Wednesday, 2 July 2014

America's Real Foreign Policy: Global Corporatization by Force

America's Real Foreign Policy: Global Corporatization by Force

Whose security is the U.S. military and foreign service protecting?

US soldiers participating in live fire drills during NATO training in Germany. (Photo: flickr / cc / MATEUS_27:24&25)The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. -- and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.
There is a “received standard version,” common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse.  It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the U.S. and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.
There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine.  One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989?  Answer: everything continued much as before.
The U.S. immediately invaded Panama, killing probably thousands of people and installing a client regime. This was routine practice in U.S.-dominated domains -- but in this case not quite as routine. For first time, a major foreign policy act was not justified by an alleged Russian threat. 
Instead, a series of fraudulent pretexts for the invasion were concocted that collapse instantly on examination. The media chimed in enthusiastically, lauding the magnificent achievement of defeating Panama, unconcerned that the pretexts were ludicrous, that the act itself was a radical violation of international law, and that it was bitterly condemned elsewhere, most harshly in Latin America.  Also ignored was the U.S. veto of a unanimous Security Council resolution condemning crimes by U.S. troops during the invasion, with Britain alone abstaining. 
All routine.  And all forgotten (which is also routine).
From El Salvador to the Russian Border
The administration of George H.W. Bush issued a new national security policy and defense budget in reaction to the collapse of the global enemy.  It was pretty much the same as before, although with new pretexts.  It was, it turned out, necessary to maintain a military establishment almost as great as the rest of the world combined and far more advanced in technological sophistication -- but not for defense against the now-nonexistent Soviet Union.  Rather, the excuse now was the growing “technological sophistication” of Third World powers.  Disciplined intellectuals understood that it would have been improper to collapse in ridicule, so they maintained a proper silence.
The U.S., the new programs insisted, must maintain its “defense industrial base.” The phrase is a euphemism, referring to high-tech industry generally, which relies heavily on extensive state intervention for research and development, often under Pentagon cover, in what economists continue to call the U.S. “free-market economy.” 
One of the most interesting provisions of the new plans had to do with the Middle East.  There, it was declared, Washington must maintain intervention forces targeting a crucial region where the major problems “could not have been laid at the Kremlin’s door.”  Contrary to 50 years of deceit, it was quietly conceded that the main concern was not the Russians, but rather what is called “radical nationalism,” meaning independent nationalism not under U.S. control.
All of this has evident bearing on the standard version, but it passed unnoticed -- or perhaps,therefore it passed unnoticed.
Other important events took place immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, ending the Cold War.  One was in El Salvador, the leading recipient of U.S. military aid -- apart from Israel-Egypt, a separate category -- and with one of the worst human rights records anywhere.  That is a familiar and very close correlation. 
The Salvadoran high command ordered the Atlacatl Brigade to invade the Jesuit University and murder six leading Latin American intellectuals, all Jesuit priests, including the rector, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría, and any witnesses, meaning their housekeeper and her daughter.  The Brigade had just returned from advanced counterinsurgency training at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and had already left a bloody trail of thousands of the usual victims in the course of the U.S.-run state terror campaign in El Salvador, one part of a broader terror and torture campaign throughout the region.  All routine.  Ignored and virtually forgotten in the United States and by its allies, again routine.  But it tells us a lot about the factors that drive policy, if we care to look at the real world.
Another important event took place in Europe.  Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to allow the unification of Germany and its membership in NATO, a hostile military alliance.  In the light of recent history, this was a most astonishing concession.  There was a quid pro quo.  President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker agreed that NATO would not expand “one inch to the East,” meaning into East Germany.  Instantly, they expanded NATO to East Germany. 
