Category Archives: Latin America and Caribbean

Aristide is blocked from returning to Haiti but Baby Doc is back!

The US wants to keep control over its backyard by keeping people oppressed and poor, nowhere more so than in devastated Haiti. This culturally rich but heavily exploited nation has not been rebuilt in spite of the invasion of armies of aid workers. It was outsiders who brought further death and misery to the tented population living in insanitary conditions in the form of cholera. The popularly elected leader Aristide has been barred from returning to Haiti while the infamous “Baby Doc” Duvalier turns up.
An article in Granma speaks of Haiti as a “shame on the world”. Cuba, itself a poor nation held in check by its bullying neighbour, has shown exemplary action in the aid Cuban and Cuban trained staff have delivered in Haiti, going into some of the most remote and difficult regions. Their work is recognised by the major health agencies. Yet humanity is not a priority to the wealth creators. Domination carried out by any means whether involving death and destruction is their priority. They rely on collaborators to carry out their bidding, dividing and ruling in the age old manner of imperialism.

Cuba brings hope to Haiti

Fidel Castro reports the success of the medical brigades working in earthquake, hurricane, and now, cholera ridden and tormented society. The news is astounding. Cuba, small and restricted as it is, is able to treat cholera patients and prevent deaths occurring.
Cholera, it has been reported, was introduced from outside from among the legions who turned up to give aid. Haiti’s people have suffered from years of exploitation leaving poverty while surrounded by unparalleled wealth creation.
While Castro reports Cuba’s achievements in his low key article in Granma are his claims substantiated elsewhere? According to a Reuters Report, on the ground it is the Cubans that others turn to first, although this is not made known widely. The world of wealth is not about to admit that it might just have some things like it’s values and ideology all wrong. Keep up the profits by exploiting the likes of Haiti (which Cuba has successfully resisted for over 50 years and inspired others in the southern parts of the Americas) while these lives, the poor, are expendable.
Those Haitians who have encountered Cuban care recognise who their carers are.

Chavez wins but is under pressure

Hugo Chavez has retained power in Venezuela but the opposition gained seats. Western media had put up a long and sustained battery of disinformation and caricature of him. This was inevitable given the challenge to the “Evil Empire” which has always sought to dominate what it regards as its own backyard.
That the US is intent on exporting terrorism rather than combating it is illustrated in an article about Cuba. The “Cuban Five” have long since been holed up in US prisons when their crime was to uncover a terrorist plot in the US, but since it was against Cuba it was OK and the criminal perpetrators remain free.
Election day itself is said to have gone smoothly. Given the passion and polarisation that is portrayed it has to be said that this is a considerable achievement with a turn out of around 70%. While there is talk of the “Bolivarian Revolution” it has to be recognised that this is a democratic process. Since governments and media in the west shout and bawl about its importance it does not get recognition if the regime doesn’t suit. Witness Honduras when the US backed a coup against the legitimately elected but left-wing Zelaya, with Hilary Clinton included a visit to the new regime approving what had taken place. In Palestine Hamas gets no recognition for having been voted into power democratically.

“We need to get rid of Capitalists before they get rid of us” Hugo Blanco in Birmingham

Hugo Blanco was speaking in Birmingham during the Green Party Conference in a fringe meeting of Green left. Speaking before Hugo, Derek Wall, author, pointed out that it had been forgotten that Karl Marx was relevant to environmental issues, and that he referred to indigenous people and their value systems. This ties in with his socialist ideas and is possibly an influence on them.
Hugo Blanco, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter, spoke of the continuing struggles of indigenous people. They were confronting various organisations intent on extracting mineral wealth, destroying large areas of forest and creating pollution in their wake. In Peru some groups had succeeded in stopping the destruction of the Amazon Tropical Rain Forest, so vital to our planet and well being. In other cases there were massacres of indigenous people who were fighting to uphold their rights.
On his travels Blanco had met up with indigenous people across the world, including the U.S. and Canada. He found that value systems were similar – and that many were facing exploitation of land and pollution from multinational corporations. This was also true in India and Africa.

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Ken Capstick comments on Chile’s trapped miners.

