Friday, October 2, 2009
An open letter from an ordinary citizen to the world's powerful.
Violence has embedded itself in human life throughout the planet and there is no way of stopping it. There is no government, nor army, nor religion, nor political party, nor economic group capable of defeating the violence in the world. There is no power capable of ending the violence that grows day by day, infiltrating all of our activities and our most intimate life. The destructive power of violence that is overpowering humanity is becoming increasingly terrible and dangerous. If the rate of growth of violence continues to accelerate together with its destructive capacity, the consequences will be disastrous.
Can we change the direction of events that forewarn of human calamities of never before seen dimensions? There is an enormous quantity of lethal, nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional weapons with the power to annihilate life on the planet. This year in which we had the most serious world-wide financial crisis, in which we all experienced the repercussions of a recession, has once more become the year in which there have been record breaking investments in weapons.
We are all responsible for what is happening and we have to make a profound decision in our interior. Either we continue supporting our governments with their militarist policies, continuously justifying them with fear and vengeance, or we unite our voice and our sentiment to those of millions of human beings of different languages, races, beliefs and cultures to ignite the human consciousness with the light of nonviolence.
Nuclear weapons have proliferated to many countries and are within the reach of groups that are not under the control of Nation States. Today their justification as a deterrent or defence has reached the limit of absurdity and we believe that the only path is Total Worldwide Nuclear Disarmament.
To the Presidents and Prime Ministers of; the United States of America; the Russian Federation; the People's Republic of China; the Republic of France; the United Kingdom; the Republic of India; the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the State of Israel:
The responsibility in this moment in which the future of humanity is decided falls to you. You are those who will decide between history and prehistory, between humanization and animalization, between an earth for all and a world of fear, between a generous earth and a contaminated desert. You will be responsible for the social atmosphere that we breathe in the coming years.
We are in motion, travelling around the planet to strengthen the voice that is clamouring for a human world. We cannot bear more suffering in our fellow man. We don't want any more wars. These aggressions we feel within us. A change has been produced in our consciousness and there is no going back. It is necessary to dismantle the weapons of mass destruction as well as to reconvert the economic system that produces poverty, discrimination, and death. It is necessary to safeguard life in order to construct a world of equal rights and opportunities for all.
Today we demand that you prioritize in your policies of defence and foreign relations:
+ nuclear disarmament at a global level
+ the immediate withdrawal of invading troops from occupied territories
+ the progressive and proportional reduction of conventional weapons
+ the signing of non-aggression treaties between countries
+ the renunciation by governments of the use of war as a means to resolve conflicts
We will not allow the World March for Peace and Nonviolence to go unnoticed in ourselves, in our families, in our towns, and in our world.
We will let this determination, which shows the best of each one of us, grow with the best of the human being.
We are thousands, we will be millions and the world will change.
Source: World March for Peace and Nonviolence
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Yann seeks to uncover the story behind the landscape, not just create a pretty picture. Indeed, his subjects are not always photogenic -- his prints show poverty and strife as well as green tranquility; and everywhere in his work is the encroaching hand of humanity and its enterprise.
Yann's newest project takes a different view -- focusing more closely on the people who live on our planet. Called 6 milliards d'Autres, the project was a centerpiece of Pangea Day 2008.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Of an estimated 218 million child labourers, about 100 million are girls. Exposed to danger in hazardous labouring are an estimated 58 million girls.
Yet yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the plight of these millions of abused children is unlikely to be on the front page of your local commercial newspaper nor the lead story on your television news channel.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
A modern day bloodbath is unfolding on the small island of Sri Lanka and the key to stopping this humanitarian disaster lies with Sri Lanka’s largest donor and closest partner in the region -- Japan. Let´s send a powerful message to the Japanese Foreign Minister asking for pressure to stop the killing.
Now that the US has begun to increase its pressure, the solution to stopping this humanitarian disaster lies with Sri Lanka’s key donor and closest partner in the region -- Japan. It has powerful political and economic influence over the Sri Lankan government and a swing vote at the UN Security Council, which up until now has turned a blind eye to this mounting catastrophe.
Click here to send a message to the Japanese Foreign Minister, who is deciding his government's next steps. Japan cares about its international reputation and a flood of messages from abroad would encourage them to act. If Japan moves then the Sri Lankan government will be forced to immediately respond to protect civilians.
As last weekend´s carnage testifies, every minute counts for the estimated 50,000 civilians still trapped inside the shrinking conflict zone and for those 200,000 more who are barely surviving in overcrowded camps. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which rarely makes public comment, called this conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels, 'nothing short of catastrophic'.
Until now, the divided UN Security Council has abdicated their responsibility to protect Sri Lankans from war crimes and other atrocities. But in this conflict Japan cannot be ignored – it's powerful voice could tip the balance and influence the conflict dynamics, saving lives in the short-term and promoting peace and development in the long run.
Asia's longest-running civil war is entering its final stage – the only question is how many will die before it ends. Let´s send a powerful message urging Foreign Minister Nakasone to act responsibly and lead international efforts to push the Tamil rebels to release the remaining civilians, stop the government bombing and bring sustainable peace to Sri Lanka. Japan's political and economic weight means that they cannot be ignored.
As other donor nations increase the pressure behind the scenes this week, a truly global citizens' outcry can further turn the heat on the Japanese government to use its leverage and push for a robust and concerted international action that stops the bloodshed and protect the Sri Lankan civilian population at risk. Thank you for sending your message today.
Luis, Brett, Alice, Graziela, Pascal, Ben, Ricken, Paula, Iain, Paul, Raj and the rest of the Avaaz Team
Update May 14, 2009:
The United Nations Security Council has asked the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels to ensure the safety of civilians trapped in the conflict.
A UNSC statement expressed grave concern at the worsening humanitarian crisis in the northeast.
The International Red Cross report that their workers on the ground in Sri Lanka are "witnessing an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe."
Update May 23, 2009:
According to some mainstream media outlets, the United Nations has stated that up to 10,000 civilians died in the Sri Lankan army's advance across the north of the island between January and May. In fact, the United Nations has not stated a casualty count at this stage. To properly assess the human cost of the Sri Lankan army's advance, the UN needs access to the suffering survivors. The Sri Lankan government has not, as yet, provided the necessary access.
See also: bloody venerable island on webdiary-libre
Google news on Sri Lanka
Wikimedia Atlas of Sri Lanka
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Almost invisible on a world map, the small island called Ascension seems to be reduced only to a fragment of land lost in the South-Atlantic Ocean and devoid of any interest. However it is strategically positioned in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Ascension has no indigenous population. It was first inhabited in 1815 when the British garrisoned it as a precaution after imprisoning Napoleon I on St Helena (1,287 km to the southeast). Now it is a British Overseas Territory which, together with St Helena and Tristan da Cunha, forms a single territorial grouping under the sovereignty of the British Crown.
Much of the island is a wasteland of lava flows and cinder cones. Then there's Wideawake Airfield, a joint facility of the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force. Both the BBC and Cable & Wireless have communications posts there. The European Space Agency has a tracking station. There's also one of five ground antennas used in the operation of the Global Positioning System.
In his 1996 book Secret Power: New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network, investigative journalist Nicky Hager claimed that Ascension Island was the location for a station that represented a missing piece in the secretive ECHELON world-wide electronic spy network. [Another station in that network may be located within the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia. One is certainly located in central Australia.]
Last year, at the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, British diplomats requested sovereignty over 200,000 km2 of submarine territory around the island. It's to enable British control of exploration into new reserves of oil, gas and minerals.
Wikimedia Atlas of Ascension Island
Ascension Island Web Cam
There is a 33-kilometre long island in the southern Caribbean Sea. Caiquetios had been living on this most southwestern island of the Caribbean archipelago for 1,000 years or more, then came ships from Spain. The Conquistadors aboard those ships were seeking gold and other precious metals. They searched and found none, so the Spaniards declared Aruba one of the Islas Inutiles (Useless Islands).
But they put it to some use before long. They set about sending captured islanders to another larger Caribbean island they'd conquered. They sent the Caiquetios first as slaves to labour in their copper mines, then later they sent the Caiquetios to work on their cattle and horse farms.
In April 1624, Pieter Schouten, sailing with three ships for the WIC, had sighted Aruba off the Venezuelan coast. Also sighting men and horses on the shore, Schouten did not disembark. Three years later a WIC expedition under Dirck van Uytgeest sailed off the Aruban coast. They too spied men on the shore and stuck to the safety of their ships.
