October 15, 2016 - No. 40

Electoral Reforms in the Era of the Cartel Party System

How the Cartel Parties
Micro-Target Electors

Anna Di Carlo addresses MLPC meeting on electoral reform, Ottawa, October 1, 2016.

Liberal Plan to Expand Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Parliamentary Report Continues Anti-Worker Agenda
- Peggy Askin -
Canadians Speak Out Against Worker Trafficking and Abuse

Changes to Canada Pension Plan
Security in Retirement Is a Human Right!
- K.C. Adams -

Confronting Massive Damage by Hurricane Matthew
•  Cuban Government and People Stand with Hurricane Victims
Haiti Faces Serious Challenges with
Support of Cuba and Venezuela

El Salvador
Victory Against Canadian Mining Giant at World Bank Tribunal

Puerto Rico
Vigorous Rejection of U.S.-Imposed Control Board
Exploitation by Global Biotech Monopolies

U.S. President Issues Directive Consolidating
Changes to Cuba Policy

U.S. Has Fined 49 Companies for Violating Blockade against Cuba
Annual Vigil Honours Victims of Terrorism 

Electoral Reforms in the Era of the Cartel Party System

How the Cartel Parties Micro-Target Electors



Today, in the era of the cartel party system, the parties which vie to come to power for self-serving purposes use sophisticated databases and micro-targeting techniques to carry out electoral coups. This is a major concern at this time, all the more so because Canadians are told that reforms to the Canada Elections Act past and future are to "enhance democracy" when, in fact, they are enhancing the disempowerment of Canadians by these cartel political parties.

The so-called major political parties own databases which contain detailed information on Canadian electors. They use this information to micro-target segments of electors for the purpose of soliciting funds and encouraging them to vote in particular ways or discouraging them from voting at all. It has nothing to do with being political, politicizing the electorate or advocating a definite aim and vision for society.

These political parties have enacted reforms to electoral laws to help them feed their databases and in the most self-serving manner exempt themselves from privacy legislation. Enacting these and other reforms in the name of enhancing democracy is the biggest fraud of all since the laws actually ensure the citizenry is powerless to control the outcome of an election.

Youth for Democratic Renewal, the youth organization of the  Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC), asked Anna Di Carlo, National Leader of the MLPC to explain what this is all about.


Anna Di Carlo: Elections Canada is an independent institution that runs all federal elections and reports to the House of Commons. However, reforms to the Canada Elections Act passed by the Liberals and Conservatives now force it to play a role beyond administering what are called "free and fair elections." Assisting the political parties that form the cartel party system to micro-target electors is one of these roles.

For instance, as it stands today, all registered electors on the official List of Electors put together by Elections Canada have an identifying number alongside their name and address. An amendment made concurrently with the introduction of identification numbers on the electors list requires Elections Canada to provide candidates with lists at the polls, updated throughout the election, to show who has voted. These are called "bingo cards" and the logic presented was that it enhanced democracy. The cartel political parties argued that if, on election day, they have up-to-the-minute information on who has voted, they can get those who have not voted out to vote.

It does not take much imagination to figure out that just as voting can be facilitated, it can also be blocked by targeting voters with disinformation. When the law was passed introducing unique ID elector numbers, it did not specifically say the number should be permanent but it has nevertheless been assigned and maintained permanently so that electors can be tracked from election to election.

To be clear, if the lists did not have permanent ID numbers and "bingo cards" were provided only on election day, the pretext of "getting out the vote" could be argued. The unique permanent ID numbers have shown themselves to be instrumental in the development of political party databases. Elections Canada never needed special unique numbers because it has other personal data such as drivers licence numbers and birth dates to update the National Register of Voters. To assign each voter a permanent ID number has no purpose other than facilitating the collection of personal information on electors by political parties, including whether or not they voted. It smashes the conception of a secret ballot because how people vote is easy to surmise or extrapolate given the small number of Canadians allotted to each poll. The parties then add this to other information obtained through marketing sources, Facebook etc., which includes things such as civil status, personal and family income levels, employment history, spending patterns, political, religious and other views, volunteering activity, personal choices, habits, likes and dislikes.

In this way, the "independent" elections body and public funds facilitate the sophisticated methods of the parties which belong to the cartel to micro-target voters and manipulate results. On top of this, the political cartel has collectively agreed upon an interpretation of "election expenses" that does not include the millions of dollars required to develop and maintain their databases, thereby thwarting electoral expense limits.

This use of the databases by the cartel parties is going from bad to worse with every set of reforms enacted. For instance, the Conservatives' Fair Elections Act amended the electoral law so that bingo sheets must be provided to candidates not only on polling day, but after polling day as well. None of the other parties objected. Unless the bingo cards are picked up within a few days of the election, the Returning Officers, by law, are required to place the bingo cards, along with ballots and registration forms, etc. in sealed boxes. These are retained for a prescribed period of time before they can be destroyed, and in the interim can only be opened by a judicial order in the case of a contested election. If a candidate shows up a week after the election demanding all the bingo cards, which part of the law is to be upheld: the candidate's privilege of accessing such documents, or the requirement that election documents be treated as documents that can compromise the secrecy of the vote and should be kept private? The solution currently being proposed is to remove "bingo cards" from the list of documents that are to be sealed, so that they can be accessed at any time, even years later, by candidates and their parties.

At the heart of the problem is the denial of the right of Canadians to an informed vote and the means which are being used to influence the vote which have nothing to do with giving rise to results which legitimize government. And within that, the cartel political parties violate all kinds of principles Canadians have come to depend on, including by exempting themselves from having to uphold privacy principles. While Elections Canada is subject to the federal Privacy Act governing how they can use the information they collect, once it is handed over to the parties as is required, the information is not subject to any control whatsoever. Elections Canada has no way of controlling the information on the Electors List once it is transformed into a database such as Liberalist.

Political parties are also exempt from the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which governs private organizations and the use of the data they collect.[1] Hence, what Canadians saw during the robocalling scandal, where it was suspected that the likely source of the information used to suppress the vote was the Conservatives' database. But this is only what has been revealed so far. Whatever use is made of the data is known only to those within the cartel parties whose job it is to ensure victory for their party. Meanwhile Canadians have no legal ability to have themselves and their private information removed from these databases or to prevent Elections Canada from handing it over to the parties because it is required to do so under the Canada Elections Act.

Youth for Democratic Renewal: Can you tell us more about the party databases?

ADC: The Conservative Party has the Constituent Information Management System (CIMS), the Liberals have Liberalist that is based on the U.S. Democrats' Voter Activation Network (VAN), while the NDP have Populus, another system which originates in the U.S. also used to stage electoral coups in various countries.

As mentioned before, these databases contain all kinds of private information on Canadians gleaned from various sources, including their web surfing activity, buying habits and much more, which is combined with whether they have voted or not based on the bingo cards and poll-by-poll voting results provided by Elections Canada. The bingo cards reveal whether an elector voted, while the poll-by-poll results show the breakdown of votes for each candidate in a particular polling station. This information is combined and analyzed over time and then used to "segment" or divide the entire electorate into categories to determine who should be targeted and how, in order to get them to vote for a particular party, or not vote for a rival party. It is deemed to be most effective in tight races.

For example, in the run-up to the 2011 federal election, the Conservatives targeted 45 ridings using their database and micro-targeting to reach definite segments of electors, including those they defined as "very ethnic" Canadians. These ridings included 18 in the Greater Toronto Area that were snatched from the Liberals, enabling Harper to form a majority government.

Speaking at the June 2011 Conservative Party Policy Convention, Senator Irving Gerstein -- who was the Official Agent of the Conservative Fund Canada in the 2006 and 2008 elections -- bragged to delegates about the Party database as the key to the party's success in the 2011 election.

Gerstein stated: "The key to the success of our fundraising program is our database and our ability to prospect new donors, to remain at the cutting edge of political fund-raising techniques in North America and to effectively use the database for both fund-raising and political purposes... it reaches out to Canadians, identifies those who share our values and mobilizes them. We continue to invest heavily in this program, particularly in the key battleground ridings across the country."

Gerstein pointed out that the database-driven voter identification and GOTV (Get Out the Vote) programs accounted for the margin of victory in the case of some 40 Conservative MPs. "Yes, you heard me. There are roughly 40 Conservative members in the House of Commons who would not be there were it not for our party's extremely effective use of its database."

