The fight against Starbucks law breaking goes to the shareholders tomorrow / by Mark Gruenberg

Montclair, N.J., Starbucks workers on strike today. | video screenshot via Twitter

Originally published in the People’s World on March, 22, 2023

SEATTLE—Union pension funds and pro-shareholder investment advisors are taking the fight over Starbucks’ rampant labor law-breaking to its stockholders.

At the Seattle-based monster coffee company’s virtual annual meeting on March 23, they’ll demand Starbucks name an outside auditor to determine if, or, more likely, how much the anti-union drive has hurt Starbucks’s reputation, share price and profits—and what to do next.

The firm’s answer, in a recent earnings call and in its proxy statement, where it opposes the demand, is “none at all.” Just before he retired early, effective March 20, virulent anti-union CEO Howard Schultz reported record profits in the U.S.

Schultz has orchestrated and overseen expensive opposition, complete with law-breaking, to the grass-roots drive his firm’s “partners,” as he calls the workers, have conducted with the aid of Starbucks Workers United (SWU), which in turn the Service Employees funds.

Schultz’s actions include cases where he’s been held personally responsible for labor law-breaking—formally, unfair labor practices. They feature captive audience meetings, one-on-one middle-management intimidation and verbal browbeatings of pro-union workers, denial of benefits to workers at stores that vote union, and dozens of illegal firings.

They’ve also produced at least 509 labor law violations, a nationwide National Labor Relations Board injunction—later reduced by a federal judge to cover just the Buffalo area—and five more injunctions.

One mandates Starbucks rehire the illegally fired “Memphis 7.” Another returned a barista to work in Kansas City. A separate New York City court order, saying Starbucks violated a city ordinance, sent a Queens staffer back to his job, to cheers from colleagues and bystanders.

Workers at 290 Starbucks stores have voted union, with hundreds more being organized. Its actions also hurt Starbucks’ carefully cultivated reputation for being a progressive place to work. And that’s hurt its bottom line, the shareholders resolution says. It’s also “a legal and financial risk” the pension and investment funds co-sponsoring the measure say. They demand the independent audit to document the damage, and recommend changes.

Schultz, under pressure, condescended to have his bargainers meet the workers and SWU. But his team saw workers had zoomed in from around the country to attend, and walked out of talks after five minutes, twice. The firm’s union-buster led them out.

Led by New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, whose office represents five worker pension funds which own $155 million in Starbucks stock, and two longtime shareholder advocates, Trillium and Institutional Shareholder Services, they contend Shultz’s union hate hurts Starbucks—and them.

“As shareholders, we expect and demand better from a company that claims to promote a positive work environment. The onus is on Starbucks’ board of directors to ensure that management is complying with applicable law as well as with company policy,” said Lander.

“When companies blatantly disregard and oppose their employees’ fundamental right to organize, they put their reputation on the line,” he added. “For a company as focused on the customer experience as Starbucks, continued interference with worker organizing undermines the brand, which is essential to its success.

“Workers have boldly stood up to company leadership and fought for real representation over the course of just two years, yet rather than treat them as partners —as the company calls its employees—Starbucks has taken actions inconsistent with its own stated values.

“A new standard is emerging across the U.S: any company that wants to be considered a responsible employer must genuinely remain neutral when workers organize.”

Added Jonas Krom of a second fund, Trillium: “Whether the vote is in the 30%, 40%, or 50% range, an unignorably large group of investors will be sending a message to incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan and board chair Mellody Hobson” to change. Narasimhan unexpectedly succeeded Schultz, but Schultz will still testify to the Senate Labor Committee on March 29.

The pressure on Starbucks and Schultz won’t be just inside, where everyone will meet via zoom. Schultz and the other executives will be in Seattle—and pro-worker advocates and partners will be out in the streets, where a celebration of Schultz’s long reign is scheduled.

“Starbucks, which posted $3.3 billion in profits last year, responded with a brutal, bullying anti-union campaign of threats, intimidation, firings, store closings and refusing to meet workers at the bargaining table–becoming the most prolific union-buster in U.S. history,” organizers of that event, plus walks elsewhere, said.

“Workers and their allies will converge on downtown Seattle to make it an accountability day and call on Howard Schultz and his board of directors to STOP UNION BUSTING and come to the table to bargain with workers,” they concluded.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).

Nazis invade Drag Queen Story Hour in Ohio, with Republican politician’s support / by David Hill

With pistols on their hips and swastika flags in hand, Nazis, Proud Boys, and other white supremacists invaded a Drag Story Hour in Wadsworth, Ohio, to stir up hatred. | Photos via Twitter

Originally published in the People’s World on March, 17, 2023

WADSWORTH, Ohio—The playground equipment stood empty at a public park here on Saturday, March 11, as more than a dozen Nazis stood at attention and bellowed in unison multiple rounds of full-throated “Sieg heil!” salutes, aping Hitler’s legions of 80 years ago.

They were part of a large crowd that had gathered ostensibly for the “protection” of children who were there to participate in a reading group. The supposed threat endangering the kids of Wadsworth? Drag queens armed with children’s storybooks.

Approximately 50 participants gathered for the “Rock and Roll Drag Queen Story Hour,” which included a group reading of a children’s novel, “Elle the Humanist,” followed by “a Rock-n-Roll celebration of drag and life’s beautiful diversity,” according to the event’s organizers. The event was planned as a fundraiser for a local LGBTQ charity in remembrance of the victims of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs last November.

Wadsworth City Council had granted a permit for the event earlier in the week, although the council president subsequently suggested that legislation would soon be introduced to prohibit “adult-type entertainment that involves children” in the future.

Wadsworth Brewing Company had withdrawn its commitment to host the event after receiving multiple threats, leading the organizers to apply for a permit to gather at Wadsworth Memorial Park.

The reading group and drag event was met by the organized vitriol of at least 200 fascists, Christian fundamentalists, Proud Boys, Patriot Front, White Lives Matter, and various unaffiliated opponents of LGBTQ rights. Attendees reported a large number of cars with out-of-state license plates in the parking lot.

Both local and national right-wing groups had planned the coordinated intimidation of participants in the Rock and Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour for weeks leading up to the event.

