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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.

 

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.

Historic Speech by Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, in the UN [Video: Spanish & English]

Semana

September 25, 2013

PRONUNCIAMIENTOEl presidente de Uruguay impactó con su intervención a los demás mandatarios reunidos en la Asamblea General.

JoseMujica

José Mujica durante el debate general de la 68 Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas en la sede de esta organización en Nueva York, Estados Unidos. Foto: EFE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Amigos todos, soy del Sur, vengo del Sur”, se presentó con simpleza el martes el presidente uruguayo José Mujica, sorprendiendo a la Asamblea General de la ONU con un discurso poético en el que destrozó al capitalismo salvaje y la situación mundial actual.

Como si estuviese cantando “Cambalache”, el célebre tango del poeta Enrique Santos Discépolo que pinta un mundo en decadencia, Mujica entregó a los líderes mundiales reunidos en Nueva York una visión oscura de los tiempos que corren.

“Soy del Sur y vengo del Sur a esta asamblea. Cargo con los millones de compatriotas pobres en las ciudades, páramos, selvas, pampas y socavones de la América Latina, patria común que está haciéndose”, afirmó Mujica, de 78 años, en la gran cita anual de Naciones Unidas.

“Cargo con las culturas originarias aplastadas, con los restos del colonialismo en Malvinas, con bloqueos inútiles a ese caimán bajo el sol del Caribe que se llama Cuba. Cargo con las consecuencias de la vigilancia electrónica que no hace otra cosa que generar desconfianza”, agregó, enumerando algunos de las grandes cuestiones de la región.

Ante las miradas cómplices de las delegaciones latinoamericanas que ya lo conocen y la estupefacción de las de África, Medio Oriente o Asia, Mujica criticó el orden económico mundial actual con metáforas y no tanto.

“Hemos sacrificado los viejos dioses inmateriales y ocupamos el templo con el dios mercado. Él nos organiza la economía, la política, los hábitos, la vida y hasta nos financia en cuotas y tarjetas la apariencia de felicidad”, afirmó.

“Parecería que hemos nacido sólo para consumir y consumir”, martilló, señalando que si la humanidad aspirase a “vivir como un norteamericano medio” serían necesarios “tres planetas”.

“El hombrecito promedio de nuestras grandes ciudades deambula entre las financieras y el tedio rutinario de las oficinas, a veces atemperadas con aire acondicionado. Siempre sueña con las vacaciones y la libertad, siempre sueña con concluir las cuentas. Hasta que un día el corazón se para y adiós, dijo.

“Sería imperioso lograr grandes consensos para desatar solidaridad hacia los más oprimidos, castigar impositivamente el despilfarro y la especulación”, sostuvo Mujica, más como una expresión de deseo que como una propuesta.

“Tal vez nuestra visión es demasiado cruda, sin piedad”.

Mujica, un exguerrillero que sobrevivió a casi 14 años de cautiverio en manos de la dictadura militar (1973-1985), asumió en 2010 como el segundo presidente de izquierda en la historia de su país.

El mandatario ha atraído la atención en el mundo por algunas medidas impulsadas por él o aprobadas en su gobierno como la legalización del aborto, el matrimonio igualitario, así como por el proyecto de legalización de marihuana

Este singular cóctel ha hecho que figuras de la política y del espectáculo hayan citado y elogiado a Mujica, que en Nueva York debía ser seguido de cerca por el cineasta serbio Emir Kusturica que filmará un documental sobre él.

Ante la ONU, el mandatario aseguró que la humanidad entró en otra época aceleradamente, “pero con políticos, atavíos culturales, partidos y jóvenes, todos viejos ante la pavorosa acumulación de cambios que ni siquiera podemos registrar”.

“Tal vez nuestra visión es demasiado cruda, sin piedad”, admitió en una breve pausa a su devastador panorama.

Lo cierto es que nadie se salvó en su discurso, y si bien habló de la ONU como una organización “creada como una esperanza y un sueño de paz para la humanidad”, dijo que el planeta tiene “una democracia planetaria herida”.

