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Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2014, 06:11 PM
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Journal Archives

Patt Derian: human rights crusader.

A brief look at Patricia M. Derian, who served as Undersecretary of State for Human Rights under President Jimmy Carter from the creation of the post in August 1977 until Reagan took office in 1981 (and tried to replace her with an man, Ernest Lefever, who not only believed the post should be abolished; but that there should be no human rights policy at all).

Today is also the 40th anniversary of the last military coup in Argentina, a regime whose Dirty War Derian did so much to mitigate and in fact, by 1980, effectively end.

Former Buenos Aires Herald editor Bob Cox: Americans helped the victims in the 1970s.

Not expecting to be in Argentina for the 40th anniversary since the last military dictatorship took power, former Buenos Aires Herald editor Bob Cox was caught by surprise when the White House sent him an invitation to join the delegation accompanying United States President Barack Obama’s first visit to the country.

But the Obama administration wanted to make a point of gathering human rights activists and leaders that denounced the atrocities committed during that period (1976-83), inviting former US diplomat Tex Harris and others to attend the event. In an interview with the Herald by phone from his apartment in Recoleta, after just arriving from Atlanta, Georgia, Cox spoke about what made him decide to take the last minute trip to Buenos Aires.

Why did you travel to Argentina for the 40th anniversary of the last military dictatorship?

The White House sent us an email while we were in Atlanta, wanting us very much to come as they were aware of the role we played in the dictatorship. What is so wonderful is that this is a chance to really clear up things. The American role in the last military dictatorship is misinterpreted, unknown, and this event will help get the truth out.

Why do you think Obama’s visit on the anniversary is so important?

This is a chance for Argentina to get on the right side of history; to move things forward. Despite whatever the Mothers (of Plaza de Mayo) might say or behave. It should help bring things to a full circle. The truth will get out eventually.

Are you going to participate in the Memory Park event with Obama?

Yes, we are going to AMIA, the State Dinner and the Memory Park event. It’s wonderful that Obama will pay homage to the victims of state terrorism at the Park of Memory. This could be a celebration of democracy, if you give the proper homage to those victims that were murdered during that time.

Many human rights activists are protesting against Obama’s visit on this sensitive date because of his drone policy, for instance. They say it’s wrong to invite Obama on a day that is supposed to pay homage to victims of state terrorism, when he is responsible for implementing a drone assassination policy that is reported to have killed hundreds of civilians — people that didn’t get to be tried or represented in court. What is your opinion?

That is their privilege. There are a lot of people in the United States that protest this, and we should protest it. But human rights are not picking one thing or another. It’s not making choices of what’s good or bad terrorism. I think the human rights organizations will eventually see that democracy and human rights lies with Obama. When you take the good and bad overall, the good the United States did in preventing human rights abuses is overwhelming.

What is your reaction to Obama’s statement earlier today that since the 1970s, human rights has become an important factor in US foreign policy?

Yes, former President Jimmy Carter made human rights important in US foreign policy. The US and Argentina have the same belief of human rights as a state policy. We need not to forget the past, but know more about it. We still don’t understand what causes terrorism. Obama’s visit is much more than a symbolic gesture, it’s recognition of the role human rights activists had in the country.

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/211325/%E2%80%98americans-helped-the-victims-in-the-1970s%E2%80%99

Certainly the Carter administration did.

What Obama Should Know About Macri’s Argentina.

During his trip to Argentina this week, President Obama is unlikely to visit Milagro Sala. A prominent social activist in the northwestern province of Jujuy, Ms. Sala was arrested in January at the behest of Gov. Gerardo Morales, a political ally of the country’s new president, Mauricio Macri.

There has been international outrage over her detention; Pope Francis, the United Nations and Amnesty International have expressed concern. Not the White House: When announcing Mr. Obama’s visit, it thanked Mr. Macri for “his contributions to the defense of human rights in the region.”

President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba has all the pageantry of a farewell to the Cold War in Latin America. His visit to Havana will serve as a symbolic climax in the normalization of American relations with Cuba’s Communist government. But his excursion to Argentina has a very different resonance.

Shortly before President Obama’s arrival in Buenos Aires, his administration announced the declassification of United States government documents relating to Argentina’s 1976-83 military dictatorship. Yet the visit is not about the current state of human rights, but about free trade and hemispheric security. An acknowledgment of the malign role the U.S. played in the early years of the dictatorship is welcome, if overdue. But to ignore the red flags on human rights raised by the recent actions of Argentina’s new ruling party is a worrying reminder of that legacy. For Mr. Macri, Mr. Obama’s visit is already an endorsement.

