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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Haiti Needs Help To Prosecute Duvalier

News Americas, Washington, D.C.

Haiti’s justice minister says the country will need help from international judges to prosecute former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Andre Antoine told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this week that Haiti’s judges and prosecutors lack the training and experience necessary to handle a case of crimes against humanity, such as Duvalier is accused of committing during his reign more than 25 years ago.

“We recognize that our justice system is weak and needs to be reinforced,” said Antoine. “The magistrates are players in this game, it is like a football match: if they don’t have a good manager, it will be difficult to win.”

Antoine added that prosecution of Duvalier for human rights violations was of international importance.

“It is not only a Haitian matter, because convicting Duvalier would send a psychological message to humanity, to all the dictators or to those who are tempted by power (that) the law will not pardon them, that punishments await them,” he said.

Meanwhile, former justice minister Jean-Joseph Exume told the commission that 16 individual cases had been filed against Duvalier in the court system starting immediately after his January 16 return to the country from 25 years of exile.

The comments come as Duvalier was released from a Port-Au-Prince hospital where he had been hospitalized since last week.

Thurs. Mar. 31, 2011


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Communist Cuba's First Lady: The Caribbean woman debunked

By Rebecca Theodore

It is clear that the political movements of the last decade only continue to undermine revolutionary movements and social welfare programs. However, as nation states are regraphed and ethnic and religious groups continue to compete for power, the political and physical conditions of women come to light.

In this regard, the eminence of Vilma Lucila Espín, wife of Raul Castro, sister-in-law of Fidel Castro, and one of the most influential women in Cuban politics, beams the beholder into a mirrored reflection of a woman who turned herself into a revolutionary during the Cuban revolution. Her involvement in a group headed by Frank País in opposition to the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship -- an informal revolutionary group that later merged with Fidel Castro's 26th of July movement is of special note.

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 rebethd@aim.comUnder País's command, “Deborah”, as she became known, prepared first aid brigades to care for the wounded once the yacht Granma arrived in Cuba carrying Castro and his associates. Espín worked underground for the revolution in Santiago, transporting weapons to the rebels in the Sierra Maestra. When Frank País was killed by the Batista army, Espín worked as an aide to Raul Castro, helping him coordinate clandestine work and guerilla operations in Oriente Province. In 1958, she joined the Castro guerrillas in the mountains under the name of “Mariela.”

As an esteemed figure of the revolution, the image of Ms Espín shouldering rifle and wearing combat fatigues during the rebel war helped change the attitude about the role of women in Cuba. Sadly enough, an androcentric society in Cuba represses Ms Espin’s struggle for women’s leadership rights as reason continues to dominate the controlling aspect of self-embodiment, passions and even history itself.

The dichotomy between women and reform in Communist Cuba will never be understood without the illuminated portrayal of Ms Espín’s leadership role on the pages of Cuban history, because in the same way reason is that which is given as an understanding to reality, the split between objectivity and subjectivity to discern reality in the patriarchal regime that now defines Cuba still sees women on the side of the less valued.

The way in which reality is conceived and played out in the everyday life of Cuban women in Cuba is not only manifested in oppression, exclusion and exploitation, reducing them to mere stereotypes and registering reason as an instrument of oppression, but subjugation of the female body buried in socialist ideology must be liberated as well. Ms Espín has achieved for women in Cuba what liberal feminists in the west are still fighting for, yet her achievements remain concealed by the intricacies of language and male domination in Cuba.

Although the Federation of Cuban Women (La Federacion de Mujeres Cubanas) (FMC), the organization founded by Ms Espin, has been essential in advancing both gender equalization and health improvement for women, and its recognition as both an NGO and a national mechanism for women gains wide support, the vast majority of Cuban women, who represent 46 percent of the country’s work force, are still not government supported or financed.

Active participation and training of leaders at all levels, mobilizing women into political work and government administration and domination of human rights in Cuba is still needed to complete the work of Vilma Lucila Espín.

In a country where speaking about human rights is an ideological deviance, the traditional role of morality and justice that Ms Espín demonstrated during the Cuban revolution must be highlighted. Ms Espín not only occupied the role of relief and support to her revolutionary male leaders as has been documented in Cuban history, but is a beacon of hope to all the women who are presently suffering against gender inequalities in Cuba and the Caribbean at large and further strengthens the women’s movement in the Caribbean.

Moreover, if the mission of the FMC is strengthening women's rights, fighting for the incorporation, participation, and promotion of women in economic, political, social, and cultural life in Cuba based on equal rights and opportunities; then over fifty years of revolution must be enough to have produced a keenly politicized Cuban woman capable of deep analysis, and concise projection to take the reins of leadership in Cuba and to work out solutions collectively for the Cuban people.

If Cuba under the leadership of the FMC has obtained for women everything that the movement for women’s right is presently asking for in an open 21st century, then why are Cuban women equal yet different and still totally excluded from the public square?

March 30, 2011


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Between emigration and crime

Reflections of Fidel

Taken from CubaDebate

LATIN Americans are not innate criminals and neither did they invent drugs.

The Aztecs, Mayas and other pre-Columbian peoples of Mexico and Central America, for example, were excellent agriculturalists and knew nothing about coca cultivation.

The Quechuas and Aymaras were capable of producing nutritive foods on perfect terraces which followed the curves of the mountain levels. On altiplanos sometimes in excess of 3-4,000 meters high, they cultivated quinoa, a cereal rich in protein, and potatoes.

They also knew and cultivated the coca plant, the leaves of which they have chewed since time immemorial in order to alleviate the rigor of the heights. It was a millennial custom practiced by peoples with products such as coffee, tobacco, liquor and others.

Coca came originally from the steep mountain slopes of the Amazonian Andes. Their inhabitants knew it long before the Inca empire whose territory, in its maximum splendor, extended over the current territory of southern Colombia, all of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, eastern Chile and northeastern Argentina; close to two million square kilometers.

The consumption of coca leaves became a privilege of the Inca emperors and the nobility in religious ceremonies.

When the empire disappeared after the Spanish invasion, the new masters encouraged the traditional habit of chewing coca leaves in order to extend the working days of the indigenous labor force, a right that lasted until the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs prohibited the use of coca leaves, except for medical or scientific purposes.

Almost all countries signed it. Barely any health related issue was discussed. The trafficking of cocaine had not yet reached its current enormous magnitude. Extremely serious problems have been created in the years that have passed since, which demand profound analyses.

On the thorny issue of the relationship between drugs and organized crime the UN itself delicately affirms that Latin America is inefficient in combating crime.

Information published by distinct institutions is varied, given that the matter is a sensitive one. The data are sometimes so complex and varied that they can lead to confusion. However, there is not the slightest doubt that the problem is rapidly worsening.

Almost six week ago, on February 11, 2011, a report published in Mexico City by that country’s Citizens’ Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, provided interesting data on the 50 most violent cities in the world, on the basis of homicides committed in 2010. It confirms that Mexico furnishes 25% of them. For the third consecutive year No. 1 falls to Juarez, on the border with the United States.

It goes on to say that, "… in that year the rate of criminal homicides in Juarez was 35% higher than that of Kandahar, Afghanistan – No. 2 in the ranking – and 941% higher than that of Baghdad…"; in other words, almost 10 times that of the Iraqi capital, a city at No. 50 on the list.

It almost immediately adds that the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras lies in third place with 125 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants; only exceeded by Juarez, in Mexico, with 229; and Kandahar in Afghanistan, with 169.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is in sixth place, with 109 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants.

Thus, it can be observed that Honduras, with the yankee Palmerola airbase, where a coup d’état took place during Obama’s presidency, has two cities among the six in which the most homicides in the world take place. The rate in Guatemala City stands at 106.

According to the abovementioned report, the Colombian city of Medellín, with 87.42 likewise figures among the most violent in the Americas and the world.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in El Salvador and his subsequent press conference, obliged me to publish these lines on the issue.

In my March 21 Reflection I criticized his lack of ethics for not even mentioning in Chile the name of Salvador Allende, a symbol of dignity and courage for the world, who died as the consequence of a coup d’état promoted by a president of the United States.

As I knew that the following day he was to visit El Salvador, a Central American country symbolic of the struggles of the peoples of Our America, which has suffered the most as a result of U.S. policy in our hemisphere, I said, "There he will have to invent a lot, because in that sister Central American nation the weapons and advisors that it received from his country were responsible for much bloodshed."

