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Judi Lynn

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The Roots of the Food Crisis: Starving Central America

Weekend Edition Oct 31-Nov 02, 2014

The Roots of the Food Crisis

Starving Central America

by NICK ALEXANDROV


“The drought has killed us,” a young Honduran, Olman Funez, explained last summer. He was referring to what the World Bank called “one of the longest droughts in nearly half a century.” A 60-year-old Guatemalan peasant emphasized he had never “seen a crisis like this.” Carlos Román, a Nicaraguan farmer, told a reporter that “there is nothing. We eat what we can find.”

These men are among the 2.8 million Central Americans “struggling to feed themselves” in the region’s “dry corridor”—“a drought-prone area shared by Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua,” according to the UN World Food Programme. The Nicaraguan government described its drought as the worst in 32 years. And last week the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies “said some 571,710 people were affected by the drought in Honduras,” and that “families are selling their belongings and livestock to secure food for survival, while others are migrating to escape the effects of the drought.” But food crises in Honduras and Nicaragua aren’t new phenomena. And in both countries, U.S. policy has helped starve Central Americans.

Consider Honduras, where the Choluteca Department is part of the “dry corridor.” The U.S. Consul in Tegucigalpa wrote in 1904 of Choluteca’s wide “variety of vegetation,” “ranging from the pines and oaks of the highlands to the palm and cocoanut trees along the coast.” These rich woodlands were devastated seventy years later, declining from 29% to 11% of the census area in the 1960s and ’70s. Pastures increased their territorial coverage from 47% to 64% during the same period. “The cattle are eating the forest,” Billie R. DeWalt explained in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists three decades ago. The anthropologist Jefferson Boyer concurred, noting that Choluteca’s ranchers “simply hired labor to slash and burn the trees and brush, opening the land to grass production.”

Honduras was “being converted into a vast pasture for cattle destined for export,” DeWalt elaborated—a development in line with Washington’s aims. Robert G. Williams noted that Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress boosted Central America’s beef-export business,” for example, and that “the World Bank, AID, and the IADB” all viewed beef “as a pragmatic, quick way to achieve export-led growth.” This beef, DeWalt continued, was “not bound for the estimated 58 percent of Honduran children under five years of age who suffer from identifiable malnutrition,” but rather for the U.S.—the source of “insatiable demand for livestock products” and “the largest importer,” by a long shot, “of Central American beef export.” As U.S. citizens gorge themselves on steaks and hamburgers, “food supplies in poorer countries become scarcer, unemployment increases, and the land and other resources are increasingly degraded.” Poor Hondurans thus were forced “to compete with the animals for the locally available resources.”

More:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/31/starving-central-america/

Election Day in the Bolivian Highlands: Local Democracy, Amidst the Contradictions

Election Day in the Bolivian Highlands: Local Democracy, Amidst the Contradictions

A report from Bolivia's highland provincial capital of Achacachi, on the elections and the continuing contradictions of Bolivia’s “process of change.”

Emily Achtenberg
Rebel Currents
10/30/2014

[center]

Election day in Achacachi (Emily Achtenberg) [/center]
On October 12, Election Day in Bolivia, I traveled to the highland provincial capital of Achacachi—60 miles north of La Paz, and 12,600 feet above sea level—as an official observer with the National Lawyers Guild. From this traditional bastion of support for President Evo Morales and his ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, we gained a unique view of the elections and their potential impact on what Bolivians call their “process of change,” including its many contradictions.

Steeped in the lore of Aymara insurgency, Achacachi is famously known as the epicenter of Túpac Katari’s 18th century indigenous revolt against Spanish colonial rule and the birthplace of the 1970s EGTK Katarista guerrilla army—which included among its members Bolivia’s current vice president, Alvaro García Linera. It is also the home of the legendary Ponchos Rojos (Red Ponchos), an indigenous peasant militia that confronted Bolivian troops during the 2003 Gas Wars and continues to play a key role in highland communities.

In the La Paz department where Achacachi is located, Morales prevailed with 69% of the vote, boosting his 61% total nationwide. In the congressional district that includes Achacachi, the MAS candidate won 78% of the vote, contributing to the party’s two-thirds “super-majority” in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly and its increasingly hegemonic control over Bolivian politics.

