Posts Tagged ‘human rights abuses’

Venezuela: oil producer’s slump reflects nation’s decline

October 28, 2018

“What we need above all is to get our democracy back.”

Blighted by corruption and mismanagement PDVSA’s decline is intensifying the search for a solution to the country’s woes

By Gideon Long in Caracas and John Paul Rathbone in Washington

In the lobby of the building where Iván Freites works, a photograph of an oil rig covers one wall. Emblazoned across it is the Venezuelan flag and a quote from former president Hugo Chávez. “We want Venezuelan oil to bring peace and love,” it reads.

Mr Freites, a union leader at PDVSA, the state oil company, would like that too. But having seen the Chávez government and subsequent regime of Nicolás Maduro plunder the oil producer, strip it of investment, sack experienced managers and replace them with military officers, he no longer thinks that outcome is possible, at least not for now.

“I’ve worked at PDVSA for 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he says. “What we need above all is to get our democracy back.”

The parlous state of PDVSA, which oversees the world’s largest energy reserves according to the US Energy Information Administration, helps to explain the depth of Venezuela’s collapse and why it finds itself in the eye of a political storm.

People wait in line for propane gas in front of a mural of the late Hugo Chavez in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas on Sept. 13, 2018.Photographer: Adriana Loureiro Fernandez/Bloomberg

Corruption and mismanagement have seen Venezuelan oil output, which accounts for 90 per cent of legal export revenues, plummet to its lowest level in three quarters of a century. The economy has halved in five years, a contraction worse than those in the Great Depression or Spanish civil war. Hyperinflation, meanwhile, is comparable to Germany in 1923.

The brutal recession has sparked an exodus comparable with the flight of Syrian refugees. More than 2m of Venezuela’s 30m population have fled since 2015. With the UN estimating 5,000 departures each day, another 2m could have left by the end of 2019. It has turned the country into a major source of regional instability.

Latin American neighbours, especially Colombia, are struggling to cope. As the oil industry implodes and exacerbates the plight of Venezuelans, the international community increasingly believes something must be done.

The burning question is: what?

Image result for venezuela, oil workers, despair, photos

From the start of his presidency, Donald Trump made Venezuela a US foreign policy priority, alongside North Korea and Iran.

“President Trump started on day one — literally on day one — asking about Venezuela,” said Fernando Cutz, a former Trump White House adviser, at a recent seminar at the Wilson Center in Washington. “It was a priority of his from the very start.”

The US, alongside Canada and Europe, has since levied sanctions on officials accused of corruption and human rights abuses. Last month, Mr Trump hinted again at the possibility of invasion. “All options are on the table,” he said.

“The strong ones, and the less than strong ones. Every option — and you know what I mean by strong.” Regional leaders and diplomats are usually the last to support such belligerence. But Luis Almagro, head of the Organisation of American States, believes no option should be discarded.

“The entire premise of ideas such as responsibility to protect is that we must act before we are counting the dead,” he has said.

Image result for PDVSA, photos

Venezuelan oil output in September, its lowest since the 1940s. Some analysts estimate it could fall as low as 700,000 b/d by the end of the year 450,000 b/d Volume of oil that Venezuela earns cash on — most is sent to China and Russia to pay debts, shipped to Cuba or fed into its domestic fuel market $300bn Volume of money estimated to have been stolen or misappropriated from the $1tn Venezuela earned during the commodities boom Amnesty International has called Venezuela’s human rights crisis “unprecedented” and five Latin American countries, alongside Canada and France, have asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Mr Maduro for crimes against humanity.

All the while, Mr Maduro repeats his mantra that the US is subjecting Venezuela to “economic war”, and wants to get its hands on the nation’s oil. Few believe him. And given PDVSA’S shrinkage, there is currently not much of an oil industry to seize. “Leave Maduro be for the next year and you’ll see where that level of production goes to. The US really doesn’t have to do much,” says Raul Gallegos, a Venezuela analyst at Control Risks.

