Con el fin de contribuir al Debate por el petróleo y en un ejercicio para apoyar la Consulta Ciudadana que se realizará en el país, Activistas del IPN nos avocamos a crear un sitio para llevar a cabo una consulta vía internet, para definir si se está de acuerdo en lo general, o no, con las iniciativas de Ley del Ejecutivo Federal (Felipe Calderón), por lo que invitamos a todos los interesados a participar en esta votación, con su clave de elector o CURP y su correo electrónico. Solicitamos que pasen la voz más allá de las fronteras, para aprovechar el derecho a opinar e incidir en las decisiones fundamentales de nuestro país.
lunes, julio 07, 2008
Con el fin de contribuir al Debate por el petróleo y en un ejercicio para apoyar la Consulta Ciudadana que se realizará en el país, Activistas del IPN nos avocamos a crear un sitio para llevar a cabo una consulta vía internet, para definir si se está de acuerdo en lo general, o no, con las iniciativas de Ley del Ejecutivo Federal (Felipe Calderón), por lo que invitamos a todos los interesados a participar en esta votación, con su clave de elector o CURP y su correo electrónico. Solicitamos que pasen la voz más allá de las fronteras, para aprovechar el derecho a opinar e incidir en las decisiones fundamentales de nuestro país.
Millions of Americans are embarrassingly ill-informed and they do not care that they are.
Just how stupid are we? Pretty stupid, it would seem, when we come across headlines like this: "Homer Simpson, Yes -- 1st Amendment 'Doh,' Survey Finds" (Associated Press 3/1/06).
"About 1 in 4 Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half of Americans can name at least two members of the fictional cartoon family, according to a survey.
"The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just 1 in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms."
But what does it mean exactly to say that American voters are stupid? About this there is unfortunately no consensus. Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who confessed not knowing how to define pornography, we are apt simply to throw up our hands in frustration and say: We know it when we see it. But unless we attempt a definition of some sort, we risk incoherence, dooming our investigation of stupidity from the outset. Stupidity cannot mean, as Humpty Dumpty would have it, whatever we say it means.
Five defining characteristics of stupidity, it seems to me, are readily apparent. First, is sheer ignorance: Ignorance of critical facts about important events in the news, and ignorance of how our government functions and who's in charge. Second, is negligence: The disinclination to seek reliable sources of information about important news events. Third, is wooden-headedness, as the historian Barbara Tuchman defined it: The inclination to believe what we want to believe regardless of the facts. Fourth, is shortsightedness: The support of public policies that are mutually contradictory, or contrary to the country's long-term interests. Fifth, and finally, is a broad category I call bone-headedness, for want of a better name: The susceptibility to meaningless phrases, stereotypes, irrational biases, and simplistic diagnoses and solutions that play on our hopes and fears.
Taking up the first of our definitions of stupidity, how ignorant are we? Ask the political scientists and you will be told that there is damning, hard evidence pointing incontrovertibly to the conclusion that millions are embarrassingly ill-informed and that they do not care that they are. There is enough evidence that one could almost conclude -- though admittedly this is a stretch -- that we are living in an Age of Ignorance.
Surprised? My guess is most people would be. The general impression seems to be that we are living in an age in which people are particularly knowledgeable. Many students tell me that they are the most well-informed generation in history.
Why are we so deluded? The error can be traced to our mistaking unprecedented access to information with the actual consumption of it. Our access is indeed phenomenal. George Washington had to wait two weeks to discover that he had been elected president of the United States. That's how long it took for the news to travel from New York, where the Electoral College votes were counted, to reach him at home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Americans living in the interior regions had to wait even longer, some up to two months. Now we can watch developments as they occur halfway around the world in real time. It is little wonder then that students boast of their knowledge. Unlike their parents, who were forced to rely mainly on newspapers and the network news shows to find out what was happening in the world, they can flip on CNN and Fox or consult the Internet.
But in fact only a small percentage of people take advantage of the great new resources at hand. In 2005, the Pew Research Center surveyed the news habits of some 3,000 Americans age 18 and older. The researchers found that 59% on a regular basis get at least some news from local TV, 47% from national TV news shows, and just 23% from the Internet.
Anecdotal evidence suggested for years that Americans were not particularly well-informed. As foreign visitors long ago observed, Americans are vastly inferior in their knowledge of world geography compared with Europeans. (The old joke is that "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.") But it was never clear until the postwar period how ignorant Americans are. For it was only then that social scientists began measuring in a systematic manner what Americans actually know. The results were devastating.
In order to read the complete article HERE.
Putting the obscene cost into perspective.
The War in Iraq costs $720 Million a day.
That's $500,000 a minute.
That's $8333 a second.
"I think people are becoming more aware of these guns or butter questions," said Gary Gillespie, "But when you talk about $720 million a day, even people who work on this issue are shocked by the number and shocked by what could have been done with that money. War has no return — you're not producing a product."
In a time when the old order is shattering, a global movement is emerging to challenge the use of war as a tool of statecraft.
Cheap oil also fueled a zero sum global competition for access to resources -- particularly cheap oil -- and for the military superiority required to secure that access. The United States combined the global projection of military power with the global projection of economic and cultural power to achieve unchallenged global dominance as the sole reigning superpower.
Cheap oil is no more and the global projection of military and economic power it made possible is no longer viable. In May 2008 the price of oil hit a new high of $135 a barrel in contrast to the historic inflation adjusted price of $27.00. We are only beginning to awake as a nation to the reality that our reign as a global superpower is coming to an abrupt end. (See the summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine.) If we hold to business as usual, we will exhaust what remains of our power and credibility in a bloody and violent no win-competition to consume the last tree, fish, drop of oil, drink of potable water, and breath of clean air -- sealing our own fate as well as that of our species.
A Defining Challenge
According to the scientific consensus, to avoid driving Earth's system of climate regulation into irrevocable collapse we humans must achieve at least an 80 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050 and possibly sooner. Less noted is the corresponding imperative that to avoid irrevocable social collapse, we must simultaneously achieve an equitable allocation of allowable emissions to meet the essential needs of every person on the planet. This presents a particular challenge for the United States. As the world's leading producer of green house gases, our emissions reduction must be closer to 90 percent.
There is no place in this equation for war or the global projection of military power. Beyond the fact that military planes, ships, and vehicles are gluttonous consumers of oil, the central activity of warfare is to kill and maim people and destroy critical infrastructure to impair capacity for normal life. The collateral damage includes massive scale toxic and radioactive environmental contamination that renders growing portions of our crowded planet uninhabitable. The more we humans war the more certain our ultimate collective demise.
The Last Superpower
The United States is well positioned to take the lead among nations in renouncing war as an instrument of national policy and dismantling the means of conducting war. We account for roughly half of world military expenditures and our military expenditures account for more than half of the U.S. federal discretionary budget to the neglect of major education, health, infrastructure, and environmental needs.
Yet the only military threat to our domestic security is from a handful of terrorists armed with box cutters and a willingness to die for their cause. We face a greater danger from our own children brandishing guns in our schools than from any opposing army. If a band of terrorists were to attack us with an atomic weapon, it would likely be delivered in a suitcase or packing crate. Such threats share in common the simple fact that even the mightiest military force in the world offers no protection. The solutions depend more on strengthening our families and communities, than on increasing military budgets.
