Two more accused in the Serra murder case

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Robert Serra, Venezuela’s youngest parliamentarian, and his girlfriend, María Herrera. Gone, but not forgotten…and justice will soon be served again in the case of their untimely deaths. This time, to two more individuals:

The Venezuelan Public Ministry has accused Danny Salinas and Wuadyd Pacheco for their suspected involvement in the deaths of National Assembly deputy Robert Serra, and María Herrera, on October 1 in the neighborhood of La Pastora, Libertador municipality, in the Capital District.

The 55th prosecutor of the Metropolitan Caracas Area, Miguel Ángel Hernández Salazar, accused Salinas of being a co-author in the crimes of aggravated homicide of the deputy, aggravated robbery, as well as homicide with malice aforethought for futile motives in the execution of an aggravated robbery against María Herrera, and association for the purpose of committing crimes.

In addition, the prosecutor presented the accusation against Pacheco as an unnecessary accomplice in the aforementioned crimes, and as author in the crime of associating for delinquent purposes.

Both crimes are listed in the Criminal Code and in the Organic Law Against Organized Crime and Financing of Terrorism.

In the writ presented before the 9th Control Tribunal of the Metropolitan Caracas Area, the representative of the Public Ministry requested admission of the accusation, ordered the trials of Salinas and Pacheco, and that they be held in custody in the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), located in El Helicoide.

Aside from these two men, others recently accused are the Caracas municipal police officers Edwin Torres, Erick Romero and Raider Espinoza, as well as Carlos Enrique García.

Also tied to the double homicide and currently in jail are Jaime Padilla, Neira Palomino, Yusmelys Meregote, and Nadis Orozco, for their relations with the Colombian, Leiva Padilla Mendoza, who was apprehended in Cartagena, Colombia, on November 2, and who is currently awaiting extradition.

Translation mine.

So, it looks like El Colombia and his band of merry miscreants are going to have some sweating to do. Let’s hope that’s all of them.

Cops Behaving Badly: A cartoon that says it all

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Venezuelan cartoonist Vicman captioned this one “Meanwhile, in the land of liberty…”

You know you have a racist cop problem when Latin Americans, who have had their own problems along precisely those lines, can tell who’s the Kluker among your police ranks. And when they, who have historically been the racially policed (all the way from Washington, DC!), are now laughing and pointing at you.

Music for a Sunday: Johnny Toogood never shirks

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Montréal Massacre: The truth that no one wants to know

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“Je lutte contre les féministes!”

So said Marc Lépine, Gamil Rodrigue Gharbi, expressly declaring war on feminists before he opened fire. These words have often been misquoted or mistranslated as “You’re all a bunch of feminists”, “I hate feminists”. In fact, they mean “I am fighting against feminists”. This is just one of many truths that have been distorted, ignored or outright whitewashed in our memories of that horrible day.

25 years ago today. A full quarter-century. Has it really been that long? For me, the crime of the Canadian century happened only yesterday. No matter where I am, no matter what day it is, what time of year, for me it will always be December at Queen’s University, whenever I think of those names, that night. I will always feel the cold and damp of the ever-present Kingston slush leaking into my boots, will always smell the snow in the air, will always feel the strangled need to cry as I head to the vigil, to class, to my volunteer work at the Queen’s Women’s Centre. I, who can’t forget, wonder how anyone else could fail to remember.

And yet, fail they do. They fail all the time. Our politicians, our media, they fail us, the women of Canada.

A few days ago, Peter MacKay, our so-called justice minister, stuck his foot in it big-time when he said that “we may never understand” why Marc Lépine did it. In actual fact, only he himself may never know that. He, and maybe the rest of the willfully ignorant, predominantly male morons who comprise the conservative government and its voting bloc. And they may never know it because they just don’t want to know it. They are idiots, they don’t belong in power, and they must not presume to speak for the rest of us.

All other Canadians know the truth all too well. Days after it happened, letters were already pouring in to media outlets all over Canada, and especially Québec, decrying the massacre for what it was: not the random act of a lone madman, but a specifically political act of terrorism. Protests and vigils were organized on university campuses across the land. Feminist women, and a few perceptive, allied men, could already see the truth, and they weren’t having any of the media’s carefully organized, cleverly worded whitewash. None of them were fooled by the conventional “wisdom” that Canadian women had already achieved all that they wanted, that life was fine and fair now, and that feminists should just pack it all in and go home to their kitchens…so to speak.

The women on Lépine’s hit list — oh yes, he had one — know it all too well, too. They were his actual, intended targets. They were meant to become examples of “what happens to feminists when they go too far”. The fact that they did not may be due only to Lépine’s instability and ineptitude; he was apparently almost as poor a terrorist as he was a student. Instead, it was a completely unrelated group who paid the price: the women who were admitted as engineering students to the Polytechnique, taking what Lépine fancied was his rightful place in a profession which is still, to this day, heavily dominated by men.

