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Monday, January 31, 2011

The grave food crisis

Reflections of Fidel

(Taken from CubaDebate)

• JUST 11 days ago, January 19, under the title "Now is the time to do something," I wrote:

"The worst is that, to a large degree, their solutions will depend on the richest and most developed countries, which will reach a situation that they really are not in a position to confront, unless the world which they have been trying to mold… collapses around them."

"I am not talking at this point about wars, the risks and consequences of which wise and brilliant people, including many from the United States, have conveyed.

"I am referring to the food crisis produced by economic acts and climate change which are apparently already irreversible as a consequence of the actions of human beings, but which in any case the human mind has the duty to address with haste.

"The problems have suddenly increased as a result of phenomena which are being repeated on all continents: heat waves, forest fires, loss of harvests in Russia, with many victims; climate change in China, heavy rainfall or drought; progressive reduction of water reserves in the Himalayas which is threatening India, China, Pakistan and other countries; torrential rain in Australia, which has flooded almost one million square kilometers; unseasonable and unprecedented cold in Europe […] drought in Canada and unusual cold in this country and the United States…"

I likewise mentioned unprecedented rainfall in Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil.

In that Reflection I noted that "production of wheat, soy beans, corn, rice and many other grains and legumes, which constitute the nutritional base of the world – the population of which has today reached an estimated 6.9 billion, rapidly approaching the unprecedented figure of seven billion and where more than one billion are suffering hunger and malnutrition – is being seriously affected by climate change, creating an extremely grave problem worldwide."

On Saturday, January 29, the Internet news bulletin which I receive daily reproduced an article by Lester R. Brown published on the Organic Way website and datelined January 10, whose content, I believe, should be widely circulated.

Its author is the most prestigious and recognized U.S. ecologist, who has been warning of the harmful effect of the growing and substantial volume of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. I will just take paragraphs from his well-argued article which coherently explains his point of view.

"As the new year begins, the price of wheat is setting an all-time high…

"…the world population has nearly doubled since 1970, we are still adding 80 million people each year. Tonight, there will be 219,000 additional mouths to feed at the dinner table, and many of them will be greeted with empty plates. Another 219,000 will join us tomorrow night. At some point, this relentless growth begins to tax both the skills of farmers and the limits of the earth's land and water resources.

"The rise in meat, milk, and egg consumption in fast-growing developing countries has no precedent.

"In the United States, which harvested 416 million tons of grain in 2009, 119 million tons went to ethanol distilleries to produce fuel for cars. That's enough to feed 350 million people for a year. The massive U.S. investment in ethanol distilleries sets the stage for direct competition between cars and people for the world grain harvest. In Europe, where much of the auto fleet runs on diesel fuel, there is growing demand for plant-based diesel oil, principally from grapeseed and palm oil. This demand for oil-bearing crops is not only reducing the land available to produce food crops in Europe, it is also driving the clearing of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia for palm oil plantations.

"…The combined effect of these three growing demands is stunning: a doubling in the annual growth in world grain consumption from an average of 21 million tons per year in 1990-2005 to 41 million tons per year in 2005-2010. Most of this huge jump is attributable to the orgy of investment in ethanol distilleries in the United States in 2006-2008.

"While the annual demand growth for grain was doubling, new constraints were emerging on the supply side, even as longstanding ones such as soil erosion intensified. An estimated one third of the world's cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming through natural processes – and thus is losing its inherent productivity. Two huge dust bowls are forming, one across northwest China, western Mongolia, and central Asia; the other in central Africa. Each of these dwarfs the U.S. dust bowl of the 1930s.

"Satellite images show a steady flow of dust storms leaving these regions, each one typically carrying millions of tons of precious topsoil.

"Meanwhile aquifer depletion is fast shrinking the amount of irrigated area in many parts of the world; this relatively recent phenomenon is driven by the large-scale use of mechanical pumps to exploit underground water. Today, half the world's people live in countries where water tables are falling as overpumping depletes aquifers. Once an aquifer is depleted, pumping is necessarily reduced to the rate of recharge unless it is a fossil (nonreplenishable) aquifer, in which case pumping ends altogether. But sooner or later, falling water tables translate into rising food prices.

"Irrigated area is shrinking in the Middle East, notably in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and possibly Yemen. In Saudi Arabia, which was totally dependent on a now-depleted fossil aquifer for its wheat self-sufficiency, production is in a freefall. From 2007 to 2010, Saudi wheat production fell by more than two thirds.

"The Arab Middle East is the first geographic region where spreading water shortages are shrinking the grain harvest. But the really big water deficits are in India, where the World Bank numbers indicate that 175 million people are being fed with grain that is produced by overpumping. In China, overpumping provides food for some 130 million people. In the United States, the world's other leading grain producer, irrigated area is shrinking in key agricultural states such as California and Texas.

"The rising temperature is also making it more difficult to expand the world grain harvest fast enough to keep up with the record pace of demand. Crop ecologists have their own rule of thumb: For each 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature above the optimum during the growing season, we can expect a 10 percent decline in grain yields.

"Another emerging trend that threatens food security is the melting of mountain glaciers. This is of particular concern in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau, where the ice melt from glaciers helps sustain not only the major rivers of Asia during the dry season, such as the Indus, Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow rivers, but also the irrigation systems dependent on these rivers. Without this ice melt, the grain harvest would drop precipitously and prices would rise accordingly.

"And finally, over the longer term, melting ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica, combined with thermal expansion of the oceans, threaten to raise the sea level by up to six feet during this century. Even a three-foot rise would inundate half of the riceland in Bangladesh. It would also put under water much of the Mekong Delta that produces half the rice in Vietnam, the world's number two rice exporter. Altogether there are some 19 other rice-growing river deltas in Asia where harvests would be substantially reduced by a rising sea level.

"The unrest of these past few weeks is just the beginning. It is no longer conflict between heavily armed superpowers, but rather spreading food shortages and rising food prices -- and the political turmoil this would lead to -- that threatens our global future. Unless governments quickly redefine security and shift expenditures from military uses to investing in climate change mitigation, water efficiency, soil conservation, and population stabilization, the world will in all likelihood be facing a future with both more climate instability and food price volatility. If business as usual continues, food prices will only trend upward."

The existing world order was imposed by the United States at the end of World War II and it reserved for itself all the privileges.

Obama does not have any way to manage the pandemonium which they have created. A few days ago the government collapsed in Tunisia, where the United States had imposed neoliberalism and was happy with its political prowess. The word democracy had vanished from the scene. It is incredible how now, when the exploited people are shedding their blood and assaulting stores, Washington is stating its satisfaction with the defeat. Everybody is aware that the United States converted Egypt into its principal ally within the Arab world. A large aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine, escorted by U.S. and Israeli warships, passed through the Suez Canal en route for the Persian Gulf some months ago, without the international press having access to what was occurring there. Egypt was the Arab country to receive the largest supplies of armaments. Millions of young Egyptians are suffering unemployment and the food shortages provoked within the world economy, and Washington affirms that it is supporting them. Its Machiavellian conduct includes supplying weapons to the Egyptian government, while at the same time USAID was supplying funds to the opposition. Can the United States halt the revolutionary wave which is shaking the Third World?

The famous Davos meeting that has just ended turned into a Tower of Babel, with the richest European states headed by Germany, Britain and France only agreeing on their disagreement with the United States.

But one doesn’t have to worry in the least; the Secretary of State has once again promised that the United States will help in the reconstruction of Haiti.

Fidel Castro Ruz
January 30, 2011
6:23 p.m.

Translated by Granma International

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cannabis abuse may be a factor behind the high crime rate in The Bahamas

Cannabis abuse 'may be a factor behind high crime rate'
Tribune Staff Reporter

CANNABIS abuse could be one of the factors behind the high rate of crime in The Bahamas, according to a local psychiatrist.

Dr Kirk Christie, of the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, said taking into account the disinhibiting effects of cannabis and the fact that its use is widespread, the drug could be fuelling deviant behaviour.

In a meeting with Social Service Hotline councillors yesterday, Dr Christie stressed the dangers of substance abuse, and in particular cannabis abuse.

He said the fact that cannabis is culturally and socially accepted, cheap and readily available in The Bahamas, encourages the false perception it is not a dangerous drug.

However, Dr Christie said despite the "general overvalued idea that there are no effects of cannabis use," like any other form of substance abuse, it is "a health nightmare."

He said studies have shown that abuse of the drug can have very serious consequences.

Physiological effects of cannabis use include: hypertension (high blood pressure), shortness of breath, decreased co-ordination and reaction times, ataxia, impaired memory and perception, sensory distortion such as hallucinations, paranoid disorders, mood alteration, and depersonalisation.

In men, it can also cause a decrease in libido (sex drive), lower testosterone and sperm counts, and shrinking of the scrotum.

