Caribbean Political Economy

Chavez Victory: Socialism in a Rentier State, James Petras

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From Global Research: Center for Research on Globalization.

To understand the opportunities and constraints which the government faces, it is essential to outline not only the positive strengths of the government but the complex and difficult structural features of ‘transiting’ in an essentially ‘rentier economy and society’ based on extractive enclaves, essentially a petrol economy…

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U.S. War on Venezuela: False Accusations Against the Chavez Government, Eva Golinger

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Ever since the US-supported coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela failed in April 2002, Washington has been pursuing a variety of strategies to remove the overwhelmingly popular South American head of state from power. Multimillion-dollar funding to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela … has increased exponentially over the past ten years, as has direct political support through advisors, strategists and consultants- all aiming to help an unpopular and outdated opposition rise to power..

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The Anti-Venezuela Election Campaign, Mark Weisbrot

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Venezuela’s election is not until September, but the international campaign to delegitimise the government has already begun..

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ALBA: To Join or Not to Join? Norman Girvan

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Presentation at PNP Forum on ‘Progressive Internationalism’, UWI, Mona, September 12, 2009

Abstract

The traditional global configurations are changing and new sources of power are emerging. The role of Latin America has also changed. Latin American integration schemes have enabled it to become a platform for change and a new source of power in the Western hemisphere. Amidst the many Latin American integration initiatives is ALBA which forces the Caribbean region to reevaluate their conventional trading partners and relationships. ALBA has the potential to become one of the more potent forces in the region, with the terms and conditions associated with membership bringing to the fore many social and economic benefits and previously unheard of trading conditions which take into consideration the unique positions of developing nations. On the other hand there are risks of economic and political dependency on new donors; and concerns regarding transparency and accountability. Concerns have also surfaced regarding the potential of ALBA membership to undermine CARICOM’s integration and to foment tensions in CARICOM-US relations.

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Hugo Chavez and the Private Media

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by Salim Lamrani

Salim Lamrani is a French Researcher Denis-Diderot University in Parí­s, specialising in Cuba-U.S. relations.

Salim Lamrani is a French Researcher Denis-Diderot University in Parí­s, specialising in Cuba-U.S. relations.

On August 2, 2009, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) issued a statement denouncing the closure of “thirty four broadcast media at the government’s behest” in Venezuela. The Paris-based organization “vigorously condemns the massive closure of broadcast media” and asks: “Is it still possible to publicly express any criticism at all of President Hugo Chavez’s ‘Bolivarian’ government? This massive closure of mainly opposition media is dangerous for the future of democratic debate in Venezuela and is motivated by the government’s desire to silence dissent. It will only exacerbate social divisions.” (1)

RWB makes reference to the decision taken by the Venezuelan National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) on August 1, 2009 to withdraw the broadcast licenses of thirty-four radio and television stations. According to RWB, this decision is motivated only by the fact that these media outlets criticized the government of Hugo Chavez. In short, it was a political act intended to silence the opposition press. The vast majority of the Western media has repeated this interpretation. (2)

However this is not the situation and RWB and the media multinationals have carefully concealed the truth in order to mislead public opinion and present the most democratic government in Latin America (Hugo Chavez has faced 15 electoral processes since coming to power in 1998 and has emerged victorious in fourteen of these elections, all praised by the international community for their transparency) as a regime which seriously violates freedom of expression.

Indeed, in similar circumstances any country in the world would have made the same decision Conatel did. Several stations deliberately ignored a summons from the Commission designed to determine the status of their licenses and bring them up to date. After an investigation, Conatel discovered numerous irregularities, such as deceased licensees whose licenses were being used by third persons, non-renewal of the required administrative procedures, or simply the lack of authorization to broadcast. Venezuelan law, like that in the rest of the world, stipulates that a media outlet that fails to renew its concession within a specified time period or that broadcasts without authorization will lose its transmission frequency, which will then revert back to the public domain. Thus, thirty-four stations that were broadcasting illegally lost their licenses. (3)

In fact, the decision by Conatel, far from restricting freedom of expression, has put an end to an illegal situation and has initiated a policy of democratization of the Venezuelan radio spectrum with the goal of putting it at the disposition of the community. In reality, 80% of radio and television stations in Venezuela are privately owned, while only 9% of them are public and the rest belonging to associations or communities. Moreover, the majority of Venezuelan private media is concentrated in the hands of 32 families. (4)

Thus, RWB and the western media have totally distorted a routine measure taken by Conatel to put an end to an illegal situation.

