Haiti and Somalia: Thank you, dear Forges

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In times of so much neglect, of looking the other way, of so many passive spectators, I want to reiterate my gratitude to those who, like Forges, remind us each day what we must keep in our minds and hearts, to gradually begin to change our behavior.

Haiti and Somalia, the inhabitants of these two countries: they need solidarity, especially from those who live in the world’s most prosperous areas and who very frequently allow themselves to be manipulated by information that transforms them into simple recipients without the ability to react, without the courage to cease to think only of themselves and to turn their attention to those in need. Doing so has many advantages since it not only makes you more appreciative of what you have, but also helps you understand the needs of others.

With exemplary insistence, Forges shows us the real challenges that we should bear in mind and assume as our own, especially when (although hounded by the markets –what an immense error it was in the 1980s to have replaced ethical values for those of the stock markets) we are about to celebrate our Christmas holidays and (despite it all) are wishing each other the best for 2012.

Haiti and Somalia… and all of those who live in conditions that can hardly be described as human: we will feel much better if we really show that we care. If we take into account all lives and not only our own. Forges’ reminder is the best New Year’s message of them all.

On the threshold of winter

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Six Reflections:

1) Re-founding the European Union... Re-founding on the same pillars and with the same structures that have prompted the present situation? Re-founding based solely on the economy? Re-founding based on money?

It may serve to “save the euro"... But not for saving Europe and the Europeans, which is what really matters. Europe could be saved by reestablishing the democratic principles (social justice, solidarity, equality) that were erroneously replaced with those of the market. Creating a fiscal federation with the capacity (as is the case in the US and UK) to issue currency or eurobonds; and converting NATO into an autonomous security system with immediate cuts in investments in arms and military spending... replacing an economy of speculation, delocalization of production and obedience to rating agencies with an economy of global sustainable development.

In short, replacing the values of the stock exchange with moral values...

2) Creating employment without incentives?

How can employment be created without public works and support for SMEs? I must once again underscore that it is essential to have the autonomy to quickly issue the money needed to reactivate existing enterprises and create new ones. The US has issued 300 billion dollars and the UK has minted 75 billion pounds sterling precisely for this purpose.

In contrast, in the Eurozone there are budget cuts, austerity measures and a reduction in the workforce. This is not the way. The right way is democracy, which has presently been displaced by the markets. It’s now essential to put the people first.

3) Prosecute Judge Garzón!

Prosecute the best-known judge in the whole world because he had the courage and vision to believe that justice is universal! And who believed that there can’t be a good future if we know so little of the past. For the final reconciliation of Spaniards it is essential that those who lost the civil war be able to know exactly what happened and, to the extent possible, to approach and honor the victims. Those who won have already had many years and much help in doing so.

And in view of the source of these accusations, it’s really incredible that they are going to prosecute the person who has most fought to preserve the memory of the past. We have the duty to remember. Our personal and collective memory is a fundamental part of our heritage.

And Judge Garzón will continue to receive the recognition that he deserves, both at home and abroad.

4) New Electoral Law

It is urgent to decide to reform our Electoral Law. Let’s not delay this by saying that it’s not appropriate “because we just had elections", "because the ballot boxes have just spoken"... For a long time political parties and civil society (especially the 15-M movement and internet users) have insistently demanded a change in our electoral law that is inadequate and anti-democratic. This cannot be delayed if we don’t want to have to maintain our present tightrope walker situation and a sense of weakness with respect to representing the will of all Spaniards.

It should be underscored that under the present Law, citizens will simply choose not to vote. And they will adopt this position in support of pluralism and public liberties. It’s that simple.

No more elections under the present unequal system in which there is no correspondence between the number of votes cast and the number of seats won.

In “El País”, citing Primo Levi, Manuel Rivas referred to the "vacanza morale" that is responsible for the present problems in Spain and in Europe. This moral deficit is proving to be very dangerous because, in addition to its “collateral effects” of corruption, fallacies and constantly broken vain promises, it appears to affect citizens who, distracted, preoccupied, patient (in both meanings of the term) and disillusioned with politicians and with everyone else, continue to demonstrate the same routine, submissive and mindless behavior during elections.

5) Press conferences... with no questions allowed?

Journalists should no longer tolerate this lack of respect. Why do they attend press conferences when they know that they will be prevented from exercising their profession? Why don’t they get up and leave when they realize that there won’t be any interaction with the speaker? Why do they stay for sessions in which they are limited to listening to statements from a “talking head”?

I underscore this because one day they will regret having lost their rights and dignity. And the full exercise of the responsibility of journalists is essential for citizens and for genuine democracy.

6) Elections in Russia. It’s good that citizens are protesting. It’s bad that the US is intervening and criticizing.

It’s great to see thousands of citizens in Russia today freely expressing their protests and disagreement!

It’s great!... because I remember the total silence, absolute obedience and complete submission that so impressed me on my first visit to the Soviet Union in 1961. And, later, on several other trips... until Gorbachev. Citizens were for all effects invisible, inexistent. For that reason I am now quite pleased to see citizens who disagree and demonstrate freely.

In contrast, I find it totally inappropriate that Ms. Clinton has not only criticized the elections and their lack of transparency, but has likewise extended her comments to Russia’s position against the deployment of anti-missile shields initiated by President George Bush. In light of the present situation the last thing we need is to increase military spending (already excessive from any perspective) with anti-missile shields!

The United States providing lessons on how to conduct “transparent” and adequate elections? How quickly they forgot the appalling final recount in Florida that gave President George Bush the victory over Al Gore! In the country that pioneered and is the best endowed in computerized technology, votes were actually recounted by looking at the light through a hole in a punch card with one eye shut...

Sooner than many may suspect, good governance will arrive on the voices of the people. Those voices that now, in Russia and in other places, are heard and are being heard. And in support of building, among us all, a strong and efficient United Nations, to finally make the visionary “We, the Peoples” of the UN Charter a reality.

Popular Outcry in Support of the Environment: Rio + 20 Must Mark the Beginning of a New Era

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We cannot continue to be distracted, self-absorbed, spineless spectators of the immense and certainly foreseen failure of a system that while attempting to perpetuate itself despite its state of ruin, uses all imaginable means to keep us quite numb and incapable of reacting and expressing our protests and proposals, our agreement and disagreement.

This has gone too far: everyone monitoring "risk amounts", the fluctuation of investment stakeholders values –the others were abandoned long ago- and biased press releases of the rating agencies…

And the living conditions of a majority of mankind? And the damage to the environment and to the habitability of the planet? The “system” relegates and postpones matters essential for compliance with our duties to future generations, the legacy that we must leave those who are arriving one step behind us.

It will soon be the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. I remember how carefully and meticulously we planned it, especially in the United Nations, to ensure that Agenda 21 would provide an appropriate means for healing Mother Nature’s wounds, and preventing many others.

But the neoliberal globalizers had already taken off and tainted money and markets. And we thus arrived at the year 2000 and there was no money to implement the Millennium Objectives, because the only “objective” that the “great domain” pursued and still pursues is to earn more money: delocalizing production out of pure greed, and promoting a speculative economy, a lack of solidarity in tax havens and world governance by the wealthiest nations…

With these guidelines and roadmaps, it’s no wonder that the few attempts to reduce environmental damage and climate change have come to nothing. Kyoto… Durban…: the countries that emit the most CO2 and gases with greenhouse effects, the ones most responsible for polluting the earth, seas and air will not assume commitments, alleging reasons that are undoubtedly a serious insult to the whole of mankind, given that these processes are potentially irreversible and, thus, subject to the ethics of time.

Today I am writing these paragraphs with much urgency, because the preparatory meeting for Río+20 once more suggests that the superpowers’ attitude will be one of indifference and ambiguity, when their commitment and attention are more urgent and necessary than ever.

The time for mobilizing the people has come. It is time to demand, without further postponements, the attention that Mother Earth deserves. A few (the G-8…, G-20…) cannot and should not impose their will on 196 countries.

Let’s activate a broad and dense web in Cyberspace, let’s sign the petitions that arise from all corners of the earth, so that there will soon be millions who demand that Río+20 should represent the beginning of a new era, a historical change of course in which ethical values and democratic principles will finally prevail.

If we are many, it will be possible.

Governance and the “legacy received"...

When I hear so many newly-elected leaders complain of the “state in which they’ve found their offices"... I recall the Russian story "The Three Envelopes", that I published years ago (El País, 13 November 1982) and which is certainly applicable today, those who will soon assume office are following the well-established custom of initially exaggerating the situation, despite the fact that in the specific case that I allude to here and in many others they were quite aware of the seriousness of the situation from their own “homegrown” experiences in the Autonomous Communities where they have governed for quite some time.

