New Internationalist

Currents

Issue 334

Click here to subscribe to the print edition. [image, unknown] New Internationalist 334[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] May 2001[image, unknown] Click here to search the mega index.

currents@newint.org

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
Commemoration of the ‘disappeared’ in Argentina

On 24 March 1976 the military took power in Argentina. Twenty-five years on, the true history of the ‘disappearance’ of an estimated 30,000 people is still hazy. The main perpetrators are either free or under mere house arrest, thanks to a series of amnesty-granting decrees passed by subsequent democratically elected governments.

Human-rights organizations in Argentina have been intensifying their campaign to raise awareness about the so-called ‘dirty war’ of the 1970s and the impunity enjoyed by over 1,000 military officers. All the key groups took part in demonstrations and educational workshops on the anniversary. Children in state schools, for the first time ever, participated in official actos (commemorations).

Word corner

Tropical storms
The monsoon is a seasonal wind, from the Arabic mausim (season). Typhoon is from the Chinese tai fung (big wind) and influenced by the Arabic tufan (storm). Tornado is from the Spanish tronada (thunderstorm), later confused with tornar (to turn).

A hurricane (from the Carib word huracan) reaches force 12 on the Beaufort Scale of wind strength, devised by Francis Beaufort in about 1805. In the 1950s the US National Weather Service gave hurricanes female names; from the 1970s both male and female names were given. Before then hurricanes in the Caribbean were named after the saint’s day on which the hurricane occurred.

Susan Watkin

A new challenge is the way political parties now co-opt human-rights campaigns, blurring the issues and dividing the organizations. Mercedes Meroño, Vice-President of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, argues that they should not march with other groups. ‘We may not get the press coverage they get, but we cannot march alongside groups working towards reconciliation. The Abuelas (‘grandmothers’) and some of the HIJOS (‘children of the disappeared’) members have let themselves be photographed alongside military officers and politicians and we reject any idea of reconciliation.’

Meroño claims the present government is guilty of Big Brother-style abuse. ‘The De la Rua Government announces another austerity measure,’ she says, ‘and then lets it be known through a Federal Judge that the laws of Punto Final and Due Obedience [the 1986 and 1987 decrees which granted impunity] may be revoked. It’s a lie.’

Though they share the Plaza de Mayo on Thursdays with other groups, the Madres have chosen to stand apart. Last year they created their own educational centre to ‘continue fighting for the beliefs of our children’. Increasingly an umbrella organization for a variety of militant causes, the best-known of all Argentine human-rights organizations stirs up mixed feelings. Their leader Hebe de Bonafini recently spoke out in support of ETA, the military wing of Basque separatists in Spain. The close-knit clan of women in their sixties and seventies are at the forefront of the main international debates on globalization, IMF policy and even ecology.

In contrast, the Abuelas, who focus on the whereabouts of the children of their dead children, accept a degree of dialogue as a matter of necessity. ‘No-one owns us as a party but a good relationship with the national government is necessary to our cause,’ says Abel Lanzillotto.

The Madres Línea Fundadora – a splinter group of ‘founding Mothers’ – also rejects the tendency to tar military and democratic governments with the same brush. On the anniversary they marched alongside the Abuelas and trade unions under the banner ‘Memory, Justice and Truth’.

Chris Moss

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

  [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
[image, unknown] [image, unknown]
'Here I am a refugee - but I do not want refuge. I want to fly'.
[image, unknown]
[image, unknown]   [image, unknown]
  [image, unknown] [image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
Exiles from Bhutan get the picture

After spending more than half their lives in camps in eastern Nepal, 32 Bhutanese refugee students have been offered a chance to voice their feelings through photography. PhotoVoice is teaching them photographic and journalism skills so that they can document their lives. Tiffany Fairey, co-ordinator of PhotoVoice, says: ‘I hope their work will encourage a more intimate understanding of refugee issues.’

There are 100,000 refugees from Bhutan now living with great difficulty in Nepal. Bhutan remains a monarchy with no constitution and no Bill of Rights. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck is currently Head of State and of the Government, as well as being the highest court of appeal.

