Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Voice of Palestinian hope is buried in Ramallah

"I have learned the words of blood-stained courts in order to break the rules.
I have learned and dismantled all the words to construct a single one:Home"

"I Come From There"

Landing in the presence of mourners numbered in their thousands around the streets of Ramallah, a helicopter carrying the body of the Arab world's best loved poet Mahmoud Darwish arrives for the first state funeral to take place in the West Bank capital since Yasser Arafat's in 2004. His coffin, mantled in the Palestinian flag and olive branches, was soon driven through streets overlooked by gatherers on a hilltop that will shortly be named after him, near the Ramallah Cultural Palace.

While the faces of the city were filled with tears, the poems - bursting from loudspeakers - were filled with both isolation and ambition. Later, after the burial, commenced the sound of 21 gunshots and the eulogising words of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, "master of the word and wisdom, the symbol who expressed our national feeling, our human constitution, our declaration of independence”.

Darwish was born in the city of al-Birweh 7 years before the Nakbah in 1948. In the 1960's he achieved prominence for his poems in leftist publications critical of the Israeli occupation. In the years between 1961-1967 he spent 5 occasions in jail before exiling himself, firstly to the Soviet Union, then Cairo, Beirut, Tunis, Paris, and then back to the West Bank in 1996. Exile would prove to be a staple of Mahmoud's work, ensuring his canonical status amongst those who, too, felt the full weight of his words in the occupied lands.

His politicisation began when he returned illegally back to the city of his birth a year after it had been occupied. He joined the Israeli Communist Party and later the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) where he was on the executive committee before resigning in protest at the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Preferring to focus more on his literary work, he brought back from obscurity the journal Al Karmel which had been pushed aside by the Israeli invasion of Beirut a year after its original founding in 1981. Efforts were then taken by Darwish to promote the poetic voices of other Palestinians who were exiles in their own country.

In 2000, an Israeli Minister proposed including Darwishs' poems into the national curriculum, spurring outrage from rightwingers who subsequently went on an offensive to oust the Ehud Barak government through a non-confidence vote. The following year Barak, now Minister of Defence, was defeated by Ariel Sharon's Likud Party. The topic of Darwishs's poetry in schools is still an area of debate, recently former Education Ministry director-general Zevulun Orlev told The Jerusalem Post that the poetry 'would arouse sentiments against Zionism, Judaism and the country.' Dismissing this, former Education Minister Yossi Sarid stressed the benefits of teaching arab students about Israel's national poet Haim Nahman Bialik, so why not the Israeli students about Darwish.

Last year, in a momentary return to the political stage, Darwish condemned Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza, following that statehood would only be effected by unity. A pity it is that he won't be able to cast opinion on Israel's proposal to withdraw from 93% of the West Bank, as reported on Tuesday from Israel's leftist news source Haaretz.

In April of 2002, away at a poetry reading, Darwish was informed that the office where he edited Al Karmel had been turned over during a series of Israeli army operations to uproot suicide bombers. Regarding the viciousness of the attack, Darwish was quoted as saying "I took the message personally. I know they're strong and can invade and kill anyone. But they can't break or occupy my words." This last sentiment rings especially true, as the volume of people who took to the streets to observe his coffin would seem to suggest.

For those who mourn the poet as someone who shared in their sense of being ostracised, the struggle continues, but, hope shall too remain.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bolivia no longer has Shell to pay for

With Shell out the way, and the recall referendum under his belt, Morales can now start to get things moving

Latest figures on Venezuela Analysis show that Morales's result in Sundays recall referendum topped 63.1%, over 10% more than he scored in the December 2005 presidential election. The result has prompted surprise calls from the US for other Bolivian parties to launch a 'unity of dialogue' hoping to score a role in relaxing the political tension present in Bolivia.

Celebrations within the Evo camp should be consorted with a dose of profuse planning, especially concerning matters of national wealth. Last Friday Jose Maria Linardi of Anglo-Dutch Company Shell signed an accord with Bolvian Hydrocarbon Minister Carlos Villegas to compensate the oil conglomerate for its share in the nationalised company Transredes. The compensation figure looks to be in the ballpark of $120.57 Million, but reports are yet to be confirmed.

The deal is set to validate the Bolivian state-owned Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) with a 98% stake in Transredes with the remaining 2% in the hands of private partners. The situation regarding Ashmore Energy International (AEI), the British company based in the tax haven Cayman Islands that was sharing a 50% stake with Shell, still remains unfinished. The company filed for International arbitration when the Morales government seized the stake of the company - which previously controlled the operations of 6,024km gas pipelines - after weeks of inconclusive talks.

It is of no surprise then that the gas-rich departments - otherwise known as the "Half Moon" areas - are also the departments that have given Morales his strongest opposition, the Tarija department, where governor Mario Cossío will keep his job after the referendum, contains 85% of Bolivian total gas reserves. Santa Cruz, the first department to back regional autonomy, contains 10.6%. It is clear that the eastern rich of Bolivia fail to see the imperatives of the poorest country in South America being able to keep 85% of its national gas profits and the push for Morales' redistribution plans.

But of course why would they when they have the likes of Branko Marinkovic as their spokesperson. Marinkovic is a known promoter of separatism in Bolivia where he is a member of the Federation of Free Entrepreneurs of Santa Cruz. A descendent of Croatian Immigrants, like so many of the corrupt and rich in Bolivia, he is also a big landowner who once pulled strings at Transredes. As a leader of the Santa Cruz autonomy movement, he is an avowed supporter of nesting gas wealth exclusively to the privileged.

Of course Marinkovic and other regionalists appeal only to the greed and short sightedness of the "Half-Moon's" rich population, but there are perfectly equitable reasons to advocate the nationalization of the gas fields. Firstly public revenues are on the rise, by fivefold according to one report. An increase in the number of children who once worked the streets have returned to school, illustrated by the teaching of the autochthonous languages Aymara and Quechua in schools. The health sector now caters freely to half of the population, there has been the introduction of a dignity pension for the over 60's, the inhabitants of the altiplano are due to receive 24 hours of solar panel energy from the existing 3-4 hours of energy they have now.

In other plans to better the existing conditions of those who live in the high plains, Venezuela along with its commercial ties to Iran, are due to loan Bolivia 225 Million to create a state cement company. Bolivia’s vice minister of medium and large businesses, Eduardo Peinado, has said that “The plant will have the capacity to produce 700 ton[ne]s of cement per year, and this will be destined principally for the construction of roads and houses for Bolivians”.

If left to private interests and the NAFTA-pandering consortium of overt fascists and white nationalists still disregarding Morales's attempts to reorganize Bolivia for the better, then the likelihood of any changes on the scale of those written above seeing the light of day would be rather slim.

Comments like that of Enrique Mendizabal demonstrate the extent to which some observers interpret Evo Morales himself as blame for the political unrest in Bolivia, but its these very same observers who want a return to the "democracy" where the most vulnerable communities are without artificial light during the night hours, where children don't receive educations, where healthcare is promised the rich before the poor, where pensions are non-existent, and where the "Cruzano heavies" come before the 63.1% of Bolivians who want Evo to push through with his waiting initiatives.

His legacy should be one of glory and hope for the Bolivian people, not intimidation and destitution. Exactly how democratic would this be?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Victory for Morales

A concerted effort to destabilise the government of Bolivia's socialist president Evo Morales looks to have failed after the indigenous leader took on opponents in recall referendum. (Read on)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Guardian Clippings

The Guardian has a clippings section which profiles each time a reader makes a comment regarding an article written. Here is my profile which has links to my clippings.

Coverage of the Jamaican Elections 2007

In the coming elections on the 27th of this month the Jamaican people will be deciding on whether to reinstate current Prime Minister Most Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica's first female Prime Minister of the leftist People's National Party (PNP), or whether to elect main opposition leader Dr. Bruce Golding of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP); 18 years out of office and considered more to the right of its opponent. (Read on)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An Evangelical atheist

Dawkins, in choosing a form of firebrand fundamentalist atheism over the discipline science, is no longer the champion of reason but rather a kind of evangelical against religion. (Read on)