Five Fold Today

Haiti: In Solidarity with its Five Freedoms - The Wicked Witch Is Dead. Why Aren't We Dancing in the Streets? - The Age of Unbridled Consumption Just Ended - The Problems of Latin America and the Caribbean - Taking Poverty Message to Streets - Why My Church is Hosting a Poverty Sunday - By My Spirit

October 9th, 2008

Haiti: In Solidarity with its Five Freedoms

By James Petras

Today the acid test for all democrats in North and South America is the issue of the military occupation of Haiti, the economic pillage and denial of elementary political and human rights of the Haitian people.

In 2004 a US-led invasion force overthrew the democratically elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide and subsequently promoted and organized an occupation army. This colonial military force has repeatedly violently repressed popular demonstrations, violently raided the neighborhoods of the poor and killed, wounded and arrested Haitians who were affirming their rights of self-determination and an end to foreign occupation.

Since the United States bears major responsibility for the invasion, occupation and subsequent pillage and privatization of essential public services, we have a special responsibility to speak out clearly and forcefully to the United Nations (UN) in support of Haiti´s Five Freedoms:

1. The UN must end its military presence of Haiti through its occupation army (MINUSTAH), action contrary to the very founding principles of the organization. Haiti must recover the right of self-determination and the freedom to govern itself.

2. The Haitian people demand the end of the pillage of its national treasury by official and private banks extracting payments of $1 million USD a week for illegitimate debts contracted by past corrupt dictatorial regimes. Haitians demand freedom from illegitimate elite debts in order to finance basic life-sustaining programs for the 80% of the population living in extreme poverty.

3. Every country, which has suffered massive natural disasters, as the hurricanes that recently devastated Haiti, is entitled to large-scale, long-term humanitarian aid with no strings attached. Haitians demand the immediate fulfilling of aid pledged and its allocation according to needs without MINUSTAH manipulation to perpetuate its occupation.

4. The collapse of the free market model today highlights the disastrous consequences of the IMF-World Bank policies of privatization of public services in Haiti, where ‘private health and education´ effectively excludes the vast majority of Haitians. Haitians must regain the right to re-nationalize public services and all other strategic economic sectors necessary for their well-being.

5. Free elections means the return of deposed, exiled and persecuted political leaders and the end of foreign military occupation and repression of anti-colonial movements. Elections with occupation guns pointed at the heads of the electors and candidates have no legitimacy. We, the American people in North, South and Central America, have a responsibility to demand the end of MINUSTAH and the return national sovereignty to the Haitian people. No government no matter what its political claims and rhetoric can justify its democratic credentials when it acts as a colonial gendarme.

James Petras latest book , Zionism,Militarism and the Decline of U.S. Power - Clarity Press :Atlanta Ga.


The Wicked Witch Is Dead. Why Aren't We Dancing in the Streets?

by Naomi Jaffe

Okay, capitalism isn't dead yet. And the house is falling on us too.

But let's allow ourselves one little moment of glee at the expense of the system that's been choking the world to death for 500 years.

I know: we - that is, those of us making five figures or less, or nothing at all, or getting a social security check - we are terrified
that the demise of capitalism will be ours as well. But wasn't flourishing, healthy, arrogant, thumb-your-nose-at-the-world capitalism already killing us?

At the very bottom - the billion and a half people on the earth living on less than a dollar a day; the refugees from capitalism's violent aggressions; the victims of war zone rape and of rapacious economic interventions; the dwellers in and fleers from decimated places - the collapse of Lehman Brothers isn't the worst news they've had this year, or even this week.

And here in the U.S., most of us were living on borrowed time before the bubble burst. Every number was going up except the one on our paycheck, social security check, or social services voucher. When capitalism was strong and healthy - a couple of weeks ago - we were in a perpetual state of sticker shock: at the gas station, at the supermarket, every time the credit card bill or the tax bill or the rent or the car payment came around.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG are too big to be allowed to fail. What about the 37 million of us living in official poverty, the 46 million with no health insurance, the 2 ½ million in prison, the 3 ½ million homeless - how come we aren't too big to fail? Capitalism has already failed most of us; now that it's failing the capitalists, suddenly it's a crisis.

They are telling us we should be very scared because capitalism is in danger of disintegrating. Might we be forgiven if just for a second we are tempted to say, "Bring it on!"

