Sunday, 30 March 2014

5p per cup to help farmers diversity Anyone?

Latin America: how climate change will wipe out coffee crops – and farmers

Rising temperatures resulting from climate change are fuelling the growth of rust, a disease ravaging coffee plantations in Central America. We report from Nicaragua's Jinotega hills, where starving villagers are desperate to save their livelihoods

In pictures: embattled coffee farmers in Central America
Nelmo Ramos, a coffee producer in Guatemala, shows how roya is blighting their coffee crop. Photograph: Saul Martinez/Oxfam
Under the coffee bushes, Rosibel and Benjamín Fijardo are on their knees, scraping carefully through a litter of dead leaves and dried mud. They are scavenging for stray coffee berries, fallen when the harvesters went through the plantation last week. After 20 minutes, Benjamín has a plastic cup half full. The beans look grey and mouldy, but he says they can be dried and sold. He returns to the work: "This is how we will feed our family for the next two months. By pecking like chickens!"
For two million or more coffee workers and small farmers across Central America, the "hungry season" is beginning. It's always a thin time before crops ripen, but with this winter's coffee harvest down 50% or more on normal, for the second year running, hunger, malnutrition and debt are new curses for hundreds of thousands.
Candida Rosa Piñeda, who owns this little plantation in the village of Atuna Uno, says she has not earned enough this year to buy a new pair of shoes. And she needs to replace most of her disease-damaged coffee bushes.
The disease that has brought these calamities to the pretty hills of Jinotega, in Nicaragua's central highlands, is new to most of the farmers I meet. They call it roya, rust. It is ugly. First, parts of the arabica bush's glossy green leaves turn a dirty orange. Then dark dead patches appear and become holes. The infection spreads to the ripening berries, turning them from bright red to a zombie-skin grey.
Trees can be saved, but they need to be carefully pruned and, just as carefully, treated with chemicals. The chemicals can be toxic to humans, and the trees will take years to come back to their normal production.Hemileia vastatrix, the coffee rust fungus, is a known hazard of growing arabica, which is 70% of the world's production and all of a cup of coffee's taste. It has been a curse of coffee planters ever since it appeared in east Africa 150 years ago.
However, the rust cannot survive temperatures below 10C. In this region of Nicaragua it usually occurred only below 1,300 metres. Up in the hills, cold nights and drier weather kept the disease at bay. And so that's where the coffee farms are.
Most of the people I met said they had never seen it until three years ago: some believed it had been deliberately sprayed from the skies by aircraft. Some thought it had spread from the banana trees that shade the coffee plants and provide crucial food for farmers. But most agree that in recent years the weather has become hotter, wetter and less predictable.
Science is in no doubt that the changing climate is behind the rust and other problems affecting coffee production worldwide – and that things are likely to deteriorate.
"In many cases, the area suitable for [coffee] production would decrease considerably with increases of temperature of only 2-2.5C," said a leaked draft of a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, officially published on Monday. The panel predicts falling coffee production in a range of countries, largely because of warmer weather. In late February, markets scared by drought in Brazil saw futures prices in coffee rise by 70%.
All the coffee-producing countries of Central America have seen drops in production of 30% or more in each of the past two years. Some, such as Guatemala, report rising cases of chronic malnutrition in coffee workers' children. Last week Oxfam cited coffee among other crops in a report that warned climate change was putting back the global fight against hunger "by decades".
Nicaragua's problem is particularly acute. Along with neighbouringHonduras, and Burma, it is already one of the three countries most affected by climate change, according to the 2013 Global Climate Risk Index. Nearly a third of its working population, about 750,000 people, depend on coffee directly or indirectly for a living. Coffee provides 20% of GDP. The Nicaraguan government is deeply worried: it has predicted that, because of falling rainfall and rising temperatures, by 2050 80% of its current coffee growing areas will no longer be usable.
This will mean disaster. The effects of two bad harvests are already severe in a country that, after Haiti, is the poorest in the western hemisphere, with more than three-quarters of its population subsisting on £1.20 a day. Rosibel Fijardo, 30, and Benjamín, 34, the scavengers I met, have much less: to keep the family from starving, their children, aged 10 and five, have to work too.