The arrest of Ms. Sala illustrates the Argentine government’s new hard-line approach. Her organization played an important role in providing for socially excluded groups offering them housing, jobs and education. Ms. Sala was detained for leading a protest of cooperative workers, the unemployed and indigenous people in one of the country’s poorest provinces. Later, she was accused of embezzling public funds. That judicial investigation must run its course; but due process demands that she should not be imprisoned in the meantime.

This arbitrary detention comes amid a rash of measures taken by the Macri administration that have weakened the rule of law on the pretext of security, economic freedom and the war on drugs. In January, within weeks of taking office, Mr. Macri declared an emergency that allowed military forces to shoot down unidentified planes suspected of drug trafficking. In effect, the president had decreed a de facto death penalty without trial. It is counter to the core principles of Argentina’s post-dictatorship reforms that prohibit military intervention in domestic security.

Soon after President Macri’s inauguration, the highest court in the capital, Buenos Aires, ruled that police officers could demand identification from citizens there without probable cause, a ruling that gives a green light to harassment based on prejudice. In an equally troubling move, the federal government recently unveiled a new protocol for policing protests that gives the authorities more power to put down and criminalize demonstrations; this in a country where people value the right of free assembly and often take to the streets to fight for their rights.

Argentina’s economic and political meltdown in 2001 conclusively demonstrated that the free market approach of the 1990s had not made life better for ordinary people. Yet, Mr. Macri and his team are reviving failed policies of the past. With commodity prices in decline, they want to attract foreign investment by cutting their way to competitiveness: reducing public spending and shrinking government.

Despite campaign vows to strengthen democratic institutions, Macri is governing in the other direction. In December, he tried to appoint two new Supreme Court justices by fiat, bypassing Senate approval. Facing an outcry, the president backpedaled and sent the nominations to the Senate. In another highhanded move, Mr. Macri used executive orders to alter a cornerstone of media law that had amplified freedom of expression by bolstering anti-monopoly regulations. Such a presidential intervention would be appalling in any circumstances; but in the context of Argentina’s political polarization and other repressive measures is cause for alarm.

The risk of militarizing public order, the weakening of institutional restraints on executive power, the criminalization of protest, and a fixation on promoting free-market orthodoxies are echoes of Latin American dictatorships from the 1970s and ’80s - many supported by the United States. President Jimmy Carter did try to curb the continent’s repressive forces. But President Obama should not now endorse state violence and ideological bigotry as acceptable side effects of the United States’ larger goals of promoting free markets and security cooperation.

A presidential visit to Argentina that neglects to notice how Mr. Macri’s government is undermining human rights and democratic institutions — and instead pours empty praise on his policies — will rightly be read as a return to the bad old days.

At: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/24/opinion/what-obama-should-know-about-macris-argentina.html?_r=0

Left to right: Obama's pendular swing through Latin America.

President Barack Obama departed today from his historic state visit to Cuba and will land around midnight in Argentina. This pendular motion from visiting a country ruled by a left-wing government, to one now ruled by a right-wing government, has to do with U.S. politics. The visit to Argentina seeks to neutralize any "left-wing" aspersions Obama's critics have cast against him for his Cuban visit.

To be sure, the president's visits to both countries are mainly of symbolic significance. For Cuba this visit, while mostly a gesture with no concrete announcements on disputes such as the 54-year blockade or the return of Guantánamo, was nevertheless meaningful in that it broke the proverbial ice. This was no easy undertaking, given the opposition from certain quarters within the CIA and the Miami Cuban exile community, which for decades monopolized official Washington policy toward Cuba. Obama's visit breaks that barrier and opens up a range of possibilities for the island.

For the Cuban people, moreover, the fact that the first President of the United States to visit the island in 88 years is black and has an elegant, beautiful black wife makes the thaw in relations all the more endearing. The Obama family has a special charisma among the Cuban people. For President Obama it's important to dispel notions that the U.S. is Cuba's enemy as this has been the principal obstacle the U.S. has had in winning the ideological dispute. And time was of the essence, because it would have been very different with Trump or Clinton.

Obama's visit to Argentina, however, lacks either the symbolism or the potential for concrete announcements. This is an administration which, paradoxically, has been less supportive than George W. Bush's was on Argentina's principal bilateral dispute with the U.S.: vulture funds and their demands for astronomical payouts on old defaulted bonds.

