Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Other Justice: John Brown

Translation of  a post by John Brown, originally posted in Voces de Pradillo 13th July 2013.

-The Rule of Law has been saved
-Good work
(El Roto)

The Other Justice

The demand for justice undoubtedly belongs to the moral and political heritage of the people and the proletariat.

To demand justice from this point of view means to rebel against inequality, against any situation where certain men may place themselves above others and exercise dominion over other persons. Justice ought to permit social and political equality, but under the present circumstances it does not do so. Today, justice does not guarantee equality, but rather equality between the owners of property and its inevitable corollary, effective inequality between property owners and those of no property.

Anyone who possesses only their own hide but has no access to their own means of production and life is formally equal to the boss to whom they must sell ‘their labour’ in order to live, but in practice, beyond the phantasmagoria of commercial law, in the hard world of capitalist production, the most perfect inequality reins.

To demand justice under these conditions means demanding the application of clauses that give legal sanction to a real relation of inequality. The popular demand for justice is, however, perfectly legitimate, but it can only be effective if it is tied to the construction and development of social practices that base equality not in property, but in free access to the productive commons and social wealth.

The recent initiative of recreating a Socorro Rojo (‘Red Aid’) in order to organise grassroots public services and social assistance that States deny the population, by organising the distribution of food and other basic goods to the ever growing number of people in need, is an excellent initiative that goes precisely in the direction of this kind of justice and equality.

Today, the question of justice fills the news in Spain with the scandals that have recently come to light affecting the highest spheres of the government and the State. The Bárcenas papers[1] and the Gürtel case[2], among many other cases of corruption, show us that the most powerful have, for years and with full impunity, been violating laws and helping themselves to public money without any kind of scruple.

This is perfectly normal, at any rate, in a regime such as Spanish neoliberal transfrancoism, which, as with other neoliberal regimes, has abandoned any perspective of public interest and claims that the government must put the defence of private interest first. The servants of a privatised State are thus the first to serve themselves, since their interest forms part of this prized private interest which, according to neoliberal ideologues, will end up benefitting the whole of society, by virtue of the trickle-down principle.

In recent years we have seen how this trickle down has been accompanied by an enormous gushing upward of social wealth, which has served to dry out completely the soil on which the majority of society lives, by depriving them of public services and social rights that until now had been considered basic. To think that the pony of the Partido Popular[3], the residence of the lover of the Head of State[4] and successor to Franco, and the Barcelona mansion of Mr and Mrs Urdangarín[5] have been funded at the cost of children starting to faint from hunger in primary schools, arouses an understandable outrage and a demand for justice.

However, justice is not the solution to the problem that afflicts our societies. The mere demand for justice, which we could call ‘justicialism’, has few perspectives on effectively changing reality. Corruption undoubtedly exists, but no-one should fall under the illusion that by putting an end to corruption things are going to improve palpably for everyone. Even if the whole government and the main ‘opposition’ party and the highest figures of the Bourbon family were placed in the dock, and even if they were given harsh sentences and served justice, thus re-establishing the formal legal conditions for the distribution of wealth, the situation for the immense majority of society would remain catastrophic, not because the law was not applied, but by virtue of its strict application.

The illegitimate financial debt that is driving families to ruin and liquidating essential public services would continue to apply with all the catastrophic consequences we see today. Only a formally illegal act with regard to the existing legislation, such as a default on illegitimate private and public debts, can change things. For this, justice is not enough; there is also a need to build the social force capable of imposing this rupture and of mounting effective resistance from below against impoverishment.

It is through the logic of property that Shakespeare’s avaricious Shylock could legally demand from his debtor the payment of a pound of flesh near to the heart. This murderous logic must be broken, not in the name of existing right and justice, but in the name of another right and another justice that base equality and justice not upon property but in free access to common goods. It is only in this way that we will have a justice and an equality rooted in the material conditions for their realisation.


[1] See here.

[2] See here.

[3] In online images of documents that purported to be accounts of the ruling Partido Popular party, one of the items was a pony. In the documents that did get leaked, no such item appeared.

[4] See here.

[5] See here.

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Apologies, President Evo Morales

This is an article by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, published in Público, 13th July 2013.

Apologies, President Evo Morales

I waited a week for my country’s government to make formal apologies for the act of air piracy and state terrorism that it committed, along with Spain, France and Italy when it did not authorise the technical stopover of your plane on its return to Bolivia after a meeting in Moscow, thereby offending the dignity and sovereignty of your country and placing your own life at risk. I did not expect it to do so, since I am painfully aware of the daily collapse of national and international legality underway in my country and in neighbouring countries, and of the moral and political mediocrity of the elites that rule us, and the precarious refuge of dignity and hope in consciences, in streets, in squares, long after having been expelled from the institutions.

It did not apologise. I am doing so, a common citizen, ashamed to belong to a country and a continent capable of committing this affront and of doing so with impunity, given that no international body dares to confront the authors and instigators of this international crime. My apology has no diplomatic value, but perhaps it has a superior value, in so far as, far from being an individual act, it is the expression of a collective sentiment, far greater than you can imagine, on the part of those outraged citizens who every day count more reasons to feel they are not represented by their representatives. The crime committed against you was one more such reason. We were glad of your safe return home and thrilled by the warm welcome you received from your people when you touched down in El Alto. Know, Mr President, that from many miles away, many of us were there, embedded in the magical air of the Andes.

