The Intercept

There’s Already an Invisible Wall Between the U.S. and Mexico

6 May 2017 - 9:59am

The last time Rodrigo Abd took an assignment in Mexico was 2009, when the veteran Associated Press photographer spent 20 days in Ciudad Juárez covering the drug war. The conflict was big news back then and for many U.S. readers it became the narrow prism through which everything in Mexico was viewed. Eventually, the bloodshed in Juárez passed on to other areas of the country and slipped from the international headlines. In the years that followed, Abd covered political turmoil and natural disasters across Latin America, embedded with U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan, and earned a Pulitzer Prize with his colleagues for coverage of the civil war in Syria.

In April, Abd returned to Mexico after eight years away. Once again, his assignment focused on a story that has dominated the U.S. news cycle: the border and Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along it. Along with longtime AP-Mexico correspondent Chris Sherman, Abd loaded up a car and set off to traverse the nearly 2,000 mile divide, from east to west, weaving back and forth between the two countries and cataloging the stories of the people they encountered along the way. In an interview with The Intercept from his home in Lima, Peru, Abd described how he began the assignment considering what U.S. readers might think about at the mention of the border — “drugs, war, killings” — but how as he traveled the vast terrain, deeper realties about the region revealed themselves.

People cool off in the Rio Grande river, in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, across the border from Laredo, Texas, on March 25, 2017.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

The home of Jesus Esteban Cruz which is located across the border from McAllen, Texas in Reynosa, Mexico, on March 22, 2017.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Having spent nearly a decade living in Guatemala, and understanding the tremendous risks Central American migrants face in making a run for the U.S. border, Abd was awed by the ease with which delivery trucks moved seamlessly from Mexico into the U.S.

“It’s so easy to migrate TV screens that are coming from China, assembled in Mexico,” he said. “For people it’s a nightmare.”

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security reported that apprehensions have dropped to lows not seen in decades, a trend the Trump administration has attributed to its hardline positions on immigration enforcement. Abd saw evidence of that dynamic in the largely empty migrant shelters that dot the Mexican side of the border. As one border resident described it to him, in recent months, it’s been as if an imaginary wall has taken shape in the spaces where Trump plans to one day place a physical structure.

Cuban Idenia Vidal leads a religious procession adapted to reflect the plight of immigrants, in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, Mexico, on March, 24, 2017. Some Cubans have been stuck in Mexico since President Barack Obama ended the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy that had given Cubans a privileged path to the U.S.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Migrants have a dinner of rice and beans at the migrant shelter “Casa del Migrante” in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on March 25, 2017.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

A family enjoys a picnic on the bank of the Rio Grande river in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas state, Mexico, located across from Roma, Texas, on March 22, 2017.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Like any responsible foreign correspondent, Abd found himself desiring more time with the people and places he visited, from the reporters in Nuevo Laredo who have stopped writing stories due to pressure from organized crime, to the ranchers in the Arizona desert demanding more action from the Border Patrol in their areas. Abd was transfixed by what he described as the “unique song of migration between the U.S. and Mexico.”

Tourists walk through the Santa Elena Canyon, wading through the water of the Rio Grande, between Mexico, left, and the U.S., right, as they vacation at Big Bend National Park in Texas, on March 27, 2017. Here the Rio Grande slides between two sheer cliff faces, one in Mexico and one in the United States, that tower 1,500 feet above the water.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

A phone used by migrants to call their families sits in the “Casa del Migrante” migrant shelter in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, Mexico, on March 22, 2017, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Delfino Luis Trevino rests on a bunk bed, with his head bandaged, at the “Senda de Vida” migrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, on March 22, 2017. Trevino, from Veracruz, Mexico, said he was beaten one week ago by “polleros,” the Spanish name for human traffickers on the border, because he tried to cross to McAllen, Texas, without hiring them.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

“I was surprised to see how families are divided, and go on Sundays to have a barbeque on the other side and how they share this unique territory,” he said. “Even though there is fear that things could really change if there is a wall, people still think that that unique territory is going to be the same — that the families are going to be border families, half on half, and that they will continue to have this relationship.”

Workers use a crane to lift a segment of a new fence into place on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico, where Sunland Park, New Mexico, meets the Anapra neighborhood of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 30, 2017.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Pregnant women ride on a float during a march against violence organized by local churches in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on March, 25, 2017.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Boots decorate a wall at the Bad Rabbit Cafe in Terlingua, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border, on March 27, 2017.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

“There are those stories that you can only learn about by being there,” he explained, like the school he visited where dual citizen students load up with their passports and travel from their homes in Mexico to attend class in the U.S. “I think that there many, plenty, of those stories along the border. The thing is that we don’t see them because we are only focusing on the freaking wall and in the drug war and in the tunnels, and there is a lot more.”

“I am not saying these things are not important,” he went on to say. “They are important, for sure — a wall or different migration policies will affect, really, millions of people. But at the same time, it’s important to give to the readers a more complex story.”

People stand in a bus waiting to go home after their work day at a “maquiladora,” as border factories are known, for car accessories in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on March 21, 2017.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Stars fill the sky over Tin Valley Retro Rentals where tourists can sleep in tipi-style tents in Terlingua, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border, on March 27, 2017. The rental options are on about 90 acres of desert, where Airstream trailers and old buses are converted into quarters.

Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

The post There’s Already an Invisible Wall Between the U.S. and Mexico appeared first on The Intercept.

Oklahoma Governor Signs Anti-Protest Law Imposing Huge Fines on “Conspirator” Organizations

6 May 2017 - 9:02am

A statute aimed at suppressing protests against oil and gas pipelines has been signed into law in Oklahoma, as a related bill advances through the state legislature. The two bills are part of a nationwide trend in anti-protest laws meant to significantly increase legal penalties for civil disobedience. The Oklahoma law signed this week is unique, however, in its broad targeting of groups “conspiring” with protesters accused of trespassing. It takes aim at environmental organizations Republicans have blamed for anti-pipeline protests that have become costly for local governments.

The statute Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin approved Wednesday was rushed into immediate effect under a provision that declared the situation “an emergency.” It will dramatically increase penalties against protesters who trespass on property containing a “critical infrastructure facility.”

Under the newly signed trespassing law individuals will face a felony and a minimum $10,000 fine if a court determines they entered property intending to damage, vandalize, deface, “impede or inhibit operations of the facility.” Should the trespasser actually succeed in “tampering” with the infrastructure, they face a $100,000 fine or ten years of imprisonment.

Significantly, the statute also implicates any organization “found to be a conspirator” with the trespasser, threatening collaborator groups with a fine “ten times” that imposed on the intruder — as much as $1 million in cases involving damage.

A section of the law defining “critical infrastructure” includes various types of fossil fuel facilities. Oklahoma is a center of the oil and gas industry and home of the self-styled “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” in Cushing. The state has seen a dramatic increase in earthquakes since the nation’s fracking boom began, as companies began pumping wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing underground. The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association is a supporter of the legislation.

A second bill, passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Thursday, would permit “vicarious liability” for groups that “compensate” protesters accused of trespassing. The bill’s author reportedly called it a response to the Dakota Access pipeline protests, aimed directly at organizers fighting to stop the Diamond pipeline, a project of Valero and All American Pipeline that would transport oil from Oklahoma to Tennessee. Protests against the pipeline have already begun and construction is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.

The trope of the “professional protester” has long been a talking point for those who disagree with participants’ politics. It was used widely this year by Republicans frustrated by a series of anti-Trump protests after his election and inauguration. It was also used against demonstrators involved in massive actions in defiance of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota, that were violently repressed by police. North Dakota governor Doug Burgum is seeking $38 million in compensation from the federal government for costs associated with the police response and with cleaning up resistance camps whose residents were evicted in February.

According to Public Radio Tulsa, Democrat Rep. Cory Williams demanded to know the definition of “compensation” under the liability bill. “Is it a check? Is it money? Is it staying at somebody’s house?” he asked.

“That would be for the courts to decide,” replied Rep. Mark McBride, the bill’s author.

Doug Parr has represented numerous environmental activists in Oklahoma protest cases. In an interview with the Intercept the attorney noted the liability bill’s loose wording. “Say they lock themselves to a piece of construction equipment, and a claim can be made that there were damages from that trespass,” Parr said. “Does this statute create a civil action for a pipeline company to then go after a person or organization that posted bond or helped pay for a lawyer for that civil disobedience?”

Parr noted that under the new trespassing law a violation as minor as spray-painting a message on an oil facility could plausibly lead to $100,000 dollars in fines if a court determined it was “defacing equipment.”

And he said the law amplifies risks for groups that organize protest actions, who can’t always account for the diversity of tactics used by attendees. “Suppose an organization decides they want to support a perfectly legal, no civil disobedience, action,” he said. “Somebody in that crowd, who has come to the protest at the request of that organization, then jumps the fence, and runs in there, and spray-paints on a storage tank, ‘This equipment causes earthquakes. Shut it down.’ … These statutes could be used to attack that organization and impose financial liability on them.”

Johnson Bridgwater, head of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, which opposes the Diamond pipeline, noted that the Club has an official policy against participation in civil disobedience. (Its board suspended the rule in 2013 before executive director Michael Brune was arrested in a protest calling for then-President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline). However, he said “We don’t necessarily know everyone who’s attending the events,” adding, “There is a strong and real fear that this could be used as an attempt to crush a group or a chapter of Sierra Club unfairly.”

Bold Oklahoma is part of a coalition attempting to halt the Diamond pipeline’s construction. Asked whether the group supports direct action, director Mekasi Camp Horinek replied, “We stand behind the people, and if people choose to do that, we’re going to stand behind them in that choice, but that’s always an individual choice. There’s nobody that’s going to tell somebody else to do something illegal or put their bodies or their families in harm’s way.”

Horinek travelled to North Dakota and was arrested with others opposing the Dakota Access pipeline. “That’s exactly what they were saying about me, that I was an out-of-state, paid protester, because I worked for an environmental organization,” he said. “I don’t think that when we’re talking about life, not only the life of our children and the life of our brothers and sisters, but when we’re talking about life itself, all living things on the planet, that state borders are going to deter or stop anybody from going to try to protect a body of water.”

“I’m an enrolled member of the Ponca Nation, and we were forcefully removed to the state of Oklahoma in 1876,” he said. Before that, his tribe relied on the Missouri River, the body of water Standing Rock tribal members sought to protect by blocking the oil pipeline. “I was there first as a father, as a son, as a brother. Secondly I was there as a Ponca tribal member, protecting the Missouri river. Last, but not least, I was representing the Bold organization that I work for.”

As of April 2, Common Dreams counted 19 anti-protest bills across the U.S. Bills in Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota were directly aimed at activists attempting to block oil and gas infrastructure. Other laws, in places like Minnesota, responded to protests in 2015 and 2016 that blocked roads and highways after police killings of black men and women in various cities.

Bridgwater said his biggest concern is reserved for citizens who might think twice before attending a protest. “We see all of these bills as nothing more than corporate America being fearful of how successful the Standing Rock protests were.”

The post Oklahoma Governor Signs Anti-Protest Law Imposing Huge Fines on “Conspirator” Organizations appeared first on The Intercept.

Uber investiga assédio sexual nos escritórios, mas ignora denúncias de motoristas mulheres nas ruas

6 May 2017 - 6:00am

Pouco depois do início do funcionamento da Uber em Los Angeles, em 2012, Rachel Galindo comprou um carro novo e se inscreveu na plataforma como motorista. Ela era carpinteira certificada, mas as construtoras que costumavam chamá-la pararam de ligar depois que fez a transição de gênero. Na Uber, Galindo esperava se proteger da transfobia – afinal, as propagandas da empresa traziam todas a irresistível promessa: “Seja seu próprio chefe”.  

O assédio começou quase que imediatamente.

Ela conta que, em três ocasiões diferentes, passageiros entraram no carro dela e perguntaram direto: “Quanto é uma chupada?” Outro cliente se referiu a ela como “isso” durante toda a corrida. Quando Galindo pediu que parasse, ele respondeu: “Bem, é que eu não sei ‘o que’ você é”.  

Galindo registrou diversas reclamações sobre incidentes como esses na empresa, mas afirma que a Uber se resumia a responder com e-mails genéricos. Só depois de três anos de frequentes queixas, um funcionário ligou para conversar sobre os reiterados episódios de assédio.

“Eu não parava de pedir socorro”, ela conta. “Mas ninguém me escutava”.  

Galindo vê semelhanças entre a experiência dela e a de Susan Fowler, ex-engenheira da sede da Uber no Vale do Silício, que publicou em seu blog, em fevereiro, um texto sobre a cultura de assédio dentro da empresa. Em questão de horas, a diretoria reagiu: Arianna Huffington, que é membro do conselho, exigiu apuração do caso; Eric Holder, ex-procurador-geral dos Estados Unidos, foi contratado para liderar a investigação; Travil Kalanick, diretor executivo da corporação, convocou uma reunião geral, durante a qual, segundo relatos, chorou de remorso. (Nem Huffington nem Holder responderam aos nossos pedidos para comentar o caso)

Diante dos desdobramentos do escândalo Fowler, Galindo conta que se sentiu ignorada. “Eu realmente acho que Susan [Fowler] e eu fomos vítimas da mesma cultura de ‘clube do Bolinha’ que existe na Uber”, afirma ela. “Mas para nós, motoristas mulheres, é diferente. A empresa nos vê como dispensáveis, sem valor nenhum”.  

A Uber passa atualmente por uma reformulação geral das políticas relativas a assédio sexual – o que deveria ter sido concluído no mês passado, mas, numa circular endereçada aos funcionários em meados de abril, April Huffington afirmou que Holder estenderia o trabalho até o fim de maio “para garantir que nada ficasse debaixo do tapete”. Apesar das promessas de uma apuração meticulosa, um representante da empresa confirmou que a revisão das normas sobre assédio sexual só diz respeito aos funcionários em tempo integral, como Fowler. Galindo e os demais motoristas não se encaixam nessa categoria, pois são autônomos, conforme explicou esse mesmo representante.  

Dentro do universo da Uber, é pequeno o número de mulheres na mesma situação trabalhista de Fowler. Tecnicamente, a empresa só tem cerca de 2 mil funcionárias em tempo integral. A grande maioria é de motoristas independentes, como Galindo. De acordo com dados da própria Uber, que costuma fazer uma divulgação bem seletiva de informações – normalmente, quando elas são convenientes para o departamento de Recursos Humanos -, cerca de 20% dos motoristas são mulheres. Foi divulgado também que, em 2015, 230 mil novas motoristas se inscreveram na plataforma. A promessa é ultrapassar, até 2020, um milhão de motoristas mulheres – um marco importante, já que a Uber disputa clientes mulheres com outras startups, como a Saft, voltada para o público feminino.

Fotografia aérea mostra tráfego intenso nas autoestradas 405 e 10, em Los Angeles (2015).

Foto: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News/Getty Images

Motoristas mulheres que trabalham para a Uber vivem numa espécie de limbo, no qual uma grande empresa de tecnologia faz experimentos com um novo tipo de relação trabalhista. São consideradas trabalhadoras autônomas, apesar de a Uber exercer um controle significativo sobre a profissão. A empresa pode, por exemplo, demitir motoristas que não são bem avaliados ou que cancelam viagens com muita frequência, conforme noticiou recentemente o New York Times. A companhia lança mão até de truques psicológicos e técnicas de persuasão subliminar para estimular os motoristas a trabalhar mais. Além disso, as motoristas ainda enfrentam os mesmos obstáculos que qualquer outra mulher que trabalhe na área de serviços. Elas estão tão expostas a cantadas e assédio quanto uma atendente da Starbucks, por exemplo. O comportamento abusivo de um cliente não é culpa da empresa.

Só que a Uber criou um esquema totalmente novo: recrutou milhares de mulheres para ficarem sozinhas com estranhos em carros particulares, que não têm nem aquela separação de vidro tradicional dos táxis americanos. Mas também são inéditos os recursos que a empresa tem para criar um ambiente de trabalho seguro para essas mulheres, já que tem acesso a pilhas de dados sobre seus clientes: seus nomes verdadeiros, números de telefone, dados bancários, seus deslocamentos e trajetos habituais. Ao contrário da  Starbucks, a Uber pode excluir unilateralmente da plataforma clientes que cometem assédio. Mas, de acordo com as motoristas, enquanto uma quantidade incalculável de recursos é investida para recrutar e manter motoristas na plataforma, a prevenção e a investigação de casos de assédio sexual no ambiente de trabalho não vem merecendo a mesma atenção.

“Essa cultura chauvinista da empresa é uma coisa que nós, mulheres motoristas, sentimos muito intensamente”, afirma Tracy, motorista de Portland, Oregon, que administra uma comunidade online de mais de mil motoristas mulheres. Tracy pediu para usar um pseudônimo por medo de sofrer represálias da Uber. Ela aconselha outras motoristas sobre segurança no trabalho. E conta que, das dezenas de colegas que já orientou, nenhuma se disse satisfeita com a maneira como Uber responde a relatos de assédio ou de investidas sexuais no horário de trabalho.

Rachel Galindo, ex-motorista da Uber, dirige pela vizinhança para mostrar ao fotógrafo de The Intercept o carro que costumava usar para trabalhar, em Los Angeles (30/04/17).

Foto: Dania Maxwell para The Intercept

“É uma questão complicada, tem muito ‘ele disse, ela disse’”, admite Tracy. Mas ela argumenta que a atual política da empresa de responder reclamações com mensagens genéricas (algumas das quais aparentemente pré-formatadas) não está à altura de questões complexas como essas. Em dois anos de trabalho, Tracy nunca ficou satisfeita com a maneira com que a Uber lidou com casos de assédio sexual vividos por ela. Em duas ocasiões, a empresa simplesmente não respondeu. Na primeira delas, um casal tinha feito sexo dentro do carro; na outra, o passageiro parecia estar ameaçando fisicamente a parceira.

“Fico perplexa quando a Uber diz que leva muito a sério casos de assédio sexual a motoristas”, desabafa Tracy. Para ela, se uma motorista é levada a interromper a corrida por conta do assédio de um passageiro, a Uber deveria, pelo menos, ligar e dizer que vai investigar seriamente o incidente, em vez de simplesmente classificar o episódio como mais uma corrida de qualidade abaixo da média.

A Uber contesta as afirmações de Tracy. “O assédio sexual não é tolerado”, diz a Uber, em nota enviada pela assessoria. “Queremos que todos tenham uma boa experiência conosco. Para isso, respeito mútuo é fundamental. Qualquer pessoa que viole as diretrizes da nossa comunidade está passível de perder o acesso ao serviço”. O assessor afirma ainda que sempre que uma denúncia de discriminação ou assédio é investigada, a empresa “contata o motorista por telefone para saber mais informações e verificar se ele ou ela está bem. Depois disso, realizamos uma reconstituição da situação, o que inclui falar com o motorista, conferir seus dados e histórico de viagem, bem como outros fatos relevantes”.

O assessor mostrou ainda um texto no site da empresa, cujo título é “A Regra de Ouro”: “Trate os outros da mesma forma que você gostaria de ser tratado. É uma verdade universal que todos nós aprendemos com nossos pais”, diz o post. “Isso é importante para nós aqui na Uber”.

Tela mostra a avaliação do motorista no aplicativo da Uber, em Washington (12/02/2016).

Foto: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Contudo, motoristas mulheres podem frequentemente se deparar com um dilema. A Uber classifica seus motoristas com base numa escala de cinco estrelas. Se a média de um deles cair alguns décimos abaixo da nota máxima, a Uber pode demiti-lo. Portanto, mulheres se sentem coagidas a responder a assédios sexuais com um sorriso.

“Por conta desse tipo de avaliação, há um medo generalizado de perder o emprego”, conta Bhairavi Desai, diretor executivo da Aliança dos Taxistas de Nova York, sindicato que conta com mais de 5 mil motoristas de Uber. “Muitas das mulheres são trabalhadoras que lutam para pagar as contas no fim do mês”. As taxistas enfrentam há anos esses mesmos problemas de assédio, mas, para Desai, a divisória de vidro dá a elas um maior sentimento de segurança. E contrariamente às motoristas de Uber, as taxistas não podem ser demitidas só com base em avaliações negativas.

Danielle, da Califórnia, lembra bem de uma corrida angustiante, quando aguentou em silêncio o assédio de passageiros bêbados por medo de ser mal avaliada. “Quando eu disse que tinha sete filhos, um deles falou: ‘Sua vagina deve estar detonada’”, me contou ela durante uma entrevista para o site The Verge. “Dirigir na Uber é meu trabalho. Se minhas avaliações pioram, posso perdê-lo”. Então, em vez de entrar em confronto com passageiros bêbados, Danielle riu junto com eles.

