Monday, October 6, 2008

Moving to Indypendent

Hello All!

I'm moving my blog to The Indypendent website. I'm excited to be working with such a great group of progressive journalists...check it out here:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Stopped the Bailout! But It’s Not Over Yet

We stopped the bailout! Millions of Americans called congress and spontaneously organized protests, furious that Bush and Congressional leaders would move ahead with this disastrous, irresponsible, unnecessary and profoundly unfair plan.

But we’re not out of the woods yet. Barack Obama has joined McCain in supporting this wildly unpopular and historically unprecedented give away—it could reach a trillion—to Wall Street. Bush and House leaders are preparing for another vote, and are most definitely engaged in some serious behind the scenes arm-twisting at this very moment.


- First call Obama’s Senate office (202-224-2854) or campaign office (866-675-2008). Tell him that you are a supporter and want him to oppose the bailout. Also remind him to get rid of Wall Street advisors like Robert Rubin and Jason Furman. They got us into this mess in the first place. KEEP CALLING UNTIL YOU GET THROUGH!

- Then please call your congressperson and tell them to VOTE “NO”: 1-800-473-6711 (capitol hill switchboard)

Michael Moore ( notes that the new bailout “compromise” still does nothing for homeowners. Nor has there been sufficient research to show that this will actually be an economic help in the first place:

“The 95 brave Dems who broke with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd were the real heroes, just like those few who stood up and voted against the war in October of 2002. Watch the remarks from yesterday of Reps. Marcy Kaptur (, Sheila Jackson Lee (, and Dennis Kucinich ( They spoke the truth.”

These speeches are worth watching, because you won’t see their point of view—one that represents a majority of Americans—represented in the mainstream press. The media long ago jumped on the bandwagon of apocalyptic hurry, endorsing Bush-Pelosi’s call for an economically necessary evil.


- First call Obama’s Senate office (202-224-2854) or campaign office (866-675-2008). Tell him that you are a supporter and want him to oppose the bailout. Also remind him to get rid of Wall Street advisors like Robert Rubin and Jason Furman. They got us into this mess in the first place. KEEP CALLING UNTIL YOU GET THROUGH!

- Then please call your congressperson and tell them to VOTE “NO”: 1-800-473-6711 (capitol hill switchboard)

Moore lays out 5 reasons that this bailout doesn’t go far enough. They bear repeating:

“So the ball is in the Democrats' hands. The gun from Wall Street
remains at their head. Before they make their next move, let me tell
you what the media kept silent about while this bill was being

1. The bailout bill had NO enforcement provisions for the so-called
oversight group that was going to monitor Wall Street's spending of
the $700 billion;

2. It had NO penalties, fines or imprisonment for any executive who
might steal any of the people's money;

3. It did NOTHING to force banks and lenders to rewrite people's
mortgages to avoid foreclosures -- this bill would not have stopped
ONE foreclosure!;

4. It had NO teeth anywhere in the entire piece of legislation, using
words like "suggested" when referring to the government being paid
back for the bailout;

5. Over 200 economists wrote to Congress and said this bill might
actually WORSEN the "financial crisis" and cause even MORE of a

This alert was created by Daniel Denvir (daniel.denvir[at]gmail[dot]com) for the Facebook group Progressives (Critically) for Barack Obama

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Ecuadorian Constitution Approved by Strong Majority, President Correa Claims “Historic Victory”

From Upsidedownworld:

by Daniel Denvir

Monday, 29 September 2008

Quito, Ecuador—According to exit polls, between 63-70% of Ecuadorians voted to approve a new constitution on Sunday, scoring a major victory for President Rafael Correa. Correa hailed the results, saying that “today Ecuador has decided on a new country.” Constitutional provisions expand access to healthcare, social security and education while increasing state control over the economy.

Nearly 10 million Ecuadorians came out to vote—voting is obligatory—and the atmosphere was tranquil. Families quietly walked into polling places and quickly walked out. The only lines in Quito were at the ubiquitous food stands selling roasted pork or sugar cane juice.

The vote on the constitution was also very much a referendum on Correa’s presidency. Correa has maintained high approval ratings by seizing the property of elites responsible for a severe 1999 banking crisis, increasing public assistance funding, and terminating the U.S. lease on the coastal military base in Manta. Staying in office is no small feat in a country where popular mobilizations, fueled by opposition to Washington-backed free market economic policies, have overthrown three presidents since 1997.

