Taking on anti-ALBA bias in European public media – the Swedish case

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By Tortilla con Sal, June 25th 2015
Published in teleSUR English.

Last week, a number of people in Sweden signed an open letter titled “We reject Swedish Radio’s (SR) Coverage on Latin American”. Among the signatories were long standing activist in the solidarity movement with Cuba, Eva Björklund, journalist Dick Emanuelsson, film-maker Maj Wechselmann and editor Al Burke, as well as scores of other journalists, activists, and media consumers.

“SR’s coverage of the situation in Venezuela – as well as the rest of the region – is superficial, ignorant, biased and insidious”, the signatories wrote. They were reacting against a foreign affairs program which conveyed the message that many people in Venezuela are starving because of the Bolivarian government’s alleged incompetence.

Incredibly, that report was broadcast the same week that the Venezuelan government had been awarded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for its outstanding efforts and achievements in the field of food security.

Before last week’s pronouncement, a group of Latin American women headed by respected scholars and activists, wrote another statement criticizing Swedish Radio because it broadcast another report stating that “Latin American women always have used their wombs in order to make their voices heard”.

Criticizing Swedish Radio’s Latin America reporter Lotten Collin, the women wrote, “Besides attempting to minimize a whole continent’s struggle she [Collin] even invisibilizes the political consciousness and stances behind Latin American women’s five-centuries-old political commitment”.

These two recent pronouncements reflect a growing irritation among both Latin Americans and friends of Latin America in Sweden that no change seems to be in sight to the decades-long subservience of the this Scandinavian country’s media to NATO’s psychological warfare agenda, whether against Latin America or the Russian Federation, or whoever may be NATO’s latest target.

But as more people travel and communicate globally, far beyond regional borders, it becomes ever more difficult for publicly funded media, like Swedish public radio, to cover up persistent betrayals of its original mission. Instead of serving tax payers’ interests through fairly objective and pluralist coverage, what these media actually do is varnish over very ugly, reactionary messages with often inept journalism and pseudo-progressive editorial policy.

Swedish Radio abandons its claims on listeners’ credibility with perplexing reporting on various countries. For example, on Argentina, it has aired an interview with the leader of the Grandmothers of the May Square in Argentina. But, the very next day, without even basic context, it might report as news the most absurd opposition lies about President Cristina Fernandez. Or, similarly, on Colombia, it will broadcast a report on Swedish pension funds financing corporate mining operations that kill or evict whole aborigine societies.

That scandal is something of an open secret in Sweden. Yet the very next day Swedish Radio will broadcast, as if it were an equally serious news report, Alvaro Uribe’s well-worn propaganda that the Colombian ELN guerrillas “forcibly recruit” young people and children. But the ELN have survived constant guerilla warfare against an army supported by US military intelligence and the CIA since 1964. The chances are precisely zero of a semi-urban underground guerrilla army like the ELN, facing constant persecution, voluntarily exposing its members by forcibly recruiting anybody, let alone teenagers.

Turning to Central America, on Nicaragua, Swedish Radio’s reporter Lotten Collin has said extremely damaging things, among them that the country is under the unelected control of president Daniel Ortega’s wife, Sandinista leader Rosario Murillo. Collin has reported that Daniel Ortega is “sickly”, despite overwhelming evidence being readily available, for example on YouTube, of President Ortega’s public activities over recent years right up to the present, including his forceful intervention in the Summit of the Americas in Panama this year.

To be honest, it has to be acknowledged that Lotten Collin has not invented this insidious style of pseudo-journalism. She is simply following in the footsteps of Swedish Radio’s previous Latin America reporter, Lars Palmgren. Back in 2002, Palmgren revealed his ideological commitments when he cheered on the short-lived, abortive coup against President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Today, irritation in Sweden about such a biased coverage by publicly funded media is materializing into collective action. A number of the signatories of the open letter last week decided to start SRLatinamerikaWatch, a Facebook page dedicated to critically audit Swedish Radio’s coverage of Latin America. This is how the group itself describes it in is page:

Why just Swedish Radio’s coverage? Most media in Sweden convey a negative view of the region.

But Swedish Radio is the country’s largest public service media. One cannot expect that privately owned media such as [right-wing national newspapers] DN or SVD to have the common good as a priority, but media financed by the public should not spread any message they fancy –their activities are regulated, they have an explicit demand of neutrality and objectivity – demands that are routinely ignored by SR as well as other publicly owned media in Sweden.

Against this media abuse, we citizens must exert our power to demand information that is free from Corporate as well as State propaganda. The elites think they control us citizens because it is we who time after time vote for their representatives, but we will show them that they no longer represent us. It is we citizens who are watching them.”

What has happened in the case of Sweden’s publicly funded media is by no means an isolated example. Time after time in moments of controversy, European publicly funded media, most notoriously in English, the BBC, broadcast often egregious falsehoods. They do so against a broad editorial context of very clear bias against the progressive governments of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

That is just as true of Brazil and Argentina as it is of the ALBA bloc of countries, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, and as it has been too of Cuba for over 50 years. The outspoken example of Sweden’s Latin America activists in tackling that self-evident ideological bias in their country’s news media is not just worth following, but worth emulating in other countries too.

Original article:
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/bloggers/Taking-on-Anti-ALBA-Bias-in-European-Media–the-Swedish-Case-20150625-0002.html

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A visit with some of the women imprisoned for miscarriage in El Salvador

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In late March, an SOAW delegation visited El Salvador.The delegation had many moving meetings and events but was especially touched by the stories of impoverished mothers and women serving lengthy prison sentences as a result of having had miscarriages or stillbirths. Roy Bourgeois had heard the stories of these women and requested to visit them, which he and five others of the delegation were able to do.Here are some of their stories:

Esperanza (name changed to protect her identity) is from rural El Salvador. She is very shy but in her eyes and her face we can see her intense pain.She has one son and was pregnant with her second child when she started bleeding heavily.She sought medical attention and was accused of abortion and then aggravated homicide, even though she had simply miscarried.She has now spent 8 years in prison and not been able to see her son the entire time. This causes her great pain.His grandmother is caring for him. Maria has 22 more years to go and will have missed her son’s entire childhood by the time she is set to be released.