O assessor da Uber afirma que motoristas que julgam uma avaliação injusta ou que querem delatar passageiros problemáticos podem fazê-lo no próprio aplicativo. Um motorista nos mostrou o sistema de reclamações. Depois de ter sofrido assédio durante uma corrida, motoristas têm duas opções: podem marcar o cliente como “desagradável” (e escrever ao lado o motivo) ou denunciar um “incidente grave”, que o aplicativo define como qualquer coisa que tenha abalado “a segurança pessoal do motorista ou impedido o término da corrida”.

Depois disso, o processo costuma ser bastante impessoal, irritante, demorado e nada transparente, contam as motoristas.

Claro que um motorista pode suspender a corrida e expulsar o passageiro por outros motivos. Mas, de acordo com os motoristas, o aplicativo da Uber não faz distinção entre quem interrompe a corrida por estar sofrendo assédio e quem o faz por motivos genéricos – por exemplo, quando um passageiro exige que ultrapasse o limite de velocidade ou faça um retorno proibido. Depois de receber a reclamação, o aplicativo envia uma resposta automática: “Suas queixas serão levadas em consideração, garantimos que você não terá mais corridas com esse passageiro. Por favor, diga se podemos fazer mais alguma coisa. Estamos aqui para ajudar”.

De acordo com Tracy, o acompanhamento é uma bagunça. Para ela, a Uber teria que, pelo menos, ter um sistema exclusivo para casos de assédio sexual e discriminação – em vez colocar tudo no mesmo saco, junto com reclamações mais comuns, como o GPS que não funciona e passageiros que sujam o carro de comida.

A Uber afirma que tem equipes em Phoenix e Chicago dedicadas em tempo integral a questões consideradas sérias ou sensíveis. Diz ainda que essas equipes passam por semanas de treinamento. Mas não respondeu por que tipo de treinamento (se é que há algum) esses funcionários têm para saber lidar com casos de assédio sexual. Também não revelou quantas pessoas trabalham nessas equipes especiais ou como a empresa classifica as reclamações para garantir que o caso seja tratado pela equipe certa.

De fato, para além da promessa genérica de que incidentes serão “investigados”, a Uber não fala publicamente sobre a forma como lida com denúncias de assédio sexual feitas por motoristas mulheres. Uma das únicas vezes em que conseguimos saber um pouco mais sobre os processos internos da empresa foi em 2016, quando alguém vazou para o BuzzFeed capturas de tela do sistema da companhia, mostrando que, entre dezembro de 2012 e agosto de 2015,  mais de 10 mil reclamações de clientes estavam ligadas a agressão sexual e estupro. O relatório não incluía denúncias de assédio sexual. A Uber afirmou que as estatísticas publicadas pela BuzzFeed induziam ao erro, alegando que, em parte das queixas mostradas, as expressões “agressão sexual” e “estupro” foram apenas usadas na comunicação com os clientes, mas não se referiam a queixas oficiais. À época, a empresa argumentou que “menos de” 170 reclamações se referiam a agressões sexuais concretas e não quis explicar para a BuzzFeed o critério usado para avaliar a credibilidade de uma denúncia de estupro ou de agressão.

Ex-motorista Rachel Galindo se arruma em sua casa em Los Angeles (30/04/2017).

Foto: Dania Maxwell para The Intercept

Independentemente dos números, as motoristas contam que prestar uma queixa é como gritar no deserto. A Uber não notifica ninguém do resultado das investigações, alegando questões de privacidade.

Uma vez, Galindo escreveu para a notificar a Uber sobre um passageiro que fez um movimento para tocar no braço dela, o que a constrangeu. “Era um cara bem grande, todo apertado no banco da frente. Ele levantou o braço esquerdo para me tocar. Eu levantei o braço direito e empurrei a mão dele com meu antebraço”. O homem cedeu, mas, como ele tinha feito uma série de comentários de mau gosto sobre mulheres durante a corrida, Galindo achou que era melhor alertar a empresa.

Galindo nos mostrou a resposta da Uber sobre o incidente: um e-mail genérico, agradecendo por ela ter sido tão profissional, mas sem indicações de que o caso teria prosseguimento. “Entendo por que você escreveu sobre isso. Sei bem que nem todas as corridas são com passageiros cinco estrelas”, respondeu uma funcionária identificada como Danica. “Confiamos no seu profissionalismo e no seu bom senso para lidar com situações desafiadoras como essa”.

Em outra ocasião, Galindo escreveu para reclamar do fato de que receber avaliações ruins por ser transgênero. “NÃO RESPONDA ASSIM”, escreveu, copiando uma resposta genérica que já tinha recebido da empresa: “ ‘Por favor, não se preocupe com cada avaliação individual. Todos os motoristas acabam pegando um passageiro bravo de vez em quando’”.

Uma funcionária chamada Angilla respondeu com uma variação dessa mesma mensagem: “Entendo sua frustração e fico feliz em ajudar”, escreveu. “Por favor, não se preocupe com cada avaliação individual. Todos os motoristas acabam pegando um passageiro bravo de vez em quando”.

Quando confrontada aos e-mails de Galindo, a Uber afirmou que as queixas estavam sendo investigada por uma equipe especializada em discriminação, mas não teceu mais comentários.

Motorista de Uber espera cliente em Boston (22/04/2016).

Foto: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Galindo e outros motoristas fazem de tudo para evitar avaliações negativas porque não é fácil voltar a trabalhar para a Uber depois de um desligamento. Para ser reintegrado, o motorista tem que pagar para fazer um curso (parecido com a autoescola) ou comparecer a um dos Greenlight Hub, os precários escritórios que a empresa mantém nas principais capitais. Lá, os motoristas podem se encontrar com funcionários para defender sua causa.

“Para entrar, você não pode levar ninguém junto – nem advogados, nem mesmo um amigo para traduzir, mesmo se o inglês não for sua língua materna”, diz Dawn Gearhart, da Teamsters Union, um dos maiores sindicatos americanos, responsável por organizar os motoristas de Uber no estado de Washington. Gearhart conta também que, no ano passado, chegou a ser expulsa de uma Greenlight Hub em Seattle. Ela estava tentando ajudar um motorista que não falava inglês a recorrer da decisão sobre o caso dele. A Uber nega e diz que tradutores e advogados são bem-vindos, mas que funcionários não estão autorizados a falar com advogados sem a autorização da equipe jurídica.

“Na minha experiência, quase todos os funcionários do Hub são homens”, afirma Tracy, a motorista de Portland, sobre as visitas que fez para acertar problemas de pagamento.

A Uber reitera que mantém uma equipe 24 horas por dia para atender motoristas em dificuldade. Afirma ainda que contrata investigadores para apurar as queixas e que usa dados de GPS e dos clientes nessas investigações. Um representante da empresa não deu mais detalhes sobre o que seria uma “investigação” completa de um caso de assédio sexual cometido por passageiros. Ele também não falou sobre como um motorista pode recorrer de um veredicto que lhe pareça injusto ou que critérios a companhia usa para decidir se uma queixa deve ser apurada ou não.

Beth, que é motorista da Uber em Los Angeles há quatro anos, pediu que seu nome verdadeiro não fosse usado. Ela conta que a empresa tem reagido melhor a motoristas que têm experiência negativa com passageiros. “Assim que eles começaram a funcionar aqui, quando você prestava uma queixa, nem respondiam, era só silêncio”, lembra ela. “Agora, se for algo sério, envolvendo violência ou um grave assédio, e você quiser chamar a polícia, claro que a Uber vai te ligar”.

O representante da Uber ressaltou que a forma como a empresa aborda casos de assédio sexual evoluiu ao longo do tempo, mas não especificou quais novos procedimentos foram instaurados, nem quando. Recentemente, a empresa implantou discretamente uma “linha de emergência” em algumas cidades, para que motoristas possam denunciar incidentes violentos. Mas a Uber ainda não deixou claro se o número tem o objetivo de atender mulheres que sofrem assédio sexual e discriminação, ou se é só para incidentes potencialmente ilegais e violentos. Uma recente reportagem do The Guardian revelou que a empresa se recusou a compartilhar informações de um cliente com a polícia, mesmo depois que uma motorista o acusou de agressão sexual.

Ex-motorista Rachel Galindo posa para um retrato em sua casa em Los Angeles (30/04/2017).

Foto: Dania Maxwell para The Intercept

“Existe um espaço enorme entre uma coisa inadequada e uma coisa ilegal”, explica Beth Robinson, sócia do escritório de advocacia Fortis Law Partners, que assina uma coluna sobre leis trabalhistas para a revista jurídica Above the Law. “Essas motoristas de Uber se encontram muitas vezes nesse espaço”. As que sentem que a empresa não leva a sério casos de assédio sexual não têm muitas possibilidades legais a que recorrer, acrescenta ela. “Políticas antiassédio existem para proteger empregados em empresas, não interações com terceiros, como é o caso de passageiros e motoristas autônomos”.  

Alguns estados americanos, como a Califórnia, onde mora Galindo, estenderam proteções contra assédio sexual a trabalhadores autônomos. Mas, uma vez que o assédio é cometido por clientes, e não por supervisores, a motorista teria que denunciar a Uber por criar “um ambiente de trabalho hostil”, uma ação complexa, que requer provas de que a situação é “grave” e “sistemática”.

“Se o processo para registrar queixas é basicamente um buraco negro, se uma certa quantidade de mulheres alertou a empresa desse fato e a empresa se recusou a resolver a situação – aí sim, podemos estar falando em algum tipo de eventual responsabilização”, explica Paula Brantner, advogada e ex-diretora executiva da Workplace Fairness, ONG que milita por mais direitos no ambiente de trabalho.

Mesmo que não haja um processo contra a empresa, Brantner sugere que a Uber aproveite a oportunidade para reavaliar a forma como lida com queixas de seus motoristas. “Se não há uma solução legal, tem que haver uma solução via Recursos Humanos”, afirma ela.

Logo após o escândalo Fowler, por exemplo, Kalanick, diretor executivo da Uber, prometeu “uma revisão independente dos problemas específicos vinculados ao ambiente de trabalho e revelados por Susan Fowler, assim como a diversidade e a inclusão dentro da Uber de modo geral”.

Mas a decisão de excluir os motoristas da reformulação das políticas dá a entender que a empresa não está combatendo o assédio sexual em todas as suas formas. “Os motoristas são o coração da empresa – se comparados com o número relativamente pequeno de mulheres que trabalham na sede”, afirma ela.

Pode ser que a Uber esteja apostando que muitas motoristas não vão permanecer tempo suficiente para entender em detalhes como a empresa lida com casos de assédio sexual. Um estudo de 2015 aponta que, em dado mês, um em cada quatro motoristas estava começando na plataforma. E que cerca de metade desse grupo se demitia em menos de ano. A Uber alega que muitos dos motoristas se inscrevem para um trabalho temporário – só para ganhar um dinheiro entre um emprego fixo e outro – e que essa rotatividade é perfeitamente normal.

Apesar de reconhecer que cada motorista tem uma experiência diferente, Tracy afirma que muitos vão embora por conta de casos de assédio. “Excelentes motoristas acabam se demitindo”.

Galindo continuou a trabalhar para a Uber por quatro anos porque o medo de voltar a sofrer discriminação no ambiente de trabalho a impedia de aceitar novamente um emprego no ramo da carpintaria. Mas ela acabou abandonando a Uber depois que um amigo a indicou para um trabalho bem pago de supervisora da equipe de carpinteiros de uma obra.

Ela pensou em processar a Uber. Mas, no fim das contas, as mesmas limitações econômicas que levam motoristas mulheres a aguentar assédio no trabalho também a impedem de continuar com o processo. “Eu vivo contracheque por contracheque, é difícil conseguir uma folga”, diz ela. “Eu não tenho como comprar justiça”.

Atualização: 4 de maio, às 19h05

Essa reportagem foi atualizada para incluir informações adicionais mandadas pela Uber após a publicação, incluindo respostas às afirmações de Gearhart’s sobre os Greenlight Hubs.

Foto do título: Ex-motorista Rachel Galindo posa para retrato em sua casa, em Los Angeles (30/04/17).

Tradução: Carla Camargo Fanha

The post Uber investiga assédio sexual nos escritórios, mas ignora denúncias de motoristas mulheres nas ruas appeared first on The Intercept.

The Forgotten History of Cinco de Mayo: It’s Not About Beer, It’s About Rich Countries Strangling Poor Ones

5 May 2017 - 5:53pm

Today is Cinco de Mayo, May 5. To the degree most Americans think about it all, it’s as a day to drink lots of Mexican beer.

But the forgotten history behind Cinco de Mayo is fascinating and remains extremely relevant today. In fact, it’s so relevant for small countries around the world that it’s hard not to believe that’s exactly why it’s been forgotten.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of Mexican troops over the invading French army at the Battle of Puebla southeast of Mexico City on May 5, 1862. Because the Mexican soldiers were badly outnumbered and outgunned, the unexpected triumph was a watershed in forging the country’s national identity. (Militarily it wasn’t that significant — the next year France captured the Mexican capital and installed a member of the Austrian nobility as Maximillian I, “Emperor of Mexico.”)

But here’s important part for everyone else to remember today: France was invading Mexico essentially because Mexico owed France money.

Mexico had borrowed enormous amounts from Europe during the Mexican-American War from 1846-8 and in a civil war from 1858-61. By 1862 it was impossible for the government to make timely payments on the loans without starving the country, and Mexican president Benito Juárez declared that all payments on foreign debt would be suspended for two years.

Artists take part in the reenactment of the Battle of Puebla -Mexico’s victory over France in 1862- during its anniversary celebration at Penon de los Banos neighbourhood in Mexico City, on May 5, 2016.

Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

Getting into unsustainable debt is not something unique to Mexico; countries have done so over and over throughout history, particularly during wars. The U.S. borrowed more than we could ever repay from France and the Netherlands during the Revolutionary War, and the U.K. borrowed far beyond its means from the U.S. during World War I.

When this happens, it’s far better for both the debtors and creditors to organize some kind of default rather than forcing the debtors to pay all the money back on the original terms. The advantage for debtors is obvious. More intelligent creditors understand it’s also good for them, because they generally don’t have a choice between getting all or just some of their money back. Instead, it’s a choice between getting some of it back or much less.

To understand why, imagine loaning too much money to a software engineer. If you demand that the engineer sell all their computers to make interest payments, you’re unlikely to get much more money after that.

And indeed both the U.S. and U.K. defaulted to varying degrees after their wars. Likewise, in 1862 the U.K. and Spain agreed to accept less than they were formally owed by Mexico.

France, however, invaded Mexico in an attempt to get all its money back, which is why French troops were there for the Battle of Puebla on May 5.

In a sense, the invasion was admirably honest. International relations are often like organized crime on a gigantic scale, but people pretend otherwise. Here there was no pretense: The loanshark’s enforcers beat the crap out of an entire country.

By contrast, creditors today have institutions like the International Monetary Fund, which has often functioned as a creditors’ cartel — squeezing countries until they pay back their debts. This often involves lots of people dying … but in quiet ways, without armies involved.

One famous example is the East Asian financial crisis of 1997. Indonesia, Thailand, and South Korea in particular had borrowed large amounts in foreign currencies. When lenders cut off their line of credit, many countries were forced to go to the IMF for loans. The IMF provided them, but only under extremely onerous conditions called “structural adjustment” — jacking up interest rates and slashing government spending. This slowed Asian economies tremendously, essentially reorganizing the entire region in an attempt to pay off their creditors in full.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Michel Camdessus, left, watches Indonesian President Suharto sign the new IMF deal at Cendana Residence in Jakarta on Jan. 15, 1998.

Photo: Muchtar Zakaria/AP

The similarity of this to colonial invasions of the past was unmistakable, at least to people in East Asia. The photo of IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus standing with his arms folded over Indonesian dictator Suharto as he signed on the dotted line became notorious; even Indonesians who understandingly despised Suharto were not eager to see him kowtowing to another European overlord.

And beautifully enough, Camdessus is French — so he was carrying on his country’s heritage, just without the messy wars of the past.

This history is even relevant to Americans today, despite the wealth and power of the United States. We’re now in deeper and deeper hock to other countries, with our foreign debt level approaching 100 percent of the size of our economy.

This actually has little to do with federal government’s debt; the foreign debt is due to the U.S. dollar being overvalued, and reducing the government’s borrowing wouldn’t change much about that. Moreover, the great majority of our foreign debts are denominated in U.S. dollars, something of which we have an infinite supply. Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, also points out that “We still have a net positive income flow” because “our foreign assets earn much more than the U.S. assets that are foreign owned. We have a long way to go before this is a serious issue.”

But it’s certain that conservatives will use confusion over this point in the future to claim that we absolutely must raise interest rates and cut government spending on Social Security and Medicare — that is, to claim we must undergo something akin to the IMF’s structural adjustments in order to keep our foreign creditors happy.

This seems counterintuitive, of course, since that will make the U.S. a poorer, weaker country. Why would conservatives do that?

The answer comes from the history of Cinco de Mayo: Many conservative Mexicans elites actually supported the French invasion and the onerous conditions necessary to pay back the debt. The conservatives had just lost the civil war to the liberals, and preferred gaining power in a damaged country under a foreign thumb to sharing power in an independent, thriving one.

So when you break out the Corona this afternoon, keep this in mind. Cinco de Mayo should teach us that international politics is always and everywhere about money, and that when you fight against foreign influence you need to be careful you don’t get shot from behind.

Top photo: This image depicts the Battle of Puebla between Mexican forces and invading French forces that took place on May 5, 1862.

The post The Forgotten History of Cinco de Mayo: It’s Not About Beer, It’s About Rich Countries Strangling Poor Ones appeared first on The Intercept.

Em plena campanha por cortes, Eletrobras eleva em 29% gastos com remuneração da diretoria

5 May 2017 - 3:22pm

Sempre defendendo cortes de gastos nas inúmeras entrevistas que dá e declarando a meta de cortar pela metade o quadro de funcionários da Eletrobras, o presidente da estatal, Wilson Ferreira Junior, consegue arrumar tempo também para acertar um aumento às mais altas remunerações da companhia. Foi durante a Greve Geral, no dia 28 de março, enquanto a população estava nas ruas com a atenção voltada para as reformas que cortam direitos básicos de trabalhadores, que a cúpula da Eletrobras se reuniu para aumentar os gastos com a chefia em 29% (R$2,6 milhões a mais).

O custo dos salários dos administradores (diretores, membros do conselho administrativo e conselheiros fiscais) subiu de R$ 8.9 milhões anuais para R$11,5 milhões. O aumento, no entanto, ainda ficou longe da proposta feita pelos diretores, capitaneados por Ferreira Junior: eles pediam que o aumento do gasto global com suas remunerações fosse de R$18,4 milhões. Até então, o salário de Ferreira Junior — alçado ao cargo por Michel Temer em julho de 2016 —, bem como os de cada um dos seis diretores, todos desta nova gestão, era de R$ 93.027,32 mensais. Questionada sobre a distribuição do aumento, a Eletrobras afirmou que os dados ainda não foram publicados, mas devem ser  até o fim de maio.

“Musa das privatizações” é convocada para cumprir seu destino

Na mesma reunião em que foi acertado o aumento, também foi eleito o novo Conselho Administrativo da empresa, do qual passa a fazer parte Elena Landau, economista e advogada especializada em privatizações. Nos anos 90, Landau ficou conhecida como “musa das privatizações” porque foi diretora do BNDES durante o governo Fernando Henrique Cardoso e assessora especial da Presidência, sendo responsável pelo Programa Nacional de Desestatizacão.

Defensora ferrenha da desestatização, ela avalia que a privatização das empresas de telecomunicações como um dos “casos de sucesso”. No ranking do Procon SP, das cinco primeiras empresas mais criticadas, três são de telefonia. O Brasil é o país com o serviço telefônico mais caro do mundo, preço que sofreu mais um aumento em fevereiro. Já nos ranking de qualidade, fica bem distante do topo. Quando o país é comparado à primeira colocada nos rankings de telecomunicação, a Coreia do Sul, a diferença salta aos olhos: a velocidade brasileira de internet para celulares é aproximadamente quatro vezes menor, e a cobertura 4G é de 53,86% (bem distante dos 95,71% coreanos). Para Landau, esse é um exemplo de sucesso.

“A venda parcial ou total de nossos ativos de distribuição será benéfica para todos os nossos públicos e interesses.”

Landau chega para fazer o que mais sabe: privatizar. Desde a mudança na presidência da estatal, a Eletrobras está organizando a casa para vender seis distribuidoras de energia, localizadas no Amazonas, no Acre, em Rondônia, em Roraima, em Alagoas e no Piauí. O Plano Diretor de Negócios e Gestão (PDNG 2017-202), apresentado em dezembro pelo presidente, trata as distribuidoras como “Seis Fraquezas Materiais a serem eliminadas”. Logo que assumiu o cargo, Ferreira Junior afirmou em entrevista coletiva que “a venda parcial ou total de nossos ativos de distribuição será benéfica para todos os nossos públicos e interesses”.

