News, December 17th

‘Ghost Boat’ with $80 million cocaine haul washes ashore on Pacific island

Police on the Marshall Islands in the Pacific found the largest-ever haul in their nation’s history when they recovered around $80 million worth of cocaine from an abandoned boat that washed ashore.

Police retrieved the 18-foot fiberglass boat at Ailuk atoll last week when local residents were unable to move the vessel, saying it was too heavy.

Upon inspection, the police discovered 1,430 pounds of cocaine hidden beneath the deck, the BBC reported.

Attorney General Richard Hickson speculated that the vessel likely drifted across the ocean from Central or South America.

“It could have been drifting for a year or two,” Hickson said, according to Al-Jazeera.

The packages of drugs were marked with the letters KW.

Police tried to remove the cocaine by burning the packages on Tuesday, but two packages were retained to give to US Drug Enforcement for analysis.

The islands often see debris wash up from the Americas. In a famous incident in 2014, a fisherman reached the islands after drifting over from Mexico, the Daily Mail reported.

The University of Hawaii researchers conducted 16 computer simulations of drift patterns from the Mexico coast and found nearly all eventually arrived in the Marshall Islands.

Afghanistan: Dedicated support required for ‘bigger year’ ahead

Although Afghanistan is coming to the end of a monumental year, authorities will still require international support as they assume greater responsibility for national security while battling COVID-19 and other challenges, UN Special Representative Deborah Lyons told a virtual meeting of the Security Council on Thursday.

Ms. Lyons spoke of the “profound shift” brought about by developments during 2020, which include an agreement between the United States and the Taliban, the start of intra-Afghan peace negotiations, and a major donor conference.

“By all accounts this was a big year. But a bigger year lies ahead”, she said. “Clearly Afghanistan will continue to move forward in this New Year, but equally will continue to need the dedicated support of this Council.”

Ms. Lyons, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), described 2020 as “one of the most momentous years that Afghans have endured”.

Some three months of uninterrupted talks between the Government and the Taliban have yielded “incremental but genuine progress”, she said, though this week the parties agreed a three-week recess.

The international community also reaffirmed its financial support for the country during a donor conference in Geneva last month.

Countries pledged more than $3 billion annually over the next four years, though sustained funding will require improvements in areas such as peace, governance, the rule of law, anti-corruption and women’s rights.

However, the “unrelenting violence” in Afghanistan continues to put lasting peace at risk, Ms Lyons said.

Preliminary statistics reveal a rise in civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices, assaults on schools, rocket attacks, and targeted killings by anti-government groups.

“It is no surprise then that the Global Peace Index for 2020 ranked Afghanistan as the least peaceful country in the world for the second year in row”, she said. “Such a ranking illustrates the psychological impact of the violence.”

Afghanistan is also among the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, with six reporters losing their lives in 2020, she added. Eleven human rights defenders also were killed this year, while many others were injured or threatened.

Ms. Lyons expects violence will be a top priority when the peace talks resume in early January.

“The ongoing security transition, coupled with the emerging reality of international troop withdrawals, have obviously added to the anxieties felt by the Afghan population”, she said.

“In the coming months, I anticipate that this larger security transition will become a central topic in the dialogue amongst Afghan officials, regional countries, and the larger international community.”

Afghanistan is now facing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, resulting in increased hunger and malnutrition. The UN has scaled-up assistance, and Ms. Lyons encouraged countries to generously support humanitarian operations.

As regional cooperation is critical to peace in Afghanistan, Ms. Lyons highlighted the need to support efforts to fight drug trafficking and transnational organized crime throughout Central and South Asia.

But she warned that sustainable peace will only be possible if it is inclusive from the outset, with meaningful participation of women, minorities, victims of conflict, religious leaders, and others.

Afghanistan’s youth are another key constituency as two-thirds of the population are under 25 years old, she said, adding this generation is the most educated in the nation’s history.

“Young Afghans have clear views on the future of their country, and we must do all we can to amplify their voices”, she stated.

The Security Council heard directly from one of those voices: Shkula Zadran, Afghanistan’s Youth Representative, who spent her childhood as a refugee in Pakistan due to the conflict back home.

“I am representing a generation who have been the main victims of this proxy war”, she told ambassadors. “We are being killed. Our dreams are being buried every day.”

Ms. Zadran said the majority of young Afghans support the peace talks but unfortunately they have not been a part of the process.

“I call upon all leaders across the world to trust the Afghan youth. We are resilient and eager to live in peace and harmony. We are the patriot generation that you will never regret investing and counting on.”

EU, UK leaders concede big gaps remain in post-Brexit talks

BRUSSELS (AP) — The U.K. and the European Union provided sober updates Thursday on the state of post-Brexit trade discussions, with only two weeks to go before a potentially chaotic split.

While Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union’s executive commission, noted “substantial progress on many issues,” she voiced concerns about the discussions taking place around fishing rights. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also warned that that a no-deal outcome seemed “very likely.”

The two spoke early Thursday evening, their latest in a series of conversations in the past couple of weeks aimed at unclogging the talks which have moved at a snail’s pace ever since the U.K. left the EU on Jan. 31.

The U.K. still remains within the EU’s tariff-free single market and customs union until Dec. 31. A failure to reach a post-Brexit deal would likely lead to chaos on the borders at the start of 2021 as tariffs and other impediments to trade are enacted by both sides. The talks have got bogged down on three main issues — the EU’s access to U.K. fishing waters, the level playing field to ensure fair competition between businesses and the governance of any deal.

Following their latest conversation, von der Leyen warned that bridging big differences, in particular on fisheries, “will be very challenging.” Negotiations, she added, would continue on Friday.

According to a statement from Johnson’s office at 10. Downing Street, the prime minister stressed that “time was very short” and that it “now looked very likely that agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially.”

Johnson, like von der Leyen, focused on the lack of progress on fisheries. which has proved to be a hugely intractable issue in the talks — even though it accounts for only a very small amount of economic output.

On fisheries, the EU has repeatedly said it wants an agreement that guarantees a reciprocal access to markets and waters. EU fishermen are keen to keep working in British waters and the U.K. seafood industry is extremely dependent on exports to the 27-nation bloc. Johnson has made fisheries and U.K. control over its waters a key demand in the long saga of Britain’s departure from the EU.

According to Downing Street, Johnson stressed that the U.K. could “not accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not to be able to control access to its own waters for an extended period and to be faced with fisheries quotas which hugely disadvantaged its own industry.”

The EU’s position, according to Johnson, “was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly.”

Earlier, the European Parliament issued a three-day ultimatum to negotiators to strike a trade deal if it’s to be in a position to ratify an agreement this year. European lawmakers said they will need to have the terms of any deal in front of them by late Sunday if they are to organize a special gathering before the end of the year.

If a deal comes later, it could only be ratified in 2021, as the parliament wouldn’t have enough time to debate the agreement before that.

“We give until Sunday to Boris Johnson to make a decision,” said Dacian Ciolos, president of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament. “The uncertainty hanging over citizens and businesses as a result of U.K. choices becomes intolerable.”

A trade deal would ensure there are no tariffs and quotas on trade in goods between the two sides, but there would still be technical costs, partly associated with customs checks and non-tariff barriers on services.

Britain’s Parliament must also approve any Brexit deal and the Christmas break adds to the timing complications. Lawmakers are due to be on vacation from Friday until Jan. 5, but the government has said they can be called back on 48 hours’ notice to approve an agreement if one is struck.

Though both sides would suffer economically from a failure to secure a trade deal, most economists think the British economy would take a greater hit, at least in the near-term, as it is relatively more reliant on trade with the EU than vice versa.

Both sides have said they would try to mitigate the impact of a no-deal, but most experts think that whatever short-term measures are put in place, the disruptions to trade will be immense.

“The prime minister repeated that little time was left,” Downing Street said in its statement after the call. “He said that, if no agreement could be reached, the UK and the EU would part as friends, with the UK trading with the EU on Australian-style terms.”

Australia does not have a free trade deal with the EU.

France’s Macron has tested positive for COVID-19

PARIS, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) — French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19, the French Presidency said on Thursday.

Malaysia’s economy to grow 6.7 pct in 2021: World Bank

Malaysia’s economy is expected to grow by 6.7 percent in 2021 following a projected contraction of 5.8 percent in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Bank’s Malaysia Economic Monitor on Thursday.

“The successful containment of the third wave of COVID-19 infections and effective roll out and distribution of vaccine could lead to a faster-than-expected recovery in consumer demand, greater investor confidence, and consequently a more robust recovery in domestic economic activity in 2021,” said the World Bank.

According to the report, Malaysia’s private consumption is expected to return to growth of 7.4 percent in 2021 against a projected overall contraction of 4.8 percent in 2020.

Exports will also see stronger growth of 8.9 percent in 2021 if future waves of COVID-19 infections are held back.

World Bank also said there were signs of recovery, with Malaysia posting a smaller contraction of 2.7 percent in Q3 2020 compared to 17.1 percent in Q2 2020.

Fiscal measures like cash transfers and wage subsidies have boosted household spending with private consumption contracting 2.1 percent in Q3 2020 compared to 18.5 percent in Q2 2020, it said.

“However, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and renewed movement controls could slow recovery down due to uncertainties surrounding the deployment of an effective vaccine and the robustness of a rebound in global growth that will influence the pace of economic recovery,” the World Bank said.

Putin says hopes to resolve discord with US under Biden

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that he hopes the administration of incoming US President Joe Biden will work with Russia to resolve disagreements between their countries.

Putin told reporters at his annual end-of-year press conference that the two countries’ relations had become “hostage” to US domestic politics and said he hoped that some existing problems “will be resolved under the new administration”.

“We believe the US president-elect will sort things out because he has both domestic and foreign policy experience,” the Russian leader said.

Putin was one of the last leaders of major world countries to congratulate Biden on winning the November US presidential elections, saying earlier this week he was ready for “collaboration”.

Biden is expected to take a tougher stand against Russia than outgoing US President Donald Trump, who he slammed during the campaign for having “embraced so many autocrats around the world, starting with Vladimir Putin”.

The Russian leader said he believes Trump is unlikely to leave US political life after his term in office ends, saying the outgoing president has “a large base” of support.

Putin has already won four presidential elections and recently changed the constitution to allow him to remain president until 2036.

Biden will be the fourth US president since Putin came to power in 2000. — AFP

Turkey, Iraq agree to cooperate against extremist groups

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey and Iraq have agreed to continue their cooperation in fighting extremist organizations, including the Islamic State group and Kurdish rebels, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

Speaking to reporters following meetings with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Erdogan also said he hoped that an Iraqi-Turkish oil pipeline that was damaged by the IS during the conflict against the militant group would soon be repaired and would resume oil transfers to world markets.

Turkey has carried out numerous ground and aerial cross-border offensives into neighboring northern Iraq to attack militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, who maintain bases in the region. The latest offensive in June, dubbed Operation Claw Tiger, saw Turkish commandos being airlifted into Iraqi territory.

The PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984, is considered to be a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“We have agreed to continue our struggle against our common enemies IS, PKK and FETO,” Erdogan said — the latter a reference to a network led by U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016. Gulen denies involvement in the attempt.

“There is no place for separatist terrorism in Turkey, Iraq or Syria,” Erdogan said. “Our region will not find peace until terrorism is quashed.”

Speaking through an interpreter, al-Kadhimi told reporters that it was “not possible for Iraq to show tolerance toward any (group) that threatens Turkey.”

The two countries also agreed to continue working on a Turkish-proposed action plan geared toward the “effective use” of the waters of the Tigris River, following Turkey’s construction of Ilisu Dam in southeast Turkey, the Turkish leader told journalists.

“As Turkey, we stress that water shouldn’t be assessed as a factor for disagreement, but a field for cooperation,” Erdogan said.

UNICEF to feed UK’s children for first time in history, in a move seen as a ‘disgrace’ for the rich country

UNICEF – the UN’s Children’s Fund – will provide humanitarian aid to Britain’s hungry children for the first time in its 70-year history, according to an announcement made by the UN body.

Labour MPs branded the situation a “disgrace” for one of the richest countries in the world.

UNICEF will help to feed the children of about 1,800 south London families over the school holidays as part of its first-ever domestic emergency response.

The families in Southwark – who are struggling as a result of the Covid-19 crisis – will receive 18,000 breakfast boxes over Christmas, funded by a £25,000 UNICEF grant to the School Food Matters charity.

Its food programme, which is also facilitated by Southwark Council and Southwark Food Action Alliance, will provide an additional 6,750 breakfasts to families over the February half-term break.

UNICEF described the coronavirus pandemic as the most urgent crisis to affect children since the Second World War.

UNICEF UK director of programmes Anna Kettley said: “This funding will help build stronger communities as the impact of the pandemics worsen, but ultimately a longer-term solution is needed to tackle the root causes of food poverty so that no child is left to go hungry.”

School Food Matters founder Stephanie Slater said that the families would otherwise have been depending on food banks to get enough to eat.

She said: “The response to our summer breakfast-boxes programme has shown us that families are really struggling, and many were facing the grim reality of a two-week winter break without access to free school meals. By providing our breakfast boxes, families know that their children will have a great start to the day with a healthy nutritious breakfast.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the government should be ashamed that a charity which usually helps war-torn and disaster-stricken countries has had to intervene to feed kids in Britain.

“The fact that UNICEF is having to step in to feed our country’s hungry children is a disgrace and [PM] Boris Johnson and [Chancellor] Rishi Sunak should be ashamed,” she said.

“Charities and businesses across the country have done a brilliant job stepping in where the government has failed, but it should have never come to this,” she added.

Leeds East MP Richard Burgon condemned the government for its “political choice” to let people stay in poverty. “The government could end UK child poverty by making the super-rich pay fair taxes. It refuses to,” he said.

Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana said that the initiative should not be necessary, and backed the call to increase taxes on the super-rich to “end child food poverty for good.”

The PM’s official spokesman said: “We would point to the substantial action we’ve taken to ensure that children don’t go hungry through the pandemic and I would point to the additional £16 million we pledged not too long ago to food distribution charities.”

That £16m was part of a £400m pledge that the government eventually announced in November to support poor families in England, after Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford campaigned for months against child hunger.

The move was a significant climb down for the government, which had claimed that universal credit was adequate help for struggling families.

Vaccine Rollout Battle: First Past the Post May Win Major Market Share

SIX vaccines for Covid-19 have either released, or likely to release within a few weeks of their figures of vaccine efficacy, or how effective their vaccines are. Those who get the initial green signal from the regulators to roll out the vaccine will get a huge market advantage. That is why there is intense media focus on the US and the UK approval processes of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. In India, three vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Serum Institute for the Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech have also applied for emergency use.

As a public health issue, it should matter little who gets the nod first, as efficacy, cost and supply chain should determine the vaccination strategy of any country. But under capitalism, public health takes a backseat. Companies jockey for being the first past the post, so that they can capture a much bigger share of the eyeballs translating into a bigger share of the market. This market is not just that provided by public health systems, but also the private market where people will pay large sums for immediate vaccination, and not wait for the State to deliver. That is why the hurry of the companies to get their results in quickly, secure emergency use authorisation, and with big airtime, pump up their share price in the stock market.

The application for emergency use approval in India by Pfizer-BioNTech using data from other countries has led to Serum Institute also asking for emergency use approval (in India’s regulatory language accelerated approval) using phase 1 and 2 data from Indian trials and phase 3 data from trials in other countries. Interestingly, AstraZeneca-Oxford, whose vaccine Serum Institute is using in its trials, has not yet made such an application in the UK.

What is surprising is that Bharat Biotech, which is producing the ICMR-Pune Institute of Virology vaccine, has also asked for emergency use approval. This is based on phase 1 and 2 trial data, without any substantive phase 3 results. Unlike regulators like US FDA and UK MHPRA, the Indian regulator DCGI has not notified details of what data and efficacy need to be submitted for approval of a vaccine for emergency use. It appears from public reports that the Subject Expert Committee (SEC), which reports to the DCGI, has sought more data from the vaccine manufacturers.

In each of these cases, using the need for a vaccine under the current pandemic, the regulatory envelope is being stretched. Even while accepting that we need a quick vaccine to address the pandemic, this cannot be done without a proper appraisal of safety and efficacy of the vaccine. A failed vaccine will play into the hands of the anti-science and anti-vaccine groups. Under current regulatory guidelines, Bharat Biotech’s lack of Phase 3 efficacy data from its trials is a significant lacuna for public use of such a vaccine.

The preliminary results of phase 3 trials from BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna and Gamaleya are now available, showing higher than 90 per cent efficacy. These are excellent figures, even though the actual numbers from which these figures are derived, are in a few hundred, or even less. The two Chinese vaccines –Sinopharm and Sinovac – are in an advanced stage of phase 3 trials and should release their figures of efficacy soon. The UAE officials have said that the Sinopharm vaccine has shown an efficacy figure of 86 per cent in clinical trials in UAE. The Chinese companies are conducting phase 3 trials in a large number of countries, and are expected to make their efficacy data public soon.

These two Chinese vaccines are important for India, as they are based on the older technology of inactivated virus, which is what Bharat Biotech is using. That by itself does not mean Bharat Biotech’s vaccine will succeed, but at least a proof that this approach does lead to successful vaccines for Covid-19.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, in which Serum Institute, Pune has made a big bet has shown more modest figures of 62 per cent efficacy in their phase 3 trial. A second arm got accidentally a smaller first dose, fared much better, with 90 per cent efficacy. The problem with this figure is that the numbers in the second arm are much too small, and without a larger trial with this dosage, will not count for regulatory approval. Oxford-AstraZeneca is still a few weeks away from submitting its emergency use approval.

For large parts of the world, the two vaccines – Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna – are not feasible options as they demand ultra-cold chain of minus 70-80 Deg C. Even advanced countries will find it tough to do mass vaccination quickly with such a demanding cold-chain. All the other four vaccines require a cold-chain of 2-8 Deg C and can be managed by most countries.

With the submissions for emergency use approval (EUA) by Pfizer-BioNTech to the US Federal Drug Authority, we now have more data on Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. The results look positive though the number is still not very large, and we do not know how long the immunity from the virus will last. It also seemed to have protected those who did get infected to progressing to a serious stage of the disease and provided some protection even after the first dose. Moderna’s figures may be similar if their press releases translate to similar submissions. The flip side is that there were some reactions to the vaccine, though not any that would be considered a serious event.

The rush for capturing markets, or the logic of capitalism, also shows in the way the news media in the west, responds to Russian and Chinese vaccines. Most western news agencies, commenting on the Chinese vaccines, mention one person who died during clinical trials in Brazil. What they do not mention is that the person died of a drug overdose, which had nothing to do with the vaccine trial. Similar coverage of possible adverse events – and such events have happened as do happen in any large scale vaccine trial – are far more low key when it comes to US or European pharma companies. The cold war against Russia and China has spilled over into a vaccine war as well.

In the global media, repeated in India as well, there has been a talk of India having booked 1.6 billion doses for 2021, one of the highest bookings of vaccines in the world. It is based on possibly 0.5 billion doses from Serum Institute-AstraZeneca vaccine, another 0.1 billion from Gamaleya, and a whopping 1 billion from Serum Institute-Novavax. The Novavax vaccine has yet to start its phase 3 trial and it is too early to bank on a billion doses from a successful Novavax vaccine.

For India, we now have Serum Institute with a possibly successful AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine with modest efficacy of a little more than 60 per cent, and the Gamaleya vaccine, which has yet to apply for approval in India. It appears that Serum Institute has been in talks with Indian health authorities to provide them with vaccines for a public programme at a reduced price, and also reserving a part of its production for open market sales. Press reports indicate that Hetero Biopharma, an Indian biologic manufacturer, has also tied up with Gamaleya for producing its vaccine in India. This is in addition to the 100 million vaccines that Dr Reddy’s Lab is providing for the Indian market.

As we have written earlier, a handful of rich countries – US, UK, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia – have cornered more than half the world’s supply of vaccines. If the Novavax bet of Serum Institute materialises, India may be better placed than most countries except the handful of rich countries. Let us not forget the long battle that India had with global multinationals, the Intellectual Property Rights Regime and WTO, for building a self-reliant pharmaceutical sector. It is this base that has led to India emerging as the largest generic drug and vaccine manufacturer of the world. That is why India has a chance to provide vaccines to its people, provided it addresses the problem of delivery.

The Indian health authorities have yet to release any document on how the delivery of the vaccine, or the mass vaccination programme is going to unfold. What we urgently need is an open discussion involving at least the major public health organisations on how India proposes to vaccinate the people. Without transparency and involvement of the health professionals and the people, a mass vaccination campaign in a top-down fashion may lead to a repeat of India’s unsuccessful lockdown. People and health workers have to be partners in the fight against the pandemic, not passive recipients; or enemies to be subjugated.

Week of solidarity with Haiti confronts U.S. imperialism

Dec. 16 is the 30th anniversary of the first free and democratic election in Haitian history. In 1990, anti-imperialist liberation theologian Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the left-wing party Fanmi Lavalas were elected to power with mass support (67 percent) on a program of guaranteeing social rights for the working class. Less than one year later, a U.S.-backed coup ousted Aristide and installed a military dictatorship that murdered thousands of Haitians and attempted to stifle the mass energy behind the Lavalas movement. After being re-elected in 2000, Aristide was again ousted by a U.S.-backed coup in 2004. Only last year was Haiti finally relieved of the U.S. troops that had been patrolling the streets to contain the revolutionary fervor since the ousting.

Today, the Haitian people continue to confront the same forces that staged the coups of 1991 and 2004, now in the form of a dictatorship by U.S. and United Nations-backed president Jovenel Moïse. Nonetheless, the powerful grassroots movement for democracy and justice only continues to grow in size and strength, as demonstrated by the more than18 months of daily mass protests to oust Moise’s corrupt leadership from 2018 to 2019. Still, Moïse remains in power and has responded to the movement with violent police and paramilitary repression, assassinations of grassroots leaders, and massacres targeting active communities.

The international week of solidarity with Haiti, December 10 to16, as called by the Haiti Action Committee, has put forward the following demands to stand in solidarity with the Haitian people in the face of U.S. imperialism: (1) End massacres in Haiti, (2) End the U.S. funding of police terror in Haiti, and (3) Support the movement for democracy and justice in Haiti.

Out of the ashes of the brutal near thirty-year Duvalier military dictatorship of 1957 to 1986 arose the popular Lavalas movement in the late 1980s. The movement, along with Aristide, were among the most potent symbols for progressive political change in the world in a period of great difficulty for the left, advocating for policies of equitable growth. They sought sovereign, anti-imperialist solutions to Haiti’s crises of political instability, colonial military rule and infrastructural deficits, refusing the austerity measures pushed by the International Monetary Fund that often come with fine-print political and economic control. Upon assuming the presidency in February 1991, Aristide and Lavalas instituted programs to promote literacy through investment in education, improve the health care system and uplift the nation’s poorest in national politics.

However, Aristide’s reforms angered Haiti’s military and elite, and represented a threat to the dominance, economic security, and political reign that the United States held and largely continues to hold over the Western hemisphere, particularly Latin America and the Caribbean. With his election came an economic embargo on the nation from the United States and a demonization campaign against Aristide to internationalize the so-called “political crisis” in Haiti. In September 1991, just eight months after assuming the presidency, Aristide was ousted in a coup orchestrated by the U.S. government in collaboration with right-wing forces on the ground in Haiti.

Again, Aristide was elected in 2000, this time winning 92 percent of the vote, but his importance to the Haitian people and the rebuilding of the nation after centuries of neo-colonial turmoil meant little to the dominance of the Western powers. Prior to his second ousting in 2004, orchestrated again by the U.S. and right-wing Haitian forces, the U.S. enacted sanctions on further international aid to Haiti, and in 2003 alone, the Bush administration invested nearly one million dollars for regime change efforts in the country. Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the World Bank disengaged from Haiti and established conditions for re-engagement that required the Haitian government to undertake sectoral reforms.

Ironically, while Haiti was deemed to have been in a humanitarian and political crisis due to the rise of Aristide and the Fanmi Lavalas party, the nation was in fact making its first monumental strides to overcome the legacy of Western interventionism since the Haitian Revolution of 1804. The supposed motive to “spread democracy” often fronted by the White House in reality has always been, in the case of Haiti, a masked attempt to curb the threat of a force promoting Black liberation in the Caribbean. Similarly, the United Nations’ mission to “stabilize” the nation following the coups, when what was really needed was sovereign development, was in fact just a mandate to keep the peace of the graveyard.

Three decades later, the Haitian people face remnants of the monstrous, U.S.-backed Duvalier dictatorships of both François “Papa Doc” (1957 to 1971) and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” (1971 to 1986) through paramilitary repression and political stifling supported by the ruling Moïse administration.

Under Papa Doc Duvalier, the infamous paramilitary force Tonton Macoutes or “Boogeymen”, were created to instill fear in the mass movement for democracy. Although the Tonton Macoutes were formally dissolved at the end of the Duvalier regime, today the proliferation of death-squad style repression continues to murder innocent Haitians and attempts to contain the revolutionary energy of the people.

The Moïse administration has emboldened the Haitian police, trained mostly by the United States during the military occupation following the 2004 coup, along with paramilitary forces. Impunity for crimes against humanity — namely massacres, political assassinations and sexual assault — have empowered such forces to continue to reign terror over the Haitian masses. Just this year, dozens of Haitians have been murdered at the hands of the country’s various military forces, including university student and pro-democracy activist Gregory Saint-Hilaire, who has called for opposition to the government, and Christella, one of many working-class Haitian women who has been murdered by a death squad for resisting rape. Similarly, high school student Evelyne Sincère was murdered with impunity after being kidnapped and held for ransom.

While the Moïse government has escalated its repression against the people of Haiti, the United States has similarly increased its funding for the Haitian police forces. Since 2016, the U.S. State Department has more than quadrupled its support for the Haitian National Police.

Still, the people of Haiti continue to resist in the face of government corruption and U.S. imperialist intervention. The Party for Socialism and Liberation stands in solidarity with the Haitian people to demand an end to the massacres, an end to U.S. funding of police terror, and support for the peoples’ movement for justice, democracy and sovereignty in a free Haiti.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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