The efficacy in distributing oil wealth throughout the country will not necessarily be a cure for all of Libya’s ills but it will be the jumping-off point for recovery from the collapse of the previous government and a disruptive civil war. Part of the difficulty involved in making sure oil revenue is properly used will be reforming Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), formerly the Libyan National Oil Company, which had been run under 40 years of Qaddafi’s dictatorial rule. Oil produced prior to 2011 in Qaddafi’s Libya was subject to 95 percent tax aimed mostly at multinationals. The figure has now decreased to approximately 75 percent, on par with energy giants like Russia and Norway. With nothing but time to bide, the proper divestiture of oil revenue to a vulnerable population, coupled with a flourishing democracy, may just reverse the bygone days of Qaddafi’s centralised socialism.
Mark P. Sullivan, Hugo Chávez’s Death: Implications for Venezuela and U.S. Relations (Congressional Research Service, 8 March 2012), pp. 4-5:
One of the legacies of President Chávez is his extensive financial support for the poor, supported by high oil prices, which was a significant reason for his continued popularity and re-election over the years. His government established social programs known as misiones or missions offering an array of services in education, health, nutrition, and housing. As a result of increased social spending, the rate of poverty fell from about 49% in 2002 to about 29% in 2011. The political empowerment of the poor under President Chávez will likely be an enduring aspect of his legacy in Venezuelan politics for years to come. Any future successful presidential candidate will need to take into account how his or her policies would affect working class and poor Venezuelans.
On the other hand, President Chávez also left a large negative legacy, including the deterioration of democratic institutions and practices, threats to freedom of expression, high rates of crime and murder (the highest in South America), and an economic situation characterized by high inflation (over 20% in 2012), crumbling infrastructure, and shortages of consumer goods. Ironically, while Chávez championed the poor, his government’s economic mismanagement wasted billions that potentially could have established a more sustainable social welfare system benefiting poor Venezuelans.
Multiple things are notable about this.
First off, when this report mentions the massive reduction in poverty under Chavez, it cites an external source: the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean‘s Social Panorama of Latin America 2012. By contrast, when mentioning all of Chávez’ faults it does not feel the need to identify a single external source to support its claims. I suppose that the crime rate and inflation are quantifiable and easily proven, but that isn’t the case with dubious assertions of a “crumbling infrastructure” and “economic mismanagement.”
So while outright admitting that Chávez massively reduced poverty and empowered the poor, this report seeks to convince people that he was not a True Friend of the poor because the social welfare system he established is not “sustainable.” Unsurprisingly, this claim is short on details. Without any external source to look up or any specific examples of Chávez’ mismanagement cited, it is unclear why any reader should be convinced that this is the case.
It is very typical for liberal critics of Chávez to proclaim their sympathy for the impoverished majority of Venezuelans while arrogantly brushing aside the fact that they elected him repeatedly. They are often taken in by the most inflammatory propaganda pieces in the purportedly “liberal” Western press that assailed his rule based on anecdotes and misrepresented his statements to make him look buffoonish. They are made unjustifiably nervous by his illiberal (but often wholly justified) actions such as the closing of RCTV. Perhaps more than anything, they held his reign to a higher standard than that of other regimes in Latin America, be they center-left or right-wing. Every time someone brings up Venzeuala’s high murder rate, it should be kept in mind that post-coup Honduras’ murder rate is even higher–the highest in the world in fact. Rarely is Honduras’ homicide problem ever attributed to its US-backed neo-liberal government.
It is entirely possible that because Chávez’ government vocally rejected the neo-liberal framework and actively took responsibility for the health of its citizens that its shortcomings were more noticeable. The cruel irony of the rhetorical battle between capitalism and socialism is that capitalism has little pretext for providing economic necessities to each and every citizen while socialism does. This means that those who die from neglect and deprivation under free market-based societies are rarely held up as examples of capitalist failure. Since capitalism declares itself devoid of any duty to provide food and health care to every human being regardless of their class or employment status, it is considered blameless for any “unfortunate” deaths that occur. By contrast, socialism is lambasted and ridiculed as a direct cause of economic ruin and poverty even in countries that are not socialist by any stretch of imagination. So even if it is the case that socialism does a better job of providing for basic human needs, it often becomes discredited by its own high expectations.
