Category Archives: NGOs

Open Letter to Amnesty International by a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience

Through this letter I express my unequivocal condemnation of Amnesty International with regards to the destabilizing role it has played in Nicaragua, my country of birth.

I open this letter quoting Donatella Rovera, who at the time this quote was made, had been one of Amnesty International’s field investigators for more than 20 years:

Conflict situations create highly politicized and polarized environments (…). Players and interested parties go to extraordinary lengths to manipulate or manufacture “evidence” for both internal and external consumption. A recent, though by no means the only, example is provided by the Syrian conflict in what is often referred to as the “YouTube war,” with a myriad techniques employed to manipulate video footage of incidents which occurred at other times in other places – including in other countries – and present them as “proof” of atrocities committed by one or the other parties to the conflict in Syria.

Ms. Rovera’s remarks, made in 2014, properly describe the situation of Nicaragua today, where even the preamble of the crisis was manipulated to generate rejection of the Nicaraguan government. Amnesty International’s maliciously titled report, Shoot to Kill: Nicaragua’s Strategy to Repress Protest, could be dismantled point by point, but doing so requires precious time that the Nicaraguan people don’t have, therefore I will concentrate on two main points:

(a) The report completely lacks neutrality; and,
(b) Amnesty International’s role is contributing to the chaos in which the nation finds itself.

The operating narrative, agreed-upon by the local opposition and the corporate western media, is as follows: That president Ortega sought to cut 5 percent from retirees’ monthly retirement checks, and that he was going to increase contributions, made by employees and employers, into the social security system. The reforms sparked protests, the response to which was a government-ordered genocide of peaceful protestors, more than 60, mostly students. A day or two after that, the Nicaraguan government would wait until nightfall to send its police force out in order to decimate the Nicaraguan population, night after night, city by city, in the process destroying its own public buildings and killing its own police force, to then culminate its murderous rampage with a Mothers’ Day massacre, and so on.

While the above narrative is not uniformly expressed by all anti-government actors, the unifying elements are that the government is committing genocide, and that the president and vice-president must go.

Amnesty International’s assertions are mostly based on either testimony by anti-government witnesses and victims, or the uncorroborated and highly manipulated information emitted by U.S.-financed anti-government media outlets, and non-profit organizations, collectively known as “civil society.”

The three main media organizations cited by the report: Confidencial, 100% Noticias, and La Prensa, are sworn enemies of the Ortega government; most of these opposition news media organizations, along with some, if not all, of the main non-profits cited by the report, are funded by the United States, through organizations like the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which has been characterized by retired U.S. Congressman, Ron Paul, as:

… an organization that uses US tax money to actually subvert democracy, by showering funding on favored political parties or movements overseas. It underwrites color-coded ‘people’s revolutions’ overseas that look more like pages out of Lenin’s writings on stealing power than genuine indigenous democratic movements.

Amnesty’s report heavily relies on 100% Noticias, an anti-government news outlet that has aired manipulated and inflammatory material to generate hatred against the Nicaraguan government, including footage of peaceful protesters, unaware of the fact that the protesters were carrying pistols, rifles, and were shooting at police officers during incidents reported by the network as acts of police repression of opposition marches. On Mothers’ Day, 100% Noticias reported the purported shooting of unarmed protesters by police shooters, including an incident in which a young man’s brains were spilling out of his skull. The network followed the report with a photograph that Ms. Rovera would refer to as an incident “…which occurred at other times in other places.” The picture included in the report was quickly met on social media by links to past online articles depicting the same image.

One of the sources (footnote #77) cited to corroborate the alleged denial of medical care at state hospitals to patients injured at opposition events –one of the main accusations repeated and reaffirmed by Amnesty International- is a press conference published by La Prensa, in which the Chief of Surgery denies claims that he had been fired, or that hospital officials had denied care to protesters at the beginning of the conflict. “I repeat,” he is heard saying, “as the chief of surgery, I repeat [the] order: to take care of, I will be clear, to take care of the entire population that comes here, without investigating anything at all.” In other words, one of Amnesty International’s own sources contradicts one of its report’s main claims.

The above-mentioned examples of manipulated and manufactured evidence, to borrow the words of Amnesty’s own investigator, are just a small sample, but they capture the essence of this modality of U.S.-sponsored regime change. The report feeds on claims from those on one side of the conflict, and relies on deeply corrupted evidence; it ultimately helps create the mirage of a genocidal state, in turn generating more anti-government sentiment locally and abroad, and paving the way for ever more aggressive foreign intervention.

A different narrative

The original reforms to social security were not proposed by the Sandinista government, but by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and they were supported by an influential business group, known as COSEP. They included raising the retirement age from 60 to 65 and doubling the number of quotas necessary to get full social security from 750 to 1500. Among the impacted retirees, approximately 53,000, are the families of combatants who died in the armed conflict of the 1980s, from both the Sandinista army and the “Contras,” the mercenary army financed by the United States government in the 1980s, around the same time the NED was created, in part, to stop the spread of Sandinismo in Latin America.

The Nicaraguan government countered the IMF’s reforms by rejecting the cutting out of any retirees, with a proposed 5% cut to all retirement checks, an increase in all contributions to the social security system, and with fiscal reform that removed a tax-ceiling that protected Nicaragua’s biggest salaries from higher taxation. The business sector was furious, and together with nongovernmental organizations, organized the first marches, using the pretext of the reforms in the same manipulative way Amnesty International’s report explains them: “… the reform increased social security contributions by both employers and employees and imposed an additional 5% contribution on pensioners.”

The continuing narrative, repeated and validated by Amnesty International, is that the protesters are peaceful and the genocidal government is irrationally bent on committing atrocities in plain sight. Meanwhile, the number of dead among Sandinista supporters and police officers continues to rise. The report states that ballistic investigations suggest that those shooting at protesters are likely trained snipers, pointing to government involvement, but fails to mention that many of the victims are Sandinistas, regular citizens, and police officers. It also does not mention that the “peaceful protesters” have burned down and destroyed more than 60 public buildings, among them many City Halls, Sandinista houses, markets, artisan shops, radio stations, and more; nor does it mention that the protesters have established “tranques,” or roadblocks, in order to debilitate the economy as a tactic to oust the government. Such “tranques” have become extremely dangerous scenes where murder, robbery, kidnapping, and the rape of at least one child have taken place; a young pregnant woman whose ambulance wasn’t let through also died on May 17th. All of these crimes occur daily and are highly documented, but aren’t included in Amnesty International’s report.

While the organization is right to criticize the government’s belittling response to the initial protests, such response was not entirely untrue. According to the report, Vice-President Murillo said, among other things, that “…they [the protesters] had made up the reports of fatalities (…) as part of an anti-government strategy.” What Amnesty leaves out is that several of the reported dead students did turn up alive, one of them all the way in Spain, while others had not been killed at rallies, nor were they students or activists, including one who died from a scattered bullet, and another who died from a heart attack in his bed.

Amnesty’s report also leaves out that many of the students have deserted the movement, alleging that there are criminals entrenched at universities as well as at the various “tranques,” who are only interested in destabilizing the nation. Those criminals have created a state of sustained fear among the population, imposing “taxes” on those who want passage, persecuting those who refuse to be detained, kidnapping them, beating them, torturing them, and setting their cars on fire. In a common practice, they undress their victims, paint their naked bodies in public with the blue and white of the Nicaraguan flag, and then set them free, prompting them to run right before shooting them with homemade mortar weapons. All of this information, which did not make the report, is available in numerous videos and other sources.

Why Nicaragua?

The most basic review of the history between Nicaragua and the United States will show a clear rivalry. Beginning in the mid-1800s, Nicaragua has been resisting U.S. intervention into the country’s affairs, a resistance that continued through the 20th century, first with General August C. Sandino’s fight in the 1920s and 30s, and then with the Sandinistas, organized as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which overthrew the U.S.-supported, 40-year Somoza family dictatorship in 1979. The FSLN, despite having gained power through armed struggle, called for elections shortly after its triumph in 1984, and eventually lost to yet another U.S.-supported coalition of right-wing political parties in 1990. The FSLN once again managed, aided by pacts made with the church and the opposition, to win the election of 2006, and has remained in power since.

In addition to Nicaragua’s close ties with Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, and especially China, with whom the country signed a contract to build a canal, the other main reason the United States is after the Sandinistas, is Nicaragua’s highly successful economic model, which represents an existential threat to the neoliberal economic order imposed by the U.S. and its allies.

