Posts Tagged ‘socialism’


Ecuador socialist revolution ‘past destructive stage’

By Naomi Mapstone in Quito
Published: October 21 2010 19:16 | Last updated: October 21 2010 19:16

Rafael Correa mobbed by the public

Rafael Correa limps into a wood-panelled room in Ecuador’s presidential palace and sinks into a gold-leaf rococo chair beneath portraits of Latin American independence heroes.
Just weeks ago the US-trained economist, who has led a “citizen’s revolution” in this oil-rich Andean nation since 2006, was held hostage by police in what he says was a failed coup.
“We were all losers from September 30 – the country’s image, the image of police themselves and especially the five families who lost their loved ones and the dozens of injured,” Mr Correa says in an interview with the Financial Times.
This most paradoxical of presidents – he is a close ally of Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales, the radical leftist leaders of Venezuela and Bolivia, and yet friendly enough with Washington to call Hillary Clinton “dearest” on a recent visit – rubs his knee as he recalls the moment a mob turned on him “with such brutality, such savagery”.
“They fired tear gas at me, the president! … They tried to remove my gas mask; I was choking. I had 25 stitches in my knee because I had had a knee operation the day before … They tried to break my leg and one of my advisers took the blows for me,” he recalls.
Mr Correa had gone to face down rioting police officers after they closed airports and abandoned their posts to protest against cuts to their benefits.
Instead of seeing Mr Correa broker a peace, however, Ecuadoreans watched on live television as their president fled angry officers and later taunted them from a window, ripping open his shirt and daring them to kill him.


More FT video

Even for a society accustomed to volatility – seven presidents came and went in the decade before Mr Correa’s election – the subsequent wait was tense. It took almost four hours for the military to broadcast its support for Mr Correa, and about 10 hours for elite police and military units to rescue the president amid a hail of gunfire.
Mr Correa, 47, has since blamed opposition leader Lucio Gutiérrez, who was in Brazil and denies the accusation, leftwing groups and “corrupt” union leaders. He also believes extreme rightwing US groups were involved. “We have no hard evidence [of US rightwing involvement] but we are investigating. I trust fully in [US] president [Barack] Obama – he has nothing to do with this. These groups are also against president Obama.”
Opposition figures and many analysts contest the coup theory, saying no alternative leader was ever presented and that the government is using the uprising as an excuse for a witch hunt.
Scores of police and a former army officer have since been arrested and Ecuador remains under military control, with state broadcasts interrupting television programming to promote the government’s “coup” message.
Luis Hernandez, former commander of the special forces brigade that rescued the president, told the FT the revolt was intended to overthrow the law cutting civil servants’ benefits, not the president.
“There are always those who take advantage of a chaotic situation and try to put more wood on the fire, but who would have replaced Correa? There was nobody,” he says.
Before the police protests, Mr Correa had brought a measure of political continuity to Ecuador. His government spent heavily on education, health and infrastructure, widened the tax base and delivered on election promises to enact a new constitution and close down a US military base.
However, Mr Correa’s default on $3.2bn in foreign debt and the decision to renegotiate foreign oil company contracts alienated investors, and his domination of Congress by veto drew criticism at home.
He also faced opposition within his own party over cuts to police and military benefits, and had threatened to dissolve Congress if he did not get his way. But thanks to a post-revolt surge in his approval ratings, that threat is off. Now Mr Correa is forging ahead with his “21st century socialist” revolution.
“This is a revolution and a revolution is first a process of destruction … we had to destroy the old country with its institutions made for the few,” he says. Ecuador has now passed “its first stage of destruction” and “constructive chaos”, he adds, and has rules in place to attract investment.
The government wants to double investment by 2011 with the introduction of a tax cut of 3 percentage points for businesses, down to 22 per cent.
This does not indicate a softening of Mr Correa’s stance, however. Renegotiations with foreign oil companies are “progressing well”, he says, but if they are not finished by December the contracts will be cancelled.
“That is not our desire, but companies need to understand they should be governed by the rules of the game the country puts in place,” he says.

