Category Archives: Land Use

Why is the Nicaraguan Government Demonized by both Liberals and Conservatives …

[Source: telesurenglish.net]

Women Have Made Particularly Significant Gains Under the Second Sandinista Government Since 2006

Women, particularly those in the Third World, often find themselves with limited ability to participate in community organizations and political life because of the poverty and their traditional sex role imposes on them.

On them falls sole responsibility to care for their children and other family members, especially when sick; they maintain the home, cook the meals, wash the dishes, the clothes, bathe the children, clean the house, mend the clothes. This labor becomes unending manual labor when households have no electricity (consequently, no lights, no refrigerator, no labor-saving electrical devices), and no running water.

The burden of this work impedes the social participation, self-expectations, and education of the female population.

Women in the Third World (and increasingly in the imperial First World) face problems of violence at home and in public, problems of food and water for the family, of proper shelter, and lack of health care for the family, and their own lack of access to education and, thus, work opportunities.

In Nicaragua, before the 1979 Sandinista revolution, men typically fulfilled few obligations for their children; men often abandoned the family, leaving the care to women. It was not uncommon to hear the abuse that men inflicted on women, to see women running to a neighbor for refuge.

It was not uncommon to encounter orphaned children whose mothers died in childbirth, since maternal mortality was high. Common illnesses were aggravated because there were few hospitals and, if there were, cash payment was demanded.

After the 1979 Sandinista victory, living conditions for women dramatically improved, achievements the period of neoliberal rule (1990-2006) did not completely overturn. Throughout the second Sandinista period (2007- today), the material and social position of women again made giant steps forward.

The greatest advances have been made by poor women in the rural areas and barrios, historically without safety, electricity, water and sanitation services, health care, or paved roads.

The liberation women have attained during the Sandinista era cannot be measured only by what we apply in North America: equal pay for equal work, the right to abortion, the right to affordable childcare, freedom from sexual discrimination.

Women’s liberation in Third World countries involves matters that may not appear on the surface as women’s rights issues. These include the paving of roads, improving housing, legalized land tenure, school meal programs, new clinics and hospitals, electrification, plumbing, literacy campaigns, potable water, aid programs to campesinos and crime reduction programs.

Because half of Nicaraguan families are headed by single mothers, this infrastructure development promotes the liberation and well-being of women.

Government programs that directly or indirectly shorten the hours of household drudgery free women to participate more in community life and increase their self-confidence and leadership. A country can have no greater democratic achievement than bringing about full and equal participation of women.

Women participating in 1979 Sandinista revolution. [Source: wikipedia.org]

Women’s Liberation Boosted with the FSLN’s Zero Hunger and Zero Usury Programs

These programs, launched in 2007, raise the socio-economic position of women. Zero Hunger furnishes pigs, a pregnant cow, chickens, plants, seeds, fertilizers, and building materials to women in rural areas to diversify their production, upgrade the family diet, and strengthen women-run household economies.

The agricultural assets provided are put in the woman’s name, equipping women to become more self-sufficient producers; it gives them more direct control and security over food for their children.

This breaks women’s historic dependency on male breadwinners and encourages their self-confidence. The program has aided 275,000 poor families, more than one million people (of a total of 6.6 million Nicaraguans) and has increased both their own food security and the nation’s food sovereignty.

Nicaragua now produces close to 90% of its own food, with most coming from small and medium farmers, many of them women. As Fausto Torrez of the Nicaraguan Rural Workers Association (ATC) correctly noted, “A nation that cannot feed itself is not free.”

Market in Managua selling locally produced food. [Source: tortillaconsal.com]

The Zero Usury program is a microcredit mechanism that now charges 0.5% annual interest, not the world microcredit average of 35%. More than 445,000 women have received these low-interest loans, typically three loans each.

The program not only empowers women but is a key factor reducing poverty, unlocking pools of talent, and driving diversified and sustainable growth. Many women receiving loans have turned their businesses into cooperatives, providing jobs to other women. Since 2007, about 5,900 cooperatives have formed, with 300 being women’s cooperatives.

Poverty has been reduced from 48% in 2007 to 25% and extreme poverty from 17.5% to 7%. This benefited women in particular, since single mother households suffered more from poverty. The Zero Hunger and Zero Usury programs have lessened the traditional domestic violence, given that women in poverty suffer greater risk of violence and abuse than others.

Giving Women Titles to Property Is a Step Toward Women’s Liberation

Since most Nicaraguans live by small-scale farming or by small business, possessing the title of legal ownership is a major concern. Between 2007 and 2021, the FSLN government has given out 451,250 land titles in the countryside and the city, with women making up 55% of the property-owners who benefited. Providing women with the legal title to their own land was a great step toward their economic independence.

Infrastructure Programs Expand Women’s Freedom

The Sandinista government has funded the building or renovation of 290,000 homes since 2007, free of charge for those in extreme poverty, or with interest-free long-term loans. This aided more than one million Nicaraguans, particularly single mothers, who head half of all Nicaraguan families.

In 2006 only 65% of the urban population had potable drinking water; now 92% do. Access to potable water in rural areas has doubled, from 28% to 55%. This frees women from the toilsome daily walk to the village well to carry buckets of water home to cook every meal, wash the dishes and clothes, and bathe the children. Homes connected to sewage disposal systems have grown from 30% in 2007 to 57% in 2021.

Now 99% of the population has electricity compared to 54% in 2006. As we know from experiencing electrical blackouts, electricity significantly frees our lives from time-consuming tasks. Street lighting has more than doubled, increasing security for all. Reliable home electricity enables the use of electrical labor-saving devices, such as a refrigerator.

Today, high-speed internet connects and unites most of the country, reducing people’s isolation and lack of access to information. Virtually everyone has a cell phone, and free internet is now available in many public parks.

Nicaragua’s road system is now among the best in Latin America and the Caribbean, given it has built more roads in the last 15 years than were built in the previous 200 years. Outlying towns are now connected to the national network. Now women in rural areas can travel elsewhere to work, sell their products in nearby markets, attend events in other towns, and take themselves or their children to the hospital. This contributes to the fight against poverty and the fight for women’s liberation.

New roads on the outskirts of Ésteli, Nicaragua’s third-largest city. [Source: bcie.org]

Better roads and housing, almost universal electrical and internet access, as well as indoor plumbing, greatly lessens the burdens placed on women homemakers and provide them with greater freedom to participate in the world they live in.

The Sandinista Educational System Emancipates Women

The humanitarian nature of the FSLN governments, as opposed to the disregard by previous neoliberal regimes, is revealed by statistics on illiteracy. When the FSLN revolution triumphed in 1979, illiteracy topped 56%.

Within ten years they reduced it to 12%. Yet by the end of the 16-year neoliberal period in 2006, which dismantled the free education system, illiteracy had again risen to 23%. Today the FSLN government has cut illiteracy to under 4%.

[Source: globalgiving.org]

The FSLN made education completely free, eliminating school fees. This, combined with the aid programs for poor women, has allowed 100,000 children to return to school. The government began a school lunch program, a meal of beans and rice, to 1.5 million school and pre-school children every day.

Pre-school, primary and secondary students are supplied with backpacks, glasses when needed, and low-income students receive uniforms at no cost. Now a much higher proportion of children are able to attend school, which provides more opportunities for mothers to work outside the home.

[Source: creativesocietiesinternational.com]

Nicaragua has established a nationwide free day-care system, now numbering 265 centers. Mothers can take their young children to day care, freeing them from another of the major hurdles to entering the workforce.

Due to the vastly expanded and free medical system, the  Zero Hunger, Zero Usury and other programs, chronic malnutrition in children under five has been cut in half, with chronic malnutrition in children six to twelve cut by two-thirds. Now it is rare to see kids with visible malnutrition, removing another preoccupation from mothers.

Schools and businesses never closed during the Covid pandemic, and Nicaragua’s health system has been among the most successful in the world addressing Covid. The country has the lowest number of Covid deaths per million inhabitants among all the countries of the Americas.

Nicaragua has also built a system of parks, playgrounds, and other free recreation where mothers can take their children.

Throughout the school system, the Ministry of Education promotes a culture of equal rights and non-discrimination. It has implemented the new subject “Women’s Rights and Dignities,” which teaches students about women’s right to a life without harassment and abuse and the injustices of the patriarchal system. Campaigns were launched to promote the participation of both mom and dad in a child’s education, such as emphasizing that attending school meetings or performances are shared responsibilities of both parents.

Women receive their diplomas from the National Technology Institute INATEC, where 62% of those enrolled are women.  [Source:radiolaprimerisima.com]

Sandinistas’ Free Health Care System Liberates Women 

In stark contrast to Nicaragua’s neoliberal years, with its destruction of the medical system, and in contrast to other Central American countries and the United States with their privatized health care for profit, the Sandinistas have established community-based, free, preventive public health care. Accordingly, life expectancy has risen from 72 years in 2006 to 77 years today, now equal to the U.S. level.

Health care units number more than 1,700, including 1,259 health posts and 192 health centers, with one-third built since 2007. The country has 77 hospitals, with 21 new hospitals built, and 46 existing hospitals remodeled and modernized. Nicaragua provides 178 maternity homes near medical centers for expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies or from rural areas to stay during the last weeks of pregnancy.

The United States is the richest country in the Americas, while Nicaragua is the third-poorest. Yet in the U.S. since 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed, and fewer than 50% of rural women have access to pre-natal services within a 30-mile drive from their homes. This has disproportionately affected low-income women, particularly Black and Latino women.

Nicaragua has equipped 66 mobile clinics, which gave nearly 1.9 million consultations in 2020. These include cervical and breast cancer screenings, helping to cut the cervical cancer mortality rate by 34% since 2007. The number of women receiving Pap tests has increased almost five-fold, from 181,491 in 2007 to 880,907 in 2020.

In the pre-Sandinista era, one-fourth of pregnant women gave birth at home, with no doctor. There were few hospitals and pregnant women often had to travel rough dirt roads to reach a clinic or hospital. Now women need not worry about reaching a distant hospital while in labor because they can reside in a local maternity home for the last two weeks of their pregnancies and be monitored by doctors.

In 2020, 67,222 pregnant women roomed in one of these homes, and could be accompanied by their mothers or sisters. As a result, 99% of births today are in medical centers, and maternal mortality fell from 115 deaths per 100,000 births in 2006 to 36 in 2020. These are giant steps forward in the liberation of women.

Contrary to the indifference to women in the U.S., Nicaraguan mothers receive one month off work before their baby is born, and two months off after; even men get five days off work when their baby is born. Mothers also receive free milk for six months. Men and women get five paid days off work when they marry.

The Question of Abortion Rights

The law making abortion illegal, removing the “life and health of the mother” exception, was passed in the National Assembly under President Enrique Bolaños in 2006. There had been a well-organized and funded campaign by Catholics all over Latin America as well as large marches over the previous two years in Nicaragua in favor of this law.

Enrique Bolaños in 2002. [Source: nytimes.com]

The law, supported by 80% of the people, was proposed immediately before the presidential election as a vote-getting ploy by Bolaños. The Sandinistas were a minority in the National Assembly at the time, and the FSLN legislators were released from party discipline for the vote. The majority abstained, while several voted in favor. The law has never been implemented or rescinded.

Since the Sandinistas’ return to power in 2007 no woman or governmental or private health professional has been prosecuted for any action related to abortion. Any woman whose life is in danger receives an abortion in government health centers or hospitals. Many places exist for women to get abortions; none has been closed or attacked, and none is clandestine. The morning-after pill and contraceptive services are widely available.

Sandinista Measures to Free Women from Violence 

Nicaragua has created 102 women’s police stations, special units that include protecting women and children from sexual and domestic violence and abuse. Now women can talk to female police officers about crimes committed against them, whether it be abuse or rape, making it easier and more comfortable for women to file complaints, receive counseling for trauma, and ensure that violent crimes against women are prosecuted in a thorough and timely manner.

Nicaragua’s women in blue. [Source: breal.tv]

Women make up 34.3% of the 16,399 National Police officers, a high number for a police department. For instance, New York City and Los Angeles police are 18% women and Chicago is 23%.

The United Nations finds Nicaragua the safest country in Central America, with the lowest homicide rate, 7.2 per 100,000 (down from 13.4 in 2006), less than half the regional average of 19.

It also has the lowest rate of femicides in Central America (0.7 per 100,000), another testament to the Sandinista commitment to ending mistreatment of women.  The government organizes citizen-security assemblies to raise consciousness concerning violence against women and to handle the vulnerabilities women face in the family and community. Mifamilia, the Ministry of the Family, carries out house-to-house visits to stress prevention of violence against women and sexual abuse of children.

Nicaragua is the most successful regional country in combating drug trafficking and organized crime, freeing women from the insecurity that plagues women in places such as Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Women’s Leadership in the Nicaragua Government

The progress women have made during the second FSLN era is reflected in their participation in government. The 1980s’ Sandinista directorate contained no women. In 2007, the second Sandinista government mandated equal representation for women, ensuring that at least 50% of public offices would be filled by women, from the national level to the municipal.

Today, 9 out of 16 national government cabinet ministers are women. Women head the Supreme Electoral Council, the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and account for 60% of judges. Women make up half of the National Assembly, of mayors, of vice-mayors and of municipal council members. Women, so represented in high positions, provide a model and inspires all women and girls to participate in building a new society with more humane human relations.

[Source: ipu.org]

No Greater Democratic Victory Than the Liberation of Women

The progress made in women’s liberation is seen in the Global Gender Gap Index: In 2007, Nicaragua ranked 90th on the index; by 2020, it had jumped to 5th place, exceeded only by Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Nicaragua is a country that has accomplished the most in liberating women from household drudgery and domestic slavery because of its policies favoring the social and political participation and economic advancement of poor women.

Women have gained a women’s police commissariat, legal recognition of their property, new homes for abused women and for poor single mothers, economic programs that empower poorer women, abortion is not criminalized in practice, half of all political candidates and public office holders are women, extreme poverty has been cut by half, mostly benefiting women and children, domestic toil has been greatly reduced because of modernized national infrastructure, women have convenient and free health care.

In their liberation struggle, Nicaraguan women are becoming ever more self-sufficient and confident in enforcing their long-neglected human rights. They are revolutionizing their collective self-image and ensuring their central role in building a new society. This betters the working class and campesinos as a whole by improving the quality of life for all and is a vital weapon in combating U.S. economic warfare.

As Lenin observed, “The experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it.” Nicaragua is one more living example that a new world is possible.

• First published in CovertAction Magazine

The post Why is the Nicaraguan Government Demonized by both Liberals and Conservatives … first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why is the Nicaraguan Government Demonized by both Liberals and Conservatives …

[Source: telesurenglish.net]

Women Have Made Particularly Significant Gains Under the Second Sandinista Government Since 2006

Women, particularly those in the Third World, often find themselves with limited ability to participate in community organizations and political life because of the poverty and their traditional sex role imposes on them.

On them falls sole responsibility to care for their children and other family members, especially when sick; they maintain the home, cook the meals, wash the dishes, the clothes, bathe the children, clean the house, mend the clothes. This labor becomes unending manual labor when households have no electricity (consequently, no lights, no refrigerator, no labor-saving electrical devices), and no running water.

The burden of this work impedes the social participation, self-expectations, and education of the female population.

Women in the Third World (and increasingly in the imperial First World) face problems of violence at home and in public, problems of food and water for the family, of proper shelter, and lack of health care for the family, and their own lack of access to education and, thus, work opportunities.

In Nicaragua, before the 1979 Sandinista revolution, men typically fulfilled few obligations for their children; men often abandoned the family, leaving the care to women. It was not uncommon to hear the abuse that men inflicted on women, to see women running to a neighbor for refuge.

It was not uncommon to encounter orphaned children whose mothers died in childbirth, since maternal mortality was high. Common illnesses were aggravated because there were few hospitals and, if there were, cash payment was demanded.

After the 1979 Sandinista victory, living conditions for women dramatically improved, achievements the period of neoliberal rule (1990-2006) did not completely overturn. Throughout the second Sandinista period (2007- today), the material and social position of women again made giant steps forward.

The greatest advances have been made by poor women in the rural areas and barrios, historically without safety, electricity, water and sanitation services, health care, or paved roads.

The liberation women have attained during the Sandinista era cannot be measured only by what we apply in North America: equal pay for equal work, the right to abortion, the right to affordable childcare, freedom from sexual discrimination.

Women’s liberation in Third World countries involves matters that may not appear on the surface as women’s rights issues. These include the paving of roads, improving housing, legalized land tenure, school meal programs, new clinics and hospitals, electrification, plumbing, literacy campaigns, potable water, aid programs to campesinos and crime reduction programs.

Because half of Nicaraguan families are headed by single mothers, this infrastructure development promotes the liberation and well-being of women.

Government programs that directly or indirectly shorten the hours of household drudgery free women to participate more in community life and increase their self-confidence and leadership. A country can have no greater democratic achievement than bringing about full and equal participation of women.

Women participating in 1979 Sandinista revolution. [Source: wikipedia.org]

Women’s Liberation Boosted with the FSLN’s Zero Hunger and Zero Usury Programs

These programs, launched in 2007, raise the socio-economic position of women. Zero Hunger furnishes pigs, a pregnant cow, chickens, plants, seeds, fertilizers, and building materials to women in rural areas to diversify their production, upgrade the family diet, and strengthen women-run household economies.

