A workshop presented by Margaret Flowers, Rich Whitney and Kevin Zeese at the 2020 Green Party Annual National Meeting
Interview with a Political Activist in El Alto
[Note: The following interview with a Bolivian activist in El Alto, whose name is being withheld for obvious security reasons, was conducted by The Organizer editorial board member Alan Benjamin on Sunday, November 17. The interview is reprinted from the November-December 2019 issue of The Organizer.]
Question: What is the situation in Bolivia in the aftermath of the coup? How is the resistance to the coup being organized?
Answer: After the conspiracy of the police, the military, and the right-wing leaders that led to the November 10 resignation of Evo Morales and placed the coup-plotters in the governmental palace, their first measure was to burn the Whipala, the flag that represents the Quechua-Aymara peoples and that is recognized as one of the nation’s two flags in the 2009 Political Constitution of the State.
The burning of the Whipala means the return to the heinous racism and discrimination by the traditional right wing. This action by the coup government, together with the self-proclamation by supposed “president” Jeanine Añez, has triggered the mobilization of scores of popular sectors, neighborhood councils, and youth from the city of El Alto, the main bastion of the struggles of October 2003 and 2005 that succeeded in ousting then-president Gustavo Sanchez de Lozada, known as the “Gringo Goni.” Workers and youth at that time had mobilized against Goni’s Hydrocarbons Law with protests that were met with large-scale repression, resulting in 60 deaths.
Since Monday, November 11, massive marches of people have descended every day from the city of El Alto to the seat of government in La Paz. Hundreds of police, military and armored cars have sealed off the Plaza Murillo (where the government palace is located), repressing the population with tear gas and arresting people who were not even participating in the mobilizations. People have been apprehended just for carrying a Whipala.
Likewise, the peasants and neighbors of the poorest areas around the southern zone of La Paz have been repressed savagely. Two people have been killed, as the local authorities have had to acknowledge.
Relatives of the killed activists have reported in the social media how the military are breaking into people’s homes and beating the activists and their families indiscriminately.
The media are silent, but the social networks are flooded with videos and images that show the savagery that has been unleashed against the population.
The most recent repression occurred on Friday, November 15, when peasants from the Cochabamba region were heading towards the center of that city in a peaceful march, but were intercepted at the Huayllani Bridge, in the Sacaba region, by the military and police forces, which fired lethal weapons at the unarmed population.
The result of this police-military operation was nine deaths and hundreds of wounded and arrested. The media have sought to present this as an “armed confrontation” between the military and the demonstrators — but the fact is that not a single police officer, not a single soldier, was killed.
The media have ignored the statement by Cochabamba public defender Nelson Cox, who declared: “Visiting the hospitals, we have not found a single wounded policeman or soldier. There can be no talk of confrontation when what occurred was an action by the military and police that harmed the lives of the civilians who were mobilizing peacefully.” (statement posted on the website of Chasqui Clandestina)
On the following day, Saturday, November 16, a widely attended Cabildo [a town-hall meeting, or popular assembly – Tr. note] took place in the city of El Alto. Neighbors, workers, and young people gathered behind the Whipala with a black emblem attached to it, to signify the people’s outrage over the repression by the military and police forces which, so far, has taken the lives of 23 people, with hundreds of people seriously wounded and/or arrested.
All 14 districts that make up the city of El Alto were represented at the Cabildo. Peasant representatives from the 20 provinces of the department of La Paz were also present, as were rural teacher delegations from Alto Beni (which is the eastern sector of Bolivia), among other sectors.
The leaders of the Federation of Neighborhood Councils (FEJUVE) of El Alto were disavowed on the grounds that they are corrupt and do not represent the interests of the people of El Alto. As a consequence a new leadership of the FEJUVE has been formed.
Among its main decisions, the Cabildo called for the resignation of self-proclaimed president Jeanine Añez and the immediate release of all detainees nationwide. It also declared an indefinite strike with the blockade of 1,000 street corners.
