Vijay Prashad

Chomsky and Prashad: Why we need a tribunal on governments' crimes against humanity during COVID

Warnings that the oxygen supply was running out in the city of Manaus, Brazil, came to local and federal government officials a week before the calamity led to the deaths by asphyxiation of patients afflicted with COVID-19. No modern state—such as Brazil—should have to admit that it did nothing when these warnings came in and simply allowed its own citizens to die for no reason.

A Supreme Court judge and the solicitor general have demanded that the Brazilian government act, but this has not moved Jair Bolsonaro's administration. Everything about this story—detailed in Solicitor General José Levi do Amaral's report—reveals the rot of privatization and incompetence. The local health officials knew in early January that there was going to be an oxygen shortage imminently, but their warning did not carry any weight. A private contractor who had the job of providing the oxygen informed the government six days before the city ran out of this crucial supply in the fight against COVID-19. Even with the contractor's information, the government did nothing; it would later say—against all scientific advice—that early treatment for coronavirus did not work. The insensitivity and incompetence of the government of Bolsonaro have led General Prosecutor Augusto Aras to call for a special probe. As Bolsonaro dithered, the government of Venezuela, in an act of solidarity, sent a shipment of oxygen to Manaus.

The latest development caused by the government's toxic mix of privatization, ineptitude, and callousness should strengthen the case brought by Brazil's health care unions against Jair Bolsonaro at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in July. But the problem is not the fault of Bolsonaro alone or even of Brazil. The problem lies in the neoliberal governments, governments in the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and others, governments whose commitments to profit-making firms and billionaires far outstrip their commitment to their own citizens or to their own constitutions. What we are seeing in countries such as Brazil is a crime against humanity.

It is time to impanel a citizens' tribunal to investigate the utter failure of the governments of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Narendra Modi, and others to break the chain of the infection of COVID-19. Such a tribunal would collect the factual information that would ensure that we do not allow these states to tamper with the crime scene; the tribunal would provide the ICC with a firm foundation to do a forensic investigation of this crime against humanity when its own political suffocation is eased.

We should all be outraged. But, outrage is not a strong enough word.

Noam Chomsky is a legendary linguist, philosopher, and political activist. He is the laureate professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. His most recent book is Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

A world without coral reefs may be on the horizon

With a recent report titled "Projections of Future Coral Bleaching Conditions," published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in November, Leticia Carvalho—head of the Marine and Freshwater Branch of UNEP—said on December 21 that coral reefs are the "canary in the coalmine for climate's impact on oceans." The image of the canary in the coal mine is used over and over again to refer to many aspects of the climate catastrophe: reflecting on his studies of glacier decline in Greenland, glaciologist Ian Howat said that "Greenland is going to be the canary in the coal mine," while an evolutionary biologist in Australia, Dr. Janet Gardner, said that "Birds really are the 'canaries in the coal mine'" because their changes in body weight reflect sensitive assessments of changing weather patterns. Each of these scientists, looking at the specific thing they study—glaciers, bird weight, coral reefs—is right about their particular insight as well as about the fact that what they are seeing is deeply worrying.

What is also concerning is a consensus among these scientists that rising temperatures are creating rapid and negative changes in the ecosystems. The evidence in the report on coral reefs is shocking. "Coral reefs will soon disappear," said Carvalho, if the current levels of inaction persist. The UNEP report is written by highly qualified scientists who make closely argued points and do not offer loose statements. So, it is pretty chilling to confront—early in the report—the suggestion that corals will be wiped out by the 2040s.

The report notes that there has been a long coral bleaching event that started in 2014 and ended in 2017; this was the longest coral bleaching event on record that "spread across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans." To put it simply, coral bleaching is when rising sea temperatures lead to an overheating of the coral reefs; when the reefs overheat, they expel the zooxanthellae (algal symbionts), which results in the coral bleaching. Bleaching can be reversed when sea temperatures cool. What happened between 2014 and 2017 was that the sea temperatures did not drop enough for the corals to recover at the end of the summer of 2014, and in the years that followed.