Mr President, you know better than any of us that this was one more act of colonial arrogance in the course of a long and painful history of oppression, violence, and racial supremacy. For Europe, an Indian president is more Indian than president, and for this reason, it is to be expected that he should transport drugs or terrorists in his presidential plane. A suspicion of a white man against an Indian is a thousand times more credible than the suspicion of an Indian against a white man.

It is worth remembering that Europeans, in the figure of Pope Paul III, only recognised that the men and women of your people had a human soul in 1537 (bull Sublimis Deus), and they proved as ignominious in the terms in which they rejected that recognition for decades, as in the terms in which they finally accepted it.

It took 469 years for the election, your own election, of an indigenous president in a country with an indigenous majority. But I also know that you are attentive to differences amid continuities. Was the humiliation of which you were a victim an act of colonial arrogance or colonial submission? Let us recall another recent ‘incident’ between European and Latin American rulers. On the 10th November 2007, during the XVII Ibero-American Summit in Chile, the King of Spain, who was irritated by what he was hearing from the sadly missed President Hugo Chávez, addressed him abruptly and ordered him to be shut up. The sentence “why don’t you shut up” [por qué no te callas] will go down in the history of international relations as a cruelly revealing symbol of accounts still to be settled between former colonising powers and their former colonies. In fact, it is unimaginable that a European head of State might publicly address another European counterpart in such terms, whatever the reasons.

Mr President, you were a victim of an even more humiliating aggression, but the fact will not have escaped you that in your case, Europe did not act spontaneously. It did so under the orders of the United States, and, in doing so, it bowed to the international illegality imposed by North American imperialism, in the very same way, years previous, it had done by allowing the flyover of clandestine CIA flights in its airspace, in clear violation of international law. Signs of the times, Mr President: European colonial arrogance can no longer be exercised without colonial submission.

This continent is becoming too small to become great without being atop another’s shoulders. None of this absolves the European elites. It merely deepens the distance between them and so many Europeans, such as I, who see in Bolivia a friendly country and who respect the dignity of your people and the legitimacy of its democratic authorities.

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Venezuela and Snowden: In search of human rights

Edward Snowden (centre) with Sarah Harrison (left) of WikiLeaks. Photograph: Tanya Lokshina/Human Rights Watch

Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.

I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.

-Edward Snowden, Friday July 12, 15:00 UTC

What follows is a translation of an article by Juan Carlos Monedero, originally published in Público, 6th July.

Venezuela and Snowden: in search of human rights

There once was a time where the citizens of Europe, after having defeated fascism on their own soil through much pain, said to the world that human rights were the thread of dignity that maintained a flame of hope. It was time, true enough, of colonialism too, of economic expansion, of use and abuse of the resources of others, but also of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, of the struggle against the dictatorships of Somoza, Pinochet and Videla, of the condemnation of Israel at the United Nations for its criminal behaviour in Palestine, of criticising walls that robbed peoples of their freedom, of frontal opposition to a genocidal Cambodia, to the political and economic disasters in Africa, and also of a clear reproach to the United States, which had a democratic discourse but a practice distant indeed from those ideals. A United States that, once, was also able to denounce Watergate and oppose a government that was committing a genocide in Vietnam.

A time where freedom of expression belonged to peoples and not to media corporations, a time where there were brave magistrates who would confront Executives because Constitutions said that basic rights and freedoms were the preamble to life in common. It was a time when Europe was a continent open for asylum, where any democrat in the world knew they were going to find a friendly hand, a decent government, a committed civil organisation. Where abuses by government would encounter a brake, were decent people risking everything knew they would find support, where heroism was recognised because that was what democracy demanded. But Europe sold that legacy off. Latin America has taken up the mantle.

The guarantee of human rights is today in Latin America, in Venezuela, taking in Edward Snowden, who, with the good faith recognised by the United Nations, has denounced the spying practices of the United States government. In Ecuador, which gives asylum to Julian Assange, who is responsible for making democracy more transparent thanks to the publications of Wikileaks. In Bolivia, which expels North American spies and mercenaries in the name of sovereignty. In stricken Nicaragua, which still dares to do what bigger countries do not dare. In UNASUR, which denounces the pirate behaviour of France, Italy, Portugal and Spain on preventing the passage of the plane of the President of Bolivia.

It’s not a mere question of governments. It’s a matter, above all, of peoples. If the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela today grants asylum to Snowden it’s because it has a people behind it that has decided to make dignity its flag. Something, it seems, that we have forgotten in Europe. A Europe that obeys the United States instead of defending the person who tells it that the global gendarme is also a big spy that has no friends. Venezuela, a small Caribbean country, telling the world that human rights are a priority. Those who wonder about the legacy of Hugo Chávez in that country ought to think about that. Those in Europe who feel each day that our rulers are trampling over our constitutions ought to think about that.

To all those persecuted by oppression, dictatorship, authoritarianism, the governments of democratic Europe signified the opportunity to protect dignity. Dignity, which today despite everything, and alone, social movements across the world continue to defend. With the sole help of Latin American governments. However still believes in the human being and her rights ought to thank them for their commitment. The courage of Venezuela, at a moment when the United States is prepared to send to Guantanamo or kill with its invisible murderous aircraft whomever contradicts it, advances arguments in favour of dignity. It is the optimistic part of a world in the shadows of pessimism. The lightning flash in the night that illuminates our solitude. Latin America truly is a new continent.

