Monday, October 31, 2011

At last Haiti has a minister of tourism to match its potential

By Jean H Charles


I wrote a column two years ago where I stated that I have found in Haiti three women who deserved the gold standard of summum bonum: Martine Deverson, who created Artisanal en fete, by bringing together once a year all the Haitian artists under one roof; Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin, who almost individually gave life to the ATA, the association of hotel owners; and Danielle St Lot, who put the Haitian artists, the culinary specialists and the organic plant growers together.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comPresident Joseph Michel Martelly and his Prime Minister Garry Conille were smart enough to select one of them, Stephanie Balmir Villadroin, as their minister of tourism. Haiti will have at last a minister of tourism to match its potential!

Indeed, Haiti’s potential to become a tourist destination is immense. I was at the Club Med in the Dominican Republic at the Romana, when I met a group of tourists from Brittany in France, who share our common culture; we have been educated by the priests and the religious brothers and sisters from Brittany, as such creating a natural bond. One of them told me upon knowing that I was from Haiti, he wished he was in a Club Med in Haiti, because the culture is stronger, the hospitality is larger and the view is better.

It has been a common opinion of the travel connoisseurs that Haiti, in spite of its pitfalls, is a destination that can rival Bali in Indonesia or Valencia in Spain. Haiti’s governance has been so delinquent in its performance that it could not achieve, nay, come close to its potential in tourism. The last minister of tourism as well as his general director was bartering for the last eight years a master plan that never reached the stage of application even at the elementary level.

Yet the calendar of cultural activities that the Haitians themselves have developed is rich in ritual, in meaning and in significance for the Diaspora as well as for the foreigners.

Take a peek.

From May 1st to November 1st, the day of All Saints as well as the following day, the Day of the Dead, Haiti is alive with a vibrant succession of religious festivals for the patron saint of the cities, the towns and the rural villages. This phenomenon is reminiscent of the medieval era where the pilgrims in penitent clothing travelled from St Jacques of Compostello, Spain, to the Saint Sepulcher in the Holy Land, Israel. The pilgrims would keep the Christian face intact except that voodoo syncretism has crept into the celebration, giving colour, sometimes squalor to the fiesta, repulsive for some and amusing for others.

Haiti did not leave the medieval era, the clock has stopped there.

From November 2nd to Christmas Day we enter into the season of Noel that could be as splendid and as festive as our neighbour next door in the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans, those from home as well as those from the Diaspora, started their weekend on Wednesday during that season with all the party and the fireworks that go along with it.

From December 26th to January 12th, the country should institute an International Solidarity period with Haiti. It was only two years ago that a strong earthquake destroyed the capital and the surrounding areas. To commemorate that event, when more than 300,000 persons perished, the rest of the world can demonstrate its solidarity with the people of Haiti by visiting with and performing some charity works in the country, with specific projects worked out in advance by the ministries of tourism, culture and social affairs.

From the second Sunday of January to Ash Wednesday, Haiti enters into the Carnival season that was cancelled only twice during in its lifetime. One of them was during the year of the earthquake in 2010.

Trinidad and Tobago, eat your heart out! Haiti is coming after you to rival the throne that you occupied for so long during carnival time! Young and old, rich and poor give themselves up to enjoy, party and make merry all weekend. Haiti has a president that used to be the king of the band leader during carnival time; will he lead the parade of the revelers? Come to Haiti during Carnival to find out!

From Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, the Rara season, or the carnival of the peasants, take place. It is an underground movement that is frowned upon by the good people of God. Indeed the Rara revelers in their songs and their dance blame God and their government for keeping them in such a destitute state. No one pays attention to their supplication. Maybe this government will; it has already taken the necessary measures to institute free education for all children, rural and urban! It has also promised to the farmers, low cost fertilizer for their produce.

It is already Easter and May1st is around the corner to mark the cultural calendar which, as the sun, will rise to shine for all those who cherish life and happiness.

Ms Villedrouin, am I certain will be as the Minister of Tourism of St Lucia, Mr Allan Chastanet or the Minister of Tourism of Jamaica, Mr Bartlett, amongst the best in the field. She has the stamina, the creativity, the simplicity and the humility to start with what can be done now, and achieve later the potential of where Haiti can reach!

Up to the sky! No limit in sight!

October 31, 2011

caribbeannewsnow

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The rise of femicide and women in drug trafficking

by Andrea Mares, COHA Research Associate



While men have predominantly run drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), women have participated in them since the 1920s. Their role may have appeared miniscule compared to that of their male counterparts, but they have played key roles such as drug mules and bosses.

According to an interview with Howard Campbell, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas-El Paso, conducted by the Latin American Advisor, women, such as Ignacia Jasso de González (alias ‘La Nacha’) and María Dolores Estévez Zuleta (aka ‘Lola La Chata’) were prominent figures in drug dealing and trafficking in the 1920s and 1950s. [1]. Although women have been active in DTOs for many years, even at times taking on dominant roles, only in the past ten years have they become increasingly visible in the media.

The notion that women do not regularly participate and are not affected by DTOs is demonstrably obsolete. Women today are acting as equal partners in all aspects of drug trafficking, from running crews to laundering funds, resulting in the rise of incarcerated and violently treated women. [2] A glance into women’s association with DTOs reveals an increased crime rate, as well as the adversities that drug trafficking predictably brings upon them, and a clear lack of solutions to these often dangerous conditions.

Direct Effects of Drug Trafficking

In this era, it comes as no surprise that women have become more involved in the drug business. In the past, women could be counted on to struggle for their right to be loosely a part of a male-dominated world, not only in Latin America, but also around the globe. Over time, women have tended to enter many industries that were previously appealing to men. The same is true with drug trafficking, a very profitable business, with between $18 and $35 billion in drug earnings per year, according to US authorities. [3] It is not surprising that women gradually have increased their degree of participation. Once men started recruiting women as paid mules, their involvement escalated, as did the degree of violence.

Government efforts to impede drug smuggling have only increased the level of women’s participation in the business because women were less likely to be associated with drug trafficking and, therefore, could sneak past security with relatively small amounts of narcotics in their chests, or swallow pellets containing drugs. This second method of transportation could be highly lethal if the “swallower”, as they are known, does not make it to the destination in a timely matter, as the packet will disintegrate causing an overdose. [4]

Because a woman could use her appearance to bypass security officers, DTO affiliates began attending beauty pageants held in Latin America in order to approach contestants with the lures associated with drug trafficking and the income it is capable of providing. One example of an extremely successful woman is famed Colombian beauty queen and lingerie model, Angie Valencia, who was supposedly using other young, beautiful models to transport drugs in an international cocaine ring. [5]

Unfortunately, many women are willing to become a part of the drug industry because of their dire economic situations, and the fact that these dangerous missions were capable of rewards of thousands of dollars. The possibility of easily obtaining money to sustain a deluxe life style for their families is appealing to many women who consider drug trafficking as the one way they can gain access to a spectacular life. In addition, women are probably drawn to the excitement, mystery and power of drug trafficking. [6] By way of narcotic smuggling, some women are able to attain opulent lifestyles.

While some women are able to reach a high rank in DTOs, most women who get involved are taken advantage of because they lack alternative economic opportunities. These women are often easily convinced to act as drug mules and are assured it will be a quick and easy trip. The risks are not adequately explained, and, in fact, some women are even sent on missions, totally unaware that they are carrying drugs. What is even more distressing is that women continue to involve themselves in the business, blind to the consequences or too preoccupied with the chance to escape a life of degradation. Coletta Youngers, an expert on the subject finds that, “many of these women are single and poor mothers. The fear they may be ending up in prison or getting involved in the drug business is trumped by their need to provide for their families.” [7]

Indirect Effects of Drug Trafficking

Government crackdowns on drug cartels not only affect women directly, impacting those who may be working as bosses or mules, but also indirectly through a resulting increase of prostitution and sex trafficking. [8] These industries present an alternative when governments place heightened scrutiny on DTOs. According to the International Organization for Migration, sex trafficking alone can produce $16 billion a year in revenue in Latin America. [9] With such high profits, they are obvious choices to mobilize in the midst of increased government control.

Women also get coerced into joining DTOs because of rivalries between competing cartels. As reported in The Guardian, “the big rise in the number of women working for Mexico’s cartels comes in the context of the drug wars raging between different trafficking organizations and between them and the authorities.” [10] These violent altercations often result in deaths of loved ones, usually a boyfriend, husband, or other family member who was providing an income from drug trafficking.

When this occurs, the woman in the relationship is often forced to take over as the breadwinner. Trying to get a legitimate job may be very difficult if the woman has little to no experience or is uneducated; in this scenario, she will most likely enter the drug business and carry on where the deceased member left off, since she may already have easy access into the business.

According to Howard Campbell, drug trafficking affects women indirectly even when “women do not smuggle drugs but are negatively impacted by the male smugglers with whom they are associated.” [11] If a woman’s husband or boyfriend is in a DTO and storing narcotics in the household, he may very well be under suspicion from the authorities, and his house could be raided at any given time. The woman may be held responsible for the drugs if the true owner is not present, regardless of the circumstances.

