Jun. 20th, 2011

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Please, Stop Trying to 'Fix' Honduras: Letter to the Los Angeles Times

A response to the recent Op-Ed entitled “Fixing Honduras” by Noah Feldman, David Landau and Brian Sheppard that was published in the L.A. Times.
This op-ed by US-based constitutional lawyers completely misidentifies the real crisis in Honduras.

For the authors, the problem to be solved is one of political instability, a power struggle amongst politicians that to be avoided by way of slight tweaks to the constitution. The real crisis in Honduras is the 300,000 rural families without access to land, not counting the thousands that have fled the country entirely. It's the poverty rates as high as 80%, where community after community lacks basic sanitation, much less roads or medical clinics. It's the political system that has failed for decades to address these problems.

The arrogance of titling their article 'Fixing Honduras' is that Feldman is assuming that fixing Honduras isn't a job fit for Hondurans, and more importantly, that fixing Honduras isn't precisely what Hondurans themselves are already trying to do by fighting for an entirely new constitution.

Many Hondurans saw the Zelaya presidency, and in particular his proposal to write a new constitution, as the first genuine attempt to address the country's normalized humanitarian crisis. Many people here are demanding more participation in politics as they've lost faith in the traditional political class. They demand evolution from the representative democracy defended by the current constitution, to a more participatory democracy. The details of the new Honduran democracy would be determined through a constitutional assembly that guarantees real participation for all Honduran sectors and geographical regions. Supporters of this bold plan are merely demanding a right to a referendum to see whether Hondurans want to have such an assembly.

In response to this demand, Feldman tells Hondurans that they can't have a referendum without the approval of those very representatives they are rejecting. In their words, such a move would “require the assent of other institutions of government, such as the Congress and the courts, before the executive is able to consult the public for any exercise of direct democracy.” Getting assent from the congress and courts has been proven impossible. The members of these two institutions naturally see direct democracy as a threat, given that it's practice requires a loss of power for them. In taking this position, Feldman is protecting the same status quo that the Honduran military and oligarchy have defended so violently both during and since the coup of June 28th, 2009. MORE

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From The “Dirty War” to Poisoned Food: The World According to Marie-Monique Robin

The author of The World According to Monsanto testified in two lawsuits concerning crimes against humanity in Argentina, where her investigation Death Squadrons: The French School helped shed light on the terrorist acts committed by the State. There she agreed to be interviewed and commented on her new book about the pollutants that contaminate the production of food. Like her more well-known investigations, Notre poison quotidien. Comment l´industrie chimique empoisonne notre assiette (Our Daily Poison: How the Chemical Industry Is Poisoning Our Food) this initially began as a documentary, which was soon afterwards followed by a book. During its first television broadcast on March 15th, Our Daily Poison managed to draw the biggest French audience of the year for a documentary of its type shown on prime time. Thanks to its publication by La Découverte [the French publishing house], the book has had an enormous impact in the French press, generating a necessary debate over the regulation of chemical products. Meanwhile, the French-German channel ARTE is preparing for another broadcast, again a television first, of Torture Made in USA (2009), as well as the re-release of Death Squadrons (2003) on DVD. This would seem to give us the perfect chance, then, to give an overview of Robin's colorful journalistic career, which has always been intertwined with Argentina. When she planted her feet on Argentinian soil once more, we knew we couldn't do such an account justice without seeking her comment. MORE

Here's the documentary:

The World According to Monsanto:
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Women gain power in Brazil's Planalto palace

Brazil's first woman president now has ten women in her cabinet, two short of her 30 per cent target.

By appointing women to two key ministries this month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has nearly met her goal of having a cabinet comprising at least 30 per cent women, with women in predominant roles at the Planalto Palace, the seat of government.

Rose Marie Muraro, a writer and pioneer of Brazil's feminist movement in the 1970s who, like Rousseff herself, inspired many of the women in politics today, is enthusiastic.

"The hard core of power is in the hands of women, and that is very important," said Muraro, who was declared by law a "National Patron of Feminism" by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2010).

Muraro is also a role model for women such as Gleisi Hoffmann, who was appointed chief of staff on June 7.

A lawyer and former senator, Hoffmann is nicknamed "the tractor" in the capital's political circles because of her hard work and ability to get things done. She replaced Antonio Palocci, forced to resign over questions about the sudden 20-fold expansion of his personal fortune.

Although there is no proof of illicit enrichment, Palocci's position as Rousseff's "right-hand man" became politically untenable for the governing Workers' Party (PT) and its allied political forces.

