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By Cindy Sheehan
|At Miraflores in Caracas: January 2006|
What do I do when I am angry, happy, or sad? I write.
Back in 2004, shortly after my son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, a grief counselor advised me to write a letter to my son in a journal every night. I filled up three journals in the terrible months after his death. I often wrote at his grave and those journals did help me deal with the unspeakable loss.
Today, I write from a great well of sadness, but not just for me, for the world. My dear friend in peace and justice, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, just lost his fierce and valiant battle with cancer.
Many people know about Hugo Chavez, the president, and constant thorn in the side to El Imperio the meddlesome and harmful Empire to the north. But I want to eulogize Chavez the man I knew.
He was my dear friend and comrade in a way where we were united in the struggle for peace and economic justice and equality. It’s not like I could text him, or we would chat about current events, but whenever I had the privilege to be with him, warmth radiated from his heart and I was able to connect with him in very real and human ways. Compared to the palpable realness of Chavez, most of the US politicians I have met with are walking and talking ice sculptures.
The first time I met him in Caracas was in early 2006 at the World Social Forum. I had been invited to sit on the stage while he gave a speech to those gathered there from around the world. He introduced me as, “Señora Esperanza,” “Mrs. Hope,” in contrast to his nickname for George Bush: “Señor Peligro,” “Mr. Danger.” However, our brother, Hugo Chavez, was the one who gave us much hope.
I have met and interviewed so many people in Venezuela whose lives were immeasurably improved by the vision and dedication of Hugo Chavez. How can one put a price on going from being illiterate to being able to read? A 65-year-old woman told me her life was transformed by the adult literacy program. It really made me appreciate the fact that I have always known how to read (it seems). What would I have done without my best friends, my books? Wow. I guess Capitalism would tally the cost of educating one student and, of course education here in the US is now just another commodity, but the look of wonder in my Sister’s eyes was priceless!
Another woman showed me her perfect teeth in a huge grin. She told me that her teeth used to be so bad, that she would never smile before, but now, due to her new set of false teeth provided by the national dental program, she walks around grinning like a lunatic all day, which made me laugh with joy! Again, Capitalism would say: One set of false teeth equals X amount of dollars. I say, being able to smile after years of embarrassing humiliation is worth more than any amount of gold.
Those are just two stories out of millions and my heart breaks with sorrow for the People of the Bolivarian Revolution that must be even more devastated than I, today.
I witnessed Chavez the proud “abuelo” (grandpa) once on a long flight from Caracas to Montevideo that I took with them. We chatted about out “nietos” (grandchildren) and felt a mutual connection there. I hugged my grandbabies a little harder today when I found out that Chavez died, because I know the wonderful connection that he had with his. My heart breaks for his children and his family, and his brother, Adan, who seemed to be constantly at his side.
It’s just a very hard day.
I was with Chavez in Montevideo, Uruguay, for the presidential inauguration of Felipé Mujica. I was amazed that Chavez could just plunge into the crowds and interact with the people without a phalanx of bodyguards, anti-aircraft missiles and assault weapons. His security detail was prepared, but not paranoid like up here in the Empire. Someone who is universally loved by the 99% need have no fear. Chavez had no fear.
Chavez’s courageous battle against the Empire was more successful than his battle against cancer. Chavez was able to inspire more leftist leaders in Latin America and my friends in Cuba will always be grateful for the friendship between Venezuela and Cuba. The struggle against neo-liberalism and the Empire has been far advanced under Chavez’s inspirational leadership.
This is a sad day and I am angry that the so-called leaders of my own country made Chavez’s life a virtual hell, but he survived one coup attempt and the many other attempts through the media and financing of his opposition to undermine the revolution.
When in the hell is this country going to mind it’s own goddamn business and realize that not every drop of oil belongs to our oil companies and not every democratically elected leader must pledge undying obsequiousness to the Evil Empire?
I am immensely proud of Chavez and I am immensely proud of the people of Venezuela who have worked with him to improve their lives and because they really understand the concept of “national sovereignty.”
I know the upper echelons of The Empire think they have won a victory today (if it didn’t give Chavez his cancer in the first place—don’t even start and say I am a “conspiracy theorist” everyone knows that the Empire is fully capable of it, they couldn’t kill him, or depose him, outright) and all the oil will now flow back into the hands of our big oil companies, but The Empire underestimates the people of Venezuela and their dedication to the Bolivarian Revolution and love for their leader, Hugo Chavez.
