Safeguard Democracy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“We won’t allow the post-neoliberal era to become the post-democracy era” (President Dilma Rousseff, January, 2012).

The local and global solution is to perfect democracy so it reflects the will of the people at all times. For the first time in history distance participation is now possible, thanks to modern communications technology. Let’s use it. Let’s join together with thousands, millions of voices to urge “formal” democracies to change their ways, while strengthening genuine democracy that permanently takes into account the citizens it represents.

The situation is particularly alarming, especially in the “old Europe”, where the markets are dictating political policy to the extent of having appointed governments without elections in “symbolic countries” such as Greece and Italy.

In other cases the absolute power of parliamentary majorities sometimes seriously perverts the democratic process.

Democracy is in danger. Let’s take President Dilma Rousseff’s advice!

Syria, the only solution: the United Nations as sole negotiator

With another example of bloodshed, for a long time now it has been urgent to re-found the multilateral system that the globalizers alienated in the 1980s by replacing it with groups of plutocrats… who have led us to disaster. How can they expect eight or twenty nations to lead the inhabitants of the earth’s other 196 countries?

A social, economic, democratic, environmental debacle… And above all, an inability to govern the world: the invasions of Kosovo and Iraq… the brutal and grisly way in which the West “resolved” the Arab spring in Libya… the lack of rules and global oversight in processes of change –and the radical resistance to change– that evidence the arbitrariness of a world off course and lacking in democratic and ethical roots or references worldwide.

Today’s headlines read: “Homs is bleeding to death for all the world to see… The opposition is seeking outside support… The Syrian National Council debates between civil war and seeking international military intervention…”

Instead of ignoring it, the United Nations system must be strengthened in two stages: 1) a first, immediate and urgent measure in which all countries would appoint a negotiator to communicate with the Syrian president and for other matters requiring solutions that cannot be postponed; and 2) proceed to re-found the United Nations system with 50% of the General Assembly representatives from the member countries and 50% appointed or elected from institutions or civil society, with the addition to the present Security Council of a Social and Economic Security Council and an Environmental Security Council.


Leaders of the G20, G8… Be courageous and responsible! Turn your attention from risk premiums and stock quotes for just one moment and take action. A strong United Nations is the only solution.

The Bloody Routes of Drug Trafficking

As long as it continues to be a lucrative business, force will never be a solution. Because they can silence many voices, because the can kill without the least remorse, because they can buy so many weapons and favors, because they can hide and launder their illicit earnings in tax havens…

The price of drugs has no deterrent effect whatsoever. Those who fall into the immense trap of addiction will find the money they need at all cost: conflicts with family, friends, theft… Their excruciating habit can’t be cured with military operations but rather through appropriate medical treatment. This is a public health problem, not a security one. But the United States persists in restricting the offer without restricting the demand.

As with alcohol and tobacco, this matter has deep pathological repercussions, and broad campaigns must be conducted to educate potential consumers and to duly alert society, so the people will know what they are up against before commencing to use drugs. And, as with those affected by tobacco and alcohol, they should then be treated in the appropriate healthcare installations. We must appeal to the responsibility of society as a whole, because this is a drama that progressively affects us all.

If we observe what is happening in Afghanistan, the source of 90% of all heroin, in Colombia… and in the countries of the “great Latin American avenue”, such as Central America and Mexico… we will reach the conclusion that this immense and bloody network can only be dismantled by reducing drug prices.

And, once again, a United Nations that is strong and endowed with the necessary authority is essential for meeting this terrible challenge.

I wish to add my voice to those of others who like Carlos Fuentes (How many murders has Mexico sustained in the fight against drug trafficking?) wisely and knowledgeably offer their advice in this matter. But the drub barons are resisting because like Al Capone they know that if prices drop their sinister business will soon dry up.

Presiden Obama playing his cards. Europe is pulling back

Monday, February 20, 2012

Despite continual hounding from the Republicans, the “great (military, financial, energy and media) domain”, and strong lobbies that (as in the case of Palestine) have sometimes forced him to backtrack, President Obama is wisely playing certain cards that will surely enable him to achieve a more active and discernible position in the U.S. and worldwide:

-Health care for millions of Americans who had no access to basic social security services. The victory in the Medicare case, which all of the Republicans voted against, is truly a milestone that so many administrations have sought to achieve since 1945.

-300,000 million dollars for public works and incentives to create employment. “Create good jobs, encourage new industries, build infrastructure to support a vibrant economy and promote energy independence,” as quoted in the January 26 International Herald Tribune, are the objectives of this currency issue whose positive effects have already been felt in the last few weeks.

-Change of the U.S. administration’s principal focus from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In my opinion this is a wise decision that will have extraordinary impact in the not too distant future.

-Reduction of nuclear armament and, more recently, a strong reduction in military spending. Among others, the United States’ new “strategic guidance”, released at the Pentagon on January 5, envisions a redefinition of the superpower’s role in Europe (Weekly Report in “Política Exterior”, January 23, 2012). Washington’s decision to focus its attention on the Asian-Pacific region, cut the Pentagon’s budget by 500,000 million dollars in the next few years and reduce its military bases in Europe is very important in the short term. And in any case, the U.S. retains the symbolic value of underscoring its transatlantic ties, deploying significant parts of its missile defense shield in Turkey, Romania, Poland and Spain.