Gorbachev was naturally outraged, but when he complained, he was instructed by Washington that this had only been a verbal promise, a gentleman’s agreement, hence without force.  If he was naïve enough to accept the word of American leaders, it was his problem.
All of this, too, was routine, as was the silent acceptance and approval of the expansion of NATO in the U.S. and the West generally.  President Bill Clinton then expanded NATO further, right up to Russia’s borders.  Today, the world faces a serious crisis that is in no small measure a result of these policies.
The Appeal of Plundering the Poor
Another source of evidence is the declassified historical record.  It contains revealing accounts of the actual motives of state policy.  The story is rich and complex, but a few persistent themes play a dominant role.  One was articulated clearly at a western hemispheric conference called by the U.S. in Mexico in February 1945 where Washington imposed “An Economic Charter of the Americas” designed to eliminate economic nationalism “in all its forms.” There was one unspoken condition.  Economic nationalism would be fine for the U.S. whose economy relies heavily on massive state intervention.
The elimination of economic nationalism for others stood in sharp conflict with the Latin American stand of that moment, which State Department officials described as “the philosophy of the New Nationalism [that] embraces policies designed to bring about a broader distribution of wealth and to raise the standard of living of the masses.” As U.S. policy analysts added, “Latin Americans are convinced that the first beneficiaries of the development of a country's resources should be the people of that country.”
That, of course, will not do.  Washington understands that the “first beneficiaries” should be U.S. investors, while Latin America fulfills its service function.  It should not, as both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations would make clear, undergo “excessive industrial development” that might infringe on U.S. interests.  Thus Brazil could produce low-quality steel that U.S. corporations did not want to bother with, but it would be “excessive,” were it to compete with U.S. firms.
Similar concerns resonate throughout the post-World War II period.  The global system that was to be dominated by the U.S. was threatened by what internal documents call “radical and nationalistic regimes” that respond to popular pressures for independent development.  That was the concern that motivated the overthrow of the parliamentary governments of Iran and Guatemala in 1953 and 1954, as well as numerous others.  In the case of Iran, a major concern was the potential impact of Iranian independence on Egypt, then in turmoil over British colonial practice.  In Guatemala, apart from the crime of the new democracy in empowering the peasant majority and infringing on possessions of the United Fruit Company -- already offensive enough -- Washington’s concern was labor unrest and popular mobilization in neighboring U.S.-backed dictatorships.
In both cases the consequences reach to the present.  Literally not a day has passed since 1953 when the U.S. has not been torturing the people of Iran.  Guatemala remains one of the world’s worst horror chambers.  To this day, Mayans are fleeing from the effects of near-genocidal government military campaigns in the highlands backed by President Ronald Reagan and his top officials.  As the country director of Oxfam, a Guatemalan doctor, reported recently,
“There is a dramatic deterioration of the political, social, and economic context.  Attacks against Human Rights defenders have increased 300% during the last year.  There is a clear evidence of a very well organized strategy by the private sector and Army. Both have captured the government in order to keep the status quo and to impose the extraction economic model, pushing away dramatically indigenous peoples from their own land, due to the mining industry, African Palm and sugar cane plantations.  In addition the social movement defending their land and rights has been criminalized, many leaders are in jail, and many others have been killed.”
Nothing is known about this in the United States and the very obvious cause of it remains suppressed.
In the 1950s, President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles explained quite clearly the dilemma that the U.S. faced.  They complained that the Communists had an unfair advantage.  They were able to “appeal directly to the masses” and “get control of mass movements, something we have no capacity to duplicate.  The poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich.”
That causes problems.  The U.S. somehow finds it difficult to appeal to the poor with its doctrine that the rich should plunder the poor.
The Cuban Example
A clear illustration of the general pattern was Cuba, when it finally gained independence in 1959.  Within months, military attacks on the island began.  Shortly after, the Eisenhower administration made a secret decision to overthrow the government.  John F. Kennedy then became president.  He intended to devote more attention to Latin America and so, on taking office, he created a study group to develop policies headed by the historian Arthur Schlesinger, who summarized its conclusions for the incoming president.
