Read in English here.
GUSTAVO CASTRO fue el testigo único del asesinato de la activista hondureña Berta Cáceres, el día 3 de marzo de este año. Castro, director de Otros Mundos, una organización ambiental en Chiapas, México, también recibió disparos en el ataque. Después de prohibírsele irse de Honduras, a Castro lo liberaron el día 30 de marzo, a partir de lo cual se acomodó en una ubicación no revelada. La semana pasada habló por teléfono con The Intercept sobre la noche del asesinato y las razones por las cuales el ambientalismo en Latinoamérica resulta ser tan peligroso.
La experiencia de Castro durante el último mes que estuvo en Honduras nos ofrece una mirada extraordinaria del funcionamiento del sistema de justicia hondureño, el cual se caracteriza por tener una cultura de impunidad. En repetidas ocasiones, durante los meses previos al asesinato, Cáceres dijo que estuvo siendo hostigada por Desarrollos Energéticos, SA (DESA), la compañía privada de energía detrás del proyecto hidroeléctrico Agua Zarca, al cual ella se opusó vehementemente. Después del asesinato, la familia de Cáceres señaló de inmediato a DESA. El 31 de marzo, el Ministerio Público de Honduras anunció en un comunicado de prensa que había incautado armas y documentos de la oficina de DESA y cuestionado a varios empleados.
Al ser consultado al respecto, DESA hizo la siguiente declaración: “La Junta Directiva de la empresa que desarrolla el proyecto hidroeléctrico Agua Zarca no han dado ninguna declaración ni se tiene previsto hacerlo hasta que las autoridades de investigación determinen las causas y hechores del lamentable hecho que acabo con la vida de la dirigente indígena Berta Cáceres.”
¿Qué pasó en las últimas horas con Berta Cáceres?
Yo llegué el primero de marzo a San Pedro Sula, y ese día me habían alojado en otra casa, en una casa de COPINH en La Esperanza. A Berta tenía años de no verla físicamente, pero estuvimos en contacto por correo electrónico. Yo iba a dar un taller de capacitación ambiental. Ese mismo día, Berta me dice, “hermano, véngase acá a mi casa, que acá hay internet y puede comunicarse con su familia.” Y entonces es así como ella me aloja en su casa, y estuvimos platicando un rato incluso también de las amenazas que ella recibió durante las semanas previas, intimidaciones y fuertes amenazas por parte del personal y también, al parecer, sicarios contratados por la empresa DESA, del proyecto hidroeléctrico Agua Zarca.
Entonces le decía a Berta, esta es una casa muy sola, muy alejada, ¿cómo podés quedarte acá tan sola? Entonces ese mismo día me quedé en su casa, y me puse a trabajar, para preparar el segundo día del taller, y ella estaba también en su habitación. A medianoche se oyó el portazo muy fuerte en la puerta de su casa e inmediatamente en mi cuarto entra uno de los sicarios, y paralelamente también a su habitación entra otra persona. Todo fue muy rápido, 30 segundos quizás, en donde simultáneamente la asesinan a ella y a mi me disparan. A ella la tenían bien localizada y estaban esperando a que estuviera sola, entonces yo creo que les sorprendió ver a otra persona ahí, y no sabían qué hacer, así que simplemente me dispararon y salieron corriendo.
¿Andaban tapados de la cara?
Bueno, no sé del otro, pero él que me disparó no. No tanto (logré ver la cara de la persona), pero de alguna forma ahí me convierto en el principal testigo, en el testigo protegido.
Cuando ella te mencionó que había recibido las amenazas por parte de DESA y Agua Zarca, ¿te especificó en algún momento si esa gente que le andaba persiguiendo era de las fuerzas estatales de seguridad de Honduras? ¿O que eran pandilleros o personas particulares?
Durante la última década han habido más de 100 asesinatos de líderes ambientalistas en Honduras. Y todos estos conflictos también vinculan mucho al ejército, a la policía. Es parte de la realidad de Honduras. En este caso muy específico, ella decía que la culpable era la empresa. La empresa era la que tenía un enfrentamiento muy fuerte, muy directo con ella.
Al principio se dijo en los medios que te cuestionaron, te llevaron al aeropuerto y que de repente te dijeron que no ibas a poder salir del país. ¿Así pasó?
Sí. Hubo mucha confusión y mal manejo también del asunto. Los primeros tres, cuatro días estuve en diligencias ahí en La Esperanza todo el tiempo. Yo podría haberme negado participar varias veces, porque uno como víctima y como testigo protegido tiene el derecho de declarar una orden preventiva por seis horas. Sin embargo nunca usé ese instrumento sino que cada vez que me pidieron más diligencias, las hice a cualquier hora, en la madrugada, cuando sea. Entonces estuve casi cuatro días sin dormir. Di la declaración ministerial, la declaración ante el fiscal, pruebas médicas, careos, reconocimiento de fotografías, etc.
Y sí, primero dijeron que me podía ir. Siempre me decían que sólo esta cosa, que solo otra cosa, que solo necesitamos una cosa más, y al final al parecer todo estaba listo. Me alistaron incluso un helicóptero para regresar a Tegucigalpa el día 5 de marzo. Por cuestiones climáticas no podían aterrizar el helicóptero, y entonces se despliega un operativo para acompañarme a Tegucigalpa por tierra. Después la fiscalía dice que iba huyéndome, lo cual es una re-mentira.
Entonces llegué a la embajada Mexicana, donde el embajador y el consulado consiguen mi boleto de avión para el 6 de marzo a las 6:20 de la mañana. Al entrar al aeropuerto, unas oficiales me esperaban, todos estaban escondidos como si fuera necesario eso, como si fuera de orientación criminal el asunto en lugar de ser yo testigo protegido y víctima. Era un operativo tan sinvergüenza, como si yo llevara un ejército a mis espaldas. Y el embajador y el consulado acompañándome. Y de repente aparecen ocho, 10 de la Fiscalía y el Ministerio Público a cerrarme la puerta y decirme que no podía salir. Además ni siquiera querían entregar ningún documento oficial. Yo sé que es un gobierno golpista pero fue tan ridículo que después estaban pidiendo disculpas al embajador y a mí, por ese papel que jugaron lo cual no era necesario. Y obviamente tenían que justificarse ante la prensa nacional e internacional con que yo me iba a huir. En ese momento yo pudiera haber dicho, yo voy. En el marco de un convenio entre México y Honduras de cooperación en materia penal, como víctima y testigo protegido, tuve el derecho de participar en las diligencias desde México. Yo no soy delincuente, soy víctima. Se les olvidaba eso.
Me dijeron, bueno, sólo una diligencia más y estás bien. Yo pedí más seguridad para el viaje de regreso, un chaleco antibalas y más acompañamiento de seguridad. Lo que me pidieron fue una declaración más pero luego resultó ser que eran careos. Al final de la noche salieron con un documento diciéndome que te quedás 30 días más. Era de una manera también ilegal, pues la jueza argumentó tratados internacionales de DDHH para imputados. Cuando mi abogada reclamaba eso, la jueza lo que hizo fue no solamente sacarla del caso sino además suspenderla de su ejercicio profesional por 15 días.
El gobierno quiso tenerme físicamente bajo su control. No tiene ley de víctimas. Tampoco hay reglamentos ni protocolos, ni presupuesto para los defensores de derechos humanos. No hay tampoco un reglamento para los testigos protegidos. Entonces ellos querían que estuviera bajo su supuesta seguridad cuando no hay ningún reglamento que les obliga a nada. Razón por la cual me quedé en la embajada de México. Pero fue un mes de una hipertensión horrible, cuando el gobierno ante tanta falta de reglamentos podía imputarme tranquilamente y llegar a la embajada en cualquier momento con una orden judicial y ante eso la embajada no hubiera podido hacer nada. Una semana antes de que yo llegara, se había disuelto el Consejo de la Judicatura, entonces no había instrumento legal para mi defensa. No había con quien demandar a un juez que cometiera un acto ilegal porque la comisión estaba disuelta. Entonces me encontré en una total indefensión jurídica. Sin abogada, porque la había suspendido su ejercicio profesional. Y parecía que ni la presión internacional ni el gobierno mexicano podían hacer nada. Entonces hubo una total inseguridad — y pues una violación permanente de mis derechos humanos.
¿En algún momento intentaron culpabilizarte oficialmente de algo?
No fue nada explícito. La prensa manejaba rumores de que desde el Ministerio Público hubo intentos de ver si podían justificar que yo estaba involucrado de alguna manera en eso. Pero con las pruebas y mis declaraciones, simplemente no podían inventar tanta farsa. Por más que le dieron vueltas, llegaron a la empresa, no tenían otra opción. Yo tuve la sensación de que por eso me detuvieron, porque si encontraban algo me querían ahí. Era una incertidumbre horrible, sobre todo porque sientes que no tienes abogado. Que tienen la capacidad de dejarte en la total indefensión jurídica.
¿Cómo explicas que oponerte a las represas hidroeléctricas resulte ser una amenaza tan grande?
No es así solamente en Honduras — también sucede en Guatemala, México, Chile, etc. Una de las razones es que las represas significan la inundación de grandes territorios de selva, de bosques, y de territorios indígenas y campesinos. Y eso genera una reacción muy fuerte de los pueblos, porque son miles y miles los desplazados violentamente.
Por otro lado, uno de los mayores negocios en este momento es la venta de energía eléctrica, especialmente en América Latina, porque los tratados de libre comercio están abriendo a las empresas transnacionales las grandes inversiones. Y eso qué significa? Por ejemplo: los tratados de libre comercio permiten a las grandes inversionistas la instalación de maquiladoras, de parques industriales, de infraestructura, de minas, todas son cosas que consumen muchísima energía y muchísima agua. Tomá en cuenta que una mina de oro utiliza de 1 a 3 millones de litros de agua cada hora, y eso implica ceder el agua de las comunidades, sus ríos, los pozos. Y utilizarlo para generar energía eléctrica para los grandes corredores industriales. Entonces la venta de la energía, y por lo tanto las inversiones en energía, son de los negocios más rentables para la gran capital. Pero implica enfrentarse en una disputa por el territorio con las comunidades campesinas e indígenas.
