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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bahamas: The FBI is assisting local detectives with their investigation into the disappearance of German businessman Johannes Maximillian Harsch

Guardian News Desk

The FBI is assisting local detectives with their investigation into the disappearance of German businessman Johannes Maximillian Harsch, police have confirmed.

The 46-year-old who lived alone in Fernandez Bay, was last seen on Sunday, May 2, having a meal at the Hawk's Nest restaurant at around 10.30 p.m.

Superintendent Leon Bethell, commanding officer of the Central Detective Unit, confirmed that local detectives took security camera footage taken from Harsch's home to the FBI for enhancement. According to Bethell, police still have the incident classified as a missing person investigation, although homicide detectives were on the case.

Police found Harsch's home secure, his truck untouched, his yacht tied up to a dock, and his aircraft sitting on the New Bight airport runway undisturbed; however, they fund no trace of Harsch, who reportedly had a disagreement with another resident on the island. The resident thought Harsch was too friendly with his teenage son.

Police arrested and questioned three persons about Harsch's disappearance but there was no evidence to file charges.



Monday, August 30, 2010

Haiti a missed opportunity!

By Jean H Charles:

Haiti, the first and only successful slave revolt experience to become a nation, has been a failed opportunity to polish its raw material and remain the pearl of the islands. After the earthquake of January 12, 2010, Haiti has failed to embark into a mode of development to recuperate the two hundred years of failed opportunity.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comSome will say it is too early to tell. Seven months into the process, is not enough for a prediction into the future! Yet it is enough time to indicate the direction of the wind, is it towards change or towards the status quo?

On the ground in Haiti, I am witnessing all the elements are in place for a complete disaster in the coming months as well as the harbinger of years of unrest in the future.

I have developed in this journal, for the past two weeks, the conceptual framework attributing the notion of the failed state business systematically replacing the slaving business. I have also advanced the hypothesis that Haiti was the first nationally and internationally organized failed state entity.

Alexander Petion and his successor Jean Pierre Boyer, in accepting to negotiate the price of French recognition, has set a mortgage so high on the back of the brand new nation, it was designed to fail. When later that mortgage has been renegotiated, it was not to pay the installments but to kill each other in clan politics. This tragedy or that drama lasted two hundred years.

In this modern day era where an event of biblical proportion happened to Haiti, one should expect a new national and international order; it is business as usual in Haiti. Alie Kabbar of the United African organization on CBS today complained that “the American Red Cross that collected 465 million dollars on behalf of the people of Haiti is spending the money on five figure salaries, hotels, car rentals, air-conditioned offices for its staff instead of (or in addition) to spend the money for real people with real needs on the ground.”

Lionel Trouillot, the celebrated Haitian essayist wrote in a piece signed as of today, there is a smell of putrefaction in the air in Haiti. It is the smell of lies, the smell of big salaries of the multinational NGOs mixed with the fetid smell of the camp right across the hotel on the main plaza of Port au Prince.

I would add there is also the smell of resignation, the smell of laissez faire. I was invaded by that smell, because as of yesterday, I could not get myself into writing this essay, I was telling myself, it does not matter to raise the world consciousness about Haiti; things will remain the same.

I have in mind this lady in the camp right across the main hotel of Port au Prince, the Plaza Hotel, who told me not to take her picture. She is tired of people taking her picture and promising to do something for her and for her baby. Nothing has happened.

The machine set by the Haitian government, the United Nations, the OAS and Caricom for a faked election where the three main political parties have been ostracized, with the result, selected by the president, is already in motion. The thousands of NGOs from all over the world faking development initiatives while building mainly latrines and paraphernalia of that sort is suffocating.

The mammoth UN agency MINUSTHA faking support to the people of Haiti with the entire material one can order all over the world used only for its own needs. The city of Port au Prince at night is a ghost town with only the UN complexes lighted as in a developed country.

I am constantly stimulated by the high and down of feeling of anger and bliss – anger, because of the arrogance and the lack of empathy of the UN people vis a vis the displaced Haitians and the populace in general as well as the feeling of bliss for living in a land so lush where the cost of living is so low and the opportunity so plentiful that maybe Haiti is the lost paradise!

Speaking with a an investor friend at the hotel, musing on why Haiti cannot take off, he told me that Haiti needs the creative strength of the United States. I retort that no country in the Caribbean has so many creative people as Haiti! His answer was illuminating:

“They may be creative in arts! They need to be creative in engineering, in machinery, in planting, in soil conservation, in husbandry. Any farmer from the United States can help the Haitian people with those skills you do not need any PhDs for that.

“That is the reason why I am here to show them how to build their own anti-earthquake home. How to recycle the plastic material with scrap wood to produce building blocks stronger and cheaper than the cement block in use in Haiti now.”

He has been looking for an audience with those in authority, so far with not much success. Containers of prefabricated homes have already been secured by those close to the power base!

Will Haiti recover from this devastating earthquake? Or will it surge from its failed state status to an enlightened one? I suspect it will take a critical mass of Haitian people to understand that they have the undeniable right to the pursuit of happiness and to justice in their own land.

The national and international apparatus in place now is ensuring that critical mass of understanding does not occur. I am not optimistic for or about Haiti!

The woman who spoke to me at the Camp right outside the Plaza hotel

August 28, 2010


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tough time for some Caricom heads



search for a new secretary general and an improved governance system for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) have come at a very challenging time for some Heads of Government of the 37-year-old regional economic integration movement.

Here in Jamaica, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, current chairman of the Community until February 2011, felt compelled to go on the offensive against a new wave of sharp criticisms of his Government's earlier involvement with a United States law firm to help ease pressures in Washington for the extradition of the infamous don of Tivoli Gardens, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

Faced with an ongoing battle in defence of his credibility as prime minister, Golding has chosen to ignore the call by the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) for an independent commission of enquiry into the Government's involvement in Coke's extradition case and to engage, instead, in country-wide meetings with various communities and stakeholders to correct the misrepresentations.

It is doubtful that having acknowledged mis-steps by the Government in handling the extradition controversy in the first place, Prime Minister Golding can succeed in evading an independent probe into the whole affair. Especially in the wake of recently published e-mail correspondence between Jamaican attorneys and the law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips.

Dominica: Across in the Eastern Caribbean, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his Education Minister Peter Saint Jean were informed by High Court Judge Errol Thomas that they would each have to face trial on charges claiming why their parliamentary seats won at last December's general election should be declared null and void.

Skerrit is faced with the charge of having contested the December 18 poll in the Vieille Case while holding dual citizenship (with France), which is forbidden by Dominica's constitution.

His education minister, on the other hand, has been advised that the claims made against the results of his election for the La Plaine constituency by the Opposition United Workers Party leader, Ron Greene, "deserve to be heard" in court.

Antiguan scenario

Antigua: As the Dominican prime minister and his Cabinet colleague await a date for their respective court trials, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, and two of his Cabinet ministers remain quite anxious about their own future in government.

In the case of the Antiguan trio, their political fate hangs on a judgement to be delivered by a panel of judges from the Eastern Caribbean Appeal Court.

The judgement will be in response to a ruling on March 12 this year by Justice Louise Blenman to declare vacant the seats of Spencer; his education minister Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, and that of the tourism minister John Maginley.

Judge Blenman's ruling resulted from a series of petitions filed by the Opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) challenging controversial results of the March 2009 general elections at which Spencer's United Progressive Party (UPP) won nine of the 17 parliamentary seats.

Should Justice Blenman's ruling be upheld by the Eastern Caribbean Appeal Court, there would have to be either three by-elections or, more likely, a new general election.

Barbados: In this community state there continues to be deep national concern over the health of Prime Minister David Thompson. He felt compelled to announce on July 1 a two-month leave from official duties to undergo major surgery in the United States.

Apart from the domestic situation, Thompson's illness is also impacting on progress of Caricom's flagship project -- the Single Market and Economy (CSME) -- for which he shoulders lead responsibility among Heads of Government.

Suriname: Then there is the challenge of dealing with the appointment of a new Caricom secretary general, to succeed the retiring Edwin Carrington.

At the same time, the community is preparing to work in the councils of the community with Suriname's newly inaugurated President Desi Bouterse, a long controversial public figure in the politics and governance of that former Dutch colony.

An immediate concern is whether Suriname's scheduled turn to assume the chairmanship of Caricom in July next year should not be deferred instead to February 2012 to facilitate some perceived needed adjustments for both the incoming new secretary general as well as President Bouterse for the rotating six-month chairmanship.

This issue may be finally determined at the first Caricom Inter-Sessional Meeting for 2012 scheduled for Grenada next February and hosted by Prime Minister Tilman Thomas, who will serve as chairman until the regular annual summit in July 2012.

That, under normal circumstances, would have been Suriname's turn to host and assume chairmanship. It is a matter to be resolved.

