractive new face for the right.

Come to the Street, Citizen

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On April 12, the eve of the Forum, Gloria Álvarez made a speech at the second round of nationwide demonstrations against President Dilma Rousseff. Dressed in a sequin shirt featuring the design of the Brazilian flag, in front of about 100,000 people at Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, Álvarez railed against “cursed populism.”  (see video of Gloria’s speech here).  From atop a truck, the leader of the Come to the Street movement (VPR), Rogério Chequer, introduced Álvarez as “one of the greatest representatives of the battle against the populism of the São Paulo Forum.” [The Sao Paulo Forum (Foro de São Paulo) is an annual conference of leftist political parties, social movements and organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean.]

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Among those who led the anti-government protests in March and April, Chequer’s movement was one of the last to take up the cause of impeachment. That delay earned him a public rebuke from the elderly Olavo de Carvalho, a polemical rightwing pundit, who accused him of “toucan wimpiness.” Toucan is the symbol of Brazil’s main opposition party, the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB).

The Free Brazil Movement (MBL), mostly known through the figure of its leader, Kim Kataguiri, which adopted the cause of impeachment from the get-go, broke up with Chequer publicly, publishing pictures of him standing next to PSDB Senator José Serra at the Aécio Neves presidential campaign. PSDB Senator Neves was dubbed a “traitor” for his hesitation in demanding the impeachment of the elected president. They reconciled after a delegation led by Neves and Caiado made a controversial visit to Caracas, Venezuela.

Incidentally, Caiado participated in the opening night of the Liberty Forum. Lacking Glorita’s irreverent grace, the conservative rural senator drew applause from the audience with sound bites against government corruption and references to the São Paulo Forum (video). Caiado also demanded the resignation of President Dilma Rousseff and attacked the Brazilian State Development Bank (BNDES).

Interestingly, his accusations were made under logos of the Gerdau Group and Ipiranga Petróleo (from the Ultra group), which are two of the largest borrowers of BNDES loans, according to data collected by one of Brazil’s largest newspapers, Folha de São Paulo. Between 2008 and 2010, both companies individually obtained more than R$1 billion worth of bank loans.

The southern entrepreneur Jorge Gerdau is one of the creators of the Liberty Forum, established in 1988 with the aim of promoting a debate between various schools of thought. The most important conservative gathering in the country, it nevertheless included, in its first incarnations, guest speakers such as former President Lula of the Workers Party (PT), former Minister José Dirceu, a minister in the Lula administration, and the late Rio de Janeiro state governor and leftist Leonel Brizola.

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It was there that, in 2006, the most prominent rightwing think tank in Brazil – the Millennium Institute – was officially launched. Armínio Fraga (who would have been finance minister if Aécio Neves had been elected) is its best-known figure in the field of economics. Its backers are the Gerdau Group, publishing company Editora Abril   and Pottencial Insurance, which belongs to Salim Mattar, who also owns Localiza Rent a Car.  Suzano Papel e Celulose [paper and cellulose], Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and the Évora group (from the Ling brothers) are also supporters. In 1984, William Ling helped create the Institute of Business Studies (IEE). Comprised of young business leaders, the IEE organized the Forum from the start. His brother Winston Ling founded the Liberty Institute in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, while William Ling’s son Anthony Ling has ties to the group Students for Liberty [Estudantes Pela Liberdade (EPL)], which created the Free Brazil Movement. Hélio Beltrão of the Ultra Group is one of the founders of the Millennium Institute, though he has his own institute as well, the Mises Brazil.

Brazil’s network of neoliberal and libertarian think tanks includes two more entities: The Open Order Institute, which holds youth seminars; and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Ethics and Human Economics (CIEEP) in Rio de Janeiro, linked to Opus Dei. The jurist Ives Gandra, who wrote a controversial opinion piece stating that there is legal basis for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, is a member of its board of advisers.

Like the Millennium Institute, the majority of these organizations have been created recently. The original seed was the Liberal Institute, established in 1983 by Donald Stewart Jr., a civil engineer from Rio de Janeiro, who passed away in 1999. According to “The dictatorship of contractors: (1964-1985),” a doctoral thesis written by the historian Pedro Henrique Pedreira Campos, from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), Donald Stewart Jr.’s  company, Ecisa (Engineering, Commerce and Industry S.A.), was one of Brazil’s largest construction firms during the military dictatorship. Stewart partnered with Leo A. Daly Company, a US construction business, to build schools in the northeast region of the country, funded by a regional government development agency, known as SUDENE. The participation of an American company in the project was a requirement to get financing from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which operated as a front for the CIA during the cold war era of Latin American dictatorships.

Donald Stewart was also an old friend of a crucial character in this story, Alejandro Chafuen, a 61-year-old Argentinian living in the US. Stewart and Chafuen are members of the exclusive Mont Pelèrin Society, founded by no other than the Guatemalan Hayek. Launched in 1947 in Switzerland, with headquarters in the US, the organization comprises the most committed libertarians. El Muso, the founder of Gloria Álvarez’s alma mater, the Francisco Marroquín University, was the first Latin American to chair the Mont Pelèrin Society, while the University’s current rector, Gabriel Calzada, is a board member, along with the Brazilian Margaret Tsé, the CEO of the Liberty Institute, which is the ideological backer of the Institute of Business Studies.

Meanwhile, the president of the Mont Pelèrin Society, the Spaniard Pedro Schwartz Girón, also actively fosters think tanks associated with the Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies (FAES), a foundation with ties to the Spanish Partido Popular (PP).

FAES, which is chaired by former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, promoted the Ibero-American Youth Parliament, the event that catapulted Álvarez into fame. Pedro Schwartz, Alejandro Chafuen and the Colombian Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, who co-authored the book “The Perfect Latin American Idiot, ” a hit with rightwing youth, attended the Latin America’ panel at the Liberty Forum. Chafuen also took part, discreetly, in the April 12 protests in Porto Alegre. He posted a photograph of the demonstration on his Facebook page. The photo shows Chafuen, dressed in the Brazilian national team shirt, hugging the young Brazilian political scientist Fábio Ostermann. Ostermann is the coordinator of the Free Brazil Moment, which is how the Students for Liberty (EPL) decided to call their anti-government movement.

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Alejandro Chafuen & Fábio Ostermann

The southerners Fábio Ostermann and Anthony Ling, and the southeasterner Juliano Torres are the founders of the local chapter of Students for Liberty, an organization that plays a crucial role in the network between American conservative think tanks – especially those that define themselves as libertarians – and “anti-populist’’ Latin American youth. Mr. Chafuen, who leads the Atlas Network since 1991, is their mentor.

The Atlas Network (the trade name for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, adopted in 2013) is a type of meta think tank that specializes in promoting the establishment of libertarian organizations throughout the world. It receives funds from its partner libertarian foundations in the US, or from local entrepreneurial think tanks that are geared toward the fostering of young leaders, especially in Latin American and Eastern Europe. According to its Form 990, which all non-profit entities must file with the IRS, Atlas Network’s revenue in 2013 totalled $ 11,459,000. Resources allocated to programs outside the US were US$6.1 million, of which US$2.8 million were directed to Central America and US$595,000 to South America.

With the exception of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso Institute, all the organizations mentioned in this article are part of the Atlas Network in Brazil, along with Gloria Álvarez’s MCN, the Francisco Marroquin University and Students for Liberty (which was founded inside the Atlas Network in 2012). Furthermore, in addition to the aforementioned resources, there are much more sizeable programs operated by the Atlas Network, which are funded by other foundations.

The discreet charm of Mr. Chafuen

Sitting in the VIP room of the Liberty Forum, Mr. Chafuen rose to his feet to greet Kim Kataguiri, who made a surprise visit. The undisguised glee from this demure gentleman, a libertarian with ties to Opus Dei, was my cue to ask for an interview. The main parts are transcribed below.

Q: How did you get close to Brazil?

A: I started to work with my Brazilian friends of liberty in 1998 with Donald Stewart, and I always remember how lonely he felt in his quest for freedom. To arrive in Porto Alegre on the same day of the protest and see all these people, not all libertarians, but people from different social strata of Brazilian society, arguing things that are very consistent with the essence of a free society, it reminded me of these pioneers. Because, yes, there were so many people on the street, so many souls, it left me pleasantly surprised and wondering what will happen next, and how can we harness the enthusiasm of so many young people to produce lasting change in Brazil.”

Q: What kind of changes?

A: Coming from the outside, it’s difficult to say, it’s unique to each country. Look at Spain today, in which political parties lost ground to new movements, such as Podemos from the left, or their opposite in Catalonia, the Ciudadanos. In the United States, for instance, we have the Tea Party, a spontaneous movement that instead of founding a new party, opted to become a trend within a party, and now all but one of the major Republican presidential candidates identify themselves with the Tea Party and seek its support. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, they all come from the Tea Party and are pretty much opposed to the traditional republicans. So this is not an answer that a foreigner can give, especially in Brazil, which is a world unto itself, with so many diverse cultures. We can offer some ideas, but it’s up to them, the ones I saw on the streets, the young and the not so young, to attract more members of civil society, and to institutionalize all this.”

I mention to him that, at the Forum, people speak a lot about freedom – without basis in reality – and that they actually compare Brazil to Venezuela.