Image result for Pumping oil in Lake Maracaibo, photos

Pumping oil in Lake Maracaibo © Reuters

Ever since it was discovered in Lake Maracaibo in the 1920s, oil — or “the devil’s shit” as one energy minister called it — has dominated the country’s economy.

Image result for PDVSA, photos

Venezuela was a founding member of Opec and when President Carlos Andrés Pérez nationalised the industry and founded PDVSA in 1976, it pumped over 3m barrels a day. Today, the figures speak for themselves. Production has halved in six years and dropped by a third in the past year alone.

Rig counts, an indicator of future production, are at historic lows, pointing to further declines. In September, Venezuela pumped just 1.2m b/d, its lowest output since the 1940s. Although most analysts consider 1m b/d to be a floor given its joint ventures with foreign producers, some believe output could drop as low as 700,000 b/d by the end of 2019.

Image result for Caracas street, electricity blackout, afp, photos

People stand outside a subway station during a general blackout in Caracas.  AFP Photo

“It is one of the worst collapses in history,” says Francisco Monaldi, a fellow in Latin American energy policy at the Baker Institute. PDVSA’s demise has rippled through the country. The biggest refinery, Amuay, is running at 20 per cent capacity, Mr Freites says.

The smaller Cardón, El Palito and Puerto La Cruz refineries barely function as PDVSA struggles to deliver mixing chemicals and crude to these sites. With less oil being refined, blackouts are common. “There are towns and villages that go five or six days without electricity,” Mr Freites says. Gasoline is also in short supply.

“I’ve just been to fill up my car and I waited in line for an hour,” he says. “That’s quite normal.” PDVSA itself is on the brink of financial collapse. It has defaulted on all its bonds except a 2020 issue because, if it fails to pay that, PDVSA risks losing Citgo, its US refining asset, which has been pledged as collateral. The scale of the theft and mismanagement that lie behind PDVSA’S collapse has been prodigious.

Image result for electricity blackouts, caracas, venezuela, photos

Electricity blackouts are common © AFP

In 2015, Jorge Giordani, a former planning minister, estimated that of the $1tn that Venezuela received from the windfall of the commodities boom, two-thirds was spent on social programmes. The rest, around $300bn, was stolen or misappropriated. In one recent case, a judge in Andorra charged 29 people, including two Venezuelan former deputy energy ministers, with a scheme to launder $2.3bn allegedly stolen as kickbacks from company contracts with PDVSA.

This August, US investigators revealed another scheme to launder $1.2bn of PDVSA funds. According to court documents seen by the FT, the plan involved companies in Spain and Malta, money launderers from Portugal and Uruguay, a German financier, unnamed US and British banks, fake mutual funds, Miami real estate, Russia’s state-owned Gazprombank and a shell company in Hong Kong.

Image result for electricity blackouts, caracas, venezuela, photos

Some elements of the swindle, recorded by a whistleblower wearing a wiretap, read like a Quentin Tarantino movie. On one occasion, a Venezuelan businessman opened proceedings in Caracas by placing his handgun on the table and pointing to a German Shepherd dog at his feet with an electronic “shock collar” around its neck.

The businessman held the remote control. The effects on the broader economy of such thuggery have been disastrous. As oil exports have collapsed, per capita imports have crashed 80 per cent in six years to $11.1bn from $66bn in 2012, levels not seen since the 1940s.

Scarcities of basic goods have prompted anger, spontaneous demonstrations and flows of refugees in ever greater numbers.

Image result for Nicolás Maduro, photos

Nicolás Maduro will be sworn into office for another presidential term in January © AP

On the face of it, the situation cannot continue. Economic reforms announced by Mr Maduro in August have done nothing to tame hyperinflation, still running at nearly 500,000 per cent a year. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that gross domestic product will shrink by 18 per cent this year, 5 per cent next, and continue to shrink steadily after that.

Allies such as China, which has loaned Venezuela $60bn in return for oil over the past decade, seem reluctant to lend more. When Mr Maduro travelled to Beijing in September, his finance minister claimed China had agreed to lend a further $5bn. But Beijing has never mentioned the loan.

