Saturday, January 21, 2006

Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina Plan 8,000 Kilometer Gas Pipeline

Caracas, Venezuela, January 21, 2006—A new gas pipeline, which would run nearly the entire length of the South American continent, will be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Latin American history, if plans of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, Argentina’s President Nestor Kirchner, and Brazil’s President Lula da Silva work out. The three presidents met last week, during their third trilateral meeting in Brasilia, where they discussed the plan, along with other topics related to Latin American integration.

According to Venezuela’s Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Rafael Ramirez, the pipeline will cost between $17 and $20 billion and will take up to seven years to build. The pipeline is supposed to reach from Caracas, Venezuela, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, via Brazil and with links to Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay, stretching for a total of 8,000 kilometers.

Numerous energy experts expressed serious doubts as to whether the pipeline could be built. "It is very difficult to believe this will take place, because of the distance, the financing and the supply," said Sophie Aldebert, for example, from the Rio de Janeiro-based Cambridge Energy Research Associates to

In Brasilia, Chavez said, "The pipeline is vital to us" and dismissed doubts that it could be built due to technical and financial difficulties. "The Russians built a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) pipeline to supply gas to Europe," said Chavez, according to AP.

Other critics pointed out that the pipeline would foment competition between Venezuelan and Bolivia, as Bolivia already is Brazil’s largest gas supplier. Chavez, though, denied this would be case, saying that the pipeline will Bolivia and Venezuela to complement each other, rather than to compete against each other.

The cost of building the pipeline would be carried largely by outside investors, such as firms from Asia, according to Chavez. Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA would also provide "several billion" dollars.

Chavez also suggested that if Venezuela and other Latin American countries shifted their automobiles to gas power, this would make the pipeline even more affordable and would allow Venezuela to export far more gasoline. According to AP, Argentina already has the world’s largest fleet of gas-powered vehicles and Brazil the second largest.

The gas pipeline plan is part of the Chavez government’s proposal to build a Latin American energy "cone," which would integrate Latin America in a network of pipelines, electricity grids, and trade.

The Venezuela-Argentina gas pipeline plan will be unveiled at the next trilateral meeting of the three presidents, to be held in Argentina, on March 9th.

KENNEDY, HAMBURG CONSPIRACY PART II - The Cuban connection is still in Miami and Dallas

The Cuban connection is still
in Miami and Dallas


A sudden silence increased the severity of the large, high-ceilinged room in Capitol Hill, Washington, when the wide doors opened to admit a slow-walking man of average height in his sixties, impeccably dressed in a gray cashmere three-piece suit, white shirt, diagonally-striped tie and narrow-brimmed hat.

Santos Trafficante Jr, the Cosa Nostra Godfather in southwest Florida had lost a lot of the assuredness and slenderness he boasted 20 years earlier in Havana.

I vividly remember that scene and am recreating it now, even though most of the international media has virtually rejected the recent German public television documentary given the evidence concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy obtained by a serious investigation like that of the U.S. Congress Select Committee. It is worthwhile return to the theme as they are still harping on it in Miami, which is logical enough as it is one link in a chain, in a conspiracy there that is close to 50 years old. And because a serious daily like the Mexican La Jornada – at least in its digital edition – edited by my friend Carmen Lira, has published an article by Eva Usi, taking up the Cuban connection along Wilfried Huismann’s lines.

In effect, there is a Cuban connection, which was minutely investigated by the Select Committee, and it comes from the arm of the infamous Cosa Nostra.

The Select Committee summonsed the notorious Mafiosi capo who never served a sentence to appear before one of its sessions in Washington. The semblance was of a severe Santos Trafficante, annoyed because his Cuban connections had once again put him on the spot in that fall of 1978. But this time it was dealing with something even more dangerous than when he was caught up in the Church Committee hearings of 1974 and 1975, and his recruitment by the CIA in order to assassinate the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, came to light.

This time it was an attempt to clarify, 15 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the indications that openly pointed to a conspiracy rather than a lone assassin. And the possible participation of members of the Italian-U.S. mafia.

Among the dozens of us journalists and investigators covering the hearings, his appearance prompted much anticipation.

The former “gambling and drug-trafficking czar” in Havana had become even more famous on his return to Florida, given that his empire, far from ending with the closing down of mafia activities in Cuba in 1959, was fortified in Miami and extended to Latin America and the Caribbean during the 60s and 70s.

In the earlier session, which Trafficante declined to attend, his old associate, millionaire José Alemán Jr, son of the Cuban ex-minister of education famous for his skilful appropriation of public funds, declared that, in a private conversation in September 1962, his friend Santos had confided to him that President Kennedy was going to be assassinated, and that he had recalled that confidence 12 months later, when the assassination occurred. Alemán confirmed his earlier statement, but changed the terms in which it had been expressed. In this new version, the Godfather had said that “Kennedy was going to hit” and possibly could have meant to say that “he was going to be hit by a large volume of Republican votes in the 1964 elections, not that he was going to be assassinated.”

At the insistence of the congress members, Alemán stated that he feared for his life and for that reason had asked for protection to declare before the Committee. Effectively, two federal police marshals, seated behind him and facing the audience, scrutinized the room with hawk-like eyes.

Somewhat harassed by the interrogation and agitated, Alemán raised his voice to say:

“I informed the authorities of this. I spoke to members of the FBI and told them that something irregular was going on with President Kennedy. I informed the FBI of everything that was going on at the time. Afterwards they told me not to worry, that Oswald was a lone assassin.”


The questioning of Santos Trafficante Jr. commenced on the issue of his participation in assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution. He admitted that he was recruited by the CIA for such a conspiracy.

At the beginning of the hearing the Florida don stated that he would have recourse to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution in order not to make a statement. Congressman Richard Preyer, who chaired the session so that Louis Stokes (president of the Committee) could take the weight of the questioning, said that he would be granted impunity for possible crimes committed in that context, thus obliging him to testify.

Trafficante affirmed that he had been dedicated to the gambling business, but was now retired. He stated that he lived in Havana up until 1959, during the time that casinos were legal in Cuba. He only admitted to owning three: the Sans Souci, Comodoro and Deauville. In response to a question from Stokes he replied that up until 1958 he handed over 50% of his income on the slot machines and other games to the dictator Batista.

The Godfather added that he was interned in the Tiscornia camp in Havana in 1959 along with friends of his like Guiseppe di Giorgi and Jack Lansky, Mayer Lansky’s brother. Trafficante did not want to divulge how much his investments in Cuba were worth. But Stokes stated that Ricardo Escartín, from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, had supplied the Committee with the information that the Havana Riviera alone produced $25 million per year. Trafficante replied that he did not own any interests in the Riviera. In law, he did not appear as the owner. But he ran the casino along with Meyer Lansky, who appeared on the payroll as a kitchen hand.

In relation to the attempts on the life of Fidel Castro, Trafficante added that the first person to make contact with him, on CIA orders, was John Roselli, an influential capo in the show business world, and later Sam Giancana, the don of Chicago.

At the time that he gave evidence to the Select Committee, Trafficante was the sole survivor of the three mafia capos recruited by the CIA to assassinate the president of Cuba. He died years later of natural causes.

Roselli continued getting into trouble with the justice system and alleging his collaboration with the CIA to avoid imprisonment.

For his part, Giancana was given a prison term in 1964. However, less than two years later, during his appeal, a message arrived from Washington from Justice Secretary Katzenbach himself, ordering his release without any explanation. On leaving prison, the Chicago don went to Mexico, possibly meeting the terms of the agreement for his release. He remained there until 1974.

In 1975 Giancana had given his first statement before the Church Committee and was preparing for further appearances, this time before the Congress Select Committee investigating the Kennedy assassination. But he was unable to. He was found in a pool of blood in his home in Oak Park, Illinois, with a shot to his mouth and five to the neck. Some months later Roselli’s corpse turned up inside a barrel in the river.

In synthesis, Trafficante denied having said that Kennedy was going to be “hit” and that he had been involved in the assassination of the president.

When the capo with the self-criticizing surname left the room accompanied by his young lawyer, we journalists went after him. But his lawyer took charge of getting him away. He said nothing more. The sessions continued.

In its investigations the Committee reached the conclusion that Jack Ruby – the author of the death of Oswald – effectively had links with organized crime and with Trafficante, despite his denials.

Among other evidence, their conclusion was derived from telephone calls made by Ruby in 1963, which increased from 25-35 in May to 96 in the first 24 days of November. The majority of them were made to members of the mafia and their associates.


Between June and September of 1963, Ruby made seven long-distance calls to Lewis J. McWillie, a close associate of Trafficante and Meyer Lansky, whom he had visited on various occasions in Havana in 1959. McWillie was working in the Tropicana cabaret casino. The Cuban revolutionary authorities had given Oswald’s killer the immigration cards for his entries and exits. Ruby also called Irwin S. Weiner, the link man between “the Chicago mafia and N. J. Pecora, Marcello’s second in New Orleans and various corrupt trade union leaders.” The Committee also possessed evidence that Ruby managed cabarets in Dallas and acted as a figurehead for the Chicago mafia.