The Obama administration voted against the Argentine proposal at the UN General Assembly for an international debt/bondholder dispute resolution mechanism - a proposal approved last year by a vast majority of countries at the General Assembly. Nor did the Obama administration intervene in the judicial dispute with vulture funds when it could have done so, and despite the fact that those who control vulture funds are massive contributors to the Republican Party.

Before embarking in his Latin American tour, Obama made statements about the region designed to placate the right. Referring to Argentina, he mentioned that with former President Cristina Kirchner "I had a warm relationship; but her policies were anti-American." He provided no specifics, nor did he mention the vulture funds. He spoke as if the bad image that the U.S. has in Latin America was the work of a Marxist or populist campaign, rather than their own history of interventionist policies in the political realm and predatory actions in the economic.

His visit to Argentina is in that spirit. The very timing of his arrival, just three months after President Mauricio Macri took office - a right-winger who's a friend of Donald Trump (and not of Obama or Hillary Clinton) - further underscores that point.

It should also be noted that while the U.S. ostracized Cuba until only recently, Cuba has had normal and fraternal relations with all its Latin American neighbors - particularly over the last decade. This did not occur by happenstance; it was the result of efforts by regional leaders such as Brazil's Lula da Silva, Argentina's Néstor Kirchner, and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. Their advocacy for the incorporation of Cuba into the regional community of nations led to a break in Cuba's isolation, and arguably paved the way for Obama's policy of rapprochement today.

The problem is that these efforts to promote U.S.-Cuban reconciliation were carried out without asking permission from the State Department. However prescient these efforts may seem today, for Washington they are an example of "anti-American" policy of the kind Macri would never make the "mistake" of pursuing.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/elpais/1-295148-2016-03-22.html&prev=search

On Palm Sunday, Pope Francis denounces poor treatment of refugees fleeing to Europe.

Pope Francis in his Palm Sunday homily decried what he called indifference to the refugees flooding into Europe, making a comparison to authorities who washed their hands of Jesus' fate ahead of his crucifixion.

Before celebrating an outdoor Mass, Francis led a procession through St. Peter's Square to usher in Holy Week, the solemn period leading to Easter. Faithful Catholics clutching olive branches and braided palm fronds received his blessing.

Francis abandoned his homily text to lament Europe's handling of the influx of migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing war, persecution or poverty from Syria, Iraq, Africa and elsewhere.

Palm Sunday recalls a crowd's triumphant welcome of Jesus entering Jerusalem. But soon Jesus would be condemned to be crucified after a series of authorities declined to rule on his fate. Francis drew a parallel to that with some European countries' refusal to take responsibility for some of the more than 1 million refugees who reached European Union shores last year after risky sea voyages arranged by smugglers.

Jesus was "denied every justice," the pope said. "Jesus also suffered on his own skin indifference, because no one wanted to take on the responsibility for his destiny."

"And I am thinking of so many people, so many on the margins, so many refugees" for whom "many don't want to assume responsibility for their destiny," Francis said in a clear reference to Europe's migration debate.

At: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2016/03/20/on-palm-sunday-pope-francis-denounces-poor-treatment-refugees-fleeing-to-europe/

Dozens help build cabin in defiance of pipeline route through Ashfield, MA.

A post-and-beam cabin the size of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond home went up Wednesday as an act of civil disobedience; but the timber-frame structure is sanctioned in Ashfield, where Selectboard members, who oppose the Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline, helped Will Elwell and a few dozen volunteers build the cabin Wednesday morning.

“We’re here doing our job — to oppose the pipeline,” said Selectboard member Ron Coler, who pointed out that the town adopted a resolution to oppose the controversial pipeline last year. “Ashfield is second in (proposed) pipeline length only to Northfield,” said Coler.

Selectboard member Todd Olanyk added that this week, the board voted to ask annual town meeting voters to spend $10,000 to help in a legal fight, led by Montague, to oppose building a pipeline that runs through several Franklin County towns, going east to Dracut. Montague is the only Franklin County town with intervenor’s status to oppose Berkshire Gas Co.’s request to the state Department of Public Utilities to buy gas from pipeline proposed by energy giant Kinder Morgan.

Builder Will Elwell designed the cabin from hand-hewn barn beams donated by Nick Meyer of Conway, as a symbol of resistance to the pipeline. “This is going to be a symbol of our discontent and our disappointment with the gas line company and their disrespect for us,” said Elwell, in a speech just before the first walls went up.

