What Are We Celebrating?
While Americans celebrated their independence yesterday, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) held an emergency meeting over the international stop and frisk of Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales:
An emergency UNASUR meeting has demanded the governments of France, Portugal, Italy and Spain apologize for forcibly halting President Morales’s plane in Austria due to suspicions Edward Snowden might have been aboard.
The Cochabamba Declaration issued at the summit also denounced “the flagrant violation of international treaties.”
The treatment of President Morales is significant. In a piece up today at Counterpunch, Diana Johnstone expounds on what this incident may signal for European servitude to US interests in an article titled The Servility of the Satellites:
The Snowden affair has revealed even more about Europe than about the United States.
Certainly, the facts of NSA spying are significant. But many people suspected that something of the sort was going on. The refusal of France, Italy and Portugal to allow the private aircraft of the President of Bolivia to cross their airspace on the mere suspicion that Edward Snowden might be aboard is rather more astonishing.
Together, these revelations confirm the completion of the transformation of the “Western democracies” into something else, an entity that as yet has no recognized name.
The outrage against the Bolivian President confirmed that this trans-Atlantic entity has absolutely no respect for international law, even though its leaders will make use of it when it suits them. But respect it, allow it to impede their actions in any way? Certainly not.
And this disrespect for the law is linked to a more basic institutional change: the destruction of effective democracy at the national level. This has been done by the power of money in the United States, where candidates are comparable to race horses owned by billionaires. In Europe, it has been done by the European Union, whose bureaucracy has gradually taken over the critical economic functions of independent states, leaving national governments to concoct huge controversies around private matters, such as marriage, while public policy is dictated from the EU Commission in Brussels.
But behind that Commission, and behind the US electoral game, lies the identical anonymous power that dictates its desires to this trans-Atlantic entity: financial capital.
While the EU represents captured terrain by global financial gangsters, as evidenced by the continued austerity campaign against the masses, South America continues to offer a critical contrast to that model, especially Venezuela.
With the news today that Venezuela’s democratically elected president, Nicolás Maduro, offered Edward Snowden asylum, investigative journalist Greg Palast offered a bit of context explaining what Venezuela did, under Hugo Chavez, to earn such hatred from the US:
Just after Bush’s inauguration in 2001, Chavez’s congress voted in a new “Law of Hydrocarbons.” Henceforward, Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell Oil and Chevron would get to keep 70 percent of the sales revenues from the crude they sucked out of Venezuela. Not bad, considering the price of oil was rising toward $100 a barrel.
But to the oil companies, which had bitch-slapped Venezuela’s prior government into giving them 84 percent of the sales price, a cut to 70 percent was “no bueno.” Worse, Venezuela had been charging a joke of a royalty – just 1 percent – on “heavy” crude from the Orinoco Basin. Chavez told Exxon and friends they’d now have to pay 16.6 percent.
Clearly, Chavez had to be taught a lesson about the etiquette of dealings with Big Oil.
On April 11, 2002, President Chavez was kidnapped at gunpoint and flown to an island prison in the Caribbean Sea. On April 12, Pedro Carmona, a business partner of the US oil companies and president of Fedecamaras, the nation’s chamber of commerce, declared himself President of Venezuela – giving a whole new meaning to the term, “corporate takeover.”
For Americans, who collectively suffer from severe short-term memory loss, that is the backdrop for these comments from Maduro:
“I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden,” Mr. Maduro said during a televised appearance at a military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.
Mr. Maduro said he had decided to act “to protect this young man from the persecution unleashed by the world’s most powerful empire.”
The desperate push by the US to capture Edward Snowden is bringing up all kinds of baggage. For example, as Obama sought a despicable photo-op in South Africa as Mandela is hovering at death’s doorstep, suddenly the 37 year political imprisonment of Leonard Peltier is percolating to the surface with articles like this:
Barack Obama has taken his two daughters on a dramatic visit to the Robben Island cell once occupied by Nelson Mandela.
Let’s hope he takes them next to the one now occupied by Leonard Peltier.
Mandela was famously held by the apartheid South African government for 27 years. He became a global symbol, then president of his nation.
Mandela was charged, among other things, with attempting to overthrow a government, which he admitted.
For 37 years, Peltier has consistently denied the charges against him, which arose from a native American resistance action at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
His bitterly contested 1977 conviction in the killing of two FBI agents came in Fargo. Peltier has since been held under extremely harsh circumstances in a variety of US prisons. He has been denied a wide range of basic rights, been severely beaten, and can’t get much-needed medical care. Now in his late sixties, Leonard’s health has dangerously deteriorated.
As an indigenous activist, Peltier has been deemed a political prisoner by Amnesty International and numerous other human rights organizations.
Hey America, I’m not sure what the hell y’all celebrated last night, but if it’s our dear founders and their fancy words, then it might be time for a little national introspection, because we are going down a very bad road.