Google Ads

Monday, April 29, 2013

...poverty and the number of homeless continue to increase in the United States of America (USA)

Thousands of homeless living in tunnels

In the principal cities of the United States, one of the most prosperous countries in the world, thousands of people live beneath the streets, in underground tunnels.

Underneath Kansas City, police discovered last week a group of homeless persons living in tents, in deep underground tunnels. They were removed because of the "insecure environment."
Authorities reported that these individuals lived in misery surrounded by piles of garbage.

It is not clear exactly who these homeless people are or how they dug the tunnels. This is not the only report of this type. In 2010 a story emerged about some 1,000 people who lived in 320 kilometers of tunnels located under the streets of Las Vegas. Improvised furnishings filled the rooms, some had beds, closets and small libraries of books discarded by others.

Journalist Matthew O’Brien reports that these are normal people from all age groups who have lost their way, generally after some traumatic event. He came across the ‘tunnel people’ while investigating a murder, founded an organization to help then and wrote a book about their existence, Beneath the Neon.

He writes that many are war veterans suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome and additionally noted evidence – toys and stuffed animals – that children lived in the tunnels.

Authorities in New York City are constantly evicting persons living in the many tunnels under that city, known as ‘mole people.’ Their attempts to locate all such individuals have, however, failed.

In addition to the thousands of homeless who live in tunnels, there are many living in tents. This is the case of some 80 indigent persons in the New Jersey city of Lakewood, who erected a tent city complete with chickens, a church and piano.

Early in April, residents of the camp reached an agreement with authorities on details of a plan to clear the area, "after the residents have found homes."

Despite all U.S. government declarations that the recession is over and the economy improving, these families are a clear demonstration of the reality that poverty and the number of homeless continue to increase. (Russia Today)

Havana. April 25, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

...The Bahamas offers no protection against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons

Report Highlights Gay Man's Murder

A NEW human rights report prepared by the US State Department sites the unsolved 2011 murder of a gay man while pointing out that the Bahamas offers no protection against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons.
According to the report, members of the Bahamian LGBT community believe that the June 2011 murder of photographer Sharvado Simmons occurred at the hands of a group of men seeking retribution for a previous incident where Simmons solicited and deceived one of the men while dressed “in drag.”
The report further stated that societal discrimination against gay men and lesbians occurred, with some persons reporting job and housing discrimination based upon sexual orientation.
Although same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal, no domestic legislation addresses the human rights concerns of lesbian, LGBT persons and the 2006 Constitutional Review Commission found that sexual orientation did not deserve protection against discrimination.
The report did admit however, that LGBT NGOs operated openly in the country.
April 25, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Is Dr. Hubert Minnis simply the Interim Leader of the Official Opposition - Free National Movement (FNM) party in The Bahamas?

Interim leader?

Minnis struggles to establish formidable opposition

Guardian News Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas

Nearly a year after voters delivered a wholesale rejection of the Free National Movement (FNM), the opposition party finds itself in a familiar place — lacking strong, convincing leadership and struggling to stay effective and relevant even with a government that has so far failed to deliver on key near-term promises made on a grueling campaign trail.

The 2012 general election was bitterly fought with high stakes for both the FNM and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

Although it made a commendable showing, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) was never really a major force to contend with.

In some circles, Branville McCartney’s name still comes up when discussions take place about a possible leader for the FNM closer to the next election.

But McCartney, the charismatic head of the DNA, has not in my view proven himself an impressive enough leader, though many applaud him for being brave enough to stand up to Hubert Ingraham and resign from his Cabinet, and tenacious enough to go head to head with Ingraham and Perry Christie at the polls.

The PLP and FNM both headed into the 2012 general election with the same problem: What to do about leadership in the event of a loss.

Neither party had a clearly defined succession plan.

With a win at the polls, the PLP was able to kick the can down the road, but for the FNM, the leadership question became an immediate issue and the party needed a quick solution.

The resignation of Hubert Ingraham from the FNM on the night of the election defeat left many supporters reeling, and some have yet to get over his departure from frontline politics.

The wipeout of most of the former Cabinet put the party in a difficult position as it turned its focus toward identifying new leadership.

The Free National Movement was left fractured and bloodied by the May 7, 2012 defeat, and in shambles by Ingraham’s exit from the political stage, and it had very little options.

For nearly a year now, Dr. Hubert Minnis, the popular Killarney MP, has been doing his best to keep the FNM afloat, but he lacks what is needed to re-energize the party.

It does not help that he still has to work against a very strong pro-Ingraham group within the FNM.

It is likely that Minnis was caught totally off-guard by the task placed before him in May 2012.

He has shown great focus in attempting to put the pieces back together, but he comes on the tail of a formidable force, a towering personality, and it might not be possible for him to provide supporters with the kind of comfort, assurance or strong leadership of an Ingraham.

While Minnis must be respected for his leadership style, and it will take time for the party to adjust, it does not now appear likely that the FNM will go into the next general election with Minnis as leader.

For now, he is playing an important role of attempting to keep all the marbles in the circle until the party is able to identify someone who is able to display the kind of leadership and charisma needed to do battle with the PLP once again.

During the last term, FNMs and PLPs alike acknowledged that Minnis was a strong, hard working and likeable MP.  Today, he remains that.

He uses social media and other technologies to communicate with constituents and is deeply engaged in his constituency.

Minnis lucked out though from having a safe seat, and some observers acknowledged that it would have been very difficult for any FNM to lose Killarney, no matter how unpopular Ingraham and the FNM had become in the lead up to the last general election.

While a good MP, Minnis is not a career politician and was not known during the last term as a standout minister.

His communications in Parliament then, and his contributions to debates now are not engaging or particularly informative.

He does not command attention, and even with all the obvious slip ups of the Christie administration, he struggles to use them to his advantage.

There is evidence that he does try, though.

Last week, the FNM leader called for the government and the police to close down web shop gaming after the chief justice lifted an order that had provided the web shops with temporary legal protection.

But it was hard for Minnis to come off as convincing given his early position that he supported the legalization of web shop gaming in The Bahamas.

One issue Minnis has not gotten credit for though is that he asked pertinent questions about the National Insurance Board on the floor of the House of Assembly long before the matter was on the radar of the media or anyone else publicly.


Minnis has had a tough first year as leader of the FNM.

He was forced to prop up an obviously bad candidate (Greg Gomez) in the October 2012 North Abaco by-election.

And he angered some supporters when he declared, “The Ingraham era is over.”

North Abaco was the third consecutive election lost by the FNM and some party supporters still struggle from the hurt and disappointments of those defeats.

While some seem to have gotten a recent boost from growing anti-PLP sentiment in social media, over the airwaves and elsewhere, the road to 2017 will be long.

While it has already been publicly revealed that FNM Chairman Darron Cash had been at odds with Minnis, the two in recent months have been careful enough to display a united approach to opposition politics.

They at least seem to have patched things up.

This is a positive sign.

Opposition parties, of course, turn themselves around all the time.  That is how they win elections.

Following the 2007 defeat, the PLP was a weakened bunch with a leader who had been severely wounded by the defeat.

Christie was identified as the key reason the party lost at the polls, and was advised by experts to effect key reforms if the party was to have any real chance at a 2012 win.

In opposition, the PLP never stopped pounding and it never stopped campaigning.

It benefited from a strong group of former ministers who took their blows from the governing party and never took their eyes off of 2012 and the chance it represented.

Only three members of Ingraham’s last Cabinet held on to seats in Parliament: Minnis; Neko Grant (Central Grand Bahama) and FNM Deputy Loretta Butler-Turner (Long Island), whose best approach to opposition politics appears to be boisterous and disruptive behavior in Parliament.

