Archive for December, 2010

Tunisia Blows Up

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Tunisia has exploded with protest, people are frustrated with the lack of opportunity. The Muslim world is being rocked by the growing expectation for change on the part of the people. Religion can only channel that desire for so long before the material needs of the people break through the rhetorical restrictions of faith. Will the rising middle class lead the workers into a world of capitalism, socialism or some Islamic third way? Or will the west dominate and impose another series of puppet rulers and petty dictators as we have seen in the past? The future is open but the past grasps with a tight grip. Let us hope the Tunisian people find their way to liberty and social justice.

This is from the Wikipedia article on Tunisia.

While Tunisia is formally a democracy with a multi-party system, the secular Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), formerly Neo Destour, has controlled the country as one of the most repressive regimes in the Arab World since its independence in 1956.

President Ben Ali, previously Habib Bourguiba’s minister and a military figure, has been in office since 1987, the year he acceded to the executive office of Habib Bourguiba after a team of medical experts judged Bourguiba unfit to exercise the functions of the office in accordance with Article 57 of the Tunisian constitution.
For more information

From Inter Press Service

Tunisian Unrest Stirs Arab World
By Emad Mekay

CAIRO, Dec 31, 2010 (IPS) - As Western countries were busy celebrating Christmas and dealing with air traffic holiday delays because of snow blizzards, the tranquil North African country of Tunisia was going through events that would have been thought unthinkable just three weeks ago - public unrest that saw thousands demonstrate against the regime of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

While the media and policy makers went heads over heals in the United States and Europe during similar protests against the disputed presidential elections in Iran in 2009, the unexpected events went largely ignored in the Western media. Tunisian bloggers and twitter posts are now the main source for minute by minute development of the unrest.

Arabs across the Middle East Watched in awe as online video posts and sporadic coverage on Al-Jazeera TV station showed Tunisians, with a reputation of passivity, rise up in unprecedented street protests and sits-in against the police state of President Ben Ali.

The Ben Ali regime exemplifies the “moderate” pro-Western Arab regimes that boast strict control of their population while toeing the line of Western powers in the Middle East.

The spark of the unrest, now about to end its second week, came when a 26- year-old unemployed university graduate, Mohammed Buazizi, set himself ablaze in the central town Sidi Buzeid to protest the confiscation of his fruits and vegetables cart.

Buaziz’s suicide attempt was copied by at least two other young university graduates in protest against poor economic conditions in the Arab country.

Similar to previous unrests in many Western-backed Arab countries, the police responded with overwhelming force. There were reports of use of live ammunition, house-to-house raids to chase activists, mass arrests and torture of prisoners.

The police initially crushed the demonstrations in Sidi Buzeid after cutting all communication and roads to the town, only to be faced with more demonstrations in several neighboring towns.

Egypt had followed the same tactics against unrest by factory workers in the industrial city Al-Mahal El Kobra on April 16, 2007, and killed the unrest in just four days after the regime managed to control media reports from inside the town, and major Western media outlets either ignored the events or belittled them as ineffectual.

But unlike the unrest in Egypt, there are reports of demonstrations and clashes spreading in Tunisia to the towns Gandouba, Qabes and Genyana among others.

The Ben Ali regime blamed “radical elements”, “chaos mongers” and “a minority of mercenaries” for incitement, all typical accusations by Arab rulers in face of signs of fidgeting among their oppressed publics.

So far, according to press reports and Web posts, at least two protestors have died, with many injured in the protests.

On Thursday, human rights activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni reported a third death and said that police was conducting house-to-house raids to chase activists ( The report has not been independently verified.

The Tunisian Journalists’ Syndicate issued a statement last week decrying official attempts “to hinder media coverage and stop reporters from doing their job.”

The communications minister has banned the showing of Al-Jazeera channel in Tunisian coffee shops or any public viewing, according to another web post by an unidentified Tunisian man.

A blogger wrote: “They are clamping down on the Internet too, blocking some sites and Facebook accounts. I might not be able to post any longer. If I disappear suddenly, please pray for me.”

Comments from across the Arab countries followed in support.

“Thank Allah the peoples of the region are finally waking up and are protesting against the tyrants who spread injustice and corruption all over the face of the earth,” a post from Dubai said.

“The end of the Arab regimes looks so near,” another post from Egypt said.

Other Arabs are seeing the demonstration as an inspiration. In chat forums and social media, Arabs were applauding the protestors, often calling them “heroes”.

The Egyptian opposition leader Hamadeen Sabahi called for a demonstration on Sunday in solidarity with the “Tunisian Intifadah”.

The fear of similar spillover into Arab countries pushed at least one Arab ruler to rush to aid Ben Ali. Libya’s maverick leader Muammar Qaddaif said he was immediately dropping all restrictions on the entry of Tunisian labour into Libya. Tunisians were free to travel to his oil-rich country for work, he said.

Opposition says the unrest was prompted by high prices and unemployment but now has turned political with some demonstrators calling on President Ben Ali to step down.

Tunisia, like other non-oil producing Arab countries has implemented a Western-inspired privatization programme and gradual cut to state subsidies to staple goods without offering alternative sources of income.

Yet as the Tunisians waited impatiently, the fruits of the alleged economic reforms never came. Pictures and video on social media showed protestors holding bread loaves, a sign of hunger and poverty.

Tunisia’s protests caught the region by surprise as the Ben Ali regime, like other rulers, had often trumpeted his country as an oasis of stability.

Trying to absorb the shock, Ben Ali announced a small cabinet reshuffle but left the interior ministry intact. He vowed a clampdown on the protestors. (END)

From Guardian.UK

Tunisia’s inspiring rebellionDemonstrations in Tunisia suggest that revolt and regime change are still possible in the Arab world

Nesrine Malik, Friday 31 December 2010 19.00 GMT
There are few moments in the political atmosphere of the Middle East that fill me with genuine pride. While eyes have long been fixed on opposition movements in Iran and Egypt, suddenly Tunisia has provided one of the most inspiring episodes of indigenous revolt against a repressive regime.

Following the self-immolation of an unemployed man, riots and demonstrations have swept through the country.

Lebanese journalist Octavia Nasr wrote on Thursday: “I never thought this day would come. Certainly not in Tunisia. To be quite honest, out of the Middle East region, I thought such a rebellious act would come from Egypt where the opposition to President Mubarak’s regime is so fierce and vocal that public demonstrations of anger and dismay have become a routine.”

Despite distressing reports of security forces shooting demonstrators dead, the events are heartening, not necessarily as a harbinger of transformation in the region, but as an indication that it is possible. Change is sometimes more likely to happen when people know what it looks like, when the first person dares to points to the emperor and say that he is naked.

I am generally wary of lumping Arab countries together in terms of political climate, but in this case it is more or less valid. From the monarchies of the Gulf, to the hereditary presidencies of the Levant and North Africa, bar the odd military coup, there has been little evidence of potential regime change. Those who espouse slow, gradual and incremental progress argue that the attrition of globalisation will eventually lead to an organic transformation.

But in my own lifetime I have seen regression in places, and globalisation either selectively sampled, or co-opted in the effort to subjugate citizens.

The complication in many parts of the Arab world is that it is never really simple brute oppression; it is a sophisticated system of stick and carrot, of fear and incentive, to maintain the status quo. In Tunisia itself, there existed a system of subsidies of strategic commodities which granted the state some legitimacy and political allegiance, but even that has crumbled.

Whether it is the laudanum of oil-wealth in Saudi Arabia, the parallel systems of bribery in Egypt which subsidise income, the alliances of patronage with powerful tribal leaders in Jordan which underwrite the monarchy’s legitimacy, or the pact with the military in Algeria, there are several factors, underscored by support from the state’s security forces, which douse the flame of rebellion. The odd skirmish over an isolated incident – such as blogger arrests in Egypt, or flogging of women in Sudan – is quickly quashed as the delicate pulley system of power comes into effect.

In addition, there is a tendency to downwardly compare miseries with other Arab countries. Those in oil-rich states comfort themselves that at least they are safe from the relative poverty of North Africans, who in turn seek solace in that they enjoy relative freedom of dress and intermingling of the sexes. And all can take comfort that at least they are not Sudan.

Although Tunisia is relatively remote from mainstream Arab culture and popular media, which is dominated by Levantine and Gulf elements, the events on Tunisia’s streets are being watched on satellite TV throughout the Arab world.

Not that outpourings of passion are rare on Arab streets, but they are usually related to the latest events in Palestine, some random perceived insult from the west – or football. It’s the rage of an easily slighted dignity, and it’s rarely directed against the primary local culprit: the government itself.

In a detailed analysis the Moor Next Door blog says:

“These riots are important because they challenge the dominant discourse on Tunisia’s politics (or lack there of) in western writing and reporting. Tunisia is by far among the most politically stable countries in North Africa and arguably the one with the healthiest economies.
“But this is all relative to its neighbours and must be considered in the regional context. If things are going the way they are in Tunisia, what does this mean for other geriatric regimes on the verge of power transitions?”

Even if nothing comes of the Tunisian revolt, it is proof that the resignation is not an inevitability, that it is not hardwired into our DNA, that the “Arab malaise” is not terminal.

From Al Jazerah


Another Tunisian protester dies

A protester dies after being shot by police, as activists criticise government repression of protests.
Yasmine Ryan Last Modified: 31 Dec 2010 09:50 GMT

A Tunisian protester has died of his injuries after police shot him in the town of Menzel Bouzaiene, according to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Chawki Belhoussine El Hadri, a 44-year-old man, was shot during protest on December 24. He died on Thursday, the FIDH said in a statement.

Mohamed Ammari, a Tunisian teenager, had been killed by police bullets the same day that El Hadri was injured. Another young man, Houcine Falhi, committed suicide by electrocuting himself in the midst of another demonstration on December 22, after shouting out that he was tired of being unemployed.

The protests began in the town of Sidi Bouzid when a young university graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, attempted to end his life by setting himself on fire. Bouazizi is receiving treatment for his severe burns at a hospital in Tunis.

Security forces broke up a demonstration in Monastir peacefully on Thursday, but used violence in Sbikha on Thursday, the FIDH said. The same happened in Chebba, where one protester had to be hospitalised.

Protests entered their twelfth day on Friday.

“The FIDH again firmly condemns the use of firearms by the Tunisian security forces, and calls for an independent inquiry to caste light on these events, to hold those responsible accountable and to guarantee the right to peaceful protest,” the organisation said.

Officials have said that the police’s use of firearms against protesters last week in Menzel Bouzaiene was necessary after rioters barricaded a police station during the unrest, and used Molotov cocktails to torch the building and some police cars.

Lawyers speak out

Mokhtar Trifi, president of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), told Al Jazeera that lawyers across Tunisia have been “savagely beaten” on Friday morning.

Lawyers gathered in central Tunis, while others assembled in the capital’s suburbs, the town of Monastir and elsewhere in the country, after the national lawyers’ order called on them to speak out against the government’s repression.

“It was to demand the release of lawyers arrested over the past two days, and to express solidarity with the wider protests in Sidi Bouzid,” Trifi, who has participated in the gathering outside the courthouse in Tunis, said.

“There was a savage attack on the lawyers, who were protesting extremely peacefully,” he said.

He said many people have been injured, some severely, when police beat the lawyers with clubs and punched and kicked them, arresting some and breaking up the meeting. The repression was the most violent in Tunis, he said.

The police also confiscated cell phones to prevent people from filming the incident in the capital.

Many lawyers have been arrested for supporting the protesters. Abderrahman Ayedi, pictured above, says he was tortured by police on December 28, after they arrested him.

Governor sacked

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali sacked the governor of the region of Sidi Bouzid where the protests had begun.

Mourad Ben Jalloul was dismissed on Thursday, as Ben Ali’s government struggles to respond to the political crisis the protests have provoked.

Three ministers and two governors have now been removed for reasons relating to the popular uprising, including Oussama Romdhani, the communications minister.

But Khadija Cherif, the secretary-general of the FIDH, told Al Jazeera that Ben Ali’s response to the crisis hasn’t taken into account the major reforms the protesters are calling for. Neither has it allowed for the debate to be opened, she said, noting the Tunisian media’s failure to report accurately on the events.

International ‘indifference’

Most Western governments have stayed silent over the violent repression of the protests, in a marked contrast to the international outcry over popular protests in Iran in 2009.

By keeping silent over what is happening in Tunisia, Cherif said the world is “showing indifference to a population that is rising up in the face of massive repression”.

“We can clearly see that it’s self-interest that counts, not values like democracy or freedom,” she said. “This discredits European and Western countries.”

She condemned the tendency to describe Tunisia as an economic miracle.

“Just look at what this ‘miracle’ has led to,” she said, referring to those marginalised by the liberalising economic path the government has taken.

France’s Socialist Party, the main opposition, condemned the “brutal repression” of the protesters on Thursday, calling for those arrested to be released.

“It’s unfortunately not the first time that the Tunisian security forces distinguish themselves by sometimes fatal repressive measures,” Pouria Amirshahi, the party’s national secretary, said in a statement from France.

Amirshahi called on the Tunisian authorities “to guarantee the safety of activists, journalists and lawyers, and to protect the right to information and the right to peaceful protest.”

Some 80,000 Tunisians graduate from higher education annually, but analysts say the Tunisian economy is incapable of absorbing so many highly skilled workers.

The unemployment rate is 14.7 per cent, according to the World Bank.

Nouredinne Miladi of the University of Northampton points to unemployment figures from non-governmental sources. In the town of Sidi Bouzid, where the protests started, around 25 per cent of male university graduates are jobless, as are 44 per cent of female graduates.

He said the simmering resentments that led to the recent protests are rooted in years of systematic marginalisation of not only the young, but of significant parts of the country.

Flourishing coastal cities receive the bulk of the government’s attention, he told Al Jazeera, while much of the rest of Tunisia goes overlooked.

The World Bank may have recently praised Tunisia’s weathering of the global economic crisis, but the economic reality within the country is very different from how it is typically viewed abroad, he explained.

“What is promoted around the world is this lovely picture of tourism and so forth,” he said.

The Tunisian government deserves praise for having made education a higher priority than other countries in the Maghreb like Algeria or Morocco, Lahcen Achy of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told Al Jazeera.

But the problem lies in the type of sectors that have been developed in Tunisia, which offer mostly low-skilled employment.

Highly educated young people are blocked from entering public life, whether it be politics, media or commercial spheres. Instead, economic development has focused on sectors such as tourism and textiles, which don’t meet the expectations of these graduates.

The government has a responsibility to design policy that encourages domestic and foreign investment in sectors that would provide jobs suitable for so many highly educated graduates.

“We have much more investment coming from Europe … just looking for cheap labour,” Achy said.

Beyond the employment dilemma, Miladi said there is a need to allow for greater freedom of expression.

“There has to be new initiatives with regards to opening up the media in the country,” Miladi suggested.

Government has controlled television, radio and print media for decades.

“Only the internet remains probably the only source of opportunity for young people and others to voice their opinion,” he said.

International media face many barriers in reporting from Tunisia. The government has banned Al Jazeera completely. The main source of information on the protests is coming from information Tunisians are posting to YouTube and Twitter.

Many of those tweeting about the popular uprising are beginning to question what they see as the failure of international media to cover the protests, compared to the outcry over pro-democracy protests in Iran in 2009.

Birth Defects In Falluja Related To US Attack

Friday, December 31st, 2010

The year 2010 is over. Thank god. It was a tough one for me. Kidney failure, going on dialysis and disability has transformed my life. It has given me more time to research and write, but ironically it has also trapped me in a world that is no more than 5 hours away from my next treatment, luckily Southern California has a wide variety of things to do within 5 hours, beaches and mountains all within reach. If only there wasn’t so much traffic.

I tend to focus on the affairs of the world and try to stay on top of events. Sometimes it seems to be an endless game of catchup and with the internet there is almost unlimited access to certain kinds of information. Perhaps I am only trying not to think about my own problems, but I have always been interested in affairs of the greater world. Initially as a child I was struck by the inequities and injustice in the world. I became a radical, and a seeker after higher truths.

Mostly I have stumbled over my own clumsy misperceptions and been blinded by the blinkers of cultural indoctrination. I have tried to rise above, but that has often simply led me to further perplexity. Whatever the case, I am like all of us trying to make sense of this universe.

There was a movie I saw as a teenager, “El Topo”, the mole. It was a 1970 cosmic western made in Mexico by the great Polish director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who also stared in the film. The concept was of a subterranean figure who upon reaching the surface, is blinded by the light and then returns to wander in the darkness. That is in some respects the story of my life.

On to the story of the day. I picked this from the various tales being told by the media. It is another story of how war affects the unborn in direct and unexpected ways. Just as capitalism has twisted the world into becoming a giant mall and garbage dump, so militarism has twisted the biological processes and turned life into a living hell.

From the Guardian.UK

Research links rise in Falluja birth defects and cancers to US assault• Defects in newborns 11 times higher than normal
• ‘War contaminants’ from 2004 attack could be cause

Martin Chulov, Thursday 30 December 2010 21.34 GMT

A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.

The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports.

The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja’s genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys.

“We suspect that the population is chronically exposed to an environmental agent,” said one of the report’s authors, environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. “We don’t know what that environmental factor is, but we are doing more tests to find out.”

The report identifies metals as potential contaminating agents afflicting the city – especially among pregnant mothers. “Metals are involved in regulating genome stability,” it says. “As environmental effectors, metals are potentially good candidates to cause birth defects.

