[WW 4 REPORT] Dear Readers

Dear Readers:

Welcome to the new issue of World War 4 Report. We wish to draw your attention to a couple of small changes.

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So please participate in our weblog, and let us know what you think of our evolving direction. As always, donations are greatly appreciated–and urgently needed.

Yours,

Bill Weinberg

Weblog: /blog

Mission statement: /mission

Support us: /node/98

Continue Reading[WW 4 REPORT] Dear Readers 

Issue #. 134. June 2007

Electronic Journal & Daily Weblog RESISTING THE NEW EURO-MISSILES Czech Dissidents Stand Up Again—This Time to the Pentagon! by Gwendolyn Albert, WW4 REPORT ALGERIA: DEMOCRACY CRUMBLING? Islamist Violence and State Legitimacy by Kanishk Tharoor, Madrid11.net AFRICA’S INDIGENOUS PEOPLES The Fight… Read moreIssue #. 134. June 2007

AYAAN HIRSI ALI: INGENUE OR PROVOCATEUR?

One Woman’s Journey from Warlord Somalia to Neocon Washington

by Chesley Hicks, WW4 REPORT

Book Review:

The Caged Virgin
An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Free Press/Simon & Schuster 2006 (translated), originally published in Netherlands 2004

Infidel
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Free Press/Simon & Schuster 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is, among many things, a Somali-born feminist and former Dutch parliamentarian. Her name gained worldwide attention in 2004 after Theo Van Gogh, the grandnephew of the famous Dutch painter, was murdered for his work with Ali on their short film Submission, an artistic statement on the status of women in Islam.

Ali’s first book, The Caged Virgin, was originally published in 2004 in Holland, where she’d become a well-known, outspoken critic of Islamic oppression of women. A collection of essays, the book lays the bones of Ali’s beliefs and offers some insight to the personal history that thrust her to international prominence.

Her essential contentions in Virgin are first, that Islamic doctrine mandates female subservience, oppression, and abuse; second, that the degradation of women underlies the greater ills and unrest that plague Muslim countries; and third, that it is incumbent upon both Muslims and Westerners to openly critique and take action against violence and oppression committed in the name of religion.

Central to her argument is what she recognizes as Western liberal apologism in the face of Islamic violence against women. In the book’s prologue she writes: “In certain countries, ‘left wing,’ secular liberals have stimulated my critical thinking and that of other Muslims, but these same liberals in Western politics have the strange habit of blaming themselves for the ills of the world, while seeing the rest of the world as victims.”

This contention puts her at variance with many, including leftists with whom she otherwise shares values. Later in the book, she also writes, “Everything you do here in the free west is your choice. For heaven’s sake, grow up! Take responsibility for yourself.”

Such proclamations—obviously ripe for right-wing picking yet coming from an avowed humanitarian, feminist pluralist—have positioned Ali as a boundary-challenging lightning rod of a public figure. At the book’s beginning, she writes: “I have taken enormous risk by answering the call for self reflection and by joining the public debate that has been taking place in the West since 9-11. And what do the cultural experts say? ‘You should say it in a different way.’ But since Theo van Gogh’s death, I have been convinced more than ever that I must say it my way only and have my criticism.”

Reading this for the first time alongside some of her more scathing indictments of Islam, one could wonder if Ali is as much interested in positing herself as a cult of personality as she is in promoting her cause.

That she feels deep and genuine angst over the plight of Muslim women is never in question. But the polemical approach she takes in The Caged Virgin can at times strike the reader as blunt and lacking strategy. People listen to Ali because she is intelligent, extraordinarily accomplished, mediagenic, and knows Islam from the inside. She was raised in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia and witnessed firsthand the complicated, mutually exploitative interplay between religion, culture, and corrupt regimes in those countries. In particular, she argues that the Muslim “obsession with virginity” insidiously undermines and corrupts all of Islamic culture. She was forced to undergo excision (clitoridectomy, or female circumcision) at age five. She arrived in Holland at age 23 because she was making a clandestine escape from an arranged marriage. She knows conflict and developing-world travails better than most Westerners.

Ali compares Muslim women’s internalizing of their subjugation to Stockholm syndrome. She inventories Islam’s unrelenting doctrinaire proscriptions, and describes the reactionary mechanics instilled in its believers. So it seems she might take a more nuanced approach in making an appeal to its would-be dissidents. Instead, Virgin serves incendiary statements aplenty: “Many Muslims lack the necessary willingness and courage to address this crucial issue,” for example, or: “September 11, mark my words, was the beginning of the end of Islam as we know it.”

