Giuliani Says Trump Would Not Have to Comply With Mueller Subpoena | 06 May 2018 | Rudolph W. Giuliani, reeling after a chaotic first week as President Trump's lawyer, on Sunday suggested the president might invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying in the special counsel's Russia investigation. Mr. Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and New York City mayor hired by Mr. Trump to smooth communication between the White House and the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, instead painted Mr. Mueller as an out-of-control prosecutor bent on trapping Mr. Trump into committing perjury. The president, he said, could defy a subpoena to testify. "We don't have to," Mr. Giuliani said in a rambling, 22-minute interview on ABC's "This Week" program. "He's the president of the United States. We can assert the same privileges other presidents have." Mr. Giuliani, who met with the special counsel's office shortly after joining the legal team last month, said he and another lawyer, Jay Sekulow, agreed that the president should not speak to Mr. Mueller.
Last Friday, as President Trump was leaving the White House and then again while he was preparing to board Air Force One, he took a few questions from the gathered media horde. It sure sounded as though he was distancing himself from his new mouthpiece, Rudy Giuliani, after the latter's wild TV appearances and other media interviews on Wednesday and Thursday. Presumably once the aghast White House staff, Trump's other attorneys and every TV pundit in the land pointed out what a mistake it all was, Trump abandoned his BFF, claiming that "everybody loves Rudy" but he really didn't have his facts straight yet because he'd only been on the job for one day. (In reality he had been hired two weeks earlier, but time operates strangely in the Trump administration.)
Trump on Giuliani: "He is a great guy. He knows it's a witch hunt. That's what he knows. He has seen a lot of them... Rudy knows it's a witch hunt. He started yesterday. He will get his facts straight. But what he does is he feels it's a very bad thing for our country." pic.twitter.com/oFIzSy87kt— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 4, 2018
Trump dismisses Giuliani's string of disastrous interviews, says, "when Rudy made the statement, he had just started and wasn't totally familiar with everything. And Rudy, we love Rudy, he is a special guy. What he really understands is this is a witch hunt." pic.twitter.com/yudr8Uswp5— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 4, 2018
It seemed as though Giuliani might be sidelined the way Anthony Scaramucci was after his disastrous appearances last summer. After all, this is serious business: Trump is in the middle of two separate investigations by two different federal prosecutors. Letting his pal go on TV and stick his foot in his mouth repeatedly is counterproductive. It's also redundant. The president can do that job very well all by himself.
Apparently Trump was satisfied with Giuliani's garbled "clarification" and undeterred by the whirlwind, because the former mayor was all over the place this weekend. Even after being chastised for going on TV and announcing that three Americans held from North Korea would be released that day -- something the president's personal attorney has no business knowing, much less talking about in public -- on Saturday he gave a speech to a Iranian-American group and told its members that the president is "committed to regime change" in Tehran. Why the president's attorney is giving foreign policy speeches at all, and whether he has authorization to speak for the president, is unclear. Giuliani desperately wanted to be secretary of state after Trump's election, and it looks as if he's decided to take on the role anyway.
Then the man once known as "America's mayor" appeared on Fox News with Jeanine Pirro, and things got really weird:
Giuliani claimed that he isn't yet an expert on the facts but is an expert on campaign finance law because he ran for president. He clearly is not. Just ask Kellyanne Conway's husband, the Martha Mitchell of the Trump administration:May 3, 2018
Finally, Giuliani went on "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos and put on a show that will probably be remembered as one of the more bewildering Sunday-morning TV appearances ever. He said he didn't want Trump to sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller and that he couldn't be confident the president would not invoke the Fifth Amendment. "I've got a client who wants to testify," he said. "I hope we get a chance to tell him the risk that he's taking." I think he just did.
Stephanopoulos brought up Giuliani's interview with BuzzFeed last week, in which Giuliani said that Michael Cohen had complained after the election that he hadn't been paid back for the Stormy Daniels hush money. At some point he told Trump about it, in Giuliani's account, and they agreed on the $35,000-a-month retainer or reimbursement that was paid personally by the president last year. Stephanopoulos logically followed up on Trump's Air Force One assertion that he hadn't known about the payment by asking Giuliani, "So the President did know about this after the campaign?"
Giuliani sputtered, "Can't say that. At some point, yes, but it could have been recently, it could have been a while back. Those are the facts that we're still working on and that, you know, may be in a little bit of dispute. This is more rumor than anything else." (The man could ask his client. He would know.)
Stephanopoulos pointed out that Giuliani had given a pretty clear account of what happened. He replied, "Well, maybe I did. But right now, I'm at the point where I'm learning. And I can't prove that. I can just say it's rumored. I can prove it's rumor. But I can't prove it's fact. Maybe we will." When pressed further, Giuliani responded, "How do you separate fact and opinion? When I state an opinion, I'll say this is my opinion. When I state a fact, I'll say this is a fact."
Later on he provided a completely different story, saying that Cohen and Trump had a longstanding agreement for Cohen to take care of Trump's apparently endless need to pay out hush money. Giuliani even admitted that there may very well be more such arrangements out there.
Let's just say, Rudy isn't helping.
Then the Washington Post published a story on Sunday that raised a lot of eyebrows. It was about Trump's unexpected turn a few years back, when he went from being known as the "king of debt" in the real estate world to paying for risky properties in cash at a time when borrowed money was cheap. It was also around the same time Trump hired Cohen, whose "shadowy business empire"was profiled this weekend in the New York Times. These people were clearly up to something and that something looks a lot like money laundering, something that's been suspected for some time. Steve Bannon, as you may recall, apparently said this to Michael Wolff, as quoted in Fire and Fury:
You realize where this is going. This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f***ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner. ... It's as plain as a hair on your face. It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They're going to go right through that. They're going to roll those . . . guys up and say play me or trade me.
It's possible that Trump sent out Giuliani to try to keep Cohen in the family, but it looks like the stakes may be much higher than hush money and campaign finance violations, and Rudy now appears completely clueless.
MSNBC's Donny Deutsch reported that he spoke with Michael Cohen last week and Cohen told him that Giuliani "doesn't know what he's talking about. Look, there's two people that know exactly what happened, myself and the president, and you'll be hearing my side of the story." I'm sure Trump is thrilled to hear that.
When Mandy Manning received her 2018 Teacher of the Year award at the White House Wednesday, the press was barred from her speech, and President Trump did not mention who she teaches: immigrant and refugee children. While she was at the White House, Manning handed President Donald Trump a stack of letters from her refugee and immigrant students, while billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos looked on. She also wore six politically themed buttons as she accepted her award from Trump, featuring artwork from the 2017 Women's March, a rainbow flag and the slogan "Trans Equality Now!" Mandy Manning joins us from Spokane, Washington, where she is an English and math teacher at the Joel E. Ferris High School. She was named 2018 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief School State Officers.
Please check back later for full transcript.
CIA Nominee Gina Haspel May Testify for First Time in Public About Her Role in Torture at Black Site
Nominee for CIA director Gina Haspel attends the ceremonial swearing-in of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department on May 2, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images)
The Trump administration's push to install the CIA's controversial deputy director, Gina Haspel, as the agency's new director faces mounting scrutiny as Haspel is set to begin a Senate confirmation hearing this Wednesday. The Washington Post reports the hearing almost didn't happen, after Haspel attempted to withdraw her name from consideration over opposition to her role in the CIA's torture program under George W. Bush. Wednesday's hearing will mark the first time Haspel has been forced to speak publicly about her role in the US torture program and the destruction of CIA tapes documenting the torture. Haspel's nomination as CIA director has been "sold like a box of cereal" by the agency, says John Prados, senior fellow at the National Security Archive, but with no transparency about her record. As of now, says Prados, there's no public document listing Haspel's duties in her more than 30 years at the CIA.
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Everyone with a 401(k) has been impressed by the stock market's run-up in recent years. Even adjusting for inflation, the S&P 500 is more than 20 percent higher than its peak in the 1990 stock bubble. Of course, the economy is nearly 40 percent larger, which makes the run-up somewhat less striking.
Nonetheless, the ratio of stock prices to corporate earnings is at unusually high levels. According to data from Nobel Laureate and economist Robert Shiller, the current ratio of the S&P 500 to corporate earnings is close to 25. That compares to a long-term average of less than 15.
The reason this matters is that as the price-to-earnings ratio rises, the dividend yield falls. Forty years ago, the dividend yield was well over 4.0 percent. It currently is just over 1.8 percent. This means that more of the return from stock depends on a rise in the stock price.
But if stocks rise just in step with the economy and profit growth (this assumes no further rise in profit shares), then capital gains are not going to be offsetting a weak dividend yield. Using the projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), GDP is expected to grow at less than a 2.0 percent annual rate over the next decade. Add in a 1.8 percent dividend yield, and shareholders are looking at a real return of less than 3.8 percent.
That is considerably less than the stock returns that many investors seem to expect. Historically, real stock returns have averaged close to 7.0 percent. That has come down some in the last quarter century; if we take the period since the last peak in 2007, real returns have averaged just 5.6 percent annually. It is very difficult to see how returns, even this high, can be maintained going forward.
Stock prices could continue to outpace profit growth, but that would mean ever higher price-to-earnings ratios and ever lower dividend yields. If the market were to provide the same 5.6 percent return over the next decade, as it did since the last peak, and the growth projections prove correct, the price-to-earnings ratio will be well over 30 by 2028.
As dividend yields fall close to 1.0 percent, it would be necessary to have even more rapid increases in price-to-earnings ratios to maintain anything resembling recent or historical returns. Will price-to-earnings ratios hit 50, 60, or higher?
Well, Bitcoin has a market valuation of more than $150 billion, but most people wouldn't want to bet on this craziness persisting for decades. The point is, in almost any plausible scenario we can anticipate, stock returns will be considerably lower in the future than in the past.
This raises a whole array of interesting questions, but I want to focus on one in particular: CEO pay. Most CEO pay comes from stock options. Rapidly rising stock prices allowed CEOs to make tens of millions of dollars, even if they turned in a mediocre performance. They just had to do something close to their peers and they could count on getting rich.
That will no longer be true in a world where stocks, on average, offer meager gains. This means that if CEOs are still going to pocket paychecks in the tens of millions of dollars annually, corporate boards will have to rewrite contracts to either give them many more options or much larger straight pay.
