Saturday, March 31, 2012
The Cuban government, the Roman Catholic Church and the Cuban humanitarian group, the Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanco), all formidable entities in their own right, found themselves thrust upon the world stage together this week as a result of Pope Benedict XVI’s first trip to Latin America in five years
Pope's Cuban pilgrimage and the suppression of the Ladies in White
by Faizaan Sami, COHA Research Associate
The Cuban government, the Roman Catholic Church and the Cuban humanitarian group, the Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanco), all formidable entities in their own right, found themselves thrust upon the world stage together this week as a result of Pope Benedict XVI’s first trip to Latin America in five years.
Ahead of the papal three-day visit to Cuba, many of the Ladies in White were held by Cuban officials; a series of detentions that were initially prompted by the occupation of a local church in Cuba by members of the Republican Party of Cuba. The anti-Castro demonstrators were attempting to influence the pope before his impending arrival to directly address the human rights abuses leveled against the Castro regime.
The United States, a long time advocate of the Ladies in White, naturally glommed onto the public protest and, unsurprisingly, Havana was quick to accuse Washington of propping up the “subversive” movement. Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council said the detentions revealed “the disdain of the Cuban authorities” for civilian rights and critiqued “the acts of those who are standing in the way of the basic aspirations of the Cuban people.”
For breaching the strict, state-administered regulations of their weekly protest, the Cuban government has prohibited the Ladies of White from future protests, revoking what was already a narrowed platform to express their views.
In light of their suppression, it was expected that Pope Benedict XVI would emulate his predecessor John Paul II in publicly denouncing the Cuban administration as well as meet with the religious dissidents. However, the pope showed a reluctance to be drawn into alliance with either the Cuban administration or the anti-Castro dissidents, even those that are directly affiliated with the Church, demonstrating the Catholic institution’s principal intent to become reconnected with Cuban society at large and avoid intervention on domestic matters.
Back on October 16, 2011, the Ladies in White marched in somber stride through the streets of Havana, holding white gladiolas just as they had done for eight years after every Sunday mass at the Santa Rita de Casia Catholic Church. However, there was a special significance attached to that day; it was the first silent protest without their founding member, sixty-three year old Laura Pollán, who succumbed to cardiac arrest while under hospital care.
Pollán founded the Ladies in White after her husband, Héctor Maseda, an independent journalist, was arrested during the three day ‘Black Spring’ raid in March 2003, along with 74 other Cuban dissidents. The journalists were accused of “subverting the internal order of the nation” and received sentences ranging from six to twenty-eight years incarceration. Gradually, Pollán mobilized the wives of other dissidents and held routine marches to push for their release, even under conditions of adversity, when pro-government protestors would harangue the group during their marches.
In March 2011, the remaining dissidents were released, largely due to the efforts of the Spanish government and the Catholic Church in reaching an agreement with Raúl Castro for the prisoners to flee into exile; a condition that was not entirely adhered by those that were released. In spite of certain developments, such as the release of those incarcerated during the Black Spring, the subsequent fragmentation of membership resulting from the emigration of reunited families as well as the regrettable death of their leader, the Ladies in White have continued to demonstrate after every Sunday mass.
The impending arrival of his Holiness was viewed as an opportunity for their claims to be finally heard by the leader of the very institution that helped them form an unbreakable solidarity. However, compromised by the government’s authority, the Ladies in White and the Catholic Church were unable to establish a direct connection on this particular trip.
The Prospect of Conciliation Mediated by the Pope Benedict XVI
Received by Raúl Castro at the Santiago airport on March 26, the papal visit to Cuba is meant to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the El Cobre sanctuary of the country’s patroness, our Lady of Cobre, but there were certain other elements that comprised his visit. Of course, the primary agenda was to reach out to the Cuban majority and reinstitute the Catholic faith at a time when the country has been incorporating certain minimalist civil liberties and opportunities to its citizenry. Most of the Cuban faithful fled to the United States after the 1959 Cuban revolution, the vast majority of which now reside in Miami, but an estimated 800 Cuban Americans made the journey to attend the Pope’s mass in Havana.
While the nature of the pope’s visit was claimed to be “pastoral,” in light of the recent demonstrations in Havana, comparisons were inevitably drawn to Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998, which had marked inferences regarding the protection of civil rights and releasing incarcerated dissidents.
Apart from the expected denouncement of the US embargo on Cuba, as previously iterated by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI was unlikely to be drawn into the current political skirmish. Not only would intervention threaten the Catholic Church’s mending relationship with the Cuban administration and thus its long-term goals in the country, but because it wouldn’t correspond with the Church’s current emphasis on counteracting its dwindling supporter base.
The pope, however, did give a frank assessment of Cuba’s Marxist political and economic framework, claiming it “no longer corresponds to reality.” But far from advocating outright economic liberalization, he also criticized the West’s capitalist model for leaving “humanity devoid of values” and “defenseless” against predatory powers.
The Resurgence of Catholicism in Cuba?
In some ways, there hasn’t been a better time for the Catholic Church to re-establish itself into the social fabric of this Caribbean island state, due in part to the efforts of Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who has been able to position the church increasingly as an intermediary force on the island. Under Ortega, the Church has offered care centers and limited training programs and pushed for church administered education, not to mention it was the Cardinal who helped to negotiate the release of the Black Spring political dissidents.
With various external forces trickling into the socialist state, the combination of light economic and social reforms under Raúl Castro’s government has highlighted a degree of adaptation of the stringent style of governance that his brother practiced. Raúl’s burgeoning relationship with the Cardinal is indicative of the leader’s acknowledgement of the Church as a positive influence in not only uniting the population but also providing them it with a semi-autonomous authority capable of adequately nurturing the population.
As it seeks to gain legitimacy outside of its US-inflicted seclusion, the promotion of religious freedom will deliver the benefit of reinforcing Cuba’s association with that of the Latin American region in which Catholicism plays a prominent role.
On the other hand, with the backing of the Cuban administration, the Catholic Church now has the capacity to influence public discourse in Cuba over the long term, a prospect that would have been vulnerable if it visibly sided with the Ladies in White.
As he stood before several hundred thousand Cubans at the open-air Mass in Havana, Pope Benedict XVI used the opportunity to directly connect with the public, ticking all the right boxes. In his speech, the pope urged for the recalibration of Cuban society characterized by greater civil liberties and material resources for Cubans, going on to denounce the US embargo, all of which reinforced papal indifference to government influence.
Cuba’s Minister of Planning and Economy, Marino Murillo, responded promptly and succinctly, confirming that in Cuba, “there would be no political reform.” The various initiatives of the Church, such as instituting Catholic teaching in schools, gaining access to broadcast networks, declaring Good Friday a public holiday and building new churches have been proposed to the Cuban administration but the general consensus is that the status quo will remain.
However, as marginal reform occurs under Raúl Castro’s administration and as both the president and Cardinal Ortega form a deeper relationship, it is the sense of timing that could ensure that the pope’s visit will act as a catalyst for change in the hearts in minds of the Cuban public.
March 31, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
The Bahamas: Branville McCartney - Democratic National Alliance leader on the spousal rape amendment: "I do not think (spousal rape) should be illegal
By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Features Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas
WHEN it comes to illegal immigration Branville McCartney, member of parliament for Bamboo Town, time and time again, proves himself to be a master at pandering, but last week he added a new issue to his chest, in a desperate attempt to galvanise some form of base for his fledgling political party, the Democratic National Alliance.
According to Mr McCartney, rape in marriage is "too hard to prove", so the state should not waste its time implementing laws to enfranchise women with authority over their own bodies. "I do not think (spousal rape) should be illegal. I maintain that," said Mr McCartney, DNA leader.
He said so last week, during a taping of the TV programme Citizen's Review, hosted by Erin Ferguson, while fielding questions about the amendment to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act, proposed by the Free National Movement (FNM) in 2009.
Although Mr McCartney has since tried to back-track on his comments, because of his political miscalculation, sources who attended the event are saying, "not so fast Mr McCartney. You were clear and direct when you articulated your position."
The DNA's new official line is that if elected the choice will be put to the people. Mr McCartney should know by now that not all of us were born yesterday.
His personal views are no trivial matter, not just because he aspires to sit in the ultimate seat of political power, but also because this is a married man with two young daughters. What does it say about a change-agent candidate who cannot even be counted on to vote in the best interest of his own children.
I would love to hear him at bed time say, I love you honey, and just to show you how much, I am supporting a law that says, if your husband forces you to have sex against your will, too bad. It is your duty to please him at his leisure.
