#. 116. December 2005

THE POLITICS OF THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT
And the Intractable Dilemma of International ANSWER
by Bill Weinberg

WAR ON TRUTH AT GUANTANAMO
Detainees Launch Non-Violent Resistance Behind Pentagon’s Iron Veil
by Tanya Theriault

PARAGUAY: THE PENTAGON’S NEW LATIN BEACHHEAD
Is the Real Enemy Islamic Terrorism, or Bolivia’s Indigenous Revolution?
by Benjamin Dangl

AVIAN FASCISM
The Ecology of Pandemic and the Impending Bio-Police State
by Michael I. Niman

“BIONOIA”
Did U.S. Use Germ Warfare Against DC Peace March?
Or Are We Just Being Bionoid…?

by Mark Sanborne

From Weekly News Update on the Americas:

COLOMBIA: INDIGENOUS, PEACE COMMUNITIES UNDER ATTACK
VENEZUELA: OIL FOR U.S. POOR; “HOLOCAUST” IN PRISONS?
ECUADOR: TEN THOUSAND PROTEST TRADE PACT
CENTRAL AMERICA: TICOS MARCH AGAINST CAFTA

Book Review:
FOUCAULT’S PERSIAN GULF
Reality, Perception and the Iranian Revolution
by Sandy McCroskey

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Continue Reading#. 116. December 2005 

SPECIAL MESSAGE TO OUR READERS

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Continue ReadingSPECIAL MESSAGE TO OUR READERS 

FOUCAULT’S PERSIAN GULF

Reality, Perception and the Iranian Revolution

BOOK REVIEW

FOUCAULT AND THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION
Gender and the Seductions of Islamism
by Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson
University of Chicago, 2005

by Sandy McCroskey

I.

When Michel Foucault arrived in Iran in September 1978 to begin what turned out to be a short-lived second career as a journalist, an earthquake had just obliterated forty villages. “Ten years ago to the day,” Foucault tells us, a quake destroyed the town of Ferdows in the same area. In its place arose two new towns.

“On one side, there was the town of administration, the Ministry of Housing, and the notables. But a little further away, the artisans and the farmers rebuilt their own town, in opposition to all these official plans. Under the direction of a cleric, they collected the funds, built and dug with their own hands, laid out canals and wells, and constructed a mosque. On the first day they planted a green flag. The new village is called Islamiyeh. Facing the government and against it, Islam: already ten years old.”

Throughout his life and work, Foucault had been deeply concerned with manifestations of “the will not to be governed,” with all forms of resistance to “this monstrosity we call the state,” whether in its capitalist (“the harshest, most savage, most selfish, most dishonest, oppressive society one could possibly imagine”) or socialist formations (though he remained affiliated with the socialist party in France). On the day before the shah finally fled Iran, Foucault gave a lecture (on liberalism—in the European sense—and “governmentality”) at the College de France, in which he posed the question: “Why is it necessary for the state to govern any given aspect of life at all?” The Iranian uprising could never have happened without the opposition of church and state and, from day one, Foucault never lets us forget that. To a degree, it should have been obvious: The vast majority of Iranians were Shi’ite Muslims; any mobilization of the masses would have to have the approval, at least, of the religious authorities. But there was clearly something here that could not be explained by Western theory on “revolution.” Religion appeared to be the primary instigating, guiding and unifying force.

Another seismic upheaval, Foucault tells us, had shortly preceded the quake: the Black Friday massacre of September 1, when the army mowed down at least 250 anti-shah demonstrators in Tehran. It was only the latest, and not yet the worst, in a series of such events; eventually the army would refuse to fire on their countrymen (and -women), but not before thousands became martyrs to the cause and—the way most of them looked at it—entered the gates of paradise. This willingness to sacrifice oneself deeply impressed Foucault. It is known that he had no philosophical objection to suicide (far from it)—as a personal choice that should be available to everyone, but also as a political act. “Death is power’s limit, the moment that escapes it,” he wrote in The Will to Know.

Foucault tells us that “the economic difficulties in Iran at that time were not sufficiently great for people to take to the streets, in their hundreds of thousands, in their millions, and face the machine-guns bare-chested.” So what set it off? Nationalist leftists, the far-left Fedayeen and Muhajedeen and indeed almost every social group in Iran were all opposed to the shah. But it was the willingness of so many to put their lives on that line in demonstrations organized by the Shi’ites (often taking the form of religious ceremonies mourning those previously fallen in the struggle), that ultimately brought down the regime—despite its fearsome army, despite its ruthless secret police, despite the backing of the entire world economic order, including the United States. Jimmy Carter was only then starting to tsk-tsk at the shah’s numerous and flagrant human rights violations. “In Iran the religious calendar sets the political schedule,” Foucault notes. Looking forward to the annual Muharram celebration, “the great ritual of penance,” Foucault could already see “exaltation in the martyrdom for a just cause,” when “the crowds are ready to advance toward death in the intoxication of sacrifice.”

Foucault saw the virtual absence of political maneuvering inside the movement, as well as the apparent lack of a political program to be implemented should it succeed, as evidence of a total rejection by the “collective will” of “politics,” tout court. He was well aware that after the departure of the shah this could change, overnight, though he liked to think it was part of the overall rejection of the past century of Iran’s dependence on the West. Of course, one reason the uprising manifested itself as “non-political” was that there was no political arena: Parties had been abolished in 1963 (the same year women were so magnanimously given the vote); the far-left militias had refused all discussion with the regime (they were “on strike against politics”). Now, of course, we know all too well what rushed in to fill the political vacuum after the shah fell.

Foucault has been criticized for hypostatizing “a perfectly united collective will” behind the uprising. It is clear he was aware of differing and even competing tendencies: In his November 7 dispatch for Corriere della Sera, he gives as one factor in the instigation of what appears to have been an atypically violent student riot the “rivalry between the political and the religious groups. There was on everyone’s mind a sort of mutual challenge between revolutionary radicalism and Islamic radicalism, neither of which wanted to seem more conciliatory and less courageous than the other.” But this isn’t what interested him, particularly. In an interview he tells journalist Pierre Blanchet: “What I liked about your articles was that they didn’t try to break up this phenomenon into its constituent elements, they tried to leave it as a single beam of light, even though we know that it is made up of several elements.”

