Wednesday, September 30, 2009
By Sophia Weeks, COHA Research Associate:
President Obama has not taken any decisive steps to veer away from Washington’s benighted, near half-century trade embargo against Cuba. By refusing to take advantage of the opportunity to reject a longstanding and morally-bankrupt policy, which has achieved very few successes and which has been based on hypocrisy, double standards, and inconsistencies, President Obama has turned his back on the possibility of a new beginning for US policy towards Latin America based on constructive engagement. At this point, Obama is sadly not the US president bringing “change” to the hemisphere as millions of North and South Americans had hoped. Rather, he has failed to fulfill his own foreign policy objective of reaching out to Washington’s unforgiving foes like the Castro brothers. The courage and political wisdom necessary to call for the termination of the embargo and new beginnings has proven devoid of stamina, replaced by a timorous approach composed of weak probes and minimal actions. It appears that the President does not wear the face of change for those who had reason to hope it would come about.
Remittances and Travel to Cuba
So far Obama has removed restrictions on remittances and travel of Cuban Americans to Cuba, but not for all Americans. In doing so he unfortunately has created two distinct classes of citizens each with different rights, a situation any democratic country would be wise to repudiate. It is disappointing that while Obama has the discretionary right to allow anyone to travel to Cuba, he has chosen not to utilize it. The new administration’s policies on Cuba thus far have merely mirrored the Clinton administration’s centrist approach. In effect, in regards to Cuba, we are witnessing something akin to President Bush’s or Clinton’s third term in office.
Obama has only revoked some of the more parochial aspects of Bush’s policy and has slightly softened Clinton’s draconic hard line on Cuba. Although Obama stated during his presidential campaign, “My policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: ‘libertad,’” what new freedoms has he brought? The Cuban and American people are still kept a world apart, without any constructive steps that suggest a meaningful change lies ahead. In other words, Washington’s uninspired and lackluster policies toward Havana may please an anti-Castro militant, but not someone seasoned in the ways of statesmanship.
Today, regarding Cuba, and more generally Latin America, we see unnerving similarities between the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations. Instead of following through on Obama’s promises that “After eight years of the failed policies of the past, we need new leadership for the future,” the same deceptive excuses and cosmetic domestic changes have characterized his policy on Cuba. While Obama already has many controversial issues on his plate and it is clear that his actions reflect a desire to protect and preserve his presidency, this cannot be used to excuse what up to this point is an inept policy. His subsequent decision to continue the embargo confirms his failure to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained and elaborated. COHA Director Larry Birns has referred to Secretary of State Clinton’s recent decisions regarding Cuba as illustrating an inevitable move towards a centrist approach to Caribbean issues, much like those assumed in the Clinton years. In Obama’s campaign, according to Birns, “his progressive and left-leaning rhetoric belied his inability to protect and implement meaningful change. Even if he wanted to be the progenitor of a new generation of a bold new policy aimed at Cuba, he probably lacks the votes to implement what he has promised, without a bruising battle.”
Of course Obama has every right to define and protect his Presidential legacy as he sees fit, but not at the cost of forfeiting the extraordinary opportunity he has to dictate a new direction in hemispheric policy. Americans, as well as Cuban Americans, were promised a review of Latin American foreign policy, and that is what they expected. Since coming to office, it was not only Americans that were let down: average Cubans also are disappointed with the lack of productive policy decisions. Just a few days ago, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez echoed this sentiment: “Obama was elected on a platform of ‘change’ but with respect to the economic blockade against Cuba, there has been no change.”
Cuba: the Terrorist
Obama’s vocabulary of change is symbolically undermined by his lack of action regarding the embargo. It was announced on September 14 that he would extend the economic sanctions against Cuba under the Trading with the Enemy Act for another year. Established in 1917, the measure was utilized by the Kennedy administration to implement the trade embargo on Cuba in 1962. In 1996 the Helms-Burton Act was passed, codifying the various disparate laws affecting the embargo into a single bill. President Clinton saw to it that under Helms-Burton, the embargo could be lifted, but only with the approval of the U.S. Congress, and only once Cuba has begun an authentic transition to democratic political institutions. Thus, even if Obama decided against renewing the extension of Trading with the Enemy Act, the embargo would still hold unless revoked by Congress. However, such an act would have represented a symbolic outreach to Havana and the Cuban people.
There are Terrorists and “Terrorists”
One underlying problem that continues to hinder an effective dialogue with the Cuban government is that Havana remains on the State Department’s annual list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Cuba has been on the blacklist since March 1982, when it was added due to its close relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Castro has long since backed away from his government’s policy of supporting what Washington would classify as terrorist organizations. The fact that Cuba remains on the list speaks to the hypocrisy of such a designation, since so many far more brutal nations are allowed to freely relate with the White House.
The reprehensible actions of the Cuban government over the past few decades pale in comparison to the Washington’s dedication over the past 50 years to violent and often clandestine terrorist operations inside Cuba. North Korea and Libya are examples of countries that continue to align themselves with such threats, but recently, purely on the grounds of expedience on Washington’s behalf, have had their names removed from the list. Yet Cuba remains, alongside countries like Iran and Syria, when Washington has not been able to make anything like a respectable case to justify this.
It is apparent that the removal of the name of North Korea was politically motivated, as there is plenty of evidence pointing to recent terrorist activities occurring in the country. What is absurd is that Cuba is still labeled an “enemy” of the US, despite Obama’s inspirational words of evidence of change taking place in the country. The removal of Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terror, as well as ending the 47-year embargo, would have been consistent with Obama’s vow of goodwill to governments throughout Latin America, and usher in a new era of US-Cuba relations. Then there is the fact that Washington doesn’t have a scintilla of evidence to back up its terrorism charge.
Cuba: By Mail
On September 17, US and Cuban officials began discussing the possibility of restoring direct mail service between Cuba and the United States. For the Obama administration, this is another small but welcome initiative in the right direction. Direct mail between the US and Cuba has been suspended since 1963. Currently, even a simple first-class letter requires routing through a third country, a convoluted process that can take months to complete. Although resuming direct mail is an important step in establishing a positive relationship, it should be understood that restoring service is a mere minor gesture of goodwill, if the far greater effects of the embargo insupportably remain in place. Cuban officials have expressed their belief that the embargo has contributed to the widespread deterioration of postal buildings and a weakening of the infrastructure of the entire postal system, but this should not deter Washington from proceeding with these negotiations. The disparities should be emphasized however, between the steps Obama has indicated he is willing to take within the larger picture of US-Cuban relations, which remain under a buffer of unhelpful special conditions which are a hindrance to any opening up of the political process.
A further outcome of the two-country dialogue on direct mail service is Cuba’s reasonable insistence that the restoration of commercial flights accompany the new mailing system. Although this last request remains a point of contention, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Department, said that overall, “We are satisfied with developments in this first meeting,” and called the talks “wide-ranging and useful.” In this respect, President Obama has started in a purposive direction; he now must show that he does indeed have “good intentions” towards Cuba by making these dialogues a reality.
A Look Ahead
On September 28, the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization will once again condemn Washington’s embargo on Cuba. This will be the 18th consecutive year that Cuban officials produce a report requesting relief from the economic restrictions forced upon them by the US. There is little question that once again the UN will vote to denounce it. The 2009 report, attributing $236 billion (using today’s dollar value) in damages over the past five decades to the embargo, outlines damages to Cuba’s education, health, agriculture and transportation, among other sectors.
While Obama certainly has too much on his plate internationally and domestically for any immediate dramatic moves toward Cuba, his decision to extend the Trading With the Enemy Act against Cuba for another year was a profound disappointment. Cuban officials accept the fact that, due to the Helms-Burton Act, Obama cannot repeal the embargo alone, but the baby steps of allowing family travel and the exchange of remittances is not enough of an equivalence when the costly and lethal effect of the embargo and years of covert operations against the Castro regime are taken into account. US policy today does not emphasize “the dismantling of the blockade,” as the public was led to believe it would, but is focused only on providing a wisp of recompense for years of injustice. The result of the UN meeting on September 28 will chastise the US for its embargo on Cuba, but it is up to Obama to put its words into action by aligning with Cuban authorities and together moving towards a future of mutual respect and cooperation. If Obama is to remain a worldwide emblem of hope and change, he will have to undertake the some political risk that is necessary to break with an old paralytic habit, by ushering in a new generation of Cuban-US relations.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.” For more information, visit www.coha.org or email email@example.com
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Camillo M. Gonsalves, the Caribbean archipelago’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told the sixth day of the Assembly’s high-level segment that is country faces “being stigmatized out of our transition into financial services” by the Group of Twenty (G20) major economies, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and what he called “other non-inclusive bodies.”
Speaking at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Gonsalves said the crackdown on tax havens were actually “a pathetic effort to cast a wide and indiscriminate net of blame across a swath of legitimate and well-regulated countries’ development efforts.