A: Yes, the situation here is very different from Venezuela, but you must be vigilant. Freedom isn’t lost just like that, from one day to another. Venezuela was one of the most prosperous countries and look what happened. Populism in Latin American weakens institutions. They let entrepreneurs feel free to invest for some time, allow freedom of expression, and then sooner or later they change the rules of the game. Chávez’s first nationalizations and expropriations happened years after he took power. Yes, you have considerable freedom here. But there are some things that pervert freedom, which is the non-compliance with laws, privilege, corruption, and crony capitalism. It’s a false freedom. It’s like putting a fox in the chicken coop and telling them, ‘you are free now.’ Then the problems start [bribery allegations], business owners are required to enter the game, and they end up taking the blame. It takes two to dance a tango, as they say in Argentina.

Q: Are the guys from the Free Brazil Movement strong enough to promote social change?

A: I developed a model to explain how things happen, which has four elements: first – ideas, since human beings think before acting, or at least we should; second – motivation, because economy is motivation; third – action, because ideas without action are just ideas; the fourth is providence or, depending on what your beliefs are, luck. So you get to work with ideas, some leaders emerge, laws change, and that affects society’s motivation…a typical change doesn’t happen overnight. This pressure builds up and suddenly something happens. And then there is a scandal, another scandal, a magazine with courage, some young men from São Paulo decide, “I’ll leave college and fight against it.” [Kim Kataguiri and Renan Haas, from the MBL, recently announced the decision to leave college to devote themselves to the movement.]  And then the movement is out there in the streets. It’s a combination of factors that we have seen at other times in history.

Mr. William Waack [a Globo TV journalist], who got an award here, said to us at a luncheon, before the opening of the Forum, that the only movement he covered that was like this was the fall of the Berlin Wall. He exaggerated a bit, but we don’t know yet what will happen with this movement.

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Globo TV Journalist William Waack receiving award

Q: After the first anti-government protest in March of this year, the Atlas Network published a piece on its site celebrating the crucial role of its partner, Students for Liberty, in the protests against President Dilma Rousseff and the Workers Party in Brazil. Do you feel responsible for this movement?

A: Our role [in regard to Students for Liberty] is the power of nurturing. These human beings, we call them intellectual entrepreneurs, people with new ideas who see solutions and decide to invest their capital in them. It’s like in business. So we offer them training programs, try to support them financially, encourage them to be committed, to not be too much of a partygoer. But Atlas does not support political parties. We withdraw our support if there is any partisan interest. We don’t accept resources from the government but we can offer some guidelines, new ideas about a free society, from classical liberalism to libertarianism, from religious to atheists, but it’s up to each person to choose. Many of us in our organization have a very negative view about the top-down approach. So we try to encourage people, help them meet each other. Now, for example, all over the world, people might be asking, ‘can we emulate the Brazilians?’ So we celebrate, but we’re careful not to take credit for the results, for what happens locally.

Q: In Venezuela, an Atlas partner organization, the CEDICE Libertad, and the Cato Institute, which funds Atlas programs for students, allied with local businessmen. They were accused by the Chávez government of fomenting opposition among students.  

A: I am vice president of CEDICE, and this is not true. Every so often, some CEDICE members might have engaged in some political activity. But one thing is political life, the polis; another is to work exclusively with one political party. We have worked with-and received at CEDICE-Leopoldo López [who is in jail] and his party, the Internacional Socialista; María Corina Machado [a former congresswoman] and Antonio Ledezma [the mayor of Caracas, arrested in March amid accusations that he was involved in a coup plot]. The answer is that we cannot give up the fight for freedom and some people get into politics. But the Atlas Network doesn’t get involved in local politics. The battle is not between left and right but between right and wrong. And now if you excuse me, I have to go and get ready for my speech.

Q: One last question, please, to dispel rumours. The ties between the Koch foundation and Students for Liberty, through direct funding as well as funding from other foundations associated with the Koch brothers have aroused suspicions, since the Kochs own oil industries that could have interests in this country.

A: The Atlas Network receives 0.5% in funding from the Kochs. The Students for Liberty, I don’t know. Goodbye.

Students for Liberty and the Free Brazil Movement

The executive director of Students for Liberty (EPL), Juliano Torres, was more forthcoming about the link between the EPL and the Free Brazil Movement, a brand name created by the EPL to participate in street demonstrations without compromising US organizations that are prevented, by IRS rules, from donating funds to political activists. He told me in a phone interview that “several members of the EPL wanted to participate in the 2013 ‘Free Pass’ protests in Brazil but we receive funding from organizations such as the Atlas Networks and Students for Liberty, which are forbidden by IRS rules to get involved in political activities. So we said, ‘members of the EPL can participate as individuals, but not as an organization, to avoid problems.’ So we decided to create a brand name. It wasn’t an organization, just a brand that we could use in the streets, called the Free Brazil Movement. Me, Fábio [Ostermann] and Felipe França, who are from Recife and São Paulo, plus four, five people – we created the logo and the Facebook campaign. Then the demonstrations ended and so did the project. So we were looking for someone to take over; we had more than 10,000 likes on our Facebook page, pamphlets. Then we found Kim [Kataguiri] and Renan [Haas], who made this incredible shift in the movement, with the marches against Dilma and things like that. Incidentally, Kim is a member of the EPL, so he was also trained by the EPL. Many of the local organizers are members of the EPL. They act as members of the Free Brazil Movement, but they were trained by us, through leadership courses. Kim, by the way, will participate in a charity poker tournament that Students for Liberty will organize in New York to raise funds. He’ll be a speaker. He’ll also be a speaker at the international conference in February.”

Torres, who is paid by the EPL, tells me that he has two online meetings per week with American headquarters and that he and other Brazilians take part every year in an international conference, with expenses paid, and in a leadership meeting in Washington. The budget of the Students for Liberty for this year in Brazil should reach R$300,000.

“In the first year, we had approximately R$8,000. In the second year we had about R$20,000, and from 2014 to 2015 it grew considerably. We receive funding from other external organizations too, such as the Atlas Network. The Atlas, along with Students for Liberty, are our main donors. In Brazil, one of our major donors is the Friederich Naumann Institute, which is a German organization. They are not allowed to give money but they pay for our expenses. So there were meetings in the south, in Porto Alegre, and in the southeast, in Belo Horizonte. They rented the hotel, paid for the meeting room, lunch and dinner. There are also some individual donors who make donations to us.”

The launching of the EPL in Brazil took place after Torres participated in a 2012 summer workshop for thirty students in Petropolis, sponsored by the Atlas Network. “Right there, we made a draft, a plan, and then we contacted Students for Liberty to officially join the network,” he says.

After that, Torres went through several training programs at Atlas. “There is one they call MBA, there is a program in New York, and also online training. We recommend to all people who work in positions of a certain responsibility to also go through the Atlas Network training programs.”

The US headquarters was impressed by the results obtained by Brazilians. “In 2004 and 2005, there were about 10 people in Brazil who identify themselves with the libertarian movement. Today, the results we have, within the global network of Students for Liberty, are very good. One way to measure the performance of a region is to look at the number of local coordinators. We have more coordinators than any region, including North America, Africa and Europe, individually. The organization has existed, in the United States, for eight years; in Europe, for four years; here, for three years. So we are getting better results in less time, which provides us with a greater influence in the organization.”

There are two Brazilians (out of ten members) at the International Board of Students for Liberty. This year’s report devotes a page to the protests from the MBL in Brazil. A Brazilian, Elisa Martins, who has a degree in economics from the Santa Maria University, is responsible for international scholarships and young leadership training programs at the Atlas Network.

The programs are carried out in partnership with other foundations, especially the Cato Institute, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Institute of Human Studies, all organizations linked with the Koch family, one of the richest in the world. In the last two decades, the 11 foundations tied with the Kochs poured US$800 million into the American network of conservative foundations. Another important partner is the John Templeton Foundation, another American billionaire. With considerably larger budgets than the Atlas Network, these organizations develop fellowship programs, funded by them and executed by Atlas. An example of these projects is the expansion of the Students for Liberty Network, financed by the John Templeton Foundation, which closed 2014 with over $ 1 million budget.

top10-doadores3-01

Thus, even though it appears in third place among the backers of Students for Liberty, the Atlas Network, through its partner, raises a considerably larger volume of funds. All major donors of Students for Liberty are also Atlas donors. It is not always possible to know the origin of the money, despite the legal obligation to fill the IRS 990 form. American conservative organizations distribute money through several different channels, making it impossible to know the original source of the money that reaches each the recipient.

Rightwing foundations have been under scrutiny by the media and groups such as Conservative Transparency.

These investigations have exposed questionable use of resources for lobbying in Congress and state governments, and financing controversial causes such as opposition to climate change legislation. In response, in 1999 the foundations created two philanthropic investment funds, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Management. These investment funds do not require donors to disclose their names in the IRS 990 forms. Thus, the Donors Trust is the largest backer of Donors Capital Management (and vice versa). The Koch foundations are the main suspect of pouring money into these funds.

The 2014-2015 Students for Liberty report shows an impressive amount of fundraising: US$3.1 million, compared with only US$35,768 raised when the organization was launched in 2008. US$1.7 million came from foundations, according to the report, which does not detail the amount donated by each institution.

The Charles Koch Institute is listed but according to the report, it provides grants to American students only, while the Charles Koch Foundation, which distributes grants to students through a number of foundations, is not mentioned in the report.

Another Koch family foundation, the Institute of Human Studies (IHS), is a major contributor to student fellowship programs. Only in 2012, it distributed US$900,000 in grants, according to a form submitted to the IRS.