Of course, there are good reasons to be scared. The failure of capitalism, in the absence of a viable alternative, presents a terrifying danger of deterioration into fascism: the merger of the masters of corporate greed with political and military leaders; the concentration of power in the hands of a demagogic executive branch; the unraveling of democratic institutions and the rule of law; the suppression of dissent; the stealing of elections; the waging of wars of conquest; the scapegoating of unpopular minorities... wait, this is starting to sound familiar. Failed capitalism sounds a lot like successful capitalism.

And so it is. We are being told that if capitalism fails, everything we thought we had (in case we thought we had anything) will be wiped out. So we have to participate in a massive life support operation -- which will also wipe us out.

Somebody is going to have to cough up that three quarters of a trillion plus, and that somebody is us. Out of our inner city and rural schools that are already punishing our kids instead of educating them; out of the miserable safety net full of holes through which the elderly, the poor, the undereducated and the just plain unlucky are already falling; out of the meager funding that already puts a college education out of reach of so many of our kids; out of our property and income taxes and rents and fees that we already have no way to pay and still eat three meals a day.

So what's good about this crisis? For starters, it has already brought strong cries of outrage from expected and unexpected quarters; more voices than ever before are demanding that social wealth be used for the benefit of all. It has provided vindication and legitimacy to voices of dissent and change.

It has opened up possibilities. It may restore a bit of multilateral balance to the one-superpower world. It may put a check on the pre-emptive, regime-changing, shock-and-awe militarism that has brought so much suffering and death. It may open up a bit of breathing space for the Latin American experiment in not being the U.S.A.'s back yard. It may encourage the growth of an alternative vision beyond the Republicrats and the Democans. It may put the brakes on some of the greed that is plunging the earth into climate destruction. It may allow, for the first time in 500 years, a global culture to emerge that is not dominated by white people.

Above all, if we allow ourselves to imagine it, if we organize ourselves to fight for it, it opens a window into the possibility of an entirely different sort of world, one based on the wellbeing of humans and the earth instead of on short-term greed and violent aggression - a world free from capitalism.

I may be out there all by myself, but I'm going to go do a hopeful little dance in the street.
Naomi Jaffe is a long-time activist in upstate New York and a former member of the Weather Underground.

The Age of Unbridled Consumption Just Ended
By Lisa Wise, The Women's Media Center

An economic storm is descending, and for many, the storm will be bad. While the Bush Administration and Congress wrestle with how to bail out Wall Street, and argue about how softly CEOs of failed financial institutions should be allowed to land, average citizens must leap into the new reality without benefit of 24-karat parachutes.

Certainly, there isn't any golden or even silver lining to losing your job, your savings, your home. But for those of us not hit with catastrophic losses, an economic downturn might force us into painful, but ultimately useful, adjustments to our priorities. Should we be fortunate enough to hold onto both nest and nest egg though the storm, we might eventually come out the other side with clearer skies and a clear sense of what's important.

Our economy in recent decades has been propped up by an alarming degree by profligate consumer spending and wasting of resources prompted by an avaricious credit industry. Even before the crisis, it was obvious that the traditional American Dream of comfort and security had been displaced by a "more is better" focus that promotes not quality of life, but rather the unbridled production and consumption of stuff. There was never any chance that could continue indefinitely.

Recently, the Global Footprint Network issued a report stating that by September 23, humanity had consumed all the new resources the planet will produce for the year. For the rest of 2008, we are in the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, drawing down our resource stocks -- in essence, borrowing from the future. Sound familiar? We can't hope to keep to our economic budget if we can't keep to our ecological budget.

Some years ago -- just as the Bush Administration was settling into office and, as it has turned out, contemplating how best to thwart any meaningful efforts to address climate change -- my organization, New American Dream, commissioned two globe-trotting amateur videographers to document how American consumer demands affected the lives of people in parts of the globe American consumers are unlikely ever to see. The short films came back to us filled with images of environmental and social ills stemming in large part from a global trade system designed to shield end consumers from seeing the true consequences of consumer choices.

The filmmakers visited coffee farmers, banana pickers, and lobster divers. Factory workers in so-called "free trade zones" told stories of how free trade wasn't working out so well for them. Along the coasts of Central and South America, shrimp pens displaced local fishing communities and obliterated natural mangrove forests. In the Amazon, logging trucks rumbled through roads carved into formerly pristine rainforests.

