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Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela

A food policy pedlar’s annual derby

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IFPRI_GFPR_2012Evidence, investment, research, commitments and growth. You will find these reprised in the second Global Food Policy Report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, which, as I must never tire of mentioning, is the propaganda department of the CGIAR, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which, ditto, is the very elaborate scientific cover for control over the cultivation and food choices made especially by the populations of the South). And now, with the dramatis personae properly introduced, let me quickly review the plot.

The GFPR (to give this slick production an aptly ugly acronym) for 2012 follows the first such report and furthers its  claim to provide “an in-depth look at major food policy developments and events”. It comes equipped with tables, charts, cases, apparently authoritative commentary (many from outside IFPRI), and is attended by the usual complement of models and scenarios (can’t peruse a report nowadays without being assaulted by these).

In an early chapter, the GFPR 2012 has said:
“Evidence points to a number of steps that would advance food and nutrition security. Investments designed to raise agricultural productivity — especially investments in research and innovation — would address one important factor in food security.”
“Research is also needed to investigate the emerging nexus among agriculture, nutrition, and health on the one hand, and food, water, and energy on the other.”
“In addition, by optimizing the use of resources, innovation can contribute to the push for a sustainable ‘green economy’. Boosting agricultural growth and turning farming into a modern and forward-looking occupation can help give a future to large young rural populations in developing countries.”

The G20 in session

The G20 in session

Consider them one by one. Whose evidence? That of the IFPRI, the CGIAR and its many like-minded partners the world over (they tend to have the same group of funding donors, this institutional ecosystem). A round-up of food policy by any outfit would have ordinarily included at least some evidence from the thousands of studies and surveys, large and small, humble and local, that discuss policy pertaining to food and cultivation. But, you see, that is not the CGIAR method. What we have then is the IFPRI view which, shorn of its crop science fig leaf, is similar to that of the Asian Development Bank’s view, the World Bank’s view, the International Finance Corporation’s view or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s view (raise your fist in solidarity with the working class of Cyprus for a moment). And that is why the GFPR 2012 ties ‘investment’ to ‘evidence’, and hence ‘research’ to ‘food security’.

What research? Well, into “the emerging nexus among agriculture, nutrition, and health” naturally. This extends the CGIAR campaign that binds together cultivation choices for food staples, the bio-technology mittelstand which is working hard to convince governments about the magic bullet of biofortification (especially where cash transfers and food coupon schemes are already running), and the global pharmaceutical industry. It is really quite the nexus. As to food, water and energy, that is hardly an original CGIAR discovery is it, the balance having being well known since cultivation began (such as in the fertile crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates, about seven millennia ago, now trampled into sterility by ten years of an invasion, or as was well recognised by the peons of central America, an equal span of time ago, and whose small fields are being reconquered by the GM cowboy duo of Bill Gates and Carlos Slim).

What kind of ‘green economy’? Among the many shortcomings of IFPRI (in common with the other CGIAR components) is its studied refusal to incorporate evidence from a great mass of fieldwork that supports a different view. ‘Growth’, ‘modern’ and ‘forward looking’ are the tropes more suited to a public relations handout than an annual review of policy concerning agriculture and therefore also concerning the livelihoods and cultural choices made by millions of households. IFPRI’s slapdash use of ‘green economy’ reflects also its use by those in the circuit of the G20 and by the Davos mafia – they are the hegemons of politics and industry who force through decisions (they use sham consensus and gunpoint agreement) that have scant regard for climate change, biodiversity loss or dwindling resources. Hence the IFPRI language of “optimizing the use of resources”. The idea of unfettered growth as the way to end poverty and escape economic and financial crisis remains largely undisputed within the CGIAR and its sponsors and currently reflects the concept as found in ‘green economy’.

Food (trade and commodity) security.

Food (trade and commodity) security.

[The GFPR 2012 report and associated materials can be found here. There is an overview provided here. There are press releases: in Englishen Français and in Chinese.]