Without a permanent home or avenue of opportunity, the young people of the Bhutanese refugee camps are dedicating their efforts to raising awareness. As Derin Charan, a determined student says: ‘Living in huts and dreaming in castles is like trying to make castles out of air. But my endeavour will not be in vain. I will be an outstanding intellectual giant of my generation.’

Mia Jarlov
www.photovoice.org

[image, unknown]

The following poem was written by a young desaparecido under the Argentine dictatorship. Alcira Graciela Fidalgo was a 27-year-old law student who was abducted on 4 February 1977 and never seen again. The poem was translated into English by Monique and Carlos Altschul for Fundacion Mujeres en Igualdad, who can be reached at malt@satlink.com or at www.mei.com.ar

TILCARA
Today I dreamed again of mountains
and a landscape drawn by the wind.
It was the afternoon, here in your sky
the hot bird of summer.
There were willows, perfumed air
and the silence singing a baguala.

A corner in the night and in life...
A dream of colour and poetry.

Hard-working bees
daily
you hum through the mornings
with the hot coffee
and the shared maté.

Such was my home:
peaceful and silent
in the hot summer siestas.
Water for the maté,
shared evenings
(a clean glance
sliding from the faucets)

Dad reading a book.
Mom watering the grass.
Estela with her shadow
gliding across the patio.

Such, such was my home
a warm smile
open to the morning.

Alcira Graciela Fidalgo

[image, unknown]

Oldspeak
China’s Communist Party chief is expected to have his collected speeches and policies elevated to the formal status of ‘Jiang Zemin Thought’, putting his wisdom on a par with that of the late Mao Zedong. It would also leave Jiang’s ideology one notch above the title of ‘theory’ accorded to the ideas of the late patriarch, Deng Xiaoping. The move indicates an attempt by Jiang and his supporters to entrench their people in key posts at the party’s 16th congress in 2002.

Far Eastern Economic Review vol 163 no 52

[image, unknown]

Peacemakers
This year’s International Women’s Day was marked at the UN with a Millennium Peace Prize for Women, sponsored jointly by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and International Alert. This is the first award of its kind to recognize the role of women in making peace and sustaining communities during war. Among the winners were the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency for its work during the conflict between Bougainville rebels and the Papua New Guinea military, and Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres, a coalition of campaigns for peace in Colombia.

International Alert www.womenbuildingpeace.org

Asma Jahangir
Hina Jilani Millennium Peace Prizewinners Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani. These Pakistani lawyers, who are sisters, established the country’s first all-women’s law firm in 1981 and have ever since been in the forefront of defending women’s and human rights. Jahangir was imprisoned for opposing martial law in 1983 while Jilani is currently Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on human-rights defenders.

[image, unknown]

Breakout bid
Officials of the US Department of Agriculture have given the Los Angeles Zoo one year to make its gorilla enclosures safe, following a string of escapes. Jim, a 160-kilo, 12-year-old gorilla, jumped out of his enclosure last summer and roamed the zoo for six hours. Evelyn, a female, holds the record for break-outs, having escaped seven times in the past 20 years.

New Scientist vol 169 no 2272

[image, unknown]

More sustainable
The world’s largest study into sustainable agriculture has been published by Jules Petty of the University of Essex. He analyzed over 200 projects in 52 countries. More than four million farmers were involved, covering an area the size of Italy – three per cent of all fields in the Third World. Remarkably, average increases in crop yields were 73 per cent.

New Scientist vol 169 no 2276

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

Seriously... You couldn't make this stuff up

Grab your genes
Gloriously named Gene Grabowski of the pro-biotech Grocery Manufacturers of America gives the best reason yet for European consumers to stop all their fussing and start eating genetically modified foods from the US. ‘Europe should be down on its knees to the US thanking God we were there for them, ’ he says, referring to the Second World War. Gene has successfully lobbied Congress against considering proposed laws on GM food labelling, and accuses anti-GM activists of plotting to topple the US itself. If they succeed, ‘other forces are going to take over,’ he warns, ‘evil forces’ – though he isn’t forthcoming on the details.

The Capitalist Century
Fortune Magazine conveyed its vision for the future in a piece entitled ‘The Capitalist Century’ which purported to be written by a correspondent from the year 2035: ‘Fortunately, we’re no longer aware of any alternative to capitalism. In fact, we don’t even use the word. Capitalism dropped permanently out of fashion a couple of decades after its old enemy communism died off. Here in 2035 it feels old-fashioned even to say that you’re ‘in business.’ The market has privatized everything privatizable, so everybody and his sister is in business. Business is so taken for granted that it has become invisible – like clocks or running water or forks. You only notice it when it’s not going on.

‘Government is in the “administration business”. Artists are in the “culture industry”. Doctors and nurses are “biotech entrepreneurs”. Cops are “private security professionals”. Scientists work for “industrial R&D”. Academics are “career-training professionals”.’

So, doesn’t sound like much will change then.

[image, unknown]

Mother tongue
For the first time, a Kurdish witness in a Turkish legal hearing has been allowed to hear questions in her own tongue. A lawyer with a European Court of Human Rights fact-finding hearing was allowed to question Hatice Tekdag directly in Kurdish, her only language. Previously only Turkish and English were permitted.

Kurdish Human Rights Project Newsline khrp@khrp.demon.co.uk

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
New weapons evade
Ottawa Treaty

Since the signing of the Ottawa Treaty on landmines in December 1997, the big ‘G8’ countries and their arms-manufacturing companies have been seeking to circumvent it. Research published in a new report from the charity Landmine Action* has revealed the continued manufacture and use of anti-vehicle mines fitted with anti-handling devices or sensitive fuses. These modified weapons can be accidentally detonated by civilians and so act like powerful anti-personnel mines.

One example is the German AT-2, a scatterable anti-vehicle mine equipped with an anti-handling device and magnetic fusing. It is sensitive enough to be detonated by someone stumbling over it or even by their proximity. As a result, the Italian Government destroyed all its AT-2 mines in 1997. The British Ministry of Defence continues to hold an estimated 100,000 AT-2s in its stocks.

BAE Systems, Hunting Engineering, Marconi, GEC Avionics and Hughes Microelectronics are all part of a European consortium that developed the MLRS artillery launcher that can dispense AT-2 mines.

‘At the time the Ottawa Treaty was signed it was recognized that all landmines which could be set off by a person should be banned,’ says Richard Lloyd, director of Landmine Action.

‘But what has happened since is that more countries are producing anti-tank mines with sensitive fuses to replace anti-personnel mines. It is a devious way to circumvent the treaty.’ The Ottawa Treaty defines anti-personnel landmines by their design, not by their effect. This means that manufacturers can escape liability by arguing that a weapon was designed for another purpose – the fact that it has an anti-personnel effect then becomes immaterial. It is this loophole that is allowing companies to build bigger and more lethal landmines than ever before.

Research and development funds are also pouring into ever-more-lethal anti-personnel devices. The Taser Area Denial Device shoots electrical darts carrying up to 50,000 volts. Victims remain conscious but are unable to control their muscles. The Taser has already been identified as one of the US Army’s favoured alternatives to anti-personnel mines, says the Landmine Action report.

Other methods of ‘area denial’ under development include microwave devices which create fields with graduated layers of pain for the victims, and tranquillizing chemicals that can cause temporary blindness and extreme anxiety. Acoustic weapons vibrate inside the human body to stun, nauseate and – in the words of a Pentagon official – liquefy their bowels.

Rather than act in the spirit of the Ottawa Treaty to clear the world of anti-personnel landmines, governments and arms companies have busied themselves finding ways to profit from new, ever-more lethal technology. Effective campaigning evidently demands more than signatures on pieces of paper.

Paul Donovan
* Alternative anti-personnel mines:
the next generation, Landmine Action,
www.landmineaction.org

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]
by Garrincha of Juventud Rebelde, Havana, Cuba

Previous page.
Choose another issue of NI.
Go to the contents page.
Go to the NI home page.
Next page.


This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on Currents

Leave your comment