Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Meet the New Goliath - Israel is Bad for Jewish Ethics By SAUL LANDAU

You can trace the current Middle East conflicts back to Moses, who was deaf. God said: "Moses, take your people to Canada." Moses heard Canaan.

One group of religious Jews believes Israel is anathema to Jewish ethics. On June 10, a group of Naturei Karta (Guardians of the City) joined a demonstration in Washington DC to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine and of Syria's Golan Heights. Back in October 2005, Neturei Karta leader Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss had made the group's position clear about Israel and the Zionist movement. "The Zionists use the Holocaust issue to their benefit. We, Jews who perished in the Holocaust, do not use it to advance our interests. We stress that there are hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world who identify with our opposition to the Zionist ideology and who feel that Zionism is not Jewish, but a political agenda...What we want is not a withdrawal to the '67 borders, but to everything included in it, so the country can go back to the Palestinians and we could live with them ... "

Two years ago, I talked to one of the men in black suits, with black hats and the traditional curls of the Hassidic Jews--but they are not Hassidic.

"How can the ethics of Judaism be practiced by corrupt state officials, and most are corrupt in most governments?" He said this before the July 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, meaning before the revelation that the then head of the Israeli army, General Dan Halutz, was busy selling off his stock portfolio on the morning of the invasion for fear that prices would plunge. In addition, as Israel prepared to go to war, two Cabinet officials were charged with pinching the butts of young women staff members.

"Do you realize, that a man who calls himself a Jew," he continued, "gave orders to Israeli young men and women in the army or police to kill Palestinian civilians, to break their bones [referring to Labor Party Defense Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who in 1989 urged Israeli soldiers to break the bones of Palestinian demonstrators]. Is such behavior compatible with our ethics? With morality on any level? As long as Israel exists as a state, Jewish men and women will commit unpardonable sins and pollute the religion for future generations. Israeli has fomented a pernicious lobby in the United States and its equivalent in Europe to tell the non-Jewish public that it is a democratic David fighting a fanatical Goliath. This is a lie. No Messiah will ever return to such a terrible place. A state of Israel can exist only after the Messiah Returns."

I tried to lighten the mood a little, fearing he would explode in anger. I recounted the story of the man shortly after the 1948 creation of Israel who returns home and tells his wife. "The rabbi said all Jews have to move to Israel because the Messiah will soon come there. "Are you crazy?" she retorted, "After we spent all that money fixing up the apartment!"

He didn't laugh.

"Have you lost your sense of humor?" I asked.

"When it comes to Israel," he replied, "I see nothing funny."

As a child, my family elders, rabbis and other religious figures taught me the same lessons as Israeli journalist Uri Avnery learned: "Judaism a humane religion, a 'light unto the Gentiles'. Judaism means to loathe violence, to value the spiritual above the powerful, to turn an enemy into a friend. A Jew is allowed to defend himself. 'If somebody comes to kill you, kill him first' as the Talmudic injunction goes--but not as a lover of violence and the intoxication of power."

These ideas long preceded the creation of Israel as a Jewish state, one that has been routinely at war--or on the edge of war -- with its neighbors. After the 1967 war, Orthodox and Hassidic sects began to gain influence in Israeli politics and culture.

Settlements grew in the territories taken in that war against Israel's neighbors. And with these new colonies, some of them fervently religious, arose justification for discriminating against Palestinians who, began to acquire in the language of these Israelis the characteristics of the hated "other." The great irony of course was that the Nazis had developed just such a language for Jews. What Israelis did to Palestinians was a far cry from the Holocaust, but nevertheless it sounded deeply discordant to Jews like myself to listen to devout rabbis justifying a system that former President Jimmy Carter called "apartheid" in his book.

John Ross recounts his experience when he went to Palestine to observe the olive harvest and seven, young men in yarmulkes "charged down the bare brown hillside swinging thick clubs and hurling large lethal stones, war-whooping in Hebrew their harsh curses upon the people of this lacerated land. I was standing with a Palestinian farmer and his family under a freshly-picked olive tree when they came for us and thus, I suppose, guilty of being a race traitor in their perverted vision."

As Ross began to run, "the savages [members of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane's fascist cult] broke out of the trees and before I had time to turn towards them, they were upon me The first blow glanced off the small of my back and I tumbled to the red-brown earth, trying to cover my head with my forearm. The second smashed into my wrist and the blood began to spurt One Nazi youth picked up a large, jagged rock and advanced upon me with malice glowing in his evil, rabid eyes, hurling it from five feet away. I felt the painful crack against my knee and then they were pulling me to my feet, tearing my clothes and booting me down the hill like a punctured soccer ball." (Anderson Valley Advertiser December 3, 2003)

Compare the thugs who put Ross in the hospital to the words of Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and key spiritual guide for Israeli settlers in Palestinian territory. In early June, he wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He offered his decree: having compassion with the civilian population of Gaza is incompatible with protecting Israeli soldiers' lives. Those holding supposedly humane feelings imperil Israeli lives. The rabbi's son, Shmuel, interpreted this decree: "if killing 100 Arabs is not sufficient to stop the launching of Qassam rockets at Israel, then 1,000 must be killed. And if that is not sufficient, then 10,000, and 100,000 and even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."

Eliyahu claimed that "all civilians living in Gaza" are "collectively guilty for Qassam attacks on Sderot" and that "there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings."

Journalist Avnery found the letter in Olam Katan [Small World], "a weekly pamphlet to be distributed in synagogues nationwide. Eliyahu wrote that "This is a message to all leaders of the Jewish people not to be compassionate with those who shoot [rockets] at civilians in their houses." Eliyahu's son, Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, said his father "advocated carpet bombing the general area from which the Qassams were launched, regardless of the price in Palestinian life." (Avnery, Gush Shalom, June 9, 2007)

In his letter, Eliyahu justified his edict by quoting from Psalms. "I will pursue my enemies and apprehend them and I will not desist until I have eradicated them."

Avnery reported on Eliyahu's disproportionate equation. Over the last six years, nine Israelis in Sderot died from "crudely built Qassam missiles." 650 Palestinians died last year (more than half unarmed civilians, according to Amnesty International) from attacks by Israel, one of the most potent and sophisticated military powers in the world."