In a context where shareholders are not seeing the sorts of returns that make them happy, will they be anxious to rewrite contracts so that mediocre CEOs still get rich? Our corporate governance process is so corrupt that it is very difficult for shareholders to rein in the pay of their top employees, but the sight of top management getting rich while providing mediocre returns may provide sufficient motivation for shareholders to organize.
They may actually start asking questions like, "Can we get another CEO for less money who is at least as good?" And, serious downward pressure on CEO pay would be a great thing for the economy.
If CEOs were again paid 20 to 30 times the wages of ordinary workers, instead of the current 200 to 300 times, it would have an impact on pay structures throughout the economy. When the CEO gets $2-$3 million, the next line of management is just over $1 million, and the third layer is in the high six figures. This frees up a huge amount of money for everyone else.
Also, if the CEOs at the country's largest companies are making $2-3 million, then we can expect the top executives at universities and private charities and foundations to settle for the high six figures, instead of the multi-million dollar compensation packages many now pull down. Again, less money at the top means more for everyone else.
The full impact of lower stock returns is a much longer story, but there is real potential for it placing downward pressure on CEO pay. And that is a very good thing.
Since Donald Trump moved into the White House, we've seen a couple of responses play out over and over.
One has been despair. It's easy to see in the Trump administration's attacks on the most vulnerable in US society -- from undocumented immigrants to Muslims to women -- and in the increased organizing by the far right, invigorated by Trump's hateful policies, evidence that the US is in bleak times, with more of them to come.
The other response has been solidarity -- from the first weeks of Trump's presidency, when people rushed to airports to protest his Muslim travel ban, to NFL players taking a knee to protest police brutality, to the #MeToo wave when women stepped forward to talk about their experiences of sexual assault and harassment.
Today, in the so-called "red states" that voted for Trump, we're seeing another example of solidarity: Teachers walking out of the classroom to demand the wages and working conditions they deserve, and finding that there are educators in other states who are part of the same fight.
The wave of teachers' strikes that have struck five states this spring -- so far -- contradicts just about everything we're taught in the US: that we and our families are on our own and in it for ourselves; that whether we starve or succeed is totally up to what we decide to make of ourselves.
By contrast, the whole experience of these strikes and protests has been not just teachers working together, but a recognition that their futures are inextricably tied to one another, and they have to struggle together.
As a rural Kentucky social studies teacher explained in an interview with SW, referring to the West Virginia teachers' strike the month before: "Seeing how those school teachers could come together in solidarity was really awesome. It lets me know that it's possible for thousands of people to come together for a common cause."
This is an important point because the society we live in sets up some intimidating obstacles to workers concluding that they have shared interests or that they have a stake in one another's liberation.
The obstacles include obvious forms of discrimination and bigotry, like racism or sexism or anti-LGBTQ prejudice. But the divisions sown among workers are even more extensive: the unemployed are pitted against the employed; young worker against those who are nearing retirement; low-wage workers who don't have a union against higher-paid workers who do.
Workers can be isolated from one another within their workplaces for all sorts of reasons.
The people who have a stake in the system -- corporate executives and owners, the politicians who preserve the status quo, the media that back up their ideas -- attempt to undercut any inclination toward solidarity as if it was a contagious and deadly disease.
One recent news story shows the depths of the bosses' cynicism: When the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) organized a fast in New York City to demand that fast-food giant Wendy's adhere to a Fair Food Program that increases wages and protects farmworkers from sexual abuse in the fields, corporate spokesperson Heidi Schauer accused workers of trying to "exploit the positive momentum that has been generated by and for women in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement to advance their interests."
In case you didn't believe it the first time, let me clarify: A fast-food corporation that refuses to sign an agreement barring sexual harassment of workers who pick its food -- a demand that has been part of the CIW's campaign for years, by the way -- is accusing farmworkers of "exploiting" the Hollywood women who helped initiate the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment.
Some prominent Hollywood female voices of #TimesUp had a few choice words for Wendy's: downright absurd and unbelievably offensive.
Farmworkers' organizations early on lent solidarity to women in Hollywood when they initiated #MeToo, and vice versa. As the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas wrote in a statement for the Take Back the Workplace march in Los Angeles last year:
In these moments of despair, and as you cope with scrutiny and criticism because you have bravely chosen to speak out against the harrowing acts that were committed against you, please know that you're not alone. We believe and stand with you.
When you think about it, if farmworkers were able to win a measure that challenges sexual harassment in the fields, it would go a long way toward helping women in Hollywood achieve their own safe working environments.
In some ways, farmworkers, though they face intense oppression and exploitation, have greater potential power in this regard because the conditions of their work lend themselves more readily to workers organizing collectively and in unity. But I'll come back to that point.
I talked to someone recently who described the hotel where she worked and all the ways that solidarity was blocked among workers -- sometimes in ways that are obvious ploys by management to keep workers divided, and others where the divisions seem less purposeful, but were nonetheless real.
Workers were divided by ethnicity and language. Common sense would suggest that people work better together when there is translation available so they can better understand each other. But then there's the "danger," from the bosses' point of view: workers could better organize together around their common grievances, too.
In one example this hotel worker gave, #MeToo was turned on its head: women aren't eligible for certain jobs that required them to be alone with hotel guests in their rooms, because management said they worried about women workers' safety. Those jobs just so happen to be the highest-paying ones at that hotel, and they go exclusively to men.
It speaks to the power of solidarity that the ruling class finds so many ways of keeping workers from discovering their potential strength when they struggle together.
And this underlines why we can't rely on solidarity to be automatic or to sustain itself -- it has to be continually re-enforced and built upon.
The US has a rich and too-often-hidden history of workplace militants actively taking on divisions and creating their own conditions for true solidarity and power.
In the lead-up to the 1990s War Zone labor struggles in Decatur, Illinois, activists found ways for workers to come together at work and test their collective strength against management -- like filing grievances not as individuals, but as groups of workers.
They brought their message to the community, with the slogan "It's our solidarity versus theirs." In a town with a fairly clear history of racism and bigotry, white workers came to understand that they needed the Black workers in this fight, so they put concerns about racism up front. Black and white workers marched together on Martin Luther King Day, chanting, "Black and white, unite and fight."
For a lot of socialists and other activists radicalized by this fierce labor struggle now more than 20 years old, this was the first time we did the solidarity clap -- a unison clap that starts slowly in order to make sure everyone has a chance to catch up, getting faster and louder, until the whole room yells "Solidarity!" and shoots their fists in the air.
During the recent teachers' organizing, they organized actions to test their numbers and strength as a unified group -- for instance wearing red shirts one day, blue ones another. They showed state legislators that they were serious and united, and they showed themselves what their actual forces were.
Nor has it been lost on anyone that the vast majority of the educators rebellion across the country are women -- and the lowest-paid workers with college degrees in the country, on average.
But the teachers also knew this couldn't just be a fight for themselves. Teachers in West Virginia set the tone by making sure that they didn't settle for a raise just for themselves, but for all public-sector workers.
As for the parents -- working people affected by the strike -- teachers made sure to highlight and engage with what they were facing, too.
The strikers set up food banks for students who rely on school meals, and they emphasized that legislators were turning their backs on both the students who were supposed to learn in underfunded, overcrowded classrooms, while their teachers had to work for poverty wages.
In their 2012 strike, Chicago teachers made their broader goes clear with the slogan: "Our Teaching Conditions Are Your Child's Learning Conditions." Striking Chicago teachers also understood that their fight had to be linked to fighting the racism of mass closures of schools in Black neighborhoods.
When Karl Marx wrote about how the working-class is divided, and those divisions have to be challenged -- in his example, he used the case of English and Irish workers -- he said that this was "not a question of abstract justice or humanitarian sentiment but the first condition of their own social emancipation."
In other words, fighting racism and sexism isn't simply a matter of doing the right thing -- which is important enough -- but also seeing your own liberation as inextricably linked to the liberation of the oppressed and everyone else.
When your co-workers can be abused at work because they are immigrants or women, it increases the chances that you can be abused as well. When workers take up these struggles, their potential as a united, collective force fighting for better conditions for all is stronger. When they don't, they are weakened, sometimes fatally.
All this is so much clearer when workers are challenging the bosses and solidarity is an absolute necessity in order to win.
But the fight against oppression can't afford to wait for open struggles. As socialists, we need to make sure that the struggle against racism or sexism doesn't take a backseat to economic struggles -- because they two are fundamentally linked.
The kind of solidarity we're talking about can happen quickly in times of struggle, but it has to be constantly built and reaffirmed, especially when there's little sustained struggle.
For socialists at work, that means fighting for workplace free of sexual harassment and racism -- whether the battle of the day is counter a sexist joke or racist smear, or to challenge discriminatory treatment.
Without that fight, none of us can be free.Truthout exists to sift fact from fiction and rhetoric from reality. Can you help us continue this critical work? Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
Julio Forbes sneaks into the intermediate ESL class almost half an hour late, red folder in hand and ready to learn. He joins the class of students from Colombia, Russia and Korea. Forbes is a 35-year-old a doctor from the Dominican Republic who's come to the United States looking for a better life. But he's unemployed at the moment -- and he won't have much luck in the job market until he improves his English.
Forbes is not alone. He's one of the 2.2 million people in New York City who lack English proficiency or a high school diploma. The $90 million required to run adult literacy programs, which comes from a combination of city, state and federal funding, serves 61,000 people, a mere 3 percent of those in need.
An additional $12 million was added last year for adult literacy programs, but advocates are worried some of their programs may be in jeopardy after the release of Mayor de Blasio's preliminary budget for the 2019 fiscal year failed to include the additional funding. The New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy has been organizing rallies to demand the restoration of the funding.
The Coalition is not just advocating for additional 2019 funding, but for multi-year funding that would allow programs to thrive in the long term. According to a statement on the Coalition's recommendations for the 2019 fiscal year, "One-year funding makes it difficult to operate programs… funding instability means programs cannot hire full-time staff with benefits and lose their best teachers as they search for more stable employment."
Forbes struggles through the exercise on past participles. "Have you ever eaten frog's legs?" he asked his classmate Carlos Mendez, a 40-year-old porter who is hoping to improve his English so he can get a promotion at work. "No I haven't" answers Mendez. Their class meets three times a week in the evenings at the International Center of the Catholic Charities Community Services in downtown Manhattan.