Then in 1633 Spain conquered the nearby island of Sualouiga (which Colombus had called Isla de San Martín). It was situated strategically between two of the colonies of the Netherlands -- Brazil and Nieuw-Nederland (on the northeastern coast of North America). The Dutch and the WIC couldn't tolerate this situation. They needed a stronghold in the Caribbean to ensure Dutch supremacy in the New World, so from Nieuw Amsterdam WIC ships sailed south and conquered the island called Curaçao (now part of the Nederlandse Antillen), using it as a base of operations during the Eighty Years' War to attack the Spanish armada.
After suffering the hardness and inhuman conditions of the trip from the other side of the Atlantic, the hundreds of thousands African slaves arriving to Curacao, were "refreshed" in the fields around Willemstad. After this they were taken to the slave market and sold like cattle.
Soon after the Dutch landed on Aruba, taking control of it to prevent attacks being launched from here upon Curaçao, which became both the administrative centre for the WIC and central in the Caribbean slave trade. On Aruba the WIC began engaging the locals in breeding horses and particularly goats on the island, so many that Aruba was also called the "goat island". For some years the main export of Aruba were these horses, worth about 300 guilders each, and goats. They were exported to Jamaica and Cuba. The WIC also had islanders cut down so-called Brasilwood, which was shipped to Amsterdam where it was rasped by convicts at the Rasphouse, the prison.
After acquiring land on Aruba from the WIC in 1773, Moses Salomo Levy Maduro sailed to Aruba and settled there with his wife and half dozen children. They were the first Europeans allowed by the WIC to settle on the island. Maduro came from a Portuguese Shepherdic Jewish family that was prominent in Curaçao where Jewish merchants were buying to on-sell sizeable numbers of slaves from the WIC depot.
Except for a short period when the island fell to the British during the Napoleonic Wars, Aruba has remained under Dutch control. Clearly, the Dutch have seen some usefulness in this so-called 'useless island'. And they've not been the only Westerners to do so.
With the discovery of gold on Aruba in 1800, mining became the island's foremost industry and its economy boomed. By 1916 the gold supply had mostly been tapped out, and as the gold mining industry waned, so did the economy.
In the 1920s an American-owned oil terminal was set up on the island to tranship and refine oil from the nearby Maracaibo basin. By the time when the world was at war for the second time, this terminal had become one of the largest Exxon oil refineries, producing 440,000 barrels of refined oil products per day. During World War II, the Curaçao and Aruban oil refineries were the main suppliers of refined products to the Allies.
For more than 50 years, the huge oil refinery was the island’s major income source, andit employed a a large part of the population. The Aruban economy, and thus the society, was transformed. The presence of the refinery financed schools, doctors, and houses. There was even a golf course built for employees. Aruba saw a wave of immigration as laborers came from around the Caribbean to work in the refinery. Then suddenly it closed. Unemployment increased dramatically.
Aruba then gambled on tourism as a possible solution to the economic situation. These days three quarters of Aruban GNP is earned through tourism and related activities. The cactus-strewn island, particularly popular with American tourists, is now known as the Las Vegas of the Caribbean.
Wikimedia Atlas of Aruba
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The country in the mountainous parts of the South Caucasus, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, known to its people as Hayq (later Hayastan), is a land at a strategic location between two continents, the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. As is the way with such situations, the people inhabiting this strategic location often suffered foreign invasion, occupation and oppression. Despite periods of autonomy, over the centuries the Hai, the Armenians, came under the sway of various empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian, and Ottoman.
The contemporary Hayastani Hanrapetut῾yun (Republic of Armenia), the successor state to the Armyanskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika (Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic), occupies only some of the Armenian ancestral lands and only one-fifth of the world's Armenian population lives within this "Eastern Armenia". The other parts of "Greater Armenia" are now within Türkiye Cumhuriyeti (the Republic of Turkey), parts of Iran and Syria.
Armenians are one of the world's most dispersed peoples. Large Armenian Diaspora communities can be found in Russia, the United States, France, Iran, Georgia, Syria, Lebanon, Argentina, Ukraine, and Poland. Smaller communities exist elsewhere within countries on each of our world's habitable continents.
Can the human condition as experienced today by an Armenian be understood without first learning what causes so many of them to have left their homeland?
No, one can only genuinely comprehend the current human condition as experienced by Armenians after reflecting upon the Hamidian massacres carried out by Hamidiye Alaylari in the 1890s on the orders of the then ruler of the Devlet-i Âliye-yi Osmâniyye (Ottoman Empire) Abdü’l-Hamīd-i sânî, and more so, only after reflecting upon what Armenians call the Mec Ejer'n (Great Calamity) -- the fatal forced relocation and tremendous massacres of a great many Armenians during the regime of the Jön Türkler (Young Turks) from 1915 to 1917.
Debate over what happened to Armenians in the last decade of the Ottoman Empire remains acrimonious about a century later, and its ramifications are wide-reaching. Diplomatic relations between the governments of Armenia and Turkey remain frozen because of the dispute. Every Turkish government for almost a century now has passionately denied that a genocide took place. Armenia insists on a Turkish confession for 'genocide' and an apology.
Many people around the world see Turkish recognition of the Armenian genocide as a prerequisite for Turkey's admission into the European Union. Yet, the European Union has said Turkish acceptance of the Armenian genocide is not a condition for Turkey's entry into the bloc. In late 2007, President George W. Bush rebuffed a proposal before the United States Congress to pass a resolution formally recognising the genocide, for fear of jeopardising relations with Turkey, which is a key ally of the United States. Both Democrat presidential contenders, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama committed to recognising the Armenian genocide if elected President.
However, as noted by Onnik Krikorian, a freelance photojournalist and writer from the United Kingdom based in Yerevan, on his Frontline blog campaign promises should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Previous US presidents have reneged on their own campaign promises to recognise the genocide, and although President Obama is expected to buck the trend, remains to be seen what Barack Obama decides.
The dispute about whether it was a 'genocide' centres on the question of pre-meditation, that is on the degree to which the killings were orchestrated. Scholarship on the issue is dominated by two strands, both perhaps too often presenting argument that is too simplistic. The over-simplified arguments given on each side are then taken up in nationalistic slanging matches between those who care little for scholarship.
One of these two strands of scholarship is Turkish nationalist, and it does not accept the word 'genocide' as an accurate description of the events. This strand tries to deny that 'genocide' occurred, and contends that most of the Armenians who died were killed as a direct result of their rebellion (seen by Turks as treacherous behaviour and therefore warranting the relocation program, an ethnic cleansing measure which is generally not denied by them). Some who deny the Armenian genocide go as far as claiming that the high Armenian death toll was due to civil war among the Armenians. The arguments put forth by the deniers suffer from over-simplification, too often downplaying, for example, the connection between official decisions to implement a 'deportation process' and its horrific effects on those human beings who were subsequently 'processed.'
The other strand comes primarily from Armenian diaspora scholars. They argue that a genocide did, in fact, occur. The arguments presented by this side of the debate are sometimes also over-simplified, being framed in ways that understate some important situational factors. Sometimes overlooked or understated are issues such as the late 19th century decline of the millet system in the "Sick Man of Europe, the perceived "threat to power" posed by the Hay Dat idea taking hold at a time of "awakening" Armenian nationalism, the roles of the Dashnak and the Huntchakians, and that of the Kamavor, Fedayi - their call to arms: "Freedom or Death!"
It is clear, at least to those who choose to look, that the Armenians suffered in the last decades of their domination by the Ottomans. Under Sultan Abdul Hamid there was no day that in any Armenian city or village, some people were not murdered. In 1890, Hamid II created a a body of Kurdish irregular cavalry known as the Hamidiye. He created it to "deal with the Armenians as he wished." What followed were large-scale and widespread massacres of the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, from Sasun in August 1894 to Tokat in February and March 1897. These were the first near-genocidal series of atrocities committed against the Armenian population within the Ottoman Empire.
Armenians raised some self-defence. The Hay Heghapokhakan Dashnaktsutiun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation), founded in Tiflis (Tbilisi in modern day Georgia), organised in 1894 various efforts to help the people of Sasun defend themselves against Hamidian purges. The Armenians of Sassoun confronted the Ottoman army and their Kurdish irregulars, but succumbed to superior numbers. The Sultan's men then burned the cathedral of Urfa, in which three thousand Armenians had taken refuge.
By 1896, the Ottomans had turned their attention on the Armenians of Van. At the start of that year, in his report to his ambassador in Constantinople, the British Vice Consul Major Williams speaks of a large number of Armenian villages "which have been looted ... Generally speaking the situation is very bad; the Armenians are everywhere in a state bordering on panic, afraid lest the spring will bring still further disasters ... ." The report he wrote in February speaks of Kurds killing the Armenians and Turkish military commanders practically condoning these murders.
To restrain the Kurd Hamidiye, Armenians began to organise retaliatory surprise raids, some open combat actions. Some resorted to the tactics of terrorism, aiming to intimidate the perpetrators of terrible acts against their people and those who supported those acts. After a week of fighting, the Sultan sought assistance from Western powers to end the fighting, in exchange for the safety of the Armenians in Van. Following negotiation making clear that they were acting only in self-defense, the Armenians agreed to leave for Persia escorted by Ottoman troops. En route they were massacred. Before the month was over, hundreds of villages were destroyed and 20,000 Armenians in Van were killed.
The massacres of Sasun and Spaghank in May 1900, Diarbekir in November 1900, Mush and Sasun, again, in September 1901, and Bitlis and Van in January 1902, seem to have faded from collective memory outside of Armenian traditions where we have tended to overlook this series of massacres and concentrate on the events of 1915.
Regardless of his effort to eliminate the threat he perceived, power was soon taken from the Red Sultan. The revolution was not one launched by the Armenians, but rather by Jön Türkler (Young Turks). In July 1908 the political structure of Empire was forever changed. Within a year, the Armenian population, empowered by the Sultan's dismissal, began organising politically in support of the new government, which promised to place them on equal legal footing with their Muslim neighbours.
In 1909, a military revolt directed against the İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti (Committee of Union and Progress) had seized Istanbul. While the revolt lasted only ten days, it had precipitated a month long massacre of Armenians in the province of Adana. The forces loyal to the Sultan wrested control of the governnment out of the hands of the secularist Young Turks, and Abdul Hamid II had briefly recovered his dictatorial powers. According to one source, when news of a mutiny in Istanbul arrived in Adana, speculation circulated among the Muslim population of an imminent Armenian insurrection. Initially mobs attacked the Armenian quarter in Adana, killing a few thousand Armenians over the next two day. Then the violence against Armenians spread out into the wider district. The manner in which the massacres were carried out was eerily reminiscent of that of previous massacres. By the end of the month as many as 30,000 Armenians were reported killed.
The massacres inflicted by Turks and Kurds on Armenians in these years before the 1915 atrocities are recalled by Armenians as the "Great Massacres." Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed in pogroms which were executed to scare a population believed to be on the verge of seeking independence, back into submission. They were designed to strike a severe blow to Armenian efforts to organise politically. They occurred in peacetime, with none of the exigencies of war invoked as justification for the 1915 'deportation process' and its deathly consequences. They reflected, in effect, an almost totally one-sided war waged on the Armenians by the forces commanded by a man who feared the Armenians becoming increasingly confident, prosperous, independent, and, perhaps in time, ready to rise and fight to become free to govern themselves.
Then came the Great Calamity, inflicted upon the Armenians after Enver Pasha blamed Armenians for the defeat of his forces in the Battle of Sarykamysh. In 1914, there were just over 2 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire, the majority in the Armenian homelands (what is now eastern Anatolia). By 1918, no more than 100,000 were left in those lands, and over half a million refugees were scattered across the Middle East, South America, Europe and the Soviet Union.
I've no doubt there will be continuing debate about whether the Great Calamity was genocide or otherwise. It has become a question now closely connected to the issue of identity -- Armenian and Turkish.
The Turkish state tries hard to keep mention of 'Armenian Genocide' out of Turkish historiography; its founding myth denying not only a genocide of Armenians, but the very existence of non-Turks in Asia Minor. Identifying Armenian killings as genocide is considered an insult against Turkish identity, a crime under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. It has prevented a normal dialogue in which the genocide question can be openly discussed.
News Archive for Armenia
Wikimedia Atlas of Armenia
Amnesty International: Human Rights in Armenia
Global Peace Index Rank 2010: 113
Human Development Index: 0.777 (Rank 2008: 83)
Monday, June 9, 2008
Along with numerous nomadic tribes people, two main indigenous groups existed in the land now known as Argentina before Europeans arrived. In the northwest, near Bolivia and the Andes, was a people known as the Diaguita, while further south and to the east were the Guarani.
Spanish navigator and explorer Juan Díaz de Solís arrived at the mouth of a river on the eastern coast in 1516. He named this estuary, formed by the combination of the Río Uruguay and the Rio Paraná, the Río de la Plata (the silver river). Magellan touched at the estuary four years later, but turned southwards to winter on the Patagonia's shores.
In 1527 both Sebastian Cabot and his rival Diego García Sailed into the estuary and up the Paraná and Paraguay. They formed a small settlement, Sancti Spiritus, at the junction of the Caraña and Coronda rivers near their confluence with the Paraná. Within two years it had been wiped out by indigenous warriors.
In 1536, Spaniards led by Pedro de Mendoza founded a small settlement. They called it Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre (literally "City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds.") Attacks by the indigenous warriors and famine forced the settlers away, and in 1541 the site was abandoned. A second (and permanent) settlement was established in 1580 by Juan de Garay, who arrived by sailing down the Paraná River from Asunción (now the capital of Paraguay). The region was made part of the vice-royalty of Peru, administered at very long range from Lima.
It was not until two hundred years had passed, that Río de la Plata became a vice-royalty with Buenos Aires as the main port and administrative center. The Spaniards could not afford to ignore Buenos Aires by this time. The city was growing rapidly thanks to illegal trade financed by British interests. Goods were smuggled to Brazil and the Caribbean Islands. Spain worried about British and Portuguese expansion and sought to control trade and collect more taxes from the growing commerce.
In May 1810, following the example set by Spanish cities after the capture of King Ferdinand VII by the French under Napoleon, Buenos Aires held a cabildo abierto, an open town meeting. A junta was elected -- the Primera Junta. It deposed the viceroy and declared itself in authority. The driving force behind the 1810 revolutionary movement, a strong commercial bourgeoisie based in the port area, created the Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata (United Provinces of Río de la Plata).
In July 1816, a congress of provincial delegates in San Miguel de Tucumán signed a declaration of independence, after which Buenos Aires became a major force in the region. In reaction, caudillos(strongmen)from the surrounding provinces attempted to curb its power. The struggle for power between Buenos Aires, the hub of commercial activity for the country, and the provinces that provide the raw materials, continued through the late 1800s.
Conquista del desierto: Ethnic Cleansing
The only indigenous inhabitants of the area were nearly exterminated by the colonists in a series of 19th-century wars. In 1878/9 the remaining indigenous peoples were either killed or driven south into Patagonia in a campaign called the Conquista del desierto (Conquest of the desert).
The genocide was commanded by Alejo Julio Argentino Roca Paz, who proclaimed:
Our self-respect as a virile people obliges us to put down as soon as possible, by reason or by force, this handful of savages who destroy our wealth and prevent us from definitely occupying, in the name of law, progress and our own security, the richest and most fertile lands of the Republic.At the end of 1878, Roca started the first wave to "clean" the area
between the Alsina trench and the Curú Leuvú (Río Negro) by continuous and systematic attacks to the aboriginals' settlements. In 1879, he began the second wave with 6,000 soldiers, armed with new breech-loading Remington rifles supplied by the United States.
From 1880 to 1930 Argentina became one of the ten wealthiest nations in the world. Having conquered and taken control of much of the land, the Argentine government encouraged the immigration of Europeans to populate the country outside the Buenos Aires region. Buenos Aires grew from 90,000 people in 1851 to 1.3 million in 1910. By then the city was being called the "Paris of South America."
Social conflicts have always been part of Argentina's history. Social conflict was particularly intense during the late 19th century as the gap between the wealthy classes and the poor widened.
When the Argentinian rural economy began to develop the fertile regions of the pampas were divided into vast estancias owned by no more than 300 families. Each estancia covered hundreds of thousands of acres. With wealth in so few hands, oligarchy was inevitable. Argentine's gilded few ensure that power remained within their own circle by means of an exclusive club, La Sociedad Rural Argentina, which had been founded in 1866.
Revolución and Repression
By the 1890s this situation has prompted sufficient outrage for opposition groups to be formed - the Unión Cívica Radical, formed in 1892 campaigning on behalf of all shades of political opinion against the corruption of the regime, and in 1895 a splinter group, the Partido Socialista was formed. In September 1889, a student protest meeting in Buenos Aires saw the rise of the Unión Cívica Radical. In July 1890 in the Buenos Aires Artillery Park, a group of civilians, led by Leandro N. Alem, Hipólito Yrigoyen, and Bartolomé Mitre, with some military support rose against the government.
The Revolución del Parque was intended as a means, according to its Manifesto, to "avoid the ruin of the country" by bringing down "a government that represents illegality and corruption." It met with swift repression on the part of the government forces. Lacking initiative and ammunition, the revolutionaries were defeated in a matter of days, but the image of the government had suffered. The success of the revolution was limited to the resignation of the then authoritarian President, Miguel Juárez Celman, who had been notorious for his corruption and abuse of power.
The Unión Cívica Radical took up arms again in 1905, but conservative forces dominated Argentina until 1916, when the UCR won control of the government. Sadly, little changed for the working classes. Most workers could barely afford to feed their families during this time, despite the tremendous affluence of the upper class. Workers who sought to improve their working conditions were suppressed. A violent army attack against striking metalworkers in 1919 came to be known as La Semana Trágica (The Tragic Week). 700 were killed and 4,000 injured.
With that tragic event was sown seeds of the vigilante Liga Patriótica Argentina (Argentine Patriotic League), a nationalist Catholic paramilitary group. The League received military training by members of the Argentine Armed Forces and worked hand-in-hand with the Bonaerense police forces in the repression of social movements. Composed by wealthy youth, and unimpeded by the government, it assaulted workers' neighbourhoods.
It quickly extended itself through-out Argentina, carrying out a xenophobic nationalist, anti-Communist and anti-Semitic program, attacking in particular Catalans, accused of being anarchists, and Jews, accused of being Bolsheviks. At its height in the early 1920s, the Liga Patriótica Argentina counted within its ranks as many as 300,000 members throughout the country. In 1922, it participated in the Patagonia Trágica in Río Gallegos, during which 1,500 workers on strike were killed.
The crash of 1929, and the subsequent slump in the export of Argentinian beef and wheat, gave the army an opportunity and it enlisted the Liga Patriótica Argentina in the 1930 military coup of General José Félix Benito Uriburu y Uriburu, ushering in the Década Infame (Infamous Decade) when Argentina would once again by ruled by the old conservative, military-landowner oligarchy.
The Década Infame was characterised by electoral fraud, persecution of the political opposition, and generalised government corruption. Most of the military leaders were inclined to fascism, admiring the various European dictators of the time for achieving "stablility" by totalitarian means. The exercised their power against the background of the Great Depression, which forced many farmers and other countryside workers to relocate to the outskirts of the larger cities, resulting in the creation of the first villas miseria (shanty towns) in Argentina.
In early June 1943, the nationalist faction of the army, gathered around the Grupo de Oficiales Unidos and in a yet another coup overthrew President Ramón S. Castillo Barrionuevo in the midst of his unpopular attempt to impose Robustiano Patrón Costas as his successor. Composed under the initiative of the colonel Miguel A. Montes and Urbano de la Vega, the GOU included colonel Juan Domingo Perón.
The GOU established General Pedro Pablo Ramírez Machuca as chief of state. He was the founder and leader of the Guardia Nacional, an Argentine Fascist militia. Appointed to work as assistant to Ramírez's Vice President and Secretary of War, General Edelmiro Farrell, was a GOU member even the most casual observer of Argentina will know - Colonel Juan Domingo Perón.
Perón: Champion of descamisados or dictator?
In February 1944, Ramírez named Farrell president. By July 1945, Farrell announced presidential elections and his then Vice President, Juan Perón, was elected.
Under the rule of Ramírez and Farrell, Argentina had undergone an industrial expansion. This expansion was accelerated by World War II and led to the formation of a large blue-collar workforce. Perón had spent a year (1938-9) on secondment to the Italian army and had observed at first hand the methods of Benito Mussolini. In 1943 the workers of Argentina came under the direction of Perón as the military head of the Labour Department. He used his new constituency to build a power base that enabled him to be elected president.
Perón's ideology was an unusual blend of populism, authoritarianism, industrialism, and nationalism. Perónist rhetoric stressed the rights of descamisados ( literally "shirtless" poor of Argentina), but Perón used some of them to form gangs of thugs, tools with which to secure his hold on the nation much as Benito Mussolini had used his Black Shirts. Then he set about making sweeping political, economic, and social changes, pushing industrialisation hard; announcing in 1947 the first five-year plan in which he'd nationalise the railways, the docks, the central bank, the telephone system (including the American owned telephone company, IT&T).
Foreign trade was also taken under government control. Perón's state bought from producers at an officially set price all the agriculture bound for export. It then sold that produce at the higher prices prevailing on world markets. The result was perceived loss on the part of the old landed interests associated with the La Sociedad Rural Argentina, and a profit to the state which Perón used to fund his programs.
After re-election in 1951, Perón became increasingly dictatorial and erratic; especially so after the death a year later of his wife, the famed Evita. Economic problems arose. With the reserves built over the war years had been used up in the nationalisation program, the prices for export commodities fell, trade surpluses vanished, the government's deficits grew larger and inflation took off. The economic hardship led to reversals in Perón's policy; moves that favoured the old oligarchy.
As 1954 drew to a close, Perón unveiled reforms more controversial to the normally conservative Argentine public, the legalisation of divorce and of prostitution. Perón also took measures to secularise the nation's institutions; measures accompanied by descamisado attacks on church property, and even on priests. The Roman Catholic Church, which had once supported Perón's government, was by now antagonistic toward the man they called "the Dictator." By June 1955, Perón had been excommunicated by Pope Pius XII.
In response, Perón called for a rally of support on the Plaza de Mayo. But Perón had also lost the leadership of a large part of the military. As he spoke to the gathering of thousands of people, Argentine Navy fighter jets flew overhead, straffing and bombing the crowd. 364 were killed, 800 more were injured. In retaliation, extremist Perónist groups attacked and burned several churches that night.
Revolucion Libertadora: Repression returns
By September 1955 units of the armed forces had begun a campaign in the Argentine provinces. The Revolucion Libertadora, led by General Eduardo Lonardi, General Pedro E. Aramburu and Admiral Isaac El Caballo Rojas, deposed Perón and established a provisional government. Perón slipped away to exile, eventually settling in Francoist Spain.
Aramburu assumed the Presidency of Argentina. Perónismo was prohibited under Decree 4161. All things Perónist or of the Partido Justicialista: including as much as the mere mention of Perón, as well as symbols, images, or party demonstrations were prohibited. Aramburu's regime, known to Perónists as la Fusiladora hunted down known Perónists, of which many were imprisoned; some murdered.
On 9 June 1956, a Perónist group tried to regain democracy, but they didn't succeed. That night Aramburu's military forces captured some of those who had participated in the insurrection, including the leader Juan José Valle. The army took them to a dump in the neighborhood of Josea León Suárez, where they were executed by firing-squad. This terrible event was documented by the Argentine investigative journalist Rodolfo Walsh in Operación Masacre.
A year later the Grupo Tacuara de la Juventud Nacionalista (Tacuara Group of Nationalist Youth) was formed out of young well-to-do Argentines brought up in military high-schools and religious schools. Inspired by Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish Falange, the Tacuara were strongly anti-Marxist, opposed what they named “liberal democracy,” and admired dictators such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Numerous tacuaristas were the children of members of the Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista (ALN) -- related to the Legión Cívica Argentina which was one of the groups that supported Aramburu's regime.
For the next 20 years, a succession of governments under the military's watchful eye attempted unsuccessfully to create a new political order. Perón in exile still had control over his movement and over the trade unions. He continued to exert considerable direct influence over Argentine politics. In 1958, the Juventud Perónista (JP) formed to restore Perón to power and create a form of national socialism. In the lead up to elections in 1958, Perón instructed his supporters to cast their ballots for the moderate Arturo Frondizi Ercoli. Frondizi won, becoming president in May 1958, but his term in office was marked by interference from the military, dominated in its upper echelons by men from Argentina's old agricultural elites.
Over the course of the late '50s the Grupo Tacuara de la Juventud Nacionalista evolved into the Movimiento Nacionalista Tacuara (MNT). When Karl Adolf Eichmann, the "the architect of the Holocaust," who had been working under a false identity in Buenos Aires since the early 1950s, was kidnapped by Mossad and Shabak agents and smuggled out of Argentina to face trial in Israel, tacuarista terrorised Argentine Jews, attacking Jewish theatres, synagogues, and students. After Eichmann was executed in 1962, the tacuarista engaged in yet another anti-Semitic rampage.
Frondizi's government ended in 1962 when, after a series of local elections were won by Perónist candidates, the military intervened yet again. José María Guido became de facto President, becoming the only civilian to take power in Argentina by military coup, but divisions among the military leaders kept the nation in a state of tension until mid-1964, when new elections were held. Dr. Arturo Umberto Illía of the rightist UCRP won the presidency.