That there are massive problems in Venezuelan society is undeniable. That Chávez’ vision of socialism and his regime are solely to blame for most of these problems is doubtful. That these problems are worse than in economically neo-liberal Third World countries is even more doubtful.
International Monetary Fund, Libya Beyond the Revolution: Challenges and Opportunities, 16 April 2012, p. 12:
In the short term, the authorities need to balance recurrent spending pressures against the need for fiscal sustainability and prospects for private-sector development. Wage increases implemented by the previous regime will raise the wage bill from 9 percent of GDP in 2010 to about 19 percent of GDP in 2012. A high level of public-sector wages will reduce the incentive for individuals to seek employment in the private sector and will undermine efforts to advance economic diversification.
If this sounds familiar, it may be because you already heard a similar argument used by the US Republican Party to justify public sector budget cuts:
[...] House Republicans laid out a perverse plan to lower working Americans’ wages, supposedly in a bid to get employers to hire more of them (PDF). One would be hard-pressed to find a better example of the “race to the bottom.” as Tim Fernholz and Jim Tankersley wrote in the National Journal, the GOP report “makes the party’s … case that fiscal consolidation (read: spending cuts) can spur immediate economic growth and reduce unemployment.” The paper calls for cuts that are “large, credible, and politically difficult to reverse once made,” and offers a typical conservative fantasy about shuttering entire federal agencies. But topping the list of what should be on the Republicans’ chopping block is “decreasing the number and compensation of government workers,” which the staffers say will spur job creation because “a smaller government workforce increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering labor costs” (Joshua Holland, AlterNet, 28 March 2011).
The logic behind this is, of course, incredibly cruel. It’s one thing to suggest that lower public sector wages are necessary for fiscal reasons, but it’s quite another to promote the intentional undermining of a workforce’s bargaining power as means of private sector growth.
Now, it’s not a given that Libya will implement these “reforms” since it has a great deal of oil wealth and is not particularly dependent on the IMF. But it’s rather telling that the IMF is advising this to the post-Gaddafi government.
Human Rights Watch, Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants, 2005:
Working in the meatpacking or poultry processing industry is notoriously dangerous. Almost every worker interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report began with the story of a serious injury he or she suffered in a meat or poultry plant, injuries reflected in their scars, swellings, rashes, amputations, blindness, or other afflictions. At least they survived.
On October 9, 2003, thirty-one-year-old Jason Kelly was repairing leaks in “hydrolizer” equipment used to process chicken feathers to make a pet-food additive at Tyson Foods’ RiverValley animal feed plant in Texarkana, Texas. The hydrolizer was leaking hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas created by decaying organic matter. According to an OSHA investigator’s report, Tyson did not give Kelly respiratory gear to guard against inhalation of the poison, failed to label hazardous chemicals, and failed to train workers how to detect those chemicals in case of a leak.
Kelly died of asphyxiation, according to a coroner’s report, due to “acute hydrogen sulfide intoxication.” Tyson is contesting an OSHA citation and fine in connection with Kelly’s death, arguing that the cause of death has not been conclusively determined. 
Five weeks after Kelly’s death, on the morning of November 20, 2003, twenty-five-year-old Glen Birdsong was working alone cleaning a holding tank near the loading dock at the Smithfield Foods hog processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina. The tank held Mucosa mixed with sodium bisulfite intended for use as a clotting medicine ingredient.  The hose Birdsong was using got caught in the tank. Birdsong climbed down a ladder to free the hose. Coworkers later found him at the bottom of the ladder unconscious and not breathing. Attempts to resuscitate him failed. He died overcome by fumes inside the tank.  “They didn’t tell him about the dangers, and they didn’t give him a safety belt to get pulled out of there in case he fell in,” coworkers told Human Rights Watch. 
