People’s Voice May 16-31, 2016
Volume 24 – Number 9  $1

CONTENTS

1) BOILING UP HELL, DOWN AT 60 HARBOUR STREET

2) THE TPP AND ITS IMPACT ON LABOUR IN CANADA

3) WORKERS RALLY ON MAY DAY ACROSS THE WORLD

4) BIRTHDAYS AND CHAINS, FROM CONFEDERATION TO TODAY

5) GREETINGS TO CPC DELEGATES - Editorial

6) IS THE HONEYMOON OVER? - Editorial

7) IS NEWFOUNDLAND MOVING TO “VOLUNTEER LIBRARIES”?

8) THE TPP HANDS CONTROL OVER TRADE TO THE WORLD’S WEALTHIEST

9) CLOSE THE CANSEC WEAPONS BAZAAR

10) BRAZIL’S CTB CONDEMNS COUP PROCESS

11) STILL NO ANSWERS FOR AYOTZINAPA RELATIVES

12) VENEZUELA CONDEMNS U.S., OAS OVER CALLS TO INVOKE DEMOCRATIC CHARTER


PRINTER FRIENDLY ARTICLES

PEOPLE'S VOICE MAY 16-31, 2016 (pdf)



 

People's Voice deadlines:

June 1-15
Thursday, May 26

June 16-30
Thursday, June 9

Send submissions to PV Editorial Office,
706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, V5L 3J1, pvoice@telus.net

You can call the editorial office at 604-255-2041

 

 

 

REDS ON THE WEB
http://www.communist-party.ca
www.peoplesvoice.ca
www.ycl-ljc.ca
www.solidnet.org

 

People's Voice finds many "Global Class Struggle" reports at the "Labour Start" website, http://www.labourstart.org/. We urge our readers to check it out!

* * * * * *
Central Committee CPC
290A Danforth Ave Toronto, Ont. M4K 1N6
Ph: (416) 469-2446
fax: (416) 469-4063 E-mailmailto:info@cpc-pcp.ca

Parti Communiste du Quebec (section du
Parti communiste du Canada)
5359 Ave du Parc, Montréal, Québec,
H2V 4G9


B.C.Committee CPC
706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, V5L 3J1
Tel: (604) 254-9836
Fax: (604) 254-9803

Edmonton CPC
Box 68112, 70 Bonnie Doon P.O.
Edmonton, AB, T6C 4N6
Tel: (780) 465-7893
Fax: (780)463-0209

Calgary CPC
Unit #1 - 19 Radcliffe Close SE
Calgary
  AB, T2A 6B2

Tel: (403) 248-6489

Ottawa CPC
Tel: (613) 232-7108

Manitoba Committee
387 Selkirk Ave., Winnipeg, R2W 2M3
Tel/fax: (204) 586-7824

Ontario Ctee. CPC
290A Danforth Ave., Toronto, M4K 1N6
Tel: (416) 469-2446

Hamilton Ctee. CPC
265 Melvin Ave., Apt. 815
Hamilton, ON
.
Tel: (905) 548-9586

Atlantic Region CPC
Box 70 Grand Pré, NS, B0P 1M0
Tel/fax: (902) 542-7981

http://www.communist-party.ca

* * * * * *

News for People, Not for Profits!
Every issue of People's Voice
gives you the latest
on the fightback from coast to coast.
Whether it's the struggle for jobs or peace, resistance to social cuts,
solidarity with Cuba, or workers' struggles around the world,
we've got the news the corporate media won't print.
And we do more than that
- we report and analyze events
from a revolutionary perspective,
helping to build the movements for justice and equality,
and eventually for a socialist Canada.

Read the paper that fights for working people
- on every page, in every issue!

People's Voice
$30 for 1 year
$50 for 2 years
Low-income special rate: $15 for 1-year
Outside Canada $50 for 1 year

Send to: People's Voice, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1
You can call the editorial office at 604-255-2041
<pvoice@telus.net>

REDS ON THE WEB
www.communist-party.ca
www.peoplesvoice.ca
www.ycl-ljc.ca/
http://solidnet.org/
http://www,rebelyouth-magazine.blogspot.com

(Contents)
(Home)

 


 


 

 (The following articles are from the May 16-31, 2016, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)

1) BOILING UP HELL, DOWN AT 60 HARBOUR STREET

By Johan Boyden

            Toronto has a fine collection of heritage buildings, one of which currently houses Ports Toronto and a fancy steak house, down on 60 Harbour Street.

            I have no idea if the steak is any good. As to Ports Toronto, it is just the notorious Toronto Port Authority, re-branded in 2015 but basically the same old federal government agency in the pocket of big business.

            However there is another interesting little tenant inside this grand old piece of prime real estate. Tucked away on the 4th floor is the NATO Association of Canada, known until last year as the Atlantic Council of Canada, founded in 1966.

            The NATO Association is dedicated "To promote peace, prosperity and security through knowledge and understanding of the importance of NATO." Plus, it "enhances domestic participation in global defense procurement ... regarding NATO contracting opportunities and ongoing acquisition projects within the NATO marketplace."

            You can find more information about arms sales on their website, under the section called “tenders.”

            The NATO Association holds Registered Charitable Organization Number 119011872RR0001.

            In 2012, the Harper Conservatives started auditing charities spending more than 10% of revenue on “political activities”, trying to ensnare the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, Montreal-based Alternatives, the Sierra Fund and the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists.

            Fortunately, the NATO Association somehow managed to escape the glare of the auditors. Their last fundraising dinner was between $500 and $5000 a plate.

            The Association organizes conferences and exchanges information, such as articles like “The Role of Mothers in Countering Violent Extremism” and “Canada’s Future in the Black Sea Region.”

            According to their website, they work closely with various big banks and corporate friends, NGOs, etc. This includes a golf tournament. Some of their partners are CIBC, Telus, Scotia Bank, VIA Rail, the Department of Defense, Canadian Heritage, and Global Affairs, several investment firms, the Canadian Center for the Responsibility to Protect, and the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association.

            The last two groups deserve more a little more explanation.

            Headquartered at the Munk School in Toronto and with an advisory board including various retired MPs, the "CCR2P" is committed to “rigorous research and careful policy recommendations [that] will help us take a step closer to the political implementation of the R2P in the near future.” (In case you wonder what that means, they have a special research section on the DPR Korea.)

            The Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association is part of a network of parliamentary NATO groups. Its constitution proscribes that “Consultation will be maintained with the Atlantic Council of Canada.” (I guess they didn’t get the memo of the new name.)

            Chaired by Liberal MP Jean R. Rioux, most members are Liberals and Conservatives. The NDP MPs include Peter Julian, Daniel Blaikie, Christine Moore, and David Christopherson. There are no Bloc or Green participants.

