Wednesday, 27 October 2010

World overwhelmingly rejects US blockade of Cuba...again

On 26 October, Cuba delivered Resolution 646 to the UN General Assembly on ‘The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba’. For the 19th year running, support for the Cuban case against the blockade was overwhelming; 187 countries voted in support of the Resolution, with three abstentions and two votes against from the usual suspects, the US and Israel. This year, however, they had no support from any other nation.

Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, delivered a powerful speech in condemnation of the genocidal US blockade. His voice was echoed by the UN Representative for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Camillo Gonsalves, who highlighted the hypocrisy of US government rhetoric towards Cuba. The US representative used the opportunity to condemn Cuba on ‘human rights’ grounds, to which the Cubans responded ‘We are ready to discuss violations of human rights. We can begin with the concentration camp at Guantanamo.’

How the US is bringing 'freedom' to Cuba.
The blockade against Cuba, in effect since 1962, has caused enormous damage to the Cuban economy, with conservative estimates of its direct financial repercussions at over $236.2 billion, alongside the enormous qualitative impact on social life, healthcare and food production.

Murray Andrews, written for RATB.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

EU awards Cuban 'dissident' 50,000 euros

European Parliament encourages hunger strikes
by Helen Yaffe for RATB

The European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize to Cuban ‘dissident’ Guillermo Fariñas in recognition of his contribution to 'human rights' in Cuba. Fariñas’ twentieth hunger strike, to demand the release of Cuban political prisoners, ended in July 2010 after 135 days, during which he was kept alive in intensive care by Cuban medics. The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek said: ‘Fariñas is an independent journalist and a political dissident who has shown that he is ready to sacrifice himself and risk his health and his life as a way of applying pressure to achieve change in Cuba.’ However, Buzek did not mention Fariñas record of non-political violent crime or his employment under US programmes to destabilise the Cuban Revolution.

In 1995 Fariñas assaulted, battered and threatened to kill a female doctor, the director of a hospital. Sentenced to three years and a 600 peso fine, he initiated his first hunger strike, and joined the counter-revolution for the first time. In 2002, an old woman he attacked with a walking stick needed emergency surgery. Sentenced to five to ten years, Farinas began a second hunger strike. His third hunger strike was to demand a television in the hospital wing where he was recovering from dehydration caused by the second. In December 2003, Cuban authorities released him because of his medical condition, but in 2006 Farinas initiated another hunger strike to demand internet access from his home. This was to assist his work as a 'reporter' for the CIA radio station, Radio Martí. Fariñas works closely with the US Interests Section (a substitute for an embassy) and other European diplomats who direct subversion in Cuba, receiving instructions, money and supplies. He lacks popular support and the Cuban people, who Fariñas claims to represent, consider him to be a mercenary for US imperialism.

Mercenaries: Fariñas celebrates his 'prize' with the 'Ladies in White'
The Sakharov Prize is named after Andréi Dmítrievich Sakharov, a nuclear physicist from the USSR who helped to develop the Hydrogen Bomb before defecting from the Soviet Union. By granting this prize to Fariñas, the European Parliament exposes itself to accusations of hypocrisy, given Europe’s support for the US blockade of Cuba. Since 1996 the European Union has adopted an unprecedented ‘Common Position’, which freezes political and economic relations with Cuba. This policy exacerbates the devastating economic, social and cultural impact of the US blockade, rejected in 19 consecutive UN General Assembly votes. The genocidal blockade is estimated to have cost Cuba $236 billion in lost trade and income, effectively violating the human rights of the entire Cuban people, through a policy which is intended to subdue them through starvation.

Fariñas' prize is not moral, but material. He will receive 50,000 euros for risking his life in the struggle to bring capitalism back to Cuba. This sum, however, is less than the cost to Cuba for the treatment which kept him alive during this latest hunger strike, provided under the country’s free, universal health service.

Fariñas has stated that if the Cuban government denies him permission to leave the country to collect his award on 15 December, he will initiate another hunger strike. A Cuban doctor said: ‘He knows that if he does, his life will be at risk practically within the first hours of initiating the hunger strike.’ A separate contradictory news report has claimed that the Cuban government is offering Fariñas and his family the opportunity to leave Cuba for the US. If he does leave, counter-revolutionaries will lose their latest ‘celebrity’ on the island. Additionally, Fariñas' claims to the international media of having received special military training and to have fought for Cuba in the internationalist mission in Angola, have been denied outright by the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Haiti struggles with cholera outbreak as NGO's profit from 'aid'

Haiti struggles to cope with deadly cholera outbreak
by Ezili Dantò, 22 October 2010.

According to Haiti's health minister, Alex Larsen, cholera "is very dangerous. It can kill in three hours because once the diarrhoea starts it doesn't stop." Although no cases have been reported in Port au Prince, Claude Surena, the head of Haiti's Medical Association, told AP that "The concern is that it could go from one place to another place … and affect more people."