To read more HERE.
Posted by Isaac Fitzgerald, AlterNet
Maddow discusses international oil companies moving into Iraq with Keith Olbermann.
Rachel Maddow says that the occupation of Iraq is all about the oil.
The huge "defense" spending going on in our name is irrational and costly, but there are powerful vested interests that want to keep it that way.
War doesn't pay, nor does imperial ambition. That should be self-evident to anyone who has paid attention to the successful trajectory of the American experience, both politically and commercially, since the Republic's founding. It is a statement neither liberal nor conservative in orientation, and until recently it would have been accepted as a commonsense proposition by leading politicians of both political parties.
Although some leaders took us to war, they always claimed to do so reluctantly, as is reflected in the doubts expressed in their memoirs and those of their closest confidants. Lyndon Johnson, musing about the indefensibility of sacrificing even a single young American to die in Vietnam but sacrificing 59,000 of them in order to emerge victorious in his forthcoming election battle with Barry Goldwater, is all too typical. What that evidence reveals is just how intense is the political pressure to reject common sense when the specter of an enemy is raised. Those pressures have always been with us, and to the extent that they derive from national insecurities, political demagogues, economic avarice, overzealous patriotism, and religious or ideological fervor, they are a constant of the human experience in just about any given society.
The amazing thing about the American political experiment is that our system is the one most consciously designed to limit those risks of foreign military adventure, and for most of our history, it has worked out quite well. I don't intend to minimize the expansionist, indeed rapacious conquest of our own continent, or the occasional colonial adventures abroad, as in the Philippines and other outposts from Hawaii to Alaska, but in the main, with few lapses, the public remained properly suspicious of its leaders' intentions. The dominant assumption was the importance of avoiding foreign "entanglements," to use Thomas Jefferson's words of warning about the risks of intervening in the affairs of others. Indeed, that policy of nonintervention was thought by our nation's founders to be a basic demarcation between the politics of the old and new worlds.
By nonintervention, they did not intend indifference to events in the outside world or a narrow protectionist view of trade accompanied by a fortress American military posture. Such a stance, often described as isolationism, obviously is not only out of joint with our current, highly interconnected world, but it didn't make sense at the time of the nation's founding, even when the distance of oceans afforded far more secure borders than today. What nonintervention meant, as was commonly understood even on the tavern bar level, was don't go sticking your nose into other people's business, and certainly don't pick fights that you can't finish. That is a posture that has nothing to do with limiting charitable concern for others beyond your borders, missionary work abroad, humanitarian aid, and everything to do with avoiding the military expeditions that bankrupted the most pretentious and at times successful of empires. Not being like those empires was a driving force in the thinking of the nation's founders, who were in wide agreement on extreme caution as to military intervention.
That guiding idea of nonintervention -- developed by the colonists in rebellion, espoused to great effect by the brilliant pamphleteer Thomas Paine, and crystallized as a national treasure in the final speech to the nation of George Washington -- is as fresh and viable a construct as any of the great ideas that have guided our governance. Washington's Farewell Address, actually a carefully considered letter to the American people crafted in close consultation with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, is one of our great treasures, but although read each year in the U.S. Senate to mark Washington's legacy, it contains a caution largely ignored by those same senators as they gleefully approve massive spending to enable international meddling of every sort. Their failed responsibility to limit the president's declaration of war has become a farce that as much as anything mocks Congress' obligations as laid out in the Constitution.
Explaining why he, as our first president, followed "our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign World ... Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectably defensive posture," Washington shunned isolation, and instead held out a vision of peaceful international relations: "Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce but forcing nothing."
What more powerful though gentle warning could be offered against the instincts to the imperial adventures that have destroyed all great empires? Washington knew this record of imperial folly well, and he was well aware that his countrymen could fall as had others for that siren song of military power coupled with economic greed that had humbled the powers of Europe: "In offering you, my Countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend ... to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign Intrigue, to guard against the Impostures of pretended patriotism ..."
In order to read the complete article HERE.
Posted by Marina Sitrin and David Solnit and Asha Colazione and Sarah Lazare, AlterNet
Local organizers may face arrests; arrestees face years in prison; organizers' families facing harassment, raids.
Japanese police continue to escalate repression against protesters of the Group of 8 Summit. This is part of a growing trend of the suppression of human rights in Japan. Yesterday's demonstration of approximately five thousand was lined with, and sometimes boxed in by, several thousand police in full riot gear. At least four people - including a Reuters reporter - were arrested. In one arrest, the police shattered the window of a sound truck and dragged out the driver. Hours after the demonstration ended the legal team had already received numerous reports of police misconduct.
This latest action comes after weeks of repressive activity on behalf of the police and government. Activists throughout Japan have been arrested at demonstrations and in their homes, often on "technical" charges, such as not registering a change of address. Overt surveillance of activists, academics and reporters has been taking place for months, and with some local activists for years. International conference participants and protesters have been interrogated for hours at the border and many have been denied entry into the country without warrant. The legal team sees this as a violation of people's right to freely exchange ideas.
"What we have witnessed in the streets of Sapporo is part of an ongoing and escalating campaign to suppress the movement for real democracy in Japan," said Marina Sitrin, professor and member of the National Lawyers Guild, a US based human rights organization that is a part of the No! G8 Legal Team.
"We were surprised by the excessive force used by police in today's demonstration," said Ko Watari, of WATCH, a Japanese legal network created to document police and government misconduct during the anti G8 protests. "This was a non-violent demonstration where no acts against property or people took place, or even appeared likely to take place." The arrested Reuter's cameraman was standing on a public sidewalk when seized by plainclothes police; his video camera was confiscated and has not been returned. The arrest of the sound truck driver followed immediately thereafter. Footage of the driver's arrest shows him screaming in pain as the police pulled him out of the truck, his foot stuck in the steering wheel.
Protesters are organizing various events in the upcoming days of the G8 Summit, between the 7th and 9th of July. The No! G8 Legal Team will be paying close attention to the behavior of the police and government. "Labor and peace movement leaders are concerned that the police will arrest them for organizing these protests, search their homes and interrogate their family members," said Dan Spalding, Legal Worker Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild.
Japanese law permits police to hold and interrogate suspects in the police station for 23 days without formal charges. They can interrogate suspects for up to 12 hours at a time. While detained arrestees can be forced to sit on their knees the entire time they are awake, not being able to move, even to use the bathroom without asking permission. This permission is not always granted.
"We take all arrests very seriously, and the specifics of the procedure, such as the 23 day detainment in the police station, the absence of lawyers to oversee the conditions of process, the physical violence involved in the interrogations, not being allowed medication, the fear of putting friends, family, and affiliations at risk are only a part of the damage. Its also about the anger and sense of shame which stays and creates more damage. It's the humiliation of not being able to take care of your own." Commented Gen, a participant in the counter G8 protests.
He continued: "I am personally grateful for the presence of activists from throughout the world. The spirit and experiences, levels of militancy they bring, for just being here in solidarity. Overall it has been a very energizing experience, and we are in high spirits. I am grateful for your continued presence and support. It is what authorities have tried to prevent through repressive measures. International solidarity and pressure at this moment will bring us to another level."
