Wednesday, April 25, 2007



Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban born, Venezuelan citizen, is a terrorist and former CIA operative who, with his partner, Orlando Bosch, carried out the bombing of a Cuban passenger plane in 1976, killing all 73 persons on board. The plane exploded over Barbados, on its way to Venezuela. This took place when the CIA was under the directorship of George Bush, Sr. Venezuela is demanding that Posada, who escaped from a Venezuelan jail while on trial for the airliner bombing, be extradited to face trial there. Posada entered the United States illegally and is asking for asylum here. The Bush administration has refused to extradite him and he has been released from custody by an immigration judge. The Court of Appeals confirmed his release on bail. On May 11, in El Paso, Texas, Posada begins his trial on immigration charges. This trial is widely anticipated to be a farce, a "necessary" step toward erasing any legal obstacles to Posada's unimpeded residency in the United States.


The Venezuela Solidarity Network condemns the release on bail of Cuban exile terrorist Luis Posada Carriles pending his trial on immigration violations. Posada is a former CIA operative who has openly boasted about the terrorist acts he has committed against Cuba. He escaped jail while on trial in Venezuela for his role in planting a bomb that killed 73 passengers on a Cuban airliner. He is a naturalized Venezuela citizen and former member of State Security. The Venezuela Solidarity Network demands that the United States Government extradite Posada to Venezuela, as it is required to do under international law. The Venezuela Solidarity Network rejects claims by the Bush administration that Posada would be at risk of torture and abuse in Venezuela. Prisoners were tortured under US-supported Venezuelan governments during the period when Posada worked in State Security. The present government of Venezuela does not torture prisoners. The Venezuela Solidarity Network rejects the hypocrisy of the government of George W. Bush accusing another country of torture when he has authorized torture in the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Venezuela Solidarity Network rejects the hypocrisy of the government of George W. Bush, which claims to be fighting a war on terrorism when it is harboring Cuban exile terrorists such as Posada and Orlando Bosch, who has also bragged about bombing tourist hotels in Cuba. The Venezuela Solidarity Network demands that Posada and Bosch be punished for their crimes against humanity. In addition, we demand that the Cuban Five, five brave men who infiltrated the Miami terrorist cells and reported on their activities to both Cuban authorities and the U.S. Government, be freed from US prisons to which they were sent on trumped up espionage charges.


Luis Posada Carriles is an international terrorist and mass murderer. Any talk about a "war on terrorism" is exposed as pure hypocrisy by the Bush Administration's refusal to extradite Posada to stand trial in Venezuela.

The Bush Administration has maintained that Posada would face torture if returned to Venezuela. This assertion is ridiculous, given that Bolivarian Venezuela has never been credibly shown to employ such techniques. Rather, the United States has been found to use torture in a variety of places, including the infamous prisons in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The US also regularly uses the practice of "extraordinary rendition" to send prisoners to other countries known to torture.


Attend or organize a demonstration on May 11th, the date Posada's trial begins!
It is widely speculated that Posada's trial will be a farce, clearing way for him to be granted asylum in the United States. A major demonstration is being planned in El Paso, where the trial will take place, before the opening session on May 11th, beginning at noon. For more information, go to the following link:

Other protests are being planned in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and information should be forthcoming about those at the above site.



If you are organizing to take people to El Paso, or are planning a solidarity demonstration in your town, please let us know, and we'll get the information up on the Venezuela Solidarity Network website ( Write us at: and let us know what you're planning.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Noam Chomsky Accuses Alan Dershowitz of Launching a "Jihad" to Block Norman Finkelstein From Getting Tenure at Depaul University

Professor Norman G. Finkelstein wrote a book called "Beyond Chutzpah:On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and The Abuse of History', a point by point debunking of Alan M. Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel". If you can't win intellectually, you try to convince the governor of california to intervene because the book is published by The University of California. That didn't work, so Dershowitz is attacking Finkelstein's tenure at DePaul University. The highly public feud between Norman G. Finkelstein of DePaul University and Harvard Law School’s Alan M. Dershowitz has taken an unusual procedural twist, with Mr. Dershowitz attempting to weigh in on Mr. Finkelstein’s bid for tenure at DePaul. How Mr. Dershowitz’s move will play out remains to be seen. Mr. Finkelstein’s department supported his tenure bid, but the dean of his college has refused to support him. A final decision is expected next month. Yesterday on the Radio show Democracy Now, Amy Goodman discussed this issue with Noam Chomsky.

Petition To Support Norman Finkelstein


I asked Noam Chomsky about political science professor Norman Finkelstein, one of the country's foremost critics of Israel policy, and his battle to receive tenure at DePaul University, where he has taught for six years. Professor Finkelstein's tenure has been approved at the departmental and college level, but the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at DePaul has opposed it. A final decision is expected to be made in May. Finkelstein has accused Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz of being responsible for leading the effort to deny him tenure. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Dershowitz admitted he had sent a letter to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein's tenure. I asked Noam Chomsky about the dispute.

NOAM CHOMSKY: The whole thing is outrageous. I mean, he's an outstanding scholar. He has produced book after book. He's got recommendations from some of the leading scholars in the many areas in which he has worked. The faculty -- the departmental committee unanimously recommended him for tenure. It's amazing that he hasn't had full professorship a long time ago.
And, as you were saying, there was a huge campaign led by a Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, to try in a desperate effort to defame him and vilify him, so as to prevent him from getting tenure. The details of it are utterly shocking, and, as you said, it got to the point where the DePaul administration called on Harvard to put an end to this.

AMY GOODMAN: That's very significant, for one university to call on the leadership of another university to stop one of its professors.

