Monday, July 30, 2012

Jamaica: ...Time to break the link between politics and criminality

By Alando Terrelonge, Jamaica Gleaner Guest Columnist:



Claudie Massop, Bucky Marshall, Jim Brown, 'Bulbie' Bennett and 'Dudus' Coke represent but a few of the names and faces of the Jamaican political landscape over the decades. Their reputed allegiance to either of the two major political parties symbolised the somewhat symbiotic relationship between politics and power on the one hand, and crime and corruption on the other.


The level of crime and corruption often used to win political power, as well as to carve out fiefdoms to be ruled by the self-styled gods, has left many Jamaicans dead, others homeless and has caused some to flee our beloved nation.

In this our 50th year of political Independence, it is important that as a nation, we never forget that while some of these individuals were used as pawns by politicians in their quest to amass and safeguard power, others rose above their political fathers to take their place in the pantheon of our political history as gods among men.

As a people, we should, however, never accept the marriage between politics and crime, and the level of violence that is birthed by the style of politicking practised in Jamaica. Following the death of Bulbie in October 2005, Superintendent Wade, commanding officer for St Catherine North, stated unequivocally that there were "persons who are fully elected members" of the PNP who supported his criminal activities, and those of his gang in Spanish Town.

Dr Peter Phillips, a vice-president of the ruling PNP and then minister of national security, indicated that it was undesirable for any member of any political party to be connected with criminals.

SIMILAR CONCERNS

The Dudus saga heralded similar concerns about the link between political parties and the underworld. The perceived protection offered to Dudus by the JLP Government against extradition to the USA was the precursor of a diplomatic impasse between Jamaica and the US, the deaths of at least 73 residents of West Kingston, an enquiry that cost taxpayers millions of dollars, the resignation of a prime minister, and, some would say, the ultimate defeat of the JLP at the polls in December 2011.

The examples of the unfortunately enriching relationship between politics and criminality are numerous. One might even posit the view that behind the political ascendancy of many of our politicians over the last 50 years, there have been a plethora of political activists and donors with questionable characters. For some donors, though not associated with violence, are themselves kingpins of their own white-collar criminal enterprises. The recent donations of David Smith to both political parties is but one example of businessmen with dubious business practices who align themselves to either or both political parties.

More fatal to our political system are the occasions when those elected to hold political office are themselves adjudged criminals and herded to prison. The arrests of Michael Troupe and Sylvan Reid and the allegations of their involvement in transnational crimes cannot narrowly be viewed as causing major embarrassment to the PNP. Rather, the overarching effect is that it shames the entire nation and has dire implications on our international commitments to cull corruption and move towards greater transparency.

In 2011, Jamaica was ranked 86 out of 183 countries by Transparency International with a score of 3.3 out of 10 on their global corruption perceptions index. It was also the year of the Manatt enquiry and the conviction and sentencing of David Smith on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.

PARTIES flip-flopping

So far, 2012 has seen both major political parties flip-flopping as to whether they received political funding from Smith, or the amount of any such donations; and Troupe's and Reid's arrest and alleged involvement in an international lottery scam; and more delays in the Kern Spencer trial. These incidences have marred our political landscape and it remains to be seen how much of an adverse effect they will have on Jamaica's future corruption ratings.

For Jamaica to truly be on a mission to separate the link between politics and crime, it is imperative that we chart a course towards greater transparency. It cannot be business as usual and it behoves the future of our political institutions over the next 50 years that we change the way politicking is practised.

For us to rid ourselves of the international perceptions that Jamaica is a politically corrupt nation, we must put an end to the usual rhetoric and finally legislate campaign financing. Not only should the names of donors be made public, but the amounts and source of their funds must also be disclosed. Additionally, their ties to government and party members, both in their private and professional capacity must also be divulged to guard against potential conflicts of interest and maintain a high level of integrity in our political process.

Further, this new mission should also see the formation of a non-partisan National Political Integrity Committee, similar to the PNP's internal integrity committee but with far greater powers. The primary function of this body would be to investigate the business practices and possible criminal associations of those who offer themselves to public service.

Alando Terrelonge is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and alando.terrelonge@btalawjm.com.

July 29, 2012 

Jamaica Gleaner 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

...there is no one in Bahamian politics quite like Hubert Ingraham

Why The Plp Is Still Afraid Of Hubert Ingraham



By PACO NUNEZ
Tribune News Editor

Nassau, The Bahamas


LOVE or hate him, honest people have to admit there is no one in Bahamian politics quite like Hubert Ingraham.

Mr Ingraham has been called a polarising figure, portrayed by his supporters as the country’s saviour, by his opponents as its destroyer.

But leaving the value judgments for another day, one thing is for certain – in terms of sheer ability to capture the public imagination and seize control of the national debate, the former Prime Minister remains unmatched.

True enough, his predecessor Sir Lynden Pindling had this quality in abundance, and well understood its political value.

But Mr Ingraham stands alone in this regard today, as he proved yet again last Thursday following his official resignation from the House of Assembly.

Clever, pithy, trenchant as ever, he delivered a masterful performance of the kind that had been conspicuous by its absence over the last three months.

Mr Ingraham took the government to task on a number of issues – the claims of victimisation, the attempt to buy back BTC, the exclusion of casinos from the gambling referendum – all of which made headlines the next morning.

The content was not necessarily new, the FNM having already having touched on most of these points – the difference was who it was coming from, and how it was delivered.

Even in the act of departing from the limelight, Mr Ingraham stole the show.

After watching the press conference, a foreigner not long in the Bahamas told me Mr Ingraham “made it seem obvious he is still running the FNM.”

He added: “Actually, it gave the impression that he is still running the country.”

The first observation is not new. For years it has been remarked that whenever Mr Ingraham decided to retire, the FNM would struggle to emerge from beneath his formidable shadow.

Judging from the PLP’s response to Thursday, the second observation seems equally astute.

Mr Ingraham had hardly ceased speaking before the governing party went in to all-out defence mode.

They immediately issued a scathing response.

Then Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder accused Mr Ingraham of “manipulating” the system to take advantage of the Bahamian people.

Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell was “deeply shocked” by Mr Ingraham’s comments.

Meanwhile, party operatives trolled the internet, searching for Ingraham press conference stories so they could add the official PLP spin to the “comments” section.

The public even heard from PLP chairman Bradley Roberts, who from his hospital bed, issued a statement decrying Mr Ingraham’s “nerve” and urging him to go “quietly into the sunset.”

The question is, why?

Why does the governing party of the Bahamas, which came to office by virtue of a landslide victory, feel the need to respond with such vehemence and force to a man who not only has ceased to be in charge, but is on the way out of front-line politics altogether?

Surely they realise that his stealing the show last week reflected poorly on their current opponents, the post-Ingraham FNM. Why not let him continue to speak?

I believe the PLP react as they do to Mr Ingraham by pure reflex, because deep down they know he has something which, try as they might, they cannot seem to match.

As one commentator on www.tribune242.com pointed out: If Mr Ingraham “says boo, all you PLPs run to The Tribune to comment” – whereas Prime

Minister Christie “could be on the news every night and be in the paper every day, and not a peep...”

The PLP is fond of accusing everyone in the media of being in love with Mr Ingraham, but this is most unfair.

For a journalist, there is perhaps no one more daunting, intimidating even down-right unpleasant to deal with than the former prime minister. No one is more ruthless in the face of a carelessly formulated question, no one more impatient.

No, Mr Ingraham gets media attention, simply because he sells. Because like him or not, everyone wants to hear what he has to say.

Even in defeat, Hubert Ingraham remains a “must-read” – something no one in the PLP can boast of, even in victory.

This quite obviously rankles governing party members no end, and they cannot resist rising to the bait every time, despite the deep insecurity it betrays.