“We note the irony of these paternalistic prescriptions from the same countries that are unable to stem corruption and mismanagement within their own borders, where corporations recklessly squander trillions of dollars and a single buccaneer investor can make $50 billion disappear into thin air – an amount greater than the combined annual budget expenditures of the entire CARICOM [Caribbean Community] sub-region,” he said.
Mr. Gonsalves took aim at the G20 for describing itself last week, at a summit in the United States city of Pittsburgh, as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.
“Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is not a member of the G20, nor were we consulted on its ascension to the ranks of arbiters of our economic fate… The G20 faces a serious legitimacy problem: aside from being non-inclusive and unofficial, many of the countries at that table represent the champions of the financial and economic orthodoxies that led the world down the rabbit-hole to its current economic malaise.”
The Permanent Representative also cast doubt on recent reports from some observers that the economy is returning to normal.
“The invisible hand of the market is still clasped firmly around the throats of poor people and the developing countries of the world. We see none of the so-called ‘green shoots’ that populate the fantasies of discredited economic cheerleaders.
“Indeed, the seeds sown by this crisis may produce the strange and bitter fruit of increased poverty, suffering and social and political upheaval. The crisis itself, with its disproportionate impact on the poor, will only widen and deepen the yawning gap between developed and developing countries.”
News Tracker: past stories on this issue:
Dominican Republic calls for tax on tax havens to fund UN humanitarian goals
So the Group of 20 is going to be the body "coordinating" the global economy from now on, the leaders of the world's most powerful developed and developing nations agreed Friday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The decision to remove that responsibility from the G-8, the world's richest industrialized nations, and encompass Latin America's Brazil, Argentina and Mexico as well as other major emerging economies like China, India, South Africa, Indonesia and South Korea is a positive step forward. The BRIC countries in particular are playing an increasingly important role in the global economy and giving them more say in managing its affairs would be a welcome move indeed.
But is that what's really going to happen by including developing nations on this global "board of directors"? Not likely, because as we've seen time and time again, whether it's the G-20, the G-8, the G-7 or the G-whatever, such loose talking shops will never have the authority - given the different national interests involved - to make hard decisions on specific matters, let alone manage the global economy. And that's exactly what we saw once again in Pittsburgh - lots of fudging, on issues from bankers' bonuses to trade and budget imbalances. Talking shops are important, world leaders need to get together every now and again to discuss big issues, but the idea that, as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown put it, the G-20 is now going to become the "premier economic organization for dealing with economic management around the world," is, eh, pie in the sky.
Even if the leaders of 19 such diverse nations (the 20th member is the EU, which complicates matters even more) could agree on the specifics of managing the globe's finances, they would inevitably be one step behind the curve, as the economy moves faster than regulators, managers, directors, finance ministers, central bank chairpersons or even presidents.
All that's not to say that there are no lessons to be learned from discussing these issues at the highest level, but more questions than answers will likely be the result. How can world leaders prevent another financial meltdown like the one we saw last year? Why didn't the "experts" see it coming, or did they? Looking at Latin America, and comparing the region to say China and India, one lesson to be learned is the need to develop the region's domestic economies and depend less on exports, whether in the form of commodities or, like Mexico, manufactured goods sold largely in the US. The Chinese and the Indians saw their export markets collapse but are emerging from the slump relatively unscathed thanks to their stronger domestic markets.
But at the end of the day, unless individual nations are prepared to cede a degree of sovereignty to international organizations, the "solutions" (read "delayed reactions") will continue to come in at a national or at best regional level, just as we saw during the financial crisis when the US, Europe and others all adopted very different approaches. Economic stimulus packages, nationalizing the banks or bailing them out, stricter capital requirements, slashing interest rates to encourage lending (when loose lending was what started it all off), quantitative easing, protectionism (buy American, buy Brazilian etc), caps on bonuses - you name it, someone's tried it. If the G-8 couldn't agree what to do, what chance does the G-20 have?
In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Bruno Rodriguez said Obama had done little to mend US-Cuba relations and had taken other steps that were at odds with his promises to break with the policies of predecessor George W. Bush.
"The most serious and dangerous aspect about this new situation is uncertainty about the real capacity of current authorities in Washington to overcome political and ideological currents that, under the previous administration, threatened the world," he said.
"The neoconservative forces that took George Bush to the presidency ... have very quickly regrouped and still have the reins of power and considerable influence, contrary to the announced change," Rodriguez said.
The Cuban minister pointed to the June 28 military coup in Honduras, saying that while Obama had said ousted President Manuel Zelaya must be returned to office, "the American fascist right, represented by (former Vice President Dick) Cheney, openly supports and sustains the coup."
Zelaya, bundled into exile by soldiers in the summer coup, secretly returned to Honduras a week ago and is currently sheltering in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.
"The world reacted with profound optimism to the change in government in Washington," Rodriguez said. But he added Obama's words, including promises to make changes in several US policies, do not "coincide with reality".
"The detention and torture center at Guantanamo Naval Base, which usurps part of Cuban territory, has not been shut down. The occupation troops in Iraq have not been withdrawn. The war in Afghanistan is expanding," he said.
Regarding Cuba, Rodriguez said Obama had taken "positive" steps" by allowing Cuban Americans to travel and send money freely to the communist-ruled island.
He added US-initiated talks with Havana on migration and on the possible reinstatement of direct postal service between the long-time foes had been "respectful and fruitful."
But he said many other issues had not been addressed, above all the 47-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba, which the Cuban government blames for most of its economic problems.
Rodriguez said Obama had acted "contrary to what all the American public opinion polls reflect" when he signed two weeks ago a yearly renewal of the act that imposes the embargo.
"The crucial thing is that the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba remains intact," he said.
The embargo was imposed in 1962 to undermine the Cuban government that turned to communism after the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro, 83, ceded the Cuban presidency last year to his younger brother Raul Castro, 78, citing health grounds.
Rodriguez said the US embargo would never achieve its goal. "Those who try to put an end to the revolution and bend the will of the Cuban people are suffering from delusions," he said.
September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
(Taken from CubaDebate)
THE Leaders’ Statement of the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh on Friday, September 25, would appear to be unreal. Let us look at the principal points of its content:
"We meet in the midst of a critical transition from crisis to recovery to turn the page on an era of irresponsibility and to adopt a set of policies, regulations and reforms to meet the needs of the 21st century global economy."
"We pledge today to sustain our strong policy response until a durable recovery is secured."
"…we pledge to adopt the policies needed to lay the foundation for strong, sustained and balanced growth in the 21st century."
"We want growth without cycles of boom and bust and markets that foster responsibility not recklessness."
"…we act together to generate strong, sustainable and balanced global growth. We need a durable recovery that creates the good jobs our people need."
"We need to establish a pattern of growth across countries that is more sustainable and balanced, and reduce development imbalances."
"We pledge to avoid destabilizing booms and busts in asset and credit prices."
"…we will also make decisive progress on structural reforms that foster private demand and strengthen long-run growth potential."
"Where reckless behavior and a lack of responsibility led to crisis, we will not allow a return to banking as usual."
"We are committed to act together to raise capital standards, to implement strong international compensation standards aimed at ending practices that lead to excessive risk-taking…"
"We designated the G-20 to be the premier forum for our international economic cooperation."
"We are committed to a shift in International Monetary Fund (IMF) quota share to dynamic emerging markets and developing countries of at least 5%."
"Sustained economic development is essential in order to reduce poverty."
The G-20 is made up of the seven most industrialized and richest countries:
United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Japan, plus Russia; the 11 principal emerging countries: China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mexico and the European Union, a number of which have excellent economic and political relations with us. Spain and Holland have participated as guests in the last three Summits.
The idea of capitalist development without crises is the grand illusion that the United States and its allies are trying to sell to the emerging economy countries participating in the G-20.
Almost the totality of the Third World countries that are not allies of the United States are observing how this nation prints paper money which circulates throughout the planet as convertible currency without gold backing, buys shares and companies, natural resources, goods and real estate assets and public debt bonds, protects its products, dispossesses nations of their finest brains and confers an extraterritorial nature on its laws. This is in addition to the overwhelming power of its arms and its monopoly of the fundamental means of information.
Consumer societies are incompatible with the conservation of natural and energy resources that the development and the preservation of our species require.
In a brief historical period and thanks to its Revolution, China ceased being a semicolonial and semifeudal country, grew at the rate of more than 10% over the past 20 years and has become the principal driving force of the world economy. Never has a huge multinational state achieved similar growth. It now possesses the highest reserves of convertible currency and is the largest creditor of the United States.
The difference is abysmal in relation to the most developed capitalist countries of the world: the United States and Japan. The debts of both nations, in their turn, accumulate the sum of $20 trillion.
The United States can no longer constitute a model of economic development.
Starting from the fact that in recent years the planet’s temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius, on the same day as the Pittsburgh Summit ended, the top U.S. news agency reported that "Earth's temperature is likely to jump nearly 3 degrees Celsius between now and the end of the century, even if every country cuts greenhouse gas emissions as proposed, according to a United Nations update."
