Watch John Pilger discuss the claims of Theresa May, Syria, Iran, Korea and the silencing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The United States is in a major upheaval. Trump’s cabinet shake-up moves the country into an alarming direction. From the nomination of torturer Gina Haspel as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director and a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran as new secretary of state, his selection exposes the White House’s dangerous kill instincts.
An ultimatum came with the president’s appointment of John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations as his 3rd national security advisor. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration is notorious for his hawkishness, with a great zeal for military action against Iran and North Korea. This rearranging of the deck chairs in the sinking empire signals the great calamity of foreign policy ahead with potential threats of war.
In this seeming free-fall toward despotism, what can ordinary people do? Tackling corruption of our political system and averting a doomed future requires us to truly understand the problems we are facing. The crisis of representation didn’t just arise with Trump, the new commander in chief. A glimpse of it was shown during the 2008 financial meltdown, which was covered up swiftly by bank bailouts and politics of ‘hope and change’. The truth is that seeds for dystopia have been inside this country all along. The roots of the issues that are now emerging in Trump’s America go back to the very beginning of this nation.
In its modern formation, the United States inspired the world with its torch of liberty and equality. At the same time, this beacon of light had its darkness within. From the onset, America contained internal contradictions manifested as the founder’s hypocrisy and the violation of its own ideals with genocide of natives, slavery of blacks and suppression of women. The Founding Fathers of the United States brought a victory of rejecting the power of the King’s monarchy and pioneered a path for one’s own self-determination. The concept of “a government of laws, not of men” was groundbreaking at that time. Yet without reconciling its own shadow, this nation of law failed to fully shield the republic from the tyranny of the Old World.
Supremacy of reason
The unredeemed darkness found in America’s troubled past was a force inside Western civilization that tries to define history, subjugating other perspectives to its single vision. Europe, with its ethos of separation and objectivity set out to conquer the world, spreading its influence across many continents. This domineering power of reason found its new front of exploration in the New World.
America, driven by the monotheistic goal of Manifest Destiny, expanded its territory with brutality. It swallowed what is edible, assimilating immigrants one by one to its conception of what is civil, while spitting out those that it considered impalatable, relegating them into three-fifths of a person or exterminating them from the earth altogether as savages.
This maddened head centricity was manifested in the structure of a new government. Sheldon Wolin, author of Democracy Inc noted how the framers of the Constitution created a so-called managed democracy, a system that favored elite rule and that “the American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy” (2008, p. 228).
The intellectual elites regarded the democratic majority rule as an irrational force and they feared the tyranny of popular majorities. While the faculty of reason positioned itself as a supreme force, a potential to account its autocratic power was found inside America.
The sovereign power of We the People
Expressed in the preamble of the Constitution “We the People” was faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. This was an intention to shift from the model of government that acts as authority of their lives to one that places power in the hands of ordinary people. In this government established under the rule of the people, the source of legitimacy was not derived from a god or king, but was meant to come from people themselves.
This arrangement of governance was not granted from above. It was first demanded by those who opposed the ratification of the 1787 Constitution that lacked the guarantee of individual liberties. The proponents of the Bill of Rights articulated essential parts of the sovereign power of We the People as a freedom of expression; freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. By building upon First Amendment rights, further efforts emerged from below. From abolitionists’ defiance and the women’s suffrage movement to civil rights and free speech movements, people’s determination for individual autonomy persisted.
Assault on this power of ordinary people intensified with the rise of corporate power in the ‘60s. Manifest Destiny is now carried out with Nike’s slogan of “just do it”. With limited liability and having no human beings in charge, the abstraction of the head inside transnational corporations took flight from the communal ground, plundering their way into the globe, without ever having to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Giant corporations became a sponsor for this managed democracy, gaining control over media to manipulate public perception, keeping American voters in hostage with the lesser of the two evils charade politics.
WikiLeaks, the rise of cryptographic direct action
In the political winter of the post-911 war on terror, as fear and apathy spread around the globe, a new civic force surfaced online. The waves of whistleblowers began shedding light on the collaborative secrecy of elites that deceive and manipulate the public behind a façade of democracy.
WikiLeaks, with its motto of “privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful”, opened a floodgate of a free flow of information. This world’s first global Fourth Estate embodies the philosophy of cypherpunks– a loosely tied group of online privacy advocates who saw the potential of cryptography to shift the balance of power between individuals and the state. With the idea that cryptography is the “ultimate form of non-violent direct action” (2012, p. 5), WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange built the system of scientific journalism that would give everyday people around the world tools to combat military might and confront the madness of fallen reason that censors free speech.
The invention of the anonymous drop box was truly revolutionary. It enabled anyone to send information securely without a trace of his or her identity. Through the robust decentralized infrastructure built around this game changing technology, WikiLeaks was able to provide unprecedented source protection in the history of journalism. Here, the organization that derived its source of inspiration in American founding ideas, freed the First Amendment that had been captured through a corporate monopoly and co-optation of the media, making it available to people all around the world.
It is through WikiLeaks’ adamant commitment to the principle of free press that former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to exercise uncompromising free speech and engage in the American tradition of civil disobedience. Manning, whom the late attorney and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner described as the “conscience of our nation”, let the American public see the US imperialism in action in the Middle East.
In her request for a presidential pardon, Manning stated her commitment to the ideal of America, saying how she was willing to pay the price if it would make this country be “truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.” Through her non-violent cryptographic direct action, she helped America find its conscience.
One individual’s act of courage brought another. Inspired by Manning, Edward Snowden came forward to inform people about the NSA’s mass surveillance. In one of the addresses he made, Snowden also described his act as a public service and connected it with Dr. King’s non-violent civil disobedience. Through his whistleblowing, the former NSA contractor defended individual privacy as fundamental civil rights for all people and tried to preserve the world where people can share creativity, love and friendship freely without every conversation and interaction being monitored and recorded.
Whistleblowers and their faith in ordinary people
From WikiLeaks disruptions to Snowden revelations, courageous act of truth-tellers renewed the faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. Both Manning and Snowden believed in the public’s right to know and held a view that when people are informed, they can make changes and determine their own destiny.
Faith is different than mere belief. It is not about one blindly trusting or passively accepting something. Faith is an active will that requires one to choose out of themselves to believe in something. When established media and trusted institutions failed, Manning chose to put her trust in the journalistic organization that was little known at that time. When the government’s internal mechanisms of accountability were broken, combined with the betrayal of Obama’s campaign promises and his war on whistleblowers, Snowden turned to American journalists whom he could trust by his own judgment of the integrity of their work. They placed faith not in political leaders or authority but in fellow men and women.
It is to this faith in the ability for the wise and knowledgeable public to govern themselves that fearless journalism responded. WikiLeaks, the publisher of last resort, kept its promise to the source by publishing full archives with maximum political impact and bringing information back to the historical record. By doing so, it has become an enemy of the most powerful government in the world, being subjected to legal and extra-legal pressure. Through honoring Snowden’s wishes, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman broke the story of NSA surveillance and led the Guardian’s independent journalism, making the established media fulfill its duty. In the aftermath of Snowden’s disclosures, when this young whistleblower was stranded in Hong Kong, WikiLeaks demonstrated its extraordinary source protection with journalist Sarah Harrison risking her own liberty to help Snowden attain asylum.
With this faith given by peers, citizens around the world who have been distrusted by their own governments and made powerless began to claim their own power. By recognizing that someone believed in them and sacrificed their lives so that they can be free, they were able to believe in their own ability to protect those they love and preserve rights that they cherish. The will to respond to this faith in one another made it possible for ordinary people to carry out extraordinary acts.
Bitcoin, Innovation without Permission
Contagious courage lit by people’s faith created a fellowship that can withstand the state violence. It began to shift the balance of power, replacing the source of legitimacy from trusted institutions to ordinary people’s trust in one another. As the network of resistance grew, new attacks emerged. Following the release of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, WikiLeaks faced the unlawful financial blockade imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. When this economic sanction starved the whistleblowing site, destroying 95% of their revenue, the flow of autonomy that helped the organization circumvent economic censorship came from fellow cypherpunks.
Bitcoin, as a peer-to-peer electronic cash was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With its defining feature of censorship resistance and permissionlessness, Bitcoin makes free speech an app that can be distributed across borders and used by anyone regardless of nationality, religion, race, gender or economic status. Here, imagination from computer science redeemed the reason that lost its connection to the heart, by synthesizing bits of isolated knowledge that had created separation and injustice, transforming them into a higher order of unification.