In Israel, so far neither outrage nor outcry has come from this bloody call. Instead, writes Avnery, "The number of rabbis who publicly support such methods has risen to the hundreds. Most of them come from the settlements," where Jews have taken Palestinian land and water and built their own communities--albeit the World Court declared that one nation cannot claim the conquered territory of another. (Gush Shalom)

In the United States, Israeli propagandists and uncritically loyal supporters, including Congress, cling to the image of Israel as a besieged David surrounded by Goliaths, as a nation of democrats and justice seekers isolated in a sea of anti-democratic and unjust enemies. A nation with 200 nuclear missiles and the best conventional army, the highest industrial and technological capacity in the region as poor little David?

In front of Washington DC's synagogues, signs declare: "We support Israel in its struggle for peace and justice." Israel has shown little interest in either peace or justice. Its government knows no nation or group of nations would dare attack it lest it feel the wrath of a government well in tune with Rabbi Eliyahu's sentiments. Israel has become Goliath. Hopefully, an Israeli David will also emerge and guide his people toward peace and justice.

Saul Landau's new book, BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD, with a foreword by Gore Vidal, is now available from Counterpunch Press. His new film, WE DON'T PLAY GOLF HERE, is available on DVD from roundworldmedia@gmail.com Landau's writings also appear on progresoweekly.com

Biofuels: The Five Myths of the Agro-fuels Transition By Eric Holt-Giménez

By Eric Holt-Giménez

Global Research, June 30, 2007

Biofuels. The term invokes a life-giving image of renewability and abundance—a clean, green, sustainable assurance in technology and the power of progress. This image allows industry, politicians, the World Bank, the United Nations, and even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to present fuels made from corn, sugarcane, soy and other crops as the next step in a smooth transition from peak oil to a yet-to-be-defined renewable fuel economy. Drawing its power from a cluster of simple cornucopian myths, “biofuels” directs our attention away from the powerful economic interests that benefit from this transition. It avoids discussion of the growing North-South food and energy imbalance. More fundamentally, it obscures the political-economic relationships between land, people, resources and food. By showing us only one side, “biofuels” fails to help us understand the profound consequences of the industrial transformation of our food and fuel systems—The Agro-fuels Transition.

The Agro-fuels Boom

Industrialized countries unleashed an “agro-fuels boom” by mandating ambitious renewable fuel targets. Renewable fuels are scheduled to provide 5.75% of Europe’s transport fuel by 2010, and 10 percent by 2020. The United States aims at 35 billion gallons a year. These targets far exceed the agricultural capacities of the industrial North. Europe would need to plant 70% of its farmland to fuel. The U.S.’s entire corn and soy harvest would need to be processed as ethanol and bio-diesel. Converting the bulk of their arable land to fuel crops would wreak havoc with the North’s food systems. Therefore, OECD countries are looking to the Global South to meet their fuel demands. Southern governments appear eager to oblige. Indonesia and Malaysia are rapidly expanding oil-palm plantations in an effort to supply up to 20 percent of the EU bio-diesel market. In Brazil—where fuel crop acreage already occupies a land area the size of Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Great Britain combined—the government is planning a five-fold increase in sugar cane acreage. Their goal is to replace 10 percent of the world’s gasoline by 2025.

The rapid capitalization and concentration of power within the agro-fuels industry is breathtaking. Over the last three years venture capital investment in agro-fuels has increased eightfold. Private investment is swamping public research institutions, as evidenced by BP’s recent award of half a billion dollars to the University of California. Behind the scenes—and under the noses of most national anti-trust laws—giant oil, grain, auto and genetic engineering corporations are forming powerful partnerships: ADM and Monsanto, Chevron and Volkswagen; BP, DuPont, and Toyota. These corporations are consolidating the research, production, processing, and distribution chains of our food and fuel systems under one colossal, industrial roof.

Agro-fuel champions assure us that because fuel crops are renewable, they are environmentally–friendly, can reduce global warming, and will foster rural development. But the tremendous market power of agro-fuel corporations, coupled with the poor political will on the part of governments to regulate their activities, leads us to doubt these happy scenarios. Before jumping on the bandwagon, the mythic baggage of the agro-fuels transition needs to be publicly unpacked:

Myth #1: Agro-fuels are clean and green

Because photosynthesis from fuel crops removes green house gases from atmosphere and can reduce fossil fuel consumption, we are told fuel crops are green. But when the full “life cycle” of agro-fuels is considered—from land clearing to automotive consumption—the moderate emission savings are undone by far greater emissions from deforestation, burning, peat drainage, cultivation, and soil carbon losses. Every ton of palm oil produced results in 33 tons of carbon dioxide emissions—10 times more than petroleum.[1] Tropical forests cleared for sugar cane ethanol emit 50 percent more greenhouse gasses than the production and use of the same amount of gasoline[2] Commenting on the global carbon balance, Doug Parr, chief UK scientist at Greenpeace states flatly, “If even five percent of biofuels are sourced from wiping out existing ancient forests, you’ve lost all your carbon gain.”

There are other environmental problems as well. Industrial agro-fuels require large applications of petroleum-based fertilizers, whose global use—now at 45 million tons/year—has more than doubled the biologically available nitrogen in the world, contributing heavily to the emission of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO². In the tropics—where most of the world’s agro-fuels will soon be grown—chemical fertilizer has 10-100 times the impact on global warming compared to temperate soil applications.[3] To produce a liter of ethanol takes three to five liters of irrigation water and produces up to 13 liters of waste water. It takes the energy equivalent of 113 liters of natural gas to treat this waste, increasing the likelihood that it will simply be released into the environment to pollute streams, rivers and groundwater[4] Intensive cultivation of fuel crops also leads to high rates of erosion, particularly in soy production—from 6.5 tons/hectare in the U.S. to up to 12 tons/hectare in Brazil and Argentina.

Myth #2: Agro-fuels will not result in deforestation

Proponents of agro-fuels argue that fuel crops planted on ecologically degraded lands will improve rather than destroy the environment. Perhaps the government of Brazil had this in mind when it re-classified some 200 million hectares of dry-tropical forests, grassland, and marshes as “degraded” and apt for cultivation[5] In reality, these are the bio-diverse ecosystems of the Mata Atlantica the Cerrado and the Pantanal, occupied by indigenous people, subsistence farmers, and extensive cattle ranches. The introduction of agro-fuel plantations will simply push these communities to the “agricultural frontier” of the Amazon where the devastating patterns of deforestation are all too well-known. Soybeans supply 40 percent of Brazil’s biodiesel. NASA has positively correlated their market price with the destruction of the Amazon rainforest—currently at nearly 325,000 hectares a year. Called “The Diesel of Deforestation,” palm oil plantations for bio-diesel are the primary cause of forest loss in Indonesia, a country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. By 2020, Indonesia’s oil-palm plantations will triple in size to 16.5 million hectares—an area the size of England and Wales combined—resulting in a loss of 98% of forest cover.[6] Neighboring Malaysia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, has already lost 87% of its tropical forests and continues deforesting at a rate of seven percent a year.

