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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Governance, Governing and the Governed after 40 years of Political Independence in The Bahamas

Governance, governing and the governed

Nassau, The Bahamas

There is no doubt that we have yet to develop a concept or model of governance that adequately complements our political development and our uniqueness as a people.

Since independence, our sense of governance is dictated by the whims of the leaders who wear the hat as chief.  The chief has the ordained right to assess and determine the best form and method for the dispensation of executive power.

His sole guiding rod is the singular provision in the Constitution (Article 72) that mandates that his Cabinet must be no less than eight other ministers and that “the Cabinet shall have the direction and control of the government of The Bahamas”.  Even this simple declaration has led to abuse, by evidence of Gussiemae Cabinets and the appointment of incompetent ministers.

It is no doubt true that in our political dispensation the selection of a Cabinet is even fraught by much anxiety, even though many will agree that this should be the easiest first step in the development of a style of governance.

It appears that less consideration is placed on intellect, capacity, knowledge and just plain commonsense.

Far too little value is allotted to the possible minister’s record of excellence in business or a profession.  This may be surprising given that the minister is treated as the CEO of the ministry.

It does not help though that the Constitution only refers to the principles of “direction” and “control” as tenements of governance.  This perhaps creates a deep fallacy in our system because the notions of direction and control, by their very nature, are coextensive with all manners of governance.  That is, by having the power to govern one must have control of the direction of the governed.

At the outset let me state that I am not an advocate for codifying, whether in the Constitution or by an act of Parliament, what should be the by-products of governance.

Truth is that there are some elements that must be left to the personal dogmas of a leader.  However, there are shades of governance that must be universal, that apply to a people no matter who is their leader or prime minister.  It is that side of the coin that should compel us to assess the state of our governance, the state and direction of the Bahamian people.


It must also be remembered that our nation is only now approaching ‘true adult’ maturity.  For some the decade of membership in the elite 40-plus-group means a new burst of life, vigor and perspectives.

I assume that as this equally applies to adults it must be the same for a nation-state.  So this means that next year should be the start of a golden era for governance in The Bahamas.

Within the doctrines of political science and history, governance is at its core a notion that rules should be made, followed and executed by the leader or prime minister (in our system) without fear, favor or failure.

It is a process.  It mandates that all citizens and stakeholders have an appreciation for an understanding of the rules.  More fundamentally, it expects that there will be no arbitrary alteration of the rules, but that change and modification will come by way of an organized and civilized process.

We often hear chatter from elected politicians of good governance.  This is a new twist to the concept of governance.  It probably was intended to be an extension of well-established and respected democratic traditions.

The use of the concept of good governance may also have been designed to attempt to define the quality of governance.  It must be good versus bad or chaotic or even dogmatic.

Whatever descriptive word is employed, it really goes back to a rather simple narrative as to the state of governance within a society of people alongside their norms and customs.

Governance too invokes the strength of a nation’s traditions and institutions.  Executive authority and power should be exercised through the institutions by way of a process of balanced value assessments.

Too, there must be a recognized framework for the airing-out of differing views and opinions and even for dissent in the sacred ranks.  Individual thought and opinions must never be subjected to an archaic concept of loyalty.

Additionally, there must be an environment that fosters and demands excellence in thought, policy formation and public participation.

There is no denying the fact that governance as a concept invokes the notions and emotions of transparency, accountability, competence and equitable participation.  By the latter, I mean that there must be carved out in the domain of public opinion rooms of thought for all socio-economic classes, which are masked by gender and age neutrality and even perhaps political neutrality.

In our current system, the thought of political neutrality is barren as no leader will think that he can manage his political survivability by encroaching on the precincts of a competing political ideology and or membership.

Governance and decision making

There must also be a well-established and recognized policy of restraint in governance.  Just as the notion of good governance demands an appreciation for judicial independence, the restraints that operate must be of a similar nature that reject all forms and fashion of corruption, nepotism, abuse of power and harmful incompetence.

The restraints should be worn as a breastplate of the citizenry to demand and voice opposition to the prevailing threat that exists, which often leads to an unequal society.

This brings me to ask two questions: What is the state of Bahamian governance?  Do we have a developing set of rules for decision making?

To answer the first question, without any political naivete or impartiality, requires an out-of-body experience for the majority of Bahamians, because we typically wrap our answers into a sense that speaks to the failures or successes of the party that we support.

In truth, the state of our governance is a by-product and a reflection of our collectivism and of community.  It is a great indicator of our values, our vision for the future and our commitment to national development.

It is a clarion call to demand the formation of sensible policies, a pragmatic and participatory approach to decision making and a shared vision that is oriental in its respect for balancing the needs and saving the fruits of the national treasures for future generations.

It must also be recognized that to grade a nation’s state of governance is a difficult task because of all of the items in the breadbasket.  A superficial analysis may dictate that realization be given to the level of poverty, unemployment and the lack of basic social and human essentials.

An all-inclusive and holistic evaluation will encompass an assessment of many factors, one of which is the state of active participation by the governed, meaning the electorate, in the apparatus of governance.  And in this context, the governed refers to all sectors of the society and to all peoples.

No one can be left out of the equation, and if there is a segment of the populace that is silenced then the state of governance is poor.  Democracies are by their very nature designed to be democratic and that means being open to all peoples.

Over the last 20 years, a trend is beginning to steadily creep into and is near institutionalization in our nation.  Those with wealth and influence appear to be able to set the rules that favor them to the exclusion of others.

Too many are now marginalized and yet they are the ones who have a blind obsession to their ‘chief’.  Politics sometimes produces the ugliness about human nature and we see it exemplified in the actions and decision-making style of those elected to govern.

There are so many events that demonstrate and support this view.  One need only start with the continuation of an obscene policy that forces taxpayers’ dollars, now ever limited, to assist in the advertising of new hotels, or the payment of subsidies for cruise ships or the inability to levy a rational tax on companies that repatriate the lion’s share of their profits to overseas headquarters.

The most glaring recent example is the disclosure of the new gaming legislation that would favor an expanded industry for foreigner owners of casinos to the exclusion of Bahamian ownership.

No one needs to have a deep sense of nationalism to recognize the sharp economic inequality that such a policy will continue to foster.  It is regressive and foolhardy.

The recent audit of NIB with a price tag of $861,000 is another fine example of the failures of a modern and thought-out approach to governance.  A negotiated settlement of the disengagement of the director of NIB would have cost the tax payers far less than $861,000.

A new course

There are so many other illustrations where the lack of a clear, concise and well thought-out approach to governing The Bahamas have failed the nation and her people.

There are far too many people whose eyes reveal the sheer pain of their desperation and hopelessness in the future of this nation.  These are the features of a society and people that are being subjected to a system of governance that is stale, out dated and unsuited for their continued development and evolution.

The governed must begin a new march for fundamental change in the way that the country is being managed.  This demands a rethink of the national priorities and the recognition that the government must be reflective of the people’s wishes, hopes and dreams for tomorrow.

We must chart a new course that is built on the principles of moral and intelligent decision making.  Our society must evolve and reject an insular approach to problem solving, and we must work together so that the future is secured and belongs to all of us and not just the chosen few.

I remain ever so convinced that The Bahamas remains the best vehicle by which the world can be transformed for the better.

• Raynard Rigby is a practising attorney-at-law at Baycourt Chambers. You are free to send comments about the column via email to

May 29, 2013


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Burning Issues in The Bahamas which require Bahamian Leadership Attention and Action

