Latin America

Bush Uses Choicepoint Databases to Undermine Democracy in Latin America
Latin America

Greg Palast writes, "A little birdie faxed to me what appeared to be confidential pages from a contract between John Ashcroft's Justice Department and a company called ChoicePoint, Inc., of Atlanta. The deal is part of the War on Terror. Justice offered up to $67 million, of our taxpayer money, to ChoicePoint in a no-bid deal for computer profiles with private information on every citizen of half a dozen nations... While the September 11th highjackers came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the Arab Emirates, ChoicePoint's menu offered records on Venezuelans, Brazilians, Nicaraguans, Mexicans and Argentines. How odd... Coincidentally, each is in the throes of major electoral contests in which the leading candidates -- presidents Lula Ignacio da Silva of Brazil, Nestor Kirschner of Argentina, Mexico City mayor Andres Lopez Obrador and Venezuela's Chavez -- have the nerve to challenge the globalization demands of George W. Bush." Watch for a Stolen Election in Venezuela on Sunday!

Embarrassing Memo Mars Powell's Trip to Nicaragua
Latin America

AP reports: "The State Department is distancing itself from an official U.S. memo released during the visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell that describes Nicaragua as a country with little hope and portrays pro-Americans there in unflattering terms. 'Nicaragua crawls along as the second-poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti, battered by storms of nature and their own making [and let's not forget the civil war that Reagan-Bush amplified, with the help of Iran-Contra figure Colin Powell], with little hope of changing things in the future,' said the unsigned document released by the U.S. Embassy. 'Privileged Nicaraguans see the U.S. in a generally favorable light. They prefer to dress in Ralph Lauren shirts, drive large Ford SUVs, watch American movies and, when going out for a meal, brag that they go out to T.G.I. Friday's.' The reporters accompanying Powell here found the document in a press packet distributed after Powell arrived late Monday for a 16-hour visit."

Brave Brazilians Denounce Right-Wing Death Squads
Latin America

"Families who have seen their relatives gunned down in cold blood by right-wing death squads in Brazil are appealing to a leading United Nations envoy to push for action to prevent further massacres. Asma Jahangir, the UN's special rapporteur with responsibility for arbitrary and summary executions, has left Brazil after a three-week fact-finding mission to the South American country, shocked at the openness with which the squads are operating despite government promises to curb them. Now families are determined to speak out against the squads in an effort to back the UN's attempts to put pressure on new Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Marcio Jacinto, the mother of a teenager gunned down in cold blood by Rio police, is one of the relatives voicing anger, despite her fears that she too could be killed. Two Brazilians who talked to Jahangir about the situation have already been assassinated - an apparently common form of revenge-killing for speaking out."

Bolivia Parties after President Resigns
Latin America

"A new festive atmosphere has enveloped Bolivia after Saturday's resignation of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. The former leader has fled to the United States, while his replacement former vice-president Carlos Mesa has selected a new cabinet and called the army off the streets of the capital, La Paz. Tear-gas and bullets have been replaced with smiles and celebrations, La Paz airport has reopened and streets are being cleared. One Australian who has been trapped in La Paz for eight days, Bruce Isbester, said the change was miraculous. 'It's all pretty happy. We just saw some truck loads of miners going, the back was just chock-a-block full of miners and they were waving,' he said. 'All the people were waving and whistling as they went down the main street, there's a bit of a carnival atmosphere here at the moment.' Mr Mesa has promised early elections and a referendum on whether to go ahead with a project to export natural gas to the United States."

Bolivia on 'Brink of Catastrophe,' U.S. Urged to Mediate
Latin America

"U.S. human rights groups are calling on the government and armed forces of Bolivia to exercise restraint in dealing with a popular tide of protests that have swept much of the country and left as many as 80 people dead over the past several weeks. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), which has monitored Bolivia for some 25 years, is also calling on George Bush to press for an immediate dialogue between the gov't and opposition forces to resolve the crisis. The group said Washington bore 'no small responsibility for the crisis now enveloping Bolivia,' primarily because of its pressure on successive governments in La Paz to liberalize the economy and eliminate coca production. 'Unyielding U.S. stances with respect to economic austerity measures and coca crop eradication have constantly put Bolivia's elected leaders at odds with the Bolivian people and have narrowed the political space in which Bolivians themselves can seek their own solutions to their problems,' WOLA said."

US Military Assessment Team Heads to Bolivia
Latin America

Reuters reports: "The U.S. military is sending a small team of security specialists to Bolivia to assess the situation amid civil unrest in South America's poorest nation and examine contingency plans for an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy if necessary, U.S. Southern Command said on Friday. Army Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman for Miami-based Southern Command, said a team of fewer than six U.S. military personnel was due to arrive in the capital La Paz within one to two days. 'We are going down to look at the protection of Americans and U.S. interests,' Costello said... 74 people have been killed and food is scarce in the capital after a month of protests against the government's pro-U.S., free-market economic policies. Tens of thousands of miners, farmers and Indian women marched to the colonial center of the capital on Friday. The protesters exploded dynamite sticks two blocks from a government palace guarded by troops and assault vehicles." Will Bush start another coup?

Bolivia: Protests against Right-Wing Gov't Violently Broken Up
Latin America

"Bolivia's government is in a state of crisis after four cabinet ministers resigned and the vice president denounced the government for using excessive force to quell demonstrations over the export of the country's natural gas to the US and Mexico. Two people were killed in clashes between protestors and police in the capital, La Paz, Monday, but dozens of people have died in recent weeks as nonstop protests have been met by force from police and soldiers. Although President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada refused to resign, he announced today that he will postpone plans to build the gas pipeline, at least until next year. It started with a peaceful march of thousands in major Bolivian cities on Sept. 19. Since then, the gas war has pushed Bolivia one of Latin Americas poorest countries, into a violent confrontation between marginalized classes and the right-wing government that hopes to sell natural gas to the United States."

Bush Administration's Myopic Focus on 'Terrorism' Leaves Latin America's True Problems Festering
Latin America

"The recent visits of Sec. Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers... emphasized hemispheric security as the number-one priority for the region, and Myers and Rumsfeld noted that security depends on fighting terrorism.... It seems that in the lexicon of the Bush administration, 'terrorism' has become a catchall term for interpreting conflicts that have plagued Latin American countries for years, including narcotics production and trafficking, guerrilla and paramilitary activity, and illegal migration.... The anti-terrorism lens fails to see crucial factors in regional conflicts: the drug trade may fund terrorists, but it stems from peasants' lack of other productive options and the incessant demand for illegal drugs in U.S. cities. Counterinsurgency efforts may decimate organizations like the FARC, but they also lead to the displacement and death of thousands of civilians, thus creating new sources of social instability."

US Moves to Undermine Emerging Non-Violent Social Movements in Latin America
Latin America

Forrest Hylton writes, "For the past several years, South America's non-violent social movements ... have offered a beacon of hope to the world, since they have blocked a series of neoliberal privatization efforts in the cities and held counterinsurgency in check in the countryside. ... Beginning with Plan Colombia, in the name of the ... war on drugs and terror, the U.S. government responded to the growing challenge to the Washington Consensus: a military base in Manta, Ecuador, 'Plan Dignity' to eradicate coca in the Bolivian Chapare, a coup in Venezuela, offhand comments from U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill that rocked Brazilian financial markets as elections neared. But the cornerstone of the U.S. approach to the hemisphere was to be found in Colombia... In late July 2003, the U.S. House approved $731 million in FY 2004 for the Andean Regional Initiative, two thirds of which will go to the Colombian government; more specifically, to its military and police."