I wished him bon voyage and "a little more good sense." I have to admit that, on his lengthy tour, he was a little bit more careful during the final stretch.

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero was a man admired by all Latin Americans, believers or non-believers, as were the Jesuit priests cowardly assassinated by the henchmen that the United States trained, backed and armed to the teeth. In El Salvador, the FMLN, a militant left-wing organization, waged one of the most heroic struggles on our continent.

The Salvadorian people gave the victory to the Party which emerged from the heart of those glorious combatants, whose profound history remains to be constructed.

What is urgent is to confront the dramatic dilemma being experienced by El Salvador, just like Mexico, the rest of Central America and South America.

Obama himself stated that approximately two million Salvadorians live in the United States, equivalent to 30% of the country’s population. The brutal repression unleashed on patriots and the systematic plunder of El Salvador imposed by the United States obliged hundreds of thousands of Salvadorians to emigrate to that territory.

What is new is that the desperate situation of Central Americans has been compounded by the immense power of terrorist gangs, sophisticated weapons and the demand for drugs, created by the U.S. market.

In his brief remarks preceding those of the visitor, the President of El Salvador stated textually, "I insisted to him that the issue of organized crime, drug trafficking, citizen insecurity is not an issue that solely concerns El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua, or even Mexico or Colombia; it is an issue which concerns us as a region, and in that context we are working on building a regional strategy, via the CARFI Initiative."

"…I insisted to him that this is an issue that cannot be approached solely from the perspective of pursuing crime by strengthening our police and armies, but also by emphasizing crime prevention policies and therefore, the best weapon for combating crime in itself, in the region, is by investing in social policies."

In his response, the U.S. leader said, "President Funes is committed to creating more economic opportunities here in El Salvador so that people don’t feel like they have to head north to provide for their families."

"I know this is especially important to the some 2 million Salvadoran people who are living and working in the United States."

"…I updated the President on the new consumer protections that I signed into law, which give people more information and make sure their remittances actually reach their loved ones back home.

"Today, we’re also launching a new effort to confront the narco-traffickers and gangs that have caused so much violence in all of our countries, and especially here in Central America. "

"…we’ll focus $200 million to support efforts here in the region, including addressing, as President Funes indicated, the social and economic forces that drive young people towards criminality. We’ll help strengthen courts, civil society groups and institutions that uphold the rule of law."

I do not need any more words to express the essence of a painfully sad situation.

The reality is that many young Central Americans have been led by imperialism to cross an inflexible and constantly more impassable border, or to provide services to the millionaire drug trafficking gangs.

Would it not be more just – I wonder – to have an Adjustment Act for all Latin Americans, like the one invented almost 50 years ago now to punish Cuba? Will the number of persons who die crossing the U.S. border and the tens of thousands who are dying every year in the nations to which you are offering an "Alliance of Equals" continue to grow ad infinitum?

Fidel Castro Ruz

March 25, 2011

8:46 p.m.

Translated by Granma International

Monday, March 28, 2011

...low college enrolment and graduation rates by Bahamian males at the College of the Bahamas (COB)

Only 14% of COB graduates are male students

Tribune Staff Reporter

MALE students account for only 14 per cent of the graduates from the College of the Bahamas, says new COB President Dr Betsy Vogel Boze.

The statistic is evidence of a "frightening" development, mirrored in low college enrolment rates by Bahamian males while enrolment and graduation of their female counterparts continues to grow, she added. Her administration is to create a taskforce to tackle the problem and assess which social or environmental problems are behind the dismal rates.

"It's the males that I'm concerned about because only 14 per cent of our graduates are men and that's a shocking number. When I look at the numbers, the number of men has been fairly stable from the time we were created, there have been a few hundred more men but our growth has all been through the enrolment of women," she told a meeting of the Zonta Club at Luciano's restaurant yesterday.

"To only have 14 per cent of our graduates (as males) I think is a frightening number - what is happening to the Bahamian males?"

When asked by The Tribune what strategies she had planned to counteract this, Dr Boze said the problem needs a multi-faceted approach.

"I'm going to be putting together a task force and would welcome anybody's guidance on what is happening with the Bahamian males. Why are they dropping out because it's not a problem that happens once they get to us, they are not graduating at the same rates, they are not applying to college at the same rates and again that gap continues to widen.

"Does this have to do with gangs, or crime or drugs - I don't know what the problem is.

"I've also identified a prospective US partner in a city that is facing very similar challenges that we might be working with. Coming in as an outsider I don't dare say I understand what that problem is but I think we need to look at it from many different points of views and that education is just one of the symptoms of that."

COB has about 5,000 students enrolled at its main campus in Oakes Field and on the family islands but Dr Boze said enrolment is lower than other schools in the region.

"The Bahamas is actually losing ground compared to many of our Caribbean neighbours.

"We have fewer students engaged as a percentage than we did 20 years ago."

In her first public address since assuming her post about 10 weeks ago, Dr Boze also revealed that 80 per cent of COB students are enrolled in four-year baccalaureate programmes while the remaining 20 per cent are pursuing two-year associate degrees or master's programmes - an inversion of where the college was 10 years ago.

She added that COB is well on its way to achieving university status once a few additional benchmarks are met.

March 25, 2011


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bruce Golding may have had a change of heart about the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

Golding seems to have had a change of heart about CCJ

by Oscar Ramjeet

As Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar seems to move further away from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), her Jamaican counterpart, Bruce Golding, may have had a change of heart.

Golding issued a statement a few days ago clarifying his position about the regional court in response to criticism launched against him by the outgoing president of the Court, Michael da la Bastide on his stand against the CCJ. The Jamaican leader said that he never refused to join the court, but needed time to decide. His recent statement is in contrast to earlier comments he made about Jamaica setting up its own final court of appeal.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider Caribbean 
However, his last statement said that he will meet with opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller to discuss what move Jamaica should take as regards abolishing appeals to the Privy Council. Simpson Miller is all in favour of the regional court.

It is unfortunate that the Trinidad leader, who is a Caribbean trained attorney, is taking such a stand against the CCJ when her party, the UNC, under the leadership of Basdeo Panday, was in the forefront advocating the establishment of the regional court, and it is because of Panday's vigorous stand and upon his request the Court is headquartered in Port of Spain, and most of the technical and support staff are nationals of the twin island republic.

It is also ironic that Jamaica is distancing itself from the regional court when it was under the JLP administration the idea was conceived and its then attorney general Oswald Harding was island hopping with his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, the late Selwyn Richardson, lobbying regional governments to join the court.

It is important that these two large countries in the region join the Court and make full use of the modern facilities available in order to improve local jurisprudence, since so far only three jurisdictions, Guyana, Barbados and Belize, have abolished appeals to the Privy Council.

The Grenada prime minister, who is also a Caribbean trained attorney, has hinted that he will sooner or later initiate steps to join the court, but there is no word from his St Lucian counterpart. However, opposition leader, Kenny Anthony, is a strong advocate for the court, and with elections coming up before year end, there is some hope that Castries will come on board.

St Vincent and the Grenadines lost its referendum for the regional court, but the referendum was packed with other controversial issues, which no doubt was the reason why it failed.

Now that Ralph Gonsalves is back in power for the third consecutive term, he might later down the road try to get the nod of the electorate.

I was reliably informed that the OECS attorneys general had a meeting recently and decided to recommend to their prime ministers for them to include referendum for the CCJ in their general elections. In other words, the electorates will not only vote for a (new) government, but will also decide whether or not to retain the Privy Council as the final court or adopt the Caribbean regional court.

March 26, 2011


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Bahamas, who shares Common Law with the United Kingdom, should also move to bring its libel laws into the 21st century

Time to change libel law

thenassauguardian editorial

We were very intrigued to read this week that the British government is finally moving to reform its famous libel law.

The reform proposal was presented to Parliament last week, and hailed as “essential to the health of democracy that people should be free to debate issues and challenge authority”.

Under British libel law, a defendant is guilty until proven innocent. A plaintiff does not have to show damage to his reputation. Also, under what is known as the 1849 Duke of Brunswick rule, each individual newspaper sale — or hit on a Web site — counts as a new publication and thus another libel. The law also treats opinion, however measured, just as it treats tabloid gossip until a defendant convinces a court it should be accepted as fair comment. This has the potential to encourage trivial and uncertain cases.

The bill includes a requirement that statements must cause the defendant “substantial harm” in order to be considered defamatory. The bill would allow defendants to claim “responsible publication on matters of public interest” as an argument in their favor.