People Power Needed To Tackle Burning Issues

Fmr Asst Commissioner of Police - RBPF
Nassau, The Bahamas

IT is my love for this country, which has been home to me for the past 62 years, that encourages me to continue to write about some of the issues and offer ideas and some simple solutions.
The Bahamian people gave me the opportunity to be educated in many police schools overseas, and it was discussion with my colleagues from other countries that made me able to provide ideas to be considered for solving some of our country’s problems.
There are persons who think of my writings as politically motivated, which is not true. Both governments of the Bahamas have been recipients of unsolicited advice and ideas. Response was rarely received.
It is my opinion that the Bahamian people must prevail upon their elected representatives to deal with all of the issues affecting the country and to heed the advice being given by many of us who reside here.
The shanty towns are a major part of the illegal immigration problem, in particular as it relates to Haitian nationals. Any person listening to the media discussion of the government appointed committee’s report on shanty towns must register their concerns with their parliamentary representative and implore that immediate action be taken to rid our country of this destructive menace.
It is evident that the law is being flagrantly contravened – the liquor shops and food stores within the shanty towns; the availability of clothing, dry goods, and medicines for sale; and most frightening, the health hazards to which we are exposed.
The medical report on the shanty towns is scary. The immediate solution is to instruct the law enforcement agencies to give notice to the residents to move by a specified date, after which officers will move in with bulldozers. It would be ideal for immigration officers to check the permits of the residents.
Prosecution of owners or landlords could come later.
We should not wait until there is an epidemic or an incident on the scale of the disaster at Mayaguana Airport to move to correct this dangerous situation.
Over the years there have been many other suggestions made to governments which appear to have been ignored.
Following is a list of some of those suggestions, which the public may wish to discuss with their representatives.
• Prohibit smoking in public places
Doctors in the Bahamas are aware of the dangers of smoking. Some of them wrote to successive governments, but their suggestions appear to have been ignored. I presented a copy of the Act from Trinidad and Tobago to a Minister of Health with my suggestions. No response. Smoking in public places continues.
• Mandatory Breathalyser testing
Again, a copy of the relevant Act from Trinidad and Tobacco was sent to two ministers of government with my suggestions. The Act, which became law in T&T two years ago, has been effective in reducing the incidence of accidents caused by drunk driving.
The police’s ability to detect drunk drivers has been improved. In the event of accidents, drivers have to take the test at the scene. Just recently a junior minister in the Ministry of National Security in T&T was arrested for his refusal to take the test and was later removed from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister.
• Public transportation system
It is long overdue. I have written to governments about the need to have public transportation administered by a Public Transport Corporation organised and controlled by the government, with bus owners as shareholders and members of a government board.
I suggested that government officials visit Barbados and Bermuda and examine their systems. Both governments have been advised of this need.
Such a corporation would provide for timely schedules covering all parts of the island, uniformed drivers, monthly and weekly ticketing, with transfer tickets and everything else that goes with an efficient and effective system. It could only be done under the administration and scrutiny of a government corporation.
• The environment
After decades of majority rule and 40 years of independence, outdoor toilets should be non-existent. The landlords, not the government, should be responsible for installing the required sewerage systems as a criteria for the rental of the premises.
New Providence is presently a dump or junkyard for abandoned or derelict vehicles. Just take a drive through Bain and Grants Town and see the rodents that live and breed in those abandoned vehicles. It is unhealthy and nasty.
In the old days the police submitted monthly reports on derelict vehicles to the Public Works Department. The latter wrote to the owners demanding removal, or the department removed the vehicles and submitted the bill to the owners. Failure to pay resulted in civil action in the courts.
One of the causes of the new situation in the prevalence of roadside and front yard garages.
I was an ex-officio member of a committee representing the Police Department, which presented a report providing information on the location of every such garage on the island, the name and address of each operator; and the condition of each location as it related to derelict, abandoned and other vehicles parked on the streets that were an obstruction to the free movement of traffic or otherwise affected the area.
We recommended that the laws relating to town planning be enforced to have all garages removed; we said Town Planning should issue letters – which the police volunteered to deliver by hand – demanding that these garages cease operations immediately.
The committee recommended that the government provide land in the Industrial Park and build a large open warehouse type building with adequate parking and lighting to accommodate the garages. This was to be done before the service of the Town Planning letters.
Minister Loftus Roker was quite happy with the report and the recommendations. But he was removed to another ministry before implementation and the matter was not heard of anymore. It was just prior to a general election.
• Illegal immigration and terrorism
Many recommendations have been made to governments on this subject. A paper was done by me and hand delivered to all members of parliament in 2008, with recommendations for consideration – including lookout points around New Providence to be manned by Defence Force personnel equipped with effective night vision; the presence of Defence Force and police patrol craft in the harbour when cruise ships are here; a detention centre in Inagua to reduce the cost of returning illegal immigrants to Haiti by plane instead of by boat; intensive investigations to identify the captain and crews on the boats carrying illegal immigrants for prosecution and imprisonment at Fox Hill Prison; the fingerprinting and photographing of all illegal immigrants and the keeping of records on them. Should they try to return, there must be court action and punishment and imprisonment, not detention and repatriation.
I often remind the public that after the earthquake in Haiti it was reported that at least 350 dangerous criminals escaped.
I was reliably informed that the circulation of fingerprints and photographs was non-existent, even through Interpol.
We do not know how many of them came here. They were described as being political prisoners, gunmen and rapists.
I do not know what efforts have been made to get the required information, if it is available. I usually describe the young thugs involved in the current wave of criminality as terrorists.
Terrorists’ goals, at least two of them, are: (a) to create fear, (b) to destroy the economy.
The police need our help, but more than that they need the help of the government to deal NOW with the invasion of illegal immigrants, many of whom are involved in crimes such as drug trafficking, gun running and car stealing.
• Tracing and Forfeiture Act, 1987
As far as I am aware activity in this area of the law is dormant. This law was designed to give law enforcement agencies, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Attorney General’s Office the authority to target the assets of drug barons, drug dealers and drug traffickers. The assets of all such persons convicted of major drug offences here or abroad are subject to investigation and seizure by the courts.
Investigators are provided with a lot of authority by the Act. We have scores of drug barons, drug dealers and drug traffickers convicted in the Bahamas or overseas. Many of them are non-Bahamians.
I have not seen any action being taken to confiscate their assets. There are millions of dollars that could be targeted.
There appears to be no effort being made in this area of law.
• Technology for police control centres and mobile patrols
This is technology that I have been recommending for decades. A contract was signed between the former government and Motorola to provide the technology here.
All police forces are working towards what is called “Quick response.” Commissioners Bonaby, Farquharson and Greenslade were all aware of what could be accomplished when the police can respond to the scene of a crime and call for help or information about suspected criminal activity.
It is common knowledge that when police respond promptly, it is more likely that criminals will be found at or near the scene, which results in immediate arrests, or arrests shortly thereafter.
It is also good for public relations as it reduces fear.
I have been monitoring and getting information with regards to arrests made on the scene of a crime. Very often it depends on the arrival of the police within three to five minutes of receiving the call.
The Motorola system for which the contract was signed by the last government would provide the following to the police:
• The controller in the police control centre – through the implementation of GPS in all police vehicles and an electronic map of New Providence in the control centre – would be aware at all times of the exact location of police vehicles on the streets of New Providence. Upon receipt of a call for help, he will know which police vehicle is nearest to the scene of the incidents and deploy that car to proceed there immediately.
He would also know which other cars are in the area in the event that there is the need for back-up or a road block.
• The controller would be able to allow the crew of the patrol car to listen to the conversation he is having with the caller. The crew would get valuable information including descriptions of suspects, vehicles, et cetera. They will be aware of the details of the incident on the way to the scene.
• The misuse of police vehicles would be eradicated. The controller will be aware of any vehicle leaving the patrol area.
• There could be a reduction in fuel consumption as patrol cars could park in different locations during the patrol instead of moving constantly.
The chiefs of police in Detroit and Chicago invited police officers on our cricket team, who were visiting those cities, to see the system at work.
I implore the public to ask their members of parliament about the implementation of this system.
• Indoor range
Providing an indoor range for use by all law enforcement agencies to be trained and for practice in the use of revolvers and shotguns would be an asset. I sent information with all the specifics that I obtained from the FBI and a Dade County law enforcement agency to the Ministry of National Security some years ago. I even described locations close to Police Headquarters that could be used.
I suggested that help be sought from the private sector for the financing. In addition to law enforcement using the facility, persons applying for shotgun and rifle licences could be made to qualify at a price.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the indoor ranges are owned by former law enforcement officers who invested in them and got long term government contracts for the training and use by law enforcement agencies.
Most of the officers attending the ranges do so on their own time. Police officers who use them have shot in the Olympic Games.
May 27, 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

To the African Youth: proud of your African heritage and cherish your African identity

Special Message To The African Youth On African Union Day

African youths are the future
AFRICANGLOBE – “We have the blessing of the wealth of our vast resources, the power of our talents and the potentialities of our people. Let us grasp now the opportunities before us and meet the challenge to our survival. “ Address to the National Assembly -Kwame Nkrumah, 26 March 1965.

Fellow Africans, today as we celebrate 50 years of the Organisation of African Unity (now called the African Union), l have a special message for the African youth. To the youth I say first of all, be proud of your African heritage and cherish your African identity. We need to constantly remind ourselves that the African way of life is beautify. We have a beautiful culture, glittering from the most enviable continent in world.

Our beautiful culture can be found in the quality of our indigenous food, our music, our dance, our fashion among others. Therefore the African youth must begin to see themselves as the most blessed people on the planet earth. For this reason, let us all say NO to any attempt to divide the African people at any time.

Let us UNITE and move Africa forward together, with the understanding that we are one African people with a common destiny. AFRICA IS OUR ONLY TRUE HOME and we got to do our best to make it the best place for our children. For this reason, hard work, positive self-esteem, confidence, pride (not to be confused with arrogance), and selflessness should be our hallmark. We the youth need to decolonize our minds and begin to accept the Africa’s current challenges as our opportunity to transform the continent for the future generation.

Across other parts of the world, young ones are working hard to put the development of their countries as their ultimate priorities. It is time for us in Africa to show such patriotic spirit. From this day, we the African youth must accept the fact that we are leaders and we ought to take the destiny of Africa into our own hands without waiting for any help to come from the East nor the West.

Today when I interact with many young Africans on the internet, I foresee a new generation young leaders who believe that something ought to be done in order to change the status quo. I commend the works of the many young African entrepreneurs who have in one way or the other contributed massively to create jobs that are helping in the fight against youth unemployment. For these efforts, whenever I look into the future of the continent, I see a continent booming with a lot of opportunities.