NOAM CHOMSKY: To stop this maniac, yeah. What's behind it? It's very simple and straightforward. Norman Finkelstein wrote a book, which is in fact the best compendium that now exists of human rights violations in Israel and the blocking of diplomacy by Israel and the United States, which I mentioned -- very careful scholarly book, as all of his work is, impeccable -- also about the uses of anti-Semitism to try to silence a critical discussion.
And the framework of his book was a critique of a book of apologetics for atrocities and violence by Alan Dershowitz. That was the framework. So he went through Dershowitz's shark claims, showed in great detail that they are completely false and outrageous, that he's lying about the facts, that he's an apologist for violence, that he's a passionate opponent of civil liberties -- which he is -- and he documented it in detail.
Dershowitz is intelligent enough to know that he can't respond, so he does what any tenth-rate lawyer does when you have a rotten case: you try to change the subject, maybe by vilifying opposing counsel. That changes the subject. Now we talk about whether, you know, opposing counsel did or did not commit this iniquity. And the tactic is a very good one, because you win, even if you lose. Suppose your charges against are all refuted. You've still won. You've changed the subject. The subject is no longer the real topic: the crucial facts about Israel, Dershowitz's vulgar apologetics for them, which sort of are reminiscent of the worst days of Stalinism. We've forgotten all of that. We're now talking about whether Finkelstein did this, that and the other thing. And even if the charges are false, the topic's been changed. That's the basis of it.
Dershowitz has been desperate to prevent this book from being -- first of all, he tried to stop it from being published, in an outlandish effort, which I've never seen anything like it, hiring a major law firm to threaten libel suits, writing to the governor of California -- it was published by the University of California Press. When he couldn't stop the publication, he launched a jihad against Norman Finkelstein, simply to try to vilify and defame him, in the hope that maybe what he's writing will disappear. That's the background.
It's not, incidentally, the first time. I mean, actually, I happen to be very high on Dershowitz's hit list, hate list. And he has also produced outlandish lies about me for years: you know, I told him I was an agnostic about the Holocaust and I wouldn't tell him the time of day, you know, and so on and so forth.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean that he made that charge against you?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Of course, and on and on. I won't even talk about it. What's the reason? It's in print. In fact, you can look at it in the internet. In 1973, I guess it was, the leading Israeli human rights activist, Israel Shahak, who incidentally is a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and Bergen-Belsen and headed a small human rights group in Israel, which was the only real one at the time, came to Boston, had an interview with the Boston Globe, in which he identified himself correctly as the chair of the Israeli League of Human Rights. Dershowitz wrote a vitriolic letter to the Globe, condemning him, claiming he's lying about Israel, he's even lying about being the chair, he was voted out by the membership.
I knew the facts. In fact, he's an old friend, Shahak. So I wrote a letter to the Globe, explaining it wasn't true. In fact, the government did try to get rid of him. They called on their membership to flood the meeting of this small human rights group and vote him out. But they brought it to the courts, and the courts said, yeah, we'd like to get rid of this human rights group, but find a way to do it that's not so blatantly illegal. So I sort of wrote that.
But Dershowitz thought he could brazen it out -- you know, Harvard law professor -- so he wrote another letter saying Shahak's lying, I'm lying, and he challenged me to quote from this early court decision. It never occurred to him for a minute that I'd actually have the transcript. But I did. So I wrote another letter in which I quoted from the court decision, demonstrating that -- as polite, but that Dershowitz is a liar, he's even falsifying Israeli court decisions, he's a supporter of atrocities, and he even is a passionate opponent of civil rights. And this is like the Russian government destroying an Amnesty International chapter by flooding it with Communist Party members to vote out the membership.
Well, he went berserk, and ever since then I have been one of his targets. In fact, anyone who exposes him as what he is is going to be subjected to this technique, because he knows he can't respond, so must return to vilification.
And in the case of Norman Finkelstein, he sort of went off into outer space. But it's an outrageous case. And the fact that it's even being debated is outrageous. Just read his letters of recommendation from literally the leading figures in the many fields in which he works, most respected people.

AMY GOODMAN: Most interesting, the letters of support from the leading Holocaust scholars like Raul Hilberg.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Raul Hilberg is the founder of Holocaust studies, you know, the most distinguished figure in the field. In fact, he says Norman didn't go far enough. And it's the same -- Avi Shlaim is one of the -- maybe the leading Israeli historian, has strongly supported him, and the same with others. I can't refer to the private correspondence, but it's very strong letters from leading figures in these fields. And it's not surprising that the faculty committee unanimously supported him. I mean, there was, in fact -- they did -- the faculty committee did, in fact, run through in detail the deluge of vilification from Dershowitz and went through it point by point and essentially dismissed it as frivolous.

AMY GOODMAN: They rejected a 12,000-word attack, point by point.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Aside from saying that the very idea of sending it is outrageous. You don't do that in tenure cases.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you think it will turn out?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the usual story: this depends on public reaction.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Internationalization of Genocide

Granma International recently printed and translated into English, Fidel Castro's response to George Bush's trip to Latin America. The issue of ethanol is put into a new light, that I think is original thinking. Ethanol is commonly talked about as whether it's an effective petroleum substitute from technical viewpoints. Its effect on food production is another issue, not often talked about.

Fidel Castro Ruz
Havana. April 4, 2007

The Camp David meeting has just ended. We all listened with interest to the press conference by the presidents of the United States and Brazil, as well as news about the meeting and opinions stated.

Confronted by the demands of his Brazilian visitor regarding import tariffs and subsidies that protect and support U.S. ethanol production, Bush did not make the slightest concession in Camp David.

President Lula attributed to this higher corn prices which, according to him, had gone up by more than 85 percent.

Previously, the Washington Post newspaper published an article by Brazil's top leader discussing the idea of converting food into fuel.

It is not my intention to hurt Brazil, or to meddle in the internal politics of that great country. It was precisely in Rio de Janeiro, where the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held exactly 15 years ago, where I vehemently condemned, in a 7-minute speech, the environmental dangers threatening the existence of our species.

At that meeting, Bush Sr. was present as president of the United States, and in a gesture of courtesy he applauded my words, just like all the other presidents.

Nobody at Camp David responded to the main question. Where and who is going to supply the more than 500 million tons of corn and other cereals that the United States, Europe and the rich countries need to produce the volume of gallons of ethanol that the big U.S. companies and those of other countries are demanding as compensation for their sizeable investments? Where and who is going to produce the soy beans, the sunflower and colza seeds, whose essential oils are going to be converted by those same rich countries into fuel?

A number of countries produce and export their surplus food. The balance between exporters and consumers was already tense, making the prices of those foodstuffs shoot up. In the interest of brevity, I have no other alternative but to confine myself to pointing out the following:

The five top producers of the corn, barley, sorghum, rye, millet and oats that Bush wants to turn into raw materials for producing ethanol supply 679 million tons to the world market, according to recent data. In their turn, the five top consumers, some of which are also producers of these grains, currently need 604 million tons annually. The available surplus comes down to less than 80 million tons.

This colossal waste of cereals for producing fuel, without including oleaginous seeds, would serve only to save the rich countries less than 15 percent of what is annually consumed by their voracious automobiles.

In Camp David, Bush has stated his intention of applying this formula on a world scale, which means nothing else than the internationalization of genocide.

The president of Brazil, in his message published in the Washington Post, right before the Camp David meeting, affirmed that less than one percent of Brazil's arable land is dedicated to sugar cane for producing ethanol. That surface area is almost triple the size of that used in Cuba when almost 10 million tons of sugar were being produced, before the crisis of the USSR and climate change.

Our country has been producing and exporting sugar for a longer time, first based on the labor of slaves, who eventually totaled more than 300,000 in the early years of the 19th century and made the Spanish colony into the top exporter in the world. Almost 100 years later, in the early 20th century, in the pseudo-Republic, whose full independence was thwarted by U.S. intervention, only West Indian immigrants and illiterate Cubans carried the burden of the sugar cane cultivation and cutting. The tragedy of our people was the so-called dead time, due to the cyclical nature of this crop. The cane fields were the property of U.S. companies or large Cuban landowners. We have accumulated, therefore, more experience than anyone else on the social effects of that crop.

Last Sunday, April 1, CNN was reporting the opinion of Brazilian experts, who affirmed that much of the land dedicated to sugarcane cultivation has been purchased by rich individuals from the United States and Europe.

In my reflections published on March 29, I explained the effects of climate change in Cuba, compounded by other traditional characteristics of our climate.

