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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Anatomy of slavery and reparations

By Franklin JOHNSTON

One author says slavery as an institution was an assault on the African male’s role of husband and father

IT is time to deconstruct slavery. We must peel the onion layer by layer and examine each without the hype and emotion.

New World slavery was the first global, cutting-edge enterprise — Europe's banking, manufacture, finance, insurance, shipbuilding. Yet men were sold as slaves in Africa and Jamaica, not Europe. Slavery was the model for commodities trading — buy and sell by specs, divert cargo on the high seas, no need to see the goods. A lot of evil was done, but to personalise slavery as "race hate" perverts history and blurs our insight. The enterprise spanned four continents, major nations, and here — the 17th century New World Logistics Hub under Henry Morgan — was the 19th century node of a global triangular trade. The slave trade was risky, exciting, but did not get you entry to exclusive club "Boodles"; owning a plantation did. Reparations came to mind when I examined MSS in the Public Records Office.

I learnt about slavery beyond the insipid local armed struggle and Wilberforce's crafting a weak political solution. I was flippin' angry that Africans traded my Dad for "brass bands, tobacco and beads" — what? Coloured beads? Not even a rifle? An outrage! Sue them! Life is still cheap there. The slave trade was distinct from slavery; both began randomly for Europe, but were a way of life in Africa. We do not have the nous to move slavery from tearful diatribe to cogent analysis, despite Eric Williams' Capitalism and Slavery. Today, barbarity reigns in Jamaica. They rape kids, slash throats, gut women, and hack men into pieces. This makes slavery look good. So weep for yourself, not your ancestors. The slavery chronicles need scholarship as Africa has not told its side of the story.

New World slavery was not social, political, tribal or God punishing black people, it was business. Europe and Africa did not invest to watch men squirm. Europeans worked Tainos to extinction and, while Africa was not their first choice, they found men with a devalued sense of self as substitutes. Europe could not buy men in China or India, but in Africa men were on sale. Slavery went viral when cane farmers' demand for workers exceeded the normal supply of men; prices rocketed. Caboceers — native slave traders — made super margins, so "let's trawl the next village and steal some men!" The rest is history. The slave trade and slavery had different investor profiles. Let's unbundle them.

Trade is a willing buyer engaging a willing seller. The English buyer and African seller were not slavers per se, they were traders; they sold anything. The slave trade was high risk-high gain; an adrenalin rush to some investors. Slaves were a premium — a poor risk profile, short shelf life, disease, injury, robbers; A rapid stock turn given the time value of money. Who in Europe bought goods to trade in Africa? Who in Africa traded people for goods? Who were the investors in Africa and England? Sea captains were fast-talking men who attracted rabid investors. Royals were involved, merchants, MPs, captains and crew, even widows. Just as today's stock market, no investor saw product or factory (did you visit the Salada factory before you bought shares yesterday?), the deal was the thing. The slave trader was a seaman adventurer doing business with likeminded land-based Africans. The captain and the caboceer were united in cash. Ponzi schemes existed long before Carlo Pietro Ponzi and captains exaggerated profits and oversold to entice investors. Will Africans tell us caboceers did the same thing to fund raids on villages? Write the history damn you!

The English slave trader was usually a seafarer and entrepreneur using leased ships and investor's cash. The captain risked his life — ocean, pirates, disease, mutinous crew. In Africa he bought broken people; the French or Spanish might steal his cargo at sea; some died; others were decanted overboard to escape pirates. Caboceers caught or bought people to fill the warehouses. Do you worry that the elephants in the z oo are not happy? Same difference! The trade in fabrics, beads, guns, ammunition, animals, salt, metals, cotton, pots, pans, and people was good. The seafarer made big profit, big loss and some died — high risk. Caboceers profited and lost lives too? What of slavery?

New World slavery was to farm sugar cane. The farming was tedious, the factories cutting-edge; sugar and rum had strong demand, but you could lose given the long wait for a crop. Farming and manufacture is not trade. Farm work varies for planting, crop care, reaping, and despite slave theory, no one cuts cane all year. Reaping and factoring time was short, intense; planting relaxed; crop care easier. In Europe many fought slavery by writing, protest and in Parliament. Will they be excluded from reparations? As today, there was no such activism against slavery in Africa. Why not? Should all Africa pay reparations?

I once thought reparations meant those paid should return their immoral gains. Who should pay? Should those who paid Africa cash for a man pay again? Is the original sinner the African who caught your ancestor? The captain who sold him to a cane farmer within six weeks? The investor (English and African), who sought profit? The cane farmer who used slaves for years? One prime target should be Africans who caught our ancestors and abridged their freedom. This is original sin! Repent! I don't want money, but may accept "mea culpas". Their kids must know truth. The second target is the English trader — his Christian faith condemns him — he knew it was morally wrong. Every English ship's flag to fly at half-staff; a major monument to Africans lost at sea in Bristol, London, every slave port and on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square. Or will you trade a race's dignity for cash? Do not allow them to say, "Shut up nigger you took the cash in 2015!" I want slavery seared into Europe's conscience like the Holocaust numbers; monuments down Pall Mall, Buckingham Palace, stately homes "to the nameless Africans who built this land!" Selah!

We need economic scholarship to deconstruct slavery and its the bleeding heart history — slaves in chains and on auction blocks. Don't screw up your kids. Invent a cathartic video game "Ultimate Slave Trader" with ships, lazer spears and have fun. Don't let history freak you out; make money from it, innovate! No European said, "let's invest cash, go to Africa to jerk-up a few black people". Caboceers chasing men for sale through the jungle were not having fun. Africa was the epicentre of slavery — trans-Sahara, Indian Ocean, trans-Atlantic, and their domestic type; up to today! Why Africa? God only knows!

We need research to fathom slavery, but the Africans say nothing so we should help them. UWI needs a Chair in Slavery and Diaspora Studies (African, Chinese, Indian, Jamaican); professors from business, not bleeding hearts. I am all cried out. What's Africa's take on slavery, reparations? Can their oil tycoons, rich entertainers, the diaspora endow a Chair? Most African historians are white; no black writes Europe's history; go figure! "Up you mighty race!" Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. Comments:

March 28, 2014

Jamaica Observer

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Bahamas National Reparations Committee has been established to prepare a legal claim present to the International Court of Justice (ICOJ) ...for reparations for the infliction of slavery on Caribbean colonies certain former European colonisers

 Govt Forms Reparation Committee

By Jones Bahamas:

The government has established The Bahamas National Reparations Committee and its members were revealed yesterday.

The committee will be responsible for preparing a legal claim to present to the International Court of Justice (ICOJ) for reparations for the infliction of slavery on Caribbean colonies by certain former European colonisers.

The committee will also be responsible for an educational campaign and invoking dialogue on the issue which Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said is in the best interest of the country.

“The government thinks that this is in the best interest of the country to have research done,” he said during a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Goodman’s Bay Corporate Centre. “What often happens with these things is as [they] unfold people will tend to accept that it is the right thing to do.”

“As I tried to indicate in as gentle way as I can, those of us who came up in the 60s and 70s are astounded at how polite a society we have become on this subject which still resonates throughout all of the things that we do.”

Reparations is the process of repairing the consequences of crimes committed and the attempt to reasonably remove debilitating effects of such crimes upon victims and their descendants.

National Reparation Committees have been established on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

In preparation for a legal claim, each National Reparation Commission is to gather information pertaining to each claimant state; illustrate the link between historic discrimination and present day racial discrimination; outline modern racial discrimination resulting from slavery in areas of health.

In addition, illustrate the link between, socio-economic deprivation and social disadvantage, education, living conditions, property and land ownership, employment participation in public life and migration and identity policies of the United Kingdom, which have perpetuated the discriminatory effects of slavery in The Bahamas.

Minster Mitchell said the committee is expected to have a legal claim developed by this June.

Recently, CARICOM leaders unanimously adopted a 10-point plan for reparations during the first day of heads of government meetings in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The 10-point plan includes calling for a formal apology for slavery and debt cancellation from former colonisers such as Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands and reparation payments to repair the persisting “psychological trauma.”

Former parliamentarians, Alfred Sears and Philip Smith serve as chair and co-chair of the committee.

