Category Archives: Elections

US Targets Nicaraguan Presidential Election

Before Henry Kissinger became a Clinton pal, liberals condemned him for saying: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” The 1973 US-backed coup and bloodbath in Chile followed. Now Uncle Sam has a problem in Nicaragua, where independent polls predict a landslide victory for Daniel Ortega’s leftist Sandinista slate in the November 7th presidential elections.

The US government and its sycophantic media are working to prevent Ortega’s reelection. On July 12, the US slapped visa restrictions on one hundred Nicaraguan elected legislative officials, members of the judiciary, and their families for “undermining democracy.” A month earlier, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on President Ortega’s daughter, along with a military general, the head of the central bank, and an elected legislator.

These and other recent illegal US sanctions on Nicaragua are designed to promote regime change and are based on the ridiculous charge that this poor and tiny nation is a “extraordinary and unusual threat to the US national security,” when the opposite is the case.

The NICA Act of 2018, under the Trump administration, imposed sanctions, including blocking loans from international financial institutions controlled by the US. In August 2020, the Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN) plan was revealed, which is a multi-faceted coup strategy by which the US contracted corporations to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. RAIN calls for a “sudden, unanticipated transition” government to forestall what they admit would otherwise be a Sandinista victory in a free election. In a seamless handoff from the Trump to the Biden administration, the pending RENACER Act would further extended “targeted sanctions.”

US intervention in Nicaragua and, indeed, in all of Latin America under the 1823 Monroe Doctrine has a long history continuing to the present. Back in 1856, US citizen William Walker tried to impose himself as head of a slave state in Nicaragua, only to be assassinated four years later. In 1912, the US began an occupation of Nicaragua, forcing the country to become a US protectorate. The US was ousted in 1933 in a war led by national hero Augusto C. Sandino, after whom the present revolutionary party was named. In the 1980s, the US government proxies, the Contras, fought the new Sandinistas after they overthrew the US-backed Somoza dictatorship.

Problematic premises

In the past, most US progressives opposed the imperialism of their government. But more recently, as Jeremy Kuzmarov of CovertAction Magazine observed: “United States warmakers have become so skilled at propaganda that not only can they wage a war of aggression without arousing protest; they can also compel liberals to denounce peace activists using language reminiscent of the McCarthy era.”

A recent Open Letter to the Nicaraguan Government from U.S. Solidarity Workers 1979-1990 reflects the US imperial talking points. This US open letter, dated July 1, is joined by one from Europeans, formerly active in solidarity with Nicaragua, and one from international academics, mainly in the field of Latin American studies. (Links to all three letters may be dodgy.) All three letters, likely coordinated, use similar language to make matching critiques and demands.

While other international activists from the 1980s still prioritize non-intervention and solidarity with the Sandinista government, the concerns expressed in the open letter should be respectfully evaluated. The open letter is based on the following problematic premises:

  1. The open letter claims the Ortega “regime” is guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

In fact, Nicaragua is by far the most progressive country in Central America under the Sandinista government.

Unlike the Guatemalans, Hondurans, and El Salvadorians in these US client states, Nicaraguans are not fleeing to the US in search of a better life. Poverty and extreme poverty have been halved in Nicaragua, and the UN Millennium Development Goal of cutting malnutrition has been achieved. Basic healthcare and education are free, and illiteracy has been virtually eliminated, while boasting of the highest level of gender equality in the Americas. Nicaragua, which enjoys the lowest homicide rate in Central America, also has the smallest police force with the smallest budget in the region. These are not the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

  1. The open letter claims the 2018 coup attempt was simply a “demonstration of self-determination.” While the open letter correctly notes that the events of 2018 reflected an element of popular discontent, it renders invisible the millions of dollars and many years of US sponsored subversion in Nicaragua.

Social media campaigns of false information orchestrated by US-sponsored groups fueled viciously violent protests. According to solidarity activist Jorge Capelán: “those who kidnapped, tortured, robbed, murdered and raped citizens here in Nicaragua in April 2018 were the coup promoters. They themselves recorded everything with their cell phones. They even set fire to murdered Sandinista comrades in the street.”

Benjamin Waddell, a signatory to the open letter, admitted “it’s becoming more and more clear that the US support has helped play a role in nurturing the current [2018] uprisings.” Dan La Botz, another Ortega-must-go partisan, provided the background: “US organizations such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and no doubt the CIA had for decades, of course, worked in Nicaragua as they do everywhere in the world.”

No substantive progressive alternative was offered by the opposition in 2018, according to William Robinson, another signatory to the open letter. Rather, 2018 was an attempt to achieve by violent means what could not be achieved democratically at the ballot box.

  1. The open letter claims the Nicaraguan government “in no way represents the values, principles and goals of the Sandinista revolution.” This stance arrogates to foreigners the role of telling the Nicaraguan people how to evaluate their revolution. The electoral process in Nicaragua makes clear that the Nicaraguans think otherwise.

After successfully overthrowing the US-backed dictator Somoza and fighting the counter-revolutionary war against the US-backed Contras, the Sandinista’s lost the 1990 election. Notably, outgoing President Ortega without hesitation obeyed the electoral mandate, the first time in Nicaragua’s history that governing power was passed peacefully to another political party.  After 17 years of neoliberal austerity, Daniel Ortega won the presidential election of 2006 with a 38% plurality and went on to win in 2011 with 63% and 72.5% in 2016. Ortega’s ever increasing electoral margins suggest the majority of Nicaraguans support him as the legitimate leader of the Sandinista revolution.

Problematic proposals

 Using the same loaded language as the US government, the open letter calls on the “Ortega-Murillo regime” to release political prisoners currently being held, including “pre-candidates,” members of the opposition, and “historic leaders” of the Sandinista revolution; rescind the national security law under which these individuals were arrested; and negotiate electoral reforms.

Nicaragua has passed two recent laws: the Foreign Agents Law and the Law to Defend the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination for Peace. These laws, which the open letter wants rescinded, criminalize promoting foreign interference in Nicaragua’s internal affairs, seeking foreign military intervention, organizing acts of terrorism, and promoting coercive economic measures against their country. These are activities, it should be noted, that are similarly prohibited in the US’s FARA Act, after which the Nicaraguan laws were modeled.

 The recent actions of the Nicaraguan government prosecuting people who break their laws is a normal function of governance. That some of the accused perpetrators may have political aspirations does not immunize those individuals from arrest for unlawful activities.

The letter from the aforementioned academics claims that among those detained are the “most prominent potential opposition presidential candidates.” In fact, none of the 17 political parties in Nicaragua have chosen their candidates, and “most of those currently under investigation do not belong to any legally registered party.” In fact, Stephen Sefton reports from Nicaragua that “no leading figure from Nicaragua’s opposition political parties has been affected by the recent series of arrests of people from organizations that supported the 2018 coup attempt.”

One of the most prominent of those arrested is NGO director Cristiana Chamorro, charged with money laundering for receiving millions of dollars from the USAID, other US government agencies, and allied foundations for regime-change purposes. In her defense, she incredulously claimed that the US State Department had audited her and found everything to their liking.

The “historic leaders” of the Sandinista revolution are just that; people who had broken with the revolution long ago and since 1994 had collaborated with the US-allied rightwing opposition and NGOs. More to the point, they are being charged with illegal collusion with foreign powers.

The open letter calls for “negotiating electoral reforms,” but electoral law in Nicaragua as in the US is determined by the legislative process and not by negotiations among various power blocks. Nicaragua has implemented some but not all reforms mandated by the Organization of American States. The fourth branch of government, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), oversees elections. A third of the current CSE is composed of representatives of parties other than the ruling party, even though the Sandinistas hold a super-majority in the legislature.

The right of the Nicaraguan revolution to defend itself

While acknowledging “the long and shameful history of US government intervention,” the open letter does not acknowledge the right of the Nicaraguan revolution to defend itself. On the contrary, their implied endorsement of the 2018 coup attempt is a call for regime change by non-democratic means and an implicit pass for US interference.

The open letter’s finding that “the crimes of the US government – past and present – are not the cause of, nor do they justify or excuse” the behavior of the current government in Nicaragua is a door that swings two ways. Whatever the alleged wrongdoings the Ortega government, that still does not justify the US government’s regime-change campaign. The open letter is thunderously silent on current US intervention, notably the punishing NICA and RENACER acts.

The Nicaraguan government has prioritized the needs of poor and working people and has made astounding progress on multiple fronts. That is why they are being targeted for regime change, and why the Nicaraguans have taken measures to thwart US intervention.

The Trump administration specifically targeted the so-called “Troika of Tyranny” – Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua – with repressive illegal sanctions aimed at regime change. That policy of US domination did not start with Trump, nor is it ending with the new US administration.

The imperialists are clear on who they target as their enemy; some elements on the left are less clear on who is their friend and whether Nicaragua has a right to defend itself.  If the signers of the open letter believe, as they claim, “in the Nicaraguan people’s right to self-determination…of a sovereign people determining their own destiny,” then the November 2021 election should be protected, free from interference by the US, its international allies, and its funded NGOs.

The post US Targets Nicaraguan Presidential Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Family Separation Law: Israel’s Demographic War on Palestine Intensifies  

When the Israeli Knesset (parliament) failed to renew what is commonly referred to as the Family Reunification Law, news reports and analyses misrepresented the story altogether. The even split of 59 MKs voting in favor of the law and 59 against it gave the erroneous impression that Israeli lawmakers are equally divided over the right of Palestinians to obtain permanent residency status or citizenship in Israel through marriage. Nothing could be further away from the truth.

Originally passed in 2003, the Citizenship and Entry Law was effectively a ban on Palestinian marriage. Under the guise of ‘security’, the law prohibited Palestinians in the West Bank, who marry Israeli citizens, to permanently move to Israel, obtain work, permanent residency and, ultimately, citizenship.

The law was never made permanent as it was subjected to an annual vote, which successfully renewed it 17 times, consecutively. The 18th vote, on July 6, however, ran into an obstacle. Contrary to the perception given by media coverage, those who voted against the renewal of the ban did so for purely political reasons and not out of concern for the tens of thousands of Palestinian families that have splintered and broken up since the law came into effect.

Since the ousting of former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the hands of his protégé, current Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s former leader has been determined to topple Bennett’s already fragile coalition. Bennett’s government allies cobble up extreme right-wing parties, including Yamina, the party of the prime minister himself, centrist and even leftist parties, the likes of Meretz. It even hosts an Arab party, United Arab List, or Ra’am, of Mansour Abbas. A coalition of this nature is unlikely to survive long, considering Israel’s tumultuous politics, and Netanyahu – eager for an early election – will do everything in his power to facilitate what he sees as an imminent collapse.

Netanyahu’s Likud party and its allies in the opposition voted against renewing the discriminatory law to score a political point. Their justification, however, was more appalling than the law itself. The Likud wants the temporary law to become a permanent fixture, a Basic Law, to be added to dozens of other similar racially-motivated laws that target the very fabric of Palestinian society.

Welcome to Israel’s demographic war on the Palestinian people. This one-sided war is situated in the belief among Israel’s Jewish majority, that Israel’s greatest challenge is sustaining its demographic advantage which, thanks to a decided campaign of ethnic cleansing that began over seven decades ago, has been held by Jews over Palestinian Arabs.

Israel’s main fear is not simply a decisive Palestinian majority between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel’s Jewish ruling classes are also rattled by the real possibility of the growing political influence of Israel’s Palestinian Arab constituency, and are doing everything in their power to ensure Palestinian holders of Israeli citizenship are kept at a minimum. The Citizenship and Entry Law was designed specifically to keep this population in check.

The general elections of March 2020, in particular, provided a taste of what a doomsday scenario would look like.  Arab Israeli parties unified under the single ticket of the Joint List and emerged with 15 seats, making it the third-largest political bloc in the Israeli Knesset, after Likud and Blue and White. If Palestinian Arabs mastered this much influence, though they represent only 20% of the overall Israeli population, imagine what they could do if the demographic tide continues to shift in their favor.

For Israel, the future of Jewish majority – read: supremacy – is dependent on keeping the population equation in favor of Israeli Jews at the expense of Palestinian Arabs. Most of the laws that discriminate against Palestinians, regardless of where they reside – in fact, anywhere in the world – is motivated by this maxim.

According to the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), Israel’s Palestinian Arab population is targeted with 65 different government laws and regulations, which ensure Palestinian Arabs do not prosper as a community, remaining politically disempowered, socio-economically disadvantaged and constantly threatened with the loss of their residency, and even citizenship.

