Vijay Prashad

Why lithium power politics are playing out differently in Chile and Bolivia

In late July, a large sinkhole appeared near the town of Tierra Amarilla in Chile’s Copiapó province in the Atacama salt flat. The crater, which has a diameter of more than 100 feet, emerged in one of Chile’s most lucrative regions for copper and lithium extraction. The nearby Candelaria mining complex—80 percent of the property is owned by Canada’s Lundin Mining Corporation and 20 percent is owned by Japan’s Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd. and Sumitomo Corporation—had to halt its operations in the area. On August 1, Chile’s National Geology and Mining Service (Sernageomin) tweeted that it had assembled a team to investigate the sinkhole that appeared less than 2,000 feet away from human habitation. The mayor of Tierra Amarilla, Cristóbal Zúñiga, questioned why the earth had given way near the Alcaparrosa mine, and whether the appearance of the hole had something to do with the mining operations. “Today it happened on an agricultural property,” the mayor told Ciudadano ADN radio, “but our greatest fear is that this could happen in a populated place on a street, in a school, and protecting the integrity of our inhabitants is our greatest concern at the moment.”

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Government officials traveled to Tierra Amarilla to investigate the sinkhole. On August 12, Marcela Hernando, the minister of mining, joined Cristóbal Zúñiga and others to tour the Alcaparrosa mine. Before the visit, Zúñiga called for the authorities to apply “maximum sanctions” to punish those responsible for the sinkhole, which seems to have been caused by underground mining activities carried out by the Candelaria mining complex. The government agency responsible for the investigation—Sernageomin—has suspended all mining activity in the area and is continuing with its forensic assessment to ascertain the reasons behind the earth collapsing near the mining complex.

Moratorium on Mining

“We should not be speaking of any kind of extraction in the Atacama salt flat,” Ramón Morales Balcázar told us a few days after the sinkhole was discovered. Morales Balcázar is the founder of Fundación Tantí, a nongovernmental organization in San Pedro de Atacama that is dedicated to the promotion of agroecology and socio-environmental sustainability. “The Atacama salt flat is exhausted, [and has been] deeply impacted by copper and lithium mining and tourism. We should be working to restore the ecosystem there,” said Morales Balcázar. The word “exhausted” is also the title of a new report coauthored by Morales Balcázar that offers a chilling portrait of the depletion of groundwater as a result of global lithium extractors. “Lithium extraction, the newest industry to the region [of the Atacama salt flat], is now yet another way the scarce water resources are being depleted,” stated✎ EditSign the report.

Morales Balcázar is part of a team of researchers known as the Plurinational Observatory of Andean Salt Flats (OPSAL). These scholars are engaged in fine-grained research about what they see as the ecocide of the salt flat, which stretches across Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. A book written by these scholars in 2021—Andean Salt Flats: An Ecology of Knowledge for the Protection of Our Salt Flats and Wetlands — offers a detailed assessment of what they call “green extractivism” and “green growth.” Extractivism refers to the extraction of natural resources from the earth to make profits without any consideration for the earth being mined or for the people who live in the areas being mined. “Extraction and extractivism are not the same,” said Morales Balcázar. The former is the mere removal of natural resources, which can be done sustainably without harming the earth, and is carried out for the social well-being of the people who live near the mines.

“We have been holding conversations with Indigenous institutions and trade unions to imagine different regimes of extraction,” Morales Balcázar told us. When the workers at Albemarle—a U.S. mining company—went on strike in 2021, Morales Balcázar and other colleagues spoke with them about the possibility of thinking about new kinds of extraction techniques, although “it is really not something we can see in the near future,” said Morales Balcázar. One reason why miners at Albemarle and the Indigenous institutions (such as the Consejo de Pueblos Atacameños) cannot conceive of any alternative is that even if they get trinkets from the mining wealth, that is still seen as a better option than facing unemployment.

Bolivia’s Alternative

North of Chile, in Bolivia, the concept of “resource nationalism” has framed the debate around lithium extraction in the country. In 1992, the government of then-Bolivian President Jaime Paz Zamora signed an agreement with the U.S.-based company Lithium Corporation of America, now known as FMC Corporation, which “allowed the company to take all the lithium it could, giving Bolivia only eight percent of the profits. Many Bolivians were outraged over the deal,” according to a 2010 article in the New Yorker. This led to protests by the Potosí Civic Committee, which eventually ended the contract.

When Evo Morales took over as president of Bolivia in 2006, the residue of this battle shaped his “resource nationalism” approach to lithium and other minerals. “He vowed to ‘industrialize with dignity and sovereignty,’ promising that raw lithium would not be exploited by foreign corporations but instead processed by state-controlled entities in Bolivia and transformed into batteries,” noted a 2018 article in Bloomberg. In 2007, Bolivia developed a lithium industrialization policy. The Mining Corporation of Bolivia (Comibol), we learned from officials there at the time, encouraged Bolivian scientists to develop and patent traditional methods of extraction through evaporation (although this method has struggled due to the high levels of magnesium found in the Bolivian lithium). Morales’ government invested heavily in the lithium industrialization scheme, which led to Bolivia being able to develop its own batteries (including cathode production) and develop its own electric car through the state-owned Quantum Motors. To control and manage lithium production, a company called Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) was created in 2017 by the government.

“We were making great progress,” Evo Morales told us, “until the coup of 2019 and then the pandemic.” The coup eventually led to his ouster. “We will coup whoever we want,” wrote Elon Musk, whose company Tesla relies on lithium for its batteries and electric cars. Such is the anger against the possibilities of “resource nationalism.”

Developments in Bolivia show that new ways of extraction are being explored, even if these are not perfect. Environmental challenges in the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, and grumbles by people who live there continue to define lithium extraction. However, the lithium industrialization policy and the great care taken by the country for what the Bolivians call Pachamama—the earth—during the extraction process offer some differences from the extraction work done by the large Canadian and U.S. mining companies. In Chile, Lester Calderón, a union leader in the city of Antofagasta, who ran for governor in 2021, wrote an article in January 2022 in which he argued that the Indigenous communities must decide about the way lithium is used and that the resources (including water) of Chile must be nationalized. These elements are in place in Bolivia, and yet there are challenges ahead for the people there.

Bolivia’s current President Luis Alberto Arce Catacora hopes to renew the state-led lithium industrialization policy but cannot find the resources domestically to do so. That is the reason why his government has embarked on a process of drawing in investment from outside (currently, six firms from China, Russia and the United States are still competing to secure the bid).

The center of the struggle in Bolivia is Potosí, where the Spaniards, who ruled the region, had for centuries hollowed out the earth to draw silver to export to Europe. “We were the center of [silver] exploitation but remained at the fringes of the country’s decision-making,” Potosí government official Juan Tellez told Reuters. “That is what we are trying to avoid now with lithium.” The people of Potosí, like the people of Tierra Amarilla in Chile, want to imagine a different kind of extraction: one that is controlled by those who live by the sources of the metal and one that does not destroy the earth, creating sinkholes everywhere.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an 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 books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Taroa Zúñiga Silva is a writing fellow and the Spanish media coordinator for Globetrotter. She is the co-editor with Giordana García Sojo of Venezuela, Vórtice de la Guerra del Siglo XXI (2020). She is a member of the coordinating committee of Argos: International Observatory on Migration and Human Rights and is a member of the Mecha Cooperativa, a project of the Ejército Comunicacional de Liberación.

How sanctions are fueling the fire at Cuba’s Matanzas oil storage facility

On August 5, a major oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba, 65 miles east of Havana, was hit by lightning. A tank that contained 25,000 cubic meters of crude oil caught fire after being struck. Since then, an enormous fire has been raging in Matanzas. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Ávalos Jorge, deputy head of Cuba’s fire department, said that it was impossible to estimate when the fire would be completely extinguished. This tremendous explosion and hard-to-control fire has led to several people being reported missing (including firefighters), many others injured with severe burns, and hundreds more evacuated from their homes. Cuba’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, rushed to Matanzas on August 6, interacted with the local officials who were trying to get the fire under control, met residents of the town, and the next day, interacted with the press and spoke about the heroic work done by the firefighters and the solidarity of the Cuban people. “We are going to overcome this adversity,” he said.

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Four of the eight tanks at the storage facility have been impacted by these fires. By August 8, Matanzas Governor Mario Sabines Lorenzo also confirmed that three tanks had been compromised. Clouds of dust now hover over the island. Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya, Cuba’s minister of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA), said that scientists from various backgrounds were monitoring the situation to see if the smoke resulting from the fire will lead to any negative health effects for the residents of the surrounding areas. As of that point, she said, “We have no evidence that there are effects on human health.” Nonetheless, strange substances have been detected in the water supplies in Yumurí Valley, Matanzas. Diosdado Vera, an 89-year-old farmer, showed journalist Arnaldo Mirabal Hernández the unusual color and odor of the water in an old bathtub that serves as the water source for her cows. “There are approximately 3,200 particles in the air right now,” said CITMA Minister Pérez Montoya. “The clouds have sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, among other substances that are falling on Matanzas, Mayabeque, and Havana.” Meanwhile, Pérez Montoya said that a team of scientists is investigating the strange substances found in the Yumurí Valley.

This tragedy has also had immediate repercussions for the entire population in the province of Matanzas and the whole island of Cuba since it affects their electricity supply and access to health care, which already are strained under the weight of the U.S. blockade, due to lack of availability of spare parts and scarcity of medicines in Cuba, respectively.

The fire has already led to the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant in Matanzas being out of service due to a shortage of water and the contamination of the water cycle. This will likely lead to severe electricity outages amid record heat waves this summer. Ricardo Ronquillo Bello, president of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), tweeted that this tragedy will be “another test for Cuban journalism that will know how to honor with its humanism and social responsibility.” Ronquillo was referring to the onslaught of fake news that swept through social media, leading to a sense of alarm during an already difficult period.

In this dire crisis, the people of Cuba and their government have responded immediately, and this has resulted in on-site efforts to contain the fire, prevent a major environmental disaster, and keep the population safe. It has also led to a call for international aid and solidarity. The governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile and several others have promptly offered material aid, and some countries like Mexico and Venezuela have also sent experts and firefighters to confront this complex situation. Cuba’s Credit and Commerce Bank (Bandec) has set up an account so that people in the country can donate money to the people of Matanzas.

“Cuba is Matanzas,” said President Díaz-Canel, in the context of both the impact of the fire on the entire island and the solidarity that is visible across Cuba.