Alba was five months pregnant when she received the news about the death of her mother and this caused her to go into shock and miscarry. She began bleeding and she fainted.She has two daughters that are in their grandparents’ care as Alba has been in prison for 5 years. While in jail her only brother died and she could not be in his funeral.Alba said that most of the times she doesn’t want to talk about what happened to her because it is too painful. In a quiet voice she told us that the women imprisoned for miscarriage are threatened and intimidated by the guards and told they should not be talking about their situation, especially when people from out of the country are in solidarity with them. Her homicide sentence has so many irregularities that it even refers to a male involved in a shooting, not a woman who lost a baby, as if it had been copy and pasted from another homicide case.

Francisca is 31 years old and has been in jail for 8 years.She has one son and in 2007 she was eagerly awaiting her second baby.She planned her pregnancy and was excited to have her second child. But she will never forget what happened to her on July 13, 2007.She was nearing the end of her ninth month of pregnancy and was dreaming about her new baby.Her family was also happily looking forward to the baby.That day she started feeling strong pain. She was at work so she went home to find someone to go to the hospital with her, but nobody was there. The contractions increased and she was alone so she called the police to come help her get to the hospital.She waited but the police did not arrive.It was a rainy late afternoon and it began to get dark.Still waiting for the police to come, she slipped heading to the bathroom and subsequently fainted as the baby came out. When she came to, she was in jail. The police – whom she had called to come take her to the hospital – eventually came but upon finding her passed out took her to jail and accused her of abortion.Apart from the horrific trauma of having lost her baby during childbirth, she was then accused of aggravated homicide and sentenced to decades in jail.

Isabel is just 30 years old but has already spent 12 of those years in jail. When Isabel entered the jail she was beaten by the other inmates. She miscarried during her first pregnancy and due to her 30-year sentence, she is sad she will never have the opportunity to have a child.

Finally we hear from Maria Teresa, 33 years old and sentenced to the longest time in jail – 40 years. She is sentenced to 40 years in jail. She is from Mejicanos, San Salvador. “Nothing is impossible for God” she said and she is hopeful that she will get out of this place. She recalls that very early in the morning of November 24, 2011 she felt like going to the bathroom when she saw that she was profusely bleeding. She fainted and her family called for help. She remembers waking up at the hospital and being told her that she has being accused of aggravated murder. She was imploring “I did not kill anyone”. She had not even know she was pregnant. Maria Teresa has another child, 9 years old who is in the care of a grandparent. Maria Teresa is very worried about her child because she doesn’t know what can happen to him if something goes wrong with the elderly grandparent. She wants to hug her son, she wants to be with him. With a so much pain in her voice she thanks us for our visit. Most of the women do not receive visitors. They are from families with very low income and just getting to the jail for a visit requires resources and money to travel.

When the time for the visit was over, we watched the 5 women return to their cells we felt like our hearts were also imprisoned.

The common denominator with all the women we met was poverty and lack of access to medical care.Many times it was the very police or hospital they hoped would help them get medical care that led to their imprisonment.For more background on these women and the law that is (mis)used to imprison them, read this Los Angeles Times article.

On April 23, 2015, 21 year old Carmelina Perez, who had been sentenced to 30 years in prison was found not guilty in a new trial and given her freedom after over a year in prison. Her lawyers had been able to get a re-trial because of irregularities in the original trial. On February 20, Guadalupe Vasquez was freed — after having spent 7 years in jail — when she was pardoned. Read Guadalupe’s story here.

Join in calling for freedom for the imprisoned women!

Source: http://soaw.org/component/content/article/4303

The Guardian on Nicaragua : high-intensity disinformation warfare

Tortilla con Sal , June 1st 2015

Among NATO’s psychological warfare outlets the UK Guardian occupies a special place as the fake-progressive mouthpiece of neocolonial English language news media. In recent years, Guardian writers and editors have been persistent propaganda shills for Nazi militias and death squads in Ukraine and for Al Qaeda and related terror groups in both Libya and Syria. No surprise then that it should also have an almost endless record of propaganda attacks against the main member countries of ALBA – Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The latest disinformation offering has been an article by Nina Lakhani in the Guardian’s development pages targeting Nicaragua’s education system. The article’s title “Poverty in Nicaragua drives children out of school and into the workplace” could be applied to almost any country in the majority world as well as to countries in North America and Europe. It’s also worth noting that the Guardian’s development pages are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A recent survey of projects funded by the Microsoft tycoons’ NGO between 2003 and 2013 in Africa found out that only 12% of the USD 3 billion granted went directly to the target populations. The rest was invested in research centers for the expansion of European and US-American agribusiness corporations. Self-evidently, the Guardian has a vested interest in promoting a neocolonial perspective skewed in favour of corporate funded non-governmental views and against sovereign governments, especially anti-imperialist governments like those of the ALBA countries.

This particular Guardian article offers a helpful concrete example of how certain kinds of anti-ALBA country propaganda can work while still staying within the bounds of apparently progressive ideas and argument. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government education has transformed education in Nicaragua in many positive ways despite very significant difficulties. But the Guardian article tries to make the absolutely false case that Nicaragua has practically abandoned a large number of it’s school age population and lacks a serious commitment to improving the country’s education system. The article uses various propaganda tricks that depend entirely on readers’ likely ignorance of Nicaragua and the region.

Nina Lakhani starts her false argument with quotes from childen in Bluefields, a city on Nicaragua’s impoverished Caribbean Coast. One quote goes “My family can’t afford the books”. But nowhere in her article does Lakani report that in January 2007, the very first decision of the incoming Sandinista government under Daniel Ortega was to make health and education services free. No child in Nicaragua’s public school system needs to pay for their schoolbooks. School directors breaching the principle of free education face dismissal. Does Lakhani offer a quote from a local school director? Of course not.

Similarly, Nina Lakhani’s disinformation exercise completely omits reporting mass national programmes by Nicaragua’s Sandinista government to guarantee at least one meal a day for children in school, to ensure the poorest children have shoes and a backpack for their books, to rehabilitate classrooms and classroom furniture, to consolidate literacy skills and to improve dental health. Apart from those important omissions, perhaps the most reprehensible feature of the Guardian article is that it cites figures that are mostly five years or more out of date.