Palestinians elsewhere suffer an even worse fate. For example, Palestinians living in Jerusalem, who supposedly hold permanent residency status, are subjected to different types of legal harassment, so that Jerusalem can maintain its current Jewish majority. When Israel illegally occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the city was almost entirely Palestinian Arab. Through numerous tactics, the city’s Arab population is now an ever-shrinking minority. Worse still, in 2018 Israel passed a law that granted the Ministry of Interior the right to revoke the residency of Jerusalemites based on the murky accusation of ‘breach of loyalty’.

The occupied West Bank and Gaza are confined, as only Israel determines who remains and who is permanently exiled. The Israeli military occupation of these regions has taken population control to a whole new level; it is almost an exact science.

This is also precisely why Israelis abhor the very discussion of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, for they consider it an implicit call for the ‘destruction of Israel as a Jewish state’. According to this logic, if millions of Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to their homes and lands in historic Palestine, Israel will no longer exist in its current form, as a Jewish state, but will become a democratic state for all of its citizens, instead.

What is likely to happen next is that Israel’s Interior Ministry will continue to find caveats in Israel’s ever-flexible laws to block the reunification of Palestinian families, until the Knesset officially renews the Citizenship and Entry Law or, worse, make it permanent. Either way, Israel’s demographic war on Palestinians is likely to intensify in the future. Considering that it is a war that cannot rationally be won, Israel is likely to delve deeper into the abyss of apartheid.

As Israel continues to experiment with controlling the Palestinian population, it would be shameful if the international community continued to remain silent. This moral outrage must end.

The post Family Separation Law: Israel’s Demographic War on Palestine Intensifies   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election

Despite ongoing violence in the northern region of Tigray, persistent attempts to de-rail the process and cries of catastrophe by western powers (most notably the US) and mainstream media, on the 21 June Ethiopia conducted its first ever democratic elections.

The mechanics of the election were not perfect, but crucially there were no reports of violence and the (independent) National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) claims that turnout was good. Although some opposition parties complained about the voting process (which the NEBE is investigating), African Union observers found that, the elections were “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.

Due to conflict or logistical issues around 20% of the country (100 of 547 constituencies) did not take part, with the exception of Tigray these areas will vote in September. The election is a major milestone in the recent history of the country and the movement towards a more democratic form of governance.

To the surprise of nobody the government (The Prosperity Party), under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, won an overwhelming victory. The full results are yet to be released, but signs suggest the incumbent may have taken all 547 parliamentary seats; however, in a positive move, PM Abiy has said he will invite members of opposition parties to participate in forming a new government. While total dominance is regrettable and unhealthy, it does place responsibility and opportunity firmly with the government, as well as unavoidable accountability.

Meddling Allies

The country is beset with a range of serious problems, the task before the government is daunting, the priorities clear. Firstly and essentially, establishing peace – nothing can be achieved unless the ongoing conflict in Tigray between TPLF forces and the military, and ethnic violence in other areas is brought to an end. The humanitarian fall-out of the Tigray war must be urgently addressed: over 131,000 (according to IOM UN Migration) have been displaced in the region, taking the total number of internally displaced persons to over two million, and millions require food aid.

Overall numbers and intensity of need are disputed; the UN estimates that up to five million people in Tigray are facing starvation, but the Ethiopian government has dismissed such numbers as “alarmist”. Contrary to reports in western media, that federal forces have sabotaged aid convoys, deliveries of food aid made by the World Food Programme (WFO) have been disrupted by TPLF forces inside the region. The deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has said that in the first round of humanitarian response “effort was made to reach out to 4.5 million people in the Tigray region through the delivery of food and non-food items. In the second and third rounds, the relief efforts were able to reach out to 5.2 million people.”

Establishing verifiable, reliable information in a war zone, where access is restricted, is difficult, nigh impossible; it is a mystery how western media and assertive commentators routinely make statements (that circulate and are repeated from one outlet to another until taken as fact) about the situation inside Tigray and other parts of the country without having been there, or in many cases, spoken to people inside the country. A point that is not lost on many Ethiopians.

The African Union (AU) has launched a commission of inquiry into the conflict, and a joint investigation by Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is also underway. Currently an agreed ceasefire is in place in Tigray and TPLF forces are in control of the regional capital Mekelle. If the people of Tigray want to be governed by the TPLF, as it appears they do, then as PM Abiy has suggested, they will soon see if that is a wise decision.

The welcome lull in fighting may create potential for discussions between the two sides, however distasteful this may be to both government and populace. To the fury of Ethiopians, home and abroad, in addition to sanctions and withholding aid (the US and EU), ‘talks’ are something western powers, most notably the US, have been calling for over past months: In March 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “we need to get an independent investigation into what took place there, and we need some kind of…. reconciliation process.” “Reconciliation”  with the TPLF, who terrorized the country for 27 years and are rightly despised throughout Ethiopia?

In response to US sanctions and lectures the Ethiopian government said, “if such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the U.S., which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.” The level of condescension and interference displayed by the US and others has angered many Ethiopians.

The TPLF, regarded by the Ethiopian government and much of the populace as terrorists, were, and apparently remain the favored force of western powers. They ruled Ethiopia from 1992 to 2018 under the guise of a coalition, before collapsing under the weight of sustained protests in 2018. A totalitarian, unforgiving regime the TPLF ruled through fear and ethnic division. Corrupt to the core they syphoned off federal funds, divided communities along ethnic lines, committed state terrorism and Crimes against Humanity in a number of regions to a variety of ethnic groups.

Western powers supported the TPLF throughout their violent reign, notably the USA and the UK (with money and political legitimacy), and seem intent on levering them back into office and curtailing Ethiopia’s rise as a regional independent power. ‘Stop interfering in a sovereign state’ is the message loud and clear from Ethiopians of all regions, except Tigrayans; a message delivered at protests in Washington DC and at the recent G7 gathering in Britain that went unreported by mainstream media, who focused their coverage solely on the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Tigray (of which they appear to know little), ignoring the passionate cries against interference.

Mainstream media (including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian – which recently published a widely inaccurate piece about Tigray – Al Jazeera, VOA etc) is rightly regarded as a propaganda tool of western governments. The coverage of the election was broadly negative, slanted to echo the western/US agenda of delay. A key voice in this subversive  effort is well known to Ethiopians; Susan Rice was US ambassador to the UN (2009-2013) and Obama’s national security adviser from 2013-2017. She has been ‘advising’, i.e., lobbying the Biden administration on behalf of the TPLF mafia, who she, and Obama, supported. The US (the worlds biggest arms dealer) appears to now be arming the ‘rebels’, via the military dictatorship of Egypt the primary western voice-piece in the region.

Ethiopia’s potential

Ethiopia is going through a difficult, but potentially exciting time of transition, from serial dictatorship to some form of democracy. A system that observes human rights and allows universal freedoms including freedom of speech, unlike under the TPLF. However, there are a range of disruptive, subversive elements intent on derailing any democratic development, some of which sit firmly within the government and need to be purged. There are also malicious external forces that would see Ethiopia split, and ethnic division run wild: Egypt and Sudan are anxious and, one suspects, shocked by, and envious of, the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (the largest in Africa), and of Ethiopia’s potential strength and influence within the region and continent. And, angered by the country’s historic independence – it was never colonized, ejecting the Italians twice, 1896 and 1941 – jealous of its rich, ancient culture (dating to at least 3000BC), and nervous about China’s involvement in the country (and continent), the old European colonial powers and the decaying force of the US, apparently do not want Ethiopia to flourish, and would be happy to keep the country enslaved to western aid, as it was under the TPLF.

As the country attempts to move forward it needs friends, not nominal allies whose actions are corrupted by self-interest, arrogance and resentment; nations (USA, UK and EU chiefly) that stood by for decades watching the TPLF murder, torture and steal, and declared corrupt elections legitimate. Such voices have little credibility in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian people are desperate for change, for peace and stability; they have given The Prosperity Party under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed a huge mandate to govern: as their term in office begins they will be closely watched, by Ethiopians at home and abroad. To unite a country that has been systematically divided over decades will take time, skill and patience. Mistakes will inevitably be made, but if the intent is sound and honesty is demonstrated, trust can be built and divisions will gradually begin to collapse.

The post “Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election

Despite ongoing violence in the northern region of Tigray, persistent attempts to de-rail the process and cries of catastrophe by western powers (most notably the US) and mainstream media, on the 21 June Ethiopia conducted its first ever democratic elections.

The mechanics of the election were not perfect, but crucially there were no reports of violence and the (independent) National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) claims that turnout was good. Although some opposition parties complained about the voting process (which the NEBE is investigating), African Union observers found that, the elections were “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.

Due to conflict or logistical issues around 20% of the country (100 of 547 constituencies) did not take part, with the exception of Tigray these areas will vote in September. The election is a major milestone in the recent history of the country and the movement towards a more democratic form of governance.

To the surprise of nobody the government (The Prosperity Party), under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, won an overwhelming victory. The full results are yet to be released, but signs suggest the incumbent may have taken all 547 parliamentary seats; however, in a positive move, PM Abiy has said he will invite members of opposition parties to participate in forming a new government. While total dominance is regrettable and unhealthy, it does place responsibility and opportunity firmly with the government, as well as unavoidable accountability.

Meddling Allies

The country is beset with a range of serious problems, the task before the government is daunting, the priorities clear. Firstly and essentially, establishing peace – nothing can be achieved unless the ongoing conflict in Tigray between TPLF forces and the military, and ethnic violence in other areas is brought to an end. The humanitarian fall-out of the Tigray war must be urgently addressed: over 131,000 (according to IOM UN Migration) have been displaced in the region, taking the total number of internally displaced persons to over two million, and millions require food aid.

Overall numbers and intensity of need are disputed; the UN estimates that up to five million people in Tigray are facing starvation, but the Ethiopian government has dismissed such numbers as “alarmist”. Contrary to reports in western media, that federal forces have sabotaged aid convoys, deliveries of food aid made by the World Food Programme (WFO) have been disrupted by TPLF forces inside the region. The deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has said that in the first round of humanitarian response “effort was made to reach out to 4.5 million people in the Tigray region through the delivery of food and non-food items. In the second and third rounds, the relief efforts were able to reach out to 5.2 million people.”

Establishing verifiable, reliable information in a war zone, where access is restricted, is difficult, nigh impossible; it is a mystery how western media and assertive commentators routinely make statements (that circulate and are repeated from one outlet to another until taken as fact) about the situation inside Tigray and other parts of the country without having been there, or in many cases, spoken to people inside the country. A point that is not lost on many Ethiopians.

The African Union (AU) has launched a commission of inquiry into the conflict, and a joint investigation by Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is also underway. Currently an agreed ceasefire is in place in Tigray and TPLF forces are in control of the regional capital Mekelle. If the people of Tigray want to be governed by the TPLF, as it appears they do, then as PM Abiy has suggested, they will soon see if that is a wise decision.

The welcome lull in fighting may create potential for discussions between the two sides, however distasteful this may be to both government and populace. To the fury of Ethiopians, home and abroad, in addition to sanctions and withholding aid (the US and EU), ‘talks’ are something western powers, most notably the US, have been calling for over past months: In March 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “we need to get an independent investigation into what took place there, and we need some kind of…. reconciliation process.” “Reconciliation”  with the TPLF, who terrorized the country for 27 years and are rightly despised throughout Ethiopia?

In response to US sanctions and lectures the Ethiopian government said, “if such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the U.S., which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.” The level of condescension and interference displayed by the US and others has angered many Ethiopians.

The TPLF, regarded by the Ethiopian government and much of the populace as terrorists, were, and apparently remain the favored force of western powers. They ruled Ethiopia from 1992 to 2018 under the guise of a coalition, before collapsing under the weight of sustained protests in 2018. A totalitarian, unforgiving regime the TPLF ruled through fear and ethnic division. Corrupt to the core they syphoned off federal funds, divided communities along ethnic lines, committed state terrorism and Crimes against Humanity in a number of regions to a variety of ethnic groups.

Western powers supported the TPLF throughout their violent reign, notably the USA and the UK (with money and political legitimacy), and seem intent on levering them back into office and curtailing Ethiopia’s rise as a regional independent power. ‘Stop interfering in a sovereign state’ is the message loud and clear from Ethiopians of all regions, except Tigrayans; a message delivered at protests in Washington DC and at the recent G7 gathering in Britain that went unreported by mainstream media, who focused their coverage solely on the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Tigray (of which they appear to know little), ignoring the passionate cries against interference.

Mainstream media (including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian – which recently published a widely inaccurate piece about Tigray – Al Jazeera, VOA etc) is rightly regarded as a propaganda tool of western governments. The coverage of the election was broadly negative, slanted to echo the western/US agenda of delay. A key voice in this subversive  effort is well known to Ethiopians; Susan Rice was US ambassador to the UN (2009-2013) and Obama’s national security adviser from 2013-2017. She has been ‘advising’, i.e., lobbying the Biden administration on behalf of the TPLF mafia, who she, and Obama, supported. The US (the worlds biggest arms dealer) appears to now be arming the ‘rebels’, via the military dictatorship of Egypt the primary western voice-piece in the region.