Either foul drinking water or food that's been cooked in contaminated water is killing a new crop of Haitians, giving them cholera while donations that could have provided permanent clean drinking water are collecting interests for the thousands of charity organizations making a business out of poverty and the earthquake in Haiti.

The cholera epidemic just killed 140 Haitians and at least 1500 more are infected and may die. This cholera is caused, one report says, by drinking dirty toxic water. Another news report maintains that this is the first time that cholera has been found in Haiti and this cholera epidemic most likely was imported to Haiti by a healthy carrier after the earthquake.

Haitians in the Diaspora ought to get together and purchase and provide this sort of environmentally conscious water purifying unit (MaxPure-01) or a similar mobile systems that will provide purified drinking water, communication and electricity, all in one.

We should not be looking to the NGOs, the Haiti Oligarchy, the Haiti government, Papa Clinton, Paul Farmer or the UN to help us save our people. We've had 10-months and much more of such "help" and ought to know what to expect. The airport is now open, Haitians are not being forced to detour to the Dominican Republic. Those who have resources and skills, especially Haitian doctors ought to take a lead in providing permanent long term clean drinking water and subsidize Haitian medical services and doctors in Haiti who need help and who were put out of business by the free earthquake relief emergency assistance.

HLLN would like to make a positive difference but we do not have monetary resources to purchase these or similar all-inclusive water/electricity/communication units for the villagers. Something like this Max-Pure-01 system is what is necessary. We're coming to the Ezili Network and asking for a partnership with others in the Diaspora, at home and in the conscious community worldwide. But if you've looking for the International Community to finance permanent clean drinking water for the masses, that doesn't come from a bottle or purification pill to be purchased from USAID's profiteering contractors making a killing off the poverty business, you're too unconscious to help anyone. Kindly don't contact us with your contributions to "saving lives" while promoting dependency in Haiti. For Haiti's problems are rooted in "aid" administered in the context of patronage and dependence aimed at perpetuating oppression and exploitation.

But if you understand the poverty business will not leave any permanent good or infrastruture in Haiti, like self-renewing, permanent clean drinking water, because that would make their presence obsolete, then we could work together. We'd like help to mobilize the conscious community to provide self-reliant, permanent source of clean drinking water for the people DYING in Haiti. Please let us know how we may use the Ezili Network to help. These environmentally conscious, solar-powered systems, along with bulldozers, tractors and heavy equipment for removing rubble should have already been in Haiti at least a month after the earthquake. But humanitarian aid is profit business and though the technology and equipment exist to alleviate the common person's sufferings worldwide, none of the policymakers with checkbook power are in the business of saving lives unless its profitable or meets US Empire incessant resource warfare and big-business interests.

Remember all the International Community will do with this cholera outbreak is suppressed the number of Haitians dying in order to make themselves look good because they KEPT the earthquake donations collecting interest in the NGO/charitable organization's coffers for "future use." At least 140 Haitians, not including those dead from the recent rains, but who've died of Cholera now have NO FUTURE and 1500 or more are said to be infected. "Cholera comes from contaminated water or food, often contaminated by feces...Cholera can kill someone within a day...Right now the infection is an epidemic. There has not been such an epidemic in the region for a century." (See Cholera Epidemic in Haiti Highlights Deteriorating Conditions October 22, 2010, by Steve Harrigan; Haiti's first cholera epidemic in a century kills scores)

"Haiti pains are a good capital asset for the NGO industry. They wouldn’t have a job, salaries and tropical vacations and the illicit black sex they crave from Africans, without our pains, indignities, death, submissions and sufferings. Imagine swallowing the nutritional supplements, vitamins, vaccines and the other pharmaceuticals USAID insist are "aid to Haiti," when you've not eaten in four days? And the HIV drugs (and now "medicine" and rehydration tablets for Cholera) you have to swallow are also washed down with toxic ground water, in some ways also from US/Euro/Canada gold, copper, oil, iridium, uranium, coal, marble, granite, limestone, aggregate and other mining companies who pollute Haiti's shores and riverbeds. When the earthquake hit, many of us who lived through the two recent US coup d’etats in Haiti, the two Gonaives hurricane destructions of 2004 and then in 2008, knew these poverty pimps, knew they would crank up the press releases and telethons and collect and collect and collect, while the majority of people suffer, lose more, grieve and die in Haiti. In our minds' eye we saw USAID, CRS, CARE, Red Cross, World Vision, et al... sad perhaps, but still calculating and salivating at the huge prospects of monies to be collected from the deaths and brutal suffering of Haitians. It’s a profitable gig the poverty pimps are just not about to give up." (See, Poverty Pimps Masturbating on Black Pain: Monsanto Joins pack, May 17, 2010)

"A U.N. Report released in March of 2010 said that dirty water kills more people each year than all forms of violence combined including war. According to the WHO, of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90% are children under 5 years old...80 percent of all disease is caused by lack of basic sanitation and lack of clean water. There are 4,500 kids that die everyday from lack of basic sanitation and water"simple diseases like diarrhea. But (Lane Wood) said, there are some less obvious impacts of drinking dirty water. For example, dirty water can undermine other humanitarian efforts that money and effort have been poured into, like efforts to control AIDS/HIV in Africa. They're going home, they're taking their medicine with bacteria-filled water, and their bodies are not absorbing the medicine." (The Plantation called Haiti: Feudal Pillage Masking as Humanitarian Aid; Lane Wood says 2010 earthquake took toll on Haiti's water)

