Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A Tale of Two Narratives   Leave a comment

Challenges await Venezuela’s Maduro as he wins a second term

Closing of a voting table at about 7 pm Sunday in the teacher’ college in Ali Primera park, Caracas. Photo: Jim Hodgson

To no one’s surprise, Nicolas Maduro has won a second term as president of Venezuela. And again (not a surprise) we see two narratives developing about what happened here on Sunday.

Our Canadian labour observer delegation saw an election that was expertly run, had good participation, and which had no fraud that was evident to us. Granted, we were mostly in the poorer neighbourhoods where support for Maduro is highest — the neighbourhoods where the majority of Venezuelans live.

Meanwhile, even by mid-afternoon, the international media were reporting a low turnout and complaints of fraud.

“Polls close as opposition cries foul,” said the BBC. Such reports cited opposition candidate Henri Falcon who by mid-day had registered 350 complaints about the process. By the time the polls closed, he registered more than 900.

Around mid-day, the United States declared it would not recognize the result. Other countries, including Canada, are expected to follow suit.

In the end, the vote was not close. Maduro won with 5.8 million votes. His principal opponent, Henri Falcon, had about 1.8 million. Voter turnout was 48 per cent.

“We are the force of history turned into popular victory,” Maduro told supporters gathered outside the Miraflores presidential palace after results were announced. Promising to be a president for all Venezuelans, he renewed his call for dialogue. “Permanent dialogue is what Venezuela needs,” he said.

For Maduro, the negative international reaction, while predictable, will be a problem. Existing sanctions already hurt the country’s ability to make purchases abroad. Companies and banks are now reluctant to engage with any Venezuelan purchaser, making access to food and medicine imports ever more difficult — and provoking shortages that have a direct impact the lives of ordinary people. To make matters worse, U.S. administration officials have warned of new sanctions that could reduce Venezuela’s oil exports.

Some problems are home-made. Despite concerted efforts, corruption is still an issue. I spoke with a young doctor who supports the government and deplores the diversion of medicine from Venezuela to Colombia. “People who do that are traitors,” he said.

Venezuela also suffers from hyperinflation and some of the world’s highest crime rates.

Maduro has promised a new national dialogue to achieve some way of living with the opposition. The problem is that at least since their failed coup attempt in 2002, most opposition forces have shown little or no interest in any solution other than complete capitulation or regime change through force: another coup or foreign military intervention.

The most concerted effort to bring opponents into the present electoral process collapsed in early February after months of international mediation led by the Dominican Republic. A previous Vatican-led effort also failed.

The challenges are immense, and there will be no honeymoon for this president as he begins a second term.

Yet Venezuelans merit attention and solidarity as they try to find a way forward. Democracy is supposed to be about the people ruling. Venezuela is one of a handful of countries remaining where the poorest people have wrested control away from the rich who used political structures to maintain economic privileges.

This column originally appeared on Rabble.ca

 

 

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Are “Thoughts and Prayers” getting a bad rap?   Leave a comment

Mourners light candles and leave flowers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting victims memorial in Las Vegas, on Oct. 6, 2017. Photo by Gian Sapienza/iStock

Writing in the UC Observer, Jackie Gillard comments on one common practice of the political class. When a tragedy, such as a mass shooting occurs, politicians tell the media that “our thoughts and prayers” are with the bereaved; the victims, whoever. Then, life goes on.

Gillard writes that, “The world has had enough of those feeble sentiments.” However, in this column she also writes that, “Thoughts and prayers can be seeds that germinate into affirmative action.”

Access the whole column at: http://www.ucobserver.org/columns/2018/02/school_shootings/

Posted March 7, 2018 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Christian Faith, Politics

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2017 Nobel Peace Prize   Leave a comment

ICAN wins 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

peaceprize1-620x350The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on October 6th to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN):

…for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.

This was a true collaborative effort of ICAN, Costa Rican Ambassador Whyte Gomez, who chaired the negotiations, and 468 partners (governmental and non-governmental) in 101 countries — which finally succeeded in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons despite all the obstacles and challenges faced by civil society, states, and diplomats.

In addition to Costa Rica, three other states and one international organization deserve particular mention for the leading roles they played: Norway, Mexico, Austria, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

It is essential that the momentum from the Nobel Peace Prize and the achievement of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) be maintained as this is one of many steps to be realized in achieving the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

For Canadians, there is an urgent need to encourage the Government of Canada to begin a long overdue dialogue on disassociating our country from NATO’s nuclear doctrine as an essential step toward NATO itself abandoning its retrograde and counterproductive reliance on nuclear weapons. – Peggy Mason, Rideau Institute President.

