Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Business leaders in The Bahamas are urging the Bahamian government to treat the defeated gambling referendum as a learning experience ...for the upcoming oil drilling referendum

Govt urged to tackle oil vote ‘differently’


Analysts say proposed legislation prior to referendum would build consensus, eliminate politics and improve education over exploratory drill


JEFFREY TODD
Guardian Business Editor
jeffrey@nasguard.com
Nassau, The Bahamas


Business leaders are urging the government to treat the gambling issue as a learning experience for the upcoming oil drilling referendum.

While the "Vote No" campaign was victorious on Monday, observers have noted that low turnout and general apathy impacted the democratic process.

The government was frequently criticized for being unclear in the referendum questions and failing to introduce specific legislation to back up the possible legalization of gaming.  The vote also became highly politicized, prompting rival parties to endorse opposing views.

For an upcoming oil drilling referendum, a decision that could indeed reshape the country's economy, the process must be handled "in a completely different way", according to Richard Coulson, a well-known financial consultant.

"The government will need to go to great lengths to explain what the issues are," he told Guardian Business.

"Oil drilling is not a moral or religious issue.  It will be a matter of whether you can explain the economic advantages and technical reasons why the environment can be protected.  If those points can be explained, there should be no rejection."

In the nation's young history, both referendums brought to the people have been strongly rejected.

Coulson said that changes are needed to ensure referendums occur properly without placing the country's future at risk.

On the issue of oil drilling, he urged politicians to arrive at a consensus prior to the vote by crafting a detailed proposal and piece of legislation on how the process would be administered.

Member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama Peter Turnquest agreed that future referendums need parliamentary involvement.

Turnquest said that the current government tried to "push" the idea of gambling on Bahamians, believing that people would simply vote yes.  The former head of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce said specific legislation must go through a "period of education" whereby the public is taken through the process.

"Anything short of that will result in a similar kind of situation," he added.

Indeed, a negative result in regards to oil drilling is the last thing the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) wants, not to mention its legions of international shareholders.

As Bahamians voted in the gambling referendum, investors in BPC on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) watched keenly and speculated on when a vote on oil exploration could occur.

Shares of BPC ended yesterday's trading at 5.51 pence.  That compares to around 16 pence per share back in February 2012.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) pledged a referendum on the subject prior to coming into power last May.

At the time, Opposition Leader Perry Christie drew headlines when he confirmed that he was a legal consultant for Davis & Co., the law firm that represented BPC.  Meanwhile, the Free National Movement (FNM) famously revoked BPC’s licences during the election.

These licenses were reinstated by the PLP after coming into power.

It has been speculated that a referendum on oil drilling could occur by the summer, although no formal timeline or process has been announced by government.

January 30, 2013

thenassauguardian

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cuba on the road to Latin American and Caribbean unity

By Livia Rodríguez Delis & Juan Diego Nusa Peñalver




CUBA is to assume the presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) at the next Heads of State and Government Summit of the bloc in Chile, January 27-28.
 
As Cuban President Raúl Castro affirmed during the closing session of the 7th Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power, "This is a great honor, a great responsibility, to which we are committed to devoting our best efforts and energy."

It also confirms CELAC member countries’ confidence in Cuba’s principles and values, its wide-reaching foreign policy, its vision of the problems facing humanity and characteristic solidarity, all of which will give new impetus to the bloc’s development and consolidation.

It is also palpable evidence of the failure of the U.S. policy of isolation maintained against Cuba since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959.

Resentful of the expression of unity and solidarity signified by any event of this nature in what it regards as its backyard, Washington has always attempted to block any kind of Cuban relations with the rest of the nations on the continent.

This policy of isolation began to collapse on December 8, 1972, when Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago all established diplomatic relations with Cuba, in an act of unquestionable political courage on the part of these small Caribbean nations.

"If we go back to the 1960’s, Cuba only had diplomatic relations with Mexico (given U.S. pressure) and very few commercial links in the region," noted Deputy Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Orlando Hernández Guillén, approached by Granma International for an overview of the current situation of commercial ties between Cuba and Latin American and Caribbean sister nations.

"After the decisive step in relation to Cuba taken by the four English-speaking Caribbean countries, little by little Latin American nations approached us, some of them utilizing commercial links and others the diplomatic context. And today, the country has become an active member of the Latin American community."

 



What does maintaining relations with nations of the region signify for Cuba?



The priority of ties with Latin America is included in the Constitution of the Republic, which establishes that our government bases its international relations on principles of equality of rights, self-determination, territorial integrity, the independence of states, beneficial international cooperation and mutual and equitable interest; as well as the peaceful resolution of controversies on equal footing, and other principles proclaimed in the United Nations Charter and other international treaties to which Cuba is a party.

At the same time, it reaffirms Cuba’s willingness to integrate and cooperate with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, which share a common identity and the historic need to advance together toward economic and political integration in order to achieve genuine independence, something which will allow us to attain the position we merit in the world.

This is endorsed in the Guidelines approved at the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, which also specify basic aspects of our close ties with Latin America, through the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI) and the Association of Caribbean States, among other sub-regional institutions to which Cuba belongs. These have also provided a space for the development of relations with other countries, with the exception of the Organization of American States (OAS) and its sub-system of institutions.


Currently, Cuba’s foreign trade with the region represents more than 40% of its commercial interchange at the global level. This places the country in one of the top spots in the region, with regards to the volume of intraregional trade.




 
In this aspect, the relations we have with Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela have an important weight. In the case of Venezuela, it is our first trading partner, from which we obtain a significant amount of the energy resources the country needs to complement national production.

Even though the Cuban government is developing concrete actions to promote the replacement of food imports, the country still spend $1,700-1,800 million (per year) in this context alone, and Latin America is an important supplier of foodstuffs, basically countries like Brazil and Argentina, which are large global exporters of food and also in the case of Cuba.

In terms of numbers, Cuban exports to Latin America amount to approximately 650 tariff positions within the region. This is not all that we would like, but it speaks of the development achieved in the last few years through trade, no longer confined to exports of sugar and nickel, which have little weight in the region, but diversified, ranging from services (especially in health) and biotechnology products to construction materials.

In the same way, we import from Latin America raw materials, intermediate products, machinery and equipment, above all from Brazil, whose industry has the capacity to contribute this kind of technological goods.

Through our relations with Latin American countries, today there are also financial resources to support these relations. We have credit lines with Brazil and Venezuela and these are an important base, not only in the context of trade, but to advance investment and development processes in the country.