Forwarded by Ezili's Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network

Coup Forces 157 Hondurans into Exile

Coup Forces 157 Hondurans into Exile
Source: Prensa Latina, 22 Oct. 2010

A total of 157 people are currently living in exile due to persecution after the coup, reported the Committee of Relatives of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). The exiles are leaders of the resistance movement in neighborhoods and communities that have fled the country because their lives were in jeopardy, said Bertha Oliva, Cofadeh coordinator.

Oliva denounced the policy of persecution promoted by the Honduran government, paramilitary groups and death squads against opponents of the coup of June 28, 2009. That day hooded men kidnapped President Manuel Zelaya, took him by force to Costa Rica and put in power Roberto Micheletti.

Zelaya managed to return to the country by surprise on Sept. 21 and remained refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa for three months, until his departure for the Dominican Republic. Zelaya has lived in exile due to the lack of guarantees for safe return to Honduras and the trials conducted against him by the same institutions that supported the coup.

This week 30 US Democrat congressmen denounced the deplorable human rights situation in Honduras and urged their government to stop attempts to achieve the reinstatement of Honduras to the OAS as long as this situation continues. "We have received credible reports from human rights organizations that say that abuses continue with impunity," the congressmen said.

During the first half of this year about 3,000 were killed in the country, for an average of 16.27 deaths per day. The victims included 10 journalists, 30 lawyers and several leaders of popular organizations, and most of the crimes have not been investigated so far.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Chilean miners rescue media show

The Biggest Show on Earth
Source: Revolutionary Communist Group

Our Chilean correspondent Marcelo was in Copiapo when the 33 Chilean miners were lifted to safety. This is his report.

The incredible media frenzy has now passed, and Chile has returned to normal life. The global phenomenon is now a thing of the past and so too are the 24-hour transmissions dedicated to the 33 ‘heroes’ and to President Sebastián Piñera's personal endeavour. Chile´s government proudly displays the ‘Fenix II’ capsule used to rescue the miners from the ‘gut of the earth’ in front of the presidential palace like a trophy of war. The San Jose Mine collapse ended happily for the 33 miners and their families, though the happiest of all are without a doubt the Chilean government, now rolling in popularity after an apparently well-planned and executed rescue mission.

However the real story behind the accident is a lot more sinister. The criminal negligence of the mining companies, the government propaganda machine and the complicity of the centre-left coalition together form an entangled web of deceit. The San Jose mining accident has brought to light the lack of safety precautions and the negligence of the multi-billion dollar mining industry in Chile. The worst culprits are the small scale mining companies, which in order to maximize their profits save on safety, putting the lives of the mine workers on the line. Daniel Sanderson, one of the 300 workers from the San Jose mine told the Chilean newspaper ‘UNO’ that ‘there were four ventilators and four jumbo drills with which the mineral was extracted. However, the person in charge of each shift would turn off the ventilators in order to turn on the drills, because if both worked simultaneously, the electrical system would drop’. They preferred to stop the ventilators than stop production, meaning the miners would have to endure the sweltering heat inside the mine. The bosses, said Sanderson, ‘saved a lot of money thanks to us, the workers’. The mine worker went on to mention that a year ago, a truck caught fire inside the mine, almost killing 17 miners. This incident, together with others, was not reported. While I talked with the miners families, many of them said that accidents, such as small scale collapses were an almost common occurrence in the San Jose mine, and they often led to loss of limbs. In July this year a worker lost a leg in a rockfall; The mining company San Esteban, owner of the San Jose mine among others, has a appalling record of two deaths, 180 injuries and 52 serious accidents. The mine was last closed in 2007 after the death of a worker, and there is controversy as to who authorised the re-opening of the mine, with accusations that bribery was involved.

It was no secret to the experienced miners that a collapse was imminent. In their own words ‘when the mountain rumbles at midday it’s because it is very unstable’ and although the workers had informed the bosses, these did not take action. This is undoubtedly a situation of criminal negligence. The owners of the mines know that the state regulatory institutions are vastly underfunded and understaffed. At the time of the accident which trapped the 33 miners, Chile had fewer than 20 inspectors for an industry that employs 170,000 and contributes 40% of GDP. In comparison, in Ontario (Canada) where 22,000 miners work, there are 175 inspectors. Hardly surprising then that the mining companies abuse their power and increase their profits by putting their worker´s lives at risk, as they usually get away with it. There have been 31 mining deaths this year alone.

