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Cuba found to be the most sustainably developed country in the world, new research finds;

1 Dec

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The Capitol building in Havana, Cuba

 

UBA is the most sustainable developed country in the world, according to a new report launched today.

The socialist island outperforms advanced capitalist countries including Britain and the United States, which has subjected Cuba to a punitive six-decades-long economic blockade.

The Sustainable Development Index (SDI), designed by anthropologist and author Dr Jason Hickel, calculates its results by dividing a nation’s “human development” score, obtained by looking at statistics on life expectancy, health and education, by its “ecological overshoot,” the extent to which the per capita carbon footprint exceeds Earth’s natural limits.

Countries with strong human development and a lower environmental impact score highly, but countries with poorer life expectancies and literacy rates as well as those which exceed ecological limits are marked down.

Based on the most recent figures, from 2015, Cuba is top with a score of 0.859, while Venezuela is 12th and Argentina 18th.

The SDI was created to update the Human Development Index (HDI), developed by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and used by the United Nations Development Programme to produce its annual reports since 1990.

The HDI considers life expectancy, education and gross national income per capita, but ignores environmental degradation caused by the economic growth of top performers such as Britain and the US.

“These countries are major contributors to climate change and other forms of ecological breakdown, which disproportionately affects the poorer countries of the global South, where climate change is already causing hunger rates to rise,” Mr Hickel said.

“In this sense, the HDI promotes a model of development that is empirically incompatible with ecology and which embodies a fundamental contradiction: achieving high development according to HDI means driving de-development elsewhere in the world. For a development indicator that purports to be universal, such a contradiction is indefensible.”

Britain, ranked 14th in 2018’s HDI, falls to 131st in the SDI, while the US, 13th in the ul Haq index, is 159th out of 163 countries featured in the new system.

Mr Hickel added: “The SDI ranking reveals that all countries are still “developing” – countries with the highest levels of human development still need to significantly reduce their ecological impact, while countries with the lowest levels of ecological impact still need to significantly improve their performance on social indicators.”

The SDI is available at sustainabledevelopmentindex.org.

 

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US Is Again Complicit in an Illegal Coup, This Time in Bolivia

27 Nov

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Once again, the United States is complicit in an illegal coup d’état in Latin America, this time in Bolivia. On November 10, a right-wing, anti-Indigenous group seized power after the Bolivian military’s removal of President Evo Morales, who had declared victory in the October 20 presidential election.

The United States’ fingerprints are all over the coup. Advisers from the U.S. Southern Command have been stationed on Bolivia’s border with Argentina, Ivanka Trump made a surprising visit to an Argentine province near the Bolivian border in September, the pro-U.S. Organization of American States (OAS) cast unfounded doubt on Morales’s election victory, and the U.S.’s National Endowment for Democracy provided suspicious grants to Bolivia.

At least 32 people have been killed and hundreds injured since the coup began. Sacha Llorenti, Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations, told Democracy Now!, “We are going through not just a coup d’état, but a violent one.” Indeed, it has resulted in “the rise of a far-right regime of terror,” professor Gabriel Hetland wrote in The Washington Post.

Morales — Bolivia’s first Indigenous leader in a country where 65 percent of the people are Indigenous — received 10 percent more votes than Carlos Mesa, the second-place candidate who has close ties to the U.S. government. Mesa was in regular communication with U.S. officials who were trying to destabilize Morales, U.S. government cables published by WikiLeaks reveal.

The day after the election, the U.S.-funded OAS sought to delegitimize the election results. “The OAS Mission expresses its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls,” it stated.

But the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) published a comprehensive statistical analysis on November 8 that found no evidence of fraud or irregularities in the election and determined that the results reflected highly similar patterns from past elections. Other research conducted by CELAG (Centro Estratégico Latinoamericano de Geopolítica) confirmed CEPR’s findings and identified insufficient evidence to support the assertions in the OAS statement.

CEPR co-director Mark Weisbrot noted in an op-ed for Market Watch, “The OAS isn’t all that independent at the moment, with the Trump administration actively promoting this military coup, and Washington having more right-wing allies in the OAS than they did just a few years ago.”

 

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U.S. complicity in the coup in Bolivia is illegal under both U.S. and international law.

The OAS was established during the Cold War to prevent the proliferation of leftist governments. USAID considers OAS a critical tool in “promot[ing] US interests in the Western hemisphere by countering the influence of anti-US countries” such as Bolivia.

