2001 Censored

Foreign Policy News Stories


Project Censored



World Bank and multinational corporations seed to privatize water

Global consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, more than twice the rate of human population growth. According to the United Nations, more than one billion people already lack access to fresh drinking water. If current trends persist, by 2025 the demand for fresh water is expected to rise by 56 percent more than the amount of water that is currently available.

Multinational corporations recognize these trends and are trying to monopolize water supplies around the world. Monsanto, Bechtel, and other global multinationals are seeking control of world water systems and supplies.

The World Bank recently adopted a policy of water privatization and full-cost water pricing. This policy is causing great distress in many Third World countries, which fear that their citizens will not be able to afford for-profit water. Grassroots resistance to the privatization of water emerges as companies expand profit taking. San Francisco's Bechtel Enterprises was contracted to manage the water system in Cochabamba, Bolivia, after the World Bank required Bolivia to privatize. When Bechtel pushed up the price of water, the entire city went on a general strike. The military killed a seventeen-year-old boy and arrested the water rights leaders. But after four months of unrest the Bolivian government forced Bechtel out of Cochabamba.

Bechtel Group Inc., a corporation with a long history of environmental abuses, now contracts with the city of San Francisco to upgrade the city's water system. Bechtel employees are working side by side with government workers in a privatization move that activists fear will lead to an eventual takeover of San Francisco's water system.

Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, Canada's largest public advocacy group, states, "Governments around the world must act now to declare water a fundamental human right and prevent efforts to privatize, export, and sell for profit a substance essential to all life." Research has shown that selling water on the open market only delivers it to wealthy cities and individuals.

Governments are signing away their control over domestic water supplies by participating in trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and in institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). These agreements give transnational corporations the unprecedented right to the water of signatory companies.

Water-related conflicts are springing up around the globe. Malaysia, for example, owns half of Singapore's water and, in 1997, threatened to cut off its water supply after Singapore criticized Malaysia's government policies.

Monsanto plans to earn revenues of $420 million and a net income of $63 million by 2008 from its water business in India and Mexico. Monsanto estimates that water will become a multibillion-dollar market in the coming decades.

This story is of vital importance to the earth and all humanity. The finite sources of freshwater (less than one half of one per cent of the world's total water stock) are being diverted, depleted, and polluted so fast that, by the year 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in a state of serious water deprivation. Yet governments are handing responsibility of this precious resource over to giant transnational corporations who, in collusion with the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, seek to commodify and privatize the world's water and put it on the open market for sale to the highest bidder. Millions of the world's citizens are being deprived of this fundamental human right, and vast ecological damage is being wrought as massive industry claims water once used to sustain communities and replenish nature.

Recently, a civil society movement has been created to wrest control of water back from profit-making forces and claim it for people and nature. Called the Blue Planet Project, this movement is an alliance of farmers, environmentalists, Indigenous Peoples, public sector workers, and urban activists who forced the issue of water as a human right at the March 2000 World Water Forum in the Hague. The Project is holding the first global citizens' summit on water in Vancouver in July 2001. One major project has been support of the water activists in Cochabamba, Bolivia, who, led by union leader Oscar Olivera, forced the giant engineering company Bechtel to leave the country and stopped a World Bank-imposed privatization scheme that more than doubled the price of water to the local people.

The mainstream press has been reluctant to tell this story. Our fight in Canada started with concern over the potential of bulk water exports sought by some politicians and corporations. Water is included in both NAFTA and the WTO as a tradable good; once the tap is turned on, corporate rights to water are immediately established. But our mainstream press generally supports economic globalization and these trade agreements and will permit only selective reporting on opposition positions. Blue Gold, my paper on the commodification of water published by the IFG in 1999, has been printed in several languages and sold all over the world but has been ignored by the North American media.

The story of the destruction of the world's remaining freshwater sources is one of the most pressing of our time; there is simply no way to overstate the nature of this crisis. And yet when the mainstream media report on it-which is not nearly often enough or in sufficient depth-they seldom ask the most crucial question of all: Who owns water? We say the earth, all species and all future generations. Many in power have another answer. It is time for this debate.

