Category Archives: South Ixachilan (America)

USA’s Militarization of Latin America

Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft, the commander of 12th Air Force, wrote on 22 August: “I have seen an increasingly contested strategic space where Beijing and Moscow are aggressively investing time and resources in Latin America to support their authoritarian models of governance. The Air Force must reinforce the strength of our longstanding commitment to the Western Hemisphere. We lose ground when we are unable to commit to spending the time and resources to fly our aircraft south and train alongside our partners.”

Croft’s statement reflects the growing American hysteria against the presence of any extra-regional actors in the Latin American continent. For US policy-makers, Latin America is not an aggregation of sovereign nations but a large lump of subordinated states constituting “America’s backyard”. Consequently, this conceptualization of Latin America as a natural extension of the American empire has led to viewing the engagement of any South American country with China, Russia and Iran as a “threat” to peace and security.

On February 7, 2019, Admiral Craig S. Faller – the commander of the United States Southern Command – told the Congress that the Western Hemisphere is facing “a troubling array of challenges and threats”. These threats included alarmist assertions about the growing dominance of China, Russia and Iran and a general demonization of the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua: “China has accelerated expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative at a pace that may one day overshadow its expansion in Southeast Asia and Africa. Russia supports multiple information outlets spreading its false narrative of world events and U.S. intentions. Iran has deepened its anti-U.S. Spanish language media coverage and has exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere. Russia and China also support the autocratic regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests. We are monitoring the latest events in Venezuela and look forward to welcoming that country back into the hemisphere’s community of democracies.”

In response to the perceived threats posed by the China-Russia-Iran nexus, the Secretary of Defense has decided to conduct an assessment of the sufficiency of resources available to the U.S. Southern Command, the U.S. Northern Command, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out their respective missions in the Western Hemisphere. This assessment is required to include “a list of investments, programs, or partnerships in the Western Hemisphere by China, Iran, Russia, or other adversarial groups or countries that threaten the national security of the United States.”

In addition to warlike preparations, USA has also pursued a policy of increased militarization wherein it has tried to ensure “technological superiority” with regard to “anti-US actors”. In March, 2020, USA decided to send additional ships, aircraft and forces to South America and Central America in order to combat the influence of Russia and China. According to Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of Southern Command, “This really was born out of a recognition of the threats in the region,”. Along with the mobilization of the Southern Command, USA has substantially enlarged its security aid to Latin America: From $527,706,000 in 2019, US security aid to Latin America has increased by 10% to $581,270,000.

Chinese Footprint

The present-day US militarization of Latin America is rhetorically driven by an imperialist discourse framing the continent as a possession of the American empire which China, Russia and Iran are trying to appropriate. To take an example, R. Evan Ellis, a Latin America Research Professor at the US Army War College, told before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that China’s engagement with Latin America “threatens the position of the United States, our security and prosperity, and the democratic values, rights, institutions and laws on which we depend.” To substantiate his statements, Ellis enunciated various strategies through which China is undermining USA’s dominance:

  • “Trade with, loans to, investment in, and other forms of economic and other support to anti-US regimes, indirectly enabling their criminal activities and contributions to regional instability”.
  • “Through providing an alternative to commerce, loans and investment from the West, making governments of the region less inclined to support the US on political, commercial, or security issues, or to stand up for rule of law, democracy or human rights, particularly where it might offend the PRC;”

In both these points, one can observe the imperialistic high-handedness with which Ellis is declaiming his pro-US rhetoric. While Beijing’s efforts to engage with sovereign nations and construct an alternative to the global American empire are regarded as enabling “regional instability”, no questions are asked about USA’s expansionist quest to imperialize the entire world through militaristic tactics.

In order to vilify China and smear its non-aggressive foreign policy, hawkish security experts have framed the country’s diplomatic involvement with various Latin American nations as a type of authoritarian tactic. Using this line of reasoning, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) writes: “Beijing has now officially established its own version of soft power… which emanates from its undemocratic system and rests on its ability to shape the viewpoints of others through co-optation and persuasion.” Not having any empirical evidence to prove its unconvincing statements, NED talks vaguely about the “hypnotic effects” exercised by “Chinese-style warm welcome”: “The Chinese-style warm welcome, the carefully selected tours that include visits to sites with symbolic historical and cultural significance, and ad hoc friendly discourse delivered by the Chinese hosts can have hypnotic effects on their foreign guests.” This is an indication of the extent to which America hysteria against China can reach.

In the same way as NED, the Brookings Institution has also tried to slander China’s diplomatic initiatives in Latin America to preserve the coercive dominance of USA in the continent. As per the think tank, “it would be fair to assume that China’s growing economic power and ambitions of global leadership, coupled with its inherently closed and repressive model of political control, will hurt the region’s prospects for strengthening its liberal democratic systems and respect for human rights.” While saying this, the Brooking Institution conveniently forgets that it the US, with its Western-styled liberal democracy, that has hurt the region most in the form of coups, violence and overt brutality against social movements. Most recently, a US-backed coup in Bolivia has resulted in two massacres and massive repression of social movements.

The Iranian Connection

Like China, Iran, too, experiences American hostility towards its engagement with Latin American countries. Lieutenant Andrew Kramer of the U.S. Navy terms Iranian support for the “economically backward governments” of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as efforts “to maintain pockets of instability and hostility close to U.S. borders.” Echoing this perspective, William Preston McLaughlin, a Colonel (Ret.) of U.S. Marine Corps and Magdalena Defort, an Intern Analyst at the Foundation of Defense of Democracies, argue that “Iran’s presence in Latin America is an imminent threat to peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere because its forces interact with Latin America’s deeply rooted revolutionary ideology and various well-intentioned but flawed “liberation theology” social movements.” Here, both of the analysts are merely parroting the imperialist “Monroe Doctrine” that subverted the sovereignty of Latin American nations and tethered the people of the continent to the whims of the American empire. Through the Monroe Doctrine, USA relegated the entire Latin American continent to the status of the empire’s handmaiden and constantly used its military muscles to overpower any regional initiatives challenging the dynamics of subjugation. Now, when Iran is lending support to the anti-imperialist administrations of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, it has come under the radar of USA for ostensibly destroying peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere. In August 2020, for instance, USA confiscated four Iranian fuel shipments that had been bound for Venezuela, making it clear that it would not tolerate anti-imperialist opposition in Latin America.

In addition to portraying Iran as a threat to global peace, both the analysts also used a shrill, scaremongering rhetoric to over-exaggerate the strength of the country. According to the analysts, “Iran has used every agency within its borders to help extend Iranian tentacles into the political, cultural, economic, and military life of Latin America.” This bears striking resemblance to the traditional war-mongering US narrative that frames Hezbollah as a menace to justify the militarizary raising funds, seeking recruits, probing for our weaknesses and challenging our defenses,”. Through these discourses, USA seeks to unleash a new war against the anti-imperialist axis of Latin America which is standing up to militaristic predatoriness of the global hegemon.

Russian Presence

Besides Iran and China, Russia is another nation perceived as a “threat” to US security. General John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) noted in his Congressional testimony, “it has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian presence” in Latin America. In his command’s 2015 Posture Statement, Kelly added: “Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.”

John Kelly’s representation of Russia as a military threat has been repeated by the Commander of US Southern Command, Admiral Kurt W. Tidd who said in his February 2018 Posture Statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee that: “Russia’s increased role in our hemisphere is particularly concerning, given its intelligence and cyber capabilities, intent to upend international stability and order, and discredit democratic institutions…Left unchecked, Russian access and placement could eventually transition from a regional spoiler to a critical threat to the U.S. homeland.” With the help this narrative, USA has aggressively pushed forward the agenda of greater militarism in Latin America as it strives to maintain “technological superiority” in relation to Russia and expand its already large military expenditure.

On the top of depicting Russia as a military threat, US analysts have additionally portrayed the country’s support of socialist governments in Latin America as a danger to the economically empty liberal democracies of the West. According to IBI Consultants, a National Security consulting company specializing in Latin America, Russia’s growing presence in Latin America “is now an integral part of an alliance of state and nonstate actors that have shown their hostility toward the United States in their ideology, criminalized behavior, and anti-democratic nature.” Reiterating this point, on July 9, 2019, Admiral Faller declared before the Congress that “Russia seeks to sow disunity and distrust, propping up autocratic regimes in Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests.” For Faller, those nations which don’t doggedly toe America’s imperialist line automatically become “threats” to democracy and if Russia shows solidarity with these anti-imperialist nations, it, too, classifies as a threat to US interests.

As USA continues to militarize Latin America, it is increasingly becoming clear that it wants to protect its old, imperial structures from being challenged by anyone. It has been explicitly acknowledged even by pro-US analysts such as Ellis that US military assistance in Latin America “potentially serves U.S. strategic interests by helping to inoculate receiving states against radical or anti-democratic [read “socialist”] solutions which find receptivity when populations lose faith in the ability of a democratic political system and a free market economy to effectively address the corruption, inequality, injustice, and other dysfunctionalities plaguing their country [Emphasis mine].” US military assistance, therefore, is not apolitical and is ideologically tarnished with the objectives of stabilizing free market economies-bourgeoisie democracies and subverting socialist countries.

The United States Intelligence Community’s assessment of threats to US national security had stated in 2019 that “anti-US autocrats [in the Western Hemisphere]will present continuing challenges to US interests, as US adversaries and strategic competitors seek greater influence in the region.” Here, “anti-US autocrats” refers to the socialist administrations of three Latin American countries: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. These three countries have been facing strong US belligerence for their anti-imperialist stance. US sanctions against Cuba have tightened during the pandemic; USA’s hybrid war against Venezuela has intensified as Trump has decided to use frozen funds to topple Nicolas Maduro and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) has strengthened its regime change operations against the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Due to the support lent by China, Russia and Iran to the socialist governments of Latin America, USA has decided to eradicate these extra-regional actors from its “own” backyard and re-proclaim a complete American dominance in the region. In times like these, the international community needs to oppose the militarism of USA against new regional alliances in Latin America.

