Bolivia Limits Size of Estates in Land Reform Struggle

Franz Chávez interviews JUAN DE DIOS FERNÁNDEZ, head of Land Reform Programme

January 27 2009
LA PAZ
Voters in Bolivia, one of the countries with the highest concentration of land in the world, decided in Sunday’s referendum to limit the size of large landed estates, or “latifundia”, to 5,000 hectares.

In Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, just 100 families own 25 million hectares, while two million campesinos (peasants) have access to only five million hectares, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

This extreme level of inequality in a country that is highly polarised between the western highlands, home to the indigenous majority, and the more ethnically mixed eastern lowlands, which account for most of the country’s natural gas production, industry, agribusiness and GDP, makes for an explosive cocktail when it comes to the government’s land reform plan.

In Sunday’s referendum, an estimated 60 percent of voters approved a new constitution rewritten under the left-wing government of Evo Morales. Simultaneously, 70 percent voted in favour of a 5,000-hectare limit on privately-owned rural estates. (The other option was 10,000 hectares.)

Under the agrarian reform programme and the new constitution, the authorities have the right to determine whether rural property is serving an economic and social function, or is unproductive and thus subject to expropriation – with fair compensation – and redistribution to poor families.

Land reform authorities have verified and legalised land ownership over more than 30 million hectares, and have 52 million to go, the secretary general of the National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA), Juan de Dios Fernández, told IPS in this interview.

The mission is not an easy one, as demonstrated by the clash that occurred on the property owned by a U.S. rancher, Ronald Larsen from the state of Montana, who has lived in Bolivia for four decades and owns 6,777 hectares in the eastern province of Santa Cruz.

When INRA officials attempted to carry out an inspection of his land in November, Larsen’s employees tried to keep them off the property, even engaging in skirmishes in which shots were allegedly fired at the government vehicle.

Analysts say the land question is at the centre of the country’s political confrontation.

Fernández explained why the government is closely studying the ownership of the immense ranches in the hands of private owners.

IPS: What is leading the government to reform the country’s land laws?

JUAN DE DIOS FERNÁNDEZ: This is a social demand that has been loudly voiced for the past 50 years but has never been given a definitive, structural response. What happened between 1953 and 1996 is that the state distributed 60 million hectares of land, less than 20 million of which actually went to campesinos and indigenous communities, while the rest was distributed to large landholders and agribusiness interests in the eastern part of the country.

Eighty percent of the productive land was concentrated in the hands of a small group of landowners and the rest was worked by a very large group of campesinos and indigenous communities.

For instance, we have the businessman (Osvaldo) Monasterios, who owns more than 100,000 hectares, while there are plots of 24 square metres in the province of Chuquisaca. How is that situation fixed? Rural farmers with the least land are the poorest people in the country.

IPS: What are the technical and legal mechanisms involved in achieving a fair distribution of land?

JDF: By modifying the structure of rural property, by cleaning up the land register and regularising and legalising property ownership, identifying public land, expropriating land that serves no economic or social function, in the case of medium and large ranchers, and the distribution of land to landless campesinos.

IPS: Tell me about the new size definition of “latifundium” (a large landed estate with absentee ownership and labour often in a state of partial servitude), under this new system of redistributing land.

JDF: I believe we are carrying out this reform with a clear vision. In the old constitution, anything over 50,000 hectares was considered a “latifundium”, although it was not clearly defined. Now, by contrast, by defining a size limit of 5,000 hectares we are marking a reference point for a specific policy.

This government’s policies respect individual, community-owned and collective property, while generating a sense of certainty and security in a scenario where the opposition has been challenging the process. They have said we are going to take away their land and distribute it to campesinos from the highlands, without leaving any land to the agribusiness sector.

IPS: What practical experience and results has INRA obtained?

JDF: In August, landholdings in the northern province of Pando were inspected, and 98 percent of the land was claimed as privately owned. But when we completed the process, only 25 percent was legally recognised as such, and another 25 percent had been distributed earlier to campesinos and indigenous people. The other half was actually publicly owned nature reserves and parks.

IPS: Is there a link between inadequate distribution of land and a political elite that this government is fighting?

JDF: A large part of the 40 million hectares (that went to large landholders and agribusiness interests in the eastern part of the country) was handed out in payment for political favours. By law no one could receive more than one plot of land, but there were people who received two and even three.

IPS: How long do you think it will take to reduce poverty by means of the redistribution of land?

JDF: We have four more years to complete the process of clarifying land ownership. Land titles generate a sense of legal security which, in the case of community-owned property, allows access to credit, and to participating in productive processes.

You have to understand the political context in Bolivia. One thing was the (1959) Cuban revolution or the Bolivian revolution of 1952, where the structure of the state was changed by force and new institutions were built.

In that context, land can be seized because there is no Congress and (the revolutionaries) have the strength and the power. But in the scenario of a democratic revolution like the one being carried out by this government, we can’t do that.

A central pillar of a country’s institutionality is guaranteeing legal security. If you have a property that was acquired either rightfully or wrongly, and which is larger than 5,000 hectares, I can’t take it from you retroactively. That would be an attack on the owner and we would be breaking the property rules of this society.

This government is not going to do that. But the most important issue is this: the new constitution explicitly states that every two years, we are going to verify that land fulfils an economic and social function. Through this process, we will be able to recover public lands and limit unproductive latifundia.

Source

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Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 3:26 am  Comments Off on Bolivia Limits Size of Estates in Land Reform Struggle  
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Israel warns soldiers of prosecution abroad for Gaza ‘war crimes’/Israels Latin America “Trail of Terror”

Israel warns soldiers of prosecution abroad for Gaza ‘war crimes’
Israel has warned military officers and senior officials that a threat of prosecution for alleged war crimes in Gaza could hinder future travel abroad.