This was the situation for Veronica Vasquez, who was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times on women in the drug war. Vasquez said her husband “wasn’t at home the night the army came calling and didn’t have time to dispose of the bags of cocaine he had hidden in the bedroom. Now she’s serving five years in the crowded prison in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, and he’s still free.” [12]

Overflow of Women in Prisons

The increased involvement of women in the drug industry is not only a problem for the women themselves; it affects the region’s crime rate and prison systems as well. Prisons in Latin America are quickly becoming filled with women imprisoned for drug trafficking; The New York Times reported that since 2007, there has been a 400 percent increase in the number of women jailed in Mexico for activity mostly linked to organized crime. [13] Considering that many countries in Latin America lack proper laws to deal with drug crimes, it is no surprise that women are overflowing the prisons. In some countries, a drug mule can face the same amount of time in prison as a murderer. [14]

There is a critical need for more government intervention and clarification on punishment for drug trafficking, particularly since there now appears to be more women imprisoned for drug-related crimes than men. A study conducted in 2010 concluded that overall, there are more men than women in the Latin American prisons, but a higher percentage of women in prison for crimes involving drugs. [15] As is evident, women will continue to be jailed for drug related crimes and the prison system will suffer overcrowding and worsening conditions unless legislation is adopted that can more forcefully control drug trafficking and related violence. More importantly, this legislation must be properly enforced.

Femicide Emerges

The rise of the number of women in prisons and the surge in their crime rate are symptoms of a prominent issue in Latin America, known as femicide. Femicide refers to the mass killings of women, and reflects the excessive masculinity that is associated with the drug industry.[16] The use of women is often resorted to modes of retaliation against the government for its crackdown on drug trafficking, or as a threat to other DTOs. In May 2011, a 20-year-old woman’s decapitated head was found inside a phone booth, with a message warning the government to stop policies aimed at impeding criminal activity. [17]

Drug trafficking seems to heighten the attitude that women are easily disposable, even though women often hold the family together in these societies. Femicides destroy family structures, forcing children to grow up in an entirely unstable environment. Furthermore, increased violence toward women creates an image that it is acceptable.

Although femicide remains an issue for all of Latin America, it has a greater presence in parts of Central America. For example, the amount of murdered women has tripled in four years, from 2005-2009, in many Mexican states from 3.7 to 11.1 per 100,000,[18] and María Virginia Díaz Méndez, of the Center of Women’s Studies in Honduras, states that, “Honduras comes in second to Guatemala for the highest femicide rate”. [19] Despite growing trepidation of femicide throughout the region, it appears as though there are little to no consequences for committing such crimes.

Where can we go from here?

From big-name beauty queens to poverty stricken women, drug trafficking has the potential to affect every woman’s life in Latin America. Drug trafficking is no longer a man’s world, and it continues to involve women at an increasing rate. As drug trafficking increases, it promotes violence against women and further cripples the legal system.[20] It is a very difficult issue, as policies aimed at cutting down drug trafficking seem only to exacerbate the victimization of women. Nonetheless, there is a need for better laws and efficient enforcement to curb the many pressing issues that drug trafficking poses.

It was perhaps inevitable that women would become involved in the drug trafficking industry. As Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an assistant professor of government at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, observed, “globalization, technology and modernization have facilitated the incorporation of women into…drug trafficking activities.” [21] Although foreseeable, no one could have predicted how tragically it would affect women, and it has now escalated into a seemingly immutable situation. Perhaps the only solution is to forcefully push government officials in Latin America to take more aggressive action against the human rights violations that inevitably crop up and the violence that emerges from drug trafficking. Until then, the future faced by growing numbers of women affected by drug trafficking violence remains bleak.

Source: Ethan S. James

References for this article can be found here.

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 coha@coha.org


October 29, 2011

caribbeannewsnow

Friday, October 28, 2011

I want to see "WELCOME TO THE REPUBLIC OF JAMAICA" at my airports by 2015

Let's become a republic

By Franklin Johnston





I want to see "WELCOME TO THE REPUBLIC OF JAMAICA" at my airports by 2015. Let us put this on the agenda of the next Parliament. It won't make us more independent or more prosperous, but it has collateral benefits. The Queen is a good scapegoat to blame, but a republic is not about her. She is head of the Commonwealth and head of state for only a third of members so we join the majority. Some 75 per cent of Australians voted to change her, yet out of respect they give her a royal train to ride before the Perth conference next week. The Queen doesn't mind, nor do we, so who benefits from a republic? Politicians? Voters?

PJ Patterson said we would be a republic come 2007, and Bruce Golding raised it too when they were prime ministers. What is the attraction? More power for them? For us? Ideology? The arguments are esoteric; our manhood is threatened by the Queen wearing "the pants" in our house; but we know she is a cipher as she can do only what Cabinet tells her. So who benefits?

What is a republic?

Many things: rules-based governance, no king or hereditary sons or daughters - no relative takes over and no MP or PM can leave the seat to his chosen son. The seat is the voters's. A Russian president is powerful but has term limits so he puts a proxy in place, leave for a time to circumvent the law and comes back after. The US president gets two terms - end of story! And back to real life. I like it, a powerful president with checks and balances in the constitution and Parliament. So what should our republic be like? Here:

An elected House of MPs whose job is to represent and develop their constituencies. No more "PM pressure mi, too busy to see constituents!" They are lawmakers not ministers.

An elected Senate: One senator elected by each parish plus seven independent "wise men" from farming, business, the professions. At present, the Senate is "upper" house in name only, as most members are partisans who obey their paymasters in the "lower" house.

An elected president: After 2012 we want no PM imposed on us by a party. We are 50 and can choose. We want a directly elected president to serve a maximum of two terms. We will assess the achievements, plans and character of new people and old ones in a three-month primary. The PNP wanted a president with power and the JLP a ceremonial one. Powerful presidents as Hitler moved uneducated people to oppress others. In my inbox I see comments from people who can read and write every week, but reasoning, the "fourth R", is far from them. A bad president could really create havoc, so let's educate all our people!

A judiciary ring fenced in the constitution with our Supreme Court at the apex is the key to good law, good practice, prompt justice for all and tamper proof courts. Amen!

The Executive: These are doers. Talkers are in the House. The president is CEO of Jamaica Ltd, responsible for results, so he needs a team of top managers and choice to appoint the best - it's his neck. Jamaica is small, people know you or your work. A good manager cannot hide so the president will appoint men and women who have track record in the private and public sectors or from the diaspora. If they are good we see them on the news.

Fixed election date: We need pre-set election dates - MPs, senators and president. This is for us not parties! Let's kill the old view; "what is good for the party is good for the nation".

Voters are the "demos" in our democracy and the roots of freedom. Election dates are for voters not parties. We matter! Some people don't vote. I don't deal with them as they disrespect the elders' struggle. Let us match MPs' résumés against the job; see their voting record on ganja, JPS, hanging, contracts, etc, and judge him on performance. Some say one thing in the constituency and quietly vote for another in the House.

Small constituencies breed garrisons: We spend millions to elect and pay an MP to represent 20,000 plus voters - a travesty! We need 45 MPs with 100k people in constituency for good governance. Larger constituencies have a critical mass of taxpayers, schools, public works, churches, businesses, so a proper constituency development plan is feasible. A small voter base means it's easy to buy 3,000 votes or fewer to win. Large constituencies dilute a garrison. Tivoli would be lost in a large constituency, neutralised after two terms and absorbed in three. As we reject "rum bar" politics and embrace media-driven politics the garrison will disappear or have little effect on elections.

A president is the CEO. Some say former President Reagan was an actor so we do not need a good manager as PM. Bulls! He led a nation that was prosperous for generations and has well-established systems. He just had to steer and pursue enrichment projects. We are ground zero; we are not, were never prosperous and our systems suck. We need good managers to get us airborne. The US finds $1b a week to fight in Iraq and it was not in their budget. We can't find teachers pay and it's in our budget. So none of the first eight PMs were known top managers. Are you happy with the results? So in 2012 you elect one just like the others and expect a different result? We need a republic so we can vote for a president. Our PM is an important icon. Great as Bob and Usain are, it is the PM who shows off our gravitas to the world. Scrutiny of a president also means we do the same for political appointees as chairs of boards, high commissioners who are not civil servants. We need the best. Our PM knows the people who can build our prosperity because they build it in other fields. A republic means he can appoint a Don Wehby as minister to do the job directly, not to mentor an MP. In our first 50 years lawyers, trade unionists, sociologists tried to build our economic independence. The second 50 is for managers, engineers, scientists and innovators to take us to prosperity. When we are full throttle like America, any actor or trade unionist can steer the ship and even think of some nice project - an ice skating rink - to put the icing on the cake.

