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Sunday, December 28, 2014

The un-revolutionary mending of US-Cuba relations

David Roberts

By David Roberts

The recently announced thaw in US-Cuba relations is a boon to all Latin America and to the region's ties with Washington. The issue of US sanctions against Cuba has dogged relations between Latin America and the US for decades, with even the more liberal, pro-market countries in the region calling for the embargo to be lifted.

Some have speculated that Venezuela, Cuba's closest ally in the region, will now be isolated as Havana looks more to the US, leaving Caracas as something of a lone wolf in its ranting and raving against Washington. That appears to be wishful thinking. Cuba and the US are not suddenly going to become the best of chums.

The decision to restore full diplomatic ties and loosen the economic and travel restrictions (including the ability of US citizens to travel to Cuba, a restriction that smacks of a totalitarian state) is highly significant, even historic as Barack Obama put it. But major change is not going to come overnight, and the likes of McDonalds and Starbucks are not suddenly going to pop up in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

For a start, the US already has a large diplomatic mission in the Cuban capital, and economic restrictions have been partially lifted in recent years, while Cuba itself has been undergoing a process of gradual and very partial economic liberalization. What is more, to end the embargo altogether will require the approval of the US congress, where the Republicans will now control both houses and will surely not vote in favor.

But the hope and expectation is that, as relations improve during the last two years of the Obama administration, support for the embargo will fade with the benefits of closer political and economic ties becoming evident, and whoever succeeds him will have the backing to end the patently ineffective embargo. That, in turn, would mean the Cuban regime would no longer have an excuse – as the embargo has been for the last 50 years – for stifling democratic change and using it as a scapegoat (with some justification) for the country's economic woes.

At the same time, scrapping the embargo would be good for business in the US and elsewhere – given the dire economic straits that Cuba's oil benefactor Venezuela is in, and with crude prices in freefall, shouldn't US companies help Cuba develop its own hydrocarbon resources?

Finally, and almost as an aside, a big unknown in all this is the role of Fidel Castro. Did he approve of the secret talks with Washington and the agreement between his brother Raúl and Obama? Was he involved in the process? Could the agreement have been reached if he were still in charge? We've heard nothing from Fidel so far.

Whatever the case, many have said that real change could not happen in Cuba while the Castro brothers are still alive. It seems those people could, thankfully, be proved wrong, and that would be of benefit to the whole of the Americas.

December 23, 2014


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bocchit Edmond, Haitian Abassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS) ...expresses concerns about xenophobia and mistreatment of Haitians in The Bahamas

Xenophobia In The Bahamas: Haitian Ambassador Addresses Fred Mitchell

Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas

THE Haitian ambassador to the Organisation of American States raised concerns yesterday about xenophobia and mistreatment of Haitians in the Bahamas during a special OAS sitting in Washington, DC.

Addressing Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell, Ambassador Bocchit Edmond called on the Bahamas government to consider launching a public campaign designed to underscore the notion that “verbal abuse” of Haitians is “unfair and unjust”.

Mr Edmond frequently emphasised that he did not wish to “cast aspersions” on the decisions of the Bahamian government, but he nonetheless raised several concerns about the policy measures this country has taken to deal with illegal immigration.

In his response, Mr Mitchell rejected suggestions of widespread abuse of Haitians and noted that the Bahamas government does not sanction discrimination.

“...I would like to raise the concern of my government as to the verbal abuse to which Haitian immigrants have been exposed in the Bahamas,” Mr Edmond said. “As you may know, sir, there are many great Haitians presently in the Bahamas, but that indeed have been in line with the immigration requirements for years…and yet too many of them are victims of certain abuse and denigrating (remarks) and I should go as far as to say frankly rankly discriminating behaviour simply because they are Haitians.”

“Then there are black Bahamians who are summarily interpreted as being Haitian and who have been subjected to the same treatment for that reason. I would very much hope that your government would take under advisement to launch a campaign of information of some kind to really underscore the fact that this is unfair and unjust. I believe the vast majority of Bahamian citizens are very good, but when I read the press or have seen a couple of video clips on the Internet or heard and read for myself a number of these statements that have been made, I have to say these are frankly inflammatory and cannot fail but to stir up feelings that are not conducive to peaceful coexistence.

“So I would implore you, sir, to, I won’t say so much to educate, but to inform, to make it clear the measures are being taken, measures in the public domain, measures that I have stated from the outset are absolutely in the purview of Bahamian sovereign decisions, but we also know that the Bahamas as do we all has the obligation to respect basic human rights.”