The November 10 military coup led to the forced resignation of Morales, who received asylum in Mexico. Right-wing politician Jeanine Añez declared herself interim president, and Donald Trump immediately recognized her illegitimate claim to the presidency. Añez then issued a decree immunizing the military from criminal liability “for carrying out necessary actions in their legitimate defense while performing their constitutional duties.” Morales supporters accused Añez of giving soldiers “carte blanche” to shoot demonstrators. Bolivia’s human rights ombudsman and reporters have documented widespread injuries and fatalities from gunshots.

U.S. Involvement in the Coup

During Morales’s nearly 14 years in office, his Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party reduced poverty by 42 percent and extreme poverty by 60 percent. It cut unemployment by 50 percent and nearly tripled the per-capita G.D.P. “It’s indisputable that Bolivians are healthier, wealthier, better educated, living longer and more equal than at any time in this South American nation’s history,” Anthony Faiola wrote in The Washington Post.

There was discontent about Morales seeking a fourth term among some sectors in Bolivia, who thought there should be space for new leadership. But Morales had a strong record of establishing policies to help the people of Bolivia, which angered the U.S. government, Western corporations and the corporate media, “who function as ideological shock troops against leftist governments in Latin America,” Alan MacLeod wrote at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

The U.S. and Argentine governments helped to engineer the Bolivian coup, Stella Calloni reported in Resumen: Latinoamerico. She cited the presence of advisers from the U.S. Southern Command on the Argentine border with Bolivia.

Calloni also documented “the surprising trip of Ivanka Trump” to the Argentine province of Jujuy near the Bolivian border on September 4-5. Accompanied by 2,500 U.S. agents and Undersecretary of State John Sullivan, Ivanka Trump was ostensibly there to “visit” a small NGO dedicated to furthering women’s rights, and she delivered an “aid” package of $400 million for “road works.” Alicia Canqui Condori, national representative of MAS, said that, “in Jujuy Donald Trump’s daughter had met with Gov. Gerardo Morales to plan what happened in Bolivia.”

Moreover, according to Calloni, Bolivian Gen. Williams Kaliman, who “suggested” that Morales resign after the election, traveled to the United States 72 hours after the coup began and he received $1 million from the U.S. embassy in Bolivia. Like many Latin American strongmen over the years, at least six of the top military leaders involved in the coup, including Kaliman, were trained at the notorious U.S. Army School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Months before the coup, Bolivia concluded a $2.3 billion deal with a Chinese consortium to mine lithium. Bolivia has 70 percent of the world’s supply of lithium, which is used in car batteries, electronic devices and weapons systems. “The idea that there might be a new social compact for the lithium was unacceptable to the main transnational mining companies,” Vijay Prashad wrote. U.S. and Canadian companies sought to make a lithium agreement with Bolivia but they could not meet Morales’s conditions. “Morales himself was a direct impediment to the takeover of the lithium fields by the non-Chinese transnational firms,” according to Prashad. “He had to go.”

 

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Sordid History of U.S. Meddling in Latin America

U.S. complicity in the Bolivian coup follows in a sordid tradition of meddling in the political and economic affairs of Latin American countries. “For many years, the US government has provided overt financial support to opposition political parties and civic groups, including to many of the groups that have been engaged in violent insurrections and coup plotting since at least 2008,” Thomas Field wrote in Jacobin.

This is the time to urge senators and Congress members to end all U.S. support for the illegitimate regime.

One key vehicle that the U.S. government uses as a cover for its imperialist policies is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). After disturbing revelations of covert CIA operations in the second half of the 1970s, NED was established under Ronald Reagan. “The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities,” William Blum wrote in 2005. NED co-founder Allen Weinstein concurred, stating in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Although ostensibly a private, nonprofit organization, NED is largely funded by the United States. “In effect,” Blum noted, “the CIA has been laundering money through NED.”

Peter Haberfeld, a retired lawyer and labor organizer who has studied the “Pink Tide” governments in Latin America, documented NED grants in Bolivia. He told Truthout that “between 2016 and 2019, NED gave grants to over 30 organizations for ‘democracy promotion’ in Bolivia. The grants total $3,209,887.”

Haberfeld said the grants were officially earmarked for “lofty objectives such as expanding participation by women, youth, media and entrepreneurs in a vibrant political process, particularly in connection with elections,” but cautioned “it is wise to be suspicious.” Haberfeld cited author Neil A. Burron, who wrote in The New Democracy Wars: The Politics of North American Democracy Promotion in the Americas, that “democracy promotion is typically formulated to advance commercial, geopolitical and security objectives that conflict with a genuine commitment to democracy development.” Burron noted, “For the US, the political manipulation of democracy promotion in support of a North American-led regional order is a continuation of long-standing forms of intervention [that have been] used as a license to meddle in the domestic affairs of others.”