For example, the Port of Mariel construction, which is going ahead with Brazilian cooperation and funding and the participation of Brazilian and Cuban entities. This monumental work is symbolic of Cuba’s cooperation with the region and particularly with that South American nation.

Other financial arrangements and credit lines with distinct characteristics are provided by Venezuela and these are playing a very important role in our economic/commercial activity.

 


What were the elements that favored the impetus of links with the sub-region?



Relations with Latin America have reached this point because of Cuba’s gradual progress in terms of preferential trade links with virtually all of the ALADI member countries, which created the conditions for the country to become the 12th full member of the largest Latin American economic integration group in 1999.

That made it possible to extend ties with this group of states and negotiate parallel agreements with Central American countries like Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador and nations comprising the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

In some cases these agreements have advanced more and respond to the political circumstances of our bilateral links, as is the case with Venezuela and Bolivia, with which Cuba currently has relations which we could say are equivalent to free trade, as there are no tariffs related to the circulation of merchandise.

We negotiated this in May 2012 with Venezuela and had previously done so with Bolivia.

I must mention that Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines as members comprise the ALBA, a new kind of integration organization which, on the basis of political processes taking place in the region, has made it possible to draw up plans of a far greater reach within the approximation and integration processes among our peoples in the economic, financial, social and cultural spheres.

Thus, Cuba is fully inserted in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and is incorporated in all the area’s coordination and integration structures, apart from the OAS.

 

How has Cuba been able to resist the hardships of the international financial crisis and, in particular, how has our foreign trade confronted the U.S. blockade?


 
We have been able to resist the hardships of the international financial crisis primarily because of our people’s capacity for resistance (the Cuban economy grew 3.1% in 2012) and an intelligent strategy at the point when the situation became more serious and tense; by seeking within the country all possible means of saving, channeling limited resources available into sectors with a capacity to generate income, and limiting imports.

All those who trusted in Cuba at that moment can see that they were fully justified, because as the Cuban economy has confronted the crisis with more success, the tense situations which presented themselves at one point with foreign counterparts have been resolved.

On the other hand, Cuba has been intelligent in terms of confronting the 50-year economic, commercial and financial blockade of the U.S. government, a measure strongly directed in its actions against our country’s financial sector at the international level.

The Obama administration is the one to have imposed the most fines on foreign banking institutions for engaging in normal relations with Cuba and obviously, that means that the country’s way of confronting the blockade has also been more astute and careful. In this battle we have the support of the international community, which has repeatedly condemned this failed policy in the United Nations and many other forums.

January 25, 2013
 
 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In the lead-up to the January 28, 2013 Gambling Referendum in The Bahamas, Dr. Miles Munroe expressed concern that a group of lobbyists were using their monetary influence to pressure the democratically elected government ...to legitimise their personal interests ...at the expense of the Bahamian People

Munroe: Voting Yes Is Electing An Alternative Government





By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune242 Staff Reporter
ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

Nassau, The Bahamas
 


THE gambling referendum that Bahamians are about to entertain could be the election of an alternative government, Dr Miles Munroe said last night to members at Bahamas Faith Ministries International on Carmichael Road.

In the lead-up to the gambling referendum scheduled for January 28, Dr Munroe made a statement to his audience, which was aired live on ZNS TV-13, expressing concern that a group of lobbyists were using their monetary influence to pressure the democratically elected government to legitimise their personal interests at the expense of the people.

“This referendum that we’re about to entertain could be the election of an alternative government.

“You went to the polls some months ago and you elected a government to govern our country. At least that is what it seemed like,” the minister said.

“But I want you to think about this carefully. There should only be one government at a time in our country. There shouldn’t be a secret government, a shadow government, a government pulling strings behind the scenes, a government controlling decisions by lobbying, a government manipulating policy and legislation by monetary influence.”

“We are supposed to have a government that makes decisions without influence from any specific group of people and every decision they make should be made in the best interest of the population of our country,” he said.

Dr Munroe noted that the motivations seemed to be the country’s surrender to the powers with money, which in his words, would make the establishment of a national lottery and state sponsored gambling seem logical.

“National lottery and state sponsored gambling is an alternative government taxing the citizens without benefit to the citizen. In other words, it’s a second government collecting taxes. The only problem is, it is not benefitting the citizens, only a few people,” the minister explained.

Dr Munroe made recommendations for the government that included them admitting that they are not ready for the referendum, accepting responsibility for the populace not being ready, and ultimately postponing the referendum to allow the College of the Bahamas to be engaged in “completing research on the present and future impact of national gaming on our local population”.

“The purpose for a higher learning institution,” he said, “is to assist governments in research efforts in order to make sound decisions that are in the best interest of the people.”

Dr Munroe told his congregation and visual audience that a country could never have a clean government again if it’s government allowed itself to be pressured by the influence of gaming bosses.

“If a small group of lobbyers pressure the government legitimately voted into power to legitimise their personal interest, then we will never have a pure government again,” he said.



Monday, January 21, 2013

Considerations And Implications Of The Upcoming Gaming Referendum In The Bahamas

Considerations And Implications Of The Upcoming Gaming Referendum



By ANDRE ROLLINS, MP
Bahamas Gaming Board chairman
 
 
 
AS WE go to the polls to decide on whether we will support the regulation and taxation of web shop gaming and/or the establishment of a national lottery, as chairman for the Gaming Board of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, I wish to share the following considerations and implications of the upcoming gaming referendum.
 
Firstly, gaming is either legal or illegal. Some would argue that gaming should be either legal and open to all, or illegal and open to none.
 
Our existing gaming legislation does not support this argument as it gives visitors rights to gamble that are not granted to Bahamians, permanent residents and work permit holders currently residing in the Bahamas.
 
Secondly, we cannot permit any industry to operate outside the purview of the law, and without proper regulation and oversight. Currently a substantial amount of gaming occurs in the Bahamas without proper regulation and oversight.
 
If Bahamians wish to have access to gaming as a form of entertainment it must be understood that it is unacceptable for it to continue in an unregulated manner. The position of this government must be clear: We cannot regulate the sector in part; it must be regulated as a whole.
 
To continue to allow gaming houses in the Bahamas to exist without appropriate regulatory controls creates the potential for the infiltration of and control by criminal entities, which could very easily produce adverse domestic and international consequences.
 
Our nation’s financial regulatory regime and the reporting requirements it imposes on businesses engaged in financial services, cannot be effective if it ignores a large group of businesses which conduct significant financial transactions.
 
This is critical for our country if we wish to maintain our standing as a responsible financial services jurisdiction compliant with international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism best practices.
 