Did any of them call themselves feminists at the time? I can’t speak for the dead, but I do know that at least some of the survivors said that no, at the time, they were not, although they believed in equality of the sexes, and believed that feminism’s work was done. They were examples of how feminism had succeeded, because they were beneficiaries of female progress and believers in equal opportunity. And yet, also, they were victims — unwitting exemplars of how much of our society’s complacency works against that same progress. They just wanted to fit in, to be accepted; they conceded to the patriarchy without realizing how at the time, or how much. They were not then feminists. But they are now, because now they see the need. Far from sending them to sleep, the shooting was a wake-up call for them. The Massacre drove home to them that there was and is a need for feminism, because women are not free yet, and neither are they treated as men’s equals.

Worse, we are losing ground; the long-gun registry was scrapped, and human-rights protections that women have fought for over decades are being eroded away by creeping conservatism, neo-traditionalism, and ultra-capitalist economics that push the underclass ever further down. If feminism has accomplished all its goals, as is so often insisted by media and “men’s rights” groups, why is there still so much misogyny — enough to kill, not only in spectacular mass form, but on a small, steady, day-to-day basis?

Maybe it’s because our supposedly liberal, enlightened society is still largely an Old Boys’ Club. And maybe because that club is jealous of its power and control, and will do all it can to preserve it; just look at how long the struggle for pay equity has been going on. Maybe because women getting legal personhood, abortion rights, the Pill, the vote, an education, and some limited right to pursue a career, isn’t enough to combat it. Maybe because the scant handful basic, partial concessions of rights we have been able to get have actually served, in the minds of sexist men, as provocations, as proof that we’ve “gone too far”, as “danger signs” that a matriarchy is about to replace the existing “benevolent” patriarchy, and as “evidence” of a “need” to put women back in “their place”. (Note all the quotes; they’re there for a reason.)

And yes, the Montréal Massacre was aimed at doing exactly that.

I know all this because I have a little purple book in front of me on my desk right now. It’s called, simply, The Montréal Massacre. It was compiled by Louise Malette and Marie Chalouh, and translated by Marlene Wildeman for Gynergy Books. I bought it in the early 1990s, and I have yet to finish reading it, because its intensity keeps knocking the wind out of me. It is a collection of letters, essays, newspaper articles and poems, written in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, and it puts the lie to all the conventional narratives. Some of the writers are well-known Québec feminists, others ordinary people who were moved to write letters to the editor because they could not stomach all the bullshit and the lies. All are deeply, darkly critical of the mainstream narrative, of the silence it enforces.

Some note how the francophone media’s language around the victims was absurdly masculinized; the murder victims were not, as the media put it, étudiants, masculine/generic, but étudiantes, female students. Not all were engineering students; Barbara Klucznik was a nursing student. And not all of them were students, either; Maryse Laganière was an employee of the Polytechnique’s budget department. So the “student” appellation was not entirely accurate. The one and only thing the dead all had in common was that they were female. By erasing the gender of the dead, the media whitewashed the fact that the massacre was a gender-specific act of terrorism. (Even in the English-speaking media, where gender-specific noun endings are largely passé, a subtler form of erasure was the order of the day. And at least one journalist now feels guilty about her own unintentional part in the whitewash. It as, after all, quite the Old Boys’ Club in there. And, like the Massacre victims, she just wanted to fit in.)

Several of the writers also note that the media expressed curious sympathy for the killer while ignoring his blatant motives, preferring to portray him as mentally ill, an abused child of a wildly unstable father, and pitiable, rather than as a conscious political actor. Why can’t he be all of those things? they ask. For he WAS all of those things. Being mentally ill, abused and pitiful does not render a person apolitical, nor should it obscure that person’s political motives. Being political does not make one cold, mechanical, divorced from one’s own abused and abusive past, either. Such oversimplification serves the public interest poorly; feminists know that all too well. They’ve had to battle similar erroneous perceptions from the get-go.

Above all, the writers of that little book decry how quick the patriarchy was to fling its mantle over everything, to declare it “incomprehensible” and deem all protest “inappropriate”, “disrespectful”, etc. All FEMINIST protest, that is. If a man spouted blatant sexism to “protest” all the “rampant feminism” that supposedly provoked the killer, why, that was quite all right. The voices of the privileged class were welcome to have their say, over and over and over, ad nauseam. The underclass? Shut up, you bitches, the men are talking. Go home. Make sandwiches. Be thankful that we let a few of you in as tokens, and be quiet. Don’t demand more.

Even today, we’re still fighting the carefully orchestrated ignorance that fell like a shroud over that late afternoon. And it’s like trying to swim through an ever-spinning turbine to get at the truth, to be able to tell it and not be silenced.