Additionally, there are 22 committee members who include, Dr. Chris Curry, Dr. Gail Saunders, Fr. Dacid Cooper, Rev. Williams Higgs, Ms. Marion Bethel, Rev. Timothy Stewart, Ms. Keisha Ellis, Mr. Pedro Rolle, Ms. Theresa Moxey-Ingraham, Dr. Niambi Hall-Campbell, Mr. Michael Symonette, Mr. Michael Stevenson, Ms. Elaine Toote, Ms. Kim Outten-Stubbs, Dr. Tracy Thompson, Mr. Whitman McKinney, Mr. Elsworth Johnson, Mr. Bianca Beneby, Ms. Alesha Hart, Mr. Travis Cartwright, Mr. Cecil Thompson and an attorney from the Office of the Attorney General.

According to Minister Mitchell, the members were chosen because of their broad expertise and their representation of the Bahamian Society.

March 25, 2014

The Bahama Journal

Saturday, March 22, 2014

We don’t like Value Added Tax (VAT) in The Bahamas

'We Don't Want V.A.T., Even At 1/100 Of 1%'

Tribune Business Editor

Super Value’s owner yesterday said Bahamians “don’t want VAT under any circumstances, even at 1/100th of 1 per cent”, and called for the Government to instead implement a wide-ranging fiscal reform package that included a sales tax.

Rupert Roberts told Tribune Business that the private sector and consumer’s main complaint was not the level of taxation, but the “complex and evil system” that VAT will introduce should it be implemented in the Bahamas.

His comments indicate that Prime Minister Perry Christie’s conciliatory Mid-Year Budget address, in which he pledged that VAT would be implemented at a lower rate than the initially proposed 15 per cent, has failed to win over the tax’s greatest opponents.

It also contradicts Ryan Pinder, minister of financial services, who in his MId-Year Budget contribution suggested that a 10 per cent VAT, which was introduced on New Year’s Day 2015, would be acceptable to many in the business community based on the feedback he has received.

Mr Roberts’s comments suggest, though, that the Government is unlikely to win over many in the business conmmunity and wider Bahamian public who seem opposed to VAT in any form.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s address last week, in which he indicated that the Government would also likely push back VAT’s planned July 1 implementation date, Mr Roberts said such a move was inevitable.

“The poor merchant doesn’t know how it works, so it has to be pushed back,” the Super Value president told Tribune Business.

Then, suggesting the Government had misread why many Bahamians were so opposed to VAT, he added: “The merchants and public are not complaining about the rate; they’re complaining about the complx and evil system of VAT.

“If VAT was 1/10th of 1 per cent, they don’t want it. We don’t want VAT under any circumstances, even at 1/100th of 1 per cent. VAT is a system that nobody in the Bahamas wants execpt the politicians.”

This assertion says Bahamians, both private sector and consumer, are opposed to the VAT concept, rather than the substance or details. Yet VAT, which taxes the value added at each stage of the production chain, or some form of general consumption tax has been implemented in more than 140 countries.

But one senior banking industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Tribune Business that the pledged lower VAT rate was merely a tactic to “get the camel’s nose under the tent”.

They suggested the cut to the proposed 15 per cent rate was a shrewd negotiating tactic by the Government that was designed to pacify the VAT opposition.

Once VAT was implemented at a lower rate, the banker suggested it was only a matter of time - possibly just a few years - before the Government sought to raise it, as has happened in many other countries. They also predicted that the Bahamas would likely follow Barbados in introducing some form of income tax, too.

While welcoming the Government’s decision to lower the 15 per cent rate, Mr Roberts argued: “The country doesn’t want VAT, and the country doesn’t realise that VAT allows the Government millions and millions of dollars up front.

“We have no VAT now, and the minute we have it, merchants will pay it when we import products. It may be six months before we sell that merchandise, but the Government collects its money right away. They have millions and millions of cash flow, and I might not even sell it after six months if it becomes spoiled or someone steals it.”

Philip Beneby, president of the Retail Grocers Association, yesterday told Tribune Business that the food retail/wholesale sector was still unsure whether VAT was “the right fit” for it and the Bahamas.

He argued that it was “not as fair to the grocery trade as it is to other industries because we cannot reclaim 100 per cent of our inputs”.

Breadbasket items, which typically are price controlled and account for 75-80 per cent of food store inventories, will be treated as ‘exempt’ under the proposed VAT legislation. Vendors of ‘exempt’ items cannot claim back the VAT they pay on these products’ inputs, meaning supermarket operators will only be able to recover 20-25 per cent of their tax payments.

As previously reported in Tribune Business, food store operators fear this will result in reduced profit margins and increased costs, resulting in job losses and outlet closures.

Mr Beneby said the Government had shown no sign to-date of moving from this position, adding: “It’s not fair to us in its present form. I don’t think our industry is treated in that fashion anywhere else. The grocery trade and retailers are carrying some of the burden for Government and it’s not fair to us.”

Mr Roberts reiterated: ‘We just don’t want the system of VAT. It’s not the concept of taxation; we’re willing and able to pay the taxes for them in a system we like.

“If the Government came to the business community and said look, we have a deficit, we’re cutting our expenditure, and we want you to help us collect the money.......... if they were to package it, we’d have been collecting a sales tax for them, at 15 per cent.

“We don’t like VAT. I hope the Government realises that’s the problem. We like the Government; we don’t like the system. It doesn’t work well elsewhere, so why should it work here?”

March 20, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) debate in The Bahamas

The LGBT debate: A historic perspective

Nassau, The Bahamas

Although Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has come under fire over comments he made in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, The Bahamas has a long history of legislatively supporting all people, regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation.

Mitchell recently told a group of university students in Trinidad that his political career suffers because he supports the rights of LGBT people.

Bahamas Faith Ministries International President Dr. Myles Munroe has accused Mitchell of having convictions that are not shared by the majority of Bahamians and has called for his removal.

However, as Mitchell has said, his views are nothing new.

In fact, many politicians have spoken in support of the rights of LGBT people in The Bahamas from as far back as 1989.

During the last term of the Pindling administration, the government brought two amendments to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act, the first in 1989 and the latter in 1991.

Both amendments dealt with a wide range of matters, including the controversial issue of homosexuality and sparked debate in the House of Assembly and the country.


In October 1989, the government made amendments to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act that, among other things, made buggery and “unnatural connection” with any animal an offense with a prison term of 20 years. The amendment also made sex between two women an offense that also carried a 20-year penalty.

It should be noted that buggery was a crime in the country long before the 1989 amendment.

At the time, National Security Minister Paul Adderley said the bill sought to “limit people’s choice in the matter of sexual preference”.

Even then, MPs were outspoken against policing the “bedroom business of Bahamians”.

Bamboo Town MP Tennyson Wells said the government “had no right to legislate the private lives of individuals”.

While he described homosexuality and lesbianism as unnatural, Wells said if the bill was passed, it could never be fully enforced, unless the country became a police state.

Ann’s Town MP A.D. Hanna, who spoke out against the bill, said the issue was a question of morality.

“And as we are tidying up…go all the way, like true PLPs, and spell out what adultery is permitted and what adultery is not permitted in the law,” he said.

Hanna said the government should think twice before making homosexuality a crime without investigating it.

He said he did not think gays and lesbians were a scourge on society or that homosexuality was practiced widely in the country.

Hubert Ingraham, who at the time was the MP for Cooper’s Town, retorted that Hanna was wrong and that “even Parliament is not excluded from having its per centum of gays”.

House Speaker Sir Clifford Darling said that was news to him.

“I didn’t know parliamentarians were gay,” he said.

The amendments were later passed.


In 1991, the government made further amendments to the Sexual Offences Act.

Section 16 of the bill made it an offense for someone to have sex with a member of the same sex, with or without the consent of that other person, in a public place or with a minor.

The amended law removed the criminalization of buggery and lesbianism in private. But that was not how the bill entered Parliament.

According to previous Nassau Guardian stories at the time, the government’s first draft seems not to have included the phrase, in a public place.

Many MPs voiced opposition to legislating morality.

Marathon MP Algernon Allen asked, “Is homosexuality so heinous and offensive a form of social conduct that we ought to imprison persons for that conduct?”

He said Parliament is “really the worst judge of morality”.

Rolleville MP George Smith said while he does not support unnatural sexual acts, he had to temper his views. He said the government should be careful that the bill does not result in a police force conducting witch-hunts for homosexuals.

Saint Barnabas MP Matthew Rose said it was nobody’s business if someone wants to engage in homosexual acts.

At the time, he said the government should address the topic of homosexuality instead of trying to send homosexuals to prison.