Finding new SG

Currently, there remain concerns about the approaches by the community's Heads of Government to find the most suitable successor to replace the 72-year-old Carrington, who has been serving as secretary general for 18 years.

The recent decision to recommend the creation of a nine-member "search committee" to help identify potential candidates, when it is not clear that they have even satisfied themselves about what they are looking for in a new secretary general, is not being viewed as a serious approach.

Questions currently being raised include whether the recent special committee meeting in Grenada on "governance issues" had even a draft outline on a 'job description' for the new secretary general.

Further, there is the more crucial issue of a new administrative structure for effective governance which the Heads continue to avoid like the plague, while they fiddle with band-aid responses.

For instance, the hilarious idea of creating a Council of Community Ambassadors to help improve the governance system in areas such as implementation of decisions.

Since they are part of the 'governance' problems, it is being suggested that the Heads should perhaps consider how best to utilise the vast experience acquired by Carrington, both as secretary general of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states and Caricom, in any serious attempt to significantly change the governance system to respond to the challenges of our time.

August 29, 2010


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Bahamas cannot afford to "sit and wait" for economic recovery to be driven by the US - says James Smith, former minister of state for finance

Bahamas can't 'sit and wait' for US tide to lift recovery
Tribune Business Editor:

THE Bahamas cannot afford to "sit and wait" for economic recovery to be driven by the US, a former finance minister warned yesterday, urging this nation to "fix" its high cost base and structural inefficiencies, given that "unacceptable levels of unemployment" were set to linger post-recession.

Describing the recovery outlook as "fair to overcast", James Smith, former minister of state for finance in the Christie-led administration, told Tribune Business that to escape from arguably the deepest recession since the 1930's Great Depression, this nation needed to long beyond its traditional reliance on a rising US tide to lift the Bahamian boat.

"For us this time around I think we have to go beyond recovery in the US," Mr Smith said. "For us to participate in that recovery, we need to do more things to fix our major industry, addressing the cost, for the simple reason that during this recession our major travel market, the US, had the opportunity to see what was happening in our competitors, Cancun and other, where they have been a little more competitive."

Rival Caribbean destinations, with lower cost structures/bases, had been more competitive with US tourists seeking greater value and better prices, something that was borne out, Mr Smith suggested, by the fact that the Bahamas had - along with Jamaica - suffered the longest period of economic contraction.

The Bahamas had done "worse than other countries", the former finance minister added, pointing to the fact that while this nation had been among the first to slip into recession during the 2008 second half, it was among the last predicted to recover, with economic growth not forecast to resume until 2011.

"We've had two years of negative growth in GDP besides Jamaica. A lot of other countries are more competitive, so it suggests, broadly speaking, that there are other areas of the economy that needs fixing," Mr Smith told Tribune Business.

"One that springs immediately to mind is the cost structure and competitiveness in that area. As we look to recover, we have to do more than sit back and wait for it to happen. We have to address without delay our cost structure and making our main sector more competitive.

"This would be a good time to do it, while all are feeling the pinch and recognising the need to improve, so it would be easier to take the programme forward. They would realise we have to do a better job than we have been doing. We have to take this opportunity to improve the services we give at all levels, and the cost of these services."

Energy and labour were the two critical cost components that had to be addressed, Mr Smith said. While it was not practical to reduce wages, due to the high living cost in the Bahamas as well as the presence of highly restrictive trade union agreements, the former minister suggested that this nation tackle "fundamental issues" - enhanced efficiency, bringing pay in line with productivity, and "getting rid of wastage in the public sector".

"We know what to do, we just have to start doing it," Mr Smith said, describing the persistence of high unemployment levels (last officially measured at 14.5 per cent, but believed to be higher) as a "vexing problem for the Bahamas".

One factor behind the hotel industry's relatively high costs in comparison to rivals was that the Bahamas had "more people employed per room", and during the recession resorts had found ways to operate more efficiently with less staff following the late 2008/early 2009 lay-offs.

"The prospect of a return of jobs at the same level over a short period of time is pretty bleak," Mr Smith said. "Jobs have to be created in other areas, and we may find ourselves with unacceptable levels of unemployment for a long period of time, even after the recession has passed. We're really not seeing any signals out there that there will be a quick turnaround."

The former finance minister also expressed scepticism that the Government's increased taxes would not achieve the objective of plugging the Bahamas' fiscal deficit or reducing the national debt, as they were being impose against a backdrop of reduced national income and economic growth that was sluggish to non-existent.

"The increase has fallen disproportionately on the business sector, so we will not have them expanding and hiring people," Mr Smith said. "We might be in a Catch-22 position. The Government needs revenue, so it raised taxes, but it might not get paid in full because people are not working."

To move the Bahamas forward, Mr Smith said the Government and all economic stakeholders needed to dialogue and come to a consensus on a sustainable development strategy for the Bahamas, ensuring that issues such as public sector investment in education were not impacted when administrations changed - that policy stayed broadly in course, in line with a national plan.

He also warned against "trade offs", where the Bahamas sacrificed future generations - for instance, by compromising the environment - in return for development and foreign direct investment now.

August 27, 2010


Friday, August 27, 2010

Lionfish in Jamaican waters


About three months ago, Agriculture Minister Christopher Tufton voiced his concerns about the lionfish in Jamaican waters. Many of us looked up the lionfish on the internet and some did so in printed material in libraries. We read that the fish were believed to have got into the Caribbean Sea when damage was done by a 1992 hurricane to a salt-water aquarium in Florida, USA, containing rare fish from all over the world.

Why wasn't the movement of these lionfish monitored as they swam from the north and to the Caribbean in the south before they reached Jamaica after 18 years? Apart from eating smaller fish, the lionfish are said to use their many tentacles to give off a painful and even poisonous sting that affects human beings.

LionfishLionfish live in both deep and shallow water, which is a potential problem on our beaches to Jamaicans and tourists. It is bad enough when advisories are issued to tourists from their home countries concerning violence in Jamaica. It would be most unfortunate if advisories were issued because of the lionfish. It would also be ironic if such advisories came from the USA where it is said the problem started.

It is not a matter of looking out for tourists before looking out for Jamaicans. Indeed, it is the other way around. I am looking out for Jamaicans first in terms of the jobs and the revenue that tourism brings through landing tax, room tax and departure tax. I am concerned because I hope that one day a cooperative will play a pivotal role in the hotel industry.

I am concerned because I run camps for youngsters every summer and we usually go to the beach while at camp. I have been running doctrine camps for Roman Catholics who do not go to Roman Catholic schools since 1992, the very year when it is reported that the lionfish got into the Caribbean Sea, although I heard about the lionfish only about three months ago. I run separate camps, one for boys in July and one for girls in August (more expensive and more tiring to organise and direct two camps but, trust me - far less headache).

This summer the boys' camp was in Black River, St Elizabeth. We took a walk out on to the Black River Bridge. It was the third time in 18 years that we were camping in the Black River area. We were speaking generally about taking a safari up the Black River later in the camp - which we did just as we had done the other two times we camped there.

We spoke about the crocodiles that swim in Black River Bay. (Jamaica's crocodiles swim in either fresh or salt water although their obvious preference is for fresh water.) One boy asked if there were any lionfish at the beach we planned to visit. I opined that they might not have reached as far as the south coast yet.

A passing fisherman overheard our discussion and said "Weh yuh a chat 'bout? Wi ketch lionfish an' chrow dem back inna de sea". That statement by the fisherman was a learning experience for all of us. We still went to the beach, but thank God, we did not encounter any lionfish.

The girls' camp was held at Marymount High School, St Mary. Deacon Terry Gillette of the Highgate Missions invited us to join up with the church's Sunday School picnic beach outing at Robin's Bay on August 18. The invitation was welcome as we were transported and fed courtesy of the organisers of the summer school, which included Deacon Gillette and Mrs Mary Boswell, the sister of Monsignor Robert Haughton James.

I was talking to Deacon Gillette on the beach when a fisherman walked up. He had with him a lionfish and Deacon Gillette was the first to spot it. I called our campers and the Sunday School children to view the lionfish which most of them ran to see. Our camp deputy, Latoya Latibeaudiere, a former paginator at the Jamaica Observer and now a law student, took the photographs.

A lot of the discussion by the youngsters on the beach was about the lionfish that they saw. The fisherman told us that he had shot the lionfish with his speargun in the deep sea, and he has also seen lionfish in shallow waters. We could all eat lionfish until we weigh 500 pounds, but we will not stop the problem that way.The real solution is to cordon off the beach areas with sturdy mesh wire.

Our tourist trade is so vulnerable, especially if we rely only on sun and sea tourism. Earlier this year we had the oil spill in The Gulf of Mexico and many wondered if Jamaica's beaches would be affected. While we hear that we have no need to worry, I prefer to wait until the winter months when the winds change direction before I know for sure.