The PLP is no doubt well aware of this state of affairs, which is why they want Mr Ingraham to go away so badly.

They may have beaten him, but they did so without matching him in terms of personal celebrity, and it obviously hurts.

Many senior PLPs have called Mr Ingraham’s brand of “Big Man” politics and the cult of personality which surrounds him unhealthy for the Bahamas.

They say mature democracies need a government comprised of equals, the Prime Minister merely the first among them.

But one can’t help getting the feeling some of them are just jealous, secretly wishing they could do that.

Be that as it may, the question for the rest of us is: What does it mean for Bahamian society that for the first time ever, no larger-than-life political figure remains on the scene?

Will another such character emerge, or will Mr Ingraham’s straight talking, “whether you like it or not” style, to be replaced by a confederacy of wafflers and excuse makers?

Is the only alternative to a cult of personality, the tyranny of the mediocre?

Thus far, it would seem so.

As discussed in an earlier Insight, the PLP’s approach to governance to date would best be described as the “We’ll do exactly what we criticised others for doing, and justify it by pointing out they did it first” method.

This, and a blatantly obvious rewards for supporters scheme, including the giving of jobs and paid board appointments to friends, family members and associates, regardless of their qualifications.

Urban Renewal may well turn out to be a great idea – I sincerely hope it does – but the scheme is already surrounded by such an impenetrable fog of gratuitous PR and vague, wish-fulfilment type promises, that it’s impossible to determine what the thing is really about.

And while it is still early days, the New FNM is hardly emerging as an original and powerful force in its own right.

Desirable as it may be in the abstract, is our political culture even mature enough to leave Big Man Politics behind?

A mature democracy, it should be pointed out, also requires an educated, informed and critical populace, capable of seeing through political charlatans. Yet it is painfully obvious how far from this mark we’ve fallen.

The answer, of course, is the Big Man model must be left behind. For one thing, it is inherently dangerous – you never know what kind of Big Man you’re going to get, and power will eventually decay the integrity of even the most upright.

In any case, with Mr Ingraham’s departure, it doesn’t seem as if we have a choice.

What do you think?


July 23, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The dangers of the hemisphere operating without the Inter-America Commission on Human Rights' (IACHR's) guidance

By Catie Duckworth
Research Associate at Council on Hemispheric Affairs



In recent months, members of the Organization of American States (OAS) have intensified their criticisms of the Inter-America Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR is an independent body established in 1959 by the OAS to create a Pan-American framework for dealing with human rights violations.

Heavily based upon the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, it was the Americas’ first universal human rights document, which was adopted at the same meeting that the region chartered the OAS.[1] However, strong opposition from OAS members throughout the years has heavily compromised the independent nature of the IACHR. Critics of the organization, such as Bolivian President Evo Morales, have called for its elimination.

The 42nd OAS General Assembly that convened from June 3 to 5 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where it found fault with the IACHR’s proceedings and rulings, claiming that the Commission has acted as a tool for modern US imperialism and thereby further fueling Morales’ discontent.[2] Calls to terminate the organization were problematic before the IACHR had even been effective in holding past administrations accountable for human rights violations and setting a higher standard for the treatment of people by the state in Latin America. There is a possibility that OAS-proposed reforms will cause concern, because the OAS will most likely put limitations on the Commission’s independence.

However, this was not the first time a member state has expressed discontent with the organization. In April, President Hugo Chavez announced that Venezuela would withdraw from the IACHR. This announcement was initially dismissed at the time when OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza pointed out that in order for Venezuela to remove itself from Commission jurisdiction, Chavez must withdraw from the OAS all together.[3] Claiming the Commission acts as a US contrivance, recalcitrant leaders from Ecuador and Nicaragua have joined Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez in their calls for reform in order to decisively bring an end to US imperialism in the region. All four of these nations’ leaders have threatened to withdraw from the IACHR if reforms are not set.[4]

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa asserted, “We cannot accept the double morals and inconsistencies. We need to focus on the priorities of our America -- neocolonialism is over.”[5] Although all 34 countries represented at the Assembly have expressed their concern regarding recent proceedings carried out by the IACHR, most only call for reform, not dissolution like their more emphatic ideological neighbors. As a result, the Assembly decided to draft a reform plan and meet again in six months to approve the changes. If sanctioned, the reform will mark the first jurisdictional changes initiated outside the Commission since its founding over fifty years ago.[6]

At the June assembly of the OAS, IACHR Chair José de Jesús Orozco defended the organization and argued that the Commission is among the world’s most successful supranational organizations working to protect human rights. Stressing the necessity of the IACHR, he asserted, “This is about regional guarantees and effective mechanisms to ensure that nobody in the Americas feels defenseless when it comes to his or her most basic rights, and that the States -- through their current and future governments -- see themselves as bound to respect those values that… they embraced and made an international commitment to safeguard.”

The Commission, like all supranational organizations, requires that member nations sacrifice some measure of their sovereignty. By deeming, on some occasion, policies of member states unlawful through a Western-centric lens, critics allege that the Commission has taken on too progressive of a role in terms of a radical agenda. However, the public ought to scrutinize the motivations of Latin American leaders for advocating the dissolution of the commission.

One initiative of this was a letter written some time ago by José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division, who wrote a letter that found itself to the OAS General Assembly, which stated, “If this organization has been so successful, why then has a campaign against it been launched? Very simple: Because it has touched the interests of important governments that possess clear autocratic tendencies or are sufficiently powerful as to believe that they are entitled to not render accounts to a supervisory regional body.”[7] In other words, many leaders advocate reform because the supranational organization has prevented them from fulfilling their political agenda.

For example, in April 2011 the IACHR provoked Brazilian authorities after ordering them to halt the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project in order to ensure the livelihood of multiple indigenous tribes on the Xingu River, who faced the threat of displacement as a result of the project. Unhappy with the decision, Brazil recalled its delegate to the organization, suspended payment of dues to the Commission, and withheld its ambassador to the OAS in protest. Yet Brasilia quickly reembraced the Commission when it proposed to set up a Truth Commission to investigate the human rights transgressions during the Brazilian military dictatorship of 1964-1985, demonstrating how Brazil’s loyalty to the IACHR at times has been based on political expediency.[8]

The Commission has lost popularity among a number of its members by refusing to yield to governments with unsatisfactory human rights standards. Leaders of this bloc cite historic acts of US imperialism in the region as a basis for disregarding IACHR rulings that do not work in their favor. From the perspective of these critics of the Commission, the IACHR continues to kneel to US regional foreign policy interests while overlooking cases that are contrary to US national interests. Tensions tend to arise when the Commission is bold enough to condemn an administration for violating the human rights of its own citizens.

As Manuela Picq, a recent visiting professor and research fellow at Amherst College, said, “These cases demonstrate that the Commission’s decisions are supported when they are aligned with governmental agendas and attacked and discredited when the Commission’s actions are perceived as inconvenient. The challenge is not as much to reform the Commission’s proceedings as to appease the wrath of states when rulings interfere with their political agendas.”[9]

Many Latin American countries may want to see the end of the IACHR just to conceal their own self-serving and at times compromised human rights practices. In order to draw attention away from their own corrupt institutions they passionately insist that the United States at times is using the organization as a mechanism for imperial calculations. To put to rest any claims that Washington is using the organization to further its interests, Washington has decided to take a neutral role at the June OAS gathering, stating that member nations ought to work together in harmony with the Commission.[10]

As one of the most economically stable and democratically open states in the OAS, the US delegation should not take a neutral stance, but rather support the Commission. However, the United States to this day still has not signed the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights Pact of San Jose, which means that the Inter-American Court in Costa Rica does not have any jurisdiction in the United States.[11]

To avoid further allegations of imperialistic intentions, the United States should thus lead by example and must give some thought to allowing the Inter-America Court some jurisdiction to operate within its borders and offer more assertive support for human rights activism while steering clear of anti-human rights advocacy. Washington has a duty to not turn a blind eye to its southern neighbors’ human rights violations, it should, as a would-be promoter of democracy in the region, be consistent and careful not to set double standards based on its own narrow intentions.

