June 13, 2020 - No. 21

Matters of Concern to the Polity

Government Hands Over Key Advisory
and Decision-Making Power
to Super Cartel

BlackRock -- The Super Cartel

- Peter Ewart -

The Canadian Connection to BlackRock

U.S. Report on Asset Management and Financial Stability


Beaver Lake Cree Nation Constitutional Challenge

Trudeau Government's Definition of Reconciliation

- Peggy Morton -

Beaver Lake Cree Nation Stands Firm in Defence of
Inherent and Treaty Rights

Alberta and Canada Deny Cree Nation's Financial Poverty
in Most Recent Appeal of Court's Advance Costs Award

- Crystal Lameman -

Canadian Government's Appeasement of U.S. Imperialism

• Canada's End Run for Seat on UN Security Council

- Tony Seed -


Organized Resistance Takes Its Place in the United States

Fight for Justice and to End State-Organized Racist Attacks
and Use of Military Against the People


Dangerous Developments on the Korean Peninsula

DPRK Draws Conclusions on Continued U.S. Warmongering

Inter-Korean Relations Deteriorate

Virtual Meeting on Current Developments
on the Korean Peninsula


COVID-19 Update

Joint Call by UN Agencies to End Stigma and Discrimination
Against Migrant Workers and Their Children During Pandemic

U.S. Inhuman Treatment of Migrants Endangers
Peoples of the Americas

On the Global Pandemic for Week Ending June 13


Supplement
Organized Resistance Takes Its Place in the United States

• Statements of U.S. Organizations and Photo Review



Government Hands Over Key Advisory and
Decision-Making Power to Super Cartel

BlackRock -- The Super Cartel

The unfolding worldwide pandemic is bringing with it a profound financial crisis. How the crisis will be dealt with is a question on the minds of working people around the world. In Canada, working people face the additional complication that as yet, they do not set the direction of the economy, which is controlled by a financial oligarchy and governments in their service.

A financial crisis is itself nothing new; crises are inherent to the capitalist system espoused by the financial oligarchy. To prop itself up, as the financial oligarchy lurches from crisis to crisis, its instruments and forms of organization mutate and change, like creatures from the Black Lagoon.[1] For example, out of the crises and corruption of the late 19th century came the merging of banking and industrial capital and the giant trusts and monopolies of the Robber Barons. And out of a cabal of leading U.S bankers on Jekyll Island in 1910 rose the Federal Reserve. In the 1990s, came the financial de-regulation of the banking sector and the welding back together, Frankenstein-style, of investment and commercial banking which contributed in a negative way to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the Great Recession of 2008. And most recently, there is the "warm and fuzzy" statement from the U.S. Business Roundtable that the big corporations are responsible to all stakeholders, rather than the previous Milton Friedman configuration of only being accountable to shareholders.

In the midst of these crises and mutations, often one particular financial institution ends up at the top of the heap. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was the mammoth J.P. Morgan bank.[2] In 2008, it was Goldman Sachs, notorious for shorting its own customers. In 2020, it is BlackRock, the asset manager, shadow bank and super-cartel, which has obtained unprecedented power and authority over handing out trillions of public dollars in bailout funds from the U.S. Treasury, as well as being appointed key advisor to the Bank of Canada in its bailout program.

Founded in 1988 by financier Larry Fink and others, BlackRock has grown in leaps and bounds since then, its assets under management now amounting to $7.4 trillion, as well as another $20 trillion through Aladdin, its financial risk software platform. It has offices in 30 countries, clients in another 200, and is by far the largest asset manager and shadow bank in the world, with assets under management greater than the GDP of any country. BlackRock is the largest private investor in weapons manufacturing in the world, owns more oil, gas and thermal coal reserves than anyone else, and is the largest exchange traded fund (ETF) provider. As of 2017, the firm was a major shareholder in most of the top 300 corporations in North America and Europe and a co-owner in 17,309 companies and banks worldwide.[3]

The financial crisis of 2008 proved to be a huge windfall for the company when the U.S. government contracted with BlackRock to oversee the massive bailout of failing banks and other financial institutions which had been peddling toxic securities. There was some irony in this in that BlackRock itself had played an important role in paving the way for this very same crisis by pushing for de-regulation of the banking sector in the 1990s, as well as promoting the toxic securities market. Indeed, an inverse relationship appears to be at work. As BlackRock has swollen in size like a modern-day version of the Hindenburg blimp, the incomes of workers, small businesses, and other sections of people in the U.S. and Canada have stagnated or shrunk.

It is a sign of the times that most big banks and financial institutions in the U.S. and elsewhere are clamouring to be designated as "systemically important financial institutions" (SIFI) in order to be eligible for bailouts of public dollars from the U.S. Treasury and other Central Banks. However, BlackRock is an exception. Instead, it has strongly resisted being designated a SIFI. And there is a telling reason for that. To become a SIFI means that BlackRock would have to come under some government regulatory authority such as the Dodd-Frank Banking Act of 2010 which was brought in to provide a minimum of regulation over the out-of-control financial institutions that precipitated the 2008 crisis. For BlackRock, the largest shadow bank in the world, even a small bit of regulation over its activities is too much.

Thus, while many financial institutions are limited to some extent by government regulation, BlackRock and other pirate "asset managers," sail the murky waters of an unregulated financial world. There is an even more inherent instability in the shadow banking sector than in that of traditional banking. Unfettered by regulations, shadow banks often engage in risky behaviour that is not backed up by reserves, resulting in dangerous levels of financial leverage, overstretch and debt.[4] Like bombs, these shadow entities lie deep within the financial system waiting to explode, enriching financiers but destabilizing entire economies and wreaking havoc in the lives of millions, as happened in the 2008 Great Recession and other crises.

When such crises emerge, BlackRock and the financial oligarchy as a whole, advocate fire hosing trillions of dollars of public money into the hands of the big banks and corporations, either directly or indirectly, thus diverting funds away from health care, education, social services, and other areas of physical and social infrastructure. In charge of this "fire hosing," of course, are the private financial institutions, and at the head these days is BlackRock.

BlackRock's power and authority come not just from its sheer size, but from the fact that it constitutes, as one analyst puts it, a virtual "fourth branch of government,"[5] or, as some might say, the "first branch." From the beginning, a key part of BlackRock's strategy has been to recruit top state officials from around the world on an "in and out" basis. One year they might be working for government, the next year for BlackRock. And vice-versa. For instance, Jean Boivin is currently the head of BlackRock's Investment Institute, but formerly served as Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada and Associate Deputy Finance Minister. In addition, BlackRock has on its staff many former White House officials and routinely advises top government and central bank officials in North America and Europe. In this and myriad other ways, the lines are obliterated between state and private corporation, with the state being reduced to an ancillary or adjunct role.

Another important source of BlackRock's power is that it constitutes a de facto "super-cartel," even though regulatory officials have not dared so far to designate it as such.[6] In recent years, asset managers and shadow banks like BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street have become the first tier organizations of the financial oligarchy, displacing even the huge investment banks like Goldman Sachs. Together, the "Big Three" of BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street dominate three-quarters of the multi-trillion world market of index funds. Their assets under management amount to more than all the sovereign wealth funds on earth and over three times the global hedge fund industry.

In cartel-like fashion, the Big Three have interconnected ownership. For example, Vanguard and State Street own substantial shares in BlackRock, and together the Big Three are "the largest single shareholder in almost 90 per cent of S&P firms, including Apple, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, General Electric and Coca-Cola." According to various analysts, the Big Three coordinate their votes at shareholder meetings through centralized corporate governance departments.[7]

In corporate mergers, the Big Three are often on both sides of a deal, i.e. they are invested in both the buyer and the seller, which gives them "superior two-sided information compared with those who operate only on one side of the deal."[8] On the banking side, the Big Three are also co-owners of many of the same big banks and thus constitute other loops of huge financial cartels. As major joint shareholders, they even dominate financial rating agencies, such as S&P and Moody's, which determine credit ratings and can have a huge impact on the viability of corporations and governments.[9]

Cartels like the Big Three constitute an alliance of rival oligarchs that work together against competitors and other sectors of business and industry, and present a common front against their own workers and employees, and the population at large. Their aim is to obtain maximum profits and dominate the market and, to do so, they engage in anti-competitive, monopolistic behaviour, including price fixing, bid rigging, reductions in output, and suppression of wages. In so doing, they have run roughshod over numerous conflict of interest and regulatory norms to the point that such norms no longer exist in the financial world and a naked law of the jungle prevails.

In its most recent activity, BlackRock has formed cartel-like relations with the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve, creating what looks to be a giant public-private partnership cartel that hands out public funds to chosen financial institutions and corporations in the largest transfer of wealth in history. Early returns show that BlackRock is dishing out the largest amount of money (48 per cent) to the very same ETF funds it runs.[10]

Nonetheless, the largest financial organization and the largest central bank in the world cannot overcome the black hole of contradictions and crises at the heart of the financial system. They only serve to sharpen these.

Despite its blimp-like size, an asset manager like BlackRock does not create new value in any way but rather represents yet another layer of the oligarchic skimming off of the new value already created by the workers and productive forces in society. Thus it has a parasitic relationship to these forces.

However, in their sheer size, BlackRock and the Big Three are capable of destabilizing the entire economy of countries through "herding behavior" and other cartel-type activities such as happened with the frenzied peddling of toxic securities in the U.S. by the financial oligarchs back in 2008. As such, they represent alien, unaccountable bodies which pose a threat and ongoing danger to society. A fundamental task for the working people in the coming years will be to step up the fight to change the aim and direction of the economy so it is removed from the clutches of the financial oligarchy and its institutions and brought under the control of a public authority accountable to the people. Such an economy will have no place for parasitic cartels like the Blackrock looting machine to exist.

Notes

1. Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954 U.S. movie.

2. "The dawn of the BlackRock era," by Alexander Sammon, The American Prospect, May 15, 2020.

3. The Capitalists of the 21st Century, by Werner Rugemer (Tredition, 2019). 

4. "Shadow Banking," Wikipedia, June 2, 2020.

5. "In Fink we trust: BlackRock is now 'fourth branch of government,'" by Annie Massa and Caleb Melby, Bloomberg, May 21, 2020.

6. The Capitalists of the 21st Century, by Werner Rugemer.

7. "BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street own corporate America," by Jan Fichtner, Eelke Heemskerk and Javier Garcia-Bernardo, Ponderwall, September 29, 2019.

8. "Biggest deals of 2019 had BlackRock, Vanguard on both sides," by Annie Massa and David McLaughlin, Bloomberg, January 24, 2020.

9. The Capitalists of the 21st Century, by Werner Rugemer.

10. "BlackRock rakes in big portion of Fed's ETF investments," by Christine Idzelis, Bloomberg, June 1, 2020.

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The Canadian Connection to BlackRock

In March 2020, the Bank of Canada announced that BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, is to be a key advisor and consultant regarding the federal Liberal government's COVID-19 corporate bailout program. This is just the latest development in the growing influence and deep entanglement of the U.S.-based super-cartel in the economy and politics of Canada, which goes back a number of years.

For example, there is BlackRock's involvement in the federal government's Infrastructure Bank. In the 2015 election, Trudeau proposed the formation of a federal infrastructure bank "to provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects" that would "use its strong credit rating and lending authority to help municipalities reduce their cost of borrowing."[1] But in January 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau met with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink at the World Economic Forum in Davos at a time when Fink was also calling for increased infrastructure investments by governments and private interests. Trudeau met with Fink again in March 2016 in New York. Later that spring, the Liberal government announced the formation of an Advisory Council of Economic Growth which, in the fall of 2016, called for the creation of a Canadian Infrastructure Development Bank. By that time, the original concept of the infrastructure bank -- to provide low-cost financing for infrastructure projects -- was replaced with the new aim of allowing the private sector, including BlackRock and its clients, to put up much of the financing at a higher cost to municipalities and other bodies.[2]

Prior to the meeting in fall 2016, Trudeau government officials worked cheek-to-cheek for several months with BlackRock executives in crafting presentations to inform potential investors about investing in the Infrastructure Bank. BlackRock personnel organized the investor meeting for November 14 and, in the course of a number of bi-weekly sessions leading up to it, even went so far as to help put together the PowerPoint presentation that Amarjeet Sohi, the federal Infrastructure Minister, delivered at the meeting. Jean Boivin, currently a BlackRock managing director and previously an Associate Deputy Minister with the federal government, also participated in those sessions.

One of the big attractions of public infrastructure projects for a private interest like BlackRock is the higher return on its investments, which can be as much as seven to nine per cent per year. Of course, that extra return ends up coming out of the public purse and, over time, can end up doubling the cost of projects.[3] However, a think tank formed by Larry Fink and other financiers argued that private investment in public infrastructure represents "a rich opportunity ... with predictable income streams and time spans measured in decades."[4]

As the BlackRock Transparency Project and various news reports have revealed, other government bodies, such as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), have had their own involvements with BlackRock.[5] Mark Wiseman was a CEO of the $278 billion pension plan board from 2012 to 2016 which manages the CPP pensions of 20 million Canadians. While at the helm, Wiseman "significantly outsourced management of the pension plan's assets to BlackRock," including investing in BlackRock's "distressed mortgage funds" and other global investments. As CEO of the CPPIB, Wiseman was eventually appointed to the government's Advisory Council of Economic Growth. However, just three days after its first meeting, "Wiseman abruptly announced his intention to resign from the [Council and the CPPIB] to join BlackRock as its global head of equities." Despite this clear conflict of interest, the federal government allowed Wiseman to remain on the Council, as well as to stay on as a senior advisor to the CPPIB. And so it is that the federal government allows BlackRock officials to be key advisors while at the same time lobbying for federal funding.

Besides Wiseman and Jean Boivin, both of whom jumped to BlackRock from top positions in the public sector, there are a number of other examples of the "revolving door" of high level personnel between BlackRock and the federal government. For example, in 2018, BlackRock took on another CPPIB official, Andre Bourbonnais who had been the CEO of PSP Investments, which is the $139 billion retirement fund that manages investments for the Public Service, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. All told, there are more than two-dozen additional officials "who have worked or interned at both the CPPIB and BlackRock." According to the BlackRock Transparency Project, BlackRock has had "a significant hand not only in the [infrastructure] bank's creation, but in personnel decisions as well" including determining who should fill key positions.[6] Thus the state and the super-cartel become one.

For his part, Prime Minister Trudeau continued to meet with BlackRock executives, including attending a private dinner with BlackRock executives on March 8, 2017 and a meeting in 2018 in New York with BlackRock investors. Today, with BlackRock appointed as key advisor in the COVID-19 bailout program, even the Bank of Canada has been "thrust into BlackRock Inc.'s increasingly crowded orbit."[7]

One of the oldest economic think tanks in Canada, the C.D. Howe Institute, has also been brought under BlackRock's influence. In 2017, the Institute, which previously had published a study critical of the idea of an Infrastructure Bank, received funding from BlackRock and appointed a top official from the super-cartel to its board of directors. Since then the Institute has issued various publications praising the Infrastructure Bank.

Besides its inroads into the Canadian public sector, BlackRock has a huge involvement in the private sector. Although the full extent is not known, BlackRock either manages or owns assets in most large North American companies and financial institutions, including those in Canada. As well, iShares, its family of exchange traded funds (ETFs) dominates the $200 billion ETF market in Canada (as it also does in the huge U.S. market).

In 2019, BlackRock formed a strategic alliance with RBC Global Asset Management to deliver a new brand of ETFs named "RBC iShares" worth $60 billion. According to a press release from RBC, "this transformational alliance brings together two market leaders: the world's largest ETF manager and Canada's largest asset manager."[8]

Not a few pundits, journalists, academics, NGOs and unions have raised concerns about BlackRock's growing clout over the Canadian economy as well as its ethical violations.[9] Critics have argued that BlackRock's role in the creation of the Infrastructure Bank "puts the priorities of wealthy investors and BlackRock clients ahead of Canadian taxpayers, public pension investors, and consumers." Others have pointed out that the cozy relationship between the company and government "violated federal conflict of interest rules and gave BlackRock preferential treatment in the selection and implementation of projects financed by the new bank." Matthew Dube, the NDP's parliamentary infrastructure critic, says that "Canadians will likely have to pay twice for their infrastructure -- first through the federal treasury and then through user fees that will generate corporate profits."[10]

Besides the issue of the Infrastructure Bank, there is the broader issue of a super-cartel like BlackRock being in a position to take actions and make decisions that impact the public interest of Canadians in fundamental ways. Indeed, the corporation threatens to enmesh much more of the Canadian economy in its net, especially now that it is a key advisor in the government's COVID-19 bailout program, which will provide funding to chosen corporations and financial institutions. As one professor has commented, it's likely that BlackRock now "oversees at least a portion of just about every Canadian's retirement nest egg."[11]

The super-cartel currently has $27 trillion of assets under management, while the Canadian economy has only a GDP of $1.9 trillion. Thus it has the capa:bility to influence and distort the entire direction of the economy as well as the political affairs of the country. But should a giant entity with such narrow aims have such influence over everything from public pensions to the economy as a whole? After all, BlackRock's aims are all about its own private interest and that of its clients, not the broader public interest.

The super-cartel aggressively pursued the interests of its investors (and its own interests) when it pushed to de-regulate the financial sector in the U.S. in the 1990s and promoted the toxic mortgage-backed securities market, all of which contributed to the financial crisis of 2008, resulting in countless bankruptcies, housing foreclosures and job losses in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere (while BlackRock benefited hugely from the very crisis it helped cause). Over the years, it has pursued cartel-type policies that put its interests first and which various observers believe should be prosecuted or made illegal. In addition, as an example of its lack of commitment to any sort of public interest, the super-cartel has been named in various international tax evasion scandals, including those revealed in the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers.[12]

All of this shows that we need a new direction for the economy in Canada. Decision-making power must be in the hands of the Canadian people, not in those of a super-cartel or a financial oligarchy with a hammerlock on the state.

Notes

1. "Private-sector role in Canada Infrastructure Bank raises conflict issues." by Bill Curry, Globe and Mail, May 5, 2017.

2. "Creating a Canadian infrastructure bank in the public interest." by Toby Sanger, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, March 20, 2017.

3. Ibid.

4. "New evidence shows BlackRock's role in Canada Infrastructure Bank may have also included advising on key personnel," by Black Rock Transparency Project: Campaign for Accountability, August 27, 2018.

5. Ibid.

6. "Why the Bank of Canada needs BlackRock's help while fighting the coronavirus downturn," by Kevin Carmichael, Financial Post, April, 1, 2020.

7. Ibid.

8."RBC Global Asset Management and BlackRock Canada announce strategic alliance to transform Canadian ETF market," RBC Global Asset Management, January 8, 2019.

9. "Democracy Watch files complaint with Ethics Commissioner raising questions about violations of federal ethics law by BlackRock and the federal cabinet." by Bradford, Democracy Watch, May 24, 2017.

10. "What is BlackRock, and why does it matter now in Ottawa?" by Andy Blatchford, Maclean's, May 11, 2017.

11. Ibid.

12. "Canada Infrastructure Bank promoter involved in tax havens." National Union of Public and General Employees, accessed May 2, 2020.

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U.S. Report on Asset Management
and Financial Stability

In 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Financial Research conducted a brief overview and analysis of the asset management industry with respect to how giant firms like BlackRock, Vanguard and others, through their activities, could introduce "vulnerabilities" that might pose threats to the financial stability of the economic system.[1] The study, titled "Asset management and financial stability," was done on behalf of the U.S. Government's Financial Stability Oversight Council to better inform its analysis as to whether such firms should be put under "enhanced prudential standards and supervision" as designated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which came into being in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Financial regulations are one of the tools which the large corporations and banks that dominate the economy use to sort out contradictions within their ranks, but they are also used as weapons by one faction, sector or cartel of business against others. In that regard, an ongoing controversy in the U.S. has been that the giant asset management corporations are not as restricted by regulation as other sectors of the financial industry, which gives them a competitive advantage. To remain in that position, BlackRock, the world's largest asset management company, has successfully opposed the imposition of regulation to the point that it has even refused to be designated a "systemically important financial institution" and thus be subject to more regulation, despite its gigantic size and influence. Indeed, asset management companies remain largely unregulated despite the efforts of the Office of Financial Research and other sections of the financial oligarchy. Nonetheless, in its report the Office of Financial Research reveals some of the risks and dangers to the larger economy posed by the rise of these asset management companies.

The report points out that in 2013 the U.S. asset management industry oversaw the allocation of approximately $53 trillion in financial assets. In 2020, these assets now amount to approximately $90 trillion, matching the GDP of all the countries of the world combined. The report notes that the industry is central to the allocation of financial assets on behalf of investors and is marked by a high degree of innovation and diverse financial activity. Asset management firms and the funds they manage "transact with other financial institutions to transfer risks, achieve price discovery, and invest capital globally through a variety of activities."

However, their activity differs in key ways from that of banking and insurance companies (although these latter may also have asset management divisions within them). For example, "asset managers act primarily as agents, managing assets on behalf of clients as opposed to investing on the managers' behalf. Losses are borne by -- and gains accrue to -- clients rather than asset management firms."

In contrast, although some asset management activities may be similar, "commercial banks and insurance companies typically act as principals: accepting deposits with a liability of redemption at par and on demand, or assuming specified liabilities with respect to policy holders."

According to the report, asset management firms could possibly engage in a certain combination of fund- and firm-level activities within a large, complex firm, or have a significant number of asset managers engage in riskier activities, all of which could end up posing, amplifying or transmitting a threat to the monopoly capitalist system.

The report identifies four key factors that make the asset management industry vulnerable to threats and shocks: 

1. "reaching for yield" -- (i.e. seeking ever higher returns on investment by purchasing riskier assets, as well as "herding" behaviours, which include stampeding in and out of markets and investments especially at times of market stress); 

2. "redemption risk" -- (i.e. early or heightened withdrawal of funds from a financial institution or instrument, etc. in a stressed or illiquid market causing a cascading crisis and even insolvencies); 

3. "leverage" -- (i.e. the use of borrowed funds which can amplify asset price movements and increase the potential for fire sales' of assets, which can then spread to the larger market); 

4. "firms as sources of risk" -- (i.e. given their size, the failure of one of the big asset manager corporations could pose a risk to the financial stability of the entire economy, as happened with several of the large Wall Street financial institutions in 2008). In other words, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The problem is that they not only hit the ground hard, but also pull down the entire economy with them, plunging millions of workers, small and medium-sized businesses, pensioners and the population as a whole into crisis and ruin.

In that regard, the asset management industry is highly concentrated. Although the report does not mention the word cartel at all, some of the activities it describes hint at cartel type activity. For example, the report states that "interconnectedness and complexity can transmit or amplify threats to financial stability" and that "large financial companies tend to have multiple business lines that are interconnected in complex ways." Further, "these threats may be particularly acute when a small number of firms dominate a particular activity or fund offering." This, of course, contradicts the mantra of asset management firms like BlackRock that "exchange traded funds" (ETFs) and other financial instruments, that it dominates in both the U.S. and Canadian markets, are a safe investment.

What the report exposes is the high degree of potential instability and chaos that lies at the heart of the financial system and how much it has descended into a "law of the jungle" situation where even minimal regulations are cast off by the most powerful. The financial oligarchy has created huge, highly complex, financial institutions and structures to enrich itself to an unprecedented degree. At the same time, it is like the sorcerer's apprentice conjuring up demons it can't control, even if it wanted to.

Despite this risk, the U.S. and Canadian governments have allowed asset management companies to swell and dominate the economy. And, more than that, have handed over key advisory and decision-making power to BlackRock in regards to the COVID-19 bailout. The consequences remain to be seen.

Note

1.  "Asset management and financial stability." U.S. Office of Financial Research, September

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Beaver Lake Cree Nation Constitutional Challenge

Trudeau Government's Definition of Reconciliation


Rally in Edmonton in support of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation court challenge,
February 19, 2019.

The federal and Alberta governments have left no stone unturned in their opposition to the constitutional challenge launched by the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in 2008 in defence of their inherent and treaty rights. At issue is the consideration of the cumulative effects of industrial development on the Nation's traditional land and way of life in project approvals.

The latest development is the appeal, heard in court on June 4, by the Alberta and federal governments of the September 2019 ruling of the Court of Queen's Bench that requires that each government provide $300,000 per year to the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in order that its constitutional challenge can proceed.

The Alberta and federal governments both have tried from the beginning to make sure the case never comes to trial. In 2008 they tried to have the case dismissed. The Alberta government claimed the action is "frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of process." The federal government said it should not be named as a defendant, attempting to wash its hands of its fiduciary obligations to the Beaver Lake Cree and ignoring the fact that the Cold Lake Weapons Range is on their territory. The court ruled in 2013 that the trial could proceed. While the cartel parties in power have changed in the intervening seven years, the refusal to negotiate in good faith and attempts to shut down the constitutional challenge remains.

What the Trudeau and Kenney governments are demanding in their appeal of the 2019 ruling on costs is that Beaver Lake should have to exhaust all its funds in order to continue to defend its claim, which the Nation has said it will not and cannot do. They are demanding that a community whose only source of clean drinking water is a water truck must choose between clean water and continuing its case. This reveals the cynicism of Trudeau's "I hear you," "no relationship more important" and promises to do better.

In its 2018 budget, the Trudeau government stated that, "Indigenous participation in modern treaty negotiations will be funded through non-repayable contributions." But the government continues with the fiction that the numbered treaties like Treaty Six, to which Beaver Lake is a signatory, are land cessation treaties and there is nothing left to negotiate. Oral history clearly shows this is not the case, not to mention that the conception of selling land does not even exist in Indigenous law, tradition and outlook which Indigenous treaty-makers were duty-bound to uphold and did uphold. Equally hypocritical are the Trudeau government's repeated promises of potable drinking water for all Indigenous people. This kind of hypocrisy underscores the necessity to modernize the Constitution of Canada so that it eliminates the colonial relationship with the Indigenous peoples and provides redress for all historical mistreatment.

The Trudeau government's stand is clear and unacceptable. Its definition of reconciliation is that Indigenous peoples must reconcile themselves to the loss of their way of life, the loss of their ability to carry out their duties as keepers of the land, and accept Might Makes Right as the law of the land. It is not going to happen. Included in the projects that have been imposed on the territory is the Cold Lake Weapons Range which is illegally occupying the Nation's traditional territories and violates the conception of peace and friendship and must be shut down.[1]

Canadians have a responsibility to stand with the Beaver Lake Cree Nation who are defending their own rights and their responsibilities to Mother Earth. The sovereign right of the Indigenous peoples to say yes or no to developments on their traditional territory must be upheld.

Notes

1. Amongst other things, the Weapons Range is the site of the annual "Maple Leaf" flag war exercises which involve NATO aircraft as well as participation from non-NATO nations including Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Singapore, Brazil, and Colombia.

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Beaver Lake Cree Nation Stands Firm in Defence
of Inherent and Treaty Rights

The Beaver Lake Cree Nation was in court on June 4 due to an appeal by the federal and Alberta governments against a 2019 ruling of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench that the provincial and federal governments must pay advance legal costs to the Nation. This ruling allows the continuation of the precedent-setting legal action initiated in 2008 by Beaver Lake in defence of their inherent and treaty rights. The action claims that the cumulative effects of industrial development on the Nation's traditional land and way of life must be considered in project approvals. The case is precedent-setting because it is the first to challenge the cumulative economic, environmental, social, and cultural impacts of industrial development, not just a single project.[1]

Crystal Lameman, the Beaver Lake Cree's Government Relations Advisor, explains, "This is about Beaver Lake having a say in what development looks like in their territory, and on their lands, to which neither Alberta nor Canada has a bill of sale -- not under Treaty-making, and not via any subsequent unilateral decision-making authority."[2]

The Beaver Lake territory spans 38,972 square kilometres and is in the heart of the oil sands. Governments have leased out much of this land to oil companies without any prior consultation or approval. In total there are 300 projects with 19,000 individual authorizations, around 35,000 individual oil and natural gas wells, the Canadian Forces Cold Lake Weapons Range, and thousands of kilometres of pipelines, access roads and seismic lines on the territory. Nearly 90 per cent of the traditional territory is scarred and polluted by numerous tar sands projects, displacing moose and elk and driving caribou to the brink of extinction.

As affirmed in the Kétuskéno Declaration (2008), the Beaver Lake Cree agreed through a treaty of peace and friendship to share the land with those who respect their obligations as keepers of the land and their traditional, constitutional and treaty rights. The declaration affirmed their rights and duties as keepers of the land, and their right to gain their livelihood from these lands. In the court action launched in 2008 they assert that governments must respect the right of the keepers of the land to say yes or no to developments on their territory.

In 2018, after years of defending their action in court against both the federal and Alberta governments using their own funds as well as extensive fund-raising, Beaver Lake filed an interim costs application asking the Court to order that Canada and Alberta contribute to the cost of proceeding with the case. Alberta and Canada argued that the Nation should have to exhaust all of its assets before being granted advanced costs. On September 30, 2019, Justice Beverly Browne ruled that Alberta and Canada must each contribute $300,000 a year to the Nation's legal costs, while the Nation would have to contribute a similar amount. Granting of advanced legal costs is considered an extraordinary measure, she acknowledged. "The case before me is sufficiently extraordinary that I should exercise my discretion to grant the application. In my view, it would be manifestly unjust to either compel Beaver Lake to abandon its claim or to force it into destitution in order to bring the claim  forward. ... Regardless, I am unwilling to force Beaver Lake leadership to choose between pursuing this litigation and attempting to provide for the basic necessities of life that most citizens take for granted."

Notes

1. Blueberry River First Nation in BC is also proceeding with a legal action, which was filed in 2015. See Defence of Treaty Rights: Blueberry River First Nations Bring Historic Cumulative-Impacts Lawsuit Back to BC Supreme Court, TML Weekly, June 8, 2019.

2.  Beaver Lake Cree stand strong as Canada and Alberta attempt to derail tarsands legal challenge, by Maia Wikler and Crystal Lameman, Briarpatch Magazine, June 5, 2020.

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Alberta and Canada Deny Cree Nation's
Financial Poverty in Most Recent Appeal of
Court's Advance Costs Award

Crystal Lameman is Treaty Coordinator for the Beaver Lake Cree Nation.

My home community, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Treaty No. 6 (Alberta), filed a legal action in 2008 based on the Crown's failure to account for cumulative impacts of industrial development, including numerous oilsands projects - one of the world's largest and most carbon-intensive energy developments. The first of its kind at the time, the high-stakes Treaty rights action represents a precedent to the Canadian court. The Beaver Lake Cree Treaty case will be the first time the court is asked to draw the line, and to define when there is too much industrial development in the context of Treaty 6.

Treaty implementation requires the Crown to consider the cumulative effects of industrial development that are threatening Treaty rights to a way of life, including the right to hunt, fish, trap and harvest, and such a duty triggers the honour of the Crown.

If the Crown destroys the meaningful exercise of Treaty rights by failing to consider what lands and resources are necessary to maintain Beaver Lake's way of life, and whether those thresholds are being exceeded through multiple land use authorizations, then our rights have been infringed.

The Crown has consistently denied that the Treaty promises my community the continuance of its way of life, and it denies that under the Treaty it must consider the combined effects of multiple industrial activities on the way of life of the Beaver Lake Cree over time.

Instead the Crown takes the position that it can authorize the taking up of land -- to which it has no bill of sale -- subject only to the duty to consult, which it disputes requires consideration of the cumulative effects on Beaver Lake's Treaty rights, and in place of combined considerations, they consult on a project-by-project basis.

Recently, the Alberta Court of Appeal in Fort McKay First Nation v Prosper Petroleum Ltd. confirmed such a duty exists, contrary to the position of the Crown. However, the Courts have yet to weigh in specifically on the extent of the Crown's obligations to consider the cumulative effects of industrial development on Treaty rights.

Beaver Lake's case will advance the law in this regard, including with respect to: whether Treaty 6 protects a way of life; what is required of the Crown to ensure protection; and when the taking up of land reaches the threshold of infringement and; the appropriate remedy for that infringement.

Beaver Lake would prefer to negotiate these issues. As stated by Beaver Lake Cree Nation Chief Germaine Anderson, "The Nation has never been opposed to negotiations, we have made that clear, and still we have not been invited to and met at the negotiation table."

However, the Crown has, to date, refused to consider an agenda that would allow for the meaningful negotiation of these complex issues, with appropriate funding that would ensure Beaver Lake's meaningful participation. Canada also claims negotiations can occur within a special claims process, which is also acknowledging it would only address infringement from the creation of a bombing range in the middle of our territory.

Yet, even in that process we have made multiple attempts to advance to the first step only to be rejected on the basis we were out of time for this fiscal year. We have yet to receive information about whether or when our claim will be accepted. As a result, judicial determination, coupled with the continuance of our land-based practices, is needed as the Crown disputes it has the claimed Treaty obligations, and continues to authorize land use without regard to the cumulative impact on Treaty rights.

The issues raised in the case are difficult, complex, broad and have resulted in multiple pre-trial steps, including multiple motions to strike the pleadings. For ten years, Beaver Lake pushed this complex claim ahead to the extent it could, at a cost of $3 million. Half of the funds were from generous donors who understood the importance of these matters being heard by the courts. Knowing that this case rested on environmental justice, health and protection, they supported Beaver Lake's efforts to enforce its Treaty rights.

But like many Treaty Nations, Beaver Lake is a financially impoverished community. It has only recently begun to accumulate some limited financial reserves, which it desperately needs to manage and address the deep financial poverty that has plagued the Nation. However, any financial reserves are not stable or certain to continue, and are required for emergencies, like the recent pandemic and failing infrastructure like the water treatment plant and natural gas lines, both of which provide heat and water to our homes, school, daycare and headstart/playschool.

Therefore in 2018, after 10 years of investing in the case -- defending pleadings, responding to particulars, collecting evidence from over 100 members, and retaining multiple experts -- we came to the agonizing decision that we could no longer proceed with the litigation as it required at least $5 million more to get to trial, which the Nation does not have. We realized it would not be prudent for the Nation to build half a bridge.

In April 2018, Beaver Lake filed an interim costs application, which asked the Court to order that Canada and Alberta pay for the cost of bringing the rest of the case forward. In doing so it adhered to the burden of proof and painfully exposed its financial poverty and community challenges in a thorough record of over 5,400 pages of financial statements, general ledger accounts, bank statements, impact benefit agreements, partnership agreements, trust documents, Indigenous Services Canada audits and more. Justice Browne, who had presided over the case for 7 years, heard the matter for two and a half days in February 2019, while the Nation's elders, land-users and leadership looked on, after fundraising to make the trip outside of the community to be present during the hearing.

In a decision rendered in September 2019, Justice Browne found the case had merit, was publicly important, and in the interests of justice for it to proceed. She found Beaver Lake was impecunious, having little or no money, such that "the litigation would be unable to proceed if the order were not made." She found that the interests of justice would be best served through a partial interim costs order. She ordered that each party -- Beaver Lake, Canada, and Alberta -- share in the costs of the litigation and pay $300,000 each annually until the matter is resolved. In doing so, she recognized that the twin goals of reconciliation and access to justice could only be facilitated through such an order, which would start to address the gross power imbalance between the parties.

Now, despite acknowledging the case has merit and is publicly important, Canada and Alberta have appealed the costs decision and continue to deny Beaver Lake's financial poverty. Canada and Alberta could have chosen to accept Justice Browne's decision, and moved ahead with having the matter heard on its merits in June 2024 -- the date set for the 120-day trial -- but in an effort to avoid the court setting a precedent on these important matters it instead chooses to argue about the extent of Beaver Lake's financial poverty. The appeal, set for June 4, will determine whether or not the Nation will continue on their path to access justice, or whether it will be denied due to our financial poverty.

Canada and Alberta have attempted through their development of our lands to deprive my Nation of a meaningful way of life, a life that is rich and abundant. Now in this application they say we should spend every penny we have, regardless of whether we need that money to provide basic assistance and/or to meet the very basic needs of the community.

Our worldview as Indigenous peoples is grounded in the relationship that we have with the water, the air that we breathe, to the minerals in the ground, and all flora and fauna -- walking, crawling, flying, swimming. It is through the privilege we have to be in this deep meaningful relationship that we commit to our collective efforts and resiliency in enforcing our rights. We do so, so that we are able to continue with our rich and abundant life, "as long as the sun shines, grass grows, and rivers flow."

(Reprinted from Raventrust.com)

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Canadian Government's Appeasement of U.S. Imperialism

Canada's End Run for Seat on UN Security Council

François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, travelled to New York on June 13 ahead of the vote on Canada's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council which has roused much concern and opposition at home. He is being deployed, according to Global Affairs, for four days "to engage with various ambassadors and permanent representatives to promote Canada's commitment to peace and security, climate change, gender equality, economic security and multilateralism." Champagne's schmoozing to get votes lubricated with "aid" dollars is the end run for the self-serving, much-hyped bid of the Trudeau Liberals to restore Canada's tarnished record on the world stage.

In this way, and with customary arrogance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his February tour of Africa to solicit votes for a UN Security Council seat arrogated to himself the mantle of "white man's burden." He no doubt shed a crocodile tear when he visited the infamous House of Slaves in Senegal on February 12-13 just as he took a knee in Ottawa during protests of police brutality and racism in the U.S. Canada sees Senegal, whose vote it has now apparently secured, as a door opener for private interests in the African market and for the industrialized plunder of gold. In parallel, Foreign Minister Champagne "attended the issuance of operating licenses for Teranga, a participant in the Halifax Security Forum, and Barrick Gold. The Canadian government has negotiated foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPAs) with Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Nigeria and Tanzania designed to favour neo-colonial control of mineral resources. These are all countries which have been plundered over and over by colonial powers.

Canada's is a reputation of appeasement of the U.S. imperialist economic bloc and war machine all down the line under the pretext of multilateralism: disregard for the UN Charter and tenets of international law; serial violations of human rights such as those of the Palestinian people as well as asylum seekers; ongoing intervention in sovereign countries directly or through coalitions and sanctions which it cynically refers to as "restoring democracy;" escalating exports of lethal arms to conflict zones; the "go-to nation" of NATO, as it was under the Harper government, which openly contravenes the UN Charter and international law; usurpation of military and police powers during the pandemic; and its abysmal record of criminal negligence of the conditions of life of the Indigenous peoples in Canada and crimes committed against them.

"Its recent dismissal of Wet'suwet'en law," writes Pauline Easton, "which it is duty-bound to respect and uphold, is indicative of its attitude toward international rule of law as well. In fact, its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council has come up against ever stronger headwinds as its much-repeated claim that Canada is a rule of law country -- presumably making it well suited for a seat on the Security Council -- is exposed for all the world to see."

Canada is vying with Ireland and Norway for the two seats of Western Europe and other countries category, of which Canada is considered a part. Mexico is the only candidate for the one Latin American and Caribbean seat and Kenya and Djibouti will contest the seat available for the African group. India is the only candidate for a non-permanent seat from the Asia-Pacific category. Its candidacy was confirmed by the countries which comprise the Asia-Pacific region, including China and Pakistan, in June last year.

Elections for five non-permanent members of the UN Security Council will be held on June 17. Their term will only start in January 2021.

The UN General Assembly elects each year five non-permanent members (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term. The 10 non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis -- five for African and Asian States; one for the Eastern European States; two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and two for Western European and other States.

The UN General Assembly adopted a decision to hold the Security Council elections under new voting arrangements taking into account restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than a secret ballot held in the General Assembly hall, voters are required to visit a designated venue during a specific time slot to cast their ballots. Only ballots cast in the ballot boxes at the designated venue will be accepted and no ballots will be accepted after the last time slot has expired.

If the total number of ballot papers cast in all the ballot boxes do not amount to at least a majority of the members of the Assembly, the President will circulate a letter to all Member States indicating a new date and time for the elections.

Canada does not deserve a seat on the UN Security Council which today acts as a block to sorting out conflicts on a peaceful basis because of the stranglehold over the Security council by the big powers, the striving of the U.S. imperialists for domination and the non-existence of a mechanism to sort out the contention between the contending powers. Having five permanent members with veto power is an arrangement from another age at which time the UN had 50 members. Today it has 193 and its decisions should come under the rule of the majority in the General Assembly.

As for Norway, it too is a founding member of NATO and toes its positions by acting as a peace-broker. Regardless of the outcome, the UN demands modernization and renewal in the spirit of the times.

Note

1.See also "A Historical Turning Point Which the Trudeau Government Cannot Will Away", TML Weekly editorial, and "Canada's Imperialist Multilateralism," Margaret Villamizar, TML Weekly, February 22, 2020.

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Organized Resistance Takes Its Place in the United States

Fight for Justice and to End State-Organized Racist Attacks and Use of Military Against the People


Youth lead Oakland, California demonstration, June 11, 2020, demanding police get out of
their schools.

Across the U.S., actions that started on May 26 to demand justice for the police killing of George Floyd continue as organized resistance emerges to take its place. In Minneapolis where Floyd was killed and across the country, calls for justice in numerous cases of police brutality and killings, especially of African Americans, ring out. Calls also demand profound changes to policing that will not permit the people to be victimized by a militarized force that does not represent their interests. The people continue to affirm their convictions for new arrangements and their own empowerment, through protests as well as other forms.

Since May 26, protests have taken place in at least 750 cities in all 50 U.S. states, and internationally in 60 countries on all continents except Antarctica. The people have not been cowed by the massive deployments of the National Guard and police forces against them and widespread acts of police brutality. Activists have been compiling reports and footage of such incidents.[1] One such database as of June 13 has 659 entries. Just one example is the killing of an unarmed 22-year-old man in northern California on June 1, while he was on his knees with his hands raised. Police shot him from their squad car, claiming to have mistaken a hammer in his pocket for a gun. Meanwhile, the website Bellingcat.com has compiled a list of police violence against journalists that as of June 2 had 148 entries. It points out that "To give you perspective on just how enormous this number really is, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker tracked 150 press freedom violations for the whole of 2019. The incidents in these protests have almost surpassed the 2019 numbers in a week."[2]

The standout feature of unfolding events is the organized character of the resistance. People and their collectives are speaking out in their own name, basing themselves on their own demands despite pressure to back factions of the military and ruling elite that oppose Trump and say they support the Constitution. The movement has thus far not been diverted from achieving its aims into maintaining the status quo that disempowers the people.

In Minneapolis, with the mass demonstrations resulting in the firing of and criminal charges against the four police officers responsible for killing George Floyd, the people's attention is focused on making profound changes to the policing system which criminalizes African Americans and other disenfranchised minorities as a matter of course.


Demonstration in Minneapolis, June 7, 2020.

In the face of the people's demands, on June 12, Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to replace the police department with a community-led public safety system. "The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, by Minneapolis police officers is a tragedy that shows that no amount of reforms will prevent lethal violence and abuse by some members of the Police Department against members of our community, especially Black people and people of color," wrote five council members in the resolution. The resolution states that the council will begin a year-long process of engaging "with every willing community member in Minneapolis" in its "Future of Community Safety Work Group," to develop a "transformative new model" of public safety in the city. The council also voted unanimously to end the local emergency order that had been declared due to the mass protests that began on May 26 after George Floyd's death at the hands of the police.

Demands to city council for police accountability and to disband the Minneapolis police long predate the killing of George Floyd, local activists point out, noting that timely action on previous occasions could have prevented George Floyd's death. The organization Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar (TCC4J) -- formed after the 2015 police killing of 24-year-old Jamar Clark -- on June 11 called for the police officers responsible for similar killings and other crimes to be held to account and that justice be brought for all of the victims and their friends and families. Activists across the U.S. are making similar calls to defund police departments and replace them with bodies over which the people can exercise control, while increasing social services to provide working people, not the rich, with security based on meeting human needs, not the use of state violence and criminalization of minorities, the poor and working poor, the marginalized and the most vulnerable sectors of society.


Minneapolis,  June 11, 2020.

The people's resistance is also taking the form of National Guardsmen refusing orders to be deployed against protestors, because they see the justice of those who have taken up the call "Black Lives Matter" and do not wish to be put in a position of carrying out brutality against those exercising their right to protest.  As one member of the California National Air Guard put it, "What we're told is, 'Discourage people from criminal activity,' and things like that. But that doesn't necessarily matter. What's going to be communicated on the ground when you see people in uniform with weapons, standing in formation?" He added that he signed up to do humanitarian work, "But to actually go out and be this invading force? Many people are not comfortable with it. They feel like it's not really what they signed up for." Veterans' organizations and GI rights groups report fielding a larger number of calls from troops asking about their options for refusing orders. The veterans' peace group About Face says it knows of some 10 service members who have taken concrete steps to avoid deployment, while many others have asked for support in resisting orders they think are illegal.

Another way this resistance is manifesting is the tearing down of symbols that glorify slavery or statues commemorating slave traders. Amidst this situation, Indigenous peoples living on U.S. territory are gaining broader support for the removal of statues of Christopher Columbus as part of ending the presentation of the genocide and dispossession of Indigenous peoples as laudatory historical achievements, rather than crimes against humanity.

On June 3, attorneys for the families of George Floyd and others informed that they are calling on the UN to open a human rights case against the U.S. and sanction it for its mistreatment of African Americans.

As a result of broad and continuing resistance, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on George Floyd's neck, is currently being held at the Minnesota Department of Corrections facility in Oak Park. His bail was increased to $1 million June 3 when charges were upgraded to second-degree murder. Former police officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who helped restrain Floyd, and Tou Thao, who stood near the others, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Bail for them was set at $1 million without conditions or $750, 000 with conditions. Lane was released June 10 on a $750,000 bond. 

In this TML Weekly Supplement we publish calls by the organized resistance as well as a photo review.

Notes

1. To view the spreadsheet, click here

2. "Visualizing Police Violence Against Journalists At Protests Across The U.S.," Charlotte Godart, Bellingcat.com, June 5, 2020


Supplement
Organized Resistance Takes Its Place in the United States  

Statements of U.S. Organizations
and Photo Review

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Dangerous Developments on the Korean Peninsula

DPRK Draws Conclusions on
Continued U.S. Warmongering

On June 12, the Foreign Minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Ri Song Gwon, issued a statement on the second anniversary of the historic June 12, 2018 DPRK-U.S. Summit that took place in Singapore. The Summit between Chairman Kim Jong Un, leader of the DPRK and President Donald Trump of the U.S. was aimed at establishing a new relationship between the DPRK and the U.S. that would end hostilities between the two countries and lead to peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"What stands out is that the hope for improved DPRK-U.S. relations -- which was high under the global spotlight two years ago, has now been shifted into despair characterized by spiraling deterioration and that a slim ray of optimism and peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula has faded away into a dark nightmare," Foreign Minister Ri said.

He added that the desire of the people of the two countries to put an end to the "world's most antagonistic relations between the DPRK and the U.S. and open a new cooperative era of peace and prosperity runs as deep as ever. Yet the situation on the Korean Peninsula is daily taking a turn for the worse."

The foreign minister pointed out that to foster positive relations and demonstrate its good faith, the DPRK shut down its northern nuclear test site [the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site -- TML Ed. Note.], released U.S. citizens accused of committing crimes against the DPRK, and repatriated scores of remains of U.S. soldiers killed or missing in action during the Korean War. He highlighted that the DPRK took the initiative to suspend nuclear tests and test launches of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles as confidence-building measures between the DPRK and the U.S.

In his statement Ri observed that these measures by the DPRK were simply used by President Trump for self-serving public relations announcements.

Foreign Minister Ri pointed out that behind the claims of wanting improved relations with the DPRK the U.S. has gone in the opposite direction, turning the Korean Peninsula "into the world's most dangerous hotspot haunted uninterruptedly by the ghost of nuclear war" which undermines the possibility of a durable and lasting peace that both countries committed to.

"The DPRK is still on the U.S. list of targets for preemptive nuclear strike and all kinds of nuclear strike tools held by the U.S. are aimed directly at the DPRK," Ri noted. As evidence he pointed to "nuclear strategic bombers, which fly anytime into south Korean Airspace for nuclear strike drills and aircraft carrier strike groups which bustle around the seas surrounding south Korea."

The Foreign Minister also noted that the U.S. continues to introduce "a large number of modern, cutting-edge hardware like stealth fighters and reconnaissance drones worth tens of billions of U.S. dollars" to boost the offensive capability of the south Korean army while burdening the south Korean authorities with the cost of these weapons.

The DPRK Foreign Minister noted that for the last two years the DPRK has been subject to "totally unjust and anachronistic practices" that clearly show that the U.S. aims to continue a policy of regime change in the DPRK, carry out threats for a preemptive nuclear strike and pursue the isolation and suffocation of the DPRK. He underscored that unless the "70-plus-year deep-rooted hostile policy of the U.S. towards the DPRK is fundamentally terminated, the U.S. will as ever remain a long-term threat to our state, our system and our people."

Foreign Minister Ri notes that based on the evidence, there is no need for the DPRK to hold out hope for improvement of relations with the U.S. on the basis of the personal relations between Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump and that the DPRK will not provide President Trump with another opportunity to shore up his self-serving political ends and getting empty promises in return.

The DPRK Foreign Minister concludes by pointing out that in the face of this reality, the decision taken by the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong Un at the recent Fourth Enlarged Meeting of the Seventh Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea, was to further boost "the national nuclear war deterrent to cope with the U.S.'s unabated threats of nuclear war" and that was the DPRK's message to the U.S. on the second anniversary of the DPRK-U.S. Singapore Summit.

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Inter-Korean Relations Deteriorate

On June 9, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) cut off communications with the Republic of Korea (ROK). It said it did so in exasperation because the ROK had not condemned and ended the distribution of anti-DPRK leaflets launched by so-called defectors on May 31 from the border city of Gimpo. Gimpo lies on the south side of the De-Militarized Zone where the U.S. divided Korea at the 38th parallel.

Earlier, on June 4, the DPRK sent a message to the ROK protesting these balloon launches and calling for action to stop this provocation. It reminded the ROK of its commitments made in the Panmunjom Declaration signed on April 27, 2018.

"The south Korean authorities must be aware of the articles of the Panmunjom Declaration and the agreement in the military field in which both sides agreed to ban all hostile acts including leaflet scattering in the areas along the Military Demarcation Line."

In the wake of this drastic move by the DPRK, media report that the ROK government is contemplating passing a law to make these provocations illegal and charging those who carry out such acts.

The Historic Panmunjom Declaration signed between Chairman Kim Jong Un of the DPRK and President Moon Jae-in of the ROK paid specific attention to the need for the DPRK and ROK to work together to stop military and other provocations against each other and to build a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. Specifically, the first three paragraphs of the second point read:

"To defuse military tension and remove war danger on the peninsula is a very important issue related to the destiny of the nation and a vital issue for ensuring a peaceful and stable life of our fellow countrymen.

"First, the north and the south agreed to completely discontinue all hostile acts against each other, which are the source of military tension and conflict, in all spaces of the ground, sea and air.

"They agreed to stop loudspeaker broadcasting, leaflet scattering and all other hostile acts along the Military Demarcation Line and remove means of these acts from May 1 for the present and turn the Demilitarized Zone into a true peace zone in the future."

Inter-Korean relations have been hampered by the U.S. ever since it divided Korea in 1945 and its military and political domination of south Korea since then. The U.S. maintains that division so as to use south Korea as a military staging ground to wage war targeting not just the DPRK but also China and Russia. Even though today the U.S. institutions are in a profound crisis, U.S. foreign policy like its domestic policy is based on destruction, aggression and war. To keep the Korean people divided the U.S imperialists continue to target the DPRK as an aggressor to divert attention from its own historic and ongoing crimes against the people of Korea.

The Trump administration has not kept any of its commitments to the DPRK agreed to at the Historic DPRK-U.S. Summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018. The second of four points reads:

"The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula."

The slew of U.S. sanctions engineered both through the UN Security Council and its own administration, to which Canada adheres, are acts of war. The U.S. dictate in the ROK, which it calls a "strategic partner," makes the ROK the fourth largest importer of U.S. armaments, which the Korean people have to pay for. That is why, against the wishes of the people and even government of the ROK, U.S. interference in inter-Korean relations continues to cause trouble.

In the face of this reality, it becomes all the more important for the government of the ROK to honour its commitments which serve the desire of the Korean people to attain peace. The future of Korea will be decided by the Korean people themselves despite all the difficulties. The guiding principles of the Korean people's movement for reunification stipulate that reunification must be achieved by the Korean people themselves without outside interference; that it must be achieved peacefully; and lastly, that it has to be achieved by the political unity of the Korean people setting aside their differences.

(With files from TMLW, KCNA, Hankyoreh)

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Virtual Meeting on Current Developments
on the Korean Peninsula

Held on the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary
of the Historic North-South Joint Declaration

Thursday, June 18 -- 7:00 pm EST

The meeting will cover important matters of concern including:

• Relations between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
and the U.S.
• Inter-Korean Relations, U.S. war exercises and provocations
• How the DPRK is successfully controlling the
COVID-19 pandemic despite illegal sanctions

Keynote Speaker: Professor Kiyul Chung
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The 21st Century
Adjunct Professor, Korea University, Tokyo, Japan
Visiting Professor, Kim Il Sung University, Pyongyang, DPRK

Sanctions on the DPRK will be discussed by Toronto lawyer Lorne Gershuny

Organized by: Korea Truth Commission (Canadian Chapter),
Korean Federation in Canada

EVERYONE WELCOME!

To join meeting and for information click here.
Meeting ID: 868 1560 7481
Password: 420759

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COVID-19 Update

Joint Call by UN Agencies to End Stigma and Discrimination Against Migrant Workers and
Their Children During Pandemic


Over 15,000 migrant workers from Myanmar returned home through this Thai border crossing in a single day in late March.  (IOM)

The following is a joint op-ed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UN Women, signed by representatives for their respective organizations.

COVID-19 has caused mass global disruption and placed the most vulnerable, including men and women migrant workers and their children, in great hardship. Containment measures, notably border closures and movement restrictions, have had a significant impact on migrants, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and potentially increasing transmission risks. Loss of income has led to insecurity, increased risks of violence and rising debts for this already vulnerable group, including for families for whom remittances are a critical income source.

In South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.6 million people are migrant workers -- 5.2 million of whom are women. Many countries in the region rely on migrant workers for the functioning of their economies to fill local labour shortages. As of 2019, it is estimated that 2.8 million international migrant children were living in East Asia and the Pacific.

Isolation and reduced mobility have increased the risk of abuse, exploitation and trafficking in persons, particularly of women migrant workers (including by employers and partners) and children. When households are placed under the increased strains that come from security, health and financial worries, as well as cramped living conditions, women and girls are more likely to be at risk of violence and abuse. COVID-19 response measures that are not inclusive of migrant workers in the informal economy further put those workers and families at risk of exploitation.

School closures have gravely aggravated migrant children's vulnerabilities, for whom schools provide not only an education but a haven, a source of food, an opportunity to identify abuse and an important platform through which to receive information. This safety mechanism is now lost, further compounding the disruption of child protection services, to which migrant children already have limited access. They may also face significant barriers in accessing online learning opportunities.

Attitudes towards migrant workers were not generally positive even before the pandemic and have now only worsened. In ASEAN, there have been reports of increased verbal abuse against certain nationalities and migrants presumed to bring the virus to communities. Such stigmatization and discrimination are not only unacceptable but dangerous, and it can put in particular women migrant workers, their children and families at risk of both gender-based and xenophobic violence, harassment and trafficking.

Women migrant workers fill diverse occupations, including in domestic work, hospitality, seafood processing, manufacturing, agriculture and construction. Many are on the front lines of responding to the pandemic, especially as care workers. These migrant groups may be at greater risk of transmission due to their living and working conditions. Many may not be able to access essential services, especially when they need it most, including if exposed to violence and abuse.

Migrants with undocumented or irregular migration status also live in fear of deportation, making them less likely to be tested, access health screening or receive treatment, with negative consequences for their own health and that of others. In addition to the fear of losing their livelihoods if they test positive, migrant workers are also more likely to be taken advantage of, with increased wage gaps exacerbating existing discrimination in some occupations.

We call on States to fulfill their international commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the relevant international labour standards on promoting decent work, gender equality and fair labour migration, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

States should acknowledge that migrants are a critical part of the response to the pandemic, and take targeted measures to protect all women, men, girls and boys, including those in vulnerable situations. They should develop measures to ensure access to essential services for all, foster dialogue between migrants and destination as well as origin communities to address and prevent xenophobia, discrimination or stigmatization of migrants.

Arrests of undocumented migrants should never form part of containment measures, and in the case of children contravene the best interests of the child. Children and young people, including migrant children, have contributed valuable ideas and raised awareness on the needs and challenges of the COVID-19 response.

While the virus does not discriminate, its social and economic impact is definitely not equal. The most vulnerable who do not have social protection coverage, nor ready access to health and essential services, disproportionately bear more severe consequences.

Hence the immediate response and long-term recovery measures must be responsive to the particular needs and challenges of migrant workers, especially women and children. This is the time for solidarity and humanity regardless of nationality, migration status, gender, sex or age. Societies, more than ever, have a shared responsibility to successfully end the pandemic. No one should be left behind -- no matter who or where they are, or what legal status they hold.

As highlighted in an appeal made by the United Nations Secretary-General, let us stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and defeat COVID-19 together.

Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative, Southeast Asia and the Pacific,

Karin Hulshof, Regional Director, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific,

Nenette Motus, IOM Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific,

Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director, UN Women for Asia and the Pacific

Tomoko Nishimoto, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific.

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U.S. Inhuman Treatment of Migrants Endangers Peoples of the Americas


Deported from U.S. during the pandemic, migrants arrive home in Mexico.

A particular feature of the pandemic in the U.S. is the government's inhuman treatment of those without status: immigrants, migrant workers and asylum seekers. This includes not only lack of treatment or detention in conditions where social-distancing cannot be maintained, but also ongoing deportations of people to Mexico, Central America and Haiti. All of this is in defiance of international guidelines and standards for the treatment of migrants and refugees.

While countries like Cuba and others are selflessly providing assistance to the peoples of the world; and while Venezuela, in spite of the many hardships it must contend with for being an object of U.S. economic warfare, is welcoming home and providing free health and social services to large numbers of returning Venezuelan migrants (over 58,000 as of June 13, most of them informal workers) who found themselves stranded and without any means of support in neighbouring countries when the pandemic struck, the U.S. imperialists are showing their callous disregard for human life by endangering the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean at a time when that region is being hit very hard by the pandemic.

One of the news agencies reported on June 7: "In the name of containing the spread of COVID-19 at home, the United States has been pushing ahead with its immigration enforcement agenda, deporting thousands of Central Americans, including those who have been infected with the deadly virus, to their home countries amid the ravaging pandemic.

"With little or even no sanitary measures in place in crowded holding centres or the deportation process, Washington's business-as-usual approach has disregarded a global health crisis and jeopardized the fragile health systems in less developed countries in Central America.

"So far, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica and other Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Mexico, have all reported infected cases among deportees. The United States, with the world's highest number of infections and deaths, is accused of prompting the virus' diffusion in its neighbouring region.

"Marvin Canahui, a 38-year-old Guatemalan migrant, said his own experience was typical of thousands of deportees who were held or deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the pandemic.

"'They never even gave us hand soap or sanitizer for disinfecting,' said Canahui, who [was recently deported] after working in the United States for 17 years. [...]

"Except in the dining room and telephone area, there was no cleaning or preventive measures, such as social distancing, in the facility where he shared a dormitory, showers and bathrooms with about 200 other migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, he recalled.

"'It was packed, completely full. There was no room for more people,' said Canahui. "They (U.S. authorities) kept bringing in prisoners. We were totally cramped in there.'

"Before he was deported in mid-April, personnel at the centre checked his throat with a plastic tongue depressor, without explaining what it was for or informing him of the result.

"After he arrived in Guatemala by air on April 14, immigration authorities there put him and other deportees in quarantine for 14 days at a shelter near the airport, since previous returnees had tested positive for the virus. [...]

"A Salvadoran migrant who only gave his name as Carlos was kept at a detention facility in Texas from late January to early April, losing 20 kilos of weight in the process due to existing ailments and the poor conditions. [...]

"'There was no kind of protection or (special) handling' and more than 80 fellow detainees 'were not tested,' said Carlos, 31, who fled San Salvador in January after gang members threatened to kill him for failing to pay protection money for his small business.

"He said he had hoped to apply for asylum in the United States, but was caught almost immediately by border patrol agents and sent to the 'icebox,' slang describing the frigid holding cells to keep detainees. [...]

"David Cruz, a 48-year-old Mexican migrant, said he was given a face mask and his temperature was checked when he was put in a holding cell in McAllen, Texas, but he was held with 27 others in 'close, very close' quarters.

"He was deported in May by taking one of eight flights designed to speed up the deportation process to Mexico, which is usually done by ground transport.

"The objective of these flights is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 'to the United States,' U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement.

"However, Latin American experts said the U.S. move amid the COVID-19 outbreak might risk spreading the virus to the south of the United States, especially to the poor rural communities many migrants come from.

"On May 4, international medical charity Doctors Without Borders urged the United States to suspend deportations, warning that the move could deteriorate situations in countries poorly equipped to deal with such crises.

"Loic Jaeger, the charity's director for Mexico and Central America, said earlier that deporting migrants without first checking for possible infection was a 'criminal policy.' [...]

"According to ICE, some 943 migrants at more than 45 U.S. detention centres tested positive for COVID-19 after 1,788 tests had been carried out. The total number of migrants held at these centres has reached 29,675 by the end of April.

"The United States seems to be exploiting the pandemic to crack down on immigration, said Ruben Figueroa, a member of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement that defends the human rights of Central American migrants.

"'They are taking advantage of this time to impose much stronger restrictions, much stricter security measures. They are violating [the rights of] these people, their communities, and the countries they are from. It's clear, it's obvious,' said Figueroa.

"In Colombia, infectious disease experts have sounded the alarm on the U.S. move after more than 20 of 64 Colombians deported on March 30 tested positive for COVID-19.

"Aristobulo Varon, one of the repatriated, told local press that none of the deportees had been tested, and the validation relied only on the fact that they had presented no obvious symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

"Soraya Marquez, an infectious disease expert and coordinator of health care recovery at the Juan N. Corpas Clinic in Bogota, said the United States has been careless by flouting standard health protocols amid a raging pandemic that has infected over 6.8 million people worldwide and killed more than 390,000.

"'I think it has totally failed, precisely for not following protocols, since the presence of COVID-19 has been proven in patients that are completely asymptomatic, which is why you have to undertake stringent measures, studies and tests to rule out and/or confirm the diagnosis so as not to increase the number of infections,' said Marquez.

"The U.S. performance in the pandemic has 'put many people at risk,' she said. 'The message is clear: life takes precedence over any other interest.'"

On June 10, Guatemala's Foreign Ministry said that the United States resumed deportation flights to that country this week, after a break of one month due to the coronavirus pandemic, teleSUR reported. The report continues:

"Foreign ministry spokeswoman Patricia Letona said the flights would contain groups of around 50 people, including children, and that two more were scheduled for next week.

"Though flights with unaccompanied minors from the U.S. have continued, general deportations by air to Guatemala were suspended in mid-May.

"The flights have caused tensions between the U.S. and Guatemala because dozens of people sent back to the Latin American nation tested positive for coronavirus. At least 186 deportees have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the country despite the U.S. assuring they were in good health.

"Guatemala's government said deportees would be screened for the virus and that only its citizens held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centres were coming back.

"'The decision [to restart flights] was made on the basis of technical sanitary information,' Letona said.

"The Foreign Ministry says about 5,500 Guatemalans are in the custody of ICE. More than 2,500 of those have a final deportation order and the remainder still have a pending process.

"The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has pressured Guatemala to keep receiving deported migrants despite widespread concerns returnees are bringing coronavirus with them and could infect remote communities.

"News of the resumption was met with resistance from migrant advocacy groups inside Guatemala.

"Director of Casa del Migrante migrant shelter and priest, Mauro Verzeletti, said Washington's decision was a 'major mistake' and would not help conditions in Guatemala.

"'This is only going to cause more racism against the returnees in their own country,' he told Reuters. 'We're still closed and we'll re-open once the curve of the pandemic has come down.'"

TeleSUR informs that since the epidemic began in Guatemala in mid-March, the country has received 2,160 deportees from the U.S. As of June 12, Guatemala has reported a total of 8,561 cases (6,660 active; 1,567 recovered; 334 deaths) for rates of 478 cases per million and 19 deaths per million.

Regarding the situation in Haiti, Steve Forester, Immigration Policy Coordinator for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti reports, "At least eight of 30 Haitians deported from the U.S. to Haiti on  May 26, 2020 had been quarantined at Louisiana's Pine Prairie facility of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because they had tested positive for COVID-19 in late April and/or early May. It appears that none of them had ever tested negative twice, if even once, using a reliable COVID-19 test. [...]

"The 30 persons returned to Port-au-Prince on an iAero Airways 'Swiftflight' 737 shortly after 12:30 pm on May 26 included one man who in recent days and on the evening of May 25 had complained to me of difficulty breathing, fever, and pain in his chest, legs, and thighs. He was one of the eight who had tested positive for coronavirus and therefore been quarantined at ICE's Pine Prairie facility.

"The eight deportees who tested positive for COVID were transferred on the morning of May 25 from Pine Prairie to ICE's Alexandria Staging Facility in Louisiana, where they were checked for the coronavirus using a 'rapid test.' [...]

"We do not know how many of the other 22 persons on the May 26 flight may also have tested positive for COVID-19 or were not cleared per the appropriate public health protocol.

"I spoke recently to a Haitian deported on Apr. 7. He described very crowded conditions at ICE detention facilities and in a waiting area, with people seated right next to each other, some coughing and sneezing.

"He said that everyone on the deportation flight was seated right next to each other in twos, with no space in between them and with the aisle seats free. A May 25 Vice News report documents ICE's disregard for social distancing in transporting detainees.

"Shortly before ICE's May 11 deportation flight to Haiti, the Haitian government's scientific advisors counselled against receiving deportations from abroad because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

"The deportation of eight persons who tested positive for COVID, who were not cleared through appropriate public health protocol, is another example of why no one should be deported during the pandemic. In engaging in such practices, the Trump administration disrespects Haiti and the lives of its people."

Jake Johnston, Senior Research Associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC, also elaborated on this issue at a forum organized by Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson on May 29. He explained that "Haiti is not the only country that has received deportation flights from the United States during the global pandemic. Since March 13, ICE has made at least 135 deportation flights to 13 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Deportees have later tested positive in Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Colombia, and Haiti. In Guatemala, the government has identified more than 100 COVID-19 cases among those deported.

"The Trump administration's continued deportations represent a significant public health risk for the region and place a burden on already overtaxed public health systems. The Haitian government, for example, is forced to use scarce resources to quarantine recent deportees while being unable to properly quarantine its frontline medical workers. While this is a regional issue, there is no doubt that Haiti is one of the least prepared countries to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak. In recent weeks, confirmed cases have skyrocketed in Haiti, and, with one of the lowest testing rates in the world, this most likely represents just the tip of the iceberg."

Johnson goes on to state that "some 60 per cent of Haiti's health services are provided by NGOs and private actors."

As of June 13, Haiti has 3,941 total reported cases of COVID-19 (3,853 active; 24 recovered; 64 deaths): 346 cases per million; and 6 deaths per million. The number of total daily new cases peaked on June 6 with 332 and had declined to 134 by June 11, while the number of active cases has yet to peak. Haiti has been in an ongoing political crisis since the 2004 coup against the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, carried out by Canada, France and the U.S. The health and political situation was worsened by the 2010 earthquake, then the cholera epidemic brought by UN peacekeepers. Recent elections have been based on foreign interference and have produced corrupt governments without any legitimacy.

Canada is fully implicated in this situation, not only in Haiti as it exploits Haitian asylum seekers working courageously as frontline health care workers, but by denying a safe haven to all those arriving in Canada from the U.S. due to the Safe Third Country Agreement.

(With files from Xinhua, Haiti Liberté, teleSUR, Worldometers.)

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On the Global Pandemic for Week Ending June 13

Number of Cases Worldwide

As of June 13, the worldwide statistics for COVID-19 pandemic as reported by Worldometer were:

- Total reported cases: 7,774,990. This is 1,722,729 more than the total reported on June 13 of 6,052,261. This compares to the increase in cases in the previous week of 816,824.

- Total active cases: 3,359,023. This is 252,107 more than the number reported on June 6 of 3,106,916. The increase in total active cases compared to the previous week was 97,238.

- Closed cases: 4,415,967. This is 653,798 more than the number reported on June 6 of 3,762,169. This compares to an increase in the previous week of 719,586.

- Deaths: 428,953. This is 30,367 more deaths than on June 6, when the toll was 398,586. This compares to an increase in the previous week of 31,299.

- Recovered: 3,987,014. This is up 623,431 from the June 6 figure of 3,363,583 and compares to an increase the previous week of 688,287 recoveries.

There were 141,973 new cases on June 12, a new all-time high, which compares to 130,529 reached June 5. The number of new daily cases ranged between 107,719 to 141,973 over the past week. Overall, these figures indicate an increasing rate of new and active cases over the previous week.

The disease was present in 213 countries and territories, the same as the week prior. There are 29 countries/territories without active cases this week, up from 21 the previous week. They are New Zealand (1,504 cases 1,482 recovered; 22 deaths); Isle of Man (336 cases; 312 recovered; 24 deaths); Montenegro (324 cases; 315 recovered; 9 deaths); Faeroe Islands (187 cases, all recovered); Guadeloupe (171 cases; 157 recovered 14 deaths); Trinidad and Tobago (117 cases; 109 recovered; 8 deaths); Aruba (101 cases; 98 recovered; 3 deaths); French Polynesia (60 cases, all recovered); Macao (45 cases; all recovered); Timor-Leste (24 cases, all recovered); Laos (19 cases, all recovered); Fiji (18 cases, all recovered); Saint Kitts and Nevis (15 cases, all recovered); Greenland (13 cases, all recovered); the Malvinas (13 cases, all recovered); the Turks and Caicos (12 cases; 11 recovered; 1 death); the Seychelles (11 cases, all recovered); Montserrat (11 cases, 10 recovered; 1 death); Papua New Guinea (8 cases; all recovered); British Virgin Islands (8 cases; 7 recovered; 1 death); Caribbean Netherlands (7 cases; all recovered); St. Barth (6 cases, all recovered); Anguilla (3 cases, all recovered); Saint Pierre et Miquelon (1 case, recovered).

The five countries with the highest number of cases on June 13 are noted below, accompanied by the number of cases and deaths per million population:

USA: 2,118,693 (1,159,752 active; 842,068 recovered; 116,873 deaths) and 6,403 cases per million; 353 deaths per million
- June 6: 1,965,912 (1,115,789 active; 738,729 recovered; 111,394 deaths) and 5,942 cases per million; 337 deaths per million

Brazil: 831,064 (361,502 active; 427,610 recovered; 41,952 deaths) and 3,911 cases per million; 197 deaths per million
- June 6: 646,006 (308,875 active; 302,084 recovered; 35,047 deaths) and 3,041 cases per million; 165 deaths per million

Russia: 520,129 (238,659 active; 274,641 recovered; 6,829 deaths) and 3,564 cases per million; 47 deaths per million
- June 6: 458,689 (231,576 active; 221,388 recovered; 5,725 deaths) and 3,143 cases per million; 39 deaths per million

India: 310,760 (146,575 active; 155,290 recovered; 8,895 deaths) and 225 cases per million; 6 deaths per million
- June 6: 237,566 (116,843 active; 114,073 recovered; 6,650 deaths) and 172 cases per million; 5 deaths per million

UK: 292,950 (active and recovered N/A; 41,481 deaths) and 4,316 cases per million; 611 deaths per million
- June 6: 283,311 (active and recovered N/A; 40,261 deaths) and 4,175 cases per million; 593 deaths per million

Of the 10 countries with the highest number of cases, the U.S. number of new cases remains similar to the previous week -- about 20,000 per day. In Russia the number of new daily cases has also been stable over the previous few weeks at about 8,500. In Brazil and India, the number of new daily cases is still rising sharply. Brazil, with more than 30,000 new daily cases in the past week, looks like it will reach about 1.1 million cases by next week. India which is adding more than 10,000 new cases per day, may reach 400,000 by next week. The European countries overall have had a marked decline in new daily cases and daily deaths.

Beyond the absolute numbers, the number of cases and deaths per million population also shed light on how well or badly countries are doing. For example, Brazil's number of cases is high -- second only to the U.S. now -- at 831,064. But taking into account the size of its population (212,459,250) its rate of deaths at 197 per million is still lower than many European countries. Brazil's rate of deaths is also lower than Canada's 213 per million.

Russia's rate of deaths is low (47 per million) in spite of it having the third highest number of cases worldwide. On the other hand, Belgium, the headquarters of prominent supranational institutions such as the EU and NATO, has a very high rate of deaths (833 per million), the highest in the world for any country with more than a million population.

Reports from India indicate it now has the fourth highest number of cases. Given its large population this means that it has a relatively low number of cases and deaths per million. However, it is suspected that reporting may not be indicative of true numbers.

Peru with the eighth highest number of cases in the world (220,749) -- almost twice as many as Canada's, and with more than double the number of cases per million than Canada -- still has a lower death rate of 191 per million than Canada.

Cases in Top Five Countries by Region

In Europe on June 13, the four other European countries with the highest number of reported cases after the UK, listed above, are Spain, Italy, Germany and France:

Spain: 290,289 (active and recovered N/A; 27,136 deaths) and 6,209 cases per million; 580 deaths per million
- June 6: 288,058 (active and recovered N/A; 27,134 deaths) and 6,161 cases per million; 580 deaths per million

Italy: 236,305 (28,997 active; 173,085 recovered; 34,223 deaths) and 3,908 cases per million; 566 deaths per million
- June 6: 234,531 (36,976 active; 163,781 recovered; 33,774 deaths) and 3,879 cases per million; 559 deaths per million

Germany: 187,256 (6,493 active; 171,900 recovered; 8,863 deaths) and 2,235 cases per million; 106 deaths per million
- June 6: 185,414 (7,751 active; 168,900 recovered; 8,763 deaths) and 2,213 cases per million; 105 deaths per million

France: 156,287 (54,341 active; 72,572 recovered; 29,374 deaths) and 2,395 cases per million; 450 deaths per million
- June 6: 153,055 (53,440 active; 70,504 recovered; 29,111 deaths) and 2,345 cases per million; 446 deaths per million

In Spain, news agencies report that 104 passengers who landed in Spain in the past month have tested positive for COVID-19 despite travel restrictions. Most of these passengers were from the U.S. and Latin America. The head of Spain's health emergencies' committee Fernando Simón told journalists on June 11 that the 'imported' COVID-19 cases represented between 10 to 12 per cent of new infections in Spain since May 11.

Spain is preparing to welcome tourists from Europe by July 1 (or earlier if an agreement is reached between Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his EU counterparts). At present, only Spanish citizens, legal residents and workers, those who have a cross-border job, or people from international organizations who have come to help with Spain's COVID-19 pandemic are allowed in.

On June 11, the European Commission asked all EU countries to reopen their borders to all EU citizens as of Monday, June 15, a recommendation that was addressed in particular to Spain as "one of the countries that's dragging its heels the most in this regard," The Local reported. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has reiterated he will maintain the 14-day quarantine for people arriving in Spain at least until July 1.

Regarding British tourists to Spain -- 18 million of whom visited in 2019 -- the Spanish government has said it will not consider a travel corridor with the UK, preferring instead a common EU criteria when it comes to tourism agreements.

France will end special government powers brought in to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on July 10 though it will retain the ability to curb gatherings and freedom of movement for four months, Reuters reported on June 10.

France passed "state of health emergency" legislation in March which gave the government the power to restrict civil liberties by decree without parliamentary approval. Current statistics indicate that the severity of the pandemic continues to lessen, despite the progressive lifting of lockdown measures, with shops, holiday resorts and tourist attractions slowly reopening. People are still being encouraged to wear face masks when outside and stay at least one metre apart while most employees are continuing to work from home where possible. France is now reported to have a surplus of facemasks.

In Eurasia on June 13, Russia tops the list of five countries with the highest cases in the region, with the figures reported above, followed by:

Turkey: 175,218 (21,338 active; 149,102 recovered; 4,778 deaths) and 2,079 cases per million; 57 deaths per million
- June 6: 168,340 (30,292 active; 133,400 recovered; 4,648 deaths) and 1,998 cases per million; 55 deaths per million

Armenia: 16,004 (9,659 active; 6,081 recovered; 264 deaths) and 5,401 cases per million; 89 deaths per million
- June 6: 12,364 (8,454 active; 3,720 recovered; 190 deaths) and 4,173 cases per million; 64 deaths per million

Kazakhstan: 14,238 (5,339 active; 8,829 recovered; 70 deaths) and 759 cases per million; 4 deaths per million
- June 6: 12,511 (5,556 active; 6,903 recovered; 52 deaths) and 667 cases per million; 3 deaths per million

Azerbaijan: 9,218 (3,989 active; 5,116 recovered; 13 deaths) and 910 cases per million; 11 deaths per million
- June 6: 6,860 (2,907 active; 3,871 recovered; 82 deaths) and 677 cases per million; 8 deaths per million

In West Asia on June 13:

Iran: 184,955 (29,477 active; 146,748 recovered; 8,730 deaths) and 2,204 cases per million; 104 deaths per million
- June 6: 167,156 (29,281 active; 129,741 recovered; 8,134 deaths) and 1,992 cases per million; 97 deaths per million

Saudi Arabia: 123,308 (39,828 active; 82,548 recovered; 932 deaths) and 3,545 cases per million; 27 deaths per million
- June 6: 95,748 (24,490 active; 70,616 recovered; 642 deaths) and 2,753 cases per million; 18 deaths per million

Qatar: 78,416 (23,094 active; 55,252 recovered; 70 deaths) and 27,928 cases per million; 25 deaths per million
- June 6: 65,495 (24,511 active; 40,935 recovered; 49 deaths) and 23,326 cases per million; 17 deaths per million

UAE: 41,990 (14,941 active; 26,761 recovered; 288 deaths) and 4,248 cases per million; 29 deaths per million
- June 6: 37,642 (17,031 active; 20,337 recovered; 274 deaths) and 3,809 cases per million; 28 deaths per million

Kuwait: 35,466 (9,295 active; 25,882 recovered; 289 deaths) and 8,311 cases per million; 68 deaths per million
- June 6: 30,644 (12,123 active; 18,277 recovered; 244 deaths) and 7,183 cases per million; 57 deaths per million

Speaking at a meeting of Iran's National Headquarters for Managing and Fighting the coronavirus in Tehran on June 13, President Hassan Rouhani says the country will restore the strict restrictions put in place in the first days of the pandemic if it is forced to do so for the sake of the people's safety.

Discussing the situation in Iranian provinces with regard to the outbreak, President Rouhani said that many have passed the first infection peak and their situation is no longer an emergency, but several others are still about to pass it, raising concerns about a drop in people's observance of health protocols.

"In the Persian month of Ordibehesht [April 20-May 21], people cooperated better in implementing heath guidelines and we witnessed a proper situation, but in the middle of the month of Khordad, the observance level decreased from about 80 to 20 percent; it could be worrying," Rouhani added.

Iran reported its first COVID-19 infection cases in late February and soon afterwards introduced lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures to rein in the pandemic.

In recent weeks, as the infection and mortality rates have declined, the government has eased certain restrictions and reopened businesses and public places.

"All these re-openings are conditional on collective cooperation. If we are forced to, we will restore the restrictions. If a peak returns to a province, we have to restore the restrictions of the first weeks. If the health of the people in a city or a province is endangered, we have no option but to restore the restrictions. If we want the restrictions to reduce, we must observe all principles," Rouhani said.

President Rouhani said that museums and historical sites will reopen on June 14 and shrines on June 15, while all workers will return to work on June 20.

"The coronavirus had caused problems for us, but it also created opportunities. It mobilized all government branches, political parties and groups, forming a national coalition for health and livelihood, i.e. a national coalition for life. That is a great achievement," Rouhani said. "The experience gained over the past months tells us that we will prevail against both the coronavirus and sanctions if we stand together and join hands."

Illegal U.S. sanctions on Iran have hampered its ability to adequately respond to the pandemic and prevented the country from purchasing life-saving medical items from abroad.

In South Asia on June 13:

India: 310,760 (146,575 active; 155,290 recovered; 8,895 deaths) and 225 cases per million; 6 deaths per million
- June 6: 237,566 (116,843 active; 114,073 recovered; 6,650 deaths) and 172 cases per million; 5 deaths per million

Pakistan: 132,405 (79,798 active; 50,056 recovered; 2,551 deaths) and 600 cases per million; 12 deaths per million
- June 6: 93,983 (59,467 active; 32,581 recovered; 1,935 deaths) and 426 cases per million; 9 deaths per million

Bangladesh: 84,379 (65,413 active; 17,827 recovered; 1,139 deaths) and 513 cases per million; 7 deaths per million
- June 6: 63,026 (48,855 active; 13,325 recovered; 846 deaths) and 383 cases per million; 5 deaths per million

Afghanistan: 24,102 (19,450 active; 4,201 recovered; 451 deaths) and 620 cases per million; 12 deaths per million
- June 6: 19,551 (17,411 active; 1,820 recovered; 320 deaths) and 503 cases per million; 8 deaths per million

Sri Lanka: 1,882 (619 active; 1,252 recovered; 11 deaths) and 88 cases per million; 0.5 deaths per million
- June 6: 1,801 (899 active; 891 recovered; 11 deaths) and 84 cases per million; 0.5 deaths per million

In India on June 10 there were confirmed 12,375 new cases, an all-time high, while on June 11 there were 394 deaths, also an all-time high. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and New Delhi are the worst-hit states. India has so far tested more than 4.9 million people, with a daily capacity of more than 140,000. The increasing rate of daily new cases comes as the government moves forward with reopening restaurants, shopping malls, and places of worship in most of India after a lockdown that lasted more than two months. The government has already partially restored train services and domestic flights and authorized shops and manufacturing to reopen. Subways, hotels, schools, and colleges, however, remain closed nationwide. The number of new cases has soared since the government began easing restrictions. There has also been an increase in infections in rural India following the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who lost their jobs during the lockdown.

Regarding the situation of India's workers, the global union IndustriALL reported on June 9 that unions are intensifying their struggle against the Modi government's failure to protect workers' interests during the COVID-19 lockdown and its aggressive attacks on workers' rights. A day of non-cooperation is announced for July 3.

The unions are demanding:

- A cash transfer of Rs. 7500 (U.S.$ 99.50) to all households below the income tax level for April, May and June
- Wages for workers at medium, small and micro enterprises paid for the same months
- Universal food distribution to all working people for at least six months
- Safe journey for millions of migrant workers

IndustriALL writes: "It is estimated that around 240 million workers have lost their livelihood. Although factories are restarting operations, many are taking on fewer workers and reducing their wages.

"The ILO has warned that about 400 million people might be pushed into deeper poverty. Unions are demanding increased support for the rural employment scheme to create employment opportunities for the millions of migrant workers who have returned to their villages, and for similar schemes to in urban areas as well.

"The government has used the pandemic to introduce anti-worker labour law changes, and to announce corporate friendly policy measures including privatization of public sector enterprises (PSEs), many of which serve critical national interests, public purpose and were established with enormous public fund. The announcement also included decisions to the pay benefits for 4.8 million central government employees and 6.8 million pensioners.

"Unions underline that the government's U.S.$265 billion stimulus package is a cruel joke on working people. The actual relief package is paltry and a major chunk of the amount consists of loan guarantees to various sectors.

"Dr. G Sanjeeva Reddy, President of Indian National Trade Union Congress and IndustriALL Executive Committee member, says:

"'The government's insensitive handling of the lockdown and its anti-worker policy announcements show that it does not respect workers' rights and does not deserve the cooperation of working people. The inaction has caused untold misery to millions of workers.

"'After the massive countrywide protest on May 22, we are now intensifying our protests with a call for non-cooperation on July 3 to ensure that the government address our demands.'

"Valter Sanches, IndustriALL General Secretary, says:

"'We are concerned that the Modi government is taking advantage of the pandemic to attack workers' rights and the anti-worker labour law changes must be withdrawn. The government should take urgent steps to protect the livelihood of millions of workers and engage in genuine social dialogue with the unions for solutions.'

"'IndustriALL stands in solidarity with the Indian union movement and will take international solidarity actions to support their efforts.'"

An example of how Indian employers are abusing workers during the pandemic is the situation of women garment workers at Euro Clothing Company ECC-2, India, a supplier to global fashion brands like H&M, who staged an overnight sit-in at the factory on June 8-9, protesting against the illegal lay-offs of 1,200 workers. On June 8, IndustriALL reported that "management at Euro Clothing Company, owned by Gokuldas Exports Group, announced a lay-off of 1,200 workers, in clear violation of the labour law. In Indian labour law, lay-off is an act by which there is no production and workers are paid 50 per cent of their salaries. According to the law, a permission from the government is needed for lay-offs in workplaces with more than 100 workers.

"Union busting at the factory had begun a few weeks earlier. With the easing of the lockdown, industries were allowed to resume operations on May 5 and workers reported for duty, despite difficulties as public transport had not restarted.

"Only 30 per cent of the workers were provided work. They were paid 50 per cent of the wages for the period they worked. No wages were paid at all during the lockdown to any of the workers of ECC-2.

"During the night of May 30, management started removing machines without informing the workers or the union, and only stopped when workers gathered at the gate, blocking the removal.

"However, management continued to remove machines, provided work only in the ironing section, and put up a notice that only 50 per cent of the workers would be provided work. Remaining workers would either be transferred to other factories of the group or laid off.

"[...] The union says the actions are not business related; it is a clear case of union busting. The matter has now been brought before the labour department of the state government."

IndustriALL General Secretary Valter Sanches stated, "We commend the courage of the workers fighting for their jobs. We strongly oppose the illegal actions of the management, especially as we see a trend to close unionized factories and retrench union members using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse."

Regarding the situation of India's millions of migrant workers, India's Supreme Court on June 9 ordered states to identify stranded migrant workers and transport them back to their hometowns within 15 days as the humanitarian crisis surrounding their movement has continued over weeks of the coronavirus lockdown. It also directed the state governments to consider withdrawing cases filed against the workers under the Disaster Management Act for lockdown violations, including crowding at rail stations, legal news website Live Law reported. The court also asked federal and state governments to formulate a scheme for providing employment to the migrants and establish help desks to give them jobs after mapping their skills, the report said.

Al Jazeera reports, "A number of migrant deaths on the road have been reported, both from exposure to the sweltering heat and a lack of food and water."

In Southeast Asia on June 13:

Singapore: 40,197 (12,132 active; 28,040 recovered; 25 deaths) and 6,874 cases per million; 4 deaths per million
- June 6: 37,527 (13,294 active; 24,209 recovered; 24 deaths) and 6,418 cases per million; 4 deaths per million

Indonesia: 37,420 (21,553 active; 13,776 recovered; 2,091 deaths) and 137 cases per million; 8 deaths per million
- June 6: 30,514 (18,806 active; 9,907 recovered; 1,801 deaths) and 112 cases per million; 7 deaths per million

Philippines: 25,392 (18,612 active; 5,706 recovered; 1,074 deaths) and 232 cases per million; 10 deaths per million
- June 6: 21,340 (15,905 active; 4,441 recovered; 994 deaths) and 195 cases per million; 9 deaths per million

Malaysia: 8,445 (1,014 active; 7,311 recovered; 120 deaths) and 261 cases per million; 4 deaths per million
- June 6: 8,303 (1,551 active; 6,635 recovered; 117 deaths) and 257 cases per million; 4 deaths per million

Thailand: 3,134 (89 active; 2,987 recovered; 58 deaths) and 45 cases per million; 0.8 deaths per million
- June 6: 3,104 (75 active; 2,971 recovered; 58 deaths) and 44 cases per million; 0.8 deaths per million

Laos, after 59 consecutive days with no COVID-19 new cases, discharged its 19th and last patient, and without reporting any deaths, became the first country in Southeast Asia to declare itself free of COVID-19 on June 10.

At a press conference, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith pointed out that this is an important victory, but in no way guarantees immunity against the virus, so he called on all institutions to work to prevent their spread.

He stressed that the appropriate government measures and the responsibility with which the citizens fought the pandemic, together with the support of international organizations and friendly countries, allowed Laos to become the first nation in Southeast Asia to put the pandemic under absolute control.

Sisoulith announced that his government will continue evaluating the epidemiological situation and will establish punctual preventive and control measures, in transit towards a 'new normalcy' that includes the progressive recovery of productive activities, economy and the social life in general.

Laos was one of the nations in Southeast Asia that took the longest to fall into the whirlwind of the pandemic (with its first case on March 24), the Prime Minister said, but the immediate closure of the country to foreign visitors, other timely containment measures, isolation and prompt treatment of the infected prevented the spread of illness.

Along with Vietnam and Cambodia, it has also had no deaths from COVID-19.

In East Asia on June 13:

China: 83,075 (74 active; 78,367 recovered; 4,634 deaths) and 58 cases per million; 3 deaths per million
- June 6: 83,030 (67 active; 78,329 recovered; 4,634 deaths) and 58 cases per million; 3 deaths per million

Japan: 17,332 (917 active; 15,493 recovered; 922 ) and 137 cases per million; 7 deaths per million
- June 6: 17,064 (1,185 active; 14,972 recovered; 907 deaths) and 135 cases per million; 7 deaths per million

South Korea: 12,051 (1,083 active; 10,691 recovered; 277 deaths) and 235 cases per million; 5 deaths per million
- June 6: 11,719 (915 active; 10,531 recovered; 273 deaths) and 229 cases per million; 5 deaths per million

Taiwan: 443 (5 active; 431 recovered; 7 deaths) and 19 cases per million; 0.3 deaths per million
- June 6: 443 (7 active; 429 recovered; 7 deaths) and 19 cases per million; 0.3 deaths per million

In North America on June 13:

USA: 2,118,693 (1,159,752 active; 842,068 recovered; 116,873 deaths) and 6,403 cases per million; 353 deaths per million
- June 6: 1,965,912 (1,115,789 active; 738,729 recovered; 111,394 deaths) and 5,942 cases per million; 337 deaths per million

Mexico: 139,196 (20,981 active; 101,767 recovered; 16,448 deaths) and 1,080 cases per million; 128 deaths per million
- June 6: 110,026 (18,266 active; 78,590 recovered; 13,170 deaths) and 854 cases per million; 102 deaths per million

Canada: 98,368 (30,930 active; 59,333 recovered; 8,105 deaths) and 2,607 cases per million; 215 deaths per million
- June 6: 94,790 (34,120 active; 52,932 recovered; 7,738 deaths) and 2,513 cases per million; 205 deaths per million

Although Mexico has now overtaken Canada for the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in North America, Mexico's population is more than three times Canada's. When that is factored in, Mexico has a much lower rate of COVID-19 cases (854 per million) than Canada's 2,513 per million, and for deaths as well (102 per million vs. 205).

On June 9, news agencies reported that Canada and the United States are set to extend a ban on non-essential travel to late July.

In the U.S., a report issued by the U.S. Labor Department on June 10 indicates that employers laid off 7.7 million workers in April, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of jobs to close. In May, the federal unemployment rate dropped for the first time since the coronavirus sent the economy into a tailspin. Nevertheless, experts remark that, as of May, the country hadn't seen unemployment rise this sharply since 1948 when the federal government started measuring this kind of data.

It is estimated that 21 million people remain out of work in the U.S. During the first three weeks of April, nearly 17 million people had filed initial claims for unemployment insurance, a figure far more than the peak during the Great Recession, back in 2009.

The figures from April, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, also show that Nevada, Michigan, and Hawaii, in this order, are the worse hit by unemployment, while Connecticut is at the bottom of the list.

Unemployment has impacted all sectors heavily -- however, leisure and hospitality record most job losses.

April also saw a significant shift regarding gender statistics as the numbers show that the unemployment rate was 2.5 per cent higher for women than men.

On June 10, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. passed the two-million mark. News reports indicate that the pandemic hotspots appear to be shifting from large urban centres like New York City and Chicago toward smaller, rural areas. States that have loosened restrictions have also seen resurgences in cases.

"The one million most recent cases were added over the course of over a month after the U.S. surpassed a million confirmed cases on April 28. On average, the country has reported more than 20,000 cases a day since then," Global News reports.

Twenty-one states reported weekly increases in new cases of COVID-19 as of June 10 -- Arizona, Utah and New Mexico all had increases of 40 per cent or more for the week ending June 7, compared with the prior seven days, according to a Reuters analysis. One June 6, 14 states recorded their highest-ever seven-day average of new cases since the start of the pandemic, according to data tracked by the Washington Post. Those states include Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Utah. These are among the states that have loosened pandemic restrictions. Global News reports that:

"Arizona was among the first states to reopen in mid-May, and its cases have increased 115 per cent since then, leading a former state health chief to warn that a new stay-at-home order or field hospitals may be needed. California has put half its population on a watch list comprised of counties that have seen upticks.

"Texas, which is also among those 14 states, has continually reported record-high hospitalizations due to the disease. On Tuesday [June 9], health officials reported more than 2,000 patients were in hospital.

"Johns Hopkins University on Monday [June 8] found 22 states, including Michigan and Arizona, had seen at least small daily upticks in new cases. Virginia, Rhode Island and Nebraska showed the greatest decreases, the school's data showed.

"The number of new infections around the U.S. rose three per cent in the first week of June -- the first increase after five weeks of declines, according to an analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run organization.

"Yet even those rises and declines likely don't tell the true story of the pandemic. The number of infections and deaths related to COVID-19, as is the case around the world, is believed to be far higher than official data indicates thanks to shortages in testing.

"Health officials have continued to stress the importance of widespread testing and contact tracing to ensure any resurgence of the virus is caught early, while allowing the economy to reopen.

"But the Trump administration has yet to produce a plan that has satisfied both parties in Congress, leaving it up to states to ramp up testing.

"The White House's coronavirus task force still meets and collects data but has shifted its focus towards reopening the economy on U.S. President Donald Trump's orders. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, told CNN last week that he had not spoken to Trump in two weeks."

In Central America and the Caribbean on June 13:

Dominican Republic: 22,572 (8,911 active; 13,084 recovered; 577 deaths) and 2,082 cases per million; 53 deaths per million
- June 6: 18,708 (6,447 active; 11,736 recovered; 525 deaths) and 1,726 cases per million; 48 deaths per million

Panama: 19,211 (5,031 active; 13,759 recovered; 421 deaths) and 4,456 cases per million; 98 deaths per million
- June 6: 15,463 (5,374 active; 9,719 recovered; 370 deaths) and 3,588 cases per million; 86 deaths per million

Guatemala: 8,982 (6,929 active; 1,702 recovered; 351 deaths) and 502 cases per million; 20 deaths per million
- June 6: 6,485 (5,216 active; 1,053 recovered; 216 deaths) and 362 cases per million; 12 deaths per million

Honduras: 8,132 (6,932 active; 844 recovered; 306 deaths) and 854 cases per million; 31 deaths per million
- June 6: 5,971 (5,046 active; 677 recovered; 248 deaths) and 604 cases per million; 25 deaths per million

Haiti: 3,941 (3,853 active; 24 ; 64 deaths) and 346 cases per million; 6 deaths per million

Cuban journalist and editor in chief of Cubadebate, Rosa Miriam Elizalde writes from Havana where she is in quarantine:

"I am writing these lines from one of the isolation centers for those who have been in contact with COVID-19 cases that do not present symptoms of the disease. The rapid test is negative, but I still have to stay in quarantine for 14 days until I pass the test that detects and quantifies the virus.
"The house's balcony overlooks the sea on Havana’s west coast, with its blue depths and the cool morning breeze that blows even on the hottest summer days over the hills surrounding the city. The place is spacious and clean. There are 10 of us housed here, including two children, cared for by a tiny group of workers who live in quarantine with us and juggle to make the floors shine, change clothes and masks regularly, and make the daily rice and beans look different. There are no luxuries, but the essentials are there, and that includes a doctor and an intensive care nurse who live on the second floor of the house who keeps an eye on our temperature and blood pressure several times a day. At the slightest sign of alarm, the suspect is transferred to a hospital, something which, fortunately, has not happened in our house overlooking the sea.

"In Havana alone, there are 26 such isolation centers for those who have had direct contact with infected people or have returned to the country on humanitarian flights, which have been maintained despite the closure of the borders.

"Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that Latin America is the new centre of the pandemic, the cases on the island are in free fall and no deaths have been reported in the last 12 days. Cubans are now 24 times less likely to contract the virus than Dominicans, 27 times less than Mexicans and more than 70 times less than Brazilians, reported the British newspaper The Guardian this week.

"For Rubén González Duany, the doctor who is treating us and whose eyes are all that I have seen since I have been in quarantine, the result is not the work of a miracle. It is due to the early detection of carriers, hospitalization and the application of experimental treatments, most of which have been developed by the nation’s own biotechnology sector. The combination of the scientific method, decades of investment in a strong public health system and the age-old remedy of social quarantine has worked. Without immediate vaccination, the goal is to regulate the rate of change in cases as best as possible."

In South America on June 13:

Brazil: 832,866 (363,201 active; 427,610 recovered; 42,055 deaths) and 3,920 cases per million; 198 deaths per million
- June 6: 646,006 (308,875 active; 302,084 recovered; 35,047 deaths) and 3,041 cases per million; 165 deaths per million

Peru: 220,749 (107,308 active; 107,133 recovered; 6,308 deaths) and 6,700 cases per million; 191 deaths per million
- June 6: 187,400 (103,024 active; 79,214 recovered; 5,162 deaths) and 5,689 cases per million; 157 deaths per million

Chile: 167,355 (26,958 active; 137,296 recovered; 3,101 deaths) and 8,758 cases per million; 162 deaths per million
- June 6: 122,499 (25,420 active; 95,631 recovered; 1,448 deaths) and 6,412 cases per million; 76 deaths per million

Colombia: 46,858 (26,598 active; 18,715 recovered; 1,545 deaths) and 921 cases per million; 30 deaths per million
- June 6: 36,635 (21,852 active; 13,638 recovered; 1,145 deaths) and 721 cases per million; 23 deaths per million

Ecuador: 46,356 (19,617 active; 22,865 recovered; 3,874 deaths) and 2,630 cases per million; 220 deaths per million
- June 6: 41,575 (17,473 active; 20,568 recovered; 3,534 deaths) and 2,359 cases per million; 201 deaths per million

Latin America has become the new COVID-19 pandemic epicentre, World Health Organization (WHO) Emergencies Program Executive Director Michael Ryan informed during a media briefing on June 10.

"What we are seeing, with some notable exceptions, is a trend of cases to increase, from Mexico to Chile. This is a time of great concern, and it is a time when we need strong government leadership as well as great solidarity with the region to control this disease. It's not just one country, but many countries that are facing severe outbreaks," he warned.

Ryan informed that the Americas holds five of the ten countries with the highest number of COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours: Brazil, the United States, Peru, Chile, and Mexico.

He also referred to the pressure health systems in the region are exposed to, something that, along with the contagion increase, puts the WHO in the most delicate situation this health body has faced since the pandemic outbreak.

"I would certainly characterize that Central and South America, in particular, have very much become the intense zones of transmission for this virus as we speak, and I don't believe that we have reached the peak in that transmission. And at this point, I cannot predict when we will," he said.

Despite this, Ryan assured that Central and South America have a long and successful history when it comes to fighting for health. "What we want to see is governments working together to once again demonstrate to the world the capabilities that these countries have, as well as their ability to work individually and cooperatively to end infectious diseases," he said.

In Brazil, the Bolsonaro government has begun withholding publication of data on the pandemic. teleSUR reports that on June 6, there was a several-hour blackout on the Brazilian Ministry of Health page that showed information on the virus in real time, following which information on the cumulative number of infected and deceased in the country was deleted. The website now only shows the figures for the previous 24 hours. President Jair Bolsonaro justified the changes saying they were aimed at avoiding "underreporting" and "inconsistencies."

WHO Director Michael Ryan said that "it is very important that there be consistent transparency in government statistics on the situation of COVID-19 in the country." Ryan added that it is expected that "we can count on our partners in Brazil to pass that information on to us, and more importantly, pass it on to their citizens. They need to know what is going on."

It is uncertain whether Bolivia, with a relatively small toll of 487 coronavirus deaths, but with a high number of infections registered in recent weeks, will hold its general election delayed already for months, on September 6 as approved by the country's Congress. On June 12 Jeanine Ańez, the de facto President brought to power by a U.S.-backed coup, refused to promulgate the law setting the date for the election, asking the Congress to justify its decision by providing an epidemiological study to show it would be safe to hold elections in September.

Chile has extended the quarantines that were already in force and added eight new zones to the measure starting June 11. On Saturday Health Minister Jaime Manalich resigned after facing criticism for his unsatisfactory management of the pandemic and calling for the establishment of a "new normal" while the number of cases and deaths continued to steadily rise.

Ecuador, despite its 3,720 recorded and 2,462 probable deaths from COVID-19, in addition to 44,440 confirmed cases, has begun relaxation of lockdown measures.

Venezuela continues to merit recognition for its success at containing the virus. Despite its number of cases increasing dramatically from a few hundred just under a month ago to 2,904 on June 13, Venezuela continues to have a much lower number of cases per million (102) and by far the lowest number of deaths per million (0.8) in South America. In spite of this consistent record achieved by mobilizing all the resources of its public health system and the organized Venezuelan people, the U.S., Canada and their Lima Group are going to great lengths to create the impression that the country is in the midst of a pandemic-related crisis and needs foreign intervention to remove a government running circles around all of them in containing the spread of the coronavirus and saving people's lives. 

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Venezuela over the past several weeks is largely the result of Venezuelan migrants returning from Brazil, Colombia, Peru and other countries where they had gone to seek better economic opportunities as the U.S. economic sanctions took their toll, as intended, on the daily lives of the working people. These "imported" cases now represent 80 per cent of all Venezuela’s cases, to which the government has responded by instituting strict protocols at all border crossings to ensure everyone is tested, quarantines are applied, with check-up and treatment provided to all those who need it.

Over the past two weeks Venezuela has adopted a phased-in easing of the quarantine it adopted as soon as the first cases were detected in mid-March. It began with a few hours on weekends for children and seniors to go out for walks and exercise then moved to a partial opening of the economy which had been shut down for all but essential public services and food production and distribution. Under what is called the 5+10 Plan, a range of personal services, certain retail businesses, auto repairs and industries such as those producing footwear, textiles and chemicals were allowed to open on a staggered schedule for five days, followed by 10 days of voluntary "disciplined and rigorous" quarantine.

Beginning the week of June 8 the easing moved to a 7+7 schedule -- seven days of work followed by seven days of quarantine. On June 15, the quarantine is slated to be eased further to allow for engaging in individual sports, without spectators, and such things as the reopening of gyms and certain businesses in shopping centers. Municipalities under curfew because of outbreaks and in border areas adjacent to Colombia and Brazil continue to remain exempt from this easing up of the quarantine at this time.

In a new development, the week of June 8 the Venezuelan government announced it had signed an agreement with representatives of opposition parties to work together in combatting COVID-19 in such areas as the detection of new cases, timely treatment of infected persons, supervision of quarantines and protecting health personnel, among others. The parties also agreed to accept the "technical and administrative assistance" of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and to cooperate with it to secure "financial resources that contribute to the strengthening of the country's response capacity." The fictitious "government" of deputy Juan Guaidó also specifically agreed to make available "with the approval of the government of Nicolás Maduro" access to $10 million in funds to finance PAHO's work in the country. That would be funds which already belong to the Venezuelan people but have been seized and held unlawfully by governments and financial institutions in the U.S. and Europe to finance the activities of violent coup forces they have put into motion. 

In Africa on June 13:

South Africa: 65,736 (27,463 active; 36,850 recovered; 1,423 deaths) and 1,109 cases per million; 24 deaths per million
- June 6: 43,434 (19,438 active; 23,088 recovered; 908 deaths) and 733 cases per million; 15 deaths per million

Egypt: 42,980 (29,967 active; 11,529 recovered; 1,484 deaths) and 420 cases per million; 15 deaths per million
- June 6: 31,115 (21,791 active; 8,158 recovered; 1,166 deaths) and 31 cases per million; 11 deaths per million

Nigeria: 15,181 (9,891 active; 4,891 recovered; 399 deaths) and 74 cases per million; 2 deaths per million
- June 6: 11,844 (7,815 active; 3,696 recovered; 333 deaths) and 58 cases per million; 2 deaths per million

Ghana: 11,118 (7,091 active; 3,979 recovered; 48 deaths) and 358 cases per million; 2 deaths per million

Algeria: 10,810 (2,630 active; 7,420 ; 760 deaths) and 247 cases per million; 17 deaths per million
- June 6: 9,935 (2,792 active; 6,453 recovered; 690 deaths) and 227 cases per million; 16 deaths per million

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating in Africa, spreading to the hinterland from capital cities where it arrived with travelers, the World Health Organization said on June 11. However, the WHO said there was no indication that severe cases and deaths were being missed, nor has the virus caused significant infections in refugee camps across the continent.

Ten countries account for 75 per cent of the some 207,600 cases on the continent, with 5,000 deaths reported, according to Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Africa regional director. South Africa, which last month began a phased easing of the lockdown, is the hardest-hit, accounting for a quarter of all cases, she said.

"Even though these cases in Africa account for less than 3 percent of the global total, it's clear that the pandemic is accelerating," Moeti told a news briefing for Geneva-based UN correspondents. "We believe that large numbers of severe cases and deaths are not being missed in Africa."

Africa's population is relatively youthful and many countries had already established "point of entry" screening measures against Ebola fever -- two factors which may have so far limited the spread of COVID-19, she said.

But lockdowns and market closures intended to contain coronavirus contagion have taken a heavy toll on marginalized communities and low-income families, Moeti said.

In South Africa, high numbers of daily cases and deaths are being reported in two provinces, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, she said, adding: "Specifically in the Western Cape where we are seeing a majority of cases and deaths, the trend seem to be similar to what was happening in Europe and in the U.S."

A major challenge on the continent remains the availability of test kits, Moeti said.

"Until such time as we have access to an effective vaccine, I'm afraid we'll probably have to live with a steady increase in the region, with some hotspots having to be managed in a number of countries, as is happening now in South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon for example, which require very strong public health measures, social distancing measures to take place."

In Oceania on June 13:

Australia: 7,302 (388 active; 6,812 recovered; 102 deaths) and 287 cases per million; 4 deaths per million
- June 6: 7,255 (463 active; 6,690 recovered; 102 deaths) and 285 cases per million; 4 deaths per million

New Zealand: 1,504 (0 active; 1,482 recovered; 22 deaths) and 301 cases per million; 4 deaths per million
- June 6: 1,504 (1 active; 1,481 recovered; 22 deaths) and 301 cases per million; 4 deaths per million

Guam: 176 cases (5 deaths)
- June 6: 171 cases (1 death)

French Polynesia: 60 (all recovered) and 214 cases per million
- June 6: 60 (all recovered) and 214 cases per million

New Caledonia: 21 (1 active; 20 recovered) and 74

- June 6: 20 (2 active; 18 recovered) 70 cases per million

(With files from teleSUR, Xinhua, Prensa Latina, Prensa Presidencial, Alba Ciudad, Cubadebate, Reuters, Global News, Al Jazeera, IRNA.)

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