NED was complicit in the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s, manipulated the 1990 Nicaraguan elections, heavily funded the 2002 failed coup attempt against socialist President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and supported the opposition to progressive President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti in the 1990s. Between 1990 and 1992, NED donated a quarter-million dollars to the Cuban-American National Foundation, the violent anti-Castro group based in Miami.

In 2018, under the guise of “democracy,” “human rights” and “entrepreneurship,” NED funneled more than $23 million to opposition groups in Latin American countries, including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton called Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua the “Troika of Tyranny” in November 2018. A few months later, in April 2019, the U.S. government orchestrated another unsuccessful coup in Venezuela. Juan Guaidó, Washington’s chosen puppet to seize power from President Nicolás Maduro, was funded by NED.

Trump not only took aim at the progress Barack Obama had made toward normalization of relations with Cuba, he has escalated the U.S. economic war on Cuba and unleashed untold numbers of lawsuits that threaten to destroy the fragile Cuban economy.

The Obama administration, led by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, supported the 2009 coup in Honduras. The fraudulent election following the coup was financed by NED and the State Department, ushering in a repressive and militarized regime. Conditions deteriorated, leading to the exodus of thousands of Honduran children fleeing north.

U.S. Complicity in the Coup in Bolivia Is Illegal

U.S. complicity in the coup in Bolivia is illegal under both U.S. and international law. The United Nations Charter prohibits the use of or threat to use force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another nation. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right to self-determination.

The Charter of the Organization of American States, to which the U.S. is a party, forbids any country from intervening in the internal or external affairs of another country. The OAS charter declares that, “Every State has the right to choose, without external interference, its political, economic, and social system and to organize itself in the way best suited to it, and has the duty to abstain from intervening in the affairs of another State.”

The Foreign Assistance Act forbids the United States from assisting a country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

There has been global condemnation of the coup. Sixty-four organizations of jurists, lawyers, NGOs, social movements and trade unions from around the world, including the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the National Lawyers Guild, sent a letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, urging her to strongly condemn the human rights violations resulting from the coup.

Fourteen members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying they were “deeply concerned” about the contribution of the Trump administration to the “escalating political and human rights crisis” in Bolivia.

Over 800 scholars, activists and public figures published an open letter demanding that the United States and the international community halt all support to the right-wing, anti-Indigenous regime that took power after the military coup.

Veterans For Peace condemned the racist coup in Bolivia and demanded an end to U.S. intervention in Latin America:

Veterans For Peace stands in solidarity with the Indigenous majority in Bolivia who are resisting the racist, right-wing takeover of their democracy. We demand that the coup be stopped and democracy restored in Bolivia. As military veterans who have been used and abused in too many unjust wars, we demand an end to 200 years of U.S. intervention in Latin America.

The situation in Bolivia is volatile and there is danger it could devolve into civil war. This is the time to urge senators and Congress members to end all U.S. support for the illegitimate regime, demand free and fair elections with all political parties represented, and insist that fundamental human rights of all Bolivians are protected.

Trump’s real troika of tyranny — Bolton, Pompeo and Abrams — has failed in its coup attempt in Venezuela.
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Washington’s Consensus on Neofascist Coups in Latin America

23 Nov

 

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However much they war on the domestic political front, Washington’s Democrats and Republicans are on the same page when it comes to the imperial war on democracy and social justice in Latin America.

No Partisan Warfare on Honduras (2009)

In 2009 and 2010 Republicans were in a partisan tizzy over everything Barack Obama and Democratic Party, from health insurance reform to economic stimulus, bank bailouts, auto bailouts, and climate policy. The “Tea Party” rebellion arose, replete with a heavy dose of white herrenvolk racism.

But the Teapublicans offered no complaint when Obama’s Secretary of State Hilary Clinton aided and abetted a right-wing business and military coup that overthrew Honduras’ democratically elected left-populist president Manuel Zelaya in the spring of 2009.  Washington’s two major parties were united in opposition to Zelaya’s alignment of Honduras with Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia in attacking poverty and inequality and redirecting Latin American regional development away from U.S. control [1]. Democrats and Republicans agreed that the independent and egalitarian Latin American trend needed to be checked.

The Honduran coup and the Obama administration’s critical role in supporting it was just peachy keen as the GOP was concerned. Never mind that the regime-change in Honduras produced bloody repression and increased misery in that desperately poor country.