She has little patience for any abiding of oppression in the name of tolerance. “The worst thing is that this worry about discrimination pushes Muslim women ever further down into the pit,” she writes. “Whom do you help by saying nothing? It’s selfish not to want to appear racist.”

Later chapters in the book sketch Ali’s conflicted relationship with her family and how her charismatic but generally absent father—Hirsi Magan Isse, a scholar and leader of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF)—might have informed her own sense of singular heroism. In one chapter a nearly child-like Ali explains that she does not see herself as a saint: “I’ve been naughty,” she—a real-life, international agent provocateur—writes without irony. “I teased other girls, rung people’s bells and run away.” She proceeds to describe how she feels responsible for stigmatizing the Koran teacher who beat her nearly to death as a child. This simplicity might be due in part to Virgin‘s translation, or a hasty effort to get it published in order to illuminate Ali’s views in the wake of her fast ascent to fame. Though it seems to point to something more profound, it is never clear. The personal anecdotes are intriguing but beg for more detail. Similarly, the book feels at times redundant and meandering, and leaves one wondering where her editors went.

In these ways, Virgin can leave readers scratching their heads. Though bold and explicit in places, the book leaves too much up to readers’ conjecture. Most readers, based on their own prejudices, likely either want her to be right or want her to be wrong. Response to the book, it seems, lies along those lines. An internet search reveals as much.

But one need read no further than Ali’s next book for the full insight required to understand all this and more.

In lucid, fine detail Infidel makes fluid sense of Virgin‘s stark outlines. A chronological memoir that traces Ali’s life from rural Somalia and urban Mogadishu to Nairobi, Mecca, The Hague, New York, Washington DC and many places in between, Infidel lends texture, depth and sense to Virgin‘s angles. It also reveals the author’s deeply compassionate, devoted, sound and powerful mind.

While double the length of Virgin, Infidel is a far more coherent, fleet read. And though more subtle, it is ultimately more rousing in its cause-appeal and firming in its conviction. It also tells an enthralling tale.

At the end of chapter four in Infidel, Ali writes, “That is how, by the time I turned ten, I had lived through three different political systems, all of them failures.”

“The police state in Mogadishu,” she continues, “rationed people into hunger and bombed them into obedience. Islamic law in Saudi Arabia treated half its citizens like animals, with no rights or recourse, disposing of women without regard. And the old Somali rule of the clan, which saved you when you needed refuge, so easily broke down into suspicion, conspiracy, and revenge.”

In describing her childhood growing up in east Africa and the Middle East in the ’70s and ’80s, Ali shows herself always trying to make sense of the turmoil around her. In so doing, she sheds light from below on the reality of life during wartime and under oppressive regimes. And beyond that, what she often reveals is a girl. A girl who is in most ways like any other girl, yet growing up amid deep violence and chaos. The disarray she describes in the culture and politics of her environment likewise tore her family apart, from both the outside and the inside. The external forces-the wars, famine, and repressive culture-she recognizes as inextricably linked with the internal forces of guilt, resentment, deceit, and unreason. And all of that she sees as both caused by and reinforced by blind submission to clan identity and Islam.

As Ali chronicles her interior quest to reconcile her own will and intelligence with the forces around her, she also tells some rich stories about the life, culture and era in which she was raised.

In chapter eight, she describes the events in her life after the fall of Said Barre’s regime and the outbreak of total civil war in Somalia. Her rendering of the weeks she spent trying to rescue relatives from a Somali refugee camp along the Kenyan border bring to life the reality of a such camps in a way few documentaries or news stories ever could.

Unlike Virgin, Infidel delivers Ali’s revelations gradually, via intimate, sometimes painful detail. Neither sordid nor sensational, she tells her tale through the wide eyes of lively girl often literally beaten into submission. As she ages and alternately internalizes and fights the tyranny around her, two consistent threads emerge: love for her family and an indomitable drive toward justice. And in her world, most of the injustice she sees is justified by verses in the Koran.

When she finally escapes the world of her past and makes her way to Holland, she finds her past is already there. Holland in the early ’90s proves a fertile zeitgeist: a microcosm of highly developed liberal democracy and social welfare experiencing a significant immigration wave, much of it Muslim.