The wheels of the huge propaganda machine started to turn during the first 24 hours of the accident. The President heard about it while on a visit to Colombia. On his return to Chile he immediately sent the Minster of Mining, Laurence Golborne, to head the rescue operation. From then on, it was all hands on. After 17 days of being trapped without a sign of life, rescue workers heard someone knocking on a pipe 700 metres away. It was a moment of huge happiness, verified soon after when the miners fixed a note of confirmation to the drill bore.

Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, Minister Golborne himself untied that note from the bore. As the executive in charge of the rescue, he spent roughly 50 days of the 70-day operation at the site, immersed in even surprisingly mundane details of his task. The minister, previously CEO of an important retailer, demonstrated a remarkable ability to market his contributions, appearing almost daily before the cameras to update the world on the progress of the rescue mission.

The manipulation of the media, and the government´s hidden agenda went to cruel lengths. The note which read ‘all 33 of us are OK’ was retrieved at about 10:30am on 22 August, but no official would confirm or deny its existence to family members until the president arrived three hours later to make the announcement at a press conference. Of course the attention was on the president and his minister, making front page of the world media. Most journalists had never seen so much press in such a small area. By the end, there were 2000 people in 230 press teams, 180 of which were international all crowded into a small mountain valley in the middle of a desert. It’s hardly surprising that the appearance of the first miner (Florencio Avalos) has been compared to the impact created by Neil Armstrong´s famous first ‘step for mankind’ on the moon: One billion people around the world are said to have watched the event.

President Sebastian Piñera and Golborne personally greeted each miner as they were lifted to safety, waiting for a solid 24 hours. It was a show of support with a substantial payoff: it helped cement approval ratings that have soared during the rescue. A survey conducted by the Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Contemporanea (CERC) indicated that over the last two months, Golborne’s approval rating has soared to an unprecedented 87%, positioning him as a serious presidential candidate.

It is obvious to all that the government´s aim was to use the mining incident to increase its popularity, and also to cover up all other news stories. During the last two months, the national press was dominated by the news of the miners and the progress with their rescue, while a long-term hunger strike by Mapuche indigenous people demanding that their protests should not be subjected to former dictator General Pinochet’s terrorism laws was relegated into second or third place. But that was not all. On 12 October, the very same day that the miners were being rescued, the Chilean parliament tried to rush through a controversial law which limited the land and water rights of the indigenous communities. It was only just stopped after a strong protest on behalf of the indigenous groups.

While visiting the miners at hospital the day after the rescue, President Piñera announced a restructuring of the workers safety regulations, while some of his party members insist that the current regulation is adequate and that the law needs ‘just to be perfected’. It won´t be a surprise for anyone to hear that the 120-year-old mine that trapped the 33 miners may be opened once again in the future. After all, it is in the very nature of capitalism to make profits and if the wellbeing and safety of the workers is at risk, which in mining is especially true, then governments the world over may learn a few lessons from the masterfully spun Chilean plan.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Vanessa Davies interviews Fidel Castro

Interview given by Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz to the eminent Venezuelan journalist Vanessa Davies
Source: Granma Internacional Special Supplement, 22 August 2010

If Obama doesn’t pull the trigger due to world opinion and all the powers saying no to war, that is when these Israeli gentlemen will not dare to fire a rocket on their own account

Open Letter from Assata Shakur in Cuba

Political prisoners in Cuba they don't talk about

An Open Letter From Assata

On May 2 1973, Black Panther activist Assata Shakur (fsn) JoAnne Chesimard, was pulled over by the New Jersey State Police, shot twice and then charged with murder of a police officer. Assata spent six-and-a-half years in prison under brutal circumstances before escaping out of the maximum-security wing of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey in 1979 and moving to Cuba.

Assata: In her own words
My name is Assata ("she who struggles") Shakur ("the thankful one"), and I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government's policy towards people of color. I am an ex political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984. I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the FBI's COINTELPRO program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it "greatest threat to the internal security of the country" and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

British Vestey empire to be nationalised by Venezuela

The UK has 60 million acres and a population of 61 million. 69% of the acreage is owned by 0.6% of the people. 158,000 families own 41 million acres, while 24 million families own 4 million acres. The Vestey family are among the ten biggest landowners, but the biggest is the Duke of Buccleuch with 277,000 acres - RATB.

Chavez goes to war against Uncle Sam
Source: The Independent
By Cahal Milmo, 5 October 2010

Plans to nationalise the Vestey meat empire's Venezuelan estates are a blow to one of the UK's richest families

In 1903, two entrepreneurial Liverpudlian brothers arrived in Caracas determined to add to their burgeoning empire of foreign food producers by buying Venezuelan cattle ranches. Over the next decade, William and Edmund Vestey added 11 ranches covering thousands of hectares of prime pasture to a list of holdings that ranged from egg processing plants in China to beef herds in Madagascar. The Vestey brothers and their descendants came to epitomise British mercantile power, feeding the industrial heartlands of the UK with their refrigerated ships, transporting meats and foodstuffs from far-flung corners of the world in the name of Empire and considerable profit.

