January 16, 2016 - No. 3

Liberal Government's "Pre-Budget Consultations"

Canada Faces Serious
Economic Challenges

Liberal Government's "Pre-Budget Consultations"

Canada Faces Serious Economic Challenges

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently held the federal government's "pre-budget consultations" at mostly private gatherings across Canada with those identified as "stakeholders."

The government says it is seeking advice on the following topics:

"In your opinion, how can we better support our middle class?

"What infrastructure needs can best help grow the economy, protect our environment, and meet your priorities locally?

"How can we create economic growth, protect the environment, and meet local priorities while ensuring that the most vulnerable don't get left behind?

"Finally, is the implementation of these new priorities and initiatives realistic? Will it help us grow our economy?"

When an institution, public or private, seeks to consult others for advice it must have in mind an aim to solve problems. The methods it uses is one issue but of great importance is the problem it wishes to solve, otherwise, why bother to consult. What problems does the Liberal government identify and propose solutions on which it wants to consult?

Problem one: workers whose individual reproduced-value is between $45,282 to $90,563 need "our support."

Liberal government proposed solution on which it wants to consult: reduce their income tax rate.

Problem two: Identify infrastructure needed "to grow the economy" but on condition that it "protects our environment" and "meets local priorities."

Liberal government proposed solution on which it wants to consult: have the government partner with "green" private interests to build material infrastructure using investment money from both general taxation and government borrowing from private moneylenders, generating large budget deficits and debts. "Local priorities" are a public relations issue that requires massive propaganda promoting the new government as working in the best interests of Canadians. The deficits will be partly softened with decreased funding for the social infrastructure and paid with continuing increased borrowing from private moneylenders. This solves in part a problem of private owners of social wealth who at this point have no safe place to park their money.

Problem three: The most vulnerable must not be "left behind" while "creating economic growth, protecting the environment, and meeting local priorities."

Liberal government proposed solution on which it wants to consult: Look to former U.S. President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 which intensified a U.S.-wide campaign to privatize and wreck public education using such methods as Charter Schools.

Problem four: Are the "priorities and initiatives of the government realistic and will they help grow the economy"?

Liberal government proposed solution on which it wants to consult: Leave proposals extremely vague at this point and do everything possible to avoid talking about the concrete conditions and the serious economic challenges the country faces.

Economic Problems Discussed

The problems and proposals of the Liberal government appear not to reflect the very serious economic, political and social conditions the country faces.

The prices of Canada's major commodity exports such as oil, copper, nickel, iron ore, coal etc. have declined. Canada's international trade relations are stuck in the nineteenth century and need urgent renewal. The global monopolies have taken over the old trading relations and use them to serve their narrow private interests. The prices of raw commodities fluctuate wildly without regard for their prices of production. Canadians have no control over the prices of commodities and no possibility to plan for the rational production and distribution of basic commodities let alone their refining and transformation into more finished manufactured products. Governments have consistently refused to address the old Canadian colonial problem of "ripping and shipping" the tremendous bounty Mother Nature offers this country. All this demands a new direction.

The market value of the Canadian dollar is out of control and under attack from the speculators and parasites. The recent sharp decline of the dollar in relation to other currencies especially the U.S. dollar has led to price increases in Canada of imported food and other essential commodities. The decline of the relative value of the dollar compounds the decline in raw commodity prices as they are all priced in U.S. dollars.

The value of the Canadian dollar in relation to the production of goods and services in Canada must be stabilized and this value protected from the attacks of speculators and parasites. New bilateral state-to-state trading relations based on cooperation and mutual benefit and development require the removal of the dollar from the global speculation and intrigue of the parasites and the need to deprive the global monopolies of their power over trade.

The current widening trade imbalance of imports over exports draining value from the country reflects the concrete condition that the money value of imports in Canadian dollars has rapidly risen while the money value and volume of exports have fallen.

The slowdown in volume of trade with some of Canada's major importers of basic commodities should also be regarded as a problem of lack of diversity within the Canadian economy, in particular the necessity to increase the manufacturing sector in all regions of the country including those areas where raw material production is concentrated. The misguided capital-centred outlook that looks at Canada's raw bounty as a means to make quick profits from simply ripping and shipping it out has to change.

The Gross Domestic Product has not grown in a year. This has occurred in spite of an increase in the population. This problem is connected with the problems in international trade and the lack of a self-reliant diverse Canadian economy that engages in international trade as complimentary to the internal socialized economy, which must be stable and dynamic.

The imperialist stock market has fallen dramatically since January 1. The stock market is yet one more arena of speculation of the parasites, who look to fleece others of the already-produced value they possess. This problem involves Canadians due to the fact that in recent years the government has allowed pension funds to put their accumulated money in the stock market in a scheme to prop up its market value. The current freefall in stock prices will have a negative effect on the viability of many pension funds.

Concern is growing over the health of the U.S. economy as it seems poised to fall along with the global economy in a repeat of the 2008 economic crisis. As Canada is tied to the U.S. as a junior partner within the U.S.-led imperialist system of states, defensive measures should immediately be discussed as to how to extricate the country from the recurring crises resulting from this control and subservience.

The crisis in the raw commodity export sector has already resulted in terrible layoffs. The distress is compounded because the layoffs are often concentrated in smaller more remote locations where local business relies heavily on the resource sector. The mounting layoffs add to the already mass unemployment across the country of over 1.2 million Canadian workers. The serious crisis of growing unemployment in certain regions requires emergency measures to alleviate any suffering. The crisis underscores the necessity to increase investments in social programs, public services and public enterprise as an antidote to the economic crisis, unemployment and the anguish it causes. The crisis in the resource sector also draws attention to the necessity for modern nation-to-nation relations with the Indigenous Nations across the country.

The problems and solutions the Liberal government identifies and its proposed solutions do not appear to have any connection with reality and the serious economic, political and social problems facing the country. The proposal to invest in material infrastructure as a general panacea is a long-held imperialist position serving narrow private interests. The method is to borrow from private financial institutions and pay private monopoly construction companies to build the projects. Upon completion no modern method is devised to realize the value of the projects other than through general taxation and individual user fees. No consideration is given to the fact that workers in both the social and material infrastructure have produced and continue to produce enormous value as means of production that should be realized directly by those economic units consuming it.

