These days, living in the United States and having a questioning mind is becoming more and more hazardous, forcing many of us to consider our options as to where we might want to spend the next few years. While no country is perfect, it is the continuous erosion of rights that has made many Americans look at options available in living abroad, because the increasing militarization of the police forces has frightening fascist overtones. There are more Americans afraid of their own government today than there ever have been… and justifiably so!
Meanwhile, all around the world, people are taking to the streets in protest of their governments. From Greece to Chile, from the UK to the US, anger and social networking have brought people out of their living rooms and into the public square in ever-increasing numbers. On October 15, the worldwide “Occupy” movement gathered people together for protests large and small in hundreds of cities throughout the world, with the most massive turnouts occurring in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Chile. These protests often end up in violent clashes with government forces that range from police officers who are trigger-happy with their pepper spray to militarized riot police wielding an armory of “non-lethal” weaponry aggressively moving to corral the dissidents and disperse the crowds. The dramatic images hark back to that time of violence and civil unrest in the United States that was the 1960’s.
A Brief History of Police Militarization in the United States
Many of my readers were around to see the Chicago riots at the 1968 Democratic national convention. The convention to select the Democratic Party candidate for president was overshadowed by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy. Dr. King was murdered on April 4 1968 in Memphis TN. Senator Kennedy was likewise assassinated on June 5, 1968 in Los Angeles. Both of the assassinations conveniently had a fall guy who was accused of the murders, and neither was ever traced back beyond the initially accused perpetrators. Sort of like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Groups such as The Youth International Party, Students for a Democratic Society, and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam were organizing events to coincide with the convention on August 26-29. But the most corrupt of all mayors in the history of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, decided this was going to be his chance to show the world what a law-and-order hero he was. He had already made headlines with his “shoot to kill” directive to the police during the riots that broke out upon the death of Dr. King in the poorer West side neighborhoods of Chicago as part of a wave that washed over 100 cities across the nation. Stalling and corrupt legal tactics denied the organizations of the convention protests any permits to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceably assemble. So the 10,000 protesters were met by 23,000 police and National Guardsmen, who had a free for all, bashing heads and arresting people en masse.
This and the wave of opposition to the draft and the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, student movements, and the anti-authoritarian sentiment on display in youth culture gave rise to the US Justice Department Law Enforcement Assistance Administration’s extensive grant program, which passed out hundreds of millions of dollars in federal taxpayer dollars to even the smallest of local police departments.
SWAT teams also came to be during the civil rights movement. Contrary to folklore, the first SWAT team did not originate in Los Angeles, but in the small farming community of Delano, CA, where César Chavez’ United Farm Workers Union held non-violent protests and sit-in’s at a cold storage facility. The local Delano police formed ad-hoc units to terrorize those wetback troublemakers and received worldwide television coverage by stations broadcasting the events. Members of the LAPD were so impressed that they formed their own highly armed SWAT team. After the success of the TV series, SWAT teams became a must-have for any police department. Federal funds for these programs were flowing freely; all you had to do was apply and presto bingo, the justice department sent money, trainers and equipment.
More recently, of course, we have been “blessed” with the inappropriately named “Patriot Act” and the equally misnamed “Homeland Security Act,” both of which were hastily passed blocks of legislation that were designed to take away the citizens’ civil rights under the guise of protecting them from foreign and domestic enemies, while enabling the various police and intelligence agencies to listen in on conversations, to arrest and hold citizens without proper cause, and to accumulate massive inventories of weapons for urban combat against any potential protest or unrest.
The two acts passed by cowed and corrupted politicians have a chilling effect on dissent. They give police sweeping powers to infiltrate peaceful organizations that are in disagreement with official policies and to silence journalists covering these stories, which is exactly what happened at the Democratic national convention in Denver in 2008 as well as the Republican national convention in Minneapolis. In both instances, civil rights of protestors and members of the press who were documenting the situation were brutally and willfully violated after infiltrators exposed them to masked and heavily uniformed riot police who are sworn to “protect and serve.” Of course, that slogan is incomplete: it should be to “protect and serve our corporate masters.”
Now, as more and more American citizens take to the streets to protest the rip off that all the “too big to fail” financial institutions have perpetrated on the American public with the help of those special-interest-owned politicians, they know that they will be met by more police forces stomping on their rights and trying to stop them from voicing their rage. Many of you have probably seen the images on TV of the New York City Policeman in white shirt spraying mace into the eyes of peaceful protestors. I personally hope that finally the American people will stop being the complacent sheep they have been since the end of the Vietnam War, and try to take control back from the multinational Military Industrial Complex, big pharmaceutical companies, mega-agribusinesses, and all others that have become institutionalized in their government with the help of lobbyists, America’s institutionalized corruption.