The IACHR is a necessary body, and must be actively protected to ensure the UN Declaration of Human Rights is upheld in the region. There are few doubts that some reforms need to be made to the IACHR, which will include limits on the Commission’s independence. However, it is this independent nature of that body that makes the IACHR effective. If the Commission’s independence is taken away, it will have to conform to the narrow partisan political agendas of some of its member states, and that would mean at times acting contrary to its entirely noble purpose.

Citations:

[1] Pearlman, Alexander.“OAS rights body facing criticisms, dissolution.” InterAmerican Security Watch. IASW Jun 8, 2012.
[2] Picq, Manuela. “Is the Inter-American Comission on Human Rights too progressive?” Aljazeera. June 9, 2012.
[3] “Human Rights in the Americas: Chipping at the foundations.” InterAmerican Security Watch. June 7, 2012.
[4] “Human Rights in the Americas: Chipping at the foundations.” InterAmerican Security Watch. June 7, 2012.
[5] Pearlman, Alexander.“OAS rights body facing criticisms, dissolution.” InterAmerican Security Watch. IASW Jun 8, 2012.
[6] “Human Rights in the Americas: Chipping at the foundations.” InterAmerican Security Watch. June 7, 2012.
[7] Pearlman, Alexander.“OAS rights body facing criticisms, dissolution.” InterAmerican Security Watch. IASW Jun 8, 2012.
[8] Picq, Manuela. “Is the Inter-American Comission on Human Rights too progressive?” Aljazeera. June 9, 2012.
[9] Picq, Manuela. “Is the Inter-American Comission on Human Rights too progressive?” Aljazeera. June 9, 2012.
[10] Pearlman, Alexander.“OAS rights body facing criticisms, dissolution.” InterAmerican Security Watch. IASW Jun 8, 2012.
[11] Pearlman, Alexander.“OAS rights body facing criticisms, dissolution.” InterAmerican Security Watch. IASW Jun 8, 2012.

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

July 28, 2012

Caribbeannewsnow

Friday, July 27, 2012

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Announces “Immediate” Withdrawal from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACrtHR)

By Rachael Boothroyd:

Liverpool, July 26th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Following an announcement earlier in April that his government would be withdrawing from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IAHRC), Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed on Tuesday that his administration would also no longer recognise the IAHRC’s sister organisation, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACrtHR) with “immediate” effect.

Both organisations are affiliate bodies of the Organization of the American States (OAS), with the commission recommending and submitting human rights cases to the court for review.

In a televised address to the public on Tuesday evening, the Venezuelan head of state confirmed the country’s exit from the human rights tribunal after accusing the body of “political manipulation” and attacking the South American nation for “daring to liberate” itself from Washington’s influence.

Chavez’s comments follow a ruling from the IACrtHR which charged the Venezuelan government with violating the rights of Raul Diaz Pena; an anti-government terrorist who planted bombs near to the Spanish and Colombian embassies in Caracas in 2003.

Despite receiving a 9 year sentence in 2008, Pena fled to the US on conditional release in 2010, where he claimed to be a “political prisoner”. Last week the IACrtHR ruled that Pena’s prison conditions in Venezuela had been “inhumane”.

“This Inter-American Court of Human Rights is shameful; it just pronounced itself in favour of a terrorist and against the Venezuelan State. That’s why I said to [Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro]; ‘Nicholas, let’s not wait any more,’ Venezuela is leaving the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as a matter of dignity,” said Chavez.

The Venezuelan government has had an increasingly difficult relationship with both the IACrtHR and the IACHR since 2002, when they refused to condemn a 47 hour coup against Chavez which saw around 100 people killed at the hands of the newly installed regime.

In November last year, the human rights court also tried to override a decision by Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) prohibiting opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez from holding office due to corruption charges. At the time, Chavez said the ruling meant “nothing to the left” in Venezuela.

Foreign interests

The human rights bodies’ failure to take a stance on issues such as the US embargo against Cuba, or to denounce other coups in the region, including a 2009 coup in Honduras and a recent “express coup” in Paraguay, have led many of the region’s left-leaning governments to cite the IACrtHR and IACHR as being representative of the US government’s interests on the Latin American continent.
Venezuela’s delegate to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, has frequently accused the Inter-American organisations of acting as a mouthpiece for Washington in the region, and of backing anti-government actors’ attempts to “destabilise” the Chavez administration.

The Venezuelan government’s withdrawal from the Inter-American human rights organisation has sparked criticism in the international press, as well as renewed debate over whether US dominated institutions such as the OAS are still relevant to Latin America’s changing political dynamic; with new organisations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) having been set up without US or Canadian representation.

“There are two paths (for the OAS), either it dies at the service of imperialism, or it is reborn to serve the people of America,” said Bolivian President, Evo Morales, earlier in June, adding that, “(The OAS) is just about seeing human rights problems in some countries where the president, the government, does not share the same politics as the United States”.

Venezuela has also called for organisations such as the CELAC and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) to set up their own regional human rights institutions which reflect the "Latin American experience”.

Venezuelanalysis

Bahamian Official Opposition Leader - Dr. Hubert Minnis says that his party - the Free National Movement (FNM) - will support a referendum to end gender discrimination in The Bahamas

Minnis: FNM will back referendum on women’s rights


By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.com

Nassau, The Bahamas


Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday accused the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) of using the defeated 2002 referendum as a “political tool”, and assured that the Free National Movement will support the referendum to end gender discrimination that has been promised by the government.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell announced the planned referendum in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.   He said it will take place by the end of this term.

In February 2002, the Ingraham administration sought to eliminate discrimination against women from the constitution through a referendum.

One of the six questions on that ballot asked voters if they agreed that all forms of discrimination against women, their children and their spouses should be removed from the constitution, and that no person should be discriminated against on the grounds of gender.

Under the constitution, Bahamian women married to foreign men cannot automatically pass their citizenship to their children; however Bahamian men married to foreign women can.

At the time the PLP, then in opposition, campaigned against the constitutional changes.

“They used it as a political tool at that particular time,” Minnis said.

“They felt that they would have gained mileage in whatever they did to become government.

“I don’t think it was right to walk on the backs of women just to achieve your own goal. A woman deserves better than that. I think they deserve the complete respect in our society for what they have done and what they do today.”

The failed referendum was seen by many political observers as a referendum on the former Ingraham administration and in May 2002 the PLP won the general election.

Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday the PLP opposed the referendum because there was not enough public consultation on the issue.

Minnis said he did not believe the explanation.

“I don’t buy that,” he said. “He doesn’t believe that himself. I can’t buy that.”

Minnis also suggested that former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s recent comments on discrimination in the constitution may have spurred the government to make the announcement.

At a press conference at the House of Assembly last week, Ingraham said there were more issues that should be put to a referendum, such as eliminating gender discrimination.

“I don’t know why it should be assumed that we should spend all this money on a referendum to deal with the question of gambling when there are some issues — like for instance, I want you as a female in this country to have the same rights I have under the constitution,” Ingraham said.

Minnis said, “They didn’t say anything about it before, so obviously that would have had some impact on them and I’m happy that we are doing it.

“I’m happy that they now see that that’s a very important issue that should have been resolved some time ago.

“I’m a strong proponent of equality for women. After all, women are the backbone of our society. They are the foundation of our society and I think equality is definitely an issue.