El final de su alocución no fue mucho más optimista: “Necesitamos gobernarnos a nosotros mismos o sucumbiremos; sucumbiremos porque no somos capaces de estar a la altura de la civilización que en los hechos fuimos desarrollando. Este es nuestro dilema”.

Vea aquí el discurso completo:

[With English Translation]

[Spanish Only]

 

WATCH: Jose Mujica, President d’Uruguai. Canviar la Vida (English Subtitles)

 

 

 “I’m not just a peasant. I am also the president.”

mujica image

The Sunday Times, January 2013 – ALONG a dirt road on the outskirts of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, stands a ramshackle house with chipped walls and a 26-year-old car parked outside. This is the home of the man who runs the country.

Jose Mujica, a 77-year-old former left-wing guerrilla, is earning an international reputation as a pauper president who steadfastly refuses to accept any trappings of power. Read full article here.

 

Latin America | WATCH: Uruguay President Jose Mujica – The World’s Least Selfish President

Imagine if all world “leaders” truly led by such example …

Jose Mujica: The world’s ‘poorest’ president

By Vladimir Hernandez

BBC Mundo, Montevideo

Jose Mujica and his dogs outside his home

 

It’s a common grumble that politicians’ lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate. Not so in Uruguay. Meet the president – who lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay.

Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.

This is the residence of the president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, whose lifestyle clearly differs sharply from that of most other world leaders.

President Mujica has shunned the luxurious house that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and opted to stay at his wife’s farmhouse, off a dirt road outside the capital, Montevideo.

The president and his wife work the land themselves, growing flowers.

This austere lifestyle – and the fact that Mujica donates about 90% of his monthly salary, equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500), to charity – has led him to be labelled the poorest president in the world.

“I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

“I’ve lived like this most of my life,” he says, sitting on an old chair in his garden, using a cushion favoured by Manuela the dog.

“I can live well with what I have.”

His charitable donations – which benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs – mean his salary is roughly in line with the average Uruguayan income of $775 (£485) a month.

President Mujica's VW Beetle All the president’s wealth – a 1987 VW Beetle

 

In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration – mandatory for officials in Uruguay – was $1,800 (£1,100), the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.

This year, he added half of his wife’s assets – land, tractors and a house – reaching $215,000 (£135,000).

That’s still only about two-thirds of Vice-President Danilo Astori’s declared wealth, and a third of the figure declared by Mujica’s predecessor as president, Tabare Vasquez.

Elected in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution.

He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.

Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life.

Tupamaros: Guerrillas to government

Jose Mujica - in silhouette - speaking at a rally to commemorate the formation of the Frente Amplio

 

-Left-wing guerrilla group formed initially from poor sugar cane workers and students

-Named after Inca king Tupac Amaru

-Key tactic was political kidnapping – UK ambassador Geoffrey Jackson held for eight months in 1971

-Crushed after 1973 coup led by President Juan Maria Bordaberry

-Mujica was one of many rebels jailed, spending 14 years behind bars – until constitutional government returned in 1985

-He played key role in transforming Tupamaros into a legitimate political party, which joined the Frente Amplio (broad front) coalition

“I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” he says.

“This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself,” he says.

“I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”

The Uruguayan leader made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June this year: “We’ve been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty.

“But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?

“Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet.”

Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a “blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world”.

Tabare Vasquez, his supporters and relatives on a balcony at Uruguay's official presidential residence Mujica could have followed his predecessors into a grand official residence

 

But however large the gulf between the vegetarian Mujica and these other leaders, he is no more immune than they are to the ups and downs of political life.

“Many sympathise with President Mujica because of how he lives. But this does not stop him for being criticised for how the government is doing,” says Ignacio Zuasnabar, a Uruguayan pollster.

The Uruguayan opposition says the country’s recent economic prosperity has not resulted in better public services in health and education, and for the first time since Mujica’s election in 2009 his popularity has fallen below 50%.

This year he has also been under fire because of two controversial moves. Uruguay’s Congress recently passed a bill which legalised abortions for pregnancies up to 12 weeks. Unlike his predecessor, Mujica did not veto it.