The other FNM members are Edison Key (the MP for Central and South Abaco who also sat in the previous Parliament), and newcomers Richard Lightbourn (Montagu); Peter Turnquest (East Grand Bahama); Hubert Chipman (St. Anne’s) and Theo Neilly (North Eleuthera).

The FNM of today is reminiscent of the FNM that existed for most of the first term of the Christie administration.

Between 2002 and 2005, the party was led by Tommy Turnquest, who sat in the Senate after he lost the Mount Moriah seat.

The FNM under Turnquest was lackluster and fractured, though Turnquest, like Minnis took the leadership job seriously.

In 2005, Turnquest appointed an advisory council of the party headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson to advise on what the party needed to do to win the 2007 election.

The council advised Turnquest that there are many FNMs who want him out and Ingraham back in as leader.

Even today, some FNMs think Ingraham could still successfully return to frontline politics.

For them, there is that nostalgic longing for ‘Papa’.


Earlier this year, Ingraham used a familiar word when he told reporters that he was on “hiatus”.

But when asked the context in which he was speaking, he assured that it was not a suggestion that he planned one day to return to frontline politics.

It was a throwback to his word choice during a public event in 2004.

While addressing a group of administrative professions in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Ingraham referred to his departure from frontline politics as a “hiatus” and said it could stay that way as long as those who were in office advanced The Bahamas and its people.

Following Ingraham’s dramatic return as leader of the FNM in 2005, I recall asking an ever-confident Prime Minister Christie to react to the move.

Christie said Ingraham’s legacy was “on the line” and he vowed to politically cremate him in the next general election.

“I’m really sad that he came back,” Christie said.

“He has placed his legacy on the line and when you place your legacy on the line in a battle with the Progressive Liberal Party – Hubert Ingraham, Perry Christie, however one would wish to look at it – he will lose.”

It turned out that Christie’s prediction was wrong — as least as it related to 2007.

Christie had to wait five more years for the political cremation he foreshadowed.

Strange things do happen in politics.

Five years is a long time for the government to show the electorate what it can and cannot do and for the opposition to show its strength or lack thereof.

We would hope though that the FNM does not this time around feel it’s only real hope is to drag Ingraham out of retirement back into frontline politics.

Ingraham has taken the party far over the nearly 20 years he led it.  He has won three general elections and left in place a legacy of which to be proud.

Minnis is right that the Ingraham era is over.

For the FNM, the decision will eventually need to be made on how long the Minnis era could realistically last.

April 22, 2013


Sunday, April 21, 2013

UN criticizes U.S. detention camp on Guantánamo Naval Base

UNITED NATIONS.— The United Nations has criticized the U.S. government for maintaining its detention center in the illegally occupied Guantánamo Naval Base, despite assurances it would be closed.

In addition, it called on Washington to allow a UN Human Rights Commission delegation to visit the prison, with free and open access and the possibility of speaking in private with the prisoners.

These issues were raised in Geneva on April 5, by Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who condemned the indefinite incarceration of many of the prisoners, which she stated amounted to arbitrary detention.

The official highlighted the cases of prisoners detained indefinitely, some of them for more than 10 years. This practice contradicts the United States' stance as an upholder of human rights and weakens its position in terms of such violations taking place elsewhere, she added.

The Human Rights Commissioner referred to the prisoners on hunger strike as victims of uncertainty and anxiety caused by prolonged detention.

Similarly, she recalled promises made by U.S. President Barack Obama four years ago regarding the closure of this prison, commenting that systematic abuses of the human rights of individuals continue year after year. (PL)
April 11, 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Venezuela's dilemma

By Lawrence Powell

In a closer-than-expected Venezuelan presidential election held last Sunday to replace the late Hugo Chávez, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has refused to recognise the result, calling it "illegitimate" and fuelling violent protests.

Nicolas Maduro, Chávez's preferred successor, received 50.8 per cent of the votes to Capriles' 49 per cent. Voter turnout was high, at 79 per cent, just short of the 80 per cent reached in last October's Chávez-Capriles matchup.

As election results were announced in central Caracas, there were jubilant celebrations by Chavistas, with fireworks and honking car horns. But in the suburbs, Capriles supporters were in an angry protest mood, banging pots and pans loudly in the streets, and lighting fires.

Pointing to what he claimed were voting irregularities, Capriles promptly accused the ruling party of election fraud, and said he will not accept Maduro's victory until a full audit of the results is carried out by the National Electoral Council (CNE). "I don't make pacts with those who are corrupt or illegitimate," said Capriles, who is demanding a manual recount of every single vote cast.

As of Sunday night, Maduro initially said he would gladly accept a full recount. "If they want to do an audit, then do an audit. We have complete trust in our electoral body." Vicente Diaz, one of the members of the electoral council, also publicly expressed support for an audit.

But, by Monday, the narrative had changed, leaving the impression that the government was reneging on its promise. Tibisay Lucena, president of the CNE, announced to the media that all of the proper auditing checks had already been undertaken as part of Venezuela's elaborate standard process of verification, and that a manual recount was, therefore, unnecessary.

Venezuela uses electronic machines to tabulate votes, rather than handwritten ballots. When each vote is cast, the machine automatically issues a printed receipt that confirms, and serves as a record of, that vote. This is more reliable, and less susceptible to tampering, than, say, the machines used in the US, where absence of a printed receipt means one never knows whether the vote was, in fact, registered as you cast it.

As part of CNE's standard protocol, 14 audits had already been conducted before and during the voting process, to ensure correct functioning of the system. CNE had audited a sampling of 54 per cent of the vote, with observers from all parties present - which Lucena explained is "a statistical proportion that in any part of the world is considered excessive".

Citing the importance of maintaining rule of law, she then added that "candidate Capriles ... has refused to recognise the results announced by this body. That is his decision, but in Venezuela a state of law exists which must be respected."

Carlos Alvarez, head of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) observer mission which was present throughout Sunday's voting, also chimed in with assurances that UNASUR had observed "wide exercise of citizenship and freedom" during the election, and that, therefore, "results emitted by the National Electoral Council should be respected, as the competent authority on this matter".

Satisfied with the results of a thorough electronic voting system widely regarded as "the best in the world", Venezuela's five-member electoral commission then smugly announced that the results were "irreversible", and proceeded to declare Maduro the president-elect, with the formal swearing-in ceremony to be held April 19.

This, in turn, further outraged opposition supporters, leading to more protests. There have been at least seven confirmed deaths and 61 injuries so far throughout the country, in the aftermath of the elections.

For Jamaica, what's at stake in all of this post-election haggling is that Maduro is the candidate most devoted to continuing Chávez's generous PetroCaribe arrangements, which provide discounted oil through concessionary loans. To date, Jamaica has benefited to the tune of US$2.4 billion from those arrangements. Even though, as PetroCaribe Development Fund head Dr Wesley Hughes recently indicated, Venezuela may at some point have to review its terms, a favourable arrangement for Jamaica is clearly more likely to survive under a Maduro administration.

Maduro has also agreed to honour Chávez-inspired regional alliances like ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), and to continue pursuing the close relationship and economic exchanges with Cuba. Capriles, in contrast, lacks the Bolivarian ideological commitments that led to all of those regional arrangements in the first place, so would likely consider discontinuing or replacing them.

With such a narrow mandate, and a split nation, Maduro will have a tough time governing during the next six years. The razor-thin margin leaves his political legitimacy less firmly anchored than Chávez's was. That perceived weakness, in turn, provides encouragement for further destabilisation attempts by opponents in concert with the US - something that was constant during the Chávez years and included an unsuccessful 2002 attempted coup.

