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By SASCHA BERCOVITCH, JUL 29TH 2013.
Caracas, July 29th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The consolidation of a system of “popular government” will be the primary goal of the second stage of Venezuela’s Street Government initiative, President Nicolas Maduro announced yesterday during a ceremony at Caracas’ Mountain Barracks, where the coffin of Hugo Chavez is being held, to honor the birthday of the late president.
In his speech, Maduro listed ten other objectives that the program would focus on moving forward.
Regarding the issue of insecurity, Maduro spoke of the strengthening of the Plan Secure Homeland, in which members of the military patrol crime-ridden areas. He also called for peace among Venezuelan youth, adding that numerous armed groups would soon turn in their weapons to be incorporated into various social programs.
Further objectives focused on restoring the supply of basic products and exchange rate controls to combat inflation; detecting and prosecuting cases of corruption; and stabilizing the country’s system of electricity, which occasionally leaves blackouts in some regions of the country.
Maduro also expressed support for the Military Street Government program, an initiative launched under new Defense Minister Carmen Melendez.
“Don’t stop: continue with your plans to visit barracks, military units, academies, and schools to strengthen and improve them. You know that you can count on me as President of the Republic and as commander in chief of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces,” he said.
Since being launched at the end of April, Maduro’s Street Government has approved 2,450 projects, which arose from over 2,000 popular assemblies and other activities held throughout the country. Maduro stated that the outreach had allowed the government to interact with over 3,483,000 citizens.
“It’s a contact from the people to the people,” Maduro said, “because we too are the people. Here, the bourgeoisie, the bigwigs of the right, are not governing. The working class people are governing.”
At an earlier event yesterday in Sabaneta, Barinas state, the hometown of Chavez, Maduro indicated that the second phase of the Street Government would begin “very soon … from Sabaneta, through all of Venezuela.”
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By: Brad Michelson, Global Research, August 05, 2013
The CIA was smuggling weapons from Libyan weapons depots to the Syrian rebels during the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. According to a report by CNN, an unnamed source has leaked that the alleged cover-up of the circumstances around the attack is to hide the reality of the smuggling, which occurred before the escalation of the Syrian civil war. This shows that the CIA has been arming the Syrian rebels since at least September 2012. The agents were running the operation out of the Benghazi “annex,” which has been reported as a secret safehouse of the CIA in the city, not far from the embassy.
This development emerges just one day after reports of CIA intimidation on employees and foreign ground assets.
In an exclusive published by CNN, a source has revealed an “unprecedented” effort to keep anyone with information on the Benghazi embassy attack from speaking with the media or Congress. Survivors of the attack were asked to signed non-disclosure agreements, reports Fox News.
Transfer of Remains Ceremony for the return of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Libyan embassy employees (Getty Images)
According to the report, a nearly unheard of slew of polygraph testing has been conducted against CIA employees and on-ground assets with information regarding the attack, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Typically, the agency will only conduct one test over three or four years. Right now they’re subjecting these people to the tests one or twice a month. This rate of polygraph testing is rare, to say the least.
CNN’s source claims that this is a trend of intimidation that the agency is carrying out. In an exclusive communications in the CNN report, one insider writes, “You don’t jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well.” Another says, “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”
A new source told CNN that there were “dozens of people working for the CIA [...] on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.”
The source said that the number of assets was 35, and as many as seven were wounded. Some of those were injured seriously. Although the source did not specify how many of them were CIA, he or she did say that 21 American were working in a building called the “annex,” which is believed to be run by the CIA.
This lack of transparency has begun to concern members of Congress. This list includes Frank Wolf, whose distract includes Langley, Virginia, which houses the CIA headquarters. He has gone as far as alleging the government is involved in a “cover-up.”
“I think it is a form of a cover-up, and I think it’s an attempt to push it under the rug, and I think the American people are feeling the same way. We should have the people who were on the scene come in, testify under oath, do it publicly, and lay it out. And there really isn’t any national security issue involved with regards to that.”
U.S Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) (Getty Images)
Wolf attempted to contact people were had close ties with people who had information about the event and wanted to talk. Then they stopped taking his calls.
“Initially they were not afraid to come forward. They wanted the opportunity, and they wanted to be subpoenaed, because if you’re subpoenaed, it sort of protects you, you’re forced to come before Congress. Now that’s all changed.”
Other reports of cover-ups and conspiracy theories have been emerging since the event last September. In May, Dick Cheney said that Obama is involved in a Benghazi cover-up. Also in May, Slate reported a “smoking gun” indicating a systemic administration cover-up. Some outlets have even claimed and presented evidence that Ambassador Stevens died in the attack “because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered him there,” supposedly on purpose with prior knowledge of the attack.
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By: WorldTribune.com, July 25, 2013
The United States has been paying thousands of Syrian police officers who deserted the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has approved tens of millions of dollars to pay the salaries of police officers who joined the rebels. They said the officers were working to maintain order in rebel-controlled territory, mostly in northern Syria.
Syrian police armored vehicle in Homs. /AFP/ Anwar Amro
“There are literally thousands of defected police inside of Syria,” Assistant Secretary of State Rick Barton said. “They are credible in their communities because they’ve defected.”
In an address to the Aspen Security Forum on July 19, Barton, responsible for State Department stabilization operations, did not say how many Syrian police deserters were on the U.S. payroll. He said the officers were receiving about $150 per month, a significant salary in Syria.
The address marked a rare disclosure of direct U.S. aid to Sunni rebels in Syria. Congress has approved more than $50 million for the Syrian opposition, much of which has not been spent.
Barton said the police officers remained in their communities despite their defection from the Assad regime. He said the U.S. stipend was meant to ensure that they stay on the job.
“We’d rather have a trained policeman who is trusted by the community than have to bring in a new crowd or bring in an international group that doesn’t know the place,” Barton said.
Barton said the rebel movement was awaiting a range of non-lethal U.S. equipment. He cited night vision systems and medical supplies.
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By: Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, May 25, 2013.
This article, which describes how genetically modified seeds granted as “food aid” was instrumental in triggering famine. It was first published in The Ecologist in September 2000. It was one the first articles published on Global Research in September 2001. It was also published as a chapter in the second edition of Michel Chossudovsky’s “Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order
The “economic therapy” imposed under IMF-World Bank jurisdiction is in large part responsible for triggering famine and social devastation in Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, wreaking the peasant economy and impoverishing millions of people.
With the complicity of branches of the US government, it has also opened the door for the appropriation of traditional seeds and landraces by US biotech corporations, which behind the scenes have been peddling the adoption of their own genetically modified seeds under the disguise of emergency aid and famine relief.
Moreover, under WTO rules, the agri-biotech conglomerates can manipulate market forces to their advantage as well as exact royalties from farmers. The WTO provides legitimacy to the food giants to dismantle State programmes including emergency grain stocks, seed banks, extension services and agricultural credit, etc.), plunder peasant economies and trigger the outbreak of periodic famines.