Opposition Leader Hubert Ingraham said he had never seen so many MPs better prepared for a debate nor had he seen them do so much research for one either.

“Hopefully these tongues are not only going to be loosened when they are talking about homosexuality and lesbians,” he said at the time.

The bill was later amended and passed.


On February 3, 1998, members of the Bahamas Christian Council along with at least 100 supporters protested on Bay Street against a gay cruise ship that was scheduled to visit the Berry Islands. The ship reportedly had 900 openly gay visitors.

Christian Council Vice President Simeon Hall said while the group had no quarrel with lesbian and gay people, it did not want the promotion of homosexuality on Bahamian shores.

In March of that year, the Save The Bahamas group, made up of church leaders, led hundreds of people in a protest on Bay Street against a Holland American cruise ship, that was allegedly carrying gay passengers.

Pastor Mario Moxey, president of the group, called on the government to acknowledge that Bahamians were outraged by gay cruises visits.

A day before the protest, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the country would not turn away any tourists who classified themselves as gay.

On March 8, Ingraham released the government’s official position on gay cruises.

He said he was “chilled by the vehemence of expressions” against gay and lesbian people by the public.

Ingraham added that the future of the country would not be placed in “danger because chartered cruises by gay persons is permitted to continue to call at Bahamian ports”.

A cruise ship carrying 800 lesbians in April faced similar anti-gay protestors. Confronted by hundreds of angry protestors and anti-gay placards, passengers of the Seabreeze reportedly vowed never to return to The Bahamas.

Amid the controversy, National Security Minister Frank Watson affirmed the government’s position of gay and lesbians serving in the country’s armed forces.

He said the government will not discriminate against homosexuals in the police force, Defence Force and officers serving at the prison.

“What consenting adults do between themselves in the privacy of their home is nobody’s business,” he said.

This was a far cry from the 1989 amendments that criminalized sexual intercourse between homosexuals.


In 2004, gay and lesbian passengers on the Norwegian Dawn that docked in Nassau were greeted by hundreds of angry protestors from Save The Bahamas.

Protestors were yelling anti-gay chants, “Gay ways are not God’s ways”.

R. Family Vacations, a company created by openly gay American TV talk show host Rosie O’Donnell and her wife Kelli, organized the cruise.

Members of The Bahamas Rainbow Alliance, a now defunct pro LGBT group, also greeted the passengers.

It was unclear if Prime Minister Perry Christie offered any position on the matter.


In September 2005, Miss Teen Bahamas Gari McDonald, 18, was stripped of her crown a week after she publicly admitted that she was a lesbian.

McDonald alleged that the she was given an ultimatum by the beauty pageant’s committee of “gracefully stepping down or having to deal with the embarrassment of being stripped” on the basis of an accusation of harassment and her sexuality.

McDonald said prior to entering the pageant, the question of sexuality never arose. She was crowned on November 4, 2004.

Miss Teen Bahamas Director Richa Sands said McDonald “put to the media and the world at large her sexual orientation as a teenager”.

“For us that is a major problem because we don’t stand for that,” she said.

Sands said moving forward, the committee would have to deal with the matter and ensure that something similar never happens again.


In 2006, the Bahamas Plays and Films Control Board banned the movie Brokeback Mountain because it featured “extreme homosexuality, nudity and profanity”.

The Rainbow Alliance called it “a farce” that a small group of people should try to “provide the moral compass for the entire country”.


In 2011, Foreign Affairs Minister Brent Symonette said the government supported a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that affirmed equal rights for LGBT people.

The resolution, which was introduced by South Africa, expressed grave concern about the discrimination of gays throughout the world and affirmed that freedom to choose sexuality is a human right.

It was the first ever UN resolution on the human rights of LGBT people.

While The Bahamas did not have a seat on the council, Symonette said the government is in favor of the resolution.

“Our record is clear, we continue to support freedom of expression and the right for people to express their opinions,” he said in June 2011.

Later that month at a press conference, Opposition Leader Perry Christie said the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supported the resolution. He said the PLP has “always been committed to progressive policies - policies that emphasize our commitment to human rights”.


The LGBT debate has once again hit the public consciousness with Dr. Myles Munroe and the foreign minister, Mitchell, being embroiled in a nasty public spat.

Speaking recently on the popular Love 97 FM talk show, Jones and Co., former Parliamentarian Algernon Allen said his Christianity is not confined, but all encompassing.

Allen spoke of tolerance and said the government has to pursue certain objectives for the good of the state.

Former parliamentarian George Smith told The Guardian recently that human rights transcends whether a person is gay or straight.

‘We have to hold up the rights of all human beings,” he said.

March 17, 2014


Monday, March 17, 2014

Caricom leaders move forward with the case for reparations ...for the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans in the Caribbean ...from Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark

The case for reparations from slavery



The case for reparations for the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans inched forward last week when Caricom leaders accepted a 10-point plan for negotiations with the European nations which planned, executed and profited immensely from this crime against humanity, a crime that cannot be allowed to disappear without settlement.

At their inter-sessional meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines, leaders of the 15-member grouping of Caribbean states embraced the plan. Among other things, it seeks a formal apology, debt forgiveness, greater development aid for public health, educational and cultural institutions as well as unspecified financial damages for the persisting "psychological trauma" from the days of plantation slavery.

Also, it calls for the creation of a "repatriation programme" to help resettle members of the Rastafarian movement in Africa. Repatriation to Africa has long been a central belief of Jamaican Rastafarians and they have been pressing Britain to foot the bill, a claim the British have rejected.

The targeted countries are Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark which participated, to varying degrees, in the slave trade that took place from the 16th through to the 19th centuries.

Meanwhile, at a press conference in Barbados Thursday, following the St Vincent summit, the chairman of Caricom's Reparations Commission (CRC), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, said the region expects to host a major conference on reparations and reparatory justice shortly, and various European government delegations are expected to participate.

Professor Beckles said the conference would address "...this matter of continuing harm and continuing suffering within the tradition of international diplomacy. The diplomatic initiative is designed... to ensure that there is reconciliation, to ensure that there is truth and justice, and to put an end to this terrible history so that the world may move on in the 21st century as a more harmonious place".

Also endorsing a "non-confrontational" approach, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller says Caricom was seeking to engage a "process of reconciliation and dialogue, free from animosity".

But litigation should not be ruled out if diplomacy and negotiation failed. That's why the region has engaged the British law firm, Leigh Day, to push the claim under international law, should that be necessary.

Not so long ago, Leigh Day secured a £20-million compensation award for Kenyans who were tortured by colonial authorities during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s. The financial settlement, though relatively small, confirms that remedies are possible.

In various media statements, Martin Day, a principal of the firm, has been arguing that there is a case for adjudication in the international court of justice in The Hague. The United Kingdom accepts the jurisdiction of the court, but only in cases relating to disputes arising since 1974 and those that do not involve Commonwealth or former Commonwealth countries. Day does not see this as an insurmountable hurdle.

With a huge footprint from its slaving imperial and colonial past, Britain's objection to litigating its past conduct is understandable, as cases could arise from the often violent exercise of authority in the vast empire once under its control. Accepting a case for slavery could open a floodgate of claims for other human rights abuses.

Recently, a British junior minister, while on a visit to Jamaica to drum up business for his country, told us flatly to forget it and move on. Slavery happened. It wasn't pretty; but we should just get over it! I don't think so.

Slave owners compensated for loss of their 'property'

The enslavement of millions of Africans and subsequent abuse for more than 400 years did not occur by happenstance. Africans were classified in law as non-human, chattel, property and real estate. They were denied recognition as members of the human family by laws and practices derived from the parliaments and policies of Europe.

British traders shipped more than three million men, women and children from Africa to slave markets in the Americas in what has been acknowledged to be the largest forced migration in human history.

In a compelling argument of the case for reparations, historian Professor Beckles argues in his recent book, Britain's Black Debt: Reparation for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide, that international law provides that chattel slavery, as practised by Britain, was a crime against humanity.

He documents that slavery was invested in by the royal family, the Government, the established church, most elite families, and large public institutions in the private and public sectors. Citing the legal principles of unjust and criminal enrichment, he argues that Britain must pay up on the black debt owed to subsequent generations of Caribbean peoples.

Slavery ended throughout the Caribbean in the 1800s in the wake of slave revolts, and the realisation in Europe that the huge profits from the region's plantation economies were becoming unsustainable.

Since the abolition of slavery, numerous groups have been calling for reparations on the basis of social justice, equity, civil and human rights, education, and cultural identity.

