Thursday, January 31, 2013

Global Protest Movements and Implications: Mr. Brian Seaman Interview

As Mr. Brian Seaman discusses, recently the Alberta based Mikisew and Frog Lake First Nation bands filed law suits against the federal conservative government's omnibus bills, C-38 and C-45. These bands argue that the federal government failed to consult First Nations and these bills fail to protect the environment, and thereby they violate First Nation Treaties. These law suits are two of three legal suits filed by First Nations against the federal government.
In this podcast, Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement Executive Director, interviews Mr. Brian Seaman, a Canadian lawyer and legal researcher for the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center. Brian appeared on the FDA World Democracy Discussion on December 5, 2012 in which he discussed the role of mainstream media in political discourse and how and why people should ensure the accuracy and broadness of their news information. In this podcast, Brian discusses global protest movements with emphasis on the Canadian grassroots movement, Idle No More. Brian clarifies the purposes and broad implications of this movement. Also, he discusses conflicting ideologies and ideas in Canadian, American, and global society. Brian identifies two current false narratives that have been pushed relentlessly on Canadians for the obvious benefit of special interests as opposed to the interests of all Canadians. He challenges Canada's and America's addiction to oil in which he presents a case, with examples, for a society built significantly around sustainable energies such as wind, solar, and hydro power. Brian argues that the present societal and economic course of both Canada and the United States is shortsighted and self-serving, and heading Americans and Canadians for severe social and environmental consequences. He declares that the time is now for people to act and challenge the minority status quo and rebuild a world based on globalization which balances economics and human, political, and environmental rights. For non-mainstream, insightful, and provocative discussion from people working in the field of international politics, listen in or download the FDA podcasts.

The views expressed in the Foundation for Democratic Advancement's podcast do not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation. The FDA supports broad and free speech, and the purposes of its blog posts and podcasts are to encourage discussion and education, and to compensate for deficiencies in mainstream media coverage.

Brian Seaman Interview

FDA RSS Feed

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Autocratic Underpinnings of Neoliberalism?

The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 established the basis for competitive practices in the U.S. marketplace. However, U.S. antitrust laws only disallow oligopolies and monopolies if the basis for them are uncompetitive practices. In contrast, Bolivia disallows oligopolies and monopolies whether the basis for them are competitive or uncompetitive practices. (Image source: Harwich.edu).
The U.S. Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Occupy movement in general, represents resistance to western neoliberal policies, which among other things exacerbate the income gap between the rich and the middle and lower classes.
As defined in previous posts neoliberalism refers to an economic ideology centered around the values of a global economy, or globalization: free market, free trade, and the unrestricted flow of capital. Neoliberals advocate minimal government spending, minimal taxation, minimal regulations, and minimal direct involvement in the economy. Neoliberals believe market forces naturally fill many areas of jurisdiction for the highest overall gain (Urban Dictionary, 2012). Neoliberalism has been linked to crony capitalism, gross social inequities, corporatocracy, and globalization.

In more detail, neoliberalism supports the following:
  1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating "free" enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers' rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say "an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone." It's like Reagan's "supply-side" and "trickle-down" economics -- but somehow the wealth didn't trickle down very much.
  2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply -- again in the name of reducing government's role. Of course, they don't oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
  3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
  4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
  5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF "THE PUBLIC GOOD" or "COMMUNITY" and replacing it with "individual responsibility." Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves -- then blaming them, if they fail, as "lazy" (Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, "What is Neoliberalism?")
Thatcher, Reagan, and the Bush regimes are associated with neoliberalism, and most recently, the Canadian Harper regime is associated with this ideology.

As identified above, neoliberalism supports a globalization agenda through free trade, lower taxes, and decreased government regulation, and thereby allowing the (imperfect) marketplace to guide society, countries, and the world. Within this model, there is explicit support for fair competition within the global marketplace. Viz., let the marketplace rather than governments determine supply and demand and which individuals and corporations are successful. The United States has concrete laws, through the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and other legislation, against uncompetitive practices in the marketplace. The European Union has antitrust laws through the Treaty of Lisbon which among other things disallows price fixing.  

However, the same competitive approach is absent from neoliberalism when it comes to democracy. Again with reference to the United States, the American federal electoral system is structured legally in gross favor of two political parties, and thereby creating the basis for uncompetitive electoral practices. The same electoral shortcoming applies to Canada in which the current major parties have significant electoral advantages over small and new parties, such as greater access to media coverage and access to public funds.

Is democracy a mere inconvenience to neoliberals? Why doesn't the same neoliberal commitment to competitive practices apply to democracy as well as the marketplace?

In my opinion, this lack of consistency is the principle flaw in neoliberalism: competitive practices are inconsistently applied, which suggests that extremism and autocratic rule are at the heart of neoliberalism. It may be said that neoliberals are anti-democratic, while they use pseudo-democracy to attain and hold onto political power.


Autocratism refers to 1. Of the nature of, or pertaining to, an autocrat; absolute in authority, despotic. 2. The principles or practices of autocrats (Encylco, 2013).

Autocrat refers to 1. A ruler having unlimited power; a despot. 2. A person with unlimited power or authority: a corporate autocrat (American Heritage Dictionary, 2009); 3. (Government, Politics Diplomacy) a ruler who possesses absolute and unrestricted authority. 4. a domineering or dictatorial person (Collins English Dictionary, 2003).

Extremism refers to the holding of extreme political or religious views; fanaticism: the dangers of religious extremism (Oxford Dictionaries, 2013).