Crisis in the Horn
More than 8 million people in Ethiopia – representing 15% of the country’s population – had been locked into “famine zones”. Urban wages have collapsed and unemployed seasonal farm workers and landless peasants have been driven into abysmal poverty. The international relief agencies concur without further examination that climatic factors are the sole and inevitable cause of crop failure and the ensuing humanitarian disaster. What the media tabloids fails to disclose is that – despite the drought and the border war with Eritrea – several million people in the most prosperous agricultural regions have also been driven into starvation. Their predicament is not the consequence of grain shortages but of “free markets” and “bitter economic medicine” imposed under the IMF-World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
Ethiopia produces more than 90% of its consumption needs. Yet at the height of the crisis, the nationwide food deficit for 2000 was estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at 764,000 metric tons of grain representing a shortfall of 13 kilos per person per annum.1 In Amhara, grain production (1999-2000) was twenty percent in excess of consumption needs. Yet 2.8 million people in Amhara (representing 17% of the region’s population) became locked into famine zones and are “at risk” according to the FAO. 2 Whereas Amhara’s grain surpluses were in excess of 500,000 tons (1999-2000), its “relief food needs” had been tagged by the international community at close to 300,000 tons.3 A similar pattern prevailed in Oromiya, the country’s most populated state where 1.6 million people were classified “at risk”, despite the availability of more than 600,000 metric tons of surplus grain.4 In both these regions, which include more than 25% of the country’s population, scarcity of food was clearly not the cause of hunger, poverty and social destitution. Yet no explanations are given by the panoply of international relief agencies and agricultural research institutes.
The Promise of the “Free Market”
In Ethiopia, a transitional government came into power in 1991 in the wake of a protracted and destructive civil war. After the pro-Soviet Dergue regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam was unseated, a multi-donor financed Emergency Recovery and Reconstruction Project (ERRP) was hastily put in place to deal with an external debt of close to 9 billion dollars that had accumulated during the Mengistu government. Ethiopia’s outstanding debts with the Paris Club of official creditors were rescheduled in exchange for far-reaching macro-economic reforms. Upheld by US foreign policy, the usual doses of bitter IMF economic medicine were prescribed. Caught in the straightjacket of debt and structural adjustment, the new Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – largely formed from the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (PLF) – had committed itself to far-reaching “free market reforms”, despite its leaders’ Marxist leanings. Washington soon tagged Ethiopia alongside Uganda as Africa’s post Cold War free market showpiece.
While social budgets were slashed under the structural adjustment programme (SAP), military expenditure – in part financed by the gush of fresh development loans – quadrupled since 1989.5 With Washington supporting both sides in the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war, US arms sales spiralled. The bounty was being shared between the arms manufacturers and the agribusiness conglomerates. In the post-Cold War era, the latter positioned themselves in the lucrative procurement of emergency aid to war-torn countries. With mounting military spending financed on borrowed money, almost half of Ethiopia’s export revenues was earmarked to meet debt-servicing obligations.
A Policy Framework Paper (PFP) stipulating the precise changes to be carried out in Ethiopia had been carefully drafted in Washington by IMF and World Bank officials on behalf of the transitional government, and was forwarded to Addis Ababa for the signature of the Minister of Finance. The enforcement of severe austerity measures virtually foreclosed the possibility of a meaningful post-war reconstruction and the rebuilding of the country’s shattered infrastructure. The creditors demanded trade liberalization and the full-scale privatization of public utilities, financial institutions, State farms and factories. Civil servants including teachers and health workers were fired, wages were frozen and the labor laws were rescinded to enable State enterprises “to shed their surplus workers”. Meanwhile, corruption became rampant. State assets were auctioned off to foreign capital at bargain prices and Price Waterhouse Cooper was entrusted with the task of coordinating the sale of State property.
In turn, the reforms had led to the fracture of the federal fiscal system. Budget transfers to the State governments were slashed leaving the regions to their own devices. Supported by several donors, “regionalization” was heralded as a “devolution of powers from the federal to the regional governments”. The Bretton Woods institutions knew exactly what they were doing. In the words of the IMF, “[the regions] capacity to deliver effective and efficient development interventions varies widely, as does their capacity for revenue collection”. 6
Wrecking the Peasant Economy
Patterned on the reforms adopted in Kenya in 1991 (see Box 9.1 ), agricultural markets were wilfully manipulated on behalf of the agribusiness conglomerates. The World Bank demanded the rapid removal of price controls and all subsidies to farmers. Transportation and freight prices were deregulated serving to boost food prices in remote areas affected by drought. In turn, the markets for farm inputs including fertiliser and seeds were handed over to private traders including Pioneer Hi-Bred International which entered into a lucrative partnership with Ethiopia Seed Enterprise (ESE), the government’s seed monopoly.7
At the outset of the reforms in 1992, USAID under its Title III program “donated” large quantities of US fertilizer “in exchange for free market reforms”:
[V]arious agricultural commodities [will be provided] in exchange for reforms of grain marketing… and [the] elimination of food subsidies…The reform agenda focuses on liberalization and privatization in the fertilizer and transport sectors in return for financing fertilizer and truck imports…. These program initiatives have given us [an] “entrée” …in defining major [policy] issues… 8
While the stocks of donated US fertiliser were rapidly exhausted; the imported chemicals contributed to displacing local fertiliser producers. The same companies involved in the fertiliser import business were also in control of the domestic wholesale distribution of fertiliser using local level merchants as intermediaries.
Increased output was recorded in commercial farms and in irrigated areas (where fertilizer and high yielding seeds had been applied). The overall tendency, however, was towards greater economic and social polarisation in the countryside, marked by significantly lower yields in less productive marginal lands occupied by the poor peasantry. Even in areas where output had increased, farmers were caught in the clutch of the seed and fertilizer merchants.
In 1997, the Atlanta based Carter Center – which was actively promoting the use of biotechnology tools in maize breeding – proudly announced that “Ethiopia [had] become a food exporter for the first time”.9 Yet in a cruel irony, the donors ordered the dismantling of the emergency grain reserves (set up in the wake of the 1984-85 famine) and the authorities acquiesced.
Instead of replenishing the country’s emergency food stocks, grain was exported to meet Ethiopia’s debt servicing obligations. Close to one million tons of the 1996 harvest was exported, an amount which would have been amply sufficient (according to FAO figures) to meet the 1999-2000 emergency. In fact the same food staple which had been exported (namely maize) was re-imported barely a few months later. The world market had confiscated Ethiopia’s grain reserves.
