15 December 2017

Catastrophe and Colonialism: How Hurricane Maria Exposed the Crisis of Puerto Rico's Colonial Status


rsn
reader supported news 

By Pedro Caban - Jacobin 

"...Puerto Rico does not figure as prominently in US national security as it did before the collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of Cuba as a regional threat."

n the last ninety years, three catastrophic hurricanes have struck Puerto Rico. San Felipe II in 1928 and San Ciprían in 1932 triggered political and economic changes in America’s largest colony that endured for generations. However, Puerto Rico remains an unincorporated territorial possession of the United States, subject to the plenary powers of Congress. The Puerto Rican government exercises only those powers that the Congress allows. In other words, it is still a colony.

As a political economist who has studied Puerto Rican political and economic change, I believe Hurricane Maria could be another watershed moment that redefines United States treatment of Puerto Rico.

The Neglected Island

In 1928, things were not well in Puerto Rico.

Three decades of US colonial rule had transformed Puerto Rico into a vast sugar plantation controlled by absentee corporations and a prized military base for protecting the Panama Canal. A classic study of Puerto Rico noted that “thousands are undernourished, or actually starving, while the products of the island bring more than $100 million a year. Disease is present everywhere.”

Luis Muñoz Marín, arguably one of Puerto Rico’s most famous political figures, wrote that Puerto Rico had been converted into a “land of beggars and millionaires . . . It is Uncle Sam’s second largest sweatshop.”

Puerto Ricans wanted to reform the colonial system that was responsible for these woes. In April 1928, Félix Córdoba Dávila, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington at the time, complained that Puerto Ricans “are not asking for charity, but for rights.”

Then came Hurricane San Felipe II, a Category 5 hurricane.

The War Department reported that on Sept. 13, 1928, Puerto Rico “was struck by the most devastating hurricane in its history, and the results of years of private and public enterprise were obliterated in a few hours.”

San Felipe II killed 312 people. It left a half a million Puerto Ricans homeless and destitute, almost one-third of the island’s population. Property damage, estimated at $85 million — about $1.57 billion in 2017 dollars — was unprecedented. According to the Red Cross, no sector of the economy was “left in a worse plight” than the coffee farms. Plantations lost almost their entire crop, and Puerto Rico never regained its prominence as a coffee exporter.

President Calvin Coolidge’s call for Americans to contribute to the American Red Cross generated $3.1 million in donations. The War Department dispersed more than $500,000 worth of supplies and reassigned Army officers, including medical staff, to Puerto Rico. Congress established the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Commission in 1928 with $8,150,000 to provide loans for rehabilitating coffee plantations, reconstruction and jobs. US authorities reported that Puerto Ricans were “undismayed and undiscouraged,” and as “bending every effort to create from the ruins a greater Puerto Rico.”

At the same time, San Felipe II led to increased opposition to US colonial rule. The Nationalists and the Union Party emerged as vocal critics of US colonial policy. Many Puerto Ricans portrayed the federal government’s response to San Felipe II as charity that failed to alter the regime of colonial rule and absentee capital — the root of Puerto Rico’s misery.

Four years later, in September 1932, San Ciprían, a Category 4 hurricane, struck Puerto Rico.

It left 225 dead and caused $35 million damage (about $644 million in 2017). The Red Cross director reported: “The acute and intense hurricane surpasses anything he has seen in his career.” San Ciprían intensified the misery that afflicted Puerto Rico. The majority of Puerto Ricans lived a precarious existence. They lacked reserves to survive the ravages of any hurricane for long.

The Army, private relief organizations, Red Cross, colonial administration and federal government took action to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. In August 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration and charged it with providing “relief for the destitute unemployed of the island.” The agency’s director acknowledged the desperate need for aid, but noted that it should be temporary. Puerto Ricans, he wrote, “were an industrious people with a real desire to work and distinct aversion to charity and relief.”

The creation of the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration was an important change in US colonial policy. The scale and severity of Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis was beyond the capacity of the charity-focused, volunteer approach of the Red Cross and other organizations. A federal agency had stepped in.

