Category Archives: Solidarity

Palestinian Courage Should Spur International Action

After 70 years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still unresolved. The conflict simmers for a few years, then erupts again with new massacres and violence. This article describes recent events, the failure of the “two state solution” and need for a different approach.

In the past couple months, Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers have killed 118 Palestinian protesters and seriously wounded many thousands more. The protesters were unarmed and no threat to the soldiers. Gaza hospitals overflow with victims.

In the wake of this violence, human rights groups filed a legal petition to make it unlawful for Israeli soldiers to fire on unarmed protesters. Last week the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the petition.

Israeli violence is usually portrayed as a “response” to Palestinian violence, but the reality is the opposite. The sequence of recent events is as follows:

– From the end of March til May 25, Palestinians in Gaza protested against their oppression as close as they could get to the border fences. About 118 were killed and many thousands seriously injured by Israeli snipers. They were all shot inside Gaza.

– On May 27 – 28, the Israeli military launched tank mortars at Palestinian military outposts inside Gaza, killing four.

– Next day, on May 29, Palestinian militants launched unguided mortars into nearby Israel. Most of them fell harmlessly and there were no Israeli casualties.

– Next day, on May 30, Israeli jets and helicopters launched guided missiles and bombs on 65 different locations within Gaza.

Clearly, the violence started with Israelis killing protesters and then militants inside Gaza, but it’s not portrayed that way. Time magazine began its article with, “Palestinian militants bombarded southern Israel….”

Pro Israel advocates wish to prevent people from seeing what is really happening. They know the potential damage if people see video such as Israeli snipers celebrating the shooting of unarmed protesters. To prevent this, a proposed law will make it illegal to photograph or video record Israeli soldiers. Palestinian journalists have condemned this attempt to criminalize journalism.

The Reality of the Israeli Occupation

Israel calls itself the “Startup Nation” because of the economic and technological achievements. But in Gaza and the West Bank, Israeli policies and actions strangle the economies and worsen living conditions.

Palestinians in Gaza are kept separate from Palestinians in the West Bank. There is no trade, travel or inter-family visitation. This is in violation of international agreements including the Oslo Accords.

The claim that Israel “departed” Gaza is false. Israel controls the borders, sky and waters around Gaza, a coastal strip just 5 miles wide by 25 miles in length. Unemployment in Gaza is approaching 50%, the highest unemployment in the world. Fisherman are prevented from going out into deeper waters and shot at when they go beyond Israel’s imposed zone. Gazan farmers cannot export independently. Israel frequently blocks the import and export of crops and products. It is almost impossible to leave Gaza. Even outstanding students winning international scholarships may have their exit denied. The electrical and water treatment facilities have been bombed and destroyed by Israel. Nearly all the drinking water is contaminated. Israel restricts the amount of food permitted to enter Gaza so there is continual shortage leading to nutritional deprivation, stunted growth and anemia.

This situation is not new. Eighteen years ago, Israeli journalist Amira Hass described the history, the facts and statistics as well as her personal experience living in Gaza in the profound book Drinking the Seat at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege. The situation was extremely grim then but keeps getting worse.

At the northern Gaza border, Israel is now building a sea barrier extending far out into the Mediterranean. It will be above and below the water line. A major reason for this expensive project is to block sewage and pollution from the waters in front of Gaza. Because of Israeli attacks on sewage treatment and electrical infrastructure, sewage flows into the sea. Last summer, Zikim Beach in southern Israel had to be closed due to the inflow of sewage from Gaza. The ‘sea barrier’ now in construction will block the sea currents. This will keep the Israeli beach clean and greatly compound the problem in Gaza.

The strangulation, impoverishment and oppression is not confined to Gaza. In the West Bank, Israeli settlements continue to expand. This increases the number of check points, restrictions and repression. Travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem is impossible for most Palestinians. The majority of West Bank water from the aquifers is transferred to Israel or provided cheaply to settlers while Palestinians must buy water and store it in tanks on their rooftops. In the last few years, Israel has made it increasingly difficult or impossible for humanitarian groups to provide medical support including breast cancer screening. A compelling new book titled The Other Side of the Wall describes the daily struggle in the West Bank where Palestinians and international allies protest against the theft of land, abuses, random killings and imprisonments.

Defiant Courage

There seems to be a trend toward greater Palestinian unity and strategic agreement. The tens of thousands of Palestinians protesting in Gaza were unarmed and united behind the Palestinian flag rather than separate party or movement flags of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, DFLP, etc..    

The Palestinian protesters in Gaza show remarkable courage. Beginning on Friday March 30, they have returned week after week despite seeing thousands of their fellows shot and wounded or killed.

In an article titled “The Gaza Fence that Separates the Brave from the Cowardly“, Amira Hass wrote:

The desperate courage demonstrated by tens of thousands of citizens of Gaza over the past few weeks in general and on Monday in particular hints at the energies, the talents, the dreams, the creativity and the vitality of the inhabitants of this strip of land – who have been subjected to a 27 year policy of closure and siege aimed at suffocating and crushing them.

Steadfast and Persistent

Palestinian resistance continues despite Israeli violence and bloodshed. Seven years ago Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon held “March of Return” protests at the northern borders. Israeli soldiers killed 13 and wounded many more.

In recent days, Gazans have again challenged the Israeli port blockade which prevents ships from departing or arriving. International solidarity with the Palestinian cause is also persistent. Three ships (two Swedish and one Norwegian) recently departed Scandinavia heading for the Mediterranean Sea and Gaza. Named the 2018 Freedom Flotilla, the ships are carrying dozens of international citizens to again demand that Israel stop its blockade of Gaza.

Despite the huge imbalance today, time may be on the side of the Palestinian cause. Systemic apartheid in South Africa existed for a long time and seemed strong. But ultimately it collapsed quickly. The same may unfold in Israel/Palestine.

Today, South Africa is an important supporter of the Palestinian cause. South Africa was the first nation to recall its ambassador to protest the “indiscriminate and grave Israeli attack” in Gaza.

Israel has the military might but Palestinian resistance and courage persists. The Palestinian population is steadfast, persistent and growing. They have increasing number of allies who support their cause. Young American Jews are unlike their parents and increasingly critical of Israeli policies. Some courageous Israelis, such as Miko Peled, speak out unequivocally that Israeli apartheid must end and be replaced by one state with democracy and equality for all. A million registered Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon and Syria, patiently waiting. They have not forgotten their legal claim and right to return.

The recent bloodshed and massacres underscore the fact that there is no solution on the current path. It only leads to increasingly unlivable conditions in Gaza plus more illegal settlements and oppression in the West Bank. The so-called “two state solution” has been dead for many years and should be forgotten. As happened in South Africa, the international community can and should help. It is time to increase international pressure and expand BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel to help bring a peaceful end to this conflict with its constant oppression and recurring massacres.

The alternative is very grim. As described by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy:

The truth is that Israel is well prepared to massacre hundreds and thousands, and to expel tens of thousands. Nothing will stop it. This is the end of conscience, the show of morality is over. The last few days’ events have proved it decisively. The tracks have been laid, the infrastructure for the horror has been cast. Dozens of years of brainwashing, demonization and dehumanization have borne fruit. The alliance between the politicians and the media to suppress reality and deny it has succeeded. Israel is set to commit horrors. Nobody will stand in its way any longer. Not from within or from without.

Palestinian courage should spur international action.

When Things Fall Apart: A Graduation Message for a Dark Age

When the rivers and air are polluted, when families and nations are at war, when homeless wanderers fill the highways, these are the traditional signs of a dark age.

— Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, September 26, 2000

Those coming of age today will face some of the greatest obstacles ever encountered by young people.

They will find themselves overtaxed, burdened with excessive college debt, and struggling to find worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be eviscerated by the surveillance state. They will be the subjects of a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice.

As such, they will find themselves forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands they be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences.

It’s a dismal prospect, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, we who should have known better failed to guard against such a future.

Worse, we neglected to maintain our freedoms or provide our young people with the tools necessary to survive, let alone succeed, in the impersonal jungle that is modern America.

We brought them into homes fractured by divorce, distracted by mindless entertainment, and obsessed with the pursuit of materialism. We institutionalized them in daycares and afterschool programs, substituting time with teachers and childcare workers for parental involvement. We turned them into test-takers instead of thinkers and automatons instead of activists.