            Perhaps it is worth stating what NATO actually is: the iron fist of imperialist domination around the globe. As the World Peace Council has said repeatedly, NATO is an enemy of peace.

            To paraphrase from a recent statement by the WPC: NATO is committed to the doctrines of first strike and pre-emptive strikes. As an offensive military alliance it stands ready to intervene before diplomacy has been given a proper chance. NATO’s expansion and provocations – as the current crisis in Ukraine demonstrates – are directly responsible for destabilization, unrest, violence and war.

            When it intervenes, its members regularly use toxic weapons containing depleted uranium or white phosphorous. NATO considers nuclear weapons to be a fundamental part of its defense strategy. The alliance aggressively pursues and promotes military provocation and intervention around the globe, and the results are always increased destruction, displacement, and death.

            The World Peace Council has called for a global demonstrations against NATO during the Warsaw Summit on July 8th-9th, 2016. The Communist Party of Canada agrees that dissolution of NATO must be a priority for those defending peace and social progress.

            Meanwhile, down on 60 Harbour Street, they are busy trying to find new ways to boil up Hell.

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

2) THE TPP AND ITS IMPACT ON LABOUR IN CANADA

By Nino Pagliccia

            Recently the leader of the Communist Party of Canada, Liz Rowley, spoke at a public forum in Vancouver on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). She summarized it very succinctly: “there is nothing acceptable about the TPP.”

            The TPP is a proposed agreement drawn in secrecy involving 12 Pacific-Rim countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, U.S. and Vietnam. Each country will have to ratify the agreement, or not, in less than 2 years before it becomes binding law. No changes or amendments are allowed at this stage. Considering that this is the largest agreement ever (it covers nearly 800 million people with a combined GDP of $28.5 trillion), and nearly 6,000 pages long, mostly in dense legalese, only two years for consultations makes the issue very urgent. [1]

            On its website, the Canadian government promises to be “transparent, open and consultative with Canadians on the TPP.” [2] But what is the point of “consultations” when the agreement cannot be amended and the only outcome is ‘ratify’ or ‘not ratify’? In fact so far, the consultations have consisted mostly of presentations by Parliamentary Secretary David Lametti or Minister Chrystia Freeland, to groups of entrepreneurs, business people, politicians and other interest groups.

            The TPP has been discussed in total secrecy representing the interests of corporations to the exclusion of labour representatives. Liz Rowley called this agreement a “global corporate constitution”, and outlined ten reasons why the TPP should not be ratified. [3] There is no doubt that corporations will have great profits for their shareholders and speculators since the deal will force more neoliberal policies and evermore reduced government regulations. While the selling point is trade, Canada’s trade deficits with past agreements are growing faster with free-trade partners than other countries. So this begs the questions, “How good is this deal for Canadian workers?” “Does this ‘constitution’ also guarantee workers rights?”

            Is the deal good for workers?

            It is not encouraging that the standard practice in all trade agreements is to leave workers out of the discussion table. In addition, in spite of all the agreements that Canada has signed, the unemployment rate is still above 7%. Considering this figure, Canada cannot afford to take away more jobs from Canadians. The government optimism that the proposed TPP agreement will create more jobs for Canadians is unfounded and it relies on the old mantra that if investors are doing well, jobs are created. The reality is that when investors do well there is more concentration of wealth for the rich and more hardship for the working class.

            According to a recent Angus Reid Institute poll, Canadians expressed “fears that the TPP will result in Canada shedding of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.” The same poll reports that 47% of Canadians believe that the TPP will have a negative or no impact on employment, versus 21% who think the impact will be positive. A large 32% still don’t know what the TPP is about. [4]

            Another analysis concludes “accepting the TPP will have long-term detrimental impacts on the prospects for full employment, economic prosperity, and the ability of Canadians to sustainably manage their economy.” [5] The rationale is that the TPP will force Canada to divert its trade from the manufacturing sector to the extractives sector.

            As a response to other trade deals, Canada’s exports of manufactured goods has steadily declined since 2000 while increasing exports of raw materials. However, “an estimated 580 direct jobs can be attached to each $1 billion in exports from the extractives sector whereas the same amount of trade in manufactured goods produces 2,300 jobs – four times the jobs creating power of extractive industries.” [5] Canadians’ legitimate demands for a $15 minimum wage will further push for job losses to countries with low-paying jobs.

            The claimed relative advantage that Canada may have in the service sector (finance, business service, etc.) is not a sufficient reason to accept the TPP since this sector usually demands very high salaries but for fewer jobs, not precisely favouring most workers. [6]

            Canada’s autoworkers must be concerned. In the auto sector alone economist Jim Stanford predicts a possible loss of 20,000 jobs. [7] It should also serve us as a strong hint that in the U.S. the Ford Motor Company is urging U.S. Congress to oppose the TPP.

            What about workers’ rights?

            There seems to be more information on labour “rights” than labour gains in the TPP agreement. Fifteen articles in 15 pages (out of 6000 pages) of chapter 19 (out of 30 chapters) of the full text of the TPP deal with labour. But that’s all, more information but not more rights.

            Article 19.3 and its subsections basically states that the TPP members will “follow[ing] rights as stated in the ILO Declaration” of 1998. That may not be a problem in general, except for the limitation that establishes “that labour standards should not be used for protectionist trade purposes”, which leaves the door open to corporate interpretations of “protectionist” actions in regards to labour.

            Similarly, what seems disturbing is the statement about what constitutes a violation of those rights. Textually, “To establish a violation of an obligation under Article 19.3.1 (Labour Rights)…, a Party must demonstrate that the other Party has failed to adopt or maintain a statute, regulation or practice in a manner affecting trade or investment between the Parties.” I emphasize, “in a manner affecting trade or investment”; never mind workers. This seems to be a nice self-serving use of the ILO Declaration.

            One ridiculous sounding article establishes the extent of “Corporate Social Responsibility.” Article 19.7 says, “Each Party shall endeavour to encourage enterprises to voluntarily adopt corporate social responsibility initiatives on labour issues that have been endorsed or are supported by that Party.” This amounts to saying, “we will shoot ourselves in the foot if we feel like.”

            The remaining articles of this chapter deal with how to enforce corporate cooperation (with a token mention of job creation), labour regulations, and procedures for reclamations strictly “on matters related to this chapter”. Interestingly, the TPP proposes so-called “Labour Councils composed of senior governmental representatives at the ministerial” with no workers’ participation whatsoever!

            Canadians should be suspicious of a deal made behind their backs and should reject the TPP, which seeks to control resources and cheap labour, and to curtail working class power. For workers, Canada’s free trade experience is one of job insecurity, stagnating wages, increasing income inequality, and relatively higher levels of unemployment. The TPP does not promise anything different.