The Atlas Network is one of the IHS’ major partners. The MBL coordinator, Fabio Ostermann, for example, mentions in his résumé that he was a Koch Summer Fellow at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.  Ostermann is an aid of Representative Marcel van Hattem, a politician from Rio Grande do Sul, affiliated with the Progressive Party (PP) and pointed out by Kim Kataguiri as the only Brazilian politician who fully embraces the MBL’s ideas. The young representative was elected with the financial backing of the Gerdau and Évora groups, the latter belonging to the father of Anthony Ling, who is a founder of the EPL. Van Hattem also took courses at the Acton Institute University, the most religious of the organizations that are part of the Atlas and Koch Foundation fellowship network.

Acton lists combatting “sin” as one of its core principles, stating that the ubiquity of sin requires the limitation of the state.

Maté Party

The Liberty Forum ended in the same way the street demonstrations that preceded it did, with a chanting of “Dilma out,” “PT out.” [PT -Partido dos Trabalhadores, or Workers Party].

Representative van Hattem in a passionate speech, thanked the Forum for his election.

“If I am a representative today, I also owe it to the Liberty Forum,” he said. He then made an interesting distinction between the 2013 demonstrations, which were spontaneous, disorganized and comprised multiple parties; and the 2015 protests, in which “we have an agenda.”

CON7288

The program was modified to include Kim Kataguiri, who was not initially listed as a speaker. Kataguiri was embraced by sponsors such as Jorge Gerdau and Hélio Beltrão, posed for pictures with several fans, as well as his friend Bene Barbosa, who was promoting a book defending the freedom to bear arms. He then went to the auditorium, once again full of students.

Sitting on the couch, Kataguiri waited for van Hattem to list the usual litany of accusations against the São Paulo Forum, the totalitarian power of the Workers Party and “the biggest corruption scandal of the universe.”  Every soundbite and rhetorical red meat was greeted with rousing applause. Van Hattem stirred up the audience, displaying the bond he had established with them, telling them “the avant-garde today isn’t leftist, it’s libertarian.  Well-informed youth go to the streets and ask for less Marx and more Mises. They like Hayek not Lenin. They carry signs with the hashtag #Olavoisright,” [referring to the aforementioned rightwing pundit Olavo de Carvalho].

Van Hattem then left the podium and, walking across the stage, walked towards Kataguiri. “The next step is up to you, but it’s hard. The Brazilian system is averse to new ideas. Today, Kim, the communist congressman Juliano Roso called you a fascist,” he said. And finally, “I just want to conclude by saying that the streets are saying: ‘PT out!’” Applause, screams. The crowd sung in chorus, “‘Ole, ole, ole, ole, we are on the street just to overthrow the PT’.”

It was the cue for Kataguiri’s entrance. Wearing sneakers and walking around the stage, Kataguiri urged the “neoliberal institutions” to get out of “our neoliberal bubble, our libertarian bubble, our conservative bubble and take the country,” and asserted, “It is time for us to break the monopoly of the leftist youth. We have to change this image of the defender of the free market as an old uncle wearing boots who supports the military regime. We are the opposition. We want to privatize Petrobras. We want a minimal state. Brasília will not dictate the people; the people will dictate Brasília.”

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Kim Kataguiri, public figurehead of MBL

Three days after the Forum, Kim Kataguiri left for his March for Freedom toward Brasília, attracting a meager turnout of people, while Gloria Álvarez embarked on a tour that took her from Argentina to Venezuela, effusively reported on her social network. In Argentina, she visited Buenos Aires and Azul, after an invitation by the Argentina Rural Society. Her speeches at the National University in Tucumán were organized by the Federalism and Liberty Foundation, which includes on its international board, the Atlas Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the CEDICE Libertad, and the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy.

These organizations are all part of the Atlas Network, as are the other organizations that organized Álvarez’s trip –  Students for Liberty (Bolivia and Ecuador), the CEDICE (Venezuela), and the Foundation for Progress (Chile).

The most interesting thing about Álvarez’s trip, however, was not mentioned on her social network, or even in Chilean newspapers. On April 23, she and dissident Cuban blogger Yaoni Sánchez met with the conservative former President Sebastián Piñera after they delivered speeches at the Adolfo Ibañez University in Viña del Mar.

The meeting with the ex-president was reported on twitter by a former minister of the Piñera administration, the economist Cristián Larroulet. He posted a photo – the only photo in which Álvarez and Sánchez appear together – with the caption, “President Piñera with Yoani Sánchez and Gloria Álvarez, two examples of Latin American women fighting for freedom.” Larroulet is the founder of the think tank Liberty and Development, a natural partner of the Atlas Network.

Ioni

 

FLASHBACK: Brazil’s Vinegar Revolution: Left in Form, Right in Content [Part 1 of a 6]

Dissident Voice

July 26, 2013

by Gearóid Ó Colmáin

 

Fascism has presented itself as the anti-party; has opened its gates to all applicants; has with its promise of impunity enabled a formless multitude to cover over the savage outpouring of passions, hatreds and desires with a varnish of vague and nebulous political ideals.
— Gramsci

 

The Working class spontaneously gravitates towards socialism; nevertheless most widespread (and continuously and diversely revived) bourgeois ideology spontaneously imposes itself upon the working class to a still greater degree.
— Lenin

 

“It’s not just about 20 cents”. This was the status message of Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook last week, a message that was relayed through several of Brazil’s major cities. The message became one of the initial slogans of what many are now calling the “Vinegar Revolution” which was reportedly triggered by a 20 cent hike in bus fares in the city of Sao Paulo June 20th.

The very mention of Zuckerberg in connection with mass protests should immediately sound alarm bells among those who have been following closely the Facebook, Twitter fomented ‘colour revolutions’ that have rocked several states targeted for covert regime change by US imperialism over the last decade. Colour revolutions are essentially fake revolutions orchestrated by NGOS funded by the US government which are organized in countries ruled by governments that threaten or present an obstacle to the furtherance of US interests.

Zuckerberg is a close associate of US president Barack Obama and it is open knowledge since the recent NSA scandals that Facebook is a key part of the US intelligence community. His endorsement of the protests should therefore lead one to question the real origins and motives behind some of the largest demonstrations Brazil has seen in over 20 years.

Former Governor of California Arnold Schwartznegger, pop stars Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears and the crème de la crème of Brazil’s soap opera stars, were all photographed displaying slogans supporting the Brazilian protests.

“It’s not just about 20 cents. It’s about much more”, say the protestors; corruption, rising cost of living, bad public infrastructure, health care and education. These are left wing causes, and are the issues driving discontent in Brazil’s populous cities teeming with poverty and inequality. No one can deny the genuine character of such complaints. After all, Brazil is a capitalist society in the ‘developing’ world.

Since the rise to power of President Lula de Silva and the Partido Travhalleros (Workers Party) in 2002    Brazil’s economy has experienced a rapid period of growth. It is now set to overtake France and Germany making it the fifth biggest economy in the world. But Lula’s left-wing political orientation was matched to a very large extent by economic policies which opened up the country to further levels of exploitation by foreign multi-nationals. In fact, Lula was so nice to foreign multinationals that he managed to avoid demonization by the Western power elite and was promoted as a suitable alternative to the more radically left-wing policies of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

However, in spite of Lula’s cooperation with the IMF, the Brazilian economy remained under national control to a significant extent but the process of destabilization currently underway is part of Wall Street’s final push for hegemony in a country that has moved closer to Russia and China and whose fiscal policies have pulled it away from Wall Street and its ‘free trade’ agenda.

It should not come as a surprise that hundreds of thousands of citizens would protest the obscene inequalities in a country that is investing millions constructing lavish sports complexes for the World Cup and the Olympic Games while millions continue to live in Favelas. Yet the uprising, in spite of its demands for public services, was anything but left-wing in orientation. In fact, many of those leading the protests attacked communists and socialists, chanting slogans against Cuba and Venezuela. Brazil’s right wing opposition parties and media came out in support of the protests.

Globo Rede, the right wing media group that dominates Brazil’s media, initially believed the protests were left wing and denounced them as terrorism. Then it seemed to realize that the protests were of an entirely different orientation, that they were an attack on the PT government and on left-wing ideology in particular, and proceeded to back and encourage them.

So, the question we are posing here is this: are the protests against neo-liberal capitalism or are the obvious evils of capitalism being covertly harnessed by outside forces to shift the geopolitics of a country moving closer to an alliance with Russia, China and left-leaning Latin American governments, thereby contributing to the possible formation of a new anti-imperialist block of emerging economies?

The struggle between the national and the comprador bourgeoisie.

Lenin, in his book Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism, quotes from a German author who observes that South America “is so dependent financially on London that it ought to be as almost a British commercial colony”.

Anglo-American financial interests dominated Brazil until the 1930 revolution brought Getullio Vargas to power. Vargas, a controversial character, who went from liberal left to far right and back again, is generally credited with having nationalized key sectors of the economy in order to industrialize and modernize Brazil. Vargas drew extensive support from the petite-bourgeoisie but was opposed by the conservative landowning class centred in Sao Paulo, who rose up in rebellion against him in 1932.

Since the 1930s politics in Brazil has been characterized by a struggle between the comprador bourgeoisie, who favour free trade and financial speculation, a class whose interests coincide with foreign companies and centres of financial power such as Wall Street and the City of London, and the rising national bourgeoisie, whose interests require protective tariffs on imports, investment in infrastructure, and a strong interventionist state to regulate and promote domestic industry.

This conflict has often been played out within successive Brazilian governments between the Bank of Brazil linked to the former and the Ministry of Finance linked to the latter. The comprador bourgeoisie in Brazil have always implemented domestic polices in accordance with US interests while the national bourgeoisie have tended to favour a more independent domestic and foreign policy.

