A gringo's perspective on Latin American politics, culture and issues.
"I never truckled. I never took of the hat to fashion and held it out for pennies. I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn't like it. What had that to do with me? I told them the truth. I knew it for the truth then and I know it for the truth now!" - Frank Norris
My name: Randy Paul
Sunday, July 06, 2003
OPPENHEIMER ON THE ICC
Andres Oppenheimer has a piece about the Bush administration's antipathy towards the newly created International Criminal Court. Unlike some who seem determined to regurgitate the administration talking points about the issue without bothering to find out the facts (there's even a law professor who doesn't bother to correct the error from a reader in his blog that the court is in Brussels. It's in The Hague.), Oppenheimer picked up the phone and called ICC President Phillipe Kirsch. Here's some of what he found out regarding the court's procedures:
But what is to prevent North Korea or Cuba from seeking the arrest and indictment of U.S. officials, or U.S. peacekeeping troops anywhere?
''In the case of a country that has a perfectly well-functioning judicial system, such as the United States, the court has to apply the principle of complementarity. That means that if the judicial institutions in that country work normally, whether or not they lead to prosecution, the court has no interest to take over,'' Kirsch said.
But in a world in which Libya presides over the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, couldn't the court be captured by rogue nations and decide that the U.S. legal system is flawed?
Kirsch said the ICC's 90 member countries are highly unlikely to allow that because they elect the judges, and ''just about all'' of the members ``are democratic states and essentially allies of the United States.''
Even if a politically motivated prosecutor were to take over in the future and try to present a frivolous case, he would need the green light from a three-judge pretrial chamber to start an investigation, he said. If the defendant's country rejected the inquiry, the prosecutor would have to go back to the pretrial chamber for a second authorization, and then to a five-judge appeals court, Kirsch said.
''I find it completely inconceivable that a frivolous case could go to through the process and be considered by the court,'' Kirsch said.
Oppenheimer believes that some of Bush administration's concerns may be valid, but feels that the ability to change the court would only come from within and this anti-ICC stance will do more harm than good. While I am not convinced of the former, he is absolutely right about the latter and offers a good solution:
And the ICC should change its statutes when it holds its scheduled ''review conference'' in 2009, to make it mandatory that all its members be democratic countries. Then, a less worried U.S. government should not only rejoin the ICC, but should become its most ardent supporter.
By the way, all the ICC opponents would have to do to argue from an informed position about the court would be to click here for the ICC website and go to this page for downloadable documents about rules of procedure and evidence. I guess it's just better to curse the darkness.
Saturday, July 05, 2003
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT BIRTHDAY
Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of President Johnson's signing the Freedom of Information Act. The National Security Archives has an appropriate commemoration here.
It's hot and I've got a lot to do, so I probably won't be posting anything until tomorrow. meanwhile, if you're seeking refuge from the heat and are a soccer fan like me, go see Bend It Like Beckham if you haven't already. There are far worse ways to spend an afternoon, and that's not damning with faint praise.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AND A WAGER
Although I would never condone gambling, a guy only identified as Cliff in the comments section of this post by Jeralyn Merritt on Talk Left has made the following offer:
Guys, I will be happy to bet any amount of money that the ICC will follow the shallow and self-destructive Euro-left and go after Americans and Israeli's and leave the ever so popular Castro's and Arafats alone all day long.
I would urge everyone to go to the comments section and take Cliff up on his offer. I'm open to setting the terms (i.e. putting a time limit on things, etc.) and serving as arbitrator, or if someone else would rather do that I'll be happy to participate.
I guess what galls me about his comment is that it demonstrates such ignorance about the ICC. I wonder if he has read anything about the court other than the GOP talking points. Has he read the rules of procedure or the Rome Statute? I doubt it, but why take my word for it as to why the US should support the ICC.
Benjamin Ferencz, one of the Nuremberg prosecutors and a longtime expert on the prosecution of crimes against humanity had a letter to the editor published in today's New York Times addressing this issue.
Let me see . . . whose opinion should carry more weight: a guy named Cliff (with no e-mail address and no last name) or the man who was the Chief Prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen at Nuremberg? Hmmm . . .
