Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Log 701 Feb 14 2019: Chronicles from my Tenth Decade: 135; Canada is getting some doubtful friends internationally as our leaders line up behind restoring U.S hegemony over Latin America; and Canada is skilled in “the Culture of Plunder” in Africa; while Alberta practises eco-pornography

Hold on a moment, fellas. You are purporting to lead us, but it seems that maybe you are leading us in the wrong direction.
As our elected government, you have taken a lead, gathered allies, and taken a stand in the decision to overthrow the government of Venezuela. There have even been claims that Canada has been the main protagonist of the so-called Lima group that has robustly declared in favour of the self-appointed Juan Guaido as the real president of the country, thus supplanting by a mere dictat, never mind about an election, Nicholas Maduro.
That sounds very laudable, especially to those the right-wing neo-liberals, who are quite comfortable with unelected or self-appointed officials, or military dictators. But which countries are our friends in the Lima group? Where are we finding our allies these days?
How about Brazil, the giant of Latin America, only recently released from left-wing government by a process so flawed as to be almost laughable, a process in which one president, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached for corruption and replaced by another, Michel Temer, who --- although he had been her main accuser ---  was thereupon himself accused of accepting massive bribes, with the result that he quite wisely decided not to stand for re-election. The man Brazilians wanted to replace Temer was the former president before Rousseff,  Luiz Ignácio “Lula” da Silva, but that wouldn't do, because he had governed as if the huge number of poor Brazilians had a right to some reward for their work, had introduced a family support programme conditional on their children going to school and being vaccinated, a programme that, along with  his provision of low-rent apartments to some 13 million Brazilians,  reduced the impoverished from 40 per cent of the 210 million population to 20 per cent, in the process  lifting 37 million people from the poor into an emerging middle-class. He also took measures to improve schooling, and to send black students --- some 50 per cent of Brazilians classify themselves as black or of mixed race --- and those from the poorly-funded public sector schools to private universities on scholarships.
Lula was caught up in the anti-corruption campaign: it isn’t altogether clear to me that he did anything worthy of his sentence of 11 years imprisonment, which bears all the signs of a measure by the oligarchy that before his accession to power had had an untrammelled run in Brazil, and which simply decided to see the back of him once and for all. That left the field open to a most peculiar representative of the extreme right,  Jair Bolsonaro, a former military officer who had languished undistinguished among the lower ranks of politicians until suddenly being put forward as the likely challenge to a weak field of prospective presidents. Swept into power by a huge Trudeau-maniac-type vote, this man was already known for his expressed fondness for the previous military government that ruled Brazil for 21 years to 1985, and who said he would like to see every family have a gun, and expressed freely and repeatedly misogynistic, homophobic, and racist opinions of an essentially vile nature.
A rather strange bedfellow for “happy days” Justin Trudeau.
But then --- well, how about Peru? A country now ruled over by a guy who had been vice-president until the real president was removed for corruption.
And then, how about Honduras? We remember that Canada played a considerable role in the overthrow of the elected president of Honduras,  José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, in June, 2009, especially through  our government’s efforts to protect the interests of Canadian capital in the country. The Canadian government apparently was particularly active in preventing the return of Zelaya, first, to the country ---when he took refuge in the Brazilian embassy for a few weeks ---  and secondly, to power,  which he attempted, with Brazilian help,  but failed to achieve at least to some extent because of Canadian and American lack of co-operation with him.
Well, we all know that Honduras is an actual banana republic, a description sometimes being applied in these days to Canada, as related to the United  States. But even the United States is investigating Paraguay for money laundering, as is the United Nations in Guatemala for corruption, and in another member of the Lima Group, Colombia, a country where para-military militias have for years been in the business of murdering trades unionists, the UN refugee agency reports that there are eight million internally displaced people.
Oh, yes, not such nice people, some of these Latin American bosses. The new President of Mexico AMLO, as he is called, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to give him his full name, is also as member of the Lima group, but he has wisely tried to find a way to encourage negotiations between the contending parties, the sort of thing that one would have thought Canada might in times past have taken as lead in. (I’ll say it again: we need a new Foreign Minister). Although as anyone knows who has read anything about their past, the Latin Americans are not entirely responsible for their parlous condition but have been the victims of a centuries old onslaught from first British and then American capitalists.