But if the funding isn't reinstated, people like Forbes and Mendez could lose access to classes. "That would be painful, that would be horrible for the people who come to this country and they don't speak English," said Mendez when asked how he would feel if his class were cut. "It's going to cut all our opportunities to improve our lives. Taking public transportation, attending parent-teacher conferences -- everything is harder if we don't speak English. It's something that is going to affect our lives."
The cuts follow on the heels of a state budget deal hammered out at the end of March by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top legislative leaders that forced the city to allocate an additional $418 million toward subway repairs that previously had been New York State's responsibility. But the $12 million of additional city funding for adult literacy "is a small amount in the overall budget that goes a long way," says Elaine Roberts, director of programs at the International Center. Some adult literacy programs also receive state and federal funding, but many of the classes at the International Center, including the ESL class Forbes and Mendez are taking, are completely funded by the city, said Roberts.
The final city budget won't be approved until June. In the meantime, advocates say they will keep fighting.
The newspaper Naomi Klein calls "utterly unique," full of insightful dispatches from around the world, The Indypendent offers a fresh take on today's events.
Hawaii's volcanic eruption has destroyed at least 21 homes, officials say | 06 May 2018 | Lava erupting from Hawaii's powerful Kilauea volcano has now destroyed at least 21 homes, more than double the previous figure, officials announced Sunday, citing grim findings from an aerial survey by the fire department. Scientists reported lava spewing more than 200 feet into the air. More than 1,700 people have evacuated, and some Hawaiians said they may have to stay away from their homes for a long time. Earlier in the day, officials had said the lava destroyed nine homes.
FBI agents were already at Luxor during the Las Vegas shooting --Two FBI agents were spotted entering the basement of the Luxor while the Las Vegas shooting was still active. What were these two agents doing there already? | 01 May 2018 | Two FBI agents were captured on video entering the basement of the Luxor during the 1 October massacre while the shooter was still active. what were these two FBI agents doing in the Luxor, and why did they enter the basement? At 1:39 into the following video, two FBI agents can be seen approaching the front desk before entering the basement in a fluid fashion.
Connecticut passes bill giving electoral votes to presidential candidate who wins popular vote | 06 May 2018 | The Connecticut state Senate on Saturday voted in favor of a measure to give the state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote. The move puts the state in a position to become the 11th, in addition to Washington, D.C., to join an interstate compact to pool their electoral college votes for the candidate who wins the popular vote. The state Senate voted 21-14 in favor of the bill, with the support of three GOP lawmakers, The Guardian reported. The measure passed the state House on a 77-73 vote last month. Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy is expected to sign the legislation, according to the report.
An Interview, Overview of Events, and Analysis
In April, a countrywide revolt broke out in Nicaragua against neoliberal reforms introduced by the government of Daniel Ortega, a Sandinista revolutionary from the 1980s. We worked with Nicaraguan anarchists who participated at the forefront of the movement to bring you the following interview, offering an overview of the events and an analysis of the difficulties of organizing against leftist authoritarian governments while resisting right-wing cooptation.
The FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) overthrew the US-backed military dictatorship of Somoza in 1979 and held power from 1979 to 1990. After 16 years of neoliberal governments, the FSLN returned to power in 2006, establishing an authoritarian administration that mixes socialism with neoliberalism, creating new economic elites while offering social support programs to the lower classes. The government is controlled by the presidential couple: President Daniel Ortega and his wife and Vice President, Rosario Murillo.
The situation in Nicaragua right now reminds us of what happened in Brazil in 2013, when anarchists catalyzed a popular social movement against the neoliberal policies of the “left” government of the Workers Party. At first, this movement was pluralistic, including the anti-authoritarian horizontalism of the anarchists who started it and a vague popular opposition utilizing nationalistic symbols. Yet over the following years, as the police state cracked down on anarchists, right-wing reactionaries were able to take advantage of popular discontent to topple the Workers Party government and institute an even more reactionary administration. This provoked many people to rally to the same Workers Party that had originally betrayed them, sidelining anarchists and setting the stage for ever bloodier state repression.
Apologists for the authoritarian left will use the events in Brazil as an excuse to delegitimize uprisings like the one in Nicaragua. But these uprisings are catalyzed by real problems. Defending left regimes as “the lesser of two evils” only ensures that people will continue to side with the other evil against them. We have to support popular uprisings in a way that opens a space for grassroots, horizontal movements to develop.
All around the world, similar stories are playing out as authoritarian parties from the left and right attempt to monopolize the field of political possibility between them while implementing different versions of the same neoliberal agenda. Both sides benefit from reducing politics to this dichotomy. Because all the charges that each party levels against the others are absolutely true, each can point to the others’ misdeeds to rally support. So long as we can only imagine choosing between left and right parties, we will never be able to free ourselves of the hierarchies and injustices that both sides are determined to impose on us.
Anarchists can identify several errors that can arise in popular uprisings. The discourse of “fighting corruption,” widespread from Nicaragua to Armenia, appears to offer a point of departure to build popular movements that are critical of the government. Yet in fact, by implying that government could function properly if not for the corruption of specific politicians, this discourse legitimizes government itself, distracting from the systemic problems created by capitalism and setting the stage for new politicians to replace the old ones in an endless cycle. That explains why this rhetoric has been so useful to demagogues like Donald Trump who charge their enemies with corruption in order to take power and do the same things themselves.
Likewise, nationalism can appear to offer a platform for people to come together on a common basis against the authorities; think of the national flags that were widespread during the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, or the popular chant during the Egyptian revolution of 2011, “Muslim—Christian—We are all Egyptian.” Yet these old symbols always set the stage for new authoritarians to take power as the “true” representatives of the nation: remember how political parties like Syriza coopted and destroyed the movements of 2011, and how the Egyptian military took power in 2013 in a coup draped in Egyptian flags.
In the coming years, anarchists and other participants in social movements will have to develop a more nuanced analysis of how to present a third option in the conflict between authoritarian leftists and right-wing nationalists. We will have to find ways to critique the neoliberal policies of left governments like those in Nicaragua and Brazil that do not play into the hands of right-wing neoliberals. This is one of the most pressing questions facing us today.
Here follows the interview from our contacts in Nicaragua.
A barricade with a Nicaraguan flag.
I am a part of an affinity group of six people. We’ve all worked together since 2015. The majority of us identify as queer; we are employed in very different sectors. Arts, culture, feminism, and politics brought us together.
Both of my parents are historians. They both received their master’s degrees in History at the UNAN [Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua, National Autonomous University of Nicaragua]. My mother is a feminist and my father is an ex-military poet.Timeline of Events
You can also search for the hashtags #OcupaINSS, #SOSINSS, #SOSIndioMaiz, and #SOSNicaragua on Twitter and Facebook.April 2018
The first protest was a demonstration demanding immediate action from the authorities to extinguish a large-scale fire in the most important nature reserve in the country, Reserva Indio Maiz.1 The government did not listen to the protestors’ call to action, which was basically a demand to recognize the damage done by illegal cattle farms in indigenous territory. The fire lasted ten days; it was finally extinguished with the assistance of the military, indigenous volunteers, and international solidarity (e.g., a helicopter sent by Mexico).
This environmental disaster ignited environmental and social activism, shedding light on the government’s colonial practices and on its resource-intensive neoliberal interventions in indigenous territories, such as promoting cattle grazing and monocrops like palm for palm oil. This movement was called #SOSIndioMaiz. It successfully organized three protests in the capital city, Managua. I participated in this organizational committee; it has now been dissolved, with several members creating other groups.April 16
To add to this social discontent, the Ortega Regime announced reforms to social security including an increase in contributions for employees and employers, a decrease in future pensions, and a fee from every retiree’s pension. The controversial reform was intended to save the social security institute from a deficit crisis. The INSS has repeatedly been accused of approving millions of dollars in private loans to government officials. Essentially, workers and retirees were to be forced to pay for the corruption and mismanagement of the social security funds (INSS).
A previous social justice movement had emerged in 2013 under the name of #OcupaINSS. In response to the proposed social security reforms, this group of young organizers joined a group of elderly social security recipients who had started protesting because they were the ones who were going to suffer the most.April 18
The #OcupaINSS movement joined together with the #SOSIndioMaiz movement. Protests took place in two locations, in front of the Universidad Centroamericana and in Camino de Oriente (a plaza beside one of the busiest roads in Managua) on Wednesday, April 18. The government brutally attacked both of these protests, sending the police and its paramilitary forces (Motorizados2 and Sandinista Youth—see below) to attack the demonstrators. At 5 pm, anti-riot police (Anti-Motines) surrounded and dispersed protesters in Camino de Oriente. The protest in front of UCA escalated inside and around the University perimeters. More than 20 people were severely injured.April 19
The entire country mobilized in protest in response to the news of the previous night’s repression of #OcupaINSS in UCA and in Camino de Oriente.
The government began censoring independent news channels on national television. They also ordered some hospitals not to aid wounded demonstrators. After the stations were removed from the airwaves, people followed them on social media. Pro-government mobs attacked students inside several university campuses.
The following universities were closed and occupied by students. Nicaraguan police and members from the Sandinista Youth clashed with protestors inside and outside these facilities.
Universidad Agraria (UNA) – A public university focused on agroindustry. They started in the morning, taking over the North Highway near the airport.
Universidad CentroAmericana (UCA) – A semi-private university serving middle-class and upper middle-class student, recently criticized for restructuring their research and humanities departments.
Universidad de Ingenieria (UNI) – A public university for engineering. UCA and UNI saw the most intense clashes at the beginning, after which the confrontations chiefly occurred around UPOLI.
Universidad Politecnica de Nicaragua (UPOLI) – A public university.
UNAN – The largest public university, with about 50,000 students; controlled by UNEN, the pro-government student “union.” UNAN has been a stronghold for UNEN. I live right in front of this university.
Protests were reported all over the country. It was especially significant that protests took place in Monimbo, Masaya, Leon, Matagalpa, and Estelí, because they have been traditionally pro-government sites. The fact that resistance erupted there was a blow to the state and the power of UNEN. Granada and Leon are the most important tourist destinations in the country.
The government had made several statements advocating for peace and dialogue as the police and Sandinista Youth violently attacked peaceful protestors. They would also set up PA systems to blast revolutionary songs and sing them together, protected by the police.
This was the first time that a nationwide strike had occurred at this magnitude since the “6%” student protests in the late 1990s [described below].
President Daniel Ortega.
Protests continued throughout the country as anti-riot police intensified their attacks. They raided locations where civilians were organizing medicine and food donations for protesters and stole them.