Several of the films touched also on U.S. energy policy -- specifically, how our thirst for oil affects local communities both in places where oil is extracted and places where greenhouse gas emissions contribute to altering the local climate. In Ecuador, the filmmakers met indigenous Huaorani people whose health and way of life have been severely compromised by oil drilling on their lands. In sub-Saharan Africa, they documented what happens to once-thriving farming communities when the rain doesn't fall.

Those films addressing climate change most clearly highlighted the special burden faced by women. One video showed women and girls making 5 to 10 kilometer treks to gather firewood for use as cooking fuel. It showed how, during the dry months, women arose at four in the morning to wait in long lines around depleted community wells for basins of sandy water. Water rationing was so intense during those times that most clothes washing is suspended until the first rainfall.

The "more is better" version of the American dream is unsustainable environmentally, fueling a level of resource consumption that the planet cannot keep up with. It is personally unsustainable, drawing American families into a work-and-spend treadmill that depletes savings and clutters lives. And now we see it is unsustainable economically, as well.

Whatever economy emerges from this crisis will need to put less emphasis on "more" stuff and greater emphasis on more of what matters -- like healthy communities, a healthy planet and a higher quality of life. In righting the economic ship, the end game shouldn't be to plug up a broken vessel, but to move to something more seaworthy -- one that sails within both personal and ecological limits.

This article was originally posted by The Women's Media Center at The WMC is a non-profit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, dedicated to making the female half of the world visible and powerful in the media.

Lisa Wise is the executive director of the Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. that promotes sustainable consumer choices.

© 2008 The Women's Media Center All rights reserved.

The Problems of Latin America and the Caribbean

VII Social Summit for the Latin American and Caribbean Unity

By Noam Chomsky

Caracas 9-24-08.. During the past decade, Latin America has become the most exciting region of the world. The dynamic has very largely flowed from right where you are meeting, in Caracas, with the election of a leftist president dedicated to using Venezuela's rich resources for the benefit of the population rather than for wealth and privilege at home and abroad, and to promote the regional integration that is so desperately needed as a prerequisite for independence, for democracy, and for meaningful development. The initiatives taken in Venezuela have had a significant impact throughout the subcontinent, what has now come to be called "the pink tide." The impact is revealed within the individual countries, most recently Paraguay, and in the regional institutions that are in the process of formation. Among these are the Banco del Sur, an initiative that was endorsed here in Caracas a year ago by Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz; and the ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean, which might prove to be a true dawn if its initial promise can be realized.  

The ALBA is often described as an alternative to the US-sponsored "Free Trade Area of the Americas," though the terms are misleading. It should be understood to be an independent development, not an alternative. And, furthermore, the so-called "free trade agreements" have only a limited relation to free trade, or even to trade in any serious sense of that term; and they are certainly not agreements, at least if people are part of their countries. A more accurate term would be "investor-rights arrangements," designed by multinational corporations and banks and the powerful states that cater to their interests, established mostly in secret, without public participation or awareness. That is why the US executive regularly calls for "fast-track authority" for these agreements - essentially, Kremlin-style authority.

Another regional organization that is beginning to take shape is UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. This continental bloc, modeled on the European Union, aims to establish a South American parliament in Cochabamba, a fitting site for the UNASUR parliament. Cochabamba was not well known internationally before the water wars of 2000. But in that year events in Cochabamba became an inspiration for people throughout the world who are concerned with freedom and justice, as a result of the courageous and successful struggle against privatization of water, which awakened international solidarity and was a fine and encouraging demonstration of what can be achieved by committed activism.

The aftermath has been even more remarkable. Inspired in part by developments in Venezuela, Bolivia has forged an impressive path to true democratization in the hemisphere, with large-scale popular initiatives and meaningful participation of the organized majority of the population in establishing a government and shaping its programs on issues of great importance and popular concern, an ideal that is rarely approached elsewhere, surely not in the Colossus of the North, despite much inflated rhetoric by doctrinal managers.