On the front of infrastructure building, a working class position exists that would lead to nation-building in opposition to the old imperialist line that serves the private interests of the global moneylenders and construction monopolies and will leave the country indebted to private lenders for decades. Public financing beginning with the Bank of Canada using public funds to invest through Quebec, the provinces and territories in public engineering firms would be a step in a new direction. This would leave the country with infrastructure from which the value when realized by those economic units consuming it would allow the repaid funds to be used anew for further public investments. This new direction would grow public engineering enterprises and their expertise, release the enthusiasm of workers and their communities, and allow public funds to be used consistently to build the country without having value taken out of the economy and country.

No one doubts that Canada is facing severe economic challenges. These problems left unresolved will eventually affect us all regardless of social class or region. A general recurring issue is global monopoly control of the economy leaving Canadians deprived of the public right necessary to identify problems and propose and implement solutions.

If the identified problems and solutions do not emerge out of the concrete conditions, where does that leave the Liberal government consultation process? Is there a problem with the aim? The aim appears to guide Canadians away from facing the concrete problems and thinking about real solutions. It could be concluded that the Liberal consultation process is designed to divert Canadians from looking at the concrete conditions and analyzing what has to be done to resolve problems and put the economy and country on a new direction of twenty-first century nation-building.

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Liberal Government's Method of Consultation

Consultation with Canadians is one of the main themes taken up by the Trudeau Liberal government which came to power in the October 19, 2015 federal election. This theme, which has been used by federal and provincial governments in the past, has been reintroduced on a grand scale in the context of the need to restore credibility to what are called Canada's democratic institutions and to legitimize the government's agenda.

The crisis of legitimacy in which what are called Canada's democratic institutions are mired has been growing since the late 1980s when Canadians wholeheartedly rejected NAFTA which the Mulroney government imposed nonetheless along with the GST.

The Chrétien Liberals, who campaigned against NAFTA and the GST in 1993, did not abrogate NAFTA or remove the GST once in power. They then proceeded to provide a new basis for government action, one no longer based on notions of serving the common good, but on making Canadian monopolies number one on global markets. Since that time, governments have faced the problem of providing their rule with legitimacy which they find impossible to do. How can putting all the assets of the society -- both natural and human -- at the disposal of making everything serve the biggest monopolies in their inter-monopoly and inter-imperialist competition  be seen to be for the good of all? This crisis has called into question the basic tenets of democratic institutions -- that by being elected, the party in power has a mandate to implement its agenda. A serious problem exists once the electors do not perceive this to be the case.

In this issue, TML Weekly explores the government's definitions of "Canadians" and "stakeholders" so that readers can see for themselves what kind of consultations are being held and with whom. One thing is certain: with the full weight of the state behind it, the new Liberal government blithely exhibits the arrogance of power, believing that it can restore Canadians' confidence in what are called democratic institutions on the basis of its "consultations," even though their aim to pay the rich remains the same. Talk about accountability, transparency, consultations and necessary reform has only given rise to more self-serving measures. The current government is now going out of its way to pledge to "consult" "Canadians" and "stakeholders." What does it mean?

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"Canadians" and "Stakeholders"

In the third month of its existence the Trudeau Liberal government has so far pledged to hold consultations in one form or another on at least eleven policies or areas of concern including the 2016 federal budget.[1] The government also says it will consult provinces, territories and municipalities on issues such as infrastructure investments and negotiation of a new Canada Health Accord.

The government began its "pre-budget consultations" for the 2016 federal budget on January 6, with a "Google Hangout" between Finance Minister Bill Morneau and students at eight universities. Minister Morneau has given "Canadians" three ways to participate: a short questionnaire has been added to the government's pre-budget consultation website; "Facebook Live" chat events hosted by Morneau on January 11 and 15 included the possibility to submit questions and comments; and people are also asked to post their suggestions on Twitter using the hashtag #PBC16. The government directs these particular methods at those it identifies as "Canadians." It says the input "received over the course of the consultations will be used to support an ambitious economic agenda that is inclusive, sustainable, prudent, and transparent."

Meanwhile, a parallel pre-budget consultation process is underway with those it calls "stakeholders" who are meeting directly with either Morneau or his Parliamentary Secretary François-Philippe Champagne (Saint-Maurice—Champlain). Morneau has travelled across the country hosting consultations with "stakeholders" and by January 16 will have been in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Surrey. Morneau's consultations with "stakeholders" have occurred at private events held by organizations such as the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, the Public Policy Forum of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and the Surrey Board of Trade. The government did not publicize Champagne's itinerary or the "stakeholders" who met with Morneau's Parliamentary Secretary.

Another example of the Liberals' consultations relates to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, for which negotiations amongst member states concluded during last October's federal election. The Liberals launched their consultations on the TPP in January by setting up an e-mail address for "Canadians" to direct their comments. Meanwhile since January 11, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has been traveling to various cities taking part in consultations with "provincial leaders, local industry representatives, subject matter experts and members of the public" on the TPP "and other matters to do with international trade." Government news releases do not indicate with whom Freeland met, the content of discussions or the process for participating in consultations but media also referred to the participants as "stakeholders." At the same time, Freeland said that after Parliament resumes on January 25, she will ask the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade to undertake a "comprehensive cross-country study" of the TPP.

How does the government distinguish between a "Canadian" and a "stakeholder"? Is a "stakeholder" someone who receives an invitation to a private meeting with Morneau, Freeland or another official while a "Canadian" can communicate with the government via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook? The method of amassing students to participate in Morneau's "Google Hangout," which was not reported and was not facilitated through any recognized student associations, appears to be very random. It is not a method which permits the formation of views on how specific problems pose themselves and can be addressed. In fact, the method seems to be deliberately designed to make sure this does not take place.

The government's "stakeholder" consultations are also being carried out in a shady area that cannot be called the public arena. The monopoly media are not aware and are not asking who these "stakeholders" are, how they are selected or how the meetings are organized. They have yet to ask what the government is up to with these consultations or shed any light on them whatsoever. Media reports mostly limit their coverage to repeating government news releases and references to "stakeholders" but have not informed about the process.

For instance, the CBC reports that Morneau's meetings are "a mix of traditional closed-door sessions with stakeholder groups, ranging from manufacturing to cultural organizations, plus a couple of public events in each location where people will get a chance to offer their opinions directly to the federal minister." Morneau's communications director Dan Lauzon told the CBC, "Morneau will be holding the regular private sessions with interest groups where both sides can speak frankly." Nothing is said about what "interest" this might be and what the "frank" discussion is intended to achieve.