I can still remember watching the mass funeral on TV, seeing the Catholic priests swinging their incense-burners over the caskets as they were paraded by. It was a literal smokescreen being cast before our very eyes, a metaphor made real. And oh, how nauseated I was by it all. I can remember thinking, quite clearly, how ironic and horrific and yet strangely appropriate this was; patriarchy had killed those women, and now it was burying them, too. And of course, it decreed forgetfulness, mealy mouths, empty words, lip service in lieu of honesty and action, much smoke but no fire. The victims were “innocent”, and much was made of that innocence and guiltlessness. They did not deserve to die — everyone agreed on that — but they were also not allowed to be women. They were not allowed to be acknowledged as victims of sexism, of patriarchy, of gendercide.

People still don’t want to know why those 14 women were really killed. They’re very curious to know who they were, but not so curious as to why they had to perish. They think that it’s enough to put faces and life stories to the names, and not inquire any further into the killer’s motive for destroying them. Worse, in their efforts to “put the tragedy behind us”, they’ve buried Marc Lépine’s suicide-note-cum-manifesto and hit list, so that it can’t be analyzed and criticized, and so that its contents cannot be properly understood. Who benefits from that? The Menz Rightzers. The MRAs. The “manosphere”. The patriarchy. They’ve already claimed him as their hero-martyr-saint. They have websites set up as shrines to him, and have cultivated them for years. They consider his words to be a kind of holy writ, a truth bomb in the war against feminism. They preserve his ramblings while the rest of us are unable to find the full text of those words on any site that isn’t unsavory, that isn’t dedicated to hating women and calling for their wholesale enslavement and destruction, that doesn’t repulse us and send us fleeing for our sanity’s sake.

Think we don’t need feminism anymore? Think again. This is why we need it, people:

25 years have gone by, and in those 25 years, the message to be silent, to bury the dead women “respectfully” by forgetting the meaning of their deaths, has only grown louder. But if we want to actually make progress, we have to talk about them, analyze, criticize, tear open the hypocritical crypt, and blow away the ashes, dust and smoke that surround it. We have to scrub away the whitewash from the sepulchre, and acknowledge what’s really inside. Otherwise, we’re only doing the terrorist’s work for him, and erasing women from the picture. Not only from the past, but our present and future, too.

Who’s your diplomatic guest there, Maricori?

Well, well. What have we here? US “diplomats” exercising their diplomatic impunity (no, not a typo, nor a misspelling) at a legal hearing for a disgraced Venezuelan right-wing politician? Sure looks like it…

“We have questions: What were you doing there, who invited him, why was the embassy of the United States watching us and giving orders to a mouthpiece?” asked the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, upon revealing a video that shows how a functionary of the US government was there as an observer during the appearance of María Corina Machado before the Public Ministry on December 3.

“This is disrespect and interference in the affairs of this land, it is a provocation to the Venezuelan government, they think they can scare us,” commented Cabello during his weekly show, Con el Mazo Dando.

The revolutionary leader exhorted the US government to observe what is going on in Ferguson, “how their police are killing children because they don’t like the color of their skin. These are the godfathers the guarimberos have, we denounce them before the world for their interference…the US Embassy is the CIA, the Pentagon, the same who gave money to Gaby Arellano to finance violent actions,” Cabello added.

Translation mine.

I said diplomatic impunity, not immunity, for a reason. The reason is simply this: US diplomats have a long and storied history of interfering in the internal affairs of countries where they are stationed. Cabello isn’t talking out his ass here; he’s simply stating what every Latin American already knows, and what Venezuelans know all too well. Philip Agee made that clear decades ago when he revealed that the CIA operates out of US embassies and diplomatic installations all over the globe, influencing local politics by covertly “supporting” (really, bribing and influence-peddling) local political parties and NGOs. Not only are they immune from prosecution for what can only rightly be termed crimes, they will never be punished. After all, they’re just following orders…

Was Philip Goldberg punished for trying to balkanize Bolivia, by fomenting a coup aimed not only at unseating Evo Morales, but KILLING him? Nope. He just got reassigned. And promptly fell up when it was his time to get his sorry ass promoted. Once a Company man, always a Company man. The Company takes good care of its loyal employees.

And this unnamed flunkie, whoever he is? Betcha he’ll get a plummy new job too. Having his cover blown on Venezuelan national TV is just a feather in the ol’ fedora for him. They have so much chutzpah, they don’t even care that they’ve been caught red-handed feeding their local trolls, of which Maricori is just one of several. Look for him soon at a CIA station near you.

And it hardly serves to intimidate the Venezuelan government if the CIA’s men-in-country blatantly spy on legal hearings, either. After all, this hearing was a public matter, and was announced several days in advance in the local press. If they think they can paint Venezuelan justice as some kind of star chamber, lacking in transparency, they can think again. These proceedings are all aboveboard.

And in any case, the CIA and the US government have nothing to say about the way justice gets done in Venezuela. After all, it’s not their fucking backyard.

It never was.