Sanctions

The U.S. blockade of Cuba fuels the fire that rages on in the country, despite denials by authorities in the United States. The U.S. government has both been stiffening up the blockade of Cuba and denying that sanctions have any impact on the functioning of the country (in fact, in 2021, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki had said that the problems in Cuba are not due to the U.S. sanctions but rather are due to “the Cuban government’s economic mismanagement”). The U.S. Embassy in Havana has made assurances that the blockade authorizes U.S. entities and organizations to provide disaster relief and response. But organizations tell us that this is not the case, with the 243 sanctions imposed on Cuba working as a stranglehold against pursuing any activity in the country. Many of these organizations say that the process to send aid to Cuba is lengthy, with a licensing regime in place that requires expensive lawyers. Cuba’s inclusion in the state sponsors of terrorism list means that banks in both the United States and abroad are reluctant to process humanitarian donations.

While Washington says one thing and does another, the firefighters in Matanzas—aided by the reinforcements from Mexico and Venezuela—have been spraying foam on the fire to prevent it from spreading further, and helicopters have been pouring water on the other oil tanks to stop them from combusting. Even after the fire settles and the ashes remain, Cuba will struggle to rebuild these tanks and to solve its energy crisis. These are not merely domestic problems but rather are problems created and exaggerated by the harmful U.S.-imposed blockade that has been in existence for the past six decades.

Not long after the lightning strike, users on social media shared the hashtag #FuerzaMatanzas (be strong, Matanzas) on various platforms. Within 24 hours, the hashtag was shared by nearly a billion users, according to Dayron Avello, social media manager at Clínica Internacional Camilo Cienfuegos. A billion people have signaled their support for Cuba, a solidarity the U.S. blockade is unable to prevent.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an 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 books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He co-edited, most recently, Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

How lithium mines enrich billionaires and devastate communities

The Atacama salt flat in northern Chile, which stretches 1,200 square miles, is the largest source of lithium in the world. We are standing on a bluff, looking over la gran fosa, the great pit that sits at the southern end of the flat, which is shielded from public view. It is where the major Chilean corporations have set up shop to extract lithium and export it—largely unprocessed—into the global market. “Do you know whose son-in-law is the lithium king of Chile?” asks Loreto, who took us to the salt flat to view these white sands from a vantage point. His response is not so shocking; it is Julio Ponce Lerou, who is the largest stakeholder in the lithium mining company Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM) and the former son-in-law of the late military dictator Augusto Pinochet (who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990).

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SQM and Albemarle, the two major Chilean mining companies, dominate the Atacama salt flat. It is impossible to get a permit to visit the southern end of the flats, where the large corporations have set up their operations. The companies extract the lithium by pumping brine from beneath the salt flat and then letting it evaporate for months before carrying out the extraction. “SQM steals our water to extract lithium,” said the former president of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Atacameño, Ana Ramos, in 2018, according to Deutsche Welle. The concentrate left behind after evaporation is turned into lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, which are then exported, and form key raw materials used in the production of lithium-ion batteries. About a third of the world’s lithium comes from Chile. According to Goldman Sachs, “lithium is the new gasoline.”

What Necessity Does

Ownership over the salt flat is contested among the state, Chile’s Indigenous communities, and private entities. But, as one member of the Lickanantay community—the Indigenous people who call the Atacama salt flat their home—told us, most of the owners of the land do not live in the area any longer. Juan, who raises horses and whose family were herders, tells us that people “live off the rents from the land. They do not care what happens to the area.” However, Juan knows that these rents are minuscule. “What they pay us as they mine our land is practically a tip,” he says. “It is nothing compared to what they earn. But it is still a lot of money.” For most Lickanantay people, Juan says, “lithium is not an issue because although it is known to damage the environment, it is providing [us with] money.” “Necessity drives people to do a lot of things,” he adds.

The negative environmental impacts of mining lithium have been widely studied by scientists and observed by tourist guides in Chile. Angelo, a guide, tells us that he worries about the water supplies getting polluted due to mining activities and the impact it has on the Atacama Desert animals, including the pink flamingos. “Every once in a while, we see a dead pink flamingo,” he says. Cristina Inés Dorador, who participated in writing Chile’s new proposed constitution, is a scientist with a PhD in natural sciences who has published about the decline of the pink flamingo population in the salt flat. However, Dorador has also said that new technologies could be used to prevent the widespread negative environmental impact. Ingrid Garcés Millas, who has a PhD in earth sciences from the University of Zaragoza and is a researcher at the University of Antofagasta, pointed out that the currently used of lithium extraction has led to the deterioration of the “ways of life of [the] Andean peoples” in an article for Le Monde Diplomatique. An example she provided was that while the underground water supply is used by the lithium industry, the “communities are supplied [with water] by cistern trucks.”

According to a report by MiningWatch Canada and the Environmental Justice Atlas, “to produce one ton of lithium in the salt flats in Atacama (Chile), 2,000 tons of water are evaporated, causing significant harm to both the availability of water and the quality of underground fresh water reserves.”

Meanwhile, there is no pressing debate in the Atacama region over the extraction of lithium. Most people seem to have accepted that lithium mining is here to stay. Among the activists, there are disagreements over how to approach the question of lithium. More radical activists believe that lithium should not be extracted, while others debate about who should benefit from the wealth generated by the mining of lithium. Still others, such as Angelo and Loreto, believe that Chile’s willingness to export the unprocessed lithium denies the country the possibility of exploring the benefits that might come from processing the metal within the country.

Natural Commons

Before the presidential election in Chile in November 2021, we went to see Giorgio Jackson, now one of the closest advisers to Chile’s President Gabriel Boric. He told us then that Chile’s new government would look at the possibility of the nationalization of key resources, such as copper and lithium. This no longer seems to be on the government’s agenda, despite the expectation that the high prices for copper and lithium would pay for the much-needed pension reforms and the modernization of the country’s infrastructure.

The idea of nationalization was floated around the constitutional convention but did not find its way into the text of the proposed constitution, which will be put to vote on September 4. Instead, the proposed constitution builds on Article 19 of the 1980 constitution, which provides for “the right to live in an environment free from contamination.” The new constitution is expected to lay out the natural commons under which the state “has a special duty of custody, in order to ensure the rights of nature and the interest of present and future generations.”

In the waning days of the government of former President Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s Mining Ministry awarded two companies—BYD Chile SpA and Servicios y Operaciones Mineras del Norte S.A.—extraction rights for 80,000 tons of lithium each for 20 years. An appeals court in Copiapó heard a petition from the governor of Copiapó, Miguel Vargas, and from various Indigenous communities. In January 2022, the court suspended the deal; that suspension was upheld in June by the Supreme Court. This does not imply that Chile will roll back the exploitation of lithium by the major corporations, but it does suggest that a new appetite is developing against the widespread exploitation of natural resources in the country.

Until 2016, Chile produced 37 percent of the global market share of lithium, making the country the world’s largest producer of the metal. When Chile’s government increased royalty rates on the miners, several of them curtailed production and some increased their stake in Argentina (SQM, for instance, entered a joint venture with Lithium Americas Corporation to work on a project in Argentina). Chile is behind Australia in terms of lithium production in the world market presently, falling from 37 percent in 2016 to 29 percent in 2019 (with an expectation that Chile’s share will fall further to 17 percent by 2030).

Juan’s observation that “necessity drives people to do a lot of things” captures the mood among the Atacameños. The needs of the people of the region seem to only come after the needs of the large corporations. Relatives of the old dictators accumulate wealth off of the land, while the owners of the land—out of necessity—sell their land for a propina, a tip.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an 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 books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Taroa Zúñiga Silva is a writing fellow and the Spanish media coordinator for Globetrotter. She is the co-editor with Giordana García Sojo of Venezuela, Vórtice de la Guerra del Siglo XXI (2020). She is a member of the coordinating committee of Argos: International Observatory on Migration and Human Rights and is a member of the Mecha Cooperativa, a project of the Ejército Comunicacional de Liberación.

Why Cuba should be removed from the United States list of state sponsors of terrorism

The United States maintains a list of countries that it considers as “state sponsors of terrorism.” There are currently four countries on that list: Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria. The basic idea behind this list is that the U.S. State Department determines that these countries have “provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Evidence about those “acts” are not provided by the U.S. government. For Cuba, there is not one shred of evidence that the government has offered any such support to terrorism activities, in fact, Cuba has—since 1959—been a victim of acts of terrorism by the United States, including an attempted invasion in 1961 (Bay of Pigs) and repeated assassination attempts against its leaders (638 times against Fidel Castro).

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Cuba, rather than exporting weapons around the world, has a long history of medical internationalism with Cuban doctors and medicines being a familiar sight from Pakistan to Peru. In fact, there is an international campaign for Cuban doctors to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Why would a country that floods the world with health care be targeted as a state sponsor of terrorism?

Washington’s Vindictiveness

Cuba was not on the state sponsor of terrorism list from 2015 onward, when President Barack Obama removed Cuba from that list (it was first added to the list in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan). In his last week in office, and days before Joe Biden was inaugurated to replace him, former President Donald Trump put Cuba back on the list on January 12, 2021. The comments made by then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provide a strange justification for this action: despite Cuba having been removed from the list in 2015, five years previously, Pompeo said that “[f]or decades, the Cuban government has fed, housed, and provided medical care for murderers, bombmakers, and hijackers.”

The phrase “for decades” suggests that the Trump administration went back beyond 2015, not assessing the situation in Cuba during the five years since it was removed from the list but going back to an era before Obama’s action. There was no new evidence of anything having changed since 2015, which showed that Trump’s actions were purely political (to curry favor with the hard-right wing that continues to want to conduct regime change in Cuba and to nullify as many of Obama’s policies as possible).

The United States has carried out a blockade against Cuba since 1959 when the Cuban Revolution began a process to transform the country that was ruled by gangsters (including the U.S. mafia) into a country that tended to the needs of its people. The revolution developed programs for literacy and health care and for building up the cultural confidence of the people long suppressed by Spanish and U.S. colonialism. The United States elite was eager to snuff out the example of Cuba, which showed that even a poor country could transcend the socioeconomic conditions of poverty. Each year since 1992, almost all the countries in the world—184 out of 193 at last count—vote in the United Nations General Assembly to condemn the blockade of Cuba.