The average temperature in oceans has increased by 0.1 degrees Celsius (32.18 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade in the past century as a result of—among other factors—increased use of fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels has led to an increase in atmospheric warming, which, combined with phenomena such as the 1997-98 and 2010 El Niño events, has resulted in catastrophic coral reef degradation. But these earlier episodes do not compare to the impact of the long period of coral reef bleaching from 2014 to 2017; for example, the 1997-98 period saw the death of 16 percent of the world's coral reefs, while the 2014-2017 warming saw 80 percent of the Great Barrier Reef suffer from severe bleaching.

A decade ago, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore wrote the foreword to a report entitled "Reefs at Risk Revisited." Here, Gore noted that reefs are the "canary in the coal mine" and their long-term degradation reveals that "our dangerous overreliance on fossil fuels is already changing Earth's climate." We will return to Gore's use of "our" soon. But for now, it is important to point out that the problem for the reefs is not only fossil fuel use, but it is also the other aspects of capitalism, such as the disposal of plastic goods into the oceans.

Two Scenarios, Both Bad

Scientists call the coral reefs the "rainforests of the sea," because coral reefs—like rainforests—are highly diverse ecosystems; their destruction would lead to the extinction of a large number of species (as has already been documented in 2019 in a report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).

The current UNEP report suggests that there are only two possible scenarios for the planet: a "worst-case scenario" and a "middle-of-the-road" scenario. There is no good scenario. The damage that has already been inflicted on the reefs and the possibility that sea temperatures will decrease is so minimal that there is every reason to expect that severe bleaching could lead to coral reefs disappearing by 2045.

If fossil fuel use is not decreased and global warming continues, then "every one of the world's reefs will bleach by the end of the century, with annual severe bleaching [ASB] occurring on average by 2034," according to a press release about the new UNEP report. This new date is nine years ahead of schedule from what UNEP projected in 2017 (one reason for the closer date is that the measurements have improved over this period).

If countries exceed their current pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent, then ASB will not take place before 2045. Either way, this is just a matter of an 11-year gap.

Blame Humanity?

One convenient explanation is that shifts in the climate have to do with "human activity" or "humanity." There is even a name used to describe this period of history—the Anthropocene, a proposed name for a new geological epoch.

Carvalho of UNEP recently said, "Humanity must act with evidence-based urgency, ambition and innovation to change the trajectory for this ecosystem." Blaming "humanity" in general is far too vague. It fails to accurately point the finger where it must be pointed.

Firstly, the term Anthropocene obscures the fact that it is the massive productive powers of capitalism that generated carbon emissions based on the use of fossil fuels. It is not some vague term such as Anthropocene that explains the explosion of carbon emissions, but it is the social formation called capitalism that is central to global warming.

Secondly, since capitalism developed in an uneven way, with certain countries (the North) benefitting by use of force—what is called imperialism—these countries disproportionately benefited from the productive powers of capitalism. They have historically spewed the most carbon into the atmosphere and continue to do so on a per capita basis. Any policy that does not acknowledge the formula, established at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, of "common but differentiated responsibilities" will fail to see that while countries in Europe and North America benefitted and continue to benefit from fossil fuels, other places did not and do not benefit and yet are the most likely to be adversely impacted by rising temperatures.

Thirdly, the most important impediments to change have not been "humanity" but the corporate power and the United States government that not only diluted the 2015 Paris Agreement but then refused to be bound by the tepid agreements. It is telling that countries such as Jamaica and Mongolia updated their climate plans to the United Nations before the end of 2020—as mandated by the Paris Agreement—although these countries produce a tiny fraction of global carbon emissions. The funds that were committed to developing countries for their participation in the process have virtually dried up while external debt has ballooned. This shows a lack of basic seriousness from the "international community."

