Central America Notes

September 6 , 2003

We present some notes collected on critical events during the summer in Central America.

Costa Rica [From the San Jose (Costa Rica) Daily, Nacion]

On July 14, some 15 Costa Rican police agents tried to arrest a group of about 80 campesinos on the Bambuzal estate, owned by Standard Fruit, the US banana company, in Rio Frio, Sarapiqui, Heredia. Just four days earlier, on July 10, authorities had evicted 166 families who had been occupying the Bambuzal estate since December 2001. The July 14 incident happened after water authorities cut off water to a nearby store where the campesinos had set up camp following the eviction. Violence erupted after the police arrived and chased the campesinos back onto the Bambuzal estate…

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Indigenous Movement Breaks with President Lucio Gutierrez


August 6 , 2003

In the face of the most recent declarations and actions of President Lucio Gutiérrez, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador, CONAIE) proclaims the following:

The government has betrayed the mandate given to it by the Ecuadorian people in the last elections. This mandate envisioned the defense of national sovereignty, of natural resources, the reactivation of the economy with an eye towards equity, and a commitment to peace. Instead, during these last six months, the government of Lucio Gutiérrez has maintained a position contrary to the national interest by signing a Letter of Intent with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in which he pledged:

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Rosie DiManno's Occupied Territory

Stephen James-Kerr

August 01, 2003

For as long as I can remember, Rosie DiManno has single-handedly defended an Israeli settlement on page A2 of the Toronto Star. (www.thestar.com ) Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday Rosie issues drive-by reports in which she fires her literary M16 at all the usual suspects; anyone who questions the received opinion of the rich, or physically resists their domination. Now that the Bush Cartel is waging global war, DiManno is locked and loaded.

“Make righteous war, not la-la peace”, she demands on June 4th, calling for “snarly, vigorous intervention” in Congo with troops who are allowed to “Kill the enemy. No bargaining, no discussion, no turning heel and fleeing. Because what is the point of peacekeepers when there is no peace to keep?” One wonders which expendable group of Congolese teenagers Rosie considers ‘the enemy,’ but questions spoil all the self-righteous fun in la-la land.

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Reading the Victoria Times Colonist for 'bias

Marie Campbell

Mideast Media Analysis Group of the Victoria Peace Coalition

August 01, 2003

Summarized here is an analysis of how the Times Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia's daily newspaper covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how this coverage helps readers interpret what is happening. The Times Colonist is one of many Canadian papers owned by CanWest Global Communications Corp. The paper's Editor-in-Chief is Andrew Phillips, whose comments about his own editorial practices, including answers to my own questions in a public seminar, helped me develop the paper's analytic framework. He acknowledged the paper's policy of being pro-Israel. He also declared the Times Colonist to be a middle-of-the-road paper, and that given his concerns about declining circulation, his goal is to publish a paper that matches the preferences of the largest number of potential Victoria readers. My analytic purpose was to determine, through careful textual analysis, if and how these informally stated policies play out in the paper's news coverage. The data analysed include all the stories related to the mid-east conflict published in the Times Colonist between January 29 (just after the re-election of Ariel Sharon) and March 28, 2003 (by which time the US/UK invasion of Iraq had obliterated attention to the Israeli-Palestinian situation). Mr. Phillips subscribes to the view that readers can and do "make anything they like" of the paper's news stories and pictures. That has not been my impression and, indeed, the argument that I make here contradicts it. But, not satisfied to base a judgement of "bias" on the fact of the paper's Jewish ownership, I treated the paper's accounts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the fixed side of a "text-reader conversation" that I and other readers would enter. We would, of course, bring our own views and knowledge to the reading. But, as a text produced in a specific institution, the paper influences in ways that I wanted to discover and describe.

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Africa Through the Globe and Mail's Canadian (Corporate) Lens

An En Camino Media Alert

August 01, 2003

In the month of July, the Canadian media discovered Africa, as did much of the rest of the Western world's mainstream media. There were 28 articles on Africa over the first 18 days of July. Some of these articles tackled long-standing issues: AIDS in southern Africa, the civil war in the Congo, the civil war in Liberia, political conflict in Zimbabwe. Other aspects were not dealt with: privatizations and evictions in South Africa, IMF/World Bank restructuring throughout Africa over a period of decades that has devastated the public health infrastructure and aggravated every public health crisis, including AIDS, to a devastating degree.