Despite always being among the poorest nations in the American continent and the world, Nicaragua has managed, since Ortega returned to power in 2007, to cut poverty by three quarters. Prior to the protests in April, the country’s economy sustained a steady annual economic growth of about 5% for several years, and the country had the third fastest-growing economy in Latin America, and was one of the safest nations in the region.

The government’s infrastructural upgrades have facilitated trade among Nicaragua’s poorest citizens; they have created universal access to education: primary, secondary, and university; there are programs on land, housing, nutrition, and more; the healthcare system, while modest, is not only excellent, but accessible to everyone. Approximately 90% of the food consumed by Nicaraguans is produced in Nicaragua, and about 70% of jobs come from the grassroots economy –rather than from transnational corporations- including from small investors from the United States and Europe, who have moved to the country and are a driving force behind the tourism industry.

The audacity of success, of giving its poorest citizens a life with dignity, of being an example of sovereignty to wealthier, more powerful nations, all in direct contradiction to the neoliberal model and its emphasis on privatization and austerity, has once again placed Nicaragua in the crosshairs of U.S. intervention. Imagine the example to other nations -their economies already strangled by neoliberal policies- becoming aware of one of the poorest countries on earth being able to feed its people and grow its economy without throwing its poorest citizens under the iron boot of capitalism. The United States will never tolerate such a dangerous example.

In closing

The Nicaraguan government has deficiencies and contradictions to work on, like all governments, and as a Sandinista myself I would like to see the party transformed in various important ways, both internally and externally. I have refrained from writing of those deficiencies and contradictions, however, because the violent protests and ensuing chaos we have seen are not the result of the Nicaraguan government’s shortcomings, but rather, of its many successes; that inconvenient truth is the reason the United States and its allies, including Amnesty International, have chosen to “…create highly politicized and polarized environments (…). [And to] go to extraordinary lengths to manipulate or manufacture “evidence” for both internal and external consumption.”

At a time when even the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and the Vatican have called for peaceful and constitutional reforms as the only way out of the conflict, Amnesty International has continued to beseech the international community to not “abandon the Nicaraguan people.” Such biased stance, obscenely bloated on highly manipulated, distorted, and one-sided information, has made the terrible situation in Nicaragua even worse. The loss of Nicaraguan lives, including the blood of those ignored by Amnesty International, has been used to manufacture the “evidence” used in the organization’s report, which makes the organization complicit in what future foreign intervention might fall upon the Nicaraguan people. It is now up to the organization to correct that wrong, and to do so in a way that reflects a firm commitment first and foremost to the truth, wherever it might fall, and to neutrality, peace, democracy, and always, to the sovereignty of every nation on earth.

Sincerely,

Camilo E. Mejia

Who’s Funding the White Helmets?

You’ve no doubt heard of the White Helmets, aka the Syria Civil Defense. They claim to be a neutral entity in Syria. They say they are just helping people caught in the middle of a civil war. But are they? Follow the money and you will find numerous ties to government funding from not only the U.S., but the U.K., Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. We untangle these ties to the White Helmets in a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

Dear Salafist Wahhabist Apologists

Your head chopper heros are apparently not what Syrians have in mind when they think of democratic revolution.

Mehdi Hasan (MH) can hardly be blamed for the ignorance that he displays in his Intercept article, “Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn’t Gas Syrians.”  He has apparently never been to Syria, doesn’t often do research on Syria, and gets his information from proponents of a single point of view, representing a bunch of idealists that want to usher in their idea of a liberal democracy in Syria, without benefit of electoral niceties until their power is already ironclad.  What’s wrong with this picture?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start by deconstructing the absurdities and the language in the MH article.

Thankfully, MH has spared us the need to deconstruct the absurd accusation that the Syrian armed forces have used chemical weapons.  He apparently accepts that they don’t need to, that there is no benefit in using them, so why would they? OK, then who did? Cui bono? Easy answer.  The motive of the promoters of destruction in Syria is to create a pretext for the US and its partners to bomb, invade and establish a no-fly zone; i.e., to directly take on the Syrian government and its allies.  These war criminals include the neoconservative cabal in the US, the Zionist and Israeli proponents of using the US to fight Israel’s perceived enemies, and the Saudi and Qatari adventurists backing the Project for a New Salafist Paradise.  These are the same players who brought us Iraq I and II, Libya, Afghanistan forever, Somalia and Yemen.  What more could we wish for?

So let us move on to the MH complaint about barrel bombs. What is the complaint, exactly?  Are they more horrible than other types of bombs? Is it OK to use bombs manufactured in western munitions factories for delivery by jet airplanes but not ones manufactured in Syria and delivered by helicopter?  Never mind.  It’s a great opportunity for MH to use the hyped term “BARREL BOMB” in order to enrage and terrify an undiscerning readership.

But what about all the civilian casualties, and isn’t the Syrian army to blame?  Well, no, ISIS and the pseudonymous al-Qaeda affiliates are quite happy to post videos of their stonings, beheadings, crucifixions and immolations, so we know the army can’t be the only ones.  In fact, given the summary executions of non-Muslims in territories “liberated” from the government, is there any reason to think that the forces fighting the Syrian government are responsible for fewer civilian deaths? I myself met refugees who had fled up to 70 km over the mountains in the dead of winter to Latakia in March, 2013 with no more than the clothes on their back.  No one knows how many children and old people died.

Aircraft? The anti-government fighters don’t have them, do they? No, but they seem to be quite resourceful in eliminating innocent human lives nonetheless.  An example is the at least 10,000 civilians that have lost their lives in Damascus due to mortars and “hell cannons” (which also use “barrel bombs”) since the start of the hostilities.  Other examples include the withering four-year siege of the Shiite towns of Foua and Kafraya near Idlib and the unrelenting bombardment via “hell cannon” of the city of Aleppo from the enclave of East Aleppo until it was finally recovered by government forces in late 2016.

On the other hand, for those (unlike MH and the mainstream media), who consider evidence to be relevant, there is a plethora available to show that the Syrian army has been unusually respectful of civilian life. The claim is that Syria and its Russian allies have obliterated entire neighborhoods, raining bombs on the civilian population.  The facts are somewhat at odds with this description.

First, there are the civilian casualties themselves.  The UN stopped keeping casualty statistics in early 2016, but even the anti-government Syrian Observatory for Human Rights concedes that less that 1/3 of all casualties are civilians.  No other war on record has had such a low ratio. By comparison, 2/3 were civilian casualties in Vietnam, WWII and most other wars.

Second, the Syrian army liberation of Homs, Aleppo and other areas has followed a typical progression that is quite the opposite of “just kill them all”.  First, the army surrounds the area and lays siege. At this point, if the army wants to flatten the area and bring an end to the resistance there, it has the perfect means to do so.  But it does not.  Instead, it positions relief supplies at the perimeter and makes them available without prejudice to the inhabitants.  It also offers sanctuary to all who wish to leave.  Amazingly, this includes even the fighters.  Syrian fighters willing to lay down their arms are offered amnesty.  But many are not initially willing to accept amnesty, and many are not Syrian.  To these, the government offers safe passage to other parts of Syria under opposition control, even permitting the fighters to keep their small arms.

If they refuse, the siege and the fighting continue, often for more than a year, and bombing is often a part of the campaign, especially toward the end, after multiple unilateral ceasefires from the government side, to try to conclude a peaceful end, as in Aleppo.  The bombing is typically in the least inhabited areas, in order to remove cover for fighters, so that the army will incur fewer casualties when it goes in.  The strategy doesn’t always work, but the low ratio of civilian casualties is a testimony to its relative success.

Why does the Syrian government do this?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just level the entire area, civilians and all, and be rid of the fighters once and for all?

Not really.  The government is aware that families are split, with some fighting on one side and some on another. One of the reasons so many Syrians remain loyal to the government is that it is seeking to protect all Syrians on all sides, with the intention of regaining their allegiance.  The government also recognizes that many of the opposition fighters are, in effect, mercenaries, for whom fighting is a way to put food on the table when there are no other sources of income.  Such fighters are not really enemies, just desperate people.  Given an opportunity, they will easily return to the government side.