Si a eso le sumamos que bajo el Protocolo de Kyoto han inventado la estúpida idea que las represas generan energía limpia, entonces vemos que para ganar bonos de carbón y reducir los gases invernaderos, los países del norte invierten en represas. Por esto tenemos un mundo de construcción de represas.
Hoy casi todos los países de América Latina tienen tratados de libre comercio con los EEUU, Canadá, Europa, y algunos también con Asia. Significa que tienen que modificar su constitución, sus reglamentos ambientales que rigen el agua, la energía y la inversión extranjera, para adoptar a los nuevos marcos de libre comercio. Si no las empresas te demandan. Y para los gobiernos les es más fácil reprimir que pagar las indemnizaciones que los tratados de libre comercio les obligan a otorgar a las empresas. Sirve de ejemplo el caso de El Salvador y la mina de oro. El Salvador ha tenido que gastar millones de dólares para defenderse de la demanda de una empresa ante el Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias Relativas a Inversiones, del Banco Mundial. Estamos hablando de una mina, pero imagínate 10,000, 15,000 — estamos hablando de miles de concesiones mineras en la región. Y si a eso le sumás las represas, y las carreteras, los puertos, los aeropuertos, el fracking, el petróleo, los grandes centros comerciales, las zonas económicas especiales, las ciudades modelo, los grandes conjuntos turísticos de élite — hay tantas concesiones.
Si los gobiernos hacen eco de los reclamos de derechos humanos de los pueblos — por contaminación del agua, por afectaciones de tierras, por no tomar en cuenta la información previa y consentida de las comunidades — o si expulsan a una empresa porque derramó al río su desecho tóxico, porque asesinó pueblos, porque la gente que vive cerca del sitio de la mina está enferma de cáncer como es el caso en Honduras, México y Guatemala — si los gobiernos deciden hacer algo con esos reclamos de derechos humanos, y expulsan a las industrias extractivistas, ellos tendrán que pagar millones y millones de dólares que no tienen. Cada país tendría que vender su propio país 20 veces para acabar con la deuda. Entonces no es fácil de resolver.
Eso lleva al enfrentamiento con los pueblos. Y significa un enfrentamiento cada vez más terrible por cosas como el Acuerdo Trans-Pacífico de Cooperación Económica, así que los gobiernos van a preferir criminalizar la protesta ciudadana, que antes era un derecho humano: el derecho a la movilización pacífica. Ahora todo eso lo llaman “terrorismo,” “violencia.” Es una criminalización de los derechos humanos.
En una entrevista reciente, Hillary Clinton dijo que el golpe de estado de Honduras no era ilegal. ¿Tienes una opinión al respecto?
Me parece que el gobierno al final de cuentas tuvo que justificar que otro grupo llegara al poder, y la antigüedad jurídica en Honduras permite posicionar cualquier tipo de argumento. Por ejemplo, a Zelaya una de las razones por las cuales le dijeron, “estás mal y te vamos a destituir,” es que propuso modificar la constitución para que hubiese reelección. Eso mismo es lo que ahora está haciendo el actual presidente, Juan Orlando Hernández — modificando la constitución para que haya reelección el siguiente año. Entonces por eso digo que depende de cómo lo ves. Si lo propone Zelaya, es inconstitucional y hay que destituirlo. Si lo proponen las fuerzas oligárquicas y hegemónicas, pues es legal, es democrático.
¿Cómo ves tu futuro? ¿Tienes pensamientos al respecto, o estás viviendo más día a día?
Más día a día. Me preguntan muchos si tiraré la toalla, si soy como el boxeador que ya no aguanta más y se da por vencido. Y les digo, no, esa toalla la estoy recogiendo. Esta lucha se tiene que mantener. Y yo no soy el único. Hay por toda América Latina miles de personas criminalizadas, que están siendo perseguidas y amenazadas, porque están luchando por los derechos humanos y por el bien de todo el planeta. Nos tenemos que dar cuenta de que nadie estamos exentos de esta criminalización. Como muchos amigos que han sido asesinados por resistirse. Pero somos muchos, y persistirémos en esto.
El capitalismo atroz no puede seguir así, de forma tan acelerada, extractivista. Está acabando con este planeta. Yo creo que el gran reto que tenemos es darnos cuenta que otros mundos son posibles, que podemos construir otras cosas distintas, con dignidad y con justicia. Hay agua para todos. Hay tierra para todos, hay comida para todos. No podemos seguir alimentando este sistema depredador de acumulación de capital incesante en tan pocas manos. Este sistema es insustentable en sí mismo. Entonces desde dónde estemos — en América, en Europa, en Asia — a todos nos va a afectar. Parece a veces que la crisis no llega a otros lados, y a veces los problemas que hay en EEUU, en Canadá, en Francia, en España no se vinculan de manera estructural al mismo capitalismo. Pero ojalá nos demos cuenta pronto, porque nos afectará a todos, tarde o temprano. Y yo quiero decir que estamos a tiempo todavía para hacer algo, y urge.
The post Una Entrevista con Gustavo Castro, Testigo Principal del Asesinato de Berta Cáceres appeared first on The Intercept.
Leer en español.
GUSTAVO CASTRO was the sole witness to the murder on March 3 of Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, the co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras (COPINH). Castro, the director of Other Worlds, an environmental organization in Chiapas, Mexico, was also shot in the attack. After being barred from leaving Honduras, Castro was released on March 30 and has since settled in an undisclosed location. Last week he spoke by phone to The Intercept about the night of the murder and the reasons why environmental activism in Latin America is so dangerous.
Castro’s experience over the past month provides a remarkable glimpse into the Honduran justice system, which is notorious for its culture of impunity. In the months before her murder, Cáceres repeatedly said that she was being harassed by Desarrollos Energéticos, SA (DESA), the private energy company behind the Agua Zarca dam project, which she had vigorously opposed. After the murder, Cáceres’s family immediately pointed to DESA. On March 31, the Honduran public prosecutor’s office announced that it had seized weapons and documents from DESA’s office and questioned several employees.
Contacted for comment, DESA provided the following statement: “The board of directors of the company that is carrying out the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project has not given any declaration nor does it plan to do so until the authorities in charge of the investigation determine the causes and perpetrators of this regrettable incident that ended the life of the indigenous leader Berta Cáceres.”
What happened during your last hours with Berta Cáceres?
I arrived on March 1 in San Pedro Sula, and that day they put me up in another home that belongs to other COPINH members in La Esperanza. It had been years since I had seen Berta in person, although we had been in touch by email. I was there to facilitate a workshop on environmentalism. That day Berta said to me, brother, come to my house, I have internet so you can get in touch with your family. We spent a while talking, even discussing the threats that she had received in the past and in recent weeks — intimidation and threats to her safety by employees of DESA and people who seemed to be hit men contracted by DESA, the company behind the hydroelectric project called Agua Zarca.
And I said to Berta, this is a very isolated home, how is it that you live here alone? So I decided to stay the night. I started to get ready for the second day of the workshop, and she was in her room. At midnight, there was a loud bang on the door and immediately one hit man entered my room, and simultaneously another entered hers. Everything happened very quickly, within 30 seconds, in which simultaneously they assassinated her and shot me. They had clearly been following her and were expecting her to be alone, so I think it surprised them to find another person there and they didn’t know what to do, so they just shot me and ran away.
Were their faces covered?
I don’t know about the other one, but the one who shot me wasn’t masked. I wasn’t able to decipher his face well, but that’s the moment when I became the principal witness, and a protected witness.
When Berta told you that she had received threats from DESA and Agua Zarca, did she say at any point that the people threatening her were from Honduran state security forces? Or were they gang members, or just random individuals?published a press release publicly linking the company to their line of investigation. In the press release they also announced that they had seized weapons and questioned some of the company’s people. But they didn’t want to get to this point. Before coming to that line of investigation, I got the impression they wanted to see if another line of investigation could be useful or believable for national and international public opinion, but that was impossible. Everyone in COPINH already knew the recent history, so they had no other option than to finally go after the company. I’m unaware of any advances they’ve had in this line of investigation.
Over the last decade there were more than 100 murders of environmentalists in Honduras. And these conflicts are often linked to the army and the police. That’s part of the reality of Honduras. In this specific case, Berta said that the guilty party was the company. It was the company with which she had a strong and direct confrontation.
At first we were hearing that they questioned you, took you to the airport, and then suddenly told you that you couldn’t leave the country. Is this how it happened?
The whole process was confusing and handled poorly. I spent the first three or four days in constant legal procedures in La Esperanza. I could have refused several times, because one has the right to solicit a six-hour prevention order as a victim and a protected witness. Nevertheless I never used this instrument, and every time they asked me to take part in more legal procedures, I did — at any hour, in the middle of the night, whenever. So I went nearly four days without sleeping. I gave the statement for the attorney general, the statement for the public prosecutor, medical examinations, cross-examinations, photographic identification, etc.
And, yes, at first they said I could go. They always said, just one more thing, and then just one more thing, and then it finally seemed like everything was done and ready. They even prepared a helicopter for me to get back to Tegucigalpa on March 5. But because of weather conditions they weren’t able to land the helicopter, so instead they deployed a security detail to accompany me to Tegucigalpa by land. Later, the public prosecutor’s office claimed I was trying to escape, which was a huge lie.
So I arrived at the Mexican Embassy, where the ambassador and the consul bought me a plane ticket for March 6 at 6:20 a.m. But when we got to the airport, Honduran officials were waiting in hiding around the airport for me, as if this were necessary, as if this were a criminal matter and as if I weren’t a protected witness and a victim. It was so shameless. It felt like having an army at my heels. And the ambassador and the consul were with me. Suddenly eight or 10 people from the attorney general’s office and the public prosecutor’s office stood in front of the door and said that I couldn’t leave. They wouldn’t hand over any official document explaining anything. I know that this government is the result of a coup, but this game was so ridiculous that even they had to ask for apologies from the ambassador and me. What they did was totally unnecessary. And obviously they had to justify themselves before the national and international press by claiming they thought I was fleeing. Even then I could have said I was leaving. Because of a convention on penal matters between Mexico and Honduras, as a victim and a protected witness, I had the right to participate in the legal procedures from Mexico. I’m not a criminal — I’m a victim. But they forgot that.
