terça-feira, 20 de dezembro de 2011
Faced with the world financial crisis, budget cuts, and tuition hikes, students across the hemisphere are increasingly standing up for their right to education. In Chile, students have been in the streets since May, calling for an end to Pinochet-era policies that prioritize private profit over education.
The following interview with José Ancalao Gavilán, spokesperson for the Chilean Mapuche Federation of Students (FEMAE), and Giovanni Roberto, spokesperson for the UPR students’ National Negotiation Committee during the 2010 strikes, took place on November 3.
Read the complete article.
segunda-feira, 19 de dezembro de 2011
December 19, 2011
By Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox
In Patricio Guzmán's most recent film, Nostalgia for the Light (Icarus Films, 2011), the Chilean filmmaker points his camera toward Chile's Atacama desert, where astronomers, archeologists, and the relatives of Augusto Pinochet's disappeared intertwine in a search for the past and the present. In this interview, Guzmán speaks about his new movie, nostalgia, Chile, the Latin American "pink tide," filmmaking, and the need for an audio-visual revolution. NACLA published a review of Nostalgia for the Light in the May/June issue of the NACLA Report on the Americas, "Chile and the Traps of Memory," by Steven S. Volk.
Sílvia Leindecker is a Brazilian photographer, philosopher, researcher, and documentary filmmaker. Michael Fox is the Editor of NACLA. Their latest film, Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action, was released in April by PM Press.
segunda-feira, 21 de novembro de 2011
On November 17, 2011, the 2-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, thousands took to the streets to shut down lower Manhattan. Three hundred protesters were arrested. Only days before, the occupation at Zuccotti Park had been raided and the occupiers expelled or arrested. These actions have only further inspired the movement.
Photos taken by Michael Fox
Estreito Meios Production
For more images, visit flickr.com/photos/estreitomeios.
domingo, 20 de novembro de 2011
November 20, 2011
On Thursday, November 17, the two-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, occupiers and supporters took to the streets of New York City for a day of action. In the morning, protesters blocked intersections around Wall Street, resulting in over 200 arrests. University students across the city held a day-long strike. In the afternoon, roughly 30,000 people gathered at Foley Square for a rally. Shortly after dark, the multitudes marched past City Hall and over the Brooklyn Bridge.
The words of the chant, “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencidos” (The people united, will never be defeated), echoed off the buildings of Centre Street in Lower Manhattan just South of Foley Square. Among those in the crowd were unions, teachers, students, immigrants, youth, and older activists.
“Why did you come out here tonight?” I asked a pair of students in the crowd.
“We are part of the cause. We had to come out here. I have been here since the second week supporting,” said Juan Peralta, a high school student from Washington Heights, whose parents are from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. “Its time that we revolt, its time that especially starting from us the youth, we are the ones that are suppose to stand up because for many years our predecessor didn’t stand up, and its about time that we fight for everything that they had to suffer through.”
The chant “whose streets? our streets!” cut through the crowd, drowning out Peralta’s voice. He smiled, looked at his friend, Candice Rodriguez. They both motioned to the march. “Exactly,” they said, almost in unison, “this why we are here.”
“It’s sad that I am sixteen and if I got a job right this second I would get taxed more than a rich person would, of the 1%,” said Rodriguez who is from Queens, is of Puerto Rican and Irish decent, and like Peralta, is studying journalism at the High School of Graphic Communications Art in Midtown Manhattan. “That’s why I feel like its unjust that we have to pay the banks to be bailed out.”
“If we don’t stand up for ourselves, then who is going to stand up for us?” asked Peralta.
Not far behind Peralta and Rodriquez, in the sea of marchers, was Jane Lu, from Families for Freedom, a New York-based network by and for immigrants facing and fighting deportation.
“I have been a progressive for a long time. I know about Occupy Wall street since the first day they announced it in an email and I have been following it closely. After they arrested 700 people on the bridge, I come every chance I get to Occupy Wall Street and I’m always very excited about it,” said Lu.
“A lot of things that I have been thinking about over the years I get a chance to talk about it at Occupy Wall Street with the people,” said Lu. “Like the problem with modern society, with the government, with Wall Street, social issues, there are so many things. It’s all adding up to this point. There are a lot of problems not just one problem.”
Lu has lived in the United Sates for 16 years, but she was born in Vietnam, and grew up in China, where she participated in the Tiananmen Square protests.
“They had protest every year in Beijing in those years and that year they started on April 15, When [CPC General Secretary] Hu Yaobang, in the Communist Party, died. It went on until June 4; the Chinese government couldn’t take it anymore,” said Lu. “I don’t know if this will come to that point. The government was so scared.”
Lu finished speaking and the woman behind us tapped me on the shoulder. “I was at the Pentagon for the big march on the Pentagon in 1967,” she said, referring to the October 21, 1967 march, when 100,000 people descended on the Pentagon against the Vietnam war. Her name was Leah Margulies, and she worked with NACLA in the 1970s. I asked her to tell me more about the Pentagon march.
“That was a powerful march and we ultimately wanted to stop the war. It took a long time. It took almost ten years of protesting, from ‘65, when the first teach-ins started against the war and when Martin Luther King Jr came out against the war. It took until ’74,” she said.
“So how does it feel to be here today?” I asked.
“It’s great. I think it’s wonderful when people come out and stop being inactive and passive and try to change policies,” she said.
“Why are you here tonight? Why is this so important?”“I have always worked to get laws to control multinational corporations. I’m part of an organization called Corporate Accountability International. We run campaigns to try to put laws in place to control multinationals and to work internationally," she said. "To change the world, basically.”
quarta-feira, 16 de novembro de 2011
In Honduras, state-sponsored repression is on the rise, even as the Porfirio Lobo government champions human rights as one of its “highest priorities.” Honduran human rights defender Bertha Oliva explains how human rights discourse in Latin America is being transformed from a tool to protect the victims into one for publicity and manipulation.
Read the complete article.
quarta-feira, 14 de setembro de 2011
Across the street, protesters demand that the cover-up around 9-11 be truly investigated, and that the Bush administration be held responsible for “engineering” the attacks. “9/11 was an inside job,” reads the shirt of one man, blindfolded by an American flag.
Pictures taken by Michael Fox (Estreito Meios Productions). For more pictures, visit flickr.com/photo/estreitomeios.
quarta-feira, 7 de setembro de 2011
When the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression hit the US on September 15, 2008, filmmakers Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox began a journey across the country to see how the economy was impacting people’s lives. Their interviews, which span two years and nearly 40 states, draw from farmers, truck drivers, homeless people, workers, immigrants and more. The result is the documentary Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse To Action, a film full of desperation, hope and grassroots solutions.
Leindecker and Fox are the makers of the earlier documentary Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, and Fox was an editor of the book Venezuela Speaks!: Voices From The Grassroots. Like these earlier works, Crossing the American Crises highlights the voices of people participating in grassroots activism and everyday struggles for a better world.
The first stop of their trip is Detroit, where the camera cuts to empty store fronts and factories. “Detroit is what it is because of industry and the industrial revolution, and capitalism, and so-called democracy and how all those failed. And this is what we have left with it,” Jon Blount of the activist collective Detroit Summer tells Leindecker and Fox. Such bits of hard-won insight from streets, factory floors and living rooms across America are interspersed throughout the film.
The next visit is to the Rosebud Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where they speak with Alfred Bone Shirt. “We’re seeing that there’s a segment of our society that feel we’re left out, neglected, abused; rights are violated. We’re in a depression down here so bad that people just wanna give up.” His words are underscored by footage of the reservation itself, a place crushed by economic depression.
After stops in Utah, Oakland and Los Angeles, they head out onto Route 66, where, Fox tells the camera they want to “see the direct effects on the local community.” And indeed, that is what they find at nearly every stop in their tour; very real life stories of how the US economy is making life difficult for people from coast to coast and everywhere in between.
In New Orleans, they speak with people in the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood that was destroyed by Katrina in 2005. Robert Green and his family lived in this community for 38 years before Katrina hit, and at the time of the shooting of the film they were still living in a FEMA trailer. Green is interviewed with his daughter and wife next to a string of empty lots – places where his neighbors’ homes used to be located before the storm destroyed them.
Fox asks Green what he thinks about the government bailout, the major issue of the day. Green tells him, “It’s ironic that it only took [the government] two weeks to issue a $700 billion check. It took them three years after Katrina and this is what you see.” He pointed to the empty lots, saying the names of the families that used to live there. “So basically every house, every family that’s gone actually was a family that should be here now. And if they would have been given the money in two weeks like the way they did in Congress, the way they did in Wall Street, then every last one of these families would have rebuilt their houses, and this whole Gulf Coast area would have been rebuilt because everybody in the Gulf Coast is basically like the people down here: family first.”
This story conveys a sentiment shared by many of the interviewees in this film: outrage at the disparity between the government’s concern for Wall Street over the people bearing the everyday grind of the crisis.
Crossing the American Crises then turns to the hope people felt in the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Yet after the election, the camera cuts to a stream of grim economic news, and stories of people struggling to make ends meet. One college graduate appearing in the film went through 109 job interviews before finally finding a very low-paying position at Staples. A homeless man on the Gulf Coast tells Fox and Leindeker he’ll ask them for money after the interview so he can get some lunch.
On a cold, snowy street corner in New York City, they interview John Lambertus, a homeless man who lost his job in May of 2008 and couldn’t find new work. Lambertus points to a plastic bag he’s carrying, saying, “You see this? This is my blanket, another jacket in case this one gets messed up, and another pair of pants – and that’s my situation.” He worked in a printing press for thirty years before losing his job. “I’ll be 51 in April and I’m in the street,” he says, the cold wind thundering against the microphone.
So what is to be done with all of this bleak news from the American crises? That leads to the second part of the film: Action. Crossing the American Crises goes on to include many solutions to these economic and social problems, focusing on inspiring stories of grassroots alternatives and responses.
There is the Vermont Workers’ Center fighting for affordable healthcare for all, the Green Worker Cooperative in the Bronx that sells recycled building materials, the Santa Fe Alliance in New Mexico advocating for local producers and businesses over tax-dodging multinational chains, and the Iraq Veterans Against the War struggling for veterans’ benefits. There are stories of people working for affordable housing, jobs, better working conditions, improved public transportation and prison justice.
These groups are largely led by the people who are impacted the most by these various crises. Organizers are meeting these challenges in states across the country. “Organizing is the key! Organizing is the key!” JoAnn Watson from the Detroit Council tells a boisterous crowd at the US Social Forum in her city.
Alongside these stories of hopeful organizing is a vision for a better world. “The people have to act through their own organizations to implement their vision of what life should be like,” explains Kathleeen Cleaver, a law professor at Yale University.
That’s a central message of this film – that when the politicians, banks, bosses and economy fail to work for the people, it’s the people that have to form the backbone of movements for economic justice, peace and equality and rights. In the midst of these crises, those movements are already thriving across the US today.
As Robert Green from the Lower 9th Ward says, “Basically, we need to start taking back our government, taking back our taxes, start taking back our control from our elected officials because they’re not putting us first.”
Such insight from people across the country makes Crossing the American Crises an impressive film that captures the spirit of America today. Its stories of human hardship, solidarity and hope paint a portrait of America that is both heart-breaking and inspiring. This documentary is a powerful reminder of the countless social movements working each day to transform this country, from the fields of Oklahoma to the streets of New Orleans.
Benjamin Dangl is the author of the new book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press). He edits TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America. Email Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com.
terça-feira, 6 de setembro de 2011
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
Thousands came out for New York City's West Indian Day Parade on Monday, September 5, 2011. The parade, which took place in Brooklyn, is considered the city's largest ethnic event, with the participation of people from every Caribbean island nation. Brooklyn is home to the largest
Caribbean population in the United States. Photos taken by Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox. To view more pictures, visit www.flickr.com/photos/estreitomeios/
sábado, 27 de agosto de 2011
Hurricane Irene has already smacked through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, and is now barreling into North Carolina. According to forecasters, it’s on course to run straight up the Eastern Seaboard, threatening DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, the Jersey Shore, and New York City in its way. It’s a region that is not often threatened by hurricanes of this magnitude, and this, less than a week after being rocked by a rare 5.8 earthquake at Mineral, Virginia (but felt as far away as Canada).
With Hurricane Irene, no one is taking any chances. Two million are being evacuated, including the first ever evacuations for a natural disaster in New York City. As of midday on Saturday, the city will close down its transportation system, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. This is the first time public transportation, including the city’s subway, will be completely closed for a natural disaster. Ninety-one emergency shelters have been erected across the city, and people have been urged to take precautions.
Eighty-four hurricane-force storms have affected the state of New York since the 17th century. But only a handful have made landfall within a hundred miles of NYC. Hurricane Irene could be added to the list, and it is big—more than 400 miles across and, while it has decreased in force over the last few hours, packing a punch.
But for now, the city rests and waits—anxious, attentive. The first rains in NYC are should start Saturday afternoon. The brute force of the marathon hurricane is expected to begin at roughly 1 am on Sunday morning, and last until the late afternoon. We’ll be at our home in Brooklyn (not in the evacuation zone). You can either check back here for updates, or following me on twitter, @mfox_us. Democracy now also has an excellent twitter list, @democracynow/hurricane-irene.
Image: Hurricane Irene on world map (credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)
terça-feira, 5 de julho de 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
On Thursday, June 30, hundreds of people packed into Manhattan’s Riverside Church for the launch of 22nd Caravan to Cuba, and a memorial tribute to the late Reverend Lucius Walker, Jr. Each year the IFCO/Pastors for Peace caravan defies the U.S. blockade on Cuba by traveling to the Caribbean island nation with tons of medical supplies, equipment, and humanitarian aid, defying U.S. travel and commerce restrictions. Over the next three weeks, over a hundred participants from across the United States and Canada will caravan to the U.S.-Mexico border with over a hundred tons of aid for Cuba. This, however, will be the first caravan without Pastors for Peace founder, Lucius Walker, who passed in September at the age of 80.
Walker remains an icon in the Latin America solidarity movement both in the United States and abroad. “There are no words to express what Lucius Walker means to us,” Rodolfo Benítez Verson, Deputy Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations told the crowd at the event, “He taught by example.”
Among the more than half-dozen additional people that spoke at the emotional event was former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who captured the spirit of the evening, reminding the audience that “now is the time as never before” to continue the work that Walker began. The following is the audio and text of his speech from the event, recorded and transcribed by NACLA.
Good evening and what a beautiful crowd. I hope everything that I say tonight will be understood as to why I think that it’s imperative that we redouble our effort to achieve the dreams that Lucius Walker had and struggled so hard to create and fulfill for this world. Because we’ve lost a mighty engine, and if all of us double our efforts, we’d be hard put to replace what we’ve lost.
I first met Lucius about 41 years ago. I had come up from Washington after eight years and decided to be a big Lawyer in New York. That showed how misguided you can be. I was sitting there in the office up on the 29th floor, 345 Park Avenue, in a great big law firm, and the secretary came in and said, Reverend Lucius Walker is here to see you. And I thought—I had a whole bunch of cousins and uncles all named Walker. I didn’t remember a reverend. I thought our family had been upgraded some here. And in walks Lucius, and he sat down and very quietly started talking about his dream about what is possible for the poor in America, for love among the races in America and what he was doing. And then he hit me up to sign a fundraising letter. I had never signed a fundraising letter in my life and I wasn’t quite sure what it was supposed to be. But he persuaded me. I couldn’t say “no,” and after that I was always on his team. He never told me how much money we raised, but I don’t think anyone up here knew who I was hardly. And I watched him and worked with him some all through the years.
I’d see him in Nicaragua. He was on a boat down there when President Reagan’s Contras were invading by the thousands—a very substantial multiple of the Bay of Pigs—and two people on the boat that Lucius was on were shot and killed. I mean they were shooting at random. It could have been him as easily as anyone else on the boat. And as with every adversity that he encountered, it only caused him to redouble his efforts, and his efforts were first focused on what can really change the world. What they implemented will change the world. Cuba became a major commitment for him, because it embodied so many of the tragedies of power in our time. The blockade—that word’s terribly inadequate. I’d always thought that in effect it was like taking a whip and lashing every man, woman, and child in Cuba; to keep them down, to deter any chance for economic development, for the fulfillment of the potential of the people; a blockade that the whole world was against. The whole world was against it. You can count that in the numbers, the vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations, year after year. The numbers grew through the years, but I remember the year they got up to the number 184. The vote was no abstentions. 182 nations voting to end the blockade as cruel and inhumane punishment of a whole innocent people by an enormous power looming over their little island, not 90 miles off their shore. Only two nations, the United States and Israel—how sad—voted against the resolution.
You know, there wouldn’t have been a Cuban Five, except for the blockade, would there? There’d be no purpose. Everyone can go anyway. What’s the point? There would never have been a Cuban Five. And here’s this great and powerful country, preaching the fear of terrorism around the world and vilifying, indicting, convicting, and imprisoning five courageous Cubans who came here to prevent terrorism, non-violently. To simply infiltrate the terrorist groups, who were not only dropping leaflets, had not only shot down airplanes and scores of passengers, but were setting off bombs in hotels and on the streets of Havana and elsewhere. And the Five become the terrorists for seeking to prevent non-violently, simply by an early-warning system so the terrorist acts could be prevented. And yet you can hardly find people in middle America that have heard of the Five that don’t think they were terrorists.
And then there’s Guantanamo. First is was “Remember the Maine,” and then the great newspapers, William Randolph Hearst and others, here in New York and elsewhere, inflamed American imperial passions to invade Cuba. San Juan Hill and all of that— hardly a struggle—and the Platt Amendment in 1905, a fraud on the American people, and a massive theft from the Cuban people, that took Guantanamo Bay as a refueling station. But people that knew anything about the region knew that the path from the East coast of the United States, from West Europe, and from West Africa, to the Gulf Coast of our country, to the Gulf Coast of Latin America, Mexico, all the way down to Honduras, and all the way down Central America to the Isthmus of Panama, the one route everyone chose was the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti, and Guantanamo was the most strategic location for the control of that passage.
Today while we roundly condemn Cuba for the violation of human rights, at Guantanamo we commit the most egregious violation of human rights, detaining innocent people for years, torture, brutalization, never knowing what tomorrow will bring for them on Cuban soil.
We have to work hard now, harder than ever, to end the blockade and to reach out to the government of Cuba that, despite all of the adversity we have imposed on it, has done far more per capita than any county in the history of the Earth to help their fellow human beings. 30,000 Cuban doctors at this time in the poorest parts of the world, giving things like a vaccine to children for five common communicable diseases that has saved millions of children’s lives. And not just in Latin America, in Africa and wherever poor people live in masses. They’ve trained thousands and thousands of doctors from other countries and in their public education they annually have the highest math and reading scores in the Spanish language in the Western hemisphere. Their arts and their sciences, in medicine and anything you can think of, are moral achievements and human achievements for the whole planet. Maybe that’s why we fear them.
Lucius, from the first time I saw him, demonstrated two qualities. He was a quite man, and he had the two qualities that [author Carl] Sandburg attributed to [President Abraham] Lincoln: he was hard as steel and soft as velvet, hard as rock and soft as drifting fog. He had within him the paradox of terrible storm and unspeakable peace. He was never deterred in his quiet, gentle, and irresistible manner, to overcome. Overcome the resistance to love on the planet, but to spread it among all people. And to carry that flag is our responsibility. For those of use who knew him best, now is the time as never before. Thank you.
Michael Fox is Associate Editor of NACLA. Look out for the upcoming July/August NACLA issue on Cuba. Here is the recording of the complete June 30 event.
domingo, 5 de junho de 2011
On May 7, 2011, three members from the Capitalism Nature Socialism (CNS) Journal held this seminar on Ecosocialism at the Historical Materialism Conference at The New School in New York City. This is the first of our four-part video from the seminar. Filmed & Produced by Estreito Meio Productions. To watch the other parts visit vimeo.com/estreitomeios.
terça-feira, 17 de maio de 2011
Sunday 8 May, 2011
Review of "Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America," by Ben Dangl (AK Press, 2010)
The planet is on fire. It comes from above, as bombs come crashing toward Libya in Obama's new military exploit. And it comes from below, as people from Cairo to Madison stand up to for their rights against dictators and hard-line politicians. Not for decades have we seen such a global uprising from below. Not for decades, except for perhaps in Latin America, where, over the last 13 years, social movements have lifted leftist presidents to power across the region. These leaders have heralded in unprecedented change, and they have been a beacon of hope during one of the darkest periods in US history, with its growing military-industrial complex, an endless war on terror and a conservative crackdown at home.
Then came the financial meltdown and the "change" we could believe in. And we, too, believed that we were following down the road of our Latin American brothers and sisters, that Obama would lead us to a more just society, by and for the people and not Wall Street.
Then something happened. As the signs read in Wisconsin, the "sleeping giant has awoken."
We realized that Obama can't do it for us. We awoke to the fact that even with a "leftist" in power, we must stay in the streets and continue to organize. We awoke to the essential thing that movements across Latin America learned years ago when faced with progressive governments who were supposed to represent their interests and didn't always follow through. We awoke to "the dance."
"The dance between social movements and states," writes Benjamin Dangl, longtime journalist covering Latin America and the editor of "Upside Down World" and "Toward Freedom." This relationship is the focus of his new book, "Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America." The book is a breath of fresh air in these challenging times. Dangl lays before us the complicated relationships between social movements and states in Latin America's most progressive countries and gives us plenty to learn from. He takes us deep into the heart of Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil and Paraguay, heralding the historic struggles of the social movements that in nearly every case helped to carry a leftist president to power. But Dangl's book is as much about the present as the past. He dissects the complicated dance before us, and he's not going to sugarcoat it. In his introduction, Dangl writes:
In some cases, governments in these countries brought to power by movements and social demands have completely turned their backs on movements, ignoring their proposals and demands. Others unleashed outright wars on movements, leading to harsh crackdowns on rights to assemble and protest. Some governments have worked closely with movements to develop and implement political and economic policies together, while others have sought to demobilize or co-opt movements by subsuming them into the government bureaucracy through coveted jobs and threats of exclusion....
On September 30, 2010, roughly 1,000 Ecuadoran police officers rebelled, taking to the streets, blocking intersections, occupying Congress and holding President Rafael Correa hostage for more than ten hours. "It is a coup attempt led by the opposition and certain sections of the armed forces and the police," said Correa. He was soon rescued and the rebellion was put down, but many questions remained.
Solidarity activists in the United States went searching for answers. After the fact, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) had denied the existence of the coup, and the political alliance of indigenous movements, Pachakutik, had actually called for Correa to step down. Had the indigenous movements turned to the right? Why were they turning against their progressive president?
It's a shame Dangl's book wasn't out yet.
One of the more difficult relationships between the government and the social movements is found in Ecuador. There, CONAIE helped carry Correa to victory in late 2006. As Dangl highlights, Correa has enacted some "progressive" policies, like the closure of the US military base in Manta, the announcement that Ecuador would refuse to pay nearly $10 billion in international debt and the convoking of a constitutional assembly. But indigenous movements were largely sidelined during the constituent process. Correa has continued oil extraction on indigenous land. In response to indigenous protests, he has responded with brutal repression.
"By pushing CONAIE out of the political debate and calling on police repression to crack down on their dissent, Correa has worked to undermine the indigenous movement," writes Dangl. In response, CONAIE broke ties with the government in May 2008.
"Correa has assumed the traditional neoliberal posture of the rightist oligarchy," CONAIE said in a statement.
Ecuador is one of the extreme cases. Elsewhere, movements and governments have danced almost symbiotically. In Bolivia, the country's "dynamic" social movements have helped President Evo Morales' party, Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) push through the new constitution and several progressive reforms that would have been impossible otherwise. Nevertheless, as Dangl points out, this has had a "domesticating" effect on the movements and their activists.
In Venezuela, under President Hugo Chavez, the opportunity for alternatives and grassroots organizing has been opened like never before. Movements understand they must both support the government and push for their demands, but there has also been a complicated blurring of the lines between the movements and the state, "particularly ... during electoral campaigns and referendums," writes Dangl.
In Argentina, the late President Nestor Kirchner helped to stabilize the economic crisis and opened the way to hold torturers responsible for their crimes under the dictatorship. But he also either isolated or co-opted social movements, pulling the rug out from under the radical organizing which had taken the country by storm immediately following the December 2001 crisis.
In Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil, formerly radical left-wing parties and candidates embraced coalitions or shifted to the center in order to appeal to a larger electoral base. The result has been moderate social policies once in office, and, in the case of Paraguay and Brazil, a complete reversal of the promise of agrarian reform - an issue that Dangl underscores with the relationship between presidents Fernando Lugo of Paraguay and Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva of Brazil and each country's landless movement.
"Agrarian reform doesn't happen in the government ministries. It happens in the streets, in the plazas; it happens with land occupations," says Paraguayan land activist Pedro Caballero in the opening section of the book. Whether he is taking us along to an emblematic community in Paraguay fighting for its survival against the Brazilian soy farmers next door, or to a march 100,000 people strong in Bolivia in support of the passage of the new constitution, Dangl is a storyteller, masterfully describing the necessary reality that wherever you have an even a pseudo-leftist government, grassroots movements must decide how to support it and demand their rights while also defending their autonomy.
Pushing the Government
"With a mobilized public, it matters less what president is in office, as the president will have to answer to the power of the movements," writes Dangl.
Perhaps above all else, this is what "Dancing with Dynamite" is all about: grassroots pressure from below - something more important than ever now in the United States, as right-wing politicians push for legislation that will slash public spending and rip away our most fundamental rights.
Now, just as in Wisconsin, people across the United States are starting to respond, and Dangl makes the connection in the book's final chapter, "South America and the United States: Finding Common Ground in Crisis." Dangl asks: "What can US activists facing economic crisis learn from South America's social movements?"
Plenty. Carrying us from Chicago to Detroit and Florida, Dangl highlights several recent experiences in the United States that have gained inspiration from southern movements such as "worker occupations and cooperatives in Argentina, the fight for access to water in Bolivia, and the landless struggle in Brazil."
Especially in these difficult times of crisis, after two years of a lukewarm Obama presidency, as conservatives are cracking down and the people are waking up, it's time to listen, learn, organize and act.
"Obama energized a great many people," Noam Chomsky explains in a quote in "Dancing with Dynamite." "If they fade away, or simply take instructions, we can expect little from his administration. If they become organized and active, and undertake to be independent voices in policy formation and implementation, a great deal can be achieved - as in the past, and elsewhere today, notably South America."
"Dancing with Dynamite" is a roadmap, a call to action to break the simplistic dualities imposed by society and place our destinies into our own hands. As Dangl writes prophetically, "How movements dance with political parties, aspiring and incumbent presidents, and the government itself will decide the future of the planet."
It's time to get moving.
domingo, 15 de maio de 2011
"If Wisconsin had happened a little bit earlier, I'm sure that the filmmakers would have had had that in the film, because it would have been an incredible ending to the story that they've been telling. And it's really not an ending. It's really the beginning of a chapter of struggle that I think is going to be unfolding in this country, where workers and poor people reclaim this country," said Black. "One of the things I thought was so great about [Crossing the American Crises] is that it connected the issues; in such a way that it shows you that our issues are united."
Edited and produced by Estreito Meio Productions, 2011.
domingo, 8 de maio de 2011
Brazilian authorities are forcibly removing more low-income Brazilian communities in the name of the 2014 World Cup; this time in Porto Alegre’s Chocolatão—a neighborhood involved in the city's participatory budgeting, which appears in our documentary, Beyond Elections. The community will be evicted this week. If you speak Portuguese, here's a short video on the situation and the injustice.
As the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics approach, the reality for the residents of the Chocolatão is being repeated across the country. Here are a couple of articles on this issue I wrote over the last year and a half, (Rio Crackdown - Cleaning up Drug Gangs to Create the Olympic City & Brazil's World Cup Development Debacle). This is a video my partner and I produced for VJ Movement in 2009. Here's a more recent article from The Guardian (UK). The New York-based human rights organization Witness is also doing some important media work to help raise awareness of the issue. Stay tuned. The forced evictions will only multiply as the mega-events approach.
Image of the front entrance to the Chocolatão.
segunda-feira, 18 de abril de 2011
As we point out in our new documentary, Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action, the nation’s priorities are skewed. Inequality continues to rise. Homes are boarded up while homeless sleep on the streets. The sick are still turned away because of a lack of health care. The banks are bailed out, while the people are left to suffer. Hard-working Americans pay the bulk in taxes, while multi-millionaires hide their assets abroad. Corporations are subsidized or encouraged to move their production overseas. We are gutting the American dream—if there ever was one.
But there are answers. As The Nation pointed out last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has drafted a "People's Budget," which members, Representative Michael M. Honda (D-CA) and Representative Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ) say, “eliminates the deficit, stabilizes the debt, puts Americans back to work, and restores our economic competiveness.”
According to their calculations, with the “People’s Budget,” we could be running a surplus of over $30 billion by 2021. How? By implementing a fair tax code, rebuilding the economy and bringing the troops home.
Not bad, but it’s still missing a key component: Participation.
"So far, the White House and the Congress have completely sidelined the public in the budget processes," writes Jeffrey Sachs in the Huffington Post.
Daniel Altschuler and Josh Lerner, believe they have the answer. In their recent Christian Science Monitor article, “Government can't solve budget battles? Let citizens do it,” Altschuler and Lerner argue that we should “Look south!”
“’Participatory budgeting’ (PB), a model popular throughout Latin America, may offer a way to do more with less, and to reconnect citizens with government,” they write.
As we show in our film, Beyond Elections, (below) the Brazilian Workers’ Party first implemented participatory budgeting in the city of Porto Alegre two decades ago, under a wave of democracy that engulfed the country following the fall of Brazil’s brutal two-decade-long dictatorship in 1985. Since it began in 1989, thousands of city residents have directly participated in the allocation of millions of dollars of city funds. The process has been replicated across the globe, and the World Bank now promotes participatory budgeting for “developing” nations.
Alschuler and Lerner (co-director of the Participatory Budgeting Project) are now on tour across the country promoting the process in the United States. In 2009, Chicago’s 49th Ward became the first district in the country to implement PB. Citizens participated in deciding how to distribute $1.3 million of annual discretionary funds. Seven new candidates, who won office in Chicago’s February elections, have also pledged to implement PB. “Elected officials and community leaders elsewhere – from New York City to San Francisco and from Greensboro, N.C. to Springfield, Mass. – are considering launching similar initiatives,” write Lerner and Altschuler write.
This is an important moment. As journalist Mark Engler points out, Tax Day 2010 “was probably the apex of the Tea Party movement.” Now, the tides have changed. From Wisconsin to California, New York to Detroit, people are fighting back: demonstrating, marching, occupying, resisting and organizing (even around PB). We are fighting to defend our basic rights.
Perhaps, as we contribute to this year’s budget, we’ll remember the bitter irony of the country’s twisted priorities, but also the proud truth that it is our responsibility to demand our rights.
“And those who tell us that we can't,” said president-elect Barack Obama on election night 2008, “we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.”
Michael Fox is the Associate Editor of NACLA. He is co-director of the documentary films Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas and Crossing the American Crises: From Collapse to Action, both available through PM Press. More of his work can be found at blendingthelines.com.
sábado, 16 de abril de 2011
By Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox
The day before the first round of the 2010 elections, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took his likely successor, Dilma Rousseff, home to where it all started—the ABC Metalworkers’ Union building in São Bernardo do Campo, an industrial city to the south of São Paulo. Rousseff followed Lula out the doors of the building and into a packed crowd that roared with excitement. Climbing into a nearby car, they slowly caravanned through the streets, flanked on all sides by supporters who sang and danced to the campaign songs, and cheered for the homecoming and the future.
It was here that Lula got his start as a labor leader more than three decades ago, and where he led hundreds of thousands in the first major strikes against the Brazilian dictatorship. At the time, this São Paulo suburb was the hub of Brazilian industry, and the ABC Metalworkers’ Union was the heart of the labor movement, which by 1980 had founded a radical new movement that would give power to the people—the Workers’ Party (PT).
domingo, 3 de abril de 2011
Wednesday 30 March, 2011
By Alexis Stoumbelis, Lisa Fuller and Michael Fox
The day before President Barack Obama arrived in San Salvador on March 21, thousands of union members and campesinos marched to the U.S. Embassy. Over the loudspeaker an organizer proclaimed, “The global economic crisis, climate change, narcotrafficking, insecurity and the food crisis have their origin in the economic model imposed on our people by the great world powers, primarily the United States." Outside of President Obama’s press conference the following day, hundreds of Salvadorans carried photos of family members who had been killed and disappeared during El Salvador’s civil war, in which U.S.-backed government forces brutally repressed the leftist Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN). Marching alongside them, Hondurans bared crosses on their backs in memory of the hundreds of activists who have been killed since the June 2009 coup against President Manuel Zelaya.
Days before, in Chile, demonstrators denounced the proposed nuclear energy agreements and called on the United States to acknowledge its role in the 1973 CIA-backed coup against then-president Salvador Allende. Mobilizations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil forced President Obama’s press conference with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff indoors, as protesters chanted, “Go home, Obama . . . the petroleum is ours.” Throughout the hemisphere, people waited to hear whether President Obama would demonstrate the new era of “mutual interest and mutual respect” with Latin America that he had promised during his campaign. What they heard was mostly “más de lo mismo” (more of the same), dressed up in a language of “partnership” and cooperation.
Even before President Obama had embarked on his five-day trip to Latin America, he made clear that the primary motivation for the trip was to increase U.S. exports to the region and, in doing so, create new U.S. jobs. His goal, in this “fiercely competitive world,” was to ensure that Latin American countries would import most of their goods from the United States, not from China, the European Union, or other Latin American countries. This was especially apparent during Obama’s first visit to Latin America’s largest economy, Brazil, where China has just overtaken the United States as the number one trading partner. Brazil, with an economic growth rate of 7.5% per year, is also the world leader in ethanol production, and home to the recently discovered deep-water oil reserves, known as Pre-Sal, estimated by some to be larger than the combined reserves of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
While culturally significant—the first African-American U.S. president visiting Brazil’s first female president—Obama’s visit was overshadowed by his authorization of the Libya bombing while in Brazil. Meanwhile, as one columnist for the Brazilian newspaper, Folha de São Paulo pointed out, Obama lacked “deliverables" or “concrete results.” Brazilians were disappointed that Obama failed to announce support for their country’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. For all of his rhetoric of increasing trade, Obama didn’t offer any solutions to the 54-cent per gallon import tax the United States levies on Brazilian ethanol. Obama did, however, offer billion-dollar funds to help Brazilian businesses purchase U.S. products and to support the Brazilian development of their off-shore oil rigs, promising that the United States wants to become “one of [their] best customers.”
In Chile, Obama and Chilean President Sebastián Piñera initiated talks on launching Chile’s nuclear power program, a move that many consider reckless amidst the ongoing disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, and Chile’s earthquake-prone history. Like the rest of the trip, Obama’s speech to Latin America from Chile’s La Moneda Presidential Palace embraced hemispheric cooperation, while lacking substance. He quoted from Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, applauded the heroic Chilean miners, and reminded listeners that “Todos somos Americanos” (We are all American). He also praised Chile on its leadership in transitioning “from dictatorship to democracy”, but failed to apologize for the U.S. support of the 17-year-long military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
While Obama applauded Brazil’s biofuels and Chile’s geothermal energy programs as examples of “alternative energy,” his support for off-shore rigs is more of the status quo; meanwhile, opposition to extractive industries from grassroots social movements and indigenous peoples continues to rise throughout the Americas, as evidenced during the April 2010 World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia. It's worth noting that Brazil's ethanol program has come under fire from indigenous communities, as have biofuel megaprojects in Mexico, Guatemala and elsewhere.
Obama arrived in El Salvador on Monday, March 21, where the gulf between the reality and the rhetoric of a “new era” was perhaps most palpable and painful. He made a highly celebrated visit to the tomb of revered martyr Monseñor Oscar Romero, who was murdered in 1980 by members of the Salvadoran armed forces who were trained at the School of the Americas. However, Obama also announced $200 million for a security initiative to combat narcotrafficking in Central America. Many fear the move could increase human rights violations, as in Mexico, where over 36,000 people have been killed since 2006 in the “War on Drugs.” Before the trip, William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, announced the plan to transform Central America into a “security corridor” between Colombia and Mexico, despite the fact that the Merida Initiative and Plan Colombia have increased the profitability of the drug trade and driven cartels into Central America.
Fortunately, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes’s joint statements with Obama reflected a significant shift from the “crackdown”-only approach of Mexico's Felipe Calderón or Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos. President Funes emphasized that state investment in job creation, rehabilitation and prevention programs was the only way to stem the proliferation of organized crime and emigration. “We cannot continue offering our youngsters [only two choices], go to the United States to find employment ... or to fall in the hands of the criminal gangs,” said Funes. In another welcome change, at least rhetorically, President Obama said that Central American governments, not the United States, would design and implement programs for the new Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).
Sadly, although Obama agreed with Funes that an economic solution is needed, the economic policies he promoted were largely a continuation of the last twenty years of neoliberalism, which has resulted in the majority of El Salvador's population living on less than $2 per day. His focus on fostering foreign investment as the path to development was especially hard to swallow, as the Canadian mining corporation Pacific Rim is currently suing El Salvador for over $100 million in alleged “lost profits.” Pacific Rim is the very type of foreign investor that Obama hailed as El Salvador's potential savior.
As during his trip to Brazil, Obama's new economic assistance for El Salvador, including the yet-to-be-defined BRIDGE (Building Remittance Investment for Development Growth and Entrepreneurship) and Partnership for Growth programs seem intended to continue a vicious cycle of exploitation and dependence, cementing U.S. economic access to countries that, quite frankly, are getting better offers elsewhere, including China and other Latin American nations.
Perhaps President Obama's praise for President Funes's “pragmatism” was meant to assure him that support would be provided as long as corporate interests remained in the driver's seat. As recently as the June 2009 coup d’etat in Honduras, the Obama administration showed that it wouldn't defend Central American presidents who strayed too far to the left, for example, by joining the ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. FMLN-governed municipalities in El Salvador have been participating in ALBA initiatives with Venezuela for several years, and some co-operation with Cuba has now reached the national level through the FMLN-led Ministries of Health and Education. But maintaining U.S. support is a huge priority for any Salvadoran president, as nearly 2.5 million Salvadorans—roughly 30% of the population—live in the United States.
Ultimately, President Obama’s meeting with El Salvador's first progressive president is significant not only for El Salvador, but also for the hemisphere. Movements that continue to resist the neoliberal agenda have shifted the terrain, forcing the United States to contend with some of the very political forces, like the FMLN, that they spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to defeat in the 1980s. Social movements, progressive presidents and global economic changes too, have pushed President Obama to talk about “common prosperity,” even if real cooperation is still a long way off.
Alexis Stoumbelis and Lisa Fuller work with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador in Washington, DC (CISPES). Michael Fox is Associate Editor of NACLA. His work can be read at his blog.
quarta-feira, 30 de março de 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
New Yorkers are upset, and they should be. In a push to balance the state budget, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a tentative $132.5 billion state budget deal on Sunday. The pact would mean $10 billion in cuts to the state budget, with jobs and education on the chopping block. New York City is amongst the cities that will be hardest hit.
"The final budget still cuts New York City education aid more than ever before," responded NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He also expressed concerns over drastic cuts in funding for city senior centers and homelessness programs.
The deal, which could go into effect by the end of the week, could mean the layoff of 9,800 state employees, and hundreds of workers in the state court system.
But New Yorkers are not taking the news lying down. Inspired by Wisconsin, more than a dozen groups, including several unions, are organizing the first mass "camp-in" at the state Capitol for Wednesday, March 30, in Albany. A thousand people are expected to turnout from around the state.
Last Friday, March 25, teachers, parents and students in northern Manhattan took to the streets to vent their opposition to the impending cuts. Dozens of teachers, many dressed in black, mourned the symbolic “death of the future of New York City public school students” if the budget is passed.
“We are protesting the budget cuts and the treatment of teachers in the Department of Education,” Mr. M. Bush, a teacher at M.S. 326 in Washington Heights, told the Manhattan Times. “I think we’d all like to see more concern for the students and our schools, which need more programs and extracurricular activities, music, arts, and athletics.”
The day before, thousands of workers, students, teachers and activists from dozens of New York organizations took to the streets of lower Manhattan in a "day of rage against the [budget] cuts".
With chants of “Tax Wall Street” and "When they say cut back, we say fight back", they marched from City Hall to Wall Street.
"Working class students can no longer shoulder the brunt of a budget deficit that we didn't create," Sarah Anees, a graduate student at the City University of New York (CUNY) told IPS. "We didn't start this crisis – Wall Street did."
Video from the March 24 Wall Street march
domingo, 27 de março de 2011
From Egypt to Wisconsin to New York... From City Hall to Wall Street... On March 24, 2011, thousands of workers, students, teachers and activists from dozens of New York organizations took to the streets in a "day of rage against the [budget] cuts". For more information, New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts. Film shot and produced by Estreito Meios Productions, 2011. www.crossingthecrise.com
sexta-feira, 25 de março de 2011
terça-feira, 8 de março de 2011
Our Northeast tour went great! Thanks to everyone who helped make it a reality. We are now planning dates from New York down to DC. We’ll keep you updated as they become available
quinta-feira, 24 de fevereiro de 2011
domingo, 30 de janeiro de 2011
segunda-feira, 10 de janeiro de 2011
For more background on Posada Carriles, here's a one-hour documentary from the Telesur/Panafilms film series on US intervention in Latin America. Here's a review of the documentary.
sábado, 1 de janeiro de 2011
Dilma is expected to continue with Lula's policies. Here's a good article on her upcoming presidency. Here's more on her inauguration ceremony.