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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

FROM COHA – The Washington DC based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Photo Source: AP. Photo Source: AP.

NOW IT IS THE TIME FOR A WASHINGTON—CARACAS DIALOG, NOT SANCTIONS.

By: Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs; Frederick B. Mills, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University.

At a time when Washington ought to seize upon overtures from Caracas for the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations and direct talks, the champions of the antiquated embargo against Cuba in the Senate are calling for sanctions against Venezuela. Such an approach to diplomacy with Venezuela would be detrimental to the development of a more constructive and mutually respectful US policy towards the region. Now is the time for a Washington—Caracas dialog, not sanctions.

 

Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have introduced a proposed resolution in the Senate that would call on the Obama administration to study sanctions against Venezuela. The sanctions would be aimed at punishing “the violent repression suffered by pacific protesters” by targeting individual Venezuelan government officials. Of course, any state actors responsible for the repression of pacific demonstrations ought to be held accountable not only in Venezuela, but anywhere in the world. Indeed, the Venezuelan government is already taking steps to address this. The problem with the resolution is that it reflects a very myopic view of political violence in that nation. It also reflects an unproductive approach to diplomacy towards Venezuela as well as the region.

 

Not all demonstrations have been pacific. A significant amount of the violent demonstrations are ostensively anti- government.  The “exit” strategy being sought after by the ultra-right in Venezuela has generated violent anti-government demonstrations that have called for regime change through extra constitutional means. In other words, through a coup or by creating the escalating violence on the ground that might provoke a coup or an international intervention.

 

No doubt opposition demonstrators are not a homogeneous group and many prescribe to non-violent means of protesting. Yet it is indisputable that elements of anti-government protests, using the slogans of “exit,” have deployed incendiary bombs, rocks, guns, barricades, wire, and other instruments of violence against government and public property as well as people, resulting in injuries and death. But those who have resorted to violence are most often portrayed in the press as responding to repression, as if the government has no legitimate recourse in response to violent attacks on persons and property. To be sure, violence is generally condemned by the State Department, but accountability is selectively applied predominantly to government actors.

 

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has been calling for a change of course in US policy towards Venezuela and the rest of the region based on mutual respect and dialog, not imperial intervention and subordination.

It was Caracas that instigated the tit for tat after the expulsion of consular officials, and COHA called the expulsion of US consular officials into question at the time. But now President Maduro has proposed a new ambassador to the US and direct talks with the Obama administration. The State Department has also, on occasion, expressed an openness to rapprochement, so now is the time to seize the moment, not wait to see which way the political winds will blow in Venezuela.

 

There is obviously a great ideological divide between nations that prescribe to some version of neoliberalism and those engaging in various experiments in 21st century socialism. Yet such differences need not translate into either hard or soft wars. At the January CELAC meeting in Cuba, the member states, despite their political differences, figured out a way to declare all of Latin America a region of peace and mutual respect. Meanwhile, there is a national peace conference underway in Caracas, called by the government, that commenced two days ago and includes an increasingly broad spectrum of opinion in the opposition, and seeks to overcome the boycott of the MUD.  This will take a pull back against war and for political competition through the ballot box.

 

Surely, in this context, there is room for Washington-Caracas diplomacy. Rather than impose sanctions on Venezuela, Washington ought to accept the proposed Venezuelan ambassador and enter into a dialog with Caracas based on mutual respect and the common goal of regional peace and human development.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

COHA Statement on the Ongoing Stress in Venezuela

By: Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), Washington DC.
Contributor: Lauren Foiles, Research Associate at COHA.

 

The general position of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) on the ongoing developments in Venezuela is that Washington has a misguided policy toward the South American country.

 

Moreover, Washington’s Venezuelan policy directly conflicts with the rest of Latin America’s thinking on the subject. This gap may cost the already diplomatically embattled U.S. in the near future when it comes to improving its already damaged image in the Americas as well as its diplomatic ties with Venezuela’s allies, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba and Ecuador.

 

Who Creates Washington’s Policy Towards Caracas?

 

In the current extremely tense atmosphere, it would seem that the White House is much more likely to respond with favor to a growing Venezuelan exile group in Florida than to a growing Latino community who want the Obama administration to bring about real and progressive change to the inter-American system.

 

Back in November, Secretary of State John Kerry famously declared in a speech at the Organization of American States that: “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” The situation in Venezuela is a real-life test for Washington to demonstrate that Secretary Kerry’s historical declaration will be followed through, unlike the December 1933 Montevideo Convention.

 

Three Expelled U.S. Diplomats

 

Right now a question revolves around whether the Venezuelan government had sufficient grounds to issue the recall instructions against three U.S. officials to be ejected from Caracas.

 

On Sunday evening, February 16, President Maduro announced the expulsion of three U.S. Embassy officials from Venezuela. Maduro’s decision was followed by a statement released on Monday from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Elías Jaua, who declared that the consular officials had 48 hours to vacate the country. The announcement comes after the U.S. State Department voiced concerns over the growing violence in Caracas with the department spokeswoman, Marie Harf stating on Saturday, “We are deeply concerned by rising tensions, by the violence surrounding this February 12 protest and by the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.”

 

Jaua stated that the Embassy officials had been visiting universities under the false pretenses of granting students with visas, however he charged that “at bottom that is a cover to establish contacts with leaders who they recruit for training, for financing and the creation of youth organizations through which violence is promoted in Venezuela.” This most recent expulsion mirrors those of September 2013 when Maduro announced on state-run VTV that he was expelling three U.S. Diplomats, similarly charging that, “They have 48 hours to leave the country…Get out of Venezuela…Yankee go home. Enough abuses already.” This marks the third time in less than a year that President Maduro has expelled American diplomats under the allegations of supporting opposition factions to insight a coup. While the names of the three-expelled diplomats have yet to be released, the U.S. State Department has publicly and adamantly denied the accusations. Meanwhile, the Twitter account of the U.S. embassy in Venezuela continues to be active and has tweeted that it will continue to operate normally and has no plans to suspend operations.

 

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, like much of the international community, awaits the release of factual evidence to support the consular officials’ expulsion. Until such time, only speculations can be made about the validity of the administrations’ statements and whether or not the expulsions are justifiable. Even without evidence, it is far from outlandish to speculate that American institutions are using their chartered mandates as a guise to intervene in internal politics.

 

 In Alan McPherson’s “The Encyclopedia of U.S. Military Interventions in Latin America” the author goes into detail about the prevalence of, most notably, extending U.S. power militarily through local actors, citing the CIA-led coup against Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, the response to Cuba from 1956 on, the intervention in the Dominican Republic of 1965-1966, the support for Pinochet’s coup against Allende in Chile in 1973, and the invasion of Grenada in 1983 among others. In a historical context, Maduro’s charges do in fact follow a pattern of U.S intervention in Latin American politics.

 

Furthermore, no one can easily deny that consular officials (from the U.S. or other powers) repeatedly have been used to transmit intelligence material to both sides for spying and liaison missions.  COHA’s Director Larry Birns recollects visiting the U.S. embassy in Venezuela in the 1970s. “There would be this wall with photos of embassy personnel and their diplomatic titles, like ‘agricultural attaché.’ I can assure you none of the so-called attaches I met had ever seen a plow in their lives.”

 

This historical record and suspicions notwithstanding, COHA still urges the Venezuelan government to conduct an impartial investigation into the expulsions, however utopian a request that may be. Impartial investigation aside, one thing is certain: the expulsions will serve as political fire for both the opposition and Chavista, pro-government factions alike. Critics of the government have often pointed to Maduro’s efforts to provoke crises with the U.S. as a “diversionary conflict” method to distract citizens from the dismal realities of the state’s economic shortcomings, as they are certain to continue to do with this instance. Likewise, pro-government supporters and the Maduro administration will use the expulsion as evidence that they are willing to take action against the U.S. for again meddling in the politics of a sovereign Latin American nation. 

 

A Conspiracy Theory?

 

At the time of this writing, there  is bizarre, and apparently false, news floating around the internet regarding a potential U.S. military operation in Venezuela.  Arizona Senator John McCain is being quoted as stating that the U.S. could (or rather should) prepare a military operation in Venezuela and that it can ask U.S. allies in the region, namely Colombia and Peru, to create some kind of multinational coalition a la Iraq or Afghanistan. A report apparently accredited to the Agence France Presse and Xinhua (a Chinese news agency),  allegedly quotes Senator McCain making these declarations in an interview with NBC.

 

COHA has tried to independently verify these alleged statements and they appear to be false. A recent interview with Senator McCain  on  CNN’s  The Jake Tapper Show, focuses  primarily on the situation in Ukraine. There is a brief 30-second segment in which Senator McCain discusses Venezuela, but at no point does he talk about military intervention.

 

Moreover, the articles and blog posts where these alleged statements by the Arizona congressman appear are all in Spanish. COHA has not found any major news media outlet, be it in English or Spanish which confirm these statements.

 

COHA has contacted Senator McCain’s office in Washington D.C. to confirm the veracity of these allegations. Upon calling the senator’s office, we were asked by Press Secretary Rachael Dean to email links to the articles in Spanish that COHA’s research team found. The response to our email stated that “the quote is not accurate” and directed us to Senator McCain’s interview on CNN.

 

Given the gravity of these alleged statements, COHA calls for caution. Articles and blog posts quoting or paraphrasing the quotes are spreading throughout the internet,  most prominently on Twitter, despite the lack of verification on the matter.

 

Conclusions

 

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs urges the State Department to declare its respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty and respect the results of the 2013 elections which, while certainly polarizing, were democratic.

 

Certainly, taking this diplomatic stance does not equate to neutrality, as the anti-Chavista factions would like to see regime change. Hopefully, President Maduro’s pledge that he is open to dialogue with the opposition is not a hollow one. COHA eagerly encourages all sides (the government as well as opposition groups) to refrain from further violence.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The New York Times reminded us that -

“On Dec. 1, 1959, representatives of 12 countries, including the United States, signed a treaty in Washington setting aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, free from military activity.”

This triggered our interest in the fact that the treaty was signed in Washington and not at the UN in New York – as well we remember having visited a Chilean military base in the Antarctica – “grandfathered” by the treaty as it was established before the signing of the treaty. As well – a large number of States have bases in the Antarctica – call them scientific – but be sure they may have military meaning as well. So far as science goes – the South Koreans have based their scientific work around the Chilean military base.

Looking up the internet we found for THE ANTARCTIC TREATY:

A lot of the major powers of the world (UK, Australia, Russia, and I’m sure some others) all have bases on Antartica. All are scientific, and I’m pretty sure the American ones are run by the military. I know the McMurdo Base (American) is huge in comparison to all the others. I think it staffs a couple thousand people, too. It’s all science though, no wars or anything being fought down there (though others may beg to differ.)

www.upi.comBusiness NewsSecurity IndustryFeb 20, 2012 – Chile is going ahead with a multibillion-dollar plan
that includes Antarctica, including defense and tourist options.
——————

Some important provisions of the Treaty:

 

Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only (Art. I)

 

Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end … shall continue (Art. II).

 

Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available (Art. III).

 

Among the signatories of the Treaty were seven countries – Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom – with territorial claims , sometimes overlapping. Other countries do not recognize any claims. The US and Russia maintain a “basis of claim”. All positions are explicitly protected in Article IV, which preserves the status quo:

 

No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting , supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica shall be asserted while the present Treaty is in force.

 

To promote the objectives and ensure the observance of the provisions of the Treaty, “All areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment within those areas … shall be open at all times to inspection ” (Art. VII).

———-

“Signed in 1959, the Antarctic Treaty provides the legal framework for the region beyond 60º South latitude. It reserves the region for peace, promotes scientific investigations and international cooperation, requires an annual exchange of information about activities, and encourages environmental stewardship. Representatives of the 29 voting nations (Consultative Parties) and the 21 non-voting (Acceding Parties) meet regularly to discuss Treaty operations.

 

Agreements negotiated within the Antarctic Treaty system include environmental protection measures for expeditions, stations, and visitors; waste-management provisions; a ban on mining; establishment of specially protected areas; and agreements for the protection of seals and other marine living resources.”
The original Parties to the Treaty were the 12 nations active in the Antarctic during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58.

The Treaty was signed in Washington on 1 December 1959 and entered into force on 23 June 1961. The Consultative Parties comprise the original Parties and other States that have become Consultative Parties by acceding to the Treaty and demonstrating their interest in Antarctica by carrying out substantial scientific activity there.

 

The primary purpose of the Antarctic Treaty is to ensure “in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.” To this end it prohibits military activity, except in support of science; prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of nuclear waste; promotes scientific research and the exchange of data; and holds all territorial claims in abeyance. The Treaty applies to the area south of 60° South Latitude, including all ice shelves and islands.

 

The Treaty is augmented by Recommendations adopted at Consultative Meetings, by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid, 1991), and by two separate conventions dealing with the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (London 1972), and the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (Canberra 1980).

BUT – The Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (Wellington 1988), negotiated between 1982 and 1988, will not enter into force.

THE CONFLICT BETWEEN ARGENTINA AND THE UK SHOWS WHAT ANIMOSITY CAN COME UP WHEN THERE IS HOPE TO FIND OIL.

 

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) is now held annually. During each ATCM, there is also a meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) is an observer at ATCMs and CEPs, and provides independent scientific advice as requested in a variety of fields, particularly on environmental and conservation matters.

 

For more information on the Antarctic Treaty, please visit the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat website.

 

Contact
By phone
+ 54 11 4320 4250
+ 54 11 4326 2174
By Fax
+ 54 11 4320 4253
By Email
ats@ats.aq
By Post
Secretaría del
Tratado Antártico

Maipú 757 Piso 4
C1006ACI – Buenos Aires
Argentina

————–

The Antarctic Science meetings cycle can be found at:

Logo for 33 SCAR, Auckland, 2014

XXXIII SCAR Meetings and Open Science Conference

22 August – 3 September 2014, Auckland, New Zealand.

The Open Science Conference will be held on 25-29 August. A draft list of sessions is available.
Abstract submission is open until 14 February 2014.

'New!' Second Circular now available.

For more information, please see the [pdf] Second Circular and visit the Conference website.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 30th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Is the Pope Getting the Catholics Ready for an Economic Revolution? (Maybe He Read Marx)

 

Photo Credit: shutterstock.com -  A specter is haunting the Vatican.

 

November 27, 2013
by Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

In 1992, the Catholic Church officially apologized for persecuting 17th-century astronomer Galileo, who dared to assert that the Earth revolved around the sun. In 2008, the Vatican even considered putting up a statue of him.

Could a certain 19th-century atheist philosopher be next?

It is true that in 2009, a Vatican newspaper article put a positive spin on one Karl Marx. The author, German historian Georg Sans, praised Marx for his criticism of the alienation and injustice faced by working people in a world where the privileged few own the capital. Sans suggested that Marx’s view was relevant today: “We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system….” Indeed.

 

Pope Benedict XVI certainly sang a different tune, denouncing Marxism as one of the great scourges of the modern age (of course we must always distinguish the “ism” from the man). But Francis is a pope of a different feather. His recent comments on capitalism suggest that he is a man who understands something about economics — specifically the link between unbridled capitalism and inequality.

In an 84-page document released Tuesday, Pope Francis launched a tirade against a brutally unjust economic system that Marx himself would have cheered:

 

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills….As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

 

Whoa! Where did that come from? To understand the answer, you need to know something about liberation theology, a movement that originated in Pope Francis’s home region of Latin America. Liberation theology, a Catholic phenomenon centered on actively fighting economic and social oppression, is the fascinating place where Karl Marx and the Catholic Church meet.

 

Though Marx was certainly an atheist, Catholics who support liberation theology understand that his attitude toward religion was nuanced. He saw it as a coin with two sides: a conservative force that could block positive changes as well as a reservoir of energy that could resist and challenge injustice. In the United States, religious movements such as the Social Gospel movement, seen today in the Reverend William Barber’s Moral Monday crusade against right-wing oppression of the poor in North Carolina, express the protest potential of Christianity.