"Scientists looked at emission plans from 192 nations and calculated what would happen to global warming. The projections take into account 80 percent pollution cuts from the U.S. and Europe by 2050, which are not sure things."
"Carbon dioxide, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, is the main cause of global warming, trapping the sun's energy in the atmosphere. The world's average temperature has already risen 1.4 degrees (0.8 degrees Celsius)," it reiterates. "Much of projected rise in temperature is because of developing nations, which aren't talking much about cutting their emissions, scientists said at a United Nations press conference Thursday."
"‘We are headed toward very serious changes in our planet,’ said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N.'s environment program."
"Even if the developed world cuts its emissions by 80 percent and the developing world cuts theirs in half by 2050…the world is still facing a 3-degree (1.7 degree Celsius) said Robert Corell, a prominent U.S. climate scientist who helped oversee the update."
"…still translates into a nearly 5 degree (2.7 degree Celsius) increase in world temperature by the end of the century. European leaders and the Obama White House have set a goal to limit warming to just a couple degrees."
What they have not explained is how they are going to reach that objective, nor the GDP contribution to invest in poor countries and compensate for the damage occasioned by the volume of contaminating gases that the most industrialized nations have discharged into the atmosphere. World public opinion must acquire a solid culture on climate change. Even if there isn’t the slightest error of calculation, humanity will be marching to the edge of the abyss.
When Obama was meeting in Pittsburgh with his G-20 guests to talk about the delights of Capua, the Summit of the Heads of State of UNASUR and the Organization of African Unity [African Union] was beginning on the Venezuelan Isla Margarita. More than 60 presidents, prime ministers and high-ranking representatives of South American and Africa met there. Also present were Lula, Cristina Fernández and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, who had arrived from Pittsburgh to enjoy a warmer and more fraternal summit, during which the problems of the Third World were covered with much frankness. The president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Rafael Chávez, was brilliant and vibrant in that Summit. I had the agreeable possibility of listening to the voices of known and proven friends.
Cuba is grateful for the support and solidarity that emerged from that Summit, where nothing was left in oblivion.
Whatever happens, the peoples will become constantly more aware of their rights and their duties!
What a great battle will be waged in Copenhagen!
Fidel Castro Ruz
September 27, 2009
Translated by Granma International
- Reflections oF Fidel
HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) -- President Raul Castro is taking a bold gamble to ease communist Cuba's cash crunch by eliminating a costly government lunch program that feeds almost a third of the nation's population every workday.
The Americas' only one-party communist government, held afloat largely by support from its key ally Venezuela, is desperate to improve its budget outlook; the global economy is slack, and Havana is very hard pressed to secure international financing.
Raul Castro, 76, officially took over as Cuba's president in February 2008 after his brother, revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, stepped aside with health problems.
Though some wondered if Raul Castro would try to move Cuba's centralized economy toward more market elements, so far he has sought to boost efficiency and cut corruption and waste without reshaping the economic system.
And so far it has been an uphill battle, something akin to treading water.
But now, Raul Castro has moved to set in motion what will likely be the biggest rollback of an entitlement since Cuba's 1959 revolution -- starting to put an end to the daily lunch program for state workers, as announced Friday in Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper.
In a country where workers earn the average of 17 dollars a month, and state subsidized monthly food baskets are not enough for families, more than 3.5 million Cuban government employees -- out of a total population of 11.2 million -- benefit from the nutritionally significant free meal.
The pricetag is a cool 350 million dollars a year, not counting energy costs or facilities maintenance, Granma said.
But that will come to a halt in four ministries experimentally from October 1, Granma said. As workers stream to the 24,700 state lunchrooms, the government "is faced with extremely high state spending due to extremely high international market prices, infinite subsidies and freebies," Granma explained.
Parallel to the cutback, workers will see their salaries boosted by 15 pesos a workday (.60 dollar US) to cover their lunch.
It is a dramatic shift in Cuba, where the government workers' lunchroom has been among the longest-standing subsidies, though even authorities have called it paternalistic.
And more troubling, especially for authorities, is the fact that the lunchrooms' kitchens have become a source of economic hemorrhaging, from which workers unabashedly make off with tonnes of rice, beans, chicken and cooking oil to make ends meet.
The Castro government is keen to reduce the 2.5 billion dollars a year it spends on food imports, which it has to buy on the international market in hard currency.
"Nobody can go on indefinitely spending more than they earn. Two and two are four, never five. In our imperfect socialism, too often two plus two turn out to be three," Raul Castro said in an August 1 address alluding to corruption problems.
Some Cubans were aghast at the idea of losing a free lunch.
"What am I going to buy with 15 pesos," asked a bank worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I cannot even make anything, even something horrible, at home for that little."
But Roberto Reyes, a construction employee, said sometimes the state lunch is so bad, he would rather not eat it -- and pocket the small monthly raise.
The president has said health care and education were not cuts he would willingly make.
But Cubans wonder how long it will be until the legendary monthly ration books with which Cubans receive limited basic food goods, such as rice and beans, for free, come under the budget axe.
September 28, 2009
By INDERIA SAUNDERS ~ Guardian Business Reporter ~ firstname.lastname@example.org:
The head of the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) is moving to allay concerns that The Bahamas will see a mass exodus of offshore banks on the heels of the pending exit of BNP Paribas.
It's a response sparked by that bank's decision to withdraw before the end of 2010 from countries gray listed by the OECD and viewed as "tax havens".
"It's a time of change and there will always be some amount of unsettlement in an industry of our size," Executive Director Wendy Warren told Guardian Business. "It's important to emphasize that government will maintain continuous dialogue with the industry... in the coming months The Bahamas will meet standards in a judicious matter."
Warren said she was unaware of any more banks that were preparing to follow in BNP's footsteps, asserting that it was mostly understood throughout the sector that The Bahamas is just months away from moving off the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) gray list.
A minimum number of 12 tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) are required by a jurisdiction to satisfy the standard set by the OECD, which has now put pressure on "tax havens" for greater disclosures.
The Bahamas' current placing on the gray list is a primary reason why BNP CEO Pascal Dulau said the company has made the decision to exit the country.
"Despite its excellent financial performance in the current economic crisis, BNP Paribas has conducted a global review of its network in the context of the ongoing changes in the world financial system and G20 initiatives," said Dulau.
"In the light of this review, BNP Paribas has taken the decision to withdraw before the end of 2010 from countries grey listed by the OECD and viewed as tax havens.
"This includes The Bahamas."
According to Dulau, the bank was currently deciding the better of two options either selling part of the business or transferring it to another jurisdiction. He did say, however, that the company had no fixed schedule for departure, saying it would depend largely on if they are able to "fix everything" before the end of 2010.
"In its exit strategy, BNP Paribas (Bahamas) Limited will preserve in the best manner the interest of its clients and 40 local staff members," he said. "As always, it is BNP Paribas' objective to act in this critical period as a responsible local and international player."
Dulau said there was no possibility to reverse the decision, even after The Bahamas moved off the gray list. Some local analysts indicate, however, that there is more to BNP's exit than the OECD's pressure.
September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
“It is a fact that when global crises occur small vulnerable economies tend to pay a disproportionately high price,” Prime Minister Denzil L. Douglas of Saint Kitts and Nevis said, as he addressed the Assembly’s annual high-level debate.
He pointed out that, in the case of the economic crisis, the circumstances which precipitated the virtual collapse of several financial institutions were not created by small States such as Saint Kitts and Nevis – the smallest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
“Yet, as in the case of climate change, their consequences are forced upon us and we are left to fend for ourselves.”
Despite the recent downturn, small economies like his continue to display resilience and make the necessary sacrifices to sustain themselves, he said.
Saint Kitts and Nevis is investing in its people through education and retraining, and working to attract international investments in critical sectors to generate employment and other business opportunities. “By doing this, we hope to prepare for the future when the global economy eventually rebounds,” said the Prime Minister.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to working with the region, which has been “especially hard-hit” by both the global financial crisis and climate change.
“I am well aware of the heavy toll the global economic crisis is taking on your countries,” he told leaders gathered for a mini-summit on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). “Oil prices are high, remittances are down, tourism is severely depressed and foreign direct investment has slowed.
“There is talk of recovery – but the impact of the crisis could reverberate for years. Your economies are more fragile than many others,” he said.
The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, also highlighted the vulnerabilities of small economies in his address to the Assembly’s debate.
“We of the smaller countries and the developing world have always been the most vulnerable and the worst affected,” he said. “It is happening again… especially in the Southern Hemisphere, the prospects have grown for increase in poverty, unemployment and general slippage in the development process.”
Like many others in the debate, Mr. Manning said that the crisis has made clear the urgent need to reform the global economic system.