That collective will asked for “a sole and very precise thing, the departure of the shah. But for the Iranian people, this unique thing means everything… This political will is one of breaking with all that marks their country and their daily lives with the presence of global hegemonies.” For one thing, rampant corruption. Foucault is not talking about Iran, he’s talking about us, when he asks, “Do you know of a treatise on political economy, or of sociology, or history books, that offers a serious and detailed analysis of the speculation, corrupt practices, embezzlement, and swindling that constitute the veritable daily bread of our trade, our industry, and our finances?” In Iran, the regime was synonymous with corruption; that was simply the way things worked. One can wonder how many countries are different. In Iran, though, the shah’s shameless pillaging of his own people, dividing the spoils among his own family and favorites, was made possible by the generous sponsorship of foreign powers. To most Iranians, modernization had meant nothing but displacement and hardship. For the past hundred years they had trudged along, heads down, on a forced march to an alien future. Now they were again lifting their eyes… to the sky…

“Throughout this whole year, revolt ran through Iran, from celebrations to commemorations, from worship, to sermons, to prayers. Tehran honored the dead of Abadan, Tabriz those of Isfahan, and Isfahan those of Qom. White, red, and green lanterns were lit up after nightfall on big tree branches in front of hundreds of houses. It was the ‘wedding bed’ of the boys just killed. In the mosques during the day, the mullahs spoke ferociously against the shah, the Americans, and the West and its materialism. They called for the people to fight against the entire regime in the name of the Quran and of Islam. When the mosques became too small for the crowd, loudspeakers were put in the streets. These voices, as terrible as must have been that of Savonarola in Florence, the voices of the Anabaptists in Munster, or those of the Presbyterians at the time of Cromwell, resounded through the whole village, the whole neighborhood.”

Ealier in the report excerpted above, Foucault tells us that he had spoken with a sociologist about the role of Islam in the people’s daily lives, and, told that it is “a refuge,” he suspected his interviewee of toning down the truth for the sake of his Western ears. A reformed Marxist, Foucault was convinced by now that religion could be something other than “the opiate of the people.” He continues:

“Many of these sermons were recorded, and the tapes circulated throughout Iran. In Tehran, a writer who was not at all a religious man let me listen to some of them. They seemed to evoke neither withdrawal nor a refuge. Nor did they evoke disarray or fear.”.

I must have read this passage three times before it dawned on me that Foucault could tell us only what the tapes do not “evoke”—or even “seem to evoke”—because, not knowing the language, he can’t tell us what they do say

The answer Foucault most often heard to the question, “What do you want?” was “Islamic government.” Foucault clearly accepted the most optimistic interpretation of what this would mean. The mullahs, while not a “revolutionary force,” were not part of a hierachical structure; they acted as “photographic plates,” simply reflecting the people’s will. As for after the revolution—why, one must have “faith in the creativity of Islam.” At times, he waxes almost ecstatic: “What place can be given, within the calculations of politics, to such a movement, to a movement that does not let itself be divided among political choices, a movement through which blows the breath of a religion that speaks less of the hereafter than of the transfiguration of this world?”

File under “famous last words”: “By Islamic government, nobody in Iran means a political regime in which the clerics would have a role of supervision or control.” “Khomeini is not a politician. There will not be a Khomeini party; there will not be a Khomeini government.” So there’s no doubt Foucault was genuinely shocked when Khomeini consolidated his grip and the hands and heads started falling. He spoke out about the repression in an open letter to the (alas, only) nominal head of government Mehdi Bazargan, and reminded him of their conversations before the revolution, when Foucault was given many assurances about the positive effect religion would have in reining in (as opposed to reigning in) government. But he did not seem sufficiently contrite to many of his critics, and he is said to have lost friends over this.

Foucault clearly hadn’t sufficiently prepared for tackling this assignment. Although he had “read several books on Islam and Shi’ism,” it doesn’t seem he had often dipped into the supposed source, the Koran. Nor had he been informed of the contents of Khomeini’s 1943 treatise, Kashf al-Asrar (The Unveiling of Secrets), which spelled out exactly what the ayatollah would do upon accession to power over thirty years later. Oops!

How could Foucault not have gotten a hint of the authoritarian nature of traditional Islamic societies? In 1961, he wrote in Folie et déraison that the establishment of “communities of ethical uniformity” placed the nonconformist into “a relation to himself that was of the order of transgression, and a nonrelation to others that was of the order of shame.” Nothing in Foucault’s reportage is as troubling as his repeated invocation of the confused notion of “political spirituality.” When such mirages as this float before the eyes, one must wonder if, under the blazing Persian sun, the skin-headed savant forgot to wear a hat.

II.

From September 1978 to May 1979, Foucault published eleven articles on Iran, nine in the Italian Corriere della Sera and two in Le Nouvel Observateur. He also gave interviews on the topic for a magazine in Persian and a French book. The Italian pieces didn’t appear in French until 1994, and it is only now that most of these articles, unique in Foucault’s canon, can be found in English—in the appendix to Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson’s Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism. The appendix also contains a couple of short (even snippy!) replies of Foucault to his critics, articles by his critics and some related documents on the feminist front. Especially worthwhile are the essays by the late Maxime Rodinson, who forthrightly tears into the hazy concept of “political spirituality” and from the beginning had no illusions about the “archaic fascism” in Islamism.

Although those interested in Foucault can only be grateful for this volume, Afary and Anderson do not do Foucault any favors in the strident commentary that takes up the first half of the book. They seem to believe that they have discovered Foucault’s philosophic Achilles’ heel, that his treatment of the events in Iran reveals flaws that compromise all his work.

Afary and Anderson’s most constant refrain is the dubious claim that Foucault’s work is pervaded with a dualism that privileges premodern over modern cultures. A reference to “the famous gaze” of the shah is rather facilely taken to be an allusion to a similar trope in Surveiller et punir (Discipline and Punish), with its contrast between the era when criminals expiated their debt to society in gruesome, ritualistic displays of physical punishment and death, and the modern age of the “panoptical” carceral society. Surely (I thought) they do not mean to imply that Foucault favored a return to the barbarism of eye-for-an-eye justice (as Khomeinism in practice turned out to be). The implication returns in the discussion of Foucault’s studies (concurrent with his interest in Iran) of Christian ascetic practices, in which he is said to have been more interested in the expression of penitence through bodily mortification than through verbal confession—”which Foucault criticized alongside modern disciplinary techniques”! (These penitence rituals are similar to the ancient practices of celebrants of Muharram, commemorating the founding myth of Shi’ism, the martyrdom of Hussein at the Battle of Karbala.)