Argentine baby-stealers and torturers honored by Spanish government

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A Spanish royal decree ordering the awarding of a military medal to Argentine admiral Rubén Oscar Franco. As you can see, it bears the names of King Juan Carlos and the then defence minister, Narciso Serra. “Wishing to give proof of My Royal appreciation to Admiral, Commander in Chief of the Navy of Argentina, don Rubén Oscar Franco, I come to concede the Great Cross of Aeronautical Merit with white distinction…” This decoration came years after the re-democratization of Spain, following the death of another notorious military chief, also named Franco. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He used to be known as the Generalissimo. And his régime was no less bloody and cruel than that of Argentina, and no less given to “disappearing” leftists and dissidents and other so-called undesirables. The terror and the forgettance went on in Spain for four decades, and doubts continue to this day as to how democratic it really is in sunny España. So perhaps it’s no wonder that even after Spain reverted to democratic government, the Franco-installed royal family of Borbón was happy to co-operate in whitewashing Argentina’s reign of terror, no matter which party ran the government…

If ever there is a ranking of torturers, the members of the Argentine navy will hold a place of distinction. Between 1976 and 1983, their torturers subjected thousands to abuses as horrible as they are insupportable. For Rubén Oscar Franco, chief of the navy in the last years of the military dictatorship, those gravest violations of human rights were part of a “war against an aggression which came from outside”. So he said in June of 1983, during an official visit to Ecuador. Far from being rejected by the international community, the military officer won a prize: on September 26 of that same year, the Spanish government awarded him the “Great Cross of the Order of Aeronautical Merit”.

Ex-admiral Franco is 87 years old now. Last May, a tribunal sentenced him to 25 years in jail for his participation in the kidnapping and appropriation of children of the disappeared. Among other things, the judiciary determined that this military man ordered the burning of documents that contained information over cases of stolen children. Before that, this sinister sailor had been involved in the trafficking of weapons to Croatia during the Balkan war, one of the episodes of corruption that marked the reign of Carlos Menem (1989-1999). His name also figured in the extradition request formulated in 1999 by [Spanish judge] Baltasar Garzón, who was then investigating the crimes of the Argentine dictatorship. According to the judge, Rubén Franco had held responsibilities in the plan of annihilation which left a toll of 30,000 disappeared persons.

In the fall of 1983, his name had already appeared in international denunciations against the military junta. Those same denunciations also arrived at the offices of the PSOE [Socialist party] of Spain, which before that summer had demonstrated against the self-amnesty which the Argentine military rulers granted themselves before abandoning power. In spite of that, the Spanish defence minister, Narciso Serra, had no difficulty in signing off on the award for the Argentine Franco. Like all the other awards revealed this week by Público, the decree in question also bore the signature of King Juan Carlos.

A few days before, the Spanish monarchy and the González government had awarded the Great Cross of the Order of Naval Merit with White Distinction to Argentine rear-admiral Ciro García, who was chosen by General Videla in 1978 to defend his interests before the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultive Organization in Europe. According to determined information, this military officer had been linked to intelligence tasks.

According to Público, naval officers Franco and García were not the only Argentines decorated by the PSOE executive. On June 8, 1984, the Spanish state awarded an “Order of Military Merit with White Distinction” to Juan Manuel Tito, former chief of the military in the government of Raúl Alfonsín. In spite of his new democratic role, Tito had made a career in Videla’s army, becoming chief of the Regiment of Grenadiers.

In any case, relations between the government of Felipe González and the Argentine dictatorship did not end there. As well as awarding these decorations, the Moncloa Palace also permitted that Spanish military officers could continue to take courses in Argentine institutions, a practice which had been begun by the previous Spanish government, under Adolfo Suárez. As may be seen in the lists which the Spanish ministry of defence still keeps, in 1983 Lieutenant-Colonel Julián Soutullo Pérez was sent to the Argentine army intelligence school to take one of the courses they offered to foreigners.

During that same year, Spain and Argentina also maintained a fluid exchange of official support in international organizations. Just as what took place during the Suárez administration, Madrid and Buenos Aires had a practice of “I’ll vote for you if you vote for me”. In this sense, certain documents Público accessed reveal that the PSOE government sought the support of the dictatorship in organizations such as the International Meteorological Organization, and the International Maritime Organization. If Argentina voted for Spanish candidates, the executive of the González government promised to value this gesture “to a high degree”.

According to other secret archives, the Spanish state also tried to obtain Argentine support to become the headquarters of the International Centre for Genetic and Biotechnological Engineering. For its part, the military junta showed its decided support to the Spanish candidacy in the International Civil Aviation Organization. In return, representatives of that country had to vote for Argentine postulants. These were always in the hands of the same protagonists: the Spanish ministry of Exterior Affairs, and the diplomatic corps of the dictatorship, which dedicated itself to bringing the requests before their chiefs in Buenos Aires. Many of them are in jail today.

Translation mine.