“We clearly cannot take our eye off the ball. We must not return to business as usual… We must be very wary of the level of adventurousness in leading financial institutions, which contributed very significantly to driving the world to the edge of an economic precipice, from which we are just starting to pull back.
“We must now capitalize on the opportunity of this crisis and, without delay, reform our international economic system,” he stated, adding that the global architecture must be transformed to take into account the new realities.
Kenneth Baugh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Jamaica, noted that the consequences of the economic crisis – plunging inflows of financing and investment, weak exports, low commodity prices and diminished aid – are reflected in his country and throughout the CARICOM region.
“Countries like ours now face the daunting challenge of protecting the most vulnerable of their citizens in a responsible and sustainable manner in the context of declining export demand, contraction in services, including tourism, and lower remittances,” he stated.
He added that for the majority of developing countries, the impact of the crisis “will be deep, it will be prolonged and it will be painful.”
26 September 2009
News Tracker: past stories on this issue:
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Reflections of Fidel
ON July 16, I stated textually that the coup d’état in Honduras "was conceived of and organized by unscrupulous individuals on the extreme right, dependable officials of George W. Bush and promoted by him."
I quoted the names of Hugo Llorens, Robert Blau, Stephen McFarland and Robert Callahan, yanki ambassadors in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, appointed by Bush in the months of July and August of 2008, the four of them following the line of John Negroponte and Otto Reich, both of a shady history.
I indicated the yanki base of Soto Cano [Palmerola] as a central support point for the coup d’état and that "the idea of the a peace initiative from Costa Rica was transmitted to the president of that country from the State Department when Obama was in Moscow and stated, in a Russian university, that the only president of Honduras was Manuel Zelaya." I added that "the Costa Rica meeting called into question the authority of the UN, the OAS and other institutions which had committed their support to the people of Honduras and that the only correct thing to do was to demand that the United States should end its intervention in Honduras and withdraw the Joint Task Force from that country."
The response of the United States in the wake of the coup d’état in that Central American country has been to draw up an agreement with the government of Colombia for the creation of seven military bases, like the one in Soto Cano in that sister country, which are a threat to Venezuela, Brazil and all the other nations of South America.
At a critical moment, when the tragedy of climate change and the international economic crisis is being discussed in a summit meeting of heads of state of the United Nations, the coup perpetrators in Honduras are threatening to violate the immunity of the Brazilian embassy, where President Manuel Zelaya, his family and a group of his followers who were forced to take shelter in that building are to be found.
It has been confirmed that the government of Brazil had nothing whatsoever to do with the situation that has been created there.
It is therefore inadmissible, moreover inconceivable, that the Brazilian embassy should be assaulted by the fascist government, unless that government is attempting to be the instrument of its own suicide by dragging the country into a direct invasion by foreign forces, as was the case in Haiti, which would signify a direct invasion of yanki troops under the flag of the United Nations. Honduras is not a distant and isolated country in the Caribbean. An intervention by foreign forces in Honduras would unleash a conflict in Central America and create political chaos in all of Latin America.
The heroic struggle of the Honduran people after almost 90 days of incessant battling has placed in crisis the fascist and pro-yanki government that is repressing unarmed men and women.
We have seen a new awareness emerge in the Honduran people. An entire legion of social fighters has been hardened in that battle. Zelaya fulfilled his promise to return. He has the right to be reestablished in government and to preside over the elections. New and admirable cadres are standing out among the combative social movements, capable of leading that nation along the difficult roads that await the peoples of Our America. A revolution is being born there.
The UN Assembly could be a historic one, depending on its correct decisions or errors.
World leaders have expounded issues of great interest and complexity. They reflect the magnitude of the tasks that humanity has ahead of it and how scant the time available is.
Fidel Castro Ruz
September 24, 2009
Translated by Granma International
Friday, September 25, 2009
UNITED NATIONS, September 24.—President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela affirmed here today that socialism is the only true way forward for the salvation of the planet. "Only with socialism will we achieve real changes, a new Indo-American, Martí, Bolivarian socialism," stated the Venezuelan leader, speaking at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.
Prensa Latina notes that, in the context of that idea, the dignitary called on the world to accept that there is a revolution in Latin America of a geopolitical nature and with very profound roots.
"South of the border," he said in reference to the film of the same name by Oliver Stone, "there is a revolution and the world has to see that and take it on, a necessary revolution that is large and will continue growing, nobody can detain it."
Chávez urged his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, to take concrete action coherent with his political discourse, which is why he wondered if there were two Obamas.
"I prefer to believe in the Obama who stood here yesterday and said that he would fight for world peace. What he said was that no government should impose on any other nation. So, Obama, why don’t you act accordingly and abandon the savage blockade of Cuba?" he asked.
Referring to climate change, Chávez said that the cause of contamination is hyper-consumerism, noting that reserves of gas and oil are being exhausted and that some people seemed to think that this is a metaphysical preoccupation. He went on to quote various excerpts of Fidel Castro’s Reflection "An endangered species."
He stated that the U.S. president, who advocated the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, should begin that process in his own powerful nation: "destroy your arms," he affirmed.
Applauded at various points of his speech to the Assembly, Chávez also condemned the coup d’état in Honduras.
He made particular reference to the repression unleashed on the Honduran people by the coup government and the harassment of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where the constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya has been staying for three days. He called on Honduran soldiers, the sons of Morazán, to stop repressing the people, a people with 90 days on the streets resisting, he stressed.
Chávez criticized the United States for still failing to recognize the existence of a military coup in Honduras and for the contradictory actions of the White House in response to that grave political situation.
He explained that it has become evident that there is a battle between the State Department and the Pentagon, which latter institution wants to dominate the world and is behind the coup. "We ask for the UN resolutions on the reestablishment of constitutional order in Honduras to be fulfilled," Chávez underlined.
He likewise called on Washington to withdraw the 4th Fleet from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as to abandon the seven military bases in Colombia, given that they constitute a serious and real threat to regional peace.
According to ABN, referring to the U.S. president’s speech, Chávez commented that it didn’t smell of sulfur, recalling the expression he used three years ago in that same scenario in relation to George W. Bush. "It smells more of hope and we have to give heart to hope." He added that he is of the opinion that, just like Kennedy, the current president is intelligent. "God spare Obama from the bullets that killed Kennedy."
MORE VOICES AGAINST THE BLOCKADE
South African President Jacob Zuma urged a fundamental reform of the international financial institutions and the United Nations, and added, "We also urge the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba."
For his part, the president of Sao Tome and Principe, Fradique Bandeira Melo de Menezes, noted that his country is disappointed at the little progress made in relation to the blockade of Cuba. "We hope that the new president of the United States will bring this matter to an end," he stated.
Translated by Granma International
By Alan Markoff:
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (Reuters) -- Caribbean and Atlantic offshore finance centers are hitting back against attempts to portray them as shady tax havens and say world leaders are making them scapegoats for the global downturn.
Leaders of the Group of 20 economic powers, meeting in Pittsburgh on Friday on global economic issues, launched a campaign in April to name and shame tax havens and penalize those who failed to tighten tax standards and transparency.
Spurred by public outrage over big bonus-earning bankers and high-profile frauds by wealthy financiers, G20 governments have pointed accusing fingers at tax havens across the globe, many of them on tiny, beach-rimmed islands in the Caribbean.
As US investigators probe Swiss bank accounts held by suspected US tax cheats, leading offshore jurisdictions say they resent being cast as hide-outs for tax evaders and crooks.
"It's not fair," said McKeeva Bush, political leader and Minister of Financial Services of the Cayman Islands, the tiny British overseas territory south of Cuba that is one of the world's largest domiciles of hedge funds.
He and other policymakers and business chiefs from prominent Caribbean and Atlantic offshore centers say the anti-tax haven "finger pointing" by the world's richest and most powerful governments is hypocritical and seeks to shift blame away from their own failed policies and lax regulation.
"It's the fault of the onshore centers who taxed their own people ... money is running away from them now," Bush said.
"Cayman had nothing to do with the investing in sub-prime derivatives, US housing bubble or gross over-leveraging of the main banks ... It's a nice diversion to blame the evil guys in the Caribbean instead of laying blame where it belongs," said Grand Cayman real estate developer Michael Ryan.
"There is a lot of finger pointing at the offshore world," said Cheryl Packwood, chief executive officer of the Bermuda International Business Association. Bermuda, a tiny Atlantic island that is also a British territory, is a center for the global insurance industry.
But in the United States alone, offshore tax havens are estimated to deprive the Treasury of $100 billion a year. Official efforts to track down tax dodgers have gained pace as the US government seeks to collect more revenues without raising tax rates to offset its vast and growing budget deficit.
After G20 leaders this year declared a crackdown against tax havens, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in April published a "gray list" of jurisdictions they said fell short of full compliance with internationally agreed tax standards. More than a dozen Caribbean jurisdictions, and Bermuda, were on the list.
But while Caribbean and Atlantic offshore financial centers reject what they see as a one-sided witch hunt against them, their governments have nevertheless scrambled to get themselves dropped from the damning OECD noncompliance list."
