Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Mexico: 50 Peaceful Peace Policies

By Johan Galtung & Fernando Montiel

Toluca, Estado De México; Workshop on Drug Traffic and Violence

300.000 kg of cocaine to USA via Mexico annually; 60% of marijuana producers had lived in misery, US$ 2/day; the drug traffic profit in Mexico was US$ 59 billion, 5% of GNP; 80% was spent on corruption; 125,000 were arrested since 2006; with an impunity of 98%.

2,000 weapons from USA to Mexico daily; 5.5 million legal and 20 million illegal arms in Mexico; 100,000 have died in the “war on drugs” from 2006; 30,000 disappeared; 42+ journalists killed (more than in Afghanistan); 50,000 military troops involved by 2006, 130,000 by 2009, 50,000 in 2012, 32,000 in 2013; US$ 16.6 billion spent on insecurity and violence, 1.34% of GNP.

Due process of law and violence did not reduce drug traffic and violence; a drug-arms-violence-police-military complex had evolved. No general prevention, maybe not even individual prevention. A discourse-change took place: the perpetrators were seen less as evil and more as products of the domestic and regional contexts. The new approach was prevention by eliminating causes. The goal is reduction of drug traffic and of violence, and even if related they were seen as two different goals not necessarily served by the same means.

Which are these means, causes to be handled? Read the rest of this entry »

Chile beats a path on the murder rate

By Jonathan Power

Chile has moved to the left. With Michelle Bachelet’s overwhelming victory in the presidential poll she now has the freedom to legislate as she wants. Poverty reduction, income re-distribution and education are the sharp end of her political program.

But of all Latin American presidents she is perhaps the most fortunate. Despite his draconian suppression of human rights, the dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, who ruled in the 1970s and 80s, not only engineered high economic growth he also kept deep poverty at bay. Read the rest of this entry »

Peace in Colombia?

By Johan Galtung

Bogotá, Direcccion de Inteligencia Policial, Ministerio de Defensa

Generals, Colonels, Conference Participants,

In June 1998 your President’s Office wanted proposals for peace, and I offered peace education, peace journalism and the guiding moral-ethical light, human rights, a holon of civil-political-socio-economic-cultural rights. Colombia is short on the latter, with flagrant injustices and a deep culture of violence.

In this conference a highly counter-productive word is being used: postconflict, instead of post-violence. Do not confuse them: violence means hurting-harming; conflicts are incompatible goals. Conflict may lead to frustration-aggression-violence, but personal and social maturity lead to progress bridging goals, to conflict solution. “Postconflict” sounds like all is solved with the end of violence, oblivious to reducing flagrant inequality, to harmony through empathy, trauma reconciliation, and capacity for ongoing conflict resolution.

Prognosis: violence returns, with a vengeance. Like in Colombia.

In the 1960s major uprisings took place in many parts of the world. There was the anti-Confucian cultural revolution in China for the rights of women, the young, the uneducated, and Western China; the Naxalites uprising in India, low caste and casteless tribals against the sellout to multinationals; the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese in Phnom Penh, in opposition to the French used to colonize Cambodia, and against the capital-city exploiting landless peasants. All three against millennia of solid structural violence.

As also in Nepal with Maoists fighting huge injustices related to caste and nation; like in the Philippines, classes but also Moros vs Christians; and in Sri Lanka, not classes but nations, Tamils vs Sinhalese.

And in Latin America, classes, domestic and imperial–starting with Cuba–in Colombia as FARC-Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and ELN-Ejército de Liberación Nacional against the poderes fácticos latifundista-military-clergy complex and the USA-Colombia military alliance.

What came out of these Zeitgeist revolts in six Asia countries?

Only one country, China, benefitted from conflict resolution; the others, under strong Western pressure, suffered postconflict treatment. The Cultural Revolution was denounced abroad and in China; yet today there are women, young and educated people all over China and West China is blossoming. There are some moves in the same direction in Cambodia.