This use of obsolete statistics effectively ignores the Nicaraguan government’s massive efforts to improve school attendance, diminish desertion, improve academic performance and promote better academic standards. Readily available World Bank data for some indicators is slightly more up to date and allows a fair comparison with Nicaragua’s neighbours. While it is certainly true that available recent statistics are patchy and make it hard to compare like with like, that does not mean a more current view is out of reach. In any case, data isolated from any comparative context are grossly misleading and are a long-standing disinformation specialty of corporate media writers on foreign affairs.

So Nina Lakhani’s false use of out-of-date data looks even more dishonest when Nicaragua’s indicators according to the World Bank for the period 2006 to 2013 are compared with its regional neighbours’. For example, in the area of primary education, Nicaragua’s indicators are generally better than those in Guatemala, somewhat behind Honduras and El Salvador and all four countries lag behind Costa Rica. However, in terms of indicators relating to secondary education, Nicaragua has generally similar or better indicators than Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and again all four lag behind Costa Rica.

Nina Lakhani’s insistence on the importance of reducing child labour so as to ensure good education for all children is certainly correct. But that is true throughout Central America, whose countries share many social characteristics derived from their history of colonial and neocolonial domination and economic under-development. In particular in Nicaragua, the school year has historically been scheduled around the coffee harvest from mid-December to late February when thousands of rural families migrate en bloc as families to pick coffee. As in most of Central America, Nicaraguan law allows children to start work at 14.

Since 2011, the Nicaragua government has implemented a series of measures aimed at preventing under-age children from working. In 2012 the government began an annual campaign coordinated by local municipal authorities, the Education Ministry, the Health Ministry and relevant labour unions to ensure children under 14 years old, accompanying their families picking coffee in Nicaragua’s main coffee growing areas, attend classes and educational activities. The national confederation of workers in the informal sector also works with the government in urban centres to keep school age children from working selling with their parents on the streets.

Child labour is a serious problem throughout Central America. But Lakhani’s article suggests the Nicaraguan government’s policy on child labour represents a unique failure. To make her false case, she cites old figures from the 2005 census that she compares with unreliable current estimates from Nicaragua’s business sector. Lakhani writes “Nicaragua has ratified multiple international treaties and has strong national policies, but government claims that it is reducing child labour are not supported by any published evidence.” But Lakhani applies a different standard to a business sector estimate “that there are between 250,000 and 320,000 child workers, with one in three under 14.

The link her report offers is to a video with off the cuff remarks at a press conference by business organization President José Adán Aguerri. His claim too is unsupported by any recent published evidence, but still Lakhani gives it more weight than government claims. By contrast, the Chair of the National Assembly’s Commision for Women Youth, Children and the Family, Carlos Emilio López, announced in 2013 a 10% drop in child labour in Nicaragua since 2005. Nina Lakhani mentions no reliable evidence to falsify that assertion.

She mentions an anecdotal case study by La Isla Foundation of 26 children in the sugar cane plantations aged between 12 and 17 which is virtually meaningless in the national context, but may perhaps reflect to some degree the reality in the sugar industry throughout the region, not just in Nicaragua. In that regional context, Nicaragua has a better record at protecting vulnerable children than its neighbours. In fact, the International Labour Organization representative in Nicaragua said in June 2014, “In the 2005 census, 53% of children working did not go to school, now that percentage is less than 15%.”

That statement by the ILO should be taken together with recent government data for education indicating substantial increases in matriculation numbers, lower figures for academic desertion, and better academic results generally. Likewise, Nicaragua’s Ministry of the Family’s mass campaign to help families ensure their children go to preschool is helping hundreds of thousands of children to get better early schooling. Bearing all that in mind, it is fair to say that the recent statements from the relevant responsible officials about the government’s committed implementation of education and family policies categorically contradict the Guardian’s misleading report. Nina Lakhani seems deliberately to omit highly relevant context supporting the government’s education policies in relation to child labour.

When she cites the most recent US government report saying, “The [Nicaraguan] government’s enforcement of labour laws is inadequate, and plans to combat child labour and protect children have not been fully implemented”, one has to assume she is making an extremely bad joke. The United States government, has overseen the fall of its child population into deep poverty for many years now and has zero authority to lecture another country about its record on child welfare. All the Central American governments are working to reduce child labour, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government especially.

Nina Lakhani’s baseless claim that the Nicaraguan government is failing to reduce child labour is not just grossly unfair given available evidence that she has chosen to ignore. A look at the budgetary history of Nicaragua’s spending on education since January 2007 also serves to confirm the falsity of the Guardian’s report. This calculation of education spending in Nicaragua includes both spending assigned to universities and the budget of Ministry of Education. It does not include :

  • spending by the Ministry of the Family to support pre-school education;

  • spending by the Ministry of Health to support children with special needs or dental health

  • spending in schools by the government’s sports and culture institutions;

  • in some years it may not include all spending on vocational and technical education;

  • spending to guarantee school meals or shoes and backpacks for school

Last year of the Presidency of Ing. Enrique Bolaños Geyer

Year Education spending in C$ (millions) % national budget % GDP
2006 4, 608.4 20.1 03.98

 

Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra became President in January 2007

Year Education spending in C$ millions % national budget Inflation adjusted increase % GDP
2007 5,501.40 22.00 08.61 04.30
2008 6,250.00 21.80 02.21 04.52
2009 7,526.00 23.10 00.51 05.34
2010 7,250.80 23.00 -07.64 04.74
2011 7,900.40 22.00 03.17 04.65
2012 9,364.40 22.10 08.21 05.01
2013 10,553.80 22.00 04.08 05.14
2014 12,766.40 22.80 11.38
2015 14,439.10 23.60 05.93

(Budget data from Ministerio de Hacienda y Crédito Público. Inflation data calculated from various IMF reports. GDP data calculated from World Bank data.)

