Category Archives: Latin America

Map of the day: The turf of the Mexican cartels

From the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment [PDF]:

BLOG Cartels

Operation Condor is coming home to roost

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the start of Operation Condor [previously], a U.S.-backed pogrom of leftist and populist leaders in Latin America, carried out with the help of then Sceretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the ensuing purge a thousand or more political activists were tortured and murdered, and a leader figure of the Latin Left, along with a young American woman, died in a car bombing in this nation’s capital. An unknown number of dissidents were disposed of by being stripped naked as they were flown out over the South Atlantic and dropped into the ocean, the basis for the Latuff cartoon.

As for that bombing in Washington, the National Security Archive of George Washington University reported on 8 October:

The CIA concluded that there was “convincing evidence” that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet “personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murder” of exiled critic Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., according to a SECRET memo prepared for President Ronald Reagan in 1987. “Pinochet decided to stonewall on the US investigation to hide his involvement,” the CIA review also noted, and as part of the cover-up considered “even the elimination of his former intelligence chief,” DINA director Manuel Contreras, who had overseen the assassination plot.

The CIA intelligence review remains classified. But it was quoted in a dramatic report to President Reagan, dated on October 6, 1987, from his Secretary of State, George Shultz, as part of his efforts to convince the president to cut U.S. ties to Pinochet and press for the return of democracy in Chile. “The CIA has never before drawn and presented its conclusion that such strong evidence exists of his [Pinochet’s] leadership role in this act of terrorism,” the Secretary of State informed the President.

The National Security Archive today said it would file a Freedom of Information Act petition to secure the declassification of the CIA assessment and the raw intelligence reports it was based on. “This document is clearly the holy grail of the Letelier-Moffitt case,” said Peter Kornbluh who directs the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project. Kornbluh called on the agency “to release this document to complete the Obama administration’s special declassification project on Chile.”

Letelier, a former minister in the Allende government, and his 25-year old colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, were killed by a car-bomb planted by agents of the Chilean secret police on September 21, 1976, as they drove to work down Massachusetts avenue in Washington D.C. Moffitt’s husband, Michael, was the sole survivor of the bombing.

The memory of the horrors of Operation Condor remain very much alive, and a trial now underway may finally win some small measure of justice for the survivors.

From CCTV America:

Operation Condor: A dark time for Latin America

Program notes:

On November 25th, 1975 – high-ranking officials from several South American countries gathered for a meeting in Santiago with a dark agenda. It was then that Operation Condor was launched and military dictatorships were able to swap information to hunt down political opponents.

An imperiled treasure of the Sierra Madre

The Huichol people live in Mexico’s Sierra Madre, in in the states of Jalisco, Durango, Nayarit.

They were rediscovered in popular culture north of the border in the 1960s because their religion centers on the use of peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus native to their mountains, and because of their colorful and utterly psychedelic artworks.

In this Wikimedia image of a Huichol mask, the symbol for peyote dominates the forehead, an apt representation of the central role played by the cactus in Huichol life:

BLOG Huichol mask

Huichol culture is in danger, in part because a generation of elders has died, often without leaving behind students who have mastered the rich and intricate oral traditions that bound the preliterate Huichols together.

Our first video offering, a short 1992 documentary by Ryan Noble, features Huichols from the villages of Las Guayabas and San Andreas, in which one remarks on the threatened loss of the ancient culture: “We want to live and remember so that it doesn’t end.”

Note also the system of agriculture employed by the Huichol, the traditional Mexican milpa, the only system of agriculture which has allowed for continuous cultivation for millennia without the use of either pesticides or fertilizers.

The Huichols: History – Culture – Art

Huichol art a sometimes take on a larger scale, as illustrated in this image from Mexico’s Museo de Arte Popular, a sight to stir twitches of envy in the souls of Berkeley’s own art car ornamenters.

BLOG Huichol art car

But the mountains that are home to the Huichols are coveted by multinational corporations, which have been logging the trees and devastating the landscape, forcing ever-larger numbers of Huichols to head to the lowlands simply to survive.

And the jobs awaiting them there are killing them, quite literally.

From Huicholes Contra Plaguicidas:

Huichols and Pesticides

Program notes:

Huichols & Pesticides, documents, through witnesses, reports and persuasive images, the indiscriminate use of pesticides in the tobacco fields, and the poisonings, and even deaths, resulting from the use of agrochemicals.

One notable effort to preserve the Huichols and their way of life is being undertaken by the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and the Traditional Arts:

The Huichol Center: A model for cultural survival

Program notes:

This documentary was produced to support The Huichol Center. The Center helps the Huichol people of Mexico maintain their culture, art and spirituality. The Huichols have been almost untouched by modern civilization, and have been able to maintain their ancient ways despite crushing poverty and disease.

With their ancient heritage, their system of sustainable organic agriculture, and an artistic tradition that merges the sacred and the profane in unique ways, the Huichol surely deserve protection from the ravages of corporate imperialism and agricultural toxins.

To close, a final image, via Wikipedia, this time of a Huichol yarn painting:

BLOG Huichol yarn

Native Americans, genocide, and U.S. culture

The latest edition of Empire Files, Abby Martin’s new series for Telesur English, looks at the ongoing clash between Native American culture and the shifting patterns of intolerance and sometimes acceptance in mainstream culture.

Two national holidays epitomize the conflict. First, on 12 October comes Columbus Day, a celebration of colonialism carrying the implicit assumption that the Americas lacked any significant culture before the arrival of European imperialists.

The second holiday, is, of course, Thanksgiving, a symbolic recreation of a feast made possible for starving British colonialists by the intercession of Native Americans who had helped the hapless Puritans adapt to the land.

The troubled legacy continues to flare in the painful exploitation of Native American history by sports teams and the military, and in the ongoing contestation of Native American rights to control their own land and lives.

This episode features an extended conversation with historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Professor Emerita of Ethnic Studies at California State University and an internationally scholar.

From Telesur English:

The Empire Files: Native American Genocide with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Program notes:

Each November, Americans celebrate a mythical version of U.S. history. Thanksgiving Day’s portrayal of the experience of Native Americans under the boot of settler-colonialism is one of the Empire’s most cherished falsehoods.

To hear about the true story of native peoples’ plight – from genocide to reeducation – Abby Martin interviews Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, renowned indigenous scholar and activist, about her most recent book “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.”

Ayotzinapa parents battle propagandists

For a few months after 43 students of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa were “disappeared” [previously] following a violent confrontation with Mexican police on 26 September 2014, the world paid attention.

But aside from the arrests of a few minor officials, the egregious but not unprecedented violence against poor rural youth has gone unpunished, and a government investigation whitewashed the role of the state.

And while news media north of the border paid attention for a few months, the massacre of Ayotzinapa has faded from public consciousnessness.

But the families of the missing have not forgotten, and thet are demanding justice as the right mobilizes think tanks to denigrate their actions.

From TeleSUR English:

Mexico: Right-Wing Seeks to Counteract Ayotzinapa Investigation

Program notes:

Mexico’s Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a right-wing think tank, charges that the independent investigation into the enforced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students by experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is part of a leftist conspiracy to discredit the official government inquiry. Social organizations accuse the Council, the new Guerrero state government, and the media of seeking to delegitimize protests over the Ayotzinapa case. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

Chart of the day: An immigration tide reversal

From the Pew Research Center [PDF], dramatic evidence that the Great Recession saw a reversal of the flow of Mexican immigrants:

BLOG Migration

Chris Hedges hosts a new show on Telesur

Telesur English is getting very interesting. In addition to weekly episodes of shows by esnl favorites Abby Martin and Laura Flanders, the Venezuelan broadcaster has added the inimitable Chris Hedges, former Mideast bureau chief for the New York Times.

In this latest episode of Days of Revolt, Hedges discusses the insidious nature of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] with attorney Kevin Zeese, co-director of and It’s Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy. Zeese is a political activist and former press spokesperson for Ralph Nader, and in an unsuccessful 2006 Senate run, he was the only candidate ever nominated simultaneously by the Green, Libertarian, and Populist parties.

From Telesur English:

The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History

An excerpt from the transcript, discussing the TPP’s provision for overturning the power of the American judiciary in the interests of the corporation:

HEDGES: And they’re not allowed to make any amendments, no changes, nothing.

ZEESE: No amendments. Up or down vote. That’s it. And in the Senate, there’s no filibuster, so it’s only 50 percent. You can’t force them to 60 votes. It’s only 51 they need. And so it’s a very restricted Congress.

And all these agreements, by the way, as Ralph mentions in that quote, greatly restrict each branch of government, and Congress [crosstalk]

HEDGES: Well, let’s talk a little bit about how they do that, this kind of–part of this kind of creeping coup d’état, corporate coup d’état that’s taking place.

ZEESE: And I just want to say one more thing about this coup d’état. This is just one aspect of it. We’re seeing the corporate power grow in the United States with Citizens United and the buying of elections and all that corruption. But we’re also–out of places like the World Economic Forum, they’ve come out with a working group called the–that’s redesigning, the Global Redesign Initiative that’s redesigning the way governance works to minimize the nationstate and maximize transnational–. They want the UN to become a hybrid government and corporate body. So that’s what the World Economic Forum is working on as this is all going on, too. So this is a big, big fight about where we go. This is the epic struggle of our times, corporate power versus people power.

Now, the way that they–what Ralph was talking about in that quote was one aspect of this, which is the trade tribunal system, which already exists, but this is expanded. For the first time, for example, financial services can use the trade tribunals to overrule legislation to regulate the big banks.

HEDGES: Now, these trade tribunals, they’re three-person tribunals. They’re made up of corporate lawyers. One of the things I think I was speaking with you that you told me is that if you’re a citizen or advocacy group, you’re excluded from even going to these.

ZEESE: Yeah. You know, in our federal court system, which is the third branch of government that–Ralph’s favorite branch, I think. He just opened the museum in his —

HEDGES: Right, a tort museum.

ZEESE: — in his hometown, a tort museum, which is a great museum. People should go to Winsted to see it, by the way.

But, anyway, in our federal court system, an individual can sue a corporation. They can find a lawyer who takes it on retainer, only get paid if they win. You get a jury of your peers to decide it. That’s a real court system. It has lots of weaknesses that need to be improved on. They’ve been cutting back on it is much as they could with so-called tort reform–as Ralph calls tort deform. And so it’s getting weaker. But it’s still an important branch of government.

This overrules that. Our courts cannot review what a trade tribunal does. The trade tribunal judges are three corporate lawyers who can also represent corporations in other cases. So there’s a real conflict of interest here, because if you’re a lawyer who’s filing suits on behalf of corporations at these trade tribunals, you want to broaden the power of the trade tribunal and the corporation. So as a judge, you can decide things that, say, corporations have this power, corporations have that power, no, that the security issue doesn’t matter, the corporation still wins. They can create legal fictions.