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Snowden and the new Empire: John Brown

This is a translation of a post by John Brown, originally published on his site Monday 8th of June.

Snowden breaks cover in Moscow

Snowden and the new Empire

The German magazine Der Spiegel has just published an interview with Edward Snowden in which he declares that despite the official protests over the massive eavesdropping on authorities and citizens of the German Democratic Republic, the country’s authorities not only knew of the eavesdropping but had accepted it. Such was the acceptance that in the new American base planned for construction on German territory in the near future, the United States National Security Agency, where Snowden worked, would have an eavesdropping centre. It is very likely that further revelations from Snowden will indicate very similar situations in other European Union countries. Hidden behind the -moderately- scandalised declarations of certain European leaders with regard to the NSA’s eavesdropping, there is a type of relation with the United States that has nothing to do with the one that operates between sovereign States.

Beyond the formal abnormality of eavesdropping on citizens and authorities, which simultaneously violates the national sovereignty of States and the constitutional rights of citizens, there is a new post-sovereign constitution based on unilateral transparency. The United States has, in effect, the right to obtain data on European citizens and authorities, without this transparency operating in a reciprocal manner. This means that the North American State, specifically its executive and its intelligence services, exercise sovereign prerogatives on European soil with neither limit nor reciprocity. This was made very clear, by the way, when -also in relation to the Snowden case- the Spanish minister for foreign affairs José Manuel García Margallo justified prohibiting the presidential plane of Evo Morales from flying over Spanish airspace with the argument that “they told us [Snowden] was on the plane”. Thus it only takes a signal from the CIA or the NSA for States such as the Spanish State to act as enforcers for the North American executive.

The situation described by Snowden in his interview; reactions of automatic obedience such as that of minister Maragallo; and even other episodes worthy of a farce such as that of the Spanish ambassador in Vienna proposing Evo Morales and he should have coffee in his presidential plane to “take a quick look”, are all testimony to the fact that beyond the formal constitutions of our States, there operates a material constitution that has little to do with the former. Modern States are based, as we know, in a principle of internal and external sovereignty that serves as a base for their internal ordering and their relations with other States. External sovereignty demands that other States recognise a given State as the power that exercises exclusive administrative control of a territory. Internal sovereignty, from Bodin onward, makes the sovereign the exclusive holder of political authority and legislative power in a given territory. The entire system of democratic guarantees in liberal States is based on these two principles, since if a State cannot exercise its sovereignty in its territory, nor can it guarantee the freedoms and rights of its citizens. The North American spying revealed by Snowden are a clear case of simultaneous violation of the state sovereignty of European States -and of the weak quasi-federal entity that is the European Union- and of the civil rights of citizens.

From a material point of view, beyond the formalities of international and constitutional law, it has been some time since the sovereign order -whose main features we have just outlined- went out of date. Robert Cooper, one of the advisers to Tony Blair who did most to defend the invasion of Iraq -and who was subsequently advisory to Javier Solana in his role as High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and is today a European External Action Service counsellor- explained this situation in daylight clear terms in 2002 article published in The Observer with the eloquent title “Why we still need empires“. In this text, Cooper claims that after the fall of the major European empires that divided the world among themselves and the end of the imperial divide of the Cold War, we find:

“two new types of state. First, there are pre-modern states – often former colonies – whose failures have led to a Hobbesian war of all against all: countries such as Somalia and, until recently, Afghanistan. Second, there are post-imperial, postmodern states which no longer think of security primarily in terms of conquest. A third kind are the traditional ‘modern’ states such as India, Pakistan or China which behave as states always have, following interest, power and raison d’état .”

Cooper goes on to claim that

“The postmodern system in which we Europeans live does not rely on balance; nor does it emphasise sovereignty or the separation of domestic and foreign affairs. The European Union has become a highly developed system for mutual interference in each other’s domestic affairs, right down to beer and sausages.”

For the purposes of accuracy, one would have to add freedoms and rights to “beer and sausages”, since the States of the EU have between them abolished -among other rights- the right to asylum, and they have automated and greatly simplified processes of extradition.

Facing this “club of friends” composed of the EU and other “postmodern” States such as the United States and Japan, there is a dark outside world where the same rules do not apply and against which, according to Cooper, we

“have to to start to get used to double standards”.

If the decolonisation that put an end to the European colonial empires in the 1960s had recognised the equality of all States as sovereign States, this equality is now questioned from the old colonial powers: the idea of universal international law disappears in favour of the “double standard”. This duality of norms is described in the following -crude- terms:

“Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But, when dealing with old-fashioned states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself.”

Imperial violence and illegality thus continue as guiding principles, when faced with the premodern and modern world. Hence Cooper proposes, so as to stabilise the situation, a new imperial order in which postmodern countries, like the “white man” of yesteryear, assume their “responsibilities” in overseeing more primitive peoples.