China’s International Solidarity Aid to the World During the Corona Pandemic

China’s worldwide assistance and medical aid to other countries to combat the coronavirus is barely covered in the corporate press. Instead, the US has ramped up its anti-China campaign to cover up its own incompetence in combating the virus. As John Pilger shows in his Obama era film The Coming War on China, this is no new campaign.

The US empire realizes that China is slowly putting the US out of business around the world. If the point comes where the US can no longer impose the dollar as the medium of international exchange – still a long way away — it would rapidly go the way of the old British empire. The rise of China also signifies the setting of the white man’s bloody 500-year world hegemony.

China displayed before the world its effective strategy in shutting down the coronavirus. In contrast, every day Washington shows the world it is incapable of effective response and cannot control of the situation. Back on March 13, when US coronavirus deaths were just 40, Trump declared a national health emergency. Now, after eight weeks of “emergency” measures, the official US death count surpasses 82,000.

Over 50 years ago the United States would have been leading the international battle to fight the pandemic, as it had done with polio. Today, there is a vacuum that China, and even Cuba, are filling.

“This Administration’s retreat from multilateralism has been a boon for Chinese soft power,” Virginia Senator Mark Warner (D) told Newsweek. The US has “historically been a leader in responding to global emergencies, but with President Donald Trump’s retreat from the world stage, we’re seeing the Chinese government, and its proxies, fill the void,” he added.

Even CNBC reports:

This is the first international crisis where China is actively taking a global leadership role and it stands in particular contrast to the US, which has disdained international cooperation and invested more political capital in criticizing China for its role in allowing the outbreak to spread,’ said analysts from the Eurasia Group in a report this week. On social and state media, China continues to promote its shipments of medical supplies to hard hit countries in Europe and Africa.

China’s leader Xi Jinping has sought to rally the world, declaring the two most powerful weapons against the disease were solidarity and cooperation, that the virus can only be defeated when the international community fights in unity. “It is imperative for the international community to strengthen confidence, act with unity and work together in a collective response,” Xi said at the G20 summit on March 26. “We must comprehensively step up international cooperation and foster greater synergy so that humanity as one could win the battle against such a major infectious disease.” He proposed a four point program including a G20 joint action plan to lead the struggle to combat the virus and revive the world economy.

China has been supplying the world with medical supplies through donations and sales. The US, in contrast, has continued its bombings in Iraq, regime change attempts, and has blocked medical aid by the IMF and by other countries to Cuba, Venezuela and Iran. The US also capitalized on the pandemic to round up immigrants for deportation, ignoring advice from public health officials.

China Daily published an article “COVID-19 shows the demise of so-called American leadership,” which observed, “China has taken the lead to support the world during the crisis.” This was evident even in Europe as US-allied countries found themselves turning to China rather than Washington, and saw the Trump administration pirating supplies meant for other crisis-stricken countries, including Germany, Canada, Italy and France.

Cuba has also been a model of medical solidarity in face of the virus pandemic. By the end of March more than 850 Cuban health professionals have traveled abroad to help fight COVID-19. Washington has responded by retaliating, obstructing Cuba’s ability to combat the virus at home by blocking the sale of  Swiss respirators, blocking Cuba’s ability to import pharmaceutical raw materials, and even blocking a major coronavirus donation by Jack Ma from China. This led to over 25 U.S. lawmakers signing a letter to President Trump to allow Cuba access to medical supplies to fight the virus.

By early April over 100 Chinese public health experts, using their experience in Wuhan, had traveled to other countries to help in their efforts. At that time, 14 medical teams were working in 12 countries, which now include Iran, Iraq, Italy, Spain, Serbia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Philippines, Nigeria and Algeria.  By mid-April, China had already sent medical donations to 140 countries. Moreover, as the US cut its funding to the World Health Organization, China compensated by donating an extra $30 million on top of a previous $20 million.

This information is rarely reported in the US corporate press, which then typically faults China for underhanded ulterior motives, for exporting substandard masks (and then for holding up exports to meet other nations’ standards), for covering up and lying to the world about their efforts to control the virus, and so on.

Here are examples of China’s international solidarity and other countries’ gratitude:

Chinese Donations to Canada and the US

Soon after Trump blocked 3M from shipping N95 masks to Canada, to prioritize US domestic needs, Huawei flew large quantities of medical supplies to Canadian provinces. Canada received over a million masks, 50,000 gloves and 30,000 goggles, with five million more masks to follow. Newsweek noted, “their generosity has been accepted and appreciated by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”

CNN reported that Joe and Clara Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, donated from China  2.6 million masks, 170,000 goggles and 2,000 ventilators. Joe Tsai founded Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce company, along with Jack Ma, and is its Executive Vice President. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thanked them, “The Chinese government helped facilitate a donation of 1,000 ventilators that will arrive in JFK today. I thank the Chinese government, Jack Ma, Joe Tsai, the Jack Ma Foundation, the Tsai Foundation and [China’s New York] Consul General Huang.”

China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai in a New York Times op-ed, China and the U.S. Must Cooperate Against Coronavirus, wrote that “Huawei donated tens of thousands of personal protective items, including masks, gloves and goggles, to New York and Washington, D.C. In total, Chinese companies have donated 1.5 million masks, 200,000 test kits, 180,000 gloves and many other medical supplies to the United States.”

China also aided Oregon, sight of the initial US outbreak.  Oregon Governor Kate Brown thanked China for “The very generous donation of 50,000 much-needed masks for Oregonians,” on top of an earlier 12,000 masks.

Terry Branstad, the US Ambassador to China, also acknowledged Chinese assistance:

A few months later, we find our roles are reversed – China is now providing PPE for the US medical system, including donations from private Chinese entities. The United States has greatly appreciated the many contributions of PPE and medical supplies by Chinese companies and other organizations. These contributions have been both commercial exports and donations, both large and small, both immediate and long-term. But the American people are tremendously grateful for the support from the Chinese people, and our Mission has been touched by the many heartfelt offers to assist us in our time of need.

China’s Aid and Donations to Europe

China sent ten medical personnel to Russia in early April and a total of 150 million masks.  It sent medical aid to numerous European Union countries, including Poland, Belarus, Romania, Hungary, Greece, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Estonia, and Spain.

Chinese doctors arrived in Italy March 9 shortly after European Union nations turned down Italy’s requests for help with medical supplies. Maurizio Massari, Italy’s EU ambassador to the European Union, said “not a single EU country responded to the Commission’s call….Only China responded bilaterally. Certainly, this is not a good sign of European solidarity.” Besides doctors, China supplied Italy with desperately needed medical equipment, including contracts for 10,000 pulmonary ventilators, 2 million face masks and 20,000 protective suits.

Not just Italy experienced the EU cold shoulder and China’s generosity. Czech President Zeman noted, “I would therefore like to thank the People’s Republic of China, which was the only country that has helped us” when they appealed for aid. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy responded similarly: “We agreed with China and we are grateful to them, especially grateful to Jack Ma as he helped us by financing the $80 million.”

China’s offers of donations to the EU as a whole and to individual member states is “highly appreciated“, declared an EU spokesperson.  Both China and the EU regarded China’s help as reciprocating the aid Europe sent to China during its coronavirus crisis.

To Africa

In March, the  Chinese government and Chinese businessman Jack Ma donated 500 ventilators, 800,000 personal protective equipment, 6 million masks, and 1.1 million test kits to Ethiopia for distribution among African countries.  Each of the 54 African states would receive at least 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 protective suits.

“There is a desperate need for the medical protective equipment and gear to support public health workers in Africa and China’s donations fill a part of that need at a time when not many other people have been stepping up to help”, says Eric Olander, managing editor of The China Africa Project.

A 13-member Chinese medical team arrived in Algeria late March with $450,000 of respirators and other medical equipment, while a 15-member team came to Nigeria.

To Asia

Chinese medical personnel have served in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. Chinese experts have visited Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines, arriving with medical donations. Medical aid from both the Chinese government and businesses have  reached Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Japan, South Korea, among other nations. Teams of experts have traveled to Asian countries for two or three weeks, visiting hospitals and laboratories, holding discussions with health professionals on measures that the host countries are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Twelve Chinese medical experts arrived in Manila on April 5 to help their Philippine counterparts manage the outbreak. The team again came with government donations of personal protective equipment, surgical masks, medical protective face shields and 30 ventilators.

The Palestinian Authority received an assistance package of 50,000 coronavirus testing kits. The Palestinian Health Minister, Mai Al-Kaila, told local reporters that aid was provided in cooperation with Jack Ma, e-commerce giant Alibaba’s co-founder.

To Latin America

From the Southern Cone to Central America, governments have received a wide range of donations, from testing kits to ventilators. Venezuela was one of the first to receive Chinese medical supplies, which came shortly after the International Monetary Fund rejected President Maduro’s request for a $5 billion loan to strengthen his country’s fight against the virus. “We want to thank President Xi Jinping, his government and his people from the bottom of our Bolivarian heart,” said Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez.

Reuters reported, “China has won praise among Latin American governments that have accepted its help. The Chinese government said it has supplied test kits, protective suits and other forms of medical aid to more than 80 countries and international organizations.”

“Thank you China for cooperation and solidarity with Ecuador!” the hard hit country’s Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner wrote.

Not only did Cuba receive aid from the Chinese government and Jack Ma (which was reshipped through Chinese channels to avoid the US blockade), but Chinese students also delivered humanitarian aid. More than 280 Chinese students, who had previously studied in Cuba under a scholarship provided by the island authorities, collected about 140,000 yuan ($19,823). This money was used to purchase 420 sets of protective medical equipment as well as 38,750 medical masks.

President Xi Jinping stressed how, since the beginning of the epidemic, Cuban authorities have expressed their support for China, an attitude that demonstrates “the deep traditional friendship shared by the two countries.”