On our island, poor and distant from consumerism, there would not even be sufficient personnel to withstand the harsh rigors of the crop and attention to the cane fields in the midst of the heat, rain or growing droughts. When hurricanes hit, not even the most perfect machines can harvest the tumbled, twisted sugar cane. For centuries, the custom was not to burn it, nor was the soil compacted under the weight of complex machinery and enormous trucks; nitrogenous, potassic and phosphoric fertilizers, now so expensive, did not even exist, and the dry and wet months alternated regularly. In modern agriculture, no high yields are possible without crop rotation.

On Sunday, April 1, the Agence France-Presse news agency published worrying news on climate change, which experts brought together by the United Nations believe to be something that is now inevitable, and with serious consequences in the coming decades.

Climate change will affect the American continent significantly, by generating more violent storms and heat waves, which in Latin America will cause droughts, with the extinction of species and even hunger, according to a UN report to be released next week in Brussels, the AFP reported.

At the end of this century, every hemisphere will suffer from water problems, and if governments do not take steps, higher temperatures could increase the risk of "mortality, pollution, natural disasters and infectious diseases," warns the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), according to the article.

In Latin America, global warming is already melting the Andes icecaps and threatening the forests of the Amazons, which could become grassland, the article says.

Because of the large numbers of people living near coasts, the United States is also exposed to extreme natural phenomena, as was demonstrated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the AFP notes.

This is the second in a series of three IPCC reports, which began in February with an initial scientific diagnosis establishing the certainty of climate change, the article continues.

This second, 1,400-page report, which analyzes the changes by industry and region, and a copy of which was obtained by the AFP, states that even if radical measures are taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, higher temperatures throughout the planet in the coming decades is now a certain fact, the AFP reported.

As could be expected, Dan Fisk, National Security advisor for the region, stated on the same day in the Camp David meeting that in the discussion on regional matters, the Cuba issue would be one of them, and not exactly to address the subject of ethanol -- about which the convalescing President Fidel Castro wrote an article on Thursday -- but instead about the hunger he has created among the Cuban people.

Given the necessity of responding to this gentleman, I feel obliged to remind him that the infant mortality rate in Cuba is lower than that of the United States. He can rest assured that not a single citizen lacks free medical care. Everybody is studying, and nobody lacks the possibility of useful work, despite almost half a century of economic blockade and the attempt by U.S. governments to bring the Cuban people to its knees through hunger and economic asphyxiation.

China would never use even one ton of cereal or legumes to produce ethanol. This is a nation with a prospering economy that has beaten growth records, in which all its citizens receive the income necessary for essential consumer goods, despite the fact that 48% of its population, in excess of 1.3 billion inhabitants, work in the agricultural sector. On the contrary, it has been proposed to save considerable energy by eliminating thousands of factories that consume unacceptable levels of energy and hydrocarbons. Many of the foodstuffs mentioned are imported by China from all corners of the world after being transported thousands of kilometers.

Scores of countries do not produce hydrocarbons and cannot cultivate corn and other grains, or produce oleaginous seeds, because they do not have enough water even to meet their most elemental needs.

In a meeting convened in Buenos Aires by the Oil Industry Chamber and the Exporters Center on the production of ethanol, Dutchman Loek Boonekamp, director of Markets and Agricultural Trade for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, informed the press:

"Governments got very enthusiastic; but they should take a good look as to whether there should be such robust support for ethanol.

"Ethanol production is only viable in the United States; not in any other country, except when subsidies are applied.

"This is not manna from heaven and we don't have to blindly commit ourselves," the cable continues.

"These days, developed countries are pushing for fossil fuels to be mixed with bio-fuels at close to 5% and that is already putting pressure on agricultural prices. If that mixture is raised to 10%, it would need 30% of the sown surface of the United States and 50% of Europe's. That is why I am asking if this is sustainable. An increase in the demand for crops for ethanol would produce higher and more unstable prices."

Protectionist measures have risen today to 54 cents per gallon and real subsidies are much higher.

By applying the simple math that we learn in high school, as I stated in my previous reflections, it can be confirmed that the simple replacement of incandescent light bulbs by fluorescent ones would contribute a saving of investment and energy recourses equivalent to trillions of dollars without using a single hectare of agricultural land.

Meanwhile, news coming from Washington is affirmed textually by the AP:

"The mysterious disappearance of millions of bees across the whole of the United States has beekeepers on the verge of a nervous breakdown and is even worrying Congress, which this Thursday is to debate the critical situation of a key insect for the agricultural sector.

"The first serious signs of this enigma emerged shortly after Christmas in the state of Florida, when beekeepers discovered that the bees had vanished.

"Since then, the syndrome that experts have christened Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has reduced the country's swarms by 25%.

"'We have lost more than half a million colonies, with a population of around 50,000 bees each,' said Daniel Weaver, president of the American Beekeeping Federation, noting that the disease is affecting 30 of the country's 50 states. The curious part of the phenomenon is that in many cases no mortal remains have been found.

"The hardworking insects pollinate crops valued at $12-14 billion, according to a study from Cornell University.

"Scientists are considering all sorts of hypotheses, including one that a certain pesticide has provoked neurological damage in the bees and altered their sense of direction. Others blame the drought, and even cell-phone waves, but what is certain is that nobody knows for sure what the real trigger is."

The worst could be still to come: a new war to ensure supplies of gas and oil, which would place the human species on the brink of a total holocaust.

There are Russian news agencies that, citing intelligence sources, have reported that the war on Iran has been prepared in all its details for more than three years, from the day that the United States decided to totally occupy Iraq, thus unleashing an interminable and odious civil war.

Meanwhile, the United States government is directing hundreds of billions to the development of highly sophisticated technological weapons, such as those utilizing microelectronic systems, or new nuclear weapons that could be over their targets one hour after receiving the order.

The United States is totally ignoring the fact that world opinion is against any type of nuclear weapons.

Demolishing every single Iranian factory is a relatively easy technical task for a power like that of the United States. The difficult part could come afterwards, if another war is launched against another Muslim belief, which merits all our respect, as well as the other religions of the peoples of the Near, Middle and Far East, before or after Christianity.

The arrest of British troops in Iran's jurisdictional waters would seem to be a provocation exactly like that of the so-called Brothers to the Rescue when, in violation of President Clinton's orders, they advanced over waters in our jurisdiction, and the defensive action of Cuba, absolutely legitimate, served as a pretext for the government of the United States to promulgate the infamous Helms-Burton Act, which violates the sovereignty of other countries. The powerful mass media have buried that episode in oblivion. More than a few people are attributing the price of oil, reaching close to $70 per barrel on Monday, to fears of an attack on Iran.

Where are the poor nations of the Third World going to find the minimal resources for survival?

I am not exaggerating or using untempered words; I am going by facts.

As can be seen, the polyhedron has many dark sides

Thursday, April 12, 2007

April 13, 1975: The Civil War in Lebanon began

Tomorrow, the painful memory of the beginning of the civil war began. I will try to put a summary of a summary on why the war broke.

There are several factors that tackle the events that led to the break-out of the Lebanese Civil War. Theodor Hanf (in his book Irrevocable Covenant) and others discuss different reasons that become entangled in the end, and trigger the Lebanese Civil war in 1975.

