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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
December 30, 2018

Former Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman dies at age 65

Héctor Timerman, whose tenure as Argentine Foreign Minister between 2010 and 2015 was best known for his efforts to create an international truth commission on the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, which killed 85, died this morning. He was 65.

Since leaving office three years ago, Timerman fought not only liver cancer but also attempts by the right-wing Mauricio Macri administration to have him jailed on “treason” charges related to his AMIA truth commission efforts - which Israel opposes.

“Sadly, it is not the first time my family has been a victim of political persecution,” he wrote in the New York Times last year.

“Forty years ago, my father, the journalist Jacobo Timerman, was kidnapped and tortured by my country’s last dictatorship.”

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy noted Timerman's efforts “to create an international commission of jurists with powers to review evidence against Iranians accused by the Argentine judiciary of responsibility for the bombing, and to interrogate some suspects.”

Father's footsteps

The elder Timerman, a Ukranian Jew who emigrated to Argentina with his parents as a child in 1928, went on to become a prominent news daily and magazine publisher - a career his son Héctor, born in 1953, later pursued as editor in one of his father's dailies.

Like his father, he followed a centrist editorial line but ran afoul of Argentina's recurring military regimes for criticizing human rights abuses.

Following Jacobo Timerman's detention in 1977 and the seizure of his property and businesses, Héctor Timerman fled to New York, where in 1981 he co-founded Americas Watch, the Western Hemisphere counterpart to what later became Human Rights Watch.

He returned to Argentina in 1989, resuming journalism and eventually earning an appointment by then-President Cristina Kirchner as Ambassador to the U.S. in 2007 and as Foreign Minister in 2010 - the first Jew to hold either post.

Truth to power

Timerman refocused efforts on the still-unsolved 1994 AMIA bombing, the most deadly foreign terrorist incident in Argentine history, and sought Iran's cooperation through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013.

The 2013 memorandum was supported by the Obama administration, the Argentine Congress, and all three AMIA victims' rights groups.

It was, however, fiercely opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was eventually rejected by Iran itself.

Prior to the 2013 agreement, Timerman noted, “the investigation into the attack was so flawed and corrupt that in 2004 the entire trial was annulled and the judge who led it removed. Judge Claudio Bonadío — who now accuses me of treason — led the investigation into that cover-up but was removed for malfeasance in 2005.”

A close Macri ally, Bonadío's claims, dismissed by Argentine courts in seven instances including two appeals, were refuted by former INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald Noble.

“A biased Judge Bonadío report cannot change the truth,” Noble tweeted in 2017. “INTERPOL was never asked to remove the AMIA Red Notices!” He offered to testify in Argentina to that effect.

“Héctor Timerman was a man of integrity: dedicated to his beloved Argentina and to its people,” Noble tweeted today. “He died under a cloud of false accusations because Argentina's judiciary failed to conduct a thorough investigation.”

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&tab=wT&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F320859%2Ffallecio-a-los-65-anos-el-ex-canciller

Former Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and former Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble discuss the AMIA bombing case in 2013.

Noble lauded Timerman's efforts to revive long-dormant AMIA investigation, and offered to testify in Argentina on his behalf. Like Timerman, he was instead subjected to a smear campaign on right-wing Argentine media.
December 26, 2018

Argentine writer, historian Osvaldo Bayer dies at age 91

Argentine writer and historian Osvaldo Bayer died Monday afternoon at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 91.

A self-proclaimed “peaceful Anarchist” and defender of native peoples, Bayer was an emblematic figure in Latin American thought.

Born in the city of Santa Fe, in eastern Argentina, in 1927 to immigrants from Italy's German-speaking Südtirol region, Bayer was a journalist, writer, and historian best known for his historical novel “La Patagonia Rebelde” (Rebellion in Patagonia).

Made into an acclaimed film by director Héctor Olivera in 1974 on a script Bayer himself wrote, it was the story of a 1921 labor uprising by ranch hands in windswept Santa Cruz Province, and how it was crushed by Army forces at the behest of local landowners. Up to 1,500 strikers were killed.

Promoted by the left-leaning Santa Cruz Governor Jorge Cepernic, the film was a critical success in Argentina and abroad, winning the Silver Bear at that year's Berlin International Film Festival.

The film, and its support by leftists, met with disapproval from the repressive Isabel Perón administration however.

Rebellion in Patagonia was banned, Governor Cepernic was removed largely due to his support, and Bayer himself was threatened and persecuted by Argentine Anticommunist Alliance - led by Mrs. Perón's chief adviser, the fascist “Rasputin of the Pampas,” José López Rega.

Bayer managed to escape in 1975 with the help of the German Embassy, whose Cultural Attaché smuggled him out of the country.

