US Interventions in Latin America Continue and Intensify

Source:  The Real News Network
May 6 2018

Transcript

GREG WILPERT: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert coming to you from Quito, Ecuador.

Ten years ago, most of Latin America was governed by center-left progressive or even leftist governments. For example, Cristina Fernandez in Argentina, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, and Lula da Silva in Brazil, just as an example. And Hugo Chavez, of course, in Venezuela. Since then, the so-called ‘pink tide’ has receded quite dramatically. Of these 10 governments that were left of center, only four remain. Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, Vazquez in Uruguay, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. What happened? Some would argue that the U.S. played an important role in at least some of these changes.

Joining me to explore the role of the U.S. in Latin America is Mark Weisbrot. Mark is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and is the author of the book “Failed: What the Experts Got Wrong About the Global Economy.” He’s also the president of the organization Just Foreign Policy. Thanks for being here again, Mark.

MARK WEISBROT: Thanks, Greg. Thanks for having me.

GREG WILPERT: So before we get into the role of the U.S. in Latin America, it’s useful maybe to take a quick look at the impact that the leftist or center-left governments had on Latin America. What would you say were the main achievements or the main consequences of their governments in some of those countries?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, if you look at the region as a whole, the poverty rate dropped from 44 to 28 percent. That was from around 2003-2013. And that was after the two decades prior where poverty had actually increased, there was no progress at all. So that was a huge change, and it was accomplished in different countries in different ways. You know, there were large increases in public investment in Bolivia and Ecuador. In Brazil you had also some increase in public investment , big increases in the minimum wage. You know, every country did different things to help bring healthcare, and increase, in some countries, education, access to education. And there were a whole lot of reforms. Changes in macroeconomic policy. Getting rid of the IMF.

So there were a lot of different things that these governments did that prior governments were either unable or unwilling to do to improve people’s living standards during a period of higher economic growth, which they also contributed to.

GREG WILPERT: And so how has Latin America changed now since then, when right-wing governments took over most of the continent?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, you have different things that have changed. I mean, one is, of course, they’re implementing, as you would expect, right-wing reforms. Trying to cut pension system, the pension in Brazil, passing a constitutional amendment which, you know, even most economists in the world wouldn’t support in Brazil, which prohibits the government from increasing spending beyond the rate of inflation. You have, you know, huge increases in utility prices in Argentina, laying off thousands of public sector workers. So everywhere where the right has come back, you do have some regressive changes.

GREG WILPERT: And so how has the U.S. contributed to these changes, and what goals would you say is the U.S. pursuing in the area?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, I think the U.S. has contributed in so many ways it would take an hour at least to summarize just some of this history. But I think the U.S. has been involved in, in most of these countries in various ways. Obviously in Venezuela they’ve been involved since the coup in 2002, and they tried to overthrow the government and tried to help people topple the government on several occasions there. In Brazil they supported the coup against Dilma, the parliamentary coup. So they didn’t do that strongly, but they sent enough signals, for example, I’ve mentioned this before on this show, right as the House was voting to impeach Dilma without actually presenting a crime that she committed, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee from the Senate came and met with the number three official from the U.S. State Department, Tom Shannon. And then of course in August of that year, the Secretary of State John Kerry went down there and had a press conference with the Acting Foreign Minister Jose Serra. And they, of course, talked about how great relations with the U.S. were going to be before Dilma was actually removed from office. So these were ways of endorsing the coup.

And of course, the Department of Justice contributed to , the FBI, the Department of Justice contributed to the investigation that was instrumental in imprisoning Lula. Now, what they did in that investigation we don’t know exactly, but we do know enough about it to know that it wasn’t a neutral investigation. That is, the investigation did end up decapitating the Workers’ Party for now, first helping get rid of Dilma, but more importantly, or more substantially, in terms of its contribution, they they helped put Lula in prison and prevent him from running for office.

And in other countries, in Paraguay, the U.S. helped in the consolidation of that parliamentary coup by organizing within the Organization of American States. In Honduras is probably the biggest role that the U.S. has played, both in consolidating the military coup in 2009, Hillary Clinton acknowledged her role in making sure that President Zelaya, the democratically elected president, would not return to office, and then more recently in November they helped consolidate the results of an election which pretty much all observers regarded as stolen.

Those are just a few of the examples. I mean, I guess I didn’t even mention Argentina, where other branches of government were involved as well as the executive, but the executive cut off lending from multilateral development banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank, and tried to block loans at the World Bank, as well. And they restored everything as soon as the right-wing government was elected. And then there was Judge Griesa in New York, who took all of Argentina’s, over 90 percent of Argentina’s creditors, hostage in order to squeeze them so that the government would pay off the vulture funds. And this was very political, because he also lifted the injunction as soon as you had the right-wing government.

And I think this is very important, because obviously it’s not necessarily a conspiracy of all these branches of government. The legislative branch was involved in this as well, in the United States. But they all have the same mindset, and they’re all trying to get rid of these left governments, and they had a massive contribution. I mean, Argentina, that did contribute to the downfall of Cristina Kirchner. It contributed to balance of payments problems that they had there. So this was important, and it’s totally ignored here in the United States.

GREG WILPERT: And then why was it ignored in the United States? I mean, what is it about U.S. media coverage, and why is there so little coverage of U.S. role and Latin America?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, you know, maybe you should interview some of the reporters who cover it, if they’re willing to answer that question. I think that it’s it’s complicated in some ways, but in some ways it’s very simple. First of all, for U.S. intervention anywhere in the world they have a kind of a smoking gun standard. So you know, we have in our criminal justice system the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. But this is a much higher standard. So nothing is really discussed in terms of U.S. intervention unless it’s really a smoking gun, where they’re caught red-handed in a way that nobody could deny. And that almost never happens.

So in Venezuela, for example, in 2002 when you had the coup, you had State Department and CIA documents which documented the involvement of the United States. They helped fund and train the people who did the coup, and they made statements following the coup that they knew were false in order to help the coup consolidate itself, and they failed in that case. But you know, in Haiti in 2004, which I hadn’t even mentioned, they took the president and put him on a rendition plane, and flew him out of the country. That was in broad daylight.

But in any case, they have a story that’s not at all believable, and the press kind of accepts that and never looks back. Whenever they mentioned, you know, Chavez complained about the coup, and it was a major obvious source of bad relations with Venezuela, but they always just reported it as an allegation of a figure that they of course were discrediting at every turn.

So that’s kind of how they report all of these. When they report the facts at all, they put it in the context that makes it look like there wasn’t any intent, or any real effect of U.S. policy in the region. But mostly it’s like reporting on Ukraine and never mentioning Russia, you know, it’s as if the United States doesn’t have any real influence in the Americas, and of course anybody knows they have an enormous influence.

GREG WILPERT: So what would you say are some of the implications for the foreseeable future of this U.S. policy towards Latin America?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, right now, of course, they’re still involved. And you have intervention in Mexico, for example. U.S. officials have already said how worried they are that AMLO, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is the frontrunner in the upcoming election in July. And he’s probably going to win, but they’re already trying to undermine him, lobbying accusations of Russia involvement, which is the new trend. Of course, completely unsubstantiated. In Venezuela they’re doing something probably never done in the last 50 years, openly calling for a military coup, and actually a financial embargo they’ve put in place, and threatening even a worse embargo if they don’t get rid of the current government. So that’s, I think, a more aggressive form of intervention than you had even under the prior administrations.

And they’re pretty open about it. And again, most of the media seems to treat it as a non-issue. In fact, that’s actually a very important example, because there’s an election going to take place in a couple of weeks, and the media is pretending that it’s not really an election. But you have a credible opposition candidate who’s leading in the polls, and they’ve reached agreement with the government on a set of procedures which are similar to almost all the other elections they’ve had for hte last 20 years, and a set of guarantees, which of course, the candidate Falcon won’t recognize the election if they don’t follow them. So you have a real contested election, but the U.S. government has decided they don’t want that, and the hard-right opposition is in line with them, and so they’re all pretending there’s no election at all, because they’re committed to a strategy of violence, of regime change.

GREG WILPERT: OK. We’ll certainly continue to follow this, especially the U.S. role in Latin America. I was speaking to Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Thanks again, Mark, for joining us today.

MARK WEISBROT: Thank you, Gregory.

GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining the Real News Network.

Brazilian Presidential Candidate Lula on Facing Jail as He Runs for President Again

Source:   truth-out.org / Democracy Now!
March 19 2018

by Amy GoodmanDemocracy Now! | Video Interview

We continue our conversation with former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the highly popular former union leader who is running for president in this year’s election even as he is facing a possible prison term on what many believe to be trumped-up corruption charges tied to the sprawling probe known as “Operation Car Wash.” Lula was convicted of accepting a beachside apartment from an engineering firm vying for contracts at the state oil company Petrobras. But many of Lula’s supporters say the conviction was politically motivated. President Lula responds to the charges against him. “We’re awaiting for the accusers to show at least some piece of evidence that indicates that I committed any crime,” he notes.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we continue our exclusive, a conversation with Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula. The highly popular former union leader is running for president in this year’s election but is facing a possible prison term on what many believe to be trumped-up corruption charges tied to a sprawling probe known as “Operation Car Wash.” Lula was convicted of accepting a beachside apartment from an engineering firm vying for contracts at the state oil company Petrobras, but many of Lula’s supporters say the conviction was politically motivated.

The Intercept recently reported, quote, “The indictment against Lula is rife with problems. The apartment’s title was never transferred to Lula or his associates; he and his wife never used the property; the prosecution could not identify an explicit quid pro quo or benefit related to Petrobras; no official or internal documentation linking Lula to the apartment was produced; and the case rests almost entirely on the testimony of the executive who hoped to gain sentencing leniency for his cooperation,” unquote.

During the interview on Friday, President Lula responded to the charges and conviction against him.

 

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I was not accused of corruption. I was accused because of a lie in a police investigation, a lie in an indictment by the Office of the Attorney General, and in the judgment of Judge Moro, because there is only one evidence, of my innocence, in this entire trial, which my defense counsel explained in a magisterial manner. We are awaiting the accusers, for the accusers to show at least some piece of evidence that indicates that I committed any crime during the period that I was in the presidency.

Now, what is behind that is the attempt to criminalize my political party. What is behind that is the interest in a part of the political elite in Brazil, together with a part of the press, reinforced by the role of the judiciary, in preventing Lula from becoming a candidate in the 2018 elections. And I continue challenging the federal police, the Office of the Attorney General. I continue challenging Judge Moro and the appellate court to show the world and to show Brazil a single piece of evidence of a crime committed by me. The behavior of the judiciary in this instance is a political form of behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, last year, the ousted President Dilma Rousseff said, “The first chapter of the coup was my impeachment. But there’s a second chapter, and that is stopping President Lula from becoming a candidate for next year’s elections.” Do you see it the same way, that this is the final chapter of the coup, if your conviction is upheld, that you will be prevented from running in the October elections?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Amy, the Workers’ Party, in 12 years in the government, at the helm of the government in Brazil, was able to do many things that had never been done at any time in the 20th century. In this country, in 12 years, we brought 40 million people into the middle class. We drew 36 million people out of poverty. While Europe was shedding 62 million jobs as of the 2000 date, we created 20 million jobs in the formal sector in this country. For 12 years, all Brazilian workers were able to overcome inflation. It was the time of the greatest economic growth in the history of Brazil. It was the most distribution of income in the history of Brazil. To give you an idea, in 12 years, 70 million people began to use the banking system who had never walked into a bank.

And when they got rid of Dilma, they did want Lula to come back, because they know that the relationship between the Brazilian people and President Lula was the strongest relationship that the people of Brazil had ever had with a president in the entire history of the country. And even more important, they know I am absolutely certain that the best way to ensure economic recovery in Brazil is to lift up the working people of this country. They know that I know how to do that. Now that the poor people had jobs, had a salary, were studying, were eating better, were living — had better housing, when that happens, the economy grows again, and we can become the most optimistic country in the world and the happiest people in the world. And, Amy, that is why I want to be candidate for the presidency of Brazil, to show that a mechanic who doesn’t have a university degree knows better how to take care of the Brazilian people than the Brazilian elite, who never looked after the welfare of the Brazilian people.

AMY GOODMAN: President Lula, why did you decide to run for president again?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] The truth is, I have still not decided, Amy. The ones who are deciding are the Brazilian people. Look, all of the public opinion polls in Brazil, month after month — and there are several of them — in all of them, I’m in first place. And so, I’m beginning to be the candidate who has the lowest negatives and the possibility of becoming a candidate and winning on the first round, and this is making my adversaries very uncomfortable. And I am sure, Amy, that at the Supreme Court I will be acquitted and that I will be candidate, and Brazil could once again be a protagonist in international policy, the economy could grow again, create jobs and improve the quality of life of the people. This is something I know how to do very well.

AMY GOODMAN: If the case does not go well for you in the Supreme Court, would you consider stepping aside?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] First of all, Amy, I’m very optimistic, very optimistic. Now, if that were to happen and I was not able — were not able to be a candidate, if my name is not on the ballot, I think that the party would call a convention and discuss what to do. I am going to require that and call for justice to be done in the country.

Now, if my innocence is proven, then Judge Moro should be removed from his position, because you can’t have a judge who is lying in the judgment and pronouncing as guilty someone who he knows is innocent. He knows that it’s not my apartment. He knows that I didn’t buy it. He knows that I didn’t pay anything. He knows that I never went there. He knows that I don’t have money from Petrobras. The thing is that because he subordinated himself to the media, I said, in the first hearing with him, “You are not in a position to acquit me, because the lies have gone too far.” And the disgrace is that the one who does the first lie continues lying and lying and lying to justify the first lie. And I am going to prove that he has been lying.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you raise two issues, President Lula: the media as prosecutor and the judge as prosecutor. Can you talk about both? Start with the media.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Well, Amy, it’s important that you come to Brazil to see what’s happening with the Brazilian press. I was president for eight years. Dilma was president for four years. And for 12 years, all the press did was to try to destroy my image and her image and the image of my party. I have more negative subject matter about me in the leading television news program of Brazil than all of the presidents in the whole history of Brazil. In other words, it’s a daily attempt to massacre me, to tell untruths about Lula, about Lula’s family. And the only weapon that I have is to confront them. And they’re irritated, because after they massacred me for four years, any opinion poll by any polling institute showed that Lula was going win the elections in Brazil.

Now, second, the Office of the Attorney General and the Car Wash scandal. I respect very much the institution. I was a member of the constitutional assembly, and I helped to strengthen the role of the Office of the Attorney General. But it created a task force, organized by a prosecutor, who went to television to show a PowerPoint, and said that the PT, the Workers’ Party, was established to be a criminal organization, that the fact that Lula was the most important person in the PT meant that he was the head of a criminal organization.

And on concluding the indictment, he simply said the following: “I don’t have evidence. I don’t have evidence. I have conviction.” I don’t want to be judged by the conviction of the prosecutor. He can keep his convictions to himself. I want whoever is prosecuting me to come forward in the proceeding and to tell the people of Brazil what crime I committed. The only thing, Amy, that I really want now is for the merits of my trial to be judged. I want him to discuss it. I want him to read the prosecutorial brief and the defense brief, and then make a decision. What I really want at this time is that justice be done in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: The candidate polling second in Brazil’s elections is a far-right-wing congressman and former soldier named Jair Bolsonaro. He’s been called the “Brazilian Trump.” Can you talk about who he is, what he represents, and if you understand there’s any communication between him and the US government right now?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I cannot. I cannot level accusations against an adversary. The only thing that I would like is to have the right to run in the elections here in Brazil, to win the elections and to recover the right of the Brazilian people to live well. I cannot pass judgment on the president of the United States, just as I cannot pass judgment on the president of Uruguay, and much less can I pass judgment on my adversaries.

AMY GOODMAN: But if you can explain what he represents, how you differ from him?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] He is a member of the federal Congress. He was an Army captain in the Brazilian Army. The information that we have is that he was expelled from the Brazilian army. And his behavior is far-right-wing, fascist. He is very much prejudiced against women, against blacks, against indigenous persons, against human rights. He believes that everything can be resolved with violence. So, I don’t think he has a future in Brazilian politics. He has the right to run. He speaks. He projects a certain image to please a part of the society that is of the extreme right. But I don’t believe that the Brazilian people have an interest in electing someone with his sort of behavior to serve as president of the republic.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he was happy with Marielle’s death?

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I think so, because he’s preaching violence every day. He preaches violence. He believes that those who defend human rights are doing a disservice to democracy. He thinks that those who defend women’s rights are doing a disservice to democracy, likewise those who defend the rights of the black community. He is against everything that is discussed when one is talking about human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Brazilian presidential candidate, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in 30 seconds.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

AMY GOODMAN

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on more than 1,100 public television and radio stations worldwide. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its “Pick of the Podcasts,” along with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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China’s Xi: We Will Eradicate the ‘Ghosts’ of Poverty

Source:  TeleSUR
February 13 2018

Xi has made eradicating poverty a cornerstone policy, pledging to completely eradicate poverty in China by 2020.

China to eradicate poverty.png

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the first meeting of the French-Chinese business council in Beijing. | Photo: Reuters

Ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations in China, Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the country’s working class that he will banish the “ghosts” of poverty in the country.

RELATED:   After Bringing 800 Million out of Poverty, China Aims to Eradicate It Completely by 2020

As is custom, Xi is currently making inspections trips around the country before the holiday in order to highlight important policy initiatives.

In the mountainous part of Sichuan province, Xi met the ethnic Yi people, with one villager telling him that she used to believe ghosts were the cause of illness, state media reported on Monday.

It was in response to this, that the Chinese president told her they would exorcise the ghosts.

“In the past we did have ghosts – the ghosts of ignorance, backwardness and poverty,” Xi said, reported Reuters.“If we can resolve these problems then the ghosts will vanish. If there is culture, knowledge and hygiene, then our prosperous life can resolve these difficulties and then how can there be any ghosts?”

The Yi, who speak a language similar to Burmese, are one of China’s 55 officially recognized minorities.

800 million people taken out of poverty

Xi has made eradicating poverty a cornerstone of his policies, pledging to completely eradicate poverty in the country by 2020. China has already managed to bring an overwhelming 800 million people out of poverty in less than 40 years.

In addition, it became the first country in the world in 2015 to accomplish the UN millennium development goal of reducing poverty by half.

China has also been a leader on a number of other fronts.

The country plans to invest US$366 billion in renewable energy technologies by 2020, creating more than 13 million jobs, and placing Beijing at the forefront of clean energy innovation, according to the Chinese National Energy Administration.

In addition, its Belt and Road Initiative, called “the largest single infrastructure program in human history,” currently involves 68 countries and 1,700 development projects all over the world.

Oscar Lopez: Puerto Rico – a product of 119 years of US colonialism

Source:  Granma
November 13, 2017

by: Arlin Alberty Loforte | informacion@granma.cu

Oscar López Rivera arrives in Cuba: “I feel at home”

The Puerto Rican independence fighter was greeted at José Martí International Airport by Fernando González, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with Peoples.

oscar lopez y fernandoPhoto: Ismael Batista

Puerto Rican independence fighter, Oscar López Rivera, was greeted at José Martí International Airport by Fernando González, president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with Peoples (ICAP).

Upon his arrival in Havana during the dawn hours today, November 13, the Puerto Rican patriot expressed his gratitude and affection for the Cuban people and government.

“I feel at home, this is a dream come true; for many, many years, I have wanted to come to Cuba and today for the first time I have arrived,” he said after receiving a warm embrace from decorated Hero of the Republic Fernando González, with whom he shared a cell for several years, when they were both unjustly incarcerated in the United States.

Imprisoned for almost 36 years

López, who was imprisoned for almost 36 years, convicted of “seditious conspiracy,” before being released May 17 this year, said he wished Cubans much strength, adding that the Puerto Rican people will always stand with Cuba.

“I am very encouraged to be able to enjoy some time with the Cuban people. I’m alive and kicking; at my age I believe I can work 14 or 15 hours a day. I feel good.”

Puerto Rico after 119 years of colonialism

Commenting on the extremely difficult situation in Puerto Rico, he said, “No Puerto Rican can say we govern in Puerto Rico, it is Washington and Wall Street who give orders.”

He added that the U.S. government and Donald Trump have shown they have no respect, or consideration for the suffering people.

“After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was left devastated and is now showing the world the poverty that existed and was hidden; the world is being shown what colonialism is, because it is perhaps the best example of what becomes of a country that has been colonized for 119 years by the U.S. government, and how the U.S. government has behaved toward Puerto Rico for these 119 years. If there is a huge debt, it is the one the U.S. owes Puerto Rico,” he emphasized.

López Rivera commented that there are more Puerto Ricans living abroad than on the island, and that many more have left since Maria struck, September 20.

US does not allow aid for Puerto Rico from Cuba

He noted that the U.S. did not allow aid from countries like Venezuela, Panama, Cuba, or México to enter Puerto Rico.

During this first visit, López Rivera will be awarded the Solidarity Order by the Council of State; visit the Che Guevara Memorial in Santa Clara; as well as Santiago de Cuba, where the remains of national hero José Martí and Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz rest.

Also present to greet the Puerto Rican patriot were Silvia Matute, from the Party Central Committee’s International Relations Department; Yolanda Ferrer, president of the National Assembly of People’s Power International Relations Committee; and Edwin González, from the Puerto Rican mission in Cuba.

US Workers Strike in ‘Fight for $15’ Minimum Wage Campaign

Source:  TeleSUR
September 4 2017

washington protests sept 2017.jpgProtesters in Washington, D.C. | Photo: Twitter / MaryKayHenry

by Ramzy Baroud

“My tooth is killing me, but I can’t afford to go to a dentist. I’m skipping meals so my sons can eat. And I’m worrying all the time,” said Bettie Douglas.

Over 300 cities joined the protests

Workers across the United States have walked off their jobs this Labor Day as non-unionized minimum wage workers join the “Fight for $15” to raise the nation’s minimum wage to match the cost of living.

RELATED:  McDonald’s UK Staff Not ‘Lovin’ It,’ Walk out in First-Ever Strike

Over 300 cities joined the protests, with workers’ strikes beginning at 6 a.m. in cities like Boston, Richmond, Chicago, New Orleans, Milwaukee, and San Diego, among others, to protest the country’s US$7.25 federal minimum wage.

Protesters targeted both McDonald’s as well as the American Hospital Association.

us workers protest sept 2017.jpg

“You know, a lot of these people out here today are living in poverty and they’re tired of it, and they want some respect on their checks,” long-time fast-food worker, Jacqueline Short said. “They want $15 an hour and we’re out here because we believe that we will get it, we believe we will win, as long as we continue to fight.”

Minimum-wage workers are fighting back, calling on representatives to act in defense of people who have struggled to manage households on minimum wage amid the rise in inflation and the cost of living.

Forced to skip meals

“My tooth is killing me, but I can’t afford to go to a dentist. I’m skipping meals so my sons can eat. And I’m worrying all the time,” said Bettie Douglas.

“The minimum wage has always separated my family — we’ve either been at work or at school,” explained McDonald’s worker, Sabreal Ealem, to Gambit. “We rarely see each other. The minimum wage is separating families — not just mine,” she said.

Statistics show in Boston, a median household income has only grown an annual 0.5 percent since 1979, while the cost of living has continued to climb in the New England city.

RELATED:Peru’s Teachers Temporarily Suspend Strike, Vow Fight Isn’t Over

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 about 45 percent of the 2.6 million working at hourly wages at or below the federal minimum were older than 24 years, while 23.3 percent were aged 25 to 34, both figures remaining constant over the past decade.

“The number one job of politicians is to raise the standard of living for workers,” Fight for $15’s call to action reads on the movement’s site.

To match the varied cost of living throughout the country, 29 states across the U.S. have raised their minimum wages from anywhere between US$3-US$8, with California State Governor Brown increasing its minimum wage to US$15 an hour by 2022.

The Fight for $15 began in 2012 when 200 fast-food workers walked away from their stations in protest of the low wages and lack of union representation.

ALBA’s Vitality Versus the Neoliberal Living Dead

Source:  TeleSUR
December 14 2016

By: Tortilla Con Sal

ALBA meeting 2016.jpg

Meeting of the ALBA Bloc in 2016 | Photo: AVN

The ALBA countries outperformed the wealthiest countries in the region during the world’s most serious economic crisis in nearly a century.

Continuing their ancient war on the world’s impoverished majority, Western elites, having bled dry their own countries’ economies, are now fighting once more to entrench their local allies in power across Latin America and the Caribbean.

RELATEDHuman Rights Watch Head Appeals for More War in Colombia

Argentina has lost over 130,000 jobs under Macri’s right wing regime

In under a year, Argentina under its right-wing regime has lost over 130,000 jobs and inflation-adjusted wages have dropped by 10 percent. Very soon Brazil will certainly be reporting even worse relative numbers. The same criminal Brazilian elite that overthrew President Dilma Rousseff have now got their corrupt proxies in the country’s legislature to make any increase in social spending, health or education impossible for 20 years.

This is a sentence of hardship and death for millions of impoverished people in Brazil. In both Brazil and Argentina, illegitimate neoliberal regimes have decided to follow the example of the U.S. and the European Union, rendering their countries’ economies easier prey for global vampire elites.

Foreign elites and their local clients deepening neocolonialism

But across Latin America and the Caribbean, people are fighting to stop foreign elites and their local clients from reinstating and deepening neocolonialism to compensate for falling profits in the West. The latest wave of conquistadors fly in business class, wear debonair suits and blather finance-speak while wielding smartphones and devices instead of swords and pistols.

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Western politicians and media outlets

But the nitty gritty of conquest remains the same — extortion from the nation-victims; a small cut for the local oligarchy; and repression for the impoverished majority. That is why Western politicians and media outlets support right-wing regimes in the region while attacking the governments of the main ALBA countries — Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela.

ALBA’s success stories

Those countries’ governments have reduced poverty and inequality massively, putting to shame much wealthier countries under neoliberal regimes. The ALBA countries have demonstrated the superiority and resilience of their socialist-inspired social and economic models, despite every assault from the West and its corrupt local proxies.

To illustrate the performance of the ALBA countries relative to other countries in the region, the following table highlights the countries that increased their per capita Gross Domestic Product by 75 percent or more between 2006 and 2014.

alba chart.jpg

Special circumstances may or may not apply to Guyana, Peru, Panama and Suriname, but the underperformance of the wealthiest countries in the region is clear. The ALBA countries outperformed them during the world’s most serious economic crisis in nearly a century.

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Greater equality in ALBA countries

One completely damning statistic is that in the Human Development Index, Cuba ranks above Colombia, Mexico and Peru, level with Brazil and Costa Rica. Another striking feature of the statistics for the ALBA countries is the clear trend towards greater equality, with Cuba again leading the way.

All these numbers are worth noting at a time when ALBA members Ecuador and Bolivia are recovering from the negative effects of volatile global prices for their oil and gas. Ecuador’s case is compounded by the dollarization of the economy inherited from earlier right-wing governments.

Ecuador’s smart policies

But despite those difficulties and this year’s devastating earthquake, Ecuador’s smart policies of economic resistance will enable the government to defeat future political challenges from the country’s right wing. In Venezuela, the government has just presented a budget for 2017 far less dependent on oil revenues. This means the right-wing’s economic sabotage, supported by the United States, has failed to destroy President Nicolas Maduro’s social spending and investment plans.

Poverty reduction in the Dominican Republic

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean predicts higher growth for Bolivia relative to the rest of the region and also Nicaragua, as well as the Dominican Republic and Panama. The Dominican Republic has reduced poverty with socially inclusive policies and help from Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program.

Panama, a notorious tax haven and financial enclave, is enjoying the benefits of the recent enlargement of its canal, but the socially constructive benefits of that are far from clear. In Bolivia’s case, a big problem is that it may lose as much as US$2 billion from a probable drop in exports to Argentina and Brazil. Even so, Bolivia’s model of community-based social and economic production is much better able to defend the country from potential shocks than the right-wing zombie policies applied in Argentina and Brazil.

Nicaragua’s consistent growth

Like Bolivia, Nicaragua’s economy has grown at about 4.5 percent a year since 2010, markedly and consistently more than its neighbors. Its economic model stresses economic democratization across all sectors of the country’s economy, again like Bolivia, including the so-called informal sector.

Seventy percent of Nicaragua’s labor force either work independently, in small businesses or on small farms. The country is virtually self-sufficient in food production. At the same time, President Daniel Ortega, a leader of the Sandinistas, has greatly diversified the country’s trade and investment partners cutting across ideological differences in a way similar to the win-win style promoted by China.

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Reflecting on all of this information makes it clear that under current conditions governments have little choice but to respect macroeconomic equilibrium. Bolivia and Nicaragua have reactivated their domestic markets by deliberately increasing consumption by the impoverished majority, promoting social stability which in turn has encouraged investment.

ALBA countries prioritize economic democratization

All the ALBA countries prioritize economic democratization as decisively important, through measures like nationalizing natural resources and land; programs of preferential credit, especially for low-income women; defense of food sovereignty; and recognition of the informal economy.

Obviously, progressive political forces have to promote a socially constructive society for the majority, abandoning economic structures and practices designed and managed to enrich brutally ruthless elites.

A focus on economic growth is practically meaningless without redistributive policies to reduce inequality. It can hide an appropriate perception of specific national needs and opportunities; the correct appraisal of timing; and also the likely local risks in social and environmental contexts. The ALBA countries have demonstrated convincingly that equitable, rational development of productive forces is both a precondition and a result in the process of a social and economic order capable of superseding capitalism.

Tortilla con Sal is an anti-imperialist collective based in Nicaragua producing information in various media on national, regional and international affairs. In Nicaragua, we work closely with grassroots community organizations and cooperatives. We strongly support the policies of sovereign national development and regional integration based on peace and solidarity promoted by the member countries of ALBA.

Nicaraguan Elections: Ortega’s policies will ensure victory for the Sandinistas

Source:  NicaNotes
September 28, 2016

This week’s guest blog is from the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign in the United Kingdom. Nicaragua Network has worked closely with the NSC for many years and even shared a staff person in Nicaragua for a few years in the 1990s. We find that our political analysis is almost always in sync.


On 6 November, Nicaraguans will go to the polls in elections for the President, 90 National Assembly deputies, and 20 Nicaraguan members of the Central American parliament.

A poll carried out between 27 July and 1 August by the polling organisation M&R consultores, indicated that an overwhelming victory for the FSLN is the likely outcome.

daniel ortega y esposa.jpg 62.8% of respondents indicated their intention to vote for the FSLN, 26.8% are undecided, and 10.4% support opposition parties. These figures are very similar to all polls conducted over the past year.  Approval ratings for Daniel Ortega and Vice Presidential candidate Rosario Murillo were 79.3% and 72.7% respectively.

Opposition parties standing in the elections are the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) with presidential candidate  Maximino Rodríguez, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), with candidate Pedro Reyes Vallejos, and three smaller parties.

A remarkable economic turnaround led the Sandinistas

The Sandinistas returned to power in 2007 with a commitment to economic stability and to addressing poverty through a comprehensive, integrated strategy for improving the lives of the nearly 50% of the population suffering chronic and persistent levels of poverty.

In what the World Bank has described as a ‘remarkable economic turnaround’ GDP has increased by an average of four to five per cent annually, inflation has dropped to low single figures, exports have doubled, and Foreign Direct Investment has quadrupled.  Nicaragua has experienced one of the highest growth rates in the region at 4.9% for 2015 and a forecast of 4.2% for 2016.

Poverty dropped from 42.5 per cent to 29.6 per cent

According to the 2014 Standard of Living Survey of the National Development Information Institute, between 2009 and 2014 general poverty dropped from 42.5 per cent to 29.6 per cent, while in the same period extreme poverty dropped from 14.6 to 8.3 per cent. This represents improvements in the lives of tens of thousands of people, particularly women, whose suffering had been ignored by previous governments.

The FSLN government’s commitment to poverty includes health care, education, transport, access to credit, support for rural families, security of land titles, and infrastructure improvements. Government policy has also prioritised food assistance to the most vulnerable, support for very young children, house building and repair programmes, mass health campaigns against mosquito-borne diseases, and nationwide support for sport and cultural activities.

Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in the Americas after Haiti. Sixty-three per cent of respondents in the August M&R consultores poll indicated that unemployment was the biggest problem facing the country, and 43 per cent were concerned about the high cost of goods and services.

Despite problems,huge progress has been made

However, given Nicaragua’s history of wars, persistently high levels of poverty, natural and climate change provoked disasters, and its location in a region fraught with inequality and instability, huge progress has been made since 2007 in addressing the problems of the most marginalized and impoverished in a far more coherent way than at any time in the past.

A survey by Latinbarometro 2016 based on interviews conducted between 15 May and 15 June, 2016 indicates an approval rating of 69% for the Sandinista government, the second highest rating in the Latin American region. This represents an extraordinarily high level of support for a government that has been in power for the past nine years.

This NSC briefing explains why the government’s success in stabilising the economy and combatting poverty will be decisive factors in the choice that Nicaraguan voters make on 6 November.