Prominent right-wing organizers included Republican politicians such as Kristopher Anderson, candidate for the Ohio State House of Representatives in 2022. Anderson and his supporters shouted slogans against so-called “grooming” alongside proponents of overt Nazi imagery, open racism, and homophobia. At least one member of Anderson’s group was detained by police after assaulting an LGBTQ rights supporter.

Placed alongside his current work organizing mob intimidation of LGBTQ people, Anderson’s previously stated political positions plainly illustrate the alliance between fascist violence and pro-business policymaking: “Tax climate, regulatory environment, labor laws, and workforce development are all issues for businesses that Kristopher can help address at the State House.”

Local Republican politician Kristopher J. Anderson offered support to the right-wing forces that invaded the event. A prominent Trump supporter, Anderson ran for the state House of Representatives in 2022. | via Twitter

Video captured at the event circulated widely on social media throughout the weekend. Most striking were images of local police standing in defense of a large contingent of white men in red and black outfits carrying a large banner stating “There Will Be Blood” in an elaborate gothic font. The men chanted Nazi slogans and generally displayed belligerent and intimidating behavior for a contingent of cameras.

Other prominent imagery referred to the right-wing mythology of “grooming,” using a variety of homophobic and racist slurs. Before conservatives engineered their fake anti-drag queen hysteria, the term “grooming” was typically only used to refer to the practice of predators who prepared children and other vulnerable people for sexual abuse.

Men in tactical gear circulated throughout the large crowd. Ohio allows the open carry of firearms in many public places; it was unclear how many opponents of the Drag Story Hour may have been armed.

The four-hour demonstration came amidst a coordinated national right-wing campaign targeting the LGBTQ community with intimidation and violence under the auspices of concern for child welfare. Recent survey data suggests that sympathy for these ideas has permeated a large proportion of the Republican voter base, with as many as 45% of Republican voters agreeing with the statement that discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity represent “grooming” behavior.

The violent persecution of homosexuality was one of the first campaigns of the Nazi Party and its supporters after their ascension to power with the support of finance capital in Germany in the 1930s. In addition to the near total destruction of the German LGBTQ community, the Hitler movement galvanized and normalized the use of state violence to dispossess vulnerable individuals and was subsequently extended to an even wider population.

David Hill is a member of the Mike Gold Collective in Columbus. He follows labor, housing, policing, and workers’ issues in central Ohio.

New York City Retirees Fight Their Own Unions to Stop Catastrophic Health Care Cuts / by Jenny Brown

Union retirees protested the mayor’s and the the Municipal Labor Committee’s effort to change a city law protecting their health care benefits in January. The law is unchanged but on Thursday the MLC voted to shunt up to 250,000 city retirees into a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan anyway. Photo: CROC.

Originally published in Labor Notes, on March 10, 2023

Defying two years of protests and lawsuits by union retirees, New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee voted March 9 to scrap some of the best retiree health care coverage in the country. The change would put 250,000 city retirees into a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan run by Aetna.

Twenty-six unions in the MLC voted no, while others abstained. But their votes were swamped by the votes of the largest unions on the committee, AFSCME District Council 37 and the New York United Federation of Teachers.

Retirees and active members protested during the MLC vote and marched to City Hall. They are asking the city council to strengthen the law protecting retiree health care. The NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees promises to sue.

The New York City fight has wider implications as for-profit Medicare Advantage insurance companies come under fire for second-guessing doctorsblocking patient care, and ripping off the public while they reel in record profits.

What is Medicare Advantage?

In traditional Medicare, available when you turn 65, you present your card, get care, and the government pays for it.

With Medicare Advantage, a for-profit insurance company gets money from the government to cover you. But they get to take a fat cut—Medicare Advantage is now the most lucrative sector of an already-lucrative health insurance industry. And they get to say what care you can get.

Medicare Advantage plans negotiated by employers and unions do provide worse coverage than traditional Medicare. But they are generally better than the individual Medicare Advantage plans that seniors may sign up for themselves and which are advertised on late-night TV.


Medicare Advantage plans that individuals buy on the private insurance market may work out to have cheaper premiums than traditional Medicare because they wrap in a drug benefit and may cap out-of-pocket expenses. But they are notorious for denying expensive care, imposing narrow networks of doctors and hospitals, and ripping off the government.

On the other hand, union-negotiated Medicare Advantage plans are the result of insurance companies having to negotiate with unions and employers to sign up large groups of retirees, and that may restrain the most egregious abuses. Still, some retirees in negotiated plans report that they were denied care at the most difficult time in their lives.

In both cases, the for-profit insurance companies that run the plans have a strong incentive to deny care. Every dollar they don’t pay for your care is a dollar earned by shareholders and CEOs, who often take most of their compensation in stock. Stock prices are based on how little care the company can pay for.


Traditional Medicare (part A & B) costs $164.90 a month, and covers hospital costs and 80 percent of non-hospital costs. But medical costs are such that the 20 percent gap in coverage can quickly become ruinous. So the government set up a regulated market of Medigap supplements. Retirees can pay additional premiums to private insurance companies to cover the final 20 percent, and cap out-of-pocket costs.

Medigap plans can cost as little as $75 a month, but can cost hundreds more, depending on the plan, your age, gender, and whether you smoke. Unlike Medicare Advantage, however, these Medigap plans are heavily regulated.

It is this gap for which New York City union retirees over age 65 are covered by the city’s Senior Care plan. The city also pays the monthly premiums for traditional Medicare, so retirees get premium-free coverage.


States and municipalities have increasingly tried to put retirees into Medicare Advantage plans once they reach age 65. Where unions have fought the change, as in Washington state and Vermont, they have been able to prevent the switch. But in New York City, retirees have been fighting not just the city but also their own unions to keep from being shunted into a for-profit plan.

Public employees in New York City have given up a lot over the years to keep their ironclad retiree health care coverage, and it paid off until now. Along with paying traditional Medicare premiums, the city pays for a wrap-around supplement called Senior Care that picks up nearly all costs not covered by Medicare, along with drug benefits.

Leaders of District Council 37 and the UFT claim the Medicare Advantage plan will save money and provide the same coverage. But the numbers don’t add up, said Len Rodberg, a retired City University of New York health policy expert who will be affected by the change. “Medicare Advantage starts out 20 percent below what Medicare does, in terms of actual money available to spend on health care,” Rodberg said.

