Category Archives: IMF

What Passes for Reality Is Not Worth Respecting

In October of last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its flagship World Economic Outlook. In that report, the IMF said that the global growth rate would stumble at 3% in 2019. A month ago, the IMF’s main economists returned to this theme; ‘Global growth’, they wrote, ‘recorded its weakest pace since the global financial crisis a decade ago’. The analysis of why there was such a low growth rate rested on the trade war between the United States and China and on ‘associated weaknesses’. (The IMF promises a fuller discussion about the crisis in its World Economic Outlook Update, which it will release on 20 January).

Strikingly, the IMF economists note that as a result of global turbulence, ‘firms turned cautious on long-range spending and global purchases of machinery and equipment declined’. What this means is that firms are not investing in their expansion or in new technologies. Instead, firms are beginning to rely more and more on outsourced production, precarious employment, and a permanent regime of low-wage work. In other words, firms are cannibalising society – putting immense pressure on fragile networks of family and community, deepening the conservative impulses in society, and decreasing society’s health and well-being.

Denis Mubiru, Tukoola Bagaya?! (My Work Goes Unnoticed), 2015.

To prevent a major collapse, central banks around the world have lowered interest rates permanently and have provided cheap money to the business world. These firms – which have not invested in the productive sector – are borrowing trillions of dollars which they then put into the world of what Karl Marx called ‘fictitious capital’. The value of global stock markets is now nearly $90 trillion (according to Deutsche Bank), putting it ahead of global GDP (if you add in the total value of global financial stock – including bank deposits, government and private debt securities, and equities – the figure in 2004 was $118 trillion; it was over $200 trillion in 2010 – over 200% of global GDP). This expansion of fictitious capital has come more and more within borders, and not through global cross-border capital flows. These flows – which include foreign direct investment – has shrunk by 65% since 2007, from $12.4 trillion to $4.3 trillion.

For almost five decades, these two processes have confronted human society: a slowdown in productive investment from capitalist firms and an increase in the volume and importance of financial capital. Profit rates have declined overall, and debt rates have increased. No real attempt has been made to solve this problem, largely because there is no easy solution from within the confines of the capitalist system. Three main avenues opened up to lessen the severity of the crisis on the capitalist system, but not to solve the cascading crisis:

1) The policy slate of neoliberalism not only freed the capitalist class from the chains of taxation; it also deregulated finance and foreign direct investment, privatised state services, and commodified social wealth. The entire drive of neoliberalism weakened the capacity of States to formulate national economic policies; since formulating economy policy did not strengthen a democratic order, States delivered the advantage to multinational firms (including international banks).

2) The collapse of the Third World Project and the weakening of the socialist bloc delivered hundreds of millions of workers into the global working class and thereby allowed firms to bid down wages through subcontracting at the same time as State regulations collapsed through ‘labour market reforms’ pushed by the IMF.

3) A massive expansion of debt through lowered interest rates and easy access to credit. The Institute of International Finance shows that global debt is now at $250 trillion and counting; it is now 230% of the global GDP. Government debt accounts for nearly $70 trillion; half of the global debt is in the hands of the non-financial private sector. A new report from the World Bank called Global Waves of Debt shows that debt in emerging and developing countries alone continues to break its own records, rising to over $55 trillion in 2018, ‘marking an eight-year surge that has been the largest, fastest, and most broad-based in nearly five decades’. This debt in the emerging and developing countries is now 170% of the global GDP. But it is this debt that has fuelled what growth can be measured, and it is this mountain of debt that perches perilously over the fate of the world.

We, at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, have been closely following these developments and offering our analysis of what appears to be a long-term structural crisis for capitalism. In our dossier no. 24 (January 2020), we offer a thumbnail assessment of this long-term crisis and of the continued policy of austerity, then we pivot to an analysis of the emergence of the rivalry between the United States and China. We are of the view that the ‘trade war’ between the United States and China is not an irrational phenomenon, but that it is precisely the outgrowth of both the long-term economic crisis and of the policies of austerity. This assessment allows us to provide a brief analysis of the approach towards these matters that is being developed by the Institute for International Relations at Tsinghua University (Beijing).

The key finding of the Tsinghua approach is that we are entering a ‘bipolar world order’ in which there will – eventually – be two major powers in the world, the United States and China. Either these two powers will come to some understanding over the international organisations – such as the IMF and the World Bank – or more regional organisations will appear with different standards and a more heterogenous understanding of trade and development. Whether these fissiparous tendencies will make an impact on the world financial system is not part of any of these discussions, which seems to indicate that it will remain intact. For countries in the Global South, the implication of continuities of financial power means that no major change at a global level will be possible in this bipolar dispensation. What alternatives there will be for austerity regimes are unclear.

The slow attrition of US power and the emergence of the bipolar order can be glimpsed in the ongoing crises in West Asia. The US assassination of an Iranian general – who was carrying a diplomatic passport and was on a diplomatic mission in Iraq – and the widening of the gates of hell as missiles fly across the Iran and Iraq border; growing pressure from China and Russia with regard to this crucial part of Eurasia and the attempt by the US to encircle Eurasia – all of this suggest just these shifts. Anti-austerity protests intersect with protests against social toxicity. A general strike in India on 8 January combined the demands of the working class and the peasantry with a social compact that does not disadvantage minorities. Much the same kind of dynamic is visible in Latin America, where popular fronts have emerged against regimes of authoritarian austerity. Beneath the storm and stress of the shifts in the balance of power lie myriad struggles; this is why our dossier is called The World Oscillates Between Crises and Protests.

The general attitude in these protests is that what passes for reality is not worth respecting; the establishment leaders and their callousness is to be disregarded. US President Donald Trump threatens to destroy Iran’s cultural sites, a threat that is in the nature of a war crime; Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison watches his country burn and reacts with muffled unscientific and crude noises; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says nothing when the police and hooligans of his political orientation enter its universities and beat and arrest students. Social media explodes with anger against these men and their inhumanity. Young faces have their chins up, their fists in the air; they are not afraid.

It is true that these are protests of the youth, but it would be inaccurate to believe that youth can be reduced to age. There are many young people who have surrendered to reality, who cannot see beyond the horizon of the present; there are many older people who are youthful in their desire for full-scale transformation. The point is not age but attitude, the sensibility that the world we have need not be the world for eternity. ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive’, Wordsworth wrote of the time of the French Revolution. ‘But to be young was very heaven’. To be young means to imagine ‘heaven’, another dispensation – the place, Wordsworth sang, ‘where in the end we find happiness, or not at all!’.

It is with great pleasure that we – at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research – welcome Professor Aijaz Ahmad to our team as a Senior Fellow. Professor Ahmad, a leading Marxist philosopher and cultural theorist, is the author of the classic book In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literature (1992) and of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Imperialism of Our Time (2004).

Incredible Lightness of Quetzalcóatl

From the far distance sounded the muffled howling of a family of monkeys, monos gritones, passing the night in the crowns of the mighty trees. It echoed through the jungle like the roar of an angry mountain lion. Gruesome and terrifying, it seemed to tear the night apart, but it did not disturb the jungle. It sang and fiddled, chirped and whistled, whined and whimpered, rejoiced and lamented its ever-unchanging song with the constancy of the roaring sea.

B. Traven, “Trozas”

Note: This is part two in a series on Mexico and the passion and the glory of an American (me) rejiggering his relationship to finally yawn out of the swill of this sick North American consumer fiesta and move away. We’ll see how that unfolds, as I too am in the grip of viscous repeated battered country abuse syndrome!

*****

She holds onto her role as daughter in this patriarchal land — Mexico. Not sure how patriarchal it would have turned out if the Spanish sword, swine, syphilis, santos, holy see, germs had never set root in this New World.

She’s 52, unmarried, unable to birth progeny. She spent years in the USA to gain a stake so she might get a sliver of her father’s property for which to build a little casita.

Her brothers get the father’s and deceased mother’s land and small houses, small parcels. Claudia has a small school supply store in Axochiapan (her deceased mother’s for years) but she can’t make a living at it thanks to Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart and other box store cancers. She has her younger sister in Cuernavaca, and she works three jobs to barely survive with her technical degree in computer repair and IT. These two women — Claudia and Alejandra — have more “la capacidad” in their pinky fingers than all of America has in its jowls. Claudia was so broke she ended up buying 30 buenas noches (poinsettias for the Christmas time) to sell on the street in upscale neighborhoods in Cuernavaca. She made no sales as Land Rovers and Lexus coupes zoomed by.

The plague of propaganda, low prices, low quality, and brand loyalty has run rampant in this southern land, like dengue mosquitoes lighting upon the children while still in vitro.

Years ago, both Alejandra and Claudia spent time in a print plant in Gresham, Oregon, and most of their siblings had also thrown in around Portland, and many more hoofed it through the causeway to Minneapolis. Many made it to the El Norte without proper papers from the US Gestapo.

Claudia thinks sometime in 2020 she might be eligible to return to the USA. For Alejandra, that’s five years down the pike. We’ll vouch for and sponsor both of them.

Both are proud, smart, feminist, and self-determined. They are full of empathy, and would give the shirts off their backs to help friends, family, anyone in need.

They worked hard in El Norte, conjoined efforts, lived small, and saved money. Mexico was always in their dreams, and they were here to try and build something back home.

Back home, 90 years of bastard politicians in the two parties  — PAN and PRI —  literally have ripped off trillions from Mexico’s coffers;  and the bastards’ bastard, USA, El Yanqui, and the other financiers and the dirty industry honchos, all have a history of theft and murder, and are still readily staged to exploit, which is another word for steal.

Very little is allowed to be manufactured in Mexico — cars, buses, equipment, more. NAFTA allows for a pipeline of US-made and US-provisioned stuff that the Mexicans could easily produce. We all know what the NAFTA two-step American gut disease is.

Claudia’s hardy but sad, admitting to bouts of depression; and her friend, my spouse, came to see her for the very first time for a visit to Claudia’s homeland. To her small pueblo where cane fields, corn forests and a few cows populate the land. All of that, plus me, new in my spouse’s life with a trainload of history with Mexico, Latin America, La Raza, hatred of El Yanqui, created a unique mix of ingredients that bonded us quickly as we went through by car (a friend of Claudia’s rented a new KIA Sole to us cheap) and saw many parts of Morelos and Guerrero.

These are powerful rendezvouses you’ll never get from Holly-Dirt Netflix originals. This story is not closed, but it’s universal.

In the chaotic Stockholm Syndrome lives of North Americans, nothing about the struggle to overthrow the chains of Capitalism and crony corruption resonates since North America is one flagging mall-dragging country, where the population is compliant in the workplace, but mad as hell on the troll worlds of on-line “discourse.” Sort of the salt peter of revolution and real deterministic radical action — the world wide web; Holly-dirt; Youtube; the infantilism and Chlamydia of mainstream pop culture;  wacko political correctness; the four seasons of  24/7  violence for younger and younger males with their sweaty warped joysticks; the endless joke-joke of Americans relishing in their own stupidity and air power; the endless useless pedantics in academia, the courts, and the state department.

It is so real, how falsely revisionist the North American concept of history for this Turtle Island. Trump is the culmination of all of the superficiality, all the Ponzi schemes, all the bankruptcy courts, the insipid hubris of the stupid, all the PT Barnum hustle, all the smoke and mirrors, all the self-aggrandizement, all the narcissistic syndromes, all the puffed-up faux bravado of a man (and many MAGA men) who would last 10 seconds in a field with some of my former veterans who are mad as hell at the lies of empire, the lies at the top, the failure of ALL POTUS’s.

Not one has the capacity to understand “third” world people, or people in Mexico, or the races, the Indians, the tug of the white supremacists who launched their hairy bodies into Mesoamerica to play their swindle for King-Queen-Captain-Cardinal on a people who had pretty much figured out things for several millennia before the hordes of hustlers and rapists and murderers from Iberia and the Anglo lands penetrated their soil and jungles and bays.

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Cuernavaca

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry was one of my top 100 books a while back. It shows the anachronistic debased values of a British envoy, drunkard, impotent, and the the emerging pathogen of Nazism embraced by the industrialists and that included some in Mexico. The Power and the Glory, too, by Graham Greene. The passion, impassioning, and possessiveness of men. Macario and Treasure of Sierra Madre (B. Traven and John Huston books and scripts respectively) and Night of the Iguana.

Contemporary writers in Mexico and some of their well-known titles also inspire:

In Search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi.
The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel.
Diablo Guardián by Xavier Velasco.
Down The Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos.
The Uncomfortable Dead by Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Subcomandante Marcos.
Leaving Tabasco by Carmen Boullosa.

