Archive for the Bulgaria Category

CIA prison exposed in Romania [World Socialist Website]

Posted in 9/11, Afghanistan, Bulgaria, CIA, Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, Kosovo, NATO, Obama, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Torture, Ukraine, US imperialism, USA on January 6, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Sybille Fuchs
12 December 2011

Journalists from the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the German television magazine “Panorama” have uncovered the location of one of the chain of notorious secret torture prisons run by US Central Intelligence Agency in Europe. The prison is situated in a residential area of the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

The prison in Bucharest began operations following the closure in 2003 of a similar torture centre in Poland. The prison was located in a building housing the Romanian National Registry Office for Classified Information (Official Registrului National al Informatiilor Secrete de Stat) authority. The transport of prisoners to the prison from Bucharest’s airport was carried out in inconspicuous minibuses.

The cells were located in the basement of the ORNISS building. The cells were mounted on springs in order to disorientate the prisoners, who were also subjected to sleep deprivation, water boarding, beatings or being forced to adopt excruciating positions for long periods of time. Former employees of the CIA told journalists that after the initial round of “interviews” the prisoners were given medical and dental examinations.

Some of the prisoners were held there temporarily prior to being switched and tortured in other locations or transferred to Guantanamo. The CIA’s code-name for the secret prison in Bucharest was “Bright light”. The centre was located at Mures Street 4. The prisoners held at the facility included Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of carrying out the attack on the US warship Cole in Yemen and now sits in Guantanamo where he faces trial by a military commission…

…The Romanian authorities established the ORNISS in 2002 by emergency decree in order to co-ordinate the state’s secret operations—in particular with NATO. Its head has the status of a cabinet secretary and reports directly to the Prime Minister. Officials must ensure that confidential information is treated according to NATO standards and only those responsible in each case have access to such information.

The authority was established at a time when Romania was seeking entry into NATO. An American in a high NATO position at that time declared, “The Romanians would have done anything for us.” The then Romanian President Ion Iliescu said that his country would behave as a de facto NATO member, and then in 2004 the country joined the alliance. In 2001 Iliescu had already signed a bilateral agreement with the US government which allowed the US military and civilians to carry out covert operations on Romanian territory.

The secret prison in the basement of the ORNISS building proved particularly useful because its employees are pledged to strict secrecy. Romanian parliamentarians responded to revelations concerning the torture cells by pleading ignorance and declaring that Romania had nothing to do with the matter.

Accordingly, journalists confronted a wall of silence when the deputy head of ORNISS, Adrian Camarasan, addressed them in a room adorned with the Romanian, NATO and European flags. When asked by a reporter if he had ever seen Americans in his premises, Camarasan answered, “No, no, I can no longer remember.” According to the Panorama report a spokesperson for ORNISS told the dpa news agency the reports were “pure speculation” .

The research by the journalists was conducted with great care. They reported that a source in the US intelligence community had described the location and the appearance of the former prison in Bucharest. The reporters made their own enquiries in Bucharest, located and photographed the complex and then showed their evidence to three of their informants in Washington. All three recognised the complex located near a railway line.

The prisoners who were taken to the torture chamber were completely disoriented. Their eyes were blindfolded and their ears plugged, leaving them with no idea of their location. The cells were partly constructed from prefabricated parts, and an arrow had been painted on the floor pointing in the direction of Mecca—a mocking concession by the torturers to the religious persuasion of their victims.

The existence of such torture prisons in Europe (“black sites”) was long denied by both the US and the countries involved, including Lithuania, Poland and Romania. After the attack on the World Trade Center of September 11, 2001 the prisons were established as part of the “war on terror” in order to incarcerate so-called “valuable prisoners” who were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques”—i.e., forced to make confessions on the basis of brutal torture techniques.

In 2009, the New York Times had suggested that one of the CIA prisons in Bucharest was located near the Interior Ministry building.

The Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick in 2006 reported that secret prisons had also been established in the the former military base Mihail Kogalniceanu in the southeast of the country. The Swiss intelligence forces had intercepted a fax, which was the first proof of the existence of secret US prisons in Europe. According to the classified document, 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens were interrogated at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base in Romania. Similar interrogation centres run by the CIA were established in the Ukraine, Bulgaria and Macedonia and Kosovo.

The Mihail Kogalniceanu military base had been used by the US since the Iraq war. When the newspaper asked the commander of the military base about the existence of such a prison he categorically denied any knowledge. The existence of CIA prison sites in Lithuania and Poland has been known for some years, but there had been no confirmation of such a facility in Romania. What was known was that so-called “rendition” flights by the CIA had transported “valuable prisoners” to Romania.