The agricultural assets provided are put in the woman’s name, equipping women to become more self-sufficient producers; it gives them more direct control and security over food for their children.

This breaks women’s historic dependency on male breadwinners and encourages their self-confidence. The program has aided 275,000 poor families, more than one million people (of a total of 6.6 million Nicaraguans) and has increased both their own food security and the nation’s food sovereignty.

Nicaragua now produces close to 90% of its own food, with most coming from small and medium farmers, many of them women. As Fausto Torrez of the Nicaraguan Rural Workers Association (ATC) correctly noted, “A nation that cannot feed itself is not free.”

Market in Managua selling locally produced food. [Source: tortillaconsal.com]

The Zero Usury program is a microcredit mechanism that now charges 0.5% annual interest, not the world microcredit average of 35%. More than 445,000 women have received these low-interest loans, typically three loans each.

The program not only empowers women but is a key factor reducing poverty, unlocking pools of talent, and driving diversified and sustainable growth. Many women receiving loans have turned their businesses into cooperatives, providing jobs to other women. Since 2007, about 5,900 cooperatives have formed, with 300 being women’s cooperatives.

Poverty has been reduced from 48% in 2007 to 25% and extreme poverty from 17.5% to 7%. This benefited women in particular, since single mother households suffered more from poverty. The Zero Hunger and Zero Usury programs have lessened the traditional domestic violence, given that women in poverty suffer greater risk of violence and abuse than others.

Giving Women Titles to Property Is a Step Toward Women’s Liberation

Since most Nicaraguans live by small-scale farming or by small business, possessing the title of legal ownership is a major concern. Between 2007 and 2021, the FSLN government has given out 451,250 land titles in the countryside and the city, with women making up 55% of the property-owners who benefited. Providing women with the legal title to their own land was a great step toward their economic independence.

Infrastructure Programs Expand Women’s Freedom

The Sandinista government has funded the building or renovation of 290,000 homes since 2007, free of charge for those in extreme poverty, or with interest-free long-term loans. This aided more than one million Nicaraguans, particularly single mothers, who head half of all Nicaraguan families.

In 2006 only 65% of the urban population had potable drinking water; now 92% do. Access to potable water in rural areas has doubled, from 28% to 55%. This frees women from the toilsome daily walk to the village well to carry buckets of water home to cook every meal, wash the dishes and clothes, and bathe the children. Homes connected to sewage disposal systems have grown from 30% in 2007 to 57% in 2021.

Now 99% of the population has electricity compared to 54% in 2006. As we know from experiencing electrical blackouts, electricity significantly frees our lives from time-consuming tasks. Street lighting has more than doubled, increasing security for all. Reliable home electricity enables the use of electrical labor-saving devices, such as a refrigerator.

Today, high-speed internet connects and unites most of the country, reducing people’s isolation and lack of access to information. Virtually everyone has a cell phone, and free internet is now available in many public parks.

Nicaragua’s road system is now among the best in Latin America and the Caribbean, given it has built more roads in the last 15 years than were built in the previous 200 years. Outlying towns are now connected to the national network. Now women in rural areas can travel elsewhere to work, sell their products in nearby markets, attend events in other towns, and take themselves or their children to the hospital. This contributes to the fight against poverty and the fight for women’s liberation.

New roads on the outskirts of Ésteli, Nicaragua’s third-largest city. [Source: bcie.org]

Better roads and housing, almost universal electrical and internet access, as well as indoor plumbing, greatly lessens the burdens placed on women homemakers and provide them with greater freedom to participate in the world they live in.

The Sandinista Educational System Emancipates Women

The humanitarian nature of the FSLN governments, as opposed to the disregard by previous neoliberal regimes, is revealed by statistics on illiteracy. When the FSLN revolution triumphed in 1979, illiteracy topped 56%.

Within ten years they reduced it to 12%. Yet by the end of the 16-year neoliberal period in 2006, which dismantled the free education system, illiteracy had again risen to 23%. Today the FSLN government has cut illiteracy to under 4%.

[Source: globalgiving.org]

The FSLN made education completely free, eliminating school fees. This, combined with the aid programs for poor women, has allowed 100,000 children to return to school. The government began a school lunch program, a meal of beans and rice, to 1.5 million school and pre-school children every day.

Pre-school, primary and secondary students are supplied with backpacks, glasses when needed, and low-income students receive uniforms at no cost. Now a much higher proportion of children are able to attend school, which provides more opportunities for mothers to work outside the home.

[Source: creativesocietiesinternational.com]

Nicaragua has established a nationwide free day-care system, now numbering 265 centers. Mothers can take their young children to day care, freeing them from another of the major hurdles to entering the workforce.

Due to the vastly expanded and free medical system, the  Zero Hunger, Zero Usury and other programs, chronic malnutrition in children under five has been cut in half, with chronic malnutrition in children six to twelve cut by two-thirds. Now it is rare to see kids with visible malnutrition, removing another preoccupation from mothers.

Schools and businesses never closed during the Covid pandemic, and Nicaragua’s health system has been among the most successful in the world addressing Covid. The country has the lowest number of Covid deaths per million inhabitants among all the countries of the Americas.

Nicaragua has also built a system of parks, playgrounds, and other free recreation where mothers can take their children.

Throughout the school system, the Ministry of Education promotes a culture of equal rights and non-discrimination. It has implemented the new subject “Women’s Rights and Dignities,” which teaches students about women’s right to a life without harassment and abuse and the injustices of the patriarchal system. Campaigns were launched to promote the participation of both mom and dad in a child’s education, such as emphasizing that attending school meetings or performances are shared responsibilities of both parents.

Women receive their diplomas from the National Technology Institute INATEC, where 62% of those enrolled are women.  [Source:radiolaprimerisima.com]

Sandinistas’ Free Health Care System Liberates Women 

In stark contrast to Nicaragua’s neoliberal years, with its destruction of the medical system, and in contrast to other Central American countries and the United States with their privatized health care for profit, the Sandinistas have established community-based, free, preventive public health care. Accordingly, life expectancy has risen from 72 years in 2006 to 77 years today, now equal to the U.S. level.

Health care units number more than 1,700, including 1,259 health posts and 192 health centers, with one-third built since 2007. The country has 77 hospitals, with 21 new hospitals built, and 46 existing hospitals remodeled and modernized. Nicaragua provides 178 maternity homes near medical centers for expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies or from rural areas to stay during the last weeks of pregnancy.

The United States is the richest country in the Americas, while Nicaragua is the third-poorest. Yet in the U.S. since 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed, and fewer than 50% of rural women have access to pre-natal services within a 30-mile drive from their homes. This has disproportionately affected low-income women, particularly Black and Latino women.

Nicaragua has equipped 66 mobile clinics, which gave nearly 1.9 million consultations in 2020. These include cervical and breast cancer screenings, helping to cut the cervical cancer mortality rate by 34% since 2007. The number of women receiving Pap tests has increased almost five-fold, from 181,491 in 2007 to 880,907 in 2020.

In the pre-Sandinista era, one-fourth of pregnant women gave birth at home, with no doctor. There were few hospitals and pregnant women often had to travel rough dirt roads to reach a clinic or hospital. Now women need not worry about reaching a distant hospital while in labor because they can reside in a local maternity home for the last two weeks of their pregnancies and be monitored by doctors.

In 2020, 67,222 pregnant women roomed in one of these homes, and could be accompanied by their mothers or sisters. As a result, 99% of births today are in medical centers, and maternal mortality fell from 115 deaths per 100,000 births in 2006 to 36 in 2020. These are giant steps forward in the liberation of women.

Contrary to the indifference to women in the U.S., Nicaraguan mothers receive one month off work before their baby is born, and two months off after; even men get five days off work when their baby is born. Mothers also receive free milk for six months. Men and women get five paid days off work when they marry.

The Question of Abortion Rights

The law making abortion illegal, removing the “life and health of the mother” exception, was passed in the National Assembly under President Enrique Bolaños in 2006. There had been a well-organized and funded campaign by Catholics all over Latin America as well as large marches over the previous two years in Nicaragua in favor of this law.

Enrique Bolaños in 2002. [Source: nytimes.com]

The law, supported by 80% of the people, was proposed immediately before the presidential election as a vote-getting ploy by Bolaños. The Sandinistas were a minority in the National Assembly at the time, and the FSLN legislators were released from party discipline for the vote. The majority abstained, while several voted in favor. The law has never been implemented or rescinded.

Since the Sandinistas’ return to power in 2007 no woman or governmental or private health professional has been prosecuted for any action related to abortion. Any woman whose life is in danger receives an abortion in government health centers or hospitals. Many places exist for women to get abortions; none has been closed or attacked, and none is clandestine. The morning-after pill and contraceptive services are widely available.

Sandinista Measures to Free Women from Violence 

Nicaragua has created 102 women’s police stations, special units that include protecting women and children from sexual and domestic violence and abuse. Now women can talk to female police officers about crimes committed against them, whether it be abuse or rape, making it easier and more comfortable for women to file complaints, receive counseling for trauma, and ensure that violent crimes against women are prosecuted in a thorough and timely manner.

Nicaragua’s women in blue. [Source: breal.tv]

Women make up 34.3% of the 16,399 National Police officers, a high number for a police department. For instance, New York City and Los Angeles police are 18% women and Chicago is 23%.

The United Nations finds Nicaragua the safest country in Central America, with the lowest homicide rate, 7.2 per 100,000 (down from 13.4 in 2006), less than half the regional average of 19.

It also has the lowest rate of femicides in Central America (0.7 per 100,000), another testament to the Sandinista commitment to ending mistreatment of women.  The government organizes citizen-security assemblies to raise consciousness concerning violence against women and to handle the vulnerabilities women face in the family and community. Mifamilia, the Ministry of the Family, carries out house-to-house visits to stress prevention of violence against women and sexual abuse of children.

Nicaragua is the most successful regional country in combating drug trafficking and organized crime, freeing women from the insecurity that plagues women in places such as Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Women’s Leadership in the Nicaragua Government

The progress women have made during the second FSLN era is reflected in their participation in government. The 1980s’ Sandinista directorate contained no women. In 2007, the second Sandinista government mandated equal representation for women, ensuring that at least 50% of public offices would be filled by women, from the national level to the municipal.

Today, 9 out of 16 national government cabinet ministers are women. Women head the Supreme Electoral Council, the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and account for 60% of judges. Women make up half of the National Assembly, of mayors, of vice-mayors and of municipal council members. Women, so represented in high positions, provide a model and inspires all women and girls to participate in building a new society with more humane human relations.

[Source: ipu.org]

No Greater Democratic Victory Than the Liberation of Women

The progress made in women’s liberation is seen in the Global Gender Gap Index: In 2007, Nicaragua ranked 90th on the index; by 2020, it had jumped to 5th place, exceeded only by Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Nicaragua is a country that has accomplished the most in liberating women from household drudgery and domestic slavery because of its policies favoring the social and political participation and economic advancement of poor women.

Women have gained a women’s police commissariat, legal recognition of their property, new homes for abused women and for poor single mothers, economic programs that empower poorer women, abortion is not criminalized in practice, half of all political candidates and public office holders are women, extreme poverty has been cut by half, mostly benefiting women and children, domestic toil has been greatly reduced because of modernized national infrastructure, women have convenient and free health care.

In their liberation struggle, Nicaraguan women are becoming ever more self-sufficient and confident in enforcing their long-neglected human rights. They are revolutionizing their collective self-image and ensuring their central role in building a new society. This betters the working class and campesinos as a whole by improving the quality of life for all and is a vital weapon in combating U.S. economic warfare.

As Lenin observed, “The experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it.” Nicaragua is one more living example that a new world is possible.

• First published in CovertAction Magazine

The post Why is the Nicaraguan Government Demonized by both Liberals and Conservatives … first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order

Farmerless farms manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented genetically engineered seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food. Data platforms, private equity firms, e-commerce giants and AI-controlled farming systems.

This is the future that big agritech and agribusiness envisage: a future of ‘data-driven’ and ‘climate-friendly’ agriculture that they say is essential if we are to feed a growing global population.

The transformative vision outlined above which is being promoted by the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation amounts to a power grab. Whether through all aspects of data control (soil quality, consumer preferences, weather, etc), e-commerce monopolies, corporate land ownership, seed biopiracy and patenting, synthetic lab-made food or the eradication of the public sector’s role in ensuring food security and national food sovereignty, the aim is for a relative handful of corporations to gain full control of the entire global food system.

Smallholder peasant farming is to be eradicated as the big-tech giants and agribusiness impose their  ‘disruptive’ technologies.

This vision is symptomatic of a reductionist mindset fixated on a narrow yield-output paradigm that is unable or more likely unwilling to grasp an integrated social-cultural-economic-agronomic systems approach to food and agriculture that accounts for many different factors, including local/regional food security and sovereignty, diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability and boosting rural development based on thriving local communities.

Instead, what is envisaged will lead to the further trashing of rural economies, communities and cultures. A vision that has scant regard for the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems.

But is any of this necessary or inevitable?

There is no global shortage of food. Even under any plausible future population scenario, there will be no shortage as evidenced by scientist Dr Jonathan Latham in his paper The Myth of a Food Crisis (2020). Furthermore, there are tried and tested approaches to addressing the challenges humanity faces, not least agroecology.

Reshaping agrifood systems

An organic-based, agrifood system could be implemented in Europe and would allow a balanced coexistence between agriculture and the environment. This would reinforce Europe’s autonomy, feed the predicted population in 2050, allow the continent to continue to export cereals to countries which need them for human consumption and substantially reduce water pollution and toxic emissions from agriculture.

That is the message conveyed in the paper Reshaping the European Agro-food System and Closing its Nitrogen Cycle: The potential of combining dietary change, agroecology, and circularity (2020) which appeared in the journal One Earth.

The paper by Gilles Billen et al follows a long line of studies and reports which have concluded that organic agriculture is vital for guaranteeing food security, rural development, better nutrition and sustainability.

For instance, in the 2006 book The Global Development of Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects, Neils Halberg and his colleagues argue that there are still more than 740 million food insecure people (at least 100 million more today), the majority of whom live in the Global South. They say if a conversion to organic farming of approximately 50% of the agricultural area in the Global South were to be carried out, it would result in increased self-sufficiency and decreased net food imports to the region.

In 2007, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that organic models increase cost-effectiveness and contribute to resilience in the face of climatic stress. The FAO concluded that by managing biodiversity in time (rotations) and space (mixed cropping), organic farmers use their labour and environmental factors to intensify production in a sustainable way and that organic agriculture could break the vicious circle of farmer indebtedness for proprietary agricultural inputs.

Of course, organic agriculture and agroecology are not necessarily one and the same. Whereas organic agriculture can still be part of the prevailing globalised food regime dominated by giant agrifood conglomerates, agroecology uses organic practices but is ideally rooted in the principles of localisation, food sovereignty and self-reliance.

The FAO recognises that agroecology contributes to improved food self-reliance, the revitalisation of smallholder agriculture and enhanced employment opportunities. It has argued that organic agriculture could produce enough food on a global per capita basis for the current world population but with reduced environmental impact than conventional agriculture.

In 2012, Deputy Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Petko Draganov stated  that expanding Africa’s shift towards organic farming will have beneficial effects on the continent’s nutritional needs, the environment, farmers’ incomes, markets and employment.

meta analysis conducted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNCTAD (2008) assessed 114 cases of organic farming in Africa. The two UN agencies concluded that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long term.

The 2009 report Agriculture at a Crossroads by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. It cites the largest study of ‘sustainable agriculture’ in the Global South, which analysed 286 projects covering 37 million hectares in 57 countries, and found that on average crop yields increased by 79% (the study also included ‘resource conserving’ non-organic conventional approaches).

There are numerous other studies and projects which testify to the efficacy of organic farming, including those from the Rodale Institute, the Oakland Institute, the UN Green Economy Initiative, the Women’s Collective of Tamil NaduNewcastle University and Washington State University. We also need look no further than the results of organic-based farming in Malawi.

In Ethiopia, agroecology has been scaled up across the entire Tigray region, partly due to enlightened political leaders and the commitment of key institutions. But Cuba is the one country in the world that has made the biggest changes in the shortest time in moving from industrial chemical-intensive agriculture to organic farming.

Professor of Agroecology Miguel Altieri notes that, due to the difficulties Cuba experienced as a result of the fall of the USSR, it moved towards organic and agroecological techniques in the 1990s. From 1996 to 2005, per capita food production in Cuba increased by 4.2% yearly during a period when production was stagnant across the wider region.

By 2016, Cuba had 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield up to 20 kg of food per square metre, the highest rate in the world, using no synthetic chemicals. Urban farms supply 50 to 70% or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara.

It has been calculated by Altieri and his colleague Fernando R Funes-Monzote that if all peasant farms and cooperatives adopted diversified agroecological designs, Cuba would be able to produce enough to feed its population, supply food to the tourist industry and even export some food to help generate foreign currency.

Serving a corporate agenda

However, global agribusiness and agritech firms continue to marginalise organic, capture public bodies and push for their chemical-intensive, high-tech approaches. Although organic farming and natural farming methods like agroecology offer genuine solutions for many of the world’s pressing problems (health, environment, employment, rural development, etc), these approaches challenge corporate interests and threaten their bottom line.

