'Kiringul', which translates as 'Kirin's lair', is one of the sites associated with King Tongmyŏng, the founder of Koguryŏ, an ancient Korean kingdom.
Did anyone see the feeble little piss-take Ian Hislop and co did last week on Have I Got News For You about gullible north Koreans supposedly believing in unicorns?
The real story turns out to be that archaeologists from the DPRK have found some interesting evidence that an important ancient city that features in folk legends might have been situated close to the present day Pyongyang.
Legend has it that in ancient times a famous king founded the city. The ‘unicorn’ just comes into it as a mistranslation of a Korean word denoting a mythical beast on which the king was supposed to ride.
Turning this straightforward story about an archaeological dig into a slander about thick Koreans swallowing commie lies may pass for cutting edge satire at the BBC but will only fool the terminally credulous.
Are thick Brits now to be pilloried for believing in giants (who else would inhabit the Giants’ Causeway?), in dragons (what else did St George fight?), or in (most far-fetched yet) the honesty and objectivity of the BBC lie machine?
In response to the irresponsible, hypocritical and reactionary behaviour of the Birmingham Amnesty International group and their plans to push war propaganda on the streets of Birmingham, comrades from Red Youth, CPGB-ML, AIWAA, IWA(GB) and others prepared a counter-demonstration on 12 April in Birmingham.
It is the firm conviction of these comrades and other anti-imperialists that we cannot allow what happened in Libya to be repeated in Syria. It is also their firm conviction that if Stop the War Coalition is incapable of opposing this warmongering then it is up to communists and revolutionaries to get on with the task alone.
The following statement was distributed and communicated to the Amnesty dupes:
Amnesty allows itself to be used as a tool for war, ethnic cleansing and imperialist aggression
We have no doubt that Amnesty International contains a number of well-meaning supporters, people with genuine compassion. It is from this belief that we are outraged by the continual stream of lies, hypocrisy and war propaganda that emanates from Amnesty International, hoodwinking its members, volunteers and the general public alike into supporting acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing and regime change.
It was precisely the above which was the outcome, indirectly and not so indirectly, of the position adopted by Amnesty International in relation to the war against Libya. Amnesty always seems quick to make claims of rights abuses when it serves the interests of imperialism, echoing the lies and misinformation of the corporate western media machine. But it is strangely slow to learn the awful lessons that echoing such lies enables real atrocities to be committed by imperialist forces – and on an incomparably larger scale than the often non-existent ‘abuses’ they claim to be ‘reporting’ in the first place.
Having made a host of inflammatory and ultimately false statements in the French media alleging the use by Colo-nel Gaddafi of ‘mercenaries’ during last year’s predatory war of aggression by Nato, Amnesty International President Genevieve Garrigos was forced to admit five months later that there had been no evidence to support any of her claims.
An investigation by Donatella Rivera exposed Garrigos who had peddled inaccurate information and lies. Garri-gos eventually admitted in an interview: “Donatella was right to verify if we actually found mercenaries. And we didn’t.” (A video of this interview and copy of the state-ment can be seen at redyouth.org.)
As a result of the spurious information, lies and falsifications she and her team put out, Garrigos helped stoke the fires of war. She helped to cause the unnecessary suffering and death of tens of thousands of Libyans, including untold numbers of black Libyans. It is now widely known and reported by the UN Human Rights Council and by Human Rights Watch that the Libyan ‘rebels’ whom Amnesty was so quick to champion were in fact the ones committing ethnic cleansing of black Libyans in Tawergha and beyond.
It is therefore out of a genuine concern for the many honest supporters and champions of human rights who undoubtedly reside within Amnesty that we protest against the campaign’s persistent use of slander, innuendo, half-truths, untruths, rumour and damned falsification – all presented to the world as fact.
It is with this knowledge, and with a real love for freedom, democracy and liberty, that we call on Amnesty’s anti-Assad protesters to correct their position on the question of Syria and oppose the dirty war propaganda that emanates from the Birmingham group of Amnesty.
Amnesty calls for ‘defiance’
A leaflet advertising a demonstration in Birmingham on 12 April 2012, and seemingly produced by Amnesty International’s Birmingham group, calls for people to “Stand for Syria, in solidarity – in defiance”. This piece of war propaganda claims that there have been five decades of human-rights abuses in Syria, that there has been a 14-month ‘brutal crackdown’, and that hundreds have been mistreated and tortured. The intention of the leaflet is to create the impression that there exists in Syria a most despotic and cruel regime; a regime that tortures, punishes and imprisons hundreds, nay thousands, of its own citizens, including children.