Poignantly, even though she’d witnessed more brutality and life-altering change than most adults of any age, Ali was still, in many ways, a girl when she reached the West at age 23. Some of her new-arrival descriptions are amusing. Upon her first night in a hotel, she writes, “I examined the duvet, vowing to tell Haweya [her younger sister] about this amazing invention… The room was small, but somehow cleverly planned to fit: the closets fit into the wall, the TV inside the cabinet. How cool I thought.” Within the context of Infidel, these ultra-earnest ingénue statements make more sense than they do in Virgin.

In the months and years after she reaches the West, her line of observation and reasoning quickly become vast and sophisticated. She undergoes a self-motivated crash course in philosophy and politics, enrolls in school, and applies her learning to everything she sees around her. She learns Dutch atop all the other languages she knows from having moved around Africa, and so becomes a sought-after interpreter. This brings her into constant contact with the conflicting realities growing within Holland: that of the educated, liberal-minded, secular West and the impoverished, immigrant, religion-bound culture of her past.

The rest has become history. Ali ended up in the Dutch parliament; Theo van Gogh was murdered for his work with her; she was ushered into hiding; she lost and regained her Dutch citizenship; and she finally joined the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC.

Forever grateful to the institutions that she sees as having freed her from submission, Ali quickly comes to the conclusion that Western democracy is a system that works better than any other. She is not a blind proponent of all things Western. She names its faults in sober and unromantic terms. But unlike many native-born heirs to democracy, she sees it as something not to be taken for granted, and has made it her life’s work to defend it. In so doing, she tests it to feel its outermost limits. She pushes its boundaries and revels in its contours. Democracy, she believes, though it must be protected, is also tough. She does not like party politics—it limits thought and reminds her too much of Somali clan identity. Thus she has made some scandalizing jumps between left and right parties in pursuit of her own agenda: namely to advance the rights and protection of Muslim women. During her time in parliament, she called herself a “single issue” candidate. It is the continuation of a singular compulsion to justice that began in her youth in Africa. She crosses boundaries, not to make headlines but to get close to truth. It’s hard to imagine that, in the 21st century, one could move from the Iron Age to the Internet Age, but Ayaan Hirsi Ali went from one to the other within thirty years. This brings an invaluably broad yet balanced perspective to her work.

Ali expresses an unflagging appreciation for the principled minds in Holland who encouraged her to pursue her arguments even when they disagreed with her. She doggedly upholds their model, and abides by the fruition of rigorous debate. Further engagement with varied opposition, one suspects, will nurture her inquiry. So we will watch with eager curiosity what emerges from Ayaan Hirsi Ali from within the conservative American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

——

From our weblog:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali faces death threats—in Pennsylvania
WW4 REPORT, May 15, 2007
/node/3855

Dutch legislator to step down following Islamist threats
WW4 REPORT, May 18, 2006
/node/1978

——————-

Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingAYAAN HIRSI ALI: INGENUE OR PROVOCATEUR? 

LATIN AMERICA: ALBA GROWS, WORLD BANK SHRINKS

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

Bolivian president Evo Morales, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and Cuban vice president Carlos Lage joined Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in Barquisimeto, in the Venezuelan state of Lara, on the weekend of April 28 for a summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). Haitian president Rene Preval and Ecuadoran foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa attended as observers; delegations from Uruguay, St. Vincent, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Dominica were also present.

Cuba and Venezuela formed ALBA in December 2004 as an alternative to the US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Bolivia joined in 2006, and Nicaragua joined in January of this year. The high-level delegations from Ecuador and Haiti seemed to be a sign that those countries were committed to joining. “ALBA has consolidated its first stage and is going to continue growing,” Chavez told the gathering. “FTAA is dead.” As a concrete step, he proposed collecting $1 billion for a “Bond of the South” which would be used for “low-interest credits with easy payment to small producers in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Haiti.” He also offered Venezuelan financing for 50% of the bills for oil for Bolivia, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua. (Univision, April 28, 29; La Jornada, Mexico, April 29; El Universal, Caracas, April 30; Servicio Informativo “Alai-amlatina,” May 7)

According to Brazilian social scientist Emir Sader, Latin America is now divided between countries like Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru, which are committed to trade with the US, and those that are committed to regional integration. According to Sader, these include the ALBA members, along with countries like Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, which continue to follow the neoliberal model but without a strong connection to the US. (Alai-amlatina, May 7)

In a surprise announcement at the summit, three ALBA members, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, agreed to withdraw from the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which rules on cases against governments brought by foreign investors. In a joint statement, the three countries’ leaders said they “emphatically reject the legal, media and diplomatic pressure of some multinationals that…resist the sovereign rulings of countries, making threats and initiating suits in international arbitration.”

