We destroy the beauty of the countryside because the un-appropriated splendors of nature have no economic value. We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend. — John Maynard Keynes
WMD big errorIf you haven't done this yet, rush to Google and type in "Weapons of mass destruction" and then hit "I'm feeling lucky". Then read the error message very carefully. If you like to wear your political whimsy, a link from the error message allows you to purchase a WMD 404 T-shirt.
El Salvador elections: Fear defeats hopeFour years ago(March 12, 2000), El Salvador's Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional - FMLN boasted that it had become "the primary political force in the country, having won 31 diputados [congressional seats] in the Legislative Assembly and 80 municipal governments. This represents 50% of the national population and approximatedly 75% of the country's economic activity." Yesterday, the FMLN really thought it was going to win the presidency.
Pretty impressive hope for a revolutionary political party that had struggled against such enormous odds -- including not only the usual police repression of its leaders, but even massacres of those merely suspected of supporting its aims, since the birth of the tiny and clandestine Communist Party (PCS) in 1930 and up through the intense and terribly violent armed struggle of 1980-1994, which included the Communists and many other sectors united against the military dictatorship. In the election yesterday, the FMLN went back to its origins, putting up the old Communist Party chief and guerrilla commander, 74-year old Schafik Handal, as its candidate for president.
Schafik ran on a a message of revolutionary hope, only occasionally tinged by the enormous anger that he and his comrades must feel for the bloody harassment down through the decades. The campaign backing the right-wing ARENA candidate, 39-year old Antonio Elías Saca, was all about fear -- fear of what could happen to the poor country if Schafik were elected. Among hard-core ARENA supporters (not many), there is of course fear of anything labeled "Communist" -- though white-bearded Schafik was doing his best to appear as a wise and friendly uncle rather than an armed monster. However, ARENA knew that mobilizing its hard core was not going to be enough to win this election, and they went back to their dirty tricks, though (very fortunately) with less violence than in the days when they were murdering an archbishop, nuns and priests, students and peasants and any other opponents. The main campaign resource was fear that Schafik would so alienate the United States that investments would cease and the many Salvadorans who had emigrated there would be unwelcome, so that the remittances (the money they send back to their families in El Salvador) would be cut off. And the United States Government did little to allay that fear -- and, given the nature of current US policy toward Latin America, and fanatics like Otto Reich who are running it, the fear may have been justified.
Schafik now has lost the presidential election, by a big, big margin. To the FMLN's apparent astonishment (their website was predicting a win in the first round, i.e., without need for a runoff), Saca took nearly 60% of the vote. The FMLN remains a powerful force, in the Assembly and in local governments, but it looks as though even healing the bitter antagonisms of the 1970s and 1980s (and from even long before) will not be enough to let them take power nationally as long as the US Government and corporations retain a stranglehold on the national economy.
Check out the colorful website FMLN .
Here is a related comment, in English, on the tragic poetic life of revolutionary Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton, which illustrates something of the intensity of the struggles in that small country.
¡Pásalo! A political lesson from SpainOn the eve of the Spanish elections last Sunday, March 14, the huge and sudden demonstrations of outrage against Aznar´s Partido Popular, suddenly become very unpopular, appeared as though by magic -- the magic being the ubiquitous cell phones at which young Spaniards have become very adept. Aznar's people accused the Partido Socialista (PSOE) of organizing the demos, but they really were much more spontaneous and beyond the control of the socialist party or any institution -- people called each other, all their friends, leaving a text message of where they were gathering to protest, and ending it with the phrase "Pásalo" -- "Pass it on." And pass it on they did.
"Phones were smoking," says an unsigned report in El Periódico de Aragón. The phone companies reported traffic almost 20% higher than on ordinary Saturdays. And not just in Madrid: responding to the calls, the huge angry crowds gathered in front of PP headquarters also in Barcelona, Sevilla, Pamplona and Albacete. And it looks as though the next day, they all went out to vote! A huge turnout, and a huge change in Spanish politics.
In the U.S., we have already seen the power of electronic communications to summon huge crowds, when MoveOn and other organizations spread e-mail messages. Friends, it is going to be harder and harder for those who try to rule us to do so by monopolizing information. If you read Spanish, check out this article with more detail on how they did it -- maybe without even planning to! Los SMS en la rebelión democrática contra el PP
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