How times have changed. The Vesteys' once ubiquitous Dewhurst butchers' shop chain is history, their long-standing – and completely legal – tax avoidance scheme has ended, and now a pugnacious Venezuelan born in a mud hut to two schoolteachers has launched a land grab on one of their most prized assets.
Doubtless with an eye on the Vesteys imperial heritage, and the fact that his target is ultimately controlled by the 3rd Baron Vestey (a man so close to the heart of the British establishment that he nominally looks after the Queen's horses), President Hugo Chavez announced on Sunday that he was nationalising the land controlled by the Compaia Inglesa, the Venezuelan arm of the Vestey Group Ltd.

With the sort of revolutionary appeal that has sustained him in power for 11 years, Chavez, the firebrand of South American socialism, used his first televised address since an electoral setback a week ago to try to restore his radical credentials by declaring his intention to take back 300,000 hectares of Vestey-owned land.
Speaking on his weekly Alo Presidente programme, Chavez demanded the "acceleration of the agrarian revolution" and said: "All of the lands of the so-called Compania Inglesa will be nationalised now. I don't want to waste another day... Free the land, free the slave labour." There is no evidence that Agroflora, the subsidiary of Compania Inglesa that owns the Vestey ranches, uses slave labour, but the Venezuelan President-cum-showman knows how to pick his pantomime villains and produce a showdown between, as he sees it, the model of a redistributive economy and the hugely-wealthy embodiment of British aristocratic capitalism.

In the red corner stands the self-declared leader of Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution, whose government has taken over some 2.5 million hectares of land since 1999. His chosen opponent is Lord Sam "Spam" Vestey, the chairman of Vestey Group Ltd, one of the longest-standing friends of Prince Charles, owner of a fortune estimated at £750m and whose titles include Master of the Horse and third Great Officer of the Royal Household, a ceremonial role which entails him riding behind the sovereign for occasions such as the state opening of Parliament. His second wife, Celia, is Prince Harry's godmother, while Nina Clarkin, Lord Vesty's niece, is rated the best female polo player in the world after a childhood spent playing the sport with Princes Harry and William.

The resulting tussle is a battle between one of the most publicity-hungry politicians around and one of Britain's more illustrious yet publicity-shy dynasties. The Vestey Group, which remains a privately-owned global conglomerate with business interests from Macau to Manchester, today issued a diplomatic response to the Venezuelan president's pronouncement. George Vestey, executive vice chairman of the Vestey Group Ltd told The Independent: "Regarding Agroflora, our subsidiary company in Venezuela, I would make the point that we have been in constructive discussions with the Venezuelan government for some time now and we continue in that vein in order to find a friendly agreement with them. I would add that the government have issued all Agroflora farms with productivity certificates."

But it is a reasonable bet that in private the family is slightly less than delighted at being offered the opportunity to join Chavez's socialist revolution by being relieved of their landholdings in return for a substantial cheque. When the President first drew up his 2001 law threatening to expropriate privately-owned agricultural land that had been declared "idle", Lord Vestey staged a one-man protest outside the Venezuelan embassy in London. Five years ago, Venezuelan authorities backed by troops entered the Charcote estate, some 33,600 acres of grazing land owned by the Vesteys to the south of Caracas with 13,000 head of cattle, making it one of the country's top 10 beef producers.

The government eventually paid $4.2m (£2.65m) for the estate. In a rare pronouncement on the issue at the time, Lord Vestey told the Financial Times: "We've been in Venezuela for just over 100 years and we hope to be there for some time yet." Experts on Venezuelan affairs were yesterday equivocal about the chances of that vow being maintained for much longer, at a time when opponents of Chavez feel they have a chance of unseating him in the next presidential elections in 2012. One London-based analyst said: "Chavez has a habit of making these pronouncements but then not going quite as far as he makes out. Having said that, land ownership is such an emotive issue in Venezuela, particularly with the small farmers that make up his support base, he may well feel he has to push it all the way."

Critics of Chavez point to the poor performance of land once it is handed over to smallholders. Despite the President's avowed objective of securing "food sovereignty" by reducing dependence on imports, there has been a six-fold increase in the inward flow of foodstuffs in the decade since Chavez took power. El Charcote once turned out some 1.5 million kilos of beef a year but now produces next to nothing. The Venezuelan authorities say the demand for imports is the result of increased wealth in the country and point to a net increase in the amount of land under cultivation.

Even if Vestey Group Ltd is forced to cede its Venezuelan holdings it is likely to prove only a minor setback for a dynasty that has a knack for maintaining a fortune built on the discovery by William and Edmund Vestey that they could ship vast supplies of beef from the Americas to Britain in their fleet of refrigerated vessels at a handsome profit. Diversification brought even greater rewards, and, by the outbreak of the Second World War, the company was the largest importer of powdered egg to the UK. It also benefited from a tax avoidance scheme which kept Inland Revenue accountants busy for about 60 years and netted the family £88m in legally avoided tax until the loophole was closed in 1991.