Conclusion

China has responded to the present US anti-China disinformation campaign by presenting a timeline of what they knew and how they responded. (here, here, here) As US coronavirus deaths continued to mount, almost one third of the world total, and as the US economy nose-dived, Trump tried to deflect blame for the disastrous handling of the coronavirus on to China. Before this, Trump had praised China’s effort.

The US has long been underfunding the community health centers and programs which could have played a valuable role in combating the spread of the virus. State public health departments have lost more than 55,000 staff since 2008. That our trust in the US government to protect our welfare is at historic lows also contributes to the ineffectual US “shelter in place” programs, which hardly compare with those in China, touched on in this short video.

From the responses to the coronavirus pandemic, the world has seen the model of public health efficiency China presented in controlling the problem at home. It has seen China’s world leadership in offering international aid and care. It has seen the abdication of leadership by the US and even its obstruction in working to find solutions. Now the US still cannot control the virus, and remains mired in economic crisis, while China is rebounding. In sum, the pandemic has made the world look at both China and the US in a new light. And it has dealt a serious blow to the US rulers’ two decade long effort to counter the rise of China.

In the Eye of the Eagle: From Strict Catholic School to Adventures in Rainforests

A slow, tacking flight: float then flap. Then a pirouette and it has swung on to a different tack, following another seam through the moor as if it is tracking a scent. It is like a disembodied spirit searching for its host…” — description of the strongest of all harriers, the goshawk, by James Macdonald Lockhart in his book, Raptor: A Journey Through Birds

We’re watching a female red-tail hawk rejecting the smaller male’s romantic overtures barely 50 yards overhead.

There it is. Ahh, the male has full extension. So does his girlfriend. I see this every day from here. This courting ritual . . . testing each other’s loyalty. Watching them in a talon lock, spiraling down, now that’s an amazing sight.

I’m with Chris Hatten on his 10 acres overlooking the Siletz estuary along a gravel road. Saying he lives for that typical red-tail hawk behavior would be an understatement. His passion for raptors has taken him to many parts of the globe, and those trips involved exhilaration, danger, risks to his life, and the trials and tribulations of living primitively in tropical zones which Westerners sometimes deridingly call undeveloped countries or third world nations.

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 Wild Harpy eagle being recaptured and treated after being shot in leg, northern Guatemala.

We are traipsing around his property where Chris is ninety percent finished with a two-story 1,400 square foot home, a modern efficient house he’s been building for two years from a kit out of Lynnwood, Washington.

He told me he’ll never do that again – building a full-sized house.

The 42-year-old Hatten got a hold of my name when he found out I write about Oregon coastal people with compellingly interesting lives. He is in the midst of witnessing adjoining land (more than a hundred acres) to his property about to be clear-cut – forested hillside owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, part of John Hancock Insurance (now owned by a Canadian group, Manulife Financial).

When he first bought the land eight years ago, representatives of Hancock told him that the company had so much timberland it would take years, maybe a decade, to get to this piece of property.

We discuss how Lincoln City and Lincoln County might prevent a clear cut from the side of the hill all the way down to Highway 101. “It’s amazing to witness in this coastal area — that depends on tourism — all this land clear-cut as far as the eye can see.”

The red-tail hawk pair circles above us again, while a Merlin flits about alighting on a big Doug fir.

When he first saw the property — an old homestead which was once a producing dairy farm — Chris said two eagles cawed above where he was standing, which for a bird-man is a positive omen and spiritual sign of good health. He calls his place “The Double-Eagle.”

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Hands on bio blitz Northern Brazil.

Non-Traditional Student Backpacks into Jungles

He’s not living in the house, per se, but rather he has a tent he calls home. “I feel suffocated inside four walls. I want to hear animals, hear the wind, be on the ground.” He’s hoping to rent out the house.

His current kip is set up near a black bear den, where mother bruin and her two cubs share an area he is willing to stay away from. “The mother bear and I have an understanding. We don’t bother each other.”

He’s part Doctor Dolittle, part Jim Fowler (from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and part John Muir. My own intersections with blokes and women around the world like him have put me eye-to-eye with pygmy elephants in Vietnam, great hammerheads off Baja, king cobras in Thailand, schools of barracudas off Honduras, and a pack of 20 javelina chasing me along the Arizona-Mexico border.

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Jaguar rescue northern Belize.

Hatten’s wildlife adventures indeed take it up a few notches.

“When I finished high school, I wanted to follow my dreams.” That was at Saint Mary’s in Salem, a school that was so constricting to Chris he had already been saving up dollars for a one-way ticket out of the country.

He had started working young – aged 8 – picking zucchini and broccoli in fields near where his family of six lived. “You feel invincible when you are young. You’re also more adaptable and more resilient.”

He ended up in Malaysia which then turned into trekking throughout Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, East Timor, and even down south to Darwin, Australia.

Those two years, from age 17 to 19, are enough to fill two thick memoirs. Upon returning to Salem, he applied to the National Park service and bought a one-way ticket to Alaska, working the trails in small groups who lived in tents and cleared trails with 19-Century equipment – saws, shovels, picks, pry bars.

With his cash stake growing, he headed back south, by mountain bike, along the Prudhoe-Dalton Highway. He hit Prince George, Vancouver Island, and stopped in the Olympics.

He then worked summers and attended Chemeketa College in Salem.

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Finding small spot fire Colombia River Gorge, Oregon, working for U.S.F.S.

Homeless-but-inspired at Evergreen State College

He wanted to study temperature rainforests, so he showed up unannounced hoping for an audience with a well-known scientist and faculty member — Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, who is an expert in temperate forests and sap maples. Chris had read the book she co-authored, Forest Canopies.

Before showing up to Evergreen, Chris had developed a sling-shot contraption to propel ropes into forest canopy. He barged into Nadkarni’s office with his invention. She was surprised Chris wasn’t already student, but she quickly made sure he enrolled in the environmental studies program.

Spending his last dollar on tuition, Chris resorted to sleeping in a tent and inside his 1988 Honda Civic while using campus rec department showers. He told me he received free produce on Tuesdays when the farmer’s market would pass out vegetables and fruit after a day’s sales.

Another faculty member, Dr. Steve Herman, motivated Chris to really delve into ornithology. Chris recalls coastal dune ecology trips, from Olympia in motor pool vans, all the way into the southern reaches of Baja. “We looked at every dune system from Baja all the way back north to Florence.”

The ornithologist Herman was also a tango aficionado, and Chris recalled the professor announcing to his students many times, in the middle of dunes in Mexico, it was time for some tango lessons. “He told us there was more to life than just science.”

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Educational Harpy eagle to take into classrooms Panama city, Panama, has one blind eye, could not be released into wild.

Adventures and Misadventures of a Bird Fanatic

My life’s work has been to produce scientists who will seek to protect wildness. But I also just really enjoy teaching people about birds. I’ve been lucky to get to do that for a very long time.

— Steve Herman, Evergreen State College faculty emeritus Steve Herman, 2017

Chris laments the lack of real stretches of wilderness in Oregon, most notably along our coast. These are postage stamp areas, he emphasizes, around Drift Creek, Rock Creek, Cape Perpetua, but “it’s abysmal.”

We have the Cascades in Washington and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and lots of wilderness in Alaska. But really, nothing along the Pacific in Oregon.

After camping in the forest around Evergreen College, Chris still had the travel bug bad. On one foray, he went to Thailand, studying the mangrove forests there. He traveled with Thai army anti-poaching teams who went after poachers. He came across poachers’ camps, witnessed firefights and saw a few poachers laid out dead. “The captain gave me a pistol and one bullet. He said the torture would be so bad if I got captured by tiger poachers that I’d beg for a bullet.”

He’s worked on the island of Hawaii with the USGS focusing on a biocomplexity project looking at how mosquitoes are moving higher and higher because of global warming. The consequences are pretty connected to other invasives – pigs introduced to the islands several centuries ago – disturbing the entire natural ecosystem.

Pigs chew down the ferns, and places that have never seen pooled water before are now wet troughs where mosquitoes can now breed.

Those insects carry avian malaria, and alas, endangered honey creepers can’t adjust to the mosquitoes like their cousins elsewhere who have evolved over millennia to just rub off the insects. The honey creeper is being decimated by this minor but monumental change.

Peregrine Fund

Right after matriculating from Evergreen with a bachelor’s of science, Chris ended up in Panama, working throughout Central America rehabilitating, breeding and introducing Harpy Eagles – the biggest forest eagle in the world with a wingspan of six and a half feet – into their native jungle habitat.

These are massive birds. They dwarf our American bald eagle, for sure. My job was to follow them when the fledglings were grown and released.

He acted like an adult Harpy who catches prey and puts it in the trees for the youngster to eat and learn some hunting skills. Frozen rats, GPS backpack transmitter fashioned on the birds, and orienteering throughout Belize and Southern Mexico were his tools.

It sort of blew me away that here I was living the dream of studying birds in a rainforest.

Territorial ranges for these birds spread into Honduras and south to Colombia. Wild Harpies eat sloth, aunt eaters, howler monkeys, even giant Military Macaws.

He ended up in the Petén, Tikal (originally dating back 2000 years), one of Central America’s premier Mayan archeological and tourist sites.

His role was to study the orange-breasted falcon, a tropical raptor which is both endangered and stealth. “We got to live on top of pyramids off limits to anyone else,” he says, since the bird was using the pyramids as nesting and breeding grounds.

He recalled tiring of the tourists down below repeating the fact that one of the Star Wars movies was filmed here – “I got tired of hearing, ‘Wow, is this really where Yavin 4,  A New Hope, was filmed? We’re really here.’”

Imagine respecting this ancient Mayan capital, and studying amazing raptors as the antithesis of goofy tourista comments.

No 9 to 5 Working Stiff

He tells me that his idols are people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. While he went to school in a conservative Catholic setting where his peers were mostly farm kids —  and some were already pregnant and married (before graduation), his family was not of the same stripe.

