compiled by Ginger Weigand
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel announced that his government will cease all training of Venezuelan soldiers at the School of the Americas (SOA). The SOA, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is the controversial US military combat training school for Latin American soldiers, based in Fort Benning, Georgia. Vicente Rangel has called SOA/WHISC a training school for dictators, torturers and terrorists, saying that a country such as the US, which considers itself to be a democracy, should not have such a school on its soil.
SOA graduates Efrain Vasquez Velasco (the Army Commander in Chief) and General Ramirez Poveda were key players in the coup attempt against democratically elected President Hugo Chavez in April 2002. Another SOA graduate, Lieutenant German Rudolfo Varela, currently in INS detention in Miami, FL, is wanted in Venezuela for his involvement in embassy bombings in Caracas in February 2003.
Mami Wata (Mama Water)
Women, water, and consumer organizations come together naturally, says Kaye Stearman from Consumers International (CI), an organization linking womens rights closely to consumer rights, particularly around the issue of water.
A recent CI report provides compelling facts about women and water. Poor women in Africa and Asia walk an average of six kilometers a day to collect water, carrying up to 20 kilos of water on their heads each journey. A woman living in a slum in Kenya pays at least five times more for one liter of water than a woman in the United States.
Women are in the forefront of consumer campaigns against skyrocketing water prices in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, India, Malaysia, Mali, Slovenia and elsewhere. For instance, in Senegal, women have formed a neighborhood cooperative society to administer local water pumps, lower prices, provide hygiene education and promote consumer rights. Their project enabled the construction of 52 standpipes and 600 sewage drains in poor suburbs around capital Dakar.
Uniting Against Police
Oppression on March 20th
Recently, a number of Austin, Texas community organizations including the NAACP, the American Friends Service Committee, PODER, the Rhizome collective, a local direct action alliance, Austin Justice Action Movement (JAM) and others, met to discuss their common ground. The group consensed upon turning the March 20th global day of action against the war in Iraq, into a common machete against human injustice. The activists plan to rally in the city, and then conduct a tour from the site of a 2003 police murder, through cultural gentrification zones, and finally to the Austin Police Department headquarters. From there, a caravan will travel to Crawford, Texas (site of one of George W. Bushs retreats) for a statewide action.
Website Tracs Federal Agency Activities
The purpose of TRAC (<www.trac. syr.edu>) is to provide people and institutions in the US with comprehensive information about federal staffing, spending, and enforcement activities of the federal government. The TRAC website gets data from Freedom of Information Act requests and then compiles the data into charts, graphs, and reports. The website and data analysis is run by a Syracuse University professor and a NY Times investigative reporter. You can find national and local statistics and analysis on activities of the IRS, INS, FBI, DEA, ATF and US Customs.
To whet your appetite:
-The FBIs dominant focus remains the same since 9/11, despite hype about the so-called War on Terror. During each of the last five years, drug violations and bank robberies/frauds were the subject of more than one third of all FBI referrals for prosecutions and more than half of all FBI convictions.
-FBI attention to white collar crimes is decreasing. During the last five years, bureau prosecution referrals for white collar crime hovered around 33% of the total of all referrals, down from 40% in the mid-90s.
-Tax prosecutions resulting from IRS investigations currently are running at about half of what they were ten years ago, despite similar staffing levels. Likewise, IRS prosecution referrals for securities crimes are decreasing, dropping from 22 in 1999 to 10 in 2002.
The site is full of easily comprehensible charts and visuals.