No Impeachment for Backing a Venezuelan Coup Attempt (January 2019)

Flash forward ten years.  The Obama-backed right-wing coup in Honduras helped fuel Central American migrant streams that the demented fascist oligarch Donald Trump railed against during his successful and Nativist presidential campaign. “Donito Assolini” has been mired in partisan turmoil since the beginning of his cancerous, white-nationalist presidency. The two major parties and their constituents disagree sharply over whether the tiny-fingered, tangerine-tinted, Twitter-tantruming tyrant Trump should be impeached and removed for trying to trade arms to Ukraine in exchange for political dirt on the ludicrous right-wing Democratic-presidential clown-car candidate Joe Biden. Washington and the U.S. electorate are torn by fanatical partisan polarization. Nine in ten Democrats think Trump committed an impeachable offense regarding Ukraine but just 18.5% of Republicans, less than one in five, agree.

Impeachment is nearly certain [2] in the U.S. House of Representatives since the House is controlled by Democrats.  Removal is unlikely in the U.S. Senate because the upper chamber of Congress is run by Republicans, who will argue that Trump’s abuse of power does not rise to the level required for defenestration. The neofascistic “heartland” Trumpenvolk is ready to respond to removal and perhaps even to impeachment with armed attacks, encouraged by a malignantly narcissistic and authoritarian president who has “warned” of (threatened to spark) “Civil War….If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office.”

Trump’s well-documented and ham-fisted attempt to bribe and extort political assistance from Ukraine is worthy of impeachment and removal.  But by focusing narrowly on Biden-Burisma-Gate, the Democrats are essentially exonerating Trump on numerous other graver, impeachment- and removal-worthy offenses including the separation of migrant children from their parents at the southern U.S. border, the detention of tens of thousands of migrant children and families in for profit concentration camps, the instruction for the U.S. Border Patrol to violate the law, the breach of international asylum law, the declaration of a fake national emergency to criminally divert taxpayer funds to the building of a widely hated Nativist Wall, the acceleration of Ecocide (the biggest issue of our or any time), and – of special relevance to this essay and current events in Bolivia (see below) – the eager support Trump granted an attempted right-wing coup to overthrow the democratically elected left-populist (Chavista-socialist) Maduro government in Venezuela last Winter.  Regarding the last transgression, here is a thoroughly reasonable Article of Impeachment, one of many drafted by the activist group Roots Action:

“In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States …On the evening of January 22, 2019, following years of damaging U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, which followed an unsuccessful 2002 U.S.-supported coup attempt, Vice President Pence called Juan Guaidó and told him that the United States would support him if he were to seize power in Venezuela. The next day, January 23, Guaidó attempted to do so. That same day, President Trump issued a statement recognizing Guaidó as the President of Venezuela, despite the fact that Venezuela had an elected president and that Guaidó had no legitimate claim to the presidency. On January 24, 2019, the Trump-Pence administration attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the Organization of American States to recognize Guaidó as president…In the above and related actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael Richard Pence…are guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.”

Sadly, it is unthinkable that the Democratic Party establishment would give a second thought to impeaching Trump for his support of a criminal right-wing putsch in Venezuela.  That’s because top Democrats are on board with Republicans in believing that independent and socialist-leaning governments representing the interests of poor and working-class Latin Americans need to make way for regimes more compliant to the commands of Washington and Western financial institutions and corporations.

Bolivia Right Now: “We Can’t Botch This Like We Did Venezuela”

Few Democrats beyond a handful of progressive outliers like Bernie Sanders have had the basic human and democratic decency to denounce the vicious racist and neofascist coup that removed Bolivia’s democratically elected socialist and Indigenous president Evo Morales from power eleven days ago. Anyone with Internet access can see graphic footage of a massacre in which peaceful Indigenous protesters in Cochabamba were murdered by snipers in military helicopters defending a “transitional government” headed by an evangelical neofascist who has tweeted the following: “I dream of a Bolivia free of indigenous satanic rituals, the city is not for the Indians send them to the high plains or to the Chaco!”

True to his own racist, neofascistic, and oligarchic colors, Trump grotesquely hailed the gruesome Bolivian coup for bringing the world “one step closer to a completely free, prosperous, and democratic Western hemisphere.”