They said, we need just one more thing. So I asked for more protection for the ride back: a bulletproof vest and more bodyguards. What they originally said they needed was more testimony, but what it ended up being was more cross-examination. At the end of the night they produced a document saying it was necessary for me to stay 30 days more. That was also illegal — the judge used arguments based on international human rights laws regarding suspects. When my lawyer argued they were violating my rights, the judge not only removed her from the case but furthermore suspended her ability to practice law for 15 days.
The government wanted me under its control. It has no laws that protect victims. Nor does it have regulations or protocols or a budget to protect human rights activists. Nor does it have regulations for protected witnesses. So they wanted me under their so-called protection where there is no law that obligates them to do anything. Which is why I stayed in the Mexican Embassy. But it was a month of horrible stress and tension, in which the government, with its complete lack of regulations or protocols, could easily accuse me of anything at any moment, show up with a judicial order, and the Mexican Embassy wouldn’t have been able to do anything. One week before I arrived in Honduras, the Judicial Commission had been dissolved, so there was no legal instrument with which I could defend myself. There was no commission before which I could denounce a judge who acted illegally, because that commission had been dissolved. So I found myself in total legal defenselessness — without a lawyer, because they suspended her. And it seemed neither international pressure nor the Mexican government could do anything. So it was a state of complete insecurity and a constant violation of my human rights.
Did they ever try to accuse you of anything officially?
There wasn’t anything explicit. There were rumors in the press that the public prosecutor’s office was trying to justify involving me in the crime in some way. But with the evidence and my declarations, it was simply impossible for them to invent such a farce. No matter how many circles they ran around the matter, they eventually had to go to DESA. They had no other option. I had the sense that they wanted to keep me there while they were trying to find something. It was a horrible uncertainty, because you have no lawyer. They have the ability to leave you totally legally defenseless.
How do you explain the fact that opposing dams is interpreted as a threat?
This isn’t true only in Honduras — also in Guatemala, Mexico, Chile, etc. One of the reasons is that these dams mean flooding out huge swaths of jungle, forest, and indigenous and campesino lands. And this causes a strong reaction from these communities, because there are thousands and thousands of them displaced violently.
Another reason is that one of the most profitable businesses at the moment is the sale of electrical energy, especially in Latin America, because free trade agreements are opening huge investments for transnational corporations. And what does this mean? For example, free trade agreements allow major investors to put up factories, industrial parks, infrastructure, and mines, which all consume a ton of electricity and a ton of water. And bear in mind that one gold mine can use between 1 and 3 million liters of water every hour. That implies relinquishing the water that belongs to communities, their rivers, and their wells — using it to instead generate electricity for the big industrial corridors. So the sale of energy, and thus investments in energy, is one of the most profitable businesses for big capital. But that means entering into battle over territory with campesino and indigenous communities.
Additionally, with the Kyoto Protocol they’ve invented the stupid idea that dams make “clean energy.” Thus in order to gain carbon credits and reduce their greenhouse gases, wealthy countries started investing in dams. That’s why we have a world full of dam construction.
In Latin America almost every country has free trade agreements with the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and many also with Asia. This means changing your constitution, your environmental legislation that concerns water, energy and foreign investment, in order to adopt and facilitate these free trade agreements. If you don’t, companies sue. For governments, it’s easier to repress people than to pay damages and compensation to corporations. A good example is the case of the gold mine in El Salvador. El Salvador has had to pay millions to defend itself against a mining company before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. And we are talking about one mine. But imagine 10,000 or 15,000 — we are talking about thousands of mining concessions in the region. And to this if you add dams, and to that you add highways, ports, airports, mines, fracking, petroleum, huge shopping malls, tax-free zones, charter cities, huge elite tourist resorts — there are so many concessions.
If the human rights claims that activists make are actually upheld — contamination of water and land, violating previous and informed consent of communities — or if they kick out a company for dumping toxic waste into rivers, for murdering community members, for causing cancer around mining sites like we’ve seen in Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala — if governments have to do something about these human rights claims by kicking out the extractive industry, they’ll have to pay millions and millions of dollars that they don’t have. Each country would have to sell itself 20 times over to pay off the debt. So this is not easy to solve.
This leads to confrontation with communities. This will only deepen with things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and governments prefer to react by criminalizing citizen protest. Peaceful protest used to be a human right. Now they call it “terrorism,” “violence.” They’re criminalizing human rights.
In a recent interview, Hillary Clinton said that the coup in Honduras was legal. What do you think about this statement?
It seems to me that in the end, the government had to justify a way for another group to come to power. And Honduras’s legal antiquity allows you to make any argument you want. For example, one of the reasons they gave for overthrowing Zelaya was that he proposed to modify the constitution to allow for re-election. Which the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández, is now trying to do, to modify the constitution to allow for re-election for him next year. So that’s why I say it depends on how you want to see it. If Zelaya proposes it, it’s unconstitutional and he has to go. If the oligarchy and the global hegemony says it, it’s legal, it’s democratic.
How do you see your future? Or are you living more day by day right now?
More day by day. Many are asking me if I’m going to throw in the towel, if I’m like the boxer who can’t take any more and gives up. I say no, I’m picking that towel up. This struggle must continue. I am not alone. Across Latin America there are thousands of people who are criminalized, who are being persecuted and threatened for defending human rights, who are defending the well-being of our planet. We must realize that that no one is exempt from this criminalization. Like so many friends who have been murdered for resisting. But there are many of us, and we will carry on.
The voracious capitalism we face cannot continue as is, with its accelerated and extractionist logic that is finishing off our planet. I think our great challenge is to realize that other worlds are possible. We can build something different, something dignified and just. There is enough water for everyone. There is enough land, enough food for everyone. We cannot continue feeding this predatory system of capital accumulation in the hands of so few. That system is unsustainable. So from wherever we are — in the Americas, in Europe, in Asia — we will all be affected by this system. Sometimes it seems that the crisis doesn’t touch certain places, and sometimes we don’t make the structural link to capitalism with the crises that the U.S. and Canada and France and Spain face. But I hope that we realize this soon, because it will affect us all sooner or later. And I want to say that there is still time to do something. This is urgent.
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(This is a Portuguese translation of the article. For the original version in English, click here.)
A CÂMARA DOS DEPUTADOS do Brasil votou a favor da admissibilidade do impeachment da presidente do país, Dilma Rousseff, encaminhando o processo de afastamento para o Senado. Em um ato simbólico, o membro da casa que deu o voto favorável nº 342, mínimo para admitir o processo, foi o deputado Bruno Araújo, mencionado em um documento que demonstra que ele teria recebido fundos ilegais de uma das principais empreiteiras envolvidas no atual escândalo de corrupção do país. Além disso, Araújo pertence ao partido de centro-direita PSDB, cujos candidatos perderam quatro eleições seguidas contra o PT, de esquerda moderada, partido de Rousseff, sendo a última delas há apenas 18 meses atrás, quando 54 milhões de brasileiros votaram pela reeleição de Dilma como presidente.
Esses dois fatos sobre Araújo sublinham a natureza surreal e sem precedentes do processo que ocorreu ontem em Brasília, capital do quinto maior país do mundo. Políticos e partidos que passaram duas décadas tentando — e fracassando — derrotar o PT em eleições democráticas encaminharam triunfalmente a derrubada efetiva da votação de 2014, removendo Dilma de formas que são, como o relatório do The New York Times de hoje deixa claro, na melhor das hipóteses, extremamente duvidosas. Até mesmo a revista The Economist, que há tempos tem desprezado o PT e seus programas de combate à pobreza e recomendou a renúncia de Dilma, argumentou que “na falta da prova de um crime, o impeachment é injustificado” e “parece apenas um pretexto para expulsar um presidente impopular. ”
Os processos de domingo, conduzidos em nome do combate à corrupção, foram presididos por um dos políticos mais descaradamente corruptos do mundo democrático, o presidente da Câmara Eduardo Cunha (em cima, ao centro) que teve milhões de dólares sem origem legal recentemente descobertos em contas secretas na Suíça, e que mentiu sob juramento ao negar, para os investigadores no Congresso, que tinha contas no estrangeiro. O The Globe and Mail noticiou ontem dos 594 membros da Câmara, “318 estão sob investigação ou acusados” enquanto o alvo deles, a presidente Dilma, “não tem nenhuma alegação de improbidade financeira”.
Um por um, legisladores manchados pela corrupção foram ao microfone para responder a Cunha, votando “sim” pelo impeachment enquanto afirmavam estarem horrorizados com a corrupção. Em suas declarações de voto, citaram uma variedade de motivos bizarros, desde “os fundamentos do cristianismo” e “não sermos vermelhos como a Venezuela e Coreia do Norte” até “a nação evangélica” e “a paz de Jerusalém”. Jonathan Watts, correspondente do The Guardian, apanhou alguns pontos da farsa:
Sim, votou Paulo Maluf, que está na lista vermelha da Interpol por conspiração. Sim, votou Nilton Capixaba, que é acusado de lavagem de dinheiro. “Pelo amor de Deus, sim!” declarou Silas Câmara, que está sob investigação por forjar documentos e por desvio de dinheiro público.
É muito provável que o Senado vá concordar com as acusações, o que resultará na suspensão de 180 dias de Dilma como presidente e a instalação do governo pró-negócios do vice-presidente, Michel Temer, do PMDB. O vice-presidente está, como o The New York Times informa, “sob alegações de estar envolvido em um esquema de compra ilegal de etanol”. Temer recentemente revelou que um dos principais candidatos para liderar seu time econômico seria o presidente do Goldman Sachs no Brasil, Paulo Leme.
Se, depois do julgamento, dois terços do Senado votarem pela condenação, Dilma será removida do governo permanentemente. Muitos suspeitam que o principal motivo para o impeachment de Dilma é promover entre o público uma sensação de que a corrupção teria sido combatida, tudo projetado para aproveitar o controle recém adquirido de Temer e impedir maiores investigações sobre as dezenas de políticos realmente corruptos que integram os principais partidos.
