Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News


DONATE HERE: http://www.haitiemergencyrelief.org/Haiti_Emergency_Relief_Fund/donate.html

As we write this, Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, killing at least 900 people and leaving thousands without shelter or food. The hurricane has devastated the city of Les Cayes and many villages in the Southwestern part of the country, destroying crops and livestock and reversing the gains in food production made by women’s agricultural cooperatives and other local farmers. The torrential rains and winds have also hit the capital, Port-au-Prince. With massive flooding comes the increased danger of water-borne diseases, particularly cholera (brought to Haiti by UN troops), which has already reached epidemic proportions.

We ask that all friends of Haiti donate as much as they can to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Your donations will go directly to grassroots organizations in Haiti which are saving lives by helping people on the ground access water, food and shelter, and reconstructing their lives. Unlike the big NGOs which were accused of profiteering from the billions donated by a generous public after the earthquake, HERF pays no wages and takes no cut. All our work is done by volunteers and all the money we collect goes directly to those who need it, starting with women – the primary caregivers in every community.

The hurricane hit Haiti just days before the recalled October 9th elections were due to take place. People had worked very hard for over a year, risking their lives to demand free and fair elections after the 2015 electoral results were declared fraudulent. Elections have now been postponed. Popular organizations in Haiti are hard at work trying to ensure that families and communities can survive and rebuild, and that when a new election date is set every vote counts and is counted.

This is a critical time for all friends of Haiti to step up our solidarity. Please donate on line at: http://www.haitiemergencyrelief.org/Haiti_Emergency_Relief_Fund/home.html

Or to:

Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

c/o East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

2362 Bancroft Way

Berkeley, California 94704

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Thank you so much for your generous support, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund Board of Directors: Walter Riley, Maureen Duignan, O.S.F., Pierre Labossiere, Marilyn Langlois, Robert Roth

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, tax ID# 94-3249753

Tel: +510-595-4650


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Plan Colombia, Permanent War, and the NO Vote

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

by Laura Carlsen


Plan Colombia, Permanent War, and the NO Vote

The Colombian people voted NO to peace. Or to be exact, 50.2% of 37% of the eligible population voted no. In the referendum held Oct. 2, the majority of voters decided to scuttle four years of peace talks dedicated to ending 52 years of bloodshed.

The vote came just days after the celebratory signing of the agreement, considered exemplary for achieving a bridge between historic enemies and dealing broadly with the root causes of the conflict. The rest of the world was stunned.

Most pundits have begun the post-mortem analysis of the referendum saying something like “Colombians did not vote against peace.” They go on to discuss factors including people’s ignorance of the accords, or their mistaken belief that after four years it could simply be renegotiated.

But the fact of the matter is that the NO voters voted clearly and unambiguously to continue the war. The words on the ballot read: “Do you accept the final agreement to terminate the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?” It’s almost inconceivable that any population would vote no on this proposition, but they did.

So why?

Although even former president Alvaro Uribe, the nation’s lead warmonger, now makes the politically correct statement that the ultimate goal is peace, the macho sentiments of total domination and punishment (of one side), along with a strong dose of Cold War hysteria (yes, in the 21st century) won the day.

The NO promoters knew what they were doing. They were not promoting an alternative peace. As a 32-year old NO voter quoted in the New York Times put it, “If ‘no’ wins, we won’t have peace, but at least we won’t give the country away to the guerrillas.”

His statement reflects the patriarchal logic that has started and perpetuated wars since time immemorial–the only good enemy is a dead enemy, and if I don’t win, nobody wins.

At least some NO voters and many of the leaders are betting on continuing war until they gain by force their entire military and political agenda–a prospect that, given the war’s longevity to date could easily be another half century. Or never.

The Perks of Permanent War

For many NO promoters, including Uribe himself, “never” could be the best-case scenario. Basking in the limelight of a political career rebuilt on the ruins of one of the most complex and progressive peace agreements in history, Uribe released proposals for revamping the peace agreement designed to throw a monkey wrench into any process to salvage peace in Colombia.

Analysts stated that Uribe’s wish list is aimed at “torpedoing the peace accords”. No one expects the FARC to accept Uribe’s terms, which include being banned from politics; serving 5-8 year sentences in confinement for crimes, including drug trafficking; pardoning Colombia’s security forces for serious crimes, and eliminating the meticulously negotiated Tribunal for Transitional Justice.

Huge sectors of the population reject them as well, since the proposals also would wipe out the parts of the Peace Accord that regulate the return of stolen lands to peasant and indigenous communities and seriously hamper if not strike plans for reparations to victims.

To pretend that everyone wants peace and the only issue is, how is to ignore the fact that the war benefits many powerful interests. Those interests will fight to keep fighting.

On the political front, war assures military control over a population and justifies authoritarianism and repression through fear. In general, the most militarized parts of the country are areas where peasant, Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples are defending their lands and resources from the incursions of transnational corporations and mega development projects. Fear and murder are powerful repressive tools.

War is also a huge business. Thanks to U.S. Plan Colombia and policies that fanned the conflict, Colombia became the third largest recipient of US aid in the world during the war, behind Israel and Egypt. The budget for security forces skyrocketed; between 2001 and 2005, it grew more than 30% and by 2006 it was double 1990—some $4.48 billion for military and police.

U.S. Interests

The U.S. government also has a vested interest in continuing the war. The conflict justified Plan Colombia, the $10 billion dollar counterinsurgency, counternarcotics plan that allowed the Pentagon to establish military presence in Colombia, both physically and by proxy. With the pretext of the internal conflict, the U.S. government built up a platform not only for control in Colombia, but also with regional strike capacity, as leaked in the proposed agreement to establish seven US military bases.

Plan Colombia and its later incarnations kept U.S. contracts for weapons, espionage and intelligence equipment and military and police training flowing to the most powerful lobbying industries in the nation. Billions of dollars have been poured into Plan Colombia and national security investment that ended up in the pockets of political elite and defense companies. In the 2010-2017 budgets, the United States has allocated $2.13 billion in military and police aid–most of that during the peace talks.

The country was converted into a testing ground for the latest in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare techniques and equipment from the United States. The blood spilled on its soil feeds the global war machine, to such an extent that Colombia has been groomed as an exporter of counterinsurgency and “security” training, despite its reputation as a gross violator of human rights and the disastrous humanitarian impact of its prolonged war. So very powerful interests saw the peace agreement as a threat. In addition to Uribe followers who viewed it as soft on the FARC, the war economy of the nation and its ally, the United States, was at stake.

In this context, the US government reacted tepidly when peace was voted down. Bernard Aronson, the special envoy to the peace talks, expressed no regret in a press interview after the vote, stating, “We believe Colombians want peace, but clearly they are divided about terms of settlement…” The State Department limited its statement to support for Colombian democracy and further dialogue. After four years of ostensibly supporting the peace talks, neither mentioned the vote as a setback.

An analysis published by the US Army War College, although it is not an official document, openly expresses relief at the continuation of indefinite war in Colombia. Through a mixture of hawkish arguments and lies, the analysis recognizes that the country now enters into a “period of uncertainty”, but notes that this “presents a strategic situation less grave and more manageable, than had the accords been approved.”

It goes on to predict that the FARC will likely break the ceasefire, despite its explicit and public commitment to respect it even in the absence of the guarantees provided in the peace agreement. This position, coming from sources close to the US military, which has in many senses called the shots in Colombia’s war since Plan Colombia began in 2000, indicates that there is a dangerous possibility of a provocation to further undermine the peace process that has now been thrown into crisis by the NO vote.

The writers also advise President Santos to retract his commitment to the ceasefire following the vote. They note that Santos promised to “not authorize military operations in the areas where FARC units are located in order to avoid an incident which breaks the fragile truce. Yet, not doing so will allow FARC dissidents to operate with almost complete impunity in these areas.  Indeed, within the new background of uncertainty, such impunity will increase incentives for FARC units to continue illicit activity, such as drug trafficking, since doing so will pose relatively low risks.”

War Engenders More War, Not Peace

Before the NO vote, the U.S. press hailed Plan Colombia for making peace possible. President Obama, in his self-congratulatory last speech to the UN stated we “helped Colombia end Latin America’s longest war.” The logic of this bizarre argument went that were it not for the military debilitation of the guerrilla thanks to the US-Colombian military alliance, the FARC could never have been brought to the negotiating table.

The NO vote is the classic example of the fallacy of that logic. The war fomented by Plan Colombia built up a mentality that made peace an unacceptable solution for many. It revealed the fundamental clash of perspectives between diplomacy and annihilation.

The lesson couldn’t be clearer: War is a terrible preparation for peace. Peace depends on much more than a favorable correlation of forces. Peace, at its core, is a rejection of force as the way to confront differences, and a search for non-violent solutions to conflict and conflict prevention.

With U.S. military theorists openly calling for reopening hostilities, it is a dangerous myth to assume that at this juncture everyone wants peace and the only open question is how to do it. Plan Colombia, the U.S.-sponsored war on drugs and Uribe’s Democratic Security posit continued militarization. Those who promote peace and reconciliation in the country must deal with that mentality head on. To second-guess or justify NO voters with “they-know-not-what-they-do” arguments reflects the kind of complacency and misreading of the public that created this dangerous debacle in the first place.

There is no doubt that a massive campaign of misinformation and scaremongering played a role. Voters were bombarded with alarmist messages that spun out wild scenarios, from a legislative takeover by the former FARC to a “Chavez-Castro style dictatorship”. CNN’s footage of the NO celebration showed the crowd chanting “The NO won, now we won’t have a Cuban dictatorship”. It didn’t seem to matter that there was no logical relationship between voting for the peace agreement and the nation becoming a dictatorship. For followers of Uribe, who led the massive campaign against the negotiations and the acceptance of the agreement, the vote was ideological and personal. It represented the right against the left, and Uribe against Santos. For many people stuck in bitter partisan politics, to vote for peace was to vote in favor of the latter.

It is also likely that many people did not have a clear understanding of the accords or their implications, which is a failing of the negotiators and SI (yes) promoters that left a fatal opening for NO propaganda. Some voters also apparently believed that four years of arduous negotiations with the technical support of scores of international experts and mediators could simply be reopened and “fixed” to their liking, despite that the president made it clear there was “no Plan B”. Some NO voters quoted in the press even expressed dismay that they had won, believing they were merely casting a protest vote.

Despite these factors, the NO vote reveals a major obstacle: Society has been trained over years of conflict—one of the longest-running internal conflicts in the world–to acquiesce to war as the only response, to dehumanize the enemy and overlook the obvious fact that it takes two sides to sustain hostilities. A society that believes that the only solution is to drive the enemy into the ground–even when they are men and women from your own country and a reflection of serious social problems, into the ground.

This is the patriarchal mentality that the war industry thrives on. Plan Colombia has fomented this mentality since it began. It conflated a war on drugs with a counterinsurgency war to justify foreign intervention and broaden the war. The U.S. government knew that military funding was going directly to paramilitary groups. A 2010 empirical study demonstrated a measurable relationship between increases in US security funding and paramilitary homicides. War propaganda presented the FARC as the sole culprit, when terrible atrocities were being committed on both sides.

With the exceptions of Arauca and Norte de Santander, the departments on Colombia’s borders that have suffered most in the war voted to end it. They know what it’s like to feel their houses shaken by bombs, to risk life and limb walking through minefields, to lose their loved ones in crossfire. They know that to stop the violence in their day-to-day lives is far more important than the political games of how punishment and power are dished out.

War as a policy is almost always favored by those farthest from the battlefields.

The Road to Peace

Understanding the very real and perilous obstacles is not the same as being pessimistic or defeatist at this point in the Colombian peace—it’s a process. It’s important not to minimize the enormity of this setback–President Santos’ Nobel Peace Prize may be deserved but it’s a sorry consolation prize for having gotten so close only to be slapped down. But it’s also important to acknowledge that there is still room to move forward.

The peace accords opened up a dialogue and allowed the nation to envision peace. Grassroots organizations are mobilizing in defense of this vision and the possibility of a new reality.

This is the hope on the horizon. Since the NO vote, thousands have marched to support the peace process in Bogota and also in Cali and cities across the country. The marches have awakened and united groups of indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, victims, students, human rights defenders, peasants, women and the LGBT community in defense of peace.

The international community should openly and actively support the call for a broad grassroots dialogue for peace. It must continue to be firm and vigilant, because there will be a serious attempt to force a return to the model of military annihilation of the left-wing guerrillas while leaving in tact rightwing paramilitaries and other militarist structures.

International organizations committed millions of dollars to support peace implementation and it must be clear that those funds will only be released when the process is back on track. Part of creating adequate conditions is to deny any new funding to militarism– including the war on drugs, which acts as a thinly veiled excuse for militarization.

The NO vote unexpectedly flipped the political situation back in favor of the rightwing hawks. This uprising could not only flip it back in favor of peace, but also create a social movement capable of going beyond the accords in terms of establishing social justice and human rights and addressing the enormous backlog of demands from below.

Laura Carlsen

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) in Mexico City, where she has been an analyst and writer for two decades. She is also a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

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'Hands Off Medicare': Sanders, Other Lawmakers Call Out Trump's Promises

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

'Hands Off Medicare': Sanders, Other Lawmakers Call Out Trump's Promises

'You told the seniors of this country you were on their side'


U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with seniors and activists on Wednesday delivered more than one million petition signatures demanding that President-elect Donald Trump does not gut Medicare.

"You told the seniors of this country you were on their side, you told working people you were on their side," Sanders said in a press conference marking the petition delivery. "You said you would not cut Social Security, you would not cut Medicare...millions of us are going to demand that you keep your promise."

On the campaign trail, Trump explicitly said he would not cut the program that provides government-subsidized health insurance to Americans 65 and older. But many fear that with Trump's rise to power, and the reelection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to House Majority Leader, Republican control over the government may put Medicare on the chopping block.

As Common Dreams recently reported, Trump's transition website states that the administration will "modernize" Medicare—a code word for privatization, something Ryan has outspokenly supported, as Huffington Post's Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young explain.

Meanwhile, Trump has also nominated Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for Health and Human Services Secretary, further indicating that the program is at risk. Price is not only a Medicare opponent, but also a close ally of Ryan's, as Social Security Works pointed out in a statement Wednesday.

Sanders was joined by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and senior members of organizations like MoveOn.org and National Nurses United (NNU).

"The November election results did not give anyone a mandate to dismantle one of the most popular public programs in U.S. history, Medicare," said NNU co-president Jean Ross in a statement Tuesday. " As nurses we are absolutely opposed to Rep. Paul Ryan's schemes to destroy it by converting it into a program that further enriches the insurance industry and denies care to seniors because they can't afford it."

"Medicare works and that's why we think it should be expanded so that everyone in our nation has access to quality care regardless of their ability to pay," Ross said. "Nurses will make our voices heard across the country in the face of the threat of privatization and profiteering off sickness which is at the heart of the Ryan proposal."

The threat to Medicare comes amid Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) once Trump enters office.

As NNU executive director RoseAnn DeMoro wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams on Tuesday, a better idea would be Medicare for all—a key component of Sanders' presidential platform.

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'New Step in Long Walk to Freedom': Palestinian Prisoners Launch Mass Hunger Strike

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by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer April 17, 2017


'New Step in Long Walk to Freedom': Palestinian Prisoners Launch Mass Hunger Strike

As many as 1,500 political detainees are taking part in the demonstration demanding 'freedom and dignity'

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday, protesting dismal conditions as well as "Israel's inhumane system of colonial and military occupation."

Some said as many as 1,500 political prisoners in six jails across Israel were participating in the open-ended strike, commemorating Palestinian Prisoners' Day and coming ahead of June's 50-year anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, when the occupation began. Solidarity rallies were also taking place in the occupied cities of Ramallah, Hebron, and Nablus.

According to the human rights and prisoner advocacy organization Addameer, which is urging global solidarity with the detainees, "the hunger striking prisoners' demands include: family visits, proper medical care, end to Israel's practice of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial in so-called administrative detention, and stopping the use of isolation."

Palestinian movement leader and longtime prisoner Marwan Barghouti, who initiated the call to strike, explained his reasoning in a New York Times op-ed published Sunday.

"Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance," he wrote. "Israel's courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the [U.S.] State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 percent."

Barghouti continued:

Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.

Instead, though, Israel's prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners' movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.

"Ahmed," a 32-year-old from Hebron currently held in administrative detention in Ketziot prison in the Negev desert, told Amnesty International that he was joining the mass hunger strike in the hope that it will pressure the authorities to allow his 70-year-old mother, who has been repeatedly denied a permit, to visit him. Ahmed, who said he'd been arrested seven times in total, has spent a cumulative five and a half years in an Israeli prison—but has only had one family visit in that time.

"In 2006 my mother and father were able to visit me because my father was sick," Ahmed told Amnesty for its report released Monday. "He was 75 then, it was the last time I saw him. He died while I was in prison." 

Now, he said, his mother is being denied a visitation permit. "The Israeli authorities are using the permits to punish me," Ahmed said. "I don't know how long [my mother] has [left] and if I will be able to see her if or when I am released."

Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty, declared: "Israel's ruthless policy of holding Palestinian prisoners arrested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in prisons inside Israel is a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is unlawful and cruel and the consequences for the imprisoned person and their loved ones, who are often deprived from seeing them for months, and at times for years on end, can be devastating."

The mass action, described as one of the largest in recent years, also has widespread political support.

"On this day, we are reminded of the pain of imprisonment, the cruelty of the occupation, and the injustice of the prison cells, as we are reminded of our pride in your steadfastness and sacrifice," Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah said in a recorded video message shared on his Twitter page. "In the midst of this battle I call on all the Palestinian people and national institutions to show more solidarity so we can deliver the message of the prisoners to the whole world. Let us all push for the largest international, popular, and official movement to stand by the prisoners in this critical time."

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'Pray': Armed Police Descend on Water Protectors at DAPL Site

Written by Super User on . Posted in Front News

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer


'Pray': Armed Police Descend on Water Protectors at DAPL Site

Hundreds of water protectors attempted to cross footbridges built over Cantapeta Creek to reach construction area

Police descended on water protectors in North Dakota on Wednesday, as images on social media showed a dramatic standoff along a creek that borders a construction site for the long-opposed Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Jordan Chariton, a political reporter with The Young Turks network, posted this video dispatch after covering events just east of the main camp, where Standing Rock Sioux tribal members and their allies were set upon by law enforcement officers in full military gear:

Amidst the standoff one peaceful demonstrator said she was telling officers that she "Loved them" when they began shooting her in the face with mace.

And filmmaker and journalist Josh Fox, also on the scene, decried the violence by authorities, telling Chariton, "These people from the North Dakota police force and the United States government has lost legitimacy in every respect today."

According to independent media outlet Unicorn Riot, which was also on the ground in the town of Cannon Ball, hundreds of water protectors attempted to cross footbridges built over Cantapeta Creek to reach the DAPL construction area on the other shore, but the police in riot gear reportedly pulled the bridges apart and forcibly kept people from crossing onto the opposite bank.

#NoDAPL Tweets

One protector said the walkways had been built to help elders reach the construction area to pray for sacred sites.

The Bismarck Tribune writes that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which lays claim to the land along the shoreline, gave Morton County the orders to arrest protesters and break down the bridge.

According to Grand Forks Herald, law enforcement officers used a boat to pull the bridge apart, and many protectors proceeded to swim across the river.

People on the ground said women and children were being evacuated from the protest camps, multiple people had already been maced, and police had fired rubber bullets, injuring at least one person.

Native American tribes and activists from all over the country have been resisting DAPL's construction for months, saying it threatens their access to clean water and violates treaty rights.

    White residue floating on top of water is from the variety of chemical weapons used against #NoDAPL water protectors. pic.twitter.com/HObv9xlPCV

    — Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) November 2, 2016

    Just coverered disturbing standoff bw ND police and protectors-police pepper sprayed, shot rubber bullets @ point blank range #NoDAPl

    — Jordan (@JordanChariton) November 2, 2016

    Journalist, congressional candidate, @ErinSchrode shot in back w rubberbullet #StandingRock protest. I was right next 2 her. #nodapl shes ok

    — Josh Fox (@joshfoxfilm) November 2, 2016

    Happening at Standing Rock now. Pray. #NoDAPL pic.twitter.com/l7EeSWCq7A

    — Ruth Hopkins (@RuthHHopkins) November 2, 2016

    Multiple people have been maced. They're evacuating women and children from camp. #NoDAPL

    — Ruth Hopkins (@RuthHHopkins) November 2, 2016

    Barrier of logs and rope has been constructed, placed the water by #NoDAPL water protectors. More officers arriving, lining up on the shore. pic.twitter.com/LY4TbioL6z

    — Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) November 2, 2016


    Currently happening... pic.twitter.com/oy6cTFxKi3

    — Native Life ☄#NoDAPL (@_Native_Life) November 2, 2016

    Protester shot in back, not live bullet. Medic says may have injured lung, coughing up blood, being rushed to clinic. #noDAPL

    — Jason Patinkin (@JasonPatinkin) November 2, 2016

Protectors have vowed to remain vigilant against the pipeline. In recent weeks, police and private security teams have raided the camps, assaulted peaceful protesters with pepper spray and attack dogs, and made hundreds of arrests. Reports of abuse and excessive criminal charges became rampant. One documentary filmmaker faces up to 45 years in prison for her role in the coverage. The United Nations last week sent human rights observers to the site to monitor the situation.

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