Na terça-feira, 2, a Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica (Aneel) mudou o critério de fiscalização das distribuidoras que serão vendidas para facilitar o processo. Nos primeiros dois anos de concessão, as fiscalizações não vão gerar multa. E nos primeiros três anos, elas não serão penalizadas pelo descumprimento de indicadores de qualidade. A empresa estima que receberá  R$ 4,6 bilhões com a venda de ativos.

Para funcionários, cortes; para diretores, aumentos

Enquanto isso, para os funcionários da Eletrobras a vida não anda fácil. O presidente da estatal já avisou que o plano é reduzir de 23 mil para 12 mil o número de funcionários, parte do plano federal de mandar embora 50 mil servidores públicos. Em uma audiência pública no Senado sobre a privatização, trabalhadores do setor levaram exemplos de distribuidoras de eletricidade que, após a privatização, aumentaram o número de terceirizados e de acidentes de trabalho. Nenhum representante da estatal ou da Aneel compareceu à reunião.

Também foram cortadas, em novembro de 2016, gratificações dadas a 129 funcionários em cargos de gerência. As bonificações variavam de R$ 5 mil a R$ 10 mil. Já as bonificações de Ferreira Junior e companhia foram poupadas do corte. A título de comparação, em 2016, os seis diretores e o presidente da empresa ganharam, juntos, R$963 mil apenas em benefícios. Eles e ainda contam com previdência privada complementar, seguro de vida, auxílio moradia e “abono especial”.

The post Em plena campanha por cortes, Eletrobras eleva em 29% gastos com remuneração da diretoria appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Administration Fights In Court To Prevent Top CIA Official From Testifying On Torture

5 May 2017 - 3:17pm

More than eight years after President Obama formally ended the CIA’s torture program, the Trump administration is fighting to block the CIA’s new deputy director from providing a deposition about her role in pioneering the agency’s most abusive torture techniques.

The Trump administration appointed Gina Haspel as deputy director of the CIA in February, attracting criticism from human rights advocates due to her former role in abusive interrogations. The move was interpreted as a public sign of the administration’s approval for some of the CIA’s most brutal abuses after the 9/11 attacks.

Haspel is being called to provide a deposition by James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen – two contract psychologists who made tens of millions of dollars for their work shaping the CIA’s torture program. The ACLU is suing Mitchell and Jessen on behalf of three former CIA detainees – one of whom died in captivity in 2002 after being beaten and doused with cold water.

Lawyers for Mitchell and Jessen claim that everything the psychologists did was authorized by the CIA, and that Haspel would confirm that if the court ordered her to give a deposition. Lawyers are also seeking numerous documents, and a deposition from James Cotsana – a retired CIA official whom Mitchell and Jessen identified as their direct supervisor.

Haspel ran a secret prison in Thailand in 2002, part of the CIA’s global network of “black sites.” That prison – codenamed “DETENTION SITE GREEN” by Senate investigators – was the site of the CIA’s first prisoner interrogations after the 9/11 attacks, and Haspel supervised them. She later took part in covering up the abuses, helping to destroy 92 videotapes of interrogations against the Senate’s wishes.

The Senate torture report does not mention Haspel by name, but details the role of the prison’s station chief in the horrific torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah, who the CIA waterboarded until he became “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

Mitchell and Jessen were the ones who waterboarded Zubaydah, and described the interrogation as “a template for future interrogations of high-value captives” in a cable to the CIA. Zubaydah’s interrogation was held up as a model, and similar techniques were used on many of the 119 detainees the CIA had in its custody.

In a hearing before a district court in Washington state on Friday, the government said that deposing Haspel and Cotsana would reveal “state secrets,” and that despite media reports, the government could not confirm or deny Haspel and Cotsana’s role in the program.

Dror Ladin, a staff attorney for the ACLU, argued that there’s no need to depose Haspel and Cotsana because it would not affect Mitchell and Jessen’s responsibility for torture. “It’s never been a defense in a torture or a war crimes case to say ‘I was following instructions,” said Ladin. “This case has never been about that. It was about the design of the program, its testing on Abu Zubaydah, the use of those techniques on our clients.”

For more than a decade, the Bush and Obama administrations have used the state secrets privilege to block numerous lawsuits against government agencies and the architects of the torture program. To this day no victim of CIA torture has ever obtained compensation for their treatment.

The lawsuit against Mitchell and Jessen is the first torture lawsuit the Department of Justice did not try to block in its entirety. Although the government is not a direct party to the case, it is paying Mitchell and Jessen’s legal fees. Knowing they could face legal liability for their actions, the CIA provided Mitchell and Jessen with a multi-million dollar indemnification contract in 2007 – meaning that if they were sued for their actions, taxpayers would foot the bill.

Top Photo: Excerpts from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Torture Report.

The post Trump Administration Fights In Court To Prevent Top CIA Official From Testifying On Torture appeared first on The Intercept.

Marine Le Pen Flees Hecklers as Her Odds of Victory Shrink in France

5 May 2017 - 1:02pm

Fears of a victory for the extreme Right in the French presidential election appeared to recede further on Friday, as the campaign drew to a close with Marine Le Pen of the National Front trailing Emmanuel Macron, the former economy minister, by more than 20 points in the polls, just two days before the vote.

#Presidentielle2017 Nouvelles intentions de vote (post débat) :
?E. #Macron: 61,5% (+2,5)
?M. #LePen: 38,5% (-2,5)

— Ipsos France (@IpsosFrance) May 5, 2017

Both candidates finished their campaigns in cathedrals, celebrating France’s history and cultural patrimony and, perhaps, hoping to win over Catholic conservatives who still make up a sizable bloc of voters.

The contemplation of Emmanuel #Macron. Final day of the campaign. Outside #Rodez Cathedral, southern France #ElectionPresidentielle2017

— Gavin Lee (@GavinLeeBBC) May 5, 2017

1h de visite pour M. Le Pen et N. Dupont-Aignant dans la cathédrale de #Reims. Présence de P. Philippot et D. Rachline.

— Charles-Henry Boudet (@MisterCHCH) May 5, 2017

Le Pen’s visit to the cathedral at Reims in the northeast was considerably more contentious than Macron’s in the southern city of Rodez. The nationalist candidate, who has stoked anti-European sentiments with her attacks on the European Union and snide claim that Macron would be subservient to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was booed and jeered by hundreds of protesters who gathered outside the cathedral, the site of a famous moment of Franco-German reconciliation in the 1960s.

Marine Le Pen toujours à l'intérieur de la cathédrale de Reims. Beaucoup de manifestants l'attendent dehors. Ambiance tendue

— Axel Monnier (@AxelMonnier) May 5, 2017

Outside the cathedral’s front door, protesters chanted anti-fascist slogans, and mocked Le Pen for refusing an order to return EU funds she was found to have misused to pay aides.

"Marine rend l'argent… résistance" Comité d'accueil pour la venue de Marine Le Pen à la cathédrale de Reims @France3CA

— Laurence Laborie (@LauLaborie) May 5, 2017

The candidate was eventually forced to flee through a side door, to loud boos and shouts against her nationalist party.

Martine Le Pen quitte la cathédrale de Reims par une porte dérobée (vidéo Champagne FM).

— Poli Emmanuel (@poliemmanuel) May 5, 2017

#LePen sortant de la cathédrale, à l'écart des manifestants #Reims @LCP

— Stephanie Depierre (@stephdepierre) May 5, 2017

Among those displeased about Le Pen’s surprise visit was the mayor of Reims, Arnaud Robinet, a member of the mainstream center-right Republican party. Beforehand, Robinet suggested on Twitter that Le Pen would be wasting her time campaigning in a city of peace that had turned towards Europe, and was a symbol of the postwar reconciliation embodied in the EU.

Reims:ville de la réconciliation franco-allemande,cité tournée vers l'Europe,ville de la Paix: @MLP_officiel ne perdez pas votre temps!

— Arnaud Robinet (@ArnaudRobinet) May 5, 2017

In 1962, President Charles de Gaulle of France and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer attended a mass for peace at Reims Cathedral.

Afterward, the mayor sarcastically thanked Le Pen for the sad spectacle she provoked by her visit.

Merci à @MLP_officiel pour ce triste spectacle! #Reims ne mérite pas ça… ??

— Arnaud Robinet (@ArnaudRobinet) May 5, 2017

Le Pen’s poor showing in the campaign has come despite the best efforts of Trump supporting accounts on social networks, which have pushed rumors and innuendo about Macron with increasing desperation in the past week. As Samuel Laurent of Le Monde reports, a final spate of tweets used the hashtag #MacronGate, which did little to disguise their English-language origin.

#MacronGate this guy in France is just as corrupt @HillaryClinton lock him up. #MFGA………

— Nicholas Iezzi (@nickiezzi38) May 5, 2017

To the chagrin of the American alt-right, an endorsement of Macron from Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, was widely shared on social networks in France.

L'espoir est en marche. Merci @BarackObama.

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 4, 2017

Obama backs French candidate GLOBALIST #macron just hours before campaigning finishes. #MacronGate VOTE #Lepen #LePenMacron @MLP_officiel

— Lori Hendry (@Lrihendry) May 4, 2017

Le Pen trails by enough in the polls that the attention of many observers has turned to the next stage of France’s election season: the legislative elections that follow in June, which even a victorious Macron might face an uphill battle to win, give that his new party has so far announced just 14 candidates for 577 seats.

Some observers also fear that Macron’s wide lead in the polls could encourage lower turnout, which would lower the bar for a surprise Le Pen victory.

Among those urging French voters, whatever their politics, to vote for Macron to keep Le Pen out, is Marcel Ophuls, the veteran filmmaker whose 1969 documentary, “The Sorrow and the Pity,” revealed the extent of wartime French collaboration with the Nazis.

Speaking to The Intercept by phone from his home in Southern France this week, Ophuls, 89, cautioned his fellow French citizens against forgetting history that is, for some, still within living memory.

Le Pen “is one of the most intelligent politicians in France,” Ophuls said. “She’s extremely clever and, of course, she is a great danger not only to France but to Europe and to the whole world.”

“One should never forget that the man who my father always called, ‘the late Chancellor of the Reich’ — that was to remind people, to remind himself and to remind others — that the Fuhrer was democratically elected,” Ophuls added. “That’s very important to remember if you have any sense of history.”

“Marine Le Pen, whatever she says to dissociate herself from her father — which is all very clever, to play on people’s fears — is much more dangerous to our future, what is left of our future, than poor Donald Trump, who’s probably going to get impeached.”

“Donald Trump is an asshole, Marine Le Pen is not,” Ophuls continued. “Donald Trump has a few virtues, like usually saying what he really thinks. Marine Le Pen hardly ever says what she really thinks.”

Ophuls, whose lost masterpiece about the Nuremberg trials, “The Memory of Justice,” has just been restored and released by HBO, added that he was impressed by Macron’s willingness to acknowledge and confront what he called “crimes against humanity” committed by France during its colonization of Algeria.

Le Pen, whose base of support includes the former colonists expelled from Algeria in the 1960s, and their families, has attacked Macron for his remarks, made during a visit to Algeria last year.

Politically speaking, Ophuls said of Macron’s comment, “it was a mistake, but it was an emotional mistake, because he is outraged about the crimes of war that France committed in its former colonies — and that is very honorable, it’s an honorable mistake.”

By contrast, Ophuls observed, when Le Pen recently followed her father’s lead in excusing the crimes of Vichy France — specifically the notorious rounding up of French Jews who were deported to the death camps in 1942 — it was portrayed as a gaffe, but was, in fact, an intentional effort to send a signal to her anti-Semitic base that in her reading of history, France was blameless.

Top photo: French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National party Marine Le Pen leaves the Cathedral of Reims through a backdoor on May 5, 2017.

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France Doesn’t Know What to Do With the 17,000 People It Labels Potential Terrorists

5 May 2017 - 12:58pm

On April 27, France voted for a new president in a first round of elections that decimated both established political parties. Although polls currently favor Emmanuel Macron, a centrist independent, to win the May 7 run-off, and the establishment parties have vowed to unite against the neo-fascist National Front, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric appeals to many voters across the political spectrum.

Two hundred thirty-nine people were killed in jihadist terrorist attacks under President François Hollande, and more than 900 people left France to fight in Iraq and Syria, according to the Dutch-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. Today more than 17,000 people are classified by the French government as a possible terrorist threat, according to a report published by the French Senate in March. Although the two candidates for the presidency both acknowledge the continued threat that terrorism poses to the country, they differ vastly in their analysis of its roots and how to address it.

After the November 13, 2015 attacks, Macron, then the minister of economy and finance, argued for introspection, saying in a university lecture that a lack of social mobility contributed to the isolation of Muslim communities, who were then prey to violent extremists. “Our society has built the capacity to close the door on our own. People with a beard or a name that could sound Muslim are four times less likely to get a job interview than everyone else. … this is our responsibility,” he declared. Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, has thrived by linking the terrorism threats and insecurity with a supposed violence within Islam and Muslim communities in France.

At the heart of the debate among government officials, academics, and the effected communities is the question of how to prevent young French people from being radicalized into embracing jihadist ideals, and what to do with the thousands of people currently on the watchlist maintained by the French government.

After the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, Hollande’s government poured funds into both private and public structures that promoted the relatively new concept of “deradicalization.” A Senate report blasted the inefficiency of the centers, arguing that it has become a “de-radicalization business” that has attracted associations from the social sector currently losing financial resources because of reductions in public subsidies.” After the Bataclan attacks, Hollande’s government took a much harder line through Prime Minister Manuel Valls, whose public statements framing Islam within a “a battle of identity and culture” drew upon the right’s talking points. Valls was one of few Socialist members of parliament to vote for a law banning the burka in 2010. He also supported local mayors who banned the burkini in 2016, saying the burkini was a “symbol of women’s enslavement.”

Hollande’s deradicalization strategy waffled between a socio-economic view of the issue and a more simplified, Islamophobic one. If Macron prevails in the runoff, the future president will likely be influenced by these two strains of thought.

Kamel Daoudi, who has been under house arrest since 2008, on March 8, 2017. Daoudi attended an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and was convicted for plotting to bomb the American embassy in Paris in 2001, but he maintains he was never part of any such plot.

Photo: Joe Penney

Life Under House Arrest

Saint-Jean d’Angély, a small village near Bordeaux, has a 13th-century church, a rugby club, an amateur football club, and less than 8,000 inhabitants. The socialist town bears all the hallmarks of any number of nondescript villages that dot southwestern France near the Cognac region. Yet Saint-Jean d’Angély, surrounded on all sides by fields, has a couple of unique characteristics: it is known across Europe as the home of a swingers’ sex club, which just reopened for the summer season. And last November the town involuntarily welcomed a controversial new resident.

Kamel Daoudi, a large man with a bushy beard and tired eyes, can usually be found at a motel popular among truck drivers. Like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” his routine is monotonous: He sits at the same table in the motel’s cafeteria, at the same time twice a day for breakfast and dinner, and four times a day he climbs on his bicycle and rides to the police station, where he signs a paper confirming his physical presence in the town. He eats with his tablet computer on the table, sometimes connected on Skype to chat with his wife and children. Daoudi is one dozens of individuals under house arrest in France for alleged ties to Islamic radicals.

In late summer 2001, moved by adventure, rage, or stupidity, Daoudi flew to Afghanistan to join an Al Qaeda training camp, a decision today he says was motivated by “curiosity.” He returned before 9/11, and once the towers fell decided France was not safe for him. In the days after 9/11, when the shocked world held its breath in uncertainty for the future, he said he crossed the channel into England with a fake passport. During this time, Daoudi’s friend Djamel Beghal, a French jihadi with whom he spent time with in Afghanistan, was accused of planning an attack against the American embassy in Paris. Daoudi was arrested on September 25, 2001, in London and found guilty of criminal conspiracy in connection with a terrorist enterprise in 2005, according to a confidential “note blanche,” an intelligence document produced by the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI). Since the state of emergency was declared in 2015, such documents have been admissible in French trials in cases of “violence against the state.”

Photo: Joe Penney

Daoudi, who attended the prestigious Lycée Lavoisier in Paris, was stripped of his French nationality in 2008 while serving his six year sentence and banned from French territory for “preparing an act of terrorism,” according to the note blanche on his case. When he finished his term, he was slated for deportation to Algeria, but petitioned the European Court of Human Rights, which concluded that his return to Algeria would endanger him with “inhuman and degrading treatment,” according to a confidential interior ministry document on his case seen by the Intercept. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in his favor, so even though he no longer had French nationality, French authorities could not deport him.

Under French law, foreign nationals can be placed under house arrest in France if they “present a grave threat to public order.” After six and a half years in prison, four of which in solitary confinement (22 hours a day locked in a cell, according to Daoudi), he was eventually freed and put under house arrest. During this period he got married, had three children, and settled down in the village of Carmaux in the south. His daily routines, punctuated by the regular check-ins at the police station, were relatively calm and unremarkable until the Charlie Hebdo attack on January 7, 2015.

Since then, Daoudi’s anxiety, as well as that of the authorities, has intensified. After the ISIS attack in Magnanville on June 13, police took him from his home and placed under house arrest in Saint-Jean d’Angély, 250 miles away from his family. ISIS had called for similar attacks to be carried out, and the authorities feared that Daoudi could carry out an attack in Carmaux.

“The Minister of the Interior has concluded that in the context of a particularly high terrorist threat, proven by the assassination of a police couple in Magnanville on June 13, 2016, violent acts against the policemen of Carmaux were to be feared. Thus, Mr. Daoudi must be transferred to a different district, be controlled more thoroughly, and respect hours during which he should not leave his residence,” an official notice explains.

These days Daoudi’s life is defined by an all-you-can-eat buffet at the hotel paid for by the French government, the light of the hotel sign flickering through his window, check-ins with the police four times a day, and down-time at the bar in the center of the town. “I’m an enemy of the state,” he said, at various times comparing himself to Galileo, who was under house arrest for supporting heliocentrism, and to heroes of the French Resistance against the Nazis.

The French government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls took a more radical security position after the Bataclan attacks, and Daoudi is convinced he has been victimized. On November 16, 2015, President François Hollande announced, “We need to be able to strip French citizenship from an individual found guilty of a terrorist act or other acts against a country’s fundamental interests, even if he was born a French person or if he has another nationality.” The proposal provoked an outcry and divided Hollande and Valls’ Socialist party. Nearly a year later, Hollande has said he regrets his statement: “Since terrorists are willing to die anyway, stripping their nationality has no dissuasive value.”

With regard to ISIS, Daoudi said “they are more impulsive, more nihilistic than Al Qaeda,” and have supplanted Al Qaeda (whom he continues to admire) as the main terrorist threat in France. As of October 2016, according to the prime minister, 680 French nationals and residents are fighting in Iraq and in Syria. About twenty minors were involved in combat.

Merouane Benahmed (center), an Algerian Islamist and former member of the GIA (Armed Islamic Group of Algeria) who is currently under house arrest, is escorted by French gendarmes on December 18, 2015 in Saint-Affrique, southern France, before being moved to an undisclosed location. Merouane Benahmed, 42, was sentenced to 10 years of prison and was released from prison in 2011.

Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images

The Roots of Islamic Radicalism

“Explaining is bit like excusing,” said French Prime Minister Valls after the Paris attacks, arguing that trying to understand the social roots for the attacks was akin to apologizing for them. Yet how can French authorities fight the violent radicalization that led to the attacks if they cannot understand or agree on its roots?

Ouisa Kies, a sociologist who specializes in radicalization, said the words “radicalization” and “deradicalization” are recent additions to the French lexicon. “The concept of ‘radicalization,’ as it refers to understanding individuals who turn against their own society, comes from the Anglo-Saxon world,” she said in an interview, adding that the term in its current context was born in Great Britain after the 2005 terrorist attacks and was first used in France during the Mohamed Merah case in 2012. Sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar in his book “Radicalization,” defines the term as “the process through which an individual or a group adopts a violent form of action directly linked to an extremist ideology with a political, social, or religious content intended to protest against the established order on a political, social, or cultural level.”

In theory, the violence is illegal, not the ideology, but today in France, the authorities treat the ideology itself as a form of violence. “In prison, I meet people who came back from Syria or Iraq and who were condemned to 9 or 10 year sentences even though there was no clear evidence they took part in fighting,” said Kies. “The mere fact of going there and returning is a crime.” French law states that anyone who has traveled to Syria and joined a terrorist group may be detained upon arrival in France for prosecution.

Islamists became an important community in French prisons during the 1990’s, when France was fighting the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA). Regular prisoners began interacting with members of the GIA, and “gradually began transforming their violence into religious violence,” explained Kies. But becoming radically pious is different from being a terrorist.