Much the same had been true 15 years earlier in Haiti, the only country in the hemisphere that surpasses Bolivia in poverty - and like Bolivia, was the source of much of the wealth of Europe, later the United States. In 1990, Haiti's first free election took place. It was taken for granted in the West that the US candidate, a former World Bank official who monopolized resources, would easily win. No one was paying attention to the extensive grass-roots organizing in the slums and hills, which swept into power the populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Washington turned at once to undermining the feared and hated democratic government. It took only a few months for a US-backed military coup to reverse this stunning victory for democracy, and to place in power a regime that terrorized the population with the direct support of the US government, first under president Bush I, then Clinton. Washington finally permitted the elected president to return, but only on the condition that he adhere to harsh neoliberal rules that were guaranteed to crush what remained of the economy, as they did. And in 2004, the traditional torturers of Haiti, France and the US, joined to remove the elected president from office once again, launching a new regime of terror, though the people remain unvanquished, and the popular struggle continues despite extreme adversity.

All of this is familiar in Latin America, not least in Bolivia, the scene of today's most intense and dangerous confrontation between popular democracy and traditional US-backed elites. Archaeologists are now discovering that before the European conquest, Bolivia had a wealthy, sophisticated and complex society - to quote their words, "one of the largest, strangest, and most ecologically rich artificial environments on the face of the planet, with causeways and canals, spacious and formal towns and considerable wealth," creating a landscape that was "one of humankind's greatest works of art, a masterpiece." And of course Bolivia's vast mineral wealth enriched Spain and indirectly northern Europe, contributing massively to its economic and cultural development, including the industrial and scientific revolutions.  Then followed a bitter history of imperial savagery with the crucial connivance of rapacious domestic elites, factors that are very much alive today.

Sixty years ago, US planners regarded Bolivia and Guatemala as the greatest threats to its domination of the hemisphere. In both cases, Washington succeeded in overthrowing the popular governments, but in different ways. In Guatemala, Washington resorted to the standard technique of violence, installing one of the world's most brutal and vicious regimes, which extended its criminality to virtual genocide in the highlands during Reagan's murderous terrorist wars of the 1980s - and we might bear in mind that these horrendous atrocities were carried out under the guise of a "war on terror," a war that was re-declared by George Bush in September 2001, not declared, a revealing distinction when we recall the implementation of Reagan's "war on terror" and its grim human consequences.

In Guatemala, the Eisenhower administration overcame the threat of democracy and independent development by violence.   In Bolivia, it achieved much the same results by exploiting Bolivia's economic dependence on the US, particularly for processing Bolivia's tin exports. Latin America scholar Stephen Zunes points out that "At a critical point in the nation's effort to become more self-sufficient [in the early 1950s], the U.S. government forced Bolivia to use its scarce capital not for its own development, but to compensate the former mine owners and repay its foreign debts."

The economic policies forced on Bolivia in those years were a precursor of the structural adjustment programs imposed on the continent thirty years later, under the terms of the neoliberal "Washington consensus," which has generally had disastrous effects wherever its strictures have been observed. By now, the victims of neoliberal market fundamentalism are coming to include the rich countries, where the curse of financial liberalization is bringing about the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and leading to massive state intervention in a desperate effort to rescue collapsing financial institutions.

We should note that this is a regular feature of contemporary state capitalism, though the scale today is unprecedented. A study by two well-known international economists 15 years ago found that at least twenty companies in the top Fortune 100 would not have survived if they had not been saved by their respective governments, and that many of the rest gained substantially by demanding that governments "socialise their losses." Such government intervention "has been the rule rather than the exception over the past two centuries," they conclude from a detailed analysis. [Ruigrok and von Tulder]

We might also take note of the striking similarity between the structural adjustment programs imposed on the weak by the International Monetary Fund, and the huge financial bailout that is on the front pages today in the North. The US executive-director of the IMF, adopt  ing an image from the Mafia, described the institution as "the credit community's enforcer."  Under the rules of the Western-run international economy, investors make loans to third world tyrannies, and since the loans carry considerable risk, make enormous profits.   Suppose the borrower defaults. In a capitalist economy, the lenders would incur the loss. But really existing capitalism functions quite differently. If the borrowers cannot pay the debts, then the IMF steps in to guarantee that lenders and investors are protected. The debt is transferred to the poor population of the debtor country, who never borrowed the money in the first place and gained little if anything from it. That is called "structural adjustment." And taxpayers in the rich country, who also gained nothing from the loans, sustain the IMF through their taxes. These doctrines do not derive from economic theory; they merely reflect the distribution of decision-making power.

