In Oaxaca, Harvard Comes to the Rescue, of Capitalism

“Harvard contributes to reconstructing Oaxaca” is the grand headline splashed across the Sunday, March 25, 2007 front page of Noticias, the major daily newspaper published in Oaxaca City. When I saw that announcement this morning I thought, “Oh, my God! (Never mind that I’m an atheist.) That’s both good news and bad news.” The good news is that the popular struggle in Oaxaca is serious enough that it is being seen by those pre-eminent intellectual guardians of global capitalism as a potential threat to the status quo. The bad news is that Harvard University, always in the service of the super-rich, and therefore in step with (or ahead of) U.S. government plans and actions, is preparing to put its gloved but dirtied hands to work for the PAN/PRI government of Felipe Calderon and the local PRI governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.

The message is clear. It’s going to take more than sheer military suppression to crush the popular revolution. But it must be crushed, in the interest of global capitalism, and therefore the ‘intellectual power’ of Harvard University will be brought to bear in addition to the military state of siege already put in place in the city. What we can be certain of is that Harvard’s intellectual prowess will not be used to uncover the fates of the people disappeared and still unaccounted for by the Federal and State armed agents or to assist in the struggle for justice and dignity for the people of Oaxaca.

Beneath the headline is a picture of Manuel Stefanakis here in Oaxaca. He is currently Director of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) Degree Programs in the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. His background in humanitarian work and the elimination of torture can be seen in a publicity statement advertising a dinner (at 50€ a person) back in April 2005 at the Harvard Club of Greece, where, as the President of the Thessalonica Agricultural and Industrial Institute, he was the invited speaker. His subject was “The Challenge of Sustainable Development: What is Next for Greek Agriculture?” The announcement said, “His career encompasses 30 years of senior level management and development experience with governments, international agencies, and financial institutions, Fortune 500 companies, and universities in more than 40 countries; and has worked for extended periods in Greece, the Czech Republic and Bahrain … Before assuming his position in Thessaloniki (sic), Mr. Stefanakis served for five years on the senior administrative team of his alma mater, the John F. Kennedy School of Government (KSG) at Harvard.”

It is unclear whether Mr. Stefanakis knows anything about agriculture. It is also unclear whether he was on the ‘senior administrative team’ of KSG during the period when this august institution awarded Guatemalan General Hector Alejandro Gramajo Morales a Mason fellowship to study at the KSG, and then, in 1991, awarded him a Masters Degree in Public Administration. What is unambiguously clear however is that the Harvard Corporation’s values and priorities are of course shared by Mr. Stefanakis, who hesitates not a moment in supporting the most unsavory of regimes if they serve U.S. economic hegemony. As did General Gramajo, a high-volume mass murderer who makes Governor Ulises look like an amateur. It’s revealing to read about Gramajo’s service to Guatemala. The following is a short excerpt from an article by John Trumpbour, who wrote it when he was a teaching fellow at the Department of History, Harvard University. Written in the Fall of 1991, Trumpbour says:

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In April 1990, protesters against the militarization of the university … staged a peaceful sit-in at the KSG. Program director Bernard E. Trainor, a former New York Times correspondent and Marine general, issued a formal statement denouncing the demonstrators as “fascistic.” Apparently joining the ongoing neoconservative campaign against the so-called totalitarianism of the PC (politically correct), Trainor employed the Orwellian jujitsu turnaround that today renders the peace movement as a latter day version of Mussolini’s goosestepping blackshirts.
Polishing the General
Meanwhile, [Derek] Bok [then President of the University] had enunciated Harvard’s goal of becoming a center for training future global leaders. An early beneficiary of this putative internationalism is Guatemalan General Hector Alejandro Gramajo Morales … Gramajo was General Lucas Garcia’s minister counselor for political affairs in Washington in 1980-81. Under this regime, “the death squads were running wild, killing an estimated 25,000 people,” according to journalist Michael Massing. “Gramajo defended his regime to the end.” When General Efrain Rios Montt came to power in a March 1982 coup, Gramajo transferred his loyalty and took charge of a “pacification” campaign against Indians in Guatemala’s western highlands modeled on the strategic hamlets the U.S. installed in Vietnam. In one massacre alone, soldiers hacked with machetes and smashed in the heads of over 300 unarmed civilians, including old people, children, and infants. “Gramajo acted ruthlessly,” concludes Fernando Andrade Diaz-Duran, foreign minister under Rios Montt’s successor. “Villages were bombed, and a lot of civilians got killed.” The Washington Office on Latin America estimates between 50,000 and 75,000 peasants were killed while even the army puts the number at 10,000 dead. In November 1989, a U.S. nun, Diana Ortiz was captured, tortured, and sexually molested by Guatemalan security forces. Gramajo responded that her story was a fabrication, a futile attempt to cover up a lesbian love affair. Americas Watch termed Gramajo’s allegation a “pure invention.” In an interview with the Harvard International Review, Gramajo explained his commitment to military reform and human rights:
We aren’t renouncing the use of force. If we have to use it, we have to use it, but in a more sophisticated manner. You needn’t kill everyone to complete the job. [You can use] more sophisticated means; we aren’t going to return to the large-scale massacres. We have created a more humanitarian, less costly strategy, to be more compatible with the democratic system. We instituted Civil Affairs [in 1982] which provides development for 70 percent of the people while we kill 30 percent. Before the strategy was to kill 100 percent.

When the Harvard Crimson asked if these statements accurately represented his views, he retreated, suggesting that the transcript reflected a certain lack of linguistic dexterity, his characteristic use of “broken English.” “I really did not mean exactly ‘kill,'” but rather that soldiers cannot “renounce coercive action” and that the military is now “going to make a very clear distinction between [civilians and insurgents]. ” During his tenure as Guatemalan minister of defense from 1987 to 1990, Gramajo oversaw a military accused of butchering dozens of university students, provoking Anne Manuel of Americas Watch to find “a sort of tragic irony” in Harvard’s ardor for educating him. Gramajo is believed to have chosen to come to Harvard as part of his plan to run for Guatemala’s presidency in 1995. And Harvard, as U.S. Representative Chester Atkins (D-MA) observed, appears to be in the business of “laundering reputations. ”

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Once again, it’s important to keep in mind that deliberate American planning for the use of force, with absolute disregard for epemeral notions such as ‘human rights’ go back to shortly after World War II. As part of his assessment which, although concerning Asia at that time, is the same in principle everywhere, George Kennan, then Chief of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff, stated in Document PPS23, 24 February 1948:
We have about 50 per cent of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population. In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction. We should cease to talk about such vague and unreal objectives as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

Although the war of repression in Oaxaca has thus far resulted in many fewer deaths and much less destruction by firepower than the Guatemalan government’s repression, the difference is due to different historical circumstances and tactical changes in terrorizing and traumatizing a population, but the goal and ruthlessness are identical. Thus when Mr. Stefanakis said yesterday, according to Noticias, that various members of the academic body of Harvard had been involved in similar processes in Latin America, it is clear that he’s talking about transnational investments, privatizing the infrastructure, and enabling U.S.-based corporations to glean profits from the exploitation of Oaxacan natural resources and cheap labor, without regard for the desires of the Oaxacan peoples, and not in promoting their human rights and securing dignified lives for them He’s here to push the neo-liberal program.

Mr. Stefanakis is reported to have said that Harvard University followed the development of the sociopolitical movement of 2006, and consequently accepted the invitation of the Special Commission for the Reform of Oaxaca State (CEREO in its Spanish initials). He came, he said, to listen to all the voices and to implement and integrate proposals for the process of reconstruction of the public administration in its relation to the society. In brief, he came in the name of Harvard, at the invitation of the Ulises Ruiz Ortiz government, or Felipe Calderon’s Federal Governemtn, to offer Harvard’s services TO THE GOVERNMENT. You can bet he’s going to speak with the political prisoners, with rank and file teachers in Local 22 of the National Educational Workers Union, with the groups aligned with the APPO (the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca), with the inhabitants of the indigenous communities all over the state, where ninety percent of the Oaxacan peoples live outside the capital city, and with the human rights workers and others still threatened by outstanding arrest warrants by the lawless state and federal governments.

When Harvard comes to ‘help’, beware! DANGER!

—G.S.
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico 25 March 2007

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