In return, US surpluses of genetically engineered maize (banned by the European Union) were being dumped on the horn of Africa in the form of emergency aid. The US had found a convenient mechanism for “laundering its stocks of dirty grain”. The agribusiness conglomerates not only cornered Ethiopia’s commodity exports, they were also involved in the procurement of emergency shipments of grain back into Ethiopia. During the 1998-2000 famine, lucrative maize contracts were awarded to giant grain merchants such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill Inc. 10
Laundering America’s GM Grain Surpluses
US grain surpluses peddled in war-torn countries also served to weaken the agricultural system. Some 500,000 tons of maize and maize products were “donated” in 1999-2000 by USAID to relief agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP) which in turn collaborates closely with the US Department of Agriculture. At least 30% of these shipments (procured under contract with US agribusiness firms) were surplus genetically modified grain stocks. 11
Boosted by the border war with Eritrea and the plight of thousands of refugees, the influx of contaminated food aid had contributed to the pollution of Ethiopia’s genetic pool of indigenous seeds and landraces. In a cruel irony, the food giants were at the same time gaining control – through the procurement of contaminated food aid – over Ethiopia’s seed banks. According to South Africa’s Biowatch: “Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world…To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid.” 12
Moreover, part of the “food aid” had been channelled under the “food for work” program which served to further discourage domestic production in favour of grain imports. Under this scheme, impoverished and landless farmers were contracted to work on rural infrastructural programmes in exchange for “donated” US corn.
Meanwhile, the cash earnings of coffee smallholders plummeted. Whereas Pioneer Hi-Bred positioned itself in seed distribution and marketing, Cargill Inc established itself in the markets for grain and coffee through its subsidiary Ethiopian Commodities.12 For the more than 700,000 smallholders with less than 2 hectares that produce between 90 and 95% of the country’s coffee output, the deregulation of agricultural credit combined with low farmgate prices of coffee had triggered increased indebtedness and landlessness, particularly in East Gojam (Ethiopia’s breadbasket).
Biodiversity up for Sale
The country’s extensive reserves of traditional seed varieties (barley, teff, chick peas, sorghum, etc) were being appropriated, genetically manipulated and patented by the agribusiness conglomerates: “Instead of compensation and respect, Ethiopians today are …getting bills from foreign companies that have “patented” native species and now demand payment for their use.”13 The foundations of a “competitive seed industry” were laid under IMF and World Bank auspices.14 The Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (ESE), the government’s seed monopoly joined hands with Pioneer Hi-Bred in the distribution of hi-bred and genetically modified (GM) seeds (together with hybrid resistant herbicide) to smallholders. In turn, the marketing of seeds had been transferred to a network of private contractors and “seed enterprises” with financial support and technical assistance from the World Bank. The “informal” farmer-to-farmer seed exchange was slated to be converted under the World Bank programme into a “formal” market oriented system of “private seed producer-sellers.” 15
In turn, the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EARI) was collaborating with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the development of new hybrids between Mexican and Ethiopian maize varieties.16 Initially established in the 1940s by Pioneer Hi-Bred International with support from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, CIMMYT developed a cosy relationship with US agribusiness. Together with the UK based Norman Borlaug Institute, CIMMYT constitutes a research arm as well as a mouthpiece of the seed conglomerates. According to the Rural Advancement Foundation (RAFI) “US farmers already earn $150 million annually by growing varieties of barley developed from Ethiopian strains. Yet nobody in Ethiopia is sending them a bill.” 17
Impacts of Famine
The 1984-85 famine had seriously threatened Ethiopia’s reserves of landraces of traditional seeds. In response to the famine, the Dergue government through its Plant Genetic Resource Centre –in collaboration with Seeds of Survival (SoS)– had implemented a programme to preserve Ethiopia’s biodiversity.18 This programme – which was continued under the transitional government – skilfully “linked on-farm conservation and crop improvement by rural communities with government support services”. 19 An extensive network of in-farm sites and conservation plots was established involving some 30,000 farmers. In 1998, coinciding chronologically with the onslaught of the 1998-2000 famine, the government clamped down on seeds of Survival (SoS) and ordered the programme to be closed down. 20
The hidden agenda was to eventually displace the traditional varieties and landraces reproduced in village-level nurseries. The latter were supplying more than 90 percent of the peasantry through a system of farmer-to-farmer exchange. Without fail, the 1998-2000 famine led to a further depletion of local level seed banks: “The reserves of grains [the farmer] normally stores to see him through difficult times are empty. Like 30,000 other households in the [Galga] area, his family have also eaten their stocks of seeds for the next harvest.”21 And a similar process was unfolding in the production of coffee where the genetic base of the arabica beans was threatened as a result of the collapse of farmgate prices and the impoverishment of small-holders.
In other words, the famine – itself in large part a product of the economic reforms imposed to the advantage of large corporations by the IMF, World Bank and the US Government – served to undermine Ethiopia’s genetic diversity to the benefit of the biotech companies. With the weakening of the system of traditional exchange, village level seed banks were being replenished with commercial hi-bred and genetically modified seeds. In turn, the distribution of seeds to impoverished farmers had been integrated with the “food aid” programmes. WPF and USAID relief packages often include “donations” of seeds and fertiliser, thereby favouring the inroad of the agribusiness-biotech companies into Ethiopia’s agricultural heartland. The emergency programs are not the “solution” but the “cause” of famine. By deliberately creating a dependency on GM seeds, they had set the stage for the outbreak of future famines.
This destructive pattern – invariably resulting in famine – is replicated throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. From the onslaught of the debt crisis of the early 1980s, the IMF-World Bank had set the stage for the demise of the peasant economy across the region with devastating results. Now, in Ethiopia, fifteen years after the last famine left nearly one million dead, hunger is once again stalking the land. This time, as eight million people face the risk of starvation, we know that it isn’t just the weather that is to blame.
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By: Kevin Gosztola, The Dissenter, July 23, 2013.
Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who United States President Barack Obama had been keeping in prison, has been released.
Shaye was apparently given a presidential pardonthat requires him to remain in Sanaa for two years. This means he would be prohibited from traveling to many of the areas where US drone strikes have taken place while he was in prison or where they will take place over the next two years.
Journalist Iona Craig, a Times of Londoncorrespondent in Yemen who had covered Shaye’s case for two years, reacted, “Delighted to say, after two years of covering his case, jailed journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye is free. I can’t quite believe it.”
Craig acknowledged that Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi deserved credit for keeping his word and releasing Shaye. She also praised the organization, Index on Censorship, in the United Kingdom for calling attention to “Shaye’s long-running story” and the threat his imprisonment posed to freedom of expression.
Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and writer who testified before Congress this year on the impact of US drone operations in his country,reacted, “After FOUR years of jailing him by order from Barack Obama, Yemeni government releases journalist Abdulelah Shaea.” He also said, “Only Barack Obama can compete with Yemen’s dictators (throughout history) in jailing journalists and killing civilians in Yemen,” and, “What a great Iftar Shaea’s kids might be having today; having their father back with them after 4 years in prison.”
The story of Shaye is told in detail by Jeremy Scahill in his book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. Shaye went to the site of a US cruise missile attack in al Majalah where at least 21 children and 14 women were killed. He also tracked down US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to interview him on how he could support the US Army medical officer Nidal Hasan, who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood and why he believed Umar Farouk Abdulumutallab, the Christmas Day underwear bomber, was justified to have targeted a “civilian airliner.”