With regard to Europe, the “rendition” program is alleged to have been stopped by the Obama administration after he came into office in 2009. At least no new information about such flights have been released. Instead the Obama government has apparently shifted its emphasis to the targeted killing of their enemies by means of special forces and drones, rendering imprisonment and interrogation unnecessary.

Human rights organisations and journalists found ample evidence of the torture of prisoners following the conquest of Tripoli by the rebel forces backed by NATO. The complicity of European governments, including Romania, with these international human rights violations had already been uncovered by a special committee of the European Parliament in 2006 and its special investigator Dick Marty. Marty declared that at least 100 people had been transported by the CIA to various secret European locations, including Romania. Leading Romania representatives vigorously denied the claim.

The report of the Special Committee concluded “that the CIA was in several cases clearly responsible for the illegal abduction and detention of suspected terrorists in the territory of the Member States as well as special renditions, involving, in some cases, European citizens”.

The report of the Special Committee asserted that the purpose of the special renditions was to ensure “that the suspects should not be subjected to a court of law.” The CIA “terror suspects were kidnapped by undercover methods, arrested and turned over…”

In 2006, US President George Bush admitted that the captured senior Al-Qaeda suspects were taken to other states. He avoided, however, identifying these countries, arguing this could cause enemies of America to take action against its allies…

Excerpted by Zuo Shou

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Bankers’ coup puts anti-worker ‘technocrats’ in charge of Italy, Greece [Workers World]

Posted in Belgium, Bulgaria, Capitalism crisis early 21st century, EU, France, Germany, Greece, IMF - International Monetary Fund, Italy, Japan, Labor strike, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, US imperialism, USA on November 25, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By John Catalinotto
Published Nov 17, 2011 9:35 PM

Thousands booed rightist billionaire and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi following his resignation as Italy’s prime minister on Nov. 11. A week earlier, Prime Minister George Papandreou, whose popular support plummeted after he agreed to austerity measures, was forced to resign from the leadership of Greece, ending a political dynasty that had lasted for three generations.

These powerful politicians were pushed out of office not by popular upheaval, however, but by order of the imperialist banks that dominate Europe and the United States. They had shown they were incapable of executing austerity measures that the bankers needed in order to make the working class pay all the costs of the financial crisis.

The so-called technocrats named to form new governments in both countries will be even more under the thumb of finance capital than billionaire Berlusconi and the compliant Papandreou. The technocrats’ task is to impose austerity measures that will cut workers’ social benefits and wages as they allow the payment of usurious interest rates to these same banks.

* Power of finance capital *

In the Nov. 3 Workers World, Deirdre Griswold wrote that researchers in Zurich, Switzerland, had done an analysis using a powerful computer database with information on millions of global financial transactions. The analysis showed that “a mere 147 companies controlled nearly 40 percent of the monetary value of all transnational corporations,” thus placing the world capitalist economy in the hands of fewer financiers than ever.

This concentration brings with it political power. Look at who the replacement prime ministers are.

In Greece, it’s Lukos Papademos. Educated in the U.S., he was a governor of the Bank of Greece from 1994 to 2002 and vice president of the European Central Bank from 2002 to 2010.

In Italy, it’s Mario Monti, an economist and former member of the European Commission. Like most “technocrats” brought in during these kinds of crises, he has a reputation of being “honest.” That means he has not been caught stealing from his banker bosses.

Papademos and Monti are both members of the Trilateral Commission, which U.S. banker David Rockefeller founded in 1973 for discussions among leaders of the imperialist U.S., Western Europe and Japan, and the Bilderberg Group, which organizes an annual conference of about 140 business and political leaders of North America and Western Europe.

Their membership in these elite and exclusive groups shows that both are acceptable to banking circles in both Europe and the U.S. Neither has a popular political following in the countries they will lead — more proof that the imperialist ruling class has little use for even formal democracy when it comes to the really big questions, like paying interest to the banks.

With the crisis so severe, the imperialist bankers put their own employees in government office, rather than a slightly less reliable politician. These unelected governments plan to pass austerity plans that — if not resisted — will inflict pain on the working class for at least the next 10 years.

As November began, Papandreou had raised the possibility that Greece would hold a referendum to consult the Greek people on the austerity agreement he had made with the French and German leaders. This provoked an apoplectic response from the Euro heads. They screamed, “No, no, no!” Papandreou withdrew the referendum and was on his way out.