“Building poor people’s resilience to shocks and stressors would help ensure food security in a changing world”, the IFPRI GFPR 2012 has helpfully offered, and added, “In any case, poor and hungry people must be at the center of the post-2015 development agenda”. Ah yes, of course they must be, in word and never mind deed. “International dialogues, such as the World Economic Forum, the G8, and the G20, must be used as platforms to develop this concept, propose policy options, and formulate concrete commitments and actions to reduce poor people’s vulnerability to food and nutrition insecurity and enhance their capacity for long-term growth”.

To call the World Economic Forum, the G20 and the G8 ‘platforms’ and ‘dialogues’ is laughable, for there are no Southern farmers’ associations present, nor independent trade unions, nor members of civil society and community-based organisations that actually pursue, rupee by scarce rupee, the agro-ecological restoration of rural habitats in the face of migration, rural to urban, that occurs through dispossession, nor are there any of the myriad representatives of socialist and humanist groups whose small work has a restorative power greater than that of the CGIAR and its sponsors.

Never part of the CGIAR-IFPRI sonata that is played at these ‘dialogues’, there is ample evidence (since that is the theme) of locally articulated and politically wrested food sovereignty that can be held up as examples with which to reduce poor people’s vulnerability. In the past ten years, countries particularly in South America (we salute you, Hugo Chavez) have incorporated food sovereignty into their constitutions and national legislations.

In 1999 Venezuela approved by referendum the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela whose Articles 305, 306 and 307 concern the food sovereignty framework. In 2001 Venezuela’s Law of the Land concerns agrarian reform. In 2004 Senegal’s National Assembly included food sovereignty principles into law. In 2006 Mali’s National Assembly approved the Law on Agricultural Orientation which is the basis for implementation of food sovereignty in Mali. In 2007 Nepal approved the interim constitution which recognised food sovereignty as a right of the Nepalese people. In 2008 Venezuela enacted legislation to further support food sovereignty: the Law of Food Security and Food Sovereignty; the Law for Integrated Agricultural Health; the Law for the Development of the Popular Economy; the Law for the Promotion and Development of Small and Medium Industry and Units of Social Production. In 2008 Ecuador approved a new constitution recognising food sovereignty. In 2009 Bolivia’s constitution recognised the rights of indigenous peoples as well as rights to food sovereignty. In 2009 Ecuador’s Food Sovereignty Regime approved the Organic Law on Food Sovereignty. In 2009 Nicaragua’s National Assembly adopted Law 693 on Food and Nutrition Security and Sovereignty.

This is what true resilience looks and sounds like. For those unfortunate populations that continue to struggle under a food price inflation whose steady rise is aided and abetted by the CGIAR and its sponsors, the alternatives become clearer with every half percent rise in the price of a staple cereal, and with the loss of yet another agro-ecological farming niche to the world’s land grabbers.

Hasta siempre comandante Chávez

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Hasta_Siempre_Comandante_ChavezFour short and insightful tributes to Chávez in Monthly Review’s MRZine.

From ‘Farewell Comrade Chávez’, by Fred Magdoff – “With the death of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela and the world have lost a leader whose primary concern was to bring a new system into existence – one he referred to as 21st Century Socialism. Hugo Chávez was well aware, as many Venezuelans are, of the problems that remained in the country. But this remarkable man has created space to try new ideas and begin the process that will hopefully lead to a lasting transformation to a more humane society.”

From ‘Por Ahora: A Few Words for Hugo Chávez’, by Chris Gilbert – “Most people won’t remember well the details of the moment in which Chávez implied that George W. Bush was the devil. The truth is it wasn’t planned at all. I believe the ‘mot juste’ simply occurred to Chávez there in UN in 2006. Who smelled more of sulfur than Bush? The words traveled around the globe.”

