Friday, November 30, 2007

Ver y Rare: A fair and well written article about current events in Bolivia

Factions clash in Bolivia's lowlands

LA PAZ (AFP) — Hundreds of supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales' socialist reform movement clashed with opponents Friday, with four people injured and the town hall occupied by demonstrators, local officials and hospital sources said.

The demonstration in Cobija, capital of Pando province, came amid rising tension between the governors of six mostly rich provinces and Morales, who is pushing through a constitutional reform to redistribute wealth to benefit Bolivia's poor highland dwellers.

"Waving white handkerchiefs and asking for peace," hundreds of demonstrators who turned out in Cobija to support the Morales administration were attacked by university students and local government workers, Mayor Luis Flores told local Erbol radio.

"I've just been told that a few moments ago they took over the town hall, led by thugs at the governor's orders," said the mayor, referring to Pando Governor Leopoldo Fernandez, one of six provincial leaders staunchly opposed to Morales' reforms.

"It's regrettable what we're going through in Cobija, which at the moment is a no-man's land," Flores said, adding that he feared for his life and his family.

Police used tear gas to disperse the melee and reports that a little girl had died asphyxiated by the gases were later denied by hospital officials.

"There has been no death ... in the demonstration. We've received four patients ... two elderly people, a pregnant woman and a police officer (who were injured in the street clashes) and they're being attended to at our hospital," said a doctor at Cobija's Fernandez Gutierrez hospital.

Morales has beefed up the Cobija police force by 100 officers to deal with the violence, prompting Governor Fernandez to charge the president was using the city "as a beachhead to establish a totalitarian and dictatorial regime in the country."

Violence has wracked Bolivia since Morales set up an assembly to rewrite the constitution that opponents fear will usher in a leftist regime similar to the one Morales' friend and ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is building.

Six provinces including Pando went on strike on Wednesday to oppose the reform movement and weekend clashes between protesters and police left three people dead in the city of Sucre.

More protests are planned for next week, when opposition leaders said a hunger strike would be held across the country.

MORENADA

Tense times in Bolivia so I thought I would post something on the fun side.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The House of Reps Vote 404 to 6 to Pass the Bill that Legalizes COINTELPRO?

by Justin Ponkow and Troy Nkrumah; November 28, 200

Znet

One month ago a bill passed almost unanimously in the House. This bill has received no mainstream news coverage. So it must not be that big of a deal, right? It's just a bill that will soon to go to Capitol Hill and since the Democrats are in control we are all safe from further infringements up on our civil rights, right? Well, maybe that is not totally correct since this bill is a lot more than meets the eye. But indicator number one should be the title, and indicator number two should be how fast it is moving through Congress.

On October 23rd of this year, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 passed 404 to 6 in the House. This bill is proposing an expansion of Homeland Security with the objective of spying on citizens whose political or religious beliefs might lead them to commit violent acts. And we are not referring to the attack of Megan Williams or the numerous police murders of non threatening civilians. No this is solely about spying on political dissidents whose politics were shaped through a critical analysis of US Foreign or Domestic policies.

The stated purpose of this bill is to first assemble a National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Ideologically Based Violence. Secondly, they will create a university-based Center of Excellence to study radicalization and homegrown terrorism.

Their definition of what defines radical and terrorism are very vague, and can be manipulated to serve several purposes. In the bill itself, it says homegrown terrorism means "the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence" by a native citizen of the United States. It is this definition that is leaves so much of this bills purpose, open to interpretation. Unfortunately, the interpretation by the same ole "powers that be" is the only one that really matters because it is them who will have the use of this bill at their disposal.

It is far too easy to point the finger at an individual or a group of individuals, and claim that they are "planning" or "threatening" the use of violence to achieve their objectives. For instance, if a group of PETA or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, decide protest a rodeo, could it be claimed that they are "threatening" the use of violence? Or if activists and concerned citizens congregate at a building to protest or demonstrate, could it be claimed that they are "planning" the use of violence or getting ready to riot?

Let's take it one step further. If there is an act of civil disobedience, in the form of blocking the entrance to that building (a non-federal building) during the political protest, and that blocking is done with the use of a minimal amount of force (people physically locking arms), will this new bill turn a simple misdemeanor trespassing into a felony punishable through the federal court system? And who has the discretion to make that determination?

"Planned" or "threatened" use of violence is a vague term, and we have seen it used before. How many times have you heard of a cop beating, shooting, or killing an individual because in the officers opinion they "posed a threat" or were "planning" harm towards the officer? This situation is no different, yet now it decriminalizes police actions at a time when we are experiencing more police killings of unarmed civilians.

What is feared by the activist community is a general crack down on social justice activism and civil disobedience, or any dissent for that matter, because it now takes on a new and legal form. Being that it is so easy to point the finger, anybody willing to speak out will be in the scope of this proposed commission. Including many Hip Hop artists who have been the most critical of the government and its agencies. In J. Edgar Hoover's time, this type of spying and repression was illegal and later became known as the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). Currently these and similar practices are legal in regards to non-citizens under the heading of the "Patriot Act." Did you really think that the government was only after those who sneak into the country to commit acts of violence?

To it's defense it is claimed that this bill will not "violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents." It is also claimed that this bill will be racial, ethnically, and religiously neutral when carrying out its' study. With such claims, it is interesting that the criteria for members of this commission are individuals with expertise in "juvenile justice", "local law enforcement", and "Islam and other world religions." As if that knowledge and expertise will have any relevance to what makes "citizens" look toward other means of confronting social injustices. I would think that sociologists, social workers, academics and social justice advocates have a better grasp on why individuals or organizations gave up on working "within" the system to seek other alternatives to achieve justice and equality? Why is it that social critics are not the primary targets for this commission membership? Is it because these social critics are the primary targets of this commission?

This bill, and its 'provisions, looks like ideological profiling of potential "trouble makers" national, and especially on the university campuses. This commission and its' "studies" will be used to begin surveillance on suspected dissidents and those who might associate with them, but it will not end there. The commission's purpose is to not analyzes the critics of the government policy and suggest reforming the policies to avoid the development of "homegrown terrorists" but rather to identify and neutralize those critics.

For those that know their history, this bill should sound familiar. Back in the 50's J. Edgar Hoover, Head of the F.B.I., started the Counter Intelligence Program (known as COINTELPRO). This program was meant to, in Hoover's words, "neutralize political dissidents", and used thousands of illegal and covert operations to achieve its' means.

Though COINTELPRO claimed to watch the actions of all potentials threats, it seemed to focus all of its efforts on leftist and liberal political activists. They focused on everybody from John Lennon to Jane Fonda to keep tabs on dissidents. The other stated purpose was to "prevent the rise of the black messiah". They kept their eyes on the likes of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Hampton and many others in order to quell the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.

This new bill that is being fast tracked through Congress is nothing but a legalized COINTELPRO. And anybody that cherishes the right to speak out for their rights should keep an eye on this. If violence is already against every law of every state in the union, why exactly does there need to be a group that will spy on citizens and then possibly take actions against those whose "threat of violence" have a political undertone? And who is to be the targets? Well if history is any indicator, we know that the FBI did not use its resources to eliminate the KKK and other White Supremacy organizations, but they did do everything they could to eliminate, kill or jail the leadership of Black, Brown, Red, Yellow and White left organizations.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this bill is how fast it is moving through Congress. You would think such a monumental bill would be debated and discussed to no end. At least by the few progressives left in the House of Representatives. But the actions of the House show anything but concern. (Where are you at Barbara Lee?) We saw this happen right after the attack on the World Trade Center when the congress passed the "Patriot Act" but then later complained that if they had read the text of the bill they would had more reservations because of the power it gives to the government and the rights it strips from the citizens. So I guess we can say that the House of Representatives have not learned from that past and are thus doomed to repeat it, and are repeating it.

When this bill came to House it was given certain provisions specifically to reduce debate time. Such an important bill as this was given little serious debate time, and was rushed to be passed. And it did pass. It was passed with a 404 to 6 vote. Of the notable votes, Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich did vote against the bill, whereas Presidential Candidate Ron Paul was not present to vote on the issue. This bill was hardly debated, it was passed almost unanimously, and now it is on its way to the Senate, and then the President.

There is no doubt that this bill will have the same results in the Senate, and will be signed by the President. At the speed it is moving, this bill may be a law by February, just in time for the primaries. And all of this is happening with almost nobody noticing. The news outlets are not mentioning it. It is slipping right in under our noses, like most laws of this nature do. And chances are, if you were not reading this you would still think that you had the right to defend yourself against government oppression (as stated in the Declaration of Independence) or at least the right to demonstrate at the next Democratic and Republican national conventions.

As for those of us who are concerned about our individual civil liberties, what more can we do besides sit back and shake my head in disgust. Looks like protesting will lead to federal charges. 2008 is an election year, and every candidate promises change for the future and to correct the abuses of the current administration. Yet read their congressional voting records and you will see where some of these candidates actually stand. Most are for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and keep funding it with billions of our tax dollars. And as evident in this new bill almost all of the House or Representatives are for the war against your civil and political rights. It kind of makes you wonder, why these fear mongers and ideologues run around saying, "they hate of for our freedoms" what exactly are those freedoms that we are hated for?

