I prefer attributed to anonymous sources, but in a context like Colombia where hundreds of union leaders, human rights activists, journalist, lawyers and the like are killed every year for speaking out, I believe exceptions can be made.

I blogged yesterday that the 18th Brigade of the Colombian Army is directly implicated in a massacre of 13 people in Arauca. Today a communique from “social organizations who will not leave the shadows” pointed out a coincidence — that the very day of the massacre (May 20), the commander of the armed forces Martin Orlando Carreno made a visit to the military base of Pueblo Nuevo. Pueblo Nuevo is a 30 minute car ride from the site of the massacre (Pinalito and Flor Amarillo of the Tame Municipality).

Other Colombia news: SINTRAEMCALI, the city of Cali’s remarkable public utility worker’s union (here’s an interview on them) has again occupied a public building — a very high-risk, high-stakes action in a place like Colombia, demanding an end to the government’s creeping attempts to privatize the company. They are trying to put a light on things the government would rather keep hidden. See details below, thanks to the UK Colombia solidarity campaign.

More Colombia labor news: The Union Sindical Obrera, the oil worker’s union, went on strike 35 days ago to try to stop privatization of the state oil company. The government agreed not to privatize, ending the strike. The workers sacrificed a tremendous amount — 248 workers who were fired when the strike was declared illegal have the option of arbitration or voluntary retirement.


SINTRAEMCALI declares a Permanent Assembly, 1600 people peacefully occupy the Central Administration Building – The CAM Tower

Santiago de Cali 26th May, 2004

The CAM Tower, symbol of the defence of the rights of the workers of EMCALI EICE ESP has been occupied once again by SINTRAEMCALI in the face of the failure of the government of ALVARO URIBE VELEZ to fulfil its obligations under a recent agreement. The administrative functions of the company have been paralysed but the provision of basic public services will be guaranteed. The Permanent Assembly will continue until the National Government fulfils its obligations under the agreement with the workers and citizens of Cali.

Around 1600 workers of the Municipal Enterprises of Cali EMCALI EICE ESP, declared themselves to be in Permanent Assembly from 6.00 am this morning, the 26th of May, 2004. They will remain there until the nationally imposed Managing Director CARLOS ALFONSO POTES is fired for his involvement in corruption, the EMCALI workers that were dismissed have been reinstated in their positions, and the national government fulfills its agreement with the EMCALI workers and the citizens of Cali.

The Regional Attorney yesterday announced that ALFONSO POTES had been found guilty of corrupt practices and disqualified him from holding public office and continuing in his job. However, the Superintendent of Public Services EVA MARIA URIBE immediately stated that ALFONSO POTES would carry on in his position because the case did not proceed to prosecution [translators note: i.e. that it was not a judicial process but an administrative investigation] . This confirms once again that the Colombian government places itself above State Organs of control. Despite the Regional Attorney’s call for his dismissal the Superintendent of Public Services decided to allow him to carry on in his position.

The National and International Community have been witness to the range of attempts by ALVARO URIBE VELEZ and the Superintendent of Public Services EVA MARIA URIBE, to privatize the company and also the effort that workers have made so that EMCALI could remain as a Commercial and Industrial State Enterprise: On the 4th of May, 2004 the workers ceded many benefits acquired over 70 years of struggle by renegotiating the Collective Agreement with the Ministry of Labour [in order to save the company].

Despite this, the response of the government has been repression against the workers, a restructuring of the company that was not discussed in the recent agreements, giving precedence to the National and International Banks to the detriment of the ‘patrimonio publico’ [translators note: common good/public property] and the rights of the workers and consumers.


Since Carlos Alfonso Potes took control of EMCALI he has consistently denied any accusations that he was ineligible to take up the position due to his involvement in a previous public service provider, and has denied any involvement with the Public Service Company of Tulua [ a private supplie of public utilities]. However, that company has certified that Potes is a shareholder. Furthermore, it was proved that he was involved in the appointment of the manager ISABEL CRISTINA VIGOYA, who was ultimately dismissed for having forged her qualification certificates, and for carrying out activities aimed at destabilizing EMCALI.