This line of research is tied in, of course, with Foucault’s being a sadomasochistic perv, though it’s not clear how that is supposed to have affected his conclusions. As a matter of fact, Foucault argued for the abolition of all punishment—as utopian as that may sound. It is, at any rate, very questionable if Iranian society under the shah can be taken as epitomizing the carceral society drawn in Surveiller et punir from European models and experiences, in the ultimate development of which all good citizens will have internalized the tyrant’s gaze to such a degree that the state has no need of secret police or omnipresent spy technology to keep most people in line. In Iran, the ideology of the oppressor had never been adopted by the populace, and the shah needed every gun at his disposal—until even that wasn’t enough.

Afary and Anderson’s language is often just plain silly: “In distancing himself from the possibility of attaining absolute knowledge [for shame!], and the Hegelian dialectic of mutual recognition, Foucault instead celebrated the French author Marquis de Sade.” Foucault’s fascination with self-sacrifice is condemned with a flip of a limp bit of jargon, “the discourse of death.”

Although on several occasions they commend the astuteness of Foucault’s perceptions—for example, when he countered assessments of Khomeini as a flash in the pan who had come to the fore only because of the impotence of the parties, driven underground—somehow the very same sort of observation is taken by them as evidence of both Foucault’s perspicacity and despicableness: “Foucault stood out in his celebration of the dominant Islamist wing, including the latter’s rejection of Western Marxist and liberal notions of democracy, women’s equality, and human rights.” Suffice to say that Foucault never “celebrated” the oppression of anyone. You see what a lot of mischief that little, uncalled-for “including” can do. Thus goes this inquisition, where Foucault’s text is stretched out of shape on the rack of the authors’ preconceptions.

They pull a similar trick when they say that “Foucault’s support for the new wave of Islamist uprisings that started in Iran in 1978, what he called this ‘powder keg’ set against the dominant global powers, was not entirely uncritical.” This would be “support,” however qualified, for events Foucault would never see, as he wrote nothing (“lapsed into silence,” in our authors’ formulation) about this part of the world after May 1979, and died in 1984.

To drive home the enormity of Foucault’s transgression, there is an epilogue bringing us up to September 11, 2001. To be sure, Foucault foretold that the dominant West’s confrontation with that other, Muslim world could be the source of many conflagrations to come, though when he spoke of Islam “setting the whole region afire,” it seems he was thinking of nationalist revolts. There are to date only two other countries that have fallen under radical Muslim control since 1979 (or can we count Iraq yet?), and they got that way not at all in a manner similar to the Iranian “people power” revolution. War-ravaged Afghanistan fell to the Sunni Taliban army in 1996, while in Sudan Islamist rule was imposed through a succession of military coups in the 1980s. It is not known if Foucault had an inkling that Islamist revolt would evolve into the borderless terrorism of a global jihad—itself another form of totalitarianism—but it is highly unlikely that he would have applauded the fall of the Twin Towers as “the high point of the spectacle,” as did that idiot Jean Baudrillard (trotted out here to somehow invalidate Foucault’s ideas, though his work has nothing at all to do with Foucault’s).

Afary and Anderson quote, with seeming approval, Le Monde editor Alain Minc’s scurrilous reference to Foucault as an “advocate of Khomeinism…and in theory of its exactions” [emphasis added]. Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and their ilk are attacked for attempting to put a little blame on US foreign policy—well, one could have predicted that.

A section of A&A’s book contains the sensational-sounding heading “Foucault’s Meeting with Ayatollah Khomeini and ‘Political Spirituality'”. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on that wall? We read that “Foucault was granted a meeting with Khomeini at his residence outside Paris.” But the extract from Didier Eribon’s Foucault biography that follows does not actually say that. It refers to “a visit to Neuphles,” where Khomeini was in retreat, during which Foucault saw the ayatollah’s son and son-in-law display a touch of tolerance by insisting that a German journalist not be sent away even though she was not wearing a veil. Nor does Foucault come any closer to Khomeini elsewhere in the section. In a footnote to his brief treatment of the Iranian affair, James Miller cites Eribon as a source for the statement that “Foucault never met Khomeini; he did go…to Neuphles-le-Chateau outside Paris, where Khomeini was in exile between October 7, 1978, and his eventual return to Iran the following year; but all [Foucault’s] group got to see was Khomeini walking in the distance.” I haven’t read Eribon, but my money’s on Miller here.

Among their most egregious errors, Afary and Anderson quote at length a passage from an April 1978 lecture in Tokyo as presenting Foucault’s own account of shifting attitudes toward sexuality in the West over past centuries. Those with a little familiarity with Foucault’s History of Sexuality, even from reviews, might recognize that Foucault was only recounting the standard story about such things, the reigning paradigm that he would now proceed to shatter, if his listener would just sit tight for the rest of the seminar.

Foucault’s treatment of matters pertaining to sexuality and social control is far more nuanced than Afary and Anderson seem able to grasp. And ain’t that a shame, for a book with the portentous (and academic-sexy) subtitle “Gender and the Seductions of Islamism,” which might lead us to think that A&A have pinpointed the critical blind spot in Foucault’s worldview, on which all the book’s themes will converge. It doesn’t quite work that way.

The authors’ most serious accusation is that Foucault didn’t care about women’s rights. It is true that in the context of the Iranian revolution, he said precious little about them. He mentions “the subjugation of women” in his last article on the topic, in May 1979, but it doesn’t figure in his open letter to Prime Minister Bazargan, except as understood to be part of “human rights.”

There is a chapter headed “Debating the Outcome of the Revolution, Especially on Women’s Rights,” but where was the debate? Kate Millet and other feminists traveled to Iran, and reported that women’s rights were in execrable shape. They were apparently attacked for this by some French leftists—but not by Foucault, who didn’t disagree that things had taken a bad turn after the revolution.

It is true that before the ascent of Khomeini to power he seemed blissfully unaware that the righteous Islamists would often flog a woman for not donning the veil. If we give him the benefit of the doubt on that, he still could not have been ignorant that women in a traditionally patriarchal culture would not have the same privileges as men—perhaps this was too obvious a fact for Foucault to feel it needed restating in his own ever-provocative prose. Another explanation is that he may have regarded it as presumptuous for him to pass judgment on another culture. One may consider this as a kind of Orientalism-in-spite-of-itself, in which Foucault would be in the illustrious company of no less enlightened a gent than Edward W. Said—whom Afary and Anderson show mocking Simone de Beauvoir as “silly” and full of herself when, during a March 1979 meeting in Paris on the Palestinian-Israeli situation, she spoke about her upcoming journey to Iran with Kate Millet and inveighed against the forced wearing of the chador. (The text of a speech Beauvoir gave after the trip is included in the appendix.)

When Foucault said, in his letter to Bazargan, that he was sure the Iranians were tired of receiving “such noisy lectures” from the outside world, he could have been referring to Millet, Beauvoir and others. It’s just vague enough; you can’t be sure.