[center]

Túpac Katari Plaza, Achacachi (Emily Achtenberg) [/center]
Election Day in Achacachi, as elsewhere in Bolivia, looked a lot different than in the United States. For starters, it was a national holiday (and a Sunday), with all regular business shut down to encourage voter turnout.

More:
https://nacla.org/blog/2014/10/30/election-day-bolivian-highlands-local-democracy-amidst-contradictions

Here's Why Nicaragua Is Unbelievably Safe Despite Being Impoverished

Here's Why Nicaragua Is Unbelievably Safe Despite Being Impoverished
Natasha Bertrand
Oct. 29, 2014, 12:57 PM

Central America, long engulfed by bloodshed and gang warfare, has come to be known as one of the most dangerous regions in the world. Nicaragua, however, is now one of the safest countries in the Southern hemisphere despite being poor and having a bloody past, according to a new NPR report.

This is thanks to the softer approach the country has taken to fighting crime. From the NPR report:

While Nicaragua's neighbors have embraced so-called "mano dura" or iron fist policies, Nicaragua has taken a softer approach.

The Nicaraguan police, for example, pacified the Dimitrov neighborhood by having the community patrol itself and by having police officers mediate talks between gang members often after soccer games.

The government has also developed a program that sends kids to school instead of prison. A new youth training center in Managua helps high-risk youth from bad neighborhoods leave or avoid gangs by educating them in practical fields. Currently, only 70 Nicaraguan juveniles are in jail.

More:
http://www.businessinsider.com/how-nicaragua-got-to-be-safe-2014-10

Mexico archaeologists reach end of Teotihuacan tunnel sealed 2,000 years ago, find offering and thre

Mexico archaeologists reach end of Teotihuacan tunnel sealed 2,000 years ago, find offering and three chambers beyond
E. Eduardo Castillo, Associated Press | October 30, 2014 12:40 PM ET
More from Associated Press



Unlike at other pre-Columbian ruins in Mexico, archaeologists have never found any remains believed to belong to Teotihuacan’s rulers. Such a discovery could help shine light on the leadership structure of the city, including whether rule was hereditary.

“We have not lost hope of finding that, and if they are there, they must be from someone very, very important,” Gomez said.

So far Gomez’s team has excavated only about 2 feet (60 centimetres) into the chambers. A full exploration will take at least another year.

Initial studies by the National Institute of Anthropology and History show the tunnel functioned until around A.D. 250, when it was closed off.

Teotihuacan long dominated central Mexico and had its apex between 100 B.C. and A.D. 750. It is believed to have been home to more than 100,000 people, but was abandoned before the rise of the Aztecs in the 14th century.

Today it is an important archaeological site on the outskirts of Mexico City and a major tourist draw known for its broad avenues and massive pyramids.

More:
http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/10/30/mexico-archaeologists-reach-end-of-teotihuacan-tunnel-sealed-2000-years-ago-find-offering-and-three-chambers-beyond/

Please see Ichingcarpenter's earlier thread in Anthropology:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/12291795#post2

New Mexico begins new policy of refusing voter IDs to Navajo-speaking ‘illiterates’

Source: Raw Story

New Mexico begins new policy of refusing voter IDs to Navajo-speaking ‘illiterates’
David Edwards
30 Oct 2014 at 15:34 ET

The New Mexico Motor Vehicles Division (MVD) has reportedly stopped issuing driver’s licenses or photo identification cards used for voting to so-called “illiterates” who only speak the Navajo language.

In a memo obtained by ProgressNowNM, Bureau Chief Aurora Lopez outlines the policy for MVD employees.

“Agents are not allowed to read the questions on driver’s applications to a customer,” Lopez writes. “They would (need) a letter stating that they have a condition that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act for us to read the questions.”

“Applicants should be able to read the questions on their own since it raises questions as to how they obtained their driver’s license.”

Lopez adds: “We are not able to issue license (sic) for illiterates.”


Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/new-mexico-begins-new-policy-of-refusing-voter-ids-to-navajo-speaking-illiterates/

Death, Taxes and the Cuban Blockade

October 29, 2014

It Must End

Death, Taxes and the Cuban Blockade

by MATT PEPPE


The famous expression about the only things that will happen with absolute certainty, death and taxes, is actually missing one: the annual vote in which 99% of the world’s nations declare that the blockade against Cuba is illegal and must end. Yesterday, for the 23rd straight year, the United Nations General Assembly voted to end the U.S. blockade against Cuba by the astounding margin of 188 to 2. The annual resolution may seem like mere political theater meant to embarrass the U.S. government, but in reality it is a sincere objection to an inhumane policy.