Nonetheless, the liquidation of the legal order does not stop at the borders of the postmodern world. The European States also have their internal hierarchies, as can be seen in the current treatment of the debt of countries of the south of Europe, but, above all, they are all subject to the North American hegemonic power, whose orders, even administrative or policing ones, acquire rank and force of law. Thus there exists what Cooper calls a “voluntary imperialism” with institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, which also decide on the fate of developed countries, but what Cooper’s discourse hides is the deep asymmetry of the relation with the United States. Transparency, for the United States, is merely unilateral: they, as effective sovereign of this fictitious postmodern world, have full right to monitor administrations and persons in Europe and they have this right with full recognition and full acceptance of the European authorities. In this way, the quasi-totalitarian policy of mass spying on communications -which has been practised by the US in recent decades and which far surpasses that of the Stasi in the German Democratic Republic- can be extended into Europe. What is more, it can even be extended to the public authorities of European States, which are prepared, in the name of ‘transparency’  and ‘trust’ between allies, to allow themselves to be spied on, perhaps to thereby show their absolute fidelity to the only sovereign that they recognise. Gramsci said that liberalism commits a theoretical error and fools us when it makes us believe it is civil society and the market that decide: “since in actual reality civil society and state are one and the same, it must be made clear that laissez-faire too is a form of state ‘regulation’, introduced and maintained by legislative and coercive means. It is a deliberate policy, conscious of its own ends, and not the spontaneous, automatic expression of economic facts”.  (Q13 §18, pp.1589-1590).

Globalised liberalism needs a sovereign too: in the majority of countries this sovereign is the United States. Perhaps to get rid of it -and of neoliberalism- as many Latin American countries have begun to do, there is a need to create new forms of sovereignty based on a federal European democracy of the commons. Neoliberalism imposes property above the commons, but the creation of Europe as a federal and democratic reality cannot be based on a capitalist property over which only a sovereign foreign power may stand guard, but in the development of productive material and ‘immaterial’ European commons that already exist. Our freedom, and the possibility -presently blocked- for everyone to have access to decent living conditions, depend on it.

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Ecuador President Rafael Correa: “At any rate we are always going to be very concerned with due process, human rights, not only of Mr Snowden but of any citizen.”

Yesterday Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, used his Twitter account to take issue with a Guardian report written by Rory Carroll, based on an interview Carroll held with Correa.

The report bore the headline ‘Rafael Correa: We Helped Snowden By Mistake.’ This headline was widely reproduced by other outlets on the basis of the Guardian report. However, Correa said, via his Twitter account, that Ecuador had never said it support for Snowden in his request for asylum had been a mistake. The headline was subsequently amended by the Guardian to ‘Ecuador says it blundered over Snowden travel document’. You can read the Guardian report here.

Another objection raised by Correa on his Twitter feed was a mistranslation, where Correa was reported to have said that Snowden was a ‘complicated person’, when in fact Correa said that it was the situation that was complicated.

Thus the overall effect of the Guardian report, the contents of which were widely distributed and commented on, was to misrepresent Ecuador’s position vis-à-vis Snowden: portraying Snowden as an unsympathetic character in the eyes of the Ecuadorean government, and portraying the Ecuadorean government as not knowing what it was doing in providing assistance to Snowden.

What follows is a translated excerpt of the interview posted above, from 06:55 onward, in which Correa outlines the position of the Ecuadorean government vis-à-vis Assange and Snowden. It was filmed and made public by the Ecuadorean government.

At one point, Rory Carroll refers to the Communications Law being introduced in Ecuador. You may be interested in this analysis of the law’s content.

Image

RORY CARROLL: With respect to Mr Assange ..is it true that..

VOICE IN BACKGROUND: Coffee?

RORY CARROLL: Yes, I’d love one. Thanks.

RAFAEL CORREA: Two coffees.

RORY CARROLL: Thanks. He (Assange) abused a little the confidence of the Ecuadorean government in this case?

Image

RAFAEL CORREA: Look, I don’t want to judge that. Those are crises, the despair of Mr Assange that Snowden was going to be captured etcetera.. suddenly he does it…he makes declarations that yes, we think were wrong, but we understand the situation perfectly and Mr Assange continues to enjoy our respect and of course, he is under the protection of the Ecuadorean state.

RORY CARROLL: And your ambassador in the United States said, according to (inaudible) that there was the risk that Mr Assange was going to look like the spokesman for the government.

RAFAEL CORREA: No, she didn’t say it, they stole one of her mails. And the message is true, in that she says Mr Assange looks like the government spokesman. And we said to Mr Assange to take more care in his declarations, because it’s true. I heard about the travel pass through Assange’s declarations.

Look, the consul, he (Assange) is in the embassy, he’s a friend of the consul. He calls the consul at 4 in the morning saying they’re going to capture Snowden, the other one is distraught, how do we save the life of this man, and so on. So Assange finds out. But yes, I think that that was a mistaken action by Assange but it does not diminish in the slightest the respect that we have for Mr Assange and his asylum status and he is under the protection of the Ecuadorean state.

RORY CARROLL: Given those circumstances, are you going to sanction the consul?

RAFAEL CORREA: Yes.

RORY CARROLL: And how?

RAFAEL CORREA: That will be the decision of the government in due course, of the Foreign Ministry.

RORY CARROLL: And if.. with regard to snitches* is it not true that according to the Communications Law, snitches in Ecuador could be pursued by the government here?

RAFAEL CORREA: According to the Communications Law? Review it. (Picks up papers)

RORY CARROLL: Section 30, for example.

RAFAEL CORREA: Article.

RORY CARROLL: Article, sorry.

RAFAEL CORREA: (reads) Information of restricted circulation. (to Carroll) This has always existed in Ecuadorean law. (reads) There can be no free circulation in the press or communications media the following information:

That which is expressly protected under a reserve clause previously established in law; information regarding personal data and that which comes from personal communications (to Carroll) that is, protecting privacy (reads) information produced by the Public Prosecutor..the law holds that prosecutorial investigations are confidential, information regarding boys, girls and adolescents that violates their rights as established by the Code of Childhood and Adolescence. What is the problem with this article?