One study, performed in the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre among 120 patients in the substance abuse treatment programme, found the median age for the onset of cannabis disorders was 21, and usually ranged between 17 and 26.

Dr Christie added that a new study completed in Europe found marijuana use makes a person seven times more likely to lose touch with reality.

The treatment programme for substance abuse normally lasts about two years and includes detoxification, rehabilitation, relapse prevention and maintenance.

Dr Christie stressed the importance of education and relaying of correct information.

"The aim of education is to provide students, teachers and families with accurate information about drug abuse and addiction and the association with high-risk sexual behaviour," said Dr Christie.

"Those under the influence take more irresponsible risks."

While not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted, for many what starts as casual use leads to drug addiction, he added.

January 29, 2011


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Trying to deconstruct the surprise visit of the former Haitian dictator Jean Claude Duvalier to Haiti... twenty five years after his forced departure

Cherchez la femme!
By Jean H Charles

Trying to deconstruct the surprise visit of the former dictator Jean Claude Duvalier to Haiti exactly twenty five years after his forced departure on February 7, 1986, I have resorted to the well known French dictum: cherchez la femme, as the most plausible line of inquiry.

The young Duvalier, who grew up in the national palace with the military and the militia at his feet, became an indulgent playboy, who loved fast cars, boats, women and debauchery. He was, nevertheless, less cruel than his sadistic father. The whimsical and witty Haitian people have a recurrent joke which is telling: if you happen to have in one day, fast and decent transportation, electricity, water and telephone functioning at the same time, in the city, for sure Jean Claude Duvalier has returned into the country!

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: 
Things have been going so downhill since; the story is amusing and apropos!

Feeble in mind and in spirit, he failed to listen to those who advised him not to take the beautiful but intriguing and Jezebel-like Michelle for his wife. Haiti became the modern day Corinth, where the rich and the powerful indulged themselves in a luxurious and lascivious life in the midst of the squalor and the misery of the masses. The state funds were Michelle and Jean Claude’s private piggy banks, taken or rather stolen at will.

The people were offered, as in Marie Antoinette’s time, cake instead of bread by the lean and svelte Michelle. Their anger took another turn after a strong repression in the city of Gonaives, where three young lads were killed by the militia. The entire country stood up as one to force the departure in the middle of the night of the couple, Jean Claude and Michelle, from the enchanted but rendered despicable land.

They found refuge in France, the home of Marie Antoinette, where the bankers and the lawyers helped them to continue the station of life they were accustomed to in Haiti. But soon Michelle found herself a new paramour more glamorous than the former president; she left Jean Claude penniless ensuring that she took with her the gold, the bags and the children.

There was left untouched 5 million dollars (now 6 million) stashed in Switzerland belonging to the Michelle Benett Foundation. Through a long legal procedure the court in Geneva wanted to return the money to Haiti. But in Haiti, the governments since have been so corrupt and so inept that they could not present a powerful legal argument to convince the Swiss judge that Haiti should get the money.

In the interest of justice, the Swiss legislature has formulated a novel legal theory: the lex Duvalier. As of February 1, 2011, the money will be returned to Haiti unless Jean Claude Duvalier can prove to the Swiss Court that he can return harmless to Haiti without any legal pursuit.

Enter a new woman, Veronique Roy, a nemesis of Michelle and of Jezebel, born in Tunisia, where another dictator has just been chased out by its people. She has developed the dream of becoming one day the first lady of Haiti or packing with Haiti assets in Jean Claude’s trust to live a new life in luxury abroad.

While Jean Claude could not come into the country in the past few years, she was a frequent visitor to Haiti, developing a whole slew of nostalgic followers who dreamt of a nation where the ruler was the master of life and limb.

Frail and febrile, eaten by a pancreatic cancer that will soon consume his life, Jean Claude Duvalier is under the spell of another strong woman, who cannot wait to put her hand into the last stash of funds that would send children to school in Haiti, provide safe water to a population against the looming cholera epidemic.

There are stories that France and the United States conspired to bring Jean Claude Duvalier to Haiti to influence the final results of the election. There are further stories that the very Haitian government facilitated the return of Jean Claude to create an aura of evasion against all the recurring national problems such as inept leadership in the recovery from the earthquake, the cholera epidemic as well as the fiasco of the elections.

I believe, rather, Jean Claude’s return has a personal touch of follow the money or cherchez la femme!

There are two legal theories to build a legal action against the former dictator. The Haitian government could have commenced a legal action in Haitian courts to judge by contumacy Jean Claude Duvalier for the repression, the theft and the revilement of the state funds.

The Haitian government in the last twenty five years has been exceptionally delinquent in pursuing all the legal avenues to bring about justice on behalf of the Haitian people for the crimes and the malfeasance of the Duvalier regime. The Prosper Avril government has also withdrawn the international suit against Duvalier, all commenced under the Henri Namphy regime.

Any victim of the regime could have seized the court of a country friendly to international human rights. Spain, with Judge Balthazar Garson as a knight errant, prosecutes with vigor and passion any and all violation or infringement of rights anywhere in the world. No one has taken that road.

Furthermore, Haiti has failed or purposely refrained from signing the Rome convention allowing the pursuit of crime against humanity ad infinitum. If legal proscription (25 years without a legal action) could muzzle the hands of the state in pursuing Jean Claude Duvalier in Haiti, it could have another avenue offered by the international community any time after.

As such, Jean Claude Duvalier is home free in spite of the legal demagogy of being placed now under Haitian judicial custody.

There is a mood towards reconciliation now in the nation. The youth of today did not know firsthand the repression of the Duvalier regime. They are also the witnesses that the ensuing governments (albeit with improvement in freedom of speech) have been more delinquent in security in the area of public health and environmental and public safety. The international human rights organizations (Amnesty International and all) have exhibited no interest in the right to schooling, decent housing, health care and incubation to employment for the Haitian people in general.

Watch for Veronique being wedded in a civil and secret ceremony in Haiti with Jean Claude Duvalier before his untimely death, so she can go back to Switzerland, claim the money that rightfully belongs to the Haitian people. As Graham Greene has so aptly said about Haiti, the comedy is playing with national and international actors for the delight of the promoters, the confusion of the extras as well as the trepidation and the sorrow of the Haitian people!

Under the Prosper Avril government I was offered the job of Director of the Michel Bennett Foundation, which ran a modern and efficient hospital. When I asked for a forensic accounting of the 5 million dollars in the budget, the job and the position disappeared. The hospital has since been disaffected and in ruin!

January 29, 2011


Friday, January 28, 2011

Obama’s speech and the bankruptcy of identity politics

By Tom Eley

President Obama’s State of the Union address, delivered Tuesday night, is nearly as remarkable for what it did not mention as it is for the unabashedly right-wing and pro-corporate agenda it outlined.

As the World Socialist Web Site already noted, the speech is typical of a political order in which “no aspect of social reality can be openly and honestly addressed by any section of the American ruling class or the corporate-controlled media” which fears that “any acknowledgment of the real state of American society could become a focus for the social anger building up just below the surface.”

One of the more striking omissions from the president’s speech was any reference, even in a tangential way, to the desperate conditions facing the majority of the nation’s 37 million African-Americans, or the closely related social crisis overtaking the cities.

Obama is neither more nor less indifferent toward poor and working class African-Americans than he is toward their white, Latino, and immigrant counterparts. His concern, to the total exclusion of all others, is the wealth and security of the financial elite, as he made clear in his speech by equating the supposed economic recovery with stock values and corporate profits.

But Obama’s studied indifference to the severe social crisis that is impoverishing millions of African-Americans and destroying US cities is a ringing indictment of identity politics and affirmative action programs, which hold that advancement of a layer of “leaders”—as CEOs, military officers, academics, and politicians—would somehow advance the interests of all. Indeed, Obama is himself the embodiment of the bankruptcy of this perspective.

Two years ago, Obama’s inauguration was greeted rapturously in the media as a celebration of “the nation’s first black president.” During his election campaign for the presidency and even after his victory, Obama’s skin color and his history as a “community organizer” in south Chicago were relentlessly promoted by various middle class organizations as somehow imparting to him a left or progressive character that, based on his entire career and his avowed political positions, did not exist.

African-Americans, in particular, were endlessly told this was their victory—even that Obama’s ascension to the White House marked the completion of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery and Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle against Jim Crow oppression in the South.

It is time to draw up a balance sheet. The four years since the housing market bust of 2007—two of them under the Obama administration—have been the most disastrous for African-American workers since the Great Depression.

The crisis engulfing the entire working class—mass layoffs, wage and benefit cutting, the foreclosure epidemic, homelessness, hunger, the gutting of public education, drastic increases in college tuition, the slashing of all forms of social spending—have hit African-American workers with particular force.

