Stan Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity
Montreal World Social Forum workshop notes
Aug 12 2016 9:00 – 11:30
Correa was elected president of Ecuador in 2007 and Evo Morales elected president of Bolivia in 2005. These two leaders have lead anti-neoliberal and anti-imperialist movements for genuine national independence. The living conditions of the peoples of these countries has vastly improved, and both countries have shown that a “New World is Possible” and is being built. We report on the great social, human rights, education, and economic development gains both countries have made for their peoples. We also review these governments anti-imperialist positions, such as asylum for Julian Assange, defense of the Palestinian people, defense of Cuba and Venezuela, opposition to soft coup strategies in Brazil and Argentina, and the call for a worldwide anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movement to defend oppressed peoples and fight climate change.
There has been a campaign by several Western funded NGOs attacking the governments of these two countries around the issues they call “extractivism”, repression of Original Peoples, and their development programs. We review their arguments and point out what these arguments conceal.
With over 190 coups in the nation’s troubled history–a Latin American record.
After years of neoliberal regimes, serving foreign, mostly US corporations, the proportion of rural people living in extreme poverty had risen to 75% by 2002.
Evo Morales’ election meant much more than the arrival of the first indigenous person to the presidential palace. It marked the beginning of a profound political change that has gradually seen Bolivia’s old political elites dislodged from power and replaced by representatives from the country’s original peoples and working classes.
It has ended anti-indigenous apartheid system that existed for 500 years in Bolivia. For instance, the indigenous were denied access to the Central Square in La Paz until a little over 50 years ago.
The country, after a national discussion, adopted new constitution, which included recognizing equal status to Original Peoples.
Bolivia was declared free of illiteracy by UNESCO, having educated 800,000 since 2007, using Cuba’s YES I CAN program.
Bolivia’s Economic Development
Economic growth 2016 projected about 4.5%, 5% per year since Evo was elected in 2006. US, 2010-2014 was only 1.9% per year.
The Gross Domestic Product has tripled since Evo came to power.
Why has the Economy Done so well?
MAS government’s program for economic transformation centered on limiting transnational corporate control over Bolivia and diversifying away from raw material exports.
A key plank of this program was Morales’ 2006 decree nationalizing the
Prior to nationalizations (gas and oil, telecommunications, water, electricity, and some mines), foreign corporations expropriated about 85% of the profits wealth generated by natural gas production.
Bolivia has gained $31.5 B from the nationalizations
Morales increased Bolivia’s share of the profits from gas from about 15% before his presidency to between 80-90% now.
This year the Bolivian government will earn $2.6 B from gas revenues – down from $4.5 B in 2014 – compared to $600M in 2005.
Today natural gas revenues makes up nearly half of Bolivia’s export earnings ($4 B) . In just 2011 the state received as much revenue from this sector as it did from 1996-2005.
This money funds development and social programs.
Under the MAS government, the state is the main generator of wealth, with 80% of all profits of industry go to the state. This is redistributed throughout society as bonuses, direct social benefits to the population, subsidies for agricultural production.
The increased revenue from natural resources has resulted in public spending increasing 750% since Evo came to power.
$1 Billion has been spent on community projects such as schools, gyms, clinics.
Bolivia’s record growth economic rates largely result from a booming internal market more than external demand. Increased revenue derived from nationalization also enabled the Morales government to take steps towards making the local economy less dependent on raw material exports.
This is a humane and progressive redistribution of wealth away from foreign corporations to the poor majority, and is the opposite of the US trend redistributing our wealth to that of the major corporations and the 1%.
National wealth is spent on the people: on health and education, wage increases, social security benefits, programs for the elderly, school children, pregnant mothers, price controls on staple foods. public works, infrastructure improvements.
20.6% of the funds go to the Juancito Pinto program, aimed at increasing school attendance and eliminating child labor. Juana Azurduy program, providing economic help to mothers in order to lower maternal and infant mortality, as well as combat malnutrition in very young children. The Renta de la Dignidad is a payment to elders, over 60, who receive no pensions.
The ratio of the share of income of the top 10% to the poorest 10% had dropped from 128 to 1 in 2005 to 39 to 1 in 2014. Income inequality has been cut by 2/3.
In Bolivia under Evo, poverty has declined by 25%, and extreme poverty has been cut by more than half (earning less than $1.25 per day) to 17% of the population. The real minimum wage has more than doubled.
More than 4.8 million Bolivians, out of a total population of just over 10 million, today benefit from government social welfare programs, aimed at reducing poverty, improving public health and the educational level of the population.