In his response, Mr Mitchell said much of what is represented in the press about the treatment of Haitians in the Bahamas is false.

“To speak for a moment about the question of prejudice and discrimination and what is said in the press and social media,” he said, “part of the reason we are here is because of the misinformation that was spun either in the press or social media about what this is. The government of the country is not responsible for what is in the press or what the people say in the press, although it might in fact reflect in some instances what public opinion is. But I think every Bahamian understands the nature of prejudice and bigotry and discrimination and certainly the government does not sanction any of these things and I want to separate myself from any effort which is suggesting that one ought to discriminate against any national group. This is a generic policy not expressed in terms of any national group.”

Nonetheless, Mr Mitchell acknowledged that many Bahamians are frustrated with the country’s illegal immigration problem and with having to absorb “hundreds and thousands” of illegal migrants.

“Our prime minister, when he speaks, often recounts a story of the first black member of parliament (who) was in fact a man named Stephen Dillet who was born in Haiti, came with his mother after the revolution as a child,” he said. “Our governor general who just retired, Sir Arthur Foulkes, his mother was Haitian. Haitians and people of Haitian descent are integrated in the country. And my view is that what you are seeing, you say expressed in the press, does not represent the majority view in our country. What is of concern to a small country is the question of can you continue to absorb hundreds and thousands of illegal migrants coming into a country undocumented knowing what your obligations are in the international arena for the security of your border and also for the future identity and safety of your own state. That is simply unsustainable and so we have an obligation, both internationally and within our own domestic borders to our own population to ensure, not that migrant stops, but that those who come to the Bahamas are properly documented to be in the Bahamas and come through the front door and not through the back door. That is what this is aimed at correcting.”

December 17, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Elections on hold in Haiti: Stability versus democracy

By Clement Doleac
Research Associate for the Council On Hemispheric Affairs:

Democracy in Haiti is again at risk, as a fierce political battle has erupted, preventing the scheduling of new elections. The United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS), along with the US and French governments have all called for the adoption of a new electoral law, which would allow the elections to go forward. However, given the deeply flawed nature of the present Haitian political system, it is far from clear if just holding elections will accomplish much.

An Unsettled Past

Haiti’s political landscape is today comprised of poorly-organized and highly fluid coalitions of parties, a situation which grows out of the troubled nation’s tumultuous recent history. François “Papa Doc” Duvalier was democratically elected – after a fashion – in 1957, although he quickly came to believe that he was indispensable, declaring himself president for life. He delivered on this threat, ruling as a cruel and paranoid dictator until his death in 1971.

With the passing of Papa Doc power fell to his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who continued his father’s authoritarian regime. Opposition gathered and in 1986, Jean-Claude was finally forced to flee Haiti, one step ahead of an armed revolt against his repressive dictatorship.

In the years since 1986, democratically elected presidents have governed Haiti, most notably the charismatic Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991, 1995-1996, and 2001-2004) and today the talented and handsome singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly (2011-present).

Haiti’s Jumbled Party System

However all is not well in the Haitian democracy, where anarchy reigns in the nation’s fragmented political system. A bewildering array of parties are presently represented in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

Overall, a total of 18 parties are represented in the Chamber of Deputies and seven in the Senate. Because of their small size, most Haitian political parties tend to organize themselves into loose political groupings to build electoral alliances. For example, Inité (Unity), which dominates the current composition of Congress, was formed as a political grouping of several smaller parties to support former president René Préval.

The report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) correctly sums up the chaotic situation. The lack of “ideolog[ical] […] clarity leaves citizens unable […] to choose between clearly defined platforms” in this fragmented political landscape. “Over 100 parties and groups have produced the 5,000 signatures required for registration,” the report continues, and yet for all this diffusion of political input, actual power rests in the hands of only a few well-positioned party leaders. As it stands, the Haitian political parties fail at the most basic tasks, failing to articulate institutionalized policies and to effectively reach out to the citizens.

Citizenship Skepticism

The weak democratic institutions and the power vacuum provoked by the 2004 crisis led to the absence of strong parties. The ICG report stated that charismatic personalities and “shallow politicians are unfortunately filling this vacuum”. Rather than holding politicians accountable for not addressing Haiti’s economic and social troubles, these personalities have removed citizens from decision-making, who in turn have rendered public policy suspect because of a lack of confidence in the democratic system.

This political skepticism, as the myriad of small parties who have little organization, inconspicuous ideologies, and murky proposals consequently created a moldable alliance system and indecipherable political game. However, there are some stable identifiable structures in recent Haitian political history.