 

Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian Catholic priest who grew up in abject poverty, used Marx’s ideas about ideology, class and capitalism to develop a perspective on how Christianity could be used to help the poor while they were on here on Earth rather than simply offer them solace in heaven. As Latin America saw the rise of military dictatorships in the 1960s and ‘70s, Gutiérrez called on Catholics to love their neighbor and to transform society for the better. Followers of the new liberation theology insisted on active engagement in social and economic change. They talked about alternative structures and creative, usually non-violent ways to free the poor from all forms of abuse.

 

The official Church hierarchy has had a tense relationship with liberation theology, but some Francis watchers detect that a new chapter in that history is opening. In early September, the new Pope had a private meeting with Gutiérrez. Reacting to the event, the Vatican newspaper published an essay arguing that with a Latin American pope guiding the Church, liberation theology could no longer “remain in the shadows to which it has been relegated for some years, at least in Europe.”

The Catholic world has now snapped to attention as the faithful pore over the Pope Francis’s recent communication, which calls upon politicians to guarantee “dignified work, education and healthcare” and blasts the “idolatry of money.” The flock is on notice:  Francis will be talking a great deal about economic inequality and defending the poor. Unfortunately, his opposition to women as priests indicates that he is not yet ready to embrace equal treatment for women, something that would greatly enhance progress on both of those issues, but Francis did take a step forward in saying that women should have more influence in the Church.

 

While the Vatican has become a cesspool for some of the most shady financiers and corrupt bankers on the planet (see: “ God’s Racket”), Pope Francis has made clear his abhorrence of greed, eschewing the Apostolic Palace for a modest guest house and recently suspending a bishop who blew $41 million on renovations and improvements to his residence, including a $20,000 bathtub.

 

Catholics, particularly in the United States and Europe, are not sure what to make of all this solidarity with the poor and anti-capitalist rhetoric. For a long time now, many have considered Marx and his critique of capitalism over and done with. But others have watched deregulation, globalization and redistribution toward the rich unleash a particularly nasty and aggressive form of capitalism that seems increasingly at odds with Christian values. Instead of becoming more fair and moderate, capitalism has become more brutal and extreme. Marx, who predicted that capitalism would engender massive inequalities, is looking rather prescient just about now.

 

Pope Francis may prove himself open to considering Marx’s ideas in order to think about a more human-centered economic system. The American press is already buzzing nervously with the idea: “It would make for some pretty amazing headlines if Pope Francis turned out to be a Marxist,” wrote Helen Horn of the Atlantic, before quickly concluding that, no, “happily for church leaders,” such a thing couldn’t be true.

 

Maybe not. What is true is that, like his fascinating predecessor, Pope Leo XIII (who presided from 1848-1903), Francis has specifically denounced the complete rule of the market over human beings — the cornerstone of the kind of neoclassical economic theory embraced by Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and much of the American political establishment. He wrote:

 

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

 

That’s a pretty good start. We’ll take it. 

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of ‘Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.’ She received her Ph.d in English and Cultural Theory from NYU, where she has taught essay writing and semiotics. She is the Director of AlterNet’s New Economic Dialogue Project.

==============================================================

AN UPDATE FROM THE RIGHT.

 

Op-Ed Columnist

 

The Pope and the Right

 

 

 

“NOW it’s your turn to be part of the loyal opposition,” a fellow Catholic journalist said to me earlier this year, as Pope Francis’s agenda was beginning to take shape.

 

Readers’ Comments — Read All Comments (130) »

 

 

The friend was a political liberal and lifelong Democrat, accustomed to being on the wrong side of his church’s teaching on issues like abortion, bioethics and same-sex marriage.

Now, he cheerfully suggested, right-leaning Catholics like me would get a taste of the same experience, from a pope who seemed intent on skirting the culture war and stressing the church’s mission to the poor instead.

 

After Francis’s latest headline-making exhortation, which roves across the entire life of the church but includes a sharp critique of consumer capitalism and financial laissez-faire, politically conservative Catholics have reached for several explanations for why my friend is wrong, and why they aren’t the new “cafeteria Catholics.”

First, they have pointed out that there’s nothing truly novel here, apart from a lazy media narrative that pits Good Pope Francis against his bad reactionary predecessors. (Many of the new pope’s comments track with what Benedict XVI said in his own economic encyclical, and with past papal criticisms of commercial capitalism’s discontents.)

Second, they have sought to depoliticize the pope’s comments, recasting them as a general brief against avarice and consumerism rather than a call for specific government interventions.

And finally, they have insisted on the difference between church teaching on faith and morals, and papal pronouncements on economic issues, noting that there’s nothing that obliges Catholics to believe the pontiff is infallible on questions of public policy.

All three responses have their merits, but they still seem insufficient to the Francis era’s challenge to Catholics on the limited-government, free-market right.

It’s true that there is far more continuity between Francis and Benedict than media accounts suggest. But the new pope clearly intends to foreground the church’s social teaching in new ways, and probably seeks roughly the press coverage he’s getting.

It’s also true that Francis’s framework is pastoral rather than political. But his plain language tilts leftward in ways that no serious reader can deny.

Finally, it’s true that there is no Catholic position on, say, the correct marginal tax rate, and that Catholics are not obliged to heed the pope when he suggests that global inequality is increasing when the statistical evidence suggests otherwise.

But the church’s social teaching is no less an official teaching for allowing room for disagreement on its policy implications. And for Catholics who pride themselves on fidelity to Rome, the burden is on them — on us — to explain why a worldview that inspires left-leaning papal rhetoric also allows for right-of-center conclusions.

That explanation rests, I think, on three ideas. First, that when it comes to lifting the poor out of poverty, global capitalism, faults and all, has a better track record by far than any other system or approach.

Second, that Catholic social teaching, properly understood, emphasizes both solidarity and subsidiarity — that is, a small-c conservative preference for local efforts over national ones, voluntarism over bureaucracy.

Third, that on recent evidence, the most expansive welfare states can crowd out what Christianity considers the most basic human goods — by lowering birthrates, discouraging private charity and restricting the church’s freedom to minister in subtle but increasingly consequential ways.

This Catholic case for limited government, however, is not a case for the Ayn Randian temptation inherent to a capitalism-friendly politics. There is no Catholic warrant for valorizing entrepreneurs at the expense of ordinary workers, or for dismissing all regulation as unnecessary and all redistribution as immoral.

And this is where Francis’s vision should matter to American Catholics who usually cast ballots for Republican politicians. The pope’s words shouldn’t inspire them to convert en masse to liberalism, or to worry that the throne of Peter has been seized by a Marxist anti-pope. But they should encourage a much greater integration of Catholic and conservative ideas than we’ve seen since “compassionate conservatism” collapsed, and inspire Catholics to ask more — often much more — of the Republican Party, on a range of policy issues.

Here my journalist friend’s “loyal opposition” line oversimplified the options for Catholic political engagement. His Catholic liberalism didn’t go into eclipse because it failed to let the Vatican dictate every jot and tittle of its social agenda. Rather, it lost influence because it failed to articulate any kind of clear Catholic difference, within the bigger liberal tent, on issues like abortion, sex and marriage.

Now the challenge for conservative Catholics is to do somewhat better in our turn, and to spend the Francis era not in opposition but seeking integration — meaning an economic vision that remains conservative, but in the details reminds the world that our Catholic faith comes first.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Coca-Cola

Trophy touches down in Israel and Palestine

 FIFA.com) Sunday 10 November 2013
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Trophy touches down in Israel and Palestine

© Getty Images

The FIFA World Cup Trophy has been steadily making its way around the globe through the planned 90 countries, and having just completed its Caribbean tour, it has now landed in the Middle East for the first time.

Bringing the joy of football to the region, FIFA together with Coca-Cola have brought the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour to Israel and Palestine for two days, before heading off to Jordan. Accompanying the trophy for this trip is special guest, former FIFA World Cup™ participant and Argentina national team player and coach Gabriel Calderon. He will be with the trophy through all the local activities that the tour is planning for the coming two stops, where kids from schools, universities and local football clubs will have the opportunity to experience the magic of most powerful symbol in world football.

“I think it’s extremely important that every child gets the same opportunities to enjoy the world’s game. Playing regularly when I was young is what shaped me into the player I turned out to be,” Gabriel said as he arrived in Israel for his first stop. “I am extremely honoured that I have been asked to be part of the tour, and especially to visit this historical region, as it is a cause I truly believe in, and I am happy to play my part.” added the former Argentina star.

Joining Gabriel on the tour in Palestine and Jordan is FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein who is very excited to be welcoming the trophy to his home for the first time.

I think it’s extremely important that every child gets the same opportunities to enjoy the world’s game.
Gabriel Calderon, former Argentina midfielder and coach

The situation in the Middle East has prompted a mandate to be received by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during the 63rd FIFA Congress. This mandate was brought about by several years of conflict and unrest, making it challenging to improve and develop the game, and as part of FIFA’s statutes to develop the game. The President took this matter to heart to ensure that everyone has equal access and opportunities to play football, and the tour is another sign of the commitment which FIFA and its Partners have outlined to develop the sport in the Middle East.

A special FIFA Task Force, chaired by the FIFA President, was created with the aim to help improve the situation of football in Palestine and Israel, more specifically to analyse different bilateral matters including facilitating the movement of players, referees and equipment in and out of and within Palestine. The ultimate objective is to improve the situation of football in the region, particularly so that FIFA can implement its mission of developing and promoting the game in accordance with the FIFA Statutes.

As a result of the historical meeting, the football associations of Israel and Palestine will implement a mechanism under the umbrella of FIFA that will facilitate the movement of persons and goods. This mechanism includes the modalities and notification requirements as well as the appointment of liaison officers within each association. A meeting will be held under the auspices of FIFA within four months to assess the level of cooperation, with a view to signing a memorandum of understanding at the 2014 FIFA Congress.

To find out more about the stops, the stars and the trophy, visit the official trophy tour’s Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE HERE THAT IN 2022 THE WORLD CUP GAMES WILL BE HELD IN QATAR – this after 2018 in Russia.
FOLLOWING THE 2014 SERIES IN BRAZIL – the home of World Soccer...

Those that qualified for the 2014 games are:

Iran is thus the only Middle East State (or World Cup team – this being different as England is a player rather then the UK) to participate in Brazil.  Israel had to play in the European preliminaries as it is impossible to match it with an Arab State.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

PABLO ZIEGLER’S ‘TANGO CONEXION’ BACK AT BIRDLAND

Tango with great artistry and excitement … this is a great project !

Special Guest: STEFON HARRIS

July 30 – August 3, 2013


PABLO ZIEGLER, the Argentinian, Latin Grammy Award winning Tango/Jazz legend. He returned to Birdland for the third year with an exciting ensemble, July 30 – August 3, 2013.

His Quartet is rounded this time by WALTER CASTRO on Bandoneon, flown in for free, from Buenos Aires, as a contribution, by Delta Airlines, CLAUDIO RAGAZZI on Guitar, and PEDRO GIRAUDO on Bass (who has his own jazz band that will perform Sunday August 11th in two sets – 9pm and 11pm). Add to this special guests – Classical Cellist JISOO OK (who is a Julliard graduate and in private life is the wife of the missing bandeonist who is now performing in California) and Jazz Vibist STEFON HARRIS. Tango Conexion is Produced by Pat Philips & Ettore Stratta.

ZIEGLER is a Composer/Pianist/Arranger who toured with the great Argentinian musician Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) in the 80′s, his prowess is behind the piano and his compositional talent created this most interesting ensemble program, a program mix of Piazzolla and Ziegler.

“Mr. Ziegler is the greatest living exponent of Nuevo says ‘All About Jazz,’ Ziegler brings a sense of passion and surprise to every one of his solos.” His just released CD with the Metropole Orkest of Amsterdam has been receiving raves from all the critics with Critical Jazz calling it “an inspiring release proving that the brilliance of New Tango did not die with Astor Piazzolla, but instead has been reinvented under the skillful hands of the great Pablo Ziegler.”

Ziegler’s majestic flair dazzles audiences on piano in the center of it all. Special arrangements have been written for cello taking the music into a breathtaking arena of ‘Tango Meets Classical” with sensual rhythms – excellently performed here by Ms. Jisoo Ok – who amazingly fitted herself into the Argentinian spirit that she obviously loves. Then Stefon Harris, billed as a Special Guest, dominates the stage with the vibraphone and improvises upon Ziegler’s charts taking Tango sounds deep into Jazz and all the excitement that this brings.

When we watched this on opening night the audience was in large part elderly Argentinian and young people that seemed to have come from Julliard School of Music. The first time I listened to Ziegler – it was many years ago in Buenos Aires – at a time of banking crisis – but he had his interested audience nevertheless.

The program included 9 numbers:
1. Once again Milonga.
2. La Fundicion Portena
3. La Muchacha – Milonga el Viento highlights the guitar
4. La Comparsda – a traditional tango higlighting the bandeon
5. Milonga del Adios that was performed by the Cellist
6.Michelangelo 4D for the Vibraphone
7. Burnos Aires Report that highlights the bass
8. Blues Porteno
9. Fuga Y misterio with everybody.

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This can still be caught at Birdland – New York City – to the end of this week – two shows daily.

315 W. 44th Street

Shows: 8:30 & 11:00 pm

Reservations: 212-581-3080 or www.birdlandjazz.com

Full dinner menu – and we enjoyed the food. But we hate to note as well for those that still need it against our advice – Parking is available nearby.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 28th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The reports say that at the final event on Copacabana beach there were THREE MILLION PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE.

 www.nytimes.com/video/2013/07/26/…

With pope in Rio, sin-city revelry yields to piety.

By Juan Forero, Published: July 27, 2013 for The Americas in The Washington Post

IN RIO DE JANEIRO — Temptation is obvious everywhere — there are the beaches and the bikinis, the sultry samba beat and, as even the visiting Pope Francis cautioned in a memorable quip, the local sugar-cane-based liquor, cachaca, which packs a wallop.

Rio’s enthralling attributes weren’t lost on Carlos Carrillo, a 37-year-old American pilgrim who said he was well aware of the place’s ribald reputation before he arrived here for the pope’s first overseas journey. “This is sin city,” said Carrillo, a cargo screener who traveled with seven other Catholics from his California parish.

But during the pontiff’s visit, which ends Sunday with a final Mass on the usually hedonistic Copacabana beach, the bawdy Rio of samba nightclubs and Carnival gave way to a different kind of festival. That would be the week-long annual World Youth Day, a gathering of young Catholics from around the globe who this year came to Brazil to renew their faith with Francis at the dawn of his papacy.

Think of it as Woodstock for Catholics, minus Jimi Hendrix, the free love and the marijuana.

“Show your love for Christ,” Francis exhorted, and they have, coming from nearly 180 countries to atone for sins and strengthen their bond with the Church. That they are doing it in Rio — a city world-famous for its wild and often drunken revelry, which has earned it the church’s censure over the years — at first might seem to be a contradiction.

But while Rio may be known for luring partygoers, it also has long attracted missionaries, preachers and all manner of Christian soldiers who know they’ll find folks in need of spiritual cleansing here — sinners of every stripe. The proof is in the elaborate evangelical churches in the city, among the world’s biggest, the myriad soapbox preachers and the strong presence of the Catholic Church.

“Biblically speaking, Christ always goes to the darkest places,” Carrillo said. “The way I see it, he’s reeling in people, in that sense.”

Many young Catholics said they came to focus on their faith, not Rio’s enticements. Camila Lara, 18, from Parana state in Brazil’s south, said she was especially drawn by the chance to show contrition, made easy here by the Catholic Church’s “we’ll come to you” strategy.

She asked for forgiveness, like many others, at Rio’s Quinta da Boa Vista Park, where priests and the pope listened to penitents in makeshift confessionals (Francis heard from three Brazilians, a Venezuelan and an Italian).

“Sincerely, for me, it was the best confession I ever had,” Lara said.

For the Rev. Antoine d’Eudeville, a priest from Paris who heard confessions in the park, it was an unusually gratifying experience. He had just heard the pope speak Friday night from an elaborate stage on the beach at Copacabana and was reflecting on a spirited week packed with religious events.

“For us priests, it’s a special time, because it’s not usual to have young people come to us asking for forgiveness,” d’Eudeville said. “Some people don’t go for years.”