And there are mounting problems to be solved in Venezuela that have accumulated during the Chávez years - including escalating crime and murder rates, corruption, periodic shortages of food staples, and nearly 30 per cent annual inflation.

In particular, the country's heavy economic dependence on oil - with 95 per cent of export earnings deriving from oil and roughly 45 per cent of government revenues - means that if oil prices should dip on the international market with countries like the US producing more of their own, there will be less in Venezuela's national coffers with which to continue the expensive 'social missions' that ensure votes.

Will a less charismatic, less commanding former bus driver like Maduro be able to overcome all of those challenges, and unify the country's resolve to continue its progressive Bolivarian reforms? As memories of Chávez fade, Maduro will have to develop his own persona, beyond the overworked campaign slogan that he's 'the son of Chávez'.

Lawrence Powell is honorary research fellow at the Centre of Methods and Policy Application in the Social Sciences at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and a former senior lecturer at UWI, Mona. Email feedback to and
April 20, 2013

Jamaica Gleaner

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Children with autism ... ...A parent's experiences in dealing with an autism spectrum diagnosis for two of their three children

What I have learned about autism

By John Dinkelman

“Your child has autism.” Words that no parent could ever fully be prepared to hear.  Yet for millions of parents each year, they are the unwelcome introduction into a dramatically different world of permanently altered hopes and expectations.

I am one of those parents.

As I take the opportunity during Autism Awareness Month to look back at my experiences in dealing with an autism spectrum diagnosis for two of my three children, I recall that one of the most difficult parts of my experience has been all of the confusing, and often conflicting, information available about the causes of autism.  Additionally, the legion of well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people with possible treatments and promised cures – each invariably very expensive and unproven, did little to lessen the pain, or the burden that a diagnosis of autism places on a family.

What we do know is that autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms.  Autism spectrum disorders appear in infancy and early childhood, causing delays in many basic areas of development such as speech, play, and interaction with others.  The signs and symptoms of autism vary widely, as do the effects.  Some autistic children have only mild impairments, while others have greater obstacles to overcome.

While there are no definitive figures on the number of people affected by autism here in The Bahamas; we do know that the government of the United States monitors such things and that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify approximately one in 88 American children as being on the autism spectrum.  This is a 10-fold increase in prevalence in the past 40 years.  Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls, with an estimated one out of 54 boys and one in 252 girls diagnosed with the condition in the United States.

To be sure, I am by no means an expert on autism.  But as the father of two children with autism and the husband of a wife who has devoted the last 12 years to learning as much as she can about the disorder, I feel it is my duty to share what I have learned, parent-to-parent, in the hope that others will benefit from my experience.  With this in mind, I offer the following suggestions.

Become an expert on your own child

My wife and I learned through our experience that signs of autism can develop as early as the first year of a child’s life.  As a parent, you alone see and interact with your child each and every day.  So you are in the best position to spot the earliest warning signs of any developmental delay or regression.  All children develop at their own special pace and it is very important for parents to learn what the common milestones are for a child, with the understanding that there can often be a wide range in the timeline for healthy development.  If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if you suspect a problem, share your concerns with your doctor or ask for a referral to a child development specialist.  When it comes to any issue related to the development of your child, I recommend listening to your “gut feeling” and do not be afraid to be persistent.

Don’t wait

I have learned that the best thing that a family can do is to seek early treatment with the goal of reducing the disorder’s effects and helping children learn, grow and thrive.  Every parent should seek out reliable sources of information about the treatment options, such as the United States National Institute of Mental Health.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Above all, if your child has been diagnosed with autism or a developmental delay, do not risk losing valuable time when your child has the best chance for improvement.  Find a way to get the extra help that your child needs through targeted treatment.

Get support

Oftentimes parents of newly diagnosed children feel as if they are the only ones experiencing the heartbreak of a diagnosis.  Joining an autism support group is a great way to meet other families dealing with the same challenges you are.  Parents can share information, get advice and lean on each other for emotional support.

That is why my wife and I were so pleased to meet other families like ours through the local autism support and advocacy group, R.E.A.C.H. (Resources & Education for Autism and Related Challenges).  Over the last year alone, R.E.A.C.H. has sponsored a series of workshops specifically for families affected by autism, has opened a chapter for families on Grand Bahama, and, through a partnership with Rotary and the Ministry of Education, opened the region’s first preschool classroom equipped to meet the needs of autistic children at Willard Patton Preschool.  The successes through R.E.A.C.H. show the power that we have as families when we work together on behalf of our children.

Enjoy your child’s unique qualities

It was only after my children were diagnosed with autism that I truly began to learn about their unique God-given talents and abilities.  It was also only then that I became sensitive to the entire community of the disabled and began to work to build a more compassionate and understanding community for them.  My wife and I have learned not to focus on how our children are different from other children but, rather, to focus on how important it is to practice love, patience and acceptance.  We make an effort everyday to embrace all our children’s unique talents, to celebrate successes (both big and small), and above all to make sure that they feel unconditionally loved and accepted.  In the end, we are better people because we are the parents of children with autism.

I encourage all parents throughout The Bahamas to take the time to realistically assess their children’s development and, if something seems amiss, to act immediately and decisively to obtain all the assistance their child needs.  In the end, it will make all the difference in the world.

• John Dinkelman is the chargé d’affaires at the United States Embassy in The Bahamas.

April 17, 2013


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Martin Luther King, from Dallas to Memphis

By Gabriel Molina Franchossi

THE assassination of Afro-American leader Martin Luther King, April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee 45 years ago, is considered by many researchers as part of a sinister plot which included the assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. and Robert Kennedy. (1)

Martin Luther King
In the stormy decade of the 1960’s, the radicalization of those in favor of civil rights, peace and other popular causes had the United States in flames. Two months after MLK’s death, Senator Robert Kennedy was shot. The world had been shocked previously by the November 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy and that of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965.

King and Malcolm had challenged the racial segregation which replaced slavery in the United States, abolished by Lincoln during the Civil War. The country’s founding fathers had protected the enslavement of Blacks with a strict legal system of racial separation.

Blacks were crowded into impoverished ghettos and denied access to public facilities reserved for whites, such as transportation, bathrooms, commercial establishments and schools. They were destined to work in the most difficult, low-paying jobs. Afro-Americans’ very limited right to vote guaranteed the stability of the system.

An example of the racism faced by Blacks in southern states occurred on October 19, 1960, when Reverend King was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, for refusing to leave a department store where he was denied service. A few months earlier in Dekalb County, he had been convicted of a minor traffic offense and given a suspended sentence. The local judge ruled that his arrest in Atlanta provided just cause to revoke this suspension and sentence King to four months of hard labor.

Martin Luther King
The sentence aroused fear for the Reverend’s life, given what such a punishment meant for Blacks in Atlanta. King was brusquely awakened in his county jail cell, at 4:30 am. With his hands cuffed and legs restrained, he was transported over dark rural roads to a penitentiary deep within Georgia’s countryside. (2)

Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver received a request to revoke the sentence from John F. Kennedy, a Presidential candidate at the time. His response was that such a move would be politically disastrous in the South, just a month before the elections, asserting that it would mean the loss of at least three states. Robert Kennedy called the judge, who at first criticized the intervention, but the next day, after considering the younger Kennedy’s indignant reaction to the sentence, freed Dr. King.

Committed Black leaders took the lead in the movement against segregation, which employed a variety of resistance tactics, such as sit-ins in public White Only facilities and buses, as well as boycotts of stores and theaters. With new laws supported by the Kennedy’s in place, the struggle intensified. The federal government sent in the National Guard and Federal Marshals to protect King, James Meredith and other leaders when the civil rights movement’s peaceful activists were threatened and beaten by police in states where change was violently opposed.