YDR: What about the voter ID, the "unique identifier"? How did this become a tool in the hands of the cartel parties?

ADC: The introduction of a national voters list and the subsequent amendment of the Canada Elections Act to assign each person on it a unique voter ID number was one of the measures taken to facilitate the development of these databases. It is important to note that we are not talking about databases of party supporters, but databases of all electors and the use of various means to track and build information on them. Prior to this, registered parties received the lists without permanent ID numbers for electors. The cartel parties complained that, over time, their internal lists of electors become less accurate as electors moved, were added or their names were changed. The use of a stable permanent ID eliminated this problem.

The bingo cards have checkboxes beside a series of numbers that relate to the order in which electors appear on the pages of the Electors List. As people vote, the poll workers check their numbers off and hand them over to the party representatives who come to pick them up. This information is then correlated to the elector's ID number and plugged into the respective parties' databases and software referred to as "get-out-the-vote software." The significance here is that the political parties themselves used to have to send out volunteers to keep track of who had turned up to vote. Their scrutineers would record the information and hand it over to campaign workers who would take the information and use it. Given the demise of party membership and volunteer campaigners, this became a real burden on the parties. They have now been relieved of this as Elections Canada workers have been handed the task. No longer do the parties have to worry about collecting the data, save having a few people who drive to the polls to pick up the bingo cards and then transmit that information, probably electronically, to their call centres.

As mentioned, the Conservatives went even further with their Fair Elections Act, requiring Elections Canada to allow candidates to access all the bingo cards after election day. This revealed clearly that while they claimed the bingo cards were to be used to boost voter turnout through Get Out the Vote efforts, it was in fact part of a scheme to get more information on how people voted. However, due to the parties' lack of members and volunteers, even picking up the bingo cards during election day has become a problem. Only the Liberals and Conservatives have managed to do this and only for roughly half of all ridings. In essence, on election day itself, it is only in tight ridings where the information on who has voted becomes critical. However, for overall profiling purposes and to prepare for the next election by constantly enhancing the profiles of electors, the parties want to know who votes and who doesn't and want to be able to comprehensively add this information to their databases.

To solve the problem of a lack of members and volunteers to pick up bingo cards, there is now a push by the cartel parties to have Elections Canada post these bingo cards digitally -- to a party-exclusive web portal -- so that the political parties can have "real-time" information as to who has voted without having to pick up the bingo cards themselves. None of this use of modern methods of communication has anything to do with empowering Canadians.

The Liberals now appear to want to take this arrangement even further, preparing conditions for people's political affiliation to be added to the List of Electors along with their unique ID. The author of a 2011 document produced by the Liberal Party, then-party president Alfred Apps, framed the problem facing the party in terms of the Conservative Party's relative advances in building their CIMS to gain electoral advantage. Apps suggested that the extra-parliamentary wing of the party (i.e. the Liberals' social base) "press for another generation of balanced democratic process reforms today, only one of the ultimate side-effects of which would be to neutralize the unfair political advantage that [the Conservative Party] has acquired over all other parties."

He proposed that the Liberals should fight for the maintenance of a "registered voting list" for each riding that would be available to all political parties, "containing the registered party preference of every voter entitled to cast a ballot."

Apps wrote: "This would require an additional data element in the current permanent voters' list. Each voter would be able to either a) disclose a registered party affiliation b) claim an 'independent' voting status or c) declare an 'exempt' voting status." He also proposed that the registration would be permanent, but voters could be "permitted" to change at any time. Elections Canada would be required to conduct leadership selection contests for any party that "grants universal suffrage to its registered voters" and the cost would be borne by Elections Canada -- i.e., the public purse.

The document suggested that the Liberals should behave as though this electoral reform was already in place, something that can be seen now with the amendments to the Liberal Party Constitution which eliminates the category of "members" and replaces it with the category "Registered Liberals." Apps concluded: "Some Liberals may balk at the notion of the overt partisanship implied by a Registered Voters List. But the [Conservative Party] has already converted politics into a tougher and more partisan landscape and it is certainly not turning back."

By behaving as though the electoral law was already changed, the Liberals would "very quickly leap-frog its opponents and, in one massive outreach and voter engagement exercise -- a Voter Registration conducted by Electoral District Associations across Canada -- address most of the technological, organizational and funding challenges which have plagued the Party for almost a decade," the 2011 Report concluded.[2]

YDR: These aspects of the electoral law, permanent voter IDs and the use of databases of electors are not widely-known. Have there been any efforts to seek the views of Canadians?

ADC: Elections Canada's own research following the 2011 federal election and Robocalling scandal into the views of Canadians on communication of parties with electors and the use of their private information by parties was very clear on where Canadians stand. It stated: "More than 75 per cent of the electors surveyed felt that they should have the right to ‘opt out' of communications from political entities. As well, 69 per cent of electors disagreed with the view that it is important for political parties to be able to collect personal information on electors. When asked what is more important, the right of political entities to communicate with electors or the right of electors to protect their privacy, two-thirds expressed the view that preserving their privacy is of greater importance."

YDR: What is the position of the MLPC on these reforms?

ADC: The MLPC has repeatedly raised the issue that individual identifier numbers not be handed over to political parties or if they are, they should not be permanent, they should be changed with every election. This would contribute to upholding electors' privacy by making it more difficult for the list to be used as the foundation for a regularly maintained permanent database of information about the electorate and correlating poll results with how individuals vote. There are standards to gauge undue influence in an election and how these data bases are misused for this purpose can be readily ascertained.

At this time, Elections Canada can still choose not to make the voter identifier permanent and change it every election so that it is not useful to the databases of the cartel parties. Since the electors list is handed out to registered political parties and Members of Parliament once a year, even between elections, it would be advisable to give each elector a new unique number every time the list is updated and handed out.

The MLPC also supports any measure which would prevent Canadians' private information on whether they have voted or not from being used by political parties without their consent. An elector's explicit consent should be required on whether they want this handed over, either on polling day or afterwards.


1. The Privacy Act deals with an individual's right to access and correct personal information the Government of Canada holds about them, and with the Government's collection, use and disclosure of personal information -- whether about federal employees or other individuals in the course of providing services (e.g., old age pensions or employment insurance). The Act applies only to federal government institutions listed in the Privacy Act Schedule of Institutions. The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer and as a result Elections Canada are on that list. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees compliance with the Privacy Act.

The Privacy Act does not apply to political parties and political representatives as they are not listed in the Schedule of Institutions despite the fact that they receive lists of Canadians' private information from Elections Canada.  As a result, when Elections Canada hands over lists of electors, bingo cards indicating who has and has not voted on voting day, and poll-by-poll results after an election, these are no longer subject to the Privacy Act.

Most private entities receiving Canadians' personal information come under the jurisdiction of PIPEDA. However PIPEDA grants an exemption for political parties.

PIPEDA sets out the ground rules for how private-sector organizations collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities across Canada. It also applies to personal information of employees of federally-regulated works, undertakings, or businesses (organizations that are federally-regulated, such as banks, airlines, and telecommunications companies). It is said to be based on the ten fair information principles which the Chief Electoral Officer wants applied to political parties.

PIPEDA does not apply to organizations that are not engaged in commercial activity. As such, it does not generally apply to not-for-profit and charity groups, associations or political parties, for example -- unless the organization is conducting a commercial activity (fundraising is not considered a commercial activity). The members of the Canadian cartel party system have increasingly become appendages of the state, highly dependent on public funding. Nevertheless, they claim that they are neither private institutions nor public institutions -- they have created their own limbo where they can stand above the law.

2. "Significance of Liberal Party's Transformation of 'Members' and 'Supporters' into 'Registered Liberals,'" Anna Di Carlo, TML Weekly, July 9, 2016 - No. 28.

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Liberal Plan to Expand Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Parliamentary Report Continues Anti-Worker Agenda

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) tabled its report on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) in Parliament on September 19. In preparation for the release of the report, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum said, "What we are seeking to find is a middle ground where there are legitimate needs for temporary foreign workers in certain industries."

The 74-page report makes 21 recommendations and reads like an echo chamber of the industry groups which dominated the brief committee hearings. The "middle ground" according to the Trudeau government is to be found by reversing many of the "excesses" of the Harper Conservatives. When it became too blatant that the program had nothing to do with "labour shortages," the Harper Conservatives had to undertake an "overhaul" of the TFWP to quell the public outcry. However, the main outcome of this "reorganization" was a new category of temporary foreign workers brought in under International Mobility Programs which have even fewer restrictions than the TFWP and do not require companies to make any effort to hire Canadian citizens or residents or pay migrant workers the prevailing wage rate. The report is silent on these changes. It sheds crocodile tears about the horrific abuses of migrant workers exposed by the migrant workers who did manage to appear. But the main demand of migrant workers and their organizations for permanent residency upon arrival was brushed off with vague statements about considering a "path to permanent residency."

Among the committee's recommendations are the following: 

- withdraw the requirement that an employer must first attempt to hire a Canadian citizen or resident for some (unspecified) sections of the program;
- speed up the approval process and establish a "trusted" employer category to further fast track approvals;
- consider including seafood processing in the category of primary agriculture;
- raise the cap on the proportion of temporary foreign workers who can be hired at a jobsite from the current 10 per cent to a minimum 20 per cent with a further review of sector and geographic considerations;
- extend work permits from one to two years for caregivers;
- end the "four in-four out" rule;
- tie work permits to a sector and location rather than one employer;
- introduce multiple-entry work visas for the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

The recommendations which supposedly benefit the workers are geared towards making it easier for employers to recruit temporary foreign workers, extend the TFWP and maintain the temporary status of migrant workers. Recruiters will be able to continue their modern-day slave trading, employers their exploitation of migrant workers' vulnerable position, while families will be separated and workers denied citizenship rights.

Nothing will change for seasonal agricultural workers who spend up to 30 years producing food in Canada, enduring brutal conditions and facing removal from Canada if they are injured or become sick, or are simply removed as a reprisal for speaking out about their working conditions and organizing their peers to defend their rights. As well, current regulations force many migrant workers to return to their home countries after four years with a four-year hiatus before they can return to Canada, to ensure that organizing work is disrupted. The proposed multiple-entry work visas will, however, make it easier for employers to bring workers back year after year. As for "trusted" employers, there is no explanation of what makes a "trusted" employer whose requests would be fast-tracked. It certainly seems that it has nothing to do with how workers are treated. In November 2015 the government reported that it had received more than 1,000 responses on a tip line set up in April 2014 by the Harper government. The Liberals say they have "massively" increased the number of inspections, but have been silent about what happened to these complaints. Only two employers have been sanctioned for violating the law since the Liberals came to power.

Workers make up one undivided class whose rights as workers and as human beings must not be denied. The security of all workers lies in the fight for the rights of all. Now is the time to take further actions to demand that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program be abolished along with all such programs that create strata of vulnerable workers deprived of rights, assaulting the dignity of the working class and violating the rights of all. Such programs have no place in a modern Canada and should be abolished with redress, status and rights for all workers.

The committee's report dutifully represents the outlook of the rich that workers are just a cost to be lowered wherever possible so as to maximize profits. The committee's report serves the aim of driving down the overall standard of living and concentrating social wealth in the hands of a few.

The working class rejects this outlook and fights for the dignity of labour and the rights of all, and for the right of the working class to determine the direction of the economy, to participate in politics to provide solutions to problems facing the class and the nation, including such important matters as immigration which should not be privatized or put in the service of the monopolies and other private interests.

(Photos: TML, J4MW.)

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Canadians Speak Out Against Worker
Trafficking and Abuse

Rally on Parliament Hill culminates Harvesting Freedom Caravan, October 6, 2016.

Migrant workers and their organizations, and labour federations have rejected the report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The report was adopted by the Committee on June 15 and presented to the House of Commons on September 19. They point out that the Liberal government is planning to expand the program in the service of the monopolies and are opposing the government's divide and rule strategy.

The month-long Harvesting Freedom Caravan organized by Justice for Migrant Workers culminated in an October 6 rally in Ottawa to demand that the government act to provide permanent status to migrant farmworkers. The caravan was organized to mark 50 years of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). Workers who come to Canada under the SAWP may return to work in Canada for 25 or even 30 years, but their status remains temporary. They are permitted to remain in Canada for no more than eight months between January 1 and December 15 each year.

Without permanent immigration status, the committee's recommendations are futile, Justice for Migrant Workers organizers point out. They add that the committee's vague talk about "pathways to permanent immigration status" has nothing to do with upholding rights. "The Live-In Caregivers Program, for example, has had pathway to residency for years. [The workers have] called it a pathway to exploitation: it's waving a carrot in front of someone who knows that if they put up with bad working conditions for several years, eventually they can get permanent residency," organizer Tzazna Miranda said.

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) said the report was unacceptable. CLC President Hassan Yussuff said, "Overall, HUMA released a pro-business, pro-employer report with few positive concrete recommendations for Canadian and migrant workers.... This report recommends expanding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and making it more accessible to employers, while increasing the existing two-tiered labour market. Migrant workers are being treated as a disposable workforce, and that's unacceptable."

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) also condemned the report. "When it comes to the exploitation of guest workers and the use of guest workers to drive down wages and displace Canadian workers, the Liberals' approach might actually be worse than the Conservative approach," AFL President Gil McGowan said. "The report confirms that the Liberals have committed themselves to maintaining, and indeed growing, a two-tier labour market," he added.

Migrante Canada issued a statement that concludes the report is blatantly anti-worker: "Despite decades of migrant workers' campaigns which have kept Canadian society and all its past governments aware and sufficiently educated about the slave-like conditions and the suffering of migrant workers, the government has once again chosen to look completely the opposite way. The HUMA parliamentary committee report on TFWP has chosen to 'reform' the migrant workers' program for the continued profit and well-being of employers, companies and global capital. Essentially, it has chosen to maintain an exploitative and oppressive immigration and labour system that has no concern at all for the welfare and well-being of migrant workers....

"Most of all, there will be continued restrictions and difficulties on the 'pathway' to permanent residency. The caps for almost all the streams remain, and the monitoring system lacks so much to be called functional."

The committee also failed to make recommendations to stop the modern day slave trade of human traffickers, Migrante says. "The report shows government really has no concern about the violation of the worker's human rights and labour rights, from recruitment to LMIA [labour market impact assessment] stage and all the long way to the application for permanent residency stage. No solid answers about these violations -- even about the first big problem for migrant workers, much acknowledged in the report, which is abuses of recruitment agencies. There are only directives for Employment and Social Development Canada to review, together with some unnamed 'stakeholders' to set up an 'accreditation system' for recruiters and, as if it were an easy sure-fire thing to do, a moving away from a 'complaint-driven model of program enforcement', to supposedly cover conflict resolution between employer and worker."

Harvesting Freedom Caravan pickets Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto, September 25, 2016.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) Brant/Hamilton/Halton Local called on the federal government to provide full immigration status on arrival for migrant workers now. The NFU letter highlighted the denial of rights migrant workers face, including extortion by private recruiters, "medical deportation" of workers who become sick or are injured, and the fact that workers are tied to their employers, "creating a stark power differential that makes it hard to leave abusive workplaces."

"As farmers, we believe everyone engaged in the vital work of growing food to nourish other humans should have fair access to conditions allowing them and their families to thrive. All food producers deserve dignity and respect," the NFU Local said.

Harvesting Freedom Caravan in Ottawa (left) and Cobourg.

(Photos: TML, J4MW, C.J. Chanco.)

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Changes to Canada Pension Plan

Security in Retirement Is a Human Right!

On October 6, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau tabled legislation to implement changes to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) with the introduction of Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act and the Income Tax Act. This followed an October 4 announcement by Prime Minister Trudeau that British Columbia had agreed to accept the government's changes to the pension plan, meaning that all nine provinces had agreed, while Quebec has its own national pension system.

Trudeau stated, "This is yet another example of how much we can accomplish for our citizens when there is close collaboration between provinces, territories and the federal government on common goals." The changes will increase the required contributions for workers and employers beginning in 2019 and beginning the same year "increase the maximum level of pensionable earnings by 14 per cent as of 2025." It is not clear what this will amount to when compared to inflation and other factors.

At a time when so many retirees are struggling with poverty and insecurity, these reforms are presented as a solution despite the fact that they will not assist the most vulnerable today. The ruling elite present security in retirement not as a human right but a matter of compelling individuals to "save more" or "save better." The Liberals present their plan to increase minimum contributions to the CPP as the solution while the Conservatives had their own schemes to get people to save more via tax free savings accounts and income splitting. The changes to the CPP also come at a time when pension funds are being coveted as the next big source for investment capital, particularly in infrastructure.


Pensions are a part of the reproduced-value that workers reproduce at work to reproduce both themselves as individual workers and the entire working class.

Pensions and post-employment benefits are social reproduced-value in the sense the amounts they contain are reproduced socially in the present by the working class for the entire class to ensure its well-being and security during retirement and its constant reproduction as the productive class from generation to generation.

Wages and benefits are individual reproduced-value. Unlike social reproduced-value, individual reproduced-value includes specific individual claims on the value workers produce in the present to reproduce through work-time themselves as active workers and their immediate family.

Each working generation of workers reproduces the next generation and sustains those who no longer work for whatever reason. A portion of the value workers reproduce in the present sustains the generation that has already retired commonly called pensions.

In exchange for its capacity to work with the social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state, the working class both individually and socially claims the reproduced-value it reproduces as the productive social class.

Within a dialectic with those who own  the means of production and control the socialized productive forces and state, workers exchange their capacity to work for a claim on the reproduced-value they reproduce during work-time. The worker makes the claim individually, although sometimes negotiated collectively at the place of work, and also socially, as a member of the working class, through a public authority and its public services and social programs, including pensions.

Workers exchange their capacity to work for reproduced-value in the present as individuals, although often through collective class struggle to obtain a certain arrangement within the social relation with the other social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state. The exchange of workers' capacity to work with the same social force represented by the state has a social component. The exchange must be considered over a lifetime and socially without individual considerations of unemployment, illness, injury, ability, quality etc.

For the working class to agree to exchange its capacity to work for reproduced-value, the social force buying the capacity to work must agree to a working class claim on social reproduced-value from birth to passing away by virtue of all workers being a member of the working class, the actual producers of all value. To guarantee workers are available to work, the social force buying the capacity to work must agree both to the individual claim of workers and their social claim on the reproduced-value within the new value they produce.

From the new value they produce, workers claim individual reproduced-value in wages and benefits, and social reproduced-value as public services and social programs including importantly pensions in retirement or payments when injured, sick or unemployed for whatever reason.

The social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state buys workers' capacity to work. In the present social conditions, no new value can be produced without the social force in control buying workers' capacity to work and putting that capacity to work into action on the socialized productive forces.

Liberal Line of Pensions as a Policy Objective

The social force in control often refers to pensions as deferred wages or worse as a policy objective. The line of deferred wages is meant to extract concessions from the working class on its wages and benefits, the individual reproduced-value, and thus accept a lower standard of living in the present in hopes of receiving a pension upon retirement. The line of pensions as deferred wages views pensions upon retirement as a policy objective rather than a right, and a way to reduce workers' individual reproduced-value and increase added-value as profit in the present. The Trudeau Liberal government's first budget raises payroll taxes for the CPP for most workers, up to 11.9 per cent of "eligible earnings" for many workers. The payroll tax effectively lowers individual reproduced-value in the present while the promise of social reproduced-value upon retirement remains a policy objective subject to changes according to circumstances.

The "deferring" of wages reduces individual reproduced-value and sends the amount to the government as a claim on added-value to be put in a pension fund, and also to an individual employer if a promised pension is contracted with a company. This concession extracted from the working class not only reduces individual reproduced-value but also provides a huge fund of social wealth that the financial oligarchs control and use for their private interests and to reinforce the police powers of their state. This also strengthens the liberal line of pensions as a policy objective and opens the door for diversionary debates over the solvency of pension funds and the use of "exceptional circumstances" and bankruptcy protection and other methods to steal pension funds.

The private interests controlling the investments of the pension and other social funds of the working class annually skim off a usual 2 per cent of the combined social wealth plus 20 per cent of any profit. Executive managers of large funds routinely claim millions of dollars annually for themselves and become important propagandists and impediments to making pensions a right for all with payments coming not from funds but from a public authority claiming social reproduced-value from the economy in the present on behalf of the entire working class.

The liberal line of pensions as deferred wages, the imposition of pension payroll taxes on individual workers and the creation of pension funds stands in opposition to the affirmation of the right of all to retirement at a guaranteed established standard of living.

A public authority in charge of pensions for all should directly claim new value from the economy according to the amount needed in the present to guarantee the right of all retirees to an established standard of living. The claim for pensions on new value the working class produces in the present represents social reproduced-value. The claim on new value should go directly to retirees and not sit in a fund of social wealth under the control of the financial oligarchs to be used in a corrupt manner for private purposes by parasites and as a weapon to turn pensions into a policy objective in opposition to the right of all to retirement at an established standard of living.

Exchange of Workers' Capacity to Work

Workers exchange their capacity to work with the social force that owns and controls the socialized means of production and state. This exchange between two social forces within a social relation and dialectic occurs both individually and socially. For the exchange to occur individually, in the particular, the two social forces must also be in existence generally.

The explicit exchange occurs between an individual worker and an employer who controls a particular socialized productive force.

The implicit exchange occurs between the working class as a whole, which sells its capacity to work as the actual producer, and the social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state, which buys the capacity to work of the working class. For socialized industrial mass production to continue seamlessly, the exchange must result in the reproduction of both the individual worker and the social productive force as a whole, the working class, through work and its production of new value both reproduced-value and added-value.

A portion of the new value the working class produces through work is claimed by the actual producers to reproduce themselves as individuals and by a public authority to reproduce workers as a social class.

The portion of new value workers claim to reproduce themselves is called individual reproduced-value. The portion of new value workers claim through a public authority to reproduce the working class as a whole is called social reproduced-value.

Social reproduced-value reproduces the entire working class from birth to passing away in addition to and in the absence of individual reproduced-value during those instances when workers cannot work for whatever reason such as childhood, old age, injury, illness or insufficient work made available by the social force in control of the socialized productive forces and state.

Reproduced-value is new value arising from the work-time of the actual producers and is necessary for the well-being, security and perpetuation of the working class. Reproduced-value is in contradiction with added-value, which arises from the same new value the working class produces. Those who own the means of production and control the socialized productive forces and state claim the added-value workers produce as their profit. Profit is distributed amongst those who own the means of production and control the socialized productive forces and state. They claim a portion of the new value workers produce as added-value, generally called profit, according to the degree of ownership and control of the existing social wealth and property they possess in the form of equity ownership, debt ownership and land ownership or through a high position in the hierarchy of the ruling elite. The imperialist state also claims a portion of added-value to finance its police powers, bureaucracy and to pay the rich in various ways.

During the transitional period between the overthrow of feudal petty production and its autocratic rule and the complete transformation into socialized industrial mass production and democratic rule under the control of the actual producers the society requires equilibrium to avoid a catastrophic collapse. The social force that owns and controls the material productive forces and state during the transitional period must assume its social responsibility to provide employment and social programs for the working class so that it can successfully reproduce itself both individually and socially. The ruling social class must guarantee the collective and individual well-being of the people throughout their lives.

In return for employment, social programs, the recognition of its rights and to ensure equilibrium, the working class guarantees to be available to work in return for a claim for individual reproduced-value and a claim through a public authority for social reproduced-value at an agreed established standard of living. The claims of the working class for reproduced-value on the value it produces guarantee its reproduction from birth to passing away at a certain standard of living reflecting the level of the productive forces and its organized class struggle to defend its rights and well-being.

Any interruption of the guarantee of reproduced-value and recognition of rights destroys the equilibrium and throws the society into crisis. The crisis can only be overcome with a return of the guarantee or the ascension to political power of the working class in a new state that deprives the social force presently in control of the socialized productive forces and state of its control and power to disrupt the guarantee of equilibrium.

An ascension of the organized working class to political power and control of the socialized productive forces and creation of a new state resolves the contradiction of the transitional period between the working class and those who seized ownership and control of the material productive forces and state upon the overthrow of the feudal autocratic regime of petty production. The rise to political power of the organized working class and its agenda for nation-building and mass democracy ushers in a new period of equilibrium in the relations of production and society.

The organized working class itself assumes the control and direction of the socialized productive forces and new state. The organized working class guarantees that work is available for all members of the class and fashions an agenda of nation-building and mass democracy to guarantee the rights of the people, which belong to them by virtue of being human. The organized working class sets to work to complete the transformation to socialized industrial mass production and mass democracy with modern relations of production in conformity with the socialized productive forces to put an end to all the remnants of feudal autocratic rule once and for all.

With the actual producers in control of the material productive forces and new state, the organized and political new working class, now liberated from the oppressive and disruptive social relation with those who owned and controlled the socialized productive forces and state, through its work produces the new value necessary to sustain and enhance the people's well-being and security from birth to passing away without interruption.

The control over the entire new value including both the reproduced-value and added-value allows the organized and political new working class to sustain and enhance all aspects of society. It improves itself as a class of, for and by itself through work and with the enhancement of mass democracy and constant improvements to its relations of production as it further develops the socialized productive forces. The entire people are mobilized within the nation-building project to complete the transformation from petty production and the autocratic rule of the previous era into socialized industrial mass production without economic crises where modern relations of production vest sovereignty in the people and establish mass democracy as the political norm.

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Confronting Massive Damage by Hurricane Matthew

Cuban Government and People Stand
with Hurricane Victims

Cuban President Rául Castro is warmly greeted by residents of Baracoa municipality in eastern Cuba on a tour of areas hit by Hurricane Matthew, October 9, 2016.

The eastern provinces of Cuba were badly hit by Hurricane Matthew on October 4. Yet there were no deaths and the damage and injuries were mitigated by Cuba's high level of civil defence preparations which enables the country to prepare for and respond to natural disasters like no other.

Army General Raúl Castro Ruz stated during an October 10 working meeting at the Maisí Municipal Defence Council, "It is now vital to identify the damages precisely and as quickly as possible, in order to determine what is needed in each place." He outlined key issues for the recovery of the municipality of Maisí, where the towns of La Máquina (municipal capital), Punta de Maisí and Los Llanos, were the hardest hit with the passage of Hurricane Matthew.

Raúl was accompanied by Army Corps General Ramón Espinosa Martín, deputy minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, who is currently based in the most affected areas together with other national and local leaders, overseeing the measures implemented in the recovery stage.

He noted that it is estimated that over 90 per cent of homes in the area were severely damaged, as well as the majority of state facilities. Vital services for the population, such as communications, electricity and water supply, were also severely affected.

During the meeting, the negative impact of the hurricane on access routes to this municipality and on agriculture -- mainly coffee plantations (Maisí is the largest coffee producer in the country) -- were also discussed.

Given this situation, Raúl emphasized the urgency of seeking alternatives to ensure the people are provided with necessary resources. Likewise, he stressed the importance of recording all the experience gained from the passage of this weather event, to be used in future scenarios.

Raúl also participated in the meeting which took place at the municipal Party headquarters, where Lina Pedraza Rodríguez, minister of Finances and Prices, informed the presidents of the eight people's councils in the municipality of how to implement the decision of the revolutionary government as regards the sale of construction materials to those whose homes had been affected.

"You received a heavy blow, but we will recover," Raúl assured as he shook hands and received embraces. Meanwhile, the people expressed their thanks over and over again to Fidel and Raúl himself for their constant support.

"This visit strengthens us, it encourages us to keep going," stated Erodis Fuente López, who offered his home to shelter almost 40 people.

"Trust in us that we will succeed! The most important thing is that we are alive! Send our greetings to the Comandante! Take care!" These are some of the messages expressed by the population as Raúl toured the area. Meanwhile, the Cuban President thanked those gathered for their continued resistance and called on them to return to their normal daily activities as soon as possible, in particular the resumption of classes, which he reiterated could take place in any adequate space.

Again there were scenes of emotion and hope as those gathered offered and received advice, anecdotes, and took photos alongside their President.

"I congratulate you because you are courageous, composed and very revolutionary. I'm proud of Cuban women and men across the country, but above all of you, because this has been a very tough test," Raúl stated in response to the excited cheers of residents.

TML is posting below a firsthand account from Granma reporters of the social solidarity and swift response to those affected in the eastern municipality of Baracoa.

All of Cuba in Baracoa
- Ángel Freddy Pérez Cabrera, Jorge Luis Merencio Cautí,
Ortelio González Martínez -

When the reporters think they have seen it or heard it all, a new story appears of how people are helping each other.

What a mystery -- amidst the most difficult circumstances, we Cubans always dig up the virtues that best characterize us as a people.

Several days of following Hurricane Matthew's trail through the country's eastern provinces has reinforced our pride in having been born in this land, imperfect as it may be, like any other work in progress. We saw so many great things -- small and simple things -- they can't fit in these few lines.

Seeing a group of children who have lost practically everything -- their books, backpacks, teddy bears and shoes -- playing in the rubble, with a Cuba flag waving alongside, makes one's heart beat a little faster than usual.

What to say about the interminable caravans of electrical, telephone, construction, and transportation workers, who, like ants, have been the first to arrive in disaster zones, under the worst conditions, all with the single-starred flag on their vehicles.

And just when you think you've seen or heard it all, another demonstration of solidarity is recounted, acts that prevented a category four hurricane from taking a single human life in Cuba.

That 50, 60, or more people could take refuge in one house was common, and in the darkness, they shared the pain and fear, and the little or much of what they had: a sip of coffee, a towel, or diaper for the baby.

  Amid the devastation, children seek ways to overcome the consequences
of Hurricane Matthew.

There is Yaliseidy Londres Cobas, a Guantánamo native living in San Germán, one of the most remote settlements in Baracoa, who after taking some 60 people into her home is still accommodating two families who lost everything, telling us that they could stay as long as necessary. There are many more families doing the same here.

So much solidarity and spiritual growth in the face of adversity was captured by a young driver from Guantánamo, who, amazed by the interminable caravans of human and material resources moving toward the First City, Maisí and other affected areas, said, "Man, all of Cuba is in Baracoa."

(Granma. Photos: Cubadebate, Granma)

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Haiti Faces Serious Challenges with Support of
Cuba and Venezuela

Members of the Cuban Henry Reeve Brigade board plane for Haiti, October 8, 2016.

A severe tropical storm, designated Hurricane Matthew struck the Caribbean countries and the United States between September 29 and October 9. It caused flashfloods in Jamaica on October 2, despite being hundreds of kilometres away from the centre of the storm. It made landfall in Haiti on the morning of October 4 and then Cuba that same evening as a Category 4 hurricane (sustained winds of 209-251 km/h). It then travelled north to the Bahamas as a Category 3 (sustained winds of 178-278 km/h) and Category 4 hurricane. Matthew made landfall in South Carolina on October 8 as a Category 1 hurricane (sustained winds of 119-153 km/h), causing severe flooding. It was downgraded to a post-tropical storm on October 9 as it moved away from North Carolina.

TML sends its deepest sympathies to the peoples of the Caribbean and the United States affected by Hurricane Matthew and gives its full support for the internationalist humanitarian response of Cuba and Venezuela. It also vehemently rejects any attempts by Canada, the U.S., France or anyone else to exploit this tragic situation for self-serving aims.

Massive Destruction in Haiti

Path of Hurricane Matthew.

Of the countries struck by Hurricane Matthew, Haiti is the most severely affected. This is due not only to the intensity of the storm when it hit but especially because of political chaos caused in the country by foreign intervention and exploitation on the part of Canada, the U.S., France and the UN mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH). This interference has deprived Haitians of sovereignty over their affairs, introduced a deadly cholera epidemic and left Haiti vulnerable to natural disasters and further exploitation particularly in its times of greatest need.

The United Nations estimates that 1.4 million people in Haiti require assistance. Some 20,000 homes were destroyed along with crops and food reserves, at least 300 schools have been damaged and some towns and villages have been nearly wiped off the map, the UN and news agencies report. "It seems to me like a nuclear bomb went off," said Paul Edouarzin, a UN Environmental Program employee based near Port-a-Piment to Reuters. "In terms of destruction -- environmental and agricultural -- I can tell you 2016 is worse than [the 2010 earthquake]," he added.

Under these circumstances, the cholera epidemic that was finally brought under control -- caused by improper sanitation by UN peacekeepers -- now threatens to reemerge. UNICEF warns that overflowing rivers, stagnant waters, and animal and human corpses are perfect breeding grounds for waterborne diseases. "Every day that goes by increases the threat of cholera. We are in a race against time to get to these children before diseases do," Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative for Haiti, said in a press statement.

The UN says it is working with Haitian officials to assess the needs and on October 10, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the UN had "launched a $120 million flash appeal covering the UN system's needs for the next three months."

The UN News Centre on October 10 reported that "According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the appeal targets vulnerable groups in identified priority sectors, and it takes into account the national-level capacities and those of humanitarian partners on the ground. Over the next week, partners will develop individual projects in support of sector activities and financial requirements identified in this appeal, adapting the response to the most up-to-date assessment results."

Immediate Internationalist Aid Provided by Cuba and Venezuela

Venezuela prepares a shipment of humanitarian aid for Haiti, October 5, 2016.

Cuba and Venezuela have once again distinguished themselves by being amongst the first countries to provide the humanitarian assistance required by Haiti, as was the case during the 2010 earthquake. This rapid response has everything to do with a profound policy of providing internationalist assistance which benefits the people in a concrete way and, in the case of Venezuela, in recognition of the historic debt owed to this sister nation for providing assistance to the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in their anti-colonial independence struggles.[1]

By October 7, Venezuela had sent three lots of humanitarian aid, the last of which contained 660 tonnes of food, medication, water, blankets and mattresses. It also included 450 tonnes of heavy machinery to remove rubble and rehabilitate roads.

The following week, Venezuela sent 50 health professionals to Haiti. Vice-President for Social Development and Revolutionizing the Missions Jorge Arreaza confirmed on October 10 that the Simón Bolívar Humanitarian Task Force was dispatched to assist the "beloved people" of Haiti and will work in the country for approximately eight days. The team includes 40 epidemiologists and 10 general medical practitioners. The doctors are recent graduates of the Salvador Allende Latin American School of Medicine located in Caracas, Venezualanlysis informs. The school is the result of cooperation between Cuba and Venezuela.

"We reached Haiti with our solidarity; two boats and two planes have left and we will continue to extend our solidarity and humanitarian aid with the people of Haiti in every way," said President Nicolás Maduro on October 9. Maduro informed that a total of 200 doctors will travel to Haiti to offer medical assistance.

Cuba, despite also being hit by Hurricane Matthew, announced on October 7 that it is sending a 38-person medical brigade to Haiti, members of the renowned Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics. These health personnel are greatly experienced in the hygienic-epidemiological field, ACN reports.  The group is made up of three doctors, 10 hygienic-epidemiologic specialists and 10 technicians, among others. This group will work alongside some of the hundreds of Cuban health professionals already working in Haiti. Cuban doctors have been in Haiti since 1998, after Hurricane Georges.

Members of the Henry Reeve Brigade prepare to leave for Haiti. This is the 24th contingent of
the Brigade sent abroad since its creation in 2005.

For its part, the U.S. is sending "assistance" through military means, as it did in 2010. It is deploying an aircraft carrier and 300 marines to provide relief.

Haitians Reject Repeat of Self-Serving "Assistance"
from Foreign Exploiters

Haitians are extremely suspect of the so-called aid they received in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. This "assistance" did little to relieve their hardship while lining the pockets of various self-serving middlemen.

Nadia Prupris, writing for Common Dreams on October 11, points out that "the legacy of foreign aid in Haiti has left many residents fearful of large organizations like the American Red Cross descending on the impoverished island. As Pro Publica and NPR revealed in a joint investigation last year, when Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake in 2010, the American Red Cross raised half a billion dollars in aid and built a grand total of six new homes.

"Many observers [...] are urging those eager to support Hurricane Matthew relief efforts to donate to local grassroots groups instead of the American Red Cross and other massive organizations."

Hillary Clinton, the U.S. presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, and her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton are also notorious for the role played by their Clinton Foundation to use billions of dollars in Haiti relief funds to enrich themselves, their friends and financial supporters, as well as open up Haiti for further exploitation by global monopolies. In response to a tweet from Bill Clinton about what the foundation was doing in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew, one person tweeted, "Is this a joke, you looted Haiti once already," while another responded, "Clintons still scamming off poor Haiti after a natural disaster."

TeleSUR points out, "With the help of corporate donors, the Clinton Foundation raised billions of dollars in relief assistance.

"Controversially, however, U.S.$6 billion was spent on formaldehyde-riddled trailers distributed by a top Clinton campaign donor -- Clayton Homes -- that sickened Haitians left homeless by the earthquake, with trailer occupants complaining of headaches and other illnesses."

Similarly, ABC News reported on October 11 about the industrial park and sweatshop garment factory opened up in Haiti by the Clinton Foundation in the town of Caracol:

"The modern industrial park, with wide, clear roads connecting rows of low-slung warehouses, [was] paid for by the Inter-American Development Bank, which provided $256.8 million in grants to support construction. The bank has donated $1 million to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to its website. Large American retailers, including Wal-Mart and Gap Inc., have served as buyers for the clothes shipped from Haiti to the U.S. with special U.S. tax breaks. Wal-Mart has given $1 million to $5 million, and Gap has given $100,000 to $250,000 to the foundation. And in 2012, SAE-A, the Korean garment company that was recruited to become the anchor tenant of the park, gave $50,000 to $100,000 to the foundation."

October 4, 2016: left: destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew, Aux Cayes; right: UN
armored car patrols the streets of Port-au-Prince.


1. Simon Bolívar, leader of Latin America's greatest liberation struggles against Spanish colonial rule was aided greatly by the Haitian revolution. Haiti was the first independent nation in Latin America and the only nation in the world whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion. The Haitian president Pétion provided Bolívar and his forces sanctuary and protection and the possibility of launching new attacks against the Spanish. Within this, Haitian soldiers joined the fight for freedom in the rest of the Americas as part of Bolívar's army. With soldiers and vital material support provided by Haiti, Bolívar landed in Venezuela and fulfilled a promise to Pétion by issuing a decree granting slaves their freedom in territories under his control on June 2, 1816.

(With files from Weather Channel, UN News Centre, Reuters, Xinhua, Venezuelanalysis, ACN, TeleSUR, ABC. Photos: INSMET, Cubadebate, AVN, UN, Haiti Liberté.)

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El Salvador

Victory Against Canadian Mining Giant
at World Bank Tribunal

Activists supporting El Salvador celebrate the country's victory over monopoly right and mining firm OceanaGold at a rally near the constituency office of Minister of International Trade
Chrystia Freeland, Toronto, October 14, 2016.

The World Bank tribunal ruled on October 14 against the Canadian-Australian gold mining giant OceanaGold's claim that El Salvador interfered with its profits when the government pulled the plug on a proposed gold mine.

The seven-year, multi-million dollar, largely secretive court battle had pitted mining-affected Salvadoran communities -- supported by human rights organizations in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the Philippines -- against the deep pockets of OceanaGold, formerly Pacific Rim, in an international trade tribunal. The court ultimately awarded El Salvador's government U.S.$8 million to cover legal fees and costs.

The conflict sparking the U.S.$301 million lawsuit dates back to 2007, when El Salvador took a stand for national sovereignty and clean water by denying OceanaGold, then Pacific Rim, a new permit to extract gold. The government raised concerns over the company's failure to fulfill national mining standards at its El Dorado gold mine, including the fact that it dodged submitting a feasibility study and Environmental Impact Assessment for the project. But the corporation saw the decision as an assault on its profits and retaliated.

In 2009, Pacific Rim leveled a U.S.$77 million lawsuit against El Salvador at the World Bank's investor-state tribunal, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, that allows corporations to use free trade agreements to sue countries for perceived infringement on their future profits. The mining giant later upped the price tag on the suit to a whopping U.S.$301 million -- equivalent to three years of El Salvador's public spending on health, education and public security combined.

The government primarily rejected OceanaGold's proposed mine over fears of water pollution and scarcity in the country, the most water-stressed in Central America. Water quality is a major problem in El Salvador, where some 90 per cent of surface water is considered unsafe to drink by international standards. Metal mining is a major culprit in water contamination.

"By allowing transnational companies to blackmail governments to try to force them to adopt policies that favor corporations, investor-state arbitration undermines democracy in El Salvador and around the world," said Marcos Orellana of the Center for International Environmental Law. "Regardless of the outcome, the arbitration has had a chilling effect on the development and implementation of public policy necessary to protect the environment and the human right to water."

Not only is the gold mining industry notorious for contaminating surface and groundwater systems with toxic metals through its cyanide-intensive extraction process, but it also sucks up staggering amounts of water on a daily basis. OceanaGold's proposed mine would have used thousands of tons of cyanide and hundreds of thousands of litres of water every day in a country where adequate access to water is already an issue.

In 2009, the same year OceanaGold filed the lawsuit against El Salvador, the newly-elected progressive  Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) government tried to institutionalize an official moratorium on mining concessions. Although the law has not been passed, the government has continued to uphold a ban on new mining projects. Meanwhile, local water defenders have fought for years -- together with the governing FMLN party -- to pressure lawmakers to enshrine the human right to water in the constitution and force corporations to play their part in preserving the precious resource. To date, the conservative-dominated Congress has opted to continue shielding private profits instead of introducing industry regulations to protect human rights.


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Puerto Rico

Vigorous Rejection of U.S.-Imposed Control Board

Protest camp at the U.S. Federal Court in San Juan, Puerto Rico begins, June 29, 2016.

The people of Puerto Rico are rejecting the U.S.-imposed Control Board, an unelected body that the U.S. government claims will bring Puerto Rico's U.S.$72 billion debt under control. Puerto Rico's debt is directly the result of its status as a U.S. colony. For more than a century, the U.S. has exploited Puerto Rico's human and natural resources, while corporations have been heavily subsidized through various pay-the-rich schemes such as federal tax exemptions and infrastructure paid for using money borrowed from U.S. financiers. The imposition of the Control Board underscores Puerto Rico's colonial status that must be ended immediately.

Puerto Rico's colonial constitution mandates that it pay creditors holding general obligation bonds as a priority, over any public spending, such as education or pensions. To that end, various anti-social austerity measures have already been imposed on the people in recent years, worsening their living and working conditions, despite the fact neither they nor the social programs on which they rely are the cause of the debt. Puerto Rico does not even have recourse to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code since it is a U.S. territory, not a state, and U.S. Congress refuses to grant it an exemption as the Puerto Rican government has requested.

The Control Board was put in place by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA, Spanish for "promise"), passed on June 30 by U.S. Congress. With its members drawn from the wealthy neo-liberal elites in Puerto Rico and the U.S., the Board protects U.S. financiers by enforcing the payments to the rich and opens the door to stepped-up anti-social austerity measures that the colonial government has not been willing to carry out. The "promise" of the Board is to carry out even more neo-liberal wrecking, including the further cutting of pensions, the elimination of public workers' contracts, cuts to social services and the reduction of minimum wage for young workers to only $4.25 an hour. These arrangements make clear that government is no longer to have any pretense of providing for the needs of society, but rather is to be run as a business solely serving the monopolies. Even before PROMESA, Puerto Rico had a 45 per cent poverty rate, with more than half of Puerto Rico's children living in poverty while schools have been closed and funding for essential services cut in the name of paying down the debt.

Despite the passage of PROMESA and the austerity measures already imposed, the Puerto Rican government defaulted on a July 1 debt payment of $1.9 billion, with a government spokesperson saying that this was done to "ensure the residents of Puerto Rico continue to receive essential services while the commonwealth continues to face a delicate financial situation." This marked the first time Puerto Rico failed to pay general obligation bonds since the Great Depression, CNN reported.

Mass Protests Against PROMESA and Control Board

Puerto Ricans have a long and glorious history of fighting against colonialism, first that of Spain and now the U.S. This spirit of resistance is being brought to bear in the present situation. The people have broadly rejected PROMESA and the attempts to put the blame for the crisis on them, not the U.S. and its colonial exploitation of the country which incurred the debt yet portrays the people as "living beyond their means."

Protests began before PROMESA was passed and continue to the present, including a protest camp outside the U.S. Federal Court in Hato Rey, launched on June 29. Various social and activist organizations are also studying the potential impacts of PROMESA to help develop next steps for the movement against the bill. Community leaders also called for an analysis of how Puerto Rico's "colonial condition" has led to PROMESA and the new challenges it brings, local media reported.

The ongoing protest camp at the U.S. Federal Court in San Juan. Signs read "Only the struggle gives us what the law denies us" and "Puerto Rico does not belong to the invadors. Puerto Rico belongs to Puerto Ricans."

Puerto Ricans mark Labour Day as a "Day of Unemployment" with a protest at Walmart, September 5, 2016. Sign reads "You pay taxes; Walmart doesn't."

Protests are also targeting U.S. monopolies that enjoy very low corporate taxes in Puerto Rico. On October 3, protestors shut down the country's largest Walmart, in protest against the anti-social offensive on Puerto Ricans while Walmart refuses to pay increased corporate taxes. Protesters elaborated how Walmart damages the local economy and provides only precarious jobs that are often just part-time. In September, a U.S. appeals court ruled against Puerto Rico in its efforts to raise Walmart's corporate tax rate from two per cent to 6.5 per cent. One of the protesters shutting down Walmart stated, "I am an active member and spokesperson of the Camp Against the Control Board. We closed Walmart's operations for the day, and, in part, this is proof that when the people unite, we succeed. We need people to keep coming out to these protests, so that every multinational begins stepping back. While the Control Board remains, we're going to continue."

Actions are also being held in the U.S. For example, the Comité Boricua en la Diáspora issued a call for a September 30 protest in New York City. Organizers vehemently rejected the Control Board, its propagation of colonialism and the fact that it was to hold its very first meeting in New York City.

New York City, September 30, 2016

Illegitimate Debt Exploited by U.S. Vulture Funds

TeleSUR reported July 21 on a recent report by the ReFund America Project. The report "found that nearly half of Puerto Rico's debt load is interest on loans underwritten by a slew of Wall Street firms. [... These] bondholders are poised to reap massive profits through what the researchers of the report compared to a payday lending scheme.

"The report found that U.S.$33.5 billion of the debt is interest at an effective interest rate of 785 percent, while dismal trading at just 5 cents on the dollar gives investors a 1,900 per cent profit on the loans. As a result, the ReFund America Project argues that a big chunk of the nearly U.S.$73 billion debt is illegitimate and suggests Puerto Rico shouldn't have to pay in full.

"The Caribbean island's debt debacle recalls Argentina's 15-year court battle with vulture funds that swooped in to profiteer from economic crisis when the country defaulted on its debt in 2001. Holdout bondholders who refused to restructure the debt effectively hijacked Argentina's economy for windfall profits.

"Ultimately, vulture funds prevailed once President Mauricio Macri agreed to re-enter into negotiations with holdout creditors and paved the way to issuing more bonds to pay off the debt. Experts argue the case also set a dangerous precedent by emboldening predatory lenders to continue to pressure vulnerable countries in economic distress."

End Puerto Rico's Colonial Status Now!

Far from Puerto Rico owing a debt to U.S. financiers, it is the U.S. that owes reparations to Puerto Rico for its robbery of her wealth and resources for more than 100 years. Using U.S. law to impose an unelected Control Board only further demonstrates the colonial nature of the relationship and its thoroughly undemocratic character. Including some Puerto Rican faces on the Control Board -- bankers serving U.S. interests -- does nothing to hide this fact. It does nothing to solve the problem of colonialism. It only further entrenches and makes more blatant U.S. dictate.

TML condemns the U.S. colonial oppression of Puerto Rico and its people and gives its full support to the patriotic forces fighting for the cancellation of Puerto Rico's debt, and against PROMESA, the Control Board and all other expressions of U.S. colonialism. The UN's decolonization procedure must be implemented immediately. This includes removing the military, freeing Puerto Rican independence fighters held in U.S. prisons and removing all U.S. economic and political influence so that Puerto Ricans are finally able to exercise their right to determine their affairs for themselves.

(With files from Voice of Revolution, TeleSUR, CNN. Photos: Campamento Contra la Junta, Comité Boricua en la Diaspora, N.A. Ruffin, K.N. Gonzalez.)

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Exploitation by Global Biotech Monopolies

Puerto Rican journalist Eliván Martínez Mercado recently reported on how global biotech monopolies such as Monsanto and Pioneer Hi Bred (now Dupont) have been handed hundreds of millions of dollars by the colonial government of Puerto Rico while neo-liberal austerity is imposed on the people.

"Monsanto and Pioneer Hi Bred [...] received benefits from the bankrupted U.S. colonial territory in the Caribbean while their headquarters made billionaire profits worldwide," Martínez reports. "Monsanto reported a global net profit of $2.3 billion only in 2015, while Pioneer Hi Bred reported $2 billion last year, according to their respective reports for investors."

The Spanish-language article, published in July by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI), notes that under Puerto Rico's three most recent governors, the territory gave biotech monopolies "preferential tax rates, tax exemptions, industrial incentives and wage subsidies."

"Those wage subsidies come from the General Fund which is the money collected directly from Puerto Rican taxpayers. They also allowed Monsanto and Pioneer, for example, to receive [900 million litres] of free water from an underground water reserve in the south of Puerto Rico, between Salinas, Guayama, Juana Díaz and Santa Isabel," Martínez writes. "And so it was that 11 agricultural biotechnology enterprises found an oasis of easy money in Puerto Rico throughout 10 years of fiscal crisis."

An examination of public records showed that the biotech monopolies received $477.5 million in wage subsidies "because the Department of Agriculture considers them bona fide farmers." The wage subsidy law is intended to allow farmers to pay farmhands a higher wage, to assist an industry that has historically struggled to retain workers.

"But agricultural biotechnology enterprises are not really the same thing as farmers," Martínez explains. "They are dedicated to research and development, a scientific and corporate activity that for the last 10 years in Puerto Rico can be summed up in the following equation: over 1,694 experiments to develop genetically modified corn (55 per cent) and soybean (37 per cent) seeds, according to an analysis of the testing licenses granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

Moreover, the Puerto Rican government allows Monsanto and other biotech monopolies to use far more land than other foreign "farmers" because the government, paradoxically, also does not consider these corporations to be farmers.

Martínez writes that the government relies on "Secretary of Justice Guillermo Somoza Colombani, who had decreed that these enterprises could rent more than 500 acres because biotechnology could not be considered an agricultural activity. 'It is rather an activity primarily scientific in nature, whose results are not available for immediate consumption,' explained Somoza in an opinion issued in 2012 after an inquiry from the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company."

Thus, the Puerto Rican government continues to treat biotechnology corporations as both farmers and non-farmers:

"As a matter of fact, Monsanto Puerto Rico received $9.7 million in wage subsidies over the last 10 years, according to the Administration for the Development of Agricultural Enterprises (ADEA), for its Spanish acronym), while Monsanto Caribe rented 768 acres of public land. They are different legal entities in Puerto Rico's Registry of Corporations, although they work under the same economic strategy in their headquarters in Missouri."

A graphic illustrates the enormous amount of funds funneled to these multinational companies over the past ten years:

The corporations are additionally benefiting from industrial incentives for building infrastructure and purchasing agricultural equipment, as well as receiving municipal and property tax exemptions.

And because they are considered farmers, the biotech monopolies are allowed to withdraw as much water as they want for free from public sources.

"Out of the six corporations who have franchises to extract water from the southern water sources," Martínez writes, "Monsanto Caribe and Pioneer Hi Bred extracted [900 million litres] in the last 10 years, according to reports from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. If they hadn't been considered bona fide agriculturists, they would have had to pay $476,389, which is the industrial cost for this amount of consumption. The water sources in the south have been in trouble because of 'over-extraction' and lack of rain."

Those in favor of the enormous tax breaks and subsidies argue that the biotechnology sector is a major employer in the impoverished colonial territory. Puerto Rican economist Ramón Cao "differs from this appraisal," Martínez writes.

"It's an important amount, but at what cost? Each [job] represented an annual fiscal cost of $15,354 which is approximately the minimum yearly wage for an employee," Cao told Martínez. "At that fiscal cost, they could have hired about 2,000 teachers a year, including employee benefits."

Argeo Quiñones, professor in the University of Puerto Rico's Department of Economics, points out how Puerto Rico's economy has been made to be dependent on the monopolies instead of serving the national interest: "We have moved from foreign manufacturing enterprises to petrochemical industries, from the petrochemical industries to the pharmaceutical industries, from the pharmaceutical to biotechnology.

"And that does not translate into a sustainable large-scale activity that could be identified as growth and development for Puerto Rico," Quiñones said to Martínez. "It is the philosophy that we have to give our soul away. It is a model of dependency."

(Common Dreams)

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U.S. President Issues Directive Consolidating Changes to Cuba Policy

October 17 Pickets Against U.S. Blockade of Cuba

Monthly picket outside U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, September 17, 2016.

5:00 - 5:30 pm

St-James United Church, 463 St-Catherine W.
5:30 - 6:00 pm
U.S. Consulate, corner of St-Alexandre and René-Lévesque Blvd.

4:30 - 5:30 pm

U.S. Embassy, Mackenzie St. (Major's Hill Park side)

4:00 pm

  U.S. Consulate, 1075 W. Pender Street

On October 14, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a presidential policy directive aimed at consolidating changes adopted with regard to Cuba, and making the new policy toward the island irreversible, Prensa Latina reports.

According to the document, "Under the new policy, the United States expands and promotes authorized engagements with Cuba to advance cooperation on areas of mutual interest, and increase travel to, commerce with, and the free flow of information to Cuba," although the more than 50-year-long economic, financial and commercial blockade remains in force.

The text disseminated by the White House notes that "Since the United States announced on December 17, 2014, that it would chart a new course with Cuba, we have re-established diplomatic relations and have made progress toward the normalization of our bilateral relationship," including the opening of embassies, among other actions.

"This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we've already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and our people," reads a statement issued the same day by President Obama, regarding the new policy directive.

The document continues, "Consistent with this approach, the Departments of Treasury and Commerce issued further regulatory changes today, building on the progress made over the last two years, to continue to facilitate more interaction between the Cuban and American people, including through travel and commercial opportunities."

According to the U.S. President, "These changes are representative of the progress I saw firsthand when I visited Havana," last March. The new measures announced by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce, which are set to enter into effect on Monday, October 17, include new avenues for joint cooperation projects in the fields of scientific research, and U.S. imports of Cuban manufactured pharmaceutical products.

Meanwhile, U.S. citizens permitted to travel to the island under the 12 authorized categories will be able to import, for their personal use, unlimited quantities of Cuban rum and cigars in their luggage.

The U.S. agriculture sector will be able to export items such as pesticides or tractors to Cuba; transactions which will no longer require the island to pay in advance and in cash.

The restriction which prevented hundreds of foreign ships which had docked in Cuba from making port in the United States in order to load or unload for a period of 180 days, is also being lifted. The U.S. Department of the Treasury also announced that scholarships for scientific research and religious activities will be made available.

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U.S. Has Fined 49 Companies for Violating
Blockade against Cuba

During Barack Obama's presidency, a total of 49 fines have been imposed on U.S. and foreign entities for violating the U.S. blockade against Cuba, according to the records of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Government.

The cumulative value of the fines is $14,397,416,827, an unprecedented figure in the history of the U.S. blockade against Cuba, despite the fact that both countries reestablished diplomatic relations almost two years ago. After more than half a century without hosting each other's embassies, the U.S. economic, financial and commercial siege against the small Caribbean country is still in force.

Since the December 17, 2014 announcement of the process of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, eight entities (five U.S. and three foreign) have been fined a total of $2,836,681,581, with a chilling effect on the banking and corporate sector.

The entities that have been fined by the United States since December 17, 2014 for violating the U.S. blockade are as follows:

Commerzbank (Germany): $1,710,000,000
PayPal (U.S.): $7,658,300
Navigators Insurance Company (U.S.): $271,815
Crédit Agricole (France): $1,116,893,585
Gil Tours Travel, Inc. (U.S.): $43, 875
WATG Holdings, Inc. (U.S.): $140,000
CGG Services S.A. (France): $614,250
Halliburton (U.S.): $304,706

Clearly, the blockade persists. It harms the Cuban people as well as those of other countries.

(Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations)

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Annual Vigil Honours Victims of Terrorism

Hundreds of students, athletes, and workers gathered on October 5, to honour the thousands of victims of terrorist acts against Cuba over the last 50 years.

The event took place at Havana's José Martí Memorial, on the eve of the anniversary of the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner mid-flight off the coast of Barbados, with families of the martyrs in attendance.

"No one can make us forget the past that is part of our history. We demand justice and an end to the impunity that this crime has enjoyed for these 40 years," said Thalía Gattorno Espinosa, granddaughter of Miguel Espinosa, co-pilot of CU 455, who died along with the 73 passengers aboard the flight.

"Every time a call has been made for a vigil, I sign up as a volunteer, because showing respect for the victims of terrorism is also preserving memory," Frank Javier Pérez Menéndez, a student at the Higher Institute of International Relations, told Granma.

(Granma. Photo; J.L. Gonzalez)

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