As we sorrowfully say, “vaya con la paz” to our Brother, Hugo Chavez, let’s also say, “long live the revolution.”
Chavez will never die if we honor his vision and continue our struggle against The Empire.
A-dios, Señor Esperanza.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul. Your light is far too bright to be extinguished by something as cruel as death and your light shines in all of us whose hearts burn with revolution and love for all the people.
My life and our world are far better today because of your life and the struggle continues until victory!
READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF
CINDY'S 2010 INTERVIEW OF
by Stephen Lendman
He's home. He arrived on February 18 at 2:30AM Caracas time. He announced his arrival via Twitter.
"I have returned to the Venezuelan homeland," he said. "Thank God!! Thank you beloved people! I will continue the treatment here."
Chavez Shows Clinical Improvement
by Stephen Lendman
Venezuelans welcome good news. They pray for Chavez's full recovery. News from Havana is encouraging.
On January 14, The Havana Times headlined "Chavez Is Improving," saying:
Chavismo in Venezuela
by Stephen Lendman
Chavez remains hospitalized. He's recovering from complicated cancer surgery. It's his fourth in 18 months.
His scheduled January 10 inauguration was postponed. Venezuelans turned out en masse. Tens of thousands gathered outside Caracas' Palacio de Miraflores. It's Chavez's official workplace.
Chavez Inauguration Postponed
by Stephen Lendman
On January 8, Vice President Nicolas Maduro addressed National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello. He said Chavez:
By Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon
In November we traveled to Guatemala to study Spanish and learn about the lives of the indigenous Maya people. Guatemala is an amazingly beautiful country, with countless mountains and valleys, and 22 volcanoes, the most in Central America. The people are very friendly and good humored. Traditional Mayan culture, mostly observed in the colorful dress of the Mayan women, lives side by side with modernity. Picture a traditionally dressed indigenous peasant woman tending her cattle and sheep on a hillside pasture. Now watch her pull a cell phone out of her skirt to call her children.
Bolivarianism in Venezuela
by Stephen Lendman
With or without Chavez, it's institutionalized. It greatly improved the lives of most Venezuelans. It's become part of the national culture. It won't wane and die.
It reflects Simon Bolivar's vision. He defeated the Spanish, liberated half of South America, and advocated using national wealth responsibly, fairly and equitably.
by Stephen Lendman
The New York Times debated it. Nine views were presented. Mark Weisbrot co-directs the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He's fair-minded and forthright.
He was outnumbered eight to one. Times style debates avoid evenhanded exchanges.
Chavez Struggles to Recover
by Stephen Lendman
A previous article said major surgery for any reason is daunting. Four times for the same illness in 18 months present special challenges.
Chavez struggles to recover. He hopes he's cancer free. He's undergoing difficult post-operative procedures. Reports suggest he's proceeding on track. Internal bleeding and respiratory infection problems were corrected. More on his current status below.
Bolivarianism Wins Big
by Stephen Lendman
For millions in Venezuela, the region and beyond, Chavez is bigger than life. He's heroic.
He's important to sustain Bolivarian values. He's a legend in his own time. He's a role model for other leaders.
Complex Chavez Recovery
by Stephen Lendman
Major surgery for any reason is daunting. Imagine four times in 18 months for the same illness. On December 11, Chavez underwent it to remove cancerous tissue.
Malignancy reappeared weeks after examination revealed he was cancer free. Post-surgical chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatment now follows.
Uncertainty about Chavez's Health
by Stephen Lendman
On December 8, Chavez announced he'll return to Cuba. More surgery is needed. It'll be his fourth for cancer. Tests after his October reelection found no reoccurrence.
By Dave Lindorff
It is amazing to watch politicians trying to weasel their way around their promises. President Obama is providing us with a good illustration of the art.
I've been fond of December 1st ever since I was born on it. I later found out that it had been on a December 1st that Rosa Parks had sat down and refused to stand up or move to the back of that racist bus in Montgomery. Later still I found out about a December 1st that had happened still earlier.