There are more than a few predictable new comers who are talking of the urgent necessity of making “structural reforms”, in general, just like that... as in the Russian story:
"The new Rector still speaks favorably of you?". I vigorously indicated that he did, making gestures with my lips and head to show my full conviction that it was so, which perhaps did not disguise my surprise at the question. “Well, he will soon cease to do so, you’ll see", observed a well-know Russian scientist visiting the University of Granada. His assertion that my successor would inevitably blame me for many of his problems had left me quite perplexed. Observing that, he continued: "Do you know the story of the three envelopes? It’s an old Russian tale that is applicable to all transfers of power. When leaving office, the out-going official discreetly leaves the newly-elected official three envelopes numbered 1, 2 and 3, telling him to keep them in the middle drawer of his desk and to open them in numerical order when he feels he is really in trouble.

After a few days, perhaps a few weeks, the initial favorable perspectives have faded; everything becomes difficult, there are many urgent problems... and in the loneliness of his office, the new official decides to open his predecessor’s first envelope. The letter it contains simply says “Criticize me. Blame it on me"... And despite it all, the advice worked and, in effect, for several months the new leader was able to manage the situation by referring to his predecessor’s mistakes, the “lamentable state in which he left all of this” or “the former leader’s total lack of foresight", etc.

But of course the time comes when the transfer of power is too distant a memory to blame everything on the predecessor. And things are not going well and, why deny it? It is improbable, very improbable that such complicated situations can really improve substantially. And the time arrives when the lonely, stressed leader opens the center drawer of his desk and takes out the second envelope. The letter inside reads: "Nothing can be done with the present structures. Change them". The structural reforms bring our man much personal satisfaction and prompts great expectations. For a while the reforms implemented (some of them so admittedly irrelevant, such as moving the 6th floor offices to the 2nd floor, and the 2nd floor archives to the 6th) boost the leader’s image and warrant the praise of his superiors.

But although it may be a result of the logical wear and tear of holding a position of power, or more frequently due to the leader’s ineffectiveness and incompetence in office –and here my colleague’s expression was dark and fatalistic- sooner or later a point is reached in which even new structures don’t resolve the serious problems faced by the protagonist of our story.

Circumstances become such that, recognizing that it is his last recourse, he nervously opens the third envelope which reads: "Rapidly prepare three envelopes for your successor. Your dismissal is imminent".

Since then I have frequently reminded this splendid Russian story. And I am reminded of it today with satisfaction that the fundamental changes that have taken place in our country allow it to be told again... And as then, but even moreso now, we can revisit the story in light of the fact that here there have been no resounding dismissals in the governmental change of power, but rather an ordered transfer of functions prompted by elections. Moreover, regardless of whether the first-envelope measures may sometimes be warranted and the second-envelope measures reasonable, alternation in power characteristic of democratic countries precludes their being a third envelope, because those in power in truly free countries know that they are being watched by the real protagonists of democracy: the people.

And the people are well aware of the moral of the Russian story of the three envelopes...

Spain: A New Era

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The tidal wave of the world and, particularly, the European crisis is seriously affecting not only the implementation of political programs but also the very foundations of effective democratic practice.

When in the 1980s President Regan’s ambitions of dominance, aided by Prime Minister Thatcher, were successful in persuading a large part of the developed world of the need to replace ethical principles with the “laws of the market”, a period was initiated in which Nation-States were weakened, the multilateralism of the United Nations was replaced by groups of plutocrats (G6, G7, G8, G20) comprising the wealthiest nations of the world, and there was a process of delocalization of a large part of production, with insatiable greed... Very few warned of the profound consequences that would ensue from these essential changes in world governance.

The telecommunications (1993) and real estate (2007) “bubbles” and their corresponding economic fluctuations gave rise to a multiple (ethical, democratic, political, food, environmental, financial) crisis that has been mishandled, using the same suppositions and means of action that prompted the disaster. The “rescue” of financial institutions promoted by President Bush through the G20 gave new wings to the “rescued” and impoverished the “rescuers”.

Instead of promoting an effective renewal of multilateralism and reestablishing ethical principles and human rights as guidelines for political action, neoliberal policies were pursued, particularly in the “West”, and the “great domain" (military, financial, media, oil) gradually re-gained the reins of the system to reinstate the strength of the dollar zone, and subsequently the yuan, over the euro zone.

After mercilessly hounding the most fragile countries (due to their financial policies and “bubbles”), they have rapidly achieved political changes (even in Ireland, which until very recently was considered a model in economic school curricula), although initially (in Ireland, United Kingdom, Portugal) the changes took place quickly but within democratic procedures. Spain was obliged to effect profound changes in the government’s program... that has so far enabled it to escape a “rescue” and the storms that have devastated Greece and Italy, whose parliaments and governments have been eliminated and revamped to please the markets.

All of this is extremely serious and requires rapid and categorical responses from the European Union.

And, nevertheless, the EU has continued to maintain structures and procedures that instead of strengthening it, have increased its weaknesses, placing the EU at the mercy of rating agencies and the most audacious speculative practices... while the United States is now focusing its attention on Asia and the Pacific, seeking new alliances with the main emerging countries, including those in Latin America.

As Robert Schuman noted in1950, Europe must use its “great creative capacity” instead of submitting to economic norms and guidelines, and policies that are now merely anachronisms. We have to invent the future; we must once and for all abandon strategies that have created a world of 7 billion inhabitants where only 20% of them live in the most prosperous areas, while the rest, who suffer a progressive lack of the basic necessities, reach limits of extreme poverty and death from starvation.

For me it is a truly “obsession of conscience”, as a fact that demostrate the failure of “neoliberal globalization”, that each day 4 billion dollars are invested in weapons and military spending while at the same time over 60,000 people die from hunger. I will never tire of repeating this. No one should tire of repeating this and of bearing it in mind, so that it may guide our actions daily.

Yesterday the Spanish people gave a resounding victory to the Popular Party, whose impassioned and united followers supported change against a Socialist Party that suffered a serious defeat, due to wounds from hounding or to the disappointment of many who abstained from voting or did so for other leftist forces. The Socialist Party will recover, thanks to those same values that now, having had to renounce some of them in the face of attacks from the markets, have brought it down.

I must underscore with satisfaction that election day was admirably calm and, for the first time, did not take place under the disturbing shadow of ETA.

Years ago I wrote that elections are a very important aspect of democracies, but that we shouldn’t only go by the exact results of the ballot box, but should ensure that the political actions of the elected officials permanently reflect the “voice of the people”.

Otherwise, we will have been counted (so many votes for, so many against)... but we won’t count as citizens, and we won’t actually be taken into account afterwards. For that reason we have to underscore the extraordinary role that distance participation can play. We must listen carefully to the proposals and points of view of citizens who, as in the case of the 15-M movement, peacefully offer their perspectives. In the next few months and years cyberspace will be a key factor in strengthening or tempering the “loud and clear voice” of those who were formerly subjects but who are now full-fledged citizens.

Citizens who so rightly call for electoral reforms, the appointment of judges without ideological bias, transparency in banking and the elimination of tax havens, etc, etc.

It is clear, crystal clear, that the urgent problems facing our country will not be resolved locally, but rather largely within the framework of the European Union, which to-date has shown a lack of appropriate leadership. I have already mentioned on many occasions the pressing need to establish an autonomous security system, with a considerable reduction in military spending, commencing by ceasing to acquire out-dated military hardware; fiscal federation and the issuing of Eurobonds, since both the U.S. and the United Kingdom can "issue" large amounts of money, as they have done recently to promote innovation, while in Europe we have to carefully follow austerity measures that, alone, won’t allow for growth or create employment; banking transparency and, particularly important at present, a reinstatement of the democratic principles that have characterized the West, not merely as a democratic model or structure, but as universally-valid values. And just as a working democracy would be reinstated at the local level, a re-founding of the United Nations should be promoted at the global level.

Without this “activation” on the part of Europe, the new widely-supported government will not be able to resolve problems and, above all, it will not be able to keep its key electoral promise: creating employment, being forced to make inadmissible cuts in social programs.

In other respects, I hope that the responsibility that comes with power will moderate some of its positions (Law on Dependence, education for citizenship, etc.) which have been important “acquisitions” for the Spanish people and in which losses would be inadmissible.

With everyone’s collaboration, let’s seek this new leadership that the European Union requires to resolve the majority of this country’s problems. Once again, Robert Schuman proclaimed in 1950 that “Europe will not be made all at once,… It will be built through concrete achievements which first create de facto solidarity". And, as Hugues de Jouvenel indicated in this month’s “Futuribles”, quoting Saint-Exupéry, "What saves a man is to take a step. And another... and another…”.

Only then will we be able to overcome these last throes of the power of the markets, which change governments without elections and enslave their western rescuers... But this will not last long: citizens will shortly show that they will not allow a few rich countries to continue to hold the reins of their destiny. And democracy and politics will recover decision-making power based on the ethical principles that should never have been entrusted to the “markets”.

In this new era there are reasons for all citizens, whatever their ideology, to feel committed and even optimistic at the advent of a new world in which social justice and intergenerational responsibilities, such as those that affect climate change, will form part of daily political action, and we will soon be able to forget the speculation and excesses that all mankind has suffered in the last few years.