By Damien McElroy in Jerusalem
January 24 2009

Israel warns soldiers of prosecution abroad for Gaza 'war crimes'
Daniel Friedman, Israel’s justice minister, was appointed to head a special task force to defend individuals detained abroad and the military censor declared that names of officers from lieutenant to colonel must not be published Photo: AFP

At least four human rights groups are believed to be compiling suits alleging that Israelis perpetrated war crimes in planning or carrying out the three-week operation Cast Lead.

Daniel Friedman, Israel’s justice minister, was appointed to head a special task force to defend individuals detained abroad and the military censor declared that names of officers from lieutenant to colonel must not be published.

More than 1,300 Palestinian deaths were reported during the offensive in Gaza and the United Nations has led demands that Israel investigate high-profile incidents including the shelling of its facilities.

Private prosecutions are already being prepared. “We are building files on war crimes throughout the chain of command from the top to the local level,” said Raji Sourani of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. “We are convinced these have been the most bloody days for Gaza since the occupation and that war crimes were perpetrated against Palestinian civilians.”

Courts in six countries, including Britain, have accepted petitions to prosecute alleged war crimes in previous wars. Most notoriously, activists in Belgium used a clause, since removed from the statute, to target the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Accusations of war crimes strike an especially sensitive chord in Israel, a nation founded in the wake of the Holocaust. Comparisons between the long siege of Gaza and the Jewish ghettoes of central Europe draw a vociferous denunciation from the government. Israel insists troops did their best to limit civilian casualties in heavily populated areas where Hamas gunmen were attacking from tunnels and had booby-trapped civilian homes.

While senior politicians travel with diplomatic immunity, retired officials have already faced problems travelling abroad.

A retired major general, Doron Almog, was forced to remain on an El Al plane at Heathrow in 2005 after the Israeli military attaché warned he would be arrested if he disembarked. Gen Almog commanded Israeli forces in Gaza when a bombing raid on an apartment block that killed a Hamas commander, Salah Shehadeh, resulted in the deaths of 14 others. The magistrates’ warrant was later quashed.

An unknown number of officials have been notified that they should submit future travel plans to the military for review. Avigdor Feldman, an Israeli lawyer, said that thousands of serving officers could be affected. “I would highly recommend any soldier or officer contemplating going to the UK to reconsider,” he told an Israeli newspaper.

According to Lt Col David Benjamin of the Military Advocate Corps, lawyers were deployed at divisional commands in operation Cast Lead. He said: “Approval of targets which can be attacked, methods of warfare – it all has gone through us.”

But ensuring that those involved in the Gaza Campaign are never sentenced is set to be a long-term challenge for Israel. “The government will stand like a fortified wall to protect each and every one of you from allegations,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, at a military gathering after a ceasefire was called last week.

Source

How dare they scream  Holocaust, when in fact they have helped in the murder of millions.

Screaming Holocaust is there favorite pass time, but it doens’t cut it,  when you look at their history.

Israel was on the road, long before the Holocaust transpired at any rate anyway. Anyone who knows the history of the Jewish Community would know that.

Seems they always use that as a tactic. The rest of the world is suppose to feel guilty and forgive them for their terrorizing innocent people.

Well there have been numerous Holocausts. Like all the Aboriginal Indians in North and South America. In Africa  and other countries. There has even been a Holocaust in Palestine.  Perpetrated by the Israelis them selves. That being said lets move on.

Here are a few Facts about Israel, I had tucked away for prosperity.

They are not the sweet wonderful country, they pretend to be.

Israel’s Latin American trail of terror
By Jeremy Bigwood
June 5, 2003

“I learned an infinite amount of things in Israel, and to that country I owe part of my essence, my human and military achievements” said Colombian paramilitary leader and indicted drug trafficker Carlos Castao in his ghostwritten autobiography, Mi Confesin.

Castao, who leads the Colombian paramilitaries, known by their Spanish acronym AUC, the largest right-wing paramilitary force to ever exist in the western hemisphere reveals that he was trained in the arts of war in Israel as a young man of 18 in the 1980s.

He glowingly adds: “I copied the concept of paramilitary forces from the Israelis,” in his chapter-long account of his Israel experiences.

Castao’s right-wing Phalange-like AUC force is now by far the worst human rights violator in all of the Americas, and ties between that organisation and Israel are continually surfacing in the press.

Outside the law

The AUC paramilitaries are a fighting force that originally grew out of killers hired to protect drug-running operations and large landowners. They were organised into a cohesive force by Castao in 1997. It exists outside the law but often coordinates its actions with the Colombian military, in a way similar to the relationship of the Lebanese Phalange to the Israeli army throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

According to a 1989 Colombian Secret Police intelligence report, apart from training Carlos Castao in 1983, Israeli trainers arrived in Colombia in 1987 to train him and other paramilitaries who would later make up the AUC.

Fifty of the paramilitaries’ “best” students were then sent on scholarships to Israel for further training according to a Colombian police intelligence report, and the AUC became the most prominent paramilitary force in the hemisphere, with some 10,000-12,000 men in arms.

The Colombian AUC paramilitaries are always in need of arms, and it should come as no surprise that some of their major suppliers are Israeli. Israeli arms dealers have long had a presence in next-door Panama and especially in Guatemala.

In May of last year, GIRSA, an Israeli company associated with the Israeli Defence Forces and based in Guatemala was able to buy 3000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 2.5 million rounds of ammunition that were then handed over to AUC paramilitaries in Colombia.

Links with the continent

Israel’s military relations with right-wing groups and regimes spans Latin America from Mexico to the southernmost tip of Chile, starting just a few years after the Israeli state came into existence.

Since then, the list of countries Israel has supplied, trained and advised includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.
But it isn’t only the sales of planes, guns and weapons system deals that characterises the Israeli presence in Latin America.
Where Israel has excelled is in advising, training and running intelligence and counter-insurgency operations in the Latin American “dirty war” civil conflicts of Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and now Colombia.