There is however a mighty struggle ahead. New York’s neo-con mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who has been on Wall Street since he was in diapers, has vowed to get rid of the anarchists in Zuccotti Park. They are complaining that the protestors are disrupting local businesses by using their restrooms, yet the city has refused to grant permits to allow the protesters to bring in portable toilets. How long before he will order the police to clear the streets with armored personnel carriers, capable of destroying anything and anybody in their way. And now the gift of real tanks from the army!
Ever since Ronald Reagan in 1981 helped draw up the Military Cooperation With Law Enforcement Act, quickly passed by a very cooperative congress, effectively circumventing the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by codifying military cooperation with law enforcement, the military has been encouraged to give any and all law enforcement agencies unfettered access to all military resources, training and hardware included. The military equipment was designed to be used by American fighting forces in combat with “the enemy,” but since a law was passed in 1994, the Pentagon has been able to donate all surplus war materiel to America’s police departments. The National Journal has compiled a number of statistics showing that in the first three years after the 1994 law came into effect, the “Department of Offense” stocked police departments with 3800 M-16 assault rifles, 2185 M-14’s, 73 grenade launchers, and 112 armored personnel carriers, as well as untold number of bayonets, tanks, helicopters, and even some airplanes.
Regardless who will be in power in the future, the militarization of the police will continue. After all, who wants to appear as being soft on crime? These days, a chief of police’s office is like a doctor’s office, but instead of getting swamped with drug salesmen, they have very congenial visits with the merchants of popular oppression, the salesmen of weapons, various chemical agents, Tasers, body armor, and all kinds of tracking software, surveillance gear, and anything else the department may need for crowd control and to infiltrate dissidents, which are no more than US citizens wanting to restore the republic to its rightful place.
As the situation in the United States grows increasingly unsettling, it is no wonder that so many are looking toward expatriating to get away from it all. But what about civil unrest and the militarized response abroad?
In Europe, after decades of peace and prosperity, it was in 2009 when governments, in response to the economic crisis, began implementing drastic austerity measures, cutting pensions, public services, and education spending.
Greek workers and students staged demonstrations and called for general strikes in May 2010 over plans to cut spending and raise taxes. Anger over inefficiency and corruption of the Greek government, which had run up a huge deficit while the economy was humming, was fueled by high unemployment in a shipping and tourism based economy that was devastated by the economic downturn. Large protests and general strikes have continued to make headlines each time the Greek parliament makes more cutbacks as a stipulation for receiving bailout loans from the European Union.
During 2010, France experienced several general strikes in response to the raising of the retirement age; a massive protest was held in Dublin against pending austerity measures; Italy saw clashes at La Scala in Milan and at the Leaning Tower of Pisa; and Spain was briefly crippled by an airport strike. On December 9 of that year, the UK cut spending for higher education by a whopping 80%, nearly tripling tuition and bringing students out onto the streets in anger. By springtime of 2011, a plan to overhaul the British National Health Service brought another round of violent protests.
On May 15, a major protest movement began in Spain, coordinated on internet social networks. Stricken with one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, with youth unemployment numbers topping the charts, an overhaul of labor laws that favored employers and sacrificed workers’ rights incited rage throughout the country. The call to action went out with the motto, “We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers!” Madrid became the nerve center of the series of mostly peaceful nationwide protests that have been sustained up to the present. The youths have garnered worldwide support for their determination to avoid becoming a “lost generation” due to an inability to come up with innovative solutions to the economic crisis.
The October 15 Global Protest Movement was much more than the expansion of the Occupy Wall Street Movement’s message of addressing income disparity and denouncing corporate control of democracy in the USA. It was also inspired by the Arab Spring, which has been wreaking havoc with dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East (as I write, the news that Muammar Qaddafi is Dead! is ringing throughout the world!), as well as the Greek Austerity Protests and the Spanish indignados, the “Outraged.” It was in Spain where the largest gatherings occurred, drawing 100,000 in Valencia, 150,000 in Zaragoza, 350,000 in Barcelona, and half a million people in Madrid. Other huge gatherings occurred in Rome, Berlin, and Lisbon. Many cities throughout the Americas and Europe saw rallies and protests, and additional locations included Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Johannesburg, Cairo, and Tel Aviv.
Santiago, Chile was among the cities with the largest October 15 protests, where students, workers, and other supporters have been braving riot police aggression in the streets in massive numbers for several months, now. The situation that they are protesting is related to but different from what has been going on in Europe, as the economy in Chile has been doing rather well in recent years. But the students are demanding that some of the national wealth go toward revamping the Pinochet era educational system that favors the wealthy to offer equal educational opportunities for all Chileans. The right-wing party that is in control of the government right now is refusing, claiming that the country cannot afford it. Yet, Chile can afford to purchase expensive military-style weaponry to try to suppress the student movement and is now threatening to draft protesters into the military as yet another means of silencing them.