Whilst Amnesty claims that there have been five decades of repression in Syria, the truth is rather different. The Syrian people enjoy a standard of living envied by many in the Middle East. The country’s long-standing commitment to secularism has ensured a relatively peaceful and prosperous half-century for its people, who come from many different nationalities, cultures and religions. Which other country in the Middle East provided safety and refuge to millions of families who fled Iraq during the last Iraq war? What other country has done so much to assist the Palestinian struggle for national liberation?
Since the outbreak of the imperialist supported violence last year, regular demonstrations have been held across Syria, with tens of thousands of people from all sections of this diverse society showing their support for the president and government, and not for the anti-government militias.
It is with this in mind that we must ask ourselves what role Amnesty is playing in calling demonstrations that imply tacit support for the gang of terrorist mercenaries calling themselves the ‘Free Syrian Amy’. Not least as the FSA are assembled, supplied, supported and sheltered by such standard-bearers of freedom and democracy as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, the United States and Turkey.
Once again, Amnesty International is doing the dirty work of imperialism. It is providing whatever pretext can be found for the overthrow of a legitimate government, a legitimate president, and the murder, torture and butchery of soldiers who comprise the regular standing army of the Syrian republic.
But who the hell are the directors of Amnesty to interfere, in complete violation of international law, with the internal business of a sovereign state?
Whilst Israel pushes ahead with its policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Amnesty turns a blind eye and (in Birmingham at least) organises no protest. Whilst Israel is gripped by the heroic struggle of Palestinian hunger strikers and freedom fighters, Amnesty has chosen this moment to talk about Syrian prisoners.
Whilst Saudi troops commit acts of ferocious barbarity in Bahrain, Amnesty Birmingham wants us to “push for an end to the bloodshed in Syria”!
Whilst black Libyans are butchered every day by racist, terroristic ‘rebels’ as a direct result of the horrendous and catastrophic war, allegedly waged for ‘humanitarian assistance’ and delivered by the F16s, stealth bombers and tomahawk missiles of the imperialist armies, Amnesty International wants to provide a pretext for further carnage in Syria!
The truth about Syria is that it is a thorn in the side of imperialism in the Middle East. Its long-standing commitment to independence and national sovereignty has incurred the wrath of the United States, who long ago marked the country out as a part of the ‘axis of evil’.
Learn the lessons of history
In campaigning for a return to the Russian presidency, outgoing prime minister Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would not allow a replay of the events in Libya: “Learning from that bitter experience, we are against any UN Security Council resolutions that could be interpreted as a signal for military interference in domestic processes in Syria.”
In seeking to overthrow the patriotic and progressive government in Damascus, imperialism also seeks to deliver a knockout blow to Hizbollah, thereby strengthening Israel. Above all, in seeking to destroy its most significant regional military ally, the attack on Syria is a vital stepping stone to yet another war of aggression, this time against Iran, beyond which lies the global conflagration that confrontation with China and Russia would entail.
We must not fall for the war propaganda used to ‘justify’ imperialist aggression, and certainly should take no part in spreading these lies and falsifications.
In a very real sense, Syria today stands in the same place, as did the Spanish Republic in 1936. British workers and progressive people need to stand in their place, demanding:
It is our belief that the contents of the following resolution are entirely uncontroversial to 95 percent of Palestine solidarity activists. However, since the resolution calls for the PSC to actively encourage British workers to use their collective power to prevent British companies and media outlets from participating in Israeli war crimes, the resolution is decidedly harmful to the interests of British imperialism.
Thus it is clearly NOT acceptable to the imperialist, zionist Labour party, or to the Labour-affiliated leaders of the trade-union movement.
PSC members need to decide whether they want to build a broad movement that really does aim to give meaningful solidarity to Palestine, or whether they prefer to let the PSC executive maintain its cosy relationship with various left-Labour and TUC bigwigs … and to allow these interests to dictate that their ’solidarity’ work should be kept at the level of a charitable occupation that won’t threaten imperialist interests.
Experience has shown that they can’t do both.
[See joti2gaza.org for a more detailed discussion of anti-imperialist work in the PSC.]