In the case of the Salvadoran conflict – a civil war between the right-wing landowning class supported by a particularly violent military pitted against left-wing popular organisations – the Israelis were present from the beginning. Besides arms sales, they helped train ANSESAL, the secret police who were later to form the framework of the infamous death squads that would kill tens of thousands of mostly civilian activists.

From 1975 to 1979, 83% of El Salvador’s military imports came from Israel, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. By 1981, many of those in the civilian popular political movements who had survived the death squads headed for the hills to become guerrillas.

By 1981 there was an open civil war in El Salvador which took over a decade to resolve through negotiations.

Even though the US was openly backing the Salvadoran Army by 1981, as late as November 1983 it was asking for more Israeli “practical assistance” there, according to a declassified secret document obtained recently by Aljazeera.

Among the assistance asked for were helicopters, trucks, rifles, ammunition, and combat infantry advisors to work at both the “company and battalion level of the Salvadoran Army”.

One notable Salvadoran officer trained by the Israelis was Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, who always held a high opinion of the Israelis. It was Major D’Aubuisson who ordered the assassination of El Salvador’s archbishop amongst thousands of other murders.
Later he would organise the right-wing National Republican Alliance Party (ARENA) and send his son to study abroad in the relative safety of Israel.

Dirty war

Amazingly, while the Israelis were training the El Salvadoran “death squads” they were also supporting the anti-semitic Argentine military government of the late 1970s and early 1980s – at a time when that government was involved_in another “dirty war” of death squads and disappearances.

In 1978, Nicaragua’s dictator Somoza was making his last stand against a general uprising of the Sandinista-led population who were sick of his family’s dynasty which had ruled and monopolised the county for half a century. The Israelis and the US had been supplying Somoza with weapons for years. But when President Jimmy Carter came into office in 1976 he ordered a cessation of all US military assistance to Nicaragua.
Filling the void, the Israelis immediately increased their weapons supplies to Somoza until he fled the country when the Sandinistas took power.

Israeli operatives then helped train right-wing Nicaraguan Contras in Honduran and Costa Rican camps to fight the Sandinista government, according to Colombian police intelligence reports Aljazeera_has obtained.

At least some of the same Israeli operatives had also previously trained the nucleus of the paramilitary organisations that would become the AUC in Colombia.

But by far the bloodiest case of Israeli involvement in Latin America was its involvement in Guatemala from the 1970s to the 1990s. As in El Salvador, a civil war pitted a populist but, in this case, mainly Indian left against a mainly European oligarchy protected by a brutal Mestizo Army.

As Guatemalan President Carlos Arana said in 1971, “If it is necessary to turn the country into a cemetery in order to pacify it, I will not hesitate to do so.”

Active involvement

The Israelis supplied Guatemala with Galil rifles, and built an ammunition factory for them, as well as supplying armoured personnel carriers and Arava planes. Behind the scenes, they were actively involved in the bloodiest counter-insurgency campaign the hemisphere has known since the European conquest, in which at least 200,000 (mostly Indians) were killed.
Like Israel’s original occupation of Palestine, several entire Guatemalan Indian villages were razed and a million people displaced. “The guerrilla is the fish. The people are the sea. If you cannot catch the fish, you have to drain the sea,” said Guatemalan President Rios Montt in 1982.

Guatemalan army officers credit Israeli support with turning the tide against the uprising, not only in the countryside where Israeli counter-insurgency techniques and assistance set up strategic-hamlet-like “development poles” along the lines of the Israeli kibbutz, but also in the cities where “Israeli communication technicians and instructors” working through then-sophisticated computers were able to locate and then decimate guerrillas and their supporters in Guatemala City in 1981.

From the late 1970s until the 1990s, the US could not overtly support the Guatemalan army because of its horrendous human rights record (although there was some covert support), but many in the US government, especially in the CIA, supported Israel in taking up the slack.

Wrong

But the US grew to regret its actions. On 10 March 1999, US President Bill Clinton issued an apology for US involvement in the war: The “United States… support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression…was wrong.” No similar statement has ever been forthcoming from the Israelis.

At the present time, the only major insurgency war in Latin America is in Colombia, where Israel has an overt involvement.
Besides the dozen or so Kfir IAI C-7 jet fighters they have sold the Colombian government, and the Galil rifles produced in Bogota under licence, most of the Israeli ties to the government’s counter-insurgency war are closely-guarded secrets.

Aljazeera’s attempts to obtain clarification on these and other issues for this story were stonewalled by the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Why does Israel continue to provide arms and expertise to the pariahs of the world? Clearly, part of the reason is the revenues produced by arms sales, and part of it has do with keeping up with trends in counter-insurgent war across the globe.
But another factor is what is demanded of Israel by the world’s only superpower, the US, in partial exchange for the superpower’s continued support for Israeli dominance in the Middle East.

Assistance

This relationship can be best illustrated by recently declassified 1983 US government documents obtained by the Washington, DC-based National Security Archives through the Freedom of Information Act.

One such declassified document is a 1983 memo from the notorious Colonel Oliver North of the Reagan Administration’s National Security Council and reads: “As discussed with you yesterday, I asked CIA, Defense, and State to suggest practical assistance which the Israelis might offer in Guatemala and El Salvador.”

Another document, this time a 1983 cable from the US Ambassador in Guatemala to Washington Frederic Chapin shows the money trail.

He says that at a time when the US did not want to be seen directly assisting Guatemala, “we have reason to believe that our good friends the Israelis are prepared, or already have, offered substantial amounts of military equipment to the GOG (Government of Guatemala) on credit terms up to 20 years…(I pass over the importance of making huge concessionary loans to Israel so that it can make term loans in our own backyard).”
In other words, during civil wars in which the US does not want to be seen getting its hands dirty in Latin America, the superpower loans Israel money at a very good rate, and then Israel uses these funds to do the “dirty work”. In this regard, in Latin America at least, Israel has become the “hit-man” for the US.