*International pressure can help prevent more people being arrested.
*Please call, fax, and visit your local Japanese Consulate or Embassy. Ask to meet with or speak to the Consul General.
*Make a formal request that they report your human rights complaint with officials in Japan. Consulates are supposed to report all complaints regarding human rights to their home country offices when it is requested formally.
Footage of brutal arrest of sound truck driver.
Footage of Reuters reporter arrest, the truck driver and some of the demonstration.
To read more HERE.
Posted by Brandon Wu, Eyes on Trade
New polling shows a majority across party lines favors scrapping the current deal.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken Monday night finds that 56% of voters support renegotiation while 39% say U.S. free trade agreements in general have directly impacted their families. Of that latter group, 73% say the impact has been a bad one, as opposed to 14% who say it was beneficial.
Only 16% of respondents favor NAFTA - a pact which came into being in 1994 and lowers nearly all trade barriers between the U.S., Canada and Mexico -- as is, with 28% undecided... Perhaps most importantly, 71% say negotiation of trade agreements is important to them in terms of how they will vote. Only 20% say it is not important.
This comes a few weeks after a Pew Research Center poll showing that 48 percent of Americans, including 42 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Independents, believe "free trade agreements—like NAFTA, and the policies of the World Trade Organization" have been "a bad thing" for the United States, while only 35 percent said they have been a good thing. This is a dramatic reversal from a 2004 poll in which Americans believed that these trade agreements have been a good thing, by a 47-34 margin.
The same Pew poll also shows that 61 percent of Americans believe free trade costs U.S. jobs, and 56 percent believe it lowers wages. Only 9 percent believe free trade creates U.S. jobs, and only 8 percent believe it raises wages -- results which are consistent across party affiliation lines.
And, just for fun, if you care to take at face value the ABC News/Facebook poll (to be clear... I wouldn't), 79 percent of Americans think the U.S. should renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from it entirely.
*A January Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicated that 58 percent of Americans think "globalization has been bad … because it has subjected American companies and employees to unfair competition and cheap labor."
*As a sampling of local polling, Pennsylvania voters polled in the lead-up to the 2008 Democratic primary election by LA Times/Bloomberg said they consider the economy a top priority, with 55 percent of Democratic primary voters and 66 percent of Independents who will be voting in the Democratic primary naming it as the number one issue.
*Similarly, in Ohio, a University of Cincinnati poll just before the Democratic primary showed that a plurality (41 percent) of voters said jobs and the economy would weigh most heavily on their vote, ahead of health care and insurance (25 percent) and the Iraq war (25 percent).
*A SurveyUSA election poll of likely Democratic primary voters in Missouri found 44 percent of voters chose the economy as the top issue compared to 22 percent who chose health care and 13 percent who chose Iraq.
Progressives must keep the pressure on Obama.
Bloggers such as Digby, Matt Stoller, and the crew at Firedoglake have already come out in support of Thomas.
To donate money to Regina Thomas via ActBlue, click here.
Now, on to the main subject of this post -- if you're a liberal Obama supporter, this past week or so has sucked pretty hard. We've seen Obama move sharply to the right on a number of fronts, including:
-- hiring the centrist, pro-Walmart economist Jason Furman as his economic policy director (and yes, I know that Furman's done good work on issues like Social Security privatization, but if you're truly committed to a progressive economic vision, he's not the guy you'd be hiring);
-- naming, as his campaign chief of staff, Jim Messina, who served as chief of staff to Max Baucus, and who appears to strongly support Baucus's pro-corporate agenda;
-- forming a Working Group on National Security that consists mainly of reanimated corpses from the 80s and 90s (Warren Christopher, Sam Nunn, David Boren, Madeleine Albright) rather than fresh, bold new thinkers like Samantha Power;
-- making statements
that are strongly supportive of NAFTA and that conflict with his position during the primaries (Obama is now saying he won't unilaterally re-open NAFTA);
-- releasing a campaign ad, his first of the general election, which hits on right-wing rather than progressive themes (it emphasizes "cutting taxes" and "moving people from welfare to work" -- why not "universal health care" and "getting the hell out of Iraq"?);
-- and, finally, throwing his weight behind the FISA "compromise," which deservedly earned him Atrios's dreaded "wanker of the day" award.
I've gotta say, though -- all this was utterly predictable. It's not that only that, once the general election campaign starts, presidential candidates tend to move to the center. It's that, as I've been telling anyone who would listen, Barack Obama is, in substance if not in style, an extremely cautious, utterly conventional, center-left politician. If you want to see real, transformative change in this country, he is not your guy.
The second coming of FDR he is not. As president, I think he's far more likely to resemble Bill Clinton -- except he'll be a Bill Clinton who can keep it in his pants and will likely be governing with large majorities in both houses of Congress. Which does not thrill me -- I never liked Clinton much and held my nose while voting for him.
This is not say Obama is a bad guy at all. He's whip-smart, he's a compelling speaker, he's honest*, and he has a pretty decent voting record overall. His campaign so far has been most impressive, particularly in the managerial and grassroots organizing departments. I will always give him enormous credit for speaking out against the Iraq War at a time when almost everyone else in public life was running scared. Indeed, after my first choice candidate, John Edwards, dropped out, I chose him over Hillary largely because I think he's less likely to get us involved in stupid wars than Hillary is (my other reasons were that he's less tainted by corporate sleaze than she is, and that I thought there was more of a chance he'd be slightly more liberal overall).
And also, it must be said -- in case you haven't noticed, in this country, we do not elect liberal presidents. FDR was a fluke -- he was elected when the country was suffering an economic crisis of epic proportions, and even then few believed he'd end up governing as far to the left as he did. LBJ was the other great liberal domestic policy president, but that, too, was a fluke. In the (admittedly totally tasteless) formulation of a friend of mine, the best thing that ever happened to civil rights in this country was the bullet through JFK's head. It was only in the aftermath of the martyrdom of JFK that the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. could have been passed. And even then, it still required every last ounce of LBJ's political genius to get them through.
So, in all honesty, I think Obama is about the best we can do. Yes, he opposed the war from the start. But he's been vague about when he'd start withdrawing troops, and unlike candidates like Bill Richardson, he supports letting residual troops remain. His voting record is decent overall, but it contains some serious disappointments, such as his support of the FISA compromise. Like 95% of the other Democrats in Congress, he's not exactly a profile in courage.
I've been familiar with Barack Obama for a while now. First as my state senator and now as my U.S. senator, he has sometimes greatly impressed me, but often frustrated and disappointed me as well.
He's an illustrative story: a few years ago, an activist friend of mine was working to pass a bill in the Illinois legislature regulating payday loans. His group met with a number of members of the legislature, including Barack. Many of the elected officials they spoke with told them exactly what they would and would not be able to do. Barack listened sympathetically, but didn't make any promises or in fact tip his hand in any way (didn't even say what he wouldn't be able to do, and that kind of info was useful to my friend's group). And when push came to shove, Barack didn't do a damn thing.