Ruby was also in frequent contact with Lenny Patrick from the Chicago mafia and Giancana’s main lieutenant.

Ruby also had links with David Yaras, the mafia executor who admitted to having met him in 1964, and with David Ferrie, of Cuban origin, Marcello’s pilot who, in his turn used to see Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans. According to the Committee findings, Ferrie, who was a CIA agent, was also in contact with Oswald through the Aerial Civil Patrol Falcon Squadron and a famous New Orleans office on 544 Camp Street, where members of groups acting against the Cuban Revolution, like Guy Bannister, also operated. Oswald had his office for the deceptively titled Fair Play with Cuba organization in the same building at the same time.

Ferrie was in Dallas on the day that Kennedy was killed and was arrested for interrogation on the assassination.

In 1959, Ferrie and Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz, a deserter from the Cuban army, participated in the first U.S. bombing of Havana, both piloting a B25 in an operation planned by Eladio del Valle, Trafficante’s right-hand man, like Herminio Díaz. Yaras, Ferrie and del Valle were mysteriously killed shortly after the assassination.

In his testimony before the Committee, Captain Jack Revill of the Dallas police said that Ruby had contacts with the mafia, but was not compromised as a member.

After the Committee hearing established the carelessness of the Dallas police, who even publicly announced Oswald’s transfer after his arrest and allowed Jack Ruby, whose contacts with the mafia were well known, to approach him, Jack Revill was asked if some of the police involved in the scandalous deed had been punished or criticized. “No, not that I know of,” Revill replied to Congressman Edgar, which provoked a profound and eloquent silence.


In an article published recently in Granma journalists Lázaro Barredo and Reynaldo Taladrid recalled George Bush Sr.’s connections with Cuban gangster capos in Miami, beginning with Félix Rodríguez, who at the time was directing – along with Luis Posada Carriles – a recently escaped fugitive of Venezuelan justice – the exchange of drugs for arms for the Nicaraguan Contras. Jeb Bush, governor of Florida and brother of current President George W. Bush, was essential to securing the release from prison of Cubans convicted of terrorist crimes, according to the book Cuba Confidential: Love and Revenge in Havana and Miami, by journalist Louise Bardach, winner of an investigative journalism awards who stands out for her work on Cuba and Miami for The New York Times and Vanity Fair. Her interview of Luis Posada Carriles for the NYT had notable repercussions.

“The Bush family has made the demands of extremist Cuban exiles its own in exchange for financial and electoral support,” says a review of the book in the The Guardian newspaper.

In 1984, Jeb Bush, then chairman of the Dade County Republican Party in Florida, began a close association with Camilo Padreda, an ex-intelligence officer under the Batista dictatorship, and financial officer of the abovementioned party. Padreda was accused of misappropriating $500,000, along with Hernández Cartaya, another Cuban-born individual, but the charges were dropped after the CIA stated that Cartaya had worked for them. Subsequently, Padreda admitted to defrauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of millions of dollars.

During the 1980s, the current U.S. president’s youngest brother was also on the payroll of the prominently corrupt Cuban Miguel Recarey, who provided assistance to the CIA in its attempts to assassinate President Fidel Castro. Recarey, who administered the International Medical Centers, employed Jeb Bush as a real estate consultant, paying him $75,000. The future governor of Florida carried out vigorous and successful lobbying for Recarey and his business under the administrations of Reagan and Bush Sr.

Recarey was accused, in a notorious case, of massively defrauding Medicare, but he fled the United States before the trial.

Jeb Bush was also administrator of the political campaign of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, when she won her seat in Congress, assisted by the threats of her husband, U.S. Attorney Lehtinen, of bringing to trial her dangerous rival, Raúl Martínez. She participated in the chrematistics operation with former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso to obtain the release of Posada Carriles’ criminal gang, whose members are now living freely in Miami and helping out their boss. Journalist Jim DeFede criticized her for defending Posada several months ago, and that cost him his job with the Miami Herald.

It should not be forgotten that George Bush Sr. intervened to get Cuban-born terrorist Orlando Bosch out of prison. As president, he granted him U.S. residency against the will of the Justice Department of his own administration, which had characterized Bosch as a dangerous terrorist. His crimes include masterminding, together with Posada, the cruel sabotage of a Cubana Aviation passenger plane in mid-flight from Venezuela to Havana, killing the 73 civilians on board. Bosch now lives in Miami and has no regrets over his actions, according to Bardach.

Other Cuban-born terrorists such as José Dionisio Suárez and Virgilio Paz Romero, who carried out the assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976, were also freed by Bush.

In spite of all the financial and criminal scandals that are threatening the stability of his administration – or perhaps because of them – Bush has announced that in May, he is to initiate new actions to destroy the Cuban Revolution, as his allies in Miami are demanding.

The German television documentary, which coincidentally came out during Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington, is part of that conspiracy. In tactical terms, it is a measure aimed at distracting public opinion from plans to free Posada, in the same way that his lawyer’s threat to the government that if not released, Posada would talk about the dirty work he has carried out for the Cuba Connection, thus causing the government severe damage, has been covered up.

In strategic terms, this is part of the artillery preparations for the major objective, euphemistically called “transition in Cuba,” which in real terms is the island’s re-colonization.

EXCLUSIVE -- Jack Abramoff's past as an apartheid South African spy.

January 21, 2006 -- EXCLUSIVE -- Jack Abramoff's past as a South African spy. According to South African intelligence sources, convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff was a long-time intelligence asset for South Africa's apartheid era security services. The revelations from South Africa help to explain Abramoff's connections to white supremacists who use Confederate heritage organizations to mask their true agendas (see article directly below).

In 1985, Abramoff launched the International Freedom Foundation (IFF) in Washington. In fact, IFF was a front for South African military intelligence, code named Pacman, and a major front for South Africa's international propaganda efforts. The IFF was a joint project of Russel Crystal, currently a Democratic Alliance official in South Africa, and a former apartheid South Africa top spy, Craig Williamson. According to South African intelligence sources, Abramoff was first recruited by Crystal and Williamson during 1979 and 1980. Crystal and Williamson were both paid agents of the Apartheid Security Police (SAP (V)). Money paid to Abramoff initially came from SAP(V) accounts. South African intelligence files also show:

  • Abramoff’s take-over of the College Republicans National Committee (CRNC) in Washington, DC was directed by both Crystal and Williamson and similarly funded. In fact, Abramoff was mentored by them, being trained as a political operator, apartheid style -- the emphasis was on carrying out political dirty tricks with non-attribution through fronts, screens, and dupes.
  • Before Crystal worked for SAP(V) as a right-wing student agitator at Wits University in Johannesburg, he was suspected of being an employee of the Bureau of State Security (BOSS), the apartheid spy agency responsible for foreign operations, including hit squad work, disinformation, and bombings. By the time of the establishment of National Students Federation (Crystal was its leader at Wits, Williamson having been exposed as an SAP(V) spy after arrests of anti-apartheid students in the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS)). A question arises as apartheid monies paid to Abramoff came from the specific account of the sections employing Crystal -- this indicates that Abramoff received foreign intelligence service money from BOSS. This was certainly the case when Abramoff's benefactors were in SAP(V) and later, when they left to join Military Intelligence (MI), which became the pre-eminent apartheid intelligence service after the rise of former defence minister P.W. Botha to the Presidency. It is clear that Abramoff received SAP(V) and MI monies for services rendered. Abramoff visited South Africa in 1983 to forge links between Crystal's National Students Federation (NSF) and Abramoff's CRNC.
  • Abramoff projects with IFF included provision of U.S. armaments to Southern Africa, including Stinger missiles to UNITA in Angola and the apartheid military; stopping the Congressional Comprehensive Anti Apartheid Act and lobbying for Reagan's veto (this was the only Reagan veto overturned by Congress). As par of South African intelligence's Operation Babushka, Abramoff helped monitor anti-apartheid lobby in USA: Randall Robinson of TransAfrica was a major target as was Coretta Scott King and Jesse Jackson.
  • Abramoff also hooked IFF up with some representatives of the U.S.-based World Church of the Creator – a white supremacist, neo-Nazi group, which had a branch in South Africa.
  • The Democratic Alliance in South Africa is the official opposition to the African National Congress. Its leader is Tony Leon, a colleague of Crystal and Williamson at Wits University who bankrolled him in his student election campaigns as they did Abramoff in CRNC. They then financed Leon's year-long visit to the U.S. to teach law. Abramoff administered all of Leon’s U.S. arrangements. Abramoff worked on behalf of the DA and Leon in Washington, DC and New York City.
  • Abramoff, schooled in the SAP(V) front-tactics worked through an American named Duncan Sellars, who was also connected with Crystal on the Ninth floor, Noswell Hall, in Johannesburg, across the road from Wits University. Abramoff visited Noswell Hall on a number of occasions. Sellars was chairman of the IFF in 1993.
  • The Abramoff-Crystal anti-communist camp in Angola was an MI project designed to frustrate Chester Crocker’s diplomatic initiative under Secretary of State George Shultz to get the apartheid forces out of Namibia and the Cubans out of Angola.
  • Williamson applied and received amnesty for a number of his apartheid-era crimes (killings [including Ruth First, the wife of South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo], bombings, maimings – including children), Crystal did not apply or appear before the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Crystal was more than "politically tied" to Williamson -- he was also "operationally tied" as was Abramoff, though Sellars and Crystal were often merely cut-outs. The letter bombing fatalities of anti-apartheid activists in Angola and Mozambique are said to have been made by another Crystal-Abramoff confidant, John Adams. Crystal-Abramoff-Williamson are reportedly responsible for compiling the hit-lists on anti-apartheid activists outside South Africa.
  • Abramoff introduced Williamson to Grover Norquist and they became friends. This relationship assisted South African intelligence's Operations Longreach and Babushka, essentially pro-apartheid influence operations in DC. One propaganda operation was Abramoff's movie Red Scorpion, based on UNITA guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi, a movie for which South Africa provided military equipment, vehicles, and extras.
Abramoff's files from his days as a South African agent emerge: Details of his ties to anti-black, racist groups like World Church of the Creator and South African propaganda operations -- Babushka and Longreach -- provided exclusively to WMR.