Getullio Vargas was ousted in a coup in 1954 by elements of the comprador bourgeoisie backed by Washington. The same year he wrote a letter to the Brazilian people in which he denounced the “international financial groups” who were joining forces with “national groups” to overthrow him.1

Similarly, the recent events in Brazil should be seen as an attempt by the comprador bourgeoisie comprised of speculators and vulture capitalists working for Wall Street interests, who, through NGOS financed by the latter, have mobilized the lower-middle class or petite-bourgeoisie against the institutions that constitute the power base of the national bourgeoisie, that is to say the legislative and the executive organs of the nation-state.

They are doing this on the one hand through manipulation of the judiciary and on the other, through manipulation of the desires and egos of the new, lower middle class or petite bourgeoisie, who have been brought up on a diet of consumerism, video games and pop culture. The point of all this is to use the lower middle class protestors as a battering ram to destroy the state institutions thereby bringing the country fully under the control of  Washington.

There is also another pole of destablisation at work in Brazil; this involves manipulation of the indigenous communities and environmentalism by corporate-financier interests. The purpose of this manipulation is to wrest control of natural resources from the Brazilian Federal state and bring them under the control of international corporate entities such as the World Wildlife Fund.

When President Rousseff suggested calling a plebiscite to find out what the protestors wanted changed, the proposal was highly criticized by opposition members who support the protests. She has proposed reforms which would greatly improve the democratic process in Brazil, yet most of the street oppositionists have rejected them because they “see politicians as being part of the problem, not the solution, and have been critical of both the president’s and Congress’ efforts”.

This is because the protestors do not have a conscious, coherent, political programme. The purpose of this imperialist destabilization is  to break the ‘patrimonialismo estatale’; that is to say, Brazil’s traditional dirigistegovernmental structures that hamper unbridled  penetration by foreign investors, thereby weakening the sovereignty of the Brazilian federal state. This would then prepare the terrain for a right wing seizure of power by the military that would re-orient Brazil’s domestic and foreign policy toward that of the United States, thereby putting an end to the BRICS multi-polar axis in favour of the unipolar, Anglo-American dominated New World Order.

In order to understand the mechanism’s of US power currently at work in Brazil, we need to revisit the 1964 military coup.

Organising the 1964 ‘Revolution’

The Central Intelligence Agency organized a military coup against the government of former President Vargas’ protégé, Joao Goulart, in 1964. Like Lula and the Workers Party, Goulart was an anti-communist liberal who sought to implement modest social and labour reforms, the ‘reformas de base’ were intended to modernize the country.  Goulart’s reforms had support among the working class and the national bourgeoisie and included a mass literacy campaign, land reform enabling the government to take over estates of over 600 hectares deemed unproductive, and electoral reform extending the voting rights to illiterates.

Like the current Brazilian administration, Goulart had also pursued a more independent foreign policy from Washington. He relaxed persecution of communists. This upset Washington. Goulart favoured nationalist military officers over those trained by the United States and began purchasing military hardware from Eastern Block countries such as Poland. Laws limiting the amount of profits multinationals could take out of the country were also enacted by the Goulart administration. This state intervention in the ‘free market’ upset the directors of multinational corporations, who immediately began dreaming of a ‘transition government’.

Goulart had been the vice president of Janio de Silva Quadros, who was overthrown in 1961, by a US-backed coup after he refused to support President Kennedy’s plans for the invasion of Cuba. However, the US-backed coup against Quadros failed to prevent the election of Goulart in 1964. Goulart was no friend of left-wing causes. He supported Washington during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He simply pursued normal diplomatic politics with countries the US wanted to destroy and implemented reforms needed to industrialize the country. This was anathema to Washington who considered Brazil to be a colony of the United States and therefore subject to direct orders from above in matters of foreign and domestic policy.

The Central Intelligence Agency went to work. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and the Agency for International Development were used as front organizations for the CIA.

Mass demonstrations were organized by CIA agents throughout the country. Over a million people took to the streets calling for a national revolution. Anti-communist hysteria was whipped up by the Catholic Church in conjunction with the CIA. Irish Catholic priest Fr. Patrick Peyton, a CIA asset, helped organize the famous Marcha de Familia Com Deus Pela Liberdade – The Family March with God for Liberty. Funding for the covert ‘people power’ coup came from over three hundred multinational corporations.

In order to create the impression that the ‘revolution’ was ‘popular’ and had support among diverse sectors of the population, the CIA helped set up numerous ‘civil society’ organizations. The feminists were represented by the Campanha de Mulher Pela Democracia, the Women’s Campaign for Democracy, which branched out into myriad groupings throughout the country such as the League of Women for Democracy in Belo Horizonte, the Gaucha Democratic Action in Rio Grande do Sul,  the Ceará Civic Movement in Ceara; the Civic Union of Women in São Paulo  and the  Women’s Crusade in Pernambuco. These organizations worked in the favelas in order to manipulate working class communities into joining the protests on behalf of the ruling class.

As part of its ‘revolutionary’ strategy of regime change, in 1961 US government helped set up the Instituto Pesquisas e Estudos Sociais, The Institute for Research and Social Studies, in Rio De Janeiro. The institute worked to collect data on social trends and behaviour among the Brazilian population, in order to create effective anti-communist and anti-populist propaganda through advertising campaigns, cinema and the mass media. Many lectures by the institute were aimed at housewives who were warned of the dangers that communism posed to family values. The institute also targeted students with influential documentaries such as “Deixem o estudante estudar” – Let the students study.

There is an important book in Portuguese by journalist Denisse Assis entitled Propaganda e Cinema A Serviço do Golpe which studies the use of predictive programming by the Brazilian Cinema and mass media in the run-up to the 1964 coup.

The mass uprisings of 1964 brought more than a million people onto the streets, the slogans used tended to be ‘apolitical’ simply calling for more ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. This was in order to disguise their ultra-right wing agenda. Mercopress writes:

An indication of the importance that the US ascribed to its operation was that the Air Force officer tasked with arranging some of the logistics was Paul Tibbits, who flew the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

 

After the coup a CIA official cabled the following message to Washington:

 

The change in government will create a greatly improved climate for foreign investments.

Operation Brother Sam was marketed as a “revolution” by the mainstream press and it resulted in what William Blum has described as one the worst fascist dictatorships of the twentieth century.

Blum describes American ‘democratisation’ in Brazil as follows:

Within days General Castello Branco assumed the presidency and over the next few years his regime instituted all features the military dictatorship which Latin America has come to know and love: Congress was shut down, political opposition was reduced to virtual extinction, habeas corpus for ‘political crimes’ was suspended, criticism of the president was forbidden by law, labor unions were taken over by government intervenors, mounting protests were met by police firing into crowds, the use of systematic ‘disappearance’ as a form of repression came upon the stage of Latin America, peasants’ homes were burned down, priests were brutalized.. the government had a name for its program: the ‘moral rehabilitation’ of Brazil.. then there was the torture and the death squads, both largely undertakings of the police and the military, both underwritten by the United States. 2

The emphasis on lack of “morality” in a left wing government is, as we shall see, precisely the character of the recent protests throughout Brazil.

The military regime was staffed by puppets of multinational corporations who ran the country on their behalf, smashing unions and collective bargaining rights and maintaining conditions of slavery in many parts of the country. An advisor to the Workers Party, Maria Helena Moreia Alves, told Multinational Monitor in 1982:

The whole Brazilian system, the whole Brazilian government is for the benefit of multinational corporations. It’s a heaven for multinationals: the government has created a system of tax incentives which is phenomenal.

 

Corporations also do not have the same kinds of safety requirements in Brazil as at home. A study was conducted on Ford and Volkswagen and it was found that they had turned off the safety equipment on the assembly lines, particularly on the lathe operations, which has had the result that Brazil has one of the highest industrial accident rates in the world. Fingers get chopped off. Lula (Brazil’s most prominent labor leader) doesn’t have one of his fingers; that’s typical of lathe operators.

 

Workers have gone on strikes just to get protective masks and gloves, just for safety – it’s absolutely essential safety equipment which people have to strike for, and since strikes are illegal, they face imprisonment and trial, just to be able to have safety equipment.

Fiat motor corporation owes its success in Brazil to the criminal financial policies of the military dictatorship. According to Alves:

Fiat came into Brazil around 1975 or thereabouts, and located in two areas, Rio and Minas Gerais. In Rio, Fiat purchased an existing Brazilian-owned factory, Fabrica Nacional de Motores, which employed 6,000 workers and has always done very well.

 

Fiat had a subsidized loan from the Brazilian government for purchasing the plant. The loan was money obtained by the Brazilian government outside of Brazil – thus increasing the foreign debt – and lent to Fiat at a subsidized interest rate, and all to purchase a Brazilian company that already existed in Brazil. It was a ridiculous deal. The first thing, Fiat did was fire 3,000 workers and auto-, mate the plant.

 

Then Fiat also opened a new plant in Minas Gerais. The deal there was that they would get 10 years of no taxes whatsoever, plus subsidized loans for a number of years. After all that, they have recently closed the plant; they decided that they weren’t getting enough loans and enough benefits from the Minas Gerais government.

The role of Fiat, General Motors and other giant manufacturing corporations in the current events will be investigated anon.

During the fascist dictatorship, progressive labour laws initiated in 1943 under Consolidação das Leis do Trabalho (CLT), the Consolidated Labour Code were abolished. The CLT had made it difficult for employers to fire workers. During the dictatorship new laws were passed making it much easier for employers to dismiss workers without just cause.  Under the Wage Adjustment Law of 1965, the military regime determined the minimum wage of workers.

