After the riots: Where is the justice for Peru’s indigenous?

Digging up an issue I have watched for some time, the IPS reported yesterday that justice is still elusive for the indigenous of the Peruvian Amazon. In June of last year, tribal opposition to the government’s trade liberalization policies erupted in rioting. Sixty people were killed in what has been described as the worst fighting Peru had seen in a decade and a revolution that should inspire the world.

While the Peruvian government was forced to hold off on FTA-mandated plans to open large swaths of tribal land to oil, mineral, and timber extraction, it has not been a total victory.

From the IPS report:

Although the technical investigations cleared two of the indigenous demonstrators accused in the murders of 12 policemen during a bloody June 2009 clash between native protesters and the security forces near the northern Amazon jungle town of Bagua, they are still behind bars.

Feliciano Cahuasa and Danny López have been in prison for over eight months, despite the fact that technical crime scene investigations showed that neither of them fired a single shot, and that they are thus innocent of the Jun. 5 killings of the police officers.

On the other hand, no police are in prison for the Jun. 5 shooting deaths of at least 10 indigenous protesters, which occurred when the police were ordered to clear their roadblock on the main highway near Bagua.

This comes on the heels of another report from Indian Country Today concerning the corruption of the official investigation into the riots.

So while the elusive “official story” is likely to pin quite a bit of blame on “foreign provocateurs” and shrug off the actions of law enforcement, we can at least remember Danny and Feliciano.

Artwork by Favianna Rodriguez.

America’s nightly news: Watching us watching you

When the journalist David Barsamian asked Indian writer and political activist Arundhati Roy about her travels in the United States, she admitted that she was amazed how insular a nation America really was. “When you live outside it, and you come here, it’s almost shocking how insular it is. And how puzzled people are — and how curious, now I realize, about what other people think, because its just been blocked out.”

Thus, Roy may not be surprised that when the Tyndall Report broke down the nightly newscasts of the three main networks in the US (ABC, NBC, and CBS), the top Indian story was the appearance of two uninvited guests at the White House dinner for Manmohan Singh.

As the IPS noted this weekend, much can be learned about America’s news diet from the Tyndall Report’s review of 2009 which ranks the airtime given to various issues on the nation’s top three nightly half-hour news broadcasts.

So what were Americans watching? Health care reform and the H1N1 virus dominated the airwaves. Afghanistan received more coverage than Iraq for the first time since the invasion of Iraq (735 minutes to 169 minutes). The international focus was certainly on the Middle East as Israel and Palestine were given 132 minutes (102 of those during the siege of Gaza). Iran’s election and nuclear program was also a central international story with 194 minutes and Ethiopian piracy garnered a considerable amount of press with 112 minutes.
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America’s new right: Racist and proud of it

When I read The Washington Post’s report on the opening of the far-right wing’s Tea Party convention in Nashville, I was taken aback by the remarks of former Republican Congressman and white nationalist Tom Tancredo. While racism undeniably persists in driving a good deal of the American political agenda, the degree to which Tancredo and his ilk in the increasingly mainstream right-wing can be overt and blatant in their bigotry is remarkable and worrying. Here’s what I mean:

On Thursday night, giving the opening address, former U.S. representative Tom Tancredo (Colo.), who ran for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination as an anti-immigration candidate, railed against Obama and “the cult of multiculturalism.” Americans could be “boiled to death in a cauldron of the nanny state,” he said. “People who couldn’t even spell the word ‘vote,’ or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House.”

When Tancredo said, “His name is Barack Hussein Obama,” the audience booed loudly.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow recaps:

The Olympics and the politics of the spectacle

What won't the cameras be showing us?

The Olympics are more than just a game. I don’t mean that in the sense that they are a serious competition for national pride for which the word “game” does not do justice. Rather, considering the billions of dollars in corporate sponsorships, the equally substantial sums of public money pumped into the host city, and the occasional political sideshow, the quadrennial athletic exhibition is about far more than points scored and records broken. But I wish the Olympics were merely a matter of national pride. I’m an American so losing at curling is the least of my indignities.

Never the less, I am left wondering what these spectacles mean in the twenty-first century. If anything, the impending World Cup and Winter Olympics serve as an intriguing allegory for global capitalism itself. Writing for This.org, Andrew Wallace remarked on what the Olympics mean for Vancouver activists:

“…the real legacy of the Games won’t be the revamped Sea-to-Sky Highway or new sports infrastructure in Richmond. And it certainly won’t be the 250 units of social housing the city has promised from the freshly constructed athletes village. The real legacy will be debt. Crippling public debt. According to 2010 Watch’s Christopher Shaw, the Olympics are quickly shaping up to be Vancouver’s very own ‘Big Owe.’

“And that debt could put more pressure on existing grassroots groups, especially when funds are cut and the world’s eyes aren’t on Vancouver. Sport can be a powerful platform for awareness—but it also comes with a short attention span. It’ll be difficult for the organizations that have been so vocal in the run up to the Games to maintain the force of their voice once the Olympic spotlight has moved on,”

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Beyond the praise for Paul Kagame

Rwandan Tutsi leader turned President Paul Kagame is a popular man in the West. And why not? In his ten years in office he has lead his war-ravaged nation through a period of unprecedented economic growth which has turned Rwanda into a playground for foreign investors. At the same time, he emphasizes self-reliance and efficient government while supporting populist spending programs that could make Rwanda the only African nation to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (not that he is a fan of the UN, which he frequently criticizes for its response to the 1994 civil war). His administration in Kigali has admittedly wracked up a deficit that would ordinarily draw frowns from World Bank bureaucrats but in the case of Rwanda, the organization that usually demands drastic budget cuts is underwriting a litany of government programs. It helps that some of Kagame’s greatest admirers are Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz (1). American evangelist Rick Warren (2) considers him something of an inspiration and even Bill Gates has invested in what has been called Africa’s success story. Yes, Western liberals, reactionary evangelicals, and capitalist carpetbaggers alike tout Paul Kagame as the herald of a new, self-reliant African prosperity.

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