The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was carried out following
campaign of deception by the U.S. which sent its Secretary of
State, Colin Powell, to introduce bogus evidence as "proof" the
government of Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This
spectacle was meant to embroil the world in a fraudulent debate
about the threat Iraq supposedly posed to the security of the
world at a time the U.S. was preparing its "shock and awe"
campaign of terror to take over the country by force. In its bid to
destroy Iraq and take over the Middle East the U.S. never received the
approval of the UN Security Council.
The 2011 bombing of Libya was carried out with the approval of a no-fly zone by the UN Security Council based on spurious allegations of so-called human rights organizations about the government of Libya and its leader with the same aim of preparing the ground for invasion and regime change.
The destruction the U.S. imperialists and their "coalitions" gave rise to in Iraq and Libya underlines the fact that with or without the UN Security Council the issue is to uphold the rights of all nations to self-determination and to oppose the use of force to settle conflicts in international affairs. With or without the UN Security Council, the U.S. resorts to terror and military might to carry out its aims of domination and the subjugation of those who refuse to submit to its dictate. To its shame the Liberal government appears to want to help the U.S. get UN approval for its actions in the future -- in part by seeking a seat at the UN Security Council -- rather than standing against the use of force in international affairs.
Canadians' stand against their government being a force for war and aggression internationally was expressed in their opposition to the Harper Conservative government in the last election and their stand remains the same under the Liberals. Canadians can see that the fate of world peace cannot be left in the hands of the big powers and the imperialists.
To its shame, today instead of recognizing that the destruction of Iraq and Libya have resulted in greater insecurity, bloodshed and displacement for the people of those countries and the region, and solemnly apologizing for the damage caused, and making amends, Canada is following the U.S. in upping the ante and sending special forces to Syria and Iraq with the sole aim of ensuring that the peoples of those countries are not able to determine an outcome that favours them.
On this occasion CPC(M-L) calls on Canadians to step up
actions in opposition to war and demand that Canada remove its
troops from Iraq and stay out of Syria and Libya!
Government Introduces Changes to Citizenship Act
The Need for a Modern Citizenship Law that Eliminates Privilege
Liberal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum moved on March 2 that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, which he tabled on February 25, proceed to second reading and be referred to committee. The Liberal government is following up on an election promise to repeal certain changes to the Citizenship Act introduced in the Harper government's Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act adopted in 2015, but some other changes have been introduced at the same time. The most significant change to the citizenship law will be the repeal of a provision that currently allows the government to revoke the Canadian citizenship of anyone who holds dual citizenship or may be eligible to claim it if they are convicted of crimes related to "national security."
McCallum cited this change in
debate on the bill in the
of Commons and objected to what he and others have called two
classes or tiers of citizenship. "This is the nub of the
point because once we say we can revoke one type of Canadian
citizenship but cannot revoke another, then we have two classes
of Canadians. We believe very strongly, and we fought long and
hard during the election on this issue, that there is only one
class of Canadian, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. All
Canadians are equal and there cannot be two classes of Canadians,
which is why we found this law unacceptable and why the new law
would revoke that right to revoke citizenship," he said.
Looking at the issue of classes and tiers of citizenship reveals that such classes and tiers of citizenship exist beyond the powers to revoke and are deeply rooted in Canada's citizenship law. It is no wonder that in the Citizenship Act itself there are no less than 18 separate circumstances listed defining whether a person is a citizen with another dozen or more sub-clauses within them. Although the first part of the Citizenship Act is entitled The Right to Citizenship it merely describes the various mechanisms through which someone becomes a citizen.
From the beginning then there are different rights and duties imposed on different "classes" which are based on archaic considerations. The Citizenship Act says that a person is a citizen, for instance, if "the person was born in Canada after February 14, 1977," (the citizenship of those born before came through a different process) or if "the person has been granted or acquired citizenship pursuant to section 5 or 11" and has taken the oath of citizenship. The procedure under section 5 includes filling out required paperwork, providing supporting evidence and paying fees, with Ministerial privilege to suspend the processing of an application at any time for various reasons.
The new amendments to the Citizenship Act do not deal with the fundamental issue that the Act addressed citizenship as a privilege, not a right. In this regard many of the changes to the Act under the Harper government's Bill C-24 will remain in place. This includes the denial of any right to judicial review of revocation of citizenship. This power remains solely in the hands of the minister, and the amendments retain the discretionary power of the minister to grant citizenship. Cases of alleged fraud are to be judged by the minister alone. It retains a prohibition on granting citizenship to those charged with criminal offences abroad, without consideration of the circumstances. Language and knowledge tests remain a requirement for most, depending on age, with the serious concern that the latter will be used to promote a conception of Canadian values that does not emanate from the Canadian people themselves. The increased fees to become a citizen, which amount to nearly $1,500 for a family of four, also remain. The entire thing reeks of privilege and is insulting and humiliating to those who were not born in Canada.
Two new amendments in the Liberal's Bill C-6 that do not relate to repealing measures of the previous government also go in this direction. Previously, those incarcerated or on probation were prohibited from becoming citizens or using that time towards their residency requirement. This prohibition will be extended under Bill C-6 to those serving conditional sentences such as house arrest. It also grants power to citizenship officers to seize fraudulent or "suspected fraudulent" documents during the administration of the Citizenship Act, including during in-person interviews and hearings.
The law which claims to define the right to citizenship is profoundly discriminatory from the beginning and is based on privileges, not rights. It forces immigrants to meet criteria for citizenship which do not apply to people born in Canada. Long before getting to the point of applying for citizenship there are all sorts of divisions imposed on who can become a citizen and how through various immigration streams, including "express entry," "start-up visa," "immigrant investors" and so on, including province-specific streams. Furthermore, all the trends with regards to the Citizenship Act in the current period, including the new Liberal amendments, go in the direction of strengthening ministerial privilege and discretion over citizenship rather than affirming it on a modern basis.
