Archive for the Romania Category

UN report condemns US government’s “international criminal program of torture” [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Canada, CIA, Egypt, George W. Bush, Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Obama, Pakistan, Pentagon, Poland, Romania, Syria, Thailand, Torture, U.K., UAE - United Arab Emirates, US Government Cover-up, US imperialism, USA, War crimes, Yemen on November 1, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Thomas Gaist
1 November 2014

A recent report to the UN Committee Against Torture concludes that the US presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama are responsible for far-reaching violations of international law for directing and covering up a global torture program developed by the US Central Intelligence Agency in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The report, prepared by the “Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions,” Dr. Trudy Bond, Prof. Benjamin Davis, Dr. Curtis F. J. Doebbler, and The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, states unequivocally that entire sections of the state apparatus are responsible for “breathtaking” crimes against international law.

“Civilian and military officials at the highest level created, designed, authorized and implemented a sophisticated, international criminal program of torture,” the report states.

The report details the vast scale of the torture system, noting that detainees were tortured not just at the US Guantanamo Bay Military Base in Cuba, but in numerous secret black sites worldwide, including in “Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Libya, Lithuania, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Syria, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom (Diego Garcia), and Yemen.”

Having been “conceived and authorized at the highest levels” of the US government, responsibility for the crimes committed is shared by numerous top officials, the report concludes, including “President George W. Bush, then Vice President Dick Cheney, then Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) George Tenet, then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, and then Attorney General John Ashcroft.”

The torture techniques were devised by the CIA in collaboration with intelligence officers from the Egyptian and Saudi regimes, according to the report.

“The techniques in question, sometimes styled as interrogation techniques and sometimes as detention procedures, included near-drowning (‘waterboarding’), sleep deprivation for days, and forced nudity,” the report notes.

“They have caused many people intense suffering, including severe mental harm and, in some cases, death,” the report notes.

“Retroactive legal approval” was then contrived by US government lawyers at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

In order to justify the new methods of “enhanced interrogation,” the torture lawyers of the Bush administration drew up an “absurdly narrow” definition of torture to justify the administration’s policies.

As a CIA lawyer commented to personnel at Guantanamo Bay when summarizing the content of the Bush administration torture memos, “…it is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.”

“The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees,” notes a report by the US Senate Armed Services Committee, cited in the new report to the UN…

…Far from being limited to the Bush administration, the report makes clear that the Obama administration, the Justice Department and multiple federal courts have upheld the conception that those involved in “waterboarding, dietary manipulation, walling, long-time standing, sleep deprivation and water dousing” should receive immunity, and that these techniques do not constitute torture.

The Obama administration has sought to safeguard all the senior Bush administration officials most directly responsible for torture from prosecution or any form of legal or punitive action for their involvement in torture.

As the report notes, all senior US government officials have received blanket immunity for their involvement in orchestrating a worldwide torture network, and “courts-martial and administrative proceedings for acts of torture have been almost exclusively limited to low-level private contractors or soldiers.”

The authors conclude that the “enhanced interrogation” methods violated the UN Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, which builds on the ban on torture contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The report maintains that “the prohibition against torture is absolute,” rejecting the legal concepts of the Bush administration and calling for the prosecution of top Bush administration lawyers, including the drafter of the three main “Torture Memos,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo,

The failure of the US government to hold accountable any of the leadership elements that organized the torture is undermining the “preemptory norm against torture,” according to the report. Torture is becoming more widespread and viewed as more acceptable by states everywhere in response to the unabashed repudiation of international law by the US.

In its concluding recommendation to the UN Committee Against Torture, the legal scholars demand that the US government adopt a legal and policy course that is 180 degrees opposed to that followed by the Obama administration since taking office.

“The United States should promptly and impartially prosecute senior military civilian officials responsible for authorizing, acquiescing or consenting in any way to acts of torture committed by their subordinates,” the rapporteurs write.

Were the demands of the report to be implemented, the result would be legal-political prosecutions directed against command elements and numerous individuals within the upper layers of the most powerful agencies of the American government, including the CIA, the military and the Department of Justice, together with numerous high-ranking members of the Bush and Obama administrations.

Countless figures, many now ensconced in lavish sinecures in academia and the corporate establishment, would have to face long jail sentences.

No such accountability will be forthcoming from any section of the political establishment, however, given that the torturers and their defenders are the preeminent political servants and military-intelligence specialists of the capitalist class.