SINTRAEMCALI has consistently argued that the current Managing Director is incompetent and corrupt, and has called for a commission of inquiry – made up of the Regional Attorney, the State Prosecutor, the Controller General and the Citizens Watchdog to investigate – into all the administrative acts that have caused damage to the ‘patrimonio nacional’ of EMCALI EICE ESP as well as causing harm to the consumer community.

For the above reasons the trade union of the Public Municipal Enterprises of Cali – SINTRAEMCALI, the Association for Research and Social Action NOMADESC and other members of the Campaign PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR (Forbidden to Forget) call on the national and international community to support the demands that:

a.. The Manager of EMCALI EICE ESP CARLOS ALFONSO POTES is immediately dismissed from his position in line with the Regional Attorney’s verdict.
b.. That the government complies with the agreement signed by Alvaro Uribe Velez and the workers and citizens of Cali
c.. That the government respects constitutional and legal rights such as the right to life, security, freedom of opinion, information, mobilization, trade unionism and protest, and conforms to the International Pacts and Agreements that the Colombian government has signed up to.
d.. That the Colombian government guarantees the necessary conditions to protect the physical and psychological integrity of the workers.
e.. Calls on the United Nations, the Organisation of American States, the Diplomatic Corps based in Colombia, and the International Labour Organisation to guarantee the human rights of the leaders and activists of SINTRAEMCALI.

Sindicato de Trabajadores de Las Empresas Municipales de Cali – SINTRAEMCALI
Sindicato De Los Trabajadores Universitarios De Colombia – SINTRAUNICOL
La Unión Sindical Obrera- USO
Asociación para el Desarrollo Social Integral – ECATE
Central Unitaria De Los Trabajadores CUT – VALLE DEL CAUCA

For more info contact Colombia Solidarity Campaign at and to this e-mail address Tel 07743743041

Homelessness in Rafah

I am reproducing below a very short press release from the United Nations refugee agency. It is self-explanatory.

Latest Israeli Operation Leaves 575 Palestinians Homeless

Gaza – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has completed its initial assessment of the numbers of homes demolished or damaged beyond repair during the latest Israeli military operation in Rafah.

Continue reading “Homelessness in Rafah”

The Canadian Election!

It’s to be on June 28. I’m really not sure how much interest there is in this among you, my dear blogreaders. The nature of the election means that the implications for the world are rather small.

Still, part of the point of blogging is to provide a daily antidote to hypocrisy, and Canada’s elite is especially adept at that activity (hypocrisy), especially at election time. Indeed, the nastiest of Canada’s politicians have come to power on a platform of being less hypocritical than Canada’s traditional liberal elite — people like Mike Harris of Ontario or Ralph Klein of Alberta say: “I am going to destroy public services, be servile to the US and corporate interests, be openly racist to indigenous and immigrants — and no hypocrite!” Somehow a part of the Canadian electorate likes this. They say: “Well, at least he does what he said.”

Thanks a lot.

Well, no one can accuse Paul Martin, Canada’s current liberal PM who is running for re-election, of doing what he says. Although he is probably less hypocritical and more openly servile than Canada’s previous Prime Minister Chretien, he has earned the wrath of Reuters, who has called him ‘un-American’ for saying he wants to preserve public health care (in case anyone’s wondering, he doesn’t really want to preserve public health care, as his actions as Finance Minister show).

But as I said in a previous blog entry, Martin is several lies behind even the US administration — he’s saying at parties that Saddam had WMD and gave them to terrorists. See the letter and article below for details.

The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin

Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Mr. Martin,

I was stunned to read a news report ascribing to you the view that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that those weapons had now fallen into the hands of terrorists. I called your office to try to get a transcript since I found it incredible with all the evidence which is now available, that anyone not blinded by ideology or driven by a political need to justify a war of aggression should maintain such a position. It flies in the face of the findings of Hans Blix and of the USA’s own WMD hunters. I am told, however, that the journalist, Stephanie Rubec, whose account I had read, is usually reliable. That is why I am seeking clarification from you on this matter.