In the US under Bush and Obama, we see a dramatic reversal of any equalizing trend. Now, the richest 47 Americans have more wealth than one half of the American population. Now the bottom 80% of US people, 4 out of 5 people, have only 7% of the wealth, and the top 1% own 40% of the wealth.
Bolivia was declared free of illiteracy by UNESCO, having educated 800,000 since 2007, using Cuba’s YES I CAN program.
An FAO study noted that Bolivia experienced a sharp decrease in chronic undernourishment in children less than three years of age, which fell from 41.7% in 1989 to 18.5% in 2012.
Rural electrification went from 20% of homes to 50% by 2011.
Between 2006-2010 over 35 million hectares of land (1/3rd of Bolivia), was handed over to Original Peoples peasant communities to be run communally. This included government lands, large estates, and forest lands.
US Relations to NGOs, Indigenous Groups
Right after Evo’s election, Ambassador Greenlee from January 2006 wrote in a memo “U.S. assistance, the largest of any bilateral donor by a factor of three, is often hidden by our use of third parties to dispense aid with U.S. funds.” In the same cable, Greenlee acknowledges that “many USAID-administered economic programs run counter to the direction the GOB [Government of Bolivia] wishes to move the country.”
The cables from the United States embassy in La Paz show the US sought to create divisions in the social and indigenous movements that make up the support base of the country’s first indigenous-led government.
Despite viewing these sectors as “traditionally confrontational organizations”, then-ambassador David Greenlee believed that. “Regardless of [US] policy direction in Bolivia, working more closely with these social sector representatives” who were expressing dissent towards Morales “seems to be most beneficial to [US government] interests”.
Another cable from February 25, 2008 reports on a meeting then-US ambassador Philip Goldberg held with “indigenous leaders (particularly leaders of the eastern lowlands)”.
The east was the focal point of right-wing movements that tried to overthrow Morales. The US State Department wrote that USAID “must strengthen regional governments in Bolivia as a counterweight to the central government”
A 2007 US government memo released by Wikileaks showed that the USAID directed $4 million to organizations in Bolivia hostile to President Evo Morales. Some of this money went to indigenous groups which were against the Evo Morales government.
An October 17, 2007, cable titled “Indigenous cohesion cracking in Bolivia” reported that
a leader from the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qollasuyu (CONAMAQ), which groups together 16 rural indigenous organisations in the altiplano, told embassy officials the Morales government was simply using indigenous peoples for to promote its “goal of socialism [which] does not coincide with ‘true indigenous’ goals”.
Media Luna Attempted Coup
A year later these departments of the Media Luna were in open rebellion and called for a referendum on autonomy, and resulted in protests that led to the deaths of at least 20 supporters of the Evo Morales government.
This attempted coup broke under the pressure of several anti-neoliberal governments of Latin American (Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, El Salvador, Ecuador y Nicaragua), who issued a declaration in support of Bolivia’s constitutional government. Nevertheless the US continued to maintain constant communication with the leaders of the separatist opposition.
A new series of protests around the TIPNIS
Websites such as UpsideDownWorld, NACLA, Amazon Watch helped give progressive legitimacy to anti-Evo propaganda that claimed he was destroying the Amazon and repressing the indigenous.
This is seen in what they cover up concerning the TIPNIS protests.
Nik Nikandrov reported in End to USAID Spying Looms in Latin America:
“According to journalist and author Eva Golinger, USAID poured at least $85 million into destabilizing the regime in the country. Initially, the US hoped to achieve the desired result by training the separatists from the predominantly white Santa Cruz district. When the plan collapsed, USAID switched to courting the Indian communities with which the ecology-oriented NGOs started to get in touch a few years before.
“Disorienting accounts were fed to the Indians that the construction of an expressway across their region would leave the communities landless, and the Indian protest marches to the capital that followed ate away at the public standing of Morales. It transpired shortly that many of the marches including those staged by the TIPNIS group, had been coordinated by the US embassy.
The job was done by embassy official Eliseo Abelo, a USAID curator for the Bolivian indigenous population. His phone conversations with the march leaders were intercepted by the Bolivian counter-espionage agency and made public, so that he had to escape from the country while the US diplomatic envoy to Bolivia complained about the phone tapping.”
The Bolivian government had publicly presented evidence of USAID-funded programs to mobilize the indigenous population against the government, in particular an indigenous march protesting the TIPNIS highway. USAID-funded programs were active in these areas, and had funded some of the leading organizations, such as the Eastern Bolivia Indigenous Peoples and Communities Confederation (CIDOB).
