Wednesday, 31 October 2007

21st CENTURY SOCIALISM ADVANCES IN LATIN AMERICA

Unity Will Win Us Victory, Said Cuban Parliament Chairman

Havana, Oct 30 (acn) Cuban Parliament President, Ricardo
Alarcon, said on Tuesday in Quito, Ecuador that Latin
America is going through a turning point of its history
while building the socialism of the 21st century.

In statements to PL, Alarcon emphasized that Latin
Americans will be able to build their own socialism, and
that a single model will not be imposed. He quoted
Ecuador's president Rafael Correo as saying that each
nation will build their own system based on its own
traditions and characteristics.

He also stressed that even when the systems will be
different; there will be a unity of principles, based on
solidarity and human fraternity.

Alarcon mentioned Ecuador as one of the countries
undergoing changes that could lead to the so called 21st
century socialism under Correa's leadership.

The Cuban parliament leader concluded by emphasized that
only unity will win us the victory.

Monday, 29 October 2007

CHINA BENEFITS WORKERS AT EXPENSE OF CAPITAL

On the present 17th Party Congress in China
(from Sunday Times business section, October 21)

"For enterpreneurs, the vision is a step back from the promise of lassiez- faire free enterprise towards a system in which substantial assets are floated on capital markets, but ultimately remain controlled by the state.

To China's leftists, it marks a victory for higher social expenditure, the creation of a new healthcare programme, unionisation, a tough new labour law from January 1, and an end to the unpopular rural tax on farmers.

The party officially welcomes capitalists to its ranks. But its class credentials remain intact: only 3m of the 70m party members belong to the private sector, according to the state news agency, Xinhua. That remains political reality in Beijing."

CASTRO ON BUSH'S PHONEY FREEDOM

Reflections by the Commander in Chief

"BUSH, MAMBÍ?"

Viva Cuba libre! (Long live free Cuba!). That was the war cry
throughout the plains and the mountains, forests and sugarcane
fields, identifying those who began Cuba’s first war of independence
on October 10, 1868.

I would never have imagined I’d be hearing those words 139 years
later, coming from the mouth of a president of the United States. It
is as if a king of days gone by, or his regent, were proclaiming:
Viva Cuba Libre!

On the contrary, a Spanish warship drew near the coast and with its
guns destroyed the small sugar mill where Carlos Manuel de Céspedes
[ pictured top-right - Sons of Malcolm] declared the independence of
Cuba and freed the slaves that he hadinherited, just a few kilometres
from the sea.

Lincoln, son of a poor woodcutter, fought all his life against
slavery which was legal in his country almost a hundred years after
the Declaration of Independence. Clinging to the just idea that all
citizens are born free and equal, making use of his legal and
constitutional rights, he declared the abolition of slavery.
Countless numbers of combatants gave their lives defending this idea
against the rebel slave states in the south of the country.

Lincoln is said to have stated: “You can deceive some of the people
all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t
deceive all the people all of the time.”

He died by an assassin’s bullet when, unbeatable at the polls, he was
running for a second term as president.

I am not forgetting that tomorrow on Sunday, it will be the 48th
anniversary of Camilo Cienfuegos' disappearance at sea, on October
28, 1959, as he was returning to Havana in a light aircraft from
Camaguey Province, where days earlier just his presence unarmed a
garrison of simple Rebel Army soldiers whose superiors, of a
bourgeois ideology, were attempting to do what almost half a century
later Bush is demanding: rise up in arms against the Revolution.

Che, in a wonderful introduction to his book Guerrilla Warfare,
states: “Camilo was the comrade of a 100 battles…the selfless
combatant who always made sacrifice an instrument with which to
temper his character and to forge that of the troops...it was he who
gave this written armature here presented the essential vitality of
his personality, of his intelligence and of his audacity, something
which can be achieved in such exact proportions only in a very few
personages in history.”

“Who killed him?”

“We might better wonder: who wiped out his physical being? Because
the lives of men such as he, live on in the people...The enemy killed
him, they killed him because they wished for his death, they killed
him because there are no safe planes, because pilots cannot have all
the experience they need, because, overburdened with work, he wanted
to reach Havana in a few short hours…in his guerrilla mentality there
could be no impediment to hold back or distort a line which had been
drafted…Camilo and the other Camilos (those who didn’t arrive and
those yet to come) are the indicators of the strength of the people,
they are the highest expression of what a nation may give, at the
ready to defend its purest ideals and with its faith anchored in the
securing of its noblest goals.”

For all the symbolism in their names, we reply to the false Mambí:

Long live Lincoln!

Long live Che!

Long live Camilo!

Fidel Castro Ruz

October 27, 2007

Saturday, 27 October 2007

SCOTTISH NATIONALISTS ATTACKED OVER ANTI-BRITISH NUKE LETTER

Row over Salmond's nuclear letter

BBC News

The first minister has been accused of writing to some of the world's most "vilified and dangerous regimes" in his bid to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons.

Alex Salmond contacted 189 countries stating Scotland's opposition to replacing Trident.

Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen attacked him for writing to regimes such as Zimbabwe, Iran and Burma.

Mr Salmond said he included all countries signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In his letter he also asked them to support a request for Scotland to be given observer status at future meetings related to the NPT.

The Lib Dem leader challenged Mr Salmond on the issue at First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament.

"Did a shiver run up his spine as he signed letters to the governments of some of the most despotic, repressive, undemocratic, villainous regimes in the world, Iran, Burma and Zimbabwe?" Mr Stephen asked.

"The first minister often talks about an arc of prosperity, but he has just written letters of an arc of repression."

He said Mr Salmond was "obsessed with getting a seat in the ante room at the United Nations".

And he asked: "Is there any regime, dictatorship or one-party state that he won't beg to help in the cause of Scottish independence?"

However, Mr Salmond defended the letter.

"The letter was looking for agreement and support from a government and organisation under the auspices of the United Nations to help what I think is the majority of opinion in Scotland, to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons," he said.

Mr Salmond added that delegates at Monday's anti-Trident conference in Glasgow had supported the initiative "in looking to end the evil of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil and Scottish waters".

INTERVIEW WITH CASTRO IN THE GUARDIAN

Conversations with Castro

Aged 81, the world's longest-serving leader is turning his thoughts to his legacy and the succession. In an exclusive extract from his autobiography, Fidel Castro talks to Ignacio Ramonet about vanity and cruelty - and reveals his salary and plans for retirement


Saturday October 27, 2007
The Guardian


Those who criticise the revolution blame you entirely - they talk about "Castro's Cuba".

Those people tend to personalise, to make me the representative, as though the people didn't exist. The millions of people who have struggled, who have defended the revolution; the hundreds of thousands of doctors, of professional people; those who farm, produce, study - those people don't exist. All that exists is this evil guy named Castro.

The number of times I have to sign autographs - you can't imagine. When I meet Americans who come here and talk to me ... sometimes there are 50 people at a meeting, they give me a bouquet of flowers or something, and the number of books, cards, things I have to sign, the number of pictures I have to let them take and so many flashbulbs that you can hardly see, it's hardly to be believed. So I guess I'm some kind of strange, unreal figure ...

A star?

Yes, somebody you have to get quick, so you can say, "Look, I got a picture with so-and-so."