My friend (who, by the way, has given money to Obama and voted for him the primary) said ruefully that he wasn't particularly surprised:"That's the Barack Obama I know." He pointed out that a good chunk of Barack's campaign donations come from the banking and financial services industry in Illinois and he thinks that was probably the main reason Barack didn't want to take action on the payday loan issue.
The fact is, in his entire public career Barack Obama has never stuck his neck out for anyone or anything. He's never once taken on a big, high-profile cause or project that was highly controversial or risked failure. Yes, there's his early opposition to the war on the one hand; but on the other hand, once he got to the U.S. Senate he did little to, you know, try to stop the war, and his votes on the war have been utterly conventional Democratic votes.
Yet Hillary Clinton, when she was about the age Baracks is now, took on the daunting task of developing a health care plan. And even though that ended up being a huge failure, at least she took the risk. If she became president, I truly believe that she'd do her damndest to make universal health care a reality in this country. If John Edwards became president, he'd work like hell to enact his populist economic agenda of universal health care, making it easier to join a union, expanding the EITC, etc.
But Barack Obama? Honestly, I don't have a freaking clue. I think he'll govern like the utterly conventional Democrat that he is, but I have no idea what his policy priorities are, or what burning issue drives him.
Over this past election season, on websites and listservs and in conversations, I've seen an awful lot of cheap, hacktacular electioneering in favor of one candidate or another. But at the end of the day, I don't think there was ever all that much of a difference between Hillary and Barack. Or between those two and Edwards, for that manner. Hillary and Barack had voting records and positions on the issues that were closet to identical. They've both taken shitloads of money from Wall Street, and it's pretty clear to me that each of them is captive to corporate special interests. Indeed, I interpret Obama's recent rightward shift -- Furman, Messina, the remarks about NAFTA, the FISA compromise -- as saying to the corporate interests, "Never fear --we'll be playing ball as usual with you folks."
As president, either Barack or Hillary, or Edwards, would be infinitely better than any Republican, but from a progressive point of view, each of them would also far short in some pretty profound and powerful ways.
But you know what? Ultimately, I don't think that they as individuals are to blame for that. I don't think Barack, or Hillary, or Edwards, are bad people. I don't think that Barack Obama, for example, went into politics so he could sell civil liberties down the river in favor of giveaways for the telecom industry. But the incentive structure in politics these days is such that he decided he had more to gain by supporting the FISA "compromise" than by opposing it.
This is where we, as liberals, progressives, lefties, activists, whatever-you-want-to-call-us, come in. I do not believe that our interests are best served by the kind of cheap electioneering we saw over the primary campaign. What would be far more effective would be an independent movement that makes strategic alliances with various political candidates but is also distinctly separate from them.
Instead of shilling for Barack, or Hillary, or whoever, we should have been pressuring the candidates to work for our votes. We should have been pressing them to take firm, non-negotiable positions in favor of things like no immunity for the telecoms, or immediate withdrawal from Iraq with no residual troops. Instead, we were really cheap dates. And when you act like suckers, don't be surprised when something like Obama's support for the FISA compromise comes back and bites you in the ass.
If we want real change in this country, the place to look for it is not in our so-called leaders, but in ourselves. What we need, in short, is a movement. Without such a movement, President Obama is not going to be able to achieve a whole lot more than President Clinton or President Carter did. But with such a movement, we may actually get somewhere. FDR was able to achieve great things because he had the strong support of a powerful labor movement. Similarly, the civil rights movement was the wind at LBJ's back. But I ask you, what will President Obama have?
Obama, like just about every other politician out there, is cautious, but also highly pragmatic. Like everyone else, he responds to incentives. As activists, what we need to do is to move the political center of gravity in this country to the left. To change the incentive structure so that it will be easier for him to do the right thing. This is a far sounder strategy, over both the short and the long term, than waiting for saints or messiahs to come along.
I'll close with one of my favorite political stories. It concerns my all-time favorite president, FDR. He was meeting with a group of reformers trying to persuade him to support one of their goals. After they finished speaking, FDR said to them, "You've convinced me. I want to do it. Now make me do it."
And that, my friend, is the task at hand.
*Added later: By "honest" I mean not corrupt, and not (insofar as politicians go, anyway) particularly prone to false or misleading statements
OPPOSITION DEMANDS REFERENDUM ON PETROLEUM PRIVATIZATION
The Mexican Congress, the media, and the people continued throughout the months of May and June to debate the issue of reform of the Mexican oil industry and the state oil company Mexican Petroleum (PEMEX). President Felipe Calderón and the National Action Party (PAN), with support from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), pushed for the reform which involves greater participation in the oil industry by private industry. The measure is opposed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who claims to be “legitimate president” and head of the “Legitimate Government” of Mexico, by his Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), its allies in the Broad Popular Front (FAP), and by an alliance of labor unions lead by the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME), the National Union of Workers (UNT) and others.
López Obrador has been touring the country and organizing the resistance of the PRD and the FAP. Elected PRD officials have taken an oath opposing the privatization of petroleum and López Obrador has challenged ordinary Mexicans to become brigade members (brigadistas) prepared to engaged in a campaign of massive civil disobedience should that become necessary. López Obrador has invited his followers to a meeting in Mexico City on June 29 to make plans for further actions. Meanwhile the opposition in the Congress has succeeded in tying up the reform proposals which will not be taken up again until September.
The opposition has demanded that the government hold a referendum on the issue of the proposed reform, but the Calderón government and its allies have been strongly opposed. Marcelo Ebrard, head of the Government of the Federal District (Mexico City and environs) said that he will conduct a referendum there, and some other PRD local governments have done the same. Jesús Reyes Heroles, general director of PEMEX, who holds that the proposed reform of the petroleum industry is unconstitutional, also opposes the notion of a referendum, saying that the issues are “too complex.”
The issue of the referendum on the petroleum reform has cut across Mexican institutions and social groups. The Catholic Church is split on the issue. Norberto Rivera Carrera, the conservative Archbishop of Mexico City, opposes it, while Felipe Arizmendi, the liberal Bishop of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, supports the idea of hearing “the voice of the people.” Some semi-official referendum seems likely to take place, at least in Mexico City.
Overall, the opposition to the reform has been successful in blocking the measure and appears likely to kill it this year.
OIL WORKERS “ABOUT TO EXPLODE”; 30 DISSIDENTS DISAPPEARED
The opposition in the Mexican Petroleum Workers Union (STPRM) say that the union is about to explode and that the opposition is growing, despite the disappearance of thirty dissident oil workers in one northern city.
Jorge Fuentes, leader of the National Democratic Alliance of Petroleum Workers, says that the union opposition is growing in locals 11, 14, 22, 26, 35, 38, and 48 located in the cities of Altamirano, Tampico, Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas Cadereyta (Nuevo Leon), Minantitlán, Veracruz, Villahermosa and Tabasco.
At the heart of the growing opposition, he says, is the corruption of Petroleum Workers Union officials who have set up their own subcontracting companies with PEMEX, the Mexican Petroleum Company, sometimes in conjunction with company officials. This process, says Fuentes, has led to the “gangsterization” of the union. Union members, said Fuentes, are fed up.
Fuentes and the Alliance have presented many petitions of grievances to the Mexican Secretary of Labor, Javier Lozano Alarcón, alleging misuse of union funds, corruption, bribery, threats, and repression of union members. Dissidents in Local 10 have taken similar action against Jorge Wade González, the head of that union.