However, that demand remains a divided issue. Britain has steadfastly refused to apologise or consider financial compensation. The closest positive response was in 2007 when Tony Blair, the then prime minister, expressed "deep sorrow and regret" for the "unbearable suffering" caused by Britain's role in slavery.

Some would wish that the campaigners for reparations would shut up. Forget about slavery and move on to more practical issues of human and economic development. The Europeans will neither pay nor apologise, they say.

Also, cynics suggest that our regional political leaders are using the reparations issue as a diversion from their inability to properly manage governmental institutions and natural resources for the advancement of Caribbean peoples.

No one can dispute that many of our administrations perform below expectations; examples of corruption, lack of adherence to good governance and accountability abound; and too many pressing social issues are not being seriously addressed.

But this does not undermine the case for reparations, which is likely to be a defining issue of the 21st century as peoples all over the world demand the righting of historical wrongs of enslavement and native genocide, whose negative effects are still clearly visible for all who care to see.

But as UWI historian Professor Verene Shepherd, chairman of Jamaica's reparations committee, told Britain's The Daily Telegraph in an interview last month, British colonisers had "disfigured the Caribbean", and their descendants should now pay to repair the damage.

"If you commit a crime against humanity, you are bound to make amends," she said. "The planters were given compensation, but not one cent went to the freed Jamaicans." The same countries that deny culpability for their misdeeds are now busy trying African and other leaders for crimes against humanity. Justice demands that all wrongs be righted.


March 16, 2014

Jamaica Observer

Friday, March 14, 2014

Three Caribbean nations on the list of the top 10 most ethical travel destinations in the world - 2013

Bahamas Among 10 Most Ethical Destinations

by Ianthia Smith
Jones Bahamas
Nassau, The Bahamas

The Bahamas has been voted one of the top 10 most ethical travel destinations in the world, according to non-profit organisation Ethical Traveler.

The 2013 report noted that The Bahamas won its way onto the list by making efforts to reduce human trafficking and expand national parks and protected areas, such as the Andros West Side National Park, which grew from 882,000 acres to nearly 1.3 million acres.

In addition to more standard criteria like unspoiled natural beauty and authentic cultural experiences, researchers judged destinations on 35 metrics in four categories: environment protection, social welfare, human rights, and for the first time, animal welfare.

“In other words, judges considered quality of drinking water in the category of environmental protection, women’s rights in the category of human rights, and so on,” the report read.

The complete top 10 list for 2013, in alphabetical order, includes The Bahamas, Barbados, Cape Verde, Chile, Dominica, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius, Palau and Uruguay.

Ethical Traveler does not rank the countries within the top 10.

“The Bahamas was also awarded for its intention to set aside 20 per cent of its territorial waters as marine protects areas; the government achieved results in the proactive identification and assistance of trafficking victims and launched its first prosecution under its human trafficking law; The Bahamas gets top ratings for both political rights and civil liberties overall in the 2013 scores,” the report added.

“The constitution, other laws, and domestic policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally respected religious freedom. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The Bahamas has an independent press and a relatively effective – albeit extremely backlogged – judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system and a number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction.”

While The Bahamas made its way onto the list, the country lost points in several areas.

“The government has not yet reported a conviction of a trafficking offender,” the 2013 Ethical Traveler report read. “Reported incidents of police killings of six people in disputed circumstances and the failure to adhere to the call by the UN to stop involuntary returns of Haitian nationals; poor ratings for gender inequality according to the UN; the criminal code still discriminates against gay, lesbian and bisexual people in that the legal age of consent to engage in homosexual conduct is 18 years, while the legal age of consent to engage in heterosexual conduct is 16 years.”

Three countries that fell off the list from 2013 – Costa Rica, Ghana and Samoa – slid backward on key metrics such as environmental protection and human rights violations.

“We feel that we can make a difference in those countries because they really want to try to do the right thing,” Ethical Traveler’s Founder and Executive Director Jeff Greenwald said. “If we can send more travellers there because of their good policies, we think they’ll really stand up and take notice.”

March 13, 2014

The Bahama Journal

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The impact of an implemented Value Added Tax (VAT) in The Bahamas

'Year To Adjust' To Vat, Warns Businessman

Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas

A DOWNTOWN businessman believes it would take the Bahamas at least a year to adjust to the impact of Value Added Tax if it is implemented this July.

Although it was not an official declaration that VAT will be off the table, Finance State Minister Michael Halkitis told the media that the government will now consider revisiting all proposals in the wake of the proposed regularisation and taxation of web shops.

Dennis Halamino, the proprietor of the Tropicana Club and the Casablanca bar, told The Tribune, however, that if VAT is implemented, “it’s going to take about at least a year for the country to adjust to the change.”

“I hope they know what they’re doing because they’re taking a big risk,” he added.

In Parliament last week, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe announced that the Government will regularise and tax webshop gaming by July 1 after more than a year of speculation following the “No Vote” in the 2013 Gaming Referendum.

Mr Wilchcombe revealed that the government will bring regulations to the House of Assembly within the next two weeks that will legalise the industry.

Following this, Mr Halkitis told the press that if the government is able to “realise revenue” from webshop gaming then it could possibly “relax” on other revenue raising measures.

“Based on the system as it is, if we can implement the regulation of the web gaming and begin to realize revenue from it, then we may have the opportunity to revisit all the proposals that we have to determine okay, if we now can get ‘X’ amount of revenue from here, does that give us flexibility to relax on this other side, and that’s a conversation that we will have,” he said.

Mr Halamino told The Tribune last Friday that businesses like his, which depend on thousands of tourists, will be significantly affected by VAT.

“It will affect business for any person who has customers, whether small or large,” Mr Halamino said.

“The prices are going to rise up and the Bahamas is already an expensive location because of the high standard of living. With this VAT coming, it’s going to make the place less commercial and less viable for people to come here and for entrepreneurs to do business.”

Mr Halamino said he’d be able to stay open with the same number of people on staff; however, he noted that VAT is coming at a “bad time”.

“It comes in a slow season and it will make things worse. If they are inclined to implement VAT, they should push it back to January through April next year when the most tourists and other clients come into the country. But they (government) want to do it from the mid-year to November or however long. And that period is the worst months for businesses like mine. That will make business even slower.”

He believes the government should seriously consider alternatives to VAT and if it is still inclined to implement the new tax measure, they should not only take the proper steps to ensure its collection but also consider a rate that will not cripple businesses and consumers alike.

The Government is proposing to implement Value-Added Tax (VAT) on July 1 at a rate of 15 per cent, with the hotel industry to be subject to the lower 10 per cent rate. The Government expects to generate an additional $200 million in revenue from the new tax regime.

March 10, 2014

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leslie Miller's domestic abuse comments in the House of Assembly “perpetuates and encourages violence against women” ... says Bahamas Crisis Centre Director, Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson

Crisis Centre rebukes abuse comments

Says MPs’ voices needed in fight against domestic abuse

Guardian Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas

A recent comment on domestic abuse that Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller made in the House of Assembly “perpetuates and encourages violence against women”, Bahamas Crisis Centre Director Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson said yesterday.

During his contribution to the mid-year budget debate in the House of Assembly, Miller suggested that he physically abused an ex-girlfriend, but later said those comments were made in “jest”.

While not seeking to criticize Miller, Dean-Patterson said his remarks bring much needed attention to the issue of domestic violence, which she said is readily accepted and tolerated in the Bahamian society.

“So to hear leaders and respected parliamentarians joke about behavior such as this only serves to reinforce perpetrators in their belief that they have a right to beat women and it feeds into the misogynic attitude that many people have that objectifies and sexualizes women,” said Dean-Patterson at a press conference at the Crisis Centre.

“This continued acceptance and tolerance occurs because of the acceptance of the myths and belief systems that support it, such as the one expressed on the floor of the House of Assembly that women like beatings...and provoke you to do it.”

Miller has since apologized for his comments. He said he has never abused women.

Miller made his original statements as he criticized the opposition for allegedly not standing up for Bahamian fishermen while it was in government but seeking to put pressure on the present government to assist them.

He compared the behaviour to an abusive relationship.

“Today they come in here preaching about their love for the fishermen,” said Miller, referring to the opposition.

“My God, that’s your idea of love? That’s like beating your wife or your girlfriend every time you go home.

“You just beat her for looking at her. I love ya. Boom, boom, boom.