Related information:

Essence of Neoliberalism from the Le Monde

2012 FDA Report on the United States Federal Electoral System

2011 FDA Report on the Canadian Electoral System








Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Canada's Neoliberalism Targets Parks Canada

Image of the Banff Hot Spring, one of the three major hot springs operated by Parks Canada, and which are slated to be privatized by the Canada's conservative government.
Canada is facing wave after wave of neoliberal ideology whether in the form of trade deals with Colombia, Panama, European Union, and China, deep cuts to the CBC, Bill C-45 and the fast-tracking of corporate industrial development, and the privatization of parts of Parks Canada.

Neoliberalism is rooted in the belief that the marketplace will produce the greatest societal good, whether through free trade, lower taxes (and less social services), and less regulation (including environmental). The problem with this approach is that the marketplace is not perfect. As shown in the United States the U.S. financial industry is unsustainable and harmful to the overall public good without significant regulation. In addition, profit generated in the marketplace does not necessarily mean overall gain in public good: take an industrial development which through lax environmental regulation makes high profits, but also contaminates nearby bodies of water and pollutes the air, thereby decreasing citizens' quality of life. Further, a strict market approach may favor individuals and corporations already established in the marketplace, and thereby create social inequity and possibly corporatocracy, whereby corporations dominate society's wealth and decisions for their own gain. The marketplace is unable, for example, to value the intrinsic worth of clean water and air.

In the case of Parks Canada's hot springs at Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and Kootenay National Park, their privatization may lead to monopolies (due to the hot springs' isolated markets), and thereby higher prices, and poor service and upkeep due to a desire to lower costs and increase revenue.

The point being that not all things can have a market value put on them. To think otherwise is to ignore limitations of the marketplace and likely erode the overall public good. 

Related Articles:

Protests Against Hot Springs Privatization

Opposition to the Selling Parks Canada's Hot Springs








Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director






Commentaries: 

Privatization of Parks Canada hot springs criticized 
By Main-Stream

Selling three iconic National Park hot springs to private developers will cost parks staff jobs, raise prices and jeopardize the integrity of the pools, say critics.

Parks Canada plans to privatize the Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park, Banff Upper Hot Springs in Banff National Park, and Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park.

Parks is bringing in private developers to help boost declining tourism at the parks and cover costs from recent deep budget cuts; the Harper government cut $29-million from Park’s budget and 600 jobs.

The union representing the current employees says the move will cut jobs, bring higher admission rates and threaten the ecological integrity of the pools.


What is Neoliberalism?
A Brief Definition for Activists
by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia

"Neo-liberalism" is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

"Liberalism" can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate "liberals" -- meaning the political type -- have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

"Neo" means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an Scottish economist, published a book in 1776 called THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation's economy to develop. Such ideas were "liberal" in the sense of no controls. This application of individualism encouraged "free" enterprise," "free" competition -- which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment. These ideas had much influence on President Roosevelt's New Deal -- which did improve life for many people. The belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.
But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That's what makes it "neo" or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale.

A memorable definition of this process came from Subcomandante Marcos at the Zapatista-sponsored Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neo-liberalismo (Inter-continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism) of August 1996 in Chiapas when he said: "what the Right offers is to turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here, women there ...." and he might have added, children, immigrants, workers or even a whole country like Mexico."

The main points of neo-liberalism include:
  1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating "free" enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers' rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say "an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone." It's like Reagan's "supply-side" and "trickle-down" economics -- but somehow the wealth didn't trickle down very much.
  2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply -- again in the name of reducing government's role. Of course, they don't oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
  3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminsh profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
  4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
  5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF "THE PUBLIC GOOD" or "COMMUNITY" and replacing it with "individual responsibility." Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves -- then blaming them, if they fail, as "lazy."
Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America. The first clear example of neo-liberalism at work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000 small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar said, "Neoliberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America."

In the United States neo-liberalism is destroying welfare programs; attacking the rights of labor (including all immigrant workers); and cutbacking social programs. The Republican "Contract" on America is pure neo-liberalism. Its supporters are working hard to deny protection to children, youth, women, the planet itself -- and trying to trick us into acceptance by saying this will "get government off my back." The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world's people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last 60 years, suffering without end.

Elizabeth Martinez is a longtime civil rights activist and author of several books, including "500 Years of Chicano History in Photographs."

13101310Arnoldo Garcia is a member of the Oakland-based Comite Emiliano Zapata, affiliated to the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico.

13101310Both writers attended the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and against Neoliberalism, held July 27 - August 3,1996, in La Realidad, Chiapas.


Friday, January 25, 2013

FDA Media Study of the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election

ABC News is owned by Walt Disney Company; based on 2012 daily audience numbers, 
NBC Nightly News, ABC World News, and CBS Evening News have 82.22 percent of the National News Networks, Cable News, and Public News market in terms of prime time audience. The FDA found no other media ownership concentration issue in the U.S. national television, radio, and newspaper sectors.
 The Foundation for Democratic Advancement's Complete Media Report on the U.S. Presidential Election is now available for public viewing.

The FDA measured significant bias in total campaign news coverage for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, 54 percent to 44.75 percent and almost non-existent campaign coverage of third-party presidential candidates. As examples, only one day in the last 32 days of the American presidential election did Romney have more news coverage than Obama, and Obama had overall more positive news coverage and less negative news coverage than Romney. The FDA’s total measurements correlate exactly in ranking to the U.S. popular vote results, and very similar in terms of percentages of candidates’ coverage and percentages of candidates’ popular votes with an average deviation of 1.07 percent. The FDA Media Study pertains to the last 32 days of the 2012 American Presidential Election. The FDA data collectors tracked media biases in the U.S. national newspaper, radio, and television sectors including online content, and collected 7,924 data points. The FDA data is based on 47.66 percent of the national newspaper market, 21.91 percent of the radio news/talk/information market, and 97.72 percent of the National News Networks, Cable News, and Public News market. Overall, the FDA media study presents significant evidence that the U.S. national media limited electoral discourse and influenced the 2012 U.S. presidential election outcome, rather than fully inform the American electorate about their electoral choices. Based on the 2012 FDA Electoral Fairness Audit Report on the U.S. and the media study measurements, the FDA recommends that the American national media be regulated through a legislated Code of Conduct during the 60 and 30 day federal electioneering periods, in order to support broad and balanced electoral discourse, and a fully informed electorate. Presently, the American federal electoral system allows U.S. national media companies/programs/shows to have an unregulated and imbalanced influence on electoral discourse, and ultimately undue influence on federal election outcomes, thereby undermining American democracy.

