The Forgotten Diaspora
While we are all familiar with the Afrikan Diaspora that resulted from the European slave trade, often misnomered the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, we are less familiar and even less attention is paid to the millennium-long slave trade that scattered Afrikan people throughout present-day Iraq, Turkey, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan and India. While Europeans were doing their dirty work, the Arabs were engaged in a Trans-Saharan and Trans-Indian slave trades, which flourished from the eighth century AD through the 1840s, bringing Afrikan labor to the hazardous enterprises of pearl diving, date farming and the raw, brutal work of clearing Iraqi salt marshes. Afrikan boys were sexually abuse, and commonly castrated to serve as eunuch guards of royal harems. Unlike those enslaved in the West, Afrikans in the Arabic-speaking world also served as guards, sailors and high-ranking soldiers. Nevertheless, these Arab slave trades produced an Eastern Afrikan Diaspora. That Diaspora has its largest number of descendants in countries like India and Iraq. In Iraq these Afrikan people live primarily in Basra, and are descended from the Zanj brought from East Africa.
There has been a Afrikan presence in Basra -- present-day Southern Iraq -- as early as the 7th century, when Abu Bakra, an Ethiopian soldier who had been freed by the prophet Muhammad, settled in the city. His descendants became prominent members of Basran society. However, a century later, we see racism rearing its ugly head and the writer Jahiz of Basra wrote an impassioned defense of Afrikans -- referred to in Arabic as the Zanj -- against accusations of inferiority.
The Zanj were for centuries shipped as slaves by Arab traders to all the countries bordering the Indian Ocean, giving rise to the Trans-Indian slave trade. Most of the Zanj were imported to work in large dates and sugarcane plantations. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs recruited many Zanj slaves as soldiers and today's Afrikan Iraqis are the descendants of the people who started one of the largest slave rebellion in history—The Zanj Rebellion of 869-883 AD. Fed scant portions of flour, semolina and dates, they were constantly in conflict with the Iraqi slave system. These harsh circumstances apparently motivated, between the seventh and ninth centuries, three rebellions, the largest of which occurred between 868 and 883. The Zanj slaves from Basra staged a 15-year revolt against Baghdad the capital of the Islamic world. Basra was one of the most important trade ports in the Abbasid empire and at the zenith of their rebellion the Zanj armies marched upon Baghdad and got within 70 miles of the city. In 883, an Abbasids army from Baghdad suppressed the revolt which required vast amounts of the empire's extensive resources. Through defeated, the revolts was a success in that it led to the abolition of large-scale plantation-type slavery in the region. Afrikan slavery in Iraq, however, continued to exist throughout both the Ottoman and British periods of rule. British officials during the era noted how widespread slave ownership was among Iraqi families. In fact, in the 19th century, Basra was one of the most profitable slave ports in the region, commonly offering slave traders as much as 50% returns upon their "investments."
Zanj was a name used by Arab geographers to refer to both a certain portion primarily of the coast of Southeast Afrika and its Bantu-speaking inhabitants. Geographers historically divided the coast of East Africa into several regions: Somalia was Barbara, which was the land of the Eastern Baribah or Barbaroi (Berbers), as the ancestors of the Somalis were referred to by Arab and ancient Greek geographers, respectively; Ethiopia was al-Habash or Abyssinia, which was inhabited by the Habash or Abyssinians, who were the forebears of the Habesha; and the general area south of these two which includes present-day Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique as Zanj, or the "country of the Blacks."
According to some sources, the Zanj traded extensively with Arabs, Persians and Indians, but only locally as they were said to have possessed no ocean-going ships; on the other hand, other sources state that some Bantu peoples already had seafaring vessels with sailors and merchants trading with Arabia and Persia and as far east as India and China. At any rate it was through trade that Arabs intermarried with local Bantu women, giving birth to the Swahili culture and language (both Bantu in origin but significantly influenced by foreign elements).
By the late European medieval period, the area included at least 37 substantial Swahili trading towns, many of them quite wealthy. This wealth was generate by trade in goods as well as people. The urban ruling and commercial classes of these Swahili settlements was occupied by Arab and Persian immigrants, with a mixed intermediary class, while the Bantu peoples who inhabited the coastal regions were the source for local slaves and thoses of the Trans-Saharan slave trade. Some of these slaves reached as far as China. Chinese texts mention ambassadors from Java presenting the Chinese emperor with two Seng Chi (Zanji) slaves as gifts, and Seng Chi slaves reaching China from the Hindu kingdom of Sri Vijaya in Java.
The term Zanj fell out of use in the tenth century. However, after 1861, when the area controlled by the Arab Sultan of Zanzibar was forced by the British to split with the parent country of Oman, it was often referred to as Zanj. The sea off the south-eastern coast of Africa was known as the "Sea of Zanj" and included the Mascarene islands and Madagascar. During the anti-apartheid struggle it was proposed that South Africa should assume the name 'Azania' to reflect ancient Zanj.