The designers of the international economy sternly demand that the poor accept market discipline, but they ensure that they themselves are protected from its ravages, a useful arrangement that goes back to the origins of modern industrial capitalism, and played a large role in dividing the world into rich and poor societies, the first and third worlds.

This wonderful anti-market system designed by self-proclaimed market enthusiasts is now being implemented in the United States, to deal with the very ominous crisis of financial markets. In general, markets have well-known inefficiencies. One is that transactions do not take into account the effect on others who are not party to the transaction. These so-called "externalities" can be huge. That is particularly so in the case of financial institutions. Their task is to take risks, and if well-managed, to ensure that potential losses to themselves will be covered. To themselves. Under capitalist rules, it is not their business to consider the cost to others if their practices lead to financial crisis, as they regularly do. In economists' terms, risk is underpriced, because systemic risk is not priced into decisions. That leads to repeated crisis, naturally. At that point, we turn to the IMF solution. The costs are transferred to the public, which had nothing to do with the risky choices but is now compelled to pay the costs - in the US, perhaps mounting to about $1 trillion right now.   And of course the public has no voice in determining these outcomes, any more than poor peasants have a voice in being subjected to cruel structural adjustment programs.

A basic principle of modern state capitalism is that cost and risk are socialized, while profit is privatized. That principle extends far beyond financial institutions. Much the same is true for the entire advanced economy, which relies extensively on the dynamic state sector for innovation, for basic research and development, for procurement when purchasers are unavailable, for direct bail-outs, and in numerous other ways. These mechanisms are the domestic counterpart of imperial and neocolonial hegemony, formalized in World Trade Organization rules and the misleadingly named "free trade agreements."

Financial liberalization has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy Free capital movement creates what some international economists have called a "virtual parliament" of investors and lenders, who can closely monitor government programs and "vote" against them if they are considered irrational: for the benefit of people, rather than concentrated private power. They can "vote" by capital flight, attacks on currencies, and other devices offered by financial liberalization. That is one reason why the Bretton Woods system established by the US and UK after World War II instituted capital controls and regulated currencies. The Great Depression and the war had aroused powerful radical democratic currents, taking many forms, from the anti-fascist resistance to working class organization. These pressures made it necessary to permit social democratic policies. The Bretton Woods system was designed in part to create a space for government action responding to public will - for some measure of democracy, that is. John Maynard Keynes, the British negotiator, considered the most important achievement of Bretton Woods to be establishment of the right of governments to restrict capital movement. In dramatic contrast, in the neoliberal phase after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, the US Treasury now regards free capital mobility as a "fundamental right," unlike such alleged "rights" as those guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: health, education, decent employment, security, and other rights that the Reagan and Bush administrations have dismissed as "letters to Santa Claus," "preposterous," mere "myths."

In earlier years the public had not been much of a problem. The reasons are reviewed by Barry Eichengreen in his standard scholarly history of the international monetary system.   He explains that in the 19th century, governments had not yet been "politicized by universal male suffrage and the rise of trade unionism and parliamentary labor parties." Therefore the severe costs imposed by the virtual parliament could be transferred to the general population. But with the radicalization of the general public during the Great Depression and the anti-fascist war, that luxury was no longer available to private power and wealth. Hence in the Bretton Woods system, "limits on capital mobility substituted for limits on democracy as a source of insulation from market pressures." It is only necessary to add the obvious corollary: with the dismantling of the system from the 1970s, functioning democracy is restricted. It has therefore become necessary to control and marginalize the public in some fashion, processes that are particularly evident in the more business-run societies like the United States. The management of electoral extravaganzas by the Public Relations industry is one illustration.

The primary victims of military terror and economic strangulation are the poor and weak, within the rich countries themselves and far more brutally in the South. But times are changing. In Venezuela, in Bolivia, and elsewhere there are promising efforts to bring about desperately needed structural and institutional changes. And not surprisingly, these efforts to promote democracy, social justice, and cultural rights are facing harsh challenges from the traditional rulers, at home and internationally.