The vote was a major blow to an already fragmented opposition. The Catholic Church and evangelicals bolstered the weakened traditional political parties’ “no” campaign, charging that the constitution would legalize abortion and gay marriage. While the new constitution does legalize same sex civil unions, there is no indication that it will allow for restrictions on abortion to be relaxed. Conservative bishops allied with Opus Dei, led by Archbishop Antonio Arregui, control the Church hierarchy. But the leadership’s position provoked widespread resistance among progressive lay activists and clergy who are powerful in many parts of the heavily Catholic country.

Business leaders also criticized the constitution, saying that it would give the state excessive control over the economy and endow the president with authoritarian powers.

In a serious upset, nearly 50% of the residents in the port city of Guayaquil appear to have supported the constitution. The metropolis is an opposition stronghold and, like much of the coast, has long been controlled by the owners of wealthy export businesses. Mayor Jaime Nebot, allied with the conservative Social Christian Party (PSC), has been Correa’s most high-profile opponent. Nebot had threatened to resign if the “yes” vote won in Guayaquil, urging his supporters to reject the proposal. It is not yet clear if he will follow through on his threat, but it seems doubtful, as he continues to enjoy high approval ratings. In his victory speech, Correa called for national unity and said that he was open to a dialogue with Nebot.

Most social movements supported the constitution, pointing to expanded indigenous rights, social welfare policies and environmental protections. But Correa has also come into increasing conflict with the country’s Left, who charge that his radical discourse is mere window dressing. Led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), Leftists are unhappy with Correa’s support for large-scale mining and other policies that they see as too friendly to big business and foreign investors.

The conflict recently intensified when former Assembly Member Monica Chuji disaffiliated from Correa’s Alianza País party. Chuji is an indigenous activist and was Correa’s spokeswoman before her election to the Constituent Assembly, the body that drafted the constitution. And just last week, CONAIE President Marlon Santi warned of an indigenous uprising against mining activities. He stated that indigenous and anti-mining organizations will meet in the Southern Highlands city of Cuenca on October 13th to discuss potential actions.

And in a surprise move, Correa on Sunday publicly appeared with former President of the Constituent Assembly and long time social movement ally Alberto Acosta. Acosta and Correa had a falling out in June over procedural matters and substantial political differences. But with Correa empowered and the traditional Right weakened, it is unclear whether social movements will be successful in reasserting an independent political project.

Daniel Denvir is an independent journalist in Quito, Ecuador, and a 2008 recipient of the North American Congress on Latin America's Samuel Chavkin Investigative Journalism Grant. He is the editor in chief of

Friday, September 26, 2008

LGBT Rights: Ecuador’s Proposed Constitution Causes Rift Between Left and Right

Will this 85% Catholic, Latin American nation ratify a gay-friendly constitution? After all, it was the first in the Western Hemisphere to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation ... and it decriminalized sexual activity between people of the same sex six full years before the United States.

By Daniel Denvir

In the lead-up to Ecuador’s referendum vote on September 28, some conservatives have labeled a proposed constitution a mariconada (faggotry), complaining that the constitution refers to “families” instead of the unitary “family” and allows for gay marriage. The proposal actually restricts marriage to heterosexual couples but legalizes same-sex civil unions. The new language for this heavily Roman Catholic nation would also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT activists are celebrating the proposed constitution as a major step forward, building off of a decade of victories. In 1997 the Constitutional Tribunal overturned a section of the Ecuadorian penal code that criminalized sexual activity between people of the same sex, six years before the U.S. Supreme Court voided sodomy laws. The next year, Ecuadorians approved the constitution that is currently in effect, becoming, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association, the first country in the Western Hemisphere to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

LGBT activists like Leticia Rojas, a leader of Fundación Causana, say the Catholic Church and other forces are trying to exploit homophobia to distract the public from pressing social and economic issues.

"The issues of abortion and homosexuality, gay marriage, are in my opinion just a front," she said. "They are using the referendum and the constitution to talk about moral issues, but in the end it has more to do with the church’s economic interests."

Activists also accuse the church of initially giving the Constituent Assembly a green light on civil unions -- and then turning on the proposal. In an April letter to the assembly, the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference said, "The stable union of a couple, regardless of their sex or sexual preference ... should generate the same rights and obligations [as marriage] under the law." And many Ecuadorian progressives say that the church has been hijacked by the right wing in recent years and is now closely aligned with political parties run by the economic elite, namely the Social Christian Party.

Many on the left, however, are critical of some of center-left president Rafael Correa's economic and environmental policies, particularly his support for large-scale mining. Correa was also criticized for intervening in the assembly to block proposals by leftist members of his party for increased indigenous rights and environmental protection. But most say that provisions such as increased access to education and universal social security make the constitution a clear step forward on issues of economic and social justice, not just gay and lesbian rights. For example, the article expanding the scope of "family" to "families" will benefit people outside of the LGBT population. It recognizes a variety of households, including those headed by single mothers, divided by immigration, or where the oldest sibling is the primary caretaker of his or her younger siblings.