Then there are the hyped bombing casualty statistics. As I pointed out in 2015, even if we accept the statistics of the highly biased anti-government Human Rights Watch, the number of casualties per bomb is only two, including combatants.  If we apply the ratio of civilian deaths, that is less than one civilian casualty per bomb, a clear indication that the Syrian air force is being far more respectful of civilians than the US was, for example, in its bombing of Raqqah, where twice as many civilians as fighters were killed.

But MH is slamming a position that nobody holds. The number of “leftists” that consider Bashar al-Assad a hero infinitesimal. There may be many Syrians who do, but that is not who MH is referring to.  MH is misinterpreting the actions of some journalists (including “leftists”) to correct distortions and false information as defense of Assad.  Perhaps the distinction is too subtle for him, but an aversion to disinformation and lynch mob mentality is not the same as being pro-Assad.  It’s not very helpful to say, on the one hand, that you oppose intervention in Syria, and then take all your (false) information from pro-intervention sources.  In that case the interventionists will applaud your non-intervention stance.

Those of us whom MH accuses of being pro-Assad are nothing of the sort.  We believe that Syrian sovereignty and territory should be fully respected (as MH also claims to believe), but we think it is important to counter the fake news and propaganda that are being used to justify the invasion of Syria.  MH is in love with fake news.  He prefers not to mention the killing of police in the uprisings that he describes as “peaceful demonstrations”. He prefers to cherry-pick the opinions of Syrian refugees in Germany rather than the views of the vast majority of refugees (displaced persons) who evacuated to government areas without leaving Syria.  He produces the Human Rights Watch report on 50,000 morgue photos but not the deconstruction by investigator Rick Sterling. And he repeats the al-Qaeda claim and false film footage that Madaya was starving and in need when it was, in fact, sitting on a mountain of aid supplies being denied by the fighters themselves to the population.

If MH can’t see the difference between being pro-Assad and not falling for interventionist propaganda, that’s his problem.  What’s astonishing is the number of “leftists” that rail against interventionism but base their views on the drivel purveyed by the interventionists themselves in the mainstream media, and that originates from propaganda mills like the White Helmets, the Aleppo/Ghouta Media Center and other lavishly funded set designers for warmongers. If MH is not an interventionist, he’s nevertheless making their case for them.

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Dispute

As has become a standard operating procedure, an array of Western environmental NGOs, advocates of indigenous rights and liberal-left alternative media cover up the US role in attempts to overturn the anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal governments of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

This NACLA article is a recent excellent example of many. Bolivia’s TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure) dispute arose over the Evo Morales government’s project to complete a road through the park, opposed by some indigenous and environmental groups.

As is NACLA modus operandi, the article says not one word about US and right-wing funding and coordination with the indigenous and environmental groups behind the TIPNIS anti-highway protests. (This does not delegitimize the protests, but it does deliberately mislead people about the issues involved).

In doing so, these kinds of articles cover up US interventionist regime change plans, be that their intention or not.

NACLA is not alone in what is in fact apologetics for US interventionism. Include the Guardian, UpsideDownWorld, Amazon Watch, so-called “Marxist” Jeffery Webber (and here), Jacobin, ROAR, Intercontinentalcry, Avaaz, In These Times, in a short list of examples. We can add to this simply by picking up any articles about the protests in Bolivia’s TIPNIS (or oil drilling in Ecuador’s Yasuni during Rafael Correa’s presidency) and see what they say about US funding of protests, if they even mention it.

This is not simply an oversight, it is a cover-up.

What this Liberal Left Media Covers Up

On the issue of the TIPNIS highway, we find on numerous liberal-left alternative media and environmental websites claiming to defend the indigenous concealing that:

(a) The leading indigenous group of the TIPNIS 2011-2012 protests was being funded by USAID. The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East (CIDOB) had no qualms about working with USAID — it boasted on its website that it received training programs from USAID. CIDOB president Adolfo Chavez, thanked the “information and training acquired via different programs financed by external collaborators, in this case USAID”.

(b) The 2011 TIPNIS march was coordinated with the US Embassy, specifically Eliseo Abelo. His phone conversations with the march leaders – some even made right before the march set out — were intercepted by the Bolivian counter-espionage agency and made public.

(c) “The TIPNIS marchers were openly supported by right wing Santa Cruz agrobusiness interests and their main political representatives, the Santa Cruz governorship and Santa Cruz Civic Committee.In June 2011 indigenous deputies and right wing parties in the Santa Cruz departmental council formed an alliance against the MAS (Movement for Socialism, Evo Morales’s party). CIDOB then received a $3.5 million grant by the governorship for development projects in its communities.

Over a year after the TIPNIS protests, one of the protest leaders announced he was joining a right-wing, anti-Evo Morales political party.

(d) The protest leaders of the TIPNIS march supported REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The Avaaz petition (below) criticizing Evo Morales for his claimed anti-environmental actions also covered this up. As far back as 2009 “CIDOB leaders were participating there in a USAID-promoted workshop to talk up the imperialist-sponsored REDD project they were pursuing together with USAID-funded NGOs.”

REDD was a Western “environmental” program seeking to privatize forests by converting them into “carbon offsets” that allow Western corporations to continue polluting. That REDD would give Western NGOs and these indigenous groups funds for monitoring forests in their areas.

(e)These liberal-left alternative media and environmental NGOs falsely presented the TIPNIS conflict as one between indigenous/environmentalist groups against the Evo Morales government (e.g. the TIPNIS highway was “a project universally[!] condemned by local indigenous tribes and urban populations alike”). Fred Fuentes pointed out that more than 350 Bolivian organizations, including indigenous organizations and communities, even within TIPNIS, supported the proposed highway.

CONISUR (Consejo de Indígenas del Sur), consisting of a number of indigenous and peasant communities within TIPNIS, backed by Bolivia’s three largest national indigenous campesino organizations, organized a march to support of the road. They argued that the highway is essential to integrating Bolivia’s Amazonia with the rest of the country, as well as providing local communities with access to basic services and markets.

The overwhelming majority of people in the West who know about the TIPNIS protests, or the Yasuni protests in Ecuador, where a similar division between indigenous groups took place, never learned either from the liberal-left media or the corporate media, that indigenous groups marched in support of the highway or in support of oil drilling.

Therefore, this liberal-left media is not actually defending “the indigenous.” They are choosing sides within indigenous ranks, choosing the side that is funded and influenced by the US government.

(f) The TIPNIS conflict is falsely presented as Evo Morales wanting to build a highway through the TIPNIS wilderness (“cutting it in half” as they dramatically claim). There are in fact two roads that exist there now, which will be paved and connected to each other. Nor was it wilderness: 20,000 settlers lived there by 2010.

(g) Anti-highway march leaders actually defended industrial-scale logging within TIPNIS. Two logging companies operated 70,000 hectares within the national park and have signed 20-year contracts with local communities.

(h) They often fail to note that the TIPNIS marchers, when they reached La Paz, sought to instigate violence, demanding Evo Morales removal. Their plot was blocked by mobilization of local indigenous supporters of Evo’s government.

If we do not read Fred Fuentes in Green Left Weekly, we don’t find most of this information. Now, it is true that some of the media articles did mention that there were also TIPNIS protests and marches demanding the highway be built. Some do mention USAID, but phrase it as “Evo Morales claimed that those protesting his highway received USAID funding.”

Avaaz Petition Attacking Evo Morales over TIPNIS

The TIPNIS campaign, which became a tool in the US regime change strategy, was taken up in a petition by Avaaz. It included 61 signing groups. Only two from Bolivia! US signers included Amazon Watch, Biofuelwatch, Democracy Center, Food and Water Watch, Global Exchange, NACLA, Rainforest Action Network.  Whether they knew it, whether they wanted to know it, they signed on to a false account of the TIPNIS conflict, placed the blame on the Bolivian government, target of US regime change, and hid the role of the US.

US collaborators in Bolivia and Ecuador are painted as defenders of free expression, defenders of nature, defenders of the indigenous. The US government’s “talking points” against the progressive ALBA bloc countries have worked their way into liberal-left alternative media, which echo the attacks on these governments by organizations there receiving US funds.  That does not mean Amazon Watch, Upside Down World or NACLA are themselves funded by the US government – if it somehow exculpates them that they do this work for free. Even worse, much of this propaganda against Evo and Correa appears only in the liberal-left alternative press, what we consider our press.