As the workers and people were gathered in the Cabildo in El Alto, the so-called president issued Supreme Decree 4078, which authorizes the armed forces and police to “restore internal order” without having to be held accountable for their criminal actions. This is nothing but a license to kill.
As we speak [Sunday, November 17] popular sectors, carrying out the decisions of the Cabildo, are currently taking up their positions at the designated blockade points. We don’t yet have information about what is happening with the blockades. We are certainly not going to get reports from the national media, which has been assigned the task of turning a blind eye to the savage repression and making the anger of the population at the measures of the so-called president Jeanine Añez invisible.
Question: What has been the policy of the Bolivian Workers Central — the historic COB confederation — in relation to the recent coup, and, more recently, to the resistance? Have there been discussions within the COB and/or its affiliates regarding the November 10 COB statement, which we in the United States found shocking, calling for Evo’s resignation “for the sake of the health of the nation”?
Answer: On November 10, as you point out, the main leader of the COB, Juan Carlos Guarachi, called for the resignation of Evo Morales in the name of “preserving the peace in the country.” A similar statement was issued by Orlando Gutierrez, leader of the National Mineworkers Federation (FSTMB), the backbone of the COB. This marked a right-wing break by the COB and its main affiliate with the government of Evo Morales.
In the aftermath of the resignation of Morales and in response to the ongoing popular mobilizations, the COB issued a resolution dated November 12 stating that the powers-that-be had 48 hours to come up with a “constitutional solution,” otherwise they would declare an indefinite general strike.
But what kind of “constitutional solution” can be reached when you have a self-appointed president, supported by the armed forces, who has trampled upon the Constitution? She cannot even muster a sufficient quorum in the Congress to have herself declared a rightful president. The COB has remained silent until now, even though the 48-hour deadline has come and gone.
Having said that, there is growing dissension in the union ranks.
Prior to the coup, mineworkers in the State sector — in Huanuni, Vinto, Coro Coro, and Colquir — denounced the fact that behind the “Citizen Mobilizations” lurked the old right-wing parties.
Recently, on November 12, the most combative union of the FSTMB — the mine workers’ union in Huanuni — adopted a resolution denouncing all those who have lent a hand to the right wing, highlighting the leader of Santa Cruz Civic Committee billionaire Luis Fernando Camacho as a racist. The resolution affirms that, “the struggle has begun” and that “a state of emergency has been declared in Huanuni” — but to date the union has not called for mobilization.
Question: Any further comments?
Answer: At this moment, the main demand of the mobilized sectors of the population — a demand with which I concur fully — is the resignation of Jeanine Añez, who symbolizes the return of the gorilla and racist right wing. If the COB and FSTMB were to join the mobilizations, this would mark a real show of strength by the workers’ and people’s organizations against the perpetrators of the coup.
Private concerns are gutting the Amazon rainforest, contributing to fires, the loss of plant and animal species, and global warming through the release of carbon as trees are cleared. More than 74,000 fires have burned approximately 7,200 square miles this year in the Brazilian portion of the rainforest.
“Brazilian politicians are lobbying U.S. businesses like Cargill and Burger King for contracts by promoting the Amazon region for reckless and exploitative ranching, logging and mining operations,” said Craig Seeman, member of the Green Party’s Animal Rights Committee.
Green Party of the United States
For Immediate Release:
August 28, 2019
“The cattle sector of the Brazilian Amazon, incentivized by the international beef and leather trades, has been responsible for about 80% of all deforestation in the region. The lax enforcement of rules and regulations by leaders in Brazil and the United States have set the tone for widespread pillage of protected areas in both countries.”
Among other things, scientists recommend that we restore ecosystems and stop burning fossil fuels to avoid “irreversible loss in land ecosystem services required for food, health and habitable settlements.”
“Greens have been at the forefront in calling for a strong international climate treaty,” said Steve Newman, Secretary of the Green Party of Florida and a member of the Green Party of the U.S. Eco-Action Committee. “The climate treaty reached in Paris in 2015 is inadequate to address the climate change crisis, and the current impasse at the international level displays a dangerous lack of commitment toward addressing a climate emergency. The Green Party calls for legally binding commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2020 and a 95% reduction by 2030 over 1990 levels.”
