Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala’

Österreich: Let’s ban the bombs!

Donnerstag, Dezember 11th, 2014

“Austria pledges to work for a ban on nuclear weapons

Austria pledges to work for a ban on nuclear weapons
Humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons must initiate treaty process in 2015

December 9, 2014

After 44 states called for a prohibition on nuclear weapons at a conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, Austria delivered the “Austrian pledge” in which it committed to work to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and pledged “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal”.

“All states committed to nuclear disarmament must join the Austrian pledge to work towards a treaty to ban nuclear weapons”, said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

“Next year is the 70 year anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that will be a fitting time for negotiations to start on a treaty banning nuclear weapons”, Fihn added.

States that expressed support for a ban treaty at the Vienna Conference include: Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Holy See, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

These announcements were given at a two-day international conference convened in Vienna to examine the consequences of nuclear weapon use, whether intentional or accidental.

Survivors of the nuclear bombings in Japan and of nuclear testing in Australia, Kazakhstan, the Marshall Islands, and the United States, gave powerful testimonies of the horrific effects of nuclear weapons. Their evidence complemented other presentations presenting data and research.

“The consequences of any nuclear weapon use would be devastating, long-lasting, and unacceptable. Governments simply cannot listen to this evidence and hear these human stories without acting”, said Akira Kawasaki, from Japanese NGO Peaceboat. “The only solution is to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and we need to start now,” Kawasaki added.

For decades, discussions on nuclear weapons have been dominated by the few nuclear-armed states – states that continue to stockpile and maintain over 16,000 warheads. The humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons has prompted a fundamental change in this conversation, with non-nuclear armed states leading the way in a discussion on the actual effects of the weapons.

Unlike the other weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological – nuclear weapons are not yet prohibited by an international legal treaty. Discussions in Vienna illustrated that the international community is determined to address this. In a statement to the conference, Pope Francis called for nuclear weapons to be “banned once and for all”.

The host of the previous conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Mexico, called for the commencement of a diplomatic process, and South Africa said it was considering its role in future meetings.

“Anyone in Vienna can tell that something new is happening on nuclear weapons. We have had three conferences examining their humanitarian impact, and now with the Austrian pledge we have everything we need for a diplomatic process to start”, said Thomas Nash of UK NGO Article 36.”

 

(Quelle: ICAN.)

Guatemala: Sympathy for the devil

Donnerstag, April 18th, 2013

“Tales of Reagan’s Guatemala Genocide

April 16, 2013

Exclusive: Guatemala is finally putting ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt on trial for genocide in the extermination of hundreds of Mayan villages in the 1980s, but Ronald Reagan remains an American icon despite new evidence of his complicity in this historic crime, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The first month of the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt has elicited chilling testimony from Mayan survivors who – as children – watched their families slaughtered by a right-wing military that was supported and supplied by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

As the New York Times reportedon Monday, “In the tortured logic of military planning documents conceived under Mr. Ríos Montt’s 17-month rule during 1982 and 1983, the entire Mayan Ixil population was a military target, children included. Officers wrote that the leftist guerrillas fighting the government had succeeded in indoctrinating the impoverished Ixils and reached ‘100 percent support.’”

President Ronald Reagan meeting with Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt.

So, everyone was targeted in these scorched-earth campaigns that eradicated more than 600 Indian villages in the Guatemalan highlands. But this genocide was not simply the result of a twisted anticommunist ideology that dominated the Guatemalan military and political elites. This genocide also was endorsed by the Reagan administration.

A document that I discovered recently in the archives of the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, revealed that Reagan and his national security team in 1981 agreed to supply military aid to the brutal right-wing regime in Guatemala to pursue the goal of exterminating not only “Marxist guerrillas” but people associated with their “civilian support mechanisms.”

This supportive attitude toward the Guatemalan regime’s brutality took shape in spring 1981 as President Reagan sought to ease human-rights restrictions on military aid to Guatemala that had been imposed by President Jimmy Carter and the Democratic-controlled Congress in the late 1970s.

As part of that relaxation effort, Reagan’s State Department “advised our Central American embassies that it has been studying ways to restore a closer, cooperative relationship with Guatemala,” according to a White House “Situation Room Checklist” dated April 8, 1981. The document added:

“State believes a number of changes have occurred which could make Guatemalan leaders more receptive to a new U.S. initiative: the Guatemalans view the new administration as more sympathetic to their problems [and] they are less suspect of the U.S. role in El Salvador,” where the Reagan administration was expanding support for another right-wing regime infamous for slaughtering its political opponents, including Catholic clergy.

“State has concluded that any attempt to reestablish a dialogue [with Guatemala] would require some initial, condition-free demonstration of our goodwill. However, this could not include military sales which would provoke serious U.S. public and congressional criticism. State will undertake a series of confidence building measures, free of preconditions, which minimize potential conflict with existing legislation.”

The “checklist” added that the State Department “has also decided that the administration should engage the Guatemalan government at the highest level in a dialogue on our bilateral relations and the initiatives we can take together to improve them. Secretary [of State Alexander] Haig has designated [retired] General Vernon Walters as his personal emissary to initiate this process with President [Fernando Romeo] Lucas [Garcia].

“If Lucas is prepared to give assurances that he will take steps to halt government involvement in the indiscriminate killing of political opponents and to foster a climate conducive to a viable electoral process, the U.S. will be prepared to approve some military sales immediately.”

But the operative word in that paragraph was “indiscriminate.” The Reagan administration expressed no problem with killing civilians if they were considered supporters of the guerrillas who had been fighting against the country’s ruling oligarchs and generals since the 1950s when the CIA organized the overthrow of Guatemala’s reformist President Jacobo Arbenz.

Sympathy for the Generals

The distinction was spelled out in “Talking Points” for Walters to deliver in a face-to-face meeting with General Lucas. As edited inside the White House in April 1981, the “Talking Points” read: “The President and Secretary Haig have designated me [Walters] as [their] personal emissary to discuss bilateral relations on an urgent basis.

“Both the President and the Secretary recognize that your country is engaged in a war with Marxist guerrillas. We are deeply concerned about externally supported Marxist subversion in Guatemala and other countries in the region. As you are aware, we have already taken steps to assist Honduras and El Salvador resist this aggression.

“The Secretary has sent me here to see if we can work out a way to provide material assistance to your government. … We have minimized negative public statements by US officials on the situation in Guatemala. … We have arranged for the Commerce Department to take steps that will permit the sale of $3 million worth of military trucks and Jeeps to the Guatemalan army. …

“With your concurrence, we propose to provide you and any officers you might designate an intelligence briefing on regional developments from our perspective. Our desire, however, is to go substantially beyond the steps I have just outlined. We wish to reestablish our traditional military supply and training relationship as soon as possible.

“As we are both aware, this has not yet been feasible because of our internal political and legal constraints relating to the use by some elements of your security forces of deliberate and indiscriminate killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanisms. I am not referring here to the regrettable but inevitable death of innocents though error in combat situations, but to what appears to us a calculated use of terror to immobilize non politicized people or potential opponents. …

“If you could give me your assurance that you will take steps to halt official involvement in the killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanism … we would be in a much stronger position to defend successfully with the Congress a decision to begin to resume our military supply relationship with your government.”