Greater Georgelandia video

Hillary Rodham Clinton returned to her Young Republican roots

Not. Backing. Hillary.
Equivocation in Democratic party has gone on far too long --
time for real leadership

by Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas --- I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy -- rough, tough Bobby Kennedy -- didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel superciliously explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway ("First, you have to win elections.") Can't you even read the damn polls?

Here's a prize example by someone named Barry Casselman, who writes, "There is an invisible civil war in the Democratic Party, and it is between those who are attempting to satisfy the defeatist and pacifist left base of the party and those who are attempting to prepare the party for successful elections in 2006 and 2008."

This supposedly pits Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, emboldened by "a string of bad new from the Middle East ... into calling for premature retreat from Iraq," versus those pragmatic folk like Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emmanuel, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman.

Oh come on, people -- get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war -- from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily.

You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.

Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this -- that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.

Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."

Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.



From Mobile to New Orleans March 14-19, 2006



The shocking images of devastation in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina
and Rita may be fading from television news but the crisis on the Gulf
Coast is still with us. It's like the government's ban on film of
planes unloading flag-draped coffins at Dover Air Force Base--pictures
or no, US troops and Iraqis are still dying, day in and day out.

The corporate media hasn´t done much in depth reporting that shows the
connection between a multi-trillion dollar illegal war abroad and the
shameful failure of our government's moral, economic, and political
response to Katrina. Everyday people in this country, however, sense
that they are connected.

Military families and veterans of Iraq, Vietnam and other military
adventures, together with hurricane survivors, intend to make that
connection crystal clear on an epic march down Gulf Coast Highway 90,
heading into the heart of New Orleans on the third anniversary of the
war. The ongoing crisis on the Gulf Coast and the connection that Dr.
King made between the "giant triplets of racism, militarism and
economic exploitation" will be impossible to ignore.

At the call of the Mobile, Alabama chapter of Veterans For Peace,
members of VFP, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans
Against the War, Gold Star Families for Peace and Military Families
Speak Out will conduct, a six-day, 135-mile march from Mobile across
Mississippi to New Orleans. Thousands of hurricane survivors and
community residents along the route are expected to walk with us.

The marching veterans and military families aim to build relationships
with the surviving members of communities devastated by the
Katrina-Rita disaster. Our actions will proclaim our solidarity with
them, not only as acute victims of a "natural" disaster but also of
structural racism in the United States.

As we walk down the coastal highway, veterans who have ourselves been
the instruments of death and destruction abroad and who have become
witnesses against war as a matter of conscience, will speak out and
act as a conscience for the nation in a region of the deep South still
shaped by slavery, segregation and the monumental freedom struggles of
the 1960s.

For veterans this will be both a spiritual pilgrimage and a political action

We will demand real empowerment for Gulf Coast hurricane survivors and
for the Iraqi people.

We will demand the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq.
Bring Them Home Now! And as they come back, we demand decent health
care, employment, housing and education for them, including Depleted
Uranium testing and post-traumatic stress (PTSD) treatment.

We will demand that the US government provide funds for all Katrina
families to be reunited and returned to their homes. Bring Them Home
Now! And we demand that hurricane survivors have the right to plan
their future free from the dictates of the corporations and their
politician front men in Washington D.C. and on the state and local
level, too.

This march is a reminder to the leadership of the US, regardless of
party affiliation, that the majority of American people now oppose the
war. "Staying the course" while people continue to die and while
resources spent on an unjust and failed policy are desperately needed
on the Gulf Coast of the United States, is simply not acceptable.


While the march itself will be made up mainly of veterans, Gold Star
and other military families, and hurricane survivors, all concerned
citizens are invited and encouraged to attend the final leg, heading
into a mass rally in New Orleans on March 19, the third anniversary of
the invasion of Iraq.

We need financial support to conduct this march, and we need it now.
To donate, go to or and follow
the donation instructions. Note that your donation is for the "March
in March."

Video: The Power of Nightmares

In case you missed it:
The Power of Nightmares

Video: The Power of Nightmares: Part 1 '.


Part 2 -


Part 3" In the past our politicians offered us dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from nightmares.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Bush administration trying to distract public opinion from the possible release of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

THE real objective of a recent documentary making Cuba responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy more than 40 years later is to distract attention from the possible release of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, and the unheard of situation of the five Cubans still imprisoned in U.S. jails despite the Atlanta Appeals Court ruling.

Iran starts transferring foreign assets

The governor of Iran's central bank has confirmed that the country has started to transfer assets held in foreign accounts.

Ebrahim Sheibani told the ISNA students' news agency on Friday: "We transfer foreign reserves to wherever we see as expedient. On this issue, we have started transferring. We are doing that."

ISNA specifically asked whether the money was being moved to Asian accounts but Sheibani's answer sidestepped the issue.

Sheibani told reporters earlier this week that Iran stood ready to repatriate the money it held abroad should this prove necessary.

Iran, which could face UN economic sanctions over its atomic programme, has bitter memories of its US assets being frozen shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Shift to Asia

ISNA's question appeared to be based on an article in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat Arabic newspaper that said Iran's Supreme National Security Council had ordered foreign holdings to be shifted to Asia.

Iran is the fourth biggest oil exporter in the world and the second largest in OPEC. Eighty percent of its export earnings come from oil, the price of which has soared over the past two years.
"If you're talking in terms of a safe haven proposal, that's where Switzerland is very strong, stronger than Singapore or other places. We are a country that is non-judgmental"Steve Bernard, Geneva Financial Centre, Zurich
Economists estimate Iran will have earned more than $40 billion in oil revenues by the end of the year to March 2006. Of this, $16 billion goes straight to budgeted government spending.

The rest goes to the Central Bank of Iran which keeps an unknown amount of holdings in foreign accounts.

The Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), the powerful trade and financing arm of the National Iranian Oil Company, is based in Switzerland.

Swiss reaction

Meanwhile a leading financial industry representative in Zurich on Friday said Swiss banks would welcome asset transfers by Iran.

"If you're talking in terms of a safe haven proposal, that's where Switzerland is very strong, stronger than Singapore or other places. We are a country that is non-judgmental," said Steve Bernard, director of the Geneva Financial Centre, a lobby in Switzerland's second-largest banking city after Zurich.

Switzerland is home to more offshore wealth than any other country, and is a traditional haven for investors who seek the safety of Swiss political neutrality and legal guarantees of banking privacy.

"Because of its non-discriminatory practices, Switzerland has always been an attractive place and would remain an attractive proposal for Iranian authorities looking to shift some of their assets or to diversify the geographical distribution of some of their assets," Bernard said.

US - UK Living Heroes .. or How could I forget Craig Murray?

Definite thanks to Democracy Now for their interview with Craig Murray, who has been hit by a smear campaign by the UK government he once represented in Uzbekistan.

Why a smear campaign? Because he dared to admit his country's complicity in human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.

Strangely, the United Nations did not send a Mehlis team to investigate.

Murray has been literally defiled by his own government and former allies in the Home Office for exposing the UK and US governments.

This is the kind of grilling anyone who dares defy the status quo of media collusion with government hypocrisy gets.

I am creating a new sidebar - Living Heroes.

While I hardly believe Murtha is a living hero, I do empathize as he receives his won smear campaign ribbon for defying the Bushites on Iraq.

Same with Kerry.

Another living hero(ine) who has actually been jailed for her principled opposition is Kathy Kelly, leading member of Voices in the Wilderness - a group which took food and medicines to Iraq.

And Scott Ritter, who I met after a lecture he gave in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2002. Yes, a stone's throw from Seattle.