Our country must be seen to be continuing along a progressive path of reform not just in the eyes of the international community, but also in the eyes of our citizens. The government cannot be perceived as being guilty of engendering a culture where laws are selectively observed and applied; where law enforcement and not justice is blind.
 
The government must be aggressive in bringing all local gaming operations into conformity with the laws governing gaming – laws that promote high standards for participation in the industry by the owners, vendors, employees and patrons of all gaming establishments and which create safeguards to protect the interests of the gaming and non-gaming public alike.
 
Currently, lawful gaming regimes exist throughout the Caribbean in Barbados, Anguilla, St Maarten, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, the US Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St Lucia, Grenada, St Vincent and Belize.
 
A regional operator with a presence in each of these countries reports that existing underground gaming enterprises existed in all of them before the introduction of lawful regimes and the regulated operations all survived despite concerns that they would be undermined by fears of the impact taxation would have on operator revenue and/or player winnings.
 
The expansion of the Bahamas’ regulatory regime to cover gaming by locals would create a new recurrent revenue stream for the government. To be consistent with the practices of respected gaming jurisdictions around the world, the government must clearly outline “good causes” that would be funded by this voluntary tax.
 
Examples of identified “good causes” in other jurisdictions are: education (schools and scholarships), healthcare, senior citizens, the disabled, youth programmes, arts, culture, historic preservation, sports (Olympics), capital improvements, economic revitalisation programmes, public safety, public transportation and public housing.
 
Should the majority of Bahamians vote no to both questions it will be an expression of the public’s wish to deny Bahamians the right to participate in local gaming except as employees of the hotel-based casinos.
 
Based on the long history of Bahamian participation in games of chance and the recognition that historical legal restrictions precipitated the creation of illegal gaming enterprises, it is inevitable that the demand for such activity will persist beyond January 28 even in the face of a no vote.
 
The difference is that the government will be under greater pressure to use its law enforcement resources to respond to illegal gaming – resources that are scarce and themselves under increasing pressure to address the scourge of violent crime affecting parts of our country.
 
While it has admittedly taken far too long for any government to muster the political will and courage to police this unregulated activity and despite the fact that preparation for this referendum has been an awkward and untidy process, it cannot be argued that 50-plus years is insufficient time to know whether or not something should be regulated or taxed for the benefit of our country and people.
 
The alternative is to yield to the calls to postpone this process and risk perpetuating government that is irresponsible and a society that is ungovernable.
 
January 21, 2013
 
 
 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bahamas Faith Ministries President Dr. Myles Munroe has recommended to the Constitutional Commission... that:... ...All children born in The Bahamas ...irrespective of their parents' status ...should be offered provisional citizenship ...similar to permanent residency status ...with all rights available to a permanent resident ...up to the age of 18

Munroe wants ‘provisional citizenship’ in constitution


BY ROYSTON JONES Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter
royston@nasguard.com
Nassau, The Bahamas


All children born in The Bahamas irrespective of their parents' status should be offered provisional citizenship similar to permanent residency status with all rights available to a permanent resident up to the age of 18, Bahamas Faith Ministries President Dr. Myles Munroe has recommended to the Constitutional Commission. 

"Where a child is born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents who reside in The Bahamas, that child is not regarded as a Bahamian citizen," Munroe said. 

"The social impact of this current policy is to deprive a child of any official status or sense of reality of belonging for 18 years of his or her life.

"Moreover, this category of persons must be treated with careful consideration and sensitivity.

"...The social impact of this current policy is that the child does not belong to anywhere for 18 years. The child is stateless, without legal or official status and thus due to the psychological, emotional, physiological and mental disillusionment impacting him or her, the sense of disconnect and lack of loyalty and allegiance breeds contempt. 

"This scenario creates the potential for an antisocial response to the society as a whole."  

Babies born in The Bahamas do not automatically become citizens, but the Bahamas Constitution provides that children born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamians could apply for citizenship on their 18th birthday or within the following 12 months.

Munroe presented the recommendation during a meeting of the Constitutional Commission at British Colonial Hilton hotel yesterday. 

He noted that upon turning 18, the young adult is entitled to apply for a Bahamian passport and be registered as a citizen upon successful completion of a citizenship and allegiance test, and swearing the oath of allegiance. 

The provision remains a controversial one in some circles.

Months before the 2012 general election, Haitian President Michel Martelly told more than 6,000 Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians at the church of God Auditorium on Joe Farrington Road that people born in The Bahamas to Haitians are 'stateless'. 

He lamented the plight of people who have to wait until their 18th birthday to apply for Bahamian citizenship. 

During that same meeting, Martelly urged his countrymen to align themselves with the political party that will best serve their interests.

"So until they are 18 they don't belong to anywhere, and yet they were born here, meaning do I have to tell anyone if you send them back to Haiti they probably don't know anybody or won't recognize the place they land?" said Martelly at a press conference the following day. 

His comments sparked outrage among some Bahamians.

Munroe also recommended that the constitution be amended to eliminate discrimination against women; institute a fixed election date; appoint an independent boundaries commission; provide for a non-partisan commission on citizenship and immigration reform; remove the Privy Council as the final appellate court for final criminal appeals and gradually move away from the British Monarch as the head of state, among other things. 

Former Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Simeon Hall and Senior Pastor of Grace Community Church Rev. Dr. Rex Major also presented recommendations.

Hall agreed that provisions should be made in the constitution for an independent boundaries commission and for the removal of the Privy Council.

He also said the Senate should be abandoned.

“It seems as if its purpose is merely to give privilege to political supporters at the expense of the Bahamian people,” he said.

“I favor those who believe we have outlived our Westminster system of government and it is time to consider The Bahamas as a republic.” 

The commission is expected to present its recommendations to the government on or before March 31, 2013.

January 18, 2013

thenassauguardian

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guantánamo detention camp: deaths by dryboarding

By Ernesto Carmona, Chilean journalist and writer







IN June of 2006, three prisoners were found dead in the U.S. detention camp on the Guantánamo Naval Base, hanging in their cells from what looked like improvised nooses. Although the Defense Department (DoD) declared "death by suicide," the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) found evidence to the contrary, including the fact that the prisoners’ hands were tied behind their backs. The NCIS evidence suggests that they could have died during fatal interrogation sessions involving the controlled asphyxia technique or dryboarding, a variant of the submarine torture used in countries like Chile during the military dictatorship, which consisted of asphyxiating prisoners by placing a plastic bag over their heads or prolonged immersion with the mouth and nose under water.