One is tempted to connect a few dots in the chapter on “Male Homosexuality in Mediterranean and Muslim Societies.” When Iranian feminists spoke out against the traditional ways of homosexuality in their country (with the prevalence of passive/dominant relations, often with a significant age difference), did Foucault consider this another case of one culture attempting to impose its values on another? But this would only be wild speculation. The chapter contains much on same-sex relations between males in the Muslim world that sheds some light on why Foucault could be shocked to discover that the Koran commands that homosexuals be executed. Afary and Anderson give us a darkly comic account of the night when he was presented with this information, chapter and verse. (It is not known whether this was during Foucault’s first or second visit to Iran.)

But all this could be beside the point. Foucault makes only passing mention of anti-Semitism among the Iranian Islamists, just enough to let us know he was aware of it. Now, Foucault himself was the farthest thing from an anti-Semite. His estrangement from the more anti-Zionist Gilles Deleuze was caused in part by their disagreement on Israel/Palestine. Yet he suggested that Khomeini’s movement could gain in strength by putting the liberation of Palestine on the agenda (one wonders, wasn’t it already?). It should be clear that he was not endorsing every Islamist position—no more than he was converting to Islam. Afary and Anderson call the Iranian episode “the most passionate and significant political commitment of Foucault’s life”—with the admitted, and extremely significant, exception of his work in the early 1970s with the Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons, which he founded. And “commitment” is perhaps too strong a word for Foucault’s stance vis-a-vis Iran, which Foucault himself, speaking to his students in the cooler confines of the College de France on the eve of what history would call the Iranian Revolution, typified as “wishful participation.”

The reader who knows something about Foucault may lose patience with Afary and Anderson in the first couple chapters. I do urge readers to turn first to Foucault’s own report, unmediated; but there is some valuable information to be dug out of the remainder (some of which has, obviously, informed this review).

For example, Foucault writes briefly of one Ali Shariati, Khomeini’s predecessor as leader of the fundamentalist movement, who had died two years earlier but whose “shadow…haunts all political and religious life in Iran today.” Foucault tells us that Shariati studied in Europe, had contacts with various strains of revolutionary, socialist thought and brought back to his country the message that Shi’ism’s true meaning was “in the sermons of social justice and equality that had already been preached by the first imam [Ali].” From Afary and Anderson we learn that Shariati was influenced by Heidegger, who was also very important to Foucault; Heidegger’s concepts of existential choice and authenticity are said to have inflected a reinterpretation of Shi’ism.

Alavid Shi’ism—a pure Shi’ism of Ali—was to replace the “Safavid Shi’ism” institutionalized by the Safavid Dynasty in the seventeenth century, when Shia became (perforce) the faith of the nation. Shariati began to teach (and we can’t blame the atheist Heidegger for this) that becoming a martyr was the one sure path to paradise and, adding a new tone of vindictiveness, the one sure way to damn your enemies to hell. According to Afary and Anderson, in Shariati’s interpretation of the founding myth of Shi’ism, Hussein’s martyrdom was “not the type of death through which God forgave the sins of humanity, it was one that pointed toward revenge, a death that marked the enemy as a horrible sinner.” (I am assuming, of course, that Afary and Anderson’s reading of Shariati is more accurate than their reading of Foucault.) Foucault also does not mention the strain of anti-Semitism that Afary and Anderson tell us ran through Shariati’s thought, and one must wonder how deeply he had read in the man’s works.

III.

I think that Foucault wrote nothing else about Iran after May 1979 simply because, well, it was over. He’d said all he had to say in his last article, “Is It Useless to Revolt?” where he insisted that to call the revolt meaningless because it ultimately failed was as illegitimate as the mullahs’ justification of their reign by the blood of the martyrs.

In his last years Foucault turned his attention to Stoicism and the concept of self-creation through a purely individual ethics that would function as “a very strong structure of existence, without any relation with the juridical per se, or with an authoritarian system or a disciplinary structure.” His ethics had, of course, been a personal one already in 1979, “antistrategic,” as he wrote. “One must be respectful when a singularity arises and intransigent as soon as the state violates universals.” He was always on the lookout for the chinks in power’s armor, for “what must unconditionally limit” politics. Confronting the uprising that he considered to have world historical importance (and who will say that it didn’t?) as “perhaps the first great insurrection against global systems,” he considered it a duty to listen, as one should listen to anyone who pits his life against overwhelming power, to the madman at the end of his rope, to the criminal who would dash across the bullet-strafed yard. One is not required, he added dryly, “to stand in solidarity with them.” After all, he called this form of rebellion “the most modern and the most insane,” and he wanted to call the article in which this line appears “Iran’s Madness” (editors!). But note that the most mad form of rebellion is not said to be necessarily a specifically Muslim rebellion: It is simply the “revolt against global systems.” It could mean, in fact, the global justice movement. In which case it is me, I sincerely hope, and I hope it is you.

So let us not say that Foucault didn’t listen, just because he got taken in. That’s a risk you run when you listen. The other always speaks a different language.

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Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
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Continue ReadingFOUCAULT’S PERSIAN GULF 

CENTRAL AMERICA: TICOS MARCH AGAINST CAFTA

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

COSTA RICA: MARCH AGAINST DR-CAFTA

Some 25,000 Costa Ricans marched in San Jose on Nov. 17 in what organizers said would be the first of several mobilizations against the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). The protest was organized by a broad coalition including unions, campesino organizations, and student, environmental and artistic groups. The three-hour demonstration, which featured music, street theater and clowns, ended at the Legislative Assembly building. The protesters said the pact will result in the dismantling of the social welfare state that Costa Rica built up starting in 1950. Many signs criticized former president Oscar Arias, winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize. Arias, a strong supporter of DR-CAFTA, is running in next February’s presidential election.

Costa Rica signed DR-CAFTA with the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the US in May 2004. The legislatures of the other signatories have all approved the pact, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, but Costa Rican president Abel Pacheco didn’t send the accord to the Legislative Assembly until Oct. 21. Debate on the measure isn’t expected to start until Feb. 15. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Nov. 18 from AFP)

At a press conference on Nov. 16, the day before the protest, Ana Cecilia Jimenez, president of the non-governmental Costa Rican Human Rights Commission (CODEHU), accused the government of violating the protesters’ human rights. She cited reports that the Security Ministry had “parallel files” on some student leaders who had been organizing demonstrations against DR-CAFTA. “Parallel files” are illegal in Costa Rica, since they contain private personal information on people who have not committed any crime, Jimenez said. Police agents also filmed students meeting at the student center at the state-run National University of Costa Rica (UCR). This constituted a violation of their privacy rights, according to Jimenez, because the center isn’t a public space.