Joyful

Prime Minister Andrew Holness touched good bases in his speech; his bright young family was a joyful touch; we welcome him! Whether he is "more of the same" or the "special one" we will soon see. It is a hard job, thankless (unless you succeed in building prosperity) but well rewarded as no one runs from it - enjoy! Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston Consultants currently on assignment in the UK. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

October 28, 2011

jamaicaobserver

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Cuban Five for Alan Gross: A swap that may make preeminent sense

by Faizaan Sami, COHA Research Associate



Thirteen years after their imprisonment, the ill-fated Cuban Five have been looked upon, depending on one’s perspective, as either tragic figures or infamous conspirators. Consisting of five Cuban intelligence officers, the detainees were convicted in 1998 of spying on U.S. military installations, a charge vehemently denied by Havana, which claimed that their role was to monitor Miami-based “terrorist” exile groups that were regularly plotting and carrying out attacks against their homeland. On October 7, 2011, one of the Five, René González, was released from federal prison after serving his sentence. However, according to the terms of his release, one could argue that only the nature of his confinement has changed. González, who has dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, will be forced to serve three years under supervision in the U.S. This could expose him to threats from extremist exile terrorists based in Florida, undoubtedly adding to the misery weighing on González and his family. Since her husband’s detainment, González’s wife has not even been allowed entry into the U.S., still another disturbing aspect of the Obama administration’s already crumbling Cuba policy.

The failure to take the positive step of allowing González and the remaining members of the Cuban Five to return to the island has been met with outrage as well as storms of criticism back in Cuba on all levels of Cuban popular opinion. Campaigning on the grounds of humanitarianism and fundamental social justice, scores of groups including the African National Congress, the Cuban Parliament, as well as the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, have urged President Obama to grant the unconditional release of the Cuban intelligence officials.

While González is the first of the Cuban Five to be released, the main question that remains then is how the would-be ‘carrot’ that has now been dangled before the Castro administration can be made to influence the status of Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor imprisoned for alleged espionage activities in 2009, who the White House would love to see released. Since González was released from detention, the president of the Cuban Parliament Ricardo Alarcón has dismissed the notion of a unilateral gesture that would bring about the early release of Alan Gross. In a stinging attack, Alarcón described former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson’s diplomacy as “amateur,” adding that he has “entangled everything” by suggesting a direct swap of González, who was close to finishing his sentence, with Alan Gross, who has only begun his.

Judging by the failed, but not necessarily useless humanitarian visits to Cuba by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Richardson, the point is being driven home to President Obama that he will have to make substantive rather than illusionary concessions to mend frayed U.S.-Cuban relations. The release of René González could be a constructive bilateral gesture, though its impact has now been somewhat mitigated by the spat surrounding its conditions. At the same time, Obama might respond to global voices calling for the release of the jailed Cubans and use his constitutional powers to offer executive clemency to the Five as part of a deal for Alan Gross’ release.

Both countries seem stuck in a fallow Cold-War scenario, reluctant to lose what could prove to be only pseudo leverage over one another. If Obama wants to stay true to his words relating to his vision of a new beginning with Cuba, he might start by eliminating useless bromides from his rhetoric and offer a serious deal to Havana that would provide a self-respecting government grounds for acceptance.

October 27, 2011

caribbeannewsnow

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit predicts that the governing Free National Movement (FNM) party in The Bahamas will win the 2012 general election

Magazine predicts FNM will win in 2012


By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
cnixon@tribunemedia.net

Nassau, The Bahamas



THE analysis arm of a renowned financial publication has predicted the FNM will win the 2012 election.

The latest update by The Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit said that while the global economic outlook remains pessimistic, 1.8 per cent growth is expected in the Bahamas in 2011 and 2.3 per cent in 2012 - which should put the FNM in a favourable position for the next general election.

The report said: "With economic conditions improving and the opposition discredited by its own scandals, The Economist Intelligence Unit expects the FNM to retain a majority in the election."

The Intelligence Unit, a sister organisation to The Economist, provides forecasting and advisory services that help "business leaders prepare for opportunity, empowering them to act with confidence when making strategic decisions."

According to the report, the political scene in the Bahamas will be dominated by campaigning for the general election over the next six months.

It said: "The Free National Movement (FNM) led by the prime minister, Hubert Ingraham, has a small but workable majority in parliament and the election will indicate to what extent the FNM's support base has been eroded by the sharp economic contraction in 2008-09 and the government's privatisation programme, which is unpopular among much of the population.

"We forecast growth to pick up in 2012-13, although the more pessimistic outlook for the global economy and particularly the US, which will impact negatively on tourism, will hamper more rapid growth.

"We expect activity to expand by 1.8 per cent in 2011 and 2.3 per cent in 2012. Growth will pick up further thereafter, in line with more benign global conditions.

"Stronger growth will boost tax receipts, but spending will increase in the run-up to next year's election, causing the fiscal deficit to widen to 3.5 per cent of GDP in fiscal year 2011/12.

"The current-account deficit will start to narrow in 2012, as an easing of commodity prices offsets a rise in demand for imports."

The report also spoke of the government's efforts to crack down on crime, noting that on October 3, Mr Ingraham announced the establishment of two new courts to deal with crimes relating to drugs and illegal firearm possession, and a 30-day gun amnesty programme.

It said: "The ability of magistrates to hand down tougher sentences has also been strengthened, with the possibility of sentencing offenders -- including those on drugs and weapons charges -- to up to seven years in prison (raised from five years previously).

"Mr Ingraham also announced that amendments to the Firearms Act and the Dangerous Drugs Act are in the planning stage and that new legislation will strengthen law enforcement powers to address the sale of stolen goods and the proceeds of crime via third parties."

The Intelligence Unit described the new measures as "long overdue".

The unit said: "Considering the country's heavy dependence on tourism, there is widespread concern over the impact that such a deterioration in the security situation will have on the struggling economic recovery."

When informed of the report, FNM chairman Carl Bethel said: "While I have not seen it, let me say that we welcome any confidence from The Economist or other well respected institution, and are gratified that after examining our record the Intelligence Unit came to the same conclusion that we have: that the Bahamian people respect the good governance of the FNM and will reward it in the next general election."

October 25, 2011

tribune242

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jamaica: Redefining governance post-Bruce Golding

Redefining governance post-Golding

By LLOYD B SMITH



Even as Jamaicans breathe a sigh of relief in the wake of the departure of Bruce Golding as JLP leader and prime minister in what was a seamless transition, a dispassionate post-mortem needs to be done and a new job description arrived at for our head of government, the so-called first among equals.

Of course, one of the recurring challenges that beset any such attempt at meaningful discussion is the rabid tribalism that plagues the Jamaican society. So much so that even when a perceived "independent" political analyst seeks to cut through the putrid fat of partisan fatuousness in order to get to the bone of the matter, he or she is likely to be pilloried, if the views expressed are not in sync with a particular party and its motley assortment of hacks and spin doctors.

In this vein, political discourse in many instances becomes a desperate attempt at playing to the gallery or is so overly "balanced" that it becomes lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — which leaves many readers and listeners in a stupor, not knowing whether to swallow or spit it out.

One of the unfortunate traits of many Jamaicans is a seeming inability to argue a point without "tracing" (verbal assault which often leads to one denigrating one's opponent). This has become a regular feature in the political arena which also sees some talk show hosts and columnists joining in this kind of vacuous verbal diarrhoea leading to character assassination, especially when their victim speaks or writes the truth. Yes, the truth hurts, and can be very offensive.

Against this background of intellectual dishonesty, if governance in Jamaica is to take on a meaningful trend, then the role of the media needs to be redefined in this burgeoning information age. In the United States, for example, which is regarded as one of the bastions of democratic governance in the world, a journalist or newspaper can openly, or in any other acceptable way, endorse a political candidate or party. Even newspapers, radio and television stations are known to co-exist peacefully and without threat of extinction, notwithstanding their particular ideological or partisan stance.

In Jamaica, because of the divisive, intimidatory and vindictive nature of our political culture, most media practitioners are forced to walk a tightrope, and so in many instances a latent form of hypocrisy laced with sycophancy and doublespeak becomes the order of the day. "O judgement thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason!" (Shakespeare - Julius Caesar)

I therefore posit that if good governance is to come to the fore and is sustainable, then the media in Jamaica must be truly liberated, not shackled by an archaic set of libel laws. As the people's watchdog, it must be allowed to have more bite than bark which means that the politics of the day must become more enlightened, tolerant and accountable.

For this to happen, then those at the top must raise the bar of discourse within the context of contending opinions which too frequently become the news of the day via soundbytes and "select" headlines. Newly installed Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller must declare their hands during the coming general election campaign because it cannot be business as usual.

At the outset of what was to be Golding's ill-fated "governorship", he set out to define his style of governance by dubbing himself the chief servant, a sobriquet fraught with good intention and a sincerity of purpose. But very soon, the man who was also called "driva" found himself in a pickle and had to opt, in the final analysis, to put the interest of the party over patriotism.