* Big Lie obscures cause of crisis *

The corporate media, not just in Europe but in the U.S., have promoted a Big Lie to explain the Euro crisis. But the crisis is not the fault of “lazy workers” in the Mediterranean countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece) nor of high spending on social services in those countries. The capitalists and their pundits promote this lie in an attempt to divide the workers of northern from southern Europe while attacking all social benefits, including health care, pensions and even education.

The world capitalist downturn that began with the bursting of the housing bubble in the U.S. in 2007 and the financial near-collapse in the fall of 2008 caused an economic downturn throughout Europe. It hurt the economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy more than those of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The banks started charging higher interest rates for loans to countries with the weaker economies, claiming that the risk of default was greater there. The big banks in France and Germany saw these loans as a source of higher profit, and counted on a bailout if default loomed. The U.S. investment firm Goldman Sachs got in on the deal too, creating investment instruments that hid the extent of Greek debt.

By 2009, Greece had to agree to an austerity plan that the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — now called “the Troika” — imposed on it. The result was layoffs, as cuts in spending led to closed schools and hospitals, a new recession and an unemployment rate now more than 16 percent. By this fall, default loomed again.

Not only the European banks but also Greece’s own banks and capitalists were responsible. Besides avoiding taxes, in the last few years 2,000 businesses that had been located in Greece moved to Bulgaria, where labor costs were one-quarter that in Greece. Another 800 will leave in 2011. That’s how the capitalist market rules.

No one expects the world economy to suddenly have a major upsurge, certainly not one that reverses unemployment.

Should Italy, whose economy is seven times as large as Greece’s, fail to pay the debt, this would have a much larger impact on the big imperialist banks, on the eurozone and on the European Union’s future. Accordingly, news of Italy is starting to dominate the media, which had been focused on Greece.

* Workers’ fightback *

Resistance to this new assault on the working class is the order of the day in both countries. In Greece, where the workers’ resistance has been at a higher level than elsewhere in Europe, there have been dozens of general strikes and demonstrations over the past two years.

These forces — which mainly follow the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the union federation PAME — have already rallied against the new “national unity” bankers’ regime, made up of Papandreou’s PASOK party, the rightist New Democracy and the small, fascist-like Laos Party.

Of the parties in Parliament, only the KKE and the more reformist left grouping, Syriza, have refused to join the government.

In Italy, the severe austerity is just beginning. The new planned belt-tightening will cause more unemployment as well as a loss of social services. Resistance can be expected.

Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Libyan PM accuses NATO of violating UN charter [Xinhua]

Posted in Bulgaria, Greece, Libya, NATO on May 11, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

TRIPOLI, May 11 (Xinhua) — Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi on Tuesday denounced NATO’s bombardment of his country as a breach of the UN Charter, the state-run JANA news agency reported.

The Libyan official expressed his condemnation when briefing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou over the phone on the devastating consequences of the bombing campaign, according to the report.

The air strikes carried out by the alliance have obviously exceeded the scope of the UN mandate and constitute a violation of international law and the UN Charter, al-Mahmoudi said, calling NATO’s action a “serious and sustained” infringement and “an aggression against the Libyan people.” Continue reading

The Tragic Failure of "Post-Communism" in Eastern Europe []

Posted in Albania, Anti-Arab / Antisemitism, Anti-communism, Anti-fascism, Bourgeois parliamentary democracy, Bulgaria, Czech Republic / Czechoslovakia, Egypt, EU, European Union, Fascism, GDR / East Germany, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, IMF - International Monetary Fund, Latvia, Libya, Poland, Police State, Roma people, Romania, Russia, Tunisia, USSR on March 16, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

by Dr. Rossen Vassilev

(Note:  the writer generally uses the term “democracy” in its limited bourgeois sense, failing to distinguish between [Western] bourgeois democracy, aka oligarchy; and centralized socialist democracy, aka socialism / communism. – Zuo Shou 左手)

Just before Christmas Day in 2010, a distraught public-television engineer protesting the government’s controversial economic policies hurled himself off a balcony in the Rumanian parliament during a speech by the country’s prime minister.  The man, who survived the suicide attempt, reportedly shouted before jumping: “You took the bread away from the mouths of our children!  You killed the future of our children!”  The hospitalized protester, dressed in a t-shirt declaring “You have killed our future!”, was later identified as 41-year-old Adrian Sobaru, whose autistic teenage son had recently lost government assistance as part of Bucharest’s latest budget-cutting steps. His attempted suicide was broadcast live on Rumania’s public TV as Prime Minister Emil Boc spoke ahead of an unsuccessful no-confidence vote against his conservative cabinet.  The fiscal and wage austerity measures that Mr. Sobaru was protesting included a 25% pay cut for all civil servants like him as well as severe reductions in social-assistance payments to parents with disabled children, which he had also been receiving until recently.  According to Rumania’s Agerpres news agency, the man’s desperate cries in the parliamentary hall were painfully echoing those heard during the 1989 anti-Communist revolution that toppled Rumania’s maverick and generally pro-Western regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu.