Bolivia was the target of an ICSID case brought by US-based Bechtel corporation over a failed water privatization in the city of Cochabamba. Nicaragua was sued by Royal Dutch Shell over a domestic court order on compensation for banana workers made ill by a pesticide in which Shell had a financial interest. Venezuela currently faces four pending ICSID suits. According to an April report by two Washington, DC-based groups, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Food & Water Watch, about 70% of ICSID disputes involve private investment in public services such as water, electricity and telecommunications, or investments in natural resources such as oil, gas and mining. (IPS and Food & Water Watch press release, April 29)

On April 30 Chavez announced that Venezuela planned to withdraw completely from the World Bank and leave the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well. “It would be better that we pull out before they come to rob us because they are in crisis,” Chavez said. “I’ve read that they can’t even pay their wages.”

Center-right former Bolivian president Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga noted that a corruption scandal involving World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz “could not have happened at a worse time. It gives material to Mr. Chavez and his supporters to mock the World Bank and the IMF, and they have a real alternative to offer.” On May 2 the British daily Financial Times ran a letter calling for Wolfowitz’s resignation; it was signed by five of the most prominent supporters of Washington’s neoliberal policies in Latin America: Domingo Cavallo of Argentina, Rubens Ricupero of Brazil, Pedro Aspe of Mexico, Eduardo Aninat of Chile, and Rodrigo Botero of Colombia. (FT, May 3)

Wolfowitz resigned on May 17, four days after a bank investigative committee found that he broke ethical rules in arranging a $63,000 pay raise for his companion, Shaha Ali Riza. (New York Times, May 18)

Dollar Sinks In Latin America

The US dollar, which has fallen against the European Union’s euro and the Japanese yen, has also been sliding in trading against local currencies in most of the Latin American countries where it is traded. As of May 16 the dollar had lost 10.88% against the Colombian peso since the beginning of the year. In Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, the dollar went down 7.8% against the real since the beginning of the year; it had fallen by 50.9% since October 2002, when the real was at its lowest point. The Mexican peso gained 5.3% over the dollar in the 11 months preceding May 16. Since the beginning of the year, the dollar fell by 3.9% in Chile, by 1.8% in Uruguay and by 1.25% in Peru. The dollar was down even in weaker economies: by 3.2% in Paraguay and by 0.74% in Bolivia.

The dollar is not traded on the open market in Cuba and Venezuela, which maintain currency controls, and in Ecuador and Panama, which officially use the dollar as currency. Except for these economies and the Central American countries, which are especially dependent on the US economy, Argentina is the only Latin American country where the dollar has gone up this year—by 0.65%. This is because Argentina’s Central Bank has been buying dollars to keep the local currency down and to accumulate foreign reserves. (El Diario-La Prensa, May 17 from EFE)

Bush, Congress Make a Deal on Trade Pacts

On May 10 the administration of President George W. Bush and the leaders of the House of Representatives announced a bipartisan consensus on trade policy which is expected to result in congressional approval for bilateral “free trade” agreements (FTAs) which the administration has signed with Panama and Peru. Analysts think a “strong minority” of Democrats in Congress will now join with legislators from Bush’s Republican Party to get the pacts approved. The consensus also increases the chances of approval for trade pacts with Colombia and South Korea.

After six months of negotiations between the Bush administration US trade representative, Susan Schwab, and House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), the Democratic leadership agreed to back the Peru and Panama FTAs in exchange for provisions requiring US trading partners to ban child and forced labor, and to protect workers’ right to unionize and bargain collectively. John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest US labor federation, gave his support to the agreement on May 11, the day after the consensus was announced. He praised Rangel for “the substantial progress made in improving workers’ rights and environmental standards” in the two agreements.