In other words, though the “talking points” were framed as an appeal to reduce the “indiscriminate” slaughter of “non politicized people,” they amounted to an acceptance of scorched-earth tactics against people involved with the guerrillas and “their civilian support mechanisms.” The way that played out in Guatemala – as in nearby El Salvador – was the massacring of peasants in regions considered sympathetic to leftist insurgents.

The newly discovered documents – and other records declassified in the late 1990s – make clear that Reagan and his administration were well aware of the butchery underway in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America.

According to one “secret” cable also from April 1981 — and declassified in the 1990s — the CIA was confirming Guatemalan government massacres even as Reagan was moving to loosen the military aid ban. On April 17, 1981, a CIA cable described an army massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory, because the population was believed to support leftist guerrillas.

A CIA source reported that “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.” The CIA cable added that “the Guatemalan authorities admitted that ‘many civilians’ were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants.” [Many of the Guatemalan documents declassified in the 1990s can be found at the National Security Archive’s Web site.]

Dispatching Walters

In May 1981, despite the ongoing atrocities, Reagan dispatched Walters to tell the Guatemalan leaders that the new U.S. administration wanted to lift the human rights embargoes on military equipment that Carter and Congress had imposed.

The “Talking Points” also put the Reagan administration in line with the fiercely anticommunist regimes elsewhere in Latin America, where right-wing “death squads” operated with impunity liquidating not only armed guerrillas but civilians who were judged sympathetic to left-wing causes like demanding greater economic equality and social justice.

Despite his aw shucks style, Reagan found virtually every anticommunist action justified, no matter how brutal. From his eight years in the White House, there is no historical indication that he was morally troubled by the bloodbath and even genocide that occurred in Central America while he was shipping hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the implicated forces.

The death toll was staggering — an estimated 70,000 or more political killings in El Salvador, possibly 20,000 slain from the Contra war in Nicaragua, about 200 political “disappearances” in Honduras and some 100,000 people eliminated during a resurgence of political violence in Guatemala. The one consistent element in these slaughters was the overarching Cold War rationalization, emanating in large part from Ronald Reagan’s White House.

Despite their claims to the contrary, the evidence is now overwhelming that Reagan and his advisers knew the extraordinary brutality going on in Guatemala and elsewhere, based on their own internal documents.

According to a State Department cable on Oct. 5, 1981, when Guatemalan leaders met again with Walters, they left no doubt about their plans. The cable said Gen. Lucas “made clear that his government will continue as before — that the repression will continue. He reiterated his belief that the repression is working and that the guerrilla threat will be successfully routed.”

Human rights groups saw the same picture. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission released a report on Oct. 15, 1981, blaming the Guatemalan government for “thousands of illegal executions.” [Washington Post, Oct. 16, 1981]

But the Reagan administration was set on whitewashing the ugly scene. A State Department “white paper,” released in December 1981, blamed the violence on leftist “extremist groups” and their “terrorist methods” prompted and supported by Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

What the documents from the Reagan Library make clear is that the administration was not simply struggling ineffectively to rein in these massacres – as the U.S. press corps typically reported – but was fully onboard with the slaughter of people who were part of the guerrillas’ “civilian support mechanisms.”

U.S. intelligence agencies continued to pick up evidence of these government-sponsored massacres. One CIA report in February 1982 described an army sweep through the so-called Ixil Triangle in central El Quiche province.

“The commanding officers of the units involved have been instructed to destroy all towns and villages which are cooperating with the Guerrilla Army of the Poor [the EGP] and eliminate all sources of resistance,” the report said. “Since the operation began, several villages have been burned to the ground, and a large number of guerrillas and collaborators have been killed.”

The CIA report explained the army’s modus operandi: “When an army patrol meets resistance and takes fire from a town or village, it is assumed that the entire town is hostile and it is subsequently destroyed.” When the army encountered an empty village, it was “assumed to have been supporting the EGP, and it is destroyed. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of refugees in the hills with no homes to return to. …

“The army high command is highly pleased with the initial results of the sweep operation, and believes that it will be successful in destroying the major EGP support area and will be able to drive the EGP out of the Ixil Triangle. … The well documented belief by the army that the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP has created a situation in which the army can be expected to give no quarter to combatants and non-combatants alike.”

On Feb. 2, 1982, Richard Childress, one of Reagan’s national security aides, wrote a “secret” memo to his colleagues summing up this reality on the ground:

“As we move ahead on our approach to Latin America, we need to consciously address the unique problems posed by Guatemala. Possessed of some of the worst human rights records in the region, … it presents a policy dilemma for us. The abysmal human rights record makes it, in its present form, unworthy of USG [U.S. government] support. …

“Beset by a continuous insurgency for at least 15 years, the current leadership is completely committed to a ruthless and unyielding program of suppression. Hardly a soldier could be found that has not killed a ‘guerrilla.’”

The Rise of Rios Montt

However, Reagan remained committed to supplying military hardware to Guatemala’s brutal regime. So, the administration welcomed Gen. Efrain Rios Montt’s March 1982 overthrow of the thoroughly bloodstained Gen. Lucas.

An avowed fundamentalist Christian, Rios Montt impressed Official Washington where the Reagan administration immediately revved up its propaganda machinery to hype the new dictator’s “born-again” status as proof of his deep respect for human life. Reagan hailed Rios Montt as “a man of great personal integrity.”

By July 1982, however, Rios Montt had begun a new scorched-earth campaign called his “rifles and beans” policy. The slogan meant that pacified Indians would get “beans,” while all others could expect to be the target of army “rifles.” In October, Rios Montt secretly gave carte blanche to the feared “Archivos” intelligence unit to expand “death squad” operations in the cities. Based at the Presidential Palace, the “Archivos” masterminded many of Guatemala’s most notorious assassinations.

The U.S. embassy was soon hearing more accounts of the army conducting Indian massacres, but ideologically driven U.S. diplomats fed the Reagan administration the propaganda spin that would be best for their careers. On Oct. 22, 1982, embassy staff dismissed the massacre reports as communist-inspired “disinformation campaign,” concluding that “that a concerted disinformation campaign is being waged in the U.S. against the Guatemalan government by groups supporting the communist insurgency in Guatemala.”

Reagan personally joined this P.R. campaign seeking to discredit human rights investigators and others who were reporting accurately about massacres that the administration knew, all too well, were true.

On Dec. 4, 1982, after meeting with Rios Montt, Reagan hailed the general as “totally dedicated to democracy” and added that Rios Montt’s government had been “getting a bum rap” on human rights. Reagan discounted the mounting reports of hundreds of Maya villages being eradicated.

In February 1983, however, a secret CIA cable noted a rise in “suspect right-wing violence” with kidnappings of students and teachers. Bodies of victims were appearing in ditches and gullies. CIA sources traced these political murders to Rios Montt’s order to the “Archivos” in October to “apprehend, hold, interrogate and dispose of suspected guerrillas as they saw fit.”

Despite these grisly facts on the ground, the annual State Department human rights survey praised the supposedly improved human rights situation in Guatemala. “The overall conduct of the armed forces had improved by late in the year” 1982, the report stated.

A different picture — far closer to the secret information held by the U.S. government — was coming from independent human rights investigators. On March 17, 1983, Americas Watch condemned the Guatemalan army for human rights atrocities against the Indian population.