We allowed them to languish in schools which not only look like prisons but function like prisons, as well—where conformity is the rule and freedom is the exception. We made them easy prey for our corporate overlords, while instilling in them the values of a celebrity-obsessed, technology-driven culture devoid of any true spirituality. And we taught them to believe that the pursuit of their own personal happiness trumped all other virtues, including any empathy whatsoever for their fellow human beings.

No, we haven’t done this generation any favors.

Based on the current political climate, things could very well get much worse before they ever take a turn for the better. Here are a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help those coming of age today survive the perils of the journey that awaits:

Be an individual. For all of its claims to champion the individual, American culture advocates a stark conformity which, as John F. Kennedy warned, is “the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.” Worry less about fitting in with the rest of the world and instead, as Henry David Thoreau urged, become “a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”

Learn your rights. We’re losing our freedoms for one simple reason: most of us don’t know anything about our freedoms. At a minimum, anyone who has graduated from high school, let alone college, should know the Bill of Rights backwards and forwards. However, the average young person, let alone citizen, has very little knowledge of their rights for the simple reason that the schools no longer teach them. So grab a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and study them at home. And when the time comes, stand up for your rights before it’s too late.

Speak truth to power. Don’t be naive about those in positions of authority. As James Madison, who wrote our Bill of Rights, observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted.” We must learn the lessons of history. People in power, more often than not, abuse that power. To maintain our freedoms, this will mean challenging government officials whenever they exceed the bounds of their office.

Resist all things that numb you. Don’t measure your worth by what you own or earn. Likewise, don’t become mindless consumers unaware of the world around you. Resist all things that numb you, put you to sleep or help you “cope” with so-called reality. Those who establish the rules and laws that govern society’s actions desire compliant subjects. However, as George Orwell warned, “Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they rebelled, they cannot become conscious.” It is these conscious individuals who change the world for the better.

Don’t let technology turn you into zombies. Technology anesthetizes us to the all-too-real tragedies that surround us. Techno-gadgets are merely distractions from what’s really going on in America and around the world. As a result, we’ve begun mimicking the inhuman technology that surrounds us and have lost our humanity. We’ve become sleepwalkers. If you’re going to make a difference in the world, you’re going to have to pull the earbuds out, turn off the cell phones and spend much less time viewing screens.

Help others. We all have a calling in life. And I believe it boils down to one thing: You are here on this planet to help other people. In fact, none of us can exist very long without help from others. If we’re going to see any positive change for freedom, then we must change our view of what it means to be human and regain a sense of what it means to love and help one another. That will mean gaining the courage to stand up for the oppressed.

Give voice to moral outrage. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” There is no shortage of issues on which to take a stand. For instance, on any given night, over half a million people in the U.S. are homeless, and half of them are elderly. There are 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, and 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food. Congress creates, on average, more than 50 new criminal laws each year. With more than 2 million Americans in prison, and close to 7 million adults in correctional care, the United States has the largest prison population in the world. At least 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison. At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams. It costs the American taxpayer $52.6 billion every year to be spied on by the government intelligence agencies tasked with surveillance, data collection, counterintelligence and covert activities. All the while, since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and police the rest of the world. This is an egregious affront to anyone who believes in freedom.

Cultivate spirituality, reject materialism and put people first. When the things that matter most have been subordinated to materialism, we have lost our moral compass. We must change our values to reflect something more meaningful than technology, materialism and politics. Standing at the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City in April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged his listeners:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motive and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Pitch in and do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t rely on someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Don’t wait around for someone else to fix what ails you, your community or nation. As Gandhi urged: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Say no to war. Addressing the graduates at Binghampton Central High School in 1968, at a time when the country was waging war “on different fields, on different levels, and with different weapons,” Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling declared:

Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history—even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war… find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow-man.

Finally, prepare yourselves for what lies ahead. The demons of our age—some of whom disguise themselves as politicians—delight in fomenting violence, sowing distrust and prejudice, and persuading the public to support tyranny disguised as patriotism. Overcoming the evils of our age will require more than intellect and activism. It will require decency, morality, goodness, truth and toughness. As Serling concluded in his remarks to the graduating class of 1968:

Toughness is the singular quality most required of you… we have left you a world far more botched than the one that was left to us… Part of your challenge is to seek out truth, to come up with a point of view not dictated to you by anyone, be he a congressman, even a minister… Are you tough enough to take the divisiveness of this land of ours, the fact that everything is polarized, black and white, this or that, absolutely right or absolutely wrong. This is one of the challenges. Be prepared to seek out the middle ground … that wondrous and very difficult-to-find Valhalla where man can look to both sides and see the errant truths that exist on both sides. If you must swing left or you must swing right—respect the other side. Honor the motives that come from the other side. Argue, debate, rebut—but don’t close those wondrous minds of yours to opposition. In their eyes, you’re the opposition. And ultimately … ultimately—you end divisiveness by compromise. And so long as men walk and breathe—there must be compromise…

Are you tough enough to face one of the uglier stains upon the fabric of our democracy—prejudice? It’s the basic root of most evil. It’s a part of the sickness of man. And it’s a part of man’s admission, his constant sick admission, that to exist he must find a scapegoat. To explain away his own deficiencies—he must try to find someone who he believes more deficient… Make your judgment of your fellow-man on what he says and what he believes and the way he acts. Be tough enough, please, to live with prejudice and give battle to it. It warps, it poisons, it distorts and it is self-destructive. It has fallout worse than a bomb … and worst of all it cheapens and demeans anyone who permits himself the luxury of hating.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only way we’ll ever achieve change in this country is for the American people to finally say “enough is enough” and fight for the things that truly matter.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your political ideology is. If you have something to say, speak up. Get active, and if need be, pick up a picket sign and get in the streets. And when civil liberties are violated, don’t remain silent about it.

Wake up, stand up, and make your activism count for something more than politics.

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.

The Isolation of Julian Assange is the Silencing of Us All

In this letter, twenty-seven writers, journalists, film-makers, artists, academics, former intelligence officers and democrats call on the government of Ecuador to allow Julian Assange his right of freedom of speech.

If it was ever clear that the case of Julian Assange was never just a legal case, but a struggle for the protection of basic human rights, it is now.

Citing his critical tweets about the recent detention of Catalan president Carles Puidgemont in Germany, and following pressure from the US, Spanish and UK governments, the Ecuadorian government has installed an electronic jammer to stop Assange communicating with the outside world via the internet and phone.

As if ensuring his total isolation, the Ecuadorian government is also refusing to allow him to receive visitors. Despite two UN rulings describing his detention as unlawful and mandating his immediate release, Assange has been effectively imprisoned since he was first placed in isolation in Wandsworth prison in London in December 2010. He has never been charged with a crime. The Swedish case against him collapsed and was withdrawn, while the United States has stepped up efforts to prosecute him. His only “crime” is that of a true journalist — telling the world the truths that people have a right to know.

Under its previous president, the Ecuadorian government bravely stood against the bullying might of the United States and granted Assange political asylum as a political refugee. International law and the morality of human rights was on its side.

Today, under extreme pressure from Washington and its collaborators, another government in Ecuador justifies its gagging of Assange by stating that “Assange’s behaviour, through his messages on social media, put at risk good relations which this country has with the UK, the rest of the EU and other nations.”

This censorious attack on free speech is not happening in Turkey, Saudi Arabia or China; it is right in the heart of London. If the Ecuadorian government does not cease its unworthy action, it, too, will become an agent of persecution rather than the valiant nation that stood up for freedom and for free speech. If the EU and the UK continue to participate in the scandalous silencing of a true dissident in their midst, it will mean that free speech is indeed dying in Europe. This is not just a matter of showing support and solidarity. We are appealing to all who care about basic human rights to call on the government of Ecuador to continue defending the rights of a courageous free speech activist, journalist and whistleblower.

We ask that his basic human rights be respected as an Ecuadorian citizen and internationally protected person and that he not be silenced or expelled.

If there is no freedom of speech for Julian Assange, there is no freedom of speech for any of us — regardless of the disparate opinions we hold.

We call on President Moreno to end the isolation of Julian Assange now.

