June 4, 2016 - No. 23

Quebec's Self-Serving Political Reforms
and the Crisis of the Democratic Institutions

Increasing State Control over Political Parties to Keep the People Disempowered

Resolution of Five Registered Political Parties
Brief of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec on Bill 101

Canada’s Unacceptable Interference in Venezuelan Affairs
Oppose Attempts to Foment Regime Change

June 1 -- Ontario Injured Workers' Day
Injured Workers Demand Governments Guarantee Their Rights

Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean Deepen Fighting Unity
Latin American and Caribbean Countries
Defeat OAS Attempt to Support Coup Forces

Mass Rallies in Support of Bolivarian Revolution
U.S. and Canada Should Not Interfere in Venezuela's Internal Affairs
- George Sorger -

Broad Rejection of Coup Government
Credibility of Brazil's Interim President Collapses as He Receives Eight-Year Ban on Running for Office
- Glenn Greenwald -

Regional Meetings

Cuban President Demands Principles of Proclamation of
Latin America as a Zone of Peace Be Upheld

Seventh Summit of Association of Caribbean States
Promotes Unity

Second Parliamentary Meeting for Latin American and
Caribbean Integration Held in Argentina

Puerto Rico
Obama Continues to Ignore Pleas to Free
Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera

- Matt Peppe -

32nd Anniversary of Operation Blue Star
Justice Is Not Yet Served

Quebec's Self-Serving Political Reforms
and the Crisis of the Democratic Institutions

Increasing State Control over Political Parties to
Keep the People Disempowered

The crisis of the democratic institutions in Canada continues to deepen as a result of self-serving reforms enacted at the federal, Quebec and provincial levels. The parties with seats in the federal Parliament and other assemblies and legislatures have formed a kind of cartel party system which they use to pass laws which shower them with more and more privileges so as to keep them in positions of power. All of it is done in the name of enhancing democracy and eliminating corruption.

In fact, laws which permit state financing of political parties and state control over their expenditures increasingly violate the people's right to conscience and freedom of association. They have done nothing to resolve the profound crisis in which the political parties are mired because these political parties were formed to serve a system of representative democracy which no longer functions. This is why democratic renewal which empowers the people is required, not reforms which further entrench the power of the ruling elite and disempower the people.

The Marxist-Leninist Party strongly advocates funding the political process, not the parties. Parties should be funded by their members, not the state. Their candidates for election should compete in elections on an equal basis with all other candidates by winning support from their constituents. However, the more self-serving the laws that are enacted, the more desperate the political parties become.

They have set up a system of state financing which detracts attention from the fact they do not have members to support their electoral shenanigans. These laws also make the registered political parties appendages of the state. This has nothing to do with their original role as primary political organizations that linked electors to the political power by providing them with a limited say over the direction of the country. Besides anything else, the laws being enacted seek to cover up that the party system needs democratic renewal, not state intervention which violates the right to conscience.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Quebec whose state financing laws for political parties were at one time considered a model for providing an equal playing field by financing all registered political parties using the same formula. State financing laws for political parties are now being reformed once again in the name of enhancing democracy and eliminating corruption. This is a thinly veiled attempt to detract attention from where the real corruption lies while turning the Chief Electoral Officer into a policeman. According to proposed reforms, besides overseeing an electoral system which does not guarantee equality or the right to an informed vote and other democratic principles, henceforth the job of the Chief Electoral Officer will be to violate conscience and the right to privacy, in addition to freedom of association.

Such is the case with Bill 101, An Act to give effect to the Charbonneau Commission recommendations on political financing, tabled on May 12 in the Quebec National Assembly. The bill was tabled by the Quebec Minister for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions in the wake of the Charbonneau Commission, a public inquiry tasked with investigating corruption in public construction contracts from 2011 until its report was presented in November 2015.

Bill 101 is said to be the result of a consensus among parties with seats in the Quebec National Assembly -- all other parties were excluded from the discussion. The bill strengthens the privileged position of the establishment political parties and further excludes the people from politics. The measures outlined in the bill do not touch the sources of the far-reaching corruption uncovered by the Charbonneau Commission nor that which takes place under the cover of legality.

The Quebec reforms, as with those of the federal government and provinces are pushed in the name of restoring confidence in the democratic institutions. The reforms they are proposing do not even begin to broach the question of how such institutions can guarantee the people the exercise of their democratic rights. Instead the tendency is to further deprive the people of these rights, increase state control over the political parties and increase party domination of the polity to block the advance of the political movements and parties of the working class and people.

At the federal level, the Trudeau government's program for electoral reform is leading to more fractious infighting among the parties with seats in the Parliament. Far from the reforms sorting out the contradictions among the political parties of the rich and accommodating their competing interests, the vested interests organized in these parties are engaged in ever sharper fights over who will come out on top.

The prevailing discourse is that the reforms favoured by the Trudeau government are for purposes of entrenching the rule of the Liberal Party while others favour different reforms of how ballots should be counted based on a more even balance within the cartel party system. This alone shows that the consideration is not to facilitate the people exercising their sovereign decision-making power.

In this issue, TML Weekly continues the discussion on political reforms at the federal level, in the provinces and Quebec by providing the resolution of five registered parties on Bill 101 and the brief presented by the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) to the National Assembly of Quebec's Committee on Institutions on May 24, 2016.

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Resolution of Five Registered Political Parties

Whereas on May 12, 2016, the Minister responsible for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions, Rita de Santis, tabled in the National Assembly Bill 101, An Act to give effect to the Charbonneau Commission recommendations on political financing;

Whereas Bill 101 amends the Election Act and deals with political party financing;

Whereas five days later, on Tuesday, May 17, a motion was tabled in the National Assembly announcing which organizations will be invited to special hearings of the Commission on Institutions on the bill, and none of the 13 other parties not represented in the National Assembly have been invited to participate;

Whereas the fact that only one day was allocated to hearings on an issue as important as the consequences of the report of the Charbonneau Commission which revealed secret funding, embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds to powerful private interests; and that such a topic deserves more than a one-day consultation and deserves the involvement of the entire body politic in discussing the sources of corruption and how to stop it;

Whereas the modifications proposed in Bill 101, as part of "fighting corruption," amount to increasing state control over political parties, criminalizing their activities, making their lives more difficult, particularly with regard to emerging parties, and intimidating and criminalizing participation in political life of the citizens themselves;

Whereas the proposed changes to the proposed electoral law are not aimed at empowering all members of the body politic to participate in politics, whether with the right to an informed vote, the right to elect and be elected, the financing of the political process to further encourage citizens to participate in political affairs, and are a denial of rights to conscience and organization;

We, the following political parties, demand the immediate withdrawal of Bill 101:

Hugo St-Onge, Bloc pot
Guy Boivin, Équipe autonomiste
Patricia Domingos, Parti équitable
Pierre Chénier, Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec
Frank Malenfant, Sans parti -- Citoyens constituants

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Brief of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec
on Bill 101

On this day following National Patriot's Day, the day that symbolizes the struggle of the Quebec nation to affirm its sovereign power to determine its own affairs and build the institutions required for the realization and defence of its rights, it is worthwhile to remember that this cause lives on. In the aftermath of the crushing of the heroic rebellion of the Patriots, the British Empire subjugated the Quebec nation and imposed on it what were called democratic institutions. To this day these institutions continue to marginalize citizens from decision-making power. This is true in the case of the National Assembly as well as the process underway for reforming the electoral law. The reforms proposed in Bill 101 currently under consideration present further obstacles to the affirmation of modern rights and modern political mechanisms. The Patriots rose up 180 years ago and sacrificed their lives for these principles. At that time, they too fought corruption, arbitrariness, the usurpation of power by private interests and faced a ruling elite that acted with impunity.

The Crisis of the Democratic Institutions

Bill 101 purports to be an Act to give effect to the Charbonneau Commission recommendations on political financing. That is indeed its title. The government claims that through this bill it is seeking to restore confidence in the democratic institutions. On May 12, the Minister responsible for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions, Rita de Santis, stated that "all these gestures, we are making them in order to improve taxpayer confidence towards the democratic institutions." On May 19, during an exchange in the National Assembly before the bill was adopted in principle, various deputies intervened to state that they hoped and believed that the changes made to the bill would contribute to renewed voter confidence.

This issue of voter confidence in the political institutions, or "taxpayer" confidence as the Minister calls it, is not new. It was also raised following the revelations of the Gomery Commission on the sponsorship scandal, during the proceedings of the Charbonneau Commission, while major changes were being made to the Election Act in 2010 (Bills 113, 114 and 118) and subsequently to the Election Act in 2012 (Bill 2). The issue is now raised again with Bill 101.

The facts, however, suggest that the changes contained in the present Bill 101 will not restore the credibility of the democratic institutions. The more the solutions proposed seek to enhance the state's control over political parties, the more these parties become actual state institutions and basic democratic principles -- freedom of association, the right to conscience and the right to an informed vote, the right to elect and be elected and to participate directly in governance -- are violated. The argument that seeks to justify violating democratic principles in the name of enhancing democracy is not only self-serving but ill-advised, since it clearly achieves the opposite. Assigning the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec (DGEQ) police powers over the finances and membership of registered political parties, increasing state control over volunteers for political parties and requiring donors to name their employer when they make a financial contribution to a party -- in the name of countering corrupt practices -- are anti-democratic measures.

Such proposals discourage the citizenry from participating in political life. Even the act of supporting the party of one's choice is being brought under the control of the state. These are acts of an anti-democratic dictatorship, not measures which favour the kind of democracy Quebeckers want.