This represents an increase of education spending of 36% in real terms since 2006, well outstripping the development of the school age population which, like Costa Rica’s, has in fact been declining slightly year by year in contrast to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala where the school age population is slightly increasing year by year. Here are World Bank data on Nicaragua’s population of children and adolescents under 18 years of age :

Age
group

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Ages 0-14

2050489

2039137

2027692

2017376

2009063

2003075

1999212

1996346

n/a

Ages 10-18

1213061

1217077

1218835

1217850

1213924

1206832

1197091

1186169

1176045

(Data from World Bank: http://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/EdStats_excel.zip)

As regards the above table of budget allocations, note the period 2008 to 2011. Major events in this period were the massive inflationary pressures leading to dramatically higher oil and food prices. Also in 2009 the US government and the European Union cut a total of over US$100m in development cooperation funding to the Nicaraguan government in response to the opposition campaign led by right-wing leader Eduardo Montealegre and his social democrat allies falsely alleging fraud in the November 2008 municipal elections. That mendacious campaign was supported by political opinion across the political spectrum in North America and Europe, including neo-colonial progressives and leftists.

It was only through 2011 that the government was able to make good the budgetary difficulties of the three years 2008-2010. Government spending figures tend to conceal the huge deficiencies of Nicaragua’s education system as of January 2007. The new Sandinista government had to overcome the enormous deficit in capital spending accumulated over 16 years of systematic denial of resources and corruption, preceded by a decade of war. In January 2007, that 26 year period had left Nicaragua’s schools unable even to deliver the complete primary school curriculum to large areas of the country, never mind comprehensive provision for secondary or technical and vocational education .

In January 2007, preschool care was almost entirely private. Secondary education was in the early stages of effective privatization. Public vocational and technical training was grossly under-resourced. Nationally, school infrastructure needed a programme of complete overhaul and renewal. Teacher salaries were desperately inadequate, as were resources for teacher training. That same year, 2007, saw the start of the global economic crisis with oil reaching US$147 a barrel in early 2008 and the worst economic collapse in North America and Europe since the 1930s.

None of that essential context figures anywhere in the Guardian’s report by Nina Lakhani on Nicaragua’s education system and its link to child labour. Her report glibly evades all that essential history. Instead, she shifts from disinforming her readers about Nicaragua’s education system to remarks reflecting an ideological disagreement between international education bureaucrats. But her earlier faithless, heavily prejudiced depiction of Nicaragua’s education dilemmas offers no legitimate insight into that debate. Her Guardian report quotes Manos Antoninis, “a senior analyst at Education for All global monitoring report“.

Manos Antoninis argues, “While raising the compulsory age of schooling is unlikely to immediately impact on completion rates in Nicaragua, it would send a powerful message that the state believes in the importance of education, which in turn would impact the way families perceive their own responsibility in keeping children in school.” His remarks are quoted in such a way as to reinforce Nina Lakhani’s false argument that the Nicaraguan government neither really believes in the importance of education nor devotes the resources necessary to improving Nicaragua’s education system.

The Guardian cites an opposing theoretical view, without explaining that this view, offered by Philippe Barragne-Bigot, Unicef representative in Nicaragua, in fact reflects the current policy of the Nicaraguan government. Philippe Barragne-Bigot argues “Quality, flexible education and jobs will keep children in school, not a change in the law.” But Nina Lakhani completely fails to report the significance of these remarks by UNICEF’s representative in Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government is very deliberately proritizing improving the quality of education in Nicaragua, broadening the range of study and training opportunites available to adolescents and young adults and proritizing employment creation.

All these policy measures are integral components of Nicaragua’s national development strategy whose overwhelming priority is to reduce poverty. But the Guardian never even mentions the wide-ranging, complex national development policy the government is trying to implement. Instead, the Guardian report gives Manos Antoninis the last word:

‘ “Countries that don’t educate their children to second school level don’t stand a chance. But the sudden expansion of secondary education could serve the elite, so policies must target the neediest,” said Antoninis. He added: “The inter-generational effect is chilling. A lack of education not only scuppers a child’s chances, but also the chances of their children. Failing to make an effort in this generation, also fails the next.” ‘

And that’s it. Nina Lakhani’s article ends there, leaving the reader with the impression that Nicaragua’s Sandinista government is a clear example of a government “failing to make an effort” for the education of the country’s children and youth. The falsity of Nina Lakhani’s report in the Guardian is beyond travesty. More than any other country in the region, with the possible exception of El Salvador, Nicaragua is very much targeting the neediest among its population as it works to strengthen the whole of its historically devastated public education system.

On May 19th this year, the government’s policy coordinator, Rosario Murillo, announced that enrolment in the public education system came to “a grand total 2,143,721 students between Pre-school, Primary level, Secondary level, Special Education, Teacher training, Workshop-Classrooms for Young people and Adults, Literacy tutoring, Technical education and training”, apart from university level education. Earlier in the year, Rosario Murillo also confirmed the distibution of almost 90,000 text books in indigenous peoples languages, free, for school students on Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast.

The reality of educational policy in Nicaragua overhelmingly contradicts Nina Lakhani’s disingenuous fake-progressive argument that the Sandinista government has failed Nicaragua’s children. Perhaps the most egregious outright falsehood in the Guardian’s account is its report as a current fact that “The UN children’s agency, Unicef, estimates that 500,000 Nicaraguan children aged three to 17 are not in the educational system.” That is grotesquely unfair both to UNICEF and the Nicaraguan government because the link leads to a 2012 report using figures from 2010 that were probably out of date even then, despite the crisis between 2008 and 2010, and much more so now, five years after that crisis, in 2015.

For us at Tortilla con Sal we feel particularly bitter at the Guardian’s mendacious report on education and child labor in Nicaragua because much of our community work is with families on extremely low incomes. Since 1998, we have worked with a programme serving 40 young women from very impoverished rural families each year training to be primary school teachers. Since 1999, we have worked on a programme that each year has helped  over a hundred low income women, mostly single mothers, return to school to finish their secondary education. Over the last four years we have worked on a program to address domestic violence among families in low income rural and urban areas.

This close grass roots engagement has permitted us to witness the great sacrifices people in Nicaraga on very low incomes will make to ensure their children get an education that will improve their economic opportunities. We have also witnessed how year by year the government’s education and child protection policies improve systematically and incrementally, often making a dramatic difference to different sectors of the country’s impoverished majority. That process throws up many complex dilemmas over trade-offs, the most obvious being that of young family members opting to start work so as to increase their family’s income and go back to education later.

By quoting UNICEF’s country representative in Nicaragua, the Guardian’s Nina Lakhani opened the door a fraction towards a view of the flexible, quality education system Nicaragua’s Sandinista government led by Comandante Daniel Ortega is trying, despite innumerable difficulties, to promote. But she and her editors then immediately slammed it shut. They  had to.