“I’m radically religious,” said Sofiyan Ifren, who was sent to prison in 2012 for recruiting for jihadist groups in Mali and released due to a lack of concrete evidence. “It doesn’t mean I’m radically violent though. I’m not Charlie, I disapprove of Muhammad’s caricatures, I’m against the French colonization policy in Mali. Yet I’m against a violent response to all that,” he explained. Ifren was placed under house arrest two days after the Bataclan attack. “The courts should either sentence me or let me go. I want to be judged on facts, not on the political climate,” he said. On March 22, Ifren was released from house arrest, according to him and his lawyer.

Jihadism specialist Dounia Bouzar poses for a picture in Paris, France, March 3, 2017. Bouzar’s theories have been criticized by other specialists.

Photo: Joe Penney

War of the Experts

Yet as the French government earmarks millions for a crackdown on Islamic radicalization, another war rages in the background — that of the experts. The stakes are significant, with important government subsidies being reallocated from funds for crime prevention. Experts argue publicly and privately among each other, especially about the root causes of radicalization.

Dounia Bouzar was once the leading specialist on these issues, though today she is out of favor. Other experts and some journalists accuse her of operating on the fly and dismiss her theory that young ISIS fighters were victims of brainwashing. Like other ISIS experts, she is constantly flanked by bodyguards.

On a cold and rainy weekday in February, Bouzar wore heavy makeup and a black headband over her dyed blond hair as she hosted parents of radicalized children in a rented conference room near the Gare de l’Est. Bouzar broke off talks with the government after it proposed stripping citizenship and then created a hotline to report radicalized individual. She now opposes nearly all of the government’s efforts against radicalization. “It was hard enough to get in touch with the working class, who already don’t trust state institutions. When the hotline was set up everyone knew the police was on the other side of the line,” she said. “The only parents who called this number were those who had faith in their institutions and who could afford a lawyer.”

According to Bouzar, the government does not reward those who believe in the redemption of former jihadists and radicalized youth. “There is no space for people who believe, like me, that people can leave the jihadist ideology,” she said. Her fatal flaw, in the court of public opinion, was when she hired Farid Benyettou.

Nicknamed the “Emir des Buttes Chaumont,” Benyettou is known as the mentor of the Kouachi brothers, who assassinated Charlie Hebdo’s editorial board. He has since publicly rejected jihadism and is trying to reform his image as a repentant.

Benyettou spent time in prison in the 2000s and when he was released in 2009 studied to become a nurse. On January 7, 2015, he was working at La Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, and saw victims of the attacks at Charlie Hebdo being transferred to the emergency room of that same hospital. Watching the news, he saw one of the Kouachi brothers on a video and went directly to French authorities to tell them everything he knew. He has since become one of the most vocal activists for the cause of redeemed jihadists, though his public repentance has not won many believers. Benyettou told his own version of his arrest in a book called “My Jihad,” published on the second anniversary of the Bataclan attack.

On a March afternoon over an espresso in the 10th arrondissement, Benyettou wore an Oxford shirt with the collar peeking out over a smart sweater. His hair was closely cropped and his face freshly shaven, miles away from his look when he was sending his disciples to jihadist groups. Since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, he wears a Je Suis Charlie badge everywhere he goes, like a lucky charm. “I am Charlie — everyone is, in their own way, there are thousands of ways to be Charlie. Some people think I go too far, but in my head I needed to be clear with myself. I didn’t want any ambiguity, because I was too ambiguous for too long.” Benyettou said. The jihadist “groups I supported: GIA, GSPC, Chechnya, Al Qaeda — it’s like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it never ends,” he said.

The question Benyettou poses is at the heart of the problem: Can he be trusted again? “We wanted to bring solutions to these problems, but are we ready to believe in people’s ability to change? We can’t pretend to deradicalize people if we haven’t made that first step yet. Those who come back from Syria and go to prison, if we don’t believe in them, they’re going to say to themselves ‘We can only live over there.’ It’s extremely dangerous. We talk tons about returning combatants from Syria, but what are offering them?”

Former Guantanamo detainee Mourad Benchellali stands in the Gare de Lyon in Lyon, France, March 7, 2017. Benchellali attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2001, but he maintains he was tricked into joining the camp by his older brother, who told him he would be going on vacation.

Photo: Joe Penney

Contaminated by the Jihad Virus

For Mourad Benchellali, it’s the feeling that others are speaking for him — or over him — that drives him mad. A 42-year-old man living in Vénissieux, a suburb of Lyon, Benchellali has grown weary of the ballet of experts and politicians who pay him regular visits for his opinions on youth radicalization and then disappear shortly thereafter, leaving him where he started. People come to visit Benchellali because he spent two and a half years in Guantánamo after he attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2001. Despite the fact that he says he went to Afghanistan on a “holiday” and mistakenly ended up in a training camp, he considers himself legitimate enough to speak with authority on terrorism.

Benchellali grew up in a family steeped in political Islamism and fond of Al Qaeda’s ideology, and witnessed firsthand France’s failure to integrate his generation into society. In 1983, while still a kid, he thought the March for Equality, France’s first major anti-racist rally that started in his neighborhood, would change society’s perception of Muslims and other immigrants. But for him, the Socialist Party’s cooptation of the movement, through its now discredited anti-racism branch SOS Racisme, illustrated the politicians’ vacuousness. Today the National Front is on the rise and debates about the hijab and the burkini and radical Islamism rage while black and Arab communities mourn victims of police violence. Young men sell drugs in front of the cité apartment blocks, replacing last generation’s armed robbers as poor neighborhoods’ biggest threats.

Since his release from French prison in 2009 (where he was placed after being released from Guantánamo), Mourad has held workshops and seminars around France telling his story to radicalized young people. He thinks sharing one’s personal experience is the best way for a message of peace to be heard, a far cry from smear campaigns and counter-propaganda organized by governmental services, which young people react violently to. “[Jihadist] recruiters are not just manipulators, they believe in what they say,” he declared, countering Dounia Bazar’s theory that they are cynically operating for personal gain. Benchellali’s vision of deradicalization has been out of vogue in recent months, and he is at a loss for how to proceed in life. “No matter what I do, I’m contaminated by the jihad virus. I’m calm, nice, and easy-going, but the virus may spread at any moment so people keep their distance, just in case.”

Christine Morin, mother of ISIS fighter Thomas Morin, stands outside a restaurant in Narbonne, France, March 9, 2017. Thomas, 27, joined ISIS two years ago. Christine recently tried to find him along the Turkish-Syrian border but came back empty-handed.

Photo: Joe Penney

“We’re all guilty”

‘We’re all guilty in this story,” said Stéphane Gatignon, the mayor of Sevran, a northern suburb of Paris. Sevran is often cited in jihadist case studies due to the dozens of young people who left there to join ISIS. Some left for idealistic reasons, some for humanitarian reasons, others to fight Assad. The mayor’s discourse is heavily influenced by the vision of the open society dear to George Soros, who funds a number of projects in the Parisian suburbs: “We did not understand what happened in 2005, especially concerning civil rights, a topic nobody wanted to deal with,” referring to the year when riots erupted in the nearby suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois after police chased two young black and Arab boys into a power station, where they were electrocuted.

“We rejected their demands and we’re paying for it today. A part of those who are indoctrinated by Daesh are the result of this lack of recognition, this lack of cosmopolitan awareness by the government,” Gatignon said. He does not deny the ties between crime and jihadism but places emphasis on the future of young people living in neighborhoods far from the ones most politicians are familiar with. “We’re only ten miles away from Paris! It feels like we’re on another planet. We live in a totally disrupted world, the far-right and the authoritative part of the right wing used the clash of civilizations theory to demonstrate that Islam was not compatible with the French Republic. If this is the case, what should we do with the six million French Muslims?”

The motel where Kamel Daoudi is under house arrest in Saint-Jean-d’Angély, France, March 8, 2017. Daoudi attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and was convicted for plotting to bomb the American embassy in Paris in 2001, but he maintains he was never part of any such plot.

Joe Penney

The mayor, a supporter of Emmanuel Macron in the upcoming election, argues that parents are also responsible for their children’s departure. Christine Morin, whose son Thomas, 27, left France two years ago to join ISIS, said she does not understand why her son left. Widowed and settled in Narbonne, on the Mediterranean coast, she waits for news from Thomas, who was raised in small province cities, in an “insulated environment,” where religion was practically nonexistent.

A fan of former President Sarkozy, the only information she receives about her son comes from newspapers: In February 2015 he joined a group that included the Clain brothers, who claim to be part of the group that planned the Bataclan attack; and that his car had been used in a failed attack in the Parisian suburb of Villejuif. In March, after seeing a picture of someone she swore to be her son firing a Kalashnikov in a news report about ISIS, Morin traveled to the border that separates Turkey from Syria with a TV reporter in an attempt to find her “idealistic” Thomas. She never found him, and one fighter told her the picture she saw was of a Syrian man. Today she both fears his death and hopes for his death as the best possible outcome. “I don’t want him to go back to France. For what sort of life? Prison? Being labeled a jihadist his whole life? His life here is over. I’d rather know he died for ideas he embraced even though I disagree with them,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Saint-Jean d’Angély, Kamel Daoudi just learned his request to meet his family back in Carmaux has been refused. He intends to renew his application to the European Court of Human Rights. His family is paying for his lawyer. He is hoping Marine Le Pen will beat Emmanuel Macron in the runoff because “it would be less hypocritical.” Alone at his table, like every other day, he looked at his empty plate. “It’s hard being an enemy of the state,” he said as cut himself another slice of lemon pie.

The post France Doesn’t Know What to Do With the 17,000 People It Labels Potential Terrorists appeared first on The Intercept.

Índios fecham Transamazônica e conquistam vitória com apoio de caminhoneiros

5 May 2017 - 12:09pm

Diante da onda impetuosa de políticas anti-indígenas implementadas a toque de caixa pelo Congresso, com ampla complacência do governo Temer, o presidente da Funai, Antônio Fernandes Toninho Costa, foi exonerado nesta sexta-feira (5). Enquanto em Brasília se davam as movimentações para que ele deixasse o cargo “por ser defensor da causa indígena diante de um ministro ruralista”, segundo definiu, no Pará, guerreiros do povo Munduruku, armados com bordunas e arcos e flechas, interditavam uma ponte na rodovia Transamazônica em um ponto-chave para o escoamento da produção de soja para os portos no rio Tapajós. O protesto gerou uma fila de mais de 40 km de caminhões por mais de uma semana e só terminou na tarde de quinta-feira (4), com o desbloqueio da rodovia.

O bloqueio criou um congestionamento de 40 quilômetros.

Foto: Mauricio Torres

Viajando de Santarém para Itaituba para uma reunião com colonos da região, o pesquisador Mauricio Torres acabou ficando acidentalmente preso no trânsito. Ao chegar ao bloqueio, foi reconhecido pelos Munduruku, com quem tem contato há anos, e os índios pediram a sua colaboração na redação de suas notas. Ele acabou  ficando no ato até o final, na tarde desta quinta-feira, dia 4, oito dias depois.

Caminhoneiros presos no bloqueio falaram em atropelar os Munduruku para desobstruir a pista. Com espantosa tranquilidade, ao ouvirem as ameaças, os índios gritam “Sawe” – uma saudação de apoio, algo como “Muito bom! Isso mesmo!” – e avisaram que, caso fossem atacados, ateariam fogo à ponte.

Mas a hostilidade que marcou o início do protesto deu lugar a um apoio mútuo quando os dois lados se reconheceram como vítimas das políticas do atual governo.

Os motivos da manifestação eram a recusa do governo em demarcar terras indígenas, conforme está previsto na Constituição de 1988, e o desmonte da Funai. A interdição foi também um claro protesto contra a bancada ruralista, que domina o Congresso e que pressionou o Executivo para que fossem implementadas iniciativas contra os direitos dos índios aos seus territórios.

Mundurukus bloqueiam a Transamazônica

Em 26 de abril, 130 índios Munduruku, apoiados por ribeirinhos de Montanha e Mangabal, comunidades à beira do rio Tapajós, interditaram a rodovia Transamazônica e ocuparam uma ponte 25 quilômetros a leste do porto de Miritituba (PA), ponto-chave da principal rota de escoamento de grãos pelo Norte, onde estão localizados os terminais de transbordo de gigantes transnacionais, como a Bunge e a Cargill.

Depois de dois dias com a rodovia totalmente obstruída nos dois sentidos, no dia 28 o bloqueio adotou uma intermitência, liberando o fluxo a cada 12 horas. Mas, a partir da manhã do dia 3, a interrupção voltou a ser total, barrando inclusive viaturas de polícia e abrindo exceções apenas a ambulâncias.

Munduruku interditam a Transamazônica para protestar contra a inépcia do governo brasileiro em demarcar terras indígenas.

Foto: Mauricio Torres

Liderança política da Terra Indígena Sawre Muybu, Antonio Munduruku, 35, falou a The Intercept Brasil sobre os dois motivos do bloqueio: “Queremos que os funcionários da Funai que estavam trabalhando conosco voltem às suas funções. Precisamos deles. Eles são nossa ferramenta mais poderosa na luta pela demarcação das nossas terras. E não vamos sair de mãos vazias. O [então] presidente da Funai nos disse, na sexta-feira, que ele iria resolver isso. Mas não acreditamos mais em palavras. Queremos que a recondução deles seja publicada no Diário Oficial”.

“É nossa terra, mas nada acontece. Madeireiros continuam a derrubar árvores”.

Ele continua: “Em segundo lugar, queremos que a terra indígena Sawre Muybu seja demarcada direito. É nossa terra, mas nada acontece. Madeireiros continuam a derrubar árvores”.

O velho cacique Vicente Saw, que percorreu mais de 400 quilômetros de estradas de terra para chegar ao protesto, afirmou que interditar o tráfego da rodovia é uma medida efetiva: “O coração do governo está aqui nessa estrada”.

Homens e mulheres Munduruku se mantiveram unidos durante o bloqueio.

Foto: Mauricio Torres

Os Munduruku não foram hostis aos caminhoneiros. A liderança indígena Tomas Manhuary Munduruku afirma: “Somos a favor dos caminhoneiros. Eles também precisam de apoio. Não está certo o governo cortar a aposentadoria deles”.

O mais surpreendente é que, mesmo afetados pelo protesto, parte dos caminhoneiros tenham passado a apoiar os índios. “Essa estrada é fundamental para o Brasil, e o protesto precisa acabar. Só que os direitos dos índios não estão sendo respeitados, assim como os nossos também não estão. Mas a gente está aqui carregando o Brasil nas costas. Não dá para parar. Precisamos que o governo resolva isso. Nenhum de nós merece ser tratado desse jeito”, diz o caminhoneiro Mário Nascimento.

Outro caminhoneiro preso no bloqueio, que não quis revelar seu nome, como é comum nessa violenta região, por temor de represálias, afirma: “Eles [os índios] estão certos. Não dá para negar. E se tiver gente querendo me linchar porque estou dizendo isso, então que me linchem”.

Tanto os caminhoneiros quanto os índios acusaram várias vezes o governo de não escutá-los: “O maior problema é o governo”.

Davi e Golias: Um caminhoneiro ameaçou passar por cima dos índios, mas outros caminhoneiros se solidarizaram com as queixas dos Munduruku em relação à repressão e às medidas de austeridade do atual governo.

Foto: Mauricio Torres

Havia uma preocupação de que a fome, a sede e o calor amazônico afetassem os índios e os caminhoneiros – e, com isso, os humores também esquentassem. Um caminhoneiro que não quis se identificar chegou a ameaçar: “Vamos passar por cima dos índios, um por um, com nossos caminhões. Se esse governo horroroso não conseguir acabar com o bloqueio, é que vamos fazer”.

Em tom de deboche, outro caminhoneiro afirma: “Está ficando insuportável para todo mundo. Não tomo banho há mais de 24 horas, nesse calor. Estou com vontade de jogar minha cueca no rio. Aí vai matar os peixes. E aí os índios não vão ter peixe para comer, e a gente também não”.

Como a fila de caminhões se estendia por muitos quilômetros, era difícil medir o humor dos caminhoneiros. Mas, na tarde de quarta-feira, houve uma reviravolta. Um grupo significativo deles se reuniu com os índios sobre o leito da rodovia. Os dois lados expressaram apoio mútuo, reafirmando que a principal queixa de ambos é em relação ao atual governo.

Apesar de não ser unanimidade entre os caminhoneiros, essa é a visão de um número representativo deles – o que é uma novidade extraordinária pois, no passado, ações indígenas como o bloqueio de estradas causavam indignação, principalmente por parte desses trabalhadores. Um sintoma da altíssima taxa de rejeição ao atual governo por eleitores dos mais diferentes tipos. O presidente Temer tem o apoio de apenas 9% da população, uma marca inédita.

Os Munduruku têm uma forte tradição guerreira e estão fazendo frente às políticas anti-indígenas do Executivo e do Legislativo.

Foto: Mauricio Torres

Violência no Maranhão

Em 30 de abril, jagunços comandados por fazendeiros atacaram índios do povo Gamela, que ocupavam uma parte de sua Terra indígena (não demarcada pelo governo) que estava ilegalmente ocupada por fazendeiros. O massacre aconteceu no município de Viana, a 214 quilômetros de São Luís, no Maranhão, estado dominado há décadas por grileiros e latifundiários, liderados pela família Sarney (um dos membros do clã é José Sarney Filho, atual ministro do Meio Ambiente).

Trata-se de um território que era tradicionalmente dos Gamela, que foram expulsos pela ditadura militar. Fazendeiros ocuparam a área e derrubaram a floresta para criar gado e não demorou para que começassem a se arrogar como legítimos donos da terra.

No entanto, cerca de 300 famílias Gamela permaneceram na região, determinadas a retomar o território apesar dos riscos aí implicados. A despeito da legitimidade de sua reivindicação, os índios não conseguiram que as autoridades cumprissem suas obrigações constitucionais: demarcar a terra indígena. Pressionada pelos fazendeiros, a Funai se recusou a dar início ao processo de demarcação das fronteiras do território Gamela.

“As condições de vida foram piorando ano após ano, e os Gamela se convenceram de que só sobreviveriam se o povo reagisse.”

Há três anos, os índios entraram na Justiça para obrigar os fazendeiros a abdicar do território, mas o caso não andou por conta de atrasos burocráticos. As condições de vida foram piorando ano após ano, e os Gamela se convenceram de que só sobreviveriam se o povo reagisse. Eles deram então início a uma série de ações de retomada da terra que era tradicionalmente deles.

Essa última ocupação foi feita para coincidir com os protestos em Brasília e com a primeira Greve Geral em 21 anos, organizada pelas centrais sindicais contra as severas medidas de austeridade do governo Temer. Entretanto, como diziam os velhos caciques que comandavam a ação, “para índio Munduruku a Greve Geral só acaba quando a gente resolve o problema”.

Foto tirada de celular logo antes do ataque ao acampamento dos Gamela mostra um carro de polícia e grupos de fazendeiros. Foto cedida pelo Cimi.

Foto: Cimi

Era uma estratégia arriscada, tendo em vista o forte anti-indigenismo vigente em Brasília e que ecoa, potencializando a violência nos campos mais remotos. Os fazendeiros locais responderam rapidamente. De acordo com um relato, eles trocaram mensagens via WhatsApp e convocaram colegas e pistoleiros a se reunir perto do acampamento.

Mensagens de apoio aos fazendeiros inundaram a mídia. Em entrevista a uma rádio local, o deputado federal Aluisio Mendes Filho (PTN/MA), secretário de Segurança Pública do Maranhão no governo Roseana Sarney, acusou os Gamela de serem “arruaceiros” e estimulou a violência contra eles.

Os índios estavam em minoria e, ao serem atacados por homens empunhando rifles e facões, não puderam fazer muito mais do que fugir para a floresta.

“Ele botou gasolina na fogueira”, definiu um dos índios.

Os fazendeiros fizeram um churrasco, beberam muito álcool e foram ficando agressivos ao falar dos índios. Estava claro que um ataque estava sendo planejado. Mas quando ele de fato aconteceu, a política militar (que tinha chegado mais cedo ao local) não interveio.

Os índios estavam em minoria e, ao serem atacados por homens empunhando rifles e facões, não puderam fazer muito mais do que fugir para a floresta.

De acordo com o Conselho Indígena Missionário (Cimi), treze índios ficaram feridos. Cinco foram baleados, dois deles tiveram as mãos decepadas, outros foram espancados, um teve traumatismo craniano. Kum ‘Tum Gamela, ex-padre que já recebeu inúmeras ameaças de morte, também ficou ferido.

A vontade de resistir

Os Munduruku ficaram chocados, mas não surpresos, com o que o aconteceu com os Gamela: “Eles são de uma etnia diferente, mas são nossos irmãos, do mesmo sangue”, afirma Jairo Saw Munduruku. “O governo parou de demarcar terras indígenas, as que existem não são fiscalizadas e estão destruindo a Funai. O resultado só pode ser esse mesmo. Nós lutamos hoje para que não aconteça com a gente o que aconteceu hoje com os Gamela.”