All of it is designed to be reported in a manner which states that Canadians have participated on a mass basis and approve the government's program. The fact is hidden that most Canadians are beyond the purview of this "consultation." Who precisely has responded and the calibre of the responses is all subjective. For instance, a release by the Department of Finance on January 16 says:

"In a speech to the Surrey Board of Trade today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that tens of thousands of Canadians have engaged and shared their thoughts through meetings, events and through online channels -- the highest-ever turnout for pre-budget consultations on record." The news release says, "the online consultation website has already received 2,000 official submissions from individuals and groups [to its four-question online form], including a single-day boost of over 500 submissions on January 14 alone. [...] The Minister spoke to full capacity crowds at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, Montreal's Council on Foreign Relations, and the Surrey Board of Trade, with a total attendance of well over 1000 people. [...] Two separate Facebook Live events hosted by Dalhousie University and the University of Calgary respectively gave nearly 80,000 Canadians an opportunity to submit questions to the Minister and view the town hall live."

It is important for working people to understand what this process is. If it is indeed legitimate and will restore legitimacy to crisis-ridden institutions let us draw warranted conclusions and participate with confidence. If the process is fraudulent how will it restore any such confidence? If it is not legitimate but intended to posture and declare that the Liberals have a mandate from Canadians to railroad an anti-social agenda and disorganize any opposition, then let the working people make sure they cannot be disinformed and depoliticized by this manoeuvre.


1. Promised consultations include: an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women; the Trans-Pacific Partnership; security legislation and the Harper government's anti-terrorism laws; the proposed "Memorial to the Victims of Communism" in Ottawa; funding for the CBC/Radio-Canada; electoral reform; a "National Early Learning and Childcare Framework"; expanding the Nutrition North program; a review of policies and laws affecting Indigenous peoples; new policies on foreign aid; Supreme Court Justice appointments; a CRTC review of telecommunications service; and a legal framework for physician-assisted suicide.

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New Security Arrangements

 Measures Strengthen U.S. Profiling of Canadians

Since the New Year, a number of news reports have raised the problem of Canadian children, some just toddlers, being on no-fly lists without any explanation as to why this is the case.[1] The federal government has responded by reiterating instructions that airlines are not to subject passengers under 18 whose names appear on a no-fly list to additional security screening.

This is the very least that can be done but what about the no-fly lists themselves? What is their aim? Who decides who is on them? Based on what criteria? What recourse do individuals have to question the addition of their names to these lists, or to have them removed as a matter of right? At present, individuals have to spend a small fortune in attempts to clear their names when even the smallest infractions of law get them flagged, even though such issues in no way make them terrorist suspects.

Issues of whose authority determines such things and where the jurisdiction lies to contest the decisions which affect their lives are matters of great concern to Canadians. The idea that a passport gives you free passage so long as definite objective criteria are met has gone with the wind. The criteria are no longer objective. Far from it, they are secret and serve aims that people know nothing about and are outside of their control.

The word "jurisdiction" (from the Latin ius, iuris meaning "law" and dicere meaning "to speak") is the practical authority granted to a legal body to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility. It is the extent or range of judicial, law enforcement or other authority -- the territory over which that authority is exercised.

The current security arrangements began to be put in place even before 9/11 after which the so-called War on Terror was unleashed by U.S. President George W. Bush. They started with the opening of borders as a result of free trade agreements that demanded all national authorities submit to decision-making put in place to benefit the integrated energy, transportation and security corridors. This first took place between Canada and the U.S. and then incorporated Mexico, and will extend in due course to encompass the entire Americas and Caribbean.

Following the 2011 election, the Harper government used its majority to swiftly extend various security arrangements put in place under previous Liberal governments. It signed the Beyond the Border Security and Competitiveness Agreement in 2011 with the Obama administration. This agreement established an executive committee for the integrated U.S. and Canadian economies and security agencies that guarantees the monopolies based in the two countries can compete against rivals. The agreement set out to unify the manner and authority under which regulatory arrangements between the two countries are implemented in all spheres of life. One area of focus is the movement of goods and people with the aim of establishing what is called a "security perimeter" around the two countries. In practice this perimeter has amounted to the extension of control by the U.S. security and military apparatus over Canada's land, sea and air as well as surveillance over the movement of its people.

Now we see indications that the new Liberal government will continue in the same direction while giving the impression that any abuse of the various data-sharing systems will be kept in check. This deflects attention from the fact that it is the very existence of the data-sharing systems that constitutes the abuse.

Along with these developments there is more troubling news. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) now reports that in order to fulfill agreements signed by the Harper government with the U.S. and to increase efficiency, it has implemented and begun using a new system to profile passengers. The system, known as scenario-based targeting or SBT, has been in use by the United States for a number of years. No explanation is given at all as to how the new more efficient system will provide security. However the CBSA tells media that the system "singled out" more than 2,300 passengers for "possible links to terrorism or serious crime" -- 0.03 per cent of the more than 7.5 million people flying into Canada over the course of only three months last year.

The CBSA describes the progression of the systems that it has put in place leading up to the new model:

"The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency implemented the Advance Passenger Information (API)/Passenger Name Record (PNR) program in October 2002, mandating the collection of prescribed information from commercial air carriers to identify persons who are or who may be involved with terrorism or terrorism-related crimes or other serious crimes, including organized crime, that are transnational in nature. In 2003 and 2004, the CBSA established the High-Risk Traveller Identification Initiative (HRTI) jointly with the United States Customs and Border Protection (U.S. CBP) to extend the API/PNR program to identify high-risk air travellers. Both parties agreed to implement a risk scoring methodology within their automated passenger systems to conduct risk assessment of unknown high-risk air passengers flying into their respective countries."

We are now informed by CBSA that "After an extensive analysis of the risk scoring methodology and the continued commitment to comply with agreements made with the U.S. CBP, the CBSA undertook the replacement of risk scoring functionality with scenario based rules functionality on a limited basis. In January 2010, the Executive Policy Committee approved the implementation of a long-term solution for [scenario-based targeting] within the Passenger Information System (PAXIS).

"The scope of the [scenario-based targeting] project is to make changes to PAXIS, which previously used a risk scoring methodology, to accommodate a scenario-based methodology to enhance the processes which identify suspected high-risk travellers in the air mode. [Scenario-based targeting] will more effectively direct the focus on a smaller segment of the travelling population who represent a potential high risk.

"[Scenario-based targeting]-related enhancements to PAXIS will increase the efficiency, effectiveness and accuracy of the targeting officer's otherwise manual and labour-intensive work, and thereby help facilitate the more efficient movement of legitimate people while safeguarding the border and the security of Canada. The enhancements also dramatically reduce scenario deployment times and costs enabling the CBSA to respond to imminent threats."