"When at the end of the day, you are sleeping in the same bed as your wife or spouse, you become one in that regard, and rape is very difficult to prove, especially as sexual intercourse is a part of marriage," said Mr McCartney.
These unfortunate positions ushered Mr McCartney into the spotlight last week not as the change-agent he would like us to see him, but as the anti-change agent, who seems satisfied with representing the dying bastions of patriarchal power. From a women's rights point of view that makes him public-enemy number one.
I am satisfied that on the issue of spousal rape, time will settle the score, but for now, Mr McCartney, the self anointed voice of anti-progress, will have to face the chorus of outrage from empowered Bahamian women many of whom have now added him to their blacklist.
Before he switched his mouth, I was ready to give Mr McCartney credit for one thing, laying his cards on the table. At the time, I thought it was more than I could say for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), who have pretty much sidestepped the issue, hiding behind a calculated political strategy of silent deliberation or sitting on the fence.
To his credit, Alfred Sears, PLP member of parliament for Fort Charlotte, was one of the few vocal PLP supporters of the amendment. He is a survivor of child abuse. Fred Mitchell, member of parliament for Fox Hill also spoke publicly in support of the amendment.
The FNM, although it brought forward the amendment, eventually took their cards off the table, cowering to the misogynist crusade of religious fundamentalists and their bandwagonists.
Sadly, however, Mr McCartney has proved himself as spineless as the rest. And his reward, given that he is on the wrong side of progress for women, is egg in the face.
For Mr McCartney's sake, and the wider Bahamian public, I shall attempt to break down this spousal rape issue into basic common sense.
The Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act defines rape, in its basic form, as the act of any person not under 14 years of age having sexual intercourse with another person who is not his spouse without the consent of that other person.
Where the parties are under the age of 14, the law classifies the act as unlawful sexual intercourse. If both parties are married, the law writes it off as an unfortunate situation, suggesting that the act of rape does not occur because a man is simply exercising his conjugal right, and a woman her conjugal duty.
The Bahamas inherited the spousal rape exception clause directly from antiquated British Common Law. It is just one of several areas in law that discriminate against married Bahamian women, on the basis that men, once upon a time, saw women, including their wives, as only a step above chattel slaves.
It is natural that I, a young, black, woman - the antithesis to the old guard - would stand at odds with that way of thinking, but I dare say that as a society, the majority of us have collectively evolved past that way of thinking. Right?
So I ask the question: Why are we making enemies out of married women? Why is it so difficult for Bahamians to adopt the common sense principle that married women should have equal rights in law to unmarried women, and furthermore that all Bahamian men and women and their children should have equal rights?
Just like opponents of the spousal rape amendment, opponents of the citizenship amendment that would empower all Bahamian women equally with the right to confer citizenship to their children like to obfuscate the issue, using red herrings to overshadow the common sense reality.
Advocates of the spousal rape amendment are not trying to rob any group of their rights or empower women with rights not already afforded to any other group? Advocates are simply saying do not discriminate against married women. The argument stops there and so does the proposed amendment. What is so egregious about that?
What kind of institution is marriage to aspire to if Bahamian women are simply opening themselves up to egregious forms of discrimination, wilfully supported by pandering politicians.
The fact that a man and woman become one when they get married, or when they consummate their marriage, is metaphorical, even within the religious context, and even where it is understood that a metaphysical bond is formed.
For the sake of clarity I am going old-school, to the days of Debate Club: The online reference book, Dictionary.com defines metaphorical as "a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance."
Outside of speaking about the conception of a child, a husband and wife do not literally become one when they get married. It is a metaphor. The "oneness" principle is not even mandated by the marital contract, a legal contract which generally oversees the distribution of marital assets. A man and woman are entitled to joint or separate assets, and in no circumstance is one partner considered the asset of the other.
So despite Mr McCartney's bogus suggestion, or the popular Christian interpretation, a marriage should not rob a wife of her free will, her identity, legal or otherwise, or her body.
The so-called responsibility to engage in sexual intercourse within a marriage should therefore have no bearing on the individuality of either party and their right to express that individuality, even by saying no to sex.
I believe everyone should have the right to conceive of marriage as they wish, even those who believe sexual obligation is central to the principle of becoming one. But shouldn't all right thinking people, even Christians, agree that when this principle is extended to the point of sexual violence, rape, then the law should afford spouses protection and due process.
And on the matter of religious values, the record is public. The following churches supported, and presumably still support, the proposed amendment when it was tabled: The Anglican Diocese, the Catholic Archdiocese, the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church, and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
The Bahamas Christian Council, surprise, surprise, was the champion of the lone rangers. Even apparent moderates like the respected Dr Myles Munroe raised red herring questions like whether "the long arm of the government" should extend to the "marriage bed."
While advocates of the spousal rape amendment have no qualms with religious values, they are drawn into conflict with religious leaders who use their faith-based pulpit to spread misinformation, over-inflate unfounded concerns, spread alarm and mislead the public. To what end?
At the height of the public discourse, former Christian Council president Rev Patrick Paul said he was concerned about the law opening the door for evil, malignant, spiteful women, and whoremongers to "get back at someone, because of some unfortunate circumstance."
Let me get this straight: Rev Paul conceives of rape as an "unfortunate circumstance" and further believes the constituency of evil, malignant, spiteful women is so substantial that in his righteousness, he must protect the society against their whoremongering ways. If this were not astounding enough, there are Bahamian women who have no objection with this self portrayal. Are we asleep or what?
Bottom line, the last time I checked, for all that we have learned about marriage from the good book, neither God the Father, the Son nor the Holy Spirit, condones a man raping his wife. Show me the justification, and I will eat a healthy serving of humble pie.
Bahamians should be very concerned, because many of these religious figures masquerading out there as leaders have very little knowledge of basic, yet fundamental facts of life, particularly when it comes to women's issues.
Pastor Cedric Moss, for example, of the Kingdom Life Church, said the following, shortly after the amendment was first tabled in 2009: "Any forced sexual acts on wives by husbands in non-estranged marriages should be punishable as some other crime, perhaps indecent assault, and not treated as if it were rape by a stranger."
Someone forgot to tell Pastor Moss that the perception that strangers are by and large responsible for rape is a false perception. Most rapes worldwide are committed by people known to the victims. Therefore, acquaintance rapes, although universally difficult to prove, account for the large majority of rapes.
Some countries in the world recognising that rape laws, with their false underlying assumptions, are insufficient to address this reality, have advanced their legislation to specifically address the challenges of acquaintance rape, thereby providing greater protection for their citizens.
Pastor Moss was also pushing the idea that inside a marriage there is a "contract that implies open-ended sexual consent." Say what? Show me the contract so I know where not to sign.
The spousal rape amendment is not setting any new religious precedents, and it is not establishing a new definition of what a marriage is or is not.
The proposed amendment simply seeks to equalize how the definition of rape is applied, acknowledging that where married women suffer this most brutal form of sexual assault, the law should afford them due process.
I have faith that common decency and common sense will prevail in the end, and that on this issue, one day, there will be a government that does the right thing.
In the meantime, will women of the Bahamas, and decent, right-thinking men, for God's sake, please stand up and let their voices be heard.
We should be so solidly galvanised around this issue that green, red or yellow, no government should have a choice but to support this issues.
March 26, 2012
Bahamas Blog International
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The Bahamas: ...The number of reported child sexual abuse cases in 2011 increased by 11 percent over over the previous year
Reported child sex abuse cases rise
By Royston Jones Jr
Guardian Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
The number of reported child sexual abuse cases increased last year by 11 percent over the year before, officials reported yesterday.
One hundred and sixty-seven cases of child sexual abuse were reported in The Bahamas last year, officials said.
One hundred and fifty-one were reported in 2010.
“Sadly the actions of too many do not create safe, happy and healthy environments for our children,” said Alpheus Forbes, deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Development.
“We are also aware that [last year’s] figures do not begin to account for cases which go undetected and unreported. Thus, we would like to appeal to anyone who knows or suspects that a child is being abused to report it to the Department of Social Services or the police.”
He added: “Child abuse tears at the very fabric of our community. We can ensure that every child matters by listening to what [they] are saying, recognizing the signs of child abuse and never assuming that someone else will do something about it.”
Officials also revealed that reported cases of child abandonment, emotional and verbal abuse increased in 2011 over 2010.
