The Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) of the reigning President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has won the regional elections held on April 9th of this year.(1) Morales is the first elected President of Bolivia to be fully Native American, despite the great majority of the Bolivian population being Aymará or Quechua. For most of its history, the country has been governed by a swift succession of military dictators, vassal oligarchs of the United States and assorted strongmen. Universal suffrage was only introduced in 1951 by the reformist MNR party, which was subsequently overthrown by a series of juntas.
Much of the conflict has revolved around the main economic products of Bolivia: its enormous tin mines (it is the world’s largest tin producer) and the coca leaves grown as export crop by the country’s many poor farmers, which forms the basis for the drug cocaine. Continue reading “Bolivian Prospects”
When an earthquake of 7.0 on the Moment scale struck the country of Haiti recently, this led to a total collapse of the government, economy and social institutions of this already plagued country. Some 200.000 people are estimated to have died, on a total population of about 9 million – the proportional equivalent of some 7 million Americans dying at once. It killed also the opposition leader, the Archbishop, and most of the staff of the United Nations mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH. There has subsequently been an outpouring of foreign aid and medical support from many countries around the world. And yet the question about this long-suffering country remains: how come it was so poor and so unprepared? Haiti is not far from the United States, one of the world’s richest countries, and yet it is itself one of the world’s poorest, and has been so for a long time.
To understand Haiti’s history, we must go back to the days of Columbus. Continue reading “Crisis in Haiti”
The British arms manufacturing giant BAE (British Aerospace) has been fined some 286 million pounds sterling for bribing government officials in Third World countries to place orders with their company.(1) Among other activities, they bribed officials in Tanzania to order an advanced radar system for defense in that country, even though Tanzania is not likely to be at war with anyone and is one of the poorer nations in the world. What makes the case all the more remarkable is the fact that earlier on British prosecutors intended to prosecute over bribery of Saudi officials to the same purpose, but that a combined action from then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, quashed the case, in order not to offend the Western ‘allies’ in Saudi Arabia. In this manner, they showed that neither rule of law nor combating theocracy mean anything to the gentlemen politicians who rule our countries, but that only strategic maneouvers do. Little seems to have changed since the days of the ‘Great Game’ and the Victorian approach to international relations. Continue reading “BAE and the Arms Trade”
There seems to be a general sentiment among those segments of the global population committed to the preservation and survival of the environment we live in that the coming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in København, to be held between 7 and 18 December 2009, will be decisive. At this conference it will have to be decided whether the political leaders of the world are capable of undertaking serious and coordinated efforts to combat the environmental impact of capitalist industrialization, or whether they will by force of competition on the political and economic planes once again let down the needs and aspirations of the world’s population, human and nonhuman. The Kyoto Protocol, a moderate and very tempered attempt to bind the leading industrial and industrializing nations to a reduction in the output of greenhouse gases, has failed as the United States refuses to in any way curb its potential capital accumulation, even if this is for the benefit of the survival of the planet as we know it. At the same time, there is much acrimony between major industrializing states such as India and China and the Western nations, where the latter want the former to bear much of the burden of their polluting industrial output, whereas the former quite rightly point out that the Western nations never cared about it during their phase of Industrial Revolution and that they have consciously exported much of their own industry to those nations in the first place. Not only is the Third World now exploited by the First, it is also being made to pay for the privilege in ecological terms. Continue reading “The Red and the Green II: Judgment at København”
Hugo Chávez Frías, the current President of Venezuela, was first elected to this office in 1998 and was inaugurated in 1999, now ten years ago.
He had already been a remarkable figure on the Venezolan political scene after having attempted a leftist military coup against the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. In those days, the oil kleptocracy of Pérez failed and a series of riots by the poor majority of Venezolans, the so-called ‘Caracazo’, destabilized the government. Pérez had been a self-styled social-democrat, but had submitted his country to the liberal rule and ‘reforms’ of the International Monetary Fund, which disappropriated the people of their public goods and bled dry the urban population by abandoning the policies of gasoline subsidy. As a result, the Caracazo erupted and the army intervened to violently repress the revolts against this organized comprador thievery and the umpteenth case of betrayal by social-democracy. Progressive sections of the military, led by Chávez, attempted a coup against Pérez. The coup failed and Chávez was imprisoned, but Pérez was removed from office and his successor freed the coup perpetrators.
In 1998, Chávez’s new “Fifth Republic Movement” (MVR) obtained an absolute majority of votes in the Presidential elections, with Chávez himself as the candidate, defeating the rightist American-trained economist Henrique Salas Römer. Continue reading “Ten Years of ‘Bolivarian Socialism’ in Venezuela”