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) calls for a modern citizenship law that eliminates all vestiges of privileges and affirms citizenship rights on an objective, non-racist basis. It must take as its starting point that rights belong to people by virtue of being human. Citizenship must not be based on arbitrary considerations but objective rights and duties which apply to all and do not divide the polity on the basis of national origin, race, language, religion, political affiliation, gender, wealth or ability.
More than 20 per cent of Canadian citizens today were born outside Canada and a far larger part of the Canadian working class and people descend from those who have immigrated from all corners of the world since the Second World War. Today more than ever there is a need for a modern constitution with a citizenship law that eliminates privilege and racism and allows all members of the polity to share the same rights and duties. This is an important starting point for the forging of a modern Canadian identity and nation-building project.
Amendments to the Citizenship Act in Bill C-6
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum introduced in the House of Commons on February 6 Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act. The bill proposes changes to the Citizenship Act which would repeal elements introduced by the Harper government in its Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act as well as other amendments.
The proposed changes include:
- Eliminating powers to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens or those who could seek citizenship elsewhere if they have been convicted of terrorism offences or high treason. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum said Canada's criminal justice system is in place to deal with those convicted of crimes. With this change the only grounds on which citizenship can be revoked is in the case of gaining citizenship on a fraudulent basis, as was the case prior to Bill C-24.
- Restoring the age range requirement for applicants to meet language and knowledge requirements for becoming a citizen to where it stood prior to C-24: 18 to 54 years versus the current 14 to 64 years.
- Reinstating the "half-day credit" for the time that a permanent resident spent in Canada prior to becoming a permanent resident, up to a maximum credit of one year as time that would count towards fulfilling the residency requirement for citizenship.
- Repealing the "intent to reside" in Canada requirement for new citizens which, according to McCallum, could be used as a basis for future revocation of citizenship. There is no restriction on where current Canadian citizens can reside and this should be no different for new citizens, he said.
- Restoring the 50 per cent credit for time spent in Canada for international students applying for Canadian citizenship. McCallum called this "the stupidest" of Bill C-24's changes, and said Canada should be trying to attract these students, who pay unregulated tuition fees far higher than those paid by Canadians, to become citizens, not making it difficult for them.
- Changing the physical presence in Canada requirement for becoming a citizen currently set at four out of the past six years by C-24. The requirement would revert to three out of the last five years.
Other changes that do not relate to repealing aspects
- "Modifying the language" of the two citizenship study guide books. McCallum said "they were not part of the law" but were "a little heavy on the war of 1812 and reference to barbaric cultural practices."
- Giving authority to citizenship officers to seize fraudulent or suspected fraudulent documents during the administration of the Citizenship Act, including during in-person interviews and hearings. McCallum said this improves the integrity of the program and ensures the conditions to becoming a citizen remain real and meaningful.
- Prohibiting those convicted of a crime and serving a conditional sentence (such as drug or alcohol abuse treatment, curfew or community service) from being granted citizenship or from counting that time towards meeting the physical presence requirements for citizenship. Currently all those under a probation order, on parole or incarcerated in a penitentiary, jail, reformatory or prison are barred from gaining citizenship and this proposed change was presented as bringing the terms for those serving conditional sentences in line with other types of sentences.
At the same time, a number of Conservative changes to the Citizenship Act will remain in place:
- Responsibility for citizenship revocation and decisions on alleged fraud causes will remain in the hands of the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, without the possibility of court appeal. Currently more than 10,000 people are being investigated or are having their applications reviewed for alleged fraud and there are numerous Charter challenges aimed at overturning this policy.
- Increased citizenship "processing" fees, which increased from $100 to $530 per person, on top of the existing $100 "right of citizenship" fee will remain.
- Prohibitions will remain on granting citizenship to those charged with a criminal offence abroad. The Canadian Bar Association and others have opposed this prohibition and argued that it discriminates depending on country of origin.
- While the Liberal government has pledged to process all new citizenship applications within 12 months, "non-routine" cases are excluded.
Canada's Bid for UN Security Council Seat
Self-Righteous Pitch for Security Council Seat
On March 16 at the United Nations the Liberal government announced its bid to fill one of five non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council in 2021. Prime Minister Trudeau held a meeting in the lobby of the United Nations to which all UN member states were invited as well as members of the press and Canadians working at the UN.
As part of its election platform the Liberals committed to "restoring Canada's leadership in the world." In the platform it was suggested that this means Canada focusing on what are called "peace missions" with the United Nations or other multilateral organizations (i.e., NATO). This is necessary because the Harper Conservatives "turned their backs on the UN and other multilateral institutions, while also weakening Canada's military, our diplomatic service, and our development programs," the Liberals said.
Trudeau's official remarks announcing the bid were not made public, but reports indicate that he focused on "respect for human rights and dedication to diversity and inclusion" which he asserted are central to how Canada defines itself. "These core values not only lead to greater equality among citizens, but also play a pivotal role in ensuring peace and security within and between nations," he said. He also spoke on Canada's role in UN peacekeeping operations as the expression of Canada's commitment to human rights. "We are determined to revitalize Canada's historic role as a key contributor to United Nations peacekeeping, in addition to helping advance current reform efforts," he said. The reform efforts refer to initiatives from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and taken up by U.S. President Barack Obama to reform UN peacekeeping operations into what are called peace operations as a way to secure UN approval for military intervention in violation of the UN Charter.
