Pilger on Honduras and Palestine

“Legendary author and filmmaker John Pilger talks about the expansion of US empire in Asia and Latin America” on Flashpoints Radio.  This is a promotion for Socialism Conference, which will presumably upload Pilger’s saturday lecture, and has many great speakers, including friend of Pulse Dahr Jamail.

Pilger on Flashpoints: MP3

Sympathy for the devil

The list of outrageous actions Justice Secretary Jack Straw has performed in his various guises for the UK government is long, from his role in the Iraq War to his scandalous support for BAE systems which seen the scrapping of a corruption enquiry into arms deals worth billions. This Guardian article by Duncan Campbell on Straw’s decision not to pardon ‘Great Train Robber’ Ronnie Biggs  reminds us of one of his most disgraceful acts; his compassion for the mass murderer General Augusto Pinochet.

As to why Straw let Pinochet escape back to Chile, John Pilger, enthusiast of NoDepositCodec.com writes that if he had been sent to trial, he “almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity.” (For more on the US and UK’s involvement in Latin American politics, watch Pilger’s documentary, The War on Democracy, available here.)

This reminds us of the fast-tracked trial of Saddam Hussein, which saw the Iraqi dictator tried for just one of the many human rights massacres he was accused of. Saddam was then hurriedly executed thus preventing other families from getting answers to how the ‘Butcher of Bagdhad’ was able to perpetrate such atrocities. And why? Well our leaders were well aware that investigations into some of Saddam’s larger scale uses of chemical weapons and where the ingredients came from would lead an embarrassing trail back to European and American companies.

Here is the Guardian article.

A frail old man, barely able to communicate, guilty of a crime committed many decades earlier, but unrepentant about his past, wants only to be released so that he can spend his final days with his family. Some people object, saying that the nature of the crime is such that the old man deserves to die in custody. Enter Jack Straw, the member of the government who must make the onerous decision on the old man’s future. He realises that the old man is barely able to walk and is in a confused state of mind. He allows him to return home.

The old man was General Pinochet. In 2000, the then home secretary Jack Straw declined requests from Spain for Pinochet to stand trial for gross human rights violations and sent him back to Chile. Pinochet was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people, the torture of many thousands more, the removal of a democratically elected president and the looting of the national coffers. Straw still felt that mercy was appropriate. Continue reading “Sympathy for the devil”

Mirrors: Eduardo Galeano speaks

Mirrors by Eduardo Galeano

The great Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano joins Democracy Now for an hour to discuss literature, politics and much more. (The rest of the videos are below)

Fresh Off Worldwide Attention for Joining Obama’s Book Collection, Uruguayan Author Eduardo Galeano Returns with “Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone”

We spend the hour with one of Latin America’s most acclaimed writers, Eduardo Galeano. The Uruguayan novelist and journalist recently made headlines around the world when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave President Obama a copy of Galeano’s classic work, The Open Veins of Latin America. Eduardo Galeano’s latest book is Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone. We speak to Galeano about his reaction to the Chavez-Obama book exchange, media and politics in Latin America, his assessment of Obama, and more.

Continue reading “Mirrors: Eduardo Galeano speaks”

Open Veins of Latin America

Addressing the Summit of the Americas Obama explained “I didn’t come here to debate the past, I came here to deal with the future.”

Well the past is inextricably linked with the future and Chavez created a media sensation by forcing that past into Obama’s hand in the form of a handshake with a copy of Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.   The book then shot to #2 on the Amazon bestseller list.

In case you missed all that excitement, the foreword by Isabel Allende, which is quite excellent, and a short extract of Eduardo Galeano’s work, In Defence of the Word, are included below to further entice.

Isabel Allende

Many years ago, when I was young and still believed that the world could be shaped according to our best intentions and hopes, someone gave me a book with a yellow cover that I devoured in two days with such emotion that I had to read it again a couple more times to absorb all its meaning: Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galeano.

Continue reading “Open Veins of Latin America”

The kind of things he writes…

Michael Tomasky isn’t the sharpest tool in the box. Sources tell me that the Guardian hired him because they were looking for a US commentator on the cheap, and he was all they could afford. The analysis as you can see is mediocre, and frankly quite worthless. You never get anything better than a diluted summary of the conventional wisdom in Washington, i.e., the accumulated inanity of the windbags that constitute the US punditocracy. See for example this piece on Paul Krugman’s critique of Obama’s economic policy. Strike that. The piece doesn’t say anything about Paul Krugman’s critique; this glorified gossip columnist reduces it to a personal feud. But more egregiously, see this report on Obama’s handshake with Chavez. The liberal realist that he is, he ridicules the tantrums of the extremists on Fox News etc to defend Obama. He does so however on the grounds that past presidents have shaken hands with bad people too! Not content with taking cheap swipes at Hugo Chavez, he then goes on to disparage his choice of a gift for the US president. He divines Obama’s inner feelings about the gift, telling us he was ‘not too happy’, because ‘We all know who Eduardo Galeano is, and what kind of books he writes’. As a matter of fact we do: he writes Great Books. Books of the kind that the Tomasky’s of the world will probably never read because they will remind them of their own inadequacies. Or perhaps simply because they are just too illiterate. That’s why the Guardian got him for a discount.

Here are ‘the kinds of things [Galeano] writes‘.