“I had a girlfriend like that. When I didn’t beat her she used to tell me I ain’t love her no more cause I don’t hit her.

“But seriously, I had one like that. I had one. She used to tell me,” he insisted as other members murmured and chuckled.

House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major injected, “We know that you’re joking with that.”

However, Miller said he was “serious with that”.

Miller said his hand used to hurt from the abuse he administered.

Following that statement, Miller acknowledged that his analogy was in poor taste.

He said he meant no harm and pledged to contribute a minimum of $1,000 to the Crisis Centre.

Dean-Patterson commended Miller for apologizing.

She said parliamentarians must join the fight against domestic abuse.

“It’s their voices that people need to hear and not laughter that perpetuates and bolster the myths and encourage intimate partner violence,” she said.

“…We all talk about the anger in our nation. We need to look at how we can make our homes more nurturing and safe…It’s our responsibility to rid our nation of this scourge.”

March 08, 2014


Saturday, March 8, 2014

What is Happening in Venezuela?

By Miguel Tinker Salas:

On February 12th, (Venezuelan Youth Day and the commemoration of the independence battle of La Victoria) some university students and traditional conservative opposition groups took to the streets in Venezuela. In Caracas students and others attacked a government building, burned cars and damaged the entrance to a metro station.  The demonstrations extended for several days, as it quickly became obvious that the principal purpose of the protests was to destabilize the government and seek the ouster of the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro faced a hotly contested presidential election shortly after the death of Hugo Chávez, in which he narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles. To gain support, Capriles promised to continue social programs initiated by the late president becoming what some called a “Chávez lite” candidate. The hard line elements of the opposition, including Capriles refused to accept the results of the elections and street violence generated by conservative forces left close to a dozen people dead.

Last December, Venezuela held municipal elections that the opposition purposely turned into a referendum on the Maduro presidency. Despite the opposition’s winning of several important areas in Caracas and the city of Maracaibo the government sponsored coalition (Polo Patriotico) won over 70% of the country’s municipalities. The election results revealed that the opposition had not won over the majority despite the country’s serious economic problems and the loss of the charismatic Hugo Chávez as leader of the left.

Coming on the heels of a recent electoral defeat the protest by the opposition in early February caught many by surprise. Even though Venezuela has held 19 elections since 1998, with the left winning18, there are actually no elections scheduled during 2014, a rarity in the country’s active electoral cycle. The earliest elections are scheduled for December 2015 when voters will go to the polls to elect members of the National Assembly. The presidential recall provision of the constitution cannot be triggered until 2016.

It quickly became obvious that segments of the radical right wing were not willing to wait for the democratic process to unfold. The opposition feared that the government might have time to address the very real problems that Venezuela faces, including food shortages, inflation that has reached over 56% and crime that takes a toll on all sectors of society. Therefore it should not come as a surprise that when Leopoldo López, (the political figure who hoped to capitalize on the protest and replace Capriles as the de facto leader of the opposition) was asked how long the protest should last, he responded, “hasta que se vaya” until Maduro leaves.
This is not the first time the opposition has resorted to extra-parliamentary means to oust a sitting president in Venezuela. Previously, the opposition staged a coup in 2002 and when that failed, the upper echelon of the oil company led a strike in 2002-2003 that paralyzed the nation. Subsequently the right engaged in efforts at destabilization known as the guarimba in the early part of 2004 that also failed. In essence, the opposition has once again adopted the all or nothing strategy they embraced in 2002 and 2004; --- either Maduro resigns or they will continue to protest.

Who are the students?

It is also misleading to assume that all students in Venezuela support the opposition; in fact many also support the government and its allies.  Moreover, student leadership of opposition activities is not new in Venezuela. In 2006, after suffering a series of electoral defeats, students, especially from private universities, became the new face of the opposition. Students were also the leading force protesting the non-renewal of the broadcast license of RCTV (a leading television company) for its involvement in the 2002 coup.  The social character of university students in Venezuela has changed significantly since the 1960s and 1970s. The application of neoliberal policy to the educational arena, the continued use of standardized entrance exams and the expansion of private universities transformed the social character of students and a greater percentage are now from the middle and upper classes.

A tale of two cities and two countries

Much of the reporting by the mass media gives the impression that Venezuela faces a national rebellion. The reality is that the protests have been restricted to certain pockets in the country, mostly middle and upper middle class neighborhoods, not entire cities. Most damage to private property and infrastructure has occurred in these neighborhoods.  According to the government 18 municipalities have been the center of protest out of 335. And even in municipalities where there are protesters, residents live a tale of two cities, with some areas besieged and others functioning under normal-like conditions.  With the advent of carnival, there are also contrasting images of people at the beach and others protesting behind barricades.


To create conditions of un-governability, the so-called “democratic opposition” had taken to barricading the roads to prevent the free movement of people and precipitate a crisis. They have set up barricades using boulders, glass, trees, trash filled bags, and anything else at their disposal. In other cases they are throwing glass and nails (called miguelitos, nails thrust through pieces of garden hose) onto the road to impede traffic. The police and the National Guard have cleaned city streets on numerous occasions. However, protestors hide materials and take over the streets again once the Guard departs.
Walking around areas controlled by the opposition it is impossible not to notice that many streets have been covered with car oil to make the surfaces slick causing motorbikes to skid out of control. The opposition assumes that motorizados, those on motorcycles are government supporters. There has not only been a demonization of the motorizados, but also a racialization of individuals who purchased cheap Chinese motorcycles since most are from lower socioeconomic sectors and tend to be people of color.

It is also impossible not to notice the steel wire and barbwire strung across the roadway and some motorcycle drivers have either been injured or killed by these barriers. Edwin Duran (29 years old) in Caracas was killed by steel wire placed on the street to frustrate traffic. Delia Elena Lobo, a 39 year old mother was also killed as she rode on a motorbike with her son in city of Mérida.

A retired general, Ángel Vivas tweeted several times giving instructions to his followers on how to place the steel wire on city streets. The government tried to arrest him for inciting violence. The general put on a bulletproof vest, armed himself with an M-16 and pistol and took to the rooftop of this house. The opposition blocked his house while some U.S. Spanish language media rushed to interview him, but never asked how or why he was in possession of an M-16 assault rifle.

Fear is also being used to intimidate the population where barricades disrupt people’s lives. Residents are being told that the barricades are needed to protect the community from marauding bands of government supporters, the National Guard or the motorizados, (motorcycle riders). In some neighborhoods, they use the fear of being attacked by the Tupamaros, a political organization inspired by the Uruguayan group of the same name. In Venezuela, the Tupamaros are a leftist organization that has clashed with opposition forces in the past. Throughout the day the rumor mill generates one potentially calamitous event after another.
The mainstream media is not reporting the dangerous conditions on the streets; in fact many foreign reporters are afraid to leave the comfort and perceived protection of middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods in which they reside. One U.S. journalist tweeted he had not ventured out of Altamira, a wealthy area of Caracas, and therefore could not report on conditions elsewhere.

Likewise, contrary to many reports in some media outlets, the military has not been unleashed to senselessly attack the protestors. Undoubtedly there have been incidents of violence and provocations on both sides and the government recently ordered the arrest of several intelligence officers implicated in the two deaths, one in the opposition and one a chavista activist.  The number of killed has now reached double digits, but violence has taken its toll on both protestors and supporters of the government. While too high, the numbers would undoubtedly be much worse if the security forces were trying to suppress the protest with lethal force.

Why Táchira?

Protest in the western state of Táchira preceded the larger demonstrations in Caracas and elsewhere on February 12th and were purportedly sparked by the attempted rape of a university student. The governor of the state of Táchira insists that no students came forth to file a complaint about the attempted rape. Students took to the streets to protest the rising crime rate and the arrest of two protestors by the police is citied as a factor that enraged students. The protests in San Cristobal quickly spread to Mérida where the main campus of the University of the Andes (ULA) is located.

However, like everything in Venezuela, developments in Táchira are more complicated than they initially appear. Some business sectors in Táchira profit tremendously from the illicit trade of subsidized Venezuelan goods sent to Colombia as contraband where they obtain much higher prices. It is estimated that upwards of 30% of some Venezuelan basic food products exit the country as contraband. Shortages of basic food products have been especially evident in Táchira and Mérida where many stores shelves are empty. Average citizens also engage in the contraband trade to augment their salaries. Gasoline that in Venezuela is heavily subsidized, costing less than 10 cents a gallon is also part of the contraband trade. The subsidy of gasoline, in place since the 1950s, costs the government upwards of $12 billion dollar a year. Táchira is the center of an active remittance trade between Colombians and Venezuelans and money launderers exploit this exchange. Government efforts to control this illicit trade have generated displeasure among certain sectors.