The USAID budget for Latin America is said to be $750 million, but estimates show that the funding may total twice that. Maria Augusta Calle of Ecuador’s National Assembly, said in 2015 the US Congress allocated $2 billion to destabilize targeted Latin American countries.

This information, how much money it is, what organizations in the different countries receive it, how it is spent, ought to be a central focus of any liberal-left alternative media purporting to stand up for the oppressed peoples of the Americas.

Yet, as Fuentes points out:  “Overwhelmingly, solidarity activists uncritically supported the anti-highway march. Many argued that only social movements — not governments — can guarantee the success of [Bolivia’s] process of change…. with most articles written by solidarity activists, they] downplay the role of United States imperialism…. Others went further, denying any connection between the protesters and US imperialism.”

Why do they let themselves become conveyer belts for US regime change propaganda?

Why did this liberal-left media and NGOs let themselves become conveyor belts for US propaganda for regime change, legitimizing this US campaign to smear the Evo Morales government?

Some of it lies in the liberalish refusal to admit that all international issues can only be understood in the context of the role and the actions of the US Empire. As if conflicts related to countries the US deems hostile to its interests can be understood without taking the US role into account. Some liberal-left writers and groups do understand this, just as they do understand they may risk their positions and funding by looking to closely into it.

It seems easier to not see the role the Empire plays and simply present a liberal-left “critique” of the pluses and minuses of some progressive government targeted by the US. That is how these alternative media sources end up actually advocating for indigenous groups and environmental NGOs which are US and corporate funded. They even criticize countries for defending national sovereignty by shutting down these non-governmental organizations, what Bolivian Vice-President Linera exposes as “foreign government financed organizations” operating in their countries.

Some of it lies in the widely held anti-authoritarian feeling in the US that social movements “from below” are inherently good and that the government/the state is inherently bad. The reporting can be informative on social movements in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia where the people struggle against state repression. But when these social movements in Ecuador or Bolivia were able to win elections and gain hold of some real state power, reporting soon becomes hostile and misleading. “Support social movements when they struggle against governmental power; oppose them once they win government power,” they seem to say. Their reporting slides into disinformation, undermining our solidarity with other struggles, and covering up US regime change efforts. Upside Down World is an excellent example of this.

Some of it lies in what many who call themselves “left” still have not come to terms with: their own arrogant white attitude they share with Western colonizers and present day ruling elites: we know better than you what is good for you, we are the best interpreters and defenders of your socialism, your democracy, your human rights. They repeatedly critique real or imagined failures of progressive Third World governments – targets of the US.

Genuine solidarity with the peoples of the Third World means basing yourself in opposition to the Empire’s interference and exposing how it attempts to undermine movements seeking to break free from the Western domination.

Some of it lies in deep-rooted white racist paternalism in their romanticizing the indigenous as some “noble savage” living at one with nature in some Garden of Eden. Providing these people with schools, health clinics, modern conveniences we have, is somehow felt not to be in their best interests.

A serious analysis of a Third World country must begin with the role the West has played.  To not point out imperialism’s historic and continuing exploitive role is simply dishonest, it is apologetics, it shows a basic lack of human feeling for the peoples of the Third World.

A function of corporate media is to conceal Western pillaging of Third World countries, to cheerlead efforts to restore neocolonial-neoliberal governments to power. However, for liberal-left media and organizations to do likewise, even if halfway, is nothing other than supporting imperialist interference.

Amnesty International: Trumpeting for war… again

One must marvel at the first few paragraphs of Amnesty International’s recent press release:

The international community’s catastrophic failure to take concrete action to protect the people of Syria has allowed parties to the conflict, most notably the Syrian government, to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with complete impunity, often with assistance of outside powers, particularly Russia. Every year we think it is just not possible for parties to the conflict to inflict more suffering on civilians, and yet, every year, they prove us wrong…

Right now, in Eastern Ghouta 400,000 men, women and children, who have been living under an unlawful government siege for six years, are being starved and indiscriminately bombed by the Syrian government with the backing of Russia. […] The international community had said ‘never again’ after the government devastated Eastern Aleppo with similar unlawful tactics. But here we are again. Armed opposition groups have retaliated by indiscriminately shelling two villages in Idleb, which they have also besieged since 2014.1

This is an unambiguous call and a justification for war; it seems that AI is calling for a NATO bombing campaign similar to the one staged in Libya in 2011. There is also no ambiguity as to who AI deems to be culpable and ought to be at the receiving end of a “humanitarian bombing” campaign. Before cheering yet another US/NATO war, it is useful to analyse Amnesty International’s record in assisting propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars. It is also worthwhile reviewing AI’s reporting on Syria, and how it compares with that on other countries in the area.

A sorry record

It is not the first time that Amnesty International has played a role in a propaganda campaign in the lead up to a war. A few examples:

  • Before the US invasion to ouster the Iraqis from Kuwait, president George Bush Sr. appeared on TV holding an Amnesty International report claiming that Iraqi soldiers had dumped babies out of incubators. That was Amnesty International’s willing participation in spreading a hoax — a hoax fabricated by a major American PR company.
  • In the months prior to the US-NATO attack on Serbia, Amnesty-USA put two Croatian women on a ten city-speaking-tour to project their account of their “rape-camp” ordeal — in reality one of them was a top Croatian propaganda official, a close advisor to president Tudjman, who was also known for her acting abilities.2
  • AI’s coverage/non-coverage of Israeli mass crimes also deserves to be analysed.3 In this case, Amnesty plays a role in adulterating and reducing criticism after wars or the misery caused by its continuous occupation and abuse of the Palestinians (discussed below). Amnesty International-Israel served as a propaganda front busy manipulating “human rights” reports to suit Israel’s interests.4 AI-London has not commented on the manipulation by its Israeli siblings.
  • In 2012, Amnesty erected advertising posters in the US applauding NATO’s actions in Afghanistan — “Keep the progress going”, purportedly doing something for women’s rights. This was merely crass pro-NATO pro-interventionist propaganda.5
  • Amnesty-France was instrumental in propagating anti-Libyan propaganda prior to the NATO bombing of the country in 2011.6

Alas, Amnesty’s sorry record is much longer than these few examples indicate.

Not anti-war

One would expect a human rights organisation to be intrinsically opposed to war, but AI is a cheerleader of so-called humanitarian intervention, and even “humanitarian bombing”.7 In the past, when queried about its equivocal and lame statements about wars, an AI official stated that “Amnesty International is not anti-war”. Even with this predisposition AI was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize – yet another undeserving recipient for a prize meant to be given only to those actively opposed to wars. In Syria’s case, AI has given up this phoney “not anti-war” stance for one that is actively advocating war. Notice that it uses a rather dubious argument about “never again” about standing by in the face of mass crimes; in reality this is an appeal to holocaust memes meant to favour this war.

Syria today…

The Syrian government is presently rolling back the jihadis who had managed to establish themselves in an area next to Damascus. No government would tolerate to have a section of their capital city under jihadi control, an area from which the rest of the city is mortared, and an area vital to control the water supply of the city. What would happen if jihadis took over Arlington, VA, and used it to bomb the center of Washington DC? The response would be self-evident. For some reason AI doesn’t bestow this right of self-defence to the Syrian government, but instead refers to an “unlawful government siege [of Ghouta] for six years”. This is laughable.

It is remarkable to find that in none of the latest press releases or reports does AI discuss the nature of the armed groups fighting in Syria. Even those referred to as “moderates” by Washington are a rather unsavoury bunch. Most of them are foreign jihadis; a good portion of them are Saudis. (NB: Saudis offered political and criminal prisoners a way out of jail on condition of going to fight in Syria.) And they are armed/trained/financed by the US/UK/Saudi/Emirates/Turkey/Qatar… to the tune of at least $12 billion. The former US ambassador to Syria stated that the US contribution was at least $12bn8; this figure excludes the funds provided by the Saudis and other regimes in the area. Gareth Porter reports that the quantities of weapons supplied to the jihadis were enough to equip an army.9 Yet, this armed gang of jihadis is barely mentioned in Amnesty’s assessment of the situation in Syria. In Ghouta, the jihadis belong to the Nusra front (or one of its rebranded versions), that is, a group with an extreme ideology; they are an Al-Qaeda offshoot. AI’s press release doesn’t mention this salient fact.