The official US poverty count last year hit a record of 43.6 million people, or one in seven. Among African-Americans, 25.8 percent of the population, more than one in four, lived in poverty in 2009, while one in three African-American children lived in poverty. The official unemployment rate for African-Americans went from 8.7 percent in 2007 to nearly 16 percent today; 40 percent of African-American youth are unemployed. Home ownership among African-Americans, who were disproportionately victimized by the banks in various forms of sub-prime lending, has fallen sharply.

In the face of this disaster, Obama’s State of the Union Speech can only be called a provocation.

“Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown,” Obama said. “If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion. … Americans [have] seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear—proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.”

“They’re right,” he continued. “The rules have changed. … The competition for jobs is real.” The president then segued into the promotion of economic competition with China and India, the clear implication being that American workers will have to accept even more drastic wage cuts to become competitive, and later declared that he would freeze at current levels all discretionary social spending for five years.

The president has fully adopted the mantra of “personal responsibility” long lorded over the poor and working class African-American population by the Republican Party. He spoke of “giving every child a chance to succeed,” but insisted that instead of “pouring money” into schools, “responsibility begins … in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.”

Obama does not ask how children can learn when they are hungry and homeless and live in homes without heat and light. There were, as of 2008-2009, nearly one million public school students who experienced homelessness during the course of the school year. The same year, among the over 50 million Americans classified as “food insecure” by federal authorities, fully 17 million were children. These numbers have risen sharply among white and African-American children alike.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the problem of the oppression of African-Americans was commonly understood as a particular expression of an underlying social problem—the intractability of poverty and the development of the economy in areas like the rural South and urban North. Shaken by the mass freedom struggle in the South and the urban uprisings in the North, “the Negro question,” as it was then called, preoccupied the ruling elite and in the 1960s made its way each year into the State of the Union speeches of Democratic presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, expressed as promises for “urban renewal” and more jobs in “urban ghettos.”

All of these promises were broken. The upsurge of African-American workers—part of larger social struggles of the US working class as a whole that lasted through the early 1970s—corresponded with the decline of the global position of US capitalism, which had been accelerated by the Vietnam War (1965-1974). This was followed by the intentional gutting of American industry through the interest rate “shock therapy” of Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker which devastated Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Gary, and many other cities beginning in the late 1970s.

Instead of fulfilling promises of jobs and an expanded social safety system, the ruling class adopted a different strategy. Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it began to promote affirmative action policies with the express intention of cultivating a layer of African-American politicians, capitalists, and military men. As the Democratic Party retreated from any commitment to ameliorating conditions for masses of working class people, it increasingly focused on affirmative action as the alpha and the omega of its social agenda.

The layer of leaders that were thus brought forward quickly came to inhabit a different social reality than the masses of working class and poor African-Americans. Over the past four decades, social inequality within the African-American population has increased enormously, mirroring trends in the population as a whole. Since 1966, while the income of the top 5 percent of African-American households has increased by 50 percent, inflation-adjusted, the income for the bottom 40 percent has actually fallen by 25 percent.

Barack Obama is the quintessential expression of this process. In both his own history and his political experiences, he has nothing to do with the struggles of masses of African-American workers. From his Ivy League education at Columbia and Harvard, Obama launched a career in academia and politics in Chicago. Early on he was spotted and taken in hand by powerful political and financial interests, which ultimately shepherded him to the White House.

What appealed to the corporate and diplomatic elite about Obama was his carefully cultivated ethnic identity. He could be promoted as “change” personified, allowing more time for the class war offensive against jobs and democratic rights in the US and the machinations of American imperialism abroad. These same right-wing policies carried out by his Republican competitor for the presidency, John McCain, or even his main Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, would have more quickly led to a social explosion.

In the end, the purpose of identity politics—endlessly promoted in academia and by liberals and ex-left middle class organizations—is to block recognition that the decisive social division is class and not race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. If there is one positive outcome of the policies of the Obama administration, and his State of the Union address in particular, it is the further discrediting of this reactionary perspective.

The author also recommends:

The Gates arrest and the “national conversation on race”
[28 July 2009]

Obama’s speech to the NAACP
[18 July 2009]

28 January 2011


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crime and corruption have been – from time immemorial - one of the royal roads toward fame and fortune in The Bahamas

A Culture of Criminality
The Bahama Journal Editorial

No number of artfully contrived ‘meet’ the press-briefings, stage-managed walk-and-talk exercises on the part of the police high-command – or for that matter, ardent prayer meetings on this or that street corner can do much in terms of ridding this nation of its scourge of crime.

In addition, there is no doubting the clear import of all of the information now pouring in concerning the extent to which the police are ‘losing’ in the fight against the so-called ‘criminal’ elements that are seemingly embedded through and through Bahamian society.

Indeed, crime and the mentality that spawns it is so deeply woven into the fabric of things Bahamian that, some pundits and some other acute observers say that, what we have to contend with is a culture that fosters and rewards criminality.

What we know for sure is that, this land of ours is one of those interesting places where while the wages of sin might be death, the rewards from crime, schemes and scams are some times quite bountiful.

In this regard, we take note of the fact that crime and corruption have been –from time immemorial- one of the royal roads toward fame and fortune in The Bahamas.

Reference here might be made to those times past when piracy was the order of the day in The Bahamas or when rum-running provided a sure basis for primitive capital accumulation.

That life style continues.

For better or worse, today’s Bahamas remains that kind deeply corrupted place where corruption is rife.

And so it goes for either the good policeman who can see nothing really wrong with accepting ‘gifts’ from this or that shady character; or for that matter, with the cop who knows that he has a well-deserved reputation for brutality and violence against people in the supposedly protective custody of the state.

This list can also be extended to include the pilferer of stuff belonging to his employer; the person who receives goods he knows to be stolen; and all others who routinely get away with the crimes they commit.

As they say, to make a long story short – the fact of the matter is that our beloved land is home to tens of thousands of people who are willing and able – at the drop of either pin or hat- to rip each other off, rape, maim or kill if the circumstances so warrant.

This is a mess.

And so, try as they might, the Ministry of National Security and the Royal Bahamas Police Force cannot ‘solve’ this nation’s crime problem; and for sure – those Bahamians who believe that they can pray crime away had better wake up, face facts and understand that, faith without works is dead.

Evidently, crime hurts; and clearly, we all pay a high price when some in our midst can and do get away with the crimes they commit; with some of them against property and some others against the person.

Indeed, no day passes without some revelation or the other concerning the extent to which social life in The Bahamas is shot through with allegations concerning who is on the take.

One measure of the extent to which corruption has taken root is to be found in the oft-mouthed rationalization that since practically every one is corrupt, no one should be condemned too harshly for some small indiscretion or the other.

In one prime instance of corruption alleged, former Commodore Clifford Scavella noted that it was his estimation that up to a quarter of the Defence Force complement was rotten.

And in the believe it or not category was the assertion that apart from this rot, all was well in the ranks of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force!

In that same vein are to be found assertions concerning the extent to which The Royal Bahamas Police Force has to contend with its own so-called ‘bad apples’.

And after that, there is that myriad of allegations concerning the extent to which other government agencies are caught up in the coils of corruption. It is common knowledge in some circles that certain Immigration officers routinely accept gifts from this or that person.

It is also assumed that there are Customs Officers who are on the take. All of this is confirmed when from time to time one or two of these crooks are charged and convicted; and then, there are all those other instances where and when crime runs amok in our homes, on our streets - and in some of this nation’s suites.

And so, when it is all said and done – the Bahamian people should look deeply at what it is that they have become as they have decided to go in such hot pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.

January 26, 2011

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The long road to the privatization of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC)

The long road to privatization
Guardian News Editor

One dozen years later, tone of BTC debate unchanged

In 1999 when initial attempts at privatizing the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation led to massive demonstrations that saw protestors clash with police, former Prime Minister the late Sir Lynden Pindling noted that “double-talk on the privatization of BaTelCo has caused mistrust, chronic insensitivity — and

lack of respect has bred contempt.”

He opined that this was “fueling sustained civil disorder.”

“Much of what used to work is breaking down,” Sir Lynden said. “Civil society is manifestly under the gun in more ways than one. We cannot go on this way. Quite obviously, we cannot succeed this way. In the interest of peace, sanity and democracy in industrial relations, the time has come for all parties concerned to step back, take a deep breath and reassess the situation and, after reassessment, a new beginning can be made.”

More than a decade later, we are at a similar point. The latest efforts of the Ingraham administration to sell the state-owned telecommunications company have resulted in a degree of civil disorder, and industrial relations are again strained.

But unlike in 1999, the Government of The Bahamas today is on the brink of inking the final deal with a partner to purchase, not 49, but 51 percent of Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s (BTC) shares.

The road leading to this point has been long, uncertain and at times treacherous.

It was on February 11, 1998 in a communication to Parliament that the Ingraham administration formally announced its intention to privatize BaTelCo.

But that announcement was no surprise.

Manifesto II outlined the Free National Movement’s recognition that the rapid technological advances being realized in the production and supply of utilities, such as telecommunications services, made it increasingly difficult for public monopoly providers to remain at the cutting-edge of technology.