At approximately 3 pm, the largest demonstration yet gathered in Carretera Masaya, one of the main roads in Managua. Paramilitary forces attacked using tear gas and rubber bullets. Later that night, in Managua, Sandinista Youth and police surrounded students and activists inside the cathedral, UNI (the national engineering university), and UPOLI (the polytechnic university). Police attacked Leon, where several buildings caught fire, including civilian households, a radio station, restaurants, and CUUN (the national university council of UNAN Leon). Masaya and Esteli were also attacked and occupied by paramilitary forces. In Granada, the city hall was burned down. Several people were killed and dozens reported missing.April 21
Confrontations continued throughout Nicaragua. There were demonstrations at several Nicaraguan embassies abroad. The government agreed to discuss social security reforms with COSEP, the private enterprise council. Many rejected the proposal, demanding that representatives from other organizations and movements be invited to the negotiations as well. At 12:30 pm, in his first address to the nation since protests began, Daniel Ortega called the demonstrators a “Group of criminals and thugs that promote a culture of violence.” He did not mention the murders of activists and students, nor the censorship of television channels.
Confrontations continued after Ortega’s address. Protests turned violent in several cities including Leon, Diriamba, Jinotepe, Matagalpa, and Chinandega. Students at UPOLI, the polytechnic university, continued protesting against police repression. The Nicaraguan army released a statement backing the government’s request for dialogue with COSEP, the private enterprise council, and demanding an end to police repression, the release of the detained students and activists, and the guarantee of free press without censorship. At 4 pm, the self-assembled movement, Movimiento Autoconvocado Nicaragua, released a statement demanding public negotiations including a variety of Nicaraguan sectors, labeling a dialogue between COSEP and the government a “Pact.” As of 5 pm, the death toll was reported to be between 25 and 30, with 64 injured, 43 missing, and over 20 detained.April 22
As protests continued, looting took place around several cities. President Daniel Ortega addressed the nation for the second time, revoking the social security reforms in a televised announcement. He was accompanied by several top-ranking representatives from free trade zones in Nicaragua. Ortega briefly mourned the deaths of civilians, police, and journalists, without mentioning the violence of the Sandinista Youth and police. The president continued to describe protestors defending themselves as “Thugs and gang members,” comparing them to looters. After his statement, another protest was called for; popular outrage had gone beyond the social security reforms to extend to violent repression and government corruption.
Daniel Ortega’s speech on April 22, complete with a letter from an English-speaker representing the business interests in Nicaragua.
After Ortega’s address, people took the streets again demanding justice and mourning those who had been killed by the national police. COSEP demanded that the government take into consideration their proposed terms and conditions for a dialogue and negotiations to take place, and confirmed the march they had announced for the next day, Monday, April 23. At approximately 9 pm, students at the polytechnic university, UPOLI, reported being brutally attacked by the police while they were paying their respects to the fallen victims. Francisco Diaz, second in command of the national police, claimed that police forces were nowhere near UPOLI, despite accusations from students in the area. According to la Prensa, at least one student was killed and five injured by gunshots.April 23
Students at UPOLI confirmed the death of two students and about eleven injured from the previous night’s police attack. They also announced they would not be attending the march announced by COSEP, as they would not be leaving the university grounds. The “self-assembled movement,” movimiento autoconvocado Nicaragua, called for another march at the same time but with a different route than COSEP’s, stating that COSEP did not represent them. Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that the decree read by Ortega on Sunday revoking the social security reforms had been published by the government’s gazette, making it official. Approximately 70,000 to 80,000 people marched together to UPOLI, carrying Nicaraguan flags, chanting for the end of repression, and calling for justice for the deceased, detained, and missing. Students at UPOLI welcomed the demonstrators and demanded the resignation of several government officials including Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. They announced a march from UPOLI to the police station in District 6 on Tuesday, April 24, to demand the liberation of the illegally detained students and civilians. Since Friday, families of the detained had been protesting outside El Chipote, the judicial assistance department.April 24
The massive march culminated with the removal of another “Chayopalo” [one of the big pieces of public art introduced by the Ortega family] in Managua. Students at UPOLI reported attacks by policemen dressed as civilians around 3 am. In the morning, detainees were released from “La modelo,” Managua’s penitentiary in Tipitapa, in groups of 15 or less along a remote road with shaved heads, barefoot, with 20 c$ (0.64 usd) in their hands. They described being tortured by policemen but aided by prisoners, who were consequently tortured as well. A journalist was also released in Leon.
After trying to reach Managua for two days, participants in the peasant movement in Nueva Guinea, Rio San Juan, and Ometepe resorted to road blockades to support the protests. This movement joined calls for a national strike. The bodies of two missing youths suddenly appeared at the Institute of Medical Forensics (IML) in Managua after their families had searched for them at different hospitals. Ortega’s government began removing state-sponsored wifi from public parks. Sectors of the formal labor market resumed operations and city halls began cleaning up damaged roads. Around 6 pm, the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua announced that they would mediate the dialogue between Ortega, the private sector, and other civic groups. At 7 pm, Ortega interrupted national television to accept the Episcopal Conference’s announcement.April 25
A week after the protests erupted, a sense of eerie calm arose in response to the promise of dialogue. Confrontations ceased; however, the death toll continued to rise as the bodies of students reported missing were identified. Bishop Baez, a key figure of support for protestors who was included in the mediation commission, stated that optimal conditions for dialogue should include prosecuting those responsible for the murders and other acts of violent repression. In a statement from students at UPOLI, the self-proclaimed “Movimiento estudiantil 19 de abril,” they accepted the invitation to participate in the dialogue as long as their safety was guaranteed during and after the meeting. Several retired and active political figures jockeyed to participate in the dialogue, including former military chief Humberto Ortega Saavedra, the liberal party (PLC), and Telemaco Talavera, president of both the National University Council (CNU) and UNA (National Agrarian University). A statement denying support for the participation of Talavera in the dialogue was signed by 160 faculty members at UNA, arguing that he represented conflicting entities. In the afternoon, demonstrators held a march to accompany the families of those still detained at “El chipote.” Several vigils to honor the victims of police repression took place nationwide.
An entrance to the Polytechnic University in Managua during the occupation.
Anonymous, the world-famous hacktivist group, announced that they hacked several government websites in response to the repression against the Nicaraguan people. The website for congress was one of the hacked pages and stayed offline for a couple of hours. These interventions were widely celebrated on social media. Nevertheless, several of us were wary of the fact that Anonymous further legitimized the Orteguistas’ claim that foreign powers—i.e., the USA—are intervening in Nicaraguan affairs.
The public prosecutor’s office announced that they will be investigating all thefts, injuries, and deaths that resulted from the demonstrations. Earlier that day, the Nicaraguan human rights association, ANPDH, publicly denounced President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo before the prosecutors office for the crimes and perpetuation of violence against demonstrators. Later in the night, the Movimiento 19 de Abril announced that they had left UPOLI’s premises as they found several government infiltrators within their organization. In addition, they stated that they did not trust the investigation carried out by the public prosecutors office.How was the uprising organized?
Affinity actions were spontaneously created through social media platforms like Signal, Telegram, and Whatsapp. All of these originally started on Facebook, with groups of up to 100 people, which decentralized to several hundred smaller groups. These “groups” formed as a way to care for and protect the student protestors who were on the streets. Some of the roles they filled include:
Establishing safe houses
Distributing medical supplies
Social media advocacy
Creating maps of safe routes and tracking police presence
Offering medical support
Creating shields to protect protesters from rocks and rubber bullets
Sending credits to cell phone numbers
Creating emotional support groups
Creating lists of participants on the ground in case some went missing
Buying food supplies
Clashes in Managua.
There was no indication that this was going to happen, just growing silent discontent. The fire was ignited when the Sandinista Youth and motorcycle gangs attacked protestors and this confrontation was broadcast publicly.
The conditions that were boiling before the Abril 19th Student Uprising include:
The INSS Protests in 2013. Activists established an occupation in front of the Institute for Social Security; police violently evicted them in the middle of the night.
Corruption at all levels of government. Corruption through pacts between government officials and the upper-class investors. Corruption to support the Ortega-Murillo family’s concentration of power and wealth.
The concentration of power and wealth, what we call authoritarianism, by controlling the General Assembly and the Electoral Supreme Council. Opening up little possibility for any parties (including left-wing parties) to run for elections.
Undemocratic elections: no foreign supervision of local elections at the national and municipal levels. The elections are basically supervised by the Sandinista Party. There is evidence of people voting twice and dead people also voting.
Lack of transparency on government investments and foreign aid (for example, Venezuelan oil money). There is little transparency or accountability in how government funds are used. Much goes to social programs, but other parts are assumed to go directly to the party.
Increasing gas prices compared to Central America, despite our relationship with Venezuela.
Poor investment in education. Only 5% of applicants passed the math admission test to apply to UNAN, the largest Public University in the country.
A political model based on dependency between poor communities and the state) instead of critical participation and dialogue. This is called clientelism.
Cooptation of Media. The government owns eight different television and radio stations and, as they recently showed, are known to censor and attack other independent media outlets, including 100% Noticias, Confidencial.
Overall hatred towards the police on account of corruption, bribery, and police murders such as the Las Jaguitas case. Bribing traffic police is a local custom.
The Grand Canal project, which gave a lot of power to a Chinese company; it was potentially going to displace indigenous communities in the Caribbean/Atlantic side of the country. This $50 billion project started with the legal infrastructure but was never actually built.
No private sector accountability over the environment. Environmental laws have been relaxed in order to incentivize private investment.
Harassment from Juventud Sandinista and motorcycle gangs (which were first implemented by Venezuela) towards protesters.
The aesthetic hijacking of Nicaragua—for example, the “Trees of Life” and the new Party aesthetic color pallet.
The Church and the State are not separate. The slogan of the government is “Socialism, Christianity, and Solidarity.”
Institutions that should be neutral—such as the military, the ministry of education, the ministry of health, and the police—are pro-government.
Femicide rates are high for rural women.
The closing of women’s centers (comisarias de la mujer).
Abortion has been illegal since 2006.
Ortega has been accused of sexual abuse against his step-daughter, Zoilamerica.
Despite all this, things were not so bad for the middle and upper class. Those sectors were pacified. The situation could be a lot worse. People could work in the private sector and benefit from the public sector. We have free education and free healthcare. They are not the best quality, but they are free and accessible to most.