“USAID refused to reveal who it was funding and the Bolivian government had strong reasons to believe that it had ties and coordination with opposition groups in the country which at the time was involved in violence and destructive activities aimed at toppling the Morales government,” said Beeton. “Now we know through WikiLeaks that that’s what really was going on.”
President Evo Morales also revealed transcripts of phone calls between the anti-highway march organizers and U.S. embassy officials.
Federico Fuentes brings to light what Achtenberg and Dangl seek to conceal:
“Similarly, neither of the Internet statements [an anti-Evo Morales Avaaz petition and September 21 letter to Morales signed by over 60 environmental groups] mentions the protesters’ support for the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program.
REDD is a grossly anti-environmental United Nations program that aims to privatise forests by converting them into “carbon offsets” that allow rich, developed countries to continue polluting.
Some of the biggest proponents of this measure can be found among the NGOs promoting the march. Many of these have received direct funding from the US government, whose ambassador in Bolivia was expelled in September 2008 for supporting a right-wing coup attempt against the elected Morales government.
These “obscure interests” include the League for the Defense of the Environment (LIDEMA), which was set up with US government funds….”
According to Bolivia’s Cabinet Chief Juan Ramon Quintana, over the past eight years the NED has funded around 40 institutions in Bolivia including economic and social centers, foundations and non-governmental organizations, at a total amount of over US$10 million. 2016
The US Embassy brought around $200,000 to use in the campaign against the vote to reform of the Constitution in February 2016. These resources were used by foundations, citizens organizations and by youth leaders for marches, workshops, seminars on “democracy”.
Between 2003-2014 the NED spent $7.7 million in Bolivia to finance around 20 institutions in Bolivia to further US interference in the internal affairs of the country.
Avaaz petition to Evo Morales
September 21, 2011:
Dear President Evo Morales, Plurinational State of Bolivia
We, the undersigned members of social movements and international civil society, are writing to express our support for the right of indigenous people to freely decide on development projects within their territories and our deep concerns about the consequences of the proposed highway through the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory. We also write to express our solidarity with the Eighth Grand March of the Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia, currently taking place in defense of Isiboro Sécure and for the respect of indigenous peoples’ rights to autonomy, territory, and free choice over their own destiny. As supporters of justice, indigenous rights, and environmental sustainability on a global scale, we
Latin America – 350.org para América Latina
Bolivia – Acción Internacional para la Salud – AIS
Centro Vicente Cañas
Canada – Council of Canadians
The Blue Planet Project
- Accountability Counsel
- Alliance for Democracy
- Amazon Watch
- Cultural Survival
- Global Greengrants Fund
- Earth Rights International
- Food and Water Watch
- Government Accountability Project
- Global Alliance for Immediate Alteration – GAIA
- Global Exchange
- Global Justice Ecology Project
- International Accountability Project
- International Forum on Globalization
- International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP)
- International Rivers
- Land is Life
- Massachusetts Global Action
- North American Congress on Latin America
- Rainforest Action Network
- Rainforest Foundation US
- The Oakland Institute
- The Government Accountability Project
- Village Earth
The purpose of these petitions and articles attacking foreign governments that are on the US rulers enemies lists is to discourage solidarity with them, to make people here feel they are not worth defending.
This makes regime change easier to accomplish, as a sector of the progressive and anti-war movement is neutralized.
Attacks on Bolivia’s Environmental Record
So-called defenders of Bolivia’s environment do not mention one great environmental achievement: the Morales government has overseen a 64% reduction in the deforestation rate between 2010 and 2013. Misrepresenting the Morales government’s environmental track record is an attempt to delegitimize and undermine Morales’ position as a leading spokesperson in the fight against climate change.
Some disagree with his statements blaming capitalism for the climate crisis we face today.
Others, in particular Morales’ NGO critics, believe he should instead implement policies they designed (such carbon offset schemes or handing over the nation’s resources to particular local communities and NGOs).
Morales is attacked by environmental NGOs for opposing “carbon offset” schemes that seek to pay communities (and NGOs) in the global South to protect forests as a means to compensate for pollution emitted by companies abroad.
Ecuador’s Citizen’s Revolution
Before Correa, Ecuador had seven presidents in ten years.
By the year 2000, Ecuador’s per capita GDP was 1.4% lower than it had been in 1980 – quite a disaster considering that it had grown by 110% in the 1960-1980 period.
the country was impoverished by neo-colonial and neo-liberal governments. With their 1999 economic collapse, one in ten Ecuadorians had left the country.
Correa halted instituting IMF and US “free trade” plans, opposed World Bank loans.
