Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Canada at War Against Democracy in Haiti

When the popular Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected in 2000 with 93% of the popular vote (in elections deemed free and fair by international observers), this was a result that neither the United States, nor the rich in Haiti could accept. Aristide had been brought to office by a popular movement of the poor, known as the Lavalas movement. For the lighter-skinned and French-speaking wealthy elite (in a country where 90% are Creole-speaking, dark skinned, and poor) the coming to office of a representative of the poor was deemed unacceptable.
Consequently, the United States, alongside the help of France and Canada, worked to undermine the ability of Aristide and the Lavalas movement to govern. First, the Haitian government was cut-off from access to loans and aid – with what aid that did enter the country being directed to the unelected opponents of Aristide. All of the so-called Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) being funded by the Canadian and American governments were actually anti-Aristide groups, meaning that the hard-earned tax-payer dollars of Canadians were spent to help the rich, undemocratic elite attack Haiti’s poor majority.
With the Aristide government cut off from all loans and aid funding, it was very difficult for the administration to govern. With a flood of NGOs pouring into the country from Canada and the United States, no doubt Haitians would have been asking themselves why foreigners were claiming to be there to help them but refused to cooperate with their elected government.
At the same time that Canada and France were attempting to take the moral high ground by refusing to participate in the Iraq war, officials from those countries joined with the United States to hatch a plan to violently overthrow Aristide and occupy Haiti. Canada and France were not against invasion and occupation of sovereign countries per se and were more than willing to participate if they viewed it as being in their interest. At a high-profile meeting held in Ottawa in January 2003 the decision was made that Aristide had to go, regardless of the will of the Haitian people.
On February 29, 2004 the three countries invaded Haiti with more than 7,000 troops. Backed by local paramilitary forces, the government was overthrown, Aristide kidnapped, and deported to a French military base in the Central African Republic. A dictatorship was appointed by the three invaders, headed up by a wealthy Haitian, Gerard Latortue - the uncle of Haiti’s top cocaine dealer and alleged CIA agent, Yuri Latortue. Yuri Latortue became a senator and now heads up a commission to re-instate Haiti’s brutal military apparatus, disbanded under Aristide.
The American, Canadian, and French troops were soon replaced by a United Nations ‘peacekeeping’ team, but the invaders would still maintain decisive control of the situation in Haiti. Canada maintained a contingent of about 100 RCMP officers in Haiti training the new Haitian police force, composed of the same former thugs and paramilitaries that had been paid and armed by the US to destabilize Aristide’s government.
The impact of the invasion and occupation is only starting to come to light. A recent study by the esteemed British medical journal The Lancet revealed that in the period after Aristide’s overthrow, over 8,000 people were killed and 35,000 women were raped in the Port-au-Prince area alone. Most of the crimes were committed by United Nations forces, RCMP-trained police forces, or gangs linked to Haiti’s elite and were directed at supporters of Aristide and Lavalas party officials.
In an attempt to blame the victims, the Canadian government has claimed (without evidence) that the murdered Aristide supporters were gang members and terrorists. One former Lavalas official, Jean Candio, fled to Canada to claim political asylum to avoid assassination. However, upon entering the country he was arrested, held in prison, and accused of being a terrorist based on claims made by a Washington-based “human rights” organization, one of the many foreign-funded anti-Aristide NGOs. This will almost certainly jeopardize Candio’s claim for status.
After more than two years of a brutal occupation, and after much stalling by the occupiers, elections were finally held in Haiti on May 7, 2006. However, these elections, costing more than all of the democratic elections held in Haiti’s history put together, were riddled with fraudulence. Every other democratic election in Haiti’s history brought in a popular leader from the Lavalas-associated party, the presidential candidate associated with the movement. René Préval, the Lavalas-backed candidate should have had no problems winning – even with the slaughter of Lavalas officials, supports, and over-all intimidation of the Haitian masses.
But when Préval could not get past the first round of voting with a clear majority, and with evidence emerging that the Canadian-organized elections were a complete fraud, a popular uprising took place. The militant uprising of Haiti’s poor forced the occupiers to concede to the democratic will of the people and allow Préval to take the presidency.
Even with Préval in power, Haiti has not returned to a state of normalcy. The United Nations continues to occupy the country, killing Lavalas supporters and many other innocent bystanders, women and children included. Several peaceful demonstrations have been machine-gunned by the RCMP-trained Haitian police forces. Washington and Ottawa have also made it very clear that Aristide will not be permitted to return to his own country to revive the popular movement of Haiti’s poor majority.
It is clear that for the Canadian state Haiti is not a humanitarian mission. Canada must respect Haitian sovereignty and the will of the Haitian people and stop subverting the democratically elected government. Canada must pull its troops and RCMP forces out now!