It is estimated that there are 1.5 to 2 million Afrikan descendants in Iraq, mostly in and around Basra where they represent 15 to 20 percent of the population. Most Afrikan Iraqis today suffer from gross discrimination. These descendants of the Zanj exist in the region today in (often self-contained) communities with names like "Zanjiabad, Iran" that hint at the history of the peoples living there. The status of these Afrikan Iraqis is little discussed -- though in Iran we know Iranians have written of persistent racism and stereotypes directed at the Zanj in their country.
Afrikan Iraqis represent 5 to 6 percent of the total population. To combat racism, they formed the Movement of Free Iraqis in July 2007. It demands the recognition of blacks as an official minority, an apology for slavery, laws against racial discrimination, and representation in Parliament. Many Afrikan Iraqis activists complain that they are unable to find opportunities to improve their social condition. However, the same complaint is often also made by Iraqis of Arab Semitic descent as well. However, given the history of Afrikan enslavement and color prejudice in the Islamic world, we must assume that though class is a factor in this discrimination, race cannot be minimized.
Among Afrikan Iraqis there are some Afrikan survivals. They are still maintain rituals related to healing that are of Afrikan origin. The languages used in these rituals are Swahili and Arabic. Instruments such as drums and tambourines are used in these ceremonies. In a song called Dawa-Dawa, the words are a mix of Arabic and Swahili. The song, which is about curing people, is used in the shtanga ceremony, for physical health. Another ceremony called nouba, takes its name from Nubian region in the Sudan. There are also unique ceremonies to remember the ancestors and for occasions such as weddings.
Afrikan people in the region, such as in Oman, Dubai and Kuwait, and Iran practiced various Afrikan survivals. In Iran a form of spirit possession called zar is popular. Additionally, the Afro Iranians have ceremonies, such as liwat, gowa and al-nuban, serving specific purposes—almost always having to do with driving out or appeasing spirits, usually Afrikan, that traveled with the wind. In southern Iran, spirits in general are referred to as pepe (from pepo in Swahili, which is also the BaMbuti word for life force).
The Eastern Diaspora has been left out of the Pan Afrikan loop. We are a Global Afrikan People, let's not forget it!!!
July, 2014 | Posted by Nick Chiles
While the world's eyes remain riveted on Brazil's World Cup stadiums, most people aren't aware that the country is also the home to one of the world's most progressive reparations movements to repay Afro-Brazilians for their enslavement.
Slavery in Brazil didn't end until 1889, making Brazil the last nation in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw the institution, and the legacy of slavery has firmly ensconced Black Brazilians in the lower rungs of Brazilian society.
"By and large, black Brazilians live in the worst housing and attend the poorest schools," writes Roque Planas in a comprehensive two-part series for the Huffington Post that probes Brazil's reparations movement. "They work the lowest-paid jobs, and they disproportionately fill the jail cells of the world's fourth largest prison system. This lopsided state of affairs, Afro-Brazilian intellectuals and the country's social scientists largely agree, is a result of racial discrimination with roots in the country's history of slavery."
In Brazil, the reparations movement is centered on the "quilombos," which are communities said to be founded by runaway slaves. Brazil's constitution -- which was ratified 26 years ago after two decades of a military dictatorship -- dictates that residents of quilombos have a constitutional right to land settled by their ancestors. But as more than 1 million Black Brazilians ask the country to live up to the words in the constitution, the government is showing a reluctance to follow through.
Brazil was such an important stop in the slave trade that more people of African descent currently live in Brazil than in any country in the world besides Nigeria, making up about 51 percent of Brazil's population. What the residents of the quilombos are seeking, Planas writes, is akin to the Native American reservations in the United States, minus the self-government.
Planas refers to the devastating case made for reparations for African-Americans in the U.S. by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic and says, "The idea that the U.S. government would even consider handing thousands of tracts of land to black communities is unthinkable. Few Brazilian conservatives find the idea appealing, either. Many of them have scorned the quilombo movement as an affront to property rights and have tried to overturn the law in court. And despite drafting the quilombo law in the first place, the Brazilian government has been so slow to hand over land titles to the communities in question that many applicants wonder if they'll ever receive them."
As Planas details, many members of Congress weren't entirely aware of what Congresswoman Benedita da Silva, one of 11 Afro-Brazilians in Congress at the time, was doing in 1986 when she managed to convince them to include the language that gave land rights to the quilombo members. The law said they would own the land they occupied, pay no rent and no one, no matter how rich, could legally kick them out.
Planas writes that "most of the assembly members who voted for da Silva's article likely viewed it as a symbolic gesture that would affect only a handful of communities." But the movement has now grown from 29 quilombos in 2003 to more than 2,400 today, comprising more than 1 million people -- with hundreds more communities applying that have yet to be recognized.
"There are quilombos that encompass thousands of people and quilombos that consist of just a few extended families," Planas writes. "There are quilombos in the cities, quilombos along the countryside, quilombos on islands and quilombos in the rainforest. The land claimed by these communities totals about 4.4 million acres, according to the Brazilian federal government -- an area roughly the size of New Jersey."