For more information on this story and the Blue Planet Project, please contact The Council of Canadians: phone (613) 233-2773; fax (613) 233-6776; address, 502-151 Slater Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1P 5H3; website, www.canadians.org.

Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a director with the International Forum on Globalization.

Eight months have passed since the people of Cochabamba forced the departure of a subsidiary of the Bechtel Corporation and restored control of the region's water supply into public hands. The story has brought unprecedented attention to the issue of water privatization and important events continue to unfold, both locally and internationally.

Locally, Cochabamba's residents are working closely with the newly reconstituted water company, SEMAPA, to extend water service to more families. In Alto Cochabamba, one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, a community water tank had remained uncompleted for years and became a local trash dump. Today the tank is in full operation,

bringing public water into the neighborhood for the first time. Civic leaders say they are building a utility that is run by the people rather than by corrupt politicians or an overcharging corporation beyond local democratic reach.

As a direct result of the Democracy Center's reporting, Cochabamba's water rebellion is also drawing substantial world attention and solidarity. In December, a delegation of leading citizen action and labor groups from the U.S. and Canada came to Cochabamba for an international conference on water privatization. These groups and others have also pledged their support against Bechtel's latest attack, a lawsuit for as much as $20 million-compensation for losing their lucrative Cochabamba contract. It is an action that pits one of the world's wealthiest corporations against the people of South America's poorest nation.

Bechtel has been actively shopping for the friendliest international forum possible and apparently has decided its best chances lie in a suit under a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) signed previously between Bolivia and Holland. Late last year Bechtel quietly reshuffled corporate papers to place its subsidiary under Dutch registration, in preparation for such action. International groups are gearing up to help Cochabamba leaders fight Bechtel's lawsuit. "This is going to be the first major international civil society fight against a corporate legal action under such a treaty," says Antonia Juhasz of San Francisco-based International Forum on Globalization.

The Democracy Center's articles, which ran primarily in the progressive press and were distributed widely via the Internet, also attracted publication in some dedicated city dailies such as the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Examiner, and Toronto Star (thanks to distribution by the Pacific News Service). Most mainstream coverage of the story, however, was limited to the dispatches of the Associated Press Bolivian correspondent. AP correspondent Peter McFarren came under fire for stories that eagerly repeated the Bolivian government's and Bechtel's public line, falsely blaming the water uprising on "narcotraffickers." One reader of the Democracy Center's articles noted the difference in the reporting and uncovered that McFarren was, at the same time, actively lobbying the Bolivian Congress to approve a controversial project to ship Bolivian water to Chile. When that conflict of interest was reported to AP, McFarren suddenly submitted his resignation.

More information on the story, including subscription to the free e-mail newsletter in which the stories originated, is available at www.democracyctr.org.

Jim Shultz: JShultz@democracyctr.org

Engineering News-Record magazine ranks Bechtel as the biggest construction company in the United States; it is also the biggest private company in northern California. It has built mega-projects from the Alaska pipeline and the

Hoover dam to the San Francisco Bay Bridge, from natural gas pipelines in Algeria to refineries in Zambia. Hardly a day passes without the company signing a new contract somewhere in the world; all told it has worked on 19,000 contracts in 140 countries in the past century, many of them with taxpayer money. Yet an extensive review of Bechtel contracts over the last 100 years shows that time and again the company has been found guilty of sleazy political connections. In fact, if there's a pattern to Bechtel's public works projects, it's this: The company works under cover of the utmost secrecy and routinely jacks up the cost of projects far beyond the original bid, sticking taxpayers with huge, often unexpected bills.

If these cost overruns do generate some headlines, the environmental and social impacts of the company's construction activities rarely get a mention: managing bombsites for nuclear testing in Nevada, helping hack off the top of a sacred mountain on the Pacific island of New Guinea to build the world's largest gold mine, planning pipelines for Saddam Hussein in Iraq, drawing up development plans for a man accused of killing half a million Hutu refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire), building toxic refineries for Chevron in Richmond that destroy the San Francisco Bay.