But prominent supporters of the proposed constitution, led by Correa, are now downplaying the proposal's defense of LGBT rights. The government has run a number of ads emphasizing that the constitution limits marriage to heterosexual couples. Sandra Álvarez of the Ecuadorian Organization of Lesbian Women said that while groups are urging LGBT citizens to vote yes on the proposed constitution, they are keeping a low profile in front of the general public.

"We ... want to make our position clear but also don't want to weaken the process. This does not mean we are shying away from the debate -- we just don't want to generate headlines at the moment. Our struggle will be completely open and aggressive when it comes to the drafting of secondary laws."

The fight between President Correa and the leadership of the Catholic Church has also opened up fissures within the church. On September 15 the Ecuadorian Catholic Church, with evangelical preachers, held three open-air Masses in the coastal metropolis of Guayaquil to campaign against the constitution. Guayaquil archbishop Antonio Arregui, currently the leader of the Ecuadorian Catholic Church, is also an active member of the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei. At the open-air Mass he said that God created heterosexual relationships as the basis of society.

"We ask that God's design is always recognized when man and woman were made, equally dignified and exactly complementary, so that they could help to strengthen society and become the source of new lives," he said.

But no open-air Masses took place in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Lay activist Xavier Guachamín said that dozens of progressive priests and laypeople promised a mass boycott if the leadership went ahead with a public mass to campaign against the constitution.

And on September 11 progressive priests from around the country released a statement denouncing “the actions of a sector of the church ... who have organized processions and open air masses, used religious images ... and taken advantage of the feelings and expressions of our people, supposedly as part of the teaching of the catechism, but really in clear alliance with the powerful sectors’ political interests.” Correa has called for churchgoers to stand up and denounce their priests if they lie about the constitution and say that it would legalize gay marriage.

Church officials declined an interview with The Advocate.

One major drawback of the constitution for LGBT people is a provision barring gay couples from adopting children. Activist Patricio Aguirre says that the state is essentially “institutionalizing homophobia.” But he and others say the new legal protections far outweigh the drawbacks. And with polls showing more than 57% of people supporting the proposal, it looks like one of the most pro-LGBT constitutions in Latin America could become a reality.

Daniel Denvir is an independent journalist in Quito, Ecuador, and a 2008 recipient of the North American Congress on Latin America's Samuel Chavkin Investigative Journalism Grant. He is the editor in chief of

Can Obama Solve Financial Market Meltdown?

From the Progressives (Critically) for Barack Obama Facebook group that I manage.

Can Obama Solve Financial Market Meltdown?

Obama is lying about his opposition to NAFTA. Obama makes populist promises to Ohio voters while quietly assuring corporate lobbyists not too worry. You know how it is, this is just campaign rhetoric. I’ve got to assuage these people who lost their jobs—they don’t understand globalization. Donate with a clear conscience; you guys can count on me. Our party has a big tent of voters but a small room of decision makers.

And his get tough on Wall Street rhetoric rings a bit hollow, too. While Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson have turned Marx on his head, socializing losses and privatizing profits, Democrats like Obama have been far too meek. And just why is that?

Introducing Robert Rubin, a former Goldman Sachs Chairman, current Citigroup Director and Bill Clinton’s former Treasury Secretary. He was a major force for deregulating the financial industry and pushing “free” trade agreements like NAFTA. He is also one of Obama’s top economic advisors. Wal-Mart friend and Rubin acolyte Jason Furman is also a top advisor. Bad news for Main Street, I think.

More info on Rubin and Furman’s nefarious influence here:

This financial crisis should be a GIFT to any Democratic candidate, yet it is not. Democrats cannot fully exploit this crisis politically because Democrats played a major part in passing the Wall Street friendly laws, like the repeal of FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act, that lead to this disaster in the first place. It is hard to talk populist when you receive $9,873,356 in donations from Wall Street, more than any other presidential candidate (

In all of Congress, Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the only person to have proposed something remotely reasonable. The crux of his proposal is that if a company is too big to fail, then it is too big to exist and that a new tax on the superrich—the people who have benefited from this debacle—is the way to pay for it. Check out my post ( for more info. Maybe someone else in Washington is actually addressing the root causes of this nightmare, but I haven’t heard about it.


Call the Obama campaign and remind him that the American people want him to take a tough stance on Wall Street and dump his corporate economic policy advisors.

If Obama’s office gets 500 calls, they will notice. Your call makes a difference.