            It is possible to defeat the TPP, starting with spreading the information and prompting our City Councils and MPs. There is already a success story from Nanaimo, BC: “Nanaimo Mayor and Council express its opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement and communicate this to Prime Minister Trudeau, Cabinet Ministers and every Member of Parliament."[8]

            The Canadian government website on the TPP invites comments via email: TPP-PTP.consultations@international.gc.ca. [9]

            A campaign endorsed by concerned organizations also allows people to send an online message to decision-makers from the website http://letstalktpp.ca, hosted by OpenMedia, SumOfUs, Council of Canadians, and Stand.

 [1] Full text of agreement: www.mfat.govt.nz/en/about-us/who-we-are/treaty-making-process/trans-pacific-partnership-tpp/text-of-the-trans-pacific-partnership/

[2]  www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/tpp-ptp/index.aspx?lang=eng

[3]  http://communist-party.ca/statement/2084

[4] http://ipolitics.ca/2016/01/29/the-angus-reid-poll-canadians-anxious-about-tpps-effect-on-jobs/

[5] http://behindthenumbers.ca/2015/10/09/the-trans-pacific-partnership-agreement-a-dead-end-for-jobs/

[6] www.canadianbusiness.com/lists-and-rankings/best-jobs/2015-highest-paid-jobs/

[7] www.progressive-economics.ca/2015/09/22/tpp-renegotiating-nafta-by-the-back-door/

[8] www.manlymedia.com/news/investor-state-and-tpp/

[9] http://international.gc.ca/trade-commerce/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/tpp-ptp/consultations.aspx?lang=eng&utm_source=tpp&utm_campaign=tpp-consult

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

3) WORKERS RALLY ON MAY DAY ACROSS THE WORLD

PV Vancouver Bureau

            More than 90 countries across the globe saw mass rallies and other activities on Sunday, May 1, International Workers' Day. The events celebrated gains for workers' rights achieved over the past century, and demanded fair working conditions and wages today.

            In Cuba, hundreds of thousands marched through Havana to a rally in Revolution Square, led by veterans of the 1961 literacy campaign.

            Cuban Workers Confederation general secretary Ulises Guilarte said that an end to the 55-year US economic blockade of Cuba was a key condition of detente with Washington.

            Flanked by President Raul Castro, Guilarte said Cuba would never waive its revolutionary and anti-imperialist ideals, a foreign policy committed to just causes, the defence of the country’s self-determination or its unconditional support for sister nations.

            Demonstrators in Brazil rallied against that country’s right-wing forces, which are trying to undermine democracy, roll back wage increases and expand privatization.

            “They want to privatize everything possible,” President Dilma Rousseff told a crowd of thousands at a rally in Sao Paulo. She emphasized that a legislative coup would be a huge step back for social justice and workers rights.

            "They (the opposition) want to end social housing movements and grants that the government gives to families," she added. "This is a blow against democracy and against the worker. The right-wing will deepen the crisis and to stain the Constitution."

            Rousseff announced a nine percent increase in spending for the family social welfare program, to help ensure wider access to education, food and health. She also spoke about plans to reduce the impact of income taxes on middle-income earners, and to build another 25,000 new low-price homes.      

            "This goes against what the opposition proposes," she said. "They want to end this public spending that guarantees health care in the poorest sectors."

            In France, where worker protections are under threat, trade unions, students, pensioners and other activists held nearly 300 marches in Paris and cities around the country. The traditional May Day rallies took on greater weight this year as parliament debates a bill that would allow longer working hours and let companies lay workers off more easily. The bill has prompted the most militant labour-related protests in a decade, with marches and sit-ins frequently attacked by police.

            French marchers carried banners calling President Francois Hollande a "traitor." His “Socialist” government claims that allowing companies more flexibility will reduce chronically high unemployment and make France more globally competitive. Opponents call this policy a gift to corporate interests which will erode hard-fought worker protections.

            Denmark’s three communist parties — DKP, KP and KPiD — united for May Day under the banner of opposing Danish involvement in the wars in Syria and Iraq. KP president Jorgen Petersen said the united action reflected a number of recent initiatives to bring the parties closer together, especially against the country’s support for imperialist wars.

            Thousands of Turkish demonstrators rallied for May Day in an authorized area of Istanbul while police cracked down on other protests. Tear gas and water cannons were used against demonstrators trying to reach Taksim Square. One man died after being hit by a water cannon vehicle.

            Taksim has symbolic meaning as the center of protests in which 34 people were killed on May Day in 1977. The governor of Istanbul said 24,500 security officers were on duty, and that 207 people were detained. Tensions are running high in Turkey after a string of deadly suicide bombings, mostly linked to Islamic State. In the capital, Ankara, police rounded up four suspected IS members who were allegedly planning to attack May Day demonstrators.

            May Day marches were held elsewhere in Turkey, but were cancelled in the southern city of Gaziantep after a car bombing.

            Tens of thousands of people marched across Moscow's Red Square, carrying the Russian tricolor and balloons in the official government rally organized by President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. The rally avoided any criticism of the government for falling living standards. Communists and other left-wing Russian groups held their own May Day rallies.

            In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma and South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande joined Congress of South African Trade Unions president Sdumo Dlamini on stage at Moretele Park in the capital Pretoria.

            Addressing unions’ grievances over his government’s policies, Zuma vowed: “The ANC will never act against workers’ interests.”

            Nzimande said the working class should close ranks behind the ANC to “defeat the strategic agenda of imperialism and monopoly capital” led by the liberal opposition and the corporate media.

            May Day rallies were held across the Philippines, where political campaigning was entering the final week ahead of the May 9 presidential election. In Manila, riot police using shields and a water cannon tried to block about 2,000 left-wing protesters from getting near the U.S. Embassy. Union leaders said 20 demonstrators were injured, but some managed to break through the cordon, fighting back against police and using wooden poles to fend off fire trucks.     Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joined thousands of people at a May Day rally in central London, using the occasion to condemn the hate tactics of far-right groups throughout Europe.

            Standing atop a red London bus, Corbyn said the Labour Party is united against the far-right and against racism.

            "We stand in solidarity now against the growth of the far right in Europe," said Corbyn, the first Labour leader to address a May Day crowd in decades.

            In Taipei, Taiwan's capital, labour unions took to the streets with a march to call on the government of outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou to reduce working hours and increase wages. Young Taiwanese have seen their wages stagnate, and good full-time jobs are harder to find as the island’s export-led economy slows down.        

            Chen Li-jen, a protester with the Taiwan Petroleum Workers Union, said that while companies were seeing their earnings per share grow every year, workers' salaries were not rising in tandem.

            "Hardworking laborers are being exploited by consortiums," Chen said. "For the past decade, our basic salary has not made any progress. Laborers' rights have always been neglected. This is why I hope to take advantage of the May Day protest and tell the government that we are determined to fight for our rights."

            In the U.S., hundreds of marchers in Los Angeles chanted slogans and carried signs on May Day, along with a piñata of racist Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The marchers took to the streets calling for immigrant and worker rights and decrying hateful presidential campaign rhetoric.

            Rallies in cities across the country called for better wages for workers, an end to deportations, and support for President Obama’s plan to give work permits to immigrants whose children are American citizens.

            In San Francisco, hundreds of marchers rallied at Fisherman’s Wharf for immigrant and workers’ rights and to demand justice for several men fatally shot by city police. Across the bay in Oakland, close to 1,000 people marched in the Fruitvale district to raise awareness for workers, housing and immigrant rights and denounce Trump.

            Meanwhile social justice advocates in Durham, New Hampshire, made the rejection of racism, xenophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment the themes of their annual rally.

            May Day demonstrations were held in at least a dozen Canadian cities.

            The largest was in Montreal, where thousands marched through the streets of the Plateau Mont-Royal from Parc Lafontaine to Parc Jeanne Mance. Union members, students and health-care workers were among those who demonstrated to demand better pay and working conditions, and to oppose the Couillard government’s attacks on social programs and the public service. As in many other cities, the Montreal rally called on governments to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

            The Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (Quebec Federation of Labour) used the May Day demonstration to launch its $15-an-hour campaign, saying too many working Quebecers are having trouble paying their bills and buying enough food for their families.

            “The buying power of low-wage workers is going down or stagnating every year,” said QFL President Daniel Boyer. “We need a minimum wage that will allow people to keep their heads above water. It doesn’t make sense that people who work full time have so little income.”

            Québec Solidaire MNA Manon Massé said her party supports the campaign for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, saying too many workers have to rely on food banks to feed their families.

            About 500 people joined the annual May Day march organized by the Vancouver and District Labour Council along Commercial Drive. The rally heard from BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger, and activists from indigenous and immigrant groups. Dozens of progressive groups, including the Communist Party, set up displays at the second annual May Day information fair initiated by Spartacus Books.

            A May Day demonstration at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport drew attention to the rise of precarious employment. The protest closed down the Terminal 1 departures drop-off lane as workers presented the Greater Toronto Airports Authority with a list of demands, including a $15 minimum wage and an end to the practice of awarding contracts to different service providers every few years, which forces workers to re-apply for their jobs, often starting at the bottom of the pay scale.

            “Precarious work is a growing cancer across this province that we have to stop,” Chris Buckley, head of the Ontario Federation of Labour, told the Toronto Star. “How do people survive when they’re sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring, wondering if they’re going to get any hours to work that week?”

            Other May First events were organized in Victoria, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Halifax, Brampton, Hamilton and Ottawa.

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

4) BIRTHDAYS AND CHAINS, FROM CONFEDERATION TO TODAY

By Johan Boyden, Montreal

            “One hundred and fifty years ago in Charlottetown and Québec City, the Fathers of Confederation first dreamed of a united and prosperous Canada.”

            Thus proclaims Ottawa’s special website for the anniversary of “the birth of Canada” with the signing of the “British North America Act” in 1867. Unsurprisingly, the statement is replete with nationalist myths.

            First, there is no recognition that Canada is actually a state of many nations, founded on the colonial theft of Aboriginal land, including Quebec and the English-speaking nation.

            Second, there is no recognition that the cornerstone of the agreement - federalism - was actually made before the 1864 conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec City.

            Last, there is no recognition that the agreement, which would facilitate massive capitalist industrialization, was actually finalized under the watchful eye of British Railway capital in London and in the framework of the class questions at that time.

            As Marxist historian Stanley Ryerson points out in Unequal Union, the actual “dreams” of the founders about what prosperity and unity meant were neither luminously clear nor unambiguous.

            But the statement does get one point correct. The Canadian Constitution was never written by the people, or drafted through any “constituent assembly.” The founders were, indeed, an old boys club who came to Charlottetown with something of an optical illusion worked out, called federalism.

            From the start of the road to Charlottetown, within Quebec (then known as Lower Canada) there was strong opposition to both the terms and the procedure towards union. Mass public rallies were held and petitions circulated, demanding popular consultations like a constituent assembly.

            The Parti Rouge, arising from the Lower Canada insurrection just thirty years before, had already proposed an alternative arrangement for union: “a Confederation of the two Canadas” based on full recognition of national differences, “giving the largest powers to the local governments and merely a delegated authority to the General Government.”

            The question was not simply de-centralization. The Parti Rouge proposal recognized “the French fact.” Upper Canada and Lower Canada represented two communities of economic life with distinct territories, peoples, languages, histories, and cultures – two nations.

            While the agreement developed at Charlottetown was called “Confederation” it had nothing else in common with the Parti Rouge proposal for an equal union. The state structure of federalism adopted embodied no such democratic relationship.

            Instead, it was and is an unequal union, strongly centralized yet fragile. Quebec exists not as the homeland of a nation but as one of ten provinces. The straightjacket can be untied, but if powers are devolved, they must be granted to all provinces. This hardly a confederation, which is a partnership of sovereign states.

            When this confusingly named “Confederation” agreement is celebrated next year, the elephant will still be in the room.

            Now the BNA Act is the Canadian Constitution, but Quebec has never signed on. In fact, since patriation of the Constitution, support for the Parti Québécois (PQ) in elections has ranged between about 25 and 50 percent of Quebec voters. In 1995, 49.42 percent supported secession. In the last provincial election, one in three Quebeckers voted for pro-sovereignty parties. Everyone knows these are significant numbers.

            The smaller of the pro-sovereignty parties is Quebec Solidaire (QS), which is regularly pilloried among nationalist forces as being “soft on independence,” advocating “vague” and “naive” solutions.

            QS emerged about ten years ago, in the context of the anti-globalization movement and the clear adoption by the PQ of a pro-neoliberal agenda. The predecessor of QS, the Union of Progressive Forces, included the Parti Communiste du Quebec (PCQ) and adopted a position of putting emphasis on social and class questions, over the national question.

            When the UFP became QS, the new party retained the formulation of a “party of the street” and a “party in the parliament.” In 2009 it adopted the position of supporting independence, but consistently avoided narrow nationalist positions. For example, QS denounced the Charter of Values project as well as proposals to limit access to Anglophone CEGEPs (colleges), and has repeatedly rejected calls for a “united front” of sovereigntists.

            QS has also rejected the PQ’s route to independence. Instead, it proposed that Quebec draft its own Constitution through a Constituent Assembly, “an extensive process of participatory democracy,” in the “broadest possible manner” which would determine various political questions as well as the future of Quebec, according to the QS programme.