More here, Mexico’s Finest Contemporary Writers: Tracing a Cultural Renaissance

More authors I’ve danced with during mescal-induced jaguar nights: Luis Spota, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Jaime Sabines, Martin Luis Guzman, and Valeria Luiselli.

And the simple poetics of Mexicans who were determined to break the yoke of the oppressors:

My sole ambition is to rid Mexico of the class that has oppressed her and given the people a chance to know what real liberty means. And if I could bring that about today by giving up my life, I would do it gladly.

Pancho Villa

In that first blow to the deaf walls of those who have everything, the blood of our people, our blood, ran generously to wash away injustice. To live, we die. Our dead once again walked the way of truth. Our hope was fertilized with mud and blood.

Subcomandante Marcos

Like all of Latin America, Mexico after independence in 1821 turned its back on a triple heritage: on the Spanish heritage, because we were newly liberated colonies, and on our Indian and black heritages, because we considered them backward and barbaric. We looked towards France, England and the U.S., to become progressive democratic republics.

— Carlos Fuentes

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My good friend from Tucson, John, who became bi-lingual early in his life before his three years as an Army LT,  ended marrying a woman from Cuernavaca. I was at the wedding 33 years ago. He’s got three daughters, and he’s been divorced a while. She came from upper class environs, and he was a Navy commander’s son living in the desert. He and I like our motorcycles, and he is now a translator on the international market, from home, via Skype, phone, what have you. He’s single again, living the desert rat life of many a gringo who has gotten a taste of Mexico in their blood and entwined it into his children’s DNA.

He forewarned me to not head to Cuernavaca or the State of Guerrero or anywhere away from the quintessential tourist zones. He was citing US State Department provisos, whichever news feeds he reads, and the broken down minds of his fellow Arizonans.

Of course, he and the State Department are dead wrong, as was Reagan’s idiotic ambassador to Mexico, Gavin. But with Trump and idiotic millionaires like Maddow and the like, the USA is one starched up Marvel comic book world of good and bad, light and evil, where the highest thinkers (sic) are at least a couple of notches below Lex Luther’s mental prowess, for sure.

The result of this xenophobia is a large city, Cuernavaca, that in December had very non-Mexican few tourists. The city is looking tired and worn, as is most of Mexico, excluding the industrial complexes, mining operations, smelting outfits, et al.

The ebb of life, though, even in the threadbare places in Mexico, is compelling. Laughter and hands held. The peek-a-boo amazing sights, sounds, and smells around every corner and in every walkway.

Our second largest trading partner behind Canada, Mexico is a shell of a country in many ways. Ugly Botoxed white women and men on billboards, their green and blue eyes like a cold lizard’s, and on TV, in positions of power, while la gente is continually denigrated and spat upon by the elites.

Axe

We are hatchets of steel and fire.
We live to reap and illuminate.
With the metal,
we fell the trunk.
With the flame,
we illuminate the cut,
the felling of what we are.

Carmen Boullosa

 

Diego Rivera, Liberation of the Peon, B. Traven

Invasions

Trump told the previous president of Mexico that he would be sending in the American cavalry to take care of “those bad hombres.”

He accused Peña Nieto of harboring “a bunch of bad hombres down there” and warned:

You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.

But there is a history of US meddling, both through “diplomatic channels,” through the economic structural violence our hit men are known for, and with troops:

When Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913, he inherited a chaotic diplomatic relationship with Mexico. Two years earlier, the country’s longtime head of state, Porfirio Díaz, had been deposed. Over three decades in power, Díaz had been strongly aligned with American economic interests, which came to control 90 percent of Mexico’s mineral resources, its national railroad, its oil industry and, increasingly, its land. Resentful of the “peaceful invasion” from their northern neighbors, in 1911 middle-class and landless Mexicans overthrew Díaz and installed a noted public intellectual and reform champion, Francisco Madero, in the presidency. Not long after, the military, under the leadership of General Victoriano Huerta, deposed and executed Madero.

Displaying his deep piety and moral conviction, Wilson declared that he would never “recognize a government of butchers” and declared his intent to “teach” Mexico “a lesson by insisting on the removal of Huerta.” To that end, he sent two personal envoys to Mexico City to instruct the country’s political leaders—“for her own good”—to insist on Huerta’s resignation. The mission fared poorly. For one, the envoys—William Bayard Hale, a journalist, and John Lind, a local politician from Minnesota—spoke not a word of Spanish. Lind privately regarded Mexicans as “more like children than men” and conducted himself accordingly, to the detriment of the mission.

[…] At first, Villa sought to align himself with Wilson, but as his grasp on power became more tenuous, he sought to raise additional resources by taxing American corporations and through general banditry. He took matters a step too far when his forces confiscated the sprawling Mexican ranch of American publisher William Randolph Hearst and briefly invaded a New Mexico border town, crying “Viva Villa! Viva Mexico!”

Incensed, Wilson raised a “punitive expedition” of 10,000 soldiers under the direction of General John J. Pershing. Equipped with all the modern trappings of war—reconnaissance aircraft, Harley Davidson motorcycles—the invading army searched high and low for Villa. It was like finding “a needle in a haystack,” Pershing would soon complain. Though Villa’s forces continued to plunder and maraud, the Americans proved incapable of finding and capturing the rebel leader. When Villa surfaced briefly in Glenn Springs, Texas, with his troops, only to disappear soon thereafter, the Wilson administration was left mortified and bereft of an explanation.

American entry into the Great War allowed Wilson and Pershing to save face. In February 1917 the expedition returned to American soil. Within weeks, Pershing sailed for Europe to command the nation’s war effort.

Trump has now warned the new Mexican president that he will deem drug cartels as terrorist organizations, igniting the TNT of war and invasion. This was on all the people’s minds when I was traveling just days ago in Mexico; even in the conservative mass media. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said:

But in these cases we have to act independently and according to our constitution, and in line with our tradition of independence and sovereignty.

War is irrational. We are for peace.

AMLO’s comments came after Trump fired off a series of tweets Tuesday morning offering Mexico “help in cleaning out these monsters.” Trump:

The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” Trump said. “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!

No matter how barbaric the cartels are, and how in bed they are with the police, army, government, the barbarism of the US is in line with the Spanish and Portuguese slave traders. Each and every weapon manufactured and sold in the USA that gets south of the border is part of that barbarism. Every line of coke and hit of Meth consumed by the great happy USA population is a bullet to the head of the innocents of Mexico.

Like Italy, Mexico is at the whim of the Church and Mafia. Like Western Culture, every blinking moment in every individual’s life is determined by the billionaires, their cabal of financial and retail felons. We are at the whim of the heads of Boeing, Exxon, Raytheon and any number of resource extractors and consumer bombers. Fortune magazine praises the millionaires and billionaires and their disruptive industries, technologies, financial instruments. All of it is still American sodomy of a race, a culture, a place, a land.

In Mexico, the juxtaposition of Nestle bottles everywhere or the VW’s and the Dodge’s is easily supplanted by the hard lives of Mexicans still eking out livings and conjugating their traditions, no matter how deeply Western Plastic Culture and Consumer Goods have infiltrated their land.

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Family Wedded to Culture, Land, History

Yanquis and Stars and Bars flag wavers are the sum total of their genocidal roots destroying First Nations’ peoples and the enslavement of Africans, but also the deep racism and bigotry perpetrated against not just Filipino and Chinese and Japanese, but against the Jew, Eastern European, German, Irish, Italian, et al.

Drowning women deemed witches, complete decimation of the grasslands, the wetlands, the bayous, the slaying of buffalo and wolf and grizzly, and the metal machines cutting into earth and stoking the flames and smoke of today’s generation of cancer-riddled people. I have these trolls attempting to harass me, trolls who listen to that ape of a man, Stephen King of Iowa, who drivels his white supremacist crap on how the white Christian lands/peoples have contributed 90 percent or more of the marvels of modern humanity — from the internet to microscopes, from splitting of the atom to cinema, from supersonic jets to soda pop. These pigs are on the airwaves, both of the Tucker Carson kind and the liberal Hollywood and media types continually showing the great boom of intelligence in the Western White World, or in many cases, the great achievements of the Judaeo-Christian.

“Shit-hole” country may have come out of the racist whites’ moldy mouths decades/centuries before Trump’s bloviating (how many US presidents have shown outright racism against  ALL nations of color?), but it’s in the minds of liberals, democrats, those so-called professional class, the college educated, and the journalists and diplomats. Most Americans see the words “backwards” or “not evolved enough” or “heathen” or “simpleton” when they see Mexico or Mexicans.

[link] The irony is that Trump’s own ancestors came from Africa, as did all mankind. In the book and documentary “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey,” the geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells traces the human migration out of Africa. He travelled the world for a decade to trace genetic markers by taking blood samples—from Bushmen in the sweltering Kalahari Desert and the Chukchi in icy Siberia to the Hopi in the American West—to prove the trail of the human migration. Wells concludes, “Old concepts of race are not only socially divisive but scientifically wrong.”

In the end we know which country is the shit-hole, the shitty one, and its collective stupidity and infantilism continues to lobotomize the masses. I teach k12, and the food these kids eat and then waste is criminal, but emblematic of the American project of exceptionalism and the right to pollute, throw away, discard, waste, over-consume. The youth have no culture, no art, no interest in anything but making a few dollars fast.

The reality is this throw-away society is right now generating, through this corrupt capitalism, more and more discarded peoples in this country and in other countries. The AI-Robot-GIG-Uber-ization-Amazon-ification-Economies of Scale-Centralization will again generate more and more disposed of humanity — in the USA, and elsewhere.

We know socialistic systems of organizing are the only way to stem this destruction. Read or watch  any number a a million essays, interviews, books on the subject.

What capitalism has done is gut Mexico, forcing families to break up sisters and brothers, sons and  daughters, uncles and aunts, grandkids and cousins, friends and lovers, husbands and wives to head to El Norte tob e exploited by capitalism on steroids and to weather the scourge of racist Americans, police, policies, bureaucracies, attitudes.

The amount of hate against Mexicans or Latino/a people is high in USA.

In their own country, the people of the land in Mexico are now sugar coated, eating crappy food, drinking soda, and hauling their bodies full of hormone disrupters, full of petro-chemicals, GMOs, nitrous oxide, and a million other particulates created by the full-scale NAFTA exploitation and the theft of their own culture, land, resources by the white devils in their own country — the elites educated in the Milton Friedman school of destruction.

Brotherhood

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

Netflix, The 43 — This docuseries with Paco Ignacio Taibo II in it, disputes the Mexican government’s account of how and why 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College vanished in Iguala in 2014.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II—leader in the 1968 Mexican student strike, journalist, social activist, union organizer—is widely known for his crime novels, and is considered the founder of the neo-crime genre in Latin America. One of the most prolific writers in Mexico today, more than 500 editions of his 51 books have been published in over a dozen languages. Taibo has won many awards, including the Grijalbo, the Planeta/Joaquin Mortiz in 1992, and the Dashiell Hammett three times, for his crime novels. His biography, Guevara: Also Known as Che (St. Martin’s Press, 1996), has sold more than half a million copies around the world and won the 1998 Bancarella Book of the Year award in Italy. Taibo organizes the Semana Negra (Noir Week), a crime fiction festival held every year in Gijón, Spain.

Taibo: Yes. I wanted to destroy the old idea that history is science and fiction is fantasy. Everybody knows that is not true. It’s a game: Just Passing Through starts asking if it’s really a novel, if it’s rather a history book, because of this and this and this. And then, in the second paragraph, it says: this is a novel, this cannot be a history book, it’s full of fiction. Then, in the third paragraph, what the hell is a novel, what the hell is a history book? The game is trying to destroy this secure attitude of historians to history and this secure attitude of fiction writers about fiction. There’s nothing secure in history. I don’t like security. History shouldn’t be a secure space, a comfortable space. Comfortable for whom? Readers? Writers? It’s the opposite.

We’ll go deeper in this reclamation of what it means to be in, live in, be with, hold onto Mexico and Mexicans!

Revolts Against The Neoliberal World Order

March in Cape Town, South Africa, March 19, 2014 (from ActiveStills.org.)