Ecuador has experienced 4.2% average growth over the past 7 years.
it has rejected neo-liberal policies and the devastating debt mechanisms of the IMF, has progressively taxed the rich and cut out tax avoidance resulting in a tripling of income to invest in developing public services.
This is a model that serves the majority as shown by the cancellation of illegitimate foreign and banker’s debt that was starving public services of resources – a development that offers concrete lessons for Europe.
Correa instituted a tax on capital flight; the Central Bank was required to repatriate billions in assets held abroad. He also made new restrictions preventing banks from owning media companies, and antitrust enforcement, while at the same time promoting expansion of credit-unions, co-ops and other parts of the “popular and solidarity sector” of the financial system.
Having cracked down on tax evasion, now Ecuador receives three times more in taxes.
Correa’s government diversified the economy, moving away from dependence on oil. This has been facilitated by investment in education. At present, oil revenues make up 20% of the national budget, but 52% of export income.
Public investment has quadrupled 2006-2013, which also reduced socioeconomic inequality. Much of these funds come from cracking down on tax evasion, now Ecuador receives three times more in taxes.
They tripled spending on education and health care, providing free health care for the poor.
Ecuador’s minimum wage has more than doubled since 2007, from $170 a month in 2007 to now $366. Ours in the US has fallen by 1/3 since 1974. Many people who now earn it, and are enrolled on social security, used to live on as little as $70 a month without health or pension coverage. Today in Ecuador, homemakers now qualify for social security benefits.
Ecuador has a living wage policy: companies can only pay dividends on shares when they are implementing a living wage (not just the minimum wage).
Those in poverty in 2007 was 37.6%, 2014 it was 22.5%.
Rural poverty has been reduced from 61% to 35%.
Poverty among the African-descendent population, which makes up 7% of the national population, has dropped by over 20 percentage points.
In total, 1.5 million have been taken out of poverty, out of a population of 10 million.
Extreme poverty has been slashed by third –In 2006 those in extreme poverty were 17% of the population. In 2014 it was 8.5%.
In comparison, 45 million US people live below the poverty line, 14.5% of Americans, up from 12.3% in 2006. This is according to US government numbers, so probably with the undocumented poor, it is over 50 million.
Income inequality of the richest 10% to the poorest 10% has dropped from 42 to 1 to 24 to 1 – one of the greatest reductions in inequality in Latin America.
In nine years, 340,000 Ecuadorean families, about 15% of the population, have benefited from the government’s housing program. The government housing subsidy, before Correa was $500, is now between $4000-$6000.
Ecuador has one of the lowest debt levels in Latin America. It’s debt is 33% of its GNP. in comparison to 56% under President Fabian Alarcon and 44.7% under Lucio Gutierrez. The average debt of Latin American countries is 37.6%
23% of Ecuador is national park. We were told 56% of mammal species live in Ecuador.
For the third straight year, Ecuador has won the award, “World’s Leading Green Destination 2015”, by the World Travel Awards (WTA), regarded as the Oscars of tourism in the world.
Over the recent period the government approved same-sex unions and a gender identity law that allows Ecuadoreans to state their gender identity instead of the sex assigned at birth.
It is illegal for employers to discriminate against people due to their sexual orientation. The government has also been cracking down on illegal “gay treatment centers” where LGBTI people undergo, against their will, “treatments” meant to change their sexual orientation.
These changes came as a result of high-level meetings between government officials and representatives of LGBTI communities.
Regulations will be changed for elections in 2017 so that people may vote according to the gender they identify with, instead of the sex assigned at birth.
The government will also further promote anti-bullying programs inside schools
Hundreds of educational institutions in the country already count on student counseling on LGBTI-related issues. The government will also provide trainings for public officials on the human rights of LGBTI people.
Correa said that an inter-institutional working group would be created to address hate crimes against LGBTI people. Ecuador already has a specialized team for investigating crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Gains of Original Peoples
In 2007, with help of the Venezuelan government, Ecuador inaugurated its first public TV station and, together with the state-owned radio station, promoted programs in Quechua and other indigenous languages. This has boosted the use of different native languages, which were formerly endangered.
With the new 2013 Media Law the indigenous communities will have greater access to community media. The law assigns 34 percent of the country’s radio and TV frequencies to community media. So far, 14 radio frequencies have been assigned to each of the country’s indigenous groups. The government will also provide training and special funding options to support the small media outlets, in an effort to continue promoting native languages and cultural exchanges. (Dec. 2014)
Laws to protect minorities includes a law requiring companies to reserve 4% of jobs for people with disabilities, and other quotas for minority ethnic groups – such as indigenous communities and Afro-Ecuadorians – in order to narrow inequality gaps. The same has been applied in the country’s higher education system, where indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorean community inclusion has soared.