The media’s failure to cover opposition to the accord was also a human rights violation, an “attack on the right to information and of free expression,” Jimenez said. “The problem is that the information the people get is coming only from one side. They don’t know the negative consequences of the DR-CAFTA, for example, that it means an opening of telecommunications and insurance to the free market.” (La Nacion, Costa Rica, Nov. 16 from ACAN-EFE)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 20

EL SALVADOR: CIA-LINKED COLONEL LOSES TORTURE SUIT

On Nov. 18, a nine-member federal jury in Memphis, Tennessee, found former Salvadoran deputy defense minister Col. Nicolas Carranza responsible for torture, extrajudicial executions and additional crimes carried out by soldiers under his authority during the 1980-1992 civil war in El Salvador. The jury ordered him to pay a total of $2 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages; each of the four plaintiffs is to receive $1.5 million. The suit was brought by the Center for Justice and Accountability; the civil trial began on Oct. 31.

Carranza was deputy defense minister 1979-1981 and head of the now disbanded Treasury Police 1983-1984. In 1985 he moved to Memphis, where he worked as a security guard; in 1991 he became a US citizen. During the civil trial he testified that he had worked as an informant for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for 20 years, including the time the crimes were committed. Blaming the crimes on former defense minister Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia, Carranza said the only “stain” on his career was his work for the CIA. US officials told the New York Times in 1984 that the CIA was paying Carranza $90,000 a year. (La Nacion, Costa Rica, Nov. 18 from EFE; NYT, Nov. 19, 2005; March 22, 1984)

This was the third major suit against high-ranking Salvadoran officers in US courts. In September 2004 a federal judge in California ordered former Air Force captain Alvaro Saravia to pay $10 million for his role in the 1980 murder of San Salvador archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. In July 2002 a Miami jury ordered Gen. Garcia and former National Guard head Gen. Eugenio Vides Casanova to pay $54 million (La Nacion, Nov. 18 from EFE); however, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned that ruling on a technicality in February of this year.

Center for Justice and Accountability: http://www.cja.org

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 20

GUATEMALA: SECRET POLICE ARCHIVES UNCOVERED

The New York Times reported on Nov. 21 that during the summer the Guatemalan human rights ombudsperson’s office discovered the complete files of the disbanded National Police in a munitions depot near the center of Guatemala City. Kate Doyle, director of the Guatemala Project at the DC-based nonprofit National Security Archive, said this was the largest discovery of secret government documents in Latin America. The files, going back more than 100 years, include references to the 1990 assassination of Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack, the 1980 assassination of Belgian priest Walter Voordeckers and the 1982 disappearance of Serge Berten, another Belgian citizen, according to Gustavo Meono, the head investigator for the ombudsperson’s office.

Long known to be involved in human rights abuses during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war, the National Police was disbanded in 1996 as part of the peace process that ended the fighting. At the time, then-president Alvaro Arzu’s government told a peace commission that the files no longer existed. Human rights investigators say that the Arzu government and all governments since must have known that the files hadn’t been destroyed. (NYT, Nov. 21)

U.S. NABS GUATEMALAN DRUG CZAR

US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents arrested Guatemala’s top anti-drug police official along with two other officers in Virginia on Nov. 15 as they arrived in the US for what they expected to be DEA training to fight drug traffickers. The three were Adan Castillo, head of the Anti-Narcotic Analysis and Information Service (SAIA); SAIA deputy head Jorge Aguilar Garcia; and Rubilio Orlando Palacios, SAIA head for the Caribbean port of Santo Tomas de Castilla. On Nov. 16 a federal grand jury in Washington, DC issued an indictment against the three Guatemalans for three counts of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine inside the US. They pleaded innocent and were held without bail. Guatemalan interior minister Carlos Vielman said Guatemala and the US had collaborated on the investigation for five months at “the highest level.” (Washington Post, Nov. 16 from AP; El Diario-La Prensa, Nov. 17 from AFP)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 27

HONDURAS: MINE OCCUPATION ENDS

Workers at the San Martin open-pit gold mine in San Ignacio in the Honduran department of Francisco Morazan ended their week-long occupation of the facility’s entry and exit points on Nov. 1 after the company, Minerales Entre Mares de Honduras, S.A., backed down from its plan to lay off the 27 workers from the crushing department. The year-old Minerales Entre Mares de Honduras, S.A. Workers’ Union (SITRAMEMHSA) started the job action on Oct. 25 to stop the layoffs and to enforce provisions of a contract the union signed with the company, a subsidiary of the US-Canadian transnational Glamis Gold Ltd.

The US-Canadian nonprofit group Rights Action reports that three of the crushing department workers were suffering from respiratory, stomach and bone problems, presumably because of their contact with cyanide, which is used in processing the pulverized material. There are also indications that the cyanide is affecting local water supplies. Workers say that during heavy rains recently, the company was pumping water 24 hours a day from an artificial lake into the Guanijiquil stream, which feeds into the Playa river, one of the few water sources for irrigation in the valley. Although the workers are not sure the water is contaminated in the lake, which the company created recently, they call it “Ducks’ Lake” because ducks die when they settle down on the water. (Rights Action, Nov. 2)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 7

NICARAGUA: U.S. JUDGE DROPS NEMAGON CASE

In a decision dated Nov. 10, US Judge Nora Manella of the Central District Court in California ruled that a decision from Nicaraguan courts had no bearing on a suit 466 Nicaraguan former banana workers brought in US federal courts against the US-based Shell Oil Company for compensation for damages they said they suffered as a result of prolonged and unprotected exposure to the pesticide Nemagon (dibromo chloropropane, DBCP). According to Manella, Nicaraguan courts have no jurisdiction over Shell Oil and Nicaragua does not have an impartial justice system.