For the first time in half a millennium, South America is beginning to take its fate into its own hands. There have been attempts before, but they have been crushed by outside force, as in the cases I just mentioned and other hideous ones too numerous and too familiar to review. But there are now significant departures from a long and shameful history. The departures are symbolized by the UNASUR crisis summit in Santiago just a few days ago. At the summit, the presidents of the South American countries issued a strong statement of support for the elected Morales government, which as you know is under attack by the traditional rulers: privileged Europeanized elites who bitterly oppose Bolivian democracy and social justice and, routinely, enjoy the firm backing of the master of the hemisphere. The South American leaders gathering at the UNASUR summit in Santiago declared "their full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales, whose mandate was ratified by a big majority" -- referring, of course, to his overwhelming victory in the recent referendum. Morales thanked UNASUR for its support, observing that "For the first time in South America's history, the countries of our region are deciding how to resolve our problems, without the presence of the United States."


A matter of no slight significance.

The significance of the UNASUR support for democracy in Bolivia is underscored by the fact that the leading media in the US refused to report it, though editors and correspondents surely knew all about it. Ample information was available to them on wire services.

That has been a familiar pattern. To cite just one of many examples, the Cochabamba declaration of South American leaders in December 2006, calling for moves towards integration on the model of the European Union, was barred from the Free Press in the traditional ruler of the hemisphere. There are many other cases, all illustrating the same fear among the political class and economic centers in the US that the hemisphere is slipping from their control.

Current developments in South America are of historic significance for the continent and its people. It is well understood in Washington that these developments threaten not only its domination of the hemisphere, but also its global dominance. Control of Latin America was the earliest goal of US foreign policy, tracing back to the earliest days of the Republic. The United States is, I suppose, the only country that was founded as a "nascent empire," in George Washington's words. The most libertarian of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, predicted that the newly liberated colonies would drive the indigenous population "with the beasts of the forests into the Stony Mountains," and the country will ultimately be "free of blot or mixture," red or black (with the return of slaves to Africa after eventual ending of slavery). And furthermore, it "will be the nest, from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled," displacing not only the red men but the Latin population of the South.

These aspirations were not achieved, but control of Latin America remains a central policy goal, partly for resources and markets, but also for broader ideological and geostrategic reasons. If the US cannot control Latin America, it cannot expect "to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world," Nixon's National Security Council concluded in 1971 while considering the paramount importance of destroying Chilean democracy.   Historian David Schmitz observes that Allende "threatened American global interests by challenging the whole ideological basis of American Cold War policy.  It was the threat of a successful socialist state in Chile that could provide a model for other nations that caused concern and led to American opposition," in fact direct participation in establishing and maintaining the terrorist dictatorship. Henry Kissinger warned that success for democratic socialism in Chile might have reverberations as far as southern Europe - not because Chilean hordes would descend on Madrid and Rome, but because success might inspire popular movements to achieve their goals by means of parliamentary democracy, which is upheld as an abstract value in the West, but with crucial reservations.  

Even mainstream scholarship recognizes that Washington has supported democracy if and only if it contributes to strategic and economic interests, a policy that continues without change through all administrations, to the present.

These pervasive concerns are the rational form of the domino theory, sometimes more accurately called "the threat of a good example." For such reasons, even the tiniest departure from strict obedience is regarded as an existential threat that calls for a harsh response: peasant organizing in remote communities of northern Laos, fishing cooperatives in Grenada, and so on throughout the world. It is necessary to ensure that the "virus" of successful independent development does not "spread contagion" elsewhere, in the terminology of the highest level planners.  

Such concerns have motivated US military intervention, terrorism, and economic warfare throughout the post-World War II era, in Latin America and throughout much of the world. These are leading features of the Cold War. The superpower confrontation regularly provided pretexts, mostly fraudulent, much as the junior partner in world control appealed to the threat of the West when it crushed popular uprisings in its much narrower Eastern European domains.

But times are changing. In Latin America, the source is primarily in moves towards integration, which has several dimensions. One dimension of integration is regional: moves to strengthen ties among the South American countries of the kind I mentioned. These are now just beginning to reach to Central America, which was so utterly devastated by Reagan's terror wars that it had mostly stayed on the sidelines since, but is now beginning to move. Of particular significance are recent developments in Honduras, the classic "banana republic" and Washington's major base for its terrorist wars in the region in the 1980s. Washington's Ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte, was one of the leading terrorist commanders of the period, and accordingly was appointed head of counter-terrorist operations by the Bush administration, a choice eliciting no comment. But here too times are changing. President Zelaya declared that US aid does not "make us vassals" or give Washington the right to humiliate the nation, and has improved ties with Venezuela, joining Petrocaribe, and in July, joining the Alba as well.


