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Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: Did Chavez and Maduro Evict the U.S. From Its Own Backyard? by Justina

2:47 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Following the ideals of his hero, Simon Bolivar, President Hugo Chávez Friás long had a grand vision of a Bolivarian unity among the countries of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. His long serving foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, now acting president of Venezuela, was the person who brought that vision to material reality. In so doing, they may have walked off with some prime real estate — the U.S.’s own backyard.

As a reported two million people lined the streets to accompany the body of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez Friás, to the Military Academy in Caracas where likely millions more stood in line for hours, if not days, to view his face one last time. Fifty-four international delegations, political leaders and heads of state arrived in Venezuela to attend the official state ceremony for the deceased president, 15 of whose countries had declared official days of mourning for him at home. They were greeted by then vice president and now Acting President Nicolas Maduro.

The South, Central American and Caribbean countries in attendance gave witness to the impact the Chavez Administration has had on forging unity among them.
Representatives of the more than 33 countries belonging to MERCOSUR, UNOSUR, ALBA and CELAC appeared and credited Chavez’s vision and energy with establishing the equivalent of a new regional union, modeled after the European Union, south of the U.S. border, in what the U.S. formerly regarded as virtually its own territory.
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It was an unprecedented display of international respect and admiration for President Chavez, a political leader who had repeatedly been demonized and called a “clown” and a “buffoon” by the U.S. State Department and its puppet media. (Now, only days since Chavez’s death, that same reactionary media is scorning Chavez’s acting successor, Maduro, as a “burly one-time bus driver” . Expect more epithets to come.

The U.S. and many European governments were also fond of referring to President Chavez as a “dictator” or “strongman”, disregarding the obvious contradiction that Chavez had been elected by large national majorities to the Venezuelan presidency in 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2012, while winning a national recall referendum to remain president in 2004. They now appear poised to tar Maduro with the same scurrilous brush.
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Perhaps the most revealing proof that President Chavez was not a dictator by any stretch of the imagination occurred in 2007, when he lost, by less than 2% of the vote, a national referendum on his proposal to amend sections of Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution.

Upon the announcement by the Venezuela’s National Electoral Council of Chavez’s amendments defeat, President Chavez did not even ask for a re-count; he immediately accepted his loss and congratulated the opposition for their success.

But the 54 international delegations that appeared in Caracas on March 8, 2013, did not travel to President Chavez’s funeral simply to pay their respects to a good democrat, even one that succeeded in accomplishing the UN’s Millennium goals for his country by drastically reducing poverty, inequality, illiteracy and hunger there.

No, in many cases they came to mourn the passing of a personal friend. Chavez was a warm, sensitive, humane personality who frequently inspired deep friendships with those whose lives he touched, even among some who might be considered officially as enemies. Thus it was with Colombia’s current president, Juan Manuel Santos.

Under Colombia’s former president, Alvaro Uribe, and his defense minister –now president — Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia had invaded the sovereignty of neighboring Ecuador to kill a FARC hostage negotiator and his team, thus greatly setting back efforts to persuade the FARC opposition to release prisoners they held hostage in Colombia.

Fearing a similar invasion of Venezuela, Chavez sent troops to the Venezuelan-Colombian frontier, to defend against a possible military incursion. Ordinary international relations between the countries were shredded, ambassadors were withdrawn, and even common citizens obstructed from their usual cross-border trade.

That the U.S. and Colombia’s Uribe had recently signed an agreement to set up 7 new U.S. military bases on Colombia’s territory, several of which were obviously targeted at Venezuela’s vast oil resources in its frontier provinces of Zulia and Tachira, added to the extreme tension. (The U.S. military base agreement was later ruled unconstitutional by Colombia’s Supreme Court.)

When President Uribe was held to be term-limited from running for re-election, his Defense Minister, Santos, ran in his stead and was elected. Relations with Venezuela were at their nadir when Santos took office in 2010. (President Uribe has since admitted that, as president, he had had actual plans for military incursions into Venezuela, presumably with U.S. approval, but ran out of time to carry them out.)

But, with Santos’s election – much to the world’s surprise (and undoubtedly to the U.S.’s dismay) — a series of meetings between President Chavez and President Santos and their foreign ministers yielded a mending of their countries’ relations, such that even joint projects to fight drug trafficking and to share energy resources were initiated.

Good relations resumed between Venezuela and Colombia. Colombia’s foreign minister, Maria Angela Holguin, was routinely heard from in Caracas, reporting successful negotiations with the Chavez government’s Maduro on a number of mutual issues. Upon Chavez’s death, she expressed what appeared to be heartfelt regret at his passing.