Ken Capstick of the Socialist Labour Party comments on the situation in Chile where miners are trapped underground it s thought until Christmas.
Chile’s trapped miners
Even those who have done the dangerous work of mining can only imagine what the 33 men are going through in Chile
By Ken Capstick (NUM & SLP)
Guardian 25th August 2010.
“The 33 miners trapped below ground in Chile’s San José mine since 5 August are suffering the worst nightmare of miners the world over, who will be sharing their pain and that of their families, desperately hoping the rescuers succeed.
I spent 38 years of my life working as a coalminer and many long hours underground. I will never forget leaving school and jumping for joy – we said it was “the end of bondage”. I was 15, it was Easter 1956. Normally we would get a week’s holiday – I got two days and then found myself feeling imprisoned in what seemed worse than any dungeon. Deafening noise, constantly moving machinery, little light with which to see, grimy surroundings and hard physical work was my lot in life.
I was out of bed by 4.30 in the morning, trudging to the pit with my father; weather conditions, however bad, never stopped him or most miners. Men would crush on to the cage, as it was known, and then there would be a sudden plunge into the shaft as it hurtled for almost half a mile into the depths of the Earth. The bricks of the shaft wall were just a blur – four Blackpool towers end-on-end would just about reach from top to bottom.
I would start work at 6am and work until 1.30pm. Looking back now I realise how dangerous it was. At the end of the shift I would wash in the pithead baths and catch the bus in the pit yard, known as the pit paddy, which circled the mining village and dropped everyone off near their homes. Mother had the dinner on the table. I often fell asleep eating it.
I finished my first five days, Monday to Friday, in what seemed like a year. Saturday was voluntary in those days. I told my father I wasn’t going. He told me I was.
There was constant danger, and supervision by older miners was essential. They took care of you, but not in a mollycoddling sort of way – it was rough justice if you didn’t do as you were told, back-chatted or got “too big for your boots”.
I became an electrician and worked in every part of the mine. It was regarded by other miners as a cushy number. It was, but only by comparison with the work they did. Conditions were often cramped, crawling on hands and knees, breathing foul air, coughing and spitting out black coal dust from deep in your lungs.
Miners didn’t suffer fools gladly: coalmining was harsh. Conditions could be freezing cold or boiling hot in different parts of the same mine. Miners worked often on their bellies, using a pick and shovel all day, doing crushingly hard work. They ended up with bronchitis and emphysema, industrial deafness, broken limbs, dust on the lungs and were called greedy by people who could never understand. And we have had our share of disasters that have killed hundreds of miners in the time it takes to say, “Look out”. Sometimes they would be torn to bits after being dragged into brutal machinery, quite literally carried out in bags like chunks of mincemeat. It would be announced in passing on the news.
I once helped to carry a friend out of the mine. He was dead. He had been buried by a large fall of ground. We worked feverishly to get him out. That was 40 years ago. I laid a wreath at the altar in memory of him recently. It never goes away.
Eight miners have died in Britain’s coalmines in the past four years. In the Lofthouse colliery disaster of 1973 an inrush of water killed seven. Their comrades worked for a solid fortnight before being forced to leave them buried where they died.
Miners depend on each other for their own safety, which creates an unbreakable bond of camaraderie. Some might find it strange that a coalmine echoes to the sound of laughter. If I miss anything, it is the humour.
A miner is a miner wherever he works. Sometimes I spent 18 hours at a stretch in a coalmine, but can only imagine what it must be like for those fellow miners trapped in the unimaginable darkness of the San José gold and copper mine.
Leadership will be a vital element, someone experienced who they trust and respect, with the authority and mental strength to maintain his own morale as well as that of the others. I have met many men of that calibre. And in San José, 670 metres underground, it seems a natural leader has emerged – 54-year-old shift foreman Luis Urzúa.
If you have ever called a miner greedy, say a prayer with me tonight for those in Chile who, if reports are accurate, look like being there until Christmas.”

Ends Source: Guardian.

