20 December 2011

Discussions on Facebook

Dear Friends,

We have launched two discussion subjects on facebook today :

1. Political Accountability : http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=250504361683661

As you know, this law was demanded by the HP first in 1985 and the Nation finally sees it as the need of the times.
lets us take this discussions to millions across the nation and clarify people on Humanist proposals through this issue.


2. PROGRAMME FOR A HUMANIST GOVERNMENT - Education, Peace & Progress for all (Humanist Manifesto) :  http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=250511038349660

We have provided the complete Manifesto, as developed so far.
Lets take this to people, building this further and also clarifying people on Humanist proposals through this document.

We will be launching various issues in the same way, trying to launch one per day from now onwards, thus taking the Humanist proposals to widest number of people. lets publicise them to all our contacts in every way (email, sms, facebook, google +, twitter,  and in our weekly meetings, etc.)

We invite individuals to take charge of one of the issues, to coordinate the discussions happening on these issues.

19 December 2011

Press Conference against BRAI Bill 2011 by DELHI ALLIANCE FOR SAFE FOOD - Humanist Party's stand on the issue





PRESS RELEASE
18 December 2011.

The HUMANIST PARTY of INDIA, as part of the DELHI ALLIANCE FOR SAFE FOOD, supports the Campaign for immediate cancellation of the "BIOTECHNOLOGY REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF INDIA BILL 2011", that is proposed to be tabled in the Parliament at any time.

The BRAI bill 2011 signifies the blatant nexus between Multinational Seed companies who are pushing their Genetically modified crops in India and our government institutions, and the corrupt Politicians and the bureaucracy.
The BRAI bill 2011 is a negative legislation since it is based on “anti-life-manipulation-of-science” - it indeed truly represents CORRUPTION of Ideas acting in the fields of Science, Law, Industry, Politics among others.

This corrupt practice of multiple players, being presented to India by Monsanto and its partners in this death-game is unfortunately getting the full support from UPA Government headed by the Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh, and deserves full-complete opposition from all life-supporting Indians.

The campaign being conducted under the banner of DELHI ALLIANCE FOR SAFE FOOD, formed by a wide cross section of consumers, farmers, traders, civil society, trade union activists, scientists and academics from Delhi support of hundreds of Organizations representing millions of Indians, urges the Manmohan Singh Government to not only drop the proposed legislation completely but also cancel all the current trials being conducted in different parts of India on different kinds of GM seeds. These trials are not just illegal and immoral but also anti-life, as we have seen deaths of hundreds of thousands of farmers specially in the areas where BT-Cotton has been allowed over the last years.

No Government in a true-democracy has the right to sell the security & sovereignty of its people's lives. If any Government attempts to do that, it will risk facing the strong opposition of people leading to the end of its undemocratic rule.
Continuation of insisting this bill will only prove the corrupt-violent credentials of the current Government and the people of India, in that case will have no choice but to work for a new Government that will be formed based on the following principals :

1. ACTIVE NON-VIOLENCE:
2. HUMAN BEING AS THE CENTRAL VALUE:
3. CO-OPERATIVE SYSTEM:
4. NON-DISCRIMINATION:
5. PRINCIPLE OF OPTION AND OF NO MONOPOLIES:

For THE HUMANIST PARTY OF INDIA
(Sudhir Gandotra)
SECRETARY – INTERNATIONAL TEAM.
Major concerns with BRAI Bill, 2011

  • The fundamental basis of regulation on products of modern biotechnology lies in the risks associated with modern biotechnology. Therefore, there should only be one primary mandate or objective to this statute: to prevent risks to the health and safety of people of India, its socio-economic fabric, its environment and its biological diversity in particular, from the development, handling, transport, use, transfer and release of any living modified organisms. But the preamble of the current proposal gives one a feeling that products of modern biotechnology are a fait accompli and the law is being made to 'promote' safe usage.

  • There is an inherent, objectionable conflict of interest as the BRAI is proposed to be under the Ministry of Science and Technology, which already has a mandate to promote GM crops, a product of modern biotechnolgy which BRAI is supposed to regulate. The very mandate of the BRAI Bill is inappropriate.
  • There is no intention or mention of independent, long-term and rigorous biosafety assessment of GM crops.
  • Centralised and narrow decision-making with no mechanism for consultation with the public or involvement of multiple stakeholders in decision-making is present in the bill, which is against the spirit of democracy and against the Cartagena Protocol, to which India is a signatory.
  • No mechanism for transparency- Worse yet, the Bill bypasses the citizen’s right to information by overriding the Right to Information Act, 2005, for commercial interests.
  • The Bill overrides the state governments’ authority over health and agriculture and thereby challenging the federal polity of the country.
  • It is also objectionable and problematic that this Act will have an over-riding effect over other laws in force, since this Bill is indeed inconsistent with legislations like the Biological Diversity Act.
  • The Bill has very weak penal clauses and lacks deterrent liability mechanisms to ensure prevention of mishaps and irresponsible actions by GM crop developers and promoters. It also lacks any redressal mechanisms where by stakeholders [farmers, consumers etc] can be compensated for damages [deliberate or otherwise] caused and remediation ensured.
  • Very importantly, the Bill fails to talk about any needs evaluation, socio-economic assessment and assessment of alternatives, which was also stressed by the Government in its Bt brinjal moratorium decision – and assumes that all biotechnology and GM crops are a fait accompli.


More details at :

11 December 2011

the Humanist Voice - www.humanistvoice.in - was launched today from Narhi Park

Thanks to all those who cared, the Humanist Voice -  www.humanistvoice.in  - was launched today from Narhi Park. (Though a very bad net-connection created issues, many persisted).

The Newsletter is alive now, a humble beginning and we invite you all to view it and become a part of it.

Taking note that the Politicians have taken the right to interfere in any/all fields of life, the Humanist Voice invites views/expressions in all/every/any field of life (and indeed beyond life) in any format (written, cartoon, picture, graphics, video, web-link), or a Press Release of your positive activity - its Invitation and/or report).

You do not need anyone's approval to get the material printed, though we are do have an editorial team. Just register yourself as an author and go ahead and submit your contribution. All content in the direction of building Universal Human Nation will be welcome.

You are welcome to encourage others to write/contribute content to Humanistvoice from across India as well as the world.
We have a wide variety of sections and categories that are divided into different menus. And, as we receive suggestions to increase/improve them, we will do that.

Surely, the content and its presentation can undergo many improvements and your suggestions will always be welcomed by us.

We welcome the members of HP across India and the world to take charge as the local correspondent of their place, and we welcome the members of all other Humanist Organisms to take such a role on behalf of their respective Organisms. Being a Political newsletter, we are at liberty to cover any/all topics under the sun, and, even beyond that.............

We welcome content in any Indian language sent in UNICODE FONT.

19 April 2011

Position regarding Nuclear Energy

"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."
Albert Einstein

The unfolding disaster in Fukushima, Japan and the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union lead World without Wars and Violence to declare its position regarding Nuclear Energy1.

This position is based on the following points:

Human life as the central value

As humanists, we put human life as the central value, we are in favour of development and technology, and we must learn from those disasters that have occurred in the development of technology and industry so that we do not repeat them again in the future.