Jairo é bastante consciente do que importa ao branco em suas terras: “O governo tem que demarcar nosso território. Se não, grandes madeireiras, grandes mineradoras vão invadir. E vão dar início a conflitos, vão nos atacar, assassinar nossos líderes. É o que o governo quer, mas precisamos impedir que isso aconteça. Não temos ninguém para falar por nós no Congresso. Nós mesmos temos que nos defender”. Ao longo das últimas semanas, The Intercept Brasil tentou contato com o governo brasileiro para comentar o caso, mas não obteve resposta.

“Não temos ninguém para falar por nós no Congresso. Nós mesmos temos que nos defender”

Na tarde do dia 4, os Munduruku obtiveram de Paulo de Tarso Oliveira, procurador da República em Itaituba, a notícia de que a exoneração do responsável pela coordenação da Funai na região, Ademir Macedo da Silva, havia sido revertida. Todo o trâmite estava encaminhado e a publicação no diário Oficial da União seria questão de tempo. Em função da grande confiança do grupo no procurador, o bloqueio foi desmobilizado após as danças de guerra que celebram a vitória do grupo.

Poucas horas depois, publicam mais uma nota, bem direcionada e contundente:

“Essa ocupação foi só uma demonstração do que a força guerreira do povo Munduruku pode fazer. Continuamos tendo nossas reivindicações e já avisamos que iremos voltar se não nos ouvirem. Vamos novamente retornar para interditar a estrada e com maior grupo de guerreiros Munduruku e também seguiremos à capital do Brasil.”

Índio Gamela ferido no hospital.

Fhoto: Ana Mendes/Cimi

Em nota à imprensa, o ministro da Justiça, Osmar Serraglio, prometeu investigar “o incidente envolvendo pequenos agricultores e supostos indígenas no povoado de Bahias”. O termo “supostos” gerou uma onda de indignação por parte dos indígenas e foi rapidamente retirado da nota. Logo depois, o termo “pequenos agricultores”, criticado por se tratar de um eufemismo para milícias armadas pagas por fazendeiros, também foi apagado. No fim das contas, a nota se resumiu a dizer que o ministério iria investigar um “conflito agrário”. A Comissão de Direitos Humanos da OAB deve pedir ajuda à Anistia Internacional para resolver a disputa.

Uma divergência crescente

Protestos no Maranhão e no Pará não são casos isolados. De 24 a 28 de abril, o Acampamento Terra Livre reuniu em Brasília mais de 4 mil lideranças indígenas na maior manifestação, em números de participantes, do país. Os índios exigiam que o governo voltasse atrás e atendesse às demandas indígenas. Os manifestantes foram recebidos com gás lacrimogêneo.

Por todo o território brasileiro, índios expressam seu medo do futuro. Paulo Marubo, índio do Vale do Javari (AM), região próxima à fronteiro com o Peru, diz que a Funai, dizimada por cortes orçamentários, terá de fechar muitas das Bases de Proteção Etnoambiental, as Bapes, que têm um papel fundamental no monitoramento do território ocupado por índios isoladas.

“Se as equipes de proteção forem desativadas, vai ser que nem antes, quando os índios eram massacrados e morriam de novas doenças. Se os madeireiros se instalarem, vão fazer contato com os índios isoladas, vão espalhar doenças e matá-los”, conta Marubo à Survival International.

O governo federal parece estar dando as costas às demandas indígenas. Após 55 dias no cargo, o ministro da Justiça, Osmar Serraglio, não teve sequer uma reunião com um índio. Mas achou espaço na agenda para se encontrar a portas fechadas com 100 proprietários de terras e executivos acusados de corrupção na Operação Lava Jato.

Durante a grande manifestação em Brasília, Serraglio e o ministro da Casa Civil, Eliseu Padilha, demoraram para propor uma reunião aos índios, que recusaram o convite. Os dois ministros são conhecidamente responsáveis por traçar a estratégia anti-indígena do governo. Sem nenhuma possibilidade de acordo sobre a mesa de negociações, os líderes indígenas não viram razão para se encontrar com eles.

Esse ataque aos direitos dos índios é o mais grave desde o fim da ditadura militar, em 1985. O Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) afirma que, desde que Temer assumiu o governo, observa-se “um aumento exponencial da violência no campo”: “A circunstância de estar Ministério da Justiça ocupado por [Osmar Serraglio,] um militante da injustiça reforça essa sinistra sinalização”, avalia a entidade.

Foto em destaque: Munduruku interditam a Transamazônica para protestar contra a inépcia do governo brasileiro em demarcar terras indígenas.

The post Índios fecham Transamazônica e conquistam vitória com apoio de caminhoneiros appeared first on The Intercept.

As Uber Probes Sexual Harassment at its Offices, It Overlooks Hundreds of Thousands of Female Drivers

4 May 2017 - 4:52pm

In 2012, shortly after Uber started operating in Los Angeles, Rachel Galindo bought a new car and signed up as a driver. She had worked as a journeyman carpenter, but contractors who used to hire her stopped calling after she transitioned her gender. Driving for Uber, Galindo hoped to avoid transphobia — after all, the company’s own billboards made the tantalizing promise: “Be your own boss.”

The harassment began almost immediately.

On three separate occasions, she said, passengers got into her car and, without saying anything else, simply asked, “How much for a BJ?” Another passenger kept referring to her as “it” during the ride and, when Galindo asked her to stop, the passenger responded, “Well, I just don’t know ‘what’ you are.”

She repeatedly complained to Uber about such incidents, but she said the company would only respond using generic emails — it took three years of lodging regular complaints for an actual Uber employee to call Galindo on the phone to discuss the repeated harassment.

“I kept crying for help,” she said. “But no one was listening’

Galindo said that she sees parallels between her experience and that of Susan Fowler, the former engineer at Uber’s corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley who published a blog post in February detailing a culture of sexual harassment inside Uber. Within hours, the company had sprung into action: Board member Arianna Huffington demanded an investigation; the company retained former attorney general Eric Holder to head up an inquiry; and CEO Travis Kalanick called a company-wide meeting, where he reportedly began crying with remorse. (Neither Huffington nor Holder responded to request for comment.)

Watching the Fowler scandal unfold, Galindo said she couldn’t help but feel overlooked. “I do think Susan [Fowler] and I were victims of the same ‘bro-fraternity’ culture at Uber,” she said. “But for us female drivers, it’s different than with engineers. The company views us as expendable, as having no value at all.”

Uber is now in the midst of a company-wide review of its sexual harassment policies. Although the review was supposed to wind down last month, in a memo to Uber staff in late April Huffington said that Holder was going to take until the end of May “to ensure that no stone is left unturned.”  Despite the promise of a thorough investigation, a company spokesperson confirmed that the sexual harassment review only includes the treatment of its full-time employees like Fowler. Drivers like Galindo, the spokesperson said, don’t qualify because they are contract workers.

Only a small fraction of women who make their living from Uber, however, are in Fowler’s position. The company technically only employs around 2,000 women. The vast majority of women who make their living from Uber are independent contract drivers like Galindo. The company, which only releases driver data selectively, typically when it seems to serve the company’s PR goals, reported that around 20% of its drivers were female, and that it had signed up 230,000 new female drivers in 2015. It has promised that, by 2020, more than a million women will be driving for the platform, an important milestone as Uber competes for women riders with startups like the female-focused Safr.

Traffic flows between the Interstate 405 and 10 freeways in this aerial photograph taken over Los Angeles in 2015.

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News/Getty Images

Female Uber drivers are in uncharted terrain, at the very frontier of a massive tech company’s freewheeling experiment with a new kind of employee-employer relationship. They’re considered independent contractors, even though Uber still exerts significant control over their work-lives: the company can terminate drivers for low ratings or for canceling too many trips, and as the New York Times recently reported,  it even manipulates them with physiological tricks, and subliminal inducements to work longer hours. These women drivers of course also share the same challenges as any women in customer service: they expose themselves to unwanted sexual advances and harassing comments just like, say, a cashier at Starbucks; the reprehensible behavior of customers isn’t the fault of the company.

Yet Uber has created a totally new dynamic: It has recruited thousands of women drivers and arranged for them to be with strange men in private cars  — which  don’t have the traditional taxicab plexiglass barriers installed. In theory, Uber also has unprecedented resources to create a safe work environment for these women. It’s collected piles of data from its customers; their real names, phone numbers, and financial information, along with their movements and travel habits. And unlike a Starbucks, it can unilaterally ban harassers from its platform, by simply kicking them off the app. But while the company has plowed untold resources into recruiting drivers and keeping them on the platform, many female drivers said that discouraging and investigating sexual harassment on the job has not been the company’s priority.

“That chauvinistic corporate culture, that’s something we women drivers feel very intensely,” said Tracy, an Uber driver in Portland, Oregon, and the administrator for an online community of more than 1,000 female drivers. Tracy, who asked to use a pseudonym for fear of reprisals from Uber, coaches drivers on staying safe on the job. She said she has mentored dozens of female drivers and never met a single one who’s satisfied with how Uber responds to reports of sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances during a ride.

Former Uber driver Rachel Galindo drives around her neighborhood to show The Intercept’s photographer the car she often used for work with the company on April 30, 2017, in Los Angeles.

Photo: Dania Maxwell for The Intercept

“It’s a tough issue, a lot of, ‘he said, she said,’” Tracy admitted. But she argued that the company’s current policy, where Uber follows up complaints with generic responses, at least some of them apparently prewritten, is not up to the task of dealing with such issues at all. In nearly two years of driving, Tracy has never been comfortable with how Uber handled her own reports of sexual harassment. In two particularly egregious examples, she said, the company didn’t respond when she submitted a complaint about a couple who had sex in her car, or to another about a male passenger who appeared to be physically menacing his female companion.

“For Uber to say that they take sexually harassment of drivers seriously — that’s mind-boggling to me,” Tracy said. If a driver has to end a ride because of a sexually harassing passenger, Tracy thinks Uber should at the very least follow up with a phone call, and make drivers aware that they are earnestly trying to get to the bottom of the incident, instead of brushing it aside as just another sub-par Uber ride.

Uber disputes that characterization. “Sexual harassment is not tolerated,” read a written Uber statement provided by a spokesperson. “We want everyone to have a good Uber experience, and that starts with mutual respect. Anyone who is found to violate our community guidelines may lose their access to Uber.”  The spokesperson said the company does employ GPS data and passengers’ personal information to investigate claims of discrimination or harassment, and pointed to a post on Uber’s website entitled “The Golden Rule.” “Treat people as you would like to be treated yourself. It’s a universal truth we were all taught by our parents,” the post reads. “That’s important here at Uber.”

The driver rating screen in an Uber app is displayed Feb. 12, 2016 in Washington.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

But female Uber drivers can easily find themselves in a predicament. Uber riders rate each driver on a five-star scale and, if a driver’s average dips just a few tenths of a point below perfect, Uber can terminate her. So women are under intense pressure to tolerate sexual harassment with a smile.

“Because of how those ratings work, there’s an overall sense of fear among drivers that they could lose their jobs,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director at the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union that includes more than 5,000 Uber drivers. “For women drivers — these are often working class women — they are struggling to make ends meet.” Female drivers of taxis have longed faced similar challenges in terms of sexual harassment, though Desai said that the glass partition in traditional cabs do offer women drivers a greater sense of security. And unlike Uber drivers, female cab drivers can’t be fired for low ratings.

Danielle, a female Uber driver in California, recalled one harrowing ride during which she endured harassment from drunken passengers in silence for fear of a bad rating. “When I told the passengers I had seven children, one of the guys said, ‘Your vagina must be wrecked,’” she told me in an interview for the website The Verge. “Driving for Uber, this is my job, and if my rating gets too low, I can lose it.” So instead of confronting the passengers, Danielle laughed alongside her drunken riders.

The Uber spokesperson said drivers who think they’ve received a low rating because of bias or want to flag problematic passengers can lodge such complaints inside the app. An Uber driver shared screenshots of the app’s complaint system: after a ride with a harassing passengers, drivers have two options. They can flag a rider as “unpleasant” — with a text box to elaborate — or report a “serious incident,” something the app defines as anything that impacted the driver’s “personal safety or ability to complete this trip.”

What happens afterward can often be impersonal, maddening, time-consuming, and entirely lacking in transparency, female drivers said.

Of course a driver can also end a ride prematurely and kick the passenger out — but the Uber app, drivers said, does not distinguish between a driver who terminated a ride because a passenger was harassing, or for a more generic reason, such as a passenger who wanted the driver to speed or make an illegal U-turn. After a driver files a complaint about an unpleasant rider, the Uber app produces an automated response: “Your concerns about this rider have been noted, and we’ll make sure you don’t get matched with them again. Please let us know if there’s anything more we can do to support you. We are here to help.”

Following up, Tracy said, is a total waste of time. At the very least, she said, Uber should have a dedicated reporting system for sexual harassment and discrimination — instead of lumping those complaints in with more mundane complaints about a faulty GPS system, or passengers eating messy food.

For its part, Uber said it has a team that “specializes in accessibility and discrimination issues” but would not answer questions about what, if any, training that support staff had to field sexual harassment allegations, how many people work on that team, and how Uber flags complaints drivers submit to make sure the appropriate team is called in to investigate.

Indeed, Uber does not make public how it exactly handles sexual harassment allegations from female drivers beyond a blanket promise that incidents will be “investigated.”  One of the only glimpses into Uber’s internal process came in in 2016, when someone leaked screenshots from the company’s system to BuzzFeed,  showing more than 10,000 customer support records related to sexual assault and rape between December 2012 and August 2015 (the report did not include sexual harassment complaints). Uber said BuzzFeed’s statistics were misleading. It claimed that the screenshots included claims where the words “sexual assault” and “rape” were used in communications with customers, but were not official complaints of incidents. At the time Uber claimed “fewer than” 170 of these records represented actual sexual assault complaints and declined to explain to BuzzFeed how it determined the credibility of rape and sexual assault claims.

Former Uber driver Rachel Galindo gets ready for the day in her home on April 30, 2017, in Los Angeles.

Photo: Dania Maxwell for The Intercept

No matter the numbers, women drivers said lodging a complaint is like shouting into a void — Uber does not alert them to the outcome of its investigations, citing privacy concerns.

In one instance, Galindo flagged a male rider who moved to touch her arm in way that made her uncomfortable. “[He is] a big dude, tightly fitting on the front passenger seat, raise[s] his left arm and tries to lay his hand on me,” she wrote in a note to Uber. “I raise[d] my right arm and push his hand with my forearm.” The man relented, but he had been making some off-color comments about women during the ride, and Galindo thought Uber should be alerted.

Galindo shared Uber’s response to the incident, a generic email that thanked her for being professional, but didn’t indicate the incident would be followed up on. “I can understand why you wrote in about this. I know that not all trips will have 5-star riders,” an Uber rep who identifies herself as Danica wrote. “We trust and appreciate your professionalism and judgment to handle challenging situations like this one.”

On another occasion, Galindo wrote to Uber to complain that she was receiving biased ratings as a result of being transgender. “DON’T RESPOND WITH THE FOLLOWING,” she wrote, posting a generic response she had received from the company in the past, which concluded: “‘Please don’t worry about any individual trip rating. Every driver gets an angry rider once in a while.’”

An Uber rep named Angilla then responded with a variation on that exact message. “I understand your frustration here and I’m happy to help,” she wrote, “Please don’t worry about any individual trip rating. Every driver gets an angry rider once in a while.”

When presented with Galindo’s emails, a company spokesperson said that her complaints had been investigated, but would not elaborate further.

And Uber driver waits for a customer in Boston on April 22, 2016.

Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Galindo and other drivers obsessively try to avoid low ratings because recovering from a rating-related deactivation is not easy. Drivers can pay to take a course — similar to traffic school — to get reinstated. Or they can go to their local “Greenlight Hub,” brick and mortar offices that the company operates in major cities; there drivers can meet with representatives face-to-face and plead their cases.

“If you go in, you aren’t allowed to bring anyone with you — no lawyers, not even a friend to translate, if English isn’t your first language,” explained Dawn Gearhart, a Teamsters Union official who organizes Uber drivers in Washington state. Gearhart was once thrown out of a Greenlight Hub in Seattle when she tried to help a driver who didn’t speak English navigate the appeal process last year.

“In my experience, almost all the Uber employees at the Hub are men,” said Tracy, the driver from Portland, based on visits to deal with payment issues.

Uber said it has a 24/7 team that responds to drivers in distress, and that it hires former law enforcement officials to investigate claims. The company said it uses GPS data and customer information to support its investigations, but beyond that a company spokesperson would not clarify what exactly constitutes a full “investigation” of sexual harassment by passengers. The spokesperson also would not clarify how drivers can appeal outcomes they don’t think are fair, and what criteria the company uses to determine if a driver’s claims are credible at all.

Beth, a female driver in Los Angeles who’s been working with Uber for the past four years and asked that her real name not be used, said the company has gotten more responsive over time to driver’s who have negative experiences with a passenger. “When they first launched out here, sometimes you’d lodge a complaint and you’d get zero response — just silence,” she recalled. “Now, if it’s something serious involving violence or really intense harassment, and you want to get the police involved, sure, you’ll get a call from Uber.”

The Uber spokesperson emphasized that the company’s approach to sexual harassment has evolved over time, but would not specify what new procedures were introduced at what time. Uber did quietly add a “critical safety response” line in some cities recently, where drivers can report a violent incident. But Uber hasn’t publicly clarified if the number is intended to be a venue for women to report sexual harassment or discrimination, or if it’s simply intended for potentially illegal and violent incidents. And a recent report by the Guardian revealed that Uber apparently refused to share a passenger’s information with law enforcement, even after a female driver accused the passenger of sexual assault.

Former Uber driver Rachel Galindo poses for a portrait in her home on April 30, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Photo: Dania Maxwell for The Intercept

“There’s a whole lot of space between what’s inappropriate and what’s illegal,” explained Beth Robinson, an associate at Fortis Law Partners who writes a regular column on employment law for the legal publication Above the Law. “These Uber drivers find themselves in that space a lot of the time.”

And drivers who feel that the company hasn’t taken sexual harassment from riders seriously have limited legal recourse, Robinson added. “Anti-harassment policies exist to protect employees at companies,” she said. “Not third-party interactions, like those of passengers and contract Uber drivers.”

Certain states, including California, where Galindo lives, have extended some sexual harassment protections to contractors. But, since the harassment comes from customers and not supervisors, a driver would have to assert Uber is creating a “hostile work environment,” a high legal bar that requires proof that the treatment is “severe” or “pervasive.”

“If the complaint process for sexual harassment is, in essence, a black hole, and a number of women have brought this to the attention of the company and the company has refused to do something about it — then there could be some potential liability,” said Paula Brantner, a lawyer and former executive director of Workplace Fairness, a nonprofit that advocates for workplace rights.

Even in the absence of a lawsuit, Brantner suggested that Uber should take the opportunity to review how it fields driver complaints. “If there is not a legal remedy, there needs to be an HR remedy,” she said.

And, in the wake of the Fowler scandal, for instance, Uber CEO Kalanick did promise to order “an independent review into the specific issues relating to the workplace environment raised by Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly.”

But omitting drivers from the policy review, Brantner said, suggests that the company is not addressing sexual harassment in earnest in all its forms. “The drivers are the essence of the company — compared to the relatively small number of women who work at corporate headquarters,” she said.

Uber may be betting that female drivers won’t stick around long enough to get a full picture of how the company handles sexual harassment claims. A 2015 study indicated that one in four Uber drivers were new to the platform in a given month, and that about half of new drivers quit within the first year.  Uber, for its part, insists that many of its drivers sign up as a temporary stopgap—to make some money in between full time jobs—and that the turnover rate is perfectly natural.

Though Tracy says every driver’s experience is different, many do leave Uber because of harassing passengers. “Great drivers quit,” she said.

Galindo kept driving for Uber for four years, because she said workplace discrimination prevented her landing steady carpentry jobs. She’s recently stopped working for Uber, however, after a friend offered her a well-paying job overseeing a team of carpenters on a construction site.

She has considered filing a suit. But ultimately, the same economic forces that pressure female drivers to endure harassment on the job also dissuaded her from pursuing it. “I live paycheck to paycheck, [it’s] hard to afford time off,” she said. “I just don’t have the means to buy justice.”

Top photo: Former Uber driver Rachel Galindo poses for a portrait in her Los Angeles home on April 30, 2017.

The post As Uber Probes Sexual Harassment at its Offices, It Overlooks Hundreds of Thousands of Female Drivers appeared first on The Intercept.

Protesto de “terroristas” motivou agressão a estudante em Goiás, diz militar

4 May 2017 - 4:45pm

“Todo policial tem o conhecimento elementar de que, para imobilizar alguém, não pode atingir a cabeça ou os genitais. Aliás, qualquer pessoa adulta e racional tem esse conhecimento”, disse o Secretário de Segurança de Goiás, Ricardo Ballesteri, no último domingo, dia 30, em seu perfil pessoal no Facebook.