Protests against the US and big finance-imposed neoliberal capitalism have exploded across the globe. Two weeks ago, in Pink Tide Against US Domination Rising Again In Latin America, we reviewed 12 Latin America nations that are rising up against privatization, the cutting of social programs, soaring prices and low wages. In the last week, mass protests in Chile and Bolivia have begun and Lebanon has widespread protests against debt and austerity measures. The Nonaligned Movement, which is critical of the use of illegal unilateral coercive measures by the United States to force countries to bend to its will, is meeting in Azerbaijan. A central part of the recent rise of the Pink Tide was the mass protests in Ecuador led by indigenous peoples and the labor movement. Their actions forced President Moreno to repeal a package of laws that were demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This week, after Moreno arrested movement leaders, talks broke off and then, on Thursday, the indigenous movement convened to form a popular parliament to develop a new economic plan to avoid detrimental changes required by the IMF. The future in Ecuador is uncertain, but the people are not backing down.

Chile protesters face off with the military, October 2019 (Yahoo News)

Chile Explodes In Long-Suppressed Rage, Government Responds With Abusive Military Force

This Friday, more than one million people took to streets in the Chilean capital of Santiago uniting in a call against extreme neoliberal capitalism. The capital was brought to a standstill after a week of widespread protests that were met by a heavy police and military force. So far, 16 people have died, over 200 have been wounded and over 1,500 have been detained, including children.

The protests began on October 14 when high school students demonstrated against a rise in transit fares from the equivalent of USD $1.12 to $ 1.16. By October 18, the protests grew to the point of shutting down all 136 stations of the Santiago metro system. Seventy stations were damaged and twenty were set on fire. The protests progressed into a nationwide uprising against the government and its unfair neoliberal policies. The metro fare hike was just the last straw in a long list of grievances against a system that has robbed working-class and middle-class people of a decent and dignified life.

The government declared a state of emergency and, for the first time since Pinochet, ordered the military with tanks and armored vehicles to patrol the streets. By Saturday, October 19, President Piñera went on television and said: “I have heard the voice of my compatriots.” He suspended the fare increase and announced he would host a round-table to discuss the issues. He said, “The people will be heard—but the protests have to stop.” This has not deterred the people from continuing to protest.

In a Sunday night address to the nation, Piñera declared: “We are at war with a powerful enemy which is prepared to use violence without limit.” But it was the 11,000 soldiers and Carabinero police who rampaged across Chile, firing live rounds at demonstrators and dragging protesters out of their homes at night. The president’s harsh response only aggravated the situation. Curfews were defied by thousands of demonstrators and, in Santiago, protesters holding pictures of victims under the Pinochet dictatorship temporarily surrounded the tanks.

Chilean journalist, Paul Walder describes how “a country that had seemed orderly and submissive last weekend, has exploded with anger, rage accumulated by generations and passed on to teenagers, as a decantation of the frustrations of their parents, siblings and grandparents.” The uprising and brutal conflict with the police and the military is a reflection of “social pain accumulated throughout the long history of Chilean neoliberalism.” The people of Chile have been subjected to economic and political violence by the state. Salaries are low and taxes on workers are high while billions of dollars have been stolen by corporations.

WSWS reported the uprising has expanded to involve workers writing, “Dockworkers marched en masse through several cities, stopping the bulk of national exports and closing 20 ports as part of a national strike. Donning yellow vests worn for work, the sea of thousands of dockworkers resembled France’s ‘yellow vests’ as they marched through the cities of Concepción, Antofagasta and San Antonio.” Further, copper miners, a historically militant section of the Chilean workers, who produce the country’s primary export, announced a national strike beginning Wednesday. Videos showed copper miners on lunch break banging plates and silverware and chanting “general strike!”

The uprising includes trade unions and student, feminist, and environmentalist groups. They are calling for a reversal of neoliberal capitalism and a new government.  Their demands are “transversal” (non-sectoral) and include “calling for Piñera’s resignation…pay rises and cheaper basic services, a forty-hour week, the restoration of union rights and sectoral collective bargaining, the nationalization of both public services and strategic energy sectors, student-debt forgiveness, the annulment of the country’s private-sector pension fund, the cancellation of the odious free market ‘water codes’ signed into law by Pinochet in 1981, progressive tax reform, and a new migration policy. Perhaps most dramatically, the demonstrators are calling for a new constitution to be drafted by the Constituent Assembly.”

The Washington Post referred to the specter of a “Latin American spring” similar to the revolutions that shook North Africa and the Middle East in 2011. Stratfor noted, “With regional economies squeezed by sluggish growth and governments still seeking to implement painful pro-market reforms, the situation is ripe for disruptive, widespread unrest.”

The uprising in Chile is significant because prior to these protests it was described as a success of capitalism. Chile is the original and perpetual laboratory for neoliberalism, with more than forty years of economic shock policies and a steady, low-intensity war waged against the nation’s working classes. Capitalists are shocked. Brian Winters, Vice President for Policy at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, said “Everyone following Latin America is watching this and saying, ‘Oh my god, Chile, too?’”

Bolivian protester shows support for Evo Morales outside the presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivia, on October 20, 2019 (Juan Karita, AP)

Bolivia Defends Its Democracy From A Coup

In Bolivia, President Evo Morales won re-election in the first round of voting. Morales, leader of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) Party, gained 47.07 percent of the vote, enough to put him 10 percentage points above his closest rival, Carlos Mesa, who received 36.51 percent of votes. Bolivia does not require a second round of voting if the top candidate achieves over 40 percent of the vote with a ten-point margin over the second-place finisher. This is the fourth time Morales has won the presidency in the first round of voting.

Before the results, the opposition announced it would mount a coup if Morales won re-election. After the result, Mesa called for street mobilizations that ended in violence at vote-counting stations, with some opposition protesters burning ballots and the buildings where counting was taking place. Mesa originally endorsed the results when they temporarily showed him having a slightly larger vote share but refused to recognize the results after they indicated that Morales won a first-round victory.

“A coup is underway, carried out by the right-wing with foreign support…what are the methods of this coup attempt? They’re not recognizing or waiting for election results, they’re burning down electoral courts, they want to proclaim the second-place candidate as the winner,” Morales told journalists.

Social movements organized to defend the election against the attempted violent coup. Movements declared a state of emergency and called for mobilizations in the streets to defend democracy while right-wing protesters launched numerous violent attacks across the country. Right-wing rioters blocked election materials from being delivered for the vote resulting in the count being suspended. Labor organizers joined the defense of democracy denouncing “the oligarchic and privatizing interests that hide behind these violent actions.”

The Organization of American States inflamed the opposition by questioning the results. The Center for Policy and Economic Research responded to the points raised by the OAS and urged them to retract their statement. Bolivia responded by inviting the OAS to carry out an audit of the final vote count. Secretary-General of the OAS Luis Almagro accepted the invitation to initiate an Analysis of Electoral Integrity. International observers in La Paz monitoring Bolivia’s general elections praised the legitimacy and transparency of the process, which contrasts statements by opposition leaders.

 

The foreign affairs ministerial conference for the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku, Azerbaijan. October 2019 (mnoal.org.)

The Non-Aligned Movement Unites Against Illegal Unilateral Coercive Measures of the United States

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is meeting in Azerbaijan this weekend. At the meeting, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro criticized the IMF and denounced the U.S. economic and financial aggressions for being as lethal as its armies. He criticized IMF neoliberal austerity and privatization policies as an attack on the most vulnerable and a violation of human rights. He described the unilateral coercive measures of the United States as a violation of international law aimed at pressuring people to support US neoliberalism by inflicting collective punishment against the people as blackmail.

The NAM was established in 1961 as a forum for independent dialogue and cooperation among 120 developing countries that sought to ensure national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries. NAM represents 55 percent of the world’s population. They oppose imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony. This July, NAM held a meeting in Caracas that supported Venezuela and opposed the economic war by the United States. They released the Caracas Political Declaration.

The rising left tide in Latin America and around the world is reflected in the NAM. Popular Resistance is working with organizations and activists around the world to create a worldwide network that will work together to oppose the lawless actions of the United States, and any country that acts similarly, such as interference in the politics of other countries through open and covert regime change operations, the imposition of unilateral coercive economic measures or the threat of militarism. Sign onto the Global Appeal For Peace here

People in the United States suffer similar conditions to those around the world who are plagued by neoliberalism. As the Arab Spring inspired the Occupy Movement, will this Anti-neoliberal Autumn rekindle mass protests in the United States? This is something we need to ponder and perhaps to prepare for and organize to make happen.

Ecuador: The fight against Moreno and the IMF is far from over

In Ecuador, the fight against IMF austerity measures is far from over. Just a few hours after my article was published on Sunday, 13 October, Ecuador and the IMF’s Killing Spree, President Lenin Moreno declared the infamous Decree 883 was canceled; i.e., the astronomical price increases for fuel were reversed, the (police) state of emergency and curfew were called off. He wanted to put an end to the 11 days of protests with police and military-induced violence.

The police, supported by the army, carried out repression during the protests, like they have not been seen in Ecuador’s recent history, claiming at least 7 deaths, about 1,340 injured, and more than 1,100 arrested. The streets of Quito were an absolute chaos; destruction, fire, tear gas, smoke.

Austerity measures, other than an exorbitant hike in fuel prices, included shrinking government spending, laying off 23,000 state employees, privatization of social services and infrastructure, and more, all linked to the IMF loan of US$ 4.2 billion. These measures were apparently also “canceled”. At least, so it looked and sounded at the outset.

This seeming victory was achieved largely thanks to the indigenous movement, the Conaie (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), an umbrella organization of indigenous groups across Ecuador. They have relentlessly fought for their rights and against the ferocious abrogation of all the social benefits they acquired – finally – during the ten years of Rafael Correa’s socialist government which served, and still serves, as an example for much of Latin America.

Not the indigenous groups, or anybody else of the Ecuadorian people were consulted about the IMF loan. The basic IMF deal was already brokered in January 2019, when Lenin Moreno met Madame Lagarde, at that time still head of the IMF, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. There were just some “minor issues” that Moreno had to resolve before he could sign this horrendous debt onto Ecuador’s books.

One of the “issues” was a request by the US via its extended arm, the IMF was to expel Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, to bring him closer to extradition to the US, where he may face the death penalty, or Guantanamo, for having said and published the truth about the atrocious war crimes committed by the United States. And neo-Nazi, Moreno, complied. Julian Assange is now slowly degenerating by torture and disease in a UK maximum security prison. And the world says nothing. Not even our “Peace Loving’ UN system. All is quiet. Not to molest the Chief-in-Tyrant, sitting on his cardboard throne in Washington.

Just a few days after British police dragged Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the 4.2-billion-dollar loan / debt deal was signed. No coincidence. Assange was holed-up by self-imposed asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, for almost seven years, for justified fear of being “renditioned” to the US or another torturing US ally.

Now, when all the austerity measures were to be cancelled by nullifying Decree 883, why did Moreno assemble a team of advisers to work out a new decree? Who are these advisers? People from the IMF, from the US Treasury, or simply “Fifth Columnists”, trained and funded by NED (National Endowment for Democracy)? Why isn’t the decree and with it all IMF-imposed austerity simply canceled? Full stop?

In any case, Sunday night, Conaie reported that a “commission” was set up to “draft the decree that replaces it 883 – that this does not end until the agreement is fully implemented”.

Who is part of this commission and what exactly is the commission drafting? Will the commission prepare a new decree with new conditions? None of this is clear at this point. Is Conaie prepared to make conditions that in the long-rung could be disastrous? Does Conaie know that the empire never gives up; i.e., the IMF, as long as they have their dirty fingers in Ecuador with 4.2 billion dollars? No compromise, please, Conaie!

If anything, the new “decree” should include a clause requesting full cancellation of the IMF loan. Otherwise, the IMF will not let go, will come back in one form or another to grab Ecuador’s resources. That is the US doctrine — never depart from a goal, and it is extended through the IMF, the World Bank and through other financial institutions over which the US Treasury has control. This is modern warfare through a financial handle on a country, stealing accumulated social capital and natural resources by strictly enforced austerity programs causing famine, disease, desperation, and death. See recent examples — Greece, Ukraine, Argentina.

Of course, it takes two to tango, and without a corrupt government on the other side, the IMF can do nothing.

What will happen to the protest leaders? Is this being covered by the new decree? The front men and women of a revolution that shook the country for eleven days? Many of the leaders, and others, are incarcerated as political prisoners and should be freed.

A new decree to replace the old one, Decree 883, smells like a rat; like a new deception is being prepared and the apparent “victory” is just a make-believe for the moment to reinstate order in Quito and the country. Instead of crushing Ecuadorians with a bulldozer; i.e., the Decree 883 that attempted to shove all the IMF austerity measures down the throat of the Ecuadorians at once, it may come piecemeal, little by little, so the immediate impact will be less noticeable and eventually the sour bites are sliding better down the throat of Ecuadorians so Moreno may expect. This would not be the first time that a Government weasels its way out of protests: Stop the “killer measures” for now, and reintroduce them later, slowly in a different format.