We need to diversify the tourism product with great speed by introducing nature tourism, sports tourism and conference tourism. But we cannot fully abandon sun and sea tourism because this is where most of the money flows from. We need to cordon off our beaches with great speed.

August 26, 2010


Thursday, August 26, 2010

The demise of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery

By Ian Francis:

There was no wake, prayers or visitation when the Heads of CARICOM Governments made the decision in Belize to bury the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) and support the emergence of the Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN), which is now under the direct supervision of the CARICOM Secretary General headed by Ambassador Gail Mathurin.

I must confess my ignorance about Ambassador Mathurin’s permanent location but am extremely aware of her air jaunts between Grantley Adams and Cheddi Jagan airports.

The death of the CRNM was not a surprise. In the first instance, its creation should not have been entertained but the arm twisting of former Prime Minister Patterson by Sir Shridath and his other regional cronies resulted in “PJ’s” agreement for the creation of the CRNM.

It was very clear from the start that Sir Shridath brought forward the creation of the CRNM as he was determined to establish his own beachhead in Barbados and to flex his muscles within the multilateral community as a former secretary-general of the Commonwealth and foreign minister of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

It worked well for him, which led to the recruitment of key lifeguards, including Richie Bernal of Jamaica and Henry Gill of the Republic of Trinidad. Both individuals are well known within regional circles and have always demonstrated their distinctive qualities, skills and experience.

The exit of Sir Shridath from the CRNM was influenced by many occurrences. Prime Minister Patterson made the decision to demit office; there were couple of general elections held in the region, which resulted in the change of governments.

Sir Shridath saw the death warrant and was not prepared for the sentencing so his only saved-face option was to quietly exit from the CRNM. His clout and influence with some of the CARICOM Heads had dried up, thus making his reliance for survival untenable.

Prior to his departure from the CRNM, he carefully crafted his replacement which resulted in Jamaican-born Ambassador Richard Bernal assuming the direction of the CRNM.

Although Bernal assumed the position with great pomp, the weariness of the CRNM by CARICOM Heads grew, which made it difficult for the ambassador to run and manage an effective institution within the region. With much frustration, Ambassador Bernal saw an opening at a Washington-based international agency and decided to accept a position where he is now based and might be considering a run for the Secretary General position of CARICOM. We will have to wait and see as his cell phone number remains the same.

Bernal’s departure ensured that another lifeguard in the name of Henry Gill was quite appropriate for the position and assumed direction of the CRNM. Unfortunately, Gill’s term at the CRNM was short-lived.

The Heads of CARICOM at the Belize meeting made the firm decision that all trade negotiations should be under the aegis of the Secretariat, which meant that a major part of the CRNM based in Barbados would have to merge within the Georgetown Secretariat, thus bringing Gill under the reporting umbrella of the Secretary General.

As rumours have it, Gill vowed not to re-locate to Guyana and wanted no part of reporting to Carrington. This led to Gill’s demittal from the CRNM where he has now entered the regional lucrative environment of consulting.

In essence, Carrington and his group at the Secretariat won the fight, which led to the Secretary General’s immediate task of creating the OTN within the Secretariat.

Given the entire milieu above, several important trade negotiations between the Caribbean and many Western nations were announced. A famous and active negotiation is known as the CaribCan Trade Agreement, which is now taking place between the Commonwealth Caribbean nations and Canada.

The CaribCan Trade Agreement was first introduced in 1985 by the then Mulroney Conservative government. Unfortunately, much was not achieved in the area of trade and investments between the two regions. Very little was done in Canada to promote the initiative and the Caribbean governments made the tactical error by maintaining the agreement tightly shut in their industry ministries’ closet.

Canada in the last three years announced its intention to re-engage the Commonwealth Caribbean region, not only in bilateral and multilateral assistance but also to promote trade and investments between the two regions by rewriting the trade agreement.

Canada has kept its promise by providing financial assistance to the old CRNM and so far has engaged the OTN in three rounds of discussion with respect to the trade agreement. In addition, there have been other initiatives through the hosting of regional workshops by the (OECS-EDU).

Unfortunately, the participants and players for such events should be exporters, entrepreneurs and other participants that are interested in trade and investments environment. Unfortunately, there is a constant replay of government and state corporations’ representatives dominating these workshops, with exporters and entrepreneurs being left on the periphery.

In a recent conservation with an Ottawa-based senior foreign service official close to the CaribCan trade negotiations, I took the opportunity to share with him a press bulletin, which was issued by the OTN stating that negotiations are moving full speed ahead.

The diplomat known for his tight lips gave a loud laugh and said to me, “The agreement has been redrafted already and we have asked our Caribbean friends to check out full compliance with the World Trade Organization rules and regulations. Once they get back to us, it will be a done deal.”

In conclusion, as we move to finalize this agreement, there is work to be done on both sides, the OTN and its partners need to reach out and build capacities amongst those who will become the key actors in a trade agreement. The government of Canada has a responsibility to work with existing national and provincial trade organizations to get them actively engage in trade and investments dialogue on the Caribbean Commonwealth.

This begs the question. Will the remnants of CRNM remain in Barbados after the CaribCan Trade Agreement is signed or will it be fully integrated into the Secretariat? We will take a wait and see attitude.

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and writes frequently on Caribbean Commonwealth affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Grenada Ministry of Foreign Affairs and can be reached at

August 26, 2010


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I am ready to continue discussing

Reflections of Fidel

(Taken from CubaDebate)

TWO days ago I was watching Vanessa Davies on her "Contragolpe" (Counterpunch) program broadcast by Venezolana de Televisión’s Canal 8. She was dialoging with and multiplying her questions to Basem Tajeldine, an intelligent and honest Venezuelan whose face transpired nobility. When I switched on the television my thesis that only Obama could halt the disaster was being approached.

The incommensurable power attributed to him came immediately to the mind of the historian. And that is so, undoubtedly. But we are thinking of two distinct powers.

Real political power in the United States is held by the powerful oligarchy of multimillionaires who govern not only that country but also the world: the gigantic power of the Bilderberg Club described by Daniel Estulin, created by the Rockefellers and the Trilateral Commission.

The military apparatus of the United States with its security agencies is far more powerful than Barack Obama, president of the United States. He did not create that apparatus, neither did that apparatus create him. The exceptional circumstances of the economic crisis and the war were the principal factors that took a descendent of the sector most discriminated against in the United States, gifted with culture and intelligence, to the post which he occupies.

Where does Obama’s power lie at this point in time? Why am I affirming that war or peace will depend on him? Hopefully the interchange between the journalist and the historian might serve to illustrate the issue.

I will say it in another way: the famous little briefcase with its keys and button to launch a nuclear bomb emerged because of the terrible decision that it implied, the devastating nature of the weapon, and the need not to lose a fraction of a minute. Kennedy and Krushchev underwent that experience, and Cuba was at the point of being the first target of a mass attack using those weapons.

I still remember the anguish reflected in the questions that Kennedy suggested French journalist Jean Daniel should put to me, when he found out that Daniel was coming to Cuba and would meet with me. "Does Castro know how close we were to a world war?" I suggested that he return to Washington to speak with him. The story is a well-known one.

The subject was so interesting that I invited him to leave Havana, and we were approaching the issue well into the morning, in a house near the sea at the famous Varadero beach.

Nobody had to tell us anything, because they immediately advised me of the assassination and we tuned into to a U.S. radio station. At that very moment it was announced that a number of shots had fatally wounded the president of the United States.

Mercenary hands had carried out the homicide.

For the right in the United States, including the CIA mercenaries who landed at Girón [Bay of Pigs], he was not sufficiently energetic with Cuba.

Almost half a century has passed since then. The world changed, far more that 20,000 nuclear weapons were developed, their destructive power is equivalent to nearly 450,000 times that which destroyed the city of Hiroshima. Anybody has the right to ask: what is the use of the nuclear briefcase? Could a president possibly direct something as sophisticated and complex as a nuclear war?

That briefcase is something as symbolic as the ceremonial staff that is kept in the hands of the president as pure fiction.

The only significant fact is that in the United States there is a Constitution which establishes that there is only one person in the country who can give the order to start a war, which is now more important than ever, since a world nuclear war could break out in one minute and possibly last one day.

So, I can ask a number of questions. Could somebody other than the president give the order to start a war? Did Kennedy himself need another faculty to attack Girón and then unleash war in Vietnam? Johnson to escalate it? Nixon to devastatingly bombard that country? Reagan to invade Grenada? Bush Sr., on December 20, 1989, to attack the cities of Panama, Colón, to flatten the poor neighborhood of El Chorrillo and kill thousands of poor people there? Did Clinton need it to attack Serbia and create Kosovo? Bush Jr., for the atrocious invasion of Iraq? I have mentioned in their order only some of the best known crimes of the empire to date. Obama has done nothing more than to receive the inheritance.