But I'm very self-critical. When I say too much or something comes out of my mouth that might sound a little vain, I'm hard on myself, really hard. You have to keep a watch on yourself.

Throughout the years, influence, power, rather than gradually making me conceited, vain and all that ... every day, I think, I'm less conceited, less pretentious, less self-satisfied. It's a struggle against your instincts, you know. I believe that it's education, or sincere and tenacious self-education, that turns a small animal into a man.

How do you think history will judge you?

That's something it's not worth worrying about. Napoleon talked about la gloire - he was constantly concerned with glory. Well, in lots of countries today, the name Napoleon is known more for the cognac than for all the things done by the real general and emperor. So I say, why worry?

Have you ever thought about retiring?

We know that time passes and that human energies fade. But I'm going to tell you what I told our compañeros in the national assembly in 2003, when they elected me president of the council of state. I told them: "Now I see that my fate was not to come into the world and rest at the end of my life." And I promised them to be with them, if they wished, as long as necessary - so long as I knew myself to be useful. Not a minute less, or a second more.

Every year, I devote more time to the revolution, I think; I give it more of my attention, because one has more experience, one has meditated more, thought more. Plato said in The Republic that the ideal age for occupying ruling positions is after 55. In my opinion, according to him, that ideal age should be 60. And I imagine that 60 in Plato's day would be somewhere around 80 today ...

How is your health?

Well, I'm fine. Generally speaking, I feel fine; above all, I feel full of energy, I have great enthusiasm for things. I feel quite, quite well both physically and mentally. I'm sure the habit of exercise has contributed to that; in my opinion, physical exercise helps not just the muscles, it also helps the mind, because exercise has an effect on blood circulation, on the delivery of oxygen to all the cells, including the brain cells.

In 2005 the CIA announced that you have Parkinson's disease. What comment do you have about that?

It must be a confession of what they haven't been able to do for so long: assassinate me. If I were a vain man, I might even be filled with pride by the fact that those morons now say they'll have to wait until I die. Every day they invite some new story - Castro's got this, Castro's got that. The latest thing they've come up with is that I have Parkinson's. Well, it just doesn't matter if I get Parkinson's. Pope John Paul II had Parkinson's and he travelled all over the world for I don't know how many years.

If for some reason you should die, your brother Raul would be your undisputed successor?

If something happened to me tomorrow, the National Assembly would meet and elect him - there's not the slightest doubt. But he's catching up to me in years, so it's also a generational problem. We've been fortunate that we who made the revolution have brought up three generations. There have always been close ties with young people and students.

I have a great deal of hope, because I see clearly that these people I call the fourth generation are going to have three or four times the knowledge that we in the first generation had.

So you think the baton can be passed on without trouble?

Right now there wouldn't be any problem of any kind, and there won't be later, either. Because the revolution is not based on the cult of personality. It's inconceivable in modern society - people doing things just because they have blind faith in the leader. The revolution is based on principles. And the ideas that we defend have been, for quite some time, ideas shared by the entire nation.

You're a man who's admired, but others accuse you of being a cruel dictator ...

I don't understand why I'm called a dictator. What is a dictator? It's someone who makes arbitrary, unilateral decisions, who acts over and above institutions, over and above the laws, who is under no restraint but his own desires and whims. And in that case, Pope John Paul II, who always opposed war, could be accused of being a dictator, and President Bush considered the most democratic of rulers. That's the way the industrialised countries in Europe treat him, without realising that Bush can make terrible decisions without consulting the Senate or the House of Representatives, or even his cabinet. Not even the Roman emperors had the power of the president of the United States!

I don't make unilateral decisions. This isn't even a presidential government. We have a council of state, and my functions as leader exist within a collective. I have authority, of course, I have influence, for historical reasons, but I don't give orders or rule by decree.

What about the charge of cruelty?

I really think that a man who has devoted his entire life to fighting injustice, oppression of every kind, to serving others, to fighting for others, to preaching and practising solidarity, I think all of that is totally incompatible with cruelty.

All that propaganda is based on hate and on lies. How can people say that even one man has been tortured in Cuba? Or that I've ordered a man tortured? Here, no one has ever been imprisoned for being a dissident or because they see things differently from the way the revolution does. Our courts sentence people to prison on the basis of laws, and they judge counter-revolutionary acts. Down through history, in all times, actions by people who put themselves at the service of a foreign power against their own nation have always been seen as extremely serious.

The idea that in Cuba we send people to prison for having a belief that's different from the revolution's is ridiculous. Here, we punish acts, not ideas.

Do you agree that terrorism is the biggest threat to the world today?

Cuba condemned the crime committed on September 11 in no uncertain terms. And we have reiterated our condemnation of terrorism in all its shapes and forms. The US has cynically included Cuba among the countries sponsoring terrorism, but Cuba will never allow its territory to be used for terrorist actions against the people of the US or any other country.

I agree that terrorism is a serious threat to the world today, but I believe humanity is facing other threats of equal or greater seriousness: the accelerating destruction of the environment; the deepening of poverty; the lack of health care. To all of which one would have to add the hegemonic designs of the only superpower that aspires to become the ruler of the planet, and its arrogant policy of domination.

In 2005 you declared an "all-out war" on certain problems Cuba was facing - theft from the state, the misappropriation of funds.

That's right. We've invited the entire nation to take part in a great battle against any and all offences, whether petty theft or grand larceny. Because we have several tens of thousands of parasites that don't produce anything yet are getting rich. You should see how deep-rooted some of these vices are, how much pilfering was going on, how people were diverting resources, the way things were being stolen.

Don't you think Cuba's one-party structure is ill-adapted to an increasingly complex society?

In many countries, the classical, traditional electoral system with multiple parties becomes a popularity contest and not, really, a competency contest. People wind up electing the most likable person, the person who communicates best with the masses, even the person who has the most pleasant appearance, the best advertising on television, or in the press or on radio. Or, in the end, and this is practically a rule, the person who has the most money to spend on advertising.

Is there corruption among the Cuban leadership?

It's happened with some officials who were negotiating with powerful foreign businesses, and we've had to take measures. But it's not easy to fix.

As for me, I honestly don't own a thing. I have a few pesos, because after you've paid the amounts that have been in place since the first year of the revolution for each service, which are pretty reasonable, you may have some left over. I'm paid the same salary I always was, and out of that I have to pay the Party dues, so much per cent for housing, you pay that every month ... I lack for nothing, materially speaking. I have what I need. But I don't need much.

My salary, at the exchange rate of 25 pesos per dollar, is $30 a month. But I've been put on that list of the world's richest people twice now. I have no idea why they do it, what they're trying to achieve; it's ridiculous. I don't have a cent of my own.

And I'll have the glory of dying without a penny of convertible currency. I've been offered millions to write memoirs and books, but I've never done it.

Castro on ...

Cigars

It was my own father who gave me my first cigar; I must have been 14 or 15. And I remember that I smoked that first puro, and I didn't know how it was done. Fortunately, I didn't inhale the smoke. Although you always absorb a little of the nicotine, even if you don't inhale at all. I've smoked too much in my life. Until one day, over 20 years ago, I decided to stop. Nobody made me. I just decided to make myself stop smoking. I believed that giving up that habit was a necessary sacrifice, for the good of the country's and the people's health.