The 1988 Brazilian Constitution greatly improved collective bargaining rights of workers; the maximum working hours of workers was reduced from 48 to 44; minimum payment for extra time increased from 20% to 50% of the workers’ wages, working shifts were reduced from 8 to 6 hours per day, a holiday bonus consisting of one third of the workers wages was introduced and firing costs for employers were raised by 30%.

A report written in conjunction with the World Bank in 2000 entitled “Brazil:  The Pressure Points in Labour Legislation”, advocates a return to the labour laws of the fascist regime, citing the ‘pro-Labour bias’ in Brazil’s constitution and labour laws as a serious cause of the ‘Custo Brazil’, the ‘abnormally high costs of doing business in Brazil’.

  1. Gerassi, John, The Great Fear in Latin America, p. 81.
  2. Blum, William, Killing Hope, US Military and CIA interventions since World War II, p. 171
[Gearóid Ó Colmáin is a journalist and political analyst based in Paris. His work focuses on globalization, geopolitics and class struggle. He is a regular contributor to Dissident Voice, Global Research, Russia Today International, Press TV, Sputnik Radio France, Sputnik English, Al Etijah TV, Sahar TV, and has also appeared on Al Jazeera and Al Mayadeen. He writes in English, Gaelic, and French. Read other articles by Gearóid, or visit Gearóid’s website.]

Bolivia VP Alvaro Garcia Linera on the ebbing Latin American tide

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

September 9, 2016

 

defending-the-revolution

Defending the Revolution, Venezuela, 2002 [Source]

 

Extracts of vive-president Garcia Linera’s address at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires (May, 27, 2016).

 

We are facing a historical turning point in Latin America. Some are talking about a throwback, about restorers moving forward. The truth is that in the last twelve months, after ten years of intense progress, of territorial diffusion of the progressive and revolutionary governments in the continent, this progress has stalled, in some cases it has given ground, and in some other cases its continuity is in doubt. Wherever conservative forces have succeeded, an accelerated process of reconstitution of the old elites of the 80s and 90s, which seek to take control of the management of the state, is under way.

In cultural terms, there is a determined effort by the media, by NGOs, by organic right-wing intellectuals, to devalue, to call in question, and discredit the idea and the project of change and revolution.

They are targeting what can be considered the golden, virtuous Latin American decade.

It has been more than ten years. Since the decade of 2000, in a pluralistic and diverse way, some being more radical than others, some more urban, some more rural, with very different languages but in a very convergent way, Latin America has experienced the period of greatest autonomy and greatest construction of sovereignty that anyone can remember since the founding of the states in the nineteenth century.

The four characteristics of the Latin American virtuous decade

First, the political aspect: social promotion and popular forces taking over state power, overcoming the old turn-of-the-century debate on whether it is possible to change the world without taking power – the popular sectors, workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, women, the under-classes, have outstripped that theoretical and contemplative discussion in a practical way. They have assumed the tasks of controlling the state. They have become representatives, congresspersons, senators, they have taken office, mobilized themselves, pushed back neoliberal policies, they have taken charge of the management of the state, changed public policies, made amendments to budgets. In these ten years we have witnessed popular, plebeian presence in state management.

Second, the strengthening of civil society: trade unions, guilds, settlers, neighbours, students, associations, started to diversify and to multiply in different areas during this decade. The neoliberal night of apathy and democratic simulation was broken, giving way to the recreation of a strong civil society that assumed a set of tasks in conjunction with the new Latin American states.

As far as the social aspect is concerned, in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, we witnessed a substantial redistribution of social wealth. In opposition to the policies favouring the ultra-concentration of wealth which turned Latin America into one of the most unequal regions in the world, from the decade of 2000 onwards, driven by the progressive and revolutionary governments, a powerful wealth redistribution process got underway. This redistribution of wealth led to a widening of the middle classes, not in the sociological sense of the term, but in the sense of their consumption capacity. The consumption capacity of workers, peasants, indigenous peoples and subordinate social sectors expanded.

The differences between the richest 10% and the poorest 10%, which was 100, 150, 200 times in the 90s, had been reduced at the end of the first decade of the century to 80, 60, 40, in a way that broadened the contribution – and equality – of the different social sectors.

We have experienced post-neoliberal proposals, which have allowed the state to resume a strong role. Some countries carried out processes of nationalization of private companies or create new public enterprises, expanded state involvement in the economy in order to generate post-neoliberal ways of managing the economy, recovered the importance of the domestic market, recovered the importance of the state as a distributor of wealth, and recovered state participation in strategic areas of the economy.

In foreign affairs, we set up an informal, progressive and revolutionary international at continental level. This allowed for great strides in the constitution of our independence. In this decade, the Organisation of American States (OAS) has been offset by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). This represents the evolution of Latin American integration without the United States – without tutelage.

Overall, then, the continent, in this virtuous decade, has carried out political changes: the people’s participation in the construction of a new type of state. Social changes: the redistribution of wealth and the reduction of inequalities. Economy: active state involvement in the economy, the expansion of the domestic market, the creation of new middle classes. Internationally: the political integration of the continent. It is no small feat in only ten years, perhaps the most important years for integration, sovereignty, and independence in our continent since the nineteenth century.

However, we must acknowledge the fact that in recent months the process of diffusion and territorial expansion of the progressive and revolutionary governments has stalled. We are witnessing a comeback of right-wing sectors in some very important and decisive countries in the continent. Obviously, the Right will always try and seek to sabotage the progressive processes. For them, it is an issue of political survival, a question of control and dispute. It is important that we assess what we have done wrong, where we have encountered limits, where we have stumbled – what, in short, has allowed the Right to resume the initiative.

The five limits and the five contradictions of the Latin American virtuous decade

Contradictions within the economy: it is as though we had given little importance to the economic issues within the revolutionary processes. When you are in the opposition, the important things are politics, organization, ideas, and mobilization, along with more or less attractive, credible, structuring proposals. But when you are in government, when you become the state, the economy is crucial. And progressive governments and revolutionary leaders have not always assumed this crucial importance of the economy. Taking care of the economy, expanding redistribution processes, and boosting growth are the pillars of any revolution.

All of Lenin’s writings after War Communism are about the search for ways of restoring the popular sectors’ confidence through economic management, the development of production, distribution and wealth, the deployment of autonomous initiatives by peasants, workers, small and even big businesses, so as to ensure a sound economic foundation for the stability and welfare of the population, given that you cannot build Socialism or Communism in one country; given that economic relations are regulated by the world market, that markets and currencies do not disappear by decree, nor through the nationalisation of the means of production; given that the social and community economy may only arise in a context of global and continental progress. Meanwhile, it is up to each country to resist and create the basic conditions for survival, for the welfare for its people, keeping political power in the hands of the workers. You can make any concessions you want, you can talk to whomever if this helps with economic growth, but you must always guarantee that political power is in the hands of the workers and the revolutionaries.

The discourse must be effective, and create positive collective expectations on the basis of minimum material satisfaction of necessary conditions. If these conditions are not met, any speech, however seductive, however promising, gets diluted.

A second weakness in the economic area: some of the progressive and revolutionary governments have adopted measures that have affected the revolutionary bloc, thus strengthening the conservative one.

Obviously, a government must govern for all – this is the linchpin of the state. But how does one operate in that duality: governing for all, taking all into account, but, first of all, the citizens? No economic policy can obviate the people. When one does this, believing that it will win the support of the Right, or that it will neutralize it, one makes a big mistake, because the Right is never loyal. We can neutralize the business sectors, but they will never be on our side. Whenever they see that the popular side of things is faltering, or when they see weakness, business sectors will not hesitate for a minute to turn against the progressive and revolutionary governments.

You can issue a decree saying that there is no market, but the market will still be there. We can issue a decree putting an end to foreign companies, but the tools for cell phones and machinery will still require universal, planetary knowhow. A country cannot become autarchic. No revolution has endured or will survive in autarky and isolation. Revolution is to be global and continental or it will be a parody.

Obviously, the progressive and revolutionary governments prompted an empowerment of workers, peasants, workers, women, youth, which was more or less radical depending on the country. But political power will not last if it does not go together with the economic power of the popular sectors.

The state is no substitute for workers. It can collaborate, it can improve conditions, but sooner or later it will have to start devolving economic power to the subordinate sectors. Creating economic capacity, building associative productive capacity of the subordinate sectors, this is the key that will decide the possibility of moving from post-neoliberalism to post-capitalism in the future.

The second problem the progressive governments are facing is redistribution of wealth without social politicization. If the expansion of consumption capacity, if the expansion of social justice is not accompanied by social politicization, we are not making common sense. We will have created a new middle class, with consumption capacity, with capacity to satisfy their needs, but they will be carrying the old conservative common sense.

What do I mean by common sense? I mean the intimate, moral and logical precepts by which people organize their lives. It has to do with our intimate basics, with how we stand in the world.

In this regard, the cultural, ideological, spiritual aspects become crucial. There is no real revolution, nor is there consolidation of any revolutionary process, if there is not a profound cultural revolution.

When one is in government it is as important to be a good minister, or member of parliament, as to be a good union, student or local revolutionary leader, because this is where the battle for the common sense is fought.