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
With the Blogger "improvements" I can no longer put in the proper diacritical marks using either Windows Character Map code or the Brazilian Portuguese keyboard. What a pain!
A COMEBACK FILLED WITH IRONY
In a qualifying game for the 1990 World Cup, Chilean goalkeeper, Roberto Rojas committed an indefensible act of cheating:
Chile had needed to beat Brazil to qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy but were 1-0 down with around half-an-hour to go.
Then, a firecracker was thrown from the crowd and landed by Rojas in the penalty area. The goalkeeper collapsed to the ground and left the field on a stretcher, covered in what appeared to blood.
Chile abandoned the game, apparently hoping that FIFA would award them a walkover.
But FIFA decided in Brazil's favour, judging that Rojas had been play-acting. He was banned for life and Chile were kicked out of the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup.
Much to my surprise, he is now coach of Sao Paulo Football Club, one of Brazil's premier teams. Rojas, to his credit doesn't flinch from his responsibility in the incident that ended his playing career (especially considering the fact that goalkeepers often play well into their thirties):
"It was a serious mistake and for nine or 10 months everyone closed the doors to me. I had to prove that I wasn't a bad character because of one mistake. I was judged and I was harshly criticised," Rojas said.
"But the first step to restarting life is to recognise the mistake. First, I had to reconquer myself as a person. I couldn't spend my whole life being guilty."
I, for one wish him well. He's proof that there are second acts in life.
MORE DEMAGOGUERY IN VENEZUELA
What better way to sabotage an upcoming referendum than to claim that your opponents are fomenting a coup against you. Yes, I know it is quite a leap to go from saying the following . . .
"There are still small groups in Venezuela that aim to destabilize the country again," said Chavez at a military decoration ceremony in Caracas.
"We have defeated them. Those who attempt to try it again will be defeated again and again," the former paratroop commander said.
. . . to actually preventing the referendum from taking place, but this is certainly seems to be setting the groundwork for this: claim that there are subversive elements bent on subverting elected authority and use that as an excuse to crack down on legitimate dissent.
As Human Rights Watch notes, Chavez is still attempting to implement a law to limit free expression for broadcasters (i.e. the private media largely controlled by the opposition). He is about to appoint as minister of communication and information, Jesse Chacon, who was a participant in the coup attempt with Chavez in 1992 and one of the architects of the law which Human Rights Watch finds objectionable. I'm still curious to know how any of this is helping a nation whose economy contracted 29% in the past year.
UPDATE TO THIS POST
The situation with the MST (Landless Workers Movement), the ranchers and the government is getting uglier:
After an initial respite in invasions of unused farm land, the MST has launched fresh occupations arguing its members are too hungry to wait on lengthy land redistribution bureaucracy.
West of Lula's palace on the high savanna plains, some 200 families loyal to the MST have invaded a 1,950-acre ranch owned by Brazilian businessman Mario Zinato.
"They are going to leave my land for better or worse," said Zinato, who has brought in hired guns to protect his property. "If they use force, we'll use force."
One hopes that cooler heads on all sides will soon prevail.
THE ICC AND AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM
Jeralyn Merritt has a post about the cutoff of military aid to countries that refuse to agree to exempt US citizens serving within their borders to prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
I don't really have much more to add. The amount of hysteria surrounding the ICC is, frankly, ridiculous. I remember when Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998, the same type of hysteria erupted: if this went ahead, everyone was going to be fair game for arrest by zealous judges around the world. Other than Henry Kissinger having to alter his travel plans on a few occasions, these fears have proven to be groundless. Why, then, does anyone think that a court established with numerous safeguards to prevent meritless prosecutions will be so horrible other than the compelling argument that American exceptionalism is really at the heart of the matter?
Dr. Kissinger, by the way is not averse to using the courts when he finds himself in an embarrassing situation . . .
As they would say in Brazil "Tem festa hoje? Por que voce esta limpando casa" ("Is there a party today? Why are you cleaning house?")
THIS, ON THE OTHER HAND SEEMS LIKE A GOOD WAY TO FIGHT POVERTY
Certainly one of the factors that maintains the cycle of poverty in Brazil is lack of education and this seems like a good way to break that cycle:
Only a few years ago, Rosemary could cut class with the best of them, earning some money here and there doing odd jobs for one of the wealthier farmers in town, unloading packages for the general store or just hanging out with friends who were taking the day off from school, too. Both her parents had dropped out of high school, so truancy was never as much of an issue in their household as hunger.