Remove Cuba From the List

The designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States deeply harms the ability of the Cuban government and its people from carrying on with the basic functions of life. The immense power of the United States government over the world financial system means that banks and traders refuse to do business with Cuba since they are afraid of retaliation by the United States government for breaking the blockade. It is stunning to learn that because of this blockade, and despite the murmurs from the U.S. government about medical exceptions, firms refuse to sell Cuba raw materials, reactive agents, diagnostic kits, pharmaceutical drugs and devices, and a range of other materials necessary for operating Cuba’s excellent but stressed public science and health care system.

U.S. President Joe Biden can remove Cuba from this list with a stroke of his pen. It’s as simple as that. When he was running for the presidency, Biden said he would even reverse the harsher of Trump’s sanctions and revert to the policies of the Obama administration. But he has not done so, which might be for reasons of political expediency. There is a streak of vindictiveness that runs through U.S. policies against Cuba, an island that proved during the pandemic that its revolutionary process cares for its people. The example of public health care in Cuba, despite being a small island nation, should be exported around the world. The country is not a state sponsor of terrorism but a state sponsor of global well-being.

Author Bio: Roger Waters is a musician. He is in the midst of his tour, This is Not a Drill.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an 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 books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He co-edited, most recently, Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

Cuba is eradicating child mortality and banishing diseases that affect the impoverished

Palpite, Cuba, is just a few miles away from Playa Girón, along the Bay of Pigs, where the United States attempted to overthrow the Cuban Revolution in 1961. Down a modest street in a small building with a Cuban flag and a large picture of Fidel Castro near the front door, Dr. Dayamis Gómez La Rosa sees patients from 8 AM to 5 PM. In fact, that is an inaccurate sentence. Dr. Dayamis, like most primary care doctors in Cuba, lives above the clinic that she runs. “I became a doctor,” she told us as we sat in the clinic’s waiting room, “because I wanted to make the world a better place.” Her father was a bartender, and her mother was a housecleaner, but “thanks to the Revolution,” she says, she is a primary care doctor, and her brother is a dentist. Patients come when they need care, even in the middle of the night.

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Apart from the waiting room, the clinic only has three other rooms, all of them small and clean. The 1,970 people in Palpite come to see Dr. Dayamis, who emphasizes that she has in her care several pregnant women and infants. She wants to talk about pregnancy and children because she wants to let me know that over the past three years, not one infant has died in her town or in the municipality. “The last time an infant died,” she said, “was in 2008 when a child was born prematurely and had great difficulty breathing.” When we asked her how she remembered that death with such clarity, she said that for her as a doctor any death is terrible, but the death of a child must be avoided at all costs. “I wish I did not have to experience that,” she said.

Eradicate the Diseases of the Poor

The region of the Zapata Swamp, where the Bay of Pigs is located, before the Revolution, had an infant mortality rate of 59 per 1,000 live births. The population of the area, mostly engaged in subsistence fishing and in the charcoal trade, lived in great poverty. Fidel spent the first Christmas Eve after the Revolution of 1959 with the newly formed cooperative of charcoal producers, listening to them talk about their problems and working with them to find a way to exit the condition of hunger, illiteracy, and ill-health. A large-scale project of transformation had been set into motion a few months before, which drew in hundreds of very poor people into a process to lift themselves up from the wretched conditions that afflicted them. This is the reason why these people rose in large numbers to defend the Revolution against the attack by the United States and its mercenaries in 1961.

To move from 59 infant deaths out of every 1,000 live births to no infant deaths in the matter of a few decades is an extraordinary feat. It was done, Dr. Dayamis says, because the Cuban Revolution pays an enormous attention to the health of the population. Pregnant mothers are given regular care from primary care doctors and gynecologists and their infants are tended by pediatricians—all of it paid from the social wealth of the country. Small towns such as Palpite do not have specialists such as gynecologists and pediatricians, but within a short ride a few miles away, they can access these doctors in Playa Larga.

Walking through the Playa Giron museum earlier that day, the museum’s director Dulce María Limonta del Pozo tells us that the many of the captured mercenaries were returned to the United States in exchange for food and medicines for children; it is telling that this is what the Cuban Revolution demanded. From early into the Revolution, literacy campaigns and vaccination campaigns developed to address the facts of poverty. Now, Dr. Dayamis reports, each child gets between twelve and sixteen vaccinations for such ailments as smallpox and hepatitis.

In Havana’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), Dr. Merardo Pujol Ferrer tells us that the country has almost eradicated hepatitis B using a vaccine developed by their Center. That vaccine—Heberbiovac HB—has been administered to 70 million people around the world. “We believe that this vaccine is safe and effective,” he said. “It could help to eradicate hepatitis around the world, particularly in poorer countries.” All the children in her town are vaccinated against hepatitis, Dr. Dayamis says. “The health care system ensures that not one person dies from diarrhea or malnutrition, and not one person dies from diseases of poverty.”

Public Health

What ails the people of Palpite, Dr. Dayamis says, are now the diseases that one sees in richer countries. It is one of the paradoxes of Cuba, which remains a country of limited means—largely because of the U.S. government’s blockade of this island of 11 million people—and yet has transcended the diseases of poverty. The new illnesses that she says are hypertension and cardiovascular diseases as well as prostate and breast cancer. These problems, she points out, must be dealt with by public education, which is why she has a radio show on Radio Victoria de Girón, the local community station, each Thursday, called Education for Health.

If we invest in sports, says Raúl Fornés Valenciano, the vice president of the Institute of Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), then we will have less problems of health. Across the country, INDER focuses on getting the entire population active with a variety of sports and physical exercises. Over 70,000 sports health workers collaborate with the schools and the centers for the elderly to provide opportunities for leisure time to be spent in physical activity. This, along with the public education campaign that Dr. Dayamis told us about, are key mechanisms to prevent chronic diseases from harming the population.

If you take a boat out of the Bay of Pigs and land in other Caribbean countries, you will find yourself in a situation where healthcare is almost nonexistent. In the Dominican Republic, for example, infant mortality is at 34 per 1,000 live births. These countries—unlike Cuba—have not been able to harness the commitment and ingenuity of people such as Dr. Dayamis and Dr. Merardo. In these other countries, children die in conditions where no doctor is present to mourn their loss decades later.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an 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 books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He co-edited, most recently, Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

The United States is extending its military into Zambia

An interview with Dr. Fred M’membe of the Socialist Party.

On April 26, 2022, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced that they had set up an office in the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. According to AFRICOM Brigadier General Peter Bailey, Deputy Director for Strategy, Engagement and Programs, the Office of Security Cooperation would be based in the U.S. Embassy building. Social media in Zambia buzzed with rumors about the creation of a U.S. military base in the country. Defense Minister Ambrose Lufuma released a statement to say that “Zambia has no intention whatsoever of establishing or hosting any military bases on Zambian soil.” “Over our dead bodies” will the United States have a military base in Zambia, said Dr. Fred M’membe, the president of the Socialist Party of Zambia.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Brigadier General Bailey of AFRICOM had met with Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema during his visit to Lusaka. Hichilema’s government faces serious economic challenges despite the fact that Zambia has one of the richest resources of raw materials in the world. When Zambia’s total public debt grew to nearly $27 billion (with an external debt of approximately $14.5 billion), it returned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in December 2021 for financial assistance, resulting in an IMF-induced spiral of debt.

Two months after Hichilema met with the AFRICOM team, he hosted IMF Deputy Managing Director Antoinette M. Sayeh in June, who thanked President Hichilema for his commitment to the IMF “reform plans.” These plans include a general austerity package that will not only cause the Zambian population to be in the grip of poverty but will also prevent the Zambian government from exercising its sovereignty.

Puppet Regime

Dr. M’membe, president of the Socialist Party, has emerged as a major voice against the United States military presence in his country. Defense Minister Lufuma’s claim that the United States is not building a base in Zambia elicits a chuckle from M’membe. “I think there is an element of ignorance on his part,” M’membe told me. “This is sheer naivety. He [Lufuma] does not understand that practically there is no difference between a U.S. military base and an AFRICOM office. It’s just a matter of semantics to conceal their real intentions.”

The real intentions, M’membe told me, are for the United States to use Zambia’s location “to monitor, to control, and to quickly reach the other countries in the region.” Zambia and its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, “possess not less than 70 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves. There are huge copper reserves and other minerals needed for modern technologies [in both these countries].” Partly, M’membe said, “this is what has heightened interest in Zambia.” Zambia is operating as a “puppet regime,” M’membe said, a government that is de jure independent but de facto “completely dependent on an outside power and subject to its orders,” M’membe added, while referring to the U.S. interference in the functioning of the Zambian government. Despite his campaign promises in 2021, President Hichilema has followed the same IMF-dependent policies as his unpopular predecessor Edgar Lungu. However, in terms of a U.S. base, even Lungu had resisted the U.S. pressure to allow this kind of office to come up on Zambian soil.

After news broke out about the establishment of the office, former Zambian Permanent Representative to the African Union, Emmanuel Mwamba, rushed to see Hichilema and caution him not to make this deal. Ambassador Mwamba said that other former presidents of Zambia—Lungu (2015-2021), Michael Sata (2011-2014), Rupiah Banda (2008-2011) and Levy Mwanawasa (2002-2008)—had also refused to allow AFRICOM to enter the country since its creation in 2007.

Is This a Base or an Office?

Zambia’s Defense Minister Lufuma argues that the “office” set up in Lusaka is to assist the Zambian forces in the United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Since 2014, the United States has provided around 136 million kwacha ($8 million) to assist the Zambian military. Lufuma said that this office will merely continue that work. In fact, Zambia is not even one of the top five troop-contributing countries to MINUSCA (these include Bangladesh, Cameroon, Egypt, Pakistan and Rwanda). Lufuma’s reason, therefore, seems like a fig leaf.

Neither Zambia nor the United States military has made public the agreement signed in April. The failure to release the text has led to a great deal of speculation, which is natural. Meanwhile, in Ghana, where a defense cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries in May 2018, the United States had initially said that it was merely creating a warehouse and an office for its military, which then turned out to mean that the United States military was taking charge of one of the three airport terminals at Accra airport and has since used it as its base of operations in West Africa. “From the experience of Ghana, we know what it is,” M’membe told me, while speaking about the American plan to make an office in the U.S. Embassy in Zambia. “It is not [very] different from a base. It will slowly but surely grow into a full-scale base.”

From the first whiff that the United States might create an AFRICOM base on the continent, opposition grew swiftly. It was led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and his Defense Minister at that time, Mosiuoa Lekota, both of whom lobbied the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to reject any U.S. base on the continent. Over the past five years, however, the appetite for full-scale rejection of bases has withered despite an African Union resolution against allowing the establishment of such bases in 2016. The U.S. military has 29 known military bases in 15 of the African countries.