Listening to people talk so much about the necessity of a collective fight against obesity, the sedentary lifestyle, smoking, I became convinced that the ultimate sacrifice I should make on behalf of public health in Cuba was to quit smoking.

Teach by example. I gave up tobacco, and I've never missed it.

Tony Blair

I saw Blair one time, in Geneva at a meeting of the World Health Organisation.

He had a swagger, he was haughty, as though he were looking down his nose at people. We had a few words - brief but sharp. He had been talking about child labour and I said to him, "Listen, I saw that you were talking about child labour throughout the world, but I understand that in England there are 2 million children who are working."

I said it very calmly. I think he thought it was a piece of insolence from a nobody, a nit, a third-world know-nothing.

Wearing uniform

More than anything, I wear it for practical reasons, because with the uniform I don't have to put on a tie every day ... It avoids the problem of what suit to wear, what shirt, what socks, so everything goes together. I only put on a suit for very special circumstances, some international conference, or when the Pope came, or a meeting with some head of state.

My usual uniform is very simple. I also have another, more formal uniform that I wear for some occasions, with a shirt and tie.

Carrying a gun

Since those people in the CIA are always thinking things up - assassination attempts and so on - you can imagine that I carry a weapon, and a weapon ready to be used. I have a 15-shot Browning. I've shot a lot in my life. I've always been a good shot - it was just luck - and I still am.

The Third Way

I read Anthony Giddens' book, which contains the theory out of which arose the so-called "Third Way". There's nothing of a third way in it - it's the "way" taken by every turncoat in this world. Oh, I could see that it was aimed against the social-security state achieved by the Europeans: fewer resources for the retired, less aid to the unemployed, because [aid] turns [the unemployed] into a bunch of lazy bums - according to this theory - who then won't work, you have to force them in some way. Well, I admit that you have to educate people, but you don't have to force them.

The assassination of JFK

It's all very strange. With the expertise I acquired in sharpshooting, I can't imagine that with a rifle with a telescopic sight such as Lee Harvey Oswald had, you can fire, load and fire again in a matter of seconds. Because when you shoot with a telescopic sight, if the weapon moves a fraction of an inch you lose your target. Firing three times in a row, so accurately, for somebody who almost certainly didn't have much experience - that's very difficult. What the official version says is quite simply not possible - not just like that, bang bang bang.

The other thing that is just incomprehensible to me is that once Oswald was a prisoner, this charitable, noble soul, Jack Ruby, was so consumed with grief that right there in front of the police and the TV cameras he killed Oswald. I don't know if anything like that has ever happened anywhere else.

Mao

I'd like to have met Mao. That wasn't possible because of all those problems and differences that came up because of Sino-Soviet conflict. Among the great political strategists, great military leaders of any era, one would have to include Mao Zedong. I can't forget the posthumous letter from Mao asking China and the USSR to put their rivalries aside and join forces.

This is an edited extract from My Life by Fidel Castro with Ignacio Ramonet, published by Allen Lane on November 1 at £25. © Ignacio Ramonet and Random House Mondadori, 2006, 2007. Translation © Andrew Hurley 2007. To order a copy for £23 with free UK p&p go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0870 836 0875

Thursday, 25 October 2007

SCOTLAND: INDEPENDENCE OR STATUS QUO?

Two roads for a single Scotland

Three Scot parliamentarians talk to JR on the future of their country, one of the four that make up the United Kingdom: Independence or current status? By: Luis Luque Álvarez

October 21, 2007

A CubaNews translation by Ana Portela.
Edited by Walter Lippmann

ORIGINAL:
JUVENTUD REBELDE

“When the wells run dry” is the title of an article
published by the British Economist on July 14. The text
lists economic alternatives for when the North Sea oil and
gas reserves run out. They have been the source of the
economic wealth of the Scottish city of Aberdeen and made
Great Britain an important world producer of crude.

But, in this European nation, durability and management of
these energy resources have become topics of political
debate, together with another subject: the status of
Scotland, the northern-most country which makes up the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of
which it has been a part since 1707.

According to The Economist, the oil and gas reserves in
Scottish waters are falling. Large companies have sold
complete exploitation areas in the North Sea from which 34
billion barrels of oil have been extracted. According to
calculations, there are 20 billion left, but the majority
is found in very hard to access geological locations which
would not make extraction profitable.

As a result, about 400,000 oil workers in Great Britain,
the majority in Scotland (Aberdeen alone has 33,000) would
have to change jobs and companies of the oil sector would
have to devote themselves to the development of renewable
energy.

How did it get into the local political scenario? Well,
this way: The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) which favors
the independence of Scotland from Great Britain is heading
the autonomous government since May when it won elections
in the local parliament. The opposition – formed by the
Labor, Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties – claims
the SNP is betting on independence only with the support of
oil wealth which will one day run out and leave the country
without viable sources of income and with the sorry fate of
having separated from a world power. In fact, during the
election campaigns the former prime minister, Tony Blair,
called on the nationalists “not to be fooled” because “they
have made an error of judgment” regarding the reserves of
hydrocarbons.

However, the SNP has preferred to disbelieve forecasts and
last August 14 presented a White Book entitled “Choosing a
future for Scotland” to promote a debate on whether
maintaining the current status if London grants more
autonomy to the country or if its should be independent at
once, the reason behind the call for a referendum in 2010.

The SNP initiative sees the light precisely when Europe is
going through a rise of nationalism. In Belgium, the
Flemish parties call for greater autonomy from Flanders, a
territory which would one day wish to be separated from the
French speaking Waloonia. In Spain, the head of the Basque
government, Juan José Ibarretxe, has just called for a
popular consultation over the emancipation of the Basque
Country, a proposal which Madrid considers unconstitutional
and Kosovo, with an Albanian majority – supported by NATO
and the US – threatens an illegal separation from Serbia
where its its culture and nationality has roots.

A few days ago Juventud Rebelde held an email conversation
with three Scottish deputies (one nationalist, one labor
and one conservative) to learn, first hand, the points of
view of the main political forces debating the future of
the country. And watch how shots of their analyses fly back
and forth…

“Independence is not sustainable”

“As someone who represents northeastern Scotland, in which
Aberdeen is the capital of gas and oil in Europe, I am
aware that there is a broad future for oil production in
the North Sea. Although it will inevitably be reduced
because we have reached the productive peak here,” explains
Labor deputy, Richard Baker.

“Of course this creates problems for the SNP whose economic
plans are strongly based on incomes from taxing the oil and
gas industry. But, it just so happens, that in addition to
this income, Scotland has net financial benefits because it
is a part of the United Kingdom since oil moneys return to
the Scottish autonomous government and is invested in the
country, for example, through the budget for Social
Security.

“I believe that, in the future, the oil sector in Scotland
will prosper as a center for the development of renewable
energy. The incomes from taxes on oil and gas will not be
sufficient and, consequently SNP (Scottish National Party)
wishes simply do not add up.

— Why do you believe this?

— Independence, to which most of the Scots are opposed, is
not sustainable in terms of economic prosperity for the
nation. The priority for the country should be social
justice and opportunity for all. Laborism has done much to
push forward these objectives which, in any case, is not
about national borders but about the aspirations of all in
Great Britain and the world. Nationalism has nothing to
offer regarding these goals.”