Vijay Prashad, a well-informed journalist and book author, reports that we are not so innocent in Africa, either: according to him, in a riveting report on the 12-step American recipe for regime change, of which the onslaught by sanctions and other measures against Venezuela is a classic example, step No 4, the Culture of Plunder is one in which Canada takes a back seat to nobody:  he gives as an example that the Democratic Republic of Congo, with an annual  budget of $6 billion “is routinely robbed of at least $500 million by monopoly mining firms, mostly from Canada — the country now leading the charge against Venezuela. Mispricing and tax avoidance schemes allow these large firms (Canada’s Agrium, Barrick and Suncor) to routinely steal billions of dollars from impoverished states, while the children remain illiterate.” (More information can be found about this at <>
Of course, talking about our leaders marching us in the wrong direction, I have been astounded by the ease with which the Premier of Alberta, aided and abetted by the federal Prime Minister, has persuaded virtually the whole politico-social leadership of the country to shout enthusiastically in support for the continuing destruction of the globe’s life support systems. They would never admit to it, but that is exactly what they are recommending when they insist that a pipeline must be built to enable the toxic Tar Sands of Alberta to be expanded, not only thereby destroying huge areas of wilderness, but also driving a coach and horses through our slim chance of meeting our targets for carbon emissions into the atmosphere. That, if it comes off, will exacerbate climate warming with many drastic effects that are already becoming evident.
The most extraordinary evidence of how wrong is the path our leaders are embarked on comes not just from their misnaming of this crisis ---- it has been argued between feds and province as simply a “jurisdictional issue”, a staggering example of a displaced euphemism ---- but rather in the eco-pornography launched by the Alberta government, by way of a TV advertisement showing an aggressively healthy-looking Alberta family marching off towards the horizon in a sunny world untroubled by any problems, the commentary remarking  how Alberta oil is essential to the national interest, or words to that effect.
 The very opposite of what is the actual truth. If we dig out all of our Alberta oil, we are going to be well along in the destruction of a settled, productive and successful Canadian lifestyle.
So not only do we have doubtful allies in our decision to join the current naked effort of the United States to re-establish U.S. hegemony over all of Latin America, something that until recent years they had traditionally enjoyed (at least since the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine in 1923). Global priorities have changed so dramatically in recent years, that most of the world would probably welcome American adherence to the Monroe Doctrine, if only they would not try to apply it to the entire world, as now happens.
(Recall: the Doctrine had four main points: (1) the United States would not interfere in the internal affairs of or the wars between European powers; (2) the United States recognized and would not interfere with existing colonies and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere; (3) the Western Hemisphere was closed to future colonization; and (4) any attempt by a European power to oppress or control any nation in the Western Hemisphere would be viewed as a hostile act against the United States.)
In addition, we have recently had this kerfuffle about the demotion, and finally the quitting, of a cabinet minister. It seems that a new penalty was created called a “remediation agreement” under which an entity like SNC Lavalin, a huge multinational engineering firm, when accused of some misdemeanor, would, instead of being charged, found guilty and all the rest, be heavily fined without an actual conviction being recorded. It appears that in the event of a conviction –-- in this particular case, of alleged bribery in order to obtain contracts --- a convicted company would be banned from tendering for government contracts for ten years.  Since some 8,7000 workers, and their families,  in Canada depend to a considerable extent on this company’s obtaining government work, the “remediation” procedure would appear to be a reasonable measure to ensure that the workers of a company would not necessarily be the main sufferers from the misdemeanours of their bosses. I can support any such outcome. The kerfuffle seems to be around the knowledge that the rich and powerful can  move governments even to change laws at their request. So what else is new? We didn’t already know that? I always find it hard to really bloviate in sync with all these conservative members of the  media commentariat who are currently foaming at the mouth in indignation.

1 comment:

  1. Slight typo, Boyce: the Monroe Doctine was proclaimed in 1823, not 1923.