Not only have 15 African countries ignored their own regional body’s advice when it comes to allowing foreign countries to establish military bases there, but the African Union (AU) has itself allowed the United States to create a military attaché’s office inside the AU building in Addis Ababa. “The AU that resisted AFRICOM in 2007,” M’membe told me, “is not the AU of today.”

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an 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 books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Why is Ghana hosting a United States military base?

An interview with Kwesi Pratt Jr., a journalist and leader of the Socialist Movement of Ghana.

In April 2018, the president of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, said that Ghana has “not offered a military base, and will not offer a military base to the United States of America.” His comments came after Ghana’s parliament had ratified a new defense cooperation agreement with the United States on March 28, 2018, which was finally signed in May 2018. During a televised discussion, soon after the agreement was formalized in March 2018, Ghana’s Minister of Defense Dominic Nitiwul told Kwesi Pratt Jr., a journalist and leader of the Socialist Movement of Ghana, that Ghana had not entered into a military agreement with the United States. Pratt, however, said that the military agreement was a “source of worry” and was “a surrender of our [Ghanaian] sovereignty.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

In 2021, the research institute of Pratt’s Socialist Movement produced—along with the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research—a dossier on the French and U.S. military presence in Africa. That dossier—“Defending Our Sovereignty: U.S. Military Bases in Africa and the Future of African Unity”—noted that the United States has now established the West Africa Logistics Network (WALN) at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, the capital of Ghana. In 2019, then-U.S. Brigadier General Leonard Kosinski said that a weekly U.S. flight from Germany to Accra was “basically a bus route.” The WALN is a cooperative security location, which is another name for a U.S. military base.

Now, four years later after the signing of the defense cooperation agreement, I spoke with Kwesi Pratt and asked him about the state of this deal and the consequences of the presence of the U.S. base on Ghanaian soil. The WALN, Pratt told me, has now taken over one of the three terminals at the airport in Accra, and at this terminal, “hundreds of U.S. soldiers have been seen arriving and leaving. It is suspected that they may be involved in some operational activities in other West African countries and generally across the Sahel.”

U.S. Soldiers Don’t Need Passports

A glance at the U.S.-Ghana defense agreement raises many questions. Article 12 of the agreement states that the U.S. military can use the Accra airport without any regulations or checks, with U.S. military aircraft being “free from boarding and inspection” and the Ghanaian government providing “unimpeded access to and use of [a]greed facilities and areas to United States forces.” Pratt told me that this agreement allows U.S. soldiers “far more privileges than those prescribed in the Vienna Convention for diplomats. They do not need passports to enter Ghana. All they need is their U.S. Army identity cards. They don’t even require visas to enter Ghana. They are not subject to customs or any other inspection.”

Ghana has allowed the United States armed forces “to use Ghanaian radio frequencies for free,” Pratt said. But the most stunning fact about this arrangement is that, he said, “If U.S. soldiers kill Ghanaians and destroy their properties, the U.S. soldiers cannot be tried in Ghana. Ghanaians cannot sue U.S. soldiers or the U.S. government for compensation if and when their relatives are killed, or their properties are destroyed by the U.S. Army or soldiers.”

Why Would Ghana Allow This?

The U.S.-Ghana agreement permits this disregard for Ghana’s sovereignty. Pratt told me that the political ideology of the Ghanaian government that is in power now has been to adhere to a long history of appeasement toward the demands made by colonial and Western states, beginning with Britain—which was the colonial power that ruled over the Gold Coast (the former name for Ghana) until 1957—and leading up to providing “unimpeded access” to the United States troops under the defense deal.

The current president of Ghana, Akufo-Addo, comes from the political ideology that the former prime minister of Ghana (1969-1972) Kofi Abrefa Busia also conformed to. In the early 1950s, Pratt told me, those following this ideology “dispatched a delegation to the United Kingdom to persuade the authorities that it was too early to grant independence to the Gold Coast.” This led to a coup in Ghana, where those supporting this ideology “collaborated with the Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow the [then-President of Ghana] Kwame Nkrumah government on February 24, 1966, and resisted [imposing] sanctions against the South African apartheid regime in 1969,” Pratt said. The current government, Pratt added, will do anything to please the United States government and its allies.

Why Is the United States Interested in Ghana?

The United States claims that its military presence on the African continent has to do with its counterterrorism campaign and aims to prevent the entry of China into this region. “There is no Chinese military presence in Ghana,” Pratt told me, and indeed the idea of Chinese presence is being used by the United States to deepen its military control over the continent for more prosaic reasons.

In 2001, then-U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group published the National Energy Policy. The contents of this report show, Pratt told me, that the United States understood that it could “no longer rely on the Middle East for its energy supplies. A shift to West Africa for [meeting the] U.S. energy needs is imperative.” Apart from West Africa’s energy resources, Ghana “has huge national resources. It is currently the largest producer of gold in Africa and… [is among the top 10 producers] of gold in the world. It is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world. It has iron, diamond, manganese, bauxite, oil and gas, lithium, and abundant water resources, including the largest man-made lake in the world.” Apart from these resources, Ghana’s location on the equator makes it valuable for agricultural development, and its large bank of highly educated English-speaking professionals makes it valuable for meeting the demands of the West’s service sector.

Apart from these economic issues, Pratt said, the United States government has intervened in Ghana—including in the coup of 1966—to prevent it from having a leadership role in the decolonization process in Africa. More recently, the United States has found Ghana to be a reliable ally in its various military and commercial projects across the continent. It is toward those projects, and not the national interest of the Ghanaian people, Pratt said, that the United States has now built its base in a part of Accra’s civilian airport.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an 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.

Colombia needs democracy: an interview with María José Pizarro

On May 29, 2022, a political earthquake struck Colombia: the left-leaning Historical Pact’s presidential candidate, Gustavo Petro, and vice-presidential candidate, Francia Márquez, won the first round of the presidential elections after getting 40.33 percent of the votes. The blocs representing the far-right and right-wing parties—which have dominated Colombian politics for most of its history—trailed far behind. The choice of name for the bloc representing the left—Historical Pact—was chosen with the intention of reflecting the unique nature of this moment in the country’s history.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Petro and Márquez will now enter a second round of voting against the far-right ticket of Rodolfo Hernández and Marelen Castillo on June 19. Opinion polls suggest it will be a close race between the two tickets, although there are fears that the right wing will interfere, possibly with violence, to prevent a left-wing victory in Colombia.

The last few times that the left came near the Palacio de Nariño, where the president works and lives, violent outbreaks during the election process put that possibility to rest.

A cycle of right-wing rule was initiated after the assassination of the left-wing politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, who was killed in 1948 and whose death began a period of Colombia’s history hauntingly known as “La Violencia” (“the violence”).

The second opportunity for the emergence of the left came in 1990-1991, when the left-wing guerrillas put down their guns and entered the political contest in good faith, but right-wing forces assassinated three popular presidential candidates, which included the liberal candidate Luis Carlos Galán and two left candidates, Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa and Carlos Pizarro Leongómez.

Petro and Márquez’s Historical Pact offers the third opportunity for a left-wing wave, which will help set aside the violent agenda that has so far been supported by the country’s elite.

Can Colombia Breathe?

María José Pizarro is the daughter of the slain politician Carlos Pizarro Leongómez, who was assassinated in 1990. She was only 12 years old when her father was shot to death on an airplane from Bogotá to Barranquilla. Pizarro’s parents—Leongómez and Myriam Rodríguez—were members of the guerrilla group M19. In his youth, presidential candidate Gustavo Petro was also a member of M19; he was arrested in 1985 (at the age of 25) and sentenced to 18 months in prison for possession of guns. Pizarro went into exile in Spain when her father was killed, and then returned in 2002. She is now a member of the Chamber of Representatives, for which she ran on the Historical Pact platform.

When we asked Pizarro about Colombia’s liberal constitution of 1991, she said, “The first 19 articles of the Colombian Constitution establish the social rule of law and the democratic parameters and freedoms in our country.” “What we require,” she said, “is not only that the 1991 constitution be complied with, but also that those who have held power for the last 200 years be willing to allow other political sectors to govern Colombia. That is called plain and simple democracy.”

Before the first round of voting took place on May 29, the mayor of Medellín, Daniel Quintero—a popular independent mayor of Colombia’s second-largest city—tweeted on May 9, hinting at his support for the Petro-Márquez candidacy with the hashtag “ElCambioEnPrimera,” which is associated with their campaign. He was suspended on May 10 by the Colombian Inspector General’s Office for his alleged interference in the election. By Colombian law, elected officials are not permitted to participate in politics. Quintero responded on Twitter, saying, “The coup d’état has begun in Colombia.”

Pizzaro told us that the suspension of Quintero shows disregard for a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, under which this prohibition would be considered unjust. Colombia, she said, “is the only country where officials—who are politicians, elected by a popular vote—cannot express themselves politically.” Reflecting on the suspension of Quintero, Pizzaro said that the country needs “political reform that [involves] changing the rules of the game to allow or at least to avoid the whole series of situations that arise [as a result of] these obsolete outcomes.” Colombia, she said, “needs a new way of doing politics for the new generation.”

No More Armed Struggle

Pizzaro grew up with her parents in the armed struggle. She has watched her country be torn to bits by the elite, who were unwilling to adopt even the most basic liberal principles, and by a state quick to respond with violence if the elite felt threatened. “Colombia,” she told us, “deserves a path to peace.” In 2016, after a difficult period of negotiations, sections of the armed left and the state agreed to a peace process. The agreement—ratified by the elected officials—led to the disarmament of the revolutionary group FARC (Common Alternative Revolutionary Force) and its conversion into a political party called Comunes (which is a coalition partner of the Historical Pact).

Fighters who abandoned the armed struggle have had a hard time reintegrating into Colombia’s social and political life. This is a worry for Pizzaro. “We have to reintegrate in a peaceful way all people who had [earlier] taken the decision of the armed road,” she said. “We have to generate social conditions so that no Colombian ever has to opt for the armed way to transform the political and social life of the country.” The path to this transformation must be through democratic possibilities, she said.