There were 615 reported cases of child abuse in 2010. The department said 499 were reported in New Providence and 116 in the Family Islands.
Last month, Minister of State for Social Development Loretta Butler-Turner revealed in the House of Assembly that there were 636 reported cases of child abuse last year.
Of that number, 547 cases were reported in New Providence and 89 were reported in the Family Islands, according to Assistance Director in the Ministry of Labour and Social Development Lorraine Duvalier.
In 2011, there were 141 reported cases of physical abuse; 11 reported cases of verbal abuse; 10 reported cases of emotional abuse; 11 reported cases of incest; 254 reported cases of neglect and 10 reported cases of abandonment.
Forbes said some of the figures, especially the increase in sexual abuse cases, were even more disturbing than the overall increase in cases of child abuse in The Bahamas.
“The immediate question is, what are the reasons for this increase?” said Forbes during a press conference at the Department of Rehabilitative and Welfare Services on Thompson Boulevard.
He explained that based on the matters referred to the department, some of the reasons included more occurrences of young Bahamians experimenting sexually; statutory rape and adult gratification and commercial sexual abuse, whereby a parent or guardian accepts money or benefits for the sexual use of a minor or child.
The majority of these types of cases involve young girls, Forbes said.
Child Protection Month will be observed next month under the theme ‘Every Child Matters’.
Mar 27, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
By Dalia González del
AS the Popemobile moved along
Havana’s wide avenues lined with enthusiastic people,
chants of "You can feel it, you can feel it, the
Pope is here with us," and "Juan Pablo, friend, Cuba
is with you," could be heard.
From January 21 through 25, 1998,
Cuba gave the world a lesson, one of many. One did
not have to be religious to feel the intensity of
the encounter between the Cuban people and the
Cuba’s enemies wanted to celebrate.
But the idea of an alleged Apocalypse presented by
the foreign media ceded to the image of a people who
listened with affection and respect to his message.
Those five days did not change the history of Cuba,
they enriched it.
Cardinal Roger Eychegaray, then
president of the Justice and Peace Pontifical
Commission, stated in an interview with Granma,
"Rarely has a Papal visit aroused such universal
interest and infused in his diverse interlocutors a
responsibility so great that it commits all of one
Pope John Paul II defined a central
theme in each one of the four masses he gave. In
Santa Clara he dedicated his sermon to the family;
in Camagüey to youth, and in Santiago de Cuba to the
In the José Martí Plaza de la
Revolución he devoted his reflections to the role of
laypersons in the Church.
REENCOUNTER WITH FIDEL
They already knew each other. They
had met in the Vatican on November 19, 1996.
Thousands of journalists, camera crews, reporters
for various foreign television and press networks,
transmitted images of a Pope and a Communist leader
which swept aside ill-intentioned commentaries and
their alleged differences with the second shaking of
Fidel Castro received the Pope and
bade him farewell at José Martí International
Airport, and met with him privately in the Palace of
the Revolution. He also accompanied John Paul II in
the encounter with cultural figures and during the
mass in Plaza de la Revolución.
"Fidel was the President who gave
the best attention to Pope John Paul II," Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, current Vatican Secretary of State,
affirmed years later in his book Un cuore grande,
Omaggio a Giovanni Paolo II. "Fidel showed
affection for the Pope, who was already ill, and
John Paul II confided to me that possibly no head of
state had so profoundly prepared for the visit of a
Pontiff (...). Fidel had read the encyclicals and
principal speeches of John Paul II and even some of
A LESSON TO THE WORLD
The Supreme Pontiff’s visit to Cuba
took place in the upheavals of the 1990s. The
disappearance of socialism in Eastern Europe and the
USSR had unleashed great euphoria within the U.S.
government and among counterrevolutionary groups in
Miami. It was predicted that the Cuban Revolution
would collapse in a matter of days or weeks. Cuban
exiles began to make political moves to organize a
They themselves described John Paul
II as a kind of exterminating angel of socialism, as
a man whose visit would be prejudicial to the
national social project.
With his usual clarity of vision,
Fidel had observed that. "I see so many illusions
being created in desperation, that the Pope’s visit
will be somewhat tragic for the Cuban Revolution, a
fiery sword which is going to liquidate socialism
and communism in Cuba (...). They do not know the
Pope, they do not know him (...). They are
underestimating his intelligence, underestimating
his character, underestimating his thinking."
For that reason, as if in response
to those deluding themselves, Fidel stated at the
farewell to the Holy Father, "I think we have given
a good example to the world: you, in visiting what
certain people chose to call the last bastion of
communism; we, in receiving the religious leader to
whom they wanted to attribute the responsibility of
having destroyed socialism in Europe. And there were
those prophesying apocalyptical events. Some even
dreamed of them."
Unfortunately for those dreamers,
Cuba demonstrated to the world that, despite
erroneous interpretations, socialism can be
reconciled with religious faith. Fidel confirmed
that upon receiving the Pope. "There will not be any
country better prepared to understand your
felicitous idea, as we understand it and which is so
similar to what we preach, that equitable
distribution of wealth and solidarity among human
beings and peoples must be globalized."
AGAINST THE BLOCKADE
Fidel recalled the injustices being
committed against the country. "Cuba, your Holiness,
is currently standing up to the strongest power in
history like a new David, a thousand times smaller,
who in the same spirit of biblical times, is
fighting to survive against a gigantic Goliath of
the nuclear age who is trying to prevent our
development by forcing us to surrender through
sickness and hunger. If that story had not been
written then, it would have had to have been written
today. This monstrous crime cannot be ignored or
excuses given for it."
For that reason, it was gratifying
to hear the leader of the Catholic Church condemn
the U.S. blockade of Cuba, describing it as
"restrictive economic measures imposed from outside
of the country, unjust and ethically unacceptable."
At the same time he criticized
neoliberalism, then in its apogee. "Economically
unsustainable programs are being imposed on nations,
as a condition of receiving more aid and the
exaggerated enrichment of a few at the cost of the
impoverishment of many can be confirmed."
MESSAGES OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND
"Dear Cubans, upon leaving this
beloved land, I am taking with me a lasting
impression of these days and great confidence in the
future of your homeland," John Paul II affirmed in
his farewell address.
"I have experienced full and moving
events with the people of God, on a pilgrimage
through the beautiful land of Cuba, which has left a
profound impression on me. I will take with me the
memory of the faces of so many people whom I have
met during the last few days. I am grateful for your
cordial hospitality, a genuine expression of the
His words were in response to all
the affection shown him by the Cuban population.
Everyone – believers and non-believers – gave the
Pope a massive demonstration of hospitality and
Havana. March 22, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Holocaust survivor Rena Finder shares her story of pain and hope in Nazi occupied Poland during World War II with Bahamians
Holocaust survivor shares story of hope with Bahamians
By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Guardian Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
Holocaust survivor Rena Finder shared her powerful story of pain and hope with hundreds of Bahamians on Thursday night.
“Life was hell,” Finder told the crowd.
Finder was speaking of her experiences in Nazi occupied Poland during World War II. She was only 10 when her hometown of Kracow was invaded.
Finder is one of the last Holocaust survivors who was employed by German industrialist Oskar Schindler.
Schindler saved nearly 1,200 Jews from the clutches of Nazi concentration camps by employing as many Jews as he could in his factory.
His story was turned into a book, “Schindler’s Ark”, and then into a movie in 1993, titled “Schindler’s List”.
Finder spoke after a public screening of “Schindler’s List” at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort.
She moved to the Untied States and since the 1970s she has spread her message of hope across the world.
“He treated us like humans,” Finder said.
“It was like being liberated, like being put in the hands of an angel. We knew from the very beginning that Oskar Schindler would take care of us.”
She continued, “Oskar Schindler gave us life, gave me a chance to grow up, to get married to have children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild.”
Finder’s story attracted many Bahamians, including College of The Bahamas (COB) professors Dr. Nicolette Bethel and Jessica Minnis to name a few.
Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes also gave remarks.
“It is important that we are educated about the Holocaust and that we are never allowed to forget,” he said.
Sir Arthur added that it is important also that humankind never forget all the other atrocities and genocides that have taken place.
Finder said it is important to her and for those who survived the Holocaust how much difference young people can make.
“The worst crime is indifference,” she said. “The worst crime is to be a bystander.”
Sponsors of the event included Aetos Holdings Ltd, Atlantis, Banque Privee Edmond de Rothschild Ltd., Bank of The Bahamas (BOB), Colina Insurance, Diane Phillips and Associates (DP&A) and ICD Utilities.