President Mujica's house Instead, he chose to stay on his wife’s farm

He is also supporting a debate on the legalisation of the consumption of cannabis, in a bill that would also give the state the monopoly over its trade.

“Consumption of cannabis is not the most worrying thing, drug-dealing is the real problem,” he says.

However, he doesn’t have to worry too much about his popularity rating – Uruguayan law means he is not allowed to seek re-election in 2014. Also, at 77, he is likely to retire from politics altogether before long.

When he does, he will be eligible for a state pension – and unlike some other former presidents, he may not find the drop in income too hard to get used to.

March 2010

Envío

Managua, Nicaragua

“At The Heart of Uruguayan Democracy, Surrounded by Thinking Heads”

On March 1 (2010), José “Pepe” Mujica took office as the President of Uruguay. He is a former Tupac Amaru guerrilla fighter, who later became a senator, congressman and minister in different governments and is another “invictus” of contemporary history. This speech, which he gave to his country’s intellectuals during the campaign, explains a whole program for reflection, action and life.

 

José Mujica

Dear friends, life has been extraordinarily generous to me. It has given me endless satisfactions beyond my wildest dreams. Almost all of them are undeserved, but none more so than the one I have today: finding myself here now at the heart of Uruguayan democracy, surrounded by hundreds of thinking heads. Thinking heads on the left and right! Thinking heads all over the place, loads and loads of thinking heads…

Do you remember Scrooge McDuck, Donald’s millionaire uncle who swam in a pool full of bank notes? The guy had developed a physical sensuality for money. I like to think of myself as someone who likes to bathe in swimming pools full of other people’s intelligence, culture and wisdom. The more alien the better. The less they coincide with my limited knowledge, the better. The weekly newspaper Búsqueda has a beautiful phrase it uses as an insignia: “What I say I don’t say as a knowing man, but rather looking together with you.” For once we agree. Yes, we’ll agree!

I don’t say what I say as a know-all small farmer or a well-read gaucho minstrel; I say it searching together with you. I say it searching, because only the ignorant believe the truth is definitive and solid, when really it’s only temporary and gelatinous. It has to be sought out because it goes running from hiding place to hiding place. And woe to anyone who hunts alone. It has to be done with you, with those who have made intellectual work their raison d’être, those who are here and the many more who aren’t.

From all the disciplines

If you look to the side you’ll surely see some familiar faces because these are people from related areas of work. But you’ll see many more unknown faces, because the rule of this convocation has been heterogeneity. The people here include those dedicated to working with atoms and molecules and those dedicated to studying the rules of production and exchange in society. There are people from the basic sciences and from the social sciences, which is almost its opposite; there are people from biology and the theater, as well as from music, education, law and the carnival.

And to ensure that nobody is missing, there are people from economics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, compara¬tive economics and even someone from domestic economics. All of them are thinking heads, but they are thinking about different things and can help improve this country from their different disciplines. Improving this country means many things, but from the emphases we want for this session, it means pushing the complex processes that multiply the intellectual power gathered here a thousand times. It means that in 20 years an event like this won’t fit in the Centenary Stadium, because Uruguay will be swamped with engineers, philosophers and artists.

It isn’t that we want a country that breaks world records for the pure pleasure of doing so. It’s because it has been demonstrated that once intelligence acquires a certain degree of concentration in a society it becomes contagious.

Distributed intelligence

If one day we fill stadiums with professionally trained people it will be because outside, in society, hundreds of thousands of Uruguayans have cultivated their capacity to think. The intelligence that provides benefits to a country is distributed intelligence; it isn’t just confined to laboratories or universities, but circulates in the streets. It’s the kind of intelligence used to sow, use a lathe, drive a forklift truck or program a computer, as well as to cook or to properly attend to a tourist’s needs. Some will climb up more rungs than others, but it’s the same ladder and the lower rungs are the same ones used for both nuclear physics and managing a field. What is needed for all of this is the same curious look, hungry for knowledge and unsatisfied. It ends up knowing, because previously we knew enough to feel uncomfortable with not knowing. We learn because we have an itch acquired through cultural contagion almost as soon as we open our eyes to the world.

