Archive | January, 2015

Legacy of Endless Afghan War Includes Nation Plagued by Unexploded Bombs

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With a majority of the victims children, unexploded ordnances in war-torn Afghanistan are claiming more than one life every single day

Children at Kandahar airfield being educated about unexploded ordnances in 2009. One person on average is killed every day in Afghanistan from munitions that were dropped or left behind by U.S. or Nato forces. (Photo: Thomas Sjørup/Afghanistan Matters/flickr/cc)

As seen in other abandoned battlefields in the anals of U.S. wars overseas, new reporting out of Afghanistan shows that among the other deadly legacies left behind by foreign troops are tens of thousands unexploded munitions dropped from the sky or left in the ground that will continue to kill and maim civilians long after the “official” fighting has stopped.

Reporting from the Afghan city of Khost, Guardian foreign correspondent Sune Engel Rasmussen reviewed data and spoke with members of the UN’s Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (Macca) to learn that unexploded bombs and shells in Afghanistan “are killing and maiming people at a rate of more than one a day”—the vast majority of whom are children.

Citing MACCA statistics from 2014, Rasmussen reports “there were 369 casualties in the past year, including 89 deaths. The rate rose significantly in October and November when 93 people were injured, 84 of them children. Twenty died.”

Offering a tragic account of siblings from a single family, Rasmussen relays the story of 10-year-old Mohammad Yunus and his eight-year-old sister, Sahar Bibi. “The grenades that killed Mohammad and Sahar, as they were combing through dry branches to collect firewood for their family, should have detonated long before they were picked up. Instead, the shells exploded in the children’s hands and ripped through their bodies, killing them instantly. The blasts also injured their two brothers, aged five and 12.”

In a war that has spanned more than twelve years—with no end in sight—it is not surprising that the number of unexploded ordnances (UXOs) has risen to alarming rates, but as was true in the U.S. war in southeast Asia—where the nations of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia continue to suffer the consequences of years of carpet bombing by the U.S. military—the problem will not go away just because the war is at some point declared over.

As the Guardian reports:

Though first steps have been taken to tackle [UXO], agencies complain the US-led forces are withholding information about where they may have dropped explosives.

“We ask for information about battlefields that may have UXO, but we have received coordinates for only 300 locations. It’s not enough,” said Mohammad Sediq Rashid, director of Macca.

Colonel Calvin Hudson, Nato’s Combined Joint Task Force chief engineer in Kabul, says Nato gives as much information to mine-clearing agencies as possible without compromising operational operational security – coordinates for areas where Afghan forces continue their operations are withheld.

Much of the fighting in Afghanistan has taken place in and around residential areas, increasing the risk of civilian casualties in the aftermath of the war. UK and US diplomats emphasise that international law does not give their countries a responsibility to clear battlefields. But that does not absolve Nato countries of their duty to clean up after themselves, said Rashid.

“It is a moral responsibility,” he said, adding that scattering unstable explosives around the country defeats the initial purpose of the war. “Military intervention is the last resort, and it’s intended to protect people and stabilise the country,” he said.

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Further Proving One-Sided Recovery

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One in Five US Children on Food Assistance

Census data finds 16 million kids relied on food stamps, higher than pre-recession levels

One in five children needed government food assistance in 2014, new Census figures show. (Photo: Bread for the World/flickr/cc)

One in five U.S. children relied on food assistance in 2014—a figure higher than before the recession—highlighting the uneven results of the so-called economic recovery, new information from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals.

That total is up from one in eight in 2007, according to data released Wednesday. While single-parent families with only a mother present who received food stamps jumped the highest—up 8.1 million from 5.5. million in 2007—figures increased across the board.

Married-parent families in need of assistance went up to 5.2 million from 2.7 million, while those with two unmarried parents jumped to 1.2 million from .5 million.

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The news comes shortly after President Barack Obama heralded economic progress and increased job figures as a sign of the country’s emergence from the 2008 recession in his State of the Union address earlier this month.

The data supplements other recent reports that point to a one-sided recovery, as more low-income families slip into poverty under a growing wealth gap.

As the Southern Education Foundation revealed in January, more than half of students enrolled in U.S. public schools live in poverty; that report also analyzed Census data in its findings. Another study by the National Center on Family Homelessness discovered that roughly 2.5 million children were homeless in 2013, an eight percent increase from the previous year. And the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) reported last week that four in ten kids live in low-income families.

“Far too many American children live in economically insecure families, and this serious threat to our nation’s future does not get the attention it deserves,” said NCCP director Renée Wilson-Simmons.

The U.S., meanwhile, remains the only Western country to not have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Political observers noted the conspicuous absence of food insecurity as an issue in the midterm elections, which came the same year that Congress cut $8.6 billion from the federal food stamp program in exchange for increased subsidies to farmers with large properties.

An additional $6 billion is expected to be cut from the program over the next two years.

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Dear Syria: From One Refugee to Another

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The Harmanli Refugee Camp in Turkey was set up to shelter 450 people, but more than double that ultimately arrived. Those living there have gone without hot water, winter shelter or adequate heating. (Photo: UNHCR / D. Kashavelov)

Whenever the word ‘refugee’ is uttered, I think of my mother. When Zionist militias began their systematic onslaught and ‘cleansing’ of the Palestinian Arab population of historic Palestine in 1948, she, along with her family, ran away from the once peaceful village of Beit Daras.

Back then, Zarefah was six. Her father died in a refugee camp in a tent provided by the Quakers soon after he had been separated from his land. She collected scrap metal to survive.

My grandmother Mariam, would venture out to the ‘death zone’ that bordered the separated and newly established state of Israel from Gaza’s refugee camps to collect figs and oranges. She faced death every day. Her children were all refugees, living in shatat – the Diaspora.

My mother lived to be 42. Her life was tremendously difficult. She married a refugee, my dad, and together they brought seven refugees into this world – my brothers, my sister and myself. One died as a toddler, for there was no medicine in the refugee camp’s clinic.

No matter where we are, in time and place, we carry our refugee ID cards, our undefinable nationalities, our precious status, our parents’ burden, our ancestors’ pain.