U.S. Media Report on Slideshare

U.S. Media Report on the FDA Site

FDA Media Advisory on the U.S. Media Study

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mali Conflict and Broad Implications

Mr. Abayomi Azikiwe has been covering African political and social issues for more than thirty years.
In this podcast, Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement Executive Director, interviews Mr. Abayomi Azikiwe, an American political commentator and editor who has been covering African political and social issues for more than thirty years. Mr. Azikiwe shares his breadth of knowledge of Africa on the 2012 Mali conflict including western intervention in the country. Mr. Azikiwe argues that the west via France, United Kingdom, United States and other western countries are using Islam as a cover for their neo-colonial aims in Africa. Also, with reference to many examples, Mr. Azikiwe contends that western intervention in countries has resulted in overall harm to the people of the countries. He believes that western countries' goal is to continue to destabilize African countries for perceived economic gain. Overall, Mr. Azikiwer believes that African countries need to unify against imperialist and neo-colonial threats to the continent, and uphold their independence as individual countries and as a continent as a whole. In addition, Mr. Azikiwe provides a concise, provocative explanation for the lack of objective media coverage by western mainstream media when it comes to international affairs. For non-mainstream, insightful, and provocative discussion from people working in the field of international politics, listen in or download the FDA podcasts.

The views expressed in the Foundation for Democratic Advancement's podcast do not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation. The FDA supports broad and free speech, and the purposes of its blog posts and podcasts are to encourage discussion and education, and to compensate for deficiencies in mainstream media coverage.

Abayomi Azikiwe Interview

FDA RSS Feed

Monday, January 21, 2013

Analysis of the Canada-China FIPPA: Why Canadians Should be Alarmed

Mr. Brian Seaman argues that the FIPPA and Omnibus Bill C-45 represent attacks on Canadian Aboriginal rights under the pre-Confederation Treaties beginning in 1764.
Mr. Brian Seaman of the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre and contributor to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement shares his insight into The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA). Mr. Seaman shows why the Agreement harms Canadian sovereignty, First Nation rights/sovereignty, and environmental protection. This article is more in-depth analysis by Mr. Seaman than his last month's analysis of the Agreement.

The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA): Tipping Point for Canadian Sovereignty, First Nations Rights/Sovereignty and Environmental Protection

Although the Omnibus Bill, Bill C-45, must be read in context with the FIPPA pact, I have restricted my comments here to the various parts of FIPPA that I see as particularly problematic. I will be re-reading the relevant parts of Bill C-45 again in the coming weeks as part of an article I want to put together for the Idle No More movement as a resource. The various acts under the Omnibus Bill that address First Nations lands certainly constitute an attack on existing Aboriginal rights under the pre-Confederation Treaties, among other sources of law. The rights under these Treaties remained law after Confederation, notwithstanding the various attempts by successive Canadian governments to destroy Aboriginal rights and culture, whether we are talking about banning the Ghost Dance, the Residential Schools system, the Indian Act and now, Bill C-45, which represents a violation of section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. Section 35 recognizes and affirms the existing and Treaty rights of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, who are defined to include Indians (I prefer the term First Nations but this is the word used in section 35), the Metis and the Inuit.

The comments that follow are restricted to the subject areas where I have relevant knowledge: i) constitutional law, ii) environmental law, and iii) the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The provisions in FIPPA regarding the arbitration of investment disputes, which indeed comprise a large part of the agreement, should be left to a corporate lawyer who specializes in such matters as they are outside my field of knowledge and thus competence. From this point on, I will refer to FIPPA as “the pact” or “the agreement” and I will refer to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as “the Charter.” I will stress that though the pact equally binds China, when I refer to “us” throughout my critique, I am of course referring to Canada and its citizens. Finally, for anyone who wants “talking points,” I have bulleted these points.

Summary of Main Obligations

The first part of the pact that undermines Canadian sovereignty is found in the section headed Withdrawal or Denunciation, which in effect locks us in for 31 years. It says the agreement remains in effect for 15 years, which is bad enough as it is. Then it says that either party can withdraw upon giving one year’s notice in writing of an intention to quit. However this provision is a red herring because then it goes on to say that for any investments made before the date that the termination of the agreement becomes effective, the provisions of the agreement will remain in force for another 15 years.
  • So if the agreement is ratified and the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) invests money in the construction of a pipeline (and it will, there being no other reason why it would want to takeover NEXXEN), unless it gets its pipeline or pipelines to the west coast, Canadian taxpayers could be on the hook for whatever financial losses or other unforeseen costs CNOOC or any other Chinese companies doing business in Canada incur. This is why, among other reasons, it is critical to oppose ratification.
Part A

Article 1 Definitions

Sub-section (6) "Measure" is defined to include a law or regulation.

Sub-section (7) "Existing measure" is defined to mean “a measure existing at the time this Agreement enters into force.”