King and Malcolm X, in particular, became targets, not only of racists but of the national military-industrial complex when the Black and trade union struggle began to radicalize and organize against the war in Vietnam, as was made evident by the 250,000 strong march in Washington where King gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech.

This process also had an effect on the Kennedy brothers, whose support for civil rights legislation distanced them from the powerful elite established within the CIA and FBI. J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, told Atlanta Police Chief Herbert Jenkins that two of the three enemies he most hated were Kennedy and King (3). Robert Kennedy considered Hoover a threat to democracy in the country.

Allen Dulles, head of the Central Intelligence Agency, was so intent on organizing interventions in Cuba and throughout the Third World that Kennedy decided to replace him.

The close surveillance of the four leaders – King, Malcolm X and the two Kennedy brothers – expanded to include persecution and threats which make Dulles and Hoover prime suspects in the four assassinations. They had a motive, the opportunity and the means.


(1) James W. Douglass. JFK and the Unspeakable. Simon and Shuster, p. XVII

(2) Arthur Schlesinger. Robert Kennedy and his Times. Random House 1978, p. 233

(3) Ibid, p.280

April 10, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bahamas Government Immigration Policy

A Guest Editorial On Government's Immigration Policy

Nassau, The Bahamas

IN OUR e–mail yesterday, we received “some thoughts for an editorial” from an influential foreign resident, who has spent many years in the Bahamas and has always been most concerned for this small nation’s welfare.
Instead of “highjacking” his ideas — as Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell yesterday accused us of doing in the work permit debate — we are going to let this gentleman express his own ideas in this column. After reading this article, Mr Mitchell should realise that we are not the only ones who believe that if the immigration policy — as enunciated by Mr Mitchell— is not softened, then this country is in for a rough ride.
We now turn you over to our guest writer:
AS the debate about the government’s new immigration policy intensifies, it is worth stepping back from the detail and looking at the bigger picture insofar as this contentious issue – if not fully debated and the government held to account – may have a serious effect on the long-term development of The Bahamas.
It is already widely accepted in this small country that foreign interests should not be allowed to dominate the local jobs market without adequate protection of the rights of the indigenous work force. Bahamians with the required qualifications and abilities should be afforded opportunities to secure employment in their own country in preference to equally well qualified foreigners; and it is right that government should put in place sensible immigration policies to help to secure this objective.
It is a truism, however, that politicians worth their salt should be aware that their approach to any particular issue at the national level, important though that issue may be, must be balanced against other no less important demands, so that judgments are made which are in the best interests of the country as a whole.
In this column on April 8, you quoted the FNM shadow immigration minister’s remarks that the government should not adopt immigration policies that might disrupt the way of life of ordinary Bahamians or interfere with the country’s conduct of business. But the government appears hell-bent on doing just that.
If it persists in pursuing its new restrictive policy, this will inevitably have a negative effect not only on commerce, industry and economic development but also on countless individual employers. Unreasonable restrictions on the right of a company to determine the nature of its own workforce will scare away foreign investors and affect the profitability of local businesses. This will lead, in time, to fewer job opportunities and more unemployment – a classic case of the law of unintended consequences.
This is not just carping by the opposition FNM. It is the view of a wide range of people in this country and it is baffling that leading politicians seem unable to grasp the bigger picture. Can they not see that, while it is their responsibility to protect the rights of Bahamians, this should be done in a careful and proportionate manner and measured against, for example, the continuing need to attract foreign investment?
They should face up to two important truths which the population as a whole understands only too well – first, the average Bahamian will not do so-called “dirty jobs” but aspires to something better with the result that foreigners have to be brought in at that level; and, secondly, until the education system is fixed so that young people come out of school with the requisite knowledge and skills to enable them to handle a job at a higher level, employers have to look elsewhere if their business is going to flourish.
We cannot escape the conclusion that the new immigration policy has not been thought through properly. It seems that the government is harking back to the Pindling years when the PLP sought the professional and economic empowerment of black Bahamians. This was overtly racist, though in many ways it was the right policy for the times and it succeeded. One has only to look at the range of senior positions that such Bahamians now hold in the financial, insurance and business sectors. But these represented the untapped cream of well-educated people who were equipped to aspire to such positions. Applying the same policies in relation to more menial labour is unrealistic.
By and large, intelligent and well-meaning Bahamians across the political and social spectrum want their leaders to show the maturity and self-confidence to accept that, in order to succeed in a globalised world, this nation must move away from parochialism and protectionism. Impending membership of the WTO will create new mandatory obligations and is a step in the right direction, but the country needs to open up more generally.
At this point in its development, The Bahamas has to diversify and expand its economy in order to prosper. Our political class should work out a sensible and effective means of utilising foreign know-how and labour – when there is a need to do so and it is to our advantage – while at the same time protecting the aspirations of the country’s own people.
There must surely be a better way of working towards this than making crude remarks about turning down work permits “cold turkey”.
April 12, 2013

Continuity and Change in the post-EPA Caribbean

What is required to ensure regional survival in a new world

Jamaica Observer

THE ensuing debate and what some might call tabanca, related to the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), are very worrying.

It would seem that observers and analysts have adopted the position that the European Union (EU) and its agents are evil, and should be called out for their malicious and iniquitous transgressions against puny counterparts in the Caribbean, who have little chance of engaging the former colonial masters on equal terms. Ironically, in the same breath, many have praised the recent fortune of Antigua and Barbuda in securing an unprecedented victory against Goliath-- the all-powerful United States. The discussion on being assertive and enhancing internal capacity seem to missing from many recent commentaries. Instead, it would seem the age-old dependency and% vulnerability rhetoric have taken centre stage, diminishing and obscuring important resolve to stimulate the necessary dynamism to ensure some modicum of competitive adaptation to the situation that has now befallen the Caribbean.