The problem with integrating Canada's traveller profiling with that of the United States is that the authority now lies outside of Canadian jurisdiction. Once the jurisdiction of the authority is no longer national, who will uphold the rights of Canadians and according to what criteria? Canadians feel more insecure than ever with an increasing number of people complaining about being arbitrarily flagged at the border based on their mental health background, national origin, appearance, religion, names or countries where they travel.

The annual report by Canada's Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, submitted to Parliament on December 10, raises a number of concerns about the new system. Amongst other things, he points out: "The new scenario-based method uses Big Data analytics -- extensive number-crunching to identify patterns -- to evaluate all data collected from air carriers. Designed to harmonize with the system used by the U.S., it could allow the operator to, for example, search for all males aged between the ages of 18-20 who are Egyptian nationals and who have visited both Paris and New York."

Therrien says his office provided advice on the potential pitfalls, including the possibility of "false positives" that could result in unnecessary secondary screening for travellers. His recommendations include:

- Demonstrate the necessity of scenario-based targeting, beyond the general purpose of aligning Canada's system with that of the U.S.;

- Be more transparent by fleshing out the privacy impact assessment with general descriptions of the types of scenarios that might be used to identify potentially high-risk travellers;

- Conduct regular reviews of the "effectiveness and proportionality of scenarios," including an examination of impacts on civil liberties and human rights;

- Prepare a broader privacy assessment of the overall program used to collect passenger information from airlines.

These measures are surely necessary. However, they do not address the experience of Canadians which is that targeting is not based on objective criteria and infractions of the law. It is based on racial profiling and the outlook that all those countries and peoples who do not accept U.S. imperialist notions of democracy and human rights are threats to security and thus the violation of their rights is justified.

Now that the new federal Liberal government is taking over from where the Harper government left off it is expressing the desire to stem the more egregious abuses the profiling system gives rise to. Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale has told airlines that "additional security screening validation is not required for individuals under the age of 18." The Minister has said he understands "the frustration of law-abiding travellers whose plans are interrupted as a result of false positives arising in the security screening of airline passenger manifests. We have heard the concerns of those who have gone through additional security screening that this situation can cause confusion and feelings of stigmatization."

From this, it is clear Canadians cannot expect better protection. What they want is not the fine tuning of profiling. They want it ended, along with ending the integration of Canada into the U.S. security apparatus.

Will Goodale, for example, act to ensure that while travelling in the United States people labelled as false positives will not be harassed by U.S. security agencies or even disappeared? Will he take responsibility for information on Canadians that is handed over to the U.S. and used to violate their rights with impunity, a system which is already sanctioned?

Once the system is justified in the name of the high ideal of security and the fight against terrorism, then violations of rights are considered "collateral damage," "unfortunate mistakes," "unintended consequences," and so on, as is the case with targeted assassinations conducted through drone warfare. It is the phoniest possible definition of what constitutes the "greater good." It is a farce.

The issue of which authority presides over what jurisdiction is key to establishing who will defend you under what circumstances. Over what territory is Mr. Ralph Goodale exercising his authority? What authority is he exercising? For that matter, what is the federal government's definition of authority? Providing answers to these questions will improve Canadians' ability to secure their lives.


1. CBC reported the case of "a six-year-old Markham, Ont., boy named Syed Adam Ahmed, whose parents say has been flagged on a no-fly list since he was a toddler.

"His father, Sulemaan Ahmed, snapped a picture on an airport computer screen showing his son had been flagged on what's known as a 'deemed high profile' list when he tried to take him to the NHL Winter Classic game between the Canadiens and Bruins on New Year's Day in Boston.

"Since then, the parents of two other Canadian-born boys -- both under three years old -- have come forward saying their children are on no-fly lists and have faced airport security delays as a result.

"Ahmed, and his wife, Khadija Cajee, said they never got a straight answer from staff at the Transport and Public Safety departments about exactly what list their son might be on -- or whether he is even on it."

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Developments in Venezuela

President Maduro Takes Action to
Safeguard Bolivarian Revolution

Demonstration of supporters of the Bolivarian revolution outside the opening of the National Assembly, January 5, 2016.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on January 15 issued an Emergency Economic Decree and later made his annual State of the Union address to the National Assembly to elaborate on the threats facing the Bolivarian nation-building project that make the Emergency Economic Decree necessary.[1] The decree was presented at Miraflores Presidential Palace by Vice President for the Economy Luis Salas.

The Economic Emergency Decree is aimed at protecting the right of all Venezuelans to health care, housing, education and food, thereby ensuring social progress despite the slump in oil prices. The loss in revenue from oil production has been aggravated by the wave of speculative inflation led by business sectors linked to right-wing opposition parties, the Venezuelan News Agency reports.

The preamble to the decree states that the measures "must be of a high magnitude and impact on the national economy, without affecting the rights to health, food, education, work, and all that has been gained for Venezuelans by the Bolivarian Revolution through class struggle that imposed the will of the people over the interests of the bourgeoisie."

Practically speaking, the decree involves making resources from the 2015 financial year available, assigning extra funds to health, education, food, and housing; designing and implementing measures to prevent tax evasion; and giving the executive the "authorization to address the causes of the current situation."

The measure also allows the administration special temporary powers to boost production and ensure access to key goods, including taking over private companies' resources, imposing currency controls and "other social, economic or political measures deemed fitting."

In its first article, the decree provides that the government, acting in accordance with the powers granted by the Bolivarian Constitution, can take "appropriate measures to effectively address the unique and extraordinary economic situation the Venezuelan state is currently facing."

It also establishes that the Venezuelan people must be able to enjoy "their rights and free access to basic goods and services" and that the decree will also mitigate "the effects of induced inflation, speculation, fictitious value of currency, [and] sabotage to distribution systems for goods and services."

Furthermore, the decree seeks to "counteract the consequences of the war on oil prices, which has [...] created a serious economic crisis."

President Maduro's Speech to National Assembly

In his State of the Union speech, President Maduro outlined a series of important reforms to strengthen Venezuela's economy, while criticizing the neo-liberal model the opposition intends to impose on the country. "There are two models, the neo-liberal model which destroys everything and the Chavista model which is centred around people," he said.

"What we want for the year 2016 is that our country proceeds along a path of development and economic growth that generates wealth and employment," Maduro stated, adding that the Economic Emergency Decree is necessary to achieve this.

Maduro stated that the government is formulating an alternative to the current model of economic growth that will not contradict the ideals of the country's social revolution. Social investment will be maintained and is not negotiable, he said.

