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As Ban Heads to Chile, UN Praises Chile Despite Protests, MassiveGood Spin

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 -- With the UN's Ban Ki-moon now flying off to Chile, his officials' slavish praising of the government of President Michelle Bachelet has become more and more questionable.

  First Alicia Barcena, head of the UN office in Santiago, told Inner City Press that no looting was occurring, contrary to TV images on BBC and France24. This UN official, who served for years in New York, asked "What is looting?" She said there was no violence or problems between the government and the people.

  Next, the UN's deputy humanitarian chief Catherine Bragg told a press conference that Chile is a strong government that is doing a good job. But when Bachelet traveled near Concepcion on March 4, she didn't go into the downtown due to protests of her performance.

Inner City Press asked Bragg, why was the UN going out of its way to praise Chile's government? Why was there such a stigma on receiving UN aid? Bragg said she was just telling it like it is. This is how the world appears to the UN: governments good, critics invisible.

Chile's President Bachelet in Haiti Feb. 20 - for UNIFEM?

  Ban is traveling with only seven other people -- two of them guards -- on a commercial flight. He learned of the available seat on Thursday morning. He also publicly clicked a two dollar donation to MassiveGood, along with Bill Clinton. What is Clinton doing these days for Haiti? Bachelet was serving as UNIFEM spokesperson for Haiti until her own earthquake hit. And now?

Footnote: On MassiveGood, after Ban's clicking, UN official Philippe Douste Blazy appeared to describe the program. Inner City Press asked Douste Blazy how transparency in how the money is spend will be ensured, and about his earlier idea of a UN Lottery to raise money.

  Douste Blazy did not say much about transparency -- a French observer described high costs, that is, MassiveOverhead -- but he again praised the lottery idea. Inner City Press asked, but doesn't that take money from the poor? We're not doing it yet, Douste Blazy answered. Oh, good.

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After "Looter" Killed in Chile, Others Tear Gassed, UN Official Barcena Claims There's "No Violence"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- In the aftermath of the earthquake in Chile, authorities fired tear gas and water cannons at people seeking to enter stores and supermarkets. According to the BBC, one "looter" was shot dead and 160 arrested; the items being taken were not only food but "plasma TVs and other electrical appliances."

Of course, this does not imply mass criminality, or systematic government repression. But when long time UN official Alicia Barcena briefed the Press at UN headquarters by phone at noon on March 1, and Inner City Press asked her about the government's use of tear gas and water cannons, she answered, "What is looting?" Video here, from Minute 15:20.

Inner City Press explained, when people go inside broken open stores, and in this case get shot at with tear gas and water cannons. Oh no, Ms. Barcena said, "there has not been any violence... no violence between the army and the people, none at all."

Tell that to the man shot and killed, or those fired on with tear gas. It would be one thing for the UN to say that the level of violence, other than the death, has been minimal in their view, or proportional. But hours after a person was shot and killed to providing a briefing that "there has not been any violence" is something else.

The UN has taken on the role of criticizing the media for reporting on looting, in Haiti and now Chile. The UN wants the images to be more positive, and so, in this case, its officials misspeak. This undermine the UN's duty of reporting on human rights, which include the rights of alleged looters, killed or gassed by the government.

 While this case involves ignoring the shooting -- summary execution? -- of a single "looter," the principle of denying what takes place extends to the UN in the Congo, in the person of scandal plagued envoy Alan Doss, denying that civilians are killed by UN-supported troops of the Congolese Army.

Armed Chilean soldier patroling, shot "looter" not shown

The UN wants and in some sense needs to get along with governments where it works. But this can contradict with its role and goal of being a credible human rights reporter, or being credible more generally.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Barcena about rumors the President Bachelet might stay on past March 11. Barcena said no, only her emergency coordinator Carmen Fernandez would stay on.

  Strangely, while still the sitting Chilean president, Ms. Bachelet has been listed as a UN (or UNIFEM) representative in Haiti. No matter how much one may like or respect Ms. Bachelet, it would seem that the UN should not be giving positions to sitting heads of state. But what do we know?

In fact, now Ms. Bachelet is being tipped for the newly created Under Secretary General for women's affairs post. Could this explain the counter-factual claim that there's been "no violence" by the Army against civilians, even "looters," under her watch?

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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