The torture program was developed and implemented as part of an explosion of American militarism, as the ruling class has sought to maintain its global position through war and violence in every corner of the globe. At the same time, it is part of a wholesale assault on democratic rights, directed fundamentally at any opposition to the policies of the corporate and financial elite.

Far from prosecuting those responsible, the Obama administration is currently engaged in a coordinated campaign to prevent the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee summary on CIA torture, working closely with the spy agency itself to cover up the crimes for which it is guilty.

Article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/11/01/tort-n01.html

Also see: “Report to U.N. Calls Bullshit on Obama’s ‘Look Forward, Not Backwards’ Approach to Torture” – https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/30/un-report-slams-obama-protecting-u-s-officials-torture-charges/

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“Civil Society Intervention as a Geopolitical Instrument” – NGO ‘color revolutions’ destructive transformation of foreign youth into tools of Western imperialists [Strategic Culture Foundation]

Posted in Belarus, Bill Clinton, Bourgeois parliamentary democracy, CIA, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Obama, Romania, Russia, Serbia, U.K., Ukraine, US Agency for International Development, US imperialism, USA, Venezuela, Yugoslavia - former FRY on October 8, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Hannes HOFBAUER | 01.10.2012 | 00:00

…in spring 2005 Ukraine had turned orange. At that time only a few observers in the West were aware, to what extent the local dissatisfaction in Ukraine was missused by Western foundations for their own interests. Today we do not only know how the orange experiment ended, but we also clearly can see the system behind the Western interventions in civil societies across the world.

Who are the coloured revolutionaries?

Roses in Georgia (2003), cedars in Lebanon (2005), tulips in Kyrgyzstan (2005), cornflowers in Belarus (2006)… most of the coloured revolutions are named after flowers or plants. Their radical activists organise themselves under names like «Kmara» («Enough»/ Georgia), «Mjaft» («Enough»/ Albania), «Zubr» («Bison»/ Belarus), «Kifaya» («Enough»/ Egypt). Most of them are young, long for the Western way of life, speak excellent English and – first of all – hate the ruling political class in their home country. All of them had obtained a good education within the respective system they detest. After their studies neither the state nor the market are able to provide them with a future adequate to their education. Their high demands in politics and way of life were disappointed, which lead them straight into the opposition. There they face a system of (state) power, which they experience as politically paralysed, economically corrupt und culturally back-warded.

These are the structural social conditions, in which a disappointed youth finds itself mainly in societies of transformation. These conditions are hardly discussed by the institutions of power and also mostly ignored by the young people themselves. Coloured revolutions are rooted in social discontent and disappointment. These phenomena can be observed at first and best in peripheral societies east and south of the European Union. There the economic crisis, which followed the transformation period of the 1990s, did not only destroy the industrial and sometimes the agricultural basis of the respective countries and people, but also their social relations and cultural identities. These so-called «reform-societies» are not able to offer perspectives for a large part of the young generation, first of all the well-educated youth. Many of them see only two alternatives: emigration or revolt.

* It started in Serbia *

The mother of all coloured revolutions was black and white. Its name: «Otpor», «Resistance». Its symbol: a white [fist] in front of a black ground…. «Otpor» was founded in the beginning of the 1990s in Belgrade. The group understood itself in sharp opposition to the rise of Slobodan Milosevic and his «Socialist Party of Serbia» (SPS). «Otpor’s» battle-cry: «gotov je!», «he is finished». «He» was the big enemy: Milosevic. The first manifestations against his government began in 1988. Their social character was evident. People protested against rising prices… These «bread-riots» pointed at the government, but meant the IMF that dictated what they called «reform», the abolishment of state subsidies for housing and goods of daily use. Out of parts of these protesters «Otpor» formed a political group with one single goal: to get rid of whom they called «the autocrat», Slobodan Milosevic.

After the end of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia the legitimacy of rule and governance was debated widely in a political and philosophical sense. Where rulers of the old type or their supposed revenants did not give way voluntarily, oppositional groups felt legitimated to overthrow the system. This also happened in Serbia. Slobodan Milosevic and his SPS undermined the shock therapy of the IMF in Winter 1990/91 by setting in motion the money-printing machine. The fresh banknotes allowed paying state employers like teachers, doctors and military. Hence he obstructed the restrictive monetary policy, prescribed by the IMF. What was appreciated by vast parts of the people, provoked Western organisations, and he became an enemy of them. «Otpor» repeated its standpoint: «Milosevic has to leave». It took some time until the potential of this oppositional group was discovered by Western financiers.