The effects of radioactivity on human life

Radioactivity is not a man-made phenomenon, yet human activity since 1945 has constantly raised the level of radioactivity in the environment leading to unknown numbers of cancers and deaths.

Although medical science is not in agreement on all the details, it is beyond doubt that radioactivity is bad for life. When the body is subjected to the effects of ionising radiation such as those found in radioactive elements, the body’s cells start to break down which, in the most severe cases, leads to cancers and the failures of organic systems essential for life.

Whereas medical researchers (and those who fund them) argue over how much radiation is acceptable on a daily basis, it is accepted that the damage caused by exposure to radiation is cumulative and such damage does not always manifest itself immediately, making it impossible to attribute the cause of cancer to any one event alone.

The legacy and irresponsibility of nuclear energy

Nuclear power plant operators are unable to deal with the waste products they generate. The by-products of uranium and plutonium fission stay radioactive for millennia. Scientific research has been unable to find a way to speed up radioactive decay processes so that unstable elements decay quickly to stable elements.

Countries and operators have built their plants in geographically seismic regions and in coastal regions where they are susceptible to freak tsunamis. Incidents can never be completely eliminated and terrorism is too great a danger.

Since nuclear power started there have been hundreds of releases of radioactivity into the environment, including the major events of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima. Given that radioactive materials will be with us for thousands of years, if incidents keep on happening with the same frequency, the entire biosphere will be too toxic for life within a few centuries.

Nuclear power is economically unviable

Nuclear power facilities cannot be built without government assistance. Currently in the USA the only way funding for new nuclear power stations can be achieved is with government guarantees. Insurance companies will not give insurance because the potential for disaster is too great.

US government subsidies support the construction process, they support operating costs through subsidies to the mining and uranium enriching industries and they support water and security costs, they support the costs of nuclear waste management and finally they support the decommissioning costs. All of this is paid for by tax payers so that operators may make a profit and pay shareholders. If all of these costs were included in the cost of the electricity generated it would end up being the most expensive way imaginable of boiling water to turn electricity turbines.

In the same way that the coal power stations have to include the costs of carbon emissions and pollution costs, so the nuclear power industry should cover their own costs. Only in this way can the supposed market forces—the bible of today’s economics—work properly to get rid of this energy source.

Flawed logic in the planet’s energy strategy

There is an assumption that the planet can continue to consume energy at an accelerating rate for the rest of eternity, and there is a belief, actively-promoted by the nuclear industry, that nuclear energy of the sort generated today is capable of meeting this requirement. It is widely accepted that there is probably no more than 100 years supply of fossil fuels left. It is also known that solar energy, wind, hydro-electric, geo-thermal and tidal energy are available sources that don’t create carbon emissions once operational.

These energy sources also have the added advantage that they don’t create waste products that cause security and health risks for the planet for several millennia.

A truly global, humanist and intelligent approach to meeting the planet’s energy needs is to invest as much as we can afford into exploiting these energy resources. Clearly this means vast reductions in the military budget to meet such investment. In addition, the planet needs to invest in energy efficiency such as insulation and energy efficient appliances so that demand for energy reduces.

Nuclear energy is a pretence to create raw materials for nuclear bombs

Nuclear reactors were first built to create plutonium for nuclear weapons, the generation of electricity was seen as a way to subsidise the process. The process of obtaining plutonium from uranium is straightforward enough to make any country capable of generating nuclear energy, also capable of producing plutonium for weapons.

Nuclear power plants are bombs waiting to be detonated

Nuclear power plants—even were we to accept that they were designed for altruistic purposes of providing cheap energy—become military targets in times of war and are always terrorist targets in a world with such social injustice. When attacked by conventional bombs or a 9/11 style attack, although an explosion of the sort experienced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is unlikely, the distribution of radiation around the planet would have consequences far greater than those experienced then and later on in Chernobyl.

Hypocrisy of United Nations Agencies and nuclear weapons states

The Non-Proliferation Treaty was designed to achieve nuclear disarmament, prevent proliferation and allow member states to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Clearly it has failed in its mandate; there has been no disarmament and there are now four nations (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) possessing nuclear weapons and not belonging to the NPT. To achieve this all of these nations have been assisted by one or more Nuclear Weapon State in contravention of the treaty. Iran, who is a signatory to the NPT, is treated as some kind of pariah state and threatened with war as it pursues its goal of creating a nuclear power station – as is Iran’s right under the NPT agreement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency was established in 1957 to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and has since been endowed as the promoter and regulator of nuclear technology – a situation that, were it to happen in other industries, would be denounced as undemocratic. In addition the World Health Organisation has a written agreement with the IAEA to the intent that no report on the subject of radiation can be written by the WHO without prior approval by the IAEA.

In conclusion

Although our primary focus is the end of wars and violence, recent events in Japan have once again shown that we live in an interconnected world and something happening on one side of the planet can have dire consequences for people on the other side of it. When one nation is capable of poisoning the entire planet, the consequences are a form of violence that we cannot remain silent about.

Therefore World without Wars and Violence strongly opposes the use of nuclear energy by fission as a means to meet the energy needs of the planet and we call for an end to fission-driven nuclear power as soon as it is technically feasible.
 
We call for an immediate moratorium on new nuclear power facilities: those in the process of being built should be stopped and all those in the planning stages should be scrapped.

We are not naïve, and recognise that existing nuclear facilities cannot be turned off overnight. Nevertheless we call on all nations of the world to make plans to phase out their existing nuclear facilities within ten years. All those nations with nuclear waste must invest in secure storage facilities in seismically inactive zones of the planet where all radioactive materials may be stored until science has discovered a way of safely removing radioactivity from radioactive substances. Global cooperation and financial support must be made available for those countries unable to finance these costs.
 
We call for vastly increased global cooperation in the field of renewable energy and we support the existence of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) with its headquarters in the United Arab Emirates and call for it to be given a budget to enable it to do its job effectively. We call on all nations that have not yet signed or ratified the IRENA statute to do so and we call for progressive and proportional reductions in military spending to fund research, development and implementation of renewable energy schemes.
 
We demand nuclear and radiological weapons to be eradicated from the face of the planet, and for all fissile materials for weapons to be mixed back into the waste products of nuclear power so that they may not be readily re-assembled into new weapons. All nations must take collective responsibility for the security of radioactive materials so that they may never fall into the hands of terrorists.
 
We call for criminal charges to be brought against the executives of TEPCO and those members of the Japanese Government who are responsible for the inability of the Fukushima power station to cope with the tsunami that knocked out its backup power systems. It is criminally negligent to build nuclear power stations in earthquake and tsunami zones.

In the light of Fukushima, we believe it is urgent that the planet wakes up from its ignorance of the danger it is facing from nuclear energy and the danger it faces from refusing to invest everything it can, now, in renewable sources of energy. We denounce those who promote nuclear energy as a clean and cheap source of energy (we have shown that it is neither).

We in World without Wars and Violence are in favour of the development of science and we do not oppose research into nuclear technology and we believe that more research into nuclear fusion will result in interesting future possibilities for humanity. Also we are not calling for an end to small-scale reactors that are used to prepare medical isotopes.