Myth #3; Agro-fuels will bring rural development

In the tropics, 100 hectares dedicated to family farming generates thirty-five jobs. Oil palm and sugar cane provide 10 jobs, eucalyptus two, and soybeans a scant half-job per 100 hectares, all poorly paid. Until recently, agro-fuels supplied primarily local and sub-regional markets. Even in the U.S., most ethanol plants were relatively small, and farmer-owned. With the agro-fuels boom big industry is quickly moving in, centralizing operations and creating gargantuan economies of scale. Big Oil, Big Grain, and Big Genetic engineering are rapidly consolidating control over the entire agro-fuel value chain. The market power of these corporations is staggering: Cargill and ADM control 65 percent of the global grain trade, Monsanto and Syngenta a quarter of the $60 billion gene-tech industry. This market power allows these companies to extract profits from the most lucrative and low-risk segments of the value chain, e.g., inputs, processing and distribution. Agro-fuels producers will be increasingly dependent on a tightly-organized cabal of companies for their seed, inputs, services, processing and sale. They are not likely to receive many benefits.[7] More likely, smallholders will be forced out of the market and off the land. Hundreds of thousands have already been displaced by the soybean plantations in the “Republic of Soy” a 50+ million hectare area covering southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay, and eastern Bolivia.[8]

Myth #4: Agro-fuels will not cause hunger

Hunger, said Amartya Sen, results not from scarcity, but poverty. According to the FAO, there is enough food in the world to supply everyone with a daily 3,200-calorie diet of fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables, dairy and meat. Nonetheless, because they are poor, 824 million people continue to go hungry. In 2000, world leaders promised to halve the proportion of hungry people living in extreme poverty by 2015. Little progress has been made. The world's poorest people already spend 50-80% of their total household income on food. They suffer when high fuel prices push up food prices. Now, because food and fuel crops are competing over land and resources, high food prices may actually push up fuel prices. Both increase the prices of land and water. This perverse, inflationary spiral puts food and productive resources out of reach for the poor. The International Food Policy Research Institute has estimated that the price of basic food staples will increase 20-33 percent by the year 2010 and 26-135 percent by the year 2020. Caloric consumption typically declines as price rises by a ratio of 1:2. With every 1 percent rise in the cost of food, 16 million people are made food insecure. If current trends continue, some 1.2 billion people could be chronically hungry by 2025—600 million more than previously predicted.[9] World food aid will not likely come to the rescue because our surpluses will go to our gas tanks. Perversely, food aid only increases when food prices are low, not high. Instead of converting land to fuel production, what are urgently needed are massive transfers of food-producing resources to the rural poor.

Myth #5: Better “second-generation” agro-fuels are just around the corner

Proponents of agro-fuels like to reassure “food versus fuel” skeptics by asserting that present agro-fuels made from food crops will soon be replaced with environmentally-friendly crops like fast-growing trees and switchgrass. This myth, wryly referred to as the “bait and switch-grass” shell game, helps make first generation agro-fuels socially acceptable.

The agro-fuel transition transforms land use on massive scales, pitting food production against fuel production for land, water and resources. The issue of which crops are converted to fuel is irrelevant. Wild plants cultivated as fuel crops won’t have a smaller “environmental footprint” because commercialization will transform their ecology. They will rapidly migrate from hedgerows and woodlots onto arable lands to be intensively cultivated like any other industrial crop—with all the associated environmental externalities.

By genetically engineering plants with less lignin and cellulose, the industry aims to produce cellulosic agro-fuel crops that break down easily to liberate sugars, especially fast-growing trees. Trees are perennial and spread pollen father than food crops. Cellulosic candidates miscanthus, switch grass, and canary grass, are invasive species. Given the demonstrated promiscuity of genetically-engineered crops, we can expect massive genetic contamination. Monsanto and Syngenta will be quite pleased. Agro-fuels will serve as their genetic Trojan horse, allowing them to fully colonize both our fuel and food systems.

Any technology with potential to avoid the worst impacts of global warming must be commercially viable on a global scale within the next 5-8 years. This is highly unlikely with cellulosic ethanol, a product that has thus far demonstrated no carbon savings. Making it a green, viable product is not simply matter of scaling up existing technology, but of major breakthroughs in plant physiology that permit the economically efficient breakdown of cellulose, hemi-cellulose, and lignin. The agro-fuel industry is either betting on miracles or counting on taxpayer bail-outs. Faith in science is not science. Selective faith in second-generation fuel—rather than working to improve existing solar, wind, or conservation technologies—is bias in favor of the highest bidder.

The Twin is Dead, Long live the Twin

The International Energy Agency estimates that over the next 23 years, the world could produce as much as 147 million tons of agro-fuel. This will be accompanied by a lot of carbon, nitrous oxide, erosion, and over 2 billion tons of waste water. Remarkably, this fuel will barely offset the yearly increase in global oil demand, now standing at 136 million tons a year—never mind offsetting any of the existing demand. Is this worth it?

The agro-fuel transition closes a 200-year chapter in the relation between agriculture and industry that began with the Industrial Revolution. Then, the invention of the steam engine promised an end to drudgery. However, industry’s take-off lagged until governments privatized common lands, driving the poorest peasants out of agriculture and into urban factories. Peasant agriculture effectively subsidized industry with both cheap food and cheap labor. Over the next 100 years, as industry grew, so did the urban percentage of the world’s population: from 3% to 13%. Cheap oil and petroleum-based fertilizers opened up agriculture itself to industrial capital. Mechanization intensified production, keeping food prices low and industry booming. The next hundred years saw a three-fold global shift to urban living. Today, the world has as many people living in cities as in the countryside. [10] The massive transfer of wealth from agriculture to industry, the industrialization of agriculture, and the rural-urban shift are all part of the “Agrarian Transition,” the lesser-known twin of the Industrial Revolution. The Agrarian/Industrial twins transformed most of the world’s fuel and food systems and established non-renewable petroleum as the foundation of today’s multi-trillion dollar agri-foods complex.