Within the context of globalised trade reciprocity, it is foolhardy to persist in a mode of requesting concessionary measures from either the EU or other trading partners. Unfortunately, any beggar-thy-neighbour principle cannot be enforced or resurrected within the present global political economy in which Caribbean small island states do not possess internal dynamic or geo-economic clout.
In this ongoing saga of finger-pointing we need to ask ourselves what has truly brought the region to this point and how we should actually be responding.
Prior to 2008, the English-speaking nations within Caricom had enjoyed exceptional preferential treatment for more than 30 years, first from Britain, as ex- colonial polities, and latterly the European Union through market access and guaranteed price levels for their goods. Belal Ahmed, in a 2001 report, highlighted that Caribbean sugar and banana industries — the mainstay of many of the Windward islands — suffered from a number of challenges, inter alia, a lack of technologically intensive production methods and resultantly improved productivity, labour issues, limited crop diversification, little research and development support and downstream activity. Though globalised markets and liberalisation affected regional producers, it could be argued the solutions to many of these issues could have been controlled by and were within the reach of the territories themselves.
Despite being challenged by WTO rulings and possessing concessionary market access, the evidence shows the required quotas for bananas or sugar to Europe had, on several occasions, not been sufficiently met. Perhaps the attendant capacity was not put in place, which resulted in significant revenue losses. Cotonou (1975-2000) and Lomé (2000-2008) come to their inevitable end. However, why did we not put the necessary mechanisms in place while regional producers benefited from concessions? It may be argued, as Sonjaya Lall and others have suggested, that trade preferences tend to retard dynamic capability and result in uncompetitive, sheltered industries. Perhaps, in the case of the EPA negotiations, the strategies may have faltered, negotiators outwitted or the bluster of civil society actors ignored. Alternatively, perhaps, the negotiators were overconfident that the regional private sector policymakers would get their act together in time to ensure competition on an even keel. But what are the reasons for our failure in achieving economic targets over the years and effectively implementing our industrial policy regimes to diversify exports? Though the main sectors have shifted to services, very little has been done to reduce dependence on a single industry, seek niche areas with high potential returns, or to proactively adapt to global developments by moving into higher value-added manufacturing linked to improved technology based on cumulative learning.
We need to examine other perspectives and seize opportunities with respect to indigenous technological capability and learning. To date, the anti- EPA camp has marginally considered areas of innovation, learning and cumulative capacity building in their arguments. Scholars like Carlota Perez argue that the windows of opportunity for development are constantly shifting along with the techno-economic paradigm or technological revolutions. In what ways have Caribbean private sector companies taken advantage of the Internet age in innovating and differentiating their products? The issue of market access would certainly be relevant once there are goods and services of a high calibre to trade, and are constituted with technological inputs that would attract the demand to render them competitive in the EU market and elsewhere.
In this regard, greater access to technological and supply networks could be negotiated through well-placed members of our diaspora. Could it be that complacency become entrenched as a result of meagre economic growth spurts over the years? Moreover, the failure of our regional academic institutions to inculcate broad-based and integrative thinking in their charges, and consequently inspire context-specific and region-wide action cannot be overlooked. In addition, the efforts at building relevant research and action-driven capacity to leverage and take advantage of the information revolution in meaningful ways, based on failed policies, can certainly have some sway.
Sadly, many learned observers, despite their experience and knowledge, remain blinkered by outdated perspectives. As a young researcher, I am bemused and remain uninspired by the course of the debate to date. The Washington-based institutions may have kicked away the ladder, but the East Asian tigers (South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and to a lesser extent Malaysia and Hong Kong) doggedly continued their campaign to develop market-ready microelectronics, software, ICTs, manufacturing, and other service-oriented sectors. Despite their initial teethong problems, they learnt over time and ensured that the lessons learnt were part of their subsequent economic strategy. Are we afraid that this new episode in our economic history will expose the inadequacies of our analyses and development prescriptions? That, in fact, our present situation may be a consequence of the frailties driven by academic and policy insularism, perpetrated at our highest regional institutions?
This EPA exposé related to ill-prepared Caribbean states and private sector stakeholders has constrained regional actors from taking on the world and adapting to the demands of globalisation, even though leading analysts have acknowledged the Caribbean region as part of the global economy for the last 500 years. Why then have we not got our act together or learnt lessons during the post-independence era? It is rather simple to blame the politicians, the political system, the structural deficiencies of the global economy which disadvantage small states, the EU, the negotiators, the negotiating machinery, the regional institutions, and all and sundry, than to take a serious introspective look at the discrepancies and short-sightedness of our analyses and policy prescriptions, and even our own efforts to take action in our own time and sphere of influence. Which academic or writer will ever admit fault or retrospectively state that their analyses were inadequate for fear of being relegated to irrelevance, especially in a small-island context? But, as Plato suggests: "The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant." The shameless blame game and the weeping and gnashing of teeth surrounding the EPA must come to an end. Those who do not wish to get their hands dirty need no longer speak from their soap boxes. We need to break ourselves out of the mould of victimhood and re-assert our God-given character of resilience and capacity for "creative" agency. Our actions must be well considered and evidence-based, and the net must be cast wide enough to capture ideas and knowledge that will do justice to the cause. It is high time we cut our losses from this saga and take that brave step forward to engage the world.

Keston K Perry is a student at Newcastle University Business School (NUBS) in the UK pursuing an MSc in Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. His research involves the potential catalytic role of Caribbean diasporic entrepreneurs in terms of transnational learning, entrepreneurial activities and technological resourcing capabilities and their implications on innovation and public policy in Trinidad and Tobago.


Jamaica Observer

April 10, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Conchservation in The Bahamas... ...the Sustainability and Preservation of the Bahamian Conch Population

'Conchservation' Campaign Set For Full Launch



Tribune Business Reporter

A “CONCHSERVATION campaign” is set to be fully launched nearing the end of this month according to Bahamas National Trust (BNT) executive director Eric Carey, who said that there would a national dialogue on the sustainability and preservation of the Bahamian conch population.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the upcoming inaugural Abaco Business Outlook, Mr Carey said: “The conchservation campaign is up and running. We are going to have a full launch of that programme on April 27 working with Ms Elaine Pinder, Frankie Gone Bananas, the Bamboo Shack franchise, Kalik etc. The objective is sustainability whether your talking businesses and economy, conch or grouper, the objective is to ensure that Bahamians can always enjoy these things. We are fortunately not in a position we ever have to sound crazy alarms about conch. We believe that we can continue to eat conch as a important food, culinary icon and part of tourism culinary picture. We still have enough conch to continue to enjoy which is why we want to act very quickly to ensure that we don’t reach a point where we have to go to extremes that Bahamians find untenable.”

The Bahamas currently exports some $3.3 million, or 600,000 pounds, worth of conch per annum. A 2011 report by Community Conch, an organisation involved in the sustainability discussions, revealed that juvenile populations in important Berry Islands nursery grounds had “declined 1,000 times to a few hundred individuals in 2009” when compared to 1980s numbers. As for Andros, of the eight historic fishing grounds surveyed, only one in 2010 had a large enough adult conch population to permit reproduction. And, in Exuma, Community Conch found that the adult conch population on Lee Stocking Island had fallen by 91 per cent between 1994 and 2011, with the bank population in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park off by 69 per cent over the same period.

Mr Carey said that no conclusion had been drawn on whether to ban conch exports. “We have drown no conclusion on anything. An important aspect of it is going to be a national dialogue. When we met with the Prime Minister and we spoke about conch we assured him that we would take the discussion and conchservation national to make sure that there is broad scale understanding of the issue and any measures we have to suggest to the government will have the support and buy in from fishermen,” said Mr Carey.

April 08, 2013

Tribune 242


Monday, April 8, 2013

Jamaica: Money madness - sliding dollar ... J$100 to US$1

Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer

With the exchange rate expected to reach the dreaded J$100 to US$1 mark this week, consumers who have over the past few years done their fair share of belt tightening will be forced to buckle up even further and continue to hold strain.

Those consumers' dilemma results from the continued dwindling effect the sliding dollar is having on their ability to purchase goods and services.

Already the mumbling at cashier counters in supermarkets in the Corporate Area have become more pronounced.

Upset and outraged over the amount of money they have had to fork out for basic necessities, even religious zealots who scope out supermarkets to spread the 'good news' have been changing the tone of their message in keeping with the times.

"Jesus warned of condition like this. That was the reason why He said we should pray for our daily bread. It was only under the rule of (King) Solomon that everybody was satisfied," one Jehovah's Witness shared with a consumer outside one supermarket The Gleaner visited in the Corporate Area recently.

Verbal attacks directed at politicians for their management of the economy over successive decades were common on the lips of several persons who emerged from the supermarket in the early afternoon.

With plastic bags in hand, one shopper, who asked not to be named, was obviously not in a good mood after realising that she spent more than she bargained for.

"Three thousand-odd dollars and mi nuh get half a weh mi want yet," the Seaview Gardens resident lamented. "Mi did waan three sardines and a only one mi could afford. You nuh see seh the country mash up?"

The elderly woman reflected on a time when she was able to take J$40 to any supermarket and take home "one box a grocery with chicken and everything".