In fact, we have a name for it. It is called waja’ – ‘aching’ – a character that unifies millions of Palestinian refugees all across the globe. With our refugee population now dominated by second, third or even fourth generation refugees, it seems that our waja’ is what we hold in common most. Our geographies may differ, our languages, our political allegiances, our cultures, but ultimately, we meet around the painful experiences that we have internalized throughout generations.

My mother used to say – ihna yalfalastinieen damitna qaribeh – tears for us Palestinians are always close by. But our readiness to shed tears is not a sign of weakness, far from it. It is because throughout the years we managed to internalize our own exile, and its many ramifications, along with the exiles of everyone else’s. The emotional burden is just too great.

We mask the unbearable aching somehow, but it is always close to the surface. If we hear a single melody by Marcel Khalifeh or Sheikh Imam, or a few verses by Mahmoud Darwish, the wound is as fresh as ever.

Most of us no longer live in tents, but we are reminded of our refugee status every single day, by the Israeli occupation, by the Gaza siege and the internally-displaced Palestinians in Israel, by the Iraq war and the displacement of the already displaced Palestinians there, by the despicable living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and throughout the Middle East.

But for us, Syria has been our greatest waja’ in years. Aside from the fact that most of Syria’s half a million Palestinian refugees are on the run again, living the pain of displacement and loss for the second, third, or even fourth time. Nine million Syrian refugees are now duplicating the Palestinian tragedy, charting the early course of the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948.

Watching the destitution of the Syrian refugees is like rewinding the past, in all of its awful details. And watching Arab states clamor to aid the refugees with ample words and little action feels as if we are living Arab betrayal all over again.

I watched my grandparents die, followed by my parents and many of my peers. All of them died refugees, carrying the same status and the same lost hope of return. The most they ever received from the ‘international community’ was a few sacks of rice and cheap cooking oil. And of course, numerous tents.

With time our refugee status morphed from being a ‘problem’ to an integral part of our identities. Being a ‘refugee’ at this stage means insisting on the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees as enshrined in international law. That status is no longer just a mere reference to physical displacement but also to a political, even a national identity.

Political division may, at times, dominate Palestinian society, but we will always be united by the fact that we are refugees with a common cause: going home. While for the Palestinians of Yarmouk near Damascus, being a refugee is a matter of life and death – often by starvation – for the larger Palestinian collective, the meaning of the word has become more involved: it has been etched onto our skin forever.

But what can one say by way of advice to the relatively new refugees of Syria, considering that we are yet to liberate ourselves from a status that we never sought?

There can be only reminders and a few warnings:

First, may your displacement end soon. May you never live the waja’ of displacement to the extent that you embrace it as a part of your identity, and pass it on from one generation to another. May it be a kind of fleeting pain or passing nightmare, but never a pervasive everyday reality.

Second, you must be prepared for the worst. My grandparents left their new blankets in their village before they fled to the refugee camps because they feared they would have been ruined by the dust of the journey. Alas, the camps became home, and the blankets were confiscated as the rest of Palestine was. Please remain hopeful, but realistic.

Third, don’t believe the ‘international community’ when they make promises. They never deliver, and when they do, it is always for ulterior motives that might bring you more harm than good. In fact, the term itself is illusory, mostly used in reference to western countries which have wronged you as they have us.

Fourth, don’t trust Arab regimes. They lie. They feel not your pain. They hear not your pleas, nor do they care. They have invested so much in destroying your countries, and so little in redeeming their sins. They speak of aid that rarely arrives and political initiatives that constitute mostly press releases. But they will take every opportunity to remind you of their virtues. In fact, your victimhood becomes a platform for their greatness. They thrive at your expense, thus will invest to further your misery.

Fifth, preserve your dignity. I know, it is never easy to maintain your pride when you sleep in a barren street covered in cardboard boxes. A mother would do whatever she can to help her children pass into safety. No matter, you must never allow the wolves awaiting you at every border to exploit your desperation. You must never allow the Emir, or his children or some rich businessman or sympathetic celebrity to use you as a photo-op. Do not ever kneel. Don’t ever kiss a hand. Don’t give anyone the satisfaction to exploit your pain.

Sixth, remain united. There is strength in unity when one is a refugee. Don’t allow political squabbles to distract you from the greater battle at hand: surviving until the day you return home, and you will.

Seventh, love Syria. Yours is an unparalleled civilization. Your history is rife with triumphs that were ultimately of your own making. Even if you must leave to distant lands, keep Syria in your hearts. This too shall pass, and Syria shall redeem its glory, once the brutes vanquish. Only the spirit of the people shall survive. It is not wishful thinking. It is history.

Dear Syrian refugee, it has been 66 years and counting since my people’s dispossession began. We are yet to return, but that is a battle for my children, and their children to fight. I hope yours ends soon. Until then, please remember the tent is just a tent, and the gusts of cold wind are but of a passing storm.

And until you return home to Syria, don’t let the refugee become who you are, as you are so much more.

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Gorbachev: US Pulled Russia Into New Cold War That Could Turn ‘Hot’

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“Where will that lead all of us?” asks former Soviet leader.

Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev stated that the United States has pulled Russia into a new Cold War that faces the risk of further escalation.

The 83-year-old former Soviet leader made the comments on Thursday in an interview with Russian news agency Interfax.

“The U.S. has already dragged us into a new Cold War, trying to openly implement its idea of triumphalism,” he is quoted as saying.

“Where will that lead all of us?” he said.

“I can no longer say that this Cold War will not lead to a ‘Hot War.’ I fear that they could risk it,” Gorbachev said, referring to the United States. “All you hear is about sanctions towards Russia from America and the European Union. Have they totally lost their heads? The U.S. has been totally ‘lost in the jungle’ and is dragging us there as well.”

The new comments follow a warning in November from the Soviet Union’s last leader when he said, “The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some say that it has already begun.”

A month later he said that the U.S. is “tortured by triumphalism” and called for deescalation in the midst of hostilities in Ukraine. “This whole process may and needs to be stopped. It was stopped in the 1980s. And we opted for deescalation and reunification. Back then it was harsher than today. And now we can also do this,” Gorbachev said at the time.

Earlier this week, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council that a political solution to the conflict in Ukraine was urgent.