            The result, a new Constitution, would finally be adopted by referendum and, throughout this process, “Québec solidaire will defend its independence option and will promote its values of environmentalism, egalitarianism, feminism, democracy, and pluralism, without presuming the outcome of the discussions.” This is not a gimmick. It reflects the conclusion that the national question belongs to the people, not a party or legislature.

            The QS proposal is somewhat similar to that of the Communist Party. Since 1964 the CPC has called for a new Constitution for Canada, written by a Constituent Assembly with equal participation from French and English-speaking Canada, and adopted by a referendum.

            The mandate of this process would include guaranteeing sovereignty and self-determination for Quebec, up to and including secession.  In 1967 the CPC joined the PCQ in supporting a Constitution for Quebec, to compel such negotiations, as equals, for a new genuine confederal republic. The CPC also insists any new constitutional arrangement guarantee the full participation of Aboriginal peoples and protect and extend their inherent national rights.

            Today, Quebec Solidaire is further debating its proposal for a Constituent Assembly. Effectively the discussion is between maintaining QS’s current position of an open mandate, or narrowing the Constituent Assembly to only consider independence (setting the stage for an alliance of sovereigntist forces). The final decision will be made by a Party congress in the last weekend of May.

            The PCQ (which is not in favour of independence) has noted that narrowing the mandate would effectively align the project of the new Constitution with the kind of colonialism advocated by the PQ, who refuse to recognize self-determination of indigenous nations who inhabit vast territories within Quebec’s borders.

            Similarly, Paul Cliche (a long-time militant in QS and in favour of independence) notes that “the current position of [QS] ... tries to exceed the historical cleavages responsible for much of the last two referendum failures,” through democratic discussion, not “handcuffing” the Constituent assembly to independence and turning it into a “masquerade.”

            One hundred and forty-nine years ago, the masquerade of Canadian Confederation handcuffed Quebec to federalism. As the left in Quebec debates how best to break those unequal bonds, it would be wise to avoid making new ones. Marx’s comment is still apt: “Any nation that oppresses another, forges its own chains.”

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

5) GREETINGS TO CPC DELEGATES

People’s Voice Editorial

            By the time this newspaper is delivered, delegates will be arriving in Toronto for the 38th Central Convention of Canada’s third-oldest political party. Formed in May 1921 at an illegal meeting held on the outskirts of Guelph, Ontario, the Communist Party of Canada has shown remarkable resilience and optimism for 95 years, defying enormous obstacles and bitter attacks. Nearly every progressive demand by the working people of the nations within the Canadian state was first put forward by the Communists, including the right to organize unions, universal medicare, gender equality, pensions, employment insurance, self-determination for indigenous peoples and Quebec, electoral rights, and much more. Today, the CPC presents the most comprehensive, far-sighted program for fundamental change in this country – and for a socialist future of genuine equality, in which the deadly evils of exploitation, oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry, misogyny, environmental destruction, hunger and war are simply distant painful memories.

            The delegates who meet in Toronto have been democratically elected by their comrades in every part of Canada, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland. They come from factories and service industries and campuses, from the jails of fascist regimes, from the front lines of today’s struggles for social justice and human rights. Unlike any other party, they will elect every member of their leadership directly at convention, after an open, comradely debate on policies and strategies, and they will leave united around a commitment to win their sisters and brothers for revolutionary ideas.

            Yes, the Communist Party of Canada is an organization small in numbers, but huge in potential. As Karl Marx wrote, “the Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims.” We send our warmest greetings to the 38th Convention delegates, who represent the best traditions of the working class in Canada, and the future of our common struggle for socialist liberation.

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

6) IS THE HONEYMOON OVER?

People’s Voice Editorial

            With each passing day, Justin Trudeau faces new questions about his commitment to “real change.” Any mention of the former Tory PM still makes people react with an involuntary shudder, as if Darth Vader was entering the room. But it does look like the honeymoon may be coming to an end for his replacement.

            The Liberals are a big business party, but they came to power by promising to address demands raised by the labour and people s movements: repeal anti-immigrant legislation; reform the first-past-the-post electoral system; legalize marijuana (and stop criminalizing users); halt Canadian participation in the bombing of Syria and Iraq; massive infrastructure funding; raise taxes on the 1%; put a temporary hold on ending urban door to door Canada Post delivery; appoint women to half of federal Cabinet posts; a public inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women; implement all recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission; restore the long-form census; allow federal scientists to speak publicly; tackle climate change, etc.

            Half a year later, a few of these promises have been kept, at least partially. But most are being kicked down the road, underfunded to death, or ignored. The 2016-17 federal budget deficit was too limited to create large numbers of good jobs. The TPP corporate rights deal is being pushed rapidly towards Parliamentary ratification, despite wide objections. Reconciliation with indigenous peoples hit the ditch after the government’s failure to take serious action on housing, clean drinking water and better education. And not least, the Liberals appear eager to promote oil pipelines demanded by Big Energy.

            As we said after the election, the defeat of the Tories was a big victory for working people. But without stronger pressure from the labour and democratic movements, the Liberals will inevitably bend to the agenda of the corporations.

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

7) IS NEWFOUNDLAND MOVING TO “VOLUNTEER LIBRARIES”?

            The president of Newfoundland and Labrador’s library workers’ union says suggestions from Education Minister Dale Kirby that libraries can somehow be ‘given back to communities’, can only mean he expects them to be run by volunteers.

            Dawn Lahey, President of CUPE Local 2329, says, “Such a move would take our province back more than 30 years to a time when we had libraries being run by ‘community volunteers’. For the minister to suggest that libraries in schools will stay open but will not be staffed after school hours is an admission that he wants to move to a volunteer model”.

            Kirby has said that libraries in schools will be open for students, but not the public, unless the school district and the library boards can come up with a plan to keep them open for a couple of hours a few evenings a week, or when the school’s not open. The Minister has also offered ‘small grants’ to people who would operate the libraries for those hours.

            CUPE NL President Wayne Lucas says, “This is the government laying off staff in 54 locations and doing an end-run around the union by paying non-union volunteers honoraria for doing union work. This is union busting of the worst kind, and it’s directed mostly at women. I would like the minister to explain to the almost 60 women in rural Newfoundland and Labrador who will be losing their jobs that he plans to replace them with volunteers. It is becoming increasingly clear that Dale Kirby and this Liberal government have no actual plan for our province’s library system. No one has even called CUPE or our library local to fill us in on any of these details. Minister Kirby appears to be flying by the seat of his pants on the critically important issue of libraries in our communities.”

            Union leaders and 2,000 members and supporters rallied on Confederation Hill in St. John’s on May 7 to condemn the provincial government’s austerity budget.

            NAPE President Jerry Earle called for a budget “re-do,” pointing out that while residents are prepared to pay their “fair share”, they are not prepared to pay a greater share than people at a higher income. For example, he cited the “deficit reduction levy”, which is $300 for people making $25,000 a year, but only $900 for the highest income brackets.

