Bahamas Blog International
It's law Caricom needs, not a committee
BY SIR RONALD SANDERS
At a time of economic decline among the majority of countries of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and a recognition that the region is battling in an unfavourable milieu in terms of trade, aid and investment, the people of the area naturally look to their governments to devise strategies and mechanisms for improving their condition.
Instinctively, the people of each Caricom country know that the challenges confronting them cannot adequately be met by their national governments alone. The hope is that governments, acting together and drawing upon the combined resources of each nation state, will be better able to deliver benefits people urgently need, including poverty alleviation, employment and economic growth.
From its outset Caricom has been hobbled by the absence of machinery for implementing the decisions that are taken. The fact that the integration project has advanced at all over the 36 years of its existence is largely due to external pressures rather than internal initiatives. Hence, the Caribbean people have come to expect long statements and declarations from meetings of Heads of Government with little follow-up action and failure to fulfil pledges with deeds.
Unquestionably, there is disenchantment with Caricom as an instrument for the improvement of the lives of the people of the community.
None of this is the fault of the five secretaries-general that have served Caricom from its inception. Each of them, from William Demas to Edwin Carrington, believed in the regional project; recognised its importance -- and necessity -- to bargaining in a highly competitive global environment; and kept alive the promise that strong integration arrangements, respected and upheld by national governments, could help to deliver better conditions for the region's people.
The people of Caricom owe a debt of gratitude to all its secretaries-general. After all, they were not heads of government. They could present the options, urge positions, and try to push the pace of integration, but at the end of the day, they could take the regional project no further than heads of government collectively allowed. Having worked with each of them, I know how hard each of them tried in his own way.
Against this background, it is unlikely that the recent proposal by a small group of Heads of Government to establish a "Permanent Committee of Ambassadors" as the answer for improved governance of the community will convince the people of Caricom that a major step has been taken to advance regional arrangements in a way that will benefit them.
As it stands, the proposed Committee of Ambassadors is set on a collision course with established organs of Caricom, such as the Council of Ministers and the secretary-general, both of whom have established legal roles in the organisation.
But it is still only a proposal, and one that has not been fleshed out.
In the next few weeks the proposal is to be examined and refined and then put to all Caricom Heads of Government at their next meeting. By then, hopefully, the organisational difficulties that the proposed committee poses will be worked out satisfactorily.
However, what will not be worked out -- unless the proposal is fundamentally changed -- is the very thing that it is supposed to address and that is the implementation of decisions.
The proposal seems to have been driven by the fear that anything more ambitious would require the delegation of aspects of national sovereignty that some Caricom member governments cannot abide. Yet, it is that very determination to keep individual national control of all regional initiatives that has caused Caricom to stagnate, reaching a point that if it does not progress it will disintegrate.
So, in seeking to maintain control at a national level, this latest decision may be one that will weaken, not strengthen Caricom at a time when it needs to be stronger, not weaker, to preserve and promote economic and social development of the region's people and to bargain for their interests in the international community.
It is worth pointing out that in all the recommendations that have been made for improved governance of Caricom and for effective implementation of decisions, it has never been suggested that any government should relinquish sovereignty. Even the recommendation of the 1992 West Indian Commission for the establishment of a Caricom Commission did not suggest a contraction of sovereignty.
What was recognised was that "Caricom commitments must be binding commitments -- morally, functionally, legally" and therefore they must become "Community law" which is enforceable in each member state. And these commitments are not to be made or approved by any organ other than Caricom Heads of Government themselves.
In other words, it is the considered decisions of Heads of Government in council with each other that would become law and would be enforceable and implemented. It would not be the decisions of any other group whether they are called "Caricom Commission" or "Permanent Committee of Ambassadors".
What could possibly be wrong with such a system? Heads of Government are most unlikely to make decisions that are legally binding on their countries unless they have studied them carefully with the advice of their cabinets and their attorneys-general. These decisions would have to show benefits for their countries individually and the region collectively.
Whatever organ implements them, however, must have the force of law at the national level or the same drift, the same failures to implement, the same promises made and not fulfilled will continue, and Caricom will further decline, losing any hope that it offered to the region's people and any moral force it proffered in the region's dealing with the international community.
The issue boils down to this: regional decisions have to become law enforceable in each state, or implementation will be held up by any one government that is unwilling to act.
-- Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and former Caribbean diplomat
Responses and previous commentaries at: www.sirronaldsanders.com
August 29, 2010
|August 29, 2010 | 2:01 PM
Fidel and Cuban scientists discuss nuclear danger
IMMERSED in his incessant battle to inform the world of the danger of a nuclear war and to succeed in persuading President Obama not to pull the trigger, Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz met on Monday, August 23 with Cuban scientists to talk about nuclear weapons and the danger of a nuclear conflagration.
For two hours, the leader of the Revolution exchanged ideas with and asked countless questions of Dr. Tomás Gutiérrez Pérez, general director of the Institute of Meteorology; José Fidel Santana Núñez, president of the Nuclear Energy and Advanced Technology Agency attached to the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment (CITMA); Colonel José Luis Navarro Marrero, head of the Science and Technology Secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces; and Dr. Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, scientific advisor for the Council of State.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki; uranium, plutonium and hydrogen bombs; the military nuclear capacity of the major powers; areas of radioactivity that could be caused by the explosion of a nuclear bomb according to its power; the sinking of the Russian nuclear submarine in 2000; the so-called nuclear winter; and other issues of interest were discussed at the meeting.
Fidel evoked the days of the October Missile Crisis, the process that led to the agreement to site Soviet missiles in Cuba, the danger that lies ahead for our country and the world, the errors of Krushchev and Kennedy. "Kennedy himself was horrified at how close war was," he noted.
"We were not interested in having missiles here, or having a base. We were more interested in the country’s image. A Soviet base devalued the image of the Revolution, its capacity to influence in the region. Why did we accept them? For us it was very hard. But it was a question of internationalism." And he recalled the meeting with the revolutionary leadership at which he proposed, "If we are hoping that the socialist camp would sacrifice itself and fight for us, we have to be prepared to sacrifice ourselves for them."
That historic memory served for Fidel to analyze the current dangers, with almost 25,000 nuclear devices in the world: "Doesn’t it seem a thing of lunatics to you?" he asked the scientists. "On this planet, 100 nuclear bombs are enough to provoke a nuclear winter. That isn’t a thing of sane people."
He later commented: "It would seem that this is going to be the first war of the world, and human history knows nothing else but wars. Since humans had clubs they have devoted themselves to making war. All those reasonings are erroneous, and for that reason I am making the effort to try and persuade of the danger of war. Who knew until very recently of the danger of war? Who spoke about that? Who is controlling all of the world media?
"Here, everything is going to depend on one man; not because he is powerful, but because he is the only one who has the faculty to pull the trigger. If he doesn’t pull it the whole world is going to be grateful to him, even the millionaires; even Israel will be grateful to him," concluded the Comandante en Jefe, with the conviction that scientists can also help a lot in this battle of creating awareness of the grave risks to humanity.
Translated by Granma International
August 24, 2010
|August 28, 2010 | 5:14 PM
Class struggle erupts in South Africa
Related to country: South Africa
The strike by 1.3 million public service workers in South Africa represents a significant escalation of the international class struggle in response to the global recession and the austerity measures that governments have adopted worldwide. It expresses the fundamental contradiction that exists between the interests of working people and all governments that defend the capitalist system.
This is demonstrated sharply in the case of the African National Congress (ANC), which came to power with the support of a popular mass movement.
No government has enjoyed such an extended period of good will as the ANC since it came to office in 1994 under the presidency of Nelson Mandela, ending the apartheid system and promising to create a “Rainbow Nation” in which the entire population shared the economic benefits of the mineral-rich country. Instead, the division between rich and poor has widened, while a tiny layer of businessmen associated with the ANC have become millionaires. “Black Economic Empowerment” has left the majority of the government’s supporters living in townships and rural areas that lack even the most essential amenities.
Class tensions have been developing for several years, while the ANC pursued free market policies that resulted in mounting unemployment and failed to meet the needs of the mass of the population. President Jacob Zuma ousted Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, promising to provide jobs, housing and services. But he has continued the same pro-business policies, resulting in growing disillusionment and the anger that has broken out in the present strike action.
What began as a dispute that formed part of the regular annual pay round, with civil servants, teachers and hospital workers demanding a pay rise and allowances in line with those won by other sections of workers, now threatens to bring the South African economy to a standstill. Miners and other industrial workers are taking solidarity action. The strike is already said to be costing 1 billion rand, or $135.5 million a day.
The strike has brought the working class into direct conflict with the ANC government and the South African state, with police using rubber bullets and water cannon against strikers, the courts banning sections of workers from joining the strike, and the army deployed in hospitals. The government and a supportive media have launched a campaign of vilification against the strikers. Government ministers have accused hospital workers of “murder.”
The government is determined to break the strike and make an example of the public service workers. The action has taken on a political dimension that is recognised by the government, which sees that its credibility is at stake.
Opposition politicians from the Democratic Alliance are demanding to know whether the government or the unions are running South Africa. But more fundamental still, the global banks and speculators are watching to see whether the ANC has the necessary resolve to deal decisively with the working class.
What the ruling elite fear is that the majority of the population, who are not organised in unions, may begin to mobilise and that a mass insurgency like that which brought about the end of apartheid may erupt. Some 50 percent of young people are unemployed. The official unemployment level is 30 percent and the real rate is probably more like 40 percent. The conditions exist for a social explosion and a prolonged public sector strike may ignite it.
Union leaders like Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi have made a point of criticising government ministers and have employed their most left-wing rhetoric in an attempt to retain leadership of the strike. They are conscious of the level of anger among their members and desperate to bring the strike to a conclusion before it gets out of their control. They delayed the strike until after the World Cup and initially recommended that the public service workers accept the government’s offer. Desperate for talks at the highest level, they have appealed to Zuma to return from his trip to China so that they can negotiate with him.
COSATU’s opposition to the government is rhetorical. It remains part of the tripartite alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) that has sustained the government in power for the past decade and a half. South African workers have won formal parliamentary democracy, but there is nothing genuinely democratic about a government that puts the defence of profits before the right of workers to a decent standard of living.
Deep fissures are opening up in the South African national movement, as fundamental class conflicts reemerge with immense force under the impact of the global failure of the capitalist system. These can only widen, as the government attempts to carry out the demands of the international markets and compete with other emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. Increasingly, South African workers will come into conflict with their own trade union leaders and the SACP, who will insist that the tripartite alliance be maintained.
The presence of COSATU and the SACP in the governing coalition has helped to maintain the fiction that the ANC is in some sense an organisation that reflects the interests of working people. It is a bourgeois nationalist movement that defends the interests of the capitalist class. Its founding charter explicitly states its intention of creating a capitalist South Africa—in which black businessmen can take part in exploiting the working class alongside their white counterparts—and that is precisely what it has done and continues to do.
The SACP gave the ANC a left cover by claiming that socialism could be achieved in South Africa only through a two-stage process, in which majority rule was attained first. At a later stage, the Stalinist SACP claimed, it would be possible to begin the struggle for socialism. Workers therefore had to subordinate their class interests to the national struggle until there was a democratic state.
The Stalinists condemned the Marxist programme of Permanent Revolution, which insists on the working class organising its own independent revolutionary movement and securing its leadership of the peasant masses in opposition to the national bourgeoisie on the basis of a socialist and internationalist programme. As Leon Trotsky insisted, the democratic tasks that confront oppressed countries like South Africa can be resolved only in the course of a socialist revolution and the establishment of a workers’ state.
The eruption of open class struggle in South Africa, the pitting of millions of workers against the bourgeois nationalist ANC government, demonstrates conclusively that the only way to complete the democratic revolution and resolve deep-seated questions such as the distribution of land and the provision of essential services is through the overthrow of the profit system and the organization of production on the basis of social need, not profit.
27 August 2010
|August 27, 2010 | 9:24 AM
The nuclear winter
Reflections of Fidel
(Taken from CubaDebate)
I feel embarrassed to be unaware of the subject, one that I have not even heard mentioned before. On the contrary, I would have understood much earlier that the risks of a nuclear war were far more serious than I imagined. I assumed that the planet would be able to withstand the explosion of hundreds of nuclear bombs calculating that, in both the United States and the USSR, countless tests have been carried out over the years. I had not taken into account a very simple reality: it is not the same thing to explode 500 nuclear bombs over 1,000 days as it is to do the same thing in one day.
I was able to learn more about it when I requested information from several experts on the subject. One can imagine my surprise when I learned that we do not need a nuclear world war for our species to perish.
A nuclear conflict between the two weakest nuclear powers would be sufficient, such as India and Pakistan – who nevertheless possess far more than 100 weapons of this kind – and the human race would disappear.
I will think carefully about the elements of judgment given to me by our experts on the subject, taken from what has been presented by the most eminent scientists in the world.
There are things that Obama knows perfectly well:
"…a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union would produce a ‘nuclear winter."
"The international debate regarding that prediction, led by astronomer Carl Sagan, forced the leaders of the two superpowers to face up to the possibility that their arms race had not only placed themselves at risk but also the entire human race."
"…‘models drawn up by Russian and U.S. scientists showed that a nuclear war would result in a nuclear winter which would be tremendously destructive for life on Earth; knowing this, for us, for people with morals and honor, signified a tremendous incentive…’
"…regional nuclear wars could unleash a similar global catastrophe. New analyses reveal that a conflict between India and Pakistan in which 100 bombs – just 0.4% of the 25,000-plus warheads in the world – could be dropped on cities and industrial areas would generate enough fallout to destroy the world’s agriculture. A regional war could result in the loss of lives even in countries far removed from the conflict."
"With modern computers and new climatic models, our team has demonstrated that not only were the ideas of the 1980s correct, but that the effects would last for at least 10 years, far longer than was previously believed […] the fallout from a regional war would be heated by the sun and would rise and remain suspended in the upper atmosphere for years, masking the sunlight and cooling off the Earth."
"India and Pakistan, which – between the two of them – possess more than 100 nuclear warheads…"
"Some people believe that the theory of nuclear winter developed during the 1980s has fallen into disrepute. Perhaps that is why they may be surprised by our assertion that a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, for example, could devastate agriculture across the entire planet.
"The original theory was thoroughly validated. Its scientific base was supported by research undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences, studies sponsored by the U.S. Armed Forces and the International Council for Science (ICSU), which included representatives from 24 national science academies and other scientific bodies."
"Perhaps the cooling off does not appear to be something of particular concern. But it is worth knowing that a slight drop in temperature could lead to serious consequences."
"The total amount of grains being stored on the planet today could feed the world population for a couple of months (see ‘Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?’ by Lester R. Brown; INVESTIGACIÓN Y CIENCIA, July 2009)."
"Sometimes the smoke from major forest fires penetrates the troposphere and the lower stratosphere and is dragged over great distances, generating a cooling off. Our models also agree with those effects."
"Some 65 million years ago, an asteroid crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula. The resultant dust cloud, mixed with smoke from the fires, concealed the sun, killing the dinosaurs. Massive volcanic activity which occurred in India at the same time could have aggravated the effects."
"…the growing number of nuclear states increases the possibility of a war breaking out, either intentionally or unintentionally.
"North Korea has threatened war if its ships are stopped and searched for nuclear materials."
"Some extremist leaders in India proposed attacking Pakistan with nuclear weapons as a result of the latest terrorist attacks on India."
"Iran has threatened to destroy Israel, already a nuclear power, which in turn has sworn never to allow Iran to become a nuclear power."
"The first two nuclear bombs shocked the world so deeply that, despite the massive increase in those weapons since then, they have never been used again."
A nuclear war is inevitable from the moment that the UN Security Council term has expired; anything could happen when the first Iranian vessel is inspected.
"Within in the framework of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, the U.S and Russia have committed themselves to leaving their arsenal of deployed strategic nuclear weapons at 1,700 and 2,200 by the end of 2012."
"If those weapons were to be used on urban targets, they would kill hundreds of millions of people and a vast cloud of smoke – of 180 teragrams – would inundate the earth’s atmosphere."
"The only way to eliminate the possibility of a climatic disaster is to eliminate nuclear weapons."
At midday, I met with four Cuban experts: Tomás Gutiérrez Pérez; José Vidal Santana Núñez; Col. José Luis Navarro Herrero, head of the Science and Technology Secretariat of the MINFAR; and Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, with whom I analyzed the issue I am dealing with in this Reflection.
I requested the meeting yesterday, August 22. I didn’t want to lose a second. Without any doubt, it was a productive encounter.
Fidel Castro Ruz
August 23, 2010
Translated by Granma International
|August 25, 2010 | 4:48 PM
I am an optimist on rational grounds
Reflections of Fidel
(Taken from CubaDebate)
THE days are passing by. One after another, they are going by rapidly. Some people are getting anxious. I, on the other hand, am calm.
I share with our workers the results they are achieving in their work, in the midst of the blockade and other accumulated necessities.
Our country is one of those that is most prepared to confront obstacles, and not only has it demonstrated tremendous altruism but also solidarity with other peoples, such as the efforts that it undertook in Haiti prior to the earthquake and much greater efforts afterwards. Some days ago, I had honor of receiving the members of the heroic Moto Méndez Solidarity Mission, which complemented the work of the Cuban Medical Brigade in Bolivia, which has provided more than 40 million medical consultations and had performed, up until yesterday, 543,629 eye operations. They are overcoming the ravages of climate change, where tremendous heat alternates with the most intense cold.
We are very well aware of what Russia is suffering with the heat and the hundreds of forest and peat fires, the suffocating clouds of smoke, the belated rains and, to cap it all, snow in the summertime. We have seen the images of rivers overflowing in Pakistan and the vast ice floe that has become detached from Greenland. All of this is the result of alterations to natural conditions, caused by human beings themselves.
But I am optimistic on rational and solid grounds. The future worries me but I also increasingly believe that the solution is within our grasp, if we manage to carry the truth to a sufficient number of people among the billions that inhabit the planet.
Fidel Castro Ruz
August 20, 2010
Translated by Granma International
|August 24, 2010 | 11:20 AM
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