New York attorney Stephen L. Kass said these findings included proof that the government carried out “virtually indiscriminate murder of men, women and children of any farm regarded by the army as possibly supportive of guerrilla insurgents.”

Rural women suspected of guerrilla sympathies were raped before execution, Kass said, adding that children were “thrown into burning homes. They are thrown in the air and speared with bayonets. We heard many, many stories of children being picked up by the ankles and swung against poles so their heads are destroyed.” [AP, March 17, 1983]

Putting on a Happy Face

Publicly, senior Reagan officials continued to put on a happy face. In June 1983, special envoy Richard B. Stone praised “positive changes” in Rios Montt’s government, and Rios Montt pressed the United States for 10 UH-1H helicopters and six naval patrol boats, all the better to hunt guerrillas and their sympathizers.

Since Guatemala lacked the U.S. Foreign Military Sales credits or the cash to buy the helicopters, Reagan’s national security team looked for unconventional ways to arrange the delivery of the equipment that would give the Guatemalan army greater access to mountainous areas where guerrillas and their civilian supporters were hiding.

On Aug. 1, 1983, National Security Council aides Oliver North and Alfonso Sapia-Bosch reported to National Security Advisor William P. Clark that his deputy Robert “Bud” McFarlane was planning to exploit his Israeli channels to secure the helicopters for Guatemala. [For more on McFarlanes’s Israeli channels, see Consortiumnews.com’s “How Neocons Messed Up the Mideast.”]

“With regard to the loan of ten helicopters, it is [our] understanding that Bud will take this up with the Israelis,” wrote North and Sapia-Bosch. “There are expectations that they would be forthcoming. Another possibility is to have an exercise with the Guatemalans. We would then use US mechanics and Guatemalan parts to bring their helicopters up to snuff.”

However, more political changes were afoot in Guatemala. Rios Montt’s vengeful Christian fundamentalism had hurtled so out of control, even by Guatemalan standards, that Gen. Oscar Mejia Victores seized power in another coup on Aug. 8, 1983.

Despite the power shift, Guatemalan security forces continued to murder with impunity, finally going so far that even the U.S. Embassy objected. When three Guatemalans working for the U.S. Agency for International Development were slain in November 1983, U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin suspected that “Archivos” hit squads were sending a message to the United States to back off even mild pressure for human rights.

In late November, in a brief show of displeasure, the administration postponed the sale of $2 million in helicopter spare parts. The next month, however, Reagan sent the spare parts anyway. In 1984, Reagan succeeded, too, in pressuring Congress to approve $300,000 in military training for the Guatemalan army.

By mid-1984, Chapin, who had grown bitter about the army’s stubborn brutality, was gone, replaced by a far-right political appointee named Alberto Piedra, who favored increased military assistance to Guatemala. In January 1985, Americas Watch issued a report observing that Reagan’s State Department “is apparently more concerned with improving Guatemala’s image than in improving its human rights.”

It was not until 1999, a decade after Ronald Reagan left office, that the shocking scope of the atrocities in Guatemala was publicly revealed by a truth commission that drew heavily on U.S. government documents that President Bill Clinton had ordered declassified.

On Feb. 25, 1999, the Historical Clarification Commission estimated that the 34-year civil war had claimed the lives of some 200,000 people with the most savage bloodletting occurring in the 1980s. The panel estimated that the army was responsible for 93 percent of the killings and leftist guerrillas for three percent. Four percent were listed as unresolved.

The report documented that in the 1980s, the army committed 626 massacres against Mayan villages. “The massacres that eliminated entire Mayan villages … are neither perfidious allegations nor figments of the imagination, but an authentic chapter in Guatemala’s history,” the commission concluded.

The army “completely exterminated Mayan communities, destroyed their livestock and crops,” the report said. In the northern highlands, the report termed the slaughter “genocide.” [Washington Post, Feb. 26, 1999]

Besides carrying out murder and “disappearances,” the army routinely engaged in torture and rape. “The rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice” by the military and paramilitary forces, the report found.

The report added that the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some [of these] state operations.” The report concluded that the U.S. government also gave money and training to a Guatemalan military that committed “acts of genocide” against the Mayans. [NYT, Feb. 26, 1999]

During a visit to Central America, on March 10, 1999, President Clinton apologized for the past U.S. support of right-wing regimes in Guatemala dating back to 1954. “For the United States, it is important that I state clearly that support for military forces and intelligence units which engaged in violence and widespread repression was wrong, and the United States must not repeat that mistake,” Clinton said. [Washington Post, March 11, 1999]

Impunity for Reagan’s Team

However, back in Washington, there was no interest in holding anyone accountable for aiding and abetting genocide. The story of the Guatemalan butchery and the Reagan administration’s complicity quickly disappeared into the great American memory hole.

For human rights crimes in the Balkans and in Africa, the United States has demanded international tribunals to arrest and to try violators and their political patrons for war crimes. In Iraq, President George W. Bush celebrated the trial and execution of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for politically motivated killings.

Even Rios Montt, now 86, after years of evading justice under various amnesties, was finally indicted in Guatemala in 2012 for genocide and crimes against humanity. The first month of his trial has added eyewitness testimony to the atrocities that the Guatemalan military inflicted and that Ronald Reagan assisted and covered up.

On Monday, the New York Times reported on some of this painful testimony, but – as is almost always the case – the Times did not mention the role of Reagan and his administration. However, what the Times did include was chilling, including accounts from witnesses who as children fled to mountain forests to escape the massacres:

“Pedro Chávez Brito told the court that he was only six or seven years old when soldiers killed his mother. He hid in the chicken coop with his older sister, her newborn and his younger brother, but soldiers found them and dragged them out, forcing them back into their house and setting it on fire.

“Mr. Chávez says he was the only one to escape. ‘I got under a tree trunk and I was like an animal,’ Mr. Chávez told the court. ‘After eight days I went to live in the mountains. In the mountain we ate only roots and grass.’”

Lawyers for Rios Montt and his co-defendant, former intelligence chief José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, have maintained that the pair did not order the killings, which they instead blamed on over-zealous field commanders.

However, the Times reported that “prosecution witnesses said the military considered Ixil civilians, including children, as legitimate targets. ‘The army’s objective with the children was to eliminate the seed for future guerrillas,’ Marco Tulio Alvarez, the former director of Guatemala’s Peace Archives, testified last week. ‘They used them to get information and to draw their parents to military centers where they arrested them.’

“In a study of 420 bodies exhumed from the Ixil region and presumed to date from the Ríos Montt period, experts found that almost 36 percent of those who were killed were under 18 years old, including some newborns.

“Jacinto Lupamac Gómez said he was eight when soldiers killed his parents and older siblings and hustled him and his two younger brothers into a helicopter. Like some of the children whose lives were spared, they were adopted by Spanish-speaking families and forgot how to speak Ixil.”

Though some belated justice may still be possible in Guatemala, there is no talk in the United States about seeking any accountability from the Reagan administration officials who arranged military assistance to this modern genocide or who helped conceal the atrocities while they were underway.

There has been no attention given by the mainstream U.S. news media to the new documents revealing how the Reagan administration gave a green light to the slaughter of Guatemalans who were considered part of the “civilian support mechanisms” for the Mayan guerrillas resisting the right-wing repression.