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

8) THE TPP HANDS CONTROL OVER TRADE TO THE WORLD’S WEALTHIEST

By Sujata Dey, Trade Campaigner, Council of Canadians, reprinted from the HuffingtonPost.ca

            If there is someone who knows about plutocrats, it is Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s international trade minister responsible for deciding what to do about the TPP, the foremost international agreement among plutocrats. She has been to the parties and observed the richest one per cent in their natural setting, with their superstar interior designers, cooks and fashion designers.

            As a financial journalist, she wrote a book, Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. In it, she recognizes the losses that have occurred under globalization.

            She writes, “The distributional impact is, in the terms of art used by economists, to polarize the labour market: there are better and more highly paid jobs at the top, not much change for the low-skill, low-income jobs at the bottom, but a hollowing out of the jobs in the middle, which used to provide the paycheques for the American middle class.” She interviews Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who opposes the TPP and echoes his arguments about free trade’s dangers to the average worker.

            She echoes his concerns about the rules being set in the interests of the super-rich. “Trying to slant the rules of the game in your favour isn’t an aberration, it’s what all businesses seek to do. It is all about whether your society has the right rules and policing able to enforce them.”

            But her statements as a minister have been confusing. Now, she is saying that free trade is the key to middle-class prosperity and that opposing trade agreements is wrong-headed.

            Perplexed, I asked her about this during a visit she made to the Université de Montréal. The TPP sounds like the type of plutocratic agreement she would oppose: carved out in secret between the corporations of the world. In the U.S., more than 600 corporate lobbyists had access to the text during the negotiations, for example, while the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament did not. Advocacy group Open Media obtained a non-disclosure agreement for a group of people consulted in secret by the Canadian government on the TPP. Environmental groups were not consulted, nor were labour unions or citizens’ groups. In fact, those who did have access to the agreement could be arrested for revealing the information.

            As Stiglitz says about the TPP, “Obama has sought to perpetuate business as usual, whereby the rules governing global trade and investment are written by U.S. corporations for U.S. corporations. This should be unacceptable to anyone committed to democratic principles.”

            Like Obama, Freeland claims to be concerned about income inequality but then advocates for the very instruments that will exacerbate the problem.

            Let’s look at the TPP itself.

            For starters, it has one glaring problem: ISDS, the investor-state dispute settlement provision that allows corporations to sue states over decisions that affect their future profits. This steel-trapped protection can also be found in NAFTA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and 3,200 other agreements around the world. In a nutshell, by holding governments responsible for corporate risk, it makes taxpayers assume the financial burden that companies normally assume as part of being “entrepreneurs.”

            Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, has written about how ISDS kills environmental and social policy by forcing mammoth penalties on any country that attempts to ban fracking, or close a quarry, or regulate drugs, or that refuses to agree with a company on a patent, or that tries to establish an economic development program. Or that even raises the minimum wage.

            The irony is that trade agreements lock in these rights for companies at the international level and can be binding because they are enforced. Very few other treaties benefit from such enforcement, whether the Paris climate agreement or international standards on labour, health or human trafficking. None of these are binding or enforceable.

            ISDS has been the weapon of choice of plutocrats. A new study by Gus Van Harten, a scholar at the Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, found that ISDS was used by very large corporations and very wealthy individuals. Remember, these rights are for large foreign companies, not domestic companies, and certainly not for small or medium businesses or for ordinary citizens or civil society.

            ISDS is also used to silence governments. Another study by Van Harten says that it doesn’t even take an ISDS challenge or the threat of an ISDS challenge to change policy. In interviews he held with Ontario policymakers, they reported that policy decisions would get delayed or shelved because of potential lawsuits. One lawyer reports that legislation is reviewed to see if it compatible with trade agreements, saying that “Chapter 11 [the ISDS clause in NAFTA] is the one that really bites.”

            At the national level, we are seeing state sovereignty diminished. As ISDS challenges the ability of states to regulate, national standards and rules are harmonized downward in free trade treaties. This means we regulate for corporations at the international level and deregulate for the public interest at the national level.

            When we look at the rest of the deal, we again see the public policy spaces of nations getting smaller and smaller, while the right to make profits gets bigger and bigger.

            Other ways our public space is getting smaller:

            Higher drug costs: This trade deal adds them by extending pharmaceutical patents on new life-saving drugs. This has the double whammy effect of raising profits for pharmaceutical companies while making public health care less affordable for governments. Ironically, while free traders say they are eliminating protections to allow trade to be free, patents are protectionist measures granting monopolies to companies.

            Straight-jacketing of Crown Corporations: The TPP imposes restrictions on state-owned enterprises. Governments are not allowed to be “discriminatory” in their treatment of Canada Post or Ontario’s Hydro One. For example, no preferential loans, no marketing services, nothing that can give “an advantage” over a foreign company. In the past, state-owned enterprises have been used to implement energy strategy or fulfil public policy goals. No longer.

            Canada relinquishes control of its economy: Countries use macroeconomic instruments to influence their economy and public policy. In trade agreements and in TPP, these can be construed as barriers to trade. For example, Canada would have to cede a large part of its foreign investment screening regulations. These rules prevent domestic companies in strategic areas from being sold recklessly to foreign companies. The TPP will also open up the labour market to more temporary foreign workers serving with corporations from TPP countries.

            Local jobs at risk: Free trade agreements often attack buy-local programs. And the TPP is no different. Foreign companies have to have the same rights to public contracts. Often, this does not help create local jobs.

            More BGH milk on its way: Unlike the U.S., Canada prohibits the use of bovine growth hormones in milk production. Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians warns that, with the TPP allowing more U.S. milk to cross the border, more milk will come in with BGH. In the TPP, a side letter mentions the need to conduct an assessment of equivalency between U.S. and Canadian regulations on in Grade A milk.

            Local food security threatened: In agriculture, our ability to protect our own food security by producing milk, poultry and eggs in Canada is being compromised by pressures on the supply management system. Free trade is eroding small-scale, lower-pesticide domestic production in favour of large-scale industrial global farming with serious consequences on human health and the environment.

            The downward slide in wages: There are no real safeguards for labour rights. In the TPP, countries have to have labour legislation, but this legislation can be sub-standard. Canadian workers will be directly in competition with workers in countries with minimal labour standards, like Malaysia, which has a reputation for human trafficking.

            More rights for polluters, more attacks on green energy: In environmental matters, ISDS cases are often brought forward by resource-extracting companies in the energy and mining sectors. Renewable energy programs have been targeted by ISDS challenges. The TPP will exclude us from managing or controlling our own resources, or even distinguishing between different energy forms. Climate change is not even mentioned in the TPP, according to the Sierra Club.