He said the proposed pipeline route is to cross the road and run directly under the center of the cabin.

“I’m hoping it will be a symbol of our hopes for stopping the pipeline,” said Elwell. “Henry David Thoreau wrote the book on Civil Disobedience, and having the right to make our wishes known. There is some kind of disconnect with the system, which is allowing this pipeline to come right through.”

At: http://www.recorder.com/News/Local/Dozens-help-build-cabin-in-defiance-of-pipeline-route-Ashfield-710037

107,000 jobs lost in Macri's first 100 days in office in Argentina.

Argentina lost 107,000 jobs between the public and private sectors in the first two months of 2016, according to a report published March 8 by the Mexico City based consulting firm Economic and Financial Trends. March 18 marked 100 days since the right-wing administration of President Mauricio Macri took office.

The report noted that amid a general increase in labor unrest, dismissals, and suspensions, there were 41,900 layoffs in January - half of which were in the public sector and half in the private sector. The firm's chief economist, José Luis Blanco, noted that "the trend is alarming in that in February the number rose to 65,800 layoffs, and the vast majority (55,200) were in the private sector."

"It's a very high number, a record that exceeds 70 times the layoffs registered at the same time last year," he said.

The National Secretary of Labor, Alejandro Sabor, denied that 107,000 jobs have been lost - but gave no official figures. "This new government does a lot to avoid unemployment," he said.

The sudden and sharp deterioration in the Argentine labor market, which as recently as November 2015 recorded the lowest unemployment rate (5.9%) since 1987, was first brought to the fore earlier this year by public sector unions denouncing the dismissal of 25,000 public employees in January alone.

The Macri administration justified the layoffs of public employees by claiming that they were mostly people who supported his predecessor, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, or were hired merely to collect a salary.

Blanco agreed that "in recent years the State helped contain unemployment with massive hiring;" but pointed out that most layoffs since January have been in the private sector. According to Economic Trends, the sector hardest hit with layoffs and suspensions is construction, followed by the metallurgical, oil, retail, gastronomy, and textile sectors.

Labor rights advocacy organizations meanwhile have filed numerous complaints of wrongful dismissal on behalf of thousands of employees in several national government ministries.

Using allegations of inflation data manipulation, President Macri ordered the National Institute of Statistics and Census (Indec) to stop reporting most socioeconomic data - including employment and unemployment figures - just days after taking office.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://noticias.lainformacion.com/mano-de-obra/empleo/despidos/Argentina-perdido-empleos-febrero-consultora_0_896612090.html&prev=search

It's worth noting that 107,000 jobs lost in just two months for a nation of 43 million is equivalent to over 800,000 jobs in the U.S.

The last time that happened in the U.S., we were in the dying days of the Bush regime.

U.S. to declassify dictatorship-era files on Argentina.

Source: Buenos Aires Herald

In a historic move that could help shine light on one of the darkest chapters of Argentina’s past, President Barack Obama will declassify decades-old intelligence and military documents to help the ongoing investigations into crimes against humanity. The news, announced yesterday by the White House, sends a strong message days before the 40th anniversary of the last military coup and Obama’s arrival to the country on March 22.

A day after officials announced that President Obama wanted to honor the victims of the last military regime, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice confirmed that Obama will participate in a ceremony at the Memorial Park in Buenos Aires on March 24 - the day of the anniversary.

President Mauricio Macri will likely join him, as will Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, said government sources. Human rights activists such as the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo will be meeting today to define whether they will join the ceremony or if they will instead request a private meeting with the U.S. president.

“To underscore our shared commitment to human rights, the President will visit the Memorial Park to honor the victims of Argentina’s dirty war,” Rice announced yesterday. “In addition to more than 4,000 documents that the US has already released from that dark period, President Obama — at the request of the Argentine government — will announce a comprehensive effort to declassify additional documents —including, for the first time, military and intelligence records,” the adviser said, merely hours after the New York Times called in an editorial for the release the files and to help with the investigations in order to acknowledge the role Washington had during the 1970s and 1980s in the region.

“On this anniversary and beyond, we’re determined to do our part as Argentina continues to heal and move forward as one nation,” Rice added.

Read more: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/210947/us-to-declassify-dictatorshipera-files

The New York Times demands Obama declassifies Argentina's dictatorship-era files.

