Archive for the ‘Americas’ Category

Secretary of State Henry Clay (1825-29)

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Ignorant and Racist remarks like these re-confirm my Journey.
People like this (idiot) are my best Teachers!
Secretary of State Henry Clay

“The Indians’ disappearance from the
human family will be no great loss to the world.
I do not think of them, as a race, worth

Submitted by Luc Majno



Categories: Americas

Cables bare US operations in Brazil

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

By Bill Van Auken


WSWS, December 14, 2010

Scores of cables between the US State Department and the American embassy in Brasilia released by WikiLeaks have laid bare the ruthless pursuit of US imperialist interests in Latin America’s largest country.

What emerges from the messages sent from the embassy in Brasilia to Washington is a policy aimed at subordinating Brazil to US interests by promoting “counter-terrorism” as the decisive issue and by pursuing back-channel relations with Brazilian military and security officials.

This orientation, the cables indicate, is based on a barely concealed contempt for civilian control. In a country that was ruled for two decades by a military dictatorship backed by Washington, the implications of these relationships are sobering.

Speaking before an audience of lawyers in São Paulo last week, US Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon condemned WikiLeaks’ actions as “very dangerous,” while comparing their impact on US-Brazilian relations to problems in a marriage.

“If someone were to knock on your door and tell you that they have tapes of all of your conversations with your wife and that they are prepared to publish them, would you think that this transparency is something useful or something harmful?” Shannon said.

Media reports of Shannon’s speech gave no indication of how his audience reacted to the Brazilian government being portrayed as Washington’s “wife.”

One of the more revealing cables among those released by WikiLeaks describes a luncheon meeting between then-US Ambassador John Danilovich and Gen. Jorge Armando Felix in May 2005.

General Felix, who rose through the officer corps under the dictatorship, is now the chief minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet (known by the Portuguese acronym GSI) of the presidency, a position that is roughly equivalent to the US national security adviser. He is also chief of the Brazilian National Intelligence Agency. He personifies the continuity of the National Information Service or SNI, the hated secret police of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985.

The document, which was marked “secret,” details a discussion that began on the so-called “tri-border region” where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. It has been an obsession of US foreign policy in the region for the last decade, with Washington’s claims that it is a hotbed of terrorism.

While the Brazilian government has publicly rejected the US view of an alleged threat, “General Felix admitted that there were serious problems in the region and that the illegal movement of arms, money, drugs and the like through the region was of concern to the Brazilian Government,” the cable states.

The US ambassador then turned the discussion to Venezuela and the government of President Hugo Chavez, Washington’s other major obsession in the region. Danilovich “noted that Chavez was disrupting Brazil’s efforts to play a leading role politically and economically in South America,” the cable recounts.

It continues: “General Felix nodded his head and appeared to be very carefully measuring his response. He then said that he had his own personal opinions about Chavez (which he did not share) that were different from the Brazilian Government’s position.”

The cable concludes: “General Felix has always been a straightforward interlocutor, and his term at GSI has been highlighted by very cooperative, joint CT [counter-terrorism] operations…. All in all, his continued presence at GSI bodes well for U.S. interests.”

Such is the confidential diplomacy that Washington wants to conceal. A right-wing American ambassador elicits a brief statement from a leading military and intelligence official that his position and that of the elected government do not coincide. On that basis, a conclusion is reached that this is man who can serve Washington’s interests.

Ironically, when General Felix was asked by the US ambassador what assistance he might need from the US, the general responded that the Brazilian government “was falling behind in protecting its own classified and unclassified computer systems. Felix said that he would welcome any assistance (courses, visitors, etc.) in this area.” This was, of course, five years before hundreds of thousands of classified US cables were delivered into the hands of WikiLeaks.

Many of the subsequent cables also centered on the issue of terrorism and complaints by US officials over the alleged failure of the Brazilian government to treat it with due importance.

One chief grievance expressed by the US diplomats has been the Brazilian government’s failure to enact anti-terrorism legislation.

General Felix’s Institutional Security Cabinet had initiated a move toward creating such legislation in 2004, but it has been repeatedly shelved.

A November 2008 cable from Ambassador Sobel cites a conversation between the embassy’s “poloff,” or political officer—generally a cover for the CIA—and an individual identified as “Soloszyn,” a strategic intelligence analyst at Brazil’s Superior War College. The real name of the individual in question was Maj. André Luis Woloszyn, a Brazilian officer who underwent advanced training in the US.

Woloszyn told the US official that “there was little chance that this particular government, stacked with leftist militants who had been the object of military dictatorship-era laws designed to repress politically-motivated violence, was going to put forth a bill that would criminalize the actions of groups it sympathizes with, such as the Landless Movement (MST).”

