ACTIONS FOR PEACE
Put these Peaceful dates on your calendar:
June 11 – Pancake Breakfast, benefit for the Modesto Peace/Life Center
June 23-25- Peace Camp, weekend in the High Sierra for people of all ages-Register now!
ACTION: To volunteer to help, contact the Modesto Peace/Life Center at 529-5750.
San Joaquin Connections--Our Sister Publication to the North--May Issue (pdf)
Peace & Justice
Around the Center:
- MEXICO/U.S. BORDERLANDS: “This is not a welcome mat!”
- INTERFAITH PEACE-BUILDERS Delegations to Palestine & Israel
- PUBLIC FORUM: Divestment and peace in the Middle East
- April 30: Day of Conscience for Darfur
- Chart: Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes
Statement of Conscience Against War and Repression by the Board of the Peace/Life Center
Link: California Peace Action
Link: MoveOn--grassroots activism, electronically based
Link: True Majority
Recipes from Connections
Out and About
COMMUNITY CALENDAR --CURRENT & COMING EVENTS
Masthead and Back Issues
Opinion and Letters to Connections
By PETER PHILLIPS
If a national movement calling for the impeachment of the President is rapidly emerging and the corporate media are not covering it, is there really a national movement for the impeachment of the President?
Impeachment advocates are widely mobilizing in the U.S. Over 1,000 letters to the editors of major newspapers have been printed in the past six months asking for impeachment. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette letter writer George Matus says, “I am still enraged over unasked questions about exit polls, touch-screen voting, Iraq, the cost of the new Medicare, who formulated our energy policy, Jack Abramoff, the Downing Street Memos, and impeachment.” David Anderson in McMinnville, Oregon pens to the Oregonian, “Where are the members of our congressional delegation now in demanding the current president’s actions be investigated to see if impeachment or censure are appropriate actions?” William Dwyer’s letter in the Charleston Gazette says, “Congress will never have the courage to start the impeachment process without a groundswell of outrage from the people.”
City councils, boards of supervisors, and local and state level Democrat central committees have voted for impeachment. Arcata, California voted for impeachment on January 6. The City and County of San Francisco, voted Yes on February 28. The Sonoma County Democrat Central Committee (CA) voted for Impeachment on March 16. The townships of Newfane, Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney in Vermont all voted for impeachment the first week of March. The New Mexico State Democrat party convention rallied on March 18 for the “impeachment of George Bush and his lawful removal from office.” The national Green Party called for impeachment on January 3. Op-ed writers at the St. Petersburg Times, Newsday, Yale Daily News, Barrons, Detroit Free Press, and the Boston Globe have called for impeachment. The Nation (1/30/06) and Harpers (3/06) magazines published cover articles calling for impeachment. Garrison Keillor, and Richard Dreyfuss both have come out for impeachment. As of March 16, thirty-two US House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors to House Resolution 635, which would create a Select Committee to look into the grounds for recommending President Bush’s impeachment.
Polls show that nearly a majority of Americans favor impeachment. In October of 2005, Public Affairs Research found that 50% of Americans said that President Bush should be impeached if he lied about the war in Iraq. A Zogby International poll from early November 2005 found that 53% of Americans say, “If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment.” A March 16, 2006 poll by American Research Group showed that 42% of Americans favored impeaching Bush.
Despite all this advocacy and sentiment for impeachment, corporate media have yet to cover this emerging mass movement. The Bangor Daily News simply reported on March 17 that former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark has set up the website Votetoimpeach.org and that other groups are using the internet to push impeachment. The Wall Street Journal, on March 16, editorialized about how it is just “the loony left” seeking impeachment, but perhaps some Democrats in Congress will join in feeding on the “bile of the censure/impeachment brigades.” The corporate media is ignoring the broadening call for impeachment - wishing perhaps it will just go away. Television news and talk shows have mentioned impeachment over 100 times in the past 30 days, mostly however in the context of Senator Russ Feingold’s censure bill and the lack of broad Democrat support for censure or impeachment. Nothing on television news gives the impression that millions of Americans are calling for the impeachment of Bush and his cohorts.
The Bush Administration lied about Iraq, illegally spied on US citizens, and continues war crimes in the Middle East. Despite corporate media’s inability to hear the demands for impeachment, the groundswell of outrage continues to expand.
Peter Phillips, Director of Project Censored, is co-editor with Dennis Loo of the The Case for Impeachment of Bush and Cheney to be released this summer.
By SERGEI SAMBORSKI, Ph.D.
The day of March 26 was eagerly awaited by the people of Ukraine and widely anticipated by its politicians.
The people waited for this day because the 5th parliamentary elections would finally be over.
The politicians expected to harvest the votes proportionately to their financial investments.
126 multi-colored parties competed for 450 seats in the national parliament.