“We were like the people in the movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’’’ he says with a laugh. His parents took the brood to the Oregon Coast a lot, and that 1976 yellow VW van’s starter was always going out. “I remember we had my sister and mom blocking the intersections in places like Lincoln City while we pushed the van to get it started.”

He’s got a brother, Steve, an RN in Portland, and another Portland-based brother, Mark, owner of a micro-car shop. His older sister, Amy, is a newspaper journalist in Grand Junction, Colorado – a real lifer, with the written word coursing through her blood. She’s encouraged Chris to write down his story.

Their mother went to UC-Berkley, and has been a public education teacher for over 25 years. Their father (divorced when he was 12) got into real estate but is now living in New Zealand.

That one-way ticket to Singapore that got him into Southeast Asia, ended with him running out of money after a year, but he was able to get to Darwin, Australia, by paying a fishing boat in East Timor to get him down under illegally. He spent time picking Aussie Chardonnay grapes to stake himself in order to see that continent.

He was blown away by the kangaroo migration, a scene that involved a few million ‘roos kicking up great clouds of red dust. He ended up going through Alice Springs to see the sacred Uluru (formally known as Ayers Rock). He met undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Greece while making money picking oranges.

We talk about some frightening times in our travels, and per usual, the worst incidents involved criminals or bad hombres, not with wildlife. For Chris, his close call with death occurred in Guatemala where he, his female supervisor (a Panamanian) and another raptor specialist were confronted by men on horses, brandishing machetes and leading tracker dogs.

“’We’ll let you live if you give us the woman.’ That’s what they gave us as our option.” The bird team went back into the jungle, the two male researchers buried their female companion with leaves, and then Chris and the other guy took off running all night long.

The banditos chased them through the jungle. He laughed saying they ran virtually blind in places where eyelash vipers (one bite, and three steps and you’re dead), coral snakes and tropical rattlesnakes lived in abundance.

“It’s a very creepy feeling being hunted by men with dogs.” Luckily, the female team member headed out the opposite direction, with a radio. All in a day’s work for environmentalists.

That’s saying, “all in a day’s work,” is ominous since we both talk about how most indigenous and local environmental leaders in so many countries have been murdered by loggers, miners, oil men, ranchers, and coca processors (many times executed by paid-for military soldiers).

Never Return or There Will Be Tears

Two telling quotes from world-renown traveler and writer, Paul Theroux, strike me as apropos for a story about Chris Hatten:

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.

You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.

We talk about a crackling campfire being the original TV, and how being out in wilderness with 5 or 10 people for an extended period gets one really connected to working with people and counting on them to be friends and support.

“It’s tough going back to places I’ve been,” he says with great lamentation. In Borneo, a return trip years later discombobulated him. “The rainforest is being plowed over daily. I couldn’t tell where I was walking miles and miles through palm oil plantations. It was as if the jungle had been swallowed up.”

What once was a vibrant, multilayered super rich and diverse place of amazing flora and fauna has been turned into a virtual desert of a monocrop.

This reality is some of the once most abundant and ecologically distinct places on earth are no longer that. “This is the problem with any wildlife reintroduction program. You can breed captive animals like, for instance, the orangutan but there’s nowhere to release them. Everywhere is stripped of jungle, healthy habitat.”

The concept of rewilding any place is becoming more and more theoretical.

We climb the hill where the clear-cut will occur. Chris and I talk about a serious outdoor education center – a place where Lincoln County students could show up for one, two or three days of outdoor learning. We’re serious about reframing the role of schools and what youth need to have in order to be engaged and desirous of learning.

That theoretical school could be right here, with Chris as the lead outdoor/ecological instructor.

All those trees, terrestrial animals, avian creatures, smack dab on an estuary leading to a bay which leads to the Pacific is highly unique – and a perfect place from which to really get hands on learning as the core curriculum.

We imagine young people learning the history, geology, biology, and ecology of where they live. Elders in the woods teaching them how to smoke salmon, how to build a lean-to, how to see outside the frame of consumption/purchasing/screen-time.

Interestingly, while Chris has no desire to have children, he has taught tropical biology/ecology to an international student body at the Richmond Vale Academy on the island of Saint Vincent (part of the Grenadines).

Koreans, Russians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Vincennes learned organic farming, bio-fuel production, solar power design, how to grow passion and star fruit. There is even a little horse program in the school, founded by two Danes.

Chris said that the local population is taught about medicinal plants, recycling and responsible waste disposal. “Everything used to be wrapped in banana leaves in their grandparents’ time. Now there is all this single-use plastic waste littering the island.

Like the dynamic rainforest that once carpeted the Central Coast – with herds of elk, wolves, grizzlies and myriad other species – much of the world is being bulldozed over, dammed and mined. Wildlife leave, stop breeding, never repopulate fractured areas where human activities are the norm.

But given that, when I asked Chris where he might like to go now, he mentioned Croatia, his mother’s side of the family roots. He may have swum with 60-foot-long whale sharks and kayaked over orcas, but Chris is still jazzed up about raptors – maybe he’d end up on the Croatian island of Cres which is a refuge for the spectacular griffon vulture.

“Nature has a purpose beyond anything an extraction-based society puts its monetary value on trees. We have to show young people there is value to natural ecosystems beyond extracting everything for a profit.”

One-Minute Q and A

Paul Haeder: What is your life philosophy?

Chris Hatten: Make the best use of your time. Time is short.

PH: How do we fix this extractive “resources” system that is so rapacious?

CH: We need to value forests for the many multitude of services they provide, not just quick rotations. Forests are not the same as fields of crops.

PH: Give any young person currently in high school, say, in Lincoln County, advice on what they might get out of life if they took your advice? What’s that advice?

CH: Get off your phone, lift up your head, see the world for yourself as it really is, then make necessary changes to it and yourself.

PH: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve experienced — what, where, when, why, how?

CH: I have had very poor people offer to give me all they had in several different countries. Strangers have come to my aid with no thought of reward.

PH: In a nutshell, define the Timber Unity movement to say someone new to Oregon.

CH: They are people who mostly work in rural Oregon in resource extraction industries and believe they are forgotten.

PH: If you were to have a tombstone, what would be on it once you kick the bucket?

CH: “Lived.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2013-03-15-the-free-horse_0409.jpg

Running in step, at sunset on the beach with horse St. Vincent and Grenadines

Hundreds Stand Tall in Solidarity with the People of Latin America at Havana Conference

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Moros, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

From November 1-3 more than 1,350 delegates from 86 countries representing 789 organizations, came to Havana to participate in the Anti-imperialist Conference of Solidarity, for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism. Delegates traveled from all continents, particularly from Latin America and the Caribbean.  The conference was organized by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions (CTC), along with the Cuban Chapter of Social Movements and the Continental Conference for Democracy and against Neoliberalism.

This historic conference took place at a decisive moment for all progressive forces that resist neoliberal policies as it becomes increasingly clear on the intention on the part of the United States to reconquer Latin America and take over all its natural resources aided by servile oppressive governments and local oligarchs.

José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of the National Assembly of People’s Power and the Council of State, presided over the opening plenary.

In a moving opening presentation, with songs and verses, the children of Cuba’s National Theater group, “La Colmenita” inaugurated the Conference embracing with love and tenderness all of those in attendance.  Also present at the conference were renowned intellectuals and writers like Ignacio Ramonet, Atilio Boron, Stella Calloni, Abel Prieto, Omar Gonzalez, and Pedro Calzadilla.

Fernando Gonzalez Llort, President of ICAP and one of the Cuban Five, welcomed participants. “We will be able to face the most challenging adversities. Neither with asphyxiation nor with laws will they be able to get a single concession from the Cuban people, who do not surrender and will continue with their principles of solidarity with the world”, he said.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla started his speech by saying: “You can feel in this room the deep expression of our peoples and solidarity with Cuba…There will be no sustainable development without the right to the development of the countries of the South, nor can it be without social justice.” Bruno also referred to how in the present time lies become habitual, intolerance grows and the imposition of supremacist ideas appears. “The intention is to impose a totalitarian model that destroys cultures.”

During the second day of the Conference, a special event about the struggle to free the beloved former President of Brazil, Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva Lula took place with the participation of a large delegation from his homeland, who were presented with boxes of thousands of petitions signed by Cubans demanding Lula’s freedom.

Other constant and heartfelt expressions of support of countries in struggle, including the independence of Puerto Rico, echoed in the convention center along with pronouncements in solidarity with the right to self-determination of the peoples of Palestine and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The second-day delegates participated in 6 different commissions. Solidarity with Cuba and other Just Causes took place at the Latin America School of Medicine (ELAM). Other commissions met at the Palace of the Convention, the site of the conference.

At ELAM arriving buses from the conference were greeted by lines of medical students in their white coats. After a welcoming, plenary delegates divided up by region to develop proposals for action against the blockade. The talents of students were on display at the end of the day with music, dance and poetry.

At the same time at the Palace of the Convention rooms filled with people participating in the commissions including 1) The People in the Face of Free Trade and Transnationals, 2) Decolonization and Cultural Warfare, Strategic Communication and Social Struggle, 3) Youth: Strategies and Continuity in Struggles, 4) Democracy, Sovereignty and Anti-imperialism, and 5) Integration, Identities and Common Struggles.

The Decolonization and Cultural Warfare, Strategic Communication and Social Struggle commission was moderated by Pedro Calzadilla, Historian and General Coordinator of the Network in Defense of Humanity, and Omar González, writer and journalist, and Coordinator of the Cuban chapter of the Network in Defense of Humanity. Among the panelist were Abel Prieto Jiménez, Director of the Martiano Program Office and President of the José Martí Cultural Society and Ignacio Ramonet, Spanish and French, Sociologist, writer and journalist.

The third and last day brought endless emotions as participants heard a declaration of Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a final declaration of the Anti-Imperialist Conference including proposals for an action plan that includes establishing a common communication strategy as a weapon of action for the coming months.