Petro comes to this race as the former mayor of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. His running mate—Francia Márquez—represents the transformations that Pizzaro described to us. An Afro-Colombian woman, Márquez worked as a domestic worker to pay for her studies and built her reputation as a defender of the poor against mining and electricity companies. Her bravery is legendary, as was demonstrated when, while she was on stage at an Afro-Colombian Day rally in May, her adversaries pointed a laser at her, and she continued to speak and remained undaunted by the fact that the laser could have represented the threat of a sniper weapon. Márquez’s candidacy represents evidence that the new hoped-for politics Pizarro spoke of has arrived in Colombia.

The journalist and politician Mábel Lara wrote a public letter to support the Historical Pact—even though she has a different political ideology. In her letter, she wrote, “I was born and grew up in Cauca, a region like all the regions of Colombia: forgotten by the political leadership and the political class that has been elected for decades and has not listened to us. I have received a call from a Black woman from the region who, like me, has fought democratically at the polls and has invited me to accompany her. I accept the call of my friend Francia Márquez at this important moment in history.” Pizarro concurred.

Author Bio: 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.

Taroa Zúñiga Silva is a writing fellow and the Spanish media coordinator for Globetrotter. She is the co-editor with Giordana García Sojo of Venezuela, Vórtice de la Guerra del Siglo XXI (2020). She is a member of the coordinating committee of Argos: International Observatory on Migration and Human Rights and is a member of the Mecha Cooperativa, a project of the Ejército Comunicacional de Liberación.

Western-led globalization might end, but the new globalization might have an Eastern face

An article written by authors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge for Bloomberg on March 24 sounded the alarm to announce the end of “the second great age of globalization.” The Western trade war and sanctions against China that predated the pandemic have now been joined by the stiff Western sanctions imposed against Russia after it invaded Ukraine. These sanctions are like an iron curtain being built by the United States and its allies around Eurasia. But according to Micklethwait and Wooldridge, this iron curtain will not only descend around China and Russia but will also have far-reaching consequences across the world.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Australia and many countries in Asia, including India and Japan—which are otherwise reliable allies of the United States—are unwilling to break their economic and political ties with China and Russia. The 38 countries that did not vote at the United Nations General Assembly meeting on March 24 to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine included China and India; both of these countries “account for the majority of the world’s population,” Micklethwait and Wooldridge observe in their Bloomberg article. If the world bifurcates, “the second great age of globalization… [will come] to a catastrophic close,” the article states.

In 2000, Micklethwait and Wooldridge published the manual on this wave of globalization called A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Promise of Globalization. That book cheered on the liberalization of trade and finance, although its authors acknowledged that in this free market society that they championed, “businesspeople are the most obvious beneficiaries.” The inequalities generated by globalization would be lessened, they suggested, by the greater choices afforded to the consumers (although, as social inequality increased during the 2000s, consumers simply did not have the money to exercise their choices). When Micklethwait and Wooldridge wrote A Future Perfect, they both worked for the Economist, which has been one of the cheerleaders of Western-shaped globalization. Both Micklethwait and Wooldridge are now at Bloomberg, another significant voice of the business elites.

In an article for the International Monetary Fund, Kenneth Rogoff, a professor at Harvard University, warns of the risk of deglobalization. Such an unraveling, he notes, “would surely be a huge negative shock for the world economy.” Rogoff, like Micklethwait and Wooldridge, uses the word “catastrophic” to describe the impact of deglobalization. Unlike Micklethwait and Wooldridge, however, Rogoff’s article seems to imply that deglobalization is the production of Russia’s war on Ukraine and that it could be “temporary.” Russia, he states, “looks set to be isolated for an extended period.” In his article, Rogoff does not delve very much into concerns about what this means to the people in many parts of the world (such as Central Asia and Europe). “The real hit to globalization,” he worries, “will happen if trade between advanced economies and China also drops.” If that happens, then deglobalization would not be temporary since countries such as China and Russia will seek other pathways for trade and development.

Longer Histories

None of these writers acknowledges in these recent articles that deglobalization, which is a retreat from Western-designed globalization, did not begin during the pandemic or during the Russian war on Ukraine. This process has its origins in the Great Recession of 2007-2009. With the faltering of the Western economies, both China and Russia, as well as other major economic powers, began to seek alternative ways to globalize. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was announced in 2013, is a signal of this gradual shift, with China developing its own linkages first in Central and South Asia and then beyond Asia and toward Africa, Europe and Latin America. It is telling that the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a backwater event founded in 1997, has become a meeting place for Asian and European business and political leaders who see this meeting as much more significant than the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting held in Davos, Switzerland.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, countries such as China began to de-dollarize their currency reserves. They moved from a largely dollar-based reserve to one that was more diversified. It is this move toward diversification that led to the drop in the dollar’s share in global currency reserves from 70 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2020. According to author Tony Norfield, the share of dollars in Russian foreign exchange reserves was 23.6 percent in 2019 and dropped to 10.9 percent by 2021. Deprived of dollars due to the sanctions imposed by the West, the Central Bank of Russia has attempted various maneuvers to de-dollarize its currency reserves as well, including by anchoring the ruble to gold, by preventing the outward flow of dollars and by demanding that its buyers of fuel and food pay in rubles rather than in dollars.

As the United States widens its net to sanction more and more countries, these countries—such as China and Russia—seek to build up trade mechanisms that are not reliant upon Western institutions anymore.

Deglobalization Leads to a Different Globalization

On January 1, 2022, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)—the world’s largest free trade pact—went into effect. Two years ago, 15 countries met virtually in Hanoi, Vietnam, to sign this treaty. These countries include close allies of the United States, such as Australia, Japan and South Korea, as well as countries that face U.S. sanctions, such as China and Myanmar. A third of humanity is included in RCEP, which accounts for a third of global gross domestic product. The Asian Development Bank is hopeful that RCEP will provide relief to countries struggling to emerge from the negative economic impact of the pandemic.

Blocs such as RCEP and projects like the BRI are not antithetical to the internationalization of trade and development. Economists at the HKUST Business School in Hong Kong show that the BRI “significantly increases bilateral trade flows between BRI countries.” China’s purchases from BRI countries have increased, although much of this is in the realm of energy and minerals rather than in high-value goods; exports from China to the BRI countries, on the other hand, remain steady. The Asian Development Bank estimates that the BRI project would require $1.7 trillion annually for infrastructural development in Asia, including climate-related investments.

The pandemic has certainly stalled the progress of the BRI project, with debt problems affecting a range of countries due to lower than capacity use of their BRI-funded infrastructure. The economic and political crises in Pakistan and Sri Lanka are partly related to the global slowdown of trade. These countries are integral to the BRI project. Rising food and fuel prices due to the war in Ukraine will further complicate matters for countries in the Global South.

The appetite in many parts of the world has already increased for an alternative to Western-shaped globalization, but this does not necessarily mean deglobalization. It could mean a globalization platform that no longer has its epicenter located in Washington or Brussels.

Author Bio: E. Ahmet Tonak is an economist who works at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is the co-editor or author of several books, including Marxism and Classes, From Right to the City to the Uprising, and Turkey in Transition. 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.

Now is the time for nonalignment and peace

War is an ugly part of the human experience. Everything about it is hideous. War is most obviously the act of invasion and the brutality that goes along with its operations. No war is precise; every war hurts civilians. Each act of bombardment sends a neurological shudder through a society.

This article was produced by the Morning Star and Globetrotter.

World War II demonstrated this ugliness in the Holocaust and in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From Hiroshima and the Holocaust rose two mighty movements, one for peace and against the perils of further nuclear attacks, and the other for an end to the divisions of humanity and for a nonalignment from these divisions. The Stockholm Appeal of 1950, signed by 300 million people, called for an absolute ban on nuclear weapons. Five years later, 29 countries from Africa and Asia, representing 54 percent of the world’s population, gathered in Bandung, Indonesia, to sign a 10-point pledge against war and for the “promotion of mutual interests and cooperation.” The Bandung Spirit was for peace and for nonalignment, for the peoples of the world to put their efforts into building a process to eradicate history’s burdens (illiteracy, ill health, hunger) by using their social wealth. Why spend money on nuclear weapons when money should be spent on classrooms and hospitals?

Despite the major gains of many of the new nations that had emerged out of colonialism, the overwhelming force of the older colonial powers prevented the Bandung Spirit from defining human history. Instead, the civilization of war prevailed. This civilization of war is revealed in the massive waste of human wealth in the production of armed forces—sufficient to destroy hundreds of planets—and the use of these armed forces as the first instinct to settle disputes. Since the 1950s, the battlefield of these ambitions has not been in Europe or in North America, but rather it has been in Africa, Asia, and Latin America—areas of the world where old colonial sensibilities believe that human life is less important. This international division of humanity—which says that a war in Yemen is normal, whereas a war in Ukraine is horrific—defines our time. There are 40 wars taking place across the globe; there needs to be political will to fight to end each of these, not just those that are taking place within Europe. The Ukrainian flag is ubiquitous in the West; what are the colors of the Yemeni flag, of the Sahrawi flag, and of the Somali flag?

Return to Peace, Return to Nonalignment

We are overwhelmed these days with certainties that seem less and less real. As Russia’s war in Ukraine continues, there is a baffling view that negotiations are futile. This view circulates even when reasonable people agree that all wars must end in negotiations. If that is the case, then why not call for an immediate ceasefire and build the trust necessary for negotiations? Negotiations are only feasible if there is respect on all sides, and if there is an attempt to understand that all sides in a military conflict have reasonable demands. To wit, to paint this war as the whims of Russian President Vladimir Putin is part of the exercise of permanent war. Security guarantees for Ukraine are necessary; but so are security guarantees for Russia, which would include a return to a serious international arms control regime.

Peace does not come merely because we wish for it. It requires a fight in the trenches of ideas and institutions. The political forces in power profit from war, and so they clothe themselves in machismo to better represent the arms dealers who want more war, not less. These people in the blue suits of bureaucracy are not to be trusted with the world’s future. They fail us when it comes to the climate catastrophe; they fail us when it comes to the pandemic; they fail us when it comes to peacemaking. We need to summon up the old spirits of peace and nonalignment and bring these to life inside mass movements that are the only hope of this planet.

It is not merely sentimental to reach back to the past to breathe life into the Non-Aligned Movement of today. Already the contradictions of the present have raised the specter of nonalignment in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Most of these countries voted against the condemnation of Russia not because they support Russia’s war in Ukraine, but rather because they recognize that polarization is a fatal error. What is needed is an alternative to the two-camp world of the Cold War. That is the reason why many of the leaders of these countries—from China’s Xi Jinping to India’s Narendra Modi to South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa—have called, despite their very different political orientations, for a departure from the “Cold War mentality.” They are already walking toward a new nonaligned platform. It is this actual movement of history that provokes us to reflect on a return to the concepts of nonalignment and peace.