Indeed, a recent poll on religious trends in Brazil showed that, among Catholics, 48 percent had not been to church even once in the last month, another blow for a church that once had a virtual lock on the Brazilian soul. Also sobering was the revelation that fewer than 45 percent of Brazilians between the ages of 16 and 24 identify themselves as Catholics.

But with Francis here, the Catholic Church reigns supreme — at least for now — with organizers estimating that 2 million people flooded the beach at Copacabana on Saturday night to see the pope, the Associated Press reported. That is twice as many as were on hand during the last world youth day, in Madrid two years ago.

D’Eudeville, in fact, commented on how Catholicism in Brazil seems to be so much “more a part of people’s lives, more so than in France.”

He was especially moved, he said, by the young Catholics seeking absolution. “Young people here are strengthened in their faith, in their trust in God,” he said. “They dare go to confession and go to a priest and say heavy things, unload heavy burdens.”

Young Catholics interviewed in the streets of Copacabana, their countries’ flags draped across their shoulders, said they were heeding the pontiff’s message. And Francis, who has been lauded for his plain-spoken ways, told his followers: “Jesus never tires of forgiving us.”

“Everyone’s a sinner,” said Denise Ramos, 22, a university student from Brasilia, the capital. “It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You can always confess. You can always come closer to God.”

Ramos did, and she said it made her feel “relief.”

“I feel very pure,” she said, standing on a street corner, surrounded by friends nodding in agreement. “I feel almost lighter.”

Ramos, like other college-age visitors to one of the world’s great cities, said she’s well aware of Rio’s secular offerings.

“I’ve been already to Lapa and bars there,” she said, referring to the famous downtown district and its samba clubs. “But going to samba concerts doesn’t mean that I’m a sinner.”

Young Catholics, she said, need to find an equilibrium between religion and the pleasures of youth. “We need to know how to do this, know how to live in the world of today without abandoning being Catholics,” she said.

The organizers seem to have recognized that. So people who went to Copacabana to see an elaborate reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion presided over by Francis could also hear Catholic rock bands jam on the sand.

The faithful also took in the sights. Carrillo, the cargo screener from California, recounted a tour to the Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio’s white-sand beaches and its eclectic neighborhoods.

A friend of his from California, Miguel Galindo, 19, nodded in agreement.

“The way I see it,” he said, “Rio has the right balance. You have your fun, and you have your spirituality.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks in Burgas, Bulgaria and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Press Statement to the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Eurasia lists of the US Department of State.
Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 18, 2013

The United States notes that July 18 marks the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, that claimed the lives of six innocent civilians and the 19 year anniversary of the attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85 innocent victims. We extend our condolences to the people of Bulgaria, Argentina, and Israel for the tragic loss of life and call for the perpetrators of these attacks to be brought to justice.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 5th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Venezuela’s Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 3, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Venezuela as you commemorate the day that Venezuela declared its independence 202 years ago.

Venezuela and the United States have much in common. For example, revolutionary leader General Francisco de Miranda also played a part in our own struggle for independence, participating in the Battle of Pensacola in 1781. His contribution is forever memorialized in a monument that stands in the heart of Philadelphia, the original capital of the United States. When a devastating earthquake struck Venezuela in 1812 the United States sent the Venezuelan people the first humanitarian assistance it ever provided to a foreign country. These two examples demonstrate that Venezuela and the United States have shared ties of friendship and common values since the birth of our two nations, and the ties between our people endure.

I wish Venezuelans everywhere health, happiness, and hope on the anniversary of your independence.

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The Washington Post of July 5, 2013 tells us:

““As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live in the homeland” of independence leader Simon Bolivar and the late President Hugo Chavez without “persecution from the empire,” Maduro said, referring to the United States.

He made the offer during a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. It was not immediately clear if there were any conditions to Venezuela’s offer.

Maduro added that several other Latin American governments have also expressed their intention of taking a similar stance by offering asylum for the cause of “dignity.”

In Nicaragua, Ortega said he was willing to make the same offer “if circumstances allow it.” Ortega didn’t say what the right circumstances would be when he spoke during a speech in Managua.

He said the Nicaraguan embassy in Moscow received Snowden’s application for asylum and that it is studying the request.

“We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies,” Ortega said.

The offers came following a flap about the rerouting of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Europe earlier this week amid reports that Snowden might have been aboard.

Spain on Friday said it had been warned along with other European countries that Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence worker, was aboard the Bolivian presidential plane, an acknowledgement that the manhunt for the fugitive leaker had something to do with the plane’s unexpected diversion to Austria.

It is unclear whether the United States, which has told its European allies that it wants Snowden back, warned Madrid about the Bolivian president’s plane. U.S. officials will not detail their conversations with European countries, except to say that they have stated the U.S.’s general position that it wants Snowden back.

Maduro joined other leftist South American presidents Thursday in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to rally behind Morales and denounce the rerouting incident.

President Barack Obama has publicly displayed a relaxed attitude toward Snowden’s movements, saying last month that he wouldn’t be “scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”

But the drama surrounding the flight of Morales, whose plane was abruptly rerouted to Vienna after apparently being denied permission to fly over France, suggests that pressure is being applied behind the scenes.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish National Television that “they told us that the information was clear, that he was inside.”

He did not identify who “they” were and declined to say whether he had been in contact with the U.S. But he said that European countries’ decisions were based on the tip. France has since sent a letter of apology to the Bolivian government.”

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The bottom line is as reported by the Guardian:

“We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America.”

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday he and other leaders were offering full support to Morales and called the rerouting of the plane an aggression against the Americas.

Cristina Fernandez of Argentina said Latin Americans treasured freedom after fighting for independence from Europe in the 19th century and then surviving Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas. She demanded an apology for the plane ordeal.

“I’m asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made, it’s the least they can do,” Fernandez said. “To apologize for once in their life, to say they’re sorry for what they’ve done.”

Morales has said that while the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

“Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?” Maduro asked. Spanish prime minister Mariano “Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales’ plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law.”

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It seems like time has come for a US face-saving diplomacy before true craters open up at US borders – East, West, and South.

We have previously outlined a draft that we did not publish – but think now that the airplane flap justifies a US Presidential pardon to Snowden – just to get the issue of the World table – the damage was done and no sense for the US to dig itself deeper into the hole it created.

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US senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told little Ecuadoran that he would block the import of vegetables and flowers from Ecuador if Ecuador gives asylum to Edward Snowden. The cost to Ecuador would be one billion dollars in lost revenues. Will he also forbid trips from the US to the Galapagos?

Will he be consistent and close US imports of Venezuela oil? Of Latin oil in general?
Ecuador and Venezuela happen to be also members of OPEC which Bolivia is not. A policy of threats presents many interesting angles and possibilities.
Will there be ways to enlarge this with some reaction to what happens in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, some more grand-standing anyone?

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Thursday the leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay joined Bolivia’s President Morales in Cochabamba, for a special meeting to address the diplomatic row.

At the end of the summit a statement was issued demanding answers from France, Portugal, Italy and Spain. The United States was not mentioned in the statement.

“Europe broke all the rules of the game,” Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said shortly after arriving at Cochabamba airport. “We’re here to tell president Evo Morales that he can count on us. Whoever picks a fight with Bolivia, picks a fight with Venezuela.”

Maduro said an unnamed European government minister had told Venezuela the CIA was behind the incident.

“We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America.”

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday he and other leaders were offering full support to Morales and called the rerouting of the plane an aggression against the Americas.

Cristina Fernandez of Argentina said Latin Americans treasured freedom after fighting for independence from Europe in the 19th century and then surviving Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas. She demanded an apology for the plane ordeal.

“I’m asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made, it’s the least they can do,” Fernandez said. “To apologise for once in their life, to say they’re sorry for what they’ve done.”

Morales has said that while the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

“Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?” Maduro asked. Spanish prime minister Mariano “Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales’ plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law.”

Before the meeting, Morales said his ordeal was part of a US plot to intimidate him and other Latin American leaders.

He urged European nations to “free themselves” from the United States. “The United States is using its agent [Snowden] and the president [of Bolivia] to intimidate the whole region,” he said.

France sent an apology to the Bolivian government. But Morales said “apologies are not enough because the stance is that international treaties must be respected”.

Spain’s foreign affairs minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, said his country did not bar Morales from landing in its territory.

Amid the tensions, the US embassy in La Paz cancelled Independence Day celebrations scheduled for Thursday. In the eastern city of Santa Cruz, Bolivian government sympathisers painted protest slogans on the doors of the American consulate.

Bolivia has said it will summon the French and Italian ambassadors and the Portuguese consul to demand explanations.

Brazil was represented by Marco Aurelio Garcia, President Dilma Rousseff’s top international adviser. The presidents of Colombia, Chile and Peru, who have strong ties to the US, were not attending.

Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, said earlier on Thursday he supported Morales, but asked other leaders to remain cool and avoid an escalating dispute between Latin America and the European Union.

“We’re in solidarity with Evo Morales because what they did to him is unheard-of, but let’s not let this turn into a diplomatic crisis for Latin America and the EU,” Santos tweeted on Thursday.

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Our draft started: Thanks to the Egyptian military – their intervention got off the media front line the Snowden, Assage, Manning, WikiLeaks Warning Lighthouses – and replaced them with a renewed attention to the Islamic potential for acts of terror.

Furthermore – Latin America seems split between the go it alone States of the ALBA group – Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, their new friends – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and now Nicaragua – and their opponents – the strong US connected, Chile, Colombia, Peru and the Southern European States Italy, France, Spain, Portugal that acted out on unsightly pressure from the White House, and perhaps even Austria – if it turns out to be true that they searched the Bolivian President’s plane. What about Mexico? Will they want to be seen as residing in the US vest-pocket?

Today it seems that just the Greens, the so called Pirates, and some other non-political fringe parties, are left in Europe to stand up for Democracy – The Reds, Blacks, Blues, Yellow, Orange, and Purple – all established political parties – have abandoned the Democracy ship because of the Transatlantic breeze from the Potomac. Europe seems anew like the Europe of the thirties with governments worried about their business-ties. Any infringements of democratic inalienable rights are not noted now, like they were not noted then. But this is totally misleading – just read the Guardian where all these stories started. This at a time the voters in quite a few European States do take position on this – and we would not be surprised if Austria as well took back its “Neutral Mantle” to declare that they too are ready to give refuge to Snowden. The coming days will tell.

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And as if nothing happened – a US hand to the people of Argentina as if they have now no elected government?:

Western Hemisphere: Argentina’s Independence Day

07/05/2013 02:31 PM EDT

Argentina’s Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 5, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Argentina as they celebrate their Independence Day this July 9.

The citizens of our two nations have a long history of productive and friendly relations, highlighted by educational and cultural exchanges and fruitful collaboration in the fields of science, technology, health, space, and energy.

The determination expressed by the patriots gathered at the Casa de Tucuman, to forge a free and independent nation, is a fundamental human longing, and one we share.

On this day, the United States wishes Argentina a happy celebration.

We look forward to working together to cultivate a strong bilateral relationship in the years to come.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The New York Times – Op-Ed Contributor

God Is an Argentine.

By MARTÍN CAPARRÓS
Now under the first pope from Latin America, what can the Catholic Church do to compete with the appeal of evangelicalism there?

WE Argentines are a credulous people. Perhaps 9 out of 10 of us believe in some God; most of us certainly believe that that God is Argentine.

True, most of the evidence we have used to support this suspicion has come from soccer: our most famous player, Diego Armando Maradona, once won a World Cup game thanks in part to an illegal handball that went down in history as the “Hand of God” goal. And today’s biggest soccer hero, Lionel Messi, is also an Argentine. But now we have even better confirmation, in the form of an announcement from the Vatican.

On Wednesday, the Roman Catholic Church chose as pope a non-European for the first time in the modern era, the first from the Americas and an Argentine to boot: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. God may not play dice with the universe, but he certainly laughs a lot.

A 76-year-old Jesuit, Cardinal Bergoglio became the archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998. But early in his career, in the 1970s, he was the national boss of the Society of Jesus — a time that overlapped with the most violent years of military dictatorship in Argentina.

The hierarchy of Argentina’s Catholic Church was complicit with the military genocide. Some researchers, like the journalist Horacio Verbitsky, have linked Cardinal Bergoglio with the “desaparición” — the disappearance, in May 1976, of two Jesuit priests, Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio, who worked in the slums of Buenos Aires. Both were kidnapped and tortured. The cardinal has always denied involvement, but many Argentines remain convinced that he “withdrew protection” from the priests, allowing the military to prey on them.

Leading up to the conclave, the Catholic Church was busy worrying about the appalling issue of the sexual abuse of children by so many of its priests. Cardinal Bergoglio did not awaken any such suspicion. But one could perhaps compare his record with that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was a teenage member of the Hitler Youth. It seems the church does not follow the precept of that Roman Julius Caesar, who upon divorcing his wife said she not only had to be innocent, but had to appear it, too.

The new pope, who has taken the name Francis, after Francis of Assisi, has done much to leave those accusations behind him. Everyone who knows him says he is serene, kind, modest, austere and — apparently — devoid of personal ambition. They point to his attitude during the previous conclave, eight years ago, when he reportedly rejected the possibility of being anointed. It seems the Holy Spirit was more adamant this time.

They highlight as well his words and deeds in service of the poor. These social stances often led to clashes with Néstor Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the back-to-back presidents of Argentina since 2003. Several times he publicly denounced their policies on poverty and inequality, and accused them of enriching themselves while pretending to serve the needy.

Another battle emerged in 2010, when, after opposing it for many years, Mrs. Kirchner endorsed the gay-marriage law that made Argentina the first country in Latin America with marriage equality. Cardinal Bergoglio called it a devil’s move and demanded a godly war. Mrs. Kirchner later accused him of attempting to re-enact the Inquisition.

So she was relieved when, in 2011, his term as head of the Argentine Catholic Church expired. She probably would never have guessed — did anyone? — that he would be made the master of the kingdom, God’s representative on earth. It is a paradox that Mrs. Kirchner’s administration, so fond of nationalist exploits, is now unable to showcase what could have been presented as a major national triumph: the election of Our Pope, the Argentine who made it abroad, the final confirmation that, yes, God is Argentine.

This week, Habemus papam — we have a pope — became an Argentine idiom. His election underlines the assumption that the center of Catholicism is shifting to the world’s poorer regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America. And yet in his own country, the poor are migrating en masse to Pentecostal and other Christian churches that are more charismatic and less institutionally compromised than the Old Lady from Rome.

Perhaps Pope Francis’ election will reverse that shift. In fact, I dread the effect that this unexpected divine favor will have on my country. We are a society that turned to tennis once Guillermo Vilas won a Grand Slam in France; grew obsessed with basketball when Manu Ginobili made his mark in the American N.B.A.; started raving about monarchy when an Argentine-born princess married the crown prince of the Netherlands; and has persisted in doubting Jorge Luis Borges’s value because he never won the international honor of a Nobel Prize. The fact that “one of us” is now sitting on St. Peter’s throne may have a huge effect on the weight of Catholicism on our lives.

Catholicism has never excelled at letting nonbelievers live as they believe they should. The right to legal abortion, for one, will be a ruthless field of that battle: “our” pope will surely never allow his own country, where legal abortion remains severely limited, to set a bad example. Here, as everywhere, the Vatican is a main lobbying force for conservative, even reactionary, issues. An Argentine pope can bring this power to uncharted heights.

Or perhaps not. I hope I am wrong: it has often been my lot. For infallibility, please ask for el Papa Francisco.

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Martín Caparrós is the author of the novel “The Vanishing of the Mona Lisa.”

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 15, 2013, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: God Is an Argentine.

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Joanna Neborsky

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Fareed Zakaria, the anchor of the CNN/GPS Global Public Square Program – a journalist and much more – whose program we credited many times as the only program we recommend watching as  a religious commitment to the tube, has a very clear view of the world.

He knows that the dependence on Middle Eastern oil is at the base of all US problems – economical, social, and political – internal and external. From the gauging at the pump – to the political antics of the Brothers Koch.