Ethiopia’s potential

Ethiopia is going through a difficult, but potentially exciting time of transition, from serial dictatorship to some form of democracy. A system that observes human rights and allows universal freedoms including freedom of speech, unlike under the TPLF. However, there are a range of disruptive, subversive elements intent on derailing any democratic development, some of which sit firmly within the government and need to be purged. There are also malicious external forces that would see Ethiopia split, and ethnic division run wild: Egypt and Sudan are anxious and, one suspects, shocked by, and envious of, the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (the largest in Africa), and of Ethiopia’s potential strength and influence within the region and continent. And, angered by the country’s historic independence – it was never colonized, ejecting the Italians twice, 1896 and 1941 – jealous of its rich, ancient culture (dating to at least 3000BC), and nervous about China’s involvement in the country (and continent), the old European colonial powers and the decaying force of the US, apparently do not want Ethiopia to flourish, and would be happy to keep the country enslaved to western aid, as it was under the TPLF.

As the country attempts to move forward it needs friends, not nominal allies whose actions are corrupted by self-interest, arrogance and resentment; nations (USA, UK and EU chiefly) that stood by for decades watching the TPLF murder, torture and steal, and declared corrupt elections legitimate. Such voices have little credibility in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian people are desperate for change, for peace and stability; they have given The Prosperity Party under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed a huge mandate to govern: as their term in office begins they will be closely watched, by Ethiopians at home and abroad. To unite a country that has been systematically divided over decades will take time, skill and patience. Mistakes will inevitably be made, but if the intent is sound and honesty is demonstrated, trust can be built and divisions will gradually begin to collapse.

The post “Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Cruella Moments in Peru

Catherine and the Baroness

The only character who actually dies in Disney’s Cruella is the sweet, good servant, Catherine, who consents to raise Cruella – condemned to death by her birth mother, the grotesquely unfeeling Baroness De Vil – as her own daughter. Cruella and the Baroness shall dance a burlesque that plays out to the morbid rhythm of an eternal melody. Similarly in Peru since even the time of Spanish dominion a macabre masquerade has been enacted between conservatives and liberals, parties born of the same mother, Empire, whose local nemesis, Pachamama, struggles vainly with these uninvited adoptees in the face of their mutual despoliation of the natural order. Pachamama and her birth children, the Indigenous, do not fare well in this movie.

Vargas Llosa Musings

Peru’s – and perhaps the world’s – greatest living and truly genius novelist, 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, an unequalled expert on the psychology of Latin American caudillos, is himself the progeny of Peru’s deepest contradictions. In any other context it would be difficult to conceive how the celebrator of anarchy in Le Guerra del Fin del Mundo could possibly condemn Pedro Castillo, whom progressives must continue to hope will be inaugurated as president of Peru on July 28, as a presage of dictatorship and backwardness. To deepen his wound, Vargas Llosa, who campaigned for the presidency in 1990 against Alberto Fujimori, has expressed his preference for Cruella (or, perhaps, the Baroness) herself, Keiko Fujimori, Alberto’s eldest daughter. Her father dissolved the Peruvian Congress in 1992, setting himself up as dictator for the next eight years, and whose enforcer was intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, with the help of $10 million from the CIA with whom Montesinos had a long-standing relationship. The CIA financed an anti-narcotics unit organized by Montesinos in the National Intelligence Service (SIN), despite reports of the involvement by Fujimori’s eminence grise in corruption, drug trafficking and human rights violations. A powerful Peruvian drug lord of the 1990s, Demetrio Chávez, testified in court that he paid US$50,000 monthly in bribes to Montesinos and several army officers.

Aged 19 in 1994, Keiko, who appears to have specialized more than anything else in the fine art of losing three presidential elections, accepted the title of First Lady from her father. Alberto had booted out (and was eventually to divorce) his much-abused wife, Susana, after Susana had accused him both publicly and in court, of kidnapping, torture, and corruption, and sought to run against him in the 1995 elections (Alberto changed the law so that Susana could not qualify).

Comparable perhaps to the bestowal on Keiko of the title of First Lady, Vargas Llosa, who replaced his own wife of 50 years in 2016 in favor of the 64-year-old mother of Enrique Iglesias – dubbed the ‘Pearl of Manila’ by the Daily Mail – was willing recipient of the hereditary title of 1st Marquis in the peerage of Spain, granted him in 2011 by the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, the monarch who was soon to abdicate in disgrace for financial and other improprieties.

Meditations on Andean Peasantry

In his novel Lituma en los Andes (1993) Vargas Llosa turned his attention to the Andean Indigenous at the peak of the Maoist-inspired, rural, terrorist movement Sendero Luminoso. He peered deep into a primeval blackness belied by the peasantry’s colorful alpaca hats, facemasks, and ponchos. His niece, the film director Claudia Llosa, achieves much the same effect in her anthropological dissection of Andean village culture in Madeinusa (2006) and La Teta Asustada (2009). In his more recent Tiempos Recios (2019) Vargas Llosa constructs an allegory of the Fujimori and Montesinos years – a sort of lament, perhaps, for his own failure to out beat Fujimori electorally in 1990, and in which politically naïve, fearful members of Lima’s wealthy technocracy are represented as vain and foolish. Nor should we forget that in his novel El Sueño del Celta (2010) Vargas Llosa had already painted as horrific a picture of the abuse and slaughter of Amazonian Indigenous by European rubber interests around the turn of the twentieth century as has ever been accomplished.

Which leads us, then, to wonder at Vargas Llosa’s monumental failure of political judgment when confronted with a choice between Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Castillo. For it is not the Indigenous to whom we should first look for evidence of primeval blackness, but to the Conquistadores, their armies, priests, and traders whose swirling, mendacious blackness of racism, violence, and greed, conjoined with equally toxic liquids from the north, saturates beyond repair the entire continent of Latin America to this day. Vargas Llosa projects his attention outwards when he should be looking inwards: he has reversed cause and effect, abuser and victim. It is not the Indigenous who are dark and mysterious. More likely they are tired, and they are angry. They are tired of providing pretty pictures for frivolous tourists whose travel to Peru from countries far wealthier than theirs contributes to planetary destruction, and whose corporations seize 70% of the profits earned by exploitation of the country’s mineral resources on Indigenous land. Peru has the world’s biggest reserves of silver, as well as Latin America’s largest reserves of gold, lead and zinc. The Peruvian coast is renowned for its marine resources. The Amazon basin possesses large reserves of oil and natural gas, as well as abundant forestry resources.

Winner of the 2021 presidential election Pedro Castillo, explained:

Peru is such a wealthy country but so much of the wealth, such as copper, gold, and silver, goes to foreigners. At the ports, you see an endless stream of trucks taking away the resources of the country and just two hundred meters away, you see a barefoot child, a child with tuberculosis, a child full of parasites. That is why we must renegotiate the contracts with big companies so that more of the profits remain in Peru and benefit the people. We must reexamine the free trade agreements we have signed with other countries so that we can promote local businesses.

But what are the prospects for real change? In what follows I shall look at how Peru’s natural wealth and indigenous people interact with Cruella’s Hispanic Dance of the Macabre, starting with its latest episode (Pedro vs. Keiko) then retreating to the Spanish conquest, before moving to mid-19th century reinterpretations of Cruella’s dance that sought to integrate the Indigenous, on more harmonious grounds, and finally pausing at Peru’s nearest shot at authentic revolution, the Velasco regime, and its morbid neoliberal Fujimori aftermath.

The Policies and Politics of Pedro Castillo

Presidential candidate Pedro Castillo won the 2021 presidential election by a margin of 44,000 votes on the second round, with 50.14% of the votes counted as against Keiko Fujimori who garnered 49,86%. If the election is validated, then President Castillo will command 42 out of the 130 seats in Congress, whilst Fujimori’s Fuerza Popular and the other right wing electoral coalitions will have a combined parliamentary strength of at least 80 seats. If the election is not validated and no president is inaugurated on July 28, then under the constitution there must be new elections.

The 2021 presidential election in Peru should have ended several weeks ago, at the time of this writing, but validation of Castillo as president has been delayed by Fujimori´s denunciations sin evidencia, and in the style of Trump –  yet afforded legitimacy by representations of some military and conservative figures through their own media (more than 70% of Peru’s news is owned and controlled by El Comercio Group which among other things propagates Fujimori’s ridiculous assertion that Castillo is a Sendero Luminoso communist).  This might seem less outrageous in the capital, Lima, where Fujimori support is concentrated and where major corporations have threatened their employees with the loss of their jobs if they failed to vote for Fujimori. A highly suspicious massacre of 16 people in San Miguel del Ene on May 23rd, attributed by police to an unlikely, mysteriously reborn Sendero movement, was more likely to have been a ghastly pro-Fujimori terror campaign.

Those who supported Keiko Fujimori’s claim that the election had been stolen and that 200,000 votes should be thrown out were concentrated in the upper classes of the capital, Lima, and included former military leaders and members of influential families. Some openly called for a new election, or even a military coup if Mr. Castillo was sworn in. Hundreds of retired military officers sent a letter to top military chiefs urging them to not recognize “an illegitimate president.” A former Supreme Court justice filed a lawsuit requesting that the entire election be annulled. The Defense Ministry has confirmed that Alberto Fujimori’s henchman, Vladimiro Montesinos, in jail on a naval facility, was somehow able to use a landline number to make 17 phone calls to Pedro Rejas, a retired military officer and formerly loyal Fujimori cohort who later revealed the recordings. In one conversation Montesinos appeared to suggest that bribes be paid through an intermediary to three of the four members of an electoral tribunal to favor Fujimori in a recount.

On July 3, Peru’s government rejected Fujimori’s request to seek an international audit of its June 6 election. Even the U.S. State Department had described the election as a model of democracy.  International observers, including the Organization of American States (OAS), found no evidence of major irregularities. Both the USA and EU praised the electoral process. Michelle Bachelet, the former Chilean president, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, urged Peruvians to accept the election results. The National Elections Jury charged with reviewing contested ballots should have completed its task by mid-July so that a new president can be sworn in on July 28th. Its work was held up by a week after one of the judges resigned (he has been replaced).

A writer for the Financial Times has described Pedro Castillo, 51 years old, as a rural primary school teacher, a son of peasant farmers, and trade union activist. Castillo recently elaborated:

This year we are celebrating the bicentennial of Peru as a republic, yet after two hundred years, we still have a high level of illiteracy, and the homes of my parents and neighbors don’t have electricity, lights, or running water. There’s a totally abandoned health center where once in a while a nurse comes by and maybe you can find a bandage or a few pills for all the families. As I traveled in rural areas across the country, I found conditions similar to my hometown. Further into the Amazon, conditions are even worse. People there have nothing; they are totally abandoned by the state.

From 2005 to 2017 Castillo was affiliated with Perú Posible, a centrist party led by former president Alejandro Toledo. In 2017, the year he attained prominence as a leading figure in the 2017 teacher strike in Peru, Castillo joined his current party, Partido Nacional PERÚ LIBRE (PNPL) or Perú Libre, which claims a Marxist-Leninist heritage and proposes a left-wing program centered around increased spending on education and health services, nationalization of key extractive sectors, anti-corruption, and salary limits for congressional members.

Castillo was born to two illiterate peasants in one of the poorest regions in Peru. He is the third child of nine in his parents’ family. 60% of Peruvians do not have access to internet, and Castillo did not have a Twitter account. His campaign relied on community radios, personal visits to small towns, and cultural events. He built his presidential election campaign around resource nationalism and Indigenous rights. A central tenet of his PERÚ LIBRE party is to restructure Peru as a plurinational state along the basic lines of Ecuador and Bolivia. Peru has 4 major indigenous languages in the Andes (Quechua, Aymara, Cauqui and Jaqaru) and 43 more in the Amazon region.

Castillo has plans to rewrite the Constitution to give the state a greater role in the economy and keep a larger share of profits from mineral resources. Amid uncertainty over the final electoral outcome, he appointed more moderate economic advisers and sought to retain central bank head Julio Velarde – seen by many as a symbol of stability. The PERÚ LIBRE program addresses land reform, nationalization of natural resources to ensure that most of this wealth remains in Peru and available for the eradication of poverty, increases in state expenditure on social services (health and education), income redistribution, decriminalization of abortion. Other targets include human trafficking, especially of women; elimination of patriarchy and machismo in state and society; respect and promotion of women’s reproductive rights; and promotion of the self-organization of women at every level. Castillo himself, it should be noted, has reportedly opposed the legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage, and policies promoting gender equality. Additionally, PERÚ LIBRE aims to abandon the OAS (unofficial US regime-change machine) and return to UNASUR. The party strongly supports Cuba and Venezuela.