In the other five: status quo. With foreign advisors democratic constitutions were drafted as the US enters the post-democratic stage with easily corruptible legislators accountable to banks and business, not to the people. The real focus was to restore the government’s army monopoly through the DDR formula Dissolution Disarmament Reintegration; in India and Sri Lanka through mass murder, in the Philippines on again-off-again conferences, in Nepal post-democracy with heavy corruption. Read the rest of this entry »

The Chomsky/Vltchek worldview

By Richard Falk

Recently I read On Western Terrorism: from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare, published in 2013 by Pluto Press here in London, and consisting of a series of conversations between Chomsky and the Czech filmmaker, journalist, and author, Andre Vltchek, who is now a naturalized American citizen.

Vltchek in an illuminating Preface describes his long and close friendship with Chomsky, and explains that these fascinating conversations took place over the course of two days, and was filmed with the intention of producing a documentary. The book is engaging throughout, with my only big complaint being about the misdirection of the title—there is virtually nothing said about either Hiroshima or drone warfare, but almost everything else politically imaginable!

Vltchek, previously unknown to me, consistently and calmly held his own during the conversations, speaking with comparable authority and knowledge about an extraordinary assortment of topics that embraced the entire global scene, something few of us would have the nerve to attempt, much less manage with such verve, insight, and empathy. After finishing the book my immediate reaction was that ‘Chomsky knows everything’ and ‘Vltchek has been everywhere and done everything.’

Omniscience and omnipresence are not often encountered, being primary attributes commonly attributed by theologians to a monotheistic god! Leaving aside this hyperbole, one is stunned throughout by the quality of the deep knowledge and compassion exhibited by these two public intellectuals, and even more by their deeply felt sympathy for all those being victimized as a result of the way in which the world is organized and Western hard power has been and is being deployed.

The book left me with a sense of how much that even those of us who try to be progressive and informed leave untouched, huge happenings taking place in domains beyond the borders of our consciousness. It suggests that almost all of us are ignoring massive injustices because they receive such scant attention from mainstream media and our access to alternative sources is too restricted. And, maybe also, the capacity for the intake of severe injustice is limited for most of us.

The book is well worth reading just to grasp this gap between what we care about and what is actually worth caring about. Read the rest of this entry »

Snowden’s post-asylum relevance

By Richard Falk

Now that Snowden has been given temporary asylum in Russia for a year, attention in the drama has shifted in two directions, although overshadowed at the present by the horrific happenings in Egypt and Syria. The Snowden issues remain important, and it is too soon to turn aside as if the only question was whether the U.S. Government would in the end, through guile and muscle, gain control of Snowden. The issues that should continue to occupy us are as follows:

• interpreting the negative impact on U.S.-Russia relations;

• the claim that if Edward Snowden is a sincere whistle-blower he will now, despite asylum, voluntarily return to the United States to tell his story in open court so as to answer charges that he is guilty of criminal espionage and conversion of government property.

As before, to grasp this post-asylum phase of the Snowden drama a few aspects of the background need to be appreciated:

• right thing, but the structure of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capability at the expense of the freedom of all publics.”

• Russia (and China) never had an obligation: legal, moral, and political, to transfer Snowden in response to the extradition request of the United States Government. Even if there had been an extradition treaty, ‘political crimes’ are not subject to extradition for good reasons. In a plural international order, it is highly desirable to provide foreign sanctuary to those who act peacefully in opposition to an established national political order. The United States itself has engaged repeatedly in such practice, shielding even political fugitives who have engaged in terrorist acts, provided only that the target government was viewed as hostile by Washington at the time of the alleged crimes, e.g. Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela;

• the rationale for refusing to extradite Snowden is particularly strong given Read the rest of this entry »

Geopolitical winds blow in China’s direction

By Richard Falk

Among those who comment influentially from the sidelines of power, there are new trends visible in thinking about American foreign policy. The most salient of these concerns is a shift away from the post-9/11 counter-terrorist agenda to a new phase of mainstream policy advocacy that emphasizes the renewed strategic importance of geopolitical rivalry among leading sovereign states. There is also a shift away from the temptations of military intervention and regime change as a favored Western tactic for sustaining influence in the post-colonial world.