Here’s another document showing the chummy rapport between Spain and Argentina, even during a time when the junta’s tortures and disappearances had become common knowledge around the world:

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“The Embassy of the Republic of Argentina presents its attentive greetings to the Ministry of Exterior Affairs and has the honor of acknowledging receipt of Verbal Note No. 25/17, referring to the election of Argentina to the Council of the O.M.I. [International Meteorological Organization], category B, during the 13th General Assembly in London, November 14-35, 1983. With respect [to that], the communiqué our Foreign Ministry has transmitted, which states support will be given at any time when one expects to count on opportune support for the re-election of Spain to said Council, as soon as there is an answer, we will inform. The Embassy of the Republic of Argentina will make propitious the opportunity to reiterate to the Ministry of Exterior Affairs the expressions of its highest and most distinguished consideration.”

Well. That’s a lot of flowery diplomatese, but there you go. “Democratic” post-Franco Spain, meet not-so-democratic Franco of Argentina.

As for the rest of the world, well…don’t hold your breath waiting for them to explain this. El Twit de Borbón is silent as the grave on this, even though he was there for all the investitures in question.

Maricori charged with conspiracy to commit treason

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“Deputy colleagues, I propose that we eliminate ordinary parliamentary sessions because I don’t mix with ordinary people.” Well said, Maricori…because where you’re going, you won’t be mixing with anyone for a good long time.

Finally, after more than a decade of relentless putschist machinations, a poor little rich girl is getting her just deserts. Maricori, who was barred from her seat in the Venezuelan National Assembly earlier this year due to participation in yet another coup attempt against an elected head of state, is now facing some serious jail time…

On Wednesday, December 3, the Venezuelan Public Ministry charged former parliamentary deputy María Corina Machado Parisca, 47, with having ties to a plan to disturb the peace and assassinate the president of the republic, Nicolás Maduro Moros.

The charges were laid at the 20th national prosecutor’s office, under the charge Katherine Harington, located in the Public Ministry’s head office on Urdaneta Avenue.

During the proceeding, the prosecutor charged Machado with the crime of conspiracy, established and sanctioned in Article 132 of the Penal Code.

According to the article, “anyone who, within or outside of national territory, conspires to destroy the republican political form of the nation, shall be punished with imprisonment of eight to sixteen years.”

Furthermore, the same article explains that “the same penalty applies to any Venezuelan who solicits foreign intervention in the interior politics of Venezuela, or requests that it occur in order to disturb the peace of the Republic, or that before its functionaries, or through publications made in the foreign press, would incite civil war in the Republic or defame its president, or assail any diplomatic representative or consular functionaries of Venezuela, for reasons of their funtions, in the country in which the act is committed.”

With the charges, Machado acquires the rights contemplated in Article 49 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Article 125 of the Organic Penal Process Code, concerning due process and the rights of the accused.

For these same crimes there are also arrest orders out for Henrique Salas Römer, Diego Arria Salicetti, Ricardo Emilio Koesling Nava, Gustavo Terre Briceño, Pedro Mario Burelli Briceño, and Robert Alonso Bustillo.

The Public Ministry has been conducting this investigation since March of this year, following denunciations by several parliamentarians of the National Assembly and one particular, who called for the opening of an investigation to determine penal responsibilities with respect to a plan to assassinate the President.

Translation mine.

Notice, too, that there’s a veritable rogues’ gallery of other leading opposition figures listed here. All of them are well-known far-right putschists who have openly called for the murders of two elected presidents. They are long overdue for criminal charges and trial. But first, they are all long overdue for confiscation of their passports. After all, we wouldn’t want to see them end up in Bogotá or Miami, would we?

Venezuela has free treatment for HIV/AIDS. Do you?

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Via Aporrea, some more good news you won’t hear from your mainstream media about Venezuela and its evil, evil socialist government. For the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have contracted HIV or are ill with AIDS, the government is taking care of them all the way:

In Venezuela there is the political will to protect persons with HIV/AIDS throughout the land, said Asdrúbal González, co-ordinator of the National Human Rights Network, on VTV’s breakfast-hour program, El Desayuno.

González stated that in Venezuela, 43,000 persons with AIDS get free anti-retroviral medication and integral attention in general, thanks to the National Public Health System.

González emphasized the actions of public institutions, such as the People’s Ombud, in defence of those living with AIDS, and the Law for the Promotion and Protection of Right to Equality of Persons with HIV/AIDS and their Families, approved by the National Assembly this year.

This law condemns all forms of discrimination against this population, with an eye to assuring that they get to exercise all their rights, duties and responsibilities without any discrimination.

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a date chosen, says González, due to the first [known] case of the disease being diagnosed on this date in 1981.

[…]

González was emphatic in expressing to the public that they must leave behind fear and taboos, and seek information related to this illness, in order to avoid discrimination. He also emphasized the importance of any person at risk of contracting the virus to get the ELISA test, one of the most effective at detecting HIV.

González explained that HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through vaginal or anal sex, contaminated blood transfusions, contact with needles, syringes or other sharp objects, as well as from mother to fetus during pregnancy or childbirth.