Only five of the 17 political parties duly registered with the DGEQ have been consulted on Bill 101. This raises questions about the motivation behind the Minister's stated aim to improve "confidence in democratic institutions." What interest does the Minister have in not consulting all the parties, especially since the reforms will have an impact on their activities, as well as on their members? For that reason alone the bill should be rejected. The unequal treatment of "major" and "minor" parties is already an affront to the democratic notion of fair play. This has now been notched up a peg by ignoring the existence of "minor" parties altogether based on the prejudices of those who control the National Assembly. This too violates democratic principles.

Claim to Tackle Corruption

Bill 101 claims to tackle the serious problem of corruption within the party system revealed during the Charbonneau Commission. In this regard it pretends to provide mechanisms through which the citizenry can hold elected representatives responsible and accountable.

However, Bill 101 does just the opposite. Its proposed method of "fighting corruption" is to subject the activities of political parties to a law-and-order agenda. The bill would provide the DGEQ with police powers, allowing it to interfere in the affairs of private organizations, making life more difficult for all political parties and in particular the emerging parties, and institutionalizing intimidation.

The bill in fact contains various measures that subject political parties to state control. An onerous bureaucracy is proposed which discourages anyone who would like to participate in politics by joining a party. It will also serve to intimidate those who do not want state intrusion into their private lives.

- "to avoid false volunteering," precision has been added to the definition of volunteer work, which will be scrutinized to ensure that it is carried out without compensation or other reward;

- official representatives, delegates, official agents and deputies must undergo training prepared by the DGEQ within a prescribed timeline;

- in the name of accountability, financial reports and expense returns must be signed by the party leader, candidate, deputy or, as applicable, the highest ranking official designated by the authorized party authority. They must also be accompanied by a declaration on the rules regarding financing and election expenses;

- the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution is raised from five to seven years, requiring parties to keep financial records for a longer period of time;

- the bill also introduces a criminal offence for electors who make a false declaration regarding a loan or surety. That offence is considered a corrupt electoral practice;

In addition, anyone who donates to a political party will be required not only to provide their own contact information on the contribution slip, as is currently the case, but also the contact information of their employer.

Claiming that Bill 101 is the appropriate response of the National Assembly to the recommendations of the Charbonneau Commission makes a mockery of the Commission's four years of work and its $44.8 million cost, paid from the public treasury. It brushes aside the expectations of the citizens of Quebec with regard to the Commission's revelations of scandal and its conclusions on the need to put an end to, among other things, the system of privilege within the political process.

The Charbonneau Commission exposed many examples of "name lending," covert financing and misappropriation of funds. These are all manifestations of corruption but not the sources of the problem. These sources may be legal practices such as lobbying, and instead of acting to ensure that the public interest is defended, the monopolies which carry out such practices are increasingly permitted to act with impunity.

In fact, the "name lending" strategy illustrates just how favourable the current arrangements are for private interests to divert public funds for their private profit. Minister de Santis confirmed this in her presentation on the bill on lobbying (Bill 56, Lobbying Transparency Act) when she said, "It is important to remind the population that lobbying is a legitimate activity within a democracy and that citizens have a right to know who is looking to influence elected officials and other public decision-makers."

Furthermore, the government itself is comprised of several representatives of large private monopolies and money-lending institutions and these people go back and forth between government positions and jobs within the monopolies on a continuous basis. We see corruption at the highest levels because the stakes are very high, which is why major interests are at stake in forming government. None of this is affected in the least by the reforms contained in Bill 101. These reforms merely serve to divert from the real source of corruption at this time.

Bill 101 will not in any way check the increasing demands from large private monopolies that governments divert funds from the public treasury to guarantee their profits. One of the ways this is done is through control over the political parties that form the government. When public funding is given to political parties who then use the government to take direct control over the public purse to pay the rich, the scheme becomes clear. In this regard, it should be noted that when it comes to political parties using the public treasury as if it belonged to them to pay the rich, all claims of fiscal restraint by the government disappear. Billions of dollars are lost and squandered with total impunity, without any investigation into the parties themselves and the powerful private interests which benefit. It is privilege pure and simple, and Bill 101 does not touch such corruption.

The question for the workers and the electorate as a whole today is not that individual politicians illegitimately use their power to serve private interests. This old definition of corruption has become obsolete. Today, the problem is that the ruling elite is corrupting all the organs of state power by attacking the public authority, stripping it down to the police powers. All of it serves private monopoly interests, not the interests of the citizenry. The reforms contained in Bill 101 can only be understood within this context.

Assessment of 2010 and 2012 Reforms Reveals Public
Purse Money Grab

In 2010, during the debates on Bill 78, An Act to amend the Election Act with regard to electoral representation and political party financing rules and to amend other legislative provisions, the government claimed that bill would strengthen the democratic institutions. "To this end, it is imperative to reduce the dependence of political parties on private funding," the government said. However, corruption on the part of individuals and political parties does not exist as a consequence of "the dependence of political parties on private funding."

The PMLQ pointed out at the time that to claim this as the source of corruption "diverts attention from this inescapable fact: the law already contained penalties in the past, but they were simply not applied and individuals and parties were able to get away with it. Now the solution presented is to increase public funding to parties. Quebeckers have every reason to believe that political parties are promoting their own interests when they say, yet again, that the bill's purpose is to strengthen democratic institutions."

Bill 101 is a poor response to the recently-published review of political party financing from 2009 to 2014. The review reveals that previous reforms significantly increased the public funding of parties represented in the National Assembly. Under the pretext of eliminating corruption, the major parties are assured their funding on the basis of the state treasury.

For example, state funding for the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP), went from $1,292,266 in 2009 to $7,431,117 in 2014; for the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) it went from $2,400,000 in 2012 to $5,400,423 in 2014; for the Parti Québécois (PQ) it went from $1,021, 210 in 2009 to 6,832,045 in 2014.[1]

Note that in 2014, political parties also received public funding during the general election campaign according to the 2012 change to the Electoral Act on political party financing. These mechanisms for public funding of political parties also mean that all citizens and residents of Quebec contribute financially to all parties irrespective of whether they support them or not. This itself violates the right to conscience of many, but it is said to be necessary to strengthen the democratic institutions without ever being submitted to public consultation.

The increase in public funding to private entities -- which political parties are, although they act in the public domain along with many other private entities -- has not changed the problem of the marginalization of the body politic from political affairs. The law has maintained the system of privilege of the cartel parties over the electoral process. Bill 101 does not question this state of affairs. It does not address the problem of increased state control over political parties which curtails the right to freedom of association. It does not question why political parties, which are supposed to be controlled by their members, require public funding to win an election, or why it is legitimate to take huge sums of money from the public purse to give to the so-called "major" political parties.

These practices reinforce the power and privilege of the establishment parties as well as the marginalization of emerging parties and all those who are relegated to the role of "voters." References to the citizenry as "voters" shows that the only role afforded to them is casting a ballot every four or five years. Meanwhile, the activities of political parties to encourage the participation of the citizenry in deciding the direction of the economy and deciding on political, social and cultural affairs is subjugated to the supreme goal of getting elected. Referring to the citizenry as "taxpayers," as the Minister does, shows total contempt for any notion of democracy. Bill 101 proposes no changes to enable the polity to participate more actively in political affairs as a bulwark against privilege and intrigue. It opts instead to give the DGEQ police powers.

State Control over Political Parties

Political parties are private organizations operating within the public domain. Should funding of such organizations not be the responsibility of their members, so that the members are in a position to demand accountability? It is known that fewer than 2 per cent of the population are members of political parties. Why then are they financed by public funds? Why not have electoral funding that benefits the entire population? Why not use this money to fund the process, not the parties? With these funds the DGEQ could inform all eligible voters about all the candidates running and other issues of public interest related to elections. This would certainly strengthen the democratic institutions beginning with the electoral process itself.

Bill 101 contributes to the concentration of power in the hands of powerful private interests who exercise power in many ways other than through election financing. It continues the trend of all electoral reforms in Quebec since the 1970s, which is to finance the parties of the rich with public money, further securing their privileges, while the citizens remain marginalized from decision-making. Today, the cartel party system ensures that 80 per cent of the funding for such parties comes from the state, and as appendages of the state they will now be accountable to the DGEQ rather than those who elected them.

Police Powers

Freedom of association and the right to conscience are, unequivocally, fundamental rights required for human beings to be able to exercise their humanity. Bill 101 violates freedom of association yet again when it requires members of political parties who want to support those parties with a financial contribution to not only identify themselves to the state, but now also provide the name of their employer when contributing.

During the May 19 debate in the National Assembly, Bernard Drainville, MNA for Marie-Victorin and spokesperson for the Official Opposition, elaborated the spirit of this amendment. "[...] the Charbonneau Commission also wanted the employer's name to be included on the donor's contribution slip. This provision, Madam President, is aimed at giving the Chief Electoral Officer even more means to eventually track down, if necessary, name lending systems. That's the basic idea, so as to give the Chief Electoral Officer additional information, or, in any case, personal information that certainly falls within the private domain, but which gives the Chief Electoral Officer the possibility of going back to visit the employer, for example, of a donor and checking with the employer that there has been no reimbursement of a contribution or that there is not, within that business, a system set up to collect several contributions of $100 which would subsequently be reimbursed through the back door, which is of course illegal. So, with this provision then, Madam Speaker, it will be possible for the Chief Electoral Officer to quickly ascertain, without having to turn to another authority, the name of the employer of the person that made the contribution."