No cooperation with war crimes: step up the campaign
Conference reaffirms its belief that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to British imperialism’s support for the criminal Israeli state, and considers that the time is ripe to make active non-cooperation a central theme of our work.
Conference therefore calls on the steering committee to take the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible, including:
1. Building support within individual unions and at the TUC for motions that draw attention to the complicity of Britain’s government and corporations in Israeli war crimes, and that also call on workers to refuse to cooperate in their commission (eg, by making or moving munitions or other equipment, by writing or broadcasting propaganda, or helping in any other way to smooth the path of Israel’s war machine).
2. Following the example set by websites such as MediaLens.org and by the 2010 PSC Panorama campaign in building an ongoing movement to hold the media to account for their pivotal role in apologising for, covering up and normalising Israel’s crimes.
3. Putting on fundraising events that will both draw attention to the jailed Gaza protesters’ plight and contribute towards a campaign to overturn their convictions.
4. Giving support and publicity to groups or individuals who, like the EDO Decommissioners and the Raytheon activists, are targeted by the state for refusing to cooperate with, or for actively attempting to prevent the many crimes of, the occupation.
5. Continuing and increasing the work already done to make Britain a place where Israeli war criminals can get no peace: through the campaign on universal jurisdiction, through citizens’ arrests and through any other available channels, including using local, national and international courts to draw attention to the crimes of Israeli military, government and corporate leaders – and those in Britain who back them politically or financially.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November
The autocratic government of Museveni is a vassal of US imperialism, serving the latter’s economic, political and military interests.
For instance, it supplies thousands of ‘peacekeepers’ to Somalia to prop up the unpopular US-backed regime in that country, and has opened up Uganda to foreign investment.
Interestingly the New York Times recently claimed that Museveni had stamped out the Lord’s Resistance Army, even as his government was coming under severe pressure from widespread Arab spring-style protests caused by the escalating cost of living. (‘Discontent simmers in a market as Uganda’s economy staggers’ by Josh Kron, 13 October 2011)
Yet the very next day the same newspaper reported that armed US advisers were being sent by Obama to Uganda … to help fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, which it described as “a notorious renegade group that has terrorised villagers in at least four countries with marauding bands that kill, rape, maim and kidnap with impunity … led by Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed prophet known for ordering village massacres, recruiting prepubescent soldiers, keeping harems of child brides and mutilating opponents”! (‘Armed US advisers help fight African renegade group’ by Thom Shanker and Rick Gladstone)
This is how the imperialist media cover up the fact that the US military is being sent to protect imperialist interests in Africa – and specifically in the case of Uganda, to influence the award of oil exploration and extraction contracts and try to ensure that they do not go to China.
With this in mind, it is also important for them to prevent one of US imperialism’s most loyal puppet governments being dispatched by the mass uprisings that are taking place in Uganda – a subject on which the imperialist media are almost totally silent.
Moreover, the Lord’s Resistance Army is asserted to have been spreading mayhem in neighbouring countries too, so that although the initial deployment of US military ‘advisers’ will be in Uganda, they will also operate in South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo – centres extremely rich in oil or other precious minerals – “subject to the approval of each respective host nation”.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November
The Egyptian caretaker government is rapidly exposing itself as a true successor to Hosni Mubarak, determined to maintain itself in power by fair means or by foul – with circumstances demanding mainly the latter.
The Egyptian army was mobilised to mount violent attacks on Coptic christians as they protested at the main television building in central Cairo on 9 October. Their protest was in response to the torching of a newly-rebuilt church in the village of Marinab (Aswan) incited by a local fanatic preacher.
The protest was not only about the attacks on christians, however, but against the military government itself. The most common refrain of the protesters was “The people want to bring down the field marshal,” ie, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who has effectively stepped into Mubarak’s shoes. There were also chants of “Muslims and christians are one hand”.
The army assault resulted in 24 people dead and over 200 injured. While gangs of Islamist thugs roamed the streets looking to set upon any unarmed and defenceless christian, there were plenty of muslims who, seeing the unwarranted attack, joined the christian demonstrators in fighting back against the army.
Egyptian television, in the meantime, was fanning the flames by urging citizens to go to the defence of the army, as though it had been the Copts who had been responsible for the attack!