The pillars of the agri-foods industry are the great grain corporations, e.g., ADM, Cargill and Bunge. They are surrounded by an equally formidable phalanx of food processors, distributors, and supermarket chains on one hand, and agro-chemical, seed, and machinery companies on the other. Together, these industries consume four of every five food dollars. For some time, the production side of the agri-foods complex has suffered from agricultural “involution” in which increasing rates of investment (chemical inputs, genetic engineering, and machinery) have not increased the rates of agricultural productivity—the agri-foods complex is paying more and reaping less.

Agro-fuels are the perfect answer to involution because they’re subsidized, grow as oil shrinks, and facilitate the concentration of market power in the hands of the most powerful players in the food and fuel industries. Like the original Agrarian Transition, the present Agro-fuels Transition will “enclose the commons” by industrializing the remaining forests and prairies of the world. It will drive the planet’s remaining smallholders, family farmers, and indigenous peoples to the cities. It will funnel rural resources to urban centers in the form of fuel, and will generate massive amounts of industrial wealth.

Unfortunately, the agro-fuels transition suffers from a congenital flaw: its fraternal twin is dead. There is no new Industrial Revolution. No expanding industrial sector waits to receive displaced indigenous communities, smallholders and rural workers. There are no production breakthroughs poised to flood the world with cheap food. This time, fuel will not subsidize agriculture with cheap energy. On the contrary, fuel will compete with food for land, water and resources. Agro-fuels collapse the industrial link between food and fuel. Taken to its extreme, agro-fuel will be used to grow agro-fuel—a thermodynamically pathetic proposition. The inherent entropy of industrial agriculture was invisible as long as oil was abundant. Now, food and fuel systems must shift from a savings to a checking account. Agro-fuels lead us to overdraw. “Renewable” does not mean “limitless.” Even if crops can be replanted, land, water, and nutrients are limiting. Pretending otherwise serves the interests of those monopolizing those resources.
Agro-fuel’s appeal lies with its potential to prolong the oil economy. With an estimated one trillion barrels of oil reserves left on the planet, $100-a-barrel oil is not far off.[11] The higher the oil prices, the more ethanol costs can rise while remaining competitive. Herein lays the contradiction for second generation agro-fuels: as oil becomes more expensive, first generation agro-fuels become more lucrative, discouraging the development of second-generation fuels. If oil reaches $80 per barrel, ethanol producers could afford to pay over $5 per bushel (~127 kg.) for corn, making it competitive with sugar cane as well. The planet’s energy crisis is potentially an $80—100 trillion dollar bonanza for food and fuel corporations. No wonder we are invited to consume our way out of over-consumption.

Limits—not incentives—must be placed on the agro-fuels industry. It is unconscionable for the North to shift the burden of over-consumption to the Global South simply because the tropics have more sunlight, rain and arable land. If agro-fuels are to be forest and food friendly, clearly the grain, cane, and oil-palm industries need to be regulated, and not in piecemeal fashion. Strong, enforceable standards based on limiting land planted to agro-fuels are urgently needed, as are anti-trust laws powerful enough to prevent the corporate concentration of market power in the industry. Sustainable benefits to the countryside will only accrue if agro-fuels are a complement to territorial plans for sustainable rural development, not the centerpiece.

Building Food and Fuel Sovereignty

The Agro-fuels Transition is not inevitable. There is no reason to sacrifice the possibility of sustainable, equitable food and fuel systems to an industrial strategy that compromises both. Many successful, locally-focused, energy-efficient and people-centered alternatives are presently producing food and fuel in ways that do not threaten food systems, the environment, or livelihoods. The question is not whether ethanol and bio-diesel per-se have a place in our future, but whether or not we allow a handful of global corporations to determine our future by dragging us down the dead end of the agro-fuels transition. To avoid this trap we have to abandon the cornucopian myths left over from the age of abundant oil. We must dare to envision a different, steady-state agrarian transition built on re-distributive land reform that re-populates and stabilizes the world’s struggling rural communities. We need to rebuild and strengthen our local food systems, and ensure conditions for the local re-investment of rural wealth. Putting people and environment—instead of corporate mega-profits—at the center of rural development requires food sovereignty: the right of people to determine their own food systems.

In both the Industrial North and the Global South, hundreds of thousands of producers and consumers are actively organizing for their right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. They are also re-building local food systems architecture to ensure that most of the wealth and benefits of food systems accrue locally—not in the distant corporate coffers of the agri-foods giants. They are holding agri-foods corporations accountable for the externalities that their industry imposes on taxpayers in the form of hunger, environmental destruction and poor health from cheap, processed foods. Social movements for land reform, indigenous rights, farmer-to-farmer sustainable agriculture, ethical trade, farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture, inner-city gardens and neighborhood-food systems development, are a few examples of the widespread, multi-faceted efforts for food sovereignty. Organizations like international Via Campesina, Brazil’s landless movement (MST), the Federation of Southern Cooperatives of African-American Farmers, and the Community Food Security Coalition, are transforming the social will from these rural and urban movements into political will—the formula for social change.

Food Sovereignty movements are already squaring off with the agro-fuels boom. When U.S. president George Bush arrived in Brazil to establish an ethanol partnership with Lula, 700 women from Via Campesina greeted him by occupying Cargill’s sugar mill in Sao Paulo in protest. But derailing the agro-fuels juggernaut entails changing the Agro-fuels Transition from an agrarian transition that favors industry to one that actually favors rural communities—a transition that does not drain wealth from the countryside, but that puts resources in the hands of rural peoples. This is a far-reaching project. A good nest step would be to launch a pro-active, global moratorium on the expansion of agro-fuels. Time and public debate is needed to assess the potential impacts of agro-fuels, and to develop the regulatory structures, programs, and incentives for conservation and food and fuel development alternatives. We need the time to forge a better transition—an agrarian transition to food and fuel sovereignty.

Eric Holt-Giménez, Ph.D., is Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy


1.Delft Hydraulics in George Monbiot, “If we want to save the planet, we need a five-year freeze on biofuels” The Guardian, 3/27/2007

2. David Tilman and Jason Hill, Washington Post, 3/25/07

3. Miguel Altieri and Elizabeth Bravo, “The ecological and social tragedy of biofuels,” 5/1/07, www.foodfirst.org ,

4. Ecologist, May, 2007

5. Plano Nacional de Agroenergia 2006-2011, In Camila Moreno, “Agroenergia X Soberania Alimentar: a Questão Agrária do século XXI”, 2006

6.The Ecologist, Ibid

7. Annie Dufey, “International trade in biofuels: Good for development? And good for environment?” International Institute for Environment and Development, 2006.

