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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 137,909

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World Bank's ethics under scrutiny after Honduras loan investigation

World Bank's ethics under scrutiny after Honduras loan investigation

Private lending arm lent millions to palm oil company accused of links to assassinations and forced evictions, audit reveals

Posted by
Nina Lakhani

Monday 13 January 2014 11.07 EST

The verdict could not have been clearer: the World Bank's private lending arm failed to comply with its own ethical standards when it lent millions of dollars to a Honduran palm oil company accused of links to assassinations and forced evictions.

This was the damning verdict by the World Bank's Office of the Compliance Adviser/ Ombudsman (CAO) on Friday. It had investigated whether a $30m (£18.2m) loan by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to Corporation Dinant, an agribusiness owned by one of Honduras's richest and most powerful men Miguel Facussé, was made after proper environmental and social due diligence.

The investigation was triggered by local NGOs accusing Dinant of direct and indirect involvement in a campaign of terror against campesinos, or peasant farmers, in the fertile Bajo Aguán valley in the north. Dinant claimed any violence was either unconnected to the company or legitimate self-defence.

The audit, one of the most critical issued by the Bank's internal watchdog, was unequivocal. The IFC failed to spot the serious social, political and human rights context in which Dinant operates, or if it did, failed to act effectively on the information; and failed to disclose vital project information, consult with local communities, or to identify the project as a high-risk investment.

More:
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/jan/13/world-bank-ethics-scrutiny-honduras-loan-investigation

Cuba: 55 Years of Ideas and Truth

Weekend Edition January 10-12, 2014
An Ongoing Revolution

Cuba: 55 Years of Ideas and Truth
by W.T. WHITNEY

On January 1, Cubans 2014 marked the 55th anniversary of their revolution’s victory. Fidel Castro’s words spoken May 1, 2000 cropped up in President Raul Castro’s speech in Santiago de Cuba. Revolution, they said, is “to believe deeply there’s no force in the world capable of crushing the force of truth and ideas.”

Commentator Ángel Guerra Cabrera recalls one idea: “To understand the conflict between Cuba and the United States it’s necessary to study Latin American history. It shows the superpower has never tolerated our countries developing internal or external politics separate from its dictates.”

Raul Castro articulated another: “[N]ew generations of leaders … never will be able to forget that this is the socialist Revolution of the humble, by the humble, and for the humble. This is the essential premise and effective antidote for not falling for the siren songs of the enemy.”

Political talkers sometimes label ideas as utopian, among them that of ending the anti-Cuban U.S. blockade now. “Cuba [however] is still embracing utopia in year 55 of the triumph of its revolution,” affirms Guerra Cabrera.

More:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/10/cuba-55-years-of-ideas-and-truth/

World Bank's Lending Arm Linked To Deadly Honduras Conflict

World Bank's Lending Arm Linked To Deadly Honduras Conflict
By Kate Woodsome
Posted: 01/10/2014 5:36 pm EST | Updated: 01/10/2014 6:28 pm EST
World Bank's Lending Arm Linked To Deadly Honduras Conflict

The World Bank's private lending arm failed to apply its own ethical standards in disbursing millions of dollars to a palm oil company accused of turning a region of Honduras into a war zone, according to an internal bank investigation.
The audit, released Friday by the World Bank’s Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, says IFC staff underestimated the social and environmental risks related to the security and land conflict associated with its investment in palm oil giant Corporacion Dinant.

~snip~
That “risk environment” involved the killing, kidnapping and forced eviction of farmers, journalists and lawyers in Honduras’ northern Aguan Valley. Washington-based Rights Action and other advocacy groups accuse Dinant, owned by powerful businessman Miguel Facusse, of turning the area into a war zone. The CAO cites allegations that 102 members of subsistence farming associations in the Aguán Valley have been murdered in the last four years. Forty of the deaths were associated with Dinant property or its security guards. Dinant denies wrongdoing and says its staff are the victim of attacks by armed farmers.

The deteriorating risk environment noted by the CAO was caused in large part by the July 2009 overthrow of Manuel Zelaya, the left-leaning president who visited the Aguan Valley promising land reforms just days before his ouster. Subsistence farmers, without a political ally, took matters into their own hands in December 2009, illegally occupying land owned by Facusse that they say was wrongfully taken from them.

Dinant spokesman Roger Pineda denies Facusse, the uncle of a former president and one of the richest, most powerful men in Honduras, was knowingly involved in the political upheaval. U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks say Facusse backed the coup and that his plane was used to fly Zelaya’s foreign minister out of Honduras.

More:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/10/world-bank-honduras_n_4577861.html

U.S. acts to keep minority, disabled students out of jail

Source: Reuters

U.S. acts to keep minority, disabled students out of jail
WASHINGTON Wed Jan 8, 2014 12:02am EST

(Reuters) - The Justice and Education departments unveiled guidelines on Wednesday to prevent schools from violating civil rights laws and keep students out of jail after data found minorities and the disabled were more likely than others to face discipline or arrest.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the guidelines were aimed at giving direction to school law enforcement officers, protecting the civil rights of students, and keeping kids in the classroom.

"A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal's office, not in a police precinct," Holder said in a statement.

The guidelines came after the Justice Department sued Mississippi state and local officials in 2012 over what it called a "school-to-prison pipeline" that violated the rights of children, especially black and disabled youths.



Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/08/us-usa-education-discipline-idUSBREA0705S20140108?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=politicsNews&rpc=401

Nations come knocking on Uruguay’s door to buy cannabis

Nations come knocking on Uruguay’s door to buy cannabis

  • Canada, Chile and Israel express interest in purchasing marijuana for medicinal purposes

  • Alejandro Rebossio Buenos Aires 7 ENE 2014 - 17:42 CET


    Pharmacies in Canada, Chile and Israel have been lining up to inquire about the possibilities of purchasing marijuana from the government of Uruguay, which just two weeks ago became the first country in the world to legalize the sale and harvest of cannabis for its citizens.

    Uruguay’s experiment to begin regulating marijuana sales is in response to the failed policies and laws aimed at cracking down on the drug trade, President José Mujica has insisted.

    According to the Montevideo daily El Observador, government officials and laboratories in Canada, as well as pharmaceutical companies in Chile and Israel, have contacted the Mujica administration to begin holding talks on the purchase of marijuana supplies to be used in those countries for medicinal purposes.

    The controversial law, which was passed last month despite fierce opposition, does not address export sales of cannabis but nor does it prohibit them.

    More:
    http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/01/07/inenglish/1389112706_401489.html

    Guatemala grapples with opium boom

    Guatemala grapples with opium boom

    Submitted by WW4 Report on Tue, 01/07/2014 - 01:49 Central America Theater

    Guatemala has emerged as a major opium producer in recent years, and now President Otto Pérez Molina—a conservative who is increasingly breaking with the US-led "drug war" consensus—is considering legalized and regulated cultivation of the poppy as an alternative to eradication. "We started exploring the capacity that we could have for controlled planting," said Pérez Molina. "What that means is that we would know exactly what extensions are being planted, what the production would be and that the sale would also be well controlled, especially for medicinal use." Interior minister Mauricio López added: "There are two paths; one is cultivated substitutes, and the other is the alternative which is controlled cultivation. This is what is already being done in other countries such as India and China, that is to say identifying hectares clearly, seeing how they are grown, carrying out the harvest, taking control of the commercialization and above all making sure this serves mainly the pharmaceutical industry."

    Guatemalan poppy production is centered in the department of San Marcos, near the Mexican border. According to Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre on Dec. 17, the legalization idea is among a number of proposals recently made to the government by Amanda Fielding of the Beckley Foundation, a UK-based drug reform organization that opened an office in Guatemala last year.

    Drug War Chronicle in its write-up of Pérez Molina's proposal, hails him for considering an "outside the box" solution—"even if only a little outside the box." But the Prensa Libre account notes that the president made his comment after going out in the field in San Marcos with the Tecún Umán Taskforce—a US-financed joint army-police eradication force. The report notes that 127 hectares of poppy were eradicated in November, and Guatemala is seeking cooperation with neighboring El Salvador and Honduras to form joint anti-drug patrols for the border regions.

    http://ww4report.com/node/12901

    (Short article, no more at link.)

    Honduras and the dirty war fuelled by the west's drive for clean energy

    Honduras and the dirty war fuelled by the west's drive for clean energy

    The palm oil magnates are growing ever more trees for use in biofuels and carbon trading. But what happens to the subsistence farmers who live on the lucrative land?

    Nina Lakhani in Tocoa

    The Guardian, Monday 6 January 2014


    [font size=1]
    Honduran police agents detain peasant leaders from Bajo Aguán at a protest in the capital,
    Tegucigalpa. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images[/font]

    The west's drive to reduce its carbon footprint cheaply is fuelling a dirty war in Honduras, where US-backed security forces are implicated in the murder, disappearance and intimidation of peasant farmers involved in land disputes with local palm oil magnates.

    More than 100 people have been killed in the past four years, many assassinated by death squads operating with near impunity in the heavily militarised Bajo Aguán region, where 8,000 Honduran troops are deployed, according to activists.

    Farmers' leader Antonio Martínez, 28, is the latest victim of this conflict. His corpse was discovered, strangled, in November.

    Peasant farmers say they are the victims of a campaign of terror by the police, army and private security guards working for palm oil companies since a coup in June 2009 ended land negotiations instigated by the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya.