Although Castillo won only 18% of the vote for PERÚ LIBRE in the first round this was still something of a surprise, since the main contender for the left was thought to have been Veronika Mendoza, candidate of the Juntos por el Peru coalition, who obtained slightly less than 8%. Castillo was one of the least known among eighteen contenders in the first round. 70% of voters did not choose either Pedro Castillo or Keiko Fujimori. Many voters had been convinced by opposition propaganda that Vladimir Cerrón, the Marxist leader of Castillo’s party, Perú Libre, was the real power behind Castillo. It did not help that PERÚ LIBRE, although constituted in part by school union organizers like Castillo, also maintains loose ties to MOVADEF, a political movement that seeks amnesty for convicted terrorists, and advocates political participation and reconciliation between fully rehabilitated former terrorists and the citizenry at large. Castillo is anything but a terrorist. On the contrary, he was a rondero who helped lead peasant civilian militias that were officially recognized by the Peruvian government to defend small towns in the Andes against Sendero Luminoso terrorist cells during the 1980s and early ’90s. But no matter how progressive Castillo’s policies may seem they are also worryingly flexible in the face of potential setbacks and different audiences, and in Peru there is a bad history of the better promises of progressives or of progressive elements of neoliberals heading south (think Alan Garcia or Ollanta Humala) as quickly as champagne bottles at campaign victory fiestas. The show of humble, even Indigenous, origins, offers insufficient protect against such a turn of events.

The Politics and Policies of Keiko Fujimori

Fujimori is clearly a member of the Peruvian elite, albeit one whose father is still doing jail time – as is his former intelligence chief (the two are estimated to have stolen a combined $600 million during their decade in power). In a pre-Trumpian and therefore more rational world she would have stood nowhere near a position of power since prudence dictates even to social elites that they should keep the progeny of corrupt and murderous dictators hidden in the nursery or cellar, figuratively speaking, of course. In opinion polls, Fujimori has been among the least popular politicians in Peru. She has candidly supported her father’s dictatorial legacy and defended his record of state-sponsored extra-judicial killings. She has been hailed by the New York Times as a “towering symbol of the Peruvian elite and the heir to a right-wing populist movement started three decades ago by her father, the former President Alberto Fujimori.”

She became First Lady at the age of 19. She attended Stony Brook University in New York and earned a business degree from Boston University in 1997. She obtained her MBA from Columbia University in 2008. Her party, Fuerza Popular, promotes “fujimorism,” advocating for free trade and strong security. In 2016, Keiko Fujimori campaigned for tax breaks, incentives for small businesses to encourage registration of informal companies and allowing (Indigenous) communities to become shareholders in mining projects. She vowed to expand electricity and internet coverage into rural areas. In 2021 she has vowed to protect the interests of small and medium-sized businesses over large multinationals. She has advocated for state participation in strategic industries such as energy. She has also insisted that large mining projects must have the support of local communities to proceed. In short, she has cleverly hybridized the neoliberal policies of social elites with reassuring noises of concern for the middle classes and Indigenous.

Remembering Atahualpa

What is there more macabre than the vision of Hernando de Soto, future explorer of the Mississippi and a founding father, of sorts, of the USA, teaching Spanish to the last Inca emperor, Atahualpa – following one of history’s most notorious, bloodiest, and deceitful massacre of thousands – in Cajamarca – by Francisco Pizarro’s small band of plunderers? As De Soto and Atahualpa conversed day by day in the early 1530s, the Incas amassed a roomful of gold as ransom for Atahualpa’s freedom, a day that never came because Pizarro ordered Atahualpa’s execution.

Unfinished Revolutions

Peru has not been short of revolutions to redress this inaugural evil of modern imperialism. Each has fallen considerably short of real independence from imperialism and shorter still of freedom from racism and poverty. Advances in mass prosperity across the past century and a half have typically involved short-term excesses of generosity resulting from the State’s sale of the land, mining rights and enterprise of others, usually the Indigenous, to European traders and multinational companies. Neoliberalism is not so much about the generation of wealth that would not otherwise be created, as about the forcible transfer of that wealth from the State – and/or the people whom the State supposedly represents – to the accounts of business, finance and trade.

The liberation of Peru from Spain was undertaken in 1821, following nearly three hundred years of Spanish conquest and occupation, by José de San MartinEl Libertador de Argentina, Chile and Peru – with the assistance of Simón Bolívar. San Martin occupied Lima and declared Peruvian independence on 28 July. Upper Peru – Bolivia – remained as a Spanish stronghold until the army of Simón Bolívar liberated it three years later. Bolivarian projects for a Latin American Confederation floundered and a union with Bolivia proved ephemeral.

Thus was initiated the long reign of governance by a largely white Hispanic ruling class of traders, farmers, soldiers, priests, and educators. One of the liberators, Ramón Castilla y Marquesado, was later president of Peru for the period 1844-1863 and inaugurated a period of great national prosperity on account of trade in guano (bird excrement from conveniently uninhabited offshore islands, and used for fertilizer and gunpowder), which was initially monopolized by the State but whose profits were later enjoyed principally by foreign (mainly British) enterprises and eventually declined by the final quarter of the century. As the century wore on, politics became more formalized around an elected President and Congress, a party system that principally represented the interests of different sections of the ruling class (especially the military), based on a system of enfranchisement that favored propertied, educated, white men but did not necessarily exclude the indigenous. Women did not get the vote until 1956 and gender inequality has persisted as one of the outstanding features of Peru. Slavery was abolished in 1854, and the ranks of slaves in mines and plantations were increasingly occupied by impoverished Chinese and some Japanese immigrants as well as by the more favored but more demanding Europeans.

Velasco, or Fiasco?

If we set to one side the inevitable incremental changes achieved by liberal regimes (occasionally presided over by leaders from poor or even Indigenous background), often reversed by conservative successors or simply abandoned in periods of economic malaise, Peru’s second major revolution was the curious Conservative-Liberal-Military hybrid of the military regime and dictatorship of Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975).

We can say of this period that a military junta, seemingly coming out of nowhere in response to a period of considerable political instability because Velasco’s predecessor (also to be his successor, 1980-85), Belaúnde, had no majority in Congress, handed Peru a revolution-on-a-plate. This might otherwise have taken centuries to achieve and had it happened anywhere else or at any other time, would have been instantly (and was eventually) squashed by the regime-change shenanigans of Washington and its Latin American allies. Yet it was scorned by Peruvians of both upper and lower caste (or at least so we are told, although following his death in 1977, Velasco’s casket was carried on the shoulders of farmers for six hours around Lima) and casually tossed into the trash can in favor of a return to the more familiar pace of Peru’s macabre, Cruella dance. That it happened at all was because it was a revolution previously unannounced, coming from the top, imposed top-down. Plus, it was a revolution in the deceptive spirit of Kennedy’s Alianza Para El Progreso, launched in 1961 through the Agency for International Development and the Alliance for Progress and designed as an answer to the regional threat posed by Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution of 1959.

It is the Velasco revolution, not Fujimori’s torture-drenched dictatorship that most occasions dread for Vargas Llosa. The Velasco story is recounted in Peru’s 2019 greatest-ever movie hit, La Revolución y La Tierra by director Gonzalo Benavente which, predictably, is all but invisible and unattainable anywhere in the vast universe of US movie (anti-) abundance.

Agrarian Reform

In 1968, Velasco (whose early life he described as one of “dignified poverty” working as shoeshine boy) launched a coup against the right-wing government of Fernando Belaúnde Terry. In suppressing Cuban-inspired revolutionary movements in impoverished regions of Peru, some of the regime’s army leaders became radicalized. The new regime introduced significant land reform which dissolved the horrendously cruel Spanish-era hacendado system that had concentrated land ownership (and, in effect, ownership of Indigenous) among 40 families whose lineage traced back to the days of imperial Spain. Within a decade, the regime expropriated 15,000 properties (totaling nine million hectares) and benefited some 300,000 families. Most properties were converted into cooperatives owned by prior workers on the estates. The purpose was to override existing property interests in favor of cooperative ownership, as opposed either to individual private farming or to state farms. But the government also created a system of price controls and monopoly food buying by state firms that was designed to hold down prices to urban consumers, no matter what the cost to rural producers. Following Velasco, most of these cooperatives were later converted into individual private holdings during the 1980s, after majority votes of the cooperative members in each case. The conversions left Peru with a far less unequal pattern of landownership than it had prior to the reform and with a much greater role for family farming than ever before in its history. But by creating many small holdings it reduced the economic efficiency and competitiveness of Peruvian agriculture. Agricultural reform may have contributed to centralization and urbanization as people moved into Lima and other coastal cities, tendencies that would almost certainly have occurred regardless.

The former landlords predictably claimed that they did not receive adequate compensation. They had been paid in agrarian reform bonds, a sovereign debt obligation of which the government defaulted payment due to the hyperinflationary period that affected Peru’s economy in the late 1980s. As the government ran deeper into debt, it was forced to devalue the currency and pursue inflationary policies. This was in part due to the 1970s Energy Crisis which made it impossible for the administration to fund some of its most ambitious reforms. Economic growth under the administration was steady if unremarkable – real per capita GDP (constant 2000 US$) increased 3.2% per year from 1968 to 1975, compared to 3.9% per year over the same period for Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole.

Nationalizations

Other measures included expropriations of foreign businesses, few as significant as the International Petroleum Company, owned by (US) Standard Oil. There had previously been a dispute with the International Petroleum Company over licenses to the La Brea y Pariñas oil fields. On October 8, 1968, these were taken over by the Army. From this point on the USA set itself to overthrow Velasco. US–Peru disagreements extended over a broad range of issues including Peru’s claim to a 200-mile fishing limit, that resulted in the seizure of several US commercial fishing boats, and the expropriation of the American copper mining company Cerro de Pasco Corporation. Velasco’s government also instituted tax reforms, rewrote the constitution, and established diplomatic relations with the major communist countries. Under Velasco Peru advocated the removal of OAS sanctions against Cuba and advocated for Latin American unity against US power and influence.

Peruanismo

Velasco’s regime advocated nationalization through a program it described as Peruanismo, a philosophy that inspired future Venezuelan revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez on his visit to Peru in 1974. The idea was to find a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, with a corporatist society much more inclusionary than that possible under capitalism but without rejecting private ownership or adopting any of the compulsory methods identified with communism.  Peruanismo aimed to serve policies of inclusive social justice, development, and national independence. The regime expropriated companies across all major sectors, including fisheries, mining, telecommunications, and power generation, and consolidated these into single, monopolistic, industry-centric government-run enterprises and disincentivized private activity in those sectors. The new State companies proved expensive to the public treasury in part because of government attempts to hold down their prices with a view to easing inflation or to subsidize consumers. Their deficits were aggravated by spending tendencies of military officers appointed to management positions, and inadequate attention to costs of production. State enterprises were not able to finance more than a quarter of their investment spending and, when allowed to borrow abroad for imported equipment and supplies, external debt rose dramatically. By 1975 external creditors had lost confidence in Peru’s ability to repay its debts.

Curbing Foreign Influence

Foreign influences were reduced through tight restrictions on foreign investment and nationalization of some of the largest foreign firms. Peru’s action in this respect contributed to the formation of the regional Andean Pact, that featured some of the most extensive controls on foreign investment ever attempted in the developing world. The Industrial Community Law of 1970 gave any industrialist on the register of manufacturers the right to demand prohibition of any imports competing with his products with little regard for concerns about high costs of production, poor product quality, or monopolistic positions fostered by excluding import competition. Velasco promoted industrial investment by granting major tax exemptions, as well as tariff exemptions on imports used by manufacturers in production. The fiscal benefits equaled 92 percent of total internal financing of industrial investment in the years 1971 through 1975. Investment rose strongly but tax exemptions contributed to a rising public-sector deficit and inflationary pressure. Exemptions from tariffs on imports of equipment and supplies led to a strong rise in the ratio of imports to production for the industrial sector.

Industrial and Education Reform

Promoting worker participation in ownership and management was intended to reshape labor relations. A system of “industrial communities” required firms to distribute part of their profits to workers in the form of dividends constituting ownership shares. But firms typically avoided reporting profits in an effort to postpone sharing ownership, instead channeling profits to companies outside the system or adjusting the books. A few workers gained shares, but most were focused on immediate working conditions and earnings. Unions were distrustful of the seeming abrogation of their power. A reform of labor relations included severe restrictions on rights to discharge workers once they had passed a brief trial period of employment. Businesses responded by hiring more workers on a temporary basis.