The World Now Has 7,000 Million Inhabitants

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All equal in dignity. All equal in dignity, but only 20% living in the “welfare society”, in the most prosperous neighborhood of the global village… The rest, the other 80%, live in progressive stages of desperation, surviving in situations in which they are frequently pushed to the limit.

The human race has doubled since 1969. It is true that birth rates have dropped in the majority of “developed” countries and there has been a general increase in life expectancy. In many countries birth rates have dropped below their death rates (that is, 2.1 children for each woman of child-bearing age). This is the case in Spain. The result is that world population is increasing an average of 1.1% per year, half of the rate in the 1960s.

As indicated in the November 7, 2011 “Weekly Foreign Policy Report”, the drop in birth rates in a large part of the population alleviates pressure on the environment, but generates other economic problems derived from an increase in dependence, that is, in the percent of active vs. inactive population. In 1950 there were 6 children under 15 years of age for every person over 65. In 2070 those over 65 will outnumber children under 15. In the next 20 years, the dependence rate will surpass the present one.

As an example, in 2050 40% of all Japanese will be over 65, and 50 % will be over 52, making Japan the most elderly society ever, with 3 dependents for every 4 adults.

At the beginning of the next century the world’s population may reach 12,000 million. Is that possible? Is it possible for them all to have access to water, food, medical care? Yes: It’s possible if there is radical change. If there is the “new beginning” foreseen in the Earth Charter. A new era in which words replace force, and outstretched hands replace those that hold guns.

Among other negative factors, “globalization” has made us forget the urgent problems of the environment. New world governance is essential.

The present inequalities are ethically inadmissible. A few have a bit of everything. But the majority frequently lives in unbearable conditions.

New energy, monetary, food and education policies are needed to ensure a minimum quality of life for all human beings.

7,000 million citizens subjected to the decisions of a few leaders of the G7, G8 or G20? No. We cannot tolerate a partial leadership, conditioned by economic aspects. A change of course is essential.

If not, as underscored in the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, man may be “compelled to have recourse to rebellion”.

Two-Speed Justice

I’ve noticed that in several matters of interest to the opposition or initiated by them, judges have acted with great haste (the EREs in Seville, the “Faisán” and “Campeón” cases; …; the trial of Judge Garzón (!)…), in contrast to the postponements, adjournments, measures of all sorts –when they are the suspects and hold political office…- to delay the proceedings until the statute of limitations on the judicial action has run out.

We must do away with this justice system that, in contrast to the majority of respectable judges, has others who give more importance to political affiliation than to legal rules, while citizens observe with surprise –and embarrassment in many cases- that all “conservatives” act one way, and all “progressives” the other!

We should follow one of the recommendations of the 15-M movement: the procedures for appointing judges should be changed immediately so that, after a hearing and approval from Parliament, ideology is never again placed above the law.

An independent judiciary is an essential pillar of genuine democracy.

Careful! –because that’s the way it begins- … War with Iran?

After “closing the door” on Iraq, another major objective of Israel’s is progressively being revealed: to attack Iran with the excuse that it may possibly produce atomic weapons (and what about Pakistan, China and India… in which it’s not only “possible” but true that they have nuclear bombs?...).

For many years now the great producers of weapons and oil (both a part of the world’s “great domain”) have been looking for an excuse for a confrontation with Iran, as was the case a few years ago when they used false accusations against Iraq. The oil reserves in Iran are as large as those in Saudi Arabia, perhaps even more so.

Since Israel doesn’t need to talk with the Pentagon to convince them, because Israel is in the Pentagon, there’s concern that something similar to the events of 2003 may occur: more and more news will be reported about the sinister intentions of the governments of these countries until it is finally decided to launch a military invasion, without the authorization of the Security Council.

But in 2011 or 2012 things won’t be the same as in 2003 when people were passive, frightened and silent spectators. Now millions of people in cyberspace will show their opposition.

All of us together can shortly put an end to these intolerable abuses for which rarely anyone is held accountable: deaths, disabilities, displaced peoples…

The voice of the peoples will become an invincible force…

A news item published on November 14 read: “The United States says that support is growing for military intervention in Iran”… “Israel has indicated that it may attack Iran on its own accord”… (“El País”, 10 November 2011).

“Iran’s nuclear challenge advances and the international community is powerless to respond… The best possible option would be an Arab air attack, led by the Saudis” (“ABC”, 13 November).

“London is preparing to assist in an attack on Iran… The United Kingdom would contribute planes and Tomahawk missiles on ships and submarines” (“Público”, 4 November).

And Israel has once again warned of the threat of Iran… “an enormous danger for the entire region”…

And, thus, while the magnates of the war business rub their hands with glee, thousands of people continue to struggle in the dirtiest and most merciless of all deadly wars: the war against hunger…

But this is of no concern to those who permanently support war (“If you want peace, prepare for war”)… For them, these are merely “collateral effects”.

No: the people should no longer allow this sinister abuse of power. We can no longer continue as mere spectators. The time to raise our voices has arrived.

The G8… G20 (the world’s wealthiest nations) have proved themselves incapable of world governance, including the economy. It is essential and urgent to re-found the United Nations. Only multilateralism can prevent armed conflict through dialogue and mediation, proceeding immediately to regulate and then ban atomic weapons. Mankind should not have to live even one more day under the threat of nuclear war. It is like dying from hunger, a collective shame. These are our real problems and not the speculative stock market fluctuations… these are the problems that affect humanity as a whole. These are our real challenges.

The Popular Party Candidate Mariano Rajoy has stated, “My first measure will be a message of austerity to the world”

(“ABC”, 13 November 2011)

Doesn’t Mr. Rajoy know that over 80% of humanity already lives in such austere conditions that if he imposes this first measure, they won’t allow him to impose a second one?

For those he represents, austerity measures may be very relevant. But on a worldwide scale –since he is addressing “the world”- it’s unfair and incongruent.

If he was referring to the European economy, his measure would still be counterproductive because it is now evident than austerity measures alone will not create jobs, which is what he has announced from the rooftops that he intends to do. Who can create jobs in a western world of budget cuts and austerity? No one. And Spain even less so, due to the heavy burden of the corrupt real estate bubble that, added to the de-localization of production and financial speculation, has left a situation that cannot be mended by merely reducing the deficit and debt, but rather (and above all) requires creativity, re-localization of production and incentives for industry, especially small and mid-size businesses.

The solution lies in a democratic Europe capable of sharing, and with solidarity and leadership. Europe requires leadership that will facilitate a fiscal and economic federation, reduce military spending and rapidly create mechanisms for autonomous security to replace NATO and its demands, distancing itself from the “great domain” that is shamelessly harassing its member states. And to the point that the “rescued markets” have replaced democracy and now appoint and dismiss prime ministers.

The message that would make an impact, Mr. Rajoy, would be to announce that “Spain will contribute to the transition from an economy of speculation and war (4,000 million dollars invested daily in military spending while 70,000 people die of hunger) to an economy of sustainable global development, guided by democratic principles" (that are so clearly established in the UNESCO Constitution).

Moreover, you should convince those who are well-off to share more, applying austerity measures in their own lives, which would undoubtedly make them happier, since it is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

15-M/15-O… that 99%!

I love the definition of the “outraged” in the Occupy Wall Street Movement: “We are the 99%!”. There are a few hundred “occupiers”, but a growing number of Americans are showing their overall support for the movement.

Protests or proposals? Like the 15-M movement –the global spark for the “dissenters”- these are citizens who are peacefully demanding radical changes, the reinstatement of democratic principles and, above all, equal dignity for all human beings. Everyone has the right to quality of life.

These are the “outraged” who participate and are committed. Via cyberspace they will achieve very specific successes by gathering numerous supporters for proposals that, for example, require banking institutions to prove that they do not have funds in tax havens, because otherwise they will withdraw their paychecks and savings from these “shady” institutions… Or by boycotting newspapers that commit serious offenses against the dignity of women, advertising the services of “first class” prostitutes… Or by boycotting products of companies that, for greed and irresponsibility, manufacture the majority of their goods in countries where labor is cheap, ignoring the conditions of their workers and a minimum of respect for human rights.

The “outraged” won’t accept leaders who don’t defend citizen participation, transparency, and health and education as public services.

In their demonstrations on Saturday the 13th they proclaimed that "our dreams don’t fit on your ballots", rejecting corruption and demanding a new electoral law. It’s clear that with respect to this topic they have already won and it’s unimaginable that new elections can be called under the current law, because hundreds of thousands of citizens will raise their voices in protest, either personally or in cyberspace.

Young people, the alienated, those who have remained silent for centuries now demand to be heard. Let’s hear them. Let’s listen. Together we can walk the roads of tomorrow.


Despite it all, the only country to-date that has escaped default and not required a rescue is Spain. Portugal, Ireland and Greece, the first objectives of the “great domain” together with Spain –the plural “s” in the term “pigs”- have already fallen into the clutches of the markets and are progressively being caught up in the whirlwind of a “vicious cycle” of budget cuts, deficit reduction, privatization, layoffs and decreases in public spending… without, moreover, being able to print more money (as the United States and United Kingdom are doing, having respectively announced the issue of 300,000 million dollars and 75,000 million pounds sterling).

And now the “I” of Ireland has been joined in the debacle by the "I" of Italy...

And all of this despite the Eurozone’s inability to create a fiscal and economic federation, issue Eurobonds, reduce military spending and establish an autonomous security system…

Despite the irresponsible real estate “bubble” and the hundreds of thousands of immigrants that it prompted, the majority without proper papers…

Despite not having received support at the most critical moment –May, 2010- from our principal opposition party, whose de facto leader, Mr. Aznar, continues to squawk about unemployment and the economic situation. In his multiple appearances in many different countries he has always devoted the most distressing epithets to describing the Spanish economy…

Despite his enormous efforts, this friend of Mr. Bush and co-invader of Iraq, advisor to Mr. Murdoch, media mogul, owner of huge gold mining enterprises and head of a foundation devoted to ensuring that people “adapt”(!) to climate change rather than moderating or preventing it… has not been able to see Spain add the “s” required to make “PIG” plural…


I am so glad!

Another deplorable interference of the Church hierarchy in conscience of citizens

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

“Bishops urge voters to vote for parties that defend life and marriage”… “The Council of Bishops offers Catholics ideas that aid them in voting responsibly”… (headlines from the press published on October 22).

As was the case with education for citizenship (something that we, and they, so desperately need), the Church hierarchy is once again judging matters that are totally beyond their jurisdiction and the scope of religion, such as when they recognize “the moral legitimacy of nationalisms or regionalisms which through peaceful means are seeking a new form of unity within the Spanish State… although it is necessary to protect the common good of the Spanish Nation as a whole, avoiding the risk of manipulation based on any type of separatist or ideological claims”.

And there you are: they avoid manipulation by manipulating with affirmations that, in addition to being inappropriate in a democratic country with no official religion, are scientifically unsustainable. The history of the undue interference of religion in science is especially rich in episodes that stain the image of the Church and which would not have occurred if it had kept within its own intellectual framework.

I remember that in 1981 I had the honor of attending a session of the Pontifical Academy commemorating Albert Einstein, alongside Pope John Paul II. Many Nobel Prize laureates were present, including Severo Ochoa. Suddenly the Pope apologized for the Church’s unjust treatment of Galileo Galilei. When religion passes from metaphysics to physics, it runs the great risk of committing mistakes, he said. The same occurs –he added, because he measures each word- when science meddles in beliefs… He was probably referring to the book “Chance and Necessity”. “The Church doesn’t care whether the world is flat or round, or whether it rotates on its axis”, he told me… Severo Ochoa and the scientific community represented there were quite satisfied with the unexpected explanations that the Pope offered… which the Vatican has progressively been “putting into their context”.

In that regard, when speaking of defending life –which all of us want to defend, and not only birth, but throughout one’s existence- Father Martínez Camino didn’t forget to underscore “the danger of certain legislative options that do not adequately protect each human being’s fundamental right to life from conception until his natural death”. We scientists have given the origin of human life all of the attention it deserves. Pedro Laín Entralgo and Xavier Zubiri published very profound reflections on the subject. In the 1980s I also published a work concerning the implication of infertility treatments carried out with genes but not on genes…

Years later, in 1992, as Director General of UNESCO, I became alarmed at the possibility that genetic engineering could achieve the perverse goals of Hitler and Mengele that they hadn’t achieved with the genetics of Mendel. Thus I commenced a round of consultation with all of the specialists which, with the creation of the World Bioethics Council, culminated 1997 with in the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome, whose Article 11 specifically prohibits cloning human genes for reproductive purposes.

In 2003, Carlos Alonso Bedate, S.J. and I coordinated the publication of “Gen-Ética” (Gene-Ethics), a book that provides the data and knowledge required to address with scientific rigor subjects related to the fantastic progress made in genetics and the regulation of epigenetics.

For all of the above, as a believer and as a member of the Church “of the Gospel and the sandals”, as Bishop Pere Casaldáliga described it, I wish to express my most energetic protest against this new and intolerable interference of the Church hierarchy in the upcoming elections, addressing aspects in which the Council of Bishops has absolutely no jurisdiction.

They also referred to homosexuality (a subject on which they should maintain much discretion) and the Education for Citizenship course as questions to be considered when deciding one’s vote.

Education for Citizenship! To be “free and responsible”, in UNESCO’s definition of educated people, set forth in Article 1 of its Constitution. Let’s be free and responsible: after giving it due consideration, let’s vote for those who we believe will better enable all citizens to live according to their own conscience, without obedience or submission to opinions or ideologies that limit the greatness of each human being: his autonomy.

In the face of any imposition and obstacle, from any source, let’s endeavor to be free and responsible!

ETA: the end, at last!

Yesterday ETA announced the “definitive end to its armed activities”.

I feel very strong emotions, a bittersweet sensation, because the joy of this moment and the perspectives it opens are tempered by the memory of so many years of terror and atrocities. Never again! Will they realize, will we all realize that violence should never be used to defend our points of view? Will we forever retain in our minds and our eyes the images of so many lives destroyed by those who believed that their aspirations could be achieved by killing the innocent?

After 43 years of terror and 897 deaths, the terrorist organization is abandoning violence due to duly exercised pressure from State under the rule of law. Unconditionally. Total defeat. Democracy has triumphed.

A bittersweet feeling, such as the one I experienced in Chapultepec at the end of the conflicts in El Salvador, or upon initiating peace talks in Guatemala, because the bitterness of so many deaths and bloodshed tempers the joy one feels when the violence and threats cease. And all of the victims prompt a colossal question: after so many centuries, why do we always turn to war and to the imposition of force, always regretting it in the end, but always incapable of preventing them?

“Ours will be a democracy without terrorism, but not without memory”, declared President J.L. Rodríguez Zapatero, who has worked so hard to achieve the total demise of ETA.

Not without memory: we must all now turn our attention to those who have suffered directly, those who have suffered the most and are still suffering the consequences of terrorist acts.

Not without memory, because we must all now serenely seek conciliation and peace in our lives, in our streets, in our towns and cities, in our nations…

Our steadfast memory so that the secular culture of imposition, dominance, violence and war may give way, now and forever, to a culture of dialogue, alliance and peace.

To achieve the transition from force to words would not only constitute the greatest turning point in all human history, but also the commencement of a new era, a “new beginning”. From the raised fist to the outstretched hand.

There were not two groups in conflict here: there was a group against the people, against innocent people. Nor was there a “confrontation”, but rather gunshots to the back. Now, the end where before it was touch and go.

Not without memory, so that we will never again have to wait, amid unending tension and anxiety, for the terror to end.

No more fanaticism, dogmatism, or the obstinacy of those who always believe they are right. No more biased news.

We have to endeavor to listen and respect those who maintain positions diametrically opposite to our own.

It’s not easy for memory and redress to walk hand in hand.

“Building peace in the minds of men” is the great mission entrusted to UNESCO. Instead of “if you want peace, prepare for war”, we must all undertake to build peace in our lives daily.

Those of us who, under the skeptical and often hostile gaze of quite a few others, have for years worked to leave the future generations peace for themselves, on earth and with the earth, now express our deepest satisfaction at ETA’s “irreversible” decision.

And we seek to strengthen democracy and understanding with the memory of each and every one of the victims.

We also express our deepest gratitude to all of those who, often at the risk of their lives, have at last made the end of ETA possible.

International Peace Conference in Euskadi

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who can possibly oppose this conference?

Who can provide any reasons for rejecting it?

After so many years of horror, isolation, desperation and so many victims, the end of the terrorist group may be near, its members and sympathizers being convinced that they will never achieve their objectives by force. The extremely firm and effective work of the police forces, under the decided leadership of the Government, has progressively debilitated ETA’s sinister operational capacity, together with a change in direction on the part of Basque radical nationalist groups.

Everything would appear to indicate that circumstances are now ripe for ETA’s dissolution. The Basque Country, Spain and the whole world would breathe a sigh of satisfaction as another chapter of extreme violence and brutality comes to an end. And everyone could then turn their attention to caring for those who have suffered most directly from the terrorist group’s terrible deeds.

The greatest consolation for the inconsolable victims would be knowing that there will be no more victims, no more irreversible suffering.

An international group of well-known personalities has decided to support the desires of the immense majority of Spaniards.

What ulterior motives lie behind opposition to peace in Euskadi at this time? Electoral fears? The fact that those who consider this event ill-timed are not playing a prominent role?

This can’t be. I can’t believe it. I would rather think that it’s unthinkable.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I remember that in the 1940s, the end of each chapter of Father Astete’s Catechism on “the what” said: “And now, show me how”. And this is exactly what citizens –some more alert, others more distracted; some more active, others mere spectators…– should now demand of those who are soliciting their votes in the upcoming elections.

“Show me how!”

Because it is extremely risky to continue to trust those who at this late date have not announced their electoral programs (perhaps because they have nothing to announce) and continue to claim that they are going to create jobs, since this is totally impossible in the present circumstances in Europe (and the world over).

Because, how are they going to create jobs when the markets’ hounding of the Eurozone, with this colossal speculation fueled by biased rating agencies, forces governments to make all sorts of budget cuts in order to reduce their deficits within an excessively short timeframe?

How are they going to create jobs if, contrary to the situation in the United States and the United Kingdom, they can’t print money and “inject” funds to boost domestic production, innovation and corporate participation? How are they going to create jobs if they are forced to cut thousands of them and to halt public construction projects? How are they going to create jobs if the widespread delocalization of production is not reduced? How are they going to create jobs with the tax havens overflowing, and with runaway tax evasion and the underground economy? How are they going to create jobs if they continue to invest hundreds of millions of euros in military spending via NATO?

“Show me how”…

For example, tell me that they are going to resolutely contribute to a European economic and financial federation, and that they are going to issue Eurobonds, basically intended to promote activity and create jobs.

That they are going to regulate financial flows and firmly prosecute tax fraud and corruption; that they will not tolerate the immorality and shame of those who collect multi-million dollar fees and severance pay in the midst of so much job insecurity; that they will rapidly create Europe’s own, efficient rating agency….

“Show me how”…

Tell me how they are going to create jobs when they eventually take over the government at the national level, when they are presently incapable of creating jobs in the autonomous communities in which they are already in power…

“Show me how”…

Let them show how they intend to break the vicious cycle prompted by having replaced ethical and democratic principles by the “market”; world governance by groups of plutocrats and competence by speculation,… and all of this being particularly aggravated in Spain by the real estate “bubble” that irresponsibly brought a huge number largely undocumented immigrants to our country…

“Show me how…

They intend to overcome the immense incoherence of extreme austerity while increasing the number of workers without adequate incentives.

Mr Cameron, allied with the dollar and with the capacity to manufacture pounds sterling -75,000 million were announced on October 7, 2011 in the UK- is criticizing those in the Eurozone…

Merely a reduction of debt without growth? Europe, take note: President Obama proposes cutting the deficit by raising the taxes levied on wealthiest individuals and large corporations, and by reducing military spending and adjusting public outlays. He underscored that “This is not class warfare, it’s math”. The Republicans rapidly rejected the plan because it “tears down the social order” that they intend to preserve.

In June, 2010, Paul Krugman had already warned that “the deficit hawks have taken over the G-20”. The result can be found in some recent newspaper headlines: “The IMF demands that Greece fire 100,000 more (“ABC”, 20 September); “The IMF Assembly and the G-20 meeting: Resounding rhetoric, zero results” (Joaquín Estefanía, “El País”, 26 September); “Cuts in public spending undermine employment”, and “The Troika asks Athens to eliminate the minimum wage” (“Público”, 5 October)…

And, in addition, there are expressions of good will and purely generic proposals, without indicating how: “The Prince urges efforts to fight the deplorable youth unemployment” (“ABC”, 30 September) and “Rajoy suggests a profound institutional reform as a basis for creating jobs” (“ABC”, 26 September).

Moral and political reasons must prevail over economic ones. “Globalization” is coming to an end. Should we delay implementing the required measures until Germany and the emerging countries, including China, begin to realize that demand is decreasing?

How can we grow while trapped by the adoption of excessive anti-growth measures? The only way out of the crisis is up…

“Show me how”…

Because if specific action plans are not proposed soon, there will be many citizens, many more than one may imagine, who will not allow themselves to be deceived, once again, by empty promises.

Dare to do it!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"They were despised because they could have done so much,
yet dared to do so little "
Albert Camus

-Dare to know

I remember when I went to Oxford in 1966 to work in the Department of Professor Hans A. Krebs, I was impressed that the seal of the County bears the saying from Horace "Sapere aude". Dare to know! Without knowledge, without a true knowledge of reality, we cannot preserve it, protect it or change it when warranted.

Knowledge as an initial requisite... but then it is necessary to use the knowledge acquired appropriately. The essential part of the diagnosis is timely treatment. We have to decide without delay. In our Laboratory for the Detection of Neonatal Neurological Disorders, which cause irreversible brain damage, it was essential to act before the point of no return.

In the book "Tomorrow is Always Too Late" I wrote in 1987: "Risk without knowledge is dangerous, but knowledge without risk is useless".

-In addition to daring to know, it is essential to know how to dare.

In this turbulent and confused era in which we live, which is the consequence of having committed the immense error of replacing democratic principles and ethical values for the laws of the market, it is essential and urgent to change our present course, to cure so many ills, to stop the dramatic worldwide loss of direction and to accelerate the evolution of events in order to prevent the revolution on the horizon.

Dare to do it. Reject the hounding from the great (economic, military, energy, media) powers and make things crystal clear.

Cease to make vain promises and react, especially in Europe, as follows (and merely as an example):

- Immediately restructure NATO, endowing the EU autonomy in security matters, and ceasing to acquire unnecessary and outdated military equipment.

- Fiscal and economic federation, and the emission of Euro Bonds, being careful not to exaggerate attention toward certain “locomotives” that run the risk of losing freight cars and passengers.

- Reasonable postponement of deficit deadlines, regulation of financial flows and the definitive elimination of tax havens.

- Balanced industrial relocalization.

-Incentives for R&D and innovation.

-Immediate return to multilateralism, endowing the United Nations system with the required human, technical and financial resources.

- Restoration of democratic principles and human rights at the center of all levels of government...

Dare to do it. It can be done. Rise up. Let’s not warrant the disdain of the coming generations to whom we owe a less somber future.

The Era of the GNP, intolerable, vulnerable, fleeting

Friday, September 23, 2011

This isn’t the era of “the Peoples” that we imagined when referring to the United Nations System. Nor the era of educated, cultivated and participative citizens, capable of building genuine and effective democracies. Nor the era of creativity and knowledge as the basis for the economy and progress.

No: now everything depends on the GNP. Only the wealthiest countries come together to govern the world. The US and UK initially convoked only the richest: that was the G-6. They later added Canada to form the G-7. Then with Russia it became the G-8… Subsequently aware that the hegemony of a select few was a failure, the number was increased to 20 (twenty something…). And that’s how it stands today, while they attempt to steer clear of the storm. But a shipwreck is inevitable if they don’t rapidly include the people and build democracies at the local, regional and global levels, with a strong United Nations.

Democracy is the only solution. The GNP labyrinth can only be escaped from above, guided by universal principles that include and respect all human beings. We can’t continue to invest thousands of millions of dollars daily while thousands die of hunger each day, especially in those countries with low GNPs. We can’t continue with infinite greed to irresponsibly favor countries that despite their positive GNP rankings, are constantly and seriously violating even the most basic human rights. At the supranational level we cannot continue to allow mafia consortia to traffic in drugs, arms and people (!) with total impunity. Nor can we continue to permit tax havens to launder money of dubious origin.

The prediction is clear: I believe that maintaining this economy based on speculation, delocalization of production and war is the final gasp of a system that is on its deathbed.

Fortunately, citizens can now express themselves. Fortunately, the mobilization of the peoples will be led by the scientific, academic, intellectual and artistic communities that are aware of this reality and will not be sidetracked by those who, at all cost, seek to postpone the “new beginning” in which social justice and the great ethical principles will once again guide world governance.

The GNP may reflect a country’s wealth, but it does not reflect the welfare of its people. And now the people will finally cease to be silent and obedient spectators. The days are numbered for the era of the GNP.

“Not one more day”

Friday, September 16, 2011

The West’s drift off course, hounded by the markets, must stop immediately.

The front page of the Sept. 3, 2011 “El País” announced that “the ghost of recession in the U.S. and the EU once again prompts drops in the markets” in those States such as Spain which, in order to safeguard them, have been obliged to introduce urgent changes, even in the Constitution, essential for intra-European unity but at quite a price in authority and prestige for the politicians subjected to the mandates of the global “great domain”.

On the 4th, the European Central Bank warned Berlusconi that he needs to make further adjustments… and former president José María Aznar, always so positive and opportune (!), declared that “Italy and Spain must admit that they have been saved”. It’s bewildering to think that the former president and current advisor to Murdoch may once again be able to influence national politics.

On the 5th the headline was “Fear of recession collapses the markets”. And on the 7th, to really prompt speculative attacks, the president of the World Monetary Fund, such a bearer of good news, warned of an “imminent global recession”.

Antonio Machado declared that “only fools confuse value and price”. Many government leaders were very foolish when they agreed to replace the values of democracy and justice with the laws of the market.

These articles, with their references to the sad public images of government leaders, hounded by biased stock market fluctuations that require adopting measures to reestablish the ethical principles that good governance requires, are accompanied by alarming photographs of the leaders of Europe and their associates dividing up the skin of the Libyan bear even before it has been captured, often with the percentages already calculated and with the sinister horizon of Sharia law, instead of a widely proclaimed democracy.

“The Italian ENI prepares for its return to Libya”… “The multinationals are once again fighting for a piece of the Libyan energy industry pie” (ABC, Aug. 29, 2011). “China is afraid of being excluded when the Libyan loot is divvied up” (“Público”, Aug. 31, 2011). “The struggle for oil sullies the Libya Summit in Paris” (“Público”, Sept. 2, 2011)…

…And “The UN agrees to release frozen Libyan assets”.

The United Nations sought to save the lives of the Libyan rebels. Through NATO this “protection” has grown into to an overt and decisive participation in the struggle. The Sept. 2 “El País” announced that “The world gives its blessings to the new Libya…”. “The world” means the countries convened by President Sarkozy… and among them, the Secretary General of the UN. Contrary to what would be desirable, it isn’t Sarkozy in the UN but rather the UN in Sarkozy!

More democracy and less “marketocracy”, in the clever but also correct reference to the ever-increasing impact of “the markets”. It is clear that the unemployment rates won’t drop in the U.S., Europe and Spain (especially due to the enormous real estate bubble, prompted by “the greed and irresponsibility of a few”, in the words of President Obama) because all of the cuts work against the creation of employment (not to mention the excessive delocalization of production).

How can they “stimulate consumption” with budget cuts, privatization and decreases in public investment?

How can we regain confidence, if the markets only allow us to continually reduce margins and possibilities for citizen initiatives?

How can the WMF demand greater stability when its predictions immediately prompt instability?

But of course, the wealthy take advantage of these fluctuations to buy low and sell high when the markets have logically recovered from their losses…

It is essential – not one more day!- to make an about-face:
1) In the EU:
i) autonomy in security matters and an urgent reduction in military spending; allies of the U.S., yes, but not subjects of the U.S. through NATO.
ii) economic and fiscal federation, creation of a European rating agency, issue of Eurobonds and outright elimination of tax havens;
iii) agreement on major plans for renewable energies and regulation of oil consumption and prices;
iv) joint international cooperation projects to contribute to providing all human beings with access to food, water and sanitation and health services;
v) moderation of the delocalization of production, with strict control of working conditions and respect for human rights in the manufacturing countries;
vi) coordination of human and technical resources to address natural and manmade catastrophes at the regional level;
vii) proclamation of the democratic principles that should guide political action, promoting participation and listening to the people, particularly through virtual communications media (cyberspace), ensuring not only unrestricted freedom of expression, but also access to accurate information for all citizens, regulating the standardizing excesses of the huge media powers…
2) In the U.S.
i) In the bitter decline of hegemonic claims, promote alliances, particularly with regional associations, and share experience and knowledge to guarantee world governance through an urgently-reinforced United Nations.
ii) Urgently lead nuclear disarmament, to facilitate a future free of atomic threats, and rapidly reduce arms sales, especially of those intended for past conflicts, developing new security technology that reflects present needs.
iii) Fully integrated within the new United Nations System, endow the WMF, WB and WTO with the necessary authority to put an end to speculative attacks on the dollar zone, euro zone and the yuan zone, promoting a world economy based on sustainable development, so that those who still cling to the idea of maintaining the “great domain” will be convinced of the inexorable need to contribute, now, to the commencement of a new era…
3) At the global level
i) As I have already often had the occasion to underscore, we can no longer delay an emergency meeting of all countries to re-found the United Nations, to make it capable, with the authority conferred upon it by the support of the great majority of nations, of efficiently addressing the great challenges that arise at any time: Libya, Syria, Yemen… the Israel /Palestine conflict… terrorism, supranational trafficking in arms, drugs, people…
ii) With the United Nations at the helm, “a new beginning” would commence, characterized by agreements and alliances. China, India, Latin America, Africa… must play a role that will brighten the horizons of our future generations.

This is our greatest commitment.

Not one more day.

Disarmament and modernization of Defense strategies

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bravo! At last the Spanish Ministry of Defense has reacted and has risen to the demands of democratic governance: "We shouldn’t have acquired systems that we are not going to use, with money that we didn’t have", declared the Secretary of State for Defense in August, 2011. To honor commitments and alliances –especially NATO, which should for once and for all be channeled into a European security system, allied with but not dependent on the U.S— particularly under the previous administration, Spain acquired large stocks of weapons that we neither needed nor could pay for. They are weapons “for conflict situations that no longer exist".

Giving the pertinent orders to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, over a year ago President Obama announced the design and implementation of a new security strategy to address more quickly and efficiently new types of conflicts, which since the Viet Nam War have proven to require new modes of combat and materiel.

But the power of the huge war machine industry is not so easily dissuaded.

A year ago (September 13, 2010) the International Herald Tribune warned of the negative effect that global recession would have on the arms trade. In 2009 there was a 8.5% decline and “only” 57,500 million dollars worth were sold. The U.S. represents 40% of the world’s market. The best clients are the countries of the Middle East and Asia. (Where do the Gulf States put so many aircraft?) Because almost simultaneously, the largest contract for airplanes ever signed was announced with Saudi Arabia: 60 billion dollars.

After the U.S., the biggest arms merchants are Germany, Italy, China and the United Kingdom.

Right now the Pentagon is calculating whether it will finally be possible to produce the F-35, the most expensive military aircraft in history, to be manufactured by Lockheed Martin. The Pentagon still intends to purchase 2,443 F-35 within the next 25 years, for a total of 382 billion dollars. The Secretary of Defense has warned that there must still be further cuts in materiel and logistics, and that the U.S. cannot continue to assume 75% of NATO’s costs. The European allies invest a maximum of 2% of their GDP in military spending, while in the U.S. it is 5%.

Weapons arsenals have historically been perceived as an indication of a nation’s security. Security that is indeed important, but which is normally considered as the opposite of peace. “If you want peace, prepare for war...".

The time has come to prepare for peace. To “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war", in the words of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter.

New strategies... ceasing to sell or to oblige others to buy expensive weapons for out-dated wars.

Arms! Arms! Can nothing mitigate the shameful hunger, the collective embarrassment of extreme poverty, neglect and indifference? And on a worldwide scale, as if it were unquestionable, security receives thousands and thousands of millions, while peace and human dignity are tossed a few scraps, and more from charity and the kindness of citizens than from justice, as the duty of the State.

Lately the use of unmanned combat planes, the "drones" is being considered. Drones and hunger! Death by hunger, death by drones. By hunger, every day. By drones, once in a while.

The famine in the Horn of Africa had been foreseen. Warnings from institutions of the United Nations System and NGOs have been falling on deaf ears for quite some time... But nothing. Nothing can stop the immense war machine, one of the fundamental pillars of the “great domain".
The use of unmanned aerial systems has resulted in a situation in present conflicts in which rather than soldiers, the victims are principally civilians. And according to The Economist (July 30, 2011) in the last few years the Pentagon has increased its production of drones by 13 times (a minimum of an additional 5 billion dollars annually). They say that armies will progressively use machines instead of people. Predator and Reaper drones, equipped with the latest technology and controlled from thousands of miles away can undoubtedly be useful in many conflicts, and especially against terrorism... provided that the lives of the civilians in the countries in which they are deployed are considered to have the same value as the lives of soldiers of the countries that use them.

I believe it is appropriate to include here a paragraph from Paul Kennedy’s book “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”: "…wealth is usually needed to support the military power and the military power to acquire and protect wealth. If, however, too large a portion of the state's resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes, then that is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term. In the same way, if a State overextends itself strategically --by, say, the conquest of extensive territories or the waging of costly wars-- it runs the risk that the potential benefits from external expansion may be outweighed by the great expense of it all, a dilemma which becomes acute if the nation concerned has entered a period of relative economic decline"...

So, bravo for the clarity with which the Spanish Defense Minister has begun making “cuts” that may, in addition to having beneficial internal effects, contribute to putting the “great military domain” in its place... With renewable energies we will soon tame the “great energy domain"... And later the media domain, and the economic domain...

Yes: with the help of virtual mobilization, we may very well be on the verge of the “era of the people".


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Will they also take over “alternative” sources of financing, such as the “Tobin tax,” intended for the fight against hunger and poverty?

We must not allow it.

That would be the last straw. With the present balance of power, particularly in the West, we have been forced to reluctantly accept that our weakened States have yielded to the “great domain”, to prevent serious insolvencies that objectively shouldn’t have been allowed, using funds for social projects to pay the debt, deficit reduction… to, in short, satisfy the demands in quantity and time of a system that has lost its course and is in its final death throes.

But now, in addition to the present ones, what we can’t allow is for new “actors” to take the stage to sacrifice themselves in the mob of speculative trading prices, incited thoughtlessly by rating agencies that obey their master’s voice. No: alternative sources of financing must be used as soon as possible to fulfill the duties of international solidarity that the States have neglected, and to be applied to the Millennium Goals. This is a matter of international justice. As long as we continue to be absorbed with stock market fluctuations… while we continue to spend astronomical amounts of money on out-dated war materiel… while we are still at the mercy of the great oil producers without adopting urgent measures concerning the renewable energy sources that our responsibility to future generations demands… while we continue to blindly follow the biased and partial information offered us by the immense stifling and standardizing powers of the media… we will fail to exercise the influence that democratic citizens should, so that our representatives may counteract the hounding from the markets and make policies based on justice and human rights.

Somalia is dying

This distressing photography was published on the first page of “El País” on August 14:

Safia Adem, a refugee in the Cathedral of Mogadishu, mourns the death of her three-year old son. This is the image that we should all bear constantly in mind. These are the real needs that frenetic stock market fluctuations cannot hide.

If these funds are devoted to helping so many people who currently live below the poverty level all over the world, including in the United States, there would be more potential “clients”, there would be a true mobilization of resources to transcend from an economy of speculation, exploitation and war to an economy of global sustainable development.

Not long ago, Marco Schwartz quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he defended his New Deal social program in October of 1936: “We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace –business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.”

It’s time to make some key decisions

One of the results of the recent French-German Summit was the proposal of a tax on financial transactions to resolve the depletion of the European countries’ treasuries and, thus, to be able to address the enormous deficit and resulting debt that has lead us to this current crisis and, especially, the rescue of the international financial system initiated in 2008 at the irresponsible prompting of the G-20.

Faced with this situation it is extremely urgent to remember that the proposal of this type of taxes has been a central issue of discussion in civil society and in academia over the last few decades and with a very clear goal: the fight against poverty and in favor of sustainable development for the less fortunate, as well as contributing toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

This was originally a proposal that the American professor and Nobel Prize in Economics James Tobin made in 1972 after having developed a series of mechanisms to levy a minimum tax at the international level (between 0.05% and 0.3%) on all transactions involving currencies and financial instruments (shares, bonds, derivatives)… Thus, on the one hand a significant amount of funds would be generated to be devoted to the fight against hunger, poverty and the great pandemics (AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, etc.). On the other hand, that tax would in part help reduce the speculative nature that currently characterizes the majority of these operations.

We have tirelessly defended the adequate implementation of this type of alternative financing for years and from different institutions, but particularly from civil society: the Ubuntu Forum , the ATTAC movement or the recent "Robin Hood Tax"…

It is important to underscore that since 2004 these ideas have been echoed by a considerable number of associate States in the Pilot Group on Innovative Financing for Development. This group is lead by France, but enjoys the direct participation of other countries such as Japan, Brazil or Chile, and is presently presided by Spain. It also works in designing other proposals for innovative financing, and has conducted studies by groups of independent international experts that demonstrate their viability from a technical standpoint.

In addition to the foregoing we might mention the support received this March from the European Parliament and the letter published this April signed by over 1,000 economists from prestigious institutions such as the Universities of Harvard, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge o MIT, among others.

Thus, this is a matter of political will and, above all, justice.

For the reasons indicated, it is indispensable and urgent to take measures to address the debt crisis, not only on the part of France and Germany, but on the European level as well. But we absolutely cannot allow this initiative to be implemented, once again, at the cost of continually breaking our promises of aid and solidarity.

A tax on currency transactions and other financial products is an imperious and just necessity, as the previously-mentioned terrible images arriving from the Horn of Africa remind us.

Thus, let’s undertake to work to ensure that the decisions and measures taken in Europe in the short and medium term are not guided by the same instincts of greed and short-sighted vision that has led us to the brink. For once and for all, let us act sensibly and firmly.

This must be stopped, resolutely and with the strength that the conviction of the great majority of citizens affords (and to certain political leaders: please ignore for now your partisan and electoral interests), because as Irene Lozano wrote, “the greatest threat to individual autonomy resides in the weakness of democracy vis-à-vis financial power”.

Don’t trust the G-20 or the WTO… whose “rounds,” such as the one recently held in Doha, have proven to be totally ineffective. They are another bitter fruit of globalization. Let’s return urgently to a strong, democratic, non-plutocratic and united United Nations!

It was already in the news in September, 2010 that the European Union was considering the possibility of levying a tax on transactions to improve its tax collecting capabilities. A European Commission document proposed two types of taxes: a financial transaction tax (FTT) and a financial activity tax (FAT) levied on business volume. A more restrictive version (FTT2) would only tax trading in stocks and bonds.

Now, in October, the European Commission will present a legislative proposal prior to the G-20 Summit, applying a 0.05% to transactions, together with a new Community VAT “to finance the EU budget for 2014-2020, with a view to reducing direct contributions from Member States”.

The Netherlands and Ireland have asked that it be applied not only in Europe, but globally, to avoid “the enormous distortion that this would produce”.

Not long ago, Antonio Valdecantos warned that “adjustments made in the crisis are going to constitute a permanent state of siege. The crucial decisions are no longer made by the citizens or their governments, but by those transnational economic agents known as “the markets”.

We can’t attempt to promote growth when the major objective is to reduce the deficit, urgently and at all cost.

The 255 greatest fortunes of the planet are equivalent to 40% of the most disadvantaged of the world’s population (2,500 million people) . It’s clear that we can’t allow this new action on the part of the insatiable markets.

Civil society must raise its voice through institutions such as ATTAC, which have been created precisely to promote this new type of alternative financing mechanisms, and especially the tax on financial transactions…

We won’t allow this. It would be other dream that they’ve taken from us… and since 15-M we all know that “if they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep”.

1 Schwartz, Marco, in “Público”, 20/08/2011.
2 Forum created by the Culture of Peace foundation in 2000. I wish to express my appreciation to its director, Manuel Manonelles, for his collaboration in the preparation of this blog.
3 Missé, Andre in “El País”, September 7, 2010
4 News from “El País”, August 19, 2011.
5 Valdecantos, Antonio in “El País”, June 2, 2011
6 Población, Félix in “Público”, August 19, 2011.

WITHOUT DELAY: a “new beginning” worldwide

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

“Civilization on the arms of mercenaries”
Georges Moustaki in “Declaration” (1973)

Globalization has thrown the world off course. We have not met the serious challenges involving food, healthcare and the environment on which the quality of life of each human being depends, while at the same time:

• Speculators and rating agencies of dubious quality have provoked a chain reaction of turbulence in the worldwide economy that solely benefits the “great domain(energy, financial, military, media)”, with floods of news that shamefully conceal the genocide of thousands of people who die each day of starvation or who live in extreme poverty.
• This perfectly orchestrated hounding from the markets has progressively hindered political action, making it impossible to implement well-planned social and economic programs and tarnishing the image and careers of good leaders while, as a result of limitless greed and much incongruity, countries that are often dictatorships are hoisted into the limelight, converted into the “world’s factories” in which, as usual, production and huge profits for the “delocalizers” prompt them to look the other way, ignoring the citizens’ poor labor conditions and lack of human rights.
• Military spending and investment in weapons (which are largely inappropriate for the present conflicts) continue as if nothing had changed, and “security requirements” prompt many countries lacking in social services to acquire extremely costly war machinery: it is estimated that each day our confused and disoriented world invests 4 billion dollars in this sector, continuing to unduly promote a culture of imposition, violence and war, without providing for the peaceful conflict resolution. The first transparency that should be demanded is an accounting for these formidable expenditures, which are totally unjustified.
• The democratic principles so lucidly proclaimed in the UNESCO Constitution have been replaced by the laws of the market, prompting profound social inequalities and absolutely inadmissible living conditions for a large part of the world’s population.
• Attempts at world governance by groups of oligarchs from the world’s wealthiest nations have likewise yielded deplorable results: as was to be expected, the G7, G8… G20 haven’t been able to impose their policies on all of the countries of the world. The hegemony sought by President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher implied reducing the United Nations system to a mere humanitarian aid agency. But at the 2010 Seoul Summit it was clear that the G20 was incapable of providing adequate responses to this grave crisis.
• “Your silence is killing us”, screamed citizens willing to give their lives for freedom in Syria only two weeks ago, without so far having forced the dictator to cease crushing their protests with bullets. And Islamists have occupied Tahrir Square in Egypt demanding that Sharia be implemented… With these examples it’s clear that the only thing the groups of plutocrats are doing to resolve these serious problems is to make a fool of themselves, and at the price of so many lives!
• In the last few years, as passive spectators we have contemplated in horror invasions –Kosovo, Iraq…- prompted solely by the interests of the invaders, resulting in countless victims, disabled, displaced… with serious violations of human rights (torture, etc.). At present we are witnessing the incapacity of western governments, and especially the European Union, to address situations such as those that have arisen in Libya, Yemen, Syria… and which must urgently be resolved.
• Tax havens and generalized deregulation have enabled traffickers in drugs, arms, patents, money and persons to act with total immunity worldwide.
• Etc., etc....

In view of the foregoing and being acutely aware of many of our present circumstances that are not always obvious, in order to prompt the beginning of a new era I feel it is my duty to urge the adoption of a series of decisions that may counteract the “great domain”, regaining the progress achieved in so many areas in favor of all mankind.

President Obama could lead this historical turning point, using the G20 to urgently bring together all of the countries of the world into the United Nations to:

1. Immediately:

- With broad support, appoint a single negotiator to resolve the conflicts in Libya, Syria, Yemen and other similar ones that may arise.
- Worldwide aid to relieve hunger and poor living conditions in the most impoverished nations (Haiti, Somalia,…).
- Support for democratic transition and monitoring of judicial processes (reactivating the International Court of Justice and other international courts).
- Global regulation of financial flows (the WMF and WB being duly authorized and endowed with reference rating agencies).
- Total elimination of tax havens.
- Incorporation of the World Trade Organization within the United Nations System.

2. Immediately thereafter, implementing a constitutional process within a United Nations, endowed with the composition, structures and personal, financial and technical resources required to carry out its activities worldwide:
i) General Assembly 50% being representatives from member states and the other 50% being representatives from international institutions and organizations, and persons elected by national and regional associations, in previously agreed percentages.
A system of weighted voting would be used in deliberations of the General Assembly and in all United Nations institutions.
ii) A reinforced Security Council with balanced representation based on the countries’ current “specific weight”, with broad capabilities for mobilizing and coordinating (blue helmet) forces.
Among others, it would perform the following principal functions:
- Nuclear disarmament and the reduction of arms production. Development of new techniques in consonance with present challenges and their corresponding military strategies.
- Surveillance of the military arsenals of all countries.
- Fighting terrorism through global provisions, prohibiting the existence of “sanctuaries”.
- Rapid culmination of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, as one of the top priorities for world stability.
- Worldwide coordination of the means for rapid response to natural or man-made catastrophes, reducing the impact of the former and preventing the latter to the extent possible.

iii) Social and Economic Security Council
- International guidelines for proper monetary balance. World Bank for development, preventing exploitation. The currency wars must be ended and atypical rating instruments eliminated.
- Economies of global sustainable development, with access to water, food, health and education for all human beings.
- Observance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Strengthening of genuine democracy: freedom of expression and right to accurate information, with adequate regulation to prevent the undue power of the media.
- Motivation of courts of justice worldwide to ensure full effect and respect for the rules of international law.
- Restructuring of delocalization to ensure that the profits prompted by greed do not conflict with environmental requirements or obscure poor working conditions.
- Promote multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence based on the essential ethic of equal dignity for all human beings.
- Prevention of supranational criminal trafficking, particularly those involving drugs whose consumption (as is the case with other products harmful to health, such as alcohol and tobacco) would become the exclusive responsibility of the consumer, with the corresponding awareness-raising campaigns, so that what is now a serious security problem may be redirected toward its real status as a health issue.
- Taxes on electronic financial transactions.
- Strict national regulation of privatized public services.

iv. Environmental Security Council
- With warranted compensation, worldwide implementation of new behavior and consumption patterns to moderate or prevent present tendencies that damage the environment, with special urgency afforded potentially irreversible situations.
- Support, scientifically oriented, of renewable energies and sources with low or zero emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which will subsequently enable more rational use of oil, an energy resource legacy that we shouldn’t deny to the future generations.
- Climate change must be made an indisputable global priority, so that the planet’s habitability won’t be compromised in the future.
- Special attention should be afforded to the oceans.

For all of the foregoing, in addition to the people involved in implementing these decisions, there could be a group of advisors of recognized worldwide renown.

“When an opportunity passes, it’s useless to run after it”. In this huge whirlwind we are perhaps now being afforded an opportunity to facilitate the transition from a secular culture of dominion and violence to a culture of dialogue, alliance and peace. That great transition to the force of the word that will mark a “new beginning”.

The future must be invented. Let’s not miss our chance to do so.

The stock markets rise, fall,… speculators are hounding us… And those who are starving? And the environment?

For everyone, especially in the West, there is only one topic at the national State level: the economic chaos prompted by Reagan and Thatcher’s globalization. And, in the meantime, social inequalities and the number of people without minimum sanitation and healthcare are increasing, extreme poverty is growing, and famine has been officially declared in the Horn of Africa. These were deaths foretold, which have been consistently ignored by those who are only interested in financial fluctuations.

And nothing has changed: tax havens continue to overflow, drug trafficking and arms sales are rampant, and the United Nations system is being progressively weakened while groups of the wealthiest nations (G7, G8, G20) pathetically make fools of themselves…

The courageous decisions that the world urgently demands have not been adopted and, as I never tire of repeating, the outcome is more tragic each day: 4 billion dollars invested daily in arms and military spending while in a silent and ignored genocide over 70,000 people die of hunger.

This situation is unbearable and should weigh on the conscience of all citizens of the earth. It’s time to say “enough!”.

In the last gasps of a system off course and faced with the winner-take-all attitude of the “great domain”, decisive action is essential from those who are still capable of recognizing that democratic principles must now firmly prevail over the “markets”.

The policies of the groups of plutocrats have been a resounding failure (witness what is transpiring in Libya, Syria, Yemen); it is also essential to rethink dirt-cheap manufacturing in the “world’s factories”, where labor conditions are totally ignored; disarmament, based strictly on new global security strategies, is a key factor in reestablishing economic balance in the world, as is the price of oil and, for environmental reasons, the rapid deployment of renewable energy sources…

Some of the “emerging” countries that were until very recently subjugated, are winning the battle, while the West’s loss of prestige is pathetic.

Thus, let’s stop the battle between the dollar zone and the euro zone and rapidly reach nationwide agreements between conservatives and liberals, republicans and democrats… because if we don’t, world leadership will soon be assumed by others who are not yet prepared to play a role of that nature and scope.

The day before yesterday President Obama reacted with great resolve against speculative threats from the “great domain” made through rating agencies whose impartiality leaves much to desire. Let’s hope that Europe reacts accordingly, and in a genuine emergency meeting adopts deep-cutting decisions involving economic federation, security autonomy and the re-founding of an efficient United Nations system with global authority…

We must put an end to the speculators’ current embarrassing spectacle that is being played out while we shirk both our social and environmental responsibilities to the future generations.

Outraged against the “Outraged”?

To the contrary, we are thankful for and inspired by the peaceful and positive “outraged” who offer proposals and freely express their points of view.

But with the violent “outraged”, no. Never.

Peaceful “outraged”, yes. It was about time. Gandhi said, “Peace is the way”. And now, for the first time, this road may be traveled without having to seek permission from the “powers that be”.

The Popular Party’s Deputy-Secretary for Communication Esteban Gonzalez Pons has stated that “Many Spaniards are becoming outraged against the “outraged”. I believe that even more are becoming outraged with those who, moved solely by their ambitions for power, never contribute anything, not even a little cooperation when it’s for the benefit for society as a whole, and at especially critical times.

Iran, China, Tunis, Egypt… Spain… Italy… and now Israel… it is clear that a new era of participative democracy is irreversibly dawning, thanks to the civic emancipation provided by new information and communications technology. In 1994 it was already possible to perceive and announce that the secular era of silence was over.

We are counted in the ballot boxes. But democracy doesn’t consist of being counted once in a while, but rather being constantly taken into account.

From the onset, the reaction to the “outraged” from non-progressives, from those who think more of themselves than of the present and future of the people, has been very much reticent. They continue to cling to the G7, then to the G8 or G20… while global and regional governance worsens and becomes more arbitrary, while the West continues off course for having sought to achieve total hegemony.

It’s clear that most of the promises that they make over and over again will be impossible to achieve without radical changes: How are they going to create jobs if, as was also the case in Portugal and the UK, they continue to believe that neo-liberal policies are the best? How are they going to create jobs if they accept as inevitable cuts in social benefits and public employment, interruption of public works projects, rampant privatization and delocalization of production to countries where labor is dirt cheap?

Thread by thread. Strand by strand, citizens who are now aware of their recently-acquired capacity for action will weave an immense web of solidarity around the world and will accelerate economic and social evolution. Let those who are “outraged against the outraged” know that fortunately the end is nigh for fragile democracies, with their political leaders weakened by the “great domain”.

The “outraged” will no longer tolerate this and -with all of the inconveniences that popular mobilizations may occasionally provoke- now that they can freely express themselves via Internet and mobile phones, they will peacefully but firmly propose in Spain and gradually elsewhere genuine democracies with active and transparent parliamentary representation (can we continue to accept parliamentarians who hold multiple jobs, or Euro-Deputies elected by less than 20% of voters?); and they will demand that political party programs include the appointment of high court judges with verifiable objectivity, professional standing and commitment demonstrated before a full session of parliament after the necessary nomination hearings; and that within a given term banks demonstrate that they no longer hold funds in tax havens, since otherwise many depositors and consumers will no longer trust them or acquire their products…; and that industrial delocalization be reduced, limiting greed and taking into consideration employment conditions in other countries and, above all, the environment…

And so on: rating agencies in the European Union, rejecting speculation and the hounding of the markets, rapidly adopting a system of economic federation; a new, urgent structure for the United Nations, displacing once and for all world governance by groups of the wealthiest countries (G7, G8) that has prompted so many conflicts; and once a strong United Nations system has been achieved, the initiation of a process of disarmament, as well as global ecological policies…

Having broken the silence of fear and submission that has always kept the people on the fringes of power, the “outraged” may make the 21st century the century of the people. I expressed this wish years ago. Today –thanks, Stéphane Hessel- it may become a reality. And that would really take the wind out of the sails of those who are outraged against the outraged (in reality, it already has)…