* Civil society intervention *

Since the middle of the 1990s masses of so-called Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been operating in the countries of ex-Comecon and Yugoslavia. Their «mission» followed slogans of «democracy», «nation-building» or «new governance». They aimed at interfering in politics by supporting local oppositional groups of civil society.

One of the most prominent and strongest «Mission»-organisation to bring Western democracy to Eastern and Southern countries is the American foundation named «National Endowment for Democracy» (NED). Founded by the US-Congress in 1983 and financed by state-money since then, NED has the function to distribute an annual amount of a three-figure million Dollar number to four so-called NGOs: The «National Democratic Institute for International Affairs» (NDI), which stands under the influence of the Democratic Party, its Republican vis-à-vis, the «International Republican Institute» (IRI), the «Center for International Private Enterprise» (CIPE) and the «American Center for International Labor Solidarity» (ACILS), one representing the Chamber of commerce, the other the AFL/CIO-union. These four NGOs, all of them fully backed by state-money and therefore cheating with the «N» in their self-representation as «NGO», work in their respected fields on the ground in Eastern Europe, the Islamic world and elsewhere.

The ideological background of foundations like NED, the United States Agency for International Development USAID, «Freedom-House» or its British variant «Westminster Foundation for Democracy» is rooted in a specific understanding of what they call «universal democracy», which they claim to be spread all over the world. The concept is based on the declared necessity of economic competition and its political administration through democratic institutions. Democratic institutions have to follow the principles of market economy and not vice versa. The ideal, universalistic form of this model of democracy can be described as «constitutive liberalism» in a parliamentary two-party-system under a strong presidency. The electoral freedom excludes the social and economic system and reduces socio-economic debates, if admitted at all, to measures of tax policy.

This understanding of democracy is not compatible with revolutionary processes having taken place in Eastern Europe and North Africa. There the vision of democracy reaches beyond the system of «constitutive liberalism» and its defence of property. On the contrary: revolutions overwhelm such things like property laws and open new radical perspectives. Political and media observers are well aware of this fact and its potential danger. Therefore all missions of civil society-interventions by Western foundations are united by one goal: to direct revolutionary processes in East and South towards the Western understanding of liberal democracy; to pave the way for «constitutional liberalism».

Many democratic elections, for example in Eastern Europe, but also in the Arab world after 1989/91, did not reflect the Western idea of liberal democracy. The outcome were «false results» in the cases of Yugoslavia, Romania, and Slovakia, when leaders like Milosevic, Iliescu, Meciar or Fico received majorities at the ballot-box. The American political scientist and redactor in chief of the influential magazine «Foreign Affairs», Fareed Zakaria, named these democratic elections, when Milosevic or Meciar took legal power, «illiberal democracies». (1) In his view it is not the democracy as such that are in ill health condition, but the constitutional liberalism. He even makes his view more concrete: «Democracy without constitutional liberalism is not simply inadequate, but dangerous». Meciar, Iliescu, Milosevic, Yanukovych… they all won elections and got majorities, some of them more than one time. Nevertheless Western media and politicians call them despots, autocrats, nationalists, communists or national communists. Western foundations like NED, USAID, Westminster or Freedom House see their task in spreading their universalistic claim of a bourgeois, liberally constituted democracy throughout the world. In the societies of transformation they intervene into civil society by moulding local protests into coloured revolution.

How do these interventions function? At the beginning local or national discontent, which almost always is rooted in social problems, has to be «politicised». That means that social revolutionary elements have to be excluded. They could be dangerous for the establishment of a liberal democracy. In a second step cadres are formed. They run through different seminars in «regime change», «liberal democracy», «institution building», «nation building» etc. Allen Weinstein, one of the founders of NED, once stated openly, what the function of organisations like NED was like at the beginning of the 1990s: «A lot of what we [NED] do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA». (2) In some cases like in the case of James Woosley this statement can be proved even biographically. Woosley was head of the CIA between 1993 and 1995, before he led the board of «Freedom House».

If the civil society interventions do not fulfil the aim of «regime change», a military intervention can take place, like it did in Yugoslavia in March 1999. Since the rule of Bill Clinton civil mission and military threat go hand in hand. Barack Obama brings this system to perfection [sic].

With the help of Western foundations, the Serbian «Otpor» positioned itself as a more or less successful export model. From Georgia to Ukraine, Belarus and Egypt former activists of «Otpor» hold trainings and seminars in civil resistance to form NGO-units of oppositional groups to overthrow the respective political leaders and governments like Shevardandze, Kuchma/Yanukovych or Lukashenko. Not everywhere the plan is functioning, like the case of Belarus shows. There the local coloured revolutionaries were persecuted and moved to Lithuania or Poland, where they now maintain their infrastructure like radio stations, offices and «universities».