Golding, in essence, became victim of a political system which he once abhorred but had to ultimately embrace in his quest for power. Looking back, one may well ask if Golding had stuck with the National Democratic Movement through thick and thin, would his legacy have remained untarnished and would that fledgling party have gained enough social capital to take on successfully the status quo?

Interestingly and most intriguingly, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has attributed much of his political acumen to the mentorship of Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding. He has, in one fell swoop, defined his political persona, and what remains to be seen is whether he will emulate the good qualities of his mentors or embrace their bad characteristics.

Picture a typical cartoon character with an angel on either shoulder (usually one is a good influence and the other bad). We have been told that "Prince Andrew" is his own man; let's now see if he will be able to prove that he is not a chip off the old block, or worse, a clone.

From all indications, he has the acumen to rise to the occasion, but his most serious challenge will remain how he manages the JLP while steering the ship of state. For this to happen, he will need all hands on deck, so I am very pleased that so far one commentator has described him as a consensus builder, because in redefining governance in Jamaica, the nation's leaders need to coalesce around certain objectives, and whoever is prime minister must lead that charge.

At the same time, prime minister and JLP leader Andrew Holness, now that he is fully in the saddle, must rein in those unrepentant "tribalists" who see as their only role that of tarring and feathering as well as running out of town anyone who dares to criticise him, the party or the Government of the day.

If Jamaica is to be governed effectively with equal rights and justice for all, then there must be room for dissent. We cannot all see things through one set of spectacles. Let the wheat and the tares grow together until the day of harvest.

Outside of the media and political leadership, the church and civil society need to play a more aggressive as well as assertive role in the redefining of governance in Jamaica. The power and influence of civil society and the media were in full force during the Manatt/Dudus affair and we have seen the result of that debacle.

It has allowed a new day to dawn on the island's political landscape teeming with many possibilities. Increasingly, the church must be the moral compass without taking sides, and civil society must pursue without fear or favour that route that leads to equity in terms of justice and economic opportunities.

Once again, Jamaica is at a crossroads and we must decide where we are going in real terms. Winning an election must not be an end in itself, but the first step in a journey towards economic independence, peace, safety and national unity. Whichever party wins, it will not be an easy road. Governance, not "gangsterism", must define our path. Enough said!

lloydbsmith@hotmail.com

October 25, 2011

jamaicaobserver

Monday, October 24, 2011

St Vincent and the Grenadines: Now praise we great and famous men

By Rebecca Theodore


The music plays triumphant. Drifting notes quiver.

‘So praise the wise, the brave and strong who built fair isles of beauty
And rich in art made richer still
The brotherhood of duty.’

Light beams from blatant eyes. Beauty is bewitched with feelings. There is infinite contentment.

Rebecca Theodore was born on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica and is now based in Atlanta, GA . She writes on national security and political issues and can be reached at rebethd@comcast.netAnd ‘The Comrade,’ Dr The Right Honorable Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Everard Gonsalves joins the rank of noble men.

Under heavy smog, I cast an ear to the distant chorus while ‘The Comrade’ opens the vista to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and to the world. There is meaning to life as he establishes a vertically-oriented style of government so ideologue that even critics stop to think.

Wiretap transcripts bears incongruous tales of an autocratic style leadership and a centralized political system exercising near-dictatorial control, but his constitutional reform efforts for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines cannot go by unnoticed.

In standing up to a woeful and lost NDP defunct form of leadership, Dr Gonsalves shows that he is not a puppet of either the US, Venezuela, Iran or anyone, but a man of sound moral principles and he leads his country accordingly, for ‘The Comrade’ dances to the music and not the instrument.

Then the chord of victory strikes. In joining the company of noted Caribbean leaders as Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, Norman Manley of Jamaica and Errol Barrow of Barbados, it is needed in the rhyme of reason.

There is a fine refrain as ‘The Comrade’ bolsters himself locally while maintaining good relations with the US on security and law enforcement issues. He beckons to other Caribbean islands to follow, for he knows the names of reliable strategic partners and important sources of investment, tourists and trade. He does nothing to damage that relationship.

There is no fire fuelling in his back yard for he is the new architect of fundamental political change in the region. His personal political leanings have nothing to do with his leadership style. His country needs money and the ULP needs money to support the public infrastructure programs that bring jobs, and so atop a vibrant bass he reaches out to non-traditional sources of funding and ignores the overblown frustrated rhetoric of NDP critics.

Then there are pauses between the notes but this is where the art resides.

Intelligence is at its peak in St Vincent and the Grenadines. ‘The Comrade’ is not a Chavista neither an Iran satellite and will not become one. In all honorable conduct, he secures handouts from whoever will provide them, yet his freedom of action is at a top maintenance. In keeping with this pragmatic approach to foreign relations, ‘The Comrade’ performs the ‘foil play’ with the US and other colonial powers, for he knows the art of handling the notes better than the other dancers.

Honed in stereophony, I hear the last movement of Beethoven's seventh for they are fading slowly. Why waste time on NDP illusions when you can listen to the B minor mass?

October 25, 2011

caribbeannewsnow

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gaddafi the enigma: A villain or a hero?

*How not to suppress revolution

BY HUGO ODIOGOR



There is an African saying that it is a stubborn fly that accompanies the corpse to the grave. This best captures the death of Libya’s leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi who met his end in his home town of Sirte, killed like a rat.

Ironically, Gaddafi had, for eight months, denounced the rebels that took up arms to resist his 42-year old dictatorship as “rats” but in the end he was smoked out of a tunnel by Libya’s revolution cry fighters backed by NATO airstrikes.

Born in Sirte 69 years ago to the Gadafi tribe in Libya, Gaddafi, whose name has as many variants as the man’s mercurial nation, captured power in 1969 when he toppled King Idriss by driving a tank into the palace and mesmerising the monarch.

His leadership was as eventful as it was controversial. He began as a pan Arabist and supported the cause of Arab people especially in the conflicts with Israel and its Western backers. Gaddafi graduated to becoming a pan Africanist at least, so was his posturing, as he funded the liberation movements in Africa, funded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and engineered the transformation of the organisation into African Union. He floated the concept of a United States of Africa where he will become the head of state.

Gaddafi was a pain in the skin of the Western nations who were as ambivalent in their relations with him as they were driven by their greed to benefit from his massive oil wealth.

In the end, Gaddafi could neither manage his ego nor his foolhardiness. His futile attempt to resist the wave of revolution that was ignited by Mohammed Bouazzi, the 26-year old Tunisian whose self immolation triggered off the Arab spring was a fatal hubris which Gaddafi and his family tried to resist in bloody battle.

The revolution swept off Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt threatens Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and many more. The revolutions began as mass protests against iron fisted regimes, then graduated to military engagements.

The case of Libya was made worse by the cronyism that became the leadership style of Gaddafi who appointed his children and son-in-law into sensitive security positions in government as his strategy to secure his despotic leadership.

Of all the North Africa, Arab and European countries that have witnessed the wave of mass protests in their domain, perhaps Libya had been the bloodiest, with a civil war that Sail Al-Islam, Gaddafi’s son, promised his compatriot. Saif is the most politically influential of all Gaddafi’s children. He was stubborn and boastful as his late father, and had no compunctions about spilling as much Libyan blood as he could, to keep his father in power.

Saif was seen in many quarters as the likely successor to his father. But there were potential threats from his senior brothers Mohammed and Hannibal.

The end game came for Col Gaddafi in February, 2011 when a civil war broke out in his country with rebel forces beginning their battle in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city in the western part of the country with six million people with powerful tribal linkages. Gaddafi responded with a heavy hand and massacred thousnads of his country men and women. A National Transition Council (NTC) was formed in March, with defectors from Gaddafi’s government as the leading lights.

The challenges of managing a revolution

The NTC, which appointed Mustafa Abdel Jalil as its chairman, a former judge in the Gaddafi regime, was a conglomeration of defectors namely from the public foreign and military services. They had the challenge of finding a common ground to rest their opposition.

The NTC had to manage the personality rivalry, mistrust and different agenda among its members. It had to find a formula to manage its troops drawn largely from ordinary people, men and women, who had a common goal of ending the 42 year old regime of Gaddafi. Far and above all, the NTC had to ensure that the battle did not degenerate into ethnic reprisals, which would have left Libya a divide country, to the advantage of Gaddafi.

The NTC got a moral booster when it secured the endorsement of France, the first European and major world power to back the rebels. France rallied other countries within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as well as the United Nations to impose a no – fly zone in Libya, to save the largely untrained Libyan resistance group from a massacre.

This marked a defining moment in the conflict as NATO air power was deployed to support the ground troops. Six months of air strikes on Libyan cities, especially Tripoli, its capital, was beamed across the world, to show how a man could stupidly destroy all that he had accomplished for his country.

GADDAFI’S ERA

The era of Gaddafi may have come to an end but his country and indeed the world would remember him in so many ways. First, Gaddafi positioned himself as a nationalist and supported the cause of Arab people. He extended this to the African continent where the oppressive regimes in southern Africa felt the impact of Gaddafism with his massive funding of liberation movements.