The Caymans and the British Virgin islands achieved this in July after signing at least 12 bilateral tax agreements in line with OECD standards. Bermuda has also moved up to the "white list", and other Caribbean states are signing tax treaties.
Anthony Travers, chairman of the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association, sees an attempt by the G20 nations to impose what he calls a "new world order predicated on a global one-size-fits-all higher rate of taxation".
Bermuda's finance minister, Paula Cox, also suspects the world's richest states may be seeking "extra-territorial solutions to their economic, fiscal and financial challenges."
"There is now a strong suspicion that the G20 has an undisclosed agenda item to drive forward a global corporate tax policy, which may fly in the face of a nation's sovereign right to set down its own tax policy," she said.
Timothy Ridley, former chairman of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, believes the crackdown on tax havens stems largely from fear of competition by "those ... who wish to retain control of the world's capital and to tax it".
Some experts in the Bahamas suggested the offshore sector should ensure its future by shifting away from clients in the United States, Europe and Canada to new wealthy customers in emerging powers like Brazil, China, Nigeria, Russia and India.
"If you can provide new services to these markets, you will swim, not sink," said Julian Malins, a London-based barrister who has acted as counsel for cases originating in the Bahamas.
While insisting they have put their finance sectors in order from the regulatory viewpoint, political and business leaders of these offshore jurisdictions admit their territories have not escaped the battering of the global financial crisis.
"Fewer tourists, lower tourist and consumer spending, the squeeze on business profits, redundancies and lay-offs are all the result of the global recession," said Bermuda's Cox.
This has led to some companies leaving the Atlantic island insurance center. This week, directors of global insurance broker Willis Group Holdings approved moving its domicile from Bermuda to Ireland, citing economic factors.
But both Bermudian and Caymans business leaders felt their finance centers could weather the economic storm and prosper.
"Money is going to find the right place to be," said Cayman's Leader of Government Business Bush, who is embroiled in a dispute with Britain over the islands' financial management.
"No matter what (the United States and EU) try to do, the more regulated places will survive and the Cayman Islands will survive," he said.
September 26, 2009
By Anthony L Hall:
Watching world leaders deliver speeches at the annual United Nations General Assembly is rather like watching actors perform in an Italian opera. And, frankly, their speeches usually have about as much practical import as the arias in an opera.
(Of even less significance of course are those delivered by Caribbean leaders who, continuing the analogy, comprise the chorus in this political farce.)
Nevertheless, some of the notes sounded on Wednesday by two first timers, namely US President Barack Obama and Libyan President Muammar el-Qaddafi, are worthy of comment.
Obama used his address, the first of his nine-month presidency, to remind the member nations of this notoriously feckless body of their collective responsibility to help fight the global threats and challenges we face, including terrorism and climate change.
And in one deftly crafted sentence he managed both to reinforce his mandate to transform America’s image in the world and to indicate that his predecessor’s unilateral approach might not have been entirely unwarranted:
“Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.”
Regrettably, this was not only his highest note, it was the only one he sounded that we haven’t heard a thousand times before...
By contrast, Qaddafi used his address, the first of his 40-year dictatorship, to unleash an entertaining, stream-of-consciousness rant that showed why only Fidel Castro rivals his flair for Third World, revolutionary rhetoric.
For over 90 minutes (instead of the 15 he was allotted), he railed against a litany of injustices (real and imagined) that have been perpetrated (primarily by the US) since the UN was founded 64 years ago. He cited, among other cases, the wars in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan; the assassinations of JFK and MLK; and the conspiracy of pharmaceutical companies manufacturing diseases like Swine Flu so that they can peddle vaccines for profit.
But he unleashed the lion’s share of his long-simmering rage on the untenable double standard that governs almost all UN resolutions. In particular, he accused the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (namely, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China) of using their veto powers to wage war and impose sanctions against other members like al Qaeda terrorists:
“The preamble (of the charter) says all nations are equal whether they are small or big… Veto power should be annulled... The Security Council did not provide us with security but with terror and sanctions. It should not be called the Security Council; it should be called the terror council.”
Granted, the allusion to terrorists is a bit extreme; but this indictment of the UN contains much more than a grain of truth. And, incidentally, I also think there’s merit in Qaddafi’s grievance about how unfair, inconvenient and unnecessary it is to have the UN (still) headquartered in the US (Indeed, why not France, China or India?).
Conspicuously absent from his indignant diatribe, however, was any reference to the many injustices he’s alleged to have perpetrated. Indeed, this is why, even though much of Qaddafi’s message was undeniably true, I understand why so many people just want to shoot this messenger.
All the same, nothing distinguished his performance quite like the unrequited praise he heaped on Obama, even referring to him (with Pan-African pride) as “my son”:
“I’m happy that the new president, a son of Africa, governs the United States of America. This is a historic event. This is a great thing. Obama is a glimpse in the darkness after four or eight years. We are content and happy if Obama can stay forever as president of the United States.”
That said, I usually mark this annual gabfest by commenting on the world leader whose attendance many herald like the arrival of a skunk at a dinner party. In recent years Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have received this dubious honor. Not surprisingly, it’s Qaddafi this year.
No doubt you’ve heard that relatives of the victims of Pan Am flight 103 orchestrated a persona-non-grata campaign to ensure that he would have no place on US soil to pitch his Bedouin-style tent, which he uses to entertain guests wherever he goes.
Of course, this extraordinary display of inhospitality stems from the fact that many people believe Qaddafi ordered the terrorist bombing of this flight in 1988, which killed 189 Americans. And it was only exacerbated by the fact that, after Scottish authorities released the only man convicted of this bombing a few weeks ago, Qaddafi welcomed him home as a national hero.
However, notwithstanding my sympathy for these still grieving souls, it reeks of vintage American arrogance and stupidity that so many opportunistic, small-town politicians have enabled their misguided campaign against this Libyan head of state.
(They have somehow managed to deny Qaddafi permission to pitch his tent in New York’s Central Park, on the grounds of the Bedford, NY estate he actually leased from Donald Trump, or even on the grounds of the New Jersey residence of his own UN representative.)
Meanwhile, this jingoistic nimbyism makes a mockery of the benevolent, cooperative and, yes, hospitable image of America Obama projected during his UN address. Never mind that it plays right into Qaddafi’s assertion that the time has come to move the headquarters of the UN out of the US.
NOTE: Most world leaders sit in the General Assembly when US presidents deliver their annual address. Therefore, I remain nonplused by the slight all US presidents, including Obama now, show them by refusing to reciprocate this respect.
But that Obama aped Bush by not even having the US Ambassador to the UN (or any US representative) show Ahmadinejad this respect is inexcusable and says more about America’s congenital imperiousness than it does about Iran’s nurtured defiance.
World leaders blow hot air at UN confab
Release of Lockerbie bomber…
September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
CaribWorldNews, UNITED NATIONS, NY, Thurs. Sept. 24, 2009: On Wednesday, in his first speech at the United Nations, Libyan Leader Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi, used the opportunity to call for compensation for Africans for colonization.
Qadhafi, in a 90-minute long speech that touched on many different subjects before a packed General Assembly, insisted that Africa deserved compensation, amounting to some $77.7 trillion for the resources and wealth that had been stolen in the past. He also said the African Union should have a permanent seat at the UN.
`Colonization should be criminalized and people should be compensated for the suffering endured during the reign of colonial power,` said the Libyan leader, while adding that Africans were proud and happy that a son of Africa was now governing the United States of America.
It is a great thing, said the controversial leader who was met by protests outside the UN. `... a glimmer of light in the dark of the past eight years.`
But Col. Qadhafi complained about the trouble some diplomats and their staff had in securing visas from the United States Government.
The Libyan leader also attacked the Security Council, insisting it practices `security feudalism` for those who had a protected seat.
`It should be called the terror council,` he said, underscoring that terrorism could exist in many forms. `The super-Powers had complicated interests and used the United Nations for their own purposes. Qadhafi also said he was not committed to adhere to the Council`s resolutions, which were used to commit war crimes and genocides. And he reiterated that the Council did not provide security and the world did not have to obey the rules or orders it decreed, especially as it was currently not providing the world with security, but gave it `terror and sanctions.`
Meanwhile, Qadhafi was denied the right to stay at his country`s compound in New Jersey while his tent on Donald Trump`s property was dismantled and his application to pitch in Central Park denied. The Libyan leader will now stay at his country`s Permanent Mission to the UN, which is an office and does not have residential facilities.
• Leaders speak in
favor of reforming the organization
NEW YORK, September 23.— Brazilian President Luiz
Inácio Lula da Silva stated that without a political
will, obsolete measures such as the U.S. blockade of
Cuba will continue to exist. The dignitary was the
first speaker at the 64th Session of the UN General
Assembly, which took place today.