The Ingraham-led government was — and still is — of the view that it is the private sector that should be the main engine of economic growth and development, and that as far as possible, the role of government should be limited to that of providing those services which the private sector is unwilling or unable to provide, and ensuring that there exists an environment conducive to broad-based economic growth and development.

It was anticipated that the government would proceed to privatize the corporation during 1999.

But privatization plans date back even further, according to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

In 1997, under another incarnation of his government, he said at an FNM rally that, “Before the FNM came to office, the PLP government was secretly negotiating to sell BaTelCo to Cable and Wireless of the United Kingdom and they said not a word to the Bahamian people about it.”

Addressing the recent Bahamas Business Outlook forum, Ingraham repeated the statement.

Today, we are told the Ingraham administration is just days away from concluding an agreement with Cable and Wireless for the majority of BTC’s shares.

BTC has come a very long way in its growth and development, although it is still lagging behind on some telecommunications advances.

BTC evolved out of BaTelCo, which grew out of the Telecommunications Department. That department dates back to 1892. It was on June 9, 1966 that Parliament passed the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation Act, transforming the department to a corporation.

While the players and the approach to privatization are somewhat changed since the late 1990s when the buzzword was on everyone’s tongue, much of the language is the same.

At that 1997 FNM rally, Ingraham underscored that neither the government nor BaTelCo, from its own resources, can keep up with technological advances in telecommunications.

It’s a point he has made repeatedly in this most recent attempt to privatize.

In the late 1990s, the thinking of the Ingraham administration was to keep a majority interest in BaTelCo in Bahamian hands.

“I propose that we make available a minority interest in BaTelCo to a communication giant,” Ingraham told rallygoers. “That is why I propose we keep ownership of the majority of BaTelCo in Bahamian hands.”

Ingraham said at the time that he did not want to put this country in the position where it has to sell BaTelCo because the government is broke, and as a result receive less for the full monopoly.

“I do not want this to happen for The Bahamas,” he said. “I want us to remain ahead of the game.”


In February 1998, the government secured the services of the London-based telecommunications group Deutsche Morgan Grenfell to advise it on the privatization of BaTelCo.

Then Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson told Parliament that the government expected to complete the privatization of the corporation within 12 months.

The Bahamas, he said, was in “the enviable position” of being able to earmark and commit all the proceeds from the sale of the shares in BaTelCo to national debt reduction.

Today, the government expects to get $210 million plus stamp taxes from Cable and Wireless for 51 percent of BTC.

While initially the prime minister had indicated the money would be earmarked to build a badly needed hospital, the rough economy and the resulting strain on government finances have led to a change of plans. The government intends — as it did in 1998 — to use the proceeds to pay down the debt.

Watson, who at the time was the minister responsible for public enterprises, said it was not possible for a publicly-owned facility, such as BaTelCo, to indefinitely maintain an effective monopoly in telecommunications.

“Continuing attempts to do so will undoubtedly be swept aside by the tide of technology, competition and market liberalization,” Watson said.

This communication to Parliament followed demonstrations in Rawson Square by BaTelCo workers, wary of privatization.

Watson advised that the government remained “resolute in our commitment and firm in our determination to move forward with deliberate haste in the privatization of BaTelCo.”

Before privatization could happen, the government needed to embark on a downsizing exercise, which proved highly controversial.

In June 1999, it was revealed that the cost of separation packages distributed to disengaged BaTelCo workers was $66.2 million.

Watson revealed in the House of Assembly that other benefit payments due to workers based on the terms of the disengagement agreement amounted to $55 million.­

Additionally, employees received from the pension fund their entitlement of $24.2 million.

When it was all over, the total number of employees remaining at the corporation was 1,086, including 713 in New Providence, 182 in Grand Bahama, and 191 in the Family Islands.

Watson said at the time the government was “sympathetic to the employees who are being separated from BaTelCo, many of whom have given years of outstanding, dedicated and faithful services.”

“However, we are faced with the stark reality that the nature of the workplace is changing and changing rapidly, fueled principally by the dynamic advances in telecommunications technology,” he said.

“It is our duty to ensure that The Bahamas is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”

Watson also advised that, “Despite the challenges which were encountered over the past several months, we are essentially on schedule with the privatization of BaTelCo.”

The Ingraham government’s fundamental position on privatization has remained clear.

In a privatization position statement on February 12, 1998, the government said,
“We should not continue to inflict upon the public and business community of The Bahamas the unnecessarily high cost to sustain and maintain a government telecommunications monopoly.”


The strong opposition the government is facing from BTC’s unions today is not unlike the fury those labor organizations unleased in the late 1990s when the Ingraham administration moved with “deliberate haste” toward privatization.

In 1998, while the union leaders, after meetings with Ingraham, remained strongly opposed to the privatization of the lucrative corporation, the government also remained unfazed in its stance to sell off a chunk of BaTelCo.

“The majority of the workers feel that there is no need to privatize BaTelCo,” said Robert Farquharson, who at the time was secretary general of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU).

“They are upset that the government has taken this position.”

Farquharson — who later became the union’s president — said at the time that BaTelCo workers had observed the effects of privatization in developing countries “and in practically all of the cases, privatization has not been good”.

As the year progressed, the BCPOU stepped up its opposition to the privatization of BaTelCo.

“We are not satisfied that the privatization of BaTelCo is the only way to encourage state-of-the-art management technology and increased efficiency,” said Shane Gibson, who was president of the BCPOU.

But by 2001, Gibson had a change of heart.

He said BCPOU members were “eagerly” awaiting the sale of BaTelCo because their lives had been “up in the air.”

“The sale of BaTelCo will bring about better services to the public and employees,” Gibson said.

In 1999, Gibson was on the frontline of protests against the sale.

In February of that year, angry protestors stormed Parliament, and Ingraham had to be placed under heavy police guard as they unleashed their fury.

Like many union heads in the late 1990s, the official opposition also expressed serious misgivings about privatization.

In March 1998, Shadow Minster of Public Utilities Dr. Bernard Nottage announced that the PLP was asserting “our complete and total condemnation of the government’s deceptive and hasty approach to the privatization of BaTelCo.”

He said while in principle there was no objection to BaTelCo’s privatization, the party preferred a BaTelCo that is 100 percent owned by Bahamians.

“We are dismayed that the government has summarily dismissed the possibility and has not included it in the terms of reference of its consultant advisors,” Nottage said.

“We and the public need to know the explanation for this decision before any debate is entertained on this matter.”

In the position statement in February 1998, Watson appealed to the leadership of BaTelCo’s unions, and all BaTelCo employees to cooperate fully in the privatization process so as to achieve the best possible results for all.

In January 2002, Ingraham expressed disappointment in the privatization delay.

The prime minister told the nation that while BaTelCo was being readied for sale, the process would not be completed before he left office.

“The final decisions on the sale of the corporation will be made by the next Government of The Bahamas, after the next general election,” he advised.


Under the five-year rule of the Christie administration, privatization was also on the menu.

The administration also planned to use proceeds from the sale to pay down debt.

In September 2002, the government inched a step closer to the privatization of BaTelCo, and announced the formation of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company Limited.

Then Board Chairman Reno Brown told reporters the name change marked the first crucial and very necessary step in the privatization process.

Bradley Roberts, who at the time was minister responsible for BTC, signed the vesting orders in accordance with a resolution passed in the House of Assembly, which approved of the disposal of the property which BaTelCo owned, to BTC, as well as to the treasurer of The Bahamas and the Public Utilities Commission.

As Brown told it, the transfer of the assets was seamless.

Millions more were pumped into preparing BTC for privatization. But it amounted to yet another failed bid.

As its term wound down, the Progressive Liberal Party government settled on the Bluewater group.

According to documents obtained by The Nassau Guardian, James Smith, who at the time was minister of state for finance, wrote to then Cabinet Secretary Wendell Major on April 30, 2007 advising that the sale to Bluewater had been “approved for execution”.

Smith also advised Major that he may wish to consult with Prime Minister Christie on the matter.

Smith attached a letter from Bluewater, outlining the terms of the pending sale.

In the letter, Bluewater confirmed its offer to purchase a 49 percent interest in BTC from the government.

Bluewater agreed to pay the government $260 million “for 49 percent of the company which represents a valuation of 100 percent of BTC of over $520 million.”

Bluewater agreed to pay $220 million in cash at closing; $25 million at the end of the fifth year following closing and $15 million at the end of the sixth year.”

Under that deal, Bluewater would have been granted mobile and land line licenses with five and six-year exclusivity periods, respectively.

Bluewater would also have been granted full management and operational control of BTC.

While that deal called for the chairman of the board to be a Bahamian citizen appointed by the government in consultation with Bluewater, the telecoms firm would have appointed the deputy chairman, the company’s chief executive officer and the chief financial officer.