The company retains a vast array of assets from ranches in Brazil to canning companies in South-east Asia, and despite some hiccups along the way, generations of astutely invested financial success will not be easily dismantled. As Phillip Knightley, author of the family history The Rise and Fall of the House of Vestey, put it: "They did not live on the income; they did not live on the interest from their investments; they lived on the interest on the interest."

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Venezuela's National Assembly elections 2010

PSUV majority reduced but opposition makes losses compared to 2001-2005
written for RATB by Sam McGill, 1 October 2010.

On Sunday 26th September Venezuela went to the ballot box to determine its National Assembly delegates for the next five years. According to results released so far by the National Electoral Council (CNE), Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 96 seats and the opposition’s United Democratic Roundtable coalition (MUD) won 63 seats. The social democratic Fatherland for All (PPT) party which split from the PSUV earlier this year won two seats. The three indigenous people’s representatives are not officially aligned with the PSUV or the MUD, but one is considered to be an ally of the PSUV, one an ally of the MUD, and one an ally of the PPT. One last seat in Carabobo state is still being calculated. PSUV won the majority of the seats in 16 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

The MUD won in the Colombian border states of Táchira and Zulia where landowners have repeatedly hired Colombian paramilitaries to crush land occupations and peasant militias, however, the PSUV won seven seats in the Capital District, compared to three for the MUD, and also won in the major industrial states of Bolivar and Carabobo. Abstention in National Assembly elections is usually high as it doesn’t determine the presidency. However September’s elections saw a record turn out of 66.45% and were monitored by a team of 150 international observers who complemented the CNE for its efforts to increase voter participation and to facilitate the voting process by placing extra machines in highly populated areas.

Although the PSUV held 84% of the seats at the National Assembly between 2006 and 2010 this was because the Opposition boycotted the National Assembly elections in 2005 and therefore did not win any seats. In order to understand the relative strength of the opposition currently, we must compare last Sunday’s results to the elections in 2000. During the 2001-2005 term, the Movement for the Fifth Republic became the PSUV and there were various splits and mergers as a result. Throughout these five years, pro-Chavez parties held between 83 and 92 seats at any given time, while opposition parties held between 73 and 82 seats. Therefore, in comparison to the last elections they participated in, the opposition actually lost around 20 seats whilst the PSUV gained seats. However the results fell short of the two-thirds majority (110 seats) that the PSUV aimed for in order to secure the progress of the Bolivarian Revolution.

With an absolute majority in the National Assembly, the PSUV will be able to control the passage of ordinary laws and most other functions of the legislative body. However, without the two-thirds majority the PSUV will not be able to control the passage of organic laws - enabling laws that give decree power to the president - and some appointments to other branches of the government. The opposition will now be able to block some parliamentary proceedings and slow down the legislative process. During 2001-2005 the National Assembly meetings saw the burning of draft laws, physical violence, obstructions preventing the President of the Assembly from chairing and countless walkouts. This type of disturbance is likely to reoccur. However, even if all 65 MUD deputies walk out, quorum will not be broken and legislation can still be passed as according to procedural rules, 50% of the deputies plus one (83) is required and PSUV has 98.

Despite achieving their objective of gaining a third of the seats, the opposition has already accused the CNE of manipulating the results to favour the PSUV. On Monday 27 September, MUD leader Ramón Aveledo said MUD candidates received 52% of the total number of votes cast nation-wide. According to the CNE the PSUV received 50.5% and the MUD coalition 49.5%. The opposition used dirty tricks to calculate their 4% advantage by adding the votes of all the small parties outside of the MUD coalition. Despite the CNE results refuting these claims, the damage was done as the international capitalists screamed that Chavez was on his way out and the opposition had the backing of the majority of the population.

The new National Assembly will not convene until 5 January 2011, allowing the current Assembly to finalise current proposed legislation. A key part of this legislation relates to the financial sector. On 18 August, a reform to the Bank Law was passed, preventing media owners and stock holders from managing banks and preventing stock brokers trading national public debt. The National Assembly is also developing a new Law of Bank Activity, pushing forward structures to control the private-dominated banking sector.

Read more about the background to the Venezuelan National Assembly elections, and also my article in the current issue of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 217 October/November 2010.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Ecuador: Citizens' Revolution Defeats Coup Attempt

Source: Revolutionary Communist Group

On 30 September, a police strike in Ecuador escalated into an attempted coup d’etat as President Rafael Correa was surrounded and trapped in a hospital for 12 hours in the capital Quito. Tens of thousands of Ecuadorians poured into the street to block attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government, defending the Presidential Palace and facing tear gas and missiles thrown by police who had sealed off the area around the hospital where a defiant Correa was refusing to negotiate or surrender.

Correa was first elected President in November 2006. After introducing a new progressive constitution and changes to the system of political representation, he was re-elected in April 2009, with 51% of the vote, giving him a mandate to continue and deepen the unprecedented social and economic programme of reforms – the Citizens’ Revolution – to reverse the poverty and exploitation suffered by the majority of the population in a country which has been ravaged by neo-liberalism. Correa has announced that Ecuador is building socialism for the 21st century and joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), the regional trade and cooperation bloc set up by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004.