Illía's first act as President was to eliminate all restrictions on the Perónist political parties, surprising and angering the military. In 1965, legislative elections once again took place, this time without any of the restrictions existing in 1963. The Perónists presented their own candidate lists, winning these elections. This led to another coup in June 1966, which the junta would call the Revolución Argentina. This in turn led to a series of military-appointed presidents and the implementation of neoliberal policies. While preceding military coups in Argentina had aimed at establishing temporary, transitional juntas, the Revolución Argentina aimed at establishing a new political and social order, opposed both to liberal democracy and Communism.
The first of the military men to take the presidency under the Revolución Argentina was Juan Carlos Onganía Carballo, who suspended political parties and supported a policy of Participacionismo -- whereby hand-picked representatives of various interest groups such as industry, labour, and agriculture, would form committees to advise the junta.
At the end of May 1969 there was a general strike in the city of Córdoba. Police repression escalated the strike into a civil uprising. Onganía decided to send the military to crush the uprising. The episode became known as the Cordobazo and influenced events in other parts of the country. Argentine activists discovered that they could find popular support for violent and revolutionary means to bring down Onganía's dictatorship. Argentines were being radicalised.
Response to repression: Radicalism rises
During his exile, Perón had supported left-wing Perónists, such as the JP, the Movimiento Peronista Montonero (MPM), Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (FAR), Fuerzas Armadas Perónistas (FAP) and others; and he'd also supported right-wing Perónists such as the "Special Formations", and radicals such as the MNT and the Guardia de Hierro (Iron Guard).
Formed in 1970, the MPM had initiated a campaign to destabilise by force what they deemed a pro-American regime. They kidnapped and executed former Argentine president Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, retaliation for his involvement in the José León Suárez of June 1956. Then they continued to kidnap, financing their operations by collecting ransom for businessmen or executives.
FAR members were mostly from the Federación Juvenil Comunista of the Partido Comunista de la Argentina (PCA). Throughout 1969 they had burned 13 Minimax supermarkets in Buenos Aires.
The Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP), was the military branch of the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores (PRT). The ERP, led by Mario Roberto Santucho, adopted the foquista strategy of insurgency, engaging in targeted urban guerrilla warfare, assassinating and kidnapping government officials and foreign company executives. It soon established control over a third of the province of Tucumán,around the Famaillá Department and the Monteros mountains. It had won the support of some 2,500 sympathisers.
Eventually, Onganía was opposed by the other factions in the military, which felt that their influence would be diminished. In 1970, General Roberto Marcelo Levingston Laborda, self-appointed as de facto president, opened one of the darkest political chapters of Argentine history. Levingston had been a little- known intelligence officer stationed in Washington.
In 1971, continuing economic problems and increased terrorist activities caused General Alejandro Agustín Lanusse, the leader of the coup against Onganía, to seize power in a coup against Levingston.
Héctor José Cámpora Demaestre, nicknamed el Tío (the Uncle), was Perón's "personal delegate." A veto on Perón's participation in the 1973 election had been issued by the dictator General Alejandro Lanusse and to circumvent it Héctor Cámpora ran for president on a ticket with Vicente Solano Lima, from Argentina's Popular Conservative Party, as candidate for vice president. One of Cámpora's first presidential actions was a granting of amnesty to political prisoners who where jailed during the dictatorship prior to his assumption in May 1973. Two months later Raúl Alberto Lastiri was promoted to the presidency after Héctor Cámpora and Vicente Solano Lima resigned.
Lastiri lasted only three months in the presidency. Crucially, he had appointed as Ministro de la asistencia social his father-in-law, José López Rega, the creator of the paramilitary organisation Alianza Anticomunista Argentina, aka the death squad Triple A, and a member of former camicie nere Licio Gelli's Propaganda Due. Gelli, part of a committee along with Carlos Saúl Menem supporting Juan Perón, had provided an Alitalia plane to return Perón to Argentina in June 1973.
On the day of Perón's return, a crowd of about 3.5 million left-wing Perónists had gathered at the Ezeiza Airport in Buenos Aires to welcome him. Camouflaged snipers, including members of the Triple A, opened fire on the crowd at the airport and least 13 people were killed and 365 were injured. The Ezeiza massacre had been designed to remove Cámpora, a moderate of the left-wing, from power.
Perón, supporting the unions, the radicals led by Ricardo Balbín and the right-wing Perónist, denounced the "bearded immature idealists" of the Perónist left. The resignations of Cámpora and Lima paved the way for new elections, this time with Perón's participation as the Partido Justicialista nominee. Perón received 62% of the vote, returning him to the presidency for a third time. Perón appointed as Vice President his third wife, María Estela "Isabelita" Martínez de Perón. He also appointed José Ber Gelbard as Ministro de Economía.
Gelbard set about implementing a plan, El Pacto Social (The Social Pact), which basically called for a freeze in prices and salaries to enable economic progress. Gelbard also gave a boost to Argentine exports, unilaterally lifting the Cuban blockade and selling one billion dollars in goods to Cuba (including U.S.-branded, but Argentine manufactured cars).
In November 1973, Hipólito Solari Yrigoyen in the Senate criticised the reform of laws concerning workers' trade-unions, which aimed at tightening the control of the trade-union bureaucracy on the workers' movement. The Triple A targeted Yrigoyen with a car bomb and seriously injured him.
Proceso de Reorganización Nacional: Repression returns yet again
Less than a year after his election, Perón died and the government was left in the hands of his widow, Isabel Perón who assumed the office of President (becoming the first 'non-royal' female head of state and head of government in the Western world). José Ber Gelbard resigned.
Isabel Martínez de Perón signed a number of decrees empowering the military and the police to "annihilate" left-wing subversion. Latiri's far right-wing father-in-law, José López Rega, nominally the Minister of Social Welfare, became de facto prime minister setting the agenda over a broad swath of Martínez de Perón's policies. López Rega set out to secure power for himself, stacking the Secretaría de Informaciones de Estado (SIDE) with fascists who were loyal to him.
The Argentine military were soon authorised to "execute all military operations necessary for the effects of neutralising or annihilating the action of subversive elements acting in the Province of Tucumán." The ERP had shifted to a rural strategy designed to secure a large land area as a base of military operations against the Argentine state. It had taken root in Tucumán at the edge of the long-impoverished Andean highlands in the northwest corner of Argentina. So the army set out to crush the ERP in 1975, launching Operativo Independencia.
In Tucumán the Argentine military used the methods of the "counter-revolutionary warfare" developed by the French in Algeria. They used terrorism, kidnappings of desaparecidos (i.e. forced disappearances), and concentration camps where thousands of guerrilleros were tortured and assassinated. And López Rega's Alianza Anticomunista Argentina assisted in enforcing the repression against the Perónist left-wing. The CONADEP commission on human rights violations has proved the Triple A murdered 359 people in 1975. Its involvement in several hundred other homocides is suspected.
Mounting search-and-destroy missions in the mountains, the Argentine military had the ERP on the run. Montoneros, in an action supporting their ERP allies, planted a culvert bomb at the Tucumán air base in August 1975. The bomb destroyed an Air Force C-130 carrying 116 Argentine commandos. It did not turn the tide. The military soon discovered Santucho's hideout in the hills. They raided the ERP's urban headquarters in September.
In March 1976, Isabel Perón was deposed in another coup by the military, which in turn launched the Guerra Sucia (the Dirty War), whereby they commanded the illegal arrest, torture, killing or forced disappearance of thousands of people, primarily trade-unionists, students and activists. The junta, La Dictadura headed by General Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera (also a member of Propaganda Due) and Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti, organised the so-called Proceso de Reorganización Nacional.
Two weeks before the military coup d'état, vice-Admiral Luis María Mendía had gathered naval officers, and issued Massera's order to prepare the repression against so-called "subversive delinquents. Mendía, known as "The Christian," was later revealed as the architect of a scheme of vuelos de la muerte (death flights) whereby victims were first drugged into a stupor, hustled aboard planes or helicopters, stripped naked and pushed into the Río de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean to drown. Death flights had been used by the French Paratroopers in 10th Parachute Division under Jacques Massu during the Battle of Algiers.
The AAA enjoyed strong backing from Videla. It carried out widespread atrocities, given free rein by his military dictatorship. "As many people as necessary must die in Argentina so that the country will again be secure", Videla had declared in 1975 in support of the death squads. In 1976, one of the generals predicted, "We are going to have to kill 50,000 people: 25,000 subversives, 20,000 sympathizers, and we will make 5,000 mistakes."
The United States government was willing to maintain normal diplomatic relations with Argentina, though transcripts show U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the US ambassador to Argentina in conflict over how the new regime should be treated. Kissinger, who had the upper hand, preferred the U.S. remaining friendly with Videla's regime based on anti-Communist interests. This was despite the human rights abuses committed by the junta.
About 340 secret detention centers operated throughout Argentina between 1976 and 1983. The military referred to them as 'Prisoner Assessment Centers'. They formed a separate and unofficial prison system that secretly functioned alongside the legal structure. According to the witnesses who testified before the National Commission on the Dissappeared (CONADEP), these centers were closely supervised by high-ranking military officials. Commanders of the Armed Forces, the police and the Gendarmería personally inspected the installations under their jurisdiction, interviewed prisoners and, in many cases, at one time or another, actively participated in torture sessions and mass executions. These Commanders were men like General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri (Commander of the 2nd Army Corps and later on the 3rd president appointed by the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional), General Arturo Jáuregui (Commander of the 2nd Army Corps after Galtieri), General Reynaldo Bignone (the 4th and last president appointed by the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional), General Antonio D. Bussi (governor of Tucumán province), General Ramón J. Camps (Commander of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police Headquarters), Admiral Massera (Commander of the Navy), General Luciano Benjamín Menéndez (Commander of the 3rd Army Corps), Gendarmería commander Agustín Feced (police chief), General Carlos Guillermo c. Suárez Mason (Commander of the 1st Army Corps), General Cristino Nicolaides (Commander of the 7th Corrientes Infantry Brigade), General Juan Bautista Sasiaiñ (Commander of the La Ribera secret detention center and later on the Head of the Federal Police).
To be taken to a secret detention center meant to disappear. The military government consistently denied the existence of such clandestine centers, and Argentine authorities repeatedly disclaimed any knowledge of the men and women imprisoned there. The victims were physically and mentally isolated from the rest of the world. As unregistered detainees, they had no official status. They no longer existed.
"Disappearance" of people was only one aspect of the repression in Argentina under the military junta. Every secret detention center was designed primarily as a torture center. The junta's intelligence units were after names and addresses of dissidents allegedly involved in subversive activities. In order to extract such information from the prisoners, each detention center had at least one fully functional torture room run by professional teams of torturers.
These torture rooms ordinarily contained an iron bed, a table, a tub or barrel filled with water, a battery-operated field telephone that generated electric currents (the faster the turning of the handle, the higher the voltage produced), and wires or electric prods of two different intensities: 125 volts (causing involuntary muscle movements and pain all over the body) and 220 volts (causing violent painful contractions, as though limbs are being torn off the body, inducing vomiting and leaving deep ulcerations in the flesh).
All the prisoners in the secret detention centers, regardless of their sex, age and physical condition, were taken to these torture rooms. Some were compelled to witness the torture of their relatives in these rooms. Many people died in these rooms, but some of the victims were released from the secret detention centers in the same fashion they arrived there. After being warned not to talk about what they had gone through, they were unexpectedly taken by car to a street corner and let off. The hood and the handcuffs were removed at the very last moment, and the victims were ordered to look the other way and remain absolutely still or they would be shot. The anonymity of their oppressors was kept to the end.
Whilst Videla allowed the junta's repression of its "enemies", he largely left economic policies in the hands of Minister José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, scion of one of Argentina's oldest cattle ranching families. Martínez de Hoz had been president of the Sociedad Rural, as had his father and grandfather before him. His first act in government in 1976 was to ban strikes and allow employers to fire at will. Naomi Klein, in her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, points out that declassified U.S. documents show that Henry Kissinger was told by William Rogers, the assistant secretary of state for Latin America, that "Martínez de Hoz is a good man," and that Kissenger was so impressed that he arranged to have a high profile meeting with Martínez de Hoz when he visited Washington "as a symbolic gesture." During the tenure of Martínez de Hoz, Argentine foreign debt increased fourfold. Disparities between the wealthy and workers became much more pronounced.
From 1977 to 1984, after the fight over the Falklands, the Argentine Armed Forces, exported counter-insurgency tactics, including the systemic use of torture, death squads and disappearances. Special force units, such as Batallón de Inteligencia 601, headed in 1979 by Colonel Jorge Alberto Muzzio, established covert military centers in Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. They began training the Nicaraguan Contras and carried out covert operations that the CIA could no longer manage under the Carter administration.
In early 1981, General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri Castelli visited the United States and was warmly received. The Reagan administration viewed Galtieri and his ilk as a bulwark against Communism. Videla relinquished power to Roberto Viola in March that year and by the end of the year Genral Galtieri had ousted General Viola, who was, as had been Videla, considered by figures in the U.S. to be too sympathetic to Communism because of the normal relations maintained between Argentina and the Soviet Union. The official explanation given for the ousting was Viola's alleged health problems.
Galtieri had retained direct control of the army. Four months later and with his popularity low, Galtieri ordered Argentine forces to take by force the lightly-defended Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Galtieri thought he could boost his power by playing off long-standing feelings of the Argentines towards the islands and diverting public attention from a devastating economic crisis and the chilling genocidal Guerra Sucia.
Pressures: Of public opinion and economic problems
Corruption, the failing economy, growing public awareness of crimes against humanity by the regime, and the military defeat in the Falklands eroded the public image of the regime. The last de facto president, Reynaldo Bignone, was forced to call elections. He lacked support within the Army itself and the steadily growing pressure of public opinion forced his hand.
In the elections held in 1983, Raúl Alfonsín, the UCR candidate, won the presidency. Persistent economic problems plagued his tenure in office. It was also plagued by the old conservative forces.
Army factions, notably the Carapintadas, attempted rebellion against Alfonsín's government. Argentine civilians rallied to the cause of the democratic government, but when defeated the Carapintadas only their leaders, Lieutenant Colonel Aldo Rico and Major Ernesto Barreiro, were put under arrest. The Carapintadas had managed to bring about the retirement of the then Army chief-of-staff, Hector Luis Rios Ereñú, and to press the Alfonsín government and its congress into dropping all charges against lower ranked military officers. The clause came to be known as La ley de la obediencia debida (The law of due obedience).
In early 1989, Raúl Alfonsín's administration struggled against high inflation, recession, and high foreign debt. Álvaro Alsogaray, Arturo Frondizi's former Ministro de Economía, had in 1983 founded a neo-liberal party -- the Unión del Centro Democrático (UCeDé). In 1989 he called for liberalisation of trade, the exchange rate and wages; for privatisations; and for payment of foreign debt. Alsogaray was among the well-connected who had massively shorted the peso ley argentino prior to its ruinous 1981 collapse. He was also an outspoken supporter of the bloody March 1976 coup.
In the 1989 presidential elections, Alsogaray and the UCeDé endorsed the Perónist Partido Justicialista candidate, Carlos Menem. Thereafter, Álvaro Alsogaray influenced Menem's economic policies as he was appointed Argentina's chief debt negotiator in Washington. Menem introduced sweeping economic reforms--from privatisation to pegging the local peso to the U.S. dollar. The Argentine economy improved, but only at the cost of considerable unemployment. He also granted pardons to the former dictators Videla, Massera, Leopoldo Galtieri and other leaders of the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional, as well as others convicted of crimes committed during the Guerra Sucia.
In 1995, Menem had the constitution altered to allow him to run again for the Presidency. Following a first term marked by some economic success and political stability, Menem was re-elected to a second four-year term, but toward the end of that term many Argentineans had grown tired of Menem and alleged corruption in his administration. In 1999, he attempted to change the constitution again to let him run for a third time, but he failed. Instead his Vice President, Eduardo Duhalde, prevailed in securing the Partido Justicialista nomination for the Presidential election. Then Duhalde was defeated.
In the 1999 elections, Fernando de la Rúa, the former mayor of Buenos Aires, was elected on the back of his reputation for efficiency. However, his government, a coalition between the UCR and the Frente por un País Solidario (Frepaso), faced an ongoing economic crisis and was hampered by continuous fights and rivalries between coalition partners and cabinet crises. It soon gained a reputation for inaction and a failure to tackle corruption.
Within a year a political scandal broke out. It was reported that SIDE, Argentina's intelligence service, had paid massive bribes to a number of senators to approve a controversial labor law and the then head of SIDE, Fernando de Santibañes, was a personal friend of De la Rúa. The head of the left-leaning Frepaso and Vice President in the coalition government, Carlos "Chacho" Alvarez, expressed his anger over what he saw as the administration's failure to take stronger action in the scandal and then resigned his office. Ten months into his four-year term, the coalition looked doomed and de la Rúa was already looking like a lame duck. Finally, Fernando de Santibanes resigned under pressure from the ruling Alliance coalition.