Bluewater’s letter also called for the government to make certain payments to the group in the event it violated the exclusivity agreement.

But Bluewater’s plans had a short shelf life.

A day after being sworn back into office in 2007, Ingraham said while the Free National Movement was campaigning, the Christie administration was busy at Cabinet agreeing to sell BTC secretly.

It was then that he vowed that his administration would review every line of the deal “and there is no circumstance under which BTC can be sold on credit — no deal about installment payments.”

“All monies up front,” Ingraham said. “And what you will do after you get it must be clearly stated.”


When the Free National Movement was returned to government in 2007, it again had privatization on its agenda.

In September 2008, Prime Minister Ingraham revealed in the House of Assembly that the government intends to sell a 51 percent stake in BTC and move swiftly to liberalize the telecoms sector in the country. ”It is the government’s intent to cause BTC to be privatized by the end of this year,” Ingraham said.

“Whether or not we’re going to be able to make that date is questionable at the moment because there are many issues that need to be settled.”

The year ended with the government still far off from privatization.

In August 2009, the government-appointed privatization committee said interest in the 51 percent stake was strong, and the due diligence phase of the process was set for a September start.

The government again advised that it was seeking a strategic partner with a strong reputation in the telecommunications industry; the ability and commitment to generate value-added revenue and cost synergies with BTC operations; financial strength and the operational platform to be able to enhance BTC’s underlying network, services, billing and customer service, as well as a history of strong financial performance.

Weeks later, the privatization committee recommended to Ingraham that four interested groups be allowed to bid: Vodafone and One Equity Partners; Digicel Limited; Atlantic Tele-Network Inc. (a consortium which included Colina Financial Advisors as a minority shareholder) and Trilogy International Partners (which was backed by Providence Equity Partners).

Vodafone and OEP ended up with the highest combined score after the committee completed an assessment of the bidders’ financial and technical ability.

At this stage of the process, Cable and Wireless had no interest in purchasing any part of BTC.

There were actually several major telecoms companies that had been described by the privatization committee as the “best prospects” to purchase a 51 percent stake in BTC, but they decided not to participate in the sale process.

Cable and Wireless, AT&T, Verizon, America Movil and Rogers Communications were the groups the committee was most interested in, but they had no interest in the company.

The committee said in 2009 that after a lengthy review of the opportunity, Cable and Wireless decided not to participate, being focused on other organic growth opportunities and financial market conditions.

Last year, CWC was back at the table with the government.

Since the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Ingraham administration early last month, the company and the government have seen strong opposition.

But it finally appears that the long, tumultuous road that saw numerous failed attempts at privatization is nearing its end.

BTC in short order, it seems, will be owned in the majority by Cable and Wireless.

It’s a move the Ingraham-led government has assured will spell untold benefits for customers craving lower costs and better technology.

But a dozen years after initial attempts were made to privatize BaTelCo, the unions are still not convinced that the government’s approach to privatization is the best one.

It is unclear whether this sharp opposition — including court action — would have any meaningful impact on the process this time around.



Monday, January 24, 2011

Crime is rooted like a canker in today’s so-called modern Bahamas

Crime & Social Hypocrisy
The Bahama Journal Editorial

Something insidious has been going on for some time now; with that ‘insidious’ thing being that evolution of a state of mind where so very many Bahamians are wont to complain about crime; all the while turning a blind eye to the kinds of crimes most of them routinely commit and which they routinely get away with.

Here we reference the extent to which stealing by reason of employment; other artful appropriation of things belonging to others and other such slick maneuvers that end with the same result.

And so, today the fact remains that, we now live in a land where while paradox and irony routinely cavort; social hypocrisy abounds.

Here we need only cite some of those ribald instances where thieves would sit around stolen tables and where they would feast on stolen food – and as they sometimes do, these fine people would chat amiably –and sometimes with the greatest of alarm – about the extent to which crime was on the rise in today’s Bahamas.

This kind of scene is both appalling and revelatory – appalling because these types are clearly oblivious to the extent to which their slick crimes against property is itself one of the more common expressions underlying the fact that crime is rooted like a canker in today’s so-called modern Bahamas.

And for sure, not only is crime deeply rooted; there is also a sense we are getting that crimes such as those that involve pilferage and other instances of what we would call exemplars of the ‘soft’ rip-off.

Here we find those instances where employees routinely steal time owed their employers; where these same employees appropriate office property, use them for their own purposes and who do so without permission.

These are all examples of theft done the slick way.

Evidently, these thieves could care less when they learn that, their honest neighbors, family and friends are the ones who will ultimately pay the price for crimes they do not commit.

Here we might cite some of what former Bahamas Chamber of Commerce President Dionisio D'Aguilar has already said about these kinds of criminals and the damage they get away with. Here he notes that, internal theft causes Bahamian businesses mind-boggling losses every year.

Mr. D'Aguilar also said that shrinkage, which includes many items, including spoiled goods, could cost this country's food-stores a combined $15 million a year.

We also understand that, Abaco Markets' president Gavin Watchorn has a similar tale of woe concerning the extent to which his firm has been victimized by the criminals in their Company’s employ.

Watchorn has also been reported as having said that, the level of stealing inflicted on his food-stores - both by staff and customers- had increased by 100 per cent.

This is absolutely disgraceful.

Yet again, we note that, in the end it is the Bahamian consumer who pays for these losses as theft is factored into the price of the goods.

Over the weekend, criminals did what they usually do – they went about their businesses that involve ripping other people off; raping and abusing some others and for sure, either maiming or killing some others.

Sadly, this is par for the course in today’s crime-ridden and sin-sickened Bahamas.

It is precisely this kind of society that has produced the kind of people who struck the Carnival this past weekend.

Here we cite the caper that involved the slickly successful theft of some motor-cycles used at the Carnival site in Oakes Field.

As we have read, “…Under the cover of darkness early last Saturday morning, thieves cut open a three-foot hole in the carnival’s perimeter fence, broke the lock of a trailer and made off with three motorcycles used to perform inside the “Globe of Death”.

“Becky Hitchcock, general manger of the carnival, said a show dog kept within the same trailer as the motorcycles alerted staff to the robbery. However, by the time the staff was alerted, the thieves were gone…”

And so, even as we note that the thieves were gone, note also that the crooks took with them two red and white 100cc Honda motorcycles and one red and white 70cc Honda motorcycle.

While we are today hopeful that the police will get to the bottom of this heist; we are not going to hold our breath as we wait.

But for sure, even as we might cite example after example of the kind of crimes and abuses Bahamians routinely inflict on each other, we do no such thing.

Instead, we call upon each and every Bahamian parent and all others who care for children to teach and show them how they should love and respect all other people; thus putting them on that path that would prevent them from becoming law-breakers, however artful.

January 24, 2011

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Sunday, January 23, 2011

If Julian Assange is a Terrorist, What is Luis Posada Carriles Then?

by Jean Guy Allard

The trials of the creator of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles will begin with less than 24-hour difference on January 10 and 11, one in London and the other one in El Paso, Texas. The anomaly immediately catching the attention of people is that the champion of freedom of information will be accused of the very serious crime of terrorism, while the confessed terrorist will be tried for migratory crimes sanctioned by a sentence he has already served.

The ANSA news agency reports that the request of extradition made by Sweden for the charge of "sexual molestation" against Assange was transferred from a court in the center of London to Belmarsh Court, specializing in terrorism issues and annexed to a maximum security prison, re-baptized years ago by the BBC as "The British Guantánamo."

Assange will appear in court on a charge of terrorism, which implies, according to British laws, his arrest and confinement.

Luis Posada Carriles will continue to be free on bail when he appears in the United States before a judge who acquitted him in a first trial and who openly expressed her sympathy for him in a hall full of followers, many of them with a terrorist past, who will come from Batista’s Miami and so as not to miss an opportunity to celebrate his crimes.

A spokesperson of the British legal authorities stated that the transfer to the court of Belmarsh, in the south-east area of the capital, is due to "logistic reasons" and not, as stated by WikiLeaks, due to US pressure.


The truth is that while in the case of Assange, the procedures have been speeded up, skipping stages as much as possible, after a series of tricks to silence the blonde Australian man, in the case of Posada Carriles, a former CIA agent that served the Company as an instructor of explosives, a torturer, a police captain, a hired assassin, a terrorist and a promoter of assassination, records of dilatory maneuvers to drown out his case are broken.

In addition to use a panoply of dirty tricks to pressure Assange, sabotage his operations system, take away its income, recover its leaks, manipulate its content, in short, terrorize the man who dared to open the valves of the huge can of diplomatic trash of the United States, the US intelligence services and its branches, they have kidnapped the man to be blame for so much courage for not being able to eliminate him without expanding the scandal even more.

Hundreds of texts have been written, books have been published, and documentaries have been made about the criminal record Posada, the Klaus Barbie of US intelligence.