Do We Need Tuition Fees in Ontario?

Last fall the Ontario government lifted the tuition fee freeze which students fought hard to secure in 2004. Based on the scheme put in place by McGuinty’s Liberals college and university tuition fees will rise between 20 and 36 percent over the next four years in Ontario.
The mainstream media and political parties have centered the debate about tuition fees on what is a fair price to pay for post-secondary education. Not one source has stopped to ask if people should have to be pay for college and university at all.
Back in the 1940’s, getting a high school education used to be expensive. However, people realized that this was the basic level of education required just to get a halfway decent job, so they got organised to demand fair access.
Today, over 60% of new jobs created require a college or university education. Attending university is becoming more of a necessity than a choice. It is now the basic level of education required to get a job that pays enough to support a family.
Canada is a rich, industrialized country. College and university education here could easily be free for everyone. Much poorer nations provide free college and university education for their citizens at all or some levels, including Argentina, Ireland, Cuba, Venezuela, and France. There is absolutely no reason why people here can’t have the same, other than the lack of political will by the politicians.
Our representatives are totally disconnected from the realities of working people. As the provincial election approaches, we must demand that representatives who want our votes stand up for a liveable minimum wage and free college and university education. We must continue to organize our communities into a political force to demand what we deserve – better opportunities through fair wages and free education.

Revolution Moving Forward in Venezuela

The Congress of Venezuela has passed legislation giving President Hugo Chávez new powers to make sweeping changes to 11 broadly defined “strategic eras”, including the economy, the energy industry, and the military.
Chávez, who was re-elected in December with over 60% of the popular vote, called the passage of the legislation the beginning of a new era of “maximum revolution” to transform Venezuela into a socialist society.
The new powers will be used for the socialization of the largest telecommunications company and electricity sector, enact a more progressive tax system, curb the independence of the national bank and place the oil and natural gas industries under state control. The oil and gas companies have been given until May 1 to surrender control to the state, with the foreign companies staying on as minority partners. Those that fail to meet the deadline will face total expropriation.
The structure of government is also facing dramatic changes, with the creation of 16,000 community councils that give regular Venezuelans direct control over an increased budget for various neighborhood-based projects, including social housing, road repair, and other local issues.
Chávez has also pushed for the creation of a single political party to push forward the revolutionary process, a move that would consolidate the often chaotic pro-Chávez movement currently composed of a variety of political parties, social movements, and grassroots organizations. Chávez insisted that the new party should be built “from the base” of the popular committees composed of working people that fought and won the recent elections.
The United States has responded with hostility to the changes in Venezuela. In 2002 the Bush regime backed a failed military coup against the Chávez government. John Negroponte, US Director of National Intelligence has since slammed Chávez as “threatening to democracies in the region.”
Venezuela rejected the accusation and pointed to Negroponte’s own role in subverting democracy in Latin America during his tenure as US Ambassador to Honduras (1981-85) when he supported the Honduran military in it’s genocidal “dirty war” against indigenous people and backed the Contras, a right-wing terrorist group that fought the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
Despite the struggles and upheavals during the Chávez administration, Venezuela has produced impressive economic growth that has benefited working people. State funds from Chavez’ previous socialization of sections of the oil sector have been used in large part to introduce a wide range of social programs aimed at the vast majority of Venezuelans who live in poverty. The programs include the health ‘mission’ Barrio Adentro (Inside the Neighbourhood) which has brought free health and dental care clinics for the first time to millions of Venezuelans. Education programs have also been responsible for making Venezuela only the second country in the hemisphere to be declared ‘Illiteracy Free’ by the United Nations after Cuba.

Thousands Celebrate Death of Chilean Dictator

Spontaneous celebrations sprung up all over the South American country of Chile at the news of the death of former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet, a former General who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, lead the United States-backed overthrow of the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende. He died from health complications on the afternoon of December 10th. Shortly following the reports that the ailing dictator had died, thousands of people erupted in spontaneous celebration all over the country.

Pinochet headed the US-backed and organized overthrow of the Allende government as a response to the nationalization of the Chilean copper industry. American mining firms were expropriated in order to fund the expansion of social programs for Chilean workers.
The following 17 years of military rule saw the systematic torture of over 35,000 people, the assassination of over 5,000 and the exodus of 10% of the population who sought refugee status in mainly North American and European countries. Thousands remain missing.

Under Pinochet, Chile became the World’s testing ground for neoliberal economic policies, which use privatization and removal of laws meant to protect workers, the environment and secure tax cuts for large companies and the wealthy.

Canadian companies also benifited from Pinochet’s repressive rule. Canadian mining firms invested heavily in Pinochet’s pro-corporate economy. In 1996, Peter Munk, Chairman of Barrick Gold corporation, dismissed concern about Pinochet’s human rights record, saying “they can put people in jail, I have no comment on that... I think [the end justifies the means] because it brought wealth to an enormous number of people.”

Pinochet had been trying to evade being brought up on charges of human rights violations for the thousands killed under his command, as well as charges over tax evasion, falsifying passports and $27M stashed in bank accounts outside Chile.

Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke: Out on DVD

A four hour miniseries produced by HBO and directed by Spike Lee, When The Levees Broke chronicles the devastation of New Orleans, an event considered by many African Americans to be “black America’s 9/11”.
Lee drives the point home that the destruction of New Orleans was not primarily a result of Hurricane Katrina, but rather of government negligence. The levee system that protected the primarily poor and black residents of New Orleans had been badly designed by the Army Corps of Engineers and further weakened by lack of maintenance by the state. The stage was set for a catastrophy, the government knew it, but did nothing to prevent it.
Once the levees failed, residents had to battle not only the floodwaters, but also government indifference. People quickly realised that the rich and powerful really didn’t care if they lived or died. In emotionally powerful inverviews and archival footage, Spike Lee captures the fear, despair, and determination of the people of New Orleans. Despite the failures of the state, the working people remain committed to surviving and rebuilding.

NATO Poisoning Afghanistan with Uranium!

After decades of war, drought, poverty, and oppression, the Afghani people have endured almost every calamity known to human kind. Now independent researchers have uncovered a new horror in Afghanistan, this one brought by NATO occupation forces that include 2,500 Canadians: Depleted Uranium (DU).
Depleted Uranium is a toxic and radioactive waste, a residue leftover from the enrichment of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors and bombs. DU is 67% denser than lead and is much prized by the military for use in its weaponry. DU warheads, rather than flattening on impact, actually get sharper as they punch through the protective armor of an enemy tank or bunker. Once it has penetrated the target it explodes into a cloud of flaming plasma and dust, flash-frying everything and everyone inside the structure. Even worse, this radioactive dust is not consumed by the explosion. Once released into the environment, it is impossible to clean up. With a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years, it will keep on killing and causing disease. Forever.
Carried by the wind, it spreads to contaminate the soil, crops, and water of the surrounding area. Inhaled or ingested by humans and other animals, it damages DNA causing a variety of horrifying health effects, including various forms of cancer, immune disorders, internal organ damage, and extreme birth defects. The effects grow worse as time goes on as chronic exposure passes genetic damage on to future generations. There is no treatment and no cure for uranium exposure.
In 2003 scientists from the Uranium Medical Research Center studied urine samples from Afghan civilians from six different sites around the country. Every sample taken had uranium levels 400 to 2000% higher than normal. A UMRC reported that the “field team was shocked by the breadth of public health impacts coincident with the bombing. Without exception, at every bomb site investigated, people are ill. A significant portion of the civilian population presents symptoms consistent with internal contamination by uranium.”
The effects this is having on the population are obvious to the residents. Jooma Khan, a grandfather in Laghman province was quoted by an interviewer: “After the Americans destroyed our village and killed many of us, we also lost our houses and have nothing to eat. However, we would have endured these miseries and even accepted them, if the Americans had not sentenced us all to death. When I saw my deformed grandson, I realized that my hopes of the future have vanished for good... I know we are part of the invisible genocide brought on us by America, a silent death from which I know we will not escape.”
While the Canadian military claims to have eliminated DU from its munitions, the Canadian forces are fully integrated into NATO occupation forces. When Canadian troops call in air strikes during combat operations the bombs dropped come from American planes using DU ordinance. Canada must stop contributing to this ongoing war crime and pull its troops out now!