PLEASE CALL NOW: (202) 224-2854

Two Demands:
* Get rid of Robert Rubin and Jason Furman. These are the sorts of pro-corporate functionaries that caused the crisis in the first place. They cannot be a part of the solution.

* Any bailout should do the following

- shield the taxpayers from future losses and give us a stake in potential gains.
- reregulate the financial markets & break up companies that are too big to fail!
- help homeowners struggling with foreclosure
- cap CEO compensation—no golden parachutes.
- tax on the superrich to pay for cleaning up this mess.


We currently have 752 members. Let’s get our numbers up to 1,000 by October 1st so we can generate some real pressure on the Obama campaign. If they don’t hear from us, we don’t exist.

Please take a moment and invite three friends to join. It will only take a minute and we can make some real change!


- Dean Baker ( lays down some solid conditions for a Wall Street bailout, including controlling banks lending more money than they have (ie, caps on leverage for financial institutions), the re-nationalization of Fannie and Freddie, support for people losing their homes and strong caps on executive compensation. He also deals with arcane but seriously shady practices like credit default swaps and why they must be regulated.

- A surprisingly good analysis of the crisis by NYT financial columnist ?? ( Surprising because it is the Times, not because I’m familiar with the writer’s work.

- Robert Kuttner discusses how deregulation got us into this mess: (

- And Dan La Botz has an interesting socialist analysis here:

Ecuadorian President Comes Into Conflict with Both Right and Left

By Daniel Denvir, September 25, 2008

As Ecuadorians prepare to vote on a proposed constitution this Sunday, President Rafael Correa is coming into conflict not only with the conservative elite but also with the Left, including rebellious members of his own party. While social movements are by and large hailing the constitution as progressive, indigenous and other activists are concerned about what they see as Correa's increasing moves to the Right.

But coverage of Ecuador's president in the U.S. corporate media has primarily relied on caricature and political simplification, leaving most US readers the assumption that Correa is a "Leftist." He is thus usually vilified by U.S. conservatives and deified by progressives. This is true whether you're reading The Associated Press referring to Correa as a "socialist" or The New York Times facilely miming Colombian charges of FARC ties. The situation in Ecuador is far more complicated.

Monica Chuji, a former Assembly Member from Correa's Alianza País party, recently disaffiliated from the party, angry over Correa's support for large scale mining and attacks on the indigenous movement. Correa recently said that "infantile leftism, environmentalism and indiginism" pose the "greatest threat" to Ecuador's progress.

Correa and supporters of the proposed constitution are framing the vote as a stark choice between change towards a brighter future and a return to a past governed by a corrupt oligarchy. Concretely, backers point to the proposed magna carta's establishment of free access to education and healthcare, universal social security, and support for public and community media.

Ecuadorians (like Americans) want to believe that change is coming. Over the past 10 years, three presidents have been ousted by popular and overwhelmingly peaceful mobilizations against corruption and neoliberal economic reforms. People are overwhelmingly sick of the old guard elite (generally referred to as the oligarchy). Correa promises to end to the "long night of neoliberalism," an era of deregulation and privatization that culminated in the 1999-2000 banking crisis when Ecuadorian deposit holders lost $8 billion.

A number of moves have contributed to Correa's sky-high approval ratings. He recently seized the property of the Grupo Isaías, whose owners ran one of the banks responsible for the 1998 crisis. He has also acceded to popular demands and is closing the US military base in the coastal city of Manta when the contract expires in November 2009. And perhaps most importantly, he has increased "solidarity bonuses" for the poor urban and farmers.

The Right, on the other hand, has been trying to frame the debate around the issues of abortion and gay rights—sound familiar? While the abortion issue is a red herring—the new constitution retains the not too progressive status quo, allowing for "therapeutic" abortion to save the mother's life—there are significant advances for GLBT rights, namely the historic legalization of safe sex civil unions. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would also be prohibited.

The Right also opposes provisions that put restricts on large landholdings and increase the state's role in economic planning and regulation. They also smear Correa for his ties to Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba—a tactic similar to McCain's ad hyping a Castro "endorsement" of Obama.

Correa's election—and the conservative reaction against him—is, as the recent crisis in Bolivia reminds us, part of a broader regional phenomenon. Social movements across Latin America have been buoyed by widespread dissatisfaction with the orthodox free market model imposed over the past few years by Washington and the two lead International Financial Institutions, the IMF and the World Bank. And the U.S.' long history of heavy-handed political and military interventions have heightened demands for national sovereignty. This popular ferment has led to the election of a political and ideological smattering of new leaders, from Venezuela and Bolivia, to Argentina and Uruguay, to Brazil and Chile. Washington has been left with only a handful of governments willing to unquestioningly carry out its dictates, namely Colombia, Peru, Mexico and El Salvador. But the new leadership has challenged the status quo—or left it in place—to varying degrees, making it problematic to generalize about the "Latin American left."