Ritter was eloquent in his opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. He called himself a patriot and said he feared growing anti-US sentiment in the world. He also said the invasion of Iraq could start a cycle which could eventually result in a mushroom cloud over some US city, a specter he wanted to desperately avoid.

Thank you, Mr. Murray, for being an inspiration to people around the world.

And people seem to be inspired.

Check out this link. Seems the University of Texas in Austin will be hosting a conference by historians against the Iraq war.

Bogus tape alert! The Bin Laden tape is an obvious neo-con forgery like the Reichstag Fire, Niger yellowcake, and Sadam's WMD

January 20, 2006 -- What's not right about the Osama Bin Laden audio tape. One thing that the Bush administration does well is manage perceptions of the public. Amid protests over the NSA wiretapping, the extension of the Patriot Act, and the nomination of neo-Fascist Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, an audio tape on Osama Bin Laden is sent to Al Jazzera. On the tape, Bin Laden suddenly veers from being a traditional right-wing Wahhabi fanatic to the right of the House of Saud to a leftist progressive. The tape by Bin Laden was quickly verified as "authentic" by a CIA that is now firmly in the grasp of neo-cons under Porter Goss.

However, the tape is an obvious fake being used by the Bush administration to scare Americans into believing "Al Qaeda" is making plans for another attack and an attempt to link Bin Laden to Democrats.

The reason the tape is as phony as Niger yellowcake documents and Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is as plain as day. Bin Laden quotes from the introduction of a book written by long-time Washington, DC progressive author and journalist and a friend of mine, Bill Blum. Bill was once an editor and contributor to Covert Action Quarterly, a magazine devoted to exposing CIA operations like the arming, funding, and training of Bin Laden and his mujaheddin guerrillas during the Afghan-Soviet war.

The Bush perception managers are either incredibly stupid or are trying to ensnare liberal journalists as aiders and abettors of Al Qaeda, something that is certainly within their scope. Bin Laden quotes the following passage from Blum's book, Rogue State: "If you (Americans) are sincere in your desire for peace and security, we have answered you. And if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book Rogue State, which states in its introduction: 'If I were president, I would stop the attacks on the United States: First I would give an apology to all the widows and orphans and those who were tortured. Then I would announce that American interference in the nations of the world has ended once and for all.'"

Bogus tape alert! The Bin Laden tape plugging Bill Blum's book Rogue State is a ridiculous neo-con forgery intended to tarnish the progressive left.

Bin Laden might not be so eager to quote Blum if he was aware of his other work, Killing Hope, an expose of the CIA's covert wars. In it, Blum defends to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as self-defense against the CIA-backed Islamist guerrillas, including Bin Laden's forces, that were backed by the CIA. Now, why would Bin Laden plug an author like Blum who backed Bin Laden's hated enemies, the Soviet Communists and their Afghan allies? Because the Bin Laden tape and his purported oratory are frauds. In Killing Hope, this is what Blum wrote about Bin Laden and his CIA masters' war in Afghanistan:

"The new government under President Taraki declared a commitment to Islam within a secular state, and to non-alignment in foreign affairs. It said the coup was not foreign inspired and that they were not Communists but rather nationalists and revolutionaries. They pushed radical reforms, they talked about class struggle, they used anti-imperialist rhetoric, they supported Cuba, they signed a friendship treaty and other cooperative agreements with the Soviets and they increased the number of Soviet civilian and military advisers in Afghanistan.... In May 1979, British political scientist Fred Halliday said 'probably more has changed in the countryside over the last year than in the two centuries since the state was established.'

In March 1979, Afghan President Taraki visited Moscow to request Soviet help to fight the mujahideen. The Soviets did promise some military aid, but they would not commit ground troops. As Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin told Taraki: 'The entry of our troops into Afghanistan would outrage the international community, triggering a string of extremely negative consequences. Our common enemies are just waiting for the moment when Soviet troops appear in Afghanistan. This will give them the excuse they need to send armed bands into the country.'

. . . prior to the Soviet invasion, the CIA had been beaming radio propaganda into Afghanistan and cultivating alliances with exiled Afghan guerrilla leaders by donating medicine and communications equipment. U.S. foreign service officers had been meeting with Mujahideen leaders to determine their needs at least as early as April 1979. And, in July, President Carter had signed a 'finding' to aid the rebels covertly, which led to the U.S. providing them with cash, weapons, equipment and supplies, and engaging in propaganda and other psychological operations in Afghanistan on their behalf."

So, we're now supposed to believe that Bin Laden has come around to plug the book written by an author who demonstrated that the Soviet cause in Afghanistan was for self-defense and in furtherance of the well-being of the Afghan people and that Bin Laden's and his mujaheddin compatriots' cause was anti-progressive and destabilizing to the central Asian region? This would be laughable if it were not for the fact that the neo-cons are once again using the Big Lie to further their ambitions of global domination and worldwide fascism. The 911 attacks are beginning to look more and more like the Reichstag Fire, both engineered to bring about fascist control.

Google fights while Yahoo drops its pants and bends over.

Yahoo has admitted that it granted the US Government access to its search engine's databases this summer, as a battle develops over the right to privacy in cyberspace.

Google, by contrast, promised last night to fight vigorously the Bush Administration’s demand to know what millions of people have been looking up on the internet.

It emerged this week that the White House issued subpoenas to a number of US-based search engines this summer, asking to see what information the public had accessed in a two-month period. It said that it needed the information in order to help create online child protection laws.

But Google refused to comply with its subpoena - prompting the US Attorney General this week to ask a federal judge in San Jose for an order to hand over the requested records. Details of the confrontation emerged after the San Jose Mercury News reported seeing the court papers on Wednesday.

At the heart of the battle is the potential for online databases to become tools for government surveillance.

Yahoo has stressed that it didn’t reveal any personal information. "We are rigorous defenders of our users’ privacy," Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako said last night. "In our opinion, this is not a privacy issue."

The Google court papers show that the US Government originally asked for a list of all requests entered into Google’s search engine between June 1 and July 31 last year. When Google argued, the request was whittled down to a week's worth of search terms - a breakdown that could nonetheless span tens of millions of queries. In addition, the White House has asked for one million randomly selected Web addresses from various Google databases.

Every other search engine company served similar subpoenas by the Bush administration has complied so far, according to the court documents.

The co-operating search engines were not identified. Microsoft's MSN, the third-most used search engine, has declined to say whether it received a subpoena. "MSN works closely with law enforcement officials worldwide to assist them when requested," the company said in a statement.

The US Government says that it is not seeking any data that would allow it to identify which individual made which search request.

Experts say nonetheless that the subpoena raises serious privacy concerns, especially after recent revelations that the White House authorised civilian phone-taps after the September 11 attacks without obtaining court approval.

Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse charity in California, called the subpoenas "the first shoe dropping" that online privacy advocates had long feared.

"These search engines are a very tempting target for government and law enforcement," Givens said. "Look at the millions of people who use search engines without thinking of the potential to be drawn into a government drag net."

The subpoenas were a "classic fishing trip" by federal prosecutors, she added.

Thomas Burke, a San Francisco lawyer who has handled several prominent privacy cases, said that many people contacted Google more often than they spoke to their mother. "Just as most people would be upset if the government wanted to know how much you called your mother and what you talked about, they should be upset about this, too," he said.

Pam Dixon, executive director for the World Privacy Forum, warned that the content of search requests sometimes contain information about the person making the query, such as names, medical profiles or Social Security information.

"This is exactly the kind of thing we have been worrying about with search engines for some time," Dixon said. "Google should be commended for fighting this." She warned people to be careful what personal information they entered into search engines.

The Department of Justice argues that Google’s cooperation is essential in its effort to simulate how people navigate the web. In a separate case in Pennsylvania, the Bush Administration is trying to prove that internet filters do not do an adequate job of preventing children from accessing online pornography and other objectionable destinations.

Obtaining the subpoenaed information from Google "would assist the government in its efforts to understand the behavior of current web users, (and) to estimate how often web users encounter harmful-to-minors material in the course of their searches," the Justice Department wrote in its court petition.

Google issued a statement last night promising to fight the case. "Google is not a party to this lawsuit and their demand for information overreaches," wrote Nicole Wong, Google's associate general counsel. "We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist their motion vigorously."

But Google's vigorous defence of privacy rights in the face of demands from the US government is apparently at odds with the search engine's stance in China.

There, human rights activists have complained that Google collaborates with the Chinese government, which controls the activities of its 111 million web surfers with one of the most stifling internet censorship policies in the world.

Google is locked in competition for the lucrative Chinese market, along with Yahoo and MSN, and the homegrown Chinese search engine

All the US companies have been criticised for censoring news sites, search engines and weblogs that China's communist government considers subversive or obscene. For example, a web user in China who tried to search Google or Yahoo for subjects such as democracy and human rights would find nothing in his search results.