“It’s unfortunate that they took so long to bring it forth and they opposed it 10 years ago when we tried to bring it forth.

“I would hope that they don’t try to tie it in with the referendum for gambling.  At least allow people to deal with issues independently because you cannot use the female population [as] any form of political tool.

“I would encourage all Bahamians to vote for equality for women.”

He added: “I can assure you that the FNM will not oppose equality of women at all.”

July 27, 2012

thenassauguardian

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Freedom is Slavery, Popular Support is Authoritarianism

By Lizzie Phelan:



A recent article by The Washington Post’s Juan Forero, entitled Latin America’s new authoritarians, is just the latest example of how the imperialists’ media machine is relentlessly engaged in media warfare against sovereign nations in the South, in order to fertilise the ground for new or increased economic and military aggression against them. Such psy-op campaigns also seek to influence events on the ground in target nations, in this case in Venezuela ahead of the October elections, where all signs point to another resounding victory for current President Hugo Chávez Frías.

The article is part of the psychological wing of what Nicaraguan based website tortilla con sal terms the West’s “War on Humanity,” in order to convince the world of the moral superiority of the minority (the Western elite/imperialists) over the majority, so as to minimise the threat of a mass organised effort to challenge that minority’s increasingly doomed attempts to achieve total global hegemony.

Their morals, the minority argues through its vast propaganda network which bombard the majority, are superior because they are universal and therefore must be defended and achieved regardless of the cost, including that of the destruction of entire nations, let alone millions upon millions of lives, whose governments stand in the way, Libya being the most recent example.

Inconvenient facts, like the unrivalled criminal record of the NATO powers/imperialists who claim moral superiority, must relentlessly be legitimised through the imperialist’s media (including The Washington Post) and the entertainment industry’s portrayal of NATO crimes as acts of freedom, while acts of resistance and self-defence by their adversaries which undermine that claim to moral superiority and the total hegemony agenda, are presented as crimes against mankind.

And so looking through Forero’s lens, the sovereign nations of Latin America, that are consolidating their freedom from western domination through the continent's growing unification, are the emerging bogey man that the US government should do something about.

His hook is Human Rights Watch's recent onslaught against Venezuela in their report entitled Tightening the Grip, which, as the name screams out, is a document arguing that Chavez has become more authoritarian than ever.

And in one fell swoop Forero takes all of the popularly elected leaders of sovereign, progressive nations on the continent down with the report on Chavez, with a focus on those with the greatest support: Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.  

Forero/HRW and the evil Venezuelan judiciary straw-man

In Venezuela the crux of the article’s venom, in line with the HRW report, is aimed at the country’s judicial system. Neither the article nor the report make mention of the Venezuelan government’s recently published plan for the next six years which has a section entirely devoted to the judicial system which outlines the government’s intention to tackle that system’s “racist and classist character…and impunity”. In the West, such admissions only come after lengthy, meek and costly public inquiries. Those governments would never dream of acknowledging the racism, classicism and rife impunity so blatant in their own systems without, for example, scores of embarrassing racist murders and sustained public pressure by victims’ families, as happened when a public inquiry “found” that the British police were institutionally racist in the wake of the scandalous trial of Stephen Lawrence’s murderers.

To make his case Forero cites the cases of two former judges who have accused the Venezuelan government of rigging the judicial system. Top government officials, he says, would call ex-magistrate, Eladio Aponte who has since sought exile in the US, and ask him for “favours”. Forero conveniently fails to inform the reader that Aponte was dismissed from his post because he faces charges of accepting money from drugs traffickers and providing now jailed infamous drugs barron Walid Makled with an identity card. During Makled’s trial he alleged that he paid approximately $70,000 to Aponte. Nor does the article mention that Aponte first fled to Costa Rica to evade trial, from where he travelled to the US in a US Drug Enforcement Administration plane, no less. Aponte has denied the allegations but provided no evidence to support his denial. The Venezuelan authorities have said they will present the evidence of their charges against Aponte.

Forero devotes just one sentence to mentioning that former judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, is facing trial after having “infuriated Chavez with one of her rulings”. If more than 23 words had been devoted to the case of Afiuni than perhaps some facts would have got in the way of a good story, as the old adage goes. Because Afiuni, after making a ruling where no prosecutors were present (contrary to the law) that Eligio Cedeño, a financier who was charged with embezzling millions of dollars and playing a role in other huge cases of corruption, be set free, then immediately actually escorted him out of the courtroom and saw him off onto a motorcycle where he began his escape ending up finally in Miami. Regardless of the legality of Afiuni’s ruling, she unilaterally violated the normal procedure of sending the defendant to the court’s detention facility while the administrative procedures regarding his release were completed. It is that scandal of such grave proportions that infuriated the Venezuelan public and government, and it is for that that Afiuni is facing trial.

The Washington Post includes a disclaimer paragraph conceding that “pro-American” leaders, like in Colombia, have “weakened democratic governance”. So Colombia is a weak democracy but Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador are authoritarian regimes? This is another total inverse of the reality. Colombia, the continent’s (and one of the world’s) top recipients of US military aid, boasting seven US military bases, currently detains approximately 5,700 political prisoners and has an eye-watering 3.6 million internal refugees. Such a bleak situation is totally incomparable with the reality in non-US client states like those The Washington Post and HRW have focused their ire on.

And indeed the most abysmal picture globally in terms of domestic abuse of the judicial system is at the hands of the US regime.

Unlike in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador, in the US you can be detained indefinitely without charge. One in every 48 men of working age is behind bars and that figure excludes tens of thousands of immigrants facing deportation and people awaiting sentencing. The US imprisons five times more people than Venezuela, six times more than Nicaragua and eight times more than Ecuador. While, the US tops the list of global prison population rates, the other three are far behind at number 98, 122 and 160 respectively.

Conditions inside US prisons are unrivalled, especially given that some 2.3 million people squander in them. Sexual abuse rates are staggering and corporations use inmates as cheap – to - free sources of labour. This is 21st century systematic slavery in the “developed” world and such a dangerous phenomenon means that there is actually a huge monetary incentive for the corporate elite, which pull the strings of the US political system, to incarcerate more and more.

While Venezuela has pledged to tackle the racist character of its judicial system, and has supported the creation of an array of groups of African descent which will act as pressure groups to ensure that the struggle against racism progresses, the US has historically cracked down on African-American organizations that genuinely strive for such progress. There is nowhere on this planet where the treatment of Black people is worse than at the hands of the US regime, as exemplified by the fact that of the US’ 2.3 million inmates, 46 per cent are Black, despite that Black people make up just 13 per cent of the US population.

But neither The Washington Post or HRW dedicate a report to scrutinising the status of human rights in the US as they do with their sexy “Tightening the Grip” headline for Venezuela and mention of the US’ domestic abuses are buried in their annual world reports. That is left every year for the Chinese to do.

While HRW has been busying itself propagandising for the fall of the Syrian government on the back of a bunch of shaky youtube videos, purporting to show Syrian security forces using weapons against peaceful protesters, regarding which head of the UN Human Rights Commission investigating Syria, Paulo Pinheiro said: “YouTube isn't a reliable means of investigation... There is manipulation of the media”; there is no way it would mount a campaign for US regime change on the back of this very real video, which only adds to the reams before it, of US police opening fire on unarmed protesters in California’s city of Anaheim.

Popular leader or repressive authoritarian?

Continuing with this drive to divert attention from who the greatest enemies of humanity are, the undertone of Forero’s article is that the Venezuelan masses who back Chavez are somehow not in full control of their mental capacities, and this therefore is another sign of how the power hungry Venezuelan government are hoodwinking its people.