School in Nicaragua is free, but itinerant farm labourers often have to enlist their children's help in the fields to earn enough money. That is despite the signs on the walls of the big farms we drive past: "No children are employed here."
Rosibel's parents were also landless labourers; she had no schooling at all. If the whole family scavenge all day – in fields where the farmers permit it – they may earn 140 córdobas (£3.20). That will just cover the money they need to buy maize and beans to fill their stomachs. Even so, the children have been crying with hunger. "There's no money for fruit or meat," says Rosibel. "Instead we drink coffee."
Usually in March the family would have cash to spare, after working ascortadores (pickers) during the two-month harvest season. That would tide them through until the pruning and fertilising work starts in May. But this year, like most people they know in Atuna Uno, the Fijardos earned hardly anything because there was so little coffee to pick. Pineda employed no one on her plantations; she did the harvest with her sons. They got five sacks, where normally there would be 60.
"If we don't pick dropped coffee beans, we don't eat, and nor do our children. There are lots of people and just not enough work here," Rosibel says. Benjamín shakes his head in despair: there are not many more farmers who will let them scavenge – "they call it stealing". The couple's next idea, they say, is to see if they can find fish in the lake nearby. "They are free!"
Key to the problems of farmers across the region is the fact that February's global price increase came too late. Before that, the price of coffee had been at historic lows for two years. Last year's poor harvest got the poorest prices per pound, farmer Pantaleón Mungía, 55, said, standing among the skeletal remains of his bushes in the village of Los Robles. "I want to renew my plantation with healthy trees, but I'm in debt. There's no help from the government. Even if I could replace them, it would be three or four years until they were big enough to provide a normal crop."
Oxfam's Máximo Blandón works on poverty in rural Nicaragua: he feels the problem acutely because his family are also small coffee farmers, not far from Los Robles. "Coffee here is not just numbers. It's an art, a profession, a way of life, and without income from the coffee harvest the rural economy collapses. The problem is not just roya – there's also the injustice of the coffee market, which just does not pass down the price of coffee to the people here. Unless it does, they cannot develop the resilience needed to fight the effects of climate change – and there won't be any more coffee in Central America."
Commodities analysts confirm that, in a global market awash with speculators' cash as a result of the quantitative easing policies of governments trying to end the recession, the price of coffee bears little relation to supply. Often it is more dictated by what's happening to the price of wheat or oil than anything in the coffee-growing world.
But that might change. It will be at least three years before any normality returns to countries like Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, where coffee production employs a third or more of the population. Meanwhile, the IPCC has warned that some quite modest global warming predictions "will cause a strong decrease in coffee production in Brazil", the world's largest producer. Even Starbucks has visited the White House to warn that, without a plan to address climate change, the world's coffee supply is under threat.
Last month's spooking of the market was exacerbated by dire predictions about a gaping hole in long-term coffee supply in reports from the International Coffee Organisation and one of the world's leading commodity trading firms. These predicted a huge difference this year between the amount of coffee available and the amount the world wants – as much as 300m kilos. That's two years of British coffee consumption.
Jeremy Torz, co-owner of the British specialist coffee importer Union, has just returned from the roya-hit plantations of Guatemala. He does not believe that there will be a world coffee drought. But the fact that the disease is hitting some of the world's best coffee is significant. "Prices are going to go up and quality down in the commercial coffee world. People need to look for brands that support the producers."
That was pretty much what the cafetaleros of Nicaragua said when I asked them what they wanted from coffee-drinkers in Europe. Coffee picker Myra Carmen Chavarría in Atuna Uno was amazed when I told her that I spent £2 or more every day on a cappuccino. "If you love coffee in your country that much, you need to help us survive to grow it for you!"