The findings are likely to prompt further speculation that the defects were caused by depleted uranium rounds, which were heavily used in two large battles in the city in April and November 2004. The rounds, which contain ionising radiation, are a core component of the armouries of numerous militaries and militias.

Their effects have long been called into question, with some scientists claiming they leave behind a toxic residue, caused when the round – either from an assault rifle or artillery piece – bursts through its target. However, no evidence has yet been established that proves this, and some researchers instead claim that depleted uranium has been demonstrably proven not to be a contaminant.

The report acknowledges that other battlefield residues may also be responsible for the defects. “Many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and foetal development,” the report says. “The devastating effect of dioxins on the reproductive health of the Vietnamese people is well-known.”

The latest Falluja study surveyed 55 families with seriously deformed newborns between May and August. It was conducted by Dr Samira Abdul Ghani, a paediatrician at Falluja general hospital. In May, 15% of the 547 babies born had serious birth defects. In the same period, 11% of babies were born at less than 30 weeks and 14% of foetuses spontaneously aborted.

The researchers believe that the figures understate what they describe as an epidemic of abnormalities, because a large number of babies in Falluja are born at home with parents reluctant to seek help from authorities.

“It is important to understand that under normal conditions, the chances of such occurrences is virtually zero,” said Savabieasfahani.

The study focuses on metals as a potential conduit for the contaminant. It suggests a bodily accumulation of toxins is causing serious and potentially irreversible damage to the city’s population base, and calls for an urgent examination of metals in Falluja as well as a comprehensive examination of the city’s recent reproductive history.

For more of this article

Drone Attacks, Generals & Corporations, Gulf Money & Al Qa’ida

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The CIA sends in the drones in an off the books war against the Pakistan bases of the Taliban. Civilians are killed and the populace of Pakistan is angered at the US incursions into their land.

Retired generals get fat paychecks as consultants for military industrial complex corporations. Stoking the machinery that keeps the contractors on the Defense Department gravy train. Wars are required to justify the expenditures.

Meanwhile Al Qa’ida gets donations from the wealthy citizens of Saudi Arabia to fund their war against the west. There is a fundamental sense of the righteous battling the decadent western imperialists in this conflict. It is one where radical conservative values are mixed in with pan-Sunni solidarity. Cynical rich sheiks party western style while they promote militant conservative values for the masses. Keep them poor and looking for God’s will rather than spreading the wealth. Better to attack the western imperialist’s dog soldiers, than the local plutocrats.

It is convenient that the Muslims have provided the US military machine an enemy just as the old Russian bear has been put to sleep. But then in a world where war is peace, there has to be a conflict at all times, if only to keep the money flowing to the contractors. But then the multinational corporations must have a dependable military force to protect their interests. The American tax payer and the poor kid who goes into the military pays. The poor Muslim kid who goes to the Madrassa for an education and winds up as a suicide bomber pays. The innocent bystander blown up in some Afghan or Iraqi village pays when the drone or the suicide bomb blows them to hell.

From Space Daily

US missile attack kills at least 15 in Pakistan

Miranshah, Pakistan (AFP) Dec 27, 2010
- US missiles killed at least 15 militants in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt where the United Nations said Monday it was suspending food handouts in one district after a suicide attack. The missiles destroyed a vehicle and compound in North Waziristan, reputedly the country’s most impregnable Taliban and Al-Qaeda fortress where US officials want Pakistan to launch a ground offensive to eliminate the militant threat. Local security officials said unmanned US aircraft struck Mir Ali village, 25 kilometres (16 miles) east of Miranshah, the tribal district’s main town. The identities of the dead were not immediately known, but officials believed that most were Pakistani, rather than Afghan or Arab fighters. The Mir Ali area is a renowned stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.

Intelligence officials and a local government official said the elders from a district of South Waziristan were summoned by the Taliban to Razmak, a town in neighbouring North Waziristan, on December 17 and are yet to return. Washington says wiping-out the militant threat in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt is vital to winning the nine-year war against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan and defeating Al-Qaeda. The United States does not confirm drone attacks, but its military and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the aircraft in the region. The covert campaign has doubled missile attacks in the tribal area this year where around 100 drone strikes have killed more than 640 people since January 1, compared to 45 killing 420 people in 2009, according to an AFP tally. Pakistan tacitly cooperates with the bombing campaign, which US officials say has severely weakened Al-Qaeda’s leadership, but has stalled on launching an offensive in North Waziristan, saying its troops are overstretched.

Obama’s other ’surge’: US drone war in Pakistan

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 23, 2010
As the United States pressed ahead with a grinding campaign in Afghanistan in 2010, President Barack Obama dramatically escalated another war across the border in Pakistan, using robotic planes to pound Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
The effect of the expanding covert war remains unclear and some skeptics have warned civilian casualties from the strikes could ultimately feed extremism in Pakistan’s tribal areas. But US officials say Al-Qaeda’s leadership has been severely weakened.

Coinciding with an influx of US troops in the Afghan war, Obama has pursued the “surge” in CIA bombing raids in Pakistan’s northwest, despite criticism from rights groups that the strikes amount to extrajudicial killings.

As of December 17, Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and precision-guided bombs carried out 113 strikes against Islamist militants in Pakistan, double the number in 2009 and more than the total number of raids conducted in the previous six years, according to a tally by the independent New America Foundation.

The covert bombing raids are backed up by a clandestine CIA-run paramilitary force of 3,000 Afghans, reportedly carrying out sensitive cross-border operations in Pakistan.

Unlike the nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, the drone war has steadily expanded with little US public debate while American officials avoid openly discussing the CIA raids.

“By the old standards, this would be viewed as a war,” Peter Singer, author of a book on robotic weapons, “Wired for War,” told a congressional hearing in March.

“But why do we not view it as such? Is it because it is being run by the CIA, not by the military and thus not following the same lines of authority and authorization?” he asked.

“Is it because Congress never debated it?”

Officials credit the drone strikes with knocking out hundreds of insurgents, including some senior figures, with media reports putting the toll as high as 897 militants.

The drone raids, and the civilian casualties associated with them, are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, placing the Islamabad government in an uncomfortable position.

The overwhelming majority of the raids are carried out in North Waziristan, and US officials have pressed Islamabad for permission to expand the drone war to other areas, according to the new book “Obama’s War” by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward.

Critics question the tactic, saying militant networks are able to replace fallen leaders and that countering Islamist extremists requires prevailing in a broader struggle for the hearts and minds of Muslims.

The drone raids are akin to “going after a beehive, one bee at a time,” former CIA officer Bruce Reidel told the New Yorker last year, and “the hive will always produce more bees.”

But there are no other good options, he said.

“It’s really all we’ve got to disrupt Al-Qaeda. The reason the administration continues to use it is obvious: it doesn’t really have anything else.”

For more of this article

From the Boston Globe

From the Pentagon to the private sector
In large numbers, and with few rules, retiring generals are taking lucrative defense-firm jobs
By Bryan Bender
Globe Staff / December 26, 2010
WASHINGTON — An hour after the official ceremony marking the end of his 35-year career in the Air Force, General Gregory “Speedy’’ Martin returned to his quarters to swap his dress uniform for golf attire. He was ready for his first tee time as a retired four-star general.

But almost as soon as he closed the door that day in 2005 his phone rang. It was an executive at Northrop Grumman, asking if he was interested in working for the manufacturer of the B-2 stealth bomber as a paid consultant. A few weeks later, Martin received another call. This time it was the Pentagon, asking him to join a top-secret Air Force panel studying the future of stealth aircraft technology.

Martin was understandably in demand, having been the general in charge of all Air Force weapons programs, including the B-2, for the previous four years.

He said yes to both offers.

In almost any other realm it would seem a clear conflict of interest — pitting his duty to the US military against the interests of his employer — not to mention a revolving-door sprint from uniformed responsibilities to private paid advocacy.

But this is the Pentagon where, a Globe review has found, such apparent conflicts are a routine fact of life at the lucrative nexus between the defense procurement system, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and the industry that feasts on those riches. And almost nothing is ever done about it.

The Globe analyzed the career paths of 750 of the highest ranking generals and admirals who retired during the last two decades and found that, for most, moving into what many in Washington call the “rent-a-general’’ business is all but irresistible.

From 2004 through 2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives, according to the Globe analysis. That compares with less than 50 percent who followed that path a decade earlier, from 1994 to 1998.

In some years, the move from general staff to industry is a virtual clean sweep. Thirty-four out of 39 three- and four-star generals and admirals who retired in 2007 are now working in defense roles — nearly 90 percent.

And in many cases there is nothing subtle about what the generals have to sell — Martin’s firm is called The Four Star Group, for example. The revolving-door culture of Capitol Hill — where former lawmakers and staffers commonly market their insider knowledge to lobbying firms — is now pervasive at the senior rungs of the military leadership.

For more of this article

War News Radio Site

From sify news

Saudi and Gulf States major sources of terror funding

2010-12-06 16:40:00
Last Updated: 2010-12-06 16:52:23

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia and oil-rich Gulf States continue to be major sources of funding for radical Islamist terror groups like al Qaeda and LeT and militant groups are suspected to be receiving hefty donations during the annual pilgrimage of Haj, leaked US documents have said.

“Private donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”, a leaked memo from the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December 2009 reads.

While acknowledging that Saudi Arabia has made “crucial progress” in aggressively trying to close the terrorist funding tap, the document says that while Riyadh is serious about threat from terrorism to the Kingdom, “it is a challenge to persuade Saudi officials to tackle terror funding outflow from its soil”.

Much of the terror funding outflows are from the private donors, according to the leaked cables with most of the Gulf States cracking down on terrorist sympathisers, but not running foul of Islamic charitable institutions, so as not to be seen as American stooges before their skeptical public.

US officials have complained that wealthy individuals in the Saudi Kingdom and Gulf States are making direct donations during the Haj or in the religious month of Ramzan and abundant informal money transfers done through hawala networks.

Though the US officials acknowledge that Saudi Arabia is now taking concrete steps to combat terror financing emanating from its soil, the Clinton cables draw a different picture of the situation in other Gulf States like Kuwait, Qatar and UAE.

The leaks said, Kuwait like Saudi is taking action against terror outfits that threaten the country, but “is less inclined to take action against financiers and facilitators based in the country plotting attacks outside.

Kuwait is described in the leaked cables as a “key transit point” for terror fundings as it lacks regulatory framework needed to monitor such activities.

A still grimmer picture is painted of the UAE, which the US cables say is a growing global financial centre, but has weak regulatory mechanism which makes it vulnerable to abuse by terrorist financiers and facilitation networks.

UAE has been identified as also a safe haven for corrupt Afghani officials looking to hide funds in the banks in the country.

From the Guardian

WikiLeaks cables: Saudi princes throw parties boasting drink, drugs and sexRoyals flout puritanical laws to throw parties for young elite while religious police are forced to turn a blind eye

Heather Brooke, Tuesday 7 December 2010 21.30 GMT

In what may prove a particularly incendiary cable, US diplomats describe a world of sex, drugs and rock’n'roll behind the official pieties of Saudi Arabian royalty.

Jeddah consulate officials described an underground Halloween party, thrown last year by a member of the royal family, which broke all the country’s Islamic taboos. Liquor and prostitutes were present in abundance, according to leaked dispatches, behind the heavily-guarded villa gates.

The party was thrown by a wealthy prince from the large Al-Thunayan family. The diplomats said his identity should be kept secret. A US energy drinks company also put up some of the finance.

“Alcohol, though strictly prohibited by Saudi law and custom, was plentiful at the party’s well-stocked bar. The hired Filipino bartenders served a cocktail punch using sadiqi, a locally-made moonshine,” the cable said. “It was also learned through word-of-mouth that a number of the guests were in fact ‘working girls’, not uncommon for such parties.”

The dispatch from the US partygoers, signed off by the consul in Jeddah, Martin Quinn, added: “Though not witnessed directly at this event, cocaine and hashish use is common in these social circles.”

The underground party scene is “thriving and throbbing” in Saudi Arabia thanks to the protection of Saudi royalty, the dispatch said. But it is only available behind closed doors and for the very rich.

The cable claimed it was easy for would-be partygoers to find a patron out of more than 10,000 princes in the kingdom. Some are “royal highnesses” with direct descent from King Abdul Aziz, while others are “highnesses” from less direct branches.

One young Saudi told the diplomat that big parties were a recent trend. Even a few years ago, he said, the only weekend activity was “dating” among small groups who met inside the homes of the rich. Some of the more opulent houses in Jeddah feature basement bars, discos and clubs. One high-society Saudi said: “The increased conservatism of our society over these past years has only moved social interaction to the inside of people’s homes.”

For more of this

4Chan Site Attacked

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Cyber Warfare is becoming more and more an item that affects regular people in the real world. 4Chan was hit with a cyber attack. I just went to the 4Chan site and it is available, at least the threads are readable, I did not attempt to participate in any of them.

4 Chan is the site where the Anonymous activists post. They are the ones who struck back at Paypal, Mastercard & Visa for cutting off Wikileaks.

From BBC

29 December 2010 Last updated at 09:35 ET

Web attack takes Anonymous activists offline
The notorious message board 4Chan has been taken offline by an overwhelming web attack.

Thanks to the attack, the discussion boards of the site have been hard to reach or offline for almost 24 hours.

The attack might be retaliation for similar attacks that some 4Chan members, as part of the Anonymous group, mounted in support of Wikileaks.

It is not yet clear who is carrying out the attacks and no-one has come forward to claim responsibility.

News about the large-scale web attack, known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, came to light via a message posted on Twitter by Moot, the founder of 4Chan.

He wrote: “Site is down due to DDoS. We now join the ranks of Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, et al - an exclusive club!”

A DDoS attack involves bombarding a server behind a website with data in an attempt to knock it offline.

Many members of 4Chan work together in the guise of a group called Anonymous to carry out attacks on websites they deem to be enemies of freedom of speech.

Most recently, Anonymous members took action in support of whistle-blowing site Wikileaks. Anonymous used a DDoS tool to hit the corporate websites of Mastercard, Visa and Paypal because the firms had cut off payment connections to Wikileaks.

Paul Mutton, a security analyst at site watching firm Netcraft, said the attack on 4Chan was ongoing.

“For most of the past 24 hours, the site has either been very slow to respond or has been completely unreachable,” he said.

Statistics gathered by Netcraft show 4Chan was hit hard early on Wednesday but that it recovered towards the afternoon.

A blog showing the status of the various elements of 4Chan suggests the image boards, the most heavily used part of the site, have been down for hours.

Early reports suggested that a hacktivist known as the Jester was behind the attack. Before now, some members of Anonymous said they would target the Jester with DDoS attacks after he declared an ambition to knock Wikileaks offline.

However, in a Twitter message, the Jester denied any involvement in the attack.

From Digital Trends

Anonymous’ hangout 4Chan slammed by DDOS attack
By: Geoff Duncan •December 29, 2010

It’s not just Mastercard and Visa suffering cyberattacks: favorite “Anonymous” hangout 4Chan has been pummeled - and no one is yet claiming responsibility.

The infamous 4Chan message board site—one of the best-known online hangouts for parts of “Anonymous” and the reputed source of rickrolling and that fake Steve Jobs heart attack rumor years ago—was largely taken offline by a distributed denial-of-service attack. So far, no one has credibly stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack, leading to speculation about whether Anonymous and 4Chan has earned itself a real enemy…or whether Anonymous is merely biting its own tail for a laugh.

A distributed denial of service attack essentially uses an array of computers around the Internet—often “zombie” machines controlled by malware but sometimes voluntarily participating—to send more requests to a Web server than it can handle. As a result, legitimate requests for information from the site are delayed or simply fail, effectively making the site inaccessible. Anonymous’ Operation: Payback used similar methods to take down Web sites for Mastercard and Visa (among others) in retaliation for the companies’ decision to deny services to WIkiLeaks.

“Site is down due to DDoS,” 4Chan founder “Moot” wrote in a status update. “We now join the ranks of Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, et al.—an exclusive club!”

So far, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for taking 4Chan offline.

If the 4Chan attack was motivated by the controversy surrounding WikiLeaks, it may indicate an escalation of “hacktivism:” public, politically-motivated attacks on the Internet. Operation: Payback likened its actions against Mastercard and Visa as the digital equivalent of a sit-in designed to draw public attention to the actions of a company or organization, and security firms (like McAfee) believe hacktivism will be an increasingly common form of political demonstration in 2011 and beyond.

China Renewable Energy Leader

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Some information about alternative energy developpment in China.

From Terraviva

CHINA: Researchers Race Toward Renewable Energy
By Mitch Moxley

BEIJING, Dec 28, 2010 (IPS) - Researchers in China, the world’s leading provider of wind turbines and solar panels, are working toward making renewable energy cheaper, more efficient and a bigger part of the country’s power grid.

But despite China’s rapid leap to being a global leader in the renewable energy field, more government investment is needed for research and development if China is to truly blaze a path toward a clean energy future, researchers say.

Zhao Xingzhong, professor at Wuhan University’s School of Physics and Technology, is researching dye-sensitised solar cells, a low-cost, high- efficiency alternative to more prevalent solid-state semiconductor solar cell technology.

The practical implications are apparent, Zhao says.

“The production process of dye-sensitised solar cells doesn’t produce carbon dioxide, which means it won’t induce environmental pollution,” Zhao tells IPS. “And dye-sensitised solar cells only cost one-fifth of traditional semiconductor solar cells made from crystalline silicon.”