Amnesty portrays the Syrian government as at war against its own people — and Aleppo, Ghouta, etc., under siege; and not allowing the population to escape. Although AI similarly condemned the liberation of Aleppo, it didn’t interview these victims after the fact. If it interviews someone — invariably anonymous — it intones sinister fears of the government. For all its faults, the government has popular backing, and it stands in the way of a jihadi project to carve up Syria and ethnically cleanse it.

And there is a double standard

When it comes to Israeli mass crimes AI is rather cautious in the language used and in its recommendations. It is rather coy in mentioning “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, and reference to the latter is virtually non-existent or couched in exculpatory language (favourite cushioning words: “alleged”, “could be construed as”). While it sparingly uses these accusations against Israel, it levels the same accusations against Palestinians — it applies a notion that there are crimes “on both sides”. AI’s harshest admonishment is that Israeli actions are not “proportionate”. There are no appeals to the “international community” which should not stand by, “never again…” One wonders what Amnesty has to say about the Israeli siege of Gaza, where the population has been put “on a diet” causing a dire situation for about 1.8 million people today. In this case, there are no reports, no calls to the “international community” to do anything, no accusations of “crimes against humanity”… AI uses another script altogether.

In the current press release, AI unambiguously states that both Syria and Russia are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. And if this is the case, there is an obligation for other states to act, to intervene. AI is not requesting an investigation, it is urging intervention.

While in the Israeli case AI states that crimes are committed on both sides, when it comes to Syria it is only the Syrian government that is deemed culpable. It is difficult to remove entrenched well armed jihadis who use residents as human shields. Jihadis dig themselves in and around hospitals and schools10, and when action is taken against them there, the likes of Amnesty utter their clucking sounds.

In its latest statement AI states: “It must also send a strong message that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held accountable, by referring the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.” Fair enough. In 2002, Donatella Rovera, an AI researcher on the Middle East, was queried about why AI didn’t make a similar demand to hold Israel accountable at the ICC or ICJ, and she stated that AI didn’t make such demands.11 Another standard applies.

An issue about sources…

Amnesty reports several statements made by residents of Ghouta, all giving harrowing accounts of the conditions on the ground. But all the statements blame the government for their predicament. “Like many Syrians, the humanitarian worker expressed deep distrust of the government.” Or “We hear rumours of reconciliation but that can never happen. The government hates us…” And other such unverifiable statements. And who exactly is reporting this? Does AI have a direct line to the “White Helmets”? All Amnesty has to do is compare the statements made before the liberation of Aleppo and the opinion of the residents now. If the residents are pleased with their condition without the jihadis around, then this should be sufficient to question the dubious statements originating from anonymous sources in Ghouta today.

Other examples

Amnesty International doesn’t want you to respect the Syrian government. Reviewing its press releases about Syria, it is all one-sided; the jihadis hardly merit a meaningful rebuke. But no report was as distorted as its multimedia presentation of the purported abuses in the Saydnaya Prison. Here Amnesty’s methodology was on show: accept hearsay, magnify it melodramatically, extrapolate and exaggerate.12 This is not human rights reportage, it is crass propaganda. The timing of all these so-called reports is also dubious. On the eve of major reconciliation talks or negotiations, Amnesty publishes a report portraying the Syrian government as beyond the pale. Would anyone want to negotiate with such a party? The timing of several other AI reports coincide with attempts to resolve the conflict via negotiations. The timing of its latest press release coincides with a major Syrian government offensive into Ghouta — and portraying it as criminal in nature.

Human rights are not neutral

Harvey Weinstein, the sexual predator, made Amnesty International USA possible — he provided the funds necessary to establish the organisation.13 Weinstein didn’t put up the funds because he fancied AI’s lovely researchers. People put up funds for such organisations to shape the way abuses and crimes are reported. In Weinstein’s case, his ardent devotion to Israel might explain his financial contribution to Amnesty USA. Amnesty is also a conduit to push propaganda desired by those who foster such organisations. The very nature of “human rights”, its very flexible nature, lends itself to prime manipulation.

A Syrian furniture salesman based in Coventry, a small city in the UK, runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Sitting in his living room, he produces reports about the latest atrocities, chemical attacks, and every other sordid detail to tarnish the Syrian government’s image. He reaches his mysterious sources by phone, invariably someone hostile to the Syrian government. The output of this one-man-band is then used by the BBC, CNN, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal,… and major media outlets to report on the situation in Syria. It is expensive for news organisations to have correspondents on the ground, it is dangerous; so what is better than “human rights” reports obtained for free! And does Amnesty International rely on SOHR? At least they should acknowledge that in footnotes to their reports.

The main playbook

The US and some of its sidekicks have for decades been engaged in regime change in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America… The usual formula for this is to create civic organisations; e.g., Journalists’ union, Lawyer and Jurist guilds, select Labour unions… and human rights organisations. These people are then trained to exercise political power effectively by staging mass demonstrations, manipulating the media, spreading rumours, disrupting the government — all the way to the take over of parliaments. These are the so-called “colour revolutions”. They tried this in Syria, but opted primarily to arm and organise jihadis. The jihadis are backed by a propaganda machinery, and the US is conducting the largest disinformation/propaganda campaign against Syria today.14 The essence of the campaign is to tarnish the image of the Syrian government, robbing it of its international legitimacy and support. Human rights reportage is essential to this campaign. By analysing Amnesty International reportage, it is evident that it is part of this campaign; it has weaponised human rights.

Currently there is a major buildup of US warships in the Mediterranean; and the Russian general staff fear that Syria will be the target of a major cruise missile attack.15 Possibly, Russian forces will also be targeted. Couple this with the unprecedented black propaganda campaign against Russia in the US and the UK, and it seems very likely that a major shooting war is in the offing. Given that AI has lent itself in previous propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars, one finds that the latest Amnesty International report is merely a leading indicator for such a war. Amnesty International is embedded in a propaganda campaign — it will be cheerleading with blue and white pompons when the humanitarian bombs fall.

  1. AI, “Syria: Seven years of catastrophic failure by the international community”, 15 March 2018.
  2. Again, this hoax was pushed by a major American PR company.Diana Johnstone, Fools Crusade, 20 September 2002. Johnstone documents the curious case of Jadranka Cijel. NB: AI was alerted to the fact that the accounts by the two women were questionable; it proceeded with the tour anyway.
  3. I have written quite a few articles about Amnesty for Counterpunch. The latest: “Amnesty International: Whitewashing Another Massacre”, CounterPunch, 8 May 2015.
  4. Uri Blau, Documents reveal how Israel made Amnesty’s local branch a front for the Foreign Ministry in the 70s, Haaretz, 18 March 2017. Neve Gordon, Nicola Perugini, Israel’s human rights spies: Manipulating the discourse, Al-Jazeera Online, 22 March 2017.
  5. Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley, Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars, ConsortiumNews, 18 June 2012.
  6. Also: Tim Anderson, “The Dirty War on Syria”, Global Research, 2016.
  7. Alexander Cockburn reports that Amnesty was present during a US State Department briefing seeking to justify “humanitarian bombing”. How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More? CounterPunch, April 1999.
  8. Ben Norton, “US Ambassador Confirms Billions Spent On Regime Change in Syria, Debunking ‘Obama Did Nothing’ Myth”, RealNews.com, 9 February 2018.
  9. Gareth Porter, “How America Armed Terrorists in Syria”, The American Conservative, 22 June 2017.
  10. Robert Fisk has reported on this fact in several of his articles. In “the Syrian hospital siege that turned into a massacre”, The Independent, 5 June 2015 there is a reference to tunnels under a hospital. In another article, the same, but at a school.
  11. Israel hasn’t joined the ICC, and thus ICC cannot bring any action against Israel. ICC is only meant to harass African tinpot dictators.
  12. John Wight, “The Problems With the Amnesty International Report”, Sputnik News, 15 February 2017. Important discussion with Peter Ford, the former British ambassador to Syria. Also, Tony Cartalucci, Amnesty International admits Syria’s ‘torture prison’ report fabricated entirely in UK, Sign of the Times, 9 February 2017. And, Rick Sterling, “Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War”, ConsortiumNews, 11 February 2017.
  13. Thomas Frank, “Hypocrite at the good cause parties”, Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2018.
  14. Tim Anderson, “The Dirty War on Syria”, Global Research, 2016.
  15. TASS, “US preparing strikes on Syria, carrier strike groups set up in Mediterranean”, 17 March 2018.