Nina Lakhani had to close down that view because it contradicts her own self-evident prejudices against Nicaragua’s government. Her Guardian editors’ had to deny it because their sinister psy-warfare imperative is to erase any reality contradicting their neocolonial propaganda line. In sum, Nina Lakhani’s article in the Guardian is grossly unfair and disingenuous. Contrary to her phony conclusion, Nicaragua’s education system is a very successful example of how a government committed to ALBA’s emancipatory socialist vision can overcome, in favour of the impoverished majority, the intractable problems inherited from decades of neocolonial subjugation and war.

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Latin America – a Neocolonial View from the Irish Times

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By Stephen Sefton/Jorge Capelán – Tortilla con Sal, teleSUR English.

Anyone looking for a prize specimen of neo-colonial psychological warfare against the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean could hardly do better than consider Mick McCaughan’s December 2014 article in the Irish Times. McCaughan may well have broken all existing records for compressing more inaccuracy into one single sentence than any fellow imperialist Western Bloc propaganda competitor. Here we go….”Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega (1979-1990 and 2007-present) escaped charges of sex abuse and corruption by cutting a deal with old enemies and changing the constitution to enable perpetual re-election and with it, perpetual immunity.”

Every single assertion and implication they publish in that sentence is factually incorrect. Daniel Ortega did not escape charges of sex abuse and corruption by cutting a deal with old enemies . In or out of public office, Daniel Ortega has never been charged with any act of corruption either within Nicaragua or outside it. Over the last five or six years, consistent opinion polls have shown that well over 60 % Nicaraguans approve of Daniel Ortega. More recent opinions polls over the last year or so indicate that over 70% of Nicaraguans approve of him and his presidency.

Even so the Irish Times published a photograph of an election campaign poster of Daniel Ortega with the caption “A wall painting for Daniel Ortega’s 1996 election campaign. The Nicaraguan president, whose current term is due to run until 2016, has since changed the constitution to enable perpetual re-election (and, with it, perpetual immunity). Photograph: Andrew Winning/Reuters ”

In fact, since 1996 there has been no change to Nicaragua’s Constitution that allows Ortega to run for reelection. Other articles were reformed by the end of 2013, but none of them hade anything to do with that issue.

In 2010, in response to a submission referred to it by Nicaragua’s Electoral Council, the Supreme Court’s constitutional division ruled that questionable reforms to the Constitution railroaded through Nicaragua’s legislature without democratic consultation in 1994 were inapplicable in the case of articles in the original 1987 Constitution guaranteeing equal rights to all Nicaraguans to stand for election to public office. Nicaragua’s law is now no different than that of many European countries where political leaders can be re-elected as often as their electorates want

Nicaragua’s constitution has clear procedures for removing parliamentary immunity from politicians accused of wrongdoing. This happened in the case of former President Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo which McCaughan mentions. But he seems not to notice that Alemán’s prosecution makes nonsense of his article’s claim that parliamentary immunity in Nicaragua affords permanent protection against prosecution in the case of Nicaragua’s current President Daniel Ortega.

McCaughan is similarly confused in the case of the allegations of abuse against Daniel Ortega by his step-daughter, Zoilamerica Narvaez. In fact, Daniel Ortega renounced his parliamentary immunity and undertook legal proceedings in his defence prior to the case failing due to Nicaragua’s statute of limitations . Narvaez subsequently reconciled with Ortega and publicly asked the media to refrain from commenting on the case . At no point did Ortega, as McCaughan and the Irish Times allege, cut a deal with former political enemies to avoid the allegations made by Narvaez .

One reason to take strong exception to McCaughan’s account as published by the Irish Times is that the article leads with this gratuitous and factually inaccurate attack on Daniel Ortega. But perhaps even more objectionable is the article’s fundamentally false neocolonialist premise. Far from showing that Latin America’s political institutions are irredeemably corrupt, McCaughan in fact demonstrates that democratic and legal institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean work very well in bringing to account powerful politicians guilty of corrupton and human rights abuses.

The contrast could hardly be greater with the reality in North America and the countries of the European Union. The modern history of the United States and Europe is full of examples of politicians escaping accountability, gaming their countries’ legal systems despite egregious wrongdoing. Ronald Reagan’s clear involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal is one example. The theatrical prosecution of then President Clinton, in which he clearly dissembled about a young intern sucking his penis, figures as pale farce when compared to wholesale corruption in the US political and financial system.

Since 2008, that system has overseen the greatest transfer of wealth from taxpayers to US corporate elites in the country’s history. Not a single senior banker or politican has been prosecuted for their role in that unprecedented financial debacle. To the contrary, senior US government functionaries have notoriously argued that it is impossible to prosecute leading bankers without threatening the stability of the US and international financial system.

All that is without recalling the persistent scandals in European countries, for example involving the former ELF French oil multinational, or Tony Blair’s infamous cover up of British Aerospace billion dollar bribery and corruption in the Middle East. On a lower scale of corruption in relation to Ireland, one has also to consider the fact that the notoriously corrupt Irish Fianna Fail party, with its Green Party coalition partners, bailed out Ireland’s insolvent provate banks. That corrupt corporate-crony decision, under pressure from the anti-democratic institutions of the European Union, effectively coerced Irish taxpayers into rescuing giant multinational foreign banks who had made enormous reckless predatory loans into the Irish property market for years prior to the 2008 crash.

So the contrast with Latin American and Caribbean countries determination to bring similar corruption and criminality to book is very much in Latin America’s favour. It speaks volumes against the phony North American and European self-image of moral and juridical superiority over the rest of the world.

The obverse of NATO country media attacks on successful legitimate Latin American and Caribbean political figures, is the ridiculous validation of shills for Western interests like former President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica.

In his Irish Times article, with its false, glib portrait of regional dysfunction, McCaughan writes of Arias, “One notable exception is former Costa Rican president Óscar Arias Sánchez (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) who helped broker peace in the region and was rewarded with the Nobel Peace prize in 1987. At the time he ran for re-election he was the only living former president not in jail, under indictment or facing investigation.”