For example, former President Préval’s platform Inité (Unity, formerly referred to as Lespwa, Hope) counting with a majority in the Senate and partly representing the Fanmi Lavalas tendency (from former elected President Aristide); and the Convention of political parties which brings together 12 political parties and represents the Fanmi Lavalas political group.

Another notable party includes the Mouvement de l’Opposition Démocratique (“Democratic Opposition Movement,” MOPOD), an opposition platform led by Mirlande Manigat, former ex-first lady before 2011 and the unfortunate candidate for the 2011 elections.

To most Haitian citizens, politics seem to be little more than an unseemly scramble by opportunistic charlatans fighting over the spoils of office. To most people, their elected political officials seem to be utterly devoid of any guiding principal, faithlessly switching allegiances overnight, and accepting alliances with the very leaders they so convincingly denounced just the day before. The political effect of this is to remove ordinary voters from the decision-making process. Given the endlessly shifting positions of all politicians, no one have any real idea about what they might be voting for.

It is within this context that the long overdue elections for the Chamber of Deputies and a third of the Senate, along with local and municipal elections, were supposed to take place this year. Initially scheduled for 2012, then 2013, and finally October 26, 2014, the elections have now been delayed once again, this time indefinitely. It is anyone’s guess when, or if they might be held at all.

President Martelly’s Pressure Led to a Legislative Blockage

On September 24, the Haitian Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, tried to resolve the situation, promising that “we will continue working to ensure that the elections take place as soon as possible. There … [has been a pending] law in Parliament for more than 185 days,” Prime Minister Lamothe explained, “[but it is] awaiting ratification by the Senate, where there are six […] extremists who [are] block[ing] the vote, so that the elections are not [being] held.”

The six senators are from the opposition grouping, mostly from Inite such as Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aimé (elected in the department of the North-East), Jean-Charles Moïse (elected in the department of the North), Francky Exius (elected in the department of the South), John Joël Joseph (elected in the department of the West), Westner Polycarpe (from Altenativ party and elected in the department of the North), and Jean William Jeanty (from Konba party, elected in the department of Nippes).

In the opinion of this so-called “G-6” (group of six), the presidential draft of the Electoral Law was adopted without any respect for the Constitution or the legislative process. Legislators previously proposed a first draft in 2011, but it was never ratified by President Martelly. The G-6 criticize the way the executive power by decree imposed the members of the Conseil Electoral Provisoire (Provisional Electoral Council, CEP) to be in charge of ruling the electoral process.

As The Miami Herald pointed out, “[i]n addition to the senators, several large political parties in Haiti are also opposed to the agreement and were not part of the negotiations [the so-called El Rancho Accord]. In addition to raising constitutional issues, Martelly’s opponents have also raised questions about the formation of the CEP tasked with organizing the vote”. Many feel that it is currently being controlled by the President.”

International Support to an Authoritarian Electoral Process

The Permanent Council of the OAS, weighing in on the matter, blandly and predictably called for the prompt carrying out of the overdue elections. The Permanent Council expressed its, “deep concern for the lack of progress in the electoral process” in Haiti, and urged all political stakeholders to continue dialogue and to fulfill their obligations under the Constitution. The OAS depicted the six senators as the culprits in the electoral hold up.

“The Draft Electoral Act, an essential tool for organizing these elections,” the OAS noted, “was passed on April 1 2014 by Haiti’s Chamber of Deputies and immediately transmitted to the Senate for its consideration and approval.” However, the OAS, pointed out, “no action has been taken by the Senate” on this matter. Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, has echoed this outlook, noting with dismay that “a group of six senators seems intent on holding elections hostage to partisan concerns, even going so far as to prevent a debate on the electoral law.”

However, Mirlande Manigat, Haitian constitutional scholar and runner up in the 2011 presidential elections, blames President Martelly: “for three years, he refused to call elections,” she said. “A large part of this is his fault,” she added, “[and it is therefore] unfair to accuse the six senators for the crisis.”

Last year, Sandra Honoré, the head of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), explained what caused the G-6 senators to unite: “Despite the executive branch’s repeated public statements in favor of holding the elections as soon as possible […] [it] had intentionally delayed the process to ensure that Parliament would become non-functional.”

Despite this, problems are much deeper regarding political governance in Haiti. The principal opposition party, Fanmi Lavalas, was not allowed to participate in past presidential elections for questionable reasons, which later led to a boycott of legislative elections. Besides the boycott, some political actors of Fanmi Lavalas ran in the last electoral race and got elected thanks to the Lespwa political platform (and joined Inite), and represent now four senators of six who oppose the actual draft of the Electoral Law.