The first reason according to Hanf that the war broke out is due to the nature of Lebanon and its political structure. Lebanon is a state composed of communities whereby one community can never dominate the rest. This balance of power forced into Lebanon democracy as the best solution between the different communities. The second factor would be the class-income distribution between the sects to be involved in the 1975 clash. All the communities got their elites as well as their lower income wage earners. The 1960s witnessed class inequality on the rise among the different communities which made the major Sect leaders aim to mobilize the masses easier against the others. A third factor is the perception of the Muslims and Christians of Lebanese Nationalism. To the Christians, Lebanese Nationalism is strictly Lebanese and nothing else (as long as they were in power) while the Muslims regarded Lebanese Nationalism as complementary to Arab Nationalism and didn’t mind having both. This would play a major role in the different factions who would ally with the Palestinians. These double standards of Nationalism would threaten the Christians’ sense of Lebanese independence.

Another dimension to Theoder Hanf was the Palestinians’ activities in Lebanon starting from the late 1960s and the arrival of large quantity of combatants in 1970 after Black September in Jordan. This tipped the balance of power among the Lebanese communities as the Left-Wing considered that the Lebanese army was already biased for the Lebanese Christian Leaders and the PLO’s mass arrival can balance the power against the “isolationist” Christian Leaders. The Palestinians used Lebanon since the late 1967 as a base to launch operations on Israel. This spread fear among the Christians that Lebanon’s independence was marginalized and they became a minority in Lebanon as the PLO learnt their errors from the Jordan 1970 experience and armed its allied parties in Lebanon. They further established networks, since the PLO got no place else to go and Lebanon was the only country allowing them to launch their military operations. Solidarity to the Palestinians was expressed through the Muslims (mostly the Sunni) but with the aim to change the system in a limited manner while the left-wing Lebanese National Movement aimed to demolish the sect-based system. The PLO eventually transformed the Western Part of Beirut into its stronghold.

A third dimension to several authors is the Army and its incapability to dominate or control the PLO. The Lebanese Army was always a weak army compared to the neighboring armies’ strength of Jordan, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. The purpose of the army, as advocated by head of the Phalange Party, Pierre Gemayel, that the nation’s strength would be its weakness. Having a weaker army means discouragement for other nations to feel threatened. Nevertheless, despite its weakness compared to other institutions, the army has been the core balancer of power between the Christian Militias and the rest of the communities. The Army from 1967 till 1969 entered several confrontations with the Palestinian Commandos in order push away the PLO from the borders, primary allies of Kamal Junblatt and the Left-wing, till the Cairo agreement was signed. After 1970, with the PLO still expanding their networks and continuing with their operations on Israel, the Christian Parties decided to transform their parties into militias. The Left-wing leaders organized mass demonstrations against the Army’s crackdown attempts on the PLO.

The Regional Situation also played a role into contributing factors that would eventually lead to the break out of the Lebanese Civil War. Ever since the end of the Six Days War, the PLO received massive support from the gulf nations in compensation to the great humiliating Arab Defeat. The Cairo agreement was drafted between the PLO and the Head of the Lebanese Army, which was approved by the Lebanese Parliament, gave the PLO legitimacy over the camps, safe influx of arms from Syria, and made West Beirut the safe-haven for the PLO warriors. The Cairo Agreement’s aftermath also made the Christian Leaders, after the influx of more PLO warriors from Jordan, to focus on their own strengths. According to Dr. Moubarak, the Arab states blocked PLO operations from their borders but encouraged the PLO’s use of arms and support in Lebanon. (Walid Moubarak, Position of A Weak State In An Unstable Region: Case of Lebanon (The Emirates Center For Strategic studies & Research ,2002), P. 3) Syria on the other hand, had its own Palestinian Militias active in Lebanon, the Sa’iqa. They were always a support to the PLO’s activism specially if the Lebanese Army pressured the PLO in a military sense. What aggravated the situation more was the fact Kamal Junblatt was the Minister of Interior, who was the PLO’s primary ally, to this, the Christian Leaders never liked it.

The International Arena also played a role into negotiations. Kissinger never struck deals with the PLO, rather with Egypt and Syria after 1973 war. The PLO were regarded as Refugees with no rights whatsoever which forced its leadership to bomb its away to attain recognition and a bargaining card via Lebanon after they changed policy and have a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza (which will happen in the Oslo agreement). Israel’s policy was also dramatic which increased the tension between the Christian Leaders and the PLO. Whenever the PLO launched an operation, Israel responded mainly on the South and the refugee camps. When Israel bombed in 1968 the 12 Middle East Airlines, Israel signaled a message to all leaders of Lebanon to control their half of the borders and cripple the PLO. The development of the Peace Treaties between Egypt and Israel via Henry Kissinger got al-Assad to develop the three nation (Syria, Jordan and Lebanon) – four people unity strategy (Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and Jordanians).

The US administration, under Kissinger’s dominion, was bothered with the turn of events inside Lebanon. With the escalation of the Lebanese situation, Kissinger was worried that Israel would be dragged to war with Lebanon, which in turn would trigger another regional war in less than a year. Furthermore, Kissinger didn’t want to see Israel entering a war because finally an Arab nation (supposedly the strongest military then), Egypt, decided to follow the Step-By-Step with the Zionist State. Nevertheless, PLO operations threatened a regional war. Syria already took a positive step with the States after the 1973 war, and agreed to follow the disengagement plan. The problem was Syria always supported the PLO from cross-border artillery, or its Palestinian made militias: the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA). This did not stop Syria from establishing good contacts with the Christian Militias, in case, according to Syrian calculations, the other side dominated. To the Syrians, they wanted intervention into Lebanon, but not a left-wing Lebanese Party establishing a socialist government that would shake the whole region. Worse, they wanted to dominate the PLO politically in order to become the sole spearheads for the “Arab Cause”. This clicked with Kissinger on a latter stage to cripple the PLO.

The Division of Lebanon into Two Camps intensified matters. The Leaders of the “Lebanese Front” declined to lose one bit of their political advantage and public sector recruitment benefits (6:5). Imam el-Sadre radicalized his Shiite base and moved closer to President Suleiman Frangieh’s coalition hence forth isolating the Sunni Sect and the Left-Wing (who were attempting to link their demands with the crisis of the South). Junblatt became the recognized Muslim leader in the Arab world, as he got the support of Syria and Egypt as well as the presence of the PLO armed groups broke the hegemony of the Christian domination. His bargaining would be narrowed down to reform the system in return of limited strikes of the PLO against Israel. Pierre Gemayel and Camille Shamoun wouldn’t want to lose any privileges for their parties stressed and accompanied the army in their clashes with the PLO. Should the Christian leaders accept any declines, the warring Lebanese factions probably would have been avoided with a new Status Quo (Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon, Pluto Press (2007), P. 180)

The state, due to the interests of both camps, has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the left-wing camp. The erosion of the State started when Israeli Commandos entered West Beirut and assassinated three PLO figures in 1973. The Army was present and didn’t do anything as Ehud Barak stated he remained for one hour in the Verdun area disguised as a blond woman in a skirt. Escalations occurred from the soon to be Lebanese Front Alliance and the Lebanese National Movement leaders. Since 1970, the future LNM leaders called for demonstrations every time the Army (usually backed with Phalange supporters) attacked the PLO.