US Funding of the Opposition
2012-2015 $30 million from NED went to political parties, trade unions, dissident movements, media, such as Participacion Ciudadana.
In 2013 USAID and NED spent $24 million in Ecuador. That year the combined NED and USAID allocations for Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia totaled over US$60 million.
- Pretending the 2010 attempted coup was not a coup (Upside Down World, Narco News)
In the 2010 coup attempt, CONAIE and Pachakutik issued a joint statement denying that a coup attempt – or even a kidnapping – had taken place, denounced the Correa government as “dictatorial” and stated that it “did not recognize” it. It also regurgitated the right wing talking points on “freedom of speech”. The tendency among some progressives to automatically assume “social movement” leaders are more credible than the Correa government should have ended with the publication of that statement.
Tiban’s Ecuarunari statement, issued during the attempted coup, actually called for overthrowing President Correa: “the only revolutionary alternative is to fight against supporters of the [Correa] dictatorship.”
Evo Golinger and Jean Guy Allard exposed the US role in the attempted coup against Correa – a good example of the Latin America solidarity work progressive journalists in the US should be engaged in. Jean-Guy Allard pointed out the degree of US control over the police (who led the coup) and armed forces.
Golinger exposed the USAID/NED connections of indigenous groups such as CONAIE and in particular Pachakutik, which backed the coup:
“During the events of September 30 in Ecuador, one of the groups receiving USAID and NED financing, Pachakutik, sent out a press release backing the coup-plotting police and demanding the resignation of President Correa, holding him responsible for what was taking place. The group even went so far as to accuse him of a “dictatorial attitude.” Pachakutik entered into a political alliance with Lucio Gutiérrez in 2002 and its links with the former president are well known:”
Eva Golinger: “CONAIE blamed Correa for the coup, saying he was responsible for the crisis. By doing that while the coup is in action, it justifies it.”
Golinger reiterated that the Assemblyperson Lourdes Tibán, of the left Pachakutik Party (political wing of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, CONAIE) is part of Indigenous Enterprise Corporation, an organization that “actively” receives funding from USAID.
The group, of which is Tibán a founder, is advised by a veteran of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Norman Bailey, who two years ago was head of a special intelligence mission of the U.S. government Cuba and Venezuela.
Eva Golinger’s Expose
Her findings were actually vastly more damning of Pachakutik than of CONAIE. Years earlier, Pachakuitik’s sharp turn to the right caused its popularity to plummet.
- The so-called “left-wing” Democracy- Indigenous-Environmental Protests of 2015 and their so-called Repression
What were the June-August anti-Correa protests about?
This had to be concealed, as the real issue for the right, the ruling elite, was the proposed tax law, which they claimed increased taxes on the population, even though it affected only the top 2%. They also protested alleged persecution of environmentalists, such the closing of Fundacion Pachamama, a US funded NGO.
Actually protests against new tax laws
Guillaume Long, Minister of Culture explains:
“The bills proposed tax measures in order to address the longstanding inequality that continues to blight Ecuador, in the context of Latin America remaining the most unequal continent on earth. The tax proposals targeted the very wealthiest sectors of society. The first bill increased the inheritance tax for the richest percentiles from 35 percent to 47.5 percent, while reducing it for the poorest. It also tackled the issue of trusts in foreign tax havens. Incredibly, many Ecuadorian oligarchs, including the mayor of Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil, have their properties registered in tax havens abroad.”
“A second bill on capital gains sought to implement a tax on windfall profits on the sale of land and property. There was to be no increase on any standard gains and the measure, as in other parts of the world, was primarily aimed at discouraging property speculation, a common phenomenon in Ecuador. This displeased a number of rich potentates with access to privileged information on the location of future developments.”
Amazon Watch’s falsifications of the August 2015 protests surpassed what could be expected on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page with an article subtitled “While police massacre indigenous protesters and citizens, the Government of Rafael Correa dances in the Presidential plaza”:
”All of the rights won by the indigenous nationalities have been repealed, just as the system of bilingual intercultural education, indigenous health services, economic funds, and political organization.”
”During the March for Peoples Dignity on August 13, 2015, the Government prepared an impressive display of security forces, police, and military. Violent confrontations with citizens ensued and resulted in numerous people disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, and dead across the country.”
Ecuadorian Government Violates Human Rights and the Constitution
Carlos Perez & Manuela Picq
Indigenous leader Carlos Perez called on the Ecuadorean military and police to rebel against the government:
“I call on the military, police you must rebel. You cannot blindly follow an illegitimate act, you cannot do this,” Perez told the interviewer from Teleamazonas. “If I go to prison for saying this, I welcome this.”
Perez was being interviewed together with his partner Manuela Picq. Both were detained during violent protests last week against the government of Rafael Correa in the Ecuadorean capital.
Propaganda that she was beaten by police.
Many in Ecuador’s robust indigenous movement questioned a call by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, CONAIE, for a national uprising against the government of President Rafael Correa.
CONAIE has rejected a call for dialogue sponsored by the government and have instead have called for an indigenous-led uprising, which will begin with marches on Aug. 2 in the Zamora province and conclude in Quito for an uprising on Aug. 10.
Original People Leaders Condemn CONAIE
1.”Everyone needs to know that CONAIE is not the only indigenous voice in the country,” Franklin Columba, leader of the National Confederation of Campesino, Indigenous and Black Organizations (FENOCIN) “Here there are many organizations that also have their own processes.”
Columba told teleSUR that FENOCIN has rejected CONAIE’s uprising and it’s call for a national strike because “we as a national organization are not going to lend ourselves to playing the right’s game,” referring to the wealthy right-wing opposition who have used the momentum of current protests to denounce laws to redistribute the wealth in the country.
2.Jose Agualsaca, president of the Indigenous Federation of Ecuador (FEI):
“We believe that these marches and this uprising wants to destabilize the country, and what they really want is to overthrow President Rafael Correa from power. But it would not end there, they want to take him out, then convoke a new constitutional assembly, and make a new constitution which would serve the interests of the richest sectors of society. This is the position of the FEI.”
3.“The Right wants to hijack our country” HUMBERTO CHOLANGO , former president of CONAIE
“from Pachakutik’s side, some people are trying to call on the neoliberal right, led by Guillermo Lasso ex-banker and the gentlemen (Jaime) Nebot and the traitors of the indigenous movement, as Mr. Gutierrez.” http://citizensrevolution.net/the-right-wants-to-hijack-our-country/
- Freedom of the Press Alleged to be Threatened
Correa has been accused of restricting freedom of the press, not only in the international corporate media, but even in the allegedly alternative media. This criticism picked up steam after the journalist Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks, was given asylum in the Ecuador Embassy in London. And it picked up steam as the Ecuadoran ruling elite lost some of their monopoly of the Ecuadoran press with the new media law.
anti-Citizens Revolution propaganda from “left” press, Jacobin Magazine.
Some of the more backwards statements from Jeffery Webber:
“Activism has become sedition, and left-wing dissent betrayal of the country.” And: “criminalization and control of social protest and independent organizing was a primary concern of the government.”
The Actual Media Law
The new media law allocates one third of the broadcast spectrum to private media, one third to community based media, and one third to public media. And in fact, a media dominated by bankers, which is what Ecuador had for many years, is a massive assault on freedom of expression. However, we will not see that mentioned in the corporate media..
The Law treats the news media like a public good or service, with regulations intended to benefit citizens. The law includes broad-ranging affirmative action provisions—increasing access to media for women, young people and indigenous groups. There are also anti-discrimination principles that seek to prevent or discourage racism, sexism and attacks on the disabled.
The law places strict limits on ownership groups: A company cannot own more than one AM station, one FM station and one television station. As the law states, “It is a matter of justice to prevent direct and indirect oligopoly or monopoly ownership of the communications media.”
Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino explained on Democracy Now! (9/26/13):
What we’re doing is promoting the broadening of freedom and access to media…. There were no public TV, no public media, no public radio, no public newspaper. Now there are. And this allows there to be a diversity of media. And now they attack us for reducing freedom of speech.”
The law includes protections for journalists and prohibits censorship. There is even language that attempts to broaden the definition of that term: “A deliberate and recurrent failure to report issues in the public interest constitutes an act of prior censorship”
Reporters Without Borders noted that the media law that is being replaced was drafted by a military dictatorship in the 1970s. That law was revised in the 1990s—and one of the principal outcomes was the consolidation of media ownership in the hands of well-connected owners.
- Yasuni National Park Oil
As in Evo’s Bolivia, a central ingredient of the US’ anti-Correa campaign involves using indigenous groups and environmental NGOs to attack the Correa government, a campaign reflected in alternative media outlets such as Upside Down World, NACLA, sometimes even in Real News Network
In 2011, the Lago Agrio court ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion for environmental and public health damage, finding that Texaco’s drilling contaminated a stretch of the Amazon that is home to more than 30,000 people.
Chevron has not paid.
Ecuador pays Occidental Petroleum $180 m, Chevron $120 M
The final Occidental payment is part of a total settlement of US$980 million imposed on the Ecuadorean government by the World Bank-affiliated International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
The settlement came after the Ecuador terminated an oil concession due a breach of contract and national law on the part of Occidental.
The Correa government of Ecuador offered to refrain from exploiting the oil reserves within the Yasuni in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion. During the six-year history of the initiative, only $336 million had been pledged, and of that only $13.3 million had actually been delivered.
Cory Morningstar notes,“The fact of the matter is, if NGOs had campaigned for Yasuni …rather than working behind the scenes with corporate interests and leading greenhouse gas emitting states … perhaps our situation today would be far different. But of course, this is not why the non-profit industrial complex exists.”
- Fundacion Pachamama
This NGO, involved in opposing oil drilling in the Yasuni National Park, was shut down by the Ecuador government. The Christian Science Monitor had reported that it was receiving money from USAID.
none of the NGOs (over 100 ) participating in the Pachamama “solidarity” campaign disclose the fact that it was financed by US interests.
“Fundación Pachamama was set up in 1997 as the Pachamama Alliance (founded in 1995) “sister organization,” situated in Ecuador. The Pachamama Alliance is a heavily funded U.S. NGO. Past donors include the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Revenue has increased from U.S. $1,911,036.00 in 2006 to U.S. $3,461,600.00 in 2011 (2011 form 990) with over $1 million focused exclusively on both Ecuador and Bolivia (grantmaking $706,626.00 / program services $391,622.00) in 2011.”
“Robin Fink is the Program Director at Fundación Pachamama (since November 2009) and Board Member at the Runa Foundation (Fundación Runa) (May 2012 to present). In her role at Pachamama Alliance, Fink works closely with the Indigenous Achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The associated Runa Corporation president [Tyler Gage] said “… we also receive about $500,000 from USAID, from the US government, the Andean Development bank, the German government, a couple other NGOs who were very impressed by our model.”
Wain Collen, Education Director of Fundación Pachamama, lays out on the line what Western NGOs are about: ‘NGOs who aim to help indigenous communities most often end up causing more problems than they solve, ‘Our advisors and industry experts continue to remind us that above all, we need to run a successful business, regardless of how social it is. Without a strong, successful business we can’t generate any benefits for anyone.”
The dangerous inroads made into progressive movement by the US anti-Correa campaign is illustrated by who co-signed this defense of this US funded group:
Indigenous Environmental Network,
Move to Amend Coalition,
New Energy Economy,
Rainforest Action Network,
Soul of Money Institute,
Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus
Womenrise for Global Peace
World Temperate Rainforest Network
Fellowship of Reconciliation,
Friends of the Earth US
IFIP – International Funders for Indigenous Peoples
In the Yasuni, the Correa government proposed opening a mere 200 hectares (the actual size to be affected contested by some) to oil drilling, within the million-hectare park. In comparison, Canada’s tar sands mining/strip-mining will destroy 300,000 hectares of the Canadian Boreal Forest, 1500 times the size of the land to be affected in the Yasuni. Canada is now the world’s leading country in deforestation.
Previous CONAIE president, Humberto Cholango, admitted “Many nationalities of the Amazonia say “look, we are the owners of the territory, and yes we want it to be exploited.” These agree with Correa, and the majority of Ecuadorans, that to leave valuable natural resources untouched while people go without schools, roads, medical care, employment, hurts their own interests.
Closing Accion Ecologica
Correa also shut down the US funded “environmental” anti-Correa NGO, Accion Ecologica.
Even journalist Naomi Klein joined the campaign calling the government’s decision to shut it down as “something all too familiar: a state seemingly using its power to weaken dissent.”
Quoted in Paul Dosh and Nicole Kligerman, “Correa vs. Social Movements: Showdown in Ecuador,” NACLA Report on the Americas, (September 17, 2009), https://nacla.org/node/6124; and Naomi Klein, “Open Letter to President Rafael Correa Regarding Closure of Acción Ecológica,” March 12, 2009
Correa’s Ecuador and Evo’s Bolivia are both widely criticized by Western environmental and indigenous supporting groups for practicing “extractivism,” meaning, more or less, relying on natural resource (oil, gas, mining) wealth to power their economies. We may search far and wide for criticisms of “extractivism” by pro-imperialist governments in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Indonesia, Mexico, Alberta, the Congo. In these latter countries, the wealth from the natural resources ends in Western banks or as corporate profits. In contrast to these countries, Ecuador and Bolivia have nationalized their national resources, and reversed the percent of the profits that go to the state vs to foreign corporations, from 10-15% before to 85-90% now, and use this wealth to fund programs benefitting the 99%. Is this what lies behind their sin of “extractivism”?