Wars funded by American Tax Dollars.

Wars and funding to prop up Brutal governments or regimes.

Israel the, Money Laundering, “Funnel Tunnel” for the US.

They love extermination pure and simple. They were more, then willing to help other regimes exterminate innocent people.

Of course it doesn’t end there, they also supplied weapons etc to other countries as well. Africa is also on my list as well. It’s a pretty long list.

What has changed over the years, not much.

Why would anything change.

We will in the future find out who and how many.

The trail of cookie crumbs, is not all that hard to follow.

Have a cruel bloodthirsty regime and you will find both the US or Israeli involvement.

Most time they work together. All in the name of profit, power, control and death.

They call it Self Defense or I am rescuing you.

Iran is evil because thy want to help innocent victims rebuild.

Hamas is pure evil are they?  The Hamas they helped create.

Haitian’s are pure evil are they?

Indians are pure evil are they?

All the innocent people they had a hand, in murdering are all evil are they?

Death Squads are a good thing are they?

I can almost bet, the “Death Squads” in the Philippines, were trained by Israelis.

The Israeli Gov. and the US Gov. should mind their own business and clean up their, own moral bankruptcy.

They both should clean up their own Weapons of Mass Destruction.

They are two the most corrupt, countries in the world.

They blame everyone else of crimes, they themselves are actually committing.

Well like all criminals they will plead not guilty. They are no different from any other criminal.

Both countries lied to their people.

Both oppressed their own people.

Both are warmongering countries.

They could pass as twins, in their sins against humanity.

Those who are corrupt past and present should be rooted out and charged.

There is no statute of limitation on murder or war crimes.

They should be held responsible for the millions, they have murdered or helped murder. Directly or indirectly they are responsible.

Can or will Obama be able to clean up the US.

Maybe:  We will have to wait and see.

Will the corruption in Israel, get cleaned up, not flippin likely.

Will the corruption in the International Agency’s get cleaned up, we will have to wait and see.

The less they do to stop those in the US Gov. and Israeli Gov. the more obvious it is, they are corrupted.

Information Wanted by the International Criminal Court/ UN: Falk Likens Gaza to Warsaw Ghetto

Israel Accused of Executing Parents in Front of Children

White Phosphorus Victims in Gaza

What Types of Gruesome Weapons Did Israel Use in Lebanon?

UN: Israel should pay for Humanitarian Aid they Destoyed

Father: ‘I watched an Israeli soldier shoot dead my two little girls’

Unusually Large U.S. Weapons Shipment to Israel: Are the US and Israel Planning a Broader Middle East War?

Outrage as Israel bombs UN and Hospital

Israel Navy ships turn back “Spirit of Humanity” carrying Gaza humanitarian aid

President of the United Nations General Assembly: Israel violating International Law

Israel Hits another “United Nations” Building in Gaza

Israel Violating Egyptian Airspace to attack Gaza

Israel continues to attack Hospitals, Clinics and Public Buildings in Gaza

Red Cross slams Israel over 4 day wait to access wounded

The making of Israel’s Apartheid in Palestine

Samouni family recounts Gaza horror

79 % of the time: Israel caused conflicts not Hamas

Gaza War Why?: Natural Gas valued at over $4 billion MAYBE?

Israel ‘rammed’ medical aid boat headed to Gaza

Israel Used Internationally Banned Weaponry in Massive Airstrikes Across Gaza Strip

Shoot Then Ask, Israeli Soldiers Told

Gaza (6) A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Israel’s ‘Crimes Against Humanity’

Gaza Families Eat Grass as Israel Blocks Food Aid

Will the world do nothing to stop Genocide in Gaza?

Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty

Israel blocks foreign media from Gaza

U.N.: Israel won’t allow food aid to enter Gaza

Indexed List of all Stories in Archives

Jan 7: Israel’s Gaza invasion provokes protests throughout Latin America

By TYLER BRIDGES
January 7 2009

Opposition to Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip is heating up throughout Latin America.

Venezuela has expelled Israel’s ambassador. Guatemala and Colombia have called on Israel to stop fighting and begin immediate peace talks. Demonstrators in Argentina, El Salvador and Bolivia have condemned the invasion. Brazil is sending aid to victims.

“There is a tradition in Latin America of rejecting violence to solve any international conflict,” said Adrian Bonilla, the director of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador. “There is also a tradition of supporting the weakest country in a conflict since most Latin American countries have been part of the Third World network. Another factor is that Israel is a close ally of the United States.”

Not surprisingly, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has taken the harshest stance. On Tuesday, he kicked out Israel’s ambassador and diplomatic staff. The Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas applauded the move on Wednesday as a “courageous step.”

Chavez on Wednesday showed the photograph of a Palestinian child killed by Israeli bombs and said Israeli leaders should be tried for killing innocent men, women and children.

“Behind Israel is the American empire,” Chavez said.

Chavez questioned why President-elect Barack Obama “until now hasn’t said anything” about Israel’s aggression.

Abraham Levy, the president of the Confederation of Israeli Associations in Venezuela, said Wednesday that he found Chavez’s comments “worrisome.” He noted that Israel and Venezuela had warm relations until Chavez began seeking close ties with Iran and denounced Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

Some 15,000 Jews live in Venezuela.

The biggest protest in Latin America has taken place in Argentina, where some 20,000 people marched Tuesday from the Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires to the Israeli Embassy. Arab and student groups organized the march, along with the Argentine Communist Party and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights organization.

The protesters carried Palestinian, Iraqi and Lebanese flags and signs saying “Israel: Leave Gaza now” and “We are all Palestinians.” The march was peaceful, but some of the protesters threw paint and shoes against the embassy.