Here too, the facts, and his own purposeful omissions, contradict McCaughan. Arias did very little to help broker the Esquipulas peace agreement of the late 1980s. In fact, he was a truculent obstacle to its development. The key player in that process was Guatemala’s former centre-right President Vinicio Cerezo, who, despite the foot-dragging and prevarication of Oscar Arias, shepherded the Central American Presidents of the time into a process of reflection at Esquipulas in Guatemala and coaxed an agreement from them to work for peace.

It was the US and its European cronies who rigged the now hopelessly discredited Nobel Peace Prize public relations exercise in favour of Oscar Arias. In his own country, Arias is regarded as largely responsible for his country’s economic and political problems and as an unprincipled proxy for foreign corporate interests. Arias demonstrated his opportunist lack of principle in 2009, with his disgraceful de facto acknowlegment of the military coup regime in Honduras.

McCaughan buries that fact in his article while managing to smear the ousted, democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Nor does McCaughan’s article in the Irish Times acknowledge that Oscar Arias used his political influence to persuade the Costa Rican Supreme Court to change the country’s constitutional rules to allow him to stand for election for a second presidential term. What McCaughan and the Irish Times deem OK for Oscar Arias, they arbitrarily pronounce questionable and suspicious for Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.

In any case, the deeply flawed political and economic legacy of Oscar Arias was made absolutely clear by his anointed successor Laura Chinchilla. Her government’s record of failure and corruption lead finally to the election of the current President Luis Guillermo Solis. The election of Solis, effectively signifed a complete break with the venal political culture overseen for so long in Costa Rica by Oscar Arias and his cronies.

Writers like Mick McCaughan and media publications like the Irish Times seem incapable of basic fact checking and facing the logic of their own self-contradictory arguments. This is nothing new to people in the majority world. That is especially so perhaps for people in Latin America and the Caribbean, long accustomed over the years to Western tolerance of vicious military dictatorships, ruthless Western corporate depredation and cynical manipulation by Western governments of trade, development cooperation and debt.

The Irish Times, like its fellow North American and European corporate media accomplices is in effect a NATO psychological warfare outlet. Its foreign affairs coverage consistently employs the standard talking points of NATO country propaganda. The Irish Times has collaborated faithfully in recent years in NATO country propaganda campaigns against Libya, Syria and, over Ukraine, Russia. Mick McCaughan’s article is part of a well established pattern of Western Bloc psychological warfare denigrating Latin America’s political development away from Western influence towards closer relations with Russia and China.

Like its fellow European corporate friendly media, The Irish Times’ coverage of Latin America overtly and crudely targets opponents of Western foreign policy objectives. smearing effective political leaders opposed to the Western Bloc agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean. Apart from long standing targets like Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, current targets include Nicolas Maduro and Disodado Cabello in Venezuela and Cristina Fernandez in Argentina. The smears are framed by the deliberate omission of vital information so as to deny Western public opinion a true and fair view of regional developments.

The pattern is very much that of Western media attacks on Muammar Al Gaddhafi, Hugo Chávez, Bashar al Assad and Vladimir Putin. Currently, the whole world is the arena of a vicious psychological war. On one side are the countries of the majority world striving for a multipolar international order based on solidarity, complementarity and respect for the fundamental UN principles of non-aggression and self-determination.

On the other side are the corporate elites of the Western Bloc imperial powers and their acolytes, determined to maintain the barbaric, unjust world order of predatory Western dominated corporate capitalism. In that global conflict, Mick McCaughan and the Irish Times clearly support the current status quo. We should be equally clear in our defence of Latin America and the Caribbean’s emancipation from it.

Source: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/bloggers/Latin-America—a-Neocolonial-View-from-the-Irish-Times-20150518-0001.html

Swedish ‘Leftist’ Politician Prefers the US over Venezuela

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By Tortilla con Sal, teleSUR English.

Reporter: …and now we’ve gotten to the usual part of the interview where you have to answer a series of single-choice questions.

J. Sjöstedt: Alright…

Reporter: The U.S. or Venezuela?

J. Sjöstedt: The U.S.

Reporter: Why?

J. Sjöstedt: Well, in part because I’ve lived there and I’ve felt pretty much at home. Besides, I am pretty worried about Venezuela’s democratic development. It’s a rather authoritarian development and the government cannot manage to ensure enough goods in the shelves and a good economic development.

Jonas Sjöstedt

On April 23rd, the leader of the Swedish Left Party, Jonas Sjöstedt in an interview for the public TV was asked which country he preferred between the US and Venezuela, and he chose the imperial superpower. This should come as no surprise , since in many Western European countries something happens similar to what takes place with the US-American political system: Parties do not stand for clearly distinguishable interests or projects, they rather represent various factions within an all encompassing and homogeneous, strategic framework.


In Sweden, the common self-image is that Swedish people are progressive; that they live in a democratic country and that, even if those ideas are shown to be gross idealizations, even lies, all in all, the Nordic kingdom is, after all, the best place to live on earth.

Never mind that Sweden shows one of the highest – if not the world’s highest – per capita weapons’ export rate, that its third largest party is the xenophobic-neo-liberal-philo-fascist-pro-Israel Sweden Democrats – a party with roots in the 1980s White Arian Resistance; never mind that Sweden’s universally acclaimed Welfare State today shows half of its female pensioners living under the EU’s poverty line and that most Swedish towns today have beggars sitting on rugs or pieces of nylon over the cold cement in the winter waiting for a few Kronor to fall on their recycled 7/11 paper cups.

Never mind that the Nordic Kingdom, whose Queen was the daughter of a Nazi leader with the mission to establish a firm base for the reconstruction of the Third Reich in post-World War Brazil, and whose King Carl XVI Gustaf – himself a good friend of the Saudi Royal House – is the grandchild of Karl Edvard von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha, the first prince to give his support to Hitler and one of the key elements behind the Nazi ascent to power in Germany, Sweden is still a nice, tolerant, democratic and humanist place – notwithstanding routine criticisms for its treatment of minorities from international organs such as UNHCR.

Never even mind that Jonas Sjöstedt, the Swedish Left Party’s leader himself, confessed to be an intimate friend of Chris Stevens, the US Ambassador in Benghazi and US representative to the so-called Libyan rebels – the same Al Qaida groups that carried out a bloodbath in the North African country and later would become what today is known as the beheading-addicted ISIS terror organization. Stevens, whose mission in Libya was to train and arm these groups, became himself their victim and was killed in mid-September, 2012.