[Justin Ponkow is a writer for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas student paper, The Rebel Yell, and is a member of the National Hip Hop Political Convention. Troy Nkrumah is an attorney, writer and educator. He is also the Chair of the National Hip Hop Political Convention.]

Monday, November 26, 2007

...and More

Death and Sedition in Bolivia
Four deaths in Sucre intensify the confrontation
Luis A. Gómez
November 25, 2007
La Paz -

It’s possible that it all began in March 2006 when the Evo Morales government negotiated the Constituent Assembly’s representative base. The right-wing parties—defeated from almost every angle by the social movements over the past few years—were allowed new breathing room and maintained, together with the governing party, its monopoly of the political representation in Bolivia.

Or maybe it began in July of last year when the Assembly delegate elections left Evo’s MAS without their hoped for two-thirds majority. At this moment, it was clear that this new body—charged with creating a new carta magna to represent the Bolivia that had risen from the streets and its recent struggles—would become hostage to the country’s rightwing minority via its political parties.

Either way, one thing is clear: the blame for the deaths yesterday and today in the city of Sucre goes to both the right and to the government, perhaps in equal measure.

Wasted Time

Months of deliberation spent on securing procedural measures that no one even respects. Months of debate, physical beatings, screaming matches, marches and vigils in favor of and against. The result? After a full year of work, not a single article, not one solid agreement was made between the government and the opposition regarding the country’s new constitution. Thus, it was decided that the Assembly’s sessions be extended until December 14th of this year. Nothing has been achieved since.

The struggle around whether articles ought to be approved by simple majority or two-thirds of the delegates’ votes allowed the rightwing to consistently block and blackmail. The opposition party PODEMOS took charge of impeding the Assembly’s every step—at times with a solid right hook to the chin of a fellow delegate. More recently, they found another stalling mechanism: the semi-colonial Capital Wars, putting the question of whether La Paz or Sucre was to hold the honor of seat of government forever.

The days passed and millions of Bolivians filled the streets of Sucre, Santa Cruz and La Paz demanding that the capital move, that it stay, that the Assembly be allowed to decide matter, that the decision should be in the public’s hands. Bolivia’s struggle was thus reduced to this: the capital’s location and the defense of a building in which 255 non-functional delegates would session with the grand result of never agreeing on anything.

Approval at any cost

Yesterday, under orders from President Evo Morales, MAS delegates moved the Assembly to Sucre’s military barracks. The street mobilizations backed by right-wing Santa Cruz leaders for the past few months had made it impossible for the Assembly to continue its work in the public theater where they had been held since August 2006.

The normally quiet streets of this small colonial city became a battlefield on November 24th: students and citizen groups went at the police with escalating intensity while the latter responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

During the confrontation, 29 year old lawyer Gonzalo Dúran was killed by a bullet to the chest. His comrades in sedition became enraged. The body was placed in a coffin and all seemed to have reached a boiling point. Accompanied by a member of Bolivia’s Human Rights Assembly, Sucre’s governor, MAS party member Daniel Sánchez, entered the barracks where the delegates were meeting in desperation.

Sánchez asked Assembly President and former coca-grower leader Silvia Lazarte to stop the session. Lazarte refused. Shortly after, the MAS-proposed version of the new Constitutional text was approved “in full.”

This approval of a new Constitution at any cost, this conceit on the part of the ruling party, may have caused the flood waters to spill. As a colleague in Sucre recounted to us via telephone, “the people have now seriously mobilized against the government.”

The Media’s Attack

The rightwing media are sending reports from all corners of the country. In Sucre, they give us democracy’s heroes: an angry mob that has vandalized the city and stormed a local prison letting lose dozens of felons.

Since yesterday, television networks such as Unitel and ATB (both owned by the Spanish media group PRISA), are blaming the government for Sucre’s state of siege. They claim that Dúran’s death was police repression and that yesterday’s delegate session was illegal and is evidence of a dictatorship. They fail to report that Dúran’s forensic report finds that the fatal bullet comes from a gun-type not used by the police. Not to mention the fact that, as the Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramón Quintana points out, the police were not armed this weekend in Sucre.

In between repetitive images of Sucre’s streets as battlefields, the networks broadcast the event’s rippling effects nationwide. They report on aggressive and premeditated acts as if they were spontaneous occurrences—the most notable of which occurred in Santa Cruz at dawn this morning. An angry group appeared in front of the house of MAS politician Osvaldo Peredo where several Cuban doctors also live. After screaming insults against the government, the group threw a Molotov cocktail towards the residence. Fortunately, there was only material—not human—damage. Similarly, TV images show groups of young Santa Cruz residents violently attacking the regional tax office headquarters.

In a most non-spontanteous way, the media went on to interview every conceivable opposition politician across the country, including ex-President Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga and Santa Cruz governor Rubén Costas—who dared the government to respond and spoke seditiously on behalf of all Bolivians.

An interesting side-note: some of Bolivia’s independent media outlets are having transmission problems. The internet signal of Radio Erbol (owned by the Catholic Church) is unavailable in certain parts of the country where there is normally a signal. Many journalists—employees of Erbol and its affiliate station in Sucre—have received death threats. Many of Sucre’s few independent reporters, according to UB sources, are in hiding.

Evo Defends His Project

Sucre’s air is heavy with gas and people are mobilized in the streets. A few hours ago, the city police chief announced the withdrawal of police forces in the city because of a lack of safety guarantees: not only had his officers been assaulted, but also one of their own had been lynched and thrown into a ravine early this morning. Transit Police headquarters were burned throughout the day and mobs went around lighting on fire any state vehicles that crossed their path.

It was in these fateful moments, that the President of Bolivia appeared serious and somber before his nation to defend his project and his government. Just after 3pm, Evo Morales explained the minutea of the recently approved Constitution in painstaking detail. He spoke for over 10 minutes without mentioning the four deaths on the other side of the country.

Once getting to the topic of the confrontations, he asserted that his government would convene a full investigation into the weekend’s incidents and reiterated that the government had not instructed the police to use lethal weapons against the population.

“Those who want to bet on our Bolivia, on the Bolivia of change,” said Evo, are more than welcome. He critiqued those who impeded this process of change, specifically those in Santa Cruz united behind the infamous Civic Committee and its President Branco Marinkovic. “They can’t accept that we the poor people can govern ourselves,” he snapped, after going over the long list of obstacles the Constituent Assembly has confronted over the past 16 months.

Evo also pleaded the Bolivian people to remain calm, warning that the new constitution must now be approved by national democratic referendum, as legally stipulated. “We will continue working together with the social forces and with the people of this country who want change,” he stated while refuting the right-wing’s accusations that he is a dictator and an assassin.

“I want to ask the Bolivian people for serenity and the Bolivian authorities for their support in securing peace and social justice,” the Head of State concluded. He had spoken for almost 30 minutes yet practically no major television channel broadcast Evo’s words. Almost all were carrying their normally scheduled programs.

Despite it all, there are four (perhaps five) dead in Sucre. The principle opposition leaders are already calling for Evo Morales’ head. The government insists on moving forward with its Constitutional project regardless of its less than two-thirds majority in the Assembly. We will continue informing.

More

The Final Battle in Bolivia

Roger Burbach

Evo Morales, the first Indian president of Bolivia, is forcing a showdown with the oligarchy and the right wing political parties that have stymied efforts to draft a new constitution to transform the nation. He declares, "Dead or alive I will have a new constitution for the country by December 14," the mandated date for the specially elected Constituent Assembly to present the constitution.

Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linares states, "Either we now consolidate the new state…with the new dominant forces behind us, or we will move backwards and the old forces will again predominate." A leading trade union leader, Edgar Patana, put it bluntly: "The final battle has begun, and the people are prepared for it."

For over a year the oligarchy centered in the eastern city of Santa Cruz has conspired to frustrate the efforts of the Constituent Assembly in which the governing party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), and its allies hold 60 percent of the seats. First the right wing parties in the Assembly, led by Podemos, insisted that a two-thirds vote was needed even for committees to approve the different sections of the new constitution.

When the opposition was overruled on this point, the oligarchy then won allies in the city of Sucre, where the Constituent Assembly is being held, by asserting that the executive and congressional branches of government should be moved from La Paz to Sucre, which used to be the center of government until the late nineteenth century. This was also a racial strategy as La Paz and its sister city El Alto are at the heart of the country's majority Indian population that support Morales and mobilized in 2003 to topple an oligarchic president in La Paz who murdered Indian demonstrators in the streets.

In Sucre in recent months right wing militants have menaced and assaulted delegates of MAS, including Silvia Lazarte, the Assembly's indigenous women president. The Assembly has been effectively prevented from functioning since August 15.

Then in a move to more equitably redistribute the country growing oil and gas revenues, Morales in mid-October declared that a retirement pension equal to the minimum wage would be extended to all Bolivians that would come directly out of a special hydrocarbon fund. Morales simultaneously cut the payments from the fund that go to municipal governments like Santa Cruz with no congressional oversight. This caused an uproar in the Media Luna (Half Moon) region, comprised of the department of Santa Cruz and allied departments, with many of the business interests of the country threatening to create shortages and sew economic chaos by withholding their produce from the market.

Three hundred peasants, who came to Sucre last week to protect the Assembly members in its efforts to reconvene, were violently expelled from their sleeping quarters at the Pedagogical Institute by right wing students and Lazarte was prevented from convening the Assembly. Then Morales moved the Assembly meeting site to an old castle on the outskirts of Sucre that also serves as a military school and barracks. The head of the armed forces, General Wilfredo Vargas, backed the meeting of the Assembly at the castle, saying "it has to meet to continue …to modernize the state in all its features."

Then Vargas in a swipe at one of the regional political leaders allied with the Media Luna who claimed that Cuban and Venezuelan military units where in the country, declared: "No information exists of such units. And if it were the case, they are military units of the State and as part of the State they represent the Bolivian people."

The Bush administration is also jumping into the fray. Earlier this year Morales denounced that US backed agencies and non- governmental organizations that are providing direct support to right-wing political parties and allied institutions, ordering that all such funding would now be channeled directly through the government. Then at the recent Ibero-American Summit in Santiago Chile, Morales declared that "while we are trying to change Bolivia…small groups of the oligarchy are conspiring in alliance with the representative of the government of the United States," referring to the US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg. To support his claims a photo was shown of Goldberg in Santa Cruz with a leading right wing business magnet and a well known Colombian narco-trafficker, who had been detained by the local police.

On November 15, the US State Department spokesperson, Sean McCormick, responded by demanding that Morales stop launching "false" and "unfounded" allegations of conspiracy by the ambassador. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the Bolivian ambassador in Washington to deliver the same tough message.

The delegates of the right wing parties led by Podemos boycotted the meetings at the castle, declaring that the Assembly is "illegal." On Friday 139 of the 255 Assembly members met and approved the broad outlines of a new constitution to carry out the reforms championed by Morales and the country's social movements. The next step is for the Assembly to adopt the specific clauses and content of the constitution.

But before that process could begin, the opposition in Sucre, led mainly by students and young people, violently took over all the major public buildings using dynamite and Molotov coctails, demanding the resignation of "the shitty Indian Morales." Parts of the city were in flames as the members of the Assembly abandoned the castle on Saturday, and by Sunday rioting mobs controlled Sucre, forcing the police to retreat to the mining town of Potosi, two hours away. Three people, including one policemen, are dead, with hundreds injured. The right wing and the business organizations in Santa Cruz and allied departments are threatening to declare autonomy and even talking of cession.

"We are at a national impasse" says Manuel Urisote, a political analyst and director of the Land Foundation, an independent research center in La Paz. "The right wing led by the Santa Cruz oligarchy is in open rebellion, but Morales, the Movement Towards Socialism and the popular movements will not back down. The military is supporting the president. As a national institution it intends to maintain the territorial integrity of Bolivia and it will not accept decrees of cession by Santa Cruz."

Roger Burbach is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA). (http://globalalternatives.org) His most recent article is, "Ecuador's Popular Revolt: Forging a New Nation," NACLA's Report on the Americas, Sept.-Oct., 2007. He is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

Bad News out of Bolivia

Bolivia: Four Dead in Capital Conflict Print
Written by Andean Information Network
Monday, 26 November 2007

Source: Andean Information Network

The chaotic conflict over the seat of the capital escalated over the past three days, leaving four people dead and 200 wounded. The constitutional assembly’s refusal to reopen discussion about the capital issue sparked the protests. The protests once again turned violent with the assembly’s subsequent approval of a draft of a new constitution with the presence of only MAS representatives inside a military installation. Protests by civic groups spread from Sucre to Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Tarija but, following the established cycle of conflict, the violence in Sucre has at least temporarily subsided. The issues raised by the clashes and the future of the new constitution will have a profound effect on future political developments, as opposing sectors have become even more firmly entrenched in their positions.

As in the January conflict in Cochabamba, the actions of the MAS government and those of Sucre leaders have exacerbated the situation. Both groups blame their political opponents for the violence and deaths, while neither has backed down or apologized. It is important to note, though, that the Bolivian military did not participate in efforts to control the protests, which could have led to a higher death toll. The police force has formally withdrawn from Sucre to Potosi after pro-Sucre protestors destroyed police vehicles and sacked police installations.

It is difficult to establish with precision the details of the conflict as the mainstream press has shown a bias in favor of pro-Sucre protestors and journalists have denounced physical abuse from police and threats from unidentified sources.

Suspended assembly reconvenes at military base

During the past three and a half months, attempts to reconvene the Constitutional Assembly in Sucre have been repeatedly thwarted by pro-Sucre protestors demanding the shift of the nation’s capital from La Paz to their city.1 Lowland departmental governments and other opposition groups support Sucre’s demand, apparently in an attempt to weaken the MAS power base. Beyond the political issues, moving the capital to the small, colonial city would be impractical and costly. The Sucre Civic Committee and a Pro-Sucre umbrella organization have repeatedly called for protests to put the capital issue on the assembly’s agenda and to prevent the assembly from meeting until it does so. The sometimes violent protests, which included beatings of some MAS assembly members, have made it impossible for the sessions to take place. The continual delays have increased pressure on MAS to comply with their campaign promise of a new constitution, as the December 14 deadline to finish proceedings quickly approaches.

Although the assembly planned to convene on November 9, pro-Sucre protestors burned tires and the door of the assembly headquarters the night before the scheduled meeting. The protestors also surrounded the building and detonated dynamite and firecrackers. The assembly leadership called off the meeting citing safety concerns.2 In response, pro-MAS social movements vowed to go to Sucre to defend the assembly and the new constitution. On November 14 protests prevented another attempt to reinstate assembly proceedings.

On Friday, November 23, MAS Assembly leadership transferred the proceedings to a military installation on the outskirts of Sucre from the centrally located theater the assembly has met in for the past fifteen months. The government declared the transfer legal and justified the move due to the lack of a guarantee of safety for assembly members. However, the change of location infuriated protestors and opposition groups and the conflict escalated.

MAS aggravates conflict by approving a preliminary constitution

While protests raged just outside the base and throughout the city of Sucre, 136 MAS and allied party assembly members present at the military base voted to approve a draft of the constitution. At the Saturday, November 24 meeting just 139 of the 255 assembly members attended the meeting representing ten of the sixteen assembly political parties. Opposition members refused to attend the assembly session.

The approved text incorporates articles previously consented to by committees as well as MAS (majority) versions of articles on contentious issues. Preliminary reports suggest that topics in the draft include: the four levels of autonomy proposed by MAS (departmental, indigenous, municipal, and regional), state ownership of natural resources, a unicameral legislature, basic services, such as water, as human rights to be administered by public entities, a multiethnic plurinational state, free healthcare and education, the right to private property, the condemnation of large landholdings, the possibility of consecutive reelection of the president and vice president, the creation of referendums to revoke the mandates of elected leaders, referendums to approve international accords, and the intensification of the decentralization process.

MAS political opponents and opposition civic groups immediately announced that they will not accept the new constitutional draft. The protests that began on Friday intensified and continued through Sunday night.

During the clashes four people died as a result of the protests. Although the National Police commander stated that no police officers used lethal weapons, news footage showed what appeared to be both plainclothes police officers and civilians with firearms.

  • Gonzalo Durán Carazani, a 29 year old lawyer and Sucre resident died of a bullet wound in the chest near dawn on Saturday, November 24. According to Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana, claims that the bullet that killed Duran was from a small caliber weapon, such as a .22, and was not fired by the security forces. Official autopsy reports have not been released.
  • Juan Carlos Serrudo, a 25 year old carpenter and Sucre resident died from the impact of a tear gas canister in his chest as protestors attempted to enter Traffic Police headquarters on Sunday, November 25.
  • Police announced that protestors lynched Officer Jimmy Quispe Colque on Saturday, November 24 and threw his body into a ravine. The denial of the incident by the head of the Sucre Civic Committee and the lack of a body has led to doubts of the lynching by the local media.
  • José Luis Cardozo, a 19 year old university student received a bullet wound to the head on Saturday and died the morning of Monday, November 26.
  • Media reports vary on the number of wounded though it appears to be between 100 and 200 and Sucre hospitals are at capacity.

Pro-Sucre protestors attack police installations

Protestors attacked the governor’s office, police installations, and the prison. At the jail, protestors burned police vehicles and freed over 100 prisoners, although alternate accounts suggest that the police liberated them, fearing that protestors would set fire to the building.3 As the attacks against the police worsened, National Police Commander Miguel Vasquez lamented that Sucre civic leaders did nothing to impede or dissuade their followers from attacks on police property. He further stated that the police had no political position and that since their safety could not be guaranteed, the police forces present would leave Sucre and remain in Potosi until further notice.

Journalists denounced that police insulted and hit them, complaining that they were not reporting the dead and wounded in the police force.

After the police withdrawal, the Sucre Civic Committee called for people to calmly return to their homes. Due to the lack of police presence and unstable peace in the city, protests may begin again and rapid investigations appear improbable.

Placing the blame

Both MAS supporters and the opposition continue to deny any responsibility for the conflict, and continue to rely on inflamed rhetoric to blame their opponents instead of proposing compromises or solutions. MAS representatives blamed “fascists” from the opposition for instigating the protests. In a speech on Sunday, November 25, President Morales requested a full investigation of the protests and lamented that the citizens of Sucre “have been totally manipulated by groups that do not want the profound changes the new constitution will bring.” He stated that the opposition had raised a series of issues in an attempt to close the assembly, including the 2/3 voting regulations, private property and the location of the capital. “But the capital issue is the worst, without a doubt, it’s a [legitimate] demand of two departments, and we respect that, but now they’ve turned it into purely political issue.”4

Government Minister Alfredo Rada blamed Sucre civic leaders, Jhon Cava and Jaime Barron for the deaths. Cava and Barron in turn demanded a trial of responsibilities for Rada, who they claimed was unwilling to negotiate and came to command the repression of the protestors.

In a statement to the press, opposition leader Jorge Quiroga dramatically asked that President Morales not follow the “bad example” of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He went on to reject the MAS-approved draft of the constitution stating that it “is worth as much as used toilet paper…A constitution approved in a barracks by MAS members…stained with the blood of the people has no value, it is worth as much as the decrees that (dictator) García Meza and Arce Gomez sent from the barracks.”5 Quiroga did not make reference to the dictatorship of Hugo Banzer, for whom he later served as Vice President.

The governmental and business leaders of six of Bolivia’s nine departments have called a work stoppage for Wednesday, November 28 to protest the constitution approved by MAS and blaming President Morales for the violence in Sucre. Santa Cruz business leader Branco Marinkovic stated, “We have nothing to do with the violence, the only one responsible is president Morales who sent the armed forces and police to repress his own people. He gave the order to kill and now wants to wash his hands like Pontius Pilot.”6

Mediating the conflict?

It is unclear what the role of national human rights monitors has been in documenting the violence. The Human Rights Ombudsman, who is attending a conference in South Africa, offered to mediate in the conflict. A request for dialogue and investigations from the ombudsman will most likely be rejected by pro-Sucre groups, who perceive him to be too closely allied with the national government.

The Catholic Bishops conference has also emitted a statement offering to mediate, stating, “We ask that the political, social and civic leaders provide guidance to their rank and file by overcoming their biases to work for the pacification and well-being of the nation.”7 Opposition leader Jorge Quiroga’s request for Church mediation will likely lead MAS supporters to reject their offer.

As in previous conflicts, anti-MAS forces have called for intervention from international organizations, hoping that they would chastise the Morales administration. Santa Cruz Prefect Ruben Costas called for United Nations or Organization of American States- led investigations and intervention in the conflict. According to the Bolivian Government Information Agency, a spokesperson for the UN confirmed that the organization would intervene only in response to a specific request from the Bolivian government. A UN press release requested that all sides abstain from violence and seek consensus.8 The Minister of the Presidency discounted OAS intervention as unnecessary. In short, there appears to be no organization or entity that all sides in the conflict trust sufficiently to mediate in the increasingly polarized conflict.

Protests delay assembly further

After the Saturday vote, the assembly president Silvia Lazarte said that the assembly would be on hold indefinitely until a special commission produces a proposal about contentious issues.9 According to assembly procedures, the next step is an article by article vote by the entire plenary. Then a revised draft must be approved by a 2/3 majority of the entire assembly. In a popular referendum, Bolivian citizens will vote between the majority and minority article proposals for any article that does not achieve a 2/3 approval. A second referendum will occur to approve the entire constitution. It’s unclear whether or not the assembly will stick to these procedures and its approved timeline is unclear. Referring to the approval process, Lazarte stated that, “all of this will be defined once I call a meeting of the assembly leadership.”10

What will happen in the coming weeks remains unclear. The steps taken by MAS to move the process forward and to approve the preliminary text of the constitution in absence of opposition may create greater difficulties and frictions. With the December 14 deadline fast approaching, it remains to be seen whether the opposition will reenter the process. If the opposition continues to boycott the process, the assembly cannot approve anything by 2/3, and thus every one of the 408 articles would have to be sent to the Bolivian public for approval. This would create almost insurmountable logistic difficulties in a referendum and could result in the further erosion of the legitimacy or the termination of the constitutional assembly.

The future of the constitutional process in Bolivia and a return to political stability in Bolivia depends on the ability of competing forces and interests groups to seek compromise. There is an acute need to enter into a genuine dialogue about how to peacefully coexist, instead of merely retreating to await future opportunities for conflict. Sadly, recent events suggest that this possibility is becoming increasingly distant.


1. For more on the ongoing conflict, please read:
AIN. "Bolivian Political Forces Negotiate Constitutional Deadlock." October 17, 2007. and
AIN. “Bolivian Conflict: September Stalemate in Sucre.” September 8, 2007.
2. Los Tiempos. “Fracasó un nuevo intento de reanudar sesiones de la Constituyente.” November 9, 2007.
3. By Monday afternoon, seventy of the hundred escaped prisoners had returned voluntarily.
4. Evo Morales. Palabras del presidente de la República, Evo Morales Ayma, en su mensaje a la nación.” La Paz. November 25, 2007.
5. La Razón. “La oposición y otros sectores denuncian avasallamiento del MAS” November 26, 2007.
6. Los Tiempos. “Opositores decretan paro cívico en rechazo a nueva constitución de Morales.” November 26, 2007.
7. ABI. “Iglesia y Defensor ofrecen mediación para pacificar Sucre y piden dejar la violencia.” November 25, 2007.
8. Xinhuanet.com . “UN Chief concerned about escalating violence in Bolivia.” November 27, 2007.
9. ABI. “Alarcón afirma que aprobación en grande de texto constitucional es legal.” November 25, 2007.
10. La Razon. “Evo Morales quiere refrendar la CPE del MAS en un referéndum.” November 26, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States

From the November 20, 2007 issue The Indypendent | Posted in National | Email this article

homegrown2

By Jessica Lee

Under the guise of a bill that calls for the study of “homegrown terrorism,” Congress is apparently trying to broaden the definition of terrorism to encompass both First Amendment political activity and traditional forms of protest such as nonviolent civil disobedience, according to civil liberties advocates, scholars and historians.

The proposed law, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1955), was passed by the House of Representative in a 404-6 vote Oct. 23. (The Senate is currently considering a companion bill, S. 1959.) The act would establish a “National Commission on the prevention of violent radicalization and ideologically based violence” and a university-based “Center for Excellence” to “examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence in the United States” in order to develop policy for “prevention, disruption and mitigation.”

Many observers fear that the proposed law will be used against U.S.-based groups engaged in legal but unpopular political activism, ranging from political Islamists to animal-rights and environmental campaigners to radical right-wing organizations. There is concern, too, that the bill will undermine academic integrity and is the latest salvo in a decade-long government grab for power at the expense of civil liberties.

David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martin’s University who studies government surveillance and harassment of dissident scholars, says the bill “is a shot over the bow of environmental activists, animal-rights activists, anti-globalization activists and scholars who are working in the Middle East who have views that go against the administration.” Price says some right-wing outfits such as gun clubs are also threatened because “[they] would be looked at with suspicion under the bill.”

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), which has been organizing against post-Sept. 11 legislative attacks on First Amendment rights, is critical of the bill. “When you first look at this bill, it might seem harmless because it is about the development of a commission to do a study,” explained Hope Marston, a regional organizer with BORDC.

“However, when you realize the focus of the study is ‘homegrown terrorism,’ it raises red flags,” Marston said. “When you consider that the government has wiretapped our phone calls and emails, spied on religious and political groups and has done extensive data mining of our daily records, it is worrisome of what might be done with the study. I am concerned that there appears to be an inclination to study religious and political groups to ultimately try to find subversion. This would violate our First Amendment rights to free speech and freedoms of religion and association.”

One pressing concern is definitions contained in the bill. For example, “violent radicalization” is defined as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.”

Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center, asks, “What is an extremist belief system? Who defines this? These are broad definitions that encompass so much. … It is criminalizing thought and ideology.”

For her part, Marston takes issue with the definition of homegrown terrorism. “It is about the ‘use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence to intimidate or coerce the government.’ This is often the language that refers to political activity.”

Congressional sponsors of the bill claim it is limited in scope.

“Though not a silver bullet, the legislation will help the nation develop a better understanding of the forces that lead to homegrown terrorism, and the steps we can take to stop it,” said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) Oct. 23, who co-authored the bill. “Free speech, espousing even very radical beliefs, is protected by our Constitution — but violent behavior is not.”

The bill’s purpose goes beyond academic inquiry, however. In a press release dated Nov. 6, Harman stated: “the National Commission [will] propose to both Congress and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff initiatives to intercede before radicalized individuals turn violent.” (Harman’s office refused three separate requests by The Indypendent for comment.)

Some assert this would allow law enforcement agencies to target radicals in general. Price says, “This bill is trying to bridge the gap between those with radical dissenting views and those who engage in violent acts. It’s a form of prior restraint.”

Price explains how this may work, citing an example in his home town of Olympia, Wash., where a peaceful blockade took place in early November at the Port of Olympia to prevent the shipment of war materials between the United States and Iraq. He says, “It will be these types of things that will start getting defined as terrorism, including Quakers and indigenous rights’ campaigns.”

Kamau Franklin, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), is also concerned at the targeting of peaceful protests. He says the “Commission’s broad mandate can lead to the ability to turn civil disobedience, a form of protest that is centuries old, into a terrorist act.” It’s possible, he says, “that someone who would have been charged with disorderly conduct or obstruction of governmental administration may soon be charged with a federal terrorist statute.”

“My biggest fear is that they [the commission] will call for some new criminal penalties and federal crimes,” says Franklin. “Activists are nervous about how the broad definitions could be used for criminalizing civil disobedience and squashing the momentum of the left.”

The bill provides a list of Congressional findings, including a failure to understand the development and promotion of “violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence,” which is argued to pose a threat to domestic security. The Internet was highlighted as a tool in “providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would cost $22 million over four years.

THE THREAT (OR LACK THEREOF)

Although the legislation is vague, a chief target appears to be Islamic militants living in the United States. Harman, in her Nov. 6 press release, says the bill is needed to combat violent radicalization and cites four cases as examples of such — all of them involving Muslim Americans allegedly engaged in terrorist activity. The bill’s language also states that proposed appointees to the National Commission should have “expertise and experience” in a long list of disciplines such as “world religions.” But the only religion named is Islam.

The bill appears to be influenced by the government-affiliated RAND Corporation, whose website includes a letter from Harman noting, “RAND … and I have worked closely for many years.” Harman, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment, introduced H.R. 1955 on April 19, 2007.

Two weeks prior to this, Brian Michael Jenkins of RAND delivered testimony on “Jihadist Radicalization and Recruitment” to Harman’s subcommittee. Jenkins claimed “radicalization and recruiting are taking place in the United States,” and listed a number of high-profile cases in which Muslim Americans have been arrested on terrorism-related charges.

In his testimony, Jenkins admitted convictions in these cases — in Lackawanna, N.Y., Northern Virginia, New York City, Portland, Ore., and elsewhere — relied on charges being “interpreted broadly” by the courts.

There has been significant criticism of how government officials have hyped many of these cases as mass terror attacks thwarted in the nick of time despite a lack of any actual plans or means to commit a violent act on the part of the defendants. It’s also been noted that in numerous instances the government employed informants who goaded the suspects into committing the illegal acts for which they were arrested.

In June, Jenkins was back before Harman’s subcommittee discussing the role of the National Commission. According to the Congressional Quarterly website, Jenkins said, “[Homegrown terrorism] is the principal threat that we face as a country and it will likely be the principal threat that we face for decades.” The website stated, “Unless a way of intervening in the radicalization process can be found, ‘we are condemned to stepping on cockroaches one at a time,’ he added.”

At the end of his second round of testimony, Jenkins undercut the claims that there is any real danger requiring the creation of the National Commission and Center for Excellence. He said, “Judging by the terrorist conspiracies uncovered since 9/11, violent radicalization has yielded very few recruits. Indeed, the level of terrorist activities in the United States was much higher in the 1970s that it is today.” (Repeated inquiries by The Indypendent to the RAND Corporation to interview Jenkins or other staff analysts were turned down by the media relations department, which claimed they were all unavailable for the rest of the year.)

This has the Arab-American community worried. “When you look at the creation of the Commission, it is scary, especially when people [on the national commission] will be appointed by the White House,” said Kareem Shora, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). He pointed to the recess appointment, despite widespread criticism, of Daniel Pipes to the U.S. Institute of Peace in 2003, who, Shora said, “propagated hate against Arabs.”

Shora is worried H.R. 1955 will unfairly target Muslims, even though he says they have been largely helpful in terrorist investigations since Sept. 11. Despite the assistance, he says civil rights abuses continue to occur, including “voluntary interviews,” the Absconder Apprehension Initiative and the Special Registration Program.

MAPPING MUSLIMS

The passage of the H.R. 1955 coincided with a furor over the Los Angeles Police Department’s plan to “map” Muslim communities in the city. Appearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security on Oct. 30, Michael Downing, the assistant commanding officer of LAPD’s Counter-terrorism/Criminal Intelligence Bureau, said the project “will lay out the geographic locations of the many different Muslim population groups around Los Angeles [and] take a deeper look at their history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown, socio-economic status and social interactions.”

Shora says, “Looking at a community based on religious affiliation alone … is unconstitutional. The ADC added in a press release that singling “out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and data collection based solely on religion … would violate equal protection and burden the free exercise of religion.”

Following the outcry, the LAPD announced Nov. 15 that it was dropping the mapping plan. Opposition came from many quarters, including scholars, because the LAPD envisioned using academics in the mapping program. It reportedly intended “to have the data assembled by the University of Southern California’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis.” Recruiting academics for counterterrorism efforts is also at the heart of H.R. 1955, which proposes a university-based Center of Excellence.

Roberto Gonzalez, an anthropologist who co-authored a recent article with David Price criticizing the Pentagon’s use of scholars in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, says the prospect of creating a Center “is a bad idea because it is likely to compromise the intellectual integrity of the academy.” H.R. 1955 advocates for the use of “cultural anthropologists,” which concerns Price that they would “be doing secretive work for the state.”

Chip Berlet, senior analyst at the Boston-based Political Research Associates, argues the government is trying to establish a Center to get around legal prohibitions on gathering data specifically based on race and religion. He explains that there is already extensive research being done on the roots of political violence by scores of academics around the country but many of their findings do not fit into the government’s agenda. To Berlet, the proposed Center is nothing more than “a slush fund for politically connected hacks.”

TARGET ‘ANTI-GLOBALISTS’

Islamic militants are not the only threat on the government’s radar.

“A chief problem is radical forms of Islam, but we’re not only studying radical Islam,” Harman told In These Times, a Chicago-based newsmagazine. “We’re studying the phenomenon of people with radical beliefs who turn into people who would use violence.”

In 2004, the FBI named “eco-terrorism,” a broad term that includes property destruction, the top domestic threat. The July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate found that “special interest groups” were also likely to cause small-scale violent attacks.

These “special interest groups” were outlined in a 2005 RAND report, “Trends in Terrorism.” One chapter was devoted to a non-Muslim “homegrown terrorist” threat — anti-globalists. “Anti-globalists directly challenge the intrinsic qualities of capitalism, charging that in the insatiable quest for growth and profit, the philosophy is serving to destroy the world’s ecology, indigenous cultures and individual welfare,” stated the report. The report identifies rightwing movements such as neo-Nazis as threats and states there should be a focus on anarchist and radical environmental groups, citing anarchists involved in civil disobedience during the 2004 National Republican Contention in New York City and millions of dollars in property damage by the Earth Liberation Front in the last decade.

A WAR OF WORDS — A LOOK AT VIOLENCE

Observers say using vaguely defined terms is part of a historical pattern of sweeping government repression that includes the post- World War II “Red Scare” and the FBI’s counter-intellegence program, nicknamed Cointelpro. They are also concerned that H.R. 1955 will foster a legislative momentum on criminalizing a broad range of dissident voices.

Jules Boykoff, an assistant professor of politics and government at Pacific University and author of Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States, said he was alarmed that “violence” was not defined. He noted the definition of “ideologically based violence” is the “means to use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.”

“It is a circular definition, what does that mean?” asked Boykoff, while reading the bill aloud. “What does violence mean? We do not need laws like this because we already have plenty of laws on the books that make it a crime to blow up or set fire to buildings. It is called arson.”

Boykoff commented that the bill used the terms “extremism” and “radicalism” interchangeably. “The word ‘radical’ shares the etymological root to the word ‘radish,’ which means to get to the root of the problem. So, if the government wants to get at the actual root of terrorism, then let’s really talk about it. We need to talk about the economic roots, the vast inequalities in wealth between the rich and poor.” Boykoff says historically the government has used “radical” as a way of dismissing groups as “extremists,” however, and uses the two words as synonyms.

Hope Marston of the BORDC is nervous about the definition of homegrown terrorism, which is “about the ‘use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence’ to intimidate or coerce the government.” She says, “The definition does not make clear what force is.”

Bron Taylor, a professor at University of Florida who studies radical religion and environmental movements, questioned the government’s interpretation of violence. He spent years as an ethnographic researcher exploring the propensity of individuals within the radical environmental movement to turn to violence, a word he says defines as harm to sentient beings, not property destruction.

“There are all sorts of things that activists do that involve little or no risk of hurting people, but their actions get labeled as violent, or even worse, as acts of terrorism,” Taylor said. “For example, if 10 activists push themselves into a congressperson’s regional office, make noise, pull out files and make a scene, is that an act of terrorism? It is quite possible that the act could scare the hell out of the secretary and office workers because they don’t know these people or what they intend to do? But is that terrorism? Some people would like to frame it that way.”

“In any political dispute, whoever succeeds in defining the terms is likely to prevail in the debate,” Taylor said. “That is why scholars and the media need to be scrupulous in the ways they use and define terms deployed by the partisans in these disputes. They should strive to come up with terms that are as descriptive, accurate and as neutral as possible.”

THE ROLE OF THE COMMISSION

The legislation authorizes a 10-member National Commission (the Senate bill calls for 12 members) appointed by the President, the secretary of homeland security, congressional leaders and the chairpersons of both the Senate and House committees on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

After convening, the Commission is to submit reports at six-month intervals for 18 months to the President and Congress, stating its findings, conclusions, and legislative recommendations “for immediate and long-term countermeasures … to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence.”

Kamau Franklin of CCR says he finds the timing of the legislation disturbing coming a year before the presidential elections and about eight months prior to the Democratic and Republication National Conventions — both which of have increasingly been the site of large-scale protests and civil disobedience.

More disturbing are the similarities to Cointelpro, which was investigated by a U.S. Senate select committee on intelligence activities (commonly known as the Church Committee), which convened in 1975. The Church Committee found that from 1956 to 1971, “the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”

Hope Marston says, “In the 1970s when we learned of the violation in rights that the government had been doing for 40 years, there was public outrage. Because these erosions of the Bill of Rights have happened during ‘the war on terror,’ we aren’t supposed to protest anything the government does because they are ‘protecting us.’ That feeling has made the government’s actions more dangerous.”

MONEY FOR COPS, REPRESSION FOR FREE

The Senate version of the bill finds that the domestic threats “cannot be easily prevented through traditional Federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts, and requires the incorporation of State and local solutions.”

“That’s about joint terrorism task force making,” Franklin said. “It’s a way to create a federal slush fund so local police departments can get their hands on it. This happened in the 1960s.”

Marston agreed. “This sounds like part of the same continuum we’ve experienced in the last seven years, which is the effort to deputize local law enforcement to work with the FBI and national agencies without local accountability, as we have seen with the establishment of joint-terrorism task forces across the country,” Marston said. “On 9/11, there were only a few joint-terrorism task forces, now there are more than 100 in existence. … When you talk about working with local law enforcement to possibly spy on groups and individuals to try to find the so-called ‘needle in the haystack,’ this definitely poses a threat to local autonomy.”

Although Cointelpro was partially dismantled in the 1970s and the FBI’s power to conduct domestic intelligence curbed, many safeguards have been overturned in the last 30 years, according to David Cole and Jim Dempsey, authors of Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security. Legislation such as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the 2001 USA Patriot Act “radically transformed the landscape of government power, and did so in ways that virtually guarantee repetition of some of law enforcement’s worst abuses of the past,” the authors wrote.

In the last few years, many states have passed versions of the Patriot Act, while Congress has placed further checks on civil liberties with the Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act (2006), the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (2006) and the Protect America Now Act (2007), which amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and legalized the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

THE BOGUS CENTER OF EXCELLENCE

H.R. 1955 gives Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff the power to establish a “Center of Excellence,” a university-based research program to “bring together leading experts and researchers to conduct multidisciplinary research and education for homeland security solutions.” The Department currently has eight Centers at academic institutions across the country, strengthening what many see as a growing military-security-academic complex.

Rep. Harman, in an Oct. 23 press release, stated that, the Center would “examine the social, criminal, political, psychological and economic roots of domestic terrorism.”

“I do not have a lot of concerns with this legislation,” said Jim Dempsey, policy director at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “Violent radicalization is an issue that deserves to be studied and understood. I am more comfortable with this bill’s approach, which is to treat the issue as a matter for broad study using largely open sources, than I would be with an approach that directed the FBI, DHS or the CIA to examine the issue,” Dempsey said. Dempsey was the assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights from 1985-1994, the former Deputy Director for the Center for National Security Studies and co-authored with David Cole, Terrorism and the Constitution.

“I do have some concern that the Commission and the Center will focus on Muslims and will contribute to a climate of apprehension,” Dempsey continued. “But I still think the bill is probably a good idea, if its concepts are in a true spirit of inquiry.”

Taylor agrees, but is leery that Washington politicians will hold power over commission and Center. “As an academic, I like the idea of creating Centers of Excellence in general because they bring together excellent scholars,” Taylor said. “But this is not something that the government should have a great deal of control over, because it is so ideologically charged. We’ve had plenty of examples of administrations, this one in particular, that likes to manipulate and downplay scientific findings that run at variance with their ideological and political objectives.”

“The bill itself, no matter how well drafted, does not guarantee a balanced outcome,” noted Dempsey. “To ensure balance, human rights activists will have to get involved in the work of the Commission and the Center.”

“If they really want to know why we have terrorism, they are going to need to explore counter-narratives,” explained Boykoff. “When the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, one narrative to explain the situation was that there is ‘an external enemy out there who hates America.’ Other narratives, such as that perhaps U.S. foreign policy might be fueling acrimonious feelings towards the U.S., were not considered. I am skeptical that the Center for Excellence would be open to these other narratives, but rather would be regurgitating the standard narrative.”

It is unclear how researchers would gather the information.

“If you are trying to understand in the broadest sense what turns people to violence in a variety of political causes, it is not something you can do easily, and it must be studied in a serious way,” said Taylor, who has began studying the radical environmental movement since 1989. “It is exceptionally hard to study these groups. They tend to be suspicious of new comers and outsiders, rightfully so. They aren’t fond of academic institutions or academics because they tend to view most of what goes on at institutions of higher education as being subservient to interests of global capital,” he said.

With his research experience, Taylor believes that it is absurd to think the Commission could produce a significant report in 18 months.

“To find out what makes people tick, you actually have to engage with them as a human being, and that is a long process that takes patience and trust building.”

Anthropologist Price is also worried. “My concern is that anthropologists would again be doing secretive work for the state. This bill is going to be interpreted so narrowly. It is calling for an ideological litmus test,” Price said. “The military believes there are ways to get around this questions legally, but ethically, it is a big deal. There are ethical codes of conduct in anthropology, sociology, psychology, in the social sciences in general, that they very basic precautions are taken.”

A LONG HISTORY OF DISSENT

For U.S. historian Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, H.R. 1955 can be added to a long list of government policies that have been passed to target dissent in the United States.

“This is the most recent of a long series of laws passed in times of foreign policy tensions, starting with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which sent people to jail for criticizing the Adams administration,” Zinn said in an email to The Indypendent. “During World War I, the Espionage Act and Sedition Act sent close to a thousand people to jail for speaking out against the war. On the eve of World War II, the Smith Act was passed, harmless enough title, but it enabled the jailing of radicals — first Trotskyists during the war and Communist party leaders after the war, for organizing literature, etc., interpreted as “conspiring to overthrow the government by force and violence.”

“In all cases, the environment was one in which the government was involved in a war or Cold War or near-war situation and wanted to suppress criticism of its policies,” Zinn said.

Regardless, Zinn remains optimistic. “We should keep in mind that an act of repression by the state is a recognition of the potential of social movements and therefore we need to persist, through the repression, in order to bring about social change,” Zinn said. “We can learn to expect the repression, and not to be intimidated.”

Hope Marston remains hopeful. “The work we have been doing at BORDC is mobilizing people in the grassroots across the political spectrum, she said. “It is not just a Leftist effort to protect the Bill of Rights. We have worked with libertarians and republicans. We have helped get 412 resolution passed on the state and local level against the erosion of the Bill of rights.”

Editors Note:

Shortly after this article went to press, the Los Angeles Police Department announced they scrapped their plan to “map the muslim community” after meeting behind closed doors with leaders in the Arab-American communities.

A.K. Gupta contributed research and interviews.

Illustration by Jennifer Lew

Monday, November 19, 2007

Uncle Mike

Here is a clip from Mike Gravel's alternative debate, sticking it to this corporate circus. I think Mike's comments are even better and more forthcoming now that his is being barred from the "debates". He is dyslexic and from a French Canadian background- probably some subconscious reasons for why I like him.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Coca Leaf USA?

Apparently it is possible to buy coca leaf tea online. All of these sites offer this green goodness to American customers, at a crazy marked up price. I guess that is ok considering the product is technically illegal as far as I understand.

Amazon.com
Boliviamail.com
Mysteriousbolivia.com
Boliviastores.com

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blogs Update

I've added new blog links to several well run sites concerning related Latin American, lefty, good'lo pinko politics.

Latin America’s Shock Resistance

by Naomi Klein
The Nation

In less than two years, the lease on the largest and most important US military base in Latin America will run out. The base is in Manta, Ecuador, and Rafael Correa, the country’s leftist president, has pronounced that he will renew the lease “on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami–an Ecuadorean base. If there is no problem having foreign soldiers on a country’s soil, surely they’ll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States.”

Since an Ecuadorean military outpost in South Beach is a long shot, it is very likely that the Manta base, which serves as a staging area for the “war on drugs,” will soon shut down. Correa’s defiant stand is not, as some have claimed, about anti-Americanism. Rather, it is part of a broad range of measures being taken by Latin American governments to make the continent less vulnerable to externally provoked crises and shocks.

This is a crucial development because for the past thirty-five years in Latin America, such shocks from outside have served to create the political conditions required to justify the imposition of “shock therapy”–the constellation of corporate-friendly “emergency” economic measures like large-scale privatizations and deep cuts to social spending that debilitate the state in the name of free markets. In one of his most influential essays, the late economist Milton Friedman articulated contemporary capitalism’s core tactical nostrum, what I call the shock doctrine. He observed that “only a crisis–actual or perceived–produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”

Latin America has always been the prime laboratory for this doctrine. Friedman first learned how to exploit a large-scale crisis in the mid-1970s, when he advised Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Not only were Chileans in a state of shock following Pinochet’s violent overthrow of Socialist President Salvador Allende; the country was also reeling from severe hyperinflation. Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy–tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation. It was the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted, and it became known as a Chicago School revolution, since so many of Pinochet’s top aides and ministers had studied under Friedman at the University of Chicago. A similar process was under way in Uruguay and Brazil, also with the help of University of Chicago graduates and professors, and a few years later, in Argentina. These economic shock therapy programs were facilitated by far less metaphorical shocks–performed in the region’s many torture cells, often by US-trained soldiers and police, and directed against those activists who were deemed most likely to stand in the way of the economic revolution.

In the 1980s and ’90s, as dictatorships gave way to fragile democracies, Latin America did not escape the shock doctrine. Instead, new shocks prepared the ground for another round of shock therapy–the “debt shock” of the early ’80s, followed by a wave of hyperinflation as well as sudden drops in the prices of commodities on which economies depended.

In Latin America today, however, new crises are being repelled and old shocks are wearing off–a combination of trends that is making the continent not only more resilient in the face of change but also a model for a future far more resistant to the shock doctrine.

When Milton Friedman died last year, the global quest for unfettered capitalism he helped launch in Chile three decades earlier found itself in disarray. The obituaries heaped praise on him, but many were imbued with a sense of fear that Friedman’s death marked the end of an era. In Canada’s National Post, Terence Corcoran, one of Friedman’s most devoted disciples, wondered whether the global movement the economist had inspired could carry on. “As the last great lion of free market economics, Friedman leaves a void…. There is no one alive today of equal stature. Will the principles Friedman fought for and articulated survive over the long term without a new generation of solid, charismatic and able intellectual leadership? Hard to say.”

It certainly seemed unlikely. Friedman’s intellectual heirs in the United States–the think-tank neocons who used the crisis of September 11 to launch a booming economy in privatized warfare and “homeland security”–were at the lowest point in their history. The movement’s political pinnacle had been the Republicans’ takeover of the US Congress in 1994; just nine days before Friedman’s death, they lost it again to a Democratic majority. The three key issues that contributed to the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm elections were political corruption, the mismanagement of the Iraq War and the perception, best articulated by Jim Webb, a winning Democratic candidate for the US Senate, that the country had drifted “toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the nineteenth century.”

Nowhere, however, was the economic project in deeper crisis than where it had started: Latin America. Washington has always regarded democratic socialism as a greater challenge than totalitarian Communism, which was easy to vilify and made for a handy enemy. In the 1960s and ’70s, the favored tactic for dealing with the inconvenient popularity of economic nationalism and democratic socialism was to try to equate them with Stalinism, deliberately blurring the clear differences between the worldviews. A stark example of this strategy comes from the early days of the Chicago crusade, deep inside the declassified Chile documents. Despite the CIA-funded propaganda campaign painting Allende as a Soviet-style dictator, Washington’s real concerns about the Allende victory were relayed by Henry Kissinger in a 1970 memo to Nixon: “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on–and even precedent value for–other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.” In other words, Allende needed to be taken out before his democratic third way spread.

But the dream Allende represented was never defeated. It was temporarily silenced, pushed under the surface by fear. Which is why, as Latin America now emerges from its decades of shock, the old ideas are bubbling back up–along with the “imitative spread” Kissinger so feared.

By 2001 the shift had become impossible to ignore. In the mid-’70s, Argentina’s legendary investigative journalist Rodolfo Walsh had regarded the ascendancy of Chicago School economics under junta rule as a setback, not a lasting defeat, for the left. The terror tactics used by the military had put his country into a state of shock, but Walsh knew that shock, by its very nature, is a temporary state. Before he was gunned down by Argentine security agents on the streets of Buenos Aires in 1977, Walsh estimated that it would take twenty to thirty years until the effects of the terror receded and Argentines regained their footing, courage and confidence, ready once again to fight for economic and social equality. It was in 2001, twenty-four years later, that Argentina erupted in protest against IMF-prescribed austerity measures and then proceeded to force out five presidents in only three weeks.

“The dictatorship just ended!” people declared at the time. They meant that it had taken seventeen years of democracy for the legacy of terror to fade–just as Walsh had predicted.

In the years since, that renewed courage has spread to other former shock labs in the region. And as people shed the collective fear that was first instilled with tanks and cattle prods, with sudden flights of capital and brutal cutbacks, many are demanding more democracy and more control over markets. These demands represent the greatest threat to Friedman’s legacy because they challenge his central claim: that capitalism and freedom are part of the same indivisible project.

The staunchest opponents of neoliberal economics in Latin America have been winning election after election. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, running on a platform of “Twenty-First-Century Socialism,” was re-elected in 2006 for a third term with 63 percent of the vote. Despite attempts by the Bush Administration to paint Venezuela as a pseudo-democracy, a poll that year found 57 percent of Venezuelans happy with the state of their democracy, an approval rating on the continent second only to Uruguay’s, where the left-wing coalition party Frente Amplio had been elected to government and where a series of referendums had blocked major privatizations. In other words, in the two Latin American states where voting had resulted in real challenges to the Washington Consensus, citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives.

Ever since the Argentine collapse in 2001, opposition to privatization has become the defining issue of the continent, able to make governments and break them; by late 2006, it was practically creating a domino effect. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was re-elected as president of Brazil largely because he turned the vote into a referendum on privatization. His opponent, from the party responsible for Brazil’s major sell-offs in the ’90s, resorted to dressing up like a socialist NASCAR driver, wearing a jacket and baseball hat covered in logos from the public companies that had not yet been sold. Voters weren’t persuaded, and Lula got 61 percent of the vote. Shortly afterward in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, former head of the Sandinistas, made the country’s frequent blackouts the center of his winning campaign; the sale of the national electricity company to the Spanish firm Unión Fenosa after Hurricane Mitch, he asserted, was the source of the problem. “Who brought Unión Fenosa to this country?” he bellowed. “The government of the rich did, those who are in the service of barbarian capitalism.”

In November 2006, Ecuador’s presidential elections turned into a similar ideological battleground. Rafael Correa, a 43-year-old left-wing economist, won the vote against Álvaro Noboa, a banana tycoon and one of the richest men in the country. With Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as his official campaign song, Correa called for the country “to overcome all the fallacies of neoliberalism.” When he won, the new president of Ecuador declared himself “no fan of Milton Friedman.” By then, Bolivian President Evo Morales was already approaching the end of his first year in office. After sending in the army to take back the gas fields from “plunder” by multinationals, he moved on to nationalize parts of the mining sector. That year in Chile, under the leadership of President Michelle Bachelet–who had been a prisoner under Pinochet–high school students staged a wave of militant protests against the two-tiered educational system introduced by the Chicago Boys. The country’s copper miners soon followed with strikes of their own.

In December 2006, a month after Friedman’s death, Latin America’s leaders gathered for a historic summit in Bolivia, held in the city of Cochabamba, where a popular uprising against water privatization had forced Bechtel out of the country several years earlier. Morales began the proceedings with a vow to close “the open veins of Latin America.” It was a reference to Eduardo Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, a lyrical accounting of the violent plunder that had turned a rich continent into a poor one. The book was published in 1971, two years before Allende was overthrown for daring to try to close those open veins by nationalizing his country’s copper mines. That event ushered in a new era of furious pillage, during which the structures built by the continent’s developmentalist movements were sacked, stripped and sold off.

Today Latin Americans are picking up the project that was so brutally interrupted all those years ago. Many of the policies cropping up are familiar: nationalization of key sectors of the economy, land reform, major investments in education, literacy and healthcare. These are not revolutionary ideas, but in their unapologetic vision of a government that helps reach for equality, they are certainly a rebuke to Friedman’s 1975 assertion in a letter to Pinochet that “the major error, in my opinion, was…to believe that it is possible to do good with other people’s money.”

Though clearly drawing on a long rebellious history, Latin America’s contemporary movements are not direct replicas of their predecessors. Of all the differences, the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for protection from the shocks that worked in the past–the coups, the foreign shock therapists, the US-trained torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency collapses. Latin America’s mass movements, which have powered the wave of election victories for left-wing candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers into their organizing models. They are, for example, less centralized than in the ’60s, making it harder to demobilize whole movements by eliminating a few leaders. Despite the overwhelming cult of personality surrounding Chávez, and his controversial moves to centralize power at the state level, the progressive networks in Venezuela are at the same time highly decentralized, with power dispersed at the grassroots and community levels, through thousands of neighborhood councils and co-ops. In Bolivia, the indigenous people’s movements that put Morales in office function similarly and have made it clear that Morales does not have their unconditional support: the barrios will back him as long as he stays true to his democratic mandate, and not a moment longer. This kind of network approach is what allowed Chávez to survive the 2002 coup attempt: when their revolution was threatened, his supporters poured down from the shantytowns surrounding Caracas to demand his reinstatement, a kind of popular mobilization that did not happen during the coups of the ’70s.

Latin America’s new leaders are also taking bold measures to block any future US-backed coups that could attempt to undermine their democratic victories. Chávez has let it be known that if an extremist right-wing element in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province makes good on its threats against Morales’s government, Venezuelan troops will help defend Bolivia’s democracy. Meanwhile, the governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia have all announced that they will no longer send students to the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation)–the infamous police and military training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many of the continent’s notorious killers learned the latest in “counterterrorism” techniques, then promptly directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina. Ecuador, in addition to closing the US military base, also looks set to cut its ties with the school. It’s hard to overstate the importance of these developments. If the US military loses its bases and training programs, its power to inflict shocks on the continent will be greatly eroded.

The new leaders in Latin America are also becoming better prepared for the kinds of shocks produced by volatile markets. One of the most destabilizing forces of recent decades has been the speed with which capital can pick up and move, or how a sudden drop in commodity prices can devastate an entire agricultural sector. But in much of Latin America these shocks have already happened, leaving behind ghostly industrial suburbs and huge stretches of fallow farmland. The task of the region’s new left, therefore, has become a matter of taking the detritus of globalization and putting it back to work. In Brazil, the phenomenon is best seen in the million and a half farmers of the Landless Peoples Movement (MST), who have formed hundreds of cooperatives to reclaim unused land. In Argentina, it is clearest in the movement of “recovered companies,” 200 bankrupt businesses that have been resuscitated by their workers, who have turned them into democratically run cooperatives. For the cooperatives, there is no fear of facing an economic shock of investors leaving, because the investors have already left.

Chávez has made the cooperatives in Venezuela a top political priority, giving them first refusal on government contracts and offering them economic incentives to trade with one another. By 2006 there were roughly 100,000 cooperatives in the country, employing more than 700,000 workers. Many are pieces of state infrastructure–toll booths, highway maintenance, health clinics–handed over to the communities to run. It’s a reverse of the logic of government outsourcing: rather than auctioning off pieces of the state to large corporations and losing democratic control, the people who use the resources are given the power to manage them, creating, at least in theory, both jobs and more responsive public services. Chávez’s many critics have derided these initiatives as handouts and unfair subsidies, of course. Yet in an era when Halliburton treats the US government as its personal ATM for six years, withdraws upward of $20 billion in Iraq contracts alone, refuses to hire local workers either on the Gulf Coast or in Iraq, then expresses its gratitude to US taxpayers by moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai (with all the attendant tax and legal benefits), Chávez’s direct subsidies to regular people look significantly less radical.

Latin America’s most significant protection from future shocks (and therefore from the shock doctrine) flows from the continent’s emerging independence from Washington’s financial institutions, the result of greater integration among regional governments. The Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is the continent’s retort to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the now-buried corporatist dream of a free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Though ALBA is still in its early stages, Emir Sader, a Brazil-based sociologist, describes its promise as “a perfect example of genuinely fair trade: each country provides what it is best placed to produce, in return for what it most needs, independent of global market prices.” So Bolivia provides gas at stable discounted prices; Venezuela offers heavily subsidized oil to poorer countries and shares expertise in developing reserves; and Cuba sends thousands of doctors to deliver free healthcare all over the continent, while training students from other countries at its medical schools.

This is a very different model from the kind of academic exchange that began at the University of Chicago in the mid-’50s, when hundreds of Latin American students learned a single rigid ideology and were sent home to impose it with uniformity across the continent. The major benefit is that ALBA is essentially a barter system in which countries decide for themselves what any given commodity or service is worth rather than letting traders in New York, Chicago or London set the prices for them. That makes trade less vulnerable to the kind of sudden price fluctuations that have hurt Latin American economies before. Surrounded by turbulent financial waters, Latin America is creating a zone of relative economic calm and predictability, a feat presumed impossible in the globalization era.

When one country does face a financial shortfall, this increased integration means that it does not necessarily need to turn to the IMF or the US Treasury for a bailout. That’s fortunate because the 2006 US National Security Strategy makes it clear that for Washington, the shock doctrine is still very much alive: “If crises occur, the IMF’s response must reinforce each country’s responsibility for its own economic choices,” the document states. “A refocused IMF will strengthen market institutions and market discipline over financial decisions.” This kind of “market discipline” can only be enforced if governments actually go to Washington for help. As former IMF deputy managing director Stanley Fischer explained during the Asian financial crisis, the lender can help only if it is asked, “but when [a country is] out of money, it hasn’t got many places to turn.” That is no longer the case. Thanks to high oil prices, Venezuela has emerged as a major lender to other developing countries, allowing them to do an end run around Washington. Even more significant, this December will mark the launch of a regional alternative to the Washington financial institutions, a “Bank of the South” that will make loans to member countries and promote economic integration among them.

Now that they can turn elsewhere for help, governments throughout the region are shunning the IMF, with dramatic consequences. Brazil, so long shackled to Washington by its enormous debt, is refusing to enter into a new agreement with the fund. Venezuela is considering withdrawing from the IMF and the World Bank, and even Argentina, Washington’s former “model pupil,” has been part of the trend. In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Néstor Kirchner (since succeeded by his wife, Christina) said that the country’s foreign creditors had told him, “‘You must have an agreement with the International Fund to be able to pay the debt.’ We say to them, ‘Sirs, we are sovereign. We want to pay the debt, but no way in hell are we going to make an agreement again with the IMF.’” As a result, the IMF, supremely powerful in the 1980s and ’90s, is no longer a force on the continent. In 2005 Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio; the continent now represents just 1 percent–a sea change in only two years.

The transformation reaches beyond Latin America. In just three years, the IMF’s worldwide lending portfolio had shrunk from $81 billion to $11.8 billion, with almost all of that going to Turkey. The IMF, a pariah in countries where it has treated crises as profit-making opportunities, is withering away.

The World Bank faces an equally precarious future. In April Correa revealed that he had suspended all loans from the Bank and declared the institution’s representative in Ecuador persona non grata–an extraordinary step. Two years earlier, Correa explained, the World Bank had used a $100 million loan to defeat economic legislation that would have redistributed oil revenues to the country’s poor. “Ecuador is a sovereign country, and we will not stand for extortion from this international bureaucracy,” he said. Meanwhile, Evo Morales announced that Bolivia would quit the World Bank’s arbitration court, the body that allows multinational corporations to sue national governments for measures that cost them profits. “The governments of Latin America, and I think the world, never win the cases. The multinationals always win,” Morales said.

When Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign as president of the World Bank in May, it was clear that the institution needed to take desperate measures to rescue itself from its profound crisis of credibility. In the midst of the Wolfowitz affair, the Financial Times reported that when World Bank managers dispensed advice in the developing world, “they were now laughed at.” Add the collapse of the World Trade Organization talks in 2006 (prompting declarations that “globalization is dead”), and it appears that the three main institutions responsible for imposing the Chicago School ideology under the guise of economic inevitability are at risk of extinction.

It stands to reason that the revolt against neoliberalism would be in its most advanced stage in Latin America. As inhabitants of the first shock lab, Latin Americans have had the most time to recover their bearings, to understand how shock politics work. This understanding is crucial for a new politics adapted to our shocking times. Any strategy based on exploiting the window of opportunity opened by a traumatic shock– the central tenet of the shock doctrine–relies heavily on the element of surprise. A state of shock is, by definition, a moment when there is a gap between fast-moving events and the information that exists to explain them. Yet as soon as we have a new narrative that offers a perspective on the shocking events, we become reoriented and the world begins to make sense again.

Once the mechanics of the shock doctrine are deeply and collectively understood, whole communities become harder to take by surprise, more difficult to confuse–shock-resistant.

Naomi Klein is the author of many books, including her most recent, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Visit Naomi’s website at nologo.org.