Disappeared: 30 Dissidents
Petroleum workers in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon say that 30 dissident petroleum workers were disappeared during 2007 for “political reasons,” though their disappearances were made to look like part of a wave of criminal kidnapings taking place at that time. Kidnaped more than a year ago, the men may have been murdered; none have reappeared.
The kidnapings of the oil workers began on May 16, 2007 shortly after the local union convention. Hilario Vega Zamarippa, a leader of the local union, was preparing to form a strike committee and to register it with the authorities in view of the coming negotiation of the union contract. Just then he received a call telling him he should come to negotiate the liberation of his brother David and three others who had been kidnaped a few hours earlier. If he did not come to negotiate the ransom, he was told, the kidnapers would send back their heads and then proceed to kidnap the rest of the family. Hilario Vega went to negotiate and was never heard from again.
During 2007 approximately 60 residents of Cadereyta were kidnaped, but not one of the thirty petroleum workers among them was ever released. Josué Hilario Vega Estrada, the son of Hilario Vega, believes that his father was kidnaped because he opposed the privatization of PEMEX and because he was a likely candidate to stand for head of the union against Carlos Romero Deschamps, the union’s current leader. Many of the others who were kidnaped were also part of the union opposition, he said.
MINERS RESUME FIGHT TO DEFEND THEIR UNION FROM GOV’T
Mexico’s mine workers are once again in a struggle for the independence of their union from government control and using a variety of strategies—strikes, a cross-country caravan, legal appeals, protests and publicity—to defend their right to elect their own union leaders.
Napoleon Gómez Urrutia was reelected general secretary of the Mexican Miners and Metal Workers Union (SNTMMRM) on May 9, but the Mexican government refused to recognize him as the union’s leader under a legal procedure known as toma de nota. Fearing that he would be jailed if he appeared in Mexico, Gómez Urrutia has been leading the union from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
For two years the government has been attempting to remove Gómez Urrutia from the leadership of the union. First it charged him with swindling $55 million dollars from the union; later it refused to recognize him as the union’s leader and put another man in his place. The Mexican government appears to be acting at the behest of Grupo Mexico and other Mexican mining companies who want Gómez Urrutia out because of his leadership of a series of militant strikes that led to large wage gains for workers.
The union has been on strike at Grupo Mexico’s Cananea mine for over 10 months over health and safety issues and on strike at two other Grupo Mexico mines since July. Eight other copper and zinc mines continue to operate since workers there belong to a rival mine workers union created with support of the companies and the government.
A Variety of Strategies
Demanding that the government and Grupo Mexico recognize Gómez as their leader, 20,000 miners carried out a 24-hour work stoppage on May 26. Since 2006 the union has carried out 19 strikes, three against Grupo Mexico, and has cost Mexican mining companies US$2.5 billion, according to the Mexican Mining Chamber.
The union has also filed a writ (amparo) demanding that the Department of Labor (STPS) recognize Gómez Urrutia as head of the union.
On June 6 a caravan of miners rolled out of Cananea, Sonora “to demand respect for the union’s autonomy, independence and the right to strike.” Other caravans also moved out from the states of Guerrero and Zacatecas, all three of them bound for Mexico City. When they arrived in Mexico City the miners presented a complaint to the Mexican National commission of Human Rights, delivered a letter to Mexican President Felipe Calderón asking him to intercede, and a similar letter to the Minister of the Interior (Gobernación). Such miners’ caravans are a tradition in the union dating back to the 1950s struggles for union independence from the government.
Gómez Urrutia says that his union may call a national health and safety strike against all mining companies over two recent deaths, one of a miner and the other a steel worker.
OAXACA TEACHERS REACH AGREEMENT WITH NATIONAL UNION
Teachers in Oaxaca reached agreement with Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), on the election of the leaders of their state teachers union. The agreement, negotiated between Local 22 and the National Executive Committee of the SNTE headed by Gordillo and the Mexican Minister of the Interior Juan Camilo Mouri o, brings an end to months of strikes, protests, occupation of government buildings and blocking of highways by Oaxaca’s teachers. Gordillo also argued that it would bring an end to the thirty year conflict between the Oaxaca teachers and the national union.
The accord, reached on June 8 in the Bucareli house, the office of the Minister of the Interior, and agreed to by the leadership of Local 22 on June 9, provides for a secret ballot election by all 70,000 of the state’s teachers. Oaxaca has until now elected its state teachers’ union leaders through a pre-convention and convention open only to elected delegates. It was Gordillo who insisted upon the secret ballot election. The agreement which provides for participation by all Oaxaca teachers also means that members of both Local 22, the historic teachers union local, and Local 59, a local created in 2006 by Gordillo as a counterweight to the radical and militant Local 22, will also vote in the state election.
Local 22 began its fight to elect its state leaders back in the mid-1970s and became a founder of the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE) of the Mexican Teachers Union, the union’s left-wing dissidents. Over the next thirty years la CNTE mobilized hundreds of thousands of teachers every year to fight for the right to elect their own leaders, for higher wages, and for the equalization of wages among teachers by raising all to higher levels (rebasicificación). Oaxaca’s Local 22, together with Local 7 in Chiapas, made la CNTE the most active and militant labor organization in the nation, a role it has held for decades. La CNTE has been part of virtually every progressive labor and social movement in Mexico since it was founded.
Many of the activists of Locals 22 and 7 are rural, bilingual school teachers who teach in Spanish and in one of the many indigenous languages spoken in those states. While most of the unions’ elected leaders have been men, women have been conspicuous as local activists in those southern unions.
Gordillo Thanks Local 22 and La CNTE for creating a Pluralistic Union
Gordillo became head of the Mexican Teachers Union in 1989 after being chosen for the role by Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, but in order to solidify her position as head of the union, she formed an alliance with the dissident southern Locals 22 of Oaxaca and Local 7 of Chiapas. Later, once her position in the union was secure, she broke with the leftists moved to the right, and found herself engaged in conflict with them throughout her tenure in office.
At the conference at the Bucareli house Gordillo, a Machiavellian politician and ruthless antagonist, was all sweetness and light, congratulating Local 22 and la CNTE for having fought to end the control of the union by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and for having made el SNTE a pluralistic organization. Gordillo, a former National Secretary of the PRI, led the Teacher Union out of that party only a few years ago, and she has now become an ally of President Felipe Calderón. Most recently she has entered into an alliance with Carlos Romero Deschamps, head of the Mexican Petroleum Workers Union (STPRM), a notoriously authoritarian and corrupt union.
Whether this agreement between Gordillo and Local 22 means remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely that she really intends to clutch the dissidents to her bosom. Leaders of Local 22 for their part remain cautious. While the election will ultimately take place by secret ballot, the local union still intends to hold its historic delegated convention.
SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS REFORM OFPUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS
The Mexican Supreme Court upheld on June 17 the reform of the public employee health and pension system (ISSSTE). The Court ruled that since current employees were not affected unless they chose to opt in to the new system, it had not violated the rights of the workers. The decision does not constitute approval of the entire system adopted in April of 2007.
