Category Archives: Latin America

Chevron’s malignant legacies in Ecuador, Bay Area


In the second of three programs on the brutal policies of a global oil giant [first part here], Abby Martin looks at the lethal pollution of Ecuador’s land and water by an American oil giant, a bizarre U.S. court ruling made by a judge who owns stock in the company, the the firm’s heavy-handed politics in Richmond, California.

During our six years at the Berkeley Daily Planet, we covered environmental politics in nearby Richmond, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s poorest communities, and watched as Chevron Texaco fought to control city council elections to ensure that operations at the company’s massive refinery were unhindered by council members’ concerns about dangers to the health and safety of their constituents.

Martin lived nearby and saw firsthand how the company spared no expense in courts and in political and public relations campaigns, and we’re glad that the issue will gain wider exposure through her efforts.

And now, one with the shot.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Chevron vs. the Amazon – The Environmental Trial of the Century

Program files:

In Part II of this three-part series, The Empire Files continues the investigation into the battle between Chevron Texaco and Ecuador.

In this installment, Abby Martin uncovers what really happened throughout the 22-year legal battle between the oil corporation and indigenous Amazonians, interviewing lead attorney for the case, Pablo Fajardo.

This episode also chronicles the shameful, scandalous history of Chevron Texaco—from the support of Hitler’s Nazi movement, to backing war crimes in Myanmar—and its retaliatory attacks against its victims.

Map of the day: The U.S. makes the WHO Zika map


From the Pan American Health Organization, a subdivision of the World Health Organization, the latest map of nations in the Americas with active transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, finally includes the U.S., following the outbreak in Florida:

BLOG Map

And from the World Health Organization, the latest update on countries with active transmission:

BLOG Chart

Mexican police implicated in a mass murder


One of the victims of the police massacre, his body burned. From the report.

One of the victims of the police massacre, his body burned. From the report.

Mexican police, notorious for their willingness to commit mass murder and incinerate their victims, have been implicated in another massacre.

And this time the accuser is an official government agency.

From teleSUR English:

Mexico’s human rights body said on Thursday that the country’s police force carried out 22 extrajudicial executions on a ranch in Tanhuato in the western state of Michoacan in May 2015.

The Mexican Government’s National Human Rights Commission, CNDH, said that the 22 executions took place during a raid on the ranch by federal police who ambushed and killed 42 suspected members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, JNG.

“The investigation confirmed facts that show grave human rights violations attributable to public servants of the federal police,” commission President Luis Raul Gonzalez Perez said.

The human rights body says that the police moved seven dead bodies, planted guns and lied about their actions in the raid. Police are also alleged to have burned two bodies and tortured two people once they were arrested. One policeman was killed in the battle.

More from BBC News:

Police used a Black Hawk helicopter during the operation, reportedly firing some 4,000 rounds into the ranch, known as the Rancho del Sol, during the initial assault.

The helicopter itself was hit by gunfire, investigators found.

In its report (in Spanish; warning: contains graphic images), the CNDH asserts that:

  • 5 suspects were killed in the helicopter attack; 22 were arbitrarily executed; 15 died in unclear circumstances
  • 2 bodies were burnt by police
  • 2 suspects were tortured in custody
  • police moved bodies and weapons to cover up arbitrary killings

“The investigation confirmed facts that show grave human rights violations attributable to public servants of the federal police,” commission President Luis Raul Gonzalez Perez said.

Morales unveils the anti-School of the Americas


The School of the Americas [previously], rebranded as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is where the U.S. Army schools Latin American soldiers and police [more than 60,000 to date] on the fine art of suppressing dissidents and rebels.

Needless to say, most of those soldiers came from countries that allowed American corporations to exploit their resources, something those dissidents and rebels didn’t take kindly to.

Many of those soldiers participated in massacres, and some used their training to reach high ranks and even the presides of their countries. Two graduates founded Mexico’s notorious Los Zetas cartel.

And now Bolivia’s president has launched a new academy designed precisely to counter Washington’s agenda.

From teleSUR English:

Bolivian President Evo Morales opened Wednesday a new regional military defense school—a kind of anti-School of the Americas—which will offer courses on a wide range of subjects meant to counter the U.S. imperialist presence in the developing world, including the Theory of Imperialism, Geopolitics of Natural Resources and Bolivian Social Structures.

The new school, which will be based in the city of Santa Cruz in eastern Bolivia, and named after former President Juan Jose Torres. will have an initial enrollment of 100 students. Morales, a socialist and Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, has been a strong critic of US imperialism in Latin America, and throughout the world.

“Empires,” he said at Wednesday’s ceremony, “exhibit cultural racism because they do not believe in the popular sovereignty of the people.”

The Bolivian military academy is intended as a direct rebuttal to the infamous U.S. School of the Americas in Georgia , which provides military training to U.S. allies in Latin America, and whose graduates include a “Who’s Who” of Cold War era military figures who carried out some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America.

ChevronTexaco’s deadly Ecuadorian legacy


During our years reporting for the Berkeley Daily Planet, we wrote any number of stories about the Chevron refinery in nearby Richmond on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

As the dominant economic power in a city on of the region’s poorest city, one with a large minority population and in a state of economic implosion, the company was the target of considerable community concerns about fires [they had ‘em] and pollution.

The firm was represented by Willie Brown, the former powerful speaker of the lower house of the legislature of the richest and most populous state in the country, the same Willie Brown casino developers hired to sell the black population of Atlantic City on the ballot measure that legalized casinos there. Willie promised them jobs and good housing; they got neither.

Sophisticated at public relations and press-spinning, Chevron played a dominant role in funding city council elections and turning out supporters, sometimes financed by contributions to churches and other organizations, to ensure their messages got across at city council meetings.

But Richmond’s concerns pale compared to those experienced by thousands of Ecuadorians, the subject of former Bay Area journalist Abby Martin’s latest episode of her series for teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Chevron vs. the Amazon – Inside the Killzone

Program notes:

A U.S. court just handed another victory to the oil giant Chevron Texaco, in its decades-long battle to avoid paying damages it owes in one of the worst environmental disasters in history. In the Ecuadorean Amazon, the most biodiverse area of the world, the energy titan deliberately poisoned 5 million acres of pristine habitat and subjected tens of thousands of indigenous peoples to destruction of their health and culture. In Part 1 of ‘Chevron vs. the Amazon,’ Abby Martin takes The Empire Files inside Chevron Texaco’s Amazon killzone to see the areas deemed “remediated” by Chevron, and spoke with the people living in the aftermath.

Mexico’s striking teachers deliver ultimatum


And it’s simple: Move to end the government’s neoliberal education reforms or they’ll walk out before schools open.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has ordered corporate-friendly measures paralleling many of those implemented in the U.S. under the George W. Bush administration, but members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE, previously] in the state of Chiapas are stepping up their game.

From teleSUR English:

Dissident Mexican teachers on strike for the past three months in the southern state of Chiapas remain firm that they will not go back to their classrooms for the start of term next week if the government doesn’t agree to put “serious and concrete” proposals on the table in a so far “fruitless” negotiation process that continues Tuesday.

In a nationwide meeting Sunday of more than two dozen union locals, representatives of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE, accused authorities in the Ministry of the Interior of working to “manage” the conflict without offering clear solutions and “dragging their feet” in the face of teacher demands to overhaul the public education system, La Jornada reported.

“The grassroots are demanding signed agreements,” said members of the Oaxaca section of the CNTE, criticizing weeks of empty talks, according to La Jornada. “There’s still nothing concrete.”

But despite the impasse, the Ministry of the Interior continued to insist that controversial neoliberal education reforms, the main issue for the striking teachers, are still not on the negotiations agenda, El Proceso reported.

Chiapas teachers have said that their decision on whether to end the strike and go back to classes for the start of the school year on Aug. 22 will depend on the outcome of talks with the government Tuesday afternoon, scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. local time in Mexico City.

Legislators slam Mexican massacre coverup


On 19 June, government forces attacked striking teachers in Nochixtlan [more here] and elsewhere in the state of Oaxaca, where they had been conducting ongoing protests against corporate-friendly neoliberal education “reforms” designed to strip educators of their classroom autonomy.

The ongoing strikes have been organized by members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE], a teachers union strong in Southern Mexico and created in opposition to a the government-backed union, the  Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [SNTE].

On Thursday, members of the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Office of the Attorney General [Procurador General de la República, or PGR] offered preliminary results of their investigation of the killings, and promptly drew fire from leftist legislators.

From teleSUR English:

Officials seemed to be more interested in outlining the alleged misdeeds of the residents of Nochixtlan, specifying the investigation into a series of crimes was already open before the massacre took place.

They also went to great lengths to emphasize the alleged presence of weapons in the hands of the civilians in Nochixtlan.

“A relevant fact is that the PGR confirmed that there were civilians carrying weapons and a Federal Police helicopter was damaged by these weapons and a second was damaged by impact of rockets,” said conservative Senator Mariana Gomez del Campo, who also participated in the press conference.

She added that over hundred police officers had apparently suffered injuries.

No police were killed, meanwhile at least ten civilians were killed in different clashes throughout Oaxaca on June 19, six alone were killed in Nochixtlan.

Senator Alejandro Encinas, from the center-left PRD, grilled Higuera on this point during Friday’s session of the special commission of the Mexican Congress following up on the incident.

Encinas said Roberto Campa, the undersecretary for Human Rights from the Interior Ministry, had no problem entering the town in order to interview witnesses and had done so several times.

“Campa went in, talked with the victims, with the authorities … he has assembled the facts … the PGR cannot pretend it has dementia, because it has the elements it needs to go further in the investigation,” said Encinas, as quoted by La Jornada.

In addition, a consortium of human rights organizations were even able to produce a preliminary report, based on interviews with the town’s residents, detailing the human rights abuses committed by the state in Nochixtlan.

Encinas also questioned how the PGR could claim civilians were armed without offering proof.