Understanding that the environment must be taken care of, as in other matters, we consider that scientific development should be at the service of human beings alive today and future generations, and not at the service of economic, military and political interests. There is a crisis in the field of nuclear fission; it is exhausted by insecurity, contamination, economic cost, uncontrollable in certain circumstances and with clear connections to an industry responsible for producing the most murderous and destructive weapons in human history.

There is no doubt that the way of nuclear fission must be closed.

Human society has been built on an industrial revolution powered by gas, coal and oil. Today’s fission-based nuclear technology is not the replacement for these energy sources, which must be phased out, partly because they will run out in a few generations, but also because of the dangers of climate change. If humanity fails in its task, and we do not address the energy needs of the planet, it will take the planet hundreds of millions of years to rebuild its carbon stocks to allow a future industrial revolution to take place.

The decisions to be taken by today’s politicians and today’s citizens will affect not only our children and grand-children; they will ultimately affect the survival of the human species and all life on the planet.

In the meantime we give our total backing to forms of energy that are non-contaminating, that don’t leave waste, that are respectful of the environment and above all not aggressive towards human beings.

As Einstein said, "Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal." Let us take the axe out of the hands of this violent, consumerist and military system and build a new system based on the value of human life as the central value, to transform the criminal one we currently live in.

(1)

Fission vs. Fusion

In our position we are specifically referring to the nuclear energy generated through processes of nuclear fission (splitting of atoms) used in every one of the 442 power stations scattered around the world. Physicists believe it is theoretically possible to generate nuclear energy through the fusion (or joining together) of atoms and we are in favour of research in this field.
Download pdf version

References

In preparing this report we have studied the following references among others:

Human Life as the central value

The works of Silo in general which can be found at www.silo.net and in particular a talk he gave in Peru in 1989.

Fission vs. Fusion

Regarding the number of nuclear power stations in the world http://www.euronuclear.org/info/npp-ww.htm

The effects of radioactivity on human life

Effects of radioactivity

IAEA report about Radiation Safety http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Radiation/radsafe.html#seven

Effects of Chernobyl disputed by various agencies

Page 18 of the report by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2008/Advance_copy_Annex_D_Chernobyl_Report.pdf
Report from the New York Academy of Sciences http://www.nyas.org/Publications/Annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d7b-a086-753f44b3bfc1
“Chernobyl: A Million Casualties” a 30 minute video presenting the findings of the New York Academy of Sciences report http://www.blip.tv/file/4922080
http://www.ippnw-students.org/chernobyl/IPPNWStudy.pdf

Effects of radioactivity on human genes

New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans’ Study – a Cytogenetic Analysis http://www.llrc.org/epidemiology/subtopic/nzvetsrept.pdf

The legacy and irresponsibility of nuclear energy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_civilian_nuclear_accidents

Nuclear power is economically unviable

http://www.psr.org/nuclear-bailout/resources/nuclear-power-still-not.pdf

Flawed logic in the planet’s energy strategy

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030

Hypocrisy of United Nations Agencies

http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/Others/inf20.shtml

15 April 2011

U.S. Nuclear Plants Confronted 14 Serious Failures in 2010

A report authored by the prestigious Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reveals that in year 2010 nuclear plants in the United States experienced at least 14 "near misses", serious failures in which safety was jeopardized, at least in part, due to lapses in oversight and enforcement by U.S. nuclear safety regulators.
By J Chandler
California, 4/14/11 "While none of the safety problems harmed plant employees or the public, they occurred with alarming frequency -- more than once a month -- which is high for a mature industry," says the report authored by the prestigious Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

"The severe accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 occurred when a handful of known problems -- aggravated by a few worker miscues -- transformed fairly routine events into catastrophes," says the report, adding: "That plant owners could have avoided nearly all 14 near misses in 2010 had they corrected known deficiencies in a timely manner suggests that our luck at nuclear roulette may someday run out."

The report was prepared by UCS nuclear engineer David Lochbaum and scheduled for release before the crisis in Japan began to unfold, but the disaster makes the its conclusions all the more significant.

It is the first in an annual series on the safety-related performance of the owners of U.S. nuclear power plants and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which regulates the plants. The NRC's mission is to protect the public from the inherent hazards of nuclear power.
The UCS' overview shows that many of the significant near misses occurred "because reactor owners, and often the NRC, tolerated known safety problems," says the report.

It mentions as an example that the owner of the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland ended a programme to routinely replace safety components before launching a new programme to monitor degradation of those components. "As a result, an electrical device that had been in use for longer than its service lifetime failed, disabling critical safety components," according to the report.

"In another example, after declaring an emergency at its Brunswick nuclear plant in North Carolina, the owner failed to staff its emergency response teams within the required amount of time. That lapse occurred because workers did not know how to activate the automated system that summons emergency workers to the site," the report points out

Overall, Union of Concerned Scientists' analysis of NRC oversight of safety-related events and practices at U.S. nuclear power plants in 2010 concludes that:

-- Nuclear power plants continue to experience problems with safety-related equipment and worker errors that increase the risk of damage to the reactor core -- and thus harm to employees and the public.

-- Recognized but misdiagnosed or unresolved safety problems often cause significant events at nuclear power plants, or increase their severity.

-- When on-site NRC inspectors discover a broken device, an erroneous test result, or a maintenance activity that does not reflect procedure, they too often focus just on that problem. Every such finding should trigger an evaluation of why an owner failed to fix a problem before NRC inspectors found it.

-- The NRC can better serve the U.S. public and plant owners by emulating the persistence shown by on-site inspectors who made good catches while eliminating the indefensible lapses that led to negative outcomes.

-- Four of the 14 special inspections occurred at three plants owned by Progress Energy.

-- While the company may simply have had an unlucky year, corporate-wide approaches to safety may have contributed to this poor performance. When conditions trigger special inspections at more than one plant with the same owner, the NRC should formally evaluate whether corporate policies and practices contributed to the shortcomings.

Commenting the report, Chris Williams, a professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University with campuses in New York City and Westchester County, says: "In the United States, 23 of the 104 operational nuclear reactors are built on the same 1960s design by the same company, General Electric, as the reactors at Fukushima."

"They have been recognized to have serious design faults since the 1970s and have been regularly retrofitted (patched up) to address design vulnerabilities that are routinely discovered and that could lead to a core breach and the release of radioactive isotopes," adds Williams, the author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis.
Williams points out that "California has a 99.7 percent chance of being hit with a magnitude 6.7 earthquake or greater within the next 30 years." This is because nuclear plants in California with the same design as Fukushima’s are only built to withstand magnitude 7 to 7.5 quakes, while the one that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 was 9.0.

"We know a larger earthquake is possible because the 1906 earthquake that tore San Francisco apart measured 8.3. California would not be immune to a powerful tsunami such as the one responsible for the multiple meltdowns in Fukushima, and as crazy as it sounds, one nuclear power plant, the San Onofre facility located south of Los Angeles, is built right on the beach," writes Williams in The Independent, a New York-based free newspaper published 16 times a year on Wednesdays to print and on-line readership of more than 200,000.