He added that in the Hugo Chávez Frías Maternity and Children’s Hospital, located in the Caracas district of El Valle, the National Human Rights Network has its head office, where they are holding days of information, prevention and awareness about the disease.

“Our message is: Protect yourself, always use condoms, HIV does not discriminate, and we call upon you to become more aware every day of the persons who live with this condition,” González said.

Translation mine.

It’s important to note that AIDS has in fact been around much longer than initially thought. The first cases of a mysterious wasting illness, then known as “cachexie de Mayombe” in French, were seen in the Congo region of western-central Africa during the 1930s. Since the disease, as doctors now know, has a long lag time, of as many as 10 or 15 years between initial infection and outbreak of full-blown AIDS, it is suspected that the disease first spread from chimps to humans around 1915, when the Trans-Congo Railroad was being built through the region. The importation of rifles, which coincided with the building of the railway, made hunting of simians for bushmeat easier, and it is likely that a hunter butchering a chimp got SIV-contaminated blood in a cut, becoming the first human casualty of what until then was only a mildly infectious monkey virus. Since prostitution accompanied the railroad work camps, the virus was soon spread to women, who in turn passed it along heterosexually to other men. Poor sanitation in hospitals and clinics, and the common practice of recycling used needles, also contributed to the spread of the virus. The dark, purplish skin lesions of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer previously afflicting only elderly men, eventually became a common sight in the Congo region among younger adults.

The first European cases of the disease occurred as early as the 1950s, when sailors coming ashore in western Africa visited local brothels. At least one man is known to have passed the disease along to his wife, who then passed the virus along to their daughter during pregnancy. All died of a mysterious wasting illness whose symptoms match those of AIDS. The girl was just nine years old.

In 1976, a Danish doctor doing charity work in what was then called Zaire became the first known European non-sexually-transmitted casualty of the disease herself. Due to poor conditions in local hospitals, she was forced to operate without gloves. A needle-stick or a small scalpel nick was all it took for a patient’s infected blood to transmit the virus directly to her. Ironically, considering how AIDS later became known as the “gay plague”, the doctor was herself a lesbian — but her life partner, a nurse who stayed in Denmark, remained uninfected. It may now be regarded as a classic example of how this African disease favors blood-to-blood contact.

Also ironically, the real “Patient Zero” of the North American AIDS epidemic was not that infamous bathhouse-cruising gay flight attendant, as was commonly reported, but more likely a prostituted heterosexual woman in San Francisco, who was also addicted to heroin. Needle-sharing was extremely common in those days, the late 1960s to mid-1970s; it was typical to see junkies with various strains of viral hepatitis, which they had caught the same way. It seems likely that the AIDS virus initially spread much like Hepatitis B and C in North America among city-dwelling junkies, who, if prostituted, later passed it along to johns, who in turn spread it to others, much as in the railroad camps of the Congo. Since junkies can be of any sexual orientation, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that a gay junkie may have carried the virus, initially contracted through needle-sharing, to his own community, where it later spread via the sexual-transmission route. Unfortunately, that man’s name may never be known; junkies tended to die very unregarded deaths, and still do.

And while it’s no longer talked about very much, Haiti was another early western centre of AIDS transmission. The explanation? After Belgium gave up its colonial claim on the Congo, and Belgian colonial officials left the land, their empty offices had to be filled by French-speaking blacks as a condition of decolonization. Enter the Haitians, who were substantially more educated than the locals, and more capable of filling those public service offices. They, too, undoubtedly had liaisons with locals infected with the virus, and wound up carrying it back home to Haiti, or across the water to Florida and New York. Haitian immigrants were an early “risk group” that is no longer being singled out, as the broader North American epidemic has eclipsed that of tiny Haiti.

AIDS does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are gay or straight, use drugs or don’t, are black or white, or anything else. AIDS is not a “gay plague”, but a disease with African roots dating back to the colonial era. Its global transmission demands global action, and Venezuela is stepping up to the challenge by making it a true public health issue, and providing free medication, with no discrimination between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot.

We could all learn from Venezuela’s good example.

Big bordello raid in four countries over human trafficking concerns

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Police vans outside the “Paradise” bordello in Stuttgart, Germany. This was not the only big bordello they raided; there were three others. But they hadn’t come to arrest the girls and women inside; instead, they were after those who had brought them there. Here’s the story, as told by EMMA:

On Sunday evening, 900 police officers swarmed four megabordellos, “model” homes, offices and cars all over Germany, Austria, Bosnia and Romania. They arrested two women and three men, one of whom is believed to be the press spokesperson of the “wellness” bordello “Paradise”, in Stuttgart.

The raid was organized by the city authorities and state criminal prosecutor’s office of Stuttgart, Organized Crime Division. It has to do with human trafficking and pimping, as well as betrayal.

Several of the arrested persons are suspected of having forced women under the age of 21 into prostitution, using the “loverboy” method. Men get very young girls to fall in love with them, and then send them to work on the “stroll”. First they claim to be in need, then they use force. (These women are also designated “voluntary” prostitutes under the old prostitution law, because they are doing it “for love”.)