Anecdotal evidence of the dangers in meat and poultry plants is backed up by hard numbers. The industry has the highest rate of injury and illness in the manufacturing sector. As one Nebraska expert explains:
Despite the hardhats, goggles, earplugs, stainless-steel mesh gloves, plastic forearm guards, chain-mail aprons and chaps, leather weightlifting belts, even baseball catcher’s shin guards and hockey masks . . . the reported injury and illness rate for meatpacking was a staggering 20 per hundred full-time workers in 2001. This is two-and-a-half times greater than the average manufacturing rate of 8.1 and almost four times more than the overall rate for private industry of 7.4.
A special investigative report in 2003 by the Omaha World-Herald documented death, lost limbs, and other serious injuries in Nebraska meatpacking industry plants since 1999.  Much of the evidence involved night shift cleaners, most of them undocumented workers. OSHA documents dryly recorded what happened:
- “Cleaner killed when hog-splitting saw is activated.”
- “Cleaner dies when he is pulled into a conveyer and crushed.”
- “Cleaner loses legs when a worker activates the grinder in which he is standing.”
- “Cleaner loses hand when he reaches under a boning table to hose meat from chain.”
- “Hand crushed in rollers when worker tries to catch a scrubbing pad that he dropped.”
- In all, the report concluded, nearly one hundred night shift cleaning workers in the state meatpacking industry suffered amputations and crushings of body parts in the period (1999-2003) reviewed by the investigative team. These severe injuries are just the tip of an iceberg of thousands of lacerations, contusions, burns, fractures, punctures and other forms of what the medical profession calls traumatic injuries, distinct from the endemic phenomenon in the industry of repetitive stress or musculoskeletal injury.
Eric Schlosser documented a similarly gruesome string of deaths in the mid-1990s:
At the Monfort plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, Richard Skala was beheaded by a dehiding machine. Carlos Vincente . . . was pulled into the cogs of a conveyer belt at an Excel plant in Fort Morgan, Colorado, and torn apart. Lorenzo Marin, Sr. fell from the top of a skinning machine . . . struck his head on the concrete floor of an IBP plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, and died. . . . Salvador Hernandez-Gonzalez had his head crushed by a pork-loin processing machine at an IBP plant in Madison, Nebraska. At a National Beef plant in Liberal, Kansas, Homer Stull climbed into a blood collection tank to clean it, a filthy tank thirty feet high. Stull was overcome by hydrogen sulfide fumes. Two coworkers climbed into the tank and tried to rescue him. All three men died.
Jeff Tietz, “Boss Hog – Pork’s Dirty Secret: The nation’s top hog producer is also one of America’s worst polluters,” Rolling Stone, 16 December 2006:
A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure. The reason it is so toxic is Smithfield’s efficiency. The company produces 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year. That’s a remarkable achievement, a prolificacy unimagined only two decades ago, and the only way to do it is to raise pigs in astonishing, unprecedented concentrations.
Smithfield’s pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouse-like barns, in rows of wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially inseminated and fed and delivered of their piglets in cages so small they cannot turn around. Forty fully grown 250-pound male hogs often occupy a pen the size of a tiny apartment. They trample each other to death. There is no sunlight, straw, fresh air or earth. The floors are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a catchment pit under the pens, but many things besides excrement can wind up in the pits: afterbirths, piglets accidentally crushed by their mothers, old batteries, broken bottles of insecticide, antibiotic syringes, stillborn pigs — anything small enough to fit through the foot-wide pipes that drain the pits. The pipes remain closed until enough sewage accumulates in the pits to create good expulsion pressure; then the pipes are opened and everything bursts out into a large holding pond.