The censored NCIS report, validated on November 21, 2011 by the MediaFreedomInternational.org webpage, notes that the Guantánamo Base prison camp has given rise to controversy since it was established as a detention and interrogation center in 2002, described as such by the Bush administration. Guantánamo is Cuban territory illegally occupied by the United States since 1903.

The 2006 NCIS investigation was updated thanks to investigative journalist Almerindo Ojeda, of Truthout, whose extensive work on the NCIS reports poses many questions as to the veracity of the official account presented to the media by U.S. authorities in the Bush era. Much of the NCIS material prompts the following questions:

• Why did the prisoners have their hands tied when they were found hanging in their cells?

• Why were the prisoners gagged with cloth?

• Why did all three prisoners have masks?

• Why was there a bloody T-shirt around the neck of one of the prisoners found hanging in his cell?

• Why is there a page missing from a log book begun on the day the deaths were discovered?

Why were the neck organs (the larynx, the hyoid bone and the thyroid cartilage) removed from one of the corpses?

Ojeda’s analysis also includes statements by a number of guards working in Guantánamo, who stated that had seen the three prisoners transferred to secret detention centers inside the naval base. Later, the prisoners, already dead, were taken to the medical clinic with their throats stuffed with cloth and visible bruises on their bodies.

Qatari national Ali Saleh al-Marri, lawfully resident in the United States, was subjected to dryboarding after being declared an enemy combatant by George W. Bush in 2003, narrowly escaping death at the hands of government interrogators. Connecting the dots between Ali Al-Marri’s interrogation and dry boarding with the NCIS reports on the three Guantánamo prisoners led Ojeda to the conclusion that death by controlled asphyxiation is the most plausible explanation to date and, doubtless, a much stronger one than the official account of suicide by hanging.

The Ojeda report concluded, "In light of the unanswered questions, one thing remains clear: there is a need for a thorough, independent and transparent investigation into the June 10, 2006, deaths at Guantánamo and, more broadly, for a thorough, independent and transparent inquiry into all the practices and policies of detention enacted since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."

In March 2012, Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, acknowledged that he was investigating evidence of autopsies which cast doubt on official explanations of the deaths of Guantánamo prisoners Abdul Rahman al Amri and Mohammad Saleh al Hanashi, both of whom died of suicide, according to the Defense Department, in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

The new details surrounding their deaths, as reported by Truthout, challenges the government account of what took place. The new information was assembled on the basis of autopsy reports on the prisoners and other findings related to their detention conditions in Guantánamo, included in detainee statements and those of their lawyers.

The autopsy reports confirmed that Saudi national Abdul al Amri had been found hanging with his hands tied behind his back, and had been tested after his death for the presence of the controversial drug mefloquine (Lariam). Mefloquine can cause neurotoxic and serious psychiatric side.

In the case of Mohammad al Hanashi, the autopsy examiners stated that they had never seen the actual device (or ligature) by which he was said to have strangled himself to death. The ligature was reportedly made from an elastic underwear band from a pair of white briefs. But news reports indicate that this was not the type of underwear in use at Guantánamo at this time. There was also some question as to whether Al Hanashi had been on suicide watch at the time of his death, as he was not found wearing the requisite "suicide smock" typically used on actively suicidal prisoners, despite the fact he had made five suicide attempts in the four weeks prior to his death. (Mapocho Press)
 
January 10, 2013
 
 
 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Exposing Five Key Media Myths about Chavez’s Health and Swearing-in

By Ewan Robertson and Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com




Over the last few weeks the private English media has stepped up its campaign against the Venezuelan revolution, spreading a number of lies and misconceptions around President Hugo Chavez’s health, the politics and legalities involved in his swearing-in for his new term, and the Venezuelan government’s handling of the situation.

The media, often taking its line directly from Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, is exploiting a sad time for the Venezuelan people. Media Observatory journalist Mariclem Stelling, talking on public television station VTV, called it a “combination of glee, irony, and necrophilia...an attempt to remove [Chavez] from his political role”.

“They build the news from the economic and political interests to which they respond,” she said.
Here, Venezuelanalysis.com debunks the top five lies currently being spread by private media.

1) The Venezuelan government is being secretive about Chavez’s health

This charge has been made by international media since Chavez first announced he had cancer in June 2011. Criticisms by the private media of government “secrecy” around his condition have intensified as the swearing-in date approaches, in part reflecting an increasingly fractious Venezuelan opposition anxious for details they could use to their advantage.

Mass media sources describe Chavez’s medical condition as “a mystery”, with outlets such as the Los Angeles Times referring to government information on Chavez’s post-operatory recovery as “sporadic and thinly detailed medical updates”. Outlets such as the British BBC and the Australian have picked up the opposition’s call for the Venezuelan government to tell the “truth” on Chavez’s health, implying that the government is withholding information, or outright lying.

The argument that the Venezuelan government is keeping secrets feeds into the discourse most mainstream media use in relation to the Bolivarian revolution, recently describing the government as “despots” (Chicago Tribune) and “autocratic populists” (Washington Post).

Other media has put out its own versions of Chavez’s state of health, with the Spanish ABC going to great lengths to describe even his bowel movements, and reporting that he is in a coma, and the multinational Terra mistaking its desires for reality, reporting that Chavez is already dead. These media outlets have just one “anonymous” source for their reports; they somehow, apparently, have an infiltrator (or an “intelligence source” as they call it) among Chavez’s Cuban medical team.

The government has in fact released 28 statements updating the public on Chavez’s condition since his operation on 11 December, an average of around 1 per day. These statements are available in full text on the internet, and are also being read out by communication minister Ernesto Villegas on all Venezuelan public television and radio.

In the latest statement, released yesterday, Villegas said that Chavez’s condition remains “stationary” compared to the last report, where the public was informed that he has a respiratory “deficiency” due to a pulmonary infection.

It is true however, that beyond mentioning the general cancer site; the pelvic region, the government hasn’t revealed the exact type of cancer that Chavez has, nor the exact nature of the operation that he underwent on 11 December. This is possibly due to privacy reasons.

When asked directly about this issue in a recent interview, Jorge Rodriguez, a doctor and key figure in Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), said “I’d give the example of Mrs. Hilary Clinton, who had a cerebral vascular accident. There are three factors which influence these cases: the part of the brain where it happens, the size of the affected zone, and if it produces a hemorrhage or obstruction. Well fine, I’ve not seen any serious and decent doctor ask in which zone she had the lesion. And I think it’s fine that they don’t ask because that lady has the right to privacy. I’ve not seen Ramon Guillermo Aveledo (the executive secretary of the opposition’s MUD coalition) asking to know if her accident affected her in the frontal lobe, in which case, of course, she couldn’t continue giving the instructions she normally gives”.