In 2014, Corporate Europe Observatory released a critical report on the European Commission over the previous five years. The report concluded that the commission had been a willing servant of a corporate agenda. It had sided with agribusiness on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. Far from shifting Europe to a more sustainable food and agriculture system, the opposite had happened, as agribusiness and its lobbyists continued to dominate the Brussels scene.

Consumers in Europe reject GM food, but the commission had made various attempts to meet the demands from the biotech sector to allow GMOs into Europe, aided by giant food companies, such as Unilever, and the lobby group FoodDrinkEurope.

The report concluded that the commission had eagerly pursued a corporate agenda in all the areas investigated and pushed for policies in sync with the interests of big business. It had done this in the apparent belief that such interests are synonymous with the interests of society at large.

Little has changed since. In December 2021, Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) noted that big agribusiness and biotech corporations are currently pushing for the European Commission to remove any labelling and safety checks for new genomic techniques. Since the beginning of their lobbying efforts (in 2018), these corporations have spent at least €36 million lobbying the European Union and have had 182 meetings with European commissioners, their cabinets and director generals: more than one meeting a week.

According to FOEE, the European Commission seems more than willing to put the lobby’s demands into a new law that would include weakened safety checks and bypass GMO labelling.

Corporate influence over key national and international bodies is nothing new. From the World Bank’s ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ and the influence of foreign retail on India’s NITI Aayog (the influential policy commission think tank of the Government of India) to the Gates Foundation’s role in opening up African agriculture to global food and agribusiness oligopolies, democratic procedures at sovereign state levels are being bypassed to impose seed monopolies and proprietary inputs on farmers and to incorporate them into a global agrifood chain dominated by powerful corporations.

But there are now also new players on the block. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others are closing in on the global agrifood sector while the likes of Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and Cargill continue to cement their stranglehold.

The tech giants entry into the sector will increasingly lead to a mutually beneficial integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, seeds, fertilisers, tractors, etc) and those that control the flow of data and have access to digital (cloud) infrastructure and food consumers. In  effect, multi-billion dollar agrifood data management markets are being created.

In India, Walmart and Amazon could end up dominating the e-retail sector. These two US companies would also own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them the country’s digital overlords along with Google and Facebook.

The government is facilitating the dominance of giant corporations, not least through digital or e-commerce platforms. E-commerce companies not only control data about consumption but also control data on production, logistics, who needs what, when they need it, who should produce it, who should move it and when it should be moved.

These platforms have the capacity to shape the entire physical economy. We are seeing the eradication of the marketplace in favour of platforms owned by global conglomerates which will control everything from production to logistics, including agriculture and farming.

The farmer will be told how much production is expected, how much rain is anticipated, what type of soil quality there is, what type of (GM) seeds and proprietary inputs are required and when the produce needs to be ready.

E-commerce platforms will become permanently embedded once artificial intelligence begins to plan and determine all of the above.

In April 2021, the Indian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft, allowing its local partner CropData to leverage a master database of farmers. The MoU seems to be part of the AgriStack policy initiative, which involves the roll out of ‘disruptive’ technologies and digital databases in the agricultural sector.

CropData will be granted access to a government database of 50 million farmers and their land records. As the database is developed, it will include farmers’ personal details, profile of land held, production data and financial details.

In addition to facilitating data harvesting and a data management market, the Indian government is trying to establish a system of ‘conclusive titling’ of all land in the country, so that ownership can be identified and land can then be valued, bought or taken away.

The plan is that, as farmers lose access to land or can be identified as legal owners, predatory global institutional investors will buy up and amalgamate holdings, facilitating the further roll out of high-input, corporate-dependent industrial agriculture.

This is an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, much promoted by the likes of the World Economic Forum, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then, in this case, use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who will find themselves displaced.

By harvesting information – under the benign-sounding policy of data-driven agriculture – private corporations will be better placed to exploit farmers’ situations for their own ends.

Imagine a cartel of data owners, proprietary input suppliers and retail concerns at the commanding heights of the global economy, peddling toxic industrial (and lab-engineered) ‘food’ and the devastating health and environmental impacts associated with it.

As for elected representatives and sovereign state governments, their role will be highly limited to technocratic overseers of these platforms and the artificial intelligence tools that plan and determine all of the above.

But none of this is set in stone or inevitable. The farmers victory in India in getting the corporate-friendly farm laws repealed show what can be achieved, even if this is only viewed as a spanner in the works of a global machine that is relentless.

New world order

And that machine comprises what journalist Ernst Wolff calls the digital-financial complex that is now driving the globalisation-one agriculture agenda. This complex comprises many of the companies mentioned above: Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Apple, Amazon and Meta (Facebook) as well as BlackRock and Vanguard, transnational investment/asset management corporations.

These entities exert control over governments and important institutions like the European Central Bank (ECB) and the US Federal Reserve. Indeed, Wolff states that BlackRock and Vanguard have more financial assets than the ECB and the Fed combined.

To appreciate the power and influence of BlackRock and Vanguard, let us turn to the documentary Monopoly: An Overview of the Great Reset which argues that the stock of the world’s largest corporations are owned by the same institutional investors. This means that ‘competing’ brands, like Coke and Pepsi, are not really competitors, since their stock is owned by the same investment companies, investment funds, insurance companies and banks.

Smaller investors are owned by larger investors. Those are owned by even bigger investors. The visible top of this pyramid shows only two companies: Vanguard and Black Rock.

A 2017 Bloomberg report states that both these companies in the year 2028 together will have investments amounting to 20 trillion dollars. In other words, they will own almost everything worth owning.

The digital-financial complex wants control over all aspects of life. It wants a cashless world, to destroy bodily integrity with a mandatory vaccination agenda linked to emerging digital-biopharmaceutical technologies, to control all personal data and digital money and it requires full control over everything, including food and farming.

If events over the last two years have shown us anything, it is that an unaccountable authoritarian global elite knows the type of world it wants to create, has the ability to coordinate its agenda globally and will use deception and duplicity to achieve it. And in this brave new Orwellian world where capitalist ‘liberal democracy’ has run its course, there will be no place for genuinely independent nation states or individual rights.

The independence of nation states could be further eroded by the digital-financial complex’s ‘financialisation of nature’ and its ‘green profiling’ of countries and companies. If we take the example of India, again, the Indian government has been on a relentless drive to attract inflows of foreign investment into government bonds (creating a lucrative market for global investors). It does not take much imagination to see how investors could destabilise the economy with large movements in or out of these bonds but also how India’s ‘green credentials’ could be factored in to downgrade its international credit rating.

And how could India demonstrate its green credentials and thus its ‘credit worthiness’? Perhaps by allowing herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that the GM sector misleadingly portrays as ‘climate friendly’.

As for concepts such as localisation, food sovereignty, self-reliance and participatory democracy – key tenets of agroecology ­– these are mere inconveniences to be trampled on.

Olivier De Schutter, former UN special Rapporteur on the right to food, delivered his final report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, based on an extensive review of scientific literature. He concluded that by applying agroecological principles to the design of democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and address climate variabilities and poverty challenges.

De Schutter argued that agroecological approaches could address food needs in critical regions and double food production within 10 years. However, he notes there is insufficient backing for organic-based farming which seriously hinders progress.

But it is not just a case of insufficient backing. Global agribusiness and agritech corporations have leveraged themselves into strategic positions and integral to their strategy has been attacks on organic farming as they attempt to cast it as a niche model which cannot feed the world. From the false narrative that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed a growing population to providing lavish research grants and the capture of important policy-making institutions, these firms have secured a thick legitimacy within policy making machinery.

These conglomerates regard organic approaches as a threat, especially agroecology which adheres to a non-industrial, smallholder model rooted in local independent enterprises and communities based on the principle of localisation. When people like De Schutter assert the need for a “democratically controlled” agroecology, this runs counter to the reality of large agribusiness firms, their proprietary products and their globalisation agenda based on long supply chains, market dependency, dispossession and the incorporation of farms and farmers into their agrifood regime. And as we can see, ‘democracy’ has no place in the world of the digital-financial complex.

The 2015 Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology argues for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on truly agroecological food production. It says that agroecology should not be co-opted to become a tool of the industrial food production model; it should be the essential alternative to it.

The declaration stated that agroecology is political and requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

According to Pat Mooney of the ETC Group, this involves developing healthy and equitable agroecological production systems, building short (community-based) supply chains and restructuring and democratising governance systems that could take 25 years to accomplish: in effect a ‘long food movement’.

We are currently living through epoch-defining changes and the struggle for the future of food and agriculture is integral to the wider struggle over the future direction of humanity. There is a pressing need to transition towards a notion of food sovereignty based on agroecological principles and the local ownership and stewardship of common resources.

The post Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet? 

The UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team helped to push the public towards accepting the COVID narrative, restrictions and lockdowns. It is now working on ‘nudging’ people towards further possible restrictions or at least big changes in their behaviour in the name of ‘climate emergency’. From frequent news stories and advertisements to soap opera storylines and government announcements, the message about impending climate catastrophe is almost relentless.

Part of the messaging includes blaming the public’s consumption habits for a perceived ‘climate emergency’. At the same time, young people are being told that we only have a decade or so (depending on who is saying it) to ‘save the planet’.

Setting the agenda are powerful corporations that helped degrade much of the environment in the first place. But ordinary people, not the multi-billionaires pushing this agenda, will pay the price for this as living more frugally seems to be part of the programme (‘own nothing and be happy’). Could we at some future point see ‘climate emergency’ lockdowns, not to ‘save the NHS’ but to ‘save the planet’?

A tendency to focus on individual behaviour and not ‘the system’ exists.

But let us not forget this is a system that deliberately sought to eradicate a culture of self-reliance that prevailed among the working class in the 19th century (self-education, recycling products, a culture of thrift, etc) via advertising and a formal school education that ensured conformity and set in motion a lifetime of wage labour and dependency on the products manufactured by an environmentally destructive capitalism.

A system that has its roots in inflicting massive violence across the globe to exert control over land and resources elsewhere.

In his 2018 book The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequalities and its solutions, Jason Hickel describes the processes involved in Europe’s wealth accumulation over a 150-year period of colonialism that resulted in tens of millions of deaths.

By using other countries’ land, Britain effectively doubled the size of arable land in its control. This made it more practical to then reassign the rural population at home (by stripping people of their means of production) to industrial labour. This too was underpinned by massive violence (burning villages, destroying houses, razing crops).

Hickel argues that none of this was inevitable but was rooted in the fear of being left behind by other countries because of Europe’s relative lack of land resources to produce commodities.

This is worth bearing in mind as we currently witness a fundamental shift in our relationship to the state resulting from authoritarian COVID-related policies and the rapidly emerging corporate-led green agenda. We should never underestimate the ruthlessness involved in the quest for preserving wealth and power and the propensity for wrecking lives and nature to achieve this.

Commodification of nature

Current green agenda ‘solutions’ are based on a notion of ‘stakeholder’ capitalism or private-public partnerships whereby vested interests are accorded greater weight, with governments and public money merely facilitating the priorities of private capital.

A key component of this strategy involves the ‘financialisation of nature’ and the production of new ‘green’ markets to deal with capitalism’s crisis of over accumulation and weak consumer demand caused by decades of neoliberal policies and the declining purchasing power of working people. The banking sector is especially set to make a killing via ‘green profiling’ and ‘green bonds’.

According to Friends of the Earth (FoE), corporations and states will use the financialisation of nature discourse to weaken laws and regulations designed to protect the environment with the aim of facilitating the goals of extractive industries, while allowing mega-infrastructure projects in protected areas and other contested places.

Global corporations will be able to ‘offset’ (greenwash) their activities by, for example, protecting or planting a forest elsewhere (on indigenous people’s land) or perhaps even investing in (imposing) industrial agriculture which grows herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that are misleadingly portrayed as ‘climate friendly’.

FoE states:

Offsetting schemes allow companies to exceed legally defined limits of destruction at a particular location, or destroy protected habitat, on the promise of compensation elsewhere; and allow banks to finance such destruction on the same premise.

This agenda could result in the weakening of current environmental protection legislation or its eradication in some regions under the pretext of compensating for the effects elsewhere. How ecoservice ‘assets’ (for example, a forest that performs a service to the ecosystem by acting as a carbon sink) are to be evaluated in a monetary sense is very likely to be done on terms that are highly favourable to the corporations involved, meaning that environmental protection will play second fiddle to corporate and finance sector return-on-investment interests.

As FoE argues, business wants this system to be implemented on its terms, which means the bottom line will be more important than stringent rules that prohibit environmental destruction.

Saving capitalism

The envisaged commodification of nature will ensure massive profit-seeking opportunities through the opening up of new markets and the creation of fresh investment instruments.

Capitalism needs to keep expanding into or creating new markets to ensure the accumulation of capital to offset the tendency for the general rate of profit to fall (according to writer Ted Reese, it has trended downwards from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s). The system suffers from a rising overaccumulation (surplus) of capital.

Reese notes that, although wages and corporate taxes have been slashed, the exploitability of labour continued to become increasingly insufficient to meet the demands of capital accumulation. By late 2019, the world economy was suffocating under a mountain of debt. Many companies could not generate enough profit and falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflows and highly leveraged balance sheets were prevalent. In effect, economic growth was already grinding to a halt prior to the massive stock market crash in February 2020.

In the form of COVID ‘relief’, there has been a multi-trillion bailout for capitalism as well as the driving of smaller enterprises to bankruptcy. Or they have being swallowed up by global interests. Either way, the likes of Amazon and other predatory global corporations have been the winners.

New ‘green’ Ponzi trading schemes to offset carbon emissions and commodify ‘ecoservices’ along with electric vehicles and an ‘energy transition’ represent a further restructuring of the capitalist economy, resulting in a shift away from a consumer oriented demand-led system.

It essentially leaves those responsible for environmental degradation at the wheel, imposing their will and their narrative on the rest of us.

Global agribusiness

Between 2000 and 2009, Indonesia supplied more than half of the global palm oil market at an annual expense of some 340,000 hectares of Indonesian countryside. Consider too that Brazil and Indonesia have spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid from the UN to prevent it.

These two countries gave over $40bn in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012, some 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rain forests.

India is the world’s leading importer of palm oil, accounting for around 15% of the global supply. It imports over two-­thirds of its palm oil from Indonesia.

Until the mid-1990s, India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils. Under pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO), import tariffs were reduced, leading to an influx of cheap (subsidised) edible oil imports that domestic farmers could not compete with. This was a deliberate policy that effectively devastated the home-grown edible oils sector and served the interests of palm oil growers and US grain and agriculture commodity company Cargill, which helped write international trade rules to secure access to the Indian market on its terms.

Indonesia leads the world in global palm oil production, but palm oil plantations have too often replaced tropical forests, leading to the killing of endangered species and the uprooting of local communities as well as contributing to the release of potential environment-damaging gases. Indonesia emits more of these gases than any country besides China and the US, largely due to the production of palm oil.

The issue of palm oil is one example from the many that could be provided to highlight how the drive to facilitate corporate need and profit trumps any notion of environmental protection or addressing any ‘climate emergency’. Whether it is in Indonesia, Latin America or elsewhere, transnational agribusiness – and the system of globalised industrial commodity crop agriculture it promotes – fuels much of the destruction we see today.

Even if the mass production of lab-created food, under the guise of ‘saving the planet’ and ‘sustainability’, becomes logistically possible (which despite all the hype is not at this stage), it may still need biomass and huge amounts of energy. Whose land will be used to grow these biomass commodities and which food crops will they replace? And will it involve that now-famous Gates’ euphemism ‘land mobility’ (farmers losing their land)?

Microsoft is already mapping Indian farmers’ lands and capturing agriculture datasets such as crop yields, weather data, farmers’ personal details, profile of land held (cadastral maps, farm size, land titles, local climatic and geographical conditions), production details (crops grown, production history, input history, quality of output, machinery in possession) and financial details (input costs, average return, credit history).

Is this an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who find themselves ‘land mobile’? This is a major concern among farmers and civil society in India.

Back in 2017, agribusiness giant Monsanto was judged to have engaged in practices that impinged on the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health. Judges at the ‘Monsanto Tribunal’, held in The Hague, concluded that if ecocide were to be formally recognised as a crime in international criminal law, Monsanto could be found guilty.

The tribunal called for the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law. However, it was also careful to note that an existing set of legal rules serves to protect investors’ rights in the framework of the WTO and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free trade agreements. These investor trade rights provisions undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human rights and the environment and represent a disturbing shift in power.

The tribunal denounced the severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations.

While the Monsanto Tribunal judged that company to be guilty of human rights violations, including crimes against the environment, in a sense we also witnessed global capitalism on trial.

Global conglomerates can only operate as they do because of a framework designed to allow them to capture or co-opt governments and regulatory bodies and to use the WTO and bilateral trade deals to lever influence. As Jason Hickel notes in his book (previously referred to), old-style colonialism may have gone but governments in the Global North and its corporations have found new ways to assert dominance via leveraging aid, market access and ‘philanthropic’ interventions to force lower income countries to do what they want.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ and its ongoing commitment to an unjust model of globalisation is an example of this and a recipe for further plunder and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few.