List of signatories (in alphabetic order):

Pamela Anderson, actress and activist
Jacob Appelbaum, freelance journalist
Renata Avila, International Human Rights Lawyer
Sally Burch, British/Ecuadorian journalist
Alicia Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to the United Kingdom 2012-16
Naomi Colvin, Courage Foundation
Noam Chomsky, linguist and political theorist
Brian Eno, musician
Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks Ambassador and board member of The Centre for Investigative Journalism
Teresa Forcades, Benedictine nun, Montserrat Monastery
Charles Glass, American-British author, journalist, broadcaster
Chris Hedges, journalist
Srecko Horvat, philosopher, Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25)
Jean Michel Jarre, musician
John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Lauri Love, computer scientist and activist
Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, Presidential advisor
John Pilger, journalist and film-maker
Angela Richter, theater director, Germany
Saskia Sassen, sociologist, Columbia University
Oliver Stone, film-maker
Vaughan Smith, English journalist
Yanis Varoufakis, economist, former Greek finance minister
Natalia Viana, investigative journalist and co-director of Agencia publica, Brazil
Ai Weiwei, artist
Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer and activist
Slavoj Žižek, philosopher, Birkbeck Institute for Humanities

Thousands of Students Protest Gun Violence

Sonoma County, CaliforniaDriving through small-town Sebastopol on March 14 toward the Senior Center, this 73-year-old noticed groups of young students with signs gathering on downtown street corners and waving to motorists. These active participants in direct democracy joined thousands who walked out of schools across the U.S. and the world, organized by the Women’s March Youth branch.

As I got closer to the students, a variety of feelings, thoughts, and memories emerged. Tears of appreciation began to drip from my eyes, as I learned why they were protesting.

Then I smiled at them and flashed the peace sign, as I used to during the active 1960s. I eventually resigned my U.S. Army officer’s commission to join the marches that finally helped end the American wars on the people of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Spending a short time in jail, before being released — since I was merely expressing my First Amendment freedom of speech — was worth it.

I’m proud of our middle and high school students, as well as others, for non-violently standing up to defend their generation against those who continue to shoot innocent youth and others in Florida and elsewhere. “Lives matter more than guns. Enough is enough!” were  among the signs.

Many teachers and administrators supported students wanting to join the brief marches. California Rep. Mike Thompson created a video, which schools are showing, where he encourages students to “stand up and speak out” against gun violence.

Each event had its own character. The Sebastopol rallies were relatively dignified and many protestors had taped their mouths. All corners of Santa Rosa High, in contrast, were full of students waving signs, chanting, and expressing a call to action and a show of force.

An estimated 500 students, about a quarter of Santa Rosa High’s student body, joined the walkout. In nearby Petaluma around 2000 students from a dozen schools walked out. Some wore bright orange #Never Again shirts, a prominent hash-tag, according to the daily Press Democrat.

Nearly all of the 1300 students at Sonoma Valley High School gathered with signs such as “I should be writing my term paper instead of my will” and “Never Again!” Some waved the American flag and shouted things such as “It’s time for the next generation to take over!”

The Sunridge 8th grade class (Sebastopol) arranged this memorial in front of their school before heading down to Main Street to participate in a 17 minute moment of Silence. (Photo: Bill Shortridge)

My feelings eventually ranged from a mixture of sadness—because these students needed to protest—to appreciation for their bravery against those who threaten the Earth’s future.

“Too Young to Protest? 10-Year-Olds Beg to Differ” headlined a March 14 New York Times article. “It started last month as a writing exercise on the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, when more than 1000 students skipped school and marched to demand civil rights,” the article began. So the current marches have also been a history classroom.

“The classroom assignment mushroomed into a plan—hatched by 10-and-11-year-olds—to stage a little civil disobedience of their own,” the article notes.

“We Won’t Let the N.R.A. Win” headlines another Times article, written by three New Jersey high school students. “The killings of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida may be the massacre that finally gets federal and state governments to enact common-sense gun control laws,” the students commence their article.

They remind us, “That should have happened after Columbine. It should have happened after Virginia Tech. It should have happened after Sandy Hook. But it didn’t. The Stoneman Douglas School is where our generation draws a line.” So they imagined and then created what some organizers describe as the National School Walkout.

17 is the number of students and staff killed at the Florida school. Many of the events were scheduled for 17 minutes.

“March for Our Lives is not just one day,” the students conclude. “We must all stand with Stoneman Douglas students and say, ‘Never again.’ This isn’t about being aligned with one political party or another. This is about protecting this nation’s children.”

The American Civil Liberties Union helped train some students in their direct actions. The creation of a sense of community was among the marches’ goals.

Meanwhile, a series of violent threats have been scrawled on campuses, including at Santa Rosa High in Northern California.

“We are the future of this country, yet we can no longer assume we are safe from mass shootings in our schools. Nor can we assume our elders will protect us,” the students write.

When I arrived at the Sebastopol Area Senior Center, I spoke with other elders about the issues these youth raise. We agreed that we should support their leadership and join these brave “first responders.”

“Eloquent young voices, equipped with symbolism and social media savvy, riding a resolve as yet untouched by cynicism,” is how the New York Times described the rallies.

In Lower Manhattan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined a die-in at Zucotti Park, the former home of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

“Hey-hey, ho-ho, the N.R.A. has to go,” students chanted as they marched to the D. C. Capital steps. They were met by members of Congress, the most popular of whom seemed to be Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Stay tuned for at least two more nationwide protests on March 24 and April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine murders, as students continue to gather steam and define their movement.

War Preparations Against Venezuela As Election Nears

Since we published “Regime Change Fails: Is a Military Coup or Invasion Next,” we received more information showing steps toward preparing for a potential military attack on Venezuela. Stopping this war needs to become a top priority for the peace movement.

Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) published a newsletter that reported “troubling news of an impending military assault on the sovereign nation of Venezuela by states and forces allied with the United States.” Ajamu Baraka, the director, said the US is concerned that President Maduro will win the April 22 election, which would mean six more years in office. BAP urges people to include “No War On Venezuela” in actions being planned from February 16-23 for the 115th anniversary of the United States occupying Guantanamo.

Is the Path to War Through Border Disputes?

One way to start a war would be a cross-border dispute between Venezuela and Colombia, Brazil or Guyana. On February 12, the Maritime Herald reported that Admiral Kurt Tidd, head of the US Southern Command, arrived in Colombia just two days after the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with President Juan Manuel Santos as part of Tillerson’s unprecedented regime change tour. Tidd met with Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas and other senior officials to coordinate efforts around “regional stability” with a focus on Venezuela.

The Maritime Herald also reports US troops coming to Colombian military bases, paramilitaries coming to Colombian towns along the Venezuelan border, plans for “a joint naval force between the United States, Colombia and Mexico,” and arrival of a contingent of 415 members of the United States Air Force to Panama to create support and logistics points for the operation against Venezuela. Also important are two fast-acting US military bases installed in the communities of Vichada and Leticia, Colombia, bordering Venezuela.

Both Columbia and Brazil have deployed more troops to their borders with Venezuela. Colombian President Santos ordered “the deployment of 3000 additional security personnel to the Venezuelan border. This figure included 2,120 more soldiers.” The decision came the day before officials from the US Southern Command met in Colombia to “discuss security cooperation.” Brazil also announced plans to “double its border patrols on the Venezuelan frontier.” The excuse for these increased deployments was due to Venezuelan migrants crossing the border into Colombia and Brazil.

To calm these concerns, President Maduro called for a meeting between Venezuelan authorities and Colombia over security concerns along their border. The Colombian government estimates that 450,000 Venezuelan migrants have entered the country in the last 18 months.  Maduro said that official numbers did not equate to a “massive exodus” and reminded Colombia that during the Colombian civil war with the FARC, 5.6 million Colombians crossed the border to make Venezuela their home.

The corporate intelligence firm, Stratfor, which works closely with the US government, recently  published a report that could be laying the groundwork for a border dispute. Stratfor wrote that Brazilian intelligence officials are going to meet with Guyana’s officials to warn them that Venezuela is planning to attack Guyana. There is a long-term dispute over land between Venezuela and Guyana that is being litigated before the International Court of Justice. The report includes a questionable claim that there is an “ongoing dialogue with the Trump administration over the terms of President Nicolas Maduro and his party’s departure from power.” The reality is that President Maduro is preparing for the April election.

In response to these actions, President Maduro announced the Venezuelan armed forces will carry out military exercises on February 24 and 25 in “defense” of the nation to fine tune the movement of “tanks, missiles and helicopters as part of the nation’s defense strategy.”