Networks of equal peers emerging around this invention opened up a new avenue of dissent in a form of decentralization. Adam Back, notable cryptographer whose work was cited in the Bitcoin white paper, described cypherpunks as “a state of mind” and explained its philosophy of “writing code” as a “proactive approach to societal change by doing: building and deploying tech – rather than by lobbying politicians or asking permission.”
This path toward decentralization was first taken by the creator of this technology. The anonymity of Satoshi Nakamoto represents the power of ordinary people. Through an act of publishing the white paper under a pseudonymous name and making the protocol open source, the mysterious author gave up ownership and simultaneously gave users control of the software, making it possible for each individual to use it as a tool to govern themselves.
What is enshrined in a piece of mathematics is wisdom of ordinary people that understands that man is corruptible, as well as perfectible and recognizes the security holes inherent in the existing model of governance that requires trust in third parties. It is the wisdom of history that teaches us how the best way to secure the system is not to have levers of control in the first place through which power concentrates, leading to despotism. With a consensus algorithm placed as a foundation, laws can be built that is more immune to man’s fallen nature. With this, idea of a government of laws, not of men can be truly realized. Governance of We the People now becomes possible, where rules of law are validated by consensus of ordinary people as opposed to elected officials having power over them.
Andreas Antonopoulos, a technologist and one of the respected figures in Bitcoin, in his talk titled “Courage to Innovate”, captured new enthusiasm and passion ignited around this technology in a phrase “innovation without permission” and connected it with civil disobedience. He reminded the audience how “almost every important innovation in history starts out being illegal or unregulated” and interesting technology started out with people who forgot to ask permission. Describing technology’s core invention as a platform to scale trust, Antonopoulos described how this is a system that makes it possible for people to make social decisions without hierarchy, whether it is government bureaucracy, corporations or any other institution. This system Antonopoulos characterized as “rules without rulers” is being built by people around the world without central coordination.
Claiming our revolutionary spirit
Our Founding Fathers, no matter how imperfect they were, brought us ideas conceived in a revolutionary spirit. The genius of the Constitution is that it makes fundamental laws and principles of government amendable. The highest law of the land preserved space for people to not accept authority imposed on them and even to revolt against it when it is necessary, by giving ordinary people means to change rules. America indeed was founded on rebelliousness and distrust of their own government, demonstrated in the Declaration that reads “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and institute a new Government…”
The government brought by our forebears not only allowed dissent, but depended on our rebellion. The realization of the Constitution as the fulfillment of ideals in the Declaration required individuals with a strong and independent mind. It demanded people to develop moral courage to defend these ideals against special interests of single groups or nations and any adversarial forces that try to deny them.
From the civil rights movement to whistleblowers at the frontier of digital liberation, we have seen the awakening of revolutionary spirit in people’s courageous civic action upholding the ideals of this country. The networks from below expands, converging together to build a new global civil society. Bitcoin developers around the world put their knowledge and skills together, making improvement proposals and fixing bugs, striving to meet the demands of all users.
Innovation without permission is enlivening entrepreneurship. Instead of waiting for problems to be solved by politicians or corporate CEOs, working class began to have faith in their ability to make changes, finding strength and resources within themselves. Around this currency, a new economy is now being bootstrapped, with startups and new businesses hiring people and providing them with skills and knowledge, while many other industries are stagnating.
Solutions to the crisis of representation are within us. Ordinary people, through freely associating with one another, can now give birth to the rule of a real democracy, securing Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.
In this letter, twenty-seven writers, journalists, film-makers, artists, academics, former intelligence officers and democrats call on the government of Ecuador to allow Julian Assange his right of freedom of speech.
If it was ever clear that the case of Julian Assange was never just a legal case, but a struggle for the protection of basic human rights, it is now.
Citing his critical tweets about the recent detention of Catalan president Carles Puidgemont in Germany, and following pressure from the US, Spanish and UK governments, the Ecuadorian government has installed an electronic jammer to stop Assange communicating with the outside world via the internet and phone.
As if ensuring his total isolation, the Ecuadorian government is also refusing to allow him to receive visitors. Despite two UN rulings describing his detention as unlawful and mandating his immediate release, Assange has been effectively imprisoned since he was first placed in isolation in Wandsworth prison in London in December 2010. He has never been charged with a crime. The Swedish case against him collapsed and was withdrawn, while the United States has stepped up efforts to prosecute him. His only “crime” is that of a true journalist — telling the world the truths that people have a right to know.
Under its previous president, the Ecuadorian government bravely stood against the bullying might of the United States and granted Assange political asylum as a political refugee. International law and the morality of human rights was on its side.
Today, under extreme pressure from Washington and its collaborators, another government in Ecuador justifies its gagging of Assange by stating that “Assange’s behaviour, through his messages on social media, put at risk good relations which this country has with the UK, the rest of the EU and other nations.”
This censorious attack on free speech is not happening in Turkey, Saudi Arabia or China; it is right in the heart of London. If the Ecuadorian government does not cease its unworthy action, it, too, will become an agent of persecution rather than the valiant nation that stood up for freedom and for free speech. If the EU and the UK continue to participate in the scandalous silencing of a true dissident in their midst, it will mean that free speech is indeed dying in Europe. This is not just a matter of showing support and solidarity. We are appealing to all who care about basic human rights to call on the government of Ecuador to continue defending the rights of a courageous free speech activist, journalist and whistleblower.
We ask that his basic human rights be respected as an Ecuadorian citizen and internationally protected person and that he not be silenced or expelled.
If there is no freedom of speech for Julian Assange, there is no freedom of speech for any of us — regardless of the disparate opinions we hold.
We call on President Moreno to end the isolation of Julian Assange now.
List of signatories (in alphabetic order):
Pamela Anderson, actress and activist
Jacob Appelbaum, freelance journalist
Renata Avila, International Human Rights Lawyer
Sally Burch, British/Ecuadorian journalist
Alicia Castro, Argentina’s ambassador to the United Kingdom 2012-16
Naomi Colvin, Courage Foundation
Noam Chomsky, linguist and political theorist
Brian Eno, musician
Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks Ambassador and board member of The Centre for Investigative Journalism
Teresa Forcades, Benedictine nun, Montserrat Monastery
Charles Glass, American-British author, journalist, broadcaster
Chris Hedges, journalist
Srecko Horvat, philosopher, Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25)
Jean Michel Jarre, musician
John Kiriakou, former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Lauri Love, computer scientist and activist
Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, Presidential advisor
John Pilger, journalist and film-maker
Angela Richter, theater director, Germany
Saskia Sassen, sociologist, Columbia University
Oliver Stone, film-maker
Vaughan Smith, English journalist
Yanis Varoufakis, economist, former Greek finance minister
Natalia Viana, investigative journalist and co-director of Agencia publica, Brazil
Ai Weiwei, artist
Vivienne Westwood, fashion designer and activist
Slavoj Žižek, philosopher, Birkbeck Institute for Humanities
By now the West – the US, Canada, Australia and the super-puppets of Europe, overall more than 25 countries – has expelled more than 130 Russian diplomats. All as punishment for Russia’s alleged nerve gas poisoning of a former Russian/MI6 double-agent, Sergei Skripal (66) and his daughter Yulia (33), who was visiting her father from Moscow. Sergei Skripal lived in the UK for the last seven years, ever since President Putin lifted his prison sentence in 2010 in a spy swap with the UK. The pair, father and daughter, was allegedly discovered on 4 March slumped on a park bench in Salisbury, England, not far from Sergei’s home. Apparently traces of the same nerve agent were found at the Skripal home’s door.
Russia in the meantime has started in a tit-for-tat move expelling western diplomats – in a first round 60, plus closing the US Consulate in St. Petersburg. According to Mr. Lavrov, more will most likely follow. There will be an exodus and a counter-exodus of diplomats, west-east and east-west. It looks like a Kindergarten at play but is, of course, a blatant provocation by the west on Russia and a continuation of the vilification of President Putin, especially after he has just been reelected with an overwhelming majority of over 76%. It’s a provocation with zero substance, to further justify an escalating NATO aggression against Russia. The war-bells are ringing for a lie, an abject farce, visible to a child. Only the blind, those puppets, because out of fear or out of stupidity, who do not want to see are supporting this new US-instigated, UK-executed drive against Russia.
The nerve gas, called Novichok, had been produced by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, but was subsequently banned and destroyed under international supervision. The ‘inventor’ of Novichok lives apparently in the US. Mr. Putin said, if the military-grade Novichok would have been used, the only form the USSR ever produced, there would have been no survivors.
What hardly anybody talks about is that the secretive UK Defense (War) Ministry’s laboratory of Porton Down is but 13 km away from where father and daughter were allegedly found unconscious on a park bench. Porton Down is a highly sophisticated chemical and biological weapons lab that entertains contracts with the Pentagon of more than US$ 70 million for carrying out “experiments”, including on humans and animals. Porton Down has the capacity to produce Novichok. See the full story on Porton Down, by Bulgarian investigative journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva – reported – that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found on that dubious park bench. There are no civil witnesses. The UK government does not disclose where the two are treated, what their current health status is. Only on the repeated insistence of Mr. Lavrov that according to an agreement between the UK and Russia (the USSR) in the 1960s, both countries have the right to inquire and investigate about the well being of their respective citizens, an official statement on 29 March from the UK said that Yulia is doing better and is on her way to recovery, while her father is still in critical but stable conditions (The Guardian, 29 March 2018). Is it true? What if one or both recover and have enough memory of the events to go public?
What if the two have indeed been poisoned at Sergei’s home, or abducted and brought to the Porton Down laboratory to be infected with the nerve gas and then later dumped to the park bench? Why does the UK not disclose any ‘evidence’ they apparently have against Russia? No details of where the two are being treated? No visits allowed. Russia’s offer to collaborate in the investigation is laughed off and refused. Is this a well-orchestrated MI6/CIA false flag, followed by outrageous lambasting by the UK’s highest leadership against Russia and her newly re-elected President Putin?
This criminal propaganda event is so full of lies, false accusations and deceit, pulling along more than 25 (so far) western nations to condemn and sanction Russia in unison for something Russia has with absolute certainty not committed. Just apply logic – a tough challenge, I know, these days for the dumb-folded west – but logic would tell a child that there is no sense, absolutely no sense, for Russia to carry out such an evil act. So, the usual question is: cui bono – who benefits? And the answer is also crystal clear: Profiting from this sham are the war-mongering US/NATO and their miserable vassal-allies – spineless for years – following lies, their governments are fully aware of the lies, of the untruth Russia is accused of.
Adding injury to insult is Ecuador’s new President, Lenin Moreno, who a few days ago has shut up Julian Assange, Wikileaks editor, who is in political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since July 2012. Under Moreno’s gag-order, Assange is no longer allowed to communicate with anybody in any form and shape and cannot receive visitors. The official reason for Moreno – who has clearly become a traitor on his people – is that Assange tweeted a protest against the arrest in Germany of Catalonian ex-leader, Carles Puigdemont. Moreno has condemned Assange to a sort of isolation prison in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Who gave Moreno orders to do so? Well, I leave the guessing up to you. In any case Moreno has become a prostitute as are most of the western world “leaders”.
The real reason is most likely Assange’s strong critique of the UK government, especially PM Teresa May and her Foreign and Defense Ministers, for their vitriolic and unjustified accusations and slandering of Russia and particularly of President Putin in the Skripal poison case. Assange cannot leave the embassy for fear of being arrested and extradited to the US, where he may face torture and worse, possibly the death penalty.
Let’s take this a step further. Diplomatic relations between the west and Russia have totally fallen apart. The doors are closed. Russia doesn’t need the west. But the west, especially Europe, badly needs and will every day more need Russia, a close ally and trading partner for hundreds of years. The west, eventually abandoned and every day more enslaved by Washington with weaponized refugees, with false flag terror attacks, leading to increased militarization, to oppression and censorship, privatization of public goods and infrastructure – Greece is but an example – and strangulation by Wall Street private banking and troika (IMF, European Central Bank, European Commission) imposed debt, the west will beg Russia to open her doors and show them her kindness – the kindness and openness Russia has been demonstrating to the west over the past almost 20 years, despite flagrant western abuse and demonization no end.
The western Anglo-Zionist-led empire will collapse. It’s a mere question of time but collapse it will. Today, not only a few, but all western “leaders” (sic) know that they are committing suicide by teaming up with destructive Washington – and this against the will of the majority of the European people. Yet, they push along this path of auto-destruction. Why? Have they been personally threatened, or else lavishly rewarded if they follow the dictate of deep state-led White House and Pentagon?
The day may come when the west will knock desperately at Russia’s door – please talk to us, we need you. But this may happen only if they have not let themselves be pulled into the abyss of annihilation by Washington. Their stupidity may just do that – another few lies, accusing Russia of crimes against humanity she didn’t commit and prompting a war, an all-destructive nuclear war. The pretext could be another false flag Syrian sarin attack on “her own people”, wrongly blaming Bashar al-Assad; or a missile landing in Israel, blaming Iran with the same no-proof propaganda fervor applied by the UK in the Sergei and Yulia Skripal case; or North Korea – in the course of negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong-un next month (April), the US/west launches a false flag missile, for example, from Guam, that lands in Japan, destroying infrastructure and killing people, blaming it immediately on DPRK, without any evidence whatsoever, but with a rigorous campaign UK-style, to the point that nobody dares to contradict the obvious lie.
What if the current UK virulent and violent Russia slandering campaign is but a dry-run for much worse to come? By now the mental state of western society is at the level of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Goebbels’, statement: “Let me control the media, and I will turn any Nation into a herd of Pigs”. Yes, that’s what the west has become, a herd of pigs.
Being a netizen, to use that popular term of sociological derivation, can be a difficult business. It presumes digital engagement, often of the sharper sort. To become a fully-fledged member of such citizenry, however, presumes access, a degree of Internet speed and appropriate platforms. Absent those, then different forms of activism must be sought.
Governments and authorities the world over have come to appreciate that either the activity itself is controlled (limiting internet access, for one), or the content made available on the Internet (the Great Firewall of China). The resonant cliché there is that the one who controls the narrative controls history, or can, at the very least, blind it.
Out of such tensions and tussles comes Julian Assange, a member of that unique breed of cyber insurrectionists, ducking and weaving through the information channels with varying degrees of success. To function as a publishing figure, he requires access to the Internet, a phenomenon that presumes an acephalous society.
For years, his enemy has been the concentration of information in the hands of the few, the greedy sort who horde information from the commonweal as they encourage ignorance. Publishing classified material has become a form of enlightenment, and it remains a furious debate waged across the political spectrum.
Little wonder, then, that Assange has become a political activist par excellence. If only he were merely, as Britain’s junior minister Sir Alan Duncan would have it, a holed up “miserable little worm.” Better a worm, retorted Assange to the minister’s remarks in the House of Commons, “a healthy creature that invigorates the soil, than a snake.”
He encourages others to revolt, and promises assistance to the restless. In March last year, he delighted in queries about the problems posed by the leaked CIA cyber-espionage toolkit. The interest of Silicon Valley firms had been piqued.
“We have decided to work with them,” explained Assange at his online press conference, “to give them some exclusive access to some of the technical details we have, so that fixes can be pushed out.” Such advice would assist the companies to patch their products and render the task of accessing data by intelligence services more onerous.
Such announcements, not to mention frenzied activity on such social media platforms as Twitter, can only take place by the good grace of his hosts of five years, those staff at the Ecuadorean embassy in London whose patience has, at times, been tested.
The pact between the Ecuadorean state and tenant Assange is hardly one of steel. It more resembles rubber, stretching or narrowing accordingly. When it has suited Ecuadorean interests to protect a troublesome political celebrity whilst permitting him to niggle the likes of the United States, Assange has been permitted vast, anarchic leeway.
Nick Miroff in the The Washington Post went so far as to deem Ecuador’s initial treatment of Assange as that of one who had won a trophy. Even as the Ecuador’s Rafael Correa took measures against the press in his country, he would still “poke Washington in the eye and look like a champion for press freedom”.
When still president, Correa dressed it all as a matter of obligation. “Ecuador fulfilled its duty, we gave him sovereign asylum, and finally the Swedish judicial system has closed the file and will not press charges against Assange.”
On Wednesday, the rubbery aspect of the relationship took another shape. Assange’s access to the internet would be halted. His digital mischief, it seemed, had gotten out of hand:
The government of Ecuador warns that Assange’s behaviour, through his messages on social networks, put at risk the country’s good relations with the United Kingdom, the other states of the European Union, and other nations.
Such interventions tend to be inconsistent and arbitrary. In 2016, when WikiLeaks had emerged as an information guerrilla force of prominence in the US presidential election, the embassy took similar measures to cool the ardour. Assange had gotten overly zealous, when, in fact, he was simply fulfilling his brief. “The government of Ecuador,” came the reasons in 2016 from the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry, “respects the principles of non-intervention in the affairs of other nations, does not meddle in electoral campaigns nor support any candidate in particular.” Gradual, tentative realignments were taking place in Latin America, and the trophy tenant had lost some lustre.