Traditional Medicare pays 3 percent overhead. By contrast, Medicare Advantage plans have to make a profit for shareholders, and they also pay huge executive salaries and maintain enormous staffs to protect their profit margins by delaying and denying care. In these for-profit plans, Rodberg said, “basically anything that costs money would need pre-approval.”

MLC leaders said their consultants told them the difference would be picked up by the federal government, Rodberg said. But while the federal government used to subsidize for-profit Medicare Advantage plans 20 percent over what they paid out for traditional Medicare patients, that subsidy is now down to 2 percent.

Medicare Advantage plans also cut costs by contracting with certain providers. This means the insurance company will only pay for care provided by certain doctors or hospitals. For retirees who move to states with spotty coverage, Rodberg said, “suddenly their Medicare card won’t work, cause they’re in Medicare Advantage, not Medicare.”


Retired teacher Gloria Brandman heard about the change in 2021 from friends in PSC-CUNY, the union of faculty and staff at the City University of New York. She and other teacher retirees swung into action, holding a webinar that drew 400 people. The recording of the webinar circulated widely, leading to a whirlwind of protest which forced UFT’s president, Michael Mulgrew, to hold a town hall where he tried to sell the change.

Retirees from the teachers, AFSCME, and several uniformed service unions formed a Cross-Union Retirees Organizing Committee to fight. Brandman and other CROC activists hounded newly elected Mayor Eric Adams at every opportunity.

They rallied when the MLC met: “We marched on the hottest day of the year,” Brandman recalled. They held a Valentine’s Day “Don’t Break Our Hearts, Mayor Adams” event.

In October they held a “Halloween Horror” press conference, saying “Mayor Adams, You’re Scaring Us to Death.” (“Death masks optional,” said the invitation flier).


A city law requires that all the health care options the city provides be premium-free. That law turned out to be an important backstop, and the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees sued to get it enforced. A judge agreed that it was against the law for the city to charge seniors an extra $191 per month to stay in original Medicare.

So Adams and the MLC leadership asked the City Council to change the law. They walked into a buzz saw. After vigorous protests and reams of testimony from retirees and active union members objecting to the change—which could have undermined active members’ health care as well—the City Council declined to alter the law.

In her testimony before the council, Jen Gaboury, PSC chapter chair at Hunter College said, “We know these ‘savings’ don’t come from some brand of private business magic. If you get this money, you’ll be denying care and/or delaying treatment to your own people, older city workers.”


Part of the problem is that the unions created a $600 million hole in the last round of contracts and they’re trying to plug it now. They negotiated to use a health care stabilization fund, designed to equalize costs between health plans for active members, to bolster wage increases. Now the fund is broke and that threatens to raise health care costs for active members.

At the City Council hearings, PSC-CUNY proposed a way out of this mess. Retired professor James Perlstein described it in his testimony: “(a) Redirect funds the City holds in reserve to bridge the Municipal Labor Committee Stabilization Fund for three years, (b) Create a stakeholders commission charged with finding a path to control health care spending, with hospital pricing as a priority, and (c) Develop a sustainable mechanism for funding City health insurance.” PSC also suggested that New York City’s very profitable non-profit hospitals contribute, since they don’t pay taxes.

None of these steps have been taken, so far. Instead, city administrators continue to push Medicare Advantage. “The city’s taken a hardball position that it won’t negotiate new contracts until the unions save them $600 million by moving forward with Medicare Advantage plan,” said Rodberg in February. The city promises to replenish the stabilization fund with the estimated $600 million it will save from the switch.

AFSCME DC 37 members have been working for 18 months without a contract. Recently the city and the union inked a tentative agreement with raises that don’t even keep up with inflation. Other city unions object that this low bar will harm their negotiations, since the city expects the first agreement settled by a major city union to set a pattern which the other municipal unions will largely follow.

And while members will get to vote on the agreement, they won’t be able to vote on the retiree health care concession their union agreed to behind closed doors. It seems that as a condition for settling, the dominant MLC unions agreed to impose what the retirees call “the nuclear option,” deliberately misreading the city law they tried to change, and making Medicare Advantage the only option for retirees.

Any retiree who wants to stay in traditional Medicare would have to pay for all of their coverage, as if they had no union at all.

Head shot of writer

Jenny Brown is an assistant editor at Labor Notes.

Dictator? French Communists slam Macron for imposing pensions bill without a vote / by Roger McKenzie

French Communist Party (PCF) members march in support of workers and against the pension bill of President Emmanuel Macron. At center is party General Secretary Fabien Roussel. | via PCF

Originally published in the Morning Star, March 16, 2023

French communists have slammed the decision of President Emmanuel Macron to impose his highly unpopular bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron shunned parliament Thursday by opting to push through his controversial plans by triggering a special constitutional power known as Section 49.3.

The rarely used maneuver will likely spark a vote of no confidence in Macron’s government. The pensions bill had already completed its passage through the Senate earlier in the day but still required support from the National Assembly before becoming law.

The front page of the Wednesday, March 15, edition of l’Humanite, the newspaper of the French Communist Party. The headline: ‘Determined!’

But the government changed course just before the vote was scheduled in the Assembly because it was unsure whether it had enough votes to pass the bill. That’s when Macron decided to go over the head of parliament and make the bill law by presidential decree.

The pensions bill is the flagship legislation of Macron’s second term, but the deeply unpopular plan has sparked major strikes, and millions of people have taken to the streets in protests across the country since January.

As lawmakers gathered in the National Assembly to vote on the bill, left-wing members of the parliament—including deputies from La France Insoumise, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, and others—broke into a boisterous rendition of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem.

The impromptu sing-along prevented Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne from speaking and prompted the speaker to suspend the session.

Once the session was back underway, Borne announced the plan to invoke 49.3, saying: “We cannot take a gamble on the future of our pensions system.”

A poster issued by the PCF portrays Macron in the outfit of Napoleon with the slogan, ‘Macron scorns the Republic.’ | via PCF

Amid chaotic scenes and calls for a vote of no confidence in Macron’s government, French Communist Party General Secretary Fabien Roussel said Macron was “not worthy of our Fifth Republic.” He added, “Parliament has been flouted and humiliated to the end.”

Roussel called for a referendum vote on the pension plan. “Let’s engage in a great popular battle alongside the unions.”