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The Toronto Star's Coverage of the Colombia Conflict

A Letter from Joe Emersberger to the Star

Your coverage of Colombia's civil war has been extremely one sided and inaccurate in recent months. Anyone who relied mainly on your coverage of this conflict could be forgiven for having quite a distorted view of it. The impunity with which the Colombian government, often through its paramilitary allies, has killed and tortured its people is greatly assisted by media coverage that distorts reality. I implore you to consider what I say below and to do your part to deprive the Colombian government of this impunity.

Since April 4 you have published 14 articles that referred to the conflict. Five of them dealt directly with murders committed by the leftist rebels (FARC, ELN). None mentioned murders carried out by the Colombian government. Three made brief reference to murders committed by right wing paramilitaries, but their connection to the government was left unexplored.

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Justifying the Occupation: the Globe and Mail on Iraq

An En Camino Media Alert

July 05, 2003

Iraq is now an occupied country. Its economy is in the process of being privatized and sold to US corporations. Electrical power is still not available to millions of people and temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the original pretexts for the war - mainly Iraq's supposed possession of 'weapons of mass destruction'- have disappeared. These are vitally important issues, with tremendous implications for Iraq's population today and for the ability of leaders to wage wars in future. If the media were seriously engaging with these issues - asking serious questions about the nature of the occupation and the lies told to bring it about, presenting the information to the public - it would be far more difficult for the US to go to war, and to sustain its occupation.

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The Mainstream Media Discusses Itself

An En Camino Media Alert*

June 03 , 2003

A Hypothetical Newscast

Picture this. It's the news on Canada's public television network, the CBC. The newscasters come on, and make the following broadcast.

"In domestic news, Montrealer Adil Charkaoui was arrested earlier this week by CSIS, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. CSIS arrested Mr. Charkaoui on a 'security certificate' under the 'Immigration and Refugee Protection Act'. The 'security certificate' provides for arrests of immigrants on suspicion that they are a 'national security threat', and was signed by Solicitor General Wayne Easter and Immigration Minister Denis Coderre. This is one of numerous cases of CSIS arresting immigrants from Canada's Muslim community on 'security certificates'. Another case is that of Mohamed Herkat, who is still being held pending deportation.

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Well, it depends what you mean by 'meeting'...

Collected by En Camino

May 20, 2003

On May 3, 2003, En Camino published a media alert and an article written by International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteer Paul Burrows. Burrows was responding specifically to a Globe and Mail article by Doug Saunders that repeats insinuations that the ISM had a 'meeting' with suicide bombers in the occupied Palestinian territories. Burrows's article refuted this vicious lie, and one of our readers wrote a letter to Mr. Saunders. An interesting exchange between our reader, Mr. Saunders, and Paul Burrows ensued, which we place here.

The debate seems to hinge on the meaning of the word 'meeting'. Mr. Saunders, a writer who makes his living writing articles, seemed incapable of understanding the accepted meaning of the word 'meeting', and defended his use of the word. While this kind of falsification is particularly blatant, it's also important to remember that a systematic analysis of media coverage (see our other Globe and Mail media alert, for example) shows distortions that are both more subtle and more pervasive.

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Privatization by Bombing in Colombia

May 20, 2003

Iraq isn't the only place where bombing is a means to the end of privatization. While the Bush regime was killing Iraqi protesters in Fallujah and handing Iraq's wealth out to its friends in Bechtel and Halliburton, the Colombian establishment was testing out the privatization-by-bombing strategy in Cali.

The municipal worker's union in Cali, SINTRAEMCALI, has long been a combative, militant, and popular union. From the early 1990s, SINTRAEMCALI has taken a stand for accessible public services and against privatization and corruption. It has struggled, unafraid and undeterred by threats and murders against its members, using direct action tactics like occupying the municipal offices in downtown Cali.

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