Williams advises therefore: "Instead of waiting for another devastating nuclear accident to occur in the United States rivaling the one at Three Mile Island in 1979, we need to push the government to abandon plans both to relicense old plants for another 20 years and build new ones."

09 April 2011

Presence of Humanist Party of India at India Gate, Delhi, 09 Apr 2011.

Presence of Humanist Party of India at India Gate, Delhi, 09 Apr 2011.

The HP members Sudhir & Saket participated in the rally from Jantar Mantar to India gate and then the celebrations at India Gate with a passionate and peaceful crowd of a few thousand people.

The whole environment was like a celebrations, with happy, satisfied, confident faces all around. People seem to have regained faith in life and they were vibrating with energy, talking positively about the power of non-violence and the need of using non-violence as the method of struggle against crisis.

Our banner showing Anna Hazare's cricket-shot (that blew away the Prime Minister Monmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi) became an instant super hit with people who saw it.
Everyone wanted to take a picture of the banner, then a picture of banner with themselves in it.
Then, as we reached India gate, media came after us one by one and in groups, taking video of the banner and asking us brief question about the theme of the banner. Our explanation: "When the non-violent honest people start playing cricket, the corrupt ones will be thrown far away than the seas of India".

Hundreds of people took pictures of the banners with us and the theme became the super hit theme among the people there. This was very encouraging for us also and showed us a new way to reach people.


08 April 2011

Anna's sixer does it - India wins major round against Corruption!!!


Congratulations, My India, Our India, we have won the first battle with Non-violence against the corrupt mafia that has its vice grip on the country.
Finally, after 4 days of fasting by Anna Hazare, supported by hundreds of volunteers fasting with him in Delhi and hundreds of thousands of other supporting the cause across India and in many other countries, the Government caved in and agreed to all the demands of the group "India Against Corruption", led by Anna Hazare.
This is truly a win of every honest Indian who has waited for more than 40 years to get this law enacted. Hold on, the law is far from being enacted, but the first battle has been won and there is a time bound program to create the law by the end of June so that it is approved by the cabinet of Government of India to send it to Parliament for its passage in monsoon session of the Parliament.
Yes, we know that the mafia will not give it in so easy and they can produce many hurdles like a magician does with the rabbit. But, let the beware ! People have tested a victory and they now know that they can create victory through non-violence by coming together. This is a historic progress in the evolution of India as a democracy.
As we always said, if we people come together, everything can change. We will keep working for this change and for enhancing this faith among the people.
08 April 2011, 2320 hrs, IST.

People's Cricket league - India Vs Corruption !!!

Lets have some home grown Cricket now !

01 April 2011

Iceland, a country that wants to punish the bankers responsible for the crisis

Since 2008 the vast majority of the Western population dream about saying "no" to the banks, but no one has dared to do so. No one except the Icelanders, who have carried out a peaceful revolution that has managed not only to overthrow a government and draft a new constitution, but also seeks to jail those responsible for the country's economic debacle.
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Image by: Helgi Hall
Peaceful protests, pots and pans and demonstrations against the banks
 
Reikjavik, 3/28/11 

Last week 9 people were arrested in London and Reykjavik for their possible responsibility for Iceland’s financial collapse in 2008, a deep crisis which developed into an unprecedented public reaction that is changing the country's direction.

It has been a revolution without weapons in Iceland, the country that hosts the world's oldest democracy (since 930), and whose citizens have managed to effect change by going on demonstrations and banging pots and pans. Why have the rest of the Western countries not even heard about it?

Pressure from Icelandic citizens’ has managed not only to bring down a government, but also begin the drafting of a new constitution (in process) and is seeking to put in jail those bankers responsible for the financial crisis in the country. As the saying goes, if you ask for things politely it is much easier to get them.

This quiet revolutionary process has its origins in 2008 when the Icelandic government decided to nationalise the three largest banks, Landsbanki, Kaupthing and Glitnir, whose clients were mainly British, and North and South American.

After the State took over, the official currency (krona) plummeted and the stock market suspended its activity after a 76% collapse. Iceland was becoming bankrupt and to save the situation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) injected U.S. $ 2,100 million and the Nordic countries helped with another 2,500 million.

Great little victories of ordinary people
While banks and local and foreign authorities were desperately seeking economic solutions, the Icelandic people took to the streets and their persistent daily demonstrations outside parliament in Reykjavik prompted the resignation of the conservative Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde and his entire government.

Citizens demanded, in addition, to convene early elections, and they succeeded. In April a coalition government was elected, formed by the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left Green Movement, headed by a new Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.

Throughout 2009 the Icelandic economy continued to be in a precarious situation (at the end of the year the GDP had dropped by 7%) but, despite this, the Parliament proposed to repay the debt to Britain and the Netherlands with a payment of 3,500 million Euros, a sum to be paid every month by Icelandic families for 15 years at 5.5% interest.

The move sparked anger again in the Icelanders, who returned to the streets demanding that, at least, that decision was put to a referendum. Another big small victory for the street protests: in March 2010 that vote was held and an overwhelming 93% of the population refused to repay the debt, at least with those conditions.

This forced the creditors to rethink the deal and improve it, offering 3% interest and payment over 37 years. Not even that was enough. The current president, on seeing that Parliament approved the agreement by a narrow margin, decided last month not to approve it and to call on the Icelandic people to vote in a referendum so that they would have the last word.

The bankers are fleeing in fear
Returning to the tense situation in 2010, while the Icelanders were refusing to pay a debt incurred by financial sharks without consultation, the coalition government had launched an investigation to determine legal responsibilities for the fatal economic crisis and had already arrested several bankers and top executives closely linked to high risk operations.

Interpol, meanwhile, had issued an international arrest warrant against Sigurdur Einarsson, former president of one of the banks. This situation led scared bankers and executives to leave the country en masse.

In this context of crisis, an assembly was elected to draft a new constitution that would reflect the lessons learned and replace the current one, inspired by the Danish constitution.

To do this, instead of calling experts and politicians, Iceland decided to appeal directly to the people, after all they have sovereign power over the law. More than 500 Icelanders presented themselves as candidates to participate in this exercise in direct democracy and write a new constitution. 25 of them, without party affiliations, including lawyers, students, journalists, farmers and trade union representatives were elected.

Among other developments, this constitution will call for the protection, like no other, of freedom of information and expression in the so-called Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, in a bill that aims to make the country a safe haven for investigative journalism and freedom of information, where sources, journalists and Internet providers that host news reporting are protected.

The people, for once, will decide the future of the country while bankers and politicians witness the transformation of a nation from the sidelines.

Source: www.elconfidencial.com
Pressenza Editorial Team in Chile
translation: Silvia Swinden

08 March 2011

India Against Corruption representatives meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh


The meeting yesterday evening between IAC representatives (Anna Hazare, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Swami Agnivesh, Archbishop Vincent, Dr Kuldip Chikara (Bharat Swabhimaan Nyasa), Darshak Hathi (Art of Living) and PV Rajagopal) and the PM and Law Minister, Veerapan Moily was not very encouraging.