A third weakness of the progressive and revolutionary governments is moral reform. Clearly, corruption is a cancer that corrodes society – not now, but 15, 20, 100 years ago. Neoliberals are an example of institutionalized corruption for the reason that they turned public affairs into private ones, and they amassed private fortunes by robbing the collective fortunes of the Latin American peoples. Privatizations have been the most outrageous, immoral, indecent, obscene example of widespread corruption. And this we have certainly fought against – but not enough. While restoring as common goods the res publica, public resources, and public goods, it is important that personally, individually, each comrade, President, Vice-President, ministers, directors, members of parliament, managers, in our daily behavior, in our way of being, we never relinquish humility, simplicity, austerity and transparency.

There is an insufflated moral campaign in the media lately. We can make a list of right-wing congressmen, senators, candidates, ministers, who had their companies registered in Panama to evade taxes. They are the corrupt ones, the scoundrels who have the nerve to accuse us of being corrupt, of being scoundrels, of having no morals. But we must insist on showing where we are and what we stand for through our behavior and daily life. We cannot separate what we think from what we do, what we are from what we say.

A fourth element that I would not say has anything to do with weakness, is the issue of the continuity of leadership in democratic regimes. In democratic revolutions, you have to live and put up with your opponents. You have defeated them, you have won in discursive, electoral, political, moral terms, but your opponents are still there. This is a fact that comes with democracy. And constitutions establish limits – 5, 10, 15 years – for the election of authorities. How can you give continuity to the revolutionary process when you have to abide by these limits?

They will say: “the populists, the socialists, believe in caudillos”. But what real revolution does not embody the spirit of the time? If everything depended on institutions, that is not revolution. There is no true revolution without leaders or caudillos. When the subjectivity of the people defines the destiny of a country, we are witnessing a true revolutionary process. The issue, however, is how we get on with the process given that there are constitutional limits for the continuity of the leader.

Perhaps collective leadership, building collective leaderships that allow the continuity of the processes, has greater possibilities in a democratic context. This is one of the concerns that must be resolved through political debate. How do we give subjective continuity to the revolutionary leaderships so that the processes are not truncated, nor limited, and can be sustained in historical perspective?

Finally, a fifth weakness that I would like to mention, in a self-critical but propositive way, has to do with economic and continental integration. We have made very good progress in political integration. But every government sees its geographic space, its economy, its market, and when we look at the other markets, limitations arise. Economic integration is no easy matter. You can talk a lot about it, but when you have to check the balance of payments, investment ratios, technological matters, things tend to slow down. This is the big issue. I am convinced that Latin America will only be able to become the master of its destiny in the twenty-first century if it can become a sort of continental, plurinational state that respects the local and national structures of the current states, with a second floor of continental institutions dealing with finance, economy, culture, politics and trade. Can you imagine if we were 450 million people? We would have the largest reserves of minerals, lithium, water, gas, oil, agriculture. We could drive the globalization processes of the continental economy. Alone, we are prey to the greed and abuse of companies and countries from the North. United, we in Latin America would be able to tread firmly in the twenty-first century and mark our destiny.

The tide is on the ebb

We should not be scared. Nor should we be pessimistic about the future, about the coming battles. When Marx, in 1848, analyzed the revolutionary processes, he always spoke of revolution as a process by waves. He never imagined revolution as an upward, continuous process. He said revolution moves in waves: a wave, another wave, and then the second wave advances beyond the first, and the third beyond the second.

Now the tide is ebbing. It will take weeks, months, years, but this being a process, it is clear that there will be a second wave, and what we have to do is prepare for it, debate what have we done wrong in the first wave, where we have failed, where errors have been made, what have we lacked, so that when the second wave happens, sooner rather than later, the continental revolutionary processes can go well beyond the first wave.

We are in for hard times, but hard times are oxygen for revolutionaries. Are we not coming from down below, are we not the ones who have been persecuted, tortured, marginalized in neoliberal times? The golden decade of the continent has not come free. It has been your struggle, from below, from the unions, the universities, the neighbourhoods, that has led to a revolutionary cycle. The first wave did not fall from the sky. We bear in our bodies the marks and wounds of the struggles of the 80s and 90s. And if today, provisionally, temporarily, we must go back to the struggles of the 80s, 90s, 2000s, let us welcome them. That is what a revolutionary is for.

Fighting, winning, falling down, getting up, fighting, winning, falling down, getting up – right up to the end of our life. That is our destiny.

But we have something important in our favour: historical time. Historical time is on our side. As Professor Emir Sader says, our opponents have no alternative, they do not carry a project that can overcome ours. They simply make their nest on the mistakes and envies of the past. They are restorers. We know what they did with the continent, in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador. We know what they did, because they ruled in the 80s and 90s. And they turned us into miserable, dependent countries, they drove us to extreme poverty situations and to collective shame. We already know what they want to do.

We are the future. We are the hope. We have done in ten years what dictators and governments over the last hundred years did not dare to do: we have recovered the homeland, dignity, hope, mobilization, and civil society. So, this is what they run up against. They are the past. They are the regression. We are the ones who move with the historical time.

But we must be very careful here. We must re-learn what we learned in the 80s and 90s, when everything was against us. We must gather strength. We must know that when we go into battle and lose, our strength goes to the enemy, boosting his own, while we are weakened. When it comes to it, we must know how to plan well, to gain legitimacy, to explain, to conquer again the people’s hopes, support, sensitivity and emotional spirit in each new fight. We must know that we have to go into battle again, the tiny and gigantic battle of ideas, in the mainstream media, in the newspapers, in the small pamphlets, at the universities, schools, and the unions. We must know that we have to rebuild a new common sense of hope, of mysticism. Ideas, organization, mobilization.

We do not know how long this battle will be. But let us get ready for it if it lasts one, two, three, four years. The continent is on the move and sooner rather than later it will no longer be a matter of just 8 or 10 countries: we will be 15, we will be 20, 30 countries celebrating this great International of revolutionary, progressive peoples.

 

Behind the Bolivia Miner Cooperatives’ Protests and the killing of the Bolivian Vice-Minister

 

The Bolivian cooperatives’ protests and their August 25 killing of the Bolivian Vice Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes requires us to question our assumptions about cooperatives.  What are the Bolivian mining cooperatives? Most began during the Great Depression as miners banded together to work a mine in common.  However, like many cooperatives in the US that arose out of the 1960s, they have turned into small businesses. Regardless of their initial intentions, cooperatives existing in a surrounding capitalist environment must compete in business practices or go under.

The Bolivian mining cooperatives themselves underwent this process, and have become businesses whose owners hire labor.  Roughly 95% of the cooperative miners are workers, and 5% are owners.  It is common for the employed workers to be temps, or contracted out employees as we refer to them here. They have no social security, no job security, no health or retirement benefits.

The mining cooperatives made ten demands on the government, and during the second week of August, they announced an indefinite strike if the government did not meet their demands, later adding another 14 to the first 10.

The three most significant demands included rejection of the General Law of Cooperative Mines, which guaranteed cooperative employees the right to unionize, since they are not cooperative co-owners. The cooperatives owners did not want their workers represented by unions.

Reuters, and the corporate press, true to form, falsely claimed the opposite, that the cooperative miners were protesting against the government and demanded their right to form unions.

A second demand was loosening of environmental regulations for the mining cooperatives.

The third key demand was to revoke the law disallowing national or transnational businesses from partnering in cooperatives. At present cooperatives have 31 contracts with private businesses, most signed before the Evo Morales era.

The cooperatives want the right to form partnerships with multi-nationals and exploit the natural resources without the laws protecting the environment.  Opening the cooperatives to such privatization ran counter to what was voted on in the Constitution: “The natural resources are the property of the Bolivian people and will be administered by the State.”

The Evo Morales government nationalized Bolivia’s natural resources in 2006.  Because of this the government share of the profits with corporations from the sale of gas and other natural resources has risen from around 15% to 85%. Previously under neoliberal governments, about 85% of the profits went to corporations. As a result, the Bolivian state has gained an extra $31.5 billion through 2015, which it has used to develop industry, infrastructure, schools, health care and hospitals to the mostly Original Peoples population.  It has also provided many subsidies for the poor, benefiting 4.8 million Bolivians out of a population of just over 10 million. This has cut in half the number of Bolivians living in extreme poverty.

During the August cooperatives’ protests, the Evo Morales government had repeatedly stated it was open to dialogue, but pointed out it cannot violate the Constitution when faced with the demands of the cooperatives, which are thinking only of their personal profits.

Vice Minister Illanes went to meet with the miner cooperatives’ leaders of the FENCOMIN, Federacion de Cooperativas Mineras.  He was tortured and killed and so far 9 have been charged, including the President of FENCOMIN, who was a leader in the violent protests.

Before this, Bolivian TV broadcast news of rioting miners charging at police, hurling stones and even sticks of dynamite. The police responded with tear gas to disperse the protesters.  A number of police were injured during the protests. On August 24, two miners were shot at close range during the road blockades. If the police were responsible, it contravened the order of President Morales not only not to shoot, but to not bring firearms in the area of the road blockades.

Vice Minister of Coordination with Social Movements, Alfredo Rada, said after the murder that the issue of the mine cooperatives should be part of a national debate. He pointed out the cooperative workers are exploited by the owners, who have created a hierarchy inside the organizations for their private benefit. Rada added, “We respect true cooperativism, where all are equal, but these companies have been converted into semi-formal capitalist businesses.”

After the murder of Vice-Minister Illanes, Evo declared, “Once again, the national government has squashed an attempted coup.”  He added that the miners had planned to entrench themselves at the roadblocks they had established and that documents confiscated from the offices of the cooperative miners mention “overthrowing the government.”  He stated that some of the private business and cooperatives’ owners had deceived their workers.