He knows that the world is changing and US attention must switch to Asia from Europe, and secure its backyard by finding more ways to cooperate with Latin America. To be able to do that,  the US must start by cutting its umbilical cord to the Middle East. Yes, he knows this raises a lot of howls – from the Arabs who think they do a great favor to the US by selling their oil, and eventually from pro-Israel friends in the US that think Israel is still the baby that must be spoon fed rather then credited that it has matured and can be counted upon as a grown up ally. All this even before global warming/climate change is mentioned.

So far so good – and this seems completely correct.  But Fareed may tend to forget the advice scientists – his friends and my friends – give him.

They say – keep away from all fossil fuels, not just the Arab oil – and develop an infrastructure that is based first on energy that was not spent – the cheapest way to enlarge the resource base – and then do everything possible to introduce renewable sources of energy that are long term sustainable.
You will find – we say – that you do not have to wait for the long range, the so called externalities by the fossil fuels industry, when taken into account as expenditures, as they should be, assure us that the alternatives to burning oil and coal make already for sound economics in the medium range.

This weekend Fareed Zakaria backed the Keystone pipeline and the Canada tar-sand oil extraction in Alberta – which will supply that pipeline – this without taking into consideration that this simply plays into the hands of the US oil industry but is a total NO-NO to the seekers for a true alternative. If the idea is simply jobs – it might be reasonable perhaps just to give money to the unemployed without causing the environmental destruction that goes with that pipeline and with the extraction of the Canadian oil.

The moment he leaves the Keystone topic – Fareed returns to his best – the analysis of the evolving China, and of the new opportunities that opened up in Latin America with thr death of Hugo Chavez. Without Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, the US can attempt now a total reconfiguration of its strategy for its own hemisphere-base. Then, with its back more secure – it can extend a friendly hand to a changing China – a continental size, 1.3 billion people large State that is building with maximum speed the largest middle-class the world has ever seen. This new Chinese want quality of life and that they can achieve only by working in tandem with a secure United States. Everybody knows now that there is only one G-2 situation – disturbed now by the US in-fighting – but evident nevertheless to the incoming new Chinese leader.

The days that China had a tremendous labor cost advantage over the US seem to be over, instead they feel water and energy shortages that they must handle in ordr not to slip from their path of growth. They do a lot to phase in renewable energy at a pace that is reasonable to them and would appreciate the breezing space that the US leaves behind when the US decreases imports of oil from Western Asia.Chavez as a devil figure but judges him in context of his country and the region and is able to see the positive aspects of Chavez having taken over leadership in a continent that US governments totally neglected and US business helped destroy. Each Latin country has its own US business excesses to tell about, as coincidentally Iran does. That does not mean that anyone North of the Border will have anything good to say about Chavez or Ahmadi-Nejad, but here we talk needed policy and not sentiments – and Fareed always was ahead of the Washington decision-makers in this non-technical areas.
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March 9th, 2013
11:41 PM ET

Why U.S. should back Keystone

By Fareed Zakaria

Watch the video for the full Take.

Later this year, the Obama administration will have to make a decision on whether to green light the Keystone pipeline – the 2,000-mile pipeline that would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure you’ve heard all the dire warnings about it. But another way to look at it is to ask what would happen if the project does not go forward.

The U.S. Department of State released an extremely thorough report that tries to answer this question. It concludes, basically, that the oil derived from Canadian tar sands will be developed at about the same pace whether or not there is a pipeline. In other words, stopping Keystone might make us feel good, but it wouldn’t really do anything about climate change.

Why? Well, given the need for oil in the U.S., Canadian producers would still get Alberta’s oil to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. There are other pipeline possibilities, but the most likely method of transfer is by train. The report estimates that it would take daily runs of 15 trains with about 100 tanker cars each to carry the amount planned by TransCanada…And remember, moving oil by train produces much higher emissions of CO2 (from diesel locomotives) than flowing it through a pipeline.

For more on this, read the TIME column here.

Post by:

Topics: GPS Show

March 9th, 2013
12:47 PM ET

On GPS Sunday: Debating Keystone, and what comes after Chavez?

“Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

On GPS this week, should the Keystone pipeline be allowed to go ahead? Fareed presents his take on the proposed oil pipeline, and then invites a dissenter onto debate the issue: Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

What does the future hold for Venezuela and the region with the passing of President Hugo Chávez? And what does it mean for U.S.-Venezuela relations? Fareed convenes a panel of thinkers including Moises Naim, a former minister of trade and industry in Venezuela, Rory Carroll, author of the new book Comandante, and Nikolas Kozloff, author of Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the United States.

“In the next few months and perhaps years, they would need to find international external scapegoats and scapegoats at home,” Naim says. “Someone will have to explain to the people that are now addressing President Chavez why the situation, their standard of living, has declined so dramatically. Someone will have to explain why, without Chavez, life is not as good as it used to be.”

And, China’s new president: How Xi Jinping will manage the world’s most important relationship – that with the United States? Fareed speaks with China watcher Evan Osnos.

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Topics: GPS Show

March 8th, 2013
11:12 AM ET

Meet China’s hardline new president

By François Godement, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: François Godement is a senior policy fellow and head of the China program at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.

This week’s National People’s Congress will complete China’s once-in-a decade leadership change, with Xi Jinping becoming the country’s new head of state. China’s partners, and above all Americans, want a China that is a predictable and reliable. After all, huge business interests require stable relations with China. And there is no doubt, China is becoming more powerful – it is not only present in most parts of the world, but has also become a determining factor in the international arena. We would all therefore love to see Mr Xi as a Chinese Gorbachev. But getting to know Xi’s real personality, and his likely style of governing, feels like Kremlinology. And what is emerging is worrying.

Xi is reputedly a charmer with an engaging and easygoing style. His wife is a famous singer, his daughter is quietly studying at Harvard. It is reported that he is even reluctant to embrace a luxurious lifestyle (although this does not appear to prevent some of his relatives from doing so). In public, Xi refrains from making controversial statements – an exception of course being the 2009 remark about the “full stomach” and the “constant finger pointing of Westerners” during a trip to Mexico.

FULL POST

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Topics: Asia • China • Foreign Policy

What comes after the ‘Great Unifier?’
March 8th, 2013
10:42 AM ET

What comes after the ‘Great Unifier?’

By Mark P. Jones, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mark P. Jones is the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and the Chair of the Department of Political Science at Rice University in Houston. The views expressed are his own.

Hugo Chávez was a great unifier.  Not of all Venezuelans, as even the most casual observer of Venezuela realizes, but rather of the two polar political camps into which Venezuela divided during Chávez’s 14 year reign.

Within the Bolivarian movement he created, Chávez was the unquestioned leader, bringing together the disparate factions that together made up the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).  Cliques, distinct ideological groups, varied regional-based interests, and a new wealthy business class (the Boliburguesía, whose members experienced a rise from rags to riches due to their ties to the government) were all united by their support – both principled and self-interested – for Chávez.

On the opposition side, the one common thread that tied together a heterogeneous opposition alliance (the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD) was the goal of removing Hugo Chávez from power.  This vibrant and often passionate opposition to Chávez provided the glue that held together such diverse actors as socialists, conservatives, state-based parties, recently established parties, and parties linked to the country’s discredited pre-Chávez political system.

FULL POST

Topics: Elections • Venezuela
March 7th, 2013
09:34 PM ET

What we’re reading

By Fareed Zakaria

U.S. wages have fallen from 53 percent of GDP in 1970 to less than 44 percent last year, notes Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.

“The most succinct way to measure how corporate earnings have fared vs. workers’ wages is to examine their share of the U.S. economy — that is, gross domestic product. From 1950 through the 1970s, corporate profits hovered in the range of 5 percent to 7 percent of GDP. They dipped as low as 3 percent in 1986, but since then have staged a long-term ascent that has brought them to 11 percent today, their highest level since World War II. (That’s as far back as Federal Reserve figures go.)”

“China’s large pool of surplus labor has fueled its rapid industrial growth. Now this demographic dividend may be almost exhausted,” argue Yukon Huang and Clare Lynch in Bloomberg.

“College graduates are four times as likely to be unemployed as urban residents of the same age with only basic education, even as factories go begging for semi-skilled workers. Given the underdeveloped service sector and still-large roles of manufacturing and construction, China has created a serious mismatch between skills of the labor force and available jobs.”

FULL POST

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We remembered the Wikipedia posting en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_tide that first came to our attention when we discovered that we were listed a reference to it. Today we decided to bring it up because of the twin events – all of Latin America mourning the passing of Hugo Chavez, and the Heritage Foundation asking that the Obama Administration back the British claim to the Falkland Islands, because it is British colonialists that live now there, but under the “Las Malvinas” name are considered Argentinian territory by the States of Central and South America..

As such the following article by the Heritage Foundation does not make life of the United States any easier in its location at the Northern half of the Western Hemisphere. We are talking about the back of a United States being torn between Asia and Europe, and made insecure because of wrong moves in its own backyard. Hugo Chavez was a product of wrong US handling of its Southern neighbors, . and the Heritage Foundation posting does not try to make it easier for the US. Oh Well – we know – it is again about oil and the grabbing of resources as if they are there for the taking.

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The United States Should Recognize British Sovereignty Over the Falkland Islands.
By Luke Coffey, Theodore R. Bromund, Ph.D. and Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
The Heritage Foundation, March 7, 2013.

In order to assert their inherent right to choose their own form of government, the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on March 10–11, 2013, to decide whether they wish to maintain their allegiance to Great Britain. Britain has administered the Islands peacefully and continuously since 1833, with the exception of the two months in 1982 when the Islands were invaded and illegally occupied by Argentine forces. The Obama Administration has backed Argentina’s calls for a U.N.-brokered settlement for the Islands and so far has refused to recognize the outcome of the referendum. This policy poses serious risks to U.S. interests and is an insult both to Britain—the U.S.’s closest ally—and to the rights of the Islanders.
To read more, the entire paper can be found here.

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Pink tide

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pink tide (a derogatory phrase coined by US press used less commonly than the more clear Turn to the Left) is a term being used in contemporary 21st century political analysis in the media and elsewhere to describe the perception that Leftist ideology in general, and Left-wing politics in particular, are increasingly influential in Latin America.[1][2][3]

In 2005, the BBC reported that out of 350 million people in South America, three out of four of them lived in countries ruled by “left-leaning presidents” elected during the preceding six years.[2] According to the BBC, “another common element of the ‘pink tide’ is a clean break with what was known at the outset of the 1990s as the ‘Washington consensus‘, the mixture of open markets and privatisation pushed by the United States”.[2]

The Latin American countries viewed as part of this ideological trend have been referred to as “Pink Tide nations”.[4]

Contents

Use of the term

While being a relatively new coinage, the term “pink tide” has become prominent in contemporary discussion of Latin American politics. Origins of the term may be linked to a statement by Larry Rohter, a New York Times reporter in Montevideo who characterized the election of Tabaré Vázquez as leader of Uruguay as “not so much a red tide…as a pink one.”[3] The term seems to be a play on words based on “red tide” (a biological phenomenon rather than a political one) with “red” – a color long associated with communism – being replaced with the lighter tone of “pink” to indicate the more moderate communist and socialist ideas gaining strength.[5]

According to a 2006 press release from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization:

…the Washington rumbles with suppressed outrage over Latin America’s latest professions of its sovereignty – Bolivia‘s nationalization of its oil and natural gas reserves, and Ecuador and Venezuela‘s voiding of their energy contracts. At the same time, Bolivia’s newly inaugurated president, Evo Morales, is a prime candidate to join Washington’s pantheon of Latin American bad boys, presently represented by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. Meanwhile, the region’s new populist leadership, also known as the “Pink Tide”, extends its colors across South America and is poised to leap to much of the rest of Latin America. Ostensibly, the “pink tide”, consists of left-leaning South American governments seeking a third way to register their political legitimation to their citizens, as well as their autonomy regarding such foreign policy issues as Iraq.[6]

According to Diana Raby from Red Pepper Blog:

…with left-wing victories in Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, social and economic recovery in Cuba and popular advances elsewhere in the region, journalists are talking about “Latin America’s pink tide” and the region itself has become the forum for passionate debates on “Socialism of the 21st Century”.[7]

More recently one observer wrote that as “the so-called ‘Pink Tide’ sweeps through South America”, 2009 will probably see the election of Mauricio Funes in El Salvador.[8] However, despite the presence of a number of Latin American governments which profess to embracing a leftist ideology, it is difficult to categorize Latin American states “according to dominant political tendencies, like a red-blue post-electoral map of the United States.”[5] According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal non-profit think-tank based in Washington, D.C.:

…a deeper analysis of elections in Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Mexico indicates that the “pink tide” interpretation—that a diluted trend leftward is sweeping the continent—may be insufficient to understand the complexity of what’s really taking place in each country and the region as a whole.[5]

While this political shift is difficult to quantify, its effects are widely noticed. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, 2006 meetings of the South American Summit of Nations and the Social Forum for the Integration of Peoples demonstrated that certain discussions that “used to take place on the margins of the dominant discourse of neoliberalism, (have) now moved to the center of public debate.”[5]

Reaction

The perception of the rising pink tide is heralded as welcome change by those sympathetic to the views its represents while those near the opposite end of the political spectrum identify it as a malignant influence. According to the latter:

The Bush administration, now led by the State Department’s Secretary Rice, and the Pentagon, by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, had no problem accusing these left leaning governments, led by Hugo Chávez, of being threats to the U.S. national interest and of being destabilizing factors to other Latin American countries, even though they could never quite identify the source of that threat.[6]

According to a report from the Inter Press Service news agency:

…elections results in Latin America appear to have confirmed a left-wing populist and anti-U.S. trend – the so-called “pink tide” – which, along with the recent disclosures regarding ties between right-wing paramilitaries and the government of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, poses serious threats to Washington’s multi-billion-dollar anti-drug effort in the Andes.[9]

Left-wing presidents elected since 1998

See also

Further reading

References

  1. ^ [1] Boston Globe: The many stripes of anti-Americanism
  2. ^ a b c [2] BBC News: South America’s leftward sweep
  3. ^ a b [3] Pittsburg Tribune-Herald: Latin America’s ‘pragmatic’ pink tide
  4. ^ [4] SustainabiliTank: Guatemala
  5. ^ a b c d [5] Institute for Policy Studies: Latin America’s Pink Tide?
  6. ^ a b [6] Council on Hemispheric Affairs: Latin America – The Path Away from U.S. Domination
  7. ^ [7] The Bolivarian Project: Latin America’s Pink Tide
  8. ^ [8] Yet Another Feather in the Cap of Hugo Chavez? El Salvador 2009 NIKOLAS KOZLOFF May 10-12, 2008
  9. ^ [9] Inter Press Service: Challenges 2006–2007: A Bad Year for Empire

This page was last modified on 7 March 2013 at 00:05.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Op-Ed Contributors

Argentina’s About-Face on Terror.

By FABIÁN BOSOER and FEDERICO FINCHELSTEIN
Published by New York Times on-line: March 1, 2013

ON July 18, 1994, a van filled with explosives blew up outside the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. It was the worst terrorist attack ever in Argentina, which has Latin America’s largest Jewish population, and one of the deadliest anti-Semitic attacks since the Holocaust.

In 2007, after more than a decade of investigations, Argentine prosecutors obtained Interpol arrest warrants for six suspects and formally blamed Hezbollah for staging the attack and Iran for financing it.

But bizarrely, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, abruptly switched course last month and reached an agreement with the Iranian government that would set up a “truth commission” of international legal experts to analyze evidence from the bombings. The agreement, which the Congress approved early Thursday, would allow Argentine officials to travel to Tehran and interview Iranians suspected of involvement in the attack.

The problem is that any recommendations by the commission would be nonbinding; moreover, some of the suspects in the attack are now high-ranking Iranian officials — including the sitting defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi — and therefore untouchable. Indeed, Iran has repeatedly refused to cooperate with Argentine investigators and ignored international warrants for the arrest of senior Iranian officials believed to have taken part in planning the bombing.