Of course, when the international media report on the Venezuelan opposition’s stance towards Chavez’s health situation, they invariably fail to mention that the opposition’s approach has a lot less to do with a crusade for truth, and more to do with its hopes of creating a political and constitutional crisis over the issue. They make out that the Venezuelan government is being deliberately misleading and manipulative with information, but would never point the finger at Western leaders such as George Bush or Barack Obama for not announcing the exact locations of their frequent, long, and luxurious vacations, for example.

2) It is unconstitutional if Chavez doesn’t take the oath of office on 10 January

This is another lie that takes a leaf straight from the opposition’s book. Most opposition leaders, and even the Venezuelan Catholic Church, are arguing that if Chavez cannot be officially sworn-in as president on 10 January then he will lose his status as president of Venezuela. They say that in that case, Chavez should be declared “permanently absent”, and the head of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, would have to take over as president and call fresh elections. The opposition also claim that the swearing-in ceremony cannot be postponed, and that if Chavez continues on as president after 10 January it would be a “flagrant violation of the constitution”. Their strategy is to use their own interpretation of the constitution in order to try and depose Chavez on a technicality while the president-elect lies in Cuba struggling in post-surgery recovery.

Private media outlets have latched onto this argument, and misinformed about the Venezuelan constitution. In a highly misleading article, the Washington Post claimed that a delay in Chavez’s inauguration ceremony would be “a stretch of the constitution’s ambiguous wording”. Similar comments were made in other U.S. outlets, with Time arguing that Venezuela’s constitution is “a murky map that could send the western hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation into precarious governmental limbo this year”. Reuters argued that the Venezuelan government is “violating the constitution” and the country will be “left in a power vacuum”, and the BBC, which maintained a more reserved tone, still portrayed interpretations of the constitution as muddied debate between government and opposition.

However, Venezuela’s constitution is clear on the situation. The conditions under which a president can be declared permanently absent and new elections called are covered by article 233, and are, “death, resignation, destitution decreed by the Supreme Court, mental or physical incapacity certified by a medical council designated by the Supreme Court with the approval of the National Assembly, abandonment of the post, [or] a popular recall of the mandate”.

Currently Chavez’s status is that of “absence from the national territory”, a status which is granted by the national assembly. This could eventually be declared a “temporary absence” from the presidency, which is granted by the national assembly for a period of ninety days, and can be extended for 90 further days, as outlined by articles 234 and 235 of the constitution.

What the opposition are trying to do is use article 231 of the constitution, which describes the presidential inauguration, to argue for Chavez’s deposal. The article states that the president elect “will assume their mandate on the 10th of January of the first year of their constitutional period, through a swearing-in ceremony in front of the National Assembly”. The opposition claim that Chavez’s inability to attend that ceremony means that he has not assumed his term and his “permanent absence” should be declared.   However, as noted above, not being able to attend the inauguration ceremony is not considered a reason for “permanent absence” in the Venezuelan constitution, leaving the Venezuelan opposition without a constitutional leg to stand on.

Rather, this situation is dealt with by the second half of article 231, which states, “If for any supervening reason the president cannot take office in front of the National Assembly, s/he will do so before the Supreme Court”. No date is specified.

Venezuelan constitutional lawyer Harman Escarra, an opposition supporter who helped draft the 1999 constitution, explained in an interview with Venezuelan daily Ciudad CCS that constitutionally, even if the president can’t attend the 10 January ceremony, the new presidential term still begins, including the constitutional mandate of the president’s council of state, the vice-president, and government ministers. As such, he affirmed that in Venezuela “there isn’t a power vacuum”.

The constitutional lawyer further explained that under both the letter and spirit of article 231 of the constitution, “The President, from the point of view of sovereignty, is the President. There’s no other, and the mandate of the popular majority cannot not be overturned because of the issue of a date at a specific moment, because that would be to violate a sacred principle that is in article five of the constitution, which says that power resides in the sovereignty of the people”.

Therefore, it is erroneous for international media to report that Venezuela is entering a constitutionally ambiguous situation in which either the status of the president or the next constitutional step is not clear. Further, it is not only misleading, but dangerous to wrongly paint Chavez allies as looking to subvert the constitution to stay in power, when the opposition is trying to question the government’s constitutional legitimacy in order to provoke a political crisis and depose Chavez as president. The opposition is not the “critical” and “unbiased” democratic voice that the private media represent them as. Such reporting also displays a certain level of hypocrisy, as one can be sure that if the U.S. president or British prime minister were unable to assume a particular inauguration ceremony for health reasons, such outlets would not start casting doubt on their legitimacy, as they are currently doing with Chavez.

3) Should elections have to be called, they may not be “fair”, and opposition leader Henrique Capriles has a good chance of winning

This third myth adds to the previous two to create the impression that the Bolivarian revolution is undemocratic. It is spouted by most private media, but especially media from the US, which rarely points out the utterly unfair conditions in which elections are held in its own country.

The Washington Post claimed that if Chavez were to die and new elections had to be called, “Chavez’s inner circle…may consider postponing the election or even calling it off”.

“That’s why the first responsibility of the United States and Venezuelan neighbors such as Brazil should be to insist that the presidential election be held and that it be free and fair,” the WP said, and even suggested that “Mr Chavez’s followers or military leaders” might “attempt a coup”.

The US State Department has also called for any elections that Venezuela has to be “free and transparent” and the Chicago Tribune in an article today said, “In October, Chavez vanquished his first serious challenger, Henrique Capriles, despite being too sick to campaign... Too sick to give speeches, he bought votes through political stunts like awarding a free government-built home to his 3 millionth Twitter follower.”

The Chicago Tribune’s statement is a lie; Chavez attended one to two huge rallies around the country in the month before the presidential elections, including one in Merida the authors of this article attended, as well as fulfilling his duties as president. And, of course there is no basis or need for these calls for “fair” elections. None of the private media will remind its readers of the 16 elections held over the last 14 years, that 81% of Venezuelans voluntarily turned out to vote in the October presidential elections, that Venezuela is building up participatory democracy through its communal councils, and that Venezuelans have access to completely free and widely available health care, education, and even to subsidised housing—basic conditions necessary for democracy to be practiced.