Conaie’s leaders are concerned about this. They have said so. They would like to know what the new decree contains, and want to have a say in its drafting, before they definitely call off their protests. What they really want is the resignation of Lenin Moreno. That’s what they should aim for, because this man has already proven several times in only two years of presidency that he is a liar, cannot be trusted, and sells the people and their natural resources for the benefit of a small Ecuadorian elite and their foreign partners, mostly US oil corporations. Even if he were to cave in now, Moreno will come back, if allowed to stay in power, to neoliberalize the country. That’s his compact. That’s the premise under which he has been made president.

And, what nobody talked about, nor are there any reports in either mainstream or progressive news, is what will happen with the US$ 4.2 billion IMF loan?  Why is it not cancelled? Is the cancellation of this loan going to be part of the new decree? Ecuador doesn’t need the loan. With a debt – GDP ratio of 40%, there is definitely no need whatsoever to call for IMF’s “help”. As proportion of GDP, Ecuador’s debt is only two thirds of that of Germany.

Instead of foreign loans, Ecuador’s Government could call in the outstanding debt of about US$ 4.5 billion from fines, unpaid interests and other overdue fees from corporations and Ecuadorian oligarchs so the government could recapitalize her treasury with own, interest free money. But instead, Moreno “forgave” the debt of the oligarchs, when contracting the IMF loan. That, in itself, is telling a lot. President Moreno, who used to be Correa’s Vice President, running on the same Platform, the center-left PAIS Alliance, turned tables less than a year into his presidency, destroyed the PAIS Alliance and betrayed his compatriots miserably.

Canceling an IMF loan is relatively easy. There is no law that would prevent Ecuador from withdrawing from the IMF deal, at no penalty. This has happened many times before. All that’s needed are politicians with a people-oriented mentality – a people’s friendly attitude – and the country would be rid of this debt and rid of the dictate of the IMF.

Conaie may consider insisting on two objectives before calling off the protests and moving back to their lands: One, canceling the IMF loan of US$ 4.2 billion, and two, suspending the Parliament and President Moreno of his functions; calling-in a caretaker government and planning new elections within 3 months; elections in which Rafael Correa might again run for President.

The IMF Does Not Fight Financial Fires but Douses Them with Gasoline

Quito’s streets tremble between aspiration and repression; the smell of tear gas and the shouts for freedom reverberating in equal measure from one part of the city to another. President Lenín Moreno’s State of Emergency (October 3) and Curfew (October 12) give the men with guns more authority, but – despite hundreds of injured protestors and at least five dead – the violence has not broken the enthusiasm on the streets. The protests continue. Moreno’s options will soon run out. The oligarchy and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – with a wink from the White House – might ask him to resign. They like their comprador to be credible.

On 13 October, Moreno had to promise to withdraw Decree 833. Pressure from the streets, from the United Nations, and from the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference forced him to the table, where a televised discussion was held. The indigenous leaders won the ‘debate’ – they were much more prepared and far more humane than the president and his clumsy ministers. Moreno and his team – Minister of Government María Paula Romo and Minister of Defense Oswaldo Jarrín – left the room for a recess and surrendered. This is a triumph for the people. But now Moreno must go to the IMF. What pressure will it put on him? The battle continues.

The IMF’s board gathers in Washington, DC for its annual meeting. The Fund’s new leader is Kristalina Georgieva – from Bulgaria – who used to be at the World Bank. Her job is not easy. The IMF’s World Economic Outlook, published in July, calculates that 2019 world output is expected to shrink to 3.2%, compared to 3.8% (2017) and 3.6% (2018). In order to remain optimistic – with little data to support this attitude – the Fund estimates that world outlook will rise to 3.5% in 2020. But Georgieva and her associates on the Fund’s board know that matters are far grimmer. ‘Global economic growth continues to disappoint’, Georgieva said recently. Trade wars and high debt levels contribute further to a general crisis of capitalism.

The new Trade and Development Report (2019) from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), published in late September, says that a recession in 2020 is more than likely. Over the past few years, growth rates have been sustained by ‘one-off tax cuts and unsustainable deficits, made all the more precarious by a rapid build-up of private debt positions, particularly in the corporate sector’. Meanwhile, ‘unemployment figures hide problems of insecure jobs and discouraged workers’. Add to this ‘disrupted supply chains, volatile capital flows, and rising oil prices’, and it seems inevitable that ‘on these trends a slowdown – and possibly even a recession – looks likely’.

There is nothing that the IMF can do. It is beholden to the United States, from whom Georgieva hopes to raise funds towards the IMF’s cache of around $1 trillion. The United States continues to dominate the IMF. In 2015, the IMF released a staff study that argued against ‘supply-side economics’, suggesting that the policy that suggests tax cuts and budgets cuts does not lead to utopia. Instead, the authors write, tax cuts and budget cuts produce results whose benefits ‘do not trickle down’. The implications of this study did not penetrate the upper floors of the IMF, neither the office of the managing director nor the board. It is business as usual at the IMF. Its own economists are not as important as the whispers from the US Treasury Department and the White House.

Late last year, the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) released an important study on IMF loan conditionalities and the impact this has had on health care. The author – Gino Brunswijck – looked at IMF loans to twenty-six countries between 2016 and 2017. In twenty of these twenty-six countries, ‘people have gone on strike or taken to the streets to protest against government cutbacks, the rising cost of living, tax restructuring and wage bill reforms pushed by IMF conditionality’. Since the study came out, the people of Argentina, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Haiti, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sudan, Tunisia, and other countries have taken to the streets. For them, there is no alternative: either they protest, or they starve.

German soldiers, their mule, and tear gas (1916)

Several important points emerge from the study by the European Network which bear reflection:

  1. In the past few years, the IMF loans come with an increased number of structural adjustment conditions. The average number of conditions per loan between 2017 and 2018 was 26.8; between 2011 and 2013, the average number of conditions per loan was 19.5.
  2. Inside the dense language of the loan, there are a series of ‘hidden’ conditionalities; these are often in the annex documents for the loan.
  3. Once the loan agreements have been signed, the IMF returns to add more conditions on the same loan.
  4. Of the twenty-six loans studied, twenty-three of them demanded ‘fiscal consolidation’, which means that the governments were forced to restrict spending. The IMF, in other words, foisted austerity on these countries.
  5. Most of the countries that went to the IMF were ‘repeat borrowers’, which means that the IMF loans did not fix their problems but only exacerbated them. The IMF did nothing to solve the structural insolvency of these governments, but instead loaned the countries into unsustainable debt. In 2013, an IMF study admitted that due to the IMF agreement with Greece in 2010, ‘Market confidence was not restored, the banking system lost 30 per cent of its deposits and the economy encountered a much deeper than expected recession with exceptionally high unemployment’. The Fund’s demands only deepened Greece’s problems. This lesson has not been absorbed.
  6. Finally, the IMF demanded austerity of developing countries even in times of crisis, knowing full well that this is the time when it is important for governments to spend towards fiscal stimulation of a depressed economy. Advanced capitalist countries, on the other hand, do not observe the IMF demand. Between the autumn of 2008 and the start of 2009, calculates the French economist Cédric Durand, these states committed 50.4% of the world GDP to support the financial sector. Nothing of this generosity has ever been committed to support the poor, who make up the vast majority of the planet’s people.

Camouflaged behind IMF phrases such as ‘forging a stronger social compact’ comes the old fashioned tonic of austerity for the poor, generosity for the rich. The agreement between the IMF and Ecuador called upon Moreno’s government to cut wages and to cut 140,000 public sector employees, while energy prices and fees for government services would be raised. The rich would pay none of the price. The money paid to buy gallons of tear gas and riot police equipment could just as easily have been paid out for health care and education. The ‘social compact’ that the IMF finds itself building in each country is forged not through the bonds of society but through the barricades of protest and repression.

Each IMF chief comes to the top office with a signature agenda. Christine Lagarde wanted to push gender equity, which meant – for Lagarde and the IMF – increasing the number of women in the workforce. In one of the staff papers, the IMF researchers pointed out that this would only be possible if countries invest in infrastructure (such as public transport), promote equal rights for women (such as equal inheritance laws and property rights), and promote access to affordable childcare. But, most IMF loan agreements demand cuts in public infrastructure and in childcare and healthcare. IMF policy, in fact, went against even the limited agenda promoted by Lagarde.

Lagarde, who is now in the running to head the European Central Bank, could have done well to listen to Ofelia Fernández, a 19-year-old Argentinian militant who is running for a seat in the Buenos Aires government. Ofelia does not want to define her politics narrowly. She wanted to make it clear to me last month that feminism must take up all the social issues from a feminist perspective – not allow itself to be restricted to ‘women’s issues’, which are themselves, she pointed out, everyone’s issues. In the poorer parts of Argentina, organisations have emerged to fight against the outcome of the crisis. Hunger is a serious issue, with special emphasis on the hunger of children. Most of the leaders of these popular organisations, Ofelia said, are women. Their fight around the economy of care and against austerity must also be seen as a feminist fight. The fight against hunger, Ofelia said, is also feminism.

Georgieva comes to her post eager to tackle ‘climate risks’ and to urge a move to a post-carbon energy system. Her policy form will be cuts to energy subsidies and a rise in carbon taxes. A recent IMF study shows that gasoline and household energy bills should rise dramatically to limit global warming. What we have here is austerity packaged as environmentalism. Rather than promote a policy slate of regressive taxes on the poor, the IMF could urge more expenditure on public transportation and on a transition from carbon-based energy to more sustainable forms of energy. But this is not the temper of the IMF. Neoliberal policy and austerity are its contours.

The headline of this newsletter does not come from a radical poet. It comes from the Wall Street Journal. During the Asian financial crisis in 1998, the WSJ ran an editorial that said that the IMF ‘has not been fighting financial fires but dousing them with gasoline’. The IMF pours the first tranche of gasoline.

People want to douse these flames. Their hopes explode out of the verse of Dennis Brutus (1924-2009), South Africa’s anti-apartheid poet:

There will come a time we believe
when the shape of the planet
and the divisions of the land
will be less important.
We will be caught in the glow of friendship.
A red star of hope
will illuminate our lives.
A star of hope.
A star of joy.
A star of freedom.

  • First published at The Tricontinental.
  • Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen

    Writing about his visit to the world’s largest weapons bazaar, held in London during October, Arron Merat describes reading this slogan emblazoned above Raytheon’s stall: “Strike with Creativity.” Raytheon manufactures Paveway laser-guided bombs, fragments of which have been found in the wreckage of schools, hospitals, and markets across Yemen. How can a weapons manufacturer that causes such death, bloodshed, and misery lay claim to creativity?

    “Strike with Creativity” (Cartoon credit: Sean Reynolds)

    Greta Thunberg, sitting alone outside her school as she initiated a movement of climate strikes, could properly invoke the words “Strike with Creativity.” She inspired Friday classroom walkouts, worldwide, by young people protesting destruction and death caused by climate catastrophe. Her admirable goal is to save the planet by promoting such strikes.

    Coming from Raytheon, the words “Strike with Creativity” sound chilling, grotesque.

    Consider the Raytheon weapons now demolishing Yemen. Fragments of Raytheon and other U.S. manufactured weapons dot blast sites where Yemeni survivors struggle to collect body parts and scattered bits of clothing, which are needed to compile lists of the dead.

    In September, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) hit a detention center in the Dhamar governorate, in the northern highlands of Yemen with seven airstrikes that killed at least 100 people and “pulverized” the area, according to Bethan McKernan, reporting for The Guardian. “It took five days to remove all the bodies impaled on metalwork ripped from the walls in the blasts,” she wrote.

    After the attack, McKernan interviewed Adel, a 22-year-old security guard  employed at the site. His brother, Ahmed, also a guard, was among those killed. Adel pointed to a blanket, visible on the second floor of a building where the guards had slept. “You can see Ahmed’s blue blanket up there,” said Adel. “There were 200 people here but now it’s just ghosts.”

    Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Saudi-led coalition bombarding and blockading Yemen have killed tens of thousands, wrecking the country’s already enfeebled infrastructure and bringing Yemen to the brink of a famine that may kill millions. President Trump signaled additional support for Saudi Arabia on October 11 when the U.S. military announced it would send thousands more troops to the kingdom, bringing the number of U.S. troops there to 14,000.