President Santos himself appeared shaken by Chavez’s loss, even crediting him with making the peace negotiations with Colombia’s FARC opposition a reality:

“In merit to his dedication and unlimited commitment, we have been able to advance in a solid peace process” said the Colombian leader in a national address on television, emphasizing that the best homage to Chavez is “to accomplish the dream he shared with us: an agreement to end decades of armed conflict and see a Colombia living in peace”.
“Chavez used to say that this was what the great Liberator Simon Bolivar wanted to see and he was right” said the Colombian president emphasizing that Chavez’ death is a “great loss for Venezuela, for the region, for Colombia and for me particularly”.
In gratitude for Chavez peace offices in the first contacts that facilitated dialogue between his government and the FARC guerrillas, Santos pledged full support for Venezuela in this new chapter.
“You can be sure that you have our full support so that Venezuela can have a democratic transition in peace and calm. We will walk along with you, as you have accompanied us in the peace process”, promised Santos.

http://en.mercopress.com/2013/03/06/santos-pays-special-tribute-to-chavez-for-his-efforts-to-help-bring-peace-to-colombia

It was not only Chávez’s gracious personality that managed to turn his past enemies into friends, but the astute negotiating skills attributable to his then foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, that not only brought Colombia’s opposing forces to the peace table after more than 50 years of strife, but also successfully forged a new unity among South and Central American countries through the establishment of the UNASUR and CELAC organizations, Latin America’s equivalent to the European Union.

In so doing, Chavez and Maduro may have severely limited the U.S.’s hegemony over all of South and Central America and the Caribbean countries.

Chavez and Maduro first carved out an independent voice for South American countries through pushing for the the creation of UNASUR, in 2008. Then the countries of Central America and the Caribbean were added to the chorus of South American voices, with the Venezuelan propelled creation of CELAC, in 2011.

CELAC stands for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states and is the regional bloc of Latin American and Caribbean states created on December, 3, 2011, in Caracas, Venezuela by 33 countries of the Americas by the signing of the Declaration of Caracas. Those 33 countries represent roughly 600 million people of the Americas. (The U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and the territories belonging to France, Netherlands, and Denmark were not invited to join CELAC.)

In July 2010, the 33 CELAC countries selected President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez and President of Chile, Sebastián Piñeras of the forum to draft statutes for the organization. This year, President Raul Castro of Castro was selected to chair the organization.
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In their January, 2013 meeting, CELAC leaders thanked the then ailing and absent, Chavez for his efforts to initiate their organization, the honors were led by the conservative president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera.

CELAC is the outgrowth of the decade-long push by Chavez and Maduro for deeper unity among the countries of the Americas, for a union which could act on the world stage with the power similar to that of the European Union.

The Declaration of Caracas was effectively a “Declaration of Independence” against U.S. domination of the Americas via its conduit of control, the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS was created primarily by the U.S. in 1948 to enforce its hegemony over its southern neighbors and isolate them from Soviet influence. Recently, the U.S. has used the OAS to act as a brake on the independent policies of its socialist or left-leaning southern neighbors. CELAC may soon make the now almost moribund OAS even deader.

As such, it could fulfill the dream of Latin America’s great liberator, Simon Bolivar, a dream successfully made manifest by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez Frias through the work of his foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro.
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As Nicolas Maduro met the many foreign dignitaries arriving for President Chavez’s funeral, he was greeting those he had personally worked and negotiated with since his appointment as foreign minister in 2006. Virtually every participant country in MERCOSUR, UNASUR, ALBA and CELAC sent its highest leader to mourn Chávez’s passing: among others, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay, even the questionably installed (following a coup) president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, was in attendance. The equally questionably installed (by legislative coup) Federico Franco of Paraguay was not, although his democratically elected predecessor, President Fernando Lugo, appeared in person to farewell President Chavez.

For almost seven years, as Venezuela’s foreign Minister, Maduro, while supervising over 63 embassies around the world, took the lead in successfully negotiating the terms of the new unities of UNASUR and CELAC, as well as many other bi-lateral treaties.

Maduro’s diplomacy, beginning in 2006, also included hammering out the terms of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) organization, the socialist alternative to the U.S.’s proposed “Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTTA). ALBA, an international cooperation organization originally formed by Venezuela and Cuba based on a vision of mutual economic aid and bartering, now includes Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Saint Lucia. Haiti has indicated an intention to join as well. ALBA has established its own banking system with the “Sucre” as its new international currency and provided development funds without the self-serving, often strangling, “free market” austerity conditions of the International Monetary Fund.