He funded non- state actors like the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the African National Congress (ANC) among others. He was regarded as a terrorist by the Western nations.

The involvement of Libyan secret service agents in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103, an American flight, over Lokerebie in 1988, was a major source of tension with Western nations which imposed sanctions on Libya for causing the death of 270 people. Before then, Libya had attained the status of a ‘terrorist state’ as it was implicated in the death of a British police woman Yvonne Fletcher, who was shot dead in front of Libyan embassy in April 1984.

In 2001, a Scottish court convicted one of the two Libyan secret service agents, Abdel Al.Megrahi implicated in the Pan Am Flight bombing and sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2003. Libya accepted responsibility and agreed to pay up to $10 million to relatives of each of the 270 victims of the attack. Gaddafi flirted with his own idea of socialism which was detailed in his Green Book. He changed the name of Libya to Jamahiriya Republic of Libya, meaning a state govern by the masses.

POST-GADDAFI ERA

The exit of dictators with long tenure in power is known to be preceded by political instability. Although the NTC has announced that it will hold an election in eight months, Dr. Francis Oshodi, an international politics expert, is of the view that the international community must tread with caution in exporting democracy to Libya.

Oshodi said the country has not seen democracy for over 60 years, saying it takes time to nurture political attitudes and now that we have so many people with weapons, any mistake in the handling of this phase of life in Libya would be catastrophic.

Another expert, Mrs Chinaka Uche says the death of Gaddafi must be a lesson for other dictators who want to resist the will of their people.

Africa without Gaddafi

Africa is a continent with contradictory political aspiration and suffused with leaders like Gaddafi who was the chairman of African Union from 2009 to 2010. African leaders had conflicting attitudes to Gaddafi’s brand of politics. He fought hard to impress himself on African politics through massive investments in African Development Bank where Libya is a major shareholder.

Gaddafi has huge investments in many African countries, especially in Kenya’s hospitality industry. The huge investments of Libya in the African countries will be a potential source of conflict between the leaders of the National Transitional Council, NTC, Gaddafi’s children and the African countries.

Gaddafi sponsored internal strifes in Chad, Liberia, Uganda and many other African countries. Throughout his tenure, he treated Nigeria with contempt.

During his visits to Nigeria, Gaddafi came with female security teams and often tried to undermine Nigeria’s security. In 1982, he called Nigeria a big for nothing country. In 2001, Gaddafi berated Muslims in Nigeria for allowing a Christian to become the president. In 2010, the slain Libyan leader advocated the division of Nigeria along religious lines. But Nigeria has maintained a more conciliatory attitude towards Libya and Gaddafi.

His pretensions to pan Africanism suffered by reports of detention, torture and deportation of Africans from Libya.

OCTOBER 23, 2011

vanguardngr

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The dignity and the resilience of Haitian women

By Jean H Charles



Life has been so wrathful in Haiti during the last sixty years that the very act of survival is a human achievement. Yet during school days, Haiti is filled with school children smiling and laughing, produced by these Haitian women who believe in the miracle of life in spite of the odds against the celebration of the abundant life as described in the Bible.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comI am known to be partial towards Jamaican women for their fierce determination of womanhood exhibited at home, in church and in the public service. As a keen and patient observer of Haitian women in Haiti, recently, I have come to admire, revere and celebrate their dignity and their resilience in face of all types of difficulty and discrimination.

Haiti, the beacon of freedom’s ring in the past, is also today the mother of discrimination. It is practiced against the people who live in the country side, those of the Diaspora as well as those with a light skin. It is also practiced against the women, in songs, jokes and in attitudes.

Yet the Haitian woman proudly exhibits her dignity and her resilience and goes about conducting her business as if she was living in a perfect world. This trait is found in all strata of Haitian society. From the madam Sara, as called pejoratively -- they are those women who travel from Panama to Curacao and back to Haiti, buying and selling goods for profit while being almost illiterate -- to the elite aristocrat Haitian woman, who can make any society lady of New York City or Paris feel like a peasant in style and in hospitality. This was the observation of a socialite from New Orleans. Haiti is a land of magic contrast that keeps the traveler and the keen observer on his toes.

As a vagabond traveler to the Caribbean, I have written earlier, see (Making the cut!) that the beautiful women are in Trinidad, the hot and sexy ones are in Guyana, the strong and the determined are in Jamaica, the tall and lean ones are in Dominica and the excellent mothers are in Haiti.

I am revising my canvass to state that Haiti has also its lot of strong and determined women. Where else would you find thousands and thousands of strong-willed ladies early from bed, preparing food for the children, bringing them to school and going about selling fruits, toothpaste and soap while chanting their wares on the street to bring the only income in the house for a family where the man has not been able to find a job in the last fifteen years?

Where else also will you find in the Caribbean such display of artistic prowess made by the men and especially the women of Haiti whether in embroidery, in basket making, necklaces, etc? This weekend (the 22nd and the 23rd of October) Haiti is celebrating the chef d’oeuvre of those artists with a giant sale extravaganza that all the art connoisseurs of the entire Caribbean should make a rendezvous to attend, every year.

Hosted by the Nouvelliste, the oldest newspaper in the country, the event is called: “Artisanat en fete”.

Donna Karan, the celebrated women’s designer will be at the party. She told Ina Paiva Cordle of the Miami Herald that “working with the Haitian artisans, the women in particular, has been one of the most inspiring experiences of my life. Coming to Haiti and make a difference in the life of ordinary people has been an enriching addition to my life.”

In the midst of that glorification everything is not all rosy. A young lady shared with me the confidence that some cities in Haiti have their larger share of Jezebels. In Cap Haitian and in Jacmel, two cities where the drug culture were rampant, the drug lords, nicknamed the amateurs, have converted the women into objects of pure material sometimes sadistic pleasure, where the name of the game was only money and more money. The DEA, with the support of the Haitian police, has recently disrupted that drug culture. There is in these towns a malingering transition that you can buy everything with money, including love and devotion.

In previous writings (I am voting again for Michel Martelly!) I have made the observation that the Haitian women who have achieved leadership positions in politics did not serve their gender well. They are accused of using the platform to travel, enjoy the perks and provide few outcomes for the masses of women. We might need a critical mass of women leaders, especially at the city and town level as mayors to adjust this observation to its right angle.

Haiti, after the earthquake that shook the nation and devastated its capital, is slowly rebounding with a new government in life and in spirit. Will it be the more things change, the more things remain the same?

I am keeping my eyes and my ears open, watching the trend where squalor could remain queen or where the spring could burst into a stream, bringing with it abundant life for the men and women of a dignified nation that have endured so much with such resilience!

October 22, 2011

caribbeannewsnow

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leta Restavek: The suppression of democracy in Haiti

by Courtney Frantz, COHA Research Associate


In a unanimous resolution, the United Nations (UN) Security Council decided on Friday, October 14, 2011 to renew the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) for one year, reducing its numbers to “pre-earthquake levels.”[3] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has declared that he “envisions a gradual withdrawal” over the upcoming years.[4] According to journalist Ansel Herz, many Haitians have been protesting MINUSTAH’s presence for at least a year. “There’s a [wide] range of demands,” he asserts, “Some people want MINUSTAH… to simply leave… Others are asking that they transform their mission from one of military so-called peacekeeping into development.”[5]

From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem unclear why many Haitians are indignant about the presence of UN peacekeeping troops in their country during such a tumultuous period. A vast number of news articles have reported that the protests are a response to recent accusations of severe misconduct and neglect by a relatively small number of UN troops. These include the collective rape of an eighteen-year-old man and the appearance of cholera, likely an inadvertent import from Nepalese peacekeepers.[6] These long-running reports tell the story of a supposed humanitarian group troubled by a series of isolated incidents of abuse and neglect. An in-depth overview of MINUSTAH’s history on the island, however, depicts a security force systematically serving foreign interests over those of the Haitians. Local residents are indignant because they see MINUSTAH as a tool of the United States’ self-interest in the region, and because the UN forces repeatedly have suppressed democracy, failed to address authentic humanitarian concerns, and have at times even perpetrated mass violence against Haitian citizens. By suppressing the Fanmi Lavalas party and other social and political movements, MINUSTAH has actively excluded Haiti’s poor majority from political participation, working against the interests of Haitians fighting for progressive economic and social reform. As President Martelly has observed, the recent alleged rape merely “‘put gas on the fire’ of relations between Haitians and the peacekeepers.”[7]

Recent Haitian History: the Aristide Affairs

To appreciate the context in which MINUSTAH’s troubled role is being played out, it is necessary to recount some recent aspects of Haitian history. In 1990, over two-thirds of voters elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide president of Haiti as the candidate of the Lavalas popular movement. Notably, he had the “overwhelming support of the poor.”[8] He worked to improve health care and education, raised the minimum wage, and changed trade policies to favor domestic agricultural production.[9]

After being overthrown by a military junta, Aristide was reelected in 2000 as part of the transformed Fanmi Lavalas party, which took a more leftist stance than its predecessor had. [10] On February 29, 2004, a contingent of US Navy Seals transported the President to exile in Africa, carrying out the calculated diplomacy of the UN, Canada, and France. The US and UN claim that rather than performing a coup d’état, they had rescued Aristide from growing armed conflict between supporters and detractors of the President, which supposedly posed a threat to international safety.[11] Aristide, however, insists that his “rescue” was involuntary.