RORY CARROLL: According to some interpretations, someone like Snowden here, if there was an Ecuadorean version of Snowden who were to do something similar, the Ecuadorean State could..the authorities could…

RAFAEL CORREA: Surely in Great Britain, surely in China, in Sweden, every country has restricted information. We have never said that revealing information is permitted. And the consequences would have to be assumed according to the law. What we have said is that what he has revealed,  if a person reveals something that is confidential information, he probably damages the country, but let him say that what we are doing is something illegitimate. Here the core of the matter is that Mr Snowden has revealed something illegitimate. Something that attacks the human rights of the North American people and the sovereignty of states. Because the North American people have been spied upon and states have been spied upon.

So it is not that we are justifying the law being broken and things getting out, no-one has said that. It is perfectly legitimate for any state, even in defence of privacy, of childhood or adolescence, to have restricted information. But the panorama changes completely -someone robs secret information from the Ecuadorean State, just to make money, and he says where the radar stations and defence sites are etcetera, well of course the full weight of the law has to be applied. But it is something else if you divulge something illegal that the government is doing, and you haven’t done so to make money but as Mr Snowden has said, out of his conscience, as a contribution to society and the world. It changes the circumstances completely. That is what we are arguing. We are not..we have never said that restricted information can be divulged. We have not even said so in the case of Assange, so look through all the notes and all my declarations.

RORY CARROLL: In your opinion, could Mr Snowden be a martyr?

RAFAEL CORREA: I don’t want to be putting forward criteria. But I insist: it is not the same as someone divulging a country’s confidential information when that information is legal and legitimate in relation to legal and legitimate actions and to receive money to enrich oneself. We would never even receive a letter from that person. It is another thing for someone without any desire to enrich themselves to divulge information, breaking the law of his country, but information on illegitimate and illegal acts of the North Americans, spying on their own people, spying on sovereign states. I believe a situation of that nature at least deserves consideration, in a request for asylum. They are two different things. Here, they can divulge what they want. They will break the law, due process will apply, but I assure that never will they be able to divulge illegal actions in our government. Because they do not exist.

RORY CARROLL: In your heart Mr President, do you think Mr Snowden one day will manage to come here?

RAFAEL CORREA: It’s very complex, Mr Snowden’s situation. But at the moment he is in Russian territory. So those are decisions that the Russian authorities have to take.

RORY CARROLL: But in your opinion, would you like to meet him?

RAFAEL CORREA: Not particularly. It’s a very complicated situation. Strictly speaking Mr Snowden has also spied for a period of time. At any rate we are always going to be very concerned with due process, human rights, not only of Mr Snowden but of any citizen.

RORY CARROLL: And what would you say to him, if, for example, he was here with us, or what message would you like to send to him?

RAFAEL CORREA: Look, I would like to speak about objective things, in accord with the law, the constitution, what the country is doing. Not subjective things, not about what is happening with me, whether I like him or don’t like him. I don’t know Mr Snowden. And with Mr Assange, the only time I spoke to him was when he interviewed me on Russia Today.

Translated excerpt ends at 13:35.

*The word Rory Carroll uses here is soplón, which is a pejorative term closer to ‘snitch’ or ‘grass’ than ‘whistleblower’.

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Bolivian Vice-President Álvaro García Linera: ‘today certain countries of Europe are subjected to the most terrible, ignominious obscurantism’

This is a rush translation of an address made last night by Álvaro García Linera, Bolivian Vice-President, on the events relating to Bolivian President Evo Morales’s detention at Vienna airport yesterday as a consequence of his presidential plane being denied permission to pass over French and Portuguese airspace, at the behest of the US government who believed that Edward Snowden was aboard the Bolivian presidential plane. Source.

e6125-garcia_linera, n

Good evening Bolivia

As the Bolivian people and the whole world now knows, today Tuesday, at approximately three to half past three Bolivian time, when President Evo was returning from Moscow, -where he had a meeting with President Putin, the final meeting, returning to Latin America, the presidential plane had to pass through the airspace of France, Portugal and Spain, to refuel in the Canary Islands and from there reach the Continent.

The plane received an instruction by the government of France that it could not cross French airspace. As it could neither cross Portuguese airspace, the airport made an emergency request to land at the airport of Vienna, Austria, and it landed at approximately 4:30pm.

In total violation of the Vienna Convention, which establishes that the flights of the world’s presidents cannot be obstructed and have immunity, a pair of European governments prohibited the plane of President Evo from passing through their airspace. From 16:00 until now, at 22:35, President Evo remains stationed at Vienna airport. We want to say to Bolivians, we want to say to the world that President Evo Morales, our President, the President of the Bolivians, is currently kidnapped in Europe. We want to tell the peoples of the world that President Evo Morales has been kidnapped by imperialism and is detained in Europe. He is the first kidnap victim of imperialism, since he is not allowed to cross the airspaces of European countries to return to our country, to Bolivia.

Imperalism has kidnapped President Evo, imperialism has kidnapped the truth, the imperial lie has kidnapped the truth of the peoples. Imperial abuse has kidnapped the dignity of the peoples. Foreign powers -once again, as they did 500 years ago- mistreat and attack a people, the Bolivian people, they mistreat, they attack and they offend the first indigenous President of Latin America. 500 years ago, foreign powers killed indigenous, they kidnapped indigenous, 500 years later, the pale , decadent reflexes of these foreign powers today detain the first indigenous President of Latin America.