Nonetheless Mr Maduro, who survived an assassination attempt in August, faces no immediate political crisis at home. With the help of Cuban advisers, he appears to control the military and is set to win what will certainly be rigged municipal elections in December.

Image result for Nicolás Maduro, photos

The following month he will be sworn into office for another presidential term — the consequence of a sham election victory in May. There is increasing talk in Europe and around the Americas that any eventual solution to Venezuela’s quagmire lies with Havana — long the main counsel to Caracas.

But diplomatic attempts to pry Cuba away from Venezuela have failed so far. Spain has also suggested re-opening dialogue between the government and the opposition. But the prospect of fresh talks having any success are dim. That puts more drastic options on the table. One US plan involves ending its purchases of Venezuelan oil.

Such a ban would push up US pump prices — something Mr Trump will want to avoid before midterm elections on November 6, although Mr Cutz says the White House estimates it would add just 5-7 cents to the gallon. Yet the impact on Venezuela would be devastating.

That is because after it has sent oil to China and Russia to pay debts, shipped oil to Cuba and fed its domestic fuel market, the country earns cash on only about 450,000 b/d of its exports, a third of production. As much of 80 per cent of those sales are to the US. PDVSA’S collapse has since made such action moot. “The guy who’s doing the best job at sanctioning himself is Maduro. He’s essentially destroyed the oil sector,” says Mr Gallegos. That leaves the even more extreme idea of invasion.

As Francisco Rodríguez, a Venezuelan economist at New York-based Torino Capital, says: “The idea of a military intervention has gained support . . . evolving from its previous status as a fringe position.” But China and Russia would oppose any attempt by the UN Security Council to authorise intervention. Nor does the idea cut much ice in the region, which has opposed it.

Moreover, Venezuela is not Panamá, which the US invaded in 1989 aided by US troops stationed in a local army base. Venezuela is twice the size of Iraq and has 100,000 civilians organised into heavily-armed local pro-government militias. The Pentagon opposes the idea.

Recommended Opinion The world has a responsibility to protect the people of Venezuela

“Intervention faces legal challenges in the UN and elsewhere, but more importantly it is unrealistic given the scope and scale that would be necessary,” says Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The key question in Venezuela comes back to: what can be done now to pre-empt an even worse situation later? Diplomacy is not entirely dead. Bob Corker, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met Mr Maduro in Caracas in October.

“One option is to keep doing exactly what we’re doing,” he suggested on his return. “And there maybe is another option or two,” he added, without elaborating. But the diplomatic track requires patience. In the interim, hopelessness leads more Venezuelans to flee, and more still to indulge the fantasy of a Trump-led invasion.

“The world has plenty of time to wait for a peaceful and democratic solution,” says Ramón Muchacho, an exiled opposition leader. “The people who do not have that time are Venezuelans . . . especially those who are dying.”

Crude Output fall lifts prices but markets fear further drop

The magnitude of the collapse in Venezuela’s oil output over the past four years has rarely, if ever, been seen in a country at relative peace. Traders in the market compare it to the type of drop normally associated with wars or violent revolutions, rather than the slow motion crash witnessed in the Latin American country, as two decades of economic mismanagement came to a head. When crude prices were still above $100 a barrel in 2014, the revenues it produced were enough to just about glue Venezuela’s oil industry together, with the country producing 2.4m barrels a day or roughly 3 per cent of global supply.

But after prices tumbled, the extent of Venezuela — and PDVSA’s — problems emerged, with the whole system threatening to unravel. Venezuela is now producing at about half its 2014 level, with many analysts expecting its output to fall below 1m b/d before the year is out.

For the world markets the impact has been profound, with the lost barrels equivalent to the entire production of Opec members such as Libya. Venezuela’s travails have provided a consistent prop for prices since the oil market began its recovery in 2016, with Brent crude reaching $86 a barrel earlier this month. Unfortunately for Venezuela, the price jump appears to have come too late.

The rot within PDVSA is so profound that its output has continued to fall, leaving the market nervous about a further loss in supply. Refineries in North America and elsewhere have scrambled to find alternative barrels, while other Opec countries have raised production to compensate.