But the government completely underestimated the level of national discontent towards the FLSN. This insurrection united all these sectors around one feeling: we don’t like the government and things could be better.
The trigger for all of this was not a right-wing conspiracy or right-wing funding. The student protests erupted simultaneously at UNA, UCA, UNI, and UPOLI on Thursday and by Friday these protests had grown to cities all over Nicaragua. The right wing only started to organize after they saw an opening in the dialogue that was going to occur between the students, the private sector, and the government.
There is plenty of evidence of United States involvement in Nicaragua, through the “Nica Act” and the National Endowment for Democracy funding organizations in Nicaragua. But there is no evidence connecting that to the emergence of this protest movement.
Who Are the Sandinista Youth?
The Sandinista Youth is the youth wing of the FSLN/Government. They are known for wearing the very colorful white shirts with colorful slogans. They are the first responders to natural disasters, they are the ones who go to government events, and they are the ones who respond to any public protest.
My father (a Sandinista Guerillero and then a major in the military) tells me that in the 1970s and 1980’s, the student movement were the ones debating theory and action: Trostky vs. Lenin vs. Mao vs. Castro vs. Gramsci vs. Carlos Fonseca vs. Sandino. If you were a student organizer at that time, you would be well-versed in theory and practice; you would also aspire to be a good student and an example of the hombre nuevo (“new man”), modeled after Che Guevara.
During the revolutionary process between 1979 and 1990, the Sandinista Youth played a key role in the intellectual and organizational aspect of the Revolution. They were the youth wing of the government; they gave the Sandinistas a relationship with young people; they organized the Literacy Crusade. They were also in the military, since there was a draft.
Today, it is a different story.
Since Daniel Ortega’s democratic victory in 2006, the Sandinista Youth have been the most visible sector that supports the Ortegas. They are the youth face of the government; they are organized very hierarchically; they no longer have the intellectual weight that the historical Sandinista Youth had. The government recognized that 60-70% of Nicaragua is between the ages of 18-35—this is an important demographic.
The Sandinista Youth are convinced that anyone that opposed Daniel Ortega must be a right-wing neo-liberal who wants to overthrow the government. It was right to react against the neoliberal parties in the 1990s and early 2000s—but today, those parties have lost leadership and power, mainly as a consequence of divisions in the right wing and co-optation by the Orteguista party.
After the events of April 19, the image of the Sandinista Youth is completely tainted. There are clear pictures of them attacking peaceful protestors, mostly students (not to mention 10 years of evidence of this occurring before). There are plenty of videos, photographs, and testimonies describing how Sandinista Youth attacked journalists, students, and peaceful demonstrators. I personally witnessed this myself in several protests on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
I believe that the Sandinista Youth are facing an existential crisis. They thought they were the largest youth movement in the country, but this is no longer true. They are meeting students and other young people who think very differently and are empowered in a completely unique way that is not related to party politics.
The Sandinista Youth is hierarchical, and far from autonomous, by contrast with the student and autoconvocados (“self-assembled”) movements. The Sandinista Youth already failed to form an alliance with powerful anti-canal Campesino Movement, which was formed against building the Canal around 2013. Under the leadership of Francisca Ramirez, the Campesino movement entered Managua on April 28 in support of peace and dialogue and in solidarity with the student uprising.
I have never been involved with the Sandinista Youth. They have tried several times to recruit me, but I rejected their cult following of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo and their strictly vertical approach to power. They do have a very militant organization and language. Several friends of mine are a part of the Sandinista Youth, however, through their families’ historical involvement in the Sandinistas or through their government jobs.What is the relationship of the UNEN and the Sandinista Youth to the Student Movement?
UNEN is the pro-government student union, which has chapters in each major university, mostly concentrated in UNAN Managua, the largest public university in the country.
UNEN get their “street cred” from the student protests in the late 1990s, when they were protesting the neoliberal government of Arnoldo Aleman and Bolaños, who wanted to cut education funding. The demonstrators demanded that 6% of the National Budget go to education.
The 6% protests.
But the participants in the 6% protests are no longer young. The current UNEN students have no experience in protests; they only have experience following orders and supporting the Sandinista Government. If you are a part of UNEN, you will receive benefits and scholarships—but those should be accessible to all, not just UNEN.
It is well documented that whenever there is a pro-government event or demonstration, all the public institutions of the government must attend these events, including workers’ unions. They have lists; you are required to go, or you will lose you job or your scholarship. This is how they get hundreds of people to attend pro-government rallies. It is the same with voting: If you are a state employee or part of UNEN or of the Sandinista Youth, you must prove that you voted.
The psychology of the Sandinista Youth and UNEN is “us vs. them.” If you are a young organizer but you are not UNEN or Sandinista Youth, you are automatically assumed to be a right-wing, CIA-funded traitor who wants to destabilize all the wonderful things that the government has created.
This is one of the main flaws of the Sandinista model: their relationship with the people has been economical and political, instead of social and sustainable. They have created dependency instead of autonomy: clientelism.
What made the Ortega government popular?
The government keeps contrasting the current situation to the 1990s, which were a complete disaster for the poor and working-class. Neoliberal governments created new political and economic elites, ruling from the 1990s to 2006. In the 1990s, we had power outages, water outages, extreme poverty, and crime and drugs. The World Bank and the IMF created free trade zones, with maquilas (sweatshops), that were designed to modernize Nicaragua. After the revolutionary process of the 1980s, we also saw the introduction of casinos, fast food chains, call centers, malls, private resorts, cell phones… basically violent globalization.
Since 2006, the government has created a stable economy via authoritarianism and political and economic pacts. Costa Rica is too boring and expensive, so nowadays most tourists are coming to Nicaragua. Now the government is afraid that tourism will decline, affecting thousands of jobs.
Nicaragua experiences relative peace compared to the most dangerous zones in Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala). We enjoy this safety not simply because of our large police force, but because Nicaraguans migrate to Costa Rica rather than the United States, so we don’t fully participate in the dynamics around migration to the US involving the cartels. There are also very harsh border laws between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Right now, a camp of Afro-Caribbean and Cuban immigrants want to enter Nicaragua so that they can make their way to the USA, but they are not allowed in the country, not even just for transit.
The most celebrated act of the government has been constructing parks with wifi and rejuvenating the old downtown. These parks are painted with the multicolor government aesthetic, but they are spaces that can be enjoyed by all. Every weekend, you see thousands of people enjoying public spaces, which was unconceivable in the 1990s.How does this relate to the historical legacy of the Sandinistas?
The error of the Sandinista Party is that they have created a dependency between the poor class and the government. You can only buy loyalty for so long; they needed to build social infrastructure but never did. The Sandinista Youth was supposed to do that, but they failed. The government supported poor communities by giving away free food and building materials.
Their approach has always been hierarchical, vertical, and authoritarian. This is a big problem for new youths who don’t like being told what to do. There is no debate inside of the Sandinista Party.
Sandino is a national hero from the 1920s and 1930s. His original platform was anti-imperialism, cooperativism, citizenship, and nationalism. Sandino was radicalized in Mexico, where he experienced the labor movement after the Mexican Revolution. He brought the Sandinista red and black flag to Nicaragua from Mexico after he met with Spanish Anarchists.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Carlos Fonseca introduced Sandinismo as an ideology and movement based around a revolutionary strategy that did not include an industrial class—as Nicaragua had few industrial workers. In the 1980s, the FSLN held power; they introduced agrarian reform, the National Literacy Crusade, and a socialist model with a strong central government and a small private sector. Cuba and the Soviet Union were their chief supporters.
At the time, the Contra War impacted the revolution. The Contras were supported by the USA, but they also included farmers who didn’t want to work in cooperatives and thought that the FSLN was hierarchical.
In any case, the 2006 Sandinista Government is nothing like the Nicaraguan government of the 1980s. In 2006, the Sandinistas originally spoke of continuing the revolution where they left off in the 1980s. But the current Orteguismo sold out to corruption in order to hold on to power. They’ve been in power since 2006 because:
They own the electoral assembly;
There is no political opposition (the second biggest party received 12% of the votes in 2016);
They make deals with the private sector and upper class;
They control the police;
People hate voting because the elections are not transparent—the abstention rate in voting is around 50%, and young people don’t vote because we all know who is going to win and there is no coherent opposition that is even mildly left-wing;
Youth are tired of party politics;
The FLSN have changed the constitution; they have spent the last 10 years building their own infrastructure in order to hold on to control.
These insurrections are a wake-up call to the government and to the Sandinista Youth. They no longer have control of the discourse and of the image of Nicaragua.
The UNEN and the government have pointed at the right wing and at the MRS (Movimiento Renovador Sandinista, “Movement to renovate Sandinismo”), claiming that the MRS has infiltrated student groups and funded the protests. The MRS is a dissident Sandinista group formed in the 1990s. They have been running in elections without winning; their support is around 10%. Honestly the MRS wished they had that kind of money. I have several friends in the MRS; they are good people, and smart, but they still play party politics.
The more existential question is: What does Sandinismo mean today? Who speaks for Sandinismo? What still works about Sandinismo? Who owns Sandinismo? The FSLN? The war veterans?
We have seen people trying to re-signify the co-opted image of Sandino. There has been a nationwide effort to paint blue and white all the Sandinista monuments that were originally painted in red and black. People are placing a Nicaraguan flag behind Sandino, but they are still respecting his image. This suggests that a lot of people want a National Sandinismo instead of an Orteguista Sandinismo. But this is just aesthetic, nothing political has emerged.
We lack leftist critiques of Orteguismo. What does a left-wing anti-Orteguismo look like?
A vigil for those killed during the uprising. Again, note the flags.
How has the private sector responded to the situation?
We’ve heard rumors about how Roberto Pellas, Nicaragua’s first billionaire and head of Casa Pellas, the company that owns the upper class private Hospital, the car dealerships, the insurance and the banks, is positioning himself strategically in light of future negotiations. This is odd, since the Pellas families have benefited from the Ortega family being in power. But to say the least, the Pellas industry supports capitalism and further economic growth at all costs.
I only see the upper class supporting stronger IMF influence. Nicaragua already survived 15 years of IMF and World Bank control through neoliberal governments. Everybody hated it. That’s the main reason Ortega won in 2006—people wanted change. I don’t see working class people demanding a return to neoliberal politics.
The student movement has said several times that although the private sector is affected by the INSS reform, they do not represent the student movement. Right now, the majority of the people who have been murdered have been student protestors. No upper-class or private sector person has died as a result of confrontations with the Police.