Mrs. Kirchner’s decision to abandon Argentina’s longstanding grievances against Iran is particularly galling because it comes just weeks after Bulgaria, another country victimized by Iranian-sponsored terrorism, accused Hezbollah of staging a suicide attack on Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian town of Burgas last year. That attack, like the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, was part of a shadow war against Jewish civilians across the world. Bulgaria’s government, unlike Argentina’s current administration, decided to stand up to Hezbollah and forthrightly accuse it of the crime.

Argentina’s president is undermining her own country’s prosecutors, who have for several years tried to pursue the suspected perpetrators. Many observers have denounced Mrs. Kirchner for giving Iran a free pass. As Laura Ginsberg, whose husband was killed in the 1994 attack, has put it, the Argentine government has terminated the possibility of justice.

Mrs. Kirchner’s decision could open the gates to a major foreign policy realignment in the near future. Her populist government is moving toward the pro-Iranian positions of Venezuela’s ailing president, Hugo Chávez, and further away from those of Brazil, the United States and Europe. According to the Argentine newspaper La Nación, Argentina has started to collaborate on arms deals, including the development of missile technology, with Venezuela and indirectly with Iran.

Mrs. Kirchner’s move is also at odds with Argentina’s own history of holding human rights violators accountable. Argentina was plagued by political violence in the 1970s. It was one of the first countries in the world to create a truth commission to investigate the crimes of the military dictatorship that ruled between 1976 and 1983, including the killings and “disappearances” of more than 10,000 citizens deemed to be enemies of the state. That commission was formed after democracy was re-established in 1983 and eventually led to trial and punishment of the generals who led the junta, as well as other human rights violators.

To now create a so-called truth commission to investigate Iran’s and Hezbollah’s role in the 1994 attack and review the well-established findings of Argentina’s own courts is an insult to the memory of those murdered in 1994 and to all of those killed by Argentina’s dictatorship.

Argentina has made grave foreign policy errors before. It is still coping with the fallout from its short 1982 war with Britain over the islands that Britain calls the Falklands and that Argentines call Las Malvinas. That conflict was an ill-advised move by a nationalist dictatorship. In contrast, the current treaty with Iran is being backed by a democratically elected president.

While the 1982 war initially had widespread support, the agreement with Iran, which passed with a narrow congressional majority, has been rejected by all of Argentina’s opposition parties, which vehemently denounced it in congressional debates this week. Moreover, all major Argentine Jewish organizations have opposed the treaty, and there is no indication that Mrs. Kirchner’s conciliatory gesture to Iran is supported by a majority of citizens.

Mrs. Kirchner has vigorously defended the treaty. It is possible that she believes taking a controversial step toward resolving a longstanding dispute will raise Argentina’s international profile. She may also think that the treaty will increase her party’s popularity in an election year.

But it will do neither. Like the 1982 war with Britain, Mrs. Kirchner’s misguided rapprochement with Iran will only compromise Argentina’s long-term national interests while doing nothing to satisfy the survivors’ yearning for justice.

—————–

Fabián Bosoer is an opinion editor at the newspaper Clarín. Federico Finchelstein, an associate professor of history at the New School, worked as a researcher at the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires before the 1994 bombing.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 21st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

NEW – Rabbi Schneier’s weekly column in the Huffington Post.

The Making of Modern-Day Miracles: Hanukkah With the Chief Rabbi, Imams and Barack Obama.

12/20/2012

Hanukkah, the eight day holiday which the Jewish people just observed, is first and foremost, about miracles. Hanukkah commemorates both the miracle of the victory of the Jewish people led by Judah Maccabee in their uprising against their Greek oppressors in 165 B.C.E. and the miracle that the menorah in the reconsecrated Temple in Jerusalem burned for eight days, even though there was only enough oil to light it for one day.

To be sure, miracles have always played a major role in Jewish history; indeed, the very survival of the Jews as a people, despite nearly 2,000 years of exile and persecution, is the greatest miracle of all. Yet, in the Talmud, our sages remind us that one must not rely on miracles. Yes, miracles can happen, but one has to work terribly hard for them.

There is an enormous human component that goes into the making of a miracle.

Over the past six years, I have been privileged to take part in a modern-day miracle: the establishment of a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation. Two weeks ago, as I wrote in my last column, I was one of several rabbis invited to take part in the opening of the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith Dialogue in Vienna, an institution created by the King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to strengthen dialogue between world religions — very much including Islam and Judaism. On Dec. 10, the second day of Hanukkah, together with my friend and esteemed colleague, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, the largest mosque in New York City, I organized a festive Hanukkah meal at the SOLO kosher restaurant in midtown Manhattan featuring the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and eight prominent New York area imams and Muslim leaders.

As I noted in my remarks at the luncheon, such an event would have been unthinkable a few years ago; and many people might assume, should have been all but impossible in the wake of the exchange of missile fire between Israel and Gaza last month. However, thanks to the ongoing step-by-step work in which I have been engaged with Imam Shamsi Ali and other visionary Muslim and Jewish leaders around the world; arranging hundreds of mosque-synagogue exchanges every November during our annual International Muslim-Jewish Weekend of Twinning and bringing together European, North American and Latin American Muslim and Jewish leaders to stand together against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, we have managed to build a framework that allows us to celebrate each others’ holidays together, and to work productively in concert with each other, even at a time of conflict in the Middle East.

That willingness to build ties of cooperation and understanding very much includes Chief Rabbi Metzger, who has made it a point to reach out to imams and Muslim leaders, both within Israel and the Palestinian territories and around the world. Pointing out that through the greater part of the past 1,300 years, Jews and Muslims lived and worked closely together, the Chief Rabbi invoked the miracle of the long burning menorah of Hanukkah to appeal to the New York imams to join with him and like-minded Jews in “spreading the light of Jewish-Muslim understanding.” Responding on behalf of his fellow imams, Shamsi Ali emphasized that “the Middle East conflict is not a Jewish-Muslim conflict but a human one and we have a shared human responsibility to intervene. We don’t have the luxury to become discouraged and give up on the situation; rather we must remain optimistic and keep building our network of contacts.”

Presiding over this historic gathering, the first time a chief rabbi of Israel has sat down together with American Muslim leaders, I reflected that its very occurrence showed about how far Muslims and Jews have come together in six short years and the great opportunity we now have to work together for the betterment of both communities — including helping to bring peace to the Middle East. Indeed, thanks to the efforts in which we have been engaged, there is greater reason for optimism about Muslim-Jewish relations than has existed in a long time.

Several days later, on the evening of Dec. 13, I was privileged to participate in the menorah lighting ceremony at the White House. Listening to President Obama’s eloquent words at that event, I reflected that he is a man of conviction and principle whom I deeply admire.

Yet, as someone who has been in the vanguard of strengthening black-Jewish relations in America for a quarter of a century, being in Barack Obama’s presence at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House also evoked another miracle that continues to amaze and inspire me: the first-ever African-American President of the United States.

Like the remarkable progress we have achieved in Muslim-Jewish relations, the triumph of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the election of President Obama 40 years later, are also examples of miracles that good people worked terribly hard to make happen. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other milestones of that movement would never have occurred without the tireless efforts of Americans of diverse backgrounds who came together in support of the struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality. In fact, as I have noted in my book “Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King and the Jewish Community,” there was no segment of American society which provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as did the Jewish community.

Among the modern day Maccabees who sacrificed their lives were Jewish civil rights activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who together with their African-American co-worker James Chaney, were brutally murdered in the swamps of Mississippi.

Other brave Jews who joined that struggle included Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, and countless other rabbis who were arrested and beaten during the Freedom Rides of 1961.

As I stood in the White House and witnessed the first African-American President light the Hanukkah menorah, I felt that the President’s solidarity with the Jewish community that evening was so very fitting given the seeds of the black-Jewish alliance that were planted in the Civil Rights struggle of half a century ago.

As I left the White House that evening, I reflected on the miraculous accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement, confident that we can achieve the miracle of Muslim-Jewish reconciliation as well. Both of these movements remind us of the enormous human effort that goes into the making of a miracle.


Rabbi Marc Schneier is President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. Schneier is co-authoring a book on Muslim-Jewish relations entitled Sons of Abraham, with Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center, New York City’s largest mosque, to be published by Beacon Press in the Fall of 2013.

Click Here to read Rabbi Schneier’s new column in the Huffington Post

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But lest we are accused of not considering all evidence, I must bring up also the OpenDemocracy column we read today:
 www.opendemocracy.net/kerem-oktem…

Turkey, the end of Islamism with a human face.

Kerem Oktem 20 December 2012

Turkey’s AKP government has over a decade promised a new model of governance: progressive and reformist, Islamist and democratic. But a series of developments, including the expanding power of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, is now exposing the party and its policies to ever-deeper scrutiny, says Kerem Oktem.

For eight decades after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the dominant ideology and political model was one of authoritarian secularism. In November 2002, the election victory of the Justice & Development Party (AKP) brought with it a double promise: to accommodate growing demands for inclusion (from both Turkey’s majority Muslim population and the country’s subordinated ethno-religious minorities), and to marry Turkey’s mainstream Islamist tradition and conservative political right with a programme of modernisation geared towards accession to the European Union.

The prospect of historic change struck a chord far beyond Turkey, especially among liberals in Europe and the United States but also across the middle east. The culture wars unleashed by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida and George W Bush’s administration had both polarised world opinion and created longing for a new reconciliation between “Islam” and “democracy” (or more accurately, between Islamism and popular sovereignty). Many read in the Turkish result a sign of hope.

The AKP’s ambition could hardly be exaggerated: to reconcile conservative religious values and modern politics in a way that resembled the achievement of Christian Democrat parties in late-19th century Europe when they carried Catholic voters and Christian values into democratic politics. The party, after several false starts and legal sanctions from a still confident and intimidatory state, had built a broad coalition of old Islamists, moderate nationalists and new liberals. It seemed a strong foundation for a change-making project inspired by the notion of “Islamism with a human face”.

The AKP’s election breakthrough of November 2002 was the prelude to an exciting decade-long political roller-coaster ride where impressive economic growth, progressive legal reforms, empowerment of civil society and modernisation of infrastructure was counterbalanced by growing nationalism and chauvinism, spreading machismo and untamed neo-liberal restructuring. Amid many setbacks and frustrations, the ride more often than not seemed to lean towards the former. Now, however, Turkey’s politics appear to have come full circle. The country’s Kurds are even more antagonised than during the highpoint of the Kurdish war of the 1990; the non-orthodox Alevi community (which numbers at least 10 million) feels more disenfranchised even than under Kemalist dictatorship; and virtually all societal groups that diverge from the AKP’s notion of the “Islamic middle-class family” experience a sense of exclusion as a result of state attitudes.

It is a good time to take stock, and re-evaluate the actors and dynamics which have reshaped Turkey over these ten years. In particular, to ask: why has the human face of Islamism appears to have gone missing; why has the country’s political realm experienced a puzzling a loss of decency; what do these developments mean for the people of Turkey and the country’s overlapping neighbourhoods; and what are the available alternatives?

A discredited legacy

Turkey shares with other middle-east regimes a tradition of secular authoritarianism whose combination of rigorously controlled institutions, populist nationalism and repressive security systems enabled it to remain in power for decades. Turkey differed from countries such as Egypt, Syria or Tunisia not in the underpinnings of power, but in its state legacy and geostrategic environment. The Republic of Turkey, which had its foundations in the Ottoman empire’s modernisation of the late 19th century, was able to avoid the colonial domination that was to shape the experience of modern Arab statehood. Moreover, at the onset of the cold war, Turkey’s political elites were able to secure a place for the country in the western security alliance, thanks above all to its geographical proximity to western Europe and its status as a frontline state vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, this place facilitated the maintenance in Turkey of a semi-democratic hybrid regime which kept a balance between some socio-economic and ethno-religious groups while repressing and/or denying the existence of others (especially the Kurds, a middle-eastern nation with a long history of local statehood and a distinct literary tradition). The reality of the Armenian genocide, on which the relative religious homogeneity of modern Turkey as a Muslim majority state was built, was also denied.

At heart, Turkey over these decades was a deeply unjust society marked by profound ideological and ethno-religious divisions, which came to the fore particularly in the years of near civil war (as in the 1970s) and was then controlled by the extreme security state established after the coup d’etat of September 1980. By the early 2000s, however, the version of modernity projected by the Kemalist regime  – so-called after the state’s founder, Kemal Atatürk – was looking anachronistic, reminiscent as it was of the leader-worship, mass events and orchestrated nationalist fervour of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; while political and social developments in Turkey had massively undermined its claim to represent the country.

The Islamist movement, partly supported by the generals of the 1980 coup as a prophylactic against socialist infiltration, had matured significantly. The leading cadres within Turkey’s Milli Görü? (National View) movement, the mainstream Islamist tradition from whom the AKP’s leading cadres hail, had come to embrace non-statist, globalised economic thinking and to accept the need to work within the parameters of the secular state. Islamic networks such as Fethullah Gülen’s HIzmet, which combined conservative social values with successful educational enterprises and trust-based business networks, facilitated the emergence of internationally successful industrial establishments in medium-sized towns and cities in the Anatolian heartlands. These flourishing “Anatolian tigers” in central Turkey – led by a new “Islamic bourgeoisie” whose hard work and focused business ambition even attracted the sobriquet “Islamic Calvinists” – created what Cihan Tugal calls a “passive revolution” which integrated Islamists into capitalism and municipal politics, thereby keeping radicalisation at bay.

The Kemalist model was also exposed by the dirty war against the Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish civilian population, which by the 2000s had left more than 30,000 dead and up to 2 million Kurds internally displaced. The loss of legitimacy was shared: among a series of weak coalition governments, among the “deep state” that effectively co-opted them, and among the Kemalist modernisation project as a whole.

Thus, by the time the AKP came to power in 2002, Turkey was over-ready for a change – and change it did. In a relatively short period, and at breakneck speed, the government embarked on an ambitious programme of legal and institutional reform. The prospect of accession negotiations with the European Union unleashed a frenzy of liberal initiatives: the enacting of a progressive civil code, the opening to scrutiny of the repressive institutions of the post-1980 era (including the Higher Education Council, devised to keep unruly universities under control, and the National Security Council, which did the same for the country’s politics).

All vestiges of the ancien regime were open to consideration. The media brimmed with public debates about hitherto unspeakable taboos: from the repression of the Kurds and the marginalisation of Alevis to the denial of the many crimes against humanity which the Turkish nationalist modernisers committed in the dying days of the Ottoman empire and the early ones of the Turkish republic. This liberal moment was framed by high levels of economic growth and a tripling of GDP per capita, which allowed the government to reorganise public services and infrastructure. Significant portions of the public gained unprecedented access to healthcare, with visible results on public health (particularly in underprivileged areas like the Kurdish provinces). This aspect of neo-liberal adjustment came with better services and a more courteous public administration.

A new balance

True, even at the time, there were signs of an undercurrent of religious chauvinism, and an element of Islamist “revenge” for the reprisals inflicted upon them throughout the republic (and particularly after the “mini-coup” of 1997). From 2005, the country witnessed an almost inexplicable nationalist backlash in which prominent liberal public intellectuals such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak were publicly assaulted and subject to a barrage of court cases. These campaigns of psychological warfare against Turkey’s faint but vital liberal voice were supplemented by targeted violence whose victims included the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (murdered in January 2007) and several Christian priests and missionaries.

The operations of the deep state, a remnant of Nato’s “stay behind” forces that went viral during the Kurdish war, had been supported (unknowingly or cynically) by parts of the secular establishment and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The latter’s efforts extended at times into a form of brinkmanship aimed at deposing the AKP government, preventing the AKP foreign minister Abdullah Gül from competing for the presidency, or even (via the constitutional court) attempting to shut down the governing party. All of these manoeuvres failed; though they did succeed in polarising the political space and galvanising support for the AKP government, which could rightfully accuse the Kemalist establishment of undemocratic conduct. They also opened the door to a direct popular election of the president.