There is a realization, at least temporarily, that adventures in military intervention, whether Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya, are just that – ‘adventures,’ if not fiascos. And costly too, rarely a success even when overwhelming military superiority is brought to bear.

After the Vietnam War there emerged a similar reluctance to intervene overseas that was derisively labeled ‘the Vietnam Syndrome.’ It endured for more than a decade being finally overcome by the low-casualty victory in the Gulf War. I think it is safe to assume that for the rest of the Obama presidency, barring a major unforeseen development, that both counter-terrorism and military intervention will occupy a much lower place on the foreign policy agenda. This observation does not mean that such issues will disappear from view, as the recurrent debate on Syria shows. It does argue that they will be treated by political leaders as Gordian Knots, and addressed only warily and tangentially.

But power centers abhor a geopolitical vacuum. Read the rest of this entry »

America’s war criminals

By Jonathan Power

Someone, somewhere, has to say it – that the U.S. harbours war criminals of its own and they have served not that long ago at the apex of power in the American government.

Alas, no one is going to act like the recently deceased Robert McNamara who served as Secretary of Defence under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. In one speech he described himself as a war criminal – for being party to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for his role in the Vietnam war.

The Obama Administration has to move faster and harder. Last month President Barack Obama implicitly criticised himself for not getting the Guantanamo prison closed. Admittedly to do so has been made very difficult as the Republicans in the Senate have blocked his every move. But he could do more, like transferring some federal courts to Guantanamo.

One wonders if once again if it will all come to nothing, as did the talk that has gone on for decades about prosecuting the former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to President Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger. Read the rest of this entry »

The Americas: Columbia and the U.S.

By Johan Galtung

A few years ago the two countries were the leaders in mental anxiety in the Americas. Both had good reasons: the longest lasting violence in any contemporary country; in Colombia from 1949 with some interruption, then on again from 1964 with FARC, the famous guerilla. And for the USA the conviction that Evil is around every corner, domestic and global; better have the arms to handle those bad guys.

In both, structural violence as unequal distribution of economic wealth and control of economic assets are among the world’s highest.

There is a difference, though: one country submits its problem to third party mediation, Read the rest of this entry »

Hugo Chavez: A maker of history

By Johan Galtung

That his life and his deeds had black dots is part of the story; but that should not block seeing the greatness of a maker of history.

First, in his own society, Venezuela, he lifted the bottom people up from misery, into economic wellness, political participation, cultural pride (of their often African, or Indian, blood), social dignity; much beyond Gini coefficients to measure increasing equality. Even the rich human rights language is too bland to reflect all that.

Second, he did the same for Latin America; he helped lift the bottom countries up, also under the name of the iconic Simón Bolívar: Cuba and Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, Brazil to mention some.

Of course the two policies are related. Colombia with its immense record of violence 1948-2013, is a pariah country and can only be lifted up by lifting its bottom up, attacking flagrant inequality. Chávez and his fellow leaders Castro and Ortega, Correa and Moráles, Lula, are on line. The leadership of the continent, with Kirchner from Argentina, and the Salvador Allende icon from Chile! A formidable team; well beyond the European leaders trying to manage their crises. Read the rest of this entry »

A day of peace for the Americas

By Johan Galtung

From Puebla, México – Universidad de las Americas, 21 Sep 2012

Today is the 2012 day of peace as resolved by the UN General Assembly (Resolution 55/282, 2001; following resolution 56/37, 1981). A day of cease-fire and nonviolence, but open to all peace themes.

And that brings us straight to the key problem in the theory and practice of peace:

Are we thinking of the negative peace of cease-fire and no violence (as distinct from nonviolence), or are we thinking of the positive peace of cooperation for mutual and equal benefit, empathy for emotional harmony, reconciliation of past traumas, and resolution capacity for endless agenda of future conflicts? Read the rest of this entry »


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