FT.com / Americas / Politics & Policy – Ecuador socialist revolution ‘past destructive stage’

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In this 1970 photo released by the Public Archive of Sao Paulo State, Dilma Rousseff is seen in a police photo. Rousseff, who is running for president in Brazil’s Oct. 3, 2010 elections, was a key player in an armed militant group that resisted Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, and was imprisoned and tortured for it. She is a cancer survivor and a former minister of energy and chief of staff to the current President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (AP Photo/Public Archive of Sao Paulo State)




Welcome to the Mania!
Submitted by Jeff Clark of Casey Research
With gold punching the $1,300 mark, thoughts of what a gold mania will be like crossed my mind. If we’re right about the future of precious metals, a gold rush of historic proportions lies ahead of us. Have you thought about how a mania might affect you? Not like this, you haven’t…

You log on to your brokerage account for the third time that day and see your precious metal portfolio has doubled from last week. Gold and silver stocks have been screaming upward for weeks. Everyone around you is panicking from runaway inflation and desperate to get their hands on any form of gold or silver. It’s exhilarating and frightening in the same breath. Welcome to the mania.

Daily gains of 20% in gold and silver producers become common, even expected. Valuations have been thrown out the window – this is no time for models and charts and analysis. It’s not greed; it’s survival. Get what you can, while you can. Investors clamor to buy any stock with the word “gold” in its title. Fear of being left behind is palpable.

The shares of junior exploration companies have gone ballistic. They double and triple in days, then double and triple again. Many have already risen ten-fold. You have several up 10,000%. No end is in sight. Your portfolio swells bigger every day. Your life is changing right in front of you at warp speed.

Every business program touts the latest hot gold or silver stock. It’s all they can talk about. Headlines blare anything about precious metals, no matter how trivial. Weekly news magazines and talk-radio hosts dispense free stock picks. CNBC and Bloomberg battle to be first with the latest news. Each tick in the price of gold and silver flashes on screen, and interruptions offering the latest prediction seem to happen every fifteen minutes. Breathy reporters yell above the noise on the trade floor about insane volume, and computers that can’t keep up. Entire programs are devoted to predicting the next winner. You watch to see if some of your stocks are named. You can’t help it.

The only thing growing faster than your portfolio is the number of new “gold experts.” It’s a bull market in bull.

You can feel the crazed mass psychology all around you. Your co-workers know you bought gold some time ago and pepper you with questions seemingly every hour, interrupting your work. They ask if you heard about the latest pick from Fox Business. They want to know where you buy gold, who has the best price, and, by the way, how do I know if my gold is real? They all look at you differently now. Women smile at you in the hallway. You worry someone may follow you home.

Your relatives once teased you but now hound you with questions at family get-togethers – what stocks do you own? What’s that gold newsletter telling you? Where can I keep my bullion? You don’t want to be the life of the party, but they force it – it’s all anyone wants to talk about. Your brother tells you he dumped his broker and is trading full-time. Another relative shoves his account statement in front of you and wants advice. You sense someone will ask for a loan. You don’t know what to tell people. The attention is discomforting, and you feel the urge to escape.

At first it was exciting, then breathtaking. Now it’s scary. You’re drowning in obscene profits but are becoming increasingly anxious about how long it can last. Worry replaces excitement. You don’t know if you should sell or hold on. Nobody knows what to do. But the next day, your portfolio screams higher and you feel overwhelmed once again.

You grab the local paper and read the town’s bullion shop had a break-in last night. They hired a security company and have posted several guards outside and inside the store. Premiums have skyrocketed, but lines still form every day. The proprietor hands out tickets when locals arrive: your number will be called when it’s your turn… the wait will be long… please have your order ready… yesterday we ran out of stock at 11am.

You begin to worry about the security of your own stash of bullion – those clever hiding spots don’t feel quite as secure as you first thought they’d be. Is the bank safe deposit box really secure? Shouldn’t they hire a security guard? Should I move some of it elsewhere? Is there anywhere truly safe? You find yourself checking gun prices online.