Leaked diplomatic cables demonstrate that high-level US and UN officials worked aggressively to prevent Aristide’s return to Haiti. President Barack Obama (2009-present) and UN Secretaries General Kofi Annan (1997-2006) and Ban Ki-moon (2007-present) have all urged the government of South Africa to keep Aristide sequestered on that continent in an apparent attempt to quash the Fanmi Lavalas movement. [12] It was in the context of this political vacuum after the alleged coup was staged that MINUSTAH’s predecessor was created.

About MINUSTAH

MINUSTAH was originally formed to “succeed a Multinational Interim Force (MIF) authorized by the UN Security Council in February 2004, after President Bertrand Aristide departed Haiti for exile.”[13] It continues to operate under a mandate “to restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s Government institutions and rule-of-law structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights.”[14] MINUSTAH is in Haiti under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, under which the “[Security] Council may impose measures on states that have obligatory legal force and therefore need not depend on the consent of the states involved. To do this, the Council must determine that the situation constitutes a threat or breach of the peace.”[15] The mission’s presence in the country is thus based on the proposition that since 2004, violence in Haiti has threatened the international community.

MINUSTAH includes both traditional “blue helmet” peacekeeping troops and police officers.[16] These troops are from many different countries, with very few of these forces speaking Haitian Creole, the language of the island’s poor.[17] The UN spent USD 5 billion on the institution even before the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, and USD 793,517,100 in the current year alone.[18] MINUSTAH, therefore, is a heavily funded multinational UN peacekeeping force directed to perform security functions, monitor elections, and assist human rights groups in order to prevent Haiti from breaching international peace.

The WikiLeaks Cables

Recent diplomatic cables supplied by WikiLeaks, however, provide some evidence that MINUSTAH has been acting to protect the security interests of the US government and the political ambitions of Brazil. According to a March 2008 US State Department cable, the Brazilian state, which supplies the largest contingent of UN forces, “has stayed the course as leader of MINUSTAH in Haiti despite a lack of domestic support for the PKO [peacekeeping operation]. The MRE [Ministry of External Relations] has remained committed to the initiative because it believes that the operation serves FM [Foreign Minister] Amorim’s obsessive international goal of qualifying Brazil for a seat on the UN Security Council.”[19] Even though the Brazilian population supports a withdrawal of its forces from MINUSTAH, then, the country’s government has not withdrawn its troops due to its ambitions of pleasing the UN and obtaining elusive Security Council membership.

In a 2008 cable, former US Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson emphasizes that MINUSTAH “is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [US government] policy interests in Haiti… A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the Preval [sic] government or his successor vulnerable to… resurgent populist and anti-market economy forces – reversing gains of the last two years… It is a financial and regional security bargain for the USG.”[20] Thus, Sanderson sees MINUSTAH as protecting US interests by preventing social and political movements from thwarting neoliberal policies and the post-earthquake influx of corporations in the country, which are working on a variety of development schemes on the island.

A 2006 cable also relates that policymakers from both the UN and the US held a meeting concerning how the “Aristide [m]ovement [m]ust [b]e [s]topped.”[21] Edmond Mulet, Head of Mission of MINUSTAH at the time, “urged US [sic] legal action against [forcibly exiled president] Aristide to prevent [him] from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.”[22] These cables demonstrate that the US government sees the poor pro-Fanmi Lavalas majority as “resurgent populist and anti-market economy forces” that “must be stopped,” and is prepared to use MINUSTAH to suppress their democratic participation.[23] Haiti’s poor majority has been actively involved in politics since the advent of the Fanmi Lavalas party, which has strenuously worked against the neoliberal policies of the time to achieve economic and social reforms.[24] Many poor Haitians are now engaging in so-called “resurgent populist and anti-market economy” politics via peaceful protest against the presence of MINUSTAH and in support of reforms such as an increase in the minimum wage.[25]

In the course of acting in the interests of the US by thwarting these popular “forces,” MINUSTAH has actively suppressed democracy. As Mark Schuller, an anthropologist specializing in the impact of international development aid, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and MINUSTAH on Haitian social and political life put it, MINUSTAH comprises the enforcers… Many say that they are responsible for keeping Haiti a ‘leta restavek’ – a child servant state, owned by the international community. To many Haitian commentators, the Preval [sic] government willingly gave up control [to MINUSTAH and other international bodies] in exchange for its continued survival. The protesters MINUSTAH suppressed could have destabilized Preval [sic][26] and his small base of support. The mission has blocked both electoral democracy and popular protest in order to prevent these so-called “populist and anti-market economy forces” from gaining political power.

Party-Banning, Eleksyon Zombi,[27] and Other Examples of Electoral Fraud

One of MINUSTAH’s most important mandates was to carry out the 2010 presidential and general elections “through the provision of technical, logistical, and administrative assistance as well as providing continued security.”[28] There were, however, several major problems with the elections, which were funded by both the US and the UN[29] Most notably, over twelve parties were banned, including Fanmi Lavalas, Haiti’s most popular party and one supported largely by the poor.[30]

The notoriously venal Haitian Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) originally banned Fanmi Lavalas in February 2009, claiming it could not “verify Aristide’s signature, sent while he was still in forced exile in South Africa, as head of the party.”[31] A leaked US Embassy cable dating back to 2009 revealed the US government’s opinion that the CEP had thus “emasculated the opposition,” “almost certainly in conjunction with President Preval [sic].”[32] Completely revoking the majority party’s right to compete in an election on such a technicality was indeed “emasculating,” removing all power held by the largely poor opposition to René Préval’s government (1996-2001 and 2006-2011). Despite US Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth H. Merten’s fear that the party would later appear to be “a martyr and Haitians [would]… believe (correctly) that Preval [sic] is manipulating the election,” US government officials strongly encouraged the continuation of the fraudulent election.[33] The Fanmi Lavalas party was once again banned in the 2010 elections. MINUSTAH was largely instrumental in the execution of the elections through logistical and security support, as specified in its mandate. The UN Mission thus worked against the political participation of the poor majority by trying to support these elections.

Other serious electoral problems abounded: long lines, incomplete voter registries, fraud, and violence, along with the general lack of an “infrastructure for holding a fair and representative vote.”[34] A practice called eleksyon zombi in Haitian Creole also persisted, in which surviving citizens’ names were absent from the registries, while those of neighbors who died in the 2010 earthquake were used to file fraudulent ballots.[35] Perhaps partially due to the ban on the Lavalas party, the voter turnout for the election, which was twenty-three percent, was the lowest in the Western hemisphere for over sixty years.[36] Because of this fraud and lack of infrastructure, the majority of candidates called for the annulment of the election. Soon after, Edmond Mulet, Head of Mission at MINUSTAH during the election, personally called two candidates telling them to withdraw these requests because they were in the lead.[37] They followed his advice, knowing that Mulet, as head of the body running the elections, would know the results. Mulet would see to it that the election results were exactly as the authorities wanted them; several months later, President Michel Martelly won the run-off election. Both Mulet’s dispensing of insider tips and the logistical support of the rank-and-file peacekeepers helped to push the fraudulent elections through as anticipated. As the body charged with logistical and security-related support for the election, the Mission helped to systematically deny electoral democracy to the people of Haiti, forcing the country to elect a pro-U.S/UN candidate and playing a major role in keeping the country as a leta restavek.

Suppressing Protest

In addition to the suppression of electoral democracy, well-known journalists and academics have denounced MINUSTAH for a number of incidents of violent repression of peaceful demonstrations. According to anthropologist Mark Schuller, they clamp down on citizen mobilization, most egregiously in 2009 during the campaign to increase Haiti’s minimum wage. They shot tear gas numerous times, preventing people from protesting and crippling the state university (especially the human sciences school). They also shot at the funeral for Aristide supporter Father [Gérard] Jean-Juste.[38]

This behavior is part of a clear pattern of suppressing protest among Haitians and preventing political organization, especially among pro-Aristide activists. During another peaceful demonstration against MINUSTAH’s renewed mandate, MINUSTAH peacekeepers “threatened [protesters] at gunpoint… Shots were fired, and a UN vehicle drove into the crowd and pushed several protesters and an international journalist into a ditch.”[39] At another protest, “MINUSTAH troops with riot shields arrived to reinforce the police, firing warning shots and dispersing the protesters.”[40] This suppression of social movements complements MINUSTAH’s suppression of electoral democracy. The same cross-section of poor Haitians who form the majority of the Fanmi Lavalas party, and of the country as a whole, had organized in support of the removal of MINUSTAH, supported Father Jean-Juste, and fought for an increase the minimum wage. These are the “populist and anti-market forces” about which the US State Department had occasion to speak.