Brazil and Indonesia have subsidised private corporations to effectively destroy the environment through their practices. Canada and the UK are working with the GMO biotech sector to facilitate its needs. And India is facilitating the destruction of its agrarian base according to World Bank directives for the benefit of the likes of Corteva and Cargill.

The TRIPS Agreement, written by Monsanto, and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, written by Cargill, was key to a new era of corporate imperialism. It came as little surprise that in 2013 India’s then Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accused US companies of derailing the nation’s oil seeds production programme.

Powerful corporations continue to regard themselves as the owners of people, the planet and the environment and as having the right – enshrined in laws and agreements they wrote – to exploit and devastate for commercial gain.

Partnership or co-option?

It was noticeable during a debate on food and agriculture at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that there was much talk about transforming the food system through partnerships and agreements. Fine-sounding stuff, especially when the role of agroecology and regenerative farming was mentioned.

However, if, for instance, the interests you hope to form partnerships with are coercing countries to eradicate their essential buffer food stocks then bid for such food on the global market with US dollars (as in India) or are lobbying for the enclosure of seeds through patents (as in Africa and elsewhere), then surely this deliberate deepening of dependency should be challenged; otherwise ‘partnership’ really means co-option.

Similarly, the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that took place during September in New York was little more than an enabler of corporate needs. The UNFSS was founded on a partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum and was disproportionately influenced by corporate actors.

Those granted a pivotal role at the UNFSS support industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive pesticide use and commodity crop monocultures, all of which cause soil deterioration, water contamination and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and human health. And this will continue as long as the environmental effects can be ‘offset’ or these practices can be twisted on the basis of them somehow being ‘climate-friendly’.

Critics of the UNFSS offer genuine alternatives to the prevailing food system. In doing so, they also provide genuine solutions to climate-related issues and food injustice based on notions of food sovereignty, localisation and a system of food cultivation deriving from agroecological principles and practices. Something which people who organised the climate summit in Glasgow would do well to bear in mind.

Current greenwashed policies are being sold by tugging at the emotional heartstrings of the public. This green agenda, with its lexicon of ‘sustainability’, ‘carbon neutrality’, ‘net-zero’ and doom-laden forecasts, is part of a programme that seeks to restructure capitalism, to create new investment markets and instruments and to return the system to viable levels of profitability.

The post Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet?  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Indigenous Leaders in Nicaragua Speak Out Against Western Media and NGOs

Nicaragua has an election to choose their president and national assembly on November 7. According to polls, the Sandinista Front (FSLN) currently in government is expected to win the presidency and a majority of seats in the assembly.

At the same time, the Sandinista government is intensely disliked by Washington and there has been a steady stream of negative news and accusations.

One theme of accusations concerns the indigenous peoples. In October 2020, PBS Newshour broadcast an episode claiming the US is importing “conflict beef” from the indigenous regions of Nicaragua. This story relied on an Oakland Institute report which alleges rampant violence against indigenous communities and a complicit Nicaraguan government.

The PBS story and Oakland Institute accusations were criticized at the time, but there was no retraction or serious response.

One month later, in November 2020,  Stephen Sefton travelled to eastern Nicaragua to interview indigenous community leaders and determine the facts. He asked the elected indigenous leaders about the situation, the challenges and whether the PBS story and Oakland Institute reports were accurate.

Sefton,  a community worker who has lived in Nicaragua for 25 years, has published the interviews in a 79-page PDF booklet titled “Nicaragua’s Indigenous Peoples: the Reality and the Neocolonial Lies”.

Sefton interviewed an impressive set of indigenous leaders. With photos below they are:

Arisio Genaro Selso (President  Mayangan Indigenous Territorial Government);

Eloy Frank Gomez (Secretary Mayangna Indigenous Territorial Government);

Fresly Janes Zamora (President of the Miskito Indigenous Territorial Government Twi Yabra);

Ronald Whittingham Dennis (President of the Indigenous and Afro Descendant Territorial Government Karata);

Rose Cunningham Kain (Mayor of Waspam and President of the Indigenous Territorial Government of Wanghi Awala Kupia);

Dr. Loyda del Carmen Martinez Rodriguez (District Judge of Waspam, Rio Coco);

Lejan Mora (President of Indigenous Territorial Government of Wangki Twi / Tasba Raya).

Nicaragua’s Autonomous Zones

In 1987, the Sandinista government passed Law 28 which gave legal support to indigenous land claims. After the Sandinistas lost a hotly contested election in 1990,  neoliberal policies took over and progress on indigenous claims was stopped and reversed.  In 2005, the FSLN was still in opposition but secured passage of Law 445.

As a result of these laws, approximately 31% of Nicaragua’s territory is considered communal property owned by the indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of the country.

*****

Key Questions and Answers

Are cattle being raised for export in the autonomous zones?

Rose Cunningham Kain:

Cattle here have been like pets in other countries. And little by little we have been making a shift to having more cattle. But here there has been no certification process to permit meat exports.

The people here supply the local market and, as often as not with some difficulty, we manage to find someone who wants to butcher their cattle for the local market. Of course, in the last few years we have been encouraging people to improve their cattle stock, so that IPSA (Institute of Agricultural Protection and Health) can do its work teaching us how to improve our cattle rearing.

But we keep animals on a very small scale. So, this report saying that settlers are killing us for land to raise cattle on is not true either. That is not true. Not one cattle rancher has died here, not one Miskito involved in any kind of cattle related killing. It’s a Disney World story, maybe, a Mickey Mouse story, who knows. But it is not a real story of this municipality Waspam or any of these municipalities where there are indigenous peoples.

What about media claims that a little girl was shot in the face by a land invader? 

Lejan Mora:

In that case, a 13-year-old boy was handling his father’s handgun inside the house. The gun went off and the bullet pierced through here and came out here on a nearby girl.  What did they do when that accident happened? The creators of fake news took charge of spreading the word through the media, through Facebook, claiming that a lot of men appeared, 200 men and attacked the community. And we showed that was false. We went to the house and to the community.

We interviewed people. We even visited the site where it happened. Everything was false. But that information spread internationally as if it was something real, which is untrue. Today even we could go… if we go to the community, we can go and talk also to the mother of the girl about what happened, and she can tell us the truth.

Some mestizo farmers purchased land in the indigenous regions.  How did this happen?

Eloy Frank Gomez:

Yatama (indigenous opposition political party) mayors and deputies of Yatama were involved in the sale of indigenous lands. The community members didn’t know. The mestizos came in big numbers, families after families entering indigenous territories, for example, in the area of the Rio Coco.

In certain areas of our communities in the Bosawas Reserve, which borders with Miskito land, many mestizo settlers came to enter our Mayangna lands. But how? Through these sales authorized by politicians from Yatama.

It’s no secret that Liberal mayors and municipalities with mayors opposed to the government also promoted land trafficking, even financed organized groups, armed groups to invade indigenous lands and to dispossess the indigenous people of their lands. There is evidence of that.

Lejan Mora:

YATAMA leaders were the ones who started selling land. We have documents showing they were the vendors. Who were the buyers? People from the Pacific, who don’t have land. So, they began selling, they began doing business, and that is where the problem of land invasion arose.

How are relations between indigenous and mestizo settlers?

Fresly Janes Zamora:

From the 1980s to date, if that person lives in that area, in that community, they already know the language, the culture, they already live with the same culture. The children, for example, are already over 30 years old. So, all these things give them that right.

But what happened? The problem of the invasions started after the year 2000. It was difficult for the communities… they didn’t even have the authority to make decisions. So, what happens then? From 2013 onwards, we do have that dominion.

We have that dominion, and we do still have that conflict, not with the government, not with the State of Nicaragua, but the people, the mestizos themselves are invading properties. Because as I told you, we conserve areas. Our ancestors, that is our culture. We are few but we have large tracts of land, because they are the areas where we go out to hunt animals, to sow our crops, to fish. So, these are areas where we as indigenous peoples abide. That is our culture.

So, we now have the title. We have … dominion, we do have now, and the government, the State recognizes it. The only problem we have is that sometimes outsiders want to invade us or are invading our property. So, something that we must teach them is to recognize that they are our lands, and that this land is not empty and unclaimed.

It has an owner. And the owner is the indigenous peoples. Therefore, although they do need land, they must coordinate, to reach an arrangement, to engage in dialogue, a negotiation with the owners

Sometimes we have a conflict. With two or three of the ten mestizos that are within our lands, not all of them agree to recognize us. Always, in everything, there are two or three families that do not agree, that do not want to recognize us. So, what do we do?

When this is the case, we visit the place, because it is our land, and we go in a commission to explain to them the internal regulations of our communities, or the internal regulations of the territory. If they agree, we can reach an understanding.

We can sit down and start a dialogue, negotiate. Because the lands cannot be sold, even if I want to sell, I cannot, even if I want to give them away, I cannot. Because that’s a crime. But yes, the land can be leased.

So, what we are doing is, as Twi Yabra, we are leasing land. We are leasing land, after several lawsuits, there was even bloodshed.  But what good is that?

Rose Cunningham Kain:

Here in Waspam we are practicing coexistence with those who have come to settle in Waspam. So, in this municipality we have different models of relations with non-indigenous peoples, with non-indigenous settlers. At this moment in the context of the hurricane, we have also had news of agricultural losses these non-indigenous people have suffered too. And as the mayor’s office we have to listen to them because they are Nicaraguan citizens. They have human rights. They are human too.

What is true is that we always call on them to reach agreement with the indigenous peoples. Either they leave or they come to an agreement with the owners of the land. The last violent activity must have been in about 2013/14. We have not had violent activities in this part of our territory. Here we have seen meetings where people speak their minds. We have documented meetings that have taken place in the mountains between non-indigenous settlers and indigenous settlers where 17 communities, leaders of 17 communities, come together and walk to meet at a certain point.

The last stage of the transition in the autonomous zones is remediation (‘saneamiento’). What is the status of this?

Lejan Mora:

We’re in the last phase of the remediation, which is clearing the boundaries, the inter-territorial limits and so on. So, we are at that stage right now. I remember very well indeed that in 2015 there were clashes between Miskitos and those who were invading the land.

The political opposition are insisting on self-remediation. So, the people in the communities rise up, get involved in confrontations, and then they persist, and that’s how it happened that, I think there have been four or three deaths, something like that.

We invited the settlers and we sat there under a tree. We started to make a presentation of the real situation there because they know very well they are on land that does not belong to them, we presented this to them. And we have shown them what and how might be the most appropriate way forward. It is a negotiated way, not through confrontations or anything like that.

We talked and reached an agreement that… because there are people who have been on that land for several years. And that land where they are located, they got it because another territory sold it. One territory agreed the sale, but it is a piece of land that belongs to a different territory.

So, it is a bit of a complicated situation. So, we talked with them, and precisely this coming Wednesday we have planned to go and prepare the ground for to another type of approach, namely leasing. We as the territory of Wangki Twi have not yet taken that approach but seeing the situation and to alleviate it a little, we must take that step. To what end? To a point we regard as feasible for creating a calmer and more durable situation, so that there are no conflicts.

What about “self-remediation”?

Fresly Janes Zamora:

The opposition is promoting violence between indigenous and mestizos… Self-remediation means promoting violence between indigenous against mestizos.

So, when they throw a stone, someone else will throw stones.

Why do they send NGOs and programs for this? … On paper it says one thing, but on the ground it’s something else. That’s it. So that’s what they are promoting. When there is no fire, there is no money. As I told you, things are calm, things are resolved, but that’s what they do.

So, we as Twi Yabra territory are against those people. That is why we are not involved with any organization. Because at the beginning we thought they entered in good faith to support us. But during the execution of these projects, of these visits, which they did in my absence, they were already doing other things. We immediately prohibited their visits to our communities because they were trying to destabilize the structure of the territorial government, the structure of the communal authorities and at the same time to bring violence between the Miskito peoples and outsiders, so we are against it.

When do you negotiate with non-indigenous people?

Ronald Whittingham Dennis:

There are people who say remediation is to clear out, to get everyone out …. But some people say no, remediation is to seek an understanding, to remediate is to reach an understanding. And part of that understanding is the well-known term of reordering. That is the concept.

So, what does it mean to reorder? It is not that the mestizos or the outsiders that are within your territory, within your area, that they are going to decide where they are going to be. You will tell them where they are going to be. That is reordering. And how much you can give in the portion of land. That is the zoning.

It is a component for solving problems. Now in that reordering you also have to see who will go and who can stay. That is reordering.

The State provides that through the Army and the Army’s Ecological Battalion, and no territory can say that’s not the case. They have indeed provided accompaniment. They have provided accompaniment.

If a member of the community sold a certain portion of land for whatever reason, you are forced to sit down and negotiate. To see what can be done. And to negotiate you have to do so in a spirit of wanting to solve the problem. But if there is no will to resolve the problem rather than to create more problem, then you will never solve the problem.

So, you have to look for strategies on how you are going to resolve it. Because these people who have already, imagine, who have already come to live here for fourteen years, fifteen years, they came to plant their crops, they have their own livestock, they have their animals, they are already well established.

And that is what we in the territories have to understand. The damage is already done. What we have to look for is how to resolve the problem.

What happens to settlers who are violent or refuse to leave the indigenous areas?

Dr. Loyda del Carmen Martinez Rodriguez:

The State has vindicated the indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ right to the land, and the State is also a guarantor in the efforts to secure social peace in our country and in our region. It is a process in which the State has guaranteed and has given those peoples this right, but the political opposition always does not see this. They also say that the cases we have prosecuted are of little importance. But no. The indigenous peoples are being protected and the rights the indigenous peoples are being vindicated. And the State has contributed a great deal to this because no other government had ever recognized the indigenous peoples, giving them a title to what before was only private property, where only the oligarchy and the bourgeoisie had the right to own land.

Also, I have participated in dialogue between mestizos and Miskitos in which there are territories that want to resolve the remediation process by means of a leasing agreement with the territory. They make the proposal, then the territory, its president will decide if they are going to lease or not. So, we have carried out these procedures as a judicial authority… by way of accompaniment, then. So, you see, we have participated listening to both parties, the mayor of the municipality has invited me to participate and listen to proposals made by the non-indigenous party.

Likewise, we have made progress in this aspect of property remediation, and we are not trying to drag it out, although the opposition always sees it like that. But there has been a lot of progress, because there is a dialogue between mestizos and Miskitos in which the State guarantees as established in Law 445 that those communities, that now have their legal title, can lease their land and that is allowed by law. But this is something that as regards the State and the territories, each territory president is able say whether they want to lease or not.

Lejan Mora:

We’ve stopped the invasion that was taking place.  By applying that law, we are able to get people imprisoned via a judicial process. We get them imprisoned and they end up with three-year prison terms.

And that is how we are trying to calm the situation. And later, we seek to reach a peaceful solution, without confrontations or anything else. The issue of territorial rights here in Nicaragua is something new for us. What the current government has done for us is a very good thing.

What is the role of foreign funded NGOs?

Arisio Genaro Selso:

There are organizations, NGOs that use the name of the indigenous peoples and indigenous organizations to make accusations against the government, to denigrate the government, to try to destroy the government’s image and that of the work it does within the protected areas, for example, in the case of the Río San Juan, for example, or in the case of the Indio Maíz Reserve, and here in the case of the Bosawas Reserve.

Rose Cunningham Kain:

I think that, like this person, there are many who take advantage of the poverty and conflict of others. That is not and never has been the spirit of the creation of non-governmental organizations. For me, non-governmental organizations should not want to profit from poverty or people’s conflicts. And when I say poverty, it’s not that we are poor.

We have been impoverished by the same people who have funded the people who say that we live in conflict.

It is a big lie. We have not had that kind of conflict for many years. We are building peace. Peace is not just words. Peace is a process. And the social reinsertion after the eighties, when the counterrevolution was also financed from the north, that peace process that led us to Autonomy, we continue to weave it, we continue to build it, and we continue to strengthen it. And today, after 33 years of Autonomy, we feel, and I feel proud to see how our community leaders are able to give you an interview and tell you the reality. And they know where the bad is and where the good is.

What is the role of the Center for Justice and Human Rights in the Atlantic District of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN) and its leader Lottie Cunningham?

Arisio Genaro Selso:

CEJUDHCAN is not the institution she claims or projects at the international level, as an organization or institution defending indigenous rights.

Why doesn’t she ever consult us? Why doesn’t she come to the communities to consult us? Why not our national leadership, which is who we are, leading the national government of the Mayangna Nation, or else to the presidents in our territorial governments…? She is not present. She speaks from afar. She uses the indigenous name. She uses it without having been there when the events are taking place. For example, when the Alal case occurred, up there in the Reserve, she said that the government was not defending the indigenous people.

In practice, Lottie works with opposition activists. They are people who live as we Nicaraguans say, making accusations against the government, talking badly about the government. So, she takes that and exploits it to say that the government does such and such, but really if it were the organization, she says it is, she should be open to consultation. But she is not. She just turns up for a short while. And sometimes she exaggerates things. And she makes use of the indigenous peoples.

Fresly Janes Zamora:

CEJUDHCAN does training on the rights of indigenous peoples. But at the same time, they have another interest. Two programs came to my territory, that they are going to help me, that are going to help me with remediation, this, and that… We said, look, these are our conditions and priorities. So, help me on such and such a matter.