Meanwhile, police in Paris “requisitioned” sanitation workers in the capital and threatened them with prosecution if they continue their week-long strike action against the pension plan.

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper.

Michigan makes history, first state to repeal Right-to-Work (for less) in 60 years / by Mark Gruenberg

Thousands of workers protest right-to-work on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich. | Carlos Osorio / AP

Originally published in the People’s World, March 16, 2023

LANSING, Mich.—Michigan’s pro-worker Democratic sweep last November swept out the Wolverine State’s corporate Republican-passed right-to-work (for less) laws in March.

Democratic legislative leaders, who took “trifecta” power in the election, made RTW repeal their #1 priority and won it 56-53 in the state House and 20-17 in the Senate on party-line votes.

Then lawmakers, also on party-line votes, restored project labor agreements, too.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), whose landslide win over a Trumpite foe produced the coattails that created the first completely Democratic control in Lansing in decades, is expected to sign both measures. The RTW repeal would be the first in a state in 60 years.

Workers jammed the capitol rotunda in Lansing before the House votes, chanting “We are union, the mighty, mighty union,” and erupted into a minute-and-a-half of constant cheers, raised fists, and whoops in a corridor outside the state Senate chamber after the votes there.

Right-to-work is a favorite Republican, radical right, and corporate cause, which seeks to strip workers and their unions of money and political power. PLAs set up both deadlines and worker protections on construction projects. Banning them is the top goal of the anti-worker Associated Builders and Contractors, an ersatz “grassroots” association of cut-rate non-union contractors.

A button issued by the Michigan District of the Communist Party urging the repeal of the state’s right-to-work law.

Started in the 1940s as a racist way to divide white from Black workers in the South, right-to-work spread to Michigan in 2012 after the 2010 Republican legislative sweep there and elsewhere. Given unions’ prominent role in Michigan, the RTW win particularly hurt there.

So its repeal was especially gratifying to the state AFL-CIO and Michigan workers. And just to make sure the repeal sticks, lawmakers added some unrelated appropriations for education programs. Laws with money in them can’t be pushed into referendums. Others can.

“Today, our pro-worker Democratic majority in the state House took historic action to undo the devastation caused by decades of attacks on workers’ freedom,” state AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said after House passage.

“Since 2012, thousands of Michigan workers, labor leaders, and organizers across the state have been mobilizing and laying the groundwork for this moment. We applaud the House’s swift action to undo the damage caused by Betsy DeVos”—a major Republican campaign cash contributor who became Donald Trump’s Education Secretary—and Republican Govs. “John Engler, Rick Snyder, and their worker suppression agendas.

“Our legislative leaders are delivering on the promises they made and putting power back into the hands of Michigan workers.”

“What choice do you have when the greedy corporations try to put employees against one another in a race to the bottom?” House Majority Leader Abraham Alyash, D-Hamtramck, asked his colleagues.

“Why do folks in here sometimes get so angry that we’re trying to push people out of poverty?”

“Union dues are an important stream of revenue that help pay for critical contract negotiations, staff, and support of members,” said Rep. Regina Weiss, D-Detroit, sponsor of RTW repeal. “When unions have decreased dues, they have less power to improve working conditions.”

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).

Bills to help struggling state retirees gain bipartisan support / by Evan Popp

The Maine State House in Augusta. | Beacon

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on March 21, 2023

Retired public employees who have been trying to survive on insufficient pension payments may soon see relief after members of Maine’s Labor and Housing committee earlier this month issued a unanimous report recommending an increase to the cost-of-living adjustment. Inflation coupled with drastic cuts made a decade ago to state worker and teacher pensions are pushing more retirees closer to poverty.

As Beacon previously reported, former Gov. Paul LePage and the Republican majority in 2011 significantly slashed public employee pensions to pay for income tax breaks mostly benefiting the wealthy and corporations.

That plan froze cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments on pensions for three years and reduced the maximum COLA from 4% to 3%. Additionally, that 3% COLA boost was limited to only the first $20,000 of benefits the retirees receive. (The cap has since been adjusted to about $24,000).

The cuts have made state employees incredibly disadvantaged in retirement. Those who received pensions don’t pay into Social Security, meaning they are entirely dependent on their pensions when they retire. COLA is currently 8.7% for Social Security benefits, compared to 3% for Maine’s public employees. 

In a unanimous report to the legislature’s budget-writing committee, Democrats and Republicans on the Labor and Housing Committee recommended action to address that issue. The committee put forward two possible policy prescriptions that could help lower retirees’ expenses.

LD 112, sponsored by Rep. Jan Dodge (D-Belfast), a retired music teacher, would require the state to pay 60% of former teachers’ health premiums. LD 111, put forward by Rep. Dan Shagoury (D-Hallowell), would similarly require the state to cover the cost of Medicare Part B for former teachers and public employees. 

Those bills are considered narrower fixes to the problem, with the committee acknowledging in its report that the measures are not “all-inclusive solutions” but will “help alleviate the pain that retirees have been feeling” since the changes made by LePage in 2011. 

A more expansive bill, LD 70, sponsored by Dodge, would eliminate the $24,000 cap on the portion of benefit subject to COLA to instead cover the entire benefit received. However, the Labor and Housing Committee said the bill would cost nearly $1.2 billion and noted that the Maine Constitution does not allow for the creation of new benefits unless they’re immediately and fully funded. 

Still, given the state’s projected revenue surpluses of $282.8 million for fiscal year 2023 and $488.6 million for 2024 and 2025, retired public workers and their advocates say lawmakers need to do what they can this budget cycle to help fill the hole dug by LePage and Republicans a decade ago.

The Labor and Housing Committee agreed that action to address the issue is needed, and lawmakers on the panel expressed “frustration and disappointment that the proposed [Mills administration] budget does not address retiree pension cost-of-living adjustments.” 

Labor advocates reacted positively to the committee’s recommendation, with the AFL-CIO praising Democrats and Republicans on the committee for “coming to a bipartisan agreement to support public employees.” 

Members of the committee were also excited by the unanimous report. 

“Grateful to my colleagues in the Labor and Housing Committee for coming together on this issue,” Rep. Amy Roeder (D-Bangor), the House chair of the committee, said. “While our committee members may not always see eye to eye on policy, we are committed to thoughtful, respectful dialogue around policy. Love that this was a point of agreement.” 