“The fifth largest army of the world is fighting against a helpless society,” Alejandro Salomon, the president of the Confederation of Argentina Arab Entities, said in an interview Wednesday. “We are protesting against the small effort made by the international community to stop this manslaughter.”

Jews are planning a pro-Israel countermarch in Buenos Aires on Thursday, ending at a building destroyed by Arab terrorists in a 1994 car bombing that killed nearly 100 people. With an estimated 240,000 Jews, Buenos Aires is said to be the second biggest home of Jews in the Americas after New York City.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, Iftaf Curiel, told the Jewish News Agency that Argentinians should support the “moderate elements of the (Middle Eastern) region – Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan – that are confronting the extreme elements of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.”

Israeli officials have said they launched the Gaza invasion on Dec. 27 as a defensive measure to halt rocket fire from Hamas militants.

Televised images of the carnage have been shown throughout Latin America, especially on Telesur, the regionwide television network financed by the Venezuelan government. The attacks have killed some 600 Palestinians, including children.

Source

Jan 7: Lebanese children demonstrate for Gaza Children

Jan 7 : India- Protest in New Delhi over Israel raids

Jan 7: Australian Jews protest against Israel’s action

Jan 7: Canadian Jewish women protesting against Gaza War, Arrested after occupying the Israeli Consulate

An Open Letter From Jewish Youth in Canada – Support of Gaza0 all Jewish youth can sign

Actions we can take to help Palestinians in Gaza -Petitions

Egypt floats truce plan after 42 killed in Gaza School and Bars Doctors from Gaza

Gaza (3): A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Gaza (2): A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Gaza (1): A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Israel strike kills up to 60 members of one family

Israel rains fire on Gaza with phosphorus Shells/Targets UN School

Gaza hospital overwhelmed by dead and wounded

Foreign Press still banned from Gaza/Israel attacks Media Building in Gaza City

Gaza wounded die waiting for ambulances

War on Gaza – Timeline: June 19 2008 to January 3 2009

Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 5:11 am  Comments Off on Jan 7: Israel’s Gaza invasion provokes protests throughout Latin America  
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141 states support Depleted Uranium Ban

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Sign Petition to Ban DU

What is DU?

  • Depleted Uranium is a waste product of the nuclear enrichment process.
  • After natural uranium has been ‘enriched’ to concentrate the isotope U235 for use in nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons, what remains is DU.
  • The process produces about 7 times more DU than enriched uranium.

Despite claims that DU is much less radioactive than natural uranium, it actually emits about 75% as much radioactivity. It is very dense and when it strikes armour it burns (it is ‘pyrophoric’). As a waste product, it is stockpiled by nuclear states, which then have an interest in finding uses for it.

DU is used as the ‘penetrator’ – a long dart at the core of the weapon – in armour piercing tank rounds and bullets. It is usually alloyed with another metal. When DU munitions strike a hard target the penetrator sheds around 20% of its mass, creating a fine dust of DU, burning at extremely high temperatures.

This dust can spread 400 metres from the site immediately after an impact. It can be resuspended by human activity, or by the wind, and has been reported to have travelled twenty-five miles on air currents. The heat of the DU impact and secondary fires means that much of the dust produced is ceramic, and can remain in the lungs for years if inhaled.

Who uses it?
At least 18 countries are known to have DU in their arsenals:

  • UK
  • US
  • France
  • Russia
  • China
  • Greece
  • Turkey
  • Thailand
  • Taiwan
  • Israel
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • India
  • Belarus
  • Pakistan
  • Oman

Most of these countries were sold DU by the US, although the UK, France and Pakistan developed it independently.

Only the US and the UK are known to have fired it in warfare. It was used in the 1991 Gulf War, in the 2003 Iraq War, and also in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s and during the NATO war with Serbia in 1999. While its use has been claimed in a number of other conflicts, this has not been confirmed.

Health Problems

  • DU is both chemically toxic and radioactive. In laboratory tests it damages human cells, causing DNA mutations and other carcinogenic effects.
  • Reports of increased rates of cancer and birth defects have consistently followed DU usage.
  • Representatives from both the Serbian and Iraqi governments have linked its use with health problems amongst civilians.
  • Many veterans remain convinced DU is responsible for health problems they have experienced since combat

Information from animal studies suggests DU may cause several different kinds of cancer. In rats, DU in the blood-stream builds up in the kidneys, bone, muscles, liver, spleen, and brain. In other studies it has been shown to cross both the blood-brain barrier and the placenta, with obvious implications for the health of the foetus. In general, the effects of DU will be more severe for women and children than for healthy men.

In 2008 a study by the Institute of Medicine in the US listed medical conditions that were a high priority to study for possible links with DU exposure: cancers of the lung, testes and kidney; lung disease; nervous system disorders; and reproductive and developmental problems.


Epidemiology

What is missing from the picture is large-scale epidemiological studies on the effects of DU – where negative health effects match individuals with exposure to DU. None of the studies done on the effects on soldiers have been large enough to make meaningful conclusions. No large scale studies have been done on civilian populations.

In the case of Iraq, where the largest volume of DU has been fired, the UK and US governments are largely responsible for the conditions which have made studies of the type required impossible. Despite this, these same governments use the scientific uncertainties to maintain that it is safe, and that concerns about it are misplaced.

However, in cases where human health is in jeopardy, a precautionary approach should prevail. Scientific scepticism should prevent a hazardous course of action from being taken until safety is assured. To allow it to continue until the danger has been proved beyond dispute is an abuse of the principle of scientific caution.

Environmental Impacts
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has studied some of the sites contaminated by DU in the Balkans, but it has only been able to produce a desk study on Iraq. Bullets and penetrators made of DU that do not hit armour become embedded in the ground and corrode away, releasing material into the environment.

It is not known what will happen to DU in the long term in such circumstances. The UNEP mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina found DU in drinking water, and could still detect it in the air after seven years – the longest period of time a study has been done after the end of a conflict.

Uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years, so DU released into the environment will be a hazard for unimaginable timescales.

Decontaminating sites where DU has been used requires detailed scrutiny and monitoring, followed by the removal and reburial of large amounts of soil and other materials. Monitoring of groundwater for contamination is also advised by UNEP. CADU calls for the cost of cleaning up and decontaminating DU affected sites to be met by the countries responsible for the contamination.

The Campaign
CADU is a founder member of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) – now comprising over 102 member organisations in 27 countries.

CADU and ICBUW campaign for a precautionary approach: there is significant evidence that DU is dangerous, and faced with scientific uncertainty the responsible course of action is for it not to be used. To this end CADU and ICBUW are working towards an international treaty that bans the use of uranium in weapons akin to those banning cluster bombs and landmines.

Through the efforts of campaigners worldwide the use of DU has been condemned by four resolutions in the European Parliament, been the subject of an outright ban in Belgium, and brought onto the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly.

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International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons

141 states support second uranium weapons resolution in UN General Assembly vote

The United Nations General Assembly has passed, by a huge majority, a resolution requesting its agencies to update their positions on the health and environmental effects of uranium weapons.
December 2 2008

The resolution, which had passed the First Committee stage on October 31st by 127 states to four, calls on three UN agencies – the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to update their positions on uranium weapons. The overwhelming support for the text reflects increasing international concern over the long-term impact of uranium contamination in post-conflict environments and military ranges.

In the 17 years since uranium weapons were first used on a large scale in the 1991 Gulf War, a huge volume of peer-reviewed research has highlighted previously unknown pathways through which exposure to uranium’s heavy metal toxicity and radioactivity may damage human health.
Throughout the world, parliamentarians have responded by supporting calls for a moratorium and ban, urging governments and the military to take a precautionary approach. However the WHO and IAEA have been slow to react to this wealth of new evidence and it is hoped that this resolution will go some way to resolving this situation.

In a welcome move, the text requests that all three agencies work closely with countries affected by the use of uranium weapons in compiling their research. Until now, most research by UN member states has focused on exposure in veterans and not on the civilian populations living in contaminated areas. Furthermore, recent investigations into US veteran studies have found them to be wholly incapable of producing useful data.

The text also repeats the request for states to submit reports and opinions on uranium weapons to the UN Secretary General in the process that was started by last year’s resolution. Thus far, 19 states have submitted reports to the Secretary General; many of them call for action on uranium weapons and back a precautionary approach. It also places the issue on the agenda of the General Assembly’s 65th Session; this will begin in September 2010.

The First Committee vote saw significant voting changes in comparison to the previous year’s resolution, with key EU and NATO members such as the Netherlands, Finland, Norway and Iceland changing position to support calls for further action on the issue. These changes were echoed at the General Assembly vote. Once again Japan, which has been under considerable pressure from campaigners, supported the resolution.

Of the permanent five Security Council members, the US, UK and France voted against. They were joined by Israel. Russia abstained and China refused to vote.

The list of states abstaining from the vote, while shorter than in 2007, still contains Belgium, the only state to have implemented a domestic ban on uranium weapons, a fact that continues to anger Belgian campaigners. It is suspected that the Belgian government is wary of becoming isolated on the issue internationally. Two Nordic states, Denmark and Sweden continue to blow cold, elsewhere in Europe Poland, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Spain are also dragging their feet, in spite of a call for a moratorium and ban by 94% of MEPs earlier this year. Many of the abstainers are recent EU/NATO accession states or ex-Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan.

Australia and Canada, both of whom have extensive uranium mining interests and close ties to US foreign policy also abstained.

The resolution was submitted by Cuba and Indonesia on behalf of the League of Non-Aligned States.

Voting results in full

In favour:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:

France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States.

Abstain:

Albania, Andorra, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Micronesia (Federated States of), Palau, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine.

Absent: Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Kiribati, Monaco, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia.

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Honor Vets by Learning About Depleted Uranium

November 11, 2008

by Barbara Bellows

As Europe mourns in Verdun today for those lost in “The War to End All Wars”, World War I, we could look to another moment in European history to shed light on the most aggressively silenced story of the Bush administration.

In late 2000 and January 2001, reports were exploding across Europe about the rise in cancer amongst NATO soldiers who had served in the “peacekeeping missions” in Bosnia and Kosovo. The effects of the depleted uranium in the U.S. and U.K. weapons could not be ignored.

But history shows that the United Nations and the World Health Organization could be intimidated. The report from the WHO – that detailed how the DU vaporized upon impact into tiny particles that were breathed in, or consumed through the mouth or entered through open wounds, where the irradiating bits attacked cells all the way through the body, causing mutations along the way – was shelved under pressure from the U.S.

Even now, the major U.S. news organizations do not touch the subject, though the international press cannot ignore it. Even last month, a Middle Eastern Reuters reporter discussed the health damages because of the contaminated environment with Iraqi En Iraqi Environment Minister Nermeen Othman,

“When we talk about it, people may think we are overreacting. But in fact the environmental catastrophe that we inherited in Iraq is even worse than it sounds.”

And The Tehran Times further endangers their country by continuing to report on the problem, calling it a war crime.

And across the internet, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Roger Helbig seeks to intimidate anyone who dares to bring up the subject.

But we evolve, and the United Nations First Committee has overwhelmingly passed a resolution, on October 31st, calling for “relevant UN agencies, in this case the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to update and complete their research into the possible health and environmental impact of the use of uranium weapons by 2010.” The only countries that voted against it were the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and France.

Meanwhile, to help the reader get to the point, I’ve put together the following.  Although the facts, for the most part, do not contain links, there is a list of the references at the end.