The problem with the term “extractivism” is that conceals the real crime: the corporate raping of the resources of the oppressed Third World and the pollution it inflicts on the environment and people living there. The 500 year imperialist pillaging of oppressed nations lies obscured. The real issue hidden by behind the term “extractivism” is who controls the natural resources of oppressed nations: the imperial powers or these nations themselves. The central class issue of “extractivism” is buried: who uses natural resources for whose interests, who benefits, who suffers. Lies buried is that Bolivia and Ecuador have taken control of their natural resources from imperialist corporations, and use the wealth produced to improve the lives of their peoples
We are forced to recognize that forces allied with the US government have made significant inroads into the anti-interventionist movement. To illustrate, ten years ago, much US anti-Chavez propaganda – his reliance on oil revenue, concerns over environmental destruction, his treatment of the indigenous, his being a caudillo – was seen at the time by the anti-interventionist movement as little more than part of a propaganda campaign to unseat Chavez. Yet now this US propaganda is regurgitated against Correa and Evo and given credibility and legitimacy even inside the US progressive movement. This cannot be explaining by asserting Chavez was more popular in Venezuela than Evo or Correa are in Bolivia and Ecuador. Of the three, Correa has had the highest domestic popularity. The explanation is that this alternative media, and its audience, has been slowly been moving to the right, distancing themselves from the progressive changes in Latin America.
We find alternative media backhandedly cooperating with the USG soft coup plotters in claiming Correa and Evo Morales are oppressing the “Indigenous,” destroying the Amazon, repressing leftwing political opponents. The alternative media paints US collaborators in Bolivia and Ecuador as defenders of free expression, defenders of nature, defenders of the indigenous.
The reports all give the impression that the US doesn’t exist, or that the US doesn’t have any more relation to the internal conflicts and problems of these countries than the moon does.
It really shows that for most of the progressive-liberal-left media, if the US is not actively and obviously invading a country with its military, but is pursuing regime change through soft coups, this media not only does not report it, but actually deliberately covers up what the US is doing.
This guy interviewed seems to give a left critique of the Workers Party, but in fact, by not focusing on the central issue – the US role and the criminality of the Brazilian ruling class – he is being an apologist for what they are doing.
For any serious analysis the issues and conflicts in the Third World countries, still dominated by the West, the starting point has to be the role imperialism has played for 500 years and continues to play there. Otherwise, it is just indirectly giving cover to US imperialism.
Rejecting the necessity for unequivocal solidarity against imperialism, many “activists” ignore the fact that 1) a multitude of Caribbean/Latin American states, as well as any region in the Global South that had exploitable resources, have been colonized and exploited for centuries, 2) the very people at the forefront, condemning the “extractivists,” are the very people purchasing and using what is extracted (the “extractivist” states themselves use and emit almost nothing of what they extract, with the money being used to lift citizens out of extreme dire poverty), 3) these states are also very much trapped within the industrialized capitalist economic system; they do not exist in a vacuum, 4) reparations have not been made to these states who contributed essentially nothing to the planetary crisis, 5) the leaders of these states must (usually within 1-2 terms) face the daily and very real possibility of CIA-plotted assassination, destabilization and coups while satisfying a populace seeking the most basic of life necessities and economic stability, and 6) by siding with U.S.-financed NGOs such as Pachamama Alliance, Amazon Watch, etc., one is NOT in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. Rather one is (yet again) reabsorbed by the very system we claim to oppose – reabsorbed by the very system and hegemonic rule that is destroying Indigenous Peoples and whole cultures across the entire globe.
We expect the corporate media would conceal the impact of Western pillaging on the oppressed Third World countries of the world, and to participate in the West’s on-going efforts to advocate for pro-Western neoliberal governments in power. However, for liberal-left publications to take a similar stand, even if diluted, is nothing other than apologetics for imperialist interference. For these publications to not emphasize imperialism’s historic, and continuing, exploitative role is not simply dishonest, not simply apologetics, but also shows a basic lack of human feeling and solidarity with the peoples of the Third World. Any serious analysis of what is happening in some oppressed “Third World” country, whether progressive or not, must start with the role Western imperialism has played there.