Táchira also represents another challenge, the presence on Venezuelan soil of Colombian and Venezuelan paramilitaries that profit from the illicit trade and are linked to transnational criminal networks. They have already kidnaped one Venezuelan military officer who was visiting his family. They are an ever-present factor in the political protests in Táchira.

Gocho Identity

A racialized “gocho” identity (Andean and predominantly whiter compared to Venezuela’s predominately mixed race and African heritage population) is also being promoted in the Andean states of Mérida and Táchira.  Posters and banners proclaiming gocho power and their role in the protest have been common at rallies in Mérida and Táchira.

From 1898 through 1958, Venezuela was ruled by a series of Andean generals from the state of Táchira. This gocho identity harkens to a time when the Andes, and in particular Táchira and Mérida exercised a prominent role in the governance of Venezuela. Protests centered in Táchira and Mérida raise the specter of a Bolivian Media Luna (half moon), where the conservative opposition using a purported racialized identity promoted the secession of the eastern provinces of Bolivia.  Likewise some have suggested that Mérida, Táchira, Trujillo and Zulia might become a Venezuelan version of the Media Luna. However, protests in Zulia and Trujillo have not reached the levels of those in Mérida or Táchira and that scenario has failed to materialize.

Another important feature of the opposition protest marches has been the leadership role of middle and upper class women. On Saturday February 22, 2014 women who support the government rallied in Caracas to promote peace and an end to the violence. On Wednesday February 27, 2014 opposition women dressed in white staged protests against the government and rallied in front of the building of the Guardia Nacional in Caracas.  A female officer of the guard came out to receive their demands and urged the protestors to take part in efforts at dialogue proposed by president Maduro.

At various opposition rallies some women have taken to demanding a hyper-masculinity, baiting men to confront the Guardia or the police and when they do not, raising questions about the men’s virility.  Opposition social media is circulating the image of a young female protestor at one rally that attached a pair of “testicles” to her shorts and carried a sign that said “Soy Gocha y tengo de sobra lo que algunos de ustedes les falta.” (I am a Gocha and I have in excess what you are all missing.)  An arrow on the sign pointed to her purported “testicles.” Other signs at women’s protests state “women with ovaries vs. a symbolic military” and others crudely state, “The men in Venezuela have no balls”

Daily Life

Where the opposition has set barricades, people live by the cell phone, texting each other to see if it is safe to get out and make a mad dash to whatever store may be open for a few hours. Most products can be found, though it may take multiple trips to various stores and the frustration of standing in long queues. Rumors tend to dominate street conversations, where is milk being sold; who has Harina Pan (corn flour used for making arepas, a national dish) and which roadblocks are passable.  The opposition communicates mainly by social media, and many spend countless hours on Twitter, Whats-Apps, Facebook and Zello an application that carries live conversations.

In areas where protests are taking place, workers and other employees cannot enter and are losing income. Businesses, merchants and the tourism industry on the eve of Carnival also suffer the consequences of the blockades. Public transportation is at a standstill in these areas and “moto taxis” have become the primary form of transportation.

Although most business sectors support the opposition they are beginning to distance themselves from the more violent protests. Some appear to recognize that the mobilizations will not topple the government. On Wednesday February 26 the leaders of Fedecamaras (Chamber of Commerce), Fedeindustria (Chamber of Industry) and Eugenio Mendoza the CEO of the country’s leading food company attended the government sponsored “Peace Conference.” Although they criticized the government on many fronts, they also expressed opposition to the blockades and acknowledged the legitimacy of the Maduro government.  Though the hierarchy of the Venezuelan Catholic Church was invited, they opted not to attend. The papal nuncio did attend and urged dialogue and negotiations to end the violence. The political leaders of the opposition MUD (Unity Table) coalition also boycotted the event.

There is, however, evidence that some elected opposition political leaders are starting to distance themselves from the street violence as well. This is because people are tired of the disruptions in their lives.  The opposition mayors of Baruta, Sucre and El Hatillo all part of greater Caracas have called for an end to violence and disavowed the street protests that create siege-like conditions.

Fighting for political leadership of the right

Capriles appears desperate to reassert his leadership of the opposition coalition particularly since López outflanked him, becoming the most recognized leader of the right. However, López is not widely trusted by many sectors of the opposition, including some students. Capriles spoke at one opposition demonstration indicating his willingness to take part in a dialogue.  Maduro convened a meeting of governors at which Capriles, the governor of the state of Miranda, should have attended; however, pressured by the far right wing, he refused to attend. Previously, he had attended a meeting and shook Maduro’s hand for which he was roundly criticized by the right wing. Two other opposition governors showed up and openly sparred with Maduro. Capriles absence as well as other opposition voices was a mistake and a lost opportunity to dialogue and attempt to diffuse the violence the country faces.

Overtaken by the protests, Capriles initially asserted that political extremes sought violence, a reference to both the right and the left. He has even publicly criticized López and national assembly member María Corina Machado for raising false expectations that the protests would unseat Maduro. However, he will find it difficult to cast himself as the moderate in the current fracas. Capriles faces a scenario similar to the Republicans in the U.S. as they confront the Tea Party wing of the party. To remain the leader of the opposition Capriles has to appeal to the more radical right wing that refuses to negotiate with the government under any condition. However, to win elections he has to gain the support of disgruntled chavistas and poorer sectors. As opposition to the disruptions caused by protests increases, Capriles will find it harder and harder to portray himself as a moderate.


Venezuela is not facing a Ukraine-like crisis as some in the opposition have suggested. The president retains support throughout the country. Neither is it on the verge of a fratricidal conflict similar to what has taken place in Syria. A large part, but apparently not a majority of the society remains bitterly alienated from the government. Undoubtedly, Venezuela faces real economic and social problems. However, opposition efforts to topple the government will only exacerbate these problems and continue to raise tensions in the country.
On the international front, countries like Brazil and Argentina have called for no foreign intervention in Venezuela, an allusion to United States support of the opposition.  Despite recent tensions, and the mutual expulsion of diplomats, the Maduro government recently extended an olive branch by naming a new Venezuelan ambassador to Washington. The countries have not formally had ambassadors since 2008. The U.S. has not formally responded to the gesture. The U.S. however has expressed concern over a potential new immigrant wave from the Caribbean if Venezuela curtails or ceases the sale of oil through Petro-Caribe to the countries of the region.

There is no evidence that broad sectors of society, especially the urban poor who provide the most support to the government, have joined the protests initiated by middle and upper class sectors. This division led one Colombian commentator to state, “Venezuela is an odd country, the only place were the rich protest and the poor celebrate.” It is doubtful the opposition can sustain the present level of protests. By seeking Maduro’s ouster through undemocratic means and without majority support, the opposition has once again entered a “callejon sin salida,” a political dead end. After the debacle of the 2002-03 oil strike that cost the country over 14 billion dollars in lost revenue, they saved face by calling for Chávez’s recall. Under the present electoral calendar they have no such option. The opposition will find it difficult to save face after this round of protests and many question their commitment to democratic principles and their ability to unite all of Venezuela.  Having radicalized their base, they now face the daunting task of demobilizing their followers if they are to salvage any credibility in future elections.

Miguel Tinker Salas is professor of Latin American history at Pomona College and author of several books on Venezuela, including The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela (Duke University Press).

March 04, 2014

Friday, March 7, 2014

Dr. Myles Munroe's ignorance, arrogance, prejudice and bigotry toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights

Dr. Myles Munroe’s uncharitable arrogance and bigotry

By frontporchguardian
Nassau, The Bahamas

In response to comments made by Pope Francis last August concerning judgmentalism towards gays and lesbians, and recent remarks by Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell in Trinidad and Tobago on LGBT rights, Bahamas Faith Ministries (BFM) Pastor Dr. Myles Munroe has appeared bigoted, ignorant and prejudiced. And, arrogant.

In contrast to Pope Francis, Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd and other Christian leaders, Munroe appears uncharitable, not disposed to mercy, unwilling to support efforts to stem discrimination and violence against gays and lesbians.

While many church leaders do not support state-recognized same-sex marriages, they are challenging the dehumanization and demonization of gays and lesbians. Munroe’s remarks may give comfort to the demonizers.