Even with no official representation in the official bodies of the State, Fanmi Lavalas is one of the strongest platforms in the country and should be able to participate in the electoral process. The CEP should also have the support of every political party in the country, in order to avoid future electoral disputes.

Why Hold a Flawed Election?

The Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) concluded last month how the United States and other countries involved in Haiti, having done no more than making speeches each year calling for fair elections, “are now willing to accept any sort of election”, even at the cost of violating the Constitution. One of the ICG’s principle recommendations in their February 2013 report was for Haiti to seek “to develop and promote more genuinely representative, better-structured parties capable of formulating and sustaining substantive platforms and playing a more effective role in the country’s development.”

Only this, the ICG stated, would allow Haiti to achieve “truly inclusive and competitive elections.” This seems accurate. Certainly Haiti needs to hold elections, but after the fiasco in2010, with massive fraud and less than a quarter of potential voters bothering to cast ballots, it is highly doubtful that simply holding an election will resolve the long-term problems of Haitian political life. It may be impossible to have democracy without elections, but, as Haiti is proving, it is all together possible to have elections and still not have anything close to resembling democracy. What Haiti needs is a real democracy, and elections alone will not accomplish that.

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

December 11, 2014


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CARICOM-CUBA SUMMIT: Toward the indispensable political, economic and social integration of Latin America and the Caribbean

• Key remarks by President Raúl Castro opening the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit in Havana, December 8, 2014

Honourable Gaston Alphonse Brown, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and Chairman of CARICOM;
Honourable Heads of State or Government of CARICOM member countries;
His Excellency Irwin Larocque, Secretary General of CARICOM;
His Excellency Mr Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States; 
His Excellency Mr Alfonso Múnera Cavadía, Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States;
Allow me to extend a warm welcome and to wish you all a pleasant stay in our country.
It gives us great pleasure to receive here the leaders and representatives of the Caribbean family. We share a common history of slavery, colonialism and struggles for freedom, independence and development, which is the melting pot where our cultures have merged. We also face similar challenges that can only be met through close unity and efficient cooperation.