Two arguments are presented: (1) Information: to provide additional information to the Chief Electoral Officer that falls within the private domain, but allows the Chief Electoral Officer to go back to the employer. (2) Rapidity: the elimination of a step for the Chief Electoral Officer in finding out who the employer is. Neither point explains why this is a reasonable limit on freedom of association and the right to conscience. It is beyond belief.

As a public prosecutor, the Chief Electoral Officer has already been given direct access to Revenu Québec files on individuals without their consent. This was authorized by changes made to the electoral law in 2010 also to fight corruption and "name lending" -- a reference to a person submitting a contribution to a political party in the name of another person so as to circumvent financing laws. These further intrusions into the private lives of citizens will only increase their marginalization and exclusion and discourage their participation in political affairs. They will continue to deepen the legitimacy crisis of the democratic institutions as well as the confidence of the citizenry in them.

We also draw attention to the fact that the bill does not permit the Chief Electoral Officer to fulfill their mandate, which is to "guarantee the full exercise of electoral rights, and to promote the democratic values of Quebec society." The proposed measures as well as those put in place since the 2010 and 2012 electoral reforms (the transmission of personal information, the oath that one is not committing fraud, the repeated demands to confirm that one is in fact a member of a party, etc.) are obstacles to anyone who wants to take part in politics, even on a basic level such as joining or supporting a registered political party. It contributes to transforming the mission of the DGEQ, slowly but surely, into one of criminalization, suspicion and acting as judge and jury.

Are we to understand this to be the meaning of "democratic values"? In the name of balancing democratic rights with the fight against corruption, the only thing achieved is to curtail democratic rights while corruption flourishes in other forms and through other means. Taking measures to affirm, not negate freedom of association, the right to conscience, an informed vote, to elect and be elected, and to participate directly in governance is what will put an end to corruption.


In conclusion, the PMLQ thinks this bill should be withdrawn. The objective problem that electoral reforms must tackle is empowering all members of the polity to participate in decision-making so that they can exercise control over the direction of the economy and political, social, cultural and other affairs. Reforms that do not address that problem should more accurately be called negotiation and renegotiation of the self-serving arrangements of the ruling elite to continue its domination over the political and electoral processes and maintain the political marginalization of the people. Such reforms have nothing to do with the people exercising control over the affairs of the society.

For all the reasons cited in this brief, the PMLQ calls on the people of Quebec to call on the National Assembly to withdraw Bill 101.

In our opinion, the state should under no circumstances finance private interests, and must only fund public projects. An election to public office is a public project. Electoral laws should be reformed so that all who wish to can participate in elections on an equal basis and to ensure an informed vote. Political parties can play an important role in politicizing the people and encouraging them to articulate their vision for society, but must not be financed by the public treasury. Political parties should be funded by their members whose interests they serve. Public funds must instead be used to ensure the respect of the rights of all to elect and be elected during an election. They must not be used to further enshrine privilege, let alone criminalize those seeking to participate in political life.


1. Political party finance reports from 2009 to 2014, DGEQ.

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Canada's Unacceptable Interference in Venezuelan Affairs

Oppose Attempts to Foment Regime Change

At a time when the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are rejecting attempts of the Organization of American States (OAS) and other tools of U.S. imperialism to interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs, the Canadian House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights carries on its meddling. In 2015 the Subcommittee held meetings discussing "human rights in Venezuela" at a time when serious coup attempts were uncovered against Venezuela's government and the Obama regime imposed its executive order and sanctions. Now, with the Venezuelan National Assembly captured by the forces of the oligarchy and new efforts underway to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution, the Subcommittee is again hearing "evidence" that aims to undermine Venezuela's pro-social nation-building project.

The Subcommittee is carrying on the same course of stirring up a phoney debate on human rights in Venezuela and fabricating pretexts for Canada to involve itself in regime change. This is unacceptable and must be opposed.

The Subcommittee met on May 10, 2016 for what was described as a "Briefing with President of the Foreign Affairs Commission of Venezuela." Luis Florido, the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs representative and other representatives of Venezuela's opposition parties have been on a regional tour to promote intervention there. Ahead of appearing before the Canadian House Subcommittee, Florido spoke to the Chilean Senate to ask for assistance in "defending democracy in Latin America" and visited the OAS headquarters in Washington, DC. Florido returned to Washington May 19 to push for the OAS to impose penalties on Venezuela. After a meeting with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Florido told media, "We want to generate the necessary pressure so that we Venezuelans, with the mediation of the Inter-American System, can find a political solution to the crisis."

The Subcommittee invited and heard testimony from Florido and Freddy Guevara, both members of the "Popular Will" party of convicted criminal and 2002 coup participant Leopoldo Lopez; Luis Hernández of the "A New Era" party; and William Dávila of the "Democratic Action" party, a traditional party of the Venezuelan oligarchy which held power from 1984 to 1994 during some of the most brutal state-organized violence against the Venezuelan people.

The presentations of Venezuelan opposition representatives were described as "evidence" but the meeting was far from an attempt by Canadian MPs to better understand the situation in Venezuela and the challenges facing the people. No legislators from political parties representing the working class in Venezuela were invited to participate. Nor were the Venezuelan government or its representatives in Canada invited to respond to the over-the-top claims leveled by the opposition to discredit the Bolivarian revolution that has put the well-being and rights of the Venezuelan people in the first place.

Florido stated, "we visited the OAS last week to ask the secretary general of the OAS and the member countries to protect Venezuela and to help us protect the Venezuelan population. We want to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter, making use of chapters 3 to 6, because we believe the only way to find a solution for Venezuela is through a genuine dialogue."

As was the case during the Subcommittee's hearings on Venezuela in 2015, the "evidence" consisted of a litany of hyperbolic claims and blaming the government for every problem that exists or is claimed to exist in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government was attacked for its stand in support of the rights of the Palestinian people and opposition legislators complained that Venezuela is "one of only three countries in the world that have control of foreign currency" -- i.e., the people exercise control over the economy -- making it clear that the opposition forces stand on the side of international moneylenders, not the people.

MPs on the Subcommittee did not express any concern for the human rights of the Venezuelan people. These rights are realized through the country's many social programs, public enterprises and the enshrinement of rights of the workers and others in Venezuela's constitution and law, all of which the opposition has been attempting to overturn since the forces of the oligarchy won a majority in the National Assembly in the December 6, 2015 election. Venezuelans are also being denied their right to food through price manipulation and fabricated food shortages by the wealthy elites that are part of the opposition forces. Similarly, no concern was expressed about the violation of Venezuelans' right to security of person through the deadly street violence fomented by opposition forces, assaults and even killings of government deputies and government supporters.

No Canadian MP stepped forward to say that the problems of Venezuelans must be solved by the Venezuelan people themselves and that Canada, the U.S., the OAS and other outside forces have no place to interfere there. Instead MPs expressed their sincere sympathies to the witnesses at the Subcommittee and commended their efforts. For instance, Subcommittee members lauded the "courage" of the legislators for taking part in their road show to promote regime change.

Attempts by the Secretary General of the OAS to invoke the "Inter-American Democratic Charter" to suspend the sovereign Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from the organization were solidly defeated at a June 1 meeting of the OAS Permanent Council. Despite this, on June 3 the New Democratic Party issued a statement calling on Canada to interfere in Venezuelan affairs through the OAS. The statement said, "The OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter regarding Venezuela, and Canada, as a member of the OAS, should support his efforts."

At a time when the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean continue to defend and hold dear their unity against foreign intervention and regime change, Canada must end its interference in Venezuelan affairs, pledge its unconditional respect for the sovereignty of nations and repudiate U.S. imperialist intrigues.

In this issue, TML Weekly is carrying reports on the failure of the OAS move to attack Venezuela and the resistance of the Venezuelan people to foreign intervention, as well as information on Brazilians' rejection of the coup government imposed on May 12, important regional meetings and the fight to free Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.

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June 1 -- Ontario Injured Workers' Day

Injured Workers Demand Governments
Guarantee Their Rights

Spirited actions marked the 33rd Injured Workers' Day in Ontario, celebrating the steadfast determination of injured workers to have their claims on the society honoured and their rights defended by governments. Injured workers and their allies demand that the Ontario government honour its side of the historic compromise made over a century ago enshrined in the Meredith Principles whereby injured workers give up their right to take their employers to court for workplace injuries in return for just compensation that allows them to live and participate with dignity in society.

Sleepless at Queen's Park, May 31, 2016

"Sleepless at Queen's Park," an overnight vigil May 31 organized by the Women of Inspiration support group for injured women workers, kicked off the Injured Workers' Day actions. The tenth annual vigil included a lively cultural program by the Justice Singers and poets, excellent food by the South Asian Women's Rights Organization and a cake. The women welcomed the Justice for Injured Workers Bike Ride cyclists to Toronto from the last leg of their journey through southwestern Ontario. The vigil started ten years ago out of the experience of injured women workers being sleepless from the pain of their injuries and the insecurities and hardships brought on them and their families by workplace accidents and illnesses, especially when the government and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board do not provide the required support. Instead of remaining isolated and silent, they joined together and brought their concerns to Queen's Park. How could MPPs sleep nights knowing they were not fulfilling their responsibilities to these women, they asked.

On June 1, more than 300 people gathered at Queen's Park for a vigorous rally and march to demand justice for injured workers. The Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups (ONIWG) and their affiliates were joined by labour unions such as United Steelworkers Local 1005 from Hamilton, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, the Ontario Nurses' Association and Unifor. Buses and cars full of people active in fighting for the rights of injured workers joined the action from Barrie, Hamilton, London and Windsor. The many other participants included a contingent from the Workers' Centre of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).