In conducting all these various negotiations, Maduro has forged strong personal relationships with key figures in many other countries which will serve Venezuela well should he be elected in April, as appears likely.

Maduro not only has extensive foreign policy experience, but he has served as Speaker of Venezuela’s National Assembly as an elected member of that body between 2000 and 2005, previously he participated in the drafting of the 1999 Constitution as a member of its Constituent Assembly in 1999. In earlier days, he was a bus driver and trade unionist with the workers of the Caracas Metro bus system, and an early supporter and confident of President Hugo Chávez Friás.

On December 8, 2012, Chavez announced to the nation that he would undergo another cancer surgery in Cuba and urged the nation to support the election of Nicolas Maduro as president should he himself be unable to continue to serve. On March 6, 2013, President Chavez died after a two year battle against cancer.

On April 14, 2013, Maduro will be the presidential candidate of the Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV) against current Miranda State governor and defeated presidential candidate in 2012, Henrique Capriles Radonski.

It may well be that, if elected, Nicolas Maduro, a staunch socialist, will be a major force for countering the imperialist aspirations of the U.S. capitalists and its global fellow-travelers, not only in the U.S.’s “back yard”, but as far afield as Africa and Asia. Chavez and Maduro have already spoken publicly of the need for African-American unity and made official efforts in that direction, with visits by Chavez and a doubling of the number of Venezuelan embassies there.

Such an African-Americas unity could further serve to throw U.S. imperialism under the bus. Chavez is no longer here, but Nicolas Maduro is an experienced and burly bus driver with an excellent sense of direction, as he has already well demonstrated.

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: Venezuela’s Chávez, A Revolutionary Empowered By Love and Kindness by Justina

12:00 am in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Here in Nicaragua, where this writer is now living, the news on December 8, 2012 that Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez Frias was to undergo yet another operation to fight the cancer which has plagued him since 2011 was reported in one of the country’s two major newspapers, “El Nuevo Diario”, under massive and thick black headlines, that in announcing his need for a 4th cancer operation, President Chavez had, for the first time, named his preferred successor to the presidency should he be unable to serve. Chavez asked the country to support his recently appointed vice president, Nicholas Maduro, should a new election be necessary.

Nicaragua, and much of the rest of Central and South America were stunned by the notion that President Chavez might be unable to serve out the new 6 year term to which he was re-elected on October 7, 2012. He conducted a physically vigorous campaign against the much younger opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, and had bested Capriles 55 + to 44 % with a more than 80% voter turnout.

The majority of Venezuelans were devastated by the news, and rushed into the streets do demonstrate their support and into the churches to pray for his recovery. Thousands of people, including many heads of states, in other Latin American countries did the same.

Most of the tattered opposition, including Capriles, had the grace to refrain from showing their glee at Chávez’s possible demise, some did not. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church which had long and viciously opposed Chávez, piously pointed out to their laity that Chávez was only a frail human being, like any other man. They likely highly resented that they had to open their churches and allow masses to be conducted for the heath of this man who had frequently criticized the hierarchy for its support of the wealthy oppositionists, while at the same time calling on Catholic saints for aid during his illness. Chávez had consistently identified himself as a Christian socialist.

In Nicaragua, front page headlines on the status of President Chavez’s operation and recuperation have taken precedence over everything (with the exception of the Newtown massacre) in Nicaraguan newspapers ever since the December 8th speech.

After Chávez announcement of yet another cancer operation in Cuba, Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega immediately used the occasion of a graduation speech at a police academy to honor President Chavez and indicate Nicaragua’s continuing support and prayers for his health. The Nicaraguan National Assembly passed an official bill thanking Chávez for his active assistance to Nicaragua. A large rock concert was sponsored by the government to show the nation’s solidarity with Chavez.

Nicaragua has benefited immensely from the policies of the Chavez government, not only because of the subsidized oil which Venezuela provides, but because President Chavez led the creation of the ALBA group of Latin American states which has invested heavily in Nicaragua’s economy. This year, that economy grew at the rate of 5%. Nicaragua’s agricultural exports have increased substantially. Venezuela’s needs for Nicaragua’s beef and grains and rice have contributed to the growth in exports, as have other ALBA countries needs.