We know that this blocking of the President’s journey has been instructed by the government of the United States. The US Government, which is afraid of a peasant, which is afraid of an indigenous, which is afraid of an honest man who defends the sovereignty of our country. Raising aloft a decadent and prostituted politics of empire, they appeal to terror, to fear, to the policed control of their own population and of the entire world and today of the first indigenous President, of Latin America and Bolivia.

This is an affront to all Bolivians. Every Bolivian today feels outraged, we feel offended. But along with the Bolivians all the peoples of the world feel offended, the peasants of the world, the workers of the world, the intellectuals of the world, the young people of the world, the decent persons of the world, who see how a decadent, conniving power uses its power, its arrogance, to attack a simple people, a decent people, hardworking, such as the Bolivian people. A decent President, a hardworking President, an indigenous President, as is President Evo.

But one cannot but notice that behind that imperial arrogance, certain countries in Europe, colonies of this decadent empire, should fall into the way of following suit and obeying instructions from abroad.

What will the peoples of those countries think? Today the colonial countries are no longer here, in Latin America. Today we find colonised countries in Europe, which obey, against their democratic precepts, against international precepts, abusive impositions of a foreign power. Certain European countries have become colonies, abject colonies of the North American empire.

The European Enlightenment is long gone, gone are the lights with which Europe lit up the culture, democracy and pluralism of the world: not only in servile obedience to the imposition of a foreign power, as is the US, but by aggression and attack on the free transit of a President, who by any global convention, has the right to be able to travel the world on official journeys. Obscurantism, a repressive policing stance, and abuse are taking hold of that beautiful Europe, which centuries and decades ago was an example of plurality and respect of the rights of persons and the rights of peoples.

We say to the imperial powers, to the subordinate and colonised countries of Europe, we are not afraid of you. We say that we are not afraid of you because it is no longer the time of empires, because it is not the time of colonies; today is the time of peoples, today is the time of dignity, and I am sure that sooner rather than later the brother peoples of those subject countries will bring their rulers to account for these violations, for these abuses that break with the entire democratic and progressive history of Europe. It is shameful.

I say it again, you do not scare us. We have been in contact with President Evo since the moment that he was instructed that he could not pass through French territory. We are in conversation with our Chancellor, our Minister of Government, the ministers in permanent conversation with the President. We know the current status of his situation and we maintain strength, strength from the dignity that he will not bend. The Bolivians will not bend, the Latin Americans will not bend, they will not make President Evo bend, never again will they bend the indigenous peoples who have raised their heads to define our own destiny.

No power, neither decadent ones or those who long for the old eras of putrefied colonialism are going to scare us, they will not make us step back, they will not make us give in.

The full cabinet, now in session for hours, calls first of all to the peoples of the world, to the peoples of the world to repudiate this abusive, antidemocratic stance that goes against the principles that regulate peaceful and democratic co-existence between peoples, civilised, to repudiate this kind of troglodyte, archaic, colonialist and abusive stance against President Evo.

We call on the workers of the world, to the labourers of Europe, to the youth of Europe, to young peasants and labourers throughout the world, where there are peoples, where there are millions of Evo Morales, to manifest their objection, to manifest their outrage against this act of imperial arrogance, to manifest their objection to this imperial kidnapping of President Evo.

We call on the peoples of Latin America, on the progressive governments, to speak out, we ask for the peoples of Latin America, for the governments of Latin America, to come together in emergency, to take a position on this abuse.

Today Latin America is being trampled on, not only Bolivia, its smallest country, its most sacrificed, but also the most struggling country that the continent has. It is Latin America that is being trampled, it is the dignity of the Latin Americans that is being attacked.

We call on Latin America to speak out, to meet in emergency in the different instances they have, that Latin Americans have to take a firm and strong position; first, of respect for the life of our President, for protection of the life of our President, because his life was at risk this afternoon, when he was prevented from passing through French territory. Not only were international treaties violated, but the life of the indigenous President of Bolivia was put at risk.

We ask them to speak out, we ask the peoples to speak out, unions, universities; there can be no impunity for this final flicker of 19th century imperialism for which there is no room in the 21st Century.

To the Bolivian people, we want to give thanks for the different, plural, demonstrations of every social sector, for unity with regard to our President. We have communicated to our President Evo minutes ago the affection and support he has received from different social, political and cultural sectors; we ask the Bolivian people to maintain unity around our President.

Today Bolivia is Evo Morales, today the people is Evo Morales; Evo Morales is Boliva, and let us all stay united. Let the Bolivian people be in no doubt that we are doing everything, we are using every necessary means established by diplomacy and dignity to ensure that our President returns here to Bolivia as soon as possible. We are going to make every effort.

But we also want to say the following, we are not going to accept blackmail from any country. In the hours and minutes past, they have sought to blackmail the President, that they would give him authorisation to fly over certain European countries as long as they allowed the Presidential plane to be checked. When has this ever happened? President Evo is no criminal, President Evo has the right of any President to immunity in his flight, and what we say is true, we have never lied, the information that corresponds to official voyages has been given, and that is our final word. President Evo is going to repsect the dignity of the Bolivians, the dignity of the indigenous of the world, the dignity of Latin American, he has the right to take off to return to Bolivia as soon as possible.