The PM said that the governmet has no time to consider the issue of corruption till the 13th May due to the ongoing parliament session and the impeding elections in five states. The IAC representatives requested to take immediate action because the country was seething with anger and bleeding with corruption.


After great persuasion, he agreed to bring a Lokpal bill in the monsoon session of parliament. How would the bill be drafted and which bill would it be? He was informed that the govt bill was extremely badly drafted. The PM suggested that a subcommittee of "Group of Ministers (GOM)" will be constituted which will have two meetings with representatives of IAC after the 13th of May. The GOM will draft the bill accordingly after the interaction. When he was told that we were not willing to wait so long, he offered to have one symbolic meeting after 25th march when parliament session ends.


When he was requested to set up a joint committee consisting of half members from IAC and half from the government's side to prepare the draft Lokpal Bill by the 13th May when the elections end, the government simply refused.


In effect, we stand where we were before the meeting. The meeting served no purpose except made the intention of the government clear. Annaji has decided that the whole country desperately needs to act immediately on corruption. He said that it was unfortunate that the govt does not have time to address this burning issue and therefore the movement would continue and intensify. His decision to go on fast on the 5th April stands as it is.


Annaji will write a letter to the PM today which will be shared with all of you.

(As reported on the mailing lists)

07 March 2011

Non-violent Revolution is possible - Faith in oneself is needed

(Publication: The Times Of India Kolkata; Date: Mar 5, 2011; Section: Times City; Page: 4)


Land struggle in Naxalbari Veterans Lead An Unarmed Movement To Empower The Landless Caesar Mandal | TNN

Naxalbari: In the land that gave Naxalism its name, a new revolution is sweeping through, without guns, without bloodshed, but with the same aim — empowering the landless. And it all started one hot, humid July day on the Mechi riverbank when a poor farm worker was turned away from a traditional grazing ground on the India-Nepal border.

    It was vested land but had been strangely ‘taken over’ for a tea garden. Now, nine months later, men can be seen heading for the same land to farm potatoes, a sickle in one hand and a red hammer-and-sickle flag on the other.

    Neither the state agencies nor the powerful “class enemies” dare stand against Ratia Singha and Minu Hansda. Exploited for generations, they have snatched back their rights. They have shown a new path.

    Naxalbari which had taught Bengal — and India — about “armed revolution”, is now witnessing a Gandhian revolution.

    In July last year, Ratia, a Rajbanshi youth, had gone to the Mechi riverbank with his cattle. A father of four, he lives in Ramdhanjote and tries to feed his seven-member family with whatever little he earns as an agricultural labourer. Ratia has three cows too. That day he was told his livestock couldn’t graze in the land. It had been sold.

    Like Ratia, hundreds depending on the land, were hit hard. Within days, tea gardens cropped on the same land. “It was a shock to us all. The land belongs to the government. It is also ‘no man’s land’ because of its proximity to the India-Nepal border,” said Khokon Mazumdar, an octogenarian, once close to Charu Mazumdar and a key player in the Naxalbari peasant upsurge.

    The anger spread like wildfire. From Ramdhanjote, it spread to Mahipaljote, Bhagwanjote and Chunilal Jote. The government kept mum. Finally, villagers like Kabiraj Tudu and Hapan Mandi — whose forefathers once fought for their rights during Naxalbari movement — gave the call for revolution.

    In September, farmers from eight villages along the Mechi river dyke formed the “Terai Sangrami Mancha” with the help of veteran Naxalites Khokon Mazumdar, Gour Baidya, Nathuram Biswas and Ratan Dey. The quartet still believes in a communist revolution, but condemns violence in the name of class struggle.

    “Killing marginal croppers and small traders branding them as class enemies cannot be a revolution. Mindless bloodshed cannot be the right way to end state repression. It simply promotes another group of armed hoodlums,” said Nathuram Biswas, a leader of CPI(ML) Janashakti, a splinter group of the erstwhile CPI(ML).

    The Sangrami Mancha started their march on October 11, 2010. Thousands of unarmed landless croppers walked on the sun-baked banks of the Mechi, carrying red flags and announcing their right to the land. “We asked the tea gardeners to leave. They had illegally encroached our land. They called up police. Even border guards rushed at us but they could do nothing against our peaceful march,” said Ratia. His children and wife were also in the rally.

    “Since then the Terai Sangram Mancha has managed to win back 1,200 bighas (400 acres) of land on a 2-km stretch along the Mechi. Our struggle is on,” said Mancha secretary Gour Baidya.

    The acquired land has been distributed among 600 families in eight villages. They have now started cultivating the fertile soil, where a bigha of land can produce 25-30 quintals of potato.

    For the administration, it is a Catch-22 situation. “We are aware of the movement. It is peaceful. Officially, we do not accept their claim to the land,” said block development officer Subhasis Ghosh. Darjeeling SP D P Singh said they have received no complaints on the matter.

    The CPM is well aware of the movement but has chosen not to go against it. “The people organising the movement may be against our party but it is true that some poor people are getting land. If the movement succeeds in making life better for some people, why should we resist?” said Jibesh Sarkar, CPM state committee member, who looks after Darjeeling.

THE LEADERS


Khokon Majumdar, member, central committee, CPI-ML (Janashakti)



Gour Baidya, leader, CPI-ML (New Democracy) and secretary, Terai Sangram Mancha



Nathuram Biswas, CPI-ML (Janashakti)



Villagers from Ramdhanjote on the ‘taken over’ near the Mechi river

From China with Love !

Humanize Asia

Universities urged to join jasmine rallies

Beijing warns against 'street politics' as fresh call heard for protests today.

Priscilla Jiao, Mar 06, 2011, SCMP

Beijing warned people yesterday against "street politics" as the anonymous organisers of "jasmine rallies" on the mainland issued an open letter to major universities calling for more gatherings today.

A commentary in the Beijing Daily newspaper, an official Communist Party mouthpiece in the capital, said: "It is worth noting that at home and abroad some people with ulterior motives are trying to draw this chaos into China by using the internet to incite illegal gatherings, create problems and stir up `street politics'. People are strongly against such a self-directed farce."

The warning, published on the opening day of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, called such protests "behavioural art". It said threats to social stability could bring disaster, and stressed the importance of stability to economic development. The warning has been widely published on Chinese state media websites. There have been low-key rallies in some mainland cities on the past two Sundays.

Yang Huanning , deputy chief of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, said he was confident that the security situation was under control. The bureau plans to hold a press conference on social stability at 2pm today, the same time that rally organisers have asked people to gather.

Security has always been extremely tight for the annual meetings of the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and the Communist Party has made maintaining stability a priority. Public security expenses surpassed those of the military last year, according to a report by the Ministry of Finance.

Beijing has mobilised 739,000 police officers, officials, security guards and residents organised into local patrols to guard against mishaps during the two sessions, China News Service reported.

The open letter to major universities across the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan appeared on a Boxun.com blog yesterday. It said: "We, as the organisers of the rallies, are also your peers and participants in the rallies, and we are your alumni and as young as you are." The recipients included Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University, Fudan University, Sun Yat-sen University and Xiamen University.