From another group, this time the Conservative-Unionist
Party, deputy Bill Aitkin from Glasgow agrees with Baker on
this subject:

— Clearly if offshore oil production continues to fall, the
Scottish economy can be seriously affected. There are all
kinds of uncertainties but if it falls, the SNP would have
to question its calculations.”

Richard Baker, Labor deputy

“Economies must change according to circumstances.
Obviously it would be a very strong blow to Scottish
economy if oil resources run out. This is the main reason
to assure that we don't put all of our eggs in a single
basket.”

— What is your opinion on the SNP proposal which includes a
debate on independence?

— I am totally opposed to independence, of course. I
believe that Great Britain has been a Union that has vastly
benefited Scotland for centuries and strongly point out
that independence is not in the interest of the Scots.

— What do the people feel about an eventual separation from
the United Kingdom?

— Surveys clearly demonstrate that the vast majority of
Scots are opposed. There were legislative elections in May
and the SNP won and you may ask why, if only 30 percent of
the population want independence? There were several
reasons; all related to the unpopularity of the previous
Labor government which made many Scots feel the need for a
change.

“I can’t imagine any circumstance that would make the
majority of the Scots vote for independence. And many
surveys solidly back my belief.

“A rich and vibrant nation”

Would a fall in oil production would really affect the
plans of the separatist parties and make an independent
Scotland impossible? That was the question I asked Alasdair
Allan, SNP legislator for the Western Islands in the
northwestern part of the country:

— Our party believes in independence and oil production
will never change that belief. Scotland can be, even
without oil, a rich, vibrant and successful nation. But the
North Sea still has half of its energy resources not being
exploited, while demand increases and supply is becoming
scarce. That would increase prices and generate more
revenue for Scotland.

Alasdair Allan, nationalist.

“The SNP also proposes an oil fund to use profits in
offering financial security to future generations according
to the scheme set up by Norway where surplus from the oil
and gas industry are placed into a public fund that today
is estimated to be about 138 billion pounds sterling.

“It is a challenge to assure long-range prosperity for
Scotland. And I believe that the best way to confront this
challenge will only be possible when we have the total
control over economic issues that would come with
independence.”

— What other sources of wealth would the country have, in a
hypothetical case, to move forward without Great Britain?

— Scotland is rich in renewable energy. The Moray Firth (a
huge triangular bay in the north) has been described as the
Saudi Arabia of this kind of energy. There are projects to
create great Eolic fields in land and sea regions and there
is also a great potential to develop energy from the tides.
Also, we have plans to boost competitiveness, such as
reducing taxes on corporations to increase economic growth
to equal that of our European neighbors. That has been
stopped since the British Parliament rejects returning
authority to regulate taxes.

“Only with independence can Scotland flourish. Today we are
almost at the bottom of many European statistics on health
and our economy is in worse condition than that of our
neighbors. Independence is the key issue to assure that, in
the coming years, our country does not become the sick
member of Europe or of a backward economy. A sovereign
Scotland can achieve the successes of nations like Ireland
and Norway.”

— Why do you believe that the time has come to hold a
referendum on independence?

— The SNP believes that the Scots have the right to decide
their own future and that of their country. This should be
through a referendum with two options: independence or
status quo. Alex Salmond (party leader) has explained that
the right date would be 2010. Our formation has wanted this
consultation for a long time but this is the first time, in
74 years of history, that it has to be at the head of the
government and that is why it is the first time it has had
to propose the question of independence.

— However, the majority of Scots did not vote in May for
the SNP. How do the people feel about the idea of
separation from Great Britain?

— The elections in May were not about independence but over
which would be the best government for Scotland, a dispute
with the winning of Alex Salmond and the SNP. It was a
comittment by the SNP, published in the White Book, on a
popular consultation regarding independence during the
first hundred days of government. And Salmond, through the
presentation of the document “Choosing the future of
Scotland” was offering an opportunity for all those
interested in the constitutional future of Scotland, to
make their voices heard on whether they want separation
from Great Britain, greater autonomy or to maintain the
status quo.

IRANIAN-RUSSIAN JOINT STATEMENT

Russian and Iranian Presidents' Joint Statement
ITAR-TASS

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tehran, 16 October: A joint statement has been signed following today's talks in Tehran between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad. Here is its full text.

On 16 October 2007, which corresponds to 24 Mehr 1386 in the Iranian calendar, Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the head of a high-ranking delegation, paid a working visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran on the invitation of President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmud Ahmadinezhad. This was the first visit to Iran by a Russian head of state in the whole history of relations between the two countries.

During his stay in Tehran, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the Second Caspian Summit, met and held talks with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmud Ahmadinezhad.

During the talks, which were held in the atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding, the sides discussed key aspects of Russian-Iranian relations and cooperation in various areas, exchanged views on important regional and international issues and reached the following agreements.

1. The sides confirmed that mutually beneficial cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and other areas, as well as cooperation on the international stage, meet the national interests of the two sides and play an important role in supporting peace and stability in the region and beyond.

2. The sides expressed their determination to further contribute to the steady development of multifaceted Russian-Iranian relations, keeping with the spirit and the letter of the Treaty on the Fundamentals of Relations and Principles of Cooperation, which was signed in Moscow on 12 March 2001.

3. On issues of trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Iran, the sides spoke in favour of increasing efforts to further expand economic ties between the two countries, especially in areas like the oil and gas, nuclear power, electricity, processing and aircraft-building industries, banking and transport. Both sides are convinced that the Permanent Russian-Iranian Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation will make a valuable contribution to this work.

4. Special attention was paid to cooperation in the extraction and transportation of energy resources. The sides agreed to develop direct contacts between the two countries' oil and gas companies in order to sign concrete, mutually beneficial commercial agreements on joint work in all segments of the oil and gas sectors.

5. The sides confirmed their interest in coordinating marketing policies in oil and gas exports, attracting Russian companies to the development of oil and gas fields in Iran, including the Southern Pars gas field, and creating in Iran industrial facilities to produce, store and export natural gas.

6. Both sides confirmed their interest in continuing cooperation in the energy sector, including the modernization of thermal and hydro-electric power plants built with Russia's help and the construction of new ones, including the Tabas coal thermal power plant in Iran.

7. The sides noted bilateral cooperation in the area of peaceful nuclear energy and confirmed that it will continue in full compliance with the requirements of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In this regard they also noted that the construction and launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be carried out in accordance with the agreed timetable.

8. The sides noted with satisfaction the signing of a contract to supply Iran with five Tu-204-100 aircraft. In this regard they expressed interest in deepening cooperation in the area of aviation industry further. The sides support the on-going talks between the relevant organizations of the two countries on the supply to Iran and the production in this country of Tu-334 and Tu-214 commercial aircraft and Kamov civilian helicopters. They also expressed their support for a speedy preparation and signing of contracts on these projects.

9. During their meeting the presidents deemed it necessary to continue work on the creation of favourable legal, economic and financial conditions for joint investment in Russia and Iran. In this context the sides noted the need to sign as soon as possible a memorandum between the government of the Russian Federation and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the development of long-term trade and economic, industrial and scientific and technical cooperation and an agreement on facilitating and protecting capital investment.

10. The sides agreed to continue work on the development of the north-south international transport corridor, including its automobile, rail and maritime components, in the interest of further strengthening trade and economic ties between Russia and Iran, as well as other countries of the region.