Ten Essential Facts:

1. Depleted uranium, the nuclear waste of uranium enrichment, is not actually “depleted” of radiation; 99.3% of it is Uranium238, which still emits radioactive alpha particles at the rate 12,400/second, with an estimated half life of 4.5 billion years.

2. Depleted uranium is plentiful – there are 7 pounds remaining for every pound of enriched uranium – and requires expensive and often politically-contentious hazardous waste storage.

3. Depleted uranium is less of a problem for the nuclear industry when it is cheaply passed on to U.S. weapons manufacturers for warheads, penetrators, bunker-busters, missiles, armor and other ammunition used by the U.S. military in the Middle East and elsewhere, and sold to other countries and political factions.

4. Depleted uranium is “pyrophoric”, which makes it uniquely effective at piercing hard targets, because upon impact, it immediately burns, vaporizing the majority of its bulk and leaving a hard, thin, sharpened tip – and large amounts of radioactive particles suspended in the atmosphere.

5. Depleted uranium weaponry was first used in the U.S. bombing of Iraq in 1991, under President George H. W. Bush and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

6. Depleted uranium weaponry was later used by President Bill Clinton in the NATO “peace-keeping” bombing missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. By January 2001, as the 2nd President Bush and Dick Cheney were moving in to the White House, there was a furor in Europe over the news of an alarming increase in leukemia and other cancers amongst the NATO troops who’d served in the Balkans.

7. The World Health Organization suppressed a November 2001 report on the health hazards of depleted uranium by Dr. Keith Baverstock, Head of the WHO’s Radiation Protection Division and his team, commissioned by the United Nations. Baverstock’s report, “Radiological Toxicity of Depleted Uranium”, detailed the significant danger of airborne vaporized depleted uranium particles, already considerably more prevalent in Iraq than the Balkans due to the difference in military tactics, because they are taken into the body by inhaling and ingesting, and then their size and solubility determines how quickly they move through the respiratory, circulatory and gastrointestinal systems, attacking and poisoning from within as they travel, and where the damages occur. In addition, the report warns that the particles tend to settle in the soft tissue of the testes, and may cause mutations in sperm. In 2004 Dr. Baverstock, no longer at the WHO, released the report through Rob Edwards at Scotland’s Sunday Herald.

8. The George W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration twisted the meaning of the failure of the World Health Organization to produce evidence of depleted uranium’s health hazards, turning it into evidence that there was no link between exposure to depleted uranium and the increases in cancer in Europe and Iraq; instead, as presented in the January 20, 2003 report by the new Office of Global Communications, ironically titled Apparatus of Lies: Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda 1990 – 2003, the depleted uranium uproar was only an exploitation of fear and suffering. Two months later, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Rice began to “Shock and Awe” Baghdad by again dropping tons of depleted uranium bombs on densely populated areas.

9. On March 27, 2003, significant increases in depleted uranium particles in the atmosphere were detected by the air sampler filter systems of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at 8 different sites near Aldermaston Berkshire, Great Britain, and continued at 4-5 times the previous norm until the end of April 2003, after the Coalition forces declared the war over. This information only came to light in a report on January 6, 2006 by Dr. Chris Busby, due to his diligent fight for access to the data through Britain’s Freedom of Information law.

10. We have a new, intelligent President, who is willing to listen.  It is up to us to bring this to his attention.  THIS IS HOW WE CAN HONOR VETERANS.

VALUABLE REFERENCES:

Department of Defense description of self-sharpening depleted uranium: click here

Dr. Keith Baverstock’s November 2001 report, suppressed by the World Health Organization:
Rob Edwards article on Baverstock:

Karen Parker, a Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Lawyer:  Scroll down on the page and you’ll find her documents on DU.

January 2003 White House Report – Apparatus of Lies:

January 2006 Chris Busby report: click here

Source

Depleated Uranium Information

Or Google it there is tons of information out there.

Be sure to encourage those who are still not supporting the ban,  that it  is something that needs to be banned.

This is an extremely dangerous form of Pollution.

We, the people, need to let governments and the United Nations know that these weapons can have no part in a humane and caring world. Every signature counts!

  1. An immediate end to the use of uranium weapons.
  2. Disclosure of all locations where uranium weapons have been used and immediate removal of the remnants and contaminated materials from the sites under strict control.
  3. Health surveys of the ‘depleted’ uranium victims and environmental investigations at the affected sites.
  4. Medical treatment and compensation for the ‘depleted’ uranium victims.
  5. An end to the development, production, stockpiling, testing, trade of uranium weapons.
  6. A Convention for a Total Ban on Uranium Weapons.

The life you save may be your own.

Sign Petition to Ban DU

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm  Comments Off on 141 states support Depleted Uranium Ban  
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Latin Americas Private Pension Funds in Doubt

By Marcela Valente

November 26 2008

BUENOS AIRES

Pension funds in Latin America have suffered sometimes drastic losses as a result of the global financial crisis. Argentina decided to nationalise its private pension funds, and in Chile, Colombia and Mexico there are voices urgently calling for reforms.

Many of the private sector pension plans, created mainly in the 1990s under the influence of neoliberal, free-market reforms and structural adjustment policies, followed the model adopted in 1981 by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) in Chile.

In 1993, Argentina adapted the model, without eliminating the parallel public system, which allowed workers to choose either one. But on Nov. 20, the Argentine parliament eliminated the private pension funds, which were in a state of collapse.

It is not yet clear how the financial crisis will affect private pension funds in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

According to the International Association of Latin American Pension Fund Supervisors (AIOS), the 10 Latin American countries that make up the association had 76 million pension fund affiliates as of late 2007, but only 32 million — 37 percent of the economically active population — made regular payments.

The largest number of members of private pension plans — 39 million — were in Mexico. This was followed by 9.5 million in Argentina (who will now go into the public social security system), and by Chile and Colombia, with around eight million each.

