Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reflections on The Life and Art of Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte

By Norman (Otis) Richmond

Harry Belafonte continues to be in the vanguard of Black artists who stand on the side of the oppressed. Belafonte is featured in Spike Lee’s new documentary When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts. He also gave a thought- provoking interview to the BBC. The LIMERS e-group recently had a fruitful discussion about this dialogue.

“The artist elects to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice! I had no alternative!” was the immortal Paul Robeson’s mantra.

It is the same for Belafonte. I have always had the greatest respect for Belafonte. Both were shining examples of Pan-Africanism and internationalism. He has been a bridge connecting African people from home and aboard. It was Belafonte who arranged for members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to visit the freshly independent West African nation of Guinea. He felt they were on the verge of burning out and he wanted to prevent this.

Belafonte is the closest example to Robeson who was his role model. Belafonte like Robeson before him realized that art and culture are weapons in a people’s struggle to exist with dignity and peace. Robeson paid the supreme price for his stance against U.S. imperialism and global white supremacy. Robeson’s income dipped from $100,000 a year to a mere six thousand a year. Belafonte never the less still held up Robeson as his model for political and artistic excellence. Robeson was a friend of the Caribbean and Africa. He played in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, was published in the Jamaican Gleaner and was Afro-Centric before it came in vogue.

Belafonte like his main man understands that “Blackness is necessary but not sufficient”. He is pro-Cuba, pro-Venezuela and stands with working people around the planet. In the 20th century Robeson was called “The tallest tree in the forest.” In the 21st century this applies to the first artist to have a platinum album - Belafonte.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. pointed out in his volume entitled Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man: “The album Harry Belafonte – Calypso, released at the end of 1956, ended up selling more than a million-and-a-half copies, more than any single artist album ever had before, and it remained on the charts for a year-and-a-half. Elvis and Sinatra were big in 1957, yet Belafonte–-the King of Calypso, as he was touted-– outsold both of them. (With fetching modesty, Belafonte told one reporter, “I don’t want to be known as a guy who put the nail in the coffin of rock and roll”).

Sam Cooke considered Belafonte as one of his role models. Cooke admired Belafonte’s militancy, his business acumen and his ability to crossover into the lucrative Euro-American pop market without compromising his blackness. While still a member of the gospel group the Soul Stirrers he told fellow group member Paul Foster, “I want to be like (him).” He made this statement while pointing at a photo of Belafonte, whose calypso–flavoured “Banana Boat Song (Day-O) was on the current Top Ten.

Belafonte’s success was not applauded in all quarters. Daiann McLane a calypso scholar – and singer took Belafonte on. McLane was unimpressed by Belafonte; he referred to his music as “calypso with a conk.” Calypso purist problem with Belafonte was that he was too much of a singer and not a calysionian at all. While Belafonte and Sidney Poitier are best friends they have been known to duke it out from time to time. Poitier said this about his “key spare”. “He (Harry) can be the worst S.O.B. that God ever created. Harry Belafonte will do you in, up, down, and crossways in a minute. You’ve got to be terribly special to him to be excluded from his guillotine when he’s out for blood. But if he’s there for you, he’s there for you all the way.”

Belafonte’s image as the “King of Calypso” was the creation of the media. He has gone to great length to explain that he had no control over how RCA records promoted him, and has conceded that he wasn’t really a calypso singer. However, the S.O.B. in Belafonte has gone on record and said, “I’ll tell you, though, that I find that most of the culture coming out of Trinidad among calypso singers is not in the best interest of the people of the Caribbean community.”

“I think that it’s racist, because you sing to our own denunciation on color. You sing about our sexual power, and our gift of drinking, and rape, and all the things we do to which I have, and want, no particular claim. What I have sought to do with my art is take my understanding of the region and put it before people in a positive way. And doing these songs gives people another impression than the mythology they have that we’re all lazy, living out of a banana tree, fucking each other to death.”

Robeson came into conflict with many African nationalist and
Pan-Africanist for some of his film roles. Though Robeson publicly disowned Sanders of the River, Marcus Garvey, the outspoken Jamaican nationalist, still denounced the actor for "pleasing England by the gross slander and libel of the Negro". Belafonte did not wish to be criticised by his brethren and sistren over this issue. He took a hard-line on the film roles he accepted.

He turned down roles in Porgy and Bess, To Sir With Love and Lilies of the Field. He explained to Gates why he turned down the role in Lilies of the Field: “When I read Lilies of the Field, I was furious. You’ve got these nuns fleeing Communism, and out of nowhere is this black person who throws himself whole- heartedly into their service, saying nothing and doing nothing except being commanded by these Nazi nuns. He didn’t kiss anybody, he didn’t touch anybody, he had no culture, he had no history, he had no family, and he had nothing. I just said, ‘No, I don’t want to play pictures like that.’ What happened was Sidney Poitier stepped in – and got the Academy Award.”

Belafonte has pointed out that he and Poitier were both influenced by Robeson. However, “Belafonte points out without bitterness, ‘In the early days, Sidney participated in left affairs, but once he became anointed he gave it up'.”

The great African American director/actor Ivan Dixon told this writer that Robeson had consulted both Belafonte and Poitier to not let the system destroy them like they did him. Belafonte apparently didn’t listen as attentively as Poitier and took many risks by publicly attacking injustice world –wide. Belafonte was Martin Luther King’s chief fund-raiser. King summed up the position that all progressives including Belafonte came to believe: “Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The author is a broadcast journalist and producer in Toronto at CKLN, FM 88.1. He can be heard on Diasporic Music on thursday from 8:00 -10:00 p.m. At 9:30 Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, can be heard in a joint segment with Norman (Otis) Richmond discussing music, politics and the overall world situation. Richmond can also be heard on Saturday Morning Live from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 and From Another Perspective on Sunday evening from 6:00-6:30 p.m. Norman (Otis) Richmond can be contacted by e-mail

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pan-African News Wire Editor to Chair Panel on Middle-East at Teach-In Saturday

For Immediate Release

Media Advisory

Event: Teach-In on US-Israeli War Against the Middle-East
Saturday, September 30, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Kresge Auditorium, Purdy-Kresge Library First
Floor Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Topics: History of Imperialism and Zionism; Lebanon-Palestine
Resistance; Criminal Role of Corporate Media;
US Genocide Against the Iraqi People; Israel,
Apartheid & Domestic Racism
Speakers: Leilani Dowell, Joyce Chediac, Abayomi Azikiwe,
Andrea Hackett, David Sole, Kevin Carey, Jerome
Goldberg, Sandra Hines & Others
Contact: Michigan Emergency Committee Against War &
Injustice (MECAWI) or call (313)

Leilani Dowell, Recently Returned From Lebanon on a Fact-finding Mission, Will Speak at MECAWI Teach-In on the Middle-East at WSU, Sept. 30

Leilani Dowell, a member of the fact-finding delegation to Lebanon, will be a featured speakers at an upcoming Teach-In at Wayne State University in Detroit. Dowell, a nationally known youth activist, witnessed first hand the results of the US-financed Israeli aggression against Lebanon during the recent 34-day war that was sanctioned by the United States Congress.

Despite the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah in August , the Israeli regime has continued to violate the terms of the agreement as well as escalating attacks against the Palestinian people. Meanwhile, the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to further destabilize these nations with the Bush administration growing more desperate in their attempts to occupy the peoples of the Muslim world.

On September 30, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice will host a Teach-In at Wayne State University's Kresge Auditorium that features a variety of activists and experts on the historical conflict in the Middle-East and its implications for the region, North America and the global community. The keynote speaker will be Joyce Chediac, a Lebanese-American journalist based in New York, who is a contributor to Workers World newspaper.

Other speakers will include: Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire and a co-founder of MECAWI; Hasan Newash, co-founder of the Palestine Office of Michigan; Atty. Jerome Goldberg of MECAWI; Andrea Hackett of MECAWI, whose daughter served two terms in Iraq with the National Guard; Sandra Hines, an organizer for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality; David Sole, U.S. Senate candidate on the "Stop the War Slate" for the Green Party; Kevin Carey, "Stop the War Slate" candidate for State Board of Education and others.

This event is free and open to the general public. Everyone is welcome to come out to learn and discuss the history and present situation in the Middle-East and its impact on the United States and the world.

For more information conact MECAWI at or call (313) 831-0750.

Prof. Ward Churchill Vows to Fight Efforts to Terminate Him From the University of Colorado

Ward Churchill Defends His Academic Record & Vows to Fight to Keep His Job at University of Colorado

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

We speak to the well-known academic and writer Ward Churchill about his future at the University of Colorado and academic freedom. A University panel recently determined that Churchill plagiarized and fabricated material in his scholarship and recommended his dismissal. Colorado Governor Bill Owens has called for his resignation.
Our next guest has been steeped in controversy for more than a year. It began in February of 2005, with an article published on the front page of the Hamilton College newspaper, The Spectator. The college, had invited University of Colorado Ethnic Studies Professor Ward Churchill to speak at the school. The article highlighted statements Churchill made in an essay about the September 11th attacks. The essay was called “Some People Push Back; on the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” Among other things, the article said that many of the people killed in the Pentagon and the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 were not innocent civilians. The passage that received the most attention was Churchill’s labeling of the people described as a “technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire” as “little Eichmanns.” The controversy quickly spread with Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly repeatedly attacking Churchill on his television program. Soon after, Colorado Governor Bill Owens wrote a letter to the university calling for Churchill’s resignation.