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at

Wabanaki Tribes make case for self-determination in historic address before legislature / By Dan Neumann

Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis addresses Maine lawmakers in the State of the Tribes.

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on March 16, 2023

For the first time in state history, leaders of all the Wabanaki Nations addressed both chambers of the Maine State Legislature on Thursday. They called for recognition in law and policy of Wabanaki inherent sovereignty. 

Underscoring a rift between the tribes and Gov. Janet Mills on the issue of tribal self-determination, the Democratic governor was not in attendance. In contrast, Congressman Jared Golden, a Democrat from Lewiston who sponsored federal legislation to give the tribes more rights, listened to the address from the floor of the Maine House. 

“The blood sweat and tears of our ancestors run through this land and it will continue to do so for generations to come,” Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis said as part of a State of the Tribes address. “We are not going anywhere. All we want is for the state government to break decisively from the past and join the era of self-determination for tribal nations that has proven so successful throughout the rest of the country.” 

“We are capable of self-governance and should be treated as partners rather than threats to the future of the state,” Francis added. “We want a relationship with the state government that is based on mutual trust, fidelity and respect.”

The tribal leaders’ remarks marked only the second time such an address was made to a full assembly of Maine lawmakers, the first being 2002. Thursday’s address was the first attended by leaders of all of the Wabanaki Nations in Maine — the Penobscot, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy tribes at Sipayik and Indian Township. 

Hundreds of supporters were in attendance at the Maine State House, many watching the address on televisions in spill-over rooms. 

Supporters watch the State of the Tribes address in a spill-over room at the Maine State House. | Beacon

“We’re asking to be put on the same footing as the 570 federally recognized tribes across the country,” Mi’kmaq Chief Edward Peter Paul said. “Those tribes are subjected to federal Indian laws passed by Congress. We’re asking to be treated fairly.”

A multi-year legislative effort to overhaul the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, which was opposed by Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey, passed both chambers before it died in the legislature’s budget-making committee last year. That legislation, pushed for by the tribes and their allies, would have altered tribal-state relations on matters from taxation to gambling to wildlife management by overhauling the Settlement Act, which has excluded the tribes from rights and protections created through federal law since its passage over 40 years ago.

Mills’ office told reporters before the address that she would not attend due to a scheduling conflict, though her office did not specify what that conflict was.

Mills has opposed the push for full recognition of Wabanaki sovereignty since taking office in 2019. As Maine’s former attorney general, Mills also opposed the tribes in court during some of the legal battles over tribal rights that led to the current stalemate. 

Mills has brokered some compromises with the tribes in recent years, including signing her own bill, which allows tribes to run online sports betting markets, and another to address the water crisis at the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation. But she has pushed back against adopting all 22 recommendations made by the Maine Indian Land Claims Task Force.

House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), the sponsor of the previous tribal sovereignty bill, has submitted new legislation this session, LR 1184, which would again attempt to implement the recommendations of the task force, though details have yet to be released. The bill is a top priority for the tribes this session. 

“Our success is your success,” said Clarissa Sabattis, chief of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. “As a result of this unchanging law, we have become outliers in Indian Country, economically underperforming when compared to tribes across the continental U.S.” 

Sabattis was referring to a report by the Harvard Kennedy School released late last year that found that while economic growth in Indian Country has boomed since the start of genuine tribal self-government in the late 1980s, Wabanaki Nations have been left out of these benefits as a result of the Settlement Act.

“With that,” she added, “I’d like to say I look forward to our continued partnership and forging a new path forward that is not only better for our tribe, but is also better for this great state that we all call home.” 

At the federal level, Golden sponsored a bill that would have allowed the Wabanaki access to all future federal legislation passed on behalf of tribes. That federal legislation, which Mills lobbied against, died in December when it was not included in a congressional budget deal due to opposition from Sen. Angus King, an independent, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins. 

Golden received applause from state lawmakers when thanked by tribal leaders for sponsoring the legislation.

Rena Newell, chief of the Passamaquoddy reservation at Sipayik and the tribe’s former representative in the Maine House, expressed optimism about the tribes’ relationship with lawmakers. 

“Over these past four years, the Wabanaki Nations and the legislature have seen growing momentum with respect to collaborative policymaking and relationship building,” she said. “Today is a sign that our momentum will only increase and, for this reason, I am excited for what the future holds for Wabanaki-state relations.”

Tribal leaders emphasized on Thursday that lawmakers have a chance to advance tribal sovereignty this year. To overcome a likely Mills’ veto, however, two-thirds of the legislature would have to favor the legislation, which means gaining Republican support will be a major part of the tribes’ strategy this session.

House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, a Republican representing Winter Harbor, has expressed some support for tribal priorities. In January, Faulkingham traveled with Talbot Ross and House Majority Leader Maureen Terry (D-Gorham) to Indian Island in the Penobscot Nation to meet with tribal leaders. 

Democratic leaders pledged to rectify the failures of past legislatures after the address.

“Symbolic gestures do not right decades, if not centuries, of wrong. They do not erase the ugly and deeply painful history regarding the state’s treatment of the Wabanaki Tribes, nor do they make up for the legacy of empty promises and their consequences,” Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) said in a statement.

Talbot Ross echoed Jackson: “By no means does the State of the Tribes address forgive a shameful history of pain and tragedy, discrimination and injustice,” she said in a statement. “However, it can signify an enduring commitment to perform the critical work of reflection, understanding, and collaboration in order to continue to heal past wrongs and work towards a more just and equitable future.”

William Nicholas, chief of the Passamaquoddy reservation at Indian Township, closed his remarks on Thursday calling on lawmakers to come together to form a veto-proof majority.

“Almost every treaty made has been broken, modified or interpreted to benefit the state. We must come together to make some positive, inclusive change,” he said. “Limited sovereignty is not sovereignty. The opportunity to address the unfair treatment that Maine tribes have received since 1980 can be worked on and end with this legislative body of leaders.”

Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at


Combatting the ruinous greed of the developers / by John Clarke

Condo towers in Toronto. Photo courtesy PARTISANS Projects/Flickr.