            We know that the world’s top one per cent own more than 50 per cent of the world’s wealth. The ability to make policy and to enforce it at the national level is essential to combat the slide towards plutocracy, under which society is controlled by the wealthiest citizens. Mr. Obama and Ms. Freeland, please listen to your own rhetoric. Pull the plug on the TPP and CETA.

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

9) CLOSE THE CANSEC WEAPONS BAZAAR

From “Homes Not Bombs”

    Join two days of nonviolent action in Ottawa to close the largest annual weapons fair in Canada, CANSEC16, a terrorism and torture trade show hosting the world’s worst human rights violators.

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 5-7 PM

    Starting at 5 pm on May 24 at York and Sussex (Ottawa, Byward Market area), General Chaos, the much decorated man of colonial adventure, imperial hubris, and high-priced weapons industry consultation, will lead a walk to welcome delegates to CANSEC16 (aka TerrorismFest16), one of the largest weapons bazaars in North America, and host to an international array of guests from Saudi Arabia, Israel, United Arab Emirates, the UK, USA, and other human rights violating nations. Won’t you join the General as he welcomes his brother war-criminals-in-arms? Being a Canadian, he may allow a few speeches about human rights and ending violence, but he knows the score.

    As a Trudeau appointee to a new panel advising the government on how best to smooth over the unsavoury elements of sales like the $15 billion blockbuster to the world’s leading beheading regime, Saudi Arabia, General Chaos “gets” that he must spout the usual euphemisms about human rights while supplying those who would violate them.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 7:30 AM TO 1 PM

    The Faces of War will return to the CANSEC entrance on May 25,  7:30 am to 1 pm, when Canada’s largest annual weapns bazaar opens. The world’s worst human rights violators, including the US, UK, and the beheading regime of Saudi Arabia, will be there. In addition to the  world’s leading weapons manufacturers, CANSEC will  host companies that profit from border controls, militarization of police forces, refugee interdiction, the prison-industrial complex, and mass surveillance. It’s a toxic gathering celebrating repression, racism, and war.

    Join us for a day of nonviolent action to close the most violent annual gathering in Canada. There will be a range of creative, nonviolent actions, limited only by the imagination! We will be hanging lots of banners on the fences. Consider making some artwork that is representative of resistance to war.

    We will read aloud the reports of human rights groups, the testimonies of the disappeared and detained, the stories of survivors who have lived in terror under the bombs that come from Canada. We will nonviolently, lovingly lay siege to CANSEC16 by telling our own stories and refusing to buy the myths of militarism and CANSEC’s glorification of terrorism and barbaric cultural practices. We will build a large graveyard to commemorate victims of CANSEC’s exhibitors, guests, and hosts. We will sing. We will speak our truth. At the same time, we will refuse to engage in any acts of violence, whether physical or verbal, and will not seek to humiliate CANSEC16 attendees or those hired hands patrolling the vicinity.

    For information re. billets, transportation, donations, local vigils,  etc., contact Homes not Bombs, tasc@web.ca, 613-267-3998, http://homesnotbombs.blogspot.ca/

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

10) BRAZIL’S CTB CONDEMNS COUP PROCESS

            Meeting in Sao Paulo on May 3, the Central dos Trabalhadores e Trabalhadoras do Brasil (CTB) labour federation analyzed the political situation in the country as "particularly dangerous for workers."

            A statement from the CTB says that "there is currently a coup d 'état underway in the country, concealed by an impeachment process without any legal basis", which constitutes a serious threat to democracy, national sovereignty, labour laws, and the achievements of the working class.

            The CTB points out that "the putschist conspiracy" was evident in the 2013 and 2014 demonstrations under the slogan "the World Cup won´t happen", manipulated to create an environment of social chaos and to destabilize Dilma Rousseff's government. The offensive was redoubled after Rousseff's re-election, leading to the current impeachment process.

            "A more comprehensive analysis suggests that it is not a movement restricted to our country," says the CTB, "but a much more extensive conservative wave, that has as a background the economic and geopolitical crisis of capitalism and international imperialism hegemonized by the US. Recent electoral setbacks for the democratic forces in Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia, as well as coups in Honduras (2009) and Paraguay (2012), are events that are part of the same phenomenon."

            In these and other countries, says the statement, the local capitalists and landowners have united with the international financial aristocracy, captained by US imperialism.

            "Those are the same social classes who were behind the military coup of 1964," says the CTB. The federation warns that the "bridge to the future" advocated by the impeachment forces aims to dismantle progressive labour laws, and to establish "primacy of the market over the law," by imposing "unrestricted and widespread outsourcing of the economy". The right-wing leaders are calling for "tough fiscal adjustment" and reduction of the already scarce resources for health, education and social programs; a lower minimum wage; reduction of social security benefits; and other neoliberal measures supported by the National Confederation of Agriculture, the National Confederation of Industry, and hundreds of business groups.

            Foreign capital, especially from the US, says the CTB, would be rewarded by sweeping privatization measures (including Petrobras), and a shift away from Latin American and Caribbean integration, effectively sabotaging MERCOSUR, the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and the BRICS. "Therefore, the coup goes along with the US strategy to recompose its imperialist hegemony in the Americas and around the world."

            Calling the coup process "illegitimate and markedly anti-democratic," the CTB says that imposing the conservative agenda will involve criminalizing popular struggles and social movements, restricting democracy and increasingly resorting to authoritarianism.

            The statement urges full mobilization in defense of democracy, national sovereignty and social rights, in particular to involve trade unions and grassroots committees for the country-wide day of action on May 10 organized by the Brazilian Popular Front and People Without Fear Front.

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

11) STILL NO ANSWERS FOR AYOTZINAPA RELATIVES

By David Agren in VICE News, https://news.vice.com/article/ayotzinapa-parents-43-students-never-get-answers

            Parents of 43 students who went missing after they were attacked in southern Mexico by police in September 2014 say they just want to know the truth about their children's fate — something they thought a team of outside experts would help them obtain.

            Now those experts are about the leave the country after delivering a devastating final report on the government's investigation, and the families are losing hope that the painful mystery will ever be solved.

            "We have only sought the truth and the government has put obstacles in our path," said Emilio Navarrete, whose son José Ángel studied at the Ayotzinapa teacher training college. His son is among the 42 students who are still missing after just one has been identified by a jaw fragment.

            "Without the experts, we wouldn't know the lies that the government has been telling us," said another parent, Bernardo Campos.

            "From the start, we did not accept the government version and now we have scientific proof that it didn't happen as they said," said Cristina Bautista, another of the parents.

            The families of the missing students were talking at a press conference on Monday in which they accused the government of trying to prematurely turn the page on one of the country's most notorious crimes that, 19 months after the events, is still a long way from being solved in a way that satisfies them.

            After a year accompanying the government's investigation the experts — who were convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights — are now packing their bags because the government has refused to extend their mandate, which ran out at the end of April.