Trudeau has likewise adopted the language of "peace operations," stating, "[...] Canada will increase its engagement with peace operations, not just by making available our military, police, and specialized expertise, but also by supporting the civilian institutions that prevent conflict, bring stability to fragile states, and help societies recover in the aftermath of crisis."
Following Trudeau's remarks, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion stated, "In this world rocked by instability, conflicts and mistrust, Canada has a mission to prove the universality of the Prime Minister's conviction: we are strong, not in spite of our diversity, but because of it."
He claimed that people are asking for Canada to be more engaged: "[T]hat is what the Prime Minister, myself and other Canadian ministers have been hearing wherever we go, whether at the G20, COP 21, NATO, the Commonwealth Summit, the High Level Forum on Somalia, the UN Human Rights Council or the Global Coalition Against ISIL." Engaged to do what and with what aim Dion did not elaborate.
Dion invoked select aspects of Canadian history to present a rosy picture of Canada's role in international affairs as evidence that Canada should have a seat at the UN Security Council. "From Lester B. Pearson's leadership in resolving the Suez Crisis, to Brian Mulroney's determination in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, to Jean Chrétien's decisive action for a ban on antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions and the creation of the International Criminal Court, Canada has played a critical role. Today, we need to put our collective shoulder to the wheel once again."
Dion's pitch was as self-righteous as one could get, claiming that in Canada everything is great and Canada has a moral duty to bring its experience to the world. "We'll do what is needed to support the international community, based on our experience in building a peaceful and resilient society in Canada; in bravely fighting for justice and security on the global stage; in promoting humanitarian assistance, development, training and capacity building; and in protecting gender equality and all human rights. We seek a seat at the Security Council precisely because the world finds itself at a time when there is a pressing need to prevent violent extremism, to manage conflict and to respond to humanitarian crises. We know Canada can make a difference," he said.
1. According to the Charter of the United Nations, the primary responsibility of the Security Council is for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 members, five permanent and ten temporary. Each member has one vote, however the permanent members, the U.S., UK, People's Republic of China, the Russian Federation and France can veto decisions of the Council. Under the Charter of the United Nations, all member states are obligated to comply with Council decisions. The Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or authorize the use of force to "maintain or restore international peace and security."
The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and the admission of new members to the United Nations. Together with the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.
The United Nations Security Council elections for non-permanent members take place in June during the United Nations General Assembly, held at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. The elections are staggered, each for five of the ten non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council for two-year mandates. The regional groupings of UN member states are Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean, Western Europe and Other, Eastern Europe. Canada is considered part of the Western Europe and Other group which has two seats. Canada has held a seat on the UN Security Council six times. Its last term was in 1999-2000.
Oppose Canada's Promotion of
Speaking to a gathering of those who have usurped the
decision-making power to serve their own narrow interests,
Trudeau declared himself a person of privilege like those
present, and concluded, "We must use that privilege. We need to
remember to always challenge the status quo, even though it may
be what got us here tonight."
Trudeau seemed blissfully unaware that while he basked in the praise of the CEOs of monopolies like McDonald's, that in 2015 alone, strikes took place in more than 270 cities across the U.S. in the "Fight for $15 campaign" to raise the minimum wage and against so-called "right to work" laws designed to stop workers from organizing collectively. Trudeau, however claimed that it was the CEOs who are the heroes.
Trudeau's musing about why women were reluctant to become candidates in the Liberal machine is a pathetic attempt to create a diversion that women should not go for political renewal, but instead aspire to join the ruling circles. Women are not only increasingly active in political affairs, but they are in the front ranks of the fight for the rights of all and for renewal of the political process.
His statement that he had to persuade women because they are too busy looking after their children and elderly parents is also revealing. Women are fighting for a society organized to care for its members. They are fighting to increase funding for social programs, and against the anti-social offensive which has the greatest impact on women. Nothing is said about the long-standing demand for a national child care program or a national strategy for seniors' care and a system of modern and humane seniors' facilities in which seniors can live with dignity and social love. Instead, speaking to CEOs of some of the most powerful global monopolies, Trudeau declared them the agents of change. All they have to do is put more women in their boardrooms, as he did.
Trudeau presents himself as a white knight in shining armour dashing to women's rescue, exhorting women not to act collectively for women's empowerment, but to seek power as individuals in the cabinet or the board rooms of the monopolies, doing whatever it takes to get there of course, about which he remains silent.
Trudeau's strutting and self-promotion are no less condescending than Harper's persona as evangelical patriarch, determined to impose his version of "Canadian values" on women in Canada and the whole world. Far from relying on the rich for a solution, women know they must put themselves in the front ranks of the struggle so as to end all forms of privilege. Only then will rights be provided with a guarantee.
On the Eve of the Visit of U.S. President Obama to Cuba
Prensa Latina informed on March 15 that the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce announced new regulations that modify some aspects of the sanctions against Cuba, while maintaining the main aspects of the economic, commercial and financial blockade.
The new measures came into force on March 16. They allow U.S. citizens to visit the island through people-to-people educational exchange programs, and partially lift the restrictions on the use of the U.S. dollar in Cuban transactions with banks in the U.S.
The existing laws allowed U.S. citizens to make trips
to Cuba, but now they will be able to do so as individuals rather than
as part of a group. Tourism is still prohibited by the embargo, which
only the U.S. Congress can lift.
The Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew said that the new provisions were to continue the steps taken in the last 15 months to break down barriers between the two countries and, he claimed, to empower the Cuban people.
The restrictions on Cuban international financial transactions are a main obstacle to the development of trade links between the two countries. The U.S. government recently imposed a fine of $304,706 on the U.S. company Halliburton, which provides services related to oil extraction, for doing business with Cuba Petróleo.
