Friday, May 28, 2010

Lula inaugurates the diplomacy of a new era

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

The agreement between Lula and Prime Minister of Turkey with Iran regarding uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes has a uniqueness that should be highlighted. It was achieved through dialogue, mutual trust that comes from being face to face and negotiating using win-win logic. No intimidation, imposition, threats, pressure of any kind, or demonizing the other.

That was and remains the strategy of the militarist and imperial powers that do not realize that the world has changed. They are stuck in the old paradigm of the big stick, negotiating with rod in hand or pure and simple intervention, for which anything goes: the blatant lie, as in the case of the unjust war against Iraq, the most sophisticated military violence against one of the world's poorest countries, Afghanistan, or the known armed coups by the CIA in several countries, especially in Latin America.

Interestingly, this strategy has never produced any results anywhere. The United States is losing every war, because no one can defeat a people ready to give their lives to the point of raising up "suicide bombers" to face an enemy armed to the teeth, but full of fear and exposed to shame and global ridicule. What they have done is feed the anger, resentment and vengefulness, the leaven of all terrorism.

The greatest threat to global stability today is the United States because the illusion of being "the new chosen people" -- so says "manifest destiny" in which the very strong neocons like Bush believe blindly -- makes them feel they have the right to intervene in the world. They claim to bring human rights when they violate them shamefully; they want to impose democracy when in fact, they create a farce; they seek to open a free market for their multinationals to freely to exploit the wealth of the countries, their oil and gas.

Lula's diplomacy is directly opposed to the Security Council's and Barack Obama's. Lula's looks forward and is adapted to the new. Barack Obama's looks backward and wants to reproduce the old.

The old paradigm assumes there is a hegemonic and imperial nation, in this case the United States, governed by the paradigm of the enemy, much in line with the theorist of the political philosophy that underlies strong arm systems, Carl Schmitt (d. 1985) , as he did with Nazism. In his book The Concept of the Political, he clearly states: "The political existence of a people depends on its ability to define who is friend and who is enemy ... the enemy must be fought and must be psychologically discredited as bad or ugly." Was this not exactly what Bush did, calling the countries the terrorists came from "rogue countries" against which an "endless war" would be waged? This argument is systemic, and still works in the minds of American leaders. Policies inspired by this outdated paradigm can lead to dramatic situations, with serious danger of destroying the human planetary project. This paradigm is warmongering, reductionist and myopic, since it does not perceive the historical changes taking place in the line of the planetary phase of history, which require strategies of cooperation that seek to protect the earth and care for life.

The new paradigm, represented by Lula, takes on the uniqueness of the current historical moment. Our basic perception has changed: we are all interdependent, we live together in the same common home, Earth. No one has their own individual future. A common globalized destiny is emerging: either we care for humanity so it doesn't bifurcate between those who eat and those who don't, and we protect planet Earth so that it is not destroyed by global warming, or we will have no future. We are definitely linked to each other.

Lula, with his keen perception of the new, acted consistently: we can not isolate and punish Iran. We must bring it to the negotiating table, with trust and without prejudice. This attitude of respect will bear fruit. And it is the only sound one in this new phase of human history. Lula marks and inaugurates the future of the new diplomacy, the only one that guarantees us peace.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Immigration News Roundup - 5/26/2010

1. Cultural Boycott of Arizona: Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zack de la Rocha has enlisted dozens of musicians and activists to join The Sound Strike, an open call by artists to boycott the state of Arizona over its recently passed immigration law. Performers like Cypress Hill, Juanes, Conor Oberst, Los Tigres del Norte, Cafe Tacvba, Kanye West, Calle 13 as well as Oscar winning filmmaker and activist Michael Moore have signed on to the campaign, which was announced on

"Fans of our music, our stories, our films and our words can be pulled over and harassed every day because they are brown or black, or for the way they speak, or for the music they listen to," de la Rocha wrote in an open letter announcing the campaign. "People who are poor like some of us used to be could be forced to live in a constant state of fear while just doing what they can to find work and survive. This law opens the door for them to be shaked down, or even worse, detained and deported while just trying to travel home from school, from home to work, or when they just roll out with their friends."

Already hip-hop acts Pitbull and Cypress Hill have canceled upcoming shows in Arizona to protest the law. Regional Mexican music acts Conjunto Primavera and Espinoza Paz have canceled their previously-announced Phoenix concerts, while their fellow Latin music stars Jenni Rivera and Wisin & Yandel will be skipping the state on their AEG Live-promoted summer tours.

2. Police chiefs voice concerns to Attorney General about Ariz. law: Arizona's new immigration law and similar proposals in other states would lead to an increase in crime, some police chiefs from around the country told Attorney General Eric Holder in an hourlong meeting Wednesday. The chiefs told the attorney general that having to determine whether a person is in the United States illegally will break down the trust that police have built in communities and will divert law enforcement resources away from fighting crime. If that happens, "we will be unable to do our jobs," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. "Laws like this will actually increase crime, not decrease crime." The meeting also included John Harris, president of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and chief of police of Sahuarita (AZ) as well as the chiefs of police of Tucson (AZ), Philadelphia (PA), Houston (TX), Minneapolis (MN), San Jose (CA), Salt Lake City (UT) and Montgomery County (MD).

3. Civil Disobedience in New York in Support of Immigration Reform: Nearly 40 people were arrested this week during an act of civil disobedience in Lower Manhattan meant to rally against Arizona's immigration law. New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York State Assembly member Adriano Espaillat, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Chair, Churches United to Save and Heal, Hector Figueroa, Secretary Treasurer, SEIU 32BJ, and Bertha Lewis, President, The Black Institute were among those arrested during a rally that took place outside 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan. Local clergy, labor leaders, elected officials and community leaders linked arms to form a chain that temporarily blocked traffic.