But Sweeney said the AFL-CIO would “vigorously oppose” the pacts the Bush administration negotiated with Colombia and South Korea and any extension of the president’s “fast-track” authority, which expires next month. Fast track gives the administration the power to negotiate trade pacts without oversight or changes from Congress, which can only vote to approve or reject the measures once they have been negotiated. (Washington Post, May 12)

Trade pacts have been unpopular with the US public ever since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. The Washington, DC-based nonprofit Global Trade Watch (GTW) sharply criticized the new bipartisan consensus, noting that “[u]nions, environmental groups, small businesses and (most outrageously) most members of the US Congress were excluded from the negotiations.”

The group said the new labor requirements in the Peru and Panama FTAs still didn’t include compliance with International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions. “[T]he agriculture rules,” the group said, “…will foreseeably result in the displacement of millions of peasant farmers—increasing hunger, social unrest, desperate migration.” The Peruvian FTA has “provisions that would allow Citibank, or other US investors providing ‘private retirement accounts,’ to sue Peruvian taxpayers if Peru tries to reverse its failed social security privatization.” Global Trade Watch is calling on people in the US to contact their senators and representatives and urge them to reject the FTAs. (GTW urgent alert, May 11)

Opposition in Peru, Colombia

The FTAs also face strong opposition in Latin American, where they are known by their Spanish initials, TLC. In Peru, the government of President Alan Garcia has been moving to oust seven TLC opponents from Congress and one from the Andean Parliament, which consists of representatives from the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). In the first week of May, the Supreme Court asked Congress to lift the opponents’ immunity as legislators so that they could be tried for participating in a protest during a June 27, 2006 session of Congress that was debating the TLC. Congressional deputy Nancy Obregon and Andean Parliament deputy Elsa Malpartida, then deputies elect, tried to disrupt the session, while the six other deputies held up signs supporting the protest. [The demonstration delayed the debate for a half hour; Congress approved the TLC the next day.]

Malpartida and Obregon belong to the opposition Nationalist Party of Peru (PNP) of defeated 2006 presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, as do five of the other deputies; the remaining two belong to the centrist Union for Peru (UPP). The deputies have threatened to hold a hunger strike in the Congress chamber if the government proceeds with the case. (Prensa Latina, May 12, 16, 17)

In Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN), the smaller of the country’s two main guerrilla organizations, said it would consider a ceasefire if the government agreed to suspend approval of the FTA with the US. The group, which is in its sixth round of talks with the government since April, said it supported holding a plebiscite on the issue. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, May 23 from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 27

——

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

RESOURCES:

Global Trade Watch on the campaign against the FTAs
http://action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=11354.

See also:

THE RETURN OF PLAN PUEBLA-PANAMA
The New Struggle for the Isthmus
by Bill Weinberg
WW4 REPORT, May 2007
/node/3751

PERU: TRADE PACT PASSES, CAMPESINOS PROTEST
from Weekly News Update on the Americas
WW4 REPORT, August 2006
/node/2253

THE PROGRESSIVE MANDATE IN LATIN AMERICA
Bolivia, Evo Morales and a Continent’s Left Turn
by Benjamin Dangl and Mark Engler
WW4 REPORT, May 2006
/node/1902

From our weblog:

Nicaragua: mystery illness strikes sugar mill workers
WW4 REPORT, May 14, 2007
/node/3827

Venezuela out of IMF, World Bank
WW4 REPORT, May 1, 2007
/node/3748

——————-

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingLATIN AMERICA: ALBA GROWS, WORLD BANK SHRINKS 

LATIN AMERICA: ALBA GROWS, WORLD BANK SHRINKS

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

Bolivian president Evo Morales, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and Cuban vice president Carlos Lage joined Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in Barquisimeto, in the Venezuelan state of Lara, on the weekend of April 28 for a summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). Haitian president Rene Preval and Ecuadoran foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa attended as observers; delegations from Uruguay, St. Vincent, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Dominica were also present.