I dream of a country in which parents show their little children grass and ask them, “Do you know what this is? It’s a plant that processes the sun’s energy and the earth’s minerals.” Or show them the starry sky and use that spectacle to make them think about the celestial bodies, the speed of light and the transmission of waves. And don’t worry; those little Uruguayans are still going to play soccer. It’s just that at some point as they watch the ball bouncing, they can also think about the elasticity of the materials that makes it bounce.

The capacity for self-questioning

There’s a saying, “Don’t give a child fish, teach him to fish.” Today we should be saying, “Don’t give a child a fact, teach him to think.” The way we’re going, the deposits of knowledge aren’t going to be inside our heads any more, but rather outside, available to be looked up on the internet. All the information is going to be there, all the facts, everything that’s already known. In other words, all the answers.

But what won’t be there is all of the questions. What’s going to matter will be the capacity for self-questioning, the capacity to formulate fertile questions that trigger new research and learning efforts. And that can be found down here, almost etched on our skulls, so deep down we’re almost unaware of it. We simply have to learn to look at the world with a question mark, and it becomes the natural way of looking.

It’s something we acquire early on and that remains with us for life. And above all, dear friends, it’s contagious. Throughout time, it has been you, those who dedicate themselves to intellectual activity, who have been responsible for scattering the seed. Or to put it in words that mean a lot to us, you’ve been responsible for setting off the admirable alarm. Please, go forth and infect.

Don’t spare anyone! We need a kind of culture that’s propagated in the air, among households, that slips into kitchens and is even in the bathroom. When that happens, the game is almost won forever, because it breaks the basic ignorance that makes many weak, generation after generation.

Knowledge is pleasure

We need to spread intelligence, first and foremost to turn us into more powerful producers. And that’s almost a question of survival. But in this life, it’s not just about producing; you also have to enjoy.

You know better than anyone that both effort and pleasure are involved in knowledge and culture. They say that the people who jog along La Rambla reach a kind of ecstasy where tiredness no longer exists, only pleasure. I believe the same is true with knowledge and culture. There comes a point in which studying or researching or learning is no longer an effort and becomes pure enjoyment. It would be so good for such delicacies to be available to many people!

How good it would be if the quality of life basket that Uruguay can offer its people were to have a good number of intellectual consumer items. Not because it would be elegant, but because it’s pleasurable; it’s something that can be enjoyed with the same intensity as eating a plate of noodles.

There’s no obligatory list of things that make us happy! Some may think of the ideal world as a place full of shopping centers where people are happy because everyone can leave loaded down with bags of new clothes and boxes of electrical appliances… I have nothing against that vision; I’m just saying it isn’t the only one possible. I’m saying we can also think about a country in which people choose to fix things rather than throw them out, can have a small car rather than a big one, can wrap up warmer rather than turning up the heat.

The most mature societies don’t squander. Go to the Netherlands and you’ll see cities full of bicycles. You’ll realize there that consumerism isn’t the choice of humanity’s real aristocracy. It’s the choice of novelty-lovers and the frivolous.

The Dutch also get around by bicycle. They use them not only to go to work but also to go to concerts and parks, because they’ve reached a level where their day-to-day happiness is fed by both material and intellectual consumptions. So, my friends, go and spread the pleasure provided by knowledge, while my modest contribution will be to try to get Uruguayans to take bike ride after bike ride…

With nonconformity

I asked you before to spread a curious look at the world, which is in the very DNA of intellectual work. And now I’m extending that request and begging you to spread independence. I’m convinced that this country needs a new epidemic of dissidence like the one intellectuals generated decades ago. In Uruguay, those of us in the leftist political arena are the children or nephews and nieces of the great Carlos Quijano’s weekly newspaper Marcha.

That generation of intellectuals took on the task of being the nation’s conscience. They went around with pins in their hands bursting balloons and deflating myths, particularly the myth that Uruguay was a multi-champion: the champion of culture, education, social development and democracy.

Like we were going to be champions of anything! Much less during those years, in the fifties and sixties, when the only record we knew how to compete for was the Latin American country with the least growth in 20 years. Only Haiti ranked higher than us on that.