Apparently quoting you last week, she wrote:

“The fact is that there is now, we know well, a proliferation of nuclear Weapons, and that many weapons that Saddam Hussein had, we don’t know where they are,” Martin told a crowd of about 700 university researchers and business leaders in Montreal. “That means terrorists have access to all of that.”

If you have been accurately quoted and have independent and reliable evidence that the world lacks – including Mssrs. Rumsfeld, Bush, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and their neo-con loyalists, it would be important to share it, especially since those gentlemen appear to have a less than impressive record for truthfulness about Saddam’s WMDs and are in dire need of evidence to restore a semblance of credibility. If, on the other hand, you are relying on advisors who themselves depend on Cheney, Rumsfeld, and company, your own credibility will have been undermined.

In promoting the ideas of further military action in the Middle East – against Syria and Iran, for example, by the US, Israel, or some new “coalition” — Washington has pushed exactly the story you are alleged to have presented in Montreal. That coincidence should be very worrisome to most Canadians who would not welcome such adventures and most certainly would not welcome Canadian political, let alone military support for them. If indeed you did say what Ms. Rubec reported, can you reassure your fellow Canadians that you are not laying the propaganda basis for Canadian involvement in or support for further “pre-emptive” attacks in violation of the UN Charter and therefore, of international law?

Could you reassure us that your evidence for such claims is solid and not drawn from tainted sources by citing the sources from which it is taken and outlining its character? Or could you reassure us that no significant foreign policy decision depended on your claim by letting us know that you were engaged in speculation which may well have gone beyond the evidence for your claim that terrorists now have access to Saddam’s (non-existent?) WMDs, and that you meant only to stress the importance of vigilance lest such a scenario develop?


James A. Graff


Terrorists have Iraq’s WMD: PM

Martin’s views run counter to those of French, German leaders


Prime Minister Paul Martin says he believes Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and they’ve fallen into the hands of terrorists. Martin said the threat of terrorism is even greater now than it was following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the U.S. because terrorists have acquired nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from the toppled Iraqi leader.

“The fact is that there is now, we know well, a proliferation of nuclear weapons, and that many weapons that Saddam Hussein had, we don’t know where they are,” Martin told a crowd of about 700 university researchers and business leaders in Montreal.

“That means terrorists have access to all of that.”

The PM’s comments run counter to leaders in countries such as France and Germany who have accused the U.S. and Britain of fudging evidence of WMDs in Iraq to justify the war.

When asked to assess the threat level since Hussein was captured by U.S. troops, Martin said he believes it has increased.

“I believe that terrorism will be, for our generation, what the Cold War was to generations that preceded us,” the PM said. “I don’t think we’re out of it yet.”

Martin disagreed with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien who publicly blamed poverty for terrorism and the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The cause of terrorism is not poverty, it is hatred,” Martin said, adding he’ll lead the charge to convince countries to work together to combat terrorism and make sure the Third World has the tools to stamp it out.

Martin said he’s lobbying the international community to set up an informal organization comprised of a maximum of 20 heads of state to tackle world issues such as terrorism.

Martin said he got the nod from U.S. President George W. Bush during his visit to Washington D.C. last month, and will take his idea to the European Union and Latin America next.

Martin also announced a $100-million contribution to treat millions of people who have AIDS.

The money will be given to a new initiative of the World Health Organization to treat three million people with AIDS by the end of 2005.

The contribution of new money has made Canada the largest donor to the program so far.

Evacuate Gaza, but kill 1000?

Another one that’s tough to verify, this one comes via the News Insider. Apparently Israel’s got a list of 1000 people to kill in Gaza before ‘withdrawal’.

For those who don’t understand ‘withdrawal’, it means Israel seals Gaza off completely, maybe evacuates settlers or maybe doesn’t, continues to slaughter Palestinians in Gaza at will, continues to control all traffic in and out of the area, and therefore that Palestinians continue to starve. It also means that because Israel has ‘withdrawn’, the argument so frequently used by people who don’t find starving children offensive so long as those children are not their own, that Palestinians are starving their own children, can be used. The media will believe it. You can expect headlines that say: ‘Israeli withdrawal prompts starvation in Gaza’, or something. Then maybe Israel can return in a few years.