Bechtel's management and spin doctors went into overdrive when staff at headquarters read the San Francisco Bay Guardian story and started to ask hard questions. We obtained an internal memo that explained why they had decided not to respond to the story:

"We're not currently considering legal recourse (for) a number of reasons:

* To win a libel or defamation lawsuit, Bechtel would have to show that the journalists, activists, or politicians in question either knew that such statements were false or entertained serious doubts about their accuracy. This could be very difficult to prove.

* A lawsuit would give Bechtel's most vocal critics another public forum in which to reprise their claims. Defense attorneys would be permitted to engage in wide-ranging discovery into Bechtel's nonpublic business affairs- including making substantial document requests and taking depositions from Bechtel employees-to probe whether or not the critical claims were true.

* Bechtel would have to prove the amount of damages suffered as a result of the alleged defamation. Bechtel would have to demonstrate some monetary loss, which might be difficult (and would, again, open us up to discovery of data)."

The mainstream press regularly writes about the contracts that Bechtel wins and completes but they rarely ever dig deeper to find out about the impact of these projects. No mainstream press has ever looked at a broad overview of the company's history or been able to probe into the company's inner workings: this is partly because the company refuses to give the media access to the company staff and management.

Pratap Chatterjee: pchatterjee@igc.org


U.S. Taxpayers Underwrite Global Nuclear Power Plant Sales

The U.S. tax-supported Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) is solidly backing major U.S. nuclear contractors such as Westinghouse, Bechtel, and General Electric in their efforts to seek foreign markets for nuclear reactors. Between 1959 and 1993 Ex-lm spent $7.7 billion to help sell American-made reactors abroad.

Most countries do not have the capital to buy nuclear power, so contractors, in order to be competitive, provide 100 percent of the financing. Ex-Im offers terms too good for Third World countries and Eastern European buyers to pass up. If the host country defaults on its loan, the Ex-Im steps in with American taxpayer dollars.

Westinghouse built the Bataan nuclear power facility in the Philippines in 1985 at a cost of $1.2 billion, 150 percent above their projections. However, the Bataan plant was never brought online due to the fact it was near an active volcano. Despite the fact that the plant never generated a single kilowatt of energy, the Philippines still pays about $300,000 a day in interest on the Ex-Im loan that funded the project. Should the Philippines default, U.S. taxpayers will pick up the tab.

In Turkey, the Ex-Im has approved a preliminary loan in support of a Westinghouse-led consortium's $3.2 billion bid to build the Akkuyu plant on the Mediterranean coast. The Akkuyu plant site is near an active fault line in a region that has experienced a number of strong earthquakes over the last 100 years. Despite safety and environmental concerns, Vice President Gore wrote to Turkish officials on behalf of Westinghouse. National security specialists believe that Turkey's nuclear energy program contains a military element. Several members of the U.S. Congress have accused Turkey of supplying Pakistan with uranium enrichment technology.

The Clinton administration has also allowed American contractors to sell reactors to China, claiming the nuclear energy market of China is vital to the U.S. nuclear supply industry. Ex-Im has guaranteed a $322 million loan for two Westinghouse nuclear deals in China. This approval comes despite Beijing's refusal to abide by nonproliferation rules established by the International Atomic Energy Act. The decision to allow the sales was reportedly made over the objections of national security advisor Sandy Berger, who cited Chinese exports of "dual-use" technology to Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.

Estimates are that some 70 nuclear power plants will be built in Asia in the next 25 years. China will be one of the principal buyers. In 1997, President Clinton's Export council (headed at the time by the CEO of Westinghouse) declared, "The nuclear energy market of China is critical to the survival of the U.S. nuclear power supply industry."

"American contractors are selling a product that most people don't want," Dave Martin of the Toronto-based Nuclear Awareness campaign says. U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing this industry. Without Ex-Im, which offers terms just too good for Third World countries to pass up, American firms would not succeed in selling nuclear power plants worldwide.

Discussion of the perils of the nuclear industry is rare enough in the mainstream media. But even less attention is paid to the U.S. funding institutions that make many of these nuclear plants possible. With virtually no oversight or public account ability, the U.S. Export-Import Bank continues to direct huge sums of tax payer dollars toward irresponsible and inefficient projects, few of which could ever pass domestic safety standards. A the same time that the U.S. government has acquiesced to the need for cheaper, cleaner, and safer forms of energy at home, it unscrupulously peddles nuclear energy abroad to keep U.S. contractors afloat.