The reefs will die. That seems certain. The UNEP report will not circulate. That seems equally certain. The Marshall Islands and Rwanda will file their updates. That has already happened. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies will sit on the sidelines, expanding fracking with a "who cares" attitude.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

Chomsky and Prashad: There are 3 major threats to life on Earth that we must address in 2021

Large parts of the world—outside of China and a few other countries—face a runaway virus, which has not been stopped because of criminal incompetence by governments. That these governments in wealthy countries cynically set aside the basic scientific protocols released by the World Health Organization and by scientific organizations reveals their malicious practice. Anything less than focused attention to managing the virus by testing, contact tracing, and isolation—and if this does not suffice, then imposing a temporary lockdown—is foolhardy. It is equally distressing that these richer countries have pursued a policy of "vaccine nationalism" by stockpiling vaccine candidates rather than a policy for the creation of a "people's vaccine." For the sake of humanity, it would be prudent to suspend intellectual property rules and develop a procedure to create universal vaccines for all people.

Although the pandemic is the principal issue on all of our minds, other major issues threaten the longevity of our species and of our planet. These include:

Nuclear Annihilation

In January 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight, too close for comfort. The clock, created two years after the first atomic weapons were developed in 1945, is evaluated annually by the Bulletin's Science and Security Board, who decide whether to move the minute hand or keep it in place. By the time they set the clock again, it may well be closer to annihilation. Already limited arms control treaties are being shredded as the major powers sit on close to 13,500 nuclear weapons (more than 90 percent of which are held by Russia and the United States alone). The yield of these weapons could easily make this planet even more uninhabitable. The United States Navy has already deployed low-yield tactical W76-2 nuclear warheads. Immediate moves toward nuclear disarmament must be forced onto the world's agenda. Hiroshima Day, commemorated each year on August 6, must become a more robust day of contemplation and protest.

Climate Catastrophe

A scientific paper published in 2018 came with a startling headline: "Most atolls will be uninhabitable by the mid-21st century because of sea-level rise exacerbating wave-driven flooding." The authors found that atolls from the Seychelles to the Marshall Islands are liable to vanish. A 2019 United Nations (UN) report estimated that 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Add to this the catastrophic wildfires and the severe bleaching of the coral reefs and it is clear that we no longer need to linger over clichés about one thing or another being a canary in the coal mine of climate catastrophe; the danger is not in the future, but in the present. It is essential for major powers—who utterly fail to shift from fossil fuels—to commit to the "common but differentiated responsibilities" approach established at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. It is telling that countries such as Jamaica and Mongolia updated their climate plans to the UN before the end of 2020—as mandated by the Paris Agreement—even though these countries produce a tiny fraction of global carbon emissions. The funds that were committed to developing countries for their participation in the process have virtually dried up while external debt has ballooned. This shows a lack of basic seriousness from the "international community."

Neoliberal Destruction of the Social Contract

Countries in North America and Europe have eviscerated their public function as the state has been turned over to the profiteers and civil society has been commodified by private foundations. This means that the avenues for social transformation in these parts of the world have been grotesquely hampered. Terrible social inequality is the result of the relative political weakness of the working class. It is this weakness that enables the billionaires to set policies that cause hunger rates to rise. Countries should not be judged by the words written in their constitutions but by their annual budgets; the U.S., for example, spends almost $1 trillion (if you add the estimated intelligence budget) on its war machine, while it spends a fraction of this on the public good (such as on health care, something evident during the pandemic). The foreign policies of Western countries seem to be well lubricated by arms deals: the United Arab Emirates and Morocco agreed to recognize Israel on the condition that they could purchase $23 billion and $1 billion worth of U.S.-made weapons, respectively. The rights of the Palestinians, the Sahrawi, and the Yemeni people did not factor into these deals. The use of illegal sanctions by the United States against 30 countries including Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela has become a normal part of life, even during the COVID-19 public health crisis. It is a failure of the political system when the populations in the capitalist bloc are unable to force their governments—which are in many ways democratic in name only—to take a global perspective regarding this emergency. Rising rates of hunger reveal that the struggle for survival is the horizon for billions of people on the planet (all this while China is able to eradicate absolute poverty and largely eliminate hunger).

