democracy

Internationally recognised legal standards are being flagrantly ignored in the treatment of political prisoners from the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement. The prisoners have been detained by the Abhisit Vejjajiva military government since the bloody crackdown against unarmed demonstrators in May.

Alarm bells should be ringing as the threat of war looms on the horizon, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned in his July 18 weekly column.

The warning came after tensions again flared with neighbouring Colombia, and the Central American nation of Costa Rica agreed to 6000 US troops being deployed on its soil.

Chavez placed Venezuela on high alert and broke diplomatic relations with Colombia after a July 22 meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

A unprecedented mass demonstration took place on July 8 in Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian-occupied West Papua, Straighttimes.com said that day.

Thousands of people joined a long march, walking 17 kilometres from the Papua People’s Assembly (MRP) to the Papuan Provincial Legislature (DPRP) to reject the “special autonomy” granted by Indonesia in 2001. Protesters demanded a referendum on West Papuan independence and an internationally-mediated dialogue with Jakarta.

El Salvador is a country where supermarket prices are comparable to those in developed countries, yet a sugar cane cutter earns $5 a day.

This small, predominantly rural, yet densely populated country has a violent history of colonial oppression and the attempted genocide of the indigenous people. More recently, it went through the 1980-92 civil war.

La Lucha” is a phrase you hear a lot in El Salvador. It means “the struggle”.

Recent moves by the Venezuelan government, which now claims almost 50% of the shares in a pro-coup TV station and revoked the concession of another, represent new steps towards reclaim the media for the people.

The moves came as US-Venezuelan writer Eva Golinger revealed on July 15 in a Chavezcode.com post that recently declassified documents showed the US State Department has funded opposition media to the tune of more than US$4 million.

On June 28 last year, democratically-elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a US-backed military coup.

Zelaya had upset US and Honduran corporate interests with policies such as blocking privatisation, increasing the minimum wage and joining the anti-imperialist Latin American bloc led by Venezuela and Cuba, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).

But it was Zelaya’s decision to grant a demand of the social movements and begin a democratic process towards rewriting Honduras’s pro-elite constitution that led directly to the coup.

The Order of Mates celebrated beside Sydney Harbour the other day. This is a venerable masonry in Australian political life that unites the Labor Party with the rich elite known as the big end of town.

They shake hands, not hug, though the Silver Bodgie now hugs. In his prime, the Silver Bodgie, aka Bob Hawke or Hawkie, wore suits that shone, wide-bottomed trousers and shirts with the buttons undone.

A bodgie was an Australian version of the 1950s English Teddy Boy and Hawke’s thick grey-black coiffure added inches to his abbreviated stature.

This election campaign is crazy.

It’s crazy that so much fear is being whipped up about the few thousand of the world's 43 million refugees and displaced people who manage to get on a leaky boat to Australia.

But neither mainstream party is willing to stop sending troops to the decade-long military occupation of Afghanistan. This war is largely responsible for 2.8 million Afghan refugees worldwide — the same war is opposed by most in Afghanistan and most citizens of the countries whose armies occupy it.

Green Left Weekly spoke to Peter Boyle, the national convener of the Socialist Alliance, about the political climate of the 2010 federal elections.

* * *

Many progressive people are feeling depressed about the federal election. How do you see it?

Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition are in a “race to the bottom”, as Socialist Alliance lead Queensland Senate candidate and Murri community leader Sam Watson aptly put it.

Forget about the climate science and the record high temperatures. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has decided she doesn’t need a serious climate change policy to win the federal election.

In its place, she kicked off her election campaign on July 18 with a “sustainable Australia” policy. It promised a future of low population growth, which “preserves our quality of life and respects our environment”.

Opposition leader and climate denier Tony Abbott was quick to say he fully agreed with this vision, but was even more committed to it than Gillard.

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