In this regard the sides agreed to speed up the consideration of the issue of resumption of road transport communication between the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran through the territory of (Russia's) Republic of Dagestan.

11. The sides expressed their satisfaction with the steady development of regional cooperation between the Russian Federation's constituent parts and provinces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In this regard they expressed confidence that the resumption of operations in the city of Rasht by the Russian Consulate General and the opening of Iran's Consulate General in the city of Kazan, Russia, will facilitate further strengthening of interregional ties between the two countries.

12. The sides discussed pressing regional problems, expressed interest in bilateral and multilateral cooperation in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus with the aim of strengthening stability and security in these regions, including by way of closer cooperation between the countries of the region on the basis of mutual respect and interest.

13. Russia and Iran advocate the development of equal and constructive cooperation between member and observer states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on matters of mutual interest.

14. The presidents of the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran confirmed the two sides' aspiration to solve all the issues arising on the Caspian Sea solely by peaceful means, through cooperation on equal footing between the five Caspian littoral states. They agree that the relevant norms of the agreements of 1921 and 1940 between Iran and the former Soviet Union remain in force until there is a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Taking into account the vulnerability of the environment of the Caspian Sea, the sides call on everyone to refrain from taking steps that could harm the environment, to maintain a reasonable balance between the efforts to develop energy resources and protect the marine environment of the Caspian Sea.

The sides invite the other Caspian littoral states to start talks, as soon as possible, on issues of cooperation in maintaining peace and strengthening security and stability on the Caspian. They advocate the exclusion from the Caspian of military presence of non-Caspian littoral states.

The Second Caspian Summit, which took place in Tehran on 16 October 2007 (24 Mehr 1386), and its declaration -- the first political document adopted by the five countries -- were assessed as highly significant. Satisfaction was expressed with the Caspian littoral states' positions on key issues of status, security and cooperation on the sea drawing closer to each other.

15. The sides confirmed the understanding of special responsibility of the littoral states for ensuring security on the Caspian Sea, including as regards countering new challenges and threats. In this regard the sides think that the implementation of the idea to create on the Caspian a naval group for operational cooperation (Casfor) would facilitate the elimination of the threat of terrorism and the proliferation of WMD, the fight against illegal trafficking of arms and narcotics and human trafficking and facilitate the protection of the Caspian littoral states' economic interests, the strengthening of stability and security in the region and the development of cooperation and interaction in addressing common tasks. They call on all the littoral states to actively join in this project and start talks on the parameters of their cooperation for this purpose as soon as possible.

16. The Russian and Iranian presidents noted the closeness of Russia's and Iran's approaches to the tackling of key issues of world politics and confirmed their readiness to expand cooperation with the aim of building a fairer and more democratic world order which would ensure global and regional security and create favourable conditions for stable development.

It was stressed that such a world order should be based on collective principles and the supremacy of international law with the United Nations Organization playing a central coordinating role, while any international and regional conflict and crises should be settled in strict compliance with the UN Charter and norms of international law, taking into account the legitimate interests of all the sides involved.

The sides confirmed their refusal to use force or threat of force to resolve contentious issues, and their respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states.

17. The presidents stated that Russia and Iran resolutely condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, confirmed the inadmissibility of equating terrorism with any nation, culture or religion.

The sides spoke in favour of strengthening the United Nations Organization's central coordinating role in the fight against international terrorism and other new challenges and threats. They will closely cooperate in implementing the UN's global antiterrorist strategy, ensuring strict observation of norms of universal antiterrorist conventions, as well as in promoting the soonest possible completion of the process of coordinating the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

Being concerned by the ideological expansion of terrorism, Russia and Iran pay attention to the need for a consistent implementation of all the UN Security Council resolutions which condemn terrorism and call for every possible development of global dialogue.

The sides continue their cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other new challenges and threats at the regional level, above all on the basis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, laying prime emphasis on curbing terrorist and drugs threats emanating from the territory of Afghanistan and creating anti-drugs and financial security belts around it.

The presidents noted the importance of increasing bilateral cooperation between Russia and Iran in the fight against terrorism and spoke in favour of continuing the practice of exchanging views between the ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries on the subject of countering new challenges and threats, making contacts between relevant bodies more active and giving them practical content.

18. When discussing the situation in Afghanistan, the sides expressed their concern over the continued worsening of the situation in that country, an increase in terrorist threats on the part of Taliban and other extremist forces. The presidents confirmed Russia's and Iran's intention to continue to take part in the post-war reconstruction of Afghanistan and are interested in strengthening its statehood and the process of that country becoming a peaceful, democratic, independent and flourishing state.

19. The sides expressed their concern over the difficult humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories, especially in connection with the effective isolation of Gaza Strip.

The presidents noted that the restoration of Palestinian-wide consensus and unity through dialogue is a necessary precondition for the implementation of national aspirations of the Palestinian people, including the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.

The Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran confirmed their adherence to reaching a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Middle East conflict.

20. The sides noted the need to strengthen the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon and maintain national unity, stability, security and peace in that country. The sides support efforts to achieve accord between various Lebanese movements to enable them to make decisions vital for Lebanon, within the framework of the constitution, with the participation of all political forces of the country, without any interference from abroad. The sides believe that this is the only way to take the country out of the present crisis.

21. The Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran expressed vigorous support for Iraq's territorial integrity and sovereignty and for an end to foreign military presence in that country on the basis of the relevant schedule.

Supporting Iraq's government and parliament, which was elected on the basis of the constitution, the sides express hope that inter-faction strife, which negatively affects their work, will be soon overcome through a comprehensive pan-Iraqi dialogue.

22. Acknowledging the strategic importance and sensitivity of the Gulf region, as well as the importance of supporting security and stability there, the sides noted a need for collective cooperation of all littoral states in ensuring peace and security in the region and developing tools to ensure security within the framework of international law.

The sides noted the importance of reducing foreign military presence in the region and drawing up common measures of trust between regional and other states in order to ensure stability and security in the Gulf region.

23. The presidents of Russia and Iran noted the need to settle the issue of Iran's nuclear programme as soon as possible by political and diplomatic means through talks and dialogue and expressed hope that a long-term comprehensive solution will be found.

After the visit to Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmud Ahmadinezhad for hospitality and warm welcome and invited him to visit Russia at his convenience. The invitation was received by the Iranian president with gratitude. The sides will agree on the date of the visit through diplomatic channels.


Wednesday, 10 October 2007

SPANISH STATE LASHES OUT AGAINST BASQUE LEADERSHIP

Free the 22 arrested Batasuna leaders

[from the Anti-Imperialist Camp website]

Following a call by the Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE) which we fully support and extend to all democratic and anti-imperialist forces of the world:

On October 2 the Spanish State arrested Joseba Alvarez, former MEP and actual International Relations Officer of Batasuna, Ohiane Agirre, spokeswoman of Batasuna, and Asier Tapia, member of the youth movement.

The accusations against them, apart from being a mere pretext and clearly unfounded, are hardly hiding the decision of the Spanish State to refuse any substantial dialogue with the Basque People, who has times and again expressed, democratically and persistently, its will to be recognized the right of self-determination.

We are now learning that an even more dramatic escalation of the repression against the Basque Patriotic Left took place, as 22 of Batasuna’s National Leadership have been arbitrarily arrested during a razzia last night. This constitutes another episode of the permanent (and unsuccessful) effort of the Spanish State to silence and exterminate the Basque Patriotic Left.