Upcoming Elections in Venezuela

The opposition in Venezuela has been seeking presidential elections since 2016 when they presented a petition for the recall of President Maduro. They claimed to collect enough signatures, but there were allegations of voter fraud, including thousands of dead people’s names listed on the petitions.

Violent protests followed rejection of the petition and Henrique Capriles set a deadline for an election in November 2016, threatening larger protests. On November 1, opposition leader Henry Ramos, the head of the national assembly, announced cancellation of the protests.  The opposition still pressed for an election. The government announced a special election to be held in February or March of 2018.

Now, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza announced:

We have a date for the presidential election, which is the date proposed by the opposition, April 22. Furthermore, we have the electoral guarantees proposed by the opposition, so we are going to the elections and the Venezuelan people will decide their future with democracy and votes.

Officials of the Dominican Republic observers guaranteeing the legitimacy of the elections. Venezuela will invite the United Nations and others to also serve as observers. Despite this, the United States and members of the right wing Lima Group of US allies, say they will not recognize the elections.

Does the Trump Administration Want War to “Unify the Country”

President Trump’s divisive presidency has left him unpopular in the polls. Hours before his State of the Union speech, Trump told television news anchors, “I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity. Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.”

We hope President Trump is not looking at the increase in public support that President George W. Bush received after he attacked Iraq as a model for his administration. Instead, he should remember President Lyndon Johnson being driven from office after his landslide election because of the Vietnam war.

The Trump administration has failed in its attempts to instigate war with North Korea and Iran. The terrible diplomatic performance of Vice President Pence at the Olympic games, where the two Koreas began to make progress toward peace and unification, puts the US in a weaker position to threaten North Korea. President Kim invited President Moon to North Korea to continue peace talks. Now there is rising hope for an agreement between the two Koreas.

Similarly, the protests in Iran, which the US may have encouraged, fizzled. When the US brought the protests to the UN Security Council and used them to call for action against Iran, the US was isolated. Countries asked whether the UN should have taken action against the US after the protests in Ferguson over the police killing of Michael Brown. The protests also exposed massive US spending to create opposition to the government in Iran, as well as coordination with Israel.

Stopping the US Attack on Venezuela

In our last article, we indicated the reasons for the threat of a military coup and military attack were because Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and because Venezuela has set an example of breaking from US dominance of the region and challenging capitalism.

In addition, economic sanctions have pushed Venezuela to have closer relations with Russia and China to circumvent US sanctions.  The US does not want these global rivals in what it has considered its backyard since the Monroe Doctrine.

Finally, the US is concerned with Venezuela’s new cryptocurrency, which will launch within days and be backed by 5.3 billion barrels of oil worth $267 billion. The cryptocurrency is a bid to offset Venezuela’s deep financial crisis. This threatens US economic domination.

We must expose the reasons for increasing US aggression towards Venezuela and work to counter misinformation in the media that is attempting to build support for a military conflict with Venezuela. Here are actions you can take:

  1. Use this tool to contact your Members of Congress. Urge them to use diplomacy with Venezuela and to stop the sanctions, which are a deadly form of economic warfare. CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION.
  2. Share this newsletter widely in your community and through social media.
  3. Join the actions on February 23 with messages of “US out of Guantanamo” and “No war with Venezuela.”

Let’s stop this next war before it begins!

Regime Change Fails: Is A Military Coup Or Invasion Of Venezuela Next?

Speaking at his alma mater, the University of Texas, on February 1, Secretary of State Tillerson suggested a potential military coup in Venezuela.  Tillerson then visited allied Latin American countries urging regime change and more economic sanctions on Venezuela. Tillerson is considering banning the processing or sale of Venezuelan oil in the United States and is discouraging other countries from buying Venezuelan oil. Further, the US is laying the groundwork for war against Venezuela.

In a series of tweets, Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican from Florida, where many Venezuelan oligarchs live, called for a military coup in Venezueala.

How absurd — remove an elected president with a military coup to restore democracy? Does that pass the straight face test? This refrain of Rubio and Tillerson seems to be the nonsensical public position of US policy.

The US has been seeking regime change in Venezuela since Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. Trump joined Presidents Obama and Bush before him in continuing efforts to change the government and put in place a US-friendly oligarch government.

They came closest in 2002 when a military coup removed Chavez.  The Commander-in-Chief of the Venezuelan military announced Chavez had resigned and Pedro Carmona, of the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce, became interim president. Carmona dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and declared the Constitution void. The people surrounded the presidential palace and seized television stations, Carmona resigned and fled to Colombia. Within 47 hours, civilians and the military restored Chavez to the presidency. The coup was a turning point that strengthened the Bolivarian Revolution, showed people could defeat a coup and exposed the US and oligarchs.

US Regime Change Tactics Have Failed In Venezuela

The US and oligarchs continue their efforts to reverse the Bolivarian Revolution. The US has a long history of regime change around the world and has tried all of its regime change tools in Venezuela. So far they have failed.

(a) Economic War

Destroying the Venezuelan economy has been an ongoing campaign by the US and oligarchs. It is reminiscent of the US coup in Chile which ended the presidency of Salvador Allende. To create the environment for the Chilean coup, President Nixon ordered the CIA to “make the economy scream.”

Henry Kissinger devised the coup noting a billion dollars of investment were at stake. He also feared the “the insidious model effect” of the example of Chile leading to other countries breaking from the United States and capitalism. Kissinger’s top deputy at the National Security Council, Viron Vaky, opposed the coup saying, “What we propose is patently a violation of our own principles and policy tenets .… If these principles have any meaning, we normally depart from them only to meet the gravest threat . . . our survival.”

These objections hold true regarding recent US coups, including in Venezuela and Honduras, Ukraine and Brazil, among others. Allende died in the coup and wrote his last words to the people of Chile, especially the workers, “Long live the people! Long live the workers!” He was replaced by Augusto Pinochet, a brutal and violent dictator.

For decades the US has been fighting an economic war, “making the economy scream,” in Venezuela. Wealthy Venezuelans have been conducting economic sabotage aided by the US with sanctions and other tactics. This includes hoarding food, supplies and other necessities in warehouses or in Colombia while Venezuelan markets are bare. The scarcity is used to fuel protests; e.g., “The March of the Empty Pots,” a carbon copy of marches in Chile before the September 11, 1973 coup. Economic warfare has escalated through Obama and under Trump, with Tillerson now urging economic sanctions on oil.

President Maduro recognized the economic hardship but also said sanctions open up the opportunity for a new era of independence and “begins the stage of post-domination by the United States, with Venezuela again at the center of this struggle for dignity and liberation.” The second-in-command of the Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello, said: “[if they] apply sanctions, we will apply elections.”

(b) Opposition Protestsion

Another common US regime change tool is supporting opposition protests. The Trump Administration renewed regime change operations in Venezuela and the anti-Maduro protests, which began under Obama, grew more violent. The opposition protests included barricades, snipers and murders as well as widespread injuries. When police arrested those using violence, the US claimed Venezuela opposed free speech and protests.

The opposition tried to use the crack down against violence to achieve the US tactic of dividing the military. The US and western media ignored opposition violence and blamed the Venezuelan government instead. Violence became so extreme it looked like the opposition was pushing Venezuela into a Syrian-type civil [DV Ed. “Syrian-type civil” (sic)] war.  Instead, opposition violence backfired on them.

Violent protests are part of US regime change repertoire. This was demonstrated in the US coup in Ukraine, where the US spent $5 billion to organize government opposition including US and EU funding violent protesters. This tactic was used in early US coups like the 1953 Iran coup of Prime Minister Mossadegh. The US has admitted organizing this coup that ended Iran’s brief experience with democracy. Like Venezuela, a key reason for the Iran coup was control of the nation’s oil.

(c) Funding Opposition

There has been massive US investment in creating opposition to the Venezuelan government. Tens of millions of dollars have been openly spent through USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy and other related US regime change agencies. It is unknown how much the CIA has spent from its secret budget, but the CIA has also been involved in Venezuela. Current CIA director, Mike Pompeo,  said he is “hopeful there can be a transition in Venezuela.”

The United States has also educated leaders of opposition movements; e.g., Leopoldo López was educated at private schools in the US, including the CIA-associated Kenyon College. He was groomed at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and made repeated visits to the regime change agency, the National Republican Institute.

(d) Elections

While the US calls Venezuela a dictatorship, it is, in fact, a strong democracy with an excellent voting system. Election observers monitor every election.