He lived in West Berlin until the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983, later writing for the progressive daily Página/12 and teaching until 2006 as Professor of Human Rights at the University of Buenos Aires. He visited Germany regularly and lectured at the German Foundation for Development Policy in Bad Honnef.

Censorship cost Bayer much of the royalties he would have otherwise earned from his numerous books. But far from feeling discouraged, he said it made him stronger.

He had recently lost his wife, Marlies Joos Bayer, in 2015 after 63 years of marriage. “My wife never reproached me for anything; when I was unemployed she went to work in a fair,” he recalled. “She was a great companion.”

Bayer was an outspoken opponent of Argentina's current right-wing president, Mauricio Macri, whom he considered a “representative of the ultra right” - an antagonism emphasized by the fact that Macri's Chief of Staff, Marcos Peña, and his Commerce Secretary, Miguel Braun, are direct descendants of the chief instigator of the 1921 massacre, Mauricio Braun.

“It's a conservative government, for the elite - nothing more,” Bayer noted in 2016. “He cannot think beyond the interests of his class.”

At: http://en.mercopress.com/2018/12/24/writer-historian-osvaldo-bayer-dies-at-age-91

Osvaldo Bayer, 1927-2018.

“I've resolved to be merciless with the merciless,” he once wrote. “By revealing them, leaving them naked before history and society, and vindicating in some way those from below, came out to protest their actions.”
December 15, 2018

GOP's Mark Harris confirms it was his decision to hire operative at heart of 9th District scandal

Republican Mark Harris is speaking publicly for the first time since the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted to not certify the results of his race for Congress.

Harris beat Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the unofficial returns from November’s election.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections took a surprise vote to not certify the results of that race in late November, after then-Vice Chairman Joshua Malcolm raised questions of voting irregularities in Bladen and Robeson counties.

On Friday, the NCSBE announced that hearing would actually take place Jan. 11.

Much of the public scrutiny surrounding the investigation has been aimed at a man named McCrae Dowless, a Bladen County political operative who worked as a contractor for the Harris campaign in both this year’s primary and general election.

In his interview with WBTV Friday, Harris confirmed that it was his decision to hire Dowless for his campaign.

Harris said the decision came after his primary loss to Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger in the 2016 campaign, when the candidate who finished third in that contest handily won the absentee ballots in Bladen County.

Harris said that he believed he was hiring Dowless to run an operation that encouraged voters to request absentee ballots and then, later, helped them cast those ballots by witnessing them and making sure voters put them in the mail.

At no time, Harris said, did he think Dowless was doing anything illegal.

At: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article223134435.html

Partners in crime: GOP candidate Mark Harris (right) and his professional ballot stuffer, McCrae Dowless.

The race which put Harris ahead by 905 votes (0.3%), has not been certified by the NC State Board of Eleections.
December 11, 2018

Trump alleged to have donated bounced check to Macri's 2015 campaign in Argentina

When Argentine President Mauricio Macri hosted Trump at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last week, Trump said he'd "been friends with Mauricio for a long time, many years."

Trump met Mauricio Macri, then 25, while wrangling with his father, a top Argentine contractor and developer, over a contentious Manhattan real estate project in 1984 - one which Macri claimed in later interviews that Trump forced the elder Macri to sell by cajoling New York authorities and local banks to boycott.

They nevertheless, by his own account, later became friends.

The Trump-Macri encounter at the G20 reminded some sources of an unusual conversation between Macri and then-Secretary of State John Kerry in Buenos Aires in August 2016.

According to three sources, those present talked about Trump as a comical sideshow - including Macri, who shared an anecdote from a year earlier:

When Macri was running for president in 2015, he got a phone call out of the blue.

"This is Donald Trump," Macri told the people in the room, impersonating the future president and pretending to hold a phone to his head. "I've been watching you."

The call amazed Macri, he told listeners. "Trump goes on to say, ‘I remember you fondly and I remember the business deal,'" one participant recalled. "And Macri says, 'Fondly? Fondly, you son of a gun?'"

Some days after the call, a big FedEx envelope arrived with a check from Trump to Macri's campaign. One source thought the check was for $500; another thought $5,000.

Then came the punchline: Macri told the room that when his team went to deposit the check, it bounced.

The White House did not comment, and a representative for the Argentine government denied the conversation took place.

While Trump didn't break U.S. law by sending a check to Macri, it's illegal for an Argentine politician to accept a foreign contribution.

The arrangement was, however, not unusual in Argentine politics - particularly Macri's right-wing "Let's Change" coalition, currently under federal investigation for campaign finance violations, money laundering, and identity theft.