A few days later the army announced that it plans to remain in control of government even after the parliamentary elections that will be taking place on 28 November, with parliament playing a subordinate role, as it did under Mubarak, until a new presidential election in 2013. The only way it might get away with such an unpopular decision is if it manages to divide the Egyptian people against each other – hence the attempts to incite religious violence.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November
The bellicose rhetoric of US imperialism and its allies against Iran, which became somewhat muted during the Arab spring has now been taken up again at an even more hysterical level.
In October, the US claimed to have uncovered a failed plot on the part of Iran to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US on US soil. This alleged plot is strenuously denied by Tehran, and even most bourgeois press reports are skeptical about its likelihood.
Having mounted this absurd aunt sally, the US regime has gone on to demand that UN nuclear inspectors release classified intelligence information showing Iran is designing and experimenting with nuclear weapons technology, obviously hoping to set up another ‘weapons of mass destruction’ hue and cry (which is rich coming from a country that has been supplying the thermobaric bombs deployed in Afghanistan and Libya).
What the US expects to get from this is greater enforcement of sanctions against Iran on the part of countries desperate for trade with Iran (or anywhere else). By strict enforcement of banking transactions US imperialism hopes to bring Iran’s oil exports to a complete halt, which could cause such hardship to the people that regime change might come about through popular discontent. Failing that, tighter sanctions can be expected to weaken Iran considerably, as happened to Iraq, preparing the ground for imperialist military intervention of one kind or another.
In Britain, Ofcom has contributed to the aggression by closing down Press TV. The latest news is that “Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran’s nuclear enrichment programme …
“The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.” (Guardian, 3 November 2011)
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October
Over the past month it has become clear that the supposed overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya has not happened. Instead, a full-blown, nominally civil, war has been unleashed, in which a fractious, squabbling and divided minority of mainly fundamentalist extremists in alliance with Nato are fighting the vast majority of the Libyan people, who are still led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
In that war, allegedly unleashed by Nato ‘to protect civilians’, at least 50,000 have now been killed and even more injured.
Even the bourgeois media admit to the fact that the loyalist forces are holding on to the oases of Hun and Sabha as well as the major cities Sirte and Bani Walid, in spite of the fact that both the latter have been subjected to barbarous Nato bombardment and a cruel state of siege, deprived of food, medicine, fuel and water. But still the defenders hold out, and are putting Grad multiple rocket launchers, mortars and RPG-7s to effective use against the marauders.
The New York Times encapsulated the atmosphere in describing the life of the bourgeois journalists reporting from the region:
“Like dogs tearing off to retrieve imaginary sticks thrown by their masters, television crews and photographers have repeatedly rushed to the front lines to cover the fall of the holdouts, only to discover that the attackers were merely on the outskirts, and not even planning to stay there beyond dark. In some cases, as happened at least three times in the past week, they actually pushed well into the downtown areas, only to be repulsed.
“The photographs produced are very picturesque — flames licking the skies from the twin barrels of the former rebels’ 30mm antiaircraft guns — but what is not as clear is that many such pictures are posed, or taken while the former rebels are doing what they seem to do best, or at least most often — firing light and heavy weapons into the sky in celebration of every victory, including imaginary ones.” (‘Anti Gaddafi forces capture, then lose, last redoubts’ by Rod Nordland, 17 September 2011)
Despite Nato’s supposed victory in Libya, it was forced on 21 September to announce a three-month extension of its bombing campaign.
Moreover, even the bourgeois media are having to admit that the so-called rebels are committing atrocities, although they are ashamed to admit either the extent or the barbarity of these, and try to excuse them as ‘revenge’ for what loyalist forces did to them.
The New York Times has admitted to the wanton destruction of homes in Tawerga, and the disappearance of men rounded up and not heard of since. The fact that rebels, for all that they are supposed to be devout muslims, are going from house to house rounding up young girls in their hundreds for rape, torture, disfigurement and agonising murder is naturally hushed up.
Meanwhile, an independent news website, mathaba.net, has reported that on 28 September a mass demonstration in support of Gaddafi took place in Tripoli, brutally suppressed by the rebels and Nato firing on the unarmed demonstrators. The website reports that the “response by the masses was ongoing throughout the day and night, with shooting in various parts of Tripoli, sending rats running, abandoning some of their check points, with Nato air force terrorists no longer knowing where to hit”.