When asked if she knew her proposal would be applied so extensively, da Silva said, "Of course -- that's what we were working for. [The article] wasn't born just because I was at the Constitutional Assembly. It was born because there existed and continues to exist a black movement that includes academics, includes quilombolas, the universities -- all dedicated to validating black people's land rights."
The Western Hemispheric Afrikan Diaspora consists of the Caribbean, Latin America, and North America. Afrikan enslavement began on the coastal islands of Afrika and Europe, gradually making its way to European capitals. It later expanded to the Caribbean, with the first groups of Afrikans being transported from Spain. Soon other European nations got involved in the slaving business. After reaping tremendous profits, Britain became the first Western nation to abolished slavery in the Caribbean 1834, establishing a 4-year apprenticeship that fully emancipated Afrikans in 1838. However, Afrikans had only gained the appearance of freedom not its substance. Until the various independence movements of the mid-twentieth century, the “mother country” controlled the politics and economies of the Caribbean islands.
Today Caribbean economies continue to be dependent on external forces. In the Caribbean, European and American companies own various industries, such as the bauxite, asphalt, oil and sugar industries, as well as substantial local resources, including land, plants, machinery, railroads, and port facilities. A major problem in Caribbean economic development has been the lack of economic diversification, which has affected the region’s export growth. This lack of diversity has been encouraged by the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries respectively offer special trade preferences and the Caribbean Basis Initiative, programs that actually create a greater dependency and stifle real economic growth. The efforts to counter economic intrusion and domination through regional unity have failed and rather than have Pan-Caribbean unity, we are left with titular displays of classism and big island versus little island petty rivalries/mentalities. Beyond this, however, Caribbean nations are increasingly plagued with a range of problems from corruption to brain drain to rising crime rates to the health crisis provoked by AIDS.
Latin America has provided a dystopian existence for Afrikan people. The principle Afrikan nation in the region, Haiti, initially was a symbol of hope, freedom and redemption for Afrikans in the Americas. As the only independent Afrikan nation in the Western hemisphere, amid a sea of racist Western nations, Haiti was to experience the wrath and vengeance of white supremacy for daring to liberate herself. Though free, Haiti was unable, perhaps even unwilling to develop within an Afrikan worldview orientation. The island’s privileged class, already identifying with European culture, would come to dominate the new nation’s politics and economy. Haitian history is stained by the dictates of corrupt leadership, which consists of a biracial color caste who comprises 1 percent of the population but controls nearly half the nation’s wealth. Conversely, 85 percent of Haitians survive daily on less than one U.S. dollar. Unemployment is 70 percent, while adult literacy is 50 percent, and mortality rates average fifty years old. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and one of the hungriest and poorest in the world. Stigmatizing Haiti further is her identification with voodoo, a survival from traditional Afrikan spiritual practices. However, in Haiti’s dysfunctional environment, often self-serving, unprincipled, and undisciplined individuals for personal gain employ these practices capriciously. Absent from these practices are the checks and balances and the overall structure and communal purpose traditional society provided. Thus, the result is ritual and spiritual chaos in Haiti.
Throughout Latin American society Afrikans occupy the lowest social class. In Brazil, where the largest numbers of Diasporan Afrikans live, only 22 percent receive middle school education while comprising more than 80 percent of the jailed population. Brazilian society has denied Afrikans any meaningful role despite the significant contributions Afrikan culture has made to society. Although the West projects Brazil as a racial utopia, the issue of race has created an extremely stratified society. Brazilian discrimination and racial classification are predicated on skin color primarily but include facial features as well. For example, a Fulani or a Somali would be classed as an Indian not an Afrikan. This broad classification system is arbitrary and vague, and has helped to weaken the Afrikan Brazilian identity. Many people of Afrikan descent rather than identity with the maligned Afrikan choose to classify themselves as mulattos or Indians. Therefore, unlike their American counterparts, Afrikans in Brazil lack racial consciousness and the potential political power it engenders. In the past twenty or so years a black consciousness movement has developed to address the historical ills of Afrikan Brazilians. A number of Latin American nations are also experiencing Black consciousness movements.
North America, particularly, the United States, is where Afrikans through protest and the acquisition of suffrage have attained an impressive degree of political power. Financially, “Afrika America” has a national buying power of approximately 900 billion dollars, which suggests a degree of economic power. However, Afrikan Americans lack economic coherence. This lack of economic cohesiveness and the lack of purposeful national leadership have lessened their economic clout. A small upper class exists that has accumulated considerable wealth, but it has been unable or perhaps unwilling to effectuate change for the masses of Afrikan Americans, who remain securely in the lower class. As a group, Afrikan Americans are at the bottom of American society, possessing the lowest median income, the lowest home ownership rate, the highest poverty rate, and the highest percentage of those imprisoned. Arguably, segregation, once allowed Afrikans to in-gather accounting for group cohesiveness, but with their increasing integration into American society, signs of deterioration in their social and moral fiber are evidence. Such signs are the weakening of the family, the rise in mental health disorders, and slumbering educational achievements. In addition, AIDS is rapidly increasing in the Afrikan American population.