What this means is that if the pact is ratified, even if a future federal government were to change parts of Bill C-45 or repeal it (kill it in other words), such an act would not affect this agreement with China. To put it in other words, all those parts of Bill C-45 that pertain to Aboriginal lands, inland rivers, watersheds, and lakes that were exempted out from environmental protection for the benefit of industrial development, mining, a pipeline or oil extraction would continue to apply to Chinese companies operating in Canada.
  • The message is clear. For the current federal government, Canadian sovereignty is less important than a business and investment agreement with China. The federal government does not have any regard for Aboriginal rights or environmental protection either.
Sub-section (22) The word "territory" is defined in terms of what constitute the national territories over which Canada and China respectively exercise sovereignty. For both countries, territory is defined to include land territory, air space, internal waters and territorial sea. Then things get rather interesting. For Canada, reference is made to us having an exclusive economic zone and having sovereignty over our continental shelf in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which has been incorporated into Canadian domestic law. However, there is no mention of UNCLOS in the definition of Chinese territory, which refers to China exercising sovereign rights or jurisdiction over territorial air space and “any maritime areas beyond the territorial sea over which, in accordance with international law and its domestic law, China exercises sovereign rights or jurisdiction…"
  • China currently has maritime territorial disputes with many of its Asian neighbours including most notably Japan and its naval vessels routinely venture into the disputed territorial waters of other Asian countries deliberately running over fishing lines and otherwise threatening fishing vessels, ramming them or firing shots over their bows.
  • The federal government, in its apparent wish to have a business and investment agreement with China at any price, is willing to acquiesce to aggressive bullying by China of other Asian nations in violation of the international Law of the Sea.
Article 14 Taxation

Sub-section (1) "Except as provided in this Article nothing in this Agreement shall apply to taxation measures."
  • So Canadian sovereignty in general, Aboriginal rights and environmental protection are not priorities for the federal government. However, retaining Canadian sovereignty over making or changing tax laws is of utmost concern for them, that, and apparently having a business and investment deal with China at the expense of taxpayers, Aboriginal rights and the environment. How's that for skewed priorities?
Article 15 Disputes between the Contracting Parties

Sub-sections 1-8 set out how disputes between Canada and China are to be settled. Forget about rule of law. Disputes are to be resolved through secret negotiations and if that doesn’t work, then disputes are to be resolved through secret tribunals who have the final say.
  • Arriving at a negotiated settlement through diplomacy is to be tried first. 
  • If a settlement cannot be negotiated within six months, either party can ask that the dispute be submitted to an ad hoc arbitration tribunal. (Ad hoc tribunal means this is a specially constituted tribunal formed for this one purpose only, as far removed from a real court as you can imagine.)
  • The governments of China and Canada each appoint one of their citizens to this tribunal. These two people then select a third person from another country that has diplomatic relations with both Canada and China. That person will chair the tribunal.
  • This tribunal decides its own rules for procedure. I am not kidding. They can decide to conduct hearings in secret if they want to.
  • The decision of this tribunal is final. There is no appeal to any court.
Article 17 Transparency of Laws, Regulations and Policies

According to this article, each country has to provide to the other advance notice of any proposed new law, regulation or policy or proposed changes to any existing law, regulation or policy. This will give the federal governments of both countries the opportunity to review and comment on proposed new laws, regulations or policies or proposed amendments.
  • The wording of Article 17 is vague enough and broad enough to include anything that could impact on a business investment so that does include Aboriginal rights, unsettled land claims and of course, environmental protection. Does giving the Chinese government a say in how, among other things, Aboriginal land claims are to be settled or what kind of environmental protection laws we have in place here in Canada give you a warm fuzzy feeling?
Article 24 Arbitrators

According to Sub-section (2) (b), the members of the arbitration tribunal are supposed to be "independent of, and not be affiliated with, or take instructions from, either Contracting Party…"
  • Are you kidding me? CNOOC is completely owned by the Government of China which everyone knows has a one-party government, that of the Communist Party. Of course, China’s appointee to the tribunal will be taking his/her marching orders from the Government of China. Where is the transparency in this process?
Part D

Article 33 General Exceptions

Sub-section (2) allows each country to enact environmental laws subject to the following: that these laws are "not applied in an arbitrary or unjustifiable manner, or do not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade or investment..."
  • This provision is so vague and broad that it would undoubtedly be interpreted to mean that nothing but the weakest environmental protection laws possible and nothing other than a rubber stamp environmental review process going forward would meet with Chinese approval.
Sub-section (5) (b) (i) sets out that either country can sell arms, ammunition and other military hardware and technology and nothing in this agreement has any impact on that.
  • So, Aboriginal rights/land claims aren’t important. Neither is protecting the environment. However anyone with shares in companies that sell things that kill doesn’t have to worry. The federal government has its priorities.
In conclusion, just to set the record straight and by way of summary:
  • Canadian sovereignty over environmental laws and fresh water is not important to the federal government. Neither are Aboriginal rights. 
  • Rule of law takes a back seat to resolving disputes of all kinds that might arise and which affect Chinese businesses and investments in Canada (including Aboriginal land claims or the clean-up costs for an oil spill) to the decisions of secret tribunals that are free to make up their own rules and whose decisions are final.
  • If you thought the federal government hasn’t been listening to date (well, aside from taking its marching orders from the oil industry), wait until China has a role in deciding what environmental protection laws will be in place for us, how Aboriginal land claims will be settled (or even if they will be settled at all) and who pays the cost for cleaning up toxic spills. 




Mr. Brian Seaman, Legal Researcher for the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center and Contributor to the Foundation for Democratic Advancement. 



The views expressed in the Foundation for Democratic Advancement's blog posts do not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation. The FDA supports broad and free speech, and the purposes of its blog posts are to encourage discussion and education, and to compensate for deficiencies in mainstream media coverage.

Hupacasath First Nation of Vancouver Island Files an Injunction Against Canada's Conservative Government

Ms. Brenda Sayers, the Band Councillor for the Hupacasath First Nation, initiated the court action against the Canada-China FIPPA
On Friday January 18, 2013, the Hupacasath First Nation of Vancouver Island filed a notice of application for an injunction against the ratification of the Canada-China FIPPA, which has been pursued by the Canadian Conservative government. This government which received a majority of the Canadian parliament with just 39.6 percent of the popular vote due to loose federal election laws, has a track record of pursuing neoliberal policies.

Neoliberalism refers to an economic ideology centered around the values of a global economy, or globalization: free market, free trade, and the unrestricted flow of capital. Neoliberals advocate minimal government spending, minimal taxation, minimal regulations, and minimal direct involvement in the economy. Neoliberals believe market forces naturally fill many areas of jurisdiction for the highest overall gain (Urban Dictionary, 2012). Neoliberalism has been linked to crony capitalism, gross social inequities, corporatocracy, and globalization.

The notice of application for an injunction by the Hupacasath First Nation may lead to a court order to cease ratification of The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA) between Canada and China, in order to allow time to address the legalities of the Agreement. 

Analysis of the Canada-China FIPPA


Press Release by the Hupacasath First Nation: 

Hupacasath First Nation Files Notice of Application Against Canada – China FIPPA
(Port Alberni, B.C. – January 21, 2013) On Friday January 18th, the Hupacasath First Nation, located in Port Alberni B.C., launched a legal challenge of gigantic proportions. The challenge: The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA) between Canada and China.

Brenda Sayers, Hupacasath Councillor stated, “This deal will pave the way for a massive natural resource buyout and allow foreign corporations to sue the Canadian government in secret tribunals, restricting Canadians from making democratic decisions about our economy, environment and energy.”

Steven Tatoosh, Chief Councillor of Hupacasath, added “We will argue that the Government of Canada breached its fiduciary duty to consult First Nations on our respective constitutionally-enshrined and judicially-recognized Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights.”

The Chiefs of Ontario and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs will file supporting affidavits in support of the
Hupacasath legal challenge. Leadnow.ca is lending its considerable online presence to the Hupacasath legal challenge.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs declared, “To recklessly disregard our Title, Rights and Treaty Rights is an outrage. Our inherent rights are our fundamental human rights. Canada repeatedly violates our human rights when our inherent rights are totally ignored in agreements such as the Canada-China FIPPA.”

"The Leadnow community is proud to play a part in supporting this important legal challenge. The Government has tried to pass this deal behind closed doors, and they have breached their constitutional obligation to consult with First Nations before entering into a 31-year agreement that locks Canada into a path of foreign-ownership and raw-resource export," said Julia Pope of Leadnow.ca.

Hupacasath has advised China's Ambassador to Canada that the Canada-China FIPPA investment deal violates Title, Rights and Treaty Rights as well as international law, and should be postponed indefinitely, pending nation-to-nation discussions between Canada and First Nations.

For further information contact:
Brenda Sayers, Councillor, Hupacasath First Nation: (250) 731-4147 or brenda@hupacasath.ca
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs: (250) 490-5314
Matthew Carroll, Campaigns Director, Leadnow.ca: (289) 244-9930

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mali's Struggles Linked to Failed Democracy

Mali is located in north-west Africa. Northern Mali has high uranium deposits, as does Niger. Algeria has high natural gas reserves. Coaltan and other minerals are prevalent in north-west Africa.
After French colonization from 1892 to 1960 and decades of dictatorships, in 1992 Mali held multi-party elections, in which Alpha Oumar Konaré became the Malian president. After two five year terms in power (the limit under Malian constitutional law), President Konaré stepped down. Mr. Touré who was involved in the 1991 Malian coup d'etat, won the 2002 Malian presidency. In 2012, President Touré was overthrown via coup d'etat and replaced by interim President Dioncounda Traoré, who ruled Mali as a dictator prior to the 1991 coup d'etat. Elections are scheduled for April of 2012, though they appear in jeopardy due to the ongoing south-north conflict directly involving the French military. 

Dr. Chérif Keïta, a professor of Francophone literature of Africa and a native of Mali, describes the Malian electoral system and democracy as a shell of democracy. The Malian Election Law (NO 06-044) supports this view. The election process is basic and with many loopholes. For example, there is no requirement for broad and balanced election coverage in the private media, and equal access for political candidates and parties to state media is vague (Election Law, NO 06-044, Article 70). There is no electoral finance transparency. In line with the French republic electoral system, commercial political advertisements are banned during the election period. Malian presidential candidates must be of "good character and known for integrity and honesty" (Election Law, NO 06-044, Article 82), which begs the question who determines this and on what grounds. The Malian electoral system ensures the secrecy of the vote, a reasonable counting process, and high fines (maximum six hundred thousand Francs) and prison times (up to 20 years in prison) for various actions which interfere/compromise the elections (Election Law, NO 06-044, Chapter XII Penalties). Malian adults who have been convicted for crime are disallowed from voting (Election Law, NO 06-044, Article 28). There is no electoral complaints process except with regard to the registration of voters and electoral lists (Election Law, NO 06-044,Chapter IV, Electors).

Malian Election Law (O6-044) (in French)







Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director







Commentary: 


Excerpt from Is Mali Just Another Failed African Democracy, Or Is There More At Play?
By Sarah Carlson (The International)
January 19, 2013

.... Mali is located in West Africa and is a former French colony, only gaining independence in 1960. After several decades of dictatorship, a military coup established a democratic government in 1991. President Alpha Oumar Konaré served as the first democratically elected President until 2001, whereupon President Amadou Toumani Touré succeeded him for two five year terms.

However, Malian citizens became increasingly dissatisfied with Touré’s handling of growing rebel forces in the North, and the he was overthrown in the spring of 2012. Within weeks of the coup, Touré fled to Senegal, stated his resignation, and was faced with the possibility of being charged for treason.

Although an interim government has since been established, the violent divide between north and south Mali makes reinstatement of democracy nearly impossible as interim President Dioncounda Traoré is not completely trusted by Malians, due to his alliance with ousted President Touré. The government’s projected
April elections may potentially exacerbate the already polarized nation, as free elections in the north may be all but impossible under rebel rule. Furthermore, the military continues to exercise considerable power behind the scenes.

Malian democracy: model African government, or convenient façade?

Although Mali’s democratic government has often been hailed as a model for other African nations, Dr. Chérif Keïta, a professor of Francophone literature of Africa and a native of Mali, adamantly describes Mali as an “empty shell democracy,” attributing this façade to Touré.

“This guy was not to be trusted by anyone, anywhere,” Keïta says, “Touré was very devious.”
Keïta explains that the rebellion conveniently aligned with the end of Touré’s term, allowing him to use the conflict as a reason to stay in power. Despite serving a two-term presidency, Touré was attempting to resist the democratic process in Mali, which would have required him to step down and have a new president elected into power.

Dr. Keïta claims that Touré had connections with certain members of the rebellion, including Iyad Ag Ghaly, the founder of the Malian Islamic group Ansar Dine, which has dominated the conflict in the North. Ag Ghaly established a working relationship with former President Amadou Toumani Touré as a Malian diplomat in Saudi Arabia from 2007-2010, but withdrew from his diplomatic position after Saudi Arabia accused him of having contact with terrorists.

.... France has expressed they will stay in Mali “as long as necessary” to eradicate terrorism and assist in the establishment of a revitalized Malian democracy. As Mali attempts to restore democracy, it is important to recognize the flaws of their late democratic system, in which citizens did not see leaders as accountable figures, and issues of regional divides were not properly addressed. In an effort to avoid future governmental problems, Dr. Keïta warns, that when discussions of rebuilding the government occur, the country will have “to rethink Malian democracy.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Poll Attack on the Idle No More movement?

Post Media News and Global News funded the Ipsos Reid poll on the Idle No More movement.
Ipsos Reid an international marketing company released poll results on Chief Spence, Harper, and Idle No More movement. The poll results are based on 1,023 Canadians via online panel survey.
The latest attack on the Idle No More movement is the publication of negative poll results against the movement. The key issue regarding these poll results is how informed are the Canadians surveyed in the poll? Is there a Canadian corporate agenda to malign the movement? Many Canadians saw early on how the federal government apparently used a convenient leak of a finance audit report on the Attawapiskat First Nation in an attempt to discredit Chief Spence and the Idle No More movement, and recently the movement has been incorrectly associated with strictly a First Nations movement.

Summary of some of the poll results:

"The chief [Spence] received an approval rating of 29 per cent in a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted exclusively for Global News and Postmedia News.

The survey suggests the Idle No More movement hasn't garnered much sympathy for Canada's First Nations, but rather, raised awareness about financial accountability on the reserves.

Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of poll respondents believe Canada's First Nations receive too much federal funding. About the same number (62 per cent) believe Ottawa treats Aboriginals well" (Global News, 2012).

From the Ipsos Reid press release:

"The national leaders of Canada’s First Nations, including the Assembly of First Nations – 51% nationally approve (61% among Atlantic Canadians and 56% among Quebecers and British Columbians)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper – 46% nationally approve (78% among Conservative voters and 62% among Albertans)
The Idle No More Movement – 38% nationally approve (54% among Atlantic Canadians and 47% among British Columbians)
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence – 29% nationally approve (highest at 38% among British Columbians)"

Canadians should question the methodologies of these polling companies such as Ipsos Reid and for the sake of honest political discourse seek to learn fully about the Idle No More movement rather than rely on what a particular media company or polling company says.

The Ipsos Reid poll was based on "from Friday to Monday, 1,023 Canadian adults were interviewed online for this survey, which was weighted to bring it in line with Canadian demographics, and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points."

Limitations of Ipsos Reid Poll (from the FDA's perspective):

1. Canadian adults interviewed are part of an online panel, which they were selected to participate on. Although there are various safeguards about being on the panel such as a minimum 6 month participation, those persons interviewed in the survey are restricted to persons selected by Ipsos Reid and who agreed to be on the panel. Consequently, persons who are not selected on the panel or declined on participating on the panel are not reflected in the survey, as are persons who cannot meet the 6 months participation requirement and other requirements. In addition, the panel survey may be unrepresentative to the extent that panel members may have a special interest in a given topic, or they may simply have a lot of time available.

Ipsos Reid Requirements for Panelists

2. The wording of poll questions may influence the answers. For example,

Ipsos Reid poll question 1:

"In the last couple of months First Nations protesters have staged a hunger strike blockaded some rail line and highways to demand meaningful negotiations with the Government of Canada on issues facing their community. Some people feel that these are really just isolated incidents caused by radicals in the Aboriginal Community, and that they shouldn’t be viewed as anything bigger than that. Other people feel these incidents are not isolated, but are a sign of growing discontent and anger among Canadian First Nations. Which of these two broad points of view comes closest to how you feel?"

1. Sign of growing discontent and anger among
Aboriginals
2. Isolated incidents/Shouldn't be viewed as anything
bigger
3. Unsure

Limitations of poll question 1:

Not all protesters were First Nations.
The first sentence implies that the Idle No More is strictly about First Nations issues.
The second sentence is vague "some people" and contradicted by unanimous support by First Nations Chiefs for the Idle No More movement.
The third sentence again limits the Idle No More movement to a strictly First Nations movement. This is contradicted by statements by the founders of the movement.

The Foundation for Democratic Advancement would reword the poll question as follows:

In the last couple of months a grassroots movement has emerged which resulted in protesters blockading rail lines and highways to demand retraction of Omnibus Bill C-45 and nation to nation relations between First Nations and the Canadian federal government. In addition, a First Nations Chief in support of the movement staged a hunger strike. Some people view this movement as sign of growing national and global social and political inequality issues and environmental issues. Other people view the movement as an isolated incident with no national or global context. Which of the two broad points come closest to how you feel?

1. Sign of growing national and global social and political inequality issues and environmental issues
2. Isolated incidents/Shouldn't be viewed as anything
bigger
3. Unsure

Ipsos Reid Survey Table 1
Ipsos Reid Survey Table 2

Poll question 2:

[Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who is on a hunger strike] Do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of how each of the following [political parties] have been dealing with First Nation issues over the last few weeks?

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence who is on a hunger strike

Strongly approve
Somewhat approve
Somewhat disapprove
Strongly disapprove

This question is asked in the amidst of the leaked federal accounting report on the Attawapiskat First Nation.

Ipsos Reid Survey Table 3
 
Background on Ipsos Reid:

Ipsos Reid is an international marketing company which gathers market, brand and other information for clients. Who hired Ipsos Reid to survey Canadians? Global News and Postmedia News paid for the survey. Global News is a Canadian broadcast company, owned by the Canwest Global Communications Corporation which is owned by Shaw Communications, and Postmedia News Corporation is a Canadian newspaper company which owns the Calgary Herald, National Post, and other Canadian newspapers.

Ipsos Reid is owned by Ipsos Corporation based out of France. The largest principal shareholder of Ipsos is LT Participations at 26.22 percent. However, the largest bloc is held by public shareholders at 69.97 percent (based on the 2011 Ipsos Annual Report).

From the Ipsos Reid website, it says:

"Who we are

Ipsos is one of the world's leading survey-based marketing research firms. We live and work in the largest markets and do business anywhere we're called on.

We know brands, how to develop them and how to build them. We assess market potential and interpret market trends. We help our clients build long-term relationships with their customers and employees. We test advertising and study audience responses to various media. We measure public opinion around the globe.

The Ipsos difference

We go beyond the numbers to identify a course of action that will lead to stronger in-market results.

We always challenge, provoke and stimulate your thinking.

People are complex; research shouldn't be. We know what drives your business, because we have worked in your industry, and quite likely at one time for your company.

We also understand that individuals are complex; confident one minute, uncertain the next. They can say one thing and mean another.

But insightful research can solve arguments.

Let us show you how and help you grow your business.

Gary Bennewies
Country Manager
Ipsos Canada

Related articles:

Idle No More Confronts the Canadian Political Establishment

Canada's Internal Social Media War Involving Idle No More







Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director

Monday, January 14, 2013

Idle No More Confronts the Canadian Political Establishment

Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta stated that more blockades are planned for highway 63 if the federal government does not act sufficiently; the highway leads to the center of the controversial Alberta tar sands. (Photo credit: Garth Lenz, Energy & Ecology Project)
The Idle No More movement which was started by four women from Saskatchewan represents a backlash against the neoliberal policies of Canada's federal conservative government and current federal political structures. (Neoliberalism refers to an economic ideology centered around the values of a global economy, or globalization: free market, free trade, and the unrestricted flow of capital. Neoliberals advocate minimal government spending, minimal taxation, minimal regulations, and minimal direct involvement in the economy. Neoliberals believe market forces naturally fill many areas of jurisdiction for the highest overall gain (Urban Dictionary, 2012). Neoliberalism has been linked to crony capitalism, gross social inequities, corporatocracy, and globalization.)

The Idle No More movement is an indictment and rejection of the conservative government's policies and neoliberal ideology. The failed First Nations meeting with Prime Minister Harper is indicative of the clash in ideologies and perspectives between the sides.

Based on an in-depth interview of Sheelah McLean, one of the founders of the Idle No More movement, she states clearly that the Idle No More represents a grassroots action against:

1. First Nations inequality and rights issues including exclusion in federal policy decision-making.

2. Reduction in environmental protections and marginalization of environmental issues, in which the conservative government removes Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, fast tracks industrial development and resource extraction at the expense of the environment and First Nations, and reduces significantly protections on Canada's lakes, streams, rivers, and air.

3. Omnibus budget bill C-45, which amounts to a rejection of the conservative government's policies. 

4. Canadian political structural which marginalizes the political voice of First Nations, allows minority political parties to control the Canadian parliament as is the case with the conservative government, and the prime minister to have excessive powers. 

Interestingly, instead of waiting for the next federal election in 2015 to voice its opposition to the conservative government, the Idle No More movement is acting now, which suggests the seriousness of its grievances and likely lack of confidence in the Canadian political system.

At the start of the Canadian media coverage of the Idle No More movement in December 2012, the movement was being portrayed as a Chief Theresa Spence protest via her hunger strike, and has now shifted to a First Nations issue. The reality is that the movement was started as mentioned by one white Canadian and three First Nations Canadians (Sheelah McLean, Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, and Jess Gordon), and the movement deals with national and international issues which involve all of humanity. To sideline the movement as solely a First Nations movement is simply false and corrupts Canadian political discourse and the ability of Canadians to form an objective opinion of the movement.

Sheelah McLean Interview

Understanding the Canadian Prime Minister Powers

FDA Reports, Articles, Podcasts on Canada








Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director






Question for Readers: 

Is neoliberalism, which basically gambles on the marketplace to direct humanity in the better direction, the better ideology to deal with global environmental and human and political rights issues?

Or in the alternative, is neoliberalism a cause of global environmental and human and political rights issues?

  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Zapatistas--The Sound of the Silence

Congregation of the Zapatistas on December 21, 2012, in which they participated in the March of the Ezln. (Photo credit: Pozol Colectivo)
From the shadows of the jungle in one of the poorest provinces in Mexico (Chiapas) emerged a movement that attempted to voice what had not been heard for more than 4 centuries. The Zapatista movement (EZLN) better known as zapatista army of national liberation is a movement that questioned the authoritarian rule of PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) for over 70 years and the alleged process of modernization in Mexico during the last part of the 1980´s decade. The President Carlos Salinas de Gortari undertook a series of actions in order to portray Mexico as an innovative, competitive and dynamic economic entity that could be deemed as a country in transition towards modernization. The achievement of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) as a means to form a bloc in North America to promote trade and the liberalization of the economy was the first step to fully insert Mexico in the international arena. Presumably, this agreement would bring unprecedented benefits for the population, boosting comparative advantages that could be exploited by Mexico. However, the macroeconomic situation differs significantly from the microeconomic reality, which in the vast majority of cases was devastated by the new trade agreement.

What was the reason for the Zapatistas to appear in the 1990's?

There are many factors that explain their appearance, however, some of the most important are the ensuing:

a) An unilateral policy that excluded indigenous people from participation in the political arena
b) The lack of respect towards their forms of political organization
c) The systematic violation of their human rights
d) The exploitation of their territories without considering the environmental impact and the natural repercussions
e) The systemic absence of the State and the fierce advancement of the economic model denominated neo-liberalism.

With a colonial conquer for more than 4 centuries, indigenous people in Mexico had been subjugated, excluded and marginalized. The appearance of a political system based upon political parties was not a platform to channel their demands, and NAFTA was the needle that broke the camel's back. The idea that the process of modernization impregnated in minds of Mexicans was that indigenous people were anachronistic who, hampered growth, development and competitiveness. Thus, most of the society regarded indigenous Mexicans as a hurdle that needed to be eradicated. As this thrust advanced, the indigenous people from Mexico, (which comprises 1/5 of the total amount of the population) devised a strategy to organize against the cultural, political and economic war waged against them. Lead by sub-commandant Marcos they chose the 1st of January 1994 to initiate the uprising, simultaneously NAFTA formally came into effect. Their demands concentrated in a more democratic, pluralistic, inclusive, fair and just society, where participative democracy would be the main pillar. The Zapatistas regarded the current government as illegitimate (as a result of the rigged election in 1988 in which the candidate of PRI was the winner), therefore, the military insurrection was to depose the corrupt and inefficient government. The Zapatistas announce their declaration of war against the formal institutions of the government and the conflict has not been resolved.

However, the Zapatistas movement represents a milestone in the history of social resistance movements. First of all, it was the first indigenous movement that drew attention from all over the world; NGO´s, TV channels, Governments, Human Rights associations and a wide variety of Institutions heeded it. Different entities got involved in the defense of the rights of the Mexican indigenous people that were represented by the Zapatistas and to help bolster the capacity of the Zapatistas to negotiate with the government. In addition, the Zapatista movement triggered and motivated other social resistance movements in the globe, which took them as an example of success. Its prominence is based upon the combination of factors and demands that they promoted in conjunction with the social media promotion it attracted. Respect for human rights, respect for their territories, inclusion and a participatory approach in a democratic system echoed in the whole international system bringing momentum to their cause.

Their form or organization in autonomous cells of government (based on customs and traditions) is another example of their success, which was typified in the Constitution in the Indigenous law enacted in 2001 under the presidency of Vicente Fox which was the first president of the opposition. However, this law has not translated in more substantial benefits for the indigenous population; poverty and marginalization are still the norm.

After the Zapatistas' confrontation with Mexican authorities and a transition to democracy was on its way, high expectations lingered; however, as the history demonstrated, they were in vain. Since the consolidation of democracy is still in its way, inherently, many of the demands that were part of the integral formulation of a new system have perished. The silence that was part of the modus vivendi in the indigenous people for centuries returned and remained in that fashion for 12 years.

On the 21st of December 2012 the sound of the silence was heard, a combination of factors triggered peaceful and silent demonstrations in the 5 boroughs that were taken by the insurgents in 1994: The return of PRI to the presidency, the new era proposed by the Mayan calendar which coincidentally (on purpose) started on the same day and the unheard voices of many people that have not taken part in the process of democratization in Mexico.

In summary, locally and globally, the Zapatista movement is the explosion of years of exploitation, submission and exclusion which proposes a new fashion in which government should be conducted, a new participatory approach. Its importance is significant due to the form of organization, the relevance in the mass media and its impact on other movements and the participation in the creation of summits such as the WSF (world social forum) contending that another world is possible. Moreover, contemporaneous movements have taken the Zapatista movement as an example and a case study to shed light on its struggles and successes, and organize their own structures. If another world is possible where poverty can be diminished or eradicated, where new social ways of organization are an imperative and where inclusion and tolerance is fundamental, social movements such as the Zapatista uprising are a reference that cannot be ignored. Perhaps the dialogue that permeates democracy, the words, speeches and rhetoric that is characteristic of this type of government have not heard the voices of the unheard, thus, silence becomes an ancestral way of resistance that given the circumstances represents a form of protest, from Gandhi, through Martin Luther King to the Zapatistas: a different world is possible and the power of silence accumulated and aggregated might be more powerful than the lips or rifles or the ephemeral lines written in new pieces of legislation.





Mr. Roberto Mendoza, Foundation for Democratic Advancement Blogger and Researcher with a background in public policy and governance and based out of Mexico.