Many social movements have called Correa's discourse mere window dressing, criticizing the government for, among other things, failing to reverse the privatization of natural resources and supporting agro-industry. Correa has also raised the ire of the country's powerful indigenous movement, led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), because of his support of large-scale mining and opposition to certain demands for indigenous cultural and territorial rights.

Nevertheless, the CONAIE is critically supporting the constitution since it declares Ecuador a "plurinational" state and makes the Kichwa concept of "good living" (sumak kawsay)—based on a harmonious relationship between individuals, community and nature—the philosophical underpinning of national development.

Environmentalists and the CONAIE are also pleased that the proposed constitution would recognize nature as a legal subject of rights and guarantees the right to water as a fundamental human right. But they worry that Correa, who successfully blocked a provision that would have given local communities veto power over mining and oil projects, is planning to pay the "social debt" through ecologically destructive mining and oil policies. This would pit the beneficiaries of social services against rural community members resisting resource-extraction projects.

It is overwhelmingly likely that the new constitution will be approved, with polls generally showing between 51 and 57% support. And the numbers continue to rise as undecided voters increasingly move into the "yes" camp.

The Left and social movements are in an awkward situation, defending the Constitution against the Right while opposing many of Correa's policies. A Leftist academic who publicly supports the government surprised me last week when he said that he hopes the constitution doesn't win "by too much." The Left is unsure whether Correa will credit social movements for a referendum victory or whether it will reinforce his attitude that he is the leader of a one man movement.

It is difficult to predict what will happen if—and probably when—the new constitution is approved. On the one hand, a fractured opposition is searching for new leaders with the capacity to take on a President with sky-high approval ratings. For social movements and the Left, the fight short-term fight will be translating a mostly progressive constitution into a set of progressive laws and norms. There is the possibility that if Correa fails to meet popular expectations around social and economic justice, his approval ratings could take an overnight dive. The long-term fight depends on Correa and the social movements. How hard will Correa push for more-of-the-same policies around large-scale mining and other issues? And will Ecuadorian social movements have the mobilizing capacity to resist?

Daniel Denvir ( is an independent journalist in Quito, Ecuador and a 2008 recipient of NACLA's Samuel Chavkin Investigative Journalism Grant. He is the Editor-in-Chief of

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Funny Moments in Ecuador: Lucio, Liquor and Gringo Advisories

In the lead up to Sunday's referendum on Ecuador's proposed constitution, things are getting strange for me.

First, I had a breakfast interview with (popularly overthrown) former President Lucio Gutiérrez. Among the most entertaining things he said was that Correa wanted to have a homosexual love affair with his Political Coordinator Ricardo Patiño. Seriously. This was somehow part of a critique of legalizing civil unions for gay couples. This is the best that the opposition has to offer--along with shadowy Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot.

Then I got this from the US Embassy. They advise US citiznes to stay away from basically everywhere (!), which is hilarious given the total tranquility in the streets of Quito...I think the most important part of the announcement is reminding gringos to stock up on liquor now (Ecuador goes dry for three days starting tomorrow) before the election "dry laws" kick in.

I just got back from the store. If McCain doesn't get away with dodging the debate, I have an important American tradition to engage in tomorrow: drunkenly yelling at the television screen.

The U.S. Embassy Ecuador wishes to inform American citizens visiting or resident in Ecuador that today, September 25, is the final day of political campaigning associated with the referendum. It is anticipated that throughout the day there will be substantial political activity in the forms of marches, caravans, demonstrations, etc. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens avoid the downtown area, specifically the following locations: Plaza Grande, Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza de Santo Domingo, San Blas, El Ejido Park, Alameda Park, El Arbolito Park, Shyris Avenue near Carolina Park, and the areas near the Central University. These locations are likely to see activity. The political campaigns officially end at 12:00am on Thursday, September 25.

A prohibition on alcohol consumption starts Friday, September 26,
at 12:00pm and ends on Monday, September 29, at 12:00pm. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens maintain a low profile on the day of the referendum, September 28. American citizens are strongly urged to avoid large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. While protests/demonstrations are generally nonviolent here in Ecuador, they can turn violent and require a police response. If you find yourself near a protest/demonstration, the U.S. Embassy recommends immediately departing the area. Foreigners are prohibited from protesting in Ecuador and may be subject to arrest for participating in demonstrations of any kind. The U.S. Embassy will continue to monitor the situation and keep American citizens apprised of any further developments.