The most important issues in the IPCC report on the impacts of climate change, due to be published tomorrow:
People living in these areas and on small islands face storm surges, coastal flooding and sea-level rises. And there are dangers to urban areas from inland flooding – that wipes out homes and businesses, water treatment centres and power plants – as well as from extreme heatwaves.
The report will consider the extent to which warming is already locked in by the necessities of economic infrastructure, but also whether climate change will have a negative or positive impact on global economic growth, and how that impact will be distributed around the world. Climate change could cause a tourism boom in the Arctic, with melting ice-caps giving cruise ships increased access to the area.
Food production is threatened by drought, flooding and changing rainfall patterns. There is particular concern over crop yields. The report is expected to touch on the threat to bees, with concerns about the extinction of species of butterflies and other pollinating insects.
As ocean chemistry is skewed by climate change, some fish in the tropics could become extinct. Others, especially in northern latitudes, are migrating.
Drought could put safe drinking water in short supply. Storms could wipe out electricity stations and damage other infrastructure, the report is likely to say.
Also key is the speed at which the climate is changing, rather than just the magnitude of the change. This will dictate how quickly governments and people must adapt to a level of global warming effectively guaranteed by the carbon already in the atmosphere.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Dear Paul:
There is much in the news about Venezuela. And much of it is false. We at WFPNE believe that the situation in Venezuela requires scrutiny, and watchfulness. Below are some facts about the protests, written by our friends at the Center for Economic Policy Research, Alexander Main and Dan Beeton. In the next weeks, we will be sending opportunities for solidarity action on this crucial issue. And those of you who live near Providenc, RI, will have an opportunity to delve into this crucial issue at a presentation and discussion on the evening of April 11thMore information will be forthcoming.  Please feel free to reply to this email to let us know about upcoming Venezuela events in your area. In peace, Susan
Quick points regarding the protests in Venezuela
This is not a spontaneous wave of student protests, but a planned campaign organized by radical rightwing opposition leaders including Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado. On January 23, Lopez and Machado launched their “La Salida” (“The Exit”) campaign with a press conference. As shown in this video, they stated that the goal is the ouster of the democratically-elected Maduro government, and the means would be by, as Machado put, “creat[ing] chaos in the streets.” “Let’s ignite the streets,” she said. “Every corner, every market, every school and university.”
The protests seek to accomplish through extra-legal means what the opposition has been unable to accomplish at the ballot box. Reuters reported just after the opposition suffered a clear defeat in municipal elections in December that “Several other opposition leaders have advocated more confrontational tactics, such as street protests, against Maduro.”
Key figures within the opposition have rejected the "Salida" protest campaign, which aims to remove the government via street protests. As the campaign was gearing up, state governor and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said "I don't believe in violent removals [of governments] (...) A struggle with violent characteristics that prevents us from finding the path toward achieving the country that we love? There's no doubt that isn't our struggle."
The protests have been violent; protesters have killed more people that government security forces. At least four people, including National Guard officers and municipal workers, have been shot and killed while attempting to remove protester barricades. Another seven or so have been killed attempting to get through barricades and crashing into obstructions or other hazards deliberately put in their way by protesters. These include two people who died after riding motorcycles into wire strung across the road, one of whom was decapitated.
 Some major media headlines reveal the violent nature of the protests and roadblocks, at odds with social media portrayals of “peaceful protests” and congressional statements along such lines:
·         Mayor: city worker killed in Venezuela” – Associated Press, March 19
·         Venezuela unrest toll rises as soldier is shot in head” – Reuters, March 17. The article states: “officials said a municipal worker was shot and killed while removing a street barricade in a middle-class neighborhood.”
·         Chilean is first foreign fatality in Venezuela unrest” – Reuters, March 10. The article begins: “A Chilean woman was shot dead while clearing a barricade put up by anti-government protesters…”
 Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega has recognized that some security forces have engaged in “excesses” but has highlighted judicial actions taken to hold security agents accountable for alleged abuses.  According to Reuters, Luisa Ortega told the press that since the start of the demonstrations, state prosecutors have opened 60 investigations into alleged human rights violations and imprisoned 15 officials in connection with those incidents.
Prominent protest leaders have an anti-democratic and sometimes violent history. Leopoldo Lopez participated in the 2002 coup d’etat that temporarily overthrew the democratically-elected government. As mayor of Chacao at the time, Lopez oversaw the violent arrest of the Interior Minister as he was dragged out of the building where he had taken refuge and beaten by an angry mob. As governor of the now-defunct Federal District of Caracas, now Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma oversaw a violent police crackdown on protests in 1992 in which protesters were killed.[1] Maria Corina Machado was among those present at the presidential palace when the 2002 coup regime headed by Pedro Carmona dissolved the congress, the constitution and the Supreme Court.