In December 2002 a Nicaraguan court ordered Shell Oil, Dow Chemical, Standard Fruit/Dole Food Company to pay the former banana workers a total of $489.4 million; the decision was based on Nicaragua’s Special Law 364. The former banana workers brought the suit against Shell in US courts in November 2003; they sued the other companies at about the same time. The companies brought a countersuit in December 2002 and January 2003. Humberto Hurtado, an attorney for Dole, said he expects a favorable ruling for the other companies because of Manella’s decision in the Shell case. The decision also means that it is “impossible” for similar suits by farm workers in Colombia and Ecuador to proceed, according to Hurtado. (La Prensa, Managua, Nov. 25)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 27

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http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #115
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From our weblog:

Guatemalan drug czar busted
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Nicaragua-Costa Rica tensions over strategic canal route
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ECUADOR: TEN THOUSAND PROTEST TRADE PACT

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

Some 10,000 indigenous people from throughout Ecuador gathered in the capital, Quito, Nov. 16-18 to demand that President Alfredo Palacio not sign a free trade treaty (TLC) with the US. The protesters are also demanding that the Palacio government cancel its contract with the US oil company Occidental (Oxy), and that a national constitutional assembly be convened to rewrite the country’s Constitution. In addition, the indigenous movement is demanding that the government end its cooperation with “Plan Colombia,” the US-backed military program which is intensifying the war in Colombia and spreading it across the border into Ecuador.

The actions in Quito, organized by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), started off on Nov. 16 with a march by more than 3,000 indigenous people and supporters from El Arbolito park to the National Congress. Police attacked the crowd and injured a number of people, including two children who were badly affected by tear gas.

CONAIE plans to step up the nationwide mobilization against the pending TLC. “We demand that the national government call a popular referendum in which we ask the Ecuadoran people whether or not they want to install a national constitutional assembly,” said CONAIE. (Adital, Brazil, Nov. 17; Resumen Latinoamericano, Nov. 18 from CONAIE)

On Nov. 17, some 10,000 indigenous people and Quito residents marched again in the capital, filling the Plaza de San Francisco in the historic center. The indigenous communities declared themselves in a “permanent people’s assembly” with ongoing meetings in the Agora of the Casa de la Cultura in Quito to decide next steps in the mobilization. The protesters gathered in Quito are from the provinces of Chimborazo, Imbabura, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Pichincha (Cayambe), Cotopaxi, Tungurahua and Bolivar.

Late on Nov. 17 Palacio agreed to meet with CONAIE leaders; the meeting lasted into the early hours of Nov. 18 as CONAIE emphasized its three main demands: no TLC, Oxy out, and a constitutional assembly. On Nov. 18, nearly 10,000 indigenous people and supporters marched again in Quito, some heading to the National Congress, others to the Plaza de la Independencia, in front of the Carondelet government palace. Some indigenous people then began to return to their communities, while others remained in Quito to await a response from Palacio. (Prensa Latina, Nov. 18; Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales, Nov. 18; Resumen Latinoamericano, Nov. 18 from CONAIE president Luis Macas)

On Nov. 18, CONAIE representatives joined colleagues from Accion Ecologica and the Ecuadoran Foundation for Action, Research and Social Participation (FEDAEPS) in presenting a legal challenge against the TLC in the Supreme Court. The claim says Palacio has no right to sign the TLC without first consulting the Ecuadoran people. (Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales, Nov. 18)

Indigenous activists are also blockading highways in the southern Ecuadoran provinces of Canar and Azuay, and the roads linking Pichincha and Esmeraldas, as part of the mobilization against the TLC. In Los Rios province, residents of the community of Patricia Pilar have begun a blockade to protest the construction of the Baba dam. (Resumen Latinoamericano, Nov. 18 from CONAIE president Luis Macas)

Cesar Cabrera, leader of the Only National Confederation of Affiliates of the Campesino Social Security System (CONFEUNASSC), announced in a press release on Nov. 18 that Minister of Government and Police Galo Chiriboga had resigned to protest the repression unleashed on the residents of Patricia Pilar and other communities in Los Rios province who were carrying out a civic strike that day against the dam construction. According to Cabrera, as the strike leaders were negotiating with Deputy Secretary of Government Ricardo Rivera over a truce, in order to begin a dialogue about alternatives, government security forces launched an attack on the communities. Police agents backed by helicopters carried out violent raids on area homes, dropped tear gas on residential areas and destroyed a local church. Police forced protesters onto the ground in the streets, then stepped on them and shouted threats at them. A number of people were injured. (Resumen Latinoamericano, Nov. 18 from ALTERCOM)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 20

RALLY AGAINST OIL COMPANY

In Ecuador on Oct. 12, the Popular Front joined with delegates from Ecuador’s indigenous organizations, the radical environmental group Ecological Action, the Federation of Ecuadoran University Students (FEUE), representatives from the Committee to Defend Oil and others in marching from Quito’s El Arbolito park to a rally at the offices of the US oil company Occidental (OXY), which has been accused of violating the terms of its contracts in Ecuador. The marchers were demanding that OXY’s contracts be cancelled, and that other companies’ oil contracts be reviewed; they were also rejecting the neoliberal economic policies of transition president Alfredo Palacio and the government’s continued negotiations for a free trade treaty with the US, Peru and Colombia. (Campana Continental Contra el ALCA, Oct. 12)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 16

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
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See also WW4 REPORT #114
http://www.ww3report.com/node/1028

See also our last news brief on Ecuador:
/node/11125

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
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Continue ReadingECUADOR: TEN THOUSAND PROTEST TRADE PACT 

VENEZUELA: OIL FOR U.S. POOR; “HOLOCAUST” IN PRISONS?

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

OIL DEAL FOR U.S. POOR

The Houston-based oil company CITGO, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), is set to supply 9 million gallons of discounted home heating oil to 45,000 low-income families in Massachusetts in December, and another 3 million gallons to local charities. The deal—arranged by Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA), the Boston-based nonprofit energy corporation Citizens Energy and left-populist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias—provides the oil at a 40% discount. CITGO and Citizens Energy, which is headed by former US representative Joseph Kennedy II, were scheduled to sign a contract on Nov. 22.

Chavez has frequently criticized the US government for not helping its own poor. In August, he offered discounted home-heating oil to poor US communities after meeting in Caracas with US African American leader Jesse Jackson. Home heating oil prices are expected to increase by 30-50% percent this winter because of rising oil prices, according to Larry Chretien, executive director of Mass Energy Consumer Alliance, a nonprofit which will distribute one fourth of the oil. He said the Venezuelan aid would present “a friendly challenge” to US oil companies to use their recent windfall profits to help poor families survive the winter. On Nov. 18 a US State Department official declined to comment on the deal. (Boston Globe, Nov. 20)

A similar arrangement will bring 8 million gallons of heating oil to thousands of low-income residents of New York City’s South Bronx at a 40% discount starting in late November or early December, according to Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), who arranged the deal with Chavez. There were technical difficulties with implementing the program in New York, where most low-income residents rent their apartments and don’t pay directly for fuel costs. Serrano said the program would “start off with three nonprofit affordable housing community corporations” and will initially aid residents of about 200 apartments. The residents will receive vouchers for rent reductions and improvements in their buildings. (New York Times, Nov. 26)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, 27

LITERACY AND CHAVEZ RATINGS UP

On Oct. 28 Venezuelan education minister Aristobulo Izturiz declared the country an “illiteracy-free territory” as the official literacy rate reached 99%. According to Izturiz, a total of 1,482,533 residents of rural and working-class areas learned to read and write through a massive government program that started on July 1, 2003, using the Cuban “Yes I Can” method. The major failure was among some indigenous Yanomami and Yekuana communities in the south of the country, Izturiz said. Maria Elisa Jauregui, the head of literacy programs in Latin America for UNESCO, the United Nations agency for education, told reporters that Venezuela is “the first and the only country that has met the goals that were set when we met in Havana in 2002” as part of the UN’s Millennium Agenda for social programs.