And it’s all happening because the dollar is crashing and inflation has scourged every part of life. You curse at those who said this couldn’t happen and mock past assurances from government. Cash is a hot potato, and spending it before it loses more purchasing power is a daily priority. Everyone is clamoring to get something that can’t lose value, but mostly gold and silver.

Your wife calls and says the $100 you gave her that morning isn’t enough to buy groceries for dinner. Prices change often on everything. She urges you to get some bread and milk before the stores raises the price again. You suddenly remember you’re low on gas and make plans to leave work early to beat others to the filling station. Restaurants and small businesses post prices on a chalkboard and update them throughout the day. Employers scramble to work out an “inflation adjustment” for salaries. 

On your way home, the radio broadcaster reports the government has convened an emergency summit of all heads of state. They’re working urgently on the problem, and all other agendas have been tabled. Outside experts have been called in. We’re going to solve this rampant flood of inflation for the American people, they say. In your gut you know there’s nothing they can do.

You change the channel and hear about the spike in arrests of U.S. citizens at the Canadian border. Scads of people are caught trying to sneak bullion and stock certificates out of the country – from airports to rail stations. Violence at borders has escalated, and stories of bloodshed are getting common. The White House ordered heightened security at all U.S. borders, with the media reporting it can take days to cross. Foreign governments offer meaningless help, others mock U.S. leaders for their shortsightedness. Their countries are suffering, too.

You think about the gains in your portfolio and wince at the taxes you’ll pay when you sell. Nothing has been indexed to inflation, so everyone has been pushed into higher tax brackets. Citizens are furious with government. Agencies have been swarmed with bitter taxpayers and revolting benefit recipients. One government office was set on fire. A riot erupted in Washington, D.C. last week and martial law was temporarily declared. It’s too dangerous to travel anywhere.

As crazy as things are, it’s hard not to smile. You’re in the middle of a mania. Your life has changed permanently. You’re part of the new rich. You can quit work, live off your investments. Your wife is ecstatic, and you both feel as if it’s your second honeymoon. Your kids are amazed and gaze at you with the same awe they did when they were children.

You’re thankful you bought gold and silver before the mania, along with precious metal stocks. You daydream of where you might go, what you might buy. New options open up daily. You realize you’ll need to meet with your accountant, maybe hire a second one to protect your sudden wealth. You wonder what you’ll invest in next. You ponder what charities are worthwhile. Better meet with the attorney to redraft the will.

As night settles and your house quiets, you log on to your brokerage account one last time. Even though you’re ready for it, your mouth drops when you see your account balance. It is truly overwhelming. You think of others who own gold and silver stocks and wonder if any have sold yet. Has Doug Casey exited?

You stare at the blinking screen, hand on the mouse, the cursor hovering on the sell button…