For the sake of Christian love and charity Munroe must state whether he sides with those who would do violence towards his gay brothers and sisters in the name of God or whether he stands with the likes of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, U.S. President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, Mitchell and countless others who are seeking to confront violence against those of God’s children who happen to be gay.

In his various remarks, Munroe has also displayed a curious ignorance, in two senses: He seems uninformed of certain facts and information, and lacking in a basic understanding of whatever information he may have reviewed.

Either he is intellectually unable to grasp certain matters or he is being purposefully misleading, or some combination of these, none of which suggests acuity and credibility on these issues.

In criticizing Pope Francis, Munroe demonstrated stunning ignorance of and a poor ability to grasp basic elements of theology and ecclesiology in the Roman Catholic tradition.

He was factually wrong in the assertion that the pope was expressing his own opinion. He was also factually wrong in his assertion that the pope was contradicting his predecessor and the position of the Catholic Church.


Roman Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder, who has an earned doctorate in theology from the prestigious Catholic University of America, but who chooses not to be referred to as Dr. Pinder, noted in a Guardian story that those who asserted that Pope Francis was breaking with Roman Catholic teachings in his remarks about gays and lesbians were incorrect in their assertion.

Munroe’s criticism of Mitchell’s Trinidad and Tobago remarks was curious and baffling, as the minister’s remarks in question were limited and generally measured. Mitchell broke no new substantive ground in terms of the policies of successive Bahamian governments.

Essentially, the foreign minister was calling for protection of gays and lesbians from discrimination. Sadly, in the minds of some, efforts to stem discrimination and violence against gays and lesbians, providing them with the security of basic human rights, are unacceptable and egregious. The name for this is bigotry.

Munroe stands in a succession of religious leaders who, over the millennia, seem more seized by the strictures of the Hebrew Scriptures than they are by the example, ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ as exemplified in the Gospels.

There are no warrants for racism, sexism or homophobia in the New Testament. But bigots have for centuries engaged in all manner of proof-texting of the Hebrew Scriptures to bolster and promote their ancient prejudices and hatreds.

White racist pastors used the Hebrew texts for centuries as a basis for slavery, colonialism and the degradation of black people. Gracefully, abolitionists religious leaders found in the ministry of Jesus the moral power to confront slavery and the slave trade.

For millennia and still, many found in the Hebrew Scriptures a warrant for their misogyny and bigotry towards women. The respect for the dignity of women by Jesus in the Gospels was in various ways a radical break from the culture into which he was born. His was a liberating message of equality.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus speaks of mercy, of not judging others, of eschewing revenge, of giving to the needy. He also speaks of adultery. Sadly, for contemporary bigots, there is no mention of homosexuality.

According to a recent Nassau Guardian story Munroe noted: “‘He [Mitchell] seems to have an agenda that may disqualify him from serving in the position as minister of foreign affairs, because there is a great possibility that he may be more inclined to present his own views than those of the people of The Bahamas.

“‘Therefore, I am recommending that the prime minister reconsider him from being minister of foreign affairs because his personal opinions may interfere with his objectivity in the carrying out of his duties.’”

There is an agenda and a lack of objectivity. But it is by Munroe.


Mitchell’s remarks on non-discrimination against gays and lesbians were in keeping with the views of successive governments, including the Ingraham administration which supported “a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution promoting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation”.

Is Munroe wilfully ignorant or being purposefully misleading? Prejudice and bigotry tend to induce jaundiced thinking.

The Guardian story quoted Munroe as saying: “‘I have nothing personal against Minister Mitchell.

“‘I think he is an excellent politician and man, like I am. It is nothing personal. It is more of a deep concern of his representation of our country in his position as minister...’”

The story continued: “Let me state for the record publically, [sic] Mr. Foreign Minister, I have no interest in your private life,” said Munroe in the sermon.

“Personally, I really don’t care about your private life. But when you step in our house that we are paying you to represent us in, you keep your private life in your closet and you deal with our public business in our interest.”

There is a well-known rhetorical device and political trick of suggesting no interest in a certain matter. But by raising the matter whether obliquely or not one is clearly seeking to make a point.

By employing the language he did, Munroe used his position to hurl an innuendo against another. It was unbecoming of him as a Christian and as a fellow-citizen. It was mean-spirited and uncharitable. It is a low moment in his ministry. If he has policy disagreements with the minister, fine. But to reference another’s personal life is contemptuous.

Munroe’s views on gambling are well-known. Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe has spoken at home and abroad of making The Bahamas a gambling mecca. Wilchcombe continues to press the idea of regulating the numbers houses, something Munroe opposes.


But in opposing Wilchcombe’s policy views Munroe would not stoop so low as to raise his private life. Indeed, he would not likely to do so of any minister. What Munroe said in reference to Mitchell is unacceptable and unworthy of anyone who purports to have moral authority.

Recall that Munroe labelled Pope Francis as “reckless” pertaining to his comments on being judgmental toward gays and lesbians. Francis was reckless with love. Munroe was reckless in the manner in which he contemptuously referenced Mitchell, while feigning respect.

Munroe also impugned Pope Francis’ motives as a bid to revive Roman Catholicism. The suggestion was that the pope was engaging in marketing and public relations, rather than motivated by love. One imagines that Munroe knows quite a bit about marketing and public relations.

The Guardian story noted Munroe as stating that, “He [Fred Mitchell] began to intellectually try to [discombobulate us]’ ...” As suggested previously, Munroe seems easily intellectually discombobulated, as Mitchell’s comments were clear and easily understandable.

The story further noted that, “Munroe said he has travelled to 138 countries, something he said Mitchell has not done.

“‘So I’ve been to more countries representing this country than anyone else in this government,’ he said.”

What was his point in making such as statement, which came across to many as arrogant and self-aggrandizing?

No matter how many countries Munroe has travelled to he is not the moral ambassador of The Bahamas. Indeed in his bigotry toward gays and lesbians he does not represent many Bahamians or the future, nor does he seem to be able to represent clearly our laws regarding non-discrimination.

We have a foreign minister. Though he will rightly be criticized for various policies, he has represented clearly, articulately and intelligently, the policies of successive administrations in terms of non-discrimination toward gays and lesbians. It is more than can be said for Munroe.


March 06, 2014


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Drug trafficking connections between The Bahamas and Haiti

Concerns Over Increased Drug Traffic Between Haiti And Bahamas

Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas

THE Bahamas was a prominent feature in a newly published United States narcotics report that cited concerns of increased drug trafficking connections between the Bahamas and Haiti.
According to the March 2014 Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs - International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, smugglers exploit the wide distribution of numerous islands and the high number of recreational vessels flowing through the Bahamas in 2013.
Despite a long-standing co-operation between the Bahamas and US authorities, the report noted challenges which included delays in extradition requests and a lack of Creole speakers in key Bahamian law enforcement units.
“Haitian and Haitian-Bahamian drug trafficking organisations,” the report said, “increasingly networked between Haiti and the significant Haitian diaspora in the Bahamas, continue to play a major role in the movement of cocaine.
“Investigation of these organsations is hindered by a lack of appropriately vetted and assigned Creole speakers within the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Drug Enforcement Unit.
“Strong familial connections between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas, coupled with direct flights between Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands, compel many Bahamian smugglers to travel to Haiti via the Turks and Caicos Islands with large amounts of cash for future smuggling ventures.
“There was an increase in cocaine and marijuana washing ashore on Florida’s coastline during the year, which indicates a parallel growth in the use of airdrops by traffickers.”
In addition, US officials noted that an agreement between the Bahamas and Panama based Copa Airlines in 2011 lead to an increase in cocaine seizures at the Lynden Pindling International Airport.
“Aviation routes are a cause of concern. Small, privately owned and operated planes ferry loads of cocaine from and between significant source countries in South America into the Caribbean. Law enforcement information suggests that drug trafficking organisations utilise airdrops and remote airfields to deliver large cocaine shipments to the Turks and Caicos Islands and to the Bahamas from Venezuela and Colombia.”
The report urged additional resources for drug abuse programmes in an effort to bring improvement to the rate of retention among patients at the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison.
“Current, comprehensive drug consumption and use data is not available.
“Intake surveys and testing found that many inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison at Fox Hill, the only prison in the Bahamas, tested positive for drugs and some of these inmates maintain access to drugs during their incarceration,” the report read.
March 04, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The political storm across the Cuban-American diplomatic landscape

By Keith Bolender
Guest Scholar at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

The winds of change are beginning to shift in the direction of those who favor a normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States. These include recent revelations from a sugar baron and a former governor, both of whom were once bitter foes of the Castro brothers.