The old thinking does not adapt easily to new realities.

Well, all right. I have posed the idea, not of Obama being powerful or super-powerful; he prefers to play basketball or give speeches; he has, moreover, been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Michael Moore exhorted him to earn it. Perhaps nobody imagined, him least of all, the idea that, in this final stage of 2010, if he complies with the instructions of the United Nations Security Council, to which a South Korean named Ban Ki-Moon is possibly firmly exhorting him, he will be responsible for the disappearance of the human species.

I am ready to continue discussing the issue.

Fidel Castro Ruz

August 22, 2010

12:26 p.m.

Translated by Granma International

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bahamas: Who will care for the autistic members of Bahamian society?

Who will care for the autistic members of Bahamian society?
Tribune Staff Reporter

Most parents fret about their children's future and safety until their offspring reach an age where they are capable of taking care of themselves. Parents are usually overcome with questions of "How are they going to manage when I am gone?" and "Who will take care of them?"

These concerns are born out of love and are generally a mark of a good, caring guardian. Most times these fears never materialise into reality and a parent can breathe a sigh of relief once the children are off to college or have landed good jobs. But think of how terrifying it is when the child is unable to care for themselves even after they are well past their teenage years.

For too many families of children with autism, this is a real concern with no solution on the horizon. Last week I came face to face with some of these parents' struggles during an autism awareness reception hosted by US Ambassador Nicole Avant in conjunction with local autism advocacy group REACH.

REACH was formed 12 years ago to provide a support network for parents of children with special needs and to increase awareness about autism. Since its inception, the group has also raised scholarship money to train Bahamian teachers to better serve autistic children.

The common link in many of those parents' lives is a deficit in adequate and affordable local treatment centres for autistic children and assisted living centres to house those children when they become adults.

"Currently there is one autistic primary school class at Garvin Tynes Primary and one high school class at Anatol Rodgers Secondary School. In the country there are only three therapists that work with the Ministry of Education and there is a very long waiting list.

"A lot of the (autistic) kids are growing older now and we need living assistance for them - we're not going to be here forever and after parents pass away there's a concern of who takes care of the kids," lamented Kim Gibson, public relations officer at REACH, and mother to a seven-year-old autistic son.

Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Perry Christie - father of 22-year-old Adam, who also is autistic - echoed these sentiments during a recent interview with The Tribune. He added that while there have been notable advancements in special needs care over the last ten years or so, those improvements pale in comparison to what is left undone.

"Every parent's fear is, if they were to die what would happen to this child? That is the most common worry for parents of disabled children.

These parents are so committed to helping disabled children but they know that it doesn't necessarily mean a sibling or other relative will be as committed.

"That is where the state has to recognise that it has not yet put in place the kind of after care to address issues of that kind. Any government that comes to power has a commitment to address the issue but has to take a balanced approach to the allocation of resources so we are ensuring that these special persons get fair treatment.

"Sometimes they are overlooked and even though there is improvement (over the last few years) there is still more to be done," said Mr Christie.

According to American statistics, about one in every 110 children are autistic with boys three times as likely to be autistic than girls.

Local psychologist and autism specialist Dr Michelle Major, clinical director of the Seahorse Institute, thinks the condition is just as prevalent in the Bahamas.

"I don't think that they're that far off from what the national statistics are in the US to be honest with you. When we talk about the whole spectrum (of autism), I do feel that we are pretty much in the same area," said Dr Major when asked to compare Bahamian rates of autism to those in the States.

While autism numbers have grown in the United States over the past few years, something observers attribute to better detection methods, many afflicted children go undiagnosed here - either due to a lack of understanding about developmental disorders, a lack of trained doctors who can make a diagnosis, or because of the negative stigma attached to having a disability.

Dr Major has diagnosed autistic children from Abaco, Eleuthera and Long Island and says while resources are scarce in New Providence they are virtually non-existent in the family islands.

During his travels throughout the country, Mr Christie said he has encountered many children with disabilities who were not receiving proper treatment from state care facilities. He thinks this is because government agencies haven't canvassed the remote areas to identify persons with special needs.

"We have to recognise that some groups have done a lot to help. The Stapleton School (in New Providence) is tremendous asset to the country but I've always felt that we haven't done the kind of national audit that we need to find out in all of the remote areas of the Bahamas where these children are."

Those families who are fighting for social improvements for their autistic children will tell you that there is no simple solution to the myriad of problems they face every day: the stigma of having a differently abled child, the stares, lack of understanding, to the strain on their pocket books and marriages.

However, the parents, educators and physicians who tackle these problems head on and who have organised themselves without any prompting from any public agency deserve much more praise and all the help they can get. They stand as examples of good parenting, concerned and productive members of civil society.

August 23, 2010


Monday, August 23, 2010

Bahamas Minister of Education to Bahamian parents: Stop making children of Haitian parentage 'scapegoats' in the education system...

Minister: stop making children of Haitian parentage 'scapegoats'
Tribune Staff Reporter

BAHAMIAN parents who are not living up to their responsibility to provide the support their children need to achieve their potential must focus on doing this rather than making children of Haitian parentage "scapegoats" in the education system, according to the Minister of Education.

Pointing out that there are children of both Bahamian and Haitian parentage who are excelling in their schools, Minister of Education Desmond Bannister chalked this up to the supportive environment these children's parents have provided for them and said that as Minister of Education one of his priorities is "trying to create an awareness of the need for Bahamian parents to pay attention to the education needs of our children."

"We have many success stories - if you see the high level of attainment we had this year it has given me a problem because I have to find funding for scholarships at a level we have never seen before, even though we put $7 million for scholarships this year it is still not enough, (because) so many of our children who are getting parental support who are doing magnificently in school.

"What I am concerned about those parents not spending time with kids whose kids are engaging in anti-social conduct and who are not doing well, and who are using children of Haitian origin as scapegoats. We don't need that in our country. We need all of our children to do well," said the Minister.

Mr Bannister was speaking on Island FM's Parliament Street radio talk show yesterday afternoon.

In response to a question from host Dr Sophia Rolle in which she asked him to respond to "some of your detractors who would be overly concerned about the number of foreign students in the Bahamian school system", Mr Bannister said: "This issue is very explosive in The Bahamas. Extremely explosive."

He noted how he had been the subject of "some really nasty remarks" after The Tribune printed an article in July in which he was quoted as acknowledging the impressive achievements of many Haitian children in Bahamian public schools and said that The Bahamas has an obligation to ensure every child is educated.

He also commented at that time on the fact that many Haitian parents take a very active interest in their child's education, which was enabling them to excel in school.

Speaking yesterday Mr Bannister said: "Since then people have attributed all kinds of remarks to me which are not true. What I am trying to create in The Bahamas is an awareness of the need for Bahamian parents to pay attention to the education needs of our children.

"Too many parents have dropped the ball in terms of spending the time that is required to help their children achieve success in education so children of Haitian abstraction will always be a focus of discontent because so many of them are doing well, and so many of our parents - many are doing good jobs - but some who are not doing a good job are going to utilise (children of Haitian parentage) as scapegoats when the reality is got to focus on what our children are doing."

Illustrating the role that parenting plays in creating the environment which can allow a child to excel, Mr Bannister noted the example of a friend who home-schooled his son.

"He called me the other day so gratified we helped his son take his BGCSEs. His son got eight A's in the BGCSEs. He's put everything into this child, so of course that meant sacrifices at home, that meant someone staying at home, less income for the family, but the child did extremely well."

Meanwhile, he spoke of two girls born in the Bahamas, each of whom has one or more parents of Haitian origin, who are both valedictorians at their respective public high schools in New Providence.

"They are no more intelligent than any other child who is in the school, they are entitled to be in our system, but the reality is that the parents are spending the time with them and they are excelling.

Someone called me from Grand Bahama and someone called me from Abaco and they told me the same story and it's not that anyone is any smarter than any of our children but it's time for us to appreciate children will excel when they get parental support.

"If you get up in the morning and don't pay attention to your children, don't make sure they get breakfast, that they're prepared for school, if you stay out late at night and don't help them with their homework if you are not putting time into their lives they are not going to see what these children (the ones who do well at school) see," said Mr Bannister.

August 23, 2010


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Caricom's 'buck-passing' culture


THE latest example of amusing buck-passing, or how to avoid taking political responsibility as leaders for advancing the goals of the Caribbean Community, emerged from a meeting in Grenada last Wednesday of five Caricom prime ministers and two foreign ministers.

Comprising a committee mandated to deal with the critical issue of improving governance of the affairs of the 37-year-old community, the participants were mindful to reflect customary caution in decisions taken for expected endorsement next month by the wider body of Heads of Government.