For example, when in my second year as president, they saw things were going to improve, change, become more formalized, they did not like that. Why? Well, as long as there are incidents, then there are conflicts, so for them that means there is always funding. So, what did I do? I told them, I sent two letters, saying that we want nothing to do with them. We no longer want to have a relationship with them.

Lejan Mora:

I have seen the video that Lottie released. She says every pound of meat that sold to the United States is a drop of blood of the Miskito. Which is totally false. I don’t know what her objective is in spreading so many lies. Because it has nothing to do with anything real, nothing at all. These are not right. I mean, a lie of such magnitude.

How are relations between the indigenous leaders and the Nicaragua government?

Arisio Genaro Selso:

Before there was this great project for Bosawas it was worse. There was no consultation, the decisions weren’t taken by the indigenous communities.

Now things are different. This is an opportunity for the indigenous peoples, this recognition, this respect of the government towards indigenous institutions, towards indigenous peoples.  This also allows indigenous peoples to participate directly and broadly in the decisions that are being taken.

Progress has been made. Why? Because the government authorized the creation of a body within the courts, namely the figure of Defenders of Indigenous Peoples was created, wherever there is the presence of indigenous population. What is the function of these Defenders? It is the direct accompaniment these Defenders provide to the indigenous organizations for the judicial process of settlers, those who are destroying the environment, all these types of cases. So, there is greater accompaniment.

And the other important element is that we have also achieved within the judiciary, our indigenous officials also hold positions in the courts. So now the recent appointments of the Defenders of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples are also indigenous people who speak the indigenous languages. That is the other element, which for us is vital.

The government has guaranteed that in all the municipalities where indigenous peoples are present, there will also be functionaries who speak indigenous languages.

Summary

Readers who are interested to learn more facts and perspectives on the situation in Nicaragua’s autonomous regions are encouraged to read Sefton’s entire book.  While there is much in common, the indigenous leaders have different experiences and perspectives on certain issues. There are many rich insights and subtleties in the full text. What comes through very clearly is that the news and analysis of the situation in Nicaragua is being hugely distorted.

In the last month (October 2021) a violent attack took place in the Bosawas indigenous territory.  Again, Stephen Sefton travelled to the remote area by car and horse to ascertain the facts about what really happened. It turns out that the conflict was over a mining operation and both the victims and perpetrators were indigenous. This is documented in Sefton’s article “The Truth about Recent Violence in Bosawas”. From the misinformation about “conflict beef” and other accusations last year, to the recent events in Bosawas, the common thread is that information about Nicaragua is being manipulated for geopolitical ends. That is why these first person interviews and statements from indigenous leaders are so crucial to hear.

USAID Photo

The post Indigenous Leaders in Nicaragua Speak Out Against Western Media and NGOs first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Masters of Illusion: Sociopathy from the Very Rich on Down

Nothing Changes With the Rich!

You just can’t make this stuff up as a fiction writer (also, see below, at the end of this piece**). Demonic, but sturdy. Boring actuarial folk, or in this guy’s case, making loot illegally in the legal channel that is Illegal Wall Street:

Thomas Peterffy became one of the world’s richest people by mastering risk on Wall Street. Building his Mediterranean-style mansion seven years ago on a vulnerable stretch of Florida’s Palm Beach Island was a matter of seeing the odds clearly once again. The consequences of climate change will play out over decades, and Peterffy is 76 years old.

“I don’t have a care about it at all,” he said over lunch at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, just down the street from his home. “If something needs to be done to save it,” he added, “it’s not going to be my problem.” The founder of Interactive Brokers Group has a fortune of more than $21 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Thomas Peterffy with Lynne Wheat in Palm Beach in 2017 (Nick Mele/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)

Glaser is building a new waterfront mansion designed by architect Kobi Karp, replacing a now-demolished estate owned by Jeffrey Epstein.
Seawall installation at property on the intracoastal in Palm Beach.

Nice guy, uh? And even younger ones, in the billionaire class, they whisper that, though they do have bullshit smoke and mirrors philanthropies and foundations to, well, shelter taxes and corrupt the world more with their sociopathy. In the old days, it would have been, “Eat the Rich,” “Kill the Rich,” “Banish the Rich.” Now, though, since they have created a vampire class of millionaires and media mental midgets with millions stashed away, the Rich Are a Protected Class. Until we get daily reminders of the collective insanity of Western culture, Western capitalism, Western cults. This is the rich, giving a damn about the future, or, spending millions and billions on their vaults and prison garden homes. Then, there are 10,000 in Del Rio, Texass:

a group of people in a forest: Large Migration Surge Crosses Rio Grande Into Del Rio, Texas

The temporary camp has grown six-fold since Monday and more migrants are expected in the coming days. Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano made a disaster declaration Friday. “I had thought that the alarm was sent on Monday. This is setting the nuclear bomb alarm that this is no longer sustainable or acceptable,” he said. Congressman Tony Gonzales, a Texas Republican, is calling on the Biden administration to come up with a solution for the chaos. “Please get engaged, get involved, do something. This is unsustainable. This is not America. This is not the way things should be,” he said. “Folks are coming over and across as if there is no border.” Also Friday, CBP closed the Del Rio Port of Entry and re-routed traffic.

Elevating a property in Palm Beach.

Elevating a property in Palm Beach.

I have years of writing about and researching urban planning, regional planning, all the gold, silver, platinum of LEED/Sustainability/New Urbanism building. It is a mighty thing to have a few degrees from elite schools (my schools, they are not elite), and then getting placed into the star chambers of planning, architecture and design. To the point of, the Eichmanns are deep into this lie, and there is really, the way they want smart cities and internet of bodies for the future, no global warming, no global climate chaos, no collapsing systems, water shortages, deaths in the millions annually just from air pollutants. No deaths in the hundreds of thousands because of higher and higher bulb temperatures. No reality about water shortages, failing sewage treatment, endless fires, pests-poisons-pestilence vis-a-vis profits at any cost, at costs to anyone or anything, albeit, not against the elite and star chamber folk. The reality is if you believe in capitalism, in all for one, or that technology is going to get us out of the muck, then, you are a denier. The worse kind!

If this doesn’t tell it all, here we are, the great profession (sic) of planners (misshapers, building and real estate protection racketeers) having yet another fake event, virtually. Imagine that, so planners are supposed to be on the land, in the muck, in neighborhoods, looking at systems, ecosystems, people, communities, towns and mega-cities, and, here the gutless wonders are, well, hiding again, in underwear and Snoopy slippers. This was a group I was sort of a member of when I was getting my graduate degree in , well, urban and regional planning:

Save the Date: 2021 OAPA/APA WA Virtual Joint Planning Conference

The 2021 conference continues with the theme of Growing Together Virtually, recognizing the importance and challenges of planning for evolving communities, large and small, in these challenging and polarizing times. The conference will offer more sessions than last year, allowing for greater variety in session content.

Oh, in polite company, we can’t call this a bunch of fucking shit, no? All the communities now within communities, the so-called subcommunities, struggling with forced jabs, forced passports, forced scrutiny, forced surveillance, facial recognition just to enter a football game or concert. Work, sure, servicing those maskless wonders with masks on, but not enough cash to pay the rent, or, all the cash for the rent. No health care, nothing of those safety nets that the RICH have, and do not get goofy on me to profess that the rich do not have entire lobbies upon lobbies in their sophisticated protection racket. The planners — many of them looking for sustainability and gardens and walkability and healthy small downsized living — in the end buckle under the weight of bureaucracy and the rich and powerful controlling the narrative and their own money stream. Look, I understand that every arena I have entered into since, oh, age 13, those places are sacred to liberals, lights, conservative, lights, and that I would also be an outlier or outcast anywhere, or the enemy in some regard, but now, it is way beyond “enemy” or “persona non grata” I represent. It is a matter of outcasting, men, an untouchable, while the APA-WA branch, peddles more lies, meaningless doublespeak:

“What is Planning? Planning is a dynamic profession that works to improve the welfare of people and their communities. Professional planners make great communities happen by working with civic leaders, businesses, and citizens to envision new possibilities and solutions to community problems.”

I wonder what the planners might do around those Haitians, all those cities that are in disrepair, all the rough sleepers, the homeless-in-vehicles, the sheltered-in-basements/garages/hotels. How to plan, man, those smart cities, those hipster places, those virtual venues, the Zoom Rooms, the isolation chambers, the places of mediocrity sold as cutting edge Musk-Apple joints. Imagine, maybe in a year, the Planners can hook into the Bezos Ejaculatory Space Suit Freaks, and have a live feed with Bezos and ask him what’s next in planning cities around his Gestapo-Gulag-Retail-Surveillance-Cloud world. In so many ways, I found the planning profession to be vapid, dead of creativity, and certainly no rabble rousers or deep thinkers in the bunch. They talk a good talk, but in the end, their jobs are the work of the real estate, developer, building and construction lobbies, and the planners I know would never speak up at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. They are the epitome of Eichmann, updated and retrofitted for Cancel Culture and Oh So Hip Stylists.

How about his Salem group, Salem for Refugees? You think planners would want to create grants for people like me to study the dynamics of community building-engagement-employment around these newest immigrants?


With the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, thousands of people are fleeing their home and looking for protection in the US. We have been preparing for refugees and SIV cases. Now we are preparing to also provide resettlement services for individuals who have been identified as special risk (journalists, NGO workers, humanitarian workers, political activists, etc.). Due to the rapid nature of the situation, this group of individuals will have a special Parolee status which will allow for immediate work authorization but limited access to State social services or Medicaid benefits. We need your help in bridging this gap and providing for the needs of these people. In an effort to bring Afghan Evacuees to Salem, the State Department has given us an early approval as an affiliate of World Relief and we are now an official Resettlement Agency! We will begin receiving cases through the Afghanistan Placement Assistance Program and in January for all other refugees through the Reception and Placement program!

The good old days when we truly hated the rich:

In 1920, Wall Street reporter Edwin Lefèvre derided “some wretchedly rich people” in a Post article called “The Annoyances of Being Rich Today.” Without naming names, Lefèvre detailed conversations with bankers and heirs about their gripes with imperfect service and ungrateful butlers. One rich man told the author that he feared a revolution was afoot after he asked a waiter for bread and — instead of silent obedience — the response came: “Sure thing!” Others complained about accusations of vanity or the prospect of their service staff seeking higher wages.

Lefèvre sums up the groans of the plutocrats by casting wealth as a sort of illness:

I am convinced that there is a definite social disease which we may call gold poisoning. When a man has too much gold, some of it gets into the system; through the pores, it almost seems. It causes deafness and affects the sight. These ailments, gold deafness and gold blindness, are responsible for most of the annoyances of which the stricken rich so bitterly complain today. Instead of seeing or hearing, they are merely aware of a rumbling sound—the tread of their fellow men marching toward them, armed with bombs, bitterness, and taxes.

Newspaper article

John Stuart Mill called the rich, “the unearned excrement.” Oh, what a day it would be to see that again, lifted up high, daily, in the media, but this is a world of valorizing the rich, listening to the liars and grifters — the thespians — and all the handlers, the hangers-on the rich-super rich employ to massage their messages.

Larry Glickman, a professor of history at Cornell University, says he has used this clip in one of his classes to illustrate the criticism of so-called robber barons of the late nineteenth century: “In the Gilded Age, ‘capitalist’ was really a term given by its enemies to people who had earned wealth in an unfair, immoral way, so a lot of small business men said something similar to what Hickenlooper said.” Glickman says the distrust of robber barons (or capitalists) comes back to the question of hard work. “There was this idea that you had labor producing things, and that accumulating wealth through honest production was a good thing,” he says, “but there was a new class of people called capitalists getting their wealth through unproductive, exploitative ways.” (Saturday Evening Post).

** So, Bloomberg the Billionaire with Billionaire Bloomberg News, has the answer for inequities, which in any other language is, well, wage theft, tax fraud, tax evasion, thievery of a general nature, war profiteering, penury, slave/sweatshop economy. The news just continues with these abhorrent items:

Amazon’s massive new distribution centers, soon to be surrounded by infrastructure built to serve workers, are being compared to Gilded Age company towns. While many are aghast at the idea, fellow billionaires are praising it.

The e-commerce empire founded by Jeff Bezos will offer the American working class a better option than scraping to get by in increasingly expensive cities, investment adviser Conor Sen wrote in a Friday oped for Bloomberg, the financial news outlet whose namesake is billionaire former New York mayor and failed presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.

“Let’s call them ‘factory towns,’” Sen suggests, apparently in an effort to avoid the baggage that accompanies the concept of “company towns.” Popular in the late 19th century among the new breed of mega-corporations – railroads, steel mills, and the like – many of these dormitory communities held workers as veritable prisoners, paying them in scrip that was only redeemable at the company-run store and retaining groups of thuggish Pinkerton “detectives” to stamp out any attempts to unionize. (source)

Yet, Bezos is a joke with the power of deflection, the power of the rich to believe his own dirty secrets of domination. No number of jokes piled on by the millionaire comedian class or insightful (sic) commentaries by the millionaire presstitutes can buckle the Amazon formula. Here, the sweatshops of Amazon, providing slaves with, well, boxes of time out:

Amazon offers 'wellness chamber' for stressed staff - BBC News

 

The post Masters of Illusion: Sociopathy from the Very Rich on Down first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Smashing The Heads of Farmers: A Global Struggle Against Tyranny

According to Reuters, more than 500,000 farmers attended a rally in the city of Muzaffarnagar in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on 5 September. Hundreds of thousands more turned out for other rallies in the state.

Rakesh Tikait, a prominent farmers’ leader, said this would breathe fresh life into the Indian farmers’ protest movement.

He added:

We will intensify our protest by going to every single city and town of Uttar Pradesh to convey the message that Modi’s government is anti-farmer.

Tikait is a leader of the protest movement and a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Indian Farmers’ Union).

Since November 2020, tens of thousands of farmers have been encamped on the outskirts of Delhi in protest against three new farm laws that will effectively hand over the agrifood sector to corporates and place India at the mercy of international commodity and financial markets for its food security.

Aside from the rallies in Uttar Pradesh, thousands more farmers recently gathered in Karnal in the state of Haryana to continue to pressurise the Modi-led government to repeal the laws. This particular protest was also in response to police violence during another demonstration, also in Karnal (200 km north of Delhi), during late August when farmers had been blocking a highway. The police Lathi-charged them and at least 10 people were injured and one person died from a heart attack a day later.

A video that appeared on social media showed Ayush Sinha, a top government official, encouraging officers to “smash the heads of farmers” if they broke through the barricades placed on the highway.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar criticised the choice of words but said that “strictness had to be maintained to ensure law and order”.

But that is not quite true. “Strictness” – outright brutality – must be imposed to placate the scavengers abroad who are circling overhead with India’s agrifood sector firmly in their sights. As much as the authorities try to distance themselves from such language – ‘smashing heads’ is precisely what India’s rulers and the billionaire owners of foreign agrifood corporations require.

The government has to demonstrate to global agricapital that it is being tough on farmers in order to maintain ‘market confidence’ and attract foreign direct investment in the sector (aka the takeover of the sector).

The farmers’ protest in India represents a struggle for the heart and soul of the country: a conflict between the local and the global. Large-scale international agribusiness, retailers, traders and e-commerce companies are trying to displace small- and medium-size indigenous producers and enterprises and restructure the entire agrifood sector in their own image.

By capitulating to the needs of foreign agrifood conglomerates – which is what the three agriculture laws represent – India will be compelled to eradicate its buffer food stocks. It would then bid for them with borrowed funds on the open market or with its foreign reserves.

This approach is symptomatic of what has been happening since the 1990s, when India was compelled to embrace neoliberal economics. The country has become increasingly dependent on inflows of foreign capital. Policies are being governed by the drive to attract and retain foreign investment and maintain ‘market confidence’ by ceding to the demands of international capital which rides roughshod over democratic principles and the needs of hundreds of millions of ordinary people.

The authorities know they must be seen to be acting tough on farmers, thereby demonstrating a steely resolve to foreign agribusiness and investors in general.

The Indian government’s willingness to cede control of its agrifood sector would appear to represent a victory for US foreign policy.

Economist Prof Michael Hudson stated in 2014:

American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports… It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

On the back of India’s foreign exchange crisis in the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. In return for up to more than $120 billion in loans at the time, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

The drive is to drastically dilute the role of the public sector in agriculture, reducing it to a facilitator of private capital and leading to the entrenchment of industrial farming and the replacement of small-scale farms.

Smashing protesters’ heads

A December 2020 photograph published by the Press Trust of India defines the Indian government’s approach to protesting farmers. It shows a security official in paramilitary garb raising a lathi. An elder from the Sikh farming community was about to feel its full force.

But “smashing the heads of farmers” is symbolic of how near-totalitarian ‘liberal democracies’ the world over now regard many within their own populations.

The right to protest and gather in public as well as the right of free speech has been suspended in Australia, which currently resembles a giant penal colony as officials pursue a nonsensical ‘zero-COVID’ policy. Across Europe and in the US and Israel, unnecessary and discriminatory ‘COVID passports’ are being rolled out to restrict freedom of movement and access to services. And those who protest against any of this are often confronted by a massive, intimidating police presence (or actual police violence) and media smear campaigns.

Again, governments must demonstrate resolve to their billionaire masters in Big Finance, the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, the World Economic Forum and the entire gamut of forces in the military-financial industrial complex behind the ‘Great Reset’, ‘4th Industrial Revolution, ‘New Normal’ or whichever other benign-sounding term its political and media lackeys use to disguise the restructuring of capitalism and the brutal impacts on ordinary people.