But I get ahead of myself. So the article (really just a blurb), has this quote:

“An Israeli field officer based in the Gaza Strip was quoted as saying by the British paper the army was changing its tactics. After initially pursuing the leaders of various groups, it was now turning to second and third-ranking figures in the command structure.”

As if Israel wasn’t indiscriminate enough in its killing.

Israel seems to have the same kind of problem with funerals as the US has with weddings. They fired on a funeral procession (for people Israel had killed) in Rafah, shooting one person in the eye.

Still other, related news: Rumsfeld has gone to the root of the problem with the US military — and banned digital cameras.

Thanks to the News Insider for these stories.

Dispensing with the paramilitaries in Colombia

It is official — Colombia is dispensing with its paramilitary units.

From now on, the Colombian Army will do the killing itself.

‘Justice for Colombia’ just sent out a note (included below) that says uniformed men of the 18th Brigade of the Colombian Army perpetrated a massacre in Arauca, Colombia, on May 21. They disappeared 13 people. 11 of whose corpses were found the next day. That’s two days ago — Saturday. The story made Colombia’s national newspaper, El Tiempo, today.

The United Nations said 250,000 Colombians were displaced by violence in 2003, by this kind of paramilitary violence.

It is appalling that the Colombian military and paramilitaries would act in this way, especially when the country’s leaders set such a high standard for civilized behavior.

Take Fernando Londono, the architect of many of Uribe’s policies (including the failed referendum of October 2003). He called anti-free trade protesters ‘barbarians’ in an El Tiempo column. Rings a little hollow when the government is supporting mass slaughter though.

President Uribe himself sort of lost it the other day in Madrid. Looking for military and other aid, Uribe was trying to make a speech when some Spanish activists (from Ecologistas de Accion), pointed out that his presence at a ceremony in ‘solidarity’ with the victims of terrorism in Spain rang a little hollow since his government holds the record for most terrorist in the Americas (doing the bidding of the government that holds the record for most terrorist in the world). They chanted statistics on human rights violations in Colombia. Uribe first said: “The first human right is the right to the liberty of opinion of others.” The activists were apparently unconvinced. At that point various Colombian diplomatic officials started shouting the activists down, chanting: “Down with the ambassadors of of the narcoguerrilla!” Things went downhill from there.

On Friday May 21st a group of 200 heavily armed men entered the communities of Flor Amarillo and Cravo Charo in the Colombian department of Arauca and perpetrated a massacre. According to witnesses the men were a mixed group of paramilitaries and Colombian soldiers from the following army units: 5th Mobile Brigade, 43rd Counter-guerrilla Battalion of the 18th Brigade and the ‘Narvas Pardo’ Battalion also of the 18th Brigade.

Upon arriving the men took away 13 local residents including Julio Vega, a local community leader and regional organiser in the agricultural workers’ trade union. On Saturday May 22nd 11 of the victims were found dead with signs of torture outside the nearby village of Pinalito.

The Colombian NGO Corporacion Reinciar had written to the Colombian Government on May 20th asking that they protect the inhabitants of the above mentioned communities due to reports that a paramilitary unit had entered the area. According to the NGO, the paramilitaries were threatening people and looting shops and homes, accusing residents of sympathising with FARC guerrillas. The Government did not respond and as a consequence 11 people are now dead and a further two, including an important regional trade union activist, are disappeared, presumed dead.

Please write to the Colombian Government demanding that action be taken to prevent further attacks. Please also write to Bill Rammell MP at the UK Foreign Office and insist that UK military aid to the Colombian army be suspended. Although Justice for Colombia have asked Mr Rammell if any of the above mentioned army units are receiving UK military aid he has refused to say.

E-mail addresses of those to write to, as well as model letters which you can adapt, can be found on our website by clicking here:

Brazil and Haiti

For those of you who will watch the Bush address tonight, I wish you well on the masochistic enterprise. I am capable of reading the texts after the fact, but mental health preservation precludes me spending too much time watching these people on television.