A special panel at the university immediately conducted an investigation into Churchill’s comments. They concluded that he could not be fired for his statements, which were protected by the First Amendment. However, another panel later determined that Churchill plagiarized and fabricated material in his scholarship and recommended his dismissal. In June, Boulder interim chancellor Phil DiStefano announced that he wanted to fire Churchill -- Churchill is currently appealing the committee finding. And Professor Ward Churchill joins me now here in Denver. Welcome to Democracy Now!

Ward Churchill, University of Colorado Ethnic Studies Professor


AMY GOODMAN: Professor Churchill is currently appealing the committee finding, and he joins us now in the studio in Denver. Welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: Would you agree with that summary of what you've been through over the past, well, about a year and a half now?

WARD CHURCHILL: Generally speaking, as sort of an abbreviated version.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your response to the panel finding at University of Colorado recommending -- it was five people recommending -- that you be fired? Two of them did not make that recommendation. They recommended suspension. But three did.

WARD CHURCHILL: Well, there's several things I would make of it. First, the investigators, in their report, which is a published document at this point, committed egregious examples of everything they accused me of having done, including fabrications, suppression of evidence, disregarding of inconvenient facts, plagiarism, false assertion of authorship, and on and on and on.

AMY GOODMAN: How did they engage in that?

WARD CHURCHILL: Well, on plagiarism, basically by plagiarizing, just taking one of the essays that formed the basis of complaint from the interim chancellor, stripping of it its annotation, presenting it as their own. And that's not simply a matter of doing it, but of saying that they had come up with the information that was in the original essay. That qualifies on AHA standards grounds and every other set of professional standards that I’m aware of that preside in the academy. You don't assert co-authorship to a book that was written before you were born. You may have a hand in editing it. But you're not a coauthor. That's a false assertion of authorship.

Suppression of evidence, for example, with regard to the so-called Ft. Clark incident, the smallpox epidemic of 1837, I presented them with information that what I said had been said in print by prior authors. They're right, they're wrong. But I could not have invented what was already in print. They disregarded that altogether.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don't you explain that allegation that they have made, specifically that you fabricated evidence, that Native American leaders were given blankets infested with smallpox. They concluded that you had committed repeated and deliberate academic misconduct, saying that you were disrespectful of American oral traditions in your writing about the smallpox outbreak.

WARD CHURCHILL: Well, I don't know what to say about that, other than just bald assertion. The problem that they had on that count was that I contended all along -- this is the grounding that I come from, this is fairly well known, not a great mystery -- that I’m coming from an indigenous perspective, lived experience, and directly from grassroots understandings of historical phenomena, events. They interviewed several people from a tradition of the peoples most directly affected by the 1837 smallpox epidemic, discovered to their dismay that the history of those peoples confirms essentially what I said.

AMY GOODMAN: And you said?

WARD CHURCHILL: I said that it was deliberately induced.


WARD CHURCHILL: The United States Army. Probably a little too narrow a statement. It was the War Department, rather than the Army. But I understand the Army to be a subpart of the War Department, so there's no inconsistency with reality there.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did they infect the people?

WARD CHURCHILL: Blankets. Possibly with garments, as well. There’s possibly more than one source of the infection, in the sense that various things were distributed over a two-week period of time that caused the smallpox to act in the particular ways that it did. We're getting into details now. Maybe, maybe not.

But a general understanding that I presented on several occasions in my written work is entirely consistent with Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa. That’s the three peoples most immediately affected in the epidemic. It conforms to their history, to historical understanding. That's not convenient, so basically glossed the point that there was ample interpretive data to support what I had said and announced that I was disrespectful to the tradition that I represented. This, after hearing representatives of the people say that they were glad that I said it, because it is how they understand the situation.

So basically you have an assertion of orthodoxy. It's all well and good to tell schoolchildren that smallpox blankets were used by the United States, leave it vacuous, dangling, unsupported. No one knows where or when. And so long as you leave it in that kind of an ambiguity, it's okay. That’s scholarship. But tie it down in consistency with an actual indigenous oral tradition, and that's fraud.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Churchill, the whole controversy that has swirled around your genealogy. Now, I think the committee actually threw that out.


AMY GOODMAN: But the national American Indian Movement has said that Ward Churchill receives an associate membership from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. He was not eligible for tribal membership due to the fact he does not possess certificate of degree of Indian blood. What about this whole controversy? Then, the news publications going after you. I think it was the Rocky Mountain News that identified 142 direct forebears of you that turned up no evidence of a single Indian ancestor among them.

WARD CHURCHILL: Well, you have binary choices that are allowed when someone else is recording your ethnicity. Okay? If you're of part-dissent Indian and part-dissent white, and there's land issues involved, often people would be recorded as white. On the other hand, if you happen to be of any dissent black, the rest of you could be Indian, and this eugenics formulation that we're dealing with here, under the one-drop rule you would be simply recorded as black.

Basically it's the imposition of a completely alien mechanism of identifying members, in accordance with a eugenics code that is employed to the benefit of those doing the imposing. And those doing the imposing were not Indians. Indians are not simply a racial group, in fact may not be a racial group, per se, at all. Culture, nation, allegiance, membership -- a very complex system -- reduced to blood quantum with someone else doing the recording, according to their standards.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the fact that AIM is saying this, the American Indian Movement?

WARD CHURCHILL: We’re the American Indian Movement. You'd be talking to a couple of other people. The American Indian Movement is a very decentralized, organic community-oriented movement, not an organization. What you're talking about is a nonprofit corporation chartered under the state of Minnesota, purports to be the representative of somebody else's nation. There's 400 indigenous nations. So I don't know what national AIM purports to be representing in national terms. Somebody else's country, a colonizing country. We're a national liberation movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Churchill, what happens now? The committee made the recommendation. Are you receiving support from your colleagues?

WARD CHURCHILL: From some. It's a mixed reaction. Frankly, the bulk of my colleagues are trying to make up excuses to get out of the line of fire themselves. And I find that to be a somewhat understandable situation, but not really something that is in conformity with adherence to the principle of academic freedom, the protections of tenure. The whole structure that allows autonomous scholarship to occur is in jeopardy, when they can take a senior professor and run this kind of a charade in order to revoke tenure, to silence, when it's transparently the case that the entire investigation was convened to scrutinize speech. And they made no bones about it. DiStefano made the announcement. He said, “We’re going to examine every line he's ever written, everything he's ever said, at least insofar as it's been recorded, to see if we can find evidence that he has crossed a line.”

AMY GOODMAN: And the charges of plagiarism?

WARD CHURCHILL: Charges of plagiarism are themselves fraudulent.


WARD CHURCHILL: Well, number one, because the person supposedly plagiarized refused even in the course of the investigation to say that she believed that I did it personally. I’ve denied it. The un-contradicted evidence is the fact that it was done probably by a committee. I copy edited the material when I was asked to do it, and it was sent in. That was all. Copy editors are not responsible for going back and seeing if someone else has said what it is that's included in the text. If you did that every newsroom copy editor in the country would probably be up on some kind of plagiarism charges.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you fight to keep your professorship at the University of Colorado - Boulder?

WARD CHURCHILL: Absolutely, insofar as that professorship at the University of Colorado represents something much broader than the immediacy of my job. It represents a set of principles that have to do with the protection of the activities of scholars to engage in interpretation at their own discretion without fear of consequence and retribution. The constraint of discourse to approved parameters is something that we can ill afford, particularly at this historical juncture, to allow to happen in this country. And I’m not the only one who's been targeted. I simply am the most visible at this particular point.

AMY GOODMAN: And when will the final decision come down?

WARD CHURCHILL: Well, they've got various cliché slogans out there about when the game's over. And it's not over until the last juror has cast the last vote on this one.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ward Churchill, I want to thank you for being with us. We are broadcasting from Denver. He's professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado - Boulder.

New Torture Bill to Provide Legal Cover for Human Rights Violations

Controversial US detainee bill passed

Stephanie Griffith
Fri, 29 Sep 2006

The US Senate on Thursday passed controversial new rules on interrogating and prosecuting "war on terror" suspects, despite opponents who said the measure seriously curtails detainees' rights.

The vote was 65 to 34.

The Senate action, a day after its approval by the House of Representatives, came after US President George W. Bush personally appealed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill for the swift passage of the legislation.

In a statement, Bush welcomed the vote, saying the legislation would "provide our men and women in uniform with the necessary resources to protect our country and win the 'war on terror'".

"As our troops risk their lives to fight terrorism, this bill will ensure they are prepared to defeat today's enemies and address tomorrow's threats," he said.

Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist earlier on Thursday said Bush would likely sign the measure early next week.

Major battleground

The legislation had become a major battleground in the national debate, pitting measures to safeguard the country from terrorism against the need to protect civil liberties, just weeks ahead of November legislative elections.

Republican Senator John McCain said the bill was a compromise between competing interests, but one which, crucially, maintained the US commitment to adhere to the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of foreign combatants.