Venezuela is viewed by analysts as one of the biggest risks to oil market supplies in 2019. In a tight market, the world needs Caracas’ crude more than ever.

David Sheppard

https://www.ft.com/content/d9be69d6-d7b0-11e8-ab8e-6be0dcf18713

Image result for Venezuela, living on the streets, photos

Venezuelans wait in line to register with Brazilian immigration authorities as they cross the border into Brazil. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Advertisements

Saudi Arabia Expels Canadian Ambassador

August 6, 2018

Move comes after government in Ottawa expresses concern over arrests of civil-society and women’s rights activists in the kingdom

Saudi Arabia said it has recalled its ambassador in Canada and expelled the North American country’s envoy. Above, the Canadian flag flies on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Saudi Arabia said it has recalled its ambassador in Canada and expelled the North American country’s envoy. Above, the Canadian flag flies on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. PHOTO: BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS
.

Saudi Arabia said it has expelled Canada’s ambassador in the kingdom and recalled its own envoy from the North American country after the government in Ottawa expressed concern over recent arrests of civil-society and women’s rights activists in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry early Monday said the kingdom was also freezing all new business and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action.

“The Ministry also affirmed that the Canadian position is an explicit and transparent interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia said it considers the Canadian ambassador in Saudi Arabia as persona non grata and gave him a 24-hour notice to leave the kingdom.

Representatives for Canada’s foreign department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Last week, authorities in Saudi Arabia detained two women’s rights activists, broadening a campaign of arrests that has drawn international criticism and tainted the kingdom’s top-down agenda of change.

Those rounded up in recent days include Samar Badawi, who is known for having challenged the kingdom’s male guardianship rules and is the sister of one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent detainees, liberal blogger Raif Badawi. Ms. Badawi is one of at least 18 civil-rights activists arrested since May, four of whom have been temporarily released, activists say. Many others are banned from traveling outside the kingdom. None of them is known to have been formally charged.

The Saudi move on Monday came after the Canadian embassy in Riyadh said Canada was “gravely concerned” over a new wave of arrests of human-rights campaigners in the kingdom, including Ms. Badawi.

“We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists,” the embassy tweeted on Friday.

The Saudi foreign ministry said the arrests had been carried out by the competent authority under Saudi law.

“It is very unfortunate that the term “immediate release” was mentioned in the statement, which is totally unacceptable in inter-state relations,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.

Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who runs Saudi Arabia day to day, the government has worked to open up a religiously conservative traditional society with steps such as allowing women to drive and opening cinemas, while at the same time jailing critics, including clerics and rights activists.

But the arrests, critics say, send the message that the monarchy alone will decide the pace and scale of social change in the kingdom.

Hundreds of prominent Saudis, including billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, were also arrested in November and detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Most were released after agreeing to make payments Saudi officials say totaled more than $100 billion.

In November last year the kingdom summoned its ambassador in Germany home for consultations over comments by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel about the political crisis in Lebanon. It also handed Germany’s representative in Riyadh a protest note over what it said were “shameful” comments Mr. Gabriel made after a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart.

“This latest move, and what happened with Germany and the Ritz is going to make investors really wary about doing business in Saudi Arabia,” said a Western adviser to the Saudi government.

“The government says they want to revive investments yet they are ticking all the wrong boxes,” said the adviser.

Saudi Arabia’s intention to freeze trade with Canada isn’t expected to cause major economic disruption.

Canada’s trade with Saudi Arabia is relatively small, with exports to the kingdom topping just over 1 billion Canadian dollars (roughly $770 million) in 2017, according to the country’s data-gathering agency.

What trade Canada does have with Saudi Arabia has drawn some criticism.

In recent years the Canadian government has found itself under scrutiny from human-rights’ groups after it approved the sale of light-armored vehicles made in Canada to Saudi Arabia. Nongovernmental organizations have pressed that Canada open a probe on whether Canadian-made vehicles have been used to commit human-rights abuses.

The sudden diplomatic rupture with Canada illustrates how the kingdom, which has long had severe restrictions on free expression, is becoming even less tolerant to criticism and dissenting views. The Gulf state has previously handed protest notes to foreign governments over remarks on the internal affairs of the kingdom, but it rarely expels diplomats.