One of the 15 persons in the crosshairs of the police belonged to the biker-style gang “United Tribunes”, of Stuttgart and Bosnia. During the raid, a pistol was also confiscated.

The accused are being held responsible “for recruiting and keeping guard over the young women”, according to a police press release. “On the basis of extensive communications, there is also the suspicion that investors have been led to invest in megabordellos under false pretences. The monies thus obtained were not just used for FKK [nudist] clubs, but also private purposes.”

Such megabordellos include the “Paradise” in Stuttgart and the “Wellness Oasis for Men” in Saarbrücken, which the owner, Jürgen Rudloff, and his “business manager”, Michael Beretin, opened in July, under heavy protest by FEMEN. The megabrothel on the French border extends over 4,500 square metres, has 30 rooms, and as many as 50 prostitutes per day. Today, it is one of 123 (!) brothels in Saarbrücken, the “prostitution capital” of Germany. No wonder that SPD mayor Charlotte Britz, as well as CDU state governor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, signed on to EMMA’s 2013 appeal against prostitution.

The principle of these “sex factories” — of which the Rudloff/Beretin team runs five — is for women as well as johns to pay admission, between 60 and 79 euros. The women pay an additional 25 euros in taxes, plus 23 euros for an overnight stay (most of them have no homes of their own). That is to say, they have to serve at least three johns in order to cover their debts to the bordello’s owners. And even then, they still don’t have a cent for themselves, never mind their pimps.

Just this past summer, “press spokesman” Beretin bragged to [German tabloid] Die Welt of his five megabordellos, their “family atmosphere, spotless cleanliness, retreat rooms, security personnel, and above all: transparent co-operation with the authorities.”

Today, the authorities seem to see it differently.

The mega-raid in the German red-light milieu, which is extensively ruled by organized crime, comes at just the right time: Right now, the grand coalition in Berlin is seeking advice toward a new prostitution law. The CDU/CSU party is for it, the SPD is still unsure.

Social Democrats, who once claimed to speak up for the rights of the rightsless of this world, still hesitate to sign on for raising the working age of women in prostitution to 21, for monthly health inspections, as well as requiring registration for the hundred-thousands of foreign poverty-prostituted women in Germany. Maybe this raid will finally bring the SPD to its senses.

Translation mine.

So, as you can see, German authorities are getting mighty tired of looking the other way (and just raking in the tax revenues) while mafias and biker gangs truck in women and girls by the thousands from poverty-ridden Eastern Europe to service these cheap bordellos. Cheap, that is, for the johns; for the women, as you can see, it’s horribly expensive. When you have to service three men just to cover the brothel’s expenses, and you haven’t even made a dent in your “debt” to your traffickers (who, of course, claim to “love” you, which has got to be the ultimate betrayal), well…it’s not a life that anyone would choose voluntarily. Even the crappiest normal job is infinitely preferable to this; it might not pay much, but neither does it demand much.

In prostitution (or rather, sex capitalism), which is far from lucrative for most of the women and girls working the German bordellos (and very lucrative, by contrast, for their owners), it doesn’t pay at all…and it costs an arm and a leg. There’s a huge demand for cheap sexual servicing, fed by an anything-goes porn culture which normalizes brothel-creeping for men. So there’s a constant demand for more girls, more turnover, more fresh meat.

For how much longer will this go on? Nobody knows…yet. But it seems the writing is on the sleazy wall. And no one who truly cares for the rights of the so-called “sex workers” can afford to turn a blind eye to the misery that brought these women and girls into this unsought-for line of work.

Ladies! Do you still need feminism?

Some mornings it’s just not worth gnawing your way out of the restraints, is it? I mean, with shit like this popping up in my Facebook feed, it’s enough to put me permanently OFF my feed:

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Congratulations, ladies! Your fight’s over! You won! You don’t live in Saudi Arabia! (Sorry, Saudi ladies, you’re screwed. The dude who wrote this drivel isn’t about to lift a finger to help you.)

Of course, this meme is bullshit because we still DO need feminism. Because in NO country in this world is it entirely possible for women to do the following:

Fully and freely decide when, if and how we will bear children. Men, particularly lawmakers, are still interfering with our right to reproductive self-determination. They are restricting our access to good health care, especially abortion (but not limited to that, by any means). Worse, a “Quiverfull” mentality is taking over in North America, and women are being denied the right to use birth control…because “God says so”, apparently. “Freedom of religion” is becoming a Damoclean sword held over our reproductive organs.

Walk down the street unharassed, every day, no matter what we’re wearing. Even women who are fully covered, in burqas, face harassment. And they face it from the same “enlightened” white men who wrote the above drivel. In fact, those men are the ones most likely to try to strip away these women’s efforts at privacy. As for women who don’t cover up…well, they get treated like they asked for harassment. Nobody asks for that; we just get it every day, for nothing…because we are women and girls.