As Schlesinger explained, threatening in an independent Cuba was “the Castro idea of taking matters into one's own hands.”  It was an idea that unfortunately appealed to the mass of the population in Latin America where “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes, and the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” Again, Washington’s usual dilemma.
As the CIA explained, “The extensive influence of 'Castroism' is not a function of Cuban power... Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change,” for which his Cuba provides a model.  Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a “showcase” for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.
The State Department Policy Planning Council warned that “the primary danger we face in Castro is... in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries… The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the U.S., a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half” -- that is, since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, when the U.S. declared its intention of dominating the hemisphere.
The immediate goal at the time was to conquer Cuba, but that could not be achieved because of the power of the British enemy.  Still, that grand strategist John Quincy Adams, the intellectual father of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny, informed his colleagues that over time Cuba would fall into our hands by “the laws of political gravitation,” as an apple falls from the tree.  In brief, U.S. power would increase and Britain’s would decline.
In 1898, Adams’s prognosis was realized. The U.S. invaded Cuba in the guise of liberating it.  In fact, it prevented the island’s liberation from Spain and turned it into a “virtual colony” to quote historians Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.  Cuba remained so until January 1959, when it gained independence.  Since that time it has been subjected to major U.S. terrorist wars, primarily during the Kennedy years, and economic strangulation.  Not because of the Russians.
The pretense all along was that we were defending ourselves from the Russian threat -- an absurd explanation that generally went unchallenged.  A simple test of the thesis is what happened when any conceivable Russian threat disappeared.  U.S. policy toward Cuba became even harsher, spearheaded by liberal Democrats, including Bill Clinton, who outflanked Bush from the right in the 1992 election.  On the face of it, these events should have considerable bearing on the validity of the doctrinal framework for discussion of foreign policy and the factors that drive it.  Once again, however, the impact was slight.
The Virus of Nationalism
To borrow Henry Kissinger’s terminology, independent nationalism is a “virus” that might “spread contagion.” Kissinger was referring to Salvador Allende’s Chile.  The virus was the idea that there might be a parliamentary path towards some kind of socialist democracy.  The way to deal with such a threat is to destroy the virus and to inoculate those who might be infected, typically by imposing murderous national security states.  That was achieved in the case of Chile, but it is important to recognize that the thinking holds worldwide. 
It was, for example, the reasoning behind the decision to oppose Vietnamese nationalism in the early 1950s and support France’s effort to reconquer its former colony.  It was feared that independent Vietnamese nationalism might be a virus that would spread contagion to the surrounding regions, including resource-rich Indonesia.  That might even have led Japan -- called the “superdomino” by Asia scholar John Dower -- to become the industrial and commercial center of an independent new order of the kind imperial Japan had so recently fought to establish.  That, in turn, would have meant that the U.S. had lost the Pacific war, not an option to be considered in 1950.  The remedy was clear -- and largely achieved.  Vietnam was virtually destroyed and ringed by military dictatorships that kept the “virus” from spreading contagion.
In retrospect, Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy reflected that Washington should have ended the Vietnam War in 1965, when the Suharto dictatorship was installed in Indonesia, with enormous massacres that the CIA compared to the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.  These were, however, greeted with unconstrained euphoria in the U.S. and the West generally because the “staggering bloodbath,” as the press cheerfully described it, ended any threat of contagion and opened Indonesia’s rich resources to western exploitation.  After that, the war to destroy Vietnam was superfluous, as Bundy recognized in retrospect.