8. Bravo, E. 2006, Biocombustibles, cutlivos energeticos y soberania alimentaria: encendiendo el debate sobre biocommustibles. Accion Ecologica, Quito, Ecuador

9. C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer, “How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor”,
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2007

10. “The World Goes to Town,” The Economist, 5/11/07

11. Caroline Lucas Mep, et al “Fuelling a Food Crisis: The impact of peak oil on food security”, The Greens/European Free Alliance, European Parliament, 12/06


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“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow

The killing machine: Fidel Castro reflects on the release of the CIA's "The Family Jewels"

Reflections of President Fidel Castro

SUNDAY is a good day to read something that would appear to be science fiction.

It was announced that the CIA would be declassifying hundreds of pages on illegal actions that included plans to eliminate the leaders of foreign governments. Suddenly the publication is halted and it is delayed one day. No coherent explanation was given. Perhaps someone in the White House looked over the material.

The first package of declassified documents goes by the name of “The Family Jewels”; it consists of 702 pages on illegal CIA actions between 1959 and 1973. About 100 pages of this part have been deleted. It deals with actions that were not authorized by any law, plots to assassinate other leaders, experiments with drugs on human beings to control their minds, spying on civil activists and journalists, among other similar activities that were expressly prohibited.

The documents began to be gathered together 14 years after the first of the events took place, when then CIA director, James Schlessinger became alarmed about what the press was writing, especially all the articles by Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein published in The Washington Post, already mentioned in the “Manifesto to the People of Cuba”. The agency was being accused of promoting spying in the Watergate Hotel with the participation of its former agents Howard Hunt and James McCord.

In May 1973, the Director of the CIA was demanding that "all the main operative officials of this agency must immediately inform me on any ongoing or past activity that might be outside of the constituting charter of this agency”. Schlessinger, later appointed Head of the Pentagon, had been replaced by William Colby. Colby was referring to the documents as “skeletons hiding in a closet". New press revelations forced Colby to admit the existence of the reports to interim President Gerald Ford in 1975. The New York Times was denouncing agency penetration of antiwar groups. The law that created the CIA prevented it from spying inside the United States.

That “was just the tip of the iceberg”, said then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger himself warned that “blood would flow” if other actions were known, and he immediately added: “For example, that Robert Kennedy personally controlled the operation for the assassination of Fidel Castro”. The President’s brother was then Attorney General of the United States. He was later murdered as he was running for President in the 1968 elections, which facilitated Nixon's election for lack of a strong candidate. The most dramatic thing about the case is that apparently he had reached the conviction that John Kennedy had been victim of a conspiracy. Thorough investigators, after analyzing the wounds, the caliber of the shots and other circumstances surrounding the death of the President, reached the conclusion that there had been at least three shooters. Solitary Oswald, used as an instrument, could not have been the only shooter. I found that rather striking. Excuse me for saying this but fate turned me into a shooting instructor with a telescopic sight for all the Granma expeditionaries. I spent months practicing and teaching, every day; even though the target is a stationary one it disappears from view with each shot and so you need to look for it all over again in fractions of a second.

Oswald wanted to come through Cuba on his trip to the USSR. He had already been there before. Someone sent him to ask for a visa in our country’s embassy in Mexico but nobody knew him there so he wasn’t authorized. They wanted to get us implicated in the conspiracy. Later, Jack Ruby, --a man openly linked to the Mafia-- unable to deal with so much pain and sadness, as he said, assassinated him, of all places, in a precinct full police agents.

Subsequently, in international functions or on visits to Cuba, on more than one occasion I met with the aggrieved Kennedy relatives, who would greet me respectfully. The former president’s son, who was a very small child when his father was killed, visited Cuba 34 years later. We met and I invited him to dinner.

The young man, in the prime of his life, and well brought up, tragically died in an airplane accident on a stormy night as he was flying to Martha’s Vineyard with his wife. I never touched on the thorny issue with any of those relatives. In contrast, I pointed out that if the president-elect had then been Nixon instead of Kennedy, after the Bay of Pigs disaster we would have been attacked by the land and sea forces escorting the mercenary expedition, and both countries would have paid a high toll in human lives. Nixon would not have limited himself to saying that victory has many fathers and defeat is an orphan. For the record, Kennedy was never too enthusiastic about the Bay of Pigs adventure; he was led there by Eisenhower’s military reputation and the recklessness of his ambitious vice-president.

I remember that, exactly on the day and minute he was assassinated, I was speaking in a peaceful spot outside of the capital with French journalist Jean Daniel. He told me that he was bringing a message from President Kennedy. He said to me that in essence he had told him: “You are going to see Castro. I would like to know what he thinks about the terrible danger we just experienced of a thermonuclear war. I want to see you again as soon as you get back.” “Kennedy was very active; he seemed to be a political machine”, he added, and we were not able to continue talking as someone rushed in with the news of what had just happened. We turned on the radio. What Kennedy thought was now pointless.

Certainly I lived with that danger. Cuba was both the weakest part and the one that would take the first strike, but we did not agree with the concessions that were made to the United States. I have already spoken of this before.

Kennedy had emerged from the crisis with greater authority. He came to recognize the enormous sacrifices of human lives and material wealth made by the Soviet people in the struggle against fascism. The worst of the relations between the United States and Cuba had not yet occurred by April 1961. When he hadn’t resigned himself to the outcome of the Bay of Pigs, along came the Missile Crisis. The blockade, economic asphyxiation, pirate attacks and assassination plots multiplied. But the assassination plots and other bloody occurrences began under the administration of Eisenhower and Nixon.

After the Missile Crisis we would have not refused to talk with Kennedy, nor would we have ceased being revolutionaries and radical in our struggle for socialism. Cuba would have never severed relations with the USSR as it had been asked to do. Perhaps if the American leaders had been aware of what a war could be using weapons of mass destruction they would have ended the Cold War earlier and differently. At least that’s how we felt then, when there was still no talk of global warming, broken imbalances, the enormous consumption of hydrocarbons and the sophisticated weaponry created by technology, as I have already said to the youth of Cuba. We would have had much more time to reach, through science and conscience, what we are today forced to realize in haste.

President Ford decided to appoint a Commission to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency. “We do not want to destroy the CIA but to preserve it”, he said.

As a result of the Commission’s investigations that were led by Senator Frank Church, President Ford signed an executive order which expressly prohibited the participation of American officials in the assassinations of foreign leaders.

The documents published now disclose information about the CIA-Mafia links for my assassination.