It was on December 1, 1948, that President José Figueres Ferrer of Costa Rica abolished the military of Costa Rica. He didn't "cut" its projected dream budget by a teeny fraction that sounded bigger if multiplied by 10 and announced as a reduction "over 10 years." He didn't cut it in the ordinary sense of actually cutting it. He abolished it. Costa Rica put its military in a museum and a museum in its military headquarters. It turned its military bases into schools. It turned its military budget into a fund for useful projects. In 1986, President Oscar Arias Sánchez declared December 1st the Día de la Abolición del Ejército (Military Abolition Day).
Without a military, Costa Rica has not been a perfect paradise on earth, but it has avoided invading or being invaded by other countries. It has avoided military coups and civil wars and CIA interventions (although a coup in Honduras in 2009 involved flying the president to Costa Rica).
Costa Rica is not rich, but its people have a higher life expectancy than we do in the United States. Costa Rica provides a social safety net and of course provides everyone healthcare, spending less per capita than we do but providing superior healthcare than is provided by the wealthy United States. Costa Rica is ranked by the Happy Planet Index as the #1 best place to live for happiness. The United States comes in at #150 out of 178. U.S. elections have 50% turnout and somewhere around 98% disgust. Costa Rican elections have 90% turnout and enthusiastic participation. And Costa Rica's way of life is far more sustainable than ours, one of the most sustainable in the world.
It's not a coincidence that our super wealthy country spends as much as all other nations combined on war preparations and ranks pitifully low in measures of health, education, environmentalism, happiness, and well-being. We imagine that without a big military other nations would attack ours. But why would they? Simply because ours frequently attacks others? That's a projection, not an observation.
We imagine that without the largest military ever seen, we couldn't attack other nations for their own good and the good of the world. But the tradeoff we've chosen is not one of sacrificing for the world's safety. If the United States didn't spend $1 trillion every year on war preparation and war, it could spend that money on its own people and the world's. We could have turned Afghanistan into Costa Rica over the past decade. We could have built schools and hospitals and green infrastructure. Does anyone seriously imagine that the people of Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen would hate the U.S. government more if it bought them a better life rather than raining its hated missiles from the sky?
Libertarians in the United States may not want to help the world, or even our own country, but they at least want to stop investing in killing. Liberals, on the other hand, want to keep the war preparations money flowing while taxing millionaires to help pay for it. Every "progressive" group in the United States right now is demanding that we protect what's left of our safety net, tax millionaires and billionaires, and (through careful silence) leave military spending right where it is or where it's headed. Costa Rica has made progress beyond the imagining of our progressives, and it hasn't done so through progressive taxation. Costa Rica has chosen not to make large-scale murder its primary public purpose, or any purpose at all.
In the United States, peace groups sometimes mark the International Day of Peace. But virtually everyone ignores Military Abolition Day. It's time we changed that.
Venezuelan Electoral Postmortems
by Stephen Lendman
Chavistas celebrated Sunday's victory. Bolivarianism triumphed over exploitive neoliberal harshness. In open, free, and fair elections, Venezuelans got to choose. It's constitutionally mandated. Every vote counts equally.
Shooting to Kill Immigrants on the Mexican Border: WTF? A Border Agent Fired First at Immigrant Smugglers?
By Dave Lindorff
Sometimes it takes a small tragedy to call attention to expose a much bigger one.
The small tragedy happened when Nicholas Ivey, a US Border Patrol agent, was shot dead on a dark night in rough terrain along the border with Mexico in Arizona, a state that has been obsessing about illegal border crossers coming into the US from Mexico seeking jobs.