Two incidents will trigger the Lebanese civil war in 1975 despite the fact some confrontations occurred between Junblatt’s socialists and the Phalange militia earlier to the zero hour. The first is the demonstration led my MP Ma’ruf Sa’ad against Protein Corp. in Saida. The corporation itself has the Ahhrar’s Camille Shamo’un as one of its primary shareholders. The army shoots on the demonstrators, and the Pro-Nasserite MP Sa’ad is killed among others. Riots break up between the Army and the Nasserite, leftist, and Palestinian supporters. President Frangieh refutes to hold the army accountable while the Phalange supporters did several counter – demonstrations in solidarity with the army. After a month Frangieh transfers two officers from Saida while its governor was placed on probation. Eventually Pierre Gemayel objects on the rotation of the Army’s officer transfer. A month later, the Project of establishing Protein in Saida was abandoned and the government decides to compensate the fishermen. The Next day, April 13,1975, a shoot out takes place in Ain el-Remaini at the Phalange (which is assumed an operation on Pierre Gemayel) while the Phalanges retaliate by shooting a bus going to Tel el-Zaatar camp. The war would break and would last for a decade and a half. (Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon, Pluto Press (2007), P. 183).

Different factors boiled down to trigger the Civil War in Lebanon. Whether it was class inequality among the sects which allowed the “Sect-Defenders” to mobilize their supporters against the “other”, or the newly balance of power between the Leftists and the Christian militias has triggered down the civil war. The presence of two armies, the PLO guerilla warfare organized commandos and the Lebanese Army, definitely shoved the direction of Lebanon towards a new civil war. Philip Habib once compared Lebanon to a vacuum that sucked in the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Israelis, the United States, and others into its whirlpool.

Keep in mind that this is just a summary of a summary for the causes why the Civil War broke, I didn’t tackle the events of the war. All are to be blamed. Just to make a remark, the causes which triggered the war on Lebanese level, the Christians and the Left, changed as the civil war, accompanied with different foreign interventions, progressed till 1990. The war is divided into different reasons, which changed as the turn of events progressed. This reflects also the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland triggered a chain reaction that reflected badly on Lebanon. In the end, the Proletariat suffered the greed of the elites.

Renegade Eye & Marxist From Lebanon

Monday, April 09, 2007

The political situation in Venezuela – interview with Yonie Moreno, member of the CMR in Venezuela

The Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria is the Trotskyist organization in Venezuela. The solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution group Hands Off Venezuela interviewed CMR member Yonie Moreno, and he presented an overview of the situation.

By Yonnie Moreno
Monday, 09 April 2007

Hands off Venezuela interviewed CMR member Yonie Moreno on the current situation in Venezuela. Yonie discusses a range of issues, from the question of the PSUV to the question of workers’ control and the struggle at Sanitarios Maracay.

Hands off Venezuela: Chávez's electoral victory on December 3 happened at a time of massive popular mobilisation and opened a new stage, marked by a whole series of measures announced by the president, such as the creation of the PSUV, the nationalisation of strategic companies; all this in an open struggle against state bureaucracy and reaffirming the socialist character that the Venezuelan revolution had to acquire. Since then 3 months have passed. How do you see the practical development of these measures?

Yonie Moreno: The first thing that comes up is Chávez's turn to the left. As we expected, he is faces the sabotage and opposition of the capitalists. At the beginning of the year there was a generalised increase in prices above the government caps for some basic products, which the capitalists did not respect. Inflation went up by 2% in January. This was a consequence of the scarcity of basic products. The index of product scarcity of the BCV (Venezuelan Central Bank) moved from 9.2% in December to 14.3% in January. The problem is that the profit margin for the capitalists was reduced by the government's actions, in its attempt to regulate prices. The capitalists stop producing or begin hoarding their merchandise for better sales in the future. To this you have to add the conscious sabotage instigated by the bosses' confederation and imperialism.

The months of January and February showed some of the contradictions that have been pushing the revolution from the beginning. The measures adopted by Chávez, even if they do not go beyond capitalism, in the current context of the crisis of capitalism in Venezuela and internationally they contradict the interest of the capitalists and hinder the normal functioning of Venezuelan capitalism. Chávez's government is implementing a policy of reforms to benefit the people. However, there is no room for any policy of reforms in the current situation from the point of view of the capitalists. The bankers, the industrialists and the speculators demand more and more attacks on the workers to increase their profits. They demand privatisations and cuts all over the planet. They would like that too in Venezuela and they got it for a certain period of time. When Chávez came to power they believed he was going to be their puppet. However, at a certain point, they saw that they could not control the situation; that Chávez was not implementing the policy that their interests needed. That is the cause of the coup in 2002, when an enabling law was approved and Chávez passed 49 laws that followed it. These laws did not go beyond capitalism. The mass movement defeated the coup. They lost and now they are facing the problem that the government and the state apparatus (which is still bourgeois) have escaped their direct control. Also, the masses are ready and vigilant. However, the economy, as these last weeks have demonstrated, is still in their hands.

The president is carrying out a policy of redistributing the oil wealth to the poor. Almost 40% of the national budget is destined for social expenses. This is one of the highest levels in the world. It is a whole series of policies that, without going beyond the limits of capitalism, benefit the masses and hurt the capitalists; for example, the price cap on a series of basic products. This is not a socialist measure. However, in the current context it attacks the profit margin of the capitalists, who respond by not producing, sabotaging the economy, increasing prices and generating scarcity. Another measure is that the currency exchange is regulated and there is a limit to the exchange rate for Bolivars to dollars. This policy was implemented by the government to prevent dollars from being taken out of the country - the flight of capital. Let us remember that it is estimated that in the last 40 years, around 300,000 million dollars have been taken out of Venezuela in that way destined for international banks. That was the traditional method of looting used by imperialism and local capitalists alike. This measure prevents capital flight and benefits the workers and the people since the wealth remains in the country. However, it is a restriction on the free circulation of capital and hinders the accumulation of profit and the capacity of the capitalists to keep their profits in a secure place. If we add Chávez's language and his proposals for nationalisations then you have the whole picture. All these measures, amongst others, to the benefit of the people have provoked the lack of productive investment on the part of the capitalists.

Hands off Venezuela: What was the reaction of the government to the sabotage and scarcity at the beginning of the year?

Yone Moreno: On one hand the government passed a law in defence of the Republic that enabled the expropriation of any company hoarding product as well as industries involved in speculation. Chávez threatened to expropriate the slaughterhouses and storage plants, if the scarcity of these basic products continued. In fact, one was expropriated (Fricapeca) in Zulia, where the workers had been demanding its expropriation for some time. This storage plant had been closed for almost 2 years and had at one time been the second largest of its type in the whole of Latin America. At the same time, it imported food and through MERCAL (a State food distribution network that covers 50% of the supply of basic products at a reduced price) supplied imported products, causing a lack of national products. That way the government managed to temporally stop the sabotage of the capitalists and stabilise prices.