The education reform of 1972 provided for bilingual education for the Indigenous people of the Andes and the Amazon, which comprised nearly half of the population. But there was little tolerance for dissent and media were frequently harassed and censored. Velasco pursued a partnership with the Soviet bloc, tightening relations with Cuba and Fidel Castro and undertaking major purchases of Soviet military hardware.

A Final Assessment

If ultimately the Velasco regime was undermined by inflation, unemployment, food shortages, increased political and military opposition, one may argue that it is fitting, if disappointing that a revolution that starts with the military should end at the hands of the military, as when military commanders declared that Velasco had not achieved most of what the “Peruvian Revolution” had stood for and was unable to continue in his functions. Which regimes, then, picked up that challenge of what the revolution “stood for,” and which, if any, made any further progress towards that goal?

Velasco’s successor, his prime minister, Francisco Morales Bermúdez, began a second phase of the Peruvian armed revolution, promising to transition to civilian government even as he paralyzed implementation of Velasco’s reforms, illustrating how an ideology of parliamentary democracy can be weaponized for counter-revolutionary purposes. To hammer the point home, Bermúdez turned into an extreme right-wing military dictator, pursuing a policy of leftist cleansing. But he did return Peru to democratic elections in 1980, when Fernando Belaúnde Terry (whom Velasco had deposed in 1968) was re-elected.

This period inaugurated or coincided with the rise of gruesome US-backed military dictatorships across Latin America: General Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina (1976-1981); General Augusto Pinochet in Chile (1973 to 1981); Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay (1954–1989); General Juan María Bordaberry of Uruguay (1973–1985); the Brazilian military dictatorship of various successive military leaders (1964–1985) and successive military dictatorships in Bolivia (1964–1982). It was this tendency more than any other that most inspired and sustained Sendero Luminoso in the 1970s and 1980s, in turn creating the terror pretext that secured Fujimori’s victory against Vargas Llosa in the 1990 elections. The ensuing neoliberal dictatorship and militarization of the 1990s enabled Fujimori, like Chile’s Pinochet, to exploit principles of neoliberalism for illegal self-enrichment. But also, it has to be said that neither Velasco nor Sendero Luminoso enjoyed sufficient popular consent or support – least of all by those whose interests they most claimed to serve, those of the Indigenous peasantry.

 Return to the Cruella Dance

It is remarkable that since Velasco all but one former president (Belaúnde) has been tried and convicted of corruption charges. At least four (Martin Vizcarra, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo) have been caught up in the long-running Odebrecht scandal in which the Brazilian engineering and contracting giant has been implicated in charges of bribery. Using a complex network of shell companies, off-book transactions and offshore bank accounts, and a dedicated bribery division, Odebrecht paid more than $780 million in bribes to government officials, their representatives, and political parties in countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. This conduct helped it win contracts and other benefits totaling $3.34 billion.

Governance over the ten to fifteen year period separating the dictatorships of Velasco and Fujimori was shared principally between the second presidency of Belaúnde (1980-1985), for Acción Popular – the party he had founded in 1956 as a reformist alternative to conservative forces and to the populist APRA party, appealing primarily to the middle class, professionals and white-collar workers – and the first presidency of Alan Garcia (1985-1990) for Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), the political party founded by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre in 1924, and supported by workers and middle-class liberals. APRA dominated Peruvian politics for decades and stood for Latin American unity, nationalization of foreign-owned enterprises, and an end to the exploitation of the Indigenous.

Liberal pretensions notwithstanding this period constituted one of economic and political disaster on account of unmanageable debt and hyper-inflation, such that inflation stood at 7,649% in 1990, and 2,200,200% over the period 1985-1990 alone. Belaunde’s lifting of tariffs shortly after coming to power threw Peru into a highly competitive international economy for which it was ill-prepared, a challenge exacerbated by the economic impact of a severe earthquake in 1983. Garcia’s reluctant embrace of the IMF in 1988 (though he tried to limit payments to 10% of GNP) had severe consequences for expenditure on social welfare and further contributed to the rural popularity of Sendero Luminoso, which had been established in the Andean highlands in 1969 by philosophy professor Abimael Guzmán, and provided Garcia’s successor with pretexts of national emergency for ruthless army suppression that barely distinguished between guerrillas and peasants.

Fujimori’s dictatorial regime lasted a full decade (1990-2000), beginning shortly after the country had taken on the IMF loan in 1988 in a bid to evade national bankruptcy and amidst a period of extraordinarily rampant inflation. He is best known for his neoliberalism and ruthless suppression of terrorism and of the Left more generally. He is currently serving a prison sentence for his role in killings and kidnappings by death squads. In April 1992, he dissolved Congress, dismantled the judiciary, and assumed full executive and legislative powers. He decreed stringent and repressive labor laws to create a ‘paradise’ of labor flexibility, giving management the right to fire, casualize labor contracts, and to oppose unions and collective bargaining. He increased the number of provinces subjected to a military state of emergency from 52 to 66 so that nearly half of the population was encased in these emergency areas where all sectors of the left were ruthlessly suppressed at a total final cost of 69,000 lives, according to Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2001-2003). The Left was barely present in the elections of 1995, 2000, 2006, and 2011 and began to recover only in 2016.

Following the same Chicago School neoliberal script as others before him including Margaret Thatcher in the UK, Ronald Reagan in the USA, and Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Fujimori eliminated price controls, totally deregulated markets, privatized state-owned companies and introduced a tight monetary policy. This attracted foreign (in particular, US) investment in natural resources, finances, and consumer markets, and expanded the power of foreign capital in Peru. Fujimori’s eugenic plan led to the forcible sterilization of about 350,000 mainly peasant and indigenous women as a “solution” to the nation’s ‘Indian problem’ (i.e. higher birth rates among Indigenous people than Peruvians of European descent).

Fujimori’s successor, president Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) who founded his own party, Pais Posible, and led the anti-Fujimori opposition, did not resort to the underhand and brutal methods of his predecessor. His administration marked the beginning of the country’s macroeconomic boom, and promoted foreign investment, free trade, and investment in infrastructure and human development. But it also suffered from a governance crisis, scandals in Toledo’s personal life, and allegations of corruption against his inner circle. In July 2019, Toledo was arrested in the USA for an extradition order to Peru. He requested release on bail, but the request was ruled inadmissible. He was later released on bail, but placed under house arrest in San Francisco, awaiting extradition on charges of receiving multimillionaire bribes.

Toledo was succeeded by the return to the presidency of Alan Garcia, leader of APRA, for the period 2006-2011. Garcia committed suicide in 2020 as the police came to arrest him for personal graft and corruption during his administration. For most of the 20th century, APRA had dominated Peruvian politics, appealing to the masses with its anti-imperialist rhetoric. Yet Garcia’s government embraced an agenda oriented towards attracting foreign investors and fighting drug trafficking. Within his first month in power, Garcia repudiated his election promise of seeking changes to the Free Trade Agreement with Washington, and made its signing his first priority. His enthusiastic adoption of neoliberal measures and welcome of foreign transnationals to exploit communal lands for oil exploration, logging, mining, and large-scale farming involved a massacre by heavily armed Peruvian security forces against protesting Amazon Indigenous. This occurred in the Peruvian city of Bagua, located 1,400 kilometers north of Lima, when some 600 militarized police attacked 1,000 demonstrators who were blocking the main road. European, American, and Brazilian companies had bid tens of billions of dollars for rights to drill oil, construct a hydroelectric plant and exploit the vast mineral and timber resources of the Amazon jungle. Garcia mocked the Indigenous whom he claimed hated investment and did not like capitalists, on the grounds that it was not just about US corporations who were looking to plunder their lands, but also Korean, Arab, and Japanese.

Ollanta Humala, once described as a left-leaning former army officer, assumed office for the Gana Peru party (2011-2016) largely on the strength of support from poor voters. He was briefly depicted as a sort of hero for defeating Keiko Fujimori. He is brother of the “ethnocacerist,” Antauro Humala. Ethnocacerism is an ethnic nationalist movement seeking the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship led by the country’s Indigenous communities and their descendants. It draws on the history of Indigenous and anticolonial movements. It was developed by Ollanta and Antauro Humala in 1987, beginning as a military doctrine in the war against Sendero Luminoso, and as an organizing strategy in opposition to the military doctrine and strategic errors of the Peruvian armed forces, which viewed the Indigenous countryside as a foreign territory and colony. Antauro Humala was later handed a 25-year prison sentence for kidnapping 17 police officers for 3 days and killing 4 of them.

In the week following his victory Humala made it his priority to reassure capitalist investors, foreign and national, that they had nothing to fear from his campaign rhetoric about changing the country’s economic model and effecting a more just distribution of wealth. He issued a conciliatory message to the USA that he considered it a ‘strategic partner’ and that he was looking to establish a close cooperation with Washington in the fight against drugs. He handed the armed forces in Peru, already active in fighting drug trafficking, greater responsibility for maintaining public order. The armed forces would now also be expected to crack down on illegal mining, and to intervene in social protests. Under Humala’s watch it was revealed that the government was creating a gas concession, bordering on or including the Manú national park, that would favor Pluspetrol, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, which already operated an existing gas concession in the region known as the Camisea project.

Digging in his heels later against opponents of the huge US$4.8 billion Conga gold and copper mining project in the region of Cajamarca in northern Peru, Humala declared a 60-day state of emergency and called on residents to maintain serenity and calm. The project was operated by (US) Newmont Mining, the world’s largest gold mining company, which already operated the giant Yanachocha open-pit gold mine in the vicinity. Humala’s administration expected Peru to  earn an estimated $800 million in royalties and taxes. Many residents feared that the project, approved the year before by Alan Garcia, would ruin their water supply. Humala mobilized army troops in a region where constitutional rights had already been suspended under emergency decree, claiming that the authorities had exhausted the possibility of dialog with protesters and blaming the intransigence of local leaders.

In 2017 Humala and his wife were arrested on charges of corruption and money laundering. Both were banned from leaving Peru and were awaiting trial in 2018. The 2017 election was won by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (of Peruans por el Kambio), one of the wealthiest and oldest of Peruvian presidential candidates. His presidency should have run to 2021, but he was forced to resign in 2018 to avoid impeachment procedures initiated in 2017 for lying to Congress and receiving bribes in exchange for government contracts. While Peru’s Congress was debating whether to oust him over these charges of corruption, he made a Faustian bargain to win over supporters of Alberto Fujimori who wanted him to pardon Fujimori. The pact does not seem to have worked very well for Kuczynski and obtained only a very short reprieve for Fujimori.

Kuczynski had to be replaced by his vice-president, Martin Vizcarra (Independent), who launched an offensive against corruption but was impeached by Congress in November 2020 for taking bribes on several occasions in 2014 in exchange for awarding public work contracts. It is widely believed his impeachment was prompted by his decision to dissolve Congress for obstructing the investigations against corruption.

Without admitting guilt, Vizcarra accepted the Congress decision and was replaced by the Congress’s President, Manuel Merino, as caretaker leader with a cabinet dominated by the business elite. The country exploded in huge mass demonstrations that were met by brutal police repression with two dead, dozens injured and many more arrested. Merino was forced to resign on 15 November 2020 and Congress then appointed Francisco Sagasti (who had voted against Vizcarra’s impeachment) as interim president. Sagasti was entrusted with the task of organizing the presidential elections in April 2021.

Rising Inequality

Peru had a total population of 32m in 2019, with a per capita GDP of approximately $7,000 and an overall GDP of over $230 billion. Peru is the seventh largest economy in Latin America. Its services sector accounts for 60% of GDP, within which telecommunications and financial services alone account for nearly 40% of GDP. Industry represents 35% of GDP. Peru’s ores and minerals exports make up over 50% of total exports, food accounts for 21% and mineral fuels account for 12%, a trade that is very vulnerable to shifts in terms of trade. In a financially dollarized economy, consumers and firms might borrow in USD but buy and sell products in local currency, so any fluctuation of the foreign exchange can lead to distortions in both production and consumption decisions.

For two decades in the twenty-first century, Peru’s economy appeared robust, among the best-performing Latin American economies, with annual real GDP growth averaging 5.4 percent 2005-2020. But economic inequality had been intensifying since 2014, when a 12-year run of sustained growth in the national GDP, driven by a mining boom, came to an end.

Poverty had been the fate of 50% of the population in 1970, even increasing slightly to 54.1% in 2000. It then declined a little, to 49.1%, in 2006, but went down a whole lot further to 20% in 2019. But the 2020 pandemic pushed it back up to 30%. In 2019 the top 1% and 10% of income earners got 29.6% and 56.6% of GDP, respectively; 40% of middle-income earners got 35.8% of GDP, whilst 50% of low-income earners only received 9.4% of GDP. About 45% of Peru’s total population is indigenous and 52% of those who live below the extreme poverty line are indigenous.