His reporting made him a target the United States wanted to neutralize. According to his lawyer, Abdulrahman Barman, whom I interviewed in May 2012:
[Shaye] is one of those who got all of the information quickly and put it out there for the public. His work actually impacted the Yemeni government and US government in ways where they didn’t want to see it. The Yemeni intelligence were trying to actually recruit Shaye and have him work in the intelligence but he refused. So, after the attack on al-Majalah where so many civilians including women and children were murdered, Abdulelah was beaten up and kidnapped [in June 2010] by the national security agency and he was asked to shut up and be silent and not to talk about these kind of issues.
This did not stop Shaye from practicing journalism.
After he was abducted in July 2010 by Yemeni intelligence agents and went on television to share what had happened to him, US government officials, according to Scahill, began “privately telling major US media outlets that were working with Shaye that they should discontinue their relationships with him. The government alleged he was “using his paychecks to support al Qaeda.”
In August 2010, Barman told Firedoglake Shaye was kidnapped by national security agency people. He was beaten and dragged to “national security cars.” He was held for thirty-five days incommunicado while activists protested his detention in front of intelligence services and judicial system buildings. These agencies claimed they had not detained him, but he discovered his location through a released prisoner, who had seen him one of the cells. This led to the national security agencies transferring him to another location.
Barman eventually was able to be with him during interrogation and he said there was no evidence against him for the terrorism-related charges he faced.
Shaye was held in solitary confinement for a period, denied access to his lawyer, and subjected to psychological torture and abuse and appeared in a cage before a special tribunal on September 22, 2010. The judge read the charges he faced, which included “being the ‘media man’ for al Qaeda, recruiting new operatives for the group and providing al Qaeda with photos of Yemeni bases and foreign embassies for potential targeting.
According to Scahill, when Shaye heard the charges, he reacted, “When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwah and Arhab when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me…You notice in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions into accusations. All of my journalist constributions and quotations to international reporters and news channels have been turned into accusations.” And, as he was dragged off by security, he shouted, “Yemen, this is a place where, when a young journalist becomes successful, he is viewed with suspicion.”
In January 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and two years of house arrest in his hometown.
Shaye went on hunger strike in November 2011 and support for his release increased. Yemeni activists protested in front of the US embassy and, finally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen at the time, was willing to release him. But he received a phone call from President Obama who opposed his release.
In May of this year, Craig reported that Hadi had confirmed there was “an order from the president to release” Shaye “soon.” However, no details were given on when he would be released.
Craig recounted how the US Ambassador to Sanaa, Gerald Feierstein, had told her, “Haidar Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al-Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans and therefore we have a very direct interest in his case and his imprisonment,” despite the fact that no evidence confirming this allegation had ever been presented.
She highlighted the effect of his imprisonment on Yemeni journalists:
Yemeni journalists have repeatedly expressed their lingering fear over America’s meddling in Shaye’s case. Many became afraid to report on air strikes. One Yemeni journalist, like Shaye a specialist on al-Qaeda, renamed himself an “analyst of Islamic groups” and refused to do TV interviews especially with Al Jazeera after what happened to Shaye.
It had been said by Scahill that Shaye was “rotting away losing his mind in a Yemeni prison.”
What effect his imprisonment will have on him as he resumes life obviously remains to be seen, but one hopes he has not lost his spirit and commitment to journalism and, despite restrictions on traveling outside of Sanaa, will eventually return to doing what he was doing before he was unjustly imprisoned at the behest of the Obama administration.
It takes courage to do what Shaye was doing before he was imprisoned in Yemen. Sadly, when he wound up in prison, US media outlets virtually abandoned him. He had contributed to outlets such as theWashington Post and ABC News but they apparently did not ever find it appropriate to raise their voices to get answers from the administration on why a journalist was being kept in prison.
In solidarity, it is good to see Shaye be freed. Obama owes Shaye an apology and reparations of some kind for depriving him of the years of his life that he spent in prison and could not be with his family or out in the field doing journalism. Unfortunately, as much as the administration may claim to support press freedom, it is pretty much a certainty that there will not be a peep from the Obama administration where they acknowledge it was wrong to keep Shaye jailed.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Brazil, Capitalism, Economic Development, Neoliberal Development
By: By Prof. James Petras, Global Research, July 23, 2013.
Brazil has witnessed one of the world’s most striking socio-economic reversals in modern history: from a dynamic nationalist industrializing to a primary export economy. Between the mid 1930’s to the mid 1980’s, Brazil averaged nearly 10% growth in its manufacturing sector largely based on state interventionist policies, subsidizing, protecting and regulating the growth of national public and private enterprises. Changes in the ‘balance’ between national and foreign (imperial) capital began to take place following the military coup of 1964 and accelerated after the return of electoral politics in the mid-1980’s. The election of neo-liberal politicians, especially with the election of the Cardoso regime in the mid-1990’s, had a devastating impact on the strategic sectors of the national economy: wholesale privatization was accompanied by the denationalization of the commanding heights of the economy and the deregulation of capital markets. Cardoso’s regime set the stage for the massive flow of foreign capital into the agro-mineral, finance, insurance and real estate sectors. The rise in interest rates as demanded by the IMF and World Bank and the speculative market in real estate raised the costs of industrial production. Cardoso’s lowered tariffs ended industrial subsidies and opened the door to industrial imports. These neo-liberal policies led to the relative and absolute decline of industrial production.
The Presidential victory of the self-styled “Workers Party” in 2002 deepened and expanded the ‘great reversal’ promoted by its neo-liberal predecessors. Brazil reverted to becoming a primary commodity exporter, as soya, cattle, iron and metals exports multiplied and textile, transport and manufacturing exports declined. Brazil became one of the leading extractive commodity exporters in the world. Brazil ’s dependence on commodity exports was aided and abated by the massive entry and penetration of imperial multi-national corporations and financial flows by overseas banks. Overseas markets and foreign banks became the driving force of extractive growth and industrial demise.
To gain a better understanding of Brazil’s ‘great reversion’ from a dynamic nationalist-industrializing to a vulnerable imperial driven agro-mineral extractive dependency, we need to briefly review the political-economy of Brazil over the past fifty years to identify the decisive ‘turning points’ and the centrality of political and class struggle.
Military Model: Modernization from Above
Under the military dictatorships (1964-1984) economic policy was based on a hybrid strategy emphasizing a triple alliance of state, foreign and national private capital focused primarily on industrial exports and secondarily on agriculture commodities (especially traditional products like coffee).
The military discarded the nationalist-populist model based on state industries and peasant cooperatives of the ousted leftist President Goulart and put in place an alliance of industrial capitalists and agribusiness. Riding a wave of expanding global markets and benefiting from the repression of labor, the compression of wages and salaries, comprehensive subsidies and protectionist policies , the economy grew by double digits from the late 1960’s to the mid 1970’s, the so-called “Brazilian Miracle”. The military while ending any threats of nationalizations, put in place a number of ‘national content’ rules on the foreign multi-nationals which expanded Brazil ’s industrial base and enlarged the size and scope of the urban working class especially in the automotive industry. This led to the growth of the metal workers union and later the Workers’ Party. The ‘export model’ based on light and heavy industry, foreign and domestic producers, was regionally based (southeast). The military modernization strategy heightened inequalities and integrated the local ‘national’ capitalists to imperial MNCs. This laid the groundwork for the onset of the anti-dictatorial struggles and the return of democracy. Neo-liberal parties gained hegemony with the turn to electoral politics.
Electoral Politics , the Rise of Neo-Liberalism and the Ascendancy of Extractive Capitalism
The electoral opposition which succeeded the military regimes was initially polarized between a liberal, free market, agro-mineral elite allied with imperial MNC and on the other hand a worker, peasant, rural worker and lower middle class nationalist bloc, intent on promoting public ownership, social welfare, the redistribution of income and agrarian reform. Militant labor formed the CUT; landless peasants formed the MST and both joined the middle class to form the PT
The first decade of electoral politics 1984-94, was characterized by the tug and pull between the residual statist capitalism inherited from the previous military regime and the emerging liberal ‘free market’ bourgeoisie. The debt crises, hyper-inflation, massive systemic corruption, the impeachment of President Collor and economic stagnation severely weakened the statist capitalist sectors and led to ascendancy of an alliance of agro-mineral and finance capital, both foreign and local capitalists, linked to overseas markets. This retrograde coalition found their political leader and road to power with the election of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former leftist academic turned free market zealot.
The election of Cardoso led to a decisive break with the national statist policies of the previous sixty years. Cardoso’s policies gave a decisive push toward the denationalization and privatization of the economy, essential elements in the reconfiguration of Brazil ’s economy and the ascendancy of extractive capital. By almost all indicators Cardoso’s ultra neo-liberal policies led to a precipitous great leap backward, concentrating income and land, and increasing foreign ownership of strategic sectors. Cardoso’s “reform” of the economy at the expense of industrial labor, public ownership, landless rural workers provoked widespread strikes and land occupations. The ‘extractive economy’ especially the opening of lucrative sectors in agriculture, mining and energy took place at the expense of the productive forces: the relative position of manufacturing, technology and high end services declined. In particular labor earnings as a whole declined as a percentage of GNP.
The average growth rate of industry declined to a paltry 1.4%. Employment in the industrial sector fell by 26%, unemployment rose to over 18.4%, the ‘informal sector’ rose from 52.5% in 1980 to 56.1% in 1995.
Privatization of public enterprises like the giant and lucrative telecommunication firm Telebras led to the massive firing of workers and subcontracting of labor at lower wages and without social benefits. Under Cardoso , Brazil had the highest rates of inequality (Gini coefficient) in the world – bar one country.
Cardoso used state subsidies to promote foreign capital especially in the agrarian export and mining sectors while the small and medium size farmers were starved for credit. His program of financial deregulation led to currency speculation, massive windfall profits for Wall Street banks as the regime raised interest rates by over 50%. Bankruptcy of farmers led to their dispossession by agro-export capitalists. Concentration of land took a decisive turn as .7% of large landowners owning farms over 2,000 hectares increased their acreage from 39.5% to 43% of Brazilian farmland.
During Cardoso’s eight years in office, (1994-2002) there was a tsunami of foreign investment: over $50 billion flowed in just the first 5 years – ten times the total of the previous 15 years. Foreign owned agro-mineral companies among the top foreign owned companies (as of 1997) numbered over one-third and growing. Between 1996-1998 foreign MNC acquired eight major food, mining and metal production firms.
Cardoso’s neo-liberal policies opened the door wide open for foreign capital takeover of critical industrial and banking sectors. Nevertheless, it was the subsequent “Workers Party” presidents Da Silva and Rousseff who completed the Brazilian economy’s Great Leap Backward by decisively turning to extractive capital as the driving force of the economy.
From Neoliberalism to Extractive Capital
Cardoso’s privatizations were sustained and deepened by the Lula regime. Cardoso’s outrageous privatization of the Vale do Doce iron mine at a fraction of its value was defended by Lula; the same was the case with Cardoso’s defacto privatization of the state oil company Petrobras. Lula embraced the restrictive monetary policies, budget surplus agreements with the IMF and followed the budgetary prescriptions of the IMF directors.
The Lula regime (2003-2011) took Cardoso’s neo-liberal policies as a guide to further reconfigure Brazil ’s economy to the benefit of foreign and domestic capital located now in the primary, raw material export sector. In 2005 Brazil exported $55.3 billion dollars in raw materials and $44.2 billion in manufacturing goods; in 2011 Brazil tripled its raw material exports to $162.2 billion while its manufacturing exports increased to a mere $60.3 billion.
In other words the difference between the value of raw material and manufacturing exports increased from $13 billion to over $100 billion in the last 5 years of Lula’s regime. The relative de-industrialization of the economy, the growing imbalance between the dominant extractive and manufacturing sector illustrates the reversion of Brazil to its ‘colonial style of development’.
Agro-Mining Capitalism, the State and the People
Brazil ’s export sector benefited enormously from the rise in commodity prices. The prime beneficiary was its primary agro-mineral sector. But the cost to industry, public transport, living conditions, research and development and education was enormous. Agro-mineral exports provided great revenues to the state but also extracted great subsidies, tax benefits and profits.
Brazil ’s industrial economy was adversely affected by the commodity boom because of the rise in the value of its currency, the real by 40% between 2010 – 2012 which increased the price of manufacturing exports and decreased the competitiveness of manufacturing products. The “free market” policies also facilitated the entrance of lower priced manufactured goods from Asia, particularly from China . While Brazil, primary exports to China boomed, its manufacturing sector, particularly consumer goods like textiles and footwear, declined from 2005-2010 by over 10%.
Under the Lula-Rousseff regimes, the extreme dependence on a limited number of commodities led to a sharp decline in the productive forces, measured by investments in technological innovations, especially those related to industry. Moreover, Brazil became more dependent than ever on a single market. From 2000 to 2010 Chinese imports of soy – the major agro export – represented 40% of Brazil ’s exports; Chinese imports of iron – the key mining export – constitute over a third of the total exports of that sector. China also imports about 10% of Brazil ’s exports of petrol, meat, pulp and paper. Under the Lula and Rousseff regimes, Brazil has reverted to a quasi-mono-cultural economy dependent on a very limited market. As a result the slowdown of China ’s economy has predictably led to a decline in Brazil ’s growth to fewer than 2% from 2011 to 2013.
Brazil: Finance Capital’s Economic Paradise
Under the Workers Party free market policies, finance capital has flooded into Brazil , as never before. Foreign direct investment jumped from about $16 billion in 2002 during the last year of the Cardoso regime to over $48 billion in the last year of Lula’s rule. Portfolio investment – the most speculative sort – rose from a negative $5 billion in 2002 to $67 billion in 2010. Net inflows of FDI and portfolio investments totaled $400 billion during 2007 – 2011 compared to $79 billion during the previous 5 year period. Portfolio investments in high interest bonds, securities returned between 8% – 15% ,triple and quadruple the rates in North America and Europe . Lula and Dilma are poster presidents of Wall Street.
By most important economic indicators the policies of the Lula-Dilma regimes have been the most lucrative for overseas financial capital and the investors in the primary agro-mineral sectors in the recent history of Brazil .
Agro-Mineral Model and the Environment
Despite their political rhetoric in favor of family farming, the Lula-Dilma regimes have been among the biggest promoters of agro-business in recent Brazilian political history. The largest share of state resources allocated to agriculture, finances agribusiness and large landowners. According to one study, in 2008/2009 small holders received about $6.35 billion ( US ), while agribusiness and large landholders received $31.9 billion ( US ) in funding and credit. Less than 4% of government resources and research was directed to family farming and agro-ecological farms.
Under Lula the destruction of the rain forests occurred at a rapid pace. Between 2002 and 2008 the Cerrado region’s vegetation was reduced by 7.5% or over 8.5 million hectares, mostly by agro-business corporations. The Brazilian Cerrado is one of the world’s most biologically rich savannah regions concentrated in the center-east region of the country. According to one study 69% of all the land owned by foreign corporations is concentrated in Brazil ’s Cerrado. Between 1995 – 2005 the share of foreign capital in Brazil ’s agro-industrial grain sector jumped from 16% to 57%. Foreign capital has capitalized on the neo-liberal policies under Cardoso, Lula and Dilma to move into agro-fuel (ethanol) sector, controlling about 22% of Brazilian sugar cane and ethanol companies – and rapidly encroaching on the Amazon forest.
Between May 2000 and August 2005, thanks to the expansion of the export sector, Brazil lost 132,000 square kilometers of forest due to the expansion of large landowners and multinationals engaged in cattle raising, soya and forestry. Between 2003 – 2012 over 137 square kilometers have been deforested, aided and abetted by multi-billion dollar government infrastructure investments, tax incentives and subsidies.
In 2008 damage to the Amazon rain forest surged 67% .Under pressure from indigenous, peasant and landless rural workers’ and ecology movements the government took action to curtail deforestation. It declined from a peak of 27,772 square kilometers in 2004 (second only to the highest ever under Cardoso in 1995, 29,059 square kilometers) to 4,656 sq. km in 2012.
Cattle ranching is the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Estimates attribute over 40% to big capitalist and MNC meat processing corporations. The Lula-Dilma regimes’ major infrastructure investments, especially roads, opened previously inaccessible forest lands to corporate cattle firms. Under Lula and Dilma, commercial agriculture, especially soya beans became the second biggest contributor to deforestation of the Amazon.
Accompanying the degradation of the natural environment, the expansion of agro-business has been accompanied by dispossession, assassination and enslavement of indigenous peoples. The Christian, Pastoral Land Commission reported that landlord violence reached its highest level in at least 20 years in 2004 – Lula’s second year in office. Conflicts rose to 1,801 in 2004 from 1,690 in 2003 and 925 in 2002.
According to the government, cattle and soy corporations exploit at least 25,000 Brazilians (mostly dispossessed Indians and peasants) under “conditions analogous to slavery”. Leading NGOs claim the true figure could be ten times that number. Over 183 farms were raided in 2005 freeing 4,133 slaves.
Mining: The Vale Rip-off as “Privatization” and the Number One Polluter
Nearly 25% of Brazil ’s exports are composed of mineral products – highlighting the growing centrality of extractive capital in the economy. Iron ore is the mineral of greatest importance, representing 78% of total mining exports. In 2008, iron ore accounted for $16.5 of a $22.5 billion of the industry’s earnings. The vast majority of iron exports are dependent on a single market – China . As China ’s growth slows, demand declines and increases Brazil ’s economic vulnerability.
One firm, privatized during the Cardoso presidency, Vale, through acquisitions and mergers controls almost 100% of Brazil ’s productive iron mines. In 1997 Vale was sold by the neoliberal state for $3.14 billion, a small fraction of its value. Over the following decade it concentrated its investments in mining, establishing a global network of mines in over a dozen countries in North and South America , Australia , Africa and Asia . The Lula – Dilma regime played a major role in facilitating Vale’s dominance of the mining sector and the exponential growth of its value: Vale’s net worth today is over $100 billion but it pays one of the lowest tax rates in the world, despite being the second largest mining company in the world, the largest producer of iron ore and the second largest of nickel. Maximum royalties on mineral wealth rose from 2% to 4% in 2013; in other words during the decade of the “progressive” government of Lula and Dilma, the tax rate was one-sixth that of conservative Australia with a rate of 12%.
Vale has used its enormous profits to diversify its mining operations and related activities. It sold off businesses such as steel and wood pulp, for $2.9 billion – nearly the price paid for the entire mineral complex. Instead it concentrated on buying up the iron mines of competitors and literally monopolizing production. Vale expanded into manganese, nickel, copper, coal, potash, kaolin, bauxite; it has bought out railroads, ports, container terminals, ships and at least eight hydroelectric plants; two-thirds of its hydro-electrical plants were built during the Lula regime.
In sum, monopoly capitalism flourished during the Lula regime with record profits in the extractive sector, extreme damage to the environment and massive displacement of indigenous peoples and small scale producers. The Vale mining experience underlines the powerful structural continuities between the neo-liberal Cardoso and Lula regimes: the former privatized Vale at a “fire sale” price; the latter promoted Vale as the dominant monopoly producer and exporter of iron, totally ignoring the concentration of wealth, profits and powers of extractive capital.
In comparison to the geometrical growth of monopoly profits for the extractive sector, Lula and Dilma’s paltry two dollars a day subsidy to reduce poverty hardly warrants calling the regime “progressive” or “center-left”.
While Lula and Dilma were enraptured with the growth of Brazil ’s “mining champion” (Vale), others were not. Into 2002 Public Eye a leading human rights and environmental group gave Vale an “award” as the worst corporation in the world: “The Vale Corporation acts with the most contempt for the environment and human rights in the world”. The critics cited Vale’s construction of the Belo Monte dam in the middle of the Amazon rain forest as having “devastating consequences for the regions unique biodiversity and indigenous tribes”.
The mining sector is capital intensive, generates few jobs and adds little value to its exports. It has degraded water, land and air; adversely affected local communities, dispossessed Indian communities and created a boom and bust economy.
With the marked slowdown of the Chinese economy, especially its manufacturing sector in 2012-14, iron, copper prices have fallen. Brazil ’s export revenues have declined, undermining overall growth. Especially important, channeling resources into infrastructures for the agro-mineral sectors has resulted in the depletion of funds for hospitals, schools and urban transport – which are run down and provide poor service to millions of urban workers.
The End of the Extractive “Mega Cycle” and the Rise of Mass Protests
Brazil ’s extractive led model entered a period of decline and stagnation in 2012-2013 as world market demand – especially Asia – declined especially in China. Growth hovered around 2% ,barely keeping up with population growth. The class based growth model, especially the narrow stratum of foreign portfolio investors, monopoly mining and big agro-business corporations which controls and reaped most of the revenues and profits, limited the “trickle down effects” which the Lula-Dilma regimes promoted as their “social transformation”. While some innovative programs were initiated, the follow-up and quality of services actually deteriorated.
In-patient hospital beds have declined from 3.3 beds per 1,000 Brazilians in 1993, to 1.9 in 2009, the second lowest in the OECD. Hospital admissions financed by the public sector have fallen and long waits and low quality is endemic.
Federal spending on the health system has fallen since 2003, when adjusted for inflation according to the OECD study. Public spending on health is low: 41% compared to the UK at 82% and the US , 45.5%. The class polarization embedded in the agro-mineral extractive model extends to government spending, taxes, transport and infrastructure: massive financing for highways, dams, hydro-electric power stations for extractive capital versus inadequate public transport and declining spending for public health education and transport.
The deeper roots of the mass upheavals of 2013 are located in the class politics of a corporate state. The Cardoso, Lula-Dilma regimes, over the past two decades, have pursued a conservative elitist agenda, cushioned by clientelistic and paternatistic politics which neutralized mass opposition for an extended period of time, before the mass rebellion and nationwide protests unmasked the “progressive” facade.
Leftist publicists and conservative pundits who claimed Lula as a “pragmatic progressive” overlooked the fact that during his first term, state support for the agro-business elite was seven times that offered to the family farmers who represented nearly 90% of the rural labor force and provide the bulk of food for local consumption. During Lula’s second term, the Ministry of Agriculture’s financial support for agro-business during the 2008-09 harvest was six times larger than the funds allocated for Lula’s poverty reduction program, the highly publicized “Bolsa Familia” program. Economic orthodoxy and populist demagogy is no substitute for substantive structural changes, involving a comprehensive agrarian reform embracing 4 million landless rural workers, and a re-nationalization of strategic extractive enterprises like Vale in order to finance sustainable agriculture and preserve the rainforest.
Instead Lula and Dilma jumped full force into the ethanol boom: “sugar, sugar everywhere” but never asking, “Whose pocket does it fill?” Brazil ’s growing structural rigidity, its transformation into an extractive capitalist economy, has enhanced and enlarged the scope for corruption. Competition for mining contracts, land grants and giant infrastructure projects encourages agro-mineral business elites to pay-off the “party in power” to secure competitive advantages. This was particularly the case for the “Workers Party” who’s executive and party leadership (devoid of workers) was composed of upwardly mobile professionals, aspiring to elite class positions who looked toward business payoffs for their ‘initial capital’, a kind of ‘initial accumulation through corruption’.
The commodity boom, for almost a decade, papered over the class contradictions and the extreme vulnerability of an extractive economy dependent on primary goods exports to limited markets. The neo-liberal policies adapted to further commodity exports led to the influx of manufactured goods and weakened the position of the industrial sector. As a result the efforts of Dilma to revive the productive economy to compensate for the decline of commodity revenues has not worked: stagflation, declining budget surpluses and weakening trade balances plague her administration precisely when the mass of workers and the middle class are demanding a large scale reallocation of resources from subsidies to the private sector to investments in public services.
Rousseff’s and her mentor, Lula’s entire political fortunes were built on the fragile foundations of the extractive model. They have failed to recognize the limits of their model, let alone formulated an alternative strategy. Patchwork proposals, political reforms, anti-corruption rhetoric in the face of million person protests spanning all the major and minor cities of the country do not address the basic problem of challenging the concentration of wealth, property and class power of the agro-mineral and financial elite. Their MNC allies control the levers of political power, with and without corruption and block any meaningful reforms.
Lula’s era of “Wall Street Populism” is over. The idea that high revenues from extractive industries can buy popular loyalties via consumerism, funded by easy credit ,has passed. Wall Street investors are no longer praising the BRICs as a new dynamic market. As is predictable they are shifting their investments to more lucrative activity in new regions. As portfolio investments decline, and the economy stagnates, extractive capital intensifies its push into the Amazon and with it the terrible toll on the indigenous population and the rain forest.
The year 2012 was one of the worst years for the indigenous peoples. According to the Indigenous Missionary Council, affiliated with the Catholic Church, the number of violent incidents against the Indian communities increased 237%. The Rousseff regime has given Indians the least number of legal title (homologado) to land of any president since the return of democracy (seven titles). At this rate the Brazilian state will take a century to title land requests of the Indian communities. At the same time in 2012, 62 Indian territories were invaded by landowners, miners and loggers, 47% more than in 2011. The biggest threat of dispossession is from mega dam projects in Belo Monte and giant hydro-electric projects being promoted by the Rousseff regime. As the agro-mineral economy falters the Indian communities are being squeezed (“silent genocide”) to intensify agro-mineral growth.
The biggest beneficiaries of Brazil ’s extractive economy are the world’s top commodity traders who, worldwide, pocketed $250 billion over the 2003-2013 period, surpassing the profits of the biggest Wall Street firms and five of the biggest auto companies. During the mid-2000’s, some traders enjoyed returns of 50 – 60 percent. Even as late as 2013 they were averaging 20 – 30% (Financial Times 4/15/13, p. 1). Commodity speculators earned more than 10 times what was spent on the poor. These speculators profit from price fluctuations between locations, from the arbitrage opportunities offered by an abundance of price discrepancies between regions. Monopoly traders eliminated competitors and low taxes (5-15%) have added to their mega wealth. The biggest beneficiaries of the Lula-Dilma extractive model, surpassing even the agro-mineral giants are the twenty biggest commodity traders-speculators.
Extractive Capital, Internal Colonialism and the Decline of the Class Struggle
The class struggle, especially its expression via strikes led by trade unions and by rural workers located in campsites (campamentos) who launch land occupations has declined precipitously over the past quarter of a century. Brazil during the period following the military dictatorship (1989) was a world leader in strikes with 4,000 in 1989. With the return of electoral politics and the incorporation and legalization of the trade unions especially in tripartite collective bargaining framework, strikes declined to an average of 500 during the 1990’s. With the advent of the Lula regime (2003-2010) strikes declined further from 300-400 a year. The two major trade unions CUT and Forca Sindical allied with the Lula regime became virtual adjuncts of the Ministry of Labor: trade unionists secured positions in government and the organizations received major subsidies from the state, ostensibly for ‘job’ training and worker education. With the commodity boom and the rise in state revenues and export earnings, the governments formulated a trickle down strategy, increasing the minimum wage and launching new anti-poverty programs. In the countryside, the MST continued to demand an agrarian reform and engaged in land occupations but its position of critically supporting the Workers Party in exchange for social subsidies led to a sharp decline in campsites (campamentos) from which to launch land occupations. At the start of Lula’s presidency (2003) the MST had 285 campamentos, in 2012 it had 13.