    Just as Greta Thunberg insists adults must become intensely aware of details and possible solutions regarding the climate catastrophe, people in the U.S. should learn about ways to end economic as well as military war waged against Yemen. For us to understand why Yemenis would link together in the loose coalition of fighters called Houthis requires deepening awareness of how financial institutions, in attempting to gain control of valuable resources, have pushed farmers and villagers across Yemen into debt and desperation. Isa Blumi writes about this sordid history in his 2018 book, Destroying Yemen, What Chaos in Arabia Tells Us about the World.

    Blumi details how Yemen’s society, largely independent and agrarian, became a guinea pig for International Monetary Fund (IMF) “development projects” which, based on strikingly colonialist theories of modernization, crushed grassroots institutions and amounted to “cost-effective ways of prying Yemen’s wealth out of its peoples’ hands.”

    Local Development Associations, for example, were formed during the 1970s to help people hang on to their land, cooperatively determine what crops they would grow and decide how they would use the profits. But U.S. Agency for International Development “experts” pressured these groups to instead produce “cash crops strictly meant for export.”

    “After all,” Blumi writes, “with the right kind of cash crop and the use of American labor-saving technology, pesticides and fertilizers included, Yemen’s villagers were no longer needed in the fields. Alternatively, they could work in cities in sweatshops producing clothes for a global market or the soon booming oil and gas projects.”

    Blumi’s book documents the fiercely stubborn creativity with which, decade by decade, Yemenis kept surprising the West, exploring and pursuing countermeasures to resist its exploitative control, and risking the West’s destructive anger.

    Yemenis resisted U.N. and IMF prescriptions of global integration and debt peonage. When farmers desperate for cash went to work in, for instance, Saudi Arabia, “they consistently sent remittances home to families that saved the cash and invested in local projects, using local bank transfers.” Imams and village leaders encouraged people to resist imperialist “modernization” projects, knowing that the West’s preferred “modern” role for them was as wage slaves with no hope of developing a better future.

    The “Houthi” movement began when Husayn al-Houthi, an opponent of Yemen’s dictatorial (and Western-allied) Saleh regime, tried to defend the water and land rights of locals in the Sa’adah province in northwestern Yemen. Sharing what was then a porous and informal border with the KSA, they often found themselves in disputes with Saudi border patrols. They also resisted ‘structural adjustment’ demands by the IMF to privatize some of Yemen’s best farming and grazing land. When the dictator Saleh made criminal concessions to the KSA, al-Houthi and his followers persisted with protests. Each new confrontation won over thousands of people, eventually spreading beyond Sa’adah.

    Blumi cites numerous instances in which Yemen’s economic assets were pillaged, with Saleh’s approval, by “well-heeled global financial interests” who now designate Saleh’s successor Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi as Yemen’s “internationally recognized government.” Hadi governs from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, due to a stunning lack of Yemeni support.

    In 2008, an extremely wealthy member of the bin Laden family aimed to build a bridge across the mouth of the Red Sea from Yemen to Djibouti. The project could generate hundreds of billions for investors, and quicken the process of exploitative modernization; but it would also require building railways and roads where there are only villages now. People living along the coastline of the Red Sea would be in the way.

    Since 2015, fighting has been concentrated in this area, called the Tihama. Control of the coastline would also allow financial takeover of potentially profitable Yemeni fisheries. Blumi says billions of dollars of annual income are at stake, noting with irony that a war causing starvation is being waged, in part, to gain control over food assets.

    A recent United Nations report says that Yemen is now “on course to become the world’s poorest country” with 79 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 65 percent classified as “extremely poor.” The Yemen Data Project estimated 600 civilian structures have been destroyed, monthly, in Yemen, mostly by airstrikes.

    “Staple food items are now on average 150 per cent higher than before the crisis escalated,” says a 2019 report by the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Teachers, health workers and civil servants in the northern parts of the country haven’t been paid in years,” according to the same report.

    Mainstream media reports could convince concerned onlookers that Yemenis have been particularly vulnerable to violence and war because they are socially and economically backward, having failed to modernize. Blumi insists we recognize the guilt of financial elites from multiple countries within and beyond the Gulf states as well as institutions within the World Bank, the IMF and the UN. It’s wrong to blame “eighty percent of a country’s population currently being starved to death”

    Here in the United States, news commentators discussing the Trump impeachment story liken the breaking developments to “bombshell after bombshell.” In Yemen, real and horribly modern bombshells, made in the United States, kill and maim Yemeni civilians, including children, every day.

    Greta Thunberg continues calling us to join her on an unfamiliar, unprecedented, and arduous path to change course as our world careens toward terrifying devastation. We’re offered a chance to resist destructive, albeit “modern” means of exploiting the planet’s resources. A true strike for creativity, necessarily challenging militarism and greed, will help prevent the hellish work of destroying Yemen.

    Map (Credit: Political Geography Now)

    A version of this article appeared in The Progressive Magazine

    Pink Tide Against US Domination Rising Again In Latin America

    (Photo from Dissent Magazine)

    Once again, the left is rising in Latin America as people revolt against authoritarian regimes, many of whom were put in place by US-supported coups. These regimes have taken International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and are under the thumb of international finance, which is against the interests of people.After the embattled President of Ecuador claimed that President Nicolas Maduro was the cause of the massive protests against him, Maduro made clear what was occurring in Latin America, saying:

    We have two models: the IMF model which privatizes everything and takes away the people’s rights to health, education and work; and the humanist-progressive model which is emerging in Latin America and has the Bolivarian Revolution at the forefront.

    Maduro’s clear understanding of the conflict is why it has been so important for the US to remove him. His success in defeating ongoing US coup attempts is a model guiding Latin America to a future independent of US domination.

    Ecuadorians celebrate the repeal of Decree 883 (From Twitter)

    Ecuador in Rebellion Against IMF and the US Puppet Moreno

    On October 4, Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel and petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population. He also announced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees and initiated plans to privatize pensions. He removed workplace and job security safeguards. Decree 883, known as ‘The Package’, was a series of neoliberal policies demanded by the IMF in return for a $4.2 billion dollar loan. It was preceded by policies for the wealthy including reducing their taxes.

    The IMF loan was part of Moreno serving as a puppet and bowing to multiple US demands. Ecuador promised to settle a long dispute with Chevron whose oil drilling and pipelines have polluted the country. Tens of billions of dollars in restitution from Chevron are at stake but Moreno said he is willing to give them up. In fact, the IMF loan is strange in that it was dependent on Ecuador paying external debt obligations; i.e., it was not new funds for Ecuador but new debt to subsidize paying back Wall Street.

    In making the announcement, Moreno called the people “Zánganos,” or Drone Bees leading to the uprising of the Drone Bees. The mass protests were called by the Popular Front, a group of unions, and the Unified Workers Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE). Students and social movements joined protests throughout the nation in Loja, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato, and Riobamba, among other cites as well as Quito, the capital. Moreno claimed without any evidence that the uprising was financed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Correa.

    Protests in Ecuador were relentless with no end in sight. They grew when 20,000 indigenous people marched into Quito. Police responded with violence, tear gas, and mass arrests. An October 4 video circulated on social media showed nonviolent protesters killed in the street by the police as well as other police violence. On October 5, Moreno declared a 60-day state of Emergency. Sometimes police had to retreat in the face of mass protests. On October 7, Moreno fled the capital to hide in the Navy base 260 miles away in the conservative stronghold of Guayaquil.

    As we wrote this newsletter, unrest in Ecuador was escalating. On Saturday, the nation was put on military lockdown. Law enforcement attacked protesters with pellets and tear gas in the immediate vicinity of the  National Assembly. By Sunday, Moreno decreed a 3:00 pm curfew, which people defied. Then, facing an emergency session in the National Assembly, Moreno backed down. Protesters celebrated when Moreno’s government announced that Decree 883 had been repealed after eleven days of popular mobilizations.

    Peter Koenig describes a root cause of the problems:

    Since January 2000, Ecuador’s economy is 100% dollarized, compliments of the IMF (entirely controlled by the US Treasury, by force of an absolute veto). The other two fully dollarized Latin American countries are El Salvador and Panama.

    The US and IMF used the economic crises of the 1990s to dollarize Ecuador’s economy and gain full control over the nation’s riches as Ecuador is the second-largest oil economy in South America. This led to unaffordable goods for Ecuadorians, social unrest and a series of unstable governments until President Correa, who served from 2007 to 17, was elected.

    A Center for Economic and Policy Research 2017 report found under Correa Ecuador did well with an average annual GDP growth of 1.5%  compared to 0.6% average for the previous 26 years; a decline of 38% in poverty with extreme poverty reduced by 47%; and a decline in inequality with the Gini coefficient falling substantially. Correa doubled social spending from 4.3% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2016; tripling education spending from 0.7% to 2.1%; and, increasing public investments from 4% of GDP in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

    Correa served two terms. A third term would have required a constitutional amendment. Rather than running, Correa endorsed Lenin Moreno who had served as his vice president from 2007-13. He was expected to continue Correa’s policies but instead reversed them.

    Moreno was unpopular before announcing ‘The Package’ due to structural poverty increasing from 23.1 percent in June 2017 to 25.5 percent in June 2019 with projections of 30 percent by the end of the year. Injustices like the imprisonment of the popular former Vice President Jorge Glas on dubious charges and his continuous political witch hunt against Rafael Correa and other leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution Party added to his unpopularity. In addition, he has been engulfed in a personal corruption crisis involving an offshore Shell corporation INA, which cast Moreno’s presidency in doubt.

    Moreno’s forcible and illegal ejection of Julian Assange from the London embassy in return for payoffs from the US and UK resulted in a national strike in Ecuador in July. This, along with the arrest of Ola Bini, who is being prosecuted falsely as a conspirator with Wikileaks, was unpopular with Ecuadorians.

    Will repeal of ‘The Package’ end the protests and the threat to Moreno’s presidency? As we write, the answer to these questions are unclear. The people won a major victory, but the Moreno/IMF infection remains.

    Rally in Argentina (By Enfoque Rojo)

    Latin Americans Rising Against the Right and US Domination

    Latin American countries are rejecting neoliberalism and US domination using multiple strategies to achieve change.

    This month the deepening anti-capitalist movement in Bolivia is set to strengthen with the probable re-election of Evo Morales on October 20. Argentina is expected to remove right-wing President Mauricio Macri on October 27 and replace him with Alberto Fernandez. And, Mexico put in place its first progressive, left-of-center government with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on July 1, 2018. Elections are also upcoming in Uruguay on October 27 and in Peru in January. Venezuela may have National Assembly elections in January as well.

    Bolivia’s Evo Morales has a 13-point lead in polls as his governing party Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) looks to re-election for a third Morales term that will last until 2025. Morales has 38.8 percent, just 1.2 percent short of the 40 percent required for a first-round victory in the upcoming elections. The survey also indicated majority support for the nationalization of gas and strategic industries, 51 percent say that public ownership is positive for the economy. On social programs, 61.7 percent say they are essential for providing dignity to those of low incomes.

    Morales has launched a large reforestation plan and put in place a model healthcare program. He is under attack from the United States and segments of Bolivia. Morales leads an independent, sovereign Bolivia that has rejected US dominance, decolonized and displaced neoliberalism. A recent color revolution attempt by the wealthy, with the support of the US and western powers, failed.

    Argentina’s first round of voting on August 11 resulted in Fernandez, running with former president Cristina Kirchner, finishing 15 percent ahead of Macri. The surprising landslide brought into question Macri’s ability to govern between now and the election. As a result, the IMF put a $5.4 billion dollar loan on hold part of the $56.3 billion stand-by agreement signed in mid-2018. Fernandez opposed the loan, which required sharp budget cuts affecting public services at a time of increasing poverty.

    Under Macri, the economy has gone into crisis with poverty increasing to a record 36.4 percent, a recession accompanied by a 47 percent inflation rate in 2018 and an inflation rate of 25.1 percent during the first seven months of this year. Argentina’s unemployment is at the highest level in 14 years. Poverty was at 19.7 percent when Kirchner left office in 2015. Fernandez has put forward an anti-hunger plan, not dependent on the IMF. Three weeks before the election, thousands of people rallied in Buenos Aires as the Workers Left Front sent a message of opposition to neoliberalism and austerity to the two major political parties.

    In Mexico, AMLO won a landslide 53 percent of the vote on July 31 ending decades of right-wing rule. People were fed up with the corruption, impunity, and violence — decades of loss of rights, pillaging and destruction of the nation’s wealth and public enterprises. At his inauguration, AMLO decried 36 years of neoliberalism and public and private corruption, promised a “peaceful and radical” transition with “indigenous people as its priority,” in a government “for the good of all, first the poor.” His fight against neoliberalism is challenged by NAFTA II (or the USMCA), as AMLO is careful not to confront Trump on this. On border policy, AMLO offered migrants home in Mexico and urged investment in Central America.