Faced with a situation of sabotage like this the government has several options: it can give in to the pressure of the capitalists', increase the pressure on them or, as the CMR proposes: expropriate the whole of the capitalists, expropriate the commanding heights of the economy, approximately 2/3 of the GDP, to organise the economy on the basis of a democratically planned economy to the benefit of all and according to social need and not the profits of the capitalists. Unless the government takes this action the capitalists will continue sabotaging the economy. What these last months demonstrate is that the Venezuelan economy is controlled by the bourgeoisie and not by the government of President Chávez. In the end, equilibrium was reached through flooding the Venezuelan market with imported products paid for by the oil wealth.

In this situation the government, at the beginning of February, bought CANTV and Electricidad de Caracas. Even though Chávez pointed out at first that the expropriation would take place and that only later the government would look into what price to pay for them, the nationalisation was not carried out in that fashion. The pressure of the economic sabotage and the reformist sectors within the government was felt. The government bought these companies from the multinationals at a reasonable price, to the relief of the markets.

The CMR defends the position that the best option was for expropriation without compensation. The compensation has been more than paid over all these years in which these companies were in the hands of multinational groups enriching themselves at the cost of the Venezuelan people and workers. But the government did not want to go to the end. Up to a certain point, the multinationals were obliged to sell under the threat of expropriation, and that is what they did.

For the CMR, even with compensation, these nationalisations are a progressive measure that we support. But it cannot stop there. First, the control of these nationalised companies must be in the hands of the workers. If the state bureaucracy takes over, all these nationalisations will be a complete disaster. There will be a continuous sabotage on the part of the state apparatus, which is link by a thousand threads, visible and invisible, with the bourgeoisie and imperialism.

There is a small truce at the moment, but the conflict will come up again sooner or later on a larger scale because of the contradiction between the needs of the masses and Chávez's desire to improve the living standards of the Venezuelan people, especially the poorest, and the inability of capitalist production to meet these needs and desires. Chávez reflects the aspirations for a better life of a huge majority. The problem in Venezuela is that capitalism is unable to develop the economy of the country. It is an absolute obstacle to the development of the nation. Chávez calls on the reasonable capitalists who want to take the country forward and encourages them to invest, while at the same time threatens to expropriate them. He expropriates and nationalises some companies and says that it is necessary to produce according to needs and not profit. He continuously speaks against capitalism, says that Venezuela must move towards a socialist revolution, that it is necessary to read Marx, etc. Above all, Chávez stimulates the struggle as well as the organisation of the masses.

Sooner or later the conflict between the capitalists and the government will erupt again. Thus, things will be resolved either by expropriating the capitalist class or by ceding to its pressure. So far, the government has been able to manoeuvre between those two poles because of the oil revenue that fills the holes produced by the economic sabotage of the capitalists. But the use of the oil revenue in this way will not last forever and already huge contradictions are being generated. Any change, even a small one, in the growth of the world economy, with its effects on the price of oil and dollar, will have enormous repercussions on the Venezuelan economy.

Hands off Venezuela: What is the meaning of the launching of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela after the elections?

Yone Moreno: Chavez's shift to the left has had an effect within the Bolivarian movement. The CMR in its last perspectives document points out that the main contradiction of the revolution is the struggle between the reformists and the revolutionaries, which is an expression of the class struggle, which is taking place at this moment inside the Bolivarian movement, after the successive defeats of the opposition. If this division along class lines has not yet become an open fact it is because of Chávez's huge authority. However, the proposal for the creation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has strained the rope too much. Three parties, which in the past formed the "Bloc for change" (the electoral coalition behind Chávez in elections) the PCV (The Communist Party of Venezuela), PPT and PODEMOS have expressed their refusal to dissolve themselves within the PSUV as the MVR, UPV and MEP have already done. This has generated some controversy within these parties as well as between the leaders of these organisations and Chávez. One of the strongest conflicts took place between the leader of PODEMOS and governor of Aragua, Didalco Bolivar. Chávez made several critical comments about him, saying that he was a social democrat and not a socialist; and that these are two different things. Referring in general to these parties, Chávez pointed out that he considered that they were practically with the opposition. This is political death for these organisations. If they reject entering the PSUV it is because of bureaucratic considerations and their fear to losing their share of power in the ministries, governorships and municipal councils. They also fear that the PSUV will be dominated by the MVR bureaucracy.

There will be titanic struggles within the PSUV between the revolutionary elements and reformists and bureaucrats. The leaderships of PPT, PODEMOS and PCV see the fusion as a danger for their positions instead as an opportunity to create a revolutionary party with a socialist programme in Venezuela. The struggle within the PSUV is not yet decided. It will be a struggle between reform and revolution and in the months to come will be one of the most important battlefields against reformism. Chávez is trying to push the building of the party from below. He wants it be a whip against bureaucratism and to be truly democratic. From April on the PSUV battalions will begin to be formed across Venezuela. These will decide on the programme of the party as well as the leadership of PSUV. From August the congress will begin and will last the rest of the year with a debate on the programme and how to organise the PSUV, all this until the end of the year.

The CMR considers one of its priorities to be the building of the PSUV and that this adopts a socialist programme that would put an end to the anarchy of capitalism on the basis of the nationalisation of the banks, main industries and multinationals in order to carry out the democratic planning of the economy. The PSUV will also be the instrument needed to finish off with the bourgeois state and bureaucratism. For this the working class must put itself at the forefront of the struggle to build the PSUV.

We will see how things end up and if these parties will eventually join the PSUV. If they do not they will face enormous difficulties. This, however, is only the beginning of the internal class division within the Bolivarian movement, which will affect all groups within it.

Hands off Venezuela,: Another issue in the spotlight is the situation of the workers at Sanitarios Maracay and their struggle for the nationalisation of the company. Is there any news about this and, more generally, what is the situation with the labour movement - the UNT, FRETECO, etc...

Yone Moreno: Recently, the workers from Sanitarios Maracay bought raw material with the revenue made from selling bathroom suites. This will allow us to produce for another 6 months. There was some tension amongst the workers because the revenue was not enough to secure a fair wage, only food rations and 30,000 bolivars a week. In spite of this, the workers have been holding out for four months. Is there any better proof of the high level of consciousness amongst Venezuelan workers?! Everything, however, has its limits. Now, they expect to be able to increase production, the sales and, this way, be able to hand out better wages. All this while they are waiting for the government to decide on the question of expropriation, which is their only way out. The company, under workers' control, cannot compete in the capitalist market. After the march, on February 8, the Ministry of Labour sent a delegation to visit the factory. Since then they have not heard any news.