Elementar, mas nem para todos.

O capitão Augusto Sampaio, subcomandante da 37ª Companhia Independente da Polícia Militar que quebrou o cacetete na cabeça de Mateus Ferreira da Silva, de 33 anos, durante um protesto na greve geral na última sexta-feira (28), em Goiânia parece não saber. Ou apenas não se importar. Mateus segue internado, teve melhoras e não corre risco de morrer. Enquanto isso, militares realizaram na tarde desta quinta-feira (5) um ato de apoio ao capitão Sampaio. “Agressão seria evitada se não tivessem terroristas protestando”, justificou tenente-coronel da PM, Alessandri da Rocha, na foto abaixo com o secretário de segurança.

Ricardo Balesteri, Secretário de Segurança Pública de Goiás, posa para foto com camisa da ROTAM após ministrar Aula Inaugural do 16° Curso Operacional de Rotam

Foto: Associação dos Oficiais da Polícia e Corpo de Bombeiros Militar de Goiás

A Polícia Civil divulgou nota na noite do dia 2, terça-feira, afirmando que vai aguardar a formalização dos procedimentos administrativos no âmbito militar, para averiguar a necessidade de abertura de inquérito contra o capitão Augusto. A decisão de instaurar ou não uma investigação na esfera civil depende de interpretação: se o capitão cometeu um crime comum ou militar ao ferir Mateus. Ou seja, no entendimento da Polícia Civil não houve tentativa de homicídio.

O Ministério Público, responsável pelo controle externo da atividade policial, repudiou a ação e pediu à Polícia Civil a abertura de um inquérito para que seja apurado eventual crime comum por parte do capitão da PM, sem prejuízo ao inquérito policial militar, que já foi instaurado e é acompanhado pelo MP. O órgão soube da decisão da Polícia Civil pela imprensa, o que mostra o antigo problema de falta de comunicação no âmbito da segurança pública.

O capitão, que recebeu 2 medalhas do governo goiano por “preservação da ordem” em 2016, já foi acusado de ao menos outras quatro ocorrências de agressão, inclusive contra menores de idade em situação de rua, entre 2008 e 2010. Já houve processo contra o militar envolvendo ainda abuso de autoridade, favorecimento pessoal, alteração de limites imobiliários e abuso de autoridade continuado e lesão corporal, num total de 10 ações. Depois de ferir Mateus, ele foi afastado das ruas, mas continua trabalhando administrativamente. Ele acumula 34 elogios em sua ficha funcional e nenhuma punição. O alinhamento do secretário de Segurança, que literalmente veste a camisa, somando à decisão da Polícia Civil, também pode conferir ao policial alguma segurança.

“Minha percepção da segurança pública em Goiás é alarmante. Recebo frequentemente denúncias de condutas de policiais militares em Goiás, que são muito violentos e ‘personalistas’, no sentido em que ‘marcam’ as pessoas que costumam estar ligadas aos movimentos sociais da região ou que denunciam, no âmbito da sociedade civil, a conduta dos PMs nas ruas. Não à toa, alguns casos de Goiás pararam em Cortes”, afirma a coordenadora do Observatório Goiano de Direitos Humanos (OGDH), Andreia Vettorassi.

O objetivo do Observatório é fazer com que a ação contra Mateus seja entendida como tentativa de homicídio, “visto a gravidade do ferimento e o tipo de golpe desferido contra um homem desarmado”, apurado pela Polícia Civil e Ministério Público Estadual, e não apenas pela Corregedoria da Polícia Militar.

“Mato por satisfação”

A sequência de “casos isolados” cometidos pelo capitão não é bem uma novidade e parece encontrar eco em algumas partes da corporação. Ser preso por liderar um grupo de extermínio e apontado pelo Ministério Público por participação em uma chacina com cinco mortes e por crime de pistolagem não impediu que o policial militar Ricardo Rocha fosse empossado no início do ano passado chefe do Comando de Policiamento de Goiânia da PM-GO, cargo que ocupa até hoje. Ele ainda é alvo de ação da Polícia Federal contra grupo de extermínio no estado, de investigações sobre relações escusas entre policiais militares e políticos, e de participação de PMs em chacinas. Nada que seja exclusivamente inerente a Goiás, claro.

“Mato por satisfação”. Essa foi capa do jornal O Popular de 3 de março de 2011, que trazia detalhes sobre a Operação Sexto Mandamento, que investiga a violência policial em Goiás. No mesmo dia o jornal foi cercado por três dezenas de policiais da Ronda Ostensiva Tático Metropolitana (ROTAM) – a mesma que está estampada na camisa que o secretário de Segurança veste – que ameaçaram jornalistas. O policial que comandou a ação, tenente Alex de Siqueira, foi denunciado pelo Ministério Público Estadual pelos crimes de prevaricação e ameaça.

Um mês antes da capa, em 15 de fevereiro, 19 policiais militares tinham sido presos pela Polícia Federal acusados de participação em um esquadrão da morte. O comando da Ronda foi trocado e houve promessas de punição exemplar. Mas a promessa durou pouco, e, em novembro, a ROTAM estava de volta às ruas. Atualmente, a investigação da Sexto Mandamento ainda segue nas mãos da Polícia Federal, sob a responsabilidade do delegado Francisco Badenes, que desbaratou a Scuderie Le Coq, grupo de extermínio que atuou no Espírito Santo nos anos 80 e 90.

Capa do Jornal O Popular, edição de 03 de março de 2011

No ano passado, houve uma audiência pública a pedido dos deputados PM Alberto Fraga (DF) e Alexandre Baldy (GO) para tratar dos desdobramentos da operação, e eles foram surpreendentes.

O que aconteceu foi uma retratação aos oficiais convidados, que tinham sido presos na operação, com pedido de desculpas do deputado Fraga. O mais surpreendente contudo foi a fala do representante do Ministério Público, responsável pelo controle externo da atividade policial. “Houve a ascensão de um movimento de ideário político-liberal, especificamente no Direito Penal, um movimento que buscou vitimizar o criminoso e criminalizar o policial. (…) Parte da ascensão da criminalidade que se viveu deu-se em razão da ascensão desta ideologia, com o consequente enfraquecimento da atividade policial, o que traz como consequência mais ousadia da parte do criminoso”, afirmou Raphael Perissé, procurador da República.

O caso investigado pela Operação Sexto Mandamento se soma a outros dois que, em dezembro de 2014, foram federalizados pelo Superior Tribunal de Justiça, e  envolvem três desaparecimentos forçados e uma tortura. A federalização desloca das autoridades locais para as federais a competência de investigar e julgar crimes. O objetivo é garantir maior isenção, principalmente em casos de graves violações de direitos humanos em que há risco de descumprimento de obrigações assumidas por tratados internacionais firmados pelo Brasil. Na época o MP goiano foi contra.

Estes três e  outros 43 casos no estado foram denunciados à Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos, da Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA), pela Comissão de Direitos Humanos da Assembléia Legislativa do Estado de Goiás e movimentos sociais no mesmo ano. Ainda não há uma decisão sobre a denúncia.

“Casos isolados”

Outro caso recente em Goiás, ficou conhecido como o “Amarildo de Goiás“, em alusão ao pedreiro Amarildo, que desapareceu em julho de 2013, na Favela da Rocinha, no Rio de Janeiro, depois de ser levado pela polícia para prestar esclarecimentos. Seu corpo nunca foi encontrado e o caso virou um lema contra a violência policial.

O “Amarildo de Goiás” se chamava Roberto Campos da Silva, tinha 16 anos e foi morto dentro de casa, após invasão de PMs descaracterizados, no último 17 de abril. O pai dele também foi baleado, mas sobreviveu, e continua internado. O jornal local, O Popular, apurou que o que aconteceu com Robertinho, como era chamado, é bastante comum e relatou oito casos em que policiais, identificados ou não, entraram em grupo em residências sem autorização judicial e depois das 18 horas, o que não pode ocorrer sem mandado. Três Policiais Militares foram presos, e o juiz do caso afirmou que esse tipo de conduta criminosa é comum.

O número de reclamações em relação a casos como o de Robertinho vem aumentando. “É uma postura recorrente, essa dos policiais militares. A posição das comissões da OAB que lidam com o tema é no sentido de ilegalidade da PM, que atua investigando crimes comuns, sem a devida interação com a Polícia Civil, isolada e usurpando a função investigativa. É uma ação fora de controle, que só vem depois que ação já foi praticada”, explica Roberto Serra, presidente da Comissão de Direitos da OAB-Goiás. A entidade pretende propor à Secretaria de Segurança uma resolução óbvia: que a atuação da Polícia Militar seja limitada às suas atribuições constitucionais.

Procurada por The Intercept Brasil, a Secretaria de Segurança de Goiás não se pronunciou sobre o assunto. “O corporativismo com o erro, ao contrário do que possa superficialmente parecer, não defende e não preza a instituição policial. O corporativismo com o erro é apenas uma forma de não honrar o trabalho dos bons policiais, dos cuidadores do povo, a imensa maioria”, disse o secretário há cinco dias. Ou seja, parece que seu silêncio corrobora exatamente para o corporativismo que diz condenar.

The post Protesto de “terroristas” motivou agressão a estudante em Goiás, diz militar appeared first on The Intercept.

House GOP Just Voted to Slash Medicaid — Which Pays for 60 Percent of People in Nursing Homes

4 May 2017 - 3:22pm

The American Health Care Act, which squeaked through the House of Representatives on Thursday, is terrible for many Americans in many ways. But what’s gotten almost no attention is the horrendous effect it could have on Americans in nursing homes.

Daniel Webster, a Republican representative from the 11th Congressional District in central Florida, acknowledged this when he announced he would vote for the AHCA.

“I have been very concerned about Florida’s Medicaid-funded nursing home beds,” Webster said. “These are critical to the access some of our senior population has to our nursing homes.”

Webster explained he was only willing to vote yes because President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the House of Representatives’ GOP leadership promised that they would find some way to deal with the potential disaster created by the bill. It will now go to the Senate, and if some version of it is passed there, will then have to be reconciled with the House bill for a final vote.

Many middle-class Americans are unaware that the huge cost of nursing home care – which in some areas can run over $100,000 a year — is not covered by Medicare. Those who need it and cannot pay for it themselves can generally receive coverage from Medicaid, though they usually must spend down all their savings first.

When all is said and done, Medicaid pays the bills for over 60 percent of nursing home residents — people who cannot care for themselves and without Medicaid would have literally nowhere to go.

But the AHCA slashes $880 billion dollars from Medicaid spending over the next ten years, or about one-sixth of the $5 trillion it would otherwise cost the federal government. (While these seem like enormous numbers, the U.S. economy is so big that even $5 trillion will be just about two percent of the gross domestic product over the next decade.)

The bill accomplishes these cuts in part by changing Medicaid from an entitlement, in which the federal government automatically provides states with funding based on the needs of their population, to either a block grant or a per capita allocation (at the state’s choice).

The amount states will receive per capita will be set at the average cost for recipients in 2016. It then will increase at the Consumer Price Index’s rate of medical inflation until 2020, when it will begin going up at the CPI medical rate plus one percent. While this sounds reasonable, it will inevitably have serious consequences over the next 20 years due to the aging of the baby boom generation.

This year someone born in 1950 will turn 67 years old, and probably doesn’t need nursing home care. In 2037 they will turn 87, and will be far more likely to do so.

Nursing care is one big reason Medicaid recipients over 85 cost the program 2.5 times more than those who are between the ages of 65 and 74. If Medicaid were to remain an entitlement, states would automatically receive increased federal funds to cover these greater costs as baby boomers age. Under the AHCA, the per-capita payments to states will increase far too slowly to cover them.

Precisely how much of a catastrophe the AHCA could be is impossible to say as of now, since Republicans passed the bill without first having it scored by the Congressional Budget Office. But there’s little question it will be disastrous if anything like it becomes law. This didn’t matter to Republicans in the House. The question now is whether it will matter at all to Republicans in the Senate.

Top photo: Shirley Gooding, a physical Therapy Aid, helps William Rexroat, a WWII Navy veteran exercise during a physical therapy session at the Quincy Veterans nursing home in Quincy, Ill. in 2005.

The post House GOP Just Voted to Slash Medicaid — Which Pays for 60 Percent of People in Nursing Homes appeared first on The Intercept.

Killer Cop Conviction Is an Exception: Don’t Expect Justice From the Sessions DOJ

4 May 2017 - 1:49pm

Developments in the cases of Walter Scott in South Carolina and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, as well as the police shooting of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in Texas, once again reignited a debate this week over policing, race, and justice that is taking on ever greater urgency as the new administration makes clear its commitment to law enforcement over civil rights.

On Tuesday, Michael Slager, a former police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Walter Scott’s civil rights. Slager’s 2015 shooting of Scott — in the back and as he ran away unarmed — was caught in a video that left no doubt about the officer’s crime, but as part of the deal Slager, who would have been facing a second state trial after a first ended in a hung jury last December, had his murder charge dropped.

Slager’s admission of guilt made for an incredibly rare federal conviction of a police officer in connection with an unjustified shooting. Most officers involved in similar incidents are never charged at the local level — let alone the federal one, which comes with a higher burden of proof. In 2015, for instance, as protests demanding police accountability rocked the country and unofficial tallies put the number of people killed by police at 1,200, 18 officers faced murder or manslaughter charges, a record high. None were convicted.

Slager could now face life in prison. Scott’s family hailed the plea as a victory in the fight for police accountability, but others were angry the murder charge was dropped. So was Slager’s conviction justice?

“In a world where you have 1,200 people killed by police every year and 15 of them get prosecuted, yes,” said Jonathan Smith, who for five years led the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

Yet those who welcomed Slager’s conviction were immediately reminded of just how elusive that justice remains. News of the officer’s plea deal was in fact quickly eclipsed by a leaked report that the DOJ would decline to pursue charges against two Baton Rouge officers who last July tackled Alton Sterling, who was selling CDs outside a store, and shot him in the chest and back while he was on the ground. That shooting, too, was caught on camera, fueling protests that were violently met by police.

Rumors of the DOJ’s imminent announcement in Sterling’s case circulated for days — as Baton Rouge residents braced for the worst and angry officials demanded the federal government act more transparently. The DOJ finally confirmed the decision on Wednesday.

“The Department of Justice’s failure to communicate with the community has created angst and nervousness,” Congressman Cedric Richmond wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the announcement. “I fear that without this transparency, concerned citizens will be left with no choice but lose faith in your Department’s ability to conduct a fair, unbiased investigation.”

From left, civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus hold a news conference after marching to the Department of Justice from the U.S. Capitol Sept. 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. The caucus members marched to the Department of Justice to deliver a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch “urging her to use the power of her office to bring about prosecutions for the targeting and profiling of black men, women and children” by law enforcement. Until individual officers face consequences the killings won’t stop, advocates have long argued.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“Under This DOJ, That’s Not Going to Happen”

In fact, affected communities’ confidence in the DOJ lagged long before Sessions’s deeply contested appointment to run it. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department aggressively pursued investigations of systemic civil rights violations by police departments across the country, forcing them to reform or face litigation. But even as it condemned one police department after the other, the DOJ rarely held individual officers accountable for their crimes (Slager is an exception), leaving communities from Baltimore to Ferguson frustrated by reports that called for change but delivered no justice.

Until individual officers face consequences, advocates have long argued, the killings won’t stop.

The latest tragic illustration of that point is Jordan Edwards, a high school freshman who was killed while driving away from a party in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs. Police initially said the car he was in had been charging at police, then changed their account when dash cam video showed that was not true. On Tuesday, Roy Oliver, the officer who shot into the car, was fired. He has yet to be charged or arrested.

“This keeps happening — and it’s sickening,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of the racial justice group Color of Change said in a statement following Edwards’ death. “We’ve seen this time and time again.”

Edwards was one of 333 people killed by police so far this year, and the youngest. His death poses a first test to Sessions’ DOJ, which inherited investigations of the individual officers who killed Scott, Sterling, and Eric Garner in New York from the previous administration but has yet to pursue any of its own.

“If the department expresses no concern about that and doesn’t get involved in one way or another, that will give you an early sense of what the administration’s future agenda in these cases is going to be,” said Smith, the former DOJ official, referring to Edwards’ death.

DOJ officials did not respond to The Intercept’s questions about the possibility of investigating Oliver or the Balch Springs police department.

Although the Justice Department was reluctant to go after individual officers in the past, its widespread “pattern and practice” investigations of police departments became a hallmark of the previous administration’s commitment to civil rights work — a commitment Sessions as vowed to end.

“In a case like Baton Rouge, or in a case like Dallas, what the DOJ should be doing is not simply looking at the individual officer’s behavior and considering whether or not to take action to hold that specific officer accountable, but understanding that when you have people like that, it’s often indicative of other problems and other patterns,” said Ezekiel Edwards, who runs the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “We know when they’ve launched those initial inquiries in places like Chicago, Seattle, Cleveland, and Ferguson, that they have found systemic problems.”

“Under this DOJ, that’s not going to happen,” he added.

Quite the opposite. Last month, Sessions called for a review of dozens of agreements that came as a result of earlier investigations, threatening to roll back years of reform. On multiple occasions he made clear that he wants the federal government to leave local law enforcement alone.

“It’s a message to officers on the street and police departments that he believes that, if the Constitution gets in the way, you can ignore the Constitution,” Smith told The Intercept. “He’s consistently said that he thinks that holding police accountable to the Constitution interferes with their ability to deliver public safety, giving free license to the police to ignore our most fundamental law.”

Top photo: Sandra Sterling, Aunt of Alton Sterling cries out to the media at a press conference outside the U.S. Federal Court House on May 3, 2017 in Baton Rouge, La.

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There’s Nothing Apple’s CEO Cares About More Than Not Paying Taxes

4 May 2017 - 1:48pm

In an exclusive interview with CNBC’s resident stockmonger Jim Cramer, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a proud announcement: His company will begin to invest $1 billion to create new jobs in the United States, as opposed to on the other side of the world, where its iPhones, iPads and laptops are made. Cook will be lauded for this, and yes, jobs are good. But don’t think for a moment this isn’t about saving Apple a buck in the long run.

“I’m proud to tell you that we’re creating an advanced manufacturing fund,” Cook told Cramer from Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters. “We’re initially putting $1 billion in the fund.” This ostensible decision of the heart very clearly became something more strategic, as Cramer noted that while a billion is a big number, it’s relatively tiny given Apple’s liquid war chest, which now tops $250 billion in cash. Cook’s reply:”It’s $1 billion of our U.S. money, which we have to borrow to get, that’s another whole topic.”

Why would a company with $250 billion in cash need to borrow 1/250th of that in order to launch its vaunted U.S. jobs program? According to Cook, it’s because the company is a victim of its own success:

If you earn money globally, you can’t bring it back into the United States unless you pay 35 percent plus your state tax. And you look at this and you go, ‘This is kind of bizarre.’ You want people to use this money in the United States to invest more. We are in a good position, but an unusual one. Our good position is we can borrow. And so to invest in the United States, we have to borrow. This doesn’t make sense on a broad basis, and so I think the administration, you saw that they’re really getting this and want to bring this back and I hope that that comes to pass.”

And there it is. “We have to borrow” is of course, untrue. The company could repatriate its vast offshore holdings — which it’s accumulated deliberately, through years of byzantine tax-dodging schemes — but would then have to pay taxes to the IRS, which might bump Apple down from The richest corporation in the history of capitalism to merely One of the richest corporations in the history of capitalism. It’s why Cook has contorted himself in recent months, showing a willingness to collaborate directly with Trump insofar as the president could cut Apple a sweet tax repatriation deal (splashy headlines about domestic job creation will help, too). Asked if Cook’s relationship with the White House is one of “give and take,” despite the fact that Trump’s administration has a clear disdain for a large swath of Apple’s employees, the privacy of people who use his phones, and even Cook’s identity as a gay man, his reply is pretty straightforward:

“You know, again, I think with each administration in every country in the world, there are things you disagree and things you agree, and you look to find common ground and try to influence the things you don’t.”

In other words: Cook’s Apple will hold its nose and play nice as long as it takes in order to bring home its billions.

The post There’s Nothing Apple’s CEO Cares About More Than Not Paying Taxes appeared first on The Intercept.

How Much Does a Politician Cost? A Groundbreaking Study Reveals the Influence of Money in Politics.

4 May 2017 - 9:07am

An ingenious new Roosevelt Institute study on the influence of money on politics begins with an incredible story about how the world actually works:

In the spring of 1987, Paul Volcker’s second term as chair of the Federal Reserve was running out. Volcker had first been appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1979, and was willing to stay for another four years if President Reagan asked. While Volcker had used high interest rates to engineer a crushing recession at the start of Reagan’s first term, he then allowed the economy to expand rapidly just in time to carry Reagan to a landslide reelection in 1984.