Photo: Juvenal Balán

Such is the meaning and purpose of these summits held every three years, and aimed at fostering and strengthening our fraternal engagement in cooperation, solidarity and coordination to move towards the necessary Latin American and Caribbean integration; a dream of the forefathers of our independence deferred for more than 200 years, and which is today crucial to our survival.
The successful evolution of CARICOM, the involvement of all its member states and Cuba with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) as well as the participation of some of us in the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) and Petrocarib have helped to advance regional integration, and we should continue working for its consolidation.
Esteemed Heads of State or Government;
Every year on this day we celebrate the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba by the first four nations of the Caribbean Community to accede to independence.
As comrade Fidel Castro Ruz stated at the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of that seminal event, “Probably, the leaders of these countries, also considered the founding fathers of the independence of their nations and of Caribbean integration, –Errol Barrow from Barbados, Forbes Burnham from Guyana, Michael Manley from Jamaica and Eric Williams from Trinidad and Tobago—realised that their decision to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba was paving the way for the future foreign policy of the Caribbean Community, which to this day stands on three major pillars: independence, courage and concerted action.” This statement remains fully valid.
Forty-two years after that brave decision, we take pride in our excellent relations with every country in the Caribbean, and keep diplomatic missions in every capital. And you also have diplomatic missions in Havana; the most recent from St. Kits and Nevis was officially opened last June 25th with our dear friend the Very Honourable Prime Minister Denzil Douglas in attendance.
This moment seems fit to reaffirm that despite our economic difficulties, and the changes undertaken to upgrade our socioeconomic system, we will honour our pledge to cooperate and share our modest achievements with our sister nations in the Caribbean.
Currently, we have 1,806 collaborators working in the CARICOM countries, 1,461 of them in the area of healthcare. Likewise, 4,991 Caribbean youths have graduated in Cuba while 1,055 remain studying in the Island.
Additionally, we are cooperating with the Caribbean, and shall continue to do so, in preventing and fighting the Ebola pandemic. This we are doing bilaterally as well as in the framework of ALBA and CELAC, with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
The experts’ meeting held in Havana at the end of October brought together specialists from the entire hemisphere, including representatives of non-independent Caribbean states. In the past few weeks, 61 officials, physicians, experts in healthcare and other areas from CARICOMN countries have been training in Cuba. On the other hand, we are answering the request of nine CARICOM States to provide Cuban assistance in training their countries’ medical staff.
As small island states and developing nations we are facing the challenge of surviving and making progress in a world shaken by a global economic crisis manifested in the financial and energy sectors, the environment and the food sector, deadly diseases and war conflicts. Today, I want to reiterate Cuba’s unwavering decision to support, under any circumstances, the right of the small and vulnerable countries to be accorded a special and differential treatment in terms of access to trade and investments. 
The challenges of the 21st century are forcing us to unite in order to face together the effects of climate change and natural disasters, to coordinate our approach to the post-2015 development agenda, and particularly, to tackle together the domination mechanisms imposed by the unfair international financial system.
We join our voice to those of the Caribbean Community in demanding the immediate removal of our nations from unilateral lists that jeopardize our economic development and commercial exchanges with other countries.
Special attention is warranted by cooperation in confronting the effects of climate change. The rise of the sea level is threatening the very existence of many of our countries. The more frequent hurricanes, intensive rains and other phenomena are causing huge economic and human damages. We are left with no choice but to reinforce our coordination in order to confront this reality and reduce its major impact on water resources, coastal areas and marine species; biological diversity, agriculture and human settlements.
Cuba has conducted studies of dangers, vulnerabilities and risks and is already implementing a macro-project named “Coastal Dangers and Vulnerabilities 2050-2100”. These include projects on the health condition of the coastal dunes and mangroves as well as an evaluation of the beaches, coastal settlements and their infrastructure; we are willing to share this experience with our sister nations of CARICOM.
We have lots of work to do. As we have indicated, in the coming three- year period, with the modest contribution of Cuba, a Regional Arts School will be opened in Jamaica and the Centre for Development Stimulation of children, teenagers and youths with special educational needs will start operating in Guyana.
On the other hand, more Caribbean students will be given the opportunity to pursue a college education in our country, especially in the area of Medicine. We will also help in the preparation of experts from the CARICOM countries in topics related to mitigation and confrontation of risks of natural disasters, and the difficult stage of recovery in the aftermath of such events.
Likewise, we shall continue offering our fraternal assistance in the development of human resources and in medical care. In the same token, doctors graduated in Cuba and working in their respective countries will be offered the possibility of studying a second specialty free of charge.
The development of trade and investments between our countries is still an unresolved issue. The difficulties with air and maritime transportation in the sub-region and the deterioration of our economies as a result of the international crisis are having a negative effect on progress in these areas. We should work toward creative and feasible solutions of benefit to all. In this connection, we welcome the joint efforts to update and review the Bilateral Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which will provide the free access with no customs duties of 297 products from CARICOM countries and 47 from Cuba.
I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our steadfast support for the just demand of the CARICOM countries to be compensated by the colonial powers for the horrors of slavery, and for their equally fair claim to receive cooperation according to their real situation and necessities, and not on the basis of statistics of their per capita income that simply characterise them as middle-income countries and prevent their access to indispensable flows of financial resources.
It is our inescapable duty to support the reconstruction and development of the sister republic of Haiti, the birthplace of the first revolution in Latin America and the Caribbean fought in pursuit of independence, for we all have a debt of gratitude with that heroic and long-suffering people.
As I have said on previous occasions, Cubans are deeply grateful to our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean for your upright stance of respect for and solidarity with our Homeland.
We shall never forget your enduring support to the resolution against the blockade nor your numerous expressions of solidarity during the debates at the UN General Assembly and other international fora, rejecting the illegitimate inclusion of Cuba in the List of States Sponsors of Terrorism.
Distinguished Heads of State or Government;
I would like to suggest that in this 5th CARICOM-Cuba Summit we exchange viable ideas and proposals to continue working together to increase our bilateral cooperation; to expand and diversify our economic and commercial relations; to confront the challenges imposed by the globalized, unfair and unequal world we live in fraught with grave problems that threaten the very existence of humankind; and, above all, to advance with steadier steps toward the indispensable political, economic and social integration of Latin America and the  Caribbean.
We owe it to our peoples and such duty cannot be postponed.
With no further delay I declare the 5th CARICOM-Cuba Summit officially opened.
Thank you.

December 09, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Moves toward Continental Freedom of Movement ...Venezuela Makes “Equality” Call

By Ewan Robertson:

Mérida, 5th December 2014 ( – The 12 member Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has taken a step toward creating South American citizenship and freedom of movement. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro also called for strategies to promote continental economic development, social equality and defence sovereignty.

The new proposals for South American integration were made during a UNASUR summit in Guayaquil, Ecuador yesterday. Today regional leaders are meeting in the Ecuadorian capital Quito for the opening of the organisation’s new permanent headquarters.

Taking place over two days, the summit in Guayaquil sought to design strategies to further develop regional integration.