Water is Life

Yesterday, 22 March 2018, marked World Water Day. It is also the week, when the 8th World Water Forum (WWF-8) convenes, 18 to 23 March 2018, in Brasilia. It is no coincidence, for sure, that Brazil was chosen for this noble WWF – about the water equivalent to the political and corporate elites, represented at the WEF – World Economic Forum, in Davos. The two are intimately related, and interlinked, as we will see.

The WWF is organized by the World Water Council, just another layer to confuse who is who in the circus of water elitists attempting to control a vital source of life – freshwater. The WWF prides itself with an honorable mission statement:

To promote awareness, build political commitment and trigger action on critical water issues at all levels, to facilitate the efficient conservation, protection, development, planning, management and use of water in all its dimensions on an environmentally sustainable basis for the benefit of all life.

There you have it. Nestlé, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Dow Chemicals and other transnationals with strong water interests, Veolia, Suez (French), Thames (UK), Bechtel (US), Petrobras and a myriad of others, join together with the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), different UN bodies, and many multi- and bilateral donors, so-called development institutions – as well as dozens more ultra-liberal organizations, NGOs and corporations, pretending to work for the good of humanity; for the good of hundreds of millions of people who persistently are deprived of affordable potable water by an onslaught of water privatization (Organizers and supporters of the WWF.

Another layer of this prominent international water forum is the World Bank-created Water Resources Group (WRG). Its chief purpose is to pursue the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG-6), “Clean Water and Sanitation”. The WRG’s leadership is composed of an interwoven group of individuals and institutions, such as the head of  the WEF, leadership of Nestlé, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Dow Chemicals, the UN (UNDP) … and the Global Water Partnership (GWP), yet another layer within the maze of the global water mafia, created by the usual ‘suspects’, World Bank, UN (UNDP), and a number of  multi- and bilateral development agencies, whose priority focus is on water; i.e., the Swiss, the Swedes, the Dutch…

And not to forget – also present at the WWF is the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), part of UNESCO, based at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, whose mission is sharing information on worldwide groundwater resources, in view of protecting them, and focusing mainly on transboundary aquifer assessment and groundwater monitoring.

By and large, the WWF is the sum of this tremendous non-transparent, complex colossus of institutions and technocrats that is gradually taking over control of the global freshwater resources. This is happening under our eyes and under a seemingly anodyne promotion logo – PPP = Public Private Partnership which means in reality, the Public puts at disposal of the Private sector its publicly funded and publicly-owned infrastructure and water resources, to be exploited for profit at the detriment of the very public, who paid for the infrastructure and whose life depends on this vital resource, water.

Privatization of freshwater resources is a crime, but it’s the name of the game. Just look who is prominently represented in the World Bank-created Water Resources Group – it’s IFC, the International Finance Corporation, the private sector development branch of the World Bank Group.

The result of these multiple and often repetitive meetings and gathering is largely zero – safe for a litany of recommendations and resolutions whose implementation hardly ever see the light of the day. Imagine the tremendous annual cost of running this multi-agency sham; mostly business class travel, food and lodging (five-star accommodations), of the high-level technocrats crisscrossing the globe from one conference to another! – Millions and millions of dollars per year. How many people could be served with drinking water and safe sanitation for this amount of money?

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) estimates (July 2017) that “some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, and 6 in 10, or 4.5 billion, lack safely managed sanitation.” – This, out of a world population of about 7.4 billion.

Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians and of World Water Watch, and author of Blue Gold (2002), Blue Covenant (2007), and of Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever (2013), refers in the latter to the WEF 2010 which under the aegis of the WRG was launching a platform of public-private partnership, to help engage mainly developing country governments in ‘reforming’ the water sector, i.e. putting it into the hands of private water corporations. Many of these countries have no choice, if they want to continue receiving “development” funds from the World Bank and Co. Barlow is also the founder of the Blue Planet Project, seeking to protect vital water resources, like the Guarani Aquifer for future generations.

Flashback to the World Economic Forum in Davos (January 2018). Brazilian President Temer attended this year’s WEF. Temer, a corrupt criminal, should be in prison rather than running a most wonderful country, Brazil, into the ground. Literally. His only purpose to be in Davos was to tell this elite forum about his intention to sell out and privatize his country, foremost water resources.

How did such a dishonest person become president of Brazil? – Washington, who else, put him there. Against all odds. The dark Zion-handlers representing the US financial sector removed an honest Dilma Rousseff and replaced her with Michel Temer, at that time an indicted crook. The indictment was lifted as he was supposed to be made President. It is still beyond me how this could happen, as Dilma had the entire military on her side and could have called a state of emergency to halt the parliamentary ‘regime change’ charade, instigated by the US. She didn’t. Somebody must have threatened her.

By now we know how Washington manipulates elections and other political processes around the world – by the shady methods of Cambridge Analytica (CA), a ‘marketing’ consultancy that steals personal data from internet, foremost from Facebook, to target specific segments of a population with specific messages to influence their opinion. By their own account, CA methods have been applied in over 200 cases around the globe within the last 3 to 4 years, to influence elections and other political processes, including in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, the UK (Brexit), Germany, France and many more. This is true meddling in other countries’ sovereign affairs, by the one and only rogue state of this globe, the United States of America. And they are talking about Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential Elections!

Stealing by stealth is one of the neoliberal crimes we haven’t quite understood yet, let alone mastered. Hindsight is always 20/20. This article hopes to contribute to foresight.

Brazil, with about 8,200 km3 annually renewable freshwater, ranks number one with about one eighth (1/8) of the world’s total renewable freshwater resources which are estimated at 45,000 km3. The Amazon Basin holds about 73% of all of Brazil’s freshwater. Renewable freshwater is the composite of annually sustainable surface and groundwater recharge combined (recharge by precipitation and inflow from outside). The second most water-abundant country is Russia with 4,500 km3 / year, followed by Canada, Indonesia, China, Colombia, US, Peru, India – all with renewable water resources of between 2,000 and 3,000 km3/year.

By continent, the Americas have the largest share of the world’s total freshwater resources with 45 percent, followed by Asia with 28 percent, Europe with 15.5 percent and Africa with 9 percent. This scenario immediately points to Africa’s vulnerability. Africa is clearly the most vulnerable Continent from a water resources – survival – point of view. Africa is also home to about 60% of the world’s remaining and known available natural resources; resources the west covets and goes to war for.

Is it, therefore, a coincidence that the 8th WWF is held in Brazil? I don’t think so. Especially not with Temer going to Davos, where the cream of the crop of the world’s corporate, finance and institutional elite meets, to offer Brazil’s water resources for privatization.

We are talking about privatizing the largest single underground renewable freshwater reservoir in the Americas, arguably in the world, the Guarani Aquifer which underlays 1.2 million square kilometers (about the size of Texas and California combined), of which 71% is under Brazil, 19% under Argentina, 6% under Paraguay, and 4% under Uruguay.

The Guaraní aquifer was discovered in the 1990s. It is named after the indigenous people who have inhabited the area for centuries. The Guarani holds an estimated 46,000 km3 of freshwater (not to confound with the annual renewable freshwater, of which Brazil has about 8,300 km3 – see above). The current Guarani’s extraction rate is a little over 1 km3 per year, while the potential recharge rate is between 45 km3 and 55 km3/year, meaning that there is so far no risk of over-abstraction. This could however, change quickly. It is said that the Guaraní could supply the world population for the next 200 years with 100 liters per capita per day.

About 30 million people inhabit the Guarani region. In the Brazilian section of the Guaraní, some 500 to 600 cities are currently supplied with Guaraní water – how many of these municipal supplies are already privatized?

In late February 2018, Blue Planet founder, Maude Barlow, tweeted, “Terrifying! Coke and Nestle want to buy up the Guarani Aquifer! Must be stopped!!!”. As Mint Press reports:

A concerted push is underway in South America that could see one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water soon fall into the hands of transnational corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé. According to reports, talks to privatize the Guarani Aquifer – a vast subterranean water reserve lying beneath Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – have already reached an advanced stage. The deal would grant a consortium of U.S. and Europe-based conglomerates exclusive rights to the aquifer that would last over 100 years.

Under such concession arrangements, quantities to be abstracted are usually unlimited, which would leave the entire aquifer in the hands of those private corporations which are part and parcel of the Temer negotiated deal.

