New Internationalist - October 2010
Agenda – making the news
M o r a e s/R e u t e r s i c a r d o
RIs there life beyond Lula?
3 OCTOBER BRAZILIAN ELECTION
Brazil’s charismatic President ‘Lula’ da Silva steps down this month after eight years in power. So what’s next?
It’s a rags to riches story. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva was born into poverty in the country’s hardscrabble northeast. When his family migrated south he worked the streets as a shoeshine boy and eventually became a metalworker and a trade union leader. He then helped organize an unprecedented wave of strikes against the military dictatorship in the early 1980s. In 1986 that opposition led to the formation of a new political party, the Workers Party (PT), and the fall of the dictatorship.
Lula then ran and lost all the post-dictatorship Presidential races until he finally came to power on 1 January 2003. His success sparked a wave of left-wing governments across Latin America and quickly established Lula as the continent’s de facto leader. He was re-elected in 2006 and this month he’s leaving, with a spectacular popularity rating nudging 80 per cent.
During his eight-year term Brazil has gone from a debtor to a creditor at the International Monetary Fund and has become self-sufficient in oil with massive new deep-water discoveries. The economy has grown an average 5.3 per cent a year. And the country will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.
Lula also tackled the country’s grotesque inequality. The UN millennium target was to reduce poverty by half in 25 years. He has nearly achieved that in eight. The number of poor has plummeted from
50 to 29 million and could drop to 14.5 million by 2014.
The President is a charismatic populist. He once cried on TV over the fate of the unemployed; his Portuguese is flawed and he laments every defeat of his favourite football team, Corinthians.
But the summer of 2005 may have been his greatest political triumph. The country watched dumbstruck as every major Workers Party politician was caught up in an all-embracing corruption scandal. Out went the chief of staff, the treasurer, the chancellor, the party president – only Lula remained, claiming, solemnly, that he had known nothing about the ‘bribes for votes’ scheme in Congress.
He promptly went on to win the 2006 election by a landslide.
Despite his popularity, Lula’s green credentials are thin – he has been blasted by environmentalists for approving genetically modified crops and for caving in to agribusiness. His environment minister, Marina Silva, quit both the government and the party in frustration. She has since re-emerged as the Green Party’s presidential candidate in this year’s election.
Lula’s handpicked successor (he can’t legally stand for a third term) is Dilma Rouseff, who began the 2010 campaign 20 points behind her rightwing rival, Jose Serra, but was leading by 8 per cent heading into the election.
It seems anything connected to the man (guess whose photo graces all Dilma’s campaign posters?) turns to gold, except his beloved Corinthians.
So what’s next? While some speculate he’ll accept a high-level UN role in Africa, others think he’ll run again in 2014.
After all, who wouldn’t want to be the Olympic President?
/R e u t e r s
R a h e e m
K a r e e m
Wales’s African twin
4 OCTOBER LESOTHO INDEPENDENCE DAY
You might not immediately think that Wales and Lesotho have a lot in common. But for 25 years the two countries (which are in fact similar in terms of size, landscape, their bilingualism and cultural heritage) have been forging ties, building friendships and working in partnership in the pursuit of a sustainable and equitable future for all. The Dolen Cymru link was the first-ever countryto-country twinning – others have since followed suit – and since 1985 has supported health and educational exchange programmes and reciprocal visits. Happy anniversary!
8 ● New Internationalist ● OCTOBER 2010
Teachers and students under attack
5 OCTOBER WORLD TEACHERS DAY
The latest UNESCO report, Education under Attack, reveals that politically and ideologically motivated attacks on students and teachers around the globe are on the rise – three years after the problem was first highlighted.
From 2007 to 2009, the report says, ‘State forces or state-backed forces have either beaten, arrested, tortured, threatened with murder or shot dead students, teachers and/or academics in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Honduras, Iran, Myanmar, Nepal, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, Zambia and Zimbabwe.’
Brendan O’Malley, author of the 2010 report, witnessed first hand the impact of such attacks when he visited a school in Kosovo back in 1999.
‘The school had been shelled and ransacked, but the one thing that seemed to give people hope was that teachers were working without pay to keep lessons going for the children. I was talking to the headteacher when there was a huge thud and the ground shook. I asked what it was. He said: “They are shelling again. They do this every day just to remind us they are there.”’
Healers who harm face investigation
7 OCTOBER AFGHANISTAN
Medics in Afghanistan revealed to be complicit in abuse a g e s
I m i a t i o n
A s s o c r e s s
P/r e s s
Pi a n
C a n a d
T h e
On the ninth anniversary of the air bombardment of Afghanistan, calls for accountability at US detention centres are finally breaking through, and the role of medical personnel present in interrogation cells is now under scrutiny.
A Physicians for Human Rights report is accusing the Bush administration of conducting illegal and unethical human experiments on prisoners in CIA custody. In July, the American Psychological Association supported an attempt to remove the licence of a psychologist accused of overseeing the torture of a CIA detainee. Dr James Mitchell, a retired US Air Force psychologist, is alleged to have taken part in the interrogation and waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah in Thailand in 2002. Clinicians have also veered into the ethics debate. In his book Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity and the War on Terror, Professor of Medicine Dr Steven Miles asks: where were the doctors when detainees were being abused?
Dr Miles recounts the story of Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by US soldiers at Bagram Air Base in December 2002. In five days of severe beatings he received no medical input. He was promised a doctor but instead was hung from the ceiling in his cell for hours. A doctor eventually found him dead.
There followed a fiasco on the cause of death, resulting in the issue of numerous death certificates, the first of which cited natural causes. The Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner held back its autopsy report, which would later refute the ‘natural causes’ claim. ViceAdmiral Albert T Church, appointed by Donald Rumsfeld in 2004 to conduct an inquiry into detainee interrogations, identified Dilawar’s death as one in which medical personnel attempted to conceal prisoner abuse.
Personal testimonies of former detainees also give an insight into the degree of medical complicity in abuse.
Tarek Dergoul, a British resident held at Bagram, Kandahar and later Guantánamo, is one of many. Caught up in a US air strike in Afghanistan, he sustained injuries to his left arm which led to an amputation. Four weeks later, he was captured by Afghans and reportedly sold to the Americans for $500, ending up in Bagram. During his five weeks there, Dergoul received only one dose of painkillers – despite constant pleas and obvious discomfort. He even asked British security services personnel, during their questioning of him, to intervene. They didn’t.
A Canadian army medic treats a patient in Afghanistan.
While being dragged by guards along rough terrain, Dergoul, who was wearing sandals, cut his left big toe. The cut became filled with pus and painful. His requests for antibiotics were ignored. Eventually a deep infection formed, requiring another amputation. He recalls a military doctor administering sedation. Although drowsy he remained awake, hearing every part of the amputation tutorial given by her to a junior medic cutting off his toe.
Health professionals who assisted the CIA in mistreatment or experiments will have their own place in history, just like other ‘healers who harm’ before them. But for now, selfregulation and accountability within the medical profession is a priority.
Dr Saleyha Ahsan
New Internationalist ● OCTOBER 2010 ● 9