Venezuela is planning to send literacy teachers to Bolivia and the Dominican Republic in the near future in a program that also includes Cuban teachers. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Oct. 29 from AFP)

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez now has an approval rating of 77%, according to a poll the Instituto Venezolano de Analisis de Datos company carried out on Oct. 7-18. The poll was based on a sampling of 1,200 people, with a 2% margin of error. (ED-LP, Oct. 24 from EFE)

“HOLOCAUST” IN THE PRISONS

In the first nine months of 2005, 314 prisoners died violently in Venezuelan prisons and 518 were wounded, Humberto Prado, the director of the non-governmental organization Venezuelan Prison Observation (OVP), charged in a press conference in early October. He said that 99 prisoners had died in the third quarter, July through September, and 235 were wounded. During the period there was a 25% increase in violent incidents compared to the previous year, according to the group, which said a total of 327 prisoners died violently in 2004, with 655 wounded.

Describing the situation as a “holocaust,” Prado called for the regional governments to take over administration of the prisons from the central government. He also called the Interior and Justice Ministry to maintain boards in the prisons to monitor the implementation of sentencing and to grant prisoners benefits they are entitled to. Observers attribute the violent incidents to disputes between rival gangs; these disputes are aggravated by poor prison conditions and the large number of prisoners waiting months or years for their trials. (Adital, Oct. 5)

On Nov. 1 Interior and Justice Minister Jesse Chacon said it was “impossible” for the government to enter into a dialogue with Prado, who he said had worked in the penitentiary system from 1989-1997. Prado directed the Yare I prison in 1996-97, a period in which 527 Yare I inmates were wounded, according to Chacon. (El Universal, Caracas, Nov. 2)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 7

CARACAS: METRO WORKERS STRIKE

A group of 25 workers began a hunger strike on Nov. 1 over a project to extend Line 3 of the Metro system in Caracas. The hunger strike was continuing as of Nov. 18. A total of 145 workers on the project are striking to demand union recognition and the payment of wages, social security and production bonuses owed to them by their employer, Geobrain—a subsidiary of the multinational engineering company Odebrecht. About 130 of the 145 strikers joined an independent union, the National Autonomous Workers Construction Union (SOANCA); they say the Venezuelan Construction Union (SOVINCA), which has a contract with Geobrain, has not represented them properly. (World of Labor, Nov. 18)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 20

——

Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #115
http://www.ww3report.com/node/1242

See also our last news brief on Venezuela:
/node/1330

——————-

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec.. 1, 2005
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Continue ReadingVENEZUELA: OIL FOR U.S. POOR; “HOLOCAUST” IN PRISONS? 

COLOMBIA: INDIGENOUS, PEACE COMMUNITIES UNDER ATTACK

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

CAUCA: ONE KILLED IN EVICTION

On the morning of Nov. 9 some 500 Colombian police agents attempted the forcible removal of 400 members of Paez (Nasa) indigenous communities from the El Japio farm, in Caloto municipality in the southwestern department of Cauca, which they had been occupying since Oct. 12. A 16-year old indigenous youth—Belisario Camallo Guetoto, according to the Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), and Belisario Tamayo, according to most media reports—was killed by a shot to the head. At least 36 indigenous people and 10 police agents were reportedly wounded during fighting which continued through Nov. 10. At least one anti-riot vehicle was set on fire.

On Nov. 11 the police and the occupiers agreed to a 24-hour truce, allowing for negotiations and for the burial of Belisario Tamayo in the nearby town of Caldono. Feliciano Valencia, a leader in the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), described the situation as a “tense calm.”

Indigenous protesters occupied farms and estates throughout Cauca on Oct. 11 and 12 to force the government to act on their demands for land; the occupations coincided with massive national mobilizations by workers, campesinos and indigenous communities to mark Oct. 12, the traditional anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the hemisphere. The occupiers resisted various efforts to remove them; six indigenous people and two police agents were wounded in a confrontation at El Japio on Oct. 19. Some 15 farms were still being held as of Nov. 8, when the government began new operations to remove the indigenous people with 500 police agents armed with guns and tear gas and backed by at least 10 anti-riot vehicles. [Paez people also occupied another farm in Caloto, the La Emperatriz estate, on Sept. 2; as of Sept. 10 some 35 occupiers were wounded during efforts by the police to remove them.]

Cauca indigenous communities are demanding that the government grant them 38,000 hectares of cultivable land in compliance with accords signed by the administration of former president Andres Pastrana (1998-2002). Aparicio Rios, of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), puts the total land demanded by indigenous communities at 146,000 hectares. Interior and Justice Minister Sabas Pretelt claims that the government has been negotiating with the indigenous communities for 35 months, but says it will not negotiate with people occupying farms. Albeiro Calambas, a leader in the Piayo indigenous council, said that the occupiers hadn’t intended to hold the 900-hectare El Japio permanently, “but now, because of the spilling of a companero’s blood, Japio belongs to us.” (AP, Nov. 11; Prensa Latina, Nov. 10; Comunicaciones ONIC, Nov. 10; CRIC, Nov. 9; El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Nov. 11)

The use of militant nonviolent tactics by Cauca indigenous communities, which refuse to take sides in the armed conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has won praise from many quarters. But it has also brought violent attacks from the government, from rightwing paramilitaries and from the FARC. During October ACIN communications coordinator Manuel Rozental learned that two unknown men had been asking questions about him. The ACIN decided that Rozental should leave the country for his own safety. It issued a statement on Oct. 27 to answer rumors circulating about him among pro-government forces and the FARC: “Manuel is no terrorist. He is no paramilitary. He is no agent of the CIA. He is part of our community, who must not be silenced by bullets.” Rozental is now living in Canada. (The Nation, Nov. 4)

BOGOTA: AFRO-COLOMBIANS OCCUPY CHURCH

On Nov. 4 (according to most sources), hundreds of Afro-Colombians from the western coastal region peacefully took over the San Francisco Church in downtown Bogota to press for government action on several demands. The demands “aren’t new,” said Emigdio Cuesta, a spokesperson for the communities. “We’ve spent hundreds of years defending our customs, our roots, and still we have to resort to strikes and occupations for the government to hear us.” According to the weekly magazine Semana, this was the 22nd takeover of the colonial-era church, although it wasn’t clear which groups occupied it in the past; the magazine reported that 1,000 protesters were involved in the action, which it said started on Nov. 3.