Participants were nurtured by three days of positive energy to return to their respective places and continue the struggle for a better world. But the symbolic culmination of the 3 day experience was the presence at the closing ceremony of Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Moros.

President Maduro spoke first, and brought applauses and loud chanting from delegates when he shouted, “We hear him, we feel him, Fidel is present here!”

He talked with optimism of the future…”with the strong resistance we’ve had, we can say today, towards the end of 2019, that a new geopolitical situation is developing in the region and a new wave is rising to face neoliberalism.”

He talked about the situation in Bolivia saying “Evo Morales is going to resist and triumph over the fascist threat of the Bolivian Right”. The Venezuelan President said that the deadline of the opposition was not set just against Evo but against the Bolivian people.

He also talked about the United States Administration and described them and the regional right as being stupid for blaming him and Raul for the events in Brazil, Chile and Ecuador.  “No! it is only the IMF that is the one to be blamed, together with its neoliberal recipients. The ones they are blaming are searching for alternatives to face those wild neoliberal policies of hunger and misery.”

“If there is anything we learned from Chavez, it was to be brave. I always remember how brave Chavez was when he came to Cuba. He came to Cuba to support Fidel during the worst time of the special period. “More than a few told Chavez; don’t go to Cuba or you will lose credibility! They were in the midst of the special period and Chavez said, “Fidel is the light for the Continent. I’m going!” And here he was 25 years ago. A dose of courage is needed to pave the ways of truth.”

“In Venezuela with courage we united the revolutionary processes that began with Bolivar and Marti. And that was followed by the unity between Fidel and Chavez. It’s necessary to take those paths of courage and dare to debunk myths, blackmail, and lies.”

Maduro finished his talk to a thunderous applause when he said, “Good and better times are rising in Latin America. Let’s have enough spiritual strength to continue pushing in our century and then no one will be able to take it from us.”

Following President Maduro, Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel spoke. He described the discourse of Trump “as aggressive and dismissive of all those who do not share his approach. The decisions that he makes affect millions on Twitter with the most abhorrent behavior. He talks about socialism without the slightest idea of ​​what it means. And orders the end of any process or political program that intends to overcome prevailing injustice, as if he held the course of history in his hands.”

“He is not the first emperor to try this. And surely he will not be the last to fail. Because history can only be changed by the people. Fidel said many times that the lie was the main adversary to defeat in politics and that telling the truth is the first duty of every revolutionary. This is one of our fundamental missions as practitioners of revolutionary politics. The first enemy to cut down is the lie and even more so, the imperialist lie.”

He addressed all delegates by saying: “In your beautiful Declaration of Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution, you have written: “The peoples of the world need the example of Cuba”, and he recalled Marti’s statement that maintains its relevance: “Whoever rises today with Cuba rises for all time.” Thanks for saying it and doing it! He continued, “You have called today for unity among political forces and the social and popular movements of the left, to continue to raise consciousness, generate ideas, and organize for the struggle”.

“We see this struggle in the battle for the truth. We must defeat the lies on which wars of all kinds against our peoples are launched: informing, persuading, mobilizing, marching with the poor of the earth, who have grown tired of lies and abuse. Proposing and creating programs that respond to the most pressing demands of workers, students, farmers, intellectuals, and artists.”

“In memory of Fidel and Chávez, two of the greats of Our America, whom we were fortunate to meet, listen to, and follow in the most altruistic practice of solidarity, we look to their work as a guide for the new, challenging times that await us. I believe we all feel that great avenues are opening up, where free men now walk to build a better society. A better world is possible and urgently necessary! Let us fight for it!”

Venezuela and Cuba are at the center of the most vicious attacks and lies by US imperialism and their lackeys, and the significance of having the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution and the current presidents of both countries together on the same stage was not lost on the audience. The powerful speeches of both presidents sent a message of strength to the struggling people of the world and at the same time a message of defiance to the neoliberal policies of the Empire of the North. Despite all the attacks and attempts at economic strangulation that both countries are having to endure, here they were standing strong, without fear, surrounded by cheering allies.

• To view more photos from the conference go here.

Russia warns Bolton: “Monroe Doctrine” Remarks are Insulting to Latin America

What is the ‘Monroe Doctrine’? In brief, it is a document which defines the entire Western Hemisphere as a ‘backyard’ of the United States. It ‘philosophically’ justifies Washington’s neo-colonialism, and the most barbaric coups it has been triggering, as well as covered and open interventions in the Caribbean, and in Central and South America.

And now, National Security Advisor John Bolton, is using this term in connection with Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, outraging those who are opposing the US foreign policy in the region. What he means is clear, although it is never pronounced as bluntly as that: Countries in the Western Hemisphere should never be allowed to go socialist, and they should be prevented from disobeying Western dictates.

In Doha, Qatar, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, expressed his outrage over Bolton’s evoking of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ now, when the West is doing all in its power to overthrow the democratically elected left-wing government of Venezuela:

The theory and the practice of “backyards” is generally insulting…

Sergei Lavrov also added that:

Since 1945, when the UN was founded, the international law is being regulated by this universal and the most legitimate organization.

This is, obviously, not how the United States sees the world. Maybe it never even considered such an approach.

*****

But back to the ‘notorious’ Monroe Doctrine.

Surprisingly, it was not always intended to intimidate and brutalize independent and progressive Latin American nations.

According to the definition of the United States Department of State:

The Monroe Doctrine was a United States policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

So, in theory at least, this policy was supposed to be putting the brakes on European colonialist expansionism. This may sound almost unbelievable now.

How very unfortunate that it has evolved into one of the most unscrupulous tools of oppression in modern history!

Contradictory to its original meaning, the United States used the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ in order to overthrow basically all patriotic, progressive and left-wing governments in the Western Hemisphere; governments that resisted the selfish geo-political interests of Washington, or the interests of US corporations, including the infamous United Fruit Company which was notorious for treating virtually all Central American countries as if they were its private plantations.

Then during the Cold War, US foreign policy towards Latin America was built on the belief that the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ should be invoked in order to prevent the spread of Soviet-backed Communism in the region.

What followed is well known: massacres in Central America, brutal coups and fascist dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and elsewhere; tens of thousands of men, women and children ‘disappeared’. Death squads murdering, raping and torturing everywhere, from Guatemala and Salvador to Argentina and Chile.

The fight for US hegemony was basically and cynically named as a ‘fight for democracy’. Slavery was defined as ‘freedom’. The ‘Monroe Doctrine’ became synonymous with Plan Condor, with monstrous torture chambers and with people being thrown alive into the sea from helicopters.

*****

Now the Trump administration is re-deploying those old and fatal Cold War warriors, elevating them to high positions, the same people who were murdering, plotting and cheering assassins. The list reads like a “Wanted for Genocide” catalogue: Elliott Abrams, Michael Pompeo and yes: John Bolton.

These individuals are, of course, unapologetic.

Just recently, John Bolton declared:

In this administration we’re not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’. This is a country in our hemisphere and it’s been the objective of American presidents going back to Ronald Reagan to have a completely Democratic hemisphere.

He was talking about Venezuela, of course.

And so, the almost 200 year old ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has been revitalized; put to deadly work once again.

As reported by the Daily Star:

Mr. Bolton said the Donald Trump administration was “not afraid to use the phrase ‘Monroe Doctrine’,” when asked why it was targeting Venezuela while maintaining close alliances with tyrannies such as Saudi Arabia. The doctrine, dating back to the 1820s, denoted the Western hemisphere as a zone of US influence.

It is clear that this time, what Mr. Bolton envisions under the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ has nothing in common with the fight against European colonialism. It is a bellicose ‘modern-day’ interpretation of the doctrine: the justification for Western imperialism all over the Hemisphere. And perhaps all over the world.

Sergei Lavrov correctly defined Bolton’s remarks as ‘insulting’. They are also deadly. As they are indicative of what Western foreign policy may soon become, or has already become: an unapologetic and uncompromising return to the harshest form of expansionism.

What the US tried to avert (perhaps) some 200 years ago, it at some point joined, and then ‘perfected’. Now, it is trying to bring it to an absolute extreme.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide

American politicians from the two main parties have finally found something to agree upon: more intervention in Venezuela.

“Now, despite (President Nicolas) Maduro, there is hope (in Venezuela)”, wrote Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin, in USA Today. “These events (meaning the current political instability in the country) are a welcome development of Latin American nations defending democracy.”

“He’s picked a battle he can’t win,” Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, said, referring to Maduro in an interview, quoted in the New York Times. “It’s just a matter of time. The only thing we don’t know is how long it will take – and whether it will be peaceful or bloody.”

This unprecedented unity between Democrats and Republicans reflects an American legacy that precedes the current Donald Trump Administration by nearly two centuries. In fact, it goes much further and deeper than the US hegemonic approach to South America, to encompass the entire Western political hemisphere, with the exception of Italy, Norway and Greece.

The West’s love-affair with intervention has little to do with restoring democracy, either in Venezuela, or anywhere else. ‘Democracy’ has been used throughout the 20th century as a tool that provided legal and moral rationalization for US and Western meddling. It matters little to Western leaders that Maduro was elected in presidential elections deemed ‘transparent‘ by international observers in May 2018.

Notwithstanding Maduro’s own shortcomings in uniting his people in the face of a most pressing economic crisis, what gives Trump, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, France’s Emmanuel Macron the right to cast a deciding vote on who rules over Venezuela?

Sadly, Venezuela is neither the precedent, nor the exception. South America – as are the Middle East and Africa – has for long been perceived as if a Western protectorate going back many years. They are all rich with oil and other essential raw materials, but are also strategically significant in terms of global hegemony. Colonialism might have ended in its traditional form (with Palestine being the main exception) but it lives on in other ways.

While the US and its Western allies are strongly challenged by rising economic and military powers in Asia, the fate of South America, the Middle East and Africa is yet to be decided. The US, in particular, has always viewed South America as its own turf, and has either directly or indirectly contributed to coups, political and economic instability throughout the region.

US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has garnered a terrible reputation due to his role in the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent destabilization of the Middle East. Although discredited for his thoughtless and often militant approach to politics, he was resurrected by the Trump administration and is now travelling the world sowing the seeds of political and military discord.

While speaking about Washington’s need to “protect democracy” in Venezuela, Bolton admitted that a coup in Venezuela is an opportunity to exploit the country’s vast oil and natural resources.

Bolton explained the economic logic of US intervention in an interview with Fox News, soon after Venezuelan opposition leader and a main ally of the US, Juan Guaidó, declared himself an ‘interim president’ on January 23.

A regime change in Venezuela “will make a big difference to the United States economically, if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela,” Bolton said.

But how is that to be achieved?

During a press conference at the White House a few days after the coup, Bolton “appeared to disclose confidential notes written on a yellow pad that included a plan to send US troops to Colombia,” in preparation for a military intervention in Venezuela.

Hasn’t Iraq quelled Bolton’s appetite for intervention, considering that the entire Middle East region now subsists in political uncertainty and unrelenting wars? And if Bolton is yet to get a hint that the world is rapidly changing, and that it behooves his country to reconsider its destructive interventionist foreign policy, why are Democrats joining in, along with the ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ European powers?

“Old habits die hard,” as the saying goes, and it seems that Western politicians refuse to abandon the old interventionist maxim and colonialist mentality through which they ruled the world for far too long.

This view is not meant to undermine the horrific economic conditions in Venezuela or overlook the endemic corruption in that country, which need to be understood and, if needed, criticized. But while the Venezuelan people have every right to protest their government, demanding greater accountability and economic solutions to the crushing poverty facing the country, no one has the right to meddle in the affairs of Venezuela or any other sovereign country, anywhere.

Moreover, it must be clear that neither the US nor its allies are interested in helping Venezuela to overcome its economic woes. In fact, they seem to be doing everything in their power to exacerbate the problem.

Hyperinflation and the crumbling of Venezuela’s oil industries led to a dramatic economic downturn in recent years, with about ten percent of the population fleeing the country. Poor policy choices also led to the significant weakening of local production and increasing devaluation of the country’s currency.

Venezuela has been a target on the American radar for many years. The deterioration of its economy, however, was the perfect opportunity for the US to trigger its Venezuelan allies into action, this leading to the current coup and political stalemate.

But those counting on the US to stabilize Venezuela in the long run are ignorant of history. The US government has hardly ever been a source of stability in South America, certainly not since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Since then, the US has done more than mere meddling, but engaged in outright political and military interventions.

The situation in Venezuela is dire, with children reportedly dying as a result of the lack of medicine and food. The country is also gearing up for a US military intervention and possible civil war.

Considering that all of these tragic predictions have already been witnessed in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, South American leaders, and the few sensible voices around the world must move to block any further US meddling, and allow the people of Venezuela, through democracy, to determine their own future.

Gaza Rallies for Caracas: On the West’s Dangerous Game in Venezuela

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of besieged Gaza to show their support of the democratically-elected government of Venezuela and its legitimate leader, President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela is struggling to defeat a coup attempt that is supported by the United States, Israel and many Western governments.

The relationship between Venezuela and Palestine has been particularly strong under the presidencies of late Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez and current president Maduro. Neither leader has missed an opportunity to show their solidarity towards the Palestinian people, a fact that has always irked Tel Aviv and its western benefactors.

The Gaza rallies, however, were more than a display of gratitude towards a country that had enough courage to break off ties with Israel following the latter’s 2008-9 war on Gaza – a bloody campaign known as “Operation Cast Lead”. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in that one-sided war. No Arab government that has diplomatic ties with Israel severed its relations with Tel Aviv. While Caracas – over 10 thousand kilometers away – did. Then, former President Chavez, accused Israel of “state terrorism”.

But there is more to Palestinian solidarity with Venezuela than this recent history. Palestinians have experienced decades-long collective trauma from US-funded Israeli colonialism and military occupation. The US has imposed itself as an ‘honest peace broker’ as a way to mask its political interference and meddling in the Middle East, while fully and blindly supporting Israeli aggressions.

While the Venezuelan people have every right to protest their government, demanding greater accountability and economic solutions to the crushing poverty facing the country, no one has the right to meddle in the affairs of Venezuela or any other sovereign country anywhere.

We must remember that the US government has hardly ever been a source of stability in South America, certainly not since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Since then, the US has done more than mere meddling, but outright political and military interventions, supporting various coups that toppled or attempted to overthrow democratically-elected governments.

What is underway in Caracas is a repeat of that sad and tragic history.

The unhealthy relationship between the US and its southern neighbors took an even darker turn when, in 1904, then US President Theodore Roosevelt declared the “right” of his country to hold “international police power” in Latin America. Since then, the entire region has been Washington’s business.

Always looking for opportunities to exploit, Washington now sees a chance to undermine Venezuela and its elected government.

The Venezuelan people are dealing with overwhelming poverty and a very unstable social situation. Hyperinflation and the crumbling of the country’s oil industries led to a dramatic economic downturn, with about 10% of the population fleeing the country. Poor policy choices led to an escalation of the already endemic corruption, to a significant weakening of local production and increasing devaluation of the country’s currency.

However, consensus around president Maduro’s socialist government is still broad, as witnessed by their victory in the 2018 presidential election.

Despite the presence of about 150 international observers from 30 countries and international organizations, which declared that the last Venezuelan election was transparent, domestic opponents, supported by the US and its western and regional allies denounced it as “fraud foretold”, even before Maduro delivered his victory speech.

The US and its Western allies are frustrated by the fact that despite its economic problems, most Venezuelans remained united around Chavez, and now Maduro, who are perceived, especially by the poorer classes, as independent national leaders fighting against constant US destabilization and neocolonialism.

The world order is vastly changing, but US ruling elites refuse to change. While speaking about Washington’s need to “protect democracy” in Venezuela, US National Security Advisor, the infamous Israel supporter, John Bolton admitted that the coup in Venezuela is an opportunity to exploit the country’s oil and natural resources.

“It will make a big difference to the United States economically”, Bolton told Fox News in an interview this week, “if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

Tragically, the US boycott against Venezuela forced the country to sell its gold in return for valuable currency, as well as consumer goods, food and medicinal products. The coup is meant to completely push Caracas to its knees.

Western predators are all moving in, each party playing the role entrusted of them, as if history is repeating itself. Bank of England (BoE) has blocked Maduro’s officials from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of Venezuela’s gold. Worse, brazen interference from foreign countries is becoming so pronounced that UK foreign office minister, Sir Alan Duncan has suggested that the BoE grant access to the gold reserves to the self-proclaimed opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Germany, and France and Spain gave Venezuela’s Maduro an ultimatum: the President has eight days to call elections, otherwise they’ll recognize Guaido as president. On January 31, the European Parliament recognized Guaido as a de facto leader of Venezuela in complete disregard of the democratic rights of the Venezuelan people.

Yet, as odd as this may seem to some, Maduro still enjoys greater legitimacy in his country than Donald Trump or Emmanuel Macron do in the US and France respectively. Yet, no entity is threatening to intervene in France, for example, on behalf of the ‘Yellow Vests’, who have protested in their hundreds of thousands for weeks, demanding an end to Macon’s rule.

It is doubly important that Venezuela doesn’t collapse before this US-led sinister campaign because of the rising far-right powers in South and Latin America, namely the upsurge of reactionary forces in Brazil.

If Venezuela’s political order disintegrates, others, too will become target: Bolivia, Cuba, and even Mexico.

Since the US partial withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, and the Obama Administration’s ‘pivot to Asia’, to challenge the inevitable dominance of China, US policy makers have been keen on staging a comeback in South America as well. More recently, the just-departed US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley was instrumental in shaping the aggressive US policy towards Venezuela.

Now that the country is struggling with extreme poverty – itself resulting from the manipulation of oil prices – the US sees an opportunity to make its move, and reclaim its destructive, domineering role in that part of the world. The election in Brazil of far-right leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who wants to “make Brazil great again’ is tipping the balance in favor of reactionary forces in the whole region.

But the plot against Venezuela is also an opportunity for those who want to challenge the old order, to tell the US government ‘enough is enough’; that the age of coups and blood-soaked interventions should be behind us, and that South America must not be subjugated again.

As Palestinians have fought Israeli tyranny for years, Venezuelans will continue to fight foreign tyranny and unlawful political and military interventions as well. And with true and tangible global solidarity, both nations will prevail – sooner or later.

Revolution and Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America

The need for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution is rather obvious in Latin America — a need which stretches from Mexico to Argentina.  While this need is different in the various countries the overall nature of the struggle for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution is very similar. There is almost a general need for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution in Latin America. The story of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America, since the twentieth-century, shows the necessity of such a Social Revolution and such a Socialist Revolution. For the Left of Latin America that struggle continues today.

Most Socialists in Latin America, and most people on the Left in Latin America, have noted the need for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution in Latin America. Indeed for the last century and a half every serious Socialist thinker and Left thinker has noted the need for social change and social revolution in Latin America — specifically the need for a Socialist Revolution. This need for social revolution and Socialism in Latin America is what gives the Left its particular power and its particular strength in Latin America. Yet the Left in Latin America has, so-far, failed to achieve the victory of Socialism and Socialist Revolution in the states of Latin America. This is, of course, for reasons often outside the power of the Latin American Left itself — specifically the power of Capital and the Capitalist State in Latin America and the power of U.S. Imperialism. Yet if the Left in Latin America is to ever achieve the continent-wide Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution that Latin America needs then the Left will have to engage with the problems of making revolution and the problems of revolution and revolutionary strategy. There can be no Revolution in Latin America without a Revolutionary Theory.1) There can be no Revolution in Latin America without a Revolutionary Strategy.