The reformist bureaucracy is going to put as many obstacles in the way as they can to prevent the nationalisation of the factory. There are huge contradictions between what the Ministries do and what Chávez says and does. An example of this contradiction is the interview that workers at Sanitarios Maracay managed to get with a top civil servant from the Finance Ministry. He told them that the government was not interested in nationalising companies, apart from those that had been privatised, and that its line was the implementation of mixed or joint companies. He pointed out that the workers at Sanitarios might use the method of co-management implemented at Invepal and Inveval. This civil servant said this at the moment that Chávez expropriated Fricapeca and the oncological hospital, Padre Machado. Evidently, this is not the best way to reassure the capitalists and create mixed companies.

At the same time, the bureaucracy's sabotage of workers' control continues. In Inveval the workers have mobilised, demanding valves from PDVSA so that they can work, since the state oil company has refused to supply them with valves for repair. The workers have tried everything. What has failed in co-management is the bureaucracy, inefficiency and the sabotage.

The state bureaucracy and the reformists are enormously weak. The ground crumbles under them. They find strength in the fact that the working class, so far, has not put itself at the forefront of the revolution; in the paralysis of the working class when it comes to carrying out their revolutionary tasks; of leading the oppressed of the country. But that can change at any moment.

The struggle at Sanitarios Maracay shows the potential of the Venezuelan proletariat. The expropriation of Sanitarios Maracay will depend on the spreading of the struggle to occupy and recover factories. 10 or 100 Sanitarios Maracays are needed! In particular all the currents within UNT must spread the struggle, and prevent it from falling into isolation. Sanitarios Maracay must be an example for the rest of the working class. We must carry out the revolutionary expropriation of the capitalists, put the factories to work, co-ordinate the factories and production from below and not wait for the slow and inefficient bureaucracy to do it. The workers must follow the example of Sanitarios and take the initiative and organise the economy on a new basis.

Hands off Venezuela: How can these obstacles be overcome?

Yone Moreno: The UNT can only be built if it organizes itself as an instrument for the workers to take power and not just as a union concerned with work places demands. The workers' struggle in Venezuela has gone beyond the question of collective bargaining to the question of who possesses control over the companies and the economic activity of the country. The seizure of power is the central task of the working class in this revolution and is the only way to victory. The factory occupations must be extended, and factory committees must be formed in order to fully realise the potential of workers' control. These councils must be coordinated with the communal councils to create soviets.

If this central task is subordinated to the question of elections within the UNT, if these elections become the point of reference around which everything else turns, then the working class will again be paralysed, as it has been over the last few years. Unfortunately, the C-CURA, which groups around Orlando Chirinos the most militant sectors of the working class, is still entrenched on the question of the elections. The majority of the UNT is not going to be won in the ballot boxes, but rather on the streets. The sector within the UNT that positions itself at the forefront of the struggle for socialism in Venezuela, not just paying lip service but actually demonstrating it in their actions, will be the one that wins a majority amongst the working class. As Leon Trotsky explained in his history of the Russian revolution, "the majority is not counted, but conquered". This is a lesson that the leadership of C-CURA should not forget. If we were to continue on this line the paralysis of and the split within the UNT will be fully realised. This will mean a serious setback for the Venezuelan workers and will cause the bureaucracy and the capitalists to rejoice. This is a serious threat to the workers and the revolution, which to triumph needs the proletariat to be at the forefront. If this course is not resolved it is also possible that the UNT leadership will be overwhelmed by the very movement of the workers themselves.

Hands off Venezuela: How was Chávez's Latin American tour? What have been the most important effects in Venezuela and abroad?

Yone Moreno: Imperialism is very worried about what is happening in Venezuela. If they could, they would redouble their efforts to topple Chávez and crush the revolution. But they are bogged down in Iraq. Their hands are not completely free to intervene in Venezuela. The best defence of the revolution in Venezuela is the international character of the revolution. Bush's visit was a complete failure. While Chávez at the same time toured with mass meetings in Argentina, Bolivia and Haiti, Bush was received with stones in Brazil, Colombia and Guatemala. No remarkable agreement was reached during this tour. Imperialism has attempted a diplomatic counter-attack on the Venezuelan revolution. This was met with a massive popular rejection on the part of the population in every country Bush set foot in.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Thinking Blogger Award and Other Blog Notes

When I'm tagged, I do my best to get out of having to respond. There is nothing I hate more than disclosing personal information. Less is known about me on a personal level, than even Sonia- Belle. My blog was honored by New Lines from a Floating Life with the prestigious "The Thinking Blogger Award",is not to be ignored. New Lines from a Floating Life is a real thinking person's blog. I was sold on it at my first visit. It is highly literate, concentrating both on literature and activism. The notes explaining why my blog was picked read,"Renegade Eye is one I have been visiting for quite a while, and sometimes comments come this way from there too. This is one very substantial blog. From Minneapolis, Minnesota, US. This blog is secular and socialist; influenced politically by Leon Trotsky, musically by Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, and the tango music of Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel, artistically by Pablo Picasso and Carlos Paez Vilaro. That gave me a few things to look up in itself! Much more Marxist than I am, but well written, well informed, and often refreshingly different". I think New Lines from a Floating Life is the refreshingly different blog that should be visited.

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.
The participation rules are simple:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote ([T]here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

My five picks in no particular order:

Wordsbody Molara Wood writes from the Nigerian diaspora, usually about literature and art of African artists at home and abroad. She gives plugs to many struggling artists unselfishly, while she is an artist with words.

Desert Peace This blog never loses its humanism or decency, in a land that is always on war footing.

State Street Lynn posts almost everyday. You never know what will be on his mind. Whether its the pretty woman in the pub or starvation in Darfur.

Black Looks Is a group blog that is highly readable, dealing passionately with issues of African women.

A Poetic Justice Mark is the hardest working man in blogdom, with his several artistic blogs, speaking for the suffering.

Again thank you from my team on this blog.

I have a counter on my blog, that tells me where people are on the internet before coming to my blog. I have discovered key words are importrant to get traffic



Again visit, comment and link to others blogs. Explore what others say.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Argentina: Thirty-One Years After Coup, Disappearances and Terror Back on the Streets

Toward Freedom
Written by Marie Trigona
Thursday, 29 March 2007
ImageArgentina marked the 31st anniversary of the nation's 1976 military coup on March 24 with a series of marches to commemorate 30,000 disappeared during the so-called dirty war. As the perpetrators face trial 31 years on, key witnesses are disappearing and terror is back on the streets. In the face of threats and attacks, demonstrators demanded an end to impunity for military personnel who served in the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Rights representatives have expressed immediate concerns over Julio Lopez; a new name that has been inscribed on the doleful roll call of Argentina's disappeared. Human rights groups in Argentina report that the trials to convict former members of the military dictatorship for human rights abuses have been put on hold and that the wave of threats against witnesses continues.

Legacy of fighting for human rights

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo held their weekly Thursday vigil in the plaza where they have met for 30 years to demand information on the whereabouts of their children who were kidnapped and later murdered, but whose bodies have never been found.

Mercedes Meroño, whose daughter was disappeared in 1978 said that the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have gathered the strength to fight from their children. "After 30 years of struggle in the plaza and 31 after the dictatorship, we defeated the dictators with a struggle that we never abandoned, because we support the revolutionary struggle of our children. We continue to say that we were born out of our children’s fight, because before we didn’t know anything about this. For love we went out into the streets."