In 2016, the economic crisis led to the opposition winning a majority in the National Assembly. One of their first acts was to pass an amnesty law. The law described 17 years of crimes including violent felonies and terrorism committed by the opposition. It was an admission of crimes back to the 2002 coup and through 2016. The law demonstrated violent treason against Venezuela. One month later, the Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled the amnesty law was unconstitutional. US media, regime change advocates and anti-Venezuela human rights groups attacked the Supreme Court decision, showing their alliance with the admitted criminals.

Years of violent protests and regime change attempts, and then admitting their crimes in an amnesty bill, have caused those opposed to the Bolivarian Revolution to lose power and become unpopular.  In three recent elections Maduro’s party won regional, local and the Constituent Assembly elections.

The electoral commission announced the presidential election will be held on April 22. Maduro will run for re-election with the United Socialist Party. Opposition leaders such as Henry Ramos and Henri Falcon have expressed interest in running, but the opposition has not decided whether to participate. Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost to Maduro in the last election, was banned from running for office because of irregularities in his campaign, including taking foreign donations. Capriles has been a leader of the violent protests. When his ban was announced he called for protests to remove Maduro from office. Also banned was Leopoldo Lopez, another leader of the violent protests, who is under house arrest serving a thirteen year sentence for inciting violence.

Now, the United States says it will not recognize the presidential election and urges a military coup. For two years, the opposition demanded presidential elections, but now it is unclear whether they will participate. They know they are unpopular and Maduro is likely to be re-elected.

Is War Against Venezuela Coming?

A military coup faces challenges in Venezuela as the people, including the military, are well educated about US imperialism. Tillerson openly urging a military coup makes it more difficult.

The government and opposition recently negotiated a peace settlement entitled “Democratic Coexistence Agreement for Venezuela.” They agreed on all of the issues including ending economic sanctions, scheduling elections and more. They agreed on the date of the next presidential election. It was originally planned for March, but in a concession to the opposition, it was rescheduled for the end of April. Maduro signed the agreement even though the opposition did not attend the signing ceremony. They backed out after Colombian President Santos, who was meeting with Secretary Tillerson, called and told them not to sign. Maduro will now make the agreement a public issue by allowing the people of Venezuela to sign it.

Not recognizing elections and urging a military coup are bad enough, but more disconcerting is that Admiral Kurt Todd, head of Southcom, held a closed door meeting in Columbia after Tillerson’s visit. The topic was “regional destabilization” and Venezuela was a focus.

A military attack on Venezuela from its Colombian and Brazilian borders is not far fetched. In January, the New York Times asked, “Should the US military invade Venezuela?” President Trump said the US is considering military force against Venezuela. His chief of staff, John Kelly, was formerly the general in charge of Southcom. Todd has claimed the crisis, created in large part by the economic war against Venezuela, requires military action for humanitarian reasons.

War preparations are already underway in Colombia, which plays the role of Israel for the US in Latin America. The coup government in Brazil, increased its military budget 36 percent, and participated in Operation: America United, the largest joint military exercise in Latin American history. It was one of four military exercises by the US with Brazil, Colombia and Peru in Latin America in 2017. The US Congress ordered the Pentagon to develop military contingencies for Venezuela in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

While there is opposition to US military bases, James Patrick Jordan explains on our radio show the US has military bases in Colombia and the Caribbean and military agreements with countries in the region; and therefore, Venezuela is already surrounded.

The United States is targeting Venezuela because the Bolivarian Revolution provides an example against US imperialism. An invasion of Venezuela will become another war-quagmire that kills innocent Venezuelans, US soldiers and others over control of oil. People in the United States who support the self-determination of countries should show solidarity with Venezuelans, expose the US agenda and publicly denounce regime change. We need to educate people about what is really happening in Venezuela to overcome the false media coverage.

Share this article and the interview we did on Clearing The FOG about Venezuela and the US role in Latin America.  The fate of Venezuela is critical for millions of Latin Americans struggling under the domination of US Empire.

Perspectives on Activism: Waiting and Being Present

The more people I meet, the happier I become.
— Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

In the interregnum, we find ourselves as citizens waiting…for something. We bide our time with pablums, social media, or sports, or even pseudo-political debates. Many have insulated themselves from real issues: economic, social, and ecological justice.

Capitalism imposes a state of captivity, one where spontaneity and genuine feeling are shunted into commodified culture, into privatized service-oriented companies, and into increasingly mind-numbing social media and digital platforms.

When the unexpected occurs; a storm, a war, a tragic accident, we are transported back to the time when the depth of our emotions could overwhelm us, could drive us to joy or ecstacy or ruin. Just as many cannot help but watch a car crash, we cannot resist the temptation of a rush of adrenaline, a surge of serotonin.

To some degree, this urge is natural. Yet, for instance, the endless pathological displays of violence on TV and media point to some sort of social disease, a barbarism and degradation of inner life. This was best exemplified on 9/11: what was the point of endlessly replaying the jet smashing into the tower, or the people jumping? The only explanation is that it made people feel…something, anything to escape the boredom/ennui/anomie/malaise of modernity. The live feeds from CNN in 2003 Iraq accomplished the same goal, with the additional jolt of dark revenge-energies.

I think this is why, for certain people, it is inevitable that they go live with and experience plight of the drug-addicts, the very poor, the oppressed and castaways: for someone like Baudelaire, for instance, it was the only place where authentic human existence still thrived.

To be sure, we’ve all experienced immense joy and beauty in our own private lives. The thing is, we should be able to comfortably express the feelings of awe and mystery regarding our universe, our existence, in a common space, in public, unencumbered by feelings of guilt, shame, or judgment from community. We must confront our own mortality, daily, and live in the moment.

Our culture is complicit, but it does not mean we are necessarily doomed. We are “condemned to be free”, as Sartre put it. Our agency cannot be denied, we are free to choose our path.

This freedom can be downright scary. It is the feeling of existentialist dread and nausea. One can see it today, as Trump’s authoritarian promises calm the nerves of fearful, mostly older, mostly whiter folk who have and are living inauthentically, who have ceded their agency to the corporation, the nation-state, the town, the church.

Masha Gessen wrote of this recently, citing the great, often forgotten Erich Fromm:

Fromm suggests that at certain times in human history the burden of ‘freedom to’ becomes too painful for a critical mass of people to bear, and they take the opportunity to cede their agency- whether it’s to Martin Luther, Adolf Hitler, or Donald Trump.

This submerging of individual identity, losing oneself in the collective authoritarian or fascist collective, seems to ring true in today’s politics. One can sense this turn in large corporations, in state bureaucracies, in the military with all its Borg-like qualities. The loss of individual autonomy is palpable.

All this becomes even more dangerous in our “biopolitical” age: one where social production and reproduction reduces the juridical subject into a consumer, a body to be prodded, socialized, anesthecized and for many lobotomized into a culture of amnesia.

Now that the fires of Occupy and Standing Rock have died down, progressive citizens yet again find themselves waiting. Waiting, as millions of our sisters and brothers around the world die of starvation and preventable illnesses. Waiting, as the US bombs and kills civilians with impunity. Waiting, as we continue to plod along to our jobs pumping more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, imperiling hope for a livable future.

We know what we are facing. The solutions, however, are not exclusively, or even primarily material-technological ones. They lie within. The lessons of the indigenous are our guide.

Westerners are going to have to stop talking, and start listening. The answers lie in the ground we stand on, in the plants and soil that traditional people worship, in the waters that provides life and sustenance.

Recently, there have been some howls of protest about the defeatism on the Left. Broadly, the analyses are correct, but I am left to wonder, are they helpful to movement-building?  Are they inspirational?

It does no good to harp on the limitations of pusillanimous liberals, on the social justice warriors or identity politic mavens. Especially since propaganda and false consciousness continue to mold citizens into consumers, free-thinkers into conformists. We have been all socially constructed to become weak, infantile, and many have succumbed to this, and its not entirely their own fault.

Waiting can be tiresome, we all know that. It’s also tiresome to hear endless diatribes of the limits and failures on the Left. For we all have limitations, and we all need each other’s help. As for the lack of success, it was Beckett who said: “Fail again. Fail better.”

This is the task before us. The struggle is all we have, all we’ve ever had. There is no inevitable march of progress towards some pre-ordained teleological utopia, Marxist or otherwise, no moral arc of history. There is only us. There is the autonomy of the individual, and there is the structural servitude that the nation and the corporation impose upon us.