            On April 24 they provided an unflattering final report that backs the parents' long-standing claim that the official probe is rife with irregularities, made all the more damning by allegations that the government sought to undercut their investigation and harassed them out of the country.

            "The group has suffered a campaign trying to discredit people as a way to question their work," the report said. "Certain sectors are not interested in the truth."

            The students from Ayotzinapa were attacked on September 26, 2014, in the southern city of Iguala, where they had gone to commandeer buses in which to travel to a protest in the capital a week later.

            The horror of the Iguala attacks and the disappearance of 43 students, together with the government's slow response and accusations of investigatory incompetence, sent President Enrique Peña Nieto's popularity plummeting, while staining Mexico's international image.

            The government's invitation to the expert panel was seen as an effort to prove it had nothing to hide. Now their report underlines evidence that a variety of different police forces, potentially including the federal police, coordinated efforts to prevent the buses from leaving Iguala. The army, meanwhile, did nothing to stop the attacks even though they were monitoring them closely.

            The experts also found no evidence to sustain government claims that the students' bodies were burned in a garbage dump. They suggested evidence to support this hypothesis was planted by investigators, and alleged the official probe has blocked efforts to explore whether the students were attacked because they had unwittingly taken a bus filled with hidden opium paste.

            The government did not send a representative to hear the report, despite the presence of the president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Instead it brushed off the criticism in a statement which insisted that it welcomed all the experts' contributions, claimed that it had fully cooperated with them at all times, and that the allegations in the final report are unfounded.

            The government also promised to continue the probe and to work closely with the families in the future.

            "The government and the students' relatives are on the same side and have the same goal," said the statement, that was read by the current head of the investigation, Eber Omar Betanzos. "We want to find out what happened to the students and to punish each and every one of the individuals responsible."

            With the departure of the experts, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is now due to form a new group to monitor the Iguala investigation. Though the details have yet to be determined it appears clear the government will not allow it to get as close to the official probe as the outgoing experts.

            Certainly the parents are not expecting much. Instead of talk of future collaboration with the government, they said they would be seeking prosecution of a top investigator.

            "What we want is the truth and for the facts to be made clear," said Nicolás Vargas, whose son Édgar was injured in the attack by police in Iguala. "That for us would be repairing the damage."

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home

 


 


 

12) VENEZUELA CONDEMNS U.S., OAS OVER CALLS TO INVOKE DEMOCRATIC CHARTER

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, venezuelanalysis.com

            Venezuela's foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez has accused the head of the Organisation of American States of collaborating with the United States to undermine the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

            Rodriguez said the May 5 talks at the OAS over whether to suspend Venezuela from the regional body were part of a campaign of “ongoing and relentless aggression by the United States against Venezuela”.

            “Venezuela is constantly being threatened by opposition forces working with centres of imperialism that support … the destabilisation of our countries,” she said.

            Rodriguez issued the remarks during an extraordinary session of the OAS. The session was called by the Venezuelan government in response to separate talks between right-wing Venezuelan politicians and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. During a meeting the previous week, a delegation of Venezuelan legislators urged Almagro to call for the OAS Democratic Charter to be invoked against Maduro's government. Such a move would lead to a suspension of Venezuela from the regional body.

            While the US government has backed calls for the OAS to consider action against Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have expressed support for Caracas.

            Bolivia's OAS representative Diego Pary said Maduro is facing a new wave of international aggression, and his Nicaraguan counterpart Denis Moncada suggested the OAS was at risk of overstepping its role.

            “We see no moral standing for intervention in any states,” he said.

            Rodriguez argued Venezuela's government has long upheld the Democratic Charter. The charter has been invoked against Venezuela once, during a short lived coup in 2002 that temporarily ousted Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

            Rodriguez said the coup and subsequent waves of political violence in 2013 and 2014 were examples of the Venezuelan right-wing's disregard for democracy.

            The Maduro administration has long accused key figures within Venezuela's right-wing political coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) of backing the coup.

            Earlier on May 5, Maduro's supporters in the National Assembly demanded prosecutors charge four MUD legislators with treason, a charge which carries a penalty of up to 30 years imprisonment. The four legislators were all involved in petitioning Almagro to consider invoking the OAS charter against Venezuela.

            By holding talks with Almagro, the legislators “attacked (Venezuela's) independence, sovereignty and security,” said pro-Maduro legislator Carmen Melendez

            Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Supreme Court has blocked a contentious law that would have granted individual residents title deeds to public housing constructed under the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission (GMVV).

            Since the program’s founding in 2011, the Bolivarian government has constructed over 1.2 million homes mainly for low income Venezuelans afflicted by the dire housing shortage in the nation’s overcrowded cities, which are home to 90% of the population.

            Currently, residents of the GMVV possess a Deed of Use document that grants them the right to the homes for life, but authorizes the sale of the houses only under special circumstances and not on the private market.

            Approved by the opposition-controlled National Assembly on April 13, the Law for the Award of Property Deeds to the Beneficiaries of the Venezuelan Great Housing Mission proposes to grant residents the “right to private and individual property” over the houses, replacing the existing contract of collective “family property”.

            The bill also outlined mechanisms for the payment of indemnities to landowners whose land was occupied by social movements or expropriated by the Venezuelan state in the course of public housing construction.

            President Maduro sent the bill to the Supreme Court for constitutional review after denouncing the law as a scheme by private real estate interests to create a speculative housing market.

            The TSJ, for its part, found the legislation in violation of the right to housing enshrined under Article 82 of the Magna Carta, which must be guaranteed by the state and “progressively” expanded to the entire population, especially those with “scarce resources”.

            As such, the bill contravenes the Venezuelan Constitution’s principle of “progressivity” with regard to human rights and thus constitutes a “regression” that reduces the right to housing to the juridical status of “a mere consumer necessity”.

            The court additionally ruled in favor of the government’s objection that the legislation risked unleashing rampant housing speculation, endangering Venezuelans’ right to affordable housing.

            “The law under consideration abandons the social character of housing as a fundamental right in favor of a lucrative market based on the free sale of property,” the justices stated.

            The TSJ verdict was met with harsh criticism by opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, the bill’s architect, who lashed out at the ruling as an attack on private property rights.

            “Is it unconstitutional to give property to Venezuelans?,” he wrote on Twitter.

            “Property is not a concession of the PSUV [United Venezuelan Socialist Party]; it is a constitutional right. What is unconstitutional is the PSUV and the TSJ,” the right-wing legislator added.

            Despite backing from the opposition-dominated parliament, the law has faced strong opposition from urban housing movements as well as an overwhelmingly majority of GMVV residents.

            According to a Hinterlaces poll last month, 62% of GMVV residents are against allowing the sale of their homes.

Printer-friendly article

(Contents)

Home