However, the road to the promise land is not going to be smooth. As hard as we may try to put the interest Africa first on the agenda, there is definitely going to be a lot of distractions, confusions and manipulations coming from all aspects. In spite of this, we the youth must not allow ourselves to be manipulated by any of these circumstances. Today, the media still remains the most powerful weapon in the world. The entertainment industry is waging a war against the African race. From scenes in moves, video clips, foreign fashion among others, attempts are being made to confuse the African youth to shun their African identity altogether and embrace alien culture.

Our movie industry is trying hard to portray the black woman as the most confused woman on earth. From bleaching cosmetics to indecent exposure, unnecessary sex scenes on our TVs among others, the minds of our African women are being programmed to see themselves as nothing more than sex objects. From Brazilian hair to Chinese hair, Peruvian hair was how it started. Today we have pig hair, dog hair, horse hair, goat hair blonde hair, brunette hair everywhere. All these have been the result of media influence designed to confuse the minds of the young ones As a result, our own natural hairstyles have gone.

Sadly, the young men have not been spared either. They are seen wearingdog chains everywhere. Violent, barbaric and crime scenes have become the new standard for movies that air on our TVs. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing African about these. Indeed the war against the African race is getting more serious and it is time the youth realise that the challenges confronting us today are far too many for us to be distracted by external influences.

I am therefore calling on the African youth to open their eyes and see through the “clouds”. It is time to go back to our roots and realise the real beauty of Africa. For we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that the African pride which our forefathers shared with us today is duly preserved for the future generation.

As I write this, I’m sinking in the water of hope that Africa will be united and totally independent from mental slavery sooner or later.

Because today, many of the African children are still wondering: when will we stop crying ?when will we be free forever ? Oh mother Africa, you will shine one day sooner or later.

On this special day, I challenge the African youth to be proud of Africa and boldly show off their African pride. We must resist any attempt which seeks to confuse the minds of the young ones to feel inferior about their African identity.

While urging the African youth to remain focus and passionate about Africa on this great occasion, I also urge the entertainment industry to make every effort to promote the beauty of African culture to the outside world. The era of Africa’s inferiority complex must end.

Above all, let us all unite and contribute significantly to the development of Africa. Just as Nkrumah put it: the masses of the people of Africa are still crying for unity than ever.

Long live Africa
Long live the African diaspora.

Honourable Saka

The writer is a Pan-African analyst, anti-corruption crusader and the coordinator for the Project Pan-Africa. He can be reached on

May 24, 2013

African Globe

Thursday, May 23, 2013

GUANTANAMO: A ghost from the Bush era pursues Obama

By Dalia González Delgado:

GUANTANAMO is robbing Obama of sleep. Ten years after the opening of the prison, on illegally occupied territory in Cuba, the issue had been forgotten by many until a hunger strike by hundreds of prisoners returned it to the public consciousness.

The illegal U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo
(Photo: Reuters)
Referring to Guantánamo, The New York Times wrote in an editorial that the detention center "became the embodiment of his [Bush’s] dangerous expansion of executive power and the lawless detentions, secret prisons and torture that went along with them."
Obama, hoping to indicate that he had not forgotten his campaign promise, recently said, "I continue to believe that we've got to close Guantanamo. I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing…
"The idea that we would still maintain, forever, a group of individuals who have not been tried - that is contrary to who we are."
Not everyone agrees with the President. Washington Post journalist Benjamin declared, "Even if Guantanamo itself miraculously closes, we’ll have to build it again somewhere else."
"Guantanamo Bay prison does not serve American security interests," according to Ken Gude, from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington think tank.
But his reasoning, like Obama’s, is pragmatic, not humanitarian. Even BBC Mundo stated that there was no need to keep the prisoners in Guantánamo, commenting that the site would inevitably be closed at some point.
The reality is that no steps have been taken in the direction suggested by Obama. In fact University of California professor Raúl Hinojosa commented to Russia Today that the hunger strike has made clear that the U.S. is not in control of the situation, given that the administration "has no answer at this time."
According to General John Kelly, of the U.S. Army Southern Command and the commanding officer at the prison, the detainees had hope that Obama would close the facility and "were devastated... when the president backed off."
The prison was opened after the September 11, 2011 attacks, to house those suspected of terrorism, although no evidence existed against them. The indefinite detentions, and testimony given by those released, have earned the detention center an appropriate reputation as a concentration camp. Different forms of torture are practiced there, including isolation within cells at extreme temperatures and waterboarding.
Guantánamo is one of the worst legacies of George W. Bush, who showing no sign of remorse, recently stated that he felt fine about the "hard decisions" he had made "to protect America."
The legal limbo in which 166 prisoners live – there had been more than 700 – has generated criticism internationally, from countries as well as human rights organizations.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), president of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has requested that the administration re-start the process of transferring and releasing 86 prisoners who, three years ago, were granted permission to return to their countries of origin.
Although Obama may not have the political will to close the prison, he could at least exert pressure to reinitiate this process halted two years ago.
May 23, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

...a sub-set of Bahamians who do not have the technical skills to be employable ...due to the absence of job skills ...or being “scarred for life” by previous criminal convictions

Mp: 'Sub-Set Of Bahamians Are Unemployable'

Tribune Business Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas
An MP has admitted there is “a sub-set of Bahamians” who are unemployable, due to the absence of job skills or being “scarred for life” by previous criminal convictions.
Emphasising that he was not speaking in his Cabinet position, Ryan Pinder, minister of financial services, conceded that he was confronted with this reality every day in his Elizabeth constituency.
Responding to a question at a Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) luncheon, Mr Pinder described his constituency as arguably the most diverse in this nation when it came to the economic backgrounds of residents.
Agreeing that the Bahamas had to be realistic, and “confront reality”, the Minister candidly conceded: “We have a sub-set of Bahamians who do not have the technical skills to be employable. I can tell you as an MP that is the case.”
While some in this “sub-set” lacked the necessary skills, and workplace ethic and attitude, Mr Pinder said others were hampered by previous criminal convictions. Unable to produce a clean police certificate, they were immediately rejected by Bahamian employers.
“I know of a strapping young man who can’t get a job because he was convicted years ago for forging bank cheques,” Mr Pinder said. “One error, and he’s scarred for life.”
Emphasising that he was not excusing or condoning such behaviour, Mr Pinder said the inability of young Bahamian men to get a job due to their past mistakes inevitably meant many - proud, yet unable to feed their families legitimately - turned to crime to do so.
This was exacerbated by the Bahamas’ clogged court system. Mr Pinder said many were “more willing to [turn to crime] as they know the justice system never runs its course in a timely fashion, and they will get out and be OK. They won’t turn to crime if they know the justice system works”.
The Minister’s comments illuminate the other side of the Immigration/work permit debate, namely that a significant (albeit a minority) section of Bahamian society is effectively planning itself out of their economy.
Entrepreneurial and employment opportunities are passing them by, and their lack of suitability for the workplace is another factor behind employers looking overseas to fill key positions.
An Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report recently revealed almost two-thirds of employee firings in the Bahamas stem from ‘behaviour problems’, finding that “the lack of skills” among workers is the main barrier to their hiring.
The report, ‘In Pursuit of Employable Skills: Understanding Employer’s Demands’, found that 62 per cent of the Bahamian companies it surveyed had either dismissed or seen employees resign in 2010-2011.
Noting that the ‘mean’, or average, was for companies to see five dismissals and three resignations, the IDB study added: “The most commonly cited reason for staff dismissals was ‘problems with behaviour’ (65 per cent).”
Mr Pinder told BCCEC members that the Bahamas had to “recognise reality and cause the proper technical development of our young people, particularly our young men”, to take place.
Apart from training, Mr Pinder said the solution also required economic growth. With 5,000 students graduating from high school every year, even assuming 50 per cent (probably a generous number) go on to tertiary education, the Bahamian workforce swells by at least 2,500-3,000 each summer.
Their numbers add to the existing 13.7 per cent unemployment rate, with 41,000 Bahamians either already jobless or not actively seeking work.
“They can only get jobs if the economy grows,” Mr Pinder said. “The economy has been stagnant for 10 years, and the population is growing every year.”
The Minister also called for improved mentorship of young Bahamians. He recalled a recent conversation with someone who had obtained an overseas posting with a bank, and her asking him how she could show the institution that she was “a woman of substance”.
“It tells you about the level of mentorship and bringing along young people in the country,” Mr Pinder said. “We need the buy-in of the entire community of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.”
May 21, 2012

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kick CARICOM to the kerb (Part 2)

By Ronald Mason, Jamaica Gleaner Contributor:


It would be foolhardy at the commencement of any trial for attorneys to believe they will be persuasive with only an opening statement. I dare not believe that, and as such I welcome the dialogue triggered by the response to my column on May 5.

I do not fear globalisation because this country can rival others on the world stage in the areas of our competitive advantage. Think coffee, bauxite, ginger, cocoa, tourism, music, aggregate, track and field, and the history of sugar. However, let me advance the argument for our withdrawal from CARICOM on the cold, hard realities.

FACT 1: There is a geographic, cultural, interpersonal relationship among people in the Eastern Caribbean. The distance between Antigua & Barbuda in the north and Trinidad & Tobago in the south is 445 miles. The distance between Jamaica and Trinidad is 1,151 miles. The constant flow of commerce and people in the Eastern Caribbean is undisputed. Farmers in Dominica help to feed Antigua. Trinidad and Barbados have disputes born out of territorial proximity. The Leeward and Windward Islands each present teams in Caribbean cricket.