When I see someone consistently angry, or complaining, or consistently negative, I think of what Castaneda might say: “They are on a path with no heart”. It does no good to castigate a person or group, or to uphold one’s purity politics. What is needed is to hold out a helping hand, to establish charity, patience, reciprocity.

I read recently that the origin of the word miracle comes from the Proto-Indo-European words to smile, to be astonished. I cannot imagine a more apt analogy for activism today. We are going to have to remember how to smile.

Propaganda! Pardon me, is mine really bigger than yours?

They say Propaganda! In the West, both the mainstream media and even some of the so-called progressive outlets are shouting: “Those Russians and Chinese and the others like them, they are at it again! Their vicious propaganda is infiltrating our democratic, freedom-loving countries, spreading confusion and chaos!”

Yes, ban or at least curb RT, contain TeleSur, and if at all possible, throw Press TV to the dogs. And put the writers of NEO, Sputnik, Global Times and other foreign outlets on that proverbial Western mass media ‘no fly list’.

How truly democratic. How open-minded, how ‘objective’!

It goes like this:

“We have been indoctrinating the entire Planet for centuries, mostly unopposed, but if anyone dares to bite back, we will do our best to discredit, even to muzzle them, in no time.”

Then if you protest, if you dare to say that kicking out and gagging alternative media sources stinks of the lowest grade of censorship, and of imposing some sort of monopoly on propaganda, you’d be shouted at: “What do you know about propaganda? You really want to see some hard-core propaganda, look at those colorful military parades and political speeches coming out from Pyongyang!” Naturally, these are taken out of context and presented (or framed) in a certain way, and only after that are they always readily available on the BBC and other, should we say ‘reputable’ and ‘objective’, European and North American television channels.

What you will not be told is that if you happen to live in New York or London, Paris or Sydney, Munich or Madrid, you yourself are most likely in the highest bracket of propaganda consumption in the world; that, in fact, you could easily be a true propaganda junkie – hooked on it, fully dependent on it, seeking it, even regularly demanding it, at least subconsciously.

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Propaganda, what is it really?

We all ‘propagate’ or ‘propagandize’ something. At least we publicize what we think and believe in our emails, we are spreading it in the pubs, or while out meeting friends and loved ones.

Some of us do it professionally. We write essays, books, give speeches, make films. We go to politics. We join revolutionary movements. We want to change the world. We speak, write about what we believe.

It is all propaganda — spreading our ideas, trying to influence others. What is done in the church or mosque, is clearly propaganda as well, although it is rarely defined as such publicly.

All of us have some opinions, some worldview. You know, at least some very basic one… Or when it comes, for instance, to the mainstream media outlets, their bosses and owners definitely have quite clear designs, opinions and goals (employees, those journos sitting in plastic cubicles, are simply doing their well-paid job of presenting the ideas of their masters in a standard, elegant and grammatically correct prose).

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In brief: whenever we want to influence the world, we try to ‘package’ and present our thoughts beautifully, extracting the most powerful and attractive parts and passages of our ideals and principles.

There is nothing wrong with that. We communicate, we propagate our thoughts and dreams, as we are trying to improve the world. Such propaganda is, I believe, healthy.

The true problem begins when the same tactics and techniques are used for something absolutely destructive and objectively evil: like colonialism, racism, imperialism or the attempt to control and plunder entire nations and continents. And an even greater problem arises, when it happens with almost unlimited funding, and as a consequence, some of the most capable brains get involved, including those of the communication experts, educators, and even psychologists.

When such a scenario develops, it is not suddenly anymore about ‘discussion’ and ‘finding the best way forward for our humanity’. It is about total, full control of people’s brains, about the elimination of all alternatives.

That is brutal, fatal propaganda. And it is exactly the propaganda which has been domesticated in the West, and is rapidly spreading its metastases all over the world.

If unchecked and unchallenged, such developments may lead to the absolute destruction of humans’ ability to think freely, to compare and to analyze, but it may also eradicate the ability to feel, to dream and to dare.

This most likely is the aim of Western neo-colonialism. Its ‘success’ depends on the total, dogmatic cultural and ‘intellectual’ monopoly imposed by Europe and the United States on the rest of the world. Such a monopoly can only be attained through a one-sided interpretation of current affairs as well as world history.

The main goal is the absolute and unconditional control of the Planet.

After the destruction of the Soviet Union and during the rapid pro-market reforms in China (and the Western infiltration of China’s education system) in the same period of time, the West came extremely close to achieving its goal.

The world fully abandoned to Western imperialism and market fundamentalism, began suffering from a monstrous wave of privatization, theft of natural and other resources, and consequent social collapse of entire huge nations, from Russia to Indonesia.

Then ‘something happened’. The impact on the Planet became so devastating that many parts of the world abruptly stopped following the Western dictate. Russia had risen to its feet. China, under the guidance of the Communist Party and especially under the leadership of President Xi, returned to ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, putting a much greater accent on the quality of human life, culture and ecology, than on financial markets. Latin America began its new wave of the struggle for independence against the US and its own European elites. Many other countries, from Iran to South Africa, Eritrea, Syria and DPRK, refused to surrender.

They got demonized by Western propaganda, demonized day and night, systematically and relentlessly.

Whoever has stood for the interests of his or her people, be they a Communist, a socialist, a patriot, or even a populist, has been incessantly smeared, ridiculed and humiliated. President Assad or Ahmadinejad, Putin, Xi, Duterte, Zuma, Maduro, Castro, it mattered nothing how popular they were at home; it matters nothing! Simple as that: Whoever stands tall and fights for his people, faces character assassination in the Western media, which, in turn, directly or indirectly controls most of the media outlets in the world!

To get all of the patriotic and progressive leaders out of the way openly serves the interests of the Western Empire and its business offshoots.

No one has doubts about this anymore. It would take tremendous discipline not to see it.

Yet the opposite is being constantly repeated by the Western television stations, newspapers, magazines, and even the universities.

Ignoring facts, manufacturing conspiracy theories, denying that white is white, black is black, refusing to admit that human blood is red, that our hearts are on the left, and that above all, people are desiring their own identity, culture, justice and safety, isn’t this the highest level of propaganda, of indoctrination, of total brainwashing?

Those who are trashing ‘state-owned’ and ‘state-sponsored’ media outlets in non-Western countries, should be asking some very essential questions: “Is there any difference between those ‘private’ or ‘state’ media outlets in the West? Is there any substantial ideological drift between the CNN, BBC, The Independent, The New York Times, France/24 or DW?”

In Europe and in North America, as well as in their ‘client’ states, business interests control the government. They are actually the ones who are electing, or call it ‘selecting’ the government. Private or state-funded, the Western mass media is towing the same line. It is part of the apparatus.

In non-Western countries, the state-supported media outlets are beginning to propagate various new lines, mostly defending and highlighting the interests of their own countries, which in a way is a revolutionary development.

So, there is finally some global competition, isn’t there, dear comrades imperialists and capitalists? But what do we see… suddenly you don’t like it? You want your global monopoly? Is that your idea of freedom and ‘free competition’? You want your propaganda to be the only one on Earth!

*****

Several years ago, when I was making the film and writing a book with Noam Chomsky (On Western Terrorism – From Hiroshima To Drone Warfare, Pluto Press), we spoke a lot about Western propaganda.

Noam brought to my attention that Nazi Germany was extremely impressed by the U.S. advertising industry.

Then, in a way, Western propaganda also became shaped by shameless advertising production, by brainless and outrightly deceiving commercials. The continuous downpour of pseudo-reality has been melting away all human decency and rationality ever since.

I have written about this issue a lot, too, particularly in the pages of my book Exposing Lies of The Empire.

Television, Hollywood, but also indoctrinating, intellectually sterilizing and the grotesque way of ‘spreading knowledge’ by the North American and increasingly also by the European universities – it all has very little to do with the reality in which the world is living, as well as with the true concerns of the people; with their hopes, fears, and desires and aspirations.

Western commercials, entertainment, educational institutions – these are all powerful tools of propaganda. They propagate, force and inject into human sub-consciousness extremely primitive, false but powerful messages: “No matter what, our present arrangement of the world is correct and just. Our economic and social system is the most natural in the world. Our political system is not perfect, but it is the best nevertheless.”