Yet Reagan wanted to replace him. Why?

The study’s authors, Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, report that they learned the answer from a participant in the key White House meeting on Volcker’s fate.

The main opposition to reappointing Volcker came from Reagan’s treasury secretary James Baker. As the study puts it, Baker did not like Volcker’s “skepticism about financial deregulation,” specifically his opposition to attempts to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act.

Glass-Steagall, passed at the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency in the depths of the Great Depression, separated commercial and investment banking. Allowing banks to combine the two activities had created enormous conflicts of interests and incentivized manic recklessness that helped cause 1929’s financial Armageddon.

But banks had loathed Glass-Steagall ever since, because the fewer economy-destroying risks they could take, the lower their profits. By 1987 they were making progress in their long war to push Congress to repeal it. And while Fed chairs of course can’t vote themselves, many politicians take their cues from them on complex financial issues.

According to the Roosevelt study, that was why Volcker had to go:

Baker’s [explanation for why Volcker should not be reappointed] was startlingly direct: Possible repeal of Glass-Steagall was the signature issue used by investment bankers, led by then-Goldman Sachs executive Robert Rubin, to raise money for the Democratic Party from their cohorts on Wall Street. Getting rid of Glass-Steagall, Baker explained, would alter the balance of power between the two major parties by depriving the Democrats of a central revenue stream.

So Volcker was replaced by Alan Greenspan, who gleefully supported the elimination of Glass-Steagall in 1999 — as did Robert Rubin, who became treasury secretary under Bill Clinton. Coincidentally or not, within a decade Wall Street had inflated the biggest bubble in world history in an attempt at mass suicide, saved only by trillions of dollars of government support. They were too big to fail, while millions of regular Americans turned out to be just the right size to fail.

As horrifying as this tale is, few normal people would be surprised by any of it. A 2015 New York Times poll found that 87 percent of Americans believe the campaign finance system either needs “fundamental changes” or should be “completely rebuilt.” Politicians themselves will tell you that their world is ruled by money. And the super-wealthy obviously believe money translates into power, since they continue pouring it into politics.

Strangely, almost the only human beings who think that money doesn’t warp politics are academic political scientists who study it. The Roosevelt study quotes a previous paper summarizing the “scholarly consensus” as being that “candidate spending has very modest to negligible causal effects on candidate vote shares.”

The Roosevelt authors go to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate to their colleagues that the sky is, in fact, blue. The study uses all the tools of academic scholarship in impressively creative ways, and will convince anyone who can be convinced by rationality and evidence.

First of all, the study explains, “exceptions, additions, and loopholes have proliferated around the rules governing legal contributions and expenditures. Congress has many times enacted rules that appeared to close off gushing torrents of money while in fact opening new ones.” The system is now “worthy of Gogol: a maze of bureaucratic spending and expenditures” that are exceedingly difficult to track.

The Roosevelt authors went to the effort of capturing as much of it as possible — and found that academic examinations of this subject miss as much as 50 percent of the money being spent on elections.

It’s also tough to legitimately measure how money could translate into congressional votes. Legislation often is thwarted by small numbers of politicians in committees, too few to create a good data set. In the Senate, few votes are ever taken, with most of the action going on beneath the surface. And there’s a continuous churn of elected officials, making it hard to find an inflection point in the decisions of any one individual.

The Roosevelt study therefore focuses on an issue where politicians were repeatedly forced to go on the record — House votes on the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill — and Democratic representatives who were representing the same district over several terms and would seemingly have little reason to change their minds.

Dodd-Frank was passed in 2010. After the GOP took control of the House in the midterm elections that year, representatives voted five times from 2013 to 2015 to weaken key provisions of the law in ways that big banks desperately desired.

There would be no discernible legitimate reason for Democratic representatives who’d supported Dodd-Frank to begin with to later defect from their party and vote along with Wall Street. Many did, however.

Why? Well, no one can say what was in their hearts, at least until we hear from someone like James Baker. But what the Roosevelt study demonstrates is that “for every $100,000 that Democratic representatives received from finance, the odds they would break with their party’s majority support for the Dodd-Frank legislation increased by 13.9 percent. Democratic representatives who voted in favor of finance often received $200,000-$300,000 from that sector, which raised the odds of switching by 25-40 percent.”

Intriguingly, Democratic representatives leaving the House after the 2014 elections were particularly likely to support Wall Street against Dodd-Frank. In an interview, Ferguson characterized their votes as “applications for employment.”

The study also looks at any connections between money from the telecom industry and a crucial 2006 House vote on net neutrality. For every $1,000 a representative received from corporations supporting net neutrality, like Google or Netflix, they were 24 percent more likely to vote for it. For every $1,000 from companies opposing it, they were 2.6 percent more likely to vote against.

For most people, the Roosevelt study — which is genuinely fascinating and, unusually for an academic paper, worth reading just for the quality of its writing — will confirm what they already sensed. Ferguson said he hopes it will also help “end the discussion” in academia on whether money matters in politics.

But while it should do that in a rational world, this is likely over-optimistic. Consider the fact that, no matter what the real world evidence has shown, academic economists continue pumping out studies about the desperate importance of cutting the taxes of billionaires. H.L. Menken explained that phenomenon almost 100 years ago:

To what extent is political economy, as professors expound and practice it, a free science, in the sense that mathematics and physiology are free sciences?

… When one comes to the faculty of political economy one finds that freedom as plainly conditioned, though perhaps not as openly, as in the faculty of theology. And for a plain reason. Political economy, so to speak, hits the employers of the professors where they live. It deals, not with ideas that affect those employers only occasionally or only indirectly or only as ideas, but with ideas that have an imminent and continuous influence upon their personal welfare and security, and that affect profoundly the very foundations of that social and economic structure upon which their whole existence is based. It is, in brief, the science of the ways and means whereby they have come to such estate, and maintain themselves in such estate, that they are able to hire and boss professors.

Likewise, those who hire and boss professors of political science love to hear that money makes no difference in politics. And no matter how hard academics like Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Chen work, and how much real world evidence they pile up, many other professors will likely continue making that case indefinitely.

Top photo: President Ronald Reagan announces the appointment of Alan Greenspan, left, as his choice to replace Paul Volcker, center, as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board at a White House briefing, accompanied by Secretary of Treasury, right, James A. Baker III, on June 2, 1987.

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O palhaço, o capitão e os caciques: um painel da Reforma Política que quer quebrar tudo em Brasília

4 May 2017 - 6:00am

A reforma política que está sendo discutida na Câmara pode dar uma bem-vinda sacudida no nosso sistema eleitoral, mas, infelizmente, é cedo pra comemorar. Essa é a sexta comissão montada na Casa para debater o tema desde 2003, a segunda nesta legislatura, poucos avanços de fato ocorreram, então já dá pra ver que o tema é espinhoso. Para que vigorem em 2018, as mudanças têm de ser aprovadas antes de outubro e  quem vai acatá-las ou rejeitá-las são os congressistas que historicamente se beneficiam do sistema como ele é.

As evidências de que é hora de uma funilaria geral na forma como escolhemos nosso líderes são várias, mas podemos começar de maneira singela, refletindo sobre o termo Tiririca. Atualmente ele tem três acepções. É o apelido de um palhaço deputado (não confundir com deputado palhaço), uma resistente erva daninha, e um dos fenômenos mais debatidos no sistema eleitoral brasileiro: o Efeito Tiririca.

Nos idos de 2010, Tiririca (o palhaço) abalou o mundo político ao se eleger com mais de um milhão de votos e garantir ao seu partido, o fisiológico PR, outras três cadeiras (e meia) na Câmara. Em 2014, ele repetiu a façanha, levando consigo figuras como o Capitão Augusto e seus míseros 46 mil votos. A despeito da mirrada popularidade, o PM teve o mérito de trazer alguma galhardia a Brasília. Defensor da ditadura, ele dá expediente de farda, com direito a medalhas e condecorações (Bolsonaro deve ruborizar sempre que o colega adentra o recinto).

O deputado Tiririca (PR-SP) votação na Câmara em 2016. Foto: Nilson Bastian/ Câmara dos Deputados

Foto: Nilson Batista/ Câmara dos Deputados

Então criou-se o mito do Efeito Tiririca: puxadores de voto que arrastariam multidões ao Congresso. Coleguinhas jornalistas fizeram as contas e chegaram a números assustadores. Em 2014, apenas 7% dos deputados haviam sido eleitos com votos próprios. Seriam 36 deputados, num total de 513. Só que sabe como é, jornalista fazendo conta é sempre um treco perigoso, e a coisa não era bem assim.

Então criou-se o mito do Efeito Tiririca: puxadores de voto que arrastariam multidões ao Congresso.

O cálculo que se fez foi dividir o número de cadeiras pelos votos válidos, chegando-se a um quociente eleitoral. Cada vez que atinge esse quociente, um partido tem direito a uma cadeira. Até aí tudo bem. O problema é que o quociente é uma média.

Quando alguns poucos políticos recebem uma quantidade muito grande de votos, a média se desloca para cima. Como consequência, a maioria, que recebe votações mais normaizinhas, fica abaixo dela. Isso, em si, não pode ser considerado um problema, se a escolha do eleitor estiver sendo respeitada. E, pasmem, ela está.

Isso ficou claro numa pesquisa feita pelo cientista político Márcio Carlomagno, considerando as eleições de 2008 a 2014. Ele comparou os políticos mais votados com os que de fato terminaram eleitos e concluiu que a diferença era muito pequena. No caso da Câmara, 92% dos que conquistaram cadeiras estavam entre os mais votados. Só uma minoria de 8% foi arrastada por puxadores de voto. “Essa ideia de que eu voto em um e outro é eleito se tornou senso comum e colabora pro descrédito com a política”, disse. “Mas na verdade não passa de um fenômeno residual.”

Ah, ufa, que bom, né? Bem, não exatamente. Primeiro porque lá se vai uma boa desculpa para termos o nosso Congresso burlesco. Segundo porque puxar votos é apenas uma faceta do fenômeno Tiririca. A outra, essa, sim, mais relevante, diz respeito ao personalismo que nosso sistema estimula.

Ao longo das décadas, o modelo brasileiro evidenciou o candidato em detrimento do partido, o que faz surgir figuras famosas, bizarras e caricatas, que se fixam na cabeça do eleitor. A persona  pública vale mais do que as propostas apresentadas. Em parte por conta disso, partidos lançam vários nomes que concorrem entre si, ajudando a criar um sistema de caos que, nas eleições passadas, contou com 463.375 candidatos a vereador.

E para organizar esse circo?

Diante de toda essa confusão não seria mais fácil simplesmente eleger os mais votados e fim de papo? Bem, não exatamente. Porque aí, no sistema batizado de “distritão”, aparecem outras distorções. Primeiro, as minorias perdem espaço. Uma vez que vale a voz da maioria simples, e que os humanos tendem a escolher representantes que defendam seus interesses, ficaria quase impossível eleger um político que lutasse pelo direito dos homossexuais, por exemplo.

Além disso, os votos que não vão para o vencedor são simplesmente dispensados. Por isso siglas podem ter uma multidão de eleitores e mesmo assim acabar sem representação. Em 1993, por exemplo, numa eleição desse tipo, o partido “Progressista Conservador” do Canadá conquistou 16% dos votos, mas só 0,7% das cadeiras. Essa não parece, portanto, a melhor saída. Mas, afinal, há alguma saída?

A proposta que a Câmara está debatendo traz algumas e não são das piores. Sim, o relator do pré-projeto, deputado Vicente Cândido (PT/SP), tem lá suas fraquezas. Saiu a público dizendo que uma anistia geral da politicada não seria má ideia, deixou fora do relatório a criminalização do caixa 2 e, ainda que não seja adepto da moda hipster, se acha no direito de envergar seu grisalho bigodinho em rede nacional. Apesar disso, o esboço de reforma que ele propõe parece bem intencionado.

Deputado Vicente Cândido (PT/SP)apresenta parecer sobre Reforma Política em comissão especial na Câmara dos Deputados

Foto: Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil

Um dos pontos centrais é a migração para o voto em listas fechadas. Nele, os partidos divulgam seus candidatos organizados numa ordem fixa. Os eleitores escolhem a legenda e os votos são distribuídos entre os políticos naquela ordem predeterminada. Hoje, apesar de pouco se falar, o Brasil já usa um sistema de listas para eleger vereadores e deputados. Só que são listas abertas. O candidato é eleito por uma mistura de votos dirigidos a ele e ao partido. Quanto mais votos um partido recebe, mais nomes ele emplaca. E quanto mais votos um candidato recebe, mais alto na lista do partido ele fica posicionado.

Com a mudança para lista fechada, uma vez que a ordem da quadrilha é decidida antes do pleito, há esperança de que as siglas ganhem força e propostas passem a valer mais do que nomes. De que, em vez de apostar em Tiriricas e Russomanos, os partidos possam acabar impelidos a criar planos de governo, investir em identidades ideológicas, enfim, a fazer política. Para isso, segundo especialistas, seria necessário que se aumentasse a participação popular nas agremiações, com realização de prévias ou algo parecido, evitando que alguns “caciques” dominem o processo.

Eles vão se esconder atrás do quê, afinal? Do incorruptível PMDB? Do vestal PT? Do impoluto PSDB? Não parece a melhor das estratégias.

“Ah, mas é isso. Coisa de corruptos que querem se reeleger para sempre”, dirá o leitor impaciente. “É o povo da Lava Jato que quer esconder a cara e o nome atrás do escudo dos partidos”. O argumento pode até ser interessante numa primeiro momento. Mas não vai longe.

Eles vão se esconder atrás do quê, afinal? Do incorruptível PMDB? Do vestal PT? Do impoluto PSDB? Não parece a melhor das estratégias. E pior, não parece que alguém precise de estratégia? É só abrir o jornal. A lista do Fachin está aí: Renan Calheiros, Aécio Neves, Rodrigo Maia, foram todos escolhidos, re-escolhidos e escolhidos de novo. Democraticamente. O paradigma da corrupção, o Pelé do cambalacho, o Michelangelo da cara-de-pau, Fernando Collor de Mello, foi conduzido ao Senado pelo sistema eleitoral vigente. Duas vezes! E o pobre Tiririca não tem nada com isso.

Ao longo das 27 páginas em que esboça a reforma, o relator enumera outras vantagens do sistema em listas fechadas. O espaço para desvios e caixa 2 diminuiria, já que, em vez de fiscalizar meio milhão de candidaturas, como nas últimas eleições, o Tribunal Superior Eleitoral teria de monitorar apenas 35. Uma para cada partido.

O baixo índice de mulheres no Parlamento, atualmente em 9,9%, também poderia ser resolvido ali. Os partidos seriam obrigados a alternar o gênero a cada três candidatos, o que, no cenário atual, seria o equivalente a uma indicação feminina para cada três masculinas.

Por fim, claro, lá está o fator econômico. Afinal, sai mais barato criar campanhas para três dezenas de partidos do que para milhares de candidatos. A preocupação faz sentido. As eleições brasileiras estavam entre as mais caras do planeta e, em 2014, custaram aos partidos, sem contar os caixa 2, R$ 5,1 bilhões – ou o equivalente ao PIB do Suriname. Então veio a Lava Jato e nossa! O povo descobriu que as empresas que distribuíam essa dinheirama toda não eram apenas entusiastas da democracia. Elas cobravam favores em troca.

Foto: Rafael Neddermeyer/ Fotos Públicas

O Supremo Tribunal Federal proibiu a doação de empresas para campanhas e os gastos eleitorais (descontando-se os caixa 2) despencaram para R$ 3 bilhões, ou o equivalente ao PIB da Guiana. O problema é que as eleições em que se escolhe presidente e governador são mais custosas e ninguém sabe como essa conta será paga.

O esboço da reforma propõe uma solução: financiamento público, através de um fundo com 2 bilhões de reais. Aliás, a reforma propõe solução para quase tudo (bigodes inapropriados à parte). As coligações, que fazem os partidos se aliarem com a ideologia que for (PCdoB beijando a boca do PR, Guilherme Boulos agarrando Regina Duarte), seriam proibidas nas eleições para deputados e vereadores.

A fim de diminuir a “barganha política”, os cargos de vice seriam extintos (esse deve ser o ponto predileto de Dilma). Não haveria mais reeleição e os mandatos passariam a durar cinco anos. Os parlamentares eleitos não poderiam deixar seus postos para ocupar cargos no Executivo. Por fim, após as duas primeiras eleições em lista, o sistema evoluiria e metade dos candidatos migraria para o sistema distrital misto. Nele, cada Estado ou município seria dividido em regiões menores e o eleitor escolheria um número reduzido de candidatos (talvez apenas um). Mais gente se lembraria em quem votou, o que ajudaria a aumentar a fiscalização e a cobrança por parte da população.

Ufa! Pareceu muita coisa? Um tanto messiânico, visto que só um ano e meio nos separa das próximas eleições? Pois essas são só algumas das propostas do texto de Cândido e isso tem despertado críticas. Ele parece amplo e profundo demais para haver consenso. Verdade que faz parte do jogo expandir as possibilidades para depois ir cedendo daqui, cortando de lá, até por fim aprovar o que for possível. Nesse caso, contudo, há um complicador.

Como foi dito lá em cima, o pessoal encarregado de levar a coisa a cabo é o mesmo que domina o sistema atual. O clássico problema democrático de legisladores relutando em cortar na própria carne. Em outras palavras, seria mais ou menos como achar que PCC, Comando Vermelho, Família do Norte e outras dezenas de facções criminosas poderiam sentar numa mesa em Brasília e resolver o caos dos presídios brasileiros. Bom, não custa tentar, não é mesmo?



The post O palhaço, o capitão e os caciques: um painel da Reforma Política que quer quebrar tudo em Brasília appeared first on The Intercept.

“Trump Says We Don’t Have To Let You In:” Report Says U.S. Border Officials Are Turning Away Asylum Seekers

3 May 2017 - 8:51pm

Three times this winter a Honduran woman named Alma went to U.S. officials at the border between Reynosa, Mexico and Hidalgo, Texas, to ask for asylum for herself and her three children. She had fled Honduras because her other child had been killed by gang members, and she had brought documentation to prove it, but three times she was told by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that she would have to wait in Mexico. In February, the family was kidnapped.

Alma’s is one of the cases included in a report released today by Human Rights First, which alleges that officials at the U.S.-Mexico border have been routinely and illegally turning away asylum seekers. The report provides dozens of examples of officials providing false information about the law, asking misleading questions or pressuring people to take back statements about fearing persecution, and frustrating lawyers who try to facilitate claims.

Human Rights First, together with other groups working at the border, has documented 125 cases since November 2016 where individuals or families were wrongly denied the chance to claim asylum. Although 8,000 people were referred to the asylum process nationwide during the same time, the report states that many abuses probably go unreported due to dangerous conditions, lack of legal counsel along the border, and little oversight of CBP officials as they receive and process asylum-seekers’ claims.

Donald Trump’s election seems to have empowered some officials to fuel a malicious rumor mill: one Central American was told by an officer in South Texas, “Trump says we don’t have to let you in,” according to the report. In recent months, Cubans reported being told, “the law has changed, you have to go back,” and that asylum from Cuba “does not exist anymore. To go to the United States, you have to get a visa from a consulate.” (Before leaving office, Barack Obama did lift a policy that gave Cubans automatic parole on arrival in the United States, but Cubans are still eligible to apply for asylum like any other nationality.) Mexican immigration officials have also said to local advocates, “stop lying to people, CBP told us they are not giving asylum in the United States anymore.”

In a statement, a CBP spokesperson said that “CBP has not changed any policies affecting asylum procedures” and that “as an agency CBP does not tolerate any kind of abuse.”

The statement outlined the asylum process as it is supposed to work:

If an officer or agent encounters a U.S.-bound migrant without legal papers and the person expresses fear of being returned to his/her home country, our officers processes them for an interview with an asylum officer…CBP officers are not authorized to determine or evaluate the validity of the fear expressed. The applicant does not have to specifically request asylum, they simply must express fear of being returned to their country.

If the asylum officer, from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, decides that their fear is credible, the petitioner has a right to request asylum from a judge. They can stay in the United States, often not in immigration detention, during those proceedings.

Even before the election, however, there were problems: Lawyers and advocacy groups have documented similar complaints from earlier last year, and the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in a report based on research from 2012 to 2015, found “outright skepticism, if not hostility, toward asylum claims” among some CBP officers.

In Tijuana last summer, responding to a sharp increase in arrivals from Haiti, the CBP began working with Mexican immigration officials to streamline asylum claims by creating an appointment system. But that fix, according to the report, has led to a situation where the CBP won’t see people without an appointment — and Mexican officials are refusing to give out those appointments. And for Mexicans looking for protection in the United States from cartels and corrupt authorities, it could mean they find themselves referred back to the very government they are fleeing.