Regional integration of the kind that has been slowly proceeding for several years is a crucial prerequisite for independence, making it more difficult for the master of the hemisphere to pick off countries one by one. For that reason it is causing considerable distress in Washington, and is either ignored or regularly distorted in the media and other elite commentary.

A second form of integration is global: the establishment of South-South relations, and the diversification of markets and investment, with China a growing and particularly significant participant in hemispheric affairs. Again, these developments undercut Washington's ability to control what Secretary of War Henry Stimson called "our little region over here" at the end of World War II, when he was explaining that other regional systems must be dismantled, while our own must be strengthened.

The third and in many ways most vital form of integration is internal. Latin America is notorious for its extreme concentration of wealth and power, and the lack of responsibility of privileged elites for the welfare of the nation. It is instructive to compare Latin America with East Asia. Half a century ago, South Korea was at the level of a poor African country. Today it is an industrial powerhouse. And much the same is true throughout East Asia. The contrast to Latin America is dramatic, particularly so because Latin America has far superior natural advantages. The reasons for the dramatic contrast are not hard to identify. For 30 years Latin America has rigorously observed the rules of the Washington consensus, while East Asia has largely ignored them.  Latin American elites separated themselves from the fate of their countries, while their East Asian counterparts were compelled to assume responsibilities. One measure is capital flight: in Latin America, it is on the scale of the crushing debt, while in South Korea it was so carefully controlled that it could bring the death penalty. More generally, East Asia adopted the modes of development that had enabled the wealthy countries to reach their current state, while Latin America adhered to the market principles that were imposed on the colonies and largely created the third world, blocking development.

Furthermore, needless to say, development of the East Asian style is hardly a model to which Latin America, or any other region, should aspire. The serious problems of developing truly democratic societies, based on popular control of all social, economic, political and cultural institutions, and overturning structures of hierarchy and domination in all aspects of life, are barely even on the horizon, posing formidable and essential tasks for the future.

These are huge problems within Latin America. They are beginning to be addressed, though haltingly, with many internal difficulties.   And they are, of course, arousing bitter antagonism on the part of traditional sectors of power and privilege, again backed by the traditional master of "our little region over here." The struggle is particularly intense and significant right now in Bolivia, but in fact is constant in one or another form throughout the hemisphere.

The problems of Latin America and the Caribbean have global roots, and have to be addressed by regional and global solidarity along with internal struggle. The growth of the social forums, first in South America, now elsewhere, has been one of the most encouraging steps forward in recent years. These developments may bear the seeds of the first authentic international, heralding an era of true globalization - international integration in the interests of people, not investors and other concentrations of power. You are right at the heart of these dramatic developments, an exciting opportunity, a difficult challenge, a responsibility of historic proportions.

Taking poverty message to streets; Senator, do you hear?

Poverty message hits streets; Sen. Bayh, are you listening?

Fran Quigley

Last week, I participated in a daylong Downtown Indianapolis fast and demonstration asking Sen. Evan Bayh to join Sen. Richard Lugar in co-sponsoring the Global Poverty Act and Jubilee Act. By committing the U.S. to help reduce extreme poverty and cut the debt burden of struggling countries, these two pieces of legislation would address the obscene fact that 16,000 children die each day simply because they are poor.

We took to the streets in the hopes of educating Hoosiers about global poverty. As it turned out, we were the students, too. Even in the age of blogs, Facebook and cell phones, there are still a few lessons best understood by talking with people face to face.

We learned about messaging. Some people we spoke with about our issues gestured to the homeless people sitting near our vigil on West Market Street and asked, "What about the poverty here at home?"

With deeds instead of words, most of the activists at our demonstration eloquently answer that question every day. The folks who held signs asking Bayh to help hungry children in Haiti and Kenya also volunteer at the local food pantries, care for the sick and empower the struggling here at home. Responding to domestic and global poverty is not an either-or proposition, and that message has particular credibility when it comes from those who work for justice and peace every day in Indiana.

Of the few thousand passers-by we approached with our signs and fliers over the course of the day, most were courteous and welcoming. A comparative few had their personal spam filters turned on high and were suspicious or even hostile. Perhaps because of a richer cultural history of advocacy for social justice, people of color were the most likely to accept our outreach and engage in discussion.