There were other worrying signs. An amended anti-terror law in 2006 significantly expanded the definition of terrorism to make the expression of ideas that happen to be shared by terrorist organisations a punishable offence. At a stroke, demands for education in the Kurdish language or for regional autonomy became a security matter. In tactics reminiscent of Israel’s tactics in the occupied Palestinian territories, Turkish security officers abused demonstrating children in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish cities and imprisoned them for minor offences like hurling stones or carrying placards with the insignia of the PKK. The legal attacks against pro-Kurdish parties and politicians – established tools of governance since their emergence in the 1990s – continued. In the late 2000s, a legal battle was unleashed upon the whole domain of Kurdish politics, with hundreds (and soon thousands) of Kurdish politicians, activists and employees of municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) taken into detention, sometimes under humiliating circumstances.

A successful referendum initiative in September 2010 then broke the hegemony of Kemalist judges in the high courts and made possible the prosecution of the hitherto protected leaders of the 1980 coup. This fuelled the zeal of prosecutors close to the government in their undeclared war on the old establishment, which involved bringing charges against former and serving chiefs of the general staff and leading figures in the media and politics for alleged involvement in a series of (averted) coup attempts. Turkey’s history of military interventions made the accusations not unreasonable, and they helped the government to scare the military into full cooperation. Yet if the court cases against the BDP were aimed at marginalising the AKP’s main rival in the Kurdish provinces, those against the military and secularist figures were directed against the Kemalist establishment as such, not necessarily at any actual acts individuals might have engaged in. The ever-growing number of those detained, and the mounting incidents of half-baked evidence, secret witnesses, and (in line with Turkish judicial tradition) fantastic indictments, gradually eroded the legitimacy of the prosecutorial assault.

But prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and his government had been able – at least until the 2010 elections – to counterbalance such highhanded moves with more benign ones in other policy domains. TV and radio broadcasts in Kurdish were legalised, and Kurdish education gradually phased in. This led to multiple contradictions: as the first university degree programmes for Kurdish teachers began, for example, detained Kurdish politicians were charged for insisting on defending themselves in their mother tongue. This doesn’t diminish the importance of the fact that Kurdish, denied its very existence throughout the entire history of the republic, is now a recognised subject in state schools and universities.

The court proceedings cannot be defined as anything but “exceptional justice”. There is little doubt, though, that the Kemalist establishment (including the CHP) had been deeply implicated in dodgy dealings with the deep state to overthrow or at least weaken the ruling AKP. Turkey’s visibility in its neighbourhood, and its seemingly successful foreign-policy activism, also helped to convince a global audience that the AKP government was still engaging in a struggle to defend the popular will against the machinations of the authoritarian Kemalist establishment and the deep state.

An authoritarian shift

So, what changed after the 2010 elections, which returned the AKP to government for a third time and with almost half of the popular vote? Many secularists argue there was no such change: rather, that the cadres of this Islamist party had artfully manipulated the public in Turkey, the European Union and pretty much everybody in the world in order to subvert the military and then rule supreme. They now had the strength to fulfil their “real” motive, to create a sort of theocracy. Some liberals, and even more reflective Islamist actors, would make a different case, based on Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Indeed, ten years in government is a long time.

Both explanations have a grain of truth, though the proponents of the first might recall that the secular establishment has played a major role in cornering the AKP elites and socialising them into the very exceptional use of force which the government and its supporters in the judiciary and bureaucracy is now engaged in. The flipside of the secularist explanation hence suggests that the Kemalist state has managed to shape the Islamists in its own image, turning them into the same kind of authoritarian modernisers and social engineers; the difference being that the core reference-points are now Islam, Ottomanism and neo-liberalism rather than Turkish ethno-nationalism. In the government’s defence, its apologists proclaim that Erdo?an wants to attract the nationalist vote with hawkish policies in order to ensure his election as president, insinuating that he might become more moderate when that is achieved.

Geostrategy has also helped. Turkey happens to share borders with states that are vilified by the western security establishment. In the past, it was the Soviet Union; then Iran, followed by Iraq, and lately Syria. The United States needs Turkey as an ally in its middle-eastern policy, no matter what shape this policy may eventually take. It is not a good time to criticise Turkey – and thanks to geostrategy, the time never seems to be just right. The rebranding of Turkey as an economic powerhouse and model of Muslim democracy, professionally and aggressively conducted globally by civil-society organisations and pro-business Islamic networks, also remains potent. Turkey is still able to depict itself, albeit in a far less convincing way than before, as a model for the democratic transitions in the Arab world.

A political faultine

If the AKP government is now in more or less full control of the Turkish state, unconstrained by foreign-policy pressures, and able to benefit from a relatively well-performing economy, what exactly is it doing? The answer is that it is concentrating extreme power in the hands of the prime minister, and conducting remorseless policies without a modicum of balance. There are thousands of Kurdish activists and hundreds of university students in jail, who are by any definition political prisoners; they are joined by critical journalists who are often held on terrorism charges. The judiciary is cracking down on pretty much any individual who dares to question the legitimacy of “Islamism with a human face” and of Turkey’s neo-liberal restructuring. Critical academics such as Bü?ra Ersanl? and P?nar Selek have been imprisoned or face charges. Some campuses, like that of the Aegean University in Izmir and now that of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, are subjected to a state of emergency, where police snatch away protesting students and intimidate intervening faculty members.

The balancing-act between neo-liberal adjustment and redistribution was one of the great success stories of earlier AKP governments. Now that the economy is slowing, redistribution has become harder and industrial action more pronounced. Turkish Airlines is a showcase for intelligent management, brand consolidation and growth thanks to high levels of productivity. Yet working conditions are harsh, and when a few hundred employees staged a short strike earlier in 2012, all of them were dismissed (via SMS) after an angry intervention by Erdo?an. Istanbul’s skyline is slowly being destroyed by what will soon be called the Turkish property bubble; the prime minister himself, usually not responsible for urban planning, is pushing through plans for the largest mosque in Turkey on a hilltop overlooking Istanbul, and for an ill-advised plan to “beautify” the city’s heart around Taksim Square. All of these projects have been finalised behind closed doors, with no regard to public consultation.

Erdo?an’s is a sad story, especially in relation to the promise he represented as a child of poor immigrants to Istanbul who rose to the top echelons of power via the municipality of greater Istanbul, along the way defying the Kemalist establishment and enduring a jail term. Now, he has become a choleric figure who lectures the world about all and sundry; plays down the Armenian genocide (while accusing China of the same crime against the Uyghur people and maintaining cordial relations with Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, whose regime is accused of genocide in Darfur); lambasts Israel (rightly) for its brutal occupation regime, while failing to apologise for the killing of thirty-four Kurdish civilians in an airstrike near the village of Roboski; tells Turkish women how many children to have (three) and threatens to rescind relatively liberal abortion laws.

That socially conservative politics would eventually close in on the female body and, as Deniz Kandiyoti suggests, attempt a “masculinist restoration”, is probably not so surprising. That Erdo?an now even seeks to have a popular TV series on Suleiman the Magnificent banned, because it depicts the Ottoman Sultan as a man concerned more with his harem than with conquest, however, is. Could Erdo?an be approaching the threshold to ludicrousness?

A contested hegemony

The hegemonic aspect of Turkey’s new governing system is a case of the phenomenon different from Egypt’s, where Andrea Teti and colleagues view Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as non-hegemonic actors that consequently face widespread protests that contest their power-base. The foundations of post-Kemalist hegemony run deeper, as they have been built gradually and in a more deliberate manner. In ten years, the AKP and sympathetic Islamic networks have succeeded in educating a new generation of administrators, judges and foreign-policy experts in private schools and new universities, who approximate in mindset and persuasion to what Erdo?an calls a “pious youth”. The part of the population which has benefited from the AKP’s economic growth and redistribution policies is incomparably larger than in Egypt; and Turkey is much richer now than it was in 2002-03.

The infinitely self-confident Erdo?an is not without possible challenge, however – though not from the main opposition party, which is failing to unite its two main factions into a progressive social-democrat coalition (the division is between a nationalist and anti-Kurdish Kemalist establishment, and a more liberal left-wing faction with a strong Alevi component). The challenge, rather, comes from two other sources. The first could emerge from within the Islamist movement and the Islamic networks, which have played a key role in mobilising their constituencies for the AKP in the preceding elections. Many people here regard “decency” as not (or not exclusively) a matter of piety and modest dress. Some wonder whether their longstanding struggle really was for a Turkey with more mosques, shopping-malls and high-speed trains, ruled by an autocratic dictator who gasps for even more power than he already holds. The extent to which they will be able to revoke the implicit agreement between Islamists not to compromise a fellow brother, and to find a voice in the AKP (or beyond) will be decisive for the future of Turkey’s politics and of Erdo?an himself.

The second challenge may come from Turkey’s current president, the much less divisive Abdullah Gül, who enjoys considerably more approval for a second term in office than Erdo?an does in his bid for the presidency. The two are now in open conflict over a wide range of policy issues. This struggle will unfold over the next year.

In the meantime, Turkey veers ever closer to an abyss of multiple crises on different geographical scales: in its neighbourhood, in Syria, in its own Kurdish regions, in its higher-education system, its courtrooms, and in its inner cities. If there is anything like “path dependence”, the possibility of Erdo?an returning to the politics of decency, with which he initially captured the hearts and minds of the electorate in Turkey, can be precluded. For now, Turkey’s experiment of “Islamism with a human face” seems to have come to a tentative end.

That this is happening at the same time as the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt seems to be slipping, and unrest is mounting in Tunisia, might offer some hints about the future of this ideology. Olivier Roy’s repeated insistence that Islamism is nearing its end might still be unfounded. The Turkish experience, however, suggests that its neo-liberal, pro-American version cannot provide credible or sustainable answers to the needs of complex modern societies, and certainly not to the demands for social justice and inclusive governance.

——-

Similar difficulties exist in Israel and they will not be resolved by the January 2013 elections.

The up-shot is thus that lot of hard work is needed to make the needed miracles of civil co-existence happen.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Venezuela Votes…and Latin America Catches a Cold.

By Estrella Gutiérrez

CARACAS, Oct 4 2012 (IPS) – Sunday’s elections in Venezuela will determine whether the era of President Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution will continue or come to an end. The result will have an impact not only on this country but on the rest of Latin America.

In the first decade of this century, Latin America saw “a nontraumatic epochal change, sometimes manifested as constituent assemblies (to rewrite a constitution), which sought to respond to the demands of the majority and bring about political change. Chávez is its most radical expression,” said Manuel Felipe Sierra, an analyst from the traditional left and a critic of the Venezuelan president.

“This trend, which Chávez claims to have authored although it has roots and leadership in each country, has already passed, and most governments have taken a more conventional democratic route with left-wing overtones,” he told IPS.

In the campaign, Capriles said that if elected, he would maintain membership of all the blocs, including ALBA.

However, he declared that there would be an end to the “freebies” and not a single barrel of oil would leave Venezuela for free, in a country where oil now represents 93 percent of exports, compared to 70 percent in 1998. He was referring to the agreements with countries in the region for oil and gas sales at preferential prices and on easy payment terms.

Asked who would lose the most in the region if Chávez lost, the analysts who spoke to IPS agreed that the Cuban and Nicaraguan governments would be most affected, because they are the most dependent on Venezuelan oil and other resources. “Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador would not be happy, either,” said Shifter.

Capriles promised to maintain good relations with Cuba, and said he would seek a meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro after he meets with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, his priority, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

But he said the current agreements, under which Havana receives between three billion and four billion dollars a year, must be revised.

Chávez, for his part, insists that if he is ousted from the presidency, “darkness will return to Latin American society” and “the empire (the U.S.) will win.”

In Sierra’s view, “Venezuela has a specific weight in the region, as the only country that is structurally a Latin American oil power, even though others also have oil, and it must recover that role and restore it to normal, whatever happens on Sunday.”

Bolivia and Ecuador are other examples of this current, which has as its political integration mechanism the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), led by Venezuela and made up of eight Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Cuba and Nicaragua.

But the regional reform movement has another major reference point, less ideological and radical: the process led by former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), whose programme was based on economic growth with social inclusion and a strengthening of democracy.

Both self-described left-wing and right-wing governments have expressed their support for the Brazilian model, including Venezuela’s opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who declares himself an “admirer and imitator” of Lula.

Capriles, supported by a variegated mix of 29 groups ranging from right to left, points as proof to the Zero Hunger plan he implemented as governor of the northwestern state of Miranda, modelled on Brazil’s anti-hunger strategy.

Most of the latest polls tip Chávez as the favourite to be re-elected for a third time. But growing support for his rival has made the election result uncertain.

Chávez’s style of diplomacy in Latin America has been one of confrontation with right-wing presidents, which polarised countries, governments and summits ever since he took power in February 1999, said experts consulted by IPS, including several close to the president.

“The export of the Bolivarian model, supported by the abusive use of Venezuela’s oil wealth, as well as Chávez´s style, are in decline, whatever happens on Sunday,” said Sierra.

“Furthermore, there is ‘Chávez fatigue’ in the region because of the behaviours and manners that stress even his allies, and that ceased to be useful for the collective interest,” he said.

But Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), said that if Chávez exits the stage, “it would threaten Latin American independence,” especially from the United States, which Chávez refers to as “the empire.”

Chaderton said Venezuela had created in the region “a diversity of dependences, that make us more independent of others and more interdependent among ourselves.”

“In Latin America we created oxygen valves that help us breathe more freely, and that would close off” if Chávez loses, he said.

“These are not just any elections, for Venezuela or for the continent, because of the ideological primacy and polarisation promoted by Chávez, and because if he loses the elections it would confirm the demise of the left-wing neo-populist experiment he was trying to export,” said Teresa Romero, an expert in international relations.

In Romero’s view, even if Chávez is re-elected, “the regional climate has shifted towards the centre,” and within it “Brazil has won the leadership role, with progressive positions that are less strident and more efficient.”

Michael Shifter, the head of the Inter-American Dialogue, a U.S. think tank, said if Chávez left the government it would have “an enormous effect on the regional political scenario, because he has been the most aggressive and polarising voice in the hemisphere over the last decade.”

If change comes to Venezuela, “ideological conflicts will not disappear, but they will be less acute and better channeled,” he told IPS. In his view, Capriles would maintain normal relations with left-wing governments like those of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua, “but not, as the phrase went in the 1990s, such carnal relationships.”

In addition to ALBA, the Chávez government promoted the foundation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), made up of the region’s 12 countries, and the oil aid organisation Petrocaribe. It also helped create the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as an alternative to the OAS, which it considers to be dominated by Washington.

In August the government began a process of withdrawal from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which hands down binding rulings on human rights violations committed by states. The only precedent for withdrawal from the OAS human rights court was that of Peru, 20 years ago, during the regime of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000).

Capriles announced that, if he were elected, one of his first steps would be to reverse the process of withdrawal from the Inter-American Court. He also said Venezuela would rejoin the Andean Community, the regional bloc that this country belonged to since the 1960s, which the Chávez administration pulled out of in 2011. It is currently made up of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Chávez’s efforts in the past six years were directed towards Venezuela becoming a full member of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) trade bloc, which he finally achieved in June, after Paraguay’s temporary suspension from the group, made up also of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

“These are changes of alliances based on political and ideological foundations, not on economic reasoning or geographical location,” Sierra said.

=========================

And from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) backgrounder:

Stakes Are High for Venezuelan Presidential Elections

The October 7 presidential election between Hugo Chavez and Henrique Capriles Radonski holds significant implications for the direction of the country’s “socialist revolution,” its economy, and foreign policy.       Read the Backgrounder »

===========================


Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times

How Hugo Chávez Became Irrelevant

By FRANCISCO TORO
Published: October 5, 2012

Caracas, Venezuela

Jonathan Bartlett

AS Hugo Chávez, the icon of Latin America’s left, struggles to hang on to his job, it’s tempting to read tomorrow’s closely contested election in Venezuela as a possible signal of the region’s return to the right. That would be a mistake, because the question that’s been roiling Latin America for a dozen years isn’t “left or right?” but “which left?”

Outsiders have often interpreted Latin America’s swing to the left over the last dozen years as a movement of leaders marching in ideological lock step. But within the region, the fault lines have always been clear.

Radical revolutionary regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua joined Cuba, the granddaddy of the far left, in a bloc determined to confront the capitalist world, even if that meant increasingly authoritarian government.

A more moderate set of leaders in Brazil, Uruguay and Guatemala put forth an alternative: reducing poverty through major social reforms without turning their backs on democratic institutions or private property rights.