We are not going to accept blackmail, any kind of conditioning, peoples of the world, let us defend dignity; peoples of the world, let us reject imperial arrogance; peoples of the world, let us not allow our indigenous President to become a hostage of imperialism detained in Europe.

Bolivian men and women, let us stay united, let us trust that in the following hours our President Evo will be once again with us and we will greet him with all the affection and with all the pride that a decent man who right now is representing all the peoples of the world kidnapped by imperial arrogance.

It is not the time of empires and their decadent lashing out, and in the final instance they will not make us step back, we will maintain as a consequence this line of dignity, of respect for peaceful coexistence among the nations and peoples, but above all pride, of revolutionary pride in who we are, workers, revolutionaries, indigenous, fighters who defend the interest of every working person in the world.

That is what we wish to inform you, in the following hours that come the cabinet will remain in session, certainly the political commission, and as soon as we have more precise information regarding the flight of President Evo, we are going to be informing the press. I want to thank you for your attendance, good evening.

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Translation: Analysis of Ecuador’s new media law

This is a translation of an analysis of Ecuador’s new media law by Pascual Serrano, originally published on Spanish site eldiario.es on 29th June. Serrano is one of the founders of Rebelión, an indispensable Spanish-language news resource and has published numerous books on communications media.

Ecuador has come in for criticism in Western media for what is claimed to be restrictive laws that silence dissent. See, for example, this post by Roy Greenslade in the Guardian, titled ‘Journalism under attack across the globe imperils press freedom’ that reported on a Committee to Protect Journalists report citing Ecuador in this regard. An Index on Censorship piece claims that the ‘forced publication of government-friendly stories is a terrifying prospect‘. Terrifying perhaps, if it could be proven to exist.

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On 14th of June past, Ecuador’s National Assembly approved the Communications Law, a piece of legislation that, as established by the 2008 Constitution, should have come into force a long time ago. This imperative was one of the elements that the country’s president, Rafael Correa, had to remind people of in each interview he gave in Spain, in which the matter of the law was sure to be raised by a journalist suggesting that it amounted to an attempt by Correa to interfere with freedom of expression.

If communications have been the object of a heated debate throughout all of Latin America, in Ecuador this has been accentuated by the long period of debate relating to the preparation of this new law. Let us not forget that Ecuadorean law was the first to establish that the banking sector was incompatible with ownership of communications media. After popular consulation by referendum in May 2011, a majority of Ecuadoreans expressed their stance favouring that “neither private financial sector institutions nor private national communications firms, including their directors and main shareholders, may occupy positions, directly or indirectly, through shares or stakes, in firms other than financial or communications activity, as the case may be.” That is, it was inadmissible to be a director or important shareholder in a financial entity and to be a director or important shareholder in a media outlet. The recent decisions of the government of Ecuador, giving refuge to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden [this was written when it appeared clear that Snowden would get asylum in Ecuador] have turned it into a major protagonist as regards communications policies.

The new law, inevitably since it came from a left wing government and parliament in Latin America, has been described once again as a “muzzling law” by the proprietors of major media firms and business organisations. Hence it is important to focus on its textual content.

One of its main characteristics is to uphold the sovereignty of communications media, hence (article 6) Ecuadorean communications media that are national in scope cannot belong either to foreign firms or citizens of other countries. By contrast, in Spain, television channels (Telecinco) and newspapers (El Mundo) are either majority or entirely owned by foreign shareholders.

The Ecuadorean law also establishes that all communications media (public, private and community-based) must draw up codes of ethics to which professionals may refer in order to refuse compliance with any instruction that runs contrary to the code. The failure to comply with codes of ethics can be reported by any citizen or organisation through the Information and Communications Supervisory Board.

Another major problem relating to news content is truthfulness, something already covered in the Spanish Constitution without there being any legislation in our country that develops it. The Ecuadorean law (art. 10) establishes “verification, timeliness, contextualisation and contrast in the transmission of information of public relevance or general interest” as well as “abstaining from intentionally omitting or distorting elements of information”. Equally (art. 22), it is established that “every person has the right for information of public relevance that they receive via communications media to be verified, contrasted, precise and contextualised.”.

One of the most controversial articles and the one most cited in Spanish media regards “lynching by media” (art. 26) in which it is indicated that “it is forbidden to transmit information that, whether directly or via a third party, is produced in a concerted form and published repeatedly via one or more media outlets, with the purpose of damaging a natural or legal person or reducing her public standing.” According to the law, the body that establishes the measures to take will be the Supervisory Board for Information and Communication, a non-government entity, elected by the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control, and its sanction will be limited to the demand for the publication of a public apology. It does not seem logical that the prohibition applies if the facts supplied are true, given that, as we pointed out earlier, article 22 establishes the “right to receive information of public relevance that is true”.

The democratisation of communication and information has been one of the major objectives of the Latin American governments. To this end, Ecuador’s Communications Law establishes that the relevant public servants and public authorities will work to “create the material, legal and political conditions to arrive at and deepen the democratisation of property and access to communications media, to create communications media, to generate spaces for participation, for access to frequencies on the radioelectric spectrum assigned to radio and television services”.

This democratisation of communication is closely related to media ownership. To this end, the Ecuadorean law establishes an equitable distribution of frequencies (art. 106) along the lines of what other countries such as Argentina, Uruguay or Brazil have done. Thus “the frequencies on the radioelectric spectrum destined to the functioning of open signal radio and television stations will be distributed equitably in three parts, reserving 33% of these frequencies for the operation of public media, 33% for the operation of private media, and 34% for the operation of community media”.