The population in each member state of CARICOM, not counting Jamaica and Haiti, ranges from 6,000 in Montserrat to 1.34 million in Trinidad. There is a forum of seven member states and two associated states with a total population of 636,000 persons. Schooners and ferries bridge the islands in the east. They have a basis for this creature called CARICOM.

FACT 2: In recognition of how much the states in the Eastern Caribbean are interdependent, they created, from as far as back as 1981, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. It is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to economic harmonisation and integration, and protection of human and legal rights. They are all virtually contiguous in their boundaries.

On August 13, 2008, the leaders of Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines announced their intention to pursue a subregional 'political union'. A 2013 target date was set for full political union for these countries. (CANA, October 24, 2008) Notice, they did not invite Jamaica. Note also that on June 21, 2010, they signed the treaty that established their countries as a single economic and financial space.

The promise of "joint action" and "joint policies" within areas such as the judiciary and administration of justice, external relations, including overseas representation, international trade agreements, education, telecommunications, intellectual property rights, external transportation, and connections and public administrations and management.

This is a single space without common external boundaries. A country in every respect. No Jamaica. If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like duck, it is a duck. They only associate with Jamaica because we represent the easier trade destination that satisfies their economies of scale. Jamaica is half the market of CARICOM, without Haiti.

A decline in trade deficit

FACT 3: Jamaica has had, for years, a large trade deficit with CARICOM, not factoring Haiti, and a trade surplus with Haiti. Jamaica's trade deficit with CARICOM for January-November 2012 (latest figures available) is US$743.5m, a decline of US$157m recorded the previous year, largely caused by reduced spending on fuel. Jamaica, for the same period, exported US$76.8m. Most of the inbound trade is with Trinidad and Tobago. The peanuts, biscuits, candy, etc.

FACT 4: Chapter 5, Part 3 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas addresses the issue of subsidies by one member of CARICOM to the detriment of the other. Trinidad owns Caribbean Airlines. Ask Grenada's prime minister why he recently had to comment on the impact Trinidad's full subsidy is having on LIAT, part owned by Grenada.

Remember when we were dumb enough to believe that integration included Jamaica and proposed an aluminium smelter with its demand for lots of aluminium ingots to be located in Trinidad and Tobago using Jamaican bauxite to improve value added for aluminium? Never materialised.

FACT 5: Remember how the Dominican Republic accessed CARIFORUM for the European Union Economic Partnership Agreement? There is your blueprint, as the Dominican Republic is not a member of CARICOM.

FACT 6: The language of Article 45 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas references the movement of nationals across the region. Here is the direct quote: "Member states commit themselves to the GOAL [emphasis mine] of free movement of their nationals within the Community." A goal, that's all. Yet Jamaica allows Eastern Caribbean people to come here without reservation, while reciprocity, at the same rate and without discriminatory barbs, is often denied Jamaicans.

Last week, there was news of the dispute between Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica regarding lube oil. This arose between private interests in Jamaica and entities that are publicly owned by T&T. Yes, governments do not trade, but they are players in field of international commerce. This action, by design or neglect, results in a breach of trade protocols. Some members of the Jamaican business community have long complained about the lax CARICOM conditionalities. I provided an airing of the oft-whispered sentiments.

I never suggested that Jamaica should go it alone. We have multiple trade agreements, and currently Costa Rica is under consideration. The United States is our largest trading partner. O for the distinction and awareness of reading and comprehension!

That we should deal with the world as it is and forge our way therein as best we can has been misinterpreted as supportive of Jamaica's isolation. Far from being isolationist, we should forge links with the larger markets of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, North America and Latin America where the business community of traders can enjoy economies of scale.

GraceKennedy and other Jamaican corporate entities are making their entry into Ghana. They can continue to set up entities and trade with whomever, and they should. But do not presume it can only be done by integration, commercial or political.

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney/mediator. Email feedback to and

May 19, 2013

Kick CARICOM to the kerb (Part 1)

Jamaica Gleaner

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Can The Youth Save Africa From Neo-Colonialism?

AFRICANGLOBE – In his book, “Neo-Colonialism : The Last Stage of Imperialism photo”, (page11) Kwame Nkrumah cautioned:

‘So long as Africa remains divided, it will therefore be the wealthy consumer countries who will dictate the price of its resources’.

I told you so! This appears to be the bitterness boiling up in the hearts of many Pan-African revolutionaries across the world as Africa gradually sinks into the pit of poverty while its resources are being fleeced for peanuts on a daily basis.

Today, the dangers of Neo-colonialism have become so evident in Africa to the point where no further explanation is necessary. Africa, a continent which claims to be independent has allowed herself to be ordered around, always dancing to the tune of foreign “aid”. This is despite the fact that Dambisa Moyo, a renown Zambian economist and author of the book ‘Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa photo‘, has clearly demonstrated to our leaders that ‘No nation has ever attained economic development by aid.”

African leaders have over the years obeyed every instruction from the West, yet Africa and its people are no better for it. We’re still indebted to the World Bank and the IMF more than it was 20 year ago. In spite of this, African leaders are not ready to change the old ways of doing things.
To allow a foreign country, especially one which is loaded with economic interests in our continent, to tell us what political courses to follow, is indeed for us to hand back our independence to the oppressor on a silver platter, (Kwame Nkrumah, ‘Consciencism’ pg.102).
The fact is, our founding fathers foresaw the dangers that come with our resolve to rely on the non-Africans to solve all our problems for us. This problem has been compounded by the lack of unity among the African nations.

After 50 years, this statement has become the sad truth. There is not a single African raw material that is traded on the international market which price is determined by Africans. It is now evidently clear that many of our African leaders don’t care whether the solutions to our economic challenges have been well-documented by our founding fathers or not.

It is therefore time for the African youth to step aside these traitors for failing to act in our collective interest as African people.

A new generation of leadership is needed to rise up from among the youth with a determination to save mother Africa from the firm grip of neo-colonialism, political incompetence and corruption which is currently becoming the hallmark of modern African leadership.

Action Plan One: The Role Of the Youth
Earlier in life, I had discovered that if you want something, you had better made some noise. - Malcolm X
It is clear that Africa still remains under-developed because many of the youthful talents that can transform the continent have been ignored for far too long. Nevertheless, this is not a reason for them to give up. It is time for the youth to start making some noise else the status quo will never change. Gather yourselves in front of the parliament buildings and in front of the various African embassies. March in your numbers towards the the stations of the various TV networks.

Whiles you’re there, continue to make noise and Rest Not until their voices are heard and your concerns addressed.

Finally, I therefore put forward an action plan which must be followed in order to ensure that our search for a new generation of incorruptible leaders for the continent becomes a reality within the shortest possible time for the benefit of Mother Africa.
  • The African youth must first organise in small groups and create the platforms for dialogue and exchange of ideas.
  • The groups must identify and nominate highly incorruptible members as their leaders.
  • The groups must have power to remove from office, leaders identified to be corrupt.
  • Leaders of the various youth groups must coalesce and draw up a common agenda for the Youth Liberation Movement. All such agenda must focus on youth empowerment including a protest to remove the age-restricted political portfolios from our constitutions.
  • The Youth Liberation Movement must remain vocal in their communities, highlighting the challenges of the youth on any given platform.
  • It is ideal that the Youth Movement forms a political party solely dedicated to the needs of the youth.
  • Leaders of the Youth Movement can thus venture into the political terrain and stand up for the right of the youth. We need more young ones in parliament.
  • Where possible, no youth must vote for the old men but rather a candidate nominated from the political parties formed by the youth and dedicated to the youth.
If this is done, the youth can begin to make impact in African leadership and help wrestle power from the old men. It is time for the youth to begin ignoring the old men in elections and rather concentrate on such leaders born out of the Youth Revolutionary Movement who truly have the welfare of the youth at heart. This process if well implemented can help send a strong signal to the world that Africa is now ready for a new generation of revolutionary leaders dedicated to end corruption once and for all.

By: Honourable Saka

The writer is a Pan-African analyst and the founder of the Project Pan-Africa, an organisation established with the sole purpose of unlocking the minds of the African youth to take Africa’s destiny into their hands. He can be reached on

May 16, 2013

African Globe

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shanty towns are a major problem in The Bahamas

Getting serious about shanty towns

The Nassau Guardian Editorial
Nassau, The Bahamas

As we have repeatedly pointed out, shanty towns are a major problem in The Bahamas.

In 2009, then Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney said that 37 shanty towns had been identified in New Providence alone.

The government has commissioned various studies on the shanty town problem.

The most recent report on shanty towns obtained by The Nassau Guardian was completed a few weeks ago by a team of researchers from the Department of Environmental Health, but has not yet been made public by the minister responsible (Kenred Dorsett) or ministry officials.

What those researchers have unearthed should be of concern to every Bahamian.

There has been ‘a marked increase’ in the number of new shanty towns on New Providence over the last two years and the populations have increased “exponentially”.