Originally published in Canadian Dimension on March 13, 2023

Last November, Gaétan Héroux and I wrote an article for Canadian Dimension on an emerging struggle to prevent the construction of a 47-storey condominium tower in Toronto’s Downtown East. We argued that this project would serve to drive up land prices and rents, while fuelling the gentrification of this poor working class community. We also pointed out that this upscale project would give the green light to “developers seeking to speculate and buy up properties in the Downtown East, thereby endangering a whole infrastructure of services in the area that took decades to establish.” Gentrification of this area has been going on for some time, but a luxury condo tower in the very heart of the community would take the process to an unprecedented level.

Redevelopment juggernaut

When we wrote that article, we were not fully aware of the dimensions of the redevelopment juggernaut descending on the Downtown East or of the momentum the project has already gathered. Drawing on information that is available through the City of Toronto, we have now been able to take stock of the developer-led plans for one of the poorest urban neighbourhoods in Canada.

Dundas Street East cuts a swath through the community, often referred to as the “Dundas Corridor.” Along this strip, four major condo developments have been completed and seven more are yet to be built. The developers responsible for the four that have been finished are Menkes Development (205 condo units), the Gupta Group (1,012 units), CentreCourt (Grid Condos, 565 units), and Great Gulf (Pace Condominiums, 387 units).

The seven developments that are still at the planning stage are being inflicted on the community by Kingsett Capital (responsible for the 619 unit condo development at Dundas and Sherbourne), Menkes Development (500 units), Metropia (670 units), Centricity Condos (594 units), CentreCourt Developments Inc. (665 units), Amexon Development (58 units), and the Pemberton Group (598 units).

We estimate the total sales revenue of the 2,169 condo units that have been completed at $1.734 billion. Experts generally expect profits from condo construction to range from 10 to 20 percent. If we set the rate at the lower end, say, 12 percent, the developers in these ventures would amass $208.29 million. As for the as-yet uncompleted projects, these will comprise an additional 4,227 units, a sales revenue of $3.48 billion and profits in the range of $410 million. If the higher rate applied, the yet to be completed buildings would bring in $700 million. With the four projects already in place, this would total $1.047 billion in profits from the development drive, a remarkable figure for a single Toronto neighbourhood.

The reckless push to create an oversupply of upscale housing along the Dundas Corridor is unfolding without regard for long-term implications or the devastating impact on a poor working class community with roots there dating back to the 1800s. Laughably, the luxury housing development under construction in the area will include a mere 24 ‘affordable’ rental units. Across Ontario and the rest of Canada, the destructive role of developers in the extreme commodification of housing is producing comparably dreadful results.

Of course, the path taken by developers and others who profit from the present approach to housing provision is being cleared by political decision-makers at every level. The idea of challenging the developers is completely out of the question for the members of Toronto City Council. Even the left wing at City Hall is reduced to appealing for a few more ‘affordable’ units to be included in upscale projects.

For its part, Doug Ford’s administration is operating overtly as a political agent of the developers. Ford’s readiness to hand over a portion of the Greenbelt around Toronto has sparked outrage across the country. The Ontario Tories express, in the crudest terms, the consensus among governments in this country that the supply of housing must be met, to the extent that it is, by subordinating everything to the dictates of profit-making.

As Ford rides out the scandalous revelation that developers came to a party at his house with cash gifts for his soon-to-be married daughter, it becomes clear that while the rural sprawl he has happily encouraged may be profitable, it runs counter to responsible urban planning. A new report informs us that “[the city of] Hamilton already has enough space to build 87,600 homes within its urban boundary—close to double its provincial target—without needing to open up the Greenbelt or expand into prime farmland.”

Clearly, the prevailing view that housing should be treated as a commodity and a source of speculative wealth is at odds with the needs of communities and the equitable and sustainable use of urban space. As the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Balakrishhan Rajagopal, has affirmed, “The right to adequate housing is more than having a roof over one’s head, it is the right to live in safety and dignity in a decent home.”

The developers’ profit bonanza along the Dundas Corridor makes a mockery of this view. The condo towers they are erecting will provide luxury homes for a select segment of middle class professionals, although we may be sure that many will sit empty, as speculators hold onto them in the hope of turning a profit. This distorted system of housing provision will, of course, render the housing market even more unstable and exclusionary.

The acceleration of upscale redevelopment will force up rents, drive out low income tenants and facilitate the removal of the numerous homeless shelters and other vital services that have long been based in this area. This clearing process will be conducted ruthlessly, as property values and developers’ aspirations take priority over human need. Increased inequality, poverty, destitution and the proliferation of urban sprawl will be the price the rest of us pay for the enrichment of developers and parasitic speculators.

Fighting back

The Downtown East community has a long and proud history of fighting back and another round of struggle is shaping up, as profits are put ahead of the housing needs of those who live in the area. A challenge to the redevelopment juggernaut is emerging that is focused on the proposed condo development at Dundas and Sherbourne. An organization called 230 Fightback is leading a campaign to stop the condo and ensure that desperately needed social housing is built in its place.

Last month, 230 Fightback brought a mass delegation to the banking tower in the financial district where the developer, KingSett Capital, has an office. Efforts by police and private security to shut out the delegation failed, and a senior representative of the company was forced to accept a letter of protest. It was made abundantly clear that the developer and its enablers in City Hall can expect to be challenged. If Bay Street is coming to Dundas and Sherbourne then Dundas and Sherbourne will come to Bay Street.

The fight will escalate over the spring and summer. There are plans for community meetings and a major mobilization on the streets in June. In challenging this condo development and the other projects in the area, 230 Fightback is taking up a struggle that is in the interest of communities all across Canada. Housing must be treated as a vital social need and a human right and the destructive profit bonanza of the developers must be brought to an end.

John Clarke is a writer and retired organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). Follow his tweets at @JohnOCAP and blog at

Book Review – Truth-Telling about Nicaragua’s Long Revolution for Liberation and Democracy / By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Photo :

Daniel Kovalik, Nicaragua, a History of US Intervention & Resistance, (Clarity Press, Atlanta, 2023), ISBN; 978-1-949762-64-8,, 303 pages.

Prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, speaking in Nicaragua in 2022, points out that the United States “is 350 million people [and is] the strongest military force in the world. Nicaragua is 6.2 million people, a country in Central America seeking to develop itself and its people.”