Politicians have lost. They did not believe people could mature so fast.
People have won. They have outgrown politicians in their political maturity.
Here is how it happened
Many skeptics predicted a very low voter turnout. Nevertheless, 67.7% registered voters expressed their will on that cold Sunday.
That will went contrary to numerous politicos’ predictions and expectations. For instance, a year ago no one could predict that the Orange Revolution lead party, Our Ukraine, would fail to win a parliamentary majority. Well, the recently formed block National Union, Our Ukraine, gained trust of only 13.94% of the voters.
Why did not so many millions of those who only 16 months ago battled freezing temperatures to overhaul the rigged presidential elections express their trust in Viktor Yushchenko’s party this time?
First, some of the promises given on the Independent Square were withdrawn and some were simply not delivered. High-profile criminal oligarchs did not get prosecuted and put to justice. Instead, they were allowed to roam free and join the opposition Party of Regions.
Second, the government did not deliver on its promise to fight corruption, nepotism, and lobbyism. When his circle of friends was accused of corruption, the President took them under personal protection before any investigations could be started.
Third, the President promised to respect the Constitution, but he, himself started violating it shortly after being elected. He carelessly misread the mandate people had given him.
Fourth, honesty, transparency, and justice were rudely betrayed. People got offended not so much because the justice minister did not have a degree in Jurisprudence, but because he lied about it. People lost their trust not because the President’s son drove around in a $600,000 BMW, but because they did not know where he got it. People were outraged when a journalist, who tried to find out, was personally chastised by the President. They truly expected the President “to walk the talk.”
Another major factor that caused the defeat of the Orange Revolution team was the political technology failure in forming the Our Ukraine coalition. What I mean by "technology" is the array of methods used in politics. For example, creation of several smaller parties with several big names to draw away some voters, or like Leonid Kuchma did in 1999, inflating the possible triumph of the Communist Party and portraying himself as an opposition. So people had to choose as if between the two evils. The Our Ukraine coalition was created for the elections and for the President. It was built from top down as a new ruling party. It lacked the grass-roots approach.
Why the Orange Revolution party lost the majority?
Voters realized they have the power to influence the political process. They know that they brought President Viktor Yushchenko and his “orange” team to power through their unequivocal rejection of Russia’s meddling into internal affairs of the newly independent Ukraine. For most people, electing Yushchenko meant voting for the true independence of their own country. They clearly saw how the previous regime lead by former president Leonid Kuchma was quickly bringing Ukraine back into the economic and political sphere of influence of the Russian Empire. Russian president Vladimir Putin does not make a secret of his main goal to restore the mighty Soviet Russia through economic, financial, and cultural re-enslavement of the previously occupied Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc.
The people of Ukraine made their clear choice to move toward the West and join the European Union. When I ask my friends in Khmelnitskiy, Kiev, Lviv, and other Ukrainian cities why they want to become an integral part of Europe, the first thing they tell me is they are tired of corruption. They want their children to grow up in a society where merit outweighs rank, where good education and diligent work may ensure decent living.
So when the new government did not show any serious intentions to fight corruption as one of the major prerequisites to be considered for EU membership, people responded with their votes. They no longer believe in empty pre-election slogans and undelivered promises. They no longer “sell” their votes for pre-election ”donation” programs, such as pension and salary raise. People demand a long-term considerate policy to ensure the continuity of movement toward building a civic society.
All these, and other well-deserved and reasonable expectations, were largely betrayed by the new government.
Another major reason for the popularly-elected President’s party defeat in the parliamentary elections was the earlier split of the Orange Revolution team. When the Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was fired by the President last September, the people of Ukraine clearly understood that the new people in power cared more about their personal political ambitions than about the country and its people they were elected to serve. Seeing her as a victim of infighting, many voters chose to give their voices to the Yulia Timoshenko Block party, which garnered 22.27%.
The party of revenge
Party of Regions was the first to cross the finish line at the parliamentary elections on March 26. Its candidates gathered 32.12% of the votes, most of which came from the North, South and East of Ukraine. These are the regions bordering Russia and still pro Russian. Many people there remain loyal to the nostalgic memories of heavy-industry assured jobs, cheap vodka, and subsidized housing. Soviet-era mentality is largely prevalent there, still. They voted for the pro-Russian party en mass not only because it promises to make Russian the second official language, or because their Moscow-backed candidate lost his presidential race during the Orange Revolution of 2004. These people feel offended and left out of the current political process.
This particular electorate was artificially created by the Soviet Union and later by the pro-Kremlin regime of Leonid Kuchma, the second Ukrainian president who ruled for 10 years. In the 1930’s, heavy industry giants who served the military-industrial complex were built in those particular regions to ensure the process of irreversible sovietization of Ukraine’s population. Remarkably, those regions suffered the least during the Stalin-made famine that lost the lives of some 8 million independence-minded Ukrainian farmers. The coal mining regions became economic and ideological outposts of Soviet imperialism.
So, if the old, criminal regime had split the country, the new “orange” government failed to stitch it together. This failure increased the numbers of the opposition. Therefore, the “easterners” did not just vote to revenge their presidential candidate for last year. They voted for the idea of a society that once was. Even though, the Communist Party barely passed the 3% margin to qualify for representation in parliament.
Their choice must be respected and understood because it can be explained.
Do democratic forces with their split team, split country, and reiterated desire to join the West through admission to EU still have a chance?
Yes, they do. In order to do so, they have to form a coalition of the Yulia Timoshenko Block, Our Ukraine, and Socialist Party of Ukraine.
This alliance would guarantee the majority in the newly elected parliament, Verkhovna Rada. More so, this union of the progressive political parties will have a real chance to defend the declared democratic principles of the Orange Revolution. The people of Ukraine might have lost trust in the new government, but they firmly believe in the principles declared by the poisoned presidential candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, on the Independence Square in Kiev in November of 2004. That’s what people voted for. They did not vote for a person simply because he was a victim of the dark forces. The voters elected the idea of JUSTICE. What makes their choice so powerful is that it can never go away, like presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, kings or queens.
The people of Ukraine have changed! They actively demand the elected politicians to deliver on their promises. Voters did not by into mom-and-pop or celebrities parties with their last-minute sugar-coated lures. They dismissed most of the 120 parties with their self-interest agendas.
By their choice, the people are directing the political process and hold the politicians accountable.
The people of Ukraine have clearly outgrown their politicians.
The author is Modesto-Khmelnitskiy committee chair, Modesto Sister Cities International
By ALEJANDRA JUAREZ
It is that time again to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but do we really know its significance?
Cinco de Mayo refers to the Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla), fought in 1862 when the young republic of México was trying to repel the invading French. Known as the French Intervention, Napoleon III installed Maximillian I as emperor of México in an effort to establish an empire. The battle of Puebla was a major victory for México under the command of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza. Although the French troops kept coming and only later were expelled from México, the battle of Puebla crushed Napoleon III’s dream of an empire and served as a great morale booster for the Mexicans.
For Cinco de Mayo celebrations, see the Calendar
For information on “Mexican-American Culture Week” call M.E.Ch.A., 209-664-6511.
By ALEJANDRA JUAREZ
Part 2 of 2
An example of how life is changing in Venezuela is the missions projects. Known as misiones they encompass education, food distribution, employment, and health. Millions of dollars are being spent to fight poverty and generally raise the living standards of Venezuelans.
One of the first missions was Mision Barrio Adentro (Mission Inside Neighborhood) which focuses on healthcare. This is a partnership with Cuba in which Cuban doctors donate their services for two years residing in the community they are assigned to, providing 24 hour, complete healthcare services for the neighborhood free of charge. In turn, the community provides the doctors with housing and food. For sending doctors, Cuba receives subsidized oil from Venezuela. The mission is now beginning to send Venezuelan medical students to train in Cuba on full scholarships from the Cuban government in the hopes that they will serve the poor upon graduation.
I spoke with one Cuban doctor in the remote village of Birongo, east of Caracas, and learned that, to them, donating their time and skills is not considered a sacrifice, but a gift. A gift they are giving for the greater of humanity. Asked why she decided to volunteer, another doctor answered, “I didn’t even think about it, I just heard that my commander (Fidel Castro) was recruiting to help our brothers and sisters in Venezuela and I said ‘It’s my turn to help.’” Giving and sharing are virtues they have been inculcated with since childhood.
Mision Milagro (Miracle Mission) is yet another partnership with Cuba whose mission is eye care. Venezuelans in need of eye care are flown to Cuba for surgery and treatment. Recently, this mission has been expanded to the Caribbean. Over 100,000 Venezuelans have benefited from this program.
On education there are various projects that have been extremely successful. One mission is Mision Ribas which targets Venezuelans who did not complete primary school. Here they can finish their elementary education. This is one of the first steps for those that want to continue their education. The students’ age range from 15 to 60+.
Mision Robinson, named after Simon Bolívar’s mentor, is the largest and most successful educational mission. Created in 2003, its goal was to teach one million Venezuelans to read and write in two years. The goal was achieved eight months early and has eradicated illiteracy in the country. Venezuela is the second country, behind Cuba, to be declared territory free of illiteracy in October 2005. As Venezuelanalysis.com reported last year, “the success of Mission Robinson was made possible to a great degree because of what Chávez refers to as ‘the most important civilian-military operation in the history of the Republic of Venezuela.”
Mision Sucre is another mission dedicated to education. It has the same dynamics as Mission Ribas, but is geared toward high school education. Those that complete this program can go on to university. All these three missions use volunteers as teachers and are all over the country.
Mision Vuelvan Caras (Mission Returning Faces) focuses on employment. This mission works closely with Mission Ribas and encourages enrollment in both. It focuses on endogenous development in five key sectors of the economy; agriculture, industry, tourism, services, and infrastructure. Participants in the Vuelvan Caras mission, called lanceros, are trained in any of these sectors and upon graduation are encouraged to join a cooperative. As the President Advisor of INCE, National Institute for Educational Cooperation, said “[Mission Vuelvan Caras is] a new type of labor relations…Endogenous development challenges the neoliberal model in that workers’ relationships are horizontal, not vertical, and networks are constricted where everyone participates in equal conditions.”
My time in the area of Barlovento, especially known for its cacao beans (the main ingredient of chocolate), east of the capital, was spent, among other things, visiting cooperatives. Many of these cooperatives are part of the Vuelvan Caras mission and receive government support in terms of technology and expertise. During a visit to the village of Birongo, we found an agriculturists and a sociologist working along with farmers. “They provide us with new ideas on how to improve our crops and yield,” said one farmer. The community of Birongo not only grows the cacao, but also produces their own chocolate products such as syrup, candy, and drinks. Which I must say are delicious!
During the illegal oil strike of the top management of PDVSA in 2003, the country was without food, water and energy. Along with the reformation of the oil industry another outcome of the oil strike was the creation of Mision Mercal. Mercal is a store chain that provides foodstuffs and other basic products from local cooperatives, small-scale businesses and foreign imports, at low cost to Venezuelans. For example, one can buy chicken at a much lower rate per pound at a Mercal than at a privately-owned grocery store. This is achieved through government contracts with Brazil’s poultry industry.
During my visit to the National Institute for Women in Caracas we learned of the Banco de Desarollo de la Mujer or Banmujer (Bank for Women’s Development), which “is the only government-supported bank of its kind in the world and operates in all 23 states and the capital.” According to their official website, their objective is “to facilitate financial services through technical support, assistance, training, and accompaniment to women from the most impoverished sectors of the country together with allied institutions and always with the empowerment of women in mind.”
Created in 2001 and inspired by the “Equal Opportunity” clause of the constitution, Banmujer has “granted over 70,000 micro credits which, in turn, have generated 145,000 jobs… but the biggest achievements have been social and cultural” as women have gained some equal footage in society, said Nora Castañeda, the bank’s president.
I was awestruck by all the changes that Venezuela is going through and encouraged to know that the dream most of us have of a society based on equality, the right to employment, and the pursuit of happiness, is very much alive in South America. We are experiencing a major shift to the left in the Americas and I am glad I was there to witness it.
Sources: www.venezuelanalysis.com, www.banmujer.gov.ve
Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights organization that offers socially responsible “Reality Tours” to countries around the world, is launching a new Spanish-language school in Merida, Venezuela in June 2006. Global Exchange has extensive experience leading group tours to Venezuela, where tourism is on the rise among Americans who have heard about the progressive socioeconomic transformation taking place there.
The Global Exchange Spanish-language program offers 2-week and 4-week stays in Merida, a charming university town nestled at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Students will live with Venezuelan families and attend classes for 3 hours daily. When they are not in classes, students will visit educational and health care programs and coffee farms, and meet with human rights activists, labor leaders, and women’s organizations. They will also enjoy the beauty and culture of Venezuela, especially in the form of Afro-Venezuelan music and dance.
Venezuela is undergoing a remarkable transformation that is improving the lives of millions of people. The world’s fifth-largest oil producer, Venezuela has long been a country of contrasts: despite its great wealth, 80% of Venezuelans live in poverty. Now, for the first time, millions of Venezuelans have access to education, job training, housing, land, clean water, health care, and something maybe even more precious: dignity.
Global Exchange has been offering socially responsible Reality Tours since 1989, to provide travelers with an in-depth understanding of countries and cultures by connecting them with inspiring community organizers and social change advocates around the globe.
For more information see www.globalexchange.org/tours/byCountry.html; or call (415) 575-5520
Modesto Sister Cities International (MSCI) is recruiting host families willing to open their homes from August 12 to August 22, 2006 to a male or female high school student from Kurume, Japan.
The students will be busy during the weekdays of their stay with MSCI activities. Host families are encouraged to plan activities for their student on the weekends. The students all have some English skills. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the Japanese culture while sharing your home with a student.
ACTION: For more information, call Nancy Holmes, 765-9290.
Tenth of each month. Submit peace, justice and environmentally friendly event notices to P.O. Box 134, Modesto, CA, 95353, or call 522-4967 or 575-4299, or email to Jim Costello. Free listings subject to space, availability and editing.