Haitian Social Movements Continue Their Fight

Contrary to its mandate to protect the human rights of the Haitian people and promote democracy, MINUSTAH has suppressed democracy both by supporting fraudulent elections and by repressing peaceful protests. In each of these instances, the mission has taken on the role of “enforcers,” holding the Haitian people in check and helping to keep Haiti as a leta restavek. As analyst Beverly Bell asserts, however, “the country’s highly organized grassroots movement has never given up the battle its enslaved ancestors began…The mobilizations, protests, and advocacy have brought down dictators…and kept the population from ever fitting quietly into anyone else’s plans for them.”[41] Haitians, especially the poor majority, have been fighting for economic and social democracy and for the autonomy to rebuild their nation. To achieve these goals would require unseating both MINUSTAH and the interests of the US, as the WikiLeaks cables demonstrate. Haitians are protesting in large part because of this systematic suppression of their nation’s right to self-determination. The “fire” to which President Martelly refers had been raging years before the recent allegations of rape and other abuses, and it will not be doused until Haitians find justice in their own country and not just in their distant memory.

References for this article can be found here.

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 coha@coha.org


October 20, 2011

caribbeannewsnow

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Bahamas government's Freedom of Information Bill falls short of a true surrender of control over information to the public...

The public must defend its right to know - now more than ever


By PACO NUNEZ
Tribune News Editor

Nassau, The Bahamas



Opposition MP Fred Mitchell thinks the government's Freedom of Information Bill falls short of a true surrender of control over information to the public.

I couldn't agree with him more. Clogged with exemptions, restrictions and executive vetoes, the draft reeks of reluctance and caution.

Mr Mitchell is right to point out that even as it creates an independent Information Commissioner, the Bill undermines the position through the power it vests in the Cabinet minister responsible for government information.

The minister can overturn the commissioner's decisions, deem any category of information exempt from release, and all his decisions are final, as the Bill stipulates that "no judicial proceedings or quasi-judicial proceedings of any kind shall be entered in relation thereto."

But what did Mr Mitchell really expect?

Only in the last 50 years and on the heels of a global surge in demand for "open government" have unenthusiastic politicians around the world been forced into passing such laws.

Still, even the most liberal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) out there restricts access far beyond what is strictly necessary - the preservation of national security and the protection of privacy rights.

It isn't hard to see why. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the FOIA he passed in 2000 the "biggest mistake" of his career.

"For political leaders, it's like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, 'Hey, try this instead', and handing them a mallet," he wrote in his memoirs.

More fundamentally, people who have power tend to dislike giving it up, and all politicians worth their salt know that information is power.

Take this general truth and add it to the particular culture of secrecy, confusion and evasion that pervades the public service in the Bahamas, and it seems obvious that no legislation brought by a local political party was ever going to qualify as cutting-edge.

But this much can be said for the FNM: they actually brought an FOI Bill before parliament as promised. The PLP had five years in office before 2007, and rather than advance the cause of the people's right to know, they managed to set it back several years with their constant attacks on the press and miserly attitude to releasing public records.

And, for all its shortcomings, the Bill still represents a huge leap forward for the Bahamas.

Take for example its stated object: "To reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy, namely: governmental accountability; transparency; public participation in decision making."

That a government would actually enshrine such principles in law in a country where an obstructionist bureaucratic ethos has persisted through centuries of British rule and almost four decades of independence - and where only a few years ago a senior official described transparency as "a fad" - is quite significant in itself.

Among the Bill's other positive aspects are:

* that those applying for access to government records would not be required to give a reason for their application.

* that when the arguments for disclosure and non-disclosure are equal, the authorities are mandated to rule in favour of disclosure.

* that the authorities must acknowledge receipt of every request and

respond within a specified period - in most cases, 30 days.

* that authorities are mandated to grant a request unless one of the exemptions listed in the Bill applies, and must explain their reasons for every denial.

* that the legislation has teeth - if a public servant is found to have altered or concealed a requested document, he or she faces a six month prison sentence and a fine of up to $100,000.

* that while significantly undercut, the role of the commissioner is nonetheless expansive, and includes the right to make recommendations for change within government entities, refer cases of criminal activity to the police, initiate his or her own investigation into any department's cooperation with the Act, and publicise the new rights members of the public would enjoy.

* that all government employees would be subjected to training on freedom of information, and each department would have an information manager to whom all requests and complaints can be directed.

Just imagine for a moment what all this could potentially mean in a system where most requests for information are greeted with silence, suspicion, or open hostility; where journalists are laughed at when they try to access public records, and citizens have to fight - sometimes for years - for land papers or legal documents that belonged to them in the first place.

And, there is one clause in the Bill that has more potential value than all these put together.

It concerns how whistleblowers would henceforth be dealt with, and is worth quoting in full: "No person may be subject to any legal, administrative or employment related sanction, regardless of any breach of a legal or employment-related obligation, for releasing information on wrongdoing, or which would disclose a serious threat to health, safety or the environment, as long as he acted in good faith and in the reasonable belief that the information was substantially true and disclosed evidence of wrongdoing or a serious threat to health, safety or the environment."

Now this would indeed be revolutionary.

Until now, honest public servants have been cowed into silence by the fear - sometimes imagined but often very real - that they would be victimized or even prosecuted for speaking out.

If this clause convinces even one to come forward with evidence of corruption or mismanegment, it would have been worth the trouble, as it would have the rest of the public service looking over their shoulders.

As with all transparency laws, the point is not so much to create a system that identifies all past wrongdoers, so much as it is to demonstrate the potential for exposure, and thereby kickstart a gradual change in culture.

But for any of this to happen, proper enforcement is vital. Laws that aim to change ingrained attitudes must inspire confidence.

This is where we come in - the journalists, activists, academics, and concerned citizens who want to see this become a more open and transparent society.

We cannot rely on politicians, who could potentially have more to lose than anyone else under this law, to do it for us.

The Bill may give the new Minister of Information the final word on any particular disclosure or even access to whole categories of information, but we still have the last word on the immediate future of his or her political career.

After it becomes law in July of next year, each and every denied application that gives off the slightest whiff of frivolity or self-service should be denounced to high heaven, and the minister reminded at every opportunity that while the judiciary may not have a say when it comes to freedom of information, the court of public opinion does - now more than ever.

As always, The Tribune stands prepared to publicise any and all credible claims of unfair treatment under this law.

If a large enough segment of the public joins us in this commitment, the concerns about executive power identified by Mr Mitchell might actually serve as an advantage, in that they draw the battle lines for us - the public on one side, armed with exposure, and politicians and the public service on the other.

And, of course, if this approach doesn't work, Mr Mitchell and his colleagues say they fancy their chances in the upcoming election.

If they do win, I'm sure they'll move immediately to lessen the powers of their own Minister of Information.

* What do you think?

pnunez@tribunemedia.net

tribune242 Editorial insight

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Grenada: We must remember October 1983!

Law and Politics: We must remember October 1983!

By Lloyd Noel


As we celebrate the Month of the Elderly and the Month of the Child, during the month of October, we in the Spice Isles cannot forget the month of October 1983, and how the happenings in that memorable month have affected our lives over the passing years up to date.

Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentatorSome may even be asking whether or not the happenings, and the ups and downs, and the uncertainties now current in this October, bear any resemblance to those of that October in 1983. The uncertainties maybe, but the very dramatic happenings, and the movements from the apparent calm to households under tension, and then the arrival of the rescue mission forces to free up the people under house arrest, as well as those in detention on the Hill and Hope Vale, nothing nowadays can come anywhere close to that state of affairs.

But having gone through that period, as well as the years immediately following – when some of the players now on centre stage were also very much around the middle of the ups and downs – many of those now still undergoing pressure of one sort or another, from the actions and omissions of the powers-that-be are justifiably feeling that not very much has changed in many specific areas, and they are inclined to think that the resemblance is very close in those areas.

For those of us who lived through the periods of the struggle against Gairyism from 1973 to early 1979 – during which period we also gained the achievement of independence from England on the 7th February 1974 – many would still like to boast about, and cherish the memories of the so-called Glorious Revolution of March 13, 1979.

Because from that date the people of our Tri-Island State gained their freedom, from the oppression and atrocities that were unleashed by Gairy, after the New Jewel Movement (NJM) came on the scene in the month of May 1973, under the joint leadership of the late Maurice Bishop and Unison Whiteman.

The NJM was very popular among the young, the middle-aged, and even the older folks, so that when, in November 1973 (the 18th), Gairy’s Mongoose Gang, led by the police under the leadership of the late Innocent Belmar, attacked the “NJM Six” at Bhola’s Junction in Grenville St Andrew and brutally beat Maurice and Unison and Simon Charles, the people of Grenada, as a whole, rose to the occasion in protest, and from the churches, the trade unions, and the employers and their employees, the protest were island-wide, with demonstrations and strikes and civil disobedience all over the place.