OS ESTADOS UNIDOS têm permanecido notavelmente silenciosos sobre esse tumulto no segundo maior país do hemisfério, e sua postura mal foi debatida na grande imprensa. Não é difícil ver o porquê. Os EUA passaram anos negando veementemente qualquer papel no golpe militar de 1964 que removeu o governo de esquerda então eleito, um golpe que resultou em 20 anos de uma ditadura brutal de direita pró-EUA. Porém, documentos secretos e registros surgiram, comprovando que os EUA auxiliaram ativamente no planejamento do golpe, e o relatório da Comissão da Verdade de 2014 no país trouxe informações de que os EUA e o Reino Unido apoiaram agressivamente a ditadura e até mesmo “treinaram interrogadores em técnicas de tortura.”no ano passado), elogiou ontem explicitamente a ditadura militar e homenageou o Cel. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, chefe de tortura da ditadura (notavelmente responsável pela tortura de Dilma). Filho de Bolsonaro, Eduardo, também na casa, afirmou que estava dedicando seu voto pelo impeachment “aos militares de ’64”: aqueles que executaram o golpe e impuseram o poder militar.
A invocação incessante de Deus e da família pelos que propuseram o impeachment, ontem, lembrava o lema do golpe de 1964: “Marcha da Família com Deus pela Liberdade.” Assim como os veículos de comunicação controlados por oligarquias apoiaram o golpe de 1964, como uma medida necessária contra a corrupção da esquerda, eles estiveram unificados no apoio e na incitação do atual movimento de impeachment contra o PT, seguindo a mesma lógica.
Por anos, o relacionamento de Dilma com os EUA foi instável, e significativamente afetado pelas declarações de denúncia da presidente à espionagem da NSA, que atingiu a indústria brasileira, a população e a presidente pessoalmente, assim como as estreitas relações comerciais do Brasil com a China. Seu antecessor, Lula da Silva, também deixou de lado muitos oficiais norte-americanos quando, entre outras ações, juntou-se à Turquia para negociar um acordo independente com o Irã sobre seu programa nuclear, enquanto Washington tentava reunir pressão internacional contra Teerã. Autoridades em Washington têm deixado cada vez mais claro que não veem mais o Brasil como seguro para o capital.
Os EUA certamente têm um longo — e recente — histórico de criar instabilidade e golpes contra os governos de esquerda Latino-Americanos democraticamente eleitos que o país desaprova. Além do golpe de 1964 no Brasil, os EUA foram no mínimo coniventes com a tentativa de depor o presidente da Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, em 2002; tiveram papel central na destituição do presidente do Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide em 2004; e a então Secretária de Estado, Hillary Clinton, prestou apoio vital para legitimar o golpe 2009 em Honduras, apenas para citar alguns exemplos.
Muitos na esquerda brasileira acreditam que os EUA estão planejando ativamente a instabilidade atual no país com o propósito de se livrar de um partido de esquerda que se apoiou fortemente no comércio com a China, e colocar no lugar dele um governo mais favorável aos EUA que nunca poderia ganhar uma eleição por conta própria.
EMBORA NÃO TENHA surgido nenhuma evidência que comprove essa teoria, uma viagem aos EUA, pouco divulgada, de um dos principais líderes da oposição brasileira deve provavelmente alimentar essas preocupações. Hoje — o dia seguinte à votação do impeachment — o Sen. Aloysio Nunes do PSDB estará em Washington para participar de três dias de reuniões com várias autoridades norteamericanas, além de lobistas e pessoas influentes próximas a Clinton e outras lideranças políticas.
O Senador Nunes vai se reunir com o presidente e um membro do Comitê de Relações Internacionais do Senado, Bob Corker (republicano, do estado do Tennessee) e Ben Cardin (democrata, do estado de Maryland), e com o Subsecretário de Estado e ex-Embaixador no Brasil, Thomas Shannon, além de comparecer a um almoço promovido pela empresa lobista de Washington, Albright Stonebridge Group, comandada pela ex-Secretária de Estado de Clinton, Madeleine Albright e pelo ex-Secretário de Comércio de Bush e ex-diretor-executivo da empresa Kellogg, Carlos Gutierrez.
A Embaixada Brasileira em Washington e o gabinete do Sen. Nunes disseram ao The Intercept que não tinham maiores informações a respeito do almoço de terça-feira. Por email, o Albright Stonebridge Group afirmou que o evento não tem importância midiática, que é voltado “à comunidade política e de negócios de Washington”, e que não revelariam uma lista de presentes ou assuntos discutidos.impeachment contra Dilma no Senado.
Como presidente da Comissão de Relações e Defesa Nacional do Senado, Nunes defendeu repetidas vezes que o Brasil se aproxime de uma aliança com os EUA e o Reino Unido. E — quase não é necessário dizer — Nunes foi fortemente apontado em denúncias de corrupção; em setembro, um juiz ordenou uma investigação criminal após um informante, um executivo de uma empresa de construção, declarar a investigadores ter oferecido R$ 500.000 para financiar sua campanha — R$ 300.000 enviados legalmente e mais R$ 200.000 em propinas ilícitas de caixa dois — para ganhar contratos com a Petrobras. E essa não é a primeira acusação do tipo contra ele.
A viagem de Nunes a Washington foi divulgada como ordem do próprio Temer, que está agindo como se já governasse o Brasil. Temer está furioso com o que ele considera uma mudança radical e altamente desfavorável na narrativa internacional, que tem retratado o impeachment como uma tentativa ilegal e anti-democrática da oposição, liderada por ele, para ganhar o poder de forma ilegítima.
O pretenso presidente enviou Nunes para Washington, segundo a Folha, para lançar uma “contraofensiva de relações públicas” e combater o aumento do sentimento anti-impeachment ao redor do mundo, o qual Temer afirma estar “desmoraliz[ando] as instituições brasileiras”. Demonstrando preocupação sobre a crescente percepção da tentativa da oposição brasileira de remover Dilma, Nunes disse, em Washington, “vamos explicar que o Brasil não é uma república de bananas”. Um representante de Temer afirmou que essa percepção “contamina a imagem do Brasil no exterior”.
“É uma viagem de relações públicas”, afirma Maurício Santoro, professor de ciências políticas da UFRJ, em entrevista ao The Intercept. “O desafio mais importante que Aloysio enfrenta não é o governo americano, mas a opinião pública dos EUA. É aí que a oposição está perdendo a batalha”.
Não há dúvida de que a opinião internacional se voltou contra o movimento dos partidos de oposição favoráveis ao impeachment no Brasil. Onde, apenas um mês atrás, os veículos de comunicação da mídia internacional descreviam os protestos contra o governo nas ruas de forma gloriosa, os mesmos veículos agora destacam diariamente o fato de que os motivos legais para o impeachment são, no melhor dos casos, duvidosos, e que os líderes do impeachment estão bem mais envolvidos com a corrupção do que Dilma.
Temer, em particular, estava abertamente preocupado e furioso com a denúncia do impeachment pela Organização de Estados Americanos, apoiada pelo Estados Unidos, cujo secretário-geral, Luis Almagro, disse que estava “preocupado com [a] credibilidade de alguns daqueles que julgarão e decidirão o processo” contra Dilma. “Não há nenhum fundamento para avançar em um processo de impeachment [contra Dilma], definitivamente não”.
O chefe da União das Nações Sul-Americanas, Ernesto Samper, da mesma forma, disse que o impeachment é “um motivo de séria preocupação para a segurança jurídica do Brasil e da região”.
A viagem para Washington dessa figura principal da oposição, envolvida em corrupção, um dia após a Câmara ter votado pelo impeachment de Dilma, levantará, no mínimo, dúvidas sobre a postura dos Estados Unidos em relação à remoção da presidente. Certamente, irá alimentar preocupações na esquerda brasileira sobre o papel dos Estados Unidos na instabilidade em seu país. E isso revela muito sobre as dinâmicas não debatidas que comandam o impeachment, incluindo o desejo de aproximar o Brasil dos EUA e torná-lo mais flexível diante dos interesses das empresas internacionais e de medidas de austeridade, em detrimento da agenda política que eleitores brasileiros abraçaram durante quatro eleições seguidas.
ATUALIZAÇÃO: Antes desta publicação, o gabinete do Sen. Nunes informou ao The Intercept que não tinha mais informações sobre a viagem dele à Washington, além do que estava escrito no comunicado de imprensa, que data de 15 de abril. Subsequente à publicação, o gabinete do Senador nos indicou informação publicada no Painel do Leitor (Folha de S. Paulo, 17.04.2016) onde Nunes afirma — ao contrário da reportagem do jornal — que a ligação do vice-presidente Temer não foi o motivo para sua viagem a Washington.
Traduzido por: Beatriz Felix, Patricia Machado e Erick Dau
The post Porque o Sen. Aloysio Nunes foi a Washington um dia depois da votação do impeachment? appeared first on The Intercept.
An Iraqi college student was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in Los Angeles this month and interrogated by the F.B.I. because a fellow passenger overheard him speaking Arabic during the boarding process.
The student, Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, was granted asylum in the United States after his father was killed by Saddam Hussein’s secret police. He told The Intercept that he wants Americans to know about what happened to him because the current wave of anti-Muslim hysteria in the United States is counter-productive, since it reinforces the propaganda of the Islamic extremists. Americans who see all Muslims as potential terrorists, he said, are “playing straight into the rhetoric of the Islamic State — they fall into the trap.”
Islamic states doesn't represent the essence of Islam, we must stand all together Muslims and non Muslims against this derogative ideology.
— Khairuldeen Makhzomi (@KhairyMakhzoomi) April 17, 2016
As the Daily Californian first reported, Makhzoomi had boarded the April 6 flight to Oakland early, due to his frequent flyer status, when he noticed another passenger staring at him as he spoke by phone to his uncle in Baghdad. After he ended the call by telling his uncle that he would phone him again after landing, and used the Arabic word “inshallah,” a common phrase meaning “god willing,” he saw the woman get up from her seat and approach the airline’s staff.
— Daily Californian (@dailycal) April 15, 2016
Makhzoomi said that he was then removed from the plane by an Arabic-speaking member of the Southwest staff, Shoaib Ahmed, who questioned him in the presence of security officers on the jetway about why he had been speaking Arabic on the plane.
Makhzoomi, a political science major who hopes to return to Iraq one day to help rebuild the nation, explained that he had been excitedly telling his uncle about an event he had attended the night before, a discussion with Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. The student, who also runs a popular Facebook group devoted to national reconciliation in Iraq, had video of himself asking the secretary general a question about Iraq’s strategy for retaking territory from Islamic State militants.
After initially apologizing for causing a disruption, Makhzoomi said that he got frustrated and told the Southwest agent, “this is what Islamophobia looks like.” According to the student, the agent was angered by the comment and told him then, “You know what, you’re not going back on the plane.”
Makhzoomi was then taken back to the gate where, he said, he was accused of trying to leave a bag on the plane and searched in front of other passengers. He finally teared up when a police officer asked if he was concealing a knife and “touched my private parts.” The police even wanted to handcuff him at one stage for texting his mother to let her know what was happening.
The incident, he said, triggered a flood of bad memories of life under the Iraqi dictatorship he escaped in 2002 with with his mother and a younger brother, Hamedi, who has Down Syndrome and needs constant care.
The student was then interrogated by three F.B.I. agents, who told him that the passenger who was eavesdropping on his call thought she had heard him use the word “shahid,” the Arabic word for “martyr,” at one point. The word is one of a handful of Arabic expressions commonly used by American bloggers and radio hosts obsessed with the threat of Islamist terrorism. Makhzoomi denied that he had said any such thing.
The federal agents also asked him about his father, Khalid Makhzoomi, a former diplomat who, his son said, was abducted and killed by Saddam Hussein’s internal security service after reporting that a son-in-law of the Iraqi dictator was involved in corruption.
About two and a half hours after his flight left, Makhzoomi was finally released and given a refund by the same Southwest employee who had taken him off the plane. He then flew home on Delta and spent a few days alone with his family, sleeping a lot. “When I came home, I was very shocked,” he said.
One reason he decided to publicize the incident, he added, is to draw attention to the counter-productive wave of anti-Muslim hysteria in the United States, since it reinforces the propaganda of Islamic extremists. Americans who see all Muslims as potential terrorists, he said, are “playing straight into the rhetoric of the Islamic State — they fall into the trap.”
There is ample testimony to Makhzoomi’s moderate political leanings online — from his writing on Iraq for Huffington Post, to what is posted on his own Facebook page, and the anti-sectarian group he started on the social network, United 4 Iraq, which has more than 130,000 subscribers. Two weeks before the incident, for instance, he shared an illustration denigrating Islamic State’s delusions of grandeur.
Last week, he called Southwest and was told that he would have no trouble flying with the airline in the future, but was offered no apology.
The airline told the Washington Post their crew “made the decision to investigate a passenger report of potentially threatening comments overheard on board our aircraft.”
“Safety is our primary focus, and our employees are trained to make decisions to safeguard the security of our crews and customers on every flight,” the company said in a statement. “We would not remove a passenger from a flight without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures.”
The airline also rejected the suggestion that removing a passenger for speaking Arabic constituted bias, adding, “Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.”
Since the incident was brought to light on Thursday by the student newspaper at Berkeley, Makhzoomi has been inundated with offers to bring a lawsuit against the airline, seeking financial damages.
He says he is not interested in money, but hopes to raise awareness of the climate of fear in his adopted country and hear Southwest admit that what they did was wrong. “Money comes and goes,” he says, “but human dignity, if it goes who will bring it back? We must fight for this.”
Similar incidents have been reported in recent months in the United States and Europe, as fear of terrorism has spiked. Several have involved Southwest. Last week, Hakima Abdulle, a Somali-American from Maryland, was forced off a Southwest flight in Chicago when a flight attendant stopped her from switching seats with another passenger and she objected. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Abdulle, whose English is limited, was reduced to tears and “suffered extreme distress and anxiety” after the crew summoned the police to remove her from the plane.
In November, two Palestinian-Americans, Maher Khalil and Anas Ayyad, were subjected to questioning by the police because a fellow passenger heard them speaking Arabic while boarding a Southwest flight in Chicago. The men were eventually allowed on board, but Khalil was then harassed by passengers who demanded that he open a small white box he was carrying. “So I shared my baklava with them,” he told a local news station in Philadelphia, where he own a pizza place.
After that incident, Southwest issued the exact same statement to the media: “Safety is our primary focus, and our employees are trained to make decisions to safeguard the security of our crews and customers on every flight.”
Last week in Vienna, Hasan Dewachi, an Iraqi biochemist who has lived in Britain for six years, was forced off an EasyJet flight to London because another passenger saw him texting his wife and grew alarmed. “It transpired a woman passenger had seen me texting my wife in Arabic, my mother language, and for some inexplicable reason suspected I was a terrorist,” he told the Daily Mail.
EasyJet later refunded the money Dewachi was forced to pay for another flight and issued the sort of apology Makhzoomi is still waiting for from Southwest. “We acknowledge that we did not do enough to assist Mr. Dewachi, and have been in touch with him since to apologise for his experience,” the airline said.
The post Iraqi Refugee Kicked Off Plane for Speaking Arabic in L.A. Says Islamophobia Boosts ISIS appeared first on The Intercept.
On April 16th, the Department of Defense issued a short press release announcing that Mohammed al-Hamiri, a Yemeni citizen held at Guantanamo Bay, had been transferred for release. Hamiri had been incarcerated at Guantanamo since 2002, when he was detained by American forces. First taken into custody at the age of 19, Hamiri spent more than a third of his life at the prison. During that time, he was never charged with any crime.
Writing was one of Hamiri’s greatest comforts during the 13 long years he spent at Guantanamo. Hamiri’s letters and other personal writings were cleared for release earlier this year through the work of lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights. The letters reflect an enduring sense of hope, love for family and friends, and a remarkably poetic imagination.
Hamiri’s release this week represents the start of a new chapter in his life, one he has spent years waiting for with both hope and trepidation. His writings from Guantanamo offer a glimpse into what the prospect of freedom meant to him during his long imprisonment. “I do not know why I am writing these words, and I do not know if my letters and my words are going to be read by eyes that know the meaning of justice,” he reflected recently, writing that prison had given him “no voice other than this pen with which to write a painful memory from the pages of my life.”
Last April, al-Hamiri sat on the bed of his prison cell in Guantanamo Bay and indulged in one of the few liberties available to him. He opened his notebook to write. “I keep looking at the sun and hoping that, maybe, it will reveal a secret that would wipe away my tears,” Hamiri put down. “But I discover that it is pointing to the horizon, to tell me that it wants to leave and not be here to witness what destiny had in store for me. So I’m left alone with nothing but the moon and the moonlight shining on me, as everyone and everything else on earth has gone to sleep.”
Arriving in Guantanamo while he was still a teenager, Hamiri spent the majority of his young adulthood imprisoned there. Despite being cleared for release in 2009, he remained behind bars six years longer, thanks to political wrangling over the fate of Guantanamo detainees, as well as civil strife in his native Yemen.
In a letter written several months ago, Hamiri reflected on the possibility of the public one day reading his words.
I want you to understand my reality. As far as I’m concerned the government has closed its door on our cases. Unfortunately, a tragedy happened on September 11th, and many innocent people were killed. Every year on that same date people relive the suffering repeatedly; yet it is also saddening that other innocent people are dying or put in jail without having committed any crime. It doesn’t make sense for someone who gets stung by a thorn in his leg to start hitting everybody around him to relieve that pain, for he could be hurting innocent people.
In 2009, a multi-agency government review board unanimously cleared Hamiri for release from prison. Despite this ruling, the government failed to promptly transfer him out of custody. After the promise of the review board decision dimmed over the years, it gave rise to increasing melancholy. In an undated passage in his notebook, Hamiri wrote:
The government cleared me for release in 2009. It handed me the ‘cleared for release’ document. In 2011, I pulled out that clearance document and I was looking at it when something very funny happened. I was reading that document which was lying on the floor and I dropped the cup of coffee I was holding my hand. The coffee spilled over the document. I did not wipe the coffee, and do you know where it spilled? It spilled on the line that says: ‘The United States is planning to transfer you as soon as possible.’ It felt like my destiny was telling me that it was a deception.”
Hamiri spent much of his youth behind bars. Like many other Guantanamo detainees captured at a young age, one of his greatest worries in jail was losing touch with trends in the outside world. In a letter to his lawyers in April of last year, he requested DVDs, including films dealing with “drama, family, youth problems, students in college, things like that.”
Hamiri asked for a documentary about Bob Marley, several popular contemporary films, and the book “Humanism and Democratic Criticism” by the late Palestinian-American author Edward Said. In his notes he wrote:
One night while I was immersed in my thoughts I saw that segment of a television program and it felt like a message was being sent to me from heaven. I am aware that many people don’t believe in these things, for they are too busy and enamored with money, whereas in this prison every whisper I hear and every breeze I feel mean a lot to me. Everything in this life is beautiful and everyone, with a positive outlook towards life, can make his life beautiful and make everyone around him joyful.
Along with his writing, the other great source of comfort for Hamiri during his incarceration was his friendship with a fellow Guantanamo prisoner, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif. Latif was incarcerated at the same time as Hamiri and of roughly the same age. Like Hamiri, Latif was also a Yemeni. While behind bars at the the camp, the two young men became, as much as possible in such conditions, inseparable. Their similar backgrounds and histories created a bond that helped sustain them through circumstances that offered little hope.
But in 2012, after spending more than ten years behind bars in Guantanamo, Latif was found dead in his cell. A subsequent investigation deemed the cause of death to be suicide, although questions about the circumstances of his passing have lingered. Latif was a writer like Hamiri. In the months leading up to his death, his own notes documented him grappling with what seemed to be an unremittingly bleak fate. In one of his last letters to his lawyer, Latif wrote, “I will do whatever I am able to do to rid myself of the imposed death on me at any moment of this prison … the soul insists to end it all and leave this life which is no longer anymore a life.”
For a time after the death of his best friend, Hamiri did not pick up a pen. “I lost my dearest and most honest friend in this detention facility,” he would write, months after Latif’s passing. “He left this world after long suffering, and I got a taste of his suffering too.”
In 2013, Hamiri took part in a mass hunger strike by detainees at the prison. The strike was in protest against harsh treatment by prison guards under the command of a new officer, Col. John Bogdan, as well as what prisoners perceived as growing government indifference to their predicament. Within months, the number of striking detainees rose to roughly 130 out of a total of 166 prisoners then at the camp. Many of these prisoners were subjected to painful force-feeding procedures. Among them was Hamiri. In the midst of the strike, in June 2013, and directly after a particularly painful force-feeding session, he sat down in his cell to write the following note.
We see animals killing their prey swiftly to avoid suffering and torture, yet we see human beings depriving other humans from their mothers, fathers and families just for the sake of making them feel the bitterness of deprivation and the pain of loss. Mercy is present in the ferocious animals’ instinct, yet harshness is present in human injustice.
In late 2014, the rate of transfer of Guantanamo detainees began to increase. In the last two months of the year, 21 detainees were either repatriated or transferred to third countries. Among these were a few Yemenis, who were sent to new homes in Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Slovakia. Despite being cleared for release, Hamiri was not among those transferred out. While once the release of prisoners was a cause for celebration at the camp, Hamiri told his lawyers in a meeting in late December of 2014, “Now when we see brothers released, its a little bit hard. Everybody thinks, when is my time?” Increasingly despondent, Hamiri wrote then in his notes:
Guantanamo prison has undergone multiple renovations. The worn walls needed repair and the steel structure which has become rusty over time needed to be renovated. Even inanimate materials have weakened over time. If time has caused inanimate walls to tear and their colors to fade, what do you expect it did to a human being?
In 2008, the International Committee of the Red Cross won the right for some prisoners to make periodic phone calls to family members at home. In 2009, this was expanded to allow Skype videoconference calls. Hamiri was among the beneficiaries of these new measures, and was able to call home and see images of his family for the first time in years. He continued to be allowed this privilege for the rest of his time at Guantanamo. But paradoxically, this fleeting contact with his family has fed a growing anxiety, as he realized the distance that time apart has created between them. His family had not seen him in person since he was a teenager. Through their calls, Hamiri found to his dismay that they could no longer interact as they once did. As he wrote in a letter from 2014:
This prison has made me forget my mothers smile. She looks at me now as if I was never part of that family. I have been away for such a long time that now when I talk to her, she uses a formal tone, for aging has changed my appearance. She is timid and she talks to me as if I were a stranger. The only thing that I notice during the calls are her few tear drops which she cannot control when she sees me. I try to bring some humor to the conversation and remove that noticeable sadness from my mother and family’s faces, yet what I get in return is a look of pity which makes me even more miserable.
Indeed, the single most persistent theme running through Hamiri’s letters is his yearning to be reunited with his family, especially his mother. At the beginning of 2015, facing yet another year of incarceration without hope of release, he wrote a letter to her saying the following:
Dear mother, I wish I could write to you with my blood on the walls of history so that these walls could tell the story of my love and loyalty to you, and light a candle for you in history. And even then, I could not even come close to paying you back for all those nights when you stayed up so I could sleep, when you went hungry so I could eat. You cried and hoped to see me free one of these days, and each day as the sun goes down and disappears into the horizon to mark the end of a day, I remember that you are getting weaker and I start to worry.
Mother, without you, I’m like a small boat lost in the middle of the ocean waves in a scary dark night. If I could take away all your sorrows and put them in my heart, I would not hesitate to do so and keep them forever, and you would always see my smile. But I know that you would not accept any such thing, because sacrifice is your trade, love is your name and compassion is your nature. We will see each other again one day, God willing. I will carve the day in which we meet again in all my being, God willing, and kiss your head to tell the entire world that you are the breath of air that I found to become alive again.
In recent months, the rate of transfers from Guantanamo increased dramatically. Nearing the end of his term, President Obama is now attempting to keep his promise of shuttering the island prison. For those like Hamiri who were never charged with a crime and were cleared for release years ago, the futility and cruelty of their treatment has stung. “I have spent thirteen years of my life in a prison cell, though I have not done anything to cause sorrow to any human being,” he wrote recently. “I was cleared to be released six years ago, but I am still under the rubbles breathing, after this earthquake that shook the world.”
After years of longing to be free, this week Mohammed al-Hamiri was released from Guantanamo Bay. On April 16th he was transferred to his release in Saudi Arabia. For many former Guantanamo prisoners, adjusting to life outside the prison has been difficult, even impossible. Sent to unfamiliar countries far from their homes, separated from friends and family, many have been unable to find normalcy or happiness after their ordeals. In some of his last notes cleared for release this year, Hamiri reflected on his hopes for freedom after life in Guantanamo:
In their statement announcing Hamiri’ release, along with the releases of seven other Guantanamo detainees, the Department of Defense reduced these men and their lives to a few perfunctory lines on a page. The hopes, fears and personal stories of these men were elided; they were treated as simply names and numbers. But the reality of their lives is far more complex than the official narrative of Guantanamo Bay suggests. Hamiri’s own writings from prison provide a glimpse into how a young man’s humanity endured in one the bleakest prisons of the War on Terror.
The post Prisoner’s Letters Document Tragedy and Hope Inside Guantanamo appeared first on The Intercept.
(Uma versão em português desse artigo estará disponível em breve.)
BRAZIL’S LOWER HOUSE of Congress on Sunday voted to impeach the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, sending the removal process to the Senate. In an act of unintended though rich symbolism, the House member who pushed impeachment over the 342-vote threshold was Dep. Bruno Araújo, himself implicated by a document indicating he may have received illegal funds from the construction giant at the heart of the nation’s corruption scandal. Even more significantly, Araújo belongs to the center-right party PSDB, whose nominees have lost four straight national elections to Rousseff’s moderate-left PT party, with the last ballot-box defeat delivered just 18 months ago, when 54 million Brazilians voted to re-elect Dilma as president.
Those two facts about Araújo underscore the unprecedentedly surreal nature of yesterday’s proceedings in Brasília, capital of the world’s fifth-largest country. Politicians and parties that have spent two decades trying, and failing, to defeat PT in democratic elections triumphantly marched forward to effectively overturn the 2014 vote by removing Dilma on grounds that, as today’s New York Times report makes clear, are, at best, dubious in the extreme. Even The Economist, which has long despised the PT and its anti-poverty programs and wants Dilma to resign, has argued that “in the absence of proof of criminality, impeachment is unwarranted” and “looks like a pretext for ousting an unpopular president.”
Sunday’s proceedings, conducted in the name of combating corruption, were presided over by one of the democratic world’s most blatantly corrupt politicians, House speaker Eduardo Cunha (above, center), who was recently discovered to have stashed millions of dollars in secret Swiss bank accounts that have no possible non-corrupt source and who lied under oath when he denied to Congressional investigators that he had foreign bank accounts. Of the 594 members of the House, as the Globe and Mail reported yesterday, “318 are under investigation or face charges” while their target, President Rousseff, “herself faces no allegation of financial impropriety.”
One by one, corruption-stained legislators marched to the microphone to address Cunha, voting “yes” on impeachment by professing to be horrified by corruption. As preambles to their votes, they cited a dizzying array of bizarre motives, from “the fundamentals of Christianity” and “not to be as red as Venezuela and North Korea” to “the evangelical nation” and “the peace of Jerusalem.” The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts captured just some of the farce:
Yes, voted Paulo Maluf, who is on Interpol’s red list for conspiracy. Yes, voted Nilton Capixaba, who is accused of money laundering. “For the love of God, yes!” declared Silas Camara, who is under investigation for forging documents and misappropriating public funds.
It is highly likely that the Senate will agree to hear the charges, which will result in the 180-day suspension of Dilma as president and the installation of the pro-business Vice President Michel Temer from the PMDB party. The vice president himself is, as the New York Times put it, “under scrutiny over claims that he was involved in an illegal ethanol purchasing scheme.” Temer recently made it known that one of the leading candidates to head his economic team would be the chairman of Goldman Sachs in Brazil, Paulo Leme.
If, after trial, two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict, Dilma will be permanently removed. Many suspect that one core objective in impeaching Dilma is to provide a cathartic sense for the public that corruption has been addressed, all designed to exploit Temer’s newfound control to prevent further investigations of the dozens upon dozens of actually corrupt politicians populating the leading parties.
THE U.S. HAS been notably quiet about this tumult in the second-largest country in the hemisphere, and its posture has barely been discussed in the mainstream press. It’s not hard to see why. The U.S. spent years vehemently denying that it had any role in the 1964 military coup that removed Brazil’s elected left-wing government, a coup that resulted in 20 years of a brutal, pro-U.S., right-wing military dictatorship. But secret documents and recordings emerged proving that the U.S. actively helped plot that coup, and the country’s 2014 Truth Commission report documented that the U.S. and U.K. aggressively supported the dictatorship and even “trained Brazilian interrogators in torture techniques.”profiled last year), yesterday explicitly praised the military dictatorship and pointedly hailed Col. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, the dictatorship’s chief torturer (notably responsible for Dilma’s torture). Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, also in the House, said he was casting his impeachment vote “for the military men of ’64″: those who carried out the coup and imposed military rule.
The endless invocation of God and Family by impeachment proponents yesterday was redolent of the motto of the 1964 coup: “March of the Family with God for Liberty.” Just as Brazil’s leading oligarch-owned media outlets supported the 1964 coup as a necessary strike against left-wing corruption, so, too, have they been unified in supporting, and inciting, the contemporary impeachment movement against PT with the same rationale.
Dilma’s relationship with the U.S. was strained for years, significantly exacerbated by her vocal denunciations of NSA spying that targeted Brazilian industry, its population and the president personally, as well as Brazil’s close trade relationship with China. Her predecessor, Lula da Silva, had also alienated many U.S. officials by, among other things, joining with Turkey to negotiate an independent deal with Iran over its nuclear program when Washington was attempting to assemble global pressure against Tehran. Washington insiders have been making it increasingly clear that they no longer view Brazil as safe for capital.
The U.S., of course, has a long – and recent – history of engineering instability and coups against democratically elected, left-wing Latin American governments it dislikes. Beyond the 1964 coup in Brazil, the U.S. was at least supportive of the attempted 2002 overthrow of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, played a central role in the 2004 ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lent vital support to legitimize the 2009 coup in Honduras, just to name a few examples. Many on the Brazilian left believe that the U.S. is actively engineering the current instability in their country in order to get rid of a left-wing party that has relied heavily on trade with China, and instead usher in a more pro-business, pro-U.S. government which could never win an election on its own.
ALTHOUGH NO REAL evidence has emerged proving this theory, a little-publicized trip to the U.S. this week by a key Brazilian opposition leader will likely fuel those concerns. Today – the day after the impeachment vote – Sen. Aloysio Nunes of the PSDB will be in Washington to undertake three days of meetings with various U.S. officials as well as with lobbyists and assorted influence-peddlers close to Clinton and other leading political figures.
Sen. Nunes is meeting with the Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), Undersecretary of State and former Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon, and attending a luncheon on Tuesday hosted by the Washington lobbying firm Albright Stonebridge Group, headed by former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Bush 43 Commerce Secretary and Kellogg Company CEO Carlos Gutierrez.
The Brazilian Embassy in Washington and Senator Nunes’ office told The Intercept that they had no additional information about the Tuesday luncheon. In an email, the Albright Stonebridge Group wrote that there is “no media component” to the event, which is for the “Washington policy and business community,” and a list of attendees or topics addressed would not be made public.impeach Dilma in the Senate.
As president of the Brazilian Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Nunes has repeatedly advocated that Brazil once again move closer to an alliance with the U.S. and U.K. And – it almost goes without saying – Nunes has been heavily implicated in corruption allegations; in September, a judge ordered a criminal investigation after an informant, a construction company executive, told investigators that he gave Sen. Nunes R$ 500,000 (US$ 140,000) for his campaign — R$ 300,000 above board and another R$ 200,000 in illicit bribes — in order to win contracts with Petrobras. It is hardly the first such accusation against him.
Nunes’ Washington trip was reportedly ordered by Temer himself, who is already acting as though he runs Brazil. Temer is furious by what he perceives to be a radical, highly unfavorable change in the international narrative, which has increasingly depicted impeachment as a lawless and anti-democratic attempt by the opposition, led by Temer himself, to gain unearned power.
The would-be president ordered Nunes to Washington, reported Folha, to launch “a counter-offensive in public relations” to combat this growing anti-impeachment sentiment around the world, which Temer said is “demoralizing Brazilian institutions.” Demonstrating concern about growing perceptions of the Brazilian opposition’s attempted removal of Dilma, Nunes said that, in Washington, “we are going to explain that we’re not a banana republic.” A representative for Temer said this perception “is contaminating Brazil’s image on the international stage.”
“This is a public relations trip,” says Maurício Santoro, a professor of political science at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, in an interview with The Intercept. “The most important challenge that Aloysio faces is not the American government, it is American public opinion. That is where the opposition is losing the battle.”
There is no doubt that international opinion has turned against the impeachment movement of Brazil’s opposition parties. Whereas only month ago western media outlets depicted anti-government street protests in glowing terms, they now routinely highlight the fact that the legal grounds for impeachment are dubious at best and that impeachment leaders are far more implicated in corruption than Dilma.
In particular, Temer was reportedly concerned about, and furious over, the denunciation of impeachment by the U.S.-supported Organization of American States, whose Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, said the group was “concerned over the process against Dilma, who hasn’t been accused of anything” and because “among those pushing impeachment are members of Congress accused and guilty of corruption.” The head of the Union of South American Nations, Ernesto Samper, similarly said that impeachment “is a serious reason to be concerned for the security of Brazil and the region.”
The trip to Washington by this leading corruption-implicated opposition figure, the day after the House votes to impeach Dilma, will, at the very least, raise questions about the U.S. posture toward removal of the president. It will almost certainly fuel concerns on the Brazilian left about the U.S. role in the instability in their country. And it highlights many of the undiscussed dynamics driving impeachment, including a desire to move Brazil closer to the U.S. and to make it more accommodating to global business interests and austerity measures at the expense of the political agenda which Brazilian voters have embraced in four straight national elections.
The post After Vote to Remove Brazil’s President, Key Opposition Figure Holds Meetings in Washington appeared first on The Intercept.
Nach einer herben Niederlage im Abgeordnetenhaus droht Brasiliens Präsidentin Dilma Rousseff die Amtsenthebung. Bei der Abstimmung am Sonntagabend wurde die für ein Absetzungsverfahren nötige Zwei-Drittel-Mehrheit deutlich erreicht: 367 Abgeordnete votierten dafür, nur 137 dagegen.
Der Senat kann die Politikerin der linken Arbeiterpartei (PT) nun Ende April mit einfacher Mehrheit für 180 Tage suspendieren. Dieses Votum wird nicht als große Hürde angesehen. Danach würden die Anklagepunkte juristisch geprüft.
Die Abstimmung von Sonntag sei im Präsidentenpalast mit „Empörung und Traurigkeit“ aufgenommen worden, sagte Generalanwalt José Eduardo Cardozo. Rousseff werde aber nicht den Mut verlieren. Das Portal O Globo berichtete, die Regierung habe bereits eine
Die Oberbürgermeisterin der türkischen Kurdenmetropole Diyarbakir, Gültan Kisanak, fühlt sich von der Europäischen Union im Stich gelassen. Mit Blick auf den Konflikt mit der türkischen Regierung und das Vorgehen staatlicher Sicherheitskräfte gegen Kurden sagte Kisanak der Zeitung Neues Deutschland: „Um die Beziehungen zur Türkei nicht zu gefährden, hat die EU die Kurden geopfert. Die Türkei benutzt die Flüchtlingsfrage als Druckmittel, um dadurch ihre Kurdenpolitik fortsetzen zu können.“
Türkische Sicherheitskräfte gehen im Südosten des Landes seit Dezember mit einer Offensive gegen die verbotene Kurdische Arbeiterpartei PKK vor. In mehreren Städten wurden – meist wochenlang andauernde – Ausgangssperren verhängt, Menschenrechtsorganisationen protestieren vehement dagegen.
Von SEBASTIAN RANGE, 18. April 2016 –
Während vor einem Scheitern der Waffenruhe gewarnt wird, wurden die Aufständischen in deren Schatten massiv hochgerüstet. Die USA drohen damit, die Regierungsgegner mit Luftabwehrwaffen auszustatten. Davon beflügelt, haben die Aufständischen zu Monatsbeginn eine große Offensive unter Führung al-Qaidas gestartet – mithilfe der Anti-Assad Staatenkoalition.
Derweil in Genf die Vertreter der Internationalen Unterstützungsgruppe für Syrien (ISSG) zu einer neuen Runde von Friedensgesprächen zusammenkommen, warnen westliche Vertreter vor einem Scheitern der seit rund sechs Wochen bestehenden Waffenruhe. So zeigte sich Frankreich besorgt „über die zunehmende Gewalt in Syrien, die in den letzten Tagen zu verzeichnen war“, wie
IT WOULD HAVE been infuriating at any time of the year to learn about the massive tax evasion by the global 0.01 percent revealed by the Panama Papers leak. But it’s especially maddening for regular American schlubs to hear about it in April, just as we’re doing our own taxes.
According to estimates by Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman in his book The Hidden Wealth of Nations, rich individuals and big corporations use various machinations to pay at least a third of a trillion dollars less than they owe every year. For everyone else this translates directly into higher taxes, more national debt, and less government spending.
Conservatives like to argue that it’s impossible to shut down the dizzyingly complex world of shell corporations and tax havens — a position that supports their argument that there’s no point in raising taxes on the wealthy. As George W. Bush proclaimed in 2004, “Real rich people figure out how to dodge taxes.”
However, Zucman makes a persuasive case that it wouldn’t be technically difficult to crush the tax haven industry. The enormous challenge would be mustering the political will — and not just in one country, but on a global level.
Tax havens serve two functions: tax evasion, which involves hiding assets and is illegal, and tax avoidance, which is done by multinational corporations in the open and is legal (since the same corporations have conveniently made sure the laws work that way.). Eliminating them requires different strategies.Tax Evasion
Let’s consider one example: Say you’re an American business owner and you want to hide $10 million from the Internal Revenue Service. As Zucman explains it, there are three steps.
First, you set up a shell corporation — say, Definitely Not an Illegal Tax Shelter LLC — in a location like the Cayman Islands with strict privacy laws about disclosure of company owners, so no one knows that DNAITS belongs to you.
Second, you create a bank account for DNAITS in Switzerland.
Third, you have your real, U.S. company buy $10 million in fictitious services — maybe “consulting” — from DNAITS, sending that $10 million to your Swiss bank account.
Now you can take that $10 million and invest it in whatever you want: real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds. In theory, you’re legally obligated to declare your interest, dividends and capital gains each year and pay taxes on them. In reality, the IRS may never find out that that money belongs to an American, especially since your Swiss bank may itself not know who owns DNAITS.
Let’s say you’ve invested it all in a Vanguard mutual fund which provides a return this year of 5 percent, or $500,000, in taxable dividends. If you were to follow U.S. law and declare it, you’d have to pay taxes on that $500,000 dividend income at a rate of 20 percent, costing you $100,000. So you don’t, and your money continues compounding each year tax-free.
For Americans who aren’t super-rich, there’s no way to hide your income from the government. Employers and banks automatically report your wages, interest from savings accounts, and any meager dividends and capital gains to the IRS. (In fact, the government knows so much that there’s no need for most people to do their own taxes — the IRS could just send you a tax return already filled out for your approval, as is done in Sweden, Denmark and Spain.)
The main service provided by tax havens is simply that — since they’re not bound by other countries’ laws — they don’t report the income of foreigners to the relevant tax authorities.
Based on the history of previous attempts to crack down on tax evasion, successful and not, Zucman argues that the U.S. and European Union could stop most of it with a two-pronged attack: concrete consequences for tax havens, and an international financial register.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, passed by Congress in 2010, imposed our national rules on all financial institutions worldwide. That is, under FATCA, banks in Switzerland, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and everywhere else must search their records for accounts held by U.S. citizens, and automatically report their income to the IRS.
While FATCA has flaws, it’s been successful in making it more difficult for Americans to evade taxes. What’s needed, says Zucman, is even stronger measures to force tax havens to automatically report the income of all foreigners, not just Americans, to the tax authorities in their countries.
The U.S. can force tax havens to comply because we’re so big and powerful. But smaller countries could also bring tax havens to heel if they act in coalition, especially since tax havens themselves are generally tiny and dependent on exports. Zucman calculates that if Germany, France and Italy slapped a tariff of 30 percent on Swiss goods this would cost Switzerland more than it makes as a tax haven — and such a tariff would be legal under World Trade Organization rules, since it would enable the three countries to recover approximately the amount in tax revenues that Switzerland is costing them.
Of course, as with the hypothetical Definitely Not an Illegal Tax Shelter LLC, bankers may be able to honestly say they don’t know who owns many assets. That’s where an international financial registry comes in.
Zucman contends that a global registry of who owns which assets is “in no way utopian.” Countries have long had national registries of who owns all their land and property. More recently corporations have set up private, large-scale registries: the Depository Trust Company (which keeps track of the ownership of all stock issued by U.S. companies), Euroclear Belgium and Clearstream (bonds issued by U.S. companies but denominated in European currencies), Euroclear France (French corporate stock), and other national repositories.
Thus it’s not hard to imagine the databases being merged under the supervision of a public, international institution with financial expertise — and fortunately we already have one of those, the International Monetary Fund.
Of course, the registry would in many cases record that assets are owned by corporations or trusts whose owners are unknown. Tracing the financial chain through many layers of obfuscation back to the actual human beings who hold the assets would require an enormous, costly, and possibly ineffective IMF bureaucracy.
Zucman proposes a fiendishly clever solution: the global registry should impose a small, refundable wealth tax to make in the financial interest of anyone with hidden wealth to disclose it.
Here’s how it would work:
Imagine that the IMF registry imposed a wealth tax of 3% on everything in its records: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, land, property, etc.
Now think again of your $10 million held by Definitely Not an Illegal Tax Shelter LLC, and the $500,000 it’s earned this year in dividends from your Vanguard mutual fund. Your Swiss bank records that DNAITS has received this $500,000 in income, but doesn’t know you own DNAITS, and so can’t report it to the IRS as your income.
However, the global financial registry records that $10.5 million in the Vanguard mutual fund is held by DNAITS — and taxes it at a rate of of 3%, or $315,000.
You now have two choices. First, you can keep silent about your ownership of DNAITS and let the IMF keep the wealth tax, leaving you with $10,185,000.
Or second, you can prove to the IRS that DNAITS belongs to you. And since there’s no wealth tax in the U.S., you’d get all of the $315,000 back. All you’d have to pay is the $100,000 in income taxes you owe on your $500,000 income, leaving you with $10,400,000.
Of course, with such a system in place there would be no point in trying to hide your $10 million in the first place. Instead, you and almost everyone else would simply pay what you lawfully owe — so you don’t have to pay more.
None of this is to say that setting such a system up would be politically simple. In particular, conservatives in all countries would suspect that such a global financial registry would make it easier for countries to impose taxes on wealth in addition to taxes on income — and they’d be right. On the other hand, this also makes a global registry an attractive goal for all political parties concerned about wealth inequality. A global financial registry would also be politically difficult to openly oppose, since it would not just hamper tax evasion but would also be a key tool in fighting money laundering and the financing of terrorism.Tax Avoidance
The U.S. has, by world standards, a peculiar corporate tax system. Multinational companies headquartered in the U.S. must pay an ultimate tax rate of 35 percent on all their profits earned anywhere on earth.
That is, if a corporation makes money in a foreign country with a corporate tax rate of 10 percent, it must pay the IRS an additional 25 percent on its profits booked in that country. But to make things even more complicated, it only has to pay that additional tax when it brings the profits back to the U.S. If it keeps the profits overseas, it can postpone paying the tax bill indefinitely — which is why U.S. corporations are now holding over $2 trillion in profits in other countries.
This creates two obvious incentives for U.S.-based multinationals.
First, they’re continually tempted to engage in corporate “inversions,” in which they move their formal headquarters to a country with lower tax rates — even as their factories, workers and customers stay in the same places. This is why Medtronic, founded in Minneapolis in 1949, is now formally Irish, even as its “operational headquarters” remains in Minnesota.
Second, they tend to engage in accounting chicanery to make it appear as if their profits were “earned” by foreign subsidiaries in countries with low corporate rates. This is a particularly attractive strategy for internet companies, whose value is largely non-material. For instance, Google licensed its highly profitable search and advertising technology to a subsidiary in Bermuda, where the corporate tax rate is zero percent. Google “pays” that highly-profitable subsidiary billions in royalties each year.
Corporations keep these profits overseas in hopes of striking a deal with the U.S. government allowing them to bring the money home at a reduced tax rate. This already happened once before in 2004, when Congress let corporations pay just 5 percent on repatriated profits. New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer is currently working with Republicans on a similar plan.
All of this is done in the open, and is totally legal. Regular Americans despise it, but the tax system is so complex that it seems impossible that the IRS could ever keep up with armies of highly-paid corporate lawyers.
However, there’s a feasible solution suggested by Zucman (and many others): Completely throw out our current corporate tax system and begin using something far simpler called “formulary apportionment.”
Formulary apportionment starts by discarding the weird fiction that a multinational corporation’s subsidiaries are separate companies. Instead, it treats the corporation as what it is, one unitary company, with one unitary amount of profit. Next, a formula based on the location of three concrete factors — the corporation’s payroll, physical capital like factories, and sales — is used to apportion percentages of the multinational’s profits to the different countries in which it operates. The IRS would get 35 percent of the U.S. apportionment.
This isn’t a untested daydream. Individual American states have long used formulary apportionment to determine tax rates for multi-state corporations. The principle would be exactly the same for multinational companies.
There’s no “right” formula, though for decades most U.S. states placed an equal weight on each factor. For example, a manufacturing multinational might have 66.6 percent of its payroll, 33.3 percent of its physical capital, and 50 percent of its customers in the U.S. Added together and divided by three, that means that half of its profits should be apportioned to the U.S. and can be taxed here.
Thus a formulary apportionment system would make corporate inversions and the fictitious booking of profits in low tax countries pointless — neither would change a corporation’s U.S. tax liability.
It’s true that moving to such a system would be, if anything, more politically difficult than creating a global wealth registry. It would be ferociously opposed by many big U.S. corporations. On the other hand, explained clearly it would be extremely popular with regular Americans. There might also be some unexpected corporate support from CEOs who are tired of terrible PR and spending huge amounts of money on those otherwise-useless armies of tax lawyers.
Moreover, the European Commission (the executive body of the European Union) is pushing for individual EU countries to use a formulary apportionment system. This means that both U.S. states and European countries may soon have analogous approaches to corporate taxes. And as Zucman points out, the proposed Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Area would create one free trade zone covering the U.S. and European Union. Groups fighting tax avoidance could push to make a fusion of the two corporate tax bases part of any TAFTA treaty, which would make it far easier to set up formulary apportionment at the level of the U.S. and EU.
So as Zucman writes at the end of The Hidden Wealth of Nations, this is “above all a battle of citizens against the false inevitability of tax evasion and the impotence of nations.” Money launderers, crooked politicians and huge corporations want the system to be so complicated that only their shady bankers and lawyers can comprehend it. But if regular people worldwide can educate ourselves about the costs the current system imposes on all of us, and mobilize to agitate for possible solutions, there’s a path in front of us to a tax system for everyone that’s far simpler, fairer, and more transparent.
The post Here’s a Way to Shut Down Panama Papers-Style Tax Havens — If We Wanted To appeared first on The Intercept.
Das Merdogangate der Bundesregierung, oder: der Merkelsche Kniefall vor dem Tyrannen Erdogan ....... „Ein guter Mensch, in seinem dunklen Drange, Ist sich des rechten Weges wohl bewußt“ lässt Goethe den Faust sagen.
Regel abhanden gekommen: Diese gute Regel scheint der Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel abhanden gekommen zu sein. Anders lässt sich das Nachgeben gegenüber dem strafrechtlichen Druck des türkischen Staatspräsidenten und Tyrannen Erdogan wohl kaum verstehen.
Der Drang der Merkel, das von ihr höchstpersönlich auf die Spitze getriebene Flüchtlingsproblem loszuwerden, liess sie mit dem türkischen Polit-Luzifer Erdogan paktieren. Und wie das bei Teufeln so ist, irgendwann präsentieren die ihre Rechnung, wie im Faust, so jetzt im Falle Böhmermann.
Geschmacklose Satire: Die Satire des Böhmermann finde ich geschmacklos, um es vorsichtig auszudrücken. Je weniger Geist Satiriker auf die Beine stellen können, umso mehr neigen sie dazu, in die Kiste der Fäkalien- und sonstigen Gossensprache zu greifen.
Insofern es keine Überraschung, dass Böhmermann eine Talk-Sendung mit dieser Charlotte Roche produzierte, deren Buch-Produkte wir hier schon mehrfach in satirischer Form - aus den gleichen Gründen - einer vernichtenden Kritik unterzogen haben.
Aber das ist meine Meinung, und in der Kunst gilt nun einmal : One man‘s food is another man‘s poison. Oder auf deutsch: was dem einen seine Eule, ist dem anderen seine Nachtigall.
Dass Präsident Erdogan sein Heil in einer Anzeige wegen Beleidigung sucht – geschenkt.
Unakzeptables Plazet: Aber die Bundesregierung hat ihr Plazet zu einer Strafverfolgung aus einem Paragraphen gegeben, der eine Verschärfung bei Beleidigung ausländischer Staatsoberhäupter vorsieht, Paragraph 103 Strafgesetzbuch..
Eine Form der Strafbarkeit der Majestätsbeleidigung.
Nicht zum ersten Mal: Es ist nicht das erste Mal, dass dem Druck eines Tyrannen auf Strafverfolgung nachgegeben wurde: So hatte im Jahre 1958 die Illustrierte STERN eine Reportage über einen angeblich bevorstehenden Putsch im Iran losgelassen.
Für die deutschen Leser nur deshalb interessant, weil damit die Scheidung des Schahs von der deutsch-persischen Kaiserin Soraya wegen Kinderlosigkeit in Zusammenhang gebracht wurde.
Die iranische Regierung sah diesen Artikel als eine unentschuldbare Beleidigung des Schahs. Der damalige deutsche Botschafter in Teheran wurde mehrmals in das Amt des persischen Hofmarschalls einbestellt. Um eine weitere Beschädigung des deutsch-iranischen Verhältnisses zu verhindern, erteilte der damalige Bundesaußenminister Heinrich von Brentano die notwendige Ermächtigung zur Anklageerhebung gegen das Magazin wegen Beleidigung. ................... http://oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/das-merdogangate-der-bundesreg... .............