There was outrage in September when it emerged that Yahoo had supplied details to the Chinese authorities of the personal e-mail account of Shi Tao, a 37-year-old journalist. He was found guilty of "spreading state secrets" and jailed for 10 years, for forwarding to a foreign website a Chinese government circular banning the media from reporting the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Marcos Rips Up the Script: "We’re going to Chichen Itzá" - A Clamor by Maya Indigenous Inspires Delegate Zero to Change Friday's Program

A Clamor by Maya Indigenous Inspires Delegate Zero to Change Friday's Program

By Al Giordano
The Other Journalism With the Other Campaign in Yucatan
January 20, 2006

MERIDA, YUCATAN, JANUARY 20, 2006: After two long days of sedentary meetings in an idyllic religious retreat center outside of this capital city, in front of hundreds of sympathizers, Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials) announced a sudden change in Friday’s itinerary: “We’re going to Chichen Itzá tomorrow,” he said – provoking a thunderous applause from below and to the left.

“That blows up everything else planned for tomorrow,” one of the local organizers of the Other Campaign whispered to your correspondent. (The published schedule had set “bilateral meetings with individuals and organizations that by previous, direct request… demonstrated their interest in exchange agreements and specific work with the EZLN,” to begin at 9:00 a.m. today.)

“We invite everybody to come with us,” Delegate Zero told the assembled, without specifying the hour. Much later, at 2:22 a.m., the media commission of the Other Campaign in Yucatán announced the revised agenda:

13:00 hours: Meeting in Chichen-Itzá with artisans.
18:00 hours: Political-Cultural Event in the Central Plaza of the City of Mérida
Chichen Itzá is home to perhaps the most globally famous ancient Maya pyramid, among other ruins to which tourists flock each day from hotels in Mérida, Cancún and the Riviera Maya. But the indigenous Maya of the town of Piste where the ruins reside are caught in a pincer grip between real estate developers and the Mexican government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH, in its Spanish initials), the bureaucracy that manages archeological zones throughout the country and that runs roughshod over the descendants of those who built the pyramids, these ones almost a millennia ago.

Last August, during a jungle meeting with social organizations in the town of Dolores Hidalgo to plan this Other Campaign, Marcos promised some Yucatecos who had come 13 hours to explain the plight of the local indigenous: “we will come to Chichen Itzá” (Narco News was there, reporting.)

But in the five-month Ulysseian slip twixt the cup and the lip, the state organizing meetings of the Other Campaign in Yucatán, in which members of the professional class of Mérida – activists and non-governmental organization functionaries, some of whom have fought bitterly with each other for decades – outnumbered indigenous fighters and other simple and humble people who struggle, an internecine rift led to a series of confused internal letters to and from the Lacandon jungle and a breakdown of any consensus as to where Marcos would go during his three days in this state. The promised visit with the indigenous of Chichen Itzá got lost in the shuffle, and the original schedule had Delegate Zero in just one location – the Catholic retreat center of Uay Ja in Chablekal – for 72 marathon hours of meetings.

There may not be any way to say this delicately, but your correspondent will try: In stark contrast to the arms-opened spirit of welcome and solidarity that the Other Journalism found in all three bases of the Other Campaign in nearby Quintana Roo, where local organizers in Chetumal, Playa del Carmen and Cancún created the conditions for a an indisputable revolutionary leap forward for their state’s struggles during Marcos’ three days there, in Yucatán state the vibe has been much more exclusionary. Some of the professional class activists had built a kind of fence around Delegate Zero’s visit, exuding a smug sense of possession: He’s ours, we’re the gatekeepers, the rest of you get in line and wait for our permission to touch the statue of the saint.

The first day and a half of meetings in Chablekal with adherents to the Zapatistas’ Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle were dominated by academic discourse by “educated” people, expounding on the plight of the indigenous or merely offering self-referential speeches about how long the speaker had supported the Zapatista cause. Certainly, there were some other voices, indigenous and mestizo, telling stories of authentic struggle – these will be reported in detail by the Other Journalism in the days to come – but one had to listen much harder to hear them in between so many presentations by individuals and organizational representatives that clearly had more experience attending meetings than struggling at the grassroots.

Then, at 5:40 p.m. on Thursday, the dam broke.

The Caste War Is a Class War

It was at Thursday afternoon’s meeting for “sympathizers” (those that have not yet signed the Sixth Declaration, and who were not invited to the previous meetings) that indigenous Maya social fighters came out in force.

First up was a Maya artesan from Chichen Itzá: “We are not supported by any political party,” he began, answering rumors spread by other organizers seeking to exclude them that these artisans are merely pawns to political machines. “We invite the Subcomandante to visit us. We are waiting for him to come and experience our problems. The Maya are here. We are present. How is it possible that the government says we don’t live there (in the Chichen Itzá archeological zone) when we have lived there for generations? We are humble people, artisans. We make hammocks. I earn my living by making hammocks. How is it possible that the government wants to take away from me what is mine? But we will not leave our lands. We are going to fight even though it is impossible.”

At the core of the plight of the artisans of Chichen Itzá are governmental regulations determining which artisans can sell their wares near the ruins and which cannot (usually corresponding to political party allegiances), and a public relations campaign by flaks for the INAH to discredit the local indigenous population as somehow a danger to the precious ancient ruins.

Another Chichen Itzá artisan, Teresa Díaz, then came to the microphone in tears: “We are waiting for help, for a response. Do us the favor, Subcomandante. Make a little space in your time to visit us. We don’t have luxury spaces,” she said, looking around at the pristine, neatly kempt retreat center in Chablekal, “but we do have a small piece of the earth. Please, compañero, visit us!”

Eliseo Pak took the microphone, speaking in Maya, with the help of a Spanish translator: “We are not asking for money from the government. We just want it to allow us to do our work, and that it not throw us off our land. If we can demonstrate through being near you that you support us they will respect us more. The INAH goes promoting the Maya region as patrimony of humanity. But those of us who live under the pyramid, we were born inside the archeological zone. This is a displaced people. The propaganda that the INAH puts out humiliates us, says we are crooks, looters and molesters, but I am an artisan, proud of my culture, my work was born in my heart. I take care of what are my roots. They treat us like crooks. They put this message out to the rich to destroy our work as honest people. We are the entire community and we want to give our kids something, their patrimony. What will we do if the government takes this all away and expels us from here? I want to thank you for listening to me.”

Other indigenous, workers and campesinos came up to the microphone one after another, including those from Oxcum, where the state seeks to take away farmlands to build a new airport… Where, with machete swords risen up into the air (such as what occurred in response to airport land grabs in Atenco and may soon occur in Chetumal, the citizenry has blockaded the road to the lands in conflict.

Some of the more urban activists present expressed solidarity for the indigenous demands. “I would like to listen to what response the artisans will receive. As a Yucateca it really interests me,” said Cristina Cantillo to Marcos. “I want to know what reaction you have to the demands that have been voiced here by the artisan compañeros.”

Another woman, clean-cut and obviously educated, was clearly not happy with the demands of the campesinos. She said, “I want to add my grain of sand so that it will be understood better what the Other Campaign and the Sixth Declaration are. They (the Zapatistas) come to listen to what others are already doing. They don’t come to collect petitions for solutions. There is some confusion. I plead to the communal farmland councils and the towns who come here to ask Marcos for help that they come instead to reach agreements and organize ourselves to solve our own problems.”

But the Caste War – then and now, a class war – inside of the Other Campaign was over as rapidly as the campesinos had won voice at the microphone. As one man said through that microphone:

“Oxcum and Chichen Itzá are not the only struggles here. Yucatán is one of the states that suffer the most poverty, misery, hunger and unemployment. Although it seems well cultured, it is more like Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero: A state totally abandoned. This is a state where one powerful business class has looted everything. Really, this meeting, like the one yesterday, is important, and we see new faces that seem to want to enter the fight.”
The Other Campaign in Yucatán had finally begun to move out of the language of the “educated” classes to speak more coherently “from below and to the left.”

Marcos: Enter the Other Campaign! Enter!

After listening to the parade of words that flowed from the overflow crowd, it was Delegate Zero’s turn at the microphone. He did not mince words:’

“We suppose that the majority of you here are sympathizers and are thinking about entering the Other Campaign. First, we want to say you that tomorrow we are going to Chichen Itza. We invite everyone to go there, to go together with us to listen to the word with these compañeros and compañeras.”

Many – but not all – of those assembled broke into strong applause. One could feel a kind of wall – the sense that many social fighters had that this cause would exclude them – evaporate.

“We have all the fears,” Marcos continued. “Even we (the Zapatistas) are the first to be afraid when we are going to do something. We fear losing life, or the people we love, but there are also other fears. There are fears of entering something bad or that has dark interests behind it or that will go in another direction, or of entering something badly organized… It is a legitimate fear. One has to have clear view of what one enters before doing it. There are always causes whose leaders take another path and what always happens is that somebody uses a movement for his own benefit. This is already happening. But there is also this restlessness in many humble and simple people – I’m not speaking just economically, because there are people who live comfortably but who can also be humble and simple – who feel something should be done.”