Journalist Hugo Alconada Mon alleged in his most recent book that 90% of the $180 million raised by Macri's 2015 campaign went unreported to Argentina's National Electoral Commission.

At: https://www.axios.com/donald-trump-mauricio-macri-argentina-bounced-check-7d535bf5-a890-4b3e-85e6-f9a1aa1522cc.html

"Get me out of here": Trump ignores Argentina's Macri during the recent G-20 Summit in Buenos Aires.

The two, however, share a long personal history dating from Trump's 1984 purchase from the Macris of the failed Lincoln West (now Riverside South) development in Manhattan - as well as a close political affinity.
December 11, 2018

Boundlessly idealistic, Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still resisted

Given the rivalries and violence that divide the global community today, it is hard to imagine that on December 10, 1948, the nations of the world approved, almost unanimously, a detailed list of fundamental rights that every human on the planet should enjoy.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most sweeping such statement ever endorsed on a worldwide basis, opened by asserting, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

In the immediate aftermath of two horrifying world wars, not a single member state of the newly created United Nations dared oppose the Declaration, though several abstained on the final vote.

That so many of the rights remain unachieved on its 70th anniversary testifies to the boundless idealism of the document's drafters.

The Declaration forbid slavery and servitude, forced marriage, arbitrary arrest, and any interference with privacy and correspondence. Everyone was said to have the right to own property, claim asylum, express opinions, and be educated.

By calling for an end to discrimination, the Declaration foreshadowed struggles for civil and political rights that were yet to come. Articles calling for equal pay for equal work and universal health care were among those on which the U.S. itself still falls short.

The document was largely the work of Eleanor Roosevelt, in her role as chair of the U.N. commission responsible for writing it.

Among the eight countries that abstained on the final vote were the Soviet Union and the five Soviet bloc states that were U.N. members at the time. South Africa, whose apartheid regime could not stomach any declaration condemning racial discrimination, also abstained. So did Saudi Arabia, claiming some rights listed in the Declaration were not consistent with Islamic law.

Some U.S. conservatives made clear their own unease with the Declaration, seeing its assertion of broad economic rights as a step toward socialism. The Soviets argued that it favored individual over collective rights and undermined national sovereignty.

At: http://www.kuer.org/post/boundlessly-idealistic-universal-declaration-human-rights-still-resisted#stream/0

An ongoing stuggle: Eleanor Roosevelt holds Universal Declaration of Human Rights, enacted 70 years ago.
December 10, 2018

'Damaged goods': Alleged fraud has GOP bracing for loss of N.C. seat

Dan McCready had just returned home from a trip to Disney World with his wife and four kids when he received the news: The North Carolina Board of Elections declined to certify his narrow election loss, and his campaign for the House — which he had conceded weeks earlier — wasn’t over.

Now, with a special election in response to alleged voter fraud looking increasingly likely, the ex-Marine is scrambling to reassemble his campaign. And McCready, who’s currently trailing Republican victor Mark Harris by 905 votes, would have the inside track, political operatives from both parties say.

Privately, national and state Republicans acknowledged that Harris, who denied in a statement Friday that he had any knowledge of illegal activity, would be a toxic candidate.

Some Republicans in the state are holding out hope that Harris could be replaced on the ballot, which would require intervention from a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. But if the state board votes to rerun the election, the only way for Harris to be removed from the ballot would be if he moved out of state, according to Gerry Cohen, who formerly served as special counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly.

At: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/07/dan-mccready-north-carolina-house-election-1051829

Dan McCready and supporters: Comeback kid?
December 6, 2018

Conservative think tank donor revealed as Russian oligarch

Chaos has erupted at a conservative think tank after it was revealed that one of its new donors is Len Blavatnik, the Ukrainian-born billionaire who owns the Warner Music record label.

Charles Davidson — the founder of the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, a group dedicated to exposing threats by authoritarian regimes to U.S. democracy — said he quit as its executive director upon learning that the Hudson Institute had accepted a $50,000 donation from Blavatnik.

“Russian kleptocracy has entered the donor pool of Hudson Institute,” Davidson said in an exclusive interview with The Post.

“Blavatnik is precisely what the Kleptocracy Initiative is fighting against — the influence of Putin’s oligarchs on America’s political system and society — and the importation of corrupt Russian business practices and values.”

At: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/12/5/1817188/-Conservative-Think-Tank-Donor-Revealed-as-Russian-Oligarch

Warner Music's Len Blavatnik: Playing Putin's tune.
December 5, 2018

Argentina's Macri authorizes use of lethal force against fleeing suspects

Argentine President Mauricio Macri signed a decree yesterday authorizing federal security forces to use lethal force against fleeing suspects.