There have been some developments since our article originally ran. Nearly a billion dollars over budget, the Temelin plant in the Czech Republic went online on October 9, 2000. The reactor sparked massive international protests, which on several occasions forced the closing of the Austrian-Czech border. Protests are now turning to Temelin II, an unfinished second reactor at the same plant, which is scheduled for completion next year. Antinuclear activists and members of the Austrian and Bavarian governments are vowing to block it.

In Bulgaria, the Kozloduy reactors remain online. The European Union (EU) maintains that unless four of the six Kozloduy reactors are closed, Bulgaria will not be allowed entrance into the Union. The EU has also threatened to forbid Lithuania membership if it continues to postpone the shutdown of the Ignalina plant, which still operates partly because of Westinghouse work and Ex-Im backing.

In Turkey, the movement to block the Akkuyu project won a stunning victory in July 2000. Stating that the project was simply too expensive and too dangerous, the Turkish government finally agreed to cancel it. Turkish president Ecevit pointed out that "the world is abandoning nuclear energy," and said that the government would instead begin focusing on conservation, natural gas, and hydroelectric, solar, and wind energy.

China remains the grand prize for the U.S. nuclear industry. With U.S.-Chinese trade relations growing closer by the day, Ex-Im will face even less difficulty in opening this market to U.S. contractors.

To follow the activities of the lending agencies behind these projects, two important sources to check out are Bank Watch (www.bankwatch.org) and the Bank Information Center (www.bicusa. org). For general information on nuclear projects, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service & World Information Service on Energy (www.nirs.org) and the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout (www.cnp.ca) are excellent.

Ian Urbina: iurbina2@aol.com


International Report Blames U.S. and Others for Genocide in Rwanda

Bill Clinton and his administration allowed the genocide of 500,000 to 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994. In a clear effort to avoid responsibility and embarrassment, the Clinton administration has refused to acknowledge its role in failing to prevent the genocide in Rwanda. This allegation comes from the recent report released in July by a panel affiliated with the Organization for African Unity (OAU).

OAU set up a panel comprised of two African heads of state, chairwomen of the Swedish Committee for UNICEF, a former chief justice to the Indian Supreme Court, and a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations (UN). The panel was asked to review the 1994 genocide, the actions preceding the massacre, and the world's response to the killings.

The panel concluded that the nations and international bodies that should have attempted to stop the killing chose not to do so. The report, which received modest but insufficient media coverage, convincingly condemns the United Nations, Belgium (a former colonial occupier), France (which maintained close relations with Rwanda), and the United States. The report found that after the genocide began, the Clinton administration chose not to acknowledge that it was taking place. Under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, once genocide is recognized the nations of the world are obligated to prevent the killings and to punish the murderers. But the Clinton administration did not want to become involved with Rwanda after 18 Americans were killed in Somalia six months before. The report says, "the Clinton administration held that there was no useful role for any peacekeeping operation under the prevailing circumstances."

According to the report, the killings could have been stopped before they began. The report refers to the well-known fax that Canadian Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN peacekeeping troops in Rwanda, sent to the UN three months before the genocide began. In the fax, Dallaire warned that an extermination campaign was coming. In fact, three days before the genocide started, a Hutu leader told several high-ranking UN officials that "the only plausible solution for Rwanda would be the elimination of the Tutsi." While the report states that "there were a thousand early warnings that something appalling was about to occur in Rwanda," the Clinton administration took every step possible to avoid acknowledging that genocide was taking place.

Dallaire asked for an additional three thousand UN troops, which would have brought the total to 5,00O, a number likely to have been able to prevent the genocide. However, Madeleine Albright played a key role in the Security Council of the UN in blocking the troop expansion. In fact Albright is cited by the report as "tossing up roadblocks... at every stage."