The committee's mandate flowed from last month's 31st Caricom summit in Montego Bay where the Heads of Government of the 15-member community had once again shied away from any consideration to introduce an empowered management structure that could have the effect of diluting, in some aspects, their domestic political authority.

This, even if such a course could result in satisfying, to some extent, their own often claimed commitment to achieving what's good for the regional economic integration movement as a whole, and knowing that it would require a sharing of some defined measures on sovereignty.

It is the reluctance to manage national sovereignty in the interest of the declared concept of 'One Community' that surfaced in Montego Bay last month.

The customary rhetoric about "commitment to Caricom" (read CSME; functional co-operation; integrated foreign and economic policies, etc), gave way to mild initiatives for tinkering with the community's prevailing governance status quo.

Consequently, the decision came from last Wednesday's meeting in Grenada on governance, plus another on a large nine-member "search committee" to help find a new secretary-general for Caricom with the retirement from year end of Edwin Carrington.

Two decisions

Participating in the meeting were the prime ministers of Jamaica (Bruce Golding, current Caricom chairman); Grenada (host Tilman Thomas); St Vincent and the Grenadines (Ralph Gonsalves); St Kitts and Nevis (Denzil Douglas) and Dominica's Roosevelt Skerrit. The two foreign ministers were Barbados' Maxine McLean, and Trinidad and Tobago's Surujrattan Rambachan.

First surprise was the disclosure that a nine-member "search committee", chaired by Foreign Minister McClean, would begin the process of pre-selecting candidates for the appointment of a successor to Carrington.

The committee's terms of reference, still to be formulated, will be determined by the Heads when they meet on the periphery of next month's start of the annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The second surprising decision was even more baffling, in the sense that it offered neither anything new, in terms of a fundamental restructuring of the community Secretariat; nor any creative initiative for improved decision-making and implementation processes to check the snail's pace at which the CSME project continues to proceed.

The surprise came in the form of the announced decision to create a "Council of Community Ambassadors". It would operate on a permanent basis from the respective capitals to help remove barriers, at national levels, that frustrate implementation of regional decisions, and to strengthen co-operation.

If, after all the research materials and range of proposals over the years on alternative systems for improved governance of the community, Caricom leaders are to now offer a Council of Ambassadors as a standing mechanism for improving "governance", then they should not be surprised by an expected wave of cynicism and disenchantment across the region.

The Heads of Government may be scared of the politics of sharing a measure of sovereignty in the functioning of an empowered executive management structure, even though it is intended to function under their direct supervision and final authority.

How could it be explained -- if it is not a case of unintended contempt for the region's people -- the Heads' assumption of public acceptance of the proposed Council of Ambassadors as representing a creative effort for improved governance from the second decade of the 21st century?

Not flattering

For a start, the proposed Council of Ambassadors should not be confused with what obtains at the Organisation of American States (OAS), or in relation to the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group. For a start, such councils function from a common location-- Washington (for the OAS) and Brussels (for the ACP).

For now, we are aware of examples of how senior cabinet ministers, and in a few cases at Heads level, have encountered difficulties in resolving sensitive bilateral matters and also failing to take advantage of the disputes settlement provisions located in the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

It would not be flattering for the Heads to hear criticisms of them "joking around" on the governance issue. But it is quite disappointing to note, in 2010, that ours remains a "Community of sovereign states" that has acquired a reputation for making bold, at times quite imaginative decisions, only to falter, too often, when it comes to implementation of unanimously approved decisions.

Examples abound, but a few should suffice, for now, such as failure to give legislative approval of the Charter of Civil Society -- one of the core recommendations of the West Indian Commission that was released as a document of the community since 1997.

(Incidentally, "good governance" is one of the Articles of the Charter that calls for establishment of a code governing the conduct of holders of public office and all those who exercise power that may affect the public interest).

Policies requiring implementation would also include the sharing of external representation; pursuing, with vision and vigour, a common policy on regional air transportation; the dismantling of barriers to free intra-regional movement of Caricom nationals (currently some states are making things worse for nationals).

The question, therefore, remains: Who among the Heads of Government of the estimated dozen countries fully participating in the policies and programmes of Caricom is now ready to call a halt to the community's governance system?

While they try to market the idea of a Council of Community Ambassadors that, in the final analysis, would be accountable to them, why this widening of a bureaucratic management system? Is it really a plausible approach for changing the prevailing buck-passing culture that has been virtually institutionalised by a model of governance our Heads of Government — past and present — seem so loath to change?

August 22, 2010


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Am I possibly exaggerating?

Reflections of Fidel

(Taken from CubaDebate)

AFTER referring on August 17 and 18 to the book by Daniel Estulin which relates with irrefutable facts the horrible way in which the minds of youth and children in the United States are deformed by drugs and the mass media, with the conscious participation of the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, in the final part of the last Reflection I stated: "It is terrible to think that the intelligences and sentiments of children and youth in the United States are mutilated in that way."

Yesterday, the news agencies communicated information that emerged from a study published by Beloit University, which notes facts occurring for the first time in the history of the United States and the world, associated with the knowledge and habits of U.S. university students who will graduate in 2014.

Granma daily reports on the news in eloquent language:

1. "They do not wear watches to tell the time, but use their cell phones."

2. "They believe that Beethoven is a dog that they know from a movie."

3. "That Michelangelo is a computer virus."

4. "That email is ‘too slow,’ accustomed as they are to sending messages on

sophisticated mobile phones."

5. "Very few of them know how to write in cursive."

6. "They believe that Czechoslovakia never existed."

7. "That U.S. companies have always done business in Vietnam."

8. "That Korean automobiles have always circulated in their country."

9. "That the United States, Canada and Mexico have always been bound by a

Free Trade Agreement."

It leaves one cold on seeing to what point education can be deformed and prostituted in a country that has more than 8,000 nuclear weapons and the most powerful war arsenal in the world.

And to think that there are still sane people capable of believing that my warnings are exaggerated!

Fidel Castro Ruz

August 19, 2010

11:13 a.m.

Translated by Granma International

Friday, August 20, 2010

Regionalism: The Caribbean prospective - Part 4

By D. Markie Spring
Turks and Caicos Islands:

Idyllic and liberating are the ways I’d describe every Caribbean nation that has gained its independence from European rule and governance. Hitherto, it has been twenty-five years since the last Caribbean nation disassociated itself from Britain.

The author of a number of published works, D. Markie Spring was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines and now resides in Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. He has an MBA from the University of Leicester, England, and a BA from Saint Mary's University, CanadaHowever, some countries continued to be dependent upon Europe -- Britain, Netherlands and France -- with little political progress; hence, I recommend regionalism through political efforts.

In the Caribbean we differ extensively within the political arena. This is evident through the failed West Indies Federation, which was established in 1958 and ended in 1962.

There are too many disparities amongst our nations; ranging from the bashment between the governments of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados over the drug trade between the two nations.

Also, most dependent territories, with the exception of Montserrat, view citizens of the other Caribbean islands as less fortunate. The same can be said about the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados to a lesser extent. Other political challenges exist.

Conversely, Cuba maintained a Communist regime for more than forty years. Recently, the former president handed over power to his brother Raul Castro; politics in this corner of the region has become a family business. The Cuban Communist regime must realize that communism and socialism have failed in every government that has adopted these political nightmares.

Similarly, Haiti’s political environment has been contentious with a long history of oppression administered by dictators -- Francois Duvalier and then his son Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Arguably, conscientious and considerate are true descriptions of the way Barbados’ governments have perpetrated their governance of that nation. The governments there have always worked for the citizens and strived to industrialize the country; thereby, producing political stability at home. It is also true that Barbados has its own political disputes and rivalries, but not as devastating as other Caribbean islands.

In the meanwhile, some scholars and citizens alike argued for and against regionalizing the political arenas of the Caribbean. Those against argued that the region has diverse political structures ranging from a Communist regime to a Westminster-style parliamentary system. Those who support regionalism argued that these dissensions are superficial and only subvert commonalities, which exist amongst states.

It is time for us to benchmark other nations that have fully integrated their political system and learn from their progress.

Ideally, the European Union (EU) has instituted the European Council, which has often being describe as the “Supreme political authority,” has political roles in the negotiating changes in treaty and demarcates the policy agenda and strategies of the EU.

The United States, although somewhat different has sub-regions, which they called states and each state has it own government; yet constituted and regulated by the federal government.

In the US, there are Californians, Texans and New Yorkers; yet they are all Americans; In Europe there are the British, Romanians, and Germans; collectively, they are Europeans. In the region, we maintain our nationalities whether St Vincentians, Barbadians or Trinidadians, but as a regional unit we are West Indians.

It is time for politicians across the region to stop focusing exuberantly on self; rather they should discuss the issues affecting the region. Additionally, lack of interest and support from major states has crippled regionalism, coupled with the exclusion of the Dominican Republic and Haiti as members.