The bravery of the student protestors places them at the center of the dialogue. The government is including several other sectors in the dialogue (workers, private sector, representatives of free trade zones) in order to suppress the students’ demands.
One of the chief things that I celebrate form these last 10 days has been how fast youth have been radicalized into taking a political position and forming political organizations. University students have organized themselves in assemblies and collectives. People have placed pressure not just on politicians but on artists and cultural producers. We are experiencing a new culture war. People are thinking beyond individual action, in terms of institutions and collective solutions. But again, horizontal methods don’t relate to progressive leftist politics—or do they?
There are efforts now to create a radical leftist consciousness and organization. Several organizations and groups are promoting this.
But efforts have not been targeted towards full infrastructure change. Right now, people want justice for the people who were murdered, hence the dialogue with the government. The main rhetoric of the movement has been “We must stay in the streets so that we don’t forget all the ones who have died.” Whatever comes out of this dialogue will not be enough, because the government will never give you the tools to overthrow it.Have right-wing groups attempted to co-opt the movement?
Right now, the only right-wing group we are keeping our eye on is the PLC political Party, but they keep being booed out of marches and protests. No political party has attempted to take their own party flags to the demonstrations yet. The real right-wingers are the people from the private sector. The right wing in Nicaragua will not come from a nationalist ethno-centric movement but from private interests.
I was shocked when I saw how many upper-class wealthy families were attending the marches. Of course those marches were not disrupted by the police; of course they did not encounter any violence; of course they were safe and offered a cathartic feeling of belonging to a national movement. I saw Piero Cohen, a Nicaraguan millionaire, shouting on live television about how Ortega had to be overthrown.
Here is where we can see how opportunistic everyone has been. “Opposition” is such a plural and changing concept; the only thing all the opposition shares is opposition to the Ortegas. Nicaragua is an extremely Catholic Country, and somewhat conservative when it comes to LGBTQIA and feminist issues. The arguments and positions of the “opposition” have taken on a very nationalistic tone with a Christian inflection. Right now, we are seeing a nationalistic push against the Ortegas, but inside of this nationalism there are many different ideals that contradict each other.
People are extremely suspicious of attempts to support and speak on behalf of the students. Everybody is attempting to co-opt these movements. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. People from every sector are organizing themselves and want to promote a dialogue that includes them. Everybody is sharing their disapproval of the government. The conditions have been created under which new leaders will emerge and try to represent movements. Not necessarily from the right wing, but whoever wants power. It is the task of the students and the self-assembled to not fall into this trap and to do a good job at having delegates and representatives that can speak on behalf of the organized majority. Who has the right to speak on behalf of the murdered students, who mostly came from working class backgrounds?
To be honest, our right wing is not as organized in Nicaragua as in the United States or Venezuela or Brazil. They don’t attract young people. I think people are tired of party politics; we have seen the same talking heads over and over again for the last 10 years. People are excited for a new kind of leadership. But what also needs to be proposed is a new kind of method.
The right wing was in power through the 1990s with Arnoldo Aleman and Enrique Bolaños. They set the ground for vicious neoliberal policies and created a new political and economic elite at the expense of the working class. Right now, Arnoldo Aleman’s wife is trying to take advantage of this situation to get more votes on her party. But nobody wants to talk about political parties at this point. I think populism is over here.
The strongest actor that wants to co-opt the movements is still the state and the Sandinistas. They have already started to dress as civilians (without the colorful Ortega Shirts) and to wave Nicaraguan Flags instead of FLSN flags. The government has said in almost every communiqué and television that the entire uprising is a plan from the right to destabilize the country. This message is being multiplied at all levels of society. Consequently, the movements are doing their best at critiquing any “right wing” conspiracy.
The interest of the United States through the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) has also been a concern. But people are not talking about it very much on the ground.
A door has been opened, but we don’t know what’s going to come out of the other side—it could be a right-wing neoliberal subject or a radical leftist subject. But the Sandinistas and the MRS have co-opted all the leftists’ language. What does it mean to be a Nicaraguan leftist and not support the Ortegas? Or should the strategy be to support the Ortegas as a vehicle to get into more radical politics? There are still debates about this.
A diagram explaining the difference between anarchism and the other ideologies on offer in the marketplace of ideas.
The main source has been the realization that we don’t want to replicate the authoritarian and vertical model represented by the government. As young people, we don’t want to be told what to do by people who claim to be smarter than us. Therefore, it was necessary to experiment with other models. Some sectors only spoke briefly of these models, but it was the right time to implement them and they were beautiful to see. These models are now part of our collective vocabulary. For the first time, thousands of people are listening to groups speak, how they talk, learning how the pass around the microphone, how to speak as a “we.”
This all started with UPOLI, because there was no leadership in the protests; this all started when hundreds of people created Signal and Telegram groups to talk and find ways to help the protests without need of authority. And all of this works because this experience of politics is very different. It is more empowering, but it also takes more work. It has led to confusion and disorganization in some sectors. It does involve a lot of communication.
We have no idea where all of these anarchist ideals came from: mutual aid, affinity groups, horizontalism, communes, occupations, consensus. It was as if they had been part of our collective unconscious but we had never had an opportunity to practice them. Practice came first, then theory. It’s not that people are openly reading anarchist literature, as much as I have tried. People just organized this way, and maintained this way of organizing through the whole week of struggles.
No populist leader has emerged, only delegates and spokespersons. We have ideas of movements, and of secret meetings, but no authority or verticality. Still, our parents tell us that there is a cultural need for leadership. So we have conflicting models fighting each other.
We have still been learning; there have been conflicts. For example, a group of activists leaked naked pictures of one of the UNEN organizers. This provoked the feminist movement to call out misogyny and machismo, and also the role of the church and authority inside student movements. The most stressful thing has been infiltration. Movements have been infiltrated by UNEN, the pro-government student union, who have slowly infiltrated universities like UPOLI and fomented disagreements within the students.
But everything that we have learned over the past days is now part of our political imagination, our skillset, our language. These events created the conditions for us to experiment and practice these skills, and every day we are learning new skills.How do the events in Nicaragua relate to other struggles in Central America?
Central American has been through a lot. Look at the Fuera JOH movement (which I also briefly experienced) in Honduras and the backlash against the “ultra-conservative” movements in Costa Rica right before their elections. But no elements have connected these. We were keeping a close eye on Costa Rica because we were afraid that the “ultra-conservatives” would influence and inspire Evangelicals here in Nicaragua. So far they have not. Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica are three very different countries.
Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have more in common; Nicaragua is its own bubble. In terms of anarchist presence, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Puerto Rico have by far the largest concentrations of anarchists. But in my experience, we experience very little solidarity and political exchange with these countries. There is more cultural and academic dialogue than political communication.
In 2006, Sandinismo came to power as part of the “Pink Tide,” a wave of electoral victories for leftist parties throughout Latin America. Yet surprisingly, we have very little communication with the rest of Latin America. There is a cultural frontier between Panama and Colombia. We sometimes hear something about the student movements in Argentina and Chile or indigenous resistance in the Amazon. But in terms of organizers getting together and exchanging strategies broadly between Central American or Latin American countries, it is very rare. We might have more affinity to Mexico than to some of the previously mentioned countries, but still, it doesn’t come through as much, and of course the more upper class sectors of the population have their eyes and ears and hearts aimed at the United States.
Many people draw parallels with Venezuela and Nicaragua. A lot of people in Nicaragua have a strange relationship to Venezuela. We do owe our “sustainability” to Venezuelan aid, in return for which we send meat back to Venezuela. Ortega and Maduro have been compared a lot, even Ortega and Chavez. But again, the context is very different.
Unfortunately, we still need to develop an intersectional analysis inside of Nicaragua and outside of Nicaragua. We have been too busy figuring things out on the ground, we have not had a chance to reflect on our situation in an international context.What can people elsewhere around the world learn from this movement? What do you think the future holds?
This insurrection occurred so fast. It was literally overnight. The images of the police and the Sandinista Youth beating up peaceful protestors resonated across the entire country. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Never underestimate the solidarity that can come through students. Never underestimate the level of spontaneous organization that can emerge between friends, family, and strangers. I am amazed at how quickly people organized themselves into affinity groups and cells. I am amazed at how horizontal all these efforts and movements have been.
Understand the local conditions in which you live; always consider culture as a factor in your organizing. What happens will follow cultural patterns, but it will also redefine them. Take these moments of crisis to learn new skills and make new friends. Take chances. Experiment.
Anarchists and active organizers and environmentalist academics who read about class struggle were definitely more prepared than others that were just started to get involved. But this did not manifest itself in an authoritarian way; they just offered suggestions and questions and ideas and experiments. So start getting prepared, think of your immediate community needs. To quote someone, somewhere: “sometimes there are decades in which nothing occurs, but other times there are weeks worth decades.”
Localize your struggle to your own local conditions. It will help you see into the future and understand the present. In Nicaragua people, have claimed since Ortega that things could be worse, compared to Nicaraguan history, but you must be able to also state that things can be better. In the case on Nicaragua, it seems that the past (the revolution from the 1980s) has hijacked the present. So it’s the task of new movements to analyze the 1980s and 1990s, in part by talking with the generations that experienced them.
The question of “the people” as a singular has also been contested. The people as plural is richer but at the same time more complex. We need to attack the center from different places, at different intensities, and at different levels. There is no one strategy; the decentralization of groups and efforts into smaller factions concentrates energy in very different places. We need to study the countryside and see how it operates—and the universities, the Sandinista youth, the private schools, the popular markets, the neighborhood, the workplaces. You can’t be involved in all of those spaces at the same time, so decentralizing attacks and conversations and critical reflections helps everyone.
We must expose all the shortcomings of the right. Their political platform, their ideology, their organization, their power structures—and connect them to race, class, gender, history, geography.
We are still figuring this out. Right now, we are trying things and responding to the reactions. Things need to happen in order for people to take positions. We are reacting to the government, but we are also providing material for the government to react to. We need to map the right, center, and left players—to critique them, to expose them. The same goes for the supposed neutrality of institutions.
No matter what happens in the future, what the government does, how the private sector reacts, how the students movements unfold—over the last week, all the students and organizers have grown tremendously. We have learned so much, failed so much, but also won incredible battles. All these things we cannot unlearn and we cannot unsee. We will never unsee how hard the government tried to cover up its failure. We cannot unsee.