Nobody wants to imagine the full implications of the encirclement of China and Russia by the United States and its allies. Even countries that are closely allied with the United States—such as Germany and Japan—recognize that if a new iron curtain descends around China and Russia, it would be fatal for their own countries. Already, the war and sanctions have created serious political crises in Honduras, Pakistan, Peru, and Sri Lanka, with others to follow as food and fuel prices rise astronomically. War is too expensive for the poorer nations. Spending for war is eating into the human spirit, and warfare itself increases people’s general sense of despair.

The warmakers are idealists. Their wars do not settle the major dilemmas of humanity. The ideas of nonalignment and peace, on the other hand, are realistic; their framework has answers to the children who want to eat and to learn, to play and to dream.

Author Bio: Roger McKenzie is a reporter for the Morning Star. He is the general secretary of Liberation, one of the oldest UK human rights organizations. 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.

Will Japan and Russia's tensions over contested Pacific islands spill over into war?

Each year, Japan’s Foreign Ministry releases a Diplomatic Bluebook, a guide to the government’s views on the world. Kyodo News, a reputed Japanese wire service, reports that the 2022 Bluebook will have strong language against Russia. This Bluebook will be released to the public before the end of April, but Kyodo News’ reporters have seen a leaked text. The text that the news agency has seen has not been finally vetted by the government of Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Two startling changes appear in this draft text. First, the Bluebook refers to the Russian control over some islands north of Hokkaido as an “illegal occupation.” The last time the annual Bluebooks used this phrase was in 2003. Then, the Bluebook pointed out that Japan “renounced its right to the Kuril Islands" in the 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan, signed in San Francisco (Chapter II, Article 2[c]); these islands were then part of the USSR. Nonetheless, the 2003 Bluebook said, “In the Four Northern Islands, the illegal occupation by the Soviet Union and Russia continues today.” Japan calls these “Four Northern Islands” Etorofu, Habomai, Kunashiri, and Shikotan (Russia calls the “Southern Kurils” Iturup, Khabomai, Kunashir, and Shikotan, respectively). Second, the 2006 Bluebook called the islands “inherently Japanese.” This phrase has not been used since then but has reappeared in the 2022 draft Bluebook. Phrases such as “illegal occupation” and “inherently Japanese” in the Bluebook suggest that the tensions between Japan and Russia will certainly increase.

Japan’s Sanctions on Russia

On February 24, 2022, as Russian forces entered Ukraine, Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa released a statement to condemn the action and to demand that Russian military forces return to their territory. The next day, Japan, in line with its fellow G-7 countries, announced measures against Russia. These included the freezing of Japan-based assets of three Russian banks, Bank Rossiya, Promsvyazbank, and VEB (Russia’s development bank). Not long afterward, Japan agreed with the European Union position to exclude seven major Russian banks (including the three already sanctioned by Japan) from the SWIFT system. These four other banks are Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Sovcombank, and VTB.

In addition, Japan’s finance ministry said that it would prevent the major Japanese banks from doing business with Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank. Three of Japan’s principal banks—Mizuho Bank, MUFG, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation—have considerable exposure inside Russia since these banks have provided long-term financing for oil and natural gas projects; they are set to lose $4.69 billion, 20 percent of these banks’ expected net annual profits. The government’s Japan Bank for International Cooperation has large investments in Russian gas fields and gas pipelines (including with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund). This exposure will pose problems for its balance sheets.

Russia retaliated by placing Japan on its list of “unfriendly countries,” whose diplomatic staff must be reduced and whose citizens will have a difficult time getting a visa into Russia.

Japan’s Energy Dependence

On March 31, 2022, as his government pledged to sanction Russian banks, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida told Japan’s parliament, the Diet, that his government would remain involved with Russia’s Sakhalin 2 natural gas and oil project. This project, Kishida said, will provide Japan with “long-term, inexpensive, and stable LNG [liquefied natural gas] supplies.” “It is an extremely important project in terms of our energy security,” he said. “Our plan is not to withdraw.”

Japan’s government owns a significant part of Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development Co (SODECO), which has built and manages the Sakhalin 1 and Sakhalin 2 projects. Four of the investors in Sakhalin 2 are Gazprom (the Russian energy company), Shell, and two Japanese firms (Mitsubishi and Mitsui). About 60 percent of the 9.6 million tons of LNG produced by Sakhalin 2, located on Sakhalin Island (about 28 miles off the coast of Japan), is delivered to Japan. Japanese investment in the oil fields of Sakhalin 1 had been intended to reduce its crude oil reliance on the Middle East (now 80 percent of Japan’s oil comes from the Gulf).

Last December, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation partnered with banks from China (China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China) as well as from Russia (Gazprombank, Sberbank, and VEB) to finance the Arctic LNG 2 Project in Russia’s Gydan Peninsula on the Kara Sea (Arctic Ocean). When this plant comes online, it will provide 19.8 million tons of LNG, twice the current production from Sakhalin 2.

Prime Minister Kishida’s hesitancy to walk away from Russian energy imports requires explanation. Japan imports most of its energy from countries other than Russia. In 2019, Japan imported 88 percent of its energy needs, mostly fossil fuels. These fuels come from a range of countries, which includes Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for 58 percent of its crude oil, Australia for 65 percent of its coal, and Australia and Malaysia for 40 percent of its liquefied natural gas. Russia is a small, but important provider of crude oil (9 percent), coal (8.7 percent) and LNG (9 percent). Due to the proximity of Russia’s fuels, and to the price of Russian gas on the spot market, the overall cost of Russian energy is much less than that of energy from the Gulf States. If Japan stopped importing LNG from Sakhalin 2, its bills would immediately go up by between $15 and $25 billion. That is the reason why Prime Minister Kishida has refused to cease energy imports from Russia. Whether Russia will stop exports to Japan or whether it will insist on the trade being denominated in rubles is to be seen (thus far, Russia has only insisted that payment for the gaseous form of national gas be made in rubles).

Tensions in the Sea of Okhotsk

In 1956, the USSR and Japan signed a declaration that promised to settle outstanding issues between the two countries. The USSR agreed that it would hand over two of the four islands (Habomai and Shikotan) “after the conclusion of a Peace Treaty” between the two countries. No such treaty was completed. Each Bluebook over the past decades notes that these small islands form “the most outstanding issue in Japan-Russia relations.” The previous prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin more than 20 times, but they were not able to make a breakthrough.

These small islands in the Sea of Okhotsk allow Russia to extend its territorial waters into the Pacific Ocean. It is from these passages that Russia’s Pacific and Northern Fleets—based in Fokino and Severomorsk, respectively—traverse the increasingly important Arctic waters and the northern waters of the Pacific (where Russia rubs shoulders with an increased NATO presence). The loss of these islands will be an issue not merely of prestige, but also of Russian commercial ambitions in its northern waters.

It is unlikely that these islands will draw these two countries into any kind of conflict beyond the sanctions that Japan has placed upon Russian banks. But these are dangerous times, and it is impossible to guess exactly what comes next. Any accidental clash between Japan and Russia would trigger Article V of the 1960 treaty that Japan signed with the United States; if that were to happen, it would be a catastrophe.

Author Bio: 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.

Are Western wealthy countries determined to starve the people of Afghanistan?

On January 11, 2022, the United Nations (UN) Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths appealed to the international community to help raise $4.4 billion for Afghanistan in humanitarian aid, calling this effort, “the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance.” This amount is required “in the hope of shoring up collapsing basic services there,” said the UN. If this appeal is not met, Griffiths said, then “next year [2023] we’ll be asking for $10 billion.”

The figure of $10 billion is significant. A few days after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August 2021, the U.S. government announced the seizure of $9.5 billion in Afghan assets that were being held in the U.S. banking system. Under pressure from the United States government, the International Monetary Fund also denied Afghanistan access to $455 million of its share of special drawing rights, the international reserve asset that the IMF provides to its member countries to supplement their original reserves. These two figures—which constitute Afghanistan’s monetary reserves—amount to around $10 billion, the exact number Griffiths said that the country would need if the United Nations does not immediately get an emergency disbursement for providing humanitarian relief to Afghanistan.

A recent analysis by development economist Dr. William Byrd for the United States Institute of Peace, titled, “How to Mitigate Afghanistan’s Economic and Humanitarian Crises,” noted that the economic and humanitarian crises being faced by the country are a direct result of the cutoff of $8 billion in annual aid to Afghanistan and the freezing of $9.5 billion of the country’s “foreign exchange reserves” by the United States. The analysis further noted that the sanctions relief—given by the U.S. Treasury Department and the United Nations Security Council on December 22, 2021—to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan should also be extended to “private business and commercial transactions.” Byrd also mentioned the need to find ways to pay salaries of health workers, teachers and other essential service providers to prevent an economic collapse in Afghanistan and suggested using “a combination of Afghan revenues and aid funding” for this purpose.

Meanwhile, the idea of paying salaries directly to the teachers came up in an early December 2021 meeting between the UN’s special envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons and Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai. None of these proposals, however, seem to have been taken seriously in Washington, D.C.

A Humanitarian Crisis

In July 2020, before the pandemic hit the country hard, and long before the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, the Ministry of Economy in Afghanistan had said that 90 percent of the people in the country lived below the international poverty line of $2 a day. Meanwhile, since the beginning of its war in Afghanistan in 2001, the United States government has spent $2.313 trillion on its war efforts, according to figures provided by Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University; but despite spending 20 years in the country’s war, the United States government spent only $145 billion on the reconstruction of the country’s institutions, according to its own estimates. In August, before the Taliban defeated the U.S. military forces, the United States government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published an important report that assessed the money spent by the U.S. on the country’s development. The authors of the report wrote that despite some modest gains, “progress has been elusive and the prospects for sustaining this progress are dubious.” The report pointed to the lack of development of a coherent strategy by the U.S. government, excessive reliance on foreign aid, and pervasive corruption inside the U.S. contracting process as some of the reasons that eventually led to a “troubled reconstruction effort” in Afghanistan. This resulted in an enormous waste of resources for the Afghans, who desperately needed these resources to rebuild their country, which had been destroyed by years of war.