Mar 24, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Impending war in the Middle East: ...What attitude will the United States adopt if Tel Aviv bombs Iranian installations and Tehran responds with a heavy counterattack?
Impending war in the Middle East
Juan Diego Nusa Peñalver
THROUGHOUT the history of humanity no war has been so foretold as the military conflict looming in the explosive region of the Middle East in relation to Iran and its controversial civil nuclear program, which the West charges has military ends, without any concrete evidence.
Virtually every day the drums of war are sounded in the region, in the form of harsh economic sanctions against Tehran, excessively bellicose anti-Iranian rhetoric, and covert actions on the part of Western and Israeli special services on the ground. These include selective assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and sabotage attempts on its industrial infrastructure, as well as sustained military exercises on both sides, all of which is creating a dangerous pre-war atmosphere, a war which, if it should occur, would inexorably have apocalyptic consequences for the world, as the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, has repeatedly warned.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S. capital in early March obliged the U.S. President to give a clearer definition of where the United States draws the so-called red line which the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must not cross. However, its placing is not exactly where Israel wants it, the latter country being in favor of the use of weapons before it is supposedly too late and the Ayatollah’s regime has sufficient enriched uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons, as Zionist leaders would have it believed.
However Obama, concerned about his reelection; hounded by the Republican camp and the powerful Zionist lobby, which are branding him as weak; with a depressed economy and the traumatic imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan still fresh in his memory, is obliged to be more cautious than his uncomfortable Middle Eastern ally and give diplomacy and harsh economic sanctions a certain margin of action.
Experts consider that the decision concerning a 2012 attack has been left in Israeli hands. And that is what Netanyahu came to say in the Oval Office, invoking Israel’s right to security, which Obama acknowledges.
To the surprise of many, the sensation of an imminent attack was reinforced by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking to a Washington Post journalist. He affirmed that Israel could launch a Spring attack on Iran (in April, May or June), thus triggering all the alarms.
The well-informed Israeli Haaretz newspaper further fuelled the Iranian furnace, stating that Bibi, as the Israeli premier is known to those close to him, had asked Washington to approve the sale of military materials needed to bomb Iran.
The leader of the Likud Party, considered a hawk, a veteran of the 1973 Yom Kipur War and a member of the Sayeret Matkal (Israeli special forces) in his time, asked for the acquisition of advanced in-flight refueling systems for sophisticated Israeli warplanes, and powerful GBU-28 anti-bunker bombs to destroy the principal Iranian nuclear program facilities. These would make it possible for Israel to inflict credible damage, particularly on the Fordow atomic plant, partially constructed within a mountain, close to the holy city of Qom, in which Tehran is manufacturing enriched uranium (to 20%), and the Natanz installation south of the capital, constructed at a depth of eight meters below ground and protected by various layers of cement.
Haaretz, basing its information on the words of an unidentified high-ranking U.S. official, notes that Obama instructed Panetta to work directly on the issue with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak, and that he is inclined to give the go-ahead to the petition as quickly as possible.
It is significant that the George W. Bush administration rejected the same request on the basis that Israel would use the material for bombing Iran while, with Obama in the White House, military cooperation between the two allied countries has reached unprecedented levels, as their respective leaders emphasized.
In this context, the Israeli state armaments corporation recently presented new, improved penetration bombs, such as the MPR-500 Multi-Purpose Rigid Bombs, with greater penetration, less fragmentation and compatible with the Boeing JDAM guidance system, as the Israel Military Industry explained in a communiqué.
This weapon is "ideal for hardened targets in densely populated urban areas or close to friendly troops… and is designed to penetrate more than one meter of reinforced cement and perforate floors or walls of 200-milimeter thickness," it notes.
Israel has also continued testing its Jericho-3 missile, with a capacity for nuclear or conventional warheads.
In spite of its military superiority, the magnitude of an air attack such as the one Israel is planning on Iran would exceed its capacities and obligatorily require U.S. military support, given that the announced operation is nothing like the selective strike by Israeli aircraft on the Iraqi Osiraq nuclear plant in 1981 and the Syrian atomic site of Al-Kibar, in the Dayr az-Zawr region in 2007.
In another twist of the screw, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, meeting in Washington, recommended the Iranian government to take advantage of the opportunity offered it by the major powers to negotiate its nuclear program because, as the U.S. President has warned, the margin of time for resolving the situation via the diplomatic route is diminishing.
IRAN ALSO PREPARING
Given the presence in the Persian Gulf of formidable air and sea squadrons of the U.S. and its Western allies, which includes a number of yankee aircraft carriers, plus overt Israeli test flights, Iran has warned of a preventive attack on its part if it perceives itself in imminent danger. Deputy Commander Mohammad Hejazi of the Iranian Armed Forces told the national Fars agency that if national interests are endangered, the country "will act without waiting for an enemy action."
This logic includes an Iranian navy blockade of the vital Strait of Hormuz which, with its habitual arrogance, the United States has defined as the "red line" which Tehran must not cross at the risk of exposing itself to a devastating strike.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, 15.5 to 16 millions barrels of oil a day pass through this maritime corridor, approximately 40% of the world’s maritime transportation of crude oil.
The resulting blow to the ailing Western economy during a time of various crises would be serious. Oil prices have already spiraled to more than $120 a barrel, virtually restrictive for any nation.
Moreover, the Islamic Republic’s ground, air and sea forces, on alert, are undertaking frequent maneuvers, while its military commands are announcing a number of advances in the country’s armaments and military technology.
Within this context is the creation of the Central Cyberspace Council, aimed at controlling this material, on the basis of a decree signed in early March by the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Jamenei, according to the Iranian Mehr agency.
In the same context, General Gholam Reza Jalali, director of the Iranian Passive Defense Organization, said that Tehran is to create a cybernetic army to counteract potential threats from the U.S. and other countries, in particular to its nuclear installations.
Jalali announced the installation of a cyber-commando to combat possible pirate attacks on the country’s networks, with the mission of "guarding, identifying and counterattacking in the eventof informatics threats to national infrastructure."
In the last two years, the dangerous Stuxnet and Duqu viruses were introduced into Iranian computers, an action which points to Tel Aviv and Washington, which would mean a first-time escalation to cyberspace war. Iran confirms that it was able to neutralize the two attacks using national software.
Experts also took note of the results of the trilateral summit between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran mid-February in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. In the final press conference with the Afghani and Iranian leaders, President Asif Ali Zardari openly affirmed that his country would not provide any support to U.S. forces if that country were to attack Iran, which is a significant setback for the White House. Washington’s relations with Islamabad and Kabul have been undermined by mistrust.
This was an important goal for Tehran which, in an open conflict with the Israeli regime could count on military backing from the Lebanese Hezbollah organization and the Palestinian movements of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Given Washington’s strong commitment to Israel’s security over the past 60 years, the key question analysts are posing is: What attitude will the United States adopt if Tel Aviv bombs Iranian installations and Tehran responds with a heavy counterattack? The cards are on the table.
Havana. March 22, 2012
by Lemi Tilahun, COHA Research Associate:
While the West continues to read Iran as a threat to world peace, the Middle Eastern nation aggressively seeks non-traditional friends and markets elsewhere in an often stress-driven attempt to prove that the country is not as isolated, feared and despised as many in Europe and the United States make it out to be. To fight the sanctions that have been imposed on them from the outside, its leaders furiously attempt to enter into new allegiances as an imperative to boost the Iranian economy and support the ruling government’s self-interest. Once labeled as a charter member of the ‘Axis of Evil’, Iran has recognized the survival strategy of forging new partnerships while retaining old ones.
In 2009, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Brazil, becoming the first Iranian head of state to visit it since the early 1960s. Iran’s involvement in Latin America is, without a doubt, widening and deepening. Many in the West, especially the United States see this as a security threat in their own backyard.
Since President Ahmadinejad came into power seven years ago, Iran has built six new embassies in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Uruguay. The emergence of these embassies shows the strength of Iran’s enhanced influence in the region. Prior to 2005, Iran had five embassies operating in Latin America; and in a span of seven years, they have managed to double that number.
Is Iran’s involvement in Latin America strategic, or is it simply a publicity stunt meant to prove Tehran’s diplomatic prowess or the new economy? The answer to this question is bound to vary, depending on the ideological orientation of the respondents. Venezuelan political power brokers would likely disagree with the notion that Iranian diplomacy in Latin America is mainly more than just a publicity stunt, citing that Iran and Venezuela’s important partnership as founding members of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). On the other hand however, the American perspective believes Iran’s actions appear to be a destabilizing threat to Washington’s diplomatic overtures in the US sphere of influence.