From ‘The World-Historical Importance of Hugo Chávez’, by Jay Moore – “On a world-historical scale, Chávez was of enormous significance because he and his Bolivarian Movement put revolutionary socialism back onto the global agenda. Chávez was first elected as Venezuelan president in 1999. The Zapatista guerillas with the iconic Subcomandante Marcos had emerged from the Chiapas jungles in 1994 and inspired some new hope. But the world was still reeling from the collapse of “really existing socialism” in the Soviet bloc in 1991. Then, seemingly bursting out of nowhere but actually, as we began to learn, out of a long tradition of struggle against neo-liberalism in Venezuela, came Hugo Chávez, a man incorporating in his physiognomy all the colors of the hemisphere and a highly gifted orator.”

From ‘Chávez’s Chief Legacy: Building, with People, an Alternative Society to Capitalism’, by Marta Harnecker – “Chávez conceived of socialism as a new collective life in which equality, freedom, and real and deep democracy reign, and in which the people plays the role of protagonist; an economic system centered on human beings, not on profits; a pluralistic, anti-consumerist culture in which the act of living takes precedence over the act of owning. [the creation of] communal councils (self-managed community spaces), workers’ councils, student councils, and peasant councils is so important, for the purpose of forming a truly collective structure, which must express itself as a new form of decentralised state whose fundamental building blocks should be communes.”

Written by makanaka

March 7, 2013 at 20:59

The Damascus fork in the Middle East road

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The much abused label of a “humanitarian” intervention has been brought out again, for Syria, by the USA and its allies in western Europe. After the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the UN Security Council vote (meaning the vetoes by China and Russia) as a “travesty” and having said “we will work with the friends of a democratic Syria around the world to support the opposition’s peaceful political plans for change”, the French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé called the vetoes a “stain” on the UN, adding that French President Nicolas Sarkozy would soon present further initiatives against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

These clumsy but belligerent posturings are aimed at lending some kind of moral legitimacy to a violent intervention in Syria and ignoring the profound opposition these policies provoke amongst the working class in USA and in Europe, and opposition in the Middle East and Asia to a new zone of war. Even in the Western media it has been widely reported that pro-US powers, including Turkey and France, are providing arms and aid to Syrian opposition forces – methods that have become typical of the topplings pursued in the Middle East and North Africa regions during the decade of 2000-2010.

[See ‘When China and Russia use the veto’ posted a few days earlier.] Here is a selection of recent developments, statements and responses:

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) issued a communiqué on 2012 February 05 from Caracas. This said: “The heads of state and government of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) reiterate their condemnation of the systematic policy of interference in and destabilization of the brother Syrian Arab Republic, the aim of which is to impose, by force, regime change on the Syrian people.”

“The ALBA member states condemn the acts of armed violence that irregular groups supported by foreign powers have unleashed against the Syrian people.  The member states hope that the Syrian society will return to calm and develop in peace. The ALBA countries reiterate their support for the policy of reforms and national dialogue promoted by the government of President Bashar al Assad, seeking to find a political solution to the current crisis, respecting the sovereignty of the Syrian people and the territorial integrity of that brother Arab country.”

The original communiqué “Alba ratifica su apoyo a Siria” can be read at the website of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry (translation by Yoshie Furuhashi).

An editorial in the People’s Daily, China has said: “The US and Europe are likely to move against Syria without UN backing. China and Russia are acting within the UN framework, but the US and Europe are trying to set their own rules. In the 2003 Iraq war, France and Germany shared the same stance as China and Russia. During the Bosnia-Herzegovina war in the 1990s, the UK and France sided with Russia.”

“It is far different now. Shared values are bonding Europe and the US again diplomatically. They both adopt this value diplomacy as a powerful tool in the current global competition. With their declining technologic advantage, values are being applied to widen the gap between the West and the developing countries. The US still enjoys dominant military power, which helped it win the Cold War and smash the Milosevic and Saddam regimes. But now it faces economic competition from emerging countries, where military power cannot help directly.”