Other things to report. The Brazilian commander of the UN ‘peacekeeping mission’ in Haiti that is to take over the occupation of that country soon was interviewed for Correio Brazilense and the interview was translated into english. It is interesting, and quite sad, to hear a Brazilian answering a question like this:

[Lefcovich] Isn’t Brazil legitimizing US intervention and the ousting of [former Haitian] President Jean-Bertrand Aristide ?

like this:

[De Oliveira] No. That is a biased interpretation. As far as the United Nations and participants in the Minustah [United Nations Multi-Dimensional Stabilization Mission in Haiti] are concerned, Aristide tendered his resignation. I agree that there were some doubts concerning this matter at one point, but an Itamaraty [Brazilian Foreign Ministry] delegation has toured several Caribbean countries and ascertained that they endorse Brazil’s participation in this UN force. Furthermore, the current situation in Haiti is more stable than at the time of Aristide’s resignation. Schools, hotels and banks are operating normally. Life is returning to normal for the Haitian people.

This is a real shame. One might have hoped that Brazil, a country that has suffered a US coup (in 1964) and knows what US intervention is like, a country with a left regime in power, would have done a better job of standing up for the sovereignty and the will of the people of a Latin American country. That Colombia’s regime and the Venezuelan elite are willing to shoot themselves in the head to do the US’s bidding is no surprise; that Brazilian agents of the state are repeating US lies in public fora and sending troops to ratify occupation is tragic. So long as the US can get third world countries to occupy one another, there’s very little hope against imperialism.

The entire interview is below.

BBC Monitoring: Commander of Brazilian peacekeeping contingent views mission challenges in Haiti.

Text of “exclusive” interview with Brig-Gen Americo Salvador de Oliveira, commander of the Brazilian peacekeeping contingent in Haiti, by Sandra Lefcovich at Army General Headquarters : “The challenge will be to disarm Haitians”, published by Brazilian newspaper Correio Braziliense web site on 21 May.

Brigadier General Americo Salvador de Oliveira, 56, has been working very hard to cover every detail of his upcoming mission as commander of the Brazilian peacekeeping contingent in Haiti.

De Oliveira joined the army 37 years ago and this will be his first assignment with a UN peacekeeping force. He has served as commander of the Officers’ Training School in Rio de Janeiro, and as military attache in Germany for two years. “I feel nothing but pride. It is a stimulating challenge and a unique experience,” the general told Correio during an exclusive interview at Army General Headquarters. As part of his preparations for the mission he has had seven vaccinations so far.

[Lefcovich] US military personnel are not exactly welcome abroad. Do you believe that Brazilian military personnel are regarded in a different light, even though they are also foreigners ? [De Oliveira] Our reconnaissance group deployed to Haiti in March this year has ascertained that relations could hardly be better. The Haitian people like Brazilians very much. There was a two-day holiday in Haiti after Brazil won the latest World Cup. They admire our Ronaldinho and other soccer players.

[Lefcovich] How is security nowadays ? [De Oliveira] According to the information we have, the situation is currently stable. The various groups have drawn back and are not resorting to violence.

[Lefcovich] What will be the scope of action of the Brazilian contingent ? [De Oliveira] We will not engage in drug enforcement operations. One of our missions will be to disarm groups that espouse political ideologies and the actions we take will depend on the situation, because in Haiti there are many weapons in the hands of the people and no-one will hand them over willingly. The United Nations is developing a disarmament strategy.

[Lefcovich] Are you saying that drug enforcement will be left in the hands of the police ? [De Oliveira] Yes. The situation in Haiti is similar to that of our country. Drug enforcement will be left to the police. The United Nations has asked for 6,700 military personnel and 1,622 policemen. We must emphasize this point so as to avoid the misconception that armed forces personnel are being sent abroad to fight organized crime and drug trafficking in Haiti instead of Rio de Janeiro, right ? These are two separate issues.