On December 1, 2021, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released a vital report on the devastating situation in Afghanistan. In the last decade of the U.S. occupation, the annual per capita income in Afghanistan fell from $650 in 2012 to around $500 in 2020 and is expected to drop to $350 in 2022 if the population increases at the same pace as it has in the recent past. The country’s gross domestic product will contract by 20 percent in 2022, followed by a 30 percent drop in the following years. The following sentences from the UNDP report are worth quoting in full to understand the extent of humanitarian crisis being faced by the people in the country: “According to recent estimates, only 5 percent of the population has enough to eat, while the number of those facing acute hunger is now estimated to have… reached a record 23 million. Almost 14 million children are likely to face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity this winter, with 3.5 million children under the age of five expected to suffer from acute malnutrition, and 1 million children risk dying from hunger and low temperatures.”

Lifelines

This unraveling humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is the reason for the January 11 appeal to the international community by the UN. On December 18, 2021, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held an emergency meeting—called for by Saudi Arabia—on Afghanistan in Islamabad, Pakistan. Outside the meeting room—which merely produced a statement—the various foreign ministers met with Afghanistan’s interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. While in Islamabad, Muttaqi met with the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West. A senior official with the U.S. delegation told Kamran Yousaf of the Express Tribune (Pakistan), “We have worked quietly to enable cash… [to come into] the country in larger and larger denominations.” A foreign minister at the OIC meeting told me that the OIC states are already working quietly to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

Four days later, on December 22, the United States introduced a resolution (2615) in the UN Security Council that urged a “humanitarian exception” to the harsh sanctions against Afghanistan. During the meeting, which took place for approximately 40 minutes, nobody raised the matter that the U.S., which proposed the resolution, had decided to freeze the $10 billion that belonged to Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the passage of this resolution was widely celebrated since everyone understands the gravity of Afghanistan’s crisis. Meanwhile, Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the UN, raised problems relating to the far-reaching effects of such sanctions and urged the council to “guide the Taliban to consolidate interim structures, enabling them to maintain security and stability, and to promote reconstruction and recovery.”

A senior member of the Afghan central bank (Da Afghanistan Bank) told me that much-needed resources are expected to enter the country as part of humanitarian aid being provided by Afghanistan’s neighbors, particularly from China, Iran and Pakistan (aid from India will come through Iran). Aid has also come in from other neighboring countries, such as Uzbekistan, which sent 3,700 tons of food, fuel and winter clothes, and Turkmenistan, which sent fuel and food. In early January 2022, Muttaqi traveled to Tehran, Iran, to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and Iran’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Hassan Kazemi Qomi. While Iran has not recognized the Taliban government as the official government of Afghanistan, it has been in close contact with the government “to help the deprived people of Afghanistan to reduce their suffering.” Muttaqi has, meanwhile, emphasized that his government wants to engage the major powers over the future of Afghanistan.

On January 10, the day before the UN made its most recent appeal for coming to the aid of Afghanistan, a group of charity groups and NGOs—organized by the Zakat Foundation of America—held an Afghan Peace and Humanitarian Task Force meeting in Washington. The greatest concern is the humanitarian crisis being faced by the people of Afghanistan, notably the imminent question of starvation in the country, with the roads already closed off due to the harsh winter witnessed in the region.

In November 2021, Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai urged the United States to reopen its embassy in Kabul; a few weeks later, he said that the U.S. is responsible for the crisis in Afghanistan, and it “should play an active role” in repairing the damage it has done to the country. This sums up the present mood in Afghanistan: open to relations with the U.S., but only after it allows the Afghan people access to the nation’s own money in order to save Afghan lives.

This article was produced by Globetrotter. 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.

Why one state in India shows the promise of democracy as the world becomes more authoritarian

Just before the state elections in Kerala, in southern India, a television channel ran a program called "The Great Political Kitchen." The anchor went to kitchens across the state to talk to homemakers about their views on politics. In one kitchen, the anchor asked a woman about a dispute surrounding a temple in southern Kerala where the courts had ordered that women must be allowed full access to the temple premises in 2018. For the past five years, Kerala had been governed by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), which had taken a democratic position over this issue and had supported the entry of women into this famous temple. The right wing claimed this was evidence that the LDF government was against religious freedom; such a claim would not be restricted to the majority-Hindu population but could also be extended to other minority communities in India such as Christians and Muslims. The woman told the TV anchor, "I am a devotee [of the temple], but hunger won't go away if I cook and eat devotion. That's all I have to say about it."

Her response—which went viral—conveyed the mood of the recent election in Kerala, which was won by the LDF. The LDF won 99 of the 140 seats in the Kerala assembly elections; 67 of these seats were won by candidates of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). It was the first time since 1980 that an incumbent party or coalition had been able to win a second consecutive term in Kerala.

Most people in Kerala were uninterested in the dangerous flippancy of the right-wing politics represented by the Bharatiya Janata Party—in power at the center in India—which is keener to talk about anything other than issues that concern people's material conditions of life such as the pandemic and its social impact on their lives. The LDF leadership, on the other hand, has been focused on the pandemic and on providing the materials necessary for relief to the people in the state during the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis that the country is witnessing presently. Mass organizations of the Left and community organizations joined the state government in efforts to take care of the people. As a result, Kerala has so far been able to tackle the pandemic crisis better than other parts of India.

Pandemic Relief

A comprehensive poll by the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Lokniti shows that 73 percent of those polled said that they were satisfied by the performance of the state government. Led by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the LDF government's first term, from 2016 to 2021, was wracked by natural disasters (a cyclone in 2017 and floods in 2018 and 2019) and virus outbreaks (the Nipah virus in 2018 and the coronavirus pandemic), which have impacted lives globally. The government dealt with each of these crises in a similar fashion: through calm and scientific assessments of what had occurred, combined with announcing generous relief for the impacted people. This was true in all the calamities before the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the 2018 floods, which were the heaviest in a century.

The CSDS-Lokniti poll shows that the electorate went to vote with the good governance of the LDF in mind. Asked about the LDF government's performance in dealing with the pandemic, 72 percent said that it was either "good" or "very good." A remarkable 88 percent said that they were satisfied with the food kits distributed by the government to ensure that no one went hungry during the crisis.

Contrary to the attitude of the right-wing government of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the LDF government of Kerala adopted a science-based approach to tackle the pandemic. It expanded public health care facilities to meet likely increases in the number of cases. It carried out a vigorous "Break the Chain" campaign, urging people to adopt the basic practices (social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks) that are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. Testing and treatment for COVID-19 in Kerala's government hospitals have been free and available to everyone who needs it.

To prevent mass suffering during the pandemic, the LDF government got the state's self-government institutions—which have been strengthened over the past few decades due to the efforts of Left governments—to cook and deliver food to those in need. The government provided food grain and grocery kits for free to every household to prevent hunger. The trade unions and mass organizations helped run these community kitchens as well as helped set up quarantine facilities and treatment centers.

Infrastructure

The right wing in Kerala has typically claimed that the Left is not equipped to build the state's infrastructure. But this time, the right wing had no grounds to make its typical complaints. Since 2016, the state government has not only improved the basic transportation infrastructure but has also built up other kinds of infrastructure needed by the working class and the peasantry.

There is a conventional attitude that suggests infrastructure is built to promote the interests of business alone. But this is not the case in the way Kerala's LDF government built its public infrastructure, including public housing—the government built 250,000 homes for the poor. There was a major focus on public education and public health care, both of which were enhanced, and a stronger public health care system in the state helped it to stave off the catastrophe that COVID-19 has wrought in the rest of India. For the first time in 25 years, students left private schools to return to the improved public education system. Improvements in facilities in public schools included providing sanitary pads for girls to encourage better attendance in school.

Roads, bridges, power lines, and a massive public sector internet project (Kerala Fiber Optic Network, or K-FON) to provide internet as a basic right to citizens have been a few of the key elements of the government's infrastructure work.

Election manifestos are often not taken seriously; this is, however, not the case with the LDF government. "We have fulfilled 580 out of the 600 items in the 2016 manifesto. Now we are placing before the people a manifesto with 900 promises," Chief Minister Vijayan said in March.

900 Promises

The pressing task for the LDF government is the same as before the election: to bring the second wave of COVID-19 infections under control. The Indian government of Prime Minister Modi has been hopeless, allowing the infection to run rampant while doing little to either build up the public health care system or to provide a proper vaccination program. In the first week of May, the seven-day average of doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in India was 1.9 million. At this pace, it will take until February 2024 to administer two doses of the vaccine to the entire adult population of the country.

Kerala's government is forced to buy vaccines on the open market. An important takeaway from this pandemic has been the need for the state to redouble its efforts to strengthen its public sector enterprises, such as the Kerala State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited, which has been producing essential drugs at low prices for the government hospitals in the state. Kerala currently has a lockdown in place to bring down the rate of infection, which has been high due to the more contagious variants of coronavirus, including the triple-mutant Indian variant, that have been infecting people.

The CSDS-Lokniti poll showed that the working class and the poor as well as oppressed castes, including Dalits, voted overwhelmingly for the LDF; there is no doubt that their interests will play a leading role in shaping the government policy. That is why the LDF returns to power with a mandate to end absolute poverty by the formulation of micro-plans that target families who live with extreme poverty, including homelessness.

Hunger can't be eradicated by devotion. Only social action can eradicate hunger and hopelessness.

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.

Subin Dennis is an economist and a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research's New Delhi, India, office.

Chomsky and Prashad: The reality behind the US 'withdrawal' from Afghanistan

The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 was criminal. It was criminal because of the immense force used to demolish Afghanistan's physical infrastructure and to break open its social bonds.

On October 11, 2001, journalist Anatol Lieven interviewed the Afghan leader Abdul Haq in Peshawar, Pakistan. Haq, who led part of the resistance against the Taliban, was getting ready to return to Afghanistan under the cover of the U.S. aerial bombardments. He was, however, not pleased with the way the United States had decided to prosecute the war. "Military action by itself in the present circumstances is only making things more difficult—especially if this war goes on a long time and many civilians are killed," Abdul Haq told Lieven. The war would go on for 20 years, and at least 71,344 civilians would lose their lives during this period.

Abdul Haq told Lieven that "the best thing would be for the U.S. to work for a united political solution involving all the Afghan groups. Otherwise, there will be an encouragement of deep divisions between different groups, backed by different countries and badly affecting the whole region." These are prescient words, but Haq knew no one was listening to him. "Probably," he told Lieven, "the U.S. has already made up its mind what to do, and any recommendations by me will be too late."

After 20 years of the incredible destruction caused by this war, and after inflaming animosity between "all the Afghan groups," the United States has returned to the exact policy prescription of Abdul Haq: political dialogue.