International Call to Action:Support the General Motors-Colombia Hunger StrikersThirteen members of ASOTRECOL, the Association of Injured and Ex-Workers of General Motors Colombia, launched a hunger strike on Wednesday, August 1st outside the U.S. embassy to demand that GM justly compensate, provide medical care, and reintegrate over 200 workers who were fired after suffering work-related injuries. As proof of their commitment, the workers have sewn their mouths shut and plan to carry out the hunger strike to the death. August 24th marks the 24th day of their to-the-death hunger strike and 387 days of a tent occupation in front of the U.S. embassy in Bogotá. General Motors walked out of negotiations on August 6th and has since refused to return to the table. A few days ago Colombian authorities shut off the electrical supply to the hunger strikers' camp, leaving them without light and necessary medical equipment.Protests organized for August 24thDetroit: GM Headquarters, 300 Renaissance Center --- 12pmWashington D.C.: Capitol Hill --- 12pmNew York: Colombian Consulate --- 12pmBogotá: U.S. Embassy, 24/7São Paulo: Colombian EmbassyHanover: Colombian EmbassySPONSORS (as of 8/22): Witness for Peace; United Steel Workers; São José Metal Workers Union, Brazil (Sindicato dos Metalurgicos de São José dos Campos e Região); International Automotive Workers Council (Internationaler
Automobilarbeiterratschlag); Service Employees International Union 32 BJ; Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee; South East Michigan Jobs with Justice; Washtenaw Community Action Team; Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT-Michigan, Local 3550; Lecturer Employees' Organization, AFT-Michigan, Local 6244; Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice; Moratorium Now!; U.S./Cuba Labor Exchange; Autoworkers Caravan; Organization for a Free Society; Solidarity; International Action CenterASOTRECOL website: www.asotrecol.com
Ecuador's president Rafael Correa has agreed to give the WikiLeaks founder asylum, according to an official in Quito
"Ecuador will grant asylum to Julian Assange," said an official in the Ecuadorean capital Quito, who is familiar with the government discussions.
by Stephen Lendman
Since taking office in February 1999, Chavez has been Washington's number one Latin American enemy.
He worries US officials for good reason. He's a powerful threat. He represents a good example. Venezuela's social democracy shames America's. Bolivarianism works.
By John Grant
Stop feeding the beast.
- Julieta Castellanos*
William Brownfield is a major architect in the current linkage between the failed Drug War and the War On Terror. He may succeed in making it an even greater failure in the future.
The Anti-Empire Report
I'm sure most Americans are mighty proud of the fact that Julian Assange is so frightened of falling into the custody of the United States that he had to seek sanctuary in the embassy of Ecuador, a tiny and poor Third World country, without any way of knowing how it would turn out. He might be forced to be there for years. "That'll teach him to mess with the most powerful country in the world! All you other terrorists and anti-Americans out there — Take Note! When you fuck around with God's country you pay a price!"
How true. You do pay a price. Ask the people of Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, etc., etc., etc. And ask the people of Guantánamo, Diego Garcia, Bagram, and a dozen other torture centers to which God's country offers free transportation.
You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not be so obvious as to torture Assange if they got hold of him? Ask Bradley Manning. At a bare minimum, prolonged solitary confinement is torture. Before too long the world may ban it. Not that that would keep God's country and other police states from using it.
You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not be so obvious as to target Assange with a drone? They've done it with American citizens. Assange is a mere Aussie.
And Ecuador and its president, Rafael Correa, will pay a price. You think with the whole world watching, the United States would not intervene in Ecuador? In Latin America, it comes very naturally for Washington. During the Cold War it was said that the United States could cause the downfall of a government south of the border ... with a frown. The dissolution of the Soviet Union didn't bring any change in that because it was never the Soviet Union per se that the United States was fighting. It was the threat of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model.
Today, voters in Mexico head to the polls in a presidential election that has been shaken up in the last few weeks by student-led protests that are challenging the front-runner status of Enrique Peña Nieto. A victory for Peña Nieto, the candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, would mark a return to the executive office by the political party that dominated Mexican politics for more than 70 years. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City and candidate in 2006, is also running and, according to polls, is considered the second place contender.
For more, we’re joined by FSRN reporter Shannon Young. She’s been following the race and joins us from Oaxaca.
Listen to FSRN's interview here.
Cindy Sheehan discusses the new Venezuelan Constitution as a model for reforming the U.S. Constitution in the direction of greater democratic and economic rights, as well as the politics of Hugo Chavez, and her new book, Revolution: A Love Story. Cindy Sheehan is a leading U.S. peace actvist, a gold star mother, an author, blogger, and radio host.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
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By John Grant
Whore: (verb) To debase oneself by doing something for unworthy motives, typically to make money.
-The New Oxford American Dictionary
It’s a challenge to make adult sense of the absurdities coming out of Colombia right now.
By John Grant
The United States is finding the occupation of other nations more and more challenging. Consider the burning of Korans in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the bombing deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and a host of other recent disasters. Economic challenges at home only add to the difficulty.
In such a frustrating quandary, Washington and Pentagon leaders are falling back on what they feel the US does best: Secret killing.