On May 17, 2005, at 1:30 pm, Luis Posada Carriles was arrested near Miami, and taken in a gulf cart to a helicopter, "with every kindness and courtesy possible", for his transfer to the offices of the Department of Internal Security.

On April 1st, 2005, a lawyer for Posada Carriles, Eduardo Soto, confirmed in Miami that his client –illegally introduced in US territory on board of a shrimp vessel owned by a capo of the Cuban-American mafia-, would ask for asylum and parole to stay in the country permanently.

In spite of the accusations presented in Caracas for his participation in the terrorist attack against a Cuban aircraft that killed all 73 people on board in 1976; his arrest in Panama in 2000, in connection with a plan for an assassination attempt against Cuban leader Fidel Castro; his public acceptance for having organized a terrorist campaign against tourist facilities in Havana in 1997; and his close links with terrorist networks, Posada Carriles would receive from Bush’s government absolute support that Obama never dared to alter.

On September 27, 2005, an immigration judge in El Paso, Texas, William Abbott, following federal instructions, had used the absurd testimony of an old accomplice of Posada, a former official of the Venezuelan secret police, Joaquin Chaffardet, to order that the criminal could be deported to Venezuela.


Four months later, on January 24, 2006, three days before the formal assuming of power of the new Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, The Miami Herald -the bonds of which with US intelligence have been well demonstrated-, cited what it called "fragments" of a Statement by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE), that pointed out the following: "The ICE is progressing in the carrying out of the removal of Mr. Posada from the USA."

The White House –in the face of an international scandal-, assessed that the best way to get rid of the "hot potato" the former agent, terrorist, torturer and assassin represented, was to find him refuge anywhere outside US territory.

Three days later, on January 27, 2006, the US ambassador to Honduras, Charles "Charlie" Ford, visited Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, scarcely eight days after his coming to power, to present him an insolent request.

"Ambassador Charles Ford came to ask me, by way of the Foreign Ministry, for the granting of a visa to Posada Carriles", said Zelaya later, referring to the then Foreign Minister Milton Jiménez Puerto.

"It was impossible to give a visa to Luis Posada Carriles, since he was questioned for terrorist acts. They defend that kind of terrorism, I vouch for that, and it’s for that kind of thing that we hold different stances," he underlined.

On April 19, 2007, Posada Carriles, found not guilty by Cardone, was back in Miami not to set foot in a detention center ever again.


On March 18, 2008, as a response to the statements made by Cuba and Venezuela at the UN, the person in charge of legal affairs in the US mission, Caroline Wilson, pointed out with candor that her country "had carefully followed the legal procedures in force in the case of Posada Carriles".

"As happens in democracies in the world, a person can’t be tried or extradited if there isn’t enough evidence that he committed the crime he’s accused of," she asserted.

In July, 2008, the US ambassador to Venezuela at the time, William Brownfield, in statements to the Panorama newspaper, in Maracaibo, made it clear that the United States had no intention whatsoever of putting Posada at the disposal of Venezuelan justice, which was claiming and continues to claim him.

"Mr. Luis Posada Carriles doesn’t represent an imminent danger for anybody," Brownfield had asserted, making it clear that the Bush administration would never turn over its veteran agent.

Ironically, a few days before the Brownfield stupidity, the Undersecretary of State, Thomas Shannon, today an ambassador in Brazil, assured the OAS that the US Department of Justice was "still carrying out investigations" about Posada Carriles.

While Assange is hastily taken from a minor court to another one that can lock him up for good, the Venezuelan government is waiting for an answer, for more than five years now, to the request of extradition of the terrorist.

Assange, the Web idealist demonized by the major communication networks and persecuted by the police of the US spiders web, will soon know how imperial justice gives a piece of its mind, with or without intermediaries.

Ignored by an accomplice press, Posada, the mercenary assassin, will keep on evading law, and the dozens of victims and relatives of victims of his crimes, the lives of whom, in many cases, have been devastated by the permanent despicable and cowardly willingness of the swine without scruples of serving the empire.

10 January 2011 14:42

Saturday, January 22, 2011

May 14 or February 7: What does the Haitian constitution say?

By Jean H Charles

The Haitian Constitution is clear and neat in its article 134.1: “the term of the president begins and ends on the February 7 following the date of the elections.” Rene Preval, the Haitian president has succeeded with corrupt money to have legislation passed that would extend his mandate until May 14. The term of the legislators that extended the mandate expired on January 11, 2010; as such they had no authority to pass such a law on May 17, 2010.

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: 
The promulgation of the law certifying his presidency on March 24, 2006, indeed stipulated that his mandate will end on February 7, 2011. He had thirty days to contest. He failed to do so. At his inauguration five years ago, he did recognize that the letter and the terms of the Constitution shall be the last word: “I will remit the power on February 7, 2011, whatever the time and the date of my inauguration.”

President Preval during his five years in power has succeeded in emasculating the judiciary. He has refused to name a chief justice. When confronted with this major dereliction of duty, he claimed he was too busy with other matters to perform that crucial constitutional obligation, in a casual remark he continued, “All the justices minus one are unconstitutional.”

The United States is unique in the world in having a strong Constitutional Court – the Federal courts as well as the Supreme Court – that intervene to prevent problems and bring about solutions to conflicting political issues.

John Marshall, the eminent American jurist, in a seminal decision – Marbury vs. Madison – in 1800 stated it is the province of the court to say what the law is. This dictum reproduced in the jurisprudence of most western countries put the judiciary on a higher platform where actions by the legislative and by the executive can be reviewed by the court for their conformity with the established constitution.

To solve the Haitian dilemma we must go into the spirit and the minds of the framers to find out what the deadline of February 7 meant in their deliberations. I have consulted two of the framers who toiled for months to produce the Haitian constitution.

They told me the date of February 7 was chosen as a strong barrier against any volition of dictatorship from future presidents. The last dictator, Jean Claude Duvalier, was chased from power on February 7. To extirpate for ever from the Haitian mind and spirit the possibility of incubating a new dictator, February 7 as the last date for remaining in power has been written in stone in the Haitian Constitution. The law extending the term of the President to May 14 is repugnant to the Haitian Constitution.

Since 1987, Haiti has made three small steps that may lead its nascent democracy to leaps and bounds.

1. February 7 has been set as a road block that cannot be removed or crossed by any wannabe dictator to implement a new form of dictatorship into Haiti.

2. The current president cannot present himself for a second term consecutively. After a non consecutive two terms he cannot run again.

3. The reigning president cannot use his power to legitimise an associate as the next president. The permanent electoral board is responsible for organizing and controlling with complete independence all electoral procedures until the results of the election are announced.

President Preval has succeeded in running amok of all the acquisitions of the Haitian democracy. Having succeeded to be elected for a second term, he is trying to go beyond February 7, in his mandate. Furthermore, he is insisting that his candidate Jude Celestin be rubber-stamped by an electoral council as the next president.

President Preval has presented the spurious arguments that he is and shall remain the only interlocutor accepted by the international community to defend and present the interest of the Haitian people.

His disastrous leadership during the last five years in general, his poor handling of the catastrophe that befell Haiti since January 12, his dubious handling of the electoral processes, all indicate that his credibility after his mandate is at a low point to help Haiti cross the Rubicon of its recovery.

Haiti, after two hundred years, has for the first time the entire constellation in its favour to usher into a new era of prosperity and fulfillment. It has a large educated Diaspora (in love with the motherland), ready and willing to help. Its population has experienced without relief but with ‘saintly resilience’ the dictatorship of the Duvaliers, the militarism of Namphy, Cedras, and Avril. It went into the anarchic-mercurial governance of Aristide and Preval as well as the corrupt bureaucratic transition of Latortue. It is now ready and thirsty for true democracy.

For the first time in its history, due to the devastating earthquake, the entire world was concerned about and wanted to help Haiti. Yet the corrupt leadership of the present government thwarted any coordination of the aid agencies that would bring incremental relief to the Haitian people.

President Preval stands across Haiti’s smooth process of recovery. At the end of his mandate on February 7 the people of Haiti, the commerce and the industry, the church, as well as the true friends of Haiti should stand as one to prevent (using former Assistant US Secretary of State, Roger Noriega’s language) the clumsy electoral farce from turning into needless political violence.

Letting Preval formulate and implement at his own discretion the date of his departure from power is a dangerous precedent that will impede forever the young Haitian democratic process.

It will create also chaos and instability with no end in sight!

January 22, 2011


Friday, January 21, 2011

50th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs: The CIA Nostra (10)

On October 26, 51 years ago, Fidel announced the creation of the Revolutionary National Militia • Granma International will be publishing a series of articles on the events leading up to the April, 1961 battle of the Bay of Pigs • As we approach the 50th Anniversary of this heroic feat, we will attempt to recreate chronologically the developments which occurred during this period and ultimately led to the invasion • The series will be a kind of comparative history, relating what was taking place more or less simultaneously in revolutionary Cuba, in the United States, in Latin America, within the socialist camp and in other places in some way connected to the history of these first years of the Cuban Revolution

By Gabriel Molina

• THE Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) allied itself with two of the 10 most dangerous criminals in the United States in an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro in 1960.