And so he quotes one Venezuelan judge who talks about his loyalty to Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and Chavez, as an example of how supporters of Chavez are everywhere, including in the country’s most important institutions. The ridiculous logic seems to be that popularity is dangerous because, with people everywhere who support the government, there will be less people to stand in the way of its agenda, regardless of whether that agenda is to improve the lot of all Venezuelans as it has proven hitherto to have done.

Forero patronisingly portrays the masses of poor Venezuelans like sheep under the spell of a “captivating, messianic leader,” as though they support Chavez for no other reason than being brainwashed by his charisma. Even more abhorrent, is the use of academic Javier Corrales, who authored a book about Chavez with the overtly racist title Dragon in the Tropics, as a source to add to the shrill of voices claiming that Chavez is abusing his popularity.

Never mind then that that popularity is a direct result of the fact that since Chavez won his first election in 1999, that country which had one of the world’s widest gaps between rich and poor has seen poverty reduce by more than 50 per cent, illiteracy eradicated, tens of millions now able to access free health care, millions more participating in higher education for free, the creation of tens of thousands of communal councils that give the population the opportunity to participate in the political system, the emergence of 200,000 cooperatives, the emergence of an array of women’s, indigenous and as mentioned African descendant organisations and much more. These are the reasons why, like Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, when Chavez speaks in open squares, something which the imperialists could never dare to dream of, millions flock to hear him speak. This is why they came again in their millions to defend him from the failed US backed coup in 2002 and this is why they repeatedly vote for him in their millions.

Far from consolidating power in few hands, both Nicaragua and Venezuela are steadily moving to strengthen and expand the organs of direct democracy. Venezuela’s communal council’s were cited above, while in Nicaragua, the Citizen’s Power model continues to improve the ways in which local communities can make decisions about how government money is spent in their municipalities. The connection between that model and the recent statistics which showed the FSLN had managed to halve extreme poverty in the second poorest country in the Americas after Haiti, is clear. It is local people who know best the needs of their community and as such, it is them who decide where government investment should be prioritised for huge infrastructure development, i.e. road, house, roof and electricity development, and social initiatives which have been targeted particularly at enabling Nicaragua’s poorest women to become self-sufficient. The ruling FSLN party has also expanded the number of local government representatives, while not increasing the budget for their salaries. This is a move which ensures more balanced representation and will cut the salary of civil servants, to improve the monetary/social service incentive of such a position in favour of the latter.

Addressing the material and spiritual needs of the poor and marginalised majority, as the nations attacked by Forero have done and are doing, is key to ensuring that they enjoy the conditions that enable them to participate in democracy building. Meanwhile, in the US and England, for example, the idea that citizens should be able to have more say over policies that affect their local communities over and above choosing from two or three parties that all represent the same corporate interests every three or four years, which is really no say at all, is unheard of.

In Libya, the West’s preferred style of “democracy” has arrived on the back of white phosphorous and Tomahawk cruise missiles, at the expense of the system of direct democracy that was being built there, not to mention tens of thousands of lives, millions of livelihoods, stability and a level of development that brought the Libyan people the highest standard of living in Africa.

Unmasking the missionary

But HRW has a track record of preferring to propagandise in favour of destroying such progress in countries where the balance of power is not in the favour of the NATO powers.

Since its founding in 1978 as Helsinki Watch by the Ford Foundation, HRW has consistently promoted humanitarian intervention in countries viewed as adversaries by the West. Most recently in Libya, HRW was a signatory to the document that led to Libya’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council, in violation of the UN’s own procedures, and the subsequent Security Council Resolutions that led to nine months of airstrikes supported by approximately 40 NATO countries.

Amidst its long and dirty history, HRW in 2010 announced that they would be accepting $100 million from George Soros who is the honey-pot behind some of the US’ most powerful think-tanks, lobby groups and NGOs and therefore enjoys considerable clout in influencing the US’ imperialist foreign policy.

Others amongst HRW’s long list of malignant backers include the Sandler Foundation which has given approximately $30 million to the group. The foundation is the child of Marion and Herb Sandler who themselves have been key donors of the Democrats and helped found a number of think-tanks and lobby groups, including the Center for American Progress, also funded by Soros and headed by John Podesta, White House chief of staff under President Clinton. It is therefore unsurprising that the foundation has consistently promoted US meddling in the South including supporting the KONY2012 saga that called for military intervention in Uganda on an entirely bogus pretext.

In short, if you follow the money of the NATO countries vast network of think-tanks, lobbyists, NGOs, newspapers, news websites, news channels, music and film industry, that of The Washington Post and HRW included, it can almost always be traced back to a corporate or “philanthropic” elite that have a vested interested in promoting NATO countries global hegemony agenda.

I have noticed some surprise from people who discover the role of organisations like HRW and Amnesty International. The humanitarian-intervention discourse, however, is perhaps one of the oldest tricks in Western empire’s book, but it has only evolved its disguise. This Global Research article was right to call western NGOs modern “Missionaries of Empire” or as Black Agenda Report labelled HRW, “Human Rights Warriors for Empire”. Accounts of the first English presence in Africa, like those given in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, show the insidious way in which missionaries, following the first carve up of Africa at the Berlin Conference, would embed themselves in African communities and prey on some points of tension as an opportunity to promote the idea to minority sections of those communities that their grievances with their community were examples of suffering of the gravest degree, the cause of which was the moral backwardness of their society and could be solved if they embraced the only correct moral path, the English church. This splitting of the community meant that by the time the disastrous consequences became clear to all, and true suffering of the gravest degree felt, it was too late.

NGOs operate in much the same way today, facilitating imperial designs which only bring war, instability and misery first to the majority people’s of the South behind the mask of those people’s “human rights”. It is a mask however that is being ripped off, first with the call by ALBA for member countries to expel US AID and its representatives, and then this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a bill that will make all NGOs that receive external funding register as foreign agents, and most recently with Chavez pulling Venezuela out of the OAS’ Inter-American Human Rights Court. The OAS is of course another tool of Western domination of the region; a body that is supposed to promote democracy is itself undemocratic and continues to violate the majority will of its members to end the criminal blockade on Cuba.

Chavez’ decision to withdraw, he said, came, “out of dignity, and we accuse them before the world of being unfit to call themselves a human rights group." It is not unheard of for such groups to be barred by governments in the South from their countries when they face actual military aggression. But the war against such sovereign countries begins long before direct military action. It begins in articles such as Forero’s.

Source: Lizzie Phelan
July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Bahamas will amend laws to make harboring illegal migrants a serious offense with serious penalties... ...As the Bahamian government seeks to severely curb illegal immigration and human smuggling...

Bahamians want to probe Haitian smuggling rings


By Juan McCartney
Guardian Senior Reporter
juan@nasguard.com


Nassau, The Bahamas


The government is pushing ahead with its plan to place Bahamian intelligence officers in Haiti with a view to investigating and breaking human smuggling rings operating out The Bahamas’ impoverished, yet densely populated southern neighbor, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell.

The minister said the officers would be placed in Haiti as part of an initiative previously negotiated in a joint bilateral commission with Haiti, but never ratified by the administration of since-overthrown Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Mitchell said the issue came up during high-level meetings with Haitian officials at the 33rd CARICOM heads of government meeting in St. Lucia earlier this month.

“We would like to [have officers there] because we believe that if we are allowed to have intelligence officers in Haiti we can probably stop this smuggling or put a big dent in it from the north. So those are our aims and objectives with regard to that,” Mitchell said.

During the CARICOM meetings, Haitian President Michel Martelly and Trade Minister Wilson Laleau were more interested in talking about trade matters, according to Mitchell, but the Bahamian contingent pressed to also have meaningful discussions about illegal migration.