The Washington Post argued that the Venezuelan government “fears” free elections because “a fair vote would be won by opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost the October presidential ballot but is more popular than Mr. Maduro.” This is wishful thinking, another example of the media mistaking its desire for reality. The opposition did not receive more votes than the governing PSUV in the recent 16 December regional elections, despite Chavez’s absence. The opposition is weak, divided, disillusioned after 14 years of losing election after election (except the 2007 constitutional referendum), has no street presence what so ever, and has no program or cause to unite around, beyond wanting power.

4) A split within the Chavista leadership between Maduro and Cabello is coming

This is another idea bandied about by the Venezuelan opposition and propagated by the international media. The notion, or hope, is that if the worst were to happen and Chavez were to die, Chavismo would immediately become divided among itself and fall apart. In particular, it is argued that national assembly president Diosdado Cabello would try to seize the presidential candidacy of the PSUV from Vice-president Nicolas Maduro. Some opposition figures appear to be actively encouraging this, with opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado demanding that Diosdado Cabello take power on 10 January and that “distrust” and “fear” exist between Cabello and Maduro.

On cue, always backed by vague “analysts” or “observers”, the international media has informed the public of, “A potential rift inside Chavismo between Maduro’s more socialist faction and that of the more pragmatic Cabello” (TIME), or, “Mr Cabello wields considerable power and is thought to harbour his own political ambitions” (BBC), and that, “Chavez's death or resignation could set off a power struggle within the party among Maduro, Cabello, Chavez's brother Adan and state governors” (LA Times).

Such commentary has been slammed by Maduro, Cabello and other leaders within Chavismo, who all stress the unity of different currents within the Bolivarian movement in the current difficult situation. Indeed, the scenario of a direct power grab by Cabello or any other figure within Chavismo of Maduro’s role as successor if Chavez cannot assume his presidential term is very unlikely. Just before Chavez flew off to Cuba for surgery in December, he told the nation that, “If such a scenario were to occur, I ask you from my heart that you elect Nicolas Maduro as constitutional president of the republic”. Chavez has such strong support and respect from among his followers that it would be almost unthinkable for another leader within Chavismo to publicly go against Chavez’s express wish that Maduro be his successor. Any attempt to usurp Maduro’s leadership and candidacy in fresh presidential elections would be seen as political suicide.

5) That the revolution is over without Chavez

Most private media have also subtly cast doubt that the revolution will continue without Chavez, suggesting that the leadership will collapse, that Venezuela is already in “economic chaos” and “disaster”, that Venezuela is living a political “crisis” right now, and that the revolutionary process can’t survive without Chavez. The Chicago Tribune said that, “Whoever ends up running Venezuela will preside over the mess Chavez made of a prosperous and promising nation” and there is now “high unemployment, record inflation and rampant crime”. This is despite Venezuela ending 2012 with 19.9% inflation, the lowest in years, and unemployment lower than the US.

The media is ignoring the fact that the country has been doing fine this last month without Chavez, that the PSUV leadership won 20 out of 23 states in the regional elections in December, without Chavez’s presence, that there is no crisis here; schools started again as normal today, the barrio adentro clinics are open, people are working, shopping, returning from Christmas season vacations, as normal. There is no panic buying, no looting, no political unrest.

Most importantly, the media is ignoring, is invisibilising the biggest factor there is; the people of Venezuela. Chavez isn’t just a person, or a leader, he represents a political project; of economic and cultural sovereignty, of Latin American unity, of freedom from US intervention, of all basic rights satisfied, and of participatory democracy. The majority of Venezuelans have showed their support for that project by turning out to vote en masse time and time again, including in elections in which Chavez wasn’t running, with voting rates generally increasing each year. In most other countries people would be tired and would have gotten over so many elections by now. Venezuelans have marched in the thousands and millions around the country again and again, not just to support electoral candidates, but to march for workers’ rights on May Day, as well as for other causes such as gay rights, defending journalists against violent attacks by the opposition, in support of various laws, and more. It was Venezuelans, en masse, who helped overturn the coup against Chavez in 2002.

The list of gains over the last 14 years is a long one. To mention just a few: complete literacy, broadly available and free university education, free healthcare centres in most communities, free laptops to primary school children, free meals for primary school children, subsidised food, subsidised books, increased street culture and street art, a range of new public infrastructure such as train lines and cable cars, laws supporting the rights of disabled people, women, and so on, government assisted urban agriculture, legalised community and worker organising, nearly a 1000 free internet centres, music programs, pensions for the elderly, and much more. These huge changes can’t be quickly reversed, and the Venezuelan people have every reason not to let them be.

Further, over the last 14 years, Venezuelans have woken up. They read and know their laws, everyone, even opposition supporters, spends hours each day debating and discussing politics and economics. Apathy still exists, but is way down. There is a political consciousness and depth that can’t be turned off overnight.

While it is true that after Chavez there will probably be bureaucracy, corruption, reformism, and some internal disagreements, these issues existed with him as a leader as well. Any change in political circumstances is an opportunity to bring these problems to the surface and to confront them.

The people of the Bolivarian movement are fighters, and are here to stay.

January 08, 2013

Venezuelanalysis

Monday, January 7, 2013

Venezuela without Chavez: A Possible Scenario

By Roberto Lopez – Marea Socialista:




This article is written by a member of the leftist Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide) current of Venezuela’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). It is the first of several voices from within the Bolivarian movement to be featured by Venezuelanalysis.com this week, each offering an interpretation of the current situation in relation to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s health and swearing-in, as well as the possible future political scenarios that Venezuela faces.


1) Chavez’s leaving power seems to be a certainty in the short term (from a few months to a year), either through death or because his health will prevent him from returning to active office. If he returns and is sworn in on January 10 or at a later date, his precarious health condition will keep him almost permanently in Cuba and the real running of the country will fall on one or more other individuals.

2) This implies the beginning of a period of profound change in the political leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution. This period could last several months or even several years.

3) The recent and resounding electoral defeats suffered by the opposition in October and December place the post-Chavez political dispute within Chavismo itself. This will continue for at least several months and perhaps a year or two. Currently, the right wing is not in a political position to act offensively to regain power within the country, but obviously that weakness can change as time goes on.

4) We can infer that the present pro-Chavez leadership headed by Maduro and Cabello will deteriorate as time passes. Causes: none of them have the leadership qualities of Chavez and therefore none of them are able to generate the consensus that existed when Chavez was in office. The deterioration of consensus implies a deterioration of governance over national, regional and local institutions. Generally, one can say that the long-term continuation of the Bolivarian Revolution is not assured with the current leadership, which has constituted Chavez’s inner circle and his immediate environment for the past 14 years. We will witness an on-going crisis of governance that will result in constant rearrangements whose actors and trends cannot be accurately predicted.