Ronald Reagan, the U.S. official most culpable for aiding and abetting the Guatemalan genocide, remains a hero to much of America with his name attached to Washington’s National Airport and scores of other government facilities. U.S. officials and many Americans apparently don’t want to disrupt their happy memories of the Gipper.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).”

 

(Quelle: Consortiumnews.com)

Siehe auch:

How Ronald Reagan Made Genocide Possible in Guatemala

Guatemala: Warten auf Gerechtigkeit

Freitag, Februar 1st, 2013

“Guatemalan Genocide on Trial

Court case begins today against former dictator Rios Montt
30-year struggle for justice leads to landmark prosecution

For more information contact:
Kate Doyle: 646-670-8841 or kadoyle@email.gwu.edu

Washington, DC, January 31, 2013 – Guatemala achieved a breakthrough for justice today with the opening of the landmark criminal trial of Efrain Rios Montt, former military dictator, for genocide and crimes against humanity. Rios Montt, along with his chief of army intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, is charged with ordering and overseeing a bloody counterinsurgency campaign during his 1982-83 regime that sought to wipe out guerrilla forces and anyone who supported them. The indictment accuses the two retired generals of responsibility for fifteen massacres in the Ixil region of the country’s northwestern Quiche department, resulting in the deaths of 1,771 unarmed men, women and children.

The proceedings will begin with a review of the evidence by Judge Miguel Angel Galvez. The prosecution plans to propose 142 witnesses — among them, relatives of victims and survivors of the massacres — and 64 experts, including military analysts, forensic scientists, anthropologists, scholars, investigators and psychologists. Documents will include military records, counterinsurgency campaign plans, field reports sent from the killing zones to the high command, and the findings of the UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission, which in 1999 concluded that 200,000 civilians died or disappeared in the 36-year conflict. The truth commission also found that Guatemalan army, police, and paramilitary forces were responsible for 93 percent of human rights violations committed during the war.

Rios Montt was indicted for genocide in January 2012, but a flood of appeals, amnesty requests, and other delay tactics by the defense prevented the case from advancing.

Check out today’s posting at the National Security Archive website - http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20130131/

 

(Quelle: National Security Archive.)

Lateinamerika: Sexuelle Gewalt an Schulen

Mittwoch, Mai 18th, 2011

Von Tatiana Félix

(Fortaleza, 13. Mai 2011, adital).- “Kinder und Jugendliche erleben auch weiterhin in vielen Ländern Lateinamerikas sexuelle Gewalt. Die Bedrohung sei für Eltern, ExpertInnen und Behörden besorgniserregend. Das erklärte Katherine Romero, Leiterin des Programms für sexuelle und reproduktive Rechte in Lateinamerika der Organisation Women’s Link World Wide. Die Menschenrechtsexpertin nahm Ende April an einer Konferenz in Mexiko teil und bezeichnete die sexuelle Gewalt als ein konstantes Phänomen in öffentlichen Schulen des Kontinents.

Dabei sei, so Romero, gerade die Aufklärung von Eltern und Kindern ein wichtiges Instrument, um sexuelle Gewalt im Schulbereich zu verhindern und Gefahren rechtzeitig erkennen zu können. Abgesehen von gravierenden Fällen von Missbrauch und Vergewaltigung sei es für die Lehrkräfte wichtig, schon bei Berührungen, Schlägen, Beschimpfungen oder Angeboten aufmerksam zu sein. Diese Anzeichen können oftmals schon auf eine Gefährdung hinweisen.

Keine AnsprechpartnerInnen außerhalb der Schulen

Jorge Luis Silva Méndez, Professor an der Juristischen Fakultät des Technisches Instituts von Mexiko erklärte bei dieser Konferenz, dass ein erschwerender Faktor die Behandlung des Problems innerhalb desselben schulischen Umfeldes sei. Außerhalb der Schule fehle es den Opfern an Ansprechstrukturen. SchülerInnen in Mexiko können Übergriffe bei der Beratungsstelle zu Misshandlung und sexuellen Missbrauch von Kindern der Bundeschulbehörde in Mexico D.F. anzeigen. Erst kürzlich wurde in Mexiko der Fall des vierjährigen Luis aus Oaxaca bekannt. Er wies deutliche Spuren sexueller Gewalt auf. Es wird vermutet, dass ein Lehrer und ein weiterer Mann die Tat an einer Schule in Oaxaca begangen haben.

Als weitere exemplarische Fälle für Lateinamerika werden zudem die Beispiele von Patricia Flores aus Bolivien und Paola Guzmán aus Ecuador genannt. Das Mädchen Patricia Flores wurde ermordet, nachdem sie vergewaltigt, gefoltert und stranguliert worden war. Paola Guzmán beging Selbstmord, nachdem sie zwei Jahre lang vom stellvertretenden Schuldirektor sexuell missbraucht worden war.

ExpertInnen beklagen zudem, dass die zuständigen Gerichtsbehörden in ihrem Handeln weiterhin durch Geschlechterstereotypen geleitet werden, wenn die Opfer Mädchen oder Frauen sind. Zu diesen Stereotypen zählen, die Schuld für die Tat den Opfern oder ihren Familien zuzuweisen, die Übergriffe nicht mit der notwendigen Priorität zu verfolgen, sowie eine mangelhafte Qualifizierung der Justizbeamten.

Unsicherheit an Schulen in El Salvador

In El Salvador sind sich Regierung und Polizei uneins, wie die Sicherheit der SchülerInnen garantiert werden soll. Vor einigen Wochen war eine Minderjährige verhaftet worden, die bewaffnet in eine Schule in San Miguel gegangen war. Sowohl Eltern als auch das Lehrpersonal befürchten, dass sich solche Fälle wiederholen. Obwohl nach Aussagen der Polizei bereits sowohl in den Schulen selbst wie auch in deren Umfeld Maßnahmen vorgeschlagen wurden, um die Sicherheit zu verbessern, sind diese Vorschläge den Schulbehörden bislang unbekannt. Auch die Lehrergewerkschaft BMES (Bases Magisteriales de El Salvador) forderte die Polizei auf, die Sicherheitslage in den Schulen zu verbessern. Insbesondere in den Randgebieten seien besondere Maßnahmen notwendig, um die Kriminalität einzugrenzen.

Sensibilisierungskampagne in Guatemala

Nachdem die guatemaltekische Staatsanwaltschaft 45 Fälle von sexueller Gewalt in schulischen Einrichtungen des Landes registriert hatte, wurde seitens der Interinstitutionellen Koordinatorin gegen sexuelle Gewalt in Alta Verapaz eine Kampagne lanciert, um die SchülerInnen auf diese Form der Gewalt aufmerksam zu machen und sie zu sensibilisieren. In Abstimmung mit dem Büro für Öffentlichkeitsarbeit im Präsidialamt werden über 5.000 SchülerInnen aus Cobán und Carchá an einer Sensibilisierungskampagne zu den Risiken sexueller Gewalt teilnehmen. Eine der Hauptforderungen dieser Kampagne ist es, Frauen zu respektieren.