Similarly (art. 113) prohibits any natural or legal person from concentrating or accumulating licences for frequencies or signals for radio and television. Thus the same person cannot be granted two radio or TV licenses. Precisely the opposite was done in Spain: when the number of broadcasting licenses multiplied due to the implementation of Terrestrial Digital Television, the government opted to concede the new signals available to the same firms that already held the analogue licences.

In Ecuador, the licence is for a period of fifteen years and, also by contrast with Spain, where certain firms have rented out their licence and are making a profit from it, there is a prohibition on “any act that is oriented towards any other natural or legal person enjoying or profiting from the use of said frequency licences. If any natural or legal person, by using any legal format, seeks to sell, resell, transfer or rent out frequency licenses assigned to them by the State, said transactions will be null and void and will generate no right for whoever supposedly acquires them; on the contrary, this will be sufficient cause for the licences to be immediately revoked and the frequencies licensed out will return to administration by the State.”

A very novel element to this law is the prohibition on prior censorship, but not only by government authorities, as is established in our legislation, but also, as well as by a public servant or authority, by “shareholder, partner, advertiser or any other person who in carrying out his or her functions or in this capacity revises, approves or denies content prior to its transmit via any communications medium, in order to obtain by illegitimate means a benefit for himself or herself, to favour a third party and or to damage a third party”. The law establishes (art. 18) that “communications media have the duty to cover and broadcast facts of public interest. The deliberate and recurring omission of matters of public interest constitutes an act of prior censorship. Those who engage in prior censorship or carry out acts that lead to it taking place in an indirect manner will be subject to administrative sanction (…)”.

The law dedicates an entire section to the rights of communicators [‘comunicador‘]. A conscience clause is established in it with the object of guaranteeing their independence. By virtue of this clause they can have grounds to refuse an activity contrary to the Ethics Code of the firm or to refuse to sign a text authored by them if it has been modified. It is also indicated that the exercise of the conscience clause cannot be considered under any circumstances as legal grounds for the sacking of the communicator. Moreover, journalists will have the right to make their disagreement with the media outlet public, via the outlet itself.

Equally they will have rights to remuneration in accordance with salary scales fixed by the competent authority, to social security and other labour rights, in accordance with their functions and competencies. In private media firms, in the case of risk coverage, to be covered with private insurance policies for life, accidents, third party damage, legal assistance, loss or theft of equipment.

Contrary to what has been denounced with regard to the new communications laws in Latin America, the Ecuadorean law does not promote a submissive attitude with regard to public powers, on the contrary it establishes (art. 71) that there is a need to “develop the critical sense of citizens and promote their participation in matters of general interest” and that communications media must “serve as a channel for denouncing the abuse or illegitimate use that state functionaries or particular individuals might make of public and private powers”.

In the same manner it is established (art. 72) that “during the election campaign, communications media will ensure that candidates from all political movements and parties participate under conditions of equality in debates, interviews and opinion programmes carried out with the purpose of allowing the citizens to acquaint themselves with the political profiles, programmes and proposals for posts assigned by popular election.”

Citizens will also have a greater role in media. The Audience Defender [Defensor de las audiencias] is created, such that media with national coverage will be obliged to have a defender of their audiences and readerships, designated through public concourse organised by the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control. Moreover they will have mechanisms of interaction with their audiences and readerships, and spaces for the publication of errors and corrections. Regarding public media, these will have an editorial council and a citizen council; and “their editorial autonomy will be guaranteed”.

A fundamental component of Latin American communications is community media. These are “those whose ownership, administration and management correspond to non-profit collectives and social organisations, to communes, communities, peoples and nationalities”. They are not for profit and for the benefit of society.

The Ecuadorean legislation establishes (art. 86) that “the State will implement the necessary public policies for the creation and strengthening of community media as a mechanism for promoting plurality, diversity, interculturality and plurinationality; such as: preferential credit for the setting up of community media and the purchase of equipment; exemptions from taxes for the importing of equipment for the functioning of community-based print media, radio and television; access to training for media, administrative and technical management of community media”. Curiously, Spain’s General Law of Audiovisual Communication not only does not provide any support for this kind of media, but rather prevents their development by establishing a limit of €100k annual funding to television channels and €50k to radio stations.

By contrast, in Ecuador (art. 87), “through contracting mechanisms that favour solidarity-based economics, set forth in the law of Public Contracting, State entities at their different levels will  use community media in the contracting of advertising, design and other services, which entail the transmission of educational and cultural content. Public entities will be able to generate competitive grants for cultural and educational transmission via community media”.

Ecuadorean legislators have shown their concern for supporting domestic production. Hence the obligation is established for national audio-visual media to destine (art. 97) at least 60% of their daily programming to the transmission of domestically produced content. Equally, with regard to music, radio stations that broadcast musical programmes, music produced, composed or performed in Ecuador must represent at least 50% of musical content in all of its timetabling, with the payment of author rights in keeping with the law’s provisions.

As Sally Burch, community journalist of the Latin American Information Agency (ALAI) has pointed out, “the passing of the Law, no doubt, does not represent the culmination of the process, but rather a starting point, since, beyond the opposition offensive announced on a national and international level on the part of the mass media industry, which continues to call it a “muzzling law”, and the inevitable challenges in the courts, democratisation can only become reality to the extent that it is appropriated by the citizens, in particular by the popular classes, in exercising their right to expression”.

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