For his part, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez,
stated that as Americans, "we feel the ethical duty
and political responsibility of likewise reiterating
in this international forum that we will persevere
in our efforts toward American integration without
exclusions, exceptions, or blockades like the one
Likewise, Bolivian leader Evo Morales stated that
in order to change the world, "we will first have to
change the UN and end the blockade of Cuba."
Meanwhile, during yesterday’s session, U.S.
President Barack Obama called for a "new era of
commitment" to the world and promised to work
alongside other nations while defending his own
"The time has come for the world to move in a new
direction. We must embrace a new era of engagement
based on mutual interest and mutual respect," said
Obama during his speech before the Assembly.
Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy
proposed reaching an agreement on a provisional
reform of the Security Council before the end of the
year. "The crisis is forcing us to demonstrate
imagination and boldness," he said, stating that,
"in politics, the economy and environmental policy,
the need for global government is imperative," EFE
Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi also called for a
reform of the UN, by transforming the General
Assembly into its central apparatus and transferring
the prerogatives of the Security Council to that
He also commented that, according to the UN
Charter, all countries are equal, irrespective of
their size, but the vast majority of them are not
represented on the Council.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Libyan
diplomat Ali Treki, General Assembly president for
the next period, both called for a reinforcement of
For the former, this is the time to act with a
spirit of renewed multilateralism, to create "a
United Nations of genuine collective action".
Among the most important issues facing the
international organization, Ban mentioned nuclear
disarmament and the battle against poverty and
Meanwhile, Treki alerted delegates to current
challenges related to peace and international
security. He identified the challenges of conflicts
among states, civil wars, weapons of mass
destruction, terrorism, organized crime, the
deterioration of the environment, extreme poverty
and the spread of infectious diseases.
The Libyan diplomat called on members to work for
the revitalization of the General Assembly and "a
more representative and reformed Security Council."
He also reaffirmed a commitment to the environment
and a non-selective approach to the issue of human
Translated by Granma International
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
BY KENDENO N. KNOWLES:
While the Bahamas is considered one of the original tax havens, one senior official at Deloitte & Touche said recently that The Bahamas has not reaped the maximum benefits like many other tax havens in the region.
Deloitte Managing Partner Raymond Winder said recently that The Bahamas has more or less flat lined compared to other Caribbean countries.
"We like to talk about this new model of business, but let us look at the financial services sector. We have never ever been a real big player in the financial service sector like some of the other tax havens," Mr. Winder said.
"Yes, the Bahamas was the original tax haven when you make a comparison against Grand Cayman and Bermuda but, let us look at what happens in Cayman and Bermuda, and just why they have benefited so much more from the financial services sector than we have.
"We have allowed the financial services sector in the Bahamas to be hijacked by the lawyers," he said.
The only players in the financial services sector Mr. Winder claimed are lawyers; this he said has been detrimental to the success of the financial services sector and by extension, tax havens.
"We feel as if all we have to do is incorporate corporations and there’s no more to it." Mr. Winder said.
Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing however tried to set the record straight last week about the governments stand point.
Mr. Laing however said that it is the legal fraternity that is partly to blame.
"What I find interesting is that when the government listens we are blamed and when we don’t listen we are blamed," Mr. Laing said.
"With the greatest respect, this notion that Mr. Winder is talking about in terms of lawyers is an absolute policy of the legal establishment.
"I can tell you that I go to Geneva and I go to New York and I talk to fund administrators all over the world. I ask them why they set up their funds in Cayman and in St. Vincent. They [the fund administrators] say that their lawyers have international practices in Geneva and St. Vincent etc., but not in the Bahamas, because they say they cannot get in the Bahamas as easily.
"This is something where the legal fraternity will have to move," Mr. Laing said.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- Cubans began taking a hard look this week at entrenched customs like food rationing, pilfering on the job, cradle-to-grave subsidies and black market trading in a national debate called by President Raul Castro.
Authorities have circulated a ten-point agenda for thousands of open-ended meetings over the next month at work places, universities and community organizations to rethink Cuban socialism, focused on the economic themes highlighted by Castro in a speech to the National Assembly in August.
The discussion guide, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, makes clear that questioning the communist-ruled island's one-party political system established after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, or calling for a restoration of capitalism, are off limits.
But the guide said: "It is important that the meetings are characterized by absolute freedom of criteria, the sincerity of participants and respect for differing opinions".
The possibility of eliminating one of the world's longest-standing food ration systems, heavily subsidized utilities, transportation and meals at work and universities, among other items, would be debated at the meetings.
Alicia, a communist party militant who will lead the debate in her Havana work place next week but who asked that her last name not be used, said the purpose was "to call on everyone to do what they have to do and stop looking up into the sky and screaming that there are problems."
"Of course there are problems, lots of them, what's needed is that everyone begins taking care of their own," she said.
A similar round of meetings was held in 2007, during which Cubans were asked to air their complaints and what they wanted from the government.
|Cuban President Raul |
Castro. AFP PHOTO
At this round of discussions, the guide says participants were being asked to look in the mirror and apply Castro's speech to their own "radius of action," identify problems in the context of his words and come up with a list of proposals to solve them.
"Nobody, no individual nor country, can indefinitely spend more than she or he earns. Two plus two always adds up to four, never five," Castro said in his August speech. "Within the conditions of our imperfect socialism, due to our own shortcomings, two plus two often adds up to three," he added.
Cubans have mixed feelings about the debate. Some say it is a sincere effort to involve them in changing their lives, while others suspect it is a maneuver to get them to buy into austerity measures that have already been decided on.
"The monthly ration lasts about 15 days and now it won't last 10," Jorge, a construction worker, glumly predicted.
Castro, in his August speech, said a foreign currency shortage had forced drastic cuts in imports and budgets and postponement of payments to foreign creditors and suppliers.
He said egalitarianism had no place under socialism, except in the area of opportunity, and more resources should flow to those who produce and less to those who do not. He has often expressed this refrain since taking over the presidency from his elder brother, Fidel Castro, 18 months ago.
The discussion guide includes excerpts of an earlier Castro speech in which he said reversing the country's dependence on food imports was "not a question of yelling 'fatherland or death, down with imperialism, the blockade is hurting us ...'", but working hard and overcoming poor organization.
Cuban leaders routinely call the 47-year-old US economic embargo against the island a "blockade" and frequently blame it for Cuba's economic woes.
Castro called for decentralization of the state-dominated economy, new forms of property ownership and an end to all government gratuities and subsidies except in health care, education and social security, though these also had to had to cut waste and inessential services.
The president also said in his speech to the National Assembly that Cuba recognized a change in tone from US President Barack Obama's administration and was open to trying to solve the standoff with the United States.
"We are ready to talk about everything, I repeat everything, but in terms of here in Cuba and over there in the United States, and not to negotiate our political and social system," he said.
Obama has eased some slight aspects of the longstanding embargo on Cuba, and initiated talks with the Cuban government on immigration and postal services. But he has called on Cuban leaders to respond by becoming more democratic, freeing detained dissidents and improving human rights.
NASSAU, Bahamas, September 21, 2009 - Violence resulting from what is being called the "triple threat" of the drug trade, retaliation and conflict has been blamed for more than half of the murders committed in the Bahamas so far this year.
National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest says that of the 59 murders recorded up to now, 11 were drug related, 10 were retaliation killings and 12 a result of conflict. The others occurred in situations of domestic violence and robbery.
"Looking at the analysis of the motives for the 59 murders, we recognise that 39 of them - 66 per cent - were as a result of circumstances that the police could not have prevented," he said.
The use of firearms also played a key role in many of murders committed so far. Guns were used to carry out 42 of the 59 killings.
The National Security Minister said it was against this backdrop that a Crime Reduction Strategy was launched three weeks ago.
"The Crime Reduction Strategy has a critical overarching objective which is to enhance public confidence in the police and thereby to reduce not only crime and criminality, but the fear of crime," he said.
"It will also target prolific offenders, particularly the emerging and dangerous breed of career criminals, with the objective of disrupting their operations and bringing them to justice for the offences they commit," Turnquest continued, adding that the strategy will also target problem areas and/or areas of concern, particularly the so-called "hot spots."
But he said that effective anti-crime strategies require much more than tough action by the police no matter how efficient that action is.
"In addition to the work of the law enforcement agencies, effective crime-fighting strategies require a country-wide response, from individuals, civic organizations, the Church and the community, including the business community," the National Security Minister said.
"We must not turn a blind eye to crime, whether it is drug trafficking, illegal gun possession, murder, robbery, the encouragement of illegal immigration, or general lawlessness."
Monday, September 21, 2009
BASSETERRE, St Kitts (CUOPM) -- As St Kitts and Nevis and other Caribbean states tackle the problem of crime, a former Antigua and Barbuda diplomat has warned that unless the United States takes the lead to put measures in place to curb the trafficking of weapons and drugs through the region, the situation will worsen.
|Sir Ronald Sanders|
According to CMC, Sir Ronald Sanders, who twice served as the Caribbean nation’s High Commissioner to London, said the issue of drugs, arms and crime is “the gravest problem” facing the countries of the Caribbean and Latin America - with the exception of Cuba. He said while in the past the US, Canada and European government have concentrated on cutting the supply through eradication and interdiction with limited success, “it is clearly the time to rethink this strategy.”