Die Kampagne ist eine gemeinsame Maßnahme des Gesundheits- und Sozialministeriums, der Polizei, des Instituts für öffentlichen Rechtsschutz und der Behörde für Mentale Gesundheit. Sie wird in verschiedenen öffentlichen wie privaten schulischen Einrichtungen umgesetzt. Standardisierte Lerneinheiten sollen dazu dienen, den SchülerInnen eine Orientierung über sexuelle Gewalt zu geben. Die Kampagne ist gleichzeitig Teil einer Strategie der Interinstitutionellen Koordinatorin gegen sexuelle Gewalt in Alta Verapaz. So sollen wiederkehrende Faktoren für sexuelle Gewalt identifiziert und die Erkenntnisse auf weitere schulische Einrichtungen in Guatemala angewendet werden.

(Mit Informationen von Cerigua, Notiese und La Prensa Gráfica)”

 

(Quelle: poonal.)

Eritrea: Flüchtlinge und globale Flüchtlingspolitik

Dienstag, Mai 17th, 2011

“Human Tsunamis

Refugees and the Failure of Forced Migration Policy

By TRICIA REDEKER HEPNER

The world’s attention is understandably fixed on the post-tsunami nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan and the equally seismic political transformations shaking North Africa and the Middle East. Much speculation swirls around the impact of these events regionally and globally. Will fallout reach the shores of Europe and North America? Will more dictatorships be swept aside by swells of democratization? What role should the international community and the United Nations play?

In at least one country, the answer to the first question is clear, if not the second. And the third is another story altogether.

The Northeast African nation of Eritrea marks its 20th year of independence next month. But the festivities will be marred by mourning. President Isayas Afwerki remains firmly entrenched in the seat of power, claiming with alacrity to have foretold the groundswell overtaking his Arab neighbors while banning television coverage of the demonstrations and reorganizing the military to pre-empt a possible coup. Meanwhile, the ripples radiating from the epicenter of his brutal regime are unrelenting, and the fallout has a human face. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children have fled Eritrea in wave after wave of despair. While some of these refugees make it to the shores of Europe and North America, many more do not. Last week, two boats carrying 400 Eritreans and Ethiopians from Libya to Italy disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea. Fishermen and the Coast Guard are still recovering the bodies – evidence of what Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi calls “the human tsunami” battering the walls of Fortress Europe. In the Sinai desert, traffickers of multiple nationalities work in tandem with security forces of Egypt and Eritrea to extort, exploit, abuse, torture and execute refugees seeking to cross into Israel, where they are summarily labeled “infiltrators” in a euphemistic avoidance of international responsibilities to protect asylum seekers.

If refugee flows are a sign of political meltdown, then Eritrea is a level seven nuclear disaster. Figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees indicate that Eritrea, with a population of only about five million, has been among the top ten refugee producing countries in the world for the better part of the decade. In 2006, it ranked second in the world. In 2007 only Somalis and Iraqis lodged more asylum applications than Eritreans, and in 2008 the numbers of claims filed by Eritreans exceeded those of Iraqis.

The reason? Eritrea spends a whopping 20 percent of its national budget maintaining a military comprised of forced conscripts whose virtually unpaid labor is reinvested in further militarization of the society and economy. The Constitution has been on ice since 1997, the promise of multi-party elections remains unfulfilled and even North Korea boasts greater freedom of the press. Civil society institutions and competing political parties exist only in exile. The list of human rights abuses characterizing daily life in Eritrea is longer than the number of international conventions the government has signed. Torture, rape, and execution are commonplace for those who dare put up a fight. The result? Massive flight. “Is there a worse country in the world than this?” mused a Texas lawyer representing one of the hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers in the U.S. as we reviewed his client’s case.

As an anthropologist who has lived in Eritrea and worked with Eritrean communities in Europe, Africa, and the U.S. for years, I dearly want to defend this country. But the best I can do is to help defend its displaced, abused, and often forgotten citizens. Together with lawyers, Eritrean activists, human rights organizations, UNHCR staff, and colleagues like Magnus Treiber and Barbara Harrell-Bond, I struggle to place the people of this small African country on the global crisis radar. It’s a tall order in these days of perpetual disasters and mind-numbing statistics.

And the statistics on refugees are indeed numbing. The number of people forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of 2008. The total includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million internally displaced people uprooted within their own countries. These figures, of course, hide lots of things, such as the numbers of people removed by development projects like dam-building, by “natural” disasters, by the structural violence of poverty, environmental destruction, and by the alchemy of desperation and profits that forces people to migrate and often to sell their bodies and lives into servitude of one kind or another. These figures obviate human experience.

But human experience is what anthropologists are always after – how to put life and breath and flesh onto the cold bones of statistics; how to illustrate the concrete meanings of political violence and migration policies and practices as people live them. Among such human experiences are those of nineteen members of the elite Air Force of Eritrea who fled to Sudan a couple of years ago, risking the “shoot-to-kill” policy of the Eritrean government — as hundreds of others do every month — seeking to cross the nearest international border.

In Sudan, they registered with the UNHCR and began seeking both refugee protection and resettlement abroad. Their high-ranking and symbolically significant position as the pride of the Eritrean Defense Forces made them more vulnerable to persecution and punishment by the Eritrean government than many of the 100,000+ Eritrean refugees in Khartoum. However, some of these men used to be soldiers with the guerrilla movement that is now the Eritrean government. They have scant hope of ever being accepted by the U.S. or Canada – the two largest refugee receiving countries in the world – because under some very broad terms of the U.S. Patriot Act and a similar Canadian law, they are considered “terrorists.” This is because they took up arms in an anticolonial liberation struggle against the Ethiopian government more than thirty years ago.

Others in the group are young men who were conscripted. Despite their elite positions, their fate was hardly better than most others in the military and their exit signaled refusal of the sort of complicity that makes life more bearable in such conditions. However, these men are also in for a long and treacherous series of legal obstacles due to international reluctance to recognize military deserters and a 2002 policy adopted by the UNHCR rendering ex-combatants ineligible for resettlement.

Similarly, clauses that exclude those who may have participated in human rights violations or persecution of others also present stumbling blocks when applied to real conditions. Virtually every soldier in the Eritrean military has been forced to guard, surveil, or repress another soldier or civilian at some point, and the majority of Eritrean refugees have been soldiers. The very structure and social organization of militarization and political repression in Eritrea blur the neat legal distinction between persecuted and persecutor so critical in refugee and asylum determination procedures. Even the U.S. Supreme Court got drawn in, when the asylum claim of a former conscript named Daniel Negusie was denied because his assignment as a prison guard – punishment for his own dissidence by the Eritrean government – suggested he was complicit in the harm of others.

In the meantime, the 19 men wait in Khartoum, where Eritrean security officials operate with impunity. On any given day, they may be attacked by an agent of their own government, kidnapped and taken back to Eritrea, or, at the very least shaken down and extorted by Sudanese police or soldiers, perhaps beaten and jailed for being unwanted migrants. Should the UNHCR take the situation seriously and realize these men need protection – an unlikely showing of concern for individuals by a bureaucracy whose esteemed reputation is outshined only by its impersonality, impenetrability, and unaccountability – they may be taken to a refugee camp, where they will still be subject to many of the same pressures, only in more concentrated form. This is glossed as “protection,” even a “solution,” though it is hardly that.