The revolutionary struggle for Socialism in Latin America today is the product of both history and politics — both at the national level and the continental level. The distinctive nature of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America today means that any revolutionary strategy for Latin America has to be both particular and universal  for Latin America and the struggle for Socialism in Latin America. Particular in that it has to be adaptive to a number of different states and societies — from Mexico to Argentina, from Brazil to Venezuela, from Colombia to Peru.  Universal in that it has to be a universal strategy for revolution and Socialist Revolution across the entire Continent of Central America and South America.  Such factors mean that any Socialist struggle in Latin America also has to deal with a number of different histories and politics — especially in the case of the political organisation of the Left and of Socialists in the various states and countries of Latin America. All of these factors combine to make the revolutionary struggle for Socialism difficult in Latin America, but also vital for both historical and political reasons. The struggle in Latin America today, given the history of the nineteenth-century and the twentieth-century, has entered a vital phase since the turn of the century. This vital phase has also been shown by the fate and struggle of most of the great Socialist Revolutions and Left-Nationalist Revolutions which occurred in Latin America in the last century.  Any political analysis for Social Revolution or Socialist Revolution in Latin America needs to deal with the reality of politics in Latin America and the legacy of politics in Latin America. The struggle for Socialism cannot succeed in Latin America without a political struggle for Socialism.

The revolutionary struggle in Latin America has taken many forms over the last century. Today the revolutionary struggle in Latin America is primarily a political struggle and a social struggle. It is a political struggle and a social struggle because both are needed to achieve Socialism in Latin America — and both are vital.

The revolutionary struggle in Latin America is primarily a struggle by the Working-Class of Latin America. If Latin America is to ever achieve a Social Revolution or a Socialist Revolution today then it must be led by the Working-Class of Latin America. This basic fact is a constant of any Revolutionary Strategy for Latin America.

There once was a time when the revolutionary struggle in Latin America relied on Guerilla Warfare and Guerilla Struggle. Today that is no longer the case. Today only political struggle can achieve a revolutionary struggle in Latin America. Except for a very few cases that type of guerilla struggle is no longer possible or profitable in Latin America. There is also the reality that except for a few cases, namely the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Guerilla strategy was a failure and a disaster for Socialist Revolution in Latin America — one which resulted in counter-revolution and defeat. In Latin America today the revolutionary struggle for Socialism must rely on political struggles — and not military struggles.  If the revolutionary struggle in Latin America is to succeed it must rely today on political struggles by the Working-Class of Latin America. The failure of Guerrilla struggle to achieve Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution in Latin America, from Colombia to Peru, highlights the need for Political Struggle instead in Latin America. Only Political Struggle can achieve Revolution and Socialism in Latin America.

The revolutionary struggle for Socialism in Latin America has to engage with the politics and history of Latin America. This has always been true and will continue to be true for the struggle in Latin America. The politics and history of Latin America inform the struggle for Socialism in Latin America.

The revolutionary struggle in Latin America has a rich tradition and a rich history — going back to the revolutions of the twentieth-century. The Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Chilean Revolution of 1970-1973, the Nicaraguan Revolution, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, are all examples for the Latin American Left to draw upon — and to learn from.

The social struggle for Socialism in Latin America is more developed in certain places and areas in Latin American than others.  This social reality is key to understanding the dynamic of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America — in that some areas are more politically advanced than others. In Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador the struggle for Social Revolution and Socialism exists at a different level than it does in other parts of Latin America — particularly in places like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia. This is because Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador have already undergone some form of Social Revolution since the Twentieth-Century. This division of the Revolution in Latin America is another legacy of past politics and past struggles in Latin America. For the revolutionary struggle in Latin America today it is vital to unite the working-class struggle in all these countries and to develop them towards Socialism itself. In the case of Venezuela, a key theatre of Social Revolution and Revolutionary Struggle in Latin America since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in 1999, the Social Struggle there today is already beginning to enter a decisive phase. If the struggle for Socialism is to advance and develop in Latin America then there must be a struggle in all the countries of Latin America and all the societies of Latin America.2)

The political struggle for Revolution in Latin America today, however, must relate to the political reality of Latin America today. There cannot be a successful Social Revolution in Latin America today unless the Left engages with the concrete realities of the struggle in Latin America today. Repeating the politics and history of the revolutionary struggles from the past, even from previous successes, is unlikely to achieve revolutionary victories in Latin America today. Instead it is vital to develop a revolutionary struggle and a revolutionary strategy for Latin America which acknowledges the realities of politics in Latin America itself today. These will be different in the different countries of Latin America. They will, though, all share in common the common need to develop a working-class struggle and a working-class politics as the heart of the revolutionary struggle for Socialism in Latin America. The particulars of revolutionary struggle in Latin America are different across Latin America today, but they all share in common the need for a common working-class struggle and a common working-class politics. For the Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution in Latin America today the Working-Class is at the centre of the struggle, both for revolutionary politics and for Socialism.

All revolutionary struggles must contend with counter-revolution and counter-revolutionary struggles. In the case of Latin America the primary opponents of Social Revolution in Latin America remain the Capitalist states of Latin American and the spectre of U.S. Imperialism. Any struggle in Latin America will have to contend with these opponents and find ways of overcoming them. The recent reality of counter-revolution in Brazil, since 2016, and Venezuela, since 2002, shows how powerful the forces of Counter-Revolution remain in Latin America — at both a political level and a social level.  The history and politics of counter-revolution and coups in Latin America, since the beginning of U.S. Imperialism in Latin America, has always been a threat to social progress and social revolution in Latin America — as the history of the twentieth-century in Latin America also shows. So long as Capitalism remains a force in Latin America the struggle in Latin America for Social Revolution and Socialist Revolution will remain incomplete. Recent events and older events in the history of Latin America also show the reality of what occurs when revolution fails in Latin American societies — the reality of Capitalist dictatorship and Military dictatorship.  The working-class of Latin America cannot afford any further revolutionary failures.

U.S. Imperialism is the ultimate foe of revolution in Latin America, and the foe of revolution anywhere in the world. U.S. Imperialism is a factor in any revolutionary strategy in Latin America today, as it has been a factor in any revolutionary strategy in Latin America. It is important to stress that the reality of any Revolution or Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America has to be thought of in relation to the reality of U.S. Imperialism in Latin America. U.S. Imperialism has always undermined the struggle for Socialism in Latin America, and across the World. The difficulties of the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela attest to this basic fact. The Revolutionary Struggle in Latin America must always remember this reality of U.S. Imperialism and seek ways to overcome it, either by struggle or by solidarity with the struggle of the Working-Class in the United States itself. If U.S. Imperialism is not confronted, head on, then there is no chance for the success of Social Revolution or Socialist Revolution in Latin America.3

A key area for Revolutionary politics and Revolutionary strategy in Latin American remains the political divide of Latin America — the need for Working-Class politics.  This divide, specifically in Latin America, means that the Revolutionary Struggle in Latin America still needs to develop a Working-Class struggle and a Working-Class politics — specifically for political struggle and political development. This aspect of the struggle in Latin America is a hangover from the twentieth-century and a reminder of the social problems and social divides in Latin American society, yet it also shows the importance of having a Socialist politics of political development for the Latin American Left. If the Left is to advance in Latin America it will have to develop a Social aspect of its Socialist politics — one which can appeal to the poor farmers and poor workers of Latin America. Failure to develop such a politics will only delay a key aspect of the social struggle in Latin America — the unity between the working-class and the rural farmers. Without unity between the worker and the farmer there cannot be either Social Revolution or Socialist Revolution in Latin America.  The Urban/Rural divide in Latin America, too, has always delayed the Social Struggle in Latin American history — it cannot be allowed to delay the Social Struggle in Latin America today.  The Urban/Rural divide is not unique to Latin America, the Revolution in Latin America or the Revolutionary Struggle in Latin America, but it is vital to the success of the Revolution in Latin America and Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America.

There have been many good writers, from the Left, on Revolution in Latin America and Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America. Indeed some of the best writers and thinkers on Socialist Revolution have either come from Latin America or have thought about the problems of Revolution in Latin America. This is because Latin America, itself, is a key theatre for the Socialist Revolutionary struggle of today. The thought of Che Guevara and Regris Debray instantly springs to mind whenever one thinks of the problems and politics of making Revolution in Latin America. Such Marxists and Socialists have always thought long and hard about finding ways of making the Revolution in Latin America.  Together they form one of the key sources of Socialist thought for Revolution in today’s world — for Revolution internationally and for Revolution in Latin America. If any strategy or politics for Revolution in Latin America is to be developed for today then it will probably require some aspect of the thought from the older Socialist thinkers of the twentieth-century — and from the Socialist tradition in general. The ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, Guevara and Mariátegui, can still help us today in terms of developing a revolutionary politics and a revolutionary strategy for Latin America, and for the Socialist Revolution in Latin America.

The struggle in Latin America shows the need for both political organisation and for social organisation. The Left in Latin America needs both political organisations and social organisations — Socialist Parties, Socialist Trade Unions and Socialist organisations. No victory for Socialism in Latin America can occur without such political organisation or social organisation — without Socialist Parties and Socialist organisations. Latin America has a history and a tradition of such Socialist Parties and Socialist organisations. For the Left in Latin America today it is vital that the politics, tactics and struggles of such Parties are resurrected for the struggle today. The Socialist Revolution cannot be won, anywhere, without a Socialist Party.4

How to achieve the Social Revolution in Latin America and the Socialist Revolution in Latin America is a question of politics and of strategy. It is also a question that the Left in Latin America will have to think hard and long upon, given the reality of politics today in Latin America and the experience gained from the successes and failures of the revolutions of the twentieth-century.  The nature of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America necessitates that the Left in Latin America think long and hard about the nature of the struggle, and how it connects to the international struggle for Socialism. Latin America, after all, is just one theatre of an international struggle for Socialism and this means that success or defeat there effects the struggle for Socialism everywhere else. The nature of American Imperialism in Latin America gives the social struggle a further reality and a further political problem.  All this means that unity amongst the Left of Latin America is vital for any future success for the Left of Latin America today or in the near future.  In many ways the nature of the struggle for Socialism in Latin America remains unchanged from what it was in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries — in that the Left of Latin America has to struggle against both national and international foes, against both the Capitalists of Latin America and the Imperialism of the United States. All of this makes the social struggle and political struggle in Latin America difficult — but not impossible.  The struggle in Latin America continues today, and it will continue until victory and the victory of Socialism.

  1. V.L. Lenin, What Is To Be Done? (1905
  2. E. Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental (1967
  3. Defeating U.S. Imperialism will, ultimately, require a Socialist Revolution in the United States itself. This proposition is a difficult one. It will, ultimately, depend on the ability of the American Left to fight for Socialism in the United States itself.
  4. This point has been demonstrated by the revolutionary struggles of the nineteenth-century and the twentieth-century – where such struggles required some form of Socialist Party or Socialist Organisation to succeed. It is likely that this will remain the case for any revolutionary struggle in the present century – the twenty-first century.

Trump Marches Onward and Downward

Journalists, academics, pundits and experts have ignored the complexity of President Trump’s impact on the state of the US Empire.

To properly assess the geopolitical configuration of power, we will consider the military, economic, political and diplomatic advances and setbacks of the Trump regime in Latin America, the European Union and Asia (including the Middle East).

Secondly, we will examine the time frame – the shifting direction of the present configuration of forces.

We will conclude by discussing how the influence and results of foreign policy shape domestic political power.

Background to President Trump’s Empire Building

First and foremost, we must take account of the fact that much of Trump’s policies build on and reflect the policies of his predecessors, namely Presidents Bush and Obama.

The US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria were started by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, The US bombings of Libya and the destruction and uprooting of millions of Africans was inaugurated by Obama.

The expulsion of millions of Central American and Mexican immigrants from the US was common practice prior to Trump.

In brief President Trump continued, and in some cases exacerbated, the socio-economic and military policies, of his predecessors. In a few areas Trump reversed policies, as was the case with Obama’s Nuclear Agreement with Iran.

The successes and failures of Trump’s empire building policies cannot be attributed solely to his regime. Nevertheless, President Trump must be held responsible for the current state of the empire and its direction.

President Trump Marches Forward in Latin America

President Trump has built upon and extended US imperial victories throughout most of Latin America. Satellite regimes are in place in Brazil thanks largely to judicial-legislative coup which overthrew President elect Dilma Rousseff. The puppet regime of Michel Temer has privatized the economy, embraced Trump’s dominance and aligned with efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s government.

Similarly, Trump inherited from Obama the present client regimes in Argentina (President Mauricio Macri), Peru (President Martin Vizcarra) ,Honduras (President Hernandez) Paraguay (President Cartes), Chile (President Piñera), Ecuador (President Moreno), and most of the ruling elites in Central America and the Caribbean. Trump has added to the list current efforts to overthrow the Daniel Ortega regime in Nicaragua.

Under President Trump, Washington succeeded in reversing relations with Cuba and the so-called peace accord in Colombia between the guerrillas and the Juan Manuel Santos regime. In July 2018, Trump succeeded in backing the accession to power of Ivan Duque a protégé of the far-right party of Alvaro Uribe in Colombia. President Obama’s reversal of center-left regimes via coups have been consolidated and expanded by Trump with the important exception of Mexico.

Trump partially reversed Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba and threatens to militarily invade Venezuela.

Trump’s imperial empire in Latin America is, for the most part, inherited and largely sustained . . . for now.

But there are several crucial caveats.

Mexico’s new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is likely to pursue independent and progressive foreign and domestic policies, renegotiating NAFTA, oil contracts and border disputes.

Secondly, Brazil and Argentina’s neo-liberal economic policies are in deep crises and the incumbent puppet regimes are economically unstable, face mass social opposition and likely will suffer electoral defeats in 2018.

Thirdly, Venezuela and Cuba have successfully resisted economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Militarily, President Trump retains US military bases in Colombia and has incorporated Bogata into NATO and he has secured military operations in Argentina and Ecuador.

The biggest challenge to Trump’s empire building in Latin America is in the all-important economic realm.

Trump has failed to gain ground in trade, investment and raw materials in the face of competition with China.

Despite the political and military subordination of Latin American regimes to Washington, the bulk of their trade ties are with China. Moreover, Brazil and Argentina will increase their agro-exports to China in line with Beijing’s trade tariffs on US exports. In the so-called trade war not a single Latin American client state has sided with the US. On the contrary, all are taking advantage of Washington’s loss of the China market to enhance their exports.

Clearly the US does not exercise ‘hegemony’ over Latin America’s trading relations.

Worse still, Trump’s dumping of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and threats to withdraw from NAFTA have reduced Washington’s leverage over Latin America and Asia.

Trump’s boasts and claims of dominance over Latin America is largely a product of his predecessors’ imperial policies.

At most, Trump’s policies have hardened the far right, which however, is weakening politically and economically and has provoked the rise of the left to power in Mexico and increased opposition in Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.

In sum the Trump regime’s empire building retain decided influence in Latin America but faces major challenges – and reversals.

Trump in Asia: One Step Forward, Two Step Backward

Washington has gained prestige for its diplomatic overtures to North Korea but is losing the trade war with the world’s second greatest power, China.

China,faced with Trump’s economic war, has diversified its trading partners thus undermining key US agro-business enterprises.

China has implemented tariffs on: canola, soybeans, corn, cotton, pork and beef.

Moreover, China has replaced the US as the main trading partner throughout Asia.

While Japan, South Korea and Australia provide military bases for the US they are eager to replace Washington’s export to China.

Moreover, China’s multi-billion dollar, Belt and Road Initiative has secured sixty-eight nations as partners, with the prominent absence of the self-excluded USA.

US economic sanctions against Iran have failed to undermine the governments’ oil exports, while banking transactions and imports of manufacturing and service products are replaced by China, Russia , India and most of Asia. All of whom will increase their trade with Teheran.

In the Middle East and South Asia, the US can no longer count on clients or allies except for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, the Saudi’s rejected Trump’s demand to increase oil production to lower oil prices for US consumers.

Israel is a ‘loyal ally’ to Washington when it suits their own economic advantages and hegemonic aspirations. For example, Israel has continued to expand ties with Russia even in violation of US sanctions.

Pakistan, Myanmar and Cambodia have moved closer to China as a result of increasing financial and infrastructure aid.

In balance, the US continues to exercise military dominance in Asia via its bases in South Korea, Japan and Australia. However, it is losing economic influence and presence in the rest of Asia. If history is any precedent, imperial empires without economic foundations, sooner or later crumble, especially when rising regional powers are capable of replacing them.

The European Union and Trump’s Empire: Partner, Client or Rival?

The European Union (EU) is the largest market in the world and yet remains a political and military dependency of Washington.

The EU has suffered from its lack of an independent foreign policy – its reliance on NATO, a US subsidiary is one of the main reasons.

President Trump has exploited the EU’s weakness to defy its policies on several strategic issues, ranging from the Paris Agreement on climate change, to the nuclear agreement with Iran, to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump’s tariff on EU exports is the latest and most provocative effort to defy and dominate the region.

Moreover, the EU is increasingly divided over immigration, the UK departure (Brexit), as well as the economic and political and economic split between Germany , Italy and Poland.

In effect the Trump regime can no longer count on a powerful unified alliance at its behest,in its quest for a global empire.

Rather, under Trump, the US seeks to secure economic supremacy and supreme political-military dominance.

President Trump demands that the EU countries double their military budgets in order to increase the Pentagon’s arms spending.

As a result of the divisions and hostilities between the US and EU, President’ Trump’s imperial policies have adopted a contradictory strategy of enhancing economic protectionism with overtures to ‘enemy’ Russia. By adopting the nationalist slogan, “Making America Strong” by ‘Making the EU Weak’ it appears Trump pursues nationalist slogans to promote imperial goals.

Domestic Growth and Imperial Decline

To date, mid 2018, Trump is riding a wave of domestic growth of the economy, trade and employment.

Critics claim that this is a short-lived conjuncture which faces powerful counter-currents. They argue that the trade war and decline of the overseas markets of China, the EU, Mexico, Canada and elsewhere will provoke a decline of the US.

Trump’s strategic gamble is that the US trade war will succeed in opening China’s market while reducing China’s exports. Trump hopes US MNC will relocate to the US and increase jobs and exports. So far this is a pipe dream.

Moreover, the corporate tax windfall has not been accompanied with a decrease in inequalities and increases in wages.

The result is that Trump faces the real prospects of a decline in exports and popular electoral support – especially from those adversely affected by declining markets and deep cuts in health, education and the environment.

Political Consequences of “America First” in a Corporate Setting

Trump’s nationalist economic policies are highly unlikely to enhance empire building ; on the contrary, the trade war will force the major corporate tax beneficiaries to turn against Trump. Their overseas trade links with the EU, North America and China will cause them to turn against Trump.

Empire building trumps America First. Without an economic empire the US will lack the means to secure the markets necessary to stimulate local exports and production.

Conclusion

President Trump has benefited, and to some extent, succeeded in temporarily gaining dominance in Latin America, expanding the domestic economy and imposing demands on China, the EU and North America.

Nevertheless, his policies have undermined allies, antagonized competitors and provoked retaliation. All of which increases the economic cost of running an empire.

Trump has failed to provide viable substitutes for the EU and China markets. Nor has he secured the markets of his remaining clients in Latin America. The notion that Trump can build ‘national capitalism in one country’ is a chimera. At most it would require intensive exploitation of US labor and high rates of investment, sacrificing profits and salaries. The electoral oligarchy and the mass media will force him to retreat from the trade wars and surrender to the globalizing elites.

Water is Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article adds:

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

The article further mentions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the leaders said:

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

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