Hotel Rwanda

I watched Hotel Rwanda last night.

It was a good movie on multiple levels.

Nick Nolte played the person who was supposed to be Romeo Dallaire, and he played the helpless hapless general’s role well. At one point he’s explaining to the main character how the world won’t intervene because the West thinks Africans are dirt. Such a raw acknowledgement of racism is rare.

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The Colombia Venezuela Crisis

As of yesterday Colombians will require visas to visit Venezuela.

Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe Velez is planning a visit to the border.

The chancellors of the two countries are still meeting in Lima.

The Wayuu indigenous people who live on both sides of the border, hundreds of whom were displaced last year by paramilitary massacre in Colombia and fled to the Venezuelan side of the border, declaring war on the paramilitaries and on the Colombian government, demonstrated for their right to travel, trade, and cross the border freely – they don’t recognize the border, after all.

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No excuses

The Colombian government representative at the Colombia-Venezuela meeting, Carolina Barco, said “there will be no apologies, there will be no nothing” (that’s a rough translation). Barco and her counterpart Ali Rodriguez (also Venezuela’s foremost oil expert with a long career in that field) met in Peru to try to defuse the crisis. Apart from that, Barco said the meeting was “very positive”.

Apparently Colombia’s official position is still that there was no kidnapping and that Granda was arrested in the Colombian town of Cucuta.

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A Change in Palestine?

There is still much going on between Colombia and Venezuela, but I’ll hold off reporting on what’s going on in the Colombian press on the topic until the meeting tomorrow between Colombian and Venezuelan officials, the first since the crisis flared up. It’s worth mentioning though that the FARC haven’t been silent on this. The ANNCOL site is always a source for the pro-FARC perspective, but beyond that the Colombian press is full of reports of attacks across the country in recent days. In a situation where propaganda is as important as the massacres themselves, anything that is said about what the FARC did or didn’t do in mainstream press should be taken with a heavy dose of salt. But there are reports of – attacks on helicopters, the bombing of a ranch owned by a governor, various landmine operations, and attacks on paramilitaries – all within the past week. Even if the crisis is between Colombia and Venezuela, it’s worth remembering that it was after all a FARC member who was kidnapped and the FARC could have been expected to react in the way that an armed organization does.

More on the predictable. A friend recently asked me for my 10-second assessment of what was going to happen in Israel/Palestine now that Abbas has been elected. I said roughly that since there are still Palestinians there, Israel will still be doing ethnic cleansing, and there will still be resistance. His prediction was different – he thinks Abbas will make such drastic concessions that Israel’s political scene will divide, with some wanting to accept the concessions and others wanting to keep to a strict ethnic cleansing policy. To bolster his point, he could point to the resumption of diplomatic ties between Israel and the PA or the upcoming ‘handover’ of 4 West Bank towns to the PA. I, on the other hand, could point to the three different killings today, one in Qalqilya, one of a baby in Dir-al-Balah, one east of Tubas, and the statement by Olmert that Israel has no plans to stop the killing.

The Colombian press on the Colombia-Venezuela crisis

Today’s El Tiempo (Colombia’s national paper) is where one can find a summary of the Colombian establishment position. Chavez wants something simple: an apology from Uribe. El Tiempo says such a request is absurd, since Chavez is too ‘permissive’ with FARC. Phrases like ‘permissive with terrorism’ are useful all-purpose slurs that don’t require evidence, particularly when leveled against independent minded regimes (independent from the US, that is).

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Sorry about the absence. I was away from the machine for a little while. Specifically, I was giving this talk in Ottawa. Difficult subjects, and the intent, as always, is to open a conversation, not to deliver the definitive answer. Of course, since I’m someone opinionated enough to have a blog, my questions can sometimes sound like answers, but that doesn’t mean they should be read that way. So, if you think I’m wrong, let me know, and let’s move it along. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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The Surreal World of Campus Activism part 4

Just when you thought campus activism couldn’t get any weirder.

You remember the young woman removed from a campus group for expressing an opinion about an email she received?

You remember the young man expelled from campus for unauthorized use of a sound amplification device?

The young man charged (charged!) for saying “I’ll be famous one day” on the claim that the aforementioned was a violent threat?

Obviously there are much more extreme cases in the US – but keeping to Canada, it is quite clear that the administration at York University has gone and lost its collective mind. At a sedate anti-Bush inaguration event at that Toronto university, demonstrators were beaten up (beaten up! on a progressive campus!) and arrested. There is apparently video – this is the same hall that Daniel Freeman-Maloy was arrested for megaphoning in (see surreal world part 1) – and they seem to have been almost entirely devoid of a pretext.

Here’s the minimalist press release.

*Police assault and arrest student demonstrators at York University*
Students beaten, 4 arrested; specific charges pending

Recent trends of harrassment and intimidation of student dissidents came to a head early today at York University, as security worked with police to forcibly disperse a demonstration marking the inauguration of US President George W. Bush.

The demonstration, organized by GRAIN (Grassroots Anti-Imperialist Network), a campus social justice group, took place beginning at 1:30 pm in York’s Vari Hall Rotunda. Approximately 150 York community members were present, drawing connections between on-campus institutions and the US empire.

Security intimidation commenced quickly, overseen by Amelia Golden, assistant director of Student Community Building. Security personnel ordered people to disperse and asked people for personal information. Police moved in shortly after, throwing students and members of local CUPE 3903 to the ground, and in certain instances beating them with extendable batons. While overtly violent repression is a new element of the campaign to shut down basic political freedoms at York, it is a natural extension of the policies of the administration of Lorna Marsden towards student politics.

Information regarding specific charges and other details will be available shortly.