As uncertain as the situation seems for Diasporan Afrikans, the state of affairs on the continent appears even more precarious. As stated earlier, Western power is predicated on exploiting the mineral resources of the world. As for mineral resources, Afrika is the richest continent on the planet. Therefore, keeping the nations of Afrika destabilized and underdeveloped is advantageous for the West. This simply facilitates Afrika pillaging. The old mercantile system is still in effect. By Western design no Afrikan nation has developed any suitable or competitive industries. Instead, Afrika’s mineral wealth is fodder for Western industries and contributes to the continuation of Western hegemony.
Reprinted from the Black Agenda Report | By Peter James Hudson
On September 23, 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic ruled that the children of “irregular” migrants born in the Dominican Republic after June 21st, 1929 would be stripped of their Dominican citizenship. The ruling – which could render 250,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent stateless – came as a result of a challenge by Juliana Deguis Pierre  against the Dominican Electoral Board. The Electoral Board refused to issue Pierre an identification card. They argued that although she was born in the “national territory,” because she was the daughter of migrants in transit she did not have the right to Dominican citizenship. They based their ruling on article 11.1 of the Dominican Constitution of November 29, 1966 which held sway when Pierre was born. While Ms. Pierre was the subject of the Constitutional Court’s ruling, it also targets all Dominicans of Haitian descent. The decision also formalizes a process of exclusion, racism, and harassment that had already construed Dominicans of Haitian descent as second-class citizens in their own country while marginalizing Haitian immigrants.
Indeed, even before the ruling, Haitian immigrants had been subject to demeaning raids and dragnets by the Dominican security forces while in the past thirteen months, since August 16, 2012, almost 47,700 undocumented Haitians were expelled from the country  – more than twice the figure of 20,541 expelled during the previous year.
The actions of the Dominican Constitutional Court also have their origins in the current of antihaitianismo – of anti- Haitianism – dating from the nineteenth century. This antihaitianismo sees the presence of people of Haitian descent– and of people of African descent more generally – as a threat to Dominican identity. It relies on both an identification with Spanish roots and the valorization of an aboriginal or indio  past through the national cult of Quisqueya. It contrasts the Dominican Republic’s whiteness with Haiti’s Blackness; as one scholar memorably put it, “in the Dominican Republic the cause is the consequence: you are Black because you are Haitian,  you are Haitian because you are Black.”
Yet while Blackness is rejected from Dominican identity, it is necessary for the Dominican economy. The four generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent that would be denationalized by the ruling are the children of Haitian cane-cutters who toiled in Dominican sugar plantations under conditions reminiscent of slavery. Thee importance of the Haitian market to Dominican commerce should also be noted. The trade imbalance  between the two countries is stark. In 2012, the Dominican Republic exported more than $1.7 billion worth of goods through formal and informal channels. Haiti sent back just $50 million in goods.
The most notorious result of anti-Haitianism came in the form of the so-called Parsley Massacre in 1937, overseen by Dominican President Rafael Trujillo with the complicity of Haitian president Elie Lescot. Between 2 October 1937 and 8 October 1937, between 14,000 and 40,000 Haitians were slaughtered by Dominican troops. The current ruling by the Dominican Constitutional Courts triggers the potential denationalization and displacement of tens of thousands of Dominicans while providing the ideological grounds for the recurrence of such dehumanizing violence against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. The massacre could happen again.
In response to the ruling, there have been protests by enlightened Dominicans in Washington Heights  and San Juan, Puerto Rico  while Haitian and Dominican civil society organizations  have issued statements condemning  the decision. One can only hope these protests spread. The late Dominican-Haitian activist Sonia Pierre  once stated, “My community, the community of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent, is the poorest and most vulnerable, subject to the cruelest denial of their rights.” Until the law is repealed, until Dominicans of Haitian descent have a secure and meaningful path to citizenship, and until their human rights are recognized and protected, they will remain the most vulnerable, victimized and preyed upon by a racist Dominican state.
By Kenton Chance
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, August 21, 2013 - A leading Caribbean intellectual has presented a compelling argument of why Britain should pay to former colonies in the region reparations for slavery and native genocide.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at their summit in Trinidad and Tobago in July agreed to the formation of the Commission that will be chaired by Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and include St Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
The regional countries have also engaged the services of a prominent British human rights law firm to assist in the matter.
“We are focusing on Britain because Britain was the largest owners of slaves at Emancipation in the 1830s. The British made the most money out of slavery and the slave trade -- they got the lion share. And, importantly, they knew how to convert slave profits into industrial profits,” said Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Speaking at a lecture Tuesday night on the title of his latest book, “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide”, the academic detailed how the British government and British citizens used slavery to enrich themselves.
He further noted that while at Emancipation, reparations were paid to former slave owners, the slaves got nothing.
Professor Beckles argued that the reparation monies stimulated the British economy for half a century after Emancipation, but “here in the Caribbean, the islands were descended into poverty after Emancipation.
“And in Britain, 50 years of growth because the compensation money was reinvested in the British economy and stimulated the economic development of the company,” he said, adding “the British government built this system (slavery), they created fiscal policies to manage it, they created financial systems, they legislated slavery, they administrated slavery, the government owned the slaves, and, importantly, the British government is the custodian of the wealth of the nation.
“We believe that we now have to repair the damage and this is the final point. This is why now repartitions is important,” Professor Beckles said, noting that Caribbean governments were now spending up to 80 per cent of their expenditure on education and health.
“After 300 hundred years of taking their labour, exploiting their labour and enriching themselves to build themselves into the most powerful nation on earth, they have left Caribbean peoples illiterate and unhealthy, which means that the governments today have to clean up illiteracy and clean up the ill-health do not have the resources to do it.”
Professor Beckles said that the British were good at keeping records and hence the wealth derived from slavery is traceable. He rebutted some of the arguments likely to be advanced by Britain as it resists paying reparations to the region.
He said that the British have launched a campaign to discredit the reparations movement, but stated that British citizens are increasingly seeing the need for -- and are calling on their government to make -- amends.
Professor Beckles spoke of a case in which a slave trader, faced with decreasing ration aboard a slave ship and no tail winds, decided to throw his slave “cargo” overboard and return to Britain to claim insurance.
The British judiciary ruled that it was a simple case of property insurance rather than murder --since slaves were not considered human beings.
“Therein lies the British court … the judiciary of great Britain, ruling in its own legal structure that black people are not human beings.
“Therein lies the charge of reparations, because to deny a people their human identity is a crime against humanity and that is the case that the British judiciary, on behalf of the British state, established the principle that once and for all, that African peoples are not human.”
Professor Beckles spoke of how the exploitation of the region under slavery resulted in the underdevelopment of the region’s human resource, infrastructure, and economy.
He noted that after 300 years of colonisation, when in 1962 the British left Jamaica at Independence, 80 per cent of the Caribbean nation’s people were functionally illiterate
Professor Beckles also spoke of the impact on the family, and mentioned the high rates of diabetes and hypertension in the region and the ways in which black people in the Caribbean and Africa respond to medicine for these conditions.
“These are the kinds of things we speak about when we speak about reparations,” Professor Beckles said in reference to the vestiges of slavery and colonisation.
“The British government has to come to the Caribbean and sit with us and help us deal with all of these. We have a legal and moral right,” Professor Beckles said, lauding the efforts of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who has convinced his CARICOM colleagues to support the reparations movement.
“We need to take them forward. All of us need to take them forward,” Professor Beckles said of the issues relating to reparations.
“And if we do not, this region is going to regress and regress very rapidly. And it is not about confrontation, it is not about conflict, it is about a 21st century state of sophisticated diplomacy. 21st century diplomacy is required, a 21st century international relations is required. The time has come now in this second phase of nation building for us to go forward. I feel this is where we are at,” he said.
He noted, however, that reparation is not about handing over money to either individuals or governments.
“Under international law, reparations are paid into a fund, which is administered under international law. … In every society, a reparations committee is established, a fund is established, and under law, those funds are placed under trustees and trustees are held responsible for the use of those funds for community development,” Professor Beckles said.
Read more: http://www.caribbean360.com
A group of Black and immigrant Greeks have banded together to form a self-defense group to counter the attacks of a gang that targets citizens of color in the country. Nicknamed the “Black Panthers,” the group uses cell phones, social media, and neighborhood patrols to record any activity perceived as a threat from the far-right neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party.
Regarding the massive economic crisis in Greece, the Golden Dawn Party has risen in power and blame immigrants for the high unemployment and crime. According to reports, more than 150 hate-fueled attacks occurred over the past year alone. Michael Chege (pictured), a 28-year-old of Kenyan descent, told Britain’s Channel 4 that he and his Black Panthers are taking on the Golden Dawn faction without fear.
“You cannot be living your life in fear because of some stupid neo-Nazi group,” said Chege to Channel 4 reporter Jamal Osman. “In WW2, they were crushed. In WW3, we will exterminate them out of the face of the earth.”
Chege added, “And me personally? I am a member of the Black Panthers and everybody knows that. And I am giving them [Golden Dawn] a straight warning – don’t mess with Black people, anyhow.”
Chege said he has warred with the Golden Dawn 10 times in a “kill or be killed” battle in his words. Osman asked if the encounters with the gangs are random, to which he replied, “They mostly target Black people.”
Even more shocking? According to Chege, the police do not intervene in hate crimes because they secretly support Golden Dawn.
Channel 4 also showed that immigrants are seized and searched far more than native Greeks — even when Greeks are seen openly using drugs.
Native Greeks feel that the 3 million immigrants who land in Greece on their way to the richer countries in Greater Europe are sucking the country dry. One Golden Dawn supporter said he’d turn the immigrants “into soap” before insultingly saying the soap would give him a rash.