The article adds:

In Brazil, intense lobbying has been underway since at least 2016 to tap into the aquifer. These efforts fell under the spotlight late last month [in January 2018] at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where private talks were reported between Brazil’s President Michel Temer and a range of top executives with interests in the aquifer, including Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, and Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris.

The article further mentions:

As leading Brazilian water-rights activist Franklin Frederick noted in Brasil de Fato, these companies belong to the 2030 Water Resources Group (2030WRG), a transnational consortium that includes AB Inbev, Coca-Cola, Dow, Nestle and PepsiCo. 2030WRG bills itself as ‘a unique public-private-civil society collaboration’ and hides its intention to privatize developing nations’ water supplies by claiming to ‘facilitate open, trust-based dialogue processes to drive action on water resources reform in water-stressed countries in developing economies’ and ‘close the gap between water demand and supply by the year 2030’.

Already in September 2016, Reuter reported that Brazil – Temer – “launched a multibillion-dollar plan to auction off oil, power rights and infrastructure concessions.” And the Correio do Brasil retorted that this “privatizing wrath” could extend to the Guarani Aquifer. A senior official at the National Water Agency (ANA) has revealed that the Guarani aquifer will appear on the list of public goods to be privatized.

Barlow, in a Conference in Florianapolis, Brazil, already in November 2011, said, the biggest concern for humanity is the potential for the Guarani to become controlled by private interests. She added, corporations have already preferential access to these waters.

You are sitting atop a vast reserve of water in a very thirsty world, a reserve that is not only vital to the health and future of this region but to all of humanity. It is a treasure that must be protected by governments on behalf of the people and the ecosystems of the region.

Recent studies point to an even larger underground water reservoir system, the “underground ocean” of Amazonia. It is projected to hold 160 trillion m3 (160,000 km3) of freshwater, underlaying mainly Brazil, but also Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. Studies are still ongoing and it might be too soon to draw definite conclusions. However, these gigantic water reserves under Latin America plus the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System (NSAS) which is the world’s largest known fossil aquifer of an estimated 150,000 km3 of non-renewable groundwater, must be protected for humanity.

The NSAS is located under the Eastern end of the Sahara Desert. It stretches over 2 million km2 and spans four countries in North and Central Africa, Libya, Sudan, Chad and Egypt.

Back to the WWF in Brasilia, where the “water mafia” is convening as this article goes to print, and while in São Lourenço, Minas Gerais, 600 “Women Without Land” occupy Nestlé’s Brazil headquarters, since 6 AM Tuesday morning, 20 March. Nestlé, the Swiss food and water giant, declared water number one in its field of business expansion. Nestlé controls already more than 10% of the world market of bottled water. The “Women without Land” denounce Temer’s policy of handing out their precious water resources to international corporations. Aware of the ongoing WFF, they warn of further concession contracts being negotiated on the sidelines of this forum.

One of the leaders said:

Imagine you are obliged to buy your water in bottles to quench your thirst. This is what they want these transnational corporations, officially debating improved water management in Brasilia, when in reality they are negotiating concessions of our water at fire-sales prices.

We, the People, the 99% of this globe, have the moral obligation to stand up against this globalized, neofascist clandestine onslaught to privatize and steal our vital water resources – humanity’s survival. Water is Life. If we don’t have the foresight to stand up now, to stop this criminal privatization of OUR, humanity’s water resources – humankind may be doomed.

Prostituting Charity: The Oxfam Debate

Oxfam has outdone itself.  In the murky, squalid business where charity seems to chase, then embed itself in disaster zones like a dedicated virus, Oxfam ranks highly.  In terms of a tally, the number of reported abuses in the charity sector is galloping ahead, with one of Britain’s most noted charities in the lead.

The revelations this month that the charity’s staff sexually exploited victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, a point subsequently concealed, have triggered a storm of British discontent.  The revelations included a very active country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren, who revelled in sex parties as he went about his humanitarian work.  Allegations of sexual abuse in Oxfam shops have also made their searing mark.

The organisation has lost over 7,000 donors since the revelations, and MPs on the international development committee overseeing aid have been unimpressed. The Charity Commission may well have been misled by former executives Dame Barbara Stocking and Penny Lawrence.

Oxfam’s CEO, Mark Goldring, is all apologies, notably after remarking in an interview with The Guardian that the charity was being attacked as if “we murdered babies in their cots.  Certainly, the scale and the intensity of the attacks feel out of proportion to the level of culpability. I struggle to understand it.”

The official line from the organisation was more humbling, though prefaced by an insistence that measures of reform had been implemented. “It is clear we still have not done enough to change our own culture and to create the strongest possible policies to protect people we work with globally. We are doing that right now.  But we must do much more and act with greater urgency.”

On the other side of the moral saviour is the self-helping abuser.  Such figures have needs and callings.  The squalid reality soon manifests.  Vulnerability is less there to be alleviated than cultivated, teased into an ongoing relationship between the victim and the touted rescuer.  Historically, however, the mission of rescue can be broadly seen as part of the stock idea of the civilising project.  The modern humanitarian project is a colonialism of the emotions, pornogrified guilt that finds refuge in despair.

It is precisely such a civilising mission that was said to cause debility and emotional decay. The obligated civilisers, in engaging their burdensome task, would encounter harsh environments, uncompromising geography and problematic natives.

It was precisely such background that provided the alibi and apologia for the white civilizer’s bad behaviour read against noble necessity. Geographer Ellsworth Huntington suggested in Civilization and Climate (1915) that temperate zones engendered mental stimulation while tropical climates induced “tropical inertia”.

The focus of such geographers and the odd enthused quack was an insistence on justifiable degeneracy as an occupational hazard.  “Tropical neurasthenia” was one term coined by Charles Woodruff in his 1905 work The Effects of Tropical Light on White Men, emphasising the preponderance of insanity amongst certain US soldiers based in the Philippines. (Those based in cooler regions evinced fewer problems.)

“According to the man’s complexion and general resistance to this exhaustion from increased metabolism and effects of the light may be so slight as to show mere enervation, or nervous weakness being more marked in older men.”  Such studies served to bolster the views of Benjamin Kidd, a British sociologist who insisted that peoples from temperate zones could never adjust to tropical climes.

Taking such factors into account, and the modern, heart bleeding charity worker becomes a colonial builder.  Such a figure is part of the modern industry of rescue, dressed up as a charitable exercise.  According to Afua Hirsch, theories such as tropical neurasthenia may well have fallen out after the Second World War, “but to this day our understanding of countries that receive humanitarian assistance is still deeply grounded in the same colonial thinking.”

Even those considered voraciously read and enlightened on the problems of empire find room, even if small, to defend such missions.  Poverty and disaster invite assumptions.  “I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain ‘civilised’ values in a disaster zone,” pondered Cambridge classicist Mary Beard.  That statement, it should be added, followed on from, “Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti or elsewhere.”

The Beard episode induced outrage.  Language police duly considered her use of inverted commas of civilisation as unwarranted and misguided.  Others chose to avoid seeing them.  Torrential abuse followed.

Fellow Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal finessed a particularly brutal response, reflecting on her own place of employment.  Cambridge, that abode “where there is little direct abuse but plenty of genteel and patrician casual racism passing as frank and well-meaning observations.” Beard had done nothing to show contrition, indeed persisted in refusing “to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong” with such claims, supplemented by “bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers.”

Beard felt, a point she subsequently made in a blog for the Times Literary Supplement, she had been “guilty of a shorthand which misled.”  She duly concluded that it was “too easy to imagine that we are better than those who do the work we would be too scared to do.”  The implication of such a sentiment, framed as an obligatory task of the nobly decent, is clear: even those involved in rescue and inadvertent civilising are humans too.  Patrician morality is alive and kicking.

Prostituting Charity: The Oxfam Debate

Oxfam has outdone itself.  In the murky, squalid business where charity seems to chase, then embed itself in disaster zones like a dedicated virus, Oxfam ranks highly.  In terms of a tally, the number of reported abuses in the charity sector is galloping ahead, with one of Britain’s most noted charities in the lead.

The revelations this month that the charity’s staff sexually exploited victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, a point subsequently concealed, have triggered a storm of British discontent.  The revelations included a very active country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren, who revelled in sex parties as he went about his humanitarian work.  Allegations of sexual abuse in Oxfam shops have also made their searing mark.