Venezuela and Iran have developed a unique friendship mainly based on mutual distrust towards the US embodied in Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s similar views on perceived abominating Western imperialism. The same is true for the Castro government in Cuba, which has welcomed, Ahmadinejad with open arms. Many argue that Iran’s involvement in the area is mainly political and lacks economic viability. However, one can easily recognize the benefits of a Tehran-friendly South America that refuses to comply with international economic sanctions imposed against Iran. Likewise, Iran’s burgeoning economic involvement in the region could potentially divert Latin American bound trade away from the US, which currently serves as the largest, or near largest trading partner for the vast majority of these countries.
On the political side of this discussion, Iran’s saber rattling rhetoric has been met with suspicion and skepticism in various parts of the world community. By targeting long-term alliances in Latin America, Iran is hedging its vulnerability to further isolation and global mistrust regarding its supposedly peaceful nuclear program. Tehran is not about to supersede Washington’s predominance in Latin America, but by encouraging anti-American sentiments amongst its newfound friends, Iran presumptively poses an irritating and complex foreign policy problem for the United States that by no means is readily solvable.
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, visitwww.coha.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
March 24, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
REFLECTIONS OF FIDEL
(Taken from CubaDebate)
THIS Reflection could be written today, tomorrow or any other day without any risk of being mistaken. Our species is confronting new problems. When I stated 20 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, that a species was in danger of extinction, I had fewer reasons than today to warn of a danger, one which could perhaps be perceived as 100 years distant. At that time, a few leaders of the most powerful countries were managing the world. They applauded my words out of mere courtesy and placidly continued digging our species’ grave.
It appeared that commonsense and order reigned on our planet. For some time, economic development supported by technology and science seemed to be the Alpha and Omega of human society.
Today, everything is much clearer. Profound truths have gradually come to light. Close to 200 states, supposedly independent, constitute, in theory, the political organization responsible for governing the destiny of the world.
Approximately 25,000 nuclear weapons in the hands of allied or antagonistic forces prepared to defend the changing order - out if self-interest or necessity - are virtually reducing to zero the rights of billions of people.
I will not disingenuously assign responsibility to Russia or China for the development of this type of weapons, in the wake of the monstrous slaughter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ordered by Truman after the death of Roosevelt.
Neither will I fall into the error of denying the holocaust, which signified the death of millions of children and adults, men and women, principally Jews, Romanies, Russians or people of other nationalities who were the victims of Nazism. For that reason the infamous policy of those denying the Palestinian people their right to exist is repugnant.
Does anyone think that the United States will be capable of acting with the independence that could preserve it from the inevitable disaster awaiting it?
Within a few weeks, the $40 million which President Obama committed himself to raise for his election campaign will only serve to demonstrate that his country’s currency is very devalued, and that the United States, with its unprecedented and growing public debt, approaching 20 trillion dollars, is living off the money it issues and not off what it produces. The rest of the world is paying for what they are squandering.
Neither does anybody believe that the Democratic candidate will be better or worse than his Republican opponents: whether they are called Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. Light years separate the three from figures as outstanding as Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King. It is really extraordinary to observe a nation so powerful technologically and a government so bereft of both ideas and moral values.
Iran does not possess nuclear weapons. It is accused of producing enriched uranium, which serves as fuel for generating energy or as a component for medical use. Like it or not, its possession or production is not equivalent to the production of nuclear weapons. Dozens of countries use enriched uranium as an energy source, but it cannot be used in the manufacture of a nuclear weapon without a prior, complex purification process.
However Israel, which with the help and cooperation of the United States manufactured nuclear weapons without informing or making itself accountable to anyone, today has hundreds of these weapons, without acknowledging possession of them. In order to prevent research development in neighboring Arab countries, it attacked and destroyed the reactors of Syria and Iran. It has also declared its intention to attack and destroy Iran’s nuclear fuel production facilities.
International politics have been revolving around this crucial issue in this complex and dangerous region of the world, where a major portion of the fuel which moves the world economy is produced.
The selective elimination of Iran’s most eminent scientists on the part of Israel and its NATO allies has become a practice which foments hatred and sentiments of revenge.
The Israeli government has openly declared its intention to attack the enriched uranium production plant in Iran, and the government of the United States has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in manufacturing a bomb for that purpose.
On March 16, 2012, Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham published an article revealing that "A top U.S. Air Force general has described the biggest conventional warhead – the 30,000-pound bunkerbuster bomb – as ‘great’ for a military strike on Iran.
"Such glib comment about a massive killing device comes in the same week that U.S. President Barack Obama appeared to caution against ‘loose talk’ about war in the Persian Gulf.
"…’The massive ordnance penetrator [MOP] is a great weapon,’ said Lieutenant General Herbert Carlisle, the U.S. Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, who added that the bomb would likely be used in any attack on Iran ordered by Washington.
"The MOP also referred to as The Mother of All Bombs is designed to drill through 200 feet of reinforced concrete before detonating its massive warhead. It is believed to be the biggest conventional, non-nuclear, weapon in the American arsenal.
"The Pentagon is planning on a process of extensive destruction of Iran’s infrastructure and mass civilian casualties through the combined use of tactical nukes and monster conventional mushroom cloud bombs, including the MOAB and the larger GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which surpasses the MOAB in terms of explosive capacity.
The MOP is described as "a powerful new bomb aimed squarely at the underground nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea. The gargantuan bomb—longer than 11 persons standing shoulder-to-shoulder or more than 20 feet base to nose—"
I beg readers to forgive me for this tortuous military jargon.
As can be noted, such calculations are based on the assumption that the Iranian combatants, which include millions of men and women known for their religious commitment and traditions of struggle, will surrender without firing a shot.
Recently, over a period of just three weeks, Iranians have seen how United States soldiers occupying Afghanistan have urinated on the bodies of murdered Afghans, burned copies of the Koran and killed more than 15 defenseless citizens.
Imagine United States forces dropping monstrous bombs, capable of penetrating 60 meters of cement, on industrial facilities. Never before has such an adventure been conceived.
Not another word is needed to comprehend the seriousness of such a policy. Following this path, our species will be led inexorably toward disaster. If we do not learn to comprehend, we will never learn to survive.
As far as I am concerned, I do not harbor the slightest doubt that the United States is about to commit, and lead the world toward, the greatest error in its history.
Fidel Castro Ruz
March 21, 2012
Translated by Granma International
Thursday, March 22, 2012
...taking a look at the current state of the polity and recent events that have occurred in The Bahamas... it leaves one to wonder whether we the Bahamian people have a united front to serve our country toward a common loftier goal
A common loftier goal
Arinthia S. Komolafe
Nassau, The Bahamas
The words of our national anthem written by the late Timothy Gibson urge us as Bahamians to march together to a common loftier goal. The importance of a common purpose to nation building is further highlighted in the words of our national pledge which states, “I pledge my allegiance to the flag and to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for which it stands one people united in love and service.” However, taking a look at the current state of our polity and recent events that have occurred in our country, it leaves one to wonder whether the Bahamian people have a united front to serve our country toward a common loftier goal.
A lot has been said about the recent documentary entitled “Caribbean Crime Wave”, produced by Australian reporter Mark Lazaredes, which seeks to highlight the crime problem that is spiralling out of control in The Bahamas. The aforesaid documentary seems to create the impression that we are a nation under siege. Many Bahamians who viewed the documentary were incensed that our beloved nation was portrayed and characterized in such a manner for the entire world to see. In a country that is heavily dependent upon the tourism and financial services industries, it is an understatement to say that the documentary represents unsolicited bad publicity for The Bahamas in the midst of an already challenging economy.
While it is undeniable that crime and the fear of crime have taken hold of our nation, it does not seem to justify the characterization of The Bahamas as a nation under siege. The everyday Bahamian citizen and residents as well as the millions of tourists who grace our shores annually are still able to enjoy to a great extent the freedom of movement and enjoyment in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, we are experiencing a record number of murders, break-ins, robberies and crimes against persons. It also seems fair to state that the government could address the issue of crime in a more significant manner and should have taken a more rigorous approach toward crime.
What are we doing to address the problem?
The Bahamas seems to have become a nation that has traded its moral and spiritual values for materialism, power, vanity and self-promotion. The reality is that sectors of our society and stakeholders such as parents, the church, the community, civic organizations and the government are failing us daily by not making a concerted effort to address our moral and social issues and find plausible solutions. More detrimental to the Bahamian society is the fact that our politics over the years has done very little to unite us as a people, but rather continues to encourage a “divide and rule” mentality among our people. It was reported that there have been attacks against supporters of both major political parties. However, it is noteworthy and encouraging to state that the leaders of the Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) have openly condemned this unruly behavior and urged their supporters to act in a civil manner.
How did we find ourselves at this point? We have always prided ourselves on being a nation that has a long history of stable democracy and civil governance. The recent behavior of our politicians leaves little to be desired by those of us who stand by on the sidelines and witness the continuous mudslinging and personal attacks to the gratification of political crowds who in many cases have been blinded beyond party lines. It must always be remembered that regardless of our political persuasion, ideology or affiliation, we are first and foremost Bahamians. The inability of our leaders to address issues that are plaguing our nation sets a poor example for the citizenry of our country. It presents the “don’t do what I do, but do what I say” philosophy that so many parents raise their children by. How can a politician expect to be taken seriously as an advocate of conflict resolution when he/she is supposedly guilty of the same offense? The same question can be directed toward parents and leaders of the aforementioned sectors of society who seem in some cases to lead a double standard life. It must be emphasized that children and people in general follow the actions of those who preside over them rather than listen to their words or rhetoric. It is imperative that we set the right example for those that we lead.
Paradigm shift needed
It is difficult for our nation to arrive at non-partisan solutions to the myriad of issues that plague our nation without a paradigm shift by our political leaders. The conception seems to be that crime starts and stops with murder, hence the cry for the death penalty each time one of our fellow citizens falls victim to murder. It appears that the documentary among other things focused upon the fact that The Bahamas because of its judicial ties to the United Kingdom has been prohibited from enforcing the death penalty. However, can it really be said that the death penalty will solve our problems? It appears that our problems are far greater than imposing the ultimate punishment for what is considered arguably the most unacceptable crime – that is, murder.
It must be emphasized that crime includes all forms of illegal activity. Therefore, if we take an introspective look at ourselves, we will find that the first step to addressing the criminal element in this country is to adjust ourselves accordingly. The saying that “we must become the change that we seek” is true now more than ever. We must refrain from nurturing a culture of lawlessness in our society that continues to erode the moral and spiritual fabric of our nation.
Political, civic, business and religious leaders must regain their focus and although not prohibited from following or supporting the political party of their choice, they must ensure that they demonstrate that their first allegiance is to our common loftier goal. The Bahamas must come first at all times and above all individual ambitions. This common loftier goal comes with the mentality of being our brothers’ keepers and truly building our nation until the road we trod leads unto our God. It is only then will we be able to move foward, upward, onward, together and our Bahamaland can truly march on.
• Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at: email@example.com
Mar 22, 2012
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
March 13, 1979, was a day in Grenadian history we must never forget, and whatever happened before and after that day must be discussed if we want to move forward and accept democracy and individual freedom.
However, it is unfair and very disrespectful for persons of influence due to their professional status within society to tell us that we must focus only about the good things of the revolution. Persons who are trying to give us such an advice do not seem to understand and respect human beings feelings.
They fail to realise that the March 13, 1979, revolution was successful because oppressed Grenadians were able to unite together because they shared the same human feelings on that day. The oppressed Grenadians came out without fear and overthrew the Gairy regime.
The evil deeds of Gairy’s regime were what the leaders of the revolution preached against and used as evidence against Gairy, to gain support from the Grenadian masses throughout the period of the revolution. The good things that Gairy did were not mentioned by the them, therefore it is very selfish and disrespectful for any Grenadian whosever they are, to be that boldfaced to tell us that we must focus on the positive side of the revolution and try to suppress our memories of the negative events.
The Grenadian revolution did not belong to one group of people. It was supposed to be a people’s revolution, and if some people feel that the revolution did injustice to them, they should have a right to give their side of the story.
Personally, as a Grenadian I can say that the revolution was like the old English Language nursery rhyme, Solomon Grundy, who was born on a Sunday and buried on a Saturday. The leaders of the revolution were intellectuals who wanted to lead the people, but refused to listen to the voice of the people.
I can say that there were some revolutionaries who were right to show their disapproval of what was going on within the revolution, but their approach was wrong, because they went about the whole process the wrong way, trying to remedy the situation through violence.
I can say that the leaders of the revolution were happy and ready to use brute force against disgruntled revolutionaries who picked up arms to fight against them, because the leaders of the revolution were always scared of former supporters who did not say too much and just went about their daily life of survival.
Additionally, I can say that the revolution did not allow influential persons with a strong rural base to represent the rural communities in the interest of rural people. However, I know that my critics will say that I am talking rubbish and they will make excuses and say that Bernard Coard and Unison Whiteman were born in rural parts of Grenada.
But the fact is that Bernard Coard and Unison Whiteman became urbanised at an early age, because they did not live most of their lives in the rural parts of the country where they were born. They spent most of their years in St George’s and in foreign countries where they went to school and work for some time as professionals.
Those among us who want to glorify the revolution must also glorify Eric Gairy and his GULP party regime too, if they want to avoid talking about our brutal political past. Both regimes had similar political culture of doing good and bad things that left a major impact on the Grenadian society.
Grenada is supposed to be a Westminster democracy, but unfortunately, up to this present time in our history, we are still struggling to enjoy media freedom. Some of our journalists continue to play politics with the social media privilege that they have in their domain. Those of us who have an opinion that is not politically in line with what those mini media lords want to hear are despised and sometimes they go as far as warning us not to make any comments on their internet websites.
Sometimes we try to blame Eric Gairy as the genesis of political oppression in Grenada, but based on my personal experience within Grenadian political culture, it seems as though the majority of Grenadians do not like opposition. Whenever they have the privilege to control important institutions, they become oppressors, and when they fall to disgrace, those who take their place continue the legacy of oppression.
Therefore, in order for us to create a healthy functioning democracy we must end that cycle of ignorance so that the next generation can take Grenada to the next level. As long as we keep trying to avoid addressing the evils of our political past, we are creating a climate to repeat the same old violent political culture again.
Young people must be encouraged to ask questions about the revolution and they must enjoy the freedom to listen the stories of what took place, and those who were involved in the process must give the correct answers. Our young people should have the right to get the right answers from the various groups that were involved in the revolution.
However, I personally do not believe that any one of the groups involved in the fight and strife during the revolution period want to tell the Grenadian people the true story. And as long as they continue to keep their mouths shut, they should avoid trying to be so boldfaced and telling us to glorify the revolution.
I believe that the truth must reveal, if we want to discuss that very important period in our history. Therefore, to glorify the Grenada revolution is a continuation of abuse.
March 22, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The debate on the Freedom of Information Act in The Bahamas: ..."This freedom of information law has the potential to dispel fears about secret deals, cronyism, personal favours, preferential contracts, and other perversions of the public interest for private gain." ...according to Environment Minister Earl Deveaux in his contribution in the Bahamian House of Assembly
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
OPENING the debate on the Freedom of Information Act, Environment Minister Earl Deveaux said while the bill increases the democratic process, he cautioned against the common practice of using the media, in particular social media, to spread propaganda.
During his contribution in the House of Assembly yesterday, Mr Deveaux singled out websites such as Bahamasuncensored and Bahamas Press, claiming that those and other similar sites lack journalistic decency.
He said: "The outright attempts at character and political assassination, which have come to be commonplace in our political discourse, are a danger to our way of life."
Mr Deveaux said his own personal experience illustrates the importance of nurturing a "culture of decency in journalism."
"I can cite many examples, but the efforts by some aspiring candidates seeking fame and their friends broadcast and social media who seek to destroy my character, hard earned reputation, and that of my wife stand out in my mind as individuals who will not use self imposed standards of ethics, decency or truth to deter them from gaining their political end or serving their paymasters.
"They will live to regret their behaviour," he said.
Mr Deveaux said the act seeks to reinforce and give further effect to the fundamental principles underlying the system of a Constitutional Democracy, including increasing governmental accountability, transparency and public participation in national decisions.
This is accomplished, he said by granting the public access to records held by public authorities, subject to various exemptions. Exemptions will be used to ensure public accountability while maintaining essential confidentiality in necessary or sensitive matters involving the government.