The temperature inside hog houses is often hotter than ninety degrees. The air, saturated almost to the point of precipitation with gases from shit and chemicals, can be lethal to the pigs. Enormous exhaust fans run twenty-four hours a day. The ventilation systems function like the ventilators of terminal patients: If they break down for any length of time, pigs start dying.
From Smithfield’s point of view, the problem with this lifestyle is immunological. Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement badly damage the pigs’ immune systems. They become susceptible to infection, and in such dense quarters microbes or parasites or fungi, once established in one pig, will rush spritelike through the whole population. Accordingly, factory pigs are infused with a huge range of antibiotics and vaccines, and are doused with insecticides. Without these compounds — oxytetracycline, draxxin, ceftiofur, tiamulin — diseases would likely kill them. Thus factory-farm pigs remain in a state of dying until they’re slaughtered. When a pig nearly ready to be slaughtered grows ill, workers sometimes shoot it up with as many drugs as necessary to get it to the slaughterhouse under its own power. As long as the pig remains ambulatory, it can be legally killed and sold as meat.
The drugs Smithfield administers to its pigs, of course, exit its hog houses in pig shit. Industrial pig waste also contains a host of other toxic substances: ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorous, nitrates and heavy metals. In addition, the waste nurses more than 100 microbial pathogens that can cause illness in humans, including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptocolli and girardia. Each gram of hog shit can contain as much as 100 million fecal coliform bacteria.
Smithfield’s holding ponds — the company calls them lagoons — cover as much as 120,000 square feet. The area around a single slaughterhouse can contain hundreds of lagoons, some of which run thirty feet deep. The liquid in them is not brown. The interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs turn the lagoons pink.
Even light rains can cause lagoons to overflow; major floods have transformed entire counties into pig-shit bayous. To alleviate swelling lagoons, workers sometimes pump the shit out of them and spray the waste on surrounding fields, which results in what the industry daintily refers to as “overapplication.” This can turn hundreds of acres — thousands of football fields — into shallow mud puddles of pig shit. Tree branches drip with pig shit.
Some pig-farm lagoons have polyethylene liners, which can be punctured by rocks in the ground, allowing shit to seep beneath the liners and spread and ferment. Gases from the fermentation can inflate the liner like a hot-air balloon and rise in an expanding, accelerating bubble, forcing thousands of tons of feces out of the lagoon in all directions.
The lagoons themselves are so viscous and venomous that if someone falls in it is foolish to try to save him. A few years ago, a truck driver in Oklahoma was transferring pig shit to a lagoon when he and his truck went over the side. It took almost three weeks to recover his body. In 1992, when a worker making repairs to a lagoon in Minnesota began to choke to death on the fumes, another worker dived in after him, and they died the same death. In another instance, a worker who was repairing a lagoon in Michigan was overcome by the fumes and fell in. His fifteen-year-old nephew dived in to save him but was overcome, the worker’s cousin went in to save the teenager but was overcome, the worker’s older brother dived in to save them but was overcome, and then the worker’s father dived in. They all died in pig shit.
Michael Moss, “The Burger That Shattered Her Life,” New York Times, 3 October 2009:
Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that first day, and she finished her classes.
Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed.
Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.
“I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’ ”Ms. Smith said. In the simplest terms, she ran out of luck in a food-safety game of chance whose rules and risks are not widely known.
Meat companies and grocers have been barred from selling ground beef tainted by the virulent strain of E. coli known as O157:H7 since 1994, after an outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants left four children dead. Yet tens of thousands of people are still sickened annually by this pathogen, federal health officials estimate, with hamburger being the biggest culprit. Ground beef has been blamed for 16 outbreaks in the last three years alone, including the one that left Ms. Smith paralyzed from the waist down. This summer, contamination led to the recall of beef from nearly 3,000 grocers in 41 states.