"We cannot keep silent in a cruel reality in which a son of a police official in Baoding , Hebei , received a light sentence after running over and killing a person and another student was beaten to death by a train administrator," the letter said.

It added that the privileged elite could easily make fortunes by stamping on social order.

It called upon students to take a stroll on the main squares of their campuses, in front of university administration buildings or other locations mentioned previously.

Since mid-February, online messages have encouraged people to take a "stroll" in busy locations of some big cities to express their discontent with social problems. These include rising housing prices, inflation and the poor employment prospects of university graduates.

Despite a heavy police presence, people turned up in Beijing and Shanghai last week but it was impossible to distinguish demonstrators from regular shoppers.

A renewed call this week asked people to gather in 41 cities, up from 27 last Sunday, with more than two separate locations designated in over 10 cities. A Facebook account holder has also called on Christians in 38

cities to pray at 2pm every Sunday, with many of the designated locations matching those of the so-called jasmine rally calls.

With inouts from : TONY HENDERSON

What is China afraid of and Why ?

Humanize Asia

Police out in force again to stop 'jasmine' rallies flowering Foreign journalists fall victim to pre-emptive clampdown

Staff Reporters in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong Mar 07, 2011. SCMP

Major mainland cities were under heightened security yesterday, as authorities were put on high alert by online calls for "jasmine" rallies for a third Sunday in a row.

But again, no apparent protests or mass gatherings were spotted in crowded city centres or busy shopping districts in Beijing, Shanghai and dozens of other cities listed as designated protest cities by the anonymous organisers.

Apart from tens of thousands of police, plain-clothes officers and security guards, a vast number of people wearing red armbands of "public security volunteers" were also mobilised. Helicopters were used in the capital to help patrol areas deemed sensitive, such as university districts.

Foreign journalists fell victim to sweeping pre-emptive security measures for a second consecutive Sunday, with more than a dozen overseas reporters detained in Shanghai and Beijing.

Highlighting the government's hypersensitivity, Communist Party mouthpieces - the Beijing Daily, the Jiefang Daily in Shanghai and its affiliate the Shanghai Morning Post - issued stern warnings on the front pages against mass gatherings.

"A handful of people with ulterior motives at home and abroad have been plotting against China's rise and are trying to cripple the country's development by stirring up unrest," said the Beijing Daily.

A commentary appeared on the front page for the second consecutive day, urging people to reject online calls for pro-democracy rallies, which it said had destabilised the Middle East and North Africa.

In Shanghai, at least 15 overseas reporters and one local assistant for a Japanese television station were detained by police and immigration officials after being picked up for "visa checks" in and around the Raffles City shopping mall in the heart of the city. Some of the journalists were held for nearly three hours.

Spanish, French and German correspondents and a South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) reporter were also detained.

"You are more than welcome to go shopping, drink some tea or buy a coffee," an immigration official told the Post reporter. "You just may not conduct interviews."

But within 25 minutes of arriving at the Raffles mall he was approached by two uniformed police officers, demanding to see his passport and press card.

The Post reporter was then taken to a small, unmarked, single-storey building with a traditional Chinese roof, and shortly afterwards led into an underground bunker. He was not released until about three hours later after being briefly interrogated about his motives for visiting the mall and the "coincidence" of so many other foreign journalists having shown up.

Beijing's Wangfujing and Xidan, the busiest shopping areas in the capital, were packed with crowds as usual yesterday afternoon despite the heavy police presence.

While there were fewer uniformed police than last week, plain-clothes officers and security guards were everywhere. Adjacent roads leading to the areas were blocked by dozens of police vans.

Foreigners entering the areas were asked to show their passports.

In Zhongguancun, home to the capital's most famous university district - including the campuses of Peking, Renmin and Tsinghua universities - a visible display of police force was staged outside a major electronics

market, which had been named as one of the gathering places by a purported rally organiser.

Several police cars were parked outside a Peking University entrance and the nearby road junction, but at Tsinghua University, security appeared much more lax. Universities in the capital were rumoured to have issued

bans forbidding students to take part in jasmine rallies or show up at designated protest sites.

A reporter from Al Jazeera was detained for about 2-1/2 hours.

Although Beijing's massive show of force and the clampdown on activists and internet dissents have smothered protest calls so far, the situation appeared to be tense.

Even NPC delegates from Hong Kong staying in the Beijing Hotel near Wangfujing complained about the heightened security. Peng Qinghua , director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, had to

go through a security check into the hotel yesterday morning, unlike on previous days.

Another deputy, Michael Tien Puk-sun, was barred from using the hotel's side door to go to Wangfujing Street directly while in a hurry to attend an appointment.

"I am an NPC member. I am very unhappy. Why is that door shut? Why are you asking me to detour? What does it mean?" He complained to a hotel employee, who then said the door "was not working".

In Shenzhen, thousands of policemen, plain-clothes officers and security guards stood outside two McDonald's outlets in Huaqiangbei, the busiest shopping district, while hundreds of anti-riot policemen waited in cars and buses nearby.

In Guangzhou, the police presence outside People's Park and Tianhe Sports Stadium appeared to be much smaller than the previous two weeks. But it was more tense outside the Starbucks at Gongyuanqian subway

station near People's Park, where uniformed officers filmed passers-by from every busy corner.

In Hong Kong, about 10 activists from the League of Social Democrats rallied outside the Beijing authorities' representative office.

With inputs collected by TONY HENDERSON

25 February 2011

GADDAFI AND THE CONTRADICTION OF THE VIOLENT

INTERNATIONAL HUMANIST PARTY




GADDAFI AND THE CONTRADICTION OF THE VIOLENT


Shortly after the fall of their respective dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, we are witnessing a strong questioning of the Gaddafi regime in Libya after 42 years in power; a man who, despite bloodily repressing his people, is unable to prevent the advance of the rebels who are being joined by increasing numbers of military personnel who refuse to repress.

Gaddafi, who rose to power in 1969, started out identified with the pan-Arab idealism of Nasser and was defined as a “socialist revolutionary”, a friend of the Kremlin and an enemy of the USA. But very quickly his violent interpretation of the revolution turned him into the driving force behind bloody terrorist acts against the Western world; as bloody as the bombings that today he orders against his own rebelling people.

His attempted position on the left of the ideological spectrum and his preaching against the USA brought him friendships with similar governments. But in recent years, the good business in Libyan oil, Gaddafi’s copious purchases of weapons, his collaboration with the containment of African immigrants entering Europe and his supposed conversion to “anti-terrorism” allowed him to gain many friends among European governments. Surely this is why Europe is half-awake to the bloodbath that their partner, Gaddafi, is imposing on his people.

Gaddafi’s state of the masses, Jamihiriya, didn’t result in an organisation that gave more power to the people, but rather in the dissolution of all possible competition for his family’s power. His “Revolutionary Committees” are no more than the swords of repression that today are used to silence rebellion: a massive popular rebellion that Gaddafi tries to dismiss, blaming it on “groups of drug-addicted youth”.

Surely, both governments of the left that in the past felt close because of his socialist discourse, and the right-wing governments and recent partners in business, xenophobic policies and even his crazy parties, will try to look away now and even show surprise.