The Maduro government has repeatedly asked for dialogue since the protests began, only to be rebuffed by some opposition leaders. Maduro invited opposition leaders to a meeting on February 24 but opposition leader Henrique Capriles rejected the offer. Opposition business leaders did attend however, including Jorge Roig, the president of the main business federation, and Lorenzo Mendoza, head of food and beverage giant Empresas Polar. Bloomberg quoted Roig as saying “We have profound differences with your economic system and your political systems but democracy, thank God, lets us evaluate these differences.”
Latin American leaders from across the political spectrum have condemned the violent protests and expressed their solidarity with the Maduro government. The Organization of American States issued a declaration of “Solidarity and Support for Democratic Institutions, Dialogue, and Peace” in Venezuela. The Union of South American Nations issued a statement supporting the Venezuelan government’s efforts to foster dialogue and expressing concern over "any threat to the independence and sovereignty of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela." Chilean president Michelle Bachelet has stated that "we will never support a movement that wants to violently overthrow a constitutionally-elected government,” and proclaimed “the Chilean government's willingness to support & help the Venezuelan people & government.” In a letter to Maduro on the anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death, former president of Brazil Lula da Silva praised Venezuela’s democratic and economic system and referred to “forces ready to violate the constitutional order” in Venezuela.
The Catholic Church has condemned violence by protesters as well as government security forces.
Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino of Caracas stated, “We…reject the deaths caused by roadblocks presumably put in place by protesters and the disproportionate use of force in repressive actions, which has lead [sic] to some deaths and a large number of wounded,” and called for dialogue.
The Latin American Council of Churches, a regional ecumenical organization whose members include 175 Latin American churches in every country in the region, issued a statement on February 28th that stated:  “We have seen in the protests in this month of February in Venezuela, directed by the opposition, that their own leaders have confessed the aim of "regime change". The Venezuelan Constitution offers the possibility of a revocative referendum half way through the term of a presidency, and in that legal and democratic way a government can be changed. However, the recent opposition protests (…) have demonstrated the impatient claims of the opposition, that don't want to wait to move forward legally (…) The protests are legitimate in their call for greater security, against shortages and inflation, but the demand for a "regime change" does not match the democratic will of the majority of the Venezuelan people expressed in the last elections in 2013.”
The protesters do not have broad support, but are mainly comprised of upper- and middle-class Venezuelans. Numerous media reports have noted that the road blockades have mainly been in wealthier areas, and that the protesters have failed to broaden their movement to lower-income sectors of the population.
Recent elections and opinion polls both show the Maduro government with strong majority support. Political parties aligned with the Maduro government won municipal elections in December with a 10-point margin of victory over the opposition. Prior to these elections, the opposition had framed them as a referendum on Maduro’s government, a line which was picked up in the international media.
A poll conducted in early March by polling firm Pronóstico, and described in Venezuela’s largest-circulation newspaper, Últimas Noticias, shows that a strong majority of the 2,400 people surveyed in Caracas and Carabobo – 64% -- oppose the current protests. They also show that if presidential elections were to be held now, Maduro would receive more votes than all the leading opposition figures combined.
The U.S. administration has adopted positions that clash with those of nearly all the governments of the region.  Declarations from the State Department and the White House have portrayed the protests as peaceful and democratic and placed all the blame for the recent violence on the Venezuelan government.  Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that President Maduro is waging a “terror campaign” against the Venezuelan people and said that sanctions against Venezuelan officials are being considered.   Only the U.S., Canada and the rightwing government of Panama refused to sign on to the OAS declaration of “solidarity and support” of Venezuela’s democratic institutions.
In the U.S. Congress, sanctions legislation was introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL) in the House and Senator Bob Menendez (D-FL) in the Senate on March 13th.  The Menendez bill – The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act – “requires President Obama to impose sanctions on persons that have been involved in serious human rights violations against peaceful demonstrators and others in Venezuela or that have directed or ordered the arrest or prosecution of a person due to their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or assembly.” It also “authorizes $15 million in new funding in the FY2015 budget to defend human rights, support democratic civil society organizations, assist independent media, and strengthen good governance and the rule of law in the face of the massive violence and repression”, according to the Menendez press release. 
The Ros Lehtinen bill has the same name as the Helms Burton Act, with the name of Cuba replaced by Venezuela:  the Venezuelan Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.   It contains three different forms of sanctions, a statement of policy for reducing oil imports from Venezuela and a "strategy" section that recycles various passages from the Helms Burton Act including the demand that Venezuela move “toward a market-oriented economic system based on the right to own and enjoy property” and make “constitutional changes that would ensure regular free and fair elections.”
[1] Agence France Presse, “Caracas governor should resign after police violence: human rights leader.” June 26, 1992