“We have approved the concept of South American citizenship. This should be the greatest register of what has happened,” said UNASUR general secretary Ernesto Samper at the summit yesterday.

Part of this proposal is to create a “single passport” and homologate university degrees in order to give South Americans the right to live, work and study in any UNASUR country and to give legal protection to migrants – similar to freedom of movement rules for citizens of the European Union.

For Samper, who is a former Colombian president, they key word at the meeting was “convergence” to continue integration. “Convergence of citizens, convergence of similarities, and convergence of solidarity are the proposals of this effort to bring us together,” he said.

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, argued that the statutes of UNASUR should be changed and that majorities, rather than absolute consensus, should be the minimum necessary basis on which to advance important areas of integration.

In particular, Correa called for the advancement of financial integration and sovereignty, such as the Bank of the South and Reserve Fund, a currency exchange system to minimise the use of the dollar in intercontinental trade, the creation of a regional body to settle financial disputes, and a common currency “in the medium term”.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro agreed that the creation of new financial instruments was central to advancing regional integration and sovereignty.

“From Venezuela we believe that we must take the agenda of shared economic development into our hands; a new financial architecture [that includes] the Bank of Structural Projects, that converts us into a powerful bloc,” he said to media in Guayaquil before the meeting with other UNASUR leaders.

The two other priorities for the Venezuelan government at the meeting were to promote strategies for social equality and regional defence sovereignty.

On defence, Maduro said that Venezuela would support a “new South American military doctrine” based on a “system of education for South American militaries, below the guidance of the South American Defence Council,” in which the thought of the continent’s 19th century independence leaders would be present.

Another important event at the summit was the passing of the pro tempore presidency of the UNASUR from Suriname to Uruguay.

Outgoing Uruguayan president Jose Mujica made a passionate speech while accepting the presidency on behalf of his country, where he stated, “There won’t be integration without commitment, willpower, and political will, because the global obstacles are enormous and the past continues to constrain us”.

Meanwhile, respected former Brazilian president Lula Da Silva declared, "Today our main challenge is to deepen the construction of strategic thought of Latin America and the Caribbean. We can construct an integration project that is more daring, that takes advantage of the formation of our rich history, goods and cultures”.

The UNASUR was created in 2008. Its members are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Published on Dec 5th 2014 at 1.07pm 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Have Haitians Declared War with The Bahamas?

By Andrew Burrows 242
Nassau, The Bahamas:

When the young man we now know as Anson Aly said the words “they don’t want to start something they can’t finish”, a lot of Bahamians were up in arms. We got angry, we went to Facebook to vent. We called the radio shows. Everyone had their say.

Anson Aly
The “fire starter” Anson Aly - AKA Mr. Colombian Necktie

Then we calmed down and went back to being typical Bahamians. Nothing mattered again until the November 1st Immigration Policy changes kicked in. By now, we’ve all see the images of immigration officers doing their duty and the negative spin put on it by Haitian activists Jetta Baptiste and others. We’ve also seen the “lurkers” assist in stirring up the “us against them” discord. I have very little doubt that Special Intelligence Branch officers are tuning in and taking notes because the rhetoric and tone has become increasingly hostile.

So much so that you had Ms. Baptiste stirring up the pot with what appears to be the most corrupt politician in south Florida calling for a boycott of the Bahamas. Mind you, she’s seeking economic sanctions on a country where a significant portion of the population are her people. Haitians. What does she think will happen? A boycott of The Bahamas means those menial jobs that Haitians risk life and limb for will evaporate. The poor will become poorer in that community. It was clearly a stupid thought by a stupid person put into words for the benefit of a camera. But it was also a very beneficial thing for Bahamians who seem too comfortable flinging the doors open to whomever and allowing anyone to carry our name, our passport and our patronage.

How was it beneficial? Well, I can speak for myself and say that it exposed the deep rooted resentment many in the Haitian community appear to harbor towards this country and it’s people, although few of the Haitian leaders have been courageous enough to explain why. Why do they hate us so when we’ve given them our hospitality, our concern, our friendship, our country? Why? This series of events have pulled a scab off of a wound that can only be a case of coveting thy neighbor. We all know the problems that country has faced since fighting for it’s independence. Many say it is a cursed land. No need to go there. But the history of our two countries has always been intertwined with this country offering it’s all to the beleaguered who would end up here, even if their ultimate destination was somewhere else.

For me personally, it’s left a very very bitter taste in my mouth. You see, I have always been open minded about the plight of the Haitian people and how integration and assimilation by them into this country could be a good thing if they went all in. I now suspect going all in has not been the case in many in whom I’ve trusted. I’ll tell you a true story about Louby Georges to illustrate what many Bahamians in my position are calling a betrayal.