View article…


September 18, 2010

Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together

CIUDAD GUAYANA, Venezuela — The first scavengers one sees in Cambalache, a sprawling trash dump on this city’s edge, are the vultures. Hundreds drift through the veil of smoke that rises from the refuse each day at dawn.
The carrion birds vie with children and their parents for scraps of meat discarded by Ciudad Guayana’s more fortunate residents. Those toiling under the vultures’ wake mutter to one another in Warao, an indigenous language spoken in the nearby delta where the Orinoco, one of the world’s mightiest rivers, meets the Atlantic.
“I’m hungry, and my children are hungry,” said Raisa Beria, 25, a Warao who came here to scavenge for clothes and food.
In one outing this month, Ms. Beria found some rotting chicken still in the packaging from Arturo’s, a Venezuelan fast-food chain. Her daughter, Eugenia, 4, grasped a chicken wing. Flies circled around her small hand. “This is how we live,” Ms. Beria said in accented Spanish.
Such harrowing scenes of misery are supposed to be receding into Venezuela’s history. The country claims in figures it gives the United Nations that it vies with historically egalitarian Uruguay for Latin America’s most equitable income distribution, as a result of oil-financed social welfare programs.
Moreover, President Hugo Chávez has made empowerment of indigenous groups a pillar of his 12-year rule. He has financed indigenous health care projects, an indigenous university and a new ministry for indigenous peoples, who are estimated to number about half a million in Venezuela.
Officials said this year that Venezuela’s tribes had reasons to celebrate the “end of exclusion” because “equality, rights and peace now reign.” Still, if Cambalache’s squalor is any indication, some indigenous people still face a more vexing reality than his government’s words suggest.
Reflecting Venezuela’s political complexity, most of the Warao interviewed here expressed loyalty to Mr. Chávez, even as they ate out of Ciudad Guayana’s garbage. The people interviewed cited their access to some social programs, including literacy projects, as reasons for their allegiance, while others professed more visceral sentiments including pride that Mr. Chávez had affirmed that his own grandmother was a Pumé Indian.
Politics aside, about 300 Warao now live in shacks and tents on Cambalache’s edge, near the banks of the Orinoco. Most migrated from Delta Amacuro, an impoverished state of labyrinthine swamp forests that is home to thousands of Warao.
Scholars who study the Warao people say they put down stakes here around the early 1990s, when a cholera epidemic killed about 500 people in the delta. Many Warao there live in homes built on stilts and eat a diet based on a tuber called ure.
In the delta, oil drilling and demand for heart of palm, the vegetable harvested from the inner core of palm trees, put more pressure on Warao areas. Ciudad Guayana, a Brasília-like industrial city designed by planners from Harvard and M.I.T. in the 1960s, absorbed various Warao communities fleeing poverty.
Some Warao wander the broad avenues here, begging for food. Others sell wares like bracelets at intersections. Others subsist at Cambalache, located minutes from boutiques selling luxury goods and the headquarters of government factories adorned with huge photos of Mr. Chávez.
At Cambalache, the Warao scavenge for food, aluminum, copper wiring and clothing. The daily struggle they describe is a Hobbesian nightmare.
They say thieves prey on those who sell scrap metal to dealers. Some Warao women, they say, sell their bodies to outsiders, contributing to reports of H.I.V. infections in the community. Some perish under the trash-compacting trucks, including a 14-year-old boy who was crushed to death in July.
Faced with these conditions, the Warao here adapt. Adults carry knives tucked into their belts. They shrug at Cambalache’s stench and at the ash from its daily fires, which clogs the airways of those working at the dump.
Bands of Warao children sift through the piles of garbage. On a recent hazy morning, a girl plucked from the trash a half-consumed plastic bottle of Frescolita, a Venezuelan soft drink whose flavor resembles cream soda, and quenched her thirst with what remained inside.
Christian Sorhaug, a Norwegian anthropologist who has lived among the Warao, doing field work here during the past decade, said, “Cambalache is the worst place I have ever seen in my life.”
Entire families arrive at sunrise each day, chasing after trucks that unload fresh cargoes of trash. One truck that arrived at Cambalache this month had painted on its side the name José Ramon López, Ciudad Guayana’s mayor, under the words “Socialist Beautification Plan.”
The authorities know about the Warao who live at Cambalache. Their living conditions are a highly sensitive issue.
The mayor’s office, which refers to the area where the Warao live as “UD-500,” said in a statement that it was planning to build more homes for the indigenous families
Warao leaders and researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, informed federal health officials in 2008 of an outbreak of a rabieslike disease that killed dozens in Delta Amacuro, only to have the authorities refuse to see them, attack them in speeches, try to discredit their findings and open a criminal investigation into their report.
A Cuban doctor working for the government provides basic health care to residents, forwarding Warao with serious diseases like tuberculosis and measles to public hospitals. Wilhelmus van Zeeland, 69, a Dutch priest who works with the Warao at Cambalache, said health care programs had helped lower deaths from sanitation-related diseases since he arrived here in 1999. Corporación Venezolana de Guayana, a state-owned industrial conglomerate, recently donated 15 cinderblock houses to the Warao here.
Pedro La Rosa, 42, who is considered the leader of the Warao at Cambalache, said at least 30 more homes were needed. “We’re never going to leave this place,” he said in an interview. “We’ve claimed this land and made our life in this dump, and this is where our future rests.”
The Warao keep arriving at Cambalache, dividing themselves between squatters who stay and those who come for a few weeks to scavenge goods to sell back in the delta.
Sometimes it is hard to tell who belongs to which group.
As the smoke from Cambalache’s fires blew across the Orinoco, Ismenia La Rosa, 41 — unrelated to Pedro La Rosa — welcomed a visitor to her tent among those the Warao call “floaters,” for their urge to return home to the delta’s swamp forests.
She cradled her newborn son, merely six days old and still lacking a name. He was her fifth child, she said, with an exhausted expression that revealed neither happiness nor sorrow. “My son was born in Cambalache,” she said. “I think this is where he’ll stay.”