As the government seeks to severely curb illegal immigration and human smuggling, tougher penalties for harboring illegal immigrants could also be introduced as amendments to existing law when the House of Assembly meets tomorrow, said Mitchell.

“We’re looking to amend the law to make harboring illegal migrants a serious offense with serious penalties,” Mitchell explained. “I guess debate will take place in the fall because we want to have some public discussion about the matter.”

The expected legislation will arrive in the wake of several tragedies that have taken place in recent weeks believed to be the result of human smuggling.

Last month, a vessel capsized in waters about two miles off Crown Haven, Abaco, ending in the deaths of 11 women and children believed to be of Haitian descent.

The victims were among 28 passengers who boarded the ill-fated boat from Abaco and headed to Florida on June 10, authorities said.

Five of the victims were children who attended Treasure Cay Primary School. The other victims were women.

Police suspect the group was part of a human smuggling operation that originated in Abaco. At least seven people are believed to have survived the accident.

Earlier this month, a Haitian woman drowned after a Haitian sloop landed in waters just off southeastern New Providence.

Several other bodies believed to be connected to that incident were later found.

Dozens of migrants who also arrived on that boat were also captured.

July 24, 2012

thenassauguardian

Monday, July 23, 2012

Can I adopt a Haitian child?

By Amelia Duarte de la Rosa - Special correspondent - Granma.cu



ONE can see this question repeated throughout the web. A rapid Internet search on the situation of children in Haiti throws up disturbing results. Millions of websites, blogs and pages note how to adopt these minors, as if the solution to the problem were to uproot them from their land.

The question increased after the earthquake when international humanitarian aid descended on the Caribbean nation. In the midst of the chaos, many provided selfless assistance, but others took advantage of this cover to enrich themselves.

Prior to the quake, there were an estimated 380,000 orphans in the country. According to UNICEF figures, 3.8 million infants were in a situation of extreme vulnerability in 2009 and, after January of 2010, one million children swelled the ranks of those without family care. 

The disaster exacerbated their lack of protection and opened the gates to illegal adoption and human trafficking.

Even though international legislation prevents adoption proceedings in the case of military conflict or natural disaster, and adoptions in Haiti were suspended in 2007 due to the lack of legal guarantees, many governments gave the green light and facilitated those in progress.

The United States, France, Holland and Luxembourg headed the list of countries receiving dozens of young children. The Barack Obama administration, for example, allowed emergency travel visas for Haitian children being processed for adoption, even when they lacked documents, and they were able to immigrate on humanitarian grounds. The first group of Haitian orphans arrived in the United States just 10 days after the earthquake.

The speeding up of adoptions in the midst of disaster and without meeting international requisites endangered children’s rights, in addition to facilitating illegal acts. There were incidents of the theft and kidnapping of minors, as well as abandonment once they had been transferred to other countries. Trafficking networks existed previously in Haiti and increased with the situation.

By the end of January 2010, UNICEF had already denounced the theft of 15 children from Port-au-Prince hospitals. None of them were orphans. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and non-governmental organizations like Save the Children expressed concern over the thousands of children separated from their families.

This organization demanded effective measures to protect children from all forms of violence and exploitation, including sexual violence and kidnapping under the cover of adoption; at the same time it froze international adoption and instigated alarm mechanisms.

Priority was given to tracing families and the reintegration of children with their parents, extended families, or family friends prepared to look after them. On the other hand, international adoption or children being taken in by foreigners requires an international agreement between the participating governments.

In relation to the current fate of infants, Haitian President Michel Martelly is promoting education at all levels. Last October, four million began the school year – according to authorities – including 712,000 children beginning to benefit from free education. The government also launched a program against extreme poverty, which seeks to guarantee the education of children with very few resources and to alleviate the burden of families living in vulnerable areas.

Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and First Lady Sofía Martelly set in motion the Ti manman cheri program, the principal objectives of which are to improve school attendance and performance and promote women’s autonomy. The program, benefiting children in 200 elementary schools, is financed by the Venezuelan government’s Petrocaribe regional solidarity project.

The question forming the title of this article has a response which does not appear on any website: the support needed by Haiti is not the adoption of its minors. Poor children are not a merchandise needing adoption. It is the task of the state and their families to shelter and protect them so that they can develop normally in their own environment. The country needs aid which respects its autonomy.

THE STORY OF A SMILE

It all began with a smile. I was sitting on a stair landing and without me initially noticing her, a little girl was standing in front of me, staring fixedly. I gave her a timid smile and that was enough for her to come closer. . "Bèl cheve," she said and immediately began to play with my hair. She wasn’t even four years of age but looked like a simplified version of a young woman with bare feet.

I deduced that she didn’t live very far away and effectively, almost immediately three more children arrived in search of their playmate. Within seconds, I was surrounded by young girls who smiled, sang, and played with my hair. They decorated it with colored ribbons, showed me their dolls, assaulted me with questions and, from the little I could understand, I tried to answer them. I resigned myself to showing them the camera and taking photos of them.

Not more than five minutes had passed when the reclaiming cry of a mother broke the spell. The girls ran off happily toward her open arms. They looked back once and said goodbye with a smile.

I couldn’t begin to imagine those small children with a mother in another country and speaking another language. The future is uncertain for everyone, but there is nothing like returning to one’s mother, I thought.

July 12, 2012


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reparations from Britain for colonialism? ...nothing, not even a good education and a competent civil service, can possibly justify the dominion British colonialists exercised over native people from India to the Caribbean ...Especially since British mercantilism meant raping and pillaging local resources for the benefit of Mother England

Reparations from Britain for colonialism?



By Anthony L Hall



To listen to some critics of British colonialism you’d think it was utterly devoid of any redeeming value. But we in the Caribbean can readily attest that this is not so.

What’s more, all one has to do is juxtapose the way education and civil service have floundered in post-colonial countries in Africa with the way they thrived in those countries during colonialism to counter unqualified criticism in this respect.

Anthony L. Hall is a descendant of the Turks & Caicos Islands, international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who publishes his own weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at http://ipjn.com offering commentaries on current events from a Caribbean perspective
Having said that, let me hasten to assert that nothing, not even a good education and a competent civil service, can possibly justify the dominion British colonialists exercised over native people from India to the Caribbean. Especially since British mercantilism meant raping and pillaging local resources for the benefit of Mother England.

Not to mention the practice of racial segregation (i.e. de facto apartheid), which reinforced the dehumanizing nature of colonialism.

More to the point, as British journalist and historian Richard Gott notes in Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt (2011), no less a person than British PM David Lloyd George telegraphed how colonial officers intended to deal with natives who resisted this dominion when he proudly recalled how, at the 1932 World Disarmament Conference, he:

[D]emanded the right to bomb for police purposes in outlying places [and] insisted on the right to bomb niggers.

Which brings me to the cruel and unusual punishment colonial officers meted out to natives whose natural pride and human dignity compelled them to resist. Nowhere was this demonstrated in more poignant and persistent fashion than in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

For according to the Kenya Human Rights Commission 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured, or maimed. In addition, 160,000 were detained in conditions that rivaled those their forefathers were subjected to as captured slaves during the “Middle Passage.”

But where seeking reparations for slavery that ended 150 years ago has always been fraught with obvious (legal) problems, seeking reparations for colonialism that ended just 50 years ago is much less so.

This is why the British government finds itself in the untenable position of having to defend against claims by Kenyans who say they themselves suffered all manner of human rights abuses while being held in detention camps by the British colonial administration during the Mau Mau rebellion.

Lawyers for several victims filed what they clearly hope will be a class-action suit on behalf of all victims demanding an official apology and compensation for pain and suffering.