Louby Georges
Louby Georges' Betrayal
I hired Louby many years ago to do a job. He had braids, the gold tooth, the Sentra with the Haitian flag on it. It didn’t matter to me after the second day on a difficult job when he showed up on time, worked hard and never really complained. I liked him. He put in the work and he earned every dollar he was paid. I hired him again a few weeks later for the same kind of work and once again, he proved himself a hard worker. He brought his older brother, who was also a serious worker. His brother didn’t last as long but still, I was impressed. Fast forward a couple of years later and I’m watching Cable 12 thinking, ‘let me see what folks are putting on TV as shows. ‘

I had not watched local television for years because, let’s face it, it sucks. Imagine my surprise when I saw Louby hosting a kreyol language show on Cable 12. I found him on Facebook and I sent him a note. I told him I would have no problems helping him make his show better and for a few months, we worked on it. We even shot a pilot. For whatever reason, things did not work out but I kept encouraging him to become a voice for his people and those in the position he was in at the time having been born here but had to wait until 18 to apply for citizenship and then wait yet again for it to be approved. As far as I am concerned, we are cool.

I invited him on my show Unscripted on Island FM. We were supposed to do a regular thing and he was eager but that didn’t quite pan out.

We were cool even when he called me and told me he was gearing up to do the radio show. I gave him some advice again. I told him to own his show. Be a partner with the station and to not back down on percentages of ad revenue. I’m quite proud of him.

But a funny thing happened when the Anson Aly incident happened. My other Haitian friends would call and say “if you are not listening to Louby’s show, you should. He’s dissing you.” Being the loyal person I am, I’d say, yeah right. Not my Louby. When Steve McKinney decided this whole incident was an opportunity for him to get more than a dozen people to listen to his lies, he called me “irresponsible”. My other Haitian friends said “he’s joining the bandwagon with Steve. You should call him.” I did. We didn’t get to do the interview however. I know he’s read this blog and I hope he reads this because I feel the community, Bahamians and Haitians, are being misled by people with agendas unknown. I feel that they are being mislead by people with no business seeking to lead them anywhere. My other Haitian friends says he’s one of the leaders.

I don’t draw any conclusions but the evidence is mounting. I’ll leave that there.

There is no problem between us as people. There is, however, a spirit of disrespect that has been fermenting and has been obviously fertilized by people like Jetta Baptiste. What my friend Louby risks is being lumped in in that grouping of angry Bahamian hating Haitians who have now suddenly found a cause to celebrate. They are aggressively patriotic to Haiti but will quickly say “we don’t know that country” when the prospect of being sent there looms. They see Bahamians as the enemy. I’ve read countless posts on Facebook attacking me, my country, my people by folks who live or have lived here. One poor lady prayed for a tsunami to destroy the Bahamas. Two days later, flash floods struck Haiti and 6 died. I’ve had my reporter and myself threatened when we attempted to cover a meeting of Haitians. I’ve had people deny it, even though a camera was in fact rolling.

Jetta Baptiste hates The Bahamas
Hater Jetta Baptiste
The distrust has deepened between our people and I think the aggressors in this are the ones with the most to lose. The Haitians. This is OUR country and by OUR, I mean Bahamians. There will come a time when the hospitality will turn to something else. When that happens, thousands of desperate Haitians will have nowhere to go. They will have no landing point, no second choice if America isn’t the first dry land they touch when they set out on those rickety boats. For them, where disease, starvation and death is a daily struggle, it will be a horrible thing. For them, this country offers hope. For many I am sure, they would trade this country for theirs in a heartbeat. In my heart, I know they don’t support Daphne Campbell, Jetta Baptiste and all the other angry Haitians who hate The Bahamas and it’s people. I know they would take whatever opportunity to be in our country legally seriously and not say the things that Jetta has been saying or doing the things that she and others are doing.

You see, those ones, those are the ones you call the “good Haitians”. This crew? Well, you can judge for yourself.

December 06, 2014


CARICOM Cuba Leaders to talk trade in Havana on CARICOM-Cuba Day - December 08

Caricom Today: CARICOM Cuba Leaders to talk trade in Havana

Economic and Trade Relations will be among the issues discussed at the Fifth Summit of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Cuba which takes place in Havana, Cuba on Monday 8 December. The Summit will be preceded on Sunday by a meeting of the Foreign Ministers.