The movement towards reconciliation between Havana and Washington was given a significant boost from an unexpected source last month. On that occasion, Alfonso Fanjul, one of the most influential and steadfast supporters of Florida’s anti-revolutionary community, announced he had been to Cuba twice in the past several years and was contemplating the possibility of future investments in his former homeland, “under the right circumstances.” [1] He spoke extensively of ending the differences between the two nations in order to “reunite the Cuban family.” [2]

Fanjul fled Cuba as a young man, leaving behind his family’s mansion (now Cuba’s Museum of Decorative Arts) and their lucrative sugar cane operations. Re-locating in South Florida, the Fanjuls soon re-established their sugar empire and now are among the wealthiest families in the state. The holdings of the parent company Fanjul Corp. include Domino Sugar, Florida Crystals, La Romana International Airport, and the luxury private resort known as Casa de Campo. During his recent visits to Cuba, Fanjul toured Havana, visited his old mansion and was able to tour state-run farms and sugar mills after meeting with Cuban agricultural officials and the country’s foreign minister.

A long-time opponent of Castro, Fanjul more habitually keeps a low public profile while maintaining financial and political sway in support of Washington’s right-wing initiatives against Cuba through heavy donations to the Cuban-American members of congress , who for years have been the face of America’s policy of regime change. Connected to many high ranking politicians – Fanjul informed good friend Hillary Clinton of his change of view regarding Cuba -- his political hand was most noticeable and muddled when he and younger brother Jose were able to guide through controversial provisions of the Helms-Burton Act in 1996, which helped to tighten the Anti-Castro embargo by penalizing anyone ‘trafficking’ in properties nationalized by the revolutionary government.

Alfonso’s announcement that he had met with Cuban officials in April 2012 and February 2013 smacked the hard-right Cuban American community with the force of a hurricane. Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen blew off a considerable amount of steam in attacking Fanjul’s newly found position. “Talked about #Fanjul’s pathetic idea of investing in the #Castro regime while #Cubans suffer,” she posted on Twitter immediately after. [3]

South Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was just as caustic, commenting, “I am outraged by reports that a fellow Cuban-American, who has witnessed the atrocities inflicted by the Castro regime, has apparently chosen short-term profit over standing with the Cuban people.” [4] In contrast, fellow Florida Representative Joe Garcia, a moderate Democrat and the son of Cuban exiles, said Fanjul was coming to terms with an emerging movement within the Cuban-American community that favors engagement with Havana – a reality reflected in a recent Atlantic Council national poll.

Fanjul’s about face represents yet another example of the shift in the complex relationship between Cuba and the United States, where pragmatism is replacing long, outmoded-ideological intransigence. State officials were able to discuss the economic and political reforms taking place on the island with the 76-year-old Fanjul, placing aside the inflammatory anti-capitalist rhetoric previously used against his family’s pre-revolutionary sugar operations. Moreover, it demonstrated the continued maturing of Cuban society, where new leaders will soon take over from the Castros and the rest of the first-generation revolutionary hardliners.

Fanjul established his ability to put the past behind him by not insisting upon discussing return of confiscated property, instead accepting the reality of Cuba’s social/economic system that has been in place for more than half a century, and to rationally consider working within such confines for both sides’ mutual future benefit. Deliberation for the ending of sugar subsides in the United States [5] (which Fanjul exerted considerable political pressure to block) may have had a partial role in his decision to contemplate exploring future investment in Cuba, as much as his desire to reconcile Cuban realities on both shores of the Florida Straits.

Fanjul’s declaration was the first in a number of blows against those striving to maintain the hostile status-quo. Shortly after the sugar baron’s pronouncements, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist came out against the embargo, a position he very much opposed while in office under the Republican banner. Since his switch to the Democratic party in 2012, Crist apparently is now able to recognize the economic short-sightedness of America’s hostility, commenting on the subject during his campaign to re-take the governor’s office from Republican Rick Scott.

“The embargo has done nothing in more than fifty years to change the regime in Cuba. If we want to bring democracy to Cuba, we need to encourage American values and investment there, not block ourselves out and cede influence to China. It will take time, and we must do it in a way where American investment helps people, not ideologies. But the reality is that no state’s economy is hurt more by America’s Cuba policies than Florida. Changing these policies to allow Florida’s’ farmers, manufacturers, and construction industry to sell goods and services in Cuba would boost Florida’s economy and help businesses create more jobs in our state,” Crist said. [6]

While Crist’s traditional use of the tired expressions demanding ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ under US terms, his volte-face discloses a level of economic pragmatism that finds kinship with Fanjul’s revealed position, and increasingly is becoming the dominant perspective within the Cuban-American community.

On the heels of the two announcements came a report that gave statistical backing to the radical shift that both Fanjul and Crist have embraced. The Atlantic Council release of its national poll indicated the majority of Cuban-Americans, and US citizens in general, favor normalization with the island nation. [7] The Washington think tank, a mainstream organization that focuses on international affairs, publicized that 56 percent of Americans and more than 60 percent of Floridians desire a new US policy towards Cuba. Florida residents, including Latinos, favor normalization by eight percentage points more than the country as a whole. The support is bi-partisan, as 60 percent of Democrats and 52 percent Republicans favor change. An impressive 60-plus percent of those polled want the United States to lift all economic restrictions, and 77 percent of Americans favor diplomatic engagement with Cuba. A majority would back Cuba being taken off the US list of states that sponsor terrorism, a designation Cuban officials find particularly onerous considering the hundreds of acts of terrorism they argue have been committed against Cuban citizens by various Cuban-American groups based in greater Miami. [8]

Cuba’s economic reforms of the past few years, the realization that a Castro is not expected to be in a leadership role after 2018 as Raul plans to step down, and the ending of travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans to return to their homeland and for Cubans to travel off the island, is having an impact in south Florida. The current generation of Cuban-Americans are becoming increasingly intolerant against the hard-liners who want to maintain the embargo and policy of regime change. Those who favor normalization desire to be involved in the changes taking place in Cuba, to maintain and augment their ability to travel to their former homeland whenever they want, and to assist friends and family. As they see their Cuban-American congressmen now in the majority, and continue to spout out-of-date rhetoric in favor of a harsh status quo, the new generation is rapidly become politically active in order to vote for those who more closely reflect their views.

When a well-respected figure such as Fanjul publicly declares his inclination towards engagement with the revolutionary government and reconciliation with all Cubans, it carries a tremendous amount of political weight among those moderates, and even soft anti-Castroites, to join the side favoring normalization.

Just as significant, Fanjul’s financial muscle when it comes to campaign donations could easily be utilized to either convince the current crop of Cuban-American congressmen to start altering their stance, or to assist a new breed of politician who support a majority who seek a dramatic change in US policy. It is a vitally important development that has weakened the foundation of the pro-embargo side dramatically. Former Florida governor Charlie Crist’s newfound declarations of support, along with like-minded steps from Tampa congresswoman Kathy Castor, simply add credence to the movement towards normalization that is rapidly gaining energy.

“One day we hope that the United States and Cuba would find a way so the whole Cuban community could be able to live and work together,” [9] Fanjul declared. He holds the ability to back up his expectation with political power and financial persuasion, which is providing inspiration for all who favor an end of America’s half-century of hostility against Cuba, and is dealing a heavy blow to those struggling against these winds of change.


[1] Wallsten, Peter, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Tom Hamburger. “Sugar tycoon Alfonso Fanjul now open to investing in Cuba under ‘right circumstances,’” The Washington Post, February 2.
[2] Ibid.
[3] “
Shameful for a Cuban-American Who Fled the Castro Regime to Consider Putting Business Interests Ahead of Cuban People’s Democratic Aspirations, Says Ros-Lehtinen,” February 3, 2014.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “
U.S. Farm Bill,” The Washington Post
[6] Smith, Adam C. “
Charlie Crist: Time to End Cuba Embargo,” Tampa Bay Times, February 7, 2014
[7] Arsht, Adrienne.
U.S. – Cuba: A New Public Survey Supports Policy Change, Atlantic Council, 2014.
[8] Bolender, Keith. Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba, Pluto Press: London 2010.
[9] Wallsten, et al.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit or email

February 27, 2014 

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