    Witnesses have implicated Honduran special forces and the 15th Battalion, which receives training and material support from the US, in dozens of human rights violations around the plantations of Bajo Aguán.

    More:
    http://www.theguardian.com/global/2014/jan/07/honduras-dirty-war-clean-energy-palm-oil-biofuels

    US Government Misled Public on Critical Role in Colombia’s 2008 Illegal Cross-border Attack

    Published on Saturday, January 4, 2014 by The Americas Blog/CEPR

    US Government Misled Public on Critical Role in Colombia’s 2008 Illegal Cross-border Attack

    by Alexander Main

    “The territory of a State is inviolable; it may not be the object, even temporarily, of military occupation or of other measures of force taken by another State, directly or indirectly, on any grounds whatever.”

    - Article 21, Charter of the Organization of American States


    In the pre-dawn hours of March 1, 2008, the Colombian military launched a carefully planned air and ground attack against a small FARC guerilla camp located in the thick tropical forest surrounding the Putumayo River. The attack – which killed top rebel leader Raúl Reyes and at least 21 other camp inhabitants – might have been just another bloody chapter in Colombia’s 50-year-old civil conflict had it not been for one important detail: the camp was located in Ecuador, over a mile from the Colombian border. Colombia had not asked for Ecuador’s permission to carry out the incursion, nor provided its neighbor with any warning that it would take place. As a result, a major diplomatic crisis ensued with three countries suspending relations with Colombia and most of the region strongly condemning the illegal violation of Ecuador’s territory. Only one government – that of the United States – openly supported Colombia’s need to “respond to threats posed by [the FARC] terrorist organization.”

    The Washington Post has now revealed, in an in-depth article on CIA covert action in Colombia, that U.S. support for Colombia’s March 1 operation wasn’t just rhetorical. The CIA – which maintained control over the “smart” GPS-guided bombs that were used in the operation – had given Colombia “tacit approval” to carry out the bombing. Prior to the operation, U.S. officials had unlocked the bombs’ GPS system using a special “encryption key” they had designed to ensure that “the Colombians would not misuse the bomb.” According to the Post’s sources, which include current U.S. and Colombian officials, the discovery that Reyes, their main target, was located in Ecuadorean territory was “awkward” since:

    to conduct an airstrike meant a Colombian pilot flying a Colombian plane would hit the camp using a U.S.-made bomb with a CIA-controlled brain.

    The Air Force colonel had a succinct message for the Colombian air operations commander in charge of the mission. “I said, ‘Look man, we all know where this guy is. Just don’t f— it up.’”

    U.S. national security lawyers viewed the operation as an act of self-defense. In the wake of 9/11, they had come up with a new interpretation of the permissible use of force against non-state actors like al-Qaeda and the FARC. It went like this: If a terrorist group operated from a country that was unable or unwilling to stop it, then the country under attack — in this case, Colombia — had the right to defend itself with force, even if that meant crossing into another sovereign country.

    More:
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/04-3

    How the Washington Post Distorts Colombia

    January 02, 2014

    What Dana Priest Left Out

    How the Washington Post Distorts Colombia

    by JACK L. LAUN


    On December 21, 2013 the Washington Post published an article titled “Covert action in Colombia” by reporter Dana Priest. Ms. Priest is a veteran reporter who has over the course of her career produced significant reports on important topics. However, in her report on the role of the United States government in supporting the Colombian state’s war on the FARC guerrillas she has overlooked or ignored some very basic aspects of this relationship.

    The most significant of these is that she ignores the nature and history of the paramilitary forces’ activities and the link of these to the United States government. As Father Javier Giraldo, S.J., correctly observed years ago, the paramilitaries in Colombia are a strategy of the Colombian state. Furthermore, this strategy was suggested to the Colombian government by a United States military mission to Colombia in February 1962, in response to fear of the spread of influence of the Castro Revolution in Cuba. The mission was led by Lieutenant General William Yarborough, the Commander of the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center. A Wikipedia entry cites a secret report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff quoting Yarborough as recommending “development of a civilian and military structure…to pressure for reforms known to be needed, perform counter-agent and counter-propaganda functions and as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known Communist proponents. It should be backed by the United States.” (See this citation and more information at Wikipedia.org/wiki/William_P_Yarborough.) The basic idea behind the reliance upon paramilitaries has been to keep the Colombian military from being involved directly in the Colombian government’s dirty war against the guerrillas and rural noncombatants and thus avoid having “dirty hands”. As Father Giraldo observed back in 1996, “Paramilitarism becomes, then, the keystone of a strategy of “Dirty War”, where the “dirty” actions cannot be attributed to persons on behalf of the State because they have been delegated, passed along or projected upon confused bodies of armed civilians.” (Colombia: The Genocidal Democracy, Common Courage Press, 1996, p. 81). There are many examples of the paramilitary death squad actions. One of these was a terrible slaughter by machetes and chainsaws of an estimated 30 civilians in the town of Mapiripan in Meta Department on July 15-20, 1997, in which paramilitary forces under the command of Carlos Castano in northern Colombia were allowed to travel by airplane with Colombian military acquiescence to reach their target community in southeast Colombia. A second example of the vicious attacks of paramilitary forces upon civilians was the slaughter on February 21, 2005 of 8 persons of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in Antioquia Department, including a founder and leader of that Community, Luis Eduardo Guerra. The latter massacre was carried out with the assistance of Colombian Army soldiers from the Seventeenth and Eleventh Brigades.

    While Ms. Priest approvingly suggests that Colombia “with its vibrant economy and swanky Bogota social scene” is far removed from Afghanistan, she fails to recognize that most of Bogota’s nearly 8 million residents are very poor, while a great majority of the country’s rural residents are impoverished. To be accurate in her portrayal of present-day Colombia, Ms. Priest should recognize and acknowledge that the distribution of land among Colombia’s population is the second worst in South America, after Paraguay, and the 11th worst in the world. (Oxfam Research Reports, “Divide and Purchase: How land ownership is being concentrated in Colombia”, 2013, p.7. See www.oxfam.org.) In rural areas paramilitary forces, supposedly demobilized in a sham proceeding during Alvaro Uribe’s Presidency, continue to threaten and murder campesinos (small-scale farmers) and force them and their families off their lands, so they can be taken over by large landowners or multinational corporations with mining and petroleum plans encouraged by the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. Paramilitary activity also continues to account for murders of labor union leaders and organizers, more of whom are killed in Colombia year after year than in any other country in the world.

    It is also disappointing that Ms. Priest makes no mention of the fact that there are some 6 million internally-displaced persons in Colombia, more than any other country in the world. In his December 27-29 article in Counterpunch, titled “Mythmaking in the Washington Post: Washington’s Real Aims in Colombia”, Nick Alexandrov correctly calls attention to Ms. Priest’s failure to take into account these displaced persons. And he also properly focuses criticism upon Ms. Priest’s failure correctly to acknowledge one of the most important links of the United State to Colombia and one of the most damaging: the drug trade and the effects of coca crop spraying (fumigation) upon Colombia’s rural population. Here again the responsibility of the United States government is clear and direct. As Mr. Alexandrov points out, tens of thousands of Colombia’s campesinos have been decimated economically as their legal food crops are destroyed through fumigation under direct control of the United States government. As a Colombia Support Network delegation was told by U. S. Embassy personnel while Anne Patterson was Ambassador there, the crop-spraying campaign using Round-Up Ultra has been controlled from the Embassy itself. Indeed, mayors of towns in Putumayo Department (province) told us they are not informed in advance and have no control over when fumigation of farm fields in their municipalities occurs.

    More:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/02/how-the-washington-post-distorts-colombia/

    (My emphasis)

    'Lawyers in some countries are disappeared simply for doing their jobs'

    'Lawyers in some countries are disappeared simply for doing their jobs'

    Alliance of Lawyers at Risk urgently seeks volunteers to provide unarmed protection for those under threat for their rights work

    Duncan Campbell
    theguardian.com, Friday 3 January 2014 14.39 EST


    [font size=1]
    Former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Rios Montt's conviction for genocide was
    overturned. The Alliance and PBI hope to get a decision to put pressure on national
    courts to get back his 80-year sentence. Photograph: Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters[/font]

    The death of Nelson Mandela was a reminder that it was as a lawyer that he first ran into serious trouble with the authorities in South Africa. Around the world, from Colombia to Nepal, from Mexico to Indonesia, there are still many lawyers under threat of prison or death as a direct result of their work.

    It is three years now since the Alliance of Lawyers at Risk was launched in conjunction with Peace Brigades International (PBI), the organisation that sends volunteers around the world to provide unarmed protection for those under threat because of their human rights work.

    The list of their members is a long one – Sir Henry Brooke, Peter Roth, Lord Woolf, Baroness Scotland, Phil Shiner, Dinah Rose, Nicholas Green, Geoffrey Robertson, Michael Mansfield, Lord Carlile, Sir Geoffrey Bindman to name but a few – but they are now urgently seeking new supporters and activists with legal skills for 2014.

    "Lawyers in some countries are regularly subjected to threats to themselves or their families, are physically attacked and even abducted and forcibly 'disappeared' simply for doing their jobs," says Susi Bascon of PBI UK. "In Colombia alone, as many as 25 lawyers may be killed each year."

    More:
    http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/jan/03/alliance-of-lawyers-at-risk
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