Under the new reformed system, old workers may opt into and new workers must participate in a system of options for their pensions. One of those options is to place the funds in individual investment accounts. The government’s justification for the reform of the system was its state of technical bankruptcy.
The National Action Party (PAN) and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) congratulated the court on its decision. Andrés Manuel López Obrador called the decision just “one more injustice” committed against the Mexican people. “The only purpose of the Supreme Court is to legalize the assault and looting committed by the powerful” against the people, he said.
Arturo Alcalde Justiniani, a labor lawyer associated with the country’s independent and democratic union movement, writing in La Jornada warned workers that opting for the personal pension bonus was the worst decision they could make. Based on false actuarial assumptions, with hidden commissions to the pension funds and their insurers, and with no provision for worker’s beneficiaries, all of the financial uncertainties of the system would be born by the workers if they chose that option. The best decision for workers was simply to decline to fill out any document in which case they would continue to remain under the old plan, he wrote.
MEXMODE WORKERS FACE DIRTY TRICKS, POTENTIAL VIOLENCE
From USLEAP and Campaign for Labor Rights
Workers at the SITEMEX union at the Mexmode (formerly Kukdong) factory in Puebla. Mexico have just reported that the union president, Josefina Hernández, is in imminent danger. An organization widely-recognized as the paramilitary arm of the Mexican Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), Antorcha Campesina, has taken hold in the factory and is threatening and intimidating the union leadership. As we believe that the situation could turn physically violent quickly, please email the Puebla government immediately to demand that they cease their support for violence against the SITEMEX workers and step in immediately to ensure the safety of union members.
In an illegal move to oust the union leadership, state labor officials announced on June 18 that they were calling a meeting of workers to hold an election between Josefina Hernández, the current union president, and the Antorcha Campesina sponsored group. This action is illegal under Mexican law, which establishes union autonomy and prohibits the government from interfering in the internal affairs of unions. Demand that the Puebla government halt all illegal interference with the union, including the illegal election!
These events come in the context of increasing anti- union violence, which has at times been instigated by local government officials. Marito a Espejel, director of culture for the Municipality of Atlixco, has repeatedly been seen and photographed outside of the factory during working hours leafleting workers. During a work stoppage, pictures show Espejel calling on workers to lynch a group of observers from atop the company's wall. Espejel also illegally entered the factory to instigate workers to assault the elected SITEMEX leaders. The state government was duly notified but has refused to take action against Espejel.
The latest move by the State government – to hold an illegal election under these conditions – is no less than a statement of full support to Antorcha and the violence that has occurred. Workers will be caught between supporting Antorcha Campesina and their imposed leadership or risking physical violence which they know will go unpunished.Write to the Puebla government and request that they cease activities by government employees that support violence against Mexmode workers, end impunity for the instigators and supporters of the violence, and cases to use Antorcha Campesina to instigate conflict between workers.
To voice your support for the workers go to this site:http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1618/t/3757/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=24705
DEATH SQUADS IN OAXACA: RADIO JOURNALISTS MURDERED
by John Gibler, In These Times
[Tuesday 10 June 2008] Teresa Bautista Merino, 24, and Felícitas Martínez Sánchez, 21, radio journalists at an independent Oaxacan station, were assassinated in April. The Oaxacan government has yet to substantively investigate the killings.
The Mexican government ignores the assassination of two community radio activists
San Juan Copala, Mexico - Driving through the back roads of western Oaxaca state in southwestern Mexico, one could often hear 94.9 FM, Radio Copala, "The Voice that Breaks the Silence." In one of the station's tag-lines played several times a day, a slow, piercing violin gave way to the languid voice of a woman singing in Spanish: "I am a rebel because the world has made me that way, because no one ever treated me with love, because no one ever wanted to listen to me."
But amid such overwrought sadness, a strong - and perhaps hurried - young woman's voice would interrupt: "Some people think that we are too young to know." And then a second young female voice interjects: "They should know that we are too young to die."Those voices belonged to Teresa Bautista Merino, 24, and Felícitas Martínez Sánchez, 21, two of six young producers and hosts at Radio Copala - a project of the recently autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala, and the first radio station to broadcast in both Spanish and the Triqui indigenous language.
The broadcast launched in January. By April, Teresa and Felícitas were dead.
On April 7, Teresa and Felícitas rode in the backseat of Felícitas' cousin, Faustino Vásquez's car on their way to a community radio workshop in Oaxaca City. They held Faustino's 2-year-old son, Augustín, between them. In the front passenger seat rode Faustino's wife, Cristina, and their 4-year-old son, Jaciel.
"We were going downhill, with a bald cliff on the right," says Faustino. "Before we went down, I noticed an access road from the highway and said, ‘Look at that new white pickup parked there.'"
Seconds later, as they rounded the curve at the bottom of the hill, Faustino looked again to the right. "There were seven men up on the hill," he says, "and they began to shoot at us."
Bullets pierced the windshield, hitting Faustino's left wrist and shoulder, and grazing his right arm, leg and head. Two bullets also grazed the back of Jaciel's head; he lost consciousness. A bullet shattered Cristina's left arm.
"The motor shut off," Faustino recalls. "I tried to start it again, but it wouldn't go. I took the key and ran. When I ran, Teresa and Felícitas were still alive. I shouted, ‘Run! They're shooting at us!'"
State police later collected some 20 spent shells from AK-47 assault-rifles by the side of the road. The gunmen had descended the embankment and had shot out the back of the car. Teresa and Felícitas died almost instantly. Faustino, Cristina and their two sons survived.
Violence Among the Triquis
For centuries, the small Triqui indigenous region - a 300 square-mile green oasis situated in the middle of the dry and eroded indigenous Mixteca region of western Oaxaca - has been known for endemic violence. The Triquis resisted Spanish colonial incursions and, in 1823, were the first indigenous people to rise up against the independent Mexican state, successfully beating back an attempt to evict them from their land.
After the Triquis were victorious in defending their territory in two wars - one in 1823, the other in 1843 - the Mexican government decided to shift its approach from direct, armed confrontation to a divide-and-conquer strategy, says Francisco López Bárcenas, a Mixtec indigenous lawyer, historian and author of the forthcoming, "San Juan Copala: Political Domination and Popular Resistance."
From the late 19th century to the present, internal divisions in the Triqui region, fomented by the state government, have led to cycles of political killings and massacres.Although local Oaxacan governors have long attributed the violence to indigenous cultural practices, Lopez Bárcenas argues that it stems from the "social decomposition that comes on the heels of the political and economic domination of the state. And it has a history."
That history, he says, has pit Triqui communities - fighting to maintain autonomy - against those collaborating with the state.
One early battle began over the control of land for coffee production. In the 1920s, non-indigenous speculators brought coffee into the region, often paying Triqui farmers with guns and alcohol. Some Triqui coffee farmers assassinated other Triquis who refused to substitute their traditional corn, bean and squash production for coffee.
"The state first tried to oppress the Triquis economically with the transition to coffee production," says Lopez Bárcenas. "They then tried to control them politically with the division [in 1948] of the Triqui region into five municipalities and the militarization of the area."
In the '70s, the Triqui council of elders tried to end the violence by passing down their community powers to a coalition of young Triqui men who pledged to peacefully unite the region. That peace lasted less than two years. One of the newly appointed communal authorities aligned with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and killed off his rivals.