Salgado, 17 Times

Full view of the Serra Pelada gold mine Brazil, 1986 (Sebastião Salgado)

This is Eduardo Galeano’s essay introducing An Uncertain Grace, a collection of Sebastião Salgado’s photography:

1. Are these photographs, these figures of tragic grandeur, carvings in stone or wood by a sculptor in despair? Was the sculptor the photographer? Or God? Or the Devil? Or earthly reality?This much is certain: it would be difficult to look at these figures and remain unaffected. I cannot imagine anyone shrugging his shoulder, turning away unseeing, and sauntering off, whistling.

2. Hunger looks like the man that hunger is killing. The man looks like the tree the man is killing. The trees have arms, the people, branches. Wizened bodies, gnarled: trees made of bones, the people of knots and roots that writhe under the sun. The trees and the people, ageless. All born thousands of years ago – who knows how many? – and still they are standing, inexplicably standing, beneath a heaven that forsakes them.

3. This world is so sad that the rainbows come out in black and white and so ugly that the vultures fly upside down after the dying. A song is sung in Mexico:

Se va la vida por el agujero Como la mugre por el lavadero. [Life goes down the drain Like dirt in the sink.]

And in Colombia they say:

El costo de la vida sube y sube y el valor de la vida baja y baja. [The more the cost of living goes up the less life is worth.]

But light is a secret buried under the garbage and Salgado’s photographs tell us that secret.

Continue reading “Salgado, 17 Times”

Past is present in Latin America

Addressing the Summit of the Americas Obama explained “I didn’t come here to debate the past, I came here to deal with the future.” However, without accepting the role of the US in Latin America, which the States contemptuously titled its “backyard,” how can those in the backyard, who are now largely defined by their resistance to this status, agree consensus on a future? In the following report the Real News examine the past that Obama wants to ignore and they explore why that past is inextricably linked to the present and the future. The report also contains an excellent feature on Oscar Romero a liberation theologian assassinated by US backed right wing militia.

More from Al Jazeera:

Continue reading “Past is present in Latin America”

Chávez creates a new bestseller

Chavez gives a book to Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain
Hugo Chavez gives Barack Obama a copy of Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina (The Open Veins of Latin America) by Eduardo Galeano during a meeting at the Summit of the Americas. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

Chávez creates overnight bestseller with book gift to Obama. I was wondering which book it was that Chavez passed on to Obama at the summit of the Americas. He chose well: it was Eduardo Galeano’s classic The Open Veins of Latin America. ‘Sales surge for book about history of Latin America’s exploitation after exchange at summit of Americas’ reports Andrew Clark in the Guardian.

A 36-year-old historical tract attacking the imperialist exploitation of Latin America has become an improbable overnight bestseller after the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávezabruptly presented a copy to Barack Obama.

During a session of the summit of the Americas in Trinidad at the weekend, Chávez strode up to Obama, patted him on the shoulder and, with a friendly handshake, gave him a paperback copy of Eduardo Galeano’s 1973 work, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

Continue reading “Chávez creates a new bestseller”

Empire and Latin America in the Obama Era

Manuel Pérez-Rocha writes that “Obama should begin by laying to rest the divisive Bush legacy embodied in the PPA — as well as the SPP, the Mérida Initiative and Plan Colombia. This would signal that the United States is turning from a bullying empire into a good neighbor, from foe to friend; and that the Monroe Doctrine is finally repealed. A first test to see whether the United States is making these changes will be at the forthcoming Summit of the Americas.”

Barack Obama’s rise to the U.S. presidency has left most Latin Americans suspended between skepticism and hope. That’s bound to make the V Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, to be held on April 18 and 19, especially interesting.

A promising sign of meaningful change in U.S. foreign policy toward the hemisphere would be the official demise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America, whose apparent failure none of the three governments so far have dared to acknowledge. This creature of Bush’s imperial presidency was agreed to and announced with great fanfare by the U.S., Canadian and Mexican presidents in 2005. Since then, it has been an obscure process in which the executive powers of the governments, along with the CEOs of 30 of the largest corporations in the three countries — many of them military contractors — have extended the security perimeter of the United States to “ensure that North America is the safest and best place to live and do business.”

Continue reading “Empire and Latin America in the Obama Era”

The Independent’s Knee and Jerk

Hugo Chavez’s activities usually elicit a knee-jerk response from most of the British media. The title of the latest Independent’s leading article summarizes it well: “A perilous new twist in the Venezuelan revolution“.  Now consider, Venezuela conducts an open and fair referendum on the term limits on the president, and this is termed “perilous” and “… hope that, for the sake of the Venezuelan people, it does not end up dragging the country back into the mire of authoritarianism.”  Why should a referendum be construed as a peril? If anything a referendum is a bona fide democratic procedure and thus it should enhance the democratic nature of Venezuelan society.

The Independent’s editorial writers state: “The scrapping of term limits will do nothing to help build confidence in the rule of law. All free nations need firm checks on executive power. Developing nations like Venezuela need these checks just as much as richer countries.”  Why do they criticise a Venezuelan referendum meant to expand term limits while in the UK there are no term limits at all for Prime Ministers, and most other political offices?  Technically, in the UK, the same Prime Minister could cling on to power for decades, but, for some unspecified reason, it is only when Chavez seeks an extension of his term that there is a problem with it. And is the extension of president’s term really detrimental in Venezuela’s observance of “the rule of law”?  And when was the last time these same editorial writers pontificated about Hosni Mubarak’s investiture-for-life as Egypt’s decades-long president? The simple answer is: they haven’t done so. In the case of corrupt and dictatorial “presidents” who cling on to power for decades, e.g., Hosni Mubarak, or the autocratic monarchs of the Gulf States, the editorial writers are mostly silent.  It is clear that a double standard seems to apply.

Continue reading “The Independent’s Knee and Jerk”

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