Grow up and attend school unmolested. Same deal as above, but with an added dollop of interfering with our educations and stunting our career prospects from an extremely early age.

Work at any job we like, with equal rights, equal respect, and equal pay. Women are still getting harassed out of male-dominated fields. And underpaid, too. What a pity we can’t grow penises on command to prevent that!

Work at any job we like, without being sexually harassed on the job. Yes, even here in Canada, this shit STILL happens, and I can’t believe we still have to protest it. Jian Ghomeshi is hardly an exception. He’s the boss from hell that many women in many different fields have had, still have, and probably always will…until someone decides to do something about it.

Be in a relationship without violence. And by violence, I mean the kind inflicted by males upon females. The kind that enforces male supremacy and patriarchy.

Be free from sexual abuse at home. Girl children are more likely to be sexually abused growing up. And not by some stranger in the bushes, either. The culprit is typically a male relative, and he typically gets away with it, because women and girls are still being regarded as property, and his to do with as he will.

Go on dates without having to fear that our dates will sexually assault us. When we have to watch our drinks (or stir them with a finger to see if our nail polish changes color), that’s a sign of severe inequality right there. When’s the last time you heard of a woman drugging a man that way, in order to have her way with him? Not often? Not ever? Funny, because that happens to us all the time. College women even have to avoid frat parties, because this is likely to happen to them there.

Be able to report a physical or sexual assault or an incident of harassment without getting blamed for it. It’s always “what were you doing, what were you drinking, what were you wearing?” Such questions put the onus on the victim and let the perpetrator off the hook.

Be able to report a physical or sexual assault or an incident of harassment and be immediately, completely taken seriously. And believed. And not taken further advantage of it by leering sexist pigs who think we’re “fair game” because we’ve already been through it.

Be able to report a physical or sexual assault or in incident of harassment…and actually see justice done. Because even if we report, are not blamed, are taken seriously and believed, the conviction rate for such crimes is shockingly low. Like, lower single digits low. This is inexcusable and happens with no other type of crime.

Enjoy representation in democratic government that is equal to our percentage of the population. We are 51% of humanity everywhere, but we do not have 51% of the seats in government. Not even in Iceland and Sweden is this the case, and they’re way ahead of everyone when it comes to gender equality!

Yeah, I’m sure we don’t need feminism anymore. Especially since we no longer have to deal with attitudes like this:

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I mean, I thought this question was settled with a resounding YES here in Canada, way back in 1929. Before that, mirabile dictu, we were still not persons here, at least in the eyes of the law.

But apparently, some guys somewhere are STILL asking this inane question, even now, when it should be obvious that if women were not human, men wouldn’t be able to interbreed with them. If the answer to the question were No, then we wouldn’t be producing children; we’d be producing mules. If we were producing anything at all, that is.

As for the rest of that meme, it’s just as bad and worse. It is designed to minimize the many and crucial roles women have played throughout the history of civilization. We have always worked outside the home, often much harder than any man. We have produced important things on our own, without the help of any man. Skyscrapers and satellites? Well, gee, maybe women WOULD have produced those, too, if they hadn’t been harassed and hounded out of traditionally male careers like science and architecture! Why are male achievements privileged so much above those of women…especially things women have been doing since humanity stopped living in trees and grunting? If women aren’t human, then neither are men…and the dude who horked up this hairball clearly hasn’t evolved beyond the australopithecine stage.

As for giving birth being our main contribution to society: Well, so what? It was the only one explicitly and consistently ALLOWED us. Where did you come from, O dude who made this — fully formed from the head of Zeus? Nope. You came out of a woman’s belly after up to nine months’ gestation, probably by way of her nasty-wasty cootie-ridden vagina. Same as every other sooooper-fucking-genius male. Half your DNA comes from your mother. So does the X chromosome in every one of your cells. Even though you hate and despise her, hold her in utter contempt, and are keen to minimize the role she and every other woman plays in your life, the fact is, you can’t live without her. And this is how you repay her? You fucking parasite. You should be bowing down in gratitude that she didn’t abort you. Or leave you to die of exposure on a hillside.

And if we are so “pampered and privileged”, why are we deemed “near-worthless” and fit only to be denied all our inalienable human rights? Does this asswipe seriously believe that women are better off in chains, and that humanity would be better off that way too? Because the picture, which was blacked out by the anti-MRA Facebook group that posted this, showed the women naked and in chains. Hell, even in Saudi Arabia, women are treated better than that!

It’s very telling, isn’t it, that some men can only assert their “rights”…by denying us all of ours. And this in the supposedly “free” countries where we allegedly have so many…and yet, not nearly enough. Because no one — NO ONE — is suggesting that men be treated the way we have been for centuries, much less stripped of all THEIR rights.

Yes, we still need feminism. And as long as memes like these exist, along with the assholes who made them, we will continue to need it badly.