During the '80s, violence escalated again when the Triqui created various political organizations, such as the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULT, by its Spanish acronym). The group, one of the most powerful, started as a land-defense organization that directly confronted the state. By the '90s, however, the organization had evolved into a quasi-paramilitary group controlled by a non-Triqui man, Heriberto Pasos, who had longstanding connections to the Oaxaca state government.
Pedro Matías, a Oaxacan journalist who has reported on the region for more than 10 years, says, "Pasos runs the MULT with a leftist discourse but, in reality, they act in relation to the powers of the state." After the group took control of the region, the killings started again, he says.
In 2006, more than half of the Triqui region split off from the MULT, creating the MULTI (the added "I" standing for "Independent").
Later that year, in June, when Oaxaca erupted in a civil disobedience uprising to protest Gov. Ulises Ruiz's repression of striking teachers, the MULTI joined the protesters' organization, the Oaxaca Peoples' Popular Assembly, or APPO, while the MULT sided with the state government.
The first people killed during the conflict were three Triquis from the MULTI, who were shot down by men wielding AK-47s while on their way to an APPO meeting in Oaxaca City.
"The MULT participated directly in the death squads in Oaxaca in 2006," says López Bárcenas.
A Community Radio Station Is BornJorge Albino Ortiz had a program on Radio La Ley, the APPO station, during the 2006 uprising. "We observed how the radio called people to participate in the various actions of the movement and we wanted to do something like that in our region," he says.As a result, Radio Copala was born.
Albino Ortiz, who is coordinator of Radio Copala, says the station decided to have three men and three women working at the radio because one of its primary tasks was to encourage women's participation in the new autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala - which MULTI created after it dissolved.
The town, located in the Triqui region, is an amalgamation of 20 Triqui communities. San Juan Copala is cut off from all relations with the Oaxaca state government: it has no cell phone service or telephone lines. Which is why Radio Copala, with its approximately a nine-mile radial reach, was often the only source of news, and frequently focused on themes of autonomy and indigenous rights.
"When we started, we felt really excited to have a radio station in Copala," says Yanira Vásquez, who worked with Teresa and Felícitas at the station. "Women do not participate much and we were just beginning to promote women's participation in assemblies and meetings and to include their perspectives and interviews about how they see what is happening in the region."
Radio Copala is currently playing only music, though it plans to continue its social and political programming soon. Two signs on the door to the station bear the names of Teresa and Felícitas, declaring: "You will always be present."
On April 7, news of the killings traveled around the globe in a matter of hours via e-mail and the Internet. Dozens of national and international human rights organizations, reporters' defense groups and even the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the assassinations and demanded that the Mexican government conduct a rigorous investigation and punish the guilty.But three weeks after the killing, no government official had gathered testimony from the surviving witnesses.
On April 18, Oaxaca State Attorney General Evencio Martínez told reporters: "What is clear is that the attack was not directed at the two announcers, but at the person [Faustino Vázquez] who was driving the vehicle."
Not true, says Faustino, who says state investigators never interviewed him. Instead, he had to arrange a meeting to give his testimony. Faustino also points out that he was able to easily escape without being pursued, while gunmen appeared to target Teresa and Felícitas.
On April 21, Juan de Dios Castro Lozano, a sub-director of the federal attorney general's office, told a group of Mexican and international human rights investigators that the two young women were not really journalists - they had no journalism degree - but were housewives who just changed the music when callers made requests at the station. His comments provoked immediate criticism, including from the committee of the National Journalism Award, which had given the accolade to Teresa and Felícitas posthumously.María Dolores París, a professor of rural sociology at the Autonomous University of Mexico, says that the state's claim that Faustino, and not the two women, was the real target of the killers is "absurd," though she says that women have not been targeted in regional violence before.
París, who has worked with Triquis in Oaxaca and Triqui migrants in California for seven years, says the state government goes into the region to foment violence and then "washes its hands of it with theories that the violence comes from the nature of the Triquis themselves."
"I feel certain that the young women were assassinated for their work with the radio station." Then adds: "The intention has always been to strip the Triquis of their land."Faustino Vásquez and his family have now been thrust into the heart of this violence."I am scared," Faustino says. "I will have to be careful now, no more living life like somebody who can just go wherever he likes. If they see me out there, certainly they'll execute me."
Asked if he has any hope for justice, Faustino responds: "With the help of human rights organizations, with the help of journalists, radio, television, with all that putting pressure on the state and federal governments, maybe there will be justice."
John Gibler is a Global Exchange Media fellow who writes from Mexico. He is the author of Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt, forthcoming from City Lights.
MEXICAN GUERRILLA GROUPS PROTEST GOVERNMENT HARASSMENT
Three of Mexico’s armed guerrilla organizations complained in June of harassment of their organizations and of local populations by the Mexican government.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas, which though it has not been in armed conflict since 1994 remains an armed organization, complained that Mexican Army troops, Federal and state police had made incursion into the EZLN’s autonomous communities supposedly in search of marijuana. The EZLN communities do not permit the growing, sale of consumption of drugs. The EZLN and local human rights organizations say that this incursion forms part of a recent increase in government military, police, and vigilante harassment of EZLN communities.
The Peoples Revolutionary Army (EPR) continued to negotiate with the Mexican government through intermediaries to win the release of several of its members who disappeared more than a year ago. The EPR believes that Mexican authorities kidnapped the EPR members rather than arresting and charging them.The Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (EPRI) issued a statement saying that the Party of the Democratic Revolution governments in the area of the Costa Chica of Guerrero had been “the most ferocious enemies” of the struggle of the indigenous people of the town of Ayutla de los Libres. The statement was released on the tenth anniversary of the El Charco Massacre.
The EPRI claims that on June 7, 1998, 11 people were killed by Mexican Army troops while sleeping in the local school after having participated in a meeting on community projects. Four of them were EPRI militants. “Ten years later, the Mixtec and Tlapanec zone of Ayutla continues to be an area of poverty, marginalization, repression, assassination, exclusion from development, and lack of basic services,” said the statement.
Mexico Given Seat on ILO Union Rights BoardThe International Labor Organization (ILO) elected Mexico to occupy a seat on that organization’s labor rights board. The committee exists to protect workers’ rights around the world. The ILO is a tripartite organization made up of governments, employers, and labor unions which pressures states around the world to sign its labor rights conventions as its standards are called. The ILO has no power to enforce its conventions.
Mexico’s independent and democratic union the Authentic Labor Front expressed its shock at the choice, given that Mexico constantly, often violently and quite notoriously violates workers most basic rights. La Joranda, the Mexico City left-of-center daily, called the decision “incomprehensible.”
Telephone Workers Choose New Chief
The Mexican Telephone Workers (STRM) elected as their new general secretary Jorge Castillo Maga a, a close associate of outgoing leader Francisco Hernández Juárez who has led the union for almost 30 years. The National Telephone Workers Network (RNT) said they expected little from the new chief who they expect to be in the same mould as his predecessor.