A busload of Ontario Public Service Employees Union workers from Waypoint, a maximum security mental health facility in Penetanguishene, participated to highlight the Ontario government's refusal to listen to workers' proposals to resolve safety problems at the facility while respecting the rights of both staff and inmates.

The rally welcomed Richard Hudon and Peter Page of the Justice for Injured Workers Bike Ride, who had just completed their 600-kilometre trip from Windsor to Toronto, raising awareness of the fight that injured workers are waging in Ontario and across Canada for their rights and dignity. Richard recounted with emotion the experience of not being able to visit the memorial to the Victims of Chemical Valley in Sarnia because the memorial site itself has been condemned due to asbestos contamination. He also introduced a young man invited to participate in next year's ride, who has lost both legs and has had to wage a vigorous fight to force the WSIB to provide him with artificial limbs rather than just a wheelchair. Richard gave his own example of how WSIB is nickel and diming injured workers, explaining that the WSIB has rejected his doctor's advice that he be provided with a replacement prosthetic leg, claiming that he is too old.

Catherine Fenech, Secretary of ONIWG brought greetings on behalf of the network and ONIWG President Eugene Lefrancois. She pointed out that the Wynne government, beginning in 2018, plans to hand over to employers $2 billion saved by cutting WSIB benefits to injured workers. Fenech also announced that a complaint has been filed with the Ontario Ombudsman's office against the WSIB for its arbitrariness and discrimination against injured workers.

Members of the Ontario NDP Caucus came out to support the rally and pledged to assist injured workers and the fight for just compensation and workplace safety.

Following the rally participants marched to the offices of the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Here an injured migrant worker from Jamaica addressed the rally by phone from Leamington on the fight migrant workers face to stay in Ontario to receive proper treatment when injured on the job. He called on everyone to fight for the rights of all workers to proper medical and other supports when they are injured or become sick on the job.

Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) pledged the federation's ongoing support for injured workers. No worker in Ontario should be denied the right to work in a safe and healthy workplace, he said, adding that when someone is injured on the job, they should receive all the compensation and assistance necessary to enable them to return to work.

The cyclists from the Justice for Injured Workers' Bike Ride presented Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn with hundreds of post cards collected during their ride. The post cards from injured workers and others addressed the question -- "What would you do with $2 billion?" The Minister, following the presentation, spoke of changes he and his government have made based on consultation with injured workers while many in the crowd spoke out to insist that the Minister deal with the concrete issues they raised during the demonstration.

Karl Crevar of ONIWG responded to the Minister after his speech. Immediate action is required by the government and injured workers and their allies cannot rely on the words of the Minister but will continue to organize for their rights until they get justice, he said.

Participants were energized by the vigorous action, which reflected the successes of injured workers in ending the marginalization of their fight for safe workplaces and full compensation -- a fight which belongs to all workers and their allies.

New Issue of Justice for Injured Workers Off the Press!

The May issue of Justice for Injured Workers is now out. The issue features informative articles on cuts to the workers' compensation system and how injured workers are organizing to have their just claims recognized. It contains lively coverage of the many actions which injured workers have organized including those in defence of migrant workers’ rights and their participation in the April 28 Day of Mourning.

To get your copy contact Eugene Lefrancois at the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups:

R.R. 1, Kaministiquia, ON P0T 1X0
munso@tbaytel.net  •  807-767-7827

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Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean Deepen Fighting Unity

Latin American and Caribbean Countries Defeat
OAS Attempt to Support Coup Forces

Mass rally rejecting foreign intervention, Caracas, Venezuela, June 1, 2016.

Attempts by the Organization of American States (OAS) through its Secretary General Luis Almagro to suspend Venezuela's OAS membership on June 1 were defeated by the unanimous vote of OAS members led by the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Representatives had gathered at a Extraordinary Session of the OAS Permanent Council suddenly convened with one day's notice. The meeting was suspended at the request of Venezuela after adopting a declaration of support for dialogue between the Venezuelan government and opposition and repudiating foreign intervention. Almagro was criticized by numerous delegations for his posture towards Venezuela and for taking unilateral action against the Bolivarian Republic.

OAS Secretary General Almagro has been waging an increasingly desperate campaign against the government of Venezuela in concert with Venezuelan opposition representatives calling for foreign intervention and reactionary figures from the U.S., Europe and across Latin America. The OAS leadership, based in Washington, DC and mostly funded by the U.S. and Canada, carries out the policy of U.S. imperialism under the cover of what the OAS calls the "inter-American system." In this regard, Almagro's attempt to isolate Venezuela marked an escalation of the attempts to foment regime change in Venezuela which have been ongoing since the defeat of the 2002 U.S.-backed coup against Hugo Chávez.

On May 13, Almagro attended a meeting in Miami, Florida with members of the Venezuelan opposition, U.S.-backed former Latin American presidents and a former Spanish Prime Minister. At the meeting former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe called for military intervention in Venezuela. Since then Almagro's main focus in his position as OAS head has been to attack Venezuela, ignoring the fact that a coup d'état was just carried out in Brazil. Without any consultation with the OAS member states Almagro has been using the platform of the OAS, its official publications and social media accounts to push for penalties against Venezuela, including publishing a 132-page document making his case for Venezuela's suspension.

The purpose of the June 1 meeting was to consider invoking the OAS "Inter-American Democratic Charter," which allows for the suspension of a member if it is deemed that it has violated what the Charter terms democratic principles.[1]

OAS members strongly repudiated the efforts of the organization's leadership. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa pointed out, "The call by the OAS secretary was not based on consensus. The other member countries of the OAS were not consulted. It is an opinion and attitude sui generis of Diego Almagro[2], which is completely out of line." Jamaican Ambassador to the OAS Julia Elizabeth Hyatt condemned Almagro's hysterical campaign against Venezuela, saying Jamaica "considers totally unacceptable and unfortunate certain recent utterances by the Secretary General..." Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez accused Almagro of being obsessed with ousting Maduro, pointing out that he "has dedicated 36.4 per cent of his Twitter account against Venezuela."

At the start of the meeting, representatives of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia refuted spurious accusations against the Venezuelan government and led the rejection of adopting any text that promotes foreign intervention.

The final text of the declaration approved by OAS members on June 1 said in part, "We reiterate our support for the various initiatives of national dialogue that will lead, under full respect for human rights, to a timely, prompt and effective solution to the differences and consolidation of representative democracy." The declaration highlighted the need for respecting Venezuela's sovereignty and that mediation and dialogue should take place under the auspices of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). Discussions facilitated by UNASUR began in the Dominican Republic on May 30 between the Venezuelan government and opposition.

The only Latin American country to express support for Almagro invoking the "Democratic Charter" was Paraguay, whose government was installed as the result of a coup in 2012. The representatives of Canada, the U.S. and Colombia all expressed reservations on the content of the declaration. Media report that Canadian representatives complained the declaration was "soft, weak and remains silent on the basic fundamental principles of human rights." However, with the unity of the Latin American and Caribbean countries none dared to obstruct the declaration or openly push for invoking the Charter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba issued a statement on June 2 explaining the significance of Venezuela's diplomatic victory. The statement pointed out that Venezuela "undertook a difficult but victorious diplomatic battle against the interventionist plans of imperialism and oligarchies" but that the efforts managed to "reassert the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, and the right of these to choose their own political, economic, and social systems, without external interference, as established in the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by heads of state and government during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Summit, held in Havana in January of 2014."

Cuba's statement continued:

"The hysterical, awkward, unethical manner in which the OAS Secretary General attempted to serve dark interests is surprising.

"Mr. Almagro attempted to apply the Inter-American Democratic Charter, in particular its Article 20, allegedly directed toward responding to severe breakdowns or alterations in constitutional order, which was not invoked at the time of the 2002 coup against President Hugo Chávez Frías, nor to condemn coup attempts which have plagued the region over the last 15 years, with only one exception in 2009, when the United States and some right-wing forces mounted strong resistance.

"To do so, assuming authority which he does not possess, without any mandate from member states, with the support of elements of Venezuela's coup-plotting opposition and other reactionaries with dubious reputations, Mr. Almagro wrote a slanderous, interventionist report, which he made public in violation of established procedures.

"All appearances indicated that a triumphal parade was at hand, but the Secretary General, OAS bureaucrats, and their ghastly mentors forgot that we do not live in 1962, when with shameful complicity the organization tried and convicted socialist Cuba.

"Making the difference were the tone of the debate; forceful condemnations of the Secretary General's indecent role; the firm positions of ALBA-TCP sister nations; the calm, clear arguments of those who have chosen dialogue; respect among countries and peace as diplomatic norms; and the measured but firm Caribbean resistance to the treacherous conspiracy against Venezuela.

"The Ministry of Foreign Relations considers what has now occurred in Washington as new evidence that Our America has changed, although the OAS continues to be an unreformable instrument of U.S. domination over the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, a reminder of what President Raúl Castro Ruz said in December of 2008, and reiterated during the recent 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, when paraphrasing José Martí, he asserted, ‘Before Cuba returns to the OAS, the northern seas will unite with the southern seas, and a snake will be born from the egg of an eagle.'

"We once again reiterate to the supportive and generous Bolivarian, Chavista Revolution, to President Nicolás Maduro Moros, the civic-military union, and the valiant people, the full support of the Revolutionary people and government of Cuba, and our unwavering confidence in the triumph of their just cause."

TML Weekly congratulates the President and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean who stood for the sacred principle of non-intervention in the affairs of sovereignty countries and for Latin America to be a Zone of Peace. The fighting unity of the peoples in defence of these principles is an indispensable ingredient to ensure the crimes of imperialism, regime change and counterrevolution in Latin America and the Caribbean are not repeated and multiplied.


1. The "Inter-American Democratic Charter" was adopted on September 11, 2001 by a special session of the General Assembly of the OAS in Lima, Peru. It was drafted behind the scenes by the U.S. imperialists without submitting its guiding principles or specific points for discussion or approval by the parliaments of the member countries of the OAS, let alone the citizenry. Earlier attempts to adopt the Charter at the June 3-5, 2001 meeting of the OAS in San José, Costa Rica failed with at least 16 countries opposed to the Charter as presented. Up to 2009 the only country of the Americas excluded from the OAS was Cuba, on the basis that "Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the inter-American system." Despite the high ideals in its language the essence of the Charter is to promote U.S. imperialist democracy as the ideal against which other countries are measured. For this reason countries which openly violate the letter of the text, such as the U.S., Canada, the coup government in Brazil and the governments of Mexico and Colombia are not raised as targets of the OAS.

2. Diego de Almagro was a Spanish soldier and conquistador, famous for his role in the defeat of the Inca Empire in Peru and Ecuador and his later participation in a bloody civil war among the victorious conquistadors. (Latinamericanhistory.about.com)

(With files from TeleSUR, Venezuelanalysis, AVN)

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Mass Rallies in Support of Bolivarian Revolution

President Nicolás Maduro warmly greeted by youth at rally in Caracas, June 1, 2016.

Venezuelans held a mass rally in the capital, Caracas, on June 1 and actions throughout the country led by youth to reject foreign intervention in Venezuelan affairs no matter the pretext. Demonstrators chanted, "Our country is not for sale, our country is ready to defend itself!" President Nicolás Maduro noted that "people of all backgrounds and from all corners of the country are participating to make their voices heard and those voices are clearly rejecting any form of foreign intervention." Speaking live to the Venezuelan people the day before, President Maduro affirmed that "seeking to intervene in Venezuela is a crime" and called for mobilizations.

The demonstrations came the same day as an attempt by Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro to invoke the so-called Inter-American Democratic Charter to isolate Venezuela and suspend it from the organization was defeated.

Representatives of 43 Indigenous nations marched through the streets of Caracas on June 2 to show their support for the revolution. The nations were responding to a call from the Venezuelan government to develop grassroots solutions to the economic crisis the country is currently facing. The march proceeded to the presidential palace, where leaders turned a document directly over to President Maduro outlining their proposals. According to the Minister for Indigenous Peoples Clara Vidal, the document was a synthesis of proposals made by Indigenous peoples in their territories. Maduro committed to speed-up efforts to hand over land titles to Indigenous nations for their territories.

Indigenous peoples rally in Caracas, June 2, 2016 in defence of the Bolivarian revolution.

On May 31, thousands of transportation workers rallied to reject interference by the OAS and U.S. imperialists. Bus drivers, motorbike couriers, subway staff and others organized their demonstration in defence of the Bolivarian revolution and its policies on public transport. During the rally, news broke that OAS Secretary General Almagro had invoked the "Democratic Charter" to call a meeting to debate the suspension of Venezuela from the organization. Transport workers organized to denounce the move. President Maduro, himself a bus driver and union leader in the transportation sector, addressed the rally and said he would not hesitate to call for a "national rebellion" in the event of foreign aggression.

Speaking to members of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces the same day, President Maduro affirmed that only the Bolivarian Revolution can consolidate stability in Venezuela. "We have to fight and win this battle and make our country a safe, stable nation. Only we can do it because we have a real commitment to the people, because we have a project, and because we want to. Only we can do it," said President Maduro. He denounced the May 28 killing of Felix Velasquez, a retired Army Major General, and pointed to links between local police forces connected to the killing and the U.S. embassy in Venezuela.

The Bolivarian Armed Forces released a statement on June 2 calling for unity to confront the growing threats of foreign intervention. "We must preserve our peaceful vocation, but at the same time, we must defend the traditions inherited from the founding fathers of independence," the statement said. It noted that the threats of intervention from the OAS and others rely on "a negative and biased vision of the country, quite different from reality."

(TeleSUR. Photos: AVN)

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U.S. and Canada Should Not Interfere in
Venezuela's Internal Affairs

Venezuela is one of the five greatest exporters of oil in the world and provides about 15 per cent of the supply of the U.S. It is not surprising, therefore, that the U.S. has tried to control the policies of the Venezuelan government with or without the consent of Venezuelans.

About 95 per cent of Venezuela's export earnings are due to oil, and because of the competitiveness of imports and the lack of competitiveness, relative to oil, of exports, Venezuela imports a large proportion of its basic needs. This makes the country very vulnerable to oil price fluctuations.

In the late 1980s, under a "social democratic government (Accion Democratica)," the world price of oil dropped very significantly, causing Venezuela to go into high debt with the international financial system in order to satisfy its needs. The above financial system, through the International Monetary Fund, imposed socially explosive conditions on the country in order to pay its debt, leading to sky rocketing inflation, sudden impoverishment of most of the middle class and food riots by the desperately poor, resulting in mass shooting of thousands of poor people in the slums by security forces. During this episode there was no scarcity of basic goods and services, because the increase in prices made them unaffordable to the poor, but not to the rich.

The latest similar major slump in oil prices, under the Bolivarian Revolutionary government, is worse than the above one, because it is longer lasting. There is rampant inflation and food scarcities. However, unlike the previous slump, the price of basic necessities is now being maintained at an affordable level for the poor, leading to high demand and therefore long lineups and scarcity. Unlike the government during the previous slump, this one has maintained all the social services, because one of the aims of the Bolivarian Revolution is to end poverty and marginalization. Governments prior to the Revolution allowed the market to dictate prices regardless of people's needs.

The slump in oil prices is only the latest of many blows to the Bolivarian Revolution. These include a failed coup by the wealthy elites and their friends in the armed forces. In 2002, President Hugo Chávez was kidnapped and the Chamber of Commerce and its wealthy allies began to dismantle the elected government and its pro-poor laws attained by referenda, only to be foiled by mass demonstrations that successfully demanded the return of the popular elected President, government and Constitution. This failed attempt at "regime change" was followed by a mass lockout of the main commercial and manufacturing sectors, including the state-owned oil company, only to be foiled, once again, by workers, unions and employees faithful to the Revolution taking over and running locked out enterprises.

The opposition then tried a recall referendum (allowed by the Bolivarian Constitution) and lost the popular vote, as well as more than a dozen elections.

Finally, after the author of the Bolivarian revolution, President Hugo Chávez, died of cancer, the opposition lost the presidential election once again and took to the streets in violent demonstrations, aiming to overthrow the government, with barricades and burning of government institutions and property, resulting in 43 deaths, half being pro-government, the other half being from the opposition. The violence was rejected by the majority of Venezuelans, thus, once more, foiling the attempt at "regime change."

The opposition and their corporate allies (both foreign and local) finally found a strategy that could truly hurt the revolutionary government, taking advantage of its policy of providing affordable prices of basic goods to the poor. The government has a fixed low exchange rate of local currency to the U.S. dollar, and sells the petrodollar earnings to enterprises that produce and/or import basic necessities at this favourable exchange rate, so they can import goods and sell them at affordable prices. These enterprises then acquire the cheap dollars from the government and sell them on the black market making huge profits, and/or sell most of their imports illegally in neighbouring Colombia for much higher than the Venezuelan affordable prices (up to 40 per cent of these imports have shown up in Colombia). Local merchants hide the cheap goods and sell them on the black market at prices that are unaffordable to the poor. The corporate sector in Venezuela blackmails the government by ceasing production of basic goods for local consumption if they do not receive "enough" cheap dollars from the government. No wonder that there is scarcity!

The above strategy is accompanied by an intense international media campaign blaming the Venezuelan government for the consequences of this opposition policy and also of being dictatorial, which is patently false. The U.S. supports the opposition, declaring the Bolivarian Venezuelan government to be a threat to American security and to democracy in the hemisphere, opening the door to possible intervention, which is clamoured for by the Venezuelan opposition. The U.S. found no-one to echo this statement amid the governments of Latin America.

The above strategy has served the opposition and its corporate and U.S. allies well, allowing the opposition coalition of political parties to win the latest National Assembly elections (something that would be impossible in a dictatorship). Nevertheless, said opposition, instead of helping the government in its strenuous efforts to overcome the drastic effects of the oil slump, through affordable supply depots for the needy, stimulation of local production and upkeep of social services, have opted to try to remove the government before the next elections, thus contributing to the problem, rather than to the solution. Once again, the opposition is threatening to mount violent demonstrations.

The opposition and the international media accuse the Bolivarian government of violating the human rights of the opposition, and especially those of some of their leaders, who are in prison for leading and/or encouraging the violent anti government riots described above and for deploying the security forces to dismantle the barricades. The latter in some cases did use excessive force, and those responsible for the worst cases have been tried and incarcerated. The Venezuelan government acted in the way that any western government would under those circumstances.

The Organization of American States is being asked by the U.S. to condemn the Venezuelan government and expel it from its membership, adding to the problems of that country, instead of taking the positive approach of UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, that is promoting dialogue between the government and the opposition.

Finally, the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution are triumphs of human rights: full literacy, unprecedented levels of education at all levels, medical attention for all, including the most marginalized, major lowering of the levels of undernutrition and desperate poverty, empowerment of neighbourhoods through all-inclusive communal councils, provision of good housing to more than a million families and perhaps most importantly, giving all Venezuelans a sense of being an active part of their national destiny, of belonging to the Venezuelan family.

Venezuela faces big problems, but these must be settled by Venezuelans working together. Interference by other countries, mainly the U.S., to further their own interests are a negative legacy that should be left in the past and Canada should not partake in the extension of such a legacy.

Dr. George Sorger is a Venezuelan Canadian and former Professor of Biology at McMaster University.

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Broad Rejection of Coup Government

Thousands of Women March for Democracy with Dilma Rousseff

Illegitimately suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff took to the streets in Rio de Janeiro on June 2 along with thousands of women to reject the interim government of Michel Temer, which protesters denounced as a coup regime.

"What unites us here is the democracy of our country, which was won with much struggle," Rousseff said during the demonstration that brought together some 5,000 Brazilians under the banner "Women for Democracy and Against the Coup."

"We know that what happened was a coup and now things will become increasingly clear," she added, alluding to the recent series of damning wiretaps leaked by the media that corroborate the fact that the plan to remove her from office was a coup.

President Rousseff also emphasized the "crucial" role of women in democracy, criticizing Temer's cabinet for only representing a small group of elites. "A government of old and white men does not represent the diversity of our population," she said.

The mobilization came a day after Rousseff's attorney José Eduardo Cardozo presented her defence to the Senate as part of the impeachment trial she faces after being suspended on May 12. The defence included as new evidence in the case excerpts from the most recently leaked wiretaps that implicate high-level opposition figures, including members of Temer's cabinet, in attempts to evade corruption investigations.

"The main reason for the coup against me was to prevent the battle against corruption from reaching them," Rousseff said at the rally.

The women's march also comes less than two weeks after the gang rape of a teenage girl that has sparked widespread outrage and protests against rape culture, violence against women and misogyny in Brazilian society.

Rousseff warned that Brazilians face the threat of a rollback of important social achievements under the interim government. In just three weeks in office, despite his status as an interim and not a permanent or elected president, Temer has moved swiftly to cut back what he calls a "bloated" state. He has cut key ministries and has vowed to cut social spending while promoting the privatization of Brazilian resources and increased access for foreign corporations.

Unions have called the removal of Rousseff a "coup against the working class," while the former head of the now-defunct Ministery of Women, Racial Equality, and Human Rights, Nilma Lino Gomes, labeled it a multidimensional coup with consequences for women, minorities and the working class.

Rousseff was suspended from office for 180 days on May 12 after a 55 to 22 Senate vote decided she should face a trial for impeachment over allegations that she manipulated government accounts to disguise a budget shortfall.

If the Senate, overseen by the Supreme Court, ultimately decides to impeach Rousseff with a two-thirds majority vote after the trial, Temer will be permanently installed as president until 2018. Some Senators have begun changing their positions since the first vote.

Rousseff's Defence Uses Leaked Evidence to Fight Coup

President Dilma Rousseff's lawyer, José Eduardo Cardozo, presented her defence to the Brazilian Senate at her impeachment trial on June 1. He cited recent leaked recordings of high-level opposition figures scheming to evade corruption investigations as evidence that the impeachment attempt involves the "misuse of powers" as political revenge against Rousseff.

"Several of the statements show that the impeachment attempt occurred not because there is a crime, but because, actually, there was a concern from several segments of the political class in the Operation Car Wash investigation [Lavo Jato]," Rousseff's attorney said in reference to the damning conversations leaked by former state oil executive Sergio Machado.

The recordings have implicated key political rivals, including two members of installed interim President Michel Temer's cabinet and the head of the Senate, in a plot to block corruption investigations targeting bribery in the state oil company Petrobras. Some of the tapes also reveal that the politicians were secretly conspiring with members of the Supreme Court to help ensure Rousseff's ouster and an overhaul of corruption probes.

Cardozo argued that the wiretaps offer a "clear" indication of a "strong coordinated component" in the plan to remove Rousseff from office. "That, to us, reinforces the notion of the misuse of power that in the beginning we attributed, solely and exclusively, to lower house president Eduardo Cunha," he said, singling out the former speaker of the lower house of Congress who spearheaded the impeachment bid against Rousseff.

Cunha was key in painting the impeachment process as a campaign to root out government corruption despite himself facing multi-million dollar bribery and fraud charges. He was suspended from his post as chief of the lower house by the Supreme Court over accusations of intimidating lawmakers and hampering investigations. His suspension came just weeks after the lower house approved going ahead with the impeachment process in a raucous marathon session.

At the end of May, the first tape that was leaked showed that interim Planning Minister Romero Jucá, also head of Temer's PMDB party, had conspired with the Supreme Court and military commanders to guarantee Rousseff's removal as part of a plot to end Operation Car Wash investigations. In a second leak, Senate chief Renan Calheiros planned discussions with the Supreme Court to change key laws directing the fraud probes.

The third and fourth major leaks implicated former dictatorship-era politician and president from 1985 to 1990, José Sarney, and interim President Temer's Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira, in similar conversations.

Cardozo noted that the defence continues its line of argument that no crime was committed.

Some Senators Reconsider Support for Impeachment

Following the exposure of the corruption of members of the Temer interim government through leaked wiretaps, at least three Brazilian Senators have told media outlets that they now regret voting in favor of an impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff. For Rousseff to be permanently ousted, two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of impeachment at the conclusion of her trial. Out of total of 81 seats in the Senate, two-thirds equals 54 seats. Thus, based on the initial 55 to 22 vote to send Rousseff to trial for impeachment, a change of position from only a few Senators would mean the two-thirds threshold would likely not be met and Rousseff would return to power.

Senators Romario de Souza Faria, Acir Gurgacz and Cristovam Buarque have recently revealed that they are reconsidering their support for the impeachment of Rousseff.

Senator Romario, a former soccer star, criticized the dramatic changes being implemented by the coup-imposed government of Michel Temer.

Romario added that lawmakers must take into consideration the content of leaked conversations, which revealed politicians close to Temer conspired with members of the Supreme Court and military commanders to oust Rousseff and protect corrupt officials from facing justice.

Meanwhile Senator Hélio José has made sharply critical comments about the Temer government, suggesting he too is reconsidering support for her impeachment.

(TeleSUR. Photos: Photo: PT, T. Dezan, R. Borges)

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Credibility of Brazil's Interim President Collapses as He Receives Eight-Year Ban on Running for Office

It has been obvious from the start that a core objective of the impeachment of Brazil's elected president, Dilma Rousseff, was to empower the actual thieves in Brasilia and enable them to impede, obstruct, and ultimately kill the ongoing Car Wash investigation (as well as to impose a neoliberal agenda of privatization and radical austerity). A mere 20 days into the seizure of power by the corruption-implicated "interim" President Michel Temer, overwhelming evidence has emerged proving that to be true: Already, two of the interim ministers in Temer's all-white-male cabinet, including his anti-corruption minister, have been forced to resign after the emergence of secret recordings showing them plotting to obstruct that investigation (an investigation in which they, along with one-third of his cabinet, are personally implicated).

But the oozing corruption of Temer's ministers has sometimes served to obscure his own. He, too, is implicated in several corruption investigations. And now, he has been formally convicted of violating election laws and, as punishment, is banned from running for any political office for eight years. Yesterday, a regional election court in São Paulo, where he's from, issued a formal decree finding him guilty and declaring him "ineligible" to run for any political office as a result of now having a "dirty record" in elections. Temer was found guilty of spending his own funds on his campaign in excess of what the law permits.

In the scope of the scheming, corruption, and illegality from this interim government, Temer's law-breaking is not the most severe offense. But it potently symbolizes the anti-democratic scam that Brazilian elites have attempted to perpetrate. In the name of corruption, they have removed the country's democratically elected leader and replaced her with someone who -- though not legally barred from being installed -- is now barred for eight years from running for the office he wants to occupy.

Just weeks ago, Dilma's impeachment appeared inevitable. Brazil's oligarchical media had effectively focused attention solely on her. But then, everyone started looking at who was engineering her impeachment, who would be empowered, what their motives were -- and everything changed. Now her impeachment, though still likely, does not look nearly as inevitable: Last week, O Globo reported that two senators previously in favor were now re-considering in light of "new facts" (the revealed tapes of Temer's ministers), and yesterday, Folha similarly reported that numerous senators are considering changing their minds. Notably, Brazilian media outlets stopped publishing polling data about the public's views of Temer and Dilma's impeachment.

Meanwhile, opposition grows to this attack on democracy both domestically and internationally. Protests aimed at Temer are becoming increasingly large and intense. Two dozen members of the British Parliament denounced the impeachment as a coup. Three dozen members of the European Parliament urged termination of trade negotiations with Brazil's interim government on the ground that it lacks legitimacy. The anti-corruption group Transparency International announced it was terminating dialogue with the new government until it purged corruption from its new ministries. The New York Times this week, reporting on the resignation of the anti-corruption minister only 20 days after he was installed, described it as "another blow to a government that seems to limp from one scandal to the next just weeks after Mr. Temer replaced Dilma Rousseff."

But perhaps nothing quite captures the dangerous farce that Brazilian elites are attempting to perpetrate like the fact that their chosen leader is now literally banned from running for the office into which he has been installed because he has been convicted of breaking the law. This isn't merely the destruction of democracy in the world's fifth most populous country, nor the imposition of an agenda of privatization and attacks on the poor for the benefit of international plutocrats. It's literally the empowerment of dirty, corrupt operators -- outside of democratic norms -- cynically undertaken in the name of combating corruption.

(theintercept.com, June 3, 2016)

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Regional Meetings

Cuban President Demands Principles of
Proclamation of Latin America as a Zone
of Peace Be Upheld

Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers of Cuba, opened the High Level Segment of the 7th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) in Havana's Palace of the Revolution on June 4. In his remarks he stated that since its founding, the Organization of American States (OAS) was, is and will continue to be an instrument of imperialist domination and no reform can change its nature. This is why Cuba will never join the OAS, he affirmed.

There are challenges we must face, President Castro added, saying that Cuba cannot remain indifferent to the unrest which is occurring in Latin America, in the face of attacks by the oligarchy against progressive governments. "This is a threat to peace and stability," he stated.

"The situation demands that the principles outlined in the Proclamation of Latin America as a Zone of Peace, adopted during the 2nd CELAC Summit in Havana, be reviewed and upheld." We must demand that other countries, in their relations with our nations, respect these principles, he added.

The principles of the Proclamation include the commitment to non-interference in the internal affairs of states, promoting ties of friendship, tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and respect for the inalienable right of all states to choose their political and social systems. "These are vital considerations for coexistence," Raúl said.

Raúl also reaffirmed Cuba's solidarity with the sister people of Venezuela, the legitimate government of President Nicolás Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution, initiated by Hugo Chávez, which is currently suffering destabilization attempts by the counterrevolutionary forces.

During his speech Raúl commented that in recent years the ACS has focused its efforts on promoting cooperation in strategic areas, which has seen positive results and must continue to be developed, he noted. The Cuban President also emphasized that "another priority issue is sovereignty over our natural resources which are the guarantee for the future and source of wealth for our peoples."

We defend the principle that irrational modes of production and consumption must be changed, and stress that such a feat requires the political will of industrialized nations, the President stated.

Raúl noted that weather events associated with climate change will cause severe economic and human losses, stating that cooperation in the area of disaster preparedness must be prioritized in the 2016-2018 Action Plan.

President Castro highlighted that Cuba is interested in expanding and strengthening cooperation ties with other Caribbean nations in the sphere of tourism.

Raúl stressed the achievements and regional challenges -- which include the difficulty and high cost of air and maritime connectivity -- outlined in the Declaration of Petion Ville, Haiti, which he noted "compel us to find solutions for all."

(Granma, June 4, 2016. Photos: Cubadebate)

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Seventh Summit of Association of
Caribbean States Promotes Unity

The Seventh Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) is being held in Havana, June 2-4, where the adoption of a Declaration and Plan of Action is scheduled, to contribute to the revitalization process of the organization which began a few years ago.

Cuba assumed the pro tempore presidency of the ACS on January 19, previously held by Haiti. During the handover ceremony in Port-au-Prince, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla expressed Cuba's commitment to continue working for Caribbean integration and to boost efforts to contribute to the revitalization of the body.

"Cuba is an unconditional and enthusiastic ally of the organization's tasks and understands the potential of the Association of Caribbean States for the implementation of strategic programs in the Caribbean," expressed Alfonso Múnera, ACS Secretary General, during an interview last year with Granma.

Comprising 25 Member States and seven Associate Members, the ACS came to be on July 24, 1994, with the signing of the Convention Establishing the Association of Caribbean States, in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, "with the aim of promoting consultation, cooperation and concerted action among all the countries of the Caribbean," according to its website.

With the motto "Promoting the sustainable development of the Greater Caribbean," the ACS has focused on fundamental issues for the region such as trade, transport and tourism, identified since the First ACS Summit held in 1995 in Trinidad and Tobago, where the organization's operational headquarters are based.

One of the major achievements of this regional body has been the establishment of the Sustainable Tourism Zone of the Caribbean (STZC), the first of its kind in the world, which came into effect on November 6, 2013.

The STZC is based on the premise that tourism is one of the most important economic components for the region, thus protecting and guaranteeing this sector in the long term is its primary purpose.

According to the website of the Caribbean bloc, "the STZC is a proactive and innovative initiative by the ACS, incorporating the principles of sustainable development in integrated tourism planning" and "represents a unique approach to co-ordinate regional efforts in the area of tourism development."


The strengthening of the regional co-operation and integration process, with a view to creating an enhanced economic space in the region.

Preserving the environmental integrity of the Caribbean Sea which is regarded as the common patrimony of the peoples of the region.

Promoting the sustainable development of the Greater Caribbean (common geographic space shared by ACS states, countries and territories). The Greater Caribbean Zone of Co-operation consists of joint actions in the priority areas of the ACS, namely, trade, sustainable tourism, transport and disaster risk reduction.


Ministerial Council:

President for 2016: Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla (Cuban Foreign Minister)

Office of the Secretary General:
- Secretary General: Alfonso Múnera Cavadía
- Special Committees
- Council of National Representatives of the Special Fund of the ACS

Associated Members: have the right to intervene in discussions and vote at meetings of the Ministerial Council and Special Committees on matters which affect them directly, falling within their constitutional competence. They are: Aruba; Curacao; France on behalf of (French Guiana, Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin); Guadeloupe; Martinique; Sint Maarten; The Netherlands Antilles on behalf of (Saba and Sint Eustatius)

Special Committees:
- Trade Development and External Economic Relations
- Sustainable Tourism
- Transport
- Disaster Risk Reduction
- Budget and Administration

Observers: may be admitted to the Association on terms and conditions as may be determined by the Ministerial Council, in accordance with Article V of the Convention Establishing the Association of Caribbean States. They are: Argentina; Belarus; Brazil; Canada; Chile; Ecuador; Egypt; Finland; India; Italy; Kingdom of the Netherlands; Korea; Morocco; Peru; Russia; Serbia; Slovenia; Spain; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom.

Social Partners: to contribute effectively to the accomplishment of the goals set forth by the organisation, pertinent decisions of the Ministerial Council, and the activities outlined in the Work Programmes of the Special Committees. They are:

- The Antilles-French Guiana Regional Centre of the National Institute of Agronomical Research (CRAG/INRA)
- Association of Caribbean Universities and Research Institutes (UNICA)
- Association of Caribbean University, Research and Institutional Libraries (ACURIL)
- Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC)
- Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA)
- Caribbean Medical Association (AMECA)
- Caribbean Shipping Association (CSA)
- The Regional Economic and Social Research Coordinator (CRIES)
- The Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLASCO)
- The University of the West Indies (UWI)

Founding Observers: participate in the works of the Ministerial Council and the Special Committees. They are: 

- Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat
- Latin American Economic System (SELA)
- Central American Integration System (SICA)
- Permanent Secretariat of the General Agreement on Central American Economic Integration (SIECA)
- United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
- Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO)

Observer Organizations:
- Central American Economic Integration Bank (CABEI)
- European Union (EU)
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)

(Granma. Photo: R. Pupo)

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Second Parliamentary Meeting for Latin American and Caribbean Integration Held in Argentina

The Second Parliamentary Meeting for Latin American and Caribbean Integration took place in the Delia Parodi Hall at the Argentine Congress' Chamber of Representatives on June 1.

At the meeting, attended by representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela, legislators evaluated the present instability in the region.

In particular, they discussed the institutional coup in Brazil and the hostility against Venezuela, including the threat of an armed intervention by the United States, revealed in U.S. Southern Command documents.

Local deputies analyzed the change in foreign policy carried out by the new government of Argentina, which they pointed out promotes divisiveness, the return to neo-liberalism and the weakening of integrating mechanisms like the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Cuban Deputy Yoerky Sánchez was one of the participants. He explained to Prensa Latina that Cuba categorically supports the people's Bolivarian project in Venezuela and the lawful government of President Nicolás Maduro, which is under siege and facing increasing hostility.

Sánchez also rejected the proliferation of military bases in the region, which goes against the principle agreed to during the 2014 CELAC Summit in Havana to declare the region a zone of peace.

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Puerto Rico

Obama Continues to Ignore Pleas to Free Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera

San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 29, 2016

Two and a half months ago, asked by award-winning playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda about imprisoned Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera -- whose only crime, according to Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is "conspiracy to free his people from the shackles of imperial justice," President Barack Obama told the [Broadway musical] Hamilton creator that he "had [the case] on his desk." Miranda, whose parents hail from Puerto Rico, used his invitation to the White House to bring up the issue of López Rivera's continued incarceration, which is of tremendous importance to Puerto Ricans. Both on the island and in the diaspora, freedom for the 73-year-old political prisoner enjoys overwhelming popular support and has united people across the political spectrum.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 29, 2016

[May 29] marked the 35th anniversary that López was imprisoned. He was convicted in 1981 of "seditious conspiracy" for trying to overthrow the U.S. government by force, as well as minor charges including possession of firearms and transporting stolen vehicles across state lines. López was accused of holding a leadership position in the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña) -- a Puerto Rican nationalist organization, which he did not admit to but did not dispute. The group claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in Chicago and New York during the 1970s and 1980s, though as the Chicago Tribune noted the bombings were carried out "to damage property rather than persons" and the FALN "were out to call attention to their cause rather than to shed blood."

López was never personally tied to any bombing or any other act of violence that resulted in the death or injury of any person. Undoubtedly, if the government possessed any evidence of his participation in, or organization of, a violent act they would have charged him with it in court. But they merely charged him with conspiracy to commit sedition, the same political charge used by the apartheid South African government to convict Nelson Mandela two decades earlier. López has now served seven more years in prison than Mandela did before being freed and becoming South Africa's first post-apartheid President.

Thousands of people gathered [May 29] in San Juan to mark the 35th anniversary of López's imprisonment and demand his release. Marchers chanted "Obama, listen to me! We want Oscar free" and "We don't want this board, we want to be free," according to Fox News Latino.

The latter slogan references the stipulation in the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESAS) that would create a financial control board made up overwhelmingly of members from outside the island and not appointed by representatives elected by Puerto Ricans. The board would be vested with power over all fiscal decisions, effectively overriding Puerto Rico's own elected representatives. The bill was passed by a House committee on [May 25] and is expected to draw a vote in the full chamber next month. It has the support of leadership in both the Republican and Democratic parties in Congress as well as the Obama administration.

But Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro García Padilla and much of the Puerto Rican public are opposed to what they see as an overt imposition of colonialism by allowing unelected technocrats -- not representative of or accountable to the Puerto Rican people -- to hold veto power over spending decisions, and even decrease the minimum wage.

López himself opposes the financial control board, telling El Nuevo Día in a phone interview (prison officials denied the newspaper's request for an in-person interview): "This is a problem created by Washington. The problem is in Washington and Wall Street. The people of Puerto Rico should not accept it. No Puerto Rican should doubt that we can solve our own problems... We need for them to respect our right to self-determination and not depend on the crumbs that Washington gives us."

Obama's answer to Miranda about whether he would grant López a pardon or commutation suggests a sense of urgency. If the matter is indeed "on his desk," he presumably intends to take swift action on it. However, this is clearly not the case. Both Obama's record as having issued fewer pardons than almost any President in history, and his years of refusing to attend to López's case in particular, attest to Obama's indifference to the unjust detention of prisoners by the government he leads.

Since being elected seven years ago, Obama has been directly presented with appeals to free López Rivera from three fellow Nobel Peace Laureates, Puerto Rico's non-voting member of Congress, Puerto Rico's current governor and foreign presidents. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro even publicly offered to release opposition leader Leopoldo López if Obama released López Rivera. Yet the Obama administration has maintained its silence.

Last week, three Puerto Rican American members of Congress -- Luis Gutiérrez, Nydia Velázquez and José Serrano, along with Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi -- revealed that they had sent a letter to Obama in February calling on him to grant clemency to the man who has now spent nearly half his life behind bars without ever being charged with an act of violence.

After months without receiving a response, the legislators decided to go public to try to put pressure on Obama to recognize the will of virtually all of Puerto Rico and issue a pardon.

"You know how much this means to us, because we have personally expressed it to you. To our understanding, there is no legimitate criminological objective in continuing the imprisonment of this 73-year-old Puerto Rican, when his country and others that value human rights clamor for his liberation," they revealed that they wrote to the President.

Two and a half years ago, I argued that Obama's refusal to free López was emblematic of the propensity of the U.S. government to ignore the political demands of the Puerto Rican people and solely use the colonial relationship to pursue the perceived economic and strategic interests of the ruling class:

Without any representation in Congress or a vote in Presidential elections, Puerto Ricans have their political rights subjugated to the U.S. government. Even on an issue as popular among Puerto Ricans as the release of Oscar López, they have no recourse to participate in the political process at the federal level.

There is no indication that Obama intends to even respond to López's clemency plea, much less grant it. In his speech at Nelson Mandela's funeral, Obama said that "around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs." The overwhelming opinion among Puerto Ricans is that this description applies precisely to López.

The disregard that Obama has shown for recognizing the will of Puerto Ricans to free Oscar López demonstrates the uphill challenges Puerto Ricans face to shed their second-class status and obtain equal rights. If the President refuses even to grant a simple pardon, what chance do Puerto Ricans have of the U.S. government acting on the 2012 referendum and allowing them to achieve self-determination?

The question of why Puerto Ricans would believe that anyone in the U.S. government respects their opinions or their political desires should be more urgent than ever. We are in the middle of another campaign season, which for many Americans is seen as an opportunity for them to participate in the political process by voting in elections. However, for Puerto Ricans it is another reminder that while they are American citizens, they are denied the right given to Americans in the states to select Congressional representatives and take part in the Presidential election.

The policies that will be decided after the election at the federal level will apply to Puerto Ricans, though they will have had no role in choosing those policies and no way to voice their dissatisfaction at policies they oppose by voting out those who supported them.

The only way Puerto Rico can recover from its economic and debt crisis, as López Rivera said in his interview with El Nuevo Día, would be to achieve sovereignty and self-determination. This would grant them the ability to prioritize local business and the needs of the population, and free them from being merely a captive market for U.S. products and a source of cheap labor for U.S. corporations.

But any promise that the 2012 referendum, in which a 54 per cent majority rejected the current colonial status, had of achieving this has disappeared. The U.S. Congress, which must approve any change in Puerto Rico's political status, has not given any indication it will even consider doing anything to end the "Commonwealth" colonial status that Puerto Ricans voted against.

On the contrary, Puerto Ricans are being presented with the prospect of a financial control board that is a blatant affront to the idea that people should rule themselves, and a reminder of their powerlessness as colonial subjects.

The fact that Oscar López Rivera still sits unjustly in a prison cell is proof that the voices of Puerto Ricans simply do not matter to first-class American citizens on the mainland who hold power.

Chicago, May 29, 2016

(Just the Facts blog, May 30, 2016. Photos: TeleSUR, National Boricua Human Rights Network,
Puerto Rico Human Rights Committee)

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32nd Anniversary of Operation Blue Star

Justice Is Not Yet Served

Original Akal Takht, Darshani Deori and surrounding area prior to Operation Blue Star.

Thirty-two years ago, from June 3-8, 1984, the Indian government of Indira Gandhi carried out the devastating assault and massacre of innocent Sikhs at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, Punjab, known as Operation Blue Star.

Remnants of the Akal Takht consumed by fire.  Large bullet holes are visible on the right hand side of the building.

The stated aim of Operation Blue Star was to "flush out" so-called "Religious Terrorists" led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Operation Blue Star was carried out in the context of the concerted action of the Indian and Canadian states to criminalize the political demands of Sikhs for statehood for Punjab -- the creation of Khalistan. They labelled the proponents of this demand "Sikh fundamentalists." By associating Sikhism with extremism they managed to criminalize all Punjabis as Sikhs, even those who were not religious in any way. This served as the model for the subsequent targeting of all people of the Muslim faith and the demand that people prove their loyalty to the state by demonstrating that they are moderates. Meanwhile, as in the case of the Sikhs, all Muslims have become "fair game."

The Golden Temple is the holiest site of Sikhs. By modern standards the state is not permitted to interfere with a person's conscience and the practice of their beliefs within the sanctuary of their own church. The Indian army operation against the Golden Temple violated the sanctity of a place of worship and established the precedent that holy places would henceforth no longer be considered a safe haven from persecution or a refuge from the action of the state.

The military action, which included tanks, helicopters, armoured vehicles, artillery and chemical weapons, was timed to take place on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, which was 410 years ago this year.[1] Over 70,000 troops were ordered to capture less than 50 men. The military assault occurred under cover of a total media blackout -- thousands of innocent civilians were killed over five days.

Bodies of Sikhs killed in the assault lie on the once beautiful covered marble parkarma.

The storming of the centre of Sikh spiritual and temporal authority by the Indian Army under the orders of Indira Gandhi led immediately to a mutiny in Sikh units of the Army and four months later, on October 31, to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Ruthless anti-Sikh pogroms were unleashed by the Indian state to wreak revenge. Thousands of innocent Sikhs were beaten and burned alive during the anti-Sikh pogroms on November 1, 2 and 3. The state-organized anti-Sikh mobs massacred over 8,000 innocent Sikhs, 3,000 in Delhi alone.

The police stood by and watched and, in some cases, actively participated in the attacks. It is estimated that subsequent government operations Woodrose, Blackthunder, Night Dominance, Rakshak I and II, and Final Assault led to the deaths of 25,000 to 80,000 Sikhs.

The government officials who are known to have instigated, authorized and organized the violence subsequently enjoyed promotion, including to cabinet positions and decades of impunity despite repeated demands for justice.


1. Guru Arjan Dev is said to have been one of the most enlightened men of his times. He was a scholar, poet, visionary, administrator, teacher and architect. He standardized the Gurmukhi script, collected the works of saints, sufis and faqirs from across India that he then edited in the form of Adi Granth, which became the holy book of the Sikhs. He also founded new cities and discovered new methods of irrigation and agriculture.

He was very popular amongst people of all religions. While he had a great following among the people, some of the members of the ruling elite were envious of his popularity and growing strength. Chandu Shah, a banker from Lahore, wanted to marry his daughter to the son of Guru Arjan Dev but the Guru refused the alliance. This offended the banker and he schemed with others at the Moghul Emperor's court against the Guru.

Emperor Jehangir is thought to have held a grudge against the Guru as the latter had supported his brother Khusro. He accused Arjan Dev of being an infidel and of insulting Islam. The Guru was fined two lakh rupees and, if he did not pay it, he was to be tortured and killed. The governor of Lahore, egged on by Chandu Shah, took it upon himself to torture the Guru. Guru Arjan Dev forbade his followers to collect the blood money to save his life as he thought he was only exercising his right to conscience. The great Sufi Saint of Lahore, Mian Mir, who had laid the foundation of the Golden Temple, also tried to intercede on behalf of the Guru.

The Guru was made to sit on a red hot iron girdle and hot oil was poured on him. Eye witnesses point out that the Guru did not even utter a sigh. After days of torture like this, he was killed.

The martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev was a turning point in the history of Punjab. He instructed his son Hargobind to bear arms to fight the tyranny of the ruling elites. Some scholars claim that this is when the martial organizing of Sikhs began in Punjab.

(J. Singh)

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