Perhaps even more disturbing are reports linking U.S. Special Forces to the training of Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) troops. The Special Forces Command Team known as Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) is a special foreign armed forces training unit. Since 1994, under the leadership of Paul Kagame, Green Berets were training the RPA. They have been trained in landmine detection and small unit movement. This training continues even though there is mounting evidence that the U.S.-trained Rwandan soldiers have been in the thick of the atrocities inflicted upon the Hutu refugees from before the genocide began up until the present.

There are several forms of censorship. In totalitarian societies, governments simply forbid journalists from publishing and disseminating embarrassing, inconvenient, or troubling information. But in supposedly open societies, where the cyber-fast flow of information creates a white noise that can drown out the trivial and the significant, there are more subtle and less conspiratorial acts of news suppression. Most notably, there is the question of triage. A tremendously important matter can receive but several inches of attention in the middle of a newspaper or a brief mention halfway through a news broadcast. (I. F. Stone used to say that the Washington Post was a great newspaper-you never knew where in it you would find a page-one story.) If a story is not deemed vital-if there is no page-one headline, no follow-up the subject can fade quickly and be swept aside by other news. And-poof! -it's as if the story never appeared in the first place.

In the column that has been selected as the #6 Censored story of 200O, I attempted to rescue a crucial story from the disposal bin. When an Organization of African Unity panel last summer released a report on the Rwanda genocide of 1994, the New York Times published a news story on the study in the middle of its first section. The article noted that the OAU panel had been critical of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the United States-and that, predictably, the Clinton Administration had brushed aside the criticism. But the story did not go into details. And that was it. When I looked up the report on the OAU's Web site, I was astonished at how sharp a critique it was of the Clinton administration's response (or lack thereof) to the genocide, in which 50O,000 to 80O,000 Tutsi were massacred by the Hutu. Moreover, the report demolished the Clinton assertion that he had not been fully aware of the genocide when it had been under way. (The president had offered this excuse in 1998 while making an apology in Rwanda for his inaction.) That is, the report showed that the president had prevaricated when he had issued his apology. The OAU study also put forward a convincing case that the Clinton administration had stood in the way of a swift and strong international response to the Rwanda genocide. It was a devastating piece of work. Yet as far as I could see, it had little impact on the Clinton administration and did not register with the American public. Clinton's lies about his personal sexual behavior seemed more important to the media than his lies about genocide.

My modest aim was to write a column that would inform people of the full breadth of the OAU report. In the same piece, I also referred to the plight of Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, who had been the commander of the UN forces in Rwanda. A few months before the OAU report came out, Dallaire retired early from the military for medical reasons. He had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder related to his service in Rwanda. For years he had been hounded by the belief that he could have prevented the genocide had the United States, the UN, and the international community decided to act more forcibly at the start of the massacre. A few weeks before the report was published, he had been found drunk, lying in a park in Canada. Afterward he revealed he had twice tried to commit suicide. His sad tale went unreported in the United States, except for one brief mention in a Baltimore newspaper that reprinted a Toronto Star article. Dallaire's personal story and the OAU's criticism of Clinton were important topics that warranted more than cursory coverage.

Sadly, not much additional information has developed since publication. The Rwanda genocide has receded further in time and memory. It has not been on the top of the list when journalists assess the Clinton presidency.

There was no mainstream press response to this article, as far as I could tell. But that was not surprising. My column was necessary only because the mainstream media had decided not to cover this subject.

To get more information, one can read the report at www.onu-oua.org/ Document/ipep/ipep.htm.

For general information on human rights and genocide in Africa and elsewhere, visit the sites of Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) and Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org).


United Nations Corporate Partnerships - A Human Rights Peril

In a move to make the United Nations more corporate-friendly, officials are calling for UN-corporate partnerships. The UN's new partners include multinational giants like McDonald's, Disney, Dow, and Unocal.

A business-friendly ideology at the UN is based on a desire to gain favor with the United States, the UN's largest funder, and to raise money through private sources. The practice of the U.S. withholding dues from the UN for political purposes has jeopardized its operations. Now facing a funding crisis, the UN is turning to direct corporate aid on an unprecedented scale. UN officials are keenly aware that support from the United States is predicated upon a friendly stance toward business. U.S. business pressure led to the closure of the UN's Center on Transnational Corporations in the early 1990s.