On that occasion, WikiLeaks had released hacked Democratic National Committee emails and those of Hillary Clinton’s campaign advisor, John Podesta. The US intelligence viewpoint on this was simple and simplistic: Assange had become a proxy of Russian interests. Undue electoral interference had been featured. Forget, they insisted, on the light darkly shining upon the Clinton stranglehold of the Democrats, and the sordid plotting against Bernie Sanders.
What prompted the latest clipping of Assange’s wings? Tweets, perhaps, shot through on Monday challenging the British-led account that Russia was directly responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
He had hardly been scurrilously contrarian with his remarks, though the current atmosphere turns tentative questions into howls of dissent. Odd, he claimed, that the expulsion of Russian diplomats had taken place “over an unresolved event in the UK and that the US expelled nearly three times as many diplomats as the UK”. While Russia might well have been involved, current evidence in the absence of independent confirmation was unverified and skimpy.
As with any testy relationship marked by a degree of self-interest, partners will squabble. Compromise will be sought, though this is hardly likely to quell Assange’s insatiable pursuit of activism. As the latest move suggests, arbitrariness is hard to avoid, and Assange remains a guest. What matters is whether the reins will continue to be pulled in. Courtesy and good graces tend to shrink in the face of brute politics.
The hacking community, like poets, tend to be irritable tribesmen and women. Their modus operandi functions on the stab, the enthusiastic penetration of insecure computer systems and mockery. Their role is as much to instruct as it is to disrupt.
To that end, such figures cut different forms. There is the lonesome soul finding solace in being a nuisance, or the idealist intent on revealing a compromised state of affairs (those working for Anonymous, by way of example). It was questionable whether Adrián Lamo was of the latter breed. According to his father, Mario, he lacked malice though not initiative. “Everything he did was out of curiosity.” Lamo’s views of his own activities suggested less a case of hacking than finding “different ways of seeing.”
Dead at 37 at his Kansas apartment on Wednesday in circumstances that barely struck an interest for most scribblers of the monopoly press, Lamo established his initial claim as one who hacked the Old Gray Lady. In breaking into the New York Times network in 2003, Lamo proceeded to run up $300,000 in data research fees by means of fake usernames, essentially adding himself to the paper’s payroll.
Cingular Wireless, Microsoft and Yahoo! were also accessed, the latter being notable for receiving touch-ups and satirical readjustments to news articles. After an 18 month investigation by the FBI, he was subsequently arrested and convicted for computer fraud, spending time in house arrest.
The now notorious James B. Comey, who was then the US attorney in Manhattan, was less than impressed. “It’s like someone kicking in your front door while you’re on vacation and running up a $300,000 bill on your phone, and then telling you when you arrive home that he had performed a useful service by demonstrating that your deadbolt wasn’t secure enough.”
It was with Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley, with whom he struck historical, if tainted gold. Lamo’s name had ventured far enough to reach the troubled army private who had, over time, amassed a sizeable trove of classified documents noting everything from brutal military engagements to diplomatic gossip in State Department cables. Lamo assumed the role of compromised confessor, drawing upon what he regarded as boasts by Manning.
Lamo, it seemed, had undergone a Damascene conversion. During the course of messaging Manning, a patriotic instinct had taken a gripping hold, though when exactly is unclear. This, from an individual who had shown little sign of it prior. Chat logs obtained via AOL Instant Messenger were thereby surrendered to the FBI, forever marking Lamo as an informant. Manning was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking some 700,000 government records, a term which was commuted by President Barack Obama in January 2017.
An explanation for his motives was quick to come. In a 2011 interview that ran in the film WikiSecrets, Lamo claimed a belief that Manning “couldn’t possibly have vetted over a quarter of a million documents”. She had merely assured herself “that they didn’t contain anything that would cause human harm.”
This criticism on vetting – or its absence – which has varying degrees of plausibility in the scope of information warfare, has also been levelled at WikiLeaks. Such is the distribution, and in some cases relocation, of power when it comes to revealing classified materials. Detractors prefer the deference to paternalism: only the traditional state and its operatives are fit to assess the quality of those secrets.
That aspect of harm, claims Lamo, was understood after his conviction. He was, on reflection, not merely dealing with computer systems, “just ones and zeros” but flesh and blood individuals who might be effected. He had not taken into account the “human cost”. But in becoming an informant, Lamo had decided to inflict another variant of harm – that of terrorising whistleblowers, notably to WikiLeaks, into revealing the dirty laundry of state entities.
This conformed rather neatly with the strategy outlined by the US Army Counterintelligence Center in 2008, whose own classified, and leaked report to WikiLeaks, proclaimed the organisation “a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the US Army.”
A vital strategy here entailed outing, targeting and ruining confidential sources and informants. “Successful identification, prosecution, termination of employment, and exposure of persons leaking the information by the governments and businesses affected by information posted by Wikileaks.org would damage and potentially destroy this center of gravity and deter others form taking similar actions.”
In life, Lamo remained itinerant. He moved repeatedly, and remained homeless for long stretches. “He was a believer,” claimed self-professed colleague and friend Lorraine Murphy, “in the Geographic Cure. Whatever goes wrong in your life, moving will make it better.”
He certainly engendered, if postings on his Facebook profile are anything to go by, strong impressions amongst those who knew him. “He was gifted with a brilliant curious mind that sprouted on a compassionate and loving heart,” goes a note from Saulo.
His name in the battlefield of public engagement was something else. For Julian Assange, he was no less an FBI snitch and poseur. “Lamo, a fake journalist, petty conman & betrayer of basic human decency, promised alleged source [Chelsea Manning] journalistic protection, friendship and support, then sold him to the FBI.”
Lamo’s mother responded with typical maternal distress. Being in the Ecuadorean embassy, speculated Mary Atwood Lamo, had denatured the publisher. “Perhaps if you dealt with what you need to personally, you might feel less mean-spirited and more able to exhibit the ‘basic human decency’ you endorse in your own words and behaviour, Mr. Assange.”
As for Lamo’s death, few eyebrows have been raised, though the conspiratorial wilderness may well dredge up something in due course. “There’s nothing suspicious about his death,” claimed Wichita police officer Charley Davidson. Toxicology tests will only yield results after some weeks, and the Regional Forensic Science Center is still numb on the cause of death.
Lamo’s underreported passing suggests one object lesson: no plaques are made to the tattler, the squealer, the snitch. To them is only owed suspicion, the sense that you might well turn at any given moment. The counterfeit currency that is patriotism only goes so far. The rest is less history than a concerted forgetting.
Justice is an elastic concept. Like other terms in law, it has room to expand and contract. But one weakness burdens legal strictures that supposedly have an objective reality to them: power. Power brutish, power as a spectral force, and power arbitrarily exercised.
Any reading of Julian Assange’s case must be, to that end, understood as a dynamic less of law than power. Having challenged its operations in the international system, he was bound to be its recipient. In assessing his conditions of detention on the Ecuadorean embassy in London, black letter lawyers prefer an interpretation without the influence of power, clean and clear. Focus is had on individual volition and purpose: up stakes, Assange, and face the legal music! That music remains the score sheet of a warrant for his arrest.
Such reasoning is woefully inadequate given the feathers the man has rustled. A number of states, the United States most preeminent amongst them, has demanded his pound of flesh. Mike Pompeo of the Central Intelligence Agency has admitted with refreshing candour how US authorities are considering avenues on prosecuting Assange and those associated with WikiLeaks.
Having soiled many a stable with the work of WikiLeaks and disclosures of classified information, treating Assange as a minor offender, one merely deserving of a parking ticket, is entirely erroneous. But it is a view that persists, even after the collapse of the Swedish case against him.
Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, taking a view shared by many members of her profession, proved inelastic in assessing Assange’s appeal against the arrest warrant. She did not, for instance, feel that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had much truck in its 2016 decision favourable to him.
Assange, she was more or less surmising, was an unconscionable brat, a person who believed laws insufficient to bind him. “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.” The arch manipulator had to come clean and descend from his Olympus.
“The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice. He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour.”
Some observers were not immune to the sense that the judge had gotten personal. Rather than focusing on the finer points of the ruling, a moral assessment was in order. “At times,” went ABC correspondent Lisa Millar, “it felt like a character assessment that went beyond what was needed for this ruling.”
The only way Judge Arbuthnot could understand Assange’s case was like any other defendant, an understanding both flawed and naïve. “Defendants on bail up and down the country and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. He should have the courage to do so.”
The problem with this reasoning is that the “choices” in question have been shown to be thinly manipulated grounds, notably those centred on a prosecutor’s brief from Sweden that was pursued till it expired with time. At no point was Assange ever charged for sexual offences, a niggling point that the righteous followers of positive law forget.
When concessions were finally made to interview him in the Ecuadorean embassy on his Swedish sojourn, nothing of substance emerged. What did, however, lurk with sinister force was the role played by British authorities to prolong the matter.
It is beside the point that Assange may leave his confines at any time. But removing a police presence before a minefield doesn’t remove the mines. He may well walk out and face the heralds of law. But the issue of skipping bail is not a stand-alone matter of legal delinquency. The grounds for extraditing him to Sweden have evaporated, making the issue academic. What remains is the prospect of surrender to the United States, a point that is far from negligible.
None of this matters to the judge, who decided she knew geopolitical malice, or issues of trust, better than most. “I do not accept that Sweden would have rendered Mr Assange to the United States.”
A good dose of speculation followed. “If that had happened there would have been a diplomatic crisis between the UK, Sweden and the US, which would have affected international relationships and extradition proceedings between states.”
Not in the least. What all three states have demonstrated are strong ties in terms of extradition, common grounds when it comes to dealing with international trouble makers. The Lauri Love decision does, admittedly, offer some room for hackers and those of Assange’s ilk to avoid the fate of ending up in the US prison system.
Far from precipitating a crisis, rendering Assange or extraditing him would have been seen as the ridding of a problem, removing a chaos maker, as it were, from the already troubled soup of international relations. Charmingly for such judicial officials as Judge Arbuthnot, the rule of law remains immune from political influence, despite scant evidence of its practice.
It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade.
Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case.
In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there. On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK?
In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents we support in other parts of the world.
According to a new release of emails between officials, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, wrote to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on 18 October 2013, warning that Swedish law would not allow the case to be continued. This was, remember, after Sweden had repeatedly failed to take up an offer from Assange to interview him at the embassy in London, as had happened in 44 other cases between Sweden and Britain.
Ny wrote to the CPS: “We have found us to be obliged to lift the detention order … and to withdraw the European arrest warrant. If so this should be done in a couple of weeks. This would affect not only us but you too in a significant way.”
Three days later, suggesting that legal concerns were far from anyone’s mind, she emailed the CPS again: “I am sorry this came as a [bad] surprise… I hope I didn’t ruin your weekend.”
In a similar vein, proving that this was about politics, not the law, the chief CPS lawyer handling the case in the UK, had earlier written to the Swedish prosecutors: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”
In December 2013, the unnamed CPS lawyer wrote to Ny: “I do not consider costs are a relevant factor in this matter.” This was at a time when it had been revealed that the policing of Assange’s detention in the embassy had cost Britain at that point £3.8 million. In another email from the CPS, it was noted: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”
These are only fragments of the email correspondence, after most of it was destroyed by the CPS against its own protocols. The deletions appear to have been carried out to avoid releasing the electronic files to a tribunal hearing a freedom of information request.
Other surviving emails, according to a Guardian report last year, have shown that the CPS “advised the Swedes in 2010 or 2011 not to visit London to interview Assange. An interview at that time could have prevented the long-running embassy standoff.”
Assange is still holed up in the embassy, at great risk to his physical and mental health, even though last year Sweden formally dropped an investigation that in reality it had not actually been pursuing for more than four years.
Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement.
London magistrates are due to consider on Tuesday the arguments of Assange’s lawyers that he should be freed and that after so many years the continuing enforcement of the arrest warrant is disproportionate. Given the blurring of legal and political considerations in this case, don’t hold your breath that Assange will finally get a fair hearing.
Remember too that, according to the UK Foreign Office, Ecuador recently notified it that Assange had received diplomatic status following his successful application for Ecuadorean citizenship.
As former British ambassador Craig Murray has explained, the UK has no choice but to accept Assange’s diplomatic immunity. The most it can do is insist that he leave the country – something that Assange and Ecuador presumably each desire. And yet the UK continues to ignore its obligation to allow Assange his freedom to leave. So far there has been zero debate in the British corporate media about this fundamental violation of his rights.
One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.
We need a political intervention to make this situation end. He (Assange) is the only political prisoner in Western Europe.
The persecution of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is now seven years old. Ecuador has protected Assange for the past half decade from being turned over to Washington by the corrupt Swedish and British for torture and prosecution as a spy by giving Assange political asylum inside the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. Ecuador has now given citizenship to Assange and attempted to provide his safe transit out of England by giving him diplomatic status, but the British government continued in its assigned role of jailer by rejecting Ecuador’s request for diplomatic status for Assange, just as the most servile of Washington’s puppet states rejected the order by the UN Committee on Arbitrary Detention to immediate release Assange from his arbitrary detention.
Assange got into trouble with Washington, because his news organization, Wikileaks, published files released by Bradley Manning. The files were a tremendous embarrassment to Washington, because they showed how Washington conspires against governments and betrays its allies, and the files contained an audio/video film of US military forces murdering innocent people walking down a street and then murdering a father and his two young children who stopped to give aid to the civilians the American soldiers had shot. The film revealed the heartlessness and criminal cruelty of the US troops, who were enjoying playing a real live video game with real people as their victims.
It was Manning who suffered, not the troops who committed murder. Manning was held for two years in conditions that experts said constituted torture while a case was framed against him. Some believe the harsh conditions affected his mind. Manning was convicted by a kangaroo court and sentenced to 35 years in prison, but Obama in an act of humanity unusual for Washington pardoned Manning.
Washington wanted Assange as well, and the chance came when two Swedish women who, attracted to Assange by his celebrity status, seduced him. The two women had not secured the cooperation they wanted from Assange in the use of condoms and, brainwashd by HIV fears, wanted Assange to join them in being tested.
Assange, misreading the extent of their fears, was too slow to comply, and the women went to the police to see if he could be required to be tested. According to the women, the police made up the charge of rape. The women themselves disavow the charge.
The charges were investigated, and the chief Swedish prosecutor Eva Finne dismissed the charges, saying “there is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”
Mysteriously, the case was reopened by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who many suspect was operating at the behest of Washington. On November 30, two days after Assange began publishing the Cablegate materials leaked by Bradley Manning, Ny issured an Interpol “red alert” arrest warrant for Assange. This was an unusual request as no charges were outstanding against Assange, and hitherto extradiction from one country to another on an arrest warrant required actual charges, whereas Ny said she wanted Assange for questioning. Most everyone in the know understood that Washington had ordered Sweden to get its hands on Assange and to turn him over to Washington.
Assange challenged the legality of the arrest warrant in British courts, but the British court, many believe following Washington’s orders, ruled against the law and in favor of Washington. Assange assented to the arrest and presented himself to a British police station. He was placed in solitary confinement at Wandsworth prison. If memory serves, the daughter of Sir James Goldsmith paid his bond and he was placed under house arrest. When it became clear that the Swedish prosecutor wanted Assange for Washington, not for any charges against him in Sweden, Ecuador give him asylum, and he fled to the embassy in London.
Where he has been ever since.
Sweden has closed the case a second time, and Assange is no longer wanted for questioning in Sweden. Therefore, there is no longer any reason for the British to hold him for Sweden. But the British government never were holding Assange for Sweden. The British were holding him for Washington. And they still are. Even thought Sweden has closed a case based on a false report by police and have no basis for any charges against Assange, the British government says it will grab him the minute he steps outside the embassy.
The British are so desperate to serve their Washington master that once they even declared that they were going to violate diplomatic immunity and invade the Ecuadoran Embassy and seize Assange.
The British excuse for a once proud government’s continuing servitude to Washington as Assange’s jailer is that by taking asylum in the embassy Assange jumped bail and therefore the British have to arrest him for not surrendering a second time to the police for an investigation that has been closed.
Stefania Maurizi, an Italian investigative journalist for La Repubblica, smelling the stench of fraud that covers the entire case, has been trying for two years to get her hands on the correspondence between the UK, US, and Swedish governments pertaining to the case in order to pull back the shroud of the Washington-orchestrated propaganda that colors the case. A British tribunal refused to release any documents on the grounds that it had to protect the British Prosecution Service’s relationship with foreign authorities.
That tells you all you need to know. Julian Assange has lost seven years of his life because stinking dirty Washington wanted revenge on Assange for exercising the US Constitution-protected right of a free press, and the stinking dirty governments of Sweden and Britain did Washington’s dirty work. What we know for certain is that Assange is totally innocent and that there is no honor and no integrity in the US, Swedish, and British governments. Law means nothing to the scum that misrule these countries.