*****

Noam Chomsky seemed to be fascinated with my past, and for some good reasons: I myself was totally indoctrinated, endlessly brainwashed by Western propaganda, when I was a child, and then a very young man.

I was born in the beautiful city of Leningrad, Soviet Union. My mother is a Russian-Chinese architect, father a Czech scientist. I grew up in Pilsen, in then Czechoslovakia. Pilsen was only 60 kilometers away from Bavaria. To be a ‘dissident’ there, at the age of 15 or so, was absolutely obligatory, otherwise one would have been considered an absolute loser, even a freak. That was naturally hammered into our brains by the BBC, Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, West German television channels like ARD and ZDF. We were all listening to Radio Luxemburg, to Bavaria 3, we read ‘samizdat’ literature.

Pilsen is a little town of 180,000 people, known for its heavy industry and beer, but when I was a child, it had a permanent opera house, countless libraries including a science one, several small avant-garde theatres (which, yes, all tried to put on stage something that could be read ‘between the lines’), great bookstores, 6 cinemas, including an excellent cine-club where we basically saw all the great existential and experimental films from Europe, Japan, U.S. and Latin America.

Communist Czechoslovakia was to some extent, gray, but extremely well educated, cultural and actually, really fun.

When I first visited Italy, I was shocked by its slums around Naples, by the sad lot of African immigrants. But I was conditioned to see the world as it was presented by Western propaganda. I protested against the ‘occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union’, because that is what the World Service of the BBC prepared me to do. Despite being educated on great literature, poetry and music, I saw Rambo as a freedom fighter, and Maggie Thatcher as a liberator of the ‘free world’.

I still somehow believed in the ideals of the Soviet Union, in the internationalism. But my brain was fried – it was a goulash that consisted of pseudo images coming like an avalanche from the West, and of solid and the not too colorful reality of socialist Czechoslovakia.

My two Czech uncles were true internationalists, and they built sugar mills, steel mills, pharmaceutical factories and other great things in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and China. They did it with honest zeal and the love for humanity. I considered them to be two losers, idiots, ‘fanatics’. In reality, they were great people, and I was simply sick, brainwashed and blind then!

Then, as now, Western propaganda spat at everything pure, altruistic, and honest. Western media is scared of true heroes, of people who are helping others to gain independence, of strong, truly free men and women.

I emigrated. I wrote total shit, my first book of poetry, I got involved in the Solidarity movement in neighboring Poland, hit the bottle while chain smoking some 50 cigarettes a day, and emigrated. Or more precisely, I was kicked out, or whatever… You know, a Soviet kid in Czechoslovakia, writing dissident stuff… It was embarrassing, so they just suggested I go to the West, where I loved it so much.

I went. To make my story short, after I got my political asylum in the US, I was at Columbia University Film School in New York City, when the U.S. performed its first strike against Libya.

That week was crucial. Film Faculty students quickly clarified to me, what was going on, in regard to Libya. Then, in the pub, they asked me about those ‘bread lines’ in Czechoslovakia. I humbly explained about all the sorts of delicious fresh-baked breads available in Pilsen, but they couldn’t believe me. They kept asking about censorship… I was much better read than they were, and apart from Hollywood productions, I had seen more great films, but that, again, was shocking to my new friends.

From the windows of East Campus, we watched the endless fires burning in Harlem. It was pre-Clinton Harlem, real tough stuff.

All around me, in New York, I saw misery, despair, discontent, but also total obedience and resignation. But there was no ‘going back’.

I began visiting Harlem, by car service, as no yellow cab would take me there. I discovered a little wonderful jazz club, the Baby Grand. I would drink there and listen to jazz, and at night I’d cry holding onto the owner, a big African-American mama. I still remember one night; puke all over the floor, and spilt beer. “I was so stupid!” I howled! “I was such a fool!” She caressed my hair and repeated: “Hush… It could be much worse. My people have had it much, much worse… Be strong, young man!” I was 19… Or 20, I forgot. In Harlem, they clearly explained to me, what it is America.

Later I was married into a multi-millionaire’s family in Texas, and I saw what was going on ‘inside’. The oil, the hatred of ‘big government’. As a simultaneous interpreter (I was moonlighting doing that work, supporting my writing), I was present during some of the most horrible negotiations between the Western ‘private sector’ and what was then left of the Soviet Union, and then Russia. What the West did to my country, to the Soviet Union and then to Yeltsin’s Russia, was theft, just shameless looting. In those days, I was making over 1,000 dollars per day, ++. I quickly understood what capitalism was, and imperialism. I wanted to die. I almost killed myself. I ran. I ran away from all that. I ran to Peru, to write about then the most brutal civil war on Earth. I hit the road. I shed all my identity. I became an internationalist. And I never stopped being one.

And I never returned to Europe or to the United States in order to live there. I only come to show my films, to launch my books, or to give one or two insulting speeches, as I did two years ago at the Italian Parliament in Rome.

It took some time to understand. I did. After living and working in more than 160 countries, after listening to tens of thousands of real stories, after almost losing my life on at least ten occasions, I understood.

I understand perfectly well, and I despise profoundly, what Western propaganda has done to the world. And I fight it, with all my might, day and night, for those millions, for billions of boys and girls, who are now, like me so many years ago, getting thoroughly indoctrinated, lobotomized and brainwashed by brutal professionals in London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles.

*****

I say and write what I want to say, what I want to write.

I also say and write what thousands of people whom I have met, in Asia, Oceania, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, want me to convey. They cannot do it themselves, they are too lost, too debilitated, too confused. They tell me the stories, not even hoping that anything can ever change or improve. They believe that their misfortune is permanent and fatal.

Then, I write my ‘propaganda’ pieces! I take sides. I speak of the horrors created by the Western neo-colonialist regime. Am I ‘subjective’? You bet! And I am telling you openly that I am.

I am an Internationalist, a Cuban-style internationalist. I am not hiding what I am. It is all honestly spelled out in my essays, in my profiles, in my books.

I ‘propagandize’ what I think, in what I believe. In fact, I’d much rather be called a ‘propagandist’ than a journalist, which is, lately, synonymous with ‘the oldest profession’.

People who are like me, are free, and they write, speak, make films, precisely as they want.

If we join the Russians, Chinese, Cubans, Venezuelans – we do it because that is what we want, because we think that what they are doing right now is generally right. It is not a job, it is a struggle, a battle, a true life!

Tough, not easy, but life, which I’d never trade for anything else.

But they, our adversaries in the West, those journos, are simply cowards, hypocrites or much, much worse!

They pretend that they are ‘objective’, while no ‘objectivity’ can really exist in this time and age, particularly not in the West. They are hiding their true shameful trade behind their impeccable Oxford accents. They are still getting great mileage from being white.

They simply lie, openly and shamelessly, solely by refusing to openly admit who is paying them, what is expected of them, and what would happen to their careers in case they’d dare to tell or write the truth.

*****

My propaganda is my own. Or it is designed (by myself) to help my comrades, and the countries and governments that I admire and support.

Am I fully objective? Please read this carefully: “NO! Definitely not. And I am not aiming at any false objectivity! I select the places where I go, I select the stories that I want to cover. That is how I ‘maneuver’ politically. But once there, once at the frontline, I tell the truth, and I produce images that simply cannot lie!”

My opponents from the Western mass media, from their governments, multi-nationals and advertising companies, are lying day and night. And they never admit what game they are playing.

That is why their propaganda is ‘bigger’ than mine.

I freely write what I think is correct, and my readers are reading my stuff freely (or sometimes even despite great obstacles).

My adversaries from the West, are using the lowest state and business apparatus, even fear, to penetrate people with their lies. They have psychologists, demagogues, business gurus at their disposals: to help with spreading their fabrications all over the world.

Technically, they are so good at what they are doing that even the poorest of the poor, even those who have already been robbed of everything, are readily buying into their ‘worldview’. Just go to Kenya or to Indonesia, go to the slums there, and you will see.

For many of the victims, the greatest honor is still to become as indoctrinated (and well-spoken) as those who have already robbed the world of almost everything.

This, my dear Comrades, is an outcome of perfectly successful and evil propaganda!

I’m terribly sorry, but I’m sticking to my own. My propaganda may be perhaps transparent, Imperfect and raw, but it is sincere.

And I’m not afraid, at night, to look at the mirror!