“Ground beef is not a completely safe product,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bender, a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota who helped develop systems for tracing E. coli contamination. He said that while outbreaks had been on the decline, “unfortunately it looks like we are going a bit in the opposite direction.”
Food scientists have registered increasing concern about the virulence of this pathogen since only a few stray cells can make someone sick, and they warn that federal guidance to cook meat thoroughly and to wash up afterward is not sufficient. A test by The Times found that the safe handling instructions are not enough to prevent the bacteria from spreading in the kitchen.
Cargill, whose $116.6 billion in revenues last year made it the country’s largest private company, declined requests to interview company officials or visit its facilities.
The meat industry treats much of its practices and the ingredients in ground beef as trade secrets. While the Department of Agriculture has inspectors posted in plants and has access to production records, it also guards those secrets. Federal records released by the department through the Freedom of Information Act blacked out details of Cargill’s grinding operation that could be learned only through copies of the documents obtained from other sources. Those documents illustrate the restrained approach to enforcement by a department whose missions include ensuring meat safety and promoting agriculture markets.
Within weeks of the Cargill outbreak in 2007, U.S.D.A. officials swept across the country, conducting spot checks at 224 meat plants to assess their efforts to combat E. coli. Although inspectors had been monitoring these plants all along, officials found serious problems at 55 that were failing to follow their own safety plans.
“Every time we look, we find out that things are not what we hoped they would be,” said Loren D. Lange, an executive associate in the Agriculture Department’s food safety division.
In the weeks before Ms. Smith’s patty was made, federal inspectors had repeatedly found that Cargill was violating its own safety procedures in handling ground beef, but they imposed no fines or sanctions, records show. After the outbreak, the department threatened to withhold the seal of approval that declares “U.S. Inspected and Passed by the Department of Agriculture.”
In the end, though, the agency accepted Cargill’s proposal to increase its scrutiny of suppliers. That agreement came early last year after contentious negotiations, records show. When Cargill defended its safety system and initially resisted making some changes, an agency official wrote back: “How is food safety not the ultimate issue?”
Southern Poverty Law Center, Injustice on Our Plates: Immigrant Women in the U.S. Food Industry, November 2011:
- There are an estimated 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers employed in the United States. The federal government estimates that 60 percent of farmworkers are undocumented immigrants; farmworker advocates say the percentage is far higher.
- The National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) published by the Department of Labor reports that about 22% of the farmworker population is female. Thus, there are an estimated 630,000 women engaged in farm work in the United States.
- The average personal income of female crop workers is $11,250, compared to $16,250 for male crop workers.
- A mere 8 percent of farmworkers report being covered by employer-provided health insurance, a rate that dropped to 5 percent for farmworkers who are employed seasonally and not year-round.
- According to the U.S. Department of Labor, farmworkers suffer from higher rates of toxic chemical injuries and skin disorders than any other workers in the country. The children of migrant farmworkers, also, have higher rates of pesticide exposure than the general public.
- Each year, there are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 cases of physician-diagnosed pesticide poisoning among U.S. farmworkers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Farmworkers are not covered by workers’ compensation laws in many states. They are not entitled to overtime pay under federal law. On smaller farms and in short harvest seasons, they are not entitled to the federal minimum wage. They are excluded from many state health and safety laws.
- Because of special exemptions for agriculture, children as young as 10 may work in the fields. Also, many states exempt farmworker children from compulsory education laws.
Sexual Abuse On the Job
- In a recent study of 150 women of Mexican descent working in the fields in California’s Central Valley, 80% said they had experienced sexual harassment. That compares to roughly half of all women in the U.S. workforce who say they have experienced at least one incident.
- While investigating the sexual harassment of California farmworker women in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that “hundreds, if not thousands, of women had to have sex with supervisors to get or keep jobs and/or put up with a constant barrage of grabbing and touching and propositions for sex by supervisors.”