Those days, she recalled, were in the 1980s and during that period trading of the Jamaican currency did not escalate beyond the J$6.50 to US$1 mark, according to information gleaned from the Bank of Jamaica website which documents the history of the exchange rate.

"That time mi used to do domestic work in Havendale (St Andrew) and every weekend mi would buy grocery fi carry go give mi children dem down di country (Clarendon)," she said.

She recounted how in 1988 she bought a "five-draw, good-size dresser" for J$1,000. The record shows that year the dollar trade highest at J$5.54 to US$1.

Additionally, in 1991, with just J$1,500, the Seaview Gardens resident purchased a brand new divan bed which she possesses to this day. That year trading of the currency started showing signs that there was trouble on the horizon, with the dollar ending the year at J$21.57 to US$1.

Twenty-two years later, she would have to take no less than $18,100 to a furniture store to purchase a similar bed.

"You caan go nowhere with that kind of money now. The amount of things this J$3,500 weh mi just spend could give mi. Mi would have to call taxi and truck fi remove them," she said.

"See it deh, all now no meat kind, no flour, no sugar not in mi bag."

Rose Plummer, who lives alone, said shopping for items once every week has worked out better for her.

According to Plummer, all Jamaicans will have to learn to "cuff and curve" in this time whether they like it or not.

"I can remember paying J$100 for bread, now it's J$250," she said.

"What is going on in the country is sin why all these things happening. We, as a nation, have to go back to God. Portia Simpson cannot solve this problem; this bigger than her. Andrew Holness cannot solve our problem. The dollar flowing like it's at Caymanas Park or stadium and is only Jesus can help us. We have to turn back to Jesus," Plummer charged.

For J$1,597, with discount included, 45-year-old Samuel Wilson was able to stock up on a few snacks which he expected to be enough for his daughter who attends basic school.

"Before the end of the week, I have to come back. Ten years ago, mi could a carry home more than a trolley of grocery with di said amount of money but right now things gone way out of proportion," he said.

"Right now, when mi a buy snack for my daughter, it's no less than J$2,000. It's because mi have a discount card why I get it for this price. It's just by the mercies of God mi survive but it could be worse. God is taking care of me and my family."

April 08, 2013

Jamaica Gleaner

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The duty to avoid a war in Korea

Reflections of Fidel
(Taken from (CubaDebate)

A few days ago I mentioned the great challenges humanity is currently facing. Intelligent life emerged on our planet approximately 200,000 years ago, although new discoveries demonstrate something else.

This is not to confuse intelligent life with the existence of life which, from its elemental forms in our solar system, emerged millions of years ago.

A virtually infinite number of life forms exist. In the sophisticated work of the world’s most eminent scientists the idea has already been conceived of reproducing the sounds which followed the Big Bang, the great explosion which took place more than 13.7 billion years ago.

This introduction would be too extensive if it was not to explain the gravity of an event as unbelievable and absurd as the situation created in the Korean Peninsula, within a geographic area containing close to five billion of the seven billion persons currently inhabiting the planet.

This is about one of the most serious dangers of nuclear war since the October Crisis around Cuba in 1962, 50 years ago.

In 1950, a war was unleashed there [the Korean Peninsula] which cost millions of lives. It came barely five years after two atomic bombs were exploded over the defenseless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which, in a matter of seconds, killed and irradiated hundreds of thousands of people.

General Douglas MacArthur wanted to utilize atomic weapons against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Not even Harry Truman allowed that.

It has been affirmed that the People’s Republic of China lost one million valiant soldiers in order to prevent the installation of an enemy army on that country’s border with its homeland. For its part, the Soviet army provided weapons, air support, technological and economic aid.

I had the honor of meeting Kim Il Sung, a historic figure, notably courageous and revolutionary.

If war breaks out there, the peoples of both parts of the Peninsula will be terribly sacrificed, without benefit to all or either of them. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba has always been and will continue to be with her.

Now that the country has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70% of the population of the planet.

If a conflict of that nature should break out there, the government of Barack Obama in his second mandate would be buried in a deluge of images which would present him as the most sinister character in the history of the United States. The duty of avoiding war is also his and that of the people of the United States.

Fidel Castro Ruz

April 4, 2013

11:12 p.m.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution: Legacy and Challenges

By Manuel Larrabure – The Bullet / Socialist Project

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has prompted the international left to acknowledge two key features about him and Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution. The first is Chávez's commitment to fighting for the poor and oppressed. Plenty of statistics demonstrate this. Literally millions have been lifted out of poverty and given new opportunities to improve their lives. Examples from daily life abound. I remember speaking to an upper class anti-Chavista once who was complaining about how, since Chávez came to power, it had become difficult to find maids. Many of the poor women she used to hire, she explained, had enrolled in a free education program provided by the government, one of the highly successful ‘missions.’ Another time, an empanada maker who lived with his son in the same 10-foot by six-foot stand he cooked out of told me how, since Chávez arrived, his community became emboldened to organize themselves into a cooperative with the mission of fighting the hotel and restaurant chains in the area, and create a community controlled tourist zone.

A second feature about the Bolivarian Revolution also cannot be elided: the political impasse in addressing corruption, bureaucracy, political clientalism and finding an alternate model of economic management. When workers organize to take over a factory (for example, Sidor in 2008), they have to fight not only the capitalist owners, but often also the local or provincial government (even at times Chavista ones). If they win the fight, workers then have to struggle with government supervision, which often seems more concerned with meeting technocratic goals, rather than developing a genuine participatory democracy in the workplace. And, as the latest round of currency devaluation shows, unless added measures are forthcoming, it is the poor who will bear the burden of reduced living standards (through inflation) for the problems of economic management without compensatory gains in increased workers’ power in workplaces (Lebowitz, 2013).

This top down tendency is also expressed in the area of foreign policy. When the ‘Arab Spring’ erupted, rather than supporting those struggling in the streets of Egypt and Syria, a one-dimensional anti-imperialism had Chávez aligning Venezuela with the oppressors, rather than siding with the poor and workers and against imperial interventions. There is also the alliances with the likes of Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that go beyond the necessities of finding support against Western imperialism and U.S. empire.

Socialism in the 21st Century

However, hidden within these two opposing developments is a third, potentially more vital one. As a result of the Bolivarian Revolution, we can now begin to think of what in recent decades had become unthinkable, namely a socialism in the 21st century. In the 20th century, socialist politics predominantly took two forms. The first was the path taken by social democratic parties that sought social transformation by populating the state with reform-minded officials and proceeding to attempt to manipulate the economy from above through a variety of technocratic measures. At best, this would eliminate the worst abuses of capitalist markets. ‘Cast your vote and leave it to us’ was the technocratic message to the working classes.

A second strategy was some version of Lenin's theory of dual power in which the exploited and oppressed were to build toward a counter power parallel to the capitalist state. At a decisive juncture, the old state would be ‘smashed’ and old rulers overthrown; the masses formed via a vanguard party would then replace the old state with a new one built in opposition to it, and buttressed by new organs of working-class power. A political elite in the vanguard party would then grab hold of the reins of this new state and lead the transition to a new society. Unfortunately, as the experiences of socialism across the 20th century tells us, both these paths failed. For they both insulated the masses from genuine democratic participation in the state. If the technocratic message was ‘leave it to us,’ the vanguard's message ended up being ‘do as we say.’