Ostensibly, the police protest was in response to a new law approved the previous day which reduced payment received for promotions and bonuses. However, since Correa became President, police salaries have increased by an average 81%. When a small group within the 42,000 police force began a protest on 30 September, Correa went to talk to them face to face, but he was attacked by tear gas and, recovering from a knee operation just nine days previously, he left for treatment at the hospital. Once there, the hospital was surrounded, while other groups of armed police and some members in the army seized control of an international airport, broadcast facilities and other strategic objectives.

Ecuador’s army command, however, declared loyalty to the President and the Constitution as the people took to the streets, determined to resist a repetition of the coup in Honduras in June 2009. Finally, during the night, the army stormed the hospital and rescued Correa who went directly to the Presidential Palace to address jubilant crowds waiting there. Two days after the event Correa said of the police protest: ‘they tried to create chaos, to provoke civil war, and when that failed, they tried several times to kill the President.’

Venezuelan investigator Eva Golinger has warned that: ‘The latest coup attempt against one of the countries in the Bolivarian Alliance For The People of Our America (ALBA) is an attempt to impede Latin American integration and the advance of revolutionary democratic processes. The rightwing is on the attack in Latin America.’ Rejecting the brutal legacy of neo-liberalism in Latin America, ALBA promotes welfare-based development, keeping resources in the region to promote domestic development, acting as a barrier to US domination and European imperialism.

Golinger demonstrates that US imperialism was behind the coup attempt, citing an October 2008 report from the Ecuadorian Defence Minister revealing ‘how US diplomats dedicated themselves to corrupting the police and the Armed Forces’, and the fact that in 2010 the US State Department increased USAID's budget in Ecuador to more than $38 million dollars. ‘In the most recent years, a total of $5,640,000 in funds were invested in the work of “decentralization” in the country.'

In an exclusive interview with President Correa in October 2009 during his academic visit to London, published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Helen Yaffe asked how the ALBA countries could defend themselves against the kind of reaction seen in the coup in Honduras. Correa responded that ‘there is nothing that guarantees that this cannot happen in Ecuador, in Venezuela, in Bolivia. We must be very well organised. You know that our governments have great popular support, but we are not organised to defend our process from any intent at destabilisation…They are also preparing mobilisations in Guayaquil [in Ecuador]. They had everything ready when we managed to resolve the problems, but perhaps not next time. Basically every country has to organise its internal structures.’

The Ecuadorian government has learned the lessons from Honduras, and from Venezuela and Bolivia, where coups attempts and destabilisation plans have been defeated. They understand that the best defence for the Citizen’s Revolution is the citizens themselves; to be organised at the grassroots to defend the revolutionary process against the many obstacles, challenges and pitfalls. By pouring onto the streets in their tens of thousands the Ecuadorian people have shown that they are determined to drive the process forward to the construction of socialism in the 21st century.

On Thursday 30 September, within hours of the news of events in Ecuador reaching Britain, Rock around the Blockade joined activists from MERU (Movement of Ecuadorians in the UK) and other Latin American solidarity campaigns in Trafalgar Square for a protest. By 11pm, they numbered 50 and filled the Square with chants of ‘Correa our friend, the people are with you’ and ‘the people united will never be defeated.’ The following evening, activists returned to celebrate the defeat of the reactionaries and the strengthening of the Citizen’s Revolution.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Open letter to Weekly Worker in defence of Cuba

The changes to the Cuban economy have stimulated an outpouring of reactionary comment, from the appalling Rory Carroll in The Guardian, to many on the left in Britain, particularly those who call themselves 'Trotskyists'. One example was an article in Weekly Worker by James Turley Slow death of Cuban ‘socialism' - below is a letter in response which was published the following week.

You [Weekly Worker] can have your racist, imperialist, anti-working class British Labour Party
Source: Weekly Worker* 835, Thursday September 30 2010. 

Dear Weekly Worker, 

James Turley may have missed our initial contribution on the changes in Cuba; it was posted on our website on 22 September, the day before his article appeared in Weekly Worker. He will now be able to read that and a more extended analysis in the latest issue of FRFI which will be available by the time this letter is published, as will those readers who want to get a real understanding of the processes taking place in Cuba at the present time. Although these articles specifically address the likes of Rory Carroll of The Guardian, they also deal with the points that Turley himself raises, since, in common with virtually all Trotskyists in Britain, these reactionary bourgeois journalists are amongst the sources he will have used to write his piece – he finds, if I recall rightly, Cuban sources to be tainted, a convenient bit of chauvinism to cover for the absence of original thought. And anyway, will there be any real difference in the coverage of these changes between Weekly Worker, Socialist Worker, The Socialist, Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Resistance,? I think not; they will all drink at the poisoned well called Samuel Farber where they do not use the likes of Carroll.