    The Zapatistas have conflicted with AMLO over the exploitation of resources and the use of the military in policing, demanding its autonomy based on indigenous principles but he has sought diplomacy with them. AMLO has also faced massive strikes of tens of thousands of autoworkers, workers at US companies in Mexico and wildcat strikes at the border. AMLO has been a counterweight to US aggression in Latin America standing with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.

    Peru is in the midst of a crisis. President Martin Vizcarra who came into office after a corruption scandal removed his predecessor, dissolved the Congress, a move supported by the left, because it is controlled by far-right politician Keiko Fujimori and was preventing Vizcarra’s anti-corruption campaign. Congress ignored the president’s order and voted to remove him from office instead. The vice president resigned rather than take over and Vizcarra remains in office with the support of the military. He has now called for new congressional elections to be held on January 26. Vizcarra is a conservative battling the oligarchic right. The left, which has been divided, is coalescing around the Popular National Assembly and allying with social movements. The movements want an end to neoliberal policies, a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution and to break with Washington’s domination.

    In Central America, Honduras has been in revolt against the coup government of Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), which for ten years has put in place neoliberalism, repression, and violence. Protests have been ongoing since his coup and fraudulent re-election. This summer, protests intensified with a national strike over austerity and privatization measures required by an IMF loan, leading to a 66-day uprising.  The US has trained Honduran police to use repressive measures in an attempt to stop the protests, but their actions feed more protests.

    Many have fled Honduras in caravans to escape the corruption and violence. Now, a coalition of civil groups is urging the president’s departure over a scandal ignited by accusations of large-scale drug trafficking to the United States being litigated against the president’s brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez. In the trial, several witnesses have declared JOH’s campaign was financed with drug money, and that he took millions in bribes from various Mexican drug lords, including the infamous Joaquin “El-Chapo” Guzman. The Liberal Party joined in calling for his resignation and protests have intensified. The trial may be the end of this cocaine-fueled presidency.

    Brazil’s election of Bolsonaro has been marred by scandal now that the corruption of Operation Car Wash has been exposed. Private conversations between the prosecutors and then-judge Sergio Moro, now Super Minister of Justice, show that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the “victim of a conspiracy” to prevent him from running against Bolsonaro.  In the secret exchanges, Moro admitted that the corruption case was designed to frame him. Lula has said the US is behind the conspiracy.

    Calls to free Lula are increasing and the Supreme Court will be reviewing the case. Lula is demanding his record be cleared and refused a panicked offer from prosecutors that he be freed from jail and put under house arrest. Bolsonaro is also under attack for the Amazon fires, for an increase in police killings, for genocide against the Indigenous and for attacks on public education. Former President Michel Temer acknowledged that the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, the Worker’s Party leader, was a coup d’etat.

    Nicaragua survived a 2018 US coup attempt and the revolution continues to thrive after 40 years of independence from US domination after US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza fled. People were very confused about what happened in the 2018 coup attempt as media misinformation was prevalent. A group of us joined and produced a reader to help people understand the reality of Nicaragua. Peace is coming back to Nicaragua, even though continued pressure from the US is expected in the form of new illegal sanctions.

    Venezuela, which we have reported on intensively for years, has also survived ongoing coup attempts that continue to escalate in the post-John Bolton era of the Trump administration most recently with a threat of war through the Organization of American States (OAS). They are prepared for a military attack and have created new alliances to overcome the US economic war. This week, Russia announced it was investing $16.5 billion in Venezuela by the end of 2019.

    Russia has provided anti-missile defense systems, is keeping Navy ships in Venezuela to deter a US blockade and has helped gather intelligence on US actions. With their help, Venezuela has uncovered terrorist plots coming from Colombia and involving US-puppet Juan Guiado’s team. Guaido has faltered and failed time and again, and now is being investigated for ties to Colombian drug traffickers and corruption.

    The non-aligned movement of 120 nations met in Caracas this summer and expressed support for Venezuelan sovereignty.  Venezuela has been a lynchpin for left movements in Latin America. When oil prices were high, it shared its wealth not only with poorest Venezuelans but with other countries seeking to challenge US and oligarch domination. Even in the midst of an escalating economic war with the United States, they continue to provide housing, food, and essentials to their people.

    Protesters in Haiti (Twitter)

    Caribbean Resistance

    In the Caribbean, Cuba is challenged by the US economic war but continues its revolution. Mass protests in Haiti threaten the survival of the government and Puerto Rico’s revolt removed a governor.

    Cuba, despite the increasing US economic war, continues to be a bulwark against US imperialism, standing with governments like Venezuela and Nicaragua when they are under attack. Cuba completed a successful transition to a new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and voted on a new constitution developed using a participatory process involving 9 million people through 133,000 citizen meetings. The constitution includes “universal and free health, education, sports and recreation, culture and respect for human dignity.” Cuba is currently facing major economic challenges as the US is blocking their access to oil. Russia and Venezuela are helping Cuba overcome this oil blockade.

    Haiti has been in protest since April calling for an end to neoliberal US domination and the resignation of Jovenel Moise. The president has not spoken in public since the beginning of this latest round of protests and this week he named a commission of seven politicians to lead discussions for a solution to end the crisis.

    In Puerto Rico, a colony of the United States, massive protests led to Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló resigning on July 22, 2019. People also want the corrupt legislature cleaned out, the Fiscal Control Board, created by Obama, ended and the debt to be audited. Former political prisoner, Luis Rosa, said three things are needed: “decolonization, an end to our colonial status through a constitutional assembly; health care, free for all Puerto Rican citizens; and free public education up through the university level.”

    Stephen Sefton wrote a country-by-country review of Latin America and the Caribbean in June describing the decline of the United States in the region and how changes were coming to many nations. He predicted that we are seeing “the last throw of the dice for the US to retain its accustomed power and influence against the relentless fundamental drive for emancipation by the region’s impoverished majority.”

    Rafael Correa said: “Neoliberalism is what failed, not socialism of the 21st century, on the contrary, socialism of the 21st century is what has us firmly on our feet, withstanding all of these difficulties.” This hemisphere is a key battleground in the conflict between neoliberalism v Socialism and US dominance v. independence. People are demanding democracy from the bottom up and a fair economy that meets their needs.

    Ecuador and the IMF’s Killing Spree

    For close to 40 years the IMF has weaponized its handle on the western economy through the dollar-based western monetary system, and brutally destroyed nation after nation, thereby killed hundreds of thousands of people. Indirectly, of course, as the IMF would not use traditional guns and bombs, but financial instruments that kill. They kill by famine, by economic strangulation, preventing indispensable medical equipment and medication entering a country, even preventing food from being imported, or being imported at horrendous prices only the rich can pay.

    The latest victim of this horrifying IMF scheme is Ecuador. For starters, you should know that since January 2000, Ecuador’s economy is 100% dollarized, compliments of the IMF (entirely controlled by the US Treasury, by force of an absolute veto). The other two fully dollarized Latin American countries are El Salvador and Panama.

    The Wall Street Journal recently stated that Ecuador “has the misfortune to be an oil producer with a ‘dollarized’ economy that uses the U.S. currency as legal tender.” The Journal added: “The appreciation of the U.S. dollar against other currencies has decreased the net exports of non-oil commodities from Ecuador, which, coupled with the volatility of oil prices, is constraining the country’s potential for economic growth.”

    Starting in the mid 1990’s, culminating around 1998, Ecuador suffered a severe economic crisis, resulting from climatic calamities, and US corporate and banking oil price manipulations (petrol is Ecuador’s main export product), resulting in massive bank failures and hyper-inflation. Ecuador’s economy at that time had been semi-dollarized, like that of most Latin American countries; i.e., Peru, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, and so on.

    The ‘crisis’ was a great opportunity for the US via the IMF to take full control of the Ecuadorian (petrol) economy by 100% dollarizing it. The IMF propagated the same recipe for Ecuador as it did ten years earlier for Argentina, namely full dollarization of the economy in order to combat inflation and to bring about economic stability and growth. In January 2000, then President Jorge Jamil Mahuad Witt, from the “Popular Democracy Party”, or the Ecuadorian Christian Democratic Union (equivalent to the German CDU), declared the US dollar as the official currency of Ecuador, replacing their own currency, the Sucre.

    Adopting another country’s currency is an absurdity and can only bring failure. And that it did, almost to the day, 10 years after Argentina was forced by the same US-led villains to revalue her peso to parity with the US-dollar, no fluctuations allowed. Same reason (“economic crisis”, hyper-inflation), same purpose: controlling the riches of the country.  Absolute failure was preprogrammed. Did Ecuador not learn from the Argentinian experience and convert her currency at the very moment the Argentinian economy collapsed due to dollarization, into the US dollar? That is not only a fraud, but a planned fraud.

    Ecuadorian goods and services quoted in dollars, became unaffordable for locals and uncompetitive for exports. This led to social unrests, resulting in a popular ‘golpe’. President Mahuad was disposed, had to flee the country, and was replaced by Gustavo Noboa, from the same CDU party (2000 – 2003). Ever since the dollar remained controversial among the Ecuadorian population. President Rafael Correa’s quiet attempt to return to the Sucre, was answered by a CIA-inspired police coup attempt on 30 September 2010.

    In 2017, the CIA / NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and the US State Department have brought about a so-called “soft” regime change. They urged (very likely coerced) Rafael Correa to abstain from running again for President, as the vast majority of Ecuadorians requested him to do. This would have required a Constitutional amendment which probably would have been easily accepted by Parliament. Instead they had Correa endorse his former Vice-President (2007-2013) Lenin Moreno, who ran on Correa’s platform, the socialist PAIS Alliance, therefore expected to continue in Correa’s line with same socioeconomic policies.

    Less than a year later, Moreno turned tables, became an outright traitor to his country and the people who voted for him. He converted Ecuador’s economy to the neoliberal doctrine – privatization of everything, stealing the money from the social sectors, depriving people of work, drastically reducing social services and converting a surplus economy of tremendous social gains into one of poverty and misery.

    President Correa left the country a modest debt of about 40% to GDP at the end of his Presidency in 2017. A debt-GDP ratio that would be no problem anywhere in the world. Compare this to the US debt vs. GDP – 105% in current terms and about 700% in terms of unmet obligations (net present value of total outstanding obligations). There was absolutely no reason to call the IMF for help. The IMF, the long arm of the US Treasury, ‘bought’ its way into Moreno’s neoliberal Ecuador, coinciding with Moreno evicting Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

    The IMF loan of US$ 4,2 billion increases the debt / GDP ratio by 4% and brings social misery and upheaval in return, and that as usual, at an unimaginable cost, by neoliberal economists called “externalities”. It was practically a US “present” for Moreno’s treason, bringing Assange closer into US custody. What most people are unaware of is that at the same time, Moreno forgave US$ 4.5 billion in fines, interest and other dues to large corporations and oligarchs, hence decapitalizing the country’s treasury. The amount of canceled corporate fiscal obligations is about equivalent to the IMF loan, plunging large sectors of the Ecuadorian population into more misery.

    Besides, under wrong pretexts it allowed Moreno to apply neoliberal policies, all those that usually come as draconian conditions with IMF loans and that eventually benefit only a small elite in the country but allows western banking and corporations to further milk the countries social system.

    According to a 2017 report of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), an economic think-tank in Washington, Ecuador’s economy has done rather well under Rafael Correa’s 10-year leadership (2007 – 2017). The country has improved her key indicators significantly: Average annual GDP growth was 1.5% (0.6% past 26 years average); the poverty rate declined by 38%, extreme poverty by 47%, a multiple of poverty reduction of that in the previous ten years, thanks to a horizontally distributive growth; inequality (Gini coefficient) fell substantially, from 0.55 to 0.47; the government doubled social spending from 4.3% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2016; tripled education spending from 0.7% to 2.1% with a corresponding increase in school enrollments; increased public investments from 4% of GDP in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

    Now, Moreno is in the process of reversing these gains. Only six months after contracting the IMF loans, he has already largely succeeded. The public outcry can be heard internationally. Quito is besieged by tens of thousands of demonstrators, steadily increasing as large numbers, in the tens of thousands, of indigenous people are coming from Ecuador’s Amazon region and the Andes to Quito to voice their discontent with their traitor president. Government tyranny is rampant. Moreno declared a 60-day state of emergency with curfew and a militarized country. As a consequence, Moreno moved the Government Administration to Guayaquil and ordered one of the most severe police and military repressions Ecuador has ever known, resulting within ten days to at least 7 people killed, about 600 injured and approximately 1,000 people arrested.

