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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 139,827

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Under New Management

Under New Management

The coast of Honduras could be the site of a radical experiment: one in which foreign 
investors bankroll a quasi-sovereign city. Backers say it will lift the region out of poverty -- but residents are anything but convinced.

BY Maya Kroth


AMAPALA, Honduras — In a cinder-block building at the end of a narrow, washed-out dirt road, Alberto Cruz, the mayor of Amapala, wipes the sweat from under his white baseball cap. The July heat is oppressive, and beads of moisture form as Cruz faces the insistent stares of hundreds of his constituents, gathered for a town-hall meeting. People fill the small room before him and spill out into an adjacent, dusty lot, peering in through metal window screens. They are eager to pepper him with questions about a provocative new law that could change their lives permanently.

"I'm not here to defend or condemn a law that I didn't make or a project that I don't know about," Cruz tells the crowd. "But we need to be open to investment."

"This law was passed without consulting anyone here," protests one man in the crowd.

"We're only fishermen and farmers," says another, rising from his chair and stabbing the air with an angry finger. "We won't stand for the invasion of these model cities created for the benefit of the rich!"

The room erupts in applause.

Here, in a poor corner of one of the poorest countries in the Americas, a radical economic and political experiment may soon be underway. In May, the Supreme Court of Honduras ruled in support of a constitutional amendment and attendant statute that allow for the creation of "zones for economic development and employment" (ZEDEs). Sometimes called "charter cities" or "model cities," these zones would be quasi-sovereign entities built on Honduran soil with backing from foreign investors. Unlike the world's thousands of "special economic zones," such as Shenzhen in China, which attract foreign direct investment through tax breaks and other flexible economic policy measures, ZEDEs would operate with "functional and administrative autonomy that includes the functions, powers, and duties" of ordinary cities, according to the constitutional amendment. They could enact their own laws, set up their own courts, even establish their own police forces.

The first zone may be built on southern Honduras's picturesque Gulf of Fonseca, specifically in the small province of Valle (home to some 176,000 people, according to a recent estimate). The Honduran government has mentioned Amapala, which comprises several islands, as a potential charter-city site, and it is among the Valle municipalities that the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), South Korea's bilateral aid bureau, is analyzing in a $4 million feasibility study.


The Embattled Arrival of Honduras' Model Cities

The Embattled Arrival of Honduras' Model Cities
By Lauren Carasik
August 12, 2014

“The Voice of Zacate Grande” is a community radio station named after the island in southern Honduras from where it broadcasts. Located off a dusty road that winds past modest homes and stunning views of the beautiful Gulf of Fonesca, the station has become a focal point of the local community’s resistance to the ongoing land conflict with Miguel Facusse, the richest man in Honduras and reportedly its largest landowner. On the wall outside the station hangs a portrait of Francisco Morazán, revered by Hondurans for his progressive vision and courageous leadership in the newly independent country more than a century ago. These days his portrait has become a symbol of a new struggle for freedom.

Zacate Grande’s plight seems likely to get worse. In May, the Honduran Supreme Court upheld a law, passed by the National Congress last year, authorizing the creation of so-called Zones for Employment and Economic Development (ZEDEs). Modeled on the charter cities concept designed by Paul Romer, an economics professor at New York University, ZEDEs will be semi-autonomous areas that are free to set up their own laws and enforce them via security forces and a judicial system established by them. In theory, these charter cities are designed to spur widespread economic growth by allowing free enterprise to circumvent the country’s weak political institutions.

In practice, however, ZEDEs seem likely to benefit only Honduras’ existing economic and political elites and foreign investors. The laws allowing ZEDEs have been designed to give their investors maximal legal and financial protection, leaving residents with only minimal legal recourse and democratic rights. If Zacate Grande is subsumed into the first ZEDE, the island’s 5,000 inhabitants will lose the right to help determine what happens to its land or its resources. And that has generated alarm among the residents about international investors more focused on earning a profit than building a sustainable economy and a fair political order.


The Honduran government’s approval of the creation of model cities follows the marked deterioration of economic and social conditions after the 2009 coup that ousted President Mel Zelaya, a populist who had been elected in 2006. Between 2010 and 2012, the conservative forces that controlled the national government drastically cut spending on public services, including housing, health care, and education. Extreme poverty rose by 26.3 percent; almost two-thirds of Hondurans now live below the poverty line. And inequality increased rapidly -- in the first two years after the coup, the wealthiest 10 percent of Hondurans reaped 100 percent of the country’s real income gains.

At the same time, violence and insecurity have careened out of control. Since 2011, Honduras has claimed the highest per capita murder rate in the world. The international media has typically attributed the violence to drug traffickers and gangs. But that has obscured the role played by the notoriously corrupt police force and military who enforce the government’s policies with lethal means. Over the past year and a half, more than 400 children have been murdered. Journalists, lawyers, judges, human rights defenders, land rights activists, opposition party members, members of the LGBT community, and indigenous activists are routinely targeted for brutal repression by state and private security forces.


Who Is Dying in Venezuela? A Revealing NYT Correction

Who Is Dying in Venezuela? A Revealing NYT Correction
By Peter Hart
Mar 26 2014

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has an op-ed in the New York Times today (3/26/14). Given that he is currently being held in a military prison, the piece is notable. But the most revealing part might be a correction that appears at the end:

Correction: March 26, 2014

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the more than 30 people killed in the political demonstrations in Venezuela since February 4 were protesters. That number includes security forces and civilians, not only protesters.

So the op-ed currently reads, "Over 30 people, including security forces and civilians, have died in the demonstrations." In the original, those deaths were all considered to be on the protesters' side: "More than 1,500 protesters have been detained, more than 30 have been killed." If you have been relying on US media to follow the Venezuela story, or relying on Venezuelan opposition sources, you'd probably have the mistaken idea that the violence was basically all happening on one side–which might explain how this error got into the Times.

Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic & Policy Research (CEPR) has been keeping track of the deaths attributed to the protests ("Venezuela: Who Are They and How Did They Die?", and a similar effort by Ewan Roberston can be found at Venezuelanalysis.com. The latter finds pro-government and anti-government deaths about equal (nine on both sides), with a dozen deaths of civilians with no apparent political affiliation–numbers that basically line up with Johnston's.

The presence of the protest barricades appears to be the most common cause of deaths: individuals shot while attempting to clear the opposition street blockades, automobile accidents caused by the presence of the barricades, and several incidents attributed to the opposition stringing razor wire across streets near the barricades. The most recent reported death was a pregnant woman who was shot while walking towards a barricade (AP, 3/24/14). She was not participating in the protest on either side.

Some analysts have pointed out the most recent protests reveal a fundamental split within the Venezuelan opposition, between those who believe in defeating Maduro and his party by democratic means and those–like Lopez–who favor street confrontations with the goal removing Maduro from office. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that he would want to conceal the fact that the protests have been responsible for many of the deaths he would prefer to blame on the government.


Newsweek's Monkey Meat Ebola Fearmongering

Newsweek's Monkey Meat Ebola Fearmongering
By Peter Hart
Aug 28 2014

It's 2014, and a national magazine has a cover story about how African immigrants might spread a deadly virus in the United States, thanks to the peculiar and unsanitary food they eat. The cover image is a photo of a chimpanzee.

Yes, this really happened.

"A Back Door For Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark a US Epidemic" read the headline on the August 29 Newsweek, a profoundly shocking image and message that immediately drew criticism like this:

Africa is a Country @AfricasaCountry
When clickbait, racism and dog whistling to white American readers meet on @Newsweek cover; see @dadakim's tweets pic.twitter.com/6T3J2SGtkk

7:36 AM - 23 Aug 2014

141 Retweets 36 favorites

But the problems of the piece were bigger than just the cover. The piece is built around the idea that illegally imported "bushmeat"–what we would call "wild game" if it were being eaten in the United States–could carry the deadly Ebola virus.

Newsweek's Gerard Flynn and Susan Scutti note that "social media have been ablaze with fearmongering," and they include as evidence a "highly publicized tweet from Donald Trump."

But is there any evidence that imported meat could actually carry Ebola? On that score, Newsweek comes up empty. The article cites a "memo obtained by Newsweek that circulated among customs officers and agriculture specialists in 2007 [that] noted that bushmeat is 'a potential vector of diseases such as Monkeypox, Ebola Virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and other communicable diseases.'" Who produced this seven-year-old memo? Newsweek doesn't say.


Brazil AG Wants Review of Amnesty for Crimes of 1964-1985 Junta

Brazil AG Wants Review of Amnesty for Crimes of 1964-1985 Junta
September 2,2014

BRASILIA – The Brazilian Attorney General’s Office has called for a revision of a 1979 law that has prevented the prosecution of members of the 1964-1985 military regime for crimes against humanity, a document released Friday shows.

The brief, signed by Attorney General Rodrigo Janot, was submitted to the federal Supreme Court and is based on a 2010 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanding that Brazil investigate and punish human rights abuses committed under the dictatorship.

Even though the amnesty was imposed by the very people who stood to benefit from it, Brazil’s highest court in 2010 rejected a motion brought by grassroots groups asking for the measure to be overturned as unconstitutional.

Brazil, as a member of the Organization of American States, decided, “in a sovereign and juridically valid manner,” to accept the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court and has a corresponding obligation to comply with the court’s rulings, Janot wrote.


Hired Guns Slay Union Leader in Colombia’s Oil Industry

Hired Guns Slay Union Leader in Colombia’s Oil Industry
September 1,2014

BOGOTA – A union leader in the oil industry in the central Colombian province of Meta was gunned down by hired killers riding a motorcycle, officials said Saturday.

Edith Santos was hit with two bullets in the chest while in her office at San Isidro de Chichineme in Acacias, Meta Province, the USO petroleum workers union said in a communique.

The union leader’s family took her to a medical center in the region where she soon died.