Accompanying Honduras

As the bus was taking our accompaniment delegation to Honduras to the airport for our return home, it stopped by the offices of Radio Progreso. Piling on to the bus came some twenty staff members of the station to bid us goodbye. Each of them greeted us with an embrace, a kiss, or a clasp of hands expressing heartfelt gratitude for our having come to be with them at this dangerous and chaotic time in their country. It was a striking gesture of affection that deeply touched us, the visiting delegates.

Toma Arrival

We came to this country at the urgent request of SHARE El Salvador, a humanitarian aid organization with a long history of solidarity work in Central America. Police and military repression in Honduras since the overtly fraudulent elections in November 2017 has been getting worse, with over thirty people killed and more than one thousand in jails. Death threats aimed at those who are raising their voices the loudest are getting more overt and intense.

In particular, the life of Jesuit priest and native Honduran Father Ismael Moreno, known as Padre Melo, is in danger. Possibly as well known as the assassinated Berta Caceres, Melo is the director of Radio Progreso, an independent station that reports on human rights violations, police and military abuses, and the work of dissidents and protectors of the land and waters. A humble and soft-spoken man, he is a spiritual and political leader who has not minced words as he has pointed to the illegal and brutal behaviors of the Honduran government and elites. He has also denounced the United States for its support of the regime, and for its hypocrisy in certifying Honduras as having an acceptable human rights record. Now his picture is featured on a flyer being circulated purporting to depict terrorists in El Progreso, in what could well be a prelude to his assassination.

The organizers of our delegation had originally hoped that a handful of faith leaders could come on very short notice to accompany and protect Padre Melo, as well as others, and to witness and report on what is happening on the ground as the cycles of demonstrations and police repression escalate. Surprisingly, fifty people – mostly clergy – got on a plane and arrived on January 24 to spend a week meeting with Radio Progreso staff and grass roots activists, listen to stories from family members of victims of the repression, attend street demonstrations, marches, and vigils as observers, take part in religious ceremonies, and generally listen and observe.

Most of us knew the history we were walking into: the 2009 coup when President Zelaya was arrested in his pajamas by the military and flown out of the country; the immediate support of the U.S. for the new coup regime; the subsequent mass repression of the people; the corruption of political leaders as they have colluded with multinational corporations to steal land and exploit mineral resources; the assassinations of dissidents such as Berta Caceres; the impunity of the police and military; the flagrant violation of domestic and international law.

Then came the elections of 2017. Salvador Nasralla of the opposition Libre party was well ahead in the count when the ballot count was halted, supposedly by a glitch in the computer system. Twenty-one days later, the Supreme Electoral Tribune announced that Juan Orlando Hernandez, the incumbent, had been re-elected.

It was a transparently fraudulent election. Not only was the process full of so-called “irregularities,” the very fact that Orlando Hernandez was running for a second term was expressly forbidden by the Honduran constitution. Ironically, the rationale used for the ousting of Zelaya in 2009 was that he was conspiring to run for a second term. And here was Hernandez, the chosen one of the elites, doing exactly that and getting away with it.

In this context, one might expect demonstrations of dissent in any democratic society. But Honduras can scarcely be called a democracy at this point. People in the streets are understandably carrying signs calling their government a dictatorship. They are denouncing Hernandez and endlessly chanting for his ouster with the cry of “Fuera JOH!” They take roads and block traffic. They stand face-to-face with integrated forces of counterinsurgency-trained police and military in their riot gear with their armored cars, shields, water cannons, and seemingly endless supply of tear gas. All financed and supplied by the U.S.A.

It is breathtaking to see the courage and tenacity of the people. They know the dangers they face because so many of their loved ones have been victimized by this regime. When we listened to the families of the victims, we heard one story after another. Jose Luis was trying to leave a protest when he was shot in the face. He lost an eye. Maria’s husband was walking home from work in an area near where a protest was happening when he was shot, near his home. He is now paralyzed and brain damaged. When his son ran out of the house to help him, he was arrested, and bathed in pepper spray. A woman in tears told us how her husband was shot and taken to a hospital. He was judged to be in good condition. But then he was visited in his room by two military men who accompanied him to the operating room, where he died on the operating table. His wife has filed denunciations with the police and says she is now persecuted and followed.

As members of our delegation attended a street demonstration one evening, they got a ride home from a former legislator, Bertolo Fuentes, who is known for speaking out against the government. Fuentes is living in dangerous circumstances – his picture is in the center of the flyer that also targets Padre Melo, calling him a terrorist. As he was driving our fellow delegates home, Fuentes got a call that four uniformed policemen were invading his house. The police had pointed guns at the heads of his wife and son and had dragged his son from the house and kicked and beaten him. Fuentes immediately turned around and sped to his house. When the delegate group arrived, the policemen quickly left.

Some of our delegates, including a journalist, traveled to Pajuiles, where there is a small encampment of people next to a hydroelectric project being built at the entrance to their community. Nearby are two squads of fully integrated military, police, and military police that have been at this post since before the elections. There our delegates learned that on Tuesday, January 23 around 4 am, a 35-year old agricultural worker and father of five was dragged out of his home and executed by the police. He was shot more than 40 times in the back of his head and torso, by a military/police patrol, his mother and brother watching from nearby. The police and military post is less than 300 meters from where the man was killed. There has been no investigation or even mention by the police of the incident. Thursday night, the same day of the funeral, the police threw gas bombs into the community. This was confirmed by one police officer who spoke to our group.

At the end of the week, our delegation was able to meet with staff at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, including Chargé d’Affaire Heide Fulton, the acting head of the embassy since President Trump has not filled the ambassador position in Honduras. We told them these stories and more.

We explained how the violence of the state is causing people to flee. How, in fact, the U.S. sponsorship of this regime is a cause for the migration that so concerns politicians in our country, to which we have responded with our militarized border, walls, and prisons. And we pointed out that revoking the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduran refugees would only worsen the situation, causing more and more suffering and deaths in Honduras.

We explained how these very same conditions in Honduras were the same conditions many of us saw in El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s. How Honduras could be looking at a much worse problem in the near future. How, in fact, the people we talked to in Honduras very much fear this will be the case after the inauguration of Hernandez, when the eyes of the world are no longer on Honduras. They fear the hammer will come down on them for their opposition.

We urged the State Department officials to hear us and to take the following immediate actions:

  1. Protect the lives of dissenters, in particular Padre Melo;
  2. Insist that the government stop using militarized policing to repress demonstrators;
  3. Release political prisoners who are being dragged off to jails for dissenting;
  4. Acknowledge that this was a fraudulent election and call, as the OAS has recommended, for a new election, conducted under international supervision.

We certainly had little expectation of a favorable response from these State Department officials, but we were nonetheless surprised at the tone deafness and bureaucratic defensiveness of Ms. Fulton’s reply. She instructed us that the State Department mission there is to “improve security, fight corruption, increase prosperity, and strengthen historically weak institutions.” She said that the country does not have enough police to provide security and that the U.S is remedying this. She said she would like to see factual evidence of what we were telling her we had seen and heard, and she stated that “there are two sides to every story.” She said she had not heard about any illegal detentions. And she said that since the Honduran constitution does not provide for a new election option, the U.S. could not do anything other than work for reforms that improved the process next time.

Of course, Fulton did not acknowledge the historic role the U.S. has played in Honduras, and indeed throughout Latin America and the world, in fostering the very conditions of destabilization that we witnessed, supporting repressive regimes, and undermining democratic structures and institutions. She didn’t blink when she said there was nothing the U.S. could do about the fraudulent election in Honduras, its client state. In the face of hearing the heartfelt testimony and pleas from this largely religious delegation, the trained diplomat came back with the expected dispassionate company line. As one delegate said, it showed the typical U.S. government “heart of stone.”

The next day, we got on the bus and headed to the airport. When we were thanked and so warmly sent on our way by the staff of Radio Progreso, we were reminded how remarkable the people of this country are. They continue in their courageous struggle with good humor, graciousness, and resilience, despite the grim repression they face. Many of us expressed our gratitude to them in return, for inspiring us to call on these inner strengths ourselves, even in the hardest of times, for protecting us, and for giving us a glimpse of the dictatorship our government supports.

On the plane home, still feeling the embraces of solidarity, I recalled the saying that is attributed to Lila Watson, an indigenous Australian: “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
How can we be free when our sisters and brothers are not? La luche sigue.