Under Chavez’s international leadership, many countries in South and Central America have opened new paths to economic and social cooperation, such as CELIAC, from which only the United States and Canada have been excluded. These Latin American countries have a new strength in their unity to counter the whims of the U.S.’s massive economic and political power. Chavez’s visions for Latin American unity and independence from the U.S. behemoth are showing fruit.

But aside from gratitude for Chavez’s political and economic policies, why do the masses of people in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America demonstrate such a personal devotion to him?

Why is President Chavez so personally loved, as well as massively politically supported?

One can begin to understand this love and the extraordinary personality who has attracted it, thanks to a series of penetrating interviews published in August of 2004 by two Cuban journalists, Rosa Miriam Elizalde and Luis Báez. For “Chávez Nuestro”, (Casa Editora Abril, Havana), Elizalde and Báez had interviewed those who knew Chavez well as he progressed in life from a poor child of Indian and Spanish blood living in the little village of Sabaneta, in cattle-producing Barinas state, to become president of his country and weather an opposition coup and oil company strike against his government in 2002. President Chavez himself contributed 6 hours of oral interviews to their collection, detailing critical events in his life from his own perspective

The interviews with family friends and relative about his early life reported in the “Nuestro Chávez” book, suggest that the deep love for Chávez, stems from the fact that Chávez genuinely loves the people of Venezuela and his policies and vision for Venezuela’s future physically demonstrates that improving the lives of his people are his highest priority.

Perhaps he is simply carrying out the dictates of his Indian grandmother, Rosa Inés. Based on interviews with neighbors, friends and family, Rosa Inés, despite her extreme poverty, was a respected force for human kindness in her little community. She demonstrated to the young Chávez boys the importance of treating others with kindness, helping others, and respecting the human dignity of every individual they encountered. Chávez has put these principles into action on a national scale.

The interviews with the family members, neighbors and friends from his youth, uniformly suggest that kindness and caring for others were his significant traits, while at the same time being very bright, studious and a natural leader among his playmates and fellow street baseball players.

Chávez had an absolute passion for baseball from a young age and his first dream was to become a professional baseball player. Politics only took the place of professional baseball it when it became obvious to Chávez as a student in the military academy and then graduate and military officer, that his government and especially their military leaders were only concerned with amassing their own personal wealth at the expense of the majority of the people, whose poverty and human needs the leaders ignored.

In the “Nuestro Chávez interviews, relatives and friends recount how Chavez loved to sing and could recount long, historical poems, often based on significant Venezuelano independence and freedom fighters, from memory, firing the imaginations of friends and family and teaching their history in the days before any of them had a television set.

For the last 13 years, President Chávez has done the same on Venezuela’s national television and radio. He treats the country like his extended family, seeking to inspire them to read, debate ideas and actively participate in the national political life on their own behalf.

We see from these interviews how Chávez became a socialist, not because he read Marx, although he has read Marx, but because he personally lived in the same conditions that impelled Marx to analyze conditions under capitalism and to call for its abolition. For Chávez, his Christian socialism was the way to share the work and the resources to improve the lives of everyone.

Chávez himself relates in the book that while a young military officer on patrol against “insurgents”, Chávez witnessed the torture of prisoners and personal corruption of his superiors, facts which fed his own rebellion. For attempting to stop the torture, he was officially reprimanded by his superiors and his military career damaged.

In 1989, when an extreme “austerity” measure imposed by the International Monetary Fund lighted the fuse of massive popular rebellion in Caracas, the government ordered the military to shoot its own citizens, thousands were killed or wounded. This horrible massacre is known as the Caracazo.

The Caracazo enraged Chávez and, together with the other young officers who shared his anger, they began to consider outright rebellion, which led to their aborted attempt at doing so in 1992.

Chavez frequently emphasizes that this poorly organized rebellion was an inchoate insurrection against corruption and injustice. It was not a coup to gain personal power or riches.

These interviews give a clue as to why Chávez, living in the presidential palace of Miraflores in the capitol in 2010, would have opened the palace to house refugees made homeless as a result of flooding from a series of rain storms. He had, after all, grown up with the practice of sharing, as he and his brother had shared their grandmother, Rosa Inés room in her tiny mud-floored, palm-roofed cottage. The Chavez government housed other refugees in government building and in private hotels, at government expense.

Although living only a block away from Hugo’s parents, the paternal grandmother, Rosa Inés Chávez, raised Hugo and Adam, the two eldest sons of Elena and Hugo de ls Reyes Chávez. Both were poorly paid elementary school teachers who ultimately had six children.