Santos was president of a community association and assessor for the National Security Professionals Union, or Sinproseg, which represents bodyguards and security guards in all Colombia.

USO laments this “attack on labor leaders in the oil industry,” and recalled that Marcos Suarez, secretary general of the United Workers of Colombia, or CUT, was also murdered.


(Short article, no more at link.)

Worst Drought in 30 Years Causes Nearly 50,000 Fires in Bolivia

Worst Drought in 30 Years Causes Nearly 50,000 Fires in Bolivia

LA PAZ – The worst drought in the last 30 years has ignited more than 47,000 fires in Bolivia over the last few months, creating health problems among the population and affecting the nation’s air traffic, the Andean country’s forest service chief said.

Recorded up to now have been “47,835 centers of combustion and we’re close to 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) burned,” making it the nation’s “worst drought season ever,” Bolivian Forest and Lands Authority president Cliver Rocha told state media.

“The drought has kindled these massive, widespread blazes and estimates tell us they will continue in Bolivia until December. It isn’t possible to quantify the damages, which are irreparable,” Rocha said.

Two people have been arrested for setting premeditated fires, “the first arrests for forest fires in Bolivia’s history,” Rocha said.

One of the culprits is a Mexican Mennonite living in the eastern Santa Cruz region, who last week was caught in the act as he was setting fire to pastureland near the Brazilian border, the forestry chief said.


Reconnecting With the Very American Ideal That Labor Rights Are Human Rights

Published on Monday, September 01, 2014
by The Nation

Reconnecting With the Very American Ideal That Labor Rights Are Human Rights

by John Nichols

Congressmen Keith Ellison and John Lewis have proposed legislation to protect union organizing as a civil right. “As go unions, so go middle-class jobs,” says Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat who serves as a Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Employee Empowerment Act with civil rights icon John Lewis. This ground-breaking legislation will give workers the same legal options for union organizing discrimination as for other forms of discrimination—stopping anti-union forces in their tracks”

Amending the National Labor Relations Act to allow workers who face discrimination for engaging in union organizing to sue for justice in the civil courts—and to collect compensatory and punitive damages—is a sound and necessary initiative.

But it is certainly not a radical initiative—at least by American standards.

Indeed, the best way to understand what Ellison, Lewis and the cosponsors of their legislation are proposing is as a reconnection with a very American idea.

Despite the battering that unions have taken in recent years—in Wisconsin, Michigan and states across the country—Americans once encouraged countries around the world to embrace, extend and respect labor rights.


Ecuador: WikiLeaks cables show US how used 'democracy promotion' to push corporate interests

Ecuador: WikiLeaks cables show US how used 'democracy promotion' to push corporate interests
Monday, September 1, 2014
By Linda Pearson

Ecuador's pro-US neoliberal president Lucio Gutierrez was ousted in 2005. Since then, relations between Ecuador and the United States have deteriorated, with the Andean nation’s increasing rejection of US hegemony.

The government of Rafael Correa, first elected in 2006, has broken from the neoliberal doctrines Washington has imposed on Latin America. It has embraced regional integration, moving closer to its neighbours and further away from the US.

Diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show how hard the US fought to control Ecuador's future post-Gutierrez.
They show a key element of US efforts to control Ecuador’s political and economic direction in the post-Gutierrez years was the US Embassy’s “democracy promotion” activity.

So-called “democracy promotion” came to prominence as a method for maintaining US hegemony in the 1980s.

Professor William I Robinson says a shift occurred when Washington policy-makers realised the traditional method of supporting authoritarian client states tended to produce just the sort of movements for radical change the US wanted to avoid. An example was the rise to power of the left-wing Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

~ ~ ~

This article is the second of a series exploring diplomatic cables from the US Embassy in Ecuador published by WikiLeaks. They are based on research of around 1000 WikiLeaks cables from the end of the Gutierrez administration onward, most of which have not been reported on in the English-speaking press before. Read part one here:[font https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/57183


Uribe extradited me to keep me silent: AUC paramilitary chief

Uribe extradited me to keep me silent: AUC paramilitary chief
Sep 1, 2014 posted by Emil Foget

The ex-chief of defunct right-wing paramilitary group AUC said Monday he wants to participate in ongoing peace talks with leftist rebel group FARC, and claims that former president Alvaro Uribe extradited him to keep him silent.

Salvatore Mancuso, formerly the head of the now demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) told El Tiempo on Monday that he was sent to the US to prevent certain truths from coming to light.

“When we started to confess the truths affecting the president Uribe, or people close to him, and high power in high places, that was when he decided to breach the covenants and order our extradition,” Salvatore said in an interview with local newspaper El Tiempo.

In the interview he furthermore stated that the extradition was a mistake, and that his obligation is to tell the truth.

Mancuso was extradited in 2008 and is in prison on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and financing terrorism.

Mancuso’s version of events echoes claims by other extradited criminals. In June, a former Colombian drug trafficker and paramilitary financier declared that former Colombia President Alvaro Uribe extradited him to the US to keep him from talking about high-ranking officials with paramilitary ties, according to an interview with W Radio.

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