This too, like the restructuring of Indian agriculture – which will affect India’s entire 1.3-billion-plus population – is also part of a US foreign policy agenda that serves the interests of the Anglo-US elite.

COVID has ensured that trillions of dollars have been handed over to elite interests, while lockdowns and restrictions have been imposed on ordinary people and small businesses. The winners have been the likes of Amazon, Big Pharma and the tech giants. The losers have been small enterprises and the bulk of the population, deprived of their right to work and the entire panoply of civil rights their ancestors struggled and often died for. If a masterplan is required to deliver a knockout blow to small enterprises for the benefit of global players, then this is it.

Professor Michel Cossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalization says:

The Global Money financial institutions are the ‘creditors’ of the real economy which is in crisis. The closure of the global economy has triggered a process of global indebtedness. Unprecedented in World history, a multi-trillion bonanza of dollar denominated debts is hitting simultaneously the national economies of 193 countries.

In August 2020, a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) stated:

The COVID-19 crisis has severely disrupted economies and labour markets in all world regions, with estimated losses of working hours equivalent to nearly 400 million full-time jobs in the second quarter of 2020, most of which are in emerging and developing countries.

Among the most vulnerable are the 1.6 billion informal economy workers, representing half of the global workforce, who are working in sectors experiencing major job losses or have seen their incomes seriously affected by lockdowns. Most of the workers affected (1.25 billion) are in retail, accommodation and food services and manufacturing. And most of these are self-employed and in low-income jobs in the informal sector.

India was especially affected in this respect when the government imposed a lockdown. The policy ended up pushing 230 million into poverty and wrecked the lives and livelihoods of many. A May 2021 report prepared by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University (APU) has highlighted how employment and income had not recovered to pre-pandemic levels even by late 2020.

The report, ‘State of Working India 2021 – One year of Covid-19’ highlights how almost half of formal salaried workers moved into the informal sector and that 230 million people fell below the national minimum wage poverty line.

Even before COVID, India was experiencing its longest economic slowdown since 1991 with weak employment generation, uneven development and a largely informal economy. A recent article by the Research Unit for Political Economy highlights the structural weaknesses of the economy and the often desperate plight of ordinary people.

To survive Modi’s lockdown, the poorest 25% of households borrowed 3.8 times their median income, as against 1.4 times for the top 25%. The study noted the implications for debt traps.

Six months later, it was also noted that food intake was still at lockdown levels for 20% of vulnerable households.

Meanwhile, the rich were well taken care of. According to Left Voice:

The Modi government has handled the pandemic by prioritising the profits of big business and protecting the fortunes of billionaires over protecting the lives and livelihoods of workers.

Michel Chossudovsky says that governments are now under the control of global creditors and that the post-Covid era will see massive austerity measures, including the cancellation of workers’ benefits and social safety nets. An unpayable multi-trillion dollar public debt is unfolding: the creditors of the state are Big Money, which calls the shots in a process that will lead to the privatisation of the state.

Between April and July 2020, the total wealth held by billionaires around the world has grown from $8 trillion to more than $10 trillion. Chossudovsky says a new generation of billionaire innovators looks set to play a critical role in repairing the damage by using the growing repertoire of emerging technologies. He adds that tomorrow’s innovators will digitise, refresh and revolutionise the economy: but, as he notes, let us be under no illusions these corrupt billionaires are impoverishers.

With this in mind, a recent piece on the US Right To Know website exposes the Gates-led agenda for the future of food based on the programming of biology to produce synthetic and genetically engineered substances. The thinking reflects the programming of computers in the information economy. Of course, Gates and his ilk have patented, or are patenting, the processes and products involved.

For example, Ginkgo Bioworks, a Gates-backed start-up that makes ‘custom organisms’, recently went public in a $17.5 billion deal. It uses ‘cell programming’ technology to genetically engineer flavours and scents into commercial strains of engineered yeast and bacteria to create ‘natural’ ingredients, including vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and flavours for ultra-processed foods.

Ginkgo plans to create up to 20,000 engineered ‘cell programs’ (it now has five) for food products and many other uses. It plans to charge customers to use its ‘biological platform’. Its customers are not consumers or farmers but the world’s largest chemical, food and pharmaceutical companies.

Gates pushes fake food by way of his greenwash agenda. If he really is interested in avoiding ‘climate catastrophe’, helping farmers or producing enough food, instead of cementing the power and the control of corporations over our food, he should be facilitating community-based and lead agroecological approaches.

But he will not because there is no scope for patents, external proprietary inputs, commodification and dependency on global corporations which Gates sees as the answer to all of humanity’s problems in his quest to bypass democratic processes and roll out his agenda.

India should take heed because this is the future of ‘food’. If the farmers fail to get the farm bills repealed, India will again become dependent on food imports or on foreign food manufacturers and lab-made ‘food’. Fake food will displace traditional diets and cultivation methods will be driven by drones, genetically engineered seeds and farms without farmers, devastating the livelihoods (and health) of hundreds of millions.

This is a vision of the future courtesy of Klaus Schwab’s (of the elitist World Economic Forum) dystopic transhumanism and the Rockefellers’ 2010 lockstep scenario: genetically engineered food and genetically engineered people controlled by a technocratic elite whose plans are implemented through tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership.

Since March 2020, we have seen the structural adjustment of the global capitalist system and labour’s relationship to it and an attempted adjustment of people’s thinking via endless government and media propaganda.

Whether it involves India’s farmers or the frequent rallies and marches against restrictions and COVID passports across the world, there is a common enemy. And there is also a common goal: liberty.

The post Smashing The Heads of Farmers: A Global Struggle Against Tyranny first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Divided We Stand: Eleven Regional Rivalries from Mountain People to the Swamps of Dixie

Orientation

The reason Yankee fans and Red Sox fans hate each other goes a lot deeper than sports. In his book American Nations, Colin Woodard identifies eleven regional cultures in the United States. He compares the conditions of the home country, settler conditions, climate, geography, religious history, population density and international loyalties. He points out the parallels between how settlers’ regional locations in England impacted the type of regional culture they developed in the United States. My purpose in this article is to:

  • reveal the political bankruptcy of trying to fit eleven different regions into two political parties; and,
  • reveal the economic bankruptcy of industrial capitalists in forming a single nation-state by attempting to pulverize the differences between these regions.

There are good reasons why the United States has rarely, if ever, unified, whether in war or peace. The notion that we were and are united  is pure political and economic propaganda.

Questions about regional rivalries

  • How might the time of settlement affect the culture of the region and how might the region feel about other regions?
  • How might the country of origin and its politics (feudal, capitalist) affect the politics of the region and how might that region feel about different regions?
  • How might the geography (rivers, rainfall, flat-mountainous, valleys, plains) and means of subsistence (hunting, fishing, farming, herding, trading, industry) affect the culture of the region and how might that region feel about different regions?
  • How might the religion of the region affect the culture and how might that region feel about different regions?
  • How might the size of the population of the region (dense or sparse) affect the culture of the region and how might that region feel about different regions?
  • How might the history of the region’s relationship with immigrants or native Americans affect the culture of the region and how might that region feel about other regions?
  • Given the answer to the first six questions, which regions will have the greatest tensions? Why might they have these tensions?
  • The author of the book implies that the United States is too big for a single nation-state. Whether you agree or not, are there any regions that might have enough in common to join together? Or would it be better to be broken into regions that become nation-states like European states?

I cannot address all these questions in this article. I intend to answer most of them and leave the rest to stimulate your thinking.

Issues that Divided the Regions of the United States

The federal government of the United States only began to try to unify the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific after the Civil War with massive architecture, street names, and flags in every classroom. it is questionable how successful they have been. To talk about a common national experience over such a large territory confronts many problems.

David Hackett Fischer in his book, Albion’s Seed, identified four major regions in the United States with significant differences in their means of subsistence, their religion, the conditions of settlement and the parts of England these first settlers were from. In his book American Nations, Colin Woodard has expanded these settlements from four to eleven regions. Please see Table A to understand which country of Europe settled the region, the time of settlement and the region of the U.S. it occupied.

For this section I will be following Woodard’s description. According to him, Americans have been divided since the days of Jamestown and Plymouth. Colonists saw each other as competitors for people to settle their land, for the land itself, as well their ability to draw capital to their settlement. Here are some of the issues that divided the colonies:

  • Loyalty to England: Royalist Virginia (Tidewater) vs Yankee Massachusetts
  • Individualism: Yankees and New Netherlands were for individualism vs social reform orientation of New France
  • Religion: Puritanism (Yankees, New England) vs Quakers’ freedom of conscience (Midlanders). In addition, there was a tension between the liberal and evangelical spectrum about how to practice their religion.
  • Politics:  The importance of politics for the Deep South and the Yankees as opposed to apathy to politics of the Quakers (Midlanders)
  • Use of force: Active use of force by Tidewater, the Deep South and Appalachia vs Midlanders, (Quakers) non-violence.
  • Secession: Not only Tidewater and the Deep South, but Appalachia and New England also considered secession.

These regions had differences in religion between Catholics, Puritans, Anglicans, Quakers and Mormons. Each region differed in the kind of work people did, from cattle rearing, hunting, fishing, fur trapping, agricultural capitalism (producing tobacco, sugar and cotton), subsistence farming, herding, and industrial production (mining, railroad work and smelting). These regions were formed with different intentions including for religious purposes, commercial purposes, political independence or as a home for refugees. The politics of the regions differed drastically, from authoritarian (Deep South) to egalitarian (New France) to liberal (New England town-hall and the Left Coast) to classical republican (Tidewater) to libertarian (Far West).

Regionalists in the U.S. respected neither state nor international boundaries. It was only when England began to treat these colonies as a single unit and implemented policies that threatened them all, that they formed a united force. It is important to realize the uniting against an enemy does not create unification after the confrontation is over. After all, the greatest regional battle in US history occurred almost a hundred years after Independence Day.

Woodard points out that Americans are one of the only countries in the world who do not make a distinction between a statehood and nationhood. A state is a sovereign political body that monopolizes the means of violence. A nation is a group who share a common culture, ethnic origin, language, historical experience, artifacts and symbols. Some nations are stateless like the Kurdish, Palestinians and Quebecers. Most agricultural states such as Egypt, China, Mesopotamia and India had states without being a single nation (Anthony D. Smith’s work is great for these distinctions). Using these criteria, the regions of the country are like the “nations” of America. Americans may have a federal state, but not a single nation. Before turning to the predominant struggle between regions, Table B contains a close-up of the differences between all eleven regions.

Neither the American Revolution Nor the Civil War United the Regions

It is tempting to think that the revolutionary war against England united the regions. This is far from true. Native Americans fought on both sides of the revolutionary war. It was the New England Yankees that were the backbone of the revolution. New Netherlands was the stronghold of the loyalists after England drove out the Dutch. In the Midlands:

The region would not have rebelled at all, if a majority of the states attending the Second Continental Congress hadn’t voted to suppress Pennsylvania’s government (132)

Until the battle of Lexington, the Deep South was torn as to who to join until it was rumored that the British were smuggling arms to the slaves. It was the prospect of freed slaves that made them fight the English. Southern Appalachia fought on the side of the English and lost.

Neither did the Civil War pulverize the regions into two. Woodard says that the Civil War was a conflict between two coalitions of the Deep South and Tidewater against the Yankees. The other regions wanted to remain neutral and were considering breaking off into their own confederations

The Conflict Between the South and the East Prior to the 19th Century

Slave aristocracy of the Deep South

To begin with, there was an aristocracy in the thirteen colonies  but this aristocracy did not rule over peasants who did subsistence farming. The plantation owners of the South ruled over slaves who produced commercial goods of sugar, tobacco and cotton for a world market. In the East, there were university educated professionals of lawyers and clergy(“Brahmins”) who joined with merchants attempting to develop home industry (rather than trade with England, as the plantation owners did.)

All regions are not economically equal

While all eleven regions had their conflicts with each other, some regions were settled longer and they concentrated more economic wealth at their disposal. For example, the mountain people Appalachia herded sheep, pigs and goats. They were in no position to compete for cultural dominance with the planters of Tidewater or the Deep South. The settlers of what became known as New France made their home in Canada and in Louisiana. They were fisherman, fur-trappers, and hunters. They could not compete with the Yankees of the Northeast or the fur traders of New York. Even those with capital who settled late, as in the Far West, did not have centuries to build up a culture the way those in Tidewater, the Deep South, Yankeedom and New Netherlands did. These regions had over a 200-year head start.

What does it mean to be an American?

When we compare the civilizational processes of the United States, we are really talking about the differences between the New Englanders, New Netherlands and Midlands and to a lesser extent, Appalachia. It is from these regions that the concept of an American grew. In the case of the other regions, El Norte was long abandoned by the Spanish and New France by the French. Both these regions were inhabited by people who never accumulated capital. Native American tribes were decimated. Tidewater and the Deep South are not cultures which are  termed “American”. While the Far West and the Left Coast certainly had wealth, they were settled too late to have civilizational impact.

There is a reason I am focused on the initial time of first settlement and not discussing these regions all the way to the present. It has to do with Wilbur Zelinsky’s “first effective settlement law”which says:

Whenever an empty territory undergoes settlement, or an earlier population is dislodged by invaders, the specific characteristics of the first group able to affect a viable self- perpetuating society are of crucial significance for the later social and cultural geography of the area, no matter how tiny the initial band of settler may have been. (American Nations, 16)

The fundamental arena in which American civilization played itself out, is between Tidewater and the Deep South on the one hand, and the Yankees and New Netherlands on the other. Civil War historians might call this the battle between the “North and the South”, but this crudely lumps the eleven regions we discussed into two. The people of Appalachia might technically be in the South but they always had animosity to the planters. The Midlanders of the North might have sided with Yankees and New Netherlands against the slave traders, but they were not industrial capitalists who had a material interest in luring poor farmers into their factories. Therefore, there are two processes of being civilized in the United States, one southern and the other East and Central parts of the United States.

Culture of honor in Colonial South

Roger Lane, in his book Murder in America: A History, traced the major differences between the North and the South to a southern “culture of honor” that did not exist in the North. But where does this culture of honor come from? Lane argues that the process begins when we examine the differences in the kinds of work people did in the regions of England that they came from before settling in America. The inhabitants of Tidewater came from the Scotch-Irish borderlands of Britain where they engaged in herding. With moveable property, herders always had to be on guard, otherwise their animals might be stolen. Because herding was a difficult life, herders were not competing with many other herders for grazing ground. The sparseness of the settlement pattern makes it difficult for herders to rely on others to protect their land.

Lastly, in both the borderlands of Britain or the areas of Virginia in which they settled, there was no centralized state to act as law enforcement. Under these conditions, herders develop very rigid protective mechanisms, being suspicious quickly, while reading body language for potential thievery. The culture of honor occurs when people cultivate a trust among equals. A culture of violence is the result of what happens when the culture of honor is violated. Someone who does not stand up for themselves has a sense of deep shame among herders. He has a reputation to defend. If insulted, the insult is addressed publicly in a duel or family feud.

Culture of Dignity in the Colonial North

On the other hand, the New England farmers came from East Anglia in England where farming was practiced.  Farming lends itself to living in close quarters, thus providing a social protection against theft. In addition, once they settled in New England, they lived near large cities and under the rule of law. This meant there was some legal ground for recovering stolen property. These conditions meant that farmers did not cultivate suspicion and a code of honor. Consequently, they were less likely to kill as a result of stolen property. Rather, the farmer cultivated a sense of “dignity” based on universal rights. These farmers were more likely to be self-constrained and feel guilty over imagined violations over God’s law. Violations are less likely to be settled publicly. Farmers do not engage in duels. Though farmers have been known to engage in family feuds, farmers are just as likely to bring their case to the law, depending on the region of the country and the social class of the farmer.

The South and the East in the 19th Century

By the 19th century, the capitalist interests in New England and New York area had crystalized into an investment in industry, building factories for textiles and railroads for transport. This form of capitalism was irreconcilable with the plantation economy of the South. As mass commodity production spread and geographical mobility of workers increased, it became more and more important that consumers were able to get along with strangers as they bought and sold goods. What being “civilized” in the East meant to treat strangers with an even-handed polite indifference or “tolerance”. It was also civilized for industrial capitalists to have same values as the Puritans: hard work, punctuality, planning and investing. In the East, the industrial capitalists were liberal politically.  To be conservative in the North in the 19th century had more to do with holding on to rural, Puritan traditions.

The plantation owners in the South had very different notions of what was civilized. In plantation life, most everyone knew everyone else and among other plantation owners there was a culture of honor which carried over from their south English heritage. Between plantation owners and slaves there was a deep expectation of deference. Encounters with strangers were much more loaded. While the Eastern cities cultivated a cool indifference to strangers, in the South what was civilized was “southern hospitality”, which meant bringing hospitality to a stranger. This meant being generous with time, food and culture. But strangers who, for whatever reason, were not candidates for southern hospitality were not ignored. They were driven out or killed.

