October 29, 2016 - No. 42

One Year of Liberal Rule

Trudeau Government's Labour Code Amendments Introduce "Flexibility" to Enforce Anti-Social Offensive

Missing Factor in the Working Class Movement for Emancipation
- K.C. Adams -

Canada's Trade Deal with the European Union
The Premise of CETA
Making Sense of CETA -- Second Edition
- Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives -

Electoral Reform in Prince Edward Island
Plebiscite Begins

Recall Referendum Process Suspended Following
Exposure of Widespread Irregularities

U.S.-Backed Opposition Calls for Coup d'État
Canada's Role in Organizing Reactionary Regime Change

Unanimous Vote at UN to End U.S. Blockade
Overwhelming Victory for Cuba!
- Isaac Saney -
Might Does Not Make Right!
Arrogant Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Explaining Abstention
- Yi Nicholls -

U.S. President's October 14 Policy Directive
The Small Print
- Sergio Alejandro Gómez -
Ten Key Questions
- Granma -

Canadians Organize to Support Hurricane Relief Efforts

Hurricane Matthew Relief and Reconstruction for Cuba Campaign
- Canadian Network on Cuba -
Notice to Members of the Canadian Network on Cuba
- Keith Ellis, Chair, Hurricane Matthew Relief
and Reconstruction Campaign -


Cuba-U.S. Relations
Talk with Josefina Vidal

One Year of Liberal Rule

Trudeau Government's Labour Code Amendments Introduce "Flexibility" to Enforce
Anti-Social Offensive

Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada MaryAnn Mihychuk declared on September 22, "Canadians have had their say on the Government of Canada's consultations on flexible work arrangements." According to the Minister, Canadians "had their say" in the form of online consultations that took place for a month and a half from May 16 to June 30 and in seven roundtables that were held across Canada with "stakeholders."

She said, "The Government of Canada has held far-reaching public consultations on its plan to give employees the right to request flexible work arrangements without fear of reprisal. Through May and June, more than 1,260 Canadians and 60 stakeholders shared their perspectives on flex work, including employers and employer associations, unions and labour organizations, advocacy groups, community groups and other organizations, think tanks and academics."

Minister Mihychuk's mandate letter from the Prime Minister indicates she is charged with bringing forward amendments to the Canada Labour Code "to provide every federally regulated worker the right to formally request a flexible work arrangement." The government states it will also "continue to consult with the provinces and territories on the implementation of similar changes in provincially regulated sectors."

The Trudeau government says flexible working arrangements "allow employees to alter, on a temporary or permanent basis, their work schedule, the number of hours they work or the location where they do their work, or to take leave from work to meet responsibilities outside of work. Flex work plays an important role in addressing the realities of today's workplace, society and economy. For employees, it offers a way to better manage the often competing demands of paid work and their family and other personal responsibilities outside of work. For employers, flex work helps foster productivity as well as inclusive and supportive work environments that attract and retain needed talent."

Employment and Social Development Canada issued a discussion paper in May to be used as the basis for consultations. It describes the "realities of today's workplace, society and economy" in the following manner:

"Developments in the world of work, driven by globalization, technological advances, evolving work processes and the need to constantly upgrade skills, have made workplaces more complex and challenging for workers and employers alike. At the same time, higher participation rates for women in the labour force, the rise of dual earner and single parent families, growing demands for informal caregiving as the population ages, and other factors are creating added family and personal responsibilities, especially for middle class Canadians and those working hard to join them.... Achieving balance amongst these often competing responsibilities can be difficult. In fact, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 58 per cent of Canadians report 'overload' due to the pressures associated with the many different roles they now play at work and home, with family and friends and as volunteers in their communities. The amount of stress Canadians experience trying to balance their work, family and personal responsibilities can have significant negative impacts: for their physical and mental health, their job satisfaction and the quality of life of their families; for employers in terms of absenteeism, retention rates and lost productivity; and for demand on healthcare and social services across Canada."

The discussion paper's description of the problems that more and more workers face is, in itself, familiar. It is the Liberal rendition of the effects of the neo-liberal anti-social offensive that working people confront every day and which is causing havoc in their lives and the economy. The Trudeau Liberals present this as some naturally occurring phenomenon beyond the control of human beings and certainly outside the capacity of organized class struggle of the working class to change society so that it is cured of these ills.

The Liberals describe the difficulties workers face as both a "challenge" and an "opportunity." They are not presented as problems to be solved by upholding the interests and well-being of the people as a priority. Conveniently, the critical issue of globalization and technological advances led by whom, in the hands of whom, and for what aim is being skirted so that no finger is pointed at the destructive actions of the rich and their global monopolies and the governments in their service.

The reality of the living and working conditions of the people becoming more and more precarious is made out to be a symptom of something mysterious. The root cause within the economy and its relations of production is never identified nor is the destructive control the global oligopolies and financial oligarchy exercise over the economy in the service of their narrow and competing private interests. Describing symptoms of a disease and concocting some remedy might give the Trudeau Liberals some relief but for the working people the issue is to find a new direction and path forward to gain control over their economy, lives and work and provide them a pro-social aim in opposition to the aim of the rich to serve the oligopolies.

Workers know from their direct experience that the mental health problems in the workplace, which have become rampant in terms of workers' health and safety and peace of mind, are not caused by some undefined complex work process and technological change but by the unrelenting anti-social offensive against the workers on behalf of the rich and their monopolies. Cutting the workforce, insufficient staffing, refusal to provide child care, constant harassment to do more with less, and the overall climate of disciplining and criminalizing workers who dare to protest all stem from the anti-social control and aim of the financial oligarchy to defend and build its empires to better seize the social wealth the working class produces.

According to the Liberal outlook, the issue at hand is that workers have to adapt to the deterioration and destabilization of their living and working conditions and to the system and reckless decisions that cause their insecurity and distress. The Liberal outlook takes the anti-social offensive as the reference point in order to declare that there is no alternative. The solution to the "demands" and "pressures" on the health care system and social services is found by placing the burden of child care, care for the family and the aged on families and individuals. Within this, workers are told that "flexibility" and other schemes can provide a so-called balance between work and family life.

The irrational Liberal mantra is to "fend for yourself" in a completely socialized and integrated economy. To speak of balance between life and work is to ignore that life for human beings has always been work. Life begins and advances from work and in the modern world of socialized work it means creating conditions for workers both individually and generally to thrive and in this way make their greatest contribution to the well-being of themselves and all and the general interests of society.

The documents prepared by the Liberals to support the call to enshrine "flexible work arrangements" in the Canada Labour Code show that the effort is not innocent or altruistic but has a much more sinister aspect. The report issued by the Trudeau government on the consultations that were held, states in part:

"- stakeholders and many survey respondents recognized that flex work operates in a broader legal context and pointed to several other specific issues which they felt are, or could be, barriers to enhancing flexibility;

"- collective agreements, which traditionally offer flex work or favourable work schedules based on seniority, rather than, say, when an employee makes a request or what type of flexibility they are seeking;

"- certain provisions in the Code pertaining to overtime, which may be too restrictive from the standpoint of employers and/or employees;

"- Code provisions regarding the employer's responsibility to ensure that work locations meet health and safety requirements, which may not be adequate for remote locations, such as an employee's home."

So the cat is out of the bag! When push comes to shove, flexibility means attacking collective agreements, seniority, length of the working day and week and any other restrictions on a monopoly's right to exploit workers and attack their dignity. Why would a worker's request for "flex work" be linked to legal health and safety requirements, or overtime requirements and so on? Is the Trudeau government preparing labour law reforms to dismantle legal arrangements, including negotiated collective agreements, under the hoax of ensuring or improving their bogus line of "balance between work and family life"? Whatever positive measures of stability and equilibrium that exist or did exist in the working and living conditions of workers were largely due to the organized collective struggle of the workers for their rights and the rights of all.

Vigilance and defence of rights, including the right of workers to organize collectively in defence of their interests, is the order of the day, even more so in the face of the plans the Trudeau government seems to be hatching. The call for "flexibility" appears to be another of the mental constructs of the Trudeau Liberals to justify attacks against the working class and society.

Workers are organizing not only to defend their rights, which are under attack, but preparing to go on the offensive themselves to change the aim, organization, relations of production and direction of the economy to make them consistent with the socialized nature of modern work.

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Missing Factor in the Working Class
Movement for Emancipation

Workers are their own saviours!

The working class movement for emancipation should discard a bad habit that is holding it back. It denies its own capacity to organize and bring about change independently of the imperialist ruling elite and their state. Political culture has engrained in the minds of workers that only through influencing the ruling elite and using their state-organized institutions can they stop the imperialist rich and their monopolies and oligopolies from attacking the working class and convince them to uphold rights and solve problems for the greater good and not their narrow private interests.

With this mindset, the working class movement for emancipation has been left with almost no institutions it can truly call its own. When workers want to make their own views known to their peers and other workers and the general public, they generally turn to the mass media of the ruling elite. When workers want their political opinions expressed in practice, they turn to one of the cartel political parties of the ruling elite. When workers are distressed, their rights denied and in need of help, they are left to the tender mercies of the state institutions and charities of the imperialist rich.

In all this, the excuse is generally given or silently understood and accepted as normal that no working class media or political and welfare institutions are strong enough to make a difference so workers must turn for help to the institutions of the imperialist ruling elite. In this way no action is taken to strengthen media which is partisan to their independent views and positions or the political and welfare institutions of the working class.

How often is it heard that if only the Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator, La Presse or other media outlet of the monopolies would stop their anti-worker bias and present working class interests and views objectively and consistently then things would change for the better. This disabling emotion of hope stops workers from taking decisive action to build their own media and institutions independently of the ruling elite.

Workers are seduced by the false promises of those who hold economic and political power. This is so because workers do not grasp that they are the producers of social wealth in the country; they are the majority class by far and the only social force capable of challenging and depriving the ruling elite of their power to deprive the people of the rights they have by virtue of being human. The imperialist rich constantly drum nonsense into workers' heads that they are a cost of production, not only their wages but their social programs such as pensions, unemployment insurance, injured workers' compensation etc. Workers are told constantly and are meant to believe they are and to see themselves as a burden on the economy and society and that the real heroes are the imperialist rich. The lie is propagated that somehow the actual producers who do the work and produce all the social wealth the people and society need for their existence are not capable of solving problems for the good of themselves, their economy and society. The objective truth for all to see is denied that the imperialist rich and their narrow competing private interests are really the drag and block to solving the problems of the economy and society and are holding back the working class from taking its rightful place as the leader and foundation of modern life.

Removing the block to progress posed by the power of the ruling elite is the answer for the working class to defend its rights, solve the problems of the economy, move it in a new pro-social direction, and open a positive path for society. The working class cannot remove this block if it constantly seeks help from the very force that is blocking solutions from happening and depriving workers of their rightful leading role.

The working class has to confront the ruling monopoly elite and their state with the power of its own independent voice, actions and institutions. This is not so farfetched in today's world where technology offers workers great tools to reach their peers and others. What is stopping workers from expressing their views in writing and voice and sending them in an organized way to all their peers and others at their workplace and beyond? What is stopping them from setting up welfare institutions that investigate the conditions of their fellow workers, retirees and others and develop methods to help all those who need assistance in defending their rights? What is stopping workers from having regular and sustained actions with analysis that bring their and the economy's problems into the open in active confrontation with the ruling elite and challenge their power to block solutions? The imperialist rich have to be made to feel uncomfortable and forced to think that they should come to some arrangement with the working class and that equilibrium in social relations is better than constantly serving the narrow interests of the oligopolies and attacking the rights of the people and letting the economy flounder in recurring crises.

In all cases the working class has to have the initiative in its own hands to defend its rights and exercise its power and desire to solve problems in a broad pro-social manner for the greater good. The days of begging the ruling monopoly elite for what belongs to the working class by right are finished. To turn the situation around in favour of the working class, the initiative has to come from workers themselves to build their own voice and institutions in their workplaces and communities. Workers have to look to themselves as their own leaders of their movement, their economy and country.

Workers Are Their Own Saviours!

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Canada's Trade Deal with the European Union

The Premise of CETA

Demonstration against CETA, Ottawa, September 27, 2014.

Prime Minister Trudeau will travel to Brussels, Belgium on October 29 to attend a signing ceremony for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union (CETA) the next day. On October 21, Canada's Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland walked out of talks with the government of the Belgian region of Wallonia and media reported that "last-ditch efforts to salvage [CETA] appear to have collapsed." Freeland stated, "the European Union isn't capable now to have an international treaty even with a country that has very European values like Canada. And even with a country so nice, with a lot of patience like Canada." After a week of outrage by the ruling elite that this small region would spoil their plans Canada pulled the chestnuts out of the fire and on October 28 the parliament of Wallonia voted to accept the deal with minor modifications. There is now rejoicing within the ruling elite and their media and not a few people are disappointed, having hoped that the agreement would be stopped for good. What is the significance of CETA and what are Canadians facing?

The oligopolies that dominate Canada and Europe seek to eliminate all obstacles to their power. Through CETA and other free trade agreements they are removing all traces of sovereign constitutional and political powers that may restrict their narrow interests. The oligopolies view the existence of social programs, public services, labour and commercial law as viable only if they serve their narrow private interests. Through such devices as the investor-state dispute settlement clause in CETA, the oligopolies seek to intimidate any government that may infringe on their authority and ability to exploit the land, natural resources and work of any nation and region in Europe and Canada.

Canadians face the reality that when oligopolies amass enormous economic power, they spontaneously and consciously strive for domination over the political power to serve their private interests. Oligopolic economic power within Canada is unparalleled in the history of the country. A few monopoly corporations control entire economic sectors as oligopolies, and move the social wealth and property they control around Canada and to most other countries largely without restrictions. They demand a similar right to move their social wealth and the property they control into and out of Europe. The oligopolies want no existing or future law or regulation to impede their will and empire-building.

The imperialist rich, the executive managers who manage their oligopolies and institutions, their political servants, celebrities and media stars declare with disgusting hubris that they are benefiting humanity by concentrating social wealth in fewer hands, expanding their empires and power throughout the globe, overwhelming sovereign states and nations and crushing all competitors and resistance. Some, such as Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland even brag that as good liberals in the twenty-first century they are being progressive and serving the greater good by facilitating the takeover by the oligopolies.

Demonstration against CETA, Vienna, Austria, September 17, 2016. (H. Jens)

The contemporary autocrats who have amassed more social wealth and political power than any emperor the world has ever seen, along with their political servants, are drunk with riches and power. They cannot see and do not want to see that the historic weakness of the oligopolies is found in the contradictions they face. To exist and expand they must destroy their competitors and exploit the working class. To exist and expand they must trample on the rights of all and on the collective wisdom in governance and relations amongst the people that humanity has developed in its long struggle to overcome the brutality of nature and the division of humans into social classes and the exploitation of the many by the few.

In crushing their competitors and challenging their state structures, the imperialist rich weaken their oligopolic front and are bringing the world to the brink of a catastrophic world war. In intensifying the exploitation of the working class, they awaken workers to their great cause as the social force that possesses the capacity to challenge, restrict and defeat the oligopolic front and open a path forward for humanity.

The task of the working class in the face of the grave dangers facing humanity is to build its proletarian unity and institutions into a powerful social force that can mobilize the vast majority of the people to challenge, restrict and defeat the oligopolic front. It must be done for the sake of humanity. It can be done!


The three salient characteristics of oligopoly are commonly described as: (1) an industry dominated by a small number of large firms, (2) firms sell either identical or differentiated products, and (3) the industry has significant barriers to entry.  (i.e. Coca Cola/Pepsi Cola, the pharmaceutical industry, communications, health insurance, high technology, etc.). Whether by noncompetitive practices, government mandate or technological savvy, these companies take advantage of their position to increase their profitability.


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Making Sense of CETA -- Second Edition

Protest against CETA, London, September 25, 2014. (Les Indignants)

Making Sense of CETA finds that, more than just a trade deal, CETA is a sweeping constitution-style document restricting public policy options in areas as diverse as intellectual property rights (copyright, trademarks, patents and Internet governance), government procurement, food safety, financial regulation, the temporary movement of workers, domestic regulation and public services, to name just a few of the topics explored in this analysis....

It is baffling that Canada's trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, and her European counterpart, Cecilia Malmström, are portraying CETA as a 'progressive trade agreement.' Other than some relatively minor changes, it is essentially the same deal negotiated by Canada's former Conservative government, one of the most right-wing regimes in recent Canadian history. In fact, CETA is a 'gold-standard' agreement only in the sense that it goes further than previous free trade treaties in elevating the 'gold-plated' rights of corporations and foreign investors above the welfare of citizens and the broader public interest..

Executive Summary (Excerpts)

[...] CETA threatens the public good on both sides of the Atlantic. In a wide variety of policy areas only loosely related to trade, CETA elevates the rights of corporations and foreign investors above the welfare of citizens and the broader public interest.

Investor-state dispute settlement

The latest CETA text pays lip service to public concerns about investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) by replacing it with what the EU and Canada are calling an Investment Court System.... The protections afforded to investors in this new 'court' system are largely unchanged.

Under CETA, foreign investors still receive extraordinary legal rights to sue governments for measures that may negatively affect their investments. These protections, which are not available to domestic investors or ordinary citizens, would expose taxpayers to huge financial liabilities and threaten to chill public policy....

Financial services

By allowing more cross-border financial services and facilitating greater direct investment in the financial sector, CETA would encourage the financial industry to take greater risks -- for example, by engaging in speculative investment -- in order to survive in a more competitive international market. CETA would also limit the regulatory options available to governments to address financial instability by, among other measures, giving the financial industry an institutionalised voice in the regulatory process.

Ignoring the lessons of the financial crisis, CETA would open the financial services sectors in the EU and Canada to greater competition and put downward pressure on prudential regulation in ways that make both Parties more vulnerable to financial shocks and contagion. Furthermore, key financial services provisions in CETA are enforceable through the ISDS mechanism, so governments could effectively be forced to pay banks for the privilege of regulating them.

Trade in services

CETA would restrict governments' capacity to regulate the entry and activity of foreign service suppliers in the domestic market, even when such regulations do not discriminate based on the country of origin of firms. By ensuring market access and preferential treatment for foreign service suppliers, CETA threatens the viability of public services and local service suppliers....

Public services

The agreement's investment protections would restrict the capacity of governments to expand public services or to create new ones in the future. CETA conflicts with the freedom of elected governments to bring privatised services back into the public sector. Once foreign investors are established in a privatised sector, efforts to restore public services can trigger claims for compensation, effectively locking in privatisation.

Domestic regulation

CETA would constrain policy flexibility in areas only loosely related to trade by mandating that licensing and qualification requirements -- as well as any measure relating to those regulations -- be 'as simple as possible'. CETA interprets even non-discriminatory regulations as potential trade barriers.

The scope of the domestic regulation provisions is broader than in other agreements and even trumps other areas in CETA. Regulations concerning not just services but also 'all other economic activities' are covered with only a narrow set of reservations.

Regulatory cooperation

CETA would create a set of institutions and processes for foreign governments (and their corporate lobbyists) to have a say in the creation of new domestic regulations, which could delay or halt the introduction of public interest legislation and undermine the precautionary principle. The range of regulatory areas covered by these rules is extensive, including not just goods and services, but also investment and other areas only loosely connected to trade. Any attempt to 'harmonise' regulations between the EU and Canada threatens to push standards down to the lowest common denominator. Moreover, business lobbyists could use this process to push for regulatory changes that are too controversial to be included in the text of CETA itself.

Intellectual property rights

CETA would strengthen the position of patent holders relative to innovators and consumers, which would encourage the already destructive practice of patent trolling in software and other industries. Because intellectual property is covered by the investor-state dispute mechanism in CETA, patent holders may be able to sue governments for future regulations designed to reduce the power of patent trolls.

CETA does not directly threaten Internet freedom, but by locking in the current system of industry-friendly intellectual property rules in Canada and the EU, CETA would prevent governments from returning to a more user-friendly intellectual property regime in the future.


[...] By expanding duty-free import quotas (e.g. for milk and meat), CETA would expose Canadian and European farmers to considerable competitive pressure, which could encourage more profitable (for some) but less sustainable farming practices....

Climate and energy

CETA's provisions for investment protection coupled with its weak protections for environmental and resource measures will undermine sustainable climate and energy policy in the future.... CETA lacks any provisions that clearly protect regulations and measures aimed at curbing climate change or promoting renewable energy from investor attacks....

Labour rights

CETA fails to introduce the kind of binding and enforceable labour provisions that would protect and improve labour standards in the EU and Canada. Several EU member states as well as Canada have not ratified some of the International Labour Organisation's core labour standards or priority governance conventions....

Tellingly, the labour chapter in CETA is exempt from the general dispute settlement provisions of the agreement. In the event of a dispute over a labour standards violation, CETA merely requires the Parties to engage in non-binding consultations.

Canada-specific concerns

[...] Under CETA, Canada would be forced to make unilateral changes to its intellectual property regime for pharmaceuticals that would increase drug costs. For the first time in a Canadian trade agreement, CETA would apply restrictive procurement rules to municipal and provincial governments, which could undermine local and regional development initiatives.

CETA could also come into conflict with the rights of Indigenous peoples, whose traditional lands are often the target of foreign resource companies.

Other areas of Canadian concern include the impact of CETA on supply-managed agricultural sectors, and how the chapter on the temporary entry of business persons will affect the domestic labour market.

Ratification process

[...] The European Commission and many member states are pushing for 'provisional implementation' of CETA even before the national ratification processes....

In Canada, CETA must be passed into law nationally before it comes into force, which will require the approval of both the elected federal Parliament and the appointed Senate. The current government is strongly in favour of CETA and will push for its ratification as early as autumn 2016, despite opposition from a variety of municipalities and public interest organisations.

Full text available here

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Electoral Reform in Prince Edward Island

Plebiscite Begins

Ad produced by Elections PEI for October 29-November 7 plebiscite.

From October 29 to November 7 the electorate of Prince Edward Island can vote in a plebiscite on electoral reform. Given the plans of the Trudeau government to reform the way votes in Canada are counted before the next federal election, it is instructive to observe what is taking place in PEI which is clearly considered to be a proving ground. The government of PEI is also a Liberal majority government and, like the Trudeau Liberals, expressed interest in preferential ballots. The plebiscite question in PEI is also to be decided by a preferential ballot.

According to the government, the plebiscite is to determine the opinion of the electorate on the following question:

Rank the following electoral system options in your order of preference, 1 through 5 (with 1 being your most preferred and 5 being your least preferred).

Dual-Member Proportional
First-past-the-post (the current system)
First-past-the-post Plus Leaders
Mixed Member Proportional

Preferential Voting

Voters are permitted to mark as many or as few of the five electoral system options as they wish.[1] Unlike a referendum, the plebiscite is not binding. PEI Premier Wade MacLauchlan says the government will wait for the results before deciding on a course of action.

The winning option will be chosen using Instant-runoff voting (also known as Preferential Voting). If more than half of the voters choose one option as their first choice, that option will win. If no option captures a majority of first-choice votes, then the option with the fewest first-choice votes will be dropped and those ballots will be distributed to the other options based on the second choice on those ballots. A second count is then generated to see if any option has reached more than 50 per cent support. This is repeated as necessary until one option has a majority of the votes cast. If a ballot is cast with only one option, should that option be the one that receives the least number of votes and is excluded, that ballot will not be counted in any future distribution. There is no official participation threshold to be met for an option to be declared the winner.

During the period of the referendum, electors can vote online or by telephone. In-person voting will take place on November 4 and 5. This is the first time any province has done an electoral event where telephone and internet voting have been an option. The use of electronic voting at polls, online and by telephone means that people's votes will be transformed into digital files which will then be tabulated to determine the winner from the preferential system which requires the redistribution of ballots if no one option gets a majority of votes in the first round.

Sixteen- and seventeen-year-old citizens resident in PEI are also being permitted to vote for the first time. This was recommended by a Special Legislative Committee on Democratic Renewal on the grounds that they will be aged eighteen (and therefore eligible to vote under normal election rules) in the next provincial election, which will be held using the voting system that is chosen.

Elections PEI ad aimed at young voters.

The Legislative Assembly of PEI currently has 27 single-member districts. There are 101,000 eligible voters in this plebiscite.

Interest in Technology and Process

According to reports there are roughly 25 observers coming from most of the provinces and territories and some cities across Canada to observe the plebiscite, along with a team of auditors overseeing the process, headed by Electoral Management Consultant Harry Neufeld.[2] Neufeld indicates that many electoral agencies in Canada are interested in the PEI plebiscite as a result of the automation and information technology aspects being used for the first time. "They're all in the process of trying to automate and bring IT into the voting process. How we've been working in the past is very much 1900s," he said, adding that in this plebiscite PEI is using many of the recommendations for change that were in a recent report by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.

While Elections PEI is overseeing the plebiscite, parts of the process have been contracted out. Simply Voting Inc., a Montreal-based company is conducting not only the e-voting and telephone voting component but the counting of ballots as well. The company's website states "Over 1000 organizations from 48 countries rely on Simply Voting for their election needs. Our secure protocols, ease-of-use and flexible solutions transform elections across industries." It was launched in 2003 with its first customer being the Students' Society of McGill University.[3]

An October 26 CBC News article explains, "When the official vote count begins for the PEI plebiscite, it will be a computer that tallies up the votes and declares the winner." Neufeld said, "If we had to count all those ballots manually I think we'd be there for months."

"Stacks of ballots will be fed into an electronic tabulator, similar to a photocopy machine." A company called Election Systems & Software Canada will be responsible for feeding the ballots into the machine.[4] "The tabulator is set up to identify ballots that are missing key information, like the district number, or ones that aren't filled out properly," CBC reports. "All those ballots will automatically go into a separate bin for a team of adjudicators to examine."

CBC reports that the paper ballot results will be converted into a digital file that will be shared with Simply Voting Inc. The two companies and Elections PEI have held practice runs, and Neufeld said the tests were "encouraging." At the end, Simply Voting will merge the internet, phone and paper ballot results. Once the merger is done, determining a winner is "almost instantaneous," said Neufeld. "The computer will determine what option is the top choice of Islanders," CBC reports. The results will then be delivered to the Speaker of the PEI Legislature around one hour after polls close.


1. The following summaries are excerpts from Elections PEI. For more detailed information and explanatory videos visit http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/home.

Dual Member Proportional: The Island would be divided into larger districts, each containing two (2) MLAs. Voters would still mark one 'X' on the ballot. However, this vote would be a vote for the candidate and the party simultaneously. There could be [up to] two (2) candidates running under the same party heading.

In the first round half the seats are allocated based on first-past-the-post. In the second round, seats are assigned to the best performing candidates. If a party deserves 3 additional seats based on their proportion of the vote, generally, their top 3 candidates (of those that remain unelected after the first round) will receive a seat in this round of seat allocation. Independent candidates can still run and any vote cast for an independent is a vote cast specifically for that individual.

First-past-the-post (FPTP) (the current system): All the votes for the district are counted, and the candidate with the most votes wins a seat in the Legislative Assembly to represent their district.

First-past-the-post Plus Leaders: Similar electoral system to what is currently in place in Prince Edward Island, however it features the addition of seats awarded to leaders of the province's political parties. Parties that attain a threshold of 10 per cent of the province-wide popular vote have their leaders elected to the Legislative Assembly, in addition to any seats they acquire in electoral districts. The candidates who run and win in the districts become the representatives for their district in the legislature and have specific jurisdiction over that district, identical to our current system. Any party leaders who are elected to the Legislative Assembly would have province-wide jurisdiction, meaning voters from any district across the province may approach the party leaders with their concerns.

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP): A legislature elected under MMP consists of a mix of representatives for single-member electoral districts, and representatives for the entire province selected from a party list. The ballot would be in two parts; the first electing the district MLA, and the second part electing the list MLAs. List seats are allocated proportionally, based on the popular vote each party receives on the second part of the ballot. The system is designed so that the list seats become "top-up" or compensatory seats to accommodate for disproportionate results in the local district FPTP elections. Independent candidates may still run in an electoral district as votes are cast specifically for individuals in each district to elect local MLAs. However, independent candidates are not able to run as list candidates, because voters are casting their ballots for a party to be designated those seats.

Preferential Voting: A system where voters rank all the candidates on a single ballot according to preference. In order to win a district, a candidate must get more than 50 per cent of the votes. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote in the first count, then the last place candidate is excluded and that candidate's votes are redistributed to the voter's second preference. This process continues until a candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote.

2. Neufeld is the former Chief Electoral Officer of Elections BC (2002 to 2010). In April 2010, after two rulings against the BC Liberal government related to the HST referendum, he was told by BC Legislative Assembly Speaker Bill Barisoff that he would not be reappointed at the end of his eight-year term. Subsequently Neufeld became a private consultant.

Neufeld authored a 2013 report commissioned by Elections Canada entitled "A Review of Compliance with Election Day Registration and Voting Process Rules," evaluating the 2011 election. The review "stemmed from a legal challenge regarding the conduct of the May 2, 2011 federal general election in the Ontario electoral district of Etobicoke Centre." The report was the basis for claims made by then-Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre of irregularities in that election linked to vouching, and it was cited to support the Harper government's Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act. Neufeld stated that the report was misinterpreted and that the bill "tilt[ed] the playing field in one direction" by eliminating vouching and voter ID cards and called for it to be amended or defeated.

Neufeld's biography in the Compliance Review of the 2011 election states that he has worked as a consultant around elections in Australia, Botswana, Britain, Guinea, Guyana, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Libya, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Uganda, the United States and Zimbabwe. He "began his career in elections focused on computerizing the management of electoral information. In 1982, his first major assignment was to assist a technical team and help Elections BC computerize its provincial voters list and introduce information technology into the management of elections" and "In the early 1990s, Harry became Elections Canada's first Director of Information Technology, and was responsible for computerization of lists of electors, digitized mapping services and the introduction of general office automation."

3. The company's president is Brian Lack, who studied programming at McGill and was a Chief Electoral Officer for the Students' Society of McGill University.

Among the clients listed on the Simply Vote website are the University of Minnesota, Alberta NDP, UN Refugee Agency, Canadian Football League Players' Association, Doctors Without Borders, Arizona Republican Party, Wildrose Party, Green Party of Canada, Australian Democrats, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, United Teachers Los Angeles, and Ontario Federation of Agriculture. The company provided internet and telephone voting to four Ontario municipalities in the 2014 municipal elections.

The company describes itself as "a full-service provider of secure, hosted online elections... We are an agile company and our voting system is constantly evolving with technology and security innovations. Many reputable third parties have audited our product, technical infrastructure, and corporate infrastructure. These audits confirm that Simply Voting possesses the integrity and security which we promise."

4. Election Systems & Software (ES&S) is "the world's largest and most experienced provider of voting machines and total election management solutions. Our understanding of election processes is unmatched," the company website says. Its headquarters is in Omaha, Nebraska and it claims two decades of experience in Canada. Its products include online voting systems, vote tabulation machines, election management software, ballot printers, voter registration software, optical scanners, ballot marking devices and absentee ballot systems. It offers services including helping to design elections and "ballot management." Its also owns Data Information Management Systems, LLC (DIMS), known for its voter registration system, DIMS.net. ES&S is a subsidiary of the McCarthy Group, LLC, a "merchant bank dedicated to brokering businesses and making and managing investments." According to an ES&S promotional video, more than 60 per cent of voters in the United States cast their ballot on an ES&S system. ES&S reports that it has produced more than 100 million ballots for the U.S. Presidential election alone.

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After the May 4, 2015 Prince Edward Island election, the Liberal majority government pledged in its first Throne Speech to "initiate and support a thorough and comprehensive examination of the ways in which to strengthen our electoral system, our representation, and the role and functioning of the Legislative Assembly." That election resulted in the Liberals' third consecutive government with 18 seats, while the Progressive Conservatives took eight seats and the Green Party took one seat for its leader. The NDP was shut out as it had been in the previous election.

In July 2015 the government released a White Paper on Democratic Renewal. In the foreword to the paper, PEI Premier Wade MacLaughlan stated: "With two decades having passed since the electoral reforms of 1994 and with a legal requirement that electoral boundaries be redrawn before the next provincial election, it is timely for Prince Edward Islanders to engage in a further and historic renewal of our democratic institutions."

The White Paper laid out a model for reform proposed by the government. It was said to draw on Prince Edward Island's history of dual-member ridings and on the "longstanding approach widely used in PEI and elsewhere to nominate candidates and party leaders."[1] The new elements proposed by the White Paper were:

- a combination of four larger districts aligned with the province's four federal ridings, and six small single-member ridings within each of those districts, yielding a total of 28 Members of the Legislative Assembly; and

- a move to a preferential ballot system in both types of districts to "ensure that every candidate must win the support of at least half their constituents to gain elected office."

It specifically proposed for the preferential system that "Voters would receive a two-part ballot on Election Day. On one half, the voter would indicate his or her preferences, in order, for the candidates in the local district, with '1' being the preferred candidate, '2' the second choice, and so on. It would be the voter's choice as to whether to indicate only one preference, or two or more, from among the candidates. On the second part of the ballot, the voter could express his or her preferences with regard to the candidates for each of the parties running in the large district aligned with the federal riding. Again, the voter could rank as many candidates as wished.

The White Paper argued that this approach, "which has long been used within political parties to select leaders and candidates for office," has several positive implications:

- It gives voters a greater voice and reduces the number of "wasted votes." 

- In so doing, it increases the electoral influence of supporters of smaller and newer parties, as those preferences are most likely to be counted first in working toward the 50 per cent plus one. 

- It ensures that all winning candidates enter office with the support of a majority of their constituents. 

- More subtly, it promotes a collaborative approach to running for and holding office. It is widely considered that the first-past-the-post system encourages candidates to foster polarization and conflict in order to define what they stand for and galvanize their supporters into voting. In a preferential system, however, candidates must appeal to a broader range of views in order to win the support of second and third round voters, encouraging a more constructive and positive approach, the White Paper argued.

The White Paper also discussed measures to encourage greater diversity and representativeness of candidates as well as measures for election finance reform including restrictions on who may donate, caps on individual donations, caps on campaign spending and taxpayer subsidies "to the electoral process," referring to public subsidies to political parties.

The government struck a Special Legislative Committee to "guide public engagement and make recommendations in response to the White Paper" and to define the plebiscite question to be presented. The White Paper proposed that the question would be guided by a preferential ballot on the following three voting options: 1) first-past-the-post 2) a preferential ballot 3) proportional representation. Islanders were also invited to take part in the "conversation about democratic renewal" on the Special Legislative Committee's Facebook page and via Twitter.

The Committee was made up of five members: Jordan Brown, Liberal Government Whip and MLA for Charlottetown-Brighton (Chair), Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker (Leader of the Green Party of PEI), Paula Biggar, Liberal (Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy) and Sidney MacEwen, Progressive Conservative MLA (Morell-Mermaid). Janice Sherry, Liberal MLA (Summerside-Wilmot) had been assigned as a member of the committee but resigned her seat as an MLA in April 2016. On November 27, 2015, the Special Legislative Committee submitted its first recommendations in response to the White Paper. In this report it asked for further time to study the matter. To that point the Committee was first briefed by experts in the field and former electoral officials. Following this it held nine meetings in communities across PEI during October and November 2015. Two meetings were held specifically with high school and university students. The Committee also recommended extending the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds who would vote under the new system in the next election. It also recommended a six-month education campaign prior to a November 2016 plebiscite.

In its second and final set of recommendations, the Committee recommended that the ballot question take the form of a multi-option ballot listing five systems to be ranked and voted upon. Among other things it also recommended that in the case of "First-past-the-post Plus Leaders" that a threshold of 10 per cent of the popular vote be achieved by political parties to assign a seat to party leaders and that, in the case of Mixed-Member Proportional Representation, open lists of candidates be incorporated so that voters have a degree of choice among the candidates presented on party lists. It further proposed that the fraction of seats comprising the proportional component of the mixed system be approximately one-third of the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly and that these seats be considered compensatory or "top up" seats.


1. Prior to the 1996 provincial election, the province was divided into 16 dual-member districts, each of which was represented by one member who held the title Assemblyman and another member who held the title Councillor. This was a holdover from the legislature's historic bicameral structure -- instead of simply abolishing its upper house as most Canadian provinces with historically bicameral legislatures did, Prince Edward Island merged the two houses in 1893.

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Recall Referendum Process Suspended Following Exposure of Widespread Irregularities

Rally in Caracas, October 26, 2016, in support of Maduro government and Bolivarian Republic.

On October 20, Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the temporary suspension of the recall referendum process initiated against President Nicolás Maduro. The suspension was based on rulings by criminal courts in five states (there are now seven) where fraud was found to have been committed in the initial stage of signature collection for a referendum.

The first stage of the process for initiating a recall referendum only required the coalition of opposition parties known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) to collect a total of 195,000 signatures, representing 1 per cent of the registered electorate in each of Venezuela's 23 states and the national capital region. They actually handed over to the CNE 1,957,779 signatures of which 605,727 or 31 per cent were ultimately ruled invalid due to irregularities. Included in these were 11,000 signatures of deceased persons, 9,333 persons not listed in the Electoral Registry, 3,000 minors and 1,335 convicted felons. More than 9,000 complaints of cases of false identity were received.

The submission of false signatures is a criminal offence and allowing the recall to proceed under those circumstances would have undermined the credibility of the entire Venezuelan electoral system.

Criminal courts in the states of Aragua, Bolívar, Carabobo, Monagas, Apure, Zulia and Trujillo found evidence of fraud in the one per cent signature collection. The courts accepted complaints against certain opposition leaders in those states for commission of criminal offences that included giving false testimony before a public official, engaging in false acts and providing false information to electoral officials. Consequently, the courts took the precautionary measure of ordering the suspension of any acts resulting from the one per cent signature collection, meaning the next stage of collecting signatures from 20 per cent of registered electors in those states could not go ahead as planned October 26, 27 and 28.

Venezuelan people take their support of their Bolivarian republic to the streets in support of
the 2017 budget put forward by President Maduro, October 18, 2016.

In response to the decisions of the five courts on October 20 the CNE announced it was adhering to the measures ordered by the judges and postponing the second stage of signature collection scheduled for October 26-28 pending further judicial orders. With close to a third of the states prevented from proceeding to the second and final stage of signature collection, conditions obviously did not exist for going ahead. There was no way for a referendum to be triggered without signatures being obtained from 20 per cent of voters in every state. More significant, however, is that by ordering a pause to the process rather than pushing ahead and turning a blind eye to the fraud that was committed, Venezuela's courts and electoral authorities are showing their determination to uphold not just the integrity of the country's electoral system but its Constitution and the rule of law as reactionary, foreign-backed forces are attempting to use both to defraud the Venezuelan people and destroy their Bolivarian project.

A question remains however: What purpose is served by such blatant fraud if the MUD truly believe, as they claim, that the people of Venezuela are with them in wanting to remove the president?

TML Weekly alerts readers to the fact that there is much disinformation surrounding events in Venezuela geared to creating the impression that the government does not respect the rule of law and that all avenues for the people to express their will have been blocked, leaving only anarchy, violence and coup methods. This has intensified over the issue of the recall referendum. Just one example is the reference frequently seen in media accounts that the process initiated several months ago has now been "cancelled." In fact, the National Electoral Council announced on October 20 that it was postponing the process in light of five criminal court decisions. The hue and cry from the MUD about the referendum being "blocked," making it necessary to resort to more drastic measures is actually to cover up who it is that has been committing crimes and undermining the rule of law to try and get their way.


Opposition Recall Campaign and Related Constitutional Matters

The reactionary MUD coalition won the majority of seats in the National Assembly in the last legislative elections held December 2015. Upon taking their seats in January, the MUD declared they would remove President Nicolás Maduro within six months and made several, ultimately unconstitutional efforts, such as trying to retroactively shorten the president's term to achieve that aim. Only after exhausting those other efforts did the parties making up the MUD finally sort out their differences and settle on initiating a recall referendum -- a process involving several stages.

Under the Venezuelan Constitution, if a successful recall referendum was carried out before President Maduro reaches the fourth year of his six-year term -- January 10, 2017 -- a new presidential election would be triggered. If the referendum were to succeed after this date, Maduro's vice-president would serve out the remainder of his term.

The MUD submitted its initial petition for the recall referendum on May 2, well aware that the last time such a referendum was held (an unsuccessful attempt to recall late President Hugo Chávez in 2004) the entire process took eight months, which in this case would have taken the process into February 2017.

Another ongoing dispute between the government and opposition-controlled National Assembly is that the latter has been passing legislation in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that barred three deputies from being sworn in after the December 2015 election while authorities investigated allegations of fraud around their victories. The MUD disregarded the Court's order and seated all three and has been allowing them to vote.

Consequently the court has declared without effect legislation passed in the National Assembly while this situation persists. In addition, a number of other opposition initiatives were ruled unconstitutional on jurisdictional and other grounds by the court. All of this has led the MUD to allege that the Judicial and Electoral branches do not operate independently of the Executive, and that the government is therefore in contempt of the country's constitution.

(Photos: Prensa Presidential, AVN)

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U.S.-Backed Opposition Calls for Coup d'État

People take to the streets of Caracas, October 18, 2016, in support of the Maduro government's 2017 budget, rejecting attempts of counter-revolutionary forces intent on removing the President.

Throughout the past week the Venezuelan people have been holding mass actions around the country to defend their President and the gains of the Bolivarian revolution against attempts of the foreign-backed opposition to stage a coup d'état. In Caracas the working people and other supporters of the Bolivarian government have demonstrated at the National Assembly and held large rallies in front of the presidential palace, Miraflores, vowing not to permit a repeat of the short-lived coup perpetrated by many of the same forces against the late President Hugo Chávez in 2002.

The exposure of fraud in the recall referendum process and its subsequent suspension has inflamed those forces in Venezuela and abroad who are hell-bent on removing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and bringing the country back under imperialist domination.

A press conference held on October 21 by leaders of the counter-revolutionary forces in Venezuela was addressed by Henry Ramos Allup and Henrique Capriles. Ramos Allup is President of the opposition-controlled National Assembly while Capriles is Governor of the state of Miranda and former presidential candidate for the MUD. Capriles and Ramos demanded the government overturn the decision of the National Electoral Council (CNE) to suspend the recall referendum process and disregard the widespread fraud that prompted courts in seven states to take action as well. Capriles issued a call for the National Assembly and the Armed Forces to "make a decision," meaning to intervene against the elected president and his government allegedly to "defend the constitution." Capriles presented the fact that President Maduro was at that time out of the country on official business as a golden opportunity for a coup to be staged. "Maduro did not just leave the country, he vacated his position," Capriles said.

When confronted about whether his statements amounted to an attempt by the MUD to stage a coup, Capriles claimed that a "coup" had already been carried out by the government of Maduro and that "we have to restore constitutional order." Capriles announced that there would be mobilizations in the following days and that the opposition would "take Venezuela" on the streets on October 26, the day the next round of recall signature collection would have begun.

President Maduro responded on October 21 while in Azerbaijan as part of a tour to meet with governments of fellow oil-exporting countries by calling for "calm, dialogue, peace, respect for justice and the law."

On Sunday, October 23, while the president was still outside the country, a special session of the National Assembly adopted a declaration titled Agreement for the Restitution of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Constitutional Order and Democracy. The declaration called for:

"The international community to activate all necessary mechanisms to guarantee the rights of the Venezuelan people, especially their right to democracy;

"Formalizing denunciations before the International Criminal Court and other competent organizations against the judges and directors of the CNE responsible for the suspension of the recall referendum process as well as other officials responsible for the political persecution of the people of Venezuela;

"Initiating a process to determine the constitutionality of the President of the Republic at a special session of the National Assembly called for October 25 to assess the situation and take a decision. [This refers to opposition accusations, already proven to be false, that Nicolás Maduro is a dual citizen -- of Colombia and Venezuela -- making him ineligible to hold the office of president -- TML Ed. Note.]

President Maduro, October 25, 2016.

"Formation of a special high level parliamentary commission charged with developing and defining the decisions that flow from this agreement to restore the constitutional order;

"Demands that the National Armed Forces do not obey nor execute any act or decision coming from the Executive, Judicial, Citizens' or Electoral powers that is contrary to constitutional principles or that undermines the fundamental rights of the Venezuelan people;

"Convoking the people of Venezuela in accordance with constitutional provisions, especially the one established in Article 333 of our constitution, to engage in constant and active defence of our Magna Carta, democracy and the rule of law until constitutional order is restored."[1]

On October 26 the MUD resolved to initiate attempts to impeach President Maduro. In this it is taking its cue from the parliamentary coup perpetrated against Brazil's former president Dilma Rousseff by reactionary forces backed by the U.S. They used trumped-up "evidence" of corruption to impeach her in a political trial to gain impunity for their own corruption.

President Maduro speaks to rally in Caracas, October 26, 2016, the same day MUD resolved to initiate impeachment attempts against him.

The MUD also announced that a delegation led by the Speaker of the National Assembly will travel to Washington, DC to meet with the Organization of American States (OAS) to once again demand the OAS' "Democratic Charter" be applied against Venezuela, this time based on the suspension of the referendum process. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro jumped at the opportunity to ramp up his campaign to use every instrument available through the OAS to attack Venezuela.

OAS Secretary General Calls for International Intervention

On October 21 Almagro used Twitter to declare, "Today we're more convinced than ever of the democratic breakdown in #Venezuela. It's time to take concrete actions."

In a statement dated October 22 posted on the OAS website, Almagro declared that the suspension of the recall referendum process was a turning point and a "breakdown of the democratic system." He did not mention the findings of Venezuelan courts that the opposition's signature collection was rife with fraud and placed the blame on the Venezuelan President for the decisions of the national electoral authorities. He declared that as a result of the recall process being suspended the President has "lost all of his legitimacy..." As a result, Almagro threatened that "the political instability created will be his responsibility." He called on OAS members to act in the framework of Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which "imposes the obligation of concrete results," and urged the use of mediators that have "the trust of everyone."

Almagro dismissed the dialogue facilitated by Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) between the Venezuelan government and opposition, led by former Presidents of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero; Panama, Martín Torrijos; and the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández. "[I]t has failed to prevent institutional breakdown; on the contrary whatever its intentions it has aided the string of obstacles placed before the realization of the recall referendum," he said. The OAS, unlike UNASUR, is based in Washington, DC and funded primarily by the U.S. and Canada, who are not UNASUR members. In dismissing the efforts of South American countries to resolve the matter politically, Almagro is seeking to intervene against the Venezuelan government using the OAS, which thus far has been blocked from taking such action.[2]

"'Therefore, it is essential that there be a new mediation effort that gives moral force to the solutions needed by the Venezuelan people," Almagro concluded.

Opposition Divided Over Dialogue

On October 24 the Venezuelan government and some representatives of the MUD announced that they had agreed to sit down for formal talks mediated by the Vatican, UNASUR and three former heads of state starting October 30. "At last we are setting up a dialogue between the opposition and the legitimate government," President Nicolás Maduro said from Rome, after a meeting with the Pope. The announcement led to an apparent split within the MUD as leaders of some of its member parties who are deeply involved in coup preparations said they knew nothing about it, having found out only through the media, and denounced the dialogue, saying things like the only thing to negotiate was a transition.


1. Article 333 of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela states: "This Constitution shall not lose effect if it ceases to be observed due to acts of force or because it is derogated by any means other than as provided for herein. In such eventuality, every citizen vested or not vested with authority, has a duty to cooperate in restoring its effective application."

2. See "Latin American and Caribbean Countries Defeat OAS Attempt to Support Coup Forces," TML Weekly June 4, 2016.

(With files from Venezuelanalysis, TeleSUR, OAS, La Patilla. Photos: Prensa Presidential, AVN)

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Canada's Role in Organizing Reactionary
Regime Change

On October 21, Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion issued a statement that "Canada is concerned by the decision of Venezuela's National Electoral Council to suspend the presidential recall referendum. Canada strongly urges the Electoral Council to reverse its decision and allow Venezuelans to exercise their constitutional right to hold a recall referendum."

Dion's statement on behalf of the Government of Canada constitutes blatant interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela. More than that, it is an attempt to bolster forces that are in the midst of attempting to carry out a coup d'état against the elected President of the country, Nicolás Maduro. The statement deliberately ignores the fact that the decision by Venezuela's National Electoral Council to suspend the second phase of the signature collection process to request a recall referendum against the Venezuelan President was taken in response to decisions by Venezuelan courts based on evidence of widespread irregularities. The nature and extent of the irregularities signal an organized fraud in the signature collection process by leaders of the U.S. and Canadian-backed opposition. Canada is trying to give legitimacy to likely crimes by forces it has given its backing to and fan the flames of violence. This from a country that denies its own citizens the right to recall Members of Parliament or the Prime Minister. Already there are reports of one police officer shot to death and two others injured in Miranda state by violent anti-government demonstrators during street actions on October 26 called by the opposition to "take Venezuela."

Dion has declared himself judge, jury and executioner, attempting to dictate to the Venezuelan courts and government on behalf of his U.S. imperialist masters that they should ignore their findings and their own law and procedures. Canada's talk of democracy and human rights is clearly exposed in this case as a fraud, used to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries and facilitate coups d'état against governments that refuse to submit to U.S. imperialist dictate. This is the same thing the Canadian government did in Haiti this past year, demanding the country get on with holding the final round of presidential elections despite the widespread, open fraud that took place in earlier rounds.

To hide the role Canada is playing to incite anarchy, violence and instability in Venezuela, Dion went on to state: "Canada calls on all sides to react with restraint and to look for a lawful resolution to the serious crisis facing the country." Somehow the decisions of the Venezuelan courts are not "lawful" nor are the decisions of its National Electoral Council. According to Dion, the opposition's refusal to recognize the courts' decisions is acceptable because he has decided it is and the issue now is to use "lawful" means to carry out regime change rather than "unlawful" means. Are we supposed to believe that Canada is acting to contribute to peace and democracy in Venezuela when everything points to the fact that its foreign Minister is only concerned with getting a result that he and the forces he represents want in Venezuela?

Part of Canada's support for regime change in Venezuela involves painting the Bolivarian government as a violator of human rights while the fraud exposed in the referendum process is hidden. Dion said, "We are concerned by ongoing arrests and detentions of political opponents and protestors. Canada calls on the Government of Venezuela to respect its international commitments to democracy and human rights, to release all political prisoners, and to engage in dialogue with the political opposition."

Canadians should raise their voices against the Trudeau government's attempts to provide cover for regime change in Venezuela. The actions of Canada's foreign minister are hostile and meant to create an atmosphere of anarchy and violence in which anything can happen, that will immediately be blamed on the Venezuelan government so as to justify whatever crimes the imperialists are preparing.

No to the Use of Force in International Affairs!
No to Canada's Support for Regime Change!
Hands Off Venezuela!

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Unanimous Vote at UN to End U.S. Blockade

Overwhelming Victory for Cuba!

Today, October 26, the United Nations by a vote of 191 to 0 (with 2 abstentions, the United States and Israel) overwhelmingly condemned Washington's more than five-decade-long economic war against Cuba. This represents the 25th consecutive year that the UN has rejected U.S. attempts to impose its imperial will on Cuba through coercion by the unilateral commercial, economic and financial blockade of Cuba.

The resounding UN vote represents not only a victory for Cuba but also a victory for all those who struggle to defend the inalienable and inviolable right of all peoples to self-determination and independence.

Representing the largest rebuff by the international community of Washington's efforts to asphyxiate the heroic people of Cuba, the October 26 vote not only demonstrates the unflinching opposition of the world to the criminal U.S. policy, but also the depth of global support and respect for Cuba. Such is the isolation of the empire in the world that it was forced to acknowledge and accede to this reality by abstaining.

However, while Washington's abstention is a positive development, the principal architecture of the economic blockade remains intact.

Thus, the struggle still continues to finally bring an end to the U.S. economic war against Cuba, which is a flagrant violation of international law, constituting the principal obstacle to the island's social and economic development. In this struggle, the nations and the peoples of the world, representing the immense majority of humanity, have declared in one voice that they stand with Cuba.

End the U.S. Blockade of Cuba!

(October 26, 2016. Photo: L. Ernesto)

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Might Does Not Make Right!

The unanimous October 26 UN vote in favour of Cuba's resolution "Need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba" is another important victory not only for Cuba but for all of Cuba's many friends and supporters around the world.

However, in announcing the U.S. abstention prior to the vote, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power emphasized that while the Obama administration has changed U.S. policy toward Cuba, the abstention should in no way be taken as agreement with those who support the resolution. She then went on to arrogantly declare all the ways that Cuba should change itself to meet U.S. approval, not once acknowledging any U.S. misdeed against Cuba.

Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla graciously accepted the U.S. abstention and the remarks of the U.S. Ambassador. At the same time, he used the occasion to reiterate the brutal effects of the blockade. Cuba estimates the accumulated economic damage of the blockade at $753.67 billion. Rodriguez also pointed out the blockade's blatant violations of international law, and the affront that it represents to the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean who have declared the region a zone of peace. "There is no doubt that progress has been made," Rodriguez said. "However the economic, commercial and financial blockade persists. It causes harm to the Cuban people and impairs the country's economic development." The blockade must be removed in its entirety, he underscored. He concluded by saying that in the process of normalizing relations between the two countries, it would be helpful for the U.S. to recognize that change in Cuba is a sovereign matter of Cubans themselves.

Cuba's latest victory at the United Nations stands in sharp contrast to all those who would abuse the UN to undermine the sovereignty of others. While examples abound of the U.S. imperialists attempting to use the institutions of the UN against its founding principles and Charter, Cuba's principled defence of its own rights defends the interests of humanity.

On this occasion, TML Weekly sends its warmest congratulations to Cuba, its leadership, people and diplomatic mission at the UN, and all of Cuba's friends around the world. At a time when the U.S. imperialists, with their army, navy, air force, nuclear weapons, state terror, economic warfare and coups d'état are wreaking havoc on humanity, Cuba's victory at the UN sends a clear message that "Might does not make right!" and that organized resistance and the steadfast defence of principle can find a way forward. TML Weekly calls on Canadians to actively support the movement to end the blockade and return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba.

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Arrogant Remarks by U.S. Ambassador
Explaining Abstention

Before the UN vote on the annual resolution to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba on October 26, the floor was opened for representatives from any country to speak to the resolution. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power noted, "For more than 50 years, the United States had a policy aimed at isolating the Government of Cuba. For roughly half of those years, UN member states have voted overwhelmingly for a General Assembly resolution that condemns the U.S. embargo and calls for it to be ended. The United States has always voted against this resolution. Today, the United States will abstain." The announcement of the U.S. abstention was met by sustained applause from the Assembly.

Note that Power claimed the resolution condemns the "U.S. embargo," which implies that the measures are a bilateral affair between the U.S. and Cuba and nobody else's concern. This is not correct. The resolution condemns the "U.S. blockade" which is an all-sided illegal act of aggression against Cuba, which is also imposed on all countries who have relations with Cuba and trade with Cuba.

Power then qualified this position to make sure no one mistook it for U.S. agreement with the resolution:

"In December 2014, President Obama made clear his opposition to the embargo and called on our Congress to take action to lift it. Yet while the Obama administration agrees that the U.S. embargo on Cuba should be lifted, I have to be clear we don't support the shift for the reasons stated in this resolution." Power then went on to deny the illegality of the blockade and that the U.S. "categorically reject[s] the statements in the resolution that suggest otherwise."

Power then used her speech to spread disinformation about life in Cuba, denying U.S. responsibility for the many difficulties faced by Cubans because of the blockade and to justify all of the U.S. misdeeds. She admitted that the policy of isolating Cuba had backfired on the U.S., but then made spurious allegations about human rights violations in Cuba. For example, she alleged limitations on Cubans' access to outside sources of information.

Power did not acknowledge that the hostile U.S. policy violates Cubans' human rights, that the greatest restriction on Cubans' access to information is no doubt the blockade, which restricts the internet bandwidth to less than Cuba requires, as well as Cuba's access to computers and telecommunications equipment. Nor did she acknowledge the billions of dollars in economic damage cause by the blockade or the thousands injured and killed through U.S.-sponsored state terrorism against Cuba. Similarly, when she congratulated Cuba for its work to lower the rate of child mortality, she did not acknowledge the feat of doing so under the blockade (nor that the rate in Cuba is lower than that of the U.S.).

At no time did Power recognize the legitimate reasons for which the world's peoples have formally condemned the blockade for 25 years, nor the need for justice or redress.

The U.S. Ambassador even claimed that the "enmity" between the two countries has prevented normal diplomatic relations and collaboration, suggesting that Cuba has been hostile toward the U.S. and this justified U.S. aggression against Cuba. Cuba of course has never shown any such enmity toward the U.S. It has simply defended its rights and sovereignty and that of other peoples in the spirit of internationalism and has sought peaceful and friendly relations with all countries, including the U.S.

Power attempted to give a positive example of cooperation and multilateralism involving Cuba and the U.S. using a most patronizing recounting of the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. She stated that it was the U.S. which led the way, and that Cuba had really stepped up by being one of the first to respond to the U.S. call to action. She spoke about a Cuban doctor who had become infected during the course of providing assistance in West Africa. The international effort to treat this doctor is what should always characterize the UN, Power said. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, in his remarks that followed Power's, had to point out that the deployment of Cuban medical aid in that case was actually hampered by the U.S. blockade.

Power concluded her remarks saying that the U.S. abstention is but a small step to improving relations, but with many more such small steps, she hoped that the ultimate goal of finally lifting the blockade could be achieved.

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U.S. President's October 14 Policy Directive

The Small Print

Reopening of Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC on July 20, 2015, one of the steps taken in Cuba-U.S. relations over the past 22 months.

After decades of secret documents concealing sabotage and destabilization plans, Barack Obama's new presidential policy directive on Cuba was publicly unveiled on Friday, October 14.

The U.S. President stated that the document represents a "comprehensive and whole-of-government approach" and aims to make the transformations of the last two years irreversible.

He added that the directive "promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions."

Meanwhile, his National Security Adviser, Susan E. Rice, went even further in recognizing that there were "secret plans for Cuba" in the past, but that the U.S. had now decided to make public the executive directives concerning relations with the island.

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Through technocratic language and the typical neologisms of diplomacy, the text conceals many of the contradictions that remain between the two neighbors.

Since the announcements of December 17, 2014, U.S. authorities have said on several occasions, and in different ways, that they have changed their methods but not their objectives.

"We recognize Cuba's sovereignty and self-determination," the directive signed by Obama notes, after describing the actions of the last half century as "an outdated policy that had failed to advance U.S. interests."

Another paragraph of the document reads, "we are not seeking to impose regime change on Cuba; we are, instead, promoting values that we support around the world while respecting that it is up to the Cuban people to make their own choices about their future."

However, the speech by Rice at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington [on October 14], and the subsequent exchange with the press, made clear in both tone and content that the aspirations to promote changes in the political, economic and social order chosen by the Cuban people in 1959 have not disappeared.

The influential National Security Adviser justified the current change of policy, arguing that the United States could not "simply stand back and wait for Cuba to change."

She also said that Washington was interested in the changes that have occurred on the island which, according to her, have resulted from the rapprochement between the two countries since the restoration of diplomatic relations.

Rice added, "We believe that engaging openly and honestly is the best way to advance our ideals," claiming that Washington is "making our democracy programs more transparent."

It is under this label of "democracy programs" that the U.S. veils its regime change projects, to which it has allocated millions of dollars for decades, without achieving its objectives.

The directive contains almost identical terms in the final indications to the various levels of government, especially the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is in the sights of several countries due to its subversive work, and in Cuba was behind operations such as the ZunZuneo alternative social networking service, intended to create a support base among youth.

"The USAID will co-lead efforts with State to ensure that democracy programming is transparent and consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies," the document details, as if the mere fact of making such programs transparent, without changing their subversive nature, would automatically make them acceptable to Cuba.

Beyond the obscurity in the phrase "other similarly situated societies" and assuming that Cuba is not the only country where Washington funnels money to try to influence the decisions of sovereign peoples who do not respond to its interests, several questions arise: what does making these programs "transparent" consist of? Does being "transparent" make them less subversive?

Recent examples, such as the case of scholarships for summer courses from the organization World Learning, awarded surreptitiously and behind the backs of Cuban authorities, are illustrative with regard to the real interests of these USAID-subsidized programs in the style of the "Color Revolutions."

The directive recognizes that these operations affect the process toward the normalization of relations, but gives no indication of any intention to change, nor modify, other aspects that undermine the ties between the two countries: "We anticipate the Cuban government will continue to object to U.S. migration policies and operations, democracy programs, Radio and TV Marti, the U.S. presence at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, and the embargo."

The text continues, "The United States Government has no intention to alter the existing lease treaty and other arrangements related to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, which enables the United States to enhance and preserve regional security," in reference to one of the essential sovereign demands of the Cuban people, regarding the illegally occupied territory, without whose solution normal relations are not possible.

Among the results the United States seeks in the long term with the transformation of its policy toward Cuba is "the development of a private sector that provides greater economic opportunities for the Cuban people."

The text continues, "While the embargo remains in place, our role will be to pursue policies that enable authorized U.S. private sector engagement with Cuba's emerging private sector and with state-owned enterprises that provide goods and services to the Cuban people."

The Cuban economic model, whose updating process has been submitted to popular consultation on several occasions, recognizes the non-state sector as a source of employment and a complement to the economic development of the country. However, the social ownership of the basic means of production and the socialist state enterprise are key to the present and the prosperous and sustainable future to which we aspire on the island.

In its conceptualization of the Cuban people, the U.S. directive ignores the three of every four Cubans who work in the public sector and are not beneficiaries of current transformations.

Although undoubtedly the persistence of the blockade is the main obstacle to trade and the normalization of economic relations, the intention to prioritize the private over the public sector (which constitutes the majority in Cuba) for political purposes and to create divisions within the country is also clear.

The directive contradicts itself on stating, in the section entitled "Strategic Landscape", that Cuba has "important economic potential rooted in the dynamism of its people, as well as a sustained commitment in areas like education and health care."

For over half a century, private capital has not entered a Cuban school or hospital, but Washington does not hesitate to recognize both sectors as strategic strongholds for the country's future.

Measures on the Right Track but Limited

The latest round of measures from the departments of Commerce and the Treasury, which accompanied the publication of the directive, are on the same track as the previous ones, again with a very limited, selective and intentional scope.

While imports of Cuban pharmaceutical and biotechnology products to the United States are approved for the first time -- for the benefit no doubt of its own population which will now be able to access treatments like Heberprot-P for diabetic foot ulcers -- the restriction remains on creating joint ventures in this sector for the development and marketing of such products.

The opening in this area is evidence of the broad executive powers of the U.S. president to substantially modify aspects of the blockade, which continues to restrict exports of the vast majority of Cuban products to the neighboring country, the largest market in the world.

Most measures are aimed at expanding transactions already authorized in previous packages, demonstrating their limited scope.

The ban on U.S. investment in Cuba remains, except in the telecommunications sector, which was approved in early 2015.

There is no new news to help dispel international doubts regarding the financial persecution to which Cuba is subjected and whose intimidating effects still prevent cash deposits or payments to third parties in U.S. dollars.

The fact remains that, despite the call on Congress to lift the blockade, the bulk of this aggressive U.S. policy remains standing; resulting in billions in losses for the country. Its effects even inhibit the implementation of the measures approved by the Obama administration.

The President of the United States is far from having exhausted his executive powers to make possible the effective implementation of the measures adopted thus far and decisively contribute to dismantling the blockade.

Still, the historic steps of the last 22 months can not be disregarded. Diplomatic relations were reestablished and embassies reopened in both countries. Six U.S Cabinet secretaries have visited Havana and four Cuban ministers have traveled to the United States. Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928.

A Bilateral Commission was established to discuss priority issues and agreements on environmental protection; marine sanctuaries; public health and biomedical research; agriculture; the fight against drug trafficking; security of travelers and commerce; civil aviation; mail; and hydrography have been signed. Talks on cooperation in law enforcement, regulatory and economic issues and claims, among others, have been launched.

The list of progress between two countries that just two years ago lacked an elementary diplomatic link is considerable. But a long road remains ahead to achieve a civilized relationship between neighboring nations not only separated by 90 miles of sea, but by two centuries of convulsive bilateral history.

Beyond a directive drafted as if there were no problems between the two countries, and which could generate false expectations, the present time demands real political will to carry out the necessary changes and set aside both the carrot and the stick.

(Granma, October 19, 2016)

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Ten Key Questions

1. The directive issued by President Barack Obama, October 14, describes the blockade as an "outdated policy that had failed to advance U.S. interests." Will Washington ever recognize that the blockade has been an illegal and unjust policy of aggression which has caused Cuba billions of dollars in economic damages and incalculable human losses? Is the U.S. willing to compensate the Cuban people for these losses?

Losses caused by the U.S blockade of Cuba (April 2015 through April 2016):

Health: $82,723,876 -- Five million dollars more than last year

Food: $605,706,289 -- The greatest impact is seen in the increased price of seeds, fertilizers, and replacement parts from agricultural and other types of machinery.

Culture: $29,483,800 -- The U.S. could be Cuba's main source market for an important group of raw materials, resources, tools and equipment for the country's artists, artisans and designers, if the blockade didn't exist.

Education: $1,245,000 -- The Ministry of Education suffered losses in the cited period, due to the increased cost of sourcing supplies from markets further afield.

Construction: $30,868,200 -- Key losses in this sector are related to the island's inability to access more efficient, lighter and energy-friendly construction technologies.

Biotechnology: $171,665,136 -- Total losses caused by the blockade have reached an enormous figure.

2. If the United States wants to engage "honestly" with the Cuban people, as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Susan Rice stated, why does the new directive close the door on returning the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo, one of the sovereign demands of the Cuban people, key to full normalization of relations?

Every year the United States sends Cuba a check for $4,085 to lease the Naval Base in Guantánamo. As a matter of principle, Cuba does not cash these checks, as it doesn't recognize the occupation of this portion of national territory.

- The Naval Base located on Guantánamo Bay was established in 1903, after the occupation of the island by the U.S. military.

- The illegally occupied territory covers an area of 117.6 square kilometers (49.4 on land and the remainder over expanses of marshland and sea).

- [Between] soldiers and civilians, over 5,300 people work at the base.

- The U.S. maintains an illegal prison facility on the base.

3. "We recognize Cuba's sovereignty and self-determination and acknowledge areas of difference," and "we are not seeking to impose regime change on Cuba," are two sentences which feature in the new policy directive. If the U.S. government is really committed to this position in the current context of bilateral relations, why does it continue to maintain the so-called "Democracy Assistance" programs?

Every year the U.S. Congress approves a budget of approximately $20 million to fund subversive activities in Cuba. From 2009 to 2016 the U.S. government has allocated $139.3 million to this end.

Examples include ZunZuneo, a messaging network similar to that of Twitter, which sends seemingly innocent messages to users' cell phones with the aim of creating a political platform among Cuban youth; and World Learning summer scholarships awarded surreptitiously and without the involvement of Cuban authorities, which aim to create leaders with the potential to undermine the internal order of the country.

"Independent" contractors have been hired to establish [an] illegal covert communications system with the use of non-commercial technologies.

4. What does the directive mean when it says that "democracy assistance" programs will be more "transparent" and "consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies around the world?"

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has played a central role around the world in the work and financing of groups and individuals which participated in the brief coup staged against Hugo Chávez in 2002. Hundred of millions of dollars was funneled to coup supporters through organizations like Freedom House and the International Republican Institute (IRI).

In September 2008, during a wave of protests against the government of Evo Morales, authorities from the Andean nation decided to expel USAID after the agency refused to disclose recipients of aid funds.

Russian authorities expelled the agency from the country in October 2012. In a statement by the Kremlin it noted that USAID's work "does not always correspond to [its] stated goals This means attempts to exert influence, via the distribution of grants, on political processes, including elections at various levels and institutions of civil society."

5. The new directive notes, "We anticipate the Cuban government will continue to object to U.S. migration policies and operations, democracy programs, Radio and TV Marti." If the U.S. government understands that these issues undermine positive bilateral relations, what sense is there in maintaining Radio and TV Marti, which violate all international norms?

The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), responsible for Radio and TV Marti, has an annual budget of around $30 million. The organization has received a total of $193.9 million from 2009 to 2016.

Unsuccessful attempts at broadcasting TV Marti to Cuba were made via a hot air balloon, EC-130 military plane and G-1 aircraft. Transmissions still continue via satellite and internet.

Radio and TV Marti violate norms stipulated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which states that radio and television broadcasts should be intended to provide a "high-quality national service within the limits of the country considered," while short wave transmissions should facilitate "peaceful relations, international cooperation among peoples."

6. The Presidential directive notes that the new policy aims to "help the Cuban people to achieve a better future for themselves." What, then, is the point of applying measures only benefiting a small part of the population, above all private sector workers, clearly intended to create divisions within the country?

Workforce distribution in Cuba: At the end of 2014, of the country's 4,969,800 workers, 76 per cent work in the state sector, and the remainder in the private.

7. Alongside the new Presidential directive, the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments issued a new package [of] measures related to Cuba. Key changes include the ability to import Cuban pharmaceutical and biotechnological products to the U.S. Why maintain the restriction on creating joint ventures for the development and marketing of these products?

Since 2014, Cuba has possessed a novel medicine to treat diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs), preventing the need for amputation. To date the therapy has benefited more than 230,000 patients worldwide, with over 21 registries and 30 patents. The ability to export Heberprot-P could benefit the 5 per cent of U.S. citizens who develop DFUs annually. This would contribute to reducing the over 70,000 amputations performed on diabetic patients every year in the U.S.

Cuba has the first ever registered therapeutic vaccine to combat lung cancer. After 20 years of clinical trials, the safety and efficiency of the medicine has been proven, with positive reactions to treatment, increased survival rates, and improved quality of life for the patient.

Production costs are relatively low and the medicine produces no significant side effects. Over 5,000 patients have been treated with the vaccine worldwide. Lung cancer is the main cause of cancer related deaths in the United States.

8. Under the subheading Strategic Landscape, the directive notes that "Cuba has important economic potential rooted in the dynamism of its people, as well as a sustained commitment in areas like education and health care. Does Washington acknowledge that Cuba's socio-economic model, based on the public control over the fundamental means of production, guarantees such achievements in two spheres strategic for the nation's future?

The Cuban national public health system includes 415 polyclinics; 10,782 community clinics; 151 hospitals; and 1,229 dentistry facilities, providing services completely free of charge -- with one doctor for every 127 inhabitants; one dentist for every 640 inhabitants; and one nurse for every 125 inhabitants. Public resources additionally include 12 research institutes; 707 medical libraries; 147 retirement homes; 49 geriatric service facilities; 265 Older Adults Centers; and 13 universities with 25 medical sciences departments.

Public spending on education has grown from 83.7 million pesos in 1959 to 8.2 billion today.

9. Why are U.S. companies still prohibited from investing in Cuba, with the exception of the telecommunications sector, approved by Obama in 2015?

Foreign investment in Cuba today is evident in many sectors. Of the total amount invested, the largest portion is in tourism (52 per cent), followed by mining and energy at 11 per cent. Other areas include construction; agriculture-sugar; transportation; and food processing.

International Economic Association contracts make up 50 per cent of foreign investment; 45 per cent of the total is invested in joint ventures; while 5 per cent involves projects undertaken with 100 per cent foreign capital.

10. After half a century of stalemate, indisputable advances in bilateral relations have been made over the last 22 months. Is President Barack Obama willing to continue using his executive prerogatives to make the policy change toward Cuba irreversible?

(October 27, 2016. Sources: 2015 Portfolio of Foreign Investment Business Opportunities; 2016 report by Cuba on the blockade; Ministry of Labour, 2015 annual health statistics; Razones de Cuba; Cubaminrex)

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Canadians Organize to Support Hurricane Relief Efforts

Hurricane Matthew Relief and Reconstruction
for Cuba Campaign

Cuban President Rául Castro addresses residents of Maisí municipality in
Guantánamo province on a tour of areas hit by Hurricane Matthew, October 10, 2016.

Hurricane Matthew, with winds of 225 km/h (140mph), struck eastern Cuba on October 4, causing significant and widespread damage. Because of Cuba's internationally renowned and acclaimed civil defence system, there was no loss of life. However, Baracoa, Cuba's oldest city and known internationally as one of the most beautiful parts of the island, has been devastated. With a population of more than 80,000, Baracoa has been reduced to rubble. Baracoa resident Osvaldo Neira poignantly underscored the situation, declaring, "We lost everything."

Cuba will have to expend considerable resources, both immediate and long term, in order to overcome the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Matthew especially in the province of Guantanamo, where the municipalities of Baracoa, Maisi, Imias and San Antonio del Sur took the brunt of the hurricane. To assist Cuba in its immense efforts of recovery and reconstruction, the Canadian Network On Cuba (CNC) is launching a Hurricane Matthew Relief and Reconstruction for Cuba Campaign.

President Rául Castro with residents of Baracoa in eastern Cuba, during his visit to areas devastated by Hurricane Matthews, October 9, 2016.

In recent years, the CNC has had a series of successful Hurricane Relief Campaigns. The most recent was in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy struck the island, causing massive damage to Santiago de Cuba. In 2008, the CNC's most extensive campaign was launched when a series of hurricanes caused damage in excess of $10 billion. The CNC not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also directly participated in the construction of a new social and cultural centre on La Isla de La Juventud.

In 2016, as Cuba faces this latest challenge, we are confident that Canadians -- as they have repeatedly done -- will once again demonstrate their friendship and solidarity with Cuba by supporting the island as it recovers from the ravages of Hurricane Matthew.

Our experience with regard to Cuba's response to natural disasters is that it knows how to multiply the value of any donations it receives. We feel confident, based on the island's unsurpassed humanitarian work -- both within Cuba and in other countries -- that it has the skills, the organization and the ethical and moral values to put whatever assistance it receives to the best possible use. As they have shown throughout their history and especially since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959, the Cuban people will successfully overcome this new challenge. Even at this difficult time, Cubans continue to provide relief workers in Haiti.

The CNC urges everyone who so desires to support the Hurricane Matthew Relief and Reconstruction for Cuba Campaign by making a donation. Donations can be made to the Canadian Network on Cuba and mailed to: Attn: Sharon Skup, 56 Riverwood Terrace, Bolton, ON L7E 1S4. Please write "CNC Matthew Relief Fund" on your cheque's memo line.

On Behalf of the Canadian Network On Cuba,
Isaac Saney & Elizabeth Hill, CNC- Co-Chairs

(October 16, 2016. Photos: Estudios Revolucion)

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Notice to Members of the
Canadian Network on Cuba

It is with good reason that those of us who love and support Cuba or who are capable of human empathy, and are just humanitarians, feel great anxiety when we hear of a tropical storm approaching the Caribbean. The odds are that that storm, nurtured by the warmth of that sea, will grow into a hurricane of violent or even disastrous proportions. Great are the odds too that it will attack one or more of the several island countries that come to life there, doing damage to them that is vastly disproportionate to what they can afford to repair.

Even more likely is the chance that one of those targeted islands will be Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean countries, washed by the Caribbean and the Atlantic and stretching toward the Gulf of Mexico. So large, in fact, and occupying such a meteorologically strategic space that severe damage to the island's people and property can be done by a hurricane that hits any of the island's cardinal points or points in between.

Nevertheless, when a hurricane makes its cruel way through the Caribbean, if we were to depend on North American media, we wouldn't know where to find it. At one point we might know that a hurricane of the strength and reach of Matthew is hammering Haiti, at another the Dominican Republic, and then the fixation becomes the southern U.S.A. For some time we in the English-speaking world do not know how Cuba fared, not until a friend such as Susan Hurlich, resident in Havana, gives us her kind and informative first report.

The reporting is indicative of the level of empathy the media wish to reflect or stimulate. We know that there are strong feelings of goodwill toward Cuba throughout Canada. Very many people will be sorry to hear, as Susan has informed us in detail, the Eastern end of the country, the province of Guantanamo especially, suffered catastrophic damage from Matthew.

Some 80% of the people lost their homes. Many public buildings were destroyed, food crops were ruined in the fields, food supplies were spoiled in storage; electrical and other energy supplies were made useless. Because of washed-out roads, fallen bridges, it has been difficult for emergency food supplies to get to people; but as of October 9th, thanks to volunteer linemen and other workers from other provinces, and now to the arrival of a warship from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with 375 tons of supplies, the immediate crisis is beginning to ease.

Miraculously Cuba did not surrender a single fatality to Matthew.

Typically, Cuban volunteers were on their way to Haiti, which suffered, the day after Matthew passed, a horrific blow with some 1,000 deaths, total devastation and disease making its ugly presence promptly known.

We recognize the help given to Haiti by the U.S., which itself suffered 38 deaths from Matthew.

We are looking for a way of getting charitable tax receipts for donors. We welcome suggestions. In the meantime, let us be as energetic, imaginative and generous as we can be in our efforts to win against Matthew. The situation is dire.

(October 14, 2016)

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