The same man even threatened to make lamps of their skin shortly after.
However, Chege welcomes the challenge of stopping Golden Dawn in their tracks.
“They want to try what Hitler did, let them try it,” said a defiant Chege, a trained martial artist. “They will have the same fate and even worse.”
Does the end justify the means?
Publisher’s Clearing House commercials that show average U.S. citizens winning giant checks can be seen on almost any channel, any time of day. Well, Jamaican scammers have taken advantage of Publisher’s Clearing House brand (and other major prize companies), and are duping thousands of American senior citizens out of millions of dollars. In recent years, an estimated $1 billion has been bilked out of Americans. This “lotto scam,” as it has been coined, is a multinational fraud scheme directed at elderly US citizens by Jamaican organized crime members.
Scammers target senior citizens, whom the vast majority of have been white, duping them into believing that they have won large amounts of money. The seniors are then encouraged to send money, ostensibly tax payments, via electronic means which ends up in the hands of a local Jamaican syndicate.
Last week Jamaican lottery scammers were the focus of a special hearing by the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is co-chaired by Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Maine is one of the states where a large number of people have been cheated out of large fortunes by lotto scammers. Senator Collins believes that the various Jamaican governments have done little over the past five years to stop the Jamaican scammers. U.S law enforcement officials believe that every day more than 30,000 calls are made from Jamaica’s 876 area code in an attempt to defraud American citizens. The scams are considered cyber fraud because many of the connections involve VoIP or voice over Internet Protocol, which allows frequent number changes and the ability to disguise the origin of the call. The Jamaican and U.S. governments set up a joint task force in 2009 called Project JOLT, the “Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing” to stop the schemes. But the problem has gotten worse. Complaints in the U.S. have increased dramatically every year and even the most conservative estimates put the yearly take from Jamaican scams at $300 million, up from some $30 million in 2009.
U.S. congress persons and officials have begun increasing to apply pressure to the Jamaican government to resolve the problem. And the Jamaican government has responded—passing a new bill targeting the scammers. The law recently passed by Jamaica's House of Representatives, will be taken up Friday by the Senate. Justice Minister Mark Golding said he expects enforcement of the law to begin by the end of this month. National Security Minister Peter Bunting told reporters that the law reform act will result in a "vastly accelerated number of successful prosecutions" of swindlers who have made the island a center for cross-border telemarketing fraud. Jamaican authorities have already seized bundles of cash, hundreds of computers and more than 120 cars in various operations to dismantle Jamaica's lottery scam rings, Bunting said. Hundreds of people have been arrested and some have been convicted on lesser offenses. But convictions have been remarkably few, largely due to big gaps in the country's laws. "We recognized this activity (raids and seizures) was largely disrupting the lotto scam activities but we were not getting the convictions," Bunting said. To solve this dilemma, the Justice Ministry crafted a bill targeting advanced fee fraud, identity theft and dishonest use of technology for accessing financial accounts. It also prohibits making threats and coercing victims over the phone. Beefed-up penalties could result in 20-year sentences in some cases.
While Jamaican authorities have began to demonstrate much judicial vigor, the Jamaican people may have a different perception of the problem altogether. Take Dancehall superstar Vbyz Kartel 2012 release “Reparations” featuring Gaza Slim, for example:
Will this time around be sweeter for the IMF or Jamaica?
The death of Hugo Chavez has led to the documenting of various achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution. I have posted four blogs to this end, each showing how Chavez's leadership transformed the lives of the poor. Writing and posting these various articles has also made me revisit Jamaica under Michael Manley, who in his heyday according to Caribbean scholar Fitzroy Ambursley, was recognized as “the Socialist International’s most important representative in the Third World.” Before Chavez, Manley embarked on a program that sought to transform the lives of Jamaica's poor.
In 1972, Manley led the PNP to victory and two years later declared himself a democratic socialist, and proposed a radical agenda of nationalizations, social reforms, and close ties with Cuba. He introduced legislation on union and women's rights, started a land reform, and spent heavily on health, education, and housing. He established a minimum wage for all workers, including domestic workers. He proposed free education from primary school to university; this program also subsidized meals, transportation and uniforms for schoolchildren from underprivileged backgrounds. The minimum voting age was lowered to 18 years, while equal pay for women was introduced as well as Maternity leave. The National Housing Trust was established, providing "the means for most employed people to own their own homes," greatly stimulated housing construction, with more than 40,000 houses built between 1974 and 1980. A worker's participation program was introduced, together with a new mental health law, and the family court. Free health care for all Jamaicans was introduced, while health clinics and a paramedical system in rural areas were established. Various clinics were also set up to facilitate access to medical drugs. Manley's Jamaica, with its progressive politics that had elements of Marxism and black power, featuring a vibrant new music, Reggae, challenged imperialism and racism.
Manley's democratic socialist program, however, turned out to be a dismal failure and by the end of his administration in 1980, the Jamaican economy had lost 17.5 per cent of its GDP; the national debt increased tenfold from J$300 million to J$3,000 million; inflation ballooned by 250 per cent; revenues remained constant while expenditure galloped by 66 per cent; the budget deficit sprinted from 3.9 per cent to 17.5 per cent of GDP, probably the highest for any country not at war; investment buckled by 40 per cent of GDP; foreign-exchange reserves were eviscerated, collapsing from US$239 million to -US$549 million and unemployment increased by more than 43 per cent. What happened? Why did Manley fail?
After World War II, the U.S., U.K., and Canada all provided economic assistance to Jamaica through international organizations, private investments, and encouragement of the idea of West Indian federation. By the 1950s, the U.S. and Canada had replaced the once-dominant U.K. trade role. On August 7, 1962, the day after independence, Prime Minister Bustamante described Jamaica as pro-Western, Christian, and anticommunist, and he announced "the irrevocable decision that Jamaica stands with the West and the United States." As you can see Manley vision for Jamaica was the counter to Bustamante's, a distant cousin. The problem was Jamaica's economy was already to dependent of the U.S. and Canada. And Manley recognized this. It was under Manley that Jamaica's foreign policy orientation shifted, and attempted to break out of their traditional reliance on the U.S. and the Commonwealth of Nations. However, this is the primary reason Manley would fail: Jamaica's economic resources and outlets were too narrowly prescribe and its dependent on the United States too great. There was no oil money to fund Manley's programs like in the case of Venezuela. Though Manley like Chavez had the will to carry out his program he did not have the financial resources or reserves. Unlike Cuba, Jamaica was unable to develop other trade partners that could support its economy, like the Soviet bloc nations: thus she was doomed to continue to rely on trade with the U.S., Canada, and the U.K, the three nations most opposed to Manley's democratic socialist goals.
The Jamaican economy was dependent on services, which accounts for 70% of GDP. It derived most of its foreign exchange from tourism and bauxite/alumina exports (and more recently remittances). Both of these revenue sources dried up as Manley challenged the economic and political status quo. In an effort to increase Jamaica's revenues in 1974, the Manley’s government announced its plan to increase the taxation on Jamaican-based U.S. and Canadian bauxite companies. This greatly angered the U.S., particularly the military industrial complex as these companies mined aluminum for the war industry. The PNP annulled previous agreements and imposed a production levy on all-bauxite mined or processed in Jamaica. This ruling was claimed to be illegal and contested by the bauxite companies, which filed actions with the World Bank’s international center for the settlement of investment disputes. As the multinational companies relocated to other nations, lay-offs increased, inflation spiral out of control wiping out previous wage increases. And foreign capital inflow plummeted. This created a backlash from local businesses, which had supported Manley's nationalization of foreign businesses. Manley stayed the course initially, but as economic and political tensions rose, he tried to buttress Jamaica's economy by turning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a U.S. control entity, for financial assistance. This decision was both ironic and unfortunate, but Jamaica's economy was hemorrhaging. Not simply because of the situation with the bauxite companies, but because in 1974 the world was still in the midst of an oil crisis. And Jamaica, with all its newly created social program, saw its economy crippled as it is a nation totally dependent on the importation of oil--it produces no oil. This provided the U.S. through the IMF the perfect rouse to destabilize Jamaica. And Manley played right into their hands when he turned to "alternate" funding via the IMF.
By Greg Palast, Reprinted from Vice Magazine
In 2005, Reverend Pat Robertson - channelling the frustration of George W Bush's State Department, said, "Hugo Chavez thinks we're trying to assassinate him. I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it."
Despite Bush's providing intelligence, funds and even a note of congratulations to the crew who kidnapped Chavez (we'll get there), Hugo remained in office, re-elected and wildly popular.
But why the Bush regime's hate, hate, HATE of the President of Venezuela?
Reverend Pat wasn't coy about the answer: It's the oil.
"This is a dangerous enemy to our South controlling a huge pool of oil."
A really BIG pool of oil. Indeed, according to Guy Caruso, former chief of oil intelligence for the CIA, Venezuela hold a recoverable reserve of 1.36 trillion barrels - a whole lot more than Saudi Arabia.
If we didn't kill Chavez, we'd have to do an "Iraq" on his nation. So the Reverend suggests, "We don't need another $200 billion war... It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
Chavez himself told me he was stunned by Bush's attacks: Chavez had been quite chummy with Bush Senior and with Bill Clinton.
So what suddenly made Chavez "a dangerous enemy"? Just after Bush's inauguration in 2001, Chavez' congress voted in a new "Law of Hydrocarbons." Henceforth, Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell Oil and Chevron would get to keep 70 percent of the sales revenues from the crude they sucked out of Venezuela. Not bad, considering the price of oil was rising towards $100 a barrel.
But to the oil companies, which had bitch-slapped Venezeula's prior government into giving them 84 percent of the sales price, a cut to 70 percent was "no bueno". Worse, Venezuela had been charging a joke of a royalty - just one percent - on "heavy" crude from the Orinoco Basin. Chavez told Exxon and friends they'd now have to pay 16.6 percent.
Clearly, Chavez had to be taught a lesson about the etiquette of dealings with Big Oil.
On April 11, 2002, President Chavez was kidnapped at gunpoint and flown to an island prison in the Caribbean Sea. On April 12, Pedro Carmona, a business partner of the US oil companies and president of the nation's Chamber of Commerce, declared himself President of Venezuela - giving a whole new meaning to the term, "corporate takeover".
US Ambassador Charles Shapiro immediately rushed down from his hilltop embassy to have his picture taken grinning with the self-proclaimed "President" and the leaders of the coup d'état.
Bush's White House spokesman admitted that Chavez was, "democratically elected", but, he added, "Legitimacy is something that is conferred not by just the majority of voters." I see.
With an armed and angry citizenry marching on the Presidential Palace in Caracas ready to string up the coup plotters, Carmona, the Pretend President from Exxon, returned his captive Chavez back to his desk within 48 hours. (How? Get The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, the film, expanding on my reports for BBC Television. You can download it for free for the next few days.)
Chavez had provoked the coup not just by clawing back some of the bloated royalties of the oil companies. It's what he did with that oil money that drove Venezuela's One Percent to violence.
In Caracas, I ran into the reporter for a TV station whose owner is generally credited with plotting the coup against the president. While doing a publicity photo shoot, leaning back against a tree, showing her wide-open legs nearly up to where they met, the reporter pointed down the hill to the "ranchos", the slums above Caracas, where shacks, once made of cardboard and tin, were quickly transforming into homes of cinder blocks and cement.
"He [Chavez] gives them bread and bricks, so they vote for him, of course." She was disgusted by "them", the 80 percent of Venezuelans who are negro e indio (Black and Indian) - and poor. Chavez, himself negro e indio, had, for the first time in Venezuela's history, shifted the oil wealth from the privileged class that called themselves "Spanish", to the dark-skinned masses.
While trolling around the poor housing blocks of Caracas, I ran into a local, Arturo Quiran, a merchant seaman and no big fan of Chavez. But over a beer at his kitchen table, he told me, "Fifteen years ago under [then-President] Carlos Andrés Pérez, there was a lot of oil money in Venezuela. The ‘oil boom', we called it. Here in Venezuela there was a lot of money, but we didn't see it."
But then came Hugo Chavez, and now the poor in his neighbourhood, he said, "get medical attention, free operations, X-rays, medicines; education also. People who never knew how to write now know how to sign their own papers."
Chavez' Robin Hood thing, shifting oil money from the rich to the poor, would have been grudgingly tolerated by the US. But Chavez, who told me, "We are no longer an oil colony," went further... too much further, in the eyes of the American corporate elite.
Venezuela had landless citizens by the millions - and unused land by the millions of acres tied up, untilled, on which a tiny elite of plantation owners squatted. Chavez' congress passed in a law in 2001 requiring untilled land to be sold to the landless. It was a programme long promised by Venezuela's politicians at the urging of John F Kennedy as part of his "Alliance for Progress".
Plantation owner Heinz Corporation didn't like that one bit. In retaliation, Heinz closed its ketchup plant in the state of Maturin and fired all the workers. Chavez seized Heinz' plant and put the workers back on the job. Chavez didn't realise that he'd just squeezed the tomatoes of America's powerful Heinz family and Mrs. Heinz' husband, Senator John Kerry, now US Secretary of State.
Or, knowing Chavez as I do, he didn't give a damn.
Chavez could survive the ketchup coup, the Exxon "presidency", even his taking back a piece of the windfall of oil company profits, but he dangerously tried the patience of America's least forgiving billionaires: The Koch Brothers.
Elected presidents who annoy Big Oil have ended up in exile - or coffins: Mossadegh of Iran after he nationalised BP's fields (1953), Elchibey, President of Azerbaijan, after he refused demands of BP for his Caspian fields (1993), President Alfredo Palacio of Ecuador after he terminated Occidental's drilling concession (2005).
"It's a chess game, Mr. Palast," Chavez told me. He was showing me a very long, and very sharp sword once owned by Simon Bolivar, the Great Liberator. "And I am," Chavez said, "a very good chess player."
In the film The Seventh Seal, a medieval knight bets his life on a game of chess with the Grim Reaper. Death cheats, of course, and takes the knight. No mortal can indefinitely outplay Death who, last night, checkmated the new Bolivar of Venezuela.
But in one last move, the Bolivarian grandmaster played a brilliant endgame, naming Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, as good and decent a man as they come, as heir to the fight for those in the "ranchos". The One Percent of Venezuela, planning on Chavez's death to return them the power and riches they couldn't win in an election, are livid with the choice of Maduro.
Chavez sent Maduro to meet me in my downtown New York office back in 2004. In our run-down detective digs on Second Avenue, Maduro and I traded information on assassination plots and oil policy.
Even then, Chavez was carefully preparing for the day when Venezuela's negros e indios would lose their king - but still stay in the game.
Class war on a chessboard. Even in death, I wouldn't bet against Hugo Chavez.