To support herself and her grandsons, Rosa Inés made candies from the fruit trees in her yard, while Hugo and his older brother, Adam, acted as her salesmen in their primary school and around the small town at social and sports events.

While grandmother Inés did the hot, sweaty work of cooking the candies, Hugo and Adam listened to her stories about the history of their family, village and country. Rosa Inés passed on the oral history she had learned from her own grandmother and grandfather, who had fought with the famed progressive General, Esquel Zamora in their own village of Sabaneta. The blood of those celebrated battles lay directly beneath the naked feet of the two Chavez boys. Their love for Venezuelan revolutionary history was born at home.

Hugo Chávez Frías was reported by his primary school teachers to be an excellent student. He wanted very much to go to high school, a desire Rosa Inés and his family shared. But, his first attempt to attend high school was a disaster when he was refused entry to the school because he did not have shoes. He had only rubber slippers which were not allowed. The usually stalwart and tough Rosa Inés broke into tears because she did not have money for shoes. Her extended family members came to the rescue, and Chávez, with shoes, was allowed to enter highs school.

In high school, Chávez was passionate about history and deepened his knowledge and respect for the actions and ideas of Simon Bolivar, who had successfully led the rebellion against Spanish rule in Venezuela, Colombia (which then included what is now Panama), Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Bolivar’s vision was for a free, independent and united Latin America without human slavery and poverty. Bolivar succeeded in abolishing slavery and attaining independence from Spain, but he could not keep the countries he liberated united or abolish the poverty.

When a young man traveling in Italy with his teacher, Simon Rodríguez,in the early 1800′s, Bolivar had taken a spoken vow to devote his life to winning freedom for his country from Spain.

In 1982, Chávez, then a captain in the military, gathered together three of his co-officers who shared his vision of liberating their country from dictators and their corruption. They took the same oath that Simon Bolivar had taken, but rather than freeing their country from Spanish rule, they vowed to free it from the hands of the rich and powerful.

Early during an abortive uprising by Chávez and other young military officers in 1992, Hugo Chávez was arrested. In face of government threats to bomb his own insurgent military unit in Maracoy (a parachutist brigade) the government allowed him to appear on television in order to call upon other officers in the rebellion to put down their arms and avoid getting bombed. Chávez spoke on TV and then was jailed, but his call to put down arms changed Venezuelan history.

Much of the nation heard Chavez say “It is over….. for now.” His statement inspired thousands with the hope that the fight was not over and they would eventually prevail, which they did six years later in 1998, when the nation overwhelmingly voted to elect Hugo Chávez Frías as president of Venezuela.

Upon taking office, Chávez proceeded to teach about Simon Bolivar’s actions and ideas on a massive scale. But first people had to be able to read them; so with the help of Cuba, whose own revolution had over-come a huge literacy gape, Chavez began a massive literacy campaign called Mission Robinson in honor of the pseudo name used by Simone Bolivar’s own teacher, Simon Rodríguez.

Mission Robinson sent thousands of high school and college students all over the country to teach everyone to read. According to United Nation’s surveys, that campaign has had great success: now some 99% of Venezuelans can read and write.

The Chavez government re-published in paper editions the works of major Venezuelan world writers, poets and political figures, which were then distributed free throughout the country. Chávez routinely reads to the country from his own significant reading, such as Noam Chomsky and Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan author of “Open Veins of Latin America”.

In “Nuestro Chávez”, President Chávez relates that one of the most significant events of his own political history came when he commanded a military unit in Elorza, where he lived for several weeks with an Indian tribe and personally experienced life in communal socialism.

While Chavez, who proudly shared their Indian blood, and his squad were investigating claims of Indian thefts from the white farmers in the area. On horseback, they encountered a group of Indians eating mangoes from a tree in the bush. The Indians reacted to the military presence with a hail of arrows against them, one of which nearly hit Chávez. He commanded his men not to fire back and ordered them to retreat.

Chavez himself retreated to a university to consult an anthropologist friend who had been working peacefully with Indian tribes in the area for twenty years. Discarding his military uniform and its identify, Chávez joined the anthropologist’s field researchers, living for three week with the same group of Indians who had attacked his military squadron.

While living daily life with the tribe, Chávez made many friends and learned about their principles of life. Several weeks after leaving the Indian group, Chavez returned – in uniform with his squadron — to the group. Upon seeing the group, Chávez called out to them. The Indians were paralyzed, caught between the impulse to fight and to acknowledge their friend. Friendship won out and soon the soldiers and the Indians were mingling peacefully with each other.