The US has sought to undermine Evo Morales, going back to his first presidential election campaign.  Bolivia’s Cabinet Chief Juan Ramon Quintana stated over the past eight years the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has funded around 40 institutions in Bolivia including economic and social centers, foundations and non-governmental organizations, at a total amount of over $10 million.  US soft coup efforts reached their heights during the separatist movement by the rich white elite in the Media Luna, and during in the TIPNIS protests in 2011.

In the fall of 2015 the US developed the Strategic Plan for Bolivia to reverse the progressive popular changes in Bolivia and restore neoliberal-neocolonial rule. This was written by Carlos Alberto Montaner, a counter-revolutionary Cuban exile, US Congresspeople such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in charge of USAID for Latin America, and chief leaders of the Bolivian opposition.  One early result was the defeat of the Bolivian referendum to allow Evo Morales to run for president for a third term.

Venezuelan President Maduro has pointed out that the Dilma coup, the killing of the Bolivian minister, are part of an imperialist attack on the progressive governments of Latin America.  “It is a continent-wide attack by the oligarchies and the pro-imperialist right wing against all the leaders, governments and popular movements, progressive and revolutionary left” said Maduro. “With Dilma in Brazil, with Evo in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador, with Daniel in Nicaragua and with all the peoples and social movements of Latin America, Venezuela is going to struggle for a sovereign, independent, humane, and popular future.”

So far the US anti-war, anti-interventionist movements have not strongly responded to the escalating US coup attempts against progressive elected Latin American governments.

[Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity, is a long time Latin America solidarity activist, and presently puts out the AFGJ Venezuela Weekly.]

Operation Condor: For More Than 50 Years the CIA Went Deep into Ecuadorean Society

teleSUR

June 8, 2016

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to declassified documents and testimonies of previous agency officials, had a permanent operation to intervene in political and social decisions of Ecuador.

Starting from the 60s, the CIA infiltrated governments, police, civilian groups, and NGOs to advance U.S. interests in the country, and continues to fight for its power and influence in the region.

Unfortunately, few have knowledge of the political moves that led to the intervention of foreign intelligence forces and the deadly consequences it had for South and Central America, as well as the impact on the new world order.

Background

The Cuban Revolution had succeeded in 1959 and anti-colonial resistance groups began to flourish in Latin America. The Soviet Union maintained its geopolitical strength in part through supporting its new ally, Cuba. It was the beginning of another Cold War for the U.S.

In the early 1960’s, nationalist Ecuadorean President Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra and his later successor, Vice President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy, were pressured by the agency to break diplomatic relations with the new socialist government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. When both refused to isolate Castro’s government, both were successively ousted by the country’s military forces, backed by CIA operations.

Ecuador, like other South American countries, was part of the U.S.-backed Operation Condor in the 1970s. This plan endorsed state-sponsored terror to control what was perceived to be the threat of communism and eliminate subversive sectors of society.

Operation Condor’s targets were activists, organizers, and opponents of the dictatorships the U.S. helped set up in the region. Two prominent presidents in Latin America, Panama’s Omar Torrijos and Ecuador’s Jaime Roldos, strongly opposed the U.S. measures.

Roldos and Torrijos were both killed in a plane crash, and according to declassified CIA documents their deaths could have been connected to this plan, as other leftist leaders were also targeted throughout the region.

Investigators continue to believe that Roldos’ death is tied to a CIA operation in the country, since the president wanted to reorganize the hydrocarbon sector, a strong threat to U.S. interests in Ecuador.

CIA Going Deep

Among the agency’s less known activities include the infiltration of hundreds of its agents into diplomatic offices, political parties and military forces in Ecuador.

Agents at airports would report on passengers traveling to socialist countries such as Cuba and Russia, and mail sent to these countries was opened and recorded for the CIA to analyze. Any “special interest” guest in a hotel would be surveilled constantly. Even the medical staff in charge of President Velasco Ibarra reported on their weekly tasks to a CIA station in the country.

Spies kept extensive lists of data on targets such as full name, residences, workplace, phone number, preferred leisure activities and locations, hobbies, the name and dossier of spouses, and the names of schools attended by the children of targets, among other information.

Relevant information of interest to the agency was then passed onto U.S. headquarters.

The agency’s main targets at the time were the young socialist or communist political groups in universities. The Revolutionary Union of Ecuadorean Youth (URJE) was considered the most dangerous organization and the main target for destabilization, along with its parent party, the Communist Party of Ecuador.

Agents would infiltrate social groups and systematically work to discredit their popularity while fabricating or planting evidence to ensure that leaders were falsely prosecuted for crimes such as the bombing of right-wing political headquarters or even churches.

The CIA counted on the support of right-wing media outlets who published false information and didn’t question the sources or veracity of facts.

It was through such methods that the leftist movement lost unity and power in political and social spaces in the country.

Despite the documentation and testimonies verifying these activities, the CIA so far hasn’t acknowledged that its mission in the country also involved infiltrating social movements, radio stations, airlines, hotels and even hospitals.

New Methods, Same Strategy

The current Ecuadorean government has maintained that U.S. financial aid groups linked to the CIA are acting against leftist organizations in Latin American.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are seen by many as tools used by the U.S. government to advance their political, economic and social interests.

Many opposition groups and media networks in Latin America are funded by USAID, the NED or other U.S. based private and public institutions. In addition to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, other leftist presidents have denounced that these institutions are operating to destabilize their governments as was the case with the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and NED funding to opposition groups, and more recently the civil liberties groups behind the impeachment process against Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

According to President Correa, these organizations were acting politically to promote social unrest and opposition towards his government’s policies. In 2012, Correa threatened to kick out the USAID after accusing it of financing opposition groups and of involving itself the country’s internal politics.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are seen by many as tools used by the U.S. government to advance their political, economic and social interests.

Many opposition groups and media networks in Latin America are funded by USAID, the NED or other U.S. based private and public institutions. In addition to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, other leftist presidents have denounced that these institutions are operating to destabilize their governments as was the case with the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and NED funding to opposition groups, and more recently the civil liberties groups behind the impeachment process against Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.

According to President Correa, these organizations were acting politically to promote social unrest and opposition towards his government’s policies. In 2012, Correa threatened to kick out the USAID after accusing it of financing opposition groups and of involving itself the country’s internal politics.

He said other progressive governments were analyzing whether or not to take the same actions.

Some reports also indicated that President Rafael Correa could be targeted by the CIA, given his strong opposition to U.S. intervention in the country and region. Since taking office, he has closed a U.S. military base in Manta and expelled two U.S. diplomats who worked for the CIA. He has also given asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to Julian Assange.

As it did 50 years ago, the CIA continues to intervene and infiltrate through new methods and new assets in Ecuador.

Operation Condor: An Era of State Terror Made in Washington, DC

teleSUR

For those who opposed U.S.-backed dictatorships in South America, “Operation Condor” was either a living nightmare or a death sentence — or both.

Officially, Operation Condor was an intelligence-sharing arrangement that was established in 1975 among Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, later joined by Ecuador and Peru. However, it is now widely understood that the notorious Cold War-era “black operations” plan was masterminded, funded, and backed to the hilt by the U.S.A.

Operation Condor was the culmination of a U.S.-orchestrated campaign that entailed the ruthless silencing, murder, torture, and disappearance of tens of thousands of left-wing opponents of U.S. imperialism and the fascistic military dictatorships backed by the CIA and supported by infamous Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

As the U.S. renews its attempts to dislodge democratically-elected governments through various means in a continuation of its historic offensive against the popular movements of Latin America, we look back at the still-fresh memories of Operation Condor and the major human rights abuses perpetrated by Washington and its allies.