The Weekly Report likewise emphasized that NATO will continue to be Europe’s principal defense organization, underscoring the lack of political will in Europe to assume greater autonomy in the areas of security and defense.
According to Lluis Bassets, the decisions outlined above mark “the end of an era” (“El País”, January 11, 2012).

It’s true that President Obama hasn’t kept some of his promises or has done so only partially. There are still 170 prisoners at Guantanamo and there has been no urgent re-founding of multilateralism, despite the fact that he knows this is the only way to meet our current challenges, and that the groups of plutocrats initiated by Reagan and maintained by Bush are only making the situation worse.

In addition to these recently-played “cards”, it’s worth underscoring the new approach to relations with Moslems that involve excluding military intervention in Iran, despite constant incitement from Israel and Saudi Arabia’s appearing to consent.

In conclusion, President Obama is taking steps in the right direction… while Europe is pulling back to the point that the markets are appointing governments without holding elections.

From Subjects to Citizens, the Great Transition. Education for Citizenship

Until not long ago humanity had always been dominated and controlled by the absolute power of males. And a very few men carried the reins of our common destiny in their hands.

Confined both territorially and intellectually, human beings have lived in subjugation, to the point of having to sacrifice their own lives for the policies of those in power. And without opposition.

In 1945, at the end of a horrendous war in which the most abominable methods of extermination were used, the United Nations –the “We, the Peoples…”- were founded, as was a few months later UNESCO, whose Constitution sets forth the “democratic principles” –justice, equal dignity, liberty and solidarity- that should guide all governments, and underscores that education is essential in forming “free and responsible” people. Educated people, that is, ones who act upon their own ideas, and not upon the dictates of others, and who are not bound or frightened by dogmas, threats or blind obedience…

For that reason, as is the case in countries with the highest quality education, it was so important that Education for Citizenship had been implemented in Spain, transversally. Along with parents, a vast majority of teachers –in general excellent, and truly devoted- were quite happy to contribute to ensuring their students’ “freedom and responsibility”, while counteracting standardization, herd mentality and submission.

But there is now a plan to eliminate citizenship and return to subjugation. With an unfortunate sweep of the pen we will be returned to the condition of subjects, instead of attempting to achieve the status of full citizens.

If we don’t react, we will have taken a step backwards, and we will then be forced to devote our time to obsessively observing the fluctuations of the risk premium (fascinating!), the European summits and sports events… As passive spectators…

Let’s react. Let’s get involved. Education for Citizenship is essential for the change that, in any case, is needed in our educational system, whatever the composition of the government.

Do they really want us to “know the values of Western civilization”, when we have replaced them with the values of the stock market? All civilizations and cultures have aspects that merit being preserved and transmitted.

We are not citizens of the “West””. We are citizens of the world. We are citizens and not subjects.

To Cardinal Tarancón, with my deepest appreciation

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I had the occasion to meet him personally, to interview him several times, and later to receive him in my home in Paris when I was Deputy Director-General of UNESCO. We discussed important aspects of current events in Spain that required resolve, balance and imagination, qualities that distinguished that great universal Spaniard who, as a relevant member of the Catholic Church, knew how to apply the Gospel in a spirit of dialogue and conciliation… and offer an outstretched hand (while so many others unduly offered raised fists).

He brilliantly applied the guidelines of Vatican II, and with the inspiring and learned company of Father José María Martín Patino defined many important points during crucial moments of Spain’s transition to democracy in which he had much influence, for the good of his country and the Church.

Therefore I think it is regrettable that in an article entitled “Tarancón, the Eighth Commandment” published in the “Alfa-Omega” section of ABC on January 5, 2012, instead of showing satisfaction for the favorable impact that information on the life and deeds of Don Vicente appearing in the media and on television has had in the Catholic community, they chose to criticize –and with respect to the eighth commandment!- someone who in crucial times held the Presidency of the Episcopal Conference, which applies enjoying the support of a majority of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. They reply with “buts”, and cast doubts and even dark shadows on a public figure who was much admired by many Spaniards and, particularly, by numerous Christians...

This brings to mind the wise saying, “Methinks thou doth protest too much”…

Thank you, Don Vicente. Thank you, Father José María Martín Patino. History will instate you forever in the place you deserve, and that’s why it’s essential to preserve the memory of our past.

Davos? Darfur!

What really bothers me is that Davos is commencing and Darfur continues…

And we continue to only concern ourselves with problems that affect 20% of the wealthiest part of humanity, ignoring the other 80% who survive in conditions so precarious that they often die of hunger and neglect. I will never tire of repeating that over 60,000 people, 35,000 of whom are children between 1 and 5 years old, die daily while in the same period 4,000 million dollars are invested in weapons and military spending.

Agreeing to replace democratic principles with the rules of the market was a tremendous mistake. We are now experiencing the last throes of speculation, delocalization, arms security… and the insistence of a few wealthy countries that they should decide the destiny of all of the world’s 196 countries.

I’m not at all interested in Davos. What concerns me is Darfur and everything that affects those who, being equal in dignity, are equally deserving of the attention that we are denying them.

Only the re-founding of an efficient United Nations and a re-embracing the ethical values, social justice, freedom and solidarity in our daily lives will enable us to travel brighter roads in the future. These are the solutions, and not those that will be discussed during the next few days at Davos.