Southern gentleman planters, like their aristocratic brothers in Europe, had a contempt for hard work and Puritanical values. What was civilized to them was the cultivation of taste in the arts, in manners and in clothing. For them, being civilized meant to enjoy life and display wealth. Politically, the Southern planters justified their existence as classical republicans who believed that liberty was only for the upper classes. They were contemptuous of the Enlightenment value of science and technology and saw themselves as the inheritors of Roman values. Please see Table C for a summary of these regions.

Manners in the East, the Midlands and Appalachia

Tocqueville famously commented that on one hand, Jacksonian America was far more egalitarian than anywhere in Europe, and less deferential. However, there was more bragging. His explanation was because of a lack of clear class boundaries, people bragged as a way to establish a status of which they remained unsure. According to  Stephen Mennell, (The American Civilizing Process) both Hegel and De Maistre commented on the lack of manners in America. Baudelaire described America in the 1850s as “a great hunk of barbarism illuminated by gas… a construction of hardened chewing gum and idiotic folklore.” Complaints about Americans chewing tobacco were common by Europeans. By the mid-19th century, Europeans also commented on what they saw as a general American obsession with cleanliness. But Yankees weren’t always like this.

Those who washed daily did so at the kitchen sink. Soap was mainly used for laundering clothes. By the 1830s, the bathtub and daily bath were beginning to spread beyond the very rich. Immigrants new to cities were taught by social workers, educators and employers how, where and how often to bathe with soap and warm water (66). In 1840, only a tiny minority of the wealthy city-dwellers had running water and flushing water closets in their homes (65). (The American Civilizing Process)

According to Mennell, books about American manners penetrated deeper into the class structure, in part because of the lack of the English social elite in the colonies to draw inspiration from and because a higher number of lower-class people could read.

How Did Frontiersmen See Eastern and Midlands Civilization?   

Mennell says that the following stereotypes were common among frontiersman about people in eastern cities. The East was seen as decadent, whereas the frontier was pristine. The East was mired in interdependent social ties such as proletarians linked to wage labor and factories in cities. The frontier, on the other hand, was the home of independent hunters, fur-trappers, ranchers or miners who called their own shots. While the East was the home of elite bankers and industrialists, there was a rough social equality on the frontier.

But what does living in a country with a frontier do to the civilizational process? Turner, in his book The Frontier in American History, traced the steady penetration of the frontier westward from the eastern seaboard in the 17th century all the way to the Rocky Mountains in the 19th. century. He distinguishes three phases:

  • the traders’ frontier—characteristic of French colonization and fur trade
  • the miners’ and ranchers’ frontier of the West
  • farmers’ frontier—which left the trademark of the English in the Midlands

Turner argued that the constant availability of free land meant that Americans would be less in danger of creating elite hierarchies because these hierarchies would be broken up since there was a constant return to more primitive conditions.

The Uncivilized Nature of the Frontier

According to Mennell, when people who have been socialized in more settled conditions are cast out into the margins of society, their behavior will change. The behavior will become more blatantly self-interested if they can get away with things that they couldn’t get away with under more settled conditions. This behavior will become even more confrontative if, because of the rough balance of power, calculations of what will happen are less predictable. These higher levels of danger will produce emotions that are more impulsive and more violent, just as Huizinga claimed occurred during the European Middle Ages.

According to historian Patricia Limerick, the image of the self-reliant and individually responsible pioneer was not supported by her research account that outside of every farm in the 1880’s stood a great mound of empty food cans. She further pointed out these “self-reliant” pioneers often blamed the federal government for their problems along with everyone else.

The consequences of the frontier process, according to Turner, were that:

  • The westward move diluted the predominantly English character of the eastern seaboard.
  • The advance of the frontier decreased America’s dependence on England for supplies.
  • It helped to develop the central government. The very fact that the unsettled lands had been vested in the federal government was vital to the federal government’s battle to control recalcitrant regions of the country.

The Western Frontier as Yankee romanticism

As Richard Slotkin warns us, we must distinguish between the people who actually lived on the frontier—hunters, trappers, miners, gold prospectors – and how the frontier was portrayed in American literature, as in dime-store novels and the work of Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales. We are interested in how the frontier romance in literature was a way for readers to:

  • escape the dark side of the industrialization process;
  • escape the increasingly militant class struggle taking place between New England, Yankeedom on the one hand and the southern plantation owners on the other;
  • muffle the class struggle in industrialized cities in hopes that the frontier stories could provide an outlet.

In the United States, the rebellion against civilization was directed not at an aristocratic class but at lawyers, merchants, industrialists and bankers of the East. Whatever their dissatisfactions were with relentlessness of the industrialization of the cities, it did not result in a romantic, organic view of nature as in Europe. In Europe, during the romantic period, many nation-states claimed their roots in more primitive peoples, whether they are Anglo-Saxons or Celts. But for Puritans, the heathen Native Americans were out of bounds as people to go back to nature with. To return to the pristine way of life was to adapt the way of the savages, which for them would be “hell on earth”. Puritans bitterly condemned those who “went native” and lost their souls.

While aristocratic romantics of Europe used tame country scenes to trigger collective memories of by-gone days, in the New World, what was romantic was pristine, wild and like the subtle paintings of the West by Remington and Thomas Moran. While romantics in Europe took the occasion to delve into the pre-modern world of the peasantry through the study of language and folklore, writers on American romanticism did not do this. In America, there was a deep anti-historical sense, and what appealed to romantics was the exotic world of mountains, rivers and forests that have not been seen before. In addition, the frontier was about trappers, hunters and miners who were half-way between Eastern decadent civilization and the “savagery” of the native Americans. Stories about the frontier were about Puritan’s “errand into the wilderness”. Puritans were terrified of the savagery of native Americans. Their roots were in Puritanism, not in knowing more about native culture that was from a non-Christian world.

In the New World, the sources of romanticism were men of action, men who fought Indians, gambled and blazed trails. Different frontiersman represented different regions of the country and utilized different means of subsistence. For example, stories about Daniel Boone took place in Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri. The stories of Kit Carsen were those of a fur trapper of the mountains. Stories about Davy Crockett were more about the frontier in the Southwest.

What romantics on both sides of the Atlantic had in common was a refusal to play roles. This was certainly true of the frontiersman attitude towards the ways of the East. Additionally, both kinds of romantics refused to act in ways that demonstrated they were civilized. While in the United States there was a championing of what was wild, unpredictable and dangerous, this did not lead to identification with mental illness as the romantics did in Europe. However, the romanticism of outcasts in the wild west, such as gun fighters like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Buffalo Bill was taken way beyond Europe. The glorification of the frontier, the west and the cowboy hasn’t let up even in the 21st century!

Conclusion

The purpose of this article is to show the deep political and economic fault-lines of the eleven regions of the United States. We began with eight questions about how the time of settlement, the country of origin, geography, religion, population density, attitudes to immigrants and natives might affect how these regions felt about each other. Where in the country would the greatest tensions between the regions be? What regions had the most in common where alliances could be formed? We then named six topics which were the deepest tension point in the regions. These tensions are hardly cosmetic. They remained throughout both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

We then turned to the conflict between Tidewater, the Deep South, Appalachia and Yankees as the central struggle in the United States. Being an “American” was forged between four regions—Yankeedom, New Netherlands, Midlands and Appalachia. I closed my article with our focus on the West. This included how frontiersman themselves viewed the East as decadent and how writers of the East romanticized the West in dime store novels and paintings.

The United States of America is hardly united, nor has it ever been. The real physical economy today is hammered by lack of investment and lack of work due to COVID. Meanwhile finance capital continues to destabilize the economy with the mania of printing free money. As extreme weather pounds the regions from Florida to California and from Texas to North Dakota, it would be hardly surprising that as Anglo-American capitalism sinks into the bog, that part of the sinking will involve a fracturing of the regions in a good ole American style, with each region for itself, and the Devil taking the hindmost.

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

The post Divided We Stand: Eleven Regional Rivalries from Mountain People to the Swamps of Dixie first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Walmart, Amazon and the Colonial Deindustrialisation of India

In June 2018, the Joint Action Committee against Foreign Retail and E-commerce (JACAFRE) issued a statement on Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart. It argued that it undermines India’s economic and digital sovereignty and the livelihood of millions in India.

The deal would lead to Walmart and Amazon dominating India’s e-retail sector. These two US companies would also own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them the country’s digital overlords, joining the ranks of Google and Facebook.

JACAFRE was formed to resist the entry of foreign corporations like Walmart and Amazon into India’s e-commerce market. Its members represent more than 100 national groups, including major trade, workers and farmers organisations.

On 8 January 2021, JACAFRE published an open letter saying that the three new farm laws, passed by parliament in September 2020, centre on enabling and facilitating the unregulated corporatisation of agriculture value chains. This will effectively make farmers and small traders of agricultural produce become subservient to the interests of a few agrifood and e-commerce giants or will eradicate them completely.

The government is facilitating the dominance of giant corporations, not least through digital or e-commerce platforms, to control the entire value chain. The letter states that if the new farm laws are closely examined, it will be evident that unregulated digitalisation is an important aspect of them.

And this is not lost on Parminder Jeet Singh from IT for Change (a member of JACAFRE). Referring to Walmart’s takeover of online retailer Flipkart, Singh notes that there was strong resistance to Walmart entering India with its physical stores; however, online and offline worlds are now merged.

That is because, today, e-commerce companies not only control data about consumption but also control data on production, logistics, who needs what, when they need it, who should produce it, who should move it and when it should be moved.

Through the control of data (knowledge), e-commerce platforms can shape the entire physical economy. What is concerning is that Amazon and Walmart have sufficient global clout to ensure they become a duopoly, more or less controlling much of India’s economy.

Singh says that whereas you can regulate an Indian company, this cannot be done with foreign players who have global data, global power and will be near-impossible to regulate.

While China succeeded in digital industrialisation by building up its own firms, Singh observes that the EU is now a digital colony of the US. The danger is clear for India. He states that India has its own skills and digital forms, so why is the government letting in US companies to dominate and buy India’s digital platforms?

And ‘platform’ is a key word here. We are seeing the eradication of the marketplace. Platforms will control everything from production to logistics to even primary activities like agriculture and farming. Data gives power to platforms to dictate what needs to be manufactured and in what quantities.

Singh argues that the digital platform is the brain of the whole system. The farmer will be told how much production is expected, how much rain is expected, what type of soil quality there is, what type of (genetically engineered) seeds and are inputs are required and when the produce needs to be ready.

This is not idle speculation. The recent article ‘Digital control: how big tech moves into food and farming (and what it means)’ on the grain.org website, describes how Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others are moving in on the global agrifood sector.

Those traders, manufacturers and primary producers who survive will become slaves to platforms and lose their independence. Moreover, e-commerce platforms will become permanently embedded once artificial intelligence begins to plan and determine all of the above.

It is a clear concern that India will cede control of its economy, politics and culture to these all-powerful, modern-day East India companies.

Of course, things have been moving in this direction for a long time, especially since India began capitulating to the tenets of neoliberalism in the early 1990s and all that entails, not least an increasing dependence on borrowing and foreign capital inflows and subservience to destructive World Bank-IMF economic directives.

But what we are currently witnessing with the three farm bills and the growing role of (foreign) e-commerce will bring about the ultimate knock-out blow to the peasantry and many small independent enterprises. This has been the objective of powerful players who have regarded India as the potential jewel in the crown of their corporate empires for a long time.

The process resembles the structural adjustment programmes that were imposed on African countries some decades ago. Economics Professor Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book ‘The Globalization of Poverty’ that economies are:

opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished. (p. 16)

The game plan is clear and JACAFRE says the government should urgently consult all stakeholders – traders, farmers and other small and medium size players – towards a holistic new economic model where all economic actors are assured their due and appropriately valued role. Small and medium size economic actors cannot be allowed to be reduced to being helpless agents of a few digitally enabled mega-corporations.

JACAFRE concludes:

We appeal to the government that it should urgently address the issues raised by those farmers asking for the three laws to be repealed. Specifically, from a traders’ point of view, the role of small and medium traders all along the agri produce value chain has to be strengthened and protected against its unmitigated corporatisation.

The struggle for democracy

It is clear that the ongoing farmers’ protest in India is not just about farming. It represents a struggle for the heart and soul of the country. As the organisation GRAIN says on its website, there is an intensifying fight for space between local and territorial markets and global markets. The former are the domain of small-scale independent producers and enterprises; the latter are dominated by large-scale international retailers, traders and the rapidly growing influential e-commerce companies.

It is therefore essential to protect and strengthen local markets and indigenous, independent small-scale enterprises, whether farmers, hawkers, food processers or mom and pop corner stores. This will ensure that India has more control over its food supply, the ability to determine its own policies and economic independence: in other words, the protection of food and national sovereignty and a greater ability to pursue genuine democratic development.

Instead of this, we could, for instance, see India eradicating its buffer food stocks at the behest of global traders and agrifood players. India would then bid for them with borrowed funds on the open market. Instead of continuing to physically hold and control its own buffer stocks, thereby ensuring a degree of food security, India would hold foreign exchange reserves. It would need to attract foreign reserves and maintain ‘market confidence’ to ensure this inflow.

This is one intention of the recent farm legislation and constitutes a recipe for further dependency on foreign finance, unpredictable global events and unaccountable corporations. But mainstream economic thinking passes this subjugation off as ‘liberalisation’.

How is an inability to determine your own economic policies and surrendering food security to outside forces in any way liberating?

It is interesting to note that the BBC recently reported that, in its annual report on global political rights and liberties, the US-based non-profit Freedom House has downgraded India from a free democracy to a “partially free democracy”. It also reported that Sweden-based V-Dem Institute says India is now an “electoral autocracy”. India did not fare any better in a report by The Economist Intelligent Unit’s Democracy Index.

The BBC’s neglect of Britain’s own slide towards COVID-related authoritarianism aside, the report on India was not without substance. It focused on the increase in anti-Muslim feeling, diminishing of freedom of expression, the role of the media and the restrictions on civil society since PM Narendra Modi took power.

The undermining of liberties in all these areas is cause for concern in its own right. But this trend towards divisiveness and authoritarianism serves another purpose: it helps smooth the path for the corporate takeover of the country.

Whether it involves a ‘divide and rule’ strategy along religious lines to divert attention, the suppression of free speech or pushing unpopular farm bills through parliament without proper debate while using the police and the media to undermine the farmers’ protest, a major undemocratic heist is under way that will fundamentally adversely impact people’s livelihoods and the cultural and social fabric of India.

On one side, there are the interests of a handful of multi-billionaires who own the corporations and platforms that seek to control India. On the other, there are the interests of hundreds of millions of cultivators, vendors and various small-scale enterprises who are regarded by these rich individuals as mere collateral damage to be displaced in their quest for ever greater profit.

Indian farmers are currently on the front-line against global capitalism and the colonial-style deindustrialisation of the economy. This is where ultimately the struggle for democracy and the future of India is taking place.

The post Walmart, Amazon and the Colonial Deindustrialisation of India first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From the Murder of Berta Cáceres to Dam Disaster in Uttarakhand

March 2, 2021 was the five year anniversary of the murder of Berta Cáceres, who opposed the Agua Zarca dam in Honduras.  That date was less than one month after the deaths of dozens of people from Tehri Dam disaster in Uttarakhand, India.  The two stories together tell us far more about consequences of the insatiable greed of capitalism for more energy than either narrative does by itself.

In addition to being sacred to the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras, the Gualcarque River is a primary source of water for them to grow their food and harvest medicinal plants.  Dams can flood fertile plains and deprive communities of water for livestock and crops.  The Lenca knew what could happen if the company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) were to build the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque.  As Nina Lakhani describes in Who Killed Berta Cáceres?, the La Aurora Dam, which started generating electricity in 2012 “left four miles of the El Zapotal River bone dry and the surrounding forest bare.”

In 2015, Cáceres won the Goldman Environmental Prize for organizing opposition to the Agua Zarca.  She had been a co-founder of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).  The following year, thousands of Lenca marched to the capital Tegucigalpa demanding schools, clinics, roads and protection of ancestral lands.  Indigenous groups uniting with them included Maya, Chorti, Misquitu, Tolupan, Tawahka and Pech.  Lakhani describes that “From the north coast came the colorfully dressed, drumming Garifunas: Afro-Hondurans who descend from West and Central African, Caribbean, European and Arawak people exiled to Central America by the British after a slave revolt in the late eighteenth century.”

A Garifuna leader, Miriam Miranda remembered that Berta stopped to sketch anti-imperialist murals on the US airbase in Palmerola.  As Berta and Miranda became close during the more than two decades of joint work Berta began to identify with the Garifuna.  She loved going with Miranda to the town of Vallecito to join Garifuna rituals with drums, smoke and dancing while enjoying herb-infused liquor.

She knew that the Garifuna suffered landgrabs parallel to rivergrabs the Lencas experienced.  Lakhani relates how the government ignored the ancestral land claims of the Garifuna as it gave land to “settlers” who sold them to palm oil magnates.  In less than a decade lands held by Garifuna communities plummeted from 200,000 to 400 hectares.

Similarly, in the Bajo Aguán region the government allowed construction of a resort on ancient Garifuna burial sites and ancestral lands. The community was not consulted prior to the landgrab and 150 people died resisting it.

Manufacturing Impressions

The dam-building elite had a thorn in its side that threatened the megaprojects.  Due in no small part to 1995 efforts of Berta’s mother Doña Austra, Honduras had signed onto the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of the International Labor Organization (known as ILO 169).  It guarantees the right of indigenous communities to have “free, prior and informed consultations” for any development affecting their land, culture or way of life.

