Allow Me To Explain

Was there a split between Che Guevara and Fidel Castro?

Posted in Cuba, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Fidel Castro, History by amte on October 11, 2009

A rumor persists to this day that Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and Fidel Castro had some sort of falling out near the end of Che’s life that caused him to leave Cuba and prompted Fidel to withhold support for the guerrilla effort Che lead in Bolivia. But with a little investigation, we find that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this rumor, which, it should be noted, originated with Felix Rodriguez, a wealthy Cuban-born CIA assassin who ordered Che’s murder.

Che and Fidel in Cuba.

Che and Fidel in Cuba.

And what is the supposed source of major disagreement between Che and Fidel? Some have suggested that Che was critical of the USSR.  A review of Fidel Castro’s speeches in the 1960’s, in which he criticized the USSR several times, easily dispels that myth.  Still others have claimed that Che took the side of China while Fidel took the side of the USSR in the Sino-Soviet Split. This too, is easily disproven.

Che wrote that:

“When we analyze the lonely situation of the Vietnamese people, we are overcome by anguish at this illogical moment of humanity.

“U.S. imperialism is guilty of aggression — its crimes are enormous and cover the whole world. We already know all that, gentlemen! But this guilt also applies to those who, when the time came for a definition, hesitated to make Vietnam an inviolable part of the socialist world; running, of course, the risks of a war on a global scale-but also forcing a decision upon imperialism. And the guilt also applies to those who maintain a war of abuse and snares — started quite some time ago by the representatives of the two greatest powers of the socialist camp.”[1]

While, around the same time Fidel wrote in a similar vein that:

“Without a doubt, the South Vietnamese people and the people of North Vietnam are suffering all this and suffering it in their own flesh, because there it is men and women who die, in the south and in the north, victims of the shrapnel and Yankee bombings. They do not have the slightest hesitancy in declaring that they intend to continue to carry all that out because not even the attacks against North Vietnam have resulted in overcoming the divisions in the bosom of the socialist family.

“And who can doubt that this division is encouraging the imperialists? Who can doubt that a united front against the imperialist enemy would have made them hesitate–would have made them think a little more carefully before launching their adventurist attacks and their increasingly more brazen intervention in that part of the world?”[2]

For his part, Rodriguez claimed in his autobiography that upon capture, Che “was bitter over the Cuban dictator’s lack of support for the Bolivian incursion.” But only a fool would believe the words of Che’s enemy and murderer (who, incidentally, wears his watch to this day like a trophy).  More reliable sources suggest that Che considered Rodriguez a traitor and refused to speak to him. But that hasn’t stopped the capitalist press from keeping the claim alive.

As Fidel put it in a June 1987 television interview with Italian journalist Gianni Mina:

“What could we have done? Sent a battalion, a company, a regular army? The laws of guerrilla warfare are different; everything depends on what the guerrilla unit itself does.”[3]

Che’s plan to wage guerrilla war in Bolivia to initiate a socialist revolution to overthrow the dictatorship was fully supported by Cuba. Cuba provided training grounds, fighters, weapons, passports and more to the effort.

We need not pretend Che and Fidel agreed on every single question to know that there was no major disagreement that lead to abandonment or a suicidal departure.

According to the survivors of the guerrilla force he led and the pages of his personal diary, which has since been published, Che never once suggested that he felt betrayed or abandoned by Cuba or Fidel. In his farewell letter Che wrote to Fidel, “I am also proud of having followed you without hesitation, of having identified with your way of thinking and of seeing and appraising dangers and principles.”

1. Guevara, Ernesto, Che. “Message to the Tricontinental.”
2. Castro, Fidel. “Live speech from the steps of Havana University on the occasion of the anniversary of the attack on the Presidential Palace (13 March 1965).”
3. Mini, Gianni. “An Encounter With Fidel.”

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Is Fidel Castro one of the richest men in the world?

Posted in Cuba, Fidel Castro by amte on October 3, 2009

In 2005, American business and financial magazine Forbes listed Castro among the world’s richest people, with an estimated net worth of $550 million. The estimates claimed that the Cuban leader’s personal wealth was nearly double that of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, despite evidence from diplomats and businessmen that the Cuban leader’s personal life was notably austere. Forbes later increased the estimates to $900 million, adding rumors of large cash stashes in Switzerland.  The magazine offered no proof at all of this information.

Of course it was all entirely bogus – the bunk methodology they used was based on the lie that Fidel Castro owns everything in the entire country of Cuba. Even in their article they admitted their “estimate” was “more art than science” — or in other words, bullshit.

Fidel’s response?

“PRESIDENT Fidel Castro has challenged and called on Bush, the CIA, the 33 U.S. intelligence agencies, the thousands of banks in the world and the ‘servants’ of Forbes magazine, which claims that Fidel has a fortune of $900 million, to prove that he has even one dollar in an overseas account.

“In exchange for just one shred of evidence, he said that he would offer them everything that they have tried and failed to do over almost half a century, during which time they have tried to destroy the Revolution and assassinate him via hundreds of conspiracies. ‘I’m giving you everything you’ve tried,’ he said, ‘and don’t come with your foolishness and wayside stories. Show me an account, of just one dollar,’ he emphasized.

“If they can prove that I have one single dollar, I will resign from all my responsibilities and the duties I am carrying out; they won’t need any more plans or transitions, if they can prove that I have one single dollar,” the revolutionary leader said emphatically.” – Granma newspaper


“Bush has not uttered a word and neither have the State Department, Congress or the CIA. Only the Nuevo Herald, a Miami newspaper, has tried to defend [the Forbes article] at the request of the Cuban-American mafia [the handful of rich white Cubans who left the country after the revolution because they didn’t want to be equal with the rest of the people]. This silence by the US Administration demonstrates the extent of its weakness.” – Radio Habana

Even the Miami Herald, a rightwing newspaper with ties to the Cuban-American mafia that is historically hostile to the Cuban Revolution admits that Fidel Castro lives in about the same conditions as everyone else in Cuba. The newspaper has previously printed articles in which it acknowledges that “The houses of Fidel and Raúl are large but simply appointed…. The living room of [Fidel’s] house is described by visitors as furnished with simple wood and leather sofas and chairs and Cuban handicrafts…. The only luxury visible to visitors is a big-screen television….”

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Cuban revolutionary Juan Almeida has died

Posted in Cuba, Obituaries by amte on September 15, 2009

Juan Almeida Bosque, a leader of the Cuban Revolution that toppled the bloody, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, has died at age 82.

Almeida, who was born in a poor neighborhood of Havana, Cuba, left school at age 11 to begin work in construction.

In 1952, he joined Fidel Castro and a group of young Cubans in an attack on the Moncada Military Barracks in Santiago de Cuba which was aimed at securing arms for a popular uprising against the Batista dictatorship.  Many of the participants in the failed incursion were tortured and murdered. Almeida, along with Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and others, were able to escape temporarily before being apprehended.