The Voice of Russia has reported that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and foreign intelligence chief Mikhail Fradkov arrived in Damascus on Tuesday  (2012 February 07) to have talks with the country’s leader Bashar Assad and give him a letter from President Dmitry Medvedev. The VoR`s Olga Denisova reports from Damascus. On their arrival at Damascus airport, Sergei Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkov were greeted by a top-ranking delegation. When the Russian officials were taken to the center of the city, they could see crowds of pro-Assad supporters, some of them holding Russian flags. People were chanting ‘thank you, Russia!’ At some moment, police officers found it hard to keep people at a necessary distance from the Russian car procession as too many of them wanted to welcome the envoys.

Speaking during a press-briefing after the talks, Mr. Lavrov said that the Russian message was accepted in Syria: “We confirmed our readiness to help Syria overcome the ongoing political crisis relying on three principles outlined in the Arab League`s initiative on November 2, 2011. The Syrian leader, on his part, confirmed his adherence to the policy of non-violence.”

According to Voice of Russia, Bashar Assad said that Syria is interested in the Arab League`s mission to be resumed and even expanded. He believes that the Arab League monitors should watch the situation in all restive districts of the country and report all violations, no matter on which of the opposing sides. Mr. Lavrov told journalists that Mr. Assad confirmed his government`s readiness to start an interethnic dialogue as suggested by the League. Mr. Assad is also expected to have talks with a commission that deals with preparing a draft constitution for Syria. After the draft is ready, a national referendum on the new constitution will be held, to be followed by parliamentary elections, which Assad described as “not offering any privileges to the ruling Ba`ath party”.

Reuters has reported that Russia has won a promise from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday to bring an end to bloodshed in Syria, but Western and Arab states acted to isolate Assad further after activists and rebels said his forces killed over 100 in the city of Homs. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, representing a rare ally on a trip to the Syrian capital that other states are shunning, said both countries wanted revive a monitoring effort by the Arab League, whose plan to resolve Syria’s crisis Moscow and Beijing vetoed in the U.N. Security Council.

According to the Reuters report, there was an indication from Lavrov’s comments that the issue of Assad eventually giving up power – a central element of the Arab proposal that failed in the Council – had been raised. Assad said he would cooperate with any plan that stabilised Syria, but made clear that only included an earlier Arab League proposal that called for dialogue, release of prisoners and withdrawing the army from protest centres. Russia’s mediation failed to slow a rush by countries that denounced the Russian-Chinese veto three days ago to corner Syria diplomatically and cripple Assad with sanctions in hopes of toppling him.

A perspective from the World Socialist Web Site has said that the supposed “principles” underlying the US initiative – that the major imperialist powers have the right to intervene and depose the governments of former colonial countries they deem guilty of violating human rights – stand in complete contradiction to international law. As in everything else, the American financial aristocracy makes up the rules as it goes along.

The reasoning of the Russian and the Chinese governments is fairly straight-forward. They see the US posturing once again as the champion of democracy and human rights as it carries out a relentless campaign of aggression aimed at transforming Iran and Syria – both key trading and strategic partners with Moscow and Beijing – into neo-colonial puppet states of American imperialism. The modus operandi in pursuing these imperialist aims is now all too familiar. A targeted regime is denounced with hypocritical invocations of human rights violations after the US and its allies promote civil war in the country and then utilize the inevitable repression as the pretext for intervention.

This was the formula employed successfully in Libya, after Russia and China abstained, failing to exercise their veto, on a resolution authorizing a “no-fly zone,” supposedly to protect the civilian population. This resolution was then exploited as a pseudo-legal fig leaf for a US-NATO war of colonial aggression involving non-stop bombardment of Libya. Special forces and intelligence assets led the so-called rebels in the toppling and ultimate assassination of Muammar Gaddafi.