While camps in places like Sudan and Ethiopia may comply with UNHCR policy, they are administered by host country agencies and staff, some of whom inevitably participate in the abuse and misuse of refugees, often under the noses of international staff. A trip to the food distribution center may end in rape and a place in the resettlement queue can be bought (or lost) for a hundred thousand birr [Ethiopian currency]. In Shimelba Refugee Camp, in northern Ethiopia, the UNHCR compound is open only a few hours per week, as impervious to refugees’ pleas for help as President Isayas Afwerki is to political transition.

If elite air force men cannot gain the attention of UNHCR, then the situation is far worse for the average person. Some refugees get sick of waiting – who wouldn’t? – and take their chances. But the routes to escape are toxic. If they make it through the Libyan desert to reach the Mediterranean and finally to Malta or Lampedusa, which only a handful do, new problems arise at the gates of Fortress Europe. Are they really political refugees or just impoverished economic migrants? How will a country like Malta – swamped with tens of thousands of refugees – manage to decide their fate? If they move on to another European country, they face imprisonment and deportation under the Dublin II regulation. Consumer values may tout individual initiative and choice but do not extend to “asylum shopping,” thank you very much.

Those who have the connections and money might hire a smuggler, usually for tens of thousands of dollars, who will take them on a risky and tortuous journey to Southern Africa, then Brazil, through Colombia or Venezuela, perhaps Cuba, then Nicaragua, Guatemala, and finally Mexico, where stuffed in the cargo bay of a bus, or in the custody of a coyote, they will cross the border of the US and ask for asylum. For their efforts at being “above board” – that is, presenting themselves to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – they are welcomed to freedom in America through its prison system. While this may stimulate the privatized prison-industrial economy, it is first and foremost an extension of human rights abuses shouldered by refugees. In detention, they discover legal-dilemma redux: many of the same problems that stalled the refugee process in Sudan follow them to the United States. They are possibly terrorists, or implicated in persecution and human rights abuses; they are cowardly deserters of a sovereign state’s military; and of course, they are always criminals for having the audacity to migrate illegally. But had the legal refugee process been responsive to actual human circumstances, such illegality would be far less likely.

I am compelled to shed light on stories such as these not only to highlight the victimization, suffering, and exploitation that runs through them in every direction like capillary veins, that multiply with each person involved, with each new step through “the system” in which legal and illegal intersect all the time; where the life-force that drives people to make such choices in the name of survival and hope can be snuffed out in an instant for profit, power, or sheer indifference. Nor is my primary intention to malign institutions like the UNHCR, or the asylum system in the US and Europe, which are as full of dedicated and committed advocates for refugees’ rights as they are of infuriating inefficiency, corruption, and bureaucratic senselessness.

My goal is to illustrate the complexity and global scope of human rights dilemmas that structure refugees’ lives, and the failures of institutions, policies and laws designed to manage them as technical problems rather than protect them as human beings. It is not enough to simply address the human rights violations that lead people to become refugees at the source, crucial as that may be. All along the way, refugees face multiple and nested issues that are sometimes endemic and even actively produced or aggravated by the very systems designed to protect them.

While earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear accidents, and revolutions may be dramatic and momentous events, it is worth remembering that their wrenching daily equivalency plays out in political and humanitarian disasters like that of Eritrea’s refugees, more invisible than the radiation seeping into the Pacific but no less poisonous for those affected. As Eritreans mark the 20th anniversary of their revolution, any thoughts of Egypt or Libya will focus on the lives of loved ones lost in the Sinai or Sahara, or those whose fates are yet unknown. Their suffering, and the ripples of despair that radiate throughout the lives of their families and compatriots, is fallout from Isayas Afwerki’s dictatorial rule. But it is also fallout from the international community’s failed, inadequate, and draconian migration policies and laws. The fallout has not only reached our shores – it also originates there. What comes around goes around. Human lives are the currency we use to pay for the failures of modernity.

Tricia Redeker Hepner is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Chair of the Migration and Refugee Studies Division of the Center for the Study of Social Justice, and Eritrea Country Specialist for Amnesty International and The Fahamu Refugee Network. She can be reached at thepner@utk.edu.”

 

(Quelle: Counterpunch.)

Siehe auch:

Eritrea: Refugees and Responsibility

Libyen: Ein “afrikanischer Blick” auf den Krieg

Freitag, April 15th, 2011

“The lies behind the West's war on Libya

By Jean-Paul Pougala

It was Gaddafi’s Libya that offered all of Africa its first revolution in modern times – connecting the entire continent by telephone, television, radio broadcasting and several other technological applications such as telemedicine and distance teaching. And thanks to the WMAX radio bridge, a low cost connection was made available across the continent, including in rural areas.

It began in 1992, when 45 African nations established RASCOM (Regional African Satellite Communication Organization) so that Africa would have its own satellite and slash communication costs in the continent. This was a time when phone calls to and from Africa were the most expensive in the world because of the annual US$500 million fee pocketed by Europe for the use of its satellites like Intelsat for phone conversations, including those within the same country.

An African satellite only cost a onetime payment of US$400 million and the continent no longer had to pay a US$500 million annual lease. Which banker wouldn’t finance such a project? But the problem remained – how can slaves, seeking to free themselves from their master’s exploitation ask the master’s help to achieve that freedom? Not surprisingly, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the USA, Europe only made vague promises for 14 years. Gaddafi put an end to these futile pleas to the western ‘benefactors’ with their exorbitant interest rates. The Libyan guide put US$300 million on the table; the African Development Bank added US$50 million more and the West African Development Bank a further US$27 million – and that’s how Africa got its first communications satellite on 26 December 2007.

China and Russia followed suit and shared their technology and helped launch satellites for South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria and a second African satellite was launched in July 2010. The first totally indigenously built satellite and manufactured on African soil, in Algeria, is set for 2020. This satellite is aimed at competing with the best in the world, but at ten times less the cost, a real challenge.

This is how a symbolic gesture of a mere US$300 million changed the life of an entire continent. Gaddafi’s Libya cost the West, not just depriving it of US$500 million per year but the billions of dollars in debt and interest that the initial loan would generate for years to come and in an exponential manner, thereby helping maintain an occult system in order to plunder the continent.

AFRICAN MONETARY FUND, AFRICAN CENTRAL BANK, AFRICAN INVESTMENT BANK

The US$30 billion frozen by Mr Obama belong to the Libyan Central Bank and had been earmarked as the Libyan contribution to three key projects which would add the finishing touches to the African federation – the African Investment Bank in Syrte, Libya, the establishment in 2011 of the African Monetary Fund to be based in Yaounde with a US$42 billion capital fund and the Abuja-based African Central Bank in Nigeria which when it starts printing African money will ring the death knell for the CFA franc through which Paris has been able to maintain its hold on some African countries for the last fifty years. It is easy to understand the French wrath against Gaddafi.

The African Monetary Fund is expected to totally supplant the African activities of the International Monetary Fund which, with only US$25 billion, was able to bring an entire continent to its knees and make it swallow questionable privatisation like forcing African countries to move from public to private monopolies. No surprise then that on 16-17December 2010, the Africans unanimously rejected attempts by Western countries to join the African Monetary Fund, saying it was open only to African nations.