Moscow is warned

In July 2012 the Russian Duma passed a law which obliges civil society organisations to financing transparency. This includes the declaration and control of foreign money. The Western resentment at this law is dishonest in some regards. On the one hand, the civil society interventions of Western foundations for Eastern and Southern coloured revolutions get more and more visible. Their function is evident. Even more: For example NED is publishing openly which NGO is getting how much grants. In its annual statement of accounting (2011) NED notes that it concentrated on subsidising NGOs in Belarus, where organisations like «Freedom of information» ($1,23m ) or «Civil Society» ($300.000) all together received $3,5m in 2011.

On the other hand, Russia is not the first country to hinder civil society interventions from outside. So Venezuela closed down the NED-bureau in Caracas in December 2010. And Egypt checked the bureaus of five foreign foundations and brought more than 40 responsible employees (Americans, Germans, Serbians and Egyptians) to the court. They are accused of «illegal activities with illegal money transfers».

After all the experiences with intervening in civil societies in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus, nobody can be astonished that Moscow is trying to protect its civil society from foreign attempts to implement coloured opposition. Let’s be frank: what would happen if Russian foundations would intervene in Western European civil societies? How would the European Union, for example, react, if Russian of Chinese financial support would be given to – let’s say – groups for national self-determination. They could even use the same political argument Berlin did in the 1990s by supporting Croatian and Bosnian nationalists and their fight against Belgrade. National discontent is widespread in Europe. And easily young people from Greece to the Netherlands could be found to fight EU-establishment with social or national arguments. Russian money could help them to organise. It is for sure that in the case of logistical and financial intervention into EU-inner politics, Brussels would immediately stop the flow of money from outside, for example from Moscow. This restriction would be labelled as a necessary «capital control» to protect EU-European interests, as it is done in other fields of the economy. Moscow is doing exactly the same, but Western media and politicians are defaming the restriction for being «undemocratic» representing «Soviet-type politics». With the new Russian law controlling foreign money flow into civil society organisations, the Western «NGOs are forced to react. USAID is the first to close down its office end of September 2012…

Article link: http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2012/10/01/civil-society-intervention-as-a-geopolitical-instrument.html

Edited by Zuo Shou

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

Article link: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/dec2011/roma-d12.shtml

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

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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U.S. won’t assist Polish probe into secret CIA prisons [People’s Daily]

Posted in CIA, Romania, Torture, US Government Cover-up on January 3, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

December 29, 2010

The United States has refused to cooperate with Poland in an investigation into alleged secret CIA prisons in Poland, Polish news agency PAP reported on Tuesday.

A few days ago, terror suspect Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia, asked Polish prosecutors to open an investigation into allegations that he was tortured at a secret CIA prison in Poland.

Lawyers for Abu Zubaydah filed two separate motions that asked prosecutors in Warsaw to consider Zubaydah a victim in the probe and conduct a separate investigation into what happened to Zubaydah in Poland.

The U.S. Department of Justice had denied a request by Warsaw prosecutors for legal assistance in October 2009, according to the PAP report.

Polish prosecutors have been examining the existence of alleged CIA prisons in Poland since August 2008. The government has repeatedly denied their existence in Poland.

In 2007, the Council of Europe published a report saying that from 2003 to 2005 the CIA had operated secret prisons in Poland and Romania where terror suspects were kept.

Source: Xinhua

Article link: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/90853/7245472.html

Sixty-one percent of Romanians want communism [PSLweb.org]

Posted in Capitalism crisis early 21st century, Romania on November 7, 2010 by Zuo Shou / 左手

The Romanian market research company CSOP and the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of Romanian Exiles conducted a poll in recent months that discovered that 61 percent of Romanians consider communism to be a good idea at present.  This is an increase from 53 percent four years ago.  Half of the respondents said life was better in their country before 1989.

Only 27 percent of those interviewed said communism was a bad idea, which is a decrease from 34 percent four years ago. Fourteen percent of respondents felt that communism is a good idea that was applied well in Romania, while 47 percent felt it is a good idea that was applied poorly in Romania.

The main reasons people said life was better under the previous system were that everyone was employed, the living standards were decent, and housing was guaranteed.  These numbers are indicative of growing class consciousness as capitalism fails to meet the needs of Romanian workers.

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