The proposed reform is a welcome change. But it is far from perfect. The burden still remains on the defendant.

The Bahamas, who shares Common Law with the United Kingdom, should also move to bring its libel laws into the 21st century.

In 2009, then-Attorney General Michael Barnett said that law reform would be among the list of priorities for The Bahamas government that year. He said that every statute would be subject to review. He pointed specifically to our Libel Act, which was passed in 1843.

To say that our laws as it relates to libel are antiquated is a grave understatement.

While people and businesses have a right to use the civil law to protect their reputation from unwarranted and malicious attack, our existing libel law is open to abuse.

Government and public officials who misbehave should not be able to hide behind defamation suits, or the threat of one, that tend to have the effect of muzzling the press and preventing the truth from coming out in the open.

A fair and reasonable libel law serves as an important shield to freedom of the press.

The freedom to criticize fairly and strongly is the cornerstone of debate and progress.

Our libel law should be more in line with that of the United States. The classic case law governing the press in the U.S. is the famed 1964 New York Times vs. Sullivan case in the Supreme Court.

In that ruling the U.S. Supreme Court held that for a libel suit to be successful, the plaintiff (the person bringing the suit) has to prove not just that the statement or statements complained about were false, but that they were published with malice and recklessness.

In the U.S., the Supreme Court has actually established a federal rule prohibiting a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct, unless that they can prove the statement was made with actual malice.

The Free National Movement should be commended for opening up the airwaves. Now it is time to take its promise of enhancing transparency even further by updating the country’s libel laws.


thenassauguardian editorial

Friday, March 25, 2011

Japan devastation: The time for renewable energy in LatAm is now

Christopher Lenton

Over the last decade, nuclear power has gained favor in Latin America. It is base load power - generating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - and in an era where climate change dominates international discussion, does not emit damaging greenhouse gasses. It can provide significant, reliable generation capacity over many decades, as Brazil's Angra, Mexico's Laguna Verde and Argentina's Embalse and Atucha facilities have proven.

And technological and regulatory advances have meant that events such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are now in the past.

Until last week.

The toll of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is still unknown, but the unfolding nuclear disaster and the news being relayed to the world - the smoke pluming from crippled reactors 3 and 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the scenes of men in protective white suits scanning petrified citizens for radiation, the request of some European nations that their citizens leave Tokyo in fear of nuclear fallout, and the unprecedented address to the nation by Emperor Akihito - has cast new fears that nuclear power is, quite simply, not safe.

In Chile, where plans for atomic power development have gathered steam in recent years, the example of Japan has often been used to underline the safety of developing nuclear plants in seismic zones.

The world is now asking, if Japan can't develop safe nuclear power, who can?

Nuclear will continue to play a part in the region's energy matrix. Brazilian authorities have already come out in support of its current plans. Experts around the world are quick to point out that the Japanese reactors were unique and outdated - reactors can now be cooled without backup power generation or human input. Each form of electricity generation has an environmental impact, and large generation projects will always prove prone to disaster.

But the basic fact is with renewable power, this sort of event would not occur. As some were quick to point out, offshore and onshore wind farms in Japan survived the disaster. In Chile, renewable energy projects continued generating power in the aftermath of the February 27 quake.

The potential too in Latin America is vast. In Patagonia wind capacity factors exceed those in countries like Spain, which on certain days generates half its electricity from wind. The Atacama Desert receives more solar radiation than any other desert in the world: a study by Chile's national energy commission CNE along with German company GTZ revealed over 200GW of potential in an area of 4,000km2 in the Atacama - enough to cover the power needs of South America.

Industrializing countries need efficient, affordable power, and power demand in Latin America will surge over the next decade. Though renewable power is still seen as uneconomic in many parts of the region, we need only look at recent events to see that fossil fuel prices are unpredictable. Additionally, oil spills, coal mine and natural gas accidents, and perhaps too nuclear plant accidents will continue to have untold environmental and economic costs. But the sun, the sea, rivers, wind, these are unchanging. And thanks to the rapid development of a renewable industry in Europe and China, costs are coming down. Indeed, investors prior to the crisis saw double digit returns in the wind sector in numerous parts of the world, and solar power could be cost-competitive in as little as two years.

With the right regulatory signals, renewable energy could prove an important complement to base load power in Latin America in the next decade. The time to act is now.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Obeah and politics in the Caribbean

By Oliver Mills

We as human beings, when faced with challenging situations, often like to resort to measures and practices that are beyond what is normal in order to seek, or find solutions to them. After we have exhausted the religious figure, friends, and stretch ourselves beyond our own reasoning, we then resort to strategies that appear otherworldly.

From the era of the Roman Empire, before going to war, the leaders often consulted oracles, soothsayers, and their gods to determine when they should act. After being given the assurance that things will work out fine, they proceeded. If told there would be adversities, they would refrain.

Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree. from Dalhousie University in Canada and an MA from the University of London. He has published numerous articles in human resource development and management, as well as chapters in five books on education and human resource management and has presented professional papers in education at Oxford University in the UK and at Rand Africaans University in South AfricaThe Romans also examined the entrails of birds to determine how and when to act. Sorcerers were often consulted in earlier times, and magic was also used to find solutions, or determine when to make a move or not.

Caribbean people have had their full share of using extraordinary sources to tell the future, protect themselves against what they felt were overwhelming odds, and also used these sources to seek revenge, without coming into physical contact with what caused their problems. We call the use of certain forces of nature to bring about certain ends beneficial to ourselves, or to deal with what or who was bothering us, obeah. But what is meant by this term obeah?

The Oxford Dictionary describes obeah as a kind of sorcery, practiced especially in the Caribbean. Another dictionary defines it as a form of magic or witchcraft, and mentions its association with the wider Caribbean. Obeah includes all of these, but more broadly, it has to do with influencing, or manipulating the forces of nature to obtain a particular result, either favourable to the person involved in its use, or to do something unpleasant to the person we feel has wronged us in some way.

In the Caribbean, Nanny, one of Jamaica’s heroes was said to use obeah to repel the British from her country. It was said that on one occasion, she placed an object on fire at the side of a mountain, and when the British soldiers tried to approach the source of the smoke, they fell over the edge of the hill, and met their end. This is the political use of obeah, to bring about a particular result even though you are outmatched. The slaves in Haiti in the 18th century used obeah to battle French forces that were sent against them. They went through certain ceremonies, which they were told would protect them from the effects of bullets. They therefore developed courage and extraordinary bravery, since they felt they could not be harmed. This is the further use of obeah as a political weapon.

In our modern era, the well known president of Haiti, Papa Doc, was said to use obeah as part of his political strategy to deal with opponents, predict how to act, and also to determine the results of his actions. It is alleged that this is what kept him in power for such a long period. However, others say Papa Doc saw obeah as a cultural practice, part of the African heritage, even as a form of religion, and it is an exaggeration to say it was used for ends that could be frowned on.

Even Eric Gairy, the late prime minister of Grenada, was said to be a practitioner of obeah, and used it to remain in power, protect himself from his detractors, and confuse his opponents. Apparently, though, it could not stop Maurice Bishop from overthrowing him.

One of the political neighbours of the Turks and Caicos was also said to use obeah as a political tool to win elections and stay in office for several decades. It is said that on one occasion, when this official visited the obeah priest in Haiti, he explained that he came to get the usual assistance. But the opposition leader for that country had already paid a visit, and had been given the assurance he would be the next prime minister. The obeah priest confused them, so much so that when the sitting prime minister sought help, the obeah priest replied, “Are you not the little short black man who just came here? I thought you were, so I gave the election to him.” This political leader, it is said, was flabbergasted, but the obeah priest could not reverse his act. This is a clear example of obeah being used to practically influence the outcome of an election, whether it was the sole reason or other factors were also involved.

In one of our smaller Caribbean countries, it is alleged that obeah is also used on occasions as a political strategy to unseat a government, or influence voting behaviour. This country is very near to Haiti, which is associated with this practice. It is said that during a certain election period, officials from this small country visited an obeah priest in Haiti, to request assistance in winning the then upcoming election. They were told that one of the visiting persons needed to be turned into a rabbit. It was agreed, and I am told that sure enough, it happened, and a white rabbit was seen jumping about the place. The obeah priest was then free to do his work. Again, whether this affected the election on its own has not been determined.