And so, “Why in God’s name, with a country so large, with so many resources, with such military strength, why would [the U.S.] want to pick on a small country like Nicaragua? I ask myself that question every day.”

Clarity Press, 2023

Peace activist and Vietnam War veteran S. Brian Willson, speaking in South Paris, Maine, on September 13, 1998, had answered the question: “This neoliberal economics, the latest stage of capitalism, does not allow for alternative political or economic ideas or values. We already knew that any country that seriously threatened our model either had to assimilate or be eliminated.”

Willson had acted. On September 1, 1987 in Oakland, California, he put himself in front of a train to prevent a weapons delivery to U.S.- backed “Contra” mercenaries fighting revolutionaries in Nicaragua. The train did not stop and Willson lost two legs.

Daniel Kovalik’s valuable new book “Nicaragua, A History of US Intervention & Resistance” demonstrates the truth of Willson’s insight. Kovalik is a labor lawyer, human rights activist and teacher, and prolific author (his other books are here).

In that summer of 1987, college student Kovalik was part of a reforestation project in Nicaragua. The Contra war was in progress, and he heard machine gun fire “nearly every night.” The suffering was “simply shocking.”  He writes that photos he took of children there “makes me want to cry.” The “Veterans Peace Convey” of humanitarian aid to Nicaragua, which he joined in 1988, was “possibly the most profound experience of my life.” Kovalik’s book is immensely appealing, not least because of personal experience that he relates.

He makes effective use of extended quotations from various reports, other histories, analyses from international agencies, and commentary from participants. Kovalik states that the object with his book was to present “the realities of U.S. intervention [in Nicaragua,] past and present,” highlight Nicaraguans’ abilities to overcome U.S. “assaults,” and promote solidarity with Nicaraguans in their struggle for self-determination.

The book’s first sections review Nicaragua’s history prior to the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s (FSLN) accession to power. It covers Tennessean William Walker’s attempt to set up his own slavocracy in 1855, U.S. Marines’ occupation of Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933, U.S. formation of Nicaragua’s oppressive National Guard, and U.S. support after 1936 for the brutal Somoza-family dictatorship. 

Kovalik reports on Augusto Cesar Sandino’s guerrilla army that fought the Marines from 1927 until their departure. He writes about the struggle of the FSLN rural insurgency after 1960 to bring down the Somoza regime. Over 50,000 Nicaraguans died in the year preceding its collapse on July 17, 1979.

Most of the book is about the FSLN in power, their electoral defeat in 1990, the U.S.-led Contra counter-revolution in the 1980s, the “Dark Days” of neoliberal rule after 1990, and the Sandinistas in power again after 2007. There are these points:

·        Until recently, the Sandinistas, originally an alliance of three factions, governed with allies including Catholic Church representatives, business leaders, capitalists, Marxists, and rural collectives.

·        Women’s lives have improved in equality, political participation, and leadership opportunities.

·        Sandinista approval ratings have remained high, even in stressful times, for example, 80% in 2018 prior to the protests of that year and up to 90% before the 2021 elections.

·        Dissent within FSLN ranks and FSLN differences with its opposition have reflected divisions between city and countryside and between intellectual callings and manual work.

·        The Catholic Church, now far removed from liberation theology, has consistently harassed the Sandinistas.

·        Kovalik inveighs against U.S. leftists who have abandoned the Sandinistas. They “claim to know better about the nature of Daniel Ortega and the FSLN than the Nicaraguan people,” he points out.

·        Sandinistas in power have accomplished much: nutritional gains, agrarian reform, food sovereignty, housing access, widespread electrification, increased literacy, more jobs, youth programs, universal access to schools and healthcare, infrastructure improvements, and lowered mortality rates.

Until 2020 or so, far fewer Nicaraguans were migrating north than were the peoples of other Central American countries. Their reduced numbers testify to the benefits of change in Nicaragua.

Kovalik finishes his book with a look at the interplay of recent anti-government protests, harsh penalties exacted by the government, and mounting criticism of the FSLN government by sectors of the U.S. and European left.

Anti-government protests with street actions and barricades prevailed in mid-2018. In his afterword that concludes Kovalik’s book, Orlando Zelaya Olivas indicates that 198 civilians and 22 police officers were murdered. Mainstream news reports uniformly blamed the police for killing peaceful demonstrators. The truth was otherwise.

Kovalik, citing sources, shows that the protesters had been paid and prepared, that many had criminal records, that snipers rather than the police did most of the killing, and that lethal violence continued even after the police were withdrawn. These were fake protests programmed toward destabilization and eventually a coup.

Kovalik shows the U.S. hand in creating turmoil. The U.S. government had funded opposition NGOs, youth groups, religious organizations, and dissidents who included former Sandinistas. U.S. agents and funding were behind the anti-government messaging on social media that played a prominent role. 

Nicaragua’s government arrested and jailed many of those who in 2018 had violated laws against terrorist activities and against unauthorized service to a foreign government. In June 2019, the government amnestied hundreds of those caught up in the coup attempt. Dozens of jailed coup plotters were released on promising that they would no longer conspire against the government.

Criticism exploded again in 2021 after those who had promised to give up on plotting were imprisoned again on grounds that they were aiming to destabilize upcoming elections. Kovalik states that, “the first duty of a Revolution is to defend itself, for if it cannot meet this most essential goal, it obviously cannot serve and defend the people as they deserve.”

There was the added element of the imprisonments supposedly constituting interference in the elections of November 7, 2021 that gave Daniel Ortega a fourth consecutive presidential term.

Writing from Nicaragua, Stephen Sefton explains that the jailed opposition leaders were not opposition candidates. The political opposition in 2011 had split into regular political parties and “an extra-parliamentary opposition based in local NGOs.” The latter sector had “mounted the violent, US designed coup attempt” of 2018 and were arrested according to Nicaraguan Law. The opposition’s contending political parties had no part in planning a coup in 2021, according to Sefton

After Daniel Kovalik’s book was published, solidarity with the Sandinistas took a big hit. On February 9, 2023, the government released 222 prisoners, mostly those who had been arrested in 2021. It expelled all but a few to the United States. The government took away their citizenship and that of a 100 or so others, and confiscated their properties. Criticism has resounded, for example, from the Economist magazine, the United Nations, to the left-leaning Colombian government.