On the same day, loyalists were able to destroy an enemy aircraft.
The following day, 29 September, there was fighting throughout Tripoli, and the 32nd Reinforced Brigade of the Armed People (known as the Khamis Brigade) is said to have destroyed the remaining Nato-rebel checkpoints. It also claims to have taken control of a building that for the past three weeks has housed the Tripoli headquarters of Nato and the CIA and been used as a command and control centre to guide the Nato ground operation in Libya. The all-green flag of the Jamahiriya (self-governing society of the people) has been hoisted above the building.
Loyalists have taken over many other parts of Tripoli, though not yet the central market area, and the green flag can be seen once again flying proudly in many districts.
From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October
In Cairo, tens of thousands of demonstrators were involved in tearing down a concrete wall that had only just been built around the Israeli embassy. The wall was meant to protect the embassy from the fury of continuing demonstrations that have been taking place outside it since the killing of Egyptian military personnel in Sinai last month.
Not only did the protesters tear down the concrete wall, they also scaled the walls of the building to tear down the Israeli flag, broke into offices and tossed documents into the streets. The Egyptian army did intervene to remove protesters from the building, but they were not arrested.
On 10 September, however, in the early hours of the morning, there was a full-scale confrontation between protesters and the police, who were trying to disperse the demonstrators by the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Subsequently, Egypt’s ruling military council, made up entirely of Mubarak-appointed military personnel, has reimposed emergency laws curtailing freedom of the press, and have closed a TV station connected to Al Jazeera on the grounds that it had no licence.
Following the massacre at Mejer, in which 85 civilians were killed in a single Nato raid, Dr Moussa Ibrahim makes an eloquent plea on behalf of the Libyan people for journalistic integrity (9 August 2011).
Relatives of the miners trapped in the San Jose mine wait in a camp near the mine in Copiapo, Chile, 11 October 2010.
Deeply moved, nearly a billion of us looked on. A whole nation - managers and workers, rich and poor - united in a common effort to save 33 Chilean miners, with their president leading from the front. Emotion, suspense, ratings, huge advertising revenues. But what did this TV extravaganza conceal?
That the ’saviours’ were in fact the culprits. Three hours before the landslide, the San José miners had requested permission to leave after hearing suspect noises. Their bosses’ refusal imprisoned them under several tons of earth. Is this surprising? No. On 30 July, a Ministry of Labour report had already flagged up important safety problems at the San José mine, but no action was taken, and the Ministry kept silent.
Of course, everyone was overjoyed at the happy ending. But the rescue show masked the extent of the problem: 400 Chilean miners have died in the last decade. And more importantly, it masked the causes.
“Poor investment and safety standards” said Marco-Enriquez-Ominami, Sebastián Piñera’s opponent in the last presidential elections. In fact, in 2009 alone, 191,000 work accidents were recorded in Chile, in which 443 workers died. And the Chilean government is directly responsible, as, it has refused for the last 12 years to ratify the International Labour Organisation Convention C176 on health and safety in mines. Business enjoys unrestricted freedom, while the workers have no rights.
Behind the saviour hides a billionaire
His face appeared constantly on every screen: the head of state - smiling, focused, concerned for his fellow citizens. But was this idealised image perhaps a little too smooth? Who is the real Sebastián Piñera, elected President in 2009 with 51.61 percent of the vote?
At 61, he is worth $1.2bn, which according to Forbes magazine makes him the 701st richest man in the world - a fortune he amassed thanks to measures implemented during the blood-soaked Pinochet dictatorship years (1973-1990). At the time, Chile was the testing ground for the neoliberalism of the extremist economists who came to be known as the Chicago Boys. Piñera was able to profit from these privatisations by helping himself to the credit-card sector.
Nicknamed the ‘Silvio Berlusconi of Latin America’, Piñera now owns Chilevision, one of the country’s largest TV networks, and Colo Colo, one of the biggest football teams and is also involved in distribution, the mining industry and pharmaceuticals. On becoming president, he was obliged to sell his shares in the Lan Chile airline (where he was the majority shareholder). He therefore wears two hats : head of state and powerful businessman. When asked by the Argentinean newspaper Clarín about this ambiguous status, he responded: “Only the dead and saints have no conflicts of interest.”