Although the agency saved lives, it was not well-funded. Governor of Puerto Rico Blanton Winship complained in 1935 that “Puerto Rico continues to receive only a small portion of the funds to which the island is rightfully entitled.” These relief efforts did little to mitigate political discontent.

Calls for independence escalated. Puerto Ricans denounced the corrupt colonial administration that opposed the federal agency, blocked land reform, and was solidly in the pocket of the absentee corporations. Labor strikes broke out throughout the island, and often turned violent. The colony was on the verge of collapse.

The two hurricanes were a wake-up call for federal authorities to the failures of colonialism. San Felipe II and San Ciprían set in motion a process of reform that culminated in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952. The government of Puerto Rico was unofficially given autonomy to manage domestic affairs, including the economy.

Maria and the Future of Puerto Rico
The magnitude of human loss that Hurricane Maria has inflicted is still unknown. As of this writing, the official number of Puerto Ricans killed by Maria stands at sixty-four, but the New York Times released a report this week putting the number closer to 1,052. Moody’s Analytics estimated property damage at $55 billion, and projected a $40 billion loss in economic output.

But the physical devastation, upheaval, and trauma inflicted on daily life in Puerto Rico add up to much more. San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz went so far as to say that if not resolved, the situation could lead to “something close to a genocide.”

The Donald Trump administration’s response to the crisis reveals that Puerto Ricans are racialized as subordinate, despite their US citizenship. Trump’s racially charged statements resurrected long dormant, degrading characterizations of Puerto Ricans as lacking the capacity and will to fend for themselves.

Maria has also exposed the crisis within Puerto Rico’s divided politics. The Statehood and Commonwealth parties have campaigned for decades on resolving Puerto Rico’s political status. Yet both parties share responsibility for the island’s escalating debt, and neither has been able to stop Puerto Rico’s economic decline. The entrenched poverty, crisis in political leadership, and the federal government’s continued treatment of Puerto Rico as “foreign to the United States in a domestic sense” have an uncanny resemblance to the situation in 1932.

A major difference between now and than is that Puerto Rico is inconsequential for the preservation of US hegemony in the Southern hemisphere. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and demise of Cuban influence, the US has no geopolitical rival in the Americas and Puerto Rico’s military value has disappeared.


Moreover, decades ago Puerto Rico lost its privileged position as an internationally profitable offshore site for US manufacturing firms. By the mid-1970s labor intensive manufacturing had been displaced by capital intensive firms, including pharmaceuticals which eventually dominated the economy. These firms made a large percentage of their global profits in Puerto Rico through transfer pricing techniques, rather than through the actual value created by labor. In effect, Puerto Rican labor was a marginal and potentially expendable (labor was subject to displacement by robotics) component for wealth creation.

Consequently, the historically unprecedented depopulation that started after the depression of 2006 and has accelerated since Hurricane Maria, should have little impact on economic growth. Unemployment remains at historically high levels despite the migration of close to half a million Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico’s diminished role in the American empire explains Trump’s untroubled response to the economic and humanitarian crises that are consuming Puerto Rico. The irony, and the seeming mystery of the colonial economy, is that Puerto Rico is the United States’ fifth largest export market.

A major difference, however, is that Puerto Rico does not figure as prominently in US national security as it did before the collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of Cuba as a regional threat. This partially explains the federal government’s seemingly untroubled response to the unfolding crisis in Puerto Rico.

Another critical difference is that the Puerto Rican diaspora has emerged as a powerful, if unexpected, economic and political force. They have come to the aid of their island, and are actively lobbying against some of the most restrictive colonial policies — the Jones Act, PROMESA board, and inequity in federal programs.

Puerto Ricans living across the United States are putting pressure on their local officials and the federal government for more assistance, and have organized a nationwide campaign to raise funding and collect donations for Puerto Rico. As a recent editorial in Puerto Rico’s leading newspaper put it, “the diaspora is key to the reconstruction of the country.” It may also be key in moving the federal government to finally resolve Puerto Rico’s political status.