The same was true in Latin America in the same years: one virus after another was viciously attacked and either destroyed or weakened to the point of bare survival.  From the early 1960s, a plague of repression was imposed on the continent that had no precedent in the violent history of the hemisphere, extending to Central America in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan, a matter that there should be no need to review.
Much the same was true in the Middle East.  The unique U.S. relations with Israel were established in their current form in 1967, when Israel delivered a smashing blow to Egypt, the center of secular Arab nationalism.  By doing so, it protected U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, then engaged in military conflict with Egypt in Yemen.  Saudi Arabia, of course, is the most extreme radical fundamentalist Islamic state, and also a missionary state, expending huge sums to establish its Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines beyond its borders.  It is worth remembering that the U.S., like England before it, has tended to support radical fundamentalist Islam in opposition to secular nationalism, which has usually been perceived as posing more of a threat of independence and contagion.
The Value of Secrecy
There is much more to say, but the historical record demonstrates very clearly that the standard doctrine has little merit.  Security in the normal sense is not a prominent factor in policy formation.
To repeat, in the normal sense.  But in evaluating the standard doctrine we have to ask what is actually meant by “security”: security for whom?
One answer is: security for state power.  There are many illustrations.  Take a current one.  In May, the U.S. agreed to support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Syria, but with a proviso: there could be no inquiry into possible war crimes by Israel.  Or by Washington, though it was really unnecessary to add that last condition.  The U.S. is uniquely self-immunized from the international legal system.  In fact, there is even congressional legislation authorizing the president to use armed force to “rescue” any American brought to the Hague for trial -- the “Netherlands Invasion Act,” as it is sometimes called in Europe.  That once again illustrates the importance of protecting the security of state power.
But protecting it from whom? There is, in fact, a strong case to be made that a prime concern of government is the security of state power from the population.  As those who have spent time rummaging through archives should be aware, government secrecy is rarely motivated by a genuine for security, but it definitely does serve to keep the population in the dark.  And for good reasons, which were lucidly explained by the prominent liberal scholar and government adviser Samuel Huntington, the professor of the science of government at Harvard University.  In his words: “The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen.  Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.”
He wrote that in 1981, when the Cold War was again heating up, and he explained further that “you may have to sell [intervention or other military action] in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has been doing ever since the Truman Doctrine.”
These simple truths are rarely acknowledged, but they provide insight into state power and policy, with reverberations to the present moment.
State power has to be protected from its domestic enemy; in sharp contrast, the population is not secure from state power.  A striking current illustration is the radical attack on the Constitution by the Obama administration’s massive surveillance program.  It is, of course, justified by “national security.” That is routine for virtually all actions of all states and so carries little information. 
When the NSA’s surveillance program was exposed by Edward Snowden’s revelations, high officials claimed that it had prevented 54 terrorist acts.  On inquiry, that was whittled down to a dozen.  A high-level government panel then discovered that there was actually only one case: someone had sent $8,500 to Somalia.  That was the total yield of the huge assault on the Constitution and, of course, on others throughout the world.
Britain’s attitude is interesting.  In 2007, the British government called on Washington’s colossal spy agency “to analyze and retain any British citizens’ mobile phone and fax numbers, emails, and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet,” the Guardian reported.  That is a useful indication of the relative significance, in government eyes, of the privacy of its own citizens and of Washington’s demands.
Another concern is security for private power.  One current illustration is the huge trade agreements now being negotiated, the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic pacts.  These are being negotiated in secret -- but not completely in secret.  They are not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers who are drawing up the detailed provisions.  It is not hard to guess what the results will be, and the few leaks about them suggest that the expectations are accurate.  Like NAFTA and other such pacts, these are not free trade agreements.  In fact, they are not even trade agreements, but primarily investor rights agreements.