- A 1989 article in Florida indicates that sexual harassment against farmworker women was so pervasive that women referred to the fields as the “green motel.” Similarly, the EEOC reports that women in California refer to the fields as “fil de calzon,” or the fields of panties, because sexual harassment is so widespread.
- Due to the many obstacles that confront farmworker women — including fear, shame, lack of information about their rights, lack of available resources to help them, poverty, cultural and/or social pressures, language access and, for some, their status as undocumented immigrants — few farmworker women ever come forward to seek justice for the sexual harassment and assault that they have suffered.
- In interviews for this report, virtually all women reported that sexual violence in the workplace is a serious problem.
Each year, 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick from and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
Personally, I think pink slime is among the least of our problems right now. Relatively speaking, of course.
The massive growth in immigration pressures from Mexico in the 1990s was not a failure of NAFTA, but an inevitable consequence. The way we’ll know that CAFTA is promoting economic development in Central America and the Dominican Republic (the scope of the treaty) will be when we see the same increase in immigration pressures. Counterintuitive as it might seem, economic development, especially agricultural modernization, always sets people on the move, by consolidating small farms into larger, more productive operations. These excess farmers then move to cities, where they get manufacturing or service-sector jobs.
But the fact that development cuts peasants loose from the land and compels them to move to cities doesn’t tell us whose cities they’re moving to. Immigration pressure, after all, is not the same as actual immigration. The problem with NAFTA was not that it promoted trade between the United States and Mexico but that neither country did anything meaningful to make sure that the excess Mexican peasantry moved to Mexico’s cities instead of ours. And CAFTA might actually create proportionately greater immigration pressures, because most of the agreement’s impact will be to make our exports more competitive there, with some 80 percent of imports from the CAFTA countries already entering our country duty-free.
If there is one lesson to be learned from NAFTA it is that free-trade agreements must be accompanied by muscular immigration controls, especially if they are reached with countries that are nearby or already send a lot of immigrants here. If the experience of NAFTA is repeated, and the immigration pressures unleashed by CAFTA are allowed to flood into the United States, the case for future free-trade agreements will be undermined.
The equivalency between trade and immigration is false. Immigrants are people, after all, not just labor inputs. As Henry Simons, a free-market pioneer at the University of Chicago, wrote in 1948: “To insist that a free-trade program is logically or practically incomplete without free migration is either disingenuous or stupid. Free trade may and should raise living standards everywhere . . . Free immigration would level standards, perhaps without raising them anywhere.”
The way forward, then, is clear: More trade, less immigration.
The brilliance of conservative thinking in its glory can be seen right here.
Of course, there is no mention of the role played by US-subsidized agriculture in flooding Mexican markets and pushing farmers off their land. Or of the widespread use of hazardous and expensive chemicals on the “larger, more productive operations” Mexico was left with. Or of the massive food insecurity reduced domestic food production has led to.
You also have to love the perverse restrictionist conclusion reached from the (correct) assertion that immigrants are people and not mere inputs. Does Mr. Krikorian really think that goods, services and capital should be given full freedom of movement but that human beings shouldn’t? Does he even realize that he is reaching the opposite conclusion any decent person would reach? The granting of rights and protections to multinational investments and traded goods that impoverished peasants can only dream of is one of the cruel ironies of the current global order.
And don’t even get me started on the callous description of hard-working and dispossessed farm workers as “excess Mexican peasantry.”
Perhaps the sociopathic sentiments expressed in this editorial are an honest look at the mind of the privileged First Worlder. Just as the slaveholder had to rationalize the chaining of human beings to their plantations, the First World must collectively rationalize its decision to deny sanctuary to those who have been disenfranchised by global capitalism. Keeping Third Worlders in the Third World increases the pool of desperate shanty towners and slum dwellers who have no choice but to work in industrial sweatshops or cash crop plantations to meet their daily needs.