14 December 2017

U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS DECOLONISATION RESOLUTIONS



GA/11987
DECEMBER 2017
SEVENTY-SECOND SESSION, 66TH MEETING (AM)

EXCERPTS FROM UNITED NATIONS 

General Assembly Adopts 38 Resolutions, 

PRESS RELEASE

2 Decisions from Fourth Committee, Including Texts on Decolonization, Israeli‑Palestinian Issues


Among the 22 decolonization texts before the Assembly was a draft resolution on the question of Guam, which it adopted by a recorded vote of 93 in favour to 8 against (France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Morocco, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States), with 65 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly called once again upon the administering Power to take into consideration the expressed will of Guam’s Chamorro people, as supported by Guam voters in the referendum of 1987, and as subsequently provided for in Guam law regarding Chamorro self‑determination efforts.

By other terms, the Assembly encouraged the administering Power and the territorial government to enter negotiations on that matter, and stressed the need for continued close monitoring of the overall situation in the Territory.  By further terms, it called upon the administering Power to participate in and cooperate fully with the Special Committee on Decolonization in efforts to promote self‑government in Guam, encouraging it to facilitate visits and special missions to the Territory.  The Assembly also requested that the Territory and the administering Power protect and conserve the environment against degradation and the impact of militarization.
Also requiring a recorded vote was a draft resolution titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations”.  The Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Israel, Morocco, United Kingdom, United States), with 40 abstentions.  By that text, the General Assembly recommended that all States intensify their efforts to ensure full and effective implementation of the decolonization Declaration — contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) — and other relevant resolutions.  It also urged specialized agencies and organizations that had not yet provided assistance to Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible.
*****
Closely following the Fourth Committee’s recommendations, the Assembly adopted — without a vote — a series of annual texts on the right of the following Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to self‑determination: Western Sahara, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, French Polynesia, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted draft resolutions relating to assistance in mine action; atomic radiation; the peaceful uses of outer space affairs; special political missions; questions relating to information; and offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories. 
.....
The General Assembly also adopted, without a vote, two draft decisions, one on the question of Gibraltar and the other relating to revitalization of its own work.
*****
Turning to several drafts on decolonization, the General Assembly first adopted the draft “Information from Non‑Self‑Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter of the United Nations” (document A/72/452) by a recorded vote of 173 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).
By that text, the General Assembly requested that the administering Powers concerned, in accordance with their Charter obligations, transmit or continue to transmit regularly to the Secretary‑General statistical and other technical information relating to the economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories under their respective responsibility.
The Assembly also adopted the draft Economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories” (document A/72/453/L.14) by a recorded vote of 173 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, United Kingdom).  By that text, the General Assembly expressed deep concern at the number and scale of natural disasters and their devastating impact on Non‑Self‑Governing Territories in the Caribbean in 2017, particularly Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Further by that text, the Assembly called upon the administering Powers to ensure that the exploitation of marine and other natural resources of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories did not violate relevant United Nations resolutions, nor adversely affect the interests of their peoples.  It called upon administering Powers to provide all necessary assistance to the peoples of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories affected by recent hurricanes in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering, support recovery and rebuilding efforts, and enhance emergency-preparedness and risk‑reduction capabilities.
Also requiring a recorded vote was the draft resolution Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations” (document A/72/454), which the Assembly adopted by a recorded 118 votes in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 54 abstentions.
Also by that text, the General Assembly recommended that all States intensify their efforts, through United Nations specialized agencies and other entities, to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration, contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), and other relevant resolutions.  It also urged specialized agencies and organizations that had not yet provided assistance to Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible.
Acting without a vote, the Assembly then adopted the text “Offers of study and training for inhabitants of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories” (document A/72/455/L.6), by which it urged administering Powers to ensure the widespread and continuous dissemination of information relating to offers of study and training facilities, and to provide all facilities needed to enable students to avail themselves of such offers.
The Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution on Western Sahara (document A/72/456/L.5), by which it called upon parties and States of the region to cooperate with the efforts of the Secretary‑General and his Personal Envoy to resolve the dispute over that Territory.  It welcomed the parties’ commitment to working in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations.
Acting again without a vote, the Assembly adopted a series of draft resolutions on the following individual Non‑Self‑Governing Territories: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, French Polynesia, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands (document A/72/456).
The General Assembly also took up a draft resolution on the question of Guam (document A/72/456/L.16), adopting it by a recorded vote of 93 in favour to 8 against (France, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Morocco, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States), with 65 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly stressed that the decolonization process in Guam should be compatible with the United Nations Charter, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It called once again upon the administering Power to take into consideration the expressed will of Guam’s Chamorro people, as supported by Guam voters in the referendum of 1987, and as subsequently provided for in Guam law regarding Chamorro self‑determination efforts.
Further by that text, the Assembly encouraged the administering Power and the territorial government to begin negotiations on that matter, stressing the importance of apprising the Special Committee on Decolonization of the Guam people’s views and wishes, and of enhancing their understanding of their condition, including the nature and scope of existing political and constitutional arrangements between the Territory and the administering Power.  Also by the text, the Assembly requested that the administering Power, in cooperation with the territorial government, continue to transfer land to the Territory’s original landowners, and continue to recognize and respect the political rights as well as the cultural and ethnic identity of Guam’s Chamorro people, and continue to take all measures necessary to address the territorial government’s concerns about the immigration question.  The Assembly requested that the Territory and the administering Power protect and conserve the environment against degradation and the impact of militarization.
The General Assembly went on to adopt — by a recorded vote of 172 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with 2 abstentions (France, Togo) — the resolution “Dissemination of information on decolonization” (document A/72/456).  By that text, the Assembly requested that the Department of Public Information continue its efforts to update Web‑based information on assistance programmes available to Non‑Self‑Governing Territories.  It also requested that the Department, alongside the Department of Political Affairs, implement the recommendations of the Special Committee on Decolonization and continue their efforts through all available media.
Taking up the report titled “Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” (document A/72/456), the Assembly adopted the draft resolution contained therein by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Israel, Morocco, United Kingdom, United States), with 40 abstentions.  By its terms, the General Assembly urged administering Powers to effectively safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the peoples of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories to their natural resources, and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources.  It called upon the administering Powers concerned to terminate military activities and eliminate military bases in the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories under their administration, in compliance with the relevant resolutions.
Acting without a vote, the General Assembly then adopted two draft decisions, the first being the “Question of Gibraltar” (document A/72/456/L.7),