As Fidel Castro’s favorite son, Mr. Chávez has always been the leader of the radical wing. And Brazil’s size and economic power made it the natural leader of the reformist wing.

Outwardly, the two camps have been at pains to deny that any divisions exist. There have been many pious words of solidarity and lots of regional integration accords. But behind closed doors, each side is often viciously dismissive of the other, with Chávez supporters seeing the Brazilians as weak-kneed appeasers of the bourgeoisie while the Brazilians sneer at Mr. Chávez’s outdated radicalism and chronic incompetence.

As recently as five or six years ago, there was a real ideological contest. A wildly unpopular American president prone to military adventurism helped Mr. Chávez rally the continent against Washington. One country after the next joined the radical axis. First Bolivia, then Nicaragua, Honduras and Ecuador, joined a growing roll call of radicals in 2005 and 2006.

Now the political landscape is almost entirely transformed. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory badly undermined the radicals’ ability to rally opposition to gringo imperialism. Meanwhile, the alternative was becoming increasingly attractive.

Brazil’s remarkable success in reducing poverty speaks for itself. Building on a foundation of macroeconomic stability and stable democratic institutions, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, oversaw the most remarkable period of social mobility in Latin America’s living memory.

As millions of Brazilians rose into the middle class, Mr. Chávez’s autocratic excesses came to look unnecessary and inexcusable to Venezuelans. Mr. da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, have shown that a country does not need to stack the courts, purge the army and politicize the central bank to fight poverty. Brazil proves that point, quietly, day in and day out.

It isn’t just democratic institutions that have suffered from Mr. Chávez’s radicalism; it’s the economy, too. Venezuela’s traditional dependence on oil exports has deepened, with 96 percent of export revenue now coming from the oil industry, up from 67 percent just before Mr. Chávez took office. Nationalized steel mills produce a fraction of the steel they’re designed for, forcing the state to import the difference. And nationalized electric utilities plunge most of the country into darkness several times a week. The contrast with Brazil’s high-tech, entrepreneurial, export-oriented economy couldn’t be more stark.

For all of Mr. Chávez’s talk of radical transformation, Venezuela’s child mortality and adult literacy statistics have not improved any faster under his government than they did over the several decades before he rose to power.

With oversight institutions neutered, the president now runs the country as a personal fief: expropriating businesses on a whim and deciding who goes to jail. Judges who rule against the government’s wishes are routinely fired, and one has even been jailed. Chávez-style socialism looks like the worst of both worlds: both more authoritarian and less effective at reducing poverty than the Brazilian alternative.

And the region has noticed. The key moment came in April 2011, when Ollanta Humala won the Peruvian presidency. Long seen as the most radical of Latin America’s new breed of leaders, Mr. Humala had run on a Chávez-style platform in 2006 and lost. By last year, he’d seen the way the wind was blowing and remade himself into a Brazilian-style moderate, won and proceeded to govern — so far, successfully — in the Brazilian mold.

Now, in a final indignity, Mr. Chávez is facing a tight re-election race against Henrique Capriles Radonski, a 40-year-old progressive state governor who extols the virtues of the Brazilian model.

Although Mr. Chávez’s government has done its best to paint a caricature of Mr. Capriles as an old-style right-wing oligarch, he is unmistakably within the Brazilian center-left mold: Mr. Capriles pitches himself as an ambitious but pragmatic social reformer committed to ending the Chávez era’s authoritarian excesses.

The rest of Latin America has already been through the ideological battle in which Venezuela remains mired. By and large, other nations have made their choices. The real question in this election is whether Venezuela will join the hemispheric consensus now, or later.

Francisco Toro is a journalist, political scientist and blogger.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Tancredo de Almeida Neves, Commonly called Tancredo Neves (March 4, 1910 – April 21, 1985) – was  born in São João del Rey, in the state of Minas Gerais, of mostly Portuguese, but also Austrian descent. [1]

Neves was the opposition candidate to replace President João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo – the last general-President of Brazil.

The campaign for direct elections failed. There was no popular public vote.[5] Neves was elected President by a majority of the Electoral College on January 15, 1985, where he received 480 votes.[6]

USING WIKIPEDIA LANGUAGE THE FOLLOWING IS THE OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION OF A CHAIN OF EVENTS:

On March 14, on the last day of his predecessor’s term, and on the eve of his own inauguration, Neves became severely ill, requiring immediate surgery. He thus was not able to attend his own inauguration on March 15.

The Constitution required the President and Vice-President elect to take oaths of office before the assembled National Congress.

The inauguration was accordingly held for the Vice-President only, the Vice-President immediately assumed the powers of the presidency as Acting President. At that time, there was still hope that Neves would recover and appear before Congress to take the oath of office.

However, Neves suffered from abdominal complications and developed generalized infections. After seven operations, Neves died on April 21, more than one month after the beginning of his term of office, without ever having taken the oath of office as President.[7] He was succeeded by José Sarney who was the Vice President. Neves’s ordeal was intensively covered by the Brazilian media and followed with anxiety by the whole nation, who had seen in him the way out of the authoritarian regime into what he had called a “New Republic” (Nova República).

His death caused an outpouring of national grief.

Tancredo Neves is counted among the official list of presidents of Brazil as a matter of homage and honour, since, not having taken the oath of office, he technically never became President. An Act of Congress was thus necessary to make this homage official. Accordingly on the first anniversary of his death, a statute was signed into law declaring that he should be counted among the Presidents of Brazil.

BUT NOBODY I TALKED TO IN BRAZIL BELIEVED THAT TANCREDO NEVES DIED OF NATURAL CAUSES. THE BELIEF IS RATHER THAT THE GENERALS WERE NOT READY YET TO TRANSFER POWER TO AN ELECTED PRESIDENT AND THIS INCLUDED NEVES, EVEN THOUGH HIS OWN ELECTION WAS NOT YET THE STATE OF THE ART OF PURE DEMOCRACY.

During the period that he was President Elect I had the great honor to be invited to Hotel Pierre in New York to a Presentation he made as guest of the Americas Society and Mr. David Rockefeller. Shortly after that the Organization of American States was involved in a conference on ethanol fuels that was held in Bello Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Neves was the opening speaker and Aureliano Chaves, who later became the Energy Minister, and at that time was Governor of Minas Gerais, was the opening presenter. Here was a Brazil in motion that was talking independence of oil imports and local production of fuels. Was this something that ruffled feathers?

Above is my addition to the following article that does not mention Tancredo Neves. Nevertheless, if Brazil is ready to look under the rugs of dictatorship, even that an amnesty for the sake of internal peace has been declared, the Tancredo Neves case will eventually be touched upon as well. All what we can say nevertheless, the search for the truth of past dictatorships in the Southern Latin Cone, has in it the makings of unravelling as well US business involvement and CIA operatives that taught methodology  of torture in the region.

===========================================================================

Leader’s Torture in the ’70s Stirs Ghosts in Brazil.

By 
Published by the New York Times: August 4, 2012

RIO DE JANEIRO — Her nom de guerre was Estela. Part of a shadowy urban guerrilla group at the time of her capture in 1970, she spent three years behind bars, where interrogators repeatedly tortured her with electric shocks to her feet and ears, and forced her into the pau de arara, or parrot’s perch, in which victims are suspended upside down naked, from a stick, with bound wrists and ankles.

The Lady President of Brazil by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Ms. Rousseff, now president of Brazil, says little these days about the cruelty she endured.

And years ago by Adir Mera/Public Archive of the State of Sao Paulo

Dilma Rousseff at 22 as a captured guerrilla at a military hearing in 1970. Today, a panel is investigating the torture she and others endured under Brazil’s military dictatorship.

That former guerrilla is now Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff. As a truth commission begins examining the military’s crackdown on the population during a dictatorship that lasted two decades, Brazilians are riveted by chilling details emerging about the painful pasts of both their country and their president.

The schisms of that era, which stretched from 1964 to 1985, live on here. Retired military officials, including Maurício Lopes Lima, 76, a former lieutenant colonel accused of torturing Ms. Rousseff, have questioned the evidence linking the military to abuses. Rights groups, meanwhile, are hounding Mr. Lopes Lima and others accused of torture, encircling their residences in cities across Brazil. “A torturer of the dictatorship lives here,” they recently wrote in red paint on the entrance to Mr. Lopes Lima’s apartment building in the seaside resort city of Guarujá, part of a street-theater protest.

While a 1979 amnesty still shields military officials from prosecution for abuses, the commission, which began in May and has a two-year mandate, is nevertheless stirring up ghosts. The dictatorship killed an estimated 400 people; torture victims are thought to number in the thousands.

The torture endured by Ms. Rousseff, who was 22 when the abuse began and is now 64, is among the most prominent of hundreds of decades-old cases that the commission is examining. The president is not the region’s only political leader to rise to power after being imprisoned and tortured, a sign of the tumultuous pasts of other Latin American countries.

As a young medical student, Chile’s former president,Michelle Bachelet, survived a harrowing stretch of detention and torture after a 1973 military coup. And Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, a former leader of the Tupamaro guerrilla organization, underwent torture during nearly a decade and half of imprisonment.

Since Ms. Rousseff took office, she has refused to play the part of a victim while subtly pushing for more transparency into the years of Brazil’s military dictatorship. She rarely refers in public to the cruelty she endured; aside from ceremonial appearances, she has spoken sparingly about the truth commission itself. She declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the commission or the time she spent in prison.

Ms. Rousseff has evolved considerably since her days in the underground resistance, when she used several aliases, a trajectory similar to that of other leftists who ascended into Brazil’s political elite. The daughter of a Bulgarian émigré businessman and his Brazilian schoolteacher wife, she grew up in relative privilege, only to abandon that upbringing to join a fledgling guerrilla group, the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard.

After her release from prison, she moved to the southern city of Porto Alegre, where her husband at the time, Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, was completing his own prison sentence for subversion. She resumed her studies in economics, gave birth to a daughter, Paula, in 1976, and entered local politics. Moderating her political views, she slowly rose to national prominence as a results-oriented technocrat. She served as chief of staff and energy minister for Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He prevailed on her to run in the 2010 election.

She governs with a markedly different style from that of Mr. da Silva, a gregarious former union leader. Even as Brazil’s economy slows, her approval rating stands around 77 percent, as the government expands antipoverty spending and stimulus projects. She won plaudits from some in the opposition by acknowledging the economic achievements ofFernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil’s president from 1995 to 2002.

She keeps a low profile in Brasília, where she lives in the Alvorada Palace, the modernist presidential residence, with her mother and an aunt (she is divorced from Mr. Araújo, though the two remain close). News media pore over her interests, which range from René Magritte’s surrealist paintings to the HBO fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”

At the same time, her hard-charging governing style — she has been said to berate senior officials until they cry — has been enshrined in Brazilian popular culture, with Gustavo Mendes, a cross-dressing comedian, attaining fame by imitating her on the raunchy national television program “Casseta and Planeta Go Deep.”

Such satirical derision on television of a Brazilian leader would have been almost unthinkable at the time of Ms. Rousseff’s incarceration, when Brazilians faced censorship, prison sentences — or worse — for criticizing military rulers. Her experiences in the dictatorship’s torture chambers remained unknown to the public for decades.

Some details emerged in 2005, after she was serving in Mr. da Silva’s cabinet, when testimony she provided to the author of a book on women who resisted the military dictatorship was published in Brazilian newspapers.

She described the progression from palmatória, a torture method in which a paddle or stick is used to strike the knuckles and palms of the hand, to the next, when she was stripped naked, bound upside down and submitted to electric shocks on different parts of her body, including her breasts, inner thighs and head.

It was generally thought that Ms. Rousseff’s torture sessions were limited to prisons in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, until an investigative report published in June described more torture interrogations, including sessions during a two-month stretch at a military prison in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. When she was still an obscure provincial official, she gave testimony in 2001 to an investigator from Minas Gerais, describing how interrogators there beat her in the face, distorting her dental ridge. One tooth came loose and became rotten from the pummeling, she said, and was later dislodged by a blow from another interrogator in São Paulo.

Robson Sávio, the scholar who interviewed her then, said she had no obligation to respond to the request for testimony, since the Minas Gerais commission had already collected proof that she had been tortured. But she did so anyway; by the end of the encounter, after recalling interrogations resulting in other injuries, including the hemorrhaging of her uterus, she was in tears, he said.

“I remember the fear when my skin trembled,” she said back in 2001. “Something like that marks us for the rest of our lives.”

Mr. Lima Lopes, identified as one of Ms. Rousseff’s torturers in São Paulo and still living in seaside Guarujá, has denied torturing her, while defiantly calling her a “good guerrilla.” Other retired military figures, meanwhile, have adopted a similar stance.

Luiz Eduardo Rocha Paiva, a former secretary general of Brazil’s Army, called into question in a newspaper interview this year whether Ms. Rousseff had been tortured. But he also claimed she belonged to an armed militant group seeking to install a Soviet-inspired dictatorship. Both insurgents and counterinsurgency agents committed abuses, he said. “Was there torture during the military regime? Yes,” he said. “Is there torture in Brazil today? Yes,” he added, referring to the deplorable conditions in some Brazilian prisons.

Ms. Rousseff, who has insisted she never took part in an armed act against the government, has opted not to publicly clash with the former officers. Meanwhile, the commission continues without interference from the president. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, a noted legal scholar who is one of its seven members, said the only time he met Ms. Rousseff was when he and his colleagues were convened this year in Brasília.

Here in Rio, the search for knowledge of the past has moved state authorities to pay reparations to nearly 900 people tortured in the state during the dictatorship. Among them is Ms. Rousseff, who said in May that she would donate her check of about $10,000 to Torture Never Again, a group that seeks to raise awareness of the military’s abuses.

Still, despite such moves, closure remains evasive. Rights activists here were stunned in July after the office of Torture Never Again was burglarized, and archives describing the psychological treatment undertaken by torture victims were stolen.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Latin America seemingly buckles under pressure from outside and inside the continent.

Seemingly – Mercosur is not growing larger as expected. It is made up by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. A reaction t this, under leadership of Brazil and Argentina, Mercosur will increase tariff on imports from non-Mercosur States.

Closer allies of the US – Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, are eying the Pacific region, and tend to get closer business relations with the other side of the Pacific under a Pacific Alliance with US as main pivot. Chile seems to be interested to lead this group so there is less of a Brazil – Mexico competition in Latin America.

The left leaning ALBA States include Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and some of the Caribbean Islands, while the Caribbean Island States still have their CARICOM that looks to Mexico.

This posting comes about because of our expectation that June 2012 will prove to be an important month for Latin America, considering the Mexican hosts of the G-20, and the Brazilian hosts of RIO+20 – both meetings with potential high power influence  on global economic structure at least in these next few years. Will the US be helpful, or harmful, to the creation of a more united Latin America?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Center of gravity in oil world shifts to Americas.

By , Published The Washington Post: May 25, 2012.

LOMA LA LATA, Argentina — In a desertlike stretch of scrub grass and red buttes, oil companies are punching holes in the ground in search of what might be one of the biggest recent discoveries in the Americas: enough gas and oil to make a country known for beef and the tango an important energy player.

The environment is challenging, with resources trapped deep in shale rock. But technological breakthroughs coupled with a feverish quest for the next major find are unlocking the door to oil and natural gas riches here and in several other countries in the Americas not traditionally known as energy producers

Graphic

A tectonic shift in oil supply

Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

A tectonic shift in oil supply

That is quickly changing the dynamics of energy geopolitics in a way that had been unforeseen just a few years ago.

From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.

“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”

Oil produced in Persian Gulf countries — notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq — will remain vital to the world’s energy picture. But what was once a seemingly unalterable truth — that American oil production would steadily fall while the United States remained heavily reliant on Middle Eastern supplies — is being turned on its head.

Since 2006, exports to the United States have fallen from all but one major member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the net decline adding up to nearly 1.8 million barrels a day. Canada, Brazil and Colombia have increased exports to the United States by 700,000 barrels daily in that time and now provide nearly 3.4 million barrels a day.