The former diplomat said that in doing so, the authorities in those countries must do so in full collaboration with both the producing and transit countries, both of whom “are as much the victims of the trade” as the countries in which the huge markets reside.
“Almost every country has the same problem and many of the smuggled weapons, when captured are traceable to the United States. This suggests that the absence of a vigorous policy to curb arms sales is unintentionally contributing to crime in Central America and the Caribbean,” Sir Ronald told a recent gathering of high-ranking military officers at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London.
He said countries of the region are overwhelmed by the crime that has developed as a consequence of drug trafficking. “In many cases, their police forces are out-gunned by the weapons available to drug gangs and they lack the numbers, the equipment and other resources to combat the problem,” Sir Ronald told the officers from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
“In conditions of economic decline and increased unemployment, drug trafficking and its attendant other crimes escalate, as they are now doing throughout the region,” said the former chairman of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force against drug trafficking and money laundering.
“The US government could make an enormous contribution to resolving this huge problem by passing legislation and implementing machinery to control arms smuggling; by reviewing the practice of deporting convicted felons to their countries of origin; and by adopting measures to stop legal sale of assault weapons.”
The former Antigua and Barbuda envoy said in addition Washington should take a lead in organising collaborative arrangements with Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean to establish a comprehensive anti-narcotic programme that addresses both supply and demand.
“If this is not done, the problem of drug-trafficking and its attendant high crime will continue to plague Central America and the Caribbean with a terrible destabilising effect on the small economies that are least able to cope,” Sir Ronald warned in the CMC report.
September 22, 2009
By Bernard Coard
The Grenada Revolution: Some key lessons from 1979-1983, and especially October 1983
(1). The manner of taking power: armed overthrow, and the emergence of armed forces controlled by the ruling party, not by law or the constitution.
(2). The absence of checks and balances: within the party, the government, and the society.
(3). The failure to hold elections and to restore in full the constitution, within the first six to twelve months of taking power by armed overthrow.
(4). The continuation of a political culture of suppression by force of opposing views, individuals, political parties, and the media, inherited from the colonial and Gairy eras.
(5). The emergence of a culture of ‘political fratricide’ from the earliest days and throughout the life of the revolution.
(6). The development of military ‘rules of engagement’ from the earliest days and throughout the Process of ‘taking no prisoners’, once anyone took up arms to challenge the revolution or its leadership.
(7). The making of fundamental – strategic – errors in internal party structures and operations, in the context of what was required to run the country and transform its people’s economic and social circumstances.
(8). The encouragement/facilitation of personality cultism, and the failure to institutionalise/constitutionalise/give legal teeth to the organs of mass popular democracy which emerged and grew during the life of the Revolution; making their abandonment, instead of use, possible, during the gravest crisis faced by the Revolution and the country.
(9). The making of fatal errors by the revolutionary leadership in its relations with the United States, born of inexperience and immaturity.
(10). The making of quite different but equally fatal errors in the Revolution’s relations with Cuba.
GRENADA: lessons of ’79-’83 in the context of October 19th, 1983
(1). The manner of taking power (armed overthrow, not the Cheddi Jagan model)
(i) Gairy’s military, police, paramilitary, secret police, and Mongoose Gang had to be smashed, in order to take power by armed struggle.
(ii) This in turn led to the replacement of Gairy’s armed forces by one which was, by the very definition or nature of how power was taken from Gairy, responsive to a sole political party and cause: NJM and the Revolution.
From the outset, there was an absence of checks and balances:
* within the ruling party, NJM,
* within the government or governing structure (the PRG), and
* within the country as a whole – the entire political system of the society.
While it was true that we inherited a political system with few checks and balances, we not only did nothing to change that reality; we unwittingly, unthinkingly, made it worse!
I will develop these points as we go along, but what needs to be emphasised here is that this mistake – the absence of checks and balances – formed the cornerstone of many if not most of the other major mistakes made, and was a critical factor in making the catastrophe of October 19th, 1983 possible.
The failure to
* hold elections within the first 6-12 months (at the latest) of taking power (it is universally agreed that we would have swept the polls, had we chosen that path); and to
* restore the constitution in full.
Had we done those two things, it would have gone some way towards
* offsetting the dangers created by the manner of our taking power, and
* provided – even though inadequately – some checks and balances (in place of the total absence of such, which was our reality in the absence of elections, a not fully restored constitution, and armed forces monopolised by the ruling party).
Continuation of a political culture of repression of opposing views, individuals, political parties and media inherited from the colonial and Gairy eras – even as the economic and social life of the vast majority of the people was transformed. We mistakenly believed that criticism and opposition generally, would inevitably play into the hands of those foreign forces intent on overthrowing the revolutionary economic and social transformation of the country, which was, of course, the raison d’ête of the Revolution.
We saw how domestic opposition forces and media had been used to do this in many countries, including in Guatemala, Chile, Guyana, and Jamaica. We however failed to see that the very success of our repression of elements within the society who could have been mobilised and used by foreign interests to electorally replace the PRG made military invasion the only option that these interests had for getting their way!
Moreover, our concern that local opposition, co-opted by foreign powers, could be used to overthrow the revolution, failed to grasp the strategic perspective: Once the Revolution’s economic and social projects and programmes were executed in the first five years – as they were – any electoral setback engineered by foreign powers would be just that: a temporary setback.
The people would soon be clamouring for the return of people-oriented policies and programmes, and for honest and efficient government and this would mean the return of NJM and the PRG even stronger than before (because the people would have had a taste of the alternative!).
A culture of political ‘fratricide’ was added to the colonial era and Gairy era inheritance of repression of the political and human rights of those in opposition. This was most tangible and vividly demonstrated by the cases of Lloyd Noel, Teddy Victor, Strachan Phillip, and Ralphie Thompson.
From the earliest days of the Revolution – literally in its first months of existence and throughout the revolution’s life – persons who had previously occupied positions in the top leadership of the party in the bitter and hard days of struggle against Eric Gairy were ruthlessly detained – indefinitely – without charge or trial, for non-violent opposition or even mere criticism, of the PRG and the Revolution! This culture of ruthless political fratricide made the tragedy, the disaster of October 19th 1983, easier to happen – on both sides of the divide.
Once again, however, we see the importance of the factor of the absence of checks and balances permitting the exercise of growing political fratricide throughout the revolutionary process, culminating in the events of October 1983. Linked to the above were the Revolution’s Military/Security Forces’ Rules of Engagement; rules which were unwritten but which emerged, from the early weeks and months of the process (beginning with the killing of Strachan Phillip, and continuing with people like ‘Duck’ and ‘Ayub’).
The ‘Rules of Engagement’ as clearly understood (and demonstrated by their actions) within the armed forces can be stated thus (my own language for them):
* opposition unarmed (or located unarmed) = capture and indefinite detention (e.g. non violent Lloyd Noel et al); violent but found unarmed: Buck Budhlall et al);
* resisting capture with weapons (OR initiating violence with weapons) = ‘Take No Prisoners’ (eg: Strachan Phillip, ‘Duck’, ‘Ayub’, et al).
This, again, helped pave the way – unwittingly – for October 19th, 1983.
The combination of
(a) The manner of taking power,
(b) The absence of checks and balances, the
(c) Continuation of the historical political culture of the violent suppression of opposition,
(d) The addition of political fratricide to this, and
(e) Those military rules of engagement, proved a lethal cocktail in the context of October 19th, 1983.
On that day a crowd of Bishop supporters, led by him and a few others, stormed and seized army headquarters. They disarmed all the soldiers there, held their officers at gunpoint, opened the armoury, distributed weapons to the crowd, and made concrete preparations to launch attacks on and seize other security and army installations.
The army unit sent to recapture the army’s HQ was fired upon by some in the crowd (eyewitness account of no less a person than the late, renowned Grenadian journalist, Alister Hughes, plus the testimony of some prosecution witnesses in the subsequent ‘trial’ of the Grenada Seventeen).
Four soldiers were killed (and others injured), including the hugely popular young commander of the army unit, O/C Conrad Mayers.
In retrospect, the above series of actions or events, when combined with the lethal cocktail of five factors detailed above propelled Grenada and Grenadians over the political precipice, into the abyss of collective trauma and unimaginable catastrophe.
Fundamental – and strategic – errors in internal party structures and operations.
Internal party structures (of NJM) were far too Top-Down. While this is true for most if not all Caribbean political parties of all ideological persuasions, it was fatal for us, given the lack of checks and balances at the state level, and given the absence of any effective ‘civil society’.
It meant that the party had no internal capacity to resolve conflicts at the level of its top leadership without fratricidal consequences, and there were no ‘outside’ forces, at state or civil society levels, to reign in or constrain the party’s actions.