Cuba and Venezuela formed ALBA in December 2004 as an alternative to the US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Bolivia joined in 2006, and Nicaragua joined in January of this year. The high-level delegations from Ecuador and Haiti seemed to be a sign that those countries were committed to joining. “ALBA has consolidated its first stage and is going to continue growing,” Chavez told the gathering. “FTAA is dead.” As a concrete step, he proposed collecting $1 billion for a “Bond of the South” which would be used for “low-interest credits with easy payment to small producers in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Haiti.” He also offered Venezuelan financing for 50% of the bills for oil for Bolivia, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua. (Univision, April 28, 29; La Jornada, Mexico, April 29; El Universal, Caracas, April 30; Servicio Informativo “Alai-amlatina,” May 7)

According to Brazilian social scientist Emir Sader, Latin America is now divided between countries like Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru, which are committed to trade with the US, and those that are committed to regional integration. According to Sader, these include the ALBA members, along with countries like Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, which continue to follow the neoliberal model but without a strong connection to the US. (Alai-amlatina, May 7)

In a surprise announcement at the summit, three ALBA members, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, agreed to withdraw from the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which rules on cases against governments brought by foreign investors. In a joint statement, the three countries’ leaders said they “emphatically reject the legal, media and diplomatic pressure of some multinationals that…resist the sovereign rulings of countries, making threats and initiating suits in international arbitration.”

Bolivia was the target of an ICSID case brought by US-based Bechtel corporation over a failed water privatization in the city of Cochabamba. Nicaragua was sued by Royal Dutch Shell over a domestic court order on compensation for banana workers made ill by a pesticide in which Shell had a financial interest. Venezuela currently faces four pending ICSID suits. According to an April report by two Washington, DC-based groups, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Food & Water Watch, about 70% of ICSID disputes involve private investment in public services such as water, electricity and telecommunications, or investments in natural resources such as oil, gas and mining. (IPS and Food & Water Watch press release, April 29)

On April 30 Chavez announced that Venezuela planned to withdraw completely from the World Bank and leave the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well. “It would be better that we pull out before they come to rob us because they are in crisis,” Chavez said. “I’ve read that they can’t even pay their wages.”

Center-right former Bolivian president Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga noted that a corruption scandal involving World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz “could not have happened at a worse time. It gives material to Mr. Chavez and his supporters to mock the World Bank and the IMF, and they have a real alternative to offer.” On May 2 the British daily Financial Times ran a letter calling for Wolfowitz’s resignation; it was signed by five of the most prominent supporters of Washington’s neoliberal policies in Latin America: Domingo Cavallo of Argentina, Rubens Ricupero of Brazil, Pedro Aspe of Mexico, Eduardo Aninat of Chile, and Rodrigo Botero of Colombia. (FT, May 3)

Wolfowitz resigned on May 17, four days after a bank investigative committee found that he broke ethical rules in arranging a $63,000 pay raise for his companion, Shaha Ali Riza. (New York Times, May 18)

Dollar Sinks In Latin America

The US dollar, which has fallen against the European Union’s euro and the Japanese yen, has also been sliding in trading against local currencies in most of the Latin American countries where it is traded. As of May 16 the dollar had lost 10.88% against the Colombian peso since the beginning of the year. In Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, the dollar went down 7.8% against the real since the beginning of the year; it had fallen by 50.9% since October 2002, when the real was at its lowest point. The Mexican peso gained 5.3% over the dollar in the 11 months preceding May 16. Since the beginning of the year, the dollar fell by 3.9% in Chile, by 1.8% in Uruguay and by 1.25% in Peru. The dollar was down even in weaker economies: by 3.2% in Paraguay and by 0.74% in Bolivia.

The dollar is not traded on the open market in Cuba and Venezuela, which maintain currency controls, and in Ecuador and Panama, which officially use the dollar as currency. Except for these economies and the Central American countries, which are especially dependent on the US economy, Argentina is the only Latin American country where the dollar has gone up this year–by 0.65%. This is because Argentina’s Central Bank has been buying dollars to keep the local currency down and to accumulate foreign reserves. (El Diario-La Prensa, May 17 from EFE)


Bush, Congress Make a Deal on Trade Pacts

On May 10 the administration of President George W. Bush and the leaders of the House of Representatives announced a bipartisan consensus on trade policy which is expected to result in congressional approval for bilateral “free trade” agreements (FTAs) which the administration has signed with Panama and Peru. Analysts think a “strong minority” of Democrats in Congress will now join with legislators from Bush’s Republican Party to get the pacts approved. The consensus also increases the chances of approval for trade pacts with Colombia and South Korea.

After six months of negotiations between the Bush administration US trade representative, Susan Schwab, and House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), the Democratic leadership agreed to back the Peru and Panama FTAs in exchange for provisions requiring US trading partners to ban child and forced labor, and to protect workers’ right to unionize and bargain collectively. John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest US labor federation, gave his support to the agreement on May 11, the day after the consensus was announced. He praised Rangel for “the substantial progress made in improving workers’ rights and environmental standards” in the two agreements.