The protesters demanded postponement of a final vote on a Forest Law, which they say would give logging multinationals access to 23,000 hectares of natural forest belonging to Afro-Colombian communities, mostly in the Atrato region in Choco department and the Uraba region in Antioquia department. They also rejected Resolution 1516 of the Colombian Rural Development Institute (INCODER), which was issued in August to promote business associations between the communities and private companies. The protesters said the resolution violated Law 70 of 1993, which prevents privatization of the communities’ collective property. This would open the way for agribusinesses that had moved into some Afro-Colombian communities after rightwing paramilitaries forced the residents out in the 1990s and that have been converting the land to the commercial cultivation of African palms. In addition, the protesters demanded control over the certification of teachers in their communities and the rephrasing of a question on ethnicity in the 2005 General Census.

Former senator Piedad Cordoba assisted the protesters in negotiations with the government. As of Nov. 10 the protesters were expected to end their occupation as talks continued. “We achieved the postponement of the debate on the Forest Law to incorporate our proposals,” said one of the leaders, Jorge Garcia. “Also, they rescinded INCODER’s Resolution 1516, which allowed the entry of private [investors] in collective territories.” (El Colombiano, Medellin, Nov. 8; Semana, Nov. 13; El Tiempo, Bogota, Nov. 10; Piedad Cordoba statement, Nov. 9)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 13

URABA: PEACE COMMUNITY LEADER KILLED

On Nov. 17, troops from the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade fired their rifles and hurled a grenade at a group of campesinos weeding cornfields near Arenas Altas, which is part of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, in the Uraba region of Antioquia department. The grenade fatally wounded Arlen Salas David, a community leader who was coordinating efforts to establish Arenas Altas as a humanitarian zone, safe from the presence of armed groups. The other campesinos tried to help Salas but were forced to take shelter as the army continued firing at them. When they reached him he was dead.

Peace Community members from San Josesito, the village established last April by peace community residents displaced from San Jose de Apartado, went to the site with international accompaniment to confront the soldiers about what happened. The soldiers claimed they had been firing at guerrillas, that the whole community is made up of guerrillas and that the army is going to eliminate them. Most of the soldiers had two rifles: their regulation rifle and another type which has been seen carried by paramilitaries.

A group of soldiers then began firing at the village of Arenas Altas, forcing families to flee. Several homes were hit by gunfire, and community member Hernan Goez was wounded. The army fired at a school while a teacher was inside with several children. The army claimed gunfire was coming from the school, but the teacher told the soldiers he knew they were lying, since he and the students were lying on the floor while the army fired at them. (Comunidad de Paz de San Jose de Apartado, Nov. 18)

On Nov. 12, five days before the army’s attack on Arenas Altas, four individuals who identified themselves as government officials from the attorney general’s office entered San Josesito without authorization. They remained in the community for about 40 minutes, asking about the leaders and videotaping residents and homes. When community members challenged them about their illegal presence in the community, they did not respond. They said they were seeking witnesses; the community members refused to speak with them. The four officials finally left the community, saying they would return on Nov. 16. They left the area accompanied by police agents and other individuals in civilian clothing who had been waiting for them at the entrance to the village. (Comunidad de Paz de San Jose de Apartado, Nov. 14)

The 17th Brigade has been linked to numerous atrocities in Uraba. Its commander is Gen. Luis Alfonso Zapata Uribe, who took over the unit last February. In February 1976, when he was a second lieutenant, Zapata took a “small unit infantry tactics C-7” course at the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), then in Panama (the school moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, in late 1984). (SOA Graduates List)

The Colombia Support Network, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is urging human rights advocates to contact their congressional representatives and senators to urge a cutoff of military aid to Colombia and the immediate closure of the SOA, now called Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC); and to contact Colombian officials and the US ambassador in Bogota to demand an investigation and punishment for those responsible for the attack on Arenas Altas.

Contact: US Ambassador William Wood, AmbassadorB@state.gov;
President Alvaro Uribe Velez, auribe@presidencia.gov.co;
Vice President Francisco Santos, fsantos@presidencia.gov.co;
Attorney General Mario Iguaran Arana, contacto@fiscalia.gov.co
Gen. Zapata, comandobr17@hotmail.com.
(CSN Urgent Action, Nov. 19)

U.S. NABS DRUG SUSPECT

According to a news release from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on Oct. 29 the Colombian National Police Jungla unit, “working with special agents from the ICE Attache Office in Bogota and the [US] Drug Enforcement Administration,” captured suspected drug trafficker Jhon Eidelber Cano Correa in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. Cano Correa was apparently captured following a brief firefight that left one Colombian official wounded. Cano Correa is charged in a July 2004 indictment in the Eastern District of New York with drug and money laundering violations in connection with the Norte de Valle Cartel. In 2004, the US State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest. (ICE, Oct. 31)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 20

PARAMILITARY SCANDAL SHAKES GOVERNMENT

On Oct. 25, Jorge Noguera, the director of the Administrative Department of Security, Colombia’s 7,100-member intelligence agency, gave President Alvaro Uribe his resignation; the agency’s sub-director, Jose Miguel Narvaez, was fired on the same day. The shake-up came as the agency’s internal affairs unit and the Attorney General’s Office were investigating whether the Special Intelligence Group, controlled by Enrique Ariza, a close ally of Noguera’s, had been planning to sell phone-tapping equipment to Javier Montanes, a rightwing paramilitary commander who could use the system to monitor police and military activity. Noguera and Narvaez denied the accusations.

On Oct. 22 ostensibly demobilized paramilitaries dragged Hernando Cadavid from his flower farm, which is next to Uribe’s ranch in northern Colombia, and hacked him to death with machetes. “Investigators are trying to determine if the order came from Diego Fernando Murillo, a paramilitary boss recently jailed on Mr. Uribe’s orders,” the New York Times reports. (NYT, Oct. 28)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 7

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #115
http://www.ww3report.com/node/1241

See also our last update on state terror in Colombia:
/node/1302

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Dec. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

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