Again, in this same small country, during another election, a group of candidates met at an outdoor restaurant to discuss election strategies, and Haiti again came up as part of the discussions, concerning who had visited it for help before. One of the candidates, whose seat was being contested, protested against such talk about visiting Haiti. This candidate was promptly told, “You had better shut up, because you have no idea how you were elected the first time around.” This suggested that again, the use of obeah as a strategy was resorted to in securing the seat of this person.

In another election, on election day in one of the constituencies where the contending candidates were observing the voting taking place, it was quickly noticed that there were white handkerchiefs placed inside each desk of the contending candidates except the sitting elected member. The candidates sat around the desks, and all but one did not notice the handkerchiefs. It was later said, that the handkerchiefs had been “fixed,” and they were placed there to cause confusion in the minds of voters who attempted to vote for other candidates apart from the sitting member. They would either spoil the vote, or in their confusion vote for the person they did not intend to, which was the sitting member. Here again, is the use of obeah tactics in determining who would win an election.

Where a recent election was concerned in the same island, the election was regarded as crucial for the supporters of a particular candidate. This was so to such an extent, that someone came up with a suggestion at one of the meetings on the eve of the election, that if their party was to win, then they had to prevent the opposing party’s voters from being among the first thirteen at the polls to vote. The number thirteen seemed so important, that some of these supporters kept up very late on the night of election eve, to ensure they would not allow the opposing political side to form the first thirteen in the line to vote. Here, was the superstition, that an election could be won or lost by heading off the gathering of the first thirteen voters of their opponent. Again the use of obeah as a strategy to influence the results of a political election.

The point is that we really do not know for sure whether the practices and tactics of obeah determined anything, or could determine anything one way or the other. A professional writer on the subject of obeah studied the research done on it, and found that there was no truth or evidence to what was alleged happened, or could happen through the use of obeah strategies. It was all in the imagination, and belonged to the world of fantasy. Still though, obeah has its followers, and practitioners. It is also seen as a religion, and they do believe things could definitely happen, and that it could be used for good, or otherwise.

March 23, 2011


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The assault of anti-Americanism in Latin America

By Rebecca Theodore

Amidst a surge of anti-American sentiment in Latin America, the US now begins to feel the billowing crest of the flood as it has reached a particularly high peak. Far from the backed up dams, tidal waves still break away in some kind of slaughter and just when it is thought that they have impounded it safe, let alone behind new barrier walls, China accompanies the EU in positioning itself to supply its ever growing oil thirst with Latin American oil at the expense of the United States. To state it simply, America has lost control of Latin America. The surge cannot be contained.

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 rebethd@aim.comWhile French scholars imply that anti-Americanism is only fully justified if it implies systematic opposition, a sort of allergic reaction to America as a whole, US political scientists on the other hand view anti-Americanism as a term that cannot be isolated as a consistent phenomenon. Whatever the implication or the precise definition of what the sentiment entails, it is certain that Latin American states are presently demonstrating their inexorable critical impulses toward American social, economic, and political institutions, traditions, and values.

It is the contention of many that anti Americanism in Latin America stemmed from imperialism and globalization and from economic and social frustrations perpetrated by the US. However, it is not without its advantages as anti-Americanism serves the goals of opportunistic politicians and organizations as well.

While Americans remain focused on events in the Middle East, the EU has been working zealously to establish itself as the top trading partner and investor in Latin America, taking advantage of the region’s economic and political weakness. The role that the cessation of the Cold War played to rid the church in Latin America of the liberalism that had penetrated it under Communist influence is now uniting it in commerce and trade. Dominated by the single universal religion of Roman Catholicism, the EU and Latin America are more than just a trade duo. They are a religious, commercial and political partnership.

It cannot be disputed that the EU and China are creating a dominant cross-Atlantic power bloc in Latin America linked by trade, mutual economic interest, and social, political and religious affinity. With plans of building an oil refinery in Venezuela and implementation of ways to secure a way to economically ship Venezuelan oil across the Pacific to its own shores, China’s dream of building a 138-mile-long railway across Colombia from the Gulf of Uraba on the Atlantic coast to the port of Cupica on the Pacific coast will see large shipments of Venezuelan crude and Colombian coal to China.

This is the new technology that all eyes in America and the world should be focused on. The completion of this railroad already being hailed as a land-based Panama Canal could transform the oil politics of Latin America overnight, making China a prime recipient of this oil. Hence, America walks blindly into a situation where 10 percent of its oil imports are being redirected to Asia due to a lack of influence over the Panama Canal and Colombian railways.

Moreover, with silver from Mexico and Peru, tin from Bolivia and iron ore from Venezuela and Brazil, steady supplies of raw materials which Latin America readily provides in abundance, South and Latin America is an eye-catching mélange for resource-hungry Europeans and Chinese. Unfortunately, President Obama’s visit comes a little too late, for the waters keep rising and the rains continue in unrelenting fury.

According to recent published reports, European Union trade with Latin America is at an all -time high. With the Wiki Leaks disclosure that the United States now considers the Latin American Mercosur trade bloc an anti-American organization, Mercosur gradually transforms from an imperfect customs union to a more obstructive and anti-American organization. The EU is currently Mercosur’s main trading partner.

With German corporate giants such as Krupp, Siemens, Bayer, Volkswagen, I.G. Farben and Deutsche Bank steadily becoming household names across the Central American isthmus using the cheap labour force to create competition for the US, and with an established office in Cuba, right on the back doorstep of the US, the EU armed in its Machiavellian ambition phases its infiltration of Latin America as an economically unified, politically stable Latino bloc necessary to ensure constant delivery of goods and services.

It is clear that the United States is left out in the chilling cold waters of this torrential flood as Latin America merges with Europe and China and begins calling the shots in world commerce.

March 23, 2011


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Nature of Politics, Politicks and Democracy in The Bahamas

Politicking and Democracy. What’s the difference?

Edward Hutcheson

I have spent the last two weeks looking at the nation and people of the Bahamas, attempted to write letters and found myself reaching some rebellious conclusions about what answers and remedies should be about. Speaking to an older friend reminded me that life is not about answers, there are answers for more things than there are questions. His sage response to “What is democracy?” was, “Have you answered the question in your own country?” He was referring to the fact that we in the Bahamas take our cues from how people are doing things everywhere else in the world, it is not too original, but it takes away the responsibility of being responsible, since the idea came from somewhere else. And when you think of it, that is how the country has progressed – a lot of outside help and money, with Bahamians acting like tourists most of the time.

At the end of my looking, I had the opportunity to view, on one of the local television stations a discussion on the privatization of BTC, the talk show host had some members of a political party giving their view on the process. It was amazing, the amount of information that came out of it, there were answers for everything, until the moderator asked a question that was not anticipated. He wanted to know what was that particular party’s policy on the privatization, seeing that they had attempted the same process, some time ago. They were not able to give an answer, and then the host reminded them that their position had changed from what it previously was, and the reply was that that was the nature of politics. The host was able to pin down one of the rising stars in the party and his reply was that they did not have a policy on BTC, but they had a model that they were following. I wanted the host to push for a further explanation of that model, but they ran out of time.

Lately, it seems like most of the answers the public is getting are more like opinions; everybody has one. We must come to the place where we are able to ask the questions to whoever is leading out nation or who would like to lead and not get out of their face until the answers are forthcoming. I am getting ticked about the BTC issue, primarily because the public is not being told what is happening and/or the bodies involved in the process are not informed on the issues that they are addressing and this exercise up to now is more about persons maintaining their lifestyles or various groups of persons promoting social unrest.

The historic reality is that technology renders a judgment that government legislation cannot protect anybody from, except you are living in a dictatorship, and those of us who think we are gaining something by promoting battles are wasting time and money. We became a democracy in 1967, but it took us 25years to get our voices, and even within that time frame persons who should have known better made an attempt to ban dialect from the airwaves.

So what is a Democracy? It is when persons who were democratically elected exercise transparency in their dealings with the persons who elected them, and those who would like to be elected give a fair and impartial presentation of what they do know and would like to see, leaving nothing out. Anything else is politicking.

March 22, 2011


Monday, March 21, 2011

What was the process applied in appointing the new Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) chief justice?

By Ian Francis

The recent news from the Caribbean Court of Justice and the CARICOM Secretariat indicating that Sir Dennis Byron has been appointed as chief justice of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) came to many regional observers as a great surprise and possible disappointment. It was popularly felt that injection of new and progressive blood was necessary for the CCJ, given the enormous amount of work to be undertaken for the future growth and sustainability of the organisation.

