10th April 2004 Social democrats join with right wing liberals to protect EU bank from scrutiny

A critical report on the European Investment Bank (EIB) was severely watered down this week by the Economic and Monetary Committee (EMAC) of the European Parliament. The report  addressed key issues such as good governance, transparency and accountability at the EIB, the EU’s own investment bank.


Amendments to the originally hard-hitting report were proposed by MEPs from the misleadingly-named centre-left "Socialist" group (PES) and the right-wing Liberals (ELDR). Most of the amendments called for crucial sections of the report - particularly those calling for transparency -  to be deleted. Five members of EMAC tabled 125 amendments.

“It is extremely alarming that the European Parliament has voted against all of the recommendations calling on the EU house bank to live up to international governance and transparency standards,” said Magda Stoczkiewicz, leading the EIB reform campaign for CEE Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth International. “Important paragraphs requiring the EIB to adopt internationally accepted rules on good corporate governance or to disclose salaries, allowances and other earnings of its Board of Directors and senior managers were not acceptable to EMAC members.”

Martin Koehler, from the Italian Campaign to Reform the World Bank, commented, “What (the report) demanded of the EIB could have been drawn from a corporate handbook. No shareholder in a private company would object to such demands, and no corporation would do less in order to make its shareholders remain confident. It is hard to understand why European Parliamentarians should object to such demands. Are they afraid of the EIB? If so, we need many more critical reports on this shadowy organisation.”

Magda Stoczkiewicz concluded, “Giving the EIB operational carte blanche is unacceptable and casts a shadow on this departing Parliament.”

For more go to www.bankwatch.org


Competing Ourselves to Death?

Industry lobby groups cheered when the EU's Spring Summit agreed to do 'business impact assessments' for all new EU legislation and re-evaluate EU climate change policies. This year's European Business Summit showed that industry's list of 'obstacles to competitiveness' ranges from chemical safety rules over GM food restrictions to 'insufficient' military budgets. Read what Corporate Europe Observatory has to say about this here

Venezuela ceases all training of soldiers at notorious US military academy

The campaign to close the United States’ School of the Americas (SOA), in Fort Benning, Georgia, known as the School of the Assassins, received a boost last month when Venezuela announced that it would no longer send military personnel there for training.  Colombia, with over 10,000 troops trained at the controversial US military combat training school, is the School of the Americas’ (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) largest customer. Not surprisingly, Colombia currently has the worst human rights record in all of Latin America.


The Venezuelan government recently announced that it is going to cease all training of Venezuelan soldiers at the School of the Americas, the controversial US military combat training school for Latin American soldiers, based.

The official announcement was made by Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel in an address to the Venezuelan National Assembly. In an earlier meeting with a delegation of U.S. human rights activists, Rangel stated that the SOA/WHISC is a training school for dictators, torturers and terrorists, and a country such as the US which considers itself to be a democracy should not have such a school on its soil.

During a visit of religious leaders from the United States in Venezuela in January, President Hugo Chávez also spoke out against the SOA, stating that “This school [the SOA/WHISC] deformed the minds of many Latin American soldiers, who from there went on to become dictators.” (El Nacional, January 19, 2004)

The SOA graduates Efrain Vasquez Velasco (the Army Commander in Chief) and General Ramirez Poveda were key players in the coup attempt against democratically elected President Hugo Chavez in April 2002. Another SOA graduate, Lieutenant German Rudolfo Varela, who is currently in INS detention in Miami, Florida, is wanted in Venezuela for his involvement in embassy bombings in Caracas in February 2003.

SOA Graduates have been found responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution.

Initially established in Panama in 1946, the SOA was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President Jorge Illueca stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.”

Over its 58 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people.

Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, unionists, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refuge by those trained at the SOA.

The School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC) continues to be a “key element of US foreign policy” – a foreign policy that is using military repression to ensure US control. The official SOA/WHISC propaganda that the school is “promoting democracy, human rights and civilian control of government” has too many times been contradicted by the actions of its graduates.

New legislation to close the school was introduced by Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass) and is currently co-sponsored by 106 Members of Congress. In January, 24 human rights advocates were sentenced to 3-6 months in prison for committing civil disobedience when 10,000 people demonstrated at Ft. Benning, home of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHISC) on November 23, 2003.

Thanks to SOA Watch for this report.


Noam's Blog


Dutch reader Liesbeth Hoogenboom writes to tell us that Noam Chomsky now has a weblog. "From now on you can follow him day and night! Enjoy!" writes Liesbeth. Chomsky's thoughts can be pondered here