The report said, “There is little to no government water systems, no garbage collection services, and very little human waste disposal, which can range from satisfactory to the other extreme of placing human feces in plastic shopping bags, and dumping waste in nearby bushes and naturally occurring sink holes.”

In New Providence alone, the team documented at least 15 shanty towns at various locations, but primarily in the south west and eastern areas of the island.

With houses having been built too close together, with some homes being powered by stolen electricity connected by low hanging wires, and with large communities with inadequate or no sewerage systems, these shanty towns are public health hazards.

For some reason, especially in New Providence, the agencies of the government responsible for policing this problem have failed.

More aggressive action on this problem is needed for the sake of the Haitians living in shanty towns and for the Bahamians who live nearby.

When proper sanitation and safety protocols are not followed, mass tragedy could ensue from fire or disease.

For the Bahamians who live near shanty towns, their property values are reduced because of the unsanitary communities next door.  This is unfair to hardworking, honest citizens of the country.

The problem is, in part, that governments of The Bahamas have been unable to regulate effectively the flow of people from the failed Haitian state.  Those looking for a better life have just set up communities on any vacant land.

Once the illegal structures are built, for humanitarian reasons, it is hard to destroy them.  Where do you send the poor and stateless once their homes are removed?

We must not let genuine concern for our brothers and sisters from the south overrule common sense, however.  Illegally built shanty towns need to be removed.

Those migrating to The Bahamas must find legal and safe accommodation.  We cannot continue to ignore this problem.  It is a matter of law, order and public safety.

No one in this country should be allowed to ignore public health and town planning regulations.  The laws exist to keep us safe and to protect property rights.

The government should next move to rigorously enforce the public health and property laws being violated by many who reside in shanty towns across the country.

Hopefully Dorsett was sincere when he said this administration intends to.

May 13, 2013

The Nassau Guardian Editorial

Monday, May 13, 2013

Latin America’s Radical Left in Power: Complexities and Challenges in the Twenty-First Century

By Steve Ellner - Latin American Perspectives:

The democratic, peaceful road to socialism, which has been pursued by the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador and serves as an inspiration for much of the Latin American left, hardly represents a new approach. Social democratic movements worldwide grouped in the Socialist International were the foremost advocates of socialism by pacific means throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, while the three Latin American nations have been subject to intense political conflict and class and political polarization, the social democrats favored moderate policies designed to avoid discord and achieve broad consensuses. In this sense, the three leftist regimes in Latin America resemble Communist experiences in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and Cuba characterized by head-on confrontations with the opponents of far-reaching change as well as with institutions representing the old order. In contrast to Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, however, the official discourse of the Communist Parties in power discarded the possibility of the peaceful democratic transition to socialism in accordance with orthodox Marxist thinking on the inevitability of class warfare (Regalado, 2007: 232). (1)

The term “twenty-first century Latin American radical left” (hereafter TFCLARL) is largely defined by the strategies followed in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador and excludes more moderate movements both in power (as in the case of Brazil) and out of power. The positions of the TFCLARL contrast with those of the moderates in several basic respects. The governments of Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Rafael Correa (Ecuador) are staunch critics of the capitalist system, if not advocates of socialism, unlike the moderate governments of Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay (Boron, 2008: 28-42). In addition, they took advantage of their advent to power and subsequent political victories by moving quickly against adversaries and deepening the process of change. This steady radicalization contrasts with Brazil’s Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, who upon assuming the presidency designed more conservative macroeconomic policies than those called for by international lending agencies. Along similar lines, the TFCLARL, unlike the moderate left, has been reluctant to negotiate and reach agreements with, or grant significant concessions to, their adversaries. Thus in Mexico, social democrats and other moderates associated with the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) favored alliances with the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) both in 2000 and subsequent years, while leaders to their left such as Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and Andrés Manuel López Obrador promoted leftist candidacies. Similarly, President Chávez broke with the tradition of creating tripartite commissions of peak business and labor organizations to resolve pressing problems and disputes.

Other shared characteristics set the three TFCLARL governments off from the moderate leftist ones. In the first place, all three presidents won elections, referendums and recall elections with sizeable majorities, sometimes exceeding 60 percent of the vote. These triumphs provided them with mandates and greater maneuverability than was the case with moderate leftist presidents who received lower voting percentages. In the second place, Chávez, Morales and Correa initiated their presidencies with a call for a constituent assembly, which ended up overhauling the existing political structure. In the third place, the momentum generated by TFCLARL victories and the radicalization of positions invigorated the movement’s rank and file. This zeal at the grass roots level accounted for the ongoing mobilization that on different occasions proved essential to the government’s political survival. On foreign policy, TFCLARL governments were harsh critics of Washington, and through the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (ALBA) acted as a bloc at international gatherings (Ellner, 2012a: 10). Finally, The three presidents headed relatively weak political parties, which, unlike in the case of Brazil and elsewhere, failed to establish solid links with the popular sectors outside of the electoral arena (Ellner, 2012b).

Not surprisingly, this radicalization met with hardened resistance on the part of defenders of the status quo and set off an intense polarization, which was another distinguishing feature of the TFCLARL in power. Indeed, the political, social and economic groups opposed to TFCLARL governments represented a “disloyal opposition.” Not only did they condemn virtually all government policies and actions, but accused it of totalitarian intentions and at times resorted to violence in an attempt to set off a military coup.

Finally, the TFCLARL has refrained from “red bating” or accepting the accusations of dubious veracity formulated by the right against leftists. Chávez, for instance, publicly declared that he was neither a communist nor an anti-communist, at the same time that his followers call one another “comrades” as a rebuke to McCarthyist-type stereotypes. Moderate leftist presidents in Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere have acted in a similar fashion. Not only do they reject the “good left”-“bad left” thesis promoted by Washington, but they have maintained exceptionally cordial relations with the TFCLARL in power. Nevertheless, there were exceptions to this principled behavior among moderate leftists. Thus, for instance, Gustavo Petro, the presidential candidate of the leftist Polo Democrático Alternativo in Colombia (and subsequently mayor of Bogota) called on his party to defend national interests by closing ranks behind right-wing President Alvaro Uribe in his attacks on Chávez for aiding the nation’s guerrilla movement (Informe, 2009). Occasional remarks by Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes against Chávez also appeared to serve as a statement of his government’s commitment to avoid radical change.

Radicalization was not a linear process, notwithstanding the commitment of TFCLARL movements to far-reaching change and their marked differences with moderate leftist ones. As Héctor Perla and Héctor Cruz-Feliciano discuss in their chapter, the Sandinista government after 2006 joined ALBA and resembled the TFCLARL in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador in other respects, but at the same time attempted to mollify the right. Having reached power with only 38 percent of the vote, the Sandinistas were intent on neutralizing and reining in diverse sectors. Not the least important of their concession was the government’s ban on abortion, a position which represented a complete reversal for President Daniel Ortega. In his chapter, Marc Becker describes how Rafael Correa appeared to turn his back on the principles of participatory democracy and ecological prioritization, which are embodied in the constitution of 2008, when he clashed with indigenous activists belonging to social movements that had been instrumental in his rise to power.

The TFCLARL experiences in office also contrast with those of democratic leftists such as the Allende government and the Sandinistas in the 1980s, who reached power in Latin America in the heat of the Cold War and were similarly committed to a radical break with the past. While less secure in power than Communists in the Soviet Union and China, the TFCLARL in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador exercises greater control of different state sphere, including the legislative and judiciary branches and the armed forces, than was the case of radical democratic leftists in the previous century. Consequently, the TFCLARL has been forced to grapple with thorny issues related to consolidation in the context of an extended transition to socialism. Neither Allende nor the Sandinistas in the 1980s faced a situation similar to Chávez in 2007 (and perhaps 2013), Correa in 2009 and Morales in 2010 after being reelected by wide margins, results which demoralized the opposition. During these periods of relative stability, the burden of demonstrating the viability of the new model they advocated was clearly placed on TFCLARL leaders.In contrast, the less secure grip on power of twentieth-century radical left governments due to ongoing disruptions including violence and sabotage and the wider support for U.S. interventionism during the Cold War years ruled out their consolidation and led to their overthrow. Allende, for instance, reached power with only 36 percent of the vote and was overthrown after just three years, while the Sandinistas in the 1980s focused much of their attention and resources on the U.S.-promoted armed resistance to their rule.

The TFCLARL faces complex theoretical and practical challenges that are in fundamental ways distinct from those confronting social democratic and orthodox Marxist movements of the twentieth century. Indeed, TFCLARL theoretician Marta Harnecker has stated that “the situation facing our ‘left’ governments is even more complex than that which faced the Soviet government” (Harnecker, 2010:32). The outstanding characteristics of the continent’s twenty-first century left help explain this complexity. Most important, the electoral and gradual path to far-reaching change in the absence of a policy of compromise and concessions to the enemy involves an array of variables that complicates the process. The strategy opens space and provides opportunities for adversaries who in the context of sharp polarization are able to employ legal and extra-legal tactics to undermine government authority and impede the implementation of its economic policies. An example of this low-intensity warfare was the case of Venezuelan business resistance to price controls which, as Ellner shows in his article in this issue, produced a veritable tug of war between the Chávez government and the private sector, eventually leading to widespread expropriations. This type of face-off presents the left with the ongoing dilemma of whether to move forward with further radicalization or emphasize consolidation. At the same time, the gradual, peaceful road to socialism creates spaces for those on the left end of the political spectrum, some outside of the ruling coalition (particularly in the case of Bolivia and Ecuador) and others within it (as in Venezuela) who clamor for a more accelerated pace of change.