Juan Almedia with Fidel and Raul Castro during the revolutionary war.

Juan Almedia with Fidel and Raul Castro during the revolutionary war.

Almeida and the other captured rebels were imprisoned on the Isle of Pines. They were freed after nearly two years in prison as a result of popular pressure.

The rebels soon after went to Mexico where they formed a guerrilla nucleus and began training for a war to overthrow Batista.

In 1956, 82 rebels set out for Cuba on a rickety yacht. Their landing, delayed and disrupted, was a disaster. Not long after touching ground, all but 16 of the guerrillas had been killed by government forces.

Juan Almeida with Ernesto Che Guevara

Juan Almeida with Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

Almeida led a small group that included Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the Argentine-born revolutionary who joined the Cuban revolutionaries, out into the jungle during that bleak early period.

The guerrillas were eventually able to regroup. They begun to win battles, recruit new members and supporters, establish new ties and advance.

Almeida, a crack shot, quickly became a comandante, the highest rank in the rebel army. He led one of the few guerrilla fronts during the revolutionary war.

On January 1, 1959, “Batista the Butcher” fled Cuba, realizing his overthrow was imminent. Immediately afterward, the victory of the Cuban Revolution was secured by an island-wide general strike.

The Revolution opened the doorway to equality for Almeida and other Black Cubans who previously suffered under conditions of degradation and discrimination.

Almeida held a number of positions in the revolutionary government. He was a General in the Revolutionary Armed Forces, a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, president of the Association of Combatants of the Revolution and Vice-President of the Cuban Council of State.

Juan Almeida.

Juan Almeida.

At the time of his death, Almeida was one of only three living Cubans holding the title Commander of the Revolution.

Almeida was also an artist and writer, having written more than 300 songs and several books on Cuban History.

Thousands of Cubans showed up at memorials across the country to bid farewell to Almeida. According to his wishes, his body is being interred at the Mausoleum of the Mario Muñoz Monroy Third Eastern Front, which he led.

The U.S.-backed overthrow of Salvador Allende and the bloody consequences

Posted in Chile, Electoral politics, Imperialism, revolution, Socialism by amte on September 8, 2009

September 11, 2009, marks the 36th anniversary of the brutal overthrow of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile. Allende was overthrown in a military coup, led by General Augusto Pinochet, that had the full backing of the United States government.

Allende’s beginnings
Salvador Allende was born on July 26, 1908, in Valparaíso, Chile. His petty bourgeois (middle class), radical-liberal family had a history of involvement in social struggles. His grandfather was a founder of the reformist Radical Party and the first public school in Chile (at a time when the Catholic Church controlled education). His father and uncles also belonged to the Radical Party.

Besides the influences of his family, Allende was also influenced by an anarchist shoemaker named Juan Demarchi. He became even more conscious while attending medical school, during which time he lived in very poor conditions with a group of students who often read and discussed books by revolutionaries like Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.

Salvador Allende

Salvador Allende

During his time at college, he became an outspoken leader of the Chilean Student Federation, and participated in a number of protests against U.S.-backed dictator Carlos Ibáñez. This activity resulted in numerous arrests for the young Salvador.

After graduating from college in 1932, Allende had a difficult time finding work as a doctor because of his reputation as a radical. He finally found a job preforming autopsies on the corpses of the poor. Seeing so many dead as a result of curable diseases, simply because they could not afford treatment, further affected Allende.

Allende married Hortensia Bussi, who was herself related to Marmaduque Grove, a military general who lead a 1932 coup that resulted in the formation of the short lived “Socialist Republic of Chile” (June 4 – 16, 1932). Grove was also a founder of the Socialist Party of Chile, which was formed in 1933. Allende was one of its first members.

Entering government

In 1937, Allende was elected to the Chilean National Congress. Soon after taking office, he introduced a number of bills on public healthcare, welfare and the rights of women.

He served as Minister of Health in the “Popular Unity” government (made up of the Socialist Party, Communist Party, Radical Party, Social Democratic Party and the Popular Unitary Action Movement) in both 1939 and 1941.

While serving in this position, he released a book entitled “The Chilean Socio-Medical Reality.” This book explained how certain health issues (infant and maternal mortality, tuberculosis, infectious diseases, etc.) prevalent among the working class were caused by their poor living conditions, and argued for serious steps to be taken to rectify the problem. Instead of a strictly medical approach, he proposed social changes (redistribution of housing and land, income redistribution, improving workers’ wages and workplace safety, etc.) that could get to the root of the problem.

In 1942, Allende became the leader of the Socialist Party and was elected to the Chilean Senate. Not long after, he introduced legislation that would create a national health care service. After its approval, Chile became the first country in the Americas to make health care available to all of its citizens (something most of the countries in the Western Hemisphere still haven’t done).

He remained in the Senate (reelected several times), while running for president in 1952, 1958 and 1964. After his three unsuccessful bids for the presidency, he joked that his head stone would read “Here lies the next president of Chile.”

But Allende was gaining popularity. In each election, he gained more votes than he had in the last. The imperialist U.S. government was becoming worried. In 1959, a year after almost winning the presidential election in Chile, Allende traveled to Cuba, where Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and others had recently lead a revolution that ousted U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. While there, he befriended Fidel and Raul Castro, and received a copy of Che’s book “Guerrilla Warfare” which contained an inscription that read: “To Salvador Allende, who is trying to obtain the same result by other means, Affectionately, Che.”

Allende, a socialist, friend of the Cuban Revolution, and supporter of communist guerrilla movements across Latin
America as well as Che Guevara, who was murdered while leading a guerrilla war in Bolivia in 1967, looked like he may become the next president of Chile.

Allende speaks to supporters.

Allende speaks to supporters.

If that happened, the U.S. government feared, several of the capitalist exploiters it represented, such as the owners of the ITT, Anacoda and Kennecott corporations – who were heavily invested in the country – might have their factories nationalized. On top of this, the election of Allende would interfere with the U.S. government’s attempts to isolate Cuba, and turn back its revolution.

Furthermore, if the events lead to a socialist revolution in which the local capitalist rulers and imperialist lackeys were overthrown by the working class, it would open the doorway to similar events throughout Latin America.

Preemptive strike

The U.S. government, through its various agencies, went into full gear to prevent the election of Salvador Allende in the 1970 elections.

Through, and with the cooperation of ITT and other channels, the CIA illegally funded the election campaign of  right-wing capitalist Jorge Alessandri, the incumbent who Allende was running against. (This was nothing new. In 1964 they had done the same thing, funneling large sums of money to Allende’s then-opponent.)

The CIA launched a program called “FUBELT,” aimed at preventing Allende from becoming elected, or failing that, bring his time in office to a rapid conclusion.

In a document dated September 17, 1970 (now available in the U.S. National Security Archives) describing the results of a meeting between CIA chief Richard Helms and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, instructions for CIA operatives were laid out. “President Nixon had decided that an Allende regime in Chile was not acceptable to the United States.. The President asked the Agency to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him. The President authorized ten million dollars for this purpose, if needed.”