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Cross your legs, the time for crossing fingers has long passed!

Cross your legs, the time for crossing fingers has long passed!
The 97% of climate scientists who agree global warming/climate change is real and catastrophic without massive intervention have got to take to the streets. And us with them. We have to occupy not just Wall Street but our own offices, our own factories, our own laboratories and churches and universities and schools and parliaments. Stop sex!! occupy your beds, for Pete's - er, just the Planet's - sake!! Sex/love partners: if ever there was a time for the Lysistrata 'crossed legs' protest, this is it! (and it may even work - there are plenty of examples of success in history)
Nothing less will do. Nothing less will do. Nothing less will do.
Grand gestures and even good campaigns like the Global Climate Convergence for People, Planet and Peace over Profit  (GCCPPPOP!! a catchy acronym would help!) are nowhere near enough. Short-term political structures cannot cope with the radical nature of the changes we need to implement immediately, if not sooner. Appeal to the scientists: "You know how bad things are, you must do more than simply produce more reports. Occupy your labs, your universities, committees, and set up camp at the gates of power: the transnationals, especially the oil companies, the banks, the 'news' media. Make sudden incursions into radio and television stations to make 'pirate' broadcast, hack into company/government/church/union/NGO and other websites to state your message in the starkest possible terms, get us all to flood Twitter and Face Book and all the rest over and over and over again. We will join you." (And cross your legs, the time for crossing fingers has long passed!).
A current (relatively modest) example: Scotland has an upcoming referendum on independence from the UK. Here's a quote from an article in The Guardian. It gives an idea of how people across the board are organizing for 'Yes', and outlines some key practical steps. If a stand-alone tiny little Scotland is such a passionate issue, what does that make the survival of life on Earth? Really like the last paragraph - just transpose.
"Finally, a new Yes Scotland campaign will be launched in late March: Generation Yes, known as Gen Yes, which will aim to capture that other independence-leaning demographic, the young voter. Its small group of founders are targeting some 800,000 voters under 30. Every Gen Yes member will be set five tasks, including a target to convert nine of their friends to the cause. Photogenic youth "ambassadors" will be sent out to win converts, spread the word.
Generation Yes has been modelled on an Irish campaign of the same name set up to campaign, successfully, for a yes vote in Ireland's 2009 Lisbon treaty referendum.
Saffron Dickson is, at 16, already a veteran campaigner. She went on her first demo aged six, against the Iraq war, with her mum. She is one of the small group of Gen Yes founder members.
Still at school, Dickson is unfazed by the campaign facing her: "I would give up every weekend for the next six months. The next six months determine the next 80 years of my life. I'm fine with that."
Failing to act, she believes, will help the no vote win. "I could spend the next 80 years of my life thinking what life could've been like, what an independent Scotland would be like and how fabulous it could have been," she said.
Nationalists say Labour supporters, young people and middle-class women are flocking to yes vote
Like ·  · 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Report by MITF – SOA WATCH Delegation to Venezuela March 14, 2014