The claimants’ lawyers allege that Mr Nzili was castrated, Mr Nyingi severely beaten and Mrs Mara subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion…

In his statement Mr Nyingi, 84, a father of 16 who still works as a casual labourer, said he was arrested on Christmas Eve 1952 and held for some nine years. During his detention, in 1959, he says he was beaten unconscious during an incident at Hola camp in which 11 other prisoners were clubbed to death. He says he has scars from leg manacles, whipping and caning
. (BBC, July 17, 2012)

It is noteworthy that the British government admitted this week -- for the first time and in a court of law no less -- that Kenyans were tortured and ill-treated as alleged. Never mind that it was obliged to do so because the High Court ordered the release of 300 boxes of secret documents recently that not only chronicle the systematic torture and ill-treatment colonial officers meted out, but also expose a conspiracy among British officials to cover up these human rights abuses.

Yet, despite all this, the government is attempting to avoid compensating the direct victims of the Mau Mau rebellion by using the same argument governments have used to avoid compensating the descendants of the victims of slavery; namely, that:

…too much time has passed for a fair trial to be conducted. (BBC, July 17, 2012)

To be sure, lawyers can raise all kinds of issues as to why, ironically enough, the British government cannot get a fair trial: not least among them is the likelihood of assigning collective guilt to all colonial officers because victims, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, would be hard-pressed to identify the offending one(s) in each case; they may even question whether detention during the Mau Mau rebellion was in fact the proximate cause of their injuries.

All the same, if the British government has any regard for what little redeeming value its legacy of colonialism retains, it would consider it a moral imperative to move post-haste to negotiate a victims’ fund with the Kenyan government from which all victims can seek relatively fair compensation … in Kenya.

Incidentally, this would (and should) not absolve the government of the categorical imperative to pursue and prosecute every British official implicated in these human rights abuses: from the Secretary of State in London to the camp guard in Kenya, and not just those who executed them but those who participated in the conspiracy to cover-up these abuses for so many years as well. Indeed, these British officials should be pursued and prosecuted with the same dogged zeal with which officials who collaborated with the Nazis in the torture and ill-treatment of the Jews are still being pursed and prosecuted to this day.

Of course, colonial rebellions were not nearly as persistent and were not put down with nearly as much brutality in other colonies as was the case in Kenya (the American rebellion excepted). But if the High Court were to establish the precedent that victims of colonial-era abuses could seek damages in British courts, I have no doubt that thousands of claimants would show up in London to seek redress from every place on earth that was subjected to British dominion.

In which case the British government would be well-advised to initiate government-to-government settlements of all such cases instead of allowing any of them to proceed to trial -- especially with all of the opening of old wounds (on both sides) that would entail.

Mind you, even if the High Court were to rule that victims of colonial abuse have no recourse in British courts, the reputational damage to Britain of such a ruling would far outweigh any amount the Kenyan and other post-colonial governments could reasonably demand be placed in compensation funds for colonial abuses.

Accordingly, I fully expect Britain, at long last, to do the right thing: apologize and pay, pursue and prosecute!
July 20, 2012

Caribbeannewsnow

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Venezuela: A Threat to Washington?

By Eva Golinger - Postcards from the Revolution:


From the first time Hugo Chavez was elected President of Venezuela in 1998, Washington and its allies have been trying to undermine his government. When Chavez was just a presidential candidate, the US State Department denied his visa to participate in television interviews in Miami. Later, when he won the presidential elections, Ambassador John Maisto called him personally to congratulate him and offer him a visa. The following months were filled with attempts to “buy” the newly elected President of Venezuela. Businessmen, politicians and heads of state from Washington and Spain pressured him to submit to their agendas. “Come with us”, urged Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, trying to seduce him with offers of wealth and luxury in turn for obeying orders.

When Chavez refused to be bought, he was ousted in a coup d’etat April 11, 2002, funded and planned by Washington. When the coup failed and Chavez’s supporters rescued their democracy and president in less than 48 hours, attempts to destabilize his government continued. “We must make it difficult for him to govern”, said former US State Department chief Lawrence Eagleberger.

Soon, Venezuela was overrun with economic sabotage, oil industry strikes, chaos in the streets and a brutal media war that distorted the reality of the country on a national and international level. A plan to assassinate Chavez with Colombian paramilitaries in May 2004 was impeded by state security forces. Months later, the US-backed opposition tried to revoke his mandate in a recall referendum, but again, the people saved him in a 60-40 landslide victory.

The more popular Chavez became, the more millions of dollars flowed from US agencies to anti-Chavez groups to destabilize, descredit, delegitimize, overthrow, assassinate or remove him from power by any means possible. In December 2006, Chavez was reelected president with 64% of the vote. His approval rating grew in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. New governments in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Uruguay and several Caribbean nations joined regional initiatives of integration, cooperation, sovereignty and unity, encouraged by Caracas. Washington began to lose its influence and control over its former “backyard”.

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), PetroCaribe, PetroSur, TeleSUR, Bank of ALBA, Bank of the South and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) were created. Washington isn’t included in any of these organizations, nor is the elite that previously dominated the region.

In January 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Chavez was a “negative force” in the region. In March, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) placed Venezuela on their list of “Top 5 Hot Spots”. A few months later, Reverend Pat Robertson publicly called for the assassination of Chavez, claiming it would cost less than “a $2 billion war”. That same year, when Venezuela suspended cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because it was found committing acts of espionage and sabotage, Washington classified Venezuela as a nation “not cooperating with counter-narcotics” efforts. No evidence was presented to show alleged Venezuelan government ties to drug trafficking.

In February 2006, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte referred to Venezuela as a “dangerous threat” to the US. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfled compared Chavez to Hitler. That same year, Washington created a special intelligence mission dedicated to Venezuela and Cuba, increasing resources for operations against them. In June 2006, the White House placed Venezuela on a list of countries “not cooperating sufficiently with the war on terror”. The classification included a sanction prohibiting the sale of military and defense equipment from the US and US companies or those using US technology to Venezuela. No evidence was ever shown to back such serious claims.

In 2008, the Pentagon reactivated its Fourth Fleet, the regional command in charge of Latin America and the Caribbean. It had been deactivated in 1950 and hadn’t functioned since then, until Washington decided it was necessary to increase its presence and “force” in the region. In 2010, the US established an agreement with Colombia to set up 7 military bases in its territory. An official US Air Force document justified the budget increase for these bases in order to counter the “threat from anti-American governments in the region”.

International media call Chavez a dictator, tyrant, authoritarian, narco, anti-American, terrorist, but they never present proof for such dangerous titles. They have converted the image of Venezuela into violence, insecurity, crime, corruption and chaos, failing to mention the incredible achievements and social advances during the last decade, or the causes of the social inequalities left behind from previous governments.

For years, a group of US congress members - democrats and republicans - have tried to place Venezuela on their list of “state sponors of terrorism”. They claim the relationships between Venezuela and Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, and even Venezuela and China evidence the “grave threat” represented by the South American nation to Washington.

They say again and again that Venezuela and Chavez are threats to the US. “He must be stopped”, they say, before he “launches Iranian bombs against us”.

In an interview a few days ago, President Barack Obama said Chavez was not a threat to US security. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he was. The ire of the Miami Cuban-Venezuelan community came down upon Obama. But they shouldn’t worry, because Obama increased funding to anti-Chavez groups this year. More than $20 million in US taxpayer dollars have been channelled from US agencies to help fund the opposition’s campaign in Venezuela.

Is Venezuela a threat to Washington? In Venezuela, the only “terrorists” are the groups trying to destabilize the country, the majority with political and financial support from the US. The drug traffickers are in Colombia, where the production and transit of drugs has increased during the US invasion disguised as Plan Colombia. Relations with Iran, Cuba, China, Russia and the rest of the world are normal bilateral – and multilateral – ties between countries. There are no bombs, no attack plans, no sinister secrets.