However, proponents of regionalism suggests that there are many benefits derived from strengthening the region’s governing bodies and political powers; creating efficiencies of scale and encouraging decentralization, amongst other benefits.

In Cuba’s case, I am not trying to hand down my political ideologies or those existing in the wider Caribbean; rather I am seeking to educate and solicit support from them to join the rest of the region in their quest for oneness through democracy. I realize that some scholars may disagree; however, there is real evidence that regionalism works.

August 18, 2010

Regionalism: The Caribbean prospective - Part 3


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The “Ground Zero mosque”: Obama cowers before right-wing hysteria

With the US mid-term elections less than three months away, the issue that has become the focus of this campaign season is a telling indicator of the intensely reactionary character of official politics in America and of both big business parties.

Employing unbridled hypocrisy and cynicism, right-wing forces centered in the Republican Party, but aided and abetted by leading Democrats, have attempted to whip up mob hysteria against a proposed Islamic cultural center that has been approved by local authorities for construction in lower Manhattan.

The center, the Cordoba House, is to include a swimming pool, a gym, an arts center and a memorial to the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. While its supporters have stressed its inter-faith character, it has been almost universally dubbed the “Ground Zero mosque.”

Semi-fascist elements have denounced the proposed center—to be built two and a half blocks from where New York City’s World Trade Center once stood—as a desecration of the “sacred ground” where over 2,700 people were killed on 9/11. Former House Speaker and likely contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 Newt Gingrich has compared the backers of the project to Nazis protesting outside the Holocaust museum.

The reality is that, nearly nine years after the attacks, the former World Trade Center largely remains a hole in the ground, a sprawling construction site in which little has been built. No memorial has been erected to those who died, as real estate developers and government officials have haggled year after year over financial terms.

Within roughly the same walking distance from this “sacred ground,” one passes strip joints, porn shops, betting parlors and dance clubs, none of which appear to have wounded the sensibilities of these patriotic defenders of the sanctity of Ground Zero. The center itself is to take the place of a dilapidated warehouse, previously the site of a Burlington Coat Factory outlet.

The real aims of those attacking the Cordoba House are not the protection of the nonexistent sanctity of Ground Zero or the shielding of the sensibilities of 9/11 victims’ families. It is a vicious attempt to foment and exploit religious bigotry, xenophobia and outright racism to drive politics ever further to the right.

The far-reaching implications of this campaign entail an assault on the First Amendment of the US Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech and religion and barring the government from establishing a state religion or lending preference to one religion over another. This includes the right of Muslims, or any other religious minority, to worship how and where they choose, without the interference of the government or other religious institutions. The “Ground Zero mosque” campaign is consciously directed at mobilizing elements of the religious right that reject this principle.

It is entirely in sync with a parallel attempt to foment mass hysteria over immigration, portraying immigrants as a criminal class responsible for the loss of jobs and social services. Increasingly, this campaign has embraced the demand for the repeal of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment—which guarantees citizenship to every person born in the US—in order to clear the way for the deportation of millions of children born in the US to undocumented immigrants. This amendment is the constitutional foundation of equal protection under the law.

In both cases, the assault on core constitutional principles and democratic rights has been coupled with venomous rhetoric that serves as an incitement to violence against immigrants, racial minorities and Muslims.

For months, the Obama White House refused to comment on the controversy, insisting in the face of an assault on core constitutional principles and a nationwide hate campaign that the dispute was little more than a local zoning matter.

Then, last Friday, Obama delivered a speech to a Ramadan dinner at the White House affirming that “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center in Lower Manhattan … This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.”

Within the space of 24 hours—and in the wake of a firestorm of Republican right criticism—Obama demonstrated that his commitment was anything but unshakeable. “I was not commenting and will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” he told reporters. “I was commenting very specifically on the right of people that date back to our founding.”

In other words, Obama’s White House speech was nothing more than a formal recognition of the constitutional rights that he is sworn to defend, upholding them in principle, while refusing to lift a finger in their defense against those who would deny these rights in practice.

Obama’s cowardly retreat was followed by a similar statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada), who on Monday issued a gutless statement acknowledging that “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” while insisting “the mosque should be built someplace else.” Needless to say, the senator did not propose any alternative site, much less offer to have the center built in Nevada.

There is little to distinguish Obama and Reid from Gingrich, Sarah Palin and others on the Republican right, who also formally acknowledge freedom of religion, while demanding that this freedom be denied to Muslims. Both parties are content to turn the Constitution into a dead letter, replacing it with statutes more suited to police-state repression at home and permanent military aggression abroad.

Why did Obama bother giving the speech if he was prepared to repudiate it so quickly? Clearly, it was not motivated by any concern for religious freedom or democratic rights.

The real motivation was suggested in a Washington Post column by Michael Gerson, the former speechwriter for George W. Bush, who aptly noted that with his speech and speedy backtracking, “Obama managed to collect all the political damage for taking an unpopular stand without gaining credit for political courage.”

The US president, Gerson continued, was compelled to make such a speech, because he “leads a coalition that includes Iraqi and Afghan Muslims who risk death each day fighting Islamic radicalism at our side. How could he possibly tell them that their place of worship inherently symbolizes the triumph of terror?”

Obama acted not out of commitment to constitutional principles, but rather, in all likelihood, at the prodding of the Pentagon and the US foreign policy establishment. They fear that the anti-Muslim campaign being whipped up by the Republican right could undermine US military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan to affirm Washington’s hegemony in the overwhelmingly Muslim Middle East and Central Asia, the world’s two most important sources of oil and gas.

Indeed, the principal figure involved in the Cordoba House project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, plays a direct role in these US efforts. The State Department announced last week that it is sending Rauf on a goodwill tour of the Middle East, the third such mission by the Muslim cleric, with whom the State Department acknowledged having “a long-term relationship.” The Imam has also provided training for the FBI and police agencies in dealing with Muslim populations.

The “Ground Zero mosque” controversy has ensnared the Obama administration in an unavoidable contradiction. On the one hand US imperialism needs to recruit Muslim allies and puppets to further its two ongoing wars, as well as to support aggression against Iran. On the other hand, it has whipped up anti-Muslim sentiment within the general population and among US troops in order to generate religious-based support for these wars.

In the final analysis, the fascistic agitation against the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, together with the cowering response of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party, demonstrate that militarism and imperialist war abroad coupled with ever-widening social inequality at home are incompatible with democratic rights. The escalating attacks on rights that go back to the founding of the American republic constitute a stark warning. The defense of these rights requires a counteroffensive by the working class against the reactionary social and political forces being mobilized to subvert them and against the profit system that gives rise to these attacks.

Bill Van Auken

18 August 2010


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Illegal immigrants residing in The Bahamas were ordered to voluntarily leave the country ... or face immediate repatriation

'Leave now' illegal immigrants told
Tribune Staff Reporter

ACTING Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette has ordered all illegal immigrants residing in the Bahamas to voluntarily leave the country ... or face immediate repatriation.

Acknowledging that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of Haitian migrants attempting to gain entry illegally into the Bahamas over the past six months and, in particular, during the last two weeks, Mr Symonette said he wants these persons to know that if they are caught, they will be sent "straight back."

"We want those persons who are thinking of coming here from different countries to think again. So before they start to jump on that boat to try and make it to the Bahamas to know fully well that if they are caught here we will send them straight back. We have demonstrated that in the past few weeks where we have sent back a significant number of persons and that number as you are well aware has increased.

"There are some who have only made it as far as Inagua and they have been sent back. So we are trying to say to people that if you are thinking of coming here to find a better way of life to please rethink that. Now for those who are here who have yet to have their status regularized we have been working hard on that. But for those who are here illegally, the consequences will flow," he said.

In a statement issued from the Department of Immigration, it notes that following the January 12 earthquake in Port au Prince, the government of the Bahamas was "understanding and responsive" by temporarily suspending its apprehension exercises with respect to Haitians residing illegally in its territory.

Further, the statement read, the department issued permits "to reside" to 102 persons who were detained at the Bahamas Detention Centre, on Carmichael Road.

"However, having regard to the recent heightened infringement of the Bahamas Immigration Law, notice is hereby given that with immediate effect, all illegal immigrants are requested to leave the Bahamas voluntarily. All persons who are here illegally are in contravention of the laws of the Bahamas, and are advised to return to their country of origin or be subject to apprehension and deportation. Persons who are found to be in the Bahamas illegally will be repatriated forthwith," the statement read.

This statement from the department was also issued in Creole and is printed in full in today's Tribune.

Mr Symonette: "As a country we have to have a nation-wide discussion on immigration. One thing we have to do is look at what other countries (in our region) do. Some of our neighbours only allow you to come and work for three years for instance, and you are not allowed to bring your wife, or your children.

"The same goes for education, and healthcare. It is not a part of that consideration they give to non-national labour. But we do. We may have to re-look at all of these things and decide what is the level of non-Bahamian workforce that we need."