Failure to move quickly – within 12-24 months of March 13th, 1979 – from a Vanguard to a mass party.
It is my considered view that power could hardly have been taken by means of armed overthrow of the Gairy regime without a tightly knit, well trained and disciplined vanguard party.
However, the building of a revolutionary process, the effective control and operation of all arms of the government, the building of mass organisations and organs of popular democracy, and the delivery of the many (and multi-faceted) programmes and projects of the revolution to all of the population mandated the need for a mass political party. A different type of party in terms of size, structure, and orientation was required to BUILD the revolution, as distinct from that which was required to topple the old regime. This was grasped too late, and efforts to shift gears came far too late.
* In like manner to how the holding of elections in the country and the full restoration of the constitution shortly after taking power may have acted as an antidote to the dangers inherent in the manner of taking power, the building of a mass party may have created a better climate for conflict-resolution within the party. Of course, this is not something that we can be sure of, but a mass party provides greater room for “mass opinion”, whereas a tightly knit vanguard party provides little room for this as a constraining influence on the leadership.
The party (because it was in vanguard form throughout the Process) began to literally break down in the final 12 or so months of the Process from excessive overwork piled on top more overwork, leading to large-scale physical illnesses, including three quarters of the top leadership, and growing difficulties in the functioning, therefore, of the many organisations and structures that each party member was responsible for. To sum it up: ‘Too few were being asked to do too much, in far too little time’. Our goals and time frames were utterly unrealistic, a product of both our passion to transform the society as quickly as possible, and our inexperience.
(No, this had nothing to do with trying to “build Socialism” too fast. NONE of the projects and programmes involved nationalising any companies or other property of either citizens or foreigners. ALL the programmes (and projects) were of two basic kinds: physical and human infrastructure, and Basic Needs’ requirements of the vast majority of the people living, as they were, in relative poverty.) Our mobilisation and organisation of the people, while highly commendable in most respects, contained errors with, in hindsight, strategic consequences:
( i) We used mass rallies, on a regular basis, as a major political forum and tool. By definition, it was top-down in character. Moreover, it also enhanced personality cultism (a problem faced by most if not all poor countries, without the need to breed more of it!). By itself, this was a relatively minor side-effect of the mass mobilisation of the people aimed at energising them to build the revolutionary Process.
However, when this was combined with the active insistence of the Cubans that, in effect, we must abandon our collective leadership management style of decision–making and decision-implementation and adopt a one-man, ‘maximum leader’, ‘Commander-in-chief’ approach, personality cultism reached new heights and led, ultimately, to tragic results (as will be summarized shortly).
(ii) We developed monthly Zonal and Parish Councils throughout the country, as also the annual NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE ECONOMY.
Ministers as well as Senior Civil servants were regularly summoned before those Zonal and Parish Councils to explain their actions, outline their future plans for their ministry or department, listen to the complaints and suggestions of those present, and report back to them in one, or two months’ time regarding what steps they had taken about the complaints, etc.
The National Conference on the Economy was the final stage in a process lasting several weeks of extensive consultation with the population about the budget for the upcoming year prior to its formal presentation. It involved a total of 1,000 delegates representing every village, parish, and mass organization in the country. These bodies – or ‘Organs of Popular Democracy’ as we referred to them collectively – helped in achieving:
* Transparency in government;
* Accountability in government;
* Genuine and widespread consultation; and
* A sense of ownership of the process by the people as a whole.
What, therefore, was the mistake, given the extremely laudable objectives and practice of these popular bodies?: OUR TAKING TOO LONG TO INSTITUTIONALISE THEM; INCORPORATE THEM, WITH FORMAL CONSTITUTIONAL TEETH, WITHIN A NEW (OR AMENDED) CONSTITUTION.
This could have been the genesis of the checks and balances needed, had we had the wisdom, the foresight, to realise how critical this could have been for the long-term success of the revolutionary process. Instead, at the outset of our first major crisis, we ignored/abandoned these embryonic organs of popular democracy and instead fell back on:
* Mass mobilisation (street action) and
* Recruiting foreign (i.e., Cuban) military intervention – the Bishop camp; and
* Top-Down thinking by the party executive, the Central Committee, on the other hand;
‘The party will choose (and alter, as and when appropriate) its own internal leadership. ‘Party leader’ is not a state position or office, and therefore not a decision for the masses to make; only for the General Meeting of all party members to meet and decide (which was done on September 25th and 26th, 1983, and reaffirmed on October 13th, 1983)’.
This would have been valid reasoning, perhaps, for the traditional Caribbean political parties. But a Revolutionary process, built by definition by and for all the people, needed to involve them all in deciding even party matters, especially the leadership.
The army became involved (even though all its personnel had been off the streets and confined to barracks throughout the crisis, from October 12th up to and including on the 19th October itself).
This involvement commenced once “the masses” (sections thereof led by individuals on one side of the crisis) made the serious political crisis into a military one by seizing the army’s HQ, disarming its soldiers, arming the civilian crowd gathered there, and organising them into units to go and take over by force other military installations. In other words, preparations for imminent civil war. Throughout human history nearly all wars – including civil wars – have been products of miscalculation or misjudgment by one or both sides.
In October of 1983 in Grenada, both sides did this. Each side mobilised its natural ‘constituents’ or ‘forces’ or ‘allies’; each side not appreciating that neither side could win; only everyone could and would lose. Neither side recognised, in the heat of rapidly unfolding events and in a context where each side believed that it had ‘right’, it had legitimacy on its side, that Armageddon awaited us all. October 19th, 1983, was Greek Tragedy, revealing its final Act.
Fatal Errors in our Relations with the United States
In our relations with the US we pursued policies which were, in retrospect, immature, naïve, dangerous, and ultimately fatal. Our revolutionary process was unfolding in the context of the Cold War at its height, and with the most right-wing government (to that point in time), the Reagan administration, in power in the US. We failed to adequately appreciate just how ‘ballistic’ the US would become as a result of ever-closer ties with Cuba (and, by Cold War extension, the Soviet Union.)
We saw ever closer ties with Cuba (and therefore the Soviet Union) as vital for the success, and the defense, of the revolution from external aggression. Such ties, however, the United States perceived as a strategic threat to its hegemony in the region; requiring, therefore, its overthrow, by military invasion, since such seemed the only way to dislodge the deeply entrenched revolutionary process and its growing international communist links.
We did all the right things in our relations with other countries and international organisations. We developed excellent relations with the IMF, The World Bank, the UK, Canada, the European Community (as the EU was then called), and so on. It was the Margaret Thatcher government which defied Washington and gave us a substantial soft loan to complete our international airport, and voted with us in the IMF Board so that we could receive substantial funds from the IMF on favourable conditions, where the US vigorously sought to block this.
As a result of these excellent relations with Europe and with international financial institutions, we had French, Italian, and British investors literally knocking on our doors, by the summer of 1983; wishing to develop hotels and other tourism related facilities to capitalise on the soon-to-be-completed Point Saline International Airport.
As a result of the combination of prudent – and innovative – domestic economic and social policies and programmes, and excellent and growing relations with everyone EXCEPT THE US, we were able to massively expand Grenada’s social wage, reduce unemployment from 49% to 12%, raise substantially households incomes, transform the country’s physical and human infrastructure, and achieve GDP growth each year of the Revolution, including in the period of the worldwide recession of 1981-1982, then considered the worst since 1929-33. We believed, fervently, in ‘the equality of all nations regardless of size’. Each time the US did or said something displeasing to us, we pounced on it and launched powerful verbal counter-attacks.
In effect, we baited the US. Each time the lion growled at us, we pulled its tail, or its whiskers. This made us immensely popular amongst many Third World nations and their peoples – including amongst those too scared (too wise?) to themselves bait the lion.
United States foreign policy (including its use of military action) is driven by more than just cold, calculating, rational considerations.
‘Pride’ and other ‘irrational’ considerations do enter into its decision-making mix from time to time. After all, it is a country of proud people, not machines, with a fervent belief in their “manifest destiny” to tell others how they should live; what is and is not acceptable. Many countries have learned how to keep a low profile, maintain good diplomatic relations with the US, but pursue – quietly – their own chosen domestic and foreign policy agenda.
We in the Grenada Revolution knew not how to do this. We shouted from the roof tops at every opportunity. If there was any chance of the US believing it could influence our behaviour through diplomatic channels and efforts, we told them, with an international megaphone to our lips, that this was just not on. In effect, we told them that, short of massive military invasion, they could do us nothing, exert zero influence on us, and moreover, we would continue to thump our noses, publicly, at them. Our naivety, our immaturity, in dealing with the greatest threat which we faced, was, in retrospect, staggering.
(The above were excerpts from a document produced by former deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard who was released from prison two weeks ago after serving 26 years in jail after being convicted for the brutal murder of leftist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop on October 19, 1983)
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