The situation in Indio Maiz is more complex than just government ineptitude. As an organizer inside of the #SOSIndioMaiz, I met with Rama and Criol indigenous leaders and with Park Rangers that protect Indio Maiz; they tell a story of racism, illegal cattle ranches, government and private interests, concentration of power and territory via the military, and more. The government department that is designated to protect its natural resources has not replied to any of the lawsuits that have been sent for the last five years. Indio Maiz was not just about the fire. It was about the fact that the government benefits from illegal wood extraction, illegal cattle ranches, and private sector monocrops in indigenous territory. Indio Maiz was about the racist dynamic between the state and local indigenous governments. Indio Maiz was about the fact that it is very difficult to study ecology or environmental resources management in Nicaragua. Indio Maiz was about the Grand Canal. Indio Maiz was about the relaxed environmental policy regarding private investments and construction. ↩
Motorizados, motorcycle gangs. Protesters were repeatedly attacked by these older men wearing helmets and utilizing baseball bats, metal bats, rocks, and other weapons. ↩
The post “Drop the Charges!”: Friday, May 11th Join Chelsea Manning and Former Defendants in DC! appeared first on It's Going Down.On January 20th, 2017, hundreds of people were mass arrested while protesting Trump’s inauguration. The State then proceeded to blanket charge everyone arrested with “conspiracy” and multiple other felonies – seeking to lock them away for upwards of 80 years. The first 6 people faced trial in November, but were acquitted on all charges after the State failed to convince a jury of their guilt. Following this defeat, the US Attorney announced in January that it was dismissing charges against 129 defendants in order to focus resources on 59 people against whom they claim to have a stronger case. On May 14th, a new group of defendants is scheduled to begin trial. In response, people are mobilizing to demand that the charges be dropped for all remaining defendants. A rally is scheduled in DC for Friday May 11th, a call-in campaign is set for May 10th – 11th, and on May 14th, people will engage in court support.
Facebook Event Here
Friday, May 11th, @ 12:30 PM at Franklin Square, join with former political prisoner Chelsea Manning, former J20 defendants, and special guests to rally and demand that charges against the remaining group of J20 defendants who still face upwards of 60 years in prison, be dropped immediately.
In the November 2017 trials, the state argued that by simply going to a march, chanting, and dressing alike, people were engaging in a “conspiracy” and were responsible for everything that allegedly happened. The US Attorney will likely continue this line of argument in the upcoming trials, while further attempting to criminalize other aspects of political organizing including planning protests, union membership, and disruptive protest tactics. The J20 trials, along with attacks on the Black Lives Matter and anti-pipeline movement, are an attempt by the State and Trump administration to further criminalize and push protest and dissent off the streets.
“Will we stand by and watch as those who are brave enough to stand up to the Trump administration be attacked and railroaded, or will we stand with them, and refuse to allow the State to lock them away for decades?”
At the same time, the regime has given a green light to the growing violence of the Alt-Right, as police agencies everywhere have protected neo-Nazis while attacking antifascists. This reality has been exemplified during the J20 trial, as the State has relied on far-Right and Alt-Right media hacks to make their case, and local police even were found to have worked with white nationalists close to Richard Spencer to release personal information of defendants on the “Got News” website.
Across the country, things are getting worse for poor, working, and oppressed people – from Puerto Rico to Flint, Michigan. The State, along with their friends in the Alt-Right, wants to present grassroots movements fighting for change as the threat to the everyday person in the face of the deepening crisis of everyday life. But the truth is, it is the current system of profit over people and ecological destruction which is the biggest threat to all of us. Will we stand by and watch as those who are brave enough to stand up to the Trump administration be attacked and railroaded, or will we stand with them, and refuse to allow the State to lock them away for decades?
Join us on Friday, May 11th, 12:30 PM @ Franklin Square to show that we – along with so many more, stand in solidarity with the J20 defendants and will continue to call for the dismissal of their charges. This is a family friendly event: bring your voice, banners, signs, co-workers, and friends!
Press Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Media Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1712823365499572/
From Anarchist Radio Berlin via machine translation w/ minor edits
In 2016, the Anarchist Radio Berlin (within the framework of the FdA) participated in a fundraising campaign that aimed to raise money for the purchase of a building in Cuba. The federation finally made a significant contribution.
After the comrades in Cuba succeeded in buying a building in the capital of Havana, it is finally over (on Saturday, 5/5/2018): The Center ABRA (Social Center and Libertarian Library) opens its doors solemnly. The local comrades ask for the widest possible dissemination, a wish that we are only too happy to fulfill. And we call you to do the same.
In the following we document the text for the opening ( in the translation of the FdA ):
[this part of txt taken from Black Rose Anarchist Federation link here -ANEWS ed.]
On May 5th 2018 a new stage in the self-emancipatory process for a group of Cubans begins with the opening of ABRA: Centro Social y Biblioteca Libertaria (Social Center and Libertarian Library).
This effort of the Taller Libertario Alfredo López (an anarchist, anti-authoritarian, and anti-capitalist initiative created in 2012 and which forms a part of the Federación Anarquista del Caribe y Centroamérica [Anarchist Federation of the Caribbean and Central America]) along with the effective and crucial involvement of associated collectives such as Observatorio Crítico Cubano, Guardabosques, and other individual initiatives intends to inaugurate an autonomous and sustainable space in Cuba today.
A space to promote experiences and practice independent of any foreign or national government, or the institutions which represent them, and focused on the capabilities of those involved. From ABRA we will insist on a practice which prefigures the kind of sociability that we dream of and in friendly relations with the environment, which results in minimal consumption and a maximum of non-polluting solutions of our own.
This new effort is essentially anti capitalist given that capitalism promotes utilitarian relationships among people, supremacy, competition, profit, all of which is not conducive towards the type of sociability we aspire to achieve. These forms of relationship that capitalism promotes is sustained by states, businesses and corporations that dominate and pillage the world and our country. For this reason, the Social Center stands diametrically opposed to capitalism.
On the other hand, emancipation is not possible without involvement with the community. That is why ABRA exists within the communities and not alienated from the oppression they suffer or from the victories they achieve through their struggles. ABRA seeks to provide a space for the different forms of sociability, for individuals and affinity groups that aren’t limited by the narrow framework of government vs opposition, and who propose the direct and autonomous approach to issues of everyday life and creation on all aspects of life.
This space actively stands against discrimination by race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, territoriality, educational attainment, economic status and any other kind that threatens a person’s dignity. Likewise, this space recognizes the diversity of thoughts (political, ideological, moral, etc.) without ever renouncing to exercise our own.
ABRA is a place for establishing relationships, in the middle of a commercialized and surveillanced city, that can serve as a place for producing information that is not available at a local, national, and international level. It is a space in favor of self-taught training, commemorations, celebrations, encounters; looking to encourage the precarious counter-cultural scene, which is productive and self-sufficient, that currently exists in La Habana and the region of Cuba.
The Social Center constitutes a space of horizontal social communication to give a voice to those national and international experiences which are not in the interests of the hegemonic agencies, but that offer an anti-authoritarian and emancipatory perspective which is in fact in the interests of us who struggle in Cuba.
Here, means and ends are not contradictory: They are horizontal, of free individuals, and the effective participation out of direct involvement.
Tags: cubasocial centeranarchist libraryspacela habanacategory: Projects
– Against The Smart City
– Talking Together
– Make May Day Everyday
Over the last 50 weeks, we have posted one crossword puzzle per week. This weeks crossword puzzle is on Podcasts and it marks the end of our weekly crossword puzzle posts. You can find all the previous puzzles here or by using the navigation side bar and clicking on the crossword link.
This weeks crossword can be downloaded here: https://anarchistnews.org/crossword/crossword50.pdf
From LBC about the book:
For those anarchistnews fans who miss Worker's acerbic and insightful bon mots on modern-day anarchy and anarchists, here is a fix (however temporary) for you.
Fifty crossword puzzles of occasionally ludicrous difficulty (there are scattered puff questions throughout also, for those of you, like me, who are terrible at these kind of games) are featured for your education and amusement.
Anarchistnews.org is the most popular, utilized, and non-sectarian news source pertaining to anarchists in North America. Its open commenting system continues to be one of the few spaces in which anarchists, nationally and internationally, converse about topics of the day, challenge each other, and critically engage with a wide variety of issues and events.
Worker retired from running the site after eleven years... Since then they have reflected on their time in the daily trenches of running the site, and this book is the result. These crossword puzzles speak to the years of comment threads, the ridiculousness and wonderfulness of the anarchist space in North America, and finally the absurdity of working with cantankerous, stubborn, and self-righteous people by way of essay or manifesto.
These puzzles should probably be done by a reading group or a group of friends. They are supposed to make you think, laugh, and perhaps smack your head. A more perfect metaphor for North American anarchism cannot be found.
[ Here are the solutions! Don’t peek!: http://ardentpress.com/crosswords/ ]Tags: beautiful crossmess parzelthis sitepdfpodcastsaudiocategory: Projects
About a half decade ago, as the shale drilling rush was sweeping across the U.S., drillers needed upfront cash — and quick — to let them snap up acreage, drill and frack exploratory wells, and hone their skills at the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that fueled an oil and gas boom.
Bankers and financiers began attending shale industry conferences, marketing a clever idea. By dusting off an obscure part of the tax code, drillers and pipeline builders could attract a different class of investor than would usually look at a boom-and-bust prone industry, an investor hunting for stability and predictability. Form a Master Limited Partnership, or MLP, shale drillers and pipeline builders were advised, and you'll be able to access that capital.Tags: shalefrackingpipelinesinfrastructuretaxestax breakssubsidiesrenewable energyMLPMaster Limited Partnership
LVMPD officer inside Paddock's room: 'We do not have a broken window' --Apparently, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and FBI have some explaining to do after officers who breached the gunman's room find no evidence of broken windows. | 02 May 2018 | Officer-worn body camera footage from the night of the 1 October massacre reveals no broken windows or curtains blowing in the wind inside Stephen Paddock's 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay hotel room suite, contradicting the official narrative. "We do not have a broken window," one of the officers named Cory clearly states after making entry into room 32-135. "Standby, we've got curtains open on a window that's not broken," another voice can be heard saying in the video as officers frantically pull back the curtains. "It's not, it’s not, it's not [broken] -- Corey it's not," one officer makes clear.