But Sweeney said the AFL-CIO would “vigorously oppose” the pacts the Bush administration negotiated with Colombia and South Korea and any extension of the president’s “fast-track” authority, which expires next month. Fast track gives the administration the power to negotiate trade pacts without oversight or changes from Congress, which can only vote to approve or reject the measures once they have been negotiated. (Washington Post, May 12)

Trade pacts have been unpopular with the US public ever since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. The Washington, DC-based nonprofit Global Trade Watch (GTW) sharply criticized the new bipartisan consensus, noting that “[u]nions, environmental groups, small businesses and (most outrageously) most members of the US Congress were excluded from the negotiations.”

The group said the new labor requirements in the Peru and Panama FTAs still didn’t include compliance with International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions. “[T]he agriculture rules,” the group said, “…will foreseeably result in the displacement of millions of peasant farmers–increasing hunger, social unrest, desperate migration.” The Peruvian FTA has “provisions that would allow Citibank, or other US investors providing ‘private retirement accounts,’ to sue Peruvian taxpayers if Peru tries to reverse its failed social security privatization.” Global Trade Watch is calling on people in the US to contact their senators and representatives and urge them to reject the FTAs. (GTW urgent alert, May 11)

Opposition in Peru, Colombia

The FTAs also face strong opposition in Latin American, where they are known by their Spanish initials, TLC. In Peru, the government of President Alan Garcia has been moving to oust seven TLC opponents from Congress and one from the Andean Parliament, which consists of representatives from the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). In the first week of May, the Supreme Court asked Congress to lift the opponents’ immunity as legislators so that they could be tried for participating in a protest during a June 27, 2006 session of Congress that was debating the TLC. Congressional deputy Nancy Obregon and Andean Parliament deputy Elsa Malpartida, then deputies elect, tried to disrupt the session, while the six other deputies held up signs supporting the protest. [The demonstration delayed the debate for a half hour; Congress approved the TLC the next day.]

Malpartida and Obregon belong to the opposition Nationalist Party of Peru (PNP) of defeated 2006 presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, as do five of the other deputies; the remaining two belong to the centrist Union for Peru (UPP). The deputies have threatened to hold a hunger strike in the Congress chamber if the government proceeds with the case. (Prensa Latina, May 12, 16, 17)

In Colombia, the National Liberation Army (ELN), the smaller of the country’s two main guerrilla organizations, said it would consider a ceasefire if the government agreed to suspend approval of the FTA with the US. The group, which is in its sixth round of talks with the government since April, said it supported holding a plebiscite on the issue. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, May 23 from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 27

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

RESOURCES:

Global Trade Watch on the campaign against the FTAs http://action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=11354.

See also:

THE RETURN OF PLAN PUEBLA-PANAMA The New Struggle for the Isthmus by Bill Weinberg
WW4 REPORT, May 2007 /node/3751

PERU: TRADE PACT PASSES, CAMPESINOS PROTEST
from Weekly News Update on the Americas WW4 REPORT, August 2006 /node/2253

THE PROGRESSIVE MANDATE IN LATIN AMERICA Bolivia, Evo Morales and a Continent’s Left Turn by Benjamin Dangl and Mark Engler WW4 REPORT, May 2006 /node/1902

From our weblog:

Nicaragua: mystery illness strikes sugar mill workers
WW4 REPORT, May 14, 2007
/node/3827

Venezuela out of IMF, World Bank
WW4 REPORT, May 1, 2007
/node/3748

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT,
June 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingLATIN AMERICA: ALBA GROWS, WORLD BANK SHRINKS 

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The draft declaration addresses individual, collective, cultural and identity rights. It extends to indigenous people the rights to education, health and employment. It also grants them the right to self-determination, to maintain their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions and to enjoy all the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As with other UN declarations, it is not legally binding. But upon adoption it would set international standards on the treatment of indigenous people. It calls for resources to promote indigenous culture and languages, confirms the right of indigenous peoples to lands, territories and resources and recognizes their right to their means of subsistence and development. The declaration outlaws discrimination against indigenous people and states that if their rights are violated, they are entitled to just and fair redress.

Continue ReadingDeclaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples