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.