The New York Times today published an editorial in which the prestigious newspaper referred to President Barack Obama’s visit to Argentina next week and the role plated by the United States in the country’s 1976-83 civil-military dictatorship during which an estimated 30,000 dissidents were killed.

“When President Obama visits Argentina next week during the 40th anniversary of the coup, he should make a pledge that Washington will more fully reveal its role in a dark chapter of Argentine history," the New York Times editorial said. It pointed out that the State Department has already declassified around 4,700 documents from the “Dirty War” period; "however," it adds, "much of that record remains obscured."

“Declassifying a more extensive set of documents would also bring into sharper focus a shameful period of American foreign policy, during which Washington condoned and in some instances supported the brutal tactics of right-wing governments in the region. It is time for the American government to do what it still can to help bring the guilty to justice and give the victims’ families some of the answers they seek,” the editorial reads.

The Times also highlighted the struggle of Argentine human rights groups in seeking the truth about the country’s darkest period when “military officials abducted thousands of civilians” and “hundreds of babies, who were stolen from Argentines who were arbitrarily detained, were raised by military families.”

At: http://buenosairesherald.com/article/210889/the-new-york-times-demands-obama-declassifies-argentinas-dictatorshipera-files-

The title of the article is "America’s Role in Argentina’s Dirty War" (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/17/opinion/americas-role-in-argentinas-dirty-war.html?ref=world&_r=0)

Argentina's Macrisis: the poor lost 24% of their purchasing power; even the richest tenth lost 11%.

A report published last week by Argentina's National Research Council (CONICET) estimated that since the right-wing administration of President Mauricio Macri took office three months ago, Argentine households have lost 17% of their purchasing power on average. The trend was seen in all income deciles, moreover, and ranged from an 11.1% decline in the case of the richest tenth to 23.8% in the case of the poorest tenth.

The report, The Asymmetrical Impact of Higher Inflation in Argentina, pointed to Macri administration policies such as a steep devaluation of over 50%, export tax cuts, easing of export quotas on consumer goods, and cutbacks in utility and fare subsidies as some of the principal causes of higher inflation and the consequent erosion in real incomes. The report was based on research by Demián Panigo, Sergio Rosanovich, Fernando García Díaz, and Pilar Monteagudo at the Metropolitan Technology University's Labor Innovation Center (CITRA).

According to the report, "the period from November 2015 to February 2016 has not only registered the highest rate of inflation since 2002; but it has significantly altered the dynamics of relative prices to the detriment of the purchasing power of those with fewer resources."

Overall inflation rose from 24% in 2015 to 35% in February; but the impact on basic goods and services was both higher and more disparate. Food prices rose by 39%, average rents by 63%, and average utility rates by 405%. Inflation, according to the report, is not expected to ease and could reach 55% by October.

Because food and beverages make up a higher share of household budgets for the poor, rising food prices have impacted those in lower income deciles much more, proportionately, than those in higher deciles. Whereas the richest tenth lost 5% of their real incomes due to higher food and beverage prices since November, the median household lost 9% on this account, and the poorest lost 15%.

The 400% hike in average utility rates have likewise been felt most by the poor: they lost another 6.3% of their purchasing power on higher utility rates, while the median household lost 3% and the wealthiest lost 1.7%. Higher rent, for those who are tenants, have eroded real incomes by a further 4% so far; but because higher income households tend to pay higher rents already, the impact there was shared about equally by all income groups.

Food, beverages, rent, and utilities - the items most impacted by inflation under Macri - together make up 31% of high-income households' budgets, 45% for a median household, and 56% for low-income households.

"Higher income families tend to spend more on services (personal, leisure, tourism) and durable goods. Low-income households, on the other hand spend more of their budgets on food, transportation, rent, and utilities. Therefore, when inflation is being stoked by a currency devaluation or higher rates and fares, the principal victims are the poor." Accordingly, the study predicts that "for low-income sectors, there will be fewer resources devoted to leisure and a migration toward goods of lower quality."

A market study released yesterday by Spanish consulting firm Kantar Worldpanel, a UNICEF partner, estimated that demand for groceries and other basic household goods fell by 8% in Argentina in January, and that the only items that saw a consistent improvement in sales were store brands.

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/economia/2-294503-2016-03-14.html&prev=search

And: http://eppa.com.ar/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/EL-IMPACTO-ASIME%CC%81TRICO-DE-LA-ACELERACIO%CC%81N-INFLACIONARIA-EN-ARGENTINA-FINAL.pdf
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