Where have the Ukraine-Russia- and impeachment-obsessed Democrats been on the Trump-backed fascist-racist Bolivian coup? Missing in action, for the most part, beyond the progressive margins occupied by Sanders et al. “Since Morales’ forced resignation,” the left commentator Jacob Sugerman notes, “the response of leading Democrats and presidential hopefuls has been one of almost total silence, even among the party’s putative progressives. Liberal Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) chillingly tweeted that “the U.S. needs to support a civilian-led transition of power at a perilous moment. We can’t botch this like we did Venezuela.’’ A hideous statement given the fact that the United States recently backed yet another failed right-wing coup in Venezuela, as it did in 2002!

“The Western Media Can Barely Conceal Their Adulation”

The “liberal media” hasn’t been much better. “For all the supposed threat Trump represents and the enthusiasm sparked by his possible impeachment,” Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) reports. “Western media continue to march lockstep behind his administration’s coups in Latin America. Bolivia has a new US-backed puppet leader,” FAIR notes after surveying the “liberal” U.S. and European press, “and the Western media can hardly conceal their adulation” (emphasis added). The New York Times, the Guardian, and other leading Western papers portray to the coup regime as merely “conservative,” downplaying its fascist essence and the horrific violence it is employing while purveying the coup regime’s false claim that Morales corruptly stole his re-election last October 25th.

While the major television networks have kept millions of U.S. eyeballs glued to the House Democrats’ often compelling Biden-Burisma impeachment drama (“Insane in the Ukraine”), a U.S.- backed fascist coup regime in the Americas – in Bolivia – is massacring people in plain sight with bipartisan U.S. approval. What percentage of US-Americans know about this atrocity? (probably less than 0.3%). Like so many other hideous crimes at home and abroad, the neofascist coup and repression are not considered newsworthy on US television. The Indigenous Bolivians being shot through the skull by fascist forces in military helicopters are classic examples of what Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman called “officially unworthy victims” in U.S. mass media. They are insidiously invisible to all but a few U.S.-Americans.

“Two Wings of the Same Bird of Prey”

It is all so very neo-Cold War.  While the “liberal” U.S. media and political class claims to care passionately about liberty and democracy in Eastern Europe (though never explains what right Washington has to meddle in the political and military affairs of Eastern Europe, on the historically explosive western border of nuclear-armed Russia), it couldn’t care less about freedom, democracy and social justice in its own hemisphere, where Latin Americans are expected to take direction for Washington and its allies among the most reactionary sections of the Latin American ruling class — or face bloody repression.

This is not merely a matter of bad information and oversight or distraction by impeachment.  It’s about the imperialist Democratic Party’s longstanding opposition to true national independence, social justice, and democracy in Latin America (and in other “Third World” locations) since the Woodrow Wilson presidency and before.  As far as Latin American independence and social justice fighters have long been concerned have long been concerned, the Democrats and Republicans are very much as Upton Sinclair described them in the original Appeal to Reason version of The Jungle: “two wings of the same bird of prey.” For all their partisan tumult in the imperial “homeland” today, Sinclair’s metaphor still fits U.S. policy towards Latin America and indeed the rest of the world – Ukraine included[3]

Endnotes.

1. The fake-progressive corporate imperialist Barack Obama summarized part of the bipartisan U.S. foreign policy establishment consensus in his nauseating, stealthily right-wing 2006 campaign book The Audacity of Hope. There Obama ripped “left-leaning populists” like “Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez” for daring to think that developing nations “should resist America’s efforts to expand its hegemony” and for trying to “follow their own path to development.”  Such supposedly dysfunctional “reject[ion] [of] the ideals of free markets and liberal democracy” will only worsen the situation of the global poor, Obama claimed (p. 315), ignoring a preponderance of evidence of showing that the imposition of the “free market” corporate-neoliberal “Washington Consensus” had deepened poverty across the world for decades.

2. The United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is helping end doubt about the likelihood of Trump’s impeachment as I am writing this essay on the morning of Wednesday, November 20th, 2019. Sondland is testifying to the House that Trump conditioned arms shipments to Ukraine on Ukraine’s new president publicly announcing an investigation into Biden and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma in the spring and summer of this year. Sondland is also noting numerous efforts by the Trump administration to criminally obstruct the House impeachment inquiry.

3. Trump is being impeached (though probably not removed) for interjecting his personal political interests into U.S. imperial policy in Eastern Europe. But, with all due respect for Trump’s strange and suspicious attraction to Vladimir Putin, the two major U.S. political parties share the brazen imperial notion that the Superpower United States has some special God- and/or history-ordained global-exceptionalist entitlement to be centrally involved in political and military affairs on nuclear-armed Russia’s volatile western border, on nuclear-armed China’s borders, in the super-volatile Middle East, and indeed in practically every part of the planet.

 

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