In the US and probably throughout Europe, politicians and feminists, with the exception of Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff, used the presstitute media to paint Assange as a rapist and as a spy. The feminists cared nothing about any truth; they just wanted a man to demonize. Truth was the last thing on politicians’ minds. They just wanted to divert attention from Washington’s crimes and betrayals of allies by portraying Assange as a threat and traitor to America. They were unconcerned that Assange could not be a traitor to America as he is not an American citizen. In actual fact, there is no basis in law for any US claim against Assange. Yet because of Washington and its servile British puppet state, Assange remains interred in the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Clearly, honor and respect for law reside in Ecuador, not in the US, UK, or Sweden.
But facts, along with law and civil liberty, have ceased to mean anything in the Western world. The corrupt US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the arrest of Assange is a “priority.” The British police, mere lackeys of Washington, said that they would still arrest Assange, despite the case being dropped, if he left the embassy.
For the British, serving Washington is a higher calling than the honor of their country.
Evo Morales will soon have been the president of Bolivia for 12 years, heralding the ascent of the indigenous social movements to governmental power. This ended the apartheid system against the indigenous that existed for 500 years in Bolivia. Morales won in 2005 with 53.7% of the vote, followed by re-elections in 2009 with 64.2% and 2014 with 61.3%.
The country has made great strides in economic development, national sovereignty, women’s and Original Peoples’ rights, respect for Mother Earth, raising the people’s standard of living, level of education, and health care.
His presidency, which has brought an era of relative social peace and economic growth, has been the longest in Bolivia’s history. Since 1825, Bolivia has had 83 presidents with 37, almost half, by means of coup d’etat. Previous presidents typically lacked social legitimacy, representing a political system that excluded participation of the indigenous peoples, plagued by social and economic inequality, subjugated to foreign interests, and complicit with the looting of natural resources. By 2002, after years of neoliberal regimes serving foreign — mostly U.S. — corporations, the proportion of the rural population living in extreme poverty had risen to 75%.
The election of “Evo,” a campesino movement leader and head of the Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement Toward Socialism, MAS), began what his government describes as the “Process of Change” that shifted power away from Bolivia’s traditional elite, the mostly white owners of industry and agriculture, and toward the majority, the mostly indigenous workers and campesinos.
Reflecting on the historic significance of the changes underway in Bolivia, Morales declared:
We are the indigenous blood of Mother Earth. Until now Bolivia has been ruled by a few families that have all the political and economic power. They despise, humiliate, marginalize and hate the majority of the indigenous population. After 525 years of colonization, we indigenous peoples are part of the construction of a new Plurinational State and we have full participation in international political organizations and forums.
Why Has Economic Development Been so Successful During the Process of Change
The MAS government undertook an anti-neoliberal program, which has enabled the economy to grow an average 5% per year since 2006, compared to 2.8% during the years 1951-2005. As a result, the Gross Domestic Product has grown four-fold from $9 billion in 2005 to $36 billion today. Bolivia has become the fastest growing economy in Latin America.
Economic strategy focused on regaining national sovereignty over the country’s natural resources and using this wealth not to enrich foreign multinationals but to raise the standard of living of the neglected people of Bolivia. In 2006 Evo Morales asserted public ownership over the country’s gas and oil resources, making foreign companies turn over extractive industry resources to the state. The state now fully controls sales, transport and distribution as well as key decisions regarding the extraction and refining of raw materials. The nationalization decree also forced foreign oil companies to renegotiate contracts with the new administration. Today, foreign corporations still extract most of Bolivia’s natural gas, but do so as contractors hired by the state, on the state’s terms.
Prior to the nationalizations (not only of gas and oil, but telecommunications, water, electricity, and a number of mines), foreign corporations pocketed about 85% of the profits generated by natural gas production. Morales increased the country’s profit share from gas from about 15% before his presidency to between 80-90%.1 In 2005, before nationalization, government gas revenues totaled $0.6 billion; in 2015 it was over four times as much, $2.6 billion – in fact, down from $4.5 billion in 2014. In 2015 all gas and oil revenues yielded $4 billion, making up nearly half of Bolivia’s export earnings.
Over ten years, Evo’s Bolivia has gained $31.5 billion from the nationalizations, compared to a mere $2.5 billion earned during the previous ten years of neoliberal policies. This vastly increased revenue, largely used to benefit the people, starkly exemplifies the extent the people have been robbed to serve foreign corporate interests.
By the end of 2013 the state-owned portion of the economy reached 35%, double that of previous neoliberal governments. The state has become the main generator of wealth, and public investment amounted to over $5 billion in 2016, compared to a mere $629 million in 2006. Much of this new revenue funds the country’s impressive development, infrastructure, community projects, such as schools, gyms, clinics, roads, and subsidies for agricultural production. It is spent on the people’s health and education, on price controls for staple foods, on wage increases, and social security benefits.
This humane redistribution of national wealth away from corporate interests to serving the poor majority has allowed one in five Bolivians, two million people, to escape a life of poverty. Even the World Bank has recognized the country as world champion in income growth for the poorest 40% of its population.
In the United States, the government is taking the opposite course, turning its back on the poor. Here the poverty has grown over the same period, from 12.3% to 12.7%.2 Vacant homes number 18,600,000 – enough for each homeless person to have 6. The government cut food stamps by $8.7 billion in 2014, cut 500,000 poor from the program in 2016, with plans to slash $19.3 billion per year for ten years. Yet Washington increases the military budget this year by $80 billion, an amount that could make public college free.
For Bolivia to industrialize and diversify the economy, to move away from dependence on natural resource exports, is a difficult long-term task. The country did create 485,000 jobs in the productive sector between 2006-2010, and developed industries to process natural resources.3 It advanced significantly its agricultural production, now providing 95% of the country’s food. Yet raw materials still account for 90% of Bolivia’s exports.
Big investments are underway in infrastructure construction, hydrocarbon exploration, industrialization of natural gas (for fertilizers and plastics), more lithium production, and electric power for export. “Here we have the presence of China, with cooperation without pre-conditions, with credit without conditions,” Evo Morales said, contrasting Chinese aid to Western aid.
New Social Programs to Eliminate Poverty
In Bolivia under Morales, poverty has declined from 60.6% of the population in 2005 to 38.6% in 2016. Extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 per day) fell from 38% to 16.8%. The real minimum wage has risen from 440 bolivars a month to 2,000 a month (from $57 to $287). Unemployment stands at under 4%, the lowest in Latin America, down from 8.5% in 2005.
Here are some of the measures to combat poverty:
- Electricity has been brought to 66% of rural homes by 2015, up from 25% in 2001.
- Over 127,000 homes have been created for low income Bolivians who lack housing. Another 23,000 homes will be built in 2018.
- The Juancito Pinto program aims to increase school attendance and reduce child labor. It presently reaches 2 million children, who each receive $28 annually upon finishing their school year.
- The Juana Azurduy program combats maternal and infant mortality, as well as malnutrition in children under two years old. Mothers can receive up to $266 from the program. UNICEF has pointed out the effectiveness of these social programs. Chronic undernourishment in children has sharply fallen from 27%, when the program started in 2009 to 16% now, and infant mortality has been cut in half just since 2008.
- The Renta de la Dignidad is a payment to the 900,000 Bolivians over 60 years old, who would otherwise receive no pension. Incapacitated and disabled people now receive 250 bolivianos ($36) monthly and guaranteed job placement in public and private institutions.
More than 4.8 million Bolivians – in a country of just over 10 million – today benefit from these programs, programs that not just combat poverty, but improve public health and education.
Meanwhile in the United States, the bottom 90% of households are poorer today than they were in 1987.
Bolivia has cut income inequality by two-thirds, with the share of income of the top 10% vis-à-vis the poorest 10% has dropped from 128 to 1 in 2005 to 37 to 1 in 2016.
In the United States, after years of neoliberal programs, we have the shocking fact that the three richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the population.
Gains for Rights of Original Peoples
The country, after a national discussion initiated by Bolivia’s five main indigenous campesino organizations, adopted a new constitution. The new document recognized Bolivia as a Plurinational State, with equal status and autonomy for Original Peoples, and also reclaimed control over natural resources. The new government has even established a Ministry of Decolonization (with a Depatriarchalization Unit) to further the uprooting of the previous apartheid system. By 2011, 90 of the 166 elected representatives of the national assembly came directly from the ranks of the progressive social movements.4
Gains in Education and Health Care
Bolivia had an illiteracy rate of 13% when Evo Morales became president. After a mass literacy campaign that used Cuba’s YES I CAN program, 850,000 were educated and by 2008 Bolivia was declared free of illiteracy. The country is second to Cuba in Latin America in terms of funding education. There are now 16,000 educational establishments in the country, 4,500 of them were built since 2006 with the funds from the nationalized gas industry.
Life expectancy of Bolivians during Morales’ presidency has increased from 64 years to 71 years. This is partly the result of the almost 700 members of the Cuban medical brigade working in the country. Cuba’s Operation Miracle has also enabled 676,000 Bolivians to have had their vision restored. Moreover, around 5,000 Bolivians have obtained their medical degrees in Cuba, going back to their country to provide their services. The country now has 47 new hospitals and over 3,000 health centers being built.
Land Distribution and Food Self-Sufficiency
Before Evo became president, 5% of property owners owned 70% of the arable land.5 From 2006-2010 over 35 million hectares of land (one third of Bolivia), was handed over to Original Peoples’ peasant communities to be run communally. This included government lands, large estates, and forest. Another 21 million hectares previously occupied illegally by large landowners were declared public lands, mostly protected forests.6 The land reform law expropriated underutilized lands, and permitted seizure of property from landowners employing forced labor or debt peonage. In all, approximately 800,000 low-income peasants have benefited. Of those who received titles to their land, 46% have been women. For the first time since the European conquest, small holders control 55% of all land. The government ensures that these small producers receive preferential access to equipment, supplies, loans, and state subsidized markets, key factors in enabling the country to become self-sufficient in food.
U.S. Interference and Regime Change Attempts
As John Perkins points out in Confessions of an Economic Hitman, any government pursuing anti-neoliberal economic policies or its own foreign policy independent of the United States, as the case with Rafael Correa’s Ecuador and Morales’ Bolivia, becomes a U.S. target for overthrow.
Evo Morales has become one of Washington’s most disfavored leaders in the Americas. Washington continues to be concerned about Evo revolutionizing the indigenous movements in the region, and tries to tarnish his reputation as an indigenous movement leader.
Wikileaks documents show that the United States tried to undermine the presidencies of Evo Morales and Rafael Correa even before they were elected. Right after Evo’s inauguration, the U.S. ambassador made it clear to him that funding by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank and IMF depended on his “good behavior,” that is: back off nationalizing Bolivia’s petroleum resources.7 When Morales rejected these “orders,” including naming government ministers and military leaders without seeking prior U.S. embassy consent, Washington began financing Bolivian opposition groups seeking to overthrow the indigenous government.
Washington used USAID, NED [National Endowment for Democracy], IDB, World Bank, and IMF, to take punitive measures such as vetoing multilateral loans, postponing talks on alleviating Bolivia’s foreign debts, and discouraging international loans and grants. U.S. Ambassador Greenlee wrote in a cable, in January 2006, just months after Morales’ election, “U.S. assistance, the largest of any bilateral donor by a factor of three, is often hidden by our use of third parties to dispense aid with U.S. funds.” He noted “many USAID-administered economic programs run counter to the direction the GOB [Government of Bolivia] wishes to move the country.”
U.S. embassy cables showed Washington sought to create divisions in the social and indigenous movements that make up the support base of the country’s first indigenous-led government. Despite recognizing these were “traditionally confrontational organizations” vis-a-vis the United States, Greenlee believed that “working more closely with these social sector representatives” who expressed dissent towards Morales “seems to be most beneficial to [U.S. government] interests”.
USAID poured at least $85 million into Bolivia. Initially, the United States hoped to destabilize the government by training the separatists in the richer Santa Cruz area in the eastern lowlands. USAID money flowed to groups in these opposition-based areas, as part of “USAID’s larger effort to strengthen regional governments as a counter-balance to the central government.”8
Soon these eastern regions, the Media Luna, were in open rebellion, demanding a referendum on autonomy. Resulting protests led to the killing of at least 20 MAS supporters who had mobilized to crush the rebellion. The separatists’ goal was to divide Bolivia into two separate republics: a poor one governed by an indigenous majority and a much wealthier one run by European descendants in the areas home to the gas transnationals and large agribusiness.
The United States never denounced opposition violence, not even after the massacre of the MAS supporters. Moreover, the U.S. Embassy knew in advance of the opposition plans to blow up gas lines, but did not report it, nor even attempt to dissuade the opposition from doing so.9
Morales was soon to expel U.S. Ambassador Goldberg for his interference. Nevertheless, USAID “still channeled at least $200 million into the country since 2009.” USAID was eventually expelled in 2013.
Once the Media Luna separatist plan collapsed,10 USAID switched to courting indigenous communities by using environmental NGOs. The Aymaras – Morales is one — and Quechuas, Bolivia’s two largest indigenous peoples, live mostly in the highlands and central regions. The east is home to the remaining 34 indigenous peoples. In 2011 new anti-government protests in the east again arose, this time around a planned TIPNIS highway.
Protests against the Government around the TIPNIS (Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory)
The Bolivian government planned to build a highway – actually to widen, pave and connect two roads with a 20-40 mile new connector – going through the TIPNIS. Western funded NGOs along with some local indigenous groups organized an international campaign against the MAS government, claiming Evo was repressing the indigenous and destroying untouched nature. This campaign was partly funded by USAID and received sympathetic reporting in NACLA, UpsideDownWorld, Amazon Watch, and other liberal-left alternative media, which either omitted or discounted the U.S. role. Avaaz11 and allied NGOs in solidarity with the protest groups organized an international petition of protest. This foreign interference served to exacerbate a resolvable internal Bolivian dispute.
Fred Fuentes and Cory Morningstar wrote several exposés of this Western campaign against Evo, the covering up of the facts surrounding the TIPNIS road and the protests, including the USAID funding.12 Evo Morales even revealed transcripts of phone calls between the anti-highway march organizers and U.S. embassy officials, including calls right before the march set out.
That the TIPNIS protest leaders supported the REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), which would give Western NGOs and these indigenous groups funds for monitoring TIPNIS forests, was also not mentioned by liberal-left alternative media. REDD uses poor nations for carbon offsets so corporations in rich countries can continue polluting.
Many Western solidarity activists uncritically supported the anti-highway march. Many of their articles about the issue downplayed and made no mention of connections between the protest leaders and Washington and the Santa Cruz right wing. Eventually the issue was resolved through a consultation process, and 55 of the 69 TIPNIS indigenous communities agreed to the road.13
U.S. Manipulation Helped Cause Morales’ Loss in the 2016 Constitutional Referendum
The United States again intervened to influence the February 21, 2016 referendum to change the constitution to allow Evo Morales to run again for the presidency. A smear campaign against him took place, including false stories of his corruption, nepotism, and fathering a child with a lover, which led to him losing the vote. The day is now recognized as the “Day of the Lie.” On the 2017 anniversary, mobilizations around the country backed the Process of Change and rejected the previous year’s vote. Washington is already at work to block his renomination in 2019.
USAID and NED Funding of Oppositional Forces
According to Bolivia’s Cabinet Chief Juan Ramon Quintana, from 2006-2015 NED funded around 40 institutions in Bolivia including economic and social centers, foundations and non-governmental organizations, for a total of over $10 million. For 2013, the combined NED and USAID allocations for Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia totaled over $60 million, with the bulk of these funds destined to Cuba and Ecuador.
The Issue of “Extractivism” in Bolivia
Linda Farthing notes that in world colonial and neocolonial history “the exploitation of [Bolivia’s] considerable natural resources has also been nearly unparalleled.” It included Spain’s richest gold and silver mine, one the richest tin mines, two of today’s largest silver and iron ore mines, half of the world’s lithium, and South America’s second largest gas reserves. She adds, “It comes as no surprise that Bolivia’s history and environment have been dominated by relentless extraction.”
A central challenge facing Latin American governments is overcoming this dependency on raw material exports to a world market controlled by Western powers. This issue, who some present as “extractivism,” has become one of the main points of liberal-left and environmental NGO criticism of the positive changes in both Evo’s Bolivia and Correa’s Ecuador.
“Extractivism” is a deliberately politically neutral and ahistorical term that conceals the brutal history that created the present First World-Third World system. “Extractivism” glosses over what has been 500 years of mass murder of Original Peoples, their slavery and semi-slavery for the purpose of plundering their gold, silver and other natural resources.
The Third World remains dependent on raw material exports, with their economies fragmented into specialized extractive industries geared towards a world market controlled by the First World, alongside backward, low-tech domestic industries and a bloated informal sector.
Bolivia cannot compete in industrial production with countries with more modern institutions, citizens with a higher educational level, developed infrastructure, and with access to the sea. To break free from being a low-cost provider of raw materials, whether mineral or agricultural, will be a long process.
As Fred Fuentes notes, the question of “extractivism” centers on how a Third World country like Bolivia can overcome centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism to provide its people with basic services while trying to respect the environment. The main culprits are not Bolivian, but the Western governments and their corporations. Defenders of the indigenous and Bolivian must demand the West pay its ecological debt and transfer the necessary technology for sustainable development to countries such as Bolivia. “Until this occurs, activists in rich nations have no right to tell Bolivians what they can and cannot do to satisfy the basic needs of their people. Otherwise, telling Bolivian people that they have no right to a highway or to extract gas to fund social programs (as some NGOs demanded), means telling Bolivians they have no right to develop their economy or fight poverty.”
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Linera points out that Bolivia contributes 0.1% of the world’s greenhouse gases, but its trees clean 2% of the world’s carbon dioxide, resupplying that as oxygen. He attacks the Western “colonial, elitist environmental NGOs” for imposing their environmental demands on the Third World, saying they are blind to the Third World’s right to development.
Fuentes called out Western so-called defenders of Bolivia’s environment who attack Evo Morales over extractivism, for not devoting a single article on how the government has drastically cut deforestation 64% between 2010-2013. He asked, “why have media outlets, seemingly so concerned about Bolivia’s environment, failed to investigate what might be the steepest reduction in greenhouse gas emission per capita of any country in the world?”
They also do not mention that in South America, Bolivia has the greatest number of trees per inhabitant. Peru has 1,500, Brazil 1,400, Argentina 1,200, Colombia 1000, Ecuador, 600, Paraguay 2,500. Bolivia has 5,400. And this year they will plant another 5 million.
Misrepresenting the Morales government’s environmental record often aims to delegitimize Morales’ position not only as a leading spokesperson for the indigenous but in the global fight against climate change. Evo has rejected the carbon offset REDD schemes many Western environmental NGOs supported and clearly blames global warming on the First World’s capitalist operations. “I’m convinced that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity and the environment, enemy of the entire planet.” He has demanded the Western rich countries repay their climate debt by transfer of technology and funds to the Third World.
Bolivia as a center of anti-imperialist social movements
The Bolivian government has sought to build political alliances with other governments and social movements in order to help strengthen the global forces for fundamental change. Liberal-left critics of Evo Morales, who attack him around TIPNIS, “extractivism,” even for being a neoliberal, so often willing to offer a checklist of measures for how Bolivian socialism should be built, so often willing to portray Evo Morales as backtracking after he took office, tend to go mum on his anti-imperialist measures, conferences, and statements.
Evo Morales has become an outspoken world leader against U.S. hegemony and has pushed hard to make Bolivia a center of anti-imperialist social movements. Bolivia organized a number of international conferences: People’s Summit on Climate Change (2010), Anti-imperialist and Anticolonial Summit of the Peoples of Latin America and the World (2013), Anti-Imperialist International Trade Union Conference (2014), the G77 Summit of 133 Third World nations (2014), the key promoter of the United Nations’ World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (2014), World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Defense of Life (2015), World Conference of the Peoples For a World Without Borders towards Universal Citizenship (2017).
He has called for rich countries to pay climate reparation to those poorer ones suffering the effects of climate change. Warning of a coming “climate holocaust” that will destroy parts of Africa and many island nations, he called for an international climate court of justice to prosecute countries for climate crimes.
In 2016 he inaugurated a military “Anti-Imperialist Commando School,” saying: “We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies.”
Besides expelling the U.S. ambassador and USAID for their roles in coup plotting, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was expelled in 2009 for its actions against social organizations and for interfering with the actual struggle against narco-trafficking.
Evo Morales’ anti-cocaine program has resulted in land used for coca production being reduced by one-fifth since 2005.14 The OAS considers Bolivia’s program “a best practice…[worthy of] replication”; it is also praised by the UN Office of Drug Control. The DEA’s military base was transformed into the Cochabamba airport and renamed Soberania [Sovereignty].
“I am pleased to have expelled the U.S. ambassador, the Drug Enforcement Administration and to have closed the U.S. military base in Bolivia. Now, without a U.S. ambassador, there is less conspiracy, and more political stability and social stability.” And in reference to the IMF and World Bank, which had served to force Bolivia to divert funds away from social welfare programs, he added “Without the International Monetary Fund, we are better off economically.”
Speaking of the United States’ $700 billion military budget, Morales said: “If that money was used for cooperation or to fight poverty, we could solve so many [of the world’s social and environmental] problems.” Instead, “The U.S. creates and perpetuates international conflicts for profit….The capitalist system that [it] represents is not a policy that embodies the people of the United States but a policy of the transnational corporations, especially those that commercialize weapons and push for an arms race…they use any pretext against the anti-imperialist countries to subdue and dominate them politically and rob them economically. They’re after our natural resources“.
Challenges Facing The Process of Change
Evo has said that “the retreat of the left in Latin America is due to the incapacity of progressive governments to face a media war and the lack of political training of the youth”. Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera also pointed out that progressive governments have failed to promote a kind of cultural revolution alongside the political revolution; social programs have successfully lifted many out of poverty, creating a new middle class with new consumerist attitudes, without promoting a corresponding new value system; progressive governments must do more to tackle the entrenched corruption of the neoliberal years; the question of the continuity of leadership remains a challenge; and Latin American economic integration remains a weakness despite considerable advances in political regional integration.
Three factors may cause Bolivia’s Process of Change to stagnate and be partially reversed. It has not moved beyond anti-neoliberalism policies that have brought great benefits to the people, in a more anti-capitalist direction. While the MAS government has democratized the traditional Bolivian state, it has modified this bourgeois state but not replaced it with a new one that would be a superior tool for the indigenous campesino and working people to advance their struggle. It has not built an organization of activists committed to leading this struggle with the people.
Now coming on 12 years of the Process of Change, Bolivia is a new country under the leadership of Evo Morales and Garcia Linera. Each passing year is one more of social, political and economic transformation, of opening up national decision-making to the indigenous communities, peasant and worker social movements. Not only have the faces of those who govern radically changed, but the country itself. From one of the poorest countries in Latin America, it has become the leader in sustained economic growth. From a country founded on social exclusion to the point of apartheid, it has become a country of inclusion for all, where more than half the Congress consists of women, where illiteracy is eliminated, where the people have free health care and education, and have gained much greater control over the wealth of their natural resources.
- Linda Farthing gives different figures: “The total government take shot up to about 70 percent of production, making gas its primary income source with annual revenues jumping from $332 million before nationalization to more than $2 billion today.”
- These figures understate the actual figure as they exclude the 12 million undocumented, who are disproportionately poor.
- Federico Fuentes, “Bad Left Government” vs “Good Social Movements”? in Steve Ellner (ed.) Latin America’s Radical Left, Maryland:Rowman & Littlefield (2014) p. 110.
- Federico Fuentes. Bolivia’s Communitarian Socialism, Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions, Halifax, Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing; London, NewYork: Zed Books (2013) p. 86.
- Dangl, Ben, “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia,” California: AK Press (2007) p.95.
- Federico Fuentes, Bolivia’s Communitarian Socialism, Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions, Halifax, Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing; London, New York: Zed Books (2013) p. 85.
- The Wikileaks Files: The World According to US Empire, London, New York: Verso (2015) p. 504.
- Ibid., p. 507; quote is from a US government cable. See also WikiLeaks Cables Reveal US Gave Millions to Bolivian Separatists and El informe de 2007 de la USAID.
- The Wikileaks Files: The World According to US Empire, (2015: 508). “The US had full knowledge of opposition groups’ terrorist plans, and yet did not denounce them,” Eirik Vold [author of Ecuador In the Sights: The WikiLeaks Revelations and the Conspiracy Against the Government of Rafael Correa] told Prensa Latina, adding that the US had prior knowledge of a planned attack on a natural gas pipeline, which resulted in a ten percent decrease in Bolivia’s gas exports to Brazil.”
- The Media Luna attempted coup broke under the pressure of several Latin American anti-neoliberal governments (Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, El Salvador, Ecuador y Nicaragua) issued a declaration in support of Bolivia’s constitutional government. Nevertheless, the US continued to maintain constant communication with the leaders of the separatist movement.
- It included 61 signers, only two from Bolivia. US signers included Amazon Watch, Biofuelwatch, Democracy Center, Food and Water Watch, Global Exchange, NACLA, Rainforest Action Network.
- Fred Fuentes, “Bad Left Government” versus “Good Left Social Movements”? in Latin America’s Radical Left (2014) pp. 120-121.
- Linda C. Farthing, Benjamin H. Kohl Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change, Austin, University of Texas Press (2014) pp. 52-54.
- Drug seizures have almost tripled under Evo, Informe Presidencial, 22 de enero 2017, p. 12.