5) Several processes will occur simultaneously:

a) An internal struggle for a new distribution of power within chavismo (redistribution of control over state institutions and over effective control of the national budget). Although formally they might manage to reach agreements for slicing up the bureaucratic pie, strong shocks will in fact begin to be produced because the country is not a sum of its parts but an organic whole. Those clashes will be concealed initially, but will progressively become more public. This could even lead to violent scenarios, such as attacks against certain leaders of the various pro-Chavez fractions.

b) The deterioration of this leadership for Venezuelans who support the process. This may occur due to the government’s inability to address popular demands around critical issues; for example, labor disputes and collective negotiations involving significant sections of the state (teachers, academics, Guyanese industries, etc.). Chavez will no longer be there to appease people’s emotions with the refrain of “the president didn’t know” or “they’re not complying with the president’s directives.” The errors of the bureaucracy will not be forgiven by the people, as occurred when Chavez firmly held the nation’s leadership.

c) A widespread conspiracy by the “empire” [the US primarily] to penetrate the various civilian and military pro-Chavezleadership circles to promote the reversal of the revolutionary process. This could be supplemented with future scenarios in which pro-Chavez forces and opposition forces unite to achieve the goal of ending the revolution. At the moment, however, those scenarios are not yet possible (thankfully), but they could be created in the short term.

d) In the internal struggle within Chavismo, imperialist forces and their local allies will constantly seek to exert their influence. The empire is likely to attempt to carry out various actions on its own, even violent ones, which could then be blamed on the intra-Chavista struggle. The goal of this would be to add more fuel to the fire and encourage the strengthening of internal tendencies that are more likely to compromise with imperialism.

6) The imperial forces will seek the right moment to end the Bolivarian Revolution. In promoting their initiatives, they will not rule out Libyan or Syrian-type scenarios (i.e., fostering a civil war) to overthrow the Bolivarian government and restore imperial rule over Venezuela.
In conclusion, the removal of Chavez from power opens up a scenario of uncertainty and political crisis in Venezuela, which seriously threatens the continuity of the revolutionary process and opens the door for the international bourgeoisie and their allies to attempt to regain domestic political power.

Given this reality, it is essential that revolutionaries strengthen their organizational activities and joint actions based on broad and democratic debate over the political agenda being raised by popular organizations.

Ensuring the continuation of the revolutionary process will depend on the emergence of new forms of popular collective leadership, which will be born in the heat of the difficult political confrontation that will characterize the months and years ahead.

If this strengthening of alternative revolutionary leadership does not occur, it is likely that reformist trends will end up predominating within the Chavista bureaucracy, pushing for a general agreement with the local bourgeoisie and US imperialism as a way to “save and sustain” the Bolivarian process.

If this latter trend prevails, the re-taking of power by imperialism would progressively occur and the reformist leaders and facilitators of Chavismo would gradually be displaced by more reliable traditional bourgeois leaders. That process could take several years, possibly the entire current presidential term (2013-2019).

The means of avoiding this will always be through the strength of the popular movement led by a truly revolutionary program. This cannot rely on small and tiny groups or tendencies that exist within or outside the PSUV. It will depend on a massive confluence of revolutionary activists (including the military) and social organizations to confront the imperialist conspiracy and reformist reconciliation.

In this strategy — which I believe is the only alternative that exists to save the revolution — we must try out all means for exercising democracy and achieving the broadest possible consensus for allowing unity of action throughout the country.

This article originally appeared in Spanish on la.guarura.net and was translated into English by HavanaTimes.org.

January 07, 2013

Venezuelanalysis

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Patois Bible: Relevant or irreverent?

By Desrine Bogle







THE debate around what is commonly referred to as the Patois Bible that began in 2010 was reignited with the December 9, 2012 release of the New Testament in both written and audio forms of Jamaican Creole. However, do most persons enter the debate dispassionately?
 
Unfortunately, as Jamaicans, we still do not want to recognise that what we speak is in fact a language. It has been given many disparaging names, the most dignified of which is "the dialect". From a linguistic standpoint, a dialect is nothing but a regional variety of a language. Thus, for example, American English is a dialect of Standard English. Mexican Spanish is a dialect of Castilian and Canadian or Senegalese French are dialects of Standard French. Jamaican Creole is not a dialect of English; speakers of English cannot readily comprehend it, despite its having some English words.

So, what value does this Patois Bible have? For linguists, the translation of the Bible into Jamaican Creole seeks to deflate the argument that Patois is a corrupted, vulgar or a broken form of English, devoid of scholarly merit and inappropriate for written texts, moreover the sacred word of God.
For translation specialists, the Jamaican Bible translation project, dubbed the Patois Bible, has significant merit because of the historical relevance of Bible translation. Some facts will undoubtedly clear the air and hopefully make the project more acceptable.
 
For centuries, Christianity, and more precisely Roman Catholicism, was the only religion in many parts of the then known world including Europe. From the late fourth century until the Reformation, the only authorised translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate, was available in Latin. However, Latin was not understood by the masses, which spoke their vernacular, which were forms of Latin that were considered, at the time, corrupted, broken or vulgar. Sounds familiar?
 
Despite this unpopular view towards the vernacular languages, Great Reformers like the German Martin Luther and the Englishman William Tyndale saw the need to render the Inspired Word into the language of the masses. They set about to translate the Bible into the vernacular language of their compatriots.
 
On September 21, 1522, Martin Luther published the translation of the New Testament. This translation became known as the September Bible. In 1534, Luther completed the translation of the entire Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew, which was known as the Luther Bible. In 1526, William Tyndale published his translation of the New Testament, which was referred to as the Tyndale New Testament.
 
In 1535, he completed the translation of the first half of the Old Testament. He was strangled to death and burnt at the stake before being able to complete the translation of the entire Bible.
 
The Bibles of these two Reformers are significant for several reasons, chief among which is the fact that their translations were done from the original Greek and Hebrew and not from existing translations. The Patois New Testament, like these great translations, uses the original Greek and Hebrew and not English translations.
 
During the Reformation, the significance of translating the Bible into what was considered broken, corrupted or vulgar languages was to make the Word accessible to the masses that did not master Latin. The translators of the Reformation were wholly concerned about the people accessing the Word to enrich their spiritual experience; they did not spend time questioning the validity of their native language for expressing the Sacred Word of God. The move also demonstrated that these vernacular languages were no less worthy than Latin to express the Holy Word.
 