Although Zhao’s team’s research is unique at home and abroad, he says support from the Chinese government is far from enough. He notes that Japan and South Korea have jointly invested about 1.6 billion U.S. dollars on research on third-generation solar technology since 2000. In China, however, Zhao says there have been just five native projects in the solar field in the last decade, with spending of around 4.5 million dollars per project.

“It is difficult to break through the technological bottleneck because of the inadequacy of (financial) input,” Zhao says.

In recent years, China has become the global leader in renewable energy technology manufacturing, surpassing the United States in terms of both the number of wind turbines and solar panels it makes. The accounting firm Ernst & Young in September named China the best place to invest in renewable energy.

Chinese companies, led by the Jiangsu-based Suntech, have one-quarter of the world’s solar panel production capacity and are rapidly gaining market share by driving down prices using low-cost, large-scale factories. China’s 2009 stimulus package included subsidies for large solar instillation projects.

In terms of wind power, home-grown companies have rapidly gained market share in recent years after the government raised local partnership requirements for foreign companies to 70 percent from 40 percent (the government has since removed local partnership requirements) and introduced major new subsidies and other incentives for Chinese wind power companies.

By 2009, there were 67 Chinese turbine providers and foreign companies’ market share fell to 37 percent from 70 percent just over five years ago.

But most of the parts produced by Chinese companies are based on technology developed from abroad, with scant focus on homegrown innovation in the renewable energy field.

Wang Mengjie, deputy director of the China Renewable Energy Society and former vice chairman of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Engineering, works in the biomass industry. He says bioenergy can be used to improve living standards in rural areas, and he is currently involved in projects aimed at providing farmers will equipment that can turn organic waste into clean biogas and fertiliser.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the number of biogas pools in China’s rural areas reached over 35 million as of the end of 2009, producing 12.4 billion cubic metres each year. The government has increased financing of biogas pools in recent years, to 5 billion RMB (754,547 million dollars) in 2009 from an average of 2.5 billion RMB (377.2 million dollars) in 2006 and 2007.

Despite the investment, Wang says China still faces technological hurdles in the biomass industry.

“In terms of biodiesel technology, Western countries like the United States and Germany lead the world, while China is still at its infancy stage,” Wang says. “China has no definite regulations or policies on biomass energy right now. Under the present circumstances, there’s no possibility for relevant enterprises to develop further.”

Critics say China’s interest in renewable energy is essentially a business opportunity – most of what it produces is sold abroad – and that it is less interested in applying the more expensive technology at home.

China has not yet caught up to the United States in terms of renewable energy production. The country is the biggest consumer of coal in the world and is expected to burn 4.5 billion tonnes of standard coal by 2020, according to figures from the National Energy Administration.

While coal will still make up two-thirds of China’s energy capacity in 2020, the government has promised to invest billions of dollars into the development of wind, solar and nuclear power. The country’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress, now requires power grid companies buy 100 percent of the electricity produced from renewable energy generators.

Official statistics released last April said that low-carbon energy sources would account for more than a quarter of China’s electricity supply by the end of 2010, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. The figures revealed that hydro, nuclear and wind power were expected to provide 250 gigawatts of capacity by the end of 2010, while coal will account for 700 gigawatts. (END)

African GMO Grain Dependency

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Africa is undergoing an agricultural revolution. The question is what sort of revolution will it be. There is some question as to the reliance on GMO seed that may come back to haunt those who subscribe to it. The EU is generally GMO free. The USA is pushing GMO food that has largely been untested as to the long term effects on humans. Americans and others such as South Africans who have accepted GMO grains are the guinea pigs.

Malawi is an interesting case. After drought in 2005 the president decided to give out subsidized grain and fertilizer which has resulted in bumper crops. But as the article below indicates there has grown a dependency on this subsidized seed and fertilizer that has created a desperate market in slavery and self mutilation for those who do not get subsidies and who cannot afford to pay market prices. This can lead to corruption as supply does not meet demand. Questions about the appropriate nature of this course, following the path of the so called ‘green revolution’ which has been questioned by some based on the experience in India and Pakistan where after initial success the farmers are now deep in debt due to their dependency on chemical fertilizer and fuel.

A sustainable path needs to be developed if Africa is not to become re-colonized by the Monsanto’s of the world.

From GMO Free Europe (This is a blog site not a fact on the ground.)

COMESA urge GM seeds among members claiming threefold GM yields in MalawiCOMESA secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya has urged member countries to consider genetically modifying their seed to increase yields in the region. Speaking at the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA) stakeholders meeting on Friday, Ngwenya said modifying seed as Malawi was doing would increase yields threefold in the region. ”Malawi tried to do some genetic seed modification and they have now increased their yields threefold,” Ngwenya said.

For more of this

From World Watch Institute

African Leaders Pursue “Malawi Miracle”
by Ben Block on May 26, 2009

Malawi produced 3.4 million tons of corn last year, more than double its average output in the 2000–2005 seasons.Five years ago, the rains disappeared for a month across much of Malawi, just as the country’s corn crop reached a critical growth period. As a result, the 2005 harvest was the worst in a decade. Yet again, millions of farmers were in need of food aid.

President Bingu wa Mutharika decided the next year would be different. Despite World Bank disapproval and intense government debate, Malawi’s National Assembly distributed 3.4 million coupons to farmers to subsidize purchases of inorganic fertilizer and improved seeds. To ensure that the US$58 million program would support small producers rather than large commercial estates, households were limited to receiving two 50-kilogram fertilizer bags each.

With the help of heavy rains, the 2005-2006 season resulted in a twofold increase in corn production. The program was repeated the next year. By late 2007, Malawi began exporting its surplus corn to Zimbabwe.

“For four years in a row, a starving country is no longer a starving country,” said Pedro Sanchez, an advisor to the Malawian government who directs the Tropical Agriculture and the Rural Environment Program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

A dozen countries throughout Africa may soon replicate the “Malawi Miracle,” as the program is now called, Sanchez said during a speech at the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) annual conference in Arlington, Virginia, last week.

“This is Green Revolution stuff - India, Pakistan in the ‘60s,” said Sanchez, the 2002 recipient of the internationally recognized World Food Prize. “I don’t know any other options that are working.”

Zambia, Ghana, Senegal, and Kenya have recently announced plans for similar subsidy programs. Still, such top-down reforms may fail, experts warn, without improvements in the countries’ commodity markets and transportation infrastructure. Environmentalists are also concerned that the programs may lead to farmer dependencies on synthetic fertilizer and genetically modified seeds.

International donors such as the World Bank and U.S. Agency for International Development originally opposed direct subsidy programs, arguing instead for long-term solutions that rely on the private sector.

“Donors want to see their funding going into investments on roads or research, not paying for income or salaries,” said Samuel Benin, a research fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Policy Research Institute.

But since Malawi’s agricultural reforms, the World Bank and other international financial institutions have increased investments in agriculture, including public spending initiatives.

“The private sector cannot do it all. It cannot reach farmers everywhere because [private companies] are looking to make a profit,” Benin said. “Donors have always known that supporting farmers is a good thing. It’s just the channel of how to do it that has been difficult.”

Support for direct subsidies in countries such as Malawi and Mozambique is also driven by concern that fertilizer prices will rise in the future. During last summer’s jump in energy prices, urea, the world’s most common nitrogen fertilizer, doubled in cost. Diammonium phosphate (DAP), often produced using natural gas, increased by nearly five times, according to the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC).

Public spending initiatives have not always found success in Africa. In Ethiopia, government subsidies for fertilizers and improved seeds helped increase corn production dramatically in 2001, but the country lacked the infrastructure to distribute the harvest to remote communities, leading to a crop surplus and a crash in prices.

“Without investing in complementary services, [the program] actually did not help by investing in fertilizer and seeds,” Benin said. “You need good agricultural systems to move foods to less-developed areas and connect with other markets. By not investing in other areas, that was a failure.”

Replicating the “Malawi Miracle” may bring additional problems that have become associated with agricultural success in both developing and developed countries. Agricultural subsidies have resulted in greater crop yields, but farms have often become reliant on fossil fuel-based fertilizers, chemical pesticides, and irrigation in areas often prone to drought, critics say.

Reliance on genetically modified seeds can also threaten the availability of locally adapted seed varieties for future generations. About 700 local crops were once cultivated worldwide, enabling communities to turn to drought-resistant crops during droughts or other seed varities that can withstand severe weather conditions. Yet 15 crops now supply an estimated 90 percent of the world’s food, said Louise Jackson, a soil scientist at the University of California at Davis and a co-chair of the DIVERSITAS network on agro-biodiversity.

“The reality is that in many places of the world, local people are no longer reliant on local [crop] varieties,” Jackson said at last week’s AIBS conference.

Organizations such as the United Nations and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa are attempting to increase agricultural yields through systems that do not rely entirely on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Sanchez said that Malawi is attempting to use nitrogen-fixing trees or other organic methods, but the financing of organic or ecosystem-based agriculture alternatives simply do not exist in much of sub-Saharan Africa.

For more of this

From Terraviva

AGRICULTURE: Desperation Over Subsidies
By Claire Ngozo

LILONGWE, Malawi, Dec 27, 2010 (IPS) - As the rains start to fall in Malawi, marking the beginning of the growing season, government is continuing to implement the fertiliser and seed subsidy programme which has since made the country a bread basket in the Southern African Development Community, SADC.

The programme, introduced in 2004, is for smallholder farmers who cannot afford farm inputs such as seed and fertiliser at the normal market price. But many needy farmers are being left out, and are employing desperate measures in order to access these commodities – ranging from attempting to sell a parent, to selling their own private parts. Some people have also been shot as they scrambled for these much-needed inputs.

A 21 -year-old man, Jolam Ganizani, from Malawi’s central district of Ntchisi, is in police custody after he attempted to sell his own mother to use the money to buy fertiliser and seed.

Police prosecutor Sub Inspector Peter Njiragoma told local journalists last month that Ganizani had confessed to the police that he was so poverty- stricken that he felt that selling his mother would be the solution to his problems.

“He had wanted to use the money obtained from selling his mother to buy farm inputs which would assist him to grow a lot of crops and harvest more,” explained Njiragoma.

Malawi is highly susceptible to human trafficking because of high levels of poverty, low literacy levels and HIV/AIDS, according to a local NGO, the Malawi Network Against Child Trafficking, MNACT.

But Ganizani is not the only person desperate to access inputs for his agricultural activities. Another man, 22-year-old Pilirani Lazarous, is receiving medical care after he cut off his private parts in November and was offering them for sale in order to use the money to buy fertiliser for his one- hectare garden.

Speaking from his hospital bed at Kamuzu Central Hospital in the country’s capital, Lilongwe, Lazarous, a father of one, told IPS he was not on the list to access the subsidised fertiliser as he had failed to register and had to find a way of buying the “expensive fertiliser”.

According to the police both Ganizani and Lazarous are sane. However, without access to the coupons that allow people to access the subsidised fertiliser, many people continue to be desperate. The beneficiaries in the subsidy programme receive two coupons - one for accessing cheap seed and the other for buying fertiliser at a subsidised rate.

With a coupon, one is able to buy a 5 kilogramme bag of seed at just 65 cents and a 50 kilogramme bag of fertiliser at only $3. The normal market price for the same amount of seed is $12 and a 50 kilogramme bag of fertiliser is $33. Up to 60 percent of the country’s 13.1 million population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations. They cannot therefore afford to buy the inputs at the normal price and end up fighting tooth and nail to access the commodities.

During the December 2010 sitting of Parliament, legislators took Minister of Agriculture Peter Mwanza to task on why the commodities were not available in many areas. Mwanza blamed the problems on “transportation problems”.

Principal Secretary in Ministry of Agriculture also said many farmers are rapidly buying the inputs and that this is putting pressure on the supply logistics to the outlets selling the subsidies.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 1.6 million farming households are to benefit from this year’s subsidy.

Despite challenges at home with the agriculture subsidy programme, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s president, who is also African Union chairperson, is urging African ministers of agriculture and finance to lobby for subsidies in the agriculture sector. “I urge you ministers of agriculture and finance to stand up and fight for subsidies.

There is no way an African farmer can survive without subsidies,” Mutharika told an Africa Agriculture ministers’ summit which took place in Malawi in October 2010

For more of this

From Christian Science Monitor

How genetically modified seeds can help - and hurt - Africa’s farmers

Proponents say genetically modified seeds arm Africa’s family farms in the war against pests, droughts, and depleting soil. Critics cite concerns about biodiversity and health.

By Drew Hinshaw, Correspondent / September 23, 2010

Dakar, Senegal

Just how controversial can a sweet potato be?

Well, if you’re talking about the Nairobi-bred Bt Sweet Potato, which is genetically-hotwired to sheen itself in an antiviral protein coat, it’s hard to fathom a more contentious root vegetable.

Unless, perhaps, you’re discussing the sweet potato’s subterranean cousin, West Africa’s Bt Cassava plant. Geneticists rewrote that crop’s DNA to fight an endemic virus. Then there’s Tanzania’s Bt Cotton, which conveniently secretes its own toxic bacterial pesticide. The toxin shoos flies, but is that the kind of thing you want your tube socks made of?

Proponents of these lab-perfected plants say they arm Africa’s family farms in their war against pests, droughts, and depleting soil. Climate change, they add, has hit the arid and famine-prone areas of Africa harder than most other regions of the world, altering regular rainfall schedules and causing failed harvests. Also, say backers of genetically modified (GM) seeds, without hardier seeds, the planters of the continent are essentially being asked to foot America’s gigantic carbon bill.

But in its latest report, the African Center for Biosafety in Johannesburg, South Africa argues the counter case: Far from sowing prosperity for small farmers, South Africa’s adventure into genetically modifying corn has bankrupted its agriculturalists.

The breadbasket’s corn planters, the report says, have been left with a surplus of corn that they can’t sell, thanks to international bans on GM crops.

“They are unable to really compete,” Director Miriam Mayet says.

For the moment, such concerns are confined to South Africa, the continent’s only country where GM seeds are commercially planted. But many of Africa’s less food-secure countries are cozying up to the technology.

The European Union maintains a de-facto ban on GM foods. (Recently a GMO potato was approved for industrial use and there are tests being done on GMO grapes in France & Spain but protestors have destroyed the crops.-Admin)

In America, the seeds are blamed for sprouting a crop monoculture, where whole once-sundry states have been reduced to sprawling cookie-cutter corn fields, and everything from apples to gas tanks to your soda-slupring stomach is coated in corn.

But Mr. Alhassan says new seeds would be widely welcomed in arid areas of West Africa, where food security issues are hot politics.

“African farmers have to spend a lot on inputs, especially in agro-chemicals which present health hazards to them,” he says. “To combat the effects of climate change, we need to go easy on biochemicals. Using biotechnology we can reduce the quantity we use.”

But Mayet worries that foreign agro-corps could stamp out Africa’s splendid plant diversity, surrendering whole swaths of some the world’s richest farmland into endless rows of untested Frankencorn.

That wouldn’t just be unhealthy for the economy, she says, but for the human body.

“There has been no robust, independent, postcommercial testing [of most GM crops],” she says. “In South Africa, GM maize is consumed daily by millions of vulnerable people.”

Moreover, Mayet worries that Alhassan’s GM revolution would make the continent’s family farms dependents of multinational seed corporations like the St. Louis-based Monsanto.

“The true beneficiaries of GM technology,” she writes “are not farmers but those supplying seeds, external inputs, the grain traders, and the animal feed industry.”

For a hungry world, this is no small potatoes. Africa is hogging 60 percent of the world’s unfarmed arable land. The question remains how those gorgeous stretches of leafy Congolese riversides, and sandy Senegalese steppes will be sown: By family farmers subsuming new techniques into their centuries-old farming routines, or by 21st century megafarms, sowing seeds on the behest of Monsanto.

For more of this


‘Green Revolution’ in India has Farmers under Severe Debt
Jaspal Singh Sidhu / UNI 16dec01
New Delhi — The farmers of northern states that grew bumper crops during the Green Revolution are now reeling under heavy debt, finding themselves incapable of changing the dominant cropping pattern that is proving a big drag on their economy as well as soil fertility.

Though the output in the post-Green Revolution era is still high in these areas, profits are declining because of rising cost of inputs and inadequate increase in the price of outputs, according to recently-conducted studies in two select pockets of Punjab and Western Uttar Pradesh.

Both pockets, which present the same family land- ownership pattern, small fragmented holdings and intensive cultivation, has shown indebtedness of farmers crossing 90 per cent. Besides, the increasingly dependence on tube wells for irrigation has led to over-exploitation of ground water, the level of which is continuously falling.

One of the “‘Diagnostic Study”‘ was conducted by the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NACP) in association with the Society for Education and Social Welfare, an NGO, in Muzaffarnagar District of Western U.P.–one of the most agriculturally-productive areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India. The study team of farm experts surveyed 150 farming households in several villages including Allum, Bhaneda, Bharsi, Kanaiyan and Nala. The other study was conducted by CRRID, an NGO, with experts drawn from Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, and Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi, and with active association of panchayats in villages including Baluaana, Bucho Kalan, Poohla, Rai Khana, Mari, Doomwali and Pathrala. The survey covered 308 farming households.

Both studies, encompassing a long stretch of contiguous Green Revolution area covering Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, however, draw almost similar conclusions on availability of farming information and technical know-how to farmers by their governments. For the choice and use of inputs, the farmers depend on “dealers” (private traders) with no or inadequate availability of information from their state governments on technology, prices, selection of right inputs, value-addition, alternative crops and enterprises, credit and market channels.