These challenges are of a different nature and in some cases greater complexity than those confronting social democratic and Communist movements in power in the past.Social democratic thinking (as defended by the Socialist International) was underpinned by positivist assumptions regarding the inevitability of change in the absence of struggle (a fundamental theoretical difference between the father of positivism, Auguste Comte, and Marx). The social democratic strategy that attempts to minimize confrontation and achieve harmonious changecontrasts with the complex dynamic of radical policies followed by resistance from hegemonic forces and sharp political polarization within a democratic setting that characterizes the TFCLARL in power.

The case of Communists who seized power in the twentieth century was also distinct in that all forms of opposition to the government were repressed and socialism was imposed without a long drawn-out struggle. This process was antithetical to the war of position of the TFCLARL in power in which hegemonic traditional forces have retained the upper hand in institutions such as the church, the media and even parts of the state sphere. Furthermore, in contrast to the rigid Marxist doctrine and formulas of Communist rule, the TFCLARL is admittedly eclectic and embraces and even celebrates a trial-and-error approach to socialism lacking in ideological clarity, which it views as a corrective to dogmatism (Acosta, 2007: 25-27). It thus lacks the ideological common denominators that characterized the Marxism underpinning twentieth-century leftist governments.

The post-Cold War setting contributes to the complexity of the phenomenon of the twenty-first century left. The Cold War was conducive to simplistic conceptualization and strategies in that it pitted the pro-U.S. camp identified as democratic against the movements and governments favoring socialism, which was perceived to be a well-defined system. Pressure from both poles limited options and discouraged originality (as occurred in the case of Cuba in the course of the 1960s). The collapse of the Soviet bloc gave impetus to the equally simplistic, monolithic notions of neoliberalism and the related doctrine of the “end of history,” which labeled all alternatives to U.S.-style democracy and capitalism as obsolete.

By the turn of the first century, the widespread protests against neoliberalism in Latin America encouraged greater political diversity including nationalist leftist movements which firmly opposed U.S. policies. These leftists rejected the policy of concessions to powerful economic groups implicit in the strategy of center-left alliances advocated by Castañeda during the heyday of neoliberalism in the 1990s (for a discussion of the center-left approach, see Ellner , 2004: 12-21).The emerging anti-neoliberal model associated with the TFCLARL combines representative democracy and radical democracy based on the Rousseaunian tradition of direct input in decision making. The two are not entirely compatible and have created internal strains due to paradigmatic differences, thus adding to the complexity of the challenges facing twenty-first century leftist movements (Smilde, 2011: 7-11).

The TFCLARL in power faced two imperatives for which distinct and at times conflicting strategies were employed. On the one hand, pragmatic policies that promoted institutionalization were designed to foster efficiency at the same time that they prioritized economic over social objectives. On the other hand, widespread mobilization and social programs promoting participation in accordance with the TFCLARL’s goal of participatory democracy engendered popular enthusiasm, which was an essential element in advancing toward socialism and confronting adversaries on the right. The two sets of objectives were equally compelling. Dogmatic or simplistic formulas and ideological formulations favoring one and ruling out the other were unlikely to be successful (Ellner, 2011b: 439-440, 445). The resultant path designed to achieve a synthesis – as opposed to more dogmatic recipes – was fraught with complexity.

The social base and strategy of twenty-first century leftist movements diverge from traditional Marxist practice and thinking and are at the root of the complexity described above. Marx’s focus on production as the essential component of society’s “structure” (as opposed to the more superficial entity of the “superstructure”) led him to posit the proletariat as the key agent for change. Subsequently, orthodox Marxism minimized the role of other non-hegemonic classes and largely passed over their conflicting interests, a tendency sometimes called “workerism.” Marx questioned the revolutionary potential of the peasantry because of its property ownership aspirations. Lenin initially shared this distrust but then went on to call for a “worker-peasant alliance” without expressing concern over divergent interests or visions (a convergence represented by the symbol of the hammer and sickle). Similarly, orthodox Marxism denied the revolutionary character and political importance of the “petty bourgeoisie” in accordance with Marx's prediction of social polarization, in which a majority of the middle class would sink into the ranks of the working class. Finally, Marx's pejorative term “lumpen proletariat” has sometimes been conflated with the non-proletarian component of the urban lower classes that in Latin America largely consists of members of the informal economy.

In a different vein, Mao Zedong recognized the multiplicity and complexity of internal contradictions (both old and new ones) under socialism as well as the “fairly long period of time” that it will take to resolve them (Mao, 1971b: 444, 464). The same contradictions also manifested themselves within and among the different sectors that support the revolutionary movement, as well as within the socialist state. Nevertheless, Mao characterized these contradictions as essentially “non-antagonistic” (Mao, 1971a: 127) and believed that the correct way to settle them was by “the democratic method, the method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education” and by engaging in “self-criticism” (Mao, 1971b: 438-439, 442). He also considered the contradictions within the Communist party as a clash between “correct thinking” and “fallacious thinking,” which were themselves a reflection of class differences (Mao, 1971a: 126-127). These comments on contradictions would seem to fall short of the degree to which heterogeneity poses a complex challenge to twenty-first century socialism. (2)

In contrast to orthodox Marxism, writers over the years coming from different traditions have pointed to the transformational or revolutionary qualities of non-proletariat classes in the third world while arguing against the vanguard role of the working class. In the 1920s, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre posited the middle class as the most revolutionary social group in underdeveloped countries since their members “are the first victims of imperialism’s economic offensive,” unlike the working class and rural work force that, at least in the short run, stand to benefit from foreign investments (Haya, 1976: 255).

Similarly, Frantz Fanon emphasized the combative potential of the peasantry, which he contrasted with the self-serving political behavior of most of the urban population including the working class. He also recognized the revolutionary potential of the “lumpen proletariat,” which like the peasantry was further removed from, and therefore less corrupted by, the system of colonial rule (Fanon, 1963: 129-130). Fanon’s differentiation between the working class and the non-proletarian urban poor has become particularly compelling in the age of globalization (Laclau, 2005: 146-150, 231). Kurt Weyland and other scholars writing on neopopulism in the 1990s pointed to the conflicting interests between workers in the formal economy and those of the informal economy, the latter of whom – unlike the former – were adversely affected by the existing model of import substitution (Weyland, 1999: 182-184; Oxhorn, 1998: 200, 215-216). (3)

Writers sometimes identified as postmodernists have also focused attention on the heterogeneity of non-hegemonic groups. Most of them have distanced themselves from Marxist thinking by not only rejecting the revolutionary role of the working class due to its widespread acceptance of bourgeois values and chauvinism, but also writing off class itself as a useful category. In its place they celebrate group “identity” largely based on political and cultural convictions and behavior, a focus that amounts to, in the words of theoretician Nancy Fraser, the “recognition of difference” (quoted by Burgmann, 2005: 2). Post-Marxist Ernesto Laclau goes beyond this line of thinking by centering his analysis of politics and political strategy on the irreconcilability of differences among subaltern groups. Laclau’s concept of the “empty signifier” attempts to demonstrate the profundity of the cleavages. According to Laclau, the successful leader (who he calls a “populist”) is one who ingeniously unites disparate underprivileged sectors by coining slogans (empty signifiers) which are interpreted differently by each group according to their own world vision and needs. In spite of their unifying role, the populist leaders at no time are able to bridge completely the gap between these different interpretations.

In the 1980s, the celebration of “new social movements,” which were defined as those emphasizing identity and direct participation and which were associated at the theoretical level with Laclau (1985) and other post-Marxists and postmodernists, gained acceptance among some Latin American writers and activists. During these years social organizations and movements played a major role in democratization, and some of them facilitated the participation of previously excluded sectors on a massive scale including women and the indigenous population. The predominant role played by women activists in many of these activities (from soup kitchens to the Madres de Plaza de Mayo) spilled over to cultural fronts as gender equality in and out of the home rose to the fore leading to “discursive changes” from the originally expressed motives for participation (Feijoo and Gogna, 1990: 100; Jelin, 1990: 190; Ellner, 1994: 75-76). One prime example of the expression of identity politics was the Katarista movement in Bolivia which within the nation’s peasant movement formulated slogans related to ethnic oppression, a situation largely ignored by the 1952 revolution. One of the Kataristas, Alvaro García Linera, was jailed for his participation in the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army and went on to become vice-president under Morales and a foremost TFCLARL theoretician. García Linera has labeled the Morales administration the “government of social movements” and has embraced the “vivir bien” model based on anti-capitalist tenets of indigenous culture, but at the same time he defends the overriding importance of economic developmental goals (as discussed by Lorenza Fontana in her essay). In another example of incorporation of excluded sectors by the TFCLARL, women have constituted the vast majority of the “spokespeople” of the estimated 30,000 community councils which are concentrated in the barrios and represent a major pillar of the Chávez government’s political model.