    The protests are directed against the infamous Government Decree 883, that dictates major social reforms, including an increase in fuel prices by more than 100%, reflecting directly on public transportation, as well as on food prices; privatization of public services, bringing about untold layoffs, including some 23,000 government employees; an increase in Aggregated Value Taxes – all part of the so-called “paquetazo”, imposed by the IMF. Protesters called on Moreno, “Fuera asesino, fuera” – Get out, murderer, get out!  Will they succeed?

    The IMF’s guns are needlessly imposed debt, forced privatization of social services and public assets as railways, roads, and worst of all, health, education, water supply and sewerage services. Unemployment rises, extreme poverty skyrockets, public service tariffs – water, electricity, transportation – increase, often exponentially, depriving people from moving to work or look for new employment elsewhere. Diseases that otherwise may have been curable, like cancers, under the new regime lack medication. Patients die prematurely. Depression brings about rapidly rising suicide rates, as the British medical journal Lancet has observed in many IMF oppressed countries, but especially in Greece.

    Targeted are primarily those nations that do not want to bend to the dictate of Washington, and even more so those with natural resources the west covets, or countries that are in strategic geographic locations where NATO wants to establish itself or get a stronger foothold; i.e., Greece. The IMF is often helped by the World Bank. The former providing, or rather coercing, a ‘debt-strapped’ country into accepting so-called rescue packages, billions of dollars of loans, at exorbitant “high-risk” interest rates, with deadly strings attached.

    The latter, the WB, would usually come in with loans – also euphemistically called “blank checks” – to be disbursed against a matrix of fulfilled conditions, of economic reforms, privatizations. Again, all usually resulting in massive government layoffs, unemployment, poverty. In fact, both the IMF and the WB approaches are similar and often overlapping – imposing “structural adjustment” (now in disguise given different names), to steal a country’s resources, and sovereignty, by making them dependent on the very financial institutions that pretend to ‘help’ them.

    The three most recent and flagrant cases of IMF interference were Greece, Ukraine and Argentina. Greece was doubly destroyed, once by her brothers and sisters of the European non-Union that blackmailed them into staying with the euro, instead of exiting it and converting to their local currency and regaining financial sovereignty.

    Ukraine, possibly the richest country in terms of national resources and with an enormous agricultural potential due to her fertile soil, was “regime changed” by a bloody coup, The Maidan massacre in February 2014, instigated and planned by the CIA, the EU and NATO and carried out through the very US Embassy in Kiev. This was all long-term planning. Remember Victoria Nuland boasting that the US has spent more than 5 billion dollars over the past five year to bring about regime change and to convert Ukraine into a fully democratic country and making it ready to enter the European Union?

    The western allies put a Nazi Government into Kiev, created a “civil war” with the eastern Russia-aligned part of Ukraine, the Donbass. Thousands of people were killed, millions fled the country, mostly to Russia, the country’s debt went through the roof, and in comes the IMF, approving in December 2018 a 14-month Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine, with an immediate disbursement of US$ 1.4 billion. This is totally against the IMF’s own Constitution, because it does not allow lending to a country at war or conflict. Ukraine was an “exception”, dictated by the US. Blamed for the ever-changing and escalating Ukraine fiasco was Russia.

    Another IMF victim is Argentina. In December 2015 through fraudulent election, Washington put a neoliberal henchman into the Presidency, Mauricio Macri. He carried out economic and labor reforms by decree and within the first 12 months in office, increased unemployment and poverty from about 12% he inherited from his predecessor, Christine Kirchner, to over 30%.

    Within 15 years of Kirchner Governments, Argentina largely recovered from the collapse of 2000 / 2001 / 2002, accumulating a healthy reserve. There was no need to call the IMF to the rescue, except if it was a pre-condition for Macri to become president. In September 2018, Argentina contracted from the IMF the largest ever IMF loan of 57.1 billion dollars, to be disbursed over a three-year period, plunging Argentina in an almost irrecoverable debt situation.

    The Bretton Woods Organizations — World Bank and IMF — were created in 1944 precisely for that reason, to enslave the world, particularly the resources-rich countries. The purpose of these so-called international financial institutions, foresaw an absolute veto power of the United States, meaning they are doing the bidding of the US Treasury. They were created under the UN Charter for good disguise, and are to work hand-in-glove with the fiat monetary system created in 1913 by the Federal Reserve Act. The pretext was to monitor western “convertible” currencies that subscribed to the also newly modified gold standard (1 Troy ounce [31.1 grams] of gold = US$ 35), also established during the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944.

    Both organizations started lending money – the Marshall Fund, managed by the world Bank in the 1950s – to war devastated Europe, moving gradually into economic development of “Third World” countries, and eventually, in the 1980s, showing their evil heads by introducing the neoliberal doctrines of the Washington Consensus worldwide. It is a miracle how they get away with spewing so much misery, literally unopposed for the last 30 – 40 years, throughout the world. Why are they not stopped and dismantled?  The UN has 193 members; only a small proportion of them benefit from the IMF-WB financial crimes. Why does the vast majority, also potential victims, remain silent?

    Nuclear War: Just Another Day

    Catastrophic events that send the world into turmoil happen on ‘just another day’. The atom bomb that exploded over Hiroshima took place while thousands of ordinary folk were just going about their everyday business on ‘just another day’. A missile attack on a neighbourhood in Gaza or a drone attack on unsuspecting civilians in Afghanistan: death and destruction come like a bolt from the blue as people shop at the local market or take their kids to school on ‘just another day’.

    Will it be ‘just another day’ when the next nuclear bomb is exploded in anger, an ordinary day when people are just going about their daily business? By then it might be too late to do anything, too late to act to try to prevent an unfolding global catastrophe on a scale never before witnessed by humans.

    Yet so many appear too apathetic and wrapped up in a world of gadgets, technology, shopping malls, millionaire sports players and big-time sports events to think that such a thing could be imminent.

    Are they so preoccupied with the machinations of their own lives in cotton-wool cocooned societies to think that what is happening in Syria or Iraq is just too boring to follow or that it doesn’t really concern them or it is ‘not my problem’? Do they think they are untouchable, that only death, war and violence happens in faraway places?

    Could any of us even contemplate that on some not-too-distant day a series of European cities could be laid waste within a matter of minutes? It isn’t worth thinking about. Or is it?

    The US (and the West’s) foreign policy is being driven on the basis of fake morality and duplicity. Millions lie dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya as a result of US-led imperialism and nuclear-armed Russia is constantly demonised simply because it will not acquiesce to Washington and serve as a vassal state.

    And now, as the US continues to stir up tensions with Iran and as China warns neighbouring countries about allowing US nuclear missiles aimed at it on their territories, much of the Western public and media remain oblivious to the dangers of conflict escalation and the biggest immediate threat to all life on Earth: nuclear war.

    The threat of mass murder

    Some fell to the ground and their stomachs already expanded full, burst and organs fell out. Others had skin falling off them and others still were carrying limbs. And one in particular was carrying their eyeballs in their hand.

    The above extract comes from an account by a Hiroshima survivor talking about the fate of her schoolmates. In 2016, it was read out in the British parliament by Scottish National Party MP Chris Law during a debate about Britain’s nuclear arsenal.

    In response to a question from MP George Kereven, the then British PM Theresa May said without hesitation that, if necessary, she would authorise the use of a nuclear weapon that would kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. May also implied that those wishing to scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons are siding with the nation’s enemies.

    Politicians like May read from a script devised by elite interests. This transnational capitalist class dictates global economic policies and decides on who lives and who dies and which wars are fought and inflicted on which people.

    The mainstream narrative tends to depict individuals who belong to this class as ‘wealth creators’. In reality, however, these ‘high flyers’ have stolen ordinary people’s wealth, stashed it away in tax havens, bankrupted economies and have imposed a form of globalisation that results in devastating destruction and war for those who attempt to remain independent or structurally adjusted violence via privatisation and economic neoliberalism for millions in countries that have acquiesced.

    While ordinary folk across the world have been subjected to policies that have resulted in oppression, poverty and conflict, this is all passed off by politicians and the mainstream media as the way things must be.

    The agritech sector poisons our food and agriculture. Madelaine Albright says it was worth it to have killed half a million kids in Iraq to secure energy resources for rich corporations and extend the wider geopolitical goals of ‘corporate America’. The welfare state is dismantled and austerity is imposed on millions. The rich increase their already enormous wealth. Powerful corporations corrupt government machinery and colonise every aspect of life for profit. Environmental destruction and ecological devastation continue apace.

    And nuclear weapons hang over humanity like the sword of Damocles.

    The public is supposed to back this status quo in support of what? Austerity, powerlessness, imperialism, propping up the US dollar and a moribund system. For whom? Occidental Petroleum, Soros, Murdoch, Rothschild, BP, JP Morgan, Boeing and the rest of the elite and their corporations whose policies are devised in think tanks and handed to politicians to sell to a largely ignorant public: those who swallow the lie about some ‘war on terror’ or Washington as the world’s policeman, protecting life and liberty.

    Rejecting hegemonic thought

    Many believe nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and fall into line with hegemonic thinking about humanity being inherently conflictual, competitive and war-like. Such tendencies do, of course, exist, but they do not exist in a vacuum. They are fuelled by capitalism and imperialism and played upon by politicians, the media and elite interests who seek to scare the population into accepting a ‘necessary’ status quo.

    Co-operation and equality are as much a part of any arbitrary aspect of ‘human nature’ as any other defined characteristic. These values are, however, sidelined by a system of capitalism that is inherently conflict-ridden and expansionist.

    Much of humanity has been convinced to accept the potential for instant nuclear Armageddon hanging over its collective head as a given, as a ‘deterrent’. However, the reality is that these weapons exist to protect elite, imperialist interests or to pressure others to cave into their demands. If the 20th century has shown us anything, it is these interests are adept at gathering the masses under notions of flag, god and country to justify their slaughter.

    To prevent us all shuddering with the fear of the threat of instant nuclear destruction on a daily basis, it’s a case of don’t worry, be happy, forget about it and watch TV. It was the late academic Rick Roderick who highlighted that modern society trivialises issues that are of ultimate importance: they eventually become banal or ‘matter of fact’ to the population.

    People are spun the notion that nuclear-backed militarism and neoliberalism and its structural violence are necessary for securing peace, defeating terror, creating prosperity or promoting ‘growth’. The ultimate banality is to accept this pack of lies and to believe there is no alternative, to acquiesce or just switch off to it all.

    Instead of acquiescing and accepting it as ‘normal’, we should listen to writer and campaigner Robert J Burrowes:

    Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible. Undoubtedly, however, the most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labour, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of animals despite eating and/or otherwise consuming a range of animal products, and denying any part in inflicting violence, especially on children, without understanding the many forms this violence can take.

    Burrowes concludes by saying that ultimately, we evade responsibility by ignoring the existence of a problem. The evasion of responsibility, acquiescence and acceptance are, of course, part of the conditioning process.

    The ‘problem’ encompasses not only ongoing militarism, but the structural violence of neoliberal capitalism, aided and abetted by the World Bank, IMF and the WTO. It’s a type of violence that is steady, lingering and a daily fact of life under globalised capitalism.

    Of course, oppression and conflict have been a feature throughout history and have taken place under various economic and political systems. Indeed, in his various articles, Burrowes goes deep into the psychology and causes of violence.

    But there is potentially a different path for humanity. In 1990, the late British MP Tony Benn gave a speech in parliament that indicated the kind of values that such a route might look like.

    Benn spoke about having been on a crowded train, where people had been tapping away on calculators and not interacting or making eye contact with one another. It represented what Britain had apparently become under Thatcherism: excessively individualistic, materialistic, narcissistic and atomised.

    The train broke down. As time went by, people began to talk with one another, offer snacks and share stories. Benn said it wasn’t too long before that train had been turned into a socialist train of self-help, communality and comradeship. Despite the damaging policies and ideology of Thatcherism, these features had survived her tenure, were deeply embedded and never too far from the surface.

    For Tony Benn, what had been witnessed aboard that train was an aspect of ‘human nature’ that is too often suppressed, devalued and, when used as a basis for political change, regarded as a threat to ruling interests. It is an aspect that draws on notions of unity, solidarity, common purpose, self-help and finds its ultimate expression in the vibrancy of community, the collective ownership of productive resources and co-operation. The type of values far removed from the destructive, divisive ones of imperialism and capitalism which key politicians and the corporate media protect and promote.