A deep recession foreshadowed economic collapse in 2001. This left more than half the population living in poverty and triggered unrest. The country struggled with record debt defaults and currency devaluation. In December 2001 there were riots. Fernando de la Rúa resigned the Presidency.
Adolfo Rodríguez Saá Páez Montero, Partido Justicialista politician and governor of San Luis was selected to take over. In his inaugural speech, he announced that Argentina would default on its foreign debt. He later announced that Argentina would extradite every former military officer who was requested by foreign courts to face charges for human rights abuses during the Guerra Sucia. He was in office just seven days. The Presidency went to Eduardo Alberto Duhalde.
Duhalde was meant to serve as President until the chaotic situation of the country could be controlled. That was meant to take mere months. It took many, but he did manage to stabilise the economic situation (though only after more than a half of the population was in poverty).
A republic of equals?
In May 2003, Néstor Carlos Kirchner Ostoić was elected President on promises including one of "returning to a republic of equals". Soon after, he surprised the world by standing down powerful military and police officials and overturning amnesty laws for military officers accused of torture and assassinations during the Guerra Sucia. Kirchner, unlike his predecessors, had been schooled in Argentina (at La Plata National University in Buenos Aires, where he earned his law degree) and he began his political activism by opposing the brutal military dictatorship of Rafael Videla. Kirchner, twice arrested in the 1970s for his Peronist youth movement affiliation, backed the cause of justice for victims of the repressive military juntas.
Néstor Kirchner could see the Washington consensus was an unsuccessful model for economic development in the region. At his inauguration he strongly criticised the neo-liberal economic policies of his predecessors, blaming their slavish adherence to the IMF's rigid structural adjustment policies for the country's dire economic conditions. He also demanded that privatisation contracts for public utilities imposed on the country under the juntas be renegotiated, and declared it is the responsibility of the state to "introduce equality where the market excludes and abandons."
In other speeches against globalisation and the US plan for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Kirchner stressed the need for a “national capitalism” independent of any international influence. He kept the Duhalde administration's Minister of the Economy, Roberto Lavagna, who declared that his first priority was to solve the social problems caused by economic crisis. Prices of essential public services were frozen, and the planes trabajar (a sort of a dole payment to unemployed) was increased.
In a statement given to the United Nations in 2003, Kirchner said the following:
Encouraging collective progress and security in an intelligent way requires an understanding of the fact that the value of security is not only a military concept but one which stems from a preexisting political, economic, social and cultural scenario. Those are the central tasks for the main players on the international agenda.
In this framework, the relations of countries such as ours, and others, with the rest of the world are marked by a crushing, gigantic debt owed to both multilateral financial institutions as well as private creditors.
As a country, we recognize our responsibility for having adopted the policies of others, which led us to such heavy indebtedness. But we also urge the international financial institutions, which, in dictating such policies, contributed to, encouraged and favoured the growth of debt, to accept their own share of responsibility. It is almost a truism to point out that when a debt grows to such an extent, it is not only the debtor that is responsible, but also the creditor.
It is therefore necessary to acknowledge an actual, verifiable and, to a certain extent, common sense fact: the terrible difficulties involved in paying such a debt. Without concrete international assistance aimed at enabling indebted countries to rebuild their economic solvency and, consequently, their payment capacity, and without measures to promote their growth and sustainable development by taking concrete steps to promote their market access and the growth of their exports, debt repayment becomes an impossible dream.
Developing exports which add value to the natural resources that most indebted countries have can lay the foundations for the first steps towards sustainable development, without which creditors will have to face their losses without any other realistic options. No one is known to have succeeded in getting their money back from the dead.
In furtherance of this objective, i.e., of making a country viable in order for it to be able to pay its debts, it would be of great help to intensify multilateral negotiations for elimination of tariff and nontariff barriers hindering access of our exports to the markets of developed countries, which have larger purchasing capacity.
The fact is that in international trade in food products, for example, which is Argentina's main export item, export and production subsidies continue, as well as tariff quotas, unjustified phytosanitary measures and tariff ladders, which distort the terms of exchange for primary products and seriously hamper market access for products with higher added value.
The failure of the WTO negotiations at Cancun should serve as a reminder to us in this regard, and should be remedied by achieving the sort of link we are highlighting as desirable between new business opportunities in international trade, growth of indebted countries and their debt repayment capacity. It is a paradox, and almost ridiculous, that we should be expected to pay our debt while at the same time we are prevented from trading and selling our products.
On the other hand, although it is true that the objectives of multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund include "shortening the duration and lessening the degree of imbalance in the balance of payments of member countries", as well as to "instill confidence in them through resources in order to create the opportunity for correction without the need to resort to measures that are detrimental to national or international prosperity", it is also necessary to redesign institutions such as the IMF.
Redesigning multilateral lending agencies should include changing their paradigms, so that the success or failure of economic policies is measured in terms of success or failure in the fight for growth, equitable distribution, the fight against poverty and in ensuring adequate employment levels.
This new millennium should put an end to adjustment models in which the prosperity of some is based on the poverty of others. The dawn of the 21st century should signal the end of an age and the beginning of a new cooperation between creditors and debtors.
Then in early 2004, Kirchner threw the G-7 nations, the leading capitalist countries, into a quandary with his declaration that private investors who bought about $50 billion in government bonds in Argentina in the 1990s would receive only 25% of the face value of their bonds. Kirchner argued that the bondholders had gambled on Argentina during the heady days of the corrupt, neo-liberal government of Carlos Menem. The bondholders who had cared little about what the exorbitant rates on those bonds meant for the Argentine people would reap the results of their speculative adventures (which had fuelled the boom and bust of the Argentine economy).
The IMF, the World Bank and other international financial institutions lent new funds to Argentina in hopes of keeping it from opting out of the international financial system. Then these institutions attempted to turn the screws, insisting that Kirchner must "be more flexible" in debt renegotiations with the private bondholders.
During his presidency, Kirchner also shifted Argentine foreign policy from the "automatic alignment" with the United States during the 1990s, to one stressing stronger ties (economic and political) within Mercosur and other Latin American countries. He forged a close relationship with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, a friendship through which the Argentine president secured energy deals in return for Venezuela’s purchase of government bonds. This was certainly frowned upon in Washington. Confronting strong criticism because of his relationship with Chávez, Néstor Kirchner always affirmed that strictly economic interest, rather than ideological affinity, motivated the strategic alliance with Venezuela.
Today, Cristina Elizabeth Fernández de Kirchner, current head of the Partido Justicialista and wife of past President Néstor Kirchner, is the Argentine President. She achieved a convincing win in the presidential elections. With 45% of the primary vote, she garnered almost twice as many electoral votes as second-placed Elisa Carrió. This obviated the need for a run-off ballot.
Early into her presidency, a United States assistant attorney accused her of obtaining illegal campaign contributions. By January this year, the U.S. had backed down, with its ambassador in Argentina clarifying that the allegations "were never made by the United States government." That hasn't precluded numerous websites maintained by rightwing individuals and groups, particularly Americans, from continuing to publish material that makes out that the allegations have been proved true.
Why has she been targeted this way? Christina Fernández Kirchner takes her bearings from her husband's interventionist economic model. She also adheres to her husband’s foreign policy, preserving close ties with Venezuela. Since Chavez took office in February 1999, America’s dominant media have relentlessly attacked him because of the example he represents and threat it might spread. [More on this later when we look at Venzuela.]
In March, Christina Fernández's government then introduced a new sliding-scale taxation system for agricultural exports. The aim was to raise government funds for social investment by increasing the government's share of returns from rising world grain prices, and also to reduce domestic food prices by encouraging farmers to switch to growing staple foods like wheat and corn, rather than export crops such as soybeans. The reaction was a nationwide lockout by farming associations.
On 25 March thousands of demonstrators massed around the obelisk in the capital and in front of the presidential palace. Protests extended across the country. Rather than resort to repression as the military juntas would have done, Fernández's government organised a rally on 1 April, in which thousands of pro-government protesters marched through downtown Buenos Aires in support of her leadership. She then famously called on farmers to act "as part of a country, not as owners of a country". Within a couple of days the farming associations has suspended their strike. They were back to blockading the roads by May.