No, Venezuela is not that kind of threat to Washington.

Poverty has been reduced by more than 50% since Chavez came to power in 1998. The inclusionary policies of his government have created a society with mass participation in economic, political and social decisions. His social programs – called missions – have guaranteed free medical care and education, from basic to advanced levels, and provided basic food items at affordable costs, along with tools to create and maintain cooperatives, small and medium businesses, community organizations and communes. Venezuelan culture has been rescued and treasured, recovering national pride and identity, and creating a sentiment of dignity instead of inferiority. Communication media have proliferated during the last decade, assuring spaces for the expression of all.

The oil industry, nationalized in 1976 but operating as a private company, has been recuperated for the benefit of the country, and not for multinationals and the elite. Over 60% of the annual budget is dedicated to social programs in the country, with the principal focus on eradicating poverty.

Caracas, the capital, has been beautified. Parks and plazas have turned into spaces for gatherings, enjoyment and safety for visitors. There’s music in the streets, art on the walls and a rich debate of ideas amongst inhabitants. The new communal police works with neighborhoods to battle crime and violence, addressing problems from the root cause.

The awakening in Venezuela has expanded throughout the continent and northward into the Caribbean. The sensation of sovereignty, independence and union in the region has buried the shadow of subdevelopment and subordination imposed by colonial powers during centuries past.

No, Venezuela is not a threat to US security. Venezuela is an example of how a rising people, facing the most difficult obstacles and the brutal force of empire, can build a model where social justice reigns, and human prosperity is cherished above economic wealth. Venezuela is a country where millions once invisible are today, visible. Today they have a voice and the power to decide the future of their country, without being strangled by foreign hands. Today, thanks to the revolution led by President Chavez, Venezuela is one of the happiest countries in the world.

That is the threat Chavez and Venezuela represent to Washington: The threat of a good example.
 
 
July 21, 2012
 
 

Friday, July 20, 2012

...We are looking to amend laws to make harbouring illegal migrants a serious offence with serious penalties... says Bahamas Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell

Laws May Be Brought In To Stop Harbouring Of Immigrants



By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
dsmith@tribunemedia.net

Nassau, The Bahamas



IN AN effort to curb illegal migration, members of Parliament will be looking at amending laws concerning the harbouring of illegal immigrants, possibly as early as next week, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell.

Mr Mitchell said he met with Haitian officials to discuss how to stem illegal migration, and that they also discussed trade potential between the two countries.

He said: “We are looking to amend laws to make harbouring illegal migrants a serious offence with serious penalties. That should be coming perhaps as early as next week when the House resumes. Debate will take place on the floor because we want some public discussion about the matter.”

The Bahamas is also hoping to engage the Haitian government in discussions on allowing “intelligence officers” to operate in Haiti in an effort to combat human trafficking, he said.

“They’ve expressed an interest in pursuing it,” Mr Mitchell said. “We would like to do so because we believe that if we are allowed to have intelligence officers in Haiti, we can probably stop the smuggling or put a big dent in it from the north.”

However, the minister said Haitian officials are more interested in talking about trade between the two countries.

Mr Mitchell said Haiti wants current protocols which prevent agricultural goods from being imported from Haiti to the Bahamas, to be changed.

They argued it would help spur their economy and thus potentially reduce illegal migration.

Mr Mitchell said the two governments have been trying resolved the protocol issue “for a long time”.

“In fact, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two countries I believe back in 2007,” he said.

“The last minister of agriculture had announced that he was dedicated to removing it. There was even an announcement that customs officers would be stationed in Haiti to help with the inspection of the goods.

“Because Haiti now exports mangos to the United States, we can only get them by getting them through the States and it’s believed that if we get them directly, it’ll be cheaper.

“Their argument is that would help them in trying to improve the economy of the north of Haiti and that’s the area from which migrants come to this country illegally. We repatriated 200 of them this week – 100 went out this morning (and) 100 went out the day before yesterday. So this is a really serious problem for us. We are committed to seeing how we can get that resolved.”

July 19, 2012


Monday, July 16, 2012

Venezuela is not Syria, Venezuela is not Libya

By James Petras



Axis of logic note: The following excerpt from a discussion about the 2012 elections in Venezuela was taken from an interview of James Petras at CX36 Radio Centenario based in Montevideo, Uruguay. Translated from Spanish by Axis of Logic.
"The Syrian people perhaps have [legitimate] criticisms of Assad and perhaps want changes, but not from imperialist intervention. They want to decide for themselves their democratic, peaceful and independent future. They do not want to pass from the government of Assad to one controlled by foreign imperialists. That much is very clear and we should respect it and put a lot of distance between ourselves and the trotskyist bands that have supported this imperialist intervention, calling it a democratic revolution. Again we have an example of this failure of the Trotskyists who confuse their illusions with the realities in the world"
ChI: Continuing in the region, how do you see the Venezuelan electoral campaign?

James Petras: The U.S. politics in this are very clear: when the candidates of their choosing win elections, the elections are free and honest. If United States or their candidates lose the elections, then those elections are corrupt, illegitimate. They do not want to accept a rout. This is the case in Venezuela and also in other cases where there are popular candidates and nationalists with socialist tendencies. In the case of Venezuela we have received information that United States continues channeling money toward NGO's –non-governmental organizations - that are always a facade for the opposition that exists in Venezuela. They are full agents, organized, directed by the United States toward several tactics. And it is the political arm of the opposition that is directed to campaign where the right does not have force, that is to say in the popular neighborhoods, the lower middle class and other sectors where their may be some dissidence.

Now, their practice is not to present an alternative because they do not have alternatives with popular resonance. Their tactic is to take advantage of some negative conditions that exist, for example, in some places the trash is not collected, or a mayor does not fulfill a promise or the problem of the delinquency; that is to say that they enter and exploit that situation, any theme of a popular complaint, without offering any solution, beyond the same old clichés of the right. Now, this work from below is complemented by some mass communication media campaigns, where the right continues controlling the main electronic media and particularly the television. In addition, there are groups that are more secret, the aggressive groups, those who are going to promote some disorder if they lose the elections which is more probable than ever. So there are functions of U.S. politics on three levels: One is that of the NGO's; the second is the mass communication media and third are the hard line aggressive groups, which I have already mentioned in other contexts.

Currently and up to the final weeks prior to the elections, we are going to see groups one and two operating, the media and the politics of agitation to promote conflicts. But those in the third group exist and are expanding their networks, maintaining their threat to the democracy, even beyond the elections - seeking to introduce a similar situation to that which they created in Syria and in Libya. The key problem [in Venezuela] is that they do not have a critical mass that could rise up. In this sense the democracy under the government of Hugo Chávez and the massive influence that it has in all sectors of the country and above all in the popular sectors, makes it very difficult to repeat in Venezuela what they mounted in Syria and other places, i.e. one based on giving armed support to dissident groups to cause violent conflicts. In that sense, I believe that Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Mr. Barak Obama and their minister of Defense, Leon Panetta, have calculated badly: Venezuela is not Syria, Venezuela is not Libya; Venezuela is a democratic country with an extensive popular base organized freely and they are willing to face any violent challenge from below.

Therefore, Venezuela has a democratic vaccine that neutralizes those efforts. But that does not mean that there may be not adventurers in that violent sector of the opposition. They can think – and this must be noted - that they can cause a detonation with a small specific and violent group; a conflict, a confrontation, in which there are injured or dead, using that small motor to start a greater motor. A type of 'foquistas' of the right. But they are wrong because that type of pyrotechnics will fail like a dud.
 
Source: Axis of Logic
 
July 15, 2012