On December 21st, a jury returned a not-guilty verdict on all charges for the first six defendants in the J20 case. Subsequently, on January 19th, 2018, the prosecution dropped charges against 129 defendants. This is a huge victory! But the fight isn’t over yet: 59 people still face decades in prison. The next round of trials is set to start on May 14th, 2018. The prosecution intentionally delayed the April trials for lack of an “expert witness,” essentially conceding that they can’t win the case as is. We know this is a case of political targeting, and we must demand that the remaining 59 defendants get their charges dropped! We are asking that everyone call the US Attorney’s office from 9am-6pm on 5/10/18 and 5/11/18 and tell them to DROP THE CHARGES against ALL the remaining defendants!
Now is the time to keep up the pressure! The U.S. Attorney’s office can decide to drop these charges any time. Let’s make sure they can’t get any work done, show them they can’t get any work done while we let them know we are watching these cases. We’re asking you to keep the following people busy listening to our demands all day long on May 10th and 11th:
Jennifer Kerkhoff – Lead Prosectuor on the case, Deputy Chief of the Felony Major Crimes Trial Section (202) 252-7380
Lisa Greene – The Deputy Chief of the Superior Court Division, Kerkhoff’s direct supervisor (202) 252-7485
Richard Tischner – The Chief of the Superior Court Division, Kerkhoff’s direct supervisor (202) 252-7274
US Attorney for DC Jessie Liu – The person in charge of the US Attorney’s office, a Trump appointee (202) 252-7566
Rizwan Qureshi - Assistant J20 prosecutor (general line - use directory/operator) (202) 252-7679
John Gidez – The Chief of the Felony Major Crimes Trial Section, Kerkhoff’s colleague (202) 252-6752
John Borchert - Assistant J20 prosecutor (esp. Dreamhost and Facebook warrants) (202) 252-7679
For maximum impact: make it personal. Why are you upset? How do you feel about limits on street protest? Tell them your opinion about police infiltration of anti-capitalist and anti-fascist communities. Perhaps you want to discuss private property destruction as symbolic political action. Whatever topics you select, you should use the opportunity to make sure that for the duration of this phone zap they will hear from us all the two days long. Please be aware your calls are likely recorded and we do not advise answering questions about your identity. Please use your best discretion if referencing anything that occurred on January 20th so as not to negatively impact the ongoing case.
Here’s a sample script to get you started!
Hello. My name is __________. (first name is fine)
I am calling about the inauguration day protesters still facing trumped up criminal charges. Your office needs to drop these remaining charges. There is no good reason your office should be pursuing these charges when six people have already been found NOT GUILTY on all counts in the first trial. Again, your office should drop the remaining charges.
Over the last year these prosecutions have pushed all limits:
Intimidation to coerce plea deals by making inflated charges.
Shielding law enforcement from public accountability by issuing gag orders.
Disrupting people’s lives by making overblown charges and using those to justify intrusive, extensive investigations meant to build those cases.
This overall strategy to intimidate activists, disrupt social movements and silence dissent by weaponizing the use of trumped up charges is not going unnoticed. Your office has the power to end the repression and intimidation. Drop the charges now.
N.B. Some callers to AUSA Kerkoff in January found her to be argumentitive, and may treat the call similarly to her courtroom presentation. You are welcome to expand this script to include opinions about the limits placed on street protest, the infiltration of anti-capitalist and anti-fascist communities by the police, or private property destruction as symbolic political action. Please be aware that your calls are likely recorded and we do not advise answering any questions about your identity. Please use your best discretion if referencing anything that occured on January 20th so as to not negatively impact the ongoing case.anarchists in troublecall indefendj20#disruptJ20category: Actions
The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ben "I've Never Had to Worry about Affording Housing" Carson, wants to triple the rent that low-income American families pay for federally subsidized housing.
Yep, this is the same guy who spent $31,000 of taxpayer money on a table and chairs. He's trying to make it harder for low-income families who shop at Bob's Discount Furniture to afford a stable housing situation.
For many families, that rent increase could mean the difference between squeaking by and being out on the street. That's not an exaggeration -- just ask anyone who's been on the cusp of homelessness.
That's why federally subsidized housing exists to begin with. Housing insecurity is a huge issue in our country. HUD exists to ensure that more US families can access safe, affordable housing, to decrease homelessness, and to prevent housing discrimination.
Carson hasn't spent a day of his life living in federally subsidized housing. If he'd come to HUD with that sort of experience, he'd know: Jacking up the rent on families already struggling to get by won't fulfill some cock-eyed goal to make people less reliant on public assistance. It will just make things worse.
It will increase the rate of people who are homeless or housing insecure -- that is, those who may not technically identify as homeless, but who have to rely on the kindness of strangers, friends, family, or a temporary residency program to have a roof over their heads.
Imagine you're holding down a job -- or two or three -- and you're just barely able to pay bills and feed your family. You're already counting pennies to make sure you're keeping on top of it all.
Even eating McDonalds and ketchup sandwiches and buying stuff at Goodwill can't save you from an unexpected increase in rent.
A recent exposé on eviction rates exposed some inconvenient truths about the reality of housing access in this country. Evictions are soaring. Add to that the millions of people screwed over by the 2008 housing crisis or by disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and tornadoes.
It's not just adults who are at high risk -- the average age of a homeless person in the United States is 9. Carson's misguided attempt to force more Americans off public assistance will force millions of kids right onto the street.
The problem isn't just that ordinary folks suffer -- it's that greedy companies and individuals swoop in to take advantage of the situation, particularly in the case of foreclosed homes. You can buy up foreclosed properties for small change and turn someone's misery into a substantial profit.
Just ask one of the lieutenants in the war on poor people, Sean Hannity. Hannity got some great deals on foreclosed homes thanks to Michael Cohen, his own attorney and President Donald Trump's "fixer." Hannity actually used a shell company to purchase properties through a dealer who pleaded guilty to criminal charges in a scheme to fraudulently purchase foreclosed homes.
Rich people like Sean Hannity can easily get even richer off foreclosed homes, leaving families out in the cold -- while attacking poor people on air for not "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps."
Carson and Hannity are wealthy, elite US Americans who've never had to face homelessness or losing their homes due to foreclosure. Meanwhile, their actions are putting the basic right to safe, secure housing out of reach for ordinary low-income families.
This article was published by TalkPoverty.org.
Even when I was a single mother facing homelessness, applying to receive cash assistance from the state never felt like a feasible option.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) goes by many names depending on the state where you're applying for services, but the basics are the same: Recipients are assigned caseworkers and they report their progress -- as often as weekly -- to show that they are participating in approved work-related activities for the required number of hours. TANF means constant check-ins and a complete loss of autonomy in any chosen career path for little in return. Cash assistance amounts are detrimentally low -- sometimes less than $200 a month.
In the new Farm Bill proposed by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Conaway's mission is to change the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, more commonly known as food stamps) to mirror the TANF program. Congressional Democrats adamantly argued against making such changes, which would reduce the number of people who can get the food assistance they need.
Conaway's Farm Bill would make SNAP's current work requirements even harsher. Nearly any non-disabled adult under age 60 who isn't able to work 20 hours every week would only receive benefits for three months every three years. If they're raising a child age 6 or older, they would still be subject to the new rules. If they're unemployed or working a job that isn't assigning them enough hours, tough luck. Much like TANF, people would need to check in monthly or risk losing their food benefits for 12 months for their first "failure to comply," and 36 months for their second. Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) says that that this policy is simply "a backdoor way to kick people off the program."
Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) argued against the changes several times in the committee's nearly six-hour meeting on the bill. "You need to understand what you're doing," he pleaded. "When we put the work requirements into TANF and SNAP, one of the biggest problems is lack of flexibility."
When I applied for TANF in 2007, I had to attend work preparation classes that were several hours long. Even though I'd worked full-time for more than 10 years, I had to learn how to write a resume, how to go online and look for jobs, and I was told I should consider a career as a secretary or a baker. I had to mark these career paths on a sheet, and tell my caseworker my plan to pursue those fields, even though that wasn't my interest. Higher education, even at the local community college, wasn't an option. All of this seemed for show, and a waste of everyone's time, since I was a month away from giving birth to my first child and determined to be a writer.
Seven years later, as a possible TANF applicant again, I now had a bachelor's degree. I'd still have to attend those same classes, but with the added stress of finding a child care facility that would accept TANF's payments for my daughter to attend. Midway through reading the thick packet of paperwork my caseworker had mailed me to apply, I called to ask how much money I'd receive each month as a family of three. "Probably about 80 dollars more than your child support," she said with a sigh. "It's probably not even worth it for you to apply." (If a custodial parent is already receiving a monthly amount in child support, the state reroutes the payments to the agency, and pays the participant directly instead.)
"Okay," I told my caseworker, tucking the papers back into the manila envelope before I tossed it into the trash. I was not only a qualified applicant, but one the program was supposed to help. Yet TANF's maze of paperwork is so incredibly difficult to work through that many people, like me, are discouraged before they even begin.
House Democrats voiced their concerns that Conaway's Farm Bill would similarly overburden SNAP recipients and program administrators if it switched to running as a work program instead of a food program. The amount of paperwork that people would be required to file on a monthly basis -- and that caseworkers would need to process -- would require new systems, new employees, and training. While House Democrats argued that more than 2 million people would be kicked off SNAP or have their benefits reduced, and 265,000 kids would consequently lose automatic access to free meals at school, that wouldn't be the end of the suffering -- the travesty would continue as more people would lose benefits due to misplaced paperwork or being unable to meet a new work requirement due to a lack of transportation, or child care, or caring for a family member, or any number of reasons.
"States will be unable to provide the services expected of them. And rather than take on the cost of serving their clients … it's very likely states will take the steps to cut them off all together," says Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH).
Despite reports that more than half of households receiving SNAP are working households -- a number that jumps to 80 percent in the years before and after qualifying for food benefits -- Conaway wants to force recipients to provide proof that they are worthy of getting help with food. That they are, essentially, "legitimately poor."
Fudge argued that a better approach would be to raise the minimum wage, noting that cafeteria employees in the building where the committee met that day made less than $2,000 a month, and therefore qualified for SNAP. "In fact," she added, "raising the minimum wage to just $12 an hour would save about $53 billion in SNAP over 10 years."
House Republicans on the committee didn't seem to want to hear that side of the argument, though. Instead, by turning SNAP into a program like TANF, the amount of people able to get food assistance would dwindle. One can only assume that perhaps that's the whole point.