It is increasingly obvious that after Libya, the western coalition will go after Algeria, because apart from its huge energy resources, the country has cash reserves of around €150 billion. This is what lures the countries that are bombing Libya and they all have one thing in common – they are practically bankrupt. The USA alone, has a staggering debt of $US14,000 billion, France, Great Britain and Italy each have a US$2,000 billion public deficit compared to less than US$400 billion in public debt for 46 African countries combined.

Inciting spurious wars in Africa in the hope that this will revitalise their economies which are sinking ever more into the doldrums will ultimately hasten the western decline which actually began in 1884 during the notorious Berlin Conference. As the American economist Adam Smith predicted in 1865 when he publicly backed Abraham Lincoln for the abolition of slavery, ‘the economy of any country which relies on the slavery of blacks is destined to descend into hell the day those countries awaken’.

REGIONAL UNITY AS AN OBSTABLE TO THE CREATION OF A UNITED STATES OF AFRICA

To destabilise and destroy the African union which was veering dangerously (for the West) towards a United States of Africa under the guiding hand of Gaddafi, the European Union first tried, unsuccessfully, to create the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM). North Africa somehow had to be cut off from the rest of Africa, using the old tired racist clichés of the 18th and 19th centuries ,which claimed that Africans of Arab origin were more evolved and civilised than the rest of the continent. This failed because Gaddafi refused to buy into it. He soon understood what game was being played when only a handful of African countries were invited to join the Mediterranean grouping without informing the African Union but inviting all 27 members of the European Union.

Without the driving force behind the African Federation, the UPM failed even before it began, still-born with Sarkozy as president and Mubarak as vice president. The French foreign minister, Alain Juppe is now attempting to re-launch the idea, banking no doubt on the fall of Gaddafi. What African leaders fail to understand is that as long as the European Union continues to finance the African Union, the status quo will remain, because no real independence. This is why the European Union has encouraged and financed regional groupings in Africa.

It is obvious that the West African Economic Community (ECOWAS), which has an embassy in Brussels and depends for the bulk of its funding on the European Union, is a vociferous opponent to the African federation. That’s why Lincoln fought in the US war of secession because the moment a group of countries come together in a regional political organisation, it weakens the main group. That is what Europe wanted and the Africans have never understood the game plan, creating a plethora of regional groupings, COMESA, UDEAC, SADC, and the Great Maghreb which never saw the light of day thanks to Gaddafi who understood what was happening.

GADDAFI, THE AFRICAN WHO CLEANSED THE CONTINENT FROM THE HUMILIATION OF APARTHEID

For most Africans, Gaddafi is a generous man, a humanist, known for his unselfish support for the struggle against the racist regime in South Africa. If he had been an egotist, he wouldn’t have risked the wrath of the West to help the ANC both militarily and financially in the fight against apartheid. This was why Mandela, soon after his release from 27 years in jail, decided to break the UN embargo and travel to Libya on 23 October 1997. For five long years, no plane could touch down in Libya because of the embargo. One needed to take a plane to the Tunisian city of Jerba and continue by road for five hours to reach Ben Gardane, cross the border and continue on a desert road for three hours before reaching Tripoli. The other solution was to go through Malta, and take a night ferry on ill-maintained boats to the Libyan coast. A hellish journey for a whole people, simply to punish one man.

Mandela didn’t mince his words when the former US president Bill Clinton said the visit was an ‘unwelcome’ one – ‘No country can claim to be the policeman of the world and no state can dictate to another what it should do’. He added – ‘Those that yesterday were friends of our enemies have the gall today to tell me not to visit my brother Gaddafi, they are advising us to be ungrateful and forget our friends of the past.’

Indeed, the West still considered the South African racists to be their brothers who needed to be protected. That’s why the members of the ANC, including Nelson Mandela, were considered to be dangerous terrorists. It was only on 2 July 2008, that the US Congress finally voted a law to remove the name of Nelson Mandela and his ANC comrades from their black list, not because they realised how stupid that list was but because they wanted to mark Mandela’s 90th birthday. If the West was truly sorry for its past support for Mandela’s enemies and really sincere when they name streets and places after him, how can they continue to wage war against someone who helped Mandela and his people to be victorious, Gaddafi?

ARE THOSE WHO WANT TO EXPORT DEMOCRACY THEMSELVES DEMOCRATS?

And what if Gaddafi’s Libya were more democratic than the USA, France, Britain and other countries waging war to export democracy to Libya? On 19 March 2003, President George Bush began bombing Iraq under the pretext of bringing democracy. On 19 March 2011, exactly eight years later to the day, it was the French president’s turn to rain down bombs over Libya, once again claiming it was to bring democracy. Nobel peace prize-winner and US President Obama says unleashing cruise missiles from submarines is to oust the dictator and introduce democracy.

The question that anyone with even minimum intelligence cannot help asking is the following: Are countries like France, England, the USA, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Poland who defend their right to bomb Libya on the strength of their self proclaimed democratic status really democratic? If yes, are they more democratic than Gaddafi’s Libya? The answer in fact is a resounding NO, for the plain and simple reason that democracy doesn’t exist. This isn’t a personal opinion, but a quote from someone whose native town Geneva, hosts the bulk of UN institutions. The quote is from Jean Jacques Rousseau, born in Geneva in 1712 and who writes in chapter four of the third book of the famous ‘Social Contract’ that ‘there never was a true democracy and there never will be.’

Rousseau sets out the following four conditions for a country to be labelled a democracy and according to these Gaddafi’s Libya is far more democratic than the USA, France and the others claiming to export democracy:

1. The State: The bigger a country, the less democratic it can be. According to Rousseau, the state has to be extremely small so that people can come together and know each other. Before asking people to vote, one must ensure that everybody knows everyone else, otherwise voting will be an act without any democratic basis, a simulacrum of democracy to elect a dictator.

The Libyan state is based on a system of tribal allegiances, which by definition group people together in small entities. The democratic spirit is much more present in a tribe, a village than in a big country, simply because people know each other, share a common life rhythm which involves a kind of self-regulation or even self-censorship in that the reactions and counter reactions of other members impacts on the group.

From this perspective, it would appear that Libya fits Rousseau’s conditions better than the USA, France and Great Britain, all highly urbanised societies where most neighbours don’t even say hello to each other and therefore don’t know each other even if they have lived side by side for twenty years. These countries leapfrogged leaped into the next stage – ‘the vote’ – which has been cleverly sanctified to obfuscate the fact that voting on the future of the country is useless if the voter doesn’t know the other citizens. This has been pushed to ridiculous limits with voting rights being given to people living abroad. Communicating with and amongst each other is a precondition for any democratic debate before an election.

2. Simplicity in customs and behavioural patterns are also essential if one is to avoid spending the bulk of the time debating legal and judicial procedures in order to deal with the multitude of conflicts of interest inevitable in a large and complex society. Western countries define themselves as civilised nations with a more complex social structure whereas Libya is described as a primitive country with a simple set of customs. This aspect too indicates that Libya responds better to Rousseau’s democratic criteria than all those trying to give lessons in democracy. Conflicts in complex societies are most often won by those with more power, which is why the rich manage to avoid prison because they can afford to hire top lawyers and instead arrange for state repression to be directed against someone one who stole a banana in a supermarket rather than a financial criminal who ruined a bank. In the city of New York for example where 75 per cent of the population is white, 80 per cent of management posts are occupied by whites who make up only 20 per cent of incarcerated people.