The appointment of Byron is not being opposed in this article, as it is felt and known that he is a very competent jurist who has served the region with great distinction. I want to wish Sir Dennis good luck and longevity as he prepares to assume the position of a regional court with only three members. Given Sir Dennis’s legal and administrative skills and experience, there is very little doubt that he will attempt to make a very valuable contribution to the CCJ, focusing on its future growth, which must include an increased membership.

While the selection and appointment of Sir Dennis as chief justice of the CCJ is not being viewed in a negative light, the need to delve further and gain valuable information about the selection and appointment process method applied by the Council of Ambassadors are reasonable questions to ask with the hope that truthful and credible answers are shared.

If the Council of Ambassadors were to adopt the notion of transparency and good governance, then it is reasonable to assume that the average “Joe Blow” in the region will get a much deeper insight into the decision-making process of the Council of Ambassadors. They are obligated to enlighten the region’s population about their decision making process within the CARICOM organisation. In an era of transparency and accountability, the sharing of this information is necessary if the recognised need to enlighten, increase awareness and understanding about CARICOM and its Council of Ambassadors is to be realised.

Prior to the inter-sessional pow wow in Grenada, it was known throughout the region that the Council of Ambassadors had two very critical appointments to make with respect to a new secretary general for the CARICOM Secretariat and a chief justice for the Caribbean Court of Justice. While it is recognized that the Council or Heads have the authority or mandate for such appointments, their authority should not be blindfolded or impaired by ensuring that proper human resource principles and practices are adopted when making such important appointments.

In July 2010, when former Secretary General Carrington and CCJ Chief Justice de la Bastide indicated that they would demit office, it was felt that the broad regional clamour for transparency and accountability in CARICOM might begin with the newly touted of “Council of Ambassadors”. There was great hope and expectation that the Council of Ambassadors would be more progressive, innovative and strategic in their approach with the decision making process in the Secretariat.

Unfortunately, based on internal information gleaned and received from credible sources within the Secretariat, it would appear that the newly touted “Council of Ambassadors” returned to their “old dog tricks” by applying an old decision making model of appointment by consensus..

With all of the above observations, it would appear that the development and implementation of a human resource strategy for the Secretariat has been ignored. There was no written job description for the chief justice position; no posting for the vacant position; no search, interviewing and recruitment committee established. Had these measures being in place, it would have afforded a broad spectrum of applicants from throughout the Caribbean region seeking the position of chief justice.

While at this stage the selection and appointment of a secretary general is unknown, it is sincerely hoped that the Council of Ambassadors will return to the drawing board by recognising and understanding that the process for selecting and appointing a new Secretary General of CARICOM requires a more visionary approach.

I wish Sir Dennis well in his new challenge. There is no doubt that he is indeed a formidable jurist and will do extremely well at the Caribbean Court of Justice. However, if the visionless Council of Ambassadors had seriously applied a transparent selection process, many more like Sir Dennis could have emerged and been considered for this very important position.

Now that the Council of Ambassadors have returned to their governing sanctuaries following their inter-sessional meeting in Grenada, they must once again be reminded of the wise comments made by Prime Minister Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis. He has requested fellow colleagues to be more reflective and analytical when handling important CARICOM matters.

In my view, Douglas’s comments require great attention and should influence our regional leaders with their governance and decision making style. They really need to measure up or face the emerging forces that are clamoring for change and participation. There are already clear warning signs in St Lucia, Grenada and Antigua that are likely to bring about electoral changes. It is very doubtful as to whether the Council of Ambassadors can influence the outcome of the pending electoral changes.

Let’s watch our Council of Ambassadors and their forthcoming report scheduled to be delivered at the next CARICOM meeting scheduled for the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis in July 2011.The region’s population are getting wary of the Council of Ambassadors’ tomfoolery.

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


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Haitian presidential election: I am voting (again) for Michel Martelly!

I am voting (again) for Michel Martelly!
By Jean H Charles

I predicted in a previous column that the final round in the Haitian presidential election will be between the two Ms -- Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat (Caribbean News Now, November 27, 2010, “I am voting for Michel Martelly”).

I predicted also that the Haitian government, supported by and with the connivance of a sector of the international community, will try to disrupt the proceedings to manipulate the outcome. The acquisitions of the Haitian and of the universal democratic process are so strong that corrections have been made to rectify the results of the election to suit my prediction.

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: 
I am voting again for Michel Martelly in the final proceedings of Sunday, March 20, 2011.

Based on conversations with and observations of the electorate on the ground, I am predicting Michel Martelly will be the winner of the election. My conviction has been validated when, a week before the balloting, a poor young man living in Port au Prince told me he has been saving his meager salary to go back home to Cape Haitian where his electorate card was registered so he can vote for Michel Martelly.

I belong to the small intellectual elite of the Haitian Diaspora and/or homegrown, who should root for Mirlande Manigat. With a doctorate from or enough credits for one, from Sorbonne France, Mirlande Manigat belongs to the cosmopolitan Haitian pack who can teach in or are the students of the best universities of the Western world. She is proud of her knowledge of and experience about constitutional law. She called herself or she is being referred as a constitutionalist.

By contrast, Michel Martelly has no college degree; he completed his Baccalaureate in Haiti, attended courses in community colleges in the United States and has spent a life as a bad boy leading a very popular band throughout the Caribbean community, named Sweet Micky.

Yet I have chosen to cross the railroad yard and join the Haitian electorate in electing Michel Martelly as the next president of Haiti. The choice is visceral as well as cerebral. I am, as Michel Martelly, angry at the state of state of the Republic of Haiti. A country rich in cultural values, historical significance, abundant scenic vista, and a young, resilient and creative population, Haiti should shine in the Caribbean basin as it did during the three hundred years of the colonial era.

Instead it has lagged as a pariah amidst the squalor in the midst of its splendour because of the predatory nature of its successive governments, including the last one, as well as the connivance of a large sector of the international community.

Michel Martelly has an excellent grasp of the needs and of the solution for resolving the Haitian dilemma. He is aware of and plans to implement the Renan principles of nation building:

- Negotiate the incremental withdrawal of the United Nations forces to replace it with a national force of development that will protect the population against disaster, drug transshipment, as well as enhancing the environment.

- Uproot the internal refugees of the earthquake from the fetid camps as well as those who live in the favellas of the cities to root them in their original villages with the institutions and the infrastructure to enjoy and prosper in their beautiful setting.

- Michel Martelly will, last but not least, create a Haiti hospitable to all; free from the cultural traits of exclusion that have been the hallmark of the Haitian panorama for the last two centuries.

Mirlande Manigat has the intellectual capacity to apprehend this reality, yet she has expressed neither for me nor for the electorate the emotion as well the discipline of a rigorous analysis to indicate she has the vision and the strength to deliver?

Haiti, in spite of the saintly resilience and the male courage of its female population, has not been well served by its past pioneer female leaders.

They tend to give away the store too easily.

Ertha Pascal Trouillot, the first female president, opened (in spite of strong dissent within her policy advisory board) the vein for the close intrusion of the United Nations into the internal affairs of Haiti. The jury is still out whether the UN’s record for the past twenty years in Haiti has been a positive one so far!

Michelle Duvivier, the last Haitian female prime minister, has exhibited a loyalty firmer with the outside world than with her own government.

I am voting for Michel Martelly because, akin to the popular vote, I am taking a chance for a complete break with the past. Whether under the dictatorial, the military, the transition or the democratic regimes, the political class that surrounds Mirlande Manigat has found a way to remain the staple of the command chain that has led and continues to lead the destiny of Haiti so far into an abyss.

To the question whether morality has taken a back seat position in endorsing Michel Martelly, I have looked at the candidate in the eyes and asked him that very question? His answer resembles strangely to the question of Jesus to the Pharisees willing to stone the prostitute, while writing on the ground: May the one amongst you who is without sin send the first stone. John 8 verse 1.

“I will apologize when those who left my people without food and water, do so. I will apologize when those who left the detritus on the street for months without consideration for the health and the welfare of the population. I will apologize when those who left the majority of the people in extreme misery while they are running high with the national and international resources!” His anger went up one decibel higher as he was speaking!

A group of Christian ministers who endorsed his candidacy have produced several biblical arguments for doing so: Matthew 21, verse 42: “The stone rejected has become the cornerstone.” They went further to evoke in Corinthians 1 chapter 13, Saul who became Paul: “When I was a child, I acted as a child; now that I am an adult, I act as an adult.”

As in the first round of the electoral process the caesarian procedure towards the true delivery of democracy will be a difficult one. The new baby Haiti that will come out of the electoral operation will be a beautiful one that will grow in wisdom and in prosperity for the glory of the region and for the rest of the humanity.