Despite all of this, the Chilean voters elected Allende in a three-way race (a liberal candidate from the Christian Democratic Party was also running). A section of the opposition to Allende argued for a run off election since Allende got less than 50 percent of the votes, even though there was no mention of the need for such in the constitution. In response, the National Congress took up the question.

In the meantime, the capitalist media went to work trying to whip up opposition to Allende’s soon-to-be presidency. The cover of TIME magazine’s October 19, 1970 issue (published only days before Allende’s election was to be made official) read “Marxist Threat In The Americas – Chile’s Salvador Allende.”

A threat to whom?

A threat to whom?

Still, not everyone was fooled. One reader, in a letter to the editor published in the next issue, wrote: “Sir: Intrigued by your marvelous cold war headline, MARXIST THREAT IN THE AMERICAS, I read on to see who is being threatened. Apparently it’s some U.S. copper firms, the telephone company, and assorted juntas. Somehow, I’m not alarmed. I am, however, irritated by your persistent assumption that any form of Marxism enjoying any form of success in any part of the world is, ipso facto, a threat. This kind of thinking gave us Viet Nam. And it ignores the obvious: non-Marxist politicians have generally failed to meet the needs of the masses. I suggest we let our humanity transcend our cold war reflexes and hope that the people of Latin America are finding some kind of solution to their problems. We haven’t been much help.”

The CIA’s work continued as well. Another secret CIA document dated October 16, 1970 read in part, “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup. It would be much preferable to have this transpire prior to 24 October [the date Allende’s election would be ratified] but efforts in this regard will continue vigorously beyond this date.”

Chile’s workers and farmers were outraged by the delay and the idea that the man they had elected may not take office. Allende himself warned “Santiago (Chile’s  capital) will be painted red with blood if I am not ratified as President.”

Finally, and in spite of all the maneuvering on the part of the imperialists and their representatives and agents, the National Congress was forced by popular pressure to declare Salvador Allende President of Chile on October 24, 1970.

Imperialist aggression in full effect
Allende took office on November 3. Twelve days earlier, General René Schneider, Commander in Chief of Chile’s army, was killed while resisting a kidnaping attempt by another group of soldiers under the leadership of Roberto Viaux. The kidnaping attempt was a part of a plan promoted by the CIA to carry out a coup before Allende could take office.  Schneider had to be removed because he was fully opposed any violation of the constitution, such as a coup; but he wasn’t supposed to be killed. Schneider’s murder drew popular outrage, and forced the Viaux clique to abandon their plans.

With plans for a coup temporarily defeated, and the workers and farmers emboldened, Allende went to work. Diplomatic relations were immediately established with Cuba (in spite a U.S.-pushed Organization of American States convention forbidding countries in the Western Hemisphere from doing so) and the USSR, the People’s Republic of China was recognized (for the first time by any country in South America), and a number of social programs were established.

The first steps were taken on the “Chilean road to socialism.”

Foreign owned banks, copper and coal mines, and steel and iron mills were nationalized.

In the nationalized industries and public works projects which were launched, employment was made available for the poor and unemployed. As a result, the unemployment rate was cut in half.

The healthcare and education systems were put taken over by the government and opened to the public.

Free milk, which many could not afford previously, was provided to each child to prevent malnutrition.

Large estates were broken up and redistributed to those without land.

Prices on essential products were frozen, while at the same time workers were given raises.

Taxes were reformed so that the poorest of the poor wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden.

Workers march in support of Allende.

Workers march in support of Allende.

Hundreds of thousands of retirees had their pensions raised.

A state of the art networked of telex machines and computers was installed that allowed factories to communicate with each other in real time, thus facilitating planned production.

Workers and farmers were mobilized. Landless farmers began to occupy land, and industrial workers began to take over their workplaces. Industrial output increased by 14 percent.

In 1971, Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro was invited to Chile. He spent several weeks there, holding a number of public rallies, which drew huge crowds, and giving the socialist members of Chile’s government advice.

Allende and Castro greet supporters.

Allende and Castro greet supporters.

In response to the events in Chile, the U.S. imperialists began a campaign of economic warfare, just as they had (and continue to do) with Cuba. President Richard Nixon demanded that his foot soldiers “make the [Chilean] economy scream.” In line with this, U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Edward M. Korry, proclaimed, “Not a nut or bolt shall reach Chile under Allende. … we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and all Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty.”

What about the “democracy” that the U.S. government has always claimed to uphold? Henry Kissinger made their position on that clear, saying “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

This should come of no surprise. The same thing happened in Viet Nam. When the U.S. government realized that communist leader Ho Chi Minh was sure to win upcoming elections in that country, they canceled them! In the same vein, they sponsored a coup against democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez just a few years ago (though a mass mobilization prevented its success).

Besides cutting off trade, credit and aid to Chile, the U.S. government sponsored publications, television and radio broadcasts that slandered Allende and worked to destabilize the country. Among other things, they claimed Allende and the Popular Unity government were puppets of the USSR (just as they had done with Cuba), even though this was clearly not the case. Although Allende maintained friendly relations with the Soviet Union, he didn’t take orders from its leadership. This was made obvious during his time as a Senator, during which he openly denounced its invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Of course, like democracy, the U.S. government is only concerned with the truth when it serves the interests of the capitalist ruling class.

Problems arise
Things were far from perfect under Allende, though the imperialists had as much to do with that as anything.

The imperialists and local capitalists had begun withdrawing their investments from the country as soon as Allende was elected. This only increased as it became clear that the oppressed and exploited were on the move.

The moves by the U.S. government and its agents to “make the economy scream” began to take their toll. Aid from the U.S., which had amounted to $1 billion (US) during the six-year presidency of Alessandri alone, disappeared after Allende took office.

Trade was limited or refused by the U.S. and its puppets, causing exports to fall by 24 percent. At the same time, a
slight drop in agricultural output (which was expected for a short period while land was redistributed) made it  necessary to increase imports by 26 percent.

Shortages and inflation led to the creation of a black market, leading to even more problems.

On top of all this, the price of copper, Chile’s main export, which was set internationally, fell from $66 (U.S.) per ton in 1970 to $48 in 1972. This meant a major loss of funds for the country.

Often with direct U.S. assistance, and always with its backing, the capitalists and their agents in Chile launched a serious of “strikes” and lockouts. Through intimidation, blackmail and deception, they were able to get teachers and other workers to walk off the job, bringing the economy to a halt. Elements of the petty bourgeoisie, like private physicians (who were angry about the Socialist government’s programs of public health, which meant less money for them), truck owners, and store owners followed suit.

Through all this, Allende’s popularity continued to grow. In the March 1973 elections, the Popular Unity coalition gained more votes that it had when Allende came into office.