The Green Party further calls for:
- the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear power, biomass and waste incineration and biofuels;
- acknowledge that the bulk of the U.S. military budget is an indirect subsidy for oil & gas corporations, and redirect that spending into sustainable energy production regenerative agriculture and “green jobs”;
- work to provide a carbon neutral development path for developing countries to help them avoid burning cheap fossil fuels;
- a move to convert our food production to small-scale organic, regenerative agriculture (agroecology) systems to restore soil health, sequester carbon, foster biodiversity, discourage the currently unsustainable level of meat consumption, and secure robust ecosystem services for a sustainable future;
- acknowledgement and support the role of indigenous people and other local Brazilian activists who are fighting to save the rainforest. According to Amazon Watch’s Moira Birss: “Indigenous people of the Amazon have been sounding the alarm about risks to the rainforest for years and resisting the destruction — sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Now that the world is finally paying attention, it’s important to also understand that governments and companies around the world are emboldening Bolsonaro’s toxic policies when they enter trade agreements with his government or invest in agribusiness companies operating in the Amazon.”
Photograph: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov using data from August 27, 2019
6 charts show why thousands of fires in the Amazon rainforest matter to the world
Sergent, James; Elizabeth Lawrence, George Petras. USA Today, Aug. 23, 2019
Fires are devouring the Amazon. And Jair Bolsonaro is to blame
Miranda, David. The Guardian, Aug, 26, 201
Amazon: “Global Emergency”
Mendonca, Maria Luisa; Christopher Poitier, Moira Birss. Institute for Public Accuracy, Aug. 27, 2019
GOP Lobbyists Help Brazil Recruit U.S. Companies To Exploit The Amazon
Fang, Lee. The Intercept, Aug 23, 2019
Fires in the Amazon could be part of a doomsday scenario that sees the rainforest spewing carbon into the atmosphere and speeding up climate change even more
Baker, Sinead. Business Insider, Aug. 22, 2019
Cattle Ranching in the Amazon Region
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Global Forest Atlas
You And Meat Can Save The Planet
Rowland, Michael Pellman. Forbes, Aug. 23, 2019
The Amazon Fires Reveal the Dysfunction of the Global Community
Foer, Franklin. Defense One, Aug. 25, 2019
2018 Outside Spending, by Donors’ Industries
Center for Responsive Politics. OpenSecrets
Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines
Ceballos, Gerardo; Paul R. EHrlich, Rodolfo Dirzo. PNAS, Mar. 28, 2017
With Amazon Rainforest Ablaze, Brazil Faces Global Backlash
Andreoni, Manuela; Leticia Casado, Ernest Londono. NY Times, Aug. 22, 23, 2019
Although battles are still raging in Hodeidah, people displaced from the port city have already begun returning to their homes from Sanaa, as they struggle to feed their families in the Yemeni capital.
Since pro-Yemeni government forces began their assault on the highly strategic Red Sea city a year ago, the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) in Sanaa has played the leading role in providing Hodeidah’s displaced with monthly food packages.
However, the WFP suspended aid distribution in Sanaa last month after disputes with the Houthis over the agency’s biometric system introduced to prevent the rebel movement from diverting aid.
The decision affects 850,000 people in the capital Sanaa, including Hodeidah displaced.
Staring at the prospect of starvation in the capital, some Yemenis have returned to their war-torn homes where they are more likely to secure their monthly rations.
Mohammed al-Boraie, 43, fled his house in Hodeidah’s al-Rabasah neighbourhood in June 2018 after hearing there were organisations in Sanaa that could help the displaced there. He left everything behind, prioritising the safety of his seven family members.
“A friend rented a house for me in Sanaa and that was the first step towards stability,” Boraie told Middle East Eye.
WFP aid suspension
displaced back home
With starvation threats looming, Yemenis are trickling back from Sanaa to find a battle-ravaged city
in Hodeidah, Yemen
Published date: 1 July 2019 13:45 UTC
“Then the sheikh of the neighbourhood registered my name as a beneficiary for WFP aid and I have been receiving food aid from the WFP since August 2018.”