For Humanists it is no surprise that those who have always believed in violence, and have even used it as the flag for the “defence of the people”, today use this violence against their own people. It is no surprise that those who defend the use of violence to achieve their goals, then fall into all kinds of corruption and cruelty against the weakest. It is no surprise that the violent ones, who cry to the four winds that power must be in the hands of the people, are the most autocratic and do not hesitate in repressing the people when they rebel.

For Humanists it is no surprise that the violent ones fall increasingly into contradiction, because it is contradiction which is precisely the source of all violence, and we never believe the song of the mermaid which promises a paradise at the end of a road of violence.

As we have already stated in recent weeks, we support the non-violent revolution that some Arab peoples are embarking on, we seek the end of the spilling of blood in Libya and we demand that the world, and Europe in particular, make real efforts in this sense.


International Coordination Team, 23/02/2011

22 February 2011

Latin America in the coming years. A Universalist Humanism vision

Latin America is definitely on the move: there are multiple events taking place in political, economic, social, cultural, ethnic, institutional, religious and spiritual fields, showing a new moment. Here we publish the complete transcription of the lecture given at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by Tomás Hirsch, humanist Latin American leader.


Image by: Photo Pressenza
Tomàs Hirsch in Israel

Latin America in the coming years. A Universalist Humanism vision. By Tomás Hirsch, 2/21/11

Pressenza International Press Agency Jerusalen, 2/20/11
I would like to thank the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for letting me share some thoughts about the process taking place in Latin America. I will dedicate some time to the current situation and then I shall talk about a new proposal being born today in our region.

What are the global trends in action and what is happening in Latin America?

With the advancing globalisation there is a regionalisation taking place and in this context Latin America is becoming integrated and growing economically, strengthening its democracies and moving towards greater participation of its native peoples and its most discriminated sectors in general. Let's look at this more closely.

Latin America is living a great socially dynamic process. In many countries we see changes in the structure and organisation of society as people attempt to gain access to better living conditions. New Constitutions in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia guarantee rights that were denied before. Things happening in Brazil as a result of Lula’s implementation of economic and social policies with a strong direction towards social justice, the themes of education and health in Venezuela with the help of Cubans, and new social benefits in Argentina, are all some samples of this dynamic process.

There are conflicts and social tensions in the search for these new rights, which resulted in anti-discrimination laws in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. The awareness produced by native peoples in claiming their rights has been very prominent. This is happening in Bolivia, where Evo was re-elected with an overwhelming majority. But there have also been major demonstrations of the Mapuche Indians in southern Argentina and Chile and ethnic groups in Peru.
Latin America is definitely on the move: there are multiple events taking place in political, economic, social, cultural, ethnic, institutional, religious and spiritual fields, showing a new moment.
There have also been accidents, such as major earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the dramatic floods in Brazil, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the death of Nestor Kirchner in Argentina. And surely we should point out the accident and subsequent rescue of 33 miners in Chile.

While there are many events, we recognize three important factors that are acting in the region: A first important factor has been the severe economic crisis, especially in the U.S. financial system, which has hit Europe triggering a crisis in economic, labour, social and political fields. In turn, this crisis has reinforced the role of China as a central determinant of the global economy.

This crisis has helped boost regional integration, especially with the intense UNASUR multilateral agenda, but also with the Mercosur and other multi and bilateral agencies. That integrating momentum, in turn has been affected, "attacked", by attempts to destabilise democracies, for the moment with little success: In this respect we can recognize the failed military coup attempts in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as the "successful one" in Honduras, a sort of warning to the countries in the region. Also the strong media criticism to Cristina Fernandez’ government in Argentina, as well as Evo’s, Correa’s and others, part of the destabilizing strategy, which is at the height of its activity.

This economic crisis and especially the financial system in USA and Europe has not hit so badly the Latin American region whose economy rather than being strongly linked to the financial sector is basically built on exporting raw materials. Thus, the new century begins with a much stronger crisis hitting the so called "developed" world while Latin America is strengthened by developing economic ties with Asia, and especially China, supplying raw materials in response to their rising demand in that country. Thus, Latin America has not had a significant rise in unemployment, and on the contrary, its economy has grown and its reserves have increased. Brazil, for example, has reduced its unemployment in the last 4 years from 12 to 6.8% while increasing its reserves from 30 to over 300 billion dollars. Peru grows at a rate only exceeded by China while Bolivia for the first time does have foreign exchange reserves.

It is remarkable that in Brazil Lula's government took more than 25 million people out of poverty while consolidating economic agreements not only with China but also with Africa. Similarly, during the crisis, Argentina was the only country in the world which supported its car industry, avoiding massive layoffs. Moreover, both countries paid their historical debts to the IMF moving away from the suffocating economic policies imposed by that body.

This economic growth throughout the region, not aligned with USA and Europe, and accompanied by the already mentioned growing progress is I would like to thank the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for letting me share some thoughts about the process taking place in Latin America. I will dedicate some time to the current situation and then I shall talk about a new proposal being born today in our region.

What are the global trends in action and what is happening in Latin America?

With the advancing globalisation there is a regionalisation taking place and in this context Latin America is becoming integrated and growing economically, strengthening its democracies and moving towards greater participation of its native peoples and its most discriminated sectors in general. Let's look at this more closely.

Latin America is living a great socially dynamic process. In many countries we see changes in the structure and organization of society as people attempt to gain access to better living conditions. New Constitutions in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia guarantee rights that were denied before. Things happening in Brazil as a result of Lula’s implementation of economic and social policies with a strong direction towards social justice, the themes of education and health in Venezuela with the help of Cubans, and new social benefits in Argentina, are all some samples of this dynamic process.

There are conflicts and social tensions in the search for these new rights, which resulted in anti-discrimination laws in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. The awareness produced by native peoples in claiming their rights has been very prominent. This is happening in Bolivia, where Evo was re-elected with an overwhelming majority. But there have also been major demonstrations of the Mapuche Indians in southern Argentina and Chile and ethnic groups in Peru.

Latin America is definitely on the move: there are multiple events taking place in political, economic, social, cultural, ethnic, institutional, religious and spiritual fields, showing a new moment.

There have also been accidents, such as major earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the dramatic floods in Brazil, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the death of Nestor Kirchner in Argentina. And surely we should point out the accident and subsequent rescue of 33 miners in Chile.

While there are many events, we recognize three important factors that are acting in the region: A first important factor has been the severe economic crisis, especially in the U.S. financial system, which has hit Europe triggering a crisis in economic, labor, social and political fields. In turn, this crisis has reinforced the role of China as a central determinant of the global economy.

This crisis has helped boost regional integration, especially with the intense UNASUR multilateral agenda, but also with the Mercosur and other multi and bilateral agencies. That integrating momentum, in turn has been affected, "attacked", by attempts to destabilise democracies, for the moment with little success: In this respect we can recognize the failed military coup attempts in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as the "successful one" in Honduras, a sort of warning to the countries in the region. Also the strong media criticism to Cristina Fernandez’ government in Argentina, as well as Evo’s, Correa’s and others, part of the destabilizing strategy, which is at the height of its activity.