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Hillary in Latin America. Both feet first

When George W. Bush visited South American states in 2005 he left quickly. His stay in Argentina finished a day early when he was anxious “to get the hell out of town.” Hillary Clinton serves Barack Obama and so gets the benefit of the doubt, until that is she starts slagging off Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez. President Lula of Brazil and many other countries all share a healthy scepticism about the US and its interventions in the region and many realise the benefits that socialism brings to the people, notably the poor and dispossessed. Many feel empowered by having leaders who identify with their own communities like Evo Morales in Bolivia as well as Chavez. Clinton’s week long tour took in various countries with an itinary which included getting support from Brazil on Iran (their view – no more sanctions) and healing the split between Britain and Argentina over the Malvinas (???) Oh yes and there was quake struck Chile where communications equipment was taken along to assist.

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Towards a Fifth Socialist International

Communism and communists were famously targets of McCarthy in the USA. Today Socialism is also a taboo word, not only in North America but across Europe. New Labour threw it out after Clause 4 was banished so now it is excluded from political discourse. Even at a conference organised by Compass, which puts itself on the left of New Labour attempts to refer to Socialism or its language (Common ownership) was taboo in the sessions I attended.
Now in Latin America there is a resurgence of socialism, and the reviled (in Western media) Hugo Chavez calls for a Fifth Socialist International
To illustrate the problem states like Venezuela face, criticism of Venezuela’s efforts to help Haiti was made in the Huffington Post. Why? It seems that Venezuela has not allied itself with a group effort because it was felt that much aid effort had the aim of landing lucrative contracts to rebuild this shattered nation. Already Haiti is the subject of continuing colonialisation. This is not what the socialist states of Venezuela and Cuba see themselves joining with.

Cuban Medical Care in Haiti

Cuban medical care has been extended in Haiti and includes volunteers from across Latin America who are currently training, or have been trained in Cuba. There have been systematic vaccinations to combat the danger of disease spreading in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.
The help is not seen as short term as permanent hospitals are being set up in outlying regions short on doctors, and often supply of essentials such as water.
The Cuban medical staff are working with extremely limited resources yet they are seeing and treating a huge number of people with very serious injuries, performing operations and caring. This report is from CNN.

Aha President Sarkozy is going to Haiti

The former French colony of Haiti was a jewel in the crown of French colonial rule until 1804 when Toussaint L’Ouverture led the rebellion that defeated the Napoleonic forces. The cost to the French was enormous. Now, with the promise of a visit from President Sarkozy, there is a cautious welcome back because some would prefer French intervention to that of the USA which has invaded 3 times now and helped install the hated Duvaliers who creamed off the country’s wealth leaving destitution in their wake. The President will have reconstruction plans under his arm.
i seriously doubt, given the background, that M Sarkozy will see things in the same light as Naomi Klein. Writing in The Nation magazine she makes the case that it is Haiti that is owed money and the former and present colonial powers are in debt to them. More likely the time is seen as ripe to return to ways of harnessing a people made desperate by the impositions of despotic rulers placed there to ensure they don’t follow Cuba and others into the socialism now taking hold to the south of the USA.

Caribbean Art. Another Haitian Tragedy

The late Professor John Figueroa visited us regularly in Birmingham to talk about and discuss Caribbean art and literature. Teachers and pupils alike warmed to his enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the subject. He had known many writers and artists of note and I believe there exists an unpublished work on the Nobel Prize winner, Derek Walcott, together with his own autobiography which has also still to find a publisher. John also possessed a sizable collection of slides. I remember him saying that if anything Caribbean art was even more remarkable than its literature, although much less well known. On visiting John’s house in Milton Keynes you could see a collection of paintings given to him by various artists over the years. I remember him doing a television programme for the Open University in the “Third World Studies” series he prepared for them.
What has been overlooked is what has happened to art treasures in Haiti. In short they were ruined. Clearly when it comes to human tragedy on this scale it is not the first matter of concern what happens to artifacts and treasures. Ultimately though the wrecking of a nation’s heritage does affect the people whose achievements and histories are recorded. We have seen the consequences of war in Iraq to national treasures, an essential part of that nations identity. While Haiti is known as a “poor” nation in terms of wealth when it comes to artistic traditions it is far from true. Haiti has one of the richest traditions of art in the region. It seems there is little to be salvaged. As one commentator remarked “we have to start all over again”.