Six Persian Gulf suppliers provide just 22 percent of all U.S. imports, the nonpartisan U.S. Energy Information Administration said this month. The United States’ neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, meanwhile, provide more than half — a figure that has held steady for years because, as production has fallen in the oil powers of Venezuela and Mexico, it has gone up elsewhere.

Production has risen strikingly fast in places such as the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and the “tight” rock formations of North Dakota and Texas — basins with resources so hard to refine or reach that they were not considered economically viable until recently. Oil is gushing in once-dangerous regions of Colombia and far off the coast of Brazil, under thick salt beds thousands of feet below the surface.

A host of new discoveries or rosy prospects for large deposits also has energy companies drilling in the Chukchi Sea inside the Arctic Circle, deep in the Amazon, along a potentially huge field off South America’s northeast shoulder, and in the roiling waters around the Falkland Islands.

“A range of big possibilities for oil are opening up,” said Juan Carlos Montiel, as he directed a team from the state-controlled company YPF to drill while a whipping wind brought an autumn chill to the potentially lucrative fields here outside Añelo. “With the exploration that is being carried out, I think we will really increase the production of gas and oil.”

Because oil is a widely traded commodity, analysts say the upsurge in production in the Americas does not mean the United States will be immune to price shocks. If Iran were to close off the Strait of Hormuz, stopping tanker traffic from Middle East suppliers, a price shock wave would be felt worldwide.

But the new dynamics for the United States — an increasingly intertwined energy relationship with Canada and more reliance on Brazil — mean U.S. energy supplies are more assured than before, even if oil from an important Persian Gulf supplier is temporarily halted.

The fracking ‘revolution’

Perhaps the biggest development in the worldwide realignment is how the United States went from importing 60 percent of its liquid fuels in 2005 to 45 percent last year. The economic downturn in the United States, improvements in automobile efficiency and an increasing reliance on biofuels all played a role.

But a major driver has been the use of hydraulic fracturing. By blasting water, chemicals and tiny artificial beads at high pressure into tight rock formations to make them porous, workers have increased oil production in North Dakota from a few thousand barrels a day a decade ago to nearly half a million barrels today.

Conservative estimates are that oil and natural gas produced through “fracking,” as the process is better known, could amount to 3 million barrels a day by 2020.

“We have a revolution here,” said Larry Goldstein, director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation in New York. “In 47 years in this business, I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.”

All of this has happened as exports from Mexico and Venezuela have fallen in recent years, a trend analysts attribute to mismanagement and lack of investment at the state-owned oil industries in those countries. Even so, there is a possibility that new governments in Mexico and Venezuela — Mexico elects a new president July 1, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has cancer — could open the energy industry to the private investment and expertise needed to boost production, analysts say.

“There’s a lot of upside potential in Latin America that will boost the oil supply over the medium term,” said RoseAnne Franco, who analyzes exploration and production prospects in the region for the energy consultant Wood Mackenzie. “So it’s very positive.”

Political elements

Much of the exploration, though, will not be easy, cheap or, as in Argentina’s case, free of political pitfalls. Price controls on natural gas and import restrictions have made doing business in Argentina hard for energy companies. And last month, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s populist government stunned oil markets by expropriating YPF, the biggest energy company here, from Spain’s Repsol.

But the prize for energy companies is potentially huge. Repsol estimated this year that a cross section of the vast Dead Cow formation here in Neuquen province could hold nearly 23 billion barrels of gas and oil. That followed a U.S. Energy Information Administration report that said Argentina possibly has the third-largest shale gas resources after China and the United States.

“All the top-of-the-line companies are here,” said Guillermo Coco, energy minister of Neuquen province, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell. Although only about 200 wells have been drilled, Coco said companies here talk of drilling 10,000 or more in the next 15 years.

Wells on the horizon

On a recent day here in a dusty spot called Loma La Lata, German Perez oversaw a team of 30 technicians from the Houston-based oil- services giant Schlumberger as they prepared to frack a well.

The operation was huge: Trucks lined up with revving generators. Giant containers brimmed with water. Hoses used for firing chemicals into wells littered the ground. Cranes hoisted huge bags of artificial sand into mixers. Then, 1,200-horsepower pumps blasted water, chemicals and sand nearly 9,000 feet into the earth. “This is a hard rock, so we create countless cracks and fissures, for the gas and oil to flow,” Perez said.

Staring at the stark landscape, broken up here and there by oil rigs, Perez said he thought many companies would one day arrive in search of oil and gas. “The projections are pretty good,” he said. “In our case, we have been here a year and a half and we have tripled the equipment we have. And we think we will double that in another year.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 9th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

cumbre ALBA con Chavez

Hugo Chávez, anfitrión de la cumbre del Alba en Caracas.

Los presidentes de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez; de Cuba, Raúl Castro; de Bolivia, Evo Morales; de Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; de Haití, Michel Martelly; el primer ministro de Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit; de San Vicente y las Granadinas, Ralph Gonsalves; el premier de Antigua y Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer; y el canciller de Argentina, Héctor Timerman, acordaron celebrar dos reuniones al año, de carácter ordinario.

La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, creada hace 7 años por Cuba y Venezuela para fomentar la integración en la región bajo los principios de solidaridad, comercio justo, respeto estricto a la soberanía y complementariedad económica.

Los países que integran el ALBA son: Cuba, Venezuela, Dominica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua y Barbuda, y San Vicente y las Granadinas.

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América Latina: Cumbre del Alba entre la economía y Las Malvinas.

Infolatam/Efe

Caracas, 5 enero 2012

www.infolatam.com/2012/02/05/america-latina-cumbre-del-alba-entre-la-economia-y-las-malvinas/

Las claves

  • El Consejo Económico de la Alternativa propuso la creación de fondos de reservas del Banco del Alba, al tiempo que el presidente Chávez, aprobó la incorporación del 1% de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela (300 millones de dólares), a la entidad financiera del bloque
  • El presidente de Bolivia, Evo Morales, propuso este domingo la creación de un Consejo de Defensa de los países miembros de la Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Alba).
  • ALBA estudia sancionar a R.Unido y no asistir a Cumbre de las Américas si no asiste Cuba.

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Integración desnuda

“Y aquí estamos entrando en la segunda década del milenio, sin visión estratégica de la integración, perdidos entre siglas que a nadie dicen nada ALBA, Unasur o CELAC por solo nombrar algunas. Mientras tanto, los países del continente disfrutan de una relativa bonanza económica, producto del aislamiento y la exportación de materias primas que finalizará en cuanto se cierre el ciclo económico”. (Tal Cual. Venezuela)

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La Alianza Bolivariana  (Alba)  dedicó la jornada a las políticas económicas conjuntas y la posición de apoyo a Argentina, por el caso de las Islas Malvinas, y a Cuba, para presionar su presencia en la próxima Cumbre de las Américas, a la cual no ha sido invitada aún.  El Alba propuso la creación de fondos de reservas del Banco del Alba, al tiempo que el presidenteChávez, aprobó la incorporación del 1% de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela (300 millones de dólares), a la entidad financiera del bloque

Los gobernantes del ALBA acordaron en Caracas la creación de un “espacio económico” y de un fondo de reservas de su banco regional. También se comprometieron a redoblar su apoyo a Haití y a estudiar sanciones contra Londres por el conflicto por las Islas Malvinas que mantiene con Argentina.

Los presidentes de los países del ALBA debatirán esta jornada la entrada de nuevos miembros, con el fin de consolidar sus objetivos integracionistas. Haití, nación que desde 2007 participa en este mecanismo como observador, figura entre las solicitudes de ingreso pleno, interés que fue ratificado por su mandatario,Michel Martelly, para acceder a todos los beneficios que el bloque subregional ofrece.

El canciller de Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, detalló que para los próximos 2 y 3 de marzo se celebrará una Cumbre extraordinaria del ALBA en Haití, a fin de revisar el trabajo planificado en esta cita.

Los jefes de Estado también analizaron la posible incorporación de Suriname y Santa Lucía. De igual manera, debatirán los documentos de trabajo que se desprendieron de las reuniones realizadas por partidos políticos y medios de comunicación de los países que integran la Alianza.

La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, creada hace 7 años por Cuba y Venezuela para fomentar la integración en la región bajo los principios de solidaridad, comercio justo, respeto estricto a la soberanía y complementariedad económica.

Los países que integran el ALBA son: Cuba, Venezuela, Dominica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua y Barbuda, y San Vicente y las Granadinas.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


UK Press Release: Wednesday 18 January 2012


UK Press Release: Wednesday 18 January 2012

Foreign Secretary William Hague Press Conference in Brazil

Foreign Secretary William Hague has given a press conference this afternoon with his counterpart Antonio Patriota in Brasilia. The full text of his opening remarks is below:

“It is a great pleasure to be here in Brazil at what I think is an optimistic and exciting time in the relations between our countries; and a dramatic period in world affairs. We have had extremely good talks. Of course we are used to speaking together regularly, but it has been very good to have the opportunity to spend some hours talking.

From nuclear proliferation to climate change, global economic governance to security issues, Brazil is a partner of growing and lasting importance to the United Kingdom.

I am here to send a strong signal of British commitment to our relationship with Brazil as well as of warm friendship towards your country and its people;

To pay tribute, as I will do in a speech tomorrow, to your remarkable achievements as a nation, and to explore the many opportunities for closer economic and social ties between our peoples;

And to discuss the pressing range of crises, challenges and opportunities in foreign policy where the Brazil’s distinctive voice and contribution matter greatly.

We know that Brazil’s role in world affairs is set to grow, alongside other emerging economies including others here in Latin America.

We strongly welcome this, and I was pleased to express again Britain’s support for an expanded and more representative UN Security Council including permanent membership for Brazil.

We wish to forge a closer understanding between us on foreign policy as fellow democracies with so many shared values. This will lead we hope to greater practical cooperation across all the issues that matter to both our countries; respecting the fact that we approach some matters from a different perspective, but we should always be able to discuss them in a spirit of friendship and respect as we have today.

So Foreign Minister Patriota and I have had comprehensive, searching and productive discussions across a range of these subjects. I am very grateful to him for his time and his hospitality today.

We discussed the moment of opportunity in the Middle East, where we are seeing the greatest hope for the advancement of human freedom since the end of the Cold War, but also many problems and difficulties.

Both our countries are working bilaterally and through international organisations to support those countries in transition in the region such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, where we are in strong agreement about the importance of long term international support while respecting the wishes of the people of those countries.

We agreed that events in the region make progress towards a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more urgent than I ever, and I welcome the talks taking place in Jordan.

We share deep concern about the situation in Syria and welcome the essential role being played by the Arab League.

We spoke about Iran, where of course our countries agree that the consequences of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East would be highly dangerous. We are engaged in intensifying peaceful, legitimate pressure on Iran while being ready at any time to return to serious, meaningful negotiations.

And we discussed the importance of peace and security in the South Atlantic, to which Britain remains committed.

In Britain we are convinced that the best days in our relationship with your country lie ahead of us.

Our back-to-back hosting of the Olympics; our innovative and important cooperation in the fields of sustainable development and the environment – an important subject to address at the Rio 20+ meeting – ; the 10,000 Brazilian students who will study in the UK over the next four years under our ‘Science without borders agreement’; our extensive commercial ties and increasing trade that are benefiting all our citizens; and above all our shared democratic values, give me and our government every hope and confidence in even better times ahead for the relationship with Brazil.

That is why I am here, and that is why we are increasing our diplomatic presence in Brazil, and we have recently opened a new consulate in Recife.

So in that spirit I thank Antonio Patriota, your Foreign Minister, and I look forward to continuing to work with him, and indeed to welcoming him in London whenever he is able to visit.”

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At the UN, the UK Mission highlighted the above speech as follows:


Foreign Secretary: The days of Britain’s retreat from Latin America are over

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has given a speech on UK foreign policy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Selected extracts that may be of most interest to UN correspondents are highlighted in italics below:

“The days of our diplomatic retreat from your region are over. We have begun Britain’s most ambitious effort to strengthen ties with Latin America in 200 years, since the days of Canning.”

“The world has changed profoundly since the end of the Cold War. International relations are no longer dominated by a handful of powerful states that can dictate terms for the rest, and never will be again. That era is over.”

“We are in a new phase in the concert of nations, in which states that have not traditionally dominated or sought dominance have an equal role to play in world affairs.”

“This is change that Britain does not fear, but that we welcome and embrace.”

“In this new global environment our British government is looking further afield for opportunities for our citizens and new ways of working in foreign policy – not replacing our role in Europe and indispensable alliance with the United States, but running alongside them and indeed reinforcing them. Our aim is that the United Kingdom should be at the centre of the networks of the 21st century, including in Latin America.”

“We welcome a stronger role in world affairs for Latin American countries, although where we have our own views over issues such as the Falkland Islands we will always be frank about them. We will always uphold UK sovereignty and the rights of the Islanders to self-determination, while valuing the ability to discuss these issues with Brazil in a framework that respects international law and human rights.”

“We also strongly believe that the institutions of global governance must become more representative, which is why we support reform of the United Nations Security Council including a permanent seat for Brazil.”

“We see it as very much in both our countries’ interests that we develop a strong and equal working relationship in foreign policy; one that reflects today’s world and our many shared values as fellow democracies.”

“We need to develop a better understanding of how to act together when our stable environment is threatened, and how we translate our democratic values into action.”

“As we see it, in Libya limited military force was used to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack and to implement a no-fly zone, only after Colonel Qadhafi had refused to end the violence and when called for by all the countries of the region through the Arab League. It was action that was necessary, legal and right. It was carried on the legal basis of a UN Security Council mandate; it involved working directly with Libya’s neighbours, and it was done without NATO forces on the ground. These conditions – a legal mandate, regional participation and limited objectives – enabled us to be successful. They were consciously based on the lessons learnt not only from Iraq but also from Bosnia, where inaction led to the worst violence in Europe since the Second World War.”

“Military action is always a last resort and can never be without risk. Each country is different and each case must be judged on its merits. But when human life is threatened and peaceful avenues fail, we argue that we must be prepared to intervene in the way best suited to the circumstances and to be able to do so quickly and decisively. “

“So while we do not always draw the same conclusions about the best way to act when human rights at threatened at decisive moments, we have a strong common interest in building a better understanding for the future. Your President recently put forward the concept of ‘responsibility while protecting’ alongside the UN concept of the Responsibility to Protect. We welcome this contribution to the international debate and as I said to Foreign Minister Patriota yesterday, we look forward to discussing it and to finding common ground between our different perspectives.”

“In Syria, we are confronted with an appalling threat to human life and regional stability. Protests by people seeking to claim their human rights and choose democracy and freedom have been met with tanks, snipers, torture and over 5,000 deaths. The deterioration of the system risks not only further casualties but a civil war in the most combustible conflict zone in the world.  It is regrettable that the UN Security Council has been unable to speak out and we urge it to do so now. We welcome the leadership shown by the Arab League and it is vital that efforts are redoubled to support their mission and to achieve a political transition in Syria.”

“2012 could also be a year of crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme. Like Brazil, our objective is to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, which could start an arms race in the region and call into question the very survival of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Britain is seeking a negotiated solution with Iran and is not advocating confrontation. The best chance of averting either a nuclear armed Iran or the potentially devastating consequences of military action is to intensify the legitimate, peaceful pressure on Iran to return to negotiations.”

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In the US business relations with Brazil seem to move on more conventional and Conservative rails.

a special breakfast on:

Brazil: Economic and Political Outlook

Thursday, January 19, 2012

8:00 – 8:30 AM    Registration, Breakfast and Networking
8:30 – 10:00 AM    Panel discussion, Question & Answer

Host:
pc dpllp_k350.jpg
919 Third Avenue (at 55th Street)
35th Floor
New York City

Moderator:
Paulo Vieira da Cunha,
Partner and Head of Research – Emerging Markets, Tandem Global Partners

Speakers:
Murillo de Aragão, Founder, Arko Advice

Monica Baumgarten de BolleEconomist, Galanto Consultoria

Mauro Léos, VP Senior Credit Officer- Latin America, Sovereign Risk Unit, Moody’s Investors Service

Eduardo Loyo, Managing Partner and Chief Economist, BTG Pactual

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