The farmers are facing various constrains which include lack of adequate bank credit, adulteration of fertilisers and pesticides, and inferior quality of seeds. The governments also provide either no or ineffective mechanism to monitor or regulate the deteriorating quality of seeds and inputs which contribute to declining profits in farming.

Against the backdrop of farming communities fast running into economic crisis that could result in social unrest in rural areas sustaining 60 per cent of the population, the two studies see only certain alternatives left for the state governments. These are to help and encourage the farmers form self-help groups relevant to the regions in garnering credit, to go for cooperative marketing of milk, to operate and maintain canals, to go for collective purchase of select seeds, pesticides and other inputs, and to adopt advanced farm operations.

For more of this

From IPS

Africa’s Future Lies in a Green Energy Grid
By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 14, 2010 (IPS) - Development in Africa could falter as climate change grips the continent, increasing the length and severity of droughts and floods by altering precipitation patterns, among other impacts.

The region needs a major shift in its economic development policies and thinking towards decentralised, green economic development, experts now say.

“The world’s big economies are largely living off financial transactions which are unconnected to development,” warns Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

“Export growth does not automatically result in green economic growth, we must look at trade for development,” said Panitchpakdi.

In a rejection of failed neoliberal economic policies, Panitchpakdi said strong national policies on investments, taxation, protection of local industries, including subsidies, and changes to less restrictive intellectual property regimes are what is needed to green economies in Africa and elsewhere.

“Green economic development underpins environmental protection, economic growth and development,” he said.

The tentative global economic recovery this year is largely a jobless recovery because the current economic growth model is designed to make “people redundant”, said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

“It favours large concentrated power grids, for example, which require very few people,” Steiner told IPS.

A low-carbon economy is not for the rich countries, it is for the poorest because it is more resource-efficient, employs more people and brings development at a lower cost, he said, adding, “We have to grow the economies of Africa but only through green sustainable development, delinked from increasing resource use.”

“After 50 years of development, 80 percent of Kenya’s population had no access to electricity. Now, after a 2008 shift to renewable energy, more Kenyans have access to electricity than ever before,” he noted.

“More than half a billion people in rural Africa have little or no access to electricity,” noted Nebojsa Nakicenovic of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.

“They pay a large part of their incomes for some kerosene lighting or diesel electric at a cost that is twice that of what the average European pays,” Nakicenovic, a leading energy economist, told IPS. “Or worst of all they are forced to rely on flashlights, which is the most expensive form of lighting available.”

Universal access to modern energy services globally has been estimated to cost between $80 and $100 billion a year in a number of recent studies, including those by the International Energy Agency and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation in Vienna.

“That seems like a lot of money but it is significantly less than the $300 to $600 billion being spent annually to subsidise the fossil fuel sector,” Nakicenovic pointed out.

Technically, it is doable, representing roughly 20 gigawatts of energy generation - less than what countries like Brazil and South Africa have been able to add in recent years.

Increasing energy access in Africa has a huge range of benefits, he says. It would drive economic development, improve the health of millions by reducing indoor air pollution from kerosene and biomass burning, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases like black carbon and reduce deforestation.

Local technology and local energy distribution in the form of small-scale hydro, biomass, biogas, solar, wind and other forms of production are best suited to Africa. The challenge is mobilising the investments needed, he said. These should be national programmes with long-term financial commitments from the international community.

“We don’t need international climate treaties to do this,” said Nakicenovic. “Doing things right will bring green growth and prosperity.”

For more of this


A Selection Of Italian Anarchist Flyers

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Italian Anarchist Flyers‎ in translation from the site Anarchy In Italy. I wish there was some commentary at the site on the background of these flyers, all we have is the translated text without context. If you are familiar with the events these flyers describe then you are in a better position to appreciate the content. If you are not familiar with the events then perhaps you will read them for style and the bravado of the authors who it seems shall remain anonymous.

Number One

“It Was a Bright Cold Day in April…”

So begins 1984, the famous novel that denounced the horrors of a totalitarian society at the door. A society in which words no longer had meaning, in which memory was continually obliterated, in which each individual was kept under surveillance even in the most intimate aspects of his life, in which there was no place for criticism but only for blind obedience. 1984 is the world in which we live, more and more enslaved to conventions and dominated by mass media, advertising, falsifications and adulterations, more and more immersed in a fictitious and manipulated reality.

We are even deprived of an articulate language and trained to express ourselves in monosyllables and clichés. Oldspeak “with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning” is replaced with a Newspeak whose main intent “is to narrow the range of thought” with the aim of rendering “thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it”.

We are also urged to forget historical events (like the Resistance) and to adapt ourselves to unbelievable contradictions like “clean nuclear power”. “If all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ said the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’”. This is goodthink, “to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it.”

We are also periodically subjected to the stimulus of the Two Minutes of Hate (most often in the face of immigrants. “A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will, into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”

We are also under surveillance by the Thought Police, whose video cameras and electronic bugs register our every act and word: “There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they warched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you mad was heard and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

We also have the Ministry of Truth with its three new slogans that get hammered obsessively into our heads:




Finally, for anyone who dared to challenge homogenization and to show any autonomy of thought, the Orwellian Big Brother had Room 101. The present day state instead has the articles of the penal code—360 (armed band), 270 (subversive association), or if need be 416 (association to commit a crime)—to lock individuals up, and article 41 bis to make their imprisonment more unbearable.

On a cold, bright day in April, Friday the 16th, the Florentine prosecutor’s office wants to send 19 anarchists back to court with the charge of subversive association. According to the Ministry of Truth, they are terrorists because they demonstrated their ideas without first asking permission of the Thought Police, because they have occupied empty and abandoned buildings, because they have stuck up posters and drawn writings on walls, because they are in solidarity with anyone who rebels against Big Brother. It is the rancorous reprisal of this state that kills and tortures, poisons and desolates, exploits and oppresses, against anyone who does not intend to bow their head, against anyone who is not resigned to not living.




Number Two

Greetings from Greece
They’re old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. The first robbed it, gun in hand. They say the second helped him, holding the money. It happened in a small Greek village, this past October 1. And so? There are things that happen. And then that is a far away country, with an incomprehensible and untranslatable language. Who do you want to be interested in it? The robber is Christos Stratigopulos, already arrested and convicted here in Italy fifteen years ago on a similar charge. The penalty served, he returned to Greece. Remembered by a few, unknown to most. But the other one arrested is Italian; it is Alfredo Bonanno. Yes, precisely him; who hasn’t heard his name? In its own small way, the news has gone quickly around the world, revived by many press agencies: “one of the major theorists of insurrectionalist anarchism”, “among the major ideologues of anarchy”, “anarchist activist and writer”, “international fugitive anarchist robber”, “theorist of revolutionary violence”, has ended up behind bars again. The promoters of antiterrorism, both Greek and Italian, have rushed in, ready to exploit the juicy occasion. The elements for concocting a fine theorem are all there: a country in which there are still fires blazing after the great insurrectionary conflagration that flared up last December, a Greek anarchist active in the movement, a foreign anarchist known for his subversive theories who travelled around the country holding meetings, a bank robbed.

Christos has taken full responsibility for the act, caused by economic problems, denying Alfredo’s involvement. But, clearly, the judge didn’t believe him. So both are still in jail. The first, because he dared to reach out a hand toward wealth rather than resign himself to dying in misery. What’s more, he is an anarchist. The second, because… because… because maybe he helped his comrade. And, for sure, he is an anarchist. And that’s enough.

They are old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. Outside, solidarity is organized. Funds start to be collected; initiatives are prepared. But that’s not all. In Athens, the two prisoners get explosive greetings from the group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, which had just disturbed the crowning of the new Greek premier. In Villejuif, France, someone renders their homage by smashing the windows of the local offices of the Socialist Party. One of the beauties of anarchy is that it doesn’t recognize borders. And in Italy? Bah, here it has been limited to communicating the news, faithfully and coldly reporting the journalists’ poisons. No comment. The drafters of daily virtual communiqués say nothing. The tenders of militant gardens fall silent. The little strategists of the new alliances hush up. The movement has now become a community, and anyone who doesn’t share its rules and language doesn’t exist. He is nameless. In the rush to follow the masses, have individuals been forgotten? Perhaps it’s better this way. Better a sincere silence, if in the face of such an act, one no longer knows what to say, than hypocritical chatter about solidarity. Let’s leave that to the Stalinist annoyances and other ruins. Or to a few third millennium fascists, who on one of their forums rendered “honor” to the two arrested anarchists.

They are old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. The first is 46-years-old, the second 72. Whether guilty or innocent, for them being anarchists doesn’t even have the excuse of being an infantile disorder of extremism. Stubborn as they are, they haven’t understood that now is the time to ride the wave of social movements, to defend who knows what in front of places of power, to act as social workers for the damned of the earth. No, they haven’t understood this. The dream that they have in their hearts is much too big to adapt itself to the tick-tock of modern times.

No pardon, no pity.

Good-bye, beautiful Lugano.

Number Three

This past September 24, in the United States, thousands of men and women went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to protest against the G20 summit, which was devoted to giving new rules to an economic system whose devastation is visible to everyone. Along with truncheons, fire-hoses and rubber bullets, the government presided over by the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner used “the Scream”, that is, LRAD—the sonic cannon for dispersing crowds used up to now only in war operations—against the demonstrators.


In Genoa Italy, in July 2001, hundreds of thousands of women and men converged from all corners of the planet to protest against the Earth’s Masters, each demonstrating their rage in the face of a social organization based on profit and privilege in their own way. The reaction of the state, the Italian state in this instance, was unforgettable: indiscriminate butchery. The demonstrators were beaten bloody in the streets and tortured in the barracks. One of them was shot down on the street in front of the whole world. This past October 7, the Italian justice system absolved the police chief and others responsible for the bloodbath. Two days later, on October 9, the same Italian justice system sentenced ten demonstrators to punishments ranging from six to fifteen years in prison. The state’s lackey’s who break bones and heads are kindly protected; free individuals who break windows are harshly punished.


This past October 8, in Athens, Greece, the newly elected leftist government ordered a huge raid in the Exarchia neighborhood, which led to the detention of more than eighty people. Exarchia was the initial hotbed of the generalized uprising that broke out last December following the murder of a young student by the police. For some weeks, fires of rage burned throughout Greece, heating up many spirits chilled by the social winter. The first thought of the new leftist government has been to strike at the heart of revolt, launching four hundred officers against it.


Yes, it has gotten through. Pittsburgh is like Fallujah, Genoa is on the way to Abu Ghraib, Athens is near to Gaza. There is no elsewhere in the one-way world of authority and merchandise. In less than a month, the state sent out its warning several times, clear and unequivocal: order must reign undisturbed; whoever dares to challenge it will be suppressed without mercy.

During the Vietnam war, one of the favorite slogans of the anti-militarist movement was Bring the War Home. Besides being a parody of the more pacifistic “Bring the boys home”, it also had a precise meaning: the war overseas had divided the country to the point that the moment had come to trigger off a war at home. Today, the institutions have brought the war home. The streets are filling with soldiers, divided between patrols and road blocks.

If we don’t want to remain victims or become accomplices of this war of extermination of every form of freedom, the only thing left to us is to take up the challenge.

You can find more like these at the site

Italian Bombings: Anarchist Propaganda of the Deed Or Provocateurs

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Two Greek anarchists are making molotov cocktails. One says to the other: “So who will we throw these at then?” The other replies: “What are you, some kind of fucking intellectual?”

I found this joke on a blog called ‘Slackbastard’ from Australia. Anarchists and ultra leftists seem to be more willing to take direct action against the capitalist state beast. I am thinking of the example of the recent bombings in Italy and Greece. As austerity measures take their toll on the working classes of the world, the resistance to capital becomes more intense. This is especially noticeable in the USA and the Eurozone where workers had once been relatively affluent and anarchists are fairly common.

There is a question of the motivation of the group called Informal Anarchist Federation in Italy. They have claimed to be behind the recent bombings at the Chilean and Swiss embassies. Some claim this maybe the action of agent provocateurs and not genuine anarchists who are represented by groups like the Anarchist Federation of Italy, both go by the initials FAI. See the article from the Nihilist below. Wikipedia seems to take the position that the group is genuine. I know American Insurrectionary Anarchists with contacts in Italy with such leanings but I cannot verify the bonafides of the Informal Anarchist Federation.

The Conspiracy of Free Nuclei in Greece is another group that has been in the news lately but they are not as in the Simpsons Christmas episode “twenty six anarchists bombing”, but they could be, with the kind of publicity they are getting in the media. The question comes up as to whether they should be classified a anarchists or rather as some kind of nihilist group.

This is from Reuters

Anarchists claim responsibility for Rome bombs

Thu, Dec 23 2010

A package exploded at the Swiss embassy in Rome on Thursday, Italy’s foreign ministry said on Thursday and Ansa news agency reported that one person was seriously injured.

By Roberto Landucci and Daniele Mari

ROME | Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:41pm EST

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian anarchist group claimed responsibility for parcel bombs on Thursday that wounded two people at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, a reminder of Europe’s home-grown threats at a time of political instability.

A Swiss man was seriously wounded and rushed to hospital. An employee at the Chilean embassy was less seriously hurt. A note was found stuck to his clothing, claiming responsibility for the attack on behalf of the FAI, or Informal Anarchist Federation.

“We have decided to make our voice heard with words and with facts, we will destroy the system of dominance, long live the FAI, long-live Anarchy,” said the note, written in Italian, which was released in the evening by the police.

The incidents bore similarities to an episode in Greece last month in which far-left militants sent parcel bombs to foreign governments abroad and to embassies in Athens.

The note was signed by the “Lambros Fountas revolutionary cell” of the FAI, named for a Greek anarchist killed in a clash with Athens police in March. It also made reference to anarchist movements in Chile, Mexico, Spain and Argentina.

“Greece, Italy and Spain have seen the presence of anarcho-insurrectionalist groups that are tightly linked,” Italy’s Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said before the note was found. “They are very violent.”

The FAI is well known to Italian authorities. Intelligence services said in a report to parliament last year that it was “the main national terrorist threat of an anarchist-insurrectionalist type.”

In December 2009 the group claimed responsibility for a bomb that partially exploded in a tunnel under Milan’s Bocconi University at 3 am, causing no casualties.

No note was found at the Swiss embassy, but police said the packages that exploded were almost identical.

The explosions came at a time of tension in Italy. Last week saw an anti-government student protest that descended into some of the worst street violence in Rome for many years.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini condemned the incidents, which he said were a serious threat to diplomatic missions in Rome. He urged caution and warned against alarmist reactions.

The attacks, like those in Greece, focused attention on Europe’s domestic security threats at a time when authorities had otherwise been warning of the risk of attacks by al Qaeda.

“It doesn’t look like a typical jihadist thing. It looks more like the act of a leftist, fringe group,” said Stephan Bierling, professor of International Politics at Regensburg University in Germany.

Spending cuts caused by the financial crisis have led to demonstrations and strikes around Europe, and experts expect a rise in political violence by far-left groups.

“Given the similarities with the recent parcel bombs in Greece following anti-austerity protests, this could be a copycat incident by domestic activists,” said Samantha Wolreich, European risk analyst at advisory firm AKE.

This is from Wikipedia

Informal Anarchist Federation
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, search
Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI) (in Italian: Federazione Anarchica Informale), not to be confused with the Italian Anarchist Federation (also FAI) is an Italian insurrectionary anarchist organization. It has been described by Italian intelligence sources as a “horizontal” structure of various anarchist terrorist groups, united in their beliefs in revolutionary armed action. Groups comprising the FAI act both as separate organizations and also under the FAI, and are known to format group campaigns.

Their ideology is opposed to both the current European order and Marxism, which they see as solely a replacement of one form of oppressive authority with another.

The organization is composed by the following groups:
July 20th Brigade
Five C’s
International Solidarity
Cooperative of Hand-Made Fire & Related Items

These groups represent factions of the FAI. Beyond the organization, each group has also forged its own set of alliances. The New Red Brigades/Communist Combatant Party is an allied of the FAI. Collaboration between these anarchist groups and more established Marxist groups, essentially in opposition to the principles of the FAI, have been a subject of debate in both anarchist circles and within the Italian security community. These claims have been supported with claims of solidarity between the FAI and the newest incarnations of the Red Brigades.

In 2003, the group claimed responsibility for a bomb campaign targeting several European Union institutions. It had stated to target “the apparatus of control that is repressive and leading the democratic show that is the new European order”. To address the situation, an order was issued to halt all packets addressed to EU bodies from post offices in the Emilia-Romagna region.

Sources at the prosecutor’s office in Bologna said that the packages mailed to Trichet, Europol and Eurojust contained books and photocopies of a leaflet from the Informal Anarchist Federation. The leaflet described the Italian group and talked about its “Operation Santa Claus.” After the December attack on the Italian politician Romano Prodi, the FAI sent a letter to La Repubblica newspaper saying it was opposed to the European Union and claiming the attack was carried out “so the pig knows that the maneuvers have only begun to get close to him and others like him.”

The MEP Nigel Farage said his party had predicted 10 years ago the path the EU was taking could end in civil unrest. He classified the letter bombs as the “price of forcing a political ideal on people”. Speaking the day after Mr Titley’s wife suffered the attack, Mr Farage said: “We can only hope that the EU comes to its senses and listens to the people.” Mr Titley reacted, saying: “I think it’s outrageous to make a cheap political point out of a terrorist act. I am almost speechless with anger. I can’t believe that they have done this - it is justifying terrorism and that’s despicable.”