By John Grant
I could have been a vicious raving monster who killed and killed and left towers of rotting flesh in my wake. Instead, here I was on the side of truth, justice and the American way. Still a monster, of course, but I cleaned up nicely afterward, and I was OUR monster, dressed in red, white and blue 100 percent synthetic virtue.
Dearly Devoted Dexter
I teach creative writing in a maximum security prison in Philadelphia. During the week I scour two thrift shops for 35-cent paperbacks that I haul in to stock a small lending library I created for inmates. Amazingly, the prison had no library.
Imagine that your son, your darling little boy, was killed during the past eight years in a war that served purely to kill a whole lot of Iraqis and enrich a small number of billionaires, while causing horrible environmental damage, stripping away our civil liberties, and poisoning foreign relations elsewhere. And imagine that, instead of avoiding this reality or lying about it, you confronted it. Further, imagine that you became so famous confronting it, that everybody wanted to be your friend, at least for a minute. You might even get invited to Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez, and you might go with a mind open to hearing what he had to say.
Cindy Sheehan did. And now she's published a book about it. If Venezuela makes it to the top of the list for the next U.S. war, this book will be a valuable tool for confronting the propaganda. But why wait? Our government has attempted a coup and is openly funding opposition groups. Why wait to consider what it is we're paying to try to undo?
Venezuela could be targeted for its oil, of course. But Cindy proposes another reason why the government in Washington, D.C., that we all so love to hate except when it kills lots of people, might be targeting Venezuela. In an interview included in the book, she asks Chavez: "Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?" His response, which has been translated from Spanish, is:
"I think for different reasons. But I've gotten to the conclusion there is one particular strong reason, a big reason. They are afraid, the Empire is afraid. The Empire is afraid that the people of the United States might find out about the truth, they are afraid that something like that could erupt in their own territory -- a Bolivarian movement; or a Lincoln movement -- a movement of citizens, conscious citizens to transform the system. . . . So, why do they demonize us? They know -- those who direct the Empire -- they know the truth. But they fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear a revolution in the United States. They fear an awakening of the people in the United States. And so that's why they do everything they can. And they achieve it, relatively, that a lot of sectors in the United States see us as devils. No one wants to copy the devil."
But we might copy some little things even from the devil if they were worth copying. What is it that Sheehan and Chavez think might be contagious if we found out about it?
This is why the book is a valuable resource now, threat or no threat, war or no war. It's a story of a people's movement, largely nonviolent. It's a story of dramatic change that was slow in coming and then burst into fruition. It's a story of a work in progress that is moving in positive directions, investing in education, protecting the environment, raising the living standards of the majority of the people. Can a new political party succeed? Yes, it can. Can an outworn Constitution be rewritten at great length and well by a popular movement? Yes, it can. (PDF). Cindy lists some of the changes brought by this Constitution:
· added a "people's branch"
· added an "election's branch"
· citizens are able to recall the president
· health care is enshrined as a human right
· education is enshrined as a human right
· gender inclusivity in the language
· equal rights for women under the law
· only the people can amend the document
· aggressive indigenous rights
· commits the power of the state to protect the environment
The horror! I know some USians who don't dare HOPE for such a CHANGE. I even know some who are learning that such changes are perfectly possible, but that they don't come about through hoping, or through voting alone.
The weakness of the Venezuelan revolution, however, is very similar to the weakness of US liberalism. Each pins its hopes on a single messiah. Of course, Chavez is making the poor richer, while Obama is making the rich richer. But it appears entirely possible that positive movement in Venezuela will be thrown into reverse when Chavez dies. Chavez ought to be teaching his nation not to depend on one man. He ought to step down while alive and well enough to help guide his successor. He ought to move on to a focus on uniting the nations of South America. That he does not do this seems to me a mark against his character. But it does not change the fact that the Venezuelan people have been empowered to rule by referendum, while in the United States the presidency has been made more powerful than that of Venezuela -- and without the addition of direct democracy. The Venezuelan Constitution has already been amended, by public referendum. The U.S. Constitution hasn't been touched in 40 years except through dramatic changes imposed by the Supreme Court or the President.
The question that my mind focuses on in reading Cindy's account is not, however, what can I find wrong with Chavez. It's this: Can we make an Occupy movement worthy of the title Bolivarian?