MasterBlog en Español: Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together: “and they still support their comandante!!! September 18, 2010 Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together By SIMON ROMERO CIUDA…”

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UK’s Labour Party turns rojo, rojito 

Alek Boyd

Well, the smart money lost the bet. The election of a Conservative government, after 13 years of Labour rule, got the radicals all worked up: Ed Miliband has just been elected as Labour’s new party leader.

Before going into details, I think that this is a godsend to David Cameron and his coalition government. For Red Ed’s election simply indicates a strong veer to the left. In fact, besides belonging to Gordon Brown’s closest circle of collaborators, and being the unions candidate, he got most of Diane Abbott and Ed Balls second option votes, so it is clear that the most radical wing of the party carried him to victory. Fortunately, there’s no space for radicals in democratic societies, and so, the Labour Party, by electing Brown’s successor Ed over his graceless yet Blairite brother David, has taken the road to wilderness, a road that won’t lead them back to power. And that is excellent news.

Now the comical thing is, that most Labour talking heads are singing from Ed’s sheet about the party having lost the trust of millions of voters in the last general election -under Gordon Brown’s leadership, and yet they have thrown their lot behind Brown’s heir, instead of electing the successor of the only Labour leader that has won the party three consecutive elections. Priceless.


Alek Boyd: UK’s Labour Party turns rojo, rojito

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Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’

By Jeffrey Goldberg
There were many odd things about my recent Havana stopover (apart from the dolphin show, which I’ll get to shortly), but one of the most unusual was Fidel Castro’s level of self-reflection. I only have limited experience with Communist autocrats (I have more experience with non-Communist autocrats) but it seemed truly striking that Castro was willing to admit that he misplayed his hand at a crucial moment in the Cuban Missile Crisis (you can read about what he said toward the end of my previous post – but he said, in so many words, that he regrets asking Khruschev to nuke the U.S.).

Even more striking was something he said at lunch on the day of our first meeting. We were seated around a smallish table; Castro, his wife, Dalia, his son; Antonio; Randy Alonso, a major figure in the government-run media; and Julia Sweig, the friend I brought with me to make sure, among other things, that I didn’t say anything too stupid (Julia is a leading Latin American scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations). I initially was mainly interested in watching Fidel eat – it was a combination of digestive problems that conspired to nearly kill him, and so I thought I would do a bit of gastrointestinal Kremlinology and keep a careful eye on what he took in (for the record, he ingested small amounts of fish and salad, and quite a bit of bread dipped in olive oil, as well as a glass of red wine). But during the generally lighthearted conversation (we had just spent three hours talking about Iran and the Middle East), I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

“The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” he said.

This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments. Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, “Never mind”?

I asked Julia to interpret this stunning statement for me. She said, “He wasn’t rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under ‘the Cuban model’ the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.”

Julia pointed out that one effect of such a sentiment might be to create space for his brother, Raul, who is now president, to enact the necessary reforms in the face of what will surely be push-back from orthodox communists within the Party and the bureaucracy. Raul Castro is already loosening the state’s hold on the economy. He recently announced, in fact, that small businesses can now operate and that foreign investors could now buy Cuban real estate. (The joke of this new announcement, of course, is that Americans are not allowed to invest in Cuba, not because of Cuban policy, but because of American policy. In other words, Cuba is beginning to adopt the sort of economic ideas that America has long-demanded it adopt, but Americans are not allowed to participate in this free-market experiment because of our government’s hypocritical and stupidly self-defeating embargo policy. We’ll regret this, of course, when Cubans partner with Europeans and Brazilians to buy up all the best hotels).

