June 23, 2017

Political Report # 1256 Colombia's Christian Alt-Right

The defeat of Colombia's referendum in October of 2016 was a shocking development. Liberal and left-wing observers failed to predict that voters would be won over by the Right's fear-mongering anti-peace campaign.
In Colombia, ideological vestiges of the Cold War have been refashioned to direct fear and anger towards a fictional "gender ideology" that supposedly poses a spiritual threat to Christian values. In the lead-up to the peace referendum, right-wing groups were able mobilize the imaginary threat of a queer, communist conspiracy to generate panic and turn it into political capital.
It's time we grappled with the gruesome consequences of a political conjuncture in which online media figures, conservative religious movements, and a generalized politics of fear all intersect to shore up support for the Right, even in a country poised to overcome a persistent conflict that has raged for more than fifty years.
The War on "Gender Ideology"

After four years of negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Popular Army (FARC-EP), an end to Colombia's long internal conflict seemed near.  But in October 2016, with only 37 percent of the almost 35 million eligible voters showing up to the polls, the peace agreement was rejected by a margin of just 50.21 percent.
A few days after the failed referendum, Juan Carlos Vélez, manager of the campaign opposing the peace agreement, was interviewed by La República, a well known newspaper in Colombia. According to Vélez, the success of his campaign was due to two factors: 1) the importance of digital social networks over other media sources, and 2) a differential approach to messaging that targeted different class audiences.

June 21, 2017

Political Report # 1255 Puerto Rico Is Emblematic of the Excesses of Financial Systems


You can find the audio for this interview here

Janine Jackson interviewed Ed Morales about Puerto Rico's recent filing for bankruptcy amidst its debt crisis for the May 12, 2017 episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.
Janine Jackson: A CNN story headlined "Five Facts About Puerto Rico's Utter Economic Misery" invited readers to marvel at the $74 billion in debt and $50 billion in pension obligations that led to the largest municipal bankruptcy ever filed. Puerto Rico owes $8 million to Microsoft alone, readers are told, but now they may be shielded by the court as they try to negotiate that settlement. "There's no established rulebook to shape what comes next" in Puerto Rico, said a recent Bloomberg report, which described fights around the debt as "about to plunge into the unknown."
There is much that is unclear about the way forward in Puerto Rico, but some things about how we got here are just not being much talked about. We're joined now to discuss the situation by Ed Morales, author and journalist and lecturer at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Ed Morales.
Ed Morales: Hi. Thanks for having me.
JJ: When we had you on the last time in 2015, in July, talking about Puerto Rico's debt crisis, you said that the moderate position is that Puerto Rico should be allowed to declare bankruptcy, but even if that happened, "there is still going to be a price paid by Puerto Rico." And you also noted at the time that the Puerto Rican government had its own committee looking at restructuring the debt, but that there was "noise from more right-wing Republicans, who want a US oversight committee that would take away a lot of the autonomy of Puerto Rico to determine its economic future." Well, that sounds a lot like where we're at about now. I can't imagine that you're surprised by the current situation.

June 16, 2017

Political Report # 1254 Competition for the Guaraní Aquifer Threatens Indigenous Land Rights

Just three years ago, the Swiss transnational food and drink company Nestlé established a zero-tolerance policy on land grabs.
The company's Commitment on Land & Land Rights was as clear as day. As of July 2014, Nestlé would "engage with and seek the support of those who could be affected by investment decisions," they would "seek free, prior, and informed consent with regard to the rights of Indigenous Peoples," and they would ensure respect for land rights in relation to land acquisitions.
"Nestlé is against all forms of land acquisitions that are illegal and/or have an adverse impact on local communities' livelihoods (land grabs)," the company states. "It is committed to develop its business in a way that complies with national laws and respects human rights, and particularly the customary rights to land and natural resources of Indigenous Peoples, traditional peoples, and communities that are impacted or potentially impacted by the company's business activities."
On paper, Nestlé's commitment stands as a rare recognition of indigenous rights and a welcomed departure from countless other transnational corporations that continue to thrive on the theft of indigenous lands and rivers, and the commodification of nature. But if the company practices what it preaches, it needs to get out of Guaraní lands and waters.

Abstract, The Occupation of the Parque Indoamericano in Buenos Aires: Discourse Dynamics and Stakeholder Practices

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The Occupation of the Parque Indoamericano in Buenos Aires: Discourse Dynamics and Stakeholder Practices
by Corinna Hölzl                                         


In 2010, some 13,000 people occupied the second-largest park in Buenos Aires, located in the most deprived area of the city. The city and state governments reacted with violent repression leading to three deaths. After government officials promised that a housing program would be provided, the problem was viewed as “solved.” However, four years later not a single home had been built. Interpretive frames and political practices in Buenos Aires were influenced by the conflict, and this ultimately strengthened the positions of the national and local governments. This, in turn, intensified structural discrimination against lower-income groups in Buenos Aires. Thus, far from bringing about sustainable housing solutions, the occupation reinforced policies of security and sanction.


June 14, 2017

Political Report # 1253 Brazil Assaults Indigenous Rights, Environment, Social Movements


"The first five months of 2017 have been the most violent this century," Cândido Neto da Cunha, a specialist in agrarian affairs at the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in Santarém, Brazil, told Mongabay. According to the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), which has been compiling statistics on rural violence since 1985, 36 people have already been assassinated in rural conflicts this year.
The latest violence came on 24 May when nine men and a woman were killed in what seems to have been a deliberate massacre on the Santa Lúcia estate in the rural district of Pau D'Arco located 860 kilometers (535 miles) south of Belém, the capital of the state of Pará.
For many years, landless families had lobbied for the creation of a land reform settlement on this estate, saying that the man claiming to own the land, now deceased, was a land thief. His widow agreed to hand over the property, but had second thoughts when INCRA officials, who cannot pay above the market price, refused to pay her what she asked.
In the meantime, landless families had occupied the area and a security guard, working for the ranch, was killed on 30 April. A posse of military and civil police went in to evict the families and to investigate the death. The families say the police arrived shooting. This version is disputed by the police, who claim that the peasant families shot at them first. However, no police officer was killed or wounded.

Abstract, Struggles against Territorial Disqualification: Mobilization for Dignified Housing and Defense of Heritage in Santiago

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Struggles against Territorial Disqualification: Mobilization for Dignified Housing and Defense of Heritage in Santiago
by Nicolás Angelcos and María Luisa Méndez                                              


A critical analysis of two conflicts associated with the displacement resulting from gentrification in Santiago, Chile, reveals that this displacement affects both the urban poor and the middle classes and that the common adversary is the real estate sector. The subjective experience of the groups involved can be understood in terms of the concept of territorial disqualification, a threat both to their positions in the social structure and to the recognition of the identities, personal and collective, that have been constructed about particular neighborhoods. The subject defended in struggles against territorial disqualification is the community. While class positions, specific demands, and territorial claims differ significantly, the structural framework in which neoliberal urbanism develops makes possible a confluence of class organizations that are susceptible to generating interclass strategies of opposition.


June 12, 2017

Political Report # 1252 Un Triunfo por Construir Lo mas difícil no es hacer la revolución, es mantenerla

El 2 de abril de 2017 los ecuatorianos nos enfrentamos a dos opciones: terminar con el Gobierno de la Revolución Ciudadana a cualquier precio o fortalecer una década de transformaciones históricas que han hecho de nuestro país un referente mundial de buen gobierno. A pesar de la reñida contienda, la Revolución Ciudadana ganó las elecciones. Ahora, la tarea urgente es analizar cuáles fueron las debilidades que pusieron en riesgo este proceso y a partir de ello mirar hacia adelante.
Los resultados de las elecciones 2017 nos impulsan a repensar la ruta que como Movimiento País hemos tenido en este proceso. Aunque se logró el triunfo, la respuesta del electorado no fue la esperada. En Europa, Asia y Oceanía, por ejemplo, el Movimiento obtuvo el 54,02% de los votos, frente a la votación arrasadora del 2013, cuando logró el 82,25% de respaldo. En este caso, el desafío es que el proyecto de la Revolución Ciudadana vuelva a ser la apuesta de la gran mayoría de los ecuatorianos en Europa, estando aún más cerca de la realidad de nuestra comunidad migrante.

Abstract, Heritage and the Social Construction of Citizen Power in Historic Neighborhoods of Santiago

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Heritage and the Social Construction of Citizen Power in Historic Neighborhoods of Santiago
by Mauricio Rojas Alcayaga                                              


One of the great changes in the field of heritage studies is the abandonment of the idea of heritage as linked to the inert and monumental past and as a category established only by the state with the support of private patronage in its protection. Citizen empowerment with regard to its establishment, protection, and reinterpretation, with a strong territorial and grassroots component, has transformed it into a field of sociocultural dispute over space and memory in the present. Heritage is a social construction in the dialectic of power. Heritage movements organized in two historic neighborhoods in Santiago are resisting and transforming a capitalist model of urban planning that affects their culture, tradition, and collective memory—their ways of living and identity. Their contributions to an emerging political dispute over heritage add new meanings to a field in need of them.

June 9, 2017

Political Report # 1251 Russia, Cuba, Comey, And Trump

President Trump has a knack for bad optics. The day after he fired FBI Director James Comey in hopes of taking the pressure off the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with the Kremlin during the 2016 election, Trump received Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office. Now, as Comey prepares to testify before Congress about Trump's request that the FBI halt the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's ties to Russia, the president is preparing to announce a Cuba policy that would clear the way for Moscow to re-establish itself as Cuba's principal foreign patron.
According to press reports, Trump is on the verge of reversing key elements of Barack Obama's policy of engagement with Cuba, even though his own government's review concluded it is producing positive results across a range of issues, including security. If the United States reverts to a policy of hostility, U.S. adversaries will once again reap the rewards, and Russia will be first in line-just like it was in 1960.
The end of the Cold War severed Cuba's partnership with the Soviet Union, but Vladimir Putin has been restoring Russia's global influence by repairing relations with traditional allies. Russia's resurgence in the Caribbean dates to Putin's 2000 trip to Havana, followed by Raúl Castro's 2009 visit to Moscow-the first since the end of the Cold War.
In July 2014, Putin visited the island again and agreed to forgive 90% of Cuba's $32 billion in Soviet-era debt. By the time Raúl Castro returned to Moscow in 2015, Russia had signed agreements to invest in infrastructure development and oil exploration, and agreed to lend Cuba 1.2 billion Euros to develop thermal energy. When Venezuela failed to meet its promised oil shipments to Cuba, Russia stepped in to cover the shortfall.

Abstract, The Memory of Inhabiting Modern Architecture: Villa Portales, 1955–2010

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The Memory of Inhabiting Modern Architecture: Villa Portales, 1955–2010
by Rosanna Forray and Francisca Márquez                                                


Villa Portales is an icon of modern architecture and urban planning of the 1950s and 1960s in Santiago de Chile. It embodies the political and institutional project of the time, which sought to respond to the need to establish a balance—although tenuous—in a fragile and strained economic and political system. This fact is crucial to understanding its socio-spatial objective, the administrative model it employed, and especially the crisis it has endured. The testimony of current Villa Portales dwellers points to a deterioration of its residents’ quality of life beginning in the 1980s with the changes in the role of the state introduced by the military dictatorship, the privatization of public services, and the termination of the Caja de Previsión de Empleados Particulares (Private Employees’ Pension Fund). Despite all this, the community was able to make this space a place of resistance and new meaning based on the sense of belonging arising from its architecture and its history.