This shocking news was made public in an official U.S. Senate report, but only in recent years has it been possible to reach an understanding of that aberrant fact, with the declassification of secret documents.

The report from the then U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy quoted by name Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, who were invited to take part in the CIA operation approved by Dwight Eisenhower, U.S. President at the time and CIA director Allen Dulles. The information was confirmed thanks to a report from the Special Committee chaired by Senator Frank Church, which states textually: "In August 1960 the CIA took steps to enlist members of the criminal underworld with gambling syndicate contacts to aid in assassinating Castro." (1)

On the summer morning of August 18, 1960, Richard Bissell, CIA Deputy Director of Plans, and very close to Allen Dulles, summoned Colonel Sheffield Edwards, director of the Agency’s Security Office, responsible for handling everything and from which nothing leaked, and told him that he had Dulles’ express instructions to do away with Fidel Castro. The decision had been approved by President Eisenhower after a meeting at the White House with Dulles and Bissell himself.

The committee headed by Democratic Senator Frank Church affirms that a number of CIA agents were in contact with the Cosa Nostra.

Robert Maheu, an agent specializing in shady dealings, was incorporated and asked by the CIA central command to contact John Roselli "to determine if he would participate in a plan to ‘dispose’ of Castro." (2)

Those assigned to the operation had to find somebody who could execute it in Cuba and who would appear to have no involvement with the Agency, the reason for the instructions that it should be somebody from outside. Given his contacts in Cuba, Colonel Edwards proposed the utilization of the Cosa Nostra. The essential details of the CIA-Cosa Nostra are included in the special Senate Committee report of 1975.

The first association between the U.S. government and the Italian-American mafia was with Lucky Luciano, head of the committee directing the various family gangs throughout the country, who was serving a sentence of 30-50 years, handed down on June 18, 1936, in the Dannemora high security prison. Mayor Lansky, Jewish, an astute man and a friend of Luciano and in fact his consigliere, negotiated with Commander Charles R. Haffenden, a superior officer in the Third Naval District Intelligence Office, an alliance to utilize the mafia in counterintelligence work in the New York docks, a target of Nazi agents; and intelligence on the landing and taking of Sicily by U.S. troops. In that way, Luciano was released, deported to Italy and all the associates came out winning.

The Special Military Plan for Psychological Warfare in Sicily reached the hands of Army Chief of Staff George Marshall and, with his recommendation, was approved in Washington on April 15, 1943. It was sent to Algiers and handed to Eisenhower, general in charge of the theater of operations in North Africa. The message was very clear; the Allies were going to utilize the mafia to win Sicily. (3)

Given that close connection, in a matter of hours Maheu had arranged a meeting with Roselli in the Brown Derby restaurant in Beverley Hills, base of the gangster, one of the most important mafia capos in California and Las Vegas, with wide-ranging relations with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds and Dean Martin.

Maheu flew to California in September 1960 and met with Roselli in the Brown Derby on the 14th of that month. Roselli was receptive when Maheu informed him that senior government officials were interested in eliminating Fidel Castro, that the assassination could be based on Castro’s Cuban enemies, and offered him $150,000 for the contract. Roselli realized that, in addition to the money, the relationship would help him elude the threat of deportation hanging over him.

In Havana, that same September 14, it was announced that Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government, would head the Cuban delegation to the UN General Assembly, and so Maheu and Roselli went to New York to contact a high-ranking CIA official in the Plaza Hotel. There, Roselli proposed including in the conspiracy his friend Sam Giancana, Al Capone’s successor, on account of his proven organizational skills in this type of operation and, to set up the necessary contacts, Santos Trafficante, who had many interests in Cuba expropriated by the Revolution and strong links with the island. Giancana then traveled to Miami to meet with them.

Giancana agreed, while discounting the possibility of a mafia-style hit. Nobody could be recruited to undertake it, there being such a slim chance of surviving it. He said that the only way to successful and protect lives would be to use a lethal poison that could be placed in a drink of Fidel Castro.

Sam "Momo" Giancana inherited Al Capone’s Chicago empire and held it from 1957 through 1966. The press described him as a small, bald man who loved silk suits, head-turning convertibles and even more head-turning women. His associations were equally notable, like the one he had with Frank Sinatra, or with the singer Phyllis McGuire from the Mcguire Trio, who was the first source leaking the assassination plot, when Giancana got the CIA to bug the singer’s bedroom to see if she was being unfaithful to him. The microphones were discovered by the FBI and the operation was about to become a scandal, only halted by an Agency cover up. Giancana’s relationship with Phyllis McGuire was very typical of him. He had her portrait painted. She "lost more than $100,000 at a gaming table in Las Vegas. Momo distracted her with his conversation so that she wouldn’t go on losing. He went to see the casino manager, the famous Moe Dalitz and told him that he would take care of the debt. He simply absorbed it." (4)

Santos Trafficante had been a friend of Giancana for many years. They were together in 1957, when a high-level meeting of the Appalachian mafiosi was uncovered by the police. He also had links with the capos Carlo Marcello, Joseph Bonnano, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano. The youthful Trafficante began by running Havana’s Sans Souci cabaret. In combination with Lansky, he made other investments in the casinos of the new Havana Riviera and Capri hotels, and thus was surrounded by Cuban gangsters. Lending his services to the U.S. government would always fetch positive dividends.

Michael J. Murphy, chief inspector of the New York police, frustrated the initial attempt of that CIA Nostra. Murphy was responsible for Fidel’s security in the city during the UN General Assembly, and Murphy knew through a member of the CIA that Walter Martino, a member of the local mafia, had been instructed to place an explosive device close to the stage in Central Park, where Fidel was to speak.

The police chief was informed of this by a CIA official in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where the New York police agents in charge of security for the heads of state attending the meeting had their operational base. Martino was arrested and the plan thwarted.

Walter’s brother, John Martino, one of the members of the Italian-American mafia at Havana’s Hotel Nacional, had been arrested aboard a ferry on October 5, 1959, attempting to smuggle out a suitcase filled with mafia dollars. He later fled and was recruited by Sam Giancana to organize the attempt on the life of the Comandante en Jefe, a contract he gave to his brother Walter.

(1) Church Report: Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Tim Newark. Aliados de la Mafia (Mafia Allies. Alianza Editorial. Madrid, 2007.

(4) William Brashner. The Don Ballantine Books. New York, 1978.

(5) Fabián Escalante. Acción Ejecutiva. Objetivo Fidel Castro Executive Action. Target Fidel Castro). Ocean Press Melbourne, 2006.

Havana. January 21, 2011

Crime Pays in The Bahamas...

When Home-Making Fails
The Bahama Journal Editorial

We sometimes have cause to marvel at the fact that there was once a time in the Bahamas when hard-working men earned enough money and when the social circumstances then prevalent called on women to be home-makers for a brood of children.

Coming with that regime were also circumstances where communities of people took care of their old; formed their mutual aid societies and for sure, also made penny upon penny provision for the burial of their dead.

We also know that, the world whereof some now wax nostalgic was not fated to last; it was washed away in that flood that brought with it year-round, mass tourism; the so-called ‘liberation’ of women – and a culture of materialism, itself grounded in a system where people were taught and evidently did think that they could buy now and pay later.

And since we live in a world where one thing invariably leads to another, we now live in a world where that day of reckoning has come.

And now that it is here, we have a situation on our hands where materialism and consumerism are rampant; where crimes against persons and property are high and rising – and in a time and space where children are viewed as god-awful hindrances to parents, their neighbors, other family – and so-called friends.

In turn, we now have a situation where some of these urchins grow up with the certain knowledge that life is hard; that they can make it to the top if they sell themselves; if they learn how to lie, cheat, steal and otherwise perfectly emulate behavior they see at home, on the street – and sadly, in some of their parents’ church-homes.

Compounding the matter are all those jungle-like forces coming in from abroad [and here particularly with popular culture as produced and packaged in the United States of America] some of which popularize the savage notion that, you could or should get rich quick or die trying.

And so, today we have a situation where state authorities in today’s Bahamas are seemingly at a loss as to how they could or should [legally speaking] deal with the consequences attendant upon this loss of that old spirit that once pervaded society in The Bahamas.

That spirit once found residence in some of the most humble abodes scattered throughout these islands, rocks and cays.

Alas! Those days are apparently gone with the wind.

As most Bahamians would and could now attest, few among them [namely today’s busy, hard-working men and women] have practically no time left for those activities were once subsumed under the rubric of home-making.

This sad state of affairs brings with it a host of deleterious consequences for not only these men and women, but also for their children.

