The Thistle Volume 13, Number 4: June/July, 2001.

News in Brief. Stuff That Matters

Treesitters Attacked by Lumber Company

Treesitters in the Mattole Forest in California, USA, were attacked again on Saturday morning by Lewis Logging employees who scaled Douglas Fir trees and assaulted the non-violent activists who were occupying them. The Lewis Logging employees climbed the trees that the activists were occupying, cut out all their gear, and left one woman dangling with her arms clipped into a lockbox. They took these actions despite company policies that require they alert law enforcement when encountering protesters. 33 arrests have been made in the Mattole since logging began on 9 May 2000. Listen to Maxxam/Pacific Lumber’s Resources Manager who directs the company on what and where to cut within their holdings.

Listeners Occupy New York Radio Station

At 9:00 a.m. on Monday, 18 irate listeners to noncommercial radio station WBAI (99.5 FM) marched into the station and interrupted WBAI’s “Morning Show” demanding a reversal of the sharp, rightward political turn and selective censorship of programming, as well as an end to attacks on workers’ rights. For the last two weeks, the morning programming has been extended past 9 a.m. preempting Amy Goodman’s show “Democracy Now!” which has not been broadcast on the station during the spring fundraiser. Read press release from protest organizers. There was also a report that an Indymedia reporter was assaulted by a WBAI staff member.

Exxon-sponsored Killing in Aceh, Indonesia Continues

Three journalists have reported being beaten, and robbed of their film, phones and identification by the Indonesian military after they witnessed conflicts between the military and the indigenous Free Aceh Movement. Like East Timor, Aceh (pronounced, "ah-CHEY") is a region of Indonesia whose people are seeking independence from a government they consider exploitive, racist, environmentally destructive and violent. Aceh is also home to the largest liquid natural gas producing facility in the world, which is owned by Exxon. Exxon has consistently provided financial support to the Indonesian military to guard it, although it is well-known that civilians in Aceh have been suffering atrocities at the hands of the military since 1975. The Free Aceh Movement succeeded in shutting down this facility in March. The U.S. government supports the Indonesian government's campaign against the Free Aceh Movement. Some political activists see this exploitation of indigenous people in the developing world as closely related to the exploitation of the working class in industrial countries.

Bush Seeks to Increase Intervention in Colombia

As U.S. trained military battalions entrench themselves in the jungles of Colombia where a bloody civil war has raged for four decades, the Bush administration is pushing a plan to provide more money and military intervention to countries in South America.

In the fiscal year 2002 budget request, President Bush has asked for almost $800 million in economic and security assistance for the “Andean Counterdrug Initiative,” which includes Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela and Panama. The initiative is a follow-on effort to "Plan Colombia," a six year, $7.5 billion initiative developed by the Colombian government to officially fight drug trafficking and restore that country's economy. Critics of the plan have argued that the so-called "drug war" is really about supressing political movements in Central and South America.

May DayActions Around the World

Mayday actions took place throughout the world. Over 100 "blackbloc" activists marching in Long Beach, California were brutallyattacked by the police, and an estimated 60 were arrested. In Russia, a street party was held. Workers at the JeffBoat factory, in Indiana USA, staged a wildcat strike. Critical Mass and major demonstrations were held in London. In Sydney, protests were staged outside the stock exchange. In Bolivia, a general strike was held. In Chicago, a solidarity rally for political prisoners took place. In Pittsburgh, Mayday took theform of reclaim the streets. A march in Vancouver turned nasty. In Sri Lanka, thousands gathered in the streets. In Greece, demonstrations centered on the social security system. Rawalpindi saw demonstrations as well. Moscow had thousands in the streets. Wellington,South Korea, Taiwan,Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Berlin, London, Boston, San Francisco, Portland and more!


In Indonesia: In the first successful prosecution for the destruction of East Timor in 1999, an international court sentenced a pro-Indonesian militiaman to 12 years in prison for murder. Joao Fernandes, 22, testified during his trial that Indonesian army officers had given him a samurai sword and ordered him to kill independence supporters Hundreds of people died and most of East Timor was destroyed when the Indonesian and its local auxiliaries went on a rampage after voters decided to break away from Indonesia in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in Aug. 1999.

In Vietnam: Decades after the war on Southeast Asia ended, the United Nations estimates that 3.5 million mines lie buried in battlefields across Vietnam, and explosions still kill people every year, including children. The country is also strewn with bombs weighing up to 3,000 pounds, cluster bombs and live grenades.