The Brazilian officer insisted that “there is no a way to write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions of the MST,” which has led land occupations that have ended in violent confrontations.

The brief report provides a window into the mindset of the Brazilian military, which upholds the savage repression unleashed by the dictatorship against the Brazilian left, the unions, students and peasant movements in the name of combating “terrorism,” and which views movements of social struggle and opposition today through a similar prism.

While Brazil has no specific anti-terror law—and has publicly opposed Washington’s branding of political movements like Hamas and Hezbollah as “terrorist”—its security forces have surreptitiously introduced their own means of dealing with alleged terror suspects, according to the cables.

A secret cable sent by Ambassador Sobel to Washington in January 2008 spells out this frame-up technique employed by the Brazilian security forces.

“The Federal Police will often arrest individuals with links to terrorism, but will charge them on a variety of non-terrorism related crimes to avoid calling attention of the media and the higher levels of the government,” the cable states. “Over the past year, the Federal Police has arrested various individuals engaged in suspected terrorism financing activity but have based their arrests on narcotics and customs charges.”

The statement that these frame-up methods are employed to avoid calling the attention of “higher levels of the government” would suggest that elements in the military-police apparatus are secretly collaborating with the US anti-terror campaign directed at individuals whom the Brazilian government officially does not consider terrorists.

Another key concern reflected in the cables was Washington’s campaign to win an $8 billion contract to provide 36 new fighter planes to Brazil’s Air Force. The US government was acting as the agent for the aerospace giant Boeing, which was trying to sell its F/A-18 Super Hornet, in competition with the French firm Dassault, which was selling its Rafale jet. After a year of intense competition, outgoing President Lula has announced that no decision will be made before he leaves office in January, and it is widely believed that the planned purchase will be scrapped.

The cables provide insight into the way in which the US embassy sought to work through figures in the Brazilian military establishment to promote the Boeing sale. In particular, Brazil’s Defense Minister Nelson Jobim and the chief of the Brazilian Air Force, Brigadier Juniti Saito, were seen as in Washington’s camp. In one cable sent by then-Ambassador Clifford Sobel last January, Saito was described as “a key ally in our FX2 [fighter jet] bid.” Jobim is referred to as “one of the most trustworthy leaders in Brazil.”

Jobim apparently earned this trust by providing inside information on his colleagues in the Brazilian government. He is quoted in one of the cables as confiding to Ambassador Sobel that Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães, the former secretary-general of Brazil’s foreign ministry and current minister for strategic affairs, was someone who “hates the United States” and “creates problems” between the two countries.

Similar financial calculations were expressed in cables dealing with the Brazil’s plans for the exploration of the pre-salt reserves off the country’s Atlantic coast. The embassy’s concerns were the same as those of Chevron and Exxon-Mobil that the rules for the participation of foreign corporations would be more restrictive and less lucrative.

Another thread that runs through the cables, despite their revelations of the maneuvers with the military and other officials seen as more amendable to Washington’s demands, is Washington’s view of the ruling Workers Party (PT) as posing no threat to capitalist interests in Brazil and elsewhere in the hemisphere.

This is spelled out in one of the earliest cables dating from November 2002, which details meetings in Brasilia between then Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich and President-elect Lula da Silva and his principal advisors.

Reich, an extreme right-wing anticommunist Cuban exile, takes the measure of these supposed “workers’ ” representatives and clearly sees them as people with whom he can do business.

“We are not afraid of the PT and its social agenda,” Reich told Lula.

The cable quotes Lula as saying how eager he is to meet then-President George W. Bush and that he is sure that “two politicians like us will understand each other when we meet face to face.” He and his advisers stressed to Reich that they would uphold all agreements between previous governments and the US, the IMF and other international financial institutions.

Subsequent cables build upon this initial understanding, with Brazilian officials making it clear that the US should not take any stray left rhetoric from the Workers Party seriously.

Thus, a cable from November 2006, after Lula’s election to a second term as president, cites a discussion with his personal chief of staff Gilberto Carvalho who “asked for the ambassador’s understanding if rhetoric during the election campaign had occasionally seemed critical of the US.”

A September 2009 cable chronicles a frank exchange of views between top Brazilian officials and the visiting US national security adviser, Gen. James Jones.

The visit followed the announcement that the US had obtained several new bases in Colombia, giving it the capacity to deploy military forces throughout the hemisphere.

Dilma Rousseff, then the president’s chief of staff and now the president-elect, was the first to speak. She told General Jones that the Brazilian government “finds it disconcerting to be faced with questions from the press regarding why the United States needs such bases.”

The cable continues, “According to Rousseff, issues such as this open the door for radicals who want to create problems in the region.”