Details are also revealed about Operation Chaos, carrying on from 1969 for at least seven years, for which the CIA created a special squadron with the mission to infiltrate pacifist groups and to investigate “the international activities of radicals and black militants”. The Agency compiled more than 300,000 names of American citizens and organizations and extensive files on 7,200 persons.

According to The New York Times, President Johnson was convinced that the American anti-war movement was controlled and funded by Communist governments and he ordered the CIA to produce evidence.

The documents recognize, furthermore, that the CIA spied on various journalists like Jack Anderson, performers such as Jane Fonda and John Lennon, and the student movements at Columbia University. It also searched homes and carried out tests on American citizens to determine the reactions of human beings to certain drugs.

In a memorandum sent to Colby in 1973, Walter Elder who had been executive assistant to John McCone, CIA Director in the early 1970s, gives information about discussions in the CIA headquarters that were taped and transcribed: “I know that whoever worked in the offices of the director were worried about the fact that these conversations in the office and on the phone were transcribed. During the McCone years there were microphones in his regular offices, the inner office, the dining room, the office in the East building, and in the study of his home on White Haven Street. I don’t know if anyone is ready to talk about this, but the information tends to be leaked, and certainly the Agency is vulnerable in this case”.

The secret transcripts of the CIA directors could contain a great number of “jewels”. The National Security Archive is already requesting these transcripts.

A memo clarifies that the CIA had a project called OFTEN which would collect “information about dangerous drugs in American companies”, until the program was terminated in the fall of 1972. In another memo there are reports that manufacturers of commercial drugs "had passed” drugs to the CIA which had been “refused due to adverse secondary effects”.

As part of the MKULTRA program, the CIA had given LSD and other psycho-active drugs to people without their knowledge. According to another document in the archive, Sydney Gottlieb, a psychiatrist and head of chemistry of the Agency Mind Control Program, is supposedly the person responsible for having made available the poison that was going to be used in the assassination attempt on Patrice Lumumba.

CIA employees assigned to MHCHAOS –the operation that carried out surveillance on American opposition to the war in Vietnam and other political dissidents –expressed “a high level of resentment” for having been ordered to carry out such missions.

Nonetheless, there is a series of interesting matters revealed in these documents, such as the high level at which the decisions for actions against our country were taken.

The technique used today by the CIA to avoid giving any details is not the unpleasant crossed out bits but the blank spaces, coming from the use of computers.

For The New York Times, large censored sections reveal that the CIA still cannot expose all the skeletons in its closets, and many activities developed in operations abroad, checked over years ago by journalists, congressional investigators and a presidential commission, are not in the documents.

Howard Osborn, then CIA Director of Security, makes a summary of the “jewels” compiled by his office. He lists eight cases –including the recruiting of the gangster Johnny Roselli for the coup against Fidel Castro –but they crossed out the document that is in the number 1 place on Osborn’s initial list: two and a half pages.

“The No. 1 Jewel of the CIA Security Offices must be very good, especially since the second one is the list for the program concerning the assassination of Castro by Roselli,” said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive who requested the declassification of “The Family Jewels” 15 years ago under the Freedom of Information Act.

It is notable that the administration which has declassified the least information in the history of the United States, and which has even started a process of reclassifying information that was previously declassified, now makes the decision to make these revelations.

I believe that such an action could be an attempt to present an image of transparency when the government is at an all time low rate of acceptance and popularity, and to show that those methods belong to another era and are no longer in use. When he announced the decision, General Hayden, current CIA Director, said: “The documents offer a look at very different times and at a very different Agency.”

Needless to say that everything described here is still being done, only in a more brutal manner and all around the planet, including a growing number of illegal actions within the very United States.

The New York Times wrote that intelligence experts consulted expressed that the revelation of the documents is an attempt to distract attention from recent controversies and scandals plaguing the CIA and an Administration that is living through some of its worst moments of unpopularity.

The declassification could also be an attempt at showing, in the early stages of the electoral process that the Democratic administrations were as bad, or worse, than Mr. Bush’s.

In pages 11 to 15 of the Memo for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, we can read:

“In August 1960, Mr. Richard M. Bissell approached Colonel Sheffield Edwards with the objective of determining whether the Security Office had agents who could help in a confidential mission that required gangster-style action. The target of the mission was Fidel Castro.

“Given the extreme confidentiality of the mission, the project was known only to a small group of people. The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was informed and he gave it his approval. Colonel J. C. King, Head of the Western Hemisphere Division, was also informed, but all the details were deliberately concealed from officials of Operation JMWAVE. Even though some officials of Communications (Commo) and the Technical Services Division (TSD) took part in initial planning phases, they were not aware of the mission's purpose.

“Robert A. Maheu was contacted, he was informed in general terms about the project, and he was asked to evaluate whether he could get access to gangster-type elements as a first step for achieving the desired goal.

“Mr. Maheu informed that he had met with a certain Johnny Roselli on several occasions while he was visiting Las Vegas. He had only met him informally through clients, but he had been told that he was a member of the upper echelons of the 'syndicate' and that he was controlling all the ice machines on the Strip. In Maheu's opinion, if Roselli was in effect a member of the Clan, he undoubtedly had connections that would lead to the gambling racket in Cuba.

“Maheu was asked to get close to Roselli, who knew that Maheu was a public relations executive looking after national and foreign accounts, and tell him that recently he had been contracted by a client who represented several international business companies, which were suffering enormous financial losses in Cuba due to Castro. They were convinced that the elimination of Castro would be a solution to their problem and they were ready to pay $ 150,000 for a successful outcome. Roselli had to be made perfectly aware of the fact that the U.S. government knew nothing, nor could it know anything, about this operation.

“This was presented to Roselli on September 14, 1960 in the Hilton Plaza Hotel of New York City. His initial reaction was to avoid getting involved but after Maheu’s persuasive efforts he agreed to present the idea to a friend, Sam Gold, who knew “some Cubans”. Roselli made it clear that he didn’t want any money for his part in all this, and he believed that Sam would do likewise. Neither of these people was ever paid with Agency money.

“During the week of September 25, Maheu was introduced to Sam who was living at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. It was not until several weeks after meeting Sam and Joe –who was introduced as courier operating between Havana and Miami –that he saw photos of these two individuals in the Sunday section of Parade. They were identified as Momo Salvatore Giancana and Santos Trafficante, respectively. Both were on the Attorney General’s list of the ten most wanted. The former was described as the boss of the Cosa Nostra in Chicago and Al Capone's heir, and the latter was the boss of Cuban operations of the Cosa Nostra. Maheu immediately called this office upon learning this information.