The president, who on July 1 will complete her first six months at the head of a moderate left-wing government, surprised politicians again on June 10 by transferring Ideli Salvatti, one of the most combative PT leaders, from the Fisheries Ministry to the key Institutional Relations Ministry where she will serve as Rousseff's chief liaison with Congress.

Brazil's first woman president now has ten women in her cabinet of 38 ministers, so she needs two more to meet her self-imposed target of 30 per cent. MORE
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2009 An Interview with Michael Fox:Beyond Elections in the Americas

...In this interview, Michael Fox, Co-Producer (with Sílvia Leindecker) of Beyond Elections, talks about how the film was created, what its aims were and what the films impact has had among viewers in the US.

Benjamin Dangl: How did you decide on the focus and message of Beyond Elections?

Michael Fox: I’ve been living and working in Latin America for many years, studying and reporting on, above all else, the experiences in participatory democracy- cooperatives, communal councils, participatory budgeting, social movements, community radio, etc… Sílvia (my wife, who grew up in Southern Brazil, and who is also Co-director of the film) and I were living in Venezuela in 2006 when the communal councils law was passed, and local communities all across the country began to come together and take on this new form of organizing. You could see how it was empowering people on an individual and local level.

In March of 2007, Sílvia Leindecker and I found ourselves in Porto Alegre, Brazil – where we now live – at the same time that the 2007 Participatory Budgeting cycle was about to begin. We realized that although there have been many local videos on the experiences of participatory budgeting, cooperatives, social movements and even some on the recently-formed communal councils, there was no documentary film that tried to give both the big and local picture of these new participatory concepts of democracy across the hemisphere.

This concept is almost completely absent in the United States, and yet, it is absolutely necessarily for people to understand what is going on across Latin America, and also extremely important for activists and people in the United States to understand the failures of our own system and the lack of participation and input from everyday citizens.
We originally planned the film to focus only on participatory democracy, but quickly realized that the only people who would want to see it would be activists that are already doing this type of work. We needed to open it up to the very concept of democracy itself. MORE

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 1- Introduction

From Venezuela's Communal Councils, to Brazil's Participatory Budgeting; from Constitutional Assemblies to grassroots movements, recuperated factories to cooperatives across the hemisphere- This documentary is a journey, which takes us across the Americas, to attempt to answer one of the most important questions of our time: What is Democracy? WWW.BEYONDELECTIONS.COM

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 2 (Participatory Budgeting I)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 3 (Participatory Budgeting II)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 4 (Participatory Budgeting III)

Dude at the end talking about participatory budgeting in the USA ignores the obstacles of: the US idea of "being the best in the world" and thus don't need to learn anything from anyone attitude, well funded conservative think tanks US Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, class war to the point of hatred of the poor, and elevation of the middle class, well funded Fox News and elitist media, plus the demonization of anything that is not full-out capitalism, nevermind racism (can you imagine the screaming that a. its from a Latin American country b. the screaming when minority-majority states populations come out and the threatened white people get pissed...I can hear illegal immigration being used as a warcry right now), plus general leftwing uselessness and buyin to the status quo of elections and supporting the Dem party instead of organizing against the establishment as reasons why the fight in the US is gonna be hard as HELL if we actually want participatory budgeting here. I can hear Bill O Reilly and Rush Limbaugh already, nevermind the libertarians. Got to know what exactly you are up against so that you can plan for it. Also, the US does have a history of people organizing to get a bigger say in their government, its just been neatly hidden from the text books and corrupted to whats going on today on the conservative side.

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 5 (Venezuelan Communal Councils I)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 6 (Venezuelan Communal Councils II)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 7 (Venezuelan Communal Councils III)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 8 (Cooperatives I)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 9 (Cooperatives II)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 10 (Social Movements)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 11 (Constitutional Assemblies)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 12 (In the Name of Democracy I)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 13 (In the Name of Democracy II)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 14 (International Organizations)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 15 (Democratizing Democracy I)

Beyond Elections Documentary Part 16 (Democratizing Democracy II)

Review: Beyond Elections

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There are a lot of sources of news and so in order to keep track of them all I have set up this post as a sticky at the top of the page. Feel free to rec new sources:

World News

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Latin American News and Analysis

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CIP Americas

African News and Analysis

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Labour News Sources

Labour Start

Women News

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Australia Broadcasting Corporation


Firstpost via [personal profile] colorblue

Open Magazine


The Hindu

The Times of India

Indigenous Peoples

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