In accordance with the Havana Declaration of December 2002, the Summit is held every three ye - ars on the date that the leaders of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago broke a diplomatic embargo and visited Cuba. That date December 8 has been designated CARICOM-Cuba Day.

Monday’s meeting will give the Leaders an opportunity to look at the present situation with the Trade and Economic Agreement which the two parties signed in 2000. They will benefit from the result of discussion held last October in Havana by the CARICOM-Cuba Joint Commission which sought ways of making the Agreement more effective.

The two sides will also discuss strengthening co-operation in multi-lateral fora. This assumes added importance in light of the on-going global negotiations for a Climate Change Agreement and the upcoming negotiations on the United Nations Post 2015 Development Agenda.

Chairman of CARICOM the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency Raoul Castro Ruz, president of Cuba and His Excellency Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of CARICOM will address Monday’s Opening Ceremony at the Place of the Revolution.

December 05, 2014

Caricom Today

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Death Penalty, Death Penalty Appeals and the London-based Privy Council in The Bahamas

Sean McWeeney
Sean McWeeney, QC

Death Penalty 'Unlikely' Without Legal Challenges

Tribune 242 Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas

CONSTITUTIONAL Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney said recent comments about the end of hanging by Court of Appeal justices reflects opposition the London-based Privy Council has to the death penalty.

It reflects, he said, the unlikelihood that the death penalty will be carried out unless substantial changes are made to the legal and judicial system of this country.

Court of Appeal Justices on Wednesday suggested that “hanging is over” as they quashed the death sentence of Anthony Clarke Sr, who was convicted last year of killing his friend Aleus Tilus as part of a contract killing in 2011.

The justices’ statements raised concern among some yesterday who wondered if it set a new precedent for the court as it relates to dealing with death penalty appeals.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Mr McWeeney, a Queen’s Counsel, explained: “The statement (by the justices) was made off the cuff and emerged during the course of give-and-take with counsel. This was not some formal, deeply considered pronouncement. They were correctly characterising the current state of play given the position of the Privy Council.

“Their statements are not fundamentally different from what we in the Constitutional Commission have been saying based on jurisprudence coming out of the Privy Council. There is essentially a philosophical objective guiding this jurisprudence. The Privy Council is philosophically opposed to the death penalty and have curtailed the law to achieve objectives in line with its beliefs. They’ve put a series of obstacles in the way to impede and quite frankly prevent the death penalty from being meted out.”

The mandatory death sentence was changed in 2006 after the Privy Council ruled it was unconstitutional.

In 2011, after a ruling from the Privy Council, the Ingraham administration amended the death penalty law to specify the “worst of the worst” murders which would warrant execution.

A person who kills a police or defence force officer, member of the Departments of Customs or Immigration, judiciary or prison services would be eligible for a death sentence. A person would also be eligible for death once convicted of murdering someone during a rape, robbery, kidnapping or act of terrorism.

In Wednesday’s case, the Court of Appeal suggested there was never going to be a “worst of the worst” case.

“I sympathise with you because there’s never going to be a worst of the worst, because you’re never going to reach that threshold given that there will always be a worse case to follow,” said Court of Appeal President Justice Anita Allen.  

On this issue, Mr McWeeney said: “It’s quite clear (the Privy Council) has been very disingenuous characterising what is the worst of the worst.

“It all points to the fact that the Privy Council has demonstrated consistently that it will not hesitate to find some pretext, some reason, however legally spurious, to achieve their philosophical objective. Against that, Caribbean countries with similar constitutional systems as ours have been looking for ways to overcome this resistance. One thought was to replace the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice. However, nothing in that system exists to give cause for optimism that their position would be any different from the Privy Council. There have been judgments from that court to lead one to believe their position would be no different. So it’s not going to happen just because you get rid of the Privy Council and put in place the Caribbean Court of Justice.

“That leaves only one possibility and that is to think in terms of amending the Constitution in a way that would tie the hands of the Privy Council,” he added. “Remove the very large discretion the Privy Council has in terms of deciding the circumstances which constitutes ‘worst of the worst’. A solution is to (put in the Constitution) the criteria that would have to be applied on a mandatory basis by the Privy Council, which would define what is the worst of the worst cases. Of course, this could only take place after holding a referendum.”

Mr McWeeney said a draft has been created to amend the Constitution in order to define which crimes must be punishable by death.

“That draft is not something that they are dealing with right now because the focus is on gender equality,” he said, referring to next year’s expected constitutional referendum. “Political parties would have to decide where they want that issue to stand in the queue. It’s certainly not in the cards for this round (of proposed constitutional amendments).”

November 28, 2014