“Over 5,000 lives have already been lost in this conflict,” Feltman said. “We must find a way to stop it and must do so now.”

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USA: 9/11 was an inside job ”VIDEO”

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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr

Full speech by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at UN

Wow, the cabal of Zionist Puppet’s walked out. You can’t even let the man speak?
Even there you cannot show dissent and it  will not be tolerated? No Sir, even if I don’t care for a man I want him to have free speech. This guy is no fool and he knows 911 was from inside and I for one object to the walk out.
I want the truth and people who walk out on free speech are tyrannical. This guy is no hero of mine but as an American I don’t like secret cabals particularly when I am one of the cabals subjects.

 

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illuminati and Zionism busted ”VIDEO”

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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr
You are all sheeple. No way did 6 million JEWS die during the Holocaust. There weren’t but around 3.4 million living in Germany all together at the time of WW2.  The media, Hollywood, our Government and Banking system have been controlled by Zionists for over a hundred years now and the Goyim haven’t woken up yet.
The truth is only a few hundred thousand Jewish died during the Holocaust  and some how that number ended up being 6 million?
The Zionist kikes that control our country don’t give two flying F***K  about any living soul on this planet unless its profitable.
They use the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism to prosecute any who deny them.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 

 

 

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Benjamin Naziyahu: the Anti-American Obstructionist

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Has He Gone Too Far This Time?
by MELVIN A. GOODMAN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress in March is an unacceptable interference in our domestic political arena and must be challenged.  It is simply not enough for the White House to indicate that there will be no meeting between President Barack Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister.  At the very least, the United States must take the next opportunity at the UN’s Security Council to forswear a veto on a resolution critical of Israel as well as signal a significant change in U.S. military assistance to the Israelis. The Israelis must be made to understand that the United States, the only ally that Israel has in the global community, will not tolerate its anti-American behavior.

Anti-Americanism in Israel is not exactly a new development, although Netanyahu has been more stubborn than his predecessors in conducting the policy.  In the 1950s, Israeli agents bombed a United States Information Agency library in Egypt and tried to make it appear to be an Egyptian act of violence in order to compromise U.S.-Egyptian relations. This was an act of terrorism designed to coerce the West not to improve relations with Cairo.

In the 1960s, the Israelis told the United States at the highest levels that it would not conduct a pre-emptive attack against the Arab states, which is exactly what it did in starting the Six-Day War.  In the war’s opening days, Israeli fighter planes bombed the USS Liberty, leading to the deaths of 34 American sailors.  The Israelis claimed it was an accident.  If so, it was the best planned “accident” that I have ever observed.

In the October War in 1973, the Israelis did their best to compromise a cease-fire that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had carefully  orchestrated with the Soviet Union.  Israeli violations of the cease-fire led to Kissinger’s threats to intervene in the conflict if Israeli forces did not cease their military operations.  Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and its war crimes against the Palestinians led to the intervention of U.S. Marines, with terrible losses for the United States in the following year.  Israeli war crimes in Gaza this past summer have added to U.S. problems in pursuing a peace process in the Middle East.

President Obama has put himself at a disadvantage in dealing with the Israelis at this juncture.  He has the empathy to deal with both sides in the dispute, but lacks the tenacity of Kissinger or Presidents Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton to put pressure on Israel or to give Palestinian statehood the priority it deserves.  Even President George H.W. Bush was successful 25 years ago, when he halted loan guarantees for the building of Israeli settlements.

What should President Obama do?  Since the United States has insufficient non-military tools of influence, it is time to use our military assistance as a source of leverage.  The United States gives far too much military aid to Israel, which has not face a serious military challenge from the Arab world since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat courageously concluded a peace agreement more than three decades ago.  The Israelis, moreover, get generous terms for that aid that is not available to any other country in the world.

Over the past several years, Netanyahu has gone out of his way to embarrass virtually every U.S. official, including President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.  There are Israeli officials who believe that Netanyahu has gone too far this time.  The only way to lend some credibility to our concerns and the concerns of those Israelis is to adopt a tougher stand on issues of concern.  President Obama may find that there is more support than he expects, both at home and abroad for standing up to the intransigence of the Israeli Prime Minister.

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Inside Boko Haram

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Unraveling the Mystery
by ERIC DRAITSER

The first installment of this article focused on the relationship between Boko Haram and the domestic politics of Nigeria, as well as the regional resource war that has developed around the Lake Chad Basin.  It exposed the connections between individuals and networks both in Nigeria and Chad that are actively supporting and/or facilitating Boko Haram, and in doing so, participating in a dangerous game of regional destabilization.  Naturally, the question becomes: why? In whose interests is this destabilization being carried out? What is the larger economic and geopolitical calculus at work?  It is to these questions that we must now turn.

For at least the last 500 years, Europeans have looked to Africa as a potential source of wealth and power.  From the earliest Portuguese expeditions up through the present day, the West has seen in Africa vast, and seemingly unlimited, riches.  From gold, diamonds, and other precious materials, to energy and, impossible not to mention, human labor, the Europeans (and in recent times Americans) have swarmed Africa as the locusts of capitalism, stripping it of its wealth and then asking why Africa is so chaotic.  Such cynical, and blatantly imperialist, ambitions have always lain at the center of Western strategy on the so-called “Dark Continent.”  So too are they at the heart of the current situation in Nigeria, and West Africa generally.

In examining the complex web of relations connecting events in West Africa, a disturbing, though hardly surprising, trend appears: as Western geopolitical and economic interest in the region increases, so too does instability grow.  While it may seem counter-intuitive, in fact this trend makes perfect sense.  While the US and Europe invoke ad nauseam the term “stability,” the reality is that chaos and instability are perfectly suited for their neocolonial objectives.

France, for centuries a dominant power in Africa, figures prominently in this 21st Century competition to exploit Africa for its own enrichment. In its former colonies in West Africa, France has once again established itself both as a military and, perhaps more importantly, economic power.  Using the twin pretexts of terrorism and humanitarianism, France has successfully veiled its true intentions in the region, namely the plunder of mineral and energy resources.  Because the naked imperialism of the French Colonial Empire is politically unacceptable by today’s standards, France has had to present itself as the benevolent patron, an altruistic power that simply wants to help its former colonial children get back on their feet.  However, when one digs a bit deeper, it becomes clear that the France that once enslaved Haiti, colonized Algeria and much of North Africa, and mercilessly exploited West Africa, is very much alive and well.

But France is certainly not alone in eyeing potential economic benefits in West Africa.  Recently, Germany has stepped into the fray, making it clear that it seeks to become more assertive militarily and economically in the region.  As the major economic engine of Europe, Germany is in prime position to take full advantage of the insecurity coupled with the tremendous demographic growth of West Africa.  In Ghana, Nigeria, and elsewhere, Germany sees untapped potential markets for its exports, as well as a military foothold.  In this way, the European Union, more and more seen as the domain of Germany, places itself at the center of a growing competition in the region.

And then of course there is the inescapable, intractable military powerhouse of the United States which has quietly, but very significantly, increased its military capability – “footprint” to use the parlance of AFRICOM and strategic planners – all throughout the continent.  This deafeningly quiet military expansion has, at its root, the goal of checking the rise of China’s economic influence throughout the continent.  With regard to West Africa, the US has established a widely dispersed, though obviously coordinated, network of small military installations which Washington hopes to use to expand its hegemony over the African space without the proverbial “boots on the ground.” Indeed, this is precisely in accordance with the function of AFRICOM since 2007, namely maintaining US military engagement without investing in large-scale deployment.

With this larger objective of blocking Chinese economic penetration in Africa, the US and its European toadies have transformed the continent into a proxy battleground, one which has destabilization as a potent weapon.  In the case of West Africa, as in other parts of the continent, it is the people who will pay in blood for the economic and geopolitical ambitions of the Empire.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

The growing instability throughout Francophone West Africa has provided a convenient pretext for France to reassert its hegemony in its former colonies.  The 2012 coup in Mali, and the subsequent civil war and rise of terrorism, gave the French military the opening it needed to permanently station military forces throughout the region.  However, the real question is not whether or not France is right in “aiding” its former colonies, but rather, what its real agenda truly is.

Despite the rhetoric of democracy, stability, and the rule of law, France has very self-interested motives.  With regard to Boko Haram, Nigeria, and the Lake Chad basin, France is the primary beneficiary of the energy extraction taking place there, as its port of Le Havre is the final destination for the unrefined oil.  As I noted in Part 1, the Lake Chad Basin has an estimated mean volume of 2.32 billion barrels of oil, 14.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 391 million barrels of natural gas liquids.  Taken in total, both in terms of actual and potential exports, these energy reserves are worth billions.  But France’s economic interests certainly do not stop with energy.

France has a keen interest in exploiting lucrative mineral deposits throughout the region.  Were one to doubt the sincerity of France’s neocolonial intentions as it regards mineral extraction, one need look no further than the fact that the French “socialist” government of Hollande is investing more than half a billion dollars in a new, state-owned mining company.  As French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg stated upon the announcement of the new venture, “Francophone African countries, notably, would like to work with us rather than do business with foreign multinationals.”  Naturally, one should take such a statement with a healthy dose of skepticism as to just how much choice those countries, let alone their citizens, have in the matter.  Not only will France be looking to exploit minerals deposits of lithium and germanium, but also the all-important rare earth minerals so lucrative in this age of microprocessors and other technology for which such minerals are a necessity.

Moreover, Montebourg’s interesting phrase “foreign multinationals” is quite revealing.  On the one hand, it seems that, in the minds of the French political and business elite, they themselves are not “foreign” when operating in Francophone countries.  The neocolonialism of such a mentality is impossible to ignore.  Secondly, it seems almost self-evident that the “foreign multinationals” to which he is referring are the Chinese companies (private and state-owned) which have made tremendous inroads all throughout the region in terms of mineral extraction and investment.  So, France is clearly cognizant of a turf war between themselves and China for these riches in West Africa.

In addition to the rare earth and other minerals, there are the vast deposits of uranium throughout the region that have piqued France’s interest.  As Think Africa Press reported in 2014:

France currently sources over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy and is dependent on Niger for much of its immediate and future uranium supply. This dependence could grow even further when production at the recently-discovered Imouraren uranium deposit is up and running in 2015. The mine is set to produce 5,000 tonnes of uranium per year and would help make Niger the second-largest uranium producer in the world. Areva, which is 87% owned by the French state and holds a majority share in three out of the four uranium mining companies operating in Niger, is funding the new mine.

Add to this the fact that the president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, is a former employee of Areva, the company that, despite the ongoing conflict with the government of Niger over royalty percentages, still maintains a near monopoly over the uranium trade.  It should come as no surprise then that the main competition for Areva (and France) for this lucrative trade is China which “already owns 37% stake in Niger’s SOMINA mine and has carried out uranium exploration throughout the country.”

The battle between France and China for influence and control of strategic minerals and markets is increasingly becoming central in France’s overall policy in the region.  France’s goal is to reestablish economic hegemony in its Francophone “sphere of influence” as is evidenced by the French government’s policy paper entitled A partnership for the future: 15 proposals for a new economic dynamic between Africa and France which could be seen as a blueprint for French policy in the region.  Undoubtedly this increased emphasis is due to the fact that “Over the past decade, France’s share of African trade plummeted from 10 to 4.7 percent, while China’s African market share soared to over 16 percent in 2011.”  The contours of this proxy war should be becoming more apparent.

The Germans Are Coming

While Germany’s engagement in Africa was never as deep or long-standing as that of France, Britain, or other European empires, it’s unlikely that anyone would accuse Germany of being a slouch when it comes to aggressive imperialism.  Though the 19th Century “Scramble for Africa” is long since in the Germany’s well-engineered rear-view mirror, Berlin has recently demonstrated a shift in its commitments on the continent; Germany intends to be a player militarily and, most importantly, economically.

In a recent policy paper entitled Federal Government Policy Guidelines for Africa, the German government notes that “Africa’s potential stems from its demographic development and the fact that it is a huge market of the future with strong economic growth, rich natural resources, a great potential for increasing agricultural production and food security by its own efforts…African markets are developing dynamically and – beyond the extractive industries – will be of growing interest to German business” (also noted here).