Venezuela's path, which has confused the majority of commentators, has been neither one of the above. It is both. Communities and workers have been organizing from below; and technocrats and bureaucrats have been passing laws from above. Each fights and cooperates with the other in an uneasy alliance. In a way, over the last decade Venezuela resembles the political theorist Nicos Poulantzas' (1978) alternative to the above two paths, what he called a “democratic road to socialism,” where struggle for a transition necessarily has to take place through, against and apart from the state. Similarly, more contemporary thinkers (such as Ciccariello-Maher, 2007) have conceptualized this path as having features of dual power through, rather, than against the state.
This is not, however, all that is happening in Venezuela. If it were, all Venezuela would demonstrate is how it is not possible to take two seemingly incompatible paths at the same time; and that the forces of bureaucracy, because of their institutionalized power, are likely to win out over time in a lengthy battle of attrition. But Venezuela is also showing that something new is being created.  Venezuela's co-managed ‘socialist enterprises,’ an initiative Chávez was central in developing, perhaps best illustrate this point.

Socialist Enterprises

In these relatively new enterprises, the class relation expresses itself most forcefully in the struggles between workers and state managers. Although at first it appears that this is the same old capital-worker relationship, but with a different name, upon closer inspection, something more complex is happening. Unlike workers in unions that tend to struggle for things like higher wages or labour rights, workers in these enterprises tend to struggle for things like equal wages, genuine democratic participation, and the elimination of a rigid social division of labour within the plant.[1] In other words, this is a more developed form of the class relation, a sharper form, one that Poulantzas was able to hint at, but was not quite able to fully articulate. Thus herein lies the importance of Venezuela. As workers struggle against managers in these state-owned enterprises, we begin to see a glimpse of what 21st-century socialism might look like. In other words, we get a glimpse of the future. In this future, it is new workplace relations centered on participatory democracy that stand on the side of progress, while it is the state that, paradoxically, becomes the guarantor of the class relation, and therefore the sight of the next rupture.

There is so much more to be learned from the Bolivarian Revolution. Here, I've only been able to barely scratch the surface. The communal councils, the struggle to build the new communes and communal cities, the experiences with participatory budgeting, the Bolivarian universities; all these and the many other innovations in Venezuela represent pieces of the revolutionary puzzle. A puzzle out of which a new future can be seen right here in the present. A puzzle that, as we are reminded of with his passing, Hugo Chávez played an important role in, opening up the political space and encouraging self-organization of the poor and workers. No revolution can be built by a single person or by decrees from above, no matter how well intentioned. Yet, at his best, Chávez, from the presidential palace, was like an activist in the streets: he told the truth, he risked his life and sung a song of hope. Hope for a better world. Indeed, for another world. Chávez, presente!

Challenges Ahead

It is widely expected that Nicolás Maduro, now interim President of Venezuela, will win the upcoming Presidential elections on April 14. If elected President, he has promised to take up the five priorities set out by Chávez in his final strategic proposal, Plan de la Patria 2013-2019: multipolarity; national independence; Bolivarian socialism; environmentalism; and economic development.

What is far from clear, however, is how the contradictions evident in these five priorities can be reconciled by the existing state. For example, the priority to preserve the planet and save the human species (environmentalism), stands in sharp opposition to the government's plan to further strengthen the extractive industries in the country, including natural gas, mining and the development of the Faja del Orinoco, which contains the world's largest known reserves of heavy and extra heavy crude oil, or tar sands. The document does mention the need to develop new technology with low environmental impact, but no further details are provided.

In addition, the goal of deepening participatory democracy as the central mechanism behind ‘Bolivarian Socialism’ clashes with the goal of achieving national independence and ‘multipolarity,’ that is, a world with multiple poles of power that is free of imperialism. Although a worthy enough pursuit in theory, in practice, multipolarity has in some cases translated into open support for leaders such as Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, hardly models of participatory democracy and 21st-century socialism. It is worth mentioning that it was indeed Maduro, as Minister of foreign-policy, that played an important role in developing and maintaining these alliances.

In spite of these contradictions, the five priorities outlined also contain a path forward, namely that of strengthening the ‘popular economy.’ That is the building up of the constellation of organizations, such as cooperatives, co-managed enterprises and communal councils found throughout the country. It is these organizations that have the most potential for resolving the above-mentioned contradictions.

Consider Pedro Camejo, one of the co-managed ‘socialist enterprises’ located in the city of Carora. With its mission to contribute to the achievement of ‘food sovereignty’ in the country, this enterprise has been providing small and medium local farmers agricultural technology and technical assistance at below market price. As a result, agricultural production in the area has increased considerably in recent years. At the same time, workers within the enterprise have been learning new capacities, skills and values, such as collective management and solidarity, largely as the result of the practice of participatory democracy. In addition, the technology comes from PAUNY, one of Argentina's ‘recuperated enterprises’ that builds tractors. As part of an agreement, workers from PAUNY traveled to Carora to train the Venezuelan workers and share their experiences in a spirit of international solidarity.

Although far from perfect, this one example does demonstrate how the five priorities outlined can be met in a more positive way. The challenge for militants within state agencies and institutions will be figuring out how to strengthen this sector of the economy without suffocating it with bureaucracy.  The challenge for workers and communities will be to figure out how to enter these spaces while retaining enough autonomy so that struggles can be launched against the state when needed, as is frequently done. Indeed, workers and communities know something the state doesn't, namely that participation within these new democratic spaces, although crucial, is only half the equation. The other half is continued organization and struggle from below.

It remains to be seen what direction a Maduro government will lean in the post-Chavez era. The impasse of the Bolivarian revolution over the last few years is about to be broken. The future is uncertain. But more than ever it is contingent on how the workers and poor that have been empowered by the Bolivarian revolution over the last decade organize and push toward the promise of a 21st century socialism. •

Manuel Larrabure is a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science department at York University in Toronto, Canada. His research is on Latin America's “new cooperative movement” and “21st-century socialism.” During 2013, he will be conducting fieldwork in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.

  • Chávez, H. (2012). Propuesta del Candidato de la Patria para la Gestion Bolivariana Socialista 2013-2019. Retrieved from: [December 12, 2012].
  • Ciccariello-Maher, G. (2007). “Dual power in the Venezuelan Revolution,” Monthly Review, 59(4), 42-56.
  • Lebowitz, M. (2013). “Working-Class Response to Devaluation Measures in Venezuela,” The Bullet No. 773, Feb. 2013.
  • Poulantzas, N. (1978). State, Power, Socialism. New York: Verso.

1.For a more detailed analysis of this phenomenon, see my forthcoming article in Historical Materialism, “Human Development and Class Struggle in Venezuela's Popular Economy: The Paradox of 21st-century Socialism.”
Source: The Bullet

Monday, April 1, 2013

CUITO CUANAVALE 25TH ANNIVERSARY: The battle which put an end to apartheid

Piero Gleijeses (*)

We do not fight for glory or honors,
but for ideas we consider just.

—Fidel Castro Ruz

THIS year marks the 20th anniversary (written in 2007) of the opening of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, in south-eastern Angola, which pitted the armed forces of apartheid South Africa against the Cuban army and Angolan forces.

General Magnus Malan writes in his memoirs that this campaign marked a great victory for the South African Defense Force (SADF). But Nelson Mandela could not disagree more: Cuito Cuanavale, he asserted, "was the turning point for the liberation of our continent—and of my people—from the scourge of apartheid".
Debate over the significance of Cuito Cuanavale has been intense, partly because the relevant South African documents remain classified. I have, however, been able to study files from the closed Cuban archives as well as many US documents. Despite the ideological divide that separates Havana and Washington, their records tell a remarkably similar story.

Let me review the facts briefly. In July 1987, the Angolan army (Fapla) launched a major offensive in south-eastern Angola against Jonas Savimbi’s forces. When the offensive started to succeed, the SADF, which controlled the lower reaches of south-western Angola, intervened in the south-east. By early November, the SADF had cornered elite Angolan units in Cuito Cuanavale and was poised to destroy them.