Thereafter the Indian group regularly visited Chávez and his family at their local home. His wife prepared food for the 60 or 70 Indians visitors, but later complained to Chávez that they returned her hospitality by stealing her children’s clothes that were drying on a clothesline. Chavez replied that, in their custom and communal practices, there was no such thing as private property; everything was shared; the Indians took the clothes like they would take mangos to eat from a tree.

Chávez had the benefit of living with native socialists, just as he experienced the poverty and its suffering that the capitalist dictators had visited upon his own village and state, while personally observing the cruelty and corruption in his military superiors and political leaders. Those experiences undoubtedly made him a socialist, but it was the loving kindness of his grandmother, Rosa Inéz, which he naturally radiates to all he meets and deals with that has made him a beloved socialist.

It is that mutual respect and love which has powered Venezuela’s march to socialism. Love continues to lead this revolution.

Anti-Capitalist Meet-up: Three Tales of Three Cities; Karachi, Liverpool and Caracas by NY Brit Expat

2:52 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Today’€™s anti-capitalist meet-up is a discussion of three news-stories in three different countries whose purpose is to serve as an illustration of the different types of working class struggles we are seeing. In many senses, they illustrate exactly where different countries are in the struggle for change and how important is the term “€œunite and fight.”€

The first two stories came out on Wednesday, 12th of September. They left me angry and despairing; this was compounded by the BBC abandoning discussion of these two stories on Friday for a whole day of a fit of pique about the Duchess of Cambridge’€™s (Kate, William’€™s wife) breasts being displayed in a French magazine as though that story was of any import following what major stories had preceded it. I honestly do not want to discuss this at all, but the concentration of the BBC television news on the exposure of the royal teats story nearly made me weep in frustration. Perhaps if they spent one-twentieth of the time on this story and others like it, further information about the corruption in the capitalist system leading to the deaths of working people in Pakistan could have been reported on the television or the exposure of the perfidy of the police in South Yorkshire would not have had to wait 23 years.

1. Karachi, Pakistan

karachitextilefire
The deaths of at least 264 people in Karachi at the Ali Enterprise Factory (and 25 in a shoe factory in Lahore) due to two factory fires in unsafe working conditions brought to my mind the pictures of the aftermath of the Triangle shirtwaist factory in NYC in March 1911. There are some pictures that never leave your memory, no matter how hard you try to erase them, this is one that came to my mind:
triangleshirtwaistfactorybodies-1
With windows barred and fire doors locked, people leapt to their deaths from the rooftops. The vast majority of those that died did due to suffocation because they were trapped in the basement of the factory. According to the Labour Start campaign, to make the situation worse in terms of identification of the dead, the factory was illegally established, the workers did not have contracts to sign and hence records of who was at work that day are lacking; some people were actually there only to pick up their pay and hence even if records were there, they wouldn’t be listed necessarily for that day. Finally, identification of badly burned bodies is difficult; as of the 13th, 100 bodies still needed to be identified at the various morgues in hospital in the city (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19577450). Adding to the problem was the fire services running out of water during the attempt to put the fire out, delay in bringing the Navy fire brigades in and the lack of aerial water spraying.
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Mitt And His Fellow Vulture Capitalists See Venezuela As a Threat: It Is. by Justina

3:09 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Reposted from Daily Kos.

The likely Republican presidential candidate and quintessential vulture capitalist, Mitt Romney, chided President Obama for not being sufficiently fearful of Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chávez Friás last week. In the conservative Daily Telegraph Mitt is quoted as saying:

“The idea that this nation, this president, doesn’t pose a national security threat is simply naive and an extraordinary admission on the part of this president to be completely out of touch with what is happening in Latin America,” Romney said of Chavez in an interview Wednesday with Fox News.

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Yes, socialist Venezuela, the country which was recently ranked the 5th happiest in the world, following four social democratic countries, presents a threat to Mitt’s vulture business model and his support base, who largely come from the 92,000 wealthy individuals who sequester their wealth in “tax havens” such as Switzerland the Cayman Islands. (See rt. com for its report on “The Price of Off Shore Revisited”.

After President Chavez was elected to office in 1998, Venezuela has had currency controls in place to prevent its national wealth from being looted and sent to extra-territorial banks, a model which defeats the efforts of would-be off shore tax evaders in Venezuela. Other countries have allowed themselves to be systematically raped of their needed tax revenues.

Venezuela also jailed its criminal banksters for speculating with their depositors money. Here, Mitt, you would likely be in jail for creating tax-evading investment vehicles in the Cayman Islands. No, socialist Venezuela, under President Chavez, is definitely not a vulture-capitalist friendly country. That is why it is now thriving.

But other countries are being systematically robbed. Thus, in a study commissioned by the The Tax Justice Network campaign group, leaked to The Guardian, and reprinted by today’s rt.com news cited above, we discover that:

Wealthy tax evaders, aided by private banks have exploited loopholes in tax legislation and stashed over $21 tn in offshore funds, says a report. The capital drained from some developing countries since 1970 would be enough to pay off national debts. The findings show the gap between the haves and the have-nots is much larger than previously thought…

The report provides the most detailed valuation of the offshore economy to date. The document cites the world’s leading private banks as cherry-picking from the ranks of the uber-rich and siphoning their fortunes into tax-free havens such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

The wealth of the super-rich is “protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy.”
Henry writes that a large part of the trillion dollar hoard belongs to around 92,000 individuals, an elite class of super-rich who make up 0.001 percent of the global population.

Romney, the consummate professional enabler, who has bragged about the efficiency with which his Bain companies have served his financial interests and those of his wealthy investors, has also been quoted as admitting that Bain created investment vehicles in the Cayman Islands, protected from U.S. taxes, in order to attract wealthy foreign investors, like those from El Salvador.

Indeed, Romney founded his vulture capitalist private equity investment firm, Bain Capital, largely on the wealth of elite foreign investors from impoverished South and Central American third world countries.

Some 40% of his firm’s initial funding came from the oligarchs of South and Central American dictatorships, those who with the help of U.S. funding, helped themselves to the resources of their fellow countrymen and countrywomen by using U.S. trained death squads (many graduates of the U.S.’s infamous “School of the Americas”) to kill off those in their countries who sought the equitable allocations of their countries’ resources and thus to terrorize the rest of the population into meek submission to their iron-handed rule.

<a href=”Tanfani, Mason and Gold report in a recent L.A. Times article that some of these Bain funders were the “powers that be” in El Salvador, well connected with the right-wing government, whose activities they funded:

The group (of Bain investors) included some of El Salvador’s wealthiest people: coffee grower Miguel A. Dueñas; members of the De Sola family, also coffee exporters; and Ricardo Poma, whose family conglomerate now owns car dealerships and luxury hotels across Central America. [...] Most of the money they put into Bain Capital was through corporations set up in Panama … Among the Bain investors were Francisco R.R. de Sola and his cousin Herbert Arturo de Sola, whose brother Orlando de Sola was suspected by State Department officials and the CIA of backing the right-wing death squads, according to now-declassified documents. Orlando de Sola, who has denied supporting the death squads, is now serving a four-year prison term for unrelated fraud charges.

Jon Wiener, writing in “Bain Capital’s Ties to Salvadoran Death Squads” in The Nation. reports that:

When Bain Capital was founded in 1984, Romney and his partners had trouble raising funds for their initial investments. “$9 million came from rich Latin Americans,” the Times reports, “including powerful Salvadoran families living in Miami.… At the time, U.S. officials were publicly accusing some exiles in Miami of funding right-wing death squads in El Salvador. Some family members of the first Bain Capital investors were later linked to groups responsible for killings…

The civil war in El Salvador lasted from 1980 to 1992 and killed more than 70,000 Salvadorans. It started after Archbishop Óscar Romero was assassinated while giving a mass shortly after he published an open letter to President Carter asking him to cut off US military aid to the Salvadoran military regime.

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Four members of the de Sola family were among the original Bain investors, or “limited partners” in the company, the Boston Globe reported. Their relative and “one-time business partner,” Orlando de Sola, was an important figure in El Salvador. A well-known right-wing coffee grower with an (in his words) “authoritarian” vision for the country, de Sola spent time living in Miami but was also a founding member of the right-wing Arena party, led by a U.S.-trained former intelligence officer named Roberto D’Aubuisson, also known as “Blowtorch Bob”, due to his frequent use of a blowtorch in interrogation sessions.

Justin Elliott, writing in the July 20, 2012 article,“The roots of Bain Capital in El Salvador’s civil war”, notes that:

The war, which pitted leftist guerrillas against a right-wing government backed by the Reagan administration, ultimately left over 70,000 people dead in the tiny nation before a peace deal was brokered by the United Nations in 1992. The vast majority of violence, a UN truth commission later found, was committed by rightist death squads and the military, which received U.S. training and $6 billion in military and economic aid.

Bain investor, Richard Poma, owner of the Roble Group, was likewise implicated in a series of tourist area bombings in Cuba in 1997 when his security chief was arrested for a series of bombings there. The bombings were planned by Luis Posada Carriles, 70, U.S. former CIA operative and longtime militant anti-Cuban exile, who openly admitted arranging the bombings. Posada was then living in El Salvador, which refused to deport him back to Cuba.

Thus Romney’s founding El Salvadoran investors, who likely had reached their power and wealth before 1984 by originally extracting it from the blood, sweat and tears of poor El Salvordoran workers, who used that wealth to gain political power and to remain in power by funding their chosen right-wing politicians, protected by military assistance and training from the U.S., including the U.S.’s “School of the Americas” (otherwise known as “School of the Assassins” and still in operation under a new, more neutral name), likewise funded the cruel “Death Squads” that tortured and assassinated anyone who dared to demand equitable distribution of their countries’ wealth.

Thus these founders were appropriate models for the cut-throat business decisions taken by Mitt Romney on behalf of his Bain companies, who bought up American companies, looted them, threw their workers into the street, and collected massive fees for Romney and Bain for their efforts.

True, Mitt’s efficient army of enablers, the lawyers, accountants and managers who comprised his “assassination squads”, didn’t have to stoop to using chain saws to decapitate and draw and quarter rebellious workers, as did the El Salvadorian death squads, they simply worked them long hours for low pay, raided their pension funds and then terminated them, leaving the U.S. taxpayers to clean up their deadly but bloodless mess by supplying the missing pension money.

Little wonder, with the biggest banks engaging in laundering the money from drug cartels, while the private equity funds like Bain, make vast profits for their tax-evading investors, that the U.S. has come to look just like the third world countries such as El Salvador.

The Washington Post reports:

The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate (In the U.S.) will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest since 1965.

Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.

“I grew up going to Hawaii every summer. Now I’m here, applying for assistance because it’s hard to make ends meet. It’s very hard to adjust,” said Laura Fritz, 27, of Wheat Ridge, Colo., describing her slide from rich to poor as she filled out aid forms at a county center. Since 2000, large swaths of Jefferson County just outside Denver have seen poverty nearly double.

In contrast, the people in Socialist Venezuela are seeing vast improvements in their living conditions.

Thus Eva Golinger, writing in today’s venezuelanalysis:

Poverty has been reduced by more than 50% since Chavez came to power in 1998. The inclusionary policies of his government have created a society with mass participation in economic, political and social decisions. His social programs – called missions – have guaranteed free medical care and education, from basic to advanced levels, and provided basic food items at affordable costs, along with tools to create and maintain cooperatives, small and medium businesses, community organizations and communes. Venezuelan culture has been rescued and treasured, recovering national pride and identity, and creating a sentiment of dignity instead of inferiority. Communication media have proliferated during the last decade, assuring spaces for the expression of all.

The oil industry, nationalized in 1976 but operating as a private company, has been recuperated for the benefit of the country, and not for multinationals and the elite. Over 60% of the annual budget is dedicated to social programs in the country, with the principal focus on eradicating poverty.

Caracas, the capital, has been beautified. Parks and plazas have turned into spaces for gatherings, enjoyment and safety for visitors. There’s music in the streets, art on the walls and a rich debate of ideas amongst inhabitants. The new communal police works with neighborhoods to battle crime and violence, addressing problems from the root cause.

As a five year resident of Venezuela, I have see that the government has invested billions of dollars from its oil resources into providing universal medical care, public education to the post-doctoral university level, subsidized food markets and restaurants, low (or no) interest loans to purchase new housing (the government is building two million new homes for those who are inadequately housed), financial assistance in starting worker-owned cooperatives and small business, government paid job training and placement, and massive programs to assist the elderly and disabled with a variety of social services, including in-home doctor visits, nursing assistance and home renovations and repairs.

All school children receive one or two free meals a day, and even government-provided computers and internet training. Stay-at home care-takers receive stipends and women are now protected under an extensive anti-domestic violence law which provides for psychiatric care and job training for abused household members. Social security has been extended to hundreds of thousands of people who did not previously qualify.

Yes, Venezuela is a real danger to Mitt and his fellow vulture capitalists. It presents a replicable model of a society that cares about the needs and aspirations of its members, rather than stealing labor from its people to generate profits for a few already wealthy individuals, those 92,000 people, the 0.001 percent who, like Mitt, make their wealth by stealing it from the vast majority of the world’s population.