Taking away someone’s citizenship surely is an extraordinary step, certainly in the United States, and only slightly less so in the U.K. The grounds would be treason. A rationale for such a judgment emerges out of Kovalik’s book.

One imagines a favored few in Nicaragua who are oblivious to decades of U.S. military attacks, violence, pay-offs, trickery and manipulations. They spurned the government’s long efforts at collaboration and coalition building. One equally imagines the grief attending decades of popular resistance against the U.S.-backed dictatorship and, afterwards, the U.S.-backed opposition.

What’s left is desperation, especially what with population elements who reject the idea of justice and dignity for all Nicaraguans and who once more are shown to be dependent on the U.S. government. Meanwhile, U.S. economic sanctions are non-stop.

The book’s basic point is that rescue and recovery of oppressed, marginalized, and poor Nicaraguans have required a very long process. It’s no wonder that some counterparts today of Tom Paine’s “summer soldier and the sunshine patriot” have dropped out.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Indigenous rebellion continues as post-coup Peruvian government flounders / By William T. Whitney Jr.

Anti-government protesters chant slogans against Peru’s President Dina Boluarte, on the shore of lake Titicaca in Puno, Peru, Tuesday, March 7. | Juan Karita / AP

Revived democratic struggle in Peru is well along into a second act. There was the parliamentary coup on Dec. 7 that removed democratically-elected President Pedro Castillo and the “First Taking of Lima” in mid-January, when embittered and excluded Peruvians occupied Lima and faced violent repression. Then, on March 1, protests renewed as the Indigenous inhabitants of Peru’s extreme southern regions prepared once more to demonstrate in Lima and would shortly be protesting in their own regions.

The resistance’s make-up was fully on display.

Protesters throughout Peru were rejecting a replacement president and an elite-dominated congress and calling for early elections and a new constitution. They belonged for the most part belonged to Aymara communities in districts south of Lima extending from Lake Titicaca both west and northeast, into the Andes region.

Their complaints centered on wealth inequities, rule by a Lima-based elite, inadequate means for decent lives, and non-recognition of their cultural autonomy. Their support and that of other rural Peruvians had brought about the surprise election to Peru’s presidency in 2021 of the inexperienced Pedro Castillo. He had defeated Keiko Fujimori, daughter of a now imprisoned dictator and favorite of Peru’s neo-liberal enablers.

By March 1, residents of provinces close to the city of Puno were arriving in Lima to carry out the so-called “Second Wave of the Taking of Lima.” Demanding the de facto President Dina Boluarte resign, as of March 4 protesters had not been able to break through police lines surrounding key government buildings. The main action, however, was going on in the epicenter of police and military repression ever since Boluarte had taken office on Dec. 7.

That would be the Puno area, where most of the 60 deaths caused by violent repression have occurred, with 19 protesters having been killed on Jan. 9 in Juliaca, a town 27 miles north of Puno city.

On March 5, violence was again playing out in Juli, a town 58 miles south of Puno, also on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Demonstrations along with roadblocks were in progress throughout the extended region, all in sympathy with the concurrent protests in Lima. Involved were Indigenous groups, small farmer organizations, and social movements.

In July, the demonstrators, confronted by military units and police in civilian dress, set fire to judicial office buildings and the police headquarters. The troops fired, shots came from open windows, and tear gas was released from a helicopter; 18 demonstrators were wounded.

Demonstrators blocking a bridge over a river prevented the entry of troops into the nearby town of Llave. Rains had caused flooding and in the process of swimming across the river, one of them drowned and five others disappeared.

Protesters captured 12 soldiers; community leader Nilo Colque indicated they were released after they admitted to trying to break the “strikes” but that they too opposed the military’s actions. Colque predicted that soon 30,000 Aymaras would be descending on Juli and nearby population centers.

Aymara activists in Llave announced a strike of indefinite duration. A “committee of struggle” in Cusco announced the beginning as of March 7 of an indefinite strike in 10 provinces. The president of the national “Rondas Campesinas” (peasant patrols), said to represent two million Peruvians in all, announced a big march on Lima from all regions set for March 13.

Meanwhile, Peru’s chief prosecutor has embarked upon an investigation of President Boluarte and other officials for crimes of “genocide, homicide resulting from circumstances, and causing serious injury,” that allegedly took place mostly in southern regions in the weeks immediately after her taking office.

There are these other developments:

  • Peru’s Supreme Court on March 3 heard proposal that the “preventive imprisonment of ex-President Castillo be extended from 18 to 36 months. Another court had previously denied his appeal for habeas corpus.
  • The Congress as of March 6looked to be on the verge of, for the fourth time, refusing to advance new presidential elections from April 2024 to sometime in 2013.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has released a preliminary report accusing the new Peruvian government of excessive use of force against protesters.
  • Polling results currently go one way: 77% of Peruvians reject the Dina Boluarte government, 70% say she should resign, 90% denounce Peru’s Congress. 69% favor moving general elections ahead to 2023, and 58% support the demonstrations. Most of those making up these majorities live in rural areas, according to the report.

The opposing sides in the Peruvian conflict are stalemated. Powerbrokers presently lack a government capable—willing though it may be—of providing structure and organization adequate for protecting their political and economic interests.

Marginalized Peruvians are without any effective historical experience from which revolutionary leadership and strategies might have developed, such that now they might have direction and focus. The people’s movement there is not as lucky as its counterparts were in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Now, the U.S. government meddles with this state of precarious balance in Peru. And not surprisingly: it has long intruded militarily and is competing with China economically.

Speaking on March 1, State Department Ned Price did insist that in Peru, “our diplomats do not take sides in political disputes … They recognize that these are sovereign decisions.” He added that the United States backs “Peru’s constitution and Peru’s constitutional processes.”

But political intervention was on the agenda already. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols on February 28 urged Peru’s Congress to expedite early elections and Peru’s president to promptly end the crisis caused by ex-President Castillo’s “self-coup”—whatever that was.

People’s World has an enormous challenge ahead of it—to raise $200,000 from readers and supporters in 2023, including $125,000 during the Fund Drive, which runs Feb. 1 to May 1.

Please donate to help People’s World reach our $200,000 goal. We appreciate whatever you can donate: $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, or more.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

People’s World, March 9, 2023