Since the announcement of the change of policy towards Cuba on December 17, 2014, the U.S. government has imposed similar penalties on five U.S. companies and three other countries to the tune of almost three billion dollars.
Also on March 16, Correos de Cuba, the Cuban postal
announced the restoration of direct mail between Cuba and the
After successfully coordinating technical, operational and safety details, the maiden flight linking the two countries' mail routes took place on March 16. The restoration of this service allows direct shipments between Cuba and the United States, including ordinary correspondence, postal parcels, courier services and express deliveries.
On March 14, Cuban telecommunications company ETECSA announced an agreement with U.S. firm Verizon to host direct calls between the two countries.
Speaking during a press conference with
and international media in Havana on March 17, Cuban Foreign
Minister Bruno Rodríguez spoke about the ongoing
enforcement of the U.S. blockade against Cuba and referred to the
recent amendments announced by the U.S. Departments of the
Treasury and Commerce and the upcoming visit by President Barack
Obama. TML Weekly is reprinting his remarks below.
On March 15, the Departments of the Treasury and of Commerce issued new regulations that modify the implementation of some aspects of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.
This is the fourth announcement of this sort made by the Government of the United States since December 17, 2014, when the presidents of both countries made public their decision to re-establish diplomatic relations.
We are currently analyzing their scope and practical effects in order to confirm their feasibility.
After a preliminary consideration of these measures, it can be affirmed that they are positive.
Some of them expand the scope of those which had been adopted before; so is the case for the one now authorizing individual "people-to-people" educational travels. However, it should be recalled that the legal prohibition that prevents U.S. citizens from freely traveling to Cuba is still in force. This prohibition should be lifted by the U.S. Congress.
Cuba's authorization to use U.S. dollars in its international transactions, a measure which has been included in this new package, concerns an important aspect of the blockade. For this measure to be viable, the U.S. Government is required to issue a political statement as well as clear and precise instructions that would provide legal and political guarantees to banks, in order to halt financial persecution and reverse the intimidating effects generated by the sanctions imposed for years on U.S. and third-countries' financial institutions for conducting legitimate transactions with Cuba.
In the coming days we will attempt to make some transfers in U.S. dollars to confirm that these can be done and that the banks have received instructions indicating that they are allowed to engage in financial operations with Cuba without fear of sanctions. Besides, we hope that, from now on, such fines as those given to important banks, namely Commerzbank and Crédit Agricole, just to mention the most recent examples, will not be applied again; and that foreign financial institutions would not refuse to make transactions with our country.
Authorizing Cuba to use U.S. dollars does not mean that banking relations between Cuba and the United States have normalized. Cuban banks are still not allowed to open correspondent accounts in U.S. banks, and therefore our operations will necessarily continue to be done through third parties, which increases operational costs as well as the amount of related procedures.
None of the other measures entered into force modify the implementation of fundamental aspects of the blockade. For example:
• Investments other than those approved in our country's telecom sector are not allowed.
• The U.S. ban on Cuban imports is still in force, and these include pharmaceuticals and biotech products. Thus, the limited authorized bilateral trade continues to be essentially a one-way trade. Only the absurd prohibition preventing U.S. citizens from consuming and receiving Cuban products and services in third countries was modified.
• Current restrictions on U.S. exports to Cuba, which are limited and exclude key sectors of the Cuban economy, have not been modified.
• Ships carrying goods to Cuba are still not allowed to touch U.S. ports for a period of 180 days, thus increasing freight charges. The only measure adopted in this area was not meant to benefit Cuba, but rather to make U.S. shipping companies' operations profitable.
• Cuban as well as other countries' individuals and companies are still arbitrarily listed as "specially designated nationals", and for that reason they are prevented from doing transactions with U.S. entities or their subsidiaries.
All of these restrictions could be eliminated by means of executive decisions.
The truth is that the blockade is still in force. Jack Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, has himself recognized, [March 15], that the blockade still restricts, in a very, very significant way, the volume of transactions between Cuba and the United States.
The blockade also has dissuasive as well as punitive components. Here there are some examples:
• U.S. and foreign companies have been fined recently for providing services and equipment of U.S. origin to Cuba.
• Foreign companies trading in Cuban nickel and rum have seen their lines of credit cancelled and their bank transfers rejected, even if they were denominated in currencies other than the U.S. dollar.
• Foreign banks have closed down the bank accounts in currencies other than the U.S. dollar maintained by the Cuban medical staff offering their cooperation in African countries.
• U.S. subsidiaries based in third countries have refused to provide their services to Cuban diplomatic missions and entities abroad.
The blockade is the most important obstacle to Cuba's economic development and causes hardships to the Cuban people.
Therefore, lifting the blockade will be essential for normalizing relations between our two countries.
Senior officials of the U.S. have stated that the purpose of the approved measures is "to empower" the Cuban people. If the U.S. Government is really interested in helping the Cuban people, then the blockade should be lifted.
We recognize the position adopted by President Obama against the blockade and his repeated appeals to Congress urging it to lift it.
We expect the U.S. Congress to act accordingly in the face of an almost unanimous claim of the international community and ever broader sectors of the U.S. society and public opinion.
Cuba has engaged in the construction of a new relation with the United States, in the full exercise of its sovereignty and committed to its ideals of social justice and solidarity.
No one should expect that, in order to achieve that, Cuba will renounce any one of its principles or its foreign policy, which is committed to just causes all over the world and the defence of peoples' self-determination.
Within a few days we will be welcoming the U.S. President with our distinctive hospitality as well as with the respect and consideration he deserves in his position as Head of State.