Mr Deveaux added that the act provides an opportunity for the general public to gain insight into how the government functions and how money is spent.
"This freedom of information law has the potential to dispel fears about secret deals, cronyism, personal favours, preferential contracts, and other perversions of the public interest for private gain," he said.
While urging journalists and civic leaders to use the Freedom of Information Act properly, Mr Deveaux said he also encourages civil servants and ministers to be open with the public, as they have a right to know what is being done on their behalf by their representatives.
March 20, 2012
Monday, March 19, 2012
by W. Alex Sanchez, Research Fellow, and Lynn Tu, Research Associate, of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs:
China’s projection of influence in some previously unfamiliar regions of the world continues to grow, that much is clear. When it comes to Latin America and the Caribbean, Beijing has strengthened its ties, particularly by means of comprehensive trade relations, with countries like Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. This has been done not only to secure non-traditional trading partners and commodity sources like oil and soybeans, but also to corner established markets for its many traditional exports. China’s relationship with the Caribbean is complex, as this region is particularly important to Beijing’s foreign policy goals regarding Taiwan, which has some of its greatest supporters there. Several Caribbean states currently recognize Taiwan as an independent republic, instead of maintaining the “one-China” position that has been endorsed by the mainland government.
Investment and Development
Unsurprisingly, China has been able to establish strong economic ties abroad, particularly in the developing world, by means of a series of investment deals. These include some major initiatives in the Caribbean in recent years.
In September 2011, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu visited Jamaica to meet with Governor-General Patrick Allen and Prime Minister Bruce Golding. While there, Hui put forward a five-point proposal for intensifying bilateral relations. The goals outlined by both sides included: promoting high-level exchanges to deepen mutual political trust, strengthening economic and trade cooperation, improving agricultural cooperation, expanding people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and promoting coordination in international affairs. Also during the visit, Hui signed two separate agreements for grants valued jointly at RMB 21 million (USD 3.2 million), as well as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on agricultural cooperation. In November 2011, the Jamaican government approved a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the Chinese island of Macao. According to a high-ranking Jamaican official, Arthur Williams, the agreement will facilitate the effective exchange of tax information between Jamaican tax authorities and their counterparts in Macao.
Regarding ALBA member Dominica, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, publicly praised his country’s relationship with Beijing in October 2011. Skerrit commented that “China has demonstrated to all of us its sincerity and willingness to assist us in time of need [sic] and we will thank them profusely for that kind of assistance.” This statement was in reference to Chinese investments in resettlement projects to aid the citizens of Dominica that were affected by floods on its west coast that year. Other Chinese projects on the island include the construction of the Dominica State College, the State House, and a housing program, under a USD 14 million loan agreement.
In Guyana, President Bharrat Jagdeo told the Caribbean Community back in September 2011 that the entire bloc should make efforts to deepen their relations with China. The head of state declared during the two-day China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum that “in the last 10 years, China’s exports have consistently accounted for more than 70 per cent of Dominica’s total trade. In 2008, 93 per cent of Caribbean-China trade consisted of Beijing’s exports to the region. The region itself exported significantly (over US$60 million in goods) to China in that year.” China has exhibited a growing demand for the region’s raw materials, including gas and asphalt from Trinidad and Tobago, and timber, bauxite, and other minerals from Guyana. In December 2011, Florida International University’s Applied Research Center published a Findings Report entitled “Guyanese Strategic Culture: Leaders Leveraging Landscapes” by renowned Caribbean expert Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, which highlighted how Beijing has a great interest in Guyana’s uranium reserves (p. 9). In 2011, Georgetown and Beijing signed a framework agreement for the Amaila Falls Hydropower project.
During the aforementioned China-Caribbean forum last September, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan reportedly pledged up to USD 1 billion in preferential loans to support the local economic development of Caribbean countries. In addition, Vice Premier Wang also met with Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and stated that “China encourages its businesses to invest in Trinidad and Tobago with the win-win objectives of mutual benefit,” and an inter-governmental agreement between the two governments that was signed at the end of their meeting.
Another country that has benefited from Chinese investment is Antigua and Barbuda. In January 2011, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported that Beijing will provide USD 45 million to build a new terminal at the V.C. Bird International Airport, which will take three years to complete. A delegation of the Chinese government was sent to the Caribbean state to sign an agreement that finalized this investment deal. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer used the visit “to re-state his country’s ‘determination to remain a true friend of the People’s Republic of China.’” One member of the Chinese delegation that visited Antigua was State Councilor Liu Yandong, who remarked that “since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Antigua and Barbuda on Jan. 1, 1983, the two countries’ cooperation [has] developed in a sustainable and stable way.” In November 2011, a 20-member delegation from China’s National People’s Congress visited the island, which again included “officials from the country’s Standing Committee and a member of the NPC’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.” The delegation met with Prime Minister Spencer and visited local sites like Nelson’s Dockyard, and signed cooperation agreements.
Finally, in a January finding by the Associated Press’ Jeff Todd, he explains how China’s state-owned Export-Import Bank has agreed to finance a new port and bridge in the Bahamas’ northern island of Abaco. Chinese financial aid for both projects will consist of a USD 41 million loan, of which USD 33 million will be used for a thirty-five acre port, while the rest will be used to build the Little Abaco Bridge, which “will allow the government to remove the causeway connecting Great and Little Abaco as well as restore natural flow to the mangrove forest and other natural habitat in the area,” according to Environment Minister Earl Deveaux.
Diplomatic Support and Cooperation
Aside from developing an economic presence, China also has shown its diplomatic support, as well as sympathy, for Latin American and Caribbean initiatives, particularly those that are trying to detach regional nations from Washington’s diplomatic sphere of influence. For example, in December 2011, Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulated Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Sebastián Piñera of Chile on the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, reported that “Hu said that the establishment of CELAC represents a major milestone in regional integration and that China appreciates the positive role of Latin American and Caribbean countries in international and regional affairs.” As He Li explains in a 2005 article entitled “Rivalry between Taiwan and the PRC in Latin America”  Beijing also “wants to use the Third World to construct a multi-polar world based on China’s terms. Since the end of the cold war, Beijing wishes to see changes in the global balance of power, and to do so requires a network of allies from the Third World, including those from Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Beijing has also improved relations with a number of Caribbean nations outside the realm of trade and investment. In October 2011, China pledged military assistance worth USD 1.1 million to the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF). JDF Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson stated that the “allotment that has been apportioned, and discussions over the next few months with members of the Chinese government, and the People’s Liberation Army, will determine how best it will be spent.”
As part of a series of regional diplomatic initiatives last November, Prime Minister of Guyana Samuel Hinds received the “Medal of China –Latin America Friendship.” The award was bestowed by a delegation of the Chinese Peoples’ Association for Friendship with Peoples from Foreign Countries (CPAFPFFC) that was visiting the area at the time. Additionally, Premier Wen Jiabao had the patience to describe Barbados as a “good friend” and an “important partner” to China, which is logical since the country supports the “one China” policy. This statement took place during a visit of Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who called Beijing a “reliable partner.” These non-earth-shaking events are understandable when one is aware of the tentacles of Beijing’s “One China” policy and its search for reliable partners throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Lastly, it is important to note that China has sent security personnel to Haiti as part of its participation in the controversial United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Groups like the Haitian Action website have been critical of the contingent that has been serving in the UN mission since 2004, stating that
“They were accused of involvement along with Brazilian UN forces in a week-long siege of the community of Bel Air in June 2005. After that operation, the Haitian police had burned down more than twelve homes in the area and more than 30 people were reportedly gunned down in the panic that ensued. The Chinese were also accused by members of Aristide’s Lavalas movement of taking video and photographs during peaceful demonstrations that were later used to persecute them for their political stance.”
According to MINUSTAH’s website, four Chinese nationals working for the UN police were tragically killed during the January 12, 2010, earthquake.
Then again, there have been several diplomatic incidents between China and Caribbean states, particularly in Haiti. Writing for the Brown Journal of World Affairs in a 2006 article, University of Miami professor June Dreyer explained that: “in 1996, Beijing, angry because the vice president of Taiwan had been invited to Rene Preval’s presidential inauguration, threatened to use its veto in the United Nations Security Council to end a UN peacekeeping operation in Haiti.”