The Global Military Police Complex
Ironically, while the protesters are using the internet to connect on a global scale, what they are up against is also a global enterprise, and the high-tech tools that drive these opposing forces both originate in the good old US of A.
Beginning in the 1950’s, the government of the United States, concerned about communist subversion, began assisting foreign police. By 1968, $60 million a year was being spent on police training through the infamous Office of Public Safety (OPS). After revelations that equipment and personnel provided by the OPS were linked to tortures, murders, and disappearances in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, Congress banned the provision of training and assistance to foreign police under Section 660 of the Foreign Assistance Act. But the federal government simply invented loopholes, exceptions, and presidential waivers based on “national security,” and now the DEA, FBI, Departments of Justice, Defense, and Transportation freely grant military and weapons support, narcotics control, and counterterrorism aid around the globe.
When it comes to riot police training and gear, the laws of supply and demand, with a little help from the DEA, FBI, Departments of Justice, Defense, and Transportation, (and who knows what the CIA is ever up to) ensure that the outsourcing of militarized policing is alive and well. The purveyors of riot gear and training seminars offer free assistance in finding government and private grants to purchase their lucrative products with, while government subcontractors such as Civilian Police International, a joint venture between L-3 MPRI (Lockheed meets Lehman Brothers meets Military Professional Resources Inc), KBR (former subsidiary of Halliburton), AECOM Technology Corporation (descended from Ashland Oil) and G4S Security Solutions (formerly G4S Wackenhut) that specialize in international policing contracts with US State Department make a hefty profit in the name of “national security.”
The obvious question that presents itself is simple: where can I relocate to? You will want a place that is peaceful, progressive, with good educational facilities, cultural stimulation, decent climate, and a low crime rate. Some of you may think of the obvious, such as New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Canada, Chile, or even Ecuador. But every one of those countries is either a police state armed to the teeth as described above, or corrupted and too dysfunctional for my tastes. While I am in Argentina presently, I am aware that it also has major flaws, not to mention that it is not the most stable of countries.
I spent a lot of time reviewing all my options before re-expatriating, taking into account most factors that will offer me comfort and security in the long run, including more isolated spots on the globe, such as remote islands. One by one they were eliminated for reasons of food security, personal security (in case of civil unrest), and incompatibility with the local population. When settling in a foreign locale, it is important that you share certain cultural values with your host country, and not be in a completely strange environment, where you stick out as the outsider no matter where you go. Gated communities are positively not the answer to that. It just elevates your status as a likely target for unpleasantness.
After having lived and traveled in so many countries that I have to go though all my old passports to count them, I inevitably come back to one place, a small country located between two giants called the Eastern Republic of Uruguay! My wife and I lived there for nine months not long ago, and left mainly because we wanted to experience our winter in the Andes, which we enjoyed immensely. We are now only a one-day drive from Uruguay, a very orderly, peaceful nation that has a much smaller disparity of income than any other nation I am aware of. It features political stability unmatched anywhere in Latin America. The rural police forces are well paid and trained in doing their job. In all my time in that unique country, I never once saw an armed personnel carrier, police with sub-machine guns, or heard anyone refer to them as the Mafia. They do not ask for bribes, because they would lose their jobs in a heartbeat. In today’s Uruguay, corruption is not tolerated.
Another great thing about expatriating to Uruguay is the fact that obtaining residency is a very straightforward process – also free of bribes, payoffs, and enormous bureaucratic hurdles. The main requirement is that you have a clear criminal record, are of good character, and have an income of $500 per month. To make it even easier, if you are fleeing your place of origin, everything can be done while you are in the country already.
Uruguay is self sufficient with food, offers great beaches, and has a very cosmopolitan capital, Montevideo, where you will encounter many likeminded expatriates. It will not be perfect for everybody’s needs and desires, and there is the drawback that because of a lack of oil, the country depends on hydropower and imported oil for its power needs, making that a very costly aspect of life there.
If you feel you need a place to be safe and sound away from the global reach of outsourced American fascist militarized police, the Eastern Republic of Uruguay is my recommendation. Come check it out now, before it is too late.
This article was written by Jamie Douglas with invaluable editorial assistance from Julie R Butler
About the author: Jamie Douglas is an Adventurer, Writer and Photographer with an amazing array of Nikon equipment, and a lifetime of experience traveling and documenting. He currently enjoys the great weather and fine wines of Mendoza, Argentina, and co-edits and writes for Expat Daily News and Expat Daily News Latin America