Still, the economic crisis facing the country, and the failure of the Popular Unity government to arm the country’s workers and farmers, led to conditions favorable to the imperialists and their allies.

On June 29, 1973, another coup attempt, known as el Tanquetazo (the tank putsch), was launched. Under the leadership of leading members of a right-wing fascist group called “Fatherland and Liberty,” a force made up of several tanks and dozens of soldiers made its way toward La Moneda (the presidential residence), with the aim of overthrowing Allende and installing a military dictatorship.

Early in the morning hours the coup plotters began firing on La Moneda and the Ministry of Defense. Several workers were killed during the attack.

Allende gave a radio broadcast in which he promised to defend the constitution to the end, while calling on workers to occupy the factories “and be ready in case it is necessary to fight alongside the soldiers of Chile.”

General Carlos Prats, along with others in the military, drew up a plan to counter the advance. Within an hour, they began to move in.

When his group reached the area around La Moneda, Prats made a bold decision. Instead of waging all out warfare, he, along with two others, simply marched up to the tanks outside and commanded those in them to come down and surrender. This process continued to work until one tank operator shouted “I will not surrender General,” while pointing the tank’s barrel at Prats and his group. While the two went back and forth, Major Osvaldo Zabala snuck up behind the tank operator and pointed a rifle at his head, forcing him to give up. More units began to arrive on the scene, including one under the command of Augusto Pinochet himself, future leader of yet another coup. The soldiers that had taken part in the plan to overthrow Allende ran away as fast as they could.

During these events, a large crowd had come to La Moneda to show their support for Allende. He delivered a speech to them, in which he explained what was going on, and asked them to remain calm and continuing to trust in the government.

The coup was smashed, but the threat of another still loomed.

At this time, Allende made a fatal error. He brought leading members of the armed forces into his Cabinet, hoping to win their support.

Allende and Pinochet.

Allende and Pinochet.

Soon after, a strange incident involving a traffic incident and protests by military officers pressured General Prats, who was then Interior minister and as Commander in Chief of the Army, to resign. In his place, he recommended Augusto Pinochet, then a General Chief of Staff of the Army.

On August 22, 1973, the Christian Democratic Party – which had earlier campaigned on a “socialist” platform, only to ally with right-wing forces after Allende’s election – didn’t wait long to make a move. In control of the Chamber of
Deputies (after forming a bloc with the right-wing National Party), they were able to push through a resolution (though they lacked the two thirds majority required by the constitution to convict a president of abuse of power) which  formally called for another military coup.

The resolution, entitled “Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy,” claimed that Allende had “the goal of establishing a totalitarian system.”

So, to “save democracy,” they called on the Military to overthrow a democratically elected president; and that’s exactly what happened.

The other 9/11
On the morning of September 11, 1973, sections of the Chilean Navy seized the port city of Valparaíso, marking the beginning of a third coup.

As soon as Allende found about the morning’s events, he rushed to La Moneda. With a handful of aides and members of the presidential guard by his side, he prepared for yet another showdown.

It wasn’t long before members of “the Carabineros,” Chile’s national police, were surrounding La Moneda. Allende got to work trying to reach some of the generals of the various branches of the armed forces; but he was unable to get in contact with any of them.

“No one is answering. I think that this time all of them are involved,” he remarked to his aides. He was right.

Soon after, President Allende broadcast a message to the people of Chile over the radio.

“Confirmed reports indicate that a sector of the Navy has rebelled and is occupying Valparaíso. Santiago is normal and [the soldiers are] in their barracks. I’m here defending the government that I represent by the will of the people. Be alert and vigilant… I wait for the soldiers of Chile to respond positively and defend the laws and the Constitution.  Workers must go to their workplace and wait for new instructions,” he said.

Allende also got in touch with Rolando Calderón, Secretary General of the CUT (Central Única de Trabajadores), one of the largest unions in the country. He asked Calderón to mobilize the workers in his union to shut down the radio stations broadcasting messages in support of the coup; but this was not done.

Instead, the coup leaders acted first, seizing and shutting down all radio stations supportive, or even neutral, towards Allende.

At 8:40 AM, a radio broadcast was made announcing the coup and its supposed intentions. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, Commander in Chief of the Army; José Toribio Merino, Commander in Chief of the Navy; Gustavo Leigh, commander in Chief of the Air Force, and César Mendoza Durán, Director General of Carabineros attached their names to the broadcast, signaling their aim to set themselves up as a new ruling junta.

Soon after the broadcast was made, the Carabineros began to withdraw from their positions around La Moneda, and an offer was made to Allende by the coup plotters. There was an airplane ready to take Allende and his family out of the country and to safety; but he’d have to resign as president. He flatly refused.

“I will not surrender, nor resign,” he said.

The last picture taken of Salvador Allende.

The last picture taken of Salvador Allende.

Allende then made a final radio broadcast, through the one pro-Allende station that had not yet been shut down. “This will surely be the last time I speak to you,” he said. “Magallanes Radio will be silenced, and the reassuring tone of my voice will not reach you. It doesn’t matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be with you. At the least, your memory of me will be that of a man who was loyal to the country… The people ought to defend themselves, but not sacrifice themselves. The people ought not let themselves be subdued or persecuted, but neither should they humble themselves… I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other people will be able to transcend this sad and bitter moment, when treason tries to force itself upon us…I’m sure that my sacrifice will not be in vain… Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!”

While the president’s message was broadcast, a number of tanks began to approach, then attack, La Moneda.

Allende threw on an army helmet and grabbed the AK-47 rifle given to him by Fidel Castro. By his side stood just over a hundred supporters, many who were workers. They had a few small weapons, and a handful of bazookas and 30 caliber machine guns; but they were no match for the military forces descending on the building.

The attack on La Moneda.

The attack on La Moneda.

The soldiers fired tank and machine guns at La Moneda, shattering windows and destroying whole walls. A team in a helicopter patrolled the surrounding area, taking out workers and farmers who had acted as snipers, firing from buildings in defense of the president.

After a short while, there was a cease fire as Allende asked his supporters to lay down their weapons and surrender. Most of those by his side, including his two daughters, left the building. As the end of the evacuation drew near,
fighter jets approached. They proceeded to bomb La Moneda, blowing doors off the hinges and smashing the few windows that were still intact. Helicopters then moved in on the building, firing tear gas canisters.

This was followed by a renewal of the ground attack. As tanks fired, a group of soldiers stormed the door of La Moneda and took the first floor. When Allende learned of the events, he ordered those remaining by his side on the second floor to put down their weapons and leave. Allende proceeded to Independence Hall, where he sat down, put his rifle between his legs, and fired two shots into his brain. This was the end of the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende. It was also the beginning of a vicious reign of terror that would last close to two decades.

Pinochet’s reign of terror
Once the coup plotters were in full control, Augusto Pinochet declared himself chairman of the junta. He moved quickly to consolidate his rule.