Thanks to Lisa Sullivan of SOA Watch. This is truly important. Together with Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba and several other countries, Venezuela is developing a genuine alternative to greedy consumerism, with its concomitant people and planetary destruction. Based on cooperation, fair trade, gender/race balance and care for the earth, ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America) may well be our last and best hope for a sustainable future for all our children, no matter where we live. Please share as widely as possible. Thank you.
Report by MITF – SOA WATCH Delegation to Venezuela
March 14, 2014
We are a group of nine people who just spent ten days in Venezuela on a delegation sponsored by the Task Force on the Americas and the School of the Americas Watch. We visited eight states and three capital cities as well as a number of smaller communities. We met with human rights groups, government officials including the government Ombudsman and top security officers, the secretary general of ALBA, members of the opposition, the US embassy, cooperatives, schools and agricultural initiatives.
We want to share what we experienced here which in many cases contradicts current reports of Venezuela in the mainstream and social media. We also want to call on readers to take action to support Venezuela’s sovereignty.
In spite of what the US media prepared us to expect, we were completely unimpeded by any expressions of violence or disruption of transit. We experienced a country where schools, businesses, transportation and services seem to be functioning at a normal pace. In fact, of 337 municipalities, only 18 have experienced incidents of violent protest. We are, however, aware that in the border states with Colombia and in some wealthy neighborhood incidents of violence continue to persist.
People on both sides of the political divide in Venezuela have been killed in the past month. While the media has focused almost exclusively on the tragic deaths of several at the hands of government security forces (who have been detained by the Venezuelan justice system), there has been almost no attention to the deaths of several government security forces at the hands of anti-government protestors. In addition, at least seven people have been killed by protestors for simply trying to pass by or remove road blocks in their communities, and a motorcyclist was decapitated by razor wire strung by protestors. Other deaths have been linked to the inability to get to hospitals due to anti-government road blocks. In one case a motorcycle taxi driver tried to remove a road block and was killed by a sniper from a nearby building. When the National Guard arrived, one of their members was killed by snipers from the same building. As the National Guard entered the building to detain the sniper, residents there tweeted photos and messages picked up by media to support accusations of government repression.
According to a survey this week, at least 75% of Venezuelans, including many sectors of the opposition, do not approve of the violent tactics of anti-government protestors. What began as an outcry against high inflation and crime has degenerated into small but very violent focal points where millions of dollars of public property has been destroyed. The great majority of protests have taken place in wealthy areas where many neighbors who originally supported the first wave of protests have become increasingly frustrated with the havoc created in their own communities.
Although the mainsteam media has portrayed the situation in Venezuela as a spontaneous uprising of students, in fact, some of the most prominent leaders who have motivated these protests are adults over the age of 40 who were involved in the 2002 coup against President Chavez. On January 23, Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado held a press conference calling for street action to lead to national rage in an effort to force the ousting of President Maduro. On the podium of their press conference was the logo: “the exit”.
The government of President Maduro has initiated a peace process at national, state and community levels that has been embraced by religious leaders, including the Papal Nuncio; and business leaders, such as the president of the Chamber of Commerce and the president of Venezuela’s largest business, POLAR; and key opposition leaders, such as several governors, mayors and the director of Henrique Capriles’ presidential campaign. Over 600 business leaders attended a government-convened economic conference. The government immediately agreed to implement 56 of the 59 proposals. This is what corporate media calls “a failure.”
We experienced strong support for the government by popular sectors of the population, and support for the anti-government protest appeared to be limited to upper middle class sectors. This is not surprising due to the fact that only three months ago government –supported mayoral candidates won 59% of the vote. We were overwhelmed by the massive turnout and the powerful display of love for the legacy of President Chavez at events commemorating the first anniversary of his death.
The history of U.S. intervention in Venezuela in recent years is very raw here, given the US government support for the 2002 coup and the more than 90 million U.S. government dollars that have funded the opposition. We are therefore deeply concerned about actions that our government might take based on inaccurate media portrayals of the situation here, as was the case in 2002. In recent weeks some members of Congress have called for action by the U.S. government against Venezuela, including the possibility of sanctions. Within the OAS the U.S. pushed for a commission to begin investigation into internal situations here, and was overwhelming rejected by all members with the exception of Canada and Panama. In striking contrast, on March 12, the Union of South American Nations, UNASUR, issued a statement of support for the peace process that has already been initiated, and designated a commission to help in this effort. They also expressed grave concerns for threats to Venezuela’s sovereignty. We therefore ask that you contact your member of congress demanding that the State Department respect Venezuela’s sovereignty.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014