It will be an opportunity for him to know about our reality and meet a noble, proud and patriotic people struggling for a better future against all odds.
The U.S. President will be able to see a nation that is involved in its economic and social development and the improvement of the well-being of its citizens, who enjoy rights and are able to show some achievements that are still a chimera for many countries of the world, despite our condition as a blockaded and underdeveloped country.
It will also be an important occasion to identify what new steps could be taken in the next few months to contribute to the process of improvement of relations, on the basis of respect and equality, for the benefit of both countries and peoples.
The more than three million members of unions affiliated with the Cuban Workers' Federation (CTC), as part of Cuban civil society, will welcome the President of the United States with hospitality and respect. We appreciate his decision to travel to our country, as an important step in efforts to advance toward the normalization of relations between the two countries.
He will discover a nation where workers have been able, at great sacrifice, to push ahead in the most diverse sectors of the economy and services, despite the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on us for more than half a century by successive U.S. administrations, and which is still in place, constituting the main obstacle to our development.
He will learn of a labour reality characterized by the right to employment without discrimination of any kind, equal pay for women and men performing the same job, social security which includes among other benefits the protection of working mothers and pensioners, and a unique system of labour justice that includes the broad participation of workers when settling disputes.
Even in the most complex economic circumstances, these rights have been preserved and shock therapy has never been resorted to, as is common in other nations seeking a solution to crises. Drawn upon instead has been the intelligence and capacity to respond of the hard-working masses, who have made available their experiences and resources, their creativity and innovative thinking, to overcome the difficulties and ensure compliance with the plans of their respective collectives.
We work with resolve to perfect our economic and social model in the pursuit of a prosperous and sustainable socialism. With this purpose the increasing number of non-state sector workers, who are consciously joining the ranks of trade unions, and along with workers in the state sector, are convinced they are an important element in the construction of the present and the future of our social project, based on collective welfare. They are also protected by our Labour Code.
On this visit, the President will be accompanied by a broad representation of businesspeople, which could open the way to stable economic ties with U.S. companies. On eliminating restrictions on Cuba, they could find space in a nation that is deeply engaged in its economic development, which has already embraced businesspeople from other countries, who have found here the civic order to guarantee their investments and highly qualified human capital, the result of the educational policy of the Revolution which began with the epic literacy campaign, this year celebrating its 55th anniversary, and the access, provided by the state, absolutely free of charge, to the technical or professional training that each citizen is capable of, according to their abilities.
Cuban workers are proud of our tradition of struggle against exploitation and for social justice that valuable union leaders, such as Jesús Menéndez who fought for the interests of sugar workers and the Cuban nation against U.S. monopolies and representatives of the government of that country, have defended at the cost of their own lives. We are also followers of the legacy of the rightfully termed "Captain" of the Cuban working class, Lázaro Peña, who always advocated unity and stressed that the union must include everyone.
On this occasion, we reaffirm that we will never renounce the unity achieved by our workers, or our revolutionary, anti-imperialist and social justice ideals, nor our spirit of solidarity with the world's just causes. We hope that the process initiated between the two countries moves ahead on an equal basis, without conditions and with respect for our independence and sovereignty.
(March 18, 2016)
With the hospitality and dignity that characterizes us Cuban women, just as all of our people, we will receive the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his wife Michelle. We are aware that this visit is part of the complex process to normalize relations between our two governments. It will, therefore, be an opportunity to demonstrate what we have achieved in terms of gender equality and the leading role that women occupy in the political, economic, cultural and social life of our country.
During their visit, they will note that we receive equal pay for equal work, that local governments in nine of the fifteen Cuban provinces are headed by women, [and] that the administration of justice is also mostly in female hands. In each place they tour they will discover the selfless efforts of women of all generations.
They will witness just how much we love our free and independent country, which we have defended from attacks of all kinds. With creativity and dedication, we have resisted more than half a century of economic, financial and commercial blockade, and we have built a society where human beings are the most important factor. We have educated our children in these values of solidarity, anti-imperialism and national sovereignty. We will never renounce such values.
Gathered together in the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), a non-governmental civil society organization -- with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) -- which today brings together more than four million Cuban women, about 90 per cent of women over 14 years of age, we carry out specific programs to develop an entire culture of equality and social inclusion in our country. Many of the objectives outlined in Goal 5 of the [UN's] recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, dedicated to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, are a reality in our country.
We know that Michelle Obama is carrying out a major initiative called "Let Girls Learn," with the aim of providing access to education to 62 million girls around the world. We offer our humble experience in this field, since one hundred per cent of our girls attend school regardless of where they live, the colour of their skin, whether they have a disability or are hospitalized. A Cuban, Leonela Relys Díaz, created the "Yes, I Can" method, with which millions of people worldwide have learned to read and write.
Similarly, it will also be an opportunity to reiterate our demand to cease the inhuman policy of blockade against our country, which has led to multiple deprivations, and prevented us from further development.
The Federation of Cuban Women also supports the statements of our government, which demands an end to the occupation of the territory of the Guantánamo naval base, the Cuban Adjustment Act and the "wet-foot-dry-foot" policy, and the elimination of interventionist programs aimed at provoking internal destabilization. These policies threaten the security and tranquility of our families.
During the coming days, the words of the eternal President of our organization, Vilma Espín, are more relevant than ever for all FMC members: "Socialism for Cuban women means freedom, independence, sovereignty, dignity, social justice, security for the education and development of their children, the right to equality, to life, to decide their own destiny, to work for the future dreamed of and defended with all forces."
(March 15, 2016)
U.S. President to Visit Argentina on 40th Anniversary of 1976 Military Coup
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Argentina from March 23-24 following his trip to Cuba March 21-22. Obama's visit coincides with the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-backed military coup which took power in Argentina on March 24, 1976. It ruled until 1983 and was responsible for tens of thousands of "disappearances" in a dirty war against the people. In Argentina, March 24 is now known as the Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice and is marked by demonstrations and events to commemorate the victims.
U.S. news agencies reported on March 17 that Obama plans to declassify additional U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement records on Argentina's military coup and dirty war. Previous releases of classified material revealed official approval of the Argentine dictatorship's crimes by then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Argentinian activists and prominent figures such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel have called on Obama to postpone his visit and be prepared to render accounts for the role of the U.S. in state terror against the people of Argentina, along with renouncing interference in Latin American affairs today.
Hebe de Bonafini, Argentine human rights activist and founder of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a well-known organization of mothers who lost members of their family during the dictatorship and seek justice, also strongly criticized the attempt to cover up the U.S.'s dirty role in Argentina. Obama "is the false face of the Nobel Prize and we believe there are many things he should pay for. We don't want him here," she said. The outrage among Argentinians was such that Obama moved his official meeting with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri from March 24 to March 22.
The triumph of Mauricio Macri in the November 22, 2015 Argentinian presidential election was the latest example of what is called a "soft coup" in Latin America. Since coming to power on a wave of disinformation and dirty tricks against the progressive Front for Victory government, the new Macri government has made its priority the imposition of neo-liberal economic measures and realignment with the U.S.
These economic measures have included "fiscal adjustments" through massive layoffs of public sector workers and the negotiation of an agreement to pay nearly U.S.$5 billion to four U.S. hedge funds, commonly called "vulture funds."
Layoffs of public sector workers began in December 2015 and more than 100,000 have lost their jobs in 2016 alone. Tens of thousands more workers in the private sector, particularly in construction, have lost their jobs as a result of the austerity measures and the effect will also be felt in related industries and overall production levels.
The "vulture fund" payout requires approval from Argentina's bicameral Parliament. In the Congress no party has a majority but Macri's group has the largest number of seats. Macri has declared that "there is no alternative" to paying the rich hedge funds while Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay claimed that if the payout was not approved the government would be forced to "undertake a tremendous fiscal adjustment." Congress has not yet approved the measure, while the Senate has officially rejected the hedge fund payment. To make the payout, additional amendments to Argentinian law are also required to remove prohibitions on payment of funds demanded through extortion.
Analysts say that a handover of billions in U.S. hard
force Argentina to borrow billions more in bonds and end up far more
indebted to U.S. finance capital. The funds relate to a 2013 U.S.
Supreme Court ruling which ordered the Argentine government to pay $1.5
billion in principal plus interest to two U.S. financial companies, NML
Capital and Aurelius. The two had purchased at obscenely low prices
Argentinian bonds that were in default with the aim of turning around
and engaging the Argentinian government in litigation for repayment in
order to make a massive score.
The new ruling circles in Argentina have close ties to U.S. elites. In late February, Argentina's Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich traveled to Washington, DC to sign agreements with U.S. federal security agencies Homeland Security and the FBI. The agreements concerned "cooperation and exchange of biometrical criminal intelligence, and a restart in our relation with the FBI National Academy to train our assets."
Argentine commentators say U.S. agents are being brought into the country under the hoax of the "war on drugs," and the Argentinian government claims that "hotspots" which require attention include northwest border areas where social movements of Indigenous and working people are particularly active.
In January, Milagro Sala, an Indigenous leader and member of the parliament of Juyjuy province was detained at home by the Macri-aligned provincial government. She was accused of "incitement to commit crimes and public disturbance." In February, Sala's ongoing detention was ruled illegal by Argentina's Office of Institutional Violence (Procuvin), adding that Sala has parliamentary privilege. Members of Sala's organization, Tupac Amaru, have requested that the Argentine Supreme Court intervene in the case.
In response to the mass layoffs initiated by the government, the State Workers' Association held a national strike on February 24 and protests have been ongoing throughout the country. The Confederation of Municipal Workers has declared a state of alert and is mobilizing in defence of municipal workers' livelihoods. The Workers' Central of Argentina (CTA) announced that it will propose to Congress a bill to prevent unjustified layoffs for a one-year term.
"According to our estimates, around one-third of the dismissals are in the public sector and the rest in the private sector. Many of them are related to the paralyzation of public works and to the drop of the industrial activity due to the lifting of the import barriers," Hugo Yasky, secretary general of the CTA told media.
The General Confederation of Labor (CGT) is also
for nationwide demonstrations, slated to take place in April.
President Macri was confronted by mass protests against
neo-liberal reforms on March 14 during a visit to the city of
1. Among them was an account of a
conversation in 1976
between Henry Kissinger, then
the U.S. Secretary of State, and Admiral César Augusto Guzzetti,
the Argentine Foreign
Minister. It was released by the U.S. government in response to a
Freedom of Information
request by the National Security Archives in 2004. In the conversation
expresses support for the crimes of the Argentinian dictatorship in the
face of public
revelations of disappearances of progressive Argentinians and human
rights abuses on a large
scale. "Look, our basic attitude is that we would like you to succeed.
I have an old-fashioned
view that friends ought to be supported. What is not understood in the
United States is that
you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems but not the
context. The quicker
you succeed the better," Kissinger said.
"If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly. But you must get back quickly to normal procedures."
Counterrevolutionary Offensive Seeks Regime Change in Brazil
More than a million Brazilians mobilized across the country on March 18 to oppose the attempts of counterrevolutionary forces to carry out a coup against President Dilma Rousseff and the Popular Front government led by the Workers' Party of Brazil. Democractic and popular forces called for a Day of Democracy to counter attempts from the forces of the oligarchy to destabilize and push the country into chaos. The ongoing attacks on the Brazilian government form part of the imperialist offensive to bring down the revolutionary and progressive forces of the region.
The mass mobilizations came days after Brazilian elites staged their own demonstrations in support of a new push for the impeachment of President Rousseff. Brazil's Congress approved the creation of a 65-member committee on March 17 that will study whether there are grounds for her removal.
Brazil's monopoly-owned media and oligarchy are carrying out a continuous campaign to try to spuriously link President Rousseff and leaders in the Workers' Party to a serious fraud scheme in the state-owned oil company Petrobrás as part of the efforts to impeach Rousseff.
The smear campaign has been extended to former President
"Lula" da Silva, who was detained for questioning by police after they
raided his house on March 4. This came several days after Lula affirmed
that he could stand as candidate for president again in 2018. Lula has
said that there is nothing to tie him to the Petrobrás scandal.
"Everyone who knows me knows that I was never interested in making
money, but rather in transforming the country," he said.
Lula has accepted the position of Chief of Staff to President Rousseff, citing the challenges facing the country and the experience he brings to the government, and was sworn in on March 17. The same day, a federal judge in Brasilia issued an order to annul Lula's appointment. The government appealed the measure and a higher court struck down the annulment order on March 18.
Counterrevolutionary protestors blocked a main avenue in São Paulo during the swearing in. Speaking at the ceremony President Rousseff referred to the provocation, noting, "This is how a coup d'état usually starts."
The Popular Front ruling coalition repudiated efforts to implicate Lula in the scandal and denounced the "criminal and manipulative" coverage of media outlets. The Popular Front also accused police investigators of deliberately targeting the former president and the Workers' Party.
"The Brazil Popular Front will not accept the coup-mongering and anti-democratic stance that both sectors of the judicial branch and the mainstream media try to impose on the Brazilian people," said a statement released in February.
In October, Deputy Luiz Sergio Nobrega de Oliveira, head of a parliamentary commission in charge of the investigation into the Petrobrás scandal, said "there was no proof" against Rousseff and Lula in any of the documents examined by the parliamentary commission, exonerating them of all responsibility in the Petrobrás scandal.
Nevertheless, attempts to link the Workers' Party to the Petrobrás scandal have been the main strategy of the oligarchy to justify impeachment of the president. Parties of the oligarchy presently do not have enough support in the Brazilian Congress to proceed with impeachment.
A major player in the impeachment proceedings is the President of Congress Eduardo Cunha, a leading member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). Despite the fact that the PMDB is nominally a member of the coalition government with the Workers' Party, Cunha has been one of the loudest voices pushing for the impeachment of Rousseff and is closely allied with the opposition. Cunha is also pushing for a change from a Presidential to a Parliamentary system of government in alliance with the right-wing Social Democrat Party of Brazil (PSDB).
However Cunha is himself under investigation as part of the Petrobrás scandal, along with the leadership of his PMDB in the Senate. Members of the Workers' Party make up only 16 per cent of those under investigation, with 58 per cent of those targeted coming from the right-wing Progressive Party (PP). Despite this, media portray the scandal and corruption to be centred around the Workers' Party and polls are produced to say that people believe Rousseff herself is responsible.
"Scandals involving the PT (Workers' Party) are shown
day on television. (But) there is barely any criticism to the
PMDB government in São Paulo," historian Lincoln Secco told
TeleSUR in 2015.
(TeleSUR. Photos: TeleSUR, Vermelho)
In a country as heterogeneous, diverse and changing as Brazil, the amount of authority vested in the presidency becomes a key factor when it comes to establishing the rhythm of the political process and defining different agendas. In this regard, what has been happening for some time now -- and in an accelerated fashion from last year to the present moment -- economic recession, ideological discrepancies and a crisis of representation, is that the presidential power has been degraded to the extent that the capacity for any initiative has been lost. Today, the dynamics of the system seem to derive from sources of power with their own interests (the media, business entities, foreign interests, among others) that have progressively left the political will of the government at a real impasse. A political impasse that, if the necessary precautions are not taken, will open the way for an ever increasing private takeover of the government. The expansion of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) on the political scene is precisely the expression of this decline.
Demonstrations as massive as those of last Sunday [March 13] can never come out of a single call or slogan, or be put in motion by one organizing entity; when the numbers speak so much, they do away at least in part with the rationalizations and all the conjecture about what took place. In any event what did not occur in this case was a spontaneous mobilization like those to a greater or lesser extent confirmed in June 2013. Here the preparation and planning are elements that must be considered. As well, the very place that it was the most forceful also merits attention: the constituency in which Avenida Paulista in the City of São Paulo is located, where in the last presidential election Dilma Rousseff had one of her worst showings anywhere in the country, defeated by Aetius Neves with 86.68 per cent of the vote.
Given what the mapping shows, and in addition to the characterization of the march on Avenida Paulista, the (class) character of the organizers must be identified. During the weeks prior to the march, a large part of the businesses in the city of São Paulo and in São Paulo state decided to commit strongly to the mobilization, not only through private messages to their associates, but by making public the reasons for their presence on March 13. The Federation of Industries of São Paulo (FIESP) put forward its demands with the slogan "Enough of Paying the Piper"; the Commercial Association of São Paulo (ACSP) printed hundreds of T-shirts with the slogan "Business owner, show up before you disappear"; the Syndicate of Companies that Buy, Sell and Rent Real Estate of San Pablo (Secovi-SP) issued a call to "Change Brazil"; the President of the Brazilian Association of Chemical Industries (Abiquim), Fernando Figueiredo, called in the days before [the march] for "a quick exit to the political crisis."
Bodies with a lot of influence in the national GDP were determined to take direct action on the political scene, such as the president of the Rural Society of Brazil (SRB), Gustavo Junquera, for whom the country was in a [state of] "final breakdown"; or the restaurant chain Habib's, which distributed 150,000 posters with the inscription "I want my country back" in several cities. Faced with such an organizational challenge, a fact that is far from secondary must be recognized with respect to last Sunday: that the various factions of the bourgeoisie are also availing themselves of the streets as a tool for advancing their positions.
As was discovered after the fact through the declassification of certain files, J.F. Kennedy and Lincoln Gordon -- the U.S. ambassador to Brazil at that time -- faced with the political direction the country was taking [in 1963, one year before a U.S.-backed coup], designed a "Contingency Plan for Brazil." This plan had no shortage of resources when it came to financing opposition electoral candidates, the press and broadcasting, or in terms of more direct actions like sending the fleet of the Southern Command to the Port of Vitoria or paying for the entry of "civilians" to Brazilian territory. In the years 1962-1963 alone immigration controls recorded the entry of more than 5,000 U.S. citizens to Brazil, well above the average for previous years. More than half a century later, the circumstances are completely different, as are the ways in which international diplomacy and the expansion of each country's interests are exercised. However, this does not warrant ignoring the different forms of pressure to which peripheral countries are exposed when they dare, albeit in a tenuous way, to assume certain autonomous positions with respect to global geopolitics, or join emerging blocs as Brazil itself did by entering the BRICS.
Both Brazil's entry into BRICS and its (sovereign) regulation of the production of pre-salt oil, the largest discovery of oil reserves in the 21st Century, in 2010 earned the country -- and Lula and Dilma -- not just newfound recognition by the "international community" but also the less delicate and direct spying of the NSA directed (as proven by Wikileaks in 2013) against the President herself and Petrobrás. They are not the same circumstances as half a century ago, but more and more the information that is revealed shows, for example, the infiltration in Brazilian territory of USAID or the National Endowment for Democracy or various NGOs with different origins in the communications and partisan networks of the country; politicians, journalists or individuals like Kim Kataguiri, the organizer of Free Brazil Movement (one of the main organizers in social media of the demonstrations), whose career and recognition as a socio-cultural mediator was funded by the dubious Students for Liberty, a foundation dedicated to "promoting the values of liberty in young people" of the planet. Today Kim Kataguiri is a columnist in the principal Brazilian newspaper -- Folha de São Paulo-- another of those coincidences that shape Brazilian reality today; a path similar to that followed by Oscar Torrealba, now a columnist for El Universal in Venezuela and founder of JAVU (Active Venezuelan Youth United), one of the mainstays of the youth opposition to President Nicolás Maduro.
Class power and foreign presence: evidently the political impasse in which Brazil finds itself has taken on historic proportions; the effectiveness of domestic and external pressures leave less and less room for manoeuvring to the already weakened government of Dilma Rousseff. However, the apparent direction of events does not always confirm the real route. Perhaps the reinvigorated voice (and presence in the public arena) of Lula himself can become the ideological starting point to redefine the coming dialectic. Unlike what happened in the case of the "Mensalão" scandal in 2005, in which Lula himself apologized and accepted that he might have been betrayed, his response to the "Lava-Jato" ["Car Wash," Petrobrás] scandal has been completely different. Surrounded by microphones after his forced statement of Friday, March 4, and filled with class indignation, he pointed to O Globo, Veja and those known to have responsibility for the daily problems of the large majority of Brazilians. Not a small thing.
Organizações O Globo is a conglomerate of media companies consisting of O Globo television network, Rede Globo, Rádio Globo, Editora Globo and other subsidiaries.
(Centro Estrategico Latinoamericano de Geopolítica (CELAG) March 15, 2016. Translated from the original Spanish byTML Weekly.)
Step Up Opposition to Murderous Honduran Regime
Nelson Garcia, a member of the same Indigenous rights group as murdered activist Berta Cáceres, was assassinated in Honduras on March 15, local media report.
Less than two weeks after Cáceres was gunned down in her home by unknown assailants, Garcia died after being shot four times in the face in the Rio Chiquito community.
Both were outspoken members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organizations of Honduras (COPINH).
Local reports suggest Garcia's assassination happened during an eviction carried out by Honduran military police of some 150 poor families, members of COPINH, who had occupied land at Rio Chiquito for the last two years.
According to local sources, 40 police officers, including 20 riot police, and 20 soldiers arrived at 8 am to begin evicting the group.
"They said that they would be peaceful and they were not going to throw anyone out of their houses, but at midday they started to tear down the houses, they destroyed the maize, the banana trees and the yucca plantations," said Tómas Gómez, a COPINH coordinator. He added that Garcia was killed following the eviction when he attempted to return to his home to have a meal.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the killing, TeleSUR reports
Garcia, the father of five children, was the leader of the community occupying the land in Rio Chiquito.
Human rights groups in Honduras have demanded the protection of COPINH members since Cáceres assassination on March 3. Human rights and environmental activists say they are being targeted in violent attacks.
The assassination of Berta Cáceres triggered outrage across the world and has put the Honduran government and supporters of multinational projects in the Central American country under international scrutiny.
On March 14, activists called on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to cut support for the Agua Zarca dam project, which was vehemently opposed by Cáceres and her community.
Two activists scaled an art installation in front of
office of the USAID's information office in Washington, DC as
part of a protest calling on the agency to cut support for the
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