Piñera is certainly no saint. Monica Madariaga, Minister of Justice during the military dictatorship, has admitted to putting pressure on judges, at the time when Piñera was a bank manager. The level of fraud rose to nearly $240m. In 2007, Piñera was also condemned for insider dealing by the financial markets authority following his acquisition of shares in Lan Chile. As the great French writer Honoré de Balzac said, “Behind every great fortune hides a crime.” That of Piñera is the colour of the blood of the dictatorship’s victims.
By hiding his past, and presenting him as a friend of the people, the TV spectacle at the San José mine handed the yellow-helmeted Piñera a real political opportunity. As a result, he rose in the opinion polls. The Chilean right, which dared not show its face after the dictatorship, has regained its prestige.
Piñera, the posthumous victory of Pinochet and the USA
Despite the scandals, Sebastián Piñera knows how to present himself to best advantage. His electoral campaign stressed his ‘love of democracy’ and the fact that he voted against Pinochet remaining in power during the 1988 referendum. His election thus owes much to his image as ‘the success man’ - as if making a personal fortune implied the ability to govern a country. Quite the contrary, his fortune was built precisely on undermining the community.
And he’s getting ready to carry on doing so. This admirer of Nicholas Sarkozy intends to privatise state assets, under the pretext of covering the losses incurred as a result of the great earthquake of February 2010. It would mean selling 40 percent of Codelco (the number one copper company) as well as another mining company - Cimm T&S - into private hands. This makes perfect sense, given that Chile is the world’s biggest exporter of copper. Remember that certain US multinationals committed the most heinous crimes in order to keep control of this wealth.
In 1970, a progressive government led by Salvador Allende undertook to develop Chile and free its people from poverty. To do this, it had to regain control of the primary source of national wealth - copper - obtaining a fairer price and allocating the revenues to the pressing needs of the population. The United States let fly immediately: a financial embargo, destabilisation by the CIA, terrorist activities, every kind of blackmail … until the military coup d’état and the installation of the fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet. There were thousands of victims, and a whole progressive generation was massacred or exiled.
In his speech to the UN in December 1972, a few months before his assassination, President Allende described the looting of his country by the US copper multinationals, the Anaconda Company and Kennecott Copper Corporation:
“The same corporations which have exploited Chilean copper for so many years have made over $4bn in profits in the course of the last 42 years, although their initial investments amounted to less than $30m. Take a simple, painful example and a flagrant contrast: in my country, there are 600,000 children who will never be able to experience normal human lives because, in their first eight months, they were deprived of essential quantities of protein. My country, Chile, would have been totally transformed by these four billion dollars. A tiny fraction of this amount would have provided all these children from my country with enough protein once and for all.”
Piñera’s electoral victory is essentially a posthumous victory for the dictator, the return to power of the United States.
Besides, Piñera is planning to borrow from the Inter-American Development Bank, dominated by the USA - a loan which will also result in new anti-social cutbacks. This general offensive of the private against the public is hardly surprising now that there is a billionaire at the country’s helm. All semblance of independence between the two spheres has vanished: the Minister of Foreign Affairs used to run the Falabella department store chain, while his counterpart at the Ministry of Health was head of Las Condes private clinic, the country’s biggest. Even though they have temporarily abandoned these posts, they continue to take decisions which have a major bearing on their companies’ futures.
With such billionaires in power, it’s hardly surprising that business tax is ridiculously low - 3 percent in 2011 and 1.5 percent in 2012 - all still under the pretext of the earthquake! In fact, Chile occupies 21st place worldwide in terms of countries which tax capital the least - and first place in Latin America (source: Pricewaterhouse Coopers). The TV said nothing about the links between the dictatorship and Piñera, or about these anti-social projects.
Also covered up was the miners’ anger
In the country where the CEO is King, Piñera was still nevertheless obliged to set up a commission on work safety following the drama of San José - due to deliver its findings on 22 November. He also set up a Mines Control Authority and ordered a review of mining safety regulations.
This is no gift from a big-hearted billionaire, merely a retreat in the face of popular discontent. Just after the miners were rescued, their colleagues demonstrated for their unpaid salary and bonuses, the continuous training of the young workers, the approval of their benefits, retirement for the elderly and redundancy money. Then, on 7 September, Chilean unions demanded the ratification of health and safety agreements not only in mines, but also in the construction and agricultural sectors.