Nuclear annihilation and extinction by climate catastrophe are twin threats to the planet. Meanwhile, for victims of the neoliberal assault that has plagued the past generation, the short-term problems of sustaining their mere existence displace fundamental questions about the fate of our children and grandchildren.

Global problems of this scale require global cooperation. Pressured by the Third World states in the 1960s, the major powers agreed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1968, although they rejected the deeply important Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order of 1974. The balance of forces available to drive such a class agenda on the international stage is no longer there; political dynamics in the countries of the West, in particular, but also in the larger states of the developing world (such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa) are necessary to change the character of the governments. A robust internationalism is necessary to pay adequate and immediate attention to the perils of extinction: extinction by nuclear war, by climate catastrophe, and by social collapse. The tasks ahead are daunting, and they cannot be deferred.

Noam Chomsky is a legendary linguist, philosopher, and political activist. He is the laureate professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. His most recent book is Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

The world's biggest trading bloc does not include the United States

This story was produced by Globetrotter.

On November 15, 15 Asian and Pacific countries signed an agreement known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that unites 30 percent of the global population and 30 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). The entire trade area, which runs from New Zealand to Japan and across the length of China, brings together a range of industries, from mining to high tech, and 2.2 billion consumers. Around 90 percent of tariffs will be cut, and customs procedures will be simplified.

It is significant that China is at the heart of this agreement. From 2005 to 2015, many of these countries had negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was a process driven by the United States to isolate China from the Pacific Rim countries. U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the TPP, which mothballed it; he favored a more direct "trade war" against China. Meanwhile, at a summit in 2011, finance ministers from across Asia welcomed a proposal from China and Japan to begin negotiating the RCEP, a far larger agreement that was opposed by the United States. Now, it is the RCEP that has been signed, while the TPP languishes without the participation of the United States. There is so far no evidence that the new U.S. government led by Joe Biden would try to revive the TPP.

India had joined the RCEP negotiation process in 2011 but withdrew in 2019. The public view is that India's government responded to domestic manufacturers, particularly the generic pharmaceutical industry, but it is more likely that India decided not to antagonize Washington. There are more reasonable concerns about the problems of unemployment generation in certain countries as a consequence of trade liberalization.

Major U.S. allies such as Australia, Japan, and New Zealand are party to the RCEP. Both Australia and Japan are members of the U.S.-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or Quad), which is a military alliance against China that includes India. For both Australia and Japan, the economic benefits of the RCEP led them to join regardless of its political implications; New Zealand, which, like Australia, is part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance with the United States, also joined purely for realistic economic reasons. This is—nonetheless—a major political blow for the United States and the cold war it has attempted to impose on China.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

John Ross is a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. His writing on the Chinese and U.S. economies and geopolitics has been published widely online, and he is the author of two books published in China, Don't Misunderstand China's Economy and The Great Chess Game. He was previously director of economic policy for the mayor of London.

Argentina’s veteran ambassador makes a stand for the sovereignty of Latin America

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Alicia Castro does not shy away from her views. She came to diplomacy from the trade union movement, where she was a leader when she was a flight attendant with Aerolíneas Argentinas. Castro spent eight years as a member of parliament in the Argentine National Congress, where she fought for the rights of working people. Ambassadorships in the United Kingdom and Venezuela culminated in the offer earlier this year of the post of Argentina's ambassador to Russia.

While waiting to go to Russia to take up this position, Castro was angered when Argentina's government voted against Venezuela in the United Nations Council for Human Rights on October 6. She resigned from her post and made her resignation letter public. "Today," Castro wrote, "I want to present my resignation as ambassador because I do not agree with the current foreign relations policy."

I spoke to Castro a week after she resigned from her position. She indicated to me that this was not a difficult decision. Rather, she would not have been able to serve her country's government if she did not agree with its overall policy orientation toward its own sovereignty and the sovereignty of Latin America, the "Patria Grande" or the Great Homeland.

Corruption of 'Human Rights'

In July 2019, Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights and former president of Chile, published a report on alleged human rights violations in Venezuela. The report had major gaps. For instance, it downplays the U.S. sanctions, even ignoring that these unilateral sanctions were in place from 2008 and not from 2017; it fails to mention the many instances of violence instigated by the opposition such as in 2014, 2017, and 2019.

To move her agenda forward, Bachelet announced in December 2019 an agreement with the Venezuelan government to set up human rights offices inside Venezuela that would report on allegations of violations. It was clear that the issue of "human rights" was not being applied in a proper forensic and legal manner; it had become a political tool for the United States of America and its allies as part of a disinformation campaign against the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro.

In September 2020, Bachelet appeared at the UN Human Rights Council to offer her view of violations inside Venezuela. This comes as Venezuela prepares for National Assembly elections on December 6. The United States has made it clear that it would like to interfere in the electoral process and push for the destabilization of Venezuelan politics.

An instrument for this interference is the Lima Group, set up in 2017 by Canada and a handful of Latin American countries; the Lima Group provides cover for the U.S. strategy of regime change against Venezuela. In September 2019, the Lima Group and the United States pressured the United Nations Human Rights Council to set up an Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela; this mission was never "independent," since it received its $5 million largely from the Lima Group countries. The report contained unverified information, mostly from social media accounts based outside Venezuela.

Argentina, under the previous right-wing government of Mauricio Macri, had been an integral part of the Lima Group. During the left-leaning President Alberto Fernández's successful campaign in Argentina's 2019 general election, he said that his foreign minister would be Felipe Solá; Solá, in turn, announced that Argentina would not leave the Lima Group even though it had been set up with the express purpose of regime change in Venezuela. On October 6, 2020, Argentina voted with the Lima Group for Resolution L.43 to extend the mandate of the fact-finding mission. It was this vote that set Alicia Castro's teeth on edge.

Erosion of Sovereignty

"What is at stake here," Castro told me, "are two very serious concerns."

First, there is a general assault on democratic institutions across Latin America. We were speaking a few days before the election in Bolivia, where the leftist Movement for Socialism (MAS) won the election and reversed the coup d'état that overthrew the MAS government in November 2019. Across Latin America, coups of one kind or another—lawfare and hybrid wars—have been used against leftist political forces. Daily assassinations and intimidation of leftist leaders in Colombia seem not to have awoken the same kind of indignation from the governments of Peru and Brazil; they focus their attention—thanks to a magnifying glass provided by Washington, D.C.—on Venezuela.

Governments that are interested in reducing "the disgusting gap between rich and poor," Castro said, are threatened with removal. This is what Lula (Brazil), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (now vice president of Argentina) endured. "The commercial news media and social media with its armies of trolls and bots play a central role in the demonization of popular leaders and the destabilization of democracy," Castro said.

The second concern is that the Lima Group is driven by an agenda from North America and Europe. In her resignation letter, Alicia Castro referred to the Drago Doctrine. In 1902, Argentina's Foreign Minister Luis María Drago objected when the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy attempted a naval blockade against Venezuela to recover its investments; Drago said that armed intervention must never be allowed for the recovery of public debt and that the sovereignty of Latin America must be defended.

"It is particularly painful that Argentina voted together with the United Kingdom against Venezuela," said Castro, given the conflict over the Malvinas Islands between the UK and Argentina. In 2012, when Castro was the ambassador to the UK, she challenged UK Foreign Minister William Hague over London's failure to hold talks over the disputed islands.

For Argentina to join with the UK and to ride roughshod over the Drago Doctrine seemed a full violation of everything that defined its independent foreign policy.