Mexican Auto Unions Accept Two Tier
In an attempt to hold and attract foreign plants in Mexico, auto unions there have been willing to accept two-tier contracts much like those the UAW negotiated with auto companies in the U.S. Under such contracts existing workers receive one set of wages, benefits, and conditions and new hires an inferior set.
At the Ford Cuautitlán Plant in the State of Mexico where existing workers make US$4.50 per hour, new hires will make about half of that. Juan José Arreola who heads the union at that plant said, “We want to be more competitive.” Such low wages allow Mexico to stay in competition with China.
Mexican auto workers do not have one union; various unions represent different companies and plants.
GM to Close Plants in MexicoGeneral Motors announced in early June that it will gradually cut work at four plants in Canada, Mexico and the United States. GM’s sports utility vehicles or SUVs have suddenly become unsalable because of the rise of gas to US$4.00 throughout the United States. GM’s Toluca plant in the State of Mexico will end operations at the end of 2008.Mauricio Kuri, GM Mexico representative, denied that the Toluca plant would close, saying it would just produce another model with 10 percent fewer workers.
Mexican Secretary of Labor Supports Mexicana Flight Attendants
The Mexican Secretary of Labor supported the legal action of 145 Mexicana Flight attendants who argued that their employer could not change their working conditions in a way that would have reduced their incomes by as much as 50 percent. The Secretary of Labor’s decision was based upon a previous Mexican Supreme Court decision that denied the company the right to harm union members’ established contracts and conditions. The Secretary of Labor said it would mediate a negotiation between the parties.
HUMAN RIGHTS SHORTS
Community Radio shut down in Nuevo Leon
Federal Police shut down the Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom) community radio station in Nuevo Leon, Monterrey on June 6. The Federal Attorney General said that the radio station was operating illegally and without a license.
Indigenous Activist Disappears in Puebla
Bonifacio Gaona Barrientos, a member of the Independent Totonac Organization, an indigenous group, disappeared on May 17. His comrades believe that the state government is responsible for his disappearance. The State Attorney General’s office has provided the organization with no information.
New National Human Rights Front Formed
Aleyda Alavez, a deputy for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), announced on June 10 the creation of a new National Front for Human Rights. The new front is made up of members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), the Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) of San Salvador Atenco, the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights, the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA), and the opposition movement fighting the the San Xavier Mine in San Luis Potosi, among others.
Impunity and Human Rights Violations Growing
The International Civil Commission Observing Human Rights (CCIODH) expressed its concern with growing human rights violation and impunity in Mexico to which the government was not responding. It mentioned for example, the assassination of the community radio broadcasters in Oaxaca. (See article above.)
Latin America: Lowest Growth Rate in Six Years
The Economic Commission for Latin America reports that the economics of the Latin American nations will not grow more than four percent and will have their lowest growth rate in six years.
Mexico Will Grow at 2.8% This Year
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which Mexico is a member, predicts that Mexico’s growth rate will be only 2.8% this year, largely because of the economic stagnation in the United States.
Mexican Inflation Rate Highest in 3 Years
Mexico had its highest inflation rate in 3 years, according to the Bank of Mexico. Inflation reached 4.95 percent.
Mexico’s Food Trade Deficit to Grow this Year
The World Bank predicts that this year Mexico will have an even greater imbalance in its food budget than last year, a difference between imports and exports that amounts to a deficit of US$4.9 billion.
Mexican Workers’ Pension Funds Lose
Mexican workers’ pension funds lost 14.6 billion pesos in April alone as a result of the fall in the value of the stocks in which the funds invest, a system known as AFORES, this according to the National Commission of Savings System (CONSAR).
Tortillas at 8.27 per Kilo
Tortilla prices are on the rise as are all products made out of corn. The current average price is 8.27 pesos per kilo but in some areas the price has reached 11.50. Food costs have risen 47 percent between 2006 and 2008. This according to Banamex.
University Administrative Workers’ Salaries Lose Buying Power
University administrative workers have seen their salaries lose 45 percent of their buying power in the last 10 years according to the National Confederation of University Workers (CONTU). University workers salaries average 3,000 pesos or about US$300 per month.
Two out of Every 100 Mexican Children between 5 and 9 Work
Two percent of Mexican children between 5 and 9 work, according to a recent report by Thais Social Development. It also reports that 7.4 percent of minors between 12 and 17 also work in violation of national and international labor standards.
Child Labor in Latin America and the Caribbean
Save the Children and World Vision estimate that between 17 and 20 million children and adolescents aged 17 work throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The International Labor Organization estimate that 5 percent of all children between 5 and 14 work in the region.
400,000 Children Die of Hunger Each Year in Latin America
The Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) reports that 400,000 children die of hunger every year in Latin America. The countries with the highest levels of child death from malnutrition are: Haiti, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago.
20 Percent of Mexican Children and Pregnant Women Anemic
Some 20 percent of all children and pregrant women in the country suffer from mineral deficiencies according to the Federal Commission for the Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS). 23.7 percent of children and 20.6 percent of pregnant women are anemic
The Economist Country Briefings – Mexico http://www.economist.com/countries/Mexico/
La Jornada Laboral – May 1 Supplement – Variety of Articles on Labor http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2008/04/30/laboral.html
La Jornada del Campo – Special Supplement on Coffee http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2008/06/12/delcampo.htmlNarco News – Oaxaca Two Years Later Series by Nancy Davies
New book on Oaxaca uprising publishedOaxaca, la lucha política independiente del pueblo, heraldo de una nueva revolución published by the Institudo de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca, IAGO.(MLNA has not yet seen the book.)
Como sabemos, la labor social del Gobierno Legítimo se ha intensificado durante los últimos meses. Junto con los ciudadanos concientes, el Gobierno Legítimo se ha avocado a la tarea de informar en materia de la reforma petrolera para que todos los mexicanos estemos informados cuando sea el momento de decidir sonre este asunto tan importante para la soberanía nacional.
Este esfuerzo por informar supone muchos gastos para hacer el material que semana con semana se entrega casa por casa en todos los estados de la República. Por ello, hacemos la invitación atenta a todos los ciudadanos a hacer un esfuerzo, en la medida de sus posibilidades, realizando donaciones a la cuenta del Gobierno Legítimo; para que éste pueda seguir reproduciendo el material informativo que se repartirá en las siguientes semanas.
Estas donaciones serán clave para lograr que la consulta ciudadana llegue a todos los mexicanos
Donativos desde 30 hasta 30 mil pesos.
Cuenta número 05 44 55 50 80 de Banorte, a nombre de Honestidad Valiente A.C.
Aquì las noticias petroleras que nos envìa el compañero Alfonso:
■ El dirigente panista admite que su partido necesita al priísmo para aprobar la reforma petrolera
Busca el G8 diálogo con México y otros países para bajar petroprecios
Llama El Barzón a participar en consulta
Reforma energética, insuficiente y sin sensibilidad política, acusan
Bajo la Lupa
Fertilizantes, ¿los abarata la privatización?
Sobre el debate petrolero
Tuvo la gasolina el mayor aumento de precio mensual de los pasados 10 años
Omar: Pisándole la sombra
No se olviden de ir a la página del Comité Nacional de Estudios de la Energía, A. C.
AlfonsoPemex NO se vende, SE DEFIENDE hasta con los dientes.