Washington will now ignore this resounding rejection, as it always does, and and go on breaking the law with impunity since there is nothing anyone can do to stop them. Don Corleone would be envious of their gall.

Since the last vote against the blockade, it was revealed that the top 10 recipients of U.S. aid all practice torture. During the last year, at least half of these allies have reportedly tortured people on a “massive scale.” This doesn’t even include the U.S.’s close ally Saudi Arabia, who in the last year has beheaded 59 people and sentenced a popular activist to death by crucifiction.

The lone supporter of the blockade, Israel, even tortures Palestinian children, who make up several hundred of the more than 5,000 prisoners held in military custody. All of Israel’s colonial subjects are subjected to “slow-motion genocide” and collective punishment.

More:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/29/death-taxes-and-the-cuban-blockade/

Brazil’s Rousseff Re-elected Despite Anti-Workers’ Party Sentiment: What Now?

Brazil’s Rousseff Re-elected Despite Anti-Workers’ Party Sentiment: What Now?
Written by Sabrina Fernandes
Monday, 27 October 2014 12:59

The last polls before the second round of Brazilian elections indicated a victory for Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT), with Aécio Neves, from the centre-right PSDB, trailing closely behind. This was within the reported margin of error and Sunday’s results could not be confidently predicted until the official announcement of Rousseff’s re-election. This is the tightest presidential race for the Workers’ Party in 12 years and the reasons for this are varied and relate both to the reality of Brazilian politics post-June 2013 and the impact of 12 years of PT government on the imaginary of the Brazilian people.

Rousseff is not the only one to take on many challenges as the president of Brazil for the next four years. The PT needs to decide where it stands both as political party and as government leadership. The radical Left parties and social movements need to organize as opposition in ways that promote immediate gains as well as long-term ones. Finally, the problem of depoliticization needs to be taken seriously by all of these actors if the country is to avoid another close encounter with an openly neoliberal and conservative alternative in four years.

The meaning of four more years with Rousseff

Without the advantage of a comfortable victory, Rousseff needs to first and foremost identify ways for reconciling the opposing groups that went head to head during the heated second-round. Such a move would involve reducing the disturbing reactions of the losing side, which have involved racist and xenophobic comments, and the anti-dialogical position promoted by the mainstream media’s blunt support of Neves. Rousseff’s victory speech attended to these aspects by focusing on dialogue, hope, and political maturity. She stressed that she does not believe the elections have split the country in half, although it is evident that she will have to deal with the impacts of the heated polarization of the past months throughout the next four years; calls for consensus will not be enough. Rousseff will also be dealing with a very conservative Congress, which may pose challenges for her campaign promises to expand social rights through inclusion and listen to social movements and popular demands.

She will also be dealing with an energetic opposition from the Left, mainly radical leftist parties, organizations, and movements that believe Rousseff and PT can no longer claim to represent the Left and that Rousseff’s re-election is only a victory insofar as it meant Neves’ defeat. In fact, the socialist political parties PSTU and PCB urged the population to annul their votes given the very few differences between Rousseff and Neves’ political projects and the years of disappointing neoliberal and harmful neo-developmentalist policies on behalf of the PT. The PSOL oriented the 1.6 million people who voted for their presidential candidate Luciana Genro to freely choose between Rousseff and annulling their votes, as long as no vote would go to Neves. In many ways, any support for Rousseff coming from the radical Left was accompanied by explicit critique of the PT and framed as a direct veto to Neves and his policies, which culminated in the campaign pun “Aécio Never.” PSOL’s national veto position and the direct engagement by some of its public figures in support of Rousseff may have actually contributed to some of the votes that decided the presidential race.

More:
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/brazil-archives-63/5101-brazils-rousseff-re-elected-despite-anti-workers-party-sentiment-what-now

Cuba's Health Care System: a Model for the World

Salim Lamrani

Doctor, Paris Sorbonne Paris IV University, Lecturer, University of La Réunion

Cuba's Health Care System: a Model for the World

Posted: 08/08/2014 9:46 am EDT Updated: 10/08/2014 5:59 am EDT

According to the UN's World Health Organization, Cuba's health care system is an example for all countries of the world.