In 2010, Italy’s postal service intercepted a threatening letter containing a bullet addressed to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. A large envelope containing a letter addressed to Berlusconi with the threat “you will end up like a rat” was discovered on Friday in a post office in the Libate suburb of the northern city of Milan. On 23 December 2010, credit for exploding parcels delivered to the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome was claimed by the Informal Anarchist Federation, through many news sources erroneously reported that another group, the Italian Anarchist Federation, claimed responsibility for the mail bombs.

This is from the Nihilist #4

Beware of the State’s Anarchists
In the end of December 2003, various European Union (EU) institutions received a number of letter bombs. One of them is said to have exploded in the hands of the president of the EU Commission, Romani Prodi, but without causing any injuries. The press was quick to announce that this was the work of anarchists. The proof of this was a letter sent to the paper La Repubblica, where a so far unknown group with the name Informal Anarchist Federation claimed responsibility for two earlier bombs left near Prodi’s home in Italy. Italian anarchists, however, take a very different view of whom are to blame: This was a provocation, they are convinced, meant to put Italy’s anarchist in disrepute, and to give an excuse for increased repression against the country’s strong extra-parliamentary left.

While no one had heard about the Federazione Anarchica Informale before the mysterious letter surfaced, there exists in Italy an established anarchist group with a similar name: Federazione Anarchica Italiana (FAI). FAI was established in 1968, and is active in above ground activities such as organizing public meetings and demonstrations, and publishing newspapers and journals. In a statement, the organization’s coordinating committee states that FAI “asserts once more its condemnation of bombs, exploding parcels and such devices, that may strike without discrimination, and in any way look - at best - to be functional to logic of provocation and criminalization of dissent through the media, in a moment in which anarchists are among the protagonists of social conflicts - from strikes, to initiatives against war, etc.”

In its statement FAI also points to the contradiction in speaking of an “informal federation,” and claims that an organization must always be formal in order to guarantee “a libertarian and egalitarian method of assuming decisions.” Other parts of the anarchist movement in Italy believe in informal organizing, but these groups do not use the word federation. The name therefore seems picked for its similarity to FAI’s, and thereby associate this organization with bombs and terror. And FAI believes that “whoever points out a group of comrades to repression is a police or one that cooperates with them.”

If these letter bombs actually were sent by provocateurs, this would not be the first time in Italy’s history. On the 12th of December 1969, a bomb exploded at Piazza Fontana in Milan, which killed 16 people and wounded more than a hundred. Then too, the anarchists were blamed, and several local anarchists were arrested. Three days after the explosion, one of the arrested, Giuseppe Pinelli, died from falling from a window of the fifth floor of the city’s police headquarters - while five police officers were present in the room. The police first announced that it was a suicide, then quickly changed their story and claimed it was an accident. This event was later immortalized in Nobel laureate Dario Fo’s burlesque theater play, Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

Another anarchist, Pietro Valpreda, was convicted of the bombing, and sat several years in prison before his conviction was overturned in a new trial. It has been proven that it wasn’t Milan’s anarchists who were responsible for the bomb plot, but a group of neo-fascists. The bomb plot was the beginning of the so-called “strategy of tension” put into action by Italian fascists in consort with the CIA and Italy’s intelligence services. At the end of the 60’s, it looked as if the Italian Communist Party might be admitted into the government for the first time. At the same time, a new and more radical left emerged, who rejected the whole parliamentary game. A campaign of destabilization was therefore started, where fascists conducted terrorist acts, which were then blamed on the left. In the span of 15 years, 150 individuals were killed in eight bomb explosions; the worst of which was the massacre at the railway station in Bologna in August 1980, where 85 was killed and 200 wounded. Fascists and intelligence agents also infiltrated small communist and anarchist groups where they tried to incite violent acts, at the same time as they were helpful in procuring weapons and explosives. During this time, there were hatched several plots where the fascists, together with their allies in the military and police, would take power in a coup d’etat. It was assumed that the Italian people would accept a “state of emergency,” in order to save the country from chaos and to “reestablish law and order.” However, as the political situation in the country stabilized during the 70’s, a fascist coup ceased to be an option.

Not until 2001 was a group of fascists brought to trial for the bombing in Milan over 30 years ago. In this trial, a former chief in the Italian military intelligence agency SID gave testimony. General Gianadelio Maletti explained that SID had discovered that right wing terrorists in the 70s had been equipped with military explosives from Germany, possibly with the help of American intelligence agents. “The CIA, following the directives of its government, wanted to create an Italian nationalism capable of halting what it saw as a slide to the left and, for this purpose, it may have made use of right-wing terrorism,” Maletti explained. Maletti himself needed a temporary court amnesty in order to testify, as he for the last 20 years have been living in South Africa as a fugitive from Italian justice. He had been convicted in absentia for obstructing the investigation of an attack on the Italian Minister of the Interior in 1973. Four people were killed and 45 injured when the “anarchist” Gianfranco Bertoli threw a bomb at group of people outside the police headquarters in Milan. Bertoli actually had right-wing sympathies, and was a long time informer for SID. SID supposedly knew about the plot against the minister in advance, but did nothing to warn him, and neglected to tell investigators what they knew after the crime was committed.

Before the protests against the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001, Dario Fo published an article called Beware of the State’s Anarchists, where he warned that the strategy of tension was about to be revived. In the article he wrote: “What we are witnessing is an incredible repetition of what happened back then. In the face of the growth of a deeply peaceful world protest movement, the system replies by trying to drag it into a spiral of violence. Therefore we get bombs, and people look for excuses to beat up and arrest demonstrators, hoping that some young people will engage in violent confrontations. And to make sure that this happens, you can bet your bottom dollar that agents provocateurs are already at work.”

Fo was to see his dark premonitions come true, and during the summit protests, one could find extensive evidence of both provocations and excessive police violence. The most tragic event was when the young activist Carlo Giuliani died after first being shot and then run over by an armed police vehicle. The next night, the police raided a school that was used to house some of the demonstrators. Dozens of sleeping activists were brutally beaten by the police, and several of them needed to be sent to the hospital. It has later been proved that the cops themselves planted the Molotov cocktails they showed to the press to justify raiding the school.

There were also several instances of homemade bombs going off in Italy in the days before the Genoa summit. One of these was claimed by a group calling themselves Cooperativa Artigiana Fuoco e Affini (Occasionalmente Spettacolare). This is one of the groups who, according to the anonymous letter to La Repubblica, have joined together to form the Informal Anarchist Federation. Another of the four groups mentioned in the letter, Brigata XX luglio, claimed responsibility for two explosive devices set off in the vicinity of the police headquarters in Genoa in December 2002. Again, many Italian anarchists and leftists are convinced that all these incidents were the work of agents provocateurs.

Whoever is behind these letter bombs: fascists, intelligence services, anarchists, or perhaps lone individuals - one thing is sure: The Italian police and prosecutors are itching to use these events as an opportunity to crack down on a troublesome oppositional element. While the rest of Italy have never heard of the mysterious Informal Anarchist Federation, and are even questioning whether it actually exists, the Italian prosecutors claim to have full knowledge of the organization’s structure and ideology. The city prosecutor of Bologna, Enrico Di Nicola, has told the press that this is an “insurrectionist anarchist organization” which consists of “individualists who don’t accept any type of organization, structure or centralization of decision-making.” Di Nicola further claimed that membership of the organization “may be about 350 in all of Italy.” The question that naturally arises, is why these shady individuals would establish a federation, considering that they don’t accept any type of organization?

To be fair, there actually does exist an insurrectional anarchist milieu in Italy. In issue one of The Nihilist, we wrote about the last time Italian prosecutors tried to crack down on this milieu. This was in the late 90s, after some anarchists were caught robbing a bank. 58 anarchists were then accused of being members of a subversive, paramilitary organization, a group called ORAI (Organizzazione Rivoluzionaria Anarchica Insurrezionalista). However, there was no evidence that this organization actually existed, and after a long and farce like court case, these accusations had to be dropped. (Although a number of the accused anarchists were convicted of other criminal offenses.)

There are signs that a new crackdown on the insurrectionalists is being planed. This time it seems that the authorities are trying to link the insurrectional anarchists with the remnants of the Marxist-Leninist armed groups of the 70’s, such as the Red Brigades. The latest example of this came in August 2004 when someone placed a bomb in a Sardinian village, near a villa where the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi were entertaining his British counterpart Tony Blair. An anonymous caller who claimed to represent the Proletarian Nuclei for Communism, a local Marxist separatist group, warned the police about the device. Despite this, interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu did his best to implicate anarchists, claiming that “the Sardinian terrorist milieu has now brought together remnants of the Red Brigades, separatists and anarchist-insurrectionists.”

This from Athens Indymedia

Diplomacy Lessons
John Brady Kiesling, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer
Athens GREECE +30 210 322 7463 westtothesea{a}

A small group on motorcycles, with an expansive view of what constitutes legitimate targets, can quickly prove the powerlessness of the police to defend private property or even their own police stations. Apart from gasoline bottles, the usual tool is a gazaki (in simplest form a propane gas canister wrapped in a petrol-soaked rag) placed to destroy a car or ATM. The better-organized groups publish short proclamations on sympathetic web sites to explain those attacks.

The “Conspiracy of Fire Cells” (Synomosia Pyrinon tis Fotias — SPF) was an attempt to increase the political impact of anti-authority violence. SPF appeared on January 21, 2008, with a barrage of 12 gas canister attacks against widely dispersed banks, car dealers, and the Public Power Company in Athens and Thessaloniki, during a half-hour period just after midnight. The declared purpose was solidarity with Thessaloniki anarchist Vangelis Voutsatzis, arrested in November 2007 for gazaki attacks.

For the next 20 months, SPF averaged one arson wave a month, usually in Athens and Thessaloniki simultaneously. The number and coordination of SPF’s attacks - presumably six or more 4-6-person teams on motorbikes - alarmed police. SPF’s retaliatory capabilities were an additional reason for Greek police to think twice about arresting “anarchists” for any but the most blatant and serious crimes.

Solidarity with local and foreign anarchists and hatred of banks, police, prisons, the army, and consumer society are the themes of SPF’s 22 (as of 30 October 2009) extant proclamations. SPF is uninterested in class struggle and the quest for a future utopia. The proclamation writers embrace urban warfare not as a means to an end but as an end in itself, resistance as art. Modern consumer society is “slow suicide.” “The revolutionary element of arson is not only in its material destruction but also in the transgressiveness of the act.”

For more of this article

Wikipedia article on Insurrectionary Anarchism

Wikipedia article on Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei

Christmas 2010

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Its the holiday. This year I am without my girlfriend and her kids. It makes for a lonely Christmas. I did get to drop off presents for them yesterday, but its not the same. I like to be there when the presents get opened. Like everyone it seems, I waited until the last minute to buy most of the gifts, my day was Thursday night. I went to the 24 hour Toys R Us and jumped into the madness. It wasn’t too bad.

I am sitting here with my artificial tree made in China thinking I should go back to sleep. Last night I had some brandy with my roommate, bad idea, one glass and I woke up at 5 this morning with my heart pounding in my ears. I thought it was my blood pressure, but no, it was that old friend the hangover come to make my life miserable. No more Brandy for me. It did seem to act as an emetic agent, my bowel movements were something to see, well maybe not.

Later today I will go visit my dad and spend a couple hours at his place up in the foothills of the mountains. I just hope the hangover dissipates completely by then. Doing dialysis does seem to help. But I can no longer drink strong spirits. A glass of wine is about all I can take any more and even that has to be watered down as the ancient Greeks used to do.

Coffee helps. I am drinking a bitter cup of day old coffee, I drink it black now. I can’t have milk and I have lost my taste for sweets. I think it is because this dialysis liquid is a sugar solution and it is all the sugar I need in my body. In fact it is messing with my teeth. That is another side effect of peritoneal dialysis that I had not anticipated.

Well I hope all of you are having a decent holiday. Mine is a bit crappy this year, but I am in decent spirits and shall persevere. My son in France wished me a happy holiday. His mother and I are back in touch via the miracle of Facebook. I wish my son in San Francisco would get in touch. Where there is life there is hope, as they say.

Obama seems to have ended the year a lot better off than we would have thought after the mid term elections. The man seems to be a pretty smart operator after all. But he certainly has been less than spectacular in his performance as far as the progressive community is concerned. But that is because the progressives smelled blood when Obama was a candidate, they thought they had someone who would fight for their agenda. Partly that was because Obama is black and it was just assumed that he would be our Martin Luther King president. But Obama is a centrist. He is an old fashioned liberal Democrat with all the compromises that being a mainstream Democrat implies. He might be slightly to the left of Bill Clinton, but not much. Hilary might have turned out to be more progressive than Obama, but that is just speculation. Once anyone gets into the presidency they change.

We have made it this far, I wonder if we will ever get a human on Mars? We seem to be stumbling right now but perhaps we, and by that I mean humanity, will pick up and carry on with a new leader carrying the torch. China and the EU are waiting in the wings, while the USA stumbles and reorients itself. We need to get rid of all these military obligations the government has burdened us with. The USA needs to focus on rebuilding infrastructure and shoring up the entitlements. We need to draw down that military budget by half or more. Who needs all those aircraft carrier groups? Why are there troops in over 100 nations around the world? Even 1550 nukes is too many. We need nuclear disarmament made universal.

Well I wish you all a wonderful holiday. Peace on Earth and goodwill to man.

More On Cuban Economic Reforms

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

This is an English language translation of the Draft of the changes in the Cuban economic arangements. It is quite long with 291 articles but if you want to know in detail what the Cuban government has in mind, here it is.

From Links

Cuba: Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the Party and the Revolution
Translation by Marce Cameron (Australia-Cuba Friendship Society), corrections by Paul Greene.

Please note that this is an unofficial translation. This English translation first appeared here and is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the translator’s permission. This document forms the basis of a discussion about Cuba’s economic reforms that is taking place throughout the country. The Spanish original is available at

* * *
Revolution is having a sense of the historical moment; it is changing everything that must be changed; it is full equality and liberty; it is to be treated and treating others as human beings; it is emancipating ourselves by ourselves and through our own efforts; it is defying powerful dominant forces within and outside the national and social milieu; it is defending the values in which we believe at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, disinterest, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is to struggle with audacity, intelligence and realism; it is to never lie nor violate ethical principles; it is the deep conviction that there exists no force in the world capable of crushing the force of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity, independence; it is to struggle for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the basis of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism. — Fidel Castro, May 1, 2000

The economic battle constitutes today, more than ever, the principal task and the key ideological work of the cadres, because on this depends the sustainability and preservation of our social system. — General Raul Castro, closing speech to the 9th Congress of the Union of Young Communists, April 4, 2010

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In proposing economic policy guidelines, in the framework of the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, it is necessary to make an evaluation of the state of the economy and the problems to resolve, taking into account the principal events and circumstances, both external and internal, since the last Congress [in 1997].

With regard to the external factors, the international context is characterised by the existence of a systemic structural crisis that is simultaneously an economic, financial, energy, food and ecological crisis, with a greater impact in the underdeveloped countries.

Cuba, with an open economy and dependent on its external relations, has not been exempt from the impact of this crisis, which is expressed in price instability of the products it exchanges, in the demand for its export products and services, as well as greater restrictions on the possibilities of obtaining external financing.

Between 1997 and 2009, variations in the prices of exports and imports resulted in a net loss for the country of 10.149 million pesos in comparison to 1997 prices. On average, the purchasing power of goods exports declined by 15%.

Also, the country experienced the tightening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade that has been imposed uninterruptedly by the US for half a century, a situation that has not been changed by the present administration of that country, and that has resulted in great losses.

However, since the end of 2004, new possibilities of international collaboration opened up for Cuba in the framework of the Bolivarian Alliance for Our America (ALBA), which boosted sources of income from the provision of services, fundamentally medical services to Venezuela and other countries of the region. At the same time, commercial and financial relations with other countries — among the most important of which are China, Vietnam, Russia, Angola, Iran, Brazil and Algeria — increased substantially.

Climatic phenomena in this period caused great economic damage. The losses from 16 hurricanes from 1998 to 2008 amounted to $20.564 billion dollars and those from droughts amounted to some $1.35 billion between 2003 and 2005; to which must be added losses that occurred in 2009 and 2010, which are yet to be quantified.

Internally, there have been factors such as low efficiency, de-capitalisation of the productive base and of infrastructure, the aging of the population and stagnation in population growth.

Beyond the objectives proposed in the Economic Resolution of the 5th Congress, in this period it was necessary to reorient some policies to confront complex problems derived from the external environment, as well as those resulting from the internal environment.

On the other hand, as for the functioning of the economy, there was greater centralisation of the allocation and use of hard currency from 2003.

From 2005 the limitations of the economy to reduce the current account deficit of the balance of payments, bank deductions on foreign transfers and the high degree of debt maturity became apparent; all of which meant a great tension in economic management. This led to the adoption of several measures:

· Strengthening of institutionalism, including the reorganisation of the state and government;

· Emphasising the concept that the economic plan must be adjusted to available resources;

· Prioritising growth and diversification of exports and import substitution, designing special programs and measures to achieve this — among the most important of which are closed financing schemes that permit the use of hard currency in a decentralised way;

· Revision and reorientation of investment policies to better integrate them and avoid immobilisation of resources and other inefficiencies. Alongside this, the available external credit was redistributed towards objectives that had a positive short-term impact on the balance of payments;

· Renegotiation of external debt repayments;

· Transformations in the structure and functioning of the agricultural sector. The publishing of Decree Law 259 on the handing out of unused state farmland in usufruct aimed to boost food production and reduce imports.