3. Equality in status and wealth: A look at the Forbes 2010 list shows who the richest people in each of the countries currently bombing Libya are and the difference between them and those who earn the lowest salaries in those nations; a similar exercise on Libya will reveal that in terms of wealth distribution, Libya has much more to teach than those fighting it now, and not the contrary. So here too, using Rousseau’s criteria, Libya is more democratic than the nations pompously pretending to bring democracy. In the USA, 5 per cent of the population owns 60 per cent of the national wealth, making it the most unequal and unbalanced society in the world.

4. No luxuries: according to Rousseau there can’t be any luxury if there is to be democracy. Luxury, he says, makes wealth a necessity which then becomes a virtue in itself, it, and not the welfare of the people becomes the goal to be reached at all cost, ‘Luxury corrupts both the rich and the poor, the one through possession and the other through envy; it makes the nation soft and prey to vanity; it distances people from the State and enslaves them, making them a slave to opinion.’

Is there more luxury in France than in Libya? The reports on employees committing suicide because of stressful working conditions even in public or semi-public companies, all in the name of maximising profit for a minority and keeping them in luxury, happen in the West, not in Libya.

The American sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote in 1956 that American democracy was a ‘dictatorship of the elite’. According to Mills, the USA is not a democracy because it is money that talks during elections and not the people. The results of each election are the expression of the voice of money and not the voice of the people. After Bush senior and Bush junior, they are already talking about a younger Bush for the 2012 Republican primaries. Moreover, as Max Weber pointed out, since political power is dependent on the bureaucracy, the US has 43 million bureaucrats and military personnel who effectively rule the country but without being elected and are not accountable to the people for their actions. One person (a rich one) is elected, but the real power lies with the caste of the wealthy who then get nominated to be ambassadors, generals, etc.

How many people in these self-proclaimed democracies know that Peru’s constitution prohibits an outgoing president from seeking a second consecutive mandate? How many know that in Guatemala, not only can an outgoing president not seek re-election to the same post, no one from that person’s family can aspire to the top job either? Or that Rwanda is the only country in the world that has 56 per cent female parliamentarians? How many people know that in the 2007 CIA index, four of the world’s best-governed countries are African? That the top prize goes to Equatorial Guinea whose public debt represents only 1.14 per cent of GDP?

Rousseau maintains that civil wars, revolts and rebellions are the ingredients of the beginning of democracy. Because democracy is not an end, but a permanent process of the reaffirmation of the natural rights of human beings which in countries all over the world (without exception) are trampled upon by a handful of men and women who have hijacked the power of the people to perpetuate their supremacy. There are here and there groups of people who have usurped the term ‘democracy’ – instead of it being an ideal towards which one strives it has become a label to be appropriated or a slogan which is used by people who can shout louder than others. If a country is calm, like France or the USA, that is to say without any rebellions, it only means, from Rousseau’s perspective, that the dictatorial system is sufficiently repressive to pre-empt any revolt.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Libyans revolted. What is bad is to affirm that people stoically accept a system that represses them all over the world without reacting. And Rousseau concludes: ‘Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietum servitium – translation – If gods were people, they would govern themselves democratically. Such a perfect government is not applicable to human beings.’ To claim that one is killing Libyans for their own good is a hoax.

WHAT LESSONS FOR AFRICA?

After 500 years of a profoundly unequal relationship with the West, it is clear that we don’t have the same criteria of what is good and bad. We have deeply divergent interests. How can one not deplore the ‘yes’ votes from three sub-Saharan countries (Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon) for resolution 1973 that inaugurated the latest form of colonisation baptised ‘the protection of peoples’, which legitimises the racist theories that have informed Europeans since the 18th century and according to which North Africa has nothing to do with sub-Saharan Africa, that North Africa is more evolved, cultivated and civilised than the rest of Africa?

It is as if Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Algeria were not part of Africa, Even the United Nations seems to ignore the role of the African Union in the affairs of member states. The aim is to isolate sub Saharan African countries to better isolate and control them. Indeed, Algeria (US$16 billion) and Libya (US$10 billion ) together contribute 62 per cent of the US$42 billion which constitute the capital of the African Monetary Fund (AMF). The biggest and most populous country in sub Saharan Africa, Nigeria, followed by South Africa are far behind with only 3 billion dollars each.

It is disconcerting to say the least that for the first time in the history of the United Nations, war has been declared against a people without having explored the slightest possibility of a peaceful solution to the crisis. Does Africa really belong anymore to this organisation? Nigeria and South Africa are prepared to vote ‘Yes’ to everything the West asks because they naively believe the vague promises of a permanent seat at the Security Council with similar veto rights. They both forget that France has no power to offer anything. If it did, Mitterand would have long done the needful for Helmut Kohl’s Germany.

A reform of the United Nations is not on the agenda. The only way to make a point is to use the Chinese method – all 50 African nations should quit the United Nations and only return if their longstanding demand is finally met, a seat for the entire African federation or nothing. This non-violent method is the only weapon of justice available to the poor and weak that we are. We should simply quit the United Nations because this organisation, by its very structure and hierarchy, is at the service of the most powerful.

We should leave the United Nations to register our rejection of a worldview based on the annihilation of those who are weaker. They are free to continue as before but at least we will not be party to it and say we agree when we were never asked for our opinion. And even when we expressed our point of view, like we did on Saturday 19 March in Nouakchott, when we opposed the military action, our opinion was simply ignored and the bombs started falling on the African people.

Today’s events are reminiscent of what happened with China in the past. Today, one recognises the Ouattara government, the rebel government in Libya, like one did at the end of the Second World War with China. The so-called international community chose Taiwan to be the sole representative of the Chinese people instead of Mao’s China. It took 26 years when on 25 October 1971, for the UN to pass resolution 2758 which all Africans should read to put an end to human folly. China was admitted and on its terms – it refused to be a member if it didn’t have a veto right. When the demand was met and the resolution tabled, it still took a year for the Chinese foreign minister to respond in writing to the UN Secretary General on 29 September 1972, a letter which didn’t say yes or thank you but spelt out guarantees required for China’s dignity to be respected.

What does Africa hope to achieve from the United Nations without playing hard ball? We saw how in Cote d’Ivoire a UN bureaucrat considers himself to be above the constitution of the country. We entered this organisation by agreeing to be slaves and to believe that we will be invited to dine at the same table and eat from plates we ourselves washed is not just credulous, it is stupid.

When the African Union endorsed Ouattara’s victory and glossed over contrary reports from its own electoral observers simply to please our former masters, how can we expect to be respected? When South African president Zuma declares that Ouattara hasn’t won the elections and then says the exact opposite during a trip to Paris, one is entitled to question the credibility of these leaders who claim to represent and speak on behalf of a billion Africans.

Africa’s strength and real freedom will only come if it can take properly thought out actions and assume the consequences. Dignity and respect come with a price tag. Are we prepared to pay it? Otherwise, our place is in the kitchen and in the toilets in order to make others comfortable.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Jean-Paul Pougala is a Cameroonian writer.
* Translated from the French by Sputnik Kilambi.
* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

 

(Quelle: Pambazuka News.)