I was one of the godparents, who were at the baptismal when the party “Reponses Peasants” (the umbrella under which Michel Martelly is conducting his campaign) was created. The party has adopted the vision of inclusion, hospitality and collegiality so often probed in my column. I will be there to ensure that this vision becomes the trend in the nation and in the region.

March 19, 2011


Friday, March 18, 2011

We Bahamians are an ungrateful people

While the world suffers, Bahamians fiddle

tribune242 editorial

WE SWITCHED the television on. Saudi tanks were rolling into Bahrain to prevent that country's social unrest spilling over Saudi borders. Libyans were rushing in mad confusion to avoid tear gas hoses as the Arab League considered asking the UN to impose a no fly zone to stop Col. Muammar Gaddafi strafing his people from the air - a reporter described Libya's turmoil of cruelty as a "problem from hell." Egypt was still in confusion. In short the Middle East was on fire.

Suddenly, television cameras focused on Japan. There one saw a scene of absolute horror. Viewers were told that Japan had just suffered an 8.9 earthquake, the largest in its history, and the fifth largest recorded in this past century. Then as though an invisible giant had drawn in his breath, taking the ocean with it and leaving behind a denuded coastline, there was a powerful outward roar as a mountain of water rushed back across the land. Out of the earthquake, a giant tsunami had been born and in a twinkling of an eye an ancient town had disappeared from the face of the earth. Houses crumbled under its mighty weight, thousands of men, women and children disappeared before they had time to consider what they could do to save themselves.

What we were witnessing would affect the whole world and an already crippled international economy was pushed back just as it was starting to slowly move forward. As a result of the confusion in one section of the world every man, woman and child on the rest of the globe was caught up in the turmoil. If never before, that short sequence of events was proof that we are all one family caught up in each other's destiny on this one big ship called Mother Earth. As gas prices started to climb -- as a result of the Mid-East crisis --and goods, already too expensive, soared, one wondered if indeed Armageddon was near. At least that was what our maid thought.

"Oh, dear God," she moaned, "the world is in confusion!"

Suddenly she turned angry. "We Bahamians," she said, "are an ungrateful people. See how the world is suffering and we have the nerve to complain about a little inconvenience." Yes, when one compares Bahamians' problems against the suffering of other humans on the same planet, they are indeed "little inconveniences" and we should all hang our heads in shame for trying to make the mole hill into the mountain.

Here we have politicians busy trying to score brownie points against their opponents, not for the betterment of the body politic, but to gain a seat in parliament and to win an election.

While Japanese dug through rubble looking for loved ones, occasionally picking up an empty shoe and weeping for the loss of the human who once walked this Earth in it, Bahamians were squabbling over the sale of a telecommunications company that ill performed at the best of times and should have been put on the auction block a long time ago.

"Bahamians are just too selfish and too greedy, always with their hands out instead of trying to do the best they can with what they have until things get better!" she sniffed, with the toss of her head and the suck on the teeth. "They have gold by comparison and they don't appreciate it!"

While others suffer untold damage, some Bahamians are busy trying to organise their own "small Egypt" -- like the monkey wanting to follow fashion no matter how destructive that fashion.

Today Bahamians are busy trying to figure out how many FNM MPs would have to vote in the House against its government's sale of BTC to send the people back to the polls. As Mr Ingraham told them in today's Tribune, a majority vote against the sale of BTC to Cable & Wireless would be a parliamentary show of no confidence in his government. He would then turn the government back to the people; there would be an early general election, and Bahamians could then vote in a new government. However, he pointed out, the sale of BTC was one of the planks in the FNM's platform, one on which the FNM had won the government.

However, with 24 FNM members in the House to the PLP's 17, Brad McCartney is the only likely FNM to break ranks. This will in no way put the FNM's government in jeopardy. However, Mr McCartney has kept everyone guessing about his final decision of whether it will be an "aye" or "nay" for the BTC vote. The fact that, although he attends House meetings, he has avoided party meetings for many weeks, gives a pretty good indication as to how his mind is set.

Anyway, instead of losing precious time over such matters, Bahamians should thank God that they have a job. It is now up to them to give it their best until they can start climbing the ladder upward again.

March 17, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Venezuela's deadly pact with Latin American and Caribbean states

By Rebecca Theodore

Beware! The manipulative game of bartering oil for social welfare and aid to solve the economic woes of many Latin American and Caribbean states by Venezuela’s despot Hugo Chavez lingers.

Despite original predictions of its unsustainability, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is quickly spreading throughout the region like wildfire, leaving in its wake a voice that cries out loud against reason and a political movement that tears the commercial veil of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the US asunder, being pulled and tossed in directions unknown by ideologically contrasting powers.

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 rebethd@aim.comAs games rely on the technical representation of an idea that either player can manipulate to victory, the allure for cheap oil for many Latin American and Caribbean countries now see them turning their backs on the US, choosing instead to associate themselves with governments overtly committed to building socialism. Faced with serious balance-of-payment problems, the bait entangled in a form of economic integration is appealing.

Thus, in their bold attempts for economic recovery and in choosing to align with Chavez, Latin American and Caribbean states are also lamenting the fact that Washington only supports democracy if and only if it contributes to their strategic and economic interests.

While assenting factors advocate that ALBA focuses on social cooperation and the use of economic growth to solve the people's problems, including unemployment and illiteracy, opponents on the other hand argue that this leftist trade bloc, funded by Venezuelan oil money and Cuban and Bolivarian ideology is nothing but a front for a broader socialist and anti-American agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Deemed a destabilizing effect on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) by Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding from its infancy, the socialist movement (ALBA) is spreading across the region like a deadly epidemic, with countries such as Nicaragua, Ecuador, Honduras, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and the Dominican Republic signing up as innocent lambs to the slaughter.

There is no doubt that this move yields ominous concerns, as dependence on foreign direct investment and tourism as a major propellant of development is curtailed. Concerns that the old order of power in Latin America and the Caribbean may also be permanently threatened.

As a lion disguised in sheep’s clothing, it must be seen that ALBA’s repute as an economic alliance for Latin American and Caribbean solidarity is only based on Chavez’s ideological hallucination -- an ideology that is not only masked in vengeance and hatred against the US to undermine the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) but also one that transgresses the practice of international law and bestows on Chavez the attention which he no doubt desperately craves in world politics.

Proposal for a joint ALBA military force by Venezuela and Nicaragua to replace the Inter-American Defense Board joint military aid, as well as intelligence and counterintelligence cooperation to combat the illusive terrorism and permanent aggression threat by the United States continues to be the theme of Chavez’s inflated rhetoric.

As more and more Latin American and Caribbean countries are depositing agreed amounts of their respective national currencies into a special SUCRE (Single Regional Compensation System) fund, it seems the SUCRE is rapidly replacing the US dollar as a medium of exchange with a Regional Monetary Council, and a Central Clearing House, hence decreasing US control of Latin American and Caribbean economies and fortifying Chavez’s long time insane ambition of the SUCRE becoming an international reserve currency much like the euro.

While the US sits idly by, choosing instead to label it an ‘oil conspiracy’, ignoring the Monroe Doctrine approach, which regarded the Caribbean as its backyard, emboldening its neighbours and internal groups to challenge its sovereignty, a new form of 21st century socialism now governs the economic and political policies of Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is a dramatic development, a difficult encounter and a concern of gigantic historical and commercial proportions.

March 17, 2011


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Turks and Caicos politics in a Caribbean context

By Oliver Mills

Local historians in the Turks and Caicos contend that these islands were the first to be discovered in the Caribbean region, although this is contested by others. However, Caribbean historians have maintained that the real value to Europeans of the West Indies was their mineral wealth, agricultural products, employment for Europeans, and as a training ground for their navies. Nothing is mentioned about the value of the islands to their own people, the local inhabitants.

Oliver Mills is a former lecturer in education at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. He holds an M.Ed degree. from Dalhousie University in Canada and an MA from the University of London. He has published numerous articles in human resource development and management, as well as chapters in five books on education and human resource management and has presented professional papers in education at Oxford University in the UK and at Rand Africaans University in South AfricaIndeed, the local inhabitants were highly civilised, particularly the Mayans and Aztecs, while the Caribs and Arawaks on the other hand, who lived communally under a system of governance that suited their needs and circumstances at the time, were regarded by the Europeans as primitive. The latter sought to use the tribal chiefs against each other to maintain a divide and rule policy. This meant that, instead of confronting a common threat, the local inhabitants fought against themselves, urged on by outsiders, who benefitted from this local rivalry which they initiated.