Beijing vs. Taipei
Certainly a critical aspect regarding the extent of Chinese interests in the Caribbean, as previously has been reflected upon, is Beijing’s interest for Caribbean islands to adopt mainland China’s negative stance on Taiwan. In the past few years, China has taken an aggressive approach in attempting to dissuade Taipei’s ability to invest in this region. Since eleven out of twenty-three of Taiwan’s surviving diplomatic relationships can be found within the Greater Caribbean, it is of distinct importance for China to ensure that it maintains robust ties with Latin American and Caribbean countries for political reasons, while also managing to limit Taipei’s involvement in the region. Without including the Central American states, the Caribbean nations that currently recognize Taiwan are the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, as well as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Currently, the longstanding diplomatic competition between the two Chinas seems to be cooling down, due to incumbent Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou being re-elected. It seems clear that President Ma wants to promote a peaceful path towards cross-strait relations development, and hence the subtle tug-of-war over diplomatic recognition seems, at least for the time being, to be coming to an end.
Taiwan’s Victories and Losses
The diplomatic battle described as “Money Diplomacy” being Beijing and Taipei usually encapsulates investment and lending, development aid, technical assistance, and academic cooperation. Taipei sees such initiatives as paramount and aims to maintain it via investment and economic aid initiatives, though there has been concern in the past that Santo Domingo may terminate its recognition of Taiwan. In October 2010, the Bank of China and China’s Foreign Trade Bank stated they would extend USD 462 million in financing for an exclusive tourism complex in Punta Perla in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic. In response, James Chang, a spokesman for the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that “our embassy will closely monitor the situation. However, the Republic of China does not oppose trade relations between the private sectors of our allies and those in China.” Another recent discussion between Taiwan and one of its Caribbean allies is Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In mid-February, Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, met with Taiwanese officials over the construction of the Caribbean country’s international airport and other issues. The airport is scheduled for completion in 2013 and is largely dependent on foreign investment; Taiwan signed a MoU in 2006 for a $15 million grant and a $10 million soft loan.
Taiwan lost an ally last decade when the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, decided to sever relations with Taiwan in favor of China last decade. Writing for NACLA’s Report on the Americas, Professor Diana Thorburn, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, explained that the Taiwan-China issue had become an election issue in 2005. Thorburn explains that the issue “overshadowed” the general elections and that “Taiwanese flags adorned the homes of opposition supporters.” A March 2004 BBC report explained that, at the time, “China had agreed to give Dominica more than $100 million in aid over the next five years. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, Eugene Chien, condemned what he called China’s dollar diplomacy in so aggressively wooing away Dominica. He said it was a huge sum for a country with just 70,000 people.”
In addition, Taiwan is currently at odds with Grenada, as the Caribbean government seems to be currently unable to pay a loan owed by St Georges after the closure of Maurice Bishop International Airport. Grenada recognized Taiwan until 2005, when the Caribbean state had a crippling debt and took Beijing’s financial aid to switch diplomatic recognition. A March 5 report by Ezra Fieser in the Christian Science Monitor explains that “seven years later, playing up to China’s game of dollar diplomacy has come back to haunt Grenada. Taiwan is now calling in loans it made when the countries were diplomatic allies.”
At least, Taiwan can rest assured that its relations with Saint Lucia remain in good standing. In January of this year, there were rumors that Castries would sever relations with Taipei after a new government came to power last November. A CaribDirect report explains that “Kenny Anthony, the island nation’s new prime minister, had previously accused Taiwan’s Ambassador Tom Chou of influencing St Lucia’s election by supporting the then-ruling United Workers Party (UWP) and added he would review the diplomatic relations with Taiwan after taking power.” However, the new Prime Minister, member of the Labour Party, reverted the island’s policy after coming to power and has sustained relations with Taipei. Saint Lucia is one of those countries which has switched its recognition back to Taipei from Beijing in the past. It first established relations with Taiwan in 1984, switched to recognizing China in 1997 and then switched back to Taiwan in 2007.
In order to foster more trade, between Taiwan and the Caribbean, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) sent a trade mission to Saint Lucia and Puerto Rico last October to carry out meetings and exhibitions. In a press release at the time, TAITRA explained that the mission would “[bring] the latest products as well as new opportunities for business and trade. The delegation comprises 6 dynamic enterprises representing various industries, including industrial machinery, electronics, hardware, toys, and foods.”
Finally, Taiwan has been very active in the reconstruction efforts in Haiti after the devastating January 2010 earthquake that struck the Caribbean state. In February 2012, Food for the Poor, the largest charitable organization in the United Sates, publicly praised Taipei’s post-disaster efforts, going as far as inviting Ray Mou, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami, to take part in a charity dinner that would raise funds to build villages in Haiti.
Chinese Migration: A Topic Not Often Discussed
There is an issue regarding Chinese presence in the Caribbean that is relatively under-studied, and that is Chinese migration to these island states. Large segments of the Chinese population have moved, lived, and flourished throughout the world, and the Caribbean is no exception. Unfortunately, not much has been written about Chinese migration to the Caribbean; hence more in-depth field research is needed in order to begin building a much more complete picture of the situation in the region.
In an interview with COHA, a Puerto Rican lawyer who has researched Chinese migration patterns explained that “there was little migration to the island in the 19th century, particularly compared to the migration that occurred in the 1990s and early years of this century.” According to the 2010 U.S, census, there are around 2,000 individuals who regard themselves as Chinese in Puerto Rico, but Bu Dey Chen (who goes as Carlos Chao), a Chinese government official in Puerto Rico, has stated that the number is closer to 6,000. The aforementioned lawyer explained that the Chinese community is a tight nit group so not much is reported about them. In any case, Chinese migrants to the island have, for the most part, managed to flourish, opening their own restaurants and businesses, quickly becoming part of the upper middle class. There are also professors of Chinese descent in institutes of higher learning like the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez.
An important academic text that has researched this issue is The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean (2009), edited by Walton Lok Lai and Tan Chee-Beng. This important research project includes chapters that touch on Sinophobia in the late 19th century/early 20th century in the Americas and the Chinese in Central America. An interesting chapter of the edited volume was authored by Kathleen Lopez and discussed the Chinese in Cuba; the article starts with explaining how each June 3rd, elderly Cubans and diplomats from the PRC meet in the Regla port to commemorate the arrival of the first shipload of 200 Chinese laborers in 1847 (p.211). The article gives a very complete picture of the migration waves that have settled in Cuba, particularly in Havana.
Another academic text that touches on this issue is a 2008 piece by Shin Yamamoto, a professor of Yoccachi University in Japan. In his analysis, the academic explains that
“the Chinese community is counted as one of the three major races in the Caribbean alongside Africans and East Indians because of their economic power. Many chain restaurants or film developing stores are run or owned by Chinese; the youngsters in Jamaica, respectfully or just from their desire to get money or bottles of Coke, call them ‘Sir Chin’ or ‘Miss Chin.”
Yamamoto highlights the case of Sean Paul, a famous Jamaican reggae artist, who is an example of intercultural relations in the Caribbean. The artist’s mother is Chinese Jamaican and his father is Portuguese Jamaican.
Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, understanding the Chinese diaspora in the Caribbean and how well it has merged with local cultures over the years is a field that has to be researched in greater depth. One academic that has carried out important research on the topic is Lok Siu, an Associate Professor at the University of Austin, that co-edited (with Rachel Parenas) Asian Diasporas: New Formations, New Conceptions.
A September 2011 article in the Jamaican Observer explains, according to an official of the European Delegation in Trinidad and Tobago, that the Caribbean attracts a large number of illegal immigrants from China, among other poor countries. The article quotes the Charge d’Affaires at the European Delegation in Trinidad and Tobago, Stelios Christopoulos, as saying that “very little data is available to establish the in and outflow of people from and to Caribbean countries. From what we do know however, the Caribbean has one of the largest diasporic communities in the world, in proportion to the population.”
The Caribbean states, due to their lack of abundance of supply of natural resources, and its scant potential for economic growth, and the controversial nature of Taiwan’s recognition, means that many regional states can expect to be actively courted by Beijing and Taipei simultaneously . Currently, a number of regional governments recognize Taiwan as an independent state, but this could certainly change in the future, particularly if China threatens to take its business elsewhere unless these nations alter their stance to reflect the one-China policy. The issue of Chinese migration to the Caribbean, both historical and current, is an important topic which is worthy of further research, particularly as Chinese laborers continue to permanently relocate to the Caribbean. In any case, the speed of globalization means that the Caribbean, so geographically distant from Asia, nevertheless is becoming a very important front in the struggle for political influence, financial investments, as well as an important component of the struggle over state recognition dispute between China and Taiwan.
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March 19, 2012