“After analyzing the possible methods to carry out this mission, Sam suggested that they not resort to firearms but that, if they could get hold of some kind of deadly pill, something to be put into Castro’s food or drink, this would be a much more effective operation. Sam indicated that he had a possible candidate in the person of Juan Orta, a Cuban official who had been receiving bribery payments in the gambling racket, and who still had access to Castro and was in a financial bind.

“The TSD (Technical Services Division) was requested to produce 6 highly lethal pills.

“Joe delivered the pills to Orta. After several weeks of attempts, Orta appears to have chickened out and he asked to be taken off the mission. He suggested another candidate who made several unsuccessful.”

Everything that was said in the numerous paragraphs above is in quotes. Observe well, dear readers, the methods that were already being used by the United States to rule the world.

I remember that during the early years of the Revolution, in the offices of the National Institute for Agrarian Reform, there was a man working there with me whose name was Orta, who had been linked to the anti-Batista political forces. He was a respectful and serious man. But, it could only be him. The decades have gone by and I see his name once more in the CIA report. I can’t lay my hands on information to immediately prove what happened to him. Accept my apologies if I involuntarily have offended a relative or a descendent, whether the person I have mentioned is guilty or not.

The empire has created a veritable killing machine that is made up not only of the CIA and its methods. Bush has established powerful and expensive intelligence and security super-structures, and he has transformed all the air, sea and land forces into instruments of world power that take war, injustice, hunger and death to any part of the globe, in order to educate its inhabitants in the exercise of democracy and freedom. The American people are gradually waking up to this reality.

“You cannot fool all of the people all of the time”, said Lincoln.

Fidel Castro Ruz

June 30, 2007

6:45 p.m.


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow

US Continues Destabilisation Push in Venezuela By: Eva Golinger and Sam King - Green Left Weekly

By: Eva Golinger and Sam King - Green Left Weekly

In the wake of widely covered opposition protests against the Venezuelan government’s decision not to renew Radio Caracas Televison’s (RCTV) broadcasting licence following its countless violations of the law and its role in the 2002 coup attempt against the democratically elected government, Green Left Weekly’s Sam King spoke with lawyer and writer Eva Golinger in Caracas. Golinger is the author of The Chavez Code and Bush Versus Chavez, which expose US intervention into Venezuela aiming to overthrow Chavez.

Q: What evidence is there to support the view that the student-led mobilisations in support of RCTV are part of a broader destabilisation plan aimed at overthrowing the government of President Hugo Chavez, and are linked to hostile political forces based in the US?

A lot of evidence. One angle is if you look at who are the people protesting. Everyone has the right to protest, but all of a sudden the wealthier upper-class and upper middle-class students from primarily private universities take to the streets to defend an issue that has been at the forefront of the opposition movement of the traditional politicians. All of a sudden, here they appear out of nowhere and they’re carrying the same agenda and the same political discourse, even though they are trying to disguise it as not being political. Any march in the street is political. Any claiming or demanding of rights is a political action.

They are repeating a discourse the traditional opposition has been using here and they’re doing it in a way that is not even fully formed. It’s a contradiction in itself to say “no, no we’re not being political” and then crying out for freedom of expression, liberty and things like that in a country that has more freedom of expression than probably most countries in the world, and certainly under this government more than this country has ever had before. Unfortunately they’re being used as mouthpieces for an opposition that’s been using that discourse over the past seven years, despite the fact that they’re the ones who ruled the country before.

I was looking at the 1992-93 annual report from a Venezuelan human rights group Provea when Antonia Ledezma, who is one of the opposition spokespeople today, was the governor of Caracas. He had actually prohibited all student protests in the street for that entire year. This just shows the hypocrisy, contradictions and double discourse. [The student protest campaign] is part of what has been going on for the last five, six years … different attempts and different ways to destabilise the country, leading to the overthrow of Chavez.

We know that is the final objective because they tried it already during the coup in April 2002, then later the economic sabotage at the end of that year when they specifically said the goal was to force Chavez to resign or to overthrow Chavez. Also the [unsuccessful August 2004 presidential] recall referendum … It is apparent that [this is] a student movement that was not born naturally from the ranks of students.

From my own investigations, looking at documents that I have obtained over the last four years using the Freedom of Information Act in the US, looking at [information] that I got a year or two ago from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is a funding entity of the US State Department, there were a series of contracts or grants to different student organisations, private universities and other entities …

There were six grants from USAID that showed the US government had been funding efforts to have training seminars and formation seminars for student leaders with the objective being — and this is what the documents were saying — to reinsert universities and student activism back into political life in Venezuela. It used to be before Chavez [came to power in 1998 that] students were always the vanguard, as they are in most countries, of movements to push social changes. The difference is now we have a revolutionary government where many of those student leaders are now the ones in power — so even though there are movements within the universities, they have not played a role in fighting against the state because now they are the state. It’s the reverse situation.

One of these grants was for 90 million bolivars (US$42,000). That’s a lot of money for a series of seminars at the UCV. This was a joint venture with this strange organisation called Foundation for Educating the Country, the UCV student federation that is headed by this opposition student Stalin Gonzalez and the [student federation] from University of the Andes, which is headed by a student who is now a fugitive — Nixon Moreno.

They’re involved in this grant that is for forming student leaders, to reinsert them back into political life in Venezuela so that students can help define the direction the country is taking, and now we are seeing that manifest. The grants that were given, the funding, training programs, all kinds of things [form a] relationship with the US starting from a couple of years ago.

On top of that, some of the same groups or individuals have participated since 2004 in training sessions with other US entities such as the Albert Einstein Institute and the International Centre on Non-Violent Conflict. These are the entities that were responsible for helping to promote, fund and advise the “coloured” revolutions in Eastern Europe [in the] Ukraine, Serbia, Yugoslavia, Georgia. They failed in Belarus and they began working here in April 2003, first with traditional opposition leaders and then, as in those movements in Eastern Europe, they used young people — students.

Even though the US government likes to talk about Venezuela and Chavez as a dictatorship, it is not. While those strategies may have worked in countries where there were governments that were maybe more authoritarian and that had also been run down by bombing campaigns of the US government [such as Serbia] … Here there are totally different circumstances. They tried to apply the same tactics and the evidence is quite clear. The documents from those organisations themselves, their annual reports, talk about how they worked to help form the Venezuelan opposition.