This is the second time immigration protestors have hit Federal Plaza. Last week, sixteen demonstrators were arrested in the same location, including City Council members Jumani Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez. More protests are planned.

Actions have also taken place in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

4. President Obama ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexico border: Under pressure to help secure the US border with Mexico, President Obama ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to the US Southwest and said he would ask Congress to approve an additional $500 million to pay for law-enforcement activities in the region. The State Department emphasized that the troops being sent to the Mexican border will be used to stem the flow of guns and drugs across the frontier and not to enforce US immigration laws. However the deployment is, in part, a bow to political reality. If Obama is to have any chance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, he needs to do something himself about the deteriorating border situation.


Reform Immigration for America Now is concerned that this border militarization trend not be viewed as a substitute for real comprehensive immigration reform. They are asking people to go to their Web site and take action to send a free fax on the subject to their senators.

5. Rep. Gutierrez calls for inclusion of LBGT families in comprehensive immigration reform: In a move that does not bode well for the preservation of the coalition that brought his Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP / H.R. 4321) forward, Rep. Gutierrez this week joined Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) to announce his unwavering support for allowing legal family-based immigration for same-sex couples as part of any comprehensive immigration reform plan that moves forward in Congress. At the moment this provision is only included in the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA / H.R.1024) of which Gutierrez is a co-sponsor, but not in CIR-ASAP. Followers of this issue will recall that last year the US Conference of Catholic Bishops withdrew its support from the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA / H.R.1024) to protest the inclusion of same-sex families. The National Association of Evangelicals, another major religious group that has been supporting immigration reform, has also indicated that it will not support same-sex sponsorship. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference has also opposed the inclusion of gay couples. How far we have come from the Familias Unidas tour that opened so many doors in the religious community.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Countdown to the Colombia Presidential Election in Music -- Video 4

Continuing our countdown to the Colombian Presidential Election on May 30, here is a song by Armando Aldana which says simply "Mockus Debe Ganar" ("Mockus Should Win"). Fair enough. But why?

When I started to get into this theme, this paragraph from Antanas Mockus' biography on Wikipedia caught my attention: "Under Mockus's leadership, Bogotá saw improvements such as: water usage dropped 40%, 7000 community security groups were formed and the homicide rate fell 70%, traffic fatalities dropped by over 50%, drinking water was provided to all homes (up from 79% in 1993), and sewerage was provided to 95% of homes (up from 71%). When he asked residents to pay a voluntary extra 10% in taxes, 63,000 people did so." The original source of these statistics is an article in the Harvard Gazette (3/11/2004) by María Cristina Caballero, a prize-winning Colombian investigative journalist who, at the time was a fellow at Harvard University's Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Ms. Caballero had been forced to leave her homeland after receiving death threats. In other words, this candidate is more than just a "tree-hugging nice guy".

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pentecost Invocation

by José Antonio Pagola
(English translation by Rebel Girl)

Come Creator Spirit and infuse us with the strength and breath of Jesus. Without your impulse and your grace, we would not be able to believe in Him, we would not dare to follow in His footsteps, the Church would not be renewed, our hope would die out. Come and share with us the vital breath of Jesus!

Come Holy Spirit and remind us of the good words that Jesus spoke. Without your light and your testimony about Him, we would forget the kindly face of God; the gospel would become dead letters; the Church would no longer proclaim any good news. Come and teach us to listen only to Jesus!

Come Spirit of Truth and make us walk in Jesus' truth. Without your light and your guidance, we would never be freed from our errors and lies; nothing new and true would be born within us; we would be the blind claiming to lead the blind. Come and convert us into disciples and witnesses of Jesus!

Come Spirit of the Father and teach us to call God "Abba" as Jesus did. Without your warmth and joy, we would live like orphans who have lost their Father; we would invoke God with our lips, but not our hearts; our prayers would be empty words. Come and teach us to pray with the words and heart of Jesus!

Come Good Spirit and convert us to the plan of the "Kingdom of God" that Jesus began. Without your renewing strength, nothing would convert our tired hearts; we would not dare to build a more human world, according to the will of God; in your Church, the last would never be first; and we would continue to be lulled to sleep in our bourgeois religion. Come and make us partners in Jesus' plan!

Come Spirit of Love and teach us to love each other as Jesus loved. Without your living presence among us, cracks would form in the communion of the Church; the hierarchy and the people would become ever more distant; divisions would grow, dialogue would end and intolerance increase. Come and bring alive in our hearts and hands the brotherly love that makes us like Jesus!

Come Liberating Spirit and remind us that Christ liberated us to be free and not to let ourselves be oppressed by slavery again. Without your strength and truth, our joyful following of Jesus would become slave-like; we would not know the love that gives life but our selfishness that kills it; the freedom that makes the children of God grow would go out in us and, over and over again, we would be victims of fear, cowardice and fanaticism. Come Holy Spirit and infuse us with the freedom of Jesus!

Countdown to the Colombia Presidential Election in Music -- Video 3

Back to direct electoral exhortations in our musical video countdown to the Colombia Presidential Election on May 30. This group of musicians from Cali -- many different genres -- is encouraging their fellow citizens to vote their conscience.

One of the things that interests me about Antanas Mockus (other than that he would be the first Green Party candidate to achieve the presidency anywhere in the world) is that his base is remarkably similar to Barack Obama's. Mockus' followers tend to be young, urban, well-educated, moderately wealthy, and wired. He is also pulling in a lot of independents and first time voters. The other leading candidate, Juan Manuel Santos, draws more rural voters and older people. So, like in this country, it's all going to be about which candidate can best turn out their base. The election will almost certainly go into a second round and all polls at the moment show Mockus winning at that stage.