The Communist Organization of Greece (KOE) unequivocally condemns this full derailment of the Spanish State and its mechanisms. The efforts towards a political and democratic solution of the Basque question are once more dynamitized, and the Spanish government of Mr Zapatero bears the whole responsibility for this.

We are calling upon all the Left and Progressive forces, all the democratic citizens of our country, to protest the Spanish authorities against this last attempt of political extermination of a mass patriotic movement deeply rooted in the Basque society and representing hundreds of thousands of Basque citizens.

Athens, 5/10/2007
Communist Organization of Greece
English / Oct 06, 2007


Free Arnaldo Otegi, leader of the Basque liberation movement

Signature campaign

Those of us who sign this document raise the necessity to release Arnaldo Otegi for the reasons exposed next:

1 - We understand that the political interlocution is the basic instrument to maintain the necessary communication to forward alternatives, as well as to debate and negotiate them between the parts involved, in order to be able to articulate the political agreements with which the Basque Country will reach a scene of peace and freedom.

2 - For that reason, we believe that Arnaldo Otegi’s imprisonment is a very serious incident, since he is one of the main interlocutors of the Basque pro-Independence Left and, as it is publicly known he has carried out very important work in the search of a democratic solution to the political conflict that suffers the Basque Country.

3 - Consequently, those of us who subscribe this document forward to the public opinion our rejection to Arnaldo Otegi’s imprisonment for being a political background measure, and at the same time request his release to the pertinent judicial authorities.

To sign: www.arnaldoaskatu.org

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

THE BASQUE PATRIOTIC LEFT

A POLITICAL PROJECT FULL OF VISION AT THE SERVICE OF THE PEOPLE

The Basque patriotic left wing constitutes a political reality, already mature based on a solid ground. It gathers different points of view and practices, but they all do clearly bet on independence and socialism. Some of these political currents have a tradition of almost eighty years (as for example the party called: ANV, Basque Nationalistic Action, which was born in 1930). The rest of the political trends within the Basque patriotic left wing are more recent and they made a turn to the left wing in the second half of the 20th century. One of the factors which favoured their consolidation is the fake political Transition in Spain after the death of the former dictator, the general Franco. That strategy was in essence, a large-scale operation designed by Franco's followers to guarantee the continuity of the regime reconverted as a "Representative Monarchy".

The Historical Perspective

The clearest expression of this new model of State is the imposition in 1978 of the current Spanish Constitution, which cannot be forgotten that was rejected in Euskal Herria. That constitution was presented like the result of a solemn Pact of State between the diverse political forces which accepted it. There were few sectors rejecting this false transition. The most referential sectors rejecting the so called Pact of State, was the Basque left wing, which was hardly fought because of following this way. From then on, this political trend was known as 'the Basque patriotic left wing' One of its claims was sovereignty for our nation opposite to a model of State which does only admit the sovereignty of the Spanish estate; contrary to this political attitude, the Basque patriotic left wing reaffirms the right to decide of the Basque people. A perspective totally opposed to the spanish Constitution, a legal corpus which denies the right to all us for free self-determination; the Basque patriotic left wing pleads for a republican model so different to a State, Spain, which grants to the Monarchy the rank of Head of State; they, Basque patriotic left wingers, make a bet on a socialist, and egalitarian society, which would be responsible at the time of managing its natural resources, so different to a capitalist, bourgeois and, nowadays so global economic model, which we have to undergo.


Such a left wing alternative to a social, economic and political model inherited from Franco, became a serious threat to the strategy of the regime. This alternative did not constitute a force which aspired to defeat the State; its intention consisted in unmasking the state strategy in order to ask for a total change. Those who designed the false transition and who adhered to it could not allow the mere existence of a left, with solid grounds and organized, which was against the pro-Franco Reformation. The Basque patriotic left wing was for their enemies a terrible a referent, which with arms and reasons was able to unmask the impostors. The enemies of the Basque patriotic left wing considered that they had it very easy, since the Basque patriotic left wing was much localized and, although it had an ample social base, it was not a majority movement. They thought that a combined action against that 'bunch of rebels' would finish with their opposition soon. Luckily, they were wrong. The Basque patriotic left wing has demonstrated a great capacity of organization, firmness in their convictions, coherence with their principles, survival to harassment, strength to oppose repression and creativity to be contributing with an alternative to basic problems. Every day which goes without the defeat of the Basque patriotic left wing, it happens to be a victory for them, Basque patriotic left wingers, and a defeat for their pursuers.

Nowadays situation

Another characteristic of the Basque patriotic left wing has been and it continues being its will of negotiation. They are conscious that there is a need to reach a point of understanding with the Spanish State, in order to prepare the bases for a truly democratic frame. This will has been expressed in many forms. The Basque patriotic left wing has made continuous invitations to spain so that they should stop their repressive campaigns, and start a negotiation process. As the Basque patriotic left wing has been consistent with this principle, they have accepted all the spaces for dialogue that have been opened: in Algiers with Felipe González, in Switzerland with Aznar... In this context of negotiation is necessary to locate the current and failed conversations with the head of the spanish Government mr Zapatero.

All the negotiating attempts have finished without any agreement. Those attempts have been a step forward, since they have allowed opening spaces for political negotiation, but, at the same time, they have supposed a serious cost for the Basque patriotic left wing. Whenever the Spanish Government has failed in their attempt to drown the dissidents of their model of State, it reacts increasing the repression against its former interlocutors. It happened after the rupture of talks in Algiers, the failure of Switzerland and it is happening now after the recent failure. In that context it is necessary to locate this repressive rage which the Government of Madrid, along with the inestimable collaboration of the government of Paris is using against the Basque patriotic left wing.

All the measures of punishment which are being activated try to obtain several objectives: to bring down the strength and coherence of the Basque patriotic left wing, to create internal fissures in their social bases, to isolate them socially and to achieve that the Basque patriotic left wing should have to focus all their energies in facing the repressive cycle by the Spanish government. The unconditional allies of the Spanish Government - the PNV- accept these objectives intensifying the persecution of the patriotic left wingers and once and again pointing in public that the Basque patriotic left wing has wasted a golden opportunity.

A new political cycle with encouraging perspectives for the future

Under these circumstances, the Basque patriotic left wing has started up a new political cycle. In front of hundreds of followers, who met on the 8th of September, their leaders announced the lines of political action during this new period:

  • To face the repressive big wave by the Spanish government, in order to give an answer from the street to each of the aggressions, which is suffering. But they do not want just to burn their energies in a mere tactical defensive and anti-depressing exercise.
  • To reaffirm themselves in the acquired commitments, which have been maintained since the creation of this political party. "They will not be able to make us retreat not even a single millimetre in the compromises acquired with the freedom of this nation".
  • To unmask the new political fraud which the Spanish Government is preparing with the collaboration of the PNV and Nafarroa Bai: a washing of face of the present statutory frame; both political parties want to change something so that in essence, nothing does change; it should be the repetition of the same trap which happened thirty years ago, and as a result of which we are confronted with each other.
  • To pass from denouncing to a positive announcement; this is to work unconditionally in the creation of a democratic frame in which the differences can be solved by means of negotiation and the respect to the people's will.
  • To build and to extend day to day the political project by the patriotic left wing, so that more and more sectors, which feel themselves to be identified with the project, should join it.
  • To communicate to the society the hope and the optimism which impregnates the Basque patriotic left wing.