The experiences of the TFCLARL in power and the class analysis of its defenders accord with the post-Marxist emphasis on heterogeneity and the irreconcilability of interests among those supporting the process of change (Harnecker, 2010: 65-66; Sader, 2008: 77-78). Some TFCLARL thinkers such as García Linera view the resultant tensions as conducive to “creative” outcomes (García Linera, 2011: 23-72). The cases of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador demonstrate the deepness of the strains among non-elite social sectors as well as among internal political currents, and the relationship that exists between the two. Not only are their interests different, but in some cases have entered into conflict.

The TFCLARL, in contrast to traditional leftist parties, reject the orthodox Marxist prioritization of the working class and the preference of twentieth-century Communist governments for heavy industry (Harnecker, 2007: paragraphs 115-116; Alvarez, 2010: 114-116; Boron, 2008: 122-130). Some Latin American leftist theoreticians point out that the “incredibly fragmented society” in the age of globalization even affects the working class, which has become “extremely heterogeneous” due in large part to the practice of flexibilization (Harnecker, 2010: 66). Such prominent twenty-first century leftist as Chávez and García Linera have argued that over recent decades the organized working class has failed to live up to the revolutionary expectations inherent in traditional Marxism (Blanco Muñoz, 1998: 392, 397; García Linera, 2010: 38-39; Boron, 2008: 123). As an alternative to proletarian workerism, the TFCLARL places all workers on an equal footing including the members of the informal economy, the rural work force, and employees in small business units (Goldfrank, 2011: 6).

The slogans “inclusion” and “incorporation” embraced by the twenty-first century left is directed more at the members of the informal economy, who are largely excluded from labor legislation and lack organizational representation, than the organized working class. One leading twenty-first century leftist philosopher and theoretician, Enrique Dussel, underscores the “liberation” and the rights of the excluded by arguing that ethics implies empathy for “the other” or for the “victim”. He goes on to state that “the affirmation of their dignity and freedom... of their labor, outside of the system is the source of the very mobility of the dialectic (they affirm what is ‘unproductive labor’ for capital, but real in its own terms... the system considers them ‘nothing, non-being; and it is out of this nothingness that new systems are built)” (Dussel, 2003: 143; 2008: 78; 2012). (4)

Twenty-first century radical leftist theoreticians and political actors, while discarding the workerism characteristic of orthodox Marxist groups, do not reject class-based analysis. Argentine leftist Atilio Boron, for instance, argues that “the proliferation of social actors does not decree the abolition of the laws of motion of a society of classes: it only signifies that the social and political scene has become more complex” (Boron, 2008: 126).Furthermore, the twenty-first century left has placed a premium on demands and programs at the point of production, a focus which represents the essence of Marxism. Examples of these types of demands favoring non-proletarian sectors of the work force include support for the right of informal economy workers to choose the locations of their sales stands and of community councils to hire local residents for public works undertakings in their communities, legalization of the activity of small-scale coca growers (particularly in Bolivia), and government preference for worker cooperatives in the awarding of contracts, even though they may be less cost-effective. These issues involving the livelihood of workers outside large-scale industry produced controversy among leftists, some of whom favored a strategy based on economies of scale (Ellner, 2011b: 440-445; Ciccariello-Maher, to be published: Chapter 9). Some twenty-first century radical leftists posit production units and geographical locations (such as communities) as equally important sources of struggle and as the seeds for the construction of a new society (Harnecker, 2008: 66-67; Silva, 2009: 269-272).

The decision of the TFCLARL to embrace social heterogeneity rather than prioritize a specific class or set of struggles presents it with special challenges. Most important, sharp social and political differences within leftist movements put to test the left’s commitment to internal democracy as vertical structures are seen by many as a corrective to acute internal discord. Historically, Latin American leftist leaders of multi-class parties, influenced by the Marxist principle of the inevitability of class conflict, confronted the predicament of conflicting internal interests by promoting centralism and tight organizational control. (5) Similarly, the main justification for the all-encompassing power of the national executive and the líder máximo in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua is that it guarantees political party unity essential to face powerful and aggressive adversaries.

Twenty-first century radical left writers have embraced two models which deal with the problem of heterogeneity in different ways and presuppose different levels of political consciousness among the general population. Radical or “participatory” democracy, which was embodied in the new constitutions of twenty-first century leftist governments, celebrates participation and guarantees direct popular input in decision making. In doing so, radical democracy encourages the creation of a wide range of social movements and organizations that reflect a multiplicity of concerns and interests (Harnecker, 2010: 7). An example of direct democracy is the government-promoted community councils in Venezuela, Bolivia (specifically, the ayllus) and Nicaragua. Rather than supporting mechanisms to achieve class harmony, some of the advocates of radical democracy envision ongoing social conflict and political differences as natural and healthy, as long as they do not degenerate into head-on clashes (Mouffe, 2005: 120-121; Garzón Rogé and Perelman, 2010: 69-72, 82-83). Their view of the proliferation of sources of conflict in the course of the twentieth century lends itself to the “deepening of democracy” and participatory democracy in that ever larger numbers of people have been incorporated into the political arena (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 163). The optimism of these writers regarding the democratic capacity of the general population leads them to take issue with those who are apprehensive of popular energy and participation (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985: 171-175; Esteva, 2009: 48-53). Radical democracy under governments committed to far-reaching change presupposes advanced political consciousness in that organizational and political maturity is a prerequisite for direct participation in decision-making. In addition, a high level of consciousness helps combat economicism whereby the excessive corporatist demands of a given non-privileged sector blocks the achievement of long-term objectives in the interest of the entire population. Political maturity is thus an antidote to secondary contradictions or what Mao Zedong called “contradictions among the people” (García Linera, 2011: 24).

A second model focuses on the “dialectical” relationship between the rank and file of movements on the left and charismatic leftist leaders, who are able to achieve the unity of a highly fragmented bloc of the non-elite. Diana Raby, influenced by Laclau’s writing on populism, points to the “internal contradictions” of “broad, popular and democratic movement(s)” that leaders such as Chávez attempt to overcome (Raby, 2006: 19, 189). Raby paraphrases Laclau by stating that the followers of the leftist populist leader become a “political subject” and develop “a political consciousness and identity,” but at the same time they assume the role of participants and not spectators (Raby, 2006: 240, 115). In contrast to the defenders of “crowd theory” and much of the original writing on populism in the 1950s (Germani: 1962), Laclau sees the populist leader as meeting his followers “only halfway” as he [or she] “will be only accepted if he presents in a particularly marked fashion, features that he shares with those he is supposed to lead," a bonding process described as “investiture” (Laclau, 2005: 59-60). Many TFCLARL activists and sympathizers describe this ongoing exchange as a “magical relationship” that facilitates democratic governance (as quoted in Ellner, 2011b: 435). In short, the non-privileged sectors of the population are highly divided but at the same time are far from impotent as they effectively assert their world vision, goals and specific demands.

Nevertheless, those twenty-first century leftists who place the radical populist leader at center stage are less optimistic than the radical democratic model about existing subjective conditions, and specifically the capacity of popular sectors to act autonomously on an ongoing basis within an organizational framework (see Laclau, 2006: 119-120). Indeed, some of the writers who identify with the TFCLARL point to the concentration of power in hands of the lider máximo as a sign of backwardness and an impediment to open debate and popular input in decision making (Monedero, 2009: 190-192; Javier Biardeau, 2009: 66; Acosta, 2009: 12-13).

The issue of social heterogeneity holds an important strategic implication for the Latin American left. If no one social group is the key agent of revolutionary change or receives priority treatment, and if political differences have a social base, then leftist governments need to reconcile different internal positions rather than follow a monolithic line in favor of a given political current or social group. A broad-based strategy of this type would even attempt to win over sectors of the middle class, specifically less privileged ones that support structural transformation, and would refrain from deriding their proposals on grounds of being “petty bourgeois.” Nevertheless, even with a well-balanced, flexible approach that attempts to achieve reconciliation, the government will not be able to (as Mao had hoped would happen) put an end to internal tensions which, as Laclau points out, are inevitable. The alternative for leftists is a movement rooted in the revolutionary hegemony of a given class or a tight-knit political vanguard, a dogmatic strategy that ignores the complexity of the challenges facing the twenty-first century left, much as the “two-left thesis” thesis does coming from the right. (6)


The focus on the complexity of the twenty-first century left and the heterogeneity of its following is diametrically opposed to the simplistic concept of populism embodied in the “two-left thesis” formulated by intellectuals such as Jorge Castañeda and Mario Vargas Llosa. Their arguments are used by the U.S. State Department as part of the effort to isolate Latin American governments perceived to be “anti-American.” The two-left thesis classifies the TFCLARL as the “bad left” or “populist left,” which it contrasts with the allegedly responsible policies of the “good left,” namely moderates such as Lula. The bad left is distinguished by its radical rhetoric, intransigence and confrontational tactics. Examples include López Obrador, who created a shadow cabinet to protest the alleged fraud of the 2006 presidential elections, and Ollanta Humala (at the time of his first presidential bid in 2006), who, according to Castañeda, attempted to “invade” Chile in what was really a peaceful symbolic protest in April 2007 to draw attention to Peru’s border claims (Castañeda, 2008: 232). The two-left thesis emphasizes personal ambition, style and discourse and in doing so completely passes over the complex array of groups that form part of the twenty-first century left and the difficult decisions that have been thrust upon it as a result of its commitment to the pacific road to power.