Economic turmoil

Mr. Sobaru’s tragic leap, later telecast all over the world, struck a sympathetic chord with many Rumanians who saw it as a symbol of the savage inequities and injustices of the post-Communist period.  Rumania is mired in a severe recession and its battered economy is expected to decline by at least 2% in 2010, after contracting by 7.1% the previous year.  Instead of trying to assist the unemployed and the socially weak, the Bucharest government, which is reportedly riddled with corruption, cronyism and nepotism, has slashed public-sector pay by one-quarter and trimmed all social expenditures, including heating subsidies for the poor as well as unemployment, maternity, and disability benefits.  At the same time, the national sales tax was hiked from 19% to 24%, as the authorities are striving to hold the national deficit down to 6.8% in order to meet the stringent fiscal requirements of the European Union (EU), which Rumania had joined in January 2007.

These harsh austerity policies have angered millions of Rumanians who are barely making ends meet in a nation where the average monthly per capita income is about $400.  Angry street protests that have gathered tens of thousands of Rumanians reflect the deep dissatisfaction with mass poverty and the continuing economic crisis, which took Rumania to the edge of bankruptcy.  “This isn’t capitalism, in capitalist countries you have a middle class,” one Bucharest-based convenience store manager told an Associated Press reporter.  But Rumanian society, she complained, is divided between a tiny minority of very rich people and a vast impoverished underclass.[1]

While the human tragedy witnessed in the Rumanian Parliament on that pre-Christmas day is quite symptomatic of the Balkan country’s pervasive misery and crushed hopes for a better life, it could have easily taken place in any other of the crisis nations of the ex-Communist world who are equally suffering from high unemployment, massive poverty, declining wages, and severe cuts in public spending and living standards.  At about the time of Mr. Sobaru’s desperate suicide attempt, many of the Czech Republic’s 20,000 hospital doctors were quitting their jobs en masse to protest the decision of Prime Minister Petr Necas’s cabinet to cut all public expenditures, including healthcare spending, by at least 10% in order to keep the country’s troubled finances afloat.  These mass resignations were part of the “Thanks, We Are Leaving” campaign launched by disgruntled physicians across the country aimed at putting pressure on the Prague authorities to increase their low wages and provide better working conditions for all medical workers.  Confronted with the worst healthcare crisis in the ex-Communist country’s history which was endangering the lives of many patients, the Czech government threatened to impose a state of emergency which would force doctors either to get back to work or face harsh legal and financial penalties.

One may also recall the largely unreported 2009 food riots in Latvia, the much lauded “Baltic miracle” darling of the mainstream Western media, where the deeply unpopular incumbent Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was re-elected in 2010 despite having severely cut public expenditures and Latvians’ already meager living standards (the election campaign focused instead on the nasty clash between Latvian nationalists and the country’s sizeable and restive Russian-speaking minority).  According to Professor Michael Hudson, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, as sharp government cutbacks in social welfare, education, healthcare, public transportation, and other basic social-infrastructure spending threaten to undermine economic security, long-term development, and political stability across the ex-Soviet bloc countries, young people are emigrating in droves to better their lives rather than suffer in an economy without any employment opportunities.  For example, more than 12% of the total population of Latvia (and a much larger percentage of its labor force) now works abroad.

When the “neo-liberal bubble” burst in 2008, Professor Hudson writes, Latvia’s conservative government borrowed heavily from the EU and IMF on punishing repayment terms that have imposed such harsh austerity policies that the Latvian economy shrank by 25% (neighboring Estonia and Lithuania have experienced an equally steep economic decline) and unemployment, currently running at 22%, is still rising.  With well over a tenth of its population now working abroad, Latvia’s guest-workers send home whatever they can spare to help their destitute families survive.  Latvian children (what few of them there are as the Baltic country’s marriage and birth rates are plunging) have been thus “left orphaned behind,” prompting social scientists to wonder how this small nation of 2.3 million people can survive demographically.[2]  These are the results of post-Communist austerity budgets that have cut ordinary people off at the knees while international creditors and local bankers are bailed out.

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