But what the TV failed to point out was that these violations of workers’ rights are the result of the reforms implemented during the dictatorship. The Pinochet years turned health, education and social security into mere commodities - jobs became much more vulnerable and flexible. And these neoliberal reforms have remained virtually intact, as they remained unchallenged by the coalition governments (alliances of Christian Democrats and Socialists) which followed one another in the 20 years after Pinochet. Flouting workers’ rights - even human rights - is still legal in Chile.
Piñera is implicated in this too - his brother José was Minister of Labour in the 1980s, during the dictatorship. It was he who applied the no-holds-barred neoliberalism of the Chicago Boys, insisting that pensions should be ‘capitalised’, ie, privatised. This disaster brings us back to CampEsperanza. One of the 33, Mario Gomez, began working in the mines aged 12 and is still there today, aged 63! Why? Because his pension amounts to a pittance - thanks to José Piñera! Nothing of this was said on TV.
One of the world’s most unjust countries
Although ‘an economic miracle’ in Washington’s eyes, Chile is in fact one of the world’s most unjust countries. CASEN (Centre for Research on the National Socio-Economic Situation) statistics show that poverty is rising at the same speed as GDP (the country’s overall production). GDP is indeed on the up, but only benefits a sector of the population, thereby further exacerbating inequalities. Poverty rose by 15 percent in 2009, affecting the under-3s in particular. One in four of the population is poor according to CASEN.
But these official figures underestimate the reality, based as they are on 1988 calculations, labelling the poor as those earning under 2,000 pesos a day - in a country where a single bus ticket costs 500 pesos! The cost of living is not therefore factored in. A more realistic estimate would list 8 million poor, ie, half the population. Faced with this, UN Human Rights organisations remain silent.
Meanwhile, the United States - grand defender of democracy - considers the country an ally and even an example. Is it purely by chance that Chile is moving closer to Columbia, considered a US agent in Latin America?
In short, Chilean society has been divided, stripped of its rights, misinformed and reduced to submission by the uniformity of the media. The aim of the right, and even of the coalition, has been the continuation of the military regime. The country is increasingly becoming a business paradise, repressing workers and unions alike. Sebastián Piñera ensures the model of the constitution put in place by Pinochet in 1980 is preserved and is likely to take things even further. TV said nothing of this.
What is a TV show for?
To summarise (and learn some lessons, as we will be treated to more such shows in future). For days and days, the major international media kept trotting out the same fairy tale: the big-hearted billionaire so concerned about the poor! For days and days, the TV ignored the misdeeds and selfish plans of this same billionaire - his links to the heinous dictatorship, his servility towards the United States.
Chilean and international cameras were all trained on this spectacle. Nothing, for example, on the impressive hunger strike of the Mapuche aborigines. Harshly repressed, treated like terrorists, their struggle was wiped out.
On the other hand, the TV spared no detail about the miners, down to their most intimate secrets. We learned of the double lives led by some, the hidden children and the mistresses. You’d think you’d switched on to pure reality TV. No information, just buckets of emotion. Producers and publishers are already talking about a film, a TV film and a book - the perfect opportunity to make a killing! In a quest for the poignant details, the log book of one of the survivors is coveted by all and sundry. It is estimated that potential buyers are ready to pay out up to $50,000. These 33 stories will thus be exploited to the maximum, totally exposing the private lives of the protagonists.
The whole TV ’show’ was designed to pre-empt reflection, working the emotional angles with carefully honed techniques, transfixing viewers and bumping up advertising revenues. The emotional side has been systematically exploited so as to hide the absence of any real inquiry into the causes of the problems. Work accidents, for example, are almost always the result of a conflict of opposing interests: profits versus safety.
No enquiry therefore into the responsibility of the ’saviours’ and the Chilean government. No inquest into our western governments which acted as Pinochet’s accomplices and refused to bring this criminal to judgement. No enquiry into fundamental topical questions - why it is that one Latin American in two is poor while the continent abounds in riches and multinationals make enormous profits? Why do our western governments oppose all those who attempt to fight against poverty? Why did these governments do nothing when the CIA attempted coups d’état to eliminate Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa? Why did they do nothing to counter the successful military coup d’état in Honduras ? Journalists, union members and human rights workers are systematically killed and this provokes no international media campaign?
Instead of genuine enquiries, TV brainwashes us with messages along the lines of “billionaires and workers, all in the same boat”. For real information, look elsewhere.