“And we are going to tell you the story of when Emiliano Zapata made the Plan de Ayala… Zapata made the document and signed it and said “he who is without fear pass here and sign.” At the hour to sign, this person is not just signing a paper but putting his heart on the line. We have seen it in Mérida and in Quintana Roo and all of Chiapas. Now we’re going to Campeche, Tabasco, Veracruz, Oaxaca, imagine that, the entire Southeast. Everything here is being risen up. This commitment – the word we are receiving from you – we are going to do it together with you. We are not just inviting you to come to other states. We are asking that you receive us and go to Chichen Itza… to Oxchum, to the UADY (Autonomous University of Yucatan), to go with the women, with the children in school, with the housewives discussing the problems of homes and neighborhoods, and to begin to unite our struggles with others.”

“Let me tell you a secret,” Marcos said to more than 400 people listening. “It is already known that we are going to win… This is what the Other Campaign is about. You’re invited. Enter it.”

And with that, the first Caste War of the Other Campaign in Yucatan was won without anyone having fired a shot. Your correspondents are off to Chichen Itza to report the day’s story. To be continued…

Bechtel Enterprises: A World of Imagination

If there is one thing that Bechtel might have learned in its long and losing battle to sue Bolivia over the Cochabamba Water Revolt, it ought to be this – public relations based on falsehoods doesn’t do you any favors. And yet, today, as Bechtel drops into Bolivia once more, to drop its case, the Bechtel PR machine is back to its old tricks of spinning pure baloney.

Here are a couple of choice examples:

1) Lie About the Rate Increases Bechtel Imposed

This has always been Bechtel’s first line of defense and apparently remains so. Four years ago, shortly after Bechtel filed its World Bank case, it peddled the fairy tale that “For the poorest people in Cochabamba rates went up little, barely 10 percent [Gail Apps, spokeswoman for Riley Bechtel].” In fact, the data Bechtel left behind in the water company computers when it fled showed that, for the poorest, the corporation raised rates by 47%.

This morning they gave this specific spin a slight update, “Bechtel disputes that fees rose that high and said the Bolivian government agreed to an average increase of 35 percent to pay off old debts and to expand service [San Francisco Chronicle].” Again, the data in the computers tells a different story. The average increase that Bechtel won in their secret negotiations with Bolivian regulators was 51%, a big portion of which was to service the 16% per year guaranteed profit they also demanded and won.

Here is a painfully thorough analysis of Bechtel’s price hikes, including scanned before-and-after water bills.

2) We would have dropped the whole thing if they’d said it wasn’t our fault.

This is a new one, and really, it is a stunner. This morning, Bechtel explained that the only reason they kept everyone running up (literally) millions in lawyer bills for four years is that Bolivian officials wouldn’t issue a simple statement saying that the whole fiasco really wasn’t Bechtel’s fault. Here’s what Bechtel said this morning to the San Francisco Chronicle (the hometown newspaper we share):

"We had offered some time ago not to continue arbitration if we received a clear, unambiguous statement that Aguas del Tunari acted entirely without fault, during time of concession and released of any liabilities," said Jonathan Marshall, media relations manager for Bechtel. "Given how poor Bolivia is, Bechtel's intent was not to squeeze money out of the country. We simply couldn't accept blame for what happened."

Readers, really, just stop a moment and think about this. We are supposed to believe the following:

First, Bechtel would have dropped the whole thing years ago if the government of Bolivia has just said an easy sentence-worth of words. Second, not Tuto Quiroga, not Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, not Carlos Mesa – all presidents who were eager to please foreign corporations – none would issue such a simple declaration. If you belive that I have some lovely land in in Quillacollo...

Squeezing the poor is exactly what Bechtel set out to do in Cochabamba. An updated analysis shows that if Bechtel had stayed at its demanded tariffs, the people here would have spent $17 million more on water these past six years.

Some Free Advice to Bechtel’s PR Department

Truly, I would think that the public relations people at Bechtel would be, well, just a lot more competent. The years of spin only succeeded in creating what Associated Press called today, “a cause celebre for activists around the world and a public relations headache for Bechtel...” That’s not the kind of thing I would like my boss reading over their on Beale Street. All the spinning only made things worse for Bechtel.

So, here is a little free public relations advice for the good people over by my beloved San Francisco Bay. You want to cut your public relations losses and actually score some points on us? Say this:

First, the leadership of Bechtel is genuinely regretful of the suffering and even a death that happened in Cochabamba. Those results were never our intention in Bolivia. We are a business. We provide people with water and we do it with an obligation to make a profit for our shareholders. We are a business, not a charitable foundation.

Looking at it as objectively as we can, there are a number of things that should have been done differently, both by Bechtel and the Bolivian government. The contract process itself – from start to finish – ought to have been opened to public scrutiny. No deal will work if it doesn’t have acceptance from the community and that begins with genuine transparency. What happened in Bolivia was far, far from that and it is one of the reasons for the public reaction that came after.

Additionally, it is also true that the economics of water privatization just don’t work well in a very poor country like Bolivia. The poor can’t afford the full market price for water. There are too few middle class and wealthy to cross-subsidize the poor. The national government is already borrowing to pay its bills, so there aren’t really viable subsidies there either. Getting the poor access to water is going to take more than just the market. It is going to require aide as well, and a good deal of it. Infrastructure development is expensive.

There are many, many important lessons to be learned from what happened six years ago in Cochabamba, for others and us. We wish the people of Bolivia well.
posted by The Democracy Center at 8:26 PM

Dan said...
Well said, Jim.

I have always been a bit baffled by Bechtel's attempts to exculpate itself in this case. I remember at the time it all went down, Bechtel wrote public statements (available on this website, I believe) explaining why they felt they were not to blame - indeed, that they, like the Bolivian people, had been innocent victims of corrupt Bolivian political figures. What I found so astounding was that, by way of explaining this, they detailed everything about the negotiation process that, to my way of seeing it, illustrated their complicity in the abuses.

One major issue was that the deal included plans to build a crazy system of aquaducts and pipelines to bring water from the other side of the mountain - Misicuni. The World Bank and Bechtel itself had been opposed to this plan all along - it was a long-planned-never-realized, untenable money trap that local politicians had long used to line their pockets, and in which some of the same politicians had personal investments. But to me, Bechtel only proved its own corruption when it explained that it was aware of all the problems with Misicuni from the start, and of the fact that politicians' insistence on it was part of a corrupt scheme, but that, through secret, single-bidder negotiations, it arrived at a deal that included Misicuni anyway - but that guaranteed Aguas del Tunari a large return on its investment regardless of what Misicuni and the market might actually provide (there's your "free" market at work). To this day, I can't believe Bechtel wrote a letter basically saying "we kept telling our Bolivian partners what they were doing was wrong - because it was wrong and we fully recognized that - but they were dead set on doing it, (and our profits were guaranteed,) so we went along with it in the end," and they thought the letter made them look like the good guys!

Imagine explaining to the police, "All I wanted to do was go into business with my friends. It was my friends' idea to rob banks. I told them that was wrong, but they said that's all they wanted to do. So, I told them that I wanted a cut, and even if they walked out of the bank empty handed, I wanted them to pay me some other way, and that's when I decided to drive the getaway car. Then they got caught, and when they ran out of the bank with you cops in pursuit, I refused to drive away until they turned to face you, so they killed one of you and injured many more, and then I drove away. So you see, I'm innocent. In fact, the way I see it, since they didn't get me my money, you should. But if you'll just admit I'm innocent, I'll be happy with a few token coins."

Castro's Prophecy Fulfilled as Bolivia Joins Latin America's "Axis of Good"

Castro's Prophecy Fulfilled as Bolivia Joins Latin America's "Axis of Good"

Revolution in the Andes


One of the most significant events in 500 years of Latin American history will take place in Bolivia on Sunday when Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian, is inducted as president. People of indigenous origin have, on occasion, risen to the top in Latin America. But Morales's overwhelming election victory took place on a tide of indigenous mobilisation that is especially powerful in Andean countries; elections in Peru and Ecuador this year might also bring success to indigenous movements.

The Rebellion of the Hanged is one of B Traven's novels of the Mexican jungle, written in 1936. In these stories the Indians turn slowly from rebellion to revolution, and something of that spirit infuses the new mood in Latin America. The heirs to pre-Columbian civilisations have conquered their distrust of white "democracy" and are again moving to the front of the historical stage. They do so as one of Kondratiev's long economic waves has been sweeping through the continent like a tsunami. The terrible impact of neoliberal economics is reminiscent of the slump of the 30s that brought revolution to many countries of Latin America.

Morales's victory is not just a symptom of economic breakdown and age-old repression. It also fulfils a prophecy made by Fidel Castro, who claimed the Andes would become the Americas' Sierra Maestra - the Cuban mountains that harboured black and Indian rebels over the centuries, as well as Castro's guerrilla band in the 50s. His prophecy exercised US governments in the 60s. Radical elected governments were destroyed by the armed forces - guardians of the white settler states - supported by Washington. Countries such as Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia were prevented from following anything that might have resembled the Cuban road.