After a long, long, day election-observing, I went to bed two nights ago leg-weary and heart-sick. Against all the predictions the FMLN and ARENA (party of death squad founder, Roberto d’Aubisson, for pity’s sake!) were neck and neck. The recent coup in neighbouring Honduras freaked people out? Unrest in Venezuela? The constant shadow of the USA eagle/vulture hovering, always hovering? Maybe so, but at its heart, something more profound: very few of us really want real change.

The dream is simple: simply expressed by Salvador Allende: “That every child have food to eat every day”. Who can be against that?

In practice, most of us are. ARENA or ‘the opposition’ in Venezuela are really nasty: lose at the ballot box, violence. Check Allende, check Monseñor Romero, check Venezuela.   D’Aubisson is quoted as saying: “All we want is to live like the US people do!”
Who can be against that? Except for the fact that we northerners maintain our otherwise unsustainable lifestyle by global exploitation. Of resources and peoples. The nasty Salvadoran ‘elite’ will not give up their gated communities, monstrous cars, exploited servants. But then which of us will give up our Starbucks coffee, our I-phones, our pre-torn pants?  And so the children go on being robbed of their birthright, the immeasurable wealth of the Two Thirds World, cynically and systematically expropriated by our Me First World. Sadly, force is the only way: no-one cedes significant power, or things and lifestyles, willingly.

So, today my legs are up and running again, my heart, a little more bruised, but ticking still. Wearing a Victor Jara 40th anniversary shirt (40 years looking for justice!), I set out to visit Oscar Romero in his tomb, to renew my vows to keeping on keeping on, to hard-working love, the only god that makes sense.  Tomorrow happily back to the sanity of our crazy little Nicaragua which, while still being ripped off left and right by dying empires, insists on lifting tens of thousands out of impoverishment, on free healthcare and education for all, on an army with its own ecological brigade, and on a parliament that's well on its way to 50% women members.

Violent revolution, then? Impound I-phones and cars? Shut down Walmart and Coke? Machine-gun politic@s?  All good ideas (especially the last!), but no, none of that. Something infinitely more powerful: the cataclysmic force of Mother Earth herself! When, in response to our stupidity and greed, she gets us properly between her teeth – rats in the terrier’s mouth - we’ll long for the days of primitive violence. The catastrophic weather across the globe is occasioned by a mere 0.5% rise in global average temperatures. What on earth will the supposed ‘safe’ level (2%), visit on us?   Reminds me of my old S.O.B. song, celebrating the passing of George Bush and Dan Quayle:

“Well, it’s not just the likes of Bush and Quayle
It’s you, it’s me, it’s us
For Global Warming’s got us cold
Yet who here rides the bus?
So, unless we change our silly ways before it is too late
Like good old George and Danny-Boy
We’ll all be out-of-date!”

There's nowhere else to go, compañer@s. If ever there was a time to seize, this is it!!