The AIOS reported that in late 2007, private pension funds in the region held 275 billion dollars, equivalent to 16 percent of the 10 member countries’ GDP.

“We are going to keep a close eye on what happens in Chile, the pioneer of the model,” said Jorge D’Angelo, chairman of the Inter-American Conference on Social Security’s (CISS) commission on the elderly. “We’ll have to see how bad the crisis gets, and whether Chile will be able to weather the storm,” he told IPS.

In Chile, which has the highest proportion of retirees in private pension plans in the region, the average monthly pension stands at 264 dollars, just over the minimum monthly wage. In the rest of the countries, pensioners draw even more meagre amounts. In Chile, the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) central trade union and citizen, social and political groups are demanding alternatives to the private pension funds. CUT is calling for a public social security system based on the principle of solidarity.

Senator Alejandro Navarro, who recently left the co-governing Socialist Party, is pushing for the creation of a public administrator of individual retirement accounts.

Between Oct. 31, 2007 and Oct. 31, 2008, Chile’s private pension fund assets shrank from 94.3 to 69.1 billion dollars.

In 2002, the private pension administrators created five different funds, classified as A, B, C, D and E, ranging from high to low risk, for workers to choose from. So far this year, profit margins have shrunk by 40.9 percent in the A funds, 30.1 percent in the B funds, and 18.6 percent in the C funds, to mention the sharpest falls.

And since the creation of Chile’s multi-fund system in 2002, returns have ranged between 2.8 and 4.2 percent, depending on the level of risk exposure. But if measured since 1981, returns have averaged 8.8 percent

“The worries of workers are logical and understandable,” Fabio Bertranou, a Chilean expert on social security with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), told IPS. “The value of the funds has shrunk due to the sharp drop in the value of their financial assets.”

Chile accounts for 35 percent of the region’s private pension fund assets that are invested in equities abroad.

“It is difficult to predict how long it will take for the value of the assets to rally,” admitted Bertranou. “We have to issue a call for reflection and reassess how individual retirement savings accounts work during times of crisis, in order to take the necessary precautions. There isn’t a great deal of experience in the matter.”

Early this year, the Chilean government passed a new law that created a system built on three pillars: a pay-as-you-go guaranteed minimum pension funded with help from the government, a solidarity system, and voluntary individual savings.

The most notable aspect was the creation of the “basic solidarity pension” and the “solidarity pension contribution” for the poorest of the poor.

That reform “has taken a fundamental step towards the creation of a mixed social security system. The incorporation of the solidarity pension component will give workers, especially low-income workers, a more secure future,” said Bertranou.

In his view, “the decline in the value of pension funds is not the only problem. It is also necessary to address the drop in occupational coverage that will result from the economic slowdown, and the subsequent fall in income and job creation and stability.”

Uruguay’s system, unique in Latin America, seems to be the one least affected by the crisis so far.

Under the mixed or multi-pillar system, contributions and benefits are linked to both a state-managed pay-as-you-go system and privately managed individual retirement accounts. Workers contribute to each, depending on where they fall within a salary level band, and receive two pensions when they retire, with the exception of those who earn less than 715 dollars a month, who are not required to pay into an individual savings account.

Alongside the mandatory individual capitalisation system, the public sector maintains a basic minimum pension under the pay-as-you-go regime.

In the quarter that ended in September, private pension funds went down 2.6 percent, due to the drop in value of the debt bonds in which most of their assets are invested. But since the system began to operate in 1996, returns have ranged between nine and 11 percent, depending on the currency in which they are measured.

Nearly 38 percent of workers paying into private retirement accounts in Uruguay chose an administrator that is run by three state banks. By law, the pension fund administrators can only invest a limited amount of their assets abroad.

Pension fund returns depend partly on where the assets are invested. In some countries, a majority have been placed in equities in foreign companies that are now in crisis, while others are invested in public bonds, whose drop in value varies from country to country.

“In Argentina, the debate had become abstract, because the decline in the value of private funds was so steep that when beneficiaries were ready to retire, the state had to step in to help pay their pensions, since their savings were too small,” said D’Angelo.

According to the superintendency of private pension fund administrators (AFJPs) in Argentina, only 3.6 million of the 9.5 million members of the private system were actually making payments. And of the six million workers still affiliated with the public social security system, only two million were contributing.

In October, total AFJP assets plunged 17 percent with respect to the previous month. And the returns over the last year have reflected a loss of 25.4 percent — compared to an average annual profitability rate of 6.6 percent.

Given that situation, the government of Cristina Fernández proposed the creation of an integrated pensions system and the elimination of the private funds. Within less than a month, the new law made it through both houses of Congress, approved by the legislators of the governing Justicialista (Peronist) Party and some opposition lawmakers.

The drop in the value of the funds has also been drastic in Mexico, whose current pension system began to operate in 1996. According to the national commission of the retirement savings system, between May and October, the value of the individual retirement accounts of 39 million workers fell by 3.36 billion dollars.

The national union of social security workers is demanding that the Mexican Congress review the laws on private pension funds and intervene so that limits are set on the proportion of assets that can be put into high-risk equities abroad.

People in Colombia, where reforms incorporating a private pension system went into effect in 1994, are worried too. According to the Colombian association of pension fund administrators, losses climbed to more than 94 million dollars in the first six months of the year.

“We are much worse off than they are in Argentina,” Saúl Peña, president of the union of Colombia’s Social Security Institute workers, told IPS. “Our problems are more serious because of the low level of wages, the labour instability and the low profitability.”

There are currently 12,000 retirees in Colombia’s private pension system, and nearly all of them now draw a monthly pension equivalent to the minimum wage, he said. “The only thing that can be done now is to wait and see whether we will recover in the long-term, maybe in 2009, or 2010. It’s chance, it’s a gamble,” he said.

* With additional reporting from Daniela Estrada in Santiago and Helda Martínez in Bogotá.

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