The logo of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is shown in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Declassified documents have revealed that U.S. security agencies viewed Operation Condor as a legitimate operation designed to "eliminate Marxist terrorist activities."
The logo of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is shown in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Declassified documents have revealed that U.S. security agencies viewed Operation Condor as a legitimate operation designed to “eliminate Marxist terrorist activities.” Photo:Reuters
According to the CIA "the consensus at the highest levels of the US Government was that an Allende Presidency would seriously hurt US national interests (in Chile)." In this photo, Supporters of President Salvador Allende are rounded up by General Augusto Pinochet
According to the CIA “the consensus at the highest levels of the US Government was that an Allende Presidency would seriously hurt US national interests (in Chile).” In this photo, Supporters of President Salvador Allende are rounded up by General Augusto Pinochet’s troops following the former’s ouster. Photo:EFE
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1976. Pinochet
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1976. Pinochet’s dictatorship lasted 17 years and claimed thousands of lives. Photo:Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Chile
Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner (L) and Chilean dictator Gen. Pinochet (R) wave to crowds in Santiago, Chile.
Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner (L) and Chilean dictator Gen. Pinochet (R) wave to crowds in Santiago, Chile. Photo:Reuters
In Bolivia, a CIA-backed military coup led to the overthrow of leftist President Juan Torres. Following the coup, dictator Hugo Banzer had over 2,000 political opponents arrested without trial, tortured, raped and executed.
In Bolivia, a CIA-backed military coup led to the overthrow of leftist President Juan Torres. Following the coup, dictator Hugo Banzer had over 2,000 political opponents arrested without trial, tortured, raped and executed.
Members of the "Madres de Plaza de Mayo" human rights organization hold a banner demanding information on their missing sons and daughters before marching from the Congress to the Presidential Palace, Oct. 28, 1982.
Members of the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo” human rights organization hold a banner demanding information on their missing sons and daughters before marching from the Congress to the Presidential Palace, Oct. 28, 1982. Photo:AFP
Worker being arrested during a protest against the Argentine dictatorship in Buenos Aires, March 30, 1982
Worker being arrested during a protest against the Argentine dictatorship in Buenos Aires, March 30, 1982 Photo:AFP
Photographs of the disappeared in Argentina.
Photographs of the disappeared in Argentina. Photo:Colección AGRA, Archivo Memoria Activa
Graffiti in Buenos Aires, 2011 demanding justice for victims of the "Dirty War" and a trial for the military junta.
Graffiti in Buenos Aires, 2011 demanding justice for victims of the “Dirty War” and a trial for the military junta. Photo:Wikipedia
One of the cells used during the reign of Paraguayan Dictator Alfredo Stroessner, now a museum in Asuncion dedicated to those murdered under Operation Condor.
One of the cells used during the reign of Paraguayan Dictator Alfredo Stroessner, now a museum in Asuncion dedicated to those murdered under Operation Condor. Photo:EFE
An exhibit of photographs displaying the victims of Operation Condor in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Sept. 23, 2014.
An exhibit of photographs displaying the victims of Operation Condor in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Sept. 23, 2014. Photo:EFE
An exhibit of images relating to human rights violations during Operation Condor in Sao Paolo, Brazil, September 23, 2014.
An exhibit of images relating to human rights violations during Operation Condor in Sao Paolo, Brazil, September 23, 2014. Photo:EFE
Argentine forensic expert Rogelio Agustin Goiburu (r.) of human rights group
Argentine forensic expert Rogelio Agustin Goiburu (r.) of human rights group ‘Verdad, Justicia y Reparacion’ (Truth, Justice and Amends) works with others to excavate human remains discovered in the grounds of a police barracks in Asuncion, Paraguay in August 2010. The skeletal remains of 11 people were found based on information that they were victims of the government of General Alfredo Stroessner, dictator from 1954 to 1989. Photo:Reuters
Flowers are left behind on the memorial of disappeared persons at a general cemetery in Santiago, Chile.
Flowers are left behind on the memorial of disappeared persons at a general cemetery in Santiago, Chile. Photo:Reuters
Former Argentine dictator and general, Rafael Videla (2-R) and other defendants are seen during their trials to investigate crimes committed during Operation Condor, in Buenos Aires.
Former Argentine dictator and general, Rafael Videla (2-R) and other defendants are seen during their trials to investigate crimes committed during Operation Condor, in Buenos Aires. Photo:AFP
Former Argentine military members Santiago Riveros (2-L) and Eugenio Guanabens (C) are seen in Buenos Aires in 2013 among other defendants during their trials over crimes committed during Operation Condor.
Former Argentine military members Santiago Riveros (2-L) and Eugenio Guanabens (C) are seen in Buenos Aires in 2013 among other defendants during their trials over crimes committed during Operation Condor. Photo:AFP
A man holds a sign with the image of Chile
A man holds a sign with the image of Chile’s late former president Salvador Allende during the May Day demonstration in Valparaiso city, Chile, May 1, 2016. Photo:Reuters
A group of victims of the Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay meet in downtown Asuncion, February 2, 2013.
A group of victims of the Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay meet in downtown Asuncion, February 2, 2013. Photo:EFE
Protester holds sign listing deceased dictators that notes "One common past, one destination."
Protester holds sign listing deceased dictators that notes “One common past, one destination.” Photo:Reuters
Brazilians take part in an annual national march commemorating the anniversary of the 1964 coup, which overthrew President Joao Goulart from the progressive Labor Party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016.
Brazilians take part in an annual national march commemorating the anniversary of the 1964 coup, which overthrew President Joao Goulart from the progressive Labor Party in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016. Photo:Reuters
A woman holds up a portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama with the words "persona non grata" during a demonstration to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Argentina
A woman holds up a portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama with the words “persona non grata” during a demonstration to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Argentina’s 1976 military coup in Buenos Aires, March 24, 2016. Under Barack Obama’s tenure, Brazil has seen the installation of a new, unelected, and unpopular right-wing coup government.

Declaration of the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Cuba on Brazil Coup

Cuba MINREX

Sitio oficial del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba

August 31, 2016


The Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Cuba strongly rejects the parliamentary and judicial coup d’état perpetrated against President Dilma Rousseff.

The Government’s estrangement from the President, without presenting any evidence of corruption or crimes of responsibility against her, as well as from the Workers’ Party (PT) and other left-wing allied political forces, is an act of defiance against the sovereign will of the people who voted for her.

The governments headed by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff implemented a socio-economic model that made it possible for Brazil to take a step forward in areas such as production growth with social inclusion, the creation of jobs, the fight against poverty, the eradication of extreme poverty among more than 35 million Brazilians who used to live in inhumane conditions and income increase for another 40 million; the expansion of opportunities in the areas of education and health for the people, including those sectors who had been previously marginalized. During this period, Brazil has been an active promoter of Latin American and Caribbean integration.  The defeat of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), the celebration of the Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development (CALC) which led to the creation of CELAC and foundation of UNASUR are transcendental events in the recent history of the region which show the leading role played by that country.

Likewise, Brazil’s approach to the Third World nations, particularly Africa; its active membership in the BRICS Group (made up by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); and its performance at the United Nations Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); and the World Trade Organization, among others, are an acknowledgement of its international leadership.

Equally praiseworthy has been Brazil’s performance under the Workers’ Party governments in crucial international issues for the defense of peace, development, the environment and the programs against hunger.

The efforts made by Lula and Dilma to reform the political system and organize the funding of parties and their campaigns as well as in support of the investigations started against corruption and the independence of the institutions responsible for such investigations are too well known.

The forces that are currently exercising power have announced the privatization of deep water oil reserves and social programs curtailments. Likewise, they are proclaiming a foreign policy focused on the relations with the big international centers of power. Quite a few among those who are impeaching the President are currently under investigation for acts of corruption.

What happened in Brazil is another expression of the offensive of imperialism and the oligarchy against the revolutionary and progressive governments of Latin America and the Caribbean which threatens peace and stability of nations and is contrary to the spirit and the letter of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed at the Second CELAC Summit in January, 2014, in Havana by the Heads of State and Government of the region.

Cuba reiterates its solidarity with President Dilma and comrade Lula as well as with the Worker’s Party, and is confident that the Brazilian people will defend the social achievements that have been attained and will resolutely oppose the neoliberal policies that others may try to impose on them and the plundering of its natural resources.

Havana, August 31, 2016.

 

Further reading: Neoliberal Offensive and the Death of Democracy in Brazil

 

 

FLASHBACK | Conservation International: Privatizing Nature, Plundering Biodiversity

conservation-international

Seedling | Grain

October 2003

by Aziz Choudry

Conservation International’s corporate sponsor list reads like a list of the US’ top fifty transnational corporations. Biodiversity conservation is at the top of Conservation International’s list of goals. But as the list of Conservation International’s dubious ventures and questionable partners around the world grows, Aziz Choudry is starting to wonder if it is time to ‘out’ this ‘multinational conservation corporation’ and show its true colours.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C, with operations in over 30 countries on four continents, Conservation International claims to be an environmental NGO. Its mission is “to conserve the Earth’s living natural heritage, our global biodiversity, and to demonstrate that human societies are able to live harmoniously with nature.” [1] This all sounds very laudable and Conservation International has some very high profile fans. This year Colin Powell shared the podium with Conservation International President Russell Mittermeier at the launch of the Bush Administration’s “Initiative Against Illegal Logging” at the US State Department. In December 2001, Gordon Moore, who founded Intel Corporation, donated US $261 million to Conservation International, supposedly the largest grant ever to an environmental organisation. Moore is chairman of Conservation International’s executive committee. Conservation International has repaid Moore’s largesse by nam-ing an endangered Brazilian pygmy owl after him. [2]

Who is Shaking Up Brazil and Why

A demonstrator holds a Brazilian flag in front of a burning barricade during a protest in Rio de Janeiro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 17, 2013. Protesters massed in at least seven Brazilian cities Monday for another round of demonstrations voicing disgruntlement about life in the country, raising questions about security during big events like the current Confederations Cup and a papal visit next month. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

By Nil Nikandrov

The mass street protests in Brazil continue. Most of the protesters do not belong to any party and have no leaders with whom the authorities could negotiate about the demands being made. It all began with a flare-up of discontent among Brazilians from the middle class and residents of poor neighborhoods with a hike in public transportation fares. Fares were high to begin with, and the most recent fare hike was met with indignation from city dwellers who do not have their own cars.

BRAZIL: MUNDURUKU CHIEF CLARIFIES REDD CONTRACT FARSE with Celestial Green Ventures

By human and natural rights activist, Rebecca Sommer

Source: Earth Peoples

March 27, 2012

It created waves of headlines around the world when the Munduruku, an Indigenous nation of approximately 13000 living in the state Para, Brazil, signed a carbon credit sales contract (REDD) with Celestial Green Ventures.

Photo © Rebecca Sommer

But it wasn’t the community, that signed the contract.

I uncovered this fact during my 2 1/2 month visit in the state of Para where I was investigating the Belo Monte dam issue. Upon hearing the announcement, I called a human rights and climate justice colleague Marquinho Mora from the organization Faor, who informed me that the Munduruku community was indeed very confused about the news themselves.

Interestingly, at the same time I was able to get my hands on 3 REDD contracts signed between Indigenous nations in Altamira area, and an criminal individual, by the name Benedito Milenio Junior.

Yet Milenio did not sign on behalf of his company, he signed as an individual, with no references to the company he claimed to the indigenous chiefs he represented.

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