Even worse, however, is the suggestion that Argentina's government acted in the UN to please the wealthy bondholders who are in the midst of negotiations over the possibility of a default. It could well be a coincidence that the International Monetary Fund's mission team (Julie Kozack and Luis Cubeddu) arrived in Buenos Aires on the day of the UN vote. Refinancing the $44 billion debt is the main issue before Argentina's government, which is in no mood to sour relations with the U.S. Treasury Department as the discussion about timetables for repayment are ongoing.

Ethics

Stung by Castro's resignation, the Argentinian government said that the country "does not subscribe to" the general orientation of the Lima Group. This is welcome news, but it does not explain its UN vote on October 6.

"Anti-colonialism is… an ethical imperative," Castro wrote in her resignation letter. This is a powerful sentence. It was an act of immense bravery for her to have resigned in such a public way. But her resignation has clarified for many people the importance of standing up straight in a world where too many people drop their shoulders before the arrogance of the powerful.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

How Ecuador's democracy is being suffocated

By Vijay Prashad and Pilar Troya

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

A recent poll showed that if Andrés Arauz Galarza were allowed to run in Ecuador's presidential election of 2021, he would win in the first round with 45.9 percent of the vote. The pollsters found that Arauz—who was the minister of knowledge and human talent from 2015 to 2017—wins across "all the social strata and regions of the country, with a slight weakness among the richest voters in the country."

Andrés Arauz entered policymaking and government when Rafael Correa was the president of the country, from 2007 to 2017. A stint at the Central Bank led to a career in the planning department (SENPLADES), before Arauz became a minister in the last two turbulent years of Correa's government. There was not a whiff of corruption or incompetence around Arauz in his decade of service; when Correa left office, Arauz went to Mexico to pursue a PhD at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Far behind Arauz in the polls is Guillermo Lasso Mendoza, the candidate of the right. Lasso, who is a wealthy banker, had run against the current President Lenín Moreno in 2017 but lost. He is the consensus candidate of the right wing, which cannot seem to advance his standing in the polls. He sits frozen at 32 percent.

Those polled said that Arauz was by far the most attractive candidate. But, if the ruling bloc in Ecuador has its way, Arauz will not be sworn in as the next president of the country next year. They will use every means to suffocate democracy in their country.

Correa and Moreno

The government of Rafael Correa, who is now living in Belgium, attempted to move a broadly left agenda while in office from 2007 to 2017. The Citizens' Revolution that Correa led passed a progressive constitution in 2008, which put the principle of good living (buen vivir in Spanish and sumak kawsay in Quechua) at its heart. Government investment to strengthen social and economic rights came alongside a crackdown on corporate (including multinational) corruption. Oil revenue was not parked in foreign banks, but used to invest in education, health care, roads, and other basic infrastructure. From Ecuador's population of 17 million, nearly 2 million people were lifted out of poverty in the Correa years.

Correa's government was anathema to the multinational firms—such as the U.S.-based oil company Chevron—and to the Ecuadorian oligarchy. Chevron's dangerous case for compensation against Ecuador, brought before Correa took office, was nonetheless fiercely resisted by Correa's government; the Dirty Hand (Mano Negra) campaign put enormous international pressure against Chevron. Chevron worked closely with the U.S. embassy in Quito and the U.S. government to undermine Correa and his campaign against the oil giant. Not only did they want him out, but they wanted the political tradition of the left—called Correistas by shorthand—out as well. Moreno, who was once close to Correa, switched sides and became the main instrument for the fragmentation of the Ecuadorian left.

In the election of 2017, Moreno defeated Guillermo Lasso, who is running again in 2021. But, within a short time, Moreno sharply moved rightward. He worked closely with Lasso in the National Assembly to undermine each advance made by the government of Correa. They defunded education and health care, withdrew labor rights and rights to housing, wanted to sell off Ecuador's refinery, and deregulated parts of the financial system. A consequence of these policies has been Ecuador's appalling response, including accusations of deliberate undercounting, to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attack on the Correistas

Moreno and his right-wing allies needed to inoculate themselves from any criticism. They went on a frontal attack against the Correistas.