Euskal Herria, 1st October

www.askapena.org
info@askapena.org

Friday, 5 October 2007

BBC INTERVIEW WITH GERRY ADAMS

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams on BBC News 24 programme 'Hard Talk'.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

ALEIDA & CAMILO GUEVARA IN IRAN

'Che would have supported Iran'

By Farshid Motahari Sep 23, 2007 Tehran - Nobody will ever know whether Marxist revolutionary Che Guevera, who was killed in 1967, would have viewed Iran and its clergy system as a close ally against the United States.

Two of his children, however, firmly believe that their legendary father would have been strongly supportive of the Islamic republic and its current standoff with the United States over Tehran's adamant continuation of its disputed nuclear programmes.

'Che would not only have approved our trip to Iran but also (would have) supported the country in its current struggle against the US,' Camilo Guevara said through an interpreter in a meeting with students at Amir Kabir University in Tehran.

Camilo, 45, and his sister, Aleida, 46, were invited to Tehran by the non-governmental Cultural Alliance Centre and the Islamic Students' Association of Tehran's Amir Kabir University, with the aim of building a bridge between the two rather contradictory systems of Iran and Latin America in general and Cuba in particular.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office as Iranian president, Iran has formed close relations with several Latin American states, including Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, despite grave ideological differences between Islamic Iran and the secular, socialist governments.

'We are witnessing a global political awakening with Iran and Latin America emerging as the front-runners of this new movement,' said Morteza Firouzabadi, secretary of the students' association, said in the Tehran meeting.

Although all the Iranian students at the meeting were from Islamic associations, they praised Che Guevera as if they were followers of socialist ideology.

Maysam Ghaffouri, head of the Cultural Union, said that like Islam, Guevera's ideology knew no boundaries, and his struggle transcended geographical boundaries.

'There might be different cultures and different standpoints, but at the same time there are also common aspects which should be strengthened,' said Aleida Guevera, who just like Iranian women wore a long coat and scarf to hide her hair and body contour to conform to Islamic dress codes.

She gave as an example the sanctions imposed by the United States on Cuba for the last 45 years, and recent threats by Washington to expand sanctions against Iran through the United Nations Security Council over Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

'Although we (Cubans) are not as rich as Iran and have no oil, we nevertheless resisted for over four decades. I have learned that the Iranian nation is resistant, too, and that is a very important common point between our two nations,' she said.

The Gueveras came to Tehran during the fasting month of Ramadan, when eating and drinking is forbidden in public during daytime. According to one of the students, they wanted to at least try fasting, too.

Camilo and Aleida, two of Che's five children from his second wife, Aleida March, whom he married in 1959, also visited the shrine of the late leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in southern Tehran.

Camilo called it a 'global necessity' to form an anti-US front -without regard to nationality, religion or race - a mission that is in line with his famous father's ideology and enthusiasm for exploring different countries and peoples.

'Since the revolution and the imposed sanctions, Cuba learned who the real enemies and the real friends are,' Aleida said. 'Iran is definitely one of Cuba's new friends.'

(c) 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

PILGER'S NEWEST DOCUMENTARY

[WATCH THE FILM]
The rising of Latin America
- 'The War On Democracy'

ZNet

by John Pilger; John Pilger.com;
September 27, 2007


More information about John Pilger's
film can be found at johnpilger.com
To view the trailer go to warondemocracy.net

(13 Jun 2007) In the 1960s, when I first went to Latin America, I
travelled up the cone of the continent from Chile across the Altiplano
to Peru, mostly in rickety buses and single-carriage trains. It was an
experience my memory stored for life, especially the spectacle of the
movement of people.

They moved through the dust of a snow-capped wilderness, along roads
that were ribbons of red mud, and they lived in shanties that defied
gravity. "We are invisible," said one man; another used the term
abandonados; an indigenous woman in Bolivia unforgettably described her
poverty as a commodity for the rich.

When I later saw Sebastiao Salgado's photographs of Latin America's
working people, I recognised the people at the roadside, the gold miners
and the coffee workers and the silhouettes framed in crosses in the
cemeteries. Perhaps the idea for a cinema film began then, or when I
reported Ronald Reagan's murderous assault on Central America; or when I
first read the words of Victor Jara's ballads and heard Sam Cooke's
anthem A Change Is Gonna Come.

The War On Democracy is my first film for cinema. It follows more than
55 documentary films for television, which began with The Quiet Mutiny,
set in Vietnam. Most of my films have told stories of people's struggles
against rapacious power and of attempts to subvert and control our
historical memory. It is this control, this organised forgetting, that
has always intrigued me both as a film-maker and a journalist. Described
by Harold Pinter as a great silence unbroken by the incessant din of the
media age, it assures the powerful in the west that the struggle of
whole societies against their crimes is merely "superficially recorded,
let alone documented, let alone acknowledged... It never happened. Even
while it was happening it never happened. It didn't matter. It was of no
interest".

This was true of Nicaragua in the early 1980s, when a popular revolution
began to turn back poverty and bring literacy and hope to a country long
dismissed as a banana republic. In the United States, the Sandinista
government was successfully portrayed as communist and a threat, and
crushed. After all, Richard Nixon had said of all of Latin America: "No
one gives a shit about the place." The War On Democracy is meant as an
antidote to this.

Modern fictional cinema rarely seems to break political silences. The
very fine Motorcycle Diaries was a generation too late. In this country,
where Hollywood sets the liberal boundaries, the work of Ken Loach and a
few others is an honourable exception. However, the cinema is changing
as if by default. The documentary has returned to the big screen and is
being embraced by the public, in the US and all over. They were still
clapping Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 two months after it opened in
this country. Why? The answer is uncomplicated. It was a powerful film
that helped people make sense of news that no longer made sense. It did
not present the usual phoney "balance" as a pretence for presenting an
establishment consensus. It was not riddled with the cliches, platitudes
and power assumptions that permeate "current affairs". It was realist
cinema, as important as The Grapes of Wrath was in the 1930s, and people
devoured it.

The War On Democracy is not the same. It comes out of a British
commercial television tradition that is too often passed over: the
pioneering of bold factual journalism that treated other societies not
as post-imperial curios, as useful or expendable to "us", but
extraordinary and important in their own terms. Granada's World in
Action, where I began, was a prime example. It would report and film in
ways that the BBC would not dare. These days, with misnamed "reality"
programmes consuming much of television like a plague of cane toads,
cinema has been handed a timely opportunity. Such are the dangers
imposed on us all today by a rampant, neo-fascist superpower, and so
urgent is our need for uncontaminated information that people are
prepared to buy a cinema ticket to get it.

The War On Democracy examines the false democracy that comes with
western corporations and financial institutions and a war waged,
materially and as propaganda, against popular democracy. It is the story
of the people I first saw 40 years ago; but they are no longer
invisible; they are a mighty political movement, reclaiming noble
concepts distorted by corporatism and they are defending the most basic
human rights in a war being waged against all of us.