The President criticized those from the private sector involved in production who have joined in economic speculation as part of the economic warfare against Venezuela. He pointed out that the Bolivarian government has always created mechanisms for communication and dialogue with the private sector on economic matters, adding that the socialist model is the only one that can overcome the economic difficulties. He also pointed out that attacks promoted from abroad have conditioned the current economic situation.

Despite the complex economic situation, Maduro duly recognized the opposition majority in the National Assembly, while reaffirming that the Bolivarian Revolution will continue to build on its values and that Venezuela is a country of peace. Notably, the opposition forces have sought to foment social unrest and violence as a means to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution.

President Maduro also pointedly criticized the President of Parliament, Henry Ramos Allup, for the "abuse that was given to the symbols of the commander Hugo Chávez and Simon Bolivar," referring to the provocative order by Ramos Allup that all portraits of Chávez and Bolivar in the National Assembly be taken down. He added that Bolivar's ideas are a constant source of inspiration and that no Venezuelan would reject honouring his legacy at the National Assembly. Maduro underscored this point by presenting Ramos Allup with a figurine of Bolivar.

The President of Venezuela denounced the opposition's proposed amnesty law to free those responsible for the guarimbas, the deadly social unrest incited by the opposition in 2014. He called on the deputies to remember the murder of "43 people, 900 injured, and 300 people left disabled." He called for a Joint Commission for Justice and Peace to establish a legal basis for a peace process.

Maduro also called for the parliament's support in opposing the March 2015 decree of U.S. President Barack Obama in which he declared Venezuela a threat to the U.S.

Outlining the government's major goals for 2016, President Maduro stated that the social investments that ensure the well-being of the Venezuelan people will be continued. In this context, the government will work for a recovery in the oil market, diversifying production to break the country's dependence on oil revenues. He affirmed that the government will continue to provide more socialized housing, calling this program "a spiritual engine of the revolution," and that it will continue to protect seniors.


1. The decree was initially supposed to be presented to the National Assembly on January 5. However, provocative actions by the opposition forces, including defying a Supreme Court order not to swear-in three suspended deputies due to allegations of vote-buying, disrupted the Assembly's functioning for several days.

(avn.info.ve, TeleSUR. Photos: TeleSUR)

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New Measures to Develop and Strengthen
the National Economy

Demonstrations outside opening of National Assembly, January 5, 2016.

The Venezuelan government is taking important measures to strengthen the country's economy to overcome the economic war being waged by the country's reactionary oligarchs and provide stability for the Venezuelan people.

In an interview with state media, Minister for Industry and Trade Miguel Perez Abad emphasized that the country requires the efforts of government as well as workers, entrepreneurs, universities and research centres to transform Venezuela into a powerful country and achieve economic diversification.

Perez Abad said that the government will enhance and support the productive initiatives of communal councils, socially-owned enterprises, artisan, and small, medium and large industries. All of these, he noted, have been proposed to replace imports, increase food production and create new technology to further develop the country's capabilities and distribution systems.

He indicated that a new financial system will be implemented to support these initiatives and gradually reduce any obstacles for entrepreneurs, subject to control by the State.

Perez Abad stressed that the basic industries in the Guyana region of Venezuela -- iron, steel and aluminum production -- are important for the industrial development of Venezuela and non-traditional exports beyond oil. In that regard, he announced a meeting January 13 in Bolivar state with the management board and employees of these companies to collect proposals, plans and projects in order to devise a joint plan to improve the performance of this economic group in this important region.

He said the purpose is to use the basic industries for the development of domestic added-value and that includes generating more jobs.

Concerning the development of the oil industry, the Minister noted that there are many factories producing goods in the country that are replacing imports "and creating well-paid jobs, achieving technological and productive sovereignty." He referred to the Orinoco Oil Belt, where he said there are 22 joint ventures being put in place to replace imports.

He added that state oil company PDVSA "remains one of the largest buyers in the country, and we are developing production chains around the oil sector" and thus adding value to the country.

New Plan to Recover Oil Prices

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced in a January 12 television and radio broadcast that he had charged Oil and Mining Minister Eulogio Del Pino with coming up with a new plan of action to recover crude oil prices, along with member and non-member countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Oil prices have reached their lowest point in 12 years with an average of $24 per barrel.

The President criticized efforts by the U.S. in the oil market to undermine the economies of those states with which it does not agree through increased oil production from fracking. He stated that these countries "are determined to be free, independent and sovereign and we're not going to kneel to transnational interests."

The President stressed that even with oil prices at $24 a barrel, Venezuela's social rights -- he specifically mentioning the right to work, housing and pensions -- will remain. He compared this to the situation with other countries and oil companies which -- facing a 70 per cent oil price slump -- have engaged in mass layoffs, as is the case with UK-based BP that on January 12 announced the termination of 4,000 jobs.

He stressed that the sharp drop in oil prices opens opportunities to start a new phase of the country's economic revolution.

Addressing the country's oil workers from Miraflores Palace on January 12, Maduro stated that efforts must be made to create new sources of currency in dollars, which is already being done, and the pace must be increased. He made these remarks in the context of signing a new collective agreement with PDVSA oil workers for 2015-2017. The contract followed more than 35,000 proposals raised in meetings of the regional trade unions and includes a wage increase of 143 per cent, with back pay from October 2015. It covers more than 83,000 men and women working in the oil industry.

Strengthening Fisheries

Boosting agriculture and fisheries during 2016 will also be a fundamental objective of the Venezuelan government.

At the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas on January 9, President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of the Ministry of Agricultural Production and Lands to be led by Wilmar Castro Soteldo which, with the support of the people, will work to consolidate the production of 19,551 tons of food, cultivated across 2,458,925 hectares.

The inauguration of this ministry later took place in the Florentino Socialist Productive Technical Center, in the state of Barinas, and was attended by farmers from the states of Miranda, Bolivar, Barinas and Monagas, who organized workshops and discussed strategies to boost food production.

"As a result of capitalism and the imposition of the oil model from the north, the culture, knowledge and work in the fields and the land was abandoned for about 100 years. But in the Bolivarian Revolution, fundamental, basic conditions have prepared the ground to take the leap and move in a progressive and timely way in food production," said the President,

Maduro also spoke of the need to revolutionize the country's fishing and aquaculture industry.

"Venezuela has a very important fishing [industry ...]," Maduro said. He appointed Executive Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz to create new comprehensive models of productive fishing communities to include fishermen in the process of economic transformation.

"I give this task to Aristobulo Isturiz, to design new communities of fishermen. Let's see how much we impact in the first half of this year, giving them all the services and support," he said.

The government will include fishermen in its major social missions -- Housing Venezuela, Barrio Nuevo and Barrio Tricolor -- and in the social security system, to ensure them a retirement pension, full care and social benefits.