Today the rules have changed. The cold war no longer provides an excuse for intervention, and the US is stretched in other parts of the world. The ballot box, for the first time in Latin America, has become the strategy of choice for revolutionaries and the poor majority. The result in Bolivia is a president who invokes the memory of the silver miners of Potosi and Che Guevara, who dreamed of a socialist commonwealth of Latin America. Castro's prophecy looks close to fulfilment, and, in his 80th year, he will go to Bolivia to savour the moment.

Another historic presence will be the shadow of Simón Bolívar, the independence leader of the 19th century who also had faith in the ability of the Andean provinces to change Latin America. He drove the Spanish from the mountains, and finished his battles in the country that was given his name. Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, mentor of Morales and largely responsible for channelling the new mood into revolutionary paths, will also be present this weekend.

The "axis of good" - as Morales terms it - of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, is a huge threat to US political, economic and cultural hegemony. It is also a challenge for Latin America's traditional left, which has never had much success in coping with indigenous populations. Now the representative of Bolivia's farmers, tin miners and coca growers of indigenous ancestry is to wear the presidential sash and seek their incorporation into political life. They will be joined by more overtly socialist groups that derive their legitimacy from half a century of union work - an alliance that will be at least as problematic for the president as US hostility and international companies seeking to exploit Bolivia's oil and gas. These won't be nationalised but will certainly have to pay higher royalties.

False dawns are common in Latin American history, but the strength of the radical tide suggests that this time it will not be dammed, still less reversed.

Richard Gott is the author of Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution and Cuba: a New History. He can be reached at:

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Justice Department to declare warrantless wiretaps legal

Justice Department to declare warrantless wiretaps legal

In a detailed 40-page legal memorandum set for release this evening the Bush Justice Department will defend the President's warrantless wiretap program as legal. A copy of the document was leaked to RAW STORY.

"The NSA activities are supported by the President's well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs to conduct warrantless surveillance of enemy forces for intelligence purposes to detect and disrupt armed attacks on the United States," Justice Department lawyers write, referring to the President's order to wiretap Americans' calls overseas.

It adds, "The President has the chief responsibility under the Constitution to protect America from attack, and the Constitution gives the President the authority necessary to fulfill that solemn responsibility."

Democrats plan unofficial hearings on the legality of the wiretaps Friday (Article here). No formal congressional hearing has been scheduled by the Republican congressional leadership to examine the taps, despite widespread concern among civil liberty advocates and constitutional scholars.

Mounting evidence proves White House lied about relationship with corrupt lobbyist

Mounting evidence proves White House lied about relationship with corrupt lobbyist
Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue

White House claims that President George W. Bush doesn’t know corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff may soon rank up there with "I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky" as a blatant public lie destroyed by mounting evidence.

Abramoff, the GOP loyalist who White House spokesman Scott McClellan claims Bush doesn't know, was a key player in Bush's transition team after the disputed 2000 Presidential election. Abramoff, working on Interior Department transition issues, attended a number of meetings with Bush during the transition.

"Bush tapped Abramoff as member of his Presidential Transition Team, advising the administration on policy and hiring at the Interior Department, which oversees Native American issues," writes Richard Wolfe and Holly Baily in Newsweek. "That level of close access to Bush, DeLay and other GOP leaders has been cited by many of the Indian tribes who hired Abramoff with hopes of gaining greater influence with the administration and Congress on gaming issues."

Although McClellan claims Bush did not meet with Abramoff, another White House spokesman, Erin Healy, said last year that "they may have met on occasion. After the Abramoff scandal broke, Healy amended her statement to add that the President "did not consider him a close friend" and claimed the White House had limited contact with the lobbyist. McClellan Tuesday claimed he could find only two contacts between the White House and Abramoff.

Yet public lobbying records filed by Abramoff’s firm show the lobbyist made 195 lobbying contacts with the administration on issues for the Marianas islands alone during Bush’s first 10 months in office. Abramoff lobbied to preserve the American territorial islands -- notorious for their "Made in the USA" sweatshops -- as exempt from federal minimum wage standards.

Two key players on Abramoff's lobbying team wound up with Bush administration jobs: Patrick Pizzella, named an assistant secretary of labor by Bush; and David Safavian, chosen by Bush to oversee federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget.

In fact, Abramoff’s close ties with Bush go back to 1997 when the then Governor of Texas wrote a letter on the lobbyist’s behalf supporting his Marianas island client’s school choice proposal.

"I hope you will keep my office informed on the progress of this initiative," Bush said in the July 18, 1997, letter, which included a CC to an Abramoff deputy.

Although they now try to distance themselves from the disgraced lobbyists, key Bush allies once openly embraced Abramoff as one of their own.

"What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs," Grover Norquist, another Bush confidant, told The National Journal in 1995.

"I know Jack Abramoff," admitted former National Republican Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, who adds that lobbyists like Abramoff "are Republicans; they were Republicans before they were lobbyists."

In April 2002, The National Journal reported: "Last summer, in an effort to raise the visibility of his Indian clients, Abramoff helped arrange a White House get-together on tax issues with President Bush for top Indian leaders, including Lovelin Poncho, the chairman of the Coushattas." Poncho first denied the meeting took place, but later changed his story in an interview with the Texas Observer. He now confirms Abramoff attended the meeting with Bush and says Bush greeted the lobbyist warmly "like an old friend."

Poncho says his tribe paid Abramoff $25,000 to arrange the May 2002 meeting with Bush.

Abramoff came up through GOP ranks with Norquist and conservative Christian leader Ralph Reed. All enjoyed unfettered access to Bush and worked closely with Bush’s Machiavellian political advisor Karl Rove.

In 2001, Abramoff recommended one of his key assistants, Susan Ralston, to Rove, who was looking for a new key advisor. She is still with Rove.

In 2003, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a Seattle radio host and activist, urged friends and colleagues to send campaign contributions to Bush via Abramoff, often praising the lobbyist on his show as "a good and personal friend of the President."

"While White House aides now speak privately (and anonymously) about the need to clean up Congress in the wake of lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty pleas in an influence-peddling scandal, there’s no sense of them taking the lead on what used to be a signature issue—before they came to Washington," writes Wolfe and Bailey. "One reason may be their own reluctance to acknowledge their own ties to Abramoff, the one-time master of the lobbying universe."

Iran Attack: No Way Back Now

As now appears obvious, the Straussian neocons will attack Iran, sooner before later. Secretary of State Condi Rice indicated as much when she said, "there's not much to talk about" until Iran promises to stop working on a nuclear weapon, never mind that—as Mike Whitney, citing nuclear weapons expert Gordon Prather, points out--Iran is not working on a nuclear weapon. History is a harsh taskmistress and history teaches that when nations stop talking, war is the result. As the Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz once declared, "war is a continuation of politics by other means," and the neocons are using a blood-soaked political ace to trump the United Nations and the Security Council into providing a familiar nod in the direction of war. As Whitney notes, the neocons believe they "can garner the necessary votes to bring Iran before the Security Council and, perhaps, win support for punitive action," in other words support for total war, or rather total shock and awe, including the use of "global strike" nukes, as Cheney has promised.

Convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Bush White House and oil-rich African dictators

January 19, 2006 -- With reports of over 200 contacts between convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the Bush White House, there is also renewed interest in what "neighbor" Abramoff was referring to in his July 28, 2003 letter, written on Greenberg Traurig LLP stationery, to Gabon's President Omar Bongo concerning a proposed visit to the White House by the oil-rich African dictator. Abramoff was paid $9 million by Bongo for arranging the visit. Abramoff is no stranger to representing African dictators. His clients have included the late Zaire (Congo) strongman Mobutu Sese Seko and Angola's assassinated rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. Indicted White House aide David Safavian, an Abramoff associate, also represented Bongo.

In his letter to Bongo, Abramoff states:
"I have been cautiously working to obtain a visit for the President . . . to see President Bush, the Congress and policy and opinion makers in the United States. As you know, we were, in advance of the war in Iraq, able to secure a tentative date for this meeting, however, the war cancelled all such scheduled visits, with the exception of the critical US war allies.

Since the time of the war, we have been discussing a rescheduling of the meeting.

Our firm was approached by a neighboring nation which also desired such a meeting, and indeed much more than a meeting. Of course, our firm's main strength is not in just setting up meetings, but in changing and impacting US policy, so to the neighbor, the meeting is important, but merely the tip of the iceberg.

The neighbor has offered to put up the resources which are necessary to not only secure a meeting, but more importantly, to commence a policy effort in Washington which could impact America's Africa policy in limited ways. These resources are substantial and would be used to build a support network for the neighbor which would enable the decision makers to move the neighbor up on the priority list. . . .

I suggested that I visit Gabon after my trip to Scotland in mid August, but that in order for me to preserve this and be able to turn down the neighbor's offer, we had to commence the representation, even in small part, perhaps ten percent . . . . Please bear in mind that the neighbor's proposal was to pay the entire amount up front."