To answer this question, Mr Symonette said we can ask ourselves how many Bahamians are willing or prepared to be gardeners or household keepers. While some might argue that Bahamians are capable and willing to work in any field, the Minister said there are instances where persons have simply sought to remain unemployed instead of taking a job that might pay less than they desire.

However, when it comes to making a dent in the flow of illegal immigrants, Mr Symonette said there needs to be amendments to the immigration laws to plug any loopholes that smugglers might exploit, as well as a drastic change in the thinking of Bahamians who continue to employ these illegal workers.

August 16, 2010


Monday, August 16, 2010

Kill Hugo? Why Washington Hates Hugo Chavez

By Mike Whitney- Counterpunch:

It's no fun being on Washington's enemies list. Just ask Hugo Chavez. Last week, the Venezuelan president had to cancel a trip to Cuba after he was told that a coup was underway and his life was in danger. The information came from an anonymous source who had delivered a similar warning prior to the failed coup in 2002. The letter said: “The execution phase is accelerating..… There is an agreement between Colombia and the US with two objectives: one is Mauricio and the other is the overthrow of the government.… They will hunt down ‘Mauricio’ (and) try to neutralize part of the Armed Forces.” ("Venezuela Pushes for Peace", Coral Wynter, Green Left News)

“Mauricio” is Chavez's codename. Whoever is behind the coup, wants to kill Chavez.

There's no way of knowing whether Chavez is really in danger or not, but we shouldn't be too surprised if he is. After all, the US claims it has the right to kill anyone it sees as a threat to its national security, and Chavez surely ranks high on its list of threats. So it's wise to be careful. In any event, the warnings coincide with other unsettling developments. At a recent meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS), Colombian ministers charged Chavez with harboring guerrillas on Venezuelan territory. (The allegations could be used to justify a preemptive attack) Chavez reacted swiftly and broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia, but the row did not end there. Obama's nominee as US ambassador to Venezuela, Larry Palmer, threw a little gas on the fire by backing-up Colombia's claims. Now the two countries are at loggerheads which seems to be what the Obama administration had in mind from the very beginning. US policy towards Venezuela has [not] changed at all under Obama. If anything, it's gotten worse. 


The Pentagon recently announced that it plans to expand 7 military bases in Colombia. State Dept officials said that the US merely wants to step up its counter-narcotics operations, but no one's buying it. Everyone knows the US wants to reestablish its control over the region. The military build up in Colombia is another way of ratcheting up the pressure on Chavez and fanning the flames of political instability in the hemisphere. Naturally, the base expansion has the region's leftist leaders worried that Latin America may be headed for another era of US-backed dirty wars.

Also, the internet is abuzz with stories that Obama is planning to deploy warships and ground troops to Costa Rica in the near-future. Here's an article on Alternet that lays out the basic theory:

"Rather than retooling its diplomatic approach to fit the new reality in Latin America, Washington is expanding its military footprint. It will soon be operating out of seven military bases in Colombia and has reactivated its 4th Fleet, both highly unpopular moves in Latin America. Rather than taking the advice of countries in the region to demilitarize its war on drugs, the U.S. recently announced it is deploying 46 warships and 7,000 soldiers to Costa Rica to “interdict” drug traffic and money laundering." ("Recent Colombian Mass Grave Discovery May Be “False-Positives", Conn Hallinan, Alternet)

Although the rumors have not been verified, the anxiety is growing. The US has never played a constructive role in Latin America's affairs, and the prospect of more meddling and violence is frightening. The truth is, US intervention has continued even during relatively peaceful periods like the last decade. US intelligence agents and NGOs are sprinkled throughout the civilian population gathering information, swaying elections, and fomenting social unrest. Here's a clip from an article titled "America's Covert 'Civil Society Operations: US interference in Venezuela keeps growing" which shows how America's tentacles extend everywhere:

"Foreign intervention is not only executed through military force. The funding of “civil society” groups and media outlets to promote political agendas and influence the “hearts and minds” of the people is one of the more widely used mechanisms by the US government to achieve its strategic objectives. In Venezuela, the US has been supporting anti-Chavez groups for over 8 years, including those that executed the coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. Since then, the funding has increased substantially. A May 2010 report evaluating foreign assistance to political groups in Venezuela, commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy, revealed that more than $40 million USD annually is channeled to anti-Chavez groups, the majority from US agencies....

A large part of NED funds in Venezuela have been invested in “forming student movements” and “building democratic leadership amongst youth”, from a US perspective and with US values....In the last three years, an opposition student/youth movement has been created with funding from various US and European agencies. More than 32% of USAID funding, for example, has gone to “training youth and students in the use of innovative media technologies to spread political messages and campaigns”, such as on Twitter and Facebook.

NED has also funded several media organizations in Venezuela, to aid in training journalists and designing political messages against the Venezuelan government. ..What these organizations really do is promote anti-Chavez messages on television and in international press, as well as distort and manipulate facts and events in the country in order to negatively portray the Chavez administration... Yet such funding is clearly illegal and a violation of journalist ethics. Foreign government funding of “independent” journalists or media outlets is an act of mass deception, propaganda and a violation of sovereignty. ("America's Covert 'Civil Society Operations: US interference in Venezuela keeps growing", Eva Golinger, Global Research)

It's hard to believe that a two-year senator from Chicago with a background in "community organizing" presides over this elaborate and opaque system of imperial rule. He doesn't, of course. The real leaders remain hidden behind the cloak of democratic government and all of Washington's phony institutions. Obama is merely a public relations hologram, a friendly face that conceals the machinations of a global Mafia. Other people--whoever they may be--control the levers of power moving the pieces as needed to assure the best outcome for themselves and their constituents. Now, it appears this shadow government has its eyes on Latin America once again. That's bad news for Chavez and anyone else who hoped that political instability and US black ops were a thing of the past.

Washington hates Chavez because he's raised living standards for the poor. (and because he won't bow to the giant corporations) That's why he's pilloried in the media, because his socialist model of democracy doesn't jive with America's slash and burn-style of capitalism. Chavez has enacted land and oil industry reform, improved education and provided universal healthcare. He's introduced job training, subsidies to single mothers, drug prevention programs, and assistance for recovering addicts. Venezuelans are more educated than ever before. Illiteracy has been wiped out.

Chavez's policies have reduced ignorance, poverty, and injustice. The list goes on and on. Venezuelans are more engaged in the political process than anytime in the nation's history. That scares Washington. US elites don't want well-informed, empowered people participating in the political process. They believe that task should be left to the venal politicians chosen by corporate bosses and top-hat banksters. That's why Chavez has to go. He's given people hope for a better life.

Movie director, Oliver Stone, summed it up perfectly in a recent interview with Nathan Gardels. He said, "The US remains hostile to anyone on the left coming to power in their "backyard," anyone who thinks the resources of a country belong to its people....For the first time in modern history, much of South America is beyond US control.....It is also beyond the influence of the US-dominated IMF."

The people of Venezuela are better off under Chavez; better fed, better educated, and with better access to medical care. The government safeguards their civil liberties and political activism continues to grow. Democracy is thriving in Venezuela. Hurrah for Hugo Chavez!

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state and can be reached at

August 13th 2010


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Caricom's management change overdue

Rickey Singh

ARRANGEMENTS have been finalised for a special meeting in Grenada of seven Caribbean Community Heads of Government to discuss the critical matter of "governance" on Tuesday, August 17.

But the big question remains: how seriously committed are the leaders of our 37-year-old economic integration movement to grappling with the elusive but very vital issue of governance?

They have been doing the ritual political merry-go-round on this governance challenge ever since the 1992 Time for Action report was issued by The West Indian Commission.

A new governance system, relevant to the challenges of our time, has been on and off the Caricom leaders' work agenda for at least 14 years, dating back to the West Indian Commission's 1992 report, followed by a series of other reports from technocrats and, lastly, that of 2006 from a Technical Working Group (TWG) on "matured regional governance".

A litany of deferred decisions on governance has been the norm. Then it came as a surprise when this prickly topic surfaced again at last month's 31st regular annual Caricom Heads of Government Conference in Montego Bay.

It occurred against the backdrop of spreading discontent and cynicism over the evident lack of progress in completion of the single market arrangements — not to mention the related major project of inauguration of the much-touted common regional economic space.

In the process, two significant developments occurred behind closed doors in Montego Bay.

Conceding that there can no longer be a business-as-usual approach in the face of declining faith in effective governance of the community's wide-ranging policies and programmes, there was a caucus session that focused both on Edwin Carrington's future with Caricom as well as the way forward for the community in all major areas of operation.

By the time the July 4-7 Montego Bay summit concluded, we were learning that consensus had emerged to treat with urgency the business of governance of the community, and particularly in relation to its flagship CSME project.