Again, secrecy is critically important to protect the primary domestic constituency of the governments involved, the corporate sector.
The Final Century of Human Civilization?
There are other examples too numerous to mention, facts that are well-established and would be taught in elementary schools in free societies.
There is, in other words, ample evidence that securing state power from the domestic population and securing concentrated private power are driving forces in policy formation.  Of course, it is not quite that simple.  There are interesting cases, some quite current, where these commitments conflict, but consider this a good first approximation and radically opposed to the received standard doctrine.
Let us turn to another question: What about the security of the population? It is easy to demonstrate that this is a marginal concern of policy planners.  Take two prominent current examples, global warming and nuclear weapons.  As any literate person is doubtless aware, these are dire threats to the security of the population.  Turning to state policy, we find that it is committed to accelerating each of those threats -- in the interests of the primary concerns, protection of state power and of the concentrated private power that largely determines state policy.
Consider global warming.  There is now much exuberance in the United States about “100 years of energy independence” as we become “the Saudi Arabia of the next century” -- perhaps the final century of human civilization if current policies persist. 
That illustrates very clearly the nature of the concern for security, certainly not for the population.  It also illustrates the moral calculus of contemporary Anglo-American state capitalism: the fate of our grandchildren counts as nothing when compared with the imperative of higher profits tomorrow.
These conclusions are fortified by a closer look at the propaganda system.  There is a huge public relations campaign in the U.S., organized quite openly by Big Energy and the business world, to try to convince the public that global warming is either unreal or not a result of human activity.  And it has had some impact.  The U.S. ranks lower than other countries in public concern about global warming and the results are stratified: among Republicans, the party more fully dedicated to the interests of wealth and corporate power, it ranks far lower than the global norm.
The current issue of the premier journal of media criticism, the Columbia Journalism Review, has an interesting article on this subject, attributing this outcome to the media doctrine of “fair and balanced.” In other words, if a journal publishes an opinion piece reflecting the conclusions of 97% of scientists, it must also run a counter-piece expressing the viewpoint of the energy corporations.
That indeed is what happens, but there certainly is no “fair and balanced” doctrine. Thus, if a journal runs an opinion piece denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for the criminal act of taking over the Crimea, it surely does not have to run a piece pointing out that, while the act is indeed criminal, Russia has a far stronger case today than the U.S. did more than a century ago in taking over southeastern Cuba, including the country’s major port -- and rejecting the Cuban demand since independence to have it returned.  And the same is true of many other cases.  The actual media doctrine is “fair and balanced” when the concerns of concentrated private power are involved, but surely not elsewhere.
On the issue of nuclear weapons, the record is similarly interesting -- and frightening.  It reveals very clearly that, from the earliest days, the security of the population was a non-issue, and remains so.  There is no time here to run through the shocking record, but there is little doubt that it strongly supports the lament of General Lee Butler, the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, which was armed with nuclear weapons.  In his words, we have so far survived the nuclear age “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” And we can hardly count on continued divine intervention as policymakers play roulette with the fate of the species in pursuit of the driving factors in policy formation.
As we are all surely aware, we now face the most ominous decisions in human history.  There are many problems that must be addressed, but two are overwhelming in their significance: environmental destruction and nuclear war.  For the first time in history, we face the possibility of destroying the prospects for decent existence -- and not in the distant future.  For this reason alone, it is imperative to sweep away the ideological clouds and face honestly and realistically the question of how policy decisions are made, and what we can do to alter them before it is too late.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Why No Nicaraguan Children?