She was followed by Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, who sounded a similar theme, saying that issues like the Colombian bases became a problem when the Brazilian government “learns of them through the press.” Jobim added, however, that the PT government “is often surprised by the sensitivities of ‘Spanish America’ regarding issues that would be considered innocuous elsewhere.”

Jones responded by urging Jobim to call him if he had any “doubts about US intentions.”

:: Article nr. 72883 sent on 15-dec-2010 01:21 ECT

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.


Categories: Americas

Haiti’s Electoral Council Tries Alternate Ways to Legitimize Fraud

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

by Stephen Lendman

December 14, 2010

It’s almost surreal following Haiti’s November 28 elections, a process elevating fraud to a new level. So bad, in fact, most candidates demanded voiding it and starting over, but no matter. On December 9, New York Times Deborah Sontag headlined, “Haitian Vote Results to Be Reviewed,” saying:

“Seeking to defuse the violent protests that have shut down this country for two days, Haiti’s electoral council (CEP) promised….to rapidly review the widely mistrusted preliminary results….”

Honest observers and most candidates condemned them, citing brazen fraud, widespread ballot box stuffing, polling stations opening late, closing early, or not opening at all, staffing them with functional illiterates, omitting voter names from rolls, others told their ID cards were invalid, and numerous other examples of electoral illegitimacy, mocking a free and open process.

Nonetheless, the recount was ordered to validate it as well as placate angry voters and candidates. It didn’t so diplomats considered Plan B, including France’s Ambassador Didier Le Bret saying alternative solutions have been discussed to prevent Haiti from slipping into political chaos. They include:

— disgruntled candidates given three days through December 15 to appeal;

— establishing a transitional government to organize new elections;

— letting all candidates participate in the scheduled January 16 second round; and

— letting new approved ones participate, excluding those representing Fanmi Lavalas.

The Electoral Act’s Section 40.1 (1) permits a runoff possibility with more than two candidates, stating:

“….if there is a tie between candidates who obtained the greatest number of votes in the first round, they all participate in the second round.” An electoral tie or close to it may mean “very similar results between two or more candidates” because contrary to Section 42, there’s no mention of “perfect equality.”

As a result, perhaps compromise is allowed, Article 40.1 saying if first round balloting produces no majority winner, a runoff between the two highest vote getters will do so. However, in case of virtual ties among more than two, they can all participate in a second round.

The combination of mass protests, violence, public embarrassment, and rare dominant media indignation dictate something be done to resolve things, more than putting a brave face on transparent fraud, bad enough to bother some right-wing journalists who never met “free market” despots they didn’t love, including in Haiti.

The Wall Street Journal’s Mary O’Grady for one, an earlier article describing her unmatched extremism; her space a virtual truth-free zone; her language hateful and vindictive; her tone malicious and slanderous; her style bare-knuckled thuggishness; and her material calculating, mendacious, and shameless.

Yet on December 13 she surprised, in part at least, headlining her latest op-ed, “Haiti’s Preval Tries to Steal an Election,” saying:

“….Preval seems to regard election fraud as an entitlement.” It’s a refreshing change from her usual rhetoric, a nice try, but not good enough. Washington controls Preval. Blaming him takes the easy way out in lieu of pointing fingers where they belong – at Obama power brokers choreographing everything, blaming Preval for what went wrong, reportedly with marines close by aboard one or more ships ships, ready to storm ashore if needed to restore calm and take over.

Preval merely followed orders, what O’Grady won’t admit, even while criticizing Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, AWOL in Honduras on other business, not in Port-au-Prince where she wants him, resolving the electoral crisis before it spins more out-of-control than already.

Did he go? “Nope,” and what about Haitians. Again she surprised, saying they “displayed near-saintly patience and stoic resilience (in spite) of Mr. Preval’s dismal performance. (The election) was supposed (to) change horses. Mr. Preval and his henchmen had other ideas, and for good reason,” ignoring the obvious, citing instead Haiti’s “legendary….government corruption.”

Nonetheless, she described a selection, not an electoral process for Jude Celestin (Preval’s choice) and ruling INITE party legislative control. He made the runoff, finishing second while INITE candidates won a two-thirds parliamentary majority in first round balloting, angering even O’Grady by their brazen fraud.

“The US may be waking up to this reality,” she said, disingenuously expressing “concern,” not outrage like Haitians and honest observers. “The CEP responded (saying) it will ‘recount’ the presidential votes. That’s not good enough coming from the institution that has had custody of the ballots for two weeks, and Haitians know it. Someone needs to break the news to Mr. Preval.” More urgently, to Washington, the real scoundrel deserving blame, one O’Grady won’t name, especially when extremist Republicans have control, her favorites.

A Final Comment

So far, two of top three presidential candidates, Mirlande Manigat, finishing first, and Michel Martelly, third best (both establishment figures) rejected the proposed recount. Others denounced the process, most demanding new elections.

Then on December 11, former Alaska governor, vice presidential candidate, and caricature of a political leader, Sarah Palin, arrived in Port-au-Prince with evangelist Franklin Graham (a pro-war, Islamophobe hatemonger) on a bogus humanitarian mission. Likely, it was a presidential aspirant’s campaign stunt, one unqualified for any public office let alone the nation’s highest. AP said her “trip was largely closed to the press and she declined to take questions at (a carefully orchestrated) news conference.”

So far, Haiti’s political crisis is unresolved. Sporadic violence continues. Greater eruptions may resume anytime. Raging cholera keeps spreading. Aid for stricken earthquake victims remains woefully inadequate, and Preval’s CEP opened a hearing, inviting disgruntled candidates to appeal, trying to restore calm.

A joint US, France, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Spain, UN, EU and OAS statement “encourage(d) the use of all legal avenues to advance a credible electoral process to ensure that the final results fully reflect the will of the Haitian voters,” stopping well short of condemning electoral fraud, demanding first round balloting be voided, and calling for new elections as soon as possible.

On December 12, AP reported that US deportations to Haiti will resume, saying:

ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said “the US expects to begin flying deportees with criminal records back to Haiti in January in coordination with Haiti’s government,” no matter how dire the conditions. She left unexplained what alleged criminality she means or if something contrived is being used to remove unwanted people, ones America never welcomed and doesn’t want now.

US Senator Patrick Leahy (D. VT) wants Haitian aid halted and visas for officials and their families suspended until a credible settlement is reached, or at least the appearance of one. Senator Richard Lugar (R. IN) blamed Preval for poor organization. Haitians demand justice, what Washington and world leaders refuse, manipulating events for some discrete solution, benefitting them, not popular need under real democratic governance.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


:: Article nr. 72878 sent on 15-dec-2010 00:49 ECT

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.


Categories: Americas

Honduras: Latin America’s Murder Capital

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

December 5th, 2010

by Stephen Lendman

By some accounts, it’s the world’s murder capital. The UN Development Program (UNDP) reported 4,473 2008 murders (61.3 per 100,000) in a country with about 7.3 million people, the equivalent of over 190,000 annual US killings, over 10 times the actual rate.

For 2009, anthropologist Adrienne Pine estimated a 9% increase, saying in June 2010:

“As someone who has been closely following the human rights and political stability situation in Honduras for over a dozen years; who has written a book and numerous articles on the topic; who has served as an expert witness in over a dozen asylum cases; and who has been living and conducting research in Honduras during the past month, I can say with absolute confidence that I have never seen worse security conditions in this country.”

“And while in the previous decade, the victims of extrajudicial assassinations and other forms of state violence were disproportionately young men identified (often incorrectly) as gang members, today a large percentage of the victims fall into two primary categories: people who are involved in or are openly critical of drug trafficking, and individuals who are seen as being critical of the June 28, 2009 coup.”

“The latter category has included 9 journalists killed in targeted assassinations, and the disappearance, torture, and murder of numerous local and national leaders of the non-violent resistance movements and their daughters, sons, brothers and sisters….all since the beginning” of the current Pepe Lobo regime, controlled by two forces: the military, and a small group of powerful business elites, united in their opposition against anyone opposing the coup.

In addition, the atmosphere of impunity assures virtually no investigations or prosecutions. Moreover, victims are “posthumously slandered by the police and media as having brought their deaths upon themselves,” either for involvement in drugs or “calling for a more participatory democratic government.”

Supporters of deposed President Manuel Zelaya are notably at risk, because the legitimacy of those in power “depends largely on their unsubstantiated argument that (he) was corrupt and engaged in criminal activities.”

Pine believes “generalized violence serves as cover for politically targeted assassinations,” happening on a near-daily basis. “It is an extremely dangerous environment,” forcing well over 100 people into exile, and many others into self-imposed house arrest, what’s no guarantee of safety. Death squads have kidnapped or killed numerous coup opponents and their family members at home, work or other perceived less vulnerable places.

After the June 28, 2009 coup, two earlier articles covered death squad terror to solidify fascist rule against street protesters, human rights activists, journalists, unionists, campesinos, teachers, and anyone challenging state authority, accessed through the following links:

By any standard or measure, Honduras is an extremely violent country, one of the world’s worst outside of war zones.

On October 31, Al Jazeera headlined, “Massacre in northern Honduras,” saying:

“Unknown gunmen attacked a group of people playing football….killing at least fourteen….” Armed with assault rifles, five or more attackers shot victims at point blank range. Ten people died immediately, four others en route to the hospital. More were wounded, some seriously.

Honduran vice-minister of security, Armando Calidonio, blamed street gangs (maras), likely to absolve death squad responsibility. In September, gunmen killed 18 shoe factory employees in San Pedro Sula. Maras again were blamed. Likely it for their union related activities, not drugs or crime.

According to Honduras’ human rights ombudsman (an oxymoron under Lobo), “Honduras is on track to finish the year with the world’s highest murder rate, (totaling) 78.8 per 100,000.”

On November 16, Latin America Bureau writer Rory Carroll headlined, “Honduras: We are burying kids all the time,” saying:

“Three young people are murdered every day in Honduras,” the result of mara youth gangs involved in drug trafficking, extortion and violence, “stretching from Los Angeles to the country’s capital Tegucigalpa.”

“What are the words for what is happening in Honduras? Slaughter, tragedy, waste?” The annual youth death toll is nearly 6,000, “an extraordinarily high number” that makes Honduras “more dangerous than Mexico….Part of the explanation….is political.” Most he attributes to gang-related violence, whether or not true.

Casa Alianza estimates that gang rivalry accounts for about 40% of the killings, contract assassinations (sicarios) another 15%. “For just a few hundred dollars, sometimes less, they will pump bullets into your problem.” A culture of impunity exacerbates conditions. “Of the thousands of youth murders in the past decade, fewer than 50” were solved. In Honduras, killing is a growth industry, but over-hyping gang involvement overstates reality.

Anthropologist and mara expert Dennis Rodgers says “Gangs have become convenient scapegoats on which to blame (state) problems, and through which those in power attempt to maintain an unequal status quo.” Accusing authorities of exploiting the phenomenon, he added, “I don’t think there is much coordination (between gangs). They are local foot soldiers, hired guns for the cartels.”

According to anthropologist Robert Barrios, maras have been exploited as a “fetishized evil to disguise” ruling power harshness and failure.

Grassroots Resistance

Honduras RESISTE: National Resistance Front is a coalition of grassroots organizations for Honduran democracy.

On November 15, it said oligarch Miguel Facusse’s “private army” attacked members of the Campesino Movement of Aguan (MUCA) in Tumbador, Trujillo. Five were killed, three more wounded. One of Honduras’ largest landowners, he’s responsible for ongoing violence in Colon. In collusion with police and military forces, his paramilitaries murder with impunity.

Last January, MUCA reported ongoing violations of their rights for years, more recently for having reclaimed their land. Francisco Funez, Zelaya’s Director of the National Agrarian Institute, said:

Under Honduras’ coup d’etat regime, “conflicts have sharpened in the country and especially in Aguan where the agrarian conflicts for land are ongoing, despite the fact that (Zelaya), the peasants, the National Agrarian Institute, and the land owners signed an agreement that said that nobody could dispute the property of those lands without demonstrating the legality of it. Nonetheless, the displacement continues in that zone and the threat is” real.

As a result, peasants are being “prosecuted for the crime of usurpation and are receiving persecution and (death) threats.”

In October, Bertha Oliva, leader of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) said 83 resistance members were kidnapped or killed since January. In 1981, her husband, Professor Tomas Nativi, disappeared. Today, CAFADEH members and their families are threatened, assaulted, kidnapped or killed.

Rights Action (RA) focuses on community development, emergency relief, environmental and human rights issues in Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras. It aims to “build north-south alliances and carries out education, political and legal work for global equity and justice,” following a “just development model.”

On November 19, RA contributor Annie Bird headlined, “Honduras: World Bank Shares Responsibility for Biofuel Massacre of 6 Campesinos,” saying:

About six months ago, MUCA got provisional title to a farm, neighboring their community, “as part of a longstanding negotiation with Dinant Corporation, a biofuel company, whose land claims are illegitimate.”

On November 15, after weeks of armed security force encroachments, six campesinos were murdered, two others seriously wounded.

“In November 2009….the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation gave Dinant a $30 million loan for biofuel production, and now shares responsibility in the massacre.”

Over the past decade, campesino-designated land “was illegally divided up among several large landholders as a result of corruption and fraudulent titling processes.” Small victories were won to get it back. However, the “titling process has been slow and marked by violent attacks by the large landowners,” in collusion with military forces and police.

Facusse owns the contested 700 hectares controlled by Dinant. Campesinos are being cheated out of what’s rightfully theirs. An earlier article discussed the scourge of biofuels, accessed through the following link:

Touted as a solution to a growing world energy shortage, the facts refute the hype. Organic fuels, in fact, trash rainforests, deplete water reserves, kill off species, and increase greenhouse emissions. Some solution. They aren’t clean and green. They destroy rural development, forcing small farmers off their land. They increase hunger, and better “second-generation” argofuels aren’t around the corner. The greater their proliferation, the more harm to the earth and everyone who eats.

Honduran campesinos face greater dangers. Those contesting their land rights are murdered, big landowners in collusion with agribusiness and regime fascists killing anyone who resists with impunity. No wonder Honduras is on a fast track to becoming the world’s murder capital.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Categories: Americas

On Prayer

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

INTERVIEWER:   Isn’t it ironic that you say ‘prayer is so powerful among your People’…  Can you elaborate for us a bit?

STANDING WOLF:   Yes, of course, I will try.  Our People have forever been sending our Prayers to Creator through the Spirit of Tobacco.  Anything you do with your heart, there is no need to ‘bless’ any further.  It is all in the intention of our actions.  Therefore, in my strongest moments of Prayer, you see, I run out of tobacco, so I run to the store to buy some, cause it is late, and I don’t want to bother anyone with my personal things, I buy the tobacco and run home, with a Prayer in my heart.  I get home, sit down and with a smile, I look down at the pack of tobacco that I have just bought, which, for me, will become a Source of Prayer, …  in big letters on top of the pack, I see written:  DON’T POISON US with a picture of children next to it…  Isn’t it ironic indeed, that what WE see as Prayer and Spirituality, YOU see as poison.

INTERVIEWER:   Yes of course…  (covering the mic) ‘Cut to a commercial’  We’ll be right back!

Luc Majno


Categories: Americas

On Women {Caution: This might offend some readers}

December 6, 2010 1 comment

INTERVIEWER:  It is appropriate that we talk a bit about Women, wouldn’t you say, since tomorrow (december 6th) is the day to remind us about violence towards Women and Children, and the Elderly… and how it is not to be tolerated…  Women are gaining their place in society, and have more a voice than ever before.  I know you can add to this, Mr. Standing Wolf…

STANDING WOLF:  Please forgive me, miss…  It is not ‘mister’, but simply Standing Wolf.  That is my name, as you have yours…  Yes, I can certainly reiterate what you have just spoken of, about Women, but it just might offend certain listeners, but I believe this must be said.

On your ‘Canadian’ fifty dollar bill, you seem to be so proud of the fact that Women had become ‘people (?) in 1929, as if it were some sort of good deed that ‘Men’ did to ‘include’ them, probably all by mounting pressure because of their own ignorance…  Women were considered chattel, property, and the church and state were in bed together on this one all the way.  The church comes out with a ‘manual’ for ‘the women at home’ in the 60s because of the threat that they posed, well, i guess you could say that they were treated (a little) better than the Aboriginal Population, if you want to make a comparison.

Within our Culture, it is the other way around, and it always has been this way: WOMEN have always been superior to Men in so many ways…  I believe this is where a lot of your violence problems come from, the fact that Men cannot handle this difference in knowledge and intuition, not to mention humility and wisdom, and other factors separating them from the Women.  And since they are Life-Givers, they are so much closer to Mother Earth than Men, they are much more ‘connected’ to Her…

Traditionally, Men were simply Providers, and Protectors…  Women were perfectly well off without them…  (laughter)  So, as you see, there are so many opposites between our Cultures, it would really be wise for you guys to tone down a notch or two, and try to learn something from a Nation that you almost wiped out, one that has been here for ten thousand years…

INTERVIEWER:  OK’ …  cut to a commercial…  ‘We’ll be right back after these messages’…

Submitted by Luc Majno


Categories: Americas Tags:

How Cancun’s Attempt to Develop a Tourist Beach Paradise Helped Turn It into Mexico’s Suicide Capital

December 5, 2010 Leave a comment

By Roberto Lovato, ColorLines

Reyna Martinez Osorio Orizaba stands regally on the third-floor balcony of Reyna’s Bar, the pub and brothel that she spent her adult life building, and points to the new paradise rising out of Cancun’s shrinking jungle and former ejidos(communal lands). “That’s the Mayan Paradise housing project,” says Osorio, a 44-year-old mother of two and grandmother. “I built Reyna’s so that my son Ruben would not suffer what I did when I was a child: having to walk 2 kilometers for water to bring back so we could boil the herbs that we ate for dinner every day.”

Osorio migrated to Cancun 10 years ago from the Orizaba Valley in Veracruz. A fierce, 5-foot-2 former sex worker, she planned on giving Ruben the keys to her castle, the brothel bearing her name. She built Reyna’s near the shanty towns and new mini-cities of massive, low-income, privately-owned housing projects like the Mayan Paradise. Local politicians and police pressured her and other sex workers to move, because authorities felt she and her colleagues were conducting business too close to Kilometro Cero—the invisible, but definitive border separating the storied hotel zone of tourist Cancun from the chaotic city of almost a million people that houses most of the tourism workers, including those that make Cancun one of the Caribbean’s hubs of sex tourism.

“We [the sex workers] organized ourselves, fought the authorities and got them to help establish this complex of sexual service businesses on the margins of the city. When he turned 26, I let Ruben start managing Reyna’s some evenings. I thought that he could handle himself and be strong as I taught him to be,” Osario explains. “I didn’t want him to live in my hell.”

Unfortunately for Osorio and, especially, for her son, the line separating paradise and hell in Cancun is blurred. The city is the suicide capital of Mexico. That’s a subject that’s not likely to come up as thousands of people from almost 200 countries gather here over the next two weeks for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change (known as COP 16). This, despite the fact that the climate injustices that they’re supposed to be confronting lead to the poverty, droughts, floods and other disasters that drive people like Osorio to migrate here, including those who take their lives when they arrive.

Ruben had promised to never hit his wife, and to kill himself if he did. After breaking that promise, the 28 year old got drunk, tied an electrical chord to his stucco ceiling, wrapped it around his neck and fell to his knees, killing himself in front of his then 4-year-old daughter. He was among more than 100 people in Cancun who have taken their lives each year since 2007.

“How could this happen?” his mother pondered, staring down as if searching for answers in the empty white table where we were sitting in her empty bar (she says the economic crisis has brought business down by at least 60 percent). “I thought he could handle himself. I was wrong. It got to him—all the women, the drugs, the alcohol.”

Explanations as to why so many Cancun residents can’t “handle it” vary. Tabloids like El Peso regularly run scintillating stories with front page headlines like “Tragedia Amorosa” (Love Tragedy) and “Alambre al Cuello” (Wire to the Neck). Many of the articles also run color pictures, like the one of Ruben lying dead on his knees in his apartment. Neighbors’ explanations add local color (e.g.”He was cursed”) to the tragedies.

Reports in television news and in more the serious journals quote “experts” linking the high suicide rate to the ancient cult of Ixtab, the Mayan goddess of suicide. Ixtab is often depicted in murals and on ancient vases suspended in the sky with a noose around her neck. She symbolizes the high calling that was suicide among the Maya of a previous era; the noose reaches up to the heavens.

But the families of victims, and the psychologists, social workers and activists who work with them, look to something decidedly more terrestrial than the tragic heroism of goddesses. They describe a complex, contemporary variation on an equally ancient theme of the rich exploiting the poor. Ruben and others committing suicide on the non-tourist side of Kilometro Cero are doing so, those interviewed say, for a number of reasons centered around the new nature of poverty in Mexico and in the world.

Life on the Mayan Rivieria

“There are people who live and vacation on that side of paradise,” says Evelyn Parra, one of Mexico’s leading suicidologas and the director of psychological services for the city’s family development agency. “And then there are those who work on that side of paradise—and live on this side,” she adds, pointing outside her office to the small, sweltering room crowded with people waiting for appointments.

Asked about popular explanations for the city’s high suicide rate, Parra looks up at the fast-growing lists of recent suicides and attempted suicides pinned on a wall next to her desk. She smiles and responds, “Oh yes, the Mayan goddess stories. Yes, we hear this story a lot. In history there may have been a goddess of suicide and Mayans did consider suicide an honor, but there is no cult now. The reasons for suicide are not just cultural but economic, personal and very complex. And it’s not the Mayans killing themselves. It’s migrants, poor people who came here for their dreams.”

Osorio is among hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who have pursued prosperity—and survival—among the faux pyramids, artificial white beaches and turquoise-blue waters of what tourism boosters have termed the “Mayan Riviera.” But their migrant dreams are haunted by the more black and white, rich and poor world of global economics, and by the effects of the environmental disaster world leaders have gathered here to debate.

Today’s Cancun was built in early 1970’s under the leadership of then Mexican President Luis Echeverria, with the idea of creating the country’s premiere tourist destination—a new model for tourism development. It succeeded as a high-end tourism hub, and it did provide a model for Mexico and other parts of the world. But Cancun also succeeded in establishing what urbanists and geologists like Peter Weise called the “self destruction model of tourism development.”

The self-destructive model, according to Weise and others, begins when a remote, ecologically attractive area with low population density is identified as a potential hub for elite tourists—those willing to pay handsomely for privacy, isolation and unspoilt and beautiful environments. Rapid population growth and urbanization follows when, as in Cancun, large numbers of middle class tourists follow the more wealthy trend-setters. The need for more hotels, more entertainment venues, more development pushes the region into ecological imbalances that lead to the kind urban and environmental collapse found here today.

At the heart of it all is an economy and way of life dependent on cheap labor (the average Cancun worker makes less than $200 per month). That labor most often takes the form of migrant workers from other, poorer Mexican states like Tabasco. Local experts say that climate change-induced floods in Tabasco last September are pushing new waves of migrants to Cancun. Like Ruben, many of these migrant workers will experience crushing loneliness and isolation shortly after arriving.

Behind the ready smiles and friendly broken-English voices of maids, busboys and prostitutes on both sides of Kilometro Cero is the siren’s song of alienation and loneliness. The climate change experts, leaders and protesters packing Cancun’s hotels over the next two weeks will likely not visit the other side of Kilometro Cero as they discuss and debate the fact that climate change is projected to force a billion of the world’s people to migrate out of their homelands and into cities like Cancun by 2050.

If they listen closely to music in the restaurants and hotels, visitors may hear a very popular song, Ruben’s favorite. They may hear the tragedy in the plaintive pianos and wailing violins and angry guitars and tragic lyrics (e.g. “their souls united in eternity to give life to this sad song of love”) in the “Triste Cancion de Amor” (Sad Song of Love) played by workers.

“Most of those who are killing themselves are migrants,” says Parra. “They leave because their ways of life, their social networks are destroyed by economic change and natural disasters. They often kill themselves because they come to a place where there are no social networks, no networks of support or services.”

Parra told me that in Mexico City the typical person has an average of 12 friends and relations; in Cancun, the ratio is three or four friends per person. She calls Cancun “one of the loneliest cities in Mexico.”

When the Building Stops

The highest concentration of this migrant loneliness—and suicide—is centered in the city’s many new 13-foot by 26-foot cinder condominios—block rooms sold for about $25,000 by people like Janeth Paola.

Paola migrated here with her husband, Antonio de Los Angeles Chi, from Campeche. She has sold many people their first homes in the gigantic, privately-run Villas Otoch Paraiso, a low-income housing complex that’s as big as a small Mexican town. Like the hotels on the other side of Kilometro Cero, the Paraiso (paradise) has Mayan street names and Mayan themed architecture. “I’ve helped many people who would otherwise be unable to afford these homes, people who come from the countryside and even nearby shantytowns and have moved up,” Paola says from her own stucco-walled apartment.

Paola says her family’s fortunes rose with the high-occupancy rates of the housing complexes that now carpet former coconut fields and ejidos. “Even though we missed our family in Campeche, things were going well. Rooms were filling up. Before the crisis, Antonio had a steady job as a driver for Maya Caribe buses. “

But as Mexico’s swine flu scare and the global economic crisis combined to bring hotel vacancy to its highest rate ever (a remarkable 78 percent), Paolo began noticing how many apartments were being vacated too. Entire blocks of the Paraiso were emptying out. The ghost town feel is worsened by the piles of rock and sand, the fencing and the cement bags that developers left fallow as new construction stopped.

“Antonio started a transportation business with a friend in order to make more money,” Paola explains. “The business didn’t go well, his partner didn’t live up to promises and we ended up going into deep debt. That’s when something went wrong.”

On his birthday last July, Antonio started drinking at 10 a.m. and didn’t stop until that evening. “He was very drunk and decided to go in our bedroom. I thought he was sleeping when I heard that awful noise. I rushed in and found him with a hammock strung around his neck.”

Now, in addition to her primary mission of supporting and raising her daughter alone, Paola has had to deal with the watchful and often wrongful eyes of the larger public.

“My main image of Antonio is of him listening to Pedro Infante, Los Tigres del Norte and Cornelio Reyna [classic Mexican norteno and ranchera singers], dancing on the bed with our daughter,” says Paola. “But the newspapers said horrible things and then people repeated them and made up their own stories.”

She recalls reports both in tabloids and in more serious papers filled with lies and gossip. “They said that we would hit each other physically or that I was sleeping with other men. They even said I was sleeping with my compadre [godfather of her daughter]. It hurts me deeply to hear and read this.”

Suicidologist Parra has criticized the local media both for spreading these sorts of rumors and for “planting seeds” of suicide in people’s minds, with big frontpage pictures of people hanging themselves with hammocks.

Suicides in Cancun are altering the image of the once storied home of the Mayas. And for those living in Mexico’s suicide capital, the view of life is being altered as well. “Paradise is different things for different people,” says Paola. “I used to think it was reaching a level of comfort from work, having money. Now I realize paradise can only come from God.”

Roberto Lovato is a New York-based writer with New America Media. Read more of his work at Of América.
© 2010 ColorLines All rights reserved.
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Categories: Americas