The Saudi crown prince has been criticized by some observers and Western diplomats for creating a less stable kingdom. Saudi Arabia last year abruptly cut diplomatic and trade ties with its neighbor Qatar after accusing its former ally of supporting extremism, a charge that Doha denies. Saudi Arabia also was criticized for the sudden resignation of Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, when he was in the kingdom. Mr. Hariri reversed that decision soon after he left Saudi Arabia.

Write to Summer Said at summer.said@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-arabia-recalls-ambassador-to-canada-1533512832

U.S. Chief Complaints With The Philippines Remain: Extrajudicial Killings, Impunity, Rule of Law, Human Rights Abuses

April 21, 2018
.
Image may contain: one or more people, shoes and outdoor
.
Photo: Journalists and photograpphers have documented thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines during the Duterte administration. AP/Bullit Marquez, File photo
State Department report: EJKs still ‘chief’ human rights concern in Philippines

Ian Nicolas Cigaral (philstar.com) – April 21, 2018 – 11:21am

MANILA, Philippines — The alleged cases of summary execution in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war remains a major human rights concern in the Philippines, amid rising impunity following a dramatic surge in police killings, the US State Department said in its global rights report for 2017.

“Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the antidrug campaign in 2016, they continued in 2017,” read the report released Friday (Washington time).

Duterte, who is notorious for his defiance of international pressure and rejection of criticisms on his rights record, easily won the race to Malacañang on a brutal law and order platform.

Human rights monitors say most of the fatalities in the government’s anti-narcotic drive are extrajudicial killings committed by cops taking a frontline role in the lethal campaign and unknown assailants.

But the force had vehemently denied executing suspected drug traffickers in cold blood, saying deaths in police shootings were done in self-defense.

Amid the mounting death toll, critics say Duterte is waging a “war on poor,” making him liable for crimes against humanity for giving cops the “license to kill.”

Citing the 900 drug-related deaths reported by media from January to September last year, the State Department said concerns about police impunity “increased significantly.”

The US government also expressed doubt over the accuracy and legitimacy of Duterte’s list of alleged drug personalities.

“Police claimed to have begun investigations of all reports of extrajudicial killings,” the report read in part.

“Some civil society organizations accused police of planting evidence, tampering with crime scenes, unlawfully disposing of the bodies of drug suspects, and other actions to cover up extrajudicial killings,” it added.

Aside from the drug war, the report likewise flagged other “most significant” human rights issues in the country, including life threatening prison conditions, warrantless arrests, the state’s “disregard” for due process, violence against the free press and rights activists, and forced labor, among others.

Duterte-Trump

The report’s release comes at a time of improving Manila-Washington ties, as US President Donald Trump cozies up to Duterte, whom the American leader said was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

In a departure from previous policy of past American leaders to call out human rights violators, Trump had also reportedly said that “Filipinos don’t have drug problem [because] they just kill them.”

Asked how the State Department report is consistent with the human rights policies of Trump—who has been criticized for his apparent affinity for leaders accused of being authoritarian like Duterte—senior State Department official Michael Kozak maintained that the report is “factual.”

“Now, does that mean that the President should never speak to these people? We’re trying to keep the report as the factual baseline for what we’re going to do in policy terms or sanctions as the secretary was mentioning. So we can learn a lot from this, and we can use it to formulate a policy,” Kozak, who helped oversee the report, said in a press conference.

“But usually part of your policy is engaging with the people whose behavior you’re trying to change at some level. And I don’t think those two things are in distinction,” he added.

“The fact is, these other governments and their populations do read the report… And when the President speaks to their leader, often he’s talking about these issues, so it’s – it’s complementary, it’s not a – two things that are in conflict.”

DRUG WARHUMAN RIGHTSRODRIGO DUTERTEUS STATE DEPARTMENT

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/04/21/1808082/state-department-report-ejks-still-chief-human-rights-concern-philippines#088lxvjd7z7D8Etu.99

Related:

 (Includes FT Op-Ed)

.