The report comes down hard on Mexico, saying that its own asylum system is woefully understaffed and “riddled with deficiencies,” and that authorities can offer little protection to vulnerable refugees. Many of the asylum-seekers coming through Mexico are refugees from gang violence or political persecution in the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and their abusers’ networks can follow them to Mexico. It’s also difficult for Central Americans stuck without documents to get work, and they are vulnerable to kidnapping and other abuse by cartels and traffickers. The report also notes that denying asylum can push refugees to give up on official channels and attempt more remote and dangerous unauthorized crossings.

Top photo: Central American immigrants wait to be transported after turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents on December 8, 2015 near Rio Grande City, Texas.

The post “Trump Says We Don’t Have To Let You In:” Report Says U.S. Border Officials Are Turning Away Asylum Seekers appeared first on The Intercept.

Governo usa barganhas e chantagens a infiéis para aprovar Reforma da Previdência

3 May 2017 - 6:17pm

O governo preparou uma estratégia de guerra para vencer as votações da Reforma da Previdência. A primeira delas acontece na comissão que analisa o texto na Câmara dos Deputados e menos de uma semana depois da greve geral que paralisou o país contra o andamento das propostas da gestão de Michel Temer. No script do Planalto para aprovar a reforma estão previstas: a punição de deputados infiéis com a exoneração de indicados políticos; concessões para suavizar o texto; a liberação de emendas parlamentares; e até a troca de membros que não acompanharam as discussões na comissão, mas que têm voto assegurado por sua aprovação.

A manobra do governo para trocar membros da comissão repercutiu nas discussões desta tarde. “Manipulação grosseira”, atacou a deputada Jandira Feghali (PCdoB/RJ) em discurso contra as propostas. Segundo ela, o governo não tem votos para aprovar reforma. Já o deputado Alessandro Molon (Rede/RJ) afirmou que as trocas de integrantes buscam um “resultado artificial” da votação. Entre os parlamentares substituídos está o deputado do PSDB Eduardo Barbosa (MG), que foi trocado pelo líder do partido, Ricardo Tripoli (SP). No DEM, tornaram-se titulares na comissão os deputados Carlos Melles (MG) e José Carlos Aleluia (BA).

Reforma da Previdência: @alessandromolon critica manobra para "resultado artificial" e ataca trama do governo na comissão especial.

— The Intercept Brasil (@TheInterceptBr) May 3, 2017

Contrário ao texto da reforma, o deputado Ivan Valente (PSOL/SP) minimizou os votos que seriam “controláveis” no colegiado. “São poucos os votos controláveis e até mudáveis na comissão, porque você pode substituir parlamentar aqui e acolá. Esperamos que o crescimento desse movimento de rejeição às reformas nas ruas e na opinião pública mostre que esse tudo ou nada pode se transformar numa grande derrota do governo Temer”, afirmou o deputado a The Intercept Brasil.

Na avaliação de Ivan Valente, os parlamentares não vão se suicidar politicamente. “Os deputados estão avaliando o que significa o desgaste de votar uma proposta como esta, que vai fazer com que eles não voltem [para um novo mandato nas eleições de 2018]. Eles sabem que, quanto mais aumentar a pressão popular e mais esclarecida estiver a população sobre as propostas, mais eles perdem as condições de votar. Então eles [do governo] vão retaliar e fazer benesses: cargos, emendas, compra de votos”, disse.

O deputado Pepe Vargas (PT/RS) também citou manobras da base do governo para que as aprovações das reformas sejam concluídas. “Os deputados que eram de partidos da base de apoio ao governo e que estavam se manifestando contrários à proposta foram retirados da comissão pelos líderes das bancadas. Então tem deputado que era titular e já deixou a comissão por ter se manifestando contra a proposta de reforma”, disse.

Vargas chama de “clientelismo rasteiro” a pressão do Planalto em cima dos deputados, especialmente quando o governo insinua que pode exonerar de cargos os aliados de parlamentares que não votarem de acordo com o Planalto. “Tem deputado que vai fazer a seguinte conta: ‘bom, o que me interessa manter meia dúzia de cargo no governo se depois eu não me reelejo? Então acho que isso vai falar mais alto”, argumentou Vargas.

“O que está se fazendo é um realinhamento da base.”

Vice-líder do governo, Beto Mansur (PRB/SP) relativizou as críticas da oposição. “O que está se fazendo é um realinhamento da base”, afirmou Mansur sobre a dança de cadeiras nas comissões e as recentes demissões de aliados dos deputados.

O vice-líder revelou a estratégia que vem sendo usada em votações que precisam de quórum altos: segurar a votação para que haja uma “margem de segurança”.  “Eu defendo que nós só podemos votar [a Reforma da Previdência] quando tivermos voto, no mínimo entre 320 e 330, a mesma estratégia com margem de segurança quando planejamos o impeachment da ex-presidente Dilma Rousseff”, disse.

Os recuos de última hora no texto fizeram que a discussão do dia se estendesse para além do previsto. Mas o governo tem pressa e ignora as pesquisas que mostram ampla rejeição às reformas. Segundo mensuração do Datafolha, 71% dos brasileiros rejeitam a Reforma da Previdência. O maior alvo das críticas está no tempo de contribuição.

.@folha Ainda sobre Previdência, maioria dos brasileiros é contra regras diferenciadas. Maior alvo de crítica está no tempo de contribuição: ????

— George Marques (@GeorgMarques) May 1, 2017

A fim de acelerar a tramitação da reforma previdenciária, o presidente da Câmara, Rodrigo Maia (DEM/RJ), encerrou a sessão do plenário desta quarta para não atrapalhar o andamento da votação. No Planalto a determinação de primeira ordem aos líderes aliados é para acelerar a tramitação, mesmo que isso acarrete em mais atropelos regimentais.

Foto em destaque: Reunião da Comissão Especial da Reforma da Previdência para votação de parecer do relator.

The post Governo usa barganhas e chantagens a infiéis para aprovar Reforma da Previdência appeared first on The Intercept.

North Korea Wants to Convince the World It Can Nuke Hawaii. Donald Trump Is Happy to Oblige.

3 May 2017 - 5:03pm

U.S. officials have repeatedly (and falsely) claimed that North Korea is on the verge of having the capability to carry out a nuclear strike on U.S. soil. And the Trump White House has done little to tamp down media speculation about nuclear war, perhaps because the hype plays to its advantage.

In fact, President Trump’s rhetorical brinksmanship has some resemblance to the governing style of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator whom Trump recently called “a pretty smart cookie.” A population that feels threatened by mass violence tends to line up behind its protector. Exaggerated beliefs about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities serve to justify America’s own provocations. These include Foal Eagle, a military exercise carried out on North Korea’s doorstep by U.S. and South Korean forces every spring since 2002.

The North Korean missile that’s drawn the most speculation is called the KN-08. It has only been tested twice. Both tests ended in failure. Nevertheless, NBC has offered advice on what Americans should do in case of a nuclear strike. Fox News reported on Hawaii’s “emergency attack plans.” Trump himself tweeted that North Korea is in the “final stages” of developing a nuclear weapon that could hit the United States. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the head of Pacific Command, told Congress last week that “Kim Jong-un is clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today.” Those who watched the full hearing know that Harris also said that current missile defense systems are “sufficient.” But you wouldn’t know it from the headlines:

There is a problem with this scenario. The North Korean missiles that are theoretically capable of reaching Hawaii do not work. Nor do many other key components of the country’s arsenal. Last Friday, two days after Harris’s warning, North Korea tried to launch a medium-range ballistic missile. It was not mounted with a nuclear warhead — it’s unclear whether North Korea is actually capable of mounting a working nuclear bomb onto a working missile. The missile flew 22 miles, never leaving North Korean airspace, before exploding into harmless pieces. An earlier April test failed just after liftoff. North Korea’s last halfway successful test, in March, got four medium-range Scud missiles to the Sea of Japan, but “no new capabilities were demonstrated,” according to one expert analyst. A fourth test of a single Scud missile, in early April, “spun out of control after going only a fraction of its range,” according to an anonymous official quoted by Reuters.

“North Korea’s launch-failure rate has been extraordinary high” since the Obama administration stepped up cyberwar efforts in 2014, the New York Times noted. Trump has dodged the question of whether a secret U.S. cyber campaign against North Korea might be responsible for the latest test failures, though he has claimed that Obama was “outplayed” in his dealings with Pyongyang.

Trump’s attempts to stoke U.S. fears about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities began during the transition, with this tweet:

Propaganda from the North Korean government is far more aggressive, promising the destruction of U.S. cities:

The North Koreans want to sell the world on the idea that they’re a serious threat. Not six months or six years from now, but today. The U.S. media has been eager to take this end-of-the-world meme one step further, drawing comparisons to the Cuban missile crisis and suggesting that the face-off between Trump and Kim has the world teetering on the brink of apocalypse. This terrifying narrative certainly drives traffic:

But there is little evidence to suggest it is true.

This week, with the threat of war firmly established, Trump backed off. He even suggested that he might meet with Kim. “I would be honored,” he told Bloomberg on Monday. “I’m telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him. We have breaking news.”

War on Monday, peace on Tuesday, with the news cycle dominated by the president’s ever-shifting whims.

On Korea, Trump’s manipulation of the media serves to conceal how little difference there is between his policy and the so-called “failed policies” of his predecessors. Underneath his tough talk, Trump’s approach appears identical to Obama’s — use sanctions and diplomatic pressure to prod North Korea to the negotiating table, even as a covert cyber campaign undermines Pyongyang’s capabilities. “There’s been a lot of bluster and declarations, giving the appearance that we have a new sheriff in town,” Prof. Richard Samuels, who directs MIT’s Center for International Studies, told me. “In fact, it looks like the old policy of strategic patience may still be in place.”

We’ve been here before. Consider this statement: “North Korean technicians are reportedly in the final stages of fueling a long-range ballistic missile that some experts estimate can deliver a deadly payload to the United States.” This was the first sentence of a Washington Post op-ed written by William Perry and Ashton Carter, two former secretaries of defense. Their words echoed Trump’s tweet: The final stages.

But that op-ed was published more than 10 years ago, in 2006. Perry and Carter were writing about a missile called the Taepodong. Today, North Korea experts are still speculating about the possibility that the Taepodong could be deployed in an emergency, although they caution that “such a weapon would represent more of a political statement than an operational capability since it would suffer from significant problems.” Compare that to what Perry and Carter wrote for popular consumption in 2006, and one might be persuaded that North Korea’s nuclear program is running backward.

Of course, it is true that North Korea could kill hundreds of thousands of people in Tokyo and Seoul with short-range missiles and artillery. That has always been the case, going back decades. And another North Korean missile, the Musudan, was successfully tested last year after five consecutive failures. The Musudan flew 250 miles, but the sharp launch angle suggests the potential for greater range. Kim’s regime has successfully tested land-based nuclear bombs and has rapidly accelerated the rate of ballistic missile tests. Whether or not he could succeed in detonating a missile-mounted nuclear warhead over Japan or South Korea is unknown; the possibility is too catastrophic to be ignored.

These facts aren’t enough for Trump. Having won the presidency as an America-first isolationist who denigrated U.S. alliances and misrepresented his own position on the Iraq War, the prospect of Seoul and Tokyo in flames was insufficient. He had to put Honolulu and Seattle into play as well.

Another example of symbiosis between Trump’s vague warnings and the media’s hair-trigger alarmism took place over the weekend, when CNN published this map, misrepresenting a possible future threat as a clear and present danger:

The New York Times was slightly more restrained. They used a dotted line and qualified the threat as “potential.”

Last week, I spoke with a congressional staff member who has drilled down into what we actually know about the KN-08 and a variant, the KN-14. “What’s the timeline?” said the staff member, who asked not to be identified when discussing intelligence matters. “That’s the million-dollar question. Is it 2020? Is it earlier? Among the intelligence community, there are differing estimates. Some folks think it’s a question of months. Others say it’s a three- or four-year time frame. The big thing that’s missing in the debate is that North Korea has never successfully tested an ICBM [long-range ballistic missile]. The question is what we can do to stop that from happening. A lot of folks don’t think pre-emptive strikes are the way.”

It’s the intelligence community’s job to be pessimistic. The more that the CIA and NSA know about the KN-08, the KN-14, and other low-probability threats, the easier it will be for the U.S. to protect the Korean peninsula without going to war. But there’s a difference between making hard-nosed threat assessments and inflating them to drum up the prestige of an insecure leader. That’s not the art of the deal. That’s the art of dictatorship.

The post North Korea Wants to Convince the World It Can Nuke Hawaii. Donald Trump Is Happy to Oblige. appeared first on The Intercept.

Por que os norte-coreanos nos odeiam? Por um motivo: eles se lembram muito bem da Guerra da Coreia

3 May 2017 - 3:30pm

“Por que eles nos odeiam tanto?”

A pergunta deu voltas e mais voltas na cabeça de cidadãos americanos logo após os atentados do 11 de Setembro. “Eles” eram os árabes e muçulmanos. Atualmente, cada vez mais gente se pergunta o mesmo em relação aos isolados norte-coreanos.

Sejamos claros: não há dúvidas de que os cidadãos da República Popular Democrática da Coreia (RPDC) tanto temem quanto execram os Estados Unidos. Paranoia, ressentimento e um acentuado antiamericanismo são sentimentos cultivados há décadas dentro do Reino Eremita. Crianças aprendem na escola a odiar americanos, enquanto adultos celebram todos os anos o “Mês da Luta contra o Imperialismo Norte-Americano” (é em junho, por sinal).

Militares norte-coreanos estão ameaçando diretamente os Estados Unidos, enquanto o regime liderado pelo brutal e sádico Kim Jong-un produz notícias falsas em escala industrial para alimentar a autopropaganda. Na RPDC, o ódio aos americanos é uma commodity que nunca está em falta.

“Só que esse ódio não é totalmente fabricado”, explica no Washington Post Blaine Harden, que estuda a Coreia do Norte há anos. Parte desse ódio, diz ele, “está embasado em fatos reais – pelos quais a Coreia do Norte tem obsessão, enquanto esses mesmos fatos são tranquilamente esquecidos pelos Estados Unidos”.

“Esquecidos” porque se trata mesmo da “guerra esquecida”. Sim, estou falando da Guerra da Coreia. Lembra dela? Aquela espremida entre a Segunda Guerra Mundial e a do Vietnã? A primeira guerra “quente” da Guerra Fria, de 1950 a 1953, e que, desde então, vem sendo convenientemente deixada de lado por grande parte das discussões e debates sobre o regime “louco” e “insano” de Pyongyang? Uma guerra que foi esquecida sem sequer ter terminado, já que foi interrompida por um acordo de armistício, e não um tratado de paz. Esquecida apesar de os Estados Unidos terem cometido sucessivos crimes de guerra. Como era de se esperar, isso continua a moldar a maneira como norte-coreanos veem os Estados Unidos, ainda que boa parte dos cidadãos americanos ignore o passado beligerante do próprio país.

Só para constar, foram os norte-coreanos, e não os americanos ou seus aliados sul-coreanos, que começaram a guerra, em junho de 1950, ao cruzar o Paralelo 38 e invadir o Sul. “O que quase nenhum americano sabe ou lembra é que nós bombardeamos o Norte inteirinho por 3 anos, sem nenhum tipo de cuidado em relação aos civis”, explica Bruce Cumings, historiador da Universidade de Chicago, em seu livro “The Korean War: A History”.

Por exemplo, quantos americanos sabem que aviões dos Estados Unidos jogaram sobre a península coreana mais bombas (635 mil toneladas) e napalm (32.557 toneladas) do que em toda a Guerra do Pacífico contra os japoneses, durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial?

Quantos sabem que, “no espaço de mais ou menos três anos, matamos (…) 20% da população”, para citar o general Curtis LeMay, da Força Aérea americana, chefe do Comando Aéreo Estratégico na Guerra da Coreia?

Vinte. Porcento. Só para comparar, os nazistas exterminaram 20% da população da Polônia pré-Segunda Guerra Mundial. De acordo com LeMay, “fomos lá e lutamos, até destruirmos todas as cidades da Coreia do Norte”.

Todas. As. Cidades. Estima-se que mais de três milhões de civis foram mortos no conflito, a maioria na parte norte da península.

Idosa perambula com o neto pelos destroços de sua casa, logo após um ataque aéreo perpetrado pelos Estados Unidos sobre Pyongyang, a capital comunista da Coreia do Norte, por volta de 1950.

Foto: Keystone/Getty Images

Quantos americanos já ouviram ou leram as declarações do secretário de Estado Dean Rusk ou do juiz da Suprema Corte William O. Douglas? Rusk era o responsável, dentro do Departamento de Estado americano, pelas relações com o Extremo Oriente durante a Guerra da Coreia. Anos depois, ele admitiria que os Estados Unidos haviam bombardeado “cada tijolo que ainda estivesse de pé, qualquer coisa que se movesse”. Segundo ele, os pilotos americanos “bombardearam a Coreia do Norte inteira para valer”.

Já Douglas visitou a Coreia no verão de 1952. Ficou chocado com “a miséria, as doenças, a dor, o sofrimento, a fome” que haviam sido “agravadas” pelos ataques aéreos. Depois de acabados os alvos militares, os aviões de guerra norte-americanos passaram a bombardear fazendas, barragens, fábricas e hospitais. “Eu já tinha visto as cidades europeias destruídas pela guerra, mas eu nunca tinha visto uma devastação parecida com a da Coreia”, reconheceu o juiz da Suprema Corte.

Quantos americanos ficaram sabendo do desajustado plano do general Douglas MacArthur de ganhar a guerra contra a Coreia do Norte em apenas 10 dias? MacArthur, que liderou o Comando das Nações Unidas durante o conflito, queria jogar “entre 30 e 50 bombas atômicas (…) ao longo da fronteira com a Manchúria”, o que teria “deixado para trás (…) um cinturão de cobalto radioativo”.

Quantos americanos ouviram falar do massacre de No Gun Ri, em julho de 1950, quando centenas de coreanos, agrupados embaixo de uma ponte, foram mortos por aviões bombardeiros e pelo 7º Regimento de Cavalaria? Detalhes do massacre vieram à tona em 1999, quando a Associated Press entrevistou dúzias de oficiais aposentados. Um veterano lembra de ouvir o capitão dizer: “Pro inferno com essa gente. Vamos nos livrar deles todos”.

Quantos americanos aprendem na escola sobre o massacre das Ligas Bodo, quando dezenas de milhares de suspeitos de comunismo foram mortos, no verão de 1950, por ordem do presidente Syngman Rhee, o homem forte da Coreia do Sul e aliado dos Estados Unidos? Relatos de testemunhas dão conta de que “jipes lotados” de oficiais do exército americano estavam presentes e “supervisionaram a carnificina”.

Milhões de cidadãos americanos comuns devem sofrer da tóxica combinação de ignorância e amnésia, mas as vítimas dos golpes de Estado, invasões e bombardeios americanos ao redor do globo tendem a não padecer do mesmo mal. Pergunte aos iraquianos e aos iranianos, aos cubanos e aos chilenos. E, claro, aos norte-coreanos.

Como escreve o historiador Charles Armstrong, da Universidade de Columbia, em seu livro “Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950-1952”, “os ataques aéreos norte-americanos deixaram uma marca profunda e duradoura” nos habitantes da RPDC. “Mais do que qualquer outro fator, foi isso que os levou os norte-coreanos a desenvolver um senso coletivo de ansiedade e medo de ameaças externas, que permaneceu após o fim da guerra”.

Não me entenda mal. Não estou insinuando que o regime violento e totalitário de Kim seria menos violento e totalitário do que é hoje se os Estados Unidos não tivessem bombardeado o país inteiro há 70 anos. Tampouco tenho esperanças de que Donald Trump, logo ele, apresente desculpas formais a Pyongyang em nome do governo dos Estados Unidos pelos crimes de guerra cometidos entre 1950 e 1953.

Mas o fato é que, dentro das fronteiras da Coreia do Norte, “ainda se vive nos anos 1950, (…) e o conflito com a Coreia do Sul e os Estados Unidos ainda está acontecendo. O povo do Norte se sente acuado e ameaçado”, segundo Kathryn Weathersby, autoridade acadêmica no assunto.

Se uma nova guerra da Coreia, potencialmente nuclear, deve ser evitada e se, como escreveu Milan Kundera, “a luta do homem contra o poder é a luta da memória contra o esquecimento”, cidadãos americanos comuns não podem mais se permitir esquecer a morte, a destruição e o legado devastador da primeira Guerra da Coreia.

Foto do título: Tropas norte-americanas conduzem prisioneiros de guerra norte-coreanos (07/10/1950).

Tradução: Carla Camargo Fanha

The post Por que os norte-coreanos nos odeiam? Por um motivo: eles se lembram muito bem da Guerra da Coreia appeared first on The Intercept.