Boraie used to work as a bus driver, but when he arrived in Sanaa he could not find any work and his family struggled with basic services and proper healthcare.
“During the last year, we were depending on WFP food aid and the food was enough for the whole month,” he said.
“If not for the WFP aid, my children would starve to death.”
Boraie never thought that the WFP would stop providing his family with the much-needed food – and was shocked when they did.
“When the sheikh told me that the WFP would not provide us with food, I changed all our plans as we cannot stay in Sanaa without it,” he said.
“We knew from the sheikh that the WFP would continue to distribute food aid in Hodeidah and they only suspended it in Sanaa, so there was no choice but to return to our house in Hodeidah.”
Boraie borrowed money for transportation from a friend and took his family back to Hodeidah on 23 June.
When he arrived, he found the city in a better state than it had been last year – regular life has returned to some extent, despite ongoing battles in the outskirts.
In fact, Boraie said, anxiety he faced about the fighting last year has been replaced by fears his family will die of starvation instead.
There are 3.3 million people internally displaced in Yemen, while the humanitarian crisis there remains the worst in the world.
Nearly four years of conflict and severe economic decline have driven the country to the brink of famine and exacerbated needs in all sectors, according to the UN.
An estimated 80 percent of the population – 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance. Some 14.3 million of those are in acute need.
Meanwhile, the number of people in acute need has grown 27 percent over the past year. Two-thirds of all provinces in the country are in a pre-famine state.
A reviving city
Last year the streets of Hodeidah were almost emptied of people, and many shops and companies were shuttered as residents fled the fighting.
Hodeidah’s port is the conduit through which the majority of Yemen’s imports arrive to the country, and fighting there threatened to significantly worsen the humanitarian situation and catapult millions in famine.
UN-led efforts have helped alleviate the fighting, and in turn residents have gradually been trickling back to the city.
Around Hodeidah the sounds of clashes can be heard, and occasional shelling hits residential areas. Yet Yemenis are managing to regain a sense of normalcy all the same.
“Residents of Hodeidah do not care about the battles as they believe clashes aren’t going to stop any time soon. Besides, they are working hard to find food,” said Mubarak al-Otomi, a 35-year-old resident of the city.
“I was displaced but I returned to Hodeidah after suffering in Sanaa because of a lack of basic services and food.”
If the displaced had proper services in displacement, they would not return to the city amid fighting
– Mubarak al-Otomi, Hodeidah resident
Otomi said opportunities for employment in Hodeidah were much greater than before, and relief organisations were doing their best to help people.
“I believe that life in our home is better than displacement – no one thinks about fleeing the city again even if battles arrive at our houses,” he added.
“If the displaced had proper services in displacement, they would not return to the city amid fighting.”
Fighting usually intensifies at night, and for a long time people rarely ventured out after dark.
As things have improved, however, men, women and children are increasingly seen out in the evenings, and have adapted to the ferocious sounds of war in the distance.
Abdulkhaleq al-Sawa, 53, is from Hodeidah but now living in Sanaa.
He told MEE that many displaced people like him haven’t returned home yet, but the suspension meant they could soon head back to Hodeidah
“No one can deny the role of the WFP in helping displaced people in Sanaa and I am one of them – I became dependent on organisations,” Sawa said.
Sawa has been living in his brother’s house in Sanaa since July 2018 but he believes it’s time to go home and resume his regular life.
“In Hodeidah I can find work again as an accountant with a local corporation, as I used to do before the war,” he said.
He added that his return to Hodeidah had been delayed due to the sweltering temperatures in the city. Without electricity to return to, cooling his Hodeidah home would be impossible, so it’s better to wait a couple of months until the climate chills somewhat.
“The battles are not a threat as we have already adapted to them, but it is difficult for children to enjoy their lives in the hot weather,” he said.
Back in Hodeidah, Boraie said he had been pleased to find his hometown so full of people when he returned.
“War changed our life for the worse,” he said. “I hope warring parties stop this war, so we can resume our work and children can resume their studies in a safe environment.”
The United States Government is engaged in a campaign of personal destruction directed at Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. Under the cover of questionable legal arguments, The US has carried out a relentless, multifaceted, punitive program aimed at making an example of an Internet publisher who has challenged the power of the US national security establishment. Through the actions of the US government, Assange has been stripped of his political asylum, imprisoned by the UK, and is awaiting extradition to the US to face espionage charges with a penalty of life imprisonment. He is being held in Belmarsh prison, a high-security facility, officially for the minor crime of a bail violation but for the ultimate purpose of rendition to the US. Assange was recently moved to the hospital wing at Belmarsh, and reports indicate he is in poor health.
A large segment of the public has been turned against Assange by a smear campaign conducted through mass media outlets with friendly ties to the national security agencies. The UN has issued a report in which Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture said that Assange has been exposed to psychological torture. According the UN report, “In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.”
Assange has been called a rapist, a narcissist, and a spy with “blood on his hands.” The bloodiest hands in American media belong to those who participated in selling the American instigated wars that have ripped apart Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Journalists who eagerly repeated the lies that led to the Iraq war now attack Assange’s consistently truthful reporting of America’s misdeeds. American intelligence officials, who have publicly lied to Congress without consequences, are leading the attack on Assange, a man who, until his isolation and imprisonment, had been reliably reporting inconvenient truths about America’s secret activities. US politicians refuse to hold the CIA and other secret agencies accountable for past and present misdeeds. Senator Schumer of New York openly warned his congressional colleagues against opposing the national security agencies: “Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” How far are we from the model of the old USSR in which everyone feared the secret police?
In addition to seeking to punish Assange with life in prison, the US government intends to use his prosecution under the Espionage Act as a weapon against the free press. Because conventional news organizations regularly publish secret information that has been leaked by informants and whistleblowers, the same arguments used to prosecute Assange can be used to convict journalists for the New York Times or the Washington Post. If Assange is convicted under this law, reporting on anything the US government classifies as secret will come to a halt. Powerful intelligence agencies like the CIA, not content with intimidating their timid political watchdogs, are seeking to eliminate the oversight of a free press.
The assault on Julian Assange is nothing less than an attack on the truth and a threat to global security. A world in which the US government secretly pursues hostile actions, unchecked by any independent oversight, is a danger to all mankind. Julian Assange has served the interests of the people of the world by truthfully revealing activities that undermine peace and security. The Peace Action Committee of the Green Party of the United States calls upon the US Justice Department to drop all charges against Julian Assange, and we call upon the UK government to release Assange from prison.
May 13, 2019
This is the 34th day of our living in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. We are prepared to stay another 34 days, or however long is needed to resolve the embassy dispute in a peaceful way consistent with international law.
This memo is being sent to the US and Venezuela as well as members of our Collective and allies. We are encouraging people to publish this memo as a transparent process is needed to prevent the US from making a unilateral decision that could impact the security of embassies around the world and lead to military conflict.
To: US State Department
Venezuelan Foreign Ministry
From: Embassy Protection Collective
Re: Exiting the Venezuelan Embassy
Date: May 13, 2019
There are two ways to resolve the issues around the Venezuelan embassy in DC, which we will explain.
Before doing so, we reiterate that our collective is one of independent people and organizations not affiliated with any government. While we are all US citizens, we are not agents of the United States. While we are here with permission of the Venezuelan government, we are not their agents or representatives.
We are here in the embassy lawfully. We are breaking no laws. We did not unlawfully enter and we are not trespassing.
1. Exiting with a Protecting Power Agreement
The exit from the embassy that best resolves issues to the benefit of the United States and Venezuela is a mutual Protecting Power Agreement. The United States wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in Caracas. Venezuela wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in DC. Such agreements are not uncommon when diplomatic relations are severed.
A Protecting Power Agreement would avoid a military conflict that could lead to war. A war in Venezuela would be catastrophic for Venezuela, the United States, and for the region. It would lead to lives lost and mass migration from the chaos and conflict of war. It would cost the United States trillions of dollars and become a quagmire involving allied countries around the world.