Stevens, whom Sjöstedt met during a trip to Tel Aviv, used to visit him and his family in New York and Stockholm for dinner, the Swedish politician recalls in his blog: “For a little bit more than a week ago he was here in Stockholm, he was at our home for dinner and played with the children. Chris was a warm and unassuming person. He knew the Arab World well and spoke fluent Arabic and was a very progressive American”.

Jonas Sjöstedt's "friend"

Sjöstedt’s intimate friend Chris Stevens with Republican John McCain in Libya: ‘Chris Stevens – one of America’s finest diplomats also makes one of the best cappuccinos in Tripoli‘, tweeted the old warmonger afterwards.

By the end of March this year, Social Democrat State Minister Stefan Löfven announced the creation of a broad, consensus-based foreign policy trio comprised by Foreign Minister and former EU-Environment Commissioner and self-proclaimed feminist Margot Wallström; former Social Democrat State Minister, now millionaire consultant for the Swedish weapon’s industry, Göran Persson and the Conservative former foreign minister Carl Bildt – a man with close ties to the Swedish energy consortium Lundin Petroleum as well as to Bilderberg, the RAND Corporation and the US Council on Foreign Relations. A day later Löfven announced that he even wanted the King Karl Gustav to play a more prominent role in Sweden’s Foreign Policy, considering his ties with, for instance, the Saudis.

Sweden is not a country, not even a kingdom: it is a corporation largely fused with the Atlantist, U.S.-friendly elites. Although not a formal NATO member (Swedes stubbornly cling to a suspicious attitude towards military alliances, as much as they cling to the their local currency, the Krona) Sweden is for all practical purposes a member of the Alliance, routinely lending its soil to all sorts of overt (and covert) maneuvers – just as it did during World War II, when it lent its soil to Germany so that the Wehrmacht could invade Norway.

So, it should not come as a surprise that such a “country” can have a “leftist” political leader who openly boasts about being a friend to a state terrorist – and nobody (except Latin Americans and anti-imperialists) manages to notice!

Source: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/bloggers/Swedish-Leftist-Politician-Prefers-the-US-over-Venezuela-20150515-0001.html

Nicaragua: Costa Rica has no right to obstruct the flow of water in the San Juan River

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ACCUSATION TO  PUBLICIZE NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY
HISTORICAL, JUDICIAL, AND GEOGRAPHIC

sancarlos2

Costa Rica does not have the right to construct dikes that close channels to the San Juan River and obstruct the passage of their waters toward Harbor Head.
JUDICIAL CONCLUSIONS
ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS
POSSIBLE IMPACTS ON THE ESTUARINE ECOSYSTEM, DERIVED FROM THE CONSTRUCTIONS BY THE GOVERNMENT OF COSTA RICA IN THE BAY OF SAN JUAN DE NICARAGUA
ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE IN THE BIOSPHERE RESERVES, RAMSAR SITES AND PROTECTED AREAS OF NICARAGUA
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCLUSIONS
Team of Experts:
Lic. Msc. Kamilo de Jesús Lara B.
Dr. Manuel Madriz Fornos
Msc. Norving Torres Cardoza
Msc. Mauricio Lacayo Escobar

COSTA RICA DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONSTRUCT DIKES THAT CLOSE THE CHANNELS OF THE SAN JUAN RIVER AND OBSTRUCT THE FLOW OF THEIR WATERS TOWARD HARBOUR HEAD.
Manuel Madriz Fornos, Presidente Asociación Centroamericana de Derecho Internacional e Integración (ACADI), Member Academia de Geografía e Historia.

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The Panama Summit and the West

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By Tortilla con Sal.

Even in Latin America and the Caribbean, most news information and intellectual discussion continues to give undue weight to the premises of political and economic debate in the West. At the Summit of the Americas in Panama, a generation of leaders inspired by Fidel and the Cuban revolution directly questioned again, perhaps in a more concerted way than ever before, both Western economic power and Western moral and intellectual pretensions. In that context, it is impossible to repeat too often a fundamental reality.

The West has always externalized the human cost of its political and economic development onto the majority world of Asia, Latin America and Africa. As Daniel Ortega pointed out in his speech at the Panama Summit, that fundamental reality remains unchanged. Daniel was talking about the United States government, but his remarks apply very much also to Western Europe.

That unquestionable reality makes most people in the majority world tend to look to North America and the West not as the source of models to emulate, but as examples of what to avoid. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas is the most obvious demonstration of this. Inspired by Fidel and Hugo Chávez, ALBA is a practical policy framework prioritizing the development of the human person, rather than corporate greed.

That is why political and economic leaders in North America and Europe demonize Nicolas Maduro and his fellow ALBA leaders. Nor is it an accident that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean recently projected that Bolivia and Nicaragua will lead economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2015. It is impossible now for Western governments and their corporate owners to suppress the general recognition in Latin America and the Caribbean of ALBA’s example.

North America and the European Union will remain in economic and political crisis so long as their oligarchic elites continue to extract the costs of their power and privilege from their peoples rather than reinvest in people and the planet their historic debt to the rest of the world. While Western corporate elites can no longer readily externalize the human cost of their countries’ development onto Latin America and Asia. They continue to do so almost at will in Africa.

People in the majority world observe that the populations of Europe and North America are now increasingly the victims of deliberate attacks on living standards by governments controlled by corporate interests. Greece is only the most obvious example. Cities across North America witness similar sadistic deprivation. That domestic economic assault is accompanied by deepening militarization of foreign policy, with Western backed wars in Ukraine and Yemen threatening Russia and Iran respectively.

US foreign policy follows a pattern, matching feigned openness on the one hand with cynical aggression on the other. So the US hails progress on nuclear talks with Iran while attacking Iranian aligned forces in Syria and Yemen. In Latin America, US foreign policy makes nicey-nice with Cuba but persists in fomenting or supporting vicious destabilization of Venezuela, Argentina or Brazil. The Panama summit marked the declining power of the US government and its allies in the region but most certainly no change in their imperialist heart.

Source: http://www.tortillaconsal.com/albared/node/5528

Letter to Obama

Obama

His Excellency
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C.
20500

March 12, 2015
Dear President Obama,

We greet you as a brother in Christ Jesus our Lord, with love and respect, in compliance with the mandate that we must love even those who behave as enemies against us.