The first tactic of the elite for getting around this obstacle was to promise enormous benefits such as building roads and schools.  Or else, they claimed that the project would bring electricity for homes, a health clinic, an ambulance, and a flood of jobs.  By the time the project was completed, few or no benefits had materialized.  Who Killed Berta Cáceres? documents what happened in communities that did not fall for empty promises.  For the Honduran Los Encimos dam, the power brokers bused in hundreds of people from neighboring El Salvador to sign a decree favoring the project.  Following an October 2011 town hall meeting when residents voted 401 to 7 against the Agua Zarca dam, the mayor curried favor of the elite by issuing a permit for it two months later.

Representatives of the company owning the future dam, DESA, repeated the absurd claim that they only bought land from willing sellers.  Dam proponents then denounced Berta’s COPINH organization as causing the division.  In other words, the developers were skilled at shouting that project opponents were doing what they, the dam pushers, were, in fact, doing.  Outside observers would then have difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction.  If these impression management tricks failed to overcome Earth defenders, the method of threats and violence remained.

Threats and Hit Lists

Berta was rare as she “could understand and analyze local struggles in a global context and had the capacity to unite different movements, urban and rural, teachers and campesinos, indigenous groups and mestizos.”  More than any other reason, this meant that Berta would be targeted by the cabal of business owners, government heads, military brass and foreign investors.

Berta had told Lakhani that “Seventy million people were killed across the continent for our natural resources.”  When a researcher for the Goldman prize committee visited Berta in Tegucigalpa, she asked him what would happen if she died before receiving the prize money, a question no recipient had asked before.  She had been warned not to stay in the same hotel two nights in a row.

Nina Lakhani documents how widespread and intensely grisley the murders in Honduras were.  “Olvin Gustavo García Mejía was widely feared by COPINH.”  He boasted of having a personal hit list with Berta’s name on it.  In March 2015, Olvin used his machete to chop off the fingers of a dam opponent.

Even more revealing were eyewitness reports to Lakhani from First Sergeant Rodrigo Cruz who saw a military hit list which included Berta.  Cruz had survived a specialist training so grueling that only 8 of 200 completed it. The graduation ceremony included killing a dog, eating the raw meat, and getting a hug from the commander.

On one mission Cruz reported being “ordered to shovel decomposing human remains into sacks which they took to an isolated forest reserve, doused them in diesel, petrol and rubbish and burned.”  At Corocito he saw “torture instruments, chains, hammers and nails, no people, but fresh clots of blood.”  During his Trujillo mission “naval colleagues handed over plastic bags containing human remains.  Later that night they tossed them into a river heaving with crocodiles.”  After seeing Berta’s name on a hit list belonging to his lieutenant, Cruz was sent on an extensive leave.  When he heard that Berta was dead, he fled from Honduras fearing that he himself would be murdered.

The Honduran elite discovered another weapon for its arsenal against environmental defenders: criminalization.  During a 2020 interview with InSight Crime, Lakhani reported a pattern suggestively similar to that practiced in the US and many other countries: “People are still being killed but really the main weapon being used currently is criminalization.  There’s so much fear involved, and it can really break up and silence a movement. All of your energy and resources go to trying to stay out of prison.”

2009 Coup as a Game Changer

On January 27, 2006 Manuel Zelaya was inaugurated as president of Honduras as an advocate of modest reforms such as reforestation, small business assistance, reduction of fossil fuels and an end to open pit mining.  But even these baby steps were too much for the country’s increasingly corrupt elites, who had the military march him out of his home in pajamas and into exile on June 28, 2009.  As bad as the situation was before 2009, the coup intensified the violence.

Though Barack Obama acknowledged that the coup was a coup, his underling Hillary Clinton quickly altered the official rhetoric, claiming that it was not a coup.  She explained “in her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices, the US ensured that elections could take place before the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, was restored to office.”  This helped the coup ensure that Zelaya and his tiny improvements would not show their face again.

The economic consequences of the coup were an avalanche of projects attacking the country’s land, water, air and indigenous cultures.  The congress rushed to approve them without studies or oversight required by Honduran law.  During the next eight years, almost 200 mining projects received a nod.  Lakhani records how, during one late night session in September 2010 congressional president Juan Orlando Hernández “sanctioned 40 hydroelectric dams without debate, consultation or adequate environmental impact studies.”  John Perry wrote in CounterPunch that “Cáceres received a leaked list of rivers, including the Gualcarque, that were to be secretly ‘sold off’ to produce hydroelectricity. The Honduran congress went on to approve dozens of such projects without any consultation with affected communities. Berta’s campaign to defend the rivers began on July 26, 2011 when she led the Lenca-based COPINH in a march on the presidential palace.”

Dubious Partners of Green Energy

So-called “green” energy companies profited at least as much as other corporations from the great sell-off of Honduran treasures.  Lakhani’s research reveals that on June 2, 2010, the National Electric Company approved contracts for eight renewable energy corporations, including DESA, the owners of the Agua Zarca dam project.  Though it had no track record of constructing anything, it received permits, a sales contract, and congressional approval.  A 50-year license for the dam sailed through without any free, prior or informed consent from the Lenca people.  Lakhani also documents that January 16, 2014 was a particularly good day

… for solar and wind entrepreneurs as congress approved 30 energy contracts for 21 companies in one quick sitting.  There was no bidding process… After the rivers were all sold, they started on wind and solar contracts…  Honduras boasts more than 200 tax exemption laws, which cost state coffers around $1.5 bn each year.  Renewable energy entrepreneurs have benefited enormously, saving a whopping $1.4 bn between 2012 and 2016.

Even the World Bank had its finger in the pie, despite its requirement to give socially responsible loans.  It sought to cover up its role in Agua Zarca by channeling funds through intermediaries.

Lakhani also relates stories of (a) how six members of congress embezzled $879,000 using a fake environmental group, Planeta Verde (Green Planet); (b) connections between a criminal family and the solar company Proderssa; and, (c) the link between the solar plant in Choluteca and Douglas Bustillo, who was sentenced to 30 years for his role in the murder of Berta.

Jorge Cuéllar writes that:

DESA’s Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, like similar megaprojects, effectively reconfigures communities into sacrifice zones for insatiable energy needs. “Alternative” energy (Alt E) is just one more category of energy which is added to the mix with fossil fuels.  Increases in Alt E are not replacing fossil fuels, but are mainly being used to create feelings of do-goody.  In cases where there is a preference for Alt E, it is due to short term profit.  As Lakhani explains, “African palms were the most profitable crops because the oil was sold to North America and Europe for biofuel and could be traded in the carbon credit market.

A Farcical Trial

On March 2, 2016 Berta Cáceres was brutally murdered in her hometown of La Esperanza in western Honduras.  The trial that followed was a transparent cover up.  As Vijay Prashad notes, none of the executives of DESA, the dam company responsible for the murder, were charged with the crime.  Lakhani reported in the InSight Crime interview that “The crime was never framed as political murder, as gender-based violence or a hate crime against indigenous people despite the vitriolic and racist language that was used in phone chats about the Lenca people. There was a decision to make sure that anybody political, and the military and police as institutions, would be completely left out.”

Adam Isacson hit the nail on the head in his blog when describing those found guilty as “… just trigger-pullers, mid-level planners, or scapegoats… They are employed by Honduras’s elite, but they aren’t of the elite. They’re on the make, and have found a rare path to social mobility in Honduras, beyond gang membership and drug trafficking.”

Lakhani’s own account reflects how bizarre and contrived the trial was.  She recalls that “My request to read the admitted documents was denied. ‘Yes, it’s a public trial, yes, the documents are public, no, you can’t read them,’ said the court archivist.”  She heard international observers being told “Don’t worry, people will be convicted” as if it was common knowledge that the outcome had been prescripted.   It was yet another exercise in impression management.

US Role

Though there is no evidence that the US directly planned and executed the 2009 coup, its role has been to ensure that the coup remains intact.  As Isacson asks, “Why did 1 in every 37 citizens of Honduras end up detained at the US-Mexico border in 2019, after fleeing all the way across Mexico? Why did 30,000 more Hondurans petition for asylum in Mexico that same year?”  People are fleeing Honduras in such numbers in large part because the coup gang has shown that if it can get away with murdering someone as well known as Berta, it can murder anyone.

In the New York Journal of Books, Dan Beeton observes that “authors of the assassination have yet to be brought to justice. The US government could insist that this happen; it could pressure Honduran authorities to find and arrest them, but it has not…”  In fact, Lakhani points out that the US is doing the opposite by persecuting those trying to escape from the violence: “… in 2010 US border patrol detained 13,580 Honduran nationals.  The numbers jumped to over 91,000 in 2014 under Deporter-in-Chief Barack Obama.”

Though the US insists that it does not train the executioners in the Honduran militarized police, it does not deny that it trains the trainers – many of torturers in Central America attended the notorious School of the Americas.  Even if the US were to withdraw its support from individual criminals in Honduras, they would be replaced by clones who would preserve the post-coup structure and power.  Control was successfully passed from a mildly reformist Zelaya government to a criminal extractionist network which permeates state and corporate institutions.  With aide and comfort from the US, the Honduran energy mob has reinvented itself.

Coming to Uttarakhand

The story of dams in India may seem highly different from events on the other side of the globe.  But lurking deep beneath surface appearances an eerie consistency links the two.  One similarity between the widely separated areas is that, as in Honduras, the Indian government has aggressively pursued a development strategy of mines, logging and hydro-power.  This often results in tribal people suffering the disruption of their farming systems and relocation.

On February 7, 2021 a deluge washed away two power plants of the Tehri Dam on the Bhagirathi River in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, India.  At least 32 people were found dead and more than 150 were missing.  The event barely made it to US media but has been extensively covered by the progressive Indian online publication Countercurrents.  With 34 people trapped, “Rescue workers armed with heavy construction equipment, drones and even sniffer dogs were struggling to penetrate the one-and-a-half-mile long tunnel that filled with ice-cold water, mud, rocks and debris.”

Years before construction of the Tehri Dam began, there was controversy regarding if it should even be built.  Bharat Dogra, a regular contributor to Countercurrents, wrote that “the Environmental Appraisal Committee (River Valley Projects) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India … has come to the unanimous conclusion that the Tehri Dam Project, as proposed, should not be taken up as it does not merit environmental clearance.”

The region has a history of dam disasters:

At least 29 workers were killed in a serious accident at the Tehri dam site (in Uttarakhand) on August 2 2004… On 14 February 2010 six workers died and 16 were seriously injured in Kinnaur district (Himachal Pradesh) when stones and boulders destabilized by the blasting work carried out for dam construction… Over 154 workers were killed in a span of 12 years, as over one worker was killed every month during the construction of the Nagarjunasagar dam.

Actually Existing Dangers in the Himalayas 

Several factors compound dangers of dams which are built in hazard-prone region of the Himalayas.  First is the observation by seismologist Prof. James N. Brune that “No large rock-fill dam of the Tehri type has ever been tested by the shaking that an earthquake in this area could produce… Given the number of persons who live downstream, the risk factor is also extreme.”  Second, the reservoirs created by the dams can themselves increase the likelihood of quakes, a phenomenon called reservoir induced seismicity.  Third is the huge tectonic plate below India called the “Indian Plate.”

As economist Bharat Jhunjhunwala explains, “The rotation of the earth is causing this plate to continually move northward just like any matter moves to the top in a centrifugal machine. The Indian Plate crashes into the Tibetan Plate as it moves to the north. The pressure between these two plates is leading to the continual rise of the Himalayas and also earthquakes in Uttarakhand in particular.”   The result is an earthquake in the region roughly every 10 years.

Which of these was the primary cause of the February 2021 dam disaster?  None of them.  According to public health specialist Dr. Anamika Roy, the most likely cause was “retreating glaciers which result in the formation of proglacial lakes, which are often bounded by their sediments and stones, and therefore any breach in the boundaries may lead to a large stream of water rushing down the streams and lakes resulting in a flood down streams.”  Dr. Roy thinks that climate change is a leading factor in the formation of proglacial lakes.

Professor of glaciology and hydrology Dr. Farooq Azam suggests that a hanging glacier falling from 5600 meters could have caused a rock and ice avalanche, leading to the dam accident.  Taken together, these factors indicate that the Himalayan region is a very bad place to build a dam.  We might even say that the reason for the Tehri dam disaster was that the dam was built.

Social Problems of Dam Disasters 

Bharat Dogra details a host of problems for those constructing dams in very remote areas such as the Himalayas:

  • First, a large portion of those constructing dams are migrant workers who are less familiar with floods and other risks than are local residents;
  • Second, even if migrant workers begin to understand on-site risks, they have little or no ability to find other employment if companies order them to continue at their jobs;
  • Third, migrant workers typically live in temporary housing that offers little protection;
  • Fourth, not being near to family or friends, they have little ability to go to others with health problems, special needs, distress, or risk; and,
  • Fifth, it is easier for contractors to suppress information concerning accidents so that workers or surviving families may not receive compensatory payments.

Common to all of these issues is the fact that laboring in remote parts of the world leaves workers out of the pubic eye, meaning that they can easily be ignored or quickly forgotten after a tragedy.

A different type of tragedy results from the release of water from the dam reservoir.  The two types are (a) routine releases, which are typically scheduled to occur during peak demand for hydropower generation, and (b) emergency releases, which occur during heavy rain or other high water events.  Release disasters are typically due to emergency releases.  But, on April 11, 2005 thousands of pilgrims attending a religious fair at Dharaji in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh were in the water when 150 were swept away by a huge water surge, causing the death of 65.  This was caused by a routine water release from the Indira Sagar dam on the Narmada River.  Bad judgment during routine operation of a dam can be as deadly as bad judgment regarding where to build a dam.

Dams in the Time of Exponential Growth

It is an obscenity to call hydro-power “clean” when it is so closely tied to destruction of aquatic life, threats to land-dwelling flora and fauna, displacement of indigenous people and destruction of their culture, murder of Earth defenders, and exploitation of workers.  It is a double obscenity to claim that hydro-power is an “alternative” to fossil fuels when dams can produce more greenhouse gases than does coal.  Not only do their reservoirs produce methane by rotting organic matter, dams interfere with the ability of downstream ecosystems to remove carbon and they require massive amounts of fossil fuel for the manufacture of concrete and steel for their construction and removal of their debris when they reach the end of their live cycle.

Nor are dams “renewable.” They do not last nearly as long as the rivers they disrupt.  Concrete and steel eventually rot, which leads to construction of yet another dam.

A core problem of dams is their exponential growth during the 21st century as it becomes increasingly obvious that they can more rapidly replace fossil fuel energy than can solar and wind power.  The climate crisis is fundamentally due to the uncontrollable growth of capitalism, which requires exponential expansion of energy production.

Exponential expansion means that every year requires not just more energy but a larger quantity of new energy than the year before.  Eternal economic growth was the root cause behind the murder of Berta Cáceres and the hundreds or thousands of other Earth defenders in Honduras and across the globe.  The unquenchable thirst for energy is why India foreshadows a world building an increasing number of dams where dams should not be built.

To satisfy their need for energy, corporations first grab the low hanging fruit.  Energy fruit can be “low hanging” because it is in an extremely good location, and/or current land owners are eager for the development, and/or those living on the land can be easily swayed.  The nature of first picking that which is lowest hanging means that, once it is gone, the energy corporations will go to the next lowest hanging fruit.  As time goes by, capital will get closer and closer to the most difficult-to-pick fruit until the last drop of energy is sucked from the planet.  Obviously, having less corrupt politicians and an educated and organized people is much better.  But this will not stop them from being victimized – it will only place them later in line.

Is “free, prior and informed consent” real or an illusion?  As time passes, the commitment to infinite energy growth intensifies pressure to falsify consent.  What is presented to poor people throughout the world who do not have enough to feed and clothe their families is the question “Do you voluntarily choose to improve your life by giving consent to this project which will destroy the lives of your grandchildren or great-grandchildren after you are gone or do you chose to watch your children go without schools and medical care right now?  Thank you so much for your free and prior consent to this dam/wind farm/solar array.”

There are essential lessons to learn from the murder of environmentalists and dam collapses.  Capital must bring more violence to communities when using less violence for building dams is not as effective.  Capital must build in increasingly unsafe locations after the safest locations are used up.  If dams which threaten the fewest number of aquatic species are built first, then corporate expansion dictates that dams which threaten more riparian extinctions are next in line.  Capital must move into increasingly biodiverse environments after less biodiverse environments are no longer available.

This is true for the construction of dams just as it is true for fossil fuels.  It is also true for the location of solar arrays and the location of wind farms.  It is likewise the case for mining the massive number of minerals that go into the production of various type of energy.  This is why “alternative” energy cannot be “clean” or “renewable.”  Perhaps it is time to realize that there is only one form of “clean” energy – less energy.

A webinar at 7 pm CT on March 10, 2021 will honor the life of Berta Cáceres with a panel featuring Nina Lakhani, author of Who Killed Berta Cáceres?: Dams, Death Squads, and an Indigenous Defender’s Battle for the Planet.  Email the address of the author below for details.

The post From the Murder of Berta Cáceres to Dam Disaster in Uttarakhand first appeared on Dissident Voice.