The Cuban health system is recognized worldwide for its excellence and its efficiency. Despite extremely limited resources and the dramatic impact caused by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States for more than half a century, Cuba has managed to guarantee access to care for all segments of the population and obtain results similar to those of the most developed nations.

During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country's achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: "Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation," She also praised "the efforts of the country's leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development" [1].

Cuba's health care system is based on preventive medicine and the results achieved are outstanding. According to Margaret Chan, the world should follow the example of the island in this arena and replace the curative model, inefficient and more expensive, with a prevention-based system. "We sincerely hope that all of the world's inhabitants will have access to quality medical services, as they do in Cuba," she said. [2]

WHO notes that the lack of access to care in the world is by no means a foregone conclusion arising from a lack of resources. It reflects, instead, a lack of political will on the part of leaders to protect their most vulnerable populations. The organization cites the case of the Caribbean island as the perfect counter-example [3]. Moreover, in May 2014, in recognition of the excellence of its health care system, Cuba chaired the 67th World Health Assembly [4].

More:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/salim-lamrani/cubas-health-care-system-_b_5649968.html

Revolutionary Doctors Fighting Ebola: The Cuban Light Brigade

October 28, 2014
Revolutionary Doctors Fighting Ebola

The Cuban Light Brigade

by CHRIS GILBERT


Caracas.

The Ebola epidemic… whereas most of the world tightens border controls and essentially flees from the problem, Cuba opens a new chapter of solidarity and faces the danger. By sending 255 doctors and nurses to West Africa to deal with the latest Ebola outbreak, the heroic island – with few resources except courage, decency and education – has once again given the world a lesson in internationalism.

This latest chapter in Cuban solidarity should be added to a list of episodes that includes medical assistance to numerous countries, but perhaps most saliently Cuba’s central role in defeating South African apartheid. Despite fierce internal struggle and the international boycott, the end of South Africa’s racist regime would not have happened had not massive numbers of Cuban volunteers fought in Angola and Namibia in the 1970s and 1980s.

The latest group of Cuban medical professionals – which arrived last week to Liberia and Guinea Conakry – will not be receiving the privileged medical evacuations that Spanish and North American doctors and priests have benefited from. If they fall ill they will be treated in situ, in the same circumstances as the resident population. Already one Cuban internationalist’s life has been claimed: Jorge Juan Guerra Rodríguez succumbed to cerebral malaria on Sunday in Guinea.

The Cuban doctor Ronald Hernández Torres wrote in his facebook account from Liberia: “I am here carrying out my duty as a revolutionary doctor, helping the African people in the fight against the Ebola epidemic. We arrived yesterday and soon will be in the front line, paying off the debt that all of humanity has with Africa. The only way to prevent the epidemic spreading to the entire world is stopping it here. We are helping so that there will be no more deaths from Ebola in this great continent.”

More:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/28/the-cuban-light-brigade/

The real-life Indiana Jones on the hunt for lost ancient Mayan cities in Mexico

The real-life Indiana Jones on the hunt for lost ancient Mayan cities in Mexico

Slovenian archaeologist Ivan Šprajc is behind discovery of three significant ruins in the remote jungles of the Yucatán peninsula

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
theguardian.com, Tuesday 28 October 2014 11.40 EDT

There are days when Ivan Šprajc gets fed up with his job. Hacking pathways through the Mexican jungle with machetes is exhausting. Keeping a constant eye out for deadly snakes can be nerve-racking. The risk of finding nothing to show for all the effort is real.

But then there is reward that comes when the contours of a plaza, palace, ball court or pyramid emerge from beneath the tree cover, or inscriptions that could help explain them are revealed by brushing off undergrowth.

“I’ve said to myself quite a few times that this is the last season, because it is so difficult. But it is such a reward when you find a new site,” says the Slovenian archaeologist, who has made a career of finding lost Mayan cities. “It’s tough work, but it’s dead romantic.”

This year Šprajc’s team found two – Tamchén and Lagunita – which followed last year’s discovery of a large site called Chactún.

The finding of the three sites is the first step in surveying an almost unexplored area spanning about 1,200 sq miles in the northern part of the Calakmul biosphere reserve, between the Río Bec and Chenes regions, in the southern Mexican state of Campeche.

“You can call it archaeological reconnaissance,” he says. “It is the very first step into an area that is completely unknown.”

More:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/28/indiana-jones-lost-mayan-cities-ivan-sprajc
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