We are serving as interim protectors in the hope that the two nations can negotiate this resolution. If this occurs we will take the banners off the building, pack our materials, and leave voluntarily. The electricity could be turned on and we will drive out.
We suggest a video walk-through with embassy officials to show that the Embassy Protection Collective did not damage the building. The only damage to the building has been inflicted by coup supporters in the course of their unprosecuted break-ins.
2. The United States violates the Vienna Convention, makes an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests
This approach will violate international law and is fraught with risks. The United States would have to cut the chains in the front door put up by embassy staff and violate the embassy. We have put up barriers there and at other entrances to protect us from constant break-ins and threats from the trespassers whom the police are permitting outside the embassy. The police’s failure to protect the embassy and the US citizens inside has forced us to take these actions.
The Embassy Protectors will not barricade ourselves, or hide in the embassy in the event of an unlawful entry by police. We will gather together and peacefully assert our rights to remain in the building and uphold international law.
Any order to vacate based on a request by coup conspirators that lack governing authority will not be a lawful order. The coup has failed multiple times in Venezuela. The elected government is recognized by the Venezuelan courts under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations under international law. An order by the US-appointed coup plotters would not be legal.
Such an entry would put embassies around the world and in the United States at risk. We are concerned about US embassies and personnel around the world if the Vienna Convention is violated at this embassy. It would set a dangerous precedent that would likely be used against US embassies.
If an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests are made, we will hold all decision-makers in the chain of command and all officers who enforce unlawful orders accountable.
If there is a notice that we are trespassing and need to vacate the premises, please provide it to our attorney Mara Verhayden-Hilliard, copied on this memo.
We have taken care of this embassy and request a video tour of the building before any arrests.
We hope a wise and calm solution to this issue can be achieved so escalation of this conflict can avoided.
There is no need for the United States and Venezuela to be enemies. Resolving this embassy dispute diplomatically should lead to negotiations over other issues between the nations.
The Embassy Protection Collective
May 13, 2019
“SOS! SOS! SOS! SOS! OUR INDIGENOUS FAMILIES ARE BEING EXTERMINATED! MASSACRED RIGHT NOW! THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT HAS SENT IN THE ARMY AND IS MURDERING THE MINGA COMMUNITY! SOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
GOD HELP US!!!! ASKING FOR PRAYERS!!! CONSCIOUSNESS!!!! PLEASE HUMANITY WAKE UP!!!!”
Concentration of the minga for the defense of life, territory, democracy, justice and peace, of the finca Emmanuel in morales cauca is attacked with firearms indiscriminately by troops of the national army
Santiago de Cali, April 03, 2019
We make an URGENT CALL TO THE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT IN THE HEAD OF PRESIDENT IVAN DUQUE MÁRQUEZ, and to national and international agencies that defend human rights in order to Sue in first instance the protection of the life and integrity of indigenous, peasant and sectors communities People who participate in minga for the defense of life, territory, democracy, justice and peace.
Being 12:30 p.m. on April 03, 2019, the indigenous and peasants who were concentrated in the Emmanuel Estate of the town of morales – cauca, were violently attacked with firearms by troops of the National Army, Finding yourself trapped in the territory because of the shots. The public force came to the place, burning the tents and belongings of the community, also entered the neighboring houses of the point of concentration to attack the inhabitants, in the midst of the facts, is seriously injured the governor of the indigenous cabildo of cerro Scissors Rubén Cuetia and some minors, at the moment there is no additional information of the number of injuries and the state of health of them.
We make a call to dd defenders. HH. National and international, the high commissioner for DD. HH. From the un, to the inter-American commission of DD. HH., to the un verification mission, to the mission of supporting the peace process in Colombia of the oas, to the National Commission of DD. HH. From The Senate of the Republic, to the office of the ombudsman and to the attorney general of the nation, so that, within the framework of its functions and competences, accompany the communities and families affected by this fact.