However, what I want to deal with are not so much the specifics about Cuba as the more general questions of socialism, imperialism and revolution. The first is the statement Turley makes that ‘we [the RCG] were lured away from Trotskyism by the revolutionary excitement surrounding Cuba and national liberation movements.’ No, we were lured away by the utterly reactionary positions that Trotskyists had in relation to the Irish liberation struggle, and then in relation to the anti-apartheid struggle, and then in relation to the Labour Party. We understood through our political work and by our reading of Lenin that the essence of building a revolutionary movement in this country is anti-imperialism, and that there can be no question of building a socialist movement unless we oppose social imperialists all along the line (Imperialism and the split in socialism). It was a rediscovery of those of Lenin’s positions which the British Trotskyists reject: on imperialism, on the division of the world into oppressed and oppressor nations, on the right of nations of self-determination, on the material basis for split in the working class in imperialist nations, on the different tasks facing the working class in oppressor and oppressed nations.

You see, when the chips are down, the Trotskyists – and I of course include Weekly Worker in this category - line up with the imperialist Labour Party, and perform some sickening intellectual contortions in order to do so. We saw this in the drivel written by Alex John with its puerile headline (Weekly Worker, Vote preference one for Abbott – and fuck warmongering ex-ministers) where, like the SWP, he cites Lenin’s description of Labour as a bourgeois workers’ party and when, like the SWP, he as a member of the CPGB completely rejects Lenin’s position on the material basis of opportunism. Talk about illusions – the idea that there are socialists in the Labour Party, not just common-or-garden opportunists with a ready socialist phrase for the gullible Trotskyists; the belief that it has a working class base when nearly 25 years ago Whitty reported that 60% of its members had a degree or equivalent, and that before the Blair levy of the 1990s and the membership slump of the last ten years; the notion that communists do not want to destroy the Labour Party – of course we do, just as Lenin wanted to destroy the Mensheviks. This article is just reactionary guff – but with a purpose, because of course Weekly Worker likes to keep in with ‘Comrade’ John McDonnell. I hope your readers appreciate this – the way Weekly Worker fawns over this utterly backward nonentity, and reserves its bile for revolutionaries who have changed history and who continue to do so. Does anyone seriously imagine that Chavez will turn out like Batista as Turley suggests? Only a wretched died-in-the-wool reactionary British Trotskyist could even think of making the comparison. 

Weekly Worker (like the SWP, AWL, SP etc etc) sets a very different standard for revolutionary movements in the oppressed nations from that they apply to themselves in imperialist Britain. Here it is OK to support a racist, imperialist anti-working class party led by war criminals in a general election – but when it comes to the Bolivarian Revolution, or the Cuban Revolution, nothing is ever good enough for our Trotskyists. Because popular meetings in Cuba do not call for the overthrow of socialism, or decide they should give up because there isn’t socialism elsewhere, Turley has to dismiss this: ‘carefully monitored forms of public participation in politics are unthreatening enough to be allowed.’ Rory Carroll would be proud of such a line. You can try to dignify this by calling this Trotskyism; I call it by its real name – chauvinism.

And we see it time and again: when revolutionaries rush on ahead in the oppressed nations, there are the great British Trotkysists who have built absolutely nothing saying: you cannot do this, the revolution has to be international, you have to wait for us. And when the revolutionary movements don’t wait – well there is no fury like a British Trotskyist scorned. Out comes permanent revolution, the impossibility of building socialism in one country, Stalinist this, petit bourgeois that. In reality it means that British Trotskyists never support any revolutionary movement anywhere because they are such wretched doctrinaires.

The other point we realised when we ‘turned away’ from Trotskyism was that it had a material basis in the class relations of British imperialism. Its backward ideas express the interests of a petit bourgeois stratum whose privileged position depends on British imperialism’s parasitic relationship of the rest of the world. That is why they instinctively oppose revolutionary movements (with suitably radical phrases, of course) which might upset the relationship, declaring that they can’t possibly or indeed shouldn’t win, and endorse the Labour Party whose raison d’etre is defending British imperialism.

Turning to the situation in Cuba: no, we don’t think it will be a ‘harder sell’ since we understand as materialists the difficulties in moving towards socialism and can see the honesty and openness with which the Cuban communists deal with them. They have no blueprint; there is very little historical experience they can draw on. Instead they have to steadily build up the cultural level of the Cuban people to ensure that they can strengthen the democratic processes that they have in place; they have to seek allies internationally as a defence against US imperialism and its ruthless economic blockade; and they have to deal with the serious economic problems they face through a constant dialogue with the people. They cannot wait until the revolution spreads to ‘strategically important sections of the advanced capitalist world’ since if they have to wait for the Trotskyists they will have to wait forever.

So, James Turley and Weekly Worker, you can have your racist, imperialist, anti-working class Labour Party with all its mythical left workers, with its comrades John McDonnell’s and its Diane Abbott’s, and you can have all your comrade Trotskyists. We will gladly take Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, the Cuban and Bolivarian Revolutions whatever difficulties they face, and know that we are on the side of the overwhelming majority of revolutionaries and communists in the world in keeping to this choice.

Robert Clough, RCG
28 September 2010 

*Weekly Worker is the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).