UN agencies have entered into an array of partnerships with giant corporations, including many that citizen movements have denounced for violations of human and labor rights. Human rights groups around the world are increasingly challenging the new partnership arrangements for fear that these new relationships will undermine the UN's ability to serve as a counterbalance to global corporate power. Human rights groups fear that corporations will get a public boost by wrapping themselves in the UN flag while making no commitments to adjust their behavior to reflect the institution's principles. They are calling on the UN to pull back from the partnerships and set clear guidelines for any cooperative ventures with business enterprises. At stake are the core values of the UN itself as the partnerships undermine the primacy of human rights, health, labor rights and environmental protection to favor markets and profits.

Executive director of UNICEF Carol Bellamy warned in April 1999, "It is dangerous to assume that goals of the private sector are somehow synonymous with those of the United Nations." Ward Moorehouse of the Center for International and Public Affairs in New York stated that "the UN's job must be to monitor and hold corporations accountable, not to give out special favors."

General Kofi Annan set the stage for the partnership initiative by calling on CEOs to join a "Global Compact" with the UN. He also challenged business leaders to enact the nine principles derived from UN agreements on labor standards, human rights, and environmental protection.

One of the controversial partnerships is the Global Sustainable Development Facility (GSDF) set up to fund sustainable development projects worldwide. The GSDF is now headed by a steering committee that includes Dow Chemical, the world's largest producer of chlorine and pesticides, and Asea Brown and Bovari, one of the main suppliers for the controversial Three Gorges Dam in China.

The UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Sadako Ogata, is now co-chair of the Business Humanitarian Forum with Unocal President John Imle. Unocal is a business partner with Burma's murderous military regime. Unocal's gas pipeline project in Burma has generated thousands of refugees seeking to escape the militarized pipeline area.

UNESCO, the UN's educational arm, is teaming up with Disney and McDonald's to present "Millennium Dreamer" youth awards to two thousand kids. It "should have crossed UNESCO officials' minds that young people have more than enough exposure to these two brands already," said Beth Handman, a curriculum specialist in New York city schools.

The Battle in Seattle revealed the existence of a growing citizens' movement actively opposing corporate globalization and the international institutions that support it. Many in this movement see the United Nations, with its unique dedication to universal values of peace, human rights, environmental protection, and public health, as a potential counterbalance to the WTO and its pro-corporate agenda of free trade and investment. However, under financial pressure, due largely to the United States' refusal to pay its dues, and fearful of irrelevance in world affairs, the UN has turned toward "partnerships" with the private sector, including some of the same companies against which citizens' movements campaign. These include Nike, Shell, Rio Tinto, and many others. "Perilous Partnerships" revealed the trend toward partnerships with business at the UN.

The rhetoric around the partnerships reveals a tendency for the UN to endorse a view of corporate-led globalization supported by the WTO, World Bank, and IMF. This endorsement comes precisely at the time of a popular backlash against corporate globalization, and represents a betrayal of "we the peoples" the UN is supposed to represent. In addition, the partnerships have no monitoring or enforcement of corporate behavior; therefore companies can sign onto UN principles without having to adhere to them. For some of these companies, the partnerships amount to a slick PR initiative, a chance to "bluewash" their image by wrapping themselves in the blue flag of the United Nations while carrying on with business as usual.

After publication of "Perilous Partnerships," the International Forum on Globalization sponsored an all-day teach-in on the UN and corporate globalization. Later that week, the Alliance for a Corporate-free United Nations- a grouping of nongovernmental organizations from around the world-was born. UN officials have acknowledged some of our concerns, though the momentum toward partnerships has not been stopped. At the time of this writing, the General Assembly has been deadlocked since December 12, 200O, over a resolution that would encourage such partnerships.

Limited coverage of the story from the UN's point of view started in January 1999, with Kofi Annan's launch of the Global Compact with corporations. Coverage of our critique of the partnerships has been nonexistent on television, while radio coverage has been limited to local stations, with the exception of Pacifica. In print, the New York Times did one major piece, in the context of the Millennium Summit, while Business Week ran a short blurb. In Europe, there has been somewhat more print coverage, including an exchange of opinion pieces in the International Herald Tribune and a highly critical piece in the Guardian.