According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Informatica (INEI), people who earn less than 338 soles, or US$150 dollars, per month are in poverty and those who earn less than 183 soles or US$80 a month are in extreme poverty. The minimum living wage has been established at 930 soles, or 415 dollars, per month. In 2017, poverty in urban areas impacted 15% of the population, but poverty in rural areas was 44%. 70% of the rural poor did not have titles to their property, 42% lived in adobe houses, and 58% lived on dirt floors. 73% of the rural poor had no access to a public water source, and 50% had only reached a primary school level of education. More than 80% did not have health insurance, and 53% worked in agriculture. Decades of neoliberal meanness in the matter of social and welfare benefits have cast millions into precariousness and hardship, enhancing their vulnerability to pandemics such as Covid-19. Peru has experienced one of the highest Covid-related mortality rates.

By 2021 a total of US$ 17 billion had been transferred abroad in fear of Pedro Castillo’s presidency. Consumer prices jumped 3.2 percent 2020-2021, a rise concentrated in products of the “basic food basket” impacting mainly the poor. Peru produces only 9.5 percent of the wheat it consumes—the rest is imported from Canada, the US, Argentina, and Russia. By 2020 the number of families declared poor (earning US$2,520 or less annually) in Peru had risen from 20 percent to 30 percent of the population, wiping out the poverty reduction achieved over the past decade. More than 10,000 families have been evicted from informal settlements. Yet foreign investment in Peru’s mining sector was expected to total US$34 billion over the next decade. Although the international price of copper rose by 94 percent from May 2020 to May 2021, mining employed fewer personnel due to increasing automation.

Conclusion

In many ways Peru continues to suffer from a 500-year-old Latin American malaise of Hispanic dominance, exercised through military, religious and economic institutions, coupled with the problems of proximity to the global hegemon, the USA, and the attraction of Peru’s mineral wealth to a global capitalist class. Its politics evince a perpetual struggle – Cruella’s macabre dance – between a stubborn conservative self-interest, and a more liberal, less privileged middle class that claims to speak for the Indigenous but has achieved too little to advance their status. The world views of both parties are shaped predominantly through a westernized lens. Their campaign wars of words provide a very insecure basis on which to predict their actual behavior in power, which is governed as much by fear and venality than a concept of the public good. Problems that cannot be resolved within this narrow compass frequently invite military intervention and/or dictatorship that is given to brutality.

The post Cruella Moments in Peru first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Peru at the Brink of Civil War?

On 28 July 2021, Peru, with her 33 million inhabitants, celebrates 200 years of Independence. The People of Peru may have chosen this Bicentennial celebration to bring about a drastic change to their foreign and national oligarchy-run country. In a neck-on-neck national election run-off on 6 June 2021, the socialist Pedro Castillo, a humble primary school professor from rural Cajamarca, a Northern Peruvian Province, rich in mining resources, but also in agricultural land, seems to be winning by a razor thin margin of less than 100,000 votes against the oligarch-supported Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, currently in prison – or rather house arrest for “ill-health” – for corruption and crimes against humanity during his presidency 1990-2000.

Election results have been considered as fair by the pro-US, pro-capitalist Organization of American States (OAS). The same organization that supported the post-election US-instigated coup against Evo Morales in November 2019. Either they have learned a lesson of ethics, or there were too many international observers watching over OAS’s election observations. Or, as a third option, Washington may have yet a different agenda for this part of their “backyard”.

Keiko Fujimori, before becoming a Presidential candidate, was in prison under preventive arrest, while under investigation into corruption and human rights abuse. She is currently collecting millions from her ruling-class elite supporters and spending her own ill-begotten money to turn the election result around. Ten days after the elections, no definite result been published yet. For Keiko becoming President is not only a question of power, it is also a question of freedom under government immunity, or back to prison, at least until the investigation into her alleged crimes is completed.

All is possible in a country where money buys everything, and may convert clearly and visibly intended cast votes either as invalid or as a vote for the opponent. This is Peru, but to be sure, election fraud happens even in the most sophisticated countries, including in Peru’s North American neighbor, who pretends to run the world.

However, should this turn-around happen, Keiko Fujimori and her capitalist supporters are working so hard to achieve, the country risks a civil war. Because this is the moment for the vast majority of Peruvians that they have been waiting for; those Peruvians that have always been considered as “non-people” by the oligarchy. They should now finally get their justice, get their piece of the very rich pie that is Peru. After two hundred years of an oligarchy-ruled nation, this mostly silent majority truly deserves a break. They were good enough to work, to rake in the millions from low paid, health-risky mining jobs, from low-paid agriculture work, from living lives at the margin by discrimination from their white capitalist rulers. No more. “ Pedro Castillo is one of us.

Looking back in history just blending in a few landmark moments. The 1989 Washington Consensus that not only “coincidentally” preceded the collapse of the Soviet Union, but more importantly perhaps for the Global South, it meant the rolling out in “warp speed” of neoliberal politics and economics, the enslavement of the Global South into poverty – many of them into extreme poverty. There was no escaping. The IMF, World Bank, FED and all related so-called regional development banks played along.

Why is it that Peru is so different in how they treat their natives, the so-called indigenous people, the original landowners of their country, if you will, so different from, for example, neighboring Bolivia, Ecuador and even Colombia? And why do these discriminated “lesser” people react so different in Peru than they do in neighboring countries?

It is my guess that it has a lot to do with the Kingdom of Spain officially creating on 18 August 1521 (500 years ago – by coincidence?) the Kingdom of “New Spain” in what today is Peru. It later became the first one of four Viceroyalties Spain created in the Americas. Ever since Peru became the first Spanish Viceroyalty, the white descendants of Spain, later extended to the immigrants from the “Old Continent”, had the audacity to oppress and discriminate the natives.

As of this day, this is the impression I get as a foreigner having been partially working and living in Peru for almost the last four decades. Especially the Lima elite — they treat the indigenous as lesser people, even though they invaded their territory, but they feel, and many of them still pretend, being descendants of the Royal Court of Spain. That gives them a superiority which is hard to ignore. It is also reflected in the still largely centralized education system, where Lima decides what the pluri- and multi-ethnicities cultural nation of Peru should be taught in uniformity.

Aside from the different ethnicities, Peru is divided economically and culturally into three distinct geographic areas: The Coastal Region, mostly desertic, but very fertile when irrigated, where 70% of Peru’s agricultural produce is grown; the Highlands of the Andes, also called the Sierra, where people survive on patch-work agriculture on small pieces of land; and then there is the Amazon area that covers about 70% of Peru’s landmass, with only about 5% of the country’s population. They are the most independent people, with a culture close to Mother Earth. Their lives are still largely tied to traditional shamanism, starkly different from western values.

Education, basic infrastructure but foremost exploitation of Peru’s enormously rich natural resources is all decided by Lima, by the oligarchs, the self-styled descendant of the Spanish Royals – not in spoken words, of course, but in deeds and behavior. Lima has a population of 11 million; i.e., a third of the country’s population, of which about two- thirds live at the edge of poverty or below. This situation may have become worse during covid-times. The lack of proper and appropriately decentralized education has left the original owners of Peru, the indigenous people, including a high proportion of ethnic mixtures, at a stark and decisive disadvantage.

This is the ethnic composition of Peru: Amerindians (or purely indigenous people) account for 45% of the population; 37% is mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white),15 percent is white, and 3 percent is black, Japanese, Chinese and other. See here.

In other words, 85% of the population is ruled by a white immigrant minority. It is high time that Peru gets an indigenous president who pays attention to the real needs and interests of the majority of the Peruvian population. This time, it seems, after more than 500 hundred years of a lopsided rule, the 85% of the population will demand a government of more equilibrium. Pedro Castillo may be their man.

ome history to connect the dots up to June 2021and to help understand what is happening now in Peru. Extreme social injustice and differences between the majority peasant society and a small ruling elite, brought about the revolutionary ”Shining Path” in 1980, led by Abimael Guzmán, or by his “nom de guerre”, Chairman Gonzalo. He was a professor of philosophy strongly influenced by the teachings of Marxism and Maoism. He developed an armed struggle, what came to be known as the “Shining Path” – Spanish, “Sendero Luminoso” – for the empowerment of the neglected and disadvantaged indigenous people. Acts of terrorism abounded throughout the 1980’s, also and largely to the detriment to the peasant population.

The Shining Path emerged as the country had just held its first free elections after a 12-year military dictatorship, first by Juan Francisco Velasco Alvarado (1968 – 1975), pursuing what the Peruvians called a Maoist socialism. Velasco organized a disastrous totally unprepared land reform, and nationalized most foreign investments, creating massive unemployment and perpetuating poverty. Towards the mid-1970s, Velasco was very sick with cancer and appointed on 29 August 1975 his Prime Minister, Francisco Morales Bermúdez, as his successor. Bermúdez began the second phase of the Peruvian armed Revolution, promising a transit to a civilian government.

However, Bermudez soon became an extreme right-wing military dictator, pursuing a policy of leftist cleansing. He kept his promise, though, and led Peru to democratic elections in 1980, when Fernando Belaúnde Terry was elected, the very Belaúnde, who was deposed as president in the 1968 Velasco military coup.

There was no doubt, that a clear pattern of US-influenced brutal right-wing military dictatorships became omnipresent throughout Latin America, with General Jorge Rafael Videla in Argentina (1976-1981); General Augusto Pinochet in Chile (1973 to 1981); Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay (1954 – 1989); General Juan María Bordaberry of Uruguay (1973 – 1985); the Brazilian military dictatorship of various successive military leaders (1964 – 1985). The Bolivian history of successive military dictatorships (1964 – 1982), also fit the pattern of the epoch.

The South American US-supported military dictatorships, prompted the creation of the Shining Path in Peru, loosely following the objectives of the Uruguayan Tupamaro guerilla organization, named for Túpac Amaru II, the leader of an 18th century revolt against Spanish rule in Peru.

The Shining Path was open and transparent about its willingness to inflict death and the most extreme forms of cruelty as tools to achieve its goal, the total annihilation of existing political structures.

We are a rising torrent at which they will launch fire, stones and mud; but our power is great. We turn everything into our fire, the black fire will become red, and red is the light.

Abimael Guzmán

Guzman was caught in 1992 and convicted to life imprisonment.

In 1990, Alberto Fujimori, a little-known Rector of, and professor at, the Agrarian State University of Lima, with the support of Washington, became President, defeating Nobel Prize-winner adversary Mario Vargas Llosa, in a landslide victory of 62.4% against 37.6%. Fujimori imposed neoliberalism in Peru from the get-go of his presidency in 1990. He followed closely the mandates of the IMF and the World Bank. His other main objective was to finish with the Shining Path.

Other than stopping terrorism for humanitarian reasons, there were a myriad of commercial and economic interests at stake. For example, the entire mining industry was largely in control of foreign corporations. As soon as elected, Fujimori was “given” a top CIA „advisor“, Vladimiro Lenin Ilich Montesinos. The CIA agent soon called the shots for all affairs of international importance. There was little left for Fujimori to decide, let alone for the Peruvian Parliament.

In 1992 Fujimori instigated an auto-coup, with Washington’s tacit consent, dissolving Parliament and becoming the sole ruler, who also changed the Constitution allowing him to be “reelected” for another 5 years, until 2000, when he fled the country returning to his “native” Japan. Many analysts say he was actually born in Japan and was lying having been born in Peru, so he could ascend to the presidency. Just for the record, his registered birthday 28 July – Peru’s Independent Day – is kind of suspicious. Fujimori was accused of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations.

During a visit to Chile in 2005, Fujimori was arrested and eventually extradited to Peru where he was convicted in 2009 to 25 years in prison for corruption, human right abuses and for his role in killings and kidnappings by the Grupo Colian Death Squad during his government’s battle against the Senderos Lumiosos in the 1990s.

During the two decades of Shining Path, some 69,000 people, mostly Peruvian peasants died or disappeared. According to the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (PTRC), at least as many people died at the hands of the Fujimory military commandos as were killed by the Shining Path. The PTRC is also called Hatun Willakuy, a Quechuan expression meaning the great story, signifying the enormity of the events recounted. Before the commission, Peru had never conducted such a comprehensive examination of violence, abuse of power, or injustice. See here.

To this day father Fujimori is in prison – or under house arrest for his alleged ill-health – while his daughter Keiko Fujimori was largely running Congress with a majority of her Party “Popular Force” – Fuerza Popular. It is not exaggerated to claim that during the past three decades Fujimorismo and the APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance – a left-turned-right party) largely ran the country with crime and corruption, selling off the country’s riches to international corporatism, mainly in the US – and for the benefit of Peruvian oligarchs, but leaving the large majority of Peruvians behind.

