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Judi Lynn

Judi Lynn's Journal
Judi Lynn's Journal
July 29, 2014

What we've learnt from Cuba - Marius Fransman

What we've learnt from Cuba - Marius Fransman

Marius Fransman
28 July 2014

ANC WCape leader notes that the Masakha iSizwe - build the nation initiatve has produced incredible results

Article by Marius Fransman, ANC Provincial Chairperson Western Cape on the occasion of the 61st Anniversary of the storming of the Moncado Barracks, Havanna, Cuba


On the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the storming of the Moncada Barracks, Mandela met with Fidel Castro in Havanna in 1991, giving a historic speech alongside him entitled "How Far We Slaves Have Come" in which he highlighted the ‘special place' that Cuba has in the heart of the people of Africa saying: "From its earliest days, the Cuban Revolution has also been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people..". As we commemorate this 61st anniversary, we reflect on this special relationship and ask the question: How far will we slaves go?

The brave Cuban nation has demonstrated that they were prepared to go all the way. At the first Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Summit in Belgrade in September 1961, Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado denounced apartheid. Attending the United Nations (UN) Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva in 1961, Che Guevara, the minister of industry, said that South Africa ‘violates the Charter of the United Nations by the inhuman and fascist policy of apartheid', and he called for South Africa's expulsion from the UN. Speaking at the 19th General Assembly of the UN in New York in December 1964, Guevara pointed to the UN's failure to act against apartheid.

Following the meeting of Che Guevarra with MK Commander-in-Chief Nelson Mandela in Algeria, the Cubans offered military support and training to the ANC and its cadres in exile. In 1977, Cubans began training African National Congress (ANC) cadres at Nova Catengue in Angola, instructing them in guerrilla warfare. After the camp was bombed by the South African Air Force, the camp was moved to the Quibaxe area of Kwanza Norte province. Since 1961 already Cuba began to receive students from the Republic of Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville and Mali, and in 1963 Cuba sent a team of medics to newly liberated Algeria. By 1999 more than 28,000 African students had graduated from educational institutions in Cuba, and more than 76,000 Cubans had served in Africa in some capacity or other.

Much has been written about Cuba's role in our liberation and the liberation struggle in Southern Africa and the rest of our continent. The Cubans fought bravely side by side with freedom fighters in a number of African states. In Angola they fought in a number of battles such as Quifangodo, Cabinda, Ebo and other sites from 1976 to 1988. None were more graphic than the heroic tale of Cuito Cuanavale that ultimately led to routing the might of the Apartheid war machine and precipitated a negotiated settlement ‘forcing PW Botha and De Klerk to the table'.

Equally graphic is the tale of struggle of more than 36 000 gallant fighters who fought alongside us in Angola and the sacrifice of more than 2070 brave Cuban fighters who gave their lives for our freedom. When the edifice of the Apartheid state crumbled, the Cubans returned to their distant island home with only the clothes on their back and extracting no spoils of war or reward other in the annals of the brave and courageous.


July 29, 2014

Honduras’ Killing Fields

Honduras’ Killing Fields

In these rural lands, poverty, murder, and injustice fuel a battle between farmers and rich landowners.

By Jeremy Relph

[font size=1]
A campesino on recently flooded land in Bajo Aguán. Land disputes have been ongoing in Honduras since the late
’60s. Today Bajo Aguán is known as the Honduran Killing Fields.

Photo by Dominic Bracco II/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting[/font]

TAUJICA, Honduras—Our fixer pulls the car to the side of the dirt road, a short distance from a small store selling snacks and soda. Groups of men sit in the shade; others lean against poles. They look away from the mounted LCD TV screening Will Smith’s Ali to stare at us. The store is essentially the center of town. A large man in a pressed shirt walks over to the car. Leaning down to the car’s window, he asks what we’re doing. He wears a cowboy hat, a mustache, and a guarded look; a black pistol is in the waistband of his jeans.