Then this movement manifested in support or in defence of a media corporation — not even anything to do with freedom of speech but corporate rights, which is bizarre for students to be out on the streets defending the rights, non-existent rights, of a corporation! It goes against the entire anti-globalisation movement around the world that the student movement here in Venezuela is actually promoting corporate rights. They are using the same symbols and actions and strategies that were used by other groups that were trained and formed by the Albert Einstein Institute and the International Center on Non-Violent Conflict, so I think there is a lot of different evidence that shows there is a US tie, certainly financially [and] more so in providing strategic advice.

Very unfortunately I think for students and for student movements, a lot of the students said “no, no we are not being manipulated, we are out here because this is what we believe in” and I believe that, but … when the coup took place in April 2002 there were about 1 million people on the streets for the opposition and I don’t think that million knew that a conspiracy had already been planned and set up to be executed that day using them. I think a lot of people were in the streets because they were protesting against the Chavez government, but they were used to execute a coup.

I think we have a similar situation here. Yes there are a lot of students who are voluntarily in that movement, they have been brought up with those values, they mainly come from middle and upper classes, that’s what they believe in. They don’t know the history of the country and how things were before because their parents were part of the ruling classes and so didn’t teach them that part of it. However there is a smaller group connected with international interests and with the traditional political and economic elite here in the country that has a plan and is using the rest of them to try and execute it.

Q: The opposition student leaders declined the opportunity to debate the RCTV issue in the National Assembly on June 7, at the same time as trying to present themselves as non-political and for peace. Do you think this represented a retreat from the original intentions of the movement?

That was very strange. I think that they possibly got nervous and thought that they had to find a way out of that situation. And if they were to have a debate in that setting, they would certainly not come out in a positive way … I don’t think any country in the world has ever offered to students … an entire day, with no time limit to speak before the congress … and transmitted it live on television on every channel around the country. It certainly surprised me that they were given that opportunity, and the fact that they didn’t take advantage of it shows that their discourse is empty, that it is a manipulated movement, unfortunately because I think that it tars the other student movements, the ones that are more genuine and sincere.

[They also tried] to make a circus out of the National Assembly and that whole scenario. [They were] reading fabricated speeches — a speech that had been written by a publicity company — and then taking shirts off, things … that you do in a show to draw attention to yourself, so it became very clear there was no profound meaning in what they were saying.

Q: It seems that what remains of that student movement now has dropped the issue of RCTV and is focused more on defending the autonomy of the prestigious universities. Has it lost the battle for RCTV and now moved into a new defensive battle?

If there was a battle it was lost from the beginning because the only way they saw that they could win the battle is if RCTV was given a concession again to operate on the public airwaves and that is not going to happen. I think they actually thought — not the students, the opposition leaders, [RCTV owner and multi-millionaire] Marcel Granier, those directing RCTV — that the government was going to retract its decision, because of international pressure. But in the end the international pressure was only coming from the US, and Venezuela has had international pressure coming from the US for the past five years — it’s used to it, so it didn’t do anything. I think they [the opposition leaders] were kind of shocked. Even though they will continue to find ways to promote their agenda, that is definitely a lost battle.

Anyone who looks at it in a dry legal way sees that there is no issue — like the Organisation of American States did. Its secretary general said “that’s an administrative matter in the country, it has nothing to do with freedom of expression” and that’s true. You can make a scene about anything you want but in the end the government did not violate absolutely anything.

The issue of universities is kind of ridiculous because this is a government that has created more autonomy for universities than ever before. It has created more in the sense of providing more funding, opening more universities, providing more access to education, providing more alternative education in the sense that it is not following traditional state structures of rigid or very limited operating structures in the universities. We’ve got universities that are in the communities, all kinds such as the Bolivarian University … So I think that issue [is lost].

Q: Has the opposition had to abandon any serious attempts to destabilise the political situation in the immediate future?

Yes and no. They have a big march planned for the 27th [of June], which is International Journalists’ Day. Whenever they try to plan these marches, there is always the moment of concern that there could be further aggression, especially because at that point the America Cup [football competition] will have started. That provides them with another scenario to try and make a scene, and there is a lot of concern that extremist groups might try to use terrorism or some kind of violence against the America Cup so that again the international community would want to get involved.

It’s a very strange objective for a student movement or any movement to try to encourage international intervention. Not only is that a betrayal of your country but it is incredibly dangerous, especially when you are trying to encourage the international intervention from the United States, with a warmongering government that would love to come in here and take over everything, especially the oil industry, and militarise the entire country. I think that a lot of people don’t understand — they think that US intervention means more McDonald’s and restaurants and shops, or something like that. I don’t understand why anyone would be calling for that. It’s outrageous. The danger still exists certainly.

More at the forefront is the possibility of an assassination attempt against the president. As ridiculous as that may sound, not only has it been used in the past against other foreign leaders, but here it almost seems to be the only way out. Chavez just keeps winning, keeps getting more support, more people are with [the revolution], the country is improving, things are getting better, regionally people are integrating with Venezuela. Around the world people are starting to pay attention to Venezuela and they’re interested in what is happening. Every attempt to defeat Chavez and the revolution is stopped and Chavez comes out stronger and the revolution comes out stronger, the people come out more conscious.

We are denouncing things here that have never been talked about, even though they exist in other countries. On a public level, this puts the US in a really difficult position. They always do this sort of risk-benefit analysis. If they do assassinate Chavez what would happen? Would there really be a reaction around the world? … People would be up in arms, but would there be any sort of a unified reaction that could somehow harm the US? It’s probably not likely. What could countries do? Cripple the US economy? Militarily damage the US? No. So the other issue is what would happen in Venezuela? It would go into civil war. Does the US care? They care about the oil so what would they do? They would militarise [the country] just like they have done in Iraq.

Q: The US would care what the outcome is. They would be thinking, who is going to win a civil war?

Look what they have done in Iraq. The same thing happened in Iraq and now Iraq is in a civil war and [the US is] controlling pretty much the oil industry there — but it is a constant risk situation. As different as Venezuela and Iraq are, I think that is almost the study of what would happen here. So I think [assassination is] a very likely scenario that Chavez talks about all the time and the government is constantly investigating and taking security measures to prevent it.

Q: Chavez talks about assassination attempts all the time?

Sure, because it’s true. One, it’s true that [the Venezuelan government has] stopped a few of them, found evidence and things like that. Also because the more that you talk about it the less likely that it will happen. The more people who are aware, the more people who are consciously considering what would happen, what we would do, how we would react, and therefore preparing for that kind of scenario, which makes it more difficult because then it would be obvious if anything happened to Chavez what the source was.

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #716 4 July 2007.


“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow