Inter Press ServiceNorth America – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 27 May 2018 01:35:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Why Would an Immigrant Support Trump?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/immigrant-support-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigrant-support-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/immigrant-support-trump/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 12:17:44 +0000 Rose Delaney http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155922 Giuseppe DiMarco is 83 years old. He has recognized the U.S. as his home for over 30 years. In the aftermath of World War Two, DiMarco fled an impoverished farming town in Southern Italy in the pursuit of advancement and the promise of wealth he had never known. Whilst economic strife and extreme poverty drove […]

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U.S. Signals New Approach to Horn of Africa Allyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 12:13:42 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155699 The April inauguration of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came amid much fanfare and raised expectations for the future of true democracy in Ethiopia, while far less publicized though relevant developments in the American capital could also play a significant role in shaping that future. At a relatively youthful and spritely 42 years of age, Abiy […]

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Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, addresses press and supporters outside Washington’s Capitol Building after passage of House Resolution-128. Behind and to his left is Congressman Chris Smith and behind and to his right is Congressman Mike Coffman, both of whom played key roles in the resolution’s successful passage. Photo courtesy Tewodrose Tirfe/Congressman Mike Coffman’s office.

Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, addresses press and supporters outside Washington’s Capitol Building after passage of House Resolution-128. Behind and to his left is Congressman Chris Smith and behind and to his right is Congressman Mike Coffman, both of whom played key roles in the resolution’s successful passage. Photo courtesy Tewodrose Tirfe/Congressman Mike Coffman’s office.

By James Jeffrey
WASHINGTON, May 10 2018 (IPS)

The April inauguration of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came amid much fanfare and raised expectations for the future of true democracy in Ethiopia, while far less publicized though relevant developments in the American capital could also play a significant role in shaping that future.

At a relatively youthful and spritely 42 years of age, Abiy Ahmed is widely seen as a reformer who can take the necessary steps to calm a nation that has been engulfed in unprecedented levels of political unrest since the end of 2015.“The new resolution by the US House of Representatives is a reminder to the Ethiopian government that should it fail to reform, it can no longer rely on US largesse to contain problems at home.” --Hassen Hussein

Crucially, he heralds from the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), which represents the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and who have spearheaded protests against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition party, of which the OPDO is a key member.

After the resignation of previous Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, many warned that if the EPRDF chose a figure from its old guard it might well lead to more, perhaps worse, unrest.

That has been avoided with the party embracing a politician with greater public support, and the first Oromo head of government in Ethiopia has already traveled to several areas of the country, promising to address grievances and strengthen a range of political and civil rights.

But, as everyone knows and agrees on, Abiy faces numerous challenges domestically and externally in bringing stability back to Ethiopia and settling a discontented populace that is the second largest in Africa.

One problem is the state of emergency declared in Ethiopia in February following the last prime minister’s surprise resignation (and which is the second state of emergency after the first ended in August 2017). This could hinder Abiy in moving forward with any reform agenda, because the new prime minister’s hold on the state security apparatus is much reduced than normal during a state of emergency, with a group of military officers referred to as the “Command Post” effectively in control of the mechanism of the state.

Also, the very fact of Abiy’s reluctance to push for the lifting of the state of emergency illustrates, observers say, how the internal dynamics of the EPRDF that played a large part in the undoing of Desalegn are still a force to be reckoned with.

The historical dominance of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the EPRDF continues to wield force and means Ethiopia’s new, apparently reformist, prime minister will need to deal shrewdly with members of the establishment resistant to reform or reconciliation efforts—if Abiy is, in fact, genuinely for reform, that is.

“I like the things [Abiy] has been saying in public—most of the country and many in the opposition at home and abroad resonate with the sentiments expressed in his public statements,” says Alemante Selassie, emeritus professor at the William and Mary Law School in the US.  “Still, I cannot say that I have full confidence in him, because he is a party functionary who rose through the ranks of the EPRDF and probably remains committed to upholding its hegemonic rule for the foreseeable future.”

Nevertheless, whatever the inner workings of the new prime minister’s mind, as an ex-army officer he understands the military-security apparatus and its culture; he has a strong party mandate and public support behind him, and he comes to power at a time when those previously in charge are reviled by the populace, thereby putting him in a unique position to potentially resolve many of the country’s problems.

Furthermore, recent developments in the US Congress may also have a bearing on what happens next. On April 10, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Resolution-128: “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”

The resolution—uunusually outspoken for US public policy in it criticism of Ethiopia’s government—condemns “the killings of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces; the detention of journalists, students, activists, and political leaders; and the regime’s abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms.”

The resolution and its wording deeply angered the Ethiopian government, which even suggested it might cut off security cooperation with the US if the resolution was passed. Ethiopia is viewed by the US as its most important ally in the volatile East African region, and hence receives one of the largest security and humanitarian aid packages among sub-Saharan African countries.

“The passage of HR-128 by the US House of Representatives without any opposition was a historical achievement,” says Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, a US-based advocacy group for the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group. “The main difference this time, compared to previous attempts to get legislation through, was Ethiopian-American advocacy organizations working in coordination with human rights groups to bring to the attention of [US state] representatives the humanitarian and political crisis that has been unfolding in Ethiopia, especially the past three years.”

Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee of Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, introduced HR-128, and played a major role, along with Congressman Mike Coffman, in achieving the passage of the resolution.

“Chairman Smith has held more hearings and authored more legislation on Ethiopia then anyone in Congress—he has been a voice for the Ethiopian diaspora for many years,” Tewodrose says. “Congressman Coffman put his political capital on the line for this resolution and helped us overcome every hurdle encountered.”

The vast sum of humanitarian aid and bi-lateral support Ethiopia receives from the US is not at risk—yet.  That said, Tewodrose notes, the Senate is considering a partner bill, which is even stronger in its wording. Senate Resolution 168 calls on the Department of State and USAID “to improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia and to ensure such assistance reinforces long-term goals for improved governance.”

Essentially, Tewodros explains, this would tie aid to improved governance and more scrutiny of support given, because even though resolutions aren’t laws and are non-binding, if they have strong bipartisan support—like HR-128—coupled with the fact that Congress has the power of oversight, then agencies named in the resolutions would seriously consider implementing the terms of these declarations.

Furthermore, the Amhara Association of America and other advocacy partners are working to introduce binding legislation that would be signed by the president and would become the law directing how the US deals with Ethiopia.

“We believe this is a much easier task now since the Ethiopian diaspora groups are activated and engaged, the policy makers are educated, and we have built strong bipartisan support in Congress,” Tewodrose says.

That said, opposition exists in the Senate to the senate resolution, and there is still some way to go before a new law guiding US foreign policy towards Ethiopia emerges. But any resolution about Ethiopia, such as HR-128, could still have an impact on the actions of the Ethiopian regime and the new prime minister’s reform agenda.

Previously, though the US government was aware of well-documented problems with regards to human rights abuses, lack of democracy promotion and corruption at the highest levels of the Ethiopian state, it didn’t forcefully act to pressure Ethiopia’s government.

But the House resolution signals a shift in that approach. Besides condemning killings, detentions, and abuse of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terror Proclamation, the resolution also makes more ambitious demands of the Ethiopian regime including reforms that would protect the Ethiopian people’s civil liberties and release political prisoners, views that the new prime minister is also believed to share.

“The resolution could give Abiy a freer hand to deal more decisively with those resisting change—so far he has been very conciliatory and accommodating,” says Hassen Hussein an academic and writer based in Minnesota.  “The new resolution by the US House of Representatives is a reminder to the Ethiopian government that should it fail to reform, it can no longer rely on US largesse to contain problems at home.”

While HR-128 is an important development, what further US legislation, if any, follows it, is likely to have the most tangible impact on strengthening—or not—the hand of the new prime minister in persuading those power brokers within the EPRDF who control country’s security apparatus and the intelligence and economic sectors, to participate in negotiations for reform.

“The TPLF has ruled Ethiopia for the last 27 years with the support of the US and the UK,” Alemante says. “If it loses this support— financial, military, diplomatic, etc.— it has very little else to stand on.”

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Trump Begins to Reverberate in Mexico’s Presidential Electionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 23:49:15 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155154 Statements by U.S. President Donald Trump against Mexico have begun to permeate the presidential election campaign in this Latin American country, forcing the candidates to pronounce themselves on the matter. In his most recent angry tweet, Trump said Apr. 1 that he would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico doesn’t […]

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Activists and academics from Canada, the United States and Mexico called in March in Mexico for an end to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), because of its secrecy and because it fails to represent the interests of the people of the three nations. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Activists and academics from Canada, the United States and Mexico called in March in Mexico for an end to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), because of its secrecy and because it fails to represent the interests of the people of the three nations. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Apr 4 2018 (IPS)

Statements by U.S. President Donald Trump against Mexico have begun to permeate the presidential election campaign in this Latin American country, forcing the candidates to pronounce themselves on the matter.

In his most recent angry tweet, Trump said Apr. 1 that he would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico doesn’t work harder to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking into the U.S.

The next few days will be crucial for the renegotiation of the trade deal between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada."After Trump's remarks, everything is up in the air. We will hear statements back and forth from the negotiating parties and the candidates. Any sign of having anything in common with Trump is political suicide for the candidates." -- Manuel Pérez Rocha

“After Trump’s remarks, everything is up in the air. We will hear statements back and forth from the negotiating parties and the candidates. Any sign of having anything in common with Trump is political suicide for the candidates,” said Manuel Pérez Rocha, Associate Fellow at the U.S. Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.

The expert told IPS that “the important thing is to continue analysing the proposals of the candidates and see what positions they take with respect to NAFTA.”

The eighth, and presumably last, round of negotiations is scheduled to begin on Apr. 8 in Washington and end on Apr. 16.

After the seven previous rounds, the advances disclosed by the three partners have been scarce, in negotiations marked by rigid positions, tension and secrecy.

Of the 30 chapters that have been discussed, the negotiating teams have concluded the chapters on good regulatory practices, transparency, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, small and medium-sized businesses, competition and anti-corruption.

The priorities of the United States include new phytosanitary measures, greater protection of intellectual property, labour and environmental matters and the possible elimination of the dispute resolution chapter, which establishes special panels to address abusive trade practices.

Meanwhile, Mexico is focusing mainly on energy, electronic commerce and small and medium enterprises.

Canada, for its part, prioritises the inclusion of labour, environmental and gender standards, an increased migratory flow, indigenous rights, a revision of the dispute resolution mechanism, a more open government procurement market and higher wages.

The renegotiation of the treaty in force since 1994 also covers issues not included in the original text, such as energy, e-commerce and on-line activities.

The renegotiation of NAFTA was imposed by Trump, who included it in the campaign that took him to the White House in January 2017.

NAFTA and, above all, Trump’s outbursts about Mexico and Mexicans have begun to appear in the campaign for Mexico’s Jul. 1 presidential elections, although only the front-runner has addressed it explicitly.

Leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, heading the “Together We Make History” coalition, said on Apr. 1 that “we are not going to rule out the possibility of convincing Donald Trump of his mistaken foreign policy and in particular of his contemptuous attitude towards Mexicans, we will be very respectful of the government of the United States, but we will also demand respect for Mexicans.”

The three-time candidate for the Mexican presidency expressed his support for NAFTA, but clarified that “it would be best to sign agreements after Jul. 1,” when he hopes to finally win the presidency with the support of an alliance between the leftist National Regeneration Movement and Workers’ Party, together with the conservative Social Encounter Party.

A protest against U.S. President Donald Trump outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. Trump’s verbal attacks against Mexico and Mexicans have increased since March and are beginning to reverberate in the campaign for the Jul. 1 presidential elections. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A protest against U.S. President Donald Trump outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. Trump’s verbal attacks against Mexico and Mexicans have increased since March and are beginning to reverberate in the campaign for the Jul. 1 presidential elections. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The second in the polls, Ricardo Anaya, candidate for the “Mexico al Frente” coalition, formed by the right-wing National Action Party, the centrist Party of the Democratic Revolution, and the centre-right Citizen’s Movement, has not referred to the renegotiation.

Nor has the ruling party candidate José Meade, representing the conservative Institutional Revolutionary Party, the Ecologist Green Party and the New Alliance, mentioned NAFTA or Trump so far in the campaign.

None of the candidates have discussed Trump’s promise to build a border wall between the two countries.

“Mexico has to withdraw from negotiations to reform the treaty and wait for a new government to take over the process. We can’t tolerate all of these insults and threats from Trump,” academic Alberto Arroyo, a member of the non-governmental coalition Mexico Better without FTAs, told IPS.

The car industry, “maquilas” or for-export assembly plants, agro-exports and financial services are among the sectors that have benefited from the 24 years of free trade between the three countries.

According to academics and activists from the affected sectors, the big losers under NAFTA have been small-scale farmers, including producers of the staple products corn and beans, and the food sector in general.

NAFTA strengthened Mexico’s trade dependency on the U.S., which purchases more than 80 percent of Mexico’s exports.

Imports from the United States, meanwhile, climbed from 151 billion dollars in 1993 to 614 billion dollars in 2017 – a 307 percent increase. Meanwhile, its exports grew from 142 billion to 525 billion, a 270 percent rise.

“Any disruption to the economic relationship could have adverse effects on investment, employment, productivity, and North American competitiveness,” says the study “NAFTA Renegotiation and Modernization,” prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a non-partisan legislative branch agency housed in the Library of Congress.

The report published in February adds that “Mexico and Canada could consider imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports if the United States were to withdraw” from NAFTA.

In 2017, the United States a trade deficit of 89.6 billion dollars with its two partners, compared with 9.1 billion in 1993.

“It is not clear how the (Trump) administration would expect to reduce the trade deficit through the renegotiation,” says the paper.

In another of his attacks, Trump threatened to impose extraordinary tariffs on steel and aluminum imports unless NAFTA were renegotiated to terms more favorable to the U.S

According to Pérez Rocha, Mexicans would celebrate the end of NAFTA as “a net job destroyer, and for allowing transnational corporations to devastate the environment.”

He added that, in his opinion, the majority of Mexico’s 123 million people would support an end to the treaty “for destroying the livelihoods of millions in rural areas, for being an instrument of corporations for reversing sanitary and environmental policies, and for making Mexico the Latin American country with the most obesity.”

He called for postponing the renegotiation until the new administration takes office, because “this government has been unable to ensure the interests of Mexicans. We need a change to society, a new way of interacting with all social sectors.”

For his part, Arroyo, who is writing a study on NAFTA’s impact on the Mexican economy, called for a treaty that respects “human, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, the national sovereignty of each country and real economic development.”

The CRS report concludes that the outlook for the renegotiation is “uncertain”.

Today, the United States and Mexico are more and more similar to what English journalist Alan Riding once described as “distant neighbours.”

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Castro’s Successor to Inherit Long-standing Conflict Between Cuba and the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states/#respond Mon, 02 Apr 2018 02:36:24 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155117 Cuba’s tense relations with the United States under the administration of Donald Trump reflect a scenario of conflict that is not alien to the generation that will take over the country on Apr. 19, when President Raúl Castro is set to step down. Since the 1960s, Cuba’s nationalist stance has drawn on the animosity with […]

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Cubans wait in line outside the Colombian embassy in Havana, to obtain a visa for Colombia in order to apply for a U.S. visa at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, due to the reductions in staff in the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Cubans wait in line outside the Colombian embassy in Havana, to obtain a visa for Colombia in order to apply for a U.S. visa at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, due to the reductions in staff in the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Apr 2 2018 (IPS)

Cuba’s tense relations with the United States under the administration of Donald Trump reflect a scenario of conflict that is not alien to the generation that will take over the country on Apr. 19, when President Raúl Castro is set to step down.

Since the 1960s, Cuba’s nationalist stance has drawn on the animosity with the U.S., and the likely successors of the country’s current leaders, most of whom were born around the time of the 1959 revolution or afterwards, were educated in a culture of “anti-imperialist resistance”.

According to the official figures on the outcome of the Mar. 11 general elections, the average age of the new members of parliament fell to 49 years, compared to 57 years for the outgoing lawmakers.

The single-chamber National Assembly of People’s Power elects from among its members the 31 members of the Council of State, which according to the constitution is the highest representative of the Cuban state, whose president is the head of state and government."Reconciliation and rapprochement occur on a human level. States can facilitate it, but they can neither impose it nor stop it…Even during the most tense moments of relations between Cuba and the United States, we Cubans have remained in touch with our families, friends and collaborators." -- Lillian Manzor

The most likely candidate to succeed Castro is the current first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, although there is no official confirmation.

The return to the tension that existed before the détente agreed by Raúl Castro, 86, and Barack Obama (2009-2017) on Dec. 17, 2014, which led to the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, brings additional difficulties to the weakened Cuban economy and puts a brake on the changes required by its socialist model of development.

“Unfortunately, reform in Cuba becomes more difficult when the United States is more aggressive and negative,” said John McAuliff, executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a U.S.-based non-governmental organisation that supports efforts for reconciliation with Cuba.

In his opinion, a new generation of leaders “opens a door, but it does not guarantee” how quickly change will come. “If the new leaders expand opportunities for the self-employed and small businesses, especially in tourism and other professional sectors, the economy will improve,” he told IPS from the U.S. by e-mail.

In the same vein, he said that “if the public dialogue incorporates all the sectors that are not explicitly counterrevolutionary inside and outside the country, politics will expand, evolve and be strengthened along with Cuba’s history and culture.”

Trump’s adverse policy towards Cuba since his arrival at the White House in January 2017 has kept bilateral ties at their lowest level, with a skeleton staff at the two embassies, which are unable to carry out their consular and business duties, while it has restricted travel by U.S. citizens to the Caribbean island nation, among other limitations.

Senator Patrick Leahy (centre), and four other U.S. Democrat lawmakers give a press conference in Havana on Feb. 21, at the end of their visit to Cuba, in violation of the U.S. travel advisory against Cuba issued by Republican President Donald Trump. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Senator Patrick Leahy (centre), and four other U.S. Democrat lawmakers give a press conference in Havana on Feb. 21, at the end of their visit to Cuba, in violation of the U.S. travel advisory against Cuba issued by Republican President Donald Trump. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Washington justifies the reduction of personnel and the recommendation to U.S. citizens to refrain from traveling to Cuba by citing mysterious attacks – apparently linked to high-pitched sounds – that affected the health of U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba between November 2016 and August 2017.

Havana has denied any involvement in the incidents.

In a Dec. 22 speech in the Cuban parliament, Castro accused the United States of fabricating “pretexts” to justify the return to “failed and universally rejected policies.”

U.S. lawmakers who visited Cuba between Feb. 19-21, led by the Democratic Senator for the state of Vermont, Patrick Leahy, said the measures ordered by Trump were a serious mistake, harmful to the governments and people of both nations.

In defiance of the travel advisory against Cuba, the legislators flew here with their wives, and in the case of Leahy, with his 13-year-old granddaughter. The group met with Castro and other local authorities.

“Cuba is changing. Soon you will elect a new president and likely experience a generation shift in leadership, and regrettably at this historic moment in Cuban history, the U.S. engagement is limited,” Jim Mcgovern, a Democrat member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Massachusetts, lamented in a press conference.

In turn, Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, reported that there is a legislative proposal against the embargo brought forward by him and other senators, which has strong bipartisan support. “After the November elections, we will have more support to end the embargo,” he said.

Meanwhile, migrants are among the biggest losers in the embassy conflict, although the Cuban embassy in Washington, with 17 fewer staff members, says it has maintained its usual services, including consular services for Cubans and Americans.

A classic 1957 convertible Chevrolet Bel-Air, used by private drivers for sightseeing tours, drives through the historic centre of Old Havana in search of customers, now that the boom of visits by U.S. citizens has ceased. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

A classic 1957 convertible Chevrolet Bel-Air, used by private drivers for sightseeing tours, drives through the historic centre of Old Havana in search of customers, now that the boom of visits by U.S. citizens has ceased. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

But the reduction of personnel in the U.S. embassy in Havana forces Cuban immigrants to travel to Colombia to process their visas, which will prevent Washington in 2018 from meeting its commitment to issue 20,000 visas a year, as established in the migration agreements of 1994 and 1995.

The main recipient of Cuban emigration is the United States, where over two million people of Cuban origin reside, of whom almost 1.2 million were born in Cuba, according to official data from the U.S. A good part of that population has not cut its umbilical cord with Cuba.

Lillian Manzor, interim chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Miami, told IPS by e-mail that currently, most Cubans in the U.S. support rapprochement between the two countries, while U.S. foreign policy is going in the opposite direction.

“Reconciliation and rapprochement occur on a human level. States can facilitate it, but they can neither impose it nor stop it,” she said, recalling that “even during the most tense moments of relations between Cuba and the United States, we Cubans have remained in touch with our families, friends and collaborators.”

In that sense, Manzor, a Cuban resident in the United States, does not underestimate the strength that this majority sector of Cuban migrants can represent in order to stop the setback imposed by the Trump administration on the normalisation of bilateral ties between Washington and Havana, restored in July 2015.

“That’s the big challenge. How can this need to stay connected with our family and friends be turned into an electoral force. In the meantime, we must continue with what we have always done: cope with adverse policies and fight for our rights as American citizens,” she said.

The academic also said that among immigrants favourable to “closer political and human relations” there are many who hope that “the new president of Cuba will continue with the necessary migratory changes to facilitate travel for Cubans residing abroad.”

Whoever it will be, Castro’s successor has the stage set to move in that direction. On Jan. 1, four Cuban government measures came into force, aimed at relaxing the country’s migration policy and improving its relation with the Cuban exile community. The provisions followed the new Migration Law in force since 2013.

“The Cuban passport is still one of the most expensive in the world especially considering the payment that must be made every two years to maintain the validity of the passport,” said Manzor. The document, valid for six years, costs 400 dollars plus 200 dollars for the biannual extension.

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Has Trump Just Launched a Global Trade War?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/trump-just-launched-global-trade-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-just-launched-global-trade-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/trump-just-launched-global-trade-war/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 15:41:32 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154815 Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Malaysia, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

Last week’s action by President Donald Trump has ended the United States’ leadership on liberal trade and may trigger a global trade war with major damaging consequences.

On 8 March, Trump signed a proclamation to raise tariffs of steel by 25% and aluminium by 10%.

It sent shockwaves across the world not only because of the losses to metal exporters, but due to what it could well signify:  the start of a global trade war causing economic disruption in many countries, and that may also damage if not destroy the multilateral trade system.

The United States, joined by Europe, has been the anchor of the global free trade system, ever since the end of the Second World War.  In practice this rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the developed countries continue to practise very high protection of their agriculture sector which cannot compete with many developing countries if there really was “free trade”.

When a new global financial crisis strikes, the developing countries will be more damaged than in the last crisis as they have become less resilient and more vulnerable. They thus need to prepare from being overwhelmed, says Martin Khor

Martin Khor

Moreover, the developed countries introduced and continue to champion mandatory high intellectual property rights standards through an agreement in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), under which their companies create monopolies, set high prices and make excessive profits.  This is against the free competition touted by free-trade advocates.

In manufactures and metals, the developed countries have pressed the others to join them in cutting or removing tariffs and expand trade, through negotiations in the WTO and its predecessor the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

They have argued that poorer countries can best grow richer by cutting their tariffs, which would benefit their consumers and force their producers to become more efficient.

Trump’s move upends the ideology of free trade.  If cheaper imports displace local steel and aluminium producers, they must be stopped because a country must make its own key products, according to the Trump philosophy of America First.

Since the United States has been the flag-bearer of the free-trade religion, this has profound effects on other countries.  If the leader has changed its mind and now believes in protecting its industries, so too can other countries.  The basis for liberal trade is destroyed and the old rationale for protectionism is revived.

...This rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the developed countries continue to practise very high protection of their agriculture sector, which cannot compete with many developing countries if there really was “free trade”

The WTO rules allow countries adversely affected by imports to take certain measures, but they have to prove that the producers of exporting countries unfairly receive subsidies, or that they set lower prices for their exports compared to the same goods sold domestically.  Or they can take “safeguard” measures of raising tariffs if they can show that domestic firms have been adversely affected, but only for a limited period to help affected local producers to adjust.

Trump however made use of a little-used national security clause (Section 232) in the U.S. trade laws to justify his big jump in steel and aluminium tariffs.  The clause allows the President to take trade action to defend national security.  The WTO also has a security exception in GATT Article XXI but it has also been rarely if ever used by countries to justify tariff increases.

What constitutes national security is not clearly spelt out either in the US or the WTO laws and because of the ambiguity and lack of clarity, this clause can be abused. The US and other countries can claim it is imposing higher import duties because it is necessary to protect their national security, but in reality this could be a disguise or excuse to protect their economies from other countries’ more efficient producers.

The Trump administration tried to justify invoking the security factor by saying steel and aluminium are needed to make tanks, fighter planes and other weapons of war.  But this was undercut by giving exemptions from the increased duties to Canada and Mexico due to their membership of NAFTA, a trade agreement that includes the United States. These exemptions for reasons unrelated to security exposes the security rationale as fake.

Other countries are angry and preparing to retaliate. The European Union has drawn up a list of American products on which its countries will raise tariffs.  China warned it would make an appropriate and necessary response.

At the WTO General Council on 8 March, the United States action was attacked. Many countries condemned the US measures being unilateral and for misusing the national security rationale.  Canada said the security issue “may be opening a Pandora’ Box we would not be able to close.”

Brazil expressed deep concern about an elastic or broad application of the national security exception.  India said the national security exception under GATT should not be misused and unilateral measures have no place in the trade system. China argued the over-protected domestic industry will never be able to serve its problems through protectionism.

Many WTO member states will most likely take the US to a dispute panel, and how it will rule will have strong consequences.   If it rules for the US, then other countries will view it as allowing all countries to take protectionist measures on the same ground of national security.

If it rules against the US, it will embolden the anti-liberal trade faction in the Trump administration and strengthen their argument that the US should ignore or even leave the WTO.  The US would then be much more unrestrained to undertake further protectionist measures.

In either case, there is a danger that the rest of the world, or significant parts of it, would also feel they should not be constrained by WTO’s generaltrade rules.  Over time, trade protectionism would gain ground.

The next big protectionist move from the US may come in a few weeks when Trump decides what action, if any, to take against China after considering a report on China’s trade and intellectual property practices issued by the Commerce Department.

If, as expected, big action against China is announced, China will almost certainly take equally strong retaliatory action.

That will escalate the trade war that is already on the way.

 

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Excerpt:

Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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It’s the War, Stupidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/its-the-war-stupid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=its-the-war-stupid http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/its-the-war-stupid/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 14:28:19 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154811 Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

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Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

It is revealing that a ruler who did not serve in the military, nor enjoys any experience in war affairs, has a special inclination to use a vocabulary more typical of bloody clashes between states than in diplomatic relations.

Donald Trump, both in his electronic messages and in his television addresses, adores the use of military terminology to illustrate his plans. He likes the word “war” to label his government program.

Curiously, almost as a prelude to the surprising and apparent truce that can be put in place with North Korea, Trump has made a declaration of war “Urbi et Orbi”. The first salvo has been the announcement of the imposition of tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. In addition, he has presumed the qualification that trade wars are good.

The alarm that has generated this decision has been widespread, with the threat of widening the ground to other products. The statements of response from the rest of the planet oscillate between perplexity and the start-up of protective measures of their business partners, friends and foes.

Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

Although Trump announced that his close neighbors, Canada and Mexico are forgiven, neither Trudeau nor Peña Nieto  trust him at all.

If mutual reluctance on both shores of Rio Grande is a permanent dressing of history, the apparent loyalty between Washington and Ottawa suffers from question marks that only the permanently installed courtesy barely manages to mask.

Trump has succeeded in having the Mexicans pass on to the Canadians the lamentation attributed to Porfirio Díaz: “Poor Mexico (Canada), so far from God and so close to the United States.”

The tottering NAFTA alarmed both partners and not even the promise of an improvement in conditions have managed to clear the threat of its disappearance.

That is why the Canadians have endeavored to solidify the agreement with the European Union, just as the Mexicans have reinforced their own alliance with the EU, the strongest between Brussels and the Americas.

The truth is that Trump’s tactic has confirmed his personal refusing of trade agreements and regional block alliances, stressing the option of unilaterality as a primordial strategy, presided by the claim of “America, first.”

And not only is that such decision is obvious, but the language used is the one of confrontation, as a springboard to victory, cemented on the argument of superiority.

If the European Union and China opt for retaliation with the imposition of tariffs on US products, consumers in Alabama, Ohio, and North Dakota, in addition to the classic Trump voters in Appalachia, will need to adjust the shopping cart. Perhaps this matters little to his family and wealthy Fortune 500 owners who have populated his administration, but those who depend on a salary at the end of the week will not be happy. They'll thank him in the election

But the arsenal of the American president’s decision is not reduced to his personal conception and ill-disguised arrogance, but also hides a weakness and fear of losing re-election.

In spite of the opposition of his wife Melania, Trump is not resigned to disappearing from the reduced political map to enjoy a solitary four-year mandate.

It would be like descending to the level of Carter and Bush Sr, who were ousted by their opponents. Trump needs more help than his millionaire donors.

He needs the little people who raised him to victory. He needs those who believe in the imposition of tariff rates and the construction of walls, more convincing than the one that seeks to raise before Mexico.

They naively will vote again under the promise of job creation. In the event that he succeeds in his strategy, Trump will probably be slapped by history.

He will remember that among the failures of the imposition of tariffs, executed as the simple squeezing of the trigger in a Western, often results in a shot on the foot.

Historians still explain the case of the Smoot-Hawley decision, imposed in 1930. Instead of softening the effects of the Great Depression of the late 1920 ‘s, it reduced US exports by 61%.

In an effect on the other side of the Atlantic, some experts even argued that the unfortunate decision helped the emergence of Nazi Germany and other Fascist niceties, in some countries hit by the growing economic war that preceded the bloody confrontation.

If the European Union and China opt for retaliation with the imposition of tariffs on US products, consumers in Alabama, Ohio, and North Dakota, in addition to the classic Trump voters in Appalachia, will need to adjust the shopping cart.

Perhaps this matters little to his family and wealthy Fortune 500 owners who have populated his administration, but those who depend on a salary at the end of the week will not be happy. They’ll thank him in the election.

While it may be true that some practices of US partners and competitors are not exactly fair, the method that the most reasonable advisers suggest is negotiation and brokering within the World Trade Organization (WHO).

Although Trump has heard that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, Carl von Clausovitz himself could remember with the logic of realism that in the end no one wins the wars and that many lose them. Trump may be a collateral casualty of “friendly fire.”

The author can be reached at jroy@miami.edu

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Excerpt:

Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

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A Burger That Saves Emissions Taking 2 Million Cars off the Roadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/burger-saves-emissions-taking-2-million-cars-off-road/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=burger-saves-emissions-taking-2-million-cars-off-road http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/burger-saves-emissions-taking-2-million-cars-off-road/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 15:46:30 +0000 Richard Waite - Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154467 Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard, & Gerard Pozzi, World Resources Institute

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Rushhour in Los Angeles. Credit: Bigstock

By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi
WASHINGTON DC, Feb 23 2018 (IPS)

Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans’ dinner plates, but they’re also among the most resource-intensive: beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.

Although there’s growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there’s a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.

Americans eat approximately 10 billion burgers each year. Replacing 30 percent of the beef in those burgers with mushrooms would:
• Reduce agricultural production-related greenhouse gas emissions by 10.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year, equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars (and their annual tailpipe emissions) off the road. That’s like the entire county of San Diego going carless;
• Reduce irrigation water demand by 83 billion gallons per year, an amount equal to 2.6 million Americans’ annual home water use; and
• Reduce global agricultural land demand by more than 14,000 square miles, an area larger than the state of Maryland.

Tastes Great, Less Impact

The Culinary Institute of America and others recommend blending plant-based foods into meat-based dishes as one way to shift mainstream consumers’ diets without requiring lifestyle changes. Mushrooms have a meat-like texture, moisture retention properties, and an umami taste that can enhance the burger’s flavor while enabling chefs to also cut back on salt content.

Beef-mushroom burgers can also be lower in calories and saturated fat than all-beef burgers, making them a healthier choice. Across a variety of important consumer attributes—including flavor, texture, appearance and the ability to make a consumer feel full at the end of the meal—the beef-mushroom blended burger stacks up favorably to a conventional all-beef burger.

Good for Business

Blended burgers represent an exciting sustainability opportunity for restaurants and food service operators, as beef accounts for a sizable portion of these companies’ greenhouse gas emissions. McDonald’s, for example, estimates that 28 percent of its corporate carbon footprint—an amount similar in size to the footprint of its energy use across all of the company’s restaurants and offices—results from beef production.

Similarly, agricultural supply chains tend to account for 90 percent or more of a food company’s total water footprint—and beef production is a particularly thirsty user of water, requiring more irrigation water per pound of product than any other animal-based food. With companies increasingly setting science-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction and water stewardship targets, the blended burger is a sustainability strategy that could sit alongside renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, and waste reduction measures to make progress toward ambitious environmental goals.

Encouragingly, the beef-mushroom blended burger also appears to not increase costs for food service operators. Effects on costs and profitability will depend on the relative prices of beef and mushrooms, the effects on meal preparation time, necessity for additional chef training and kitchen equipment, and the listed price of the blended burger on menus.

A 2014-15 trial in a Baltimore public school suggested that the blended burger could be at least cost-neutral compared to traditional beef burgers. Over time, if meat producers and distributors sell pre-prepared blended burgers, economies of scale could make the blended burger an even more attractive business proposition to food service.

The blended burger is already starting to gain traction across the United States. Last month, Better Buying Lab member Sodexo introduced “The Natural,” a beef-mushroom blend aimed at meeting increasing consumer demand for sustainable foods with a lighter footprint. It will be used to create full-flavored dishes like burgers, lasagna, and chili in workplaces, universities, and other settings across the country.

Another Lab member, Stanford University’s Residential & Dining Enterprises, has been exclusively offering blended burgers in their operations for several years. And in mid-2017, Sonic became the first national burger chain to join the trend, trialing Sonic Slingers—their “juiciest burger ever”—at locations across the country.

We at WRI’s Better Buying Lab are working with member companies and partners in the culinary world to refine and scale this remixed burger across the market. This includes researching and testing improved names that could further drive demand for blended burgers.

The potential is so great that the Lab is pursuing the blended burger as one its three core Power Dishes, which are more sustainable menu items with the kind of appeal and familiarity to go mainstream.

A Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating

Shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets does not always need to mean overhauling people’s lifestyles. The blended burger is a nice example of a potential “multiple win”—better for the environment, better for health and enjoyed by consumers.

Blending plants into burgers is only a start. Consider that only about one-third of ground beef is consumed in the form of burgers in the United States. If plants were mixed into all ground beef dishes—tacos, chili, lasagna, meatballs, pasta sauces, and so on—the total potential environmental benefits could be much higher.

Meat producers and distributors, restauranteurs, chefs, food service operators and retailers all have a role to play in serving up this delicious strategy for change.

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Excerpt:

Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard, & Gerard Pozzi, World Resources Institute

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The United States: Innovation and Immobilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/united-states-innovation-immobility/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-states-innovation-immobility http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/united-states-innovation-immobility/#comments Tue, 20 Feb 2018 11:08:09 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154397 Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami.

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Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami.

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Feb 20 2018 (IPS)

It is the country of paradox, based on the double column of creativity and tradition. Americans are unable to escape the twin submission to the adamnism of being the first and the last to accept that the rest of the planet can be more original and may outrank them in any field.

Expelled, transferred, fled from Europe, they refuse to admit that the reconstructed European civilization, which they have neglected since 1776, can be superior to them. Sometimes, as Trump came up with, they would willingly admit Norwegians, especially if this option would prevent the arrival of citizens from the shithole dumps of the galaxy. It is a useless alternative.

Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

The United States is in danger if it strives stubbornly to maintain myths that slow its progress. Its idyllic interpretation of its foundational moments prevents Americans from accepting how much the world has changed by technology, social habits and laws, aspects among many others to which the genuine Mayflower and Ellis Island civilization has contributed in an impressive way. But the United States insists on believing that change, especially if it implies the admission of a subtle inferiority with respect to Europe, is detrimental to the survival of its identity.

The new massacre at another school (could have been in a mall, it does not matter) reminds us that the leaders of the United States and millions of citizens injure themselves with permanent damage. They erroneously interpret certain pioneering premises of their fundamental laws to their detriment. They confuse epochs and concepts sheltered under a security blanket that is shown as brutally perforated.

The so-called “right to bear arms” (what does not mean to use them at will), enthroned in the Second Amendment, has its origin in the era when there were neither federal armed forces nor the original states had the resources to maintain security. There were no structures that guaranteed the monopoly of the exercise of force (and protective violence, if appropriate) that is the hallmark of the Nation-State that inherited the authority of the old kingdoms and empires.

The new massacre at another school (could have been in a mall, it does not matter) reminds us that the leaders of the United States and millions of citizens injure themselves with permanent damage. They erroneously interpret certain pioneering premises of their fundamental laws to their detriment. They confuse epochs and concepts sheltered under a security blanket that is shown as brutally perforated.


The perverse belief that individuals are policemen and drivers of tanks in defense of their families and heritage, beyond the living room of their homes, can contribute to a comfort in which the individual is sacred. Society is secondary. The American “exceptionalism” prevents accepting that in other countries the forging of private armies and the collection of lethal weapons is not allowed, beyond the museum pieces. The opposite would be to admit the superiority of a Europe that had to be rescued from its own sins on two occasions. Europeans are masters in stumbling over the same stone, but after WWI they have learnt.

In this new massacre, more young people and children are victims of a system with atrocious deficiencies of mental health, education, and (why not?) well understood discipline. The key to these extremely serious incidents lies in the shortcomings of health plans that are gripped by the same myth of superiority and animosity towards what is interpreted (horror!) as “socialism”. The “system” (to call it somehow that) of health of the United States is a disaster of colossal proportions. But nobody seems capable of correcting it, innovating it or changing it. It is another result of the survival of foundational myths.

The beneficiaries of this health chaos are diverse. Of particular note are the private insurance companies that offer coverage to privileged users, who can afford to pay the fees and co-pay. They are followed by the manufacturers of medicines that claim the need to recover the costs of research (often developed with public funds). Then there are the doctors who must pay the debts incurred in obtaining their licenses in private universities. And finally, there are the politicians who play on the side of opposition to medicine and public health, universal and free, under the claim that this modality is a variant of “socialism”, a word pronounced with a “communist” accent

The losers are the millions of disinherited citizens who do not have access to jobs with mandatory coverage and shared financing. The worst affected are the unemployed who must be temporarily admitted to public hospitals or covered by charities. But there are those who recklessly go free until surgery leaves them without a home and inheritance. And when someone, like Obama, tries to change this chaos, he is crucified and his project becomes a primary target of annihilation.

When one asks why millions of Europeans are willing to accept these “socialist” solutions, in many of the capitalist countries with the highest rates of development, equality, education, low crime, reasonable birth rates and life expectancy, the answer is simple: because they accept to pay high taxes. Americans themselves pay the same high contributions, and swear without questioning that primary and secondary education remains public, universal. They accept this “socialist” modality.

But Americans and the politicians who stubbornly oppose  a reform are not willing to do the same with health, a fundamental right as life, freedom and … the pursuit of happiness, as the jeffersonian motto says. And they allow this unjust madness until the next group murder, committed by a madman, lacking basic health coverage, armed to the teeth, protected by the constitutional amendment that allows him to “have and bear arms.”

Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami.
jroy@miami.edu

 

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Excerpt:

Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami.

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In the Wake of the Millennium Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/wake-millennium-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wake-millennium-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/wake-millennium-migration/#comments Thu, 04 Jan 2018 10:49:45 +0000 Peter Costantini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153718 A century ago, Italian immigrants told a joke: “Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I learned three things: one, the streets were not paved with gold; two, the streets were not paved at all; and three, they expected me to pave them.” More recently, […]

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Memorial to migrants who died crossing, on U.S.-Mexico border fence, Tijuana. Credit: Peter Costantini

Memorial to migrants who died crossing, on U.S.-Mexico border fence, Tijuana. Credit: Peter Costantini

By Peter Costantini
SEATTLE, Jan 4 2018 (IPS)

A century ago, Italian immigrants told a joke: “Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I learned three things: one, the streets were not paved with gold; two, the streets were not paved at all; and three, they expected me to pave them.”

More recently, Mexican and Central American immigrants have been drawn northward by similarly voracious demand for their labor. Starting in the 1980s, a massive exodus of Mesoamericans swelled, cresting around 2000. Let’s call it the Millennium Migration.

The majority of the migrants were Mexican, and most were undocumented. They were driven by powerful push-pull effects: the disastrous 1990s depression in Mexico next door to a boom in the States as its population grayed.

It’s clear that the influx produced modest but tangible benefits for nearly all native-born consumers and workers. Even the six percent of the workforce with no high-school diploma experienced few to no negative effects, suffering mainly from broader forces like automation and outsourcing. In an economic sense, there was no immigration crisis.

The migratory surge built on a century-long tradition: circular migration back and forth to the rhythms of the US and Mexican economies. Many migrants were driven by the Mexican Dream, sending home remittances and returning to build a house there.

This time, though, the economy pulled them into new industries beyond agriculture, like construction and lodging, and towards new areas of the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast.

The influx slowed after the 2000 dot-com crash, and ended with the bursting of the housing bubble and the resulting Great Recession. Since 2008, slightly more undocumented people have gone back to Mexico than have entered the U.S.

The Millennium Migration was the largest in U.S. history in absolute terms. It left Latinos as the biggest minority group with 16.3 percent of the population, and shifted demographic and political balances in many areas.

Nearly a decade later, it’s clear that the influx produced modest but tangible benefits for nearly all native-born consumers and workers. Even the six percent of the workforce with no high-school diploma experienced few to no negative effects, suffering mainly from broader forces like automation and outsourcing. In an economic sense, there was no immigration crisis.

Millennium immigrants avoided areas of unemployment, and gravitated towards places with plentiful low-wage jobs. If they could not find work, they usually moved on to look elsewhere.

Most undocumented workers lacked the education and English to compete with natives. They often segmented into parallel, complementary labor markets. And they tended to “bump up” natives into jobs requiring better communications skills.

Most labor and community organizations have welcomed immigrants as allies. The infrequent cases of immigrant-native workplace friction have nearly always been fomented by unscrupulous employers. Undocumented workers forced to live in fear and insecurity are much more vulnerable to management pressures to accept lower wages and worse working conditions. The best way to protect immigrants and native workers, most advocates agree, is to join forces to defend everyone’s human and labor rights.

Those rights, under international law and the U.S. Constitution, are nearly the same for immigrants as for citizens. Yet the immigration system makes it difficult for many immigrants to exercise them. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has ruled twice against the U.S. government for discriminating against Mexican workers. And the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants has criticized the U.S. for biased and inhumane treatment of immigrants, especially children, and denial of due process for them.

Entering the country without papers is not a crime. It’s an administrative infraction similar to parking overtime or trespassing for a benign purpose. Most of us are no less “illegal”: we routinely exceed speed limits or commit other minor violations.

Over recent decades, though, demagogues like pundit Lou Dobbs and ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio have incubated a nativist and racist constituency by scapegoating immigrants. Now the Trump administration has made the West Wing a bouncy house for bigots, who are lighting the neo-Nazis’ and Ku Klux Klan’s torches.

 

Names of migrants who died crossing, on U.S.-Mexico border fence, Tijuana. Credit: Peter Costantini

Names of migrants who died crossing, on U.S.-Mexico border fence, Tijuana. Credit: Peter Costantini

 

A half-century-long escalation of unjust laws and repressive enforcement – dubbed “Juan Crow” – has manufactured “illegals” by criminalizing immigration and militarizing the border. Juan Crow set quotas for Mexicans so low that it left them no practical way to migrate legally. It legislatively twisted simply re-entering the country and other minor misdemeanors into phony “aggravated felonies”, punishable by prison and deportation. And it continually feeds a guaranteed stream of non-criminals through a judicial assembly line into abusive private prisons, whose owners bankroll their congressional enablers.

To the kids who skip school because they’re afraid that their parents will be taken away while they’re gone, this persecution must feel a lot like a police state. To those imprisoned for non-crimes, the detention centers must feel a lot like a gulag.

Juan Crow has multiplied the border enforcement budget many times. It has not been very effective at keeping out immigrants, but it has raised the costs in money and lives by pushing crossers out into the Sonoran Desert.

The gold-plated iron fist has also effectively backstopped and subsidized Mexican organized crime. The narcos now tax or control most crossings. Trafficking, kidnapping and extorting migrants may be a bigger profit center for some than drugs. To avoid them, many crossers either overstay visas or cross concealed at a legal port of entry.

The increased dangers and costs have also forced many migrants to stop circulating. This has created a paperless but deeply rooted diaspora of over 11 million. Two-thirds of them have lived here for more than 10 years, and nearly half of these own houses. More than four-fifths of their children are U.S. citizens, while many of the rest are Dreamers.

Today, shrinking demographic and economic pressures in Mexico make another mass migration improbable. More non-Mexicans than Mexicans are now detained at the border, both in much reduced numbers. And China and India have passed Mexico as the leading sources of new immigrants.

The Millennium Migration has enriched the “gorgeous mosaic” that we’re still struggling to become. Yet its realities are continually distorted by restrictionist immigrant-bashing.

We expected the migrants to pick our crops, build our houses and clean our hotel rooms. But they did much more: they became part of our communities and economies. A decade later, those millions without papers have earned a freeway to citizenship, starting with the Dreamers and their families.

Minimal human decency – and enlightened self-interest – demand that we dismantle Juan Crow. These pilgrims merit paths out of the desert that let them reunite families and reestablish circular migration responsive to needs north and south of the border. Safeguards should prevent employers from taking advantage of immigrant or native workers.

Mexican-American comedian George Lopez said that when people ask him how he feels about Trump’s proposed wall, he tells them, “You know what? We’ll get over it.”

At a recent gathering, a man in a cowboy hat put it more bluntly: “Aquí estamos y no nos vamos, y si nos sacan, nos regresamos.” – “Here we are, and we’re not leaving, and if they kick us out, we’ll come right back.”

 

Peter Costantini is an analyst and writer based in Seattle. For the past three decades, he has written about migration, labor, Latin America and international economics for Inter Press Service and other news sources. He is currently embedded as a volunteer with immigrant-rights groups.

This commentary is based on a heavily footnoted and referenced paper, available for download from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59dffb37e4b09e31db9757cd

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Uncertainty Surrounds Renegotiation of NAFTA and Its Consequences for Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico/#comments Wed, 03 Jan 2018 16:32:20 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153721 The first few months of 2018 will be key to defining the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), whose renegotiation due to the insistence of U.S. President Donald Trump has Mexico on edge because of the potential economic and social consequences. After five rounds of ministerial negotiations, which began in August, the […]

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The World is Losing the Battle Against Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/world-losing-battle-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-losing-battle-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/world-losing-battle-child-labour/#comments Fri, 17 Nov 2017 22:06:46 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153085 The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour,  which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate. Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, […]

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The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, held in the Argentine capital, concluded with an urgent call to accelerate efforts to eradicate this major problem by 2025, a goal of the international community that today does not appear to be feasible. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, held in the Argentine capital, concluded with an urgent call to accelerate efforts to eradicate this major problem by 2025, a goal of the international community that today does not appear to be feasible. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 17 2017 (IPS)

The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour,  which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate.

Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, said representatives of governments, workers and employers in the Buenos Aires Declaration on Child Labour Forced Labour and Youth Employment.

The document, signed at the end of the Nov. 14-16 meeting, recognises that unless something changes, the goals set by the international community will not be met.

As a result, there is a pressing need to “Accelerate efforts to end child labour in all its forms by 2025,” the text states.

In the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), target seven of goal eight – which promotes decent work – states that child labour in all its forms is to be eradicated by 2025."The increase in child labour in the countryside has to do with informal employment. Most of the children work in family farming, without pay, in areas where the state does not reach.” -- Junko Sazaki

“For the first time, this Conference recognised that child labour is mostly concentrated in agriculture and is growing,” said Bernd Seiffert, focal point on child labour, gender, equity and rural employment at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“While the general numbers for child labour dwindled from 162 million to 152 million since 2013, in rural areas the number grew: from 98 to 108 million,” he explained in a conversation with IPS.

Seiffert said: “We heard a lot in this conference about the role played by child labour in global supply chains. But the majority of boys and girls work for the local value chains, in the production of food.”

The declared aim of the Conference, organised by the Argentine Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security with technical assistance from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), was to “take stock of the progress made” since the previous meeting, held in 2013 in Brasilia.

Guest of honour 2014 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Kailash Satyarthi said he was “confident that the young will be able to steer the situation that we are leaving them,” but warned that it would not make sense to hold a new conference in four years if the situation remains the same.

Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in his country, India, in defence of children’s rights, and in particular for his fight against forced labour, from which he has saved thousands of children.

“We know that children are used because they are the cheapest labour force. But I ask how much longer we are going to keep coming to these conferences to go over the same things again. The next meeting should be held only if it is to celebrate achievements,” he said.

Junko Sasaki, director of the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division at FAO, said “the increase in child labour in the countryside has to do with informal employment. Most of the children work in family farming, without pay, in areas where the state does not reach.”

“We must promote the incorporation of technologies and good agricultural practices to allow many poor families to stop having to make their children work,” she told IPS.

According to the ILO, as reflected by the final declaration, 71 percent of child labour is concentrated in agriculture, and 42 percent of that work is hazardous and is carried out in informal and family enterprises.

“There are also gender differences. While it is common for children to be exposed to pesticides that can affect their health, girls usually have to work more on household chores. In India, for example, many girls receive less food than boys,” said Sazaki.

Children were notably absent from the crowded event, which brought together government officials and delegates of international organisations, the business community and trade unionists.

Their voice was only heard through the presentation of the document “It’s Time to Talk”, the result of research carried out by civil society organisations, which interviewed 1,822 children between the ages of five and 18 who work, in 36 countries.

The study revealed that children who work do so mainly to help support their families, and that their main concern is the conditions in which they work.

They feel good if their work allows them to continue studying, if they can learn from work and earn money; and they become frustrated when their education is hindered, when they do not develop any skills, or their health is affected.

“We understand that children who work have no other option and that we should not criminalise but protect them and make sure that the conditions in which they perform tasks do not put them at risk or prevent their education,” said Anne Jacob, of the Germany-based Kindernothilfe, one of the organisations that participated in the research.

For Jacob, “it is outrageous that the problem of child labour should be addressed without listening to children.”

“After talking with them, we understood that there is no global solution to this issue, but that the structural causes can only be resolved locally, depending on the economic, cultural and social circumstances of each place,” she told IPS.

The participants in the Conference warned in the final declaration that armed conflicts, which affect 250 million children, are aggravating the situation of child labour.

Virginia Gamba, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, explained that “modern armed conflicts use children as if they were disposable materials. Children are no longer in the periphery of conflicts but at the centre.”

In this respect, she pointed out that hundreds of thousands of children are left without the possibility of access to formal education every year in different parts of the world. Her office counted 750 attacks on schools in the midst of armed conflict in 2016, while this year it registered 175 in just one month.

“To fight child labour and help children, we have to think about mobile learning and home-based education. Education must be provided even in the most fragile situations, even in refugee camps, since that is the only means of providing normality for a child in the midst of a conflict,” said Gamba.

In the end, the Conference left the bitter sensation that solutions are still far away.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder warned that the concentration of child labour in rural work indicates that it often has nothing to do with employers, but with families.

It is easy for some to blame transnational corporations or governments. But the truth is that it is everyone’s fault, he concluded.

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Back-to-Back Hurricanes Take Heavy Toll on the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 16:58:24 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152351 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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A seven-year old boy stands in front of debris as Hurricane Irma moves off from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Credit: UNICEF/UN0119399

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

As you know, we are coming off a jam-packed High-level week and opening of the General Assembly. Some of the most important speeches during that period came from leaders of Caribbean nations reeling from back-to-back hurricanes.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda reported that the entire population of Barbuda had been left homeless. The Prime Minister of Dominica declared that he had come to the United Nations “straight from the front line of the war on climate change”.

Today I am announcing that I will travel on Saturday (October 7) to Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage and to assess what more the United Nations can do to help people recover, visiting of course also the operations that are taking place there.

When I met them last month, I was struck most of all by a prevailing message from all the Caribbean leaders – including from the hardest hit countries. Yes, they said, we urgently need support today. But even in the wake of utter devastation, they urged the world to act for tomorrow.

As I said in my address to the General Assembly, we should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict, and they predict it will be the new normal of a warming world. I would like to share some relevant data about what we are seeing.

First, some facts about this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda, was a Category 5 hurricane for three consecutive days – this is the longest on satellite record. Irma’s winds reached 300 kilometers per hour for 37 hours — the longest on record at that intensity.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in the same year. And, of course, they were followed by Hurricane Maria, which decimated Dominica and had severe impacts across Puerto Rico.

It is rare to see so many storms of such strength so early in the season.

Second, some facts about the changes in major climate systems. Sea levels have risen more than 10 inches since 1870. Over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters has nearly tripled, and economic losses have quintupled.

Scientists are learning more and more about the links between climate change and extreme weather. Climate change is warming the seas. This, in turn, means more water vapor in the atmosphere. When storms come, they bring more rain.

A warmer climate turbocharges the intensity of hurricanes. Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean. The melting of glaciers, and the thermal expansion of the seas, means bigger storm surges. With more and more people living on coastlines, the damage is, and will be that much greater.

Scientific models have long predicted an increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is precisely what is happening – and even sooner than expected. To date, the United Nations and its partners have provided a variety of humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean region by air and by sea: 18 tons of food; 3 million water purification tablets; 3,000 water tanks; 2,500 tents; 2,000 mosquito nets and school kits; 500 debit cards for cash assistance; and much else.

We have launched appeals for $113.9 million to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate period ahead. I commend those countries that are showing solidarity with the Caribbean countries at this time of dire need, including those doing so through South-South cooperation.

But on the whole, I regret to report, the response has been poor. I urge donors to respond more generously in the weeks to come. The United Nations will continue to help countries in the Caribbean to strengthen disaster preparedness, working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

We are strongly committed to helping small island states and, indeed, all countries to adapt to inevitable climate impacts, to increase the pace of recovery and to strengthen resilience overall. Innovative financing mechanisms will be crucial in enabling countries, like the Caribbean ones, to cope with external shocks of such significant magnitude.

We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change. But we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future. Once again, I urge countries to implement the Paris Agreement, and with greater ambition.

That is why I will convene a Climate Summit in 2019, as you know. But today and every day, I am determined to ensure that the United Nations works to protect our common future and to seize the opportunities of climate action.

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Excerpt:

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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Making an Economic Case for Climate Actionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/making-economic-case-climate-action/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-economic-case-climate-action http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/making-economic-case-climate-action/#comments Mon, 02 Oct 2017 15:16:58 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152311 Having faced a year of record temperatures and devastating hurricanes, the United States stands more to lose if it doesn’t take steps to reduce the risk and impact of climate change, according to a new report. Launched by the Universal Ecological Fund, it details the costs of the U.S.’ climate inaction to the national economy […]

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) receives the legal instruments for joining the Paris Agreement from Barack Obama, President of the United States, at a special ceremony held in Hangzhou, China. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 2 2017 (IPS)

Having faced a year of record temperatures and devastating hurricanes, the United States stands more to lose if it doesn’t take steps to reduce the risk and impact of climate change, according to a new report.

Launched by the Universal Ecological Fund, it details the costs of the U.S.’ climate inaction to the national economy and public health and urges for policies to move the country towards a sustainable future.

“It’s not about ideology, it’s about good business sense,” the former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the report’s co-author James McCarthy told IPS.

“Many people say that they will not have the discussion because they are not convinced of the science—well then, let’s just look at the economics, let’s look at what it is costing to not have that discussion,” he continued.

A Wake of Destruction

The U.S. is still reeling from an unprecedented month of three hurricanes and 76 wildfires, devastating landscapes from Puerto Rico to Washington.

Hurricane Maria alone left Puerto Rican residents without food, water, or electricity. Approximately 44 percent of the population lacks clean drinking water and just 11 out of 69 hospitals have fuel or power, pushing the island to the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

“This year was nothing like we’ve seen,” said McCarthy.

Though aid delivery is underway, the economic losses from not only Hurricane Maria, but also Hurricanes Harvey and Irma along with the wildfires that swept through the Western coast, are estimated to be the costliest weather events in U.S. history.

The report estimates a price-tag of nearly 300 billion dollars in damage, representing 70 percent of the costs of all 92 weather events in the last decade.

Since hurricane season is yet to end, more expensive and damaging storms may still be in the forecast.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information, the number of extreme weather events that incurred at least one billion dollars in economic losses and damages have increased in the last decade by almost two and a half times.

Such losses will only rise as human-induced climate change continues, contributing to dry conditions favorable for more wildfires and warm oceans which lead to more intense storms and higher sea levels.

McCarthy, who is also an Oceanography Professor at Harvard University, told IPS that investments beyond creating hurricane-proof infrastructure are needed to counter such damage.

“Infrastructure is important, but everything we can do to reduce the intensity of these events, by slowing the rate of global warming, will make future infrastructure more likely to be effective,” he said.

An Unhealthy Dependence

Among the major drivers of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels which the U.S. continues to rely on to produce energy.

Coal, oil and natural gas—all of which are fossil fuels— currently account for over 80 percent of the primary energy generated and used in the North American nation. When such fossil fuels are burned, large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) are released to the atmosphere, contributing to rapid changes in the climate.

Though emissions regulations have reduced air pollution health damages by 35 percent, or nearly 67 billion dollars per year, burning fossil fuels still produces health costs that average 240 billion dollars every year.

If fossil fuels continue to be used, both economic losses and health costs are estimated to reach at least 360 billion dollars annually, or 55 percent of U.S.’ growth, over the next decade.

And the government won’t be footing the expensive bill, the report notes.

“Time after time, we are going to see the public bearing the costs…it becomes a personal burden for them,” McCarthy told IPS.

He highlighted the importance of the U.S. taking steps to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“To move people, literally and figuratively, into the future to be more healthy and more sustainable and a less expensive way of doing business just makes sense,” McCarthy said.

Not only will it provide sustainable clean electricity and reduce the rate of global warming, renewable energy also can add to the economy by producing jobs.

Clean energy already employs almost 2 million workers, and doubling solar and wind generation can create another 500,000 jobs.

In order to successfully transition to a low-carbon economy, investments are essential, some of which can potentially come from taxing carbon emissions, the report states. A carbon tax aims to reduce emissions and promote a more efficient use of energy, including the transition to electric cars.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a tax on carbon emissions can potentially produce revenues of up to 200 billion dollars in the U.S. within the next decade.

The carbon tax has been a controversial policy, with some expressing concern that companies will simply shift the cost to the consumer by way of increasing the prices of gasoline and electricity.

However, McCarthy noted that the public already currently bears the burden in terms of damages from extreme weather events and unhealthy air expenses.

A Government Denial

Despite the evidence for climate change and the role of fossil fuels in driving such change, U.S. President Donald Trump has begun to unravel many essential environmental protections.

Not only did his administration announce the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark Paris Agreement, but it is currently working to dismantle the Clean Power Plan (CPP) which aims to reduce carbon pollution from power plants across the country.

The move is tied to President Trump’s repeated calls to renew investments in the coal industry, claiming that it will bring back jobs.

McCarthy said that these actions are not “borne out by the facts.”

“The notion that you will be able to return the U.S. to a coal economy—there is no evidence for that. And secondly, if you are going to create jobs, the sensible way to create them is in a forward-looking area such as renewable energy rather than the highly risky and repeated exposure of coal,” he told IPS.

In spite of a national strategy that may exacerbate climate change, McCarthy said that cities and states are taking the lead and will continue to move in the right direction regardless of bipartisan politics.

Iowa is the leading U.S. state in wind power with over 35 percent of its electricity generated from wind energy.

In Oklahoma, where U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt hails from, 25 percent of electricity comes from wind energy.

“When you look at a state like Iowa and see [their] electricity is coming from wind energy, it doesn’t say anything about the politics of Iowa—it says something about people being sensible about how they spend their money and what they invest in to get a particular product,” McCarthy said.

The U.S.’ reluctance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions not only impacts Americans, but also people around the world. Since the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will take time, McCarthy expressed hope that the U.S. will change its course.

“We hope over that period of time that [President Trump] will see that this partnership has enormous value and not only what the U.S. is doing that affects the rest of the world but vice versa,” he said.

“We should find reason to join efforts with the community of nations that have recognized, much like what we try to say in this report, that if we don’t do something, these are going to be very expensive and, in some cases, life-threatening consequences of this sort of neglect,” McCarthy concluded.

The EPA is expected to release a revised version of the CPP in the coming weeks, and it is expected to be significantly weaker than the original.

Governments will be convening in Bonn, Germany for the UN’s Annual Climate Change Conference (COP23) in November to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The focus will be on how to implement issues including emissions reductions, provision of finance, and technology.

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Caribbean Picks Up the Pieces After Monster Stormhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/caribbean-picks-pieces-monster-storm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-picks-pieces-monster-storm http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/caribbean-picks-pieces-monster-storm/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:27:31 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152090 When Hurricane Irma ripped through the British Virgins Islands on Sept. 6, claiming seven lives, injuring an unknown number of people and destroying built infrastructure as well as significantly damaging the natural environment, the ferocity of the storm shocked many of the islands’ residents, including 72-year-old Egbert Smith, who has lived through plenty of severe […]

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Hurricane Irma left significant damage to public infrastructure, housing, tourism, commerce, and the natural environment in the British Virgin Islands. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Hurricane Irma left significant damage to public infrastructure, housing, tourism, commerce, and the natural environment in the British Virgin Islands. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

When Hurricane Irma ripped through the British Virgins Islands on Sept. 6, claiming seven lives, injuring an unknown number of people and destroying built infrastructure as well as significantly damaging the natural environment, the ferocity of the storm shocked many of the islands’ residents, including 72-year-old Egbert Smith, who has lived through plenty of severe storms.

“I seen a lot of hurricanes pass through here, but I never seen none like this. Never!” he told IPS from what was left of his home in Sophers Hole, a resort community toward the western end of Tortola, the largest and main island in the BVI.“If you read the climate change literature, as shocking as it is to experience this sort of disaster, there is nothing here that is a surprise." --Camillo Gonsalves, minister of sustainable development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Across from Smith’s beachfront patio, the storm deposited a large catamaran onto the roof of a one-storey building, shredding a large part of the pleasure craft.

On the other end of the bay, the Jost Van Dyke ferry terminal lay in ruins, its roof ripped off, and a large SUV pinned on top of raised a metal platform, the mangled vehicle having been deposited there by the storm surge.

“They say it was a category 5 but I think it was more than that. It might have been more than that,” Smith said of the monster storm, which lashed the island with 185 mph winds.

Before enduring Irma, Smith considered Hurricane Marilyn of 1995 to have been a terrible hurricane. But not anymore.

“This one was bad,” he tells IPS of the storm, which trashed his bedroom and its contents as his wife hid inside a closet and he just put his feet up on a chair and relaxed, having given up on trying to pick up items that were falling in his house during the passage of the hurricane.

On Sept. 14, a full week after the storm, the British Virgin Islands was still struggling to get basic systems back on track, with disaster managers forced to seek refuge in the recently constructed New Peebles Hospital after Irma destroyed their headquarters.

In addition to the dead and injured, the storm left widespread damage to the road infrastructure, housing stock, ports, telecommunications, electrical infrastructure and critical facilities.

Hurricane Irma had the most devastating impact on Sophers Hole, according to 72-year-old resident, Egbert Smith. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Governor of the British Overseas Territory, Augustus Jaspert, declared a state of emergency on Sept. 7 and on Sept. 11, he extended by three hours the curfew put in place three days earlier, ordering citizens to remain indoors between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. to give disaster responders an opportunity to respond to the mammoth clean-up and recovery.

Disaster officials say a preliminary assessment indicated that 60 to 80 per cent of the buildings throughout the territory are damaged or destroyed, with a large percentage of the roofs severely compromised.

Approximately 351 persons are being accommodated in 10 temporary shelters and 106 persons were evacuated from Anegada, another of the islands, prior to impact.

One week after the storm, disaster managers were still considering options for housing the large number of displaced persons.

The municipal supply of water supply is not functional due to the lack of electricity and there was a limited stock of potable water available, with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay providing a limited supply to Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, two of the smaller islands in the territory.

Both of the desalination plants on Virgin Gorda, which has a population of 3,500, were destroyed.

The electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure across the islands has been severely damaged and electricity is only being provided through generators.

Caribbean Cellular Telephone Ltd., the leading wireless provider in the BVI is not functioning and Digicel has coverage only in Road Town, the main city, while Flow has sporadic coverage throughout the territory.

The road infrastructure has been severely damaged and heavy equipment operators have been deployed to all districts and have been working to clear roads to at least single lane traffic.

The hurricane cut a similar swathe of destruction across other islands in the northeastern Caribbean before slamming into Florida last weekend, leaving more than six million people without power and many thousands in shelters. Overall, the storm claimed at least 14 lives in the so-called Sunshine State, six in the coastal U.S. states of South Carolina and Georgia, and 38 across the Caribbean, though some estimates are even higher.

It also came on the heels of yet another devastating hurricane – Harvey – which sideswiped Barbados and caused catastrophic flooding in the U.S. Gulf state of Texas, where 82 people died and more than 30,000 were displaced.

Camillo Gonsalves, minister of sustainable development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was among the officials from the Caribbean Community — a regional bloc of nations of which the BVI is an associate member — who visited the BVI in the aftermath of Irma.

Gonsalves visited to assess the situation in the territory and to ascertain what help Kingstown could provide, as well as to inquire into the welfare of Vincentian nationals, who make up 10 per cent of the population of the BVI.

The minister, who, as a diplomat, had helped was among the team of negotiators who ensured the interest of small island development states was captured in the 2015 Paris climate accord, said that those who have been paying close enough attention should not be surprised by the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma.

“If you read the climate change literature, as shocking as it is to experience this sort of disaster, there is nothing here that is a surprise,” he told IPS, adding that forecasters have long warned that with there would be more frequent and intense tropical cyclones as a result of climate change.

“You can’t point to any one storm and say this storm here was created by climate change but any casual reading of the scientific literature tells you this is going to happen in this area and it is going to affect livelihoods, it is going to affect infrastructure, it is going to affect just the way these countries exist and it is going to happen more and more in the future,” Gonsalves said.

The Caribbean and other countries in the region, including the United States, are losing lives and suffering tens of billions of dollars in damages from severe hurricanes such as Irma and other weather events – at a time when Washington seems to want to reopen the debate about the role of human activity in the well-documented warming of planet and what must be done to prevent it from getting even worse.

But Gonsalves is convinced that there is no debate about the causes of climate change and what must be done to mitigate against and adapt to it.

“We didn’t create this problem,” he said, adding that Caribbean nations, as small islands, have to assist one another and to band together in solidarity even as they are among the worst affected by climate change, notwithstanding their negligible contribution to it.

“Those who created this problem have a special responsibility to satisfy their debt to humanity and to assist countries like this not only recover from storms but adapt to the already changing circumstances and climate,” Gonsalves told IPS.

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US Pressure Keeps Palestinians Blacklisted at UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/us-pressure-keeps-palestinians-blacklisted-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-pressure-keeps-palestinians-blacklisted-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/us-pressure-keeps-palestinians-blacklisted-un/#comments Fri, 01 Sep 2017 16:40:37 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151890 When Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed the appointment of former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as UN’s Special Representative in Libya back in February, the proposal was shot down by US Ambassador Nikki Haley, purely because he was a Palestinian. And speaking before the US House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee in June, Haley […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 1 2017 (IPS)

When Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed the appointment of former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as UN’s Special Representative in Libya back in February, the proposal was shot down by US Ambassador Nikki Haley, purely because he was a Palestinian.

Credit: Institute for Palestine Studies

And speaking before the US House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee in June, Haley went even further down the road when she indicated she would block any appointment of a Palestinian official to a senior role at the UN because Washington “does not recognize Palestine” as an independent state.

Suddenly, the Palestinians, for the first time, seem blacklisted– and declared political outcasts– in a world body where some of them held key posts in a bygone era.

Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, told IPS: “ As the US Administration appears to be steering a breakneck course towards a nuclear war with North Korea, it is little short of remarkable that its representative at the UN can find time to continue her vendetta against the Palestinian people while Israel, a serial violator of the international law the UN was created to uphold, is able not only to sit at the UN but to serve on key committees”.

Instead of blocking Palestinians from their rightful place in the community of nations, Ambassador Haley would do better to push for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land conquered in 1967 and welcome a fully sovereign State of Palestine to the UN, said Hijab, who is of Palestinian origin, and once served as a senior staff member of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“I wonder if Ambassador Haley is aware that, because Israel has colonized their country, Palestinians carry the nationality of many other countries around the world, including the United States. How far will she take her crusade against this beleaguered people?,” she asked.

In most instances, Palestinians working at the United Nations have been nationals of UN member states, acquiring citizenships in countries such as UK, US, Jordan, Canada, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, among others.

Since 2012, Palestine has been a “non-member observer state” at the UN—as is the Holy See (Vatican).

As one Arab diplomat speculated: “If Fayyad, who was educated at the University of Texas, was in fact also a US citizen, Haley may have blocked the appointment of an American, not a Palestinian.”

“But that’s a question only Fayyad can answer. If true, it will be an irony of ironies”, he added.

Guterres, who apparently relented to US pressure by stepping back on Fayyad’s appointment plucked up courage to tell reporters: “I think it was a serious mistake. I think that Mr. Fayyad was the right person in the right place at the right time, and I think that those who will lose will be the Libyan people and the Libyan peace process.”

And, he rightly added: ““I believe that it is essential for everybody to understand that people serving the UN are serving in their personal capacities. They don’t represent a country or a government – they are citizens of the world representing the UN Charter and abiding by the UN Charter,” he said, pointedly directing his answer at Haley

Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General who headed the Department of Public Information (DPI), told IPS that “traditionally, U.N. staffers need not renounce their loyalty to their home country, but they will have to take an oath of exclusive loyalty to the U.N. Secretary-General which in effect places them as international civil servants- a once unique category recently, and systematically eroded.”

He pointed out that a number of Palestinians had served in the UN Secretariat since its early days, like Ismail Khalidi, a Saudi citizen of Palestinian origin and father of Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi, and Shukri Salameh, who was of Palestinian origin and Chief of Staff Services in the Office of Personnel in the UN’s Department of Public Information.

Other senior officials later served with Jordanian, Lebanese, Saudi, Syrian and other papers in addition to those like Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Yassir, who headed the audit department of UNDP and who apparently carried a Palestinian “Stateless” card at the time, said Sanbar, who served under five different UN secretaries-general.

He said a number of U.S. /U.N. officials were flexible on their own government’s position on politically-sensitive issues such as Under-Secretary General Joseph Vernon Reed — former Protocol Chief of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush—when he attended a General Assembly meeting in Geneva with the participation of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat when he was rebuffed in New York.

As to the approach of Secretary-General Guterres, Sanbar said: “I am not on the inside to comment; yet it seems not yet clear whether he is bowing to pressure or exercising extra care, while undertaking extensive travel, in making consensus senior appointments, including those for heads of Departments, some of whom were given short term extensions and others who are yet to be firmly designated.”

“Perhaps by the middle of next year, an informed perception will be clearer .Inshallah!”,he declared.

Admittedly, to be frank, he said, there were occasional cases where certain individuals tried to exploit the rightful plight of the Palestinian people to their personal advantage. Yet, generally, most international civil servants, made a special effort to demonstrate impressive performance,” said Sanbar.

Meanwhile, after a visit to Lebanon last week, Haley was gunning for the head of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Force Commander and Irish Major-General Michael Beary, and expressing regrets that he is not pursuing his mission of aggressively moving against the militant group, Hezbollah.

Asked for his comments, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters: “First of all, I would say that we obviously stand by the Force Commander in UNIFIL and we have full confidence in his work. I think the men and women of UNIFIL are doing work in a very delicate area. They report regularly and faithfully on what they, on what they see and on what they observe.”

“I understand there is a debate ongoing within Member States regarding the renewal of the mandate of UNIFIL. We will let that debate play out. It’s in the hands of the Security Council. It’s done under their authority,” he added

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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UN Rights Chief: Trump’s Attack on Press is “Dangerous”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/un-rights-chief-trumps-attack-press-dangerous/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-rights-chief-trumps-attack-press-dangerous http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/un-rights-chief-trumps-attack-press-dangerous/#comments Thu, 31 Aug 2017 21:57:28 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151872 Freedom of the press is under attack in the United States and could incite further violence against reporters, said a UN official. During a press conference, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein criticised U.S. President Trump for attacking news organisations and expressed concern over the consequences of such rhetoric. “It’s really quite […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Freedom of the press is under attack in the United States and could incite further violence against reporters, said a UN official.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

During a press conference, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein criticised U.S. President Trump for attacking news organisations and expressed concern over the consequences of such rhetoric.

“It’s really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only sort of a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution but very much something that the United States defended over the years, is now itself under attack from the President himself,” Zeid said.

“It’s sort of a stunning turnaround. And ultimately the sequence is a dangerous one,” he continued.

Throughout his presidential campaign and since taking office, President Trump has repeatedly described media organisations including the New York Times and CNN as “fake news.”

Most recently during a rally in Arizona, the President called journalists as “truly dishonest people” and criticised their coverage of his reaction to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville when he said violence was caused by “many sides.”

“To call these news organisations ‘fake’ does tremendous damage and to refer to individual journalists in this way—I have to ask the question: is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?” Zeid asked.

“I think at an enormous rally, referring to journalists as very bad people, you don’t have to stretch the imagination to see then what could happen to journalists.”

The High Commissioner cited the case of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs who was recently assaulted by Montana Republican Greg Gianforte.

He also pointed to the poisonous repercussions of such “demonisation” of the press around the world.

In Cambodia, spokesperson Phay Siphan has threatened to take action against media outlets that are perceived to be endangering “peace and security” while citing President Trump’s expulsion of news organisations from a White House briefing earlier this year

“Donald Trump’s ban of international media giants … sends a clear message that President Trump sees that news published by those media institutions does not reflect the real situation,” he said.

“Freedom of expression must be located within the domain of the law and take into consideration national interests and peace,” Siphan added.

Such cases will only expand, the High Commissioner said.

“I almost feel that the President [Trump] is driving the bus of humanity and we are careening down a mountain path,” Zeid said.

“From a human rights perspective, it seems to be reckless driving,” he concluded.

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“New Normal” for the U.S., All Too Familiar for the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-normal-u-s-familiar-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-normal-u-s-familiar-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-normal-u-s-familiar-caribbean/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 11:33:24 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151854 The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says it hopes that the devastating loss and damage that Hurricane Harvey has wrought in Texas might inspire the government of President Donald Trump to rethink its position on climate change. Hurricane Harvey, the strongest storm to hit the United States since 2005 and the costliest in […]

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Pearland, Texas after Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Credit: Brant Kelly/cc by 2.0

By Kenton X. Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says it hopes that the devastating loss and damage that Hurricane Harvey has wrought in Texas might inspire the government of President Donald Trump to rethink its position on climate change.

Hurricane Harvey, the strongest storm to hit the United States since 2005 and the costliest in U.S. history in terms of damage, made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25 and left much of Houston and other parts of the state under feet of floodwater."We must be touched with the feeling of their distress and their loss and their grief and their anguish, because we are subject to the same." --Minister of Foreign Affairs Louis Straker

Harvey made its way to the United States about a week after it passed near St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other countries in the Caribbean.

Residents of this eastern Caribbean nation breathed a sign of relief after the only lasting sign of the passage of the storm was some flooding in Bequia, the largest and northern-most of the Grenadine islands.

Harvey made landfall in Texas for a second time in less than a week on Tuesday and the damage it left in the “Lone Star State” was a reminder to Vincentians of the power of tropical cyclones and the damage that they have caused over the last decade in this multi-island nation.

“I wonder what we would be doing if we had that sort of persistent rain. I trust that what is happening in Houston will open the eyes of a lot of people worldwide with regards to climate change,” Minister of Transportation and Works, Sen. Julian Francis told a press conference in Kingstown on Monday.

Francis was updating the media on a road repair programme and the annual road-cleaning that came ahead of September, which is traditionally the heart of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The minister noted that the programme, which normally runs for 10 days, was reduced to eight because of the passage of Tropical Storm Harvey.

But the two days of work that the temporary workers employed under the programme lost as a result of the storm was nothing compared to the damage and loss left by less powerful weather systems over the past few years.

AMO and Special Operations agents conduct rescue with CBP UH-1N helicopter as part of Hurricane Harvey response. Credit: Public domain

The senator, who also has ministerial responsibilities for local government, expressed sympathy for the victims of Harvey but also criticized President Trump, who shortly after taking office pulled the United States out of the global Paris Accord to reduce the greenhouse emissions driving climate change and severe weather, has attempted to cut government funding for the agencies that monitor climate, and has long downplayed the problem while promoting the fossil fuel industry over renewables.

“It is pouring down on the fourth largest city in the United States of America but we know what the position of the sitting president and his administration is with regards to climate change.

“So I trust this comes as an eye-opener to the administrators and policymakers in the United States of America. I do feel sad and sympathise with the people of Texas… I have been following it closely and I say I wonder what would happen to us if we had that sort of downpour,” Francis said.

Speaking at a separate event later on Monday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is among the top 10 countries in the world most vulnerable to extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

“We don’t have to have high winds. Because we are mountainous, we have a lot of landslides, the rivers overflow their banks, a lot of disasters are caused in this country by heavy rainfall, without the wind.”

Gonsalves said that the nation’s seacoast is being eroded by wave action resulting from the frequent and more intense storms associated climate change.

“The entire eastern coast is being eroded and also on the western side of the island,” he said.

He noted that between 2014 and 2016, his government has had to rebuild five major bridges in a five-mile area in eastern St. Vincent.

The bridges were built to replace older ones damaged or destroyed by extreme weather events, which also necessitated redesign to accommodate larger water flows during storms ranging from tropical depressions to hurricane.

At a total cost of 7.4 million dollars, the bridges represent a significant budgetary expense in a multi-island nation whose capital expenditure allocation in 2016 was 74 million dollars.

“I say these things so that we can keep this matter in focus,” said Gonsalves, whose government in May introduced a one per cent levy to help fund the cost of disaster response and mitigation.

In 2016, flooding as a result of tropical waves left damage to public infrastructure totalling EC$37 million, almost 10 per cent of the 342-million-dollar national budget.

Meanwhile, at Tuesday’s meeting of the national assembly, Minister of Foreign Affairs Louis Straker expressed solidarity with the people of the United States, and used the experience of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to remind nationals of what Texans might be experiencing.

“We are not immune to natural disasters and we have had our own flooding here, the major one being 2013 Christmas Eve, in which 13 lives were lost,” Straker said.

“Some people say that this is because of global warming, climate change, something that is denied and rejected by the president of the United States,” he told parliament.

“But what we have seen in Texas what is referred to in language as ‘of epic proportion’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘one in a 100 years’, the president said one in 500 years, and it is catastrophic. We must be touched with the feeling of their distress and their loss and their grief and their anguish, because we are subject to the same,” Straker said.

The foreign minister, whose oldest son lives in Texas, told lawmakers that all residents of the state have been affected in one way or the other.

“And we have to commiserate and sympathise and show solidarity with the Vincentians in the diaspora and with the hundreds of thousands of other people in Houston who have been affected by this storm, Harvey,” he said, noting that the storm passed St. Vincent and the Grenadines without much devastation.

Speaking about the impact on the lives of the people of Texas, he added, “Could you imagine that people work all their lives to build a home — that is very previous to a lot of people — and you furnish your home and you live comfortably with your family and within the space of a day or two, you could lose everything and you are left homeless? That’s a chilling prospect that all of us should contemplate,” Straker said.

Regionally, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a block of 15 Caribbean nations, also extended its sympathies to the government and people of the United States and especially the State of Texas on the loss of lives and extensive damage to property and infrastructure following the passage of Hurricane Harvey.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in a message to U.S. President Donald Trump, said CARICOM is confident that the people of Texas and the wider United States have the resilience to recover from the disaster.

LaRocque assured Trump that CARICOM stands with the Unites States at this time of disaster.

“The widespread destruction wrought by this hurricane has brought suffering to many and will necessitate a significant and lengthy rebuilding process,” LaRocque said. “The unprecedented nature of this climatic event highlights the unusual nature of weather patterns that continue to affect nations across the globe.”

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Why New US Cold War with Russia Nowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-us-cold-war-russia-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-us-cold-war-russia-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-us-cold-war-russia-now/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:54:16 +0000 Vladimir Popov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151631 Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

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Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

By Vladimir Popov
BERLIN, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

Even before the imposition of new sanctions on Russia by Donald Trump and the ongoing fuss over Russian hackers undermining US democracy, Russian-American relations had deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s. Why?

Vladimir Popov

Political ideology
After all, the US has fewer ideological disagreements with Russia than with the USSR. Russia now has a capitalist economy and is more democratic than the USSR. Russia is also much weaker than the USSR – its population and territory are about 60 to 80 percent of the Soviet Union, and its economic and military might has been considerably diminished, so it poses much less of a threat to the US than the USSR.
However, US rhetoric and actions towards Russia are much more belligerent now than during the 1970s, or in the 1980s, when the US imposed sanctions against the USSR after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. Even when President Reagan was calling the USSR ‘the evil empire’, relations did not deteriorate as much as in recent years.

Bilateral economic relations have taken a similar turn for the worse. Soviet-US trade expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, nominally increasing nearly a hundred-fold in two decades, before plateauing in the 1980s. There was some growth in the 1990s and 2000s after the USSR fell apart, but after peaking in 2011, trade has been falling.

Why did the fastest expansion of bilateral trade occur in the 1960s and 1970s? After all, the USSR was not a market economy, and also ‘communist’. By contrast, US trade growth with post-Soviet, capitalist and democratic Russia over the next two decades was modest, before actually shrinking in the last half decade.

Geopolitics?

One popular explanation is geopolitical considerations. It is argued that when a hostile power tries to expand its influence, the US, the rest of the West and hence, NATO respond strongly.

Examples cited include the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s, and sanctions against the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The same could be said about more recent Western sanctions in response to Russian advances in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Syria.

But the 1970s contradicts this argument. After all, the USSR was gaining ground at US expense in Indochina, the former Portuguese colonies, Nicaragua and other developing countries. Why then did détente and trade grow in the 1970s?

US as #1
The US position is not primarily determined by either ideology or geopolitics, but rather, by the changing US establishment view of the balance of power. After the devastation of the Second World War, the USSR was hardly a superpower, so the US expected to press the USSR, its erstwhile ally, into submission through the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union began closing the gap with the United States in terms of productivity, per capita income and military strength in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though its economy slowed from the mid-1960s, the USSR had caught up in many respects, enough to qualify as the other superpower. The result was détente. Although the USSR had been offering rapprochement after the Second World War, the US only accepted detente in the 1970s, as the military gap closed.

Today, the US establishment knows that the Russian economy have fallen far behind since the 1980s while its military is getting more obsolete. The strategic conclusion appears to be that Russia can be contained via direct pressure and sanctions, something unthinkable against the communist USSR in the 1970s or China today, even though China is less democratic than Russia and still led by a communist party.

Playing with fire
Economically and militarily, Russia is undoubtedly relatively much weaker today than the USSR was. But its capacity has recovered considerably in the new century from the 1990s, with modest growth reversing the economic devastation of the Yeltsin presidency.

And even if it is true that the US is now an unchallenged ‘number one’, and will remain dominant in the foreseeable future, while Russia is not only weak, but also getting relatively weaker, the current effort of pressing Russia into submission has risks.

US pressure on Russia can result in a stand-off comparable to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which the USSR was willing to risk at that time, even though its military capability was well behind that of the US. Eventually, not only were Soviet missiles withdrawn from Cuba, a return to the status quo ante, but the US also promised not only not to invade Cuba, but also to withdraw its medium range missiles from Turkey.

True, Russia is relatively weaker today, but it still has tremendous destructive capacity. One only has to remember that North Korea, with much less military capacity, has successfully withstood US pressure for decades. However, as US economic dominance in the world has been eroding since the Second World War, and its military superiority is the main source of US advantage, the temptation will remain to use this superiority before it is eroded as well.

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Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

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New Neocon Mantra: Iran, like Soviet Union, on Verge of Collapsehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-neocon-mantra-iran-like-soviet-union-verge-collapse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-neocon-mantra-iran-like-soviet-union-verge-collapse http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-neocon-mantra-iran-like-soviet-union-verge-collapse/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 21:12:49 +0000 Jim Lobe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151217 Iran hawks suddenly have a new mantra: the Islamic Republic is the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and the Trump administration should work to hasten the regime’s impending collapse. It’s not clear why this comparison has surfaced so abruptly. Its proponents don’t cite any tangible or concrete evidence that the regime in Tehran is […]

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New Neocon Mantra: Iran, like Soviet Union, on Verge of Collapse

By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Jul 7 2017 (IPS)

Iran hawks suddenly have a new mantra: the Islamic Republic is the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and the Trump administration should work to hasten the regime’s impending collapse.

It’s not clear why this comparison has surfaced so abruptly. Its proponents don’t cite any tangible or concrete evidence that the regime in Tehran is somehow on its last legs. But I’m guessing that months of internal policy debate on Iran has finally reached the top echelons in the policy-making chaos that is the White House these days. And the hawks, encouraged by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s rather offhand statement late last month that Washington favors “peaceful” regime change in Iran, appear to be trying to influence the internal debate by arguing that this is Trump’s opportunity to be Ronald Reagan. Indeed, this comparison is so ahistorical, so ungrounded in anything observable, that it can only be aimed at one person, someone notorious for a lack of curiosity and historical perspective, and a strong attraction to “fake news” that magnifies his ego and sense of destiny.

This new theme seemed to have come out of the blue Tuesday with the publication on the Wall Street Journal’s comics—I mean, op-ed—pages of a column entitled “Confront Iran the Reagan Way” by the South Africa-born, Canada-raised CEO of the Likudist Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Mark Dubowitz. I wish I could publish the whole thing (which is behind a paywall), but a couple of quotes will have to suffice:

In the early 1980s, President Reagan shifted away from his predecessors’ containment strategy toward a new plan of rolling back Soviet expansionism. The cornerstone of his strategy was the recognition that the Soviet Union was an aggressive and revolutionary yet internally fragile regime that had to be defeated.

Reagan’s policy was outlined in 1983 in National Security Decision Directive 75, a comprehensive strategy that called for the use of all instruments of American overt and covert power. The plan included a massive defense buildup, economic warfare, support for anti-Soviet proxy forces and dissidents, and an all-out offensive against the regime’s ideological legitimacy.

Mr. Trump should call for a new version of NSDD-75 and go on offense against the Iranian regime.

…the American pressure campaign should seek to undermine Iran’s rulers by strengthening the pro-democracy forces that erupted in Iran in 2009, nearly toppling the regime. Target the regime’s soft underbelly: its massive corruption and human-rights abuses. Conventional wisdom assumes that Iran has a stable government with a public united behind President Hassan Rouhani’s vision of incremental reform. In reality, the gap between the ruled and their Islamist rulers is expanding.

….The administration should present Iran the choice between a new [nuclear] agreement and an unrelenting American pressure campaign while signaling that it is unilaterally prepared to cancel the existing deal if Tehran doesn’t play ball.

Only six years after Ronald Reagan adopted his pressure strategy, the Soviet bloc collapsed. Washington must intensify the pressure on the mullahs as Reagan did on the communists. Otherwise, a lethal nuclear Iran is less than a decade away.

Dubowitz, who clearly has allies inside the administration, asserts that parts of this strategy are already being implemented. “CIA Director Mike Pompeo is putting the agency on an aggressive footing against [the Iranian regime’s terrorist] global networks with the development of a more muscular covert action program.” Dubowitz predictably urges “massive economic sanctions,” calls for “working closely with allied Sunni governments,” and argues—rather dubiously—that “Europeans …may support a tougher Iran policy if it means Washington finally gets serious about Syria.” As for the alleged domestic weaknesses of the regime, let alone its similarity to the USSR in its decline, he offers no evidence whatever.

Takeyh Joins In

I thought this was a crazy kind of one-off by FDD, which, of course, houses former American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Freedom Scholar Michael Ledeen, who has been predicting the imminent demise of the Islamic Republic—and Supreme Leader Khamenei—for some 20 years or so. Ledeen also co-authored former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s bizarre 2016 autobiography and no doubt tutored the NSC’s 31-year-old intelligence director, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, whose conviction that the regime can be overthrown has been widely reported.

But then a friend brought to my attention a short piece posted Wednesday on The Washington Post’s website by Ray Takeyh, a Council on Foreign Relations Iran specialist who in recent years has cavorted with Dubowitz and FDD and similarly inclined Likudist groups, notably the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). Entitled “It’s Time to Prepare for Iran’s Political Collapse,” it also compared Iran today with the Soviet Union on the verge.

Today, the Islamic republic lumbers on as the Soviet Union did during its last years. It professes an ideology that convinces no one. It commands security services that proved unreliable in the 2009 rebellion, causing the regime to deploy the Basij militias because many commanders of the Revolutionary Guards refused to shoot the protesters.

…Today, the Islamic republic will not be able to manage a succession to the post of the supreme leader as its factions are too divided and its public too disaffected.…

The task of a judicious U.S. government today is to plan for the probable outbreak of another protest movement or the sudden passing of Khamenei that could destabilize the system to the point of collapse. How can we further sow discord in Iran’s vicious factional politics? How can the United States weaken the regime’s already unsteady security services? This will require not just draining the Islamic republic’s coffers but also finding ways to empower its domestic critics. The planning for all this must start today; once the crisis breaks out, it will be too late for America to be a player.

Once again, actual evidence for the regime’s fragility is not offered. Indeed, although he claims that the 2009 “Green Revolt” “forever delegitimized the system and severed the bonds between state and society,” he fails to note that May’s presidential election resulted in a landslide win for President Hassan Rouhani with 73 percent voter turnout, or that reformist candidates swept the local council polls in most major cities, or that the leader of the reformist movement, leaders of the Green Movement, and prominent political prisoners encouraged participation. Nor does he address the question of whether Washington’s intervention in Iran’s internal politics—in whatever form—will actually help or harm efforts by the regime’s “domestic critics” to promote reform, particularly in light of the recent disclosures of the extent and persistence of U.S. intervention in the events leading up to and including the 1953 coup that ousted the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq. Or whether last month’s terrorist attack by ISIS in Tehran might have strengthened the relationship between society and state.

This is not to deny that the regime is both oppressive and highly factionalized, but why is it suddenly so vulnerable—so much like the Soviet Union of the late 1980s—compared to what it was five or ten or 20 or 25 years ago? Only because Khamenei is likely to pass from the scene sooner rather than later? That seems like a weak reed on which to base a policy as fraught as what is being proposed.

Again, I’m not sure that this Iran=USSR-at-death’s-door meme is aimed so much at the public, or even the foreign-policy elite, as it is toward the fever swamps of a White House run by the likes of Steve Bannon or Stephen Miller or Cohen-Watnick. But here’s why a little more research into the new equation really got my attention.

And Also Lieberman

Dubowitz’s article, it turns out, was not the first recent reference. The most direct recent reference was offered by none other than former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who incidentally is one of three members of FDD’s “Leadership Council,” in a speech before none other than the annual conference of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its cult leader, Maryam Rajavi, outside Paris July 1. Seemingly anticipating Takeyh (plus the Rajavi reference), Lieberman declared:

Some things have changed inside Iran, and that’s at the level of the people. You can never suppress a people, you can never enslave a people forever. The people of Iran inside Iran have shown the courage to rise up… To just talk about that, to just talk about that, to hold Madam Rajavi’s picture up in public places, is a sign of the unrest of the people and the growing confidence of the people that change is near. The same is true of the remarkable public disagreements between the various leaders of the country…It is time for America and hopefully some of our allies in Europe to give whatever support we can to those who are fighting for freedom within Iran.

He then went on, “Long before the Berlin Wall collapsed, long before the Soviet Union fell, the United States was supporting resistance movements within the former Soviet Union”—an apparent reference, albeit not an entirely clear one — to the Reagan Doctrine and its purported role in provoking the Communist collapse.

And, in a passage that no doubt expressed what at least Dubowitz and his allies think but can’t say publicly at this point:

The Arab nations are energized under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince [Mohammed] bin Salman. [Saudi Prince (and former intelligence chief) Turki Al Faisal Al Saudi addressed the “Free Iran Gathering” just before Lieberman.] They’re more active diplomatically and militarily as part of a resistance against the regime in Iran than we’ve ever seen before. And of course for a long time the state of Israel, because its very existence is threatened by the regime in Iran, has wanted to help change that regime. So you have coming together now a mighty coalition of forces: America, the Arab world, and Israel joining with the Resistance, and that should give us hope that we can make that [regime] change.

Putting aside the question of just how popular or unpopular Madam Rajavi is in Iran for a second, there are a number of truly remarkable things about Lieberman’s speech. How much will it help “the resistance” in Iran to be seen as supported by the Saudis and the “Arab nations?” And how will it help to boast about Israel’s assistance when most Iranians already appear to believe that the Islamic State is a creation of the Saudis and/or Israel? Is there any “mighty coalition” more likely to permanently alienate the vast majority of Iranians? Is it possible that the MEK has become an IRGC counter-intelligence operation? It’s very clear indeed that the group is lobbying heavily—and spending lavishly—to become the administration’s chosen instrument for achieving regime change. But advertising Saudi and Israeli support for the enterprise will likely make that goal more elusive. The MEK’s reputation in Iran was bad enough, but this is really over the top.

Lieberman no doubt received ample compensation for saying what he said. Other former prominent US officials, including John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, and Gen. Jack Keane—all of whom probably have closer ties than Lieberman to the White House – also spoke at the MEK event, which, incidentally, makes me think that the White House is indeed seriously considering supporting the group as at least one part of its Iran policy. I suspect we’ll find out soon enough.

This piece was originally published in Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy Lobelog.com

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U.S. “Dumping” Dark Meat Chicken on African Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/u-s-dumping-dark-meat-chicken-african-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-dumping-dark-meat-chicken-african-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/u-s-dumping-dark-meat-chicken-african-markets/#comments Thu, 06 Jul 2017 00:01:14 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151131 The United States and Europe’s preference for white meat is hurting Africa’s poultry industry, says Luc Smalle, manager at the agro firm Rossgro in South Africa’s Mpumalanga area. With 3000 Ha of maize and 1000 Ha of soya, as well as 1,500 heads of beef cattle, Rossgro mills its own feed, which also caters for […]

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Bags of feed at the Rossgro agribusiness firm in South Africa. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Bags of feed at the Rossgro agribusiness firm in South Africa. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
MPUMALANGA, South Africa, Jul 6 2017 (IPS)

The United States and Europe’s preference for white meat is hurting Africa’s poultry industry, says Luc Smalle, manager at the agro firm Rossgro in South Africa’s Mpumalanga area.

With 3000 Ha of maize and 1000 Ha of soya, as well as 1,500 heads of beef cattle, Rossgro mills its own feed, which also caters for millions of chickens housed in 40 environmentally controlled houses.Africa’s young, dynamic population has the potential to lead an economic revival in the region, backed by targeted long- and short-term reforms in key areas.

But Smalle is uncertain about the future of the poultry business, not only in South Africa but the whole continent.

He recalled how the US and Europe exported millions of tonnes of chicken meat to the then Soviet Union (now Russia). Historically, Russia was the major importer of America’s dark meat. According to available data, in 2009 alone, Russia is said to have doled out 800 million dollars for 1.6 billion pounds of U.S. leg quarters.

But in 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin banned U.S. chicken from Russian shores, allegedly because it was treated with ‘unsafe’ antimicrobial chlorine. The ban remains in place, although some say it’s more about politics than public health.

Either way, according to Smalle, the ban “has led America and Europe to look for alternative markets to dump brown meat because most of the First World eats white meat, so they are dumping chicken in the third world, especially Africa. We should stand together and work with our governments to stop imports or put high tariffs so that they can’t dump it anymore.”

In a chicken, white meat refers to the breast and wings while legs and thighs are considered red/dark meat. The nutritional difference is fat content. White meat is a leaner source of protein, with a lower fat content, while dark meat contains higher levels of fat, hence the developed world preference for white meat on health grounds.

Smalle believes this state of affairs is hurting African poultry industry competitiveness where the average cost of raising a chicken is far much higher than in the developed world. He says most African farmers rely on bank loans from banks while their European and American counterparts are heavily subsidised by their governments.

“It’s going to kill the whole poultry industry in Africa if nothing is done to reverse the trend; they have subsidies which the African farmer does not have,” Smalle told IPS, citing the South African poultry industry, where he says a third of the workers have lost their jobs because firms have been pushed out of business.

Under free market economics, Smalle’s arguments might seem out of order. But the latest Africa Competitiveness Report 2017 jointly issued by the African Development Bank, World Bank and World Economic Forum seems to support the continent’s argument.

The report warns that without urgent action to address stagnating levels of competitiveness, Africa’s economies will not create enough jobs for young people entering the job market, adding that if current policies remain unchanged, fewer than one-quarter of the 450 million new jobs needed in the next 20 years will be created.

The biennial report comes at a time when growth in most of the region’s economies has been slowing despite a decade of sustained growth, and is likely to stagnate further in the absence of improvements in the core conditions for competitiveness.

Compounding the challenge to Africa’s leaders is a rapidly expanding population, which is set to add 450 million more to the labour force over the next two decades. Under current policies, only an estimated 100 million jobs will be created during this period.

Africa’s young, dynamic population does, however, possess the potential to lead an economic revival in the region, backed by targeted long- and short-term reforms in key areas, the report finds.

“To meet the aspirations of their growing youth populations, African governments are well-advised to enact polices that improve levels of productivity and the business environment for trade and investment,” says the World Bank Group’s Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice, which contributed to the report.

“The World Bank Group is helping governments and the private sector across Africa to take the steps necessary to build strong economies and accelerate job creation in order to benefit from the potential demographic dividend.”

Some of the bottlenecks and solutions include strengthening institutions, which experts believe is a pre-condition to enable faster and more effective policy implementation; improved infrastructure to enable greater levels of trade and business growth; greater adoption of technology and support to developing value-chain links to extractive sectors to encourage diversification and value addition.

The World Economic Forum’s Richard Samans, Head of the Centre for the Global Agenda and Member of the Managing Board, believes that “removing the hurdles that prevent Africa from fulfilling its competitiveness potential is the first step required to achieve more sustained economic progress and shared prosperity.”

The Africa Competitiveness report was released in May during the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, South Africa, attended by more than 1,000 participants under the theme “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership.”

The report combines data from the Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) with studies on employment policies and city competitiveness.

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