[Lefcovich] Why is the mission in Haiti important for the army ? [De Oliveira] Our mission is to participate, together with other countries, in a multinational UN force that will ensure stability in Haiti, which is what the temporary force deployed there has been doing to date. This stability will help reestablish the democratic process with a view to elections as of 2005. Hence, our status in Haiti will be that of a friendly, impartial, non-hostile force deployed within the framework of the United Nations.

[Lefcovich] Isn’t Brazil legitimizing US intervention and the ousting of [former Haitian] President Jean-Bertrand Aristide ? [De Oliveira] No. That is a biased interpretation. As far as the United Nations and participants in the Minustah [United Nations Multi-Dimensional Stabilization Mission in Haiti] are concerned, Aristide tendered his resignation. I agree that there were some doubts concerning this matter at one point, but an Itamaraty [Brazilian Foreign Ministry] delegation has toured several Caribbean countries and ascertained that they endorse Brazil’s participation in this UN force. Furthermore, the current situation in Haiti is more stable than at the time of Aristide’s resignation. Schools, hotels and banks are operating normally. Life is returning to normal for the Haitian people.

[Lefcovich] Do the armed force have the necessary resources for this mission ? [De Oliveira] Yes. The required materiel must comply with UN standards and we are acquiring whatever was lacking.

[Lefcovich] What about salary cutbacks ? [De Oliveira] Well, that is not a source of concern, our personnel are all volunteers ; they would go no matter what. Military personnel will earn more because whatever they make will be in addition to their domestic salaries.

[Lefcovich] Is the army concerned about the fact that money is being spent on peacekeeping missions despite funding shortages to pay the salaries of military personnel ? [De Oliveira] The army is not concerned because we are doing what the armed forces are supposed to do. We do worry when police forces fail to do their job and we are called upon to carry out missions that are not within the purview of the military. We are not trained to fight organized crime.

[Lefcovich] That would be the case in Rio de Janeiro. [De Oliveira] The army has never refused to help out, but one must go about it the right way. We are tasked with upholding law and order, but all other means must be exhausted for us to step in.

[Lefcovich] You are saying that your job in Haiti would be different from that in Rio de Janeiro ? [De Oliveira] We are going to Haiti not as policemen, but as the Brazilian Armed Forces contingent within the framework of a multinational peacekeeping mission.

[Lefcovich] Are soldiers forbidden from making contact with Haitian women ? [De Oliveira] It is not forbidden, but it is not recommended. Haiti has the highest rate of AIDS cases in the Americas, second only to Africa. Condoms will be distributed.

[Lefcovich] Will the fact that Brazilian soldiers do not speak the language – which was not the case in Angola – be a problem ? [De Oliveira] We are taking steps to deal with it. We are taking with us 10 French interpreters to deal with government officials, but the population speaks Creole. We are compiling a French-Creole-Portuguese dictionary for the troops. Given our people’s ability to adapt themselves, however, I believe our troops will come back speaking Creole.

Source : Correio Braziliense web site, Brasilia, in Portuguese 21 May 04

blogging about blogs

I have linked to Zeynep Toufe’s blog, ‘Under the Same Sun’, which promises to have interesting content (being crazy about the colour scheme is not obligatory). I’ve read pretty much everything Toufe has presented, and she strikes me as brilliant, principled, and very independent.

Was also happy to hear that the UTS blog is being revived after a long hiatus due to time constraints on the intrepid editors of the NewStandard, with a hilarious and highly accurate analysis of the likely effect of recent US efforts to make Iraq a safer place and an expose of more ridiculous claims to cover up the wedding atrocity. Don’t leave us thirsty any more, UTS!

The Nasayuwe of Colombia at the United Nations

First things first. I’ve just published a photo essay on the indigenous movement in Northern Cauca. Please check it out.

On the subject, representatives from the Nasa indigenous communities of Northern Cauca, Colombia, were at the United Nations last week. Everyone should have their day at the UN, and the Nasa got five minutes, because they won the UNDP’s Equatorial Initiative Award for Sustainable Development back in February 2004.

Now, it’s true that the UN has a flawless record: from preventing aggression in Vietnam, to stopping genocide in Rwanda, to stopping sanctions in Cuba and Iraq, to stopping the invasion of Iraq, to stopping the US/Israel’s murderous campaign against the Palestinians, to reversing the coup in Haiti, the UN has proven itself singularly effective and principled at every turn.

But seriously, all sarcasm aside, the reason for the above examples is because the UN is an arena, not a government with forces or resources; that’s why what the US says goes in the world. In a context like this, what matters isn’t what the UN said to the Nasa, but what the Nasa said to the UN: what the Nasa are asking from the rest of the world.

What are they asking?

In the photo essay , I touch on the Nasa’s ‘guardia indigena’, unarmed members of the community who carry sticks to symbolize their authority. These ‘guardia indigena’ have actually been very effective in limiting the paramilitary attacks on their communities (and, unfortunate that they have had to, but also in limiting the guerrillas’ attacks on their communities’ autonomy).

Because the Nasa are under siege and under attack by the elite and by the military forces that want to displace them, they are asking for international peacekeeping — but they want it under the command of the guardia indigena. It is actually a very sensible proposition.

El Tiempo, Colombia’s national newspaper, ran an editorial expressing pride in the Nasa for winning the UNDP prize. It didn’t discuss their proposal, however. Don’t expect Bush or Uribe (Colombia’s President) to jump to implement it either.

Still, the idea of an international peacekeeping force under the command of a well-organized, popular, autonomous social movement as an inspiring one, and an interesting one to take to the UN.

Some Canadian Content

Canadians will be heading to the polls well before US citizens in 2004, it turns out. As the federal elections approach, Canadians are once again faced with a truly abysmal choice. The Liberals are an appalling gang of crooks, from the Prime Minister (who owned a steamship line that uses flags of convenience, hurried off to occupy Haiti with the US and has Canadian troops overseeing the ongoing massacre in that country, and is now apparently telling audiences at speaking events that Saddam had WMD and now they’re in the hands of terrorists — when not even the Bush Administration is trying to use that old lie) on down, and the Conservative Alliance has a wide range of debate, from the open and unapologetic racism of Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day to… okay it’s actually not really a very wide range at all. The NDP is more interesting: they might be able to pick up some seats from the Liberals, which would be a good thing.

For just a slight taste of a long-standing trend in Canadian politics that whatever gang wins this election is unlikely to change, check this recent article on Kanehsatake that I did, on a Mohawk community near Montreal. OCAP works with folks in Kanehsatake.

More below.

In Ontario, the media and elite are up in arms over a levy that the Liberals have proposed. A ‘levy’ is not to be confused with a ‘tax’. This ‘levy’ will go to health care, and it is graduated — apparently in the low income bracket people will pay $400/yr, and the most you’d pay is $900. I am also quite appalled by this ‘levy’, though not for the same reasons. If the highest income in Ontario were twice the lowest, such a levy would be appropriate. But since the highest income in Ontario is probably 200 times the lowest, that would make more sense as a ‘levy’ to save health care. Or we could restore corporate taxes, or something crazy like that. Rick Salutin in the Globe and Mail , a decent Canadian progressive, makes a case for raising taxes in Ontario. The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, another very decent progressive outfit, publishes an alternative budget every year.

US and Quentin Tarantino

I realized yesterday after writing my previous post on the US vs. Holy Matrimony that the inspiration for the wedding party massacres might have come from Hollywood. How many readers have seen Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’? The premise of the movie is that an assassin who has given up the assassin’s life to get married and live peacefully in Texas (Beatrix Kiddo) gets hunted down and killed at her wedding rehearsal by her old boss (Bill) and her assassination squadmates, who kill everyone present with automatic weapons. But she doesn’t actually die — she recovers 4 years later and stalks and kills all of her former teammates and Bill. The opening scene of Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2 is the same gruesome, gory scene of Bill delivering the coup de grace to Beatrix. It is horrific to watch, actually. Maybe ‘Kill Bill’ is providing the doctrine for US military action in Iraq. The whole thing does look like a mafia hit, as the more detailed story in the Guardian shows.

Hearing about my mystification at the Chalabi house raid, a reader was kind enough to point out Andrew Cockburn’s Counterpunch article on the topic.