We’ve come to report on the continuing conflict between poor farmers and rich landowners around Taujica, a small town in Honduras’ Bajo Aguán region, a five-hour drive from the world’s murder capital, San Pedro Sula. The roads we drove to get here, lined with lush vegetation, cut through mountains and hug the Caribbean Sea. They’re stuttered by pop-up towns and police checkpoints. The checkpoints continue on in Bajo Aguán, but there they are manned by campesinos, or small-scale farmers. Lawlessness has long been the rule in Honduras. Just since October, some 16,000 children have left Honduras for the United States—so many that Washington is now considering granting refugee status to some before they flee. They’ve run away from poverty and murder—the country’s two biggest cities, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, have the most and fourth-most murders per capita in the world.

They have also fled injustice in rural Honduras. These days Bajo Aguán is virtually off-limits to the country’s army and police. Campesinos have been the victims of private security and government forces, and the Honduran government has done little to halt it. The ruling right-wing National Party protects rich landowners. They’ve focused on maintaining security and addressing violence with force. The left paints the campesinos as victims and pacifists. At stake is fertile land, and massive profits.

Bajo Aguán is the rural center for palm oil production and land rights battles. Palm oil is in everything from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Johnson’s baby shampoo to Pringles. During the last decade, large energy companies like BP have begun heralding palm oil as the next green biofuel. Across Africa the spread of plantations has threatened chimpanzees with extinction. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s leading producers, its extraction is linked to human rights abuse. Honduras is no different.


July 29, 2014

Brazil: indigenous lives not worth a traffic sign

Brazil: indigenous lives not worth a traffic sign

Submitted by WW4 Report on Mon, 07/14/2014 - 16:36

Public prosecutors in Brazil have called on the government to pay 1.4 million reais ($ 630,000) in compensation to a Guarani indigenous community and to install road signs, after eight Guarani were run over and killed. For decades the Guarani of Apy Ka'y community in Mato Grosso do Sul were forced to camp on the side of a perilous main road after they were evicted from their land, which is now occupied by a vast sugar cane plantation. Last year they reoccupied a part of their territory, but the road remains a serious threat. Five of the hit-and-run victims were relatives of the community's leader, Damiana Cavanha, who has been campaigning for the’ ancestral land to be returned. The youngest victim was four years old. Damiana believes they are being deliberately targeted by vehicles belonging to the ranchers occupying their land.

Public prosecutor Marco Antonio Delfino de Almeida went to court to force the state to install road signs and speed warnings on the road. The court rejected his request and the government declared the road safe. "Indians in this state are not even worth a traffic sign," Delfino told the UK's Sunday Times.

Public prosecutors have also recommended that the Brazilian government's indigenous affairs department, FUNAI, be fined 1.7 million reais ($770,000) for its failure to map out and protect the land of Apy Ka’y and many other Guarani communities, as ordered by the constitution and an official agreement on Guarani land demarcation signed in 2007.

Forced to live in overcrowded reserves and roadside camps, the Guarani suffer alarming rates of malnutrition, disease and suicide, and their leaders are targeted and killed by gunmen employed by the ranchers occupying their land. "This is comparable to real human confinement," Delfino de Almeida said. "The Guarani live in terrible conditions, risking the most precious thing they have: life itself."


July 28, 2014

Can 'agroecology' bring food security to Latin America?

Can 'agroecology' bring food security to Latin America?

A home-grown, alternative approach to farming is bad news for pesticides, monoculture and food poverty in Brazil

Camila Nobrega in Rio de Janeiro
Guardian Professional, Monday 28 July 2014 05.54 EDT

Holding rice seeds in her hands, villager Emilia Alves Manduca explains to other smallholder farmers how the community where she lives – Mato Grosso, in the central-west region of Brazil – escaped from poverty and became self-sufficient.

She has travelled more than two days by bus to participate in the national agroecology meeting, in Juazeiro, Bahia. With a shining smile, she says that for the past six years they have grown more than 30 types of crops with no pesticides at Roseli Nunes, in the city of Mirasol D'Oeste, as part of the Brazilian Landless Workers movement.

"I used to work in a big farm, applying pesticides. I had to go to the hospital twice because of the side effects," says Alves.

Central-west Brazil, where most live on soybeans and maize, consists mostly of monocultures. In 2013, the region farmed a record volume of soybeans and maize, producing over 78.5m tonnes. However, most of it is not used to feed the population: it is exported to produce biofuels.

For Alves, a smallholder farmer, her rice seeds are a symbol of the strength of family farming. That seed was a result of an exchange she made with quilombolas (communities descended from slaves) that have selectively bred seeds for more than four generations. This is part of a worldwide movement led by Latin America, called agroecology.


July 27, 2014

US Embargo on Cuba: South Africa Joins Other Nations in Condemning America

US Embargo on Cuba: South Africa Joins Other Nations in Condemning America
By Anjalee Khemlani (staff@latinpost.com)
First Posted: Jul 26, 2014 03:27 PM EDT

South Africa is the latest to announce a solidarity campaign for Cuba, protesting the U.S. embargo.

"We should pay our solidarity to the cause of the Cuban people, reciprocate the solidarity they gave to us, and do that out of love and out of appreciation that we need each other," said Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe of the country's ruling African National Congress, according to Voice of America.

The announcement was met with some confusion -- questions arose of why the country is picking up the cause on the 50-year-old embargo.

Gideon Chitanga, a political researcher at the Center for Study of Democracy, told VOA that it is because the country is maturing as a democracy and may be ready to start engaging in global issues.

"More and more, South Africa is becoming a confident voice of the global South. So, the timing should be seen in terms of a South Africa which is asserting itself in the context of general global issues, but not to necessarily to say that this approach opposes the West," Chitanga said. "It's a policy that is based on calling for more engagement."

Mantashe said he intends to call on President Barack Obama to lift the blockade and release five intelligence spies -- known as the Cuban Five.


July 27, 2014

White House OKs Underwater Torture Chamber

White House OKs Underwater Torture Chamber
Thursday, 24 July 2014 10:27
By Karen Garcia, Sardonicky | Report

With all eyes glued on the atrocities in Gaza and Ukraine, another homegrown atrocity may soon be underway. The Obama administration has quietly executed one of those sneaky summer weekend news dumps in hopes of nobody noticing or caring. Because what, after all, are pods of insane dolphins, and hordes of dead turtles, and the extinction of an entire whale species compared to hundreds of battered human bodies?

From Think Progress:

On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved the use of seismic airguns to explore the seabed from Cape May to Cape Canaveral for oil and gas.

These sonic cannons are compressed airguns that get towed behind ships, using dynamite-like blasts to produce sound waves 100,000 times louder than a jet engine underwater every ten seconds. The waves travel through the water and through the ocean floor, bouncing back up at different rates to provide prospective drillers and researchers a better sense of where oil, gas, minerals, and sand lie beneath the waves.

It’s not a surprise that this is dangerous: even BOEM estimates that this practice will disrupt, injure, or kill millions of marine animals, including the most endangered whale species on the planet. It is less surprising that this risky tactic would be approved in large part to ferret out another source of fossil fuels, risking another BP disaster and emitting more pollution that causes global warming. It’s more surprising that this gambit is being entertained in an area that may not even have that much oil or gas.


July 27, 2014

To Address Honduran Refugee Crisis at the Border, US Should Stop Financing Repression in Honduras

To Address Honduran Refugee Crisis at the Border, US Should Stop Financing Repression in Honduras
Sunday, 27 July 2014 09:59
By Laura Raymond, Truthout | Op-Ed

In mid-July, the first planeload of women and children who had fled Honduras and found themselves in the center of a refugee controversy at the US border were sent back into the same dire situation they risked their lives to leave. They were dropped off at Palmerola Airforce Base, a base north of Tegucigalpa jointly controlled by US and Honduran military and given 650 lempiras, or $30, to get back to the towns and villages they had fled.

The individual stories of those fleeing Honduras are varied, but most have the rampant violence in their country as a common denominator. As Nelson Arambu, an LGBT community organizer from Honduras recently told me, "The wave of migrants from Honduras are no longer coming here to work, they are coming to save their lives." Since the military coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, violence and repression have continued to increase. Honduras currently has the highest murder rate in the world. The current refugee crisis at the US border is a foreseeable and understandable consequence of this violence.

Unfortunately, after playing a widely criticized role in legitimating Honduras's post-coup government, the US government is now using this crisis to further entrench its alignment with one of the most corrupt and violent police and military forces in the hemisphere. Couched in language about bolstering "security" and "prosperity" in the region, both the White House and the Senate have proposed yet more US "investment" in the very Honduran security forces that are responsible for the violence, human rights abuses and lawlessness that are contributing to the flight of tens of thousands of Hondurans.

This past April, José Guadalupe Ruelas, the director of Casa Alianza, a well-regarded organization that advocates for homeless children, presented a report on violent deaths of children in Honduras during the first few months of the new government. He noted that some of the killings were extrajudicial executions committed by Honduran state agents. Weeks later, he ended up in intensive care at a hospital after being brutally beaten by Honduran Military Police and jailed overnight without medical attention. The police claimed he'd been in a traffic accident.


July 26, 2014

Peru Passes a Packet of Neoliberal Reforms, Erodes Environmental Protections and Labor Rights

Peru Passes a Packet of Neoliberal Reforms, Erodes Environmental Protections and Labor Rights
Written by Lynda Sullivan
Friday, 25 July 2014 13:52

The Peruvian Congress approved a packet of laws on July 3 which critics say subjects the country to neoliberal reforms that threaten to undermine environmental and labor protections and is a gift to the extractive industry.

The Minister of Economy and Finance Luis Miguel Castilla first presented to Congress on this packet of laws on June 25 in order for them to be debated and approved. This has led to an outcry by civil society,[1] as many have compared this law bundle to the neoliberal 'paquetazos' of the 1980s and 90s by the previous governments of Alan Garcia and Alberto Fujimori governments. President Ollanta Humala rejects this criticism.[2]

The term ‘paquetazo’ refers to a large bundle of laws supposedly aimed at reinvigorating the economy. In the days of the Garcia and Fujimori governments, the introduction of these paquetazos usually lead to hyperinflation, currency devaluation, extreme price hikes, and an increase in social conflicts and police repression.[3] President Humala’s current attempt to reinvigorate the economy centers round removing any obstacles for investing companies (mainly in the extractive industries), which critics say will irreversibly damage the environment and fuel more social unrest.

Despite the outcries and protests, the packet was approved with surprising ease.[4] Two of the few congress members to vote against the package were Verónika Mendoza and Rosa Mavila. Mendoza pleaded that, minimally, the chapter on the theme of the environment should be debated, revised, and corrected by the Commission of Indigenous People and the Environment. Mavila opposed the chapter on the environment and the rest of the reforms, because "it is a vision of total guarantee for extractive capitalism and nothing for the Peruvians, nothing for the people, and nothing for the workers."[5]

MINAM under Attack

The most contentious piece of legislation promotes environmental deregulation and is seen as an attack on the authority of Ministry of Environment (MINAM) and its ability to effectively do its job. MINAM will be stripped of various key functions related to the setting and regulating of environmental norms. For example, it will no longer be able to approve the Maximum Permissible Limits (LMP by its Spanish acronym) and Standards of Environmental Quality (ECA), nor will it be able to establish reserved zones under the National Service of State Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP). Instead, these functions will be given to the Council of Ministers (made up of all the Ministers of the State), giving them a political, rather than a technical function. Out of the 18 ministers present on the council, the only one with any technical proficiency in environmental regulation is the Minister of the Environment; therefore diminishing his voice to equal standing among 17 others with little environmental expertise, and possibly with conflicting interests, is risking the integrity of environmental legislation.

MINAM was formed just four years ago as part of the free trade agreement with the United States. Noticias SER states that this suggests that the desire to form a Ministry of Environment never really came from the Peruvian state but was rather an imposition in exchange for Peruvian access to external markets.[6]


July 25, 2014

Is This US Coal Giant Funding Violent Union Intimidation in Colombia?

Is This US Coal Giant Funding Violent Union Intimidation in Colombia?
Thursday, 24 July 2014 10:13
By Rosalind Adams, The Center for Public Integrity | Report

Bogota, Colombia - Cesar Florez is often hesitant to answer his phone because there might be another death threat at the end of the line. Sometimes the threat comes in a phone call, other times in a text message or an email. In April, flyers were posted in the restroom stalls at Florez’s workplace, declaring him and his colleagues “permanent military targets.”

Until last month, Florez served as a local president of Sintramienergetica, a labor union in Colombia that represents the employees of Drummond Company, a U.S.-based coal-mining firm, in a country known for some of the world’s most severe violence against union leaders. Florez has been a Drummond employee for 17 years and active in the union for the last 14. Most recently, he worked as a marine operations technician in Drummond’s port near Santa Marta, where its coal is shipped out on barges.

But his position as a union leader has also meant he’s attracted a significant number of threats, including attempts on his life, which happen to spike around labor disputes, he said. In July 2013 the union went on strike, calling for a pay raise and to move from an hourly wage to a salary, among other demands. For 53 days the strike wore on amid tense negotiations, while the threats that Florez and his colleagues received only accelerated.

“They said if we didn’t lift the strike we’d be a target,” Florez said, describing some of the phone calls he received. “They said they already knew where my family was.”


July 25, 2014

The Threat of Good Example: Socialist Cuba Exports Health Care, Gains Important Recognition

Weekend Edition July 25-27, 2014
The Threat of Good Example

Socialist Cuba Exports Health Care, Gains Important Recognition

by W.T. WHITNEY, Jr.

In Cuba recently press conferences and new reports celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Operation Miracle, known also as “Mision Miracle,” which occurred on July 8. This internationalized project aimed at restoring vision on a massive scale took shape within the context of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

Cuba and Venezuela launched ALBA in late 2004. Latin American and Caribbean nations belonging to ALBA engage in mutually beneficial trade-offs of educational and medical services, scientific projects, even commodities. They are referred to as solidarity exchanges. ALBA exemplifies Cuba and Venezuela’s central role in promoting regional integration.

Under Operation Miracle, Cubans and Venezuelans benefit from surgical eye care, as do tens of thousands of foreign nationals who’ve traveled to Cuba for treatment. Cuban ophthalmologists serving in Venezuela took the lead in establishing 26 eye care centers throughout that national territory. Staff consisting of eye surgeons, nurses, technicians, and other physicians have served Venezuelans and also vision- impaired people from 17 Latin American countries plus Italy, Portugal, and Puerto Rico. More recently organizers established centers in 14 Latin American and Caribbean nations. Ten years after its start the project operates in 31 countries, some in Africa and Asia.

Those receiving diagnosis and treatment through Operation Miracle had gone without eye care because of poverty and/or geographic inaccessibility. The most common cause of reduced vision the teams deal with is cataract. They provide treatment also for glaucoma, strabismus, retina problems, and abnormal ocular growths. Corrective lenses are provided. Services are available for patients at no personal cost, as are transportation and accommodations.

Operation Miracle reportedly has improved or restored vision for 3.4 million individuals. That measure of the project’s reach takes on additional meaning through World Health Organization data showing that 39 million people in the world are blind. These figures are within reach of one another, especially because most visual impairment – 80 percent – is preventable or curable.


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