It was agreed that a special meeting of the Caricom Bureau, plus some other leaders of the 15-member community, would take place in Grenada and that they would be assisted by members of the TWG on "matured regional governance" that was chaired by Dr Vaughn Lewis.

Sitting on hands

It is of relevance to note here that Caricom leaders have been sitting on their hands on the TWG's recommendations for more than three years. The centrepiece of recommendations submitted was the creation of a high-level commission, or similar mechanism, with executive authority and functioning under the direct supervision of Heads of Government.

This specific recommendation was to serve as a reminder of the idea that had originated with the 1992 West Indian Commission, under Sir Shridath Ramphal's chairmanship. The commission had proposed an empowered three-member Caricom Commission to help deal with the challenges of effective governance.

The intention now is for the outcome of this Tuesday's meeting in St George's to be forwarded for decision at a special meeting of Caricom Heads late next month in Jamaica, whose prime minister is the current chairman of the community.

However, while the committee of Caricom leaders was preparing for the meeting in St George's, there came the breaking news from Secretary General Carrington that he had informed Heads of Government of his decision to retire from his post, effective December 31, 2010.

Consequently, a core feature of next week's meeting in Grenada will be the focus on finding a new secretary general to be on board from January 1, 2011.

Prime Minister Golding has been quick to deny suggestions that Carrington may have been "pushed" into advancing his retirement — almost two years before the conclusion of his current fourth term contract.

On the other hand, by his own statement of August 4, Carrington had declared: "The last 18 years have been the pinnacle of my public service career. I have, despite the odds, done all I could to help create a viable and secure community for all..."

Strong voice

Whatever his detractors may now say, Carrington, as head of the Secretariat in Georgetown, has been — warts and all — a strong, regular public voice, via the region's media, in support and defence of Caricom.

There has undoubtedly been progress over the years to applaud, particularly in areas of functional co-operaton, trade and external relations. But there is also blame to be shared between the Secretariat's management and the political directorate of Caricom, in terms of implementation of approved major policies and programmes. Think, for example, the mounting frustration to realise the full CSME.

Carrington was perhaps the equivalent of a chief executive officer functioning in co-operation with the Heads of Government as the regional political directorate with ultimate responsibility.

Now that the community leaders appear willing to take new initiatives in the direction of a management structure relevant to effective "governance for the 21st century", it is to be hoped that the recommendations to emerge from Tuesday's meeting in St George's will prove helpful for hard decisions at the special meeting of Heads planned for late next month in Jamaica.

In accordance with the sentiment of the West Indian Commission's seminal report, it is most certainly "time for action" by Caricom to achieve a quality of governance to make a reality policies and programmes seriously hampered by lack of implementation processes -- whatever the contributing factors.

The CSME project, too long in the making (following the historic Grand Anse Declaration of 1989), as well as the comparatively recent Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe (June 2009i), are outstanding examples of the need for an envisaged new architecture of governance to ensure systematic and timely implementation of decisions.

August 15, 2010


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Taking further stock of Africa's half-century of Independence


ONE fascinating and encouraging aspect of human affairs is that nothing and no one is ever entirely good or evil. Case in point: my discussion last week of the past half-century of Africa's political history undoubtedly left a totally bleak impression.

A senior academic at the University of the West Indies took issue with the case I tried to make. Professor Rupert Lewis of the Department of Government noted that I failed to talk about the evolution of democracy in several African nations. I take his point, and while I still believe there is very little to celebrate, the picture in the mother continent is by no means one of total gloom and despair. There are, indeed, several encouraging examples.

Tanzania, which has suffered significant economic setbacks because of misguided, failed experiments, has never strayed from the path of political stability, unlike several of its eight neighbouring countries. The spearhead of its independence, Julius Nyerere, left office voluntarily and his successors have all been chosen democratically. The country was known as Tanganyika until 1964, three years after it severed colonial ties with Britain. That's when it merged with the neighbouring island of Zanzibar.

While it is a functioning democracy with regular elections, Tanzania is effectively a one-party country, with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi holding well over 90 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly. That is not, though, the result of political repression. Interestingly, the constitution requires political parties to have women comprising at least 20 per cent of their representatives. And Zanzibar has its own assembly responsible for matters peculiar to the island.

On the other side of the continent, Ghana started out with considerable promise but quickly descended into economic chaos and political morass. Kwame Nkrumah, first prime minister and then president of the new republic, had been influenced by agitators like Marcus Garvey, CLR James and WEB Du Bois. He never achieved his dream of uniting Africa but played a significant role in founding the Organisation of African Unity, which became the African Union eight years ago.

Nkrumah fell into the common trap of the personality cult, calling himself Osagyefo (The Redeemer) and engaged in a number of ambitious projects which, unfortunately, came to naught. The Americans, feeling that he had become a liability, engineered a military coup in 1966, the first of several ending with the seizure of power by Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings in 1981. Rawlings later ran for office and won the presidency, re-winning it until he was prohibited by the constitution. Since then the country has had peaceful changes of government and appears to have settled into a state of stability.

Then there's South Africa, where a handful of descendants of Dutch and British settlers ruled the roost for a considerable part of the 20th century in a quasi-democracy only for their benefit. The black people, along with the "coloureds" and a relatively small number of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, made up the overwhelming majority of the population but had essentially no voice. The Boers, as the Dutch settlers were known, played the Cold War game to the full, accusing anyone who opposed their diabolical schemes as "communist" and throwing them in jail.

At one point almost the entire senior leadership of the African National Congress was in prison, but through a steadfast belief in the rightness of their cause and stern discipline, they held their heads high until the system ultimately collapsed under its own weight and from tremendous domestic and international pressure. Nelson Mandela, a man of supreme sagacity, moral courage and tremendous grace, emerged unbowed after more than a quarter-century of hard prison time to lead his country into the fold of truly democratic entities. South Africa still has many problems - widespread unemployment, lack of prospects for hordes of young people, high urban crime and sub-standard housing in many places. But after observing, since 1994, the way South Africans have embraced the vote and all that goes with it, there's hardly any doubt that democracy has taken root. Mandela's example and leadership have inspired and encouraged people all over the continent.

Rwanda is another case where we can see more than glimmers of hope. Sixteen years ago, tribal hostilities boiled over at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. Members of the Hutu tribe, who had long harboured resentment against the smaller Tutsi ethnic group, lashed out and slaughtered Tutsis and Hutus who objected. There had been previous cases of internecine brutality, albeit on a much smaller scale, in neighbouring Burundi, which shared the same ethnic makeup as well as German and Belgian colonial rule. The slaughter went on for 100 days until the exhausted nation collapsed from sheer fatigue. The outside world looked on and did nothing.

Rwanda has slowly and painfully clawed its way back to some semblance of normality and last week held its second presidential election since the massacre. The man who led the rebuilding, Paul Kagame, was elected to a second seven-year term. His years have been marked by high growth and a significant increase in foreign investment, the building of infrastructure and tourism. But all is not roses; he ran almost unopposed and has come under criticism from opposition figures and human-rights groups for suppressing dissent. We will have to wait to see how this one will turn out; critics say Kagame is a mixture of nation builder and autocrat.

There are other cases of stability and reasonably good governance, but the overall picture remains dire.

Perhaps the most egregious example is this one: on June 30, 1960, the Republic of the Congo came into being as an independent country, ending 52 years of subservience to King Léopold of Belgium. (I said last week that the new Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was leader of the French, rather than the Belgian Congo; several re-reads failed to catch the error). It was a stormy passage and the beginning of decades of even more stormy times. Two mineral-rich provinces, Katanga and South Kasai, decided to secede.

The place was overrun by armed men in uniform - Congolese army and resistance groups, Belgians as well as blue helmets from a UN emergency force mustered to try to maintain some order. The fabled UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold made four trips to the Congo to try to procure peace and it was that quest that led to his death. In September 1961, his plane crashed in neighbouring Northern Rhodesia, which became Zambia upon gaining independence from Britain. Three inquiries failed to determine whether the crash was the result of an accident or hostile action.

Belgium, the United States and other Western countries connived to get rid of Prime Minister Lumumba and President Joseph Kasavubu. The eventual victor was Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, head of the secessionist movement in Katanga. The first two had set their country on a socialist path while Mobutu was deemed friendly to the west. He turned out to be a monster of enormous proportions - establishing one-party rule, a personality cult, widespread infringements of human rights and a kleptocracy of unprecedented proportions. He was eventually overthrown in 1997, but the wars continued, with forces from neighbouring countries coming across its borders to settle scores with their own refugees.

All these wars have cost the lives of almost five and a half million people, a toll dwarfed only by the Second World War. Truces and peace treaties have not stopped the brutality.

Clearly, while there are positive developments to applaud, the tasks facing Africa's leaders are truly monumental.

August 14, 2010