We learned about politics, too. Few passers-by were previously aware of the legislation we promoted, but many were unsurprised by the contrasting positions of our Indiana senators. Lugar provided early and vocal leadership on the poverty bills, but Bayh has sat on the fence. In response to more than 1,000 letters by Hoosiers on this legislation, Bayh has responded by offering neither support or opposition, or even an explanation for failing to take a position.

That didn't seem to surprise the folks we spoke with. White-haired men in dark suits, women pushing baby strollers and young men walking to the Illinois Street bus stop all shook their heads and offered variations on the same observation: "Bayh doesn't take a stand on anything." It was a ground-level echo of the verdict widely pronounced by national and local pundits, but we hope our junior senator defies that reputation by becoming a leader in fighting poverty.

Finally, we learned about grace. Several people passed by, accepted a flier and walked on, only to double back a few minutes later to offer sincere thanks to demonstrators for speaking out for the least of our brothers and sisters. A political science teacher took photographs to show her class that citizen participation in government isn't limited to complaining about our own property taxes or 401(k)s. The many kind "God bless yous" we received made less positive reactions fade into the background.

In the short term, only Bayh knows what effect our day of fasting and marching may have had. But activists learn to live by the adage that even the Grand Canyon was built a drop of water at a time. And on the Market Street sidewalk, I learned to treasure the act of walking side-by-side with Hoosiers from 7 to 78, all standing up for a cause greater than themselves.

Why My Church is Hosting a Poverty Sunday

by Troy Jackson

Two of the mantras that my evangelicalism has taught me over the years are these:

1.      Be True to Scripture
2.      Avoid Politics

The heart for God's Word is not all that surprising, given the "Sola Scriptura" roots of Protestantism and the attempt to be faithful to the Bible that have been consistent earmarks of American Evangelicalism.

The second mantra might be a bit surprising, especially as Evangelicals have been branded as part of the Religious Right over the past several election cycles. Despite media portrayals, however, the vast majority of evangelical churches have not preached Republicanism. Rather, they have avoided politics altogether, leaving the partisan work to Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and the late Jerry Falwell.

The biggest reasons for avoiding politics? Well, some are justly concerned that the church can easily be co-opted by a political party and its witness stifled. Many are worried that engaging in politics will divert attention from the "simple Gospel." Others recognize that politics can be divisive and are concerned their churches might lose some valuable market share.

So instead of evangelical churches discussing political issues, we have in essence decided that our congregations would be better served getting their political bearings from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann or James Carville than be viewing political issues through the lens of scripture.

Unfortunately, the mantra of avoiding politics has trumped our commitment to be faithful to scripture!

In the model prayer that Jesus taught, he prayed that God's kingdom would come and God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Bottom line? Doing God's will on earth demands that Christians think about the big political issues of the day through the lens of scripture! As any reader of Sojourners knows, the Bible demonstrates God's deep and abiding love for the poor.

In 2008, poverty is out of control locally, nationally and globally. In my neck of the woods, in Cincinnati, more than one in four people live below the poverty line. If God's kingdom is to come in Cincinnati, something must be done about poverty.

So this fall, University Christian Church is hosting a Poverty Sunday as part of the Vote Out Poverty Campaign. On Poverty Sunday, we will encourage congregation members to personally get involved in working with and loving the poor in our community.

We will also encourage members of our congregation to evaluate political candidates based in part on their policies and plans for reducing poverty both nationally and globally.

We will not be partisan. We will not be asking Christ-followers to be single-issue voters. But, we will no longer give politics to Limbaugh, Hannity, Olbermann and Carville.

As Christians, we take up our crosses and follow Jesus, not political pundits. And where Jesus leads, we must follow, so we will be hosting a Poverty Sunday this fall. I pray your church will too.

For more information on Sojourners' Vote Out Poverty campaign and Poverty Sunday, visit

By My Spirit

Elizabeth Darby Bass

I have made a covenant with My people--
you who walk in My ways.

Yes, I have made a covenant with you.
And by My Spirit, you will do great and mighty things.
For by My Spirit, is the promise fulfilled.

You have not begun to understand what I will do with you,
and what I will do through you, by My Spirit.

You have not begun to understand the great and mighty things
that I am doing in your midst.

But I have made a covenant with you,
and you will do greater things than Jesus did;
and you will do it by My Spirit.

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