Peru has a wealth of mineral resources. Copper, iron, lead, zinc, bismuth, phosphates, and manganese exist in great quantities of high-yield ores. Gold and silver are found extensively, as are other rare metals, and petroleum fields are located along the far north coast and the northeastern part of Amazonia.

Peru’s GDP of US$ 270 billion (World Bank – 2019) is misleading, as a great proportion is generated by mostly foreign majority holding extractive industries, manufacturing and ever-increasingly also agriculture, leaving little in the country which is why the poverty level has hardly changed over the last 30 years. While in the first decade of 2000 Peru had a phenomenal GDP growth, between 5% and 7% annually – about two thirds went to 20% of the population and the rest was trickling down to the other 80%, with the bottom 10% to 20% getting next to nothing.

The poverty rate after covid encompasses at least two-thirds of the Peruvian population, with up to 50% under extreme poverty. Exact figures are not available. Those listed by the World Bank indicating a 27% poverty rate are simply fake. In addition, the informal sector in Peru amounts to at least 70%. While it is informality that keeps Peru somewhat going, it is also the informal sector that has plunged masses of people into poverty.

Candidate Pedro Castillo, if finally declared the winner, has a challenging job ahead. He is aligned with a seasoned and well-experienced and nationally respected politician, socialist Veronica Mendoza from Cusco. She also identified the current economic advisor for Mr. Castillo, Pedro Francke, who has a center-left reputation.

Mr. Francke served as director of the Cooperation Fund for Social Development (FONCODES), a Peruvian government -controlled social services and small investments institution, promoting small and medium size enterprises and creating jobs. He also had several roles at the Peruvian Central Bank and worked as an economist at the World Bank.

In a political statement, Francke separated a potential Castillo presidency from what he called Chavez socialism of currency control, nationalizations and price controls. In fact, this is an easy and purely partisan statement, because the two economies are so fundamentally different that there is simply no comparison. But the intent is to tranquilize a worried and right-wing media indoctrinated populace. The right-wing, mostly El Comercio and affiliated media dominated news outlets, control about 90% of Peruvian media.

Mr. Francke told Reuters, “Our idea is not to have massive interventionism in the economy”, indicating that Castillo would respect market economy. Francke also said that a Castillo Government would not proceed with nationalization and expropriation at all. They may, however, renegotiate some of the corporate profit-sharing. Having experienced the Velasco Government in the 1970s, this is one of the major worries of more senior Peruvians, who lived through the Velasco years.

Pedro Francke also repeated what Castillo said in his campaign speeches, that he would encourage local over foreign investments, a valid assertion, because at present the Peruvian economy is to about 70% dollarized, meaning that local banks finance themselves largely by Wall Street, while locally earned money is invested abroad rather than at home. Hopefully Castillo will be able to muster the necessary trust to bring about local investments with local money. If so, this would be among the healthiest economic moves for Peru – moves towards fiscal autonomy and monetary sovereignty.

At the time of this writing, 10 days after the ballot, the vote recounts and quarrels over voter fraud is growing, creating a chaotic ambiance, one that becomes increasingly volatile. We can just hope that the Peruvian Election Commission applies fair rules and is able to avoid civil unrest.

The post Peru at the Brink of Civil War? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Putting Lipstick on a Pig”: Why Washington is Fawning over Israel’s New Government

When former US President Barack Obama used an old cliché to denigrate his political opponent, the late US Senator, John McCain, he triggered a political controversy lasting several days.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” Obama said at a campaign event in 2008. The maxim indicates that superficial changes have no bearings on outcomes and that modifying our facade does not alter who we really are.

American politicians are an authority on the subject. They are experts on artificial, rhetorical and, ultimately, shallow change. Once again, Washington’s political make-up artists are busy at work.

Since the dramatic ousting of his former mentor, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, is now being presented as the alternative to Netanyahu’s right-wing, chauvinistic and rowdy political style. However, for this to happen, more makeup is required.

Much can be said about Bennett and his party of ultra-nationalists and right-wing extremists, Yamina.

Yamina is a decidedly racist political party. Their meager seven seats at the Israeli Knesset (parliament) were garnered through their constant appeal to the most violent and racist constituencies in Israel, whose oft-repeated chant “Death to the Arabs” is a daily reminder of their sinister political discourse.

Bennett is often cited for this famous statement from 2013: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that”. Yet, there is more to the man’s politics than such an abhorrent declaration. Since Israeli leaders do not perceive any form of Palestinian resistance to be legitimate and, in their eyes, Palestinians are either terrorists or potential terrorists, consider the following ‘solution’ offered by Bennett to deal with the problem of ‘Palestinian terrorism’.

As Israel’s Minister of Education in 2015, Bennett proposed the building of a ‘deterrence’ wall, one which “demands that incitement be ended and that terrorists are shot dead before they have a chance to hurt innocent people. It means that a terrorist who is shot will be dead and never walk again. It means that Israel remains in control of its homeland forever, unmoved by terrorism.”

So why does the Biden Administration want us to believe that Bennett is different?

Immediately following his inauguration, President Joe Biden was the first world leader to call and congratulate Bennett on the new post. This act carries a deeper symbolic meaning when compared to the fact that it took Biden a whole three long weeks to phone Netanyahu, following the former’s own inauguration to the White House in January.

A close aide to Israel’s new prime minister explained the nature of the amiable phone conversation between Biden and Bennett in an interview with the Axios website. “The White House wants to have close and regular consultation and engagement with Bennett and his team based on candid exchange of views, respect for differences, a desire to work toward stability and security,” the Israeli source was quoted as saying.

Aside from the emphasis on candor and ‘respect’ with reference to the US-Israel future relationship, there has also been an equal and constant emphasis on the need for privacy in dealing with differences between the two countries. “Unlike its predecessor,” the Times of Israel reported with reference to Netanyahu, the Bennet government “would voice its criticism (of Washington) in private.” For months, the US had pleaded with Netanyahu to tone down his attacks on Washington, to no avail.

Now that Bennett is in charge, he is clearly ready to play along. And why should he not? He is eager to present himself as the antithesis of Netanyahu. By making such a ‘concession’, he would surely be expecting Washington to reciprocate. For Bennett, it is a win-win.

Bennett understands that US politics towards Israel is not determined by the attitude of Israeli leaders. For example, in comments made last May, Biden laid to rest any suggestion that the US will hold Israel accountable during his term in power. There is “no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel. Period. No shift, not at all”. If this solid pledge was made when boisterous Netanyahu was still in power, no change whatsoever should be expected, now that the supposedly agreeable Bennett is Israel’s new prime minister.

American politicians are fawning over Bennett and his main coalition partner and future Prime Minister, Yair Lapid. They are eager to turn a new page, and move forward past Netanyahu’s tumultuous years. Bennett is expected to visit the US in July, while Lapid has already been invited to visit Washington by US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Meanwhile, a large Israeli military delegation headed by Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Aviv Kohavi, should already be in the US to discuss various subjects, including Iran, Hezbollah and to ‘negotiate’ yet more US gifts to Israel in the form of military hardware.

The US is keen on rebranding its relationship with Israel, not because Israel has changed, but because Washington has suffered repeated humiliation at the hands of ousted Netanyahu. Under Netanyahu, the US found itself often accused of not doing enough for Israel. Even Obama’s $3.8 billion annual military aid package did not spare him the repeated Israeli verbal assaults. Biden is willing to do whatever it takes to avoid that sordid scenario.

Biden’s doctrine on Israel and Palestine is simple. He does not want to make an actual commitment to relaunching the peace process, for example, nor does he want to be placed in a position where he is forced to make demands from, let alone put ‘pressure’ on Israel. Since Biden has little or no expectations from Israel, Bennett seems willing to play the role of the accommodating and sensible politician. He would be foolish not to do so, for, per his own political ‘vision’, he merely wants to manage the conflict and prolong the occupation while, like his predecessor, continue to promote his own version of the deceptive notion of ‘economic peace’.

While the Americans and the Israelis are busy engaging in the ever-familiar ritual of ‘putting lipstick on a pig’, the Palestinians remain irrelevant in all of this, as their political aspirations continue to be discounted, and their freedom delayed.

The post “Putting Lipstick on a Pig”: Why Washington is Fawning over Israel’s New Government first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The CIA: Attempting Coups in Nicaragua with Tax Dollars Through US Agencies and Corporate Foundations

Since the Sandinistas won the 2006 election their anti-poverty policies have had enormous success.

The country is 90% self-sufficient in food. 99% of the population have electricity in their homes that is now generated with 70+% green energy; International financial Institutions including the World Bank, the International Development Bank and The Central American Bank for Economic Integration praise Nicaragua for its excellent, efficient project execution. it has one of the best health systems in Latin America praised by the International Monetary Fund, with 20 new state of the art hospitals since 2007 achieving one of the lowest Covid mortality rates in the world. Poverty, extreme poverty, maternal, child and infant mortality have all been cut at least in half. Nicaragua is number one in the world in both women in politics and women in ministerial positions and it is fifth in gender equity behind the Nordic nations.

Many more advances for the majority of the population in education, housing and infrastructure have resulted in huge wins for the FSLN in the last two elections (2011 and 2016) and polls indicate that in the November 7 presidential elections they will garner at least 60% of the vote with at least 70% voter turn-out. Some 95% of the adult population have identity cards needed for voting. If the US public knew what this nation, impoverished by nearly 200 years of US war and aggression, has been able to achieve in fourteen years it would surely encourage them to demand better education, infrastructure and universal health care in the United States.

To prevent similar acts of sovereignty by small nations still considered colonies by the United States, the CIA prepared the way for the 2018 coup attempt and has never stopped trying to overthrow the Sandinista government since. The CIA uses US agents, many who pass themselves off as journalists or activists, as well as those eternally stationed at the US embassy; it has provided millions of dollars to hundreds of Nicaraguans acting as foreign agents as well as their nonprofit organizations that conspire against the Sandinista government like those recently arrested for money laundering, fraud and requesting foreign intervention.

The US helped grow the pro-US anti-Sandinista media in Nicaragua

Much of the US-directed propaganda apparatus was designed and funded by the US after the FSLN won the 2006 elections ending 17 years of three US-directed governments. A subversive front of newspapers, magazines, television stations, radio stations, websites, news agencies, and social media pages was formed. Journalists and media outlets were paid by the US (millions through the USAID, NED, IRI and US foundations) and much of it was administered by the Chamorro family media cartel, specializing in fake media campaigns to try to promote anti-Sandinista hatred and mistrust of the government.

Part of this has been known for some time. For example, in May, 2018 during the coup, Tom Ricker of the Quixote Institute described 55 NED grants awarded between 2014 and 2017 for US$4.2 million “as part of a U.S. government-funded campaign to provide a coordinated strategy and media voice for opposition groups in Nicaragua. NED grants fund media (radio, social media and other web-based news outlets) and opposition research. In addition, strategies targeting youth get substantial funding, along with programs seeking to mobilize women’s and indigenous organizations. Though the language is of support for “civil society” and “pro-democracy” groups, the focus on funding is specifically to build coordinated opposition to the government.”

US propaganda funds for 2018 coup channeled through Chamorro family media dynasty

On June 2, Journalist William Grigsby on his news analysis program, Sin Fronteras, revealed (see below) US documents which show that the CIA openly channeled US$16.7 million for the coup attempt, between February 2017 and July 2018, through the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation whose director Cristiana Chamorro is part of a famous family of oligarchs that count eight members as previous presidents; she is also the daughter of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. She and her uncle are owners of the only daily, La Prensa, funded by the US for pro-Contra lies since the 1980s. Her brother Carlos Fernando has his own media empire. US funds to the VBCHF support these family businesses. Her now-deceased husband, Antonio Lacayo is widely considered to have exercised great power during her mother’s presidency from 1990 to 1997 overseeing some 7 billion dollars in privatization of state property, as well as privatization of education and health care. During the early 90s you couldn’t get so much as an aspirin at a government hospital without paying for it.

Chamorro Family, 1990s, Cristiana and Antonio Lacayo are on the right , laprensa.com.ni

The US$16.7 million was given by US agencies and foundations specifically to finance media terrorism [lies, fake news and distortion to foment assassinations and hate, destabilize and create chaos] to incite and maintain the coup attempt. The Chamorro Foundation also received €679,530 from European government-financed organizations during this period. The attempted coup left more than 200 families in mourning, thousands of people traumatized as well as much destruction and severe damage to the economy resulting in the loss of at least 130,000 jobs.