This economic crisis and especially the financial system in USA and Europe has not hit so badly the Latin American region whose economy rather than being strongly linked to the financial sector is basically built on exporting raw materials. Thus, the new century begins with a much stronger crisis hitting the so called "developed" world while Latin America is strengthened by developing economic ties with Asia, and especially China, supplying raw materials in response to their rising demand in that country. Thus, Latin America has not had a significant rise in unemployment, and on the contrary, its economy has grown and its reserves have increased. Brazil, for example, has reduced its unemployment in the last 4 years from 12 to 6.8% while increasing its reserves from 30 to over 300 billion dollars. Peru grows at a rate only exceeded by China while Bolivia for the first time does have foreign exchange reserves.

It is remarkable that in Brazil Lula's government took more than 25 million people out of poverty while consolidating economic agreements not only with China but also with Africa. Similarly, during the crisis, Argentina was the only country in the world which supported its car industry, avoiding massive layoffs. Moreover, both countries paid their historical debts to the IMF moving away from the suffocating economic policies imposed by that body.

This economic growth throughout the region, not aligned with USA and Europe, and accompanied by the already mentioned growing progress is one of the salient features at this time. While Europe is embroiled in a widespread crisis and America gets complicated, Latin America is growing and developing with integration and enlightenment. Certainly not all is positive: There are ominous clouds gathering around Nicaragua and Costa Rica, in Mexico violence escalates with urban districts totally controlled by the drug trade, and inequality between rich and poor is growing in some countries to levels never seen before.

A second factor that might appear unrelated to Latin America: the Middle East conflict, including in it Israel / Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and especially the growing tensions with Iran, which has become America’s "Number 1 Enemy", with a background of growing nuclear threat. It is important to understand that this conflict has touched the region, which has not been absent from it. Brazil is seeking to take for the first time a mediating role (probably motivated by its attempt to become a permanent member of UN Security Council), Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are strengthening their ties with Iran, with presidential visits and economic, political and military agreements. And recently several countries in the region have been the first in the world to recognise Palestine as an independent and sovereign State. I include it as a relevant factor because it reflects an issue that is central to understanding the new situation: Latin America is becoming established as a Region.

Today, as we go through a process that moves toward regionalisation at the expense of individual countries, it is possible to see Latin America’s significant progress in that direction. I dare say that Latin America might be able to make a contribution to the world showing what can be like an integration for the XXI Century, as Europe did with its integration process for the XX Century. This integration must necessarily be not only economic but also political, social, cultural, ethnic, environmental and human.

A third factor has been the deep crisis of the Catholic Church, accused of concealing numerous cases of crimes of paedophilia committed by members of its clergy. Hundreds of cases have been reported in all countries of the region and Europe, tainting up to the highest authorities of the Church, which on becoming weakened has created a space for establishing a number of progressive laws, usually blocked by the most conservative sectors. So Latin America has seen equality marriage laws in Argentina, new laws on non-discrimination, freedom of expression, personal liberties, labor rights and recognition of ethnic diversity, a wave of new freedoms and rights throughout the region. I could not state that all these laws have been the result of the crisis of the church, but no doubt this situation of weakness has facilitated the adoption of measures long resisted by conservative local ecclesiastical hierarchies.

After raising these three factors I wish to re-emphasize that we understand the present moment as regionalisation, the strengthening of Regions and blurring of countries. In this process, with the strengthening of Brazil and throughout Latin America, it may even arise a new regional approach for the first time to include the United States, Mexico and Central America.

There are many external factors that can disrupt this auspicious outlook we are showing for Latin America, but it is the internal factors which must be addressed and resolved:

1.  Globalisation leads to multiple changes in psychosocial aspects: we are witnessing the revival of cultural nationalism, such as fundamentalism and orthodoxy, expressed as an affirmation of one’s own things and simultaneously we can observe a trend towards the universal, a human culture inclusive of cultural diversity. Here we face a challenge: If cultural nationalism is strengthen, the process will become dangerous as it disintegrates and is marked by racial, cultural, ethnic and religious violence. It is therefore necessary to strengthen a culture that tends towards universality and allows the expression of different beliefs and traditions, allowing all human beings to live together and to develop irrespective of creed, race and culture. This means that it will be necessary to assert a culture of Active Nonviolence as a methodology for personal and social action.

2.  The rapid economic growth may be too fast and this could completely distort the integration process, marginalising sectors of the population and excluding them from participation and development. If this trend is not corrected, it will corrupt all the regional institutions it intends to build.

3.  One factor that has enabled this new moment in Latin America is its commitment to becoming a nuclear weapons free zone, commitment given by the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1969. The newly acquired wealth could tempt countries like Brazil to become new nuclear powers, which would probably make impossible a future regional integration in equal terms. Conversely, progress towards the demilitarisation of the region and a progressive and proportional reduction of the military budget could elevate it to an exemplary position before the world's population.

Finally, this process of regionalisation, which is bringing together different countries and governments, has made the traditional categories of left and right less well defined and they are no longer useful for the sake of an analysis. Nor is it useful now to refer as "progressive" the old left just because it has scaled down its old state-based schemes. The epoch presents new dilemmas between nationalism and universalism, between isolation and regionalisation, between concentration of power and real democracy, between violence and nonviolence, between humankind with meaning, and dehumanization.

This complex historical context fraught with danger but also full of possibilities needs the emergence of new global projects, new universal ideals to guide the transforming action of the human being, a new spirituality to give unity and cohesion to the various cultures that are meeting and clashing with each other in every corner of the planet.

We, Latin American humanists, were inspired by the teachings of Silo, a Latin American thinker and mystic; his message inspired a new humanism as well as humanist parties and it has begun to connect men and women from different latitudes, especially young people, looking to find a meaning for their lives, seeking to build a better world.

Silo tells us about overcoming fear, desire, non-meaning, violence, suffering and how to achieve meaning and fulfillment. This is a new spirituality translated and expressed in Universalist Humanism.

Universalist Humanism places the Human Being as the central value rather than money, God, country, state or any other value. The Human Being as the central value. Coherent with this, Active Non-Violence is proposed as the only valid methodology of action. It proposes real democracy rather than the current purely formal democracy. In the economic field it discusses the present relationship between capital and labor and opposes speculative capital, demanding the reinvestment of productive capital while proposing participatory ownership by workers of their companies, which should involve both utilities and decision making. Universalist Humanism raises the need for decentralisation of the state’s apparatus steering political struggle towards the creation a new society, a flexible and constantly changing society in harmony with the changing needs of the peoples today suffocated by dependence.

This humanism has been expressing in the world as political parties, social and cultural organizations, centres of studies, etc.

As you can see, I wanted to go beyond simply stating my view of Latin America. I also wanted to share with you my personal view and position as a Humanist. I can not end without inviting those interested to learn more about Silo's Message and its many expressions in the world.

Thank you very much.

Tomás Hirsch, who lives in Santiago de Chile, is part of the International Humanist Party Team. He was spokesperson for New Humanism in Latinamerica and, on 2005, presidential candidate for Humanism and the Chilean left parties