But I digress. Toward the end of this long, relaxed lunch, Fidel proved to us that he was truly semi-retired. The next day was Monday, when maximum leaders are expected to be busy single-handedly managing their economies, throwing dissidents into prison, and the like. But Fidel’s calendar was open. He asked us, “Would you like to go the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?”

I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. (This happened a number of times during my visit). “The dolphin show?”

“The dolphins are very intelligent animals,” Castro said.

I noted that we had a meeting scheduled for the next morning, with Adela Dworin, the president of Cuba’s Jewish community.

“Bring her,” Fidel said.

Someone at the table mentioned that the aquarium was closed on Mondays. Fidel said, “It will be open tomorrow.”

And so it was.

Late the next morning, after collecting Adela at the synagogue, we met Fidel on the steps of the dolphin house. He kissed Dworin, not incidentally in front of the cameras (another message for Ahmadinejad, perhaps). We went together into a large, blue-lit room that faces a massive, glass-enclosed dolphin tank. Fidel explained, at length, that the Havana Aquarium’s dolphin show was the best dolphin show in the world, “completely unique,” in fact, because it is an underwater show. Three human divers enter the water, without breathing equipment, and perform intricate acrobatics with the dolphins. “Do you like dolphins?” Fidel asked me.

“I like dolphins a lot,” I said.

Fidel called over Guillermo Garcia, the director of the aquarium (every employee of the aquarium, of course, showed up for work — “voluntarily,” I was told) and told him to sit with us.

“Goldberg,” Fidel said, “ask him questions about dolphins.”

“What kind of questions?” I asked.

“You’re a journalist, ask good questions,” he said, and then interrupted himself. “He doesn’t know much about dolphins anyway,” he said, pointing to Garcia. He’s actually a nuclear physicist.”

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes,” Garcia said, somewhat apologetically.

“Why are you running the aquarium?” I asked.

“We put him here to keep him from building nuclear bombs!” Fidel said, and then cracked-up laughing.

“In Cuba, we would only use nuclear power for peaceful means,” Garcia said, earnestly.

“I didn’t think I was in Iran,” I answered.

Fidel pointed to the small rug under the special swivel chair his bodyguards bring along for him.

“It’s Persian!” he said, and laughed again. Then he said, “Goldberg, ask your questions about dolphins.”

Now on the spot, I turned to Garcia and asked, “How much do the dolphins weigh?”

They weigh between 100 and 150 kilograms, he said.

“How do you train the dolphins to do what they do?” I asked.

“That’s a good question,” Fidel said.

Garcia called over one of the aquarium’s veterinarians to help answer the question. Her name was Celia. A few minutes later, Antonio Castro told me her last name: Guevara.

“You’re Che’s daughter?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“And you’re a dolphin veterinarian?”

“I take care of all the inhabitants of the aquarium,” she said.

“Che liked animals very much,” Antonio Castro said.

It was time for the show to start. The lights dimmed, and the divers entered the water. Without describing it overly much, I will say that once again, and to my surprise, I found myself agreeing with Fidel: The aquarium in Havana puts on a fantastic dolphin show, the best I’ve ever seen, and as the father of three children, I’ve seen a lot of dolphin shows. I will also say this: I’ve never seen someone enjoy a dolphin show as much as Fidel Castro enjoyed the dolphin show.

In the next installment, I will deal with such issues as the American embargo, the status of religion in Cuba, the plight of political dissidents, and economic reform. For now, I leave you with this image from our day at the aquarium (I’m in the low chair; Che’s daughter is behind me, with the short, blondish hair; Fidel is the guy who looks like Fidel if Fidel shopped at L.L. Bean):

fidel and goldberg.jpg

This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-cuban-model-doesnt-even-work-for-us-anymore/62602/

Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’ – International – The Atlantic

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