The organisation has lost over 7,000 donors since the revelations, and MPs on the international development committee overseeing aid have been unimpressed. The Charity Commission may well have been misled by former executives Dame Barbara Stocking and Penny Lawrence.

Oxfam’s CEO, Mark Goldring, is all apologies, notably after remarking in an interview with The Guardian that the charity was being attacked as if “we murdered babies in their cots.  Certainly, the scale and the intensity of the attacks feel out of proportion to the level of culpability. I struggle to understand it.”

The official line from the organisation was more humbling, though prefaced by an insistence that measures of reform had been implemented. “It is clear we still have not done enough to change our own culture and to create the strongest possible policies to protect people we work with globally. We are doing that right now.  But we must do much more and act with greater urgency.”

On the other side of the moral saviour is the self-helping abuser.  Such figures have needs and callings.  The squalid reality soon manifests.  Vulnerability is less there to be alleviated than cultivated, teased into an ongoing relationship between the victim and the touted rescuer.  Historically, however, the mission of rescue can be broadly seen as part of the stock idea of the civilising project.  The modern humanitarian project is a colonialism of the emotions, pornogrified guilt that finds refuge in despair.

It is precisely such a civilising mission that was said to cause debility and emotional decay. The obligated civilisers, in engaging their burdensome task, would encounter harsh environments, uncompromising geography and problematic natives.

It was precisely such background that provided the alibi and apologia for the white civilizer’s bad behaviour read against noble necessity. Geographer Ellsworth Huntington suggested in Civilization and Climate (1915) that temperate zones engendered mental stimulation while tropical climates induced “tropical inertia”.

The focus of such geographers and the odd enthused quack was an insistence on justifiable degeneracy as an occupational hazard.  “Tropical neurasthenia” was one term coined by Charles Woodruff in his 1905 work The Effects of Tropical Light on White Men, emphasising the preponderance of insanity amongst certain US soldiers based in the Philippines. (Those based in cooler regions evinced fewer problems.)

“According to the man’s complexion and general resistance to this exhaustion from increased metabolism and effects of the light may be so slight as to show mere enervation, or nervous weakness being more marked in older men.”  Such studies served to bolster the views of Benjamin Kidd, a British sociologist who insisted that peoples from temperate zones could never adjust to tropical climes.

Taking such factors into account, and the modern, heart bleeding charity worker becomes a colonial builder.  Such a figure is part of the modern industry of rescue, dressed up as a charitable exercise.  According to Afua Hirsch, theories such as tropical neurasthenia may well have fallen out after the Second World War, “but to this day our understanding of countries that receive humanitarian assistance is still deeply grounded in the same colonial thinking.”

Even those considered voraciously read and enlightened on the problems of empire find room, even if small, to defend such missions.  Poverty and disaster invite assumptions.  “I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain ‘civilised’ values in a disaster zone,” pondered Cambridge classicist Mary Beard.  That statement, it should be added, followed on from, “Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti or elsewhere.”

The Beard episode induced outrage.  Language police duly considered her use of inverted commas of civilisation as unwarranted and misguided.  Others chose to avoid seeing them.  Torrential abuse followed.

Fellow Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal finessed a particularly brutal response, reflecting on her own place of employment.  Cambridge, that abode “where there is little direct abuse but plenty of genteel and patrician casual racism passing as frank and well-meaning observations.” Beard had done nothing to show contrition, indeed persisted in refusing “to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong” with such claims, supplemented by “bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers.”

Beard felt, a point she subsequently made in a blog for the Times Literary Supplement, she had been “guilty of a shorthand which misled.”  She duly concluded that it was “too easy to imagine that we are better than those who do the work we would be too scared to do.”  The implication of such a sentiment, framed as an obligatory task of the nobly decent, is clear: even those involved in rescue and inadvertent civilising are humans too.  Patrician morality is alive and kicking.

Oxfam Sex Scandal and NGO Imperialism

Imagine living in a country where the entire social services sector is privatized, run by “charities” that are based in other countries and staffed by foreigners who get to decide whether or not you qualify for assistance.

Welcome to Haiti, the “Republic of NGOs.”

As salacious details about Oxfam officials hiring Haitian girls for sex make headlines, the media has downplayed NGOs’ lack of accountability to those they purportedly serve. Even less attention has been devoted to the role so-called non-governmental organizations have played in undermining the Haitian state and advancing wealthy countries’ interests.

According to a series of news reports, Oxfam UK’s Haiti director hired prostitutes and organized orgies at a charity run villa set up after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Some of the girls may have been as young as 14 and Oxfam representatives traded aid for sex. Oxfam UK leaders tried to keep the issue quiet when it emerged in 2011, which enabled a number of the perpetrators to join other NGOs operating internationally.

Since the earthquake there have been innumerable stories of NGOs abusing their power or pillaging funds raised for Haitians. In an extreme case, the US Red Cross built only six houses with the $500 million they raised for Haiti after the earthquake.

While impoverished Haitians get short shrift, NGOs respond to the interests of their benefactors. After the UN occupation force brought cholera to Haiti in October 2010, Oxfam and other NGOs defended the Washington-France–Canada instigated MINUSTAH (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti). In response to Haitians protesting the UN’s role in the cholera outbreak, Oxfam spokeswoman Julie Schindall, told the Guardian “if the country explodes in violence, then we will not be able to reach the people we need to.” At the same time Médecins Sans Frontières’ head of mission in Port-au-Prince, Stefano Zannini, told Montreal daily La Presse,our position is pragmatic: to have learnt the source at the beginning of the epidemic would not have saved more lives. To know today would have no impact either.”

Of course, that was nonsense. Confirming the source of the cholera was medically necessary. At the time of these statements UN forces were still disposing their sewage in a way that put Haitian life at risk. Protesting UN actions was a way to pressure MINUSTAH to stop their reckless sewage disposal and generate the resources needed to deal with a cholera outbreak that left 10,000 dead and one million ill.

Worse than deflecting criticism of the UN’s responsibility for the cholera outbreak, NGOs put a progressive face on the invasion/coup that initiated MINUSTAH. Incredibly, many NGOs justified US Marines taking an elected President from his home in the middle of the night and dumping him 10,000 km away in the Central African Republic.

On March 25, 2004 Oxfam Québec and a half dozen other Canadian government-funded NGOs defended Canada’s (military, diplomatic and financial) role in the ouster of thousands of elected officials, including President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Marthe Lapierre of Development and Peace stated:

We’re not talking about a situation where a rebel group suddenly orchestrated Aristide’s departure. We’re talking about a situation where the Aristide government, since 2000, had gradually lost all legitimacy because of involvement in activities such as serious human rights violations and drug trafficking, but also because it was a profoundly undemocratic government.

Oxfam Québec regional director Carlos Arancibia concurred:

I fully agree with the analysis presented by others. It’s important to understand that things went off the rails starting in the year 2000, with the election.

(After they lost the May 2000 legislative elections the opposition claimed that the electoral Council should have used a different voting method, which would have forced eight Senate seats to a runoff. Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party would likely have won the runoff votes, but the US/Canada backed- opposition used the issue to justify boycotting the November 2000 presidential election, which they had zero chance of winning. For its part, Washington used the election dispute to justify blocking aid to the country. Even without the disputed senators, Fanmi Lavalas still had a majority in the senate and even when seven of the eight Lavalas senators resigned the aid embargo and effort to discredit the elections continued.)

At the time of the coup most of Haiti’s social services were run by NGOs. A Canadian International Development Agency report stated that by 2004, “non-governmental actors (for-profit and not-for-profit) provided almost 80 percent of [Haiti’s] basic services.” Amongst other donor countries, the Canadian government channelled its “development assistance” through NGOs to shape the country’s politics. According to CIDA, “supporting non-governmental actors contributed to the creation of parallel systems of service delivery. … In Haiti’s case, these actors [NGOs] were used as a way to circumvent the frustration of working with the government … this contributed to the establishment of parallel systems of service delivery, eroding legitimacy, capacity and will of the state to deliver key services.” As intended, funding NGOs weakened the Aristide/René Préval/Aristide governments and strengthened the US/France/Canada’s hand.

Highly dependent on western government funding and political support, NGOs broadly advanced their interests.

The Oxfam “sex scandal” should shine a light on the immense, largely unaccountable, power NGOs continue to wield over Haitian affairs. In a decent world it would also be a lesson in how not to use “aid” to undermine democracy.