He also announced that in the coming days, working and negotiation sessions will be held with public and private companies to create strategies to boost the fishing sector and thus the goals set by the Venezuelan state in 2016, when "the Bolivarian Revolution will face a great economic storm."

These meetings, he said, will seek suitable methods to export fish to bring in foreign currency. He stated that it is a major goal to turn Venezuela into a fishing power for domestic consumption and for export. To that end, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture has been created "as a great tool for solving all issues and to double the fishing production capacity of Venezuela," he said.

The new Ministry for Fisheries and Aquaculture, which will be led by Angel Belisario, was inaugurated on January 9 in Sucre state, close to the fishermen to give them the attention and training necessary for the exercise of their duties with respect to the goals set by the nation.


Venezuela's new Agriculture and Lands Minister Soteldo launched a series of measures on January 9 aimed at getting the country's national food production back on track.

At least 19 different points of action were put forward by Soteldo, including providing increased technical and financial assistance to campesinos, increasing urban agriculture and planting 50,000 hectares of soy.

He also took the unprecedented move of decentralizing some of the country's most important agrarian institutes such as the National Land Institute (INTI) and the National Institute of Rural Development (INDER).

Both bodies will be transferred from the capital to the rural states of Cojedes and Portuguesa respectively. Four Agropatria regional support offices will also be opened in Merida, Portuguesa, Guarico and Zulia to promote and finance small-scale agricultural production amongst citizens.

Minister Soteldo said the measures were aimed at eliminating the country's longstanding reliance on imports and ensuring the availability of "fair priced food" for the most vulnerable. He added that the government hoped to eventually begin exporting Venezuelan produce abroad.

According to Soteldo, the ministry's goal for 2016 is to cultivate nearly 2.5 million hectares of the nation's countryside and produce 19.5 million tonnes of food. This will involve a 7 billion Bolivar investment and the creation of the mission "My Well Equipped Farm" to provide financing to farmers in a number of areas. State-level authorities will also be created to ensure that these goals are being met, alongside state governors.

"Let the people decide what to do with those who fail to fulfil our harvest goals," stated Soteldo, who invited grassroots Campesino Councils and the national Presidential Campesino Council to help with the supervision of the measures and the 2016 harvest.

In other comments Soteldo revealed that an immediate ministry-led investigation into the costs of national meat, milk and sugar production would begin the week of January 10. He said his ministry will also intervene to lower production costs in a bid to incentivize producers.

"Producers have been teaching me, because at times we have to be humble in these issues, to be able to learn about the reality of our people," commented the Minister, who explained that he had been in the field with producers since he took office.

Venezuelanalysis.com reports that the Bolivarian government has repeatedly attempted to build a national state-run food production and distribution network. But the importation, production and distribution of food is still largely controlled by private monopolies and particularly by the Polar conglomerate.

(avn.info.ve, Venezuelanalysis.com. Photos: TeleSUR.)

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Opposition Attacks the Functioning of the State and People's Rights

Supporters of the Bolivarian revolution gather outside opening of the National Assembly,
January 5, 2016.

The coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties known as the MUD has made serious attacks on the normal functioning of the Venezuelan state and the rights of the people since its victory in the December 6, 2015 legislative election.

Defiance of Supreme Court and Disruption of National Assembly

The National Assembly, which opened on January 5, has been severely disrupted by the self-serving antics of the opposition forces, including the new President of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup.

The MUD was initially considered to have won 112 seats, a two-thirds super majority, in the December 6, 2015 legislative election. This would have given it the ability to pass motions and legislation virtually unopposed and increased the threat to the Bolivarian Revolution. However, allegations of vote-buying resulted in the Supreme Court temporarily barring all four elected legislators in Amazonas state -- including a government affiliated Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) candidate -- pending a full investigation.

Nonetheless, the opposition used its majority to impose the illegal swearing-in of its three deputies and negated the legitimacy of the National Assembly.

This forced a further intervention by the Supreme Court which ruled on January 11 that the country's National Assembly is void because the opposition coalition violated the previous court ruling. "Decisions taken or to be taken by the National Assembly while these citizens are incorporated will be absolutely null," read a statement from the court. It also ordered the National Assembly to "proceed to the immediate divestiture of [the three MUD candidates] Nirma Guarulla, Julio Ygarza and Romel Guzamana, which must be verified and recorded in regular session." The entire National Assembly was subsequently suspended.

The decisions by the MUD invalidated by the ruling include the unilateral decision by opposition leader and speaker of the House Henry Ramos Allup to remove the portraits of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and national liberation hero Simon Bolivar from the congressional chambers.

On January 12, the opposition agreed that its three suspended deputies would resign and the National Assembly was permitted to reopen. However, this was only a manoeuvre to launch further attacks on the functioning of the legislative body.

The resignation of the suspended deputies should have meant the MUD's two-thirds super majority was also pre-empted. Ramos Allup now claims that the resignations are equivalent to reducing the total number of seats in the National Assembly and has proclaimed that on this basis, the MUD has a two-thirds majority.

Meanwhile, the MUD-affiliated governor of Amazonas State, Liborio Guarulla, filed a motion against the Supreme Court decision to suspend the deputies, which he claims, "has practically eliminated a federal state that represents 20 per cent of the country's territory."

The machinations of Ramos Allup and Governor Guarulla are in denial of the serious matter facing the Supreme Court. Regarding the court's initial response to the challenge of the results in Amazonas state that led to the suspension of the four deputies, TeleSUR writes:

"In the decisions posted online, the court did not specify the reasons for upholding the challenge, however the candidates who submitted the challenge cite a number of electoral irregularities, including possible fraud, a high number of blank votes, and, most importantly, vote buying.

"The allegation that candidates and politicians were engaged in vote buying in the state of Amazonas emerged shortly after the elections and well before the court ruled to suspend the four candidates.

"On Dec. 16, Jorge Rodriguez, a leading figure inside Venezuela's socialist party and the head of that party's campaign, released a recording that allegedly provides evidence of vote buying and implicates Victoria Franchi, an associate of the opposition governor of Amazonas.

"In the recording Franchi can be heard speaking to an unidentified person, described as an undercover agent, concerning a plot to pay people to accompany seniors and people with low literacy on voting day in order to ensure that these people vote for candidates from the opposition coalition.

"Franchi is also heard offering to pay for people to pose and vote on behalf of the deceased.

"'We want to win by any means necessary,' says Franchi toward the end of the recording.