In Cambodia: More than 40 per cent of what was once farmland is now a wasteland covered with mines, and land is urgently needed for 360,000 refugees returning from border camps where they were displaced by decade of strife.

In Chile: Human rights lawyers asked a Chilean judge to arrest and charge Augusto Pinochet with rights abuses on Wednesday, one day after the former dictator was questioned about violence during his 1973-1990 regime. Judge Juan Guzman wants to charge Pinochet with planning the kidnappings and murders of more than 70 leftists who fell victim to the “Death Caravan,” a military squad that traveled Chile in the weeks after Pinochet’s 1973 coup to oust socialist President Salvador Allende.


Ecuador: Judge Dismisses Texaco Lawsuit

In a May 30 ruling in District Court of the New York Southern District in Manhattan, US federal judge Jed S. Rakoff dismissed a class-action lawsuit brought in November 1993 on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadoran indigenous people against multinational oil giant Texaco for environmental and health damages.

This is the third time Rakoff has tried to dismiss the case. His last dismissal, in 1997, was overturned unanimously in October 1998 by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In returning the case to Rakoff, the Appeals Court determined that the suit could not be adequately pursued in Ecuador. In his new ruling, Rakoff said he was now satisfied that the courts of Ecuador can exercise “that modicum of ndependence and impartiality necessary to an adequate alternative forum.” Last September, Judge Rakoff denied a motion to recuse himself from the case after he confirmed he had attended an expenses-paid seminar in 1998 which was funded partly by Texaco, and at which a former Texaco chairperson spoke.

“We are finding it more and more difficult to have faith in the US judicial process with Judge Rakoff’s actions,” said Luis Yanza, president of the Front for the Defense of the Amazon, a coalition of people impacted by the oil operations. “The fact he made this ruling while we are still appealing his decision not to remove himself from the case only further proves our point that he is unwilling to give us a fair hearing.”

The decision also affects a companion suit filed in 1994 by indigenous residents of Peru who live downstream from Ecuador’s Oriente region. Plaintiffs in the suits allege that a Texaco subsidiary dumped an estimated 30 billion gallons of toxic waste into their environment while extracting oil from the Ecuadoran Amazon between 1964 and 1992. According to the plaintiffs, instead of pumping the substances back into emptied wells, Texaco dumped them in local rivers, directly into landfills or spread them on the local dirt roads, triggering a wave of deadly cancers, skin lesions, birth defects and other abnormalities among indigenous local residents, and killing off plants, crops, and animals. Texaco admits to dumping 4.3 million gallons per day of toxic oil waste water over a period of 20 years, but claims the dumping caused no appreciable damage. “While Texaco continues to try to hide from its liability, our people are getting sick and dying,” said Yanza. [New York Times 5/31/01; Reuters 5/30/01; Press Release 5/31/01 from Cristobal Bonifaz and Joseph C. Kohn]

Peru: Fujimori Charged In Massacre

On May 23, Peruvian attorney general Nelly Calderon brought constitutional charges against former president Alberto Fujimori for his presumed responsibility in the killing of 15 people at a backyard family barbecue in Lima on Nov. 3, 1991, in what is known as the Barrios Altos massacre. The massacre was carried out by the Colina group, a clandestine death squad directed by Fujimori’s top spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos. The victims, all from Ayacucho, were alleged supporters of the Maoist Peruvian Communist Party (PCP, better known as Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path). Fujimori has been living in Japan since he fled the presidency and the country last November; Montesinos remains a fugitive. According to the charges, on the day of the massacre, Fujimori went to the offices of the National Intelligence Service (SIN)-

which Montesinos headed—to congratulate the members of the Colina group and show his appreciation for their efficient work. “Fujimori went to salute and recognize their actions, he congratulated them, he decorated them and arranged payment for special services in intelligence operations,” according to the suit. The attorney general also charges that Fujimori played a direct role in blocking the investigation of the massacre and of other crimes committed by the Colina group; in 1995 he granted an amnesty to the Colina group members. [La Tercera (Chile) 5/25/01] On May 25, Peruvian prime minister and foreign minister Javier Perez de Cuellar announced the formation of a Truth Commission which will seek to determine responsibility for human rights violations in Peru between 1980 and 2000. [El Nuevo Herald 5/26/01 from AP, AFP]

Courtesy: Weekly News Update On The Americas


The Thistle Volume 13, Number 4: June/July, 2001.