But then the governor of the federal district of Brasilia began offering stipends to poor parents whose children regularly showed up for school. It's not much -- $5 per child per month for up to three children per household. But in this hardscrabble town in central Brazil, 40 miles northeast of Brasilia, the capital, that's enough to fill empty stomachs and classrooms. And in a country where the minimum wage is the equivalent of about $75 a month, it's a significant sum.
"A lot of the kids in town who didn't go to school before go to school every day now," said dos Santos, who has worked as a maid but has been unemployed for most of the last three years. She has two other children for whom she receives the monthly stipend, for a total of $15. "All my kids' grades have just shot up. A little bit of money can make a huge difference for families as poor as we are."
Brazil's school stipend program is a strikingly promising and innovative social program, a relatively small public investment that goes a long way toward addressing hunger, literacy, child labor and exclusion, officials said. Since it began as a pilot program in Brasilia and satellite towns like Formosa seven years ago, the effort has nearly doubled the number of children attending school here, officials added. And though research remains incomplete, many educators and activists expect commensurate increases in literacy and nutrition.
The problem in expanding the program is in the funding:
But the school stipend initiative -- known here by its Portuguese name, Bolsa Escola -- also represents the central dilemma for Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former metalworker and union leader who is trying to combat a budget deficit while promoting social programs. Lula, as the president is widely known, was elected six months ago after a campaign in which he pledged to repay the country's $260 billion foreign debt while also focusing on the hungry, jobless and illiterate.
Brazil must pay about $43 billion in yearly interest payments on its foreign debt, about three-quarters of its annual $60 billion in export earnings. Yet Lula is committed to maintaining the $700 million yearly school stipend program even as he continues to seek billions of dollars in budget cuts.
Education Minister Buarque and other proponents are seeking even more funding for the stipend program, which currently has a nationwide enrollment of about 5 million families and 9 million children. For the program to be really effective -- particularly in the densely populated urban areas -- stipends should be increased, Buarque said.
"It will be truly a pity if we cannot increase the stipend," Buarque said. "Just a real shame."
If Formosa is a microcosmal example of the benefits of this program, then it needs to be expanded:
Since the stipend was introduced, vagrancy and petty crime in Formosa have declined sharply, according to government statistics. The 5,100 children enrolled locally take fewer sick days and grow taller, on average, than those who are not enrolled, officials said.
"You can just see the difference," said Nara Martins Pegoraro Guimares, Formosa's welfare secretary and wife of the city's mayor. "If you take 5,000 kids off the streets, it's bound to make a difference."
This should get a priority. It seems like a terrific and effective program.
LAND REFORM IN COLOMBIA
Well it’s not really land reform, but there is something really creepy about this:
Worried sick but too late to call off the operation, Colombian peasant Marquelis had a panic attack and passed out at the clinic.
Fainting won him only a brief reprieve, and the father of three was soon under the knife. After a few delicate snips, Marquelis became the proud -- if sterile -- owner of acres of land under a private Colombian program that gives plots to men in two Caribbean coast towns who undergo vasectomy operations.
"When the moment of truth came, I almost called the whole thing off. But then I decided: I have to do it," he said.
Marquelis is one of 40 men who in the last year and a half have had vasectomies in the humble towns of El Tigre and Rio Cedro on Colombia's Caribbean coast.
In return for undergoing the operations, the men receive plots of land from a 54-year-old movie producer who sees sterilization as a way to reduce poverty. The man, who declined to be identified, pays for the operations.
I don’t have an issue with this . . .
"The tyranny which I am fighting is irresponsible procreation, unsettling the life of all Colombians and everyone in the Third World," the producer, who lives in Bogota but vacations in the area, told Reuters.
. . . but this bothers me:
But the big lesson from Tell's [the “benefactor’s” pseudonym in the article is William Tell] vasectomy experiment, it appears, is that everything has a price.
"What convinced them was their trust in me and their need for land. That's what got them into the operating room," he said.
It’s disgraceful that it has to come to this.