The Turks and Caicos were important for their salt product, cotton, as a training area for sailors and their warships and, initially because of our many islands and cays, as a hide out for pirates, buccaneers, and smugglers. Later in this century we became military bases to maintain surveillance of Castro’s Cuba, and to listen to and track Russian submarines.

A prominent historian of Caribbean affairs describes the background to the contemporary challenges the Caribbean faces today. He states that the society was based on masters and slaves, and this made impossible any spirit of mutual trust between the two sides. The phrase that emerged from this situation was, ‘the worse you behave to a Negro, the better he behaves to you.’ Even now, we still say this about each other.

This perception of these two categories of master and slave later translated into divisions between those with money and resources, and those who had only their labour to offer. From here, developed the antagonistic relationship between labour and capital. And although later, as Caribbean society became more sophisticated through the development of science and technology, a managerial versus a technologically skilled class developed, with knowledge replacing capital as the important factor in workplace relationships.

This historian further states that a further characteristic of Caribbean society was the parochialism of its governing climate of opinion. Any opinions that differed from, or contested the way things were being done, were discouraged. The idea behind this was to maintain the political and social dominance of one group of persons who differed from the local inhabitants in social status, colour and interest.

The type of governance that existed, particularly in those islands with British influence, was Crown Colony government, or direct rule, where a governor and officials from the metropole were the main players, assisted by selected locals regarded as prominent members of the community. This same type of governance exists in the Turks and Caicos today. In the early colonial period, it was based on the contrived assumption that people who were culturally different had no real conception of how to govern themselves, or conduct their affairs in a civilised way. They therefore needed persons of a different and superior cultural orientation to ‘help’ them to become more civilised. To hold their hand and gently lead them, until they were deemed ready and fit to govern themselves.`

This historian rounds out his description of Caribbean society’s background by noting that the European mind failed to apply the idea of equality to subject Caribbean people. The fact is that, in many instances, this perception still remains of people of other races. In the Caribbean, we have absorbed these prejudices, and use them against our own to determine class and social status. People with a fair complexion are still preferred to those with darker skins, and the many races we have still discriminate against each other in various subtle and open ways. We have not as yet, in our Caribbean, despite chatter at various conferences, come to accept each other, trust each other, or see each other in an open-minded way, without race, class, island of origin, or even religion, playing a significant part with respect to how we perceive each other.

In the Caribbean’s quest for ever increasing control over its political affairs, leading to independence for some islands, again, the dominant power insisted that certain steps or stages be gone through, as if locals had to take examinations at different levels of difficulty. Crown Colony government was followed by more political representation through the extension of the vote. Through agitation, internal self-government came about with either a Chief Minister or Premier, based on the intensity of the agitation. This was then followed by independence. But at each stage, it was the colonial power that responded to challenges made on it. It was the local leaders who formed political organisations that over time contested the existing system, and got it to be changed to a more democratic system, representative of the majority.

This is where the Turks and Caicos is today, with demands for the reinstatement of the 2006 constitution, that many insist has nothing wrong with it. Some feel the newly considered constitution is meant to restrict the power of the elected representatives, and the newly proposed electoral system is designed to emasculate the political parties, and give further authority to the function of Governor as an institution.

What is often forgotten, or not realised, is the fact that the 2006 constitution can in many ways be regarded as really an independence constitution. The office of Premier had enormous power, and many international missions were undertaken by the elected government, although it was the UK government that was responsible for foreign affairs. The then Premier gave audience to many heads of state, and a minister of government had some responsibilities for national security. The UK government on a whole, allowed the Turks and Caicos to exercise authority in many areas, which could only be seen in an independent territory. Under the 2006 constitution, therefore, the islands could be described as really being independent where governance in the strict sense is concerned. Ministers exercised certain levels of authority to negotiate abroad on behalf of the country, met with their counterparts abroad, and entered into agreements after the proposals had gone through the cabinet process.

The independent Caribbean territories basically followed this same process. It appears, though, that the Turks and Caicos, although coming a little late on the scene, caught up quickly with these countries, even surpassing them in economic development, and becoming their equal in the level of political awareness and consciousness. As a matter of fact, our first Premier was even invited to an economic event in Jamaica to share ideas on how his country was able to achieve the level of economic growth it did. One of our Chief Ministers under the PDM government even attended important functions abroad, on an equal footing with other heads of state. Although not formally an independent country, the Turks and Caicos enjoyed equality of status with the other independent Caribbean countries. No other Caribbean country received this recognition when they were at the political stage the Turks and Caicos was at.

We all know the political story of what happened to the Turks and Caicos political system, and the accompanying economic challenges we now face. Many feel that the introduction of current revenue measures, and those impending, will result in further economic decline, and a further lowering of the standard of living in the islands, as well as discouraging foreign investment. Some feel that our economic progress began with the introduction of political parties that took various initiatives that secured agreements for growth and development to take place. Others feel that jealousy is responsible for the state the country is in now, and that there is no independent objective means of knowing what the real state of the economy is.

There is a segment of the population that also feels that whatever resources we have are not being used in a way significantly beneficial to the inhabitants, and that a new class of ‘others’ is calling the shots, and enjoying a certain lifestyle, while local people are mere spectators in their own country. If this is so, is this moral? Others feel that it is the Turks and Caicos political class and their associates that are responsible for the developments that led to where we currently are.

But there is also a view which is convinced that the profile of the Turks and Caicos as a country with people of colour who developed and managed a successful economy, and brought advantages not previously enjoyed to almost every island and its inhabitants, went against the previously held view of people of colour being unable to manage their political and economic institutions successfully, being always dependent on handouts from others, because they were lazy, carefree, and a bunch of freeloaders, incapable of anything serious or worthy of note. Certain activities therefore had to be initiated to restore the islands to the status it was felt they should really have, as a territory with people of colour as its majority, with a selected few of ‘others’ who feel themselves entitled, by virtue of their alleged cultural sophistication, to lead these people of colour into the light.

In the context of the wider Caribbean, then, it can be seen, that basically, the Turks and Caicos followed the same political and economic course, had the same historical elites that exercised power and authority over their destiny, and experienced the same condescending attitudes exhibited by these elites. The demonstrations for the restoration of democracy here were also carried out by other Caribbean territories in their quest for autonomy, and our politicians, although living in a more enlightened age, still behave in a way reminiscent of those Caribbean politicians at our stage of political development.

The independent countries got their way. Will the Turks and Caicos, through its party system, and other political groups achieve its objectives and soon join these territories as a fully sovereign and independent country?

March 16, 2011


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Should condoms be distributed in schools?

By Dr Oswald Thomas

If as a teacher I give out condoms in schools, will I be encouraging promiscuity? Taking the power of transmitting values to children away from their parents? Costing the education system more money? Sending mixed messages? Supporting safe sex? Stemming the tide of HIV/AIDS? Combating teenage pregnancies or safeguarding morality over saving lives? These issues were brought to the fore when the Antigua Daily Observer on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, published an article under the caption “Minister of Education Says No to Condoms in School.”

Dr Oswald Thomas holds a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Psychology, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies in Human Services. He currently works as a clinical behavioral consultant and formally with Beacon Therapy Services as a counseling therapist serving consumers with mental health issues and mental retardations.The Hon. Minister of Education and Gender Affairs, Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro was at the time responding to a suggestion put forward by the coordinator of the St Lucia-based Educational International Organization, Virginia Albert-Poyette, at a regional teacher trade unions workshop. One of the aims of the workshop was to conduct an evaluation of a five-year project on HIV and AIDS and Education for All. Ms Albert-Poyette felt that as part of the battle against HIV/AIDS, condoms should be given out to school children.


I am in full support of the Minister on her unshakeable stance that condoms should not, and will not be distributed in schools across Antigua and Barbuda. If the suggestion is simply to give school children full access to condoms in isolation of a holistic sex education program, then this exercise is worthless. In fact, condom distribution will have no impact in the fight against HIV and AIDS. According to Kirby (2000), there are three main controversial approaches to reducing rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy among North American teenagers, namely: abstinence-only programs, safer sex education, and making condoms available in schools.