These views, that the pauperization of Mexicans was a necessary development for efficient production, that the unrestrained international flow of capital–despite being an inherently disruptive and destabilizing force–is a net good for society, and that only the flow of newly destitute human beings must be restrained, are essentially motivated by social sadism and craven self-interest. These two motives also reside at the very foundations of the global neoliberal order.
The Egyptian military’s raids of the National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Freedom House appears to be an obvious attempt to play the nationalism card against the broad movement for dissent in that country. As I have touched upon previously, these so called “civil society” groups are far from the innocent, pro-democracy actors they are made out to be and suspicions surrounding them are probably justified in any country. It has been established that such organizations have played a large role in undermining democratically elected governments in countries such as Bolivia, Venezuela and especially Haiti. In Egypt, US tax dollars helped promote crooked privatization schemes that benefited Mubarak’s cronies. Generally speaking, these groups are part of “Trojan Horse” strategy of imposing neo-liberal economics and subservience to US interests through the use of soft power.
Regardless of these documented facts, this move by Egypt’s government is almost certainly a cynical attempt to tar any and all opposition to military rule as US financed astroturf. This is especially rich from Egypt’s armed forces, which the Washington Post correctly notes is “by far the country’s largest recipient of U.S. aid, receiving about $1.3 billion a year.” While it is probably the case that the raided groups were backing the Egyptian resistance movement, that does not mean the entire movement should be seen as a puppet of USAID and the NED. Most likely, the case is that the US is backing both sides in this battle (while leaning more towards the military) to preserve its influence no matter who comes out on top.
The Guardian reports that an EU-based carbon credit scheme is empowering crooked landlords in Honduras who are implicated in the displacement and murder of farmers and their families:
The reported killing of 23 Honduran farmers in a dispute with the owners of UN-accredited palm oil plantations has called into question the integrity of the EU’s emission trading scheme (ETS), as carbon credits from the plantations remain on sale.
At the heart of the issue are the reported murders of 23 local farmers who tried to recover land that they say was illegally sold to big palm oil plantations, such as Grupo Dinant, in a country scarred by widespread human rights abuses.
In July, a report by an international fact-finding mission was presented to the European Parliament’s human rights sub-committee, alleging that 23 farmers, one journalist and his partner, had all been murdered in the Bajo Aguán region between January 2010 and March 2011.
The alleged killings were facilitated by the “direct involvement of private security guards from some of the local companies who are complicit with police and military officials”, the report said. In some cases it cited “feigned accidents” in which farmers were run over by security guards working for palm oil businessmen. In other cases, the farmers were simply shot, or had “disappeared”.
The CDM board recently ruled that the Bajo Aguán project met the criteria of its mandate – because of a three-year gap between the stakeholder consultation process and project approvals.
“We are not investigators of crimes,” a board member told EurActiv. “We had to take judgments within our rules – however regretful that may be – and there was not much scope for us to refuse the project. All the consultation procedures precisely had been obeyed.”
Such morbid results were likely predicted by many on the left-wing of the environmentalist movement who criticized carbon “offset” programs as a means for rich countries to foister the responsibility for fighting climate change on poorer countries. This scheme is the logical extension of neo-liberalism to climate policy. Instead of making a stenuous effort to invest in conservation, energy-efficiency and clean power, the “market-based” solution to climate change is to privatize the atmosphere. The complexities of balancing pollution control with the need for energy are thus reduced to a another financial instrument for speculators in Wall Street and London to place bets on.
The thinking in this instance is that European polluters can offset their emissions by investing in biofuels (despite the massive environmental damage associated with their cultivation). Somehow this evens things out in their minds. Carbon credit programs have created a large demand for biofuels. As is always the case when landed oligarchies discover a new cash crop to grow and reap for profit, vulnerable groups such as the indigenous, those residing on communally-held land, and small farmers see their land rights enroached upon to satisfy the increase in demand. We have seen this many times before in Latin America.
I am currently working on a extensively researched post on the land conflict in the Bajo Aguan of Honduras. It should (hopefully) be posted by the end of the year.