"Should the allegations of vote buying be proven to be true, it would constitute a crime under Venezuela's electoral law. Authorities would then need to determine if the crime was severe or significant enough to warrant new elections in the affected state."

Opposition Attack on the Right to Housing

With the National Assembly once again operational, deputy leader of the MUD Julio Borges took the opportunity on January 12 to introduce a law that would hand over the property deeds of homes constructed by the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission (GMVV) to the residents, who the opposition says at present only retain a permanent lease that cannot be transferred or sold. This bill will be debated the week of January 18-22.

Borges claims that turning the massive social investment into a scheme for private ownership would generate jobs and speed up construction, ensuring the "democratization of property." Opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano chimed in to say, "We believe in a Venezuela of property owners."

Ricardo Molina, former Minister for Housing and Habitat, pointed out the dubious nature of the proposed law, stating that it "is founded on ignorance or manipulation." He clarified that Articles 9 and 13 of the current Property Law allow the families, if they have the need or the wish, to sell their house. "That means the house is property of the family," he explained.

Molina further explained that the existing Property Law prevents houses built by the GMVV from entering the speculative private market, and removing this block is the actual aim of the opposition bill to be debated next week.

The GMVV is considered one of the main initiatives of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez. It has built more than one million houses for Venezuelan families since it was founded in 2011, with priority given to poor families.

Opposition Tables Self-Serving Law to Release Convicted Criminals

While the MUD's election platform claimed the coalition would undertake economic reforms to assist the people, their actions in the National Assembly indicate that their only priority is to seize political power to further their narrow aim of overthrowing the Maduro government and the Bolivarian Revolution.

On January 14, the opposition tabled a bill to grant amnesty to Leopoldo López, convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in inciting violent social unrest in 2014 in which 43 people were killed and many hundreds more injured, some permanently.

The head of the GPP parliamentary bloc Hector Rodriguez denounced the proposed Amnesty Law as an affront to all those killed or injured, and their families.

Rodriguez also rejected the interference from the U.S. instrument of hegemony in the region, the Organization of American States (OAS), which is attempting to portray López as a political prisoner. "There are no political prisoners in Venezuela, there is no-one in prison for thinking differently. Those imprisoned are people who have committed crimes," he said.

GPP legislator Tania Diaz pointed out that a motion approved January 14 by the opposition majority that exhorts Venezuela to be in compliance with international resolutions, preceded the tabling of the Amnesty Law as well as one on "National Reconciliation." All of these are part of a strategy to sanitize the crimes of those who incited the deadly violence against the people, she said.

Renewed Attack by Organization of American States

The OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, on January 11 threatened to expel Venezuela from OAS using the Inter-American Democratic Charter because of the just stand taken by the Supreme Court. In a letter to President Maduro, Almagro called the suspension of the three opposition deputies a "direct blow to the will of the people." He also warned Maduro not to "distort" the electoral results. Notably, Almagro had nothing to say about the serious allegations of vote-buying that may have distorted the outcome of the election. His letter makes clear the connivance between the opposition MUD and foreign interests to betray the national interest and their violation of the Venezuelan people's right to sovereignty.

The OAS is notorious for its ongoing interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and other countries. In the leadup to the December 6, 2015 elections, Almagro called into question the fairness of Venezuela's internationally renowned electoral system, fueling unfounded rumors of fraud circulated in the international press which were later silenced by President Maduro's immediate recognition of the landslide opposition victory, Venezuelanalysis.com points out. The fact that allegations of fraud and vote-buying have led to a suspension of four deputies should instead be an indication that the Venezuelan electoral system takes such matters seriously.

The declarations by the OAS general-secretary were roundly dismissed by the GPP parliamentary bloc. "The OAS has no place meddling in Venezuela [...] it's an organization totally lacking in legitimacy," asserted Socialist Party of Venezuela legislator and former National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

(avn.info.ve, Venezuelanalysis.com, TeleSUR)

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Government Denounces Media War

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez on January 15 denounced the campaign of private media monopolies being waged against that country.

In a statement published on the website of Venezuela's Foreign Ministry, Rodríguez said the real aim of this crusade in support of the opposition forces is a foreign intervention. 

She said that Venezuela also faces other pressure being orchestrated from abroad through diplomatic missions in Venezuela. She added that the recent actions of opposition deputies confirms that they are following a script directed from abroad, as previously stated by President Nicolas Maduro.

Rodriguez condemned the incessant interference and aggression of the U.S. in recent months, pointing out how it uses coercive methods against those countries that seek their own path. She noted that a similar script is being followed of permanent aggression in the financial and economic spheres.

She warned that all invasions and military attacks by the U.S. and its allies against countries such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and others, have been preceded by strong media campaigns.

New Initiatives to Communicate the Revolution to the Masses

As part of combatting this media war, President Maduro has called for the deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution's communication work to report its achievements.

On January 9, Maduro announced the formation of the Communication General Staff, as part of the new communication policy that the government will undertake during 2016.

"The Communication General Staff was installed today, with a group of guests, intellectuals, experts to build the new communications policy for the truth of our country, the new communication policy of the Revolution. We were just receiving the report, and commenting, guiding and making decisions of key elements to have our people well-informed, well-prepared," he said.

He reiterated that the Bolivarian Revolution faces a right-wing majority in the National Assembly, which has threatened to repeal laws won by popular power over 16 years of continuous work.

"The Parliamentary right want to impose the old neo-liberal model, to privatize everything, to regularize labour rights of global disinvestment, de-industrialization and economic disaster that other countries are suffering again, such as Argentina," he said.

However, the right faces a major obstacle: organized people willing to defend the Bolivarian project introduced by Commander Hugo Chávez in 1999, and led today by President Nicolas Maduro.

"People's power is the government, we are instruments of the revolution for people to have direct access to power and be sure that, trusting our people, we will not fail," said the President.

(Prensa Latina, avn.info.ve)

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Haitian Presidential Elections

Political Crisis Deepens

The political crisis in Haiti continues to intensify as the ruling circles try to give legitimacy to a thoroughly discredited electoral process that is meant to impose a government in the service of foreign private monopoly interests.

Runoff Election Further Delayed

The second round of the presidential election, initially planned for December 27 and delayed to January 17 has now been postponed a second time until January 24. As even more detailed revelations of massive irregularities and fraud in the electoral process came to light with the release of the report of the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) of Pierre Louis Opont said it would be impossible to organize elections on January 17. The Haiti Sentinel reported on January 6:

"But four days later, following a meeting with President Michel Martelly and with no changes made to the electoral process, he would write the National Palace and the nation to say he was ready to guarantee elections on January 24, 2016.