Even if one argues for the idealism of school being solely about education, this is simply not the reality. Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean for that matter are part of a changing landscape. Things that are happening in the Caribbean today sexually are not things that I never felt I would have lived to see. Sex is all around us, television adds, movies, strip clubs, gay and lesbian clubs, openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender couples. Just take a look at the number of young ladies who are having babies very early. As of December 2010, the AIDS Secretariat in Antigua reported an increase in HIV/AIDS of 65 cases with 90% of the infected falling between 15-49 age group and of that number the majority are women between 15-34 age group. The Caribbean now has the highest number of persons living with HIV/AIDS in the world. We cannot ignore this problem or allow it to flourish by being rigidly moralistic.

I know that sex is more often on the minds of school children more than education is. While I know the need for sexual experimentation is not confined to school children, rightly so, sex should be on school children minds. It is an integral part of their bodily functions and emotional cravings. Part of growing up is learning how to manage one’s sexual energies and to direct those powerful emotions to healthy outlets -- swimming, exercise, community service, organized religious activity, sports etc.

Distributing condoms must be filtered through a set of discerning criteria that exclude primary schoolers and acts as protective measure against indulgent adolescents. This process may also be tied to parental alert so that parents can either seek professional help, pastoral counseling or psycho-therapeutic intervention as they seek to influence their children with desired moral values. This is very important especially in those sensitive years when school children’s hormones act like a runaway train, and preaching abstinence is neither safe nor good enough.

The American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs states that abstinence-only programs may delay sex however, a large number of youths are already sexually experienced and need the knowledge, motivation, skills and access to condoms and contraceptives to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies.

What this implied is to say No to condoms without offering a credible alternative intervention program is in essence to say yes to behaviors that are likely to destroy school children’s chances at living a successful life. It is unjust that the school system should not find more practically ethical intervention to encourage their journey towards personal development and responsible citizenship.


“The only natural resources that Antigua and Barbuda has are its people,” These words were wisely spoken by the late Father of the Nation, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird. If education keeps us learning, sorrows keeps us humble, success keeps us flowing, then our children should keep us human.

Perhaps what is needed in Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean school system is to educate our adolescents about sex and sexuality as part of our regular school curricula. A lesson plan that goes far beyond human biology of naming the parts of the body and the sexual reproductive system. Sex and sexuality must be openly addressed in our schools from intercourse, childbearing and childrearing to sexually transmitted diseases. A salient point we seem not to remember is that education is much broader than mastering subject content -- English, math, history, geography, biology, home economics, woodworking, chemistry and the whole regiment of CXC requirement. Schooling is to be about equipping students with life skills intelligent, so that they can develop sound judgments, practice ethical behavior, attain self-fulfillment, act as responsible citizens and maximize spiritual aspirations. Hence, subject matter must bridge the gap between theory and practice or else our schools will be graduating adults who are children.

Add to that moral education, self-discipline and practical strategies of avoiding situation where saying No to sex becomes almost impossible. As a person who works in the helping profession, I have met countless teenagers, who honestly don’t have a clue about the addictive nature of sex, about their own sexuality, about the destructive nature of sex to life and dreams or about the proper context of sex, which is a stable, loving committed intimate relationship -- better known as a healthy and mutually fulfilling marriage.

More tragic is the observation that if and when school children become victims of early pregnancies (usually occurring because of poverty, delinquent influences and exploitation of promiscuous adults), most island school systems do not make alternative provisions for them to complete their schooling. I see this travesty as one of the gravest vices committed under the cover of virtue. Saying No, would not change injustice.

The ministry of education should also look to partner with its counterpart, the ministry of health to develop and implement a school-based health center whereby condoms can be dispensed by the school nurse. The student would have to request a condom from the school nurse and that student would have to listen to a brief lecture on safe sex. Condoms in school are nothing new as many schools districts around the world have already grappled with this controversial policy since the 1990s. When our school children have become fully armed with sex and sexuality education they will be in a better position to make sound decisions that will increase their chances at success in life.

Bear in mind some very stark statistics that underscore this problem. For each of the 65 new cases of HIV/AIDS in Antigua and Barbuda, to get a better picture of how many persons who could be actually walking around with HIV/AIDS knowingly or unknowingly, we would have to multiply each person infected as having five sexual partners. Hence, the number of persons infected would jump from 65 to 325 in 2010.

Given this situation, the minister of education is correct -- we cannot just give away condoms in school without first educating the nation’s only natural resources. We have to do everything within our power to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Parents, pastors, community leaders, politicians, journalists, and educators should join our children in preparing to be part of the solution.

I am not suggesting that only saying Yes to condoms in school is the panacea. I know that if we simply say No to condoms we would be multiplying the problem, not solving it. I believe that distributing condoms in school is an act of saving grace rather than promoting promiscuity. I encourage our education administrators throughout the Caribbean to take Albert Einstein’s counsel seriously: "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."

March 15, 2011


Monday, March 14, 2011

Haiti - The Caribbean's hot spot for drug traffickers

By Rebecca Theodore

If drug control is fundamental in maintaining a healthy society and in preventing the suffering and harm caused to individuals and society by drug abuse and drug trafficking, then its threat to the security and stability of Haiti presents a frightening picture.

While the International Narcotics Control Board continues to uphold its mandate of strengthening international action against drug production, trafficking and drug related crime and providing information, analysis and expertise on drug issues; critics on the other hand point to its failure in effectively policing both licit and illicit drugs in Haiti.

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 rebethd@aim.comCannabis and cocaine and the likes thereof are not the only substances classified as drugs. The availability of analgesics for the treatment of pain on unregulated markets in Haiti is now suffering an adverse backlash where illicitly manufactured pharmaceutical products that contain narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are readily available.

Thus, the drug situation in Haiti again proves that understanding drug-control measures are not only dependent on a society’s culture, but that drug abuse and trafficking will always be in conflict with the respect of the rights and freedom of others and in meeting the requirements of health, public order and the general well-being of a democratic society.

The exceptional prospect to build a drug-free world by the International Narcotics Control Board fades in the face of mounting concerns in Haiti. The transshipment of cocaine, cannabis and medical and scientific drugs continue to pose a noteworthy menace because, in a country where more than three-quarters of the population live in wretched poverty, compressed with the inability of the state to uphold the rule of law, the temptation to earn easy money from the drug trade is always going to be a threat to stability.

Moreover, natural disasters always pose new challenges to drug prevention efforts in the Caribbean. The magnitude of the destruction that occurred on January 12, 2010, favours Haiti for illicit financial transactions and pervasive corruption, as it is the practice of criminals to exploit regions weakened by war or torn by conflict and natural disasters. It is this dislodgment effect that now leads to the rise in demand for both licit and illicit drugs in Haiti and an increase in drug-related crime.

This is also where the question of a supply of powerful medicines used in medical care comes into effect and positions a serious public problem, because drugs for medical and scientific purposes are now available without a prescription in Haiti. The scale of this abuse and trafficking is staggering and it is now a very destructive problem because dangerous drugs used for medical and scientific purposes are counterfeited in the hands of amateurs and find their way on the internet, proving that licit drugs used for illicit purposes can be manufactured anywhere.

It must be remembered that we live in a society where pharmacological explanations are sought and endorsed for problems ranging from overweight to excessive gambling, enhanced sexual and athletic performance and behavioral and emotional challenges. Drugs are a quick fix to complex physical, emotional, and even social problems and the new challenges that are emerging in Haiti has dangerous consequences for the world at large, as a problem in one part of the system has a disturbing and far reaching effect on the other because there are no codes of conduct and ethical guidelines on the correct handling of these deadly drugs.

It follows that if the goal of the United Nations International Drug Control Program is to eliminate the illegal drug trade worldwide, then its approach to the drug problem in Haiti yields disappointing results because development needs security to succeed. Responses to criminal justice and security reform, the strengthening of state mechanisms in dealing with criminal networks, must be taken into account as these are the factors that aid in eliminating the destructive mission of drug abuse and trafficking.

If the International Narcotics Board is concerned with the health and safety of humankind then special attention must be paid to the many actors of civil society and providers of humanitarian assistance in addressing the drug problem in Haiti, because it is not only cannabis and cocaine, but fentanyl, morphine and oxycodone compounded with pervasive corruption, poverty and high unemployment that now registers Haiti as the Caribbean’s hot spot for drug abuse and trafficking.

It is imperative that the International Narcotics Board implement measures of a broader social policy approach to reduce the demand for both licit and illicit drugs in Haiti. Such measures should be wide-ranging, multifaceted, synchronized and cohesive with the social, political and economic well-being of the Haitian people.

March 14, 2011