Jorge Insunza, a leader of the Communist Party of Chile and a member of its Central Committee and Political Commission, has in an interview said: “The Communist Party of Syria, which is a great, serious, and responsible Communist Party and which is not part of the Syrian government, says that it is necessary for Syria to make progress in the deepening of the real exercise of democratic rights. That there have been flaws and errors is an objective fact. However, North American intervention would not solve any democratic problem. On the contrary, it would result in the establishment of a power that would be much more repressive than the current government which allows the existence of parties that are not part of it and have a critical perspective as in the case of the Communist Party of Syria.” This interview was released by TeleSur on 2012 February 03.

Another bit of calm, comrade – Chavez undaunted

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The following is the full text of the message sent by president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chavez Frias in response to the message sent by Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M) on August 8, 2011:

Hugo Chávez, sin cabello por efectos de la quimioterapia, pero con la Constitución Nacional en la mano. Photo: El Nacional / Prensa de Miraflores

I send you a fraternal and Bolivarian greeting, with the living testimony of my affection and friendship.
I deeply appreciate the numerous enthusiastic demonstrations of solidarity that I have received from the brotherly nations of Venezuela, as well as Heads  of State and governments of numerous countries of our America and around the world.
After completing the first cycle of medical treatment that I have been prescribed and having made a colossal effort to celebrate together with the Venezuela people the bicentennial of the declaration of independence, I returned to the warm city of La Havana with my daughters to continue, under the strict care of a team of high class doctors, the second phase of treatment to which I am subjected.
In this complicated and difficult crossroads at which life has placed me, I proceed the long way and difficult road of return, therefore I have the conviction that all the love, all the solidarity received in recent days is the most sublime energy that boosts and will boost my desire to win this new battle that life has thrown up.
When an event like this happens, in difficult moments, the company of friends and the timely words of encouragement they give you are more valued than ever. Throughout my life, no doubt, I have been repeating the mistake of neglecting my health and now I have to confront difficulties to continue the good march towards the future.
Attended by Cuban and Venezuelan doctors trained with the most advanced scientific knowledge which they have in hand, now I must pass through a slow and careful monitoring and treatment, which accepts no rush or pressure of any kind. My discipline to recover the health is, at this point rigorous.
The hours of meditation and inner search of the necessary potential will help me to come out of this adverse situation, I have rediscovered the wise and generous words of the great Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo, especially the verse that invokes hope and patience.

Chávez cree que se desplomó la esperanza que para algunos significó Obama. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

Another bit of calm, comrade;
A lot, immense, northern, complete
Fierce, small calm,
To the service less than every victory.

With the calmness recommended by the immortal Cesar Vallejo, that one serves under each victory, I have taken care of my health in a comprehensive and rigorous way. Thanks to the God of my fathers, to quote our Liberator Simon Bolivar, I can say that I am recovering physically, intellectually, morally and with a political strength that will allow me to confront with fortitude the challenges ahead.
Much work remains to be done to meet the immense commitment to solve the problems of the Venezuelan people to finally consolidate our country’s independence, long-awaited justice and equality. I remain in command of the Bolivarian government, with the support of a great team of ministers that is under the unconditional service of the highest interests of the country.
As you know, Venezuela celebrated in a great way the bicentennial of its independence, an event that obliges us to pick up the torch of our first liberators and to continue the struggle for independence, sovereignty and freedom of our people. Bolivar said: “I desire the formation in America of the greatest nation in the world, not so much as to its extension and wealth as to its glory and freedom.”
Friends around the world, I invite you to continue accompanying Venezuela with the same solidarity and respect of always, to keep together, scaling new heights and to build the better world we want. I reiterate my unconditional friendship, and my infinite affection for every interest and the concern expressed in recent days.
From the great nation, from my heart, from my whole soul, from my supreme hope, which is of a people, I say for now and always:
We will live and win!

Hugo Chavez
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

[From People’s Democracy, the organ of the CPI(M)]

Written by makanaka

August 20, 2011 at 13:18