        Alliance for Global Justice

Nicaragua Network Alert --  June 30, 2014

This publication may be reproduced in whole or in part. Please credit the Nicaragua Network.
Why Aren’t Nicaragua’s Children Fleeing to the United States? 

A supporter sent us a letter to the editor she had written to counter all the right-wing letters in her local paper commenting on the humanitarian crisis on the border caused by children fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Here’s her answer to the question in the headline:

We read that children are streaming across the Texas border from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador…but….not Nicaragua? Why aren’t Nica’s children fleeing the left wing Sandinista government that the US has been trying to crush ever since their revolution in 1979? Could it be that Nicaragua, despite its poverty, provides more security for its population than other Central American countries? Yes! Check out the stats: lowest homicide rate, no death squads, little gang activity: “least violent country in Central America and safest in all the hemisphere”!! Wow! Maybe Obama could shift gears, and, instead of sending military equipment to ‘fight’ the ‘war’ on drugs, and the ‘war’ on youth, he might support education, health and small farmers in Central America, and repeal the disastrous free trade policies that are making the rich richer and the poor ready to head for the border. That might help convince young people to stay home. 

We encourage you to write letters to the editor in your own words to try to bring some rationality to the immigration “debate.” Letters below 200 words have the most chance of being published. Below are talking points that we hope are helpful:

Talking Points 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) presented in Nicaragua on May 19, 2014 its Regional Report on Human Development for 2013-2014 on security matters and classified Nicaragua as “atypical” because of its low rates of homicide and robbery. Juan Pablo Gordillo, adviser on security at the Latin American Regional Services Center of the UNDP, said that, “The case of Nicaragua is an important achievement at the regional level,” adding that because Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it breaks the myth that poverty causes violence. Nicaragua’s homicide rate dropped to 8.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. Honduras, with 92 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, has the highest murder rate in the world. El Salvador has 69, Guatemala 39, Panama 14.9 and Costa Rica 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Speaking in San Salvador at a regional conference on community policing, Nicaraguan National Police spokesman Commissioner Fernando Borge said that the proactive, preventative, community policing model of Nicaragua’s police has helped make Nicaragua one of the safest countries in Latin America. He described “a model of shared responsibility, that of person-family-community” which shapes all the areas of police work. In 2013, out of each 100 cases reported to the police, they have been able to resolve 79. This compares to the almost complete impunity for crime, especially politically motivated crime, in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The problem of the children migrants is blowback from US policy in the 1980s when our government trained and funded Salvadoran and Guatemalan military and police to prevent popular revolutions and more recently when the US supported the coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Those countries were left with brutal, corrupt armies and police forces whereas Nicaragua, with its successful 1979 revolution, got rid of Somoza's brutal National Guard and formed a new army and a new police made up of upstanding citizens.

Who consumes all those drugs that are causing all that violence and corruption in Latin America? Who has militarized the Drug War and is funding and training repressive militaries and police in the countries from which the children are fleeing? In both cases it is the United States.

Respected Latin American polling firm M&R Consultants polls show at the end of 2013, 72.5% of Nicaraguans approved of government economic management and President Daniel Ortega’s personal popularity stands at 74.7%, the most popular in Central America. Why? According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Nicaragua ranks second in Latin America and the Caribbean after Venezuela as the country that most reduced the gap between rich and poor in recent years.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Nicaragua’s predicted 2014 GDP growth rate will put it among the five fastest growing countries in Latin America. Why? Because Nicaragua invests in poverty reduction, education and health care.

During the past seven years, agricultural workers income and wages grew, showing the effectiveness of programs for the rural sector, which is where there are higher rates of poverty and malnutrition, and taking away the economic reason for migration.

Nicaragua is the only country in Central America that managed to return to the pace of economic growth that it had before the international crisis of 2008-2009. This not only has been recognized by ECLAC, but also by the International Monetary Fund in its latest assessment. Why? Because the Sandinista government forced the IMF to support its poverty reduction programs, and to like it!

Nicaragua’s successful poverty reduction programs have caused multilateral agencies and governments to become more interested in the effective implementation of programs that cater to the poor and allow more Nicaraguans to have free access to health and education.

The Vice-President of the World Bank for Latin America, Hasan Tuluy, called projects in Nicaragua one of the best run portfolios of projects in Latin America.

Pablo Mendeville, representative of the UN Development Program (UNDP), has said that Nicaragua is striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of social policies to halve global poverty and could achieve this by the end of 2015.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recognized that Nicaragua is among countries that achieved ahead of time the goals set by the Zero Hunger Challenge and lowered the national poverty level. Official data from the Nicaraguan Institute of Development confirm this: in previous years, the level of "poverty was more than 40%, and that of extreme poverty was 17.2%; today we are calculating extreme poverty at 7.6%."

Nicaragua recorded indisputable achievements in terms of disease prevention and health promotion, with a program of immunization which is an example for Latin America, with coverage as high as one hundred percent in children under one year old, and more than 95 percent in general. It has an effective campaign to prevent 16 serious diseases that can affect the population, such as diarrhea and pneumonia.

The maternal mortality rate of 93 per 100 000 live births in 2006 was lowered to 50 per 100,000 live births in 2013.

Educational programs have resulted in a school retention rate of approximately 96 percent of the students enrolled. In addition, the government achieved 100 percent coverage of students receiving school meals, thus benefiting students of public preschools, community schools, and subsidized Catholic schools throughout the country.

Nicaragua is the country with the most gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean and tenth worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). This means that Nicaragua is one of the countries where women have greater access to health and education, while they have more political participation and economic inclusion, said the study.