The United Nations Security Council demanded that the SADF unconditionally withdraw from Angola, but the Reagan administration ensured that this demand had no teeth.

US Assistant Secretary for Africa Chester Crocker reassured Pretoria’s ambassador: "The resolution did not contain a call for comprehensive sanctions, and did not provide for any assistance to Angola. That was no accident, but a consequence of our own efforts to keep the resolution within bounds." [1] This gave the SADF time to annihilate Fapla’s best units.

By early 1988, South African military sources and Western diplomats were confident that the fall of Cuito was imminent. This would have dealt a devastating blow to the Angolan government. But on November 15 1987, Cuban President Fidel Castro had decided to send more troops and weapons to Angola—his best planes with his best pilots, his most sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons and his most modern tanks. Castro’s goal was not merely to defend Cuito, it was to force the SADF out of Angola once and for all. He later described this strategy to South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo: Cuba would halt the South African onslaught and then attack from another direction, "like a boxer who with his left hand blocks the blow and with his right—strikes". [2]

Cuban planes and 1,500 Cuban solders reinforced the Angolans, and Cuito did not fall.

On March 23 1988, the SADF launched its last major attack on the town. As Colonel Jan Breytenbach writes, the South African assault "was brought to a grinding and definite halt" by the combined Cuban and Angolan forces.

Now Havana’s right hand prepared to strike. Powerful Cuban columns were marching through south-western Angola toward the Namibian border. The documents telling us what the South African leaders thought about this threat are still classified. But we know what the SADF did: it gave ground. US intelligence explained that the South Africans withdrew because they were impressed by the suddenness and scale of the Cuban advance and because they believed that a major battle "involved serious risks". [3]

As a child in Italy, I heard my father talk about the hope he and his friends had felt in December 1941, as they listened to radio reports of German troops vacating Rostov on the Don—the first time in two years of war that the German "superman" had been forced to retreat. I remembered his words—and the profound sense of relief they conveyed—as I read South African and Namibian press reports from these months in early 1988.

On May 26 1988, the chief of the SADF announced that "heavily armed Cuban and Swapo [South West Africa People’s Organization] forces, integrated for the first time, have moved south within 60km of the Namibian border". The South African administrator general in Namibia acknowledged on June 26 that Cuban MIG-23s were flying over Namibia, a dramatic reversal from earlier times when the skies had belonged to the SADF. He added that "the presence of the Cubans had caused a flutter of anxiety" in South Africa.

Such sentiments were however not shared by black South Africans, who saw the retreat of the South African forces as a beacon of hope.

While Castro’s troops advanced toward Namibia, Cubans, Angolans, South Africans and Americans were sparring at the negotiating table. Two issues were paramount: whether South Africa would finally accept implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 435, which prescribed Namibia’s independence, and whether the parties could agree on a timetable for the withdrawal of the Cuban troops from Angola.

The South Africans arrived with high hopes: Foreign Minister Pik Botha expected that Resolution 435 would be modified; Defense Minister Malan and President PW Botha asserted that South Africa would withdraw from Angola only "if Russia and its proxies did the same." They did not mention withdrawing from Namibia. On March 16 1988, Business Day reported that Pretoria was "offering to withdraw into Namibia—not from Namibia—in return for the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola. The implication is that South Africa has no real intention of giving up the territory any time soon."

But the Cubans had reversed the situation on the ground, and when Pik Botha voiced the South African demands, Jorge Risquet, who headed the Cuban delegation, fell on him like a ton of bricks: "The time for your military adventures, for the acts of aggression that you have pursued with impunity, for your massacres of refugees ... is over." South Africa, he said, was acting as though it was "a victorious army, rather than what it really is: a defeated aggressor that is withdrawing ... South Africa must face the fact that it will not obtain at the negotiating table what it could not achieve on the battlefield."[4]

As the talks ended, Crocker cabled Secretary of State George Shultz that they had taken place "against the backdrop of increasing military tension surrounding the large build-up of heavily armed Cuban troops in south-west Angola in close proximity to the Namibian border ... The Cuban build-up in southwest Angola has created an unpredictable military dynamic."[5]

The burning question was: Would the Cubans stop at the border? To answer this question, Crocker sought out Risquet: "Does Cuba intend to halt its troops at the border between Namibia and Angola?" Risquet replied, "If I told you that the troops will not stop, it would be a threat. If I told you that they will stop, I would be giving you a Meprobamato [a Cuban tranquillizer]. ... and I want to neither threaten nor reassure you ... What I can say is that the only way to guarantee [that our troops stop at the border] would be to reach an agreement [on Namibia’s independence]."[6]

The next day, June 27 1988, Cuban MIGs attacked SADF positions near the Calueque dam, 11km north of the Namibian border. The CIA reported that "Cuba’s successful use of air power and the apparent weakness of Pretoria’s air defenses" highlighted the fact that Havana had achieved air superiority in southern Angola and northern Namibia. A few hours after the Cubans’ successful strike, the SADF destroyed a nearby bridge over the Cunene River. They did so, the CIA surmised, "to deny Cuban and Angolan ground forces easy passage to the Namibia border and to reduce the number of positions they must defend." [7] Never had the danger of a Cuban advance into Namibia seemed more real.

The last South African soldiers left Angola on August 30, before the negotiators had even begun to discuss the timetable of the Cuban withdrawal from Angola.

Despite Washington’s best efforts to stop it, Cuba changed the course of Southern African history. Even Crocker acknowledged Cuba’s role when he cabled Shultz, on August 25 1988: "Reading the Cubans is yet another art form. They are prepared for both war and peace. We witness considerable tactical finesse and genuinely creative moves at the table. This occurs against the backdrop of Castro’s grandiose bluster and his army’s unprecedented projection of power on the ground."[8]

The Cubans’ battlefield prowess and negotiating skills were instrumental in forcing South Africa to accept Namibia’s independence. Their successful defense of Cuito was the prelude for a campaign that forced the SADF out of Angola. This victory reverberated beyond Namibia.

Many authors—Malan is just the most recent example—have sought to rewrite this history, but the US and Cuban documents tell another story. It was expressed eloquently by Thenjiwe Mtintso, South Africa’s ambassador to Cuba, in December 2005: "Today South Africa has many newly found friends. Yesterday these friends referred to our leaders and our combatants as terrorists and hounded us from their countries while supporting apartheid ... These very friends today want us to denounce and isolate Cuba. Our answer is very simple: it is the blood of Cuban martyrs—and not of these friends—that runs deep in the African soil and nurtures the tree of freedom in our country."

1) SecState to American embassy, Pretoria, Dec. 5 1987, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

2) Transcripción sobre la reunión del Comandante en Jefe con la delegación de políticos de Africa del Sur (Comp. Slovo), "Centro de Información de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (CIFAR)", Havana

3) Abramowitz (Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State) to SecState, May 13 1988, FOIA

4) "Actas das Conversaciones Quadripartidas entre a RPA, Cuba, Estados Unidos de América e a Africa do Sul realizadas no Cairo de 24-26.06.988", Archives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, Havana

5) Crocker to SecState, June 26, 1988, FOIA

6) "Entrevista de Risquet con Chester Crocker, 26/6/88", ACC

7) CIA, "South Africa-Angola-Cuba", June 29, 1988, FOIA; CIA, "South Africa-Angola-Namibia", July 1, 1988, FOIA

8) Crocker to SecState, Aug. 25, 1988, FOIA

(*) Italian political scientist and historian, professor of U.S. Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington, D.C.
March 28, 2013