And for those that ask how we can talk about nuclear disarmament when North Korea and the USA are engaged in threat and counter-threat, we say this is  precisely the time to engage in dialogue, to reduce tensions and lay the groundwork for broader disarmament negotiations.

Photo credit: ICAN

Original post is on: www.ceasefire.ca

Hiroshima Remembrance Day   Leave a comment

According to Wikipedia; “Hiroshima is best known as the first city in history to be targeted by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped an atomic bomb on the city (and three days later, another on Nagasaki) at 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, near the end of World War II.”

Hiroshima after the bombing

Canadians can take action to help prevent such a violent act from happening again. Check out the link that follows:

http://www.ceasefire.ca/?cat=1

Non-military responses to global challenges.   Leave a comment

i-remember-for-peace

Buffy Ste. Marie’s song, Universal Soldier, was probably not a part of the playlist when the U.S.A. was commissioning a new aircraft carrier this weekend. As I remember the song, Buffy sings that “this is not the way to put an end to war“.

Ceasefire.ca has published the following post encouraging Canada to take an alternative road towards attaining peace on earth:

Jul 21, 2017 03:52 pm

With the USA ramping up its global military activity and eschewing UN-led peace and security efforts, Canada must restore and expand its leadership on war prevention and peaceful conflict resolution.

http://www.ceasefire.ca/?p=25208

Posted July 23, 2017 by allanbaker in Canadian society, Peacemaking, Politics

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A positive Step Towards Ending Nuclear Weapons   Leave a comment

New UN treaty outlaws nuclear weapons

First Phase Digital

Friday, 7 July at the UN Headquarters in New York more than 120 countries adopted a landmark treaty to ban nuclear weapons. All nine nuclear-armed states, and all NATO members except the Netherlands, had refused to participate in the negotiations.

“These states recognize that the ban treaty would represent a potent stigmatization of the nuclear weapons they still cling to and an act of political and moral protest against their retention.” (Paul Meyer)

The treaty prohibits the possession, development, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and provides for nuclear weapons states to become parties by either a “destroy and join” or “join and destroy” plan for the verifiable elimination of their nuclear weapons. It also explicitly prohibits the stationing of nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear weapons states.

“This new prohibition lays bare the fundamental contradiction between Canada’s legal status as a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT and our active participation in NATO – a nuclear-armed military alliance.” (Peggy Mason)

The Canadian position on the treaty was, in part, influenced by a U.S. memo from last year that strongly encouraged all NATO allies to vote against negotiations. Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, went so far as to call the treaty negotiations “premature and ineffective” last month in Parliament. After decades of empty platitudes and inaction on the part of the Canadian government, it’s hard to believe that any forward movement on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation can be considered ‘premature’.

“The integrity of the Canadian position that it really wants to do away with nuclear weapons, but not just yet, is in tatters.” (Douglas Roche)

Despite the refusal of nuclear states and their strategic allies to participate, the treaty represents an historic step forward in the ongoing push for nuclear disarmament, marking a “new, reforming spirit in global nuclear affairs.” Some also see the treaty as a powerful sign that the international community will not be intimidated by nuclear powers.

“It represents a structural change in the power structure between states… Emerging powers believe they can push an agenda that is not only opposed to the interests of the main military powers in the world but also something that condemns them.” (Leonardo Bandarra)

In 1978 Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau told the UN that “we must impart a fresh momentum to the lagging process of disarmament.” In 2017, his son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had an unparalleled opportunity to help do just that. Instead Canada was not even at the negotiating table.

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To learn more about the future of nuclear disarmament, join us at the Group of 78 Policy Conference, “Getting to Nuclear Zero: Building Common Security for a Post-Mad World,” on September 22nd.

For an important discussion of what parliamentarians can do to achieve a nuclear-free world, see the “Parliamentary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World: 2017-2020”.

Living in a Glass House type economy   Leave a comment

There is a saying that those who live in glass houses ought not to throw stones. Mea culpa.

I have had an opportunity to complete reading a book by Brian Alexander called; “Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town”. It is an excellent book that gets into some of the nuances of what is happening to “ordinary people” and civic life in the U.S.A.

If you have some Anchor Hocking cookware in your kitchen, you have a connection to Lancaster Ohio, the town that is being destroyed by the current economic system. Of course, it isn’t just Lancaster Ohio.

A review of “Glass House” by Laura Miller can be found at: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2017/02/brian_alexander_s_glass_house_about_lancaster_ohio_reviewed.html

170131_BOOKS_GlassHouseBook

 

This book has helped me to understand a bit about what it is like to live in the U.S.A. at this time in history.