The Bible translations into English and German were met with staunch opposition by the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, of the time that felt, for various reasons, that the act of translating the Sacred Word into these vernacular languages was sacrilegious. What was the price for translating parts or the entire Bible? Surely not praise.
 
The translations were banned and the translators were ex-communicated and killed, being deemed heretics. Tyndale printed 3,000 copies of his translation. They were banned and burnt. Only two copies remain today.
 
Translating the Bible was a victory for the Reformers who gave the common man an opportunity to understand the Word in his own tongue. Was not the goal of Pentecost to have every man hear the Word in his own tongue?
 
Translating the Bible into vernacular languages was also a victory for those languages that were considered corrupted versions of Latin. The translations helped in the standardisation of those vernacular languages. The Luther Bible was written in Early New High German. This translation was influential in standardising the German language.
 
The Tyndale New Testament, written in early modern English, greatly influenced future versions of the Bible, especially the King James Version. Tyndale's translation had an indisputable influence in shaping modern English.
 
The standardisation of Jamaican Creole will, contrary to popular belief, not mean the death of English. It will give credence to a language that has existed and has been used by Jamaicans of all social classes for over a century, but which has been demonised as vulgar, corrupted or broken English.
 
The translation of the Bible into Jamaican Creole follows a similar trajectory to German and English Bible translations. Many scoff at the move, deeming it sacrilegious and a waste of time and money. Others see in this translation a more sinister motive to oppress the masses by depriving them of mastering English.
 
Linguists see the translation of the Bible into the Jamaican language as a victory in efforts to standardise it. Like the Great Reformers, translation specialists believe that the Bible can, and should, be translated into vernacular languages, just as into any other language. Why not into Jamaican?
 
Desrine Bogle holds a PhD in Translation Studies. She is the chair of the Department of Humanities at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville.

January 06, 2013

Jamaica Observer

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Tribute to Barack Obama... America’s 44th President

Tribute to Barack Obama


BY DION FOULKES
Nassau, The Bahamas


The re-election of America’s 44th president is a profound accomplishment for our great neighbor to the north and a good omen for the rest of the world.

This is part of a broader trend in which the arc of history continues to bend towards greater equality and inclusion in the universal human family.

That arc must be bent by every generation, in every age, and in every place where exclusion and inequality smothers the human spirit and shackles progress.

As a student at the University of Indiana more than a few years ago I was privileged to participate in a campaign that successfully pushed for a U.S. federal holiday to honor the life and witness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Those efforts included organizing hundreds of students for a modern March on Washington, ending at the National Mall in Washington D.C. where Dr. King led an earlier historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Because of the power of the dream expressed at that protest march at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, just 40 years after Dr. King’s death the world witnessed the first inauguration on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol Building of an African American as president of the most powerful country in the world.

That was four years ago.

On the 21st of January 2013, Martin Luther King Day, President Barack Obama will take the oath of office for a second time.

Both Dr. King and Mr. Obama understood that progress only comes when enough people feel the need to move “Forward”.

Here at home, The Bahamas long ago met the challenge of the forward movement when we ended the property vote, extended the franchise to women, achieved majority rule and opened up the highest offices in the land to all Bahamians regardless of race, ethnicity or gender.

Both major political parties in our nation count among their members and founders those who fought for human dignity and the expansion of human rights for every Bahamian, no matter their color or creed.

For any one party - then or now - to claim this legacy as an exclusive possession would be an act of amnesia, or gross arrogance.

I share with other second and third generation Bahamian politicians a personal connection to this national movement for freedom and progress.

My father,  H. E. Sir Arthur Foulkes, in the late 1950s collaborated with others to create the National Committee for Positive Action, the NCPA, which transformed the face of Bahamian politics.  To those who were saying, “no we can’t” or “maybe we shouldn’t”, our fathers said, “yes we can”  and they moved forward.

Both King and Obama would recognize in the NCPA a kindred spirit, a movement for change that grew out of the audacity of hope, a movement that combined high principles with grassroots organizing, idealism with pragmatism, thoughtful action with extraordinary courage.

I am proud that the party of which I am privileged to be a member, and which bears the name “freedom”, has a rich legacy of expanding democratic freedoms, be they political, economic or social.

The Free National Movement (FNM) moved forward with freeing the broadcast media and expanding civil rights.

The FNM moved with greater transparency and accountability in government.

The FNM moved forward with more progressive labor and inheritance laws.

We moved forward with a social safety net for the vulnerable and created empowerment and training opportunities for the economically displaced.

Barack Obama is a product of both the African Diaspora and European settlement, a convergence of which helped to mold the histories of both The Bahamas and America.

And, lest we forget, this child of a mother with deep roots in America is also the son of an African immigrant.

His story reminds us that while we must be ever vigilant regarding illegal immigration, we must be equally vigilant against the scapegoating of those from other lands, including those with so-called unusual names -- such as Barack Hussein Obama.

Part of the appeal of America is the ability to inspire and assimilate others into the enduring power of the American Dream, a dream rooted in the pursuit of a singular ideal:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

America’s election of a black man after a brutal legacy of slavery and racism is a testament to those ideals and a continued test for America, despite this historic election.

This struggle for justice and equality has never been confined within national boundaries.

In our 21st Century world older, imperfect democracies like The Bahamas and the United States of America have a shared moral obligation to ensure that those fighting against injustice and inequality within state boundaries find global allies.

Mass hunger, genocide, the spread of nuclear weapons and the effects of global warming are challenges for all states, whether they have a population of 330 million or a population of 330,000.

In The Bahamas and throughout the world there is tremendous hope that President Obama has the life story, vision and temperament to continue the work with the global community to re-energize international institutions and practices that are needed to confront a host of transnational issues.

President Obama’s experience living abroad, his openness of mind and spirit and his communications skills has helped him to live up to his stated commitment to seek common solutions over unilateral adventures.

Just as President Obama recognized that his election was a new moment in America, he appreciates that his re-election is a renewed moment for the world.  Today a country’s domestic concerns cannot be separated from broader international challenges.

The Bahamas, the Caribbean and the world look forward to a new era of cooperation with the United States of America and its president to promote human prosperity, to ensure energy security and to craft a sustainable future.

The journey that led to the historic election of America’s 44th president suggests that these goals can be achieved if we never lose the audacity of hope and a commitment to the conviction that all of God’s children, whatever their ethnicity, gender, color, creed or economic status are entitled to the fruits of justice, opportunity and freedom.

• Dion Foulkes is a former minister of labour in the previous Free National Movement administration.

January 04, 2013

thenassauguardian