The Foundation’s Director, Cristiana Chamorro, was accused by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of money laundering, and given house arrest on June 2, 2021. She closed the Foundation in February of this year saying she didn’t want to comply with the “Foreign Agents” law passed in October 2020, similar to, but not as strict as, the 1938 US Foreign Agents Act. Under the Nicaraguan law, organizations receiving foreign funding must report that funding and how it is used – thousands of nonprofits are doing this with no problem.

According to Grigsby and Liberal Party news analyst, Enrique Quiñones, there was still at least US$7 million in the Foundation account when she closed it and this money appeared soon afterward in three of her personal banks accounts.

The US$16.7 million given by the CIA during that short time-span was just the money given for fake news – to fund every kind of news media, programs, social media and to directly fund individuals. Many millions more were provided to other nonprofits and “Human Rights” organizations. It is telling that in a country of 6.3 million people there are four human rights organizations – all funded by the US government and one was even founded by the US government in the 80s to cover up for the Contra.

Within that US$16.7 million, US$9,409,853 was provided by USAID for individuals, projects and media. The National Endowment for Democracy gave the Foundation US$564,134 for a project “promoting independent journalism and freedom of expression” in November 2017.

US Financing of Propaganda for Coup Attempt

The Soros Foundations – owned by New York-based tycoon George Soros – also financed fake news in Nicaragua through several organizations that are known to fund destabilization efforts around the world: US$6,722,325 was given by two of the Soros Foundations: US$6,148,325 by the Soros Foundation for the project, “independent and transparent journalism” given in March 2018 a month before the coup began, and $574,000 in July 2018, the month the coup was defeated, by the Open Society Foundation for the “independent journalism and citizenship” project.

The 2017-2018 funding of opposition media and journalists through the Chamorro Foundation by USAID, NED and Soros Foundations – US$16,696,312 million provided just before and during the attempted coup is a small part of funding provided by agencies like USAID, NED, IRI, Freedom House and foundations, like those of Soros with close ties to the Council on Foreign Relations.

USAID spent US$160 million on agents and agent organizations to try to topple the Sandinistas

The US began major destabilization attempts after the Sandinistas won the 2006 elections.

The bigger picture on USAID financing for destabilization in recent years is that it gave US$160 million to opposition organizations and individuals between 2015 and early 2021, information still available by year on the web; however, much information about recipient organizations has been removed. Most information about NED money has also been removed.

Official US documents presented by Grigsby in July 2020 provide more detailed evidence about which nonprofits and individuals benefitted from US$30 million right before the 2018 coup.

Breaking the Yankee Propaganda Apparatus

The USAID says this about their role in Nicaragua:

USAID/OTI partnered with independent media to operate and produce more targeted digital content during the political crisis. The program enabled independent media to preserve and promote democratic discourse, absent further economic destabilization or dramatic state intervention.

In a recent article Rita Jill Clark-Gollub writes:

Anyone who has been watching Nicaragua knows that these supposedly “independent” media in Nicaragua have been the main source of Nicaragua news reported here in the United States. In other words, in my country most people get information about Nicaragua from the CIA!

New laws passed in 2020 (a Foreign Agents Law and a law against terrorism, coups and inciting foreign intervention, which the US vilifies even though they are similar but less punitive than those of the US), and the recent arrests of US Foreign Agents are actions to try to limit US intervention and prevent coup attempts. The US will still get money to their agents, but it won’t be nearly as easy as before and this will limit their ability to carry out the kind of terrorist actions they did in 2018.

William Grigsby on June 2 described what is happening right now in Nicaragua:

[We are] breaking the heart of the Yankee propaganda apparatus in Nicaragua, which was their main way of intervening, now, for the elections – influencing public opinion with lies, instilling fear, instilling hatred in order to try to defeat the Sandinistas. This whole operation that is being carried out from the prosecutor’s office as a spearhead is just that, to destroy the propaganda apparatus of US imperialism.” He asked what all the journalist agents in Nicaragua will do without the salaries they were getting. “Are they committed enough to actually do independent journalism?

 RAIN: the CIA destabilization plan in progress now

Nevertheless, Uncle Sam will still continue efforts to destabilize the country. US ambassador Sullivan is constantly seen meeting with the agents, even denounced by President Daniel Ortega:

This goes for the Yankee ambassador (U.S.) and other ambassadors; they like to meddle everywhere and want to make decisions for us; the Yankee ambassador (Sullivan) parades his candidates, promoting them as if he were Nicaraguan… The Yankee ambassador should not get involved here, nominating candidates, pressuring political parties so that the political parties accept the candidate the Yankee wants, the Yankee ambassador should not forget, Nicaragua is sovereign, Nicaragua belongs to Sandino…

In July 2020 William Grigsby received a USAID document leaked from the embassy. It details in couched terms US destabilization plans for “transition” in Nicaragua and even the contracting of a US company to head it all up. RAIN – Responsive Action in Nicaragua has since been deleted, but not before it was archived. RAIN is a blatant plan for destabilization and overthrow of the democratically elected government of Nicaragua. It is likely that much of what the US has financed in the last year is part of the RAIN plan.

The USAID document establishes three scenarios that they call “democratic transition in Nicaragua:”

RAIN will pursue these activities against a variety of scenarios generally falling under three categories: 1. Free, fair and transparent elections lead to an orderly transition [the US candidate wins] 2. A sudden political transition occurs following a crisis [a coup leads to a US backed government] 3. Transition does not happen in an orderly and timely manner. The regime remains resilient in the face of domestic and international pressure. It is also possible that the regime may remain in power following electoral reforms and a fair election, but without changes to the rule of law or democratic governance [i.e. without changes that benefit US corporations].

It is clear from the RAIN document that the U.S. government realizes that the Sandinistas will win the 2021 election by a large margin: that is another reason they have provided millions to agents, organizations and fake news media, hoping that they can put a dent in the 60% Sandinista win predicted in the polls, or to undermine the elections altogether.

The long-time US agents under investigation for very serious crimes are not leaders: there has not been even one small protest since the arrests began June 2 because those arrested have no “pueblo.” People know that the US funded the very violent coup attempt through them – and hold them accountable. The foreign media tout them as presidential candidates, which they are not. When some of them saw that they might be arrested they ran to try to inscribe with the CXL (Citizens for Freedom) party as pre-candidates thinking this might protect them from detention. They all had the opportunity to form new political parties, but they didn’t even try because they don’t have enough members to fulfill minimal requirements. And more importantly, 17 parties are participating in the November 7 elections that don’t receive foreign funding.

And while the United States wastes millions of tax-payer dollars destabilizing the country, Nicaragua effectively and efficiently makes social and economic advances lauded by international organizations and banks, like universal health care, education, affordable housing, social infrastructure, gender equity, conversion to green energy, natural disaster and climate change mitigation, free recreation, and job creation with the creative and popular economy. The majority of the safest population in Central America with the lowest Covid mortality rate and the lowest emigration rate, who are healthier, better educated and housed, with electricity and potable water, whose food is locally grown and available at a decent price, with parks, fairs, pools and sports stadiums to enjoy their free time, are unlikely to let Uncle Sam influence their vote in November.

The post The CIA: Attempting Coups in Nicaragua with Tax Dollars Through US Agencies and Corporate Foundations first appeared on Dissident Voice.

On Trumpism and Netanyahu-ism: How Benjamin Netanyahu Won America and Lost Israel 

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is as much American as he is Israeli. While other Israeli leaders have made their strong relationship with Washington a cornerstone in their politics, Netanyahu’s political style was essentially American from the start.

Netanyahu spent many of his formative years in the United States. He lived in Philadelphia as a child, graduated from Cheltenham High School and earned a degree in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. He then opted to live in the US, not Israel, when he joined the Boston Consulting Group.

Presumably for familial reasons, namely the death of his brother Yonatan, Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1978 to head the ‘Yonatan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute’. This did not last for long. He returned to the US to serve as Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988. At the time, Israel was ruled by a coalition government, which saw the rotation of two different prime ministers, Labor Party leader, Shimon Peres and Likud leader, Yitzhak Shamir.

Then, terms like ‘Labor’ and ‘Likud’ meant very little to most American politicians. The US Congress was, seemingly, in love with Israel. For them, Israeli politics was a mere internal matter. Things have changed in the following years, in which Netanyahu played a major role.

Even in the last three decades when Netanyahu became more committed to Israeli politics, he remained, at heart, American. His relationship with US elites was different from that of previous Israeli leaders. Not only were his political ideas and intellect molded in the US, he also managed to generate a unique political brand of pro-Israel solidarity among Americans. In the US, Netanyahu is a household name.

One of the successes attributed to Netanyahu’s approach to American politics was the formation of deep and permanent ties with the country’s burgeoning Christian fundamentalist groups. These groups, such as John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, used the support for Israel – based on messianic and biblical prophecies – as a point of unity and a stepping stone into the world of politics. Israel’s Netanyahu used them as reliable allies who, eventually, made up for the growing lack of enthusiasm for Israel among liberal and progressive circles across the US.

The Israel-evangelical connection may have seemed, at the time, a masterful stroke that could be attributed to the political ‘genius’ of Netanyahu. Indeed, it looked as if Netanyahu had guaranteed American loyalty to Israel indefinitely. This assertion was demonstrated repeatedly, especially as the fundamentalists came to Israel’s rescue whenever the latter engaged in war or faced any threat, whether imagined or fabricated.

As American politics shifted towards more populist, demagogic and conservative ideologies, the evangelicals moved closer to the centers of power in Capitol Hill. Note how Tea-party conservatism, one of the early sparks of the chaotic Trumpism that followed, was purportedly madly in love with Israel. The once marginal political camps, whose political discourses are driven by a strange amalgamation of prophecies and realpolitik, eventually became the ‘base’ of US President Donald Trump. Trump had no other option but to make the support for Israel a core value to his political campaign. His base would have never accepted any alternative.

A prevailing argument often suggests that Netanyahu’s mortal error was making Israel a domestic American issue. Whereas the Republicans support Israel – thanks to their massive evangelical constituency – the Democrats have slowly turned against Israel, an unprecedented phenomenon that only existed under Netanyahu. While this is true, it is also misleading, as it suggests that Netanyahu simply miscalculated. But he did not. In fact, Netanyahu has fostered a strong relationship with the various evangelical groups, long before Trump pondered the possibility of moving to the White House. Netanyahu simply wanted to change the center of gravity of the US relationship with Israel, which he accomplished.

For Netanyahu, the support of the American conservative camp was not a mere strategy to simply garner support for Israel, but an ideologically motivated choice, linking Netanyahu’s own beliefs to American politics using the Christian fundamentalists as a vehicle. This assertion can be demonstrated in a recent headline from The Times of Israel: “Top evangelical leader warns: Israel could lose our support if Netanyahu ousted.”

This ‘top evangelical leader’ is Mike Evans who, from Jerusalem, declared that “Bibi Netanyahu is the only man in the world that unites evangelicals.” Evans vowed to take his 77 million followers to the opposition of any Israeli government without Netanyahu. Much can be gleaned from this but, most importantly, US evangelicals consider themselves fundamental to Israeli politics, their support for Israel being conditioned on Netanyahu’s centrality in that very Israeli body politic.

In recent weeks, many comparisons between Netanyahu and Trump began surfacing. These comparisons are apt, but the issue is slightly more complex than merely comparing political styles, selective discourses and personas. Actually, both Trumpism and Netanyahu’s brand of Likudism – call it Netanyahu-ism – have successfully merged US and Israeli politics in a way that is almost impossible to disentangle. This shall continue to prove costly for Israel, as the evangelical and Republican support for Israel is clearly conditioned on the latter’s ability to serve the US conservative political – let alone spiritual – agenda.

Similarities between Trump and Netanyahu are obvious but they are also rather superficial. Both are narcissistic politicians, who are willing to destabilize their own countries to remain in power, as if they both live by the French maxim, Après moi, le déluge – “After me, the flood”. More, both railed against the elites, and placed fringe political trends – often marred by chauvinistic and fascist political views – at center stage. They both spoke of treason and fraud, played the role of the victim, posed as the only possible saviors, and so on.

But popular political trends of this nature cannot be wholly associated with individuals. Indeed, it was Trump and Netanyahu who tapped into, and exploited, existing political phenomena which, arguably, would have taken place with or without them. The painful truth is that Trumpism will survive long after Trump is gone and Netanyahu-ism has likely changed the face of Israel, regardless of Netanyahu’s next step.

Whatever that next step may be, it will surely be situated in the same familiar base of Netanyahu’s angry army of Israeli right-wing zealots and Christian fundamentalists in the US and elsewhere.

The post On Trumpism and Netanyahu-ism: How Benjamin Netanyahu Won America and Lost Israel  first appeared on Dissident Voice.