Essentially then, Germany views Africa generally, and West Africa specifically, as a major emerging market that can be capitalized on by German corporations. Perhaps this is why Chancellor Merkel has reiterated Germany’s commitment to provide military aid in the form of financial support, training, logistics, policing, etc. to its longtime partner in Ghana.  And it is through the intermediary of Ghana that Germany seeks to expand its military engagement in the region.  After a recent meeting in Germany between the leaders of the two countries, it was reported on the German cabinet’s official website that, in response to the threat of Boko Haram:

Angela Merkel supported the proposal of the Ghanaian President to found a regional African intervention force…Ghana’s President promised that Ghanaian troops would be deployed. The Bundeswehr [Germany military forces] cooperates with the Ghana Armed Forces. In the interests of peace building and crisis prevention Germany is working to put in place and stabilise regional security structures, partly through the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, which was founded ten years ago with German support. Germany also supports Ghana in the establishment of an engineers regiment as part of the planned African Union intervention force.

It is clear that Germany sees in Ghana a viable partner through which it can achieve a military presence in the region.  Using Boko Haram as the pretext, it seems that once again German military force, coupled with financial assistance, will be used to guarantee the all-important market access that Germany desperately desires.

The larger context is clear too.  Germany is the world’s second leading exporting economy behind China (excluding the EU as a single economy), and as such, sees China as its primary rival for market penetration.  It goes without saying that, like France, Germany is concerned that Chinese economic hegemony in West Africa could sideline German business, forcing it to take a back seat to China.  And so, like their European cousin France, Germany looks to its military, and the pretext of counter-terrorism, to ensure its own economic position.

The Imperialist Elephant in the Room

While Germany and France have clear economic motivations for expanding their presence in West Africa, the United States’ agenda is far less obvious.  Although the United States invests heavily in Africa in the aggregate, it is not nearly as dependent on African raw materials or the emerging market as its European allies.  Instead, Washington’s concern is being outpaced by China on the continent as a whole.

As renowned Professor and China scholar Deborah Brautigam noted in her 2013 report Chinese Investment in Africa, “Chinese imports and exports, outbound investment aid, and export finance are all sharply on the rise. For example, trade between China and Africa rose from $10 billion in 2000 to $166.3 billion in 2011… [In 2012] Chinese leaders announced a goal of $20 billion in finance to African countries by 2015. If carried out, an average of between $6 and $7 billion would flow to Africa per year.”

Brautigam’s numbers illustrate the fact that, while still slightly below yearly US total investment on the continent ($9 billion), China is rapidly challenging US economic hegemony in Africa. Having invested in a variety of sectors from mining and oil, to telecommunications and banking, China has made itself into a viable alternative to US, World Bank, and IMF investment and aid. Naturally, this has upset the political and corporate establishment in the US who see in China a threat to their power.  It is precisely this challenge from China that is the true motivation for the quiet expansion of the US military presence on the continent, especially in West Africa and the Sahel.

The United States has established a vast network of drone bases/facilities throughout the region, though military officials refuse to acknowledge the facilities as anything more than “temporary staging areas” or some other vacuous euphemism.  However, a simple look at the map, combined with disparate reports in various media, paints a much more insidious picture of what the US is doing.

Under the auspices of AFRICOM, the United States is in nearly every significant country in the region.  In Chad, which figures prominently in the Boko Haram narrative, the US has indefinitely stationed military personnel ostensibly to search for the missing Chibok girls.  However, the White House’s own press statement reveals a much more far-reaching objective, namely that “These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over Northern Nigeria and the surrounding area.”  Translation: The US has drones and other surveillance covering the entire Lake Chad Basin.

While the US only acknowledged a tiny contingent of soldiers, the reality is that far more US forces are engaging in Chad in one form or another. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the not-so-coincidental fact that Chad has been selected to host AFRICOM’s Flintlock 2015 military exercises “which will kick off Feb. 16, 2015 in the capital N’Djamena with outstations in Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Tunisia, and will run through March 9, 2015.”  Got that?  US military personnel will be leading exercises all throughout the region, with specific attention to the Lake Chad Basin countries.  But it certainly doesn’t stop there.

The US announced in 2013 that it was constructing a major drone base in Niger.  As the Washington Post reported:

The Predator drones in Niger…give the Pentagon a strategic foothold in West Africa… Niger also borders Libya and Nigeria, which are also struggling to contain armed extremist movements… [Nigerien] President Issoufou Mahamadou said his government invited Washington to send surveillance drones because he was worried that the country might not be able to defend its borders from Islamist fighters based in Mali, Libya or Nigeria… “We welcome the drones,” Mahamadou said… “Our countries are like the blind leading the blind,” he said. “We rely on countries like France and the United States. We need cooperation to ensure our security.”

And here the connection between US military engagement and Boko Haram and other terrorist groups becomes painfully clear.  The United States cynically exploits the instability in the region – a direct outgrowth of the US-NATO war against Libya – to further entrench its military muscle.

As if one needed further proof of US intentions, the Marine Corps Times reported in September 2014 that, “The Corps has established three new staging outposts in Senegal, Ghana and Gabon that will help Marines respond to crises in Africa more quickly.”  Of course AFRICOM and the military bureaucracy don’t refer to these installations as “bases,” but rather as “cooperative security locations.”  But such a moniker does little to change the fact that these are permanent US military facilities in West Africa.

Seemingly no country in the region is free of US military penetration. The Washington Post reported in 2012 that:

A key hub of the U.S. spying network can be found in Ouagadougou, the…capital of Burkina Faso… Under a classified surveillance program code-named Creek Sand, dozens of U.S. personnel and contractors have come to Ouagadougou in recent years to establish a small air base on the military side of the international airport.  The unarmed U.S. spy planes fly hundreds of miles north to Mali, Mauritania and the Sahara.

Taken in total, it becomes apparent that the US has established a vast military infrastructure throughout West Africa and the Sahel, far larger than anything either publicly acknowledged or even privately recognized.  Ostensibly, the US is establishing this network of bases for the purposes of counter-terrorism, in order to meet the security challenges posed by Boko Haram, AQIM, and other groups.  However, those of us who are less gullible, and generally skeptical of the intentions of the US and its military, can see clearly what Washington is doing.

The military infrastructure, surveillance, aid to countries in the region, etc. are part of a coordinated attempt by the US to check China’s growing influence on the continent.  The US is perfectly cognizant of the fact that it is increasingly unable to compete with China in terms of investment and mutually beneficial trade on the continent.  And so, the US falls back on its primary lever of hegemony – it’s military.  Seen in this way, terrorism becomes less of a threat than a window of opportunity to cement Washington’s place as the dominant hegemon in Africa.

Perhaps most tragic is that the fate of the Chibok girls, along with the innocents at Baga, and others throughout northern Nigeria and the greater region, has become a mere afterthought in the grand scheme of imperialism in Africa.  Their lives have been made into bargaining chips to be played to the advantage of France, Germany, and the US primarily.

But of course, mum’s the word when it comes to these uncomfortable truths.  “Nothing to see here,” our fearless media tells us.  Sadly, for the vast majority of people in the West, this is undeniably true; there is simply nothing worth seeing.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Inside Boko Haram

Take Cuba off the Terrorist List

NOVANEWS
Drop the Label
by MEDEA BENJAMIN

The new US-Cuba talks are a refreshing burst of sunshine in the 54-year dismal relationship between neighbors separated by a mere 90 miles. The nations negotiated a successful swap of prisoners. The onerous travel restrictions the US government placed on just visiting the island are starting to crumble. Embassies in Washington and Havana will soon be opened. Rules designed to ease trade are being written. But despite this long-awaited meltdown of US policies that added to the island’s economic woes but never succeeded in tumbling Cuba’s communist government, a portion of the Cold War edifice remains intact: Cuba is still on the US terrorist list.

This list, reserved for countries that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”, is a very short one. It doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, the country that accounted for 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 and has been responsible for spreading extremist Wahhabi ideology throughout the Middle East. It doesn’t include Pakistan, a country that has long been a staging ground for Islamic terrorists and on the receiving end of US drone strikes for the past decade. It certainly doesn’t include Israel, a country Amnesty International called trigger happy for using “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force” against Palestinians. It doesn’t even include North Korea, a country that recently threatened to bomb theWhite House, the Pentagon and the whole US mainland.

Of the world’s 196 countries, only four are included: Iran, Sudan, Syria….and Cuba.

The US government first put Cuba on the list three decades ago, in 1982, accusing the island of providing a safe haven for members of the Basque separatist group ETA and Colombia’s FARC rebels. It also accused Cuba of providing political asylum to Americans facing criminal and terrorism charges. In 2006, the State Department added that Cuba opposed the US-led war on terror and made no attempt to “track, block, or seize terrorist assets.”

Over the years, these accusations have faded as Latin American dictatorships were overthrown and leftist groups started using the ballot instead of bullets to gain power. In Columbia, where decades-long fighting between government and guerrilla groups persists, Cuba has become an internationally recognized and appreciated mediator hosting peace talks. The ETA called a ceasefire in 2011 and said it would disarm. And despite US accusations, after 9/11 Fidel Castro roundly condemned terrorism, refused to harbor individuals wanted for terrorism, and signed onto all UN-sanctioned anti-terrorism treaties.

In its 2013 Report on Terrorism, the State Department admitted that Cuba’s links to ETA have become more distant and that Cuba has been hosting negotiations between Colombia’s government and FARC rebels. It also mentioned how there has been no indication that the Cuban government “provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

Most people around the world would find it very strange that Cuba would be on a “terrorist list,” as it is most known worldwide for exporting doctors, musicians, teachers, artists, and dancers–– not terrorists.

Cuba’s continued inclusion on the terrorist list has become a stumbling block in negotiations. While both sides have been upbeat about the recent talks, Cuba has complained and demanded to be removed from the terrorist list. The Cuban government considers it insulting and unfair; it also notes the United States has repeatedly supported terrorist acts and harbored terrorist fugitives, such as Luis Posada Carriles, convicted in absentia of the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 in which 73 people were killed.

Inclusion on the terrorist list is not just political jousting; it adds an extra burden to the economic restrictions associated with the long-standing US economic embargo, especially on the banking system. All banks engaging in financial transactions with Cuba are subjected to tedious US screenings to ensure that terrorist money does not enter the US. Banks dealing with countries on the US terrorist list be slapped with major fines, such as the huge $8.9 billion penalty that French bank BNP Paribas paid last year for dealing with Cuba, Sudan and Iran. Most foreign banks–even when engaged in perfectly legal transactions with Cuba, weigh their options and decide it’s not worth the hassle.

But change is in the air. Following the December 17, 2014 agreement to restore relations with Cuba, President Obama instructed the Secretary of State to launch a review of Cuba’s inclusion on the list and provide a report and recommendation within six months.

If the recommendation is to remove Cuba from the list, the President would have to submit a report to Congress 45 days before the new decision would take effect. The report would have to ensure that Cuba had not provided any support for international terrorism in the preceding six months, and then offer guarantees that it would not do so in the future.

The decision to lift Cuban sanctions lies in the hands of Congress, but taking Cuba off the terrorist list is an action the President can take (he can also free the Guantanamo Bay prisoners who have been cleared for release–– but that’s another issue). Cuban diplomats says they cannot conceive of re-establishing diplomatic relations with the United States while Cuba continues to be considered a sponsor of international terrorism. President Obama’s next executive action should include removing Cuba from the list–– join us by sending him that message now.

Posted in USA, South AmericaComments Off on Take Cuba off the Terrorist List

Evidence the DEA Attempted to Alter Testimony on Massacre in Honduras

NOVANEWS
Killing in the Name of the War on Drugs
by KAREN SPRING

Clara Wood survived a shooting carried out during a joint Honduras-U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) drug interdiction operation in the Moskitia region in eastern Honduras on May 11, 2012. Her 14-year old son, Hasked Brooks Wood, was killed during shooting.

To date, no Honduran or U.S. agents have been held accountable for the death of four Miskitu indigenous people who were assassinated and three who were gravely injured during the attack Between February and March 2013, three Honduran agents were acquitted for their involvement in the May 2012 incident. Honduran authorities say that the U.S. Embassy refuses to hand over the names of the U.S. agents involved in the massacre, thus obstructing investigation of the case.

New Developments

Beginning in mid-2013, Clara Wood and a family member of a woman killed during the operation began receiving phone calls from a Honduran man that identified himself as ‘Eddie’. Eddie offered to help them, including insisting that they drop their current legal representation and allow him to find them – the survivors and family members – a ‘better’ lawyer to take on their case. He told Clara he had friends in the U.S. Embassy that could help her. He suggested the other survivor, who he was also trying to convince to change legal representation, travel to San Pedro Sula with a woman rumored in Ahuas to traffic sex workers.

On two occasions in February 2014, Mrs. Wood traveled with Eddie to Tegucigalpa for questioning conducted by individuals that she was told were Americans and/or worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration. On the first trip, two U.S. men attempted to convince Mrs. Wood to alter her testimony regarding the series of events that led up to the May 2012 massacre.

During questioning, the two Americans – one identified as ‘Mr. Andres’ – insisted that two men in the passenger boat in which Wood was traveling opened fired at the U.S. State Department helicopter, thus justifying the helicopter shooting and killing four innocent civilians.

On this trip, Eddie told Wood that she would receive 100,000 Lempiras [$5,000 USD] if she said that two men in the passenger boat fired first at the helicopter. Later that day, after proposing she return to Tegucigalpa to speak with colleagues of his coming from Washington, Mr. Andres asked Wood to bring her bank account number, apparently confirming Eddie’s offer.

On the second trip, as Eddie escorted her to the meeting, he stopped at a pharmacy and asked for a pill to calm nerves, which he gave to Clara and she took. She was then taken to a building that she understood to be the U.S. Embassy and hooked up to a polygraph machine.

She recounts that an American man who identified himself as working with the DEA began administering the polygraph test and soon asked her if she had taken any kind of medication. He then left the room and she heard him speaking in the hall with Mr. Andres who came in, asked her who had given her a pill, and said they would no longer administer the test because she did not want to tell the truth. Throughout both trips, Wood refused to alter her testimony and stood by her original account of the events of the 2012 massacre.

It is possible that the February 2014 contact with Clara Wood is linked to an internal investigation being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the State Department or an internal investigation that the DEA announced it was conducting in May 2012. When a U.S. human rights observation delegation questioned the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa about contact with Mrs. Wood in November 2014, they were told that the Embassy had limited knowledge of the contact, but that they had been contacted first by someone claiming to have information about the May 2012 incident.

The following is Wood’s testimony of her initial contact with Eddie, her two trips to Tegucigalpa and the questioning she endured without legal representation:

‘Eddie’ Makes Contact with Massacre Survivor, Clara Wood.

Eddie first contacted Clara Wood in December of 2013. “He told me he is from San Pedro Sula, the first time he called me from San Pedro and he told me that he saw me on the internet and he pitied me because I’m poor. He said that he knows people who help poor people . . . He was going to take me to those people who can help me.”

Eddie told Clara that he had gotten her phone number from Clara’s cousin who lives in Puerto Lempira, Gracias a Dios. Repeatedly over the next few months, Eddie called Clara, asking how she was doing. During these conversations, he made references to the killing of her son Hasked Brooks Wood in the DEA-Honduran government massacre in Ahuas on May 11, 2012.

“He always called me on my cell phone, asking how I’m doing, sometimes sending me phone credit to my phone. [We spoke] in the months of December [2013], January, and February.”

In February 2014, Eddie phoned Clara and invited her to come to Tegucigalpa. He told her that he had people in Tegucigalpa who would help her because of the loss of her son.

“[Eddie] called me one day before he went to Roatan. The day he arrived, he called me, ‘Listen, where are you? I’m in Roatan’ he told me.”

The next day, Eddie went to Wood’s house. Wood describes him as “dark- skinned, I don’t know how old – he was heavy set, muscular, not young, he’s a grown man. He spoke Spanish and English.”

Eddie picked Mrs. Wood up at her house, and the two of them went by ferry to the mainland and then by public bus to Tegucigalpa. Upon arriving in Tegucigalpa, Eddie took Clara to the Hotel Guanacaste. For the rest of the day, Clara stayed in her room. Eddie reserved a room for himself adjacent to Clara’s room.

Questioning and Interrogation in ‘US Embassy’ in Tegucigalpa

Early the following morning, Eddie took Clara by taxi to a building that Clara believed to be the U.S. Embassy “I don’t remember the color of the house, it had flowers outside and an entrance.It’s a low-rise building, one level.”

Outside what Clara was told was a U.S. Embassy building, stood a Honduran guard and “the guard inside [the building] was American – I saw his [skin] color, his hat and his clothes were khakis. He spoke Spanish but because of his clothes, I knew he was American.”

Once inside the building, she was asked for her identification. A man named Mr. Andres met Wood and Eddie at the door. “Mr. Andres said ‘Hi Eddie.’ They hugged.”

Wood describes Mr. Andres as “an older man . . . he had the physical build of an American and he told me he was American.” Mr. Andres also spoke Spanish.

Mr. Andres led Wood into a room He said, “‘Let’s go inside’ and we left Eddie outside with the guard [at the entrance]. He [Eddie] did not go into the room with me. Don Andres and another man, yes”

Mr. Andres and a “tall” American man took Wood into a “small room with no windows.” They began asking her questions about the sequence of events of the incident that took place May 11, 2012 in Ahuas when she was in a boat that was fired on by helicopters as part of a joint DEA-Honduran drug interdiction operation.

Wood reiterated her entire testimony, including when the boat was fired on, and her arrest upon getting to the shore of the Patuca River. She said that she cried as she described how she found her son Hasked’s dead body. The two men got her a glass of water. Wood says at this point she was not scared.

“One [man] was standing behind me, the other was asking me things. The older [tall] American man told me, ‘I’m sorry, that was an accident, it was not our intention to kill anyone.’”

Both men questioned Wood about what had happened that night, specifically whether any passengers on the boat had guns.

“Mr. Andres asked me to tell the truth–that Mr. Melanio and Emerson [the pilot and his assistant on the boat the night of May 11, 2012] provoked the helicopter [to fire]. And I told him ‘no’, I told him no, I did not see that’, but he told me that Emerson was a military soldier, that he had a gun under his shirt and that people say that Emerson walked around with a shotgun all the time, and that he had it [that night], but I told him that it was night time, I didn’t see anything because the boat left at 7 [at night] and I didn’t see anything.”

“I told him that I could not lie, because I saw shots fired, but from the helicopter. I heard shots, but I did not know where they came from, I heard four shots that came from above – that’s what I told them.” She said that it was impossible for Melanio to fire a gun because he would have lost control of the boat.

During the questioning, Clara reports that Mr. Andres asked her for a bank account number. She responded that she did not have one.

Mr. Andres also asked Clara about Eddie. “He asked me if Eddie gave me anything. I said that he had not given me anything [money]. He gave me food, drink, he brings me from the hotel. He has not given me anything, I told them”

Mr. Andres said that he gave Eddie $500 dollars to give to Wood and then wrote a Honduran phone number down on a piece of paper. Mr. Andres then gave Wood the piece of paper, telling her to call him if she needed anything.

“I gave $500 to Eddie for the expenses. Did he give it to you?’” Asked Mr. Andres. “’He never gave me anything’ I said, ‘I haven’t received anything in my hand’ I told them.”

When the questioning was over, Wood was taken back to the hotel. Upon arriving, Eddie asked her for the piece of paper that Mr. Andres had given her. She gave it to him and he did not give it back to her. Back at the hotel, Eddie told Wood that they would deposit 100,000 Lps [$5000] in her account if she “told the truth.”

“How much are you going to give me when they give you the money?’ Eddie asked Clara. ‘I don’t know,’ Clara told him. “You’ll give me 70,000 … how much will you give me?’ said Eddie. ‘They’re going to give it to you,” Eddie told Clara.

“No, I don’t think they will give me anything, I said.”

The following morning, Wood, accompanied by Eddie, traveled back to the island of Roatan. Eddie went with Wood to Siguatepeque where he got off the bus, while Wood continued on to Roatan

Lie Detector Test and Clara’s Second Trip to Tegucigalpa with Eddie

Wood relates, “In the same month of February, two weeks later, he brought me back again. Eddie went to Roatan, Eddie went to my house to take me [to Tegucigalpa].”

Upon arriving, she was told that she would wait for a man from the DEA who was coming from the United States. She waited for two days in Tegucigalpa in the hotel. Eddie brought her food and she did not leave the hotel much. When Clara and Eddie did leave the hotel, Eddie gave Clara sunglasses to put on so that people would not recognize her.

“I was waiting for two days in the hotel in the Guanacaste [neighborhood] waiting with him [Eddie] and they came specifically to put a polygraph on my body. They came for that.”

During the time they waited in the hotel, Eddie made reference to money that Clara would receive if she “told the truth.” Clara was told that “They are going to give you money if you tell the truth. ‘I will tell the truth’, I told him, I’m going to speak about the same thing that I saw, I cannot say lies’ I told him. ‘No, you were going to say that Melanio and Emerson fired,’ he told me. ‘But I cannot lie’ I told him.

Eddie told Wood that he received a call asking him to make sure that Wood slept well, ate well, and did not take any medications before going to what Wood believes was the U.S. Embassy again.

On the third day, early in the morning Eddie took Wood again by taxi to the same house that she assumed to be the U.S. Embassy. On their way to the Embassy, they stopped at a pharmacy.

“Eddie came with me and close to the Embassy, he bought a pill to calm nerves.” Eddie told Wood that the pill would help her with her nerves. She took the pill even though she had not asked for it nor did she feel like she needed it.

Eddie and Wood walked from the pharmacy to the building. Wood was taken inside and led into a room alone with a man who told her he had come from the United States specifically to give her the polygraph test and worked with the DEA. He began asking Clara questions about the series of events that occurred on May 11, 2012. Shortly after, he asked Clara if she had taken any medication.

“Then he asked me what I had taken. He [then] left the room and went outside where they were waiting. Mr. Andres was outside with the other American . . . and then Mr. Andres came into the room. Mr. Andres said – ‘You don’t want to tell the truth on the machine’. Eddie told me that you were going to speak the truth but you don’t want to speak’. The man from the DEA [giving the lie detector test] asked me what pill I had taken. I told him that Eddie had bought me a pill. ‘But I told him not to give you anything,’ he said, that he told Eddie to make sure I ate dinner, and went to bed early and to not take anything. I don’t know,’ I told him, he stopped at a pharmacy and bought a pill. He asked me what pill I had taken, a pill for nerves?’ I said ‘Yes, he bought it for me”

Upset and crying Clara was taken off the lie detector test. Eddie then took Clara back to the hotel telling her that “for a little thing, we lost everything.”

Eddie gave her food for dinner, but she did not eat it. She went to her room. The following morning, Clara traveled back to Roatan by herself. Eddie gave her 1,200 Lempiras [60 USD] for her travel costs, but it was not enough for her to get back to Roatan.

* * *

Mrs. Wood’s testimony was taken over a series of interviews – in person and by phone – from July to December 2014. The purpose of the contact and polygraph test administered to Mrs. Wood is unknown, however human rights organizations that are accompanying Mrs. Wood and other survivors of the Ahuas incident are concerned for her safety. The manner in which Mrs. Wood was contacted is alarming, as is the form in which she was questioned by individuals associated with the DEA, without any legal representative, in an attempt to alter her testimony of the incident.

The survivors and family members continue to be hopeful in seeking justice for the murder and injury of their loved ones despite the impunity rampant in the Honduran justice system, the failure of an adequate, complete, and public U.S. investigation into the incident, and the unwillingness of the U.S. Embassy to provide the names of the agents involved.

This May will mark the third year anniversary of the Drug War massacre in Ahuas, and the complete impunity in which U.S. and Honduran forces militarize, injury, and kill in the name of the ‘War on Drugs’.

Posted in USAComments Off on Evidence the DEA Attempted to Alter Testimony on Massacre in Honduras

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