"The United States should champion the Geneva Conventions, not look for ways to get around them lest we invite others to do the same," McCain said minutes before the vote.

"America has more personnel deployed in more places than any other country in the world, and this unparalleled exposure only serves to further demonstrate the critical importance of our fulfilling the letter and the spirit of our international obligations," he said.

The US House on Wednesday passed its version of the bill in a 253-168 vote.

The measure was drafted in response to a US Supreme Court ruling in June that Bush had overstepped his powers and breached the Geneva Conventions by setting up special war crimes tribunals for "war on terror" suspects.

Democrat opposition

The sweeping legislation sets guidelines for interrogating suspected terrorists and would send several hundred inmates held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to trial after years of detention.

Most Democrats opposed the administration-backed plan and see it as violating US principles and values by prosecuting terrorists without affording the due process allowed most defendants in the US criminal justice system.

"We can and must protect what it means to be an American," Democrat Chris Dodd had argued on the Senate floor.

"This longstanding tradition of our country about to be abandoned here is one of the great, great mistakes that I think history will record," he said.

Special military tribunals for Guantanamo Bay

Since the opening of a US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, not one of the several hundred prisoners held there has been afforded a trial.

The draft law authorises special military tribunals to prosecute the Guantanamo detainees, allows for secret CIA-run prisons and forbids "cruel and unusual" punishment of detainees — without further clarification of what falls in that category.

Detainees would be deprived of all legal recourse to protest the conditions of their detention.

Critics have charged that Bush merely wants legal cover to allow interrogators to continue using "alternative" methods of questioning that reportedly include a simulated drowning technique known as "waterboarding", sleep deprivation and subjecting suspects to extreme temperatures.

On the Senate floor just before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said he feared that alleged abuse of detainees could continue.

"The president says the United States does not engage in torture... but this bill gives the president authority to reinterpret our obligations, and limits judicial oversight of that process, putting our own troops at risk on the battlefield," he said.


“A Total Rollback Of Everything This Country Has Stood For”: Sen. Patrick Leahy Blasts Congressional Approval of Detainee Bill
Friday, September 29th, 2006

The Senate has agreed to give President Bush extraordinary power to detain and try prisoners in the so-called war on terror. The legislation strips detainees of the right to challenge their own detention and gives the President the power to detain them indefinitely. The bill also immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for torturing detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year. We get reaction from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has agreed to give President Bush extraordinary power to detain and try prisoners in the so-called war on terror. The editors of the New York Times described the law as tyrannical. They said its passage marks a low point in American democracy and that it is our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts. The legislation strips detainees of the right to file habeas corpus petitions to challenge their own detention or treatment. It gives the president the power to indefinitely detain anyone it deems to have provided material support to anti-U.S. hostilities. Secret and coerced evidence could be used to try detainees held in U.S. military prisons. The bill also immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for torturing detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year.

The Senate passed the measure sixty five to thirty four. Twelve Democrats joined the Republican majority. The House passed virtually the same legislation on Wednesday. Legal groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, are already preparing to challenge the constitutionality of the law in court.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. See Senator Leahy’s statement on the detainee bill here.
Michael Ratner. President of the Center for Constitutional Rights.


AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont condemned the legislation from the floor of the Senate.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: It grieves me to think that three decades in this body that I stand here in the Senate, knowing that we’re thinking of doing this. It is so wrong. It is unconstitutional. It is un-American. It is designed to ensure the Bush-Cheney administration will never again be embarrassed by a United States Supreme Court decision reviewing its unlawful abuses of power. The Supreme Court said, ‘You abused your power.’ He said, ‘Ha, we’ll fix that. We have a rubber stamp, a rubber stamp, Congress, that will just set that aside and give us power that nobody, no king or anybody else set foot in this land, ever thought of having.’

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy speaking Thursday prior to the vote. He joins us now on the telephone. Welcome to Democracy Now!

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us, Senator. Now, if you could explain exactly what this bill that the Senate has just approved with a number of Democrats joining with the Republicans, what exactly it does.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: First off, as you probably gathered from what I was saying on the floor, it’s a terrible bill. It removes as many checks and balances as possible so that any president can basically set the law, determine what laws they’ll follow and what laws they’ll break and not have anybody be able to question them on it.

In this case, the particular section I was speaking about at that point was the so-called habeas protection. Now, habeas corpus was first brought in the Magna Carta in the 1200s. It’s been a tenet of our rights as Americans. And what they're saying is that if you’re an alien, even if you’re in the United States legally, a legal alien, may have been here ten years, fifteen years, twenty years legally, if a determination is made by anybody in the executive that you may be a threat, they can hold you indefinitely, they could put you in Guantanamo, not bring any charges, not allow you to have a lawyer, not allow you to ever question what they’ve done, even in cases, as they now acknowledge, where they have large numbers of people in Guantanamo who are there by mistake, that they put you -- say you’re a college professor who has written on Islam or for whatever reason, and they lock you up. You’re not even allowed to question it. You’re not allowed to have a lawyer, not allowed to say, “Wait a minute, you’ve got the wrong person. Or you’ve got -- the one you’re looking for, their name is spelled similar to mine, but it’s not me.” It makes no difference. You have no recourse whatsoever.

This goes so much against everything we've ever done. Now, we’ve had some on the other side say, ‘Well, they're trying to give rights to terrorists.’ No, we’re just saying that the United States will follow the rules it has before and will protect rights of people. We’re not giving any new rights. We’re just saying that if, for example, if you picked up the wrong person, you at least have a chance to get somebody independent to make that judgment.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Leahy, on this issue of habeas corpus, I want to play a clip from yesterday’s Senate debate and have you respond. This is Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: It was never, ever, ever, ever intended or imagined that during the War of 1812, that it British soldiers were captured burning of the Capitol of the United States, as they did, that they would have been given habeas corpus rights. It was never thought to be. habeas corpus was applied to citizens, really, at that time, and I believe that that’s so plain as to be without dispute.

AMY GOODMAN: Republican Senator Jeff Sessions. Senator Leahy, your response.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Well, I wish it was as plain as he says. Of course, in the Hamdan decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it very clear that it is available in somebody captured. In a case like what he was talking about, if somebody had been captured there and held in prison, and they said, “You have the wrong person,” they could at least raise it. And you also have, of course, under the Constitution, that habeas can be suspended if there is an invasion, if there is an insurrection. We have neither case here. Even the most conservative Republican legal thinkers have said this is not a case to suspend habeas corpus.

You know, they can set up all the straw men they want, but the fact is this allows the Bush administration to act totally arbitrarily with no court or anybody else to raise any questions about it. It allows them to cover up any mistakes they make. And this goes beyond just marking everything “secret,” as they do now. Every mistake they make, they just mark it “secret.” But this is even worse. This means somebody could be locked up for five years, ten years, fifteen years, twenty years. They have the wrong person, and they have no rights to be able to say, “Hey guys, you’ve got the wrong person.” It goes against everything that we’ve done as Americans.

You know, when things like this were done during the Cold War in some of the Iron Curtain countries, I remember all the speeches on the Senate floor, Democrats and Republicans alike saying, “How horrible this is! Thank God we don’t do things like this in America.” I wish they’d go back and listen to some of their speeches at that time.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Leahy, this was not a close vote: 65 to 34. The twelve Democrats who joined with the Republicans, except for Senator Chafee of Rhode Island, the twelve Democrats are Tom Carper of Delaware, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, as well as Senator Menendez of New Jersey, Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Senator Pryor of Arkansas, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Ken Salazar of Colorado, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. They joined with the Republicans. You are working very hard to get a Democratic majority in the Senate in these next elections and in Congress overall. What difference would it make?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: In their defense, all but one of them voted with me when we moved to strike the habeas provisions out. That was the Specter-Leahy amendment, and we had, I think it was, 51-48, I think, was the final vote on that. All but one of the Democrats joined with me on that. If we had gotten three or four more Republicans, we would have at least struck out the habeas provision. There are -- you know, I --

AMY GOODMAN: But they voted for this bill without that, with the habeas provision being stripped out.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: I’ll let each one speak for themselves. The fact that the Republicans were virtually lockstep in it, though, should be what I would look at. And maybe we’re blessed in Vermont --

AMY GOODMAN: But that larger question, that larger question of, what would be any different if Democrats were in power?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: For one thing, we would have been asking the questions about what’s been going on for six years. We’ve had a rubberstamp congress that automatically has given the President anything he wants, because nobody’s asked questions. Nobody’s asked the questions that are in the Woodward book that’s coming out this weekend, where you find all the mistakes were made because they will acknowledge no mistakes. The Republicans control both the House and the Senate. They will not call hearings. They won’t try to find out how did Halliburton walk off with billions of dollars in cost overruns in Iraq. Why did the Bush administration refuse to send the body armor our troops needed in Iraq? Why did they send inferior material?

And, of course, the two questions that the Congress would not ask, because the Republicans won’t allow it, is, why did 9/11 happen on George Bush's watch when he had clear warnings that it was going to happen? Why did they allow it to happen? And secondly, when they had Osama bin Laden cornered, why didn’t they get him? Had there been an independent congress, one that could ask questions, these questions would have been asked years ago. We’d be much better off. We would have had the answers to that. I think with those answers, we would not have the fiasco we have in Iraq today, we would have caught Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan would be a more stable place, and the world would be safer.

AMY GOODMAN: Was President Bush on Capitol Hill yesterday?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Oh, yes, indeed. You can always tell, because virtually the whole city comes to a screeching halt with the motorcades, although it’s sort of like that when Dick Cheney comes up to give orders to the Republican Caucus. He comes up with a 15 to 25 vehicle caravan. It’s amazing to watch.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was Bush doing yesterday on Capitol Hill?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Oh, he was just telling them they had to vote this way. They had to vote. They couldn’t hand him a defeat. They had to go with him They had to trust him. It’ll get us past the election. We had offered a -- you know, five years ago, I and others had suggested there is a way to have military tribunals for the detainees, where it would meet all our standards and basic international standards. They rejected that. And now, five weeks before the elections, they say, ‘Oh, yes, we need something like that.’ No, basically what he was saying to them, don’t ask questions, get us past the elections, because if you ask questions, the answers are going to be embarrassing, and it could hurt you in the elections.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Leahy, we have to break for one minute. We ask you to stay with us. We’ll also be joined by CCR president, Center for Constitutional Rights president, Michael Ratner.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He is president there. Michael Ratner, your response, as we speak with the senator about this groundbreaking legislation?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, I think Senator Leahy really got it right. I mean, what this bill authorizes is really the authority of an authoritarian despot to the president. I mean, what it gives him is the power, as the senator said, to detain any person anywhere in the world, citizen or non-citizen, whether living in the United States or anywhere else. I mean, what kind of authority is that? No checks and balances. Nothing. Now, if you’re a citizen, you still get your right of habeas corpus. If you’re a non-citizen, as the senator pointed out, you’re completely finished. Picked up, legal permanent resident in the United States, detained forever, no writ of habeas corpus.

It was incredibly shocking. I watched that vote yesterday. I had been in Washington for two or three days trying to line up the votes for Senator Leahy’s amendment that would have restored habeas. We thought we had them. We lost at 51 to 48. I have to tell you, Amy, I just -- I basically broke down at that point. I had been working like a dog on this thing. And there I saw the President come to Capitol Hill and persuade two or three or four of the Republicans who we thought we had to vote to strip habeas corpus from this legislation. It was a shock. I mean, an utter shock.

So you have this ability to detain anyone anywhere in the world. You deny them the writ of habeas corpus. And when they're in detention, you have a right to do all kinds of coercive techniques on them: hooding, stripping, anything really the president says goes, short of what he defines as torture. And then, if you are lucky enough to be tried, and I say “lucky enough,” because, for example, the 460 people the Center represents at Guantanamo may never get trials. In fact, only ten have even been charged. Those people, they’ve been stripped of their right to go to court and test their detention by habeas corpus. They’re just -- they’ve been there five years. Right now, under this legislation, they could be there forever.

Let me tell you, this bill will be struck down and struck down badly. But meanwhile, for two more years or whatever it’s going to take us to litigate it, we’re going to be litigating what was a basic right, as the senator said, since the Magna Carta of 1215, the right of any human being to test their detention in court. It’s one of the saddest days I’ve seen. You’ve called it “groundbreaking,” Amy. It’s really Constitution-breaking. It’s Constitution-shattering. It shatters really basic rights that we've had for a very long time.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Leahy, how long have you been a senator?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: I’ve been there 32 years. I have to absolutely agree with what I just heard. I mean, this is -- it’s Kafka. But it’s more than that. It’s just a total rollback of everything this country has stood for. I mean, you have 100 people, very privileged, members of the Senate voting this way and with no realization of what it would be like if you were the one who was picked up. Maybe you’re guilty, but quite often, as we’ve seen, purely by accident and then held for years.

You know, I was a prosecutor for eight years. I prosecuted an awful lot of people, sent a lot of people to prison. But I did it arguing that everybody's rights had to be protected, because mistakes are often made. You want to make sure that if you’re prosecuting somebody, you’re prosecuting the right person. Here, they don't care whether mistakes are made or not.

And you have to stand up. I mean, it was a Vermonter -- you go way back in history -- it was a Vermonter who stood up against the Alien and Sedition Act, Matthew Lyon. He was prosecuted on that, put in jail, as a congressman, put in jail. And Vermont showed what they thought of these unconstitutional laws. We in Vermont reelected him, and eventually the laws fell down. There was another Vermonter, Ralph Flanders, who stood up to Joseph McCarthy and his reign of fear and stopped that. I mean, you have to stand. What has happened, here we are, a great powerful good nation, and we’re running scared. We’re willing to set aside all our values and running scared. What an example that is to the rest of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: You gave an example, Senator Leahy, when you talked about what would happen here. And, I mean, even the fact that “habeas corpus” is in Latin, I think, distances people. They don’t quite understand what this is about.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: “Bring the body.”

AMY GOODMAN: You gave a very -- sorry?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: “Bring the body.”

AMY GOODMAN: You gave a very graphic example. You said, “Imagine you’re a law-abiding lawful permanent resident. In your spare time you do charitable fundraising for international relief agencies that lend a hand in disasters.” Take that story from there, the example you used.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: You send money. You don’t care which particular religious group or civic group it is. They’re doing humanitarian work. You send the money. It turns out that one of them is giving money to various Islamic causes that the United States is concerned about. They come to your house. Maybe somebody has called into one of these anonymous tipster lines, saying, “You know, this Amy Goodman. I’m somewhat worried about her, simply because she’s going -- and I think I’ve seen some Muslim-looking people coming to her house.” They come in there, and they say, “We want to talk to you.” They bring you downtown. You’re a legal alien, legal resident here. And you say, “Well, look, I’ve got my rights. I’d like to talk to a lawyer.” They say, “No, no. You don’t have any rights.” “Well, then I’m not going to talk to you.” “Well, then now we’re twice as concerned about you. We’re going to spirit you down to Guantanamo, and we’ll get back to in a few years.” And, I mean, that could actually happen under this. And these are not far-fetched ideas, as the professor knows. He’s seen similar things.

And with that, and I would love to continue this conversation, unfortunately I’ve got to go back to my day job, back to the judiciary. I think this is going to go down as one of those black marks in the Congress. You know, I wasn’t there at the time, but virtually everybody voted for the Tonkin Gulf resolution. When I came to the Senate, you couldn’t find anybody there who thought that was a good idea. They knew it was a terrible mistake. You had members of congress supported the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II. Everybody knows that was a terrible mistake now. That day will come when everybody will look at this and say, “What were we thinking?”

AMY GOODMAN: Patrick Leahy, thanks very much for joining us. We only have about 30 seconds. Michael Ratner, president of Center for Constitutional Rights, your final comment on this.

MICHAEL RATNER: This was really, as the senator said, probably the worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in my 40-year career as a lawyer. The idea, and even the example Senator Leahy gave, of someone being picked up, you don’t need anything. The President can decide tomorrow that you, Amy, or me, or particularly a non-citizen, can be picked up, put in jail forever, essentially, and if you're a non-citizen in Guantanamo or anywhere else in the world, you never get a chance to go to court to test your detention. It’s an incredible thing, and any senator who voted for this, in my view, is essentially guilty, guilty, guilty of undermining basic fundamental rights and may well be guilty of war crimes, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner, thanks very much for joining us, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Canadian torture victim gets apology

Friday 29 September 2006 2:37 AM GMT

Syria denies it tortured Canadian Maher Arar in 2002

Canada's police commissioner has apologised to a Canadian man deported by US authorities to Syria and tortured based on bad Canadian intelligence, but said the US shared blame.

Giuliano Zaccardelli, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said on Thursday he was "truly sorry" for "the nightmare" Maher Arar experienced and for "whatever part" the federal police actions "may have contributed to the terrible injustices" his family endured.

"It is true that the early days after 9/11 were confusing and challenging. Of course this doesn't excuse or allow us to avoid facing head-on the ramifications of that time," he told a parliamentary standing committee on public safety and national security.

Arar was stopped in September 2002 while he was travelling through New York, on his way to Canada from a trip to Tunisia, and was deported to Syria where he was jailed and tortured for more than a year, said a Canadian report released mid-September.

Syria denies the torture claims and Washington has refused to accept blame for any wrongdoing in the case.

Faulty intelligence

The 822-page report, which cleared Arar of terrorism ties, stated that US authorities had likely relied on faulty intelligence provided by Canadian police to hold and deport the 36-year-old software engineer to Syria.

The Mounties had provided "inaccurate" information to US authorities saying Arar was an "Islamic extremist" linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist group.

However, Zaccardelli said on Thursday that US authorities were advised of the mistake while Arar was still in US custody in New York.

"When Mr Arar was in New York City, we clearly communicated with the Americans that there was false information there and we tried to correct that false information," he testified.

'No indication'

"I have no information, no indication as to why the Americans took the decision ... to detain him and send him to Syria," Zaccardelli said.

"We have attempted to get that information. We have not gotten that," despite closer US-Canada security ties since 2002, he later said.

Alberto Gonzales, the US attorney-general, said last week: "We were not responsible for his removal to Syria," and added it was not a rendition, the transfer of alleged terrorists to CIA custody, as some alleged.

"It was a deportation," he explained. Arar is a Canadian citizen born in Syria.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Che Guevara's Address at the United Nations

Leading Figure of the Cuban Revolution Spoke At the United Nations

(December 11, 1964)

This address was delivered to the Nineteenth General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. It was published in the December 12, 1964, issues of Revolución and Hoy.

Mr. President; Distinguished delegates:

The delegation of Cuba to this assembly, first of all, is pleased to fulfill the agreeable duty of welcoming the addition of three new nations to the important number of those that discuss the problems of the world here. We therefore greet, in the persons of their presidents and prime ministers, the peoples of Zambia, Malawi, and Malta, and express the hope that from the outset these countries will be added to the group of Nonaligned countries that struggle against imperialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism.

We also wish to convey our congratulations to the president of this assembly [Alex Quaison-Sackey of Ghana], whose elevation to so high a post is of special significance since it reflects this new historic stage of resounding triumphs for the peoples of Africa, who up until recently were subject to the colonial system of imperialism. Today, in their immense majority these peoples have become sovereign states through the legitimate exercise of their self-determination. The final hour of colonialism has struck, and millions of inhabitants of Africa, Asia, and Latin America rise to meet a new life and demand their unrestricted right to self-determination and to the independent development of their nations.

We wish you, Mr. President, the greatest success in the tasks entrusted to you by the member states.

Cuba comes here to state its position on the most important points of controversy and will do so with the full sense of responsibility that the use of this rostrum implies, while at the same time fulfilling the unavoidable duty of speaking clearly and frankly. We would like to see this assembly shake itself out of complacency and move forward. We would like to see the committees begin their work and not stop at the first confrontation. Imperialism wants to turn this meeting into a pointless oratorical tournament, instead of solving the serious problems of the world. We must prevent it from doing so. This session of the assembly should not be remembered in the future solely by the number nineteen that identifies it. Our efforts are directed to that end.

We feel that we have the right and the obligation to do so, because our country is one of the most constant points of friction. It is one of the places where the principles upholding the right of small countries to sovereignty are put to the test day by day, minute by minute. At the same time our country is one of the trenches of freedom in the world, situated a few steps away from United States imperialism, showing by its actions, its daily example, that in the present conditions of humanity the peoples can liberate themselves and can keep themselves free.

Of course, there now exists a socialist camp that becomes stronger day by day and has more powerful weapons of struggle. But additional conditions are required for survival: the maintenance of internal unity, faith in one's own destiny, and the irrevocable decision to fight to the death for the defense of one's country and revolution. These conditions, distinguished delegates, exist in Cuba.

Of all the burning problems to be dealt with by this assembly, one of special significance for us, and one whose solution we feel must be found first--so as to leave no doubt in the minds of anyone--is that of peaceful coexistence among states with different economic and social systems. Much progress has been made in the world in this field. But imperialism, particularly U.S. imperialism, has attempted to make the world believe that peaceful coexistence is the exclusive right of the earth's great powers. We say here what our president said in Cairo, and what later was expressed in the declaration of the Second Conference of Heads of State or Government of Nonaligned Countries: that peaceful coexistence cannot be limited to the powerful countries if we want to ensure world peace.' Peaceful coexistence must be exercised among all states, regardless of size, regardless of the previous historical relations that linked them, and regardless of the problems that may arise among some of them at a given moment.

At present, the type of peaceful coexistence to which we aspire is often violated. Merely because the Kingdom of Cambodia maintained a neutral attitude and did not bow to the machinations of United States imperialism, it has been subjected to all kinds of treacherous and brutal attacks from the Yankee bases in South Vietnam.

Laos, a divided country, has also been the object of imperialist aggression of every kind. Its people have been massacred from the air. The conventions concluded at Geneva have been violated, and part of its territory is in constant danger of cowardly attacks by imperialist forces.

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam knows all these histories of aggression as do few nations on earth. It has once again seen its frontier violated, has seen enemy bombers and fighter planes attack its installations and U.S. warships, violating territorial waters, attack its naval posts. At this time, the threat hangs over the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that the U.S. war makers may openly extend into its territory the war that for many years they have been waging against the people of South Vietnam. The Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China have given serious warnings to the United States. We are faced with a case in which world peace is in danger and, moreover, the lives of millions of human beings in this part of Asia are constantly threatened and subjected to the whim of the U.S. invader.

Peaceful coexistence has also been brutally put to the test in Cyprus, due to pressures from the Turkish government and NATO, compelling the people and the government of Cyprus to make a heroic and firm stand in defense of their sovereignty.

In all these parts of the world, imperialism attempts to impose its version of what coexistence should be. It is the oppressed peoples in alliance with the socialist camp that must show them what true coexistence is, and it is the obligation of the United Nations to support them.

We must also state that it is not only in relations among sovereign states that the concept of peaceful coexistence needs to be precisely defined. As Marxists we have maintained that peace, (1) coexistence among nations does not encompass coexistence between the exploiters and the exploited, between the oppressors and the oppressed. Furthermore, the right to full independence from all forms of colonial oppression is a fundamental principle of this organization. That is why we express our solidarity with the colonial peoples of socalled Portuguese Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique, who have been massacred for the crime of demanding their freedom. And we are prepared to help them to the extent of our ability in accordance with the Cairo declaration.

We express our solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico and their great leader, Pedro Albizu Campos, who, in another act of hypocrisy, has been set free at the age of seventy-two, almost unable to speak, paralyzed, after spending a lifetime in jail. Albizu Campos is a symbol of the as yet unfree but indomitable Latin America. Years and years of prison, almost unbearable pressures in jail, mental torture, solitude, total isolation from his people and his family, the insolence of the conqueror and its lackeys in the land of his birth--nothing broke his will. The delegation of Cuba, on behalf of its people, pays a tribute of admiration and gratitude to a patriot who confers honor upon our America.

The United States for many years has tried to convert Puerto Rico into a model of hybrid culture: the Spanish language with English inflections, the Spanish language with hinges on its backbone--the better to bow down before the Yankee soldier. Puerto Rican soldiers have been used as cannon fodder in imperialist wars, as in Korea, and have even been made to fire at their own brothers, as in the massacre perpetrated by the U.S. army a few months ago against the unarmed people of Panama--one of the most recent crimes carried out by Yankee imperialism.(2) And yet, despite this assault on their will and their historical destiny, the people of Puerto Rico have preserved their culture, their Latin character, their national feelings, which in themselves give proof of the implacable desire for independence lying within the masses on that Latin American island.

We must also warn that the principle of peaceful coexistence does not encompass the right to mock the will of the peoples, as is happening in the case of so-called British Guiana. There the government of Prime Minister Cheddi Jagan has been the victim of every kind of pressure and maneuver, and independence has been delayed to gain time to find ways to flout the people's will and guarantee the docility of a new government, placed in power by covert means, in order to grant a castrated freedom to this country of the Americas.(3) Whatever roads Guiana may be compelled to follow to obtain independence, the moral and militant support of Cuba goes to its people.

Furthermore, we must point out that the islands of Guadaloupe and Martinique have been fighting for a long time for self-government without obtaining it. This state of affairs must not continue.

Once again we speak out to put the world on guard against what is happening in South Africa. The brutal policy of apartheid is applied before the eyes of the nations of the world. The peoples of Africa are compelled to endure the fact that on the African continent the superiority of one race over another remains of ficial policy, and that in the name of this racial superiority murder is committed with impunity. Can the United Nations do nothing to stop this?

I would like to refer specifically to the painful case of the Congo, unique in the history of the modern world, which shows how, with absolute impunity, with the most insolent cynicism, the rights of peoples can be flouted. The direct reason for all this is the enormous wealth of the Congo, which the imperialist countries want to keep under their control. In the speech he made during his first visit to the United Nations, Companero Fidel Castro observed that the whole problem of coexistence among peoples boils down to the wrongful appropriation of other peoples' wealth. He made the following statement: "End the philosophy of plunder and the philosophy of war will be ended as well."

But the philosophy of plunder has not only not been ended, it is stronger than ever. And that is why those who used the name of the United Nations to commit the murder of Lumumba are today, in the name of the defense of the white race, murdering thousands of Congolese. How can we forget the betrayal of the hope that Patrice Lumumba placed in the United Nations? How can we forget the machinations and maneuvers that followed in the wake of the occupation of that country by United Nations troops, under whose auspices the assassins of this great African patriot acted with impunity? How can we forget, distinguished delegates, that the one who flouted the authority of the UN in the Congo--and not exactly for patriotic reasons, but rather by virtue of conflicts between imperialists--was Moise Tshombe, who initiated the secession of Katanga with Belgian support? And how can one justify, how can one explain, that at the end of all the United Nations activities there, Tshombe, dislodged from Katanga, should return as lord and master of the Congo? Who can deny the sad role that the imperialists compelled the United Nations to play?

To sum up: dramatic mobilizations were carried out to avoid the secession of Katanga, but today Tshombe is in power, the wealth of the Congo is in imperialist hands--and the expenses have to be paid by the honorable nations. The merchants of war certainly do good business! That is why the government of Cuba supports the just stance of the Soviet Union in refusing to pay the expenses for this come.

And as if this were not enough, we now have flung in our faces these latest acts that have filled the world with indignation.(4) Who are the perpetrators? Belgian paratroopers, carried by United States planes, who took off from British bases. We remember as if it were yesterday that we saw a small country in Europe, a civilized and industrious country, the Kingdom of Belgium, invaded by Hitler's hordes. We were embittered by the knowledge that this small nation was massacred by German imperialism, and we felt affection for its people. But this other side of the imperialist coin was the one that many of us did not see. Perhaps the sons of Belgian patriots who died defending their country's liberty are now murdering in cold blood thousands of Congolese in the name of the white race, just as they suffered under the German heel because their blood was not sufficiently Aryan.

Our free eyes open now on new horizons and can see what yesterday, in our condition as colonial slaves, we could not observe: that "Western Civilization" disguises behind its showy facade a picture of hyenas and jackals. That is the only name that can be applied to those who have gone to fulfill such "humanitarian" tasks in the Congo. A carnivorous animal that feeds on unarmed peoples. That is what imperialism does to men. That is what distinguishes the imperial "white man."

All free men of the world must be prepared to avenge the crime of the Congo. Perhaps many of those soldiers, who were turned into subhumans by imperialist machinery, believe in good faith that they are defending the rights of a superior race. In this assembly, however, those peoples whose skins are darkened by a different sun, colored by different pigments, constitute the majority. And they fully and clearly understand that the difference between men does not lie in the color of their skin, but in the forms of ownership of the means of production, in the relations of production.

The Cuban delegation extends greetings to the peoples of Southern Rhodesia and South-West Africa, oppressed by white colonialist minorities; to the peoples of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Swaziland, French Somaliland, the Arabs of Palestine, Aden and the Protectorates, Oman; and to all peoples in conflict with imperialism and colonialism. We reaffirm our support to them.

I express also the hope that there will be a just solution to the conflict facing our sister republic of Indonesia in its relations with Malaysia.

Mr. President: One of the fundamental themes of this conference is general and complete disarmament. We express our support for general and complete disarmament. Furthermore, we advocate the complete destruction of all thermonuclear devices and we support the holding of a conference of all the nations of the world to make this aspiration of all people a reality. In his statement before this assembly, our prime minister warned that arms races have always led to war. There are new nuclear powers in the world, and the possibilities of a confrontation are growing.

We believe that such a conference is necessary to obtain the total destruction of thermonuclear weapons and, as a first step, the total prohibition of tests. At the same time, we have to establish clearly the duty of all countries to respect the present borders of other states and to refrain from engaging in any aggression, even with conventional weapons.

In adding our voice to that of all the peoples of the world who ask for general and complete disarmament, the destruction of all nuclear arsenals, the complete halt to the building of new thermonuclear devices and of nuclear tests of any kind, we believe it necessary to also stress that the territorial integrity of nations must be respected and the armed hand of imperialism held back, for it is no less dangerous when it uses only conventional weapons. Those who murdered thousands of defenseless citizens of the Congo did not use the atomic bomb. They used conventional weapons. Conventional weapons have also been used by imperialism, causing so many deaths.

Even if the measures advocated here were to become effective and make it unnecessary to mention it, we must point out that we cannot adhere to any regional pact for denuclearization so long as the United States maintains aggressive bases on our own territory, in Puerto Rico, Panama, and in other Latin American states where it feels it has the right to place both conventional and nuclear weapons without any restrictions. We feel that we must be able to provide for our own defense in the light of the recent resolution of the Organization of American States against Cuba, on the basis of which an attack may be carried out invoking the Rio Treaty.(5)

If the conference to which we have just referred were to achieve all these objectives--which, unfortunately, would be difficult--we believe it would be the most important one in the history of humanity. To ensure this it would be necessary for the People's Republic of China to be represented, and that is why a conference of this type must be held. But it would be much simpler for the peoples of the world to recognize the undeniable truth of the existence of the People's Republic of China, whose government is the sole representative of its people, and to give it the seat it deserves, which is, at present, usurped by the gang that controls the province of Taiwan, with United States support.

The problem of the representation of China in the United Nations cannot in any way be considered as a case of a new admission to the organization, but rather as the restoration of the legitimate rights of the People's Republic of China.

We must repudiate energetically the "two Chinas" plot. The Chiang Kai-shek gang of Taiwan cannot remain in the United Nations. What we are dealing with, we repeat, is the expulsion of the usurper and the installation of the legitimate representative of the Chinese people.

We also warn against the United States government's insistence on presenting the problem of the legitimate representation of China in the UN as an "important question," in order to impose a requirement of a two-thirds majority of members present and voting. The admission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations is, in fact, an important question for the entire world, but not for the machinery of the United Nations, where it must constitute a mere question of procedure. In this way justice will be done. Almost as important as attaining justice, however, would be the demonstration, once and for all, that this august assembly has eyes to see, ears to hear, tongues to speak with, and sound criteria for making its decisions.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons among the member states of NATO, and especially the possession of these devices of mass destruction by the Federal Republic of Germany, would make the possibility of an agreement on disarmament even more remote, and linked to such an agreement is the problem of the peaceful reunification of Germany. So long as there is no clear understanding the existence of two Germanysmust be recognized: that of the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic. The German problem can be solved only with the direct participation in negotiations of the German Democratic Republic with full rights.

We shall only touch on the questions of economic development and international trade that are broadly represented in the agenda. In this very year of 1964 the Geneva conference was held at which a multitude of matters related to these aspects of international relations were dealt with. The warnings and forecasts of our delegation were fully confirmed, to the misfortune of the economically dependent countries.

We wish only to point out that insofar as Cuba is concerned, the United States of America has not implemented the explicit recommendations of that conference, and recently the U.S. government also prohibited the sale of medicines to Cuba. By doing so it divested itself, once and for all, of the mask of humanitarianism with which it attempted to disguise the aggressive nature of its blockade against the people of Cuba.

Furthermore, we state once more that the scars left by colonialism that impede the development of the peoples are expressed not only in political relations. The so-called deterioration of the terms of trade is nothing but the result of the unequal exchange between countries producing raw materials and industrial countries, which dominate markets and impose the illusory justice of equal exchange of values.

So long as the economically dependent peoples do not free themselves from the capitalist markets and, in a firm bloc with the socialist countries, impose new relations between the exploited and the exploiters, there will be no solid economic development. In certain cases there will be retrogression, in which the weak countries will fall under the political domination of the imperialists and colonialists.

Finally, distinguished delegates, it must be made clear that in the area of the Caribbean, maneuvers and preparations for aggression against Cuba are taking place, on the coasts of Nicaragua above all, in Costa Rica as well, in the Panama Canal Zone, on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, in Florida, and possibly in other parts of United States territory and perhaps also in Honduras. In these places Cuban mercenaries are training, as well as mercenaries of other nationalities, with a purpose that cannot be the most peaceful one.

After a big scandal, the government of Costa Rica--it is said--has ordered the elimination of all training camps of Cuban exiles in that country. No one knows whether this position is sincere, or whether it is a simple alibi because the mercenaries training there were about to commit some misdeed. We hope that full cognizance will be taken of the real existence of bases for aggression, which we denounced long ago, and that the world will ponder the international responsibility of the government of a country that authorizes and facilitates the training of mercenaries to attack Cuba.

We should note that news of the training of mercenaries in different parts in the Caribbean and the participation of the U.S. government in such acts is presented as completely natural in the newspapers in the United States. We know of no Latin American voice that has officially protested this. This shows the cynicism with which the United States government moves its pawns.

The sharp foreign ministers of the GAS had eyes to see Cuban emblems and to find "irrefutable" proof in the weapons that the Yankees exhibited in Venezuela, but they do not see the preparations for aggression in the United States, just as they did not hear the voice of President Kennedy, who explicitly declared himself the aggressor against Cuba at Playa Giron. In some cases, it is a blindness provoked by the hatred against our revolution by the ruling classes of the Latin American countries. In others--and these are sadder and more deplorable--it is the product of the dazzling glitter of mammon.

As is well known, after the tremendous commotion of the socalled Caribbean crisis, the United States undertook certain commitments with the Soviet Union. These culminated in the withdrawal of certain types of weapons that the continued acts of aggression of the United States--such as the mercenary attack at Playa Giron and threats of invasion against our homeland--had compelled us to install in Cuba as an act of legitimate and essential defense.

The United States, furthermore, tried to get the UN to inspect our territory. But we emphatically refuse, since Cuba does not recognize the right of the United States, or of anyone else in the world, to determine the type of weapons Cuba may have within its borders.

In this connection, we would abide only by multilateral agreements, with equal obligations for all the parties concerned. As Fidel Castro has said: "So long as the concept of sovereignty exists as the prerogative of nations and of independent peoples, as a right of all peoples, we will not accept the exclusion of our people from that right. So long as the world is governed by these principles, so long as the world is governed by those concepts that have universal validity because they are universally accepted and recognized by the peoples, we will not accept the attempt to deprive us of any of those rights, and we will renounce none of those rights."

The secretary-general of the United Nations, U Thant, understood our reasons. Nevertheless, the United States attempted to establish a new prerogative, an arbitrary and illegal one: that of violating the airspace of a small country. Thus, we see flying over our country U-2 aircraft and other types of spy planes that, with complete impunity, fly over our airspace. We have made all the necessary warnings for the violations of our airspace to cease, as well as for a halt to the provocations of the United States navy against our sentry posts in the zone of Guantanamo, the buzzing by aircraft of our ships or the ships of other nationalities in international waters, the pirate attacks against ships sailing under different flags, and the infiltration of spies, saboteurs, and weapons onto our island.

We want to build socialism. We have declared that we are supporters of those who strive for peace. We have declared ourselves to be within the group of Nonaligned countries, although we are MarxistLeninists, because the Nonaligned countries, like ourselves, fight imperialism. We want peace. We want to build a better life for our people. That is why we avoid, insofar as possible, falling into the provocations manufactured by the Yankees. But we know the mentality of those who govern them. They want to make us pay a very high price for that peace. We reply that the price cannot go beyond the bounds of dignity.

And Cuba reaffirms once again the right to maintain on its territory the weapons it deems appropriate, and its refusal to recognize the right of any power on earth--no matter how powerful--to violate our soil, our territorial waters, or our airspace.

If in any assembly Cuba assumes obligations of a collective nature, it will fulfill them to the letter. So long as this does not happen, Cuba maintains all its rights, just as any other nation. In the face of the demands of imperialism, our prime minister laid out the five points necessary for the existence of a secure peace in the Caribbean.

They are:
--"A halt to the economic blockade and all economic and trade pressures by the United States, in all parts of the world, against our country;
--A halt to all subversive activities, launching and landing of weapons and explosives by air and sea, organization of mercenary invasions, infiltration of spies and saboteurs, acts all carried out from the territory of the United States and some accomplice countries;
--A halt to pirate attacks carried out from existing bases in the United States and Puerto Rico;
--A halt to all the violations of our airspace and our territorial waters by United States aircraft and warships;
--Withdrawal from the Guantanamo naval base and return of the Cuban territory occupied by the United States."

None of these elementary demands has been met, and our forces are still being provoked from the naval base at Guantanamo. That base has become a nest of thieves and a launching pad for them into our territory. We would tire this assembly were we to give a detailed account of the large number of provocations of all kinds. Suffice it to say that including the first days of December the number amounts to 1,323 in 1964 alone. The list covers minor provocations such as violation of the boundary line, launching of objects from the territory controlled by the United States, the commission of acts of sexual exhibitionism by U.S. personnel of both sexes, and verbal insults. It includes others that are more serious, such as shooting off smallcaliber weapons, aiming weapons at our territory, and offenses against our national flag. Extremely serious provocations include those of crossing the boundary line and starting fires in installations on the Cuban side, as well as rifle fire. There have been seventyeight rifle shots this year, with the sorrowful toll of one death: that of Ramon Lopez Pena, a soldier, killed by two shots fired from the United States post three and a half kilometers from the coast on the northern boundary. This extremely grave provocation took place at 7:07 p.m. on July 19, 1964, and the prime minister of our government publicly stated on July 26 that if the event were to recur he would give orders for our troops to repel the aggression. At the same time orders were given for the withdrawal of the forward line of Cuban forces to positions farther away from the boundary line and construction of the necessary fortified positions.

One thousand three hundred and twenty-three provocations in 340 days amount to approximately four per day. Only a perfectly disciplined army with a morale such as ours could resist so many hostile acts without losing its self-control.

Forty-seven countries meeting at the Second Conference of Heads of State or Government of Nonaligned Countries in Cairo unanimously agreed:

Noting with concern that foreign military bases are in practice a means of bringing pressure on nations and retarding their emancipation and development, based on their own ideological, political, economic, and cultural ideas, the conference declares its unreserved support to the countries that are seeking to secure the elimination of foreign bases from their territory and calls upon all states maintaining troops and bases in other countries to remove them immediately.

The conference considers that the maintenance at Guantanamo (Cuba) of a military base of the United States of America, in defiance of the will of the government and people of Cuba and in defiance of the provisions embodied in the declaration of the Belgrade conference, constitutes a violation of Cuba's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Noting that the Cuban government expresses its readiness to settle its dispute over the base at Guantanamo with the United States of America on an equal footing, the conference urges the United States government to open negotiations with the Cuban government to evacuate their base.

The government of the United States has not responded to this request of the Cairo conference and is attempting to maintain indefinitely by force its occupation of a piece of our territory, from which it carries out acts of aggression such as those detailed earlier.

The Organization of American States--which the people also call the United States Ministry of Colonies--condemned us "energetically," even though it had just excluded us from its midst, ordering its members to break off diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. The OAS authorized aggression against our country at any time and under any pretext, violating the most fundamental international laws, completely disregarding the United Nations. Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, and Mexico opposed that measure, and the government of the United States of Mexico refused to comply with the sanctions that had been approved. Since then we have had no relations with any Latin American countries except Mexico, and this fulfills one of the necessary conditions for direct aggression by imperialism.

We want to make clear once again that our concern for Latin America is based on the ties that unite us: the language we speak, the culture we maintain, and the common master we had. We have no other reason for desiring the liberation of Latin America from the U.S. colonial yoke. If any of the Latin American countries here decide to reestablish relations with Cuba, we would be willing to do so on the basis of equality, and without viewing that recognition of Cuba as a free country in the world to be a gift to our goverment. Because we won that recognition with our blood in the days of the liberation struggle. We acquired it with our blood in the defense of our shores against the Yankee invasion.

Although we reject any accusations against us of interference in the internal affairs of other countries, we cannot deny that we sympathize with those people who strive for their freedom. We must fulfill the obligation of our government and people to state clearly and categorically to the world that we morally support and stand in solidarity with peoples who struggle anywhere in the world to make a reality of the rights of full sovereignty proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.

It is the United States that intervenes. It has done so historically in Latin America. Since the end of the last century Cuba has experienced this truth; but it has been experienced, too, by Venezuela, Nicaragua, Central America in general, Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. In recent years, apart from our people, Panama has experienced direct aggression, where the marines in the Canal Zone opened fire in cold blood against the defenseless people; the Dominican Republic, whose coast was violated by the Yankee fleet to avoid an outbreak of the just fury of the people after the death of Trujillo; and Colombia, whose capital was taken by assault as a result of a rebellion provoked by the assassination of Gaitan.(6)

Covert interventions are carried out through military missions that participate in internal repression, organizing forces designed for that purpose in many countries, and also in coupe d'etat, which have been repeated so frequently on the Latin American continent during recent years. Concretely, United States forces intervened in the repression of the peoples of Venezuela, Colombia, and Guatemala, who fought with weapons for their freedom. In Venezuela, not only do U.S. forces advise the army and the police, but they also direct acts of genocide carried out from the air against the peasant population in vast insurgent areas. And the Yankee companies operating there exert pressures of every kind to increase direct interference. The imperialists are preparing to repress the peoples of the Americas and are establishing an International of Crime.

The United States intervenes in Latin America invoking the defense of free institutions. The time will come when this assembly will acquire greater maturity and demand of the United States government guarantees for the life of the Blacks and Latin Americans who live in that country, most of them U.S. citizens by origin or adoption.

Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of Blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the Black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men--how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom? We understand that today the assembly is not in a position to ask for explanations of these acts. It must be clearly established, however, that the government of the United States is not the champion of freedom, but rather the perpetuator of exploitation and oppression against the peoples of the world and against a large part of its own population.

To the ambiguous language with which some delegates have described the case of Cuba and the OAS, we reply with clear-cut words and we proclaim that the peoples of Latin America will make those servile, sell-out governments pay for their treason.

Cuba, distinguished delegates, a free and sovereign state with no chains binding it to anyone, with no foreign investments on its territory, with no proconsuls directing its policy, can speak with its head held high in this assembly and can demonstrate the justice of the phrase by which it has been baptized: "Free Territory of the Americas."

Our example will bear fruit in the continent, as it is already doing to a certain extent in Guatemala, Colombia, and Venezuela.

There is no small enemy nor insignificant force, because no longer are there isolated peoples. As the Second Declaration of Havana states:

No nation in Latin America is weak--because each forms part of a family of 200 million brothers, who suffer the same miseries, who harbor the same sentiments, who have the same enemy, who dream about the same better future, and who count upon the solidarity of all honest men and women throughout the world....

This epic before us is going to be written by the hungry Indian masses, the peasants without land, the exploited workers. It is going to be written by the progressive masses, the honest and brilliant intellectuals, who so greatly abound in our suffering Latin American lands. Struggles of masses and ideas. An epic that will be carried forward by our peoples, mistreated and scorned by imperialism; our people, unreckoned with until today, who are now beginning to shake off their slumber. Imperialism considered us a weak and submissive flock; and now it begins to be terrified of that flock; a gigantic flock of 200 million Latin Americans in whom Yankee monopoly capitalism now sees its gravediggers....

But now from one end of the continent to the other they are signaling with clarity that the hour has come--the hour of their vindication. Now this anonymous mass, this America of color, somber, taciturn America, which all over the continent sings with the same sadness and disillusionment, now this mass is beginning to enter definitively into its own history, is beginning to write it with its own blood, is beginning to suffer and die for it.

Because now in the mountains and fields of America, on its flatlands and in its jungles, in the wilderness or in the traffic of cities, on the banks of its great oceans or rivers, this world is beginning to tremble. Anxious hands are stretched forth, ready to die for what is theirs, to win those rights that were laughed at by one and all for 500 years. Yes, now history will have to take the poor of America into account, the exploited and spurned of America, who have decided to begin writing their history for themselves for all time. Already they can be seen on the roads, on foot, day after day, in endless march of hundreds of kilometers to the governmental "eminences," there to obtain their rights.

Already they can be seen armed with stones, sticks, machetes, in one direction and another, each day, occupying lands, sinking hooks into the land that belongs to them and defending it with their lives. They can be seen carrying signs, slogans, flags; letting them flap in the mountain or prairie winds. And the wave of anger, of demands for justice, of claims for rights trampled underfoot, which is beginning to sweep the lands of Latin America, will not stop. That wave will swell with every passing day. For that wave is composed of the greatest number, the majorities in every respect, those whose labor amasses the wealth and turns the wheels of history. Now they are awakening from the long, brutalizing sleep to which they had been subjected.

For this great mass of humanity has said, "Enough!" and has begun to march. And their march of giants will not be halted until they conquer true independence--for which they have vainly died more than once. Today, however, those who die will die like the Cubans at Playa Girdn. They will die for their own true and never-to-be-surrendered independence.

All this, distinguished delegates, this new will of a whole continent, of Latin America, is made manifest in the cry proclaimed daily by our masses as the irrefutable expression of their decision to fight and to paralyze the armed hand of the invader. It is a cry that has the understanding and support of all the peoples of the world and especially of the socialist camp, headed by the Soviet Union. That cry is: Patria o muerte! [Homeland or death]


1. Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticis attended the October 1964 Nonaligned summit conference in Cairo.

2. In January 1964 U.S. forces opened fire on Panamanian students demonstrating in the U.S.-occupied Canal Zone, sparking several days of street fighting. More than twenty Panamanians were killed and 300 were wounded.

3. Cheddi Jagan had become prime minister of British Guiana after the People's Progressive Party won the 1953 elections; shortly thereafter Britain suspended the constitution. Jagan was reelected in 1957 and 1961. In 1964 he was defeated in an election by Forbes Burnham. In 1966 Guyana won its independence.

4. In mid-1964, a revolt broke out in the Congo led by followers of murdered Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. In an effort to crush the uprising, during November U.S. planes ferried Belgian troops and mercenaries to rebel-held territory. These forces carried out a massacre of thousands of Congolese.

5. An OAS conference in July 1964 called on all its members to break diplomatic relations and suspend trade with Cuba. The meeting charged Cuba with following a "policy of aggression" for allegedly smuggling arms to Venezuelan guerrillas. The Rio Treaty, invoked as justification for this action, was the OAS Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, signed September 2, 1947, in Rio de Janeiro. It declared that aggression against any treaty member state would be considered an attack on all of them.

6. Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was assassinated on May 30, 1961. In November 1961, in the context of a growing rebellion by the Dominican people triggered by the return to Santo Domingo of halo of Trujillo's brothers, Washington sent warships off the Dominican coast. In April 1948 the assassination of Colombian Liberal Party leader Jorge E. Gaitan sparked a rebellion that became known as the Bogotazo.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Analysis of Resourceful Africa Living in Slums

Dr. Ravinder Rena
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire.
Analysis: Resourceful Africa living in slums

By Ravinder Rena
Middle East Times
Published September 27, 2006

Africa is a vast and exotic continent of about 900 million people in 54 independent countries. It has a total area of over 30 million square kilometers, about three-and-a-half times the size of the United States and 10 times the size of India. It is the second largest continent in the world after Asia. It stretches from the shores of the Mediterranean in the north to the Cape of Good Hope in the south.

Africa is rich in mineral and natural resources with large parts of its terrain teeming with wild life and magnificent plant life.

It possesses 99 percent of the world's chrome resources, 85 percent of its platinum, 70 percent of its tantalite, 68 percent of its cobalt, and 54 percent of its gold, among others. It has significant oil and gas reserves. Nigeria and Libya are two of the leading oil producing countries in the world.

Africa's enormous agricultural potential is vastly untapped. Africa's vast mineral wealth and strategic significance have encouraged foreign powers to intervene in African affairs. During the Cold War era, 1945-1990, there was increasing superpower intervention in Africa. The United States and the Soviet Union were major players on the African scene.

Africa is one of the fastest urbanizing continents in the world. If the South African example works, and is replicated elsewhere in Africa, it might present a way out of the dilemma facing many governments. They feel that the state does not have the capacity to deliver housing for the poor and they know that the private sector feels no sense of commitment to do this either despite having the resources. As a result, their cities are caught in the slum spiral - no solution for existing slums and no way to stop new slums in the continent.

According to the forecast in 2007, the world's urban population will outnumber the rural population for the first time, while those living in slums will exceed 1 billion. The UN predicts that the numbers of slum-dwellers will double in the next 30 years - meaning that the developing world slum will become the primary habitat of mankind.

Urban poverty is one of the biggest stories happening on the planet.

"Slums are the emerging human settlements of the twenty-first century," says the "State of the World's Cities 2006/7" report released by UN-Habitat at Vancouver. By next year, one of every two people in the world will be a city dweller. Of these, a substantial number will be slum dwellers.

In fact, the report focuses largely on the issue of urban poverty and slums. It notes that in the last 15 years, the growth of slums has been unprecedented, the number of slum dwellers in the world rose from 715 million in 1990 to about 998 million in mid 2006. It estimates that at the present rate of growth, there will 1.4 billion slum dwellers by 2020, comprising a significant percent of the world's population.

Needless to say that the majority of the world's urban poor are in Asia (581 million) followed by sub-Saharan Africa (199 million), and Latin America and the Caribbean (134 million).

India alone has 170 million slum dwellers. But it is sub-Saharan Africa that is witnessing the fastest growth of its slum population that has doubled in 15 years. At present, 71.8 percent of its urban population lives in slums.

Slums are the result not just of rural poverty but also conflict leading to large-scale displacement. This is particularly evident in Africa. They can also be the site of much greater disease and deprivation for poor populations than rural areas. This again is more applicable to countries in Africa than to a country like India.

The UN-Habitat report holds that urban health indicators and nutrition levels of the young are as bad or even worse in slums than in rural areas. However, Indian data clearly shows that mortality among under-fives remains higher in rural areas. Also literacy levels are higher in Indian slums than in the villages and even accessibility to healthcare is better.

Most slum dwellers in India find some kind of work and earn money while their equivalents in rural areas are often left for months without any work or any prospect of money. Levels of acute malnutrition are relatively rare in urban poor settlements in India even though every now and then such instances do arise.

What is indisputable, however, is that even if income poverty is not so acute in urban slums as in some rural areas, everyone living in a slum suffers acute deprivation of basic services of water and sanitation apart from the insecurity of living in a place from where they could be forced to move at any time.

In fact, it is the absence of security of tenure that is central to dealing with the problem of slums. Yet, many countries continue to follow the path of demolishing slums, hoping that such action will deter further slum formation.

The UN-Habitat report quotes a global survey of 60 countries that noted that 6.7 million people faced eviction between 2000 and 2002 in cities compared to 4.2 million in the previous two years.

Often these demolitions took place without adequate notice being given to the evictees thereby violating their basic rights as citizens. Protests and interventions, even by the UN, have made little difference to governments determined to pursue this policy.

It is to be observed that Eritrea's capital city, Asmara, is considered to be one of the beautiful cities in Africa built by the Italians about 100 years ago. It has a patch of land admeasuring of about two square kilometers on the southwestern side, Mai-Habashawl and Medebber, which are the homes to hundreds of people.

Most of them live in one-room mud-built wattle huts, and wooden or basic stone houses, often windowless. These are Asmara's biggest slums. They are massive ditches of mud and filth.

I visited people and spent some time in the area and found them honest. The slum-dwellers know they are poor, of course, but that's not their focus and they don't want to be seen by the outside world as desperate people.

In fact, most have incredible energy. It is interesting to note that very few people sit around doing nothing: people either work in Asmara or have a small business in the slums.

There are vibrant communities there with such diverse experiences. Indeed, the unique culture of Eritreans is that the person who has Nacfa 15,000 (equivalent to $1,000) and the person who has 10 cents cannot be identified surprisingly; both behave in the same fashion.

Although they may be poor, they never manifest their poverty. They would invite others for a meal even though they have not eaten properly themselves, indicating wholehearted love and an altruistic attitude toward guests. They would pretend to be full even when starving.

The slums are growing in every part of the globe particularly in Africa. The future we have been told is urban, and that the cities of the future will be largely populated by the poor. Even if steps are taken today, this reality will not change.

If facts could shift policy, such facts should. Unfortunately, the process of setting priorities in many countries around the globe is based on external factors rather than objective realities.

Dr. Ravinder Rena is an Assistant Professor of Economics, Dept. of Business and Economics, Eritrea Institute of Technology (Under Ministry of Education), Mai Nefhi, Eritrea