In the report Climatescope 2012, Nicaragua won second place after Brazil due to its policy of clean energy, the structure of its energy sector, low-carbon business activity, clean energy value chains, as well as the availability of green credits.

According to the Executive, investments from 2013 to 2016 will raise the national rate of electrification from 76 percent of households to a little over 87 percent, as part of efforts toward economic development with social inclusion. In 2006 electricity supply barely reached 54 percent and there were rolling blackouts averaging 14 hours a day.

The director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva, congratulated the government for the effectiveness of programs implemented against poverty and hunger at the end of a 2013 visit to the country and after visiting various locations to check the value of plans such as Zero Hunger, Family Gardens and the Production Packages, aimed at promoting the development of the agricultural sector and guaranteeing the security of national food consumption.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lefty Nonsense: the suspiciously popular round ball game

World Cup fever really has hit America – Ann Coulter thinks football is socialist

Team USA may be through to the last 16, but for some, the suspiciously popular game with the round ball is leftie nonsense
USA fans during their World Cup match against Germany in Recife
USA fans during their World Cup match against Germany in Recife. Photograph: Magics/Rex
With Team USA suddenly in the round of 16, and World Cup fever allegedly sweeping the nation that football forgot, the American right has sprung into action. Determined to preserve American exceptionalism against a rising tide of baguette-munching ball-juggling pinko Europhile hippy surrender-communism, Ann Coulter has come to the rescue: "Any growing interest in soccer," she wrote to widespread amusement, "can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay."
Her reasons for hating football are manifold, and typically hilarious – chiefly, the suspiciously popular game with the round ball seems to show all the key indicators of socialism. The New York Times likes it. It's foreign. Foreigners like it. Obama likes it. It is even, somehow, "like the metric system". For arch conservatives like Coulter, the culture wars never stop, and the sudden spike in interest in the World Cup is just the latest assault on The American Way, accompanying the barrages of promiscuity, multiculturalism, Islam, R'n'B, and trains: "The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO's Girls, light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton."
It's not just that the wrong people like it – Coulter thinks football as a sport is intrinsically socialist. "In soccer," she laments, "there are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child's fragile self-esteem is bruised." Unlike the glorious sports of basketball, American football and baseball, she says, all individual talent is subsumed into the back-patting, winning-isn't-everything comradeship of football. (Because obviously, no one minds if you win or lose a game of football – and at the full-time whistle, after meditating for a while, the players pool their wages with the fans, before shyly retiring to their modest homes and ascetic lifestyles.)
In any case, are American sports really a Randian festival of untrammelled capitalist heroics, as she claims? Besides being more arcane, bureaucratic and hyper-managed than anything the Soviet Union ever dreamt up, the draft system used in most American team sports sends the very best young players to the clubs that did most poorly the previous season, in order to establish parity and fairness the following season. Have you ever heard of anything more socialist in your life? As if that wasn't enough, the NFL, MBA and NHL even have salary caps! Negotiated by – wait for it – trade unions! The MLB, meanwhile, has something called a "luxury tax" on its richest teams. What kind of lefty nonsense is this?
Of course, people always project their politics on to sport. Without naming and shaming, during the USA's game against Portugal, I saw one leftwing tweeter ask with plaintive, stony-faced sincerity "how can anyone be supporting the imperialists?" – as if Clint Dempsey had personally signed off on the CIA's covert military operations in Nicaragua (the poor lad has enough to handle with his burgeoning rap career).
What Coulter hasn't noticed is that even in the global game, Team USA is comporting itself with its usual bombastic exceptionalism, strutting around with an eagle tattooed on its chest. "I believe that we will win!" is exactly the kind of ridiculous army recruitment advert of a chant that you would expect from our cousins across the Atlantic.
Admittedly, there has been a bit of sour grapes in the English response to the success of Dempsey et al, and no doubt we will be treading those grapes into wine and drinking ourselves into oblivion if Team USA get much further – they are, as today's typically excitable NY Daily News front page informs us, now just "four wins from glory".
In the unlikely event that they do win the World Cup, I can see Coulter coming round to football. In the second verse of the The Right Brothers' tribute, I'm In Love With Ann Coulter, the ultra-conservative duo inadvertently sum up the appalling partisan burlesque that is modern American politics: "I've been driving liberals crazy / I bet I've quoted half her book at work / To those godless jerks who can't debate me". Like the woman herself, Coulter's armchair fans are completely unwavering in their faith, shout themselves hoarse, and are chauvinistic to the point of comical absurdity in their hatred of their opponents. Sound like anyone you know?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