In Argentina, history tends to repeat itself. The crisis in 2008 was, in large measure, a continuation of a centuries long running struggle between the few hundred families of the landed aristocratic oligarchs who hold the vast estancias and the majority population, much of which is poor. The ruralistas consider themselves to be the owners of the natural rent that cultivation generates in Argentina, and they have clashed with all administrations that have attempted to balance out the redistribution of this income.
And all throughout the history of this place the indigenous people suffer still, just as they had during the conquista del desierto. Guaraní communities have an average life expectancy of 40 years, and the greatest number of deaths is among their children. Guaraní children living in the subtropical rainforests of Argentina's northeastern province of Misiones are dying from preventable illnesses. Having been forced to abandon their territories and crowded into the most miserable quarters of the cities, they have no access to the plant species from which they made their medicine. They lost their environment, and that caused their health system to collapse.
At the beginning of November of 2006, the National Congress of Argentina approved Law 26.160 declaring a state of "emergency with respect to the possession and property of the ancestral lands of the indigenous communities of the country." Only four months after its adoption this law, one which prohibited for a period of four years the eviction or removal of indigenous persons and indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands, was already dead letter. Members of the Diaguita indigenous community of the Tucumán Province were victims of an aggressive campaign of forced evictions and threats of removal from their ancestral lands. Argentine police, using tear gas and shooting rubber bullets at the indigenous women, children, and men, displaced a number of families from their homes, burned and destroyed the houses and other structures.
Argentina remains far from a republic of equals.
News Archive for Argentina
Wikimedia Atlas of Argentina
Amnesty International: Human Rights in Argentina
Global Peace Index Rank 2010: 71
HDI: 0.860 (Rank 2008: 46)
The first major island was originally settled by peoples from Central or South America. They named the place Yarumaqui, which is believed to be derived from Yaruma, a plant from which canoes and rafts were made and Qui an island. Later it was known as Waladli, which means land of oil. Then, in 1493, the Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo named the island Santa Maria de la Antigua (Old Saint Mary's) after a church in Seville, Spain. The early Spanish settlement in Antigua was made subject to English rule from 1632, with a French interlude in 1666.
The second island was originally known as Wa'omoni, island of large birds. This island, 48 km due north of Antigua, was leased to British brothers Christopher and John Codrington in 1685. On Barbuda the Codringtons produced food. They also transported slaves as labour for their sugar plantations on Antigua.
As on many other Caribbean islands during the centuries of colonial conquest, sugar cultivation had became the most profitable enterprise in Antigua and Barbuda. By the middle of the 18th century the island was dotted with more than 150 cane-processing windmills--each the focal point of a sizeable plantation. Due to the vast tracts of land needed for large-scale sugar production, rainforests on the islands were decimated.
Yet today, as in Anguilla, tourism accounts directly or indirectly for more than half of GDP and is also the principal earner of foreign exchange in Antigua and Barbuda. Until the development of tourism in the past few decades, Antiguans struggled for prosperity. And long gone are the rainforests, which would have been a drawcard to complement the beaches.
Instead the tourism is complemented by a global trade in guns and ganja, crack and other cocaine, a traffic that has put the island and its neighbours at a vital crossroads between the narcotics producers of South America and the eager consumers of the US and Europe. The drugs seep into the local population, payment in kind for dealers, or simply an impossible lure at prices that are a fraction of the street prices in the developed world, sometimes as low as US$1 for a rock of crack cocaine.
As in Anguilla, the place looks to be on the path to becoming a ganster's paradise. Gun crime and gang violence are on a sharp rise among Antigua's young. The murder rate per head of population in Antigua is more than three times higher than in New York. Nineteen murders were committed last year, three times Antigua's annual rate five years ago.
One of the main reasons for the escalation in violence, according to residents and police sources, is the enforced return of emigrant criminals. A report issued last year by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and Caribbean region of the World Bank reinforces the claim:
Each year, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada deport thousands of people convicted of various crimes to their countries of citizenship in the Caribbean. There is a widely held belief in the Caribbean that recent crime troubles can be tied directly to the activities of deportees who have learnt criminal behaviour in the developed countries."The Antiguan Government says almost 300 have been returned to the island in the past 10 years. A few were from Britain, but most came from the United States. There are between 10 and 12 gangs on the island, fashioned after notorious gangs in North America. Antigua is in the midst of a "gang war", with groups of youths making U.S. urban gang names common currency. There's trouble in this paradise, too.
News Archive for Antigua and Barbuda
Wikimedia Atlas of Antigua and Barbuda
Amnesty International: Human Rights in Antigua and Barbuda
HDI: 0.830 (Rank 2008: 59)
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Anguilla, today a British overseas territory in the Caribbean, is located in the Caribbean Sea, the northern most island in the Leeward Island chain. It was a paradise, a lush island covered in dense rain forest, and it was first settled by peaceful tribes who slowly island hopped by raft or dugout canoe from the Orinoco region on the South American continent. They called the place Malliouhana, which meant arrow-shape sea serpent and they developed villages, farms and ceremonial sites to their gods.
In time the island was also "discovered" by Europeans. In 1493 the Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo sailed by, but he never landed on the island. The French first visited it in 1564. According to tradition, Columbo gave the small, narrow island its current name because from a distance it resembled an eel (in Italian, anguilla). It is also possible that French navigator Pierre Laudonnière gave the island its name from the French anguille.
The first English settlers arrived from Saint Kitts - 70 miles to the southeast - in 1650. By this time the original people of the island had vanished, probably wiped out by disease, pirates, and the French. They found that the now uninhabited island's soil was good for growing corn and tobacco, so they established plantations. Thereafter, for the next 150 years or so, Anguilla, like other Caribbean islands, was caught in a power struggle between the English and the French, both nations seeking to gain control of the area and its highly profitable trade routes and cash crops.
The English triumphed in retaining control of the island and Anguilla was administered by Great Britain until the early 19th century, when the island - against the wishes of the inhabitants - was incorporated into a single British dependency, along with Saint Kitts and Nevis.
In 1967, Britain sought to loosen its colonial ties by lumping Anguilla into an alignment with the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, the nearest British dependencies. The intent was for the three islands to form a new Caribbean nation, the Associated State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, with Britain continuing to hold the reins on foreign affairs and defense.
Anguillians wanted no part of the new state, which they viewed as subjugation to St. Kitts, their more powerful neighbour. Union with St. Kitts had done nothing for Anguilla's infrastructure; up to 1967 there were no paved roads, no industries, no electricity, no pipe-borne water, no telephones and no proper port facilities. Fed up with the third-class status that they anticipated in a St. Kitts-led federation, the Anguillians had armed themselves and revolted, forcing St. Kitts police off the island and blocking the runway to prevent a 'reinvasion' by Kittitian forces. This set in motion a complex and sometimes almost farcical chain of events in which Great Britain and St. Kitts never looked good, and which climaxed with a bloodless, unresisted British invasion of Anguilla in March 1969. The event was later dubbed the 'Bay of Piglets'.
The Anguillians made sure that the political and administrative solution adopted had their interests, for once, at heart. It took until 1980 before Anguilla got what it felt it needed: Britain agreed to drop the idea of an Anguillian union with St Kitts and continued British administration of the island under a modified colonial status that granted Anguilla a heightened degree of home rule.
Anguilla's now thin arid soil is largely unsuitable for agriculture, and the island has few land-based natural resources. It's been said that cocaine importation and sale is a major industry in Anguilla, second only to luxury tourism. Apparently, the first thing that up to fifty percent of all tourists do when they finish checking into their luxury accommodation, is to go to the head barman or concierge and enquire where they can get cocaine (which at US$17.50 a gram is as cheap as chips).
Rich Americans and Europeans are buying up land across the island, purchasing entire beachfronts and restricting the property to trespassers. All over the island, real estate prices are soaring as investors offer millions for modest beach houses, which they plan to tear down and rebuild as mansions. Anguillans, mostly the elderly who don’t know the long-range ramifications, are selling off their land at an alarming rate.
The majority of the contemporary Anguillian population of 14,000 are the descendants of slaves transported from Africa. About ten percent of Anguillans live in the capital, The Valley, and the population on average across the island is very young; more than one third are under the age of fifteen. The future of Anguilla lies heavily in the hands of the younger generation, yet gang culture is emerging; drug and gang related crime is on the rise. From being virtually crime free before the turn of the century, Anguilla has become a place with a growing rate of serious and unsolved crimes including murders, rapes, robberies and kidnapping. There's trouble in paradise.
News Archive for Anguilla
Wikimedia Atlas of Anguilla
Amnesty International: Human Rights in Anguilla
HDI: N/A (Rank 2008: N/A)
Corruption-free Anguilla blogspot