The decline of class struggle and the co-optation of the established mass movements coincided with the intensification of extractive capitalist exploitation of the interior of the country and the violent dispossession of the indigenous communities. In other words, the heightened exploitation of the ‘interior’ by agro-mineral capital facilitated the concentration of wealth in the large urban centers and the established rural areas, leading to co-optation of trade unions and rural movements. Hence despite some declaratory statements and symbolic protests, agro-mineral capital encountered little organized solidarity between urban labor and the dispossessed Indians and enslaved rural workers in the ‘cleared’ Amazon. Lula and Dilma played a key role in neutralizing any national united front against the depredations of agro-mineral capital.
The degeneration of the major labor confederations is visible not only in their presence in government and in the absence of strikes but also in the organization of the annual May 1 workers meetings. The recent events have included virtually no political content. There are music spectacles, spiced with lotteries offering automobiles and other forms of consumerist entertainment, financed and sponsored by major private banks and multi-nationals. In effect this relation between city and Amazon resembles a kind of internal colonialism, in which extractive capital has bought off a labor aristocracy as a complicit ally to its plunder of the interior communities.
Conclusion Mass Movements The Extractive Model under Siege
If the CUT and Forca Sindical are co-opted, the MST is weakened and the low income classes received monetary raises how and why did unprecedented mass movements emerge in close to a hundred major and minor cities throughout the country?
The contrast between the new mass movements and the trade unions was evident in their capacity to mobilize support during the June/July(2013) days of protest: the former mobilized 2 million ,the latter 100,000
What needs to be clarified is the difference between the small student and local groups (Movemiento Passe Livre-MPL)which detonated the mass movements over a raise in bus fares and the pharaonic state expenditure on the World Cup (soccer championship) and Olympics and the spontaneous mass movements which questioned the state’s budgetary policies and priorities in their entirety.
Many publicists for the Lula-Dilma regimes accept at face value, the budgetary allocations destined for social and infrastructure projects, when in fact only a fraction is actually spent as much is stolen by corrupt officials. For example between 2008-12
R$6.5 billion was designated for public transport in the principal cities but only 17% was actually spent.(Veja ano 46,no29 7/17/2013)According to the NGO “Contas Abertas”(Open Accounts)over a ten year period Brazil spent over R$160 billion in public works which are unfinished , never left the drawing board or were stolen by corrupt officials. One of the most egregious cases of corruption and mismanagement is the construction of a 12 kilometer subway in Salvador, with the provision that it would be completed in 40 months at the cost ofR$307 million. Thirteen years later (2000-13) expenditures increased to nearly1 billion reales and barely 6 kilometers have been completed. Six locomotors and 24 wagons purchased for 100 million reales have broken down and the manufacturers warranty has expired(Veja ano 46.no 29 7/17/13).The project has been paralyzed by claims of corrupt overcharging (sobrefacturacion)involving federal, state and municipal officials. Meanwhile 200,000 passengers are forced daily to travel on dilapidated buses.
The deep corruption which infects the entire Lula-Dilma administration has driven a deep wedge between the achievements claimed by the regime and the deteriorating everyday experience of the great majority of the Brazilian people. The same gap exists regarding expenditures to preserve the Amazon rain forest, the Indian lands, and to fund the anti-poverty programs: corrupt PT officials siphon funds to finance their election campaigns rather then reduce environmental destruction and reduce poverty.
If the wealth from the boom in the agro-mineral extractive model “percolated” into the rest of the economy and raised wages, it did so in a very uneven, unequal and distorted fashion. The great wealth concentrated at the top found expression in a kind of new caste-class system in which private transport – helicopters and heliports – private clinics, private schools, private recreation areas, private security armies for the rich and affluent was funded by state promoted subsidies. In contrast the masses experienced a sharp relative and absolute decline in public services in the same essential life experiences. The raise in minimum wage did not compensate for 10 hour waits in crowded public emergency rooms, irregular and crowded public transport, daily personal threats and insecurity (50,000 homicides).Parents, receiving the anti-poverty dole sent their children to decaying schools where poorly paid teachers rushed from one school to another barely meeting their classes and providing meager learning experiences. The greatest indignity to those receiving subsistence handouts was to be told that, in this class-caste society, they were “middle class”; that they were part of an immense social transformation that lifted 40 million out of poverty, as they crawled home from hours in traffic, back from jobs whose monthly salary paid for one tennis match at an upscale country club. The agro-mineral extractive economy, accentuated all Brazil ’s socio-economic inequalities and the Lula-Dilma regime accentuated these difference by raising expectations, claiming their fulfillment and then ignoring the real social impacts on everyday life. The government’s large scale budgetary allocations for public transport and promises of projects for new subway and train lines have been delayed for decades by large scale, long term corruption. Billions spent over the years have yielded minimum results-a few kilometers completed. The result is that the gap between the regime’s optimistic projections and mass frustration has vastly increased. The gap between the populist promise and the deepening cleavage between classes could not be papered over by trade union lotteries and VIP lunches. Especially for an entire generation of young workers who are not attached to the ancient memories of Lula the “metal worker” a quarter century earlier. The CUT, the FS, the Workers’ Party are irrelevant or are perceived to be part of the system of corruption, social stagnation and privilege. The most striking feature of the new wave of class protest is the generational and organizational split: older metal workers are absent, young unorganized service workers are present. Local, spontaneous organizations replace the co-opted trade unions.
The point of confrontation is the street – not the workplace. The demands transcend monetary wages and salaries – the issues are the social wage, living standards, national budgets .Ultimately the new social movements raise the issue of national class priorities. The regime is dispossessing hundreds of thousands of residents of favelas – a social purge – to build sports complexes and luxury accommodations. Social issues inform the mass movements. Their organizational independence and autonomy underline the deeper challenge to the entire neo-liberal extractive model; even though no national organizations or leadership of these mass movements has emerged to elaborate an alternative. Yet the struggle continues. The traditional mechanisms of co-optation fail because there are no identifiable leaders to buy off. The regime, facing the decline of export markets and commodity prices, and deeply committed to multi-billion dollar non-productive investments in the Games has few options. The PT long ago lost its anti-systemic cutting edge. Its politicos are linked with and funded by the banks and agro-mining elites. The trade union leaders protect their fiefdoms, automatic dues deductions and stipends. The mass movements of the cities like the Indian communities of the Amazon will have to find new political instruments .But having taken the path of “direct action” they have taken a big first step.