As it currently seems to us – one of the cruelest consequences brought forward with the break-down of home-making has to do with child neglect and on occasion, down-right abuse.

In time, these children grow up. And for sure, as they come to maturity, they emulate behaviors learned at home, on the street, in their schools, churches and elsewhere – thus reproducing the warped worlds from which they have been thrown; thus today’s mixed up, sad Bahamas.

And for sure, as we have previously commented crime pays in the Bahamas.

Indeed, such is the extent to which mistrust is rampant in today’s Bahamas that College of The Bahamas students routinely complain how they must jealously guard their books, computers and the like – this because some of their school-mates are cold enough and calculating enough to rip them off.

The same kind of thievery takes place at the secondary level.

And for sure, it also takes place at the level of the work-place.

Simply put, lots and lots of our people are not trust-worthy.

Add to this incompetence on the part of the police – and what you then get is a situation where crime pays; and where in the past year, the police only solved half of the four robbery cases reported for islands outside New Providence and Grand Bahama.

But when we get to New Providence, we find a perfectly disturbing picture where the police detection rates in the categories of attempted robbery, robbery, armed robbery and unlawful sexual intercourse were six, eight, 10 and 29 percent respectively.

Evidently, crime pays in New Providence, home to the vast majority of the Bahamian people – and a gateway to the world.

Criminals and their feral cohorts continue to rape, rob and pillage – seemingly at will.

A part of the explanation for this sorry state of affairs can be attributed to the fact that crime does pay in a Bahamas where the detection rate for crimes committed is so alarmingly low – and when and where home-making now fails.

January 21, 2011

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Homegrown terrorism - A rising threat in the Caribbean

By Rebecca Theodore

If religion, politics and economics are the explanations for terrorism and if arguments persist that home grown terrorism is labeled as one of the most important layers of al Qaeda’s threat to the developing world, then why are Caribbean gang members in the US who were convicted of violent crimes and deported to their countries of origin now directly involved in the fanatic ideology of carrying out autonomous jihad via acts of terrorism against the United States?

Rebecca Theodore was born on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica and resides in Toronto, Canada. A national security and political columnist, she holds a BA and MA in Philosophy. She can be reached at 
It must therefore be seen that homegrown terrorism is not only carried out by people who were born, raised and radicalized within a western milieu, or who speak good English, have proper travel documents and knowledge of how not to raise the suspicions of US intelligence and law enforcement agencies but also from the surge of deported gang members from the US, Britain and Canada to their Caribbean homelands.

In prompting an analysis of the psychology of the terrorist, US terror experts believe that Muslims, the realities of a globalized society, and the internet are the chief perpetrators of terrorism, while the violent Caribbean deportee is often overlooked. It is also worth noting that, while the internet makes the emergence of new human relationships possible, groups don’t only radicalize themselves over the internet. While the medium is still the message, it is now an outdated tool for terrorist, as the medium no longer shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and actions.

The alarming numbers of Caribbean deportees enlisting in terrorist cells in the Caribbean far exceeds the McLuhan dogma that universal participation generated by electronic media will put an end to parochialism because deported Caribbean gang members are not using the internet to be radicalized. In the conflicting age that now defines the 21st century, deported gang members are seeking union with those to whom they relate by way of elemental instinct.

New evidence suggest that Al Qaeda is now setting up cells and operating covertly on many Caribbean islands, recruiting and financing deported gang members from the US, Britain and Canada. Recent law enforcement investigations have unearthed a sophisticated network of nascent terrorist entrepreneurs lurking in a host of Caribbean countries, most notably Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Curacao, Guyana and Suriname.

The so-called “Caribbean terrorist” phenomenon now gains wide appeal because not only are the motivations for such individuals driven by a combination of personal circumstances and external factors but proves that self radicalization also stems from social marginalization and that the Caribbean is not immune from terrorism.

While many believe that gang violence in the Caribbean region threatens social stability, restrains economic and social development, discourages foreign investment, accelerates illegal immigration, drug smuggling and trafficking in arms and persons, it is also important to note that there are no differences between US homegrown terrorism and the Caribbean deportee, as they are both citizens or long-term residents who clandestinely plot to attack the United States and unleash untold miseries on law abiding citizens using the same types of military and propaganda tactics.

It must also be seen that while the Caribbean deportee favours a social marginalization stigma rather than a national or international one, it is ideology that motivates both groups. Ideology is the substratum and vehicle for radicalization. It is ideology that identifies the variance, classifies the issues, and impels recruitment.

Not only are deported gangs deemed enemies of the US by al Qaeda and other Jihad organizations but upon returning to their various Caribbean nations, deported criminals are re-forming gangs, recruiting locals to expand their numbers and returning to the US, particularly the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, by means of clandestine sea operations or on forged documents to carry out their missions against the United States and innocent citizens.

The seriousness of the situation now calls for the creation of a deported gang intelligence centre in the Caribbean to build stronger partnerships with Caribbean states threatened by extremist violence and to uncover future terrorist plots, as it is not only a threat for all Caribbean citizens but to democracies all over the world.

Deported gang members are now one of the Caribbean’s top national security priorities and special efforts should also be made to enhance the intelligence capabilities of local police, who should not only be trained in fighting crimes but should also be trained in learning the way that al Qaeda works, how their goals are evolving and how their modus operandi changes.

It is clear that the threat of Caribbean deportees from the US, Britain and Canada is now the troubling picture that confronts us all. Terrorist concern in the Caribbean is no longer hypothetical. It has now become a reality.

January 19, 2011


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bahamas: Bahamians want, need and crave to live in a land where they are more than spectators looking in on the doings of those who are really large and in charge...

Dreamers, Visionaries and Workers
The Bahama Journal Editorial

The Bahamian people are not really asking for that much.

In the ultimate analysis, then, our people want systems that work; they want institutions that are up to the challenge of delivering the goods – and clearly they want to live in safe and secure communities.

In truth, the Bahamian people are not asking for too much.

But just as surely, little of this can or will be achieved if Bahamians continue to repose so little confidence in themselves and people who look like them.

This mindset must be purged sooner rather than later; this because there is no one better situated than the Bahamian for understanding his own hurts, his own delinquencies and thereafter his own set of responsibilities to the self and others.

Here we are ever optimistic that, a time will come when Bahamians in greater numbers will realize that, while some of them are called to lead in the political realm; some others in the Church and some others in business and the unions, are also so called.

In addition, there are some others – the dreamers, visionaries and workers – who also have their full parts to play in the unfolding drama that is nation-building in today’s nascent Bahamas.

That Bahamas - like a host of other small island developing states – is a work in progress.

Clearly, then, no one should pretend surprise when some things go awry; when mistakes are made and when those who lead stray far from some of their own windy rhetoric.

But for sure, The Bahamas does have a lot that it could be justly proud of; here whether the reference is made to some of the changes that have taken place in the political realm or for that matter in the world of business.

On occasion, we have sought to make and underscore our fervent belief that, Bahamians should be given a chance to come on over and build up their nation and its institutions; inclusive of those that have to do with the provision of vitally needed public goods such as health, safety and education.

And yet again, we have also sought to make the point that there is an urgent need for those who make the law and those who would carry out the law to recognize that Bahamians want, need and crave to live in a land where they are more than spectators looking in on the doings of those who are really large and in charge.

But for sure, even as we hold to these views, we are today absolutely convinced that there remains a large role for so-called foreigners to make in the orderly growth and development of these islands, rocks and cays.

Evidently, therefore, there is a large role that could and should be played by people like Sarkis Izmirlian who resides in Lyford Cay and who on more occasions that one suggested that, these islands have become home to him.

In support of this, Izmirlian not only continues to dream big dreams about the future viability of this nation’s economy, but has sought -with the Bahama Mar venture- to see to it that our beloved country and its people remains on the cutting edge of tourism in this region.

As we have already noted, this is one of the reasons for choosing him to be our Person of the Year.

This man has lived in the Bahamas for 20 years and considers the archipelago his home.

We also so believe.

When asked elsewhere in media for some explanation behind his vision for Cable Beach, Izmirlian is said to have noted that, that even after protracted delays, giving up on the Baha Mar project was never an option.

As he is to be quoted: "It's very simple, my dedication comes from my belief in the project. And so as the world moves forward with trepidation, we in The Bahamas move forward with confidence to create a project that will change the lives of Bahamians forever. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move our tourism sector forward."

If things go according to plan, the Bahamian people writ large will be able to serve, earn and thereby find the resources necessary to help them fortify family life; nurture their communities; therefore helping to shore up and build the
Bahamian Nation.

Here –and for sure - many hands will make a burden light.

As we know so very well, people succeed when they work to see to it that other people succeed in realizing their visions or dreams.

And so, it is with our people as they struggle with the vicissitudes that come whenever seven years of drought set in.

Happily, while some despair, some others dare dream of the coming of a better day – and thereafter work to make it happen.

January 19, 2011

The Bahama Journal Editorial