Abdul Haq returned to Afghanistan and was killed by the Taliban on October 26, 2001. His advice is now out-of-date. In September 2001, the various protagonists in Afghanistan—including the Taliban—were ready to talk. They did so partly because they feared that the looming U.S. warplanes would open the doors to hell for Afghanistan. Now, 20 years later, the gulf between the Taliban and the others has widened. Appetite for negotiations simply does not exist any longer.

Civil War

On April 14, 2021, the speaker of Afghanistan's parliament—Mir Rahman Rahmani—warned that his country is on the brink of a "civil war." Kabul's political circles have been bristling with conversations about a civil war when the United States withdraws by September 11. This is why on April 15, during a press conference held in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Sharif Amiry of TOLOnews asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the possibility of a civil war. Blinken answered, "I don't think that it is in anyone's interest, to say the least, for Afghanistan to descend into a civil war, into a long war. And even the Taliban, as we hear it, has said it has no interest in that."

In fact, Afghanistan has been in a civil war for half a century, at least since the creation of the mujahideen—including Abdul Haq—to battle the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan government (1978-1992). This civil war was intensified by the U.S. support of Afghanistan's most conservative and extreme right-wing elements, groups that would become part of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Islamist factions. Never once has the United States offered a path to peace during this period; instead, it has always shown an eagerness at each turn to use the immensity of the U.S. force to control the outcome in Kabul.

Withdrawal?

Even this withdrawal, which was announced in late April 2021 and began on May 1, is not as clear-cut as it seems. "It's time for American troops to come home," announced U.S. President Joe Biden on April 14, 2021. On the same day, the U.S. Department of Defense clarified that 2,500 troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11. In a March 14 article, meanwhile, the New York Times had noted that the U.S. has 3,500 troops in Afghanistan even though "[p]ublicly, 2,500 U.S. troops are said to be in the country." The undercount by the Pentagon is obscurantism. A report by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, furthermore, noted that the United States has about 16,000 contractors on the ground in Afghanistan. They provide a variety of services, which most likely include military support. None of these contractors—or the additional undisclosed 1,000 U.S. troops—are slated for withdrawal, nor will aerial bombardment—including drone strikes—end, and there will be no end to special forces missions either.

On April 21, Blinken said that the United States would provide nearly $300 million to the Afghanistan government of Ashraf Ghani. Ghani, who—like his predecessor Hamid Karzai—often appears to be more of a mayor of Kabul than the president of Afghanistan, is being outflanked by his rivals. Kabul is buzzing with talk of post-withdrawal governments, including a proposal by Hezb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to form a government that he would lead and that would not include the Taliban. The U.S., meanwhile, has consented to the idea that the Taliban should have a role in the government; it is now being said openly that the Biden administration believes the Taliban would "govern less harshly" than it did from 1996 to 2001.

The United States, it appears, is willing to allow the Taliban to return to power with two caveats: first, that the U.S. presence remains, and second, that the main rivals of the United States—namely China and Russia—have no role in Kabul. In 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Chennai, India, where she proposed the creation of a New Silk Road Initiative that linked Central Asia through Afghanistan and via the ports of India; the purpose of this initiative was to cut off Russia from its links in Central Asia and to prevent the establishment of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, which now runs all the way to Turkey.

Stability is not in the cards for Afghanistan. In January, Vladimir Norov, former foreign minister of Uzbekistan and the current secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), addressed a webinar organized by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. Norov said that Daesh or ISIS has been shifting its fighters from Syria to northern Afghanistan. This movement of extremist fighters is of concern not only to Afghanistan but also to Central Asia and to China. In 2020, the Washington Post revealed that the U.S. military had been providing aerial support for the Taliban as it made gains against ISIS fighters. Even if there is a peace deal with the Taliban, ISIS will destabilize it.

Forgotten Possibilities

Forgotten are the words of concern for Afghan women, words that provided legitimacy for the U.S. invasion in October 2001. Rasil Basu, a United Nations official, served as a senior adviser on women's development to the Afghan government from 1986 to 1988. The Afghan Constitution of 1987 provided women with equal rights, which allowed women's groups to struggle against patriarchal norms and fight for equality at work and at home. Because large numbers of men had died in the war, Basu told us, women went into several occupations. There were substantial gains for women's rights, including a rise in literacy rates. All this has been largely erased during the U.S. war over these past two decades.

Even before the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988-89, men who are now jockeying for power—such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar—said that they would undo these gains. Basu remembered the shabanamas, notices that circulated to women and warned them to obey patriarchal norms (she submitted an opinion piece warning of this catastrophe to the New York Times, to the Washington Post, and to Ms. Magazine, all of whom rejected it).

Afghanistan's last communist head of government—Mohammed Najibullah (1987-1992)—submitted a National Reconciliation Policy, in which he put women's rights at the top of the agenda. It was rejected by the U.S.-backed Islamists, many of whom remain in positions of authority today.

No lessons have been learned from this history. The U.S. will "withdraw," but will also leave behind its assets to checkmate China and Russia. These geopolitical considerations eclipse any concern for the Afghan people.

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.

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Modi's failure: The COVID-19 catastrophe in India is completely out of control

For Ashish Yechury (1986-2021), journalist.

It is difficult to overstate the grip of COVID-19 on India. WhatsApp bristles with messages about this or that friend and family member with the virus, while there are angry posts about how the central government has utterly failed its citizenry. This hospital is running out of beds and that hospital has no more oxygen, while there is evasion from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet.

Thirteen months after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the world was in the midst of a pandemic, the Indian government looks into the headlights like a transfixed animal, unable to move. While other countries are well advanced on their vaccination programs, the Indian government sits back and watches a second wave or a third wave land heavily on the Indian people.

On April 21, 2021, the country registered 315,000 cases in a 24-hour period. This is an extraordinarily high number. Bear in mind that in China, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, the total number of detected cases stands at less than 100,000. This spike has raised eyebrows: is this a new variant, or is this a result of failure to manage social interactions (including the 3 million pilgrims who gathered at this year's Kumbh Mela) and to vaccinate enough people.

At the core is the total failure of the Indian government, led by PM Modi, to take this pandemic seriously.

Disregard

A glance around the world shows those governments that disregarded the WHO warnings suffered the worst ravages of COVID-19. From January 2020, the WHO had asked governments to insist on basic hygiene rules—washing hands, physical distance, mask wearing—and then later had suggested testing for COVID-19, contact tracing and social isolation. The first set of recommendations do not require immense resources. Vietnam's government, for instance, took those recommendations very seriously and slowed the spread of the disease immediately.

India's government moved slowly despite evidence of the dangerousness of the disease. By March 10, 2020, before the WHO declared a pandemic, the Indian government reported about 50 COVID-19 cases in India, with infections doubled in 14 days. The first major act from India's prime minister was a 14-hour Janata Curfew, which was dramatic but not in line with the WHO recommendations. This ruthless lockdown, with four hours' notice, sent hundreds of thousands of workers on the road to their homes, penniless, some dying by the wayside, many carrying the virus to their towns and villages. Prime Minister Modi executed this lockdown without checking with his own departments, whose advice might have warned him against such a precipitous and unnecessary act.

Prime Minister Modi took the entire pandemic lightly. He urged people to light candles and bang pots, to make noise to scare away the virus. The lockdown kept being extended, but there was nothing systematic, no national policy that one can find anywhere on the government's websites. In May and June of 2020, the lockdown kept getting extended, although this was meaningless to the millions of working-class Indians who had to go to work to survive on their daily wages. A year into the pandemic, there are now 16 million people in India with detected infections, with 185,000 people confirmed dead from the pandemic. One has to write words like "detected" and "confirmed" because mortality data from India during this pandemic has been totally unreliable.

Consequences of Privatization

The consequences of turning over health care to the private sector and underfunding public health have been diabolical. For years now, advocates of public health care, such as the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, have called for more government spending on public health and less reliance upon profit-driven health care. These calls fell on deaf ears.

India's governments have spent very low amounts on health—3.5 percent of GDP in 2018, a figure that has remained the same for decades. India's current health expenditure per capita, by purchasing power parity, was 275.13 in 2018, around the figures of Kiribati, Myanmar and Sierra Leone. This is a very low number for a country with the kind of industrial capacity and wealth of India.

In late 2020, the Indian government admitted that it has 0.8 medical doctors for every 1,000 Indians, and it has 1.7 nurses for every 1,000 Indians. No country of India's size and wealth has such a low medical staff. It gets worse. India has only 5.3 beds for every 10,000 people, while China—for example—has 43.1 beds for the same number. India has only 2.3 critical care beds for 100,000 people (compared to 3.6 in China) and it has only 48,000 ventilators (China had 70,000 ventilators in Wuhan alone).

The weakness of medical infrastructure is wholly due to privatization, where private sector hospitals run their system on the principle of maximum capacity and have no ability to handle peak loads. The theory of optimization does not permit the system to tackle surges, since in normal times it would mean that the hospitals would have surplus capacity. No private sector is going to voluntarily develop any surplus beds or surplus ventilators. It is this that inevitably causes the crisis in a pandemic.

Low health spending means low expenditure on medical infrastructure and low wages for medical workers. This is a poor way to run a modern society.

Vaccines and Oxygen

Shortages are a normal problem in any society. But the shortages of basic medical goods in India during the pandemic have been scandalous.

India has long been known as the "pharmacy of the world," since India's pharmaceutical industry sector has been skillful at reverse-engineering a range of generic drugs. It is the third-largest pharmaceutical industry manufacturer. India accounts for 60 percent of global vaccine production, including 90 percent of the WHO use of measles vaccine, and India has become the largest producer of pills for the U.S. market. But none of this helped during the crisis.

Vaccines for COVID-19 are not available for Indians at the pace necessary. Vaccinations for Indians will not be complete before November 2022. The government's new policy will allow vaccine makers to hike up prices, but not produce fast enough to cover needs (India's public sector vaccine factories are sitting idle). No large-scale rapid procurement is on the cards. Nor is there enough medical oxygen, and promises to build capacity have been unfulfilled by the ruling party. India's government has been exporting oxygen, even when it became clear that domestic reserves were depleted (it has also exported precious Remdesivir injections).

On March 25, 2020, Modi said that he would win this Mahabharat—this epic battle—against COVID-19 in 18 days. Now, more than 56 weeks after that promise, India looks more like the blood-soaked fields of Kurukshetra, where thousands lay dead, with the war not even at halftime.

This article was produced by Globetrotter. 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: 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.

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