The “two-left thesis” points to the areas of convergence between TFCLARL movements and classical radical populist ones of a half century before, but in doing so simplifies both phenomena (Ellner, 2011a: 422). Undoubtedly the TFCLARL in some ways resembles classical radical populism of the 1930s and 1940s (Dussel, 2008: 76-77), whose salient features included charismatic leadership, organizational weakness, ill-defined long-term goals, nationalist foreign policy, socio-economic reforms favoring popular sectors, a tendency to bypass existing political institutions and a discourse that contributed to sharp political and social polarization. The complexity of radical classical populism (in contrast to pro-neoliberal neopopulism associated with Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s) stemmed from its far-reaching transformational potential which clashed with the intentions and interests of many of its original supporters (Laclau: 1979: 175, 190-191).

TFCLARL movements, due to their pronounced internal diversity and contradictions, are even more complex, as is repeatedly recognized by Latin American leftist theoreticians (Boron, 2008: 126; Dussel, 2008: 72). Thus, for instance, they are committed (and have taken steps) to overcoming their organizational shortcoming and promoting participatory democracy while in many cases retaining the strong executive powers of an all-powerful líder máximo. Furthermore, while lacking the blueprints for long-term change of orthodox Marxism, twenty-first century leftists have defined themselves as socialists and have debated different socialist options, unlike the more ideologically vague classical populism of the 1930s and 1940s. Indeed, their ideological vagueness may be a logical response to the vacuum created by the collapse of the Soviet Union, or in the words of Laclau “a precondition to constructing relevant political meaning” (Laclau, 2005: 17-18). In short the political agenda that lies behind the two-left thesis rules out a nuanced analysis of non-Communist transformational movements in Latin America both in the twentieth century and the present and is at odds with rich scholarly writing that demonstrates their complex and dynamic nature.

Since the publication of Leftovers in 2008, the debate over the two-left thesis has centered on the degree to which the category of both the good and the bad left can be considered homogeneous. Several important books explicitly characterize Leftovers as simplistic for failing to recognize the diversity among governments in both camps. Thus, for instance, the essays by Juan Pablo Luna (2010: 30-31), Maxwell Cameron and Kenneth Sharpe (2010), Jennifer McCoy (2010: 99 ft.7) and Santiago Anria (2010:121-123) in Latin America’s Left Turn contrast the top-down decision-making flow of Chávez with Morales, who as a labor and social movement leader has allegedly been more in tune and willing to negotiate with his rank and file and the population in general. In the same volume Luna (2010: 28) proposes to unpack “the social-democratic type” to demonstrate fundamental differences among “good left” governments. Along similar lines, Steven Levitsky and Kenneth Roberts conclude their The Resurgence of the Latin American Left by stating “the Latin American Left is marked by considerable diversity” in that between Brazil and Chile with its “macroeconomic orthodoxy” and Venezuela with “openly statist policies and increasingly authoritarian mode of governance” there is a “wide range of intermediate cases” (Levitsky and Roberts: 2011: 399). (7)

The debate over the “good left”-“bad left” thesis needs to be framed along different lines. Even if the premise of the two-left thesis regarding the basic similarities of “bad left” governments is accepted, the theory is fundamentally flawed. Regardless of the degree of diversity within the TFCLARL, the two-left thesis is simplistic because it ignores the complexity of the challenges they face. The complexity stems from three factors: the social and political heterogeneity of leftist government supporters, the spaces that democratic strategies open for critics both to the left and the right of leftist governments and the relative novelty of the approaches that are being followed. For this reason, the application of the framework of populism by Castañeda and others that highlights semi-authoritarian features and the weakening of institutions is misleading. Similarly, the two-left thesis’ assertion that TFCLARL policies are not sustainable simplifies the process of change underway in the continent and ignores the unmistakable inroads (Weyland, 2010: 11-12; 2011: 75-82; see also discussion in Levitsky and Roberts, 2011: 413-415; and Oxhorn, 2009: 228-230).

In short, the relatively novel and complex dimensions of the TFCLARL experiences in power, in addition to contradicting the simplistic two-left thesis, have major implications particularly for leftist strategy. The trial-and-error approach embraced by the TFCLARL, for instance, is conducive to the rejection of dogmatic positions based on preconceived blueprints. In addition, the TFCLARL’s acceptance of heterogeneity in the absence of both vanguardism and the prioritization of one social agent over others points in the direction of a strategy that synthesizes different and at times conflicting interests and visions. Finally, the TFCLARL’s tendency ofrejection of dogmatism, celebration of diversity and eclecticism are ingredients that lend themselves to rich debate on the left as well as rewarding scholarly inquiry.

1. Marx and Engels argued against the possibility of the peaceful transition to socialism. In the closing paragraph of the Communist Manifesto, they wrote: “Communists… openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”

2. The extent to which Mao’s theory of contradictions conforms to “orthodox” Marxism has been heavily debated, with a variety of favorable and unfavorable implications with regard to the impact of his thinking (Knight, 1997: 105-107). Liu Kang (1997) points to Mao’s concepts of specificity, the decisive role of ideological struggle and the multiplicity of contradictions at all levels as having informed the writing of Louis Althusser (often considered a precursor of post-Marxism). Althusser’s rejection of reductionism and his theory on the mutual dependence of the elements of the structure and the resultant relative autonomy of the superstructure (a principle he called “overdetermination”) underpin the complex nature of social relations and revolutionary politics in the twentieth century. As this introductory essay attempts to demonstrate, the complexity of the process of change, as Mao acknowledged and Althusser emphasized, is fundamental to understanding the twenty-first century Latin American left. Significantly, one of the main theoreticians of the TFCLARL, Marta Harnecker, was a student of Althusser. Harnecker has acknowledged that Althusser’s refutation of dogmatic Marxism and his arguments regarding the complexity of the process of change left a profound impact on her thinking. Along these lines, she claims that Marx was still grappling with the definition of social classes when he died (Harnecker, personal email to the author, February 20, 2012).

3. The literature on the informal economy differs on the extent to which its members represent an underclass with little upward mobility. Hernando de Soto’s celebrated book The Other Path focused on their potential to become prosperous businesspeople (Soto, 1989). Other writers attribute the growth of the informal economy of recent decades to capitalism’s outsourcing strategies in the age of globalization, which imply a less marginalized status for many of its members including a relatively comfortable living standards for some of them (Castells and Portes, 12-13). In contrast, Weyland and Fanon, by emphasizing the downtrodden conditions of those belonging to the informal sectors and their interests which conflict with those of the more privileged working class, imply a more crystalized status of exclusion. This essay, which characterizes large numbers of members of the informal economy as marginalized and unincorporated, also focuses attention on the differences in interests and visions between them and the working class of the formal economy.

4. Postmodernism shares this concern for the plight of the historically “excluded.” In addition, the TFCLARL’s glorification of the originality of Latin American thinkers, ranging from Simón Bolívar and Simón Rodríguez to the Aymara people, imply a rejection of Eurocentrism, as does postmodern writing.

5. As far back as the early 1930s, Rómulo Betancourt addressed the challenge of how to construct a multi-class party that took in the petty bourgeoisie and did not privilege the proletariat. He recognized the difficulty of achieving organizational unity among “individuals with disparate tendencies or ideologies that are… at times completely antagonistic representing antagonistic and irreconcilable class interests in order to bring them together in the struggle against a common enemy” (El Libro Rojo, 1985: 264). Betancourt’s answer to the predicament was the creation of tight-knit central leadership. He pointed out that “parties regardless of how doctrinaire and mass-based they may be, always move in the direction where their leaders take them” (El Libro Rojo: 1985: 143).

6. The TFCLARL’s acceptance of political diversity and pluralism manifested itself in Venezuela with Chávez’s failed effort to create the PSUV as “the Sole Party of the Left” (Partido Unico de la Izquierda) in 2007. Due to resistance from various sources, Chávez ended up backing down by creating the alliance “Gran Polo Patriótico” for the 2012 presidential elections. The Polo took in not only the Communist Party (the PCV) and the Patria Para Todos (PPT), both of which had refused to dissolve itself, but also social organizations that endorsed the Chávez candidacy with their own ticket. One Venezuelan leftist thinker applauded the decision on grounds that it “would generate greater richness of discussion,” whereas the existence of one hegemonic leftist party “would generate arrogance” (Acosta, 2009: 13-14).

7. In contrast, Kurt Weyland, Wendy Hunter and Raúl Madrid defend the two-left framework in their edited The Performance of Leftist Governments in Latin America. They justify their binary focus by contrasting the “contestatory left” represented by Chávez and Morales with the moderate left, which “has chartered a more promising, sustainable course which over time can produce greater economic and social progress in a well-functioning democracy” (Madrid, Hunter and Weyland, 2010: 180) (see Marc Becker’s book review essay in this issue).

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