The first battleground was to fragment the Correista political organization and to deny the Correistas a political platform. A February 2018 referendum was barreled through the country that allowed the government to destroy the democratic structures of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Council, the attorney general, the comptroller general, and others. With the assistance of the CNE, Moreno divided and took control of Correa's party, the Alianza Pais.

When the Correistas tried to regroup and form a party, the institutions of the state blocked them. They said that the proposed names were misleading or that the signatures collected were invalid. By 2019, the Correistas used the Fuerza Compromiso Social platform to run for local elections in 2019. This platform was then banned in 2020.

In Brazil, the oligarchy prevented former president Lula from contesting the 2018 election; that process resulted in a new concept, lawfare—using the law as a political instrument. The same sort of lawfare was used in Ecuador to ensnare Correa and to prevent him from running for office. Correa was accused of bribery—with the bizarre notion of "psychic influence" (influjo psíquico) at the root of the case. The eight-year sentence inflicted upon him prevented him from running for office in Ecuador; that he was in Belgium meant that he could not, however, be arrested and imprisoned.

Election of 2021

The Correistas, using their platform of Union for Hope (Unión por la Esperanza), made an alliance with the Movimiento Centro Democrático to be able to run a candidate for the presidential election of 2021. Arauz won the primaries and was nominated as the presidential candidate. The party decided to have two vice-presidential candidates—both Correa and Carlos Rabascall.

The CNE's president Diana Atamaint indicated that the CNE would disqualify Correa from the ballot, and even suggested that Arauz's candidacy is illegal as a consequence of having Correa as his running mate. Matters are at a stalemate, as lawyers scurry about trying to find a solution to this crisis. The CNE has until October 7 to fix the matter. The first round for the election is on February 7, 2021.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

Pilar Troya is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. She is an Ecuadorian anthropologist interested in the feminist movement and social public policies, especially concerning gender equality. She served as a member of the board of Ecuador's former Women's National Council (CONAMU), an adviser to the Ministry of National Planning, and an adviser and deputy minister in the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Technology.

Why US political scientists say Evo Morales should be the president of Bolivia

Three political scientists from the United States closely studied allegations of fraud in the Bolivian election of 2019 and found that there was no fraud. These scholars—from the University of Pennsylvania and Tulane University—looked at raw evidence from the Bolivian election authorities that had been handed over to the New York Times. They suggest late-counted votes came from rural regions where the candidacy of incumbent President Evo Morales Ayma was popular; the character of these votes, and not fraud, accounts for the margin of victory announced by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) on October 21, 2019.

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Will there ever be elections again in Bolivia?

On November 10, 2019, President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia announced his resignation from the presidency. Morales had been elected in 2014 to a third presidential term, which should have lasted until January 2020. In November 2019, protests around his fourth electoral victory in October led to the police and the military asking Morales to step down; by every description of the term, this was a coup d’état. Two days later, Morales went into exile in Mexico.

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How the US failed at its foreign policy toward Venezuela

On August 4, 2020, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Venezuela. Appearing before the committee was U.S. State Department Special Representative Elliott Abrams. Abrams, who has had a long—and controversial—career in the formation of U.S. foreign policy, was assaulted by almost all the members of the Senate committee. The senators, almost without exception, suggested that Abrams had been—since 2019—responsible for a failed U.S. attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro.

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Here's how Trump led the world with the worst response to COVID-19 pandemic

Six months ago, on January 30, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). Ten days before this, the Chinese government had said—to great alarm—that the coronavirus could be transmitted from human to human. The contagiousness of this virus led the WHO to make the declaration, which came a month after the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told their counterparts in the United States about the virus. On the day that the WHO declared the PHEIC, Trump gave a press conference, where he bewilderingly said, “We think we have it very well under control.” From January 30 onward, the Trump administration’s response to the virus was incoherent and outrageously incompetent.

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