RWB has chosen as its modus operandi a tooth-and-nail defense of the Venezuelan opposition, which was responsible for the April 2002 coup against Chavez, a coup that the Parisian organization endorsed immediately. In particular, RWB defends the coup-supporting channel Globovision, which RWB considers the symbol of freedom of expression in Venezuela. (5) However, RWB fails to point out that in addition to its active participation in the 2002 coup, Globovision supported the sabotage of the Venezuelan oil industry that same year, launched a call for taxpayers not to pay their taxes, and called for insurrection and the assassination of President Chavez. (6)

Recently, Globovision supported the junta behind the coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected president Jose Manuel Zelaya, a coup unanimously condemned by the international community. The owner of Globovision, William Zuloaga Nunez, recognized the illegal government of Micheletti, launching at the same time a call for a coup d’état in Venezuela: “The Micheletti government is following the constitution and we wish, we would love it if in Venezuela the constitution would be respected as it is being respected in Honduras.” (7)

RWB does not defend freedom of expression in Venezuela. Rather it prefers to take the side of the enemies of democracy.

(Translated from Spanish to English by David Brookbank)
Notes

(1) Reporters Without Borders, , «Trente-quatre médias audiovisuels sacrifiés par caprice gouvernemental, », 2 de agosto de 2009. http://www.rsf.org/Trente-quatre-medias-audiovisuels.html (sitio consultado el 3 de agosto de 2009). Reporters Without Borders, “Thirty four broadcast media shut down at government’s behest”, August 2, 2009. http://rsf.org/34-broadcast-media-shut-down-at.html (site consulted on August 3, 2009).

(2) Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, , «Productores independientes respaldan suspensión de emisoras radiales ilegales, », 4 de agosto de 2009.

(3) Fabiola Sánchez, , «Radios desafí­an a Chávez operando por Internet, », The Associated Press, 3 de agosto de 2009.

(4) Thierry Deronne, , «Au Venezuela, la bataille populaire pour démocratiser le ‘latifundio’ des ondes, », 2 de agosto de 2009. En español: La batalla popular para democratizar el latifundio de las ondas; Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, , «Medida de Conatel no afectará libertad de expresión e información en Venezuela, », 4 de agosto de 2009.

(5) Reporters Without Borders, , «Le gouvernement accélí¨re sa croisade contre les médias privés en voulant modifier les lois et les rí¨gles, », 21 de julio de 2009. Reporters Without Borders, “Government steps up hounding of private media through new laws and regulations”, July 21, 2009.

(6) Salim Lamrani, , «Reporters sans frontií¨res contre la démocratie vénézuélienne, », Voltaire, 2 juillet 2009.

The Honduras coup is the Caribbean’s business; Norman Girvan, Andaiye and Alissa Trotz

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Andaiye

Andaiye

A slightly shorter version of this commentary was published in the Stabroek News of July 13, 2009

On April 11, 2002, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez was briefly removed from office by an abortive coup d-etat. A documentary on this episode, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, shows how an alliance of big business, wealthy landowners, and elements of the military conspired to remove him, with the active support of the Bush Administration and the local and international media. State-owned TV stations were closed,coverage of pro-Chavez demostrations was blanked, and false stories circulated. Fortuitously, on the day of the coup, an Irish television crew happened to be inside the Presidential Palace making a documentary; and the end -result was a film that offers an alternate and compelling viewpoint to the pro-coup stories. It documented the pro-poor policies of of the government, the fact that it had been democratically elected and enjoyed extensive support among the working poor; it refuted the

Alissa Trotz

Alissa Trotz

lie that Chávez had resigned and revealed that he was being held prisoner, and showed the massive street demonstrations in his support.

There are disturbing parallels with Honduras, where on the morning of June 28th the incumbent President Manuel Zelaya, democratically elected in 2006 , was taken prisoner by soldiers and put on a plane to neighbouring Costa Rica, a forged letter of resignation was produced, and the President of the National Assembly, Robert Micheletti, proclaimed President. Honduras, a Central American nation of seven million people that recently overtook Guyana as the third poorest country in the hemisphere, still exhibits the deep racial and class inequalties that are a legacy of Spanish conquest and colonisation of the indigenous majority. 75 percent of the people live in poverty, while the top 10 percent of the population gets 45 percent of the national product (Background to the Honduran coup: Poverty, exploitation and imperialist domination, By Rafael Azul). The unemployment rate is 30 percent and the average working day for adult men and women is 14 hours. 30,000 employees in the maquiladora (export assembly) plants have reportedly lost their jobs since the onset of the global economic crisis. Manuel Zelaya, himself a wealthy landowner, had angered the Honduran business elite and military by moving increasingly ‘to the left’ during his presidency, raising the mimimum wage by 60 percent, reducing fuel prices in response to popular demands, and, most controversially, taking Honduras into the Venezuelan-led ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). His plan to hold a non-binding referendumwas the trigger of a series of events which led to his ouster.