Argentine law, since the return of democracy in 1983, authorizes police to use gunfire only when their own lives or those of others are in danger.

The decree, submitted by hard-line Security Minsiter Patricia Bullrich, was condemned even by close allies such as right-wing Congresswoman Elisa Carrió, who described it as a "violation of fundamental human rights."

"We're not returning to fascism," Carrió added.

The decree is drawing comparisons to the far-right rhetoric of Brazil's President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who won over millions of voters by vowing to remove legal limits on the use of deadly force by police, often flashing a gun sign with his hands.

Bullrich had already come under fire on November 2 for declaring that "whoever wants to be armed, let them be armed."

Observers note that violent crime in Argentina has steadily declined since 2014. The homicide rate was 5.2 per 100,000 in 2017, a rate similar to that of the U.S. (5.3) and a fraction of the rate (24.1) in the rest of Latin America.

Death penalty without due process

The decree soon ran into legal hurdles however.

A ruling today by Judge Roberto Gallardo blocked the decree within the city of Buenos Aires as "unconstitutional." And numerous governors have stated they would seek to block its implementation in their provinces, citing both Argentine law and the 1979 U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.

Former Judge Carlos Rozanski, who was forced out by Macri last year after ruling against convicted dictatorship-era officials seeking transfer to house arrest, filed a complaint against Bullrich for "applying the death penalty without due process."

Human rights lawyer Ismael Jalil notes that since 1983, there have been nearly 6,000 cases of lethal use of police force even under existing laws.

Since Macri took office in late 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed concern over the excessive and indiscriminate use of force - as well as over the use of indefinite detention against critics and opponents.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F320349%2Fbusca-legalizar-la-muerte-amplio

And: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.infonews.com%2Fnota%2F320368%2Farde-la-interna-oficial-carrio-se-paro

Christopher Rego and his infant son. Rego, who had no criminal record but had avoided a police checkpoint due to having left his I.D. at home, was shot to death by Buenos Aires police on August 12.

The number of civilians killed by police since Macri took office have jumped from 300 to 440 annually.

Critics accuse Macri, who is presiding over an economic collapse, of seeking to boost his chances in next year's elections by appealing to Bolsonaro-style rhetoric and policies.
December 4, 2018

Argentine president: "Trump almost didn't want to come" to G-20 Summit; had to ask "as a friend."

Speaking in a local news interview yesterday, Argentine President Mauricio Macri recounted that his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump "almost didn't want to come" and that he had to be persuaded to come "as a friend."

Last week's G-20 Summit was held on November 30 and December 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

According to Macri, at one point he had to ask Trump: "Are you my friend?"

To which Trump replied: "Yes, I'm your friend. That's why I'm coming to the G-20."

"He almost didn't want to come," Macri noted, adding that he told Trump that "you know it's important to me that you come."

"Yes, yes. I'll come," Trump assured him.

"And if you come," Macri said to have pleaded, "you have to help me so that it turns out well - so that we have a declaration."

The two leaders have reportedly known each other since at least 1984, when Trump bought the former Lincoln West development (now Riverside South) in Manhattan from Macri's father.

Macri claimed in later interviews that Trump forced the elder Macri to sell it to him by cajoling New York authorities and local banks to boycott the project. They nevertheless, by his own account, later became friends.

"With Donald, I'm lucky I've known him for over 30 years," Macri explained. "I asked him as a friend."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pagina12.com.ar%2F159883-macri-y-su-amigo-donald

Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his reluctant guest.
December 2, 2018

U.S. to delay China tariffs after Trump-Xi dinner meeting at G-20 in Buenos Aires

The U.S. and China said they would launch negotiations to ease trade tensions, with the U.S. postponing plans to increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods.

Under the plan, the two sides would discuss forced technology transfer, intellectual-property protection, nontariff barriers, cyberintrusions and cybertheft, services and agriculture. Should the talks fail, the White House said, the tariffs on the $200 billion of goods would increase to 25% from the current 10%.

The tariffs were set to increase to that level on Jan. 1.

China also agreed to purchase a “very substantial” amount of agricultural, energy and industrial goods from the U.S., the White House said. Additionally, according to the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would consider again the previously unapproved merger between Qualcomm Inc. and NXP Semiconductors should the deal be presented.

The deal fell apart earlier this year after Beijing failed to approve the merger.

Xi and Trump reached the trade cease-fire during a meeting Saturday, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Group of 20 industrial nations.

At: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-to-delay-china-tariffs-after-trump-xi-dinner-meeting-at-g-20-in-buenos-aires-2018-12-01

Two to Tango: U.S. and Chinese delegations meet in Buenos Aires, where a tentative agreement to suspend the ongoing trade war was reached.

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