Sunday, February 19, 2006

Confessions of an Economic Hitman: "Bolivia's Morales finds common ground with U.S" (Yahoo! News/Reuters)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

Self-Described Economic Hit Man John Perkins: “We Have Created the World’s First Truly Global Empire”

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John Perkins, author of "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," joins us in our firehouse studio to talk about his former work going into various countries to try to strongarm leaders into creating policy favorable to the U.S government and corporations. Perkins describes himself as an economic hit man. [includes rush transcript]



And these people you know, who you call economic hit men, who are the first to move in to these men who gain power, where does -- what do you know about Evo Morales now? He's just been elected President?

Well, I have no doubt that he has been visited by at least one of these men, who's known him beforehand. These are not strangers that walk in. They’ve been hanging around Bolivia for a while, as I did. And so, once the President is elected, they walk into his office and shake his hands and say, “Congratulations, Mr. President. You won. We launched a strong campaign against you, but now you've won. And now, I want to tell you the facts of life and make you --”

And you know someone who has talked to him in this way?


AMY GOODMAN: And what was -- according to you, what was President Morales's response?

JOHN PERKINS: Morales was very diplomatic about the whole thing, but absolutely stood firm and said, “You know, my people have elected me for a reason, and I intend to honor that.” This is what his initial response was. But what I will say is we can't imagine the pressure now that’s being exerted on a man like Morales, as is true with all these other presidents. They know what's happened before their time. And they – you know, the pressure will be put on them tighter and tighter and tighter.

And imagine being in that position. Imagine being an integritous person and really wanting to help your country, being elected with a majority – Morales got 54% of the vote, which is unheard of in Bolivia; he was up against many opponents -- and then, wanting to implement the policy, and somebody walks into your office and reminds you of what happened to all these other presidents.

And perhaps the most scary one was Noriega, who did not get assassinated. He wasn't a martyr. Instead, he had to stand by and watch several thousand innocent Panamanian civilians bombed, slaughtered, burned to death. And then he was dragged off to a U.S. prison, where he has been pretty much in solitary confinement every since. Imagine thinking that might happen to you.

And so, Evo Morales, the story has just begun for him. I sympathize with him very deeply. And I think from our standpoint, Amy, as American citizens -- and I look at myself as an extremely loyal American citizen. I believe in the principles of this country, which I think that in the past few decades, increasingly, we've put them way in the back burner. But as good Americans, we need to insist that our government and our corporations honor democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.


Bolivian President Evo Morales holds a replica of a trumpet during a performance of some 6,000 musicians dressed in colourful uniforms in a central square in Oruro, 124 miles south of La Paz, February 18, 2006. Morales said on Sunday he had found common ground with the United States in less than a month as president -- even on the sensitive issue of drugs policy. REUTERS/Stringer

Yahoo! News

Bolivia's Morales finds common ground with U.S

By Helen Popper 38 minutes ago

LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Sunday he had found common ground with the United States in less than a month as president -- even on the sensitive issue of drugs policy.

Morales, a coca farmer who described his movement as a "nightmare for the U.S." while campaigning, was speaking a day after meeting Washington's ambassador to Bolivia -- the world's third-biggest cocaine producer after Colombia and Peru.

"With the ambassador of the United States we have several points of view in common such as the defense of democracy and the battle against corruption... We at least agree on 'zero cocaine'," said Morales, a leftist who has pledged to fight the drugs trade while promoting legal uses of coca leaves.

The United States funds coca eradication programs in Bolivia's tropical Chapare region, where it says most coca, the raw material for cocaine, ends up with drug smugglers. Poor farmers say coca is mostly used for traditional purposes, from hunger suppressants to protection against altitude sickness.

Morales admitted that the eradication of excess coca plants was still a potential point of conflict with the United States for as long as it maintains a policy of 'zero coca'.

Following Saturday afternoon's meeting with Morales, U.S. ambassador David Greenlee told local television he was concerned about the pace of eradication in the Chapare.

"What matters to us is that there is a way to reduce excess coca. I believe that up to now the rhythm of the eradication has been very slow. I hope it will speed up," Greenlee said.

Yesterday's meeting followed a series of tentative contacts between Washington and Morales since his December 18 election. As well as his policy on coca, Washington is wary of his close friendships with fellow leftists President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Morales met Greenlee before he was sworn into office last month and also held talks with Washington's top Latin America official Thomas Shannon who attended his Jan 22. inauguration.

At the start of this month, U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned Morales to congratulate him on his election victory and expressed hope for a dialogue.

Last week, Morales put himself at odds with his coca farmer allies by saying U.S. anti-drugs officials could stay in Bolivia as long as they respected its "dignity and sovereignty." The coca growers had passed a resolution to deport them.

On Sunday, Morales reiterated his position. "They are going to stay as long as they do not violate human rights," he told a news conference in the presidential palace.

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