Contrary to widespread media reports, the June 28 Referendum was not about extending Zelaya’s term of office. The actual question on the aborted June 28 ballot read: “Do you think that the November 2009 general elections should include a fourth ballot box in order to make a decision about the creation of a National Constitutional Assembly that would approve a new Constitution?” “Yes” or “No.”? To quote Mark Weisbrot, Director of the Washington-based Centre for Ecocomic Policy and Research writing on July 8th for the London Guardian,

“There was no way for Zelaya to “extend his rule” even if the referendum had been held and passed, and even if he had then gone on to win a binding referendum on the November ballot. The 28 June referendum was nothing more than a non-binding poll of the electorate, asking whether the voters wanted to place a binding referendum on the November ballot to approve a redrafting of the country’s constitution. If it had passed, and if the November referendum had been held (which was not very likely) and also passed, the same ballot would have elected a new president and Zelaya would have stepped down in January”.

What was launched, therefore, appears to have been a pre-emptive strike by the Honduran elite in an attempt to thwart Zelaya’s plans to deepen the democratic process in a country that has historically excluded the poor and indigenous majority from effective participation in social and economic life; a process similar to that underway in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

An inadvertent revelation of inbred racism and classism of this class was the statement by Enrique Ortez Colindres, named as interim foreign minister, dismissing U.S. President Obama as a “little black man [who] doesn’t know where Tegucigalpa is.” A lukewarm apology was proffered, but a further remark by Colindres surfaced which translated reads “I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States.” (There are reports that Colindres has been replaced, but other news stories contradict this).

Whatever one may think of Mr Zelaya’s politics, there can be little doubt that what is at stake here is the integrity of institutional democracy and constitutional order. Quite simply, if soldiers can take it on themselves to remove and eject a demcratically elected President, then no such President or government is safe–not in Latin America, not in the Caribbean, not anywhere in the world. The Cuban leader, Fidel Castro has rightly warned that failure to restore President Zelaya could result in a wave of additional coups in Latin America, or place existing governments “at the mercy of the ultra right-wing military, educated in the security doctrine of the School of the Americas, an expert in torture, psychological warfare and terror”. Hence the coup has been unanimously condemned internationally–the United Nations General Assembly, the OAS General Assembly, the Rio Group, the ALBA nations, the Central American Integration System, the Caribbean Community, the European Union, and now the Non-Aligned Movement—have all called for the President’s restoration. Evidently the geopolitical climate has shifted somewhat since 2002. Last week US President Obama reassuringly declared “America supports now the restoration of the democratically-elected President of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies” .

US Base at Soto Cano, 50 miles from Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras

US Base at Soto Cano, 50 miles from Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras

But is the U.S. speaking with one voice? Some argue that the Pentagon, which operates one of the largest U.S. air bases in the region just 50 miles from Tegucigalpa, and has close ties to the Honduran military, must have had forewarning of the coup; and not only failed to stop it but may even have given ‘a wink and a nod’. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s initial statements on the coup were ambiguous, to say the least, and she sponsored the clumsy attempt to broker an agreement between President Zelaya and the usurper Micheletti, using President Arias of Costa Rica as mediator; an attempt which spectacularly-and predictably-failed. As Weisbrot notes, the US still does not call for an immediate and unconditional return as do the United Nations, the Organisation of American States and Caricom. Some in the U.S. may well support the coupists’ strategem of dragging out the process until the Honduran presidential election, due in November.

But just who is in charge in Washington? And when President Obama spoke of the ‘dangerous precedent’ that Zelaya’s ouster would create if it succeeded, was he subliminally, perhaps, thinking of the possibility of it coming closer to home? Was Fidel sending an oblique warning to Obama when he wrote “The Pentagon formally obeys the civilian power. The legions have not yet taken over control of the empire as they did in Rome”?

Meanwhile popular resistance to the coup in Honduras grows daily, and with it the likelihood of a violent polarisation of the country; dragging other Central American,   nations into

Alfred Lopez National Fraternal Black Organization

Alfred Lopez National Fraternal Black Organization

the conflict. Daily demonstrations are being held by the national resistance movement, a coalition of popular organizations, at least one of which has been violently supressed. The National Fraternal Black Organization, representing Honduras’ Garifuna population (‘Black Caribs’, of African-Caribbean origin), is an active part of the resistance movement; considering it their ‘historic responsibility, as a culturally distinct people (whose) culture is threatened by these same powerful groups responsible for the coup’.

Mike James in July 10th Catholic Standard, has reported on several Honduran religious communities publicly condemning the coup. One protestor, a youth killed by military snipers when he attempted to go onto the airfield to welcome the plane that was attempting to land returning Zelaya–aborted by the military–was the son of Pentecostal ministers, one of whom led the Human Rights committee in his community and has since been arrested. He describes popular religious organizations offering alternative radio coverage and carrying video footage of the resistance and repression in the Honduran capital; and a website, Honduras Resists, has been set up with regularly updated coverage. And across the region grassroots organizations are also categorically condemning the coup, like the network of indigenous women of South America and Mexico who issued a statement from Lima last week.

Honduras also brings to mind the ongoing crisis in Haiti, where, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was himself put on a plane by soldiers (American, in this instance) and banished in 2004, on the eve of the 200th anniversary of Haitian independence; a disgraceful episode in which US, Canadian and French governments played no small part. Honduras is not only our business in the Caribbean, we need to put to these events in a wider hemispheric context. We must insist on a conversation that recognizes that today two popularly elected presidents from our part of the world, Aristide and Zelaya, are in exile, and that the democratic aspirations of both the Honduran and Haitian people continue to be in limbo and require our solidarity.

Norman Girvan is Professor at the UWI Instititute of International Relations in St. Augustine, Trinidad
Andaiye is international coordinator of Red Thread, a collective of mainly grassroots women in Guyana which crosses race/ethnic divides
Alissa Trotz is a member of Red Thread and teaches women/gender studies and Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto

Documentation

The Right Strikes Back Immamuel Wallerstein

Honduran Crisis: Role of U.S. Military Training School Lawrwence Gist, L.A. County Examiner

Ex-Clinton Aides Advising Honduran Coup Regime Bill Van Auken

The Coup Dies or Constitutions Die Fidel Castro

Honduras resists

Hondurans Resist the Coup; They Need International Support Mark Weisbrot

U.S. Press falsely claims Honduran plurality for the coup

Honduras’s First Lady Leads Demonstration in Tegucigalpa

Zelaya’s wife leads protest

Interview with Vice-President of National Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras

Central America’s New Transnational Right and the Regional Military Threat Simon Granovsky-Larsen

Bigotry, hatred mark Honduras’s de facto regime

Ortez Colindres,   fired

he Honduras Coup: Is Obama Innocent? Michael Parenti

In Honduras, two political lines of the USA at work Jose Vicente Rangel

BBC Video,   shows soldiers shooting,   unarmed protestors

Caricom Condemns Miliatry Action; Calls for Reinstatement of President Zelaya

FITUN Statement Calling for Restoration of President Zelaya and of Solidarity with Honduran People


Galeano Speaks About Chavez’s Gift to Obama

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The Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, tells of an imaginary encounter with Count Dracula in Buenos Aires, where Dracula is seeking psychiatric help to treat an

Dracula

Dracula

inferiority complex.

Galeano

Galeano

“Dracula and I founded the vampire genre”, joked Galeano. “The count with his example and I with The Open Veins of Latin America”, he explained.,  ,  ,   “Sometimes,   there are plot twists,” he said, citing the gesture by the Venezuelan president that propelled the book’s sales.

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The Black Agenda Report: The US, Cuba and Moral Authority, Netfa Freeman

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Barack Obama dominates his Republican rivals here in the United States, but the international arena is a different venue, entirely. There, Obama carries the baggage of American presidents past – and any new encumbrances he might pick up on his own. Certainly, in a heads up against Cuba, the United States finds it nearly impossible to claim the moral high-ground. ” One cannot ignore that unlike in the US, Cuba regards education, healthcare and employment as rights, not privileges. It is fairly common knowledge that Cuba provides free education, from pre-k up to the university level, and healthcare to all its citizens is completely free of charge.”…

Click here for ‘The US, Cuba and Moral Authority’

The Right to Delirium, Eduardo Galeano

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” El derecho al delirio”, in Archipielago: Revista Cultural de Nuestra America. No. 22/23, March-June 1999. Informal English translation by Norman Girvan.,  

Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano

The new millennium is upon us! We shouldn’t take it too seriously: after all, the year 2001 of the Christians is the year 1379 of the Muslims, 5114 of the Mayas and 5762 of the Jews. The new millennium starts on January 1st thanks to the caprice of the senators of Imperial Rome who decided one fine day to break with the tradition of celebrating the New Year at the beginning of spring. And the annual count of the Christian era derives from another caprice: one fine day, the Pope of Rome decided to fix the date of the birth of Christ, although nobody really knew when He was born…

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Port of Spain Declaration or Port of Spain Debacle? Norman Girvan

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The Vth Summit of the Americas is now history. The Summit ended without the signing of the contentious Declaration that several countries had indicated contained unacceptable omissions and inclusions.Having the Declaration signed by the Summit Chairman, Prime Minister Manning of Trinidad and Tobago, was evidently a face-saving compromise to the stand-off over the Declaration’s failure to call for the lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and for Cuba’s re-admission to the Organisation of American states.

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Haga click para , ¿Declaración de Puerto España o debacle de Puerto España?

See also A Critical Analysis of the Port of Spain Declaration of Commitment, by Mervyn Claxton