And these only came to an end with the murder of Rupert Bishop, Maurice Bishop’s father, on the 21st January 1974, on the Carenage in St George’s in Otway house.

The Governor General, Sir Leo De Gale, consented to the request for a Commission of Enquiry, into the Bhola’s junction brutality, and later agreed to add the Rupert Bishop brutal killing as part of the terms of reference.

The Jamaican retired Chief Justice, Sir Herbert Duffus, the renowned Caribbean and international lawyer the late Aubrey Fraser, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jamaica, Rev. Samuel Carter, were the commissioners.

Grenada was on centre stage for months, and witness after witness came before the commissioners to give evidence of incidents that took place from the date of independence to the murder of Rupert Bishop.

The Duffus Enquiry report condemned the atrocities and mismanagement of the system and in particular the behaviour of Belmar as a senior police officer, and he was dismissed from the force. He later contested a seat for Gairy’s GULP in the 1976 elections, and he was elected as MP for the Birchgrove area.

He was later shot in the Bamboo Bar in the same Birchgrove area, but the persons charged for the shooting were all three acquitted by the court.

And then came the first armed revolution in the English-speaking Caribbean in March 1979, when the Gairy government was overthrown and the NJM took power as the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).

The PRG, with real assistance from Cuba, and later the Soviet Union of Russia, was concerned with putting together a socialist system in the Eastern Caribbean; and all the bright guys in the wider Caribbean area that saw socialism as the way to go were flocking to Grenada to share their ideas and give support.

And although Jamaica, under the leadership of the avowed socialist, Michael Manley, at the time was toying with the principles for a socialist state, it was the NJM in Grenada that attracted worldwide attention, as its Marxist communist ideals were brought into operation, which allowed no opposition and no dissent.

And those of us who dared to say anything that even sounded like a different point of view to that of the supreme leaders in control, it was up Mahogany Row at Richmond Hill Prison, or Hope vale Rasta Camp, for us all as detainees. Over 3,000 in total spent time at those centres, and when the US and Caribbean forces came to Grenadians rescue, there were still about 150 of us who were released on the 25th and 26th October 1983 – after Bishop and some of his top bureau members were killed on Fort Rupert, along with dozens more on the 19th October.

As one looks back at those times and happenings, even after all those twenty-eight years since they ended, it still revives old memories, both good and bad, of how the whole process came on stream, and how we traveled island-wide to share the worthy intentions with others.

A whole lot of people listened and accepted the ideas, and were staunch followers for many years; and that was why the deceptive changes were so very difficult to tolerate and remain quiet.

Nothing in our political calendar, since those years from 1973 to 1983, comes anywhere nearly as bad and disturbing as the happenings in that decade – and I dare say I seriously doubt, that anything even resembling those days could ever recur.

The lessons from those happenings have lived on, to put us always on guard not to allow any so-called maximum leader to gain or take on too much control of the nation’s affairs.

Regardless of the level of support or popularity he/she acquires, the right and the focused intention to oppose any action, or omission, that appears dictatorial must always be available to one and all.

I would doubt very much that we in these isles could ever again have the cause to take the action that was taken in March 1979, that led to the massacre of October 1983, but the only way to make sure it can never happen again is to be always ready and on guard to ensure that what is right remains right – and always oppose what is wrong, regardless of where or from whom the wrongdoing is coming.

October 18, 2011

caribbeannewsnow

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dominica: Speak! Or forever hold thy peace

by Rebecca Theodore in collaboration with Dr Peter K.B. St Jean on behalf of the Peaceful World Movement


Suddenly, like the violent crash of a bomb-blast, Dominica nationals at home and in the Diaspora are awakened. They were once entrenched in a tradition of conspicuous and ubiquitous peaceful existence, but now it seems that it is no more. The peace and tranquility of that nation has recently become under rapid challenge. Intellectuals, ordinary citizens and scoundrels alike are seeking to preserve her nostalgic status.

Dr Peter K. B St Jean is an internationally recognised criminologist and sociologistThey are finding strength in the vision and agenda of the Peaceful World Movement, created and led by a native son, Chicago based, and internationally recognized criminologist and sociologist, Dr Peter K. B. St Jean.

Concerns about crime and violence need to be addressed systematically and with promising vision before conditions blow out of proportion like sister Caribbean islands. Peace must be implemented as an economic product in Dominica, says Dr St Jean and the Peaceful World Movement.

As the world watches and listens at vicious attacks from politicians, social commentators, criminals, and those in high places, the moral fiber of a people and nation entangles. A peace industry seems to be the only way out for like a breeched birth, strangling on its own umbilical cord, ‘Tall is her body’ is now confined to a restricted growth.

Long term problems are fuelled. Underlying causal factors are rooted in deep social, ideological, economic, cultural, spiritual, political, and psychological influences, but there is denial that a problem of its true magnitude exists.

Prime Minister Skerrit says that the ‘government at present or the foreseeable future cannot afford the rates….’

Yes! Men of power are turning a deafened ear as horn dogs imperil all the land and intellectuals mourn for peace for they see the approaching danger.

Leading social scientist, Dr Peter K. B. St Jean raises the ‘Code Bravo’ throughout the land. A successful crime reduction strategy must address prevention, intervention, and interdiction, he says. An analysis must be conducted to determine the extent to which these three dimensions are engaged in Dominican society, and adjustments must be made accordingly to suit the local demands of everyday life.

He evokes the enlistment of a ‘Peace Czar’ to provide professional guidance and hands-on assistance to the government and people of Dominica so citizens can harmoniously dwell. A peaceful paradigm shift is evident so peace can breed and bloom, for peace is the golden key that opens all doors.

Extreme crime and violence related events are so critical that they demand strategic and immediate responses. If not properly executed, they drastically undermine the success of existing short term, midrange, and long term strategies; yet a prime minister toys with the idea.

Hence, “a peace industry as a sustainable antidote to the problems of crime, violence, delinquency, and their associated troubles,” is the only answer.

And so voices continue to cry out in the dark, for peace is not a sheer cloud-bound dream but a dynamic process of living without or amid seemingly inevitable conflict, tyranny, and hatred. The ‘sinews’ of peace await. A white dove is flying in the wind waiting to take us home under its wings. We can at least give peace a try.

For more info visit www.peacefulworldmovement.org

October 17, 2011

caribbeannewsnow

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jamaica: Achieving True Justice For All

jamaica-gleaner editorial



A former chief justice of the US Supreme Court is reported to have said: "Power of the judiciary lies not in deciding cases, nor in imposing sentences, nor in punishing for contempt, but in the trust, faith and confidence of the common man."

In recent days, Jamaica's justice system has come under the microscope once again, with Justice Minister Delroy Chuck speaking out about corruption and the heavy backlog of cases. He described a system in flux as he addressed new lawyers who were graduating from the University of the West Indies.

Against that background we ask the question: How does the common man in Jamaica feel about our justice system that is hopelessly clogged with cases?

For many years we have heard cries of injustice coming from inner-city folk who have become frustrated with the system. From time to time, we have heard their sharp criticism of a system that they believe serves only the interests of those with connections and money.

The justice minister made it clear, during his address, that the overburdened courts of Jamaica are not properly serving the common man. Indeed, the course of justice is obstructed when cases are allowed to drag on for years. So what is Mr Chuck going to do about this cloud that hangs over the justice system?

The minister spoke about some of the options to remedy the huge case backlog that has resulted in lengthy delays. For example, he is proposing that courts extend their hours of operation so that more cases can be tried. It would appear that the introduction of night court for traffic offences has worked well, so it seems that this suggestion may have merit.

harsh criticism

One of the reasons cited for the ballooning caseload in courts across the country is the lack of judges. Given the meagre budget allocated to the Ministry of Justice and the fiscal bind which has entrapped Jamaica, it is unclear how the Government would pay for salaries for more judges, clerks and other support staff.

There is also the matter of lawyers doing clever dances, which have also put a spoke in the wheel. In the scheme of things, shouldn't there be legislation setting concrete parameters and rigorous timelines for the management of cases?

The work of the police has also come in for harsh criticism. It is not enough to talk about the back-door deals that go on among police, criminals and witnesses. We need an aggressive campaign to tackle the problem before it becomes more deeply entrenched. There has to be a resolve to investigate, prosecute and punish those who tarnish the quality of justice.

Opposition spokesman on justice, attorney-at-law Mark Golding, also recognises the impact that corruption has on the system and appears willing to work with the Government in finding solutions to the problem. The crisis calls for unequivocal leadership and cooperation between the Opposition and Government, a welcome step which we hope will be more than mere gesture. Working together, we can find a strategy to undo the damage to the judiciary and have a fair and equitable system.

It is clear that the courts need serious overhaul to improve efficiency and public perception of the country's ability to dispense transparent and true justice.

October 15, 2011

jamaica-gleaner editorial