13 December 2017

CONFERENCE ON DUTCH-ADMINISTERED CARIBBEAN CONDEMNS UNILATERAL ANNEXATION OF CARIBBEAN DEPENDENCIES


2nd CONFERENCE ON THE POLITICAL FUTURE
OF THE DUTCH-ADMINISTERED CARIBBEAN
RE-UNITING THE ANTILLES AND CARIBBEAN IN SOLIDARITY

FINAL COMMUNIQUÉ 

Kralendijk, Bonaire, December 3, 2017

The Second Conference on the Political Future of the Dutch-Administered Caribbean,

Having met at Bonaire, West Indies on 2nd and 3rd December 2017,

Aware that the political status of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius (Statia) and Saba was transformed in 2010 from being a part of the autonomous country of the (former) Netherlands Antilles to a new political arrangement unilaterally advanced by the Kingdom of the Netherlands akin to that of 'partial integration', and characterized by serious political and economic inequality, rather than the promised political and economic equality originally envisaged.

Also aware that this new status is tantamount to unilateral annexation, and is wholly inconsistent with the minimum standards of full self-government and equality required on the basis of international principles of democratic governance,

Noting that in 2010, Curaçao and Sint Maarten joined Aruba as the second and third semi autonomous countries in the Kingdom without the full measure of self-government required under United Nations (U.N.) Resolution 1541 (XV), and subject to the applicability of Article 51 of the Kingdom Charter which provides for unilateral intervention in the affairs of the autonomous countries,

Also taking note of the “Assessment of self-governance sufficiency in conformity with internationally-recognized standards – Country Curacao” undertaken in 2012 by the global Dependency Studies Project which found that the present governance model in place in Curaçao emerging from the 2010 dismantlement process of the Netherlands Antilles further reduced the level of self-government to a diminished autonomous model, and is not in compliance with contemporary international standards of full self-government,

Conscious that in addition to the Dutch-administered partially-integrated dependencies, and the autonomous countries in the region, are other non-independent countries (NICCs) including the six British-administered non self-governing territories of Bermuda, Turks & Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands and Anguilla; the U.S. administered dependencies of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; the integrated departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana, and the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, and the French-administered collectivities of Saint Martin and Barts,

Bearing in mind that the 'public entity' status does not reflect the wishes of the people of Bonaire who had previously selected a political status of "direct ties to the Kingdom" of the Netherlands in a 2004 referendum rather than the political status of "public entity" which has been unilaterally and systematically imposed by the Kingdom since the 2010 dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles and the subsequent transition,

Also bearing in mind that the 'public entity' political status was formally rejected by the people of Bonaire in a 2015 referendum by a decisive 'No' vote of over 65 per cent and the results were formally certified and endorsed by motion of the Island Council on 8th March 2016 as a clear mandate of the people but the Kingdom decided to unilaterally embed the public entities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba in the country of the Constitution,

Recognizing that any subsequent referendum on the preferred political status that would be selected from a group of political status options of democratic governance and political equality should be conducted under the direct supervision of the U.N.,

Taking into account that the people of Sint Eustatius voted in its 2005 referendum to remain within a restructured autonomous country of the Netherlands Antilles, but as the 2005 referendum results resulted in the dismantlement of that autonomous country, the Island Council of Sint Eustatius subsequently approved a motion to accept the ‘direct ties’ arrangement offered to Bonaire and Saba, even as the people had not voted in favor of the status, and even as the nature of its political and economic inequality had not yet been revealed,

Also taking into account that the people of Sint Eustatius in a 2014 referendum, under official observation of the U.N. Electoral Affairs Division of the Department of Political Affairs, formally rejected the imposed 'public entity' status by voting for a more autonomous status from a list of political status options, and recalling that the results of the 2014 referendum were formally certified and endorsed by motion of the Island Council on 25th May 2015 as a clear mandate of the people resulting in the subsequent drafting in 2016 of a White Paper and a draft constitution for an autonomous Sint Eustatius,

Alarmed that the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in spite of the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Sint Eustatius and Bonaire in their rejection of the imposed political status of ‘public entity’ in 2014 and 2015, respectively, has proceeded through measures in the Kingdom Parliament to formally annex the two territories through a process of ‘embedding’ the two islands (along with the island of Saba), in the Dutch Constitution and further alarmed that this unilateral process of the Kingdom could result in a legitimization of the dependency status contrary to international norms of democratic governance and in opposition to the expressed will of the people of Bonaire and Sint Eustatius,

Recognizing the resumption of direct, albeit strained, contact between the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands with the democratically elected government of Sint Eustatius following the suspension of contacts in 2015, and again in 2016, and deeply concerned that the method of unilateral withdrawal of communication with the elected government of the territory continues to be an unacceptable practice,

Further expresses its deep concern for the imposition of unilateral financial supervision which requires Kingdom approval for public expenditures by the Government of Sint Eustatius despite compliance with the financial regulations of the Kingdom Committee of Financial Supervision (CFT),

Recalling the Motion adopted by the Island Council of Sint Eustatius on 28th May 2015 which confirmed, inter alia, that the population of Sint Eustatius had not yet exhausted all its options as far as exercising its right to self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, and which reminded the Netherlands of its continued obligations towards Sint Eustatius as part of the former Netherlands Antilles,

Also recalling the resolutions of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of Latin America and Caribbean, Copppal,  rejecting any form of colonization in the American Continent,  issued on December 1, 2016 on Bonaire and June 6, 2017 on Sint Maarten with regards to Puerto Rico and the future political status of the Caribbean islands administered by Holland,

Taking note of the proposed 'Raizal Statute' submitted by the Raizal Authority of the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina to the Government of Columbia to modernize the political, socio-economic and constitutional relationship between the people of the archipelago and the State of Columbia, and affirming the self-determination aspirations of the Raizal people,

Outraged that after 120 years of United States (U.S.) colonialism, and 36 U.N. resolutions asking it to immediately return Puerto Rico’s sovereignty to the Puerto Ricans, distressed by the unilateral imposition of the colonial fiscal control board imposed upon the people of Puerto Rico by the U.S. Government, and concerned for the irresponsibility of the U.S. response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico caused by the impact of Hurricane Maria precipitating the migration of Puerto Ricans from their homeland resulting in a significant reduction in population and family displacement with the intention of changing the demographic composition of the population,

1. Affirms that the referendum results of 2014 in Sint Eustatius, and of 2015 in Bonaire, constituted a formal, genuine and legitimate refutation of the 'public entity' status as expressed by the people, and alarmed that the 'public entity' status imposed on the people of Sint Eustatius and Bonaire had been misrepresented as a genuine status of political equality by the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010 at the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles,

2. Deeply concerned that the people of Bonaire and Sint Eustatius are presently being governed, contrary to democratic norms, under a political status of political and economic inequality not of their choosing,

3. Reaffirms the continued applicability to Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba of relevant international law doctrine on self-determination and decolonization, including the provisions of Chapter XI on the "Declaration Regarding Non Self-Governing Territories,"

4. Also reaffirms the continued applicability of Article 73 (b) of the United Nations (U.N.) Charter which mandates that "Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement,"

5. Emphasizes the continued applicability to Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba of the U.N. Decolonization Declaration [Resolution 1514 (XV)], its companion Resolution 1541 (XV), and all other relevant U.N. resolutions, as well as the present Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and its plan of action,

6. Also emphasizes the applicability of relevant General Assembly resolutions which recognize that "the existence of colonialism in any form or manifestation," as "incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations, the (Decolonization) Declaration and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' and further emphasizes the applicability of the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly which confirm that self-determination is a fundamental human right protected under the core human rights conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), et al,

7. Takes note with interest that the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 945 (X) of 15 December 1955 removing the former Netherlands Antilles from the U.N. list of Non Self-Governing Territories did not affirm that the former Netherlands Antilles had achieved a full measure of self-government, thus leaving open the possibility for the U.N. to resume formal review of the self-governance sufficiency of the former territory and any of its former constituent parts, in particular Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, as well as Curaçao and the other semi autonomous countries within the Kingdom with the aim of fostering a genuine process of self-determination,

8. Calls on the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as a matter of urgency, to lift the financial supervision imposed on the Dutch administered Caribbean, and calls on the Kingdom to exercise respect in their communication and dealings with the territories and semi autonomous countries,

9. Condemns the Kingdom of the Netherlands for its actions in unilaterally embedding the 'public entities’ of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba in the constitution of the Netherlands, and calls on the international community  to review whether these actions are a violation of the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of the public entities,

10. Calls for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and/or other relevant U.N. member States to initiate the necessary procedures for the re-inscription of the former Netherlands Antilles islands of Bonaire and Sint Eustatius as well as Saba, Curaçao and the other semi autonomous countries within the Kingdom on the United Nations list of Non Self-Governing Territories to provide the international community with the required platform to review, in depth where democratic deficiencies in the dependency governance arrangement may exist,

11. Endorses the commissioning of an independent Self Governance Assessment of the political status and constitutional arrangements of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, through the use of the "Corbin Self-Governance Indicators," to determine the nature and scope of the public entity status according to international standards, and requests that the necessary resources be identified for the Assessment to be carried out as a key substantive document to inform the U.N. in its consideration of the re-inscription process of Bonaire and Saint Eustatius.


12. Encouraged by/recognizes the ongoing negotiations between the Government of  Colombia and the recognized representatives of the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina on a Raizal Statute intended to address the broad range of political, socio-economic and constitutional issues and concerns, and which is aimed at the modernization of the political status relationship between the Raizal people and the Colombian state; urges the  Colombia Government to modify the State constitution in order to accommodate the Raizal Statute in recognition of the inalienable right of the people of the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina to self-determination in accordance with international law, in particular, the U.N. Charter and relevant human rights instruments.

13. Calls on the Kingdom of the Netherlands to adhere to the spirit of its Charter to provide for the autonomous functioning of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten;

14. Calls on the Government of the U.S. to implement the U.N. Charter as related to the self-determination of peoples, and to implement the 36 resolutions of the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization calling for the self-determination and independence of Puerto Rico,

15. Calls on Government of the U.S. to facilitate the self-determination of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands consistent with the relevant resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly.




12 December 2017

Former Netherlands Antilles PM honoured by global body

Former Prime Minister Receives Award At WPL Conference



WILLEMSTAD - Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles, Maria Liberia-Peters recently received the lifetime achievement award at the conference of the Woman Political Leader Global Forum (WPL).
The Women Political Leaders Global Forum (WPL) is the global network of female politicians.
According to the former Prime Minister, she is honored to have received this award in recognition of her achievement as the first female politician who won an election and became the leader of her country. That was in 1984.
This year the Liberia-Peters was honored together with the first female Prime Minister of Dominica, Mrs. Eugenia Charles who passed away on September 6, 2005, at Fort de France, Martinique.
"As two female Prime Ministers, we supported each other in a world of politics dominated by men but where the society was mostly focused on the matriarch," said the former Prime Minister on her Facebook 

11 December 2017

In Puerto Rico, the 'natural disaster' is the US government

BY YXTA MAYA MURRAY, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR

The wreckage of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma teaches us that there is no such thing as a “natural disaster.” This trope drives the federal response to environmental traumas under the Stafford Act, which allows the U.S. president to direct funds to any “state,” including Puerto Rico, when it is felled by events such as hurricanes.
The failures of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), show the illusions of the “disaster” story: It characterizes environmental traumas as short-term, one-size-fits-all catastrophes that are nobody’s fault. It also positions the federal government as a savior of victims, who should be thankful for U.S. aid that is given a matter of largesse. For this reason, President Trump could make the now-infamous complaint that “they” “want everything done for them” via Twitter on Sept. 30, and on Nov. 17 request that Congress provide only $44 billion in aid, a number that Senator Patrick Leahy (D, Vt) describes as “insulting,” especially for Puerto Rico.
Reliance on the story may also explain why the colorful FEMA “timeline” describing U.S. aid appears to stop at Oct. 31 as of this writing, and contains perfunctory assessments of efficient debris-clearance.
Interviews with Puerto Rican residents and responders that I conducted in November, however, reveal a different tale — one where FEMA administrators misunderstood the real dimensions of environmental “disasters,” which may begin far before the event, unfold in highly site-specific ways, and can continue for decades if not longer.
Puertorriqueños found themselves vulnerable for reasons that far predate Maria’s September 20 landfall. As law professor María L. Jiménez Colón, director of legal clinics for the University of Puerto Rico, recently explained to me: What we’re seeing now is “probably the worst, the most graphic, consequences of what happens when you are in a situation as we are, and as we were, before the hurricane.” In recounting the causes of the island’s suffering, she lambasted Puerto Rico’s “colony” status as well as its financial crisis, which may illuminate why its insufficiently maintained electrical grid failed, leaving 95 percent of the territory without power.
Moreover, the dangers foretold by austerity were compounded by FEMA’s negligence post-Maria. Professor Jiménez Colón reported that “We haven’t encountered many FEMA inspectors who speak Spanish.”
This complaint was also echoed by Roxanna García, RN, who did aid work in Puerto Rico from Oct. 4-18 with RNRN/NNU, the relief arm of her union: She said to me: “A lot of them didn’t speak Spanish, and the only thing they were doing was taking applications.”
Along with sending monolingual English speakers to help a territory where approximately 2.8 million people are monolingual Spanish speakers, García complained that FEMA relied on inaccessible technology: “You could fill out applications in person, but (to) follow up the application, (that process) was electronic. (You had to use a) phone, or text, or email. … But the internet was spotty and unreliable.”
And when FEMA handed out supplies, she said, it ignored victims’ health conditions : Residents “didn’t receive the kind of food that was adequate” in either quality or quantity, particularly considering the size of households or the prevalence of diabetes in Puerto Rico. The FEMA relief boxes contained a paltry amount of “chips and beef jerky and maybe a couple of bottles of water,” which often couldn’t be eaten since around 40 percent of the people García aided had diabetes or high blood pressure.
Private responders also said FEMA workers could barely be found. Sophia Hau Yau RN, who also traveled with RNRN/NNU, said that aid workers posted a sheet in a common area titled “FEMA Sightings.” Only six people wrote in of seeing FEMA employees, whereas Yau worked with a group of 300 volunteers that entered remote mountain locations and rural areas.
The disaster narrative also does not adequately imagine the future created for Puerto Rico by colonialism, austerity, Maria and government carelessness: “You can see the health crisis starting and already growing,” Yau said, citing the long-term effects of black mold and tainted water. And Jiménez observed that the hurricane would catalyze “housing (problems), foreclosures and evictions, and with evictions you trigger family relations, with issues with child custodies, and so on and so forth. This ... (is not going to) end soon.”
As Puerto Rico residents and responders know, FEMA does not attend to victims of unpredictable “natural disasters” out of generosity. Instead, human-rights considerations obligate the government to respond fully to environmental events that are rooted in government responsibility. Conscious of its own role in creating “disasters,” the U.S. must also tailor aid to local conditions, and to respond to an injured community with an appreciation of its history and foreseeable future.

30 November 2017

France requests EU Solidarity Funding for hurricane recovery in department of Guadeloupe and Collectivity of Saint Martin

European Commission - Statement

Statement by Commissioner Creţu on the French authorities' request for aid from the European Solidarity Fund

Brussels, 28 November 2017

Within the first few hours of the devastating Irma and Maria hurricanes hitting the Caribbean, the European Union expressed its solidarity by mobilising its emergency response instruments and offering aid for reconstruction in the longer term with the support of European funds.

We have now received a request from the French authorities for aid from the EU Solidarity Fund to help with reconstruction on Guadeloupe and Saint Martin in particular; French Overseas Minister Annick Girardin will today meet my colleague, Pierre Moscovici, to hand him the request in person.

I welcome this request, since once analysed it will allow us to assist the people of Saint Martin by providing financial aid to help restore infrastructure and public services and to cover emergency and clean-up costs.

Europe's support will soon be put to work on the island. This is the promise I made to Daniel Gibbs, President of the Collectivity of Saint Martin, at the Conference on the Outermost Regions in October, where we presented our new strategy for a stronger partnership with these regions. This promise will be kept, since although these overseas regions may be geographically distant from the European continent, never have they been so close, so integrated, or so European.

However, we also realise that these regions are part of a special neighbourhood and that Saint Martin itself is one of a pair, since it shares its island, and therefore its destiny, with the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten.

Saint Martin and Sint Maarten will recover together. My colleague Commissioner Mimica, responsible for development, last week announced an investment package to support the reconstruction and economic revival of the Caribbean countries affected by the disaster, including Sint Maarten.

Furthermore, in December we will announce how our inter-regional cooperation programmes, known by the name of Interreg, can also make a contribution, in particular the specific programme linking Saint Martin and Sint Maarten.

The European Union stands side-by-side with those who lost everything, including their dreams, in the disaster. They can count on the sincere and unfailing support of the EU for the reconstruction work and for the rebuilding of their lives.

29 November 2017

New Solar Park supplies entire Statia with electricity


BES REPORTER


On St. Eustatius, one of the three Public Entities of the Caribbean Netherlands, on the 15th of November a solar park will be officially put into use that can supply the entire island with electricity during the day until after sunset. Thanks to the park, the use of diesel generators, which until recently produced all electricity, can now be reduced by almost half.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate has funded the solar park with a subsidy of over USD 14.1 million. This corresponds to almost USD 7,900 for each of the 1800 households and companies whom the investment from the Dutch Government will benefit.
In addition to the solar panels the park has an innovative battery storage of 2.6 MW / 5.9 MWh that can keep the grid stable without the diesel generators. On sunny days from 9.00 AM until 8.00 PM  the solar park is responsible for the entire power production. Around noon the park produces more than 200% of the electricity demand. The produced surplus is stored and utilized later in the day. At night diesel generators take over the production.
This way on an annual basis the solar park provides 46% of the electricity needs of the island. The park has a nominal output of 4.15 MW; thanks to the sunny climate this plant can produce almost twice as much power as would be possible in the European Netherlands. With an expected annual production of 6.4 GWh, after Sunport Delfzijl, this is the Netherlands’ largest solar park.
The plant will be put into use officially on 15 November 2017 by the Kingdom Representative, Gilbert Isabella.