"If we say girls count, We must count girls" - Malala Yousafzai

We can finally give the world's poorest children the education they deserve

I hope the world's leaders will pledge to support the Global Partnership for Education on Thursday. So many children's futures depend on it
The Abuja wing of the
A protest in Abuja about the Nigerian schoolgirls, taken by Boko Haram. 'The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls is a reminder of the millions of girls who are denied an education.' Photograph: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
I am a daughter. My father is an example for me. And he is a great father because he says: "I did not give you something extra. I did one thing, I did not cut your wings."
This Thursday in Brussels, leaders from around the world will decide how much they will pledge to support the Global Partnership for Education.
Many of the leaders making the decisions for this summit are also fathers and mothers. And all of them were once children themselves. Will they now cut the wings of the world's poorest children, or will they give them the education they need to realise what is already inside of them, their God-given potential?
Until I spoke at the United Nations in July last year, I had never been to a summit before. My life in the Swat Valley of Pakistan seemed far away from these places of power.
Since my recovery after being shot by the Taliban for daring to go to school, I have been honoured to be asked to speak at many of these summits. I often wonder if all these meetings, all these speeches, do they really make a difference for girls like me?
I know now that what countries do at summits has the power to help girls in Pakistan, Nigeria or Afghanistan. This summit can be a breakthrough moment for the millions of children in school, or dreaming of one, who may not even know it's happening. But these men and women from rich and poor countries will have the power to either help those children reach their potential, or leave them without the future they deserve.
What is at heart of this meeting is the right of all daughters and sons to receive a quality education. The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria is a reminder of the millions of girls who are denied an education. These girls are my sisters. They strengthen my resolve to fight for the right of every child to go to school.
Education is the best weapon we have to fight poverty, ignorance and terrorism. But today, 57 million children around the world do not go to school at all. Another 250 million children drop out or do not learn basic reading or maths by the time they reach grade four. We are failing these children. I think if we are all honest, we know we can do better.
I have been shocked to learn that, since 2010, aid for education is actually getting smaller. This makes no sense to me. We need to increase education budgets. In many countries, they do not even keep track of how girls are doing in school, or if they are there at all. If we say girls count, then we must count girls, so we can see if we are really making progress in educating every girl.
This Thursday, donor and developing countries will make pledges to fund education in 66 developing countries for the next four years, through to 2018. I hope to be in university by then, but I think about all the other girls who may still be waiting for even their first day of school if we don't act.
I hope all world leaders will speak to their representatives for the conference, and ask them to do their very best. Their pledges will mean real girls will learn and grow. It is not just a number on a paper. It is our future.
As these leaders sit together in Brussels, they have the opportunity to treat the world's children as they believe for their own. I hope they will be bold.
Young advocates from India, Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya, Guyana, the Philippines and Ethiopia will also be at the summit, which is right, as the decisions taken will impact millions of children and young people. The Malala Fund is proud to have helped these students be able to attend the summit, as they are also fighting for the right to an education in their own countries. We must listen to the voices of these brave and growing leaders, as they are the only ones who can change the futures of their own countries.
Every student knows what it is like to take an exam. It is my hope all our world leaders will be inspired, and will pass their own test and resolve to keep their promises, not just at the summit, but every day, in every country, in every classroom.
I am grateful for all that countries are already doing to support education for children around the world. It is only with their increased leadership that millions more children will get a quality education. I hope the leaders meeting this week will be my friends in this fight. I know together, we are stronger.