· Additional measures for energy savings, including those linked to organisational aspects, such as the reorganisation of freight transport;

· Initiating a strategically important group of industrial investments with regard to the future development of the country; With the objective of lightening the burden on the state of some services it provides, experiments were begun; these included the substitution of workplace dining halls and worker transport for other arrangements, and the renting of barber shops and taxis to employees in these activities.

Even with the adoption of the above measures, given the existing complex panorama they have not resolved the principal problems which limit the performance of the economy, for which it will be necessary to:

· Make use of land that is still unproductive, some 50% [of farmland belonging to the state], and increase agricultural yields;

· Look for alternative sources of financing to stop the process of the de-capitalisation of industry and of the productive infrastructure of the country;

· Eliminate “inflated payrolls” in all economic sectors and restructure employment, including through non-state formulas, applying a labour and salary policy for surplus workers that eliminates paternalistic procedures;

· Increase labour productivity, elevating discipline and the stimulus of salaries and bonuses, eliminating egalitarianism in the mechanisms of income distribution and redistribution. As part of this process, it will be necessary to remove unnecessary gratuities and excessive personal subsidies;

· Recover the export capacity of traditional items; increase sustainably and diversify exports of goods and services, as well as reduce the high dependence on imports with a view to reverse the external financing situation;

· Entrust greater powers, within the framework of the plan, to firms, and effectively boost the initiative of the territories [provinces and municipalities] to enhance their economic development in a sustainable manner;

· Carry out studies on the elimination of monetary duality.

Economic management through the planning system has been centred fundamentally on the problems of the external sector, which, together with the insufficient integration of the objectives of the plan, has contributed to perpetuating disproportions and the lack of correspondence between the plans of firms with that of the national economy. The Ministry of Economy and Planning dedicated its time fundamentally to the search for short-term equilibrium between what was necessary at each moment and the available resources, which ultimately led to it not playing the role that corresponds to it as the governing body of the economy.

For the next five years, economic policy must resolve the above problems based on the projection approved for this period.

Economic and social policy guidelines

The economic policy of the new stage corresponds to the principle that only socialism is capable of overcoming the difficulties and preserving the conquests of the Revolution, and that in the updating of the economic model, planning will be supreme, not the market.

In the economic policy that is proposed, socialism is equality of rights and opportunities for the citizens, not egalitarianism. Work is both a right and a duty; [it is] the personal responsibility of every citizen and must be remunerated according to its quantity and quality.

Beginning with the current conditions and the foreseeable international scenario, economic policy will seek to confront the problems of the economy through two types of solutions, which must be congruent with each other:

· Short-term solutions, aimed at eliminating the balance of payments deficit, which enhance the generation of external income and the substitution of imports and, in turn, respond to the problems of greatest immediate impact in economic efficiency, work motivation and income distribution, and create the necessary infrastructural and productive conditions to permit the transition to a higher stage of development;

· Longer-term, sustainable development solutions that permit a high degree of food and energy self-sufficiency, an efficient use of human potential, a higher level of competitiveness in traditional production areas, and the development of new forms of the production of goods and services of higher added value.

Flowing from the above, the following guidelines have been drawn up in each of the spheres of economic and social policy.

I. Economic management model

General guidelines

1. The socialist planning system will continue to be the principal means to direct the national economy and must in turn be transformed in its methodological and organisational aspects to accommodate new forms of management and guidance of the national economy.

2. The management model must recognise and stimulate — along with the socialist state enterprises, which are the principal form of the national economy — mixed capital enterprises, cooperatives, lessors of state-owned land in usufruct, lessors of state facilities, self-employed workers and other forms which may contribute to increasing the efficiency of social labour.

3. In the new forms of non-state management, the concentration of ownership in legal or natural entities shall not be permitted.

4. The structural, functional and organisational and economic changes to the enterprise system, the budgeted entities and the state administration in general will be carried out in a programmed way, with order and discipline, on the basis of the approved policy, which necessitates a training process in all of the structures which facilitate their implementation.

5. Planning will include not only the state enterprise system and Cuban mixed-capital enterprises, but will also regulate the relevant non-state forms, which implies a transformation of the planning system towards new methods of the development of the plan and of state control over the economy.

6. The separation of state and enterprise functions will proceed through a gradual and ordered process, in which the fulfilment of the established norms is fundamental to achieve the proposed goals.

7. It will be necessary to achieve an enterprise system made up of strong and well-organised firms, and create new organisations of higher-level enterprise management. General rules will be drawn up for these organisations.

8. The increase in the powers of the enterprises will be accompanied by a greater level of responsibility for control over the material and financial resources they manage.

9. Supply markets that sell at wholesale prices, without subsidies, will be developed for the enterprise system and budgeted sector, cooperatives, lessors, usufruct farmers and self-employed workers.

10. The fulfilment of contracts between economic entities, with regard to the quality of the negotiation process and their drafting and signing, will be required as a key performance indicator.

11. The powers and financial instruments to be used by enterprises to direct, organise and carry out the production of goods and services will be clearly defined.

12. The internal finances of enterprises cannot be the subject of intervention by outside bodies; this can only be done through the legally established procedures.

13. Enterprises [will] decide on and administer their working capital and investments up to the limit specified in the plan, and according to the regulations that will be established.

14. Control over enterprise management will be based principally on economic-financial mechanisms, in place of administrative mechanisms, removing the existing burden of controls on enterprise activity.

15. The increased responsibility and power of the enterprises makes the strengthening of their system of internal control indispensable for achieving the desired results with regard to the fulfilment of their plans and goals with efficiency, order, discipline and the strict observance of legality.

16. State enterprises that demonstrate sustained financial losses, insufficient working capital, that cannot honour their contractual obligations, or that obtain negative results in financial audits, will be summoned to a process of liquidation, complying with what is established in this regard.

17. Enterprises, as a rule, will not receive budgetary financing to produce goods and services.

18. Enterprises — after paying taxes and complying with other commitments to the state, and having fulfilled the established requirements — may create funds from their surpluses for development, investments and worker incentives.

19. The incomes of the workers of an enterprise will be linked to the final results obtained.

20. To contribute to local development, enterprises will pay a centrally determined territorial tax to the Municipal Administration Councils [of People’s Power] in which their firms operate.

21. Subsidies for losses will be eliminated. Enterprises will contribute part of their after-tax surplus towards a compensation fund for financial imbalances held by the higher-level enterprise management body.

22. Enterprises will be able to independently decide the number of workers on their payroll.

23. Within the framework of the pricing policy of the competent body, enterprises will decide — flexibly and transparently — the prices of the products and services they offer, and may lower them when considered necessary.

24. Research centres that serve the production of goods and services should be part of the enterprises or higher-level organisations of enterprise management, wherever possible, in a way that effectively ties their research work to the respective production.


25. [Cooperatives] will be based on the free association of the workers that comprise the cooperative. They may be owners of means of production, lessors [of state property] or may use such property in permanent usufruct.

26. The General Rules of Cooperatives should specify that cooperative property cannot be sold, rented or leased to other cooperatives or non-state forms of production.

27. Cooperatives [shall] maintain contractual obligations with other cooperatives, enterprises, budgeted entities and other non-state forms, and sell directly to the public according to their approved social objective.

28. Cooperatives, on the basis of what is established in their general rules, [shall] determine the incomes of their workers and the distribution of profits, and pay state taxes and required contributions [e.g., social security].

29. First-order cooperatives may voluntarily agree with other cooperatives to constitute second-order[3] cooperatives with juridical personalities and inheritance rights, with the objective of organising common processes (of production and services) and buying and selling together with the view of achieving greater efficiency.

Budgeted system

30. Budgeted entities fulfil state and government functions and others, such as health care and educational services. This does not define their social objectives, but rather their obligations and responsibilities.

31. The number of budgeted entities will be reduced to the minimum that guarantee the fulfilment of the functions assigned them, with the prime criterion being the maximisation of savings on personnel and for the state budget with regard to material and financial resources.

32. Budgeted entities to provide productive services or for the production of goods will not be created. Budgeted entities that can finance their costs from their own incomes and generate a surplus will become self-financing, while fulfilling the duties and responsibilities assigned to them, or they will be converted into enterprises.

33. Budgeted entities that are only able to cover part of their expenses with their incomes will be given approval to have part of their costs financed from the state budget.

34. The management system governing the organisational, economic and oversight functions of the budgeted entities will be drawn up, simplifying their accounting.


35. The Provincial and Municipal Administration Councils will fulfil state functions and will not intervene directly in enterprise management.

36. The relationship between the state functions carried out by the provincial and municipal administrations and those of the Organs of the Central State Administration will be defined, making clear the boundaries, links and work regulations and methodologies that will apply.

37. The development of local projects, especially those related to food production, must work towards municipal self-sufficiency, where the principle of financial self-sustainability will be an essential element of this effort, in harmony with the objectives of the national economic plan.

38. In this endeavour, the Municipal Administration Councils will play a fundamental role in the execution of these projects.

II. Macroeconomic policies

General guidelines

39. Achieve better coordination between the objectives of the national economic plan and the design and scope of monetary and fiscal policies.

40. Achieve external [financial] equilibrium, beginning with a favourable balance of payments current account[4], sustained by the behaviour of the real economy that allows for the compensation of the imbalance in the financial account.

41. Guarantee the maintenance of an appropriate relationship between accumulation [i.e., investment] and consumption, and define the rate of accumulation needed, taking into account the process of recapitalisation that the economy requires. In addition, it is essential to establish a more effective relationship between consumption on the basis of incomes from work and the social consumption funds.

To guarantee the production of goods and services:

42. Labour productivity growth that surpasses growth of the mean income of the workforce.

43. A sustained increase in economic efficiency that will allow for the progressive reduction of the levels of assistance provided by the state.

44. An appropriate link between the expansion of social services and the dynamism of the sectors that produce goods and services that increase the material wealth of the country.

45. A sustainable medium and long-term relationship between the imported component of the productive processes and the economy’s capacity to generate hard currency incomes.

Monetary policy

46. Ensure an adequate focus on short, medium and long-term monetary planning oriented to achieving internal and external monetary equilibrium, not in an isolated way but in an integral fashion.

47. Establish appropriate rules for monetary issue and opportunely employ the indicators that allow for its regulation.

48. Develop an efficient inter-bank market that allows, among other things, the creation of a more rational and well-founded system of interest rates, and enhance the use of monetary policy instruments (such as administrative control of credit, obligatory deposits by commercial banks in the central bank, the regulation of interest rates and loans to financial institutions) to manage periodic monetary disequilibria.

49. Apply a credit policy with the basic objective of providing assistance to those activities that stimulate national production, generate incomes in hard currency or substitute imports, and others that guarantee economic and social development.

50. Study the interest rates of savings accounts, the creation of capitalisation accounts and savings accounts for specific projects, and access to personal credit for the purchase of goods and services.

51. Provide necessary banking services, which include the granting of credit to the non-state sector of the economy to contribute to its adequate functioning.

52. Manage monetary policy to regulate the amount of currency in circulation and the levels of credit, based on what is established in the plan and using the instruments defined above, with the aim of contributing to the achievement of monetary and exchange rate stability, and thus orderly economic development.

53. On the demand side, the correspondence between the growth in the amount of money and the circulation of retail merchandise, as well as the possibility of guiding this relationship in a planned way in the medium term, will continue to be the key instrument to achieve monetary and exchange rate stability in this sector; this being a necessary condition to advance towards the reestablishment of the functioning of the socialist law of distribution (from each according to their ability, to each according to their work).

Exchange policy

54. We will advance towards monetary unification in a process that will depend fundamentally on the growth of labour productivity, the effectiveness of the mechanisms of distribution and redistribution, and the availability of goods and services. Because of its complexity, this will demand a rigorous preparation and execution on both the objective and subjective planes.

Fiscal policy

55. Fiscal policy must contribute to a sustained increase in economic efficiency and the revenue coming into the state budget, with the aim of supporting public spending at levels that maintain an adequate financial equilibrium.

56. The tax system must be developed in its progressiveness and scope to make it more effective as a mechanism to redistribute income, while making a positive contribution to policies aimed at the improvement of the economic management model.

57. The tax system will be based on the principles of universality and equity with regard to the tax burden. There will be higher taxes on higher incomes to contribute to the mitigation of inequality.

58. A culture of taxation and social responsibility for the complete fulfilment of tax obligations by citizens and entities will be cultivated to develop the civic value of contributing to the maintenance of social spending and high levels of fiscal discipline.

59. Social spending will be within the framework of the real possibilities of the financial resources generated by the country’s economy, and it will be rational so as to guarantee planned levels of activity without affecting quality.

60. There shall be the continued application of fiscal stimuli and the study of other measures that will contribute to the elimination of subsidies to exportable financing and to those that substitute imports, maintaining the latter while keeping the current official exchange rate. Preferential tariff structures and discounts will continue to be prioritised when it is considered appropriate to do so, based on the principle that export financing as well as production that substitutes imports must be profitable.

Pricing policy

61. The pricing system must be the object of a comprehensive review to enable a correct measurement of economic activity, stimulate efficiency, increase exports and substitute imports, and eliminate subsidies and undue gratuities.

62. The centralised character of policy decision making and the degree of planning of the prices of products and services, which the state has an interest in regulating, will be maintained.

63. Mechanisms that allow greater flexibility for enterprises to set other prices will be established. This will include regulations to ensure that the interests of the country prevail over those of enterprises, sectors and territories without covering up inefficiencies; based on foreign trade prices, all of which will require a strengthening of control.

III. External economic policy

General guidelines

64. Guarantee the comprehensive application of commercial, fiscal, credit, labour and other policies to ensure the desired results of Cuban foreign trade in the development of exportation and the substitution of imports in the briefest timeframe possible.

65. Work with maximum rigour to strengthen the credit ranking of the country in its international economic relations through the strict fulfilment of contractual commitments.

66. Continue giving maximum attention to the ethical conduct and technical preparation of the cadres responsible for promoting the international economic interests of the country, and favour the decentralisation of enterprise decision-making along with the strengthening of the economic, financial, technical and legal preparation of the different negotiating teams and groups.

67. Apply the principle that “those who negotiate do not decide” in all activities undertaken by the country in the sphere of international economic relations.

Foreign trade

68. Increase and consolidate revenue through the export of goods and services, for which solutions will have to be found to all those aspects of an internal nature which today constitute obstacles to exportation; create a real interest in exportation at the level of the country and base the most important and strategic decisions on objective and updated studies of the market.

69. Diversify the destinations of exportable goods and services, as well as maintain the priority and attention given to the social principles of the country and achieve greater revenue stability.

70. Diversify the structure of goods and services exports, with preference to those with greater added value and technological content.

71. Broaden and consolidate the mechanisms of international pricing as a way to protect and promote revenue from the international commercialisation of nickel, sugar, petroleum, coffee, cacao and other products whose characteristics permit this.

72. Develop an integral strategy for the exportation of goods and services, particularly professional services, which includes the creation of an appropriate legal framework and efficient commercial structures, with the capacity to promote joint ventures with foreign capital that guarantee the optimal use of the potential created by the country.

73. Prioritise, in the exportation of goods and services, the sale of technological projects and solutions involving the sending of individual workers. Develop external commercialisation programmes for comprehensive computer developments and applications.

74. Create and develop a strategy to guarantee new markets for the export of medical services and products of the medical pharmaceutical industry.

75. Recover and develop seafood export markets for lobsters and prawns, as well as review current commercialisation schemes to make them more flexible.

76. Ensure, in enterprises and entities linked to exports, that all goods and services destined for international markets conform to the highest standards of quality.

77. Prioritise, in export activities, the comprehensive provision of the necessary resources in all the links of the value chain to guarantee the planned levels of exports. Design the organisation of the corresponding approaches to ensure this.

78. Achieve greater rationality in the country’s management of imports through the reorganisation of enterprises that carry out foreign trade activities and through a better assignment of product classifications to achieve effective utilisation of the country’s purchasing power.

79. Increase the efficiency of the importation process, among other factors, through the development of the wholesale market and especially the reorganisation of consignment activity.

80. Promote an accelerated process of import substitution that guarantees the maximum possible utilisation of all capacities at the country’s disposal in the agricultural and industrial sectors and in human resources.

81. Work systematically, in enterprises that import machinery and equipment, to identify the capacity to fabricate these lines nationally. On this basis, promote agreements of mutual benefit between Cuba’s machine industry and foreign manufacturers with which they have relations. Through such technology transfer, technical assistance and other means, there tends to be a gradual substitution of imports, especially spare parts and components.

82. Promote international machine industry cooperation agreements and modify the structure of exports, favouring metallurgical production and services.

83. Design and establish mechanisms to channel the demand for imports arising from the non-state sectors of production and make possible the realisation of potential export funds.

84. Eradicate, in the entities that deal with foreign commerce, deficiencies due to the lack of analysis of contractual prices and international market prices, poor utilisation of memoranda of intent that underpin commercial decisions, improper formulation and negotiation of clauses and key specifications in contracts, and insufficient control over the fulfilment of contractual parameters and clauses that protect the interests of the country.

Debt and credits

85. Energise the process of foreign debt restructuring with maturity in the short, medium and long term that affect the functioning of the national economy. Design and apply strategies for the flexible restructuring of debt repayment and conclude these processes in the briefest possible timeframe to allow growing and sustained economic performance that opens up access to new financing.

86. Guarantee that commitments made in debt restructuring are strictly complied with.

87. Ensure that external financing is included in the National Economic Plan and does not constitute a source of deterioration in the external financial situation of the country.

88. Establish a policy for the coordination of new credits and their rational use, as well as for the management and control of the country’s debt levels. Revise the existing regulations and enact new ones aimed at ensuring the fulfilment of this policy.

Foreign investment

89. Continue promoting the participation of foreign capital, as a complement to national investment efforts, in those activities of interest to the country and in relation to projections for economic and social development in the medium and long term.

90. Ensure that the attraction of foreign capital satisfies diverse objectives, such as access to advanced technology and management methods, diversification and broadening of export markets, import substitution, the contribution of medium and long-term external financing for the construction of the productive objective and/or working capital for its operation.

91. Improve regulations and procedures for the evaluation, approval and instrumentation of the participation of foreign investment. Rigorous control over the fulfilment of regulations, procedures and contractual commitments by the foreign partner will be established through an International Economic Association.

92. A time limit must be established on those joint-venture enterprises or constituted international economic associations that fail to start operating within the anticipated timeframe and their fate must be decided, avoiding the indefinite consumption of resources and increasing inefficiency.

93. Promote, through the establishment of an International Economic Association, the obtaining of added revenue for the country— in addition to salaries, taxes and dividends — through the lending of diverse services and supplies by national enterprises.

94. Favour, in the process of promoting investments, the diversification of participation by entrepreneurs from various countries.

95. Create and continuously update an investment portfolio of projects for possible negotiation with foreign participants.

96. Promote the creation of Special Development Zones that allow for increasing exports, import substitution, high technology projects and local development, and that will contribute to new sources of employment.

97. Ensure that economic activity of the international economic associations correspond to the projections in the National Economic Plan.

98. Evaluate existing associations/joint ventures with foreign capital and make any necessary adjustments in such a way that they are adjusted to the requirements of the country.

99. Analyse, among alternatives for financing via foreign investment, those industries that, while not producing exports, are indispensable to ensuring other production essential to the economy or in the substitution of imports.

100. Promote, always with economic justification and when beneficial, the establishment of external enterprises and alliances that favour the better positioning of Cuba’s interests in external markets.


101. Favour international collaboration in which Cuba receives and provides according to the national interests, and ensure that all activities are included in the National Economic Plan such that the coherence of these activities is assured.

102. Improve and supplement the legal and regulatory framework, both for the provision of economic and scientific-technical collaboration that the country gives and receives.

103. Continue developing international solidarity through the collaboration that Cuba offers, and establish the necessary financial records and statistics that will allow the required analysis, especially of costs.

104. Consider, to the extent possible, compensation for solidarity collaboration that Cuba provides, at least for the costs.

105. Promote multilateral collaboration, especially through the UN institutions, that brings financial resources and technology to our country in accordance with national development priorities.

106. Prioritise, in relation to international collaboration organisations, materials and technical assistance in the development of diverse sources of renewable energy.

Economic integration

107. Give priority to participation in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), and work quickly and intensely for coordination, cooperation and economic complementarity in the short, medium and long term, for the achievement and deepening of the economic, social and political objectives it promotes.

108. Continue active participation in the economic integration of Latin America and the Caribbean as a strategic objective, and continue participating in regional commercial integration initiatives in which Cuba is involved; these include: the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Association of Caribbean States (AEC), PetroCaribe and others; and continue strengthening the unity of its members.

IV. Investment policy


109. The most critical investments will respond to the short, medium and long-term development strategy of the country, eradicating spontaneity, improvisation, superficiality, and lack of scope, depth in feasibility studies and integrality in the undertaking of an investment.

110. Investments will be oriented with priority given to the productive sphere to generate revenue in the short term. These will be directed towards increasing exports of goods and services, the effective substitution of imports, as well as towards those infrastructure investments necessary for the development of the country’s economy. Maintenance activities must be prioritised before making investments.

111. The Ministry of Economy and Planning will demand more from the Organs of the Central State Administration and the Provincial Administration Councils regarding comprehensive attention to their investment process, from initial conception to the final evaluation, complying with the respective rules. The investor will have the greatest responsibility for planning, execution, control, financing and the implementation of their investments.

112. The quality and status of the General Territorial and Urban Zoning Plans will be elevated at the national, regional and provincial levels, as will their integration with medium and long term economic projections and the Investment Plan. The practice of determining the most appropriate location [Spanish: macrolocalización] will be reintroduced as a working tool in planning to ensure depth, agility and response times in the required consultative processes of the Organs of the Central State Administration and the Provincial Administrative Councils with the System of Physical Planning. Territorial and urban discipline shall be reinstituted.

113. Conditions for achieving the progressive decentralisation of the Investment Plan and a change in its concept will be promoted, conferring powers to approve investments to the Organs of the Central State Administration, the Provincial Administration Councils, enterprises and budgeted entities on the basis of global frameworks for sectors, branches and agencies. Indices of the physical execution and effectiveness of the plan, as well as the development and implementation of norms, will be employed to ensure an ordered functioning of the investment process that is real and flexible.

114. Contracts must constitute a working tool in planning and control at all stages of the investment process, principally in relation to agreed prices and timetables for execution.

115. Systems of payment, salary bonuses and penalties must be evaluated and proposed to all subjects in the investment process and linked with the results achieved in the different phases of the investment, including the new system of double shift bonuses, where the conditions to apply this exist.

116. Investments that are approved, as a norm, will demonstrate the capacity to recoup themselves through their own operations and must do this with external credit or their own capital. Their reimbursement will be effected through revenue generated by their own investment, either through increasing income or reducing costs.

117. An order of execution of investments must be established that allows the minimisation of the simultaneous immobilisation of resources in projects with a long maturation periods. As a matter of priority, it is preferable to plan and execute those projects with the most rapid response or that improve the integrality of key objectives.

118. For long-range objectives it is necessary to establish priorities in stages, which can begin functioning independently of the rest and can immediately begin to recoup the investment.

119. Investment projects in the industrial sector, creating capital goods and intermediaries for the national economy, must give a prioritised response to the strategic objectives of the country.

120. The principles and functions of new management techniques for the investment process will continue being assimilated and incorporated in state investments as well as through the participation of project managers and builders in International Economic Associations to deal with complex investments. To guarantee the execution of investments whose complexity and importance warrant it, the participation of foreign builders and project managers will be carefully assessed and regulated as needed to ensure the correct utilisation of these personnel and the assimilation of positive experiences.

121. Evaluations will be made of bids for design and construction services related to Cuban enterprises, proposing their regulation and implementation to boost the efficiency, competitiveness and quality required in the country’s investment process.

V. Science, technology and innovation policy


122. Create the organisational, legal and institutional conditions to achieve a type of economic organisation and a system of generalisation that combines scientific research, the development of new products and services, efficient production and export management.

123. The results achieved in the sphere of biotechnology, the production of advanced medical equipment, the software industry, educational technologies, and scientific and technological services of high added value will be sustained and developed; as will bioinformatics and nanotechnology.

124. Sustain and develop, also, research regarding climate change adaptation and mitigation, the conservation and rational use of natural resources, particularly of soils, water and forests; and of the social sciences, which is equally necessary in this regard.

125. For the correct orientation of industrial development, studies aimed at the formulation of an in-depth strategic industrial policy must be institutionalised and systematised on the basis of the dynamic trends of technological change. This will have the aim of orienting the industrial sector to be able to assume its proper role in the growing economy, with a productive sector capable of innovation and structural change so that it makes a significant contribution to boosting economic independence and technological sovereignty in strategic branches of the economy.

126. In the specific case of the agricultural sector, the application of science and technology must be promoted to increase food production and improve animal health in all links in the productive chain, decreasing production costs through the production of bio-fertilisers, insecticides and similar products that allow a reduction in imports and dependence on the external market in these lines.

127. In general, socialist enterprises will have to create the conditions to promote the integration of scientific and technological advances into the productive process where possible and necessary.

128. Urgently required work must be done to complete and apply the required legal instruments for the articulation of the System of Scientific and Technological Innovation.

VI. Social policy

General guidelines

129. Continue preserving the achievements of the Revolution, such as access to medical attention, education, culture, sports, recreation, retirement pensions and social security for those who need it.

130. Recover the role of labour as the fundamental means of contributing to the development of society and to the satisfaction of personal needs and those of families.

131. Guarantee the systematic and sustained increase in the quality of services offered to the public and redesign current policies according to economic possibilities.

132. Continue improving education, health care, culture and sports, for which it is essential to reduce or eliminate excessive costs in the social sphere.


In preschool, primary and secondary education work must be done to:

133. Continue advancing in the quality and rigour of the process of teacher education and achieve a better utilisation of existing capacities, through the construction of mixed centres that guarantee the formation of the different levels of education in correspondence with needs. This implies adjusting the size of centres and achieving a better use of the work force.

134. Create in every territory the teaching personal needed to respond to the needs of the educational institutions at the various learning levels.

135. Strengthen the role of the teacher in the classroom and ensure that audiovisual equipment and materials which complement teaching work are used correctly.

136. Gradually reorganise the school network, maintaining in secondary schools the indispensable minimum of intern students and reducing costs through arrangements for transport, food and other necessities.

137. Adjust the levels of activity in primary education, taking into account the demographic situation [i.e., low birth rate].

In higher education, work must be done along the following lines:

138. Graduation in the various fields of study will be in relation to the needs of social and economic development.

139. Boost the rigour and effectiveness of the educative process to increase efficiency of the cycle (the percentage of graduates in relation to university admissions five years prior).

140. Change the structure of instruction in educational fields by increasing by 50% those at the mid-levels and proportionally reducing those at the higher levels in these specialties.

141. Update the training and research programmes in universities in line with new technology, and increase rates of graduation in technological and basic science fields accordingly.

142. Reaffirm that the conditions created for workers to study are based on the principle that such study must be done in their free time and through their own efforts.


143. Enhance the quality of service provided, alongside savings through the efficient use of resources and the elimination of unnecessary costs.

144. Reorganise the territorial basis of services and efficiently use technology at their disposal. Enhance clinical diagnosis and utilise complementary studies rationally, especially those of the most costly technology. Consolidate and require the use of protocols for illnesses.

145. Continue using educational opportunities to discourage self-medication by the public, and implement other measures that contribute to the rational use of medicine.

146. Give maximum attention to the development of natural and traditional medicine.

147. Strengthen promotional and preventative actions that reduce or prevent the appearance of non-transmissible chronic illnesses and their consequences.

148. Adjust the training of newly admitted students in medical specialties , essentially in health care technologies, to the needs of the country.


The development and promotion of physical culture and sports in all its manifestations will be prioritised as a means of educating and contributing to the integral development of the citizenry, for which it will be necessary to:

149. Concentrate attention on the mass practice of sport and physical activity through the reorganisation of the sports system and the restructuring of its network of sports centres.

150. Boost the quality of the instruction of athletes and teachers, as well as promote rationality in expenditures on the organisation of events and competitions.


151. Continue developing artistic education, creation, art and the capacity to appreciate it; as well as the defence of identity and the conservation of the cultural patrimony, all of which must be done while ensuring the effective use of available resources.

152. Generate news sources of income, evaluating all the activities that can be transferred from the budgeted sector to the enterprise system.

153. Rationalise artistic instruction and the training of art instructors.

Social security

154. Reduce the relative contribution of the State Budget in the financing of social security, which will continue to increase along with the growth in the number of retirees. Therefore it will be necessary to continue expanding the contribution of state sector workers and applying special conditions on the non-state sector.

155. Give particular attention to the study and implementation of strategies in all sectors of society to address the high levels of population aging.

Employment and wages

156. Ensure that wage policies guarantee that each worker receives according to their work, and that this generates quality products and services.

157. Prioritise the application of wage increases to those jobs that generate hard currency (or result in it’s saving), produce food and other indispensable consumer goods, and work that contributes to the investment process. Special attention must be given to stimulating the incorporation of scientific advances and new technologies in production, on the basis of the real results obtained through their application.

Modify the structure of employment, reducing inflated payrolls and expanding work in the non-state sector; for this it will be necessary to:

158. Expand the scope of self-employment, not only as an alternative employment option but as a contribution to increasing the availability of goods and services. Apply a tax structure that guarantees that self-employed workers contribute according to their incomes.

159. Develop job placement procedures based on the principle of demonstrated suitability, contributing to the elimination of paternalistic practices. Stimulate the necessity to work and reduce expenditures in the economy and the State Budget.

160. Plan the training of a qualified workforce in relation to current needs and the country’s development, for which it is necessary to correct present deformations in the structure of training high-level specialists, mid-level technicians and qualified workers.

161. Strengthen the role of wages in society, for which it will be necessary to reduce unnecessary gratuities and excessive personal subsidies, while establishing compensation for those who need them.

162. Implement the orderly elimination of the ration book system as a form of distribution that is regulated, egalitarian and subsidised, and which favours both those citizens who need it and those who do not, therefore encouraging people to exchange and resell these products, [thus] stimulating a black market.

163. Maintain social dining halls in the sphere of social services, in the centres of health and education that require them. It is necessary to improve methods of protecting the nutritionally vulnerable or at-risk population.

164. Maintain workplace dining halls where essential, ensuring the sale of these services at non-subsidised prices.

165. Guarantee that the beneficiaries of the protection offered by social assistance are people who really need it because they are unable to work and cannot count on the support of their families. Eliminate benefits that can be assumed by people or their families, and adjust others that are presently offered in relation to increases in benefits and pensions in recent years. In parallel, all social work must be integrated through a single coordinating centre.

VII. Agro-industrial policy


166. Progressively contribute to the country’s balance of payments through this sector. [The nation must] cease being a net importer of food and decrease the high dependence on financing that today is covered with revenue from other sectors.

167. Adopt a new management model in accordance with a greater presence of non-state forms of production that will have to sustain themselves through more effective utilisation of monetary-commercial relations, delimit state functions from those of enterprises as a means of promoting greater producer autonomy to boost efficiency and to make the gradual decentralisation towards local governments possible.

168. Adapt current legislation in relation to transformations in the productive base to facilitate its efficient and competitive functioning, and decentralise the system of economic and financial management. Apply reliable instruments of control and information.

169. Grant independence to the different forms of cooperatives from the intermediation of state enterprises, and gradually introduce integral services cooperatives in agro-industrial activity at the local level.

170. Adjust agricultural food production to demand and the transformation of commercialisation, elevating quality and contractual obligations so that the parties fulfil their obligations; limit centralised distribution to those lines linked to the national balance of payments; give a more active role to market mechanisms in relation to other production.

171. Restructure the current system for the commercialisation of inputs and equipment in correspondence with the new food production scenario and the financial mechanisms that will be implemented, allowing productive entities direct access to these resources through the network of stores to be approved for this purpose in the territories.

172. Modify the system of collection and commercialisation of agricultural products through more flexible forms of management that contribute to reducing losses in the production chains; simplify links between the primary producer and the consumer, and increase benefits to improve the quality of products provided.

173. Prioritise, in the short term, the substitution of imports of those foods that can be produced efficiently in the country. The resources to stimulate this must be concentrated where there exist the best conditions for their effective deployment, with the aim of increasing yields and productive efficiency; at the same time, the application of the results of science and technology must be enhanced.

174. Organise food production in those activities that generate external incomes or that substitute imports, applying a systematic focus or a production chain that takes into account not only primary production, but all links that revolve around the agro-industrial complex. These chains will be developed with the system’s own resources through net export revenue or from savings via import substitution. In the organisation of other food production, a territorial focus must predominate, above all, directed towards self-sufficiency at this level, with an emphasis on the execution of the urban agricultural program, which must be extended to the whole country.

175. Appropriately link agricultural production centres with the processing industry, with the aim of guaranteeing the supply of food to large cities, for export and the internal hard-currency market.

176. Continue reducing the amount of unutilised farmland and increase yields through diversification, crop rotation and polyculture. Develop sustainable agriculture in harmony with the environment while promoting the efficient use of plant and animal resources, including seeds, varieties and technology, and maximise the use of organic composts, bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides.

177. Achieve similar productive yeild on land granted in usufruct as those in the cooperative and small-farmer sectors, where the producers will not be salaried employees but will depend on their own incomes. Prices of the majority of products will be determined by supply and demand and, as a norm, will not be subsidised.

178. Give special attention to the development of profit [sic] and other activities that incorporate value in agricultural products, improve their quality and presentation, save on transport and the costs of distribution and warehousing, integrate small food processors at the local level with large-scale industry, with a view to maximising the availability of food on the internal market, including exports and the substitution of imports.

179. Revive the national citrus fruit industry and ensure the efficient commercialisation of its products in international markets.

180. Develop an integral program to promote the planting of forests, prioritising the protection of watersheds, particularly those of reservoirs, hydro-regulatory fringes, mountains and coasts.

181. Give special attention to the reorganisation of the labour force of this sector, adopting measures that stimulate their continuity and the incorporation of new workers.

182. Organise the workforce into collectives, achieving the correct link between people and the land and the final results of work, thereby boosting the productivity of agricultural workers and improving their incomes and quality of life.

183. Develop an integral system of training in relation to structural changes, aimed at the education and retraining of workers in the fields of agronomy, veterinary science, industrial technology, economics, administration and management; within which will be included training related to cooperative and environmental management.

184. Concentrate investments among the most efficient producers, taking into account territorial characteristics and links to industry, with priority given to irrigation and the reconditioning of agricultural and industrial equipment necessary to absorb increased productivity and achieve greater efficiency.

185. Reorganise irrigation and agricultural machinery services to achieve a rational use of water, hydraulic infrastructure and the available agricultural equipment, combining the use of animal traction with advanced technology.

186. Guarantee specialised banking services for the agricultural sector to assist producers, facilitating financing and control over its use.

187. Achieve more integrality in the development of science and technology, integrating it efficiently with the productive base, improving scientific-technical services offered to producers.

188. Update and carry out programs aimed at the preservation and rehabilitation of natural resources that are used (soils, water, forests, animals and plants) while training producers in ecological management and rigorously applying established regulations and penalties for their violation.

189. Effectively develop the municipal food self-sufficiency program supported by urban and suburban agriculture.

190. Execute the suburban agriculture program with the efficient utilisation of farmland surrounding cities and towns, with the lowest possible costs in terms of fuel and imported inputs, employing their own local resources and ample use of animal traction.

191. Execute the gradual transformation of the food/agro-industry, including its local development, based on better utilisation of raw materials and the diversification of production.

192. Apply management systems for food quality in correspondence with the established norms and the demands of customers.

193. The sugar agro-industry will have as its primary objective of increasing the production of cane in a sustained manner. The relationship between sugar mills and sugarcane producers must be improved as this industry develops. At the same time, diversify production taking into account international market conditions, achieving the best use of the mills and derivative plants.

194. Gradually increase the production of sugar and its derivatives to achieve hard currency revenue that will allow for the financing of the total costs of production, plus the value of the investments carried out, so that this industry makes a net contribution to the country. The behaviour of sugar prices on the international market will have to be taken into account when determining the sale price of sugarcane and sugar.

195. Advance the creation and rejuvenation of sugar industry derivative and by-product plants, prioritising those that produce alcohol, animal feed, bio-products and others.

196. Achieve a rational use of coastal fishing resources and increase productivity and efficiency of this sector, principally in aquiculture, while improving technological discipline, the adequate mastery of genetics and fish-raising practices. Generate net external revenue to finance the importation of industrial inputs that the country cannot produce.

VIII. Industrial and energy policy

Industrial policy

General guidelines

197. Orient industrial development fundamentally towards promoting exports, reducing the imported component.

198. Foster an appropriate technical infrastructure for standardisation, metrology, quality control and the certification of industrial property.

199. Reorient industrial production in the short term with a view to meeting the requirements of the market for the necessary inputs for the different forms of production (in particular cooperatives and self-employed workers); as well as developing the supply of equipment for small-scale production, in particular to assist the development of local industry, with new types of machinery that are easy to use and maintain.

200. Give priority attention, in the design of the investment process, to the environmental impact associated with industrial development, particularly in the chemical and petrochemical sectors and with nickel, cement and other construction materials.

201. Intensify the process of restructuring and resizing industrial training centres, promoting the rational concentration of dispersed capabilities.

202. Prioritise the training of technical personnel and qualified cadre, as well as collaboration between entities that participate in scientific-technological activities, the execution of research and development programs and environmental impact mitigation.

Guidelines for the main branches

203. Consolidate the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry as one of the activities with the greatest export capacity of the economy, and incorporate new products into the national market to substitute imports.

204. Boost technological sovereignty in the development of telecommunications infrastructure for telemedicine, and promote the development of new technological platforms in neuroinformatics, cognitive neuroscience, neurotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics and telemedicine.

205. Improve the position of the nickel industry in markets, raising the quality of its products and reducing its costs.

206. Rapidly execute projects underway for the exploitation of small mineral deposits, particularly for the production of gold, chrome, copper and zinc.

207. Make investments in the electronics and info-communications industries that can sustain and develop what has been achieved according to the economic possibilities of the country.

208. Create organisational structures that integrate the processes of financing, research and development (R & D), production, engineering and technical support of products and services with high export potential.

209. Develop the capabilities for [industrial] design, integrating them with leading enterprises in the sector.

210. Strengthen technological research and monitoring capabilities, as well as the policy of registering patents and industrial property in Cuba and in the principal destination markets, achieving international certification of products and processes.

211. Continue the development of the Cienfuegos Industrial Complex that will supply high value products such as ammonia, urea, liquefied gas and PVC plastic.

212. Increase the production of fertilisers with the redevelopment of the country’s nitrate and ammonium plant; the rehabilitation of the granulated fertiliser plant in Matanzas, promoting the use of nationally produced raw materials such as phosphorate and zeolite. Advances will be made in the substitution of herbicide imports.

213. Develop the production of new tires, fundamentally for agriculture and transportation; achieve the rehabilitation of the retread centres, increasing their installed capacity and expanding the capacity for cold recaps.

214. Develop the container and packaging industries with an integrated conception of their activity.

215. Develop, in the construction materials industry, products of higher added value to satisfy the demands of the country’s priority investment programs (firstly industrial projects, tourism and housing) and sales to the public, as well as to increase exports.

216. Carry out investments in the ferrous metallurgical industry to expand capacities, reduce energy consumption, diversify the production of long-rolled steel and shaped metals; and to improve their quality, consolidate the steel-wire productive chain and upgrade the production of its derivatives.

217. Promote the intensification of recycling activities, such as closed-cycle industry, which will require its recapitalisation and re-outfitting.

218. Undertake a process of restructuring and reorganising the mechanical industry from dispersed capabilities in various ministries, carrying out investments to renovate machine tools and equipment that is technologically outdated and in poor technical condition (to the degree economically feasible).

219. Increase its exports, diversifying markets and making full use of the possibilities of South-South trade, including the development of strategic links for integration, cooperation and industrial complementarity.

220. Undertake, in the short term, a process of reorganisation and restructuring of the enterprise system in the light industrial sector to permit the elimination of oversized structures and payrolls, and required technical-productive and managerial changes.

221. Modify the management model of local industry, making its operation more flexible and thereby allowing the development of artisanal production and the fabrication of consumer goods in small quantities or custom-made, such as in the provision of repair and maintenance services. This includes the expansion of opportunities for non-state activities.

Energy policy

222. Increase the national production of oil and accompanying gas, developing known deposits and accelerating geological studies aimed at finding new deposits, including the exploration works in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Gulf of Mexico.

223. Boost oil refining capacity, achieving volumes that allow a reduction in imports of oil derivatives.

224. Significantly increase the efficiency of electrical generation, dedicating the necessary attention and resources to the maintenance of plants in operation, and achieve high indices of spare capacity in the thermoelectric plants and in the [decentralised] clusters of electrical generators.

225. Conclude the programme of installation of the fuel oil generator clusters and give priority attention to the installation of combined cycles in the Jaruco, Calicito and Santa Cruz del Norte plants.

226. Maintain an active policy in the setting of electricity loads that avoid or diminish maximum demand and reduce their impact on generation capacities.

227. Pursue the programme of the rehabilitation of electrical networks and the elimination of low-voltage zones, achieving planned savings through the reduction of losses in the distribution and transmission of electrical energy.

228. Maximise cogeneration and tri-generation wherever possible, particularly in the generation of electricity by the sugar industry through the use of bagasse and sugarcane, as well as forestry residues, creating the conditions to cogenerate in the inactive phase of the sugar industry, both in refining and distilling.

229. Maximise the use of the various sources of renewable energy: biogas, wind, hydroelectric and others will be used; prioritising those that will have greater economic benefit in the short term.

230. Realising the potential for savings identified in the state sector will be prioritised, and work will be done to tap the efficiency reserves in the residential sector; including the revision of current tariffs so that they fulfil their role as regulators of demand. In the new production frameworks — be they self-employed workers or cooperatives — a non-subsidised electricity tariff will apply.

231. Give special attention to energy efficiency in the transport sector.

232. Conceive of new investments for the efficient use of energy, with adequate procedures for supervision.

233. Improve the work of planning and control of the use of energy carriers, broadening the range and quality of efficiency indicators and established consumption indices.

234. Project the work of the education system and the mass media in enhancing the quality and integrality of the policy focused on energy conservation and the efficient and sustainable use of energy.

IX. Tourism policy


235. The fundamental objective of this sector is the direct capturing of hard currency from outside the country through a competitive position in the tourism market.

236. Increase Cuba’s competitiveness in the market through the improvement of the quality of services and the achievement of an appropriate coherence in relation to quality/price.

237. The forms of commercialisation and promotion will be improved using the most advanced technologies, as well as diversifying the source markets and resuming high growth rates.

238. Achieve increased numbers of arrivals from more countries, access new segments of the market and rapidly create new products for offer.

239. Diversify complementary accommodation packages with new options that distinguish them from the competition in marinas, boats, golf courses, real estate, adventure and eco-tourism, theme parks, cruise ships, culture and heritage, health tourism and others.

240. Expand destinations within Cuba, including those on the south coast. In the sphere of promotion, carry out a transformation in the administration and allocation of destinations and techniques to use, both in the institutional realm and in enterprises; prioritise the use of the internet in getting across what distinguishes our tourism in relation to the competition and additional offers, and achieve greater effectiveness of the tourism offices and enterprises outside the country, so that they are more cost-effective.

241. Non-state activity in accommodation, food services and other tourism services will continue to be developed to complement what is offered by the state.

242. Consolidate an integral self-financing scheme for tourism, with the objective of achieving its assured and efficient functioning in all aspects of the tourism industry. In particular, it will be necessary to study supply mechanisms for tourism entities that take advantage of the potential of all productive forms at the local level.

243. Develop, as part of the municipal initiative of the territories, attractive tourism offers as a source of hard currency incomes. Study each urban or rural population surrounding the tourism poles, and design equestrian, countryside, rural tourism, eco-tourism and other activities.

244. Energise and push forward the development of national tourism through the creation of offers that allow the better utilisation of the infrastructure created.

245. In the investments carried out, achieve the planned efficiency indicators, reducing costs and spending without affecting the quality of service; apply new forms of contracting of the workforce; broaden the application of automated management systems.

246. Boost the participation of national industry and services in the resources used in the operations and investments of the tourism industry, to contribute to the development of other branches of the economy.

247. Prioritise the maintenance and renovation of tourism infrastructure.

248. Consider what tourism support infrastructure it is necessary to create, and the maintenance and renovation of existing infrastructure. Also, as tourism is a sector that makes significant use of environmental conditions, policies that guarantee the sustainability of its development must be applied. Implement measures to diminish water consumption by tourists, increase the use of renewable energy sources and the recycling of the waste generated in the provision of tourism services.

X. Transport policy


249. Continue the recuperation, modernisation and reorganisation of transport, with the objective of improving the quality and efficiency of freight and passenger transportation services, through the rational use of all resources, especially energy, providing the most economic option.

250. Deepen the balance of freight moving capacity in the country, prioritising the use of the most efficient means of transport. In this sense, the order of priority shall be rail, coastal shipping and specialised transport firms.

251. The development of transportation activity must be self-financing over time through energy savings obtained as a result of investment policy and the replacement of the fleet.

252. Increase, in land transport, the share of the specialised fleet as a proportion of total transportation, both in road and rail transportation; rail will improve its index of freight traffic and increase a return on investment with the necessary integrality.

253. Plan the expansion of “door to door” freight transportation methods.

254. Prioritise railways in the road network improvement program, which requires integration of the country’s investment program and a joint effort between those entities linked to the construction, maintenance, use and preservation of the road network.

255. Organise transport in the coastal shipping lines, providing fixed itineraries where feasible.

256. Develop the national merchant fleet as an important support for the country’s foreign trade and the reduction of freight costs.

257. Boost the efficiency of maritime port activity through an increase in rates for the unloading of ships, eliminating payment for dead freight, and make better use of ship capacities.

258. Work on the re-equipping and modernising, including dredging where necessary, of the country’s key ports that serve as hubs for foreign trade, as a means to improve the attention given to ships and to increase the efficiency of maritime-port activity.

259. The gradual development of port infrastructure will have to be carried out in step with the availability of international financing, whose repayment will be associated with freight invoicing and container storage.

260. Carry out port infrastructure investments with the comprehensiveness that permits improvements in the efficiency of loading and unloading operations; reduces the time of unnecessary container storage; increases their rotation; and allow for appropriate warehousing logistics.

261. Achieve an efficient investment program in the development of ports and of operational services in Mariel, which will be decisive in the recuperation of port infrastructure, equipment and operational capacity.

262. Give special attention to new frameworks, in the form of cooperatives or other formulas of social participation in passenger transport activity, that result in an increase in quality and the capacity to respond to the demand for these services, according to the characteristics of each territory.

263. Rail transport will be increased and transportation times will be reduced, as will — proportionally — the numbers of passengers who travel by bus.

264. Organise and prioritise the attention given to, and the quality of, technical services for the maintenance and technical availability of the means of transportation, including those of the non-state sector.

265. The civil aviation service for passenger transportation nationally and internationally must assume a growth path related to tourist arrivals, tourism activities and national demand, utilising the national fleet with a greater percentage of occupancy.

266. Reduce waiting times and procedures in airport services, which are linked to a higher quality of service.

267. Increase air cargo on the basis of a better utilisation of the specialised fleet — directed firstly at offering services that bring in hard-currency revenue — and work towards a competitive service for the export of Cuban products.

XI. Construction, housing and water resources policy



268. Continue improving the capacity of the country’s building and housing sector, given its importance as an instrument in efficient planning of investments and their associated resources.

269. Boost the efficiency of construction projects employing systems of payment for output, applying double shifts where feasible, increasing the performance of technological and non-technological equipment and introducing new construction technologies, particularly in projects linked to tourism.

270. Consider the creation of specialised nationwide enterprises for construction projects such as golf courses, dolphin aquaria, marinas, spas, theme parks and aquatic parks that are closely linked to the tourism infrastructure.

271. Conclude the study of construction prices in the short term for their modification and implementation, with the aim of measuring the real cost of construction

272. Adopt new organisational forms in the construction sector, such as cooperatives and the hiring of self-employed workers.


273. The maintenance and conservation of the housing stock must receive priority attention, including the adoption of non-state forms of management to solve the housing problems of the population, as well as the growth in the commercialisation of construction materials.

274. Special attention must be given to housing programs at the municipal level, starting with the existing construction materials in each locality and the technical means available to fabricate the necessary materials.

275. Action will be taken to prioritise the construction and repair of housing in the countryside, taking into account the need to improve living conditions and the factors that make these activities more complicated in rural areas. The objective will be to contribute to and complement the stability of the agricultural food production workforce.

276. The construction of new housing must be organised on the basis of the adoption of new means that include a significant proportion of individual effort as well as other non-state means. Promote the introduction of new methods and the use of construction technologies that save materials and work effort, and that can be easily adopted by the public. Regulate the construction of communal areas in multi-family buildings that due to their degree of required technical expertise and complexity cannot be carried out individually by the owners, who must in all cases contribute to their cost.

277. Satisfy, through the construction materials industry, the demand for investments and building maintenance and maximise the export of the most competitive materials, as well as the sale of construction materials to the public at the lowest costs without subsidies.

278. Apply flexible formulae for the leasing, buying, selling and renting of housing, to facilitate the solution of housing demand on the part of the public.

Water resources

279. The water balance constitutes the planning instrument with which to measure the efficiency of state and private consumption with respect to the availability of this resource.

280. The water supply program will continue to be developed with large-scale investments to much more effectively address problems caused by drought and [to promote] the rational use of water in the whole country, increasing the proportion used for agricultural irrigation.

281. The program for the rehabilitation of networks as well as water and sewer lines linked to housing will be prioritised and expanded with the objective of reducing the loss of water in the medium term, with a consequent reduction in energy consumption [to drive water pumps] and an increase in water recycling.

282. Attention will be given to stimulating a culture of the rational use of water, while studying the reorganisation of water service charges, including sewerage, with the objective of gradually reducing subsidies as well as gradually decreasing wasteful use. Regulate the mandatory measurement of [water] use and of payment by state and private customers.

XII. Commerce policy


283. The conditions in which the economy will function, with the diversification of the forms of management of social property and of the participants in the processes of production and service provision [i.e., the expansion of the small-scale cooperative and private sectors], require a restructuring of commerce [internal trade], both wholesale and retail.

284. The structure and organisation of retail trade must be oriented to the diversification of the quality and variety of products and services offered to satisfy the demands of distinct segments of the population and their purchasing power. This is one of the factors that will give incentives to workers.

285. Until monetary unification has been achieved, there will continue to be a two-tiered system of retail trade, offering products differentiated by their quality or characteristics in the existing network of convertible currency stores, and boosting the quality of those offered in regular Cuban pesos.

286. Design a supply policy for the country that takes into account the participation of national producers and the efficient management of imports. Within this, define the forms of wholesale distribution, including those that respond to the new non-state entities of production and services, as well as the scope and characteristics of the retail network.

287. Introduce non-state forms of management, particularly in the case of food services.

288. As a policy for the development of consumption, the consumption of animal protein, clothing and footwear and the sale of electrical goods, construction materials, furniture and household items, among other products, must be prioritised.

289. Restructure the selection of goods and services, revising the retail prices of products that form a part of the family shopping basket [allocated via the ration book], towards their unrestricted sale, without subsidies, in regular Cuban pesos.

290. Structure the provision of goods and services to the public in relation to effective consumer demand. Revise the current prohibitions that limit commerce.

291. Exercise effective control over the management of purchases and the rotation of inventories in the entire commercial network, both wholesale and retail, with a view to minimising losses and the tying up of resources.

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