ImageDuring the Mothers’ 29 years of struggle they have endured physical attacks and endless threats. Three of the founding members were disappeared and murdered following the infiltration by Adolfo Astiz, a military officer, in 1977. Astiz, like many other former military leaders have been charged with human rights abuses, but has never been sentenced for his crimes. Astiz is facing trial for the 1977 disappearances of French nuns Alice Domon and Léonie Duque and a dozen other people, including Azucena Villaflor, the founder of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.

Meroño, now 82 years old, says that the Mothers will continue to fight until ex-military leaders are convicted and put behind bars for human rights crimes "At 31 years since Argentina's worst military coup, what we want is peace, love and solidarity. And those of us who fight for those words are triumphant. The evil people, the murderers, those who threw young people alive into the sea, tortured and raped: all of them are hidden in their homes like cowards. We want for them to be put in jail just like any other murderer and to be placed in common jails."

Today’s terror and impunity

Right across from the Plaza de Mayo on March 22, a delegation from the group called Space for Memory, Truth and Justice presented a report of over 200 cases of recent attacks and threats against human rights activists. Police barricades blocked the delegation two blocks from the Interior Ministry.

Carlos Leiva is an activist from an unemployed workers organization Frente Dario Santillan. Speaking at the Interior Ministry, Leiva describes his kidnapping that occurred earlier this month. "On Friday, March 2, I was on my way to a movement meeting. A car stopped in front of me and two people who came from behind forced me into the car. They took me to an abandoned warehouse. I was held there for 6 or 7 hours while they threatened me a lot and asked personal questions and questions about our movement. The moment came when they had orders from a superior and they simulated shooting me."

ImageLeiva has identified his perpetrators as civil police who harassed him at a previous protest and says that authorities haven’t carried out an investigation since his kidnapping. "Every year the point is to go out and say we don't forget. During the dictatorship they disappeared an entire generation that thought, that could speak out. Today we are trying to fight for a better future in our organizations and the police are trying to fill organizations with fear. The clearest case is they disappeared Julio Lopez and he hasn’t turned up."

Human rights trials paralyzed

Argentina’s federal courts have virtually paralyzed upcoming human rights trials six months after the disappearance of Julio Lopez — a key witness who helped convict a former police officer for life. Lopez went missing September 18, the eve of the landmark conviction of Miguel Etchecolatz, the first military officer to be tried for crimes against humanity and genocide.

ImageIn his testimony, Lopez said that Etchecolatz tortured him during his detention from 1976-1979. Testifying before a court in La Plata, Lopez described the prolonged bouts of interrogation under Etchecolatz’s supervision. "I even thought that one day I find Etchecolatz, I am going to kill him. And then I thought, well, if I kill him I’ll just be killing a piece of garbage, a serial killer who didn’t have compassion." He said that the police chief would personally kick detainees until they were unconscious and oversee torture sessions.

Etchecolatz's sentence for crimes against humanity, genocide, and the murder and torture of political dissidents during the dictatorship represents the first time in the nation's history that the courts have sentenced a military officer to life for crimes against humanity.

This is only the second conviction of a former military officer charged with human rights abuses since 2005 when Argentina's Supreme Court struck down immunity laws for former officers of the military dictatorship as unconstitutional. Etchecolatz was arrested and sentenced to 23 years in 1986, but was later freed when the "full stop" and "due obedience" laws implemented in the early '90s made successful prosecution of ex-military leaders for human rights abuses virtually impossible.

In total, 256 former military personnel and members of the military government have been accused of human rights crimes and are now awaiting trial. However, this adds up to less than one ex-military officer for each of the country’s 375 clandestine detention centers that were used to torture and forcefully disappear 30,000 people. Aside from numbers, human rights representatives report that the trials are advancing at a snails pace, if advancing at all. Victims blame an inefficient court system filled with structural bureaucratic roadblocks and uncooperative judges.

Some trials have been delayed more than three years. President Nestor Kirchner, under pressure from human rights groups, addressed the issue publicly at the government’s official rally to commemorate March 24. He pleaded with the judicial system to speed up the trials but did not sanction any order or take any other action. Recently, 61 plaintiffs (mostly torture survivors) publicly accused four Magistrate Council members for deliberately obstructing the cases to try ex-military leaders for state supported terrorism. The council president, Alfredo Bisordi, has been investigated by the Magistrates Association for openly supporting the dictatorship and amnesty for human rights abusers. Human rights groups want Bisordi and the other three council members to be removed from their positions.

ImageGroups worry that judicial roadblocks and an atmosphere of fear may provide former members of the military dictatorship a window to escape conviction. Patricia Isasa, a former political prisoner and torture survivor is leading a case against 9 of her perpetrators in the province of Santa Fe. Currently, she is in a witness protection program after receiving threatening phone calls.

She says that many of the witnesses have dropped out of the trials since the wave of threats began: "The cases are clearly paralyzed. Before the kidnapping of Lopez I had a set date for the trial. The trial has been moved forward to no less than a year from now." Several judges have been threatened and are in police protection programs. In other cases, victims have reported that judges have ties to the military dictatorship. Isasa has made public complaints that her court case is being held up by a court with ties to one of her perpetrators, Victor Brusa, an interrogator in the concentration camps that later became a federal judge. Brusa served as a judge until he was put under house arrest thanks to Isasa’s efforts.

For Isasa, survivors deserve a quota of justice after 31 years of injustice and impunity. "The court delay means a year of impunity, a year of shame, a year of being a witness whose life is in danger. When can I have a sense of peace? When these people have a firm sentence in jail and deactivated as much as possible. Now, please don't put them in the same place!"

In recent months Human rights organizations have faced unrelenting threats in phone calls and emails defending crimes committed during the dictatorship. HIJOS, - an organization of children of the disappeared is one of those groups. Ramiro Gonzalez, son of a woman who was disappeared and member of HIJOS, was forced into an unmarked car by four men on October 4, who beat him while showing him pictures of activists and asking for their names.

ImageAccording to Gonzalez, many of the phone calls have been tracked to the federal prison where Etchecolatz and another 100 military officers are imprisoned. "We are continuing to receive phone calls from the federal penitentiary," says Gonzalez. "Everything is on hold, now that there are trials being held nationwide. Many of the witnesses don't want to take part in the prosecution out of fear, because the threats continue."

He adds that although HIJOS is on alert, they are continuing to fight for justice for their parent’s deaths during the military dictatorship. "We at HIJOS are particularly worried because we feel that we are an easy target. Many of our comrades are getting psychological help for the threats and some of us are truly afraid. But we are clear that we aren't going to abandon the struggle!"

With Julio Lopez missing for more than six months, it is almost certain that he is dead. His capturers are using his body as a negotiating tool to protect military personnel from any further criminal charges or trials. The political implications of Lopez’s disappearance has led to a virtual paralysis in the upcoming trials that human rights groups were promised when the Supreme Court overturned the amnesty laws that protected former military officers who served during the dictatorship.

Marie Trigona is a journalist and radio producer based in Buenos Aires. She can be reached at Visit for more information on the human rights trials.