    “Ukrainegate” Teaches Us More About Ourselves Than Trump Or Biden

    Anti-Imperialism protest in the Phillippines. Photo: Carlo Manalansan by Bulatlat

    ‘Ukrainegate’ has opened the floodgates of impeachment in Washington, DC. President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky provided such an opportunity that Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who resisted pressure for impeachment, is now on board along with a majority of the party. Democrats are moving quickly to make Trump the third president ever to be impeached.

    Conviction is up to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required, so that is very unlikely. Trump will probably be the Republican nominee even though he has never broken 50 percent support in the polls. Chris Hedges writes that a partisan impeachment will anger the people in Trump’s base who view him as challenging the establishment and could backfire for the Democrats.

    The political impact of impeachment depends on how the Democrats build their case and whether it becomes bi-partisan. Richard Nixon grew more unpopular and public support for his impeachment grew during the process. Bill Clinton consistently had more than 60 percent support during his presidency, ending with 66 percent popularity while support for impeachment decreased as it progressed. Trump starts with a historically low level of popularity, whether an angered base and failed impeachment in the Senate will help Trump is too soon to say.

    Impeachment by the House seems inevitable even though less than a majority of voters currently support it. The Democrats need to be careful because shining a light on Ukraine, where Obama-Biden conducted the most open coup in US history (until the recent Trump failed coup in Venezuela,) could undermine Joe Biden, their highest polling candidate. It will also expose the ugly realities of US foreign policy, the corporate control of both parties and the need for fundamental change in US politics.

    Joe Biden with Petro Poroshenko, who was an informant for the US government for six years before becoming president. Photo: Sergey Dolzhenko for EPA.

    The US Coup in Ukraine

    The openness of the US coup in Ukraine is something to behold. In December 2013, Victoria Nuland, the Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, bragged to a meeting of the International Business Conference sponsored by the US-Ukrainian Foundation that the US had ‘invested’ more than $5 billion and “five years worth of work and preparation” to bring Ukraine into the US orbit. In November 2013, President Yanuyovch rejected an EU Agreement in favor of joining Russia’s Common Union with the other Commonwealth Independent States.

    The timeline of events around the coup shows pressure and bribery were being used including the promise of a $1.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan and $850 million from the World Bank. Nuland described three trips to Ukraine where she made it “absolutely clear” to Yanukovych that the US required “immediate steps” …to “get back into conversation with Europe and the IMF.” Threats and payoffs were the modes of US operation.

    Nuland was also meeting with the Ukrainian opposition including the neo-Nazi Svoboda party. Less than one month before the coup removed Yanuyovch on January 30, 2014, the State Department announced Nuland would be meeting “with government officials, opposition leaders, civil society and business leaders to encourage agreement on a new government and plan of action.” On February 4, Nuland was caught speaking on a taped open telephone conversation with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, discussing the next government saying,  “I think Yats is the guy,” referring to Holocaust-denier, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who became the post-coup prime minister. In the call, she also urged that Yats should work with neo-Nazis.

    Shortly after Yats became Prime Minister, Joe Biden called him. Biden was the White House point-person on Ukraine. At a press conference, Obama touted Biden’s role while stumbling over Yats’ name, saying: “Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister [pause] – the prime minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts.”

    In addition to Yats, the post-coup president of Ukraine was known by US authorities as “Our Ukraine Insider” or “OU.” A series of Wikileaks documents showed OU had been working as an informant for the United States for six years. A Wikileaks cable made clear the US considered Petro Poroshenko to be corrupt but his “price had to be paid.” In a cable involving Secretary of State Clinton, OU explained the value of the US being in Crimea — Russia’s only seaport and long-time naval base.

    OU added another US agent, Natalia Jaresko, a long-time State Department official, who went to Ukraine after the U.S.-sponsored Orange Revolution. Jaresko was made a Ukrainian citizen by OU on the same day he appointed her finance minister. Between the Orange Revolution and the 2014 coup, William Boardman reports, Jaresko ran a hedge fund in Ukraine used to manage “a CIA fund that supported ‘pro-democracy movements’ and laundered much of the $5 billion the US spent supporting the Maidan protests that led to the Kiev coup.” Jaresko received $1.77 million in bonuses from the tax-payer funded investment project in addition to her $150,000 annual salary. She is now head of the “La Junta” in Puerto Rico.

    In addition to controlling the top government posts in Ukraine, the US moved to control key economic sectors. Regarding agriculture, Monsanto was given the ability to buy property (which had been previously forbidden) and an $8.7 billion IMF loan required Ukraine to allow biotech farming and the sale of Monsanto’s poison crops and chemicals thereby destroying farmland that was one of the most pristine in Europe.

    Regarding energy, the largest private gas company in Ukraine, Bursima Holdings, appointed Vice President Joe Biden‘s son, Hunter Biden, and a close friend of Secretary of State John Kerry, and Devon Archer, the college roommate of Kerry’s stepson, to the board. Archer also served as an adviser to Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, co-chaired his National Finance Committee and serves as a trustee of the Heinz Family Office, which manages the family business. Hunter Biden and Archer, along with Christopher Heinz, co-founded Rosemont Seneca Partners.

    President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meet in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: Saul Loeb for Getty Images

    Trump’s Phone Call with Zelensky Urging Investigation of Biden

    Donald Trump is concerned about Biden as a political opponent in the 2020 election. Although he is fading in current polls, Biden still leads among Democrats seeking the nomination and defeats Trump in all head-to-head polls, as do other leading Democratic candidates.

    The impeachment spike occurred because of a July 25 telephone call between Trump and President Zelensky where Trump urged Zelensky to investigate Biden. A CIA official filed a whistleblower complaint about it and the Inspector General sent a letter to Jerry Maguire, Director of National Intelligence, who initially withheld both from Congress. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, found the complaint to be “credible” and “of urgent concern” and alerted Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, about it. The administration has taken steps to restrict access to records of the call, the transcript of which has still not been provided to Congress.

    Since December 2018, Rudy Guiliani had been pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden and Hunter Biden’s involvement with Bursima. The April 21 election of Zelensky and July 21 Parliamentary elections, which brought in a new government, undid much of Guiliani’s lobbying. Trump’s call after the legislative elections, ostensibly to congratulate Zelensky, included multiple mentions of the need to investigate Biden. The Washington Post reports, “Days after the two presidents spoke…Giuliani met with an aide to the Ukrainian president in Madrid and spelled out two specific cases he believed Ukraine should pursue. One was a probe of a Ukrainian gas tycoon who had Biden’s son Hunter on his board. Another was an allegation that Democrats colluded with Ukraine to release information on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the 2016 election.”

    Manafort was one of the few convictions from the Mueller investigation. Manafort was indicted on twelve counts, including committing conspiracy against the United States by failing to register as a foreign agent of Ukraine. Manafort pleaded guilty to that charge in September 2018.

    Democrats calling for impeachment describe Trump’s actions as coercing a foreign nation into the 2020 elections by pressuring them to investigate a chief rival, Joe Biden. Trump withheld military funding for Ukraine and scheduling a meeting with Zelensky at the White House as coercive instruments. US policy in Ukraine has emphasized militarism against Russia since the coup. The New Yorker reports, “McCain was calling for the U.S. to arm Ukraine for defense against a ‘Russian invasion’ that he sees as part of Putin’s plan to ‘re-establish the old Russian empire.’ McCain also called for the U.S. to send military ‘advisors.’”

    Trump says he is waiting to see if Zelensky will “play ball” with the US. Trump is using threats and payoffs in Ukraine, just as Joe Biden did.

    Joe Biden points to some faces in the crowd with his son Hunter in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2009. Photo: Carlos Barria For Reuters.

    The Risk to Biden Grows

    While Trump is deservedly at serious risk for impeachment, the risk to Biden is also growing. Politico reports that Joe Biden is waging war on the Hunter Biden-Ukraine reporting. The risk to Biden is existential, he needs Democrats to remain silent and for the impeachment inquiry not to examine what Trump was investigating in Ukraine.

    In January 2018, Biden bragged on video in his speech to the Council on Foreign Relations how he pressured Ukraine to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin saying he would not approve a $1 billion dollar IMF loan if Shokin was not fired before Biden left Ukraine during a six-hour visit.  On April 1, The Hill published an article that reports: “The prosecutor [Biden] got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member.” They report Rosemont Seneca Partners received “regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015,” confirmed by US banking records. Shokin’s file shows prosecutors identified Hunter Biden, business partner Devon Archer, and their firm, Rosemont Seneca, as potential recipients of the money.

    The article further reports that Shokin wrote before he was fired that he had made “specific plans” for the investigation that “included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.” This is consistent with a sworn affidavit of Shokin (see shokin-ukraine-prosecutor-sworn-statement) where he said, “Poroshenko asked me to resign due to pressure from…Joe Biden…who was threatening to withhold USD $1 billion in subsidies to Ukraine until I was removed.” There were no complaints against Shokin at the time. He explains, “The truth is I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe of Bursima Holdings.” Shokin describes how Poroshenko had asked him to end the probe multiple times and he had refused.

    The Hill reports that “interviews with a half-dozen senior Ukrainian officials confirm Biden’s account, though they claim the pressure was applied over several months in late 2015 and early 2016, not just six hours of one dramatic day.” Obama named Biden the administration’s point man on Ukraine in February 2014, after the coup and as Crimea was voting to return to Russia.

    The New Yorker not only details Hunter’s personal and professional problems but also reports that Guiliani said “in the fall of 2018, he spoke to Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s former Prosecutor General. Shokin told him that Vice-President Biden had him fired in 2016 because he was investigating Burisma and the company’s payments to Hunter and Archer. Giuliani said that, in January 2019, he met with Yurii Lutsenko, Ukraine’s current prosecutor general, in New York, and Lutsenko confirmed Shokin’s version of events.” Biden and his supporters are working to change the narrative, perhaps the impeachment inquiry will get the facts out.

    This weekend, Mykola Azarov, Ukraine’s former prime minister from 2010-2014, said in an interview that Ukraine must investigate whether Hunter Biden’s role in Burisma complied with the country’s laws; i.e., investigate what Biden had done for Burisma to justify his remuneration. Further, he said allegations that Joe Biden had gotten Ukraine’s prosecutor general fired to protect his son must also be investigated. On Friday, Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau said it was investigating activity at Burisma between 2010-2012, but it was not looking into changes to its board in 2014 when Hunter Biden joined.

    Protesters opposing a coup against Nicolás Maduro outside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2019. Photo: Jose Luis Magana for AP.

    The Quagmire Of US Imperialism

    The Ukraine crisis exposes the bipartisan corruption inherent in the US imperialist foreign policy. An investigation into Ukraine may expose what are actually common practices by both Democratic and Republican administrations in regime change efforts. As John Kiriakou explained when he gave a talk at the Venezuelan Embassy during the Embassy Protection Collective action, the CIA has a secret regime change office that provides plans to overthrow any government the US chooses to target. These plans involve similar tactics – the investment of large amounts of money into NGOs (often ‘human rights groups’), support for a violent opposition, installing US-trained and controlled leaders and payoffs for those involved.

    In the past, these practices occurred behind closed doors, but now it seems the ruling class has become so brazen, it doesn’t try very hard to hide what it’s doing. This provides an opportunity for the public to discuss whether or not the current foreign policy is serving our interests or the world. If we agree that it doesn’t, then it is up to us to organize to change it.

    Regime change efforts have had disastrous consequences. Certainly, no country is better off than it was before US interference.  Look at Iraq and Libya, thriving countries that were thrown into chaos, for recent examples. Ukraine has elected a new government, but its GDP is 24 percent smaller now than it was in 1993, and corruption has continued. And the echoes of US regime change from 1953 in removing Mohammad Mosaddegh, the elected Prime Minister of Iran, continue to reverberate and poison relations between the US and Iran.

    Other countries have resisted regime change but have paid a heavy price. Syria is trying to rebuild after more than eight years of war instigated and supported by the US. Venezuela is resisting ongoing coup attempts and brutal unilateral coercive measures imposed by the US. This week at the United Nations, Venezuela successfully prevented the US from removing its diplomats but the US doubled down on its regime change tactics. Even leading Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are making false claims about Venezuela.

    As residents in a corrupt, corporate-controlled, imperialist country, we have a responsibility to ourselves and the world to take action to stop the US disastrous foreign policy. The world is changing. The US will no longer be the hegemon. Will we allow the US to continue wreaking havoc as it goes down, or are we ready to change course and become a cooperative member of the global community? Last weekend, we held the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine. On October 11, we’ll participate in the Rage Against the War Machine actions at the White House. We are committed to organizing to end US imperialism because it is fundamental in creating the future world we need.