"In a press note dated January 5, 2016, Opont said he believed it is important to respect the constitutional dates of January 11 and February 7, 2016, the dates a new legislature should be seated and a president inaugurated, respectively."

The UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), the U.S., Canada, France and other foreign governments that continue to directly interfere in the internal affairs of Haiti are desperate to give credibility to the sham electoral process and support holding the final round of elections in January to meet the February 7 deadline. For its part Canada has said nothing about its role in overseeing the sham elections, but is now knee-deep in trying to legitimize them. The Trudeau government's silence on its direct involvement compared with its talk about transparency appears to indicate that it does not want its role to be exposed. The OAS said on Janaury 7 that the scheduling of the runoff for January 24 was a "step in the right direction."

Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission Corroborates
Massive Irregularities in First Round

Haiti presidential elections October 25, 2015.

The Haiti Election Blog reports that on "Sunday 3 January, the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission released its report on the 25 October presidential elections. Appointed on 22 December by President Martelly in response to demands for an independent investigation, the Evaluation Commission met over the holidays with electoral council members, government officials, election observers, candidates and other concerned groups, and conducted a verification of 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets.

"The report concluded that the October 25 vote was indeed marked by 'grave irregularities' that were 'akin to fraud.'

"The testimonies gathered were unanimous in recognizing that the 25 October 2015 elections were tainted by irregularities, and that several candidates benefitted, through their representatives at polling stations, from these irregularities comparable to fraud. (p. 10)

"The sample of tally sheets examined by the Evaluation Commission painted a picture of a deeply flawed electoral process. 92% of the 1771 randomly-selected tally sheets examined by the commission had at least one 'serious irregularity' and 54.1% had three or more serious irregularities. According to statistics compiled by the Commission, 56.7% of tally sheets showed evidence of erasure and modification ('rature avec modification'), while 28.3% of tally sheets had not been plasticised, a measure meant to prevent post-vote alterations.

"The Commission also found that many votes had been cast without the proper documentation. 57.1% of tally sheets had votes without the corresponding signature or fingerprint of the voter recorded on the voter list, 46.8% of tally sheets examined had votes that were cast using an invalid CIN [National Identification Card] number, 30.6% of tally sheets had votes that lacked a CIN number altogether. The scale of these irregularities are potentially massive. Commission member Rosny Desroches stated in a radio interview with Radio Vision 2000 that at one polling station in La Saline, 200 people voted without providing CIN numbers, while only 25 voted with a voting card.

"The report confirmed the accusations of a number of observer groups that the system of mandataires (political party representatives) was systematically exploited to cast fraudulent votes on election day [...]"

The Haiti Election Blog notes, however, that "Unfortunately, the Commission shied away from evaluating the full scope of the problems on 25 October in its report. The report never clearly establishes the degree to which the presidential election results were compromised by such 'irregularities akin to fraud.' Nor does the report ever identify the candidates that benefitted the most from these irregularities, only timidly noting that political parties in general revealed themselves to be 'potential sources of irregularities, fraud and corruption in electoral competition.' (p. 6) The Commission's report was often ambiguous about whether the widespread and serious irregularities it found actually constituted 'fraud.' [...]

"The report included in its recommendation an ambiguous call for 'a more in-depth examination on the technical level of the responsibility of the electoral apparatus for irregularities often described as massive fraud.' (p.12) Its recommendations, however, avoided calling for a full recount of the vote or the rerunning of elections, an omission that prompted Commissioner Gédéon Jean of RNDDH [National Human Rights Defense Network] to refuse to sign the final document. [...]

"The Evaluation Commission noted in its report that the preponderant role of foreign powers had damaged Haitians' confidence in the electoral process. 'The perception of meddling by international actors in the major decisions of the nation causes confusion and discredits the country's established authorities.' [...]

"Overall, the report is a contradictory document that will likely deepen rather than resolve the electoral crisis. The Commission itself is clear about what going forward without correcting the results of previous elections means: 'A President of the Republic and other elected officials issued from elections tarnished by major irregularities would further aggravate the political crisis and instability of the country.' (p. 1) Yet beyond a general statement that violations of the electoral law should be punished, the Commission makes no recommendations for rectifying the presidential elections, even while admitting that 25 October was marred by serious irregularities."

Withdrawal of Jude Celestin from Runoff Election

The campaign team of candidate Jude Celestin, the candidate for the Presidency under the banner of the "Alternative League for Progress and the Haitian Emancipation" (LAPEH) who finished second in the first round of the election has said he will take part in the January 24 runoff only if sweeping changes recently recommended by the Independent Electoral Evaluation Commission are adopted, the Associated Press reported on January 8. Celestin told the Miami Herald on January 7 that outgoing President Martelly "will have to do an election with just one candidate." The CEP states that unless Celestin officially withdraws from the race his name will appear on the runoff ballot whether he chooses to campaign or not.

Spokesperson for the Commission Rosny Desroches said he has seen very little progress to improve the process and ease tensions since the panel's recommendations were released on January 3.

Celestin's withdrawal leaves only Jovenel Moise, the candidate backed by President Martelly, in the running. Should he become president, Jovenel will presumably continue the Martelly regime's illegimate rule on behalf of U.S. and other foreign interests.

Swearing-In of National Assembly and Senate
Violates Electoral Law and Constitution

A National Assembly, consisting of 92 deputies, and a Senate comprised of 14 members were sworn in on January 10, with those elected on August 9 and October 25, 2015. There are still several seats in the legislature and the Senate to be filled, with these elections also presently scheduled for January 24.

The Haiti Sentinel points out, "The Electoral Decree and Constitution of Haiti state clearly that the installation of members of Parliament is to take place after elections have taken place. Notwithstanding the lack of confidence Haitians have in the process, elections are still incomplete with three senatorial contests and several deputy races still waiting to be held.

"Furthermore, the Haitian Constitution requires that the installation of the new Chamber of Deputies take place on the second Monday of January, which would have been January 11, 2016. Due to planned protests against the installation and a boycott by the candidates themselves, the Martelly regime rushed to swear-in the supposed winners a day earlier."

For this reason, "The ceremony, which began at 10:00 am local time in the Parliament building and which had not been publicly announced, was carried out with the utmost discretion for fear of opposition demonstrations," Haiti Liberté informs. Nonetheless, a protest took place outside the Parliament to denounce the illegitimacy of these proceedings.

(Haiti Sentinel, Haiti Election Blog, Haiti Liberté, AP, Miami Herald. Photo: Xinhua.)

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