What happened to you, dear brother? What became of that brave and enlightened Obama who in 2008, and throughout his presidential campaign, talked about change, REAL change which people could believe in? You inspired hope among millions, both in the United States and around the world, including us.

We remember opinion polls registering a dangerously significant number of African Americans not being in favor of your being elected, but not because they didn’t like you or because they didn’t agree with the things you were saying. They loved you too much. They didn’t want you to be murdered by the industrial-military-financial complex which they felt would certainly do so if you had the courage to carry through with your vision and promise to have the United States return to membership in the human community. That is, to stop the U.S. from behaving in a way that could only generate ever greater wars, to the point of wiping out our own human species.

You personally knew that the United States was the most hated country in the history of the world for its arrogance and diabolical national objective of full spectrum dominance.

Contrary to what was the case with leaders such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who were never ever accused of being intelligent, you are clearly an intelligent person. Besides that, you showed signs of deeply rooted ethical and moral values and adherence to the principles and values proclaimed by Jesus and, in fact, by all great spiritual leaders of the world regardless of religion.

What prompts us, dear brother, to write this letter is your extremely shameful Executive Order of March 9, 2015 declaring a National Emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela. It could not fail to remind us of a similar Order issued by Reagan more than three decades ago to grant a free hand in launching his Contra War against Nicaragua in the 1980’s. We say shameful and extremely hypocritical, but also your Executive Order is a flagrant violation of international law by constituting a threat of the use of force against Venezuela and, at the same time, serving as a stimulus to your Venezuelan lackeys to continue in their efforts to destabilize the country. You should know, dear brother, that in Latin America there is a growing sense of unity and solidarity in what people in the region consider to be their extended Latinamerican- afrocaribbean Fatherland.

While fully rejecting your arrogant and interventionist Executive Order, we entreat you to turn to Jesus, brotherhood and solidarity and to reject, once and for all, the demons of greed, war and full spectrum dominance.

You will continue to be in our prayers for you, your loved ones, your country and our world.

God’s amazing grace would not fail you, if only you do not turn your back on Him.

Love and blessings,
Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, M.M.
Nicaragua
Bishop Pedro Casaldáliga
Brazil
Ramsey Clark
U.S.A.
Leonardo Boff
Brazil
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
U.S.A
Cc. Pope Francis

Obama Channels Ronald Reagan: How to Create an “Extraordinary National Security Threat”

Mark Weisbrot
Cepr.net / Al Jazeera America, March 10, 2015

Obama

Yesterday the White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by “declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,” as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?

Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something the president can use lies to get around whenever he finds it inconvenient.

That was the approach of President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when he made a similar declaration in order to impose sanctions — including an economic embargo — on Nicaragua. Like the White House today, he was trying to topple an elected government that Washington didn’t like. He was able to use paramilitary and terrorist violence as well as an embargo in a successful effort to destroy the Nicaraguan economy and ultimately overturn its government. (The Sandinistas eventually returned to power in 2007 and are the governing party today.)

The world has moved forward, even though Washington has not. Venezuela today has very strong backing from its neighbors against what almost every government in the region sees as an attempt to destabilize the country.

“The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral coercive measures that are contrary to international law,” read a statement from every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 11. They were responding to the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela that Obama signed into law in December.

Didn’t read any of this in the English-language media? Well, you probably also didn’t see the immediate reaction to yesterday’s White House blunder from the head of the Union of South American Nations, which read, “UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.”

Washington was involved in the short-lived 2002 military coup in Venezuela; it “provided training, institution building and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved in the brief ouster” of President Hugo Chávez and his government, according to the U.S. State Department. The U.S. has not changed its policy toward Venezuela since then and has continued funding opposition groups in the country. So it is only natural that everyone familiar with this recent history, with the conflict between the U.S. and the region over the 2009 Honduran military coup and with the current sanctions will assume that Washington is involved in the ongoing efforts to topple what has been its No. 1 or 2 target for regime change for more than a decade.

The Venezuelan government has produced some credible evidence of a coup in the making: the recording of a former deputy minister of the interior reading what is obviously a communique to be issued after the military deposes the elected government, the confessions of some accused military officers and a recorded phone conversation between opposition leaders acknowledging that a coup is in the works.

Regardless of whether one thinks this evidence is sufficient (the U.S. press has not reported most of it), it is little wonder that the governments in the region are convinced. Efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela have been underway for most of the past 15 years. Why would it be any different now, when the economy is in recession and there was an effort to force out the government just last year? And has anyone ever seen an attempted ouster of a leftist government in Latin America that Washington had nothing to do with? Because I haven’t.

In the major U.S. and international media, we see that Obama has taken a historic step by beginning the process of normalizing relations with Cuba. But among Latin American governments, the sliver of restored credibility that this move has won has been swiftly negated by the aggression toward Venezuela. You will be hard pressed to find a foreign minister or president from the region who believes that U.S. sanctions have anything to do with human rights or democracy. Look at Mexico, where human rights workers and journalists are regularly murdered, or Colombia, which has been a leader for years in the number of trade unionists killed. Nothing comparable to these human rights nightmares has happened in Venezuela in 16 years under Chávez current President Nicolás Maduro. Yet Mexico and Colombia have been among the largest recipients of U.S. aid in the region, including military and police funding and weapons.

The Obama administration is more isolated today in Latin America than even George W. Bush’s administration was. Because of the wide gulf between the major international media and the thinking of regional governments, this is not obvious to those who are unfamiliar with the details of hemispheric relations. Look at who co-authored the legislation that imposed sanctions against Venezuela in December: soon-to-be indicted Sen. Robert Menendez and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, both ardent defenders of the embargo against Cuba. Yet the administration proudly announced that its new sanctions “go beyond the requirements of this legislation.”

The face of Washington in Latin America is one of extremism. Despite some changes in other areas of foreign policy (e.g., Obama’s engagement with Iran), this face has not changed very much since Reagan warned us that Nicaragua’s Sandinistas were “just two days’ driving time from Harlingen, Texas.” He was ridiculed by Garry Trudeau in “Doonesbury” and other satirists. The Obama White House’s Reagan redux should get the same treatment.

View article at original source.


Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).