All parties that belonged to the Popular Unity government were banned, along with all leftist and labor organizations.

Augusto Pinochet (center) upon taking power as chairman of the newly formed military dictatorship.

Augusto Pinochet (center) upon taking power as chairman of the newly formed military dictatorship.

On September 12, 1973, one day after the overthrow of Allende, thousands of Chileans were rounded up and taken to the Chile Stadium in Santiago. For their support of Allende they were tortured and beaten.

Victor Jara, a beloved musician, had every bone in his hands broken by Pinochet’s thugs. As he lay on the ground, his captors mockingly suggested he play them a song. In response, he sung a song supportive of the overthrown Popular Unity government. He was immediately beaten, and then killed by machine gun fire.

A similar fate was shared by at least 3,000 other Chileans over the next seventeen years. More than 30,000 were tortured by Allende’s military and secret police (known as DINA). Several thousands more were forced into exile to escape the repression.

Some of those who were able to escape were tracked down and murdered by DINA, which cooperated with the military dictatorships in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina and the United States government through “Operation Condor,” a plan to wipe all opposition to imperialism in Latin American off the face of the earth.

Some 30,000 people were “disappeared” under the Operation, which went as far as assassinating Orlando Letelier, a former foreign minister under Salvador Allende, while he was on his way to his new job at the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington, DC, the capital of the United States.

Victim of the Pinochet dictatorship.

Victim of the Pinochet dictatorship.

In another particularly bloody incident in 1985, leftist professor José Manuel Parada, journalist Manuel Guerrero, and another Chilean named Santiago Nattino were beheaded by uniformed police at the behest of the military dictatorship.

Along side the repression instituted by Chile’s new military regime came unrestricted capitalism. Guided by University of Chicago trained economists, Pinochet instituted a number of “reforms” that spelled disaster for the millions of Chilean workers and farmers.

Pinochet sold nationalized industries, banks and even the pension system to the highest bidder, abolished minimum wage, abolished union rights and seriously reduced taxes on the rich.

The result? Unemployment, which had fallen to 4.4 percent under Allende, jumped to over 30 percent, marking the highest increase ever in Latin American history.

The price of exports fell, as did real wages for workers, while poverty, homelessness, starvation and infant mortality rose dramatically.

This is the “democracy” the CIA-backed coup of 1973 brought to Chile.

In place of the democratically elected Allende, who had allowed his political opposition to participate in government, stood a military dictator who bellowed “not a leaf moves in Chile if I don’t know about it!”

Augusto Pinochet remained in power until 1990, when he stepped down after popular resistance forced him to hold a plebiscite, which he lost, in 1988. The brutal dictator remained Commander-in-Chief of the Army for another ten years and became a “Senator-for-life,” under a clause created in the constitution which was rewritten under his rule, after that.

Pinochet the butcher died of congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema in December, 2006.

Allende’s legacy & lessons for today
The events of September 11, 1973, were tragic, but not inevitable.

In order for us to move forward today, we must draw the lessons of events like these. From these lessons we must develop new strategies and tactics, to better enable us to defeat the handful of capitalist exploiters that run the world once and for all.

From the beginning of Allende’s presidency and before, when the class struggle came out into the open, confrontations between the working class and the local capitalist ruling class and foreign imperialists steadily increased.

While the Popular Unity government’s reforms most definitely benefited the working class, small farmers and women, and gave them more room to maneuver, they weren’t enough.

The Popular Unity Government’s “Chilean path to socialism” was based on a supposed “gradual transformation” of capitalism into socialism; but as Karl Marx, the “father” of communism who first discovered the laws of evolution in human history, pointed out, this is simply not possible.

Speaking of the Paris Commune, the revolutionary uprising in France in 1871 in which workers took power for the first time in history, Marx wrote, “One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that ‘the working class
cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes,”

In other words, you can’t elect socialism, a classless society in which the needs of all are met.

In order establish socialism, the working class must rise up, smash the capitalist state apparatus and take control of the tools and technology used to satisfy the wants and needs of humanity.

While supporting the gains made by workers under the Paris Commune, Marx was also critical of its errors (some of
which have since been duplicated).

For instance, Marx criticized the Communards’ refusal to respond to attacks by the capitalist rulers of France with attacks of its own: “In their reluctance to continue the civil war opened by Thiers’ [leader of the rest of France] burglarious attempt on Montmartre, the Central Committee [elected leadership body of the Paris Commune] made themselves, this time, guilty of a decisive mistake in not at once marching upon Versailles [another major city in
France where Theirs and his forces had gathered after being driven from Paris by its workers], then completely helpless, and thus putting an end to the conspiracies of Thiers and his Rurals.”

Here, Marx was saying that when workers take power, they shouldn’t, and can’t, be afraid to fight back when attacked by the capitalists seeking to restore their control.

Indeed, as a result of the gains they had made under Allende, the Chilean workers were not afraid to respond to such attacks. When the capitalists called strikes, workers organized manufacturing and transportation without them. They also took over workplaces and even formed workplace and farm councils.

But while these bodies should have been strengthened and supported as the basis for a new, workers’ state, they were not.

In fact, the workers were often disarmed in the face of attacks by leaders who told them put their faith in the government, instead of relying on their own power.

Recent demonstration by Chilean workers.

Recent demonstration by Chilean workers.

So, while the efforts of the imperialists and local capitalists played a major part, we must admit that the main cause of the defeat of the movement in Chile was its leadership’s “reluctance to continue the civil war opened by” the bourgeoisie and imperialists. This was not solely the fault of Allende, but also other socialists, communists, union leaders, etc., who promoted the non-existent electoral path to socialism.

The best way for us to remember the defeat of the Chilean movement, the overthrow of Allende, and the deaths, tortures and “disappearances” of thousands of our class brothers and sisters which occurred as a result of the U.S.-
backed coup in Chile on September 11, 1973, is to continue to fight.

Today, we must join our Chilean brothers and sisters in the fight for world revolution, to bring an end to exploitation, wage-slavery, oppression, sexism, racism and all the other ills and miseries which result from the outdated capitalist system.

The Baader-Meinhof Complex: A deficient portrait of the RAF

Posted in Film reviews, Germany by amte on September 1, 2009

The Baader Meinhof Complex, a German film directed by Uli Edel, attempts to tell the story of the RAF (Red Army Faction or Red Army Fraction depending on the translation), a group describing itself as an “urban guerrilla” that operated in Germany.

The title of the film alone betrays its approach to the subject. The group depicted called itself the RAF. It was the German press that labeled the group the “Baader-Meinhof Gang” in an attempt to portray it as a non-political criminal outfit.

The founders of the RAF saw themselves as a section of an international movement actively fighting against imperialism. They didn’t expect to take power or have a strategy for doing so. They viewed their actions as attacks which would draw some of the attention of the imperialists away from the forces fighting against their domination in places like Indochina and Latin America.