Cinema and television production are closely related, of course, but the
differences, I have learned, are critical. Cinema allows a panorama to
unfold, giving a sense of place that only the big screen captures. In
The War On Democracy, the camera sweeps across the Andes in Bolivia to
the highest and poorest city on earth, El Alto, then follows Juan
Delfin, a priest and a taxi driver, into a cemetery where children are
buried. That Bolivia has been asset-stripped by multinational companies,
aided by a corrupt elite, is an epic story described by this one man and
this spectacle. That the people of Bolivia have stood up, expelled the
foreign consortium that took their water resources, even the water that
fell from the sky, is understood as the camera pans across a giant mural
that Juan Delfin painted. This is cinema, a moving mural of ordinary
lives and triumphs.

Chris Martin and I (we made the film as a partnership) used two crews
and two very different cinematographers, Preston Clothier and Rupert
Binsley. They shot in high-definition stock, which then had to be
converted to 35mm film - one of cinema's wonderful anachronisms.

The film was backed by the impresario Michael Watt, a supporter of
anti-poverty projects all over the world, who had told producer Wayne
Young that he wanted to put my TV work in the cinema. Granada provided
additional support, and ITV will broadcast the film later in the year.
The extra funding also allowed me to persuade the late Sam Cooke's New
York agents to license A Change Is Gonna Come, one of the finest, most
lyrical pieces of black music ever written and performed. I was in the
southern United States when it was released. It was the time of the
civil-rights movement, and Cooke's song spoke to and for all people
struggling to be free. The same is true of the ballads of the Chilean
Victor Jara, whose songs celebrated the popular democracy of Salvador
Allende before Pinochet and the CIA extinguished it.

We filmed in the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, where Jara was
taken along with thousands of other political prisoners. By all
accounts, he was a source of strength for his comrades, singing for them
until soldiers beat him to the ground and smashed his hands. He wrote
his last song there and it was smuggled out on scraps of paper. These
are the words:

What horror the face of fascism

creates

They carry out their plans with

knife-like precision ...

For them, blood equals medals ...

How hard it is to sing

When I must sing of horror ...

In which silence and screams

Are the end of my song.

After two days of torture, they killed him. The War On Democracy is
about such courage and a warning to us all that "for them" nothing has
changed, that "blood equals medals".

HISTORIC VICTORY IN ECUADOR

Left Triumphs, Nation's Institutions to be Transformed
Counterpunch

By ROGER BURBACH

"We have won an historic victory," proclaimed President Rafael Correa of Ecuador. On Sunday the political coalition he heads won an overwhelming majority of the seats in the Constituent Assembly that is tasked with "refounding" the nation's institutions. Taking office early this year in a land slide victory, Correa has repeatedly called for an opening to a "new socialism of the twenty- first century," declaring that Ecuador has to end "the perverse system that has destroyed our democracy, our economy and our society." His government marks the emergence of a radical anti-neoliberal axis in South America, comprising Venezuela, Bolivia and now Ecuador.

"The Assembly elections are a devastating blow for the oligarchs and the right wing political parties who have historically pulled the strings on a corrupt state that includes Congress and the Supreme Court," says Alejandro Moreano, a sociologist and political analyst at the Andean University Simon Bolivar in Quito. Even Michel Camdesseus, the former director of the International Monetary Fund, once commented that Ecuador is characterized "by an incestuous relation between bankers, political-financial pressure groups and corrupt government officials."

The victory in the Constituent Assembly is the result of years of agitation and struggle by Ecuador's indigenous and social movements along with an unorganized, largely middle-class movement of people known as the "forajidos," an Ecuadoran term meaning outlaws or bandits who rebel against the established system. In March when the Congress and the right wing political parties tried to sabotage the elections for the Assembly, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Quito, blocking the entrances to Congress and backing the disbarment of the Congressional members who wanted to suppress the elections.

The "Country Movement," the popular political coalition lead by Correa, will convene the Assembly at the end of October. Its charge is to draft a new constitution that will break up the dysfunctional state, establish a plurinational, participatory democracy, reclaim Ecuadoran sovereignty, and use the state to create social and economic institutions that benefit the people. One of its first acts will be to abolish the existent Congress.

The Assembly will also facilitate an international realignment of Ecuador's international relations. The Correa government has already moved assertively in its relations with the United States. María Fernanda Espinosa, the dynamic Minister of Foreign Relations, declared that Ecuador intends to close the U.S. military base located at Manta, the largest of its kind on South America's Pacific coast. "Ecuador is a sovereign nation," she said. "We do not need any foreign troops in our country." The treaty for the base expires in 2009 and will not be renewed.

Thus far there have been no direct confrontations with the United States, but the Pentagon has manifested its displeasure. Every year since 1959, the US Southern Command, together with the Pacific coast nations of South America, have undertaken joint naval exercises called Unitas. This year they were to be hosted in Ecuador, but the United States opted to conduct them in Colombia, its closest regional ally. Ecuador responded by announcing it would not participate in this year's exercises, with Correa proclaiming, "It appears the Southern Command believes we are a colony of the United States, that our navy is just one more unit controlled by their country."

Correa is also standing up to Occidental Petroleum, a U.S.-based corporation whose Ecuadoran holdings were taken over by state-owned PetroEcuador last year for selling off some of its assets to a Canadian company in violation of its contract with the Ecuadoran state. With the takeover of Occidental's holdings, PetroEcuador now controls more than half of the country's petroleum exports, which themselves account for about 40% of Ecuador's total exports and one third of government revenues. Correa has denounced Occidental's "lobbying" of the Bush administration to regain its holdings. "We are not going to allow an arrogant, portentous transnational that doesn't respect Ecuadoran laws to harm our country," he said.

At the same time, Ecuador is negotiating special bilateral trade and economic agreements with presidents Chávez and Morales. Venezuela has agreed to refine Ecuadoran oil and help fund social programs in Ecuador, while the Bolivian government has concluded an agreement to import foodstuffs from small- and medium-size producers in Ecuador. Correa has also signed several petroleum accords with Venezuela, of which the most important is a $4 billion project for a refinery backed by PetroEcuador and the Venezuelan state petroleum company.

Alejandro Moreano of the Andean University worries that "that all of the interests involved in the Country Movement may not back the tough steps needed to end neo-liberalism and bring the banks and multinationals under control. This will depend on the strength of popular mobilizations as the Assembly undertakes its work." For his part Correa has repeatedly denounced the private banks in Ecuador for their exorbitant profit-taking and high interest rates. And he has expelled Ecuador's World Bank representative for meddling in the country's affairs and has virtually terminated the country's relations with the International Monetary Fund.

There is already a steady drum beat by the indigenous and popular movements to have the Constituent Assembly take over all multinational mining interests. In early June, the local populace in the gold-mining southern highland province of Azuay, backed by environmental and human rights organizations, blockaded major highways, demanding the expropriation of the mining companies, many of which are controlled by transnational corporations that have polluted local rivers and aquifers. Alberto Acosta, an internationally renowned anti-neoliberal economist who will be president of the Constituent Assembly, met with the protesters. He told them the mining concessions couldn't be annulled outright. "This is a task of the Constituent Assembly," he said. "It can establish a legal framework that will enable us to revise all the concessions." This month on October 22 a national mobilization will take place that will call upon the Assembly to nationalize all foreign mining interests in the country.

Roger Burbach is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He is co-author with Jim Tarbell of "Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire," His latest book is: "The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice."