22 September 2008

Spanish Daily El Pais and its coverage of Latin America

I had been wondering for some time why the Spanish daily El País, was so pro-Uribe and so intent on the demonisation of Chavez, Morales, Correa, etc.

But, back in June, I was doing some research for a letter I was writing to the editors * of said newspaper, when I came across the following information:

El Pais forms part of PRISA (Promotora de Informaciones SA), a large Spanish media and publishing conglomerate ( this I already knew!). In Spain, El País is known as a daily newspaper with sympathies towards the Spanish socialist party, the PSOE, and so I had been a bit confused as to their repeated negative coverage of Chavez, Morlaes, Correa or any leftish leader in Latin America, and their positive coverage of Uribe. Yes, I know, very naive.

What I found out was that PRISA has for some time now had 'interests' in Colombia (they own Radio Caracol, and newspapers in Cali, Cartagena y Bucaramanga), and only last year they were pipped at the post in their attempts to buy El Tiempo, the most influential newspaper, with the highest circulation, in Colombia. This honour went to the Planeta Group, also Spanish, which owns A3TV, OndaCero radio station and La Razón daily newspaper, all with a right wing bias.

I also found out PRISA is one of several conglomerates bidding for the licence for the 3rd private TV channel in Colombia (the other big bidders are the Planeta Group and the partnership between the Venezuelan Cisneros Group and Colombian businessman Luis Carlos Sarmiento), which will be adjudicated in May 2009.

According to the Spanish daily El Público, edited by former PRISA man Ernesto Ekaizer, an Argentinian by birth, all the media conglomerates in Colombia are vehemently 'Uribista', so much so that they are called 'furibistas'. Indeed, Polanco, President of PRISA, seems to have a decent relationship with Uribe, as he was awarded the National Order of Merit by Uribe in June 2005, who emphasized the "contribution to the creation of more employment for Colombians" ("que contribuye a la generación de más empleo para los colombianos"). An interesting phrase considering that when PRISA bought Radio Caracol, it had a staff numbering about 1,500 and that in June 2005 the staff numbered about 450...

As the Comisión Nacional de Televisión (CNTV) is entirely controlled by furibistas too (Uribe named the members), one can assume with certainty that they will do his bidding, even though it is supposed to be an auction with the highest bid winning the pot.

Bu that's not all! Since 2000, when Business Week announced that PRISA wanted to "to Conquer the New World", it has engaged in a massive expansion throughout Latin America.

Of course, business is business, and this explains perfectly the editorial position with regard to Latin America in all PRISA's Spanish media which includes Cadena Ser, Cuatro TV station and the CNN+.

You may be asking, why mention all this now?

Well the reason is that I came across this tidbit on the excellent Inka Kola News blog:

"Meanwhile, it's not just the US that is fed total crap on Bolivia. It took numerous complaints from people who know better to get Spain's "El Pais" newspaper (that believes itself to be the journal of record in Spain, but is woefully poor compared to even the NYT) to change this caption....

....to the corrected caption now shown here. For around three days, Spain was told that the racist, fascist scum depicted were actually supporters of Evo Morales (the caption translated saying "Party Members of the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales"). I suppose this is why Abiding has been getting praise heaped upon his blog by all and sundry...he does this weird thing called "telling the truth" and also stuff like "fact checking". Semi OT: Note to Simon Romero; please check on both phrases before next opening your laptop."

Without all the other information mentioned above this could be seen as a simple mistake. Now I'm not so sure.

* NB: Alterzoom left out the links I sent with my letter. Here they are for what they're worth:

1) http://www.elpais.com/articulo/internacional/Colombia/asegura/FARC/planeaban/atentado/Madrid/elpepiint/20080529elpepiint_10/Tes
(5) Zapatero dice que está por confirmar la relación entre ETA y las FARC

18 September 2008

New UN president criticises “acts of aggression’’ in Iraq and Afghanistan

New UN president, Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, a Nicaraguan Roman Catholic priest and former foreign minister under the Sandinistas, has called on world powers "to democratize our United Nations".

The state of our world today is deplorable, inexcusable and, therefore, shameful. What Tolstoy denounced as ‘mad selfishness’ explains why, as trillions of dollars are spent on wars of aggression, more than half the world’s people languish in hunger and destitution. Our priorities, sisters and brothers, could hardly be more confused.

He also said a high-level dialogue will be held during the next year on the subject of democratizing the UN. The event will be split into three sessions that consider the Bretton Woods and other international finance institutions, the role of the General Assembly, and the size and format of the Security Council.

Reform of the 15-member Council was among the most urgent challenges facing the UN, he noted.

It is a sad but undeniable fact that serious breaches of the peace and threats to international peace and security are being perpetrated by some members of the Security Council that seem unable to break what appears like an addiction to war.

In the case of some of those members, the veto privilege seems to have gone to their heads and has confused them to the point of making them think they are entitled to do as they please without consequence.”

The resolutions of the General Assembly should also become binding, warning that all too often the resolutions are ignored by Member States.

We must… do away with dreams and hopes about planetary domination. All imperial dreams and behaviour are totally against the spirit and the letter of our Charter and certainly are going to lead us to our extinction.”

View video here.

16 September 2008

US Embassy in Bolivia 'encourages' all its citizens to leave Bolivia

The US Embassy in Bolivia yesterday issued an alert advising US citizens to "defer non-essential travel to Bolivia" and encouragement for "U.S. citizens currently in Bolivia...to depart". They also announced that the "Peace Corps has temporarily suspended its program in Bolivia and Peace Corps volunteers have left the country."

Not surprising when we find out from the dude at Abiding in Bolivia that the "new director of Bolivia's Peace Corp, Kathleen M. Sifer, just arrived from her last position directing Peace Corp operations in... wait for it.... Georgia, yea the country! "

Also check out this video from the Real News Network:

The following video is from the 31 August 2008 in Santa Cruz, starting the night Morales decreed the referendum for a new constitution and continuing the following morning. Racist insults and beatings of government supporters were the order of the day. Little wonder then that it degenerated in other Prefectures into the Porvenir Massacre.

This from Machetera: "Dump trucks as a killing platform"

"ABN, La Patria Nueva, Erbol

Translation: Machetera

Sunday, September 14, 2008, 10:02 p.m.

Cobija. - After military troops sent by the government of Evo Morales took control of Pando department, the accounts from survivors of last Thursday’s Porvenir Massacre where there are 30 dead, 25 wounded and 106 missing, began to multiply, reported the Bolivian government and the Pando Peasant Workers Federation.

The Bolivarian Erbol Broadcasters Network and Radio Patria Nueva have compiled some of them, which we present in this note.

“They shot at pregnant women and children”

Today a woman leading the Bolivian peasants denounced the fact that during yesterday’s confrontation in Pando, armed opposition groups killed pregnant women and children and those who were driven to the Tahuamanu river.

In statements to Patria Nueva, the peasant leader, who didn’t wish to give her name for fear of reprisals said that the farming comrades were “victims of racism” and added that “the objective of the massacres was met.” “There were pregnant women, boys and girls who were killed when they crossed the river to escape; they shot them and pushed them into the water,” she said.

The leader added that “furthermore there are other pregnant women who are wounded and at the point of miscarrying.” The number of deaths in Pando, in Bolivia’s north, during the confrontations between opposition shock troops with a column of government sympathizers, grew to 15, the majority of them peasants allied with President Evo Morales.

Yesterday morning the cadavers of six people were found floating in the waters of the Tahuamanu river, which crosses the region, and it’s feared that there are other bodies in the jungle, according to the presidential delegate Nancy Texeira.

According to another source, many peasants who identified with Morales were pursued by armed gangs and “fled to the bush” causing a confrontation near Filadelfa, 45 kilometers to the southwest of Cobija. The woman also told the station that the attackers carried machine-guns and automatic weapons and said that many of them “came from the Brazilian side.”

“It was incredible, but the police only watched and inspected the peasants,” she said, and later added that “when the Prefecture’s attackers came toward us, the police fled.” “When we began to escape toward the bridge in order to cross the river, many of the attackers pushed the comrades from the bridge, threw them into the water and then shot them from above,” she concluded.

More Testimonies

Señora Zaida from Filadelfia: “They threatened us in a deep trench that they opened at three in the morning; the dump trucks from the Department of Roads Services were there. The police betrayed us, they didn’t protect us. They asked us to stay where we were, and they sent a dump truck our direction, from which they shot at us. We tried to escape through the river, but they shot at the water to kill us.”

Vanessa Yubacero said: “I was from the Nuevo Triunfo community. We’d arrived less than five meters from the Pozo Bridge when they threatened us. They said it would be better for us to turn around and we continued…we went forward and the police stopped us, let’s see how they can, no-one was expecting them to give us water, they surrounded us, they didn’t give us any time, they shot at the children, how they died, with gunshots to the heart, how those children cried, with those machine-guns.”

“We ran for the bush and the gunshots followed them, there was a woman who didn’t know how to swim, with her children, how they cried, ‘Mama, I don’t want them to kill you!’ They had no compassion for us,” said one of the survivors.

Another account from a woman who lives in Cobija indicated that officials from the Prefecture are responsible for the murder of the peasants in El Porvenir. One woman told Erbol: “There are two groups, they’ve looted, they’ve robbed, it’s not possible that among Bolivians they should kill us.”

A male peasant from Filadelfia: “Cobija is already peaceful through the presence of the military, but now the war has moved to the town. We understand that there are many people wounded in the bush and there are people who continue their flight because we can’t return to the fields where we have no security.”

Oscar, a student from Filadelfia who’s now in hiding in Cobija, said “We came in a small pickup truck and at our side appeared a dump truck from the Prefecture, and they began to shoot at us

15 September 2008

Saakashvili "planned S. Ossetia invasion" -ex-minister

Further to my earlier post, which highlighted the accusations by Prof. Charles King, Ion Ratiu Professor of Romanian Studies and Professor of International Affairs in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, that "Georgia for a long time, and in fact Georgians and the political elite and elsewhere have talked about an incident now 13 years ago, but 13 years ago actually this month in August, something called Operation Storm, when the Croatian military moved into a region of its own territory called the Krajina, to oust a local secessionist Serb entity", it now seems that this is confirmed by this Reuters report:

"Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had long planned a military strike to seize back the breakaway region of South Ossetia but executed it poorly, making it easy for Russia to retaliate, Saakashvili's former defence minister said."

"Okruashvili, a close Saakashvili ally who served as defence minister from 2004 to 2006, said he and the president worked together on military plans to invade South Ossetia and a second breakaway region on the Black Sea coast, Abkhazia. "Abkhazia was our strategic priority, but we drew up military plans in 2005 for taking both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well," Okruashvili said."


UPDATE 16 September 2008:

See this report from Der Spiegel: "Five weeks after the war in the Caucasus the mood is shifting against Georgian President Saakashvili. Some Western intelligence reports have undermined Tbilisi's version of events, and there are now calls on both sides of the Atlantic for an independent investigation."

Georgia has also leaked directly to the NYT this supposed 'evidence', that Russia was to blame. Unfortunately for them, these are excerpts of conversations and prove nothing.

14 September 2008

Real News Network Explains Situation in Bolivia

Essential as you will never get the full news from western main stream media. You'll et the officially US-sanctioned news.

Oil giants flock to Iraqi auction

Largely due to the Iraqi resistance to the brutal war of agression waged by the US with what Chomsky describes as its 'junior partner': the UK (for me Britain plays Tonto to the US' Lone Ranger), the carve-up of Iraqi oil has been delayed 5 years, but thanks to the US/UK's enforcement of the Salvador option in Iraq, where their 'Special Forces' have been on a spree of mayhem and murder of any and all resistance to occupation, and the Shia ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from most of Baghdad has virtually concluded, it appears the time is ripe for the corporate theft of Iraq's natural resources, the real reason for the aggression.

As The Times reports:

"Oil giants flock to Iraqi auction:

THE world’s largest oil companies will converge on London next month for a chance to re-enter Iraq for the first time in more than three decades.

In all, 34 oil companies, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, BG, Exxonmobil, Gazprom and Sinopec, are expected to attend a roadshow held by Iraq’s oil minister Hussein al-Shahristani when he officially kicks off the bidding for so-called technical-service agreements.

These will govern exploitation of eight of the country’s largest fields.

At the event, scheduled for October 13, bidders will be given technical data on the sites in question — six giant oilfields including Kirkuk and West Qurna and two gasfields — bidding parameters and remuneration terms.

The opening of Iraq, which sits on the world’s third-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been eagerly awaited by the industry but has been repeatedly delayed by security concerns and political infighting that has held back a crucial hydrocarbons law."

The Times calls political infighting the fact that most Iraqis are against the new oil law:

According to Assem Jihad, Iraqi oil ministry spokesman (who is he? how did he get the job?) quoted in the FT

Europe is looking for supplies of gas from Iraq,” said Mr Jihad. “Security used to be a deterrent but now companies feel that security has improved and this will encourage others to come in.”

We now see the real reason for the famous 'surge'...and its beneficiaries: "Royal Dutch Shell is to become the first western oil company to sign a deal with the Iraqi government since the US-led invasion of 2003, agreeing a plan to capture and use gas in the Basra region that could be worth up to $4bn."

Funny how the Times didn't feel that was worth mentioning in their article...


Following on from the article about the baby killers, Haaretz has an article informing s that the baby kille's weapon par excellence is now being sold to the second biggest child killers on earth, the Israeli Occupation Forces: "U.S. Department of Defense announced it would sell the Israel Air Force 1,000 new smart bombs, rumored to significantly enhance the IAF's military capabilities. The deal was approved amid public and secret messages from Washington, with the Americans expressing their reservations about a possible Israeli strike against the Islamic Republic's suspected nuclear sites...The U.S. Department of Defense announced it would sell the Israel Air Force 1,000 new smart bombs, rumored to significantly enhance the IAF's military capabilities. The deal was approved amid public and secret messages from Washington, with the Americans expressing their reservations about a possible Israeli strike against the Islamic Republic's suspected nuclear sites.
The Pentagon's announcement, which came on Friday, said the U.S. will provide Israel with 1,000 units of Guided Bomb Unit-39 (GBU-39) - a special weapon developed for penetrating fortified facilities located deep underground. (
which was introduced int the Iraq theatre in 2006)
The $77 million shipment, which includes launchers and appurtenances, will allow the IAF to hit many more bunkers than currently possible. Although each bomb weighs 113 kilograms, its penetration capabilities equal those of a one ton bomb, according to professional literature.

This is the bomb thats supposedly 'safe' for civilians, but which is causing more civilian casualties than ever.

Imagine this hitting a building housing women and children...


Another video, this time about the attempts y some to bring to justice the most dastardly criminals of our age.


And this is for the holier than thou crowd who use humanitarian intervention as an excuse to invade foreign sovereign states:

Britain blocks prosecution of Sudan's ruler

And what is the excuse do they give?

"the government says it has adopted the controversial position to save lives in the western Sudan province where the United Nations estimates that 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million others have been driven from their homes since 2003."

What a shame they didn't take their own advice before their aggression on Serbia...

And finally an American with a bit of guts:

Rebel Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher backs Russia over Georgia

"Mr Rohrabacher claimed that unidentified intelligence sources had assured him that Georgia started the fighting that began on August 7 when Georgia's military tried to re-establish control over its breakaway, pro-Russian province of South Ossetia."

For more see here.


13 September 2008

The Baby Killers

I post this here, in its entirety, because too many people back home just don't care how many brown-skinned babies die in far-off lands at the hands of their own military. Where is the outrage?
Where is the compassion? As Richard Neville puts it "many of today's citizens have more pressing worries than the serial massacres of toddlers in badlands."

" I keep promising myself not to mention the wars for these reasons: the invaders couldn't care less about their crimes or their critics, my friends think I've become a ranting bore and many of today's citizens have more pressing worries than the serial massacres of toddlers in badlands. Bad stuff keeps happening. It keeps being denied. And is soon forgotten.

From the very first days of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. air force has specialised in dropping bombs on family compounds supposedly containing "militants". Often they are not at home, unlike the women and children and elderly, whose bodies are eventually spread on the ground in preparation for a mass burial, while the Pentagon issues a curt "regret". Then it bombs the funeral. It's happened more than once. Another target is wedding parties. Back in July 2002, snug in their AC-130 bombers, American pilots wiped out a celebration in Uruzgan province, killing 48 civilians - mostly women and children - and injuring 117 locals. It's happened more than once.

It happened again this July, when a U.S .missile strike slaughtered 27 guests in Nangarhar province, 19 of them women and children. When locals arrived at the scene to care for the injured and collect the dead, four more bombs were unleashed, killing the bride and two of her relatives.

It's been much the same in Iraq and Pakistan, though barely reported. We kill on the hint of a whisper, kill because we can, kill because we rule the skies. Even as the Pentagon continued to deny its August massacre of 60 children and 15 women in Nawabad, in the district of Azizabad, Afghanistan, the bombs were raining down on a religious school in Waziristan, a tribal area of north west Pakistan. (The fourth U.S. assault this week on its "ally").

Unleashed by two drones, the strikes killed 23 people, though not the intended target, Jalaluddin Haqqani, a religious scholar and former commander of the U.S.-backed mujahideen which trounced the Russians ("Charlie's War"). Twenty others were wounded, mainly women and children. The guys who push the buttons at the Creech Air Force base in Nevada, managed to murder one of Haqqani wives, his sister-in-law, a sister, two nieces, eight grandchildren and a male relative.

"Sitting in a virtual cockpit is not as exciting as flying a fighter jet", noted CNN's breathless Laurie Ure, "but unmanned attack-plane pilots can enjoy a normal workday schedule". Captain Matt Dean agrees, "seeing bad guys on the screen and watching them possibly get dispatched, and then going down to the Taco Bell for lunch, it's kind of surreal". This is the Pentagon's version of Second Life, soon to be known as Exit Life. One day it will come to a war near you.

The latest unmanned bomber is called the Reaper and caries the same payload as an F-16 fighter plane, but happily, Laurie assures us - ‘its pilots are not put in harm's way.' Of course not, they're eating tacos. Col. Chris Chambliss is commander of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which was established last year as the first unit dedicated to unmanned aerial systems and remote controlled assassinations. "We're the victims of our own success", he tells a Defence correspondent, while he plays tapes of the victims of the Reaper. Chambliss says there is an "insatiable appetite" for his systems and their "capabilities" and his air-wing is currently flying 28 combat air patrols around the clock, and rising.

On Sept 8, while the boys from Creech were wolfing down their tacos, the London Times published an eight-minute of video of the massacre in Azizabad, the "most compelling evidence to emerge" of 75 civilian deaths. The hero here is an unnamed Afghan doctor who arrived at the scene with a cell phone and shot footage of weeping parents, injured children and charred babies - line upon line of shrouded corpses. Along with attack helicopters and a C130 Spectre gunship, armed drones were used in the attack.

And so it goes, this depressing spiral of wars without end, arms trading, Government lies, the obliteration of the innocent and an insane certainty that our Kilpingesque military missions are wise and noble. Oh yes, Australia's on board, fists flying. We're building a bigger navy to defend our sea lanes from, er, what? Oh yes, Asia's ascent. George Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain are pushing for a "surge" in Afghanistan, a country which never attacked anyone. True, it did harbour Osama bin Laden, just as America once harboured the Shah of Iran and still harbours anti-Castro terrorists and fully backed General Pinochet and nourished Pervez Musharraf and still trains torturers, etc, but as yet no army has invaded Washington.

Why are we in Afghanistan? "To spread democracy". Surely it's death we're spreading. If we cared about democracy we'd be listening to the locals, who want us out. In the most recent survey of public opinion, (this June, prior to the latest bout of killings), "more than six out of ten of those interviewed... said that foreign troops should leave." And let's not mention the encroaching famine - no-one else does.

The only war worth fighting anymore, is the war against carbon emissions. Instead of which, we're being sucked into an arms build-up, which will further scorch the planet. The chance of changing this priority is slim, given the West's long devotion to bloody combat. According to Johan Galtung, a longtime peace researcher and futurist, the "number of people killed in overt Pentagon-driven military action after the Second World War is now between 13 and 17 million". That's not a misprint. The number of people killed in covert action is "at least 6 million". Such figures are not to be found on Fox News, or even in the New York Times.

So while war may be hell, it's as American as apple pie, and unlikely to disappear before we do. It also explains why John McCain is edging ever closer the White House. In an era when Geneva is mocked, dissent ineffective and baby killing tolerated, it is strangely perfect that a presidential aspirant and his running mate should have blood on their hands, whether of Vietnamese civilians or an Alaskan Moose. If America signs up to this dark adventure, forget about calming the weather, restoring the eco system and embarking on an age of sustainability and transformation. All you'll get is a blood bath.

Footnote: Within hours of publishing this piece, it is reported that U.S. drones fired several missiles at a house of a "militant" in North Waziristan, leaving 12 people dead, including women and children. Eight others have been taken to hospital. They'll be dancing on the tables at Taco Bell's."

04 September 2008

Israel murders Belgian peacekeeper and terrorises Lebanon

"A Belgian peacekeeper was killed on Wednesday while clearing cluster bombs that Israel dropped on southern Lebanon during its 2006 war with Hezbollah guerrillas, witnesses said."

The chief of public information for UNIFIL, Neeraj Singh, confirmed that a peacekeeper had died but would not disclose his nationality.

"A member of a UNIFIL explosive ordnance disposal team died from an explosion around midday today while carrying out an unexploded ordnance clearance recce mission in the vicinity of Aitaroun," he told Reuters.

An investigation was under way, he said.

Cluster bombs are fired from the air or ground in canisters which burst to release the bomblets.

The United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre says Israel dropped a "few million" cluster bombs on Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of the bomblets failed to explode. "

Meanwhile, Israeli war planes have been terrorising Lebanese citizens in a continuation of a policy they used to inflict state terrorism on Gaza, where, according to the Guardian, Israeli 'Intelligence' have admitted
that "the tactic is intended to break civilian support for armed Palestinian groups...The UN Palestinian refugee agency said a majority of the patients seen at its clinics as a result of the sonic booms were under 16 and suffering from symptoms such as anxiety attacks, bedwetting, muscle spasms, temporary loss of hearing and breathing difficulties."

It has also caused women to miscarry: "the number of miscarriages had increased by 40%, according to Jumaa Saqqa, a surgeon and hospital spokesman. "There were no other symptoms and the rise happened after the sonic booms. We can see no other explanation. The number of patients admitted to the cardiac care unit doubled. Some of them proved to have suffered serious harm."

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel have in the past stated that, according to international law, "the booms are collective punishment against the civilian population and thus illegal.

The Israeli state is a criminal enterprise.

01 September 2008

Is Rupert Cornwell stupid or a paid propagandist?

Talk about spinning failure into success... This Cornwell character really has no shame. Just check out his latest opinion piece in the Independent masquerading as World News: "Have we misunderestimated George W Bush?"

In the foreign policy area his reasoning is that if Bonkers Bolton is so furious, Bush must be doing something right.

"Thereafter, the bluster of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Iran's steadily advancing nuclear programme, and its interference in neighbouring Iraq only made matters worse."

In Iraq he manages to turn a humiliating US defeat into victory: "the US troop "surge" of early 2007 has brought a measure of stability. American casualties have tumbled, and the government of Nouri al-Maliki is starting to deliver"

This guy accepts the official thruths blindly. Whatvere happened to journalism?

Re Israel "The US still will not lean heavily on Israel, but at least its diplomatic apparatus has a focus again"

"Bush may be proud of his record in bringing assistance to Africa, in particular to fight HIV-Aids."

"...has not been a single foreign terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11...the no-nonsense (to put it politely) treatment of terror suspects...Bush has undeniably performed his basic duty of keeping the country safe."

Why put it politely? Torture is tortue. Don't count your chickens Rupert, the blowback is still to come.

"His historical rehabilitation will largely depend on whether, and how quickly, his successors can quickly regain that good name"

Successors my arse. This sentence should read: ""His historical rehabilitation will largely depend on whether, and how quickly, the legions of paid propagandists like myself can quickly regain that good name" "