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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since December 2010

Page Previous 123 • 4
Tribute to Letelier Case Prosecutor

December 3, 2010 ·

On September 21, 1976, my IPS colleagues Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt were killed by a car bomb in Washington, DC. The FBI later determined that Chilean secret police agents working with far right wing Cuban exiles had carried out this heinous act of terrorism.

After the Justice Department indicted five Cubans, plus four Chilean top intelligence agents, a trial took place in Washington. Lawrence Barcella, who died recently of cancer, was one of two U.S. prosecutors who won the first case. Three Cubans got convicted, two of conspiracy to assassinate a foreign dignitary; the other for aiding and abetting and perjury before a Grand Jury.

Barcella, Landau and othersAn appeal overturned the verdict and Barcella lost the second case. He was deeply upset. I recall the scene in the courthouse corridor when he shook his head in disbelief that a jury could have acquitted the three Cubans. The scene became especially dramatic for me when one of the Cubans, Guillermo Novo, threatened to get me and I maturely responded by extending a finger upwards at him.

Barcella remained emotionally attached to the case for decades. In the mid and late 1990s he worked with Spanish attorney Juan Garces (a former IPS associate fellow) and me, along with former FBI Special Agent Carter Cornick and John Dinges (who co-authored the book Assassination on Embassy Row with me) and others to get the U.S. government to release massive files on Pinochet and the Chilean government’s involvement in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination and other crimes.

He also wrote op eds and letters to keep the case alive — to get Pinochet indicted and the information about his involvement made public.

Larry Barcella was a good and courageous man. Those of us who knew him will miss him.

Unconventional Wisdom: No Secrets at IPS

December 3, 2010 ·

The release of secret diplomatic cables by the whistleblower organization WikiLeaks is either a truth-seeker’s treasure trove or a massive threat to international security and diplomacy. While much of the information has embarrassed members of the U.S. Foreign Service for their snide and “undiplomatic” portrayal of world leaders, the content merely confirms what we already suspected - the Obama administration's diplomacy is more of what we have seen in the past, further evidence of the insanity of our foreign policy, conducted at great economic and political costs through either force or negotiations.

The diplomatic leaks are “an orchard of exposés over-ripe for cherry-picking,” as IPS fellow Phyllis Bennis states in her most recent article, “WikiLeaks: War, Diplomacy & Ban ki-Moon’s Toothbrush." Bennis points out, in a recent interview with the Real News Network, one of the more bizarre and frightening disclosure of the leaks is the fact that U.S. diplomats have been effectively turned into spies, tasked with obtaining biometric and other information on top world officials. IPS fellow Emira Woods, in her recent Voice of America interview, also emphasizes this aspect of the leaks and lauds the transparency and the free flow of information that the leaks provide.

While there are reasons to applaud WikiLeaks, there is also great concern that information taken and interpreted out of context could have negative and even fatal consequences. IPS scholar John Feffer points out how the current and possible future revelations exposed through leaks about South Korea, North Korea, and China can easily undermine secret negotiations in his latest article in the Institute's weekly foreign policy ezine, World Beat, “Transparency Fundamentalists.” Our hard-hitting analysis isn't top-secret but it's free and always worth a close read. Subscribe to World Beat today.

For 47 years, IPS has responsibly spoken truth(s) to power. We look forward to the many years to come.

Serendipity at the climate negotiations

December 2, 2010 ·

Getting ready for the global climate summit in Cancun was a practice in not getting my hopes up. Everywhere I looked –the news, statements from the U.S., even in the environmental community – I was warned to keep my expectations of anything significant being accomplished this year low.

It was as if people had been traumatized by the outcome of last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen – a back-room deal that broke trust between the countries of the global South and North, blatant disregard for the right of civil society to participate in a process that would decide the fate of humanity, and in the end a total lack of commitment by the countries most responsible for climate change to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

OK, I admit, it was a little disheartening.

But I’m not ready to give up all hope. I believe that the people of the world are ready to push like hell to move forward on an agreement that’s based on science and equity. And to do it in a transparent, democratic way in multilateral spaces.

One experience in particular has left me feeling hopeful.

It was a last minute serendipitous meeting with the Conference of Youth. Late on Thanksgiving Day, I received an invitation to talk about Climate Justice Now – a network of movements and organizations dedicated to bringing social justice into the negotiations.

When I arrived the next night I made my way to the venue – a pool-side thatched roof hotel restaurant overlooking the lagoon – and was astonished to see well over 100 young climate activists. On a Friday night. In Cancun. And they were hanging out waiting anxiously to get down to business and talk climate change. That’s serious dedication.

The exchange was incredible. Myself and about a half dozen other guests from social movements, NGOs and campaigns shared our plans for Cancun in 15 minute speed-dating style pitches. In each round, I had an overflowing table of youth that wanted to talk about climate justice, and in particular, keeping the World Bank’s hands out of the climate finance cookie jar.

I went through my pitch about the World Bank’s track record of ecological and human rights violations. I talked about how the Bank has actually increased its fossil fuel lending by 116% this year to a record $6.6 billion. And I explained why the World Bank has to be kept out of climate finance because its “one-dollar-one-vote” system means that its programs and policies are skewed in favor of the world’s biggest historical greenhouse gas villains, leaving little say for those most impacted by climate change.

The result – the youth asked me to help arrange a briefing for their climate finance working group. We’re also strategizing about how youth can join the global campaign to keep the World Bank out of climate finance through actions, media and organizing inside and outside the negotiating halls.

To be honest, even if we don’t get a deal here in Cancun, I’ll leave Mexico hopeful in knowing that a new generation of economic and climate justice activists is coming into their own.

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