According to informed sources in Washington, the "neighbor" referred to by Abramoff was oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, run by brutal dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In March 2004, South African and Zimbabwean forces foiled a coup attempt by British and South African mercenaries against Obiang. Later, Mark Thatcher, the son of Margaret Thatcher, pleaded guilty to his involvement in the coup in a South African court. Abramoff has close links to friends and associates of Margaret Thatcher, having helped arrange meetings between her and GOP officials. It was revealed that senior British, Spanish, and American defense and intelligence officials, including Bush administration officials Michael Westphal and Theresa Whelan, were involved in the coup plot. Amid rumors that Washington wanted Obiang out of power, Obiang wanted to make a pitch for friendlier contacts with the Bush administration. Hence, the outreach to Abramoff. But Obiang also had close financial links to the now-defunct Riggs Bank, a bank for which George W. Bush's uncle, Jonathan Bush, served as a senior official over a number of years.

Shortly before the March 2004 coup attempt, Obiang was abruptly told to close his Riggs account during a visit to the bank in Washington and Obiang's Riggs' account manager Simon Kareri was subsequently fired by the bank and his computer and files were seized at his home by FBI agents. It was discovered that Riggs and Obiang were involved in an Obiang-run slush fund called Abayak SA that received and paid out large sums of cash for various "services."

Obiang attended a Sept. 24, 2003 reception at Tavern on the Green in Manhattan hosted by top U.S. businessmen, including officials of Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, and Halliburton.

Jonathan Bush ran a New Haven, Connecticut-based Riggs subsidiary called J. Bush & Co., a money management firm that later morphed into Riggs Investment Management Company (RIMCO). Federal investigators discovered that Riggs set up phony and deceptive accounts and dummy corporations in off-shore locations like the Bahamas. Riggs was caught up in the Russian Mafia money laundering scandal through its stake in a Channel Islands company called Valmet. That scandal involved jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Bank of New York scandal involving key Russian Mafia figures tied to various Abramoff business dealings, including gambling casinos and Internet gambling. In May 2005, after Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were convicted of tax evasion and fraud by a Russian court and sentenced to nine years in prison, George W. Bush immediately came to the defense of these Russian Mafia kingpins.


The Democracy Center On-Line

Volume 69 - January 19, 2006


Dear Readers:

The people have won!!

This morning here in Bolivia, the Bechtel Corporation will sign an agreement dropping its $50 million legal case against the people of Cochabamba – for kicking Bechtel out in the 2000 water revolt. Instead of the fortune it demanded, Bechtel will fly home with a token settlement of two shiny Bolivian coins worth a total of thirty cents. One of the biggest, most powerful corporations on Earth has been defeated by an army of concerned citizens all over the world, including many of you.

Bechtel's surrender is a historic first. Below is an article with details. To the thousands of people who helped wage this fight – with everything from e-mails to direct actions – congratulations! You did it!

On another note, I am headed to the US next week to do a series of public talks and panels about Bolivia and events here. If you live nearby, please come. All these are open to the public and everyone is invited.

Jim Shultz
The Democracy Center

WASHINGTON: January 25th – 3:15 pm
The Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue, N.E.

NEW YORK: February 1st – 5:30 pm
Marymount College, 211 East 71st St. (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
The Regina Peruggi Room

ST. PAUL MINN: February 4th – 9am
Unity Unitarian Church, 732 Holly Avenue


The Cochabamba water revolt – which began exactly six years ago this month – will end this morning when Bechtel, one of the world's most powerful corporations, formally abandons its legal effort to take $50 million from the Bolivian people. Bechtel made that demand before a secretive trade court operated by the World Bank, the same institution that coerced Bolivia to privatize the water to begin with. Faced with protests, barrages of e-mails, visits to their homes, and years of damaging press, Bechtel executives finally decided to surrender, walking away with a token payment equal to thirty cents. That retreat sets a huge global precedent.

The Cochabamba Water Revolt

In January 2000 the people of Cochabamba, Bolivia woke up one morning to discover that their public water system had been taken over by a mysterious new private company, Aguas del Tunari. The World Bank had coerced Bolivia to privatize its water, as a condition of further aid. The new company, controlled by Bechtel, the California engineering giant, announced its arrival with a huge overnight increase in local water bills. Water rates leapt by an average of more than fifty percent, and in some cases much higher. Bechtel and its Spanish co-investor, Abengoa, priced water beyond what many families here could afford.

The people demanded that the rate hikes be permanently reversed. The Bolivian government refused. Then the people demanded that the company’s contract be canceled. The government sent out police and soldiers to take control of the city and declared a state martial law.

In the face of beatings, of leaders being taken from their houses in the middle of the night, of a seventeen-year-old boy being shot and killed by the army – in the face of it all, the people did not back down. In April of 2000 Bechtel’s company was forced to leave and the people won back control of their water.

Bechtel Fights Back

Eighteen months later Bechtel and Abengoa sought revenge, filing a $50 million legal action against Bolivia in the World Bank's trade court – the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It was a legal forum tailor-made for Bechtel. The people of Cochabamba would be tried in Washington, in English, and in a process so secret that no member of the public or press would be allowed to know when the tribunal met, who testified before it, or what they said.

Bechtel claimed it was suing for both its losses and the profits it wasn't allowed to make. Records would later show that Bechtel and its associates had spent less than $1 million in Bolivia.

The People vs. Bechtel

What Bechtel did not count on was the firestorm of public protest that it would face. Cochabamba water revolt leaders, The Democracy Center, and a host of allies all over the world launched a global campaign to force Bechtel to drop the case.

Thousands sent e-mails to corporate executives. Protesters in San Francisco blocked the entrance to Bechtel's headquarters, occupied its lobby, and draped a banner across its front. Dutch activists mounted a ladder and posted a sign renaming Bechtel's Amsterdam office after Victor Hugo Daza, the 17-year-old killed in Cochabamba. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a resolution calling on Bechtel to drop its case.

More than 300 organizations from 43 countries joined in a citizens petition to the World Bank demanding that the case be opened to public scrutiny and participation. Activists in Washington DC protested at the home of the head of Bechtel's water company. Hundreds of articles and dozens of documentaries were published and produced worldwide, making Bechtel and its Bolivian water takeover a poster child of corporate greed and abuse.

Bechtel – a corporation so powerful that it won a billion-dollar, no-bid Bush administration contract to rebuild Iraq – found it all more than even it could take. Last June, Bechtel and its associates raised the white flag and began negotiating a deal to drop their case – for a token payment of two bolivianos (thirty cents). Sources close to the negotiations say that Bechtel’s CEO, Riley Bechtel, personally intervened to bring the case to and end, weary of the ongoing damage to the corporation's reputation. Bechtel officials flew to Bolivia this week to sign the surrender and collect their two coins.

Bechtel's Surrender – What it Means

Bechtel's surrender settlement is historic. The World Bank’s system of closed-door trade courts has received more than 200 cases like Bechtel's. The WTO and NAFTA trade courts have their own pile of corporate cases. In no other, however, has a major corporation backed down as a result of public pressure.

The public victory over Bechtel is a direct hit against the ever-tightening spider web of global trade rules. International financial institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, coerce poor countries into privatization arrangements as a condition of aid. Corrupt and incompetent governments sit down behind closed doors with multinational corporations and cut bad deals. A year later, or a decade later, the people finally realize what has happened. They demand a reversal and the companies warn, "Mess with the deal and we will take you to court – and we will win."

In Cochabamba, people "messed with the deal" big time. They took back their water. The global campaign against Bechtel sends an important message to other corporations who are thinking of following in their legal footsteps, in Bolivia and beyond:

"No, we will not let you wage this fight behind closed doors where only a handful of lawyers has a voice. We will wage this fight on your doorstep. We will make you defend your actions in the court of world public opinion, before your neighbors, your friends, and the media."

One thing that corporations know how to do well is math. When Bechtel and its associates did the math on Cochabamba they concluded that the cost to the company’s public reputation was greater than whatever payment they hoped to take from the pockets of Bolivia’s poor.

One again, it is clear that the economic rules of the game can be changed. Six years ago the people of Cochabamba won their revolt over water with courage and commitment. Today we have all won the water revolt’s second and final round, with a persistence that was truly global and that could not be stopped. Another world is indeed possible.


A note: For more information on the Cochabamba Water Revolt visit The Democracy Center’s Web site section dedicated to it:


THE DEMOCRACY CENTER ON-LINE is an electronic publication of The Democracy Center, distributed on an occasional basis to more than 3,200 organizations, policy makers, journalists and others, throughout the US and worldwide. Please consider forwarding it along to those who might be interested. People can request to be added to the distribution list by sending an e-mail note to: Newspapers and periodicals interested in reprinting or excerpting material in the newsletter should contact The Democracy Center at Suggestions and comments are welcome. Past issues are available on The Democracy Center Web site.


SAN FRANCISCO: P.O. Box 22157 San Francisco, CA 94122
BOLIVIA: Casilla 5283, Cochabamba, Bolivia
TEL: (415) 564-4767
FAX: (978) 383-1269