There is much to be criticized in the RAF’s politics and actions, but The Baader-Meinhof Complex doesn’t give a complete enough picture of them to serve as the basis for any real discussion.

While a few references are lightly interspersed throughout the film, no real focus is given to the brutal imperialist war lead by the U.S. in Viet Nam, the occupation of key positions in the German government by former Nazis, the export of guns to bloody African dictatorships by the German imperialists, the repressive actions of the west German state against dissidents or the outright lies meted out by the capitalist media – all of which served as the background for the formation of the RAF.

The RAF arose in a “democratic” west Germany governed by a “Grand Coalition” of the Social Democratic Party and Christian Democratic Union with a former Nazi at its helm, in which the Communist Party was outlawed, radicals were gunned down in the streets and individuals with “unacceptable politics” were blacklisted from jobs.  This is not brought out in the film.

The closest thing to an explanation of the RAF’s motives and politics The Baader Meinhof Complex offers are snippets of political statements written by Ulrike Meinhof, a left wing journalist and original member of the group, and a few pieces of dialogue from a police commissioner who states that terrorism can only be prevented by the elimination of poverty in the Third World.

While important facts and events are ignored, too much attention is given to episodes of violence and infighting.

Large segments of the two-and-a-half-hour film are dedicated to the RAF’s bombing campaigns and dramatic gun battles between the group’s members and police in pursuit.  Predictably, the police stories that the RAF members always shot first, and without provocation are presented as unchallenged fact.

Little is done to show how the group was able to continually draw members into its ranks and gain the sympathy of a large number of Germans. Instead, excessive focus is given to arguments and break downs among the group and its members. Bitter disputes are shown in full detail.

In the latter part of the film, RAF members Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe are shown having killed themselves while in prison. In reality, the circumstances of their deaths are still very much in question.

Ulrike Meinhof is shown having committed suicide after becoming ostracized by the rest of the RAF prisoners.  But this tale of her separation from the others is simply a theory cooked up without any concrete proof. Indeed, many continue to believe she was killed by the German state, and for good reason.

The films also shows defense attorneys smuggling weapons into the prison for Baader, Ensslin and Raspe to use on themselves if they so chose. When the three prisoners were found dead in their cells, this “premeditated suicide” explanation is what was provided by German officials. But later tests showed that it would have been impossible for Baader to have shot himself at the angle that would have produced the fatal wound at the base of his neck.  On top of this, the left-handed Baader had powder burns on his right hand while Raspe had no powder burns at all. In spite of all this, and more, the official story is never questioned.

A film that purports to depict historical events must be held to a high standard. At the very least, it should stick to the known facts.  Instead, The Baader Meinhof Complex presents a flawed picture in a quest to represent the RAF as nothing more than a band of hopeless romantics with guns completely isolated from reality.

The acting in The Baader Meinhof Complex is superb, but it’s not enough to rescue the film from its own inadequacies.  The same can be said of the film’s fine cinematography.

In their attempt to create a historical “action film” acceptable in modern capitalist society, the creators of The Baader Meinhof Complex produced a film that falls flat.

자본가들은 모든 노동자들을 비정규직이기를 바란다

Posted in Capitalism, Korea by amte on August 23, 2009

(The English version of this entry can be found here).

전국경제인연합회(The Federation of Korean Industries)는 다른 자본가들과 힘을 합쳤고 한국에 있는 모든 노동자들이 비정규직으로 되기를 요구하고 있다.

연합회는 노동자들이 세계경제위기로 인해 가장 큰 고통을 받고 있음에도 불구하고 그들을 비난한다. 연합회는 “요즘 문제들은 노동자들이 유연하게 대처하지 못하기 때문이라고 주장합니다.

평균적으로, 비정규직 노동자들은 남한에서 일하는 보통 노동자들의 60% 임금밖에 받지 못한다.

남한의 총 노동인구 33% 정도인 약 5,400,000명의 노동자들은 현재 “비정규직” 노동자이다.그 중 절반이 한 시간에 4,000원 정도의 최저 임금을 받는다.

세계 경제 위기가 지속되면서 자본가는 노동 계층에게 압박을 주고 있다. 이러한 압박으로부터 우리를 보호하기 위해서 우리는 조직화하여 싸워야 한다. 효과적으로 이 싸움을 해나가기 위해 힘을 모아야 한다. 우리는 이러한 문제들을 만들어내는 자본주의 시스템을 폐지할 때까지 공격을 계속해 나가야 한다.

노동자(쌍용 자동차) 중 일부는 이미 싸움을 시작했다. 그들은 파업을 하고 있고 그들의 일터를 장악하고 있다 . 이제 우리가 함께 해야 한다. 우리는 함께해 이길 것이다.

Everlasting Moments: A film in the service of the status quo

Posted in Film reviews by amte on August 23, 2009

Rather than capturing the essence of the tumultuous times which it portrays, Everlasting Moments, a Swedish film directed by Jan Troell, is dull, dry and drawn out.

Based in early 20th century Sweden, the film follows the working class Larsson family through its ups and downs.

Maria Heiskanen plays Maria Larsson, a housekeeper and mother of seven broken down by her work, her abusive, lying, alcoholic husband Sigge (Mikael Persbrandt) and the banality of domestic servitude.

The Larsson family is plagued with contradiction. Sigge is a loving and carefree one minute and violent and demanding the next. He’s saddened immensely by his addiction to alcohol, but yet still unable to shake it. Religion and social pressures keep Maria trapped in this seemingly endless cycle, even when she wants to escape.

Impoverished and concerned with the well being of her family, Maria tries to sell a camera she won in a lottery to a Danish photographer (Jesper Christensen). But when the photographer sees the one picture Maria has taken, he urges Maria to keep the camera and shoot more, even giving her the materials she needs.

Maria has an on and off attraction with the camera and the photographer (although she never gives in to the temptation to act on it). At one point, she sets up a makeshift studio in her undersized apartment and becomes a popular photographer, drawing the contempt of Sigge, whose ego is bruised by her independence.

In some of the best scenes of the film, Maria uses her camera to help one mother accept the death of a daughter and another to see the beauty within her Down’s syndrome stricken child.

For his part, Sigge becomes swept up in the emerging labor movement. A hard working dockhand, he becomes convinced of the need for socialist revolution through a combination of life experiences and conversations with fellow workers. But it is not his only focus. When Sigge gets involved in a militant strike on the docks and is falsely accused of carrying out an explosive attack in support of it, he is forced to reveal that he was having sex with a barmaid to prove his innocence.

Not enough attention is given to the rising tide of working class militancy of the period. Such a long film could have easily spent more than the few moments it did on the suicide of Sigge’s best friend, an active anarchist who hung himself out of despair.  And what’s worse, after that event we don’t hear any mention of the proletarian struggle at all.

Eventually, the Larssons move to an old house in the country and Sigge opens his own transportation business that quickly grows. Maria is shown taking the first and last picture of herself. She died soon after, we’re told, content of the life she’d lived.

Everlasting Moments does a good enough job of depicting the life of the Larsson family, and the acting is strong and believable. But in the end, the film serves the status quo with its moral that everything will eventually work out if you just hang in and bear whatever misery you are faced with.

Because of that, the film looses whatever worth it may have otherwise had. After all, the point is not simply to observe the world as it is, but to change it

The Goods fails to deliver

Posted in Film reviews by amte on August 22, 2009

The involvement of a plethora of well known comedians isn’t enough to save The Goods:  Live Hard, Sell Hard, a comedy directed by Neal Brennan.

The Goods revolves around a failing used car lot in California owned by an aging salesman played by James Brolin. The lot is staffed by a group of unsuccessful salespeople played by Tony Hale, Charles Napier, Ken Jeong and Jonathan Sadowski.

While Jeremy Piven seems like the perfect choice to portray Don Ready, the fast-talking traveling car salesman called in to turn things around, he comes up very short on laughs.

His cohorts, played by David Koechner, Kathryn Hahn and Ving Rhames, don’t fare any better.

It’s not that Piven and company don’t try. The film is littered from beginning to end with punch lines and gags. The problem is that they just aren’t funny.

Most of the “jokes” come at the expense of workers, women and homosexuals.

In what has to be the most difficult to watch scene, the staff of the car lot is provoked by a nationalist “inspirational speech” and anti-Japanese slurs to carry out a mob attack against an Asian-American salesman. After the attack comes to an end, the perpetrators admit to committing a hate crime but plan to defend themselves with the false claim that the Asian-American came at them with a samurai sword. For his part, the victim of the attack (Jeong) agrees to dismiss the whole thing, saying, “Actually, I’m Korean.”

A cameo appearance by Will Farrell and a boy band spoof by Ed Helms add little.

Similarly, the obligatory love interest that arises between Ready and the daughter of the car lot’s owner (played by Jordana Spiro) fails to rescue the film in any way.

Watching The Goods, one gets the feeling that the writers may have intended the film’s more over-the-top aspects to serve as some form of social commentary. If that is indeed the case, they definitely missed the mark.

But even if, on the other hand, their goal was simply to illicit a few cheap laughs, they still fell short.

The Goods could have been something much more. There was no lack of comedic talent and the used car business, marked as it is by fierce competition, predation and deception, is ripe for parody.  Unfortunately, The Goods simply doesn’t deliver.

Indian movie star of film on racial profiling detained in U.S. airport

Posted in United States by amte on August 16, 2009

Indian movie star Shahrukh Khan, who just finished a shoot for an upcoming movie about racial profiling called “My Name Is Khan,” was recently detained in a U.S. airport.

After being held for hours, SRK was finally allowed to make a call. He phoned the Indian consulate in the United States which confirmed his identity.

SRK, as he is known to fans, said he was angered and humiliated by the experience.

“I was really hassled perhaps because of my name being Khan. These guys just wouldn’t let me through,” he told reporters.

Of course this sort of thing happens every day in the land of the free. It’s only when it happens to someone famous that any real mention is made.

U.S. calls for release of political prisoners in Myanmar – When will it release its own?

Posted in Myanmar, Political prisoners, United States by amte on August 12, 2009

After a Myanmar court convicted Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the main liberal opposition party, to 18-months of house arrest for allowing an uninvited U.S. citizen to stay in her home, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the trial and called for the ruling military junta to release of all political prisoners in the country.

Meanwhile, a number of political prisoners continue to languish in U.S. prisons, largely unmentioned. Below is a very incomplete list of some of those political prisoners. When will the U.S. government allow their release?

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning journalist who has been on death row since 1982, falsely accused of the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

The State of Pennsylvania claims that in 1981, Mumia, then a cab driver, saw his brother being beaten by Officer Faulkner across the street from where he was parked. They claim he ran over and shot Faulkner in the back, was in turn shot by Faulkner, and then shot Faulkner several more times in the head. The facts do not bare these claims out.

At trial, the prosecution’s main eyewitness was a prostitute named Cynthia White.  White claimed she say Mumia run across a parking lot with a gun, but two other prostitutes and another woman who knew her have since stated that White was coerced by police into giving this testimony. Two other eyewitnesses say that White wasn’t even on the corner in question when the shooting occurred.

Pamela Jenkins, another prostitute, says other police officers were present at Faulkner’s shooting and that Cynthia White was an informant who regularly preformed sexual favors to cops.

The prosecution’s other “eyewitness,” a cab driver named Robert Chobert, now admits to receiving favors in exchange for his testimony. He also stated that he wasn’t even in a location that would allow him to witness the shooting, a fact backed up by newly discovered photos of the crime scene.

Another key piece of “evidence” provided by the prosecution is a supposed confession made by Mumia as he lay on a hospital bed recovering from his gunshot wound. But no police officer claimed to hear a confession by Mumia until two months after it supposedly took place. In fact, a police officer who watched over Mumia the night of the shooting stated that he “made no comments.” The police “suddenly” recalled his confession immediately after he filed charges of police brutality.

Vietnam War veteran and small business owner William Singletary, who was at the scene of the shooting, reported to police that the shooter was wearing a green army jacket and that Mumia didn’t arrive on the scene until after Faulkner had been shot.  For this he was repeatedly threatened, his gas station was vandalized, and he was eventually run out of town altogether.

Others, including two police officers, also said the shooter was wearing a green army jacket. Mumia was wearing a red quilted jacket the night of the shooting. Other witnesses also say they saw someone running from the scene. Mumia was found shot at the scene.

Dessie Hightower, one of the witnesses who saw someone running from the scene of the shooting, says he was pressured by police to withhold his testimony.

Veronica Jones says she witnessed someone fleeing from the scene of the shooting, but was told by police that unless she testified against Mumia she would be forced to serve a long jail sentence.

What’s more, a man named Arnold Beverly has confessed that he was the person who shot Faulkner. Beverly stated that he and another man were hired by a group of cops and mobsters to kill Faulker because he was causing them problems by interfering in their illegal activities. Beverly said that it was another police officer, not Faulkner, that shot Mumia. Beverly also stated that he was wearing a green army jacket on the night of the shooting.

Ballistics evidence is nonexistent. Mumia was found with a gun the night of the shooting, but he was licensed to carry it. Police never ran any tests on the gun to see if it was fired or on Mumia’s hands to see if he had fired a gun. Different police reports make different claims as to the type of bullets found in Mumia’s gun. A fragment from one of Faulkner’s wounds and a medical examiner’s X-ray of Faulkner’s body have disappeared.

There is no reliable evidence connecting Mumia to the shooting of Daniel Faulkner, let alone establishing his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” By all accounts, Mumia is and has always been a calm and collected person. In fact, his only “record,” was that of a former member of the Black Panther Party and a well known journalist who exposed and fought against exploitation and injustice — including the firebombing of the back-to-nature MOVE commune’s house by Philadelphia police.

His trial was presided over by Judge Albert Sabo who has sentenced more people to death than any other sitting judge in the United States. During Mumia’s trial Sabo said “I’m going to help them fry the nigger.” He allowed the prosecutor to argue for the death penalty on the basis of Mumia’s former membership in the Black Panther Party.

Mumia’s imprisonment has been condemned by a large number of political organizations, artists, unions and educators.

Mumia is confined to a tiny cell 23 hours of each day. He describes it as living in a bathroom. He is denied contact visits with his family and has been punished for continuing to write from behind bars.

Eddie Conway

Eddie Conway

Marshall “Eddie” Conway, falsely accused of the murder of a Baltimore police officer, has been in prison for close to four decades.

On April 25, 1970, two police officers were fired upon while sitting in their patrol car. One officer was killed and the other was injured. Soon after two men were arrested at the scene. The next day, Conway, a postal worker and member of the Baltimore Branch of the Black Panther Party, was arrested on the (supposed) word of an “unnamed informant” and an officer who arrived at the scene of the shooting and claimed to have seen a third man “at a distance.”

Eddie Conway has never been linked by any physical evidence to the shooting. According to police, Conway confessed to a repeat informant that was placed in his cell against his protest (which was made, in writing, to prison guards). The use of such informants was well known to the Black Panther Party, which was subject to attack for years. The third police officer who arrived at the scene of the shooting claimed to have “followed a man who seemed to be acting suspiciously.” He originally failed to identify Conway from a set of  photos. It was only after he was shown a second set of photos, in which Conway’s photo was the only one repeated from the first set, that he identified Conway as the man “acting suspiciously.” The “identification” took place in the same station house that Conway was being held in. A lineup could have easily been arranged, but never was.

At the time of Conway’s arrest, the Baltimore Branch of the Black Panther Party had already come under attack. Recently released documents show that Conway and the rest of the branch were under constant FBI surveillance prior to his arrest and that the branch was infiltrated with government agents and informants. A mass arrest of members the Baltimore Branch took place immediately prior the police shooting on claims that they tortured and murdered an informant. The first of those members to stand trial was acquitted after a mere two and half hours of jury deliberation. The charges against the remaining members were dropped.

At trial, prosecutors relied on the testimony of this informant and the third police officer. Conway wanted to defend himself, but was denied the ability to do so by the judge. On most of the days of the trial, Conway wasn’t even in the courtroom. The jury was not sequestered and was no doubt exposed to the inflammatory anti-Black Panther Party rhetoric which filled the local media (and which has since been connected to the FBI’s counter intelligence program which had the stated goal of destroying the Black Panthers).

The Cuban 5

The Cuban 5

The Cuban Five are five men from Cuba imprisoned for long terms in the United States on false charge of espionage.

Anti-Cuban terrorist groups have waged attack after attack on Cuba for close to fifty years, leaving more than 3,000 Cubans, along with several tourists, dead or injured. These groups operate with the full knowledge, and support, of agencies like the FBI and CIA.

Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González volunteered to come to the United States to infiltrate the terrorist groups in order to prevent future attacks on Cuba, at great risks to themselves.

But far from being embraced as anti-terrorists, the Five were rounded up by U.S. authorities and held in solitary confinement for seventeen months.  Their trial was held in an atmosphere of absolute hysteria in Miami, home to the largest number of opponents of the Cuban Revolution in the world. The judge repeatedly denied attorney’s motions for a change of venue despite the obvious fact that a fair trial could never be held there.

In 2001, after a seven month trial, the five were convicted of four life sentences and 75 years in prison.

The Five are held in separate, maximum-security prisons around the United States. The wives of two of the Cuban Five have repeatedly been denied visas that would allow them to enter the U.S. in order to visit their husbands.

Their trial, and subsequent treatment, has been condemned by groups and individuals in twenty U.S. cities and more than thirty countries, along with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, and eight international Nobel Prize winners.

In 2009, the Supreme Court refused to review the convictions of the Five after Solicitor General Elena Kagan filed a brief on behalf of  U.S. President Barack Obama requesting that they refuse to reopen the case.

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier, a former leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM), has been imprisoned for more than 32 years on false charges of murdering two FBI agents. He is serving two consecutive life sentences.

In the early 1970’s, the tribal leader of the Pine Ridge Reservation hired a group of vigilantes, who referred to themselves as GOONS, to rid the reservation of AIM members and supporters by force. Dozens of people were injured or killed as a result. The FBI supplied the GOONS with information and even ammunition.

In response, a number of people asked Peltier and other AIM members for help. Peltier and a small group of young AIM members set up camp on a ranch inside of the reservation.

On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents in unmarked vehicles drove onto the ranch. They originally claimed they were in pursuit of a man in a pick-up truck. No pick-up truck was ever found. Later, after they found that the truck could not be tied to Peltier, one of the agents changed his claim and said that they were in fact in pursuit of a red and white van that Peltier was occasionally known to drive.

The arrival of the FBI agents frightened residents of the ranch. Shots broke out. Soon a full out shootout was taking place. Before long, more than 150 FBI agents, law enforcement agents and GOONS surrounded the ranch.

After the smoke had cleared,  two FBI agents and one Native American boy were dead. The death of the Native American, Joseph Stuntz, has never been investigated.

The U.S. government moved quickly to charge Peltier and two other AIM members (Bob Robideau and Darrell Butler) with the shootings. Robideau and Butler were acquitted by juries who found they acted in self-defense. No charges were ever brought against any of the other 37 people the FBI claimed were involved in the gun battle.

Peltier managed to escape to Canada but was eventually captured in 1976. Peltier was extradited to the U.S. on the basis of affidavits signed by a women Myrtle Poor Bear who claimed that she was Peltier’s girlfriend and had witnessed the shooting. In fact, Myrtle had never even met Peltier. She later admitted that she was forced to sign the affidavits by the FBI.

Peltier’s trial took place in 1977. The judge refused to allow Myrtle to testify and excluded other evidence which had been allowed in the cases of Robideau and Butler.

A ballistics test showing that the bullets that killed the FBI agents did not come from the gun was initially hidden. Another 140,000 pages of FBI documents concerning the case were also kept out of the hands of the defense and view of the jury.

Three Native teenagers testified against Peltier, though none of them identified him as the shooter. Later, they admitted they were forced to testify by the FBI. The FBI openly admits it paid another woman who testified against Peltier $42,000.

Amazingly, the prosecution admitted during the trial that they did not actually know who shot the two FBI agents.  Still, they claimed, Peltier was guilty whether or not he was the one that killed the agents since, according to them, he participated in the shootout.

Peltier has repeatedly been denied parole despite admissions by the Parole Commission that “the prosecution has conceded the lack of any direct evidence that he personally participated in the executions of the two FBI agents.”

Peltier’s case has won the support of numerous individuals and organizations around the world.