Those intellectuals helped demolish that Uruguay of the conformist siesta. With all its defects, we prefer this stage, where we are humbler and more aware of our real stature in the world. But we have to recover that dissatisfaction and try to get it under the skin of the whole of Uruguay.

I told you earlier that the intelligence that works for a country is distributed intelligence. Now I’m telling you that the nonconformity that works for a country is distributed nonconformity, the kind that invades everyday life and pushes us to wonder whether we can’t find a better way of doing whatever we’re doing.

Nonconformity is part of the very nature of the work you do and it needs to become second nature for all of us. A culture of nonconformity is one that doesn’t let us stop until we achieve more kilos per hectare of wheat or more liters of milk per cow. Everything, absolutely everything, can be done a little better today than it was yesterday, from making a hotel bed to making an integrated circuit. We need an epidemic of nonconformity. And that’s also culture; it’s also something that’s irradiated from the intellectual center of society to its periphery.

Nonconformity is what has won respect for small societies and what they do. Take the Swiss, a handful of crazy people, just like us, who allow themselves the luxury of going around selling Swiss quality or Swiss precision. I’d say that what they’re really selling is Swiss intelligence and nonconformity, which they’ve scattered throughout their society.

Education is the way

And friends, the bridge between today and the tomorrow we want to see has a name; it’s called education. You can see that it’s a long, difficult bridge to cross, because education rhetoric is one thing and deciding to make the sacrifices imvolved in launching a great educational effort and sustaining it over time is quite another.

Investments in education produce slow yields and thus don’t put a shine on any government; they rather generate resistance by forcing the postponement of other demands. But it has to be done. We owe it to our children and grandchildren. And it has to be done now, when the technological miracle of the Internet is still fresh and never-before-seen opportunities to access knowledge are opening up.

I grew up with the radio and witnessed the birth of television, followed by color television and satellite transmission. Then 40 channels appeared on my television, including ones transmitted live from the United States, Spain and Italy. Then came cell phones and computers, which at first only served to process numbers. And each time, it left my mouth agape.

But now with the Internet my capacity for surprise has been exhausted. I feel like those humans who saw a wheel or fire for the first time. You feel you were lucky enough to experience a historical milestone. The doors of all the libraries and museums are opening up; all scientific journals and all books in the world are going to be available, and probably all the films and the music in the world as well. It’s overwhelming.
So we need all Uruguayans, particularly little Uruguayans, to learn how to swim in that torrent. We have to climb aboard that current and navigate in it like a fish in water. We’ll achieve that if that intellectual matrix we mentioned earlier is solid, if our little ones know how to produce ordered reasoning and how to ask worthwhile questions. It’s like a race on two different tracks, up there in the information ocean and down here preparing for trans-Atlantic navigation.

Full-time schools, faculties in the country’s interior, mass tertiary education. And probably English in state education from pre-school level, because English isn’t just the language Yankees speak; it’s the language the Chinese use to communicate with the world. We can’t be on the outside. We can’t leave our little ones out in the cold. These are the tools that let us interact with the universal explosion of knowledge. This new world doesn’t simplify our life, it complicates it. It forces us to take education further and deeper. There’s no greater task facing us.

Idealism at the service of the State

Dear friends, we are in electoral times. In blessed and cursed electoral times. Cursed, because we fight and run races against each other. Blessed, because they allow us to live in civilized coexistence. And blessed once again because despite all their imperfections, they make us the masters of our own fate. All of us here have learned that the worst democracy is preferable to the best dictatorship.

In electoral times, we all organize in groups, factions and parties; we surround ourselves with technicians and professionals and parade before the sovereign. There’s adrenaline and enthusiasm. But afterwards, someone wins and someone loses. And that shouldn’t be a drama. With one set of people or another, Uruguayan democracy will continue on its path and find the formulae to take it towards wellbeing. We’ll be trying to lend a hand wherever we’re needed. And I’m sure the same is true of you as well.

Society, the State and the government require your many talents and require even more your idealistic attitude. Those of us here went into politics to serve, not so the State would serve our interests. Good faith is our only intransigence. Almost everything else is negotiable. Thank you for accompanying me.

 

 

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