This coverage, along with exchanges of letters between our Alliance and UN officials, our report "Tangled Up In Blue," and a great deal of other information is available on this theme at www.corpwatch.org/un. We encourage you to visit the site and add your voice to those who believe the UN's role should be to monitor and hold accountable the global corporations, rather than to form partnerships with them.

Kenny Bruno: khruno@verizon.net


Cuba Leads the World in Organic Farming

Cuba has developed one of the most efficient organic agriculture systems in the world, and organic farmers from other countries are visiting the island to learn the methods.

Due to the U.S. embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was unable to import chemicals or modern farming machines to uphold a high-tech corporate farming culture. Cuba needed to find another way to feed its people. The lost buying power for agricultural imports led to a general diversification within farming on the island. Organic agriculture has become key to feeding the nation's growing urban populations.

Cuba's new revolution is founded upon the development of an organic agricultural system. Peter Rosset of the Institute for Food and Development Policy states that this is "the largest conversion from conventional agriculture to organic or semi-organic farming that the world has ever known." Not only has organic farming been prosperous, but the migration of small farms and gardens into densely populated urban areas has also played a crucial role in feeding citizens. State food rations were not enough for Cuban families, so farms began to spring up all over the country. Havana, home to nearly 20 percent of Cuba's population, is now also home to more than 8,000 officially recognized gardens, which are in turn cultivated by more than 30,000 people and cover nearly 30 percent of the available land. The growing number of gardens might seem to bring up the problem of space and price of land. However, "the local governments allocate land, which is handed over at no cost as long as it is used for cultivation," says S. Chaplowe in the Newsletter of the World Sustainable Agriculture Association.

The removal of the "chemical crutch" has been the most important factor to come out of the Soviet collapse, trade embargo, and subsequent organic revolution. Though Cuba is organic by default because it has no means of acquiring pesticides and herbicides, the quality and quantity of crop yields have increased. This increase is occurring at a lower cost and with fewer health and environmental side effects than ever. There are 173 established vermicompost centers across Cuba, which produce 93,000 tons of natural compost a year. The agricultural abundance that Cuba is beginning to experience is disproving the myth that organic farming on a grand scale is inefficient or impractical.

So far Cuba has been successful with its transformation from conventional, high input, mono-crop intensive agriculture to a more diverse and localized farming system that continues to grow. The country is rapidly moving away from a monoculture of tobacco and sugar. It now needs much more diversity of food crops as well as regular crop rotation and soil conservation efforts to continue to properly nourish millions of Cuban citizens.

In June 2000, a group of Iowa farmers, professors, and students traveled to Cuba to view the approach to sustainable agriculture. Rather than relying on chemical fertilizers, Cuba relies on organic farming, using compost and worms to fertilize soil. There are many differences between farming in the United States and Cuba, but "in many ways they're ahead of us," say Richard Wrage, of Boone County Iowa Extension Office. Lorna Michael Butler, Chair of Iowa State University's sustainable agriculture department, said that "more students should study Cuba's growing system."


Gerber Uses the WTO to Suppress Laws that Promote Breastfeeding

Gerber Baby Foods Corporation has used the World Trade Organization (WTO) to suppress a Guatemalan law that encouraged mothers to breast-feed their children.

For many years, the potential market for baby food corporations has deteriorated because of low birth rates in developing countries. In order to create demand for their products, Gerber Baby Foods has aggressively sought to expand their market in Third World countries, particularly Guatemala.

Under WTO rules, corporate intellectual property rights have higher priority than human health. Small, poor countries can be intimidated by transnational corporations into opening their markets to foreign corporations, and their governments cannot invoke their own domestic laws as a precondition of doing business. In effect, the WTO has given corporations a powerful new way to challenge the laws of any federal, state, or municipal government.

In 1983, the government of Guatemala passed a law and regulations with the goal to inspire new mothers to breastfeed their infants, and to fully understand the harm that could be done to their baby if they used breast-milk substitutes. The Guatemalan law prohibited the use of labels that associated infant formula with a healthy, chubby baby similar to those found on all Gerber packages. Manufacturers were prohibited from sending out free samples of their products because this encouraged mothers to stop breastfeeding and to become customers. The law required packaging labels to carry a statement that breastfeeding is nutritionally superior. The law also restricted baby food manufacturers from targeting young mothers in the hospital. All of these regulations went into effect in 1988, and all other domestic and foreign manufacturers of baby foods, with one exception, Gerber, came into compliance. Gerber, the U.S baby food manufacturer, objected to Guatemala's law. Gerber refused to remove its trademark picture of a smiling chubby baby from its product labels. Gerber also refused to add a phrase to the labels saying that breast milk is superior. Although the Guatemalan Ministry of Health made numerous attempts to negotiate with Gerber, the company reportedly continued to market its infant formulas and to give free samples to women and children.

In November 1993 Gerber lost its appeal but opened up a new line of attack on Guatemala stating that the law was a "expropriation of Gerber's trademark." In 1995, when the World Trade Organization came into being, Gerber dropped its claim regarding expropriation and began to challenge Guatemala before a WTO tribunal. Guatemala realized they were in battle with an immense power.

The government changed its law to concede to Gerber's marketing practices.

Heavy marketing by the baby food industry has contributed to a drop in breastfeeding rates in both the United States and Third World nations. Advertisers intend to convince women that breastfeeding their babies isn't modern, and that bottle-feeding is healthier. The premise of such advertising is medically false. Breastfeeding provides infants with significant immunity to disease, as well as creating an emotional bond between mother and child.

Baby formula leads to 1.5 million infant deaths each year in Third World countries, as mothers often unwittingly prepare the formula with contaminated water, causing fatal diarrhea. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNCF) only 44 percent of women in Third World countries currently breastfeed.

During the last quarter of the twentieth century, the industrialized world was swept by a resurgence of "free trade" ideology that had its roots in late-nineteenth-century England. In his novels, Charles Dickens cataloged the frightful inequalities and widespread misery that free trade brought to the people of England, but, unfortunately, the modern resurgence of free trade has no Charles Dickens telling its story. Nevertheless, the inequalities and misery are spreading around the globe, largely unreported by the corporatized media. The main thrust of modern free trade ideology is to weaken national governments and give freedom to transnational corporations to do as they please. As a result, social safety nets, even in the advanced countries of northern Europe, are being dismantled. The forms of democratic self-governance at national, state, and local levels are losing substance as power shifts to the private sector. This long-term shift away from democracy, away from governmental control of corporate behavior, is the sweeping backdrop against which history is unfolding in our time. My story merely described a few details of this backdrop.

Of course the widely reported "Battle of Seattle" coincided with the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in late November 1999. For the first time since the Vietnam War, churches, labor unions, environmentalists, democracy activists, and students joined forces to assert their opposition, this time to the corporate agenda called "globalized free trade." Thus for the first time the battle lines were drawn: those favoring popular control of governments (and of democratically set standards for labor and environment) versus those favoring corporate control of such matters. As a result of the Battle of Seattle, a worldwide network of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) has developed, using the Internet for communication, aiming to reassert democratic controls over corporations, economies, and standards affecting workers and the environment. A titanic struggle is thus under way worldwide-the forces of popular democracy vs. the forces of corporate control, again largely unreported in the corporatized media.

The mainstream media largely ignored this story. As Ben Bagdikian has documented in the sixth edition of Media Monopoly (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000), the mainstream press in the U.S. is now controlled by just six corporations. It should come as no surprise that these six corporations report very little about the most important story of our time-free trade ideology undermining the role and power of national and subnational governments worldwide, giving corporations free rein to do as they please.

The organization Public Citizen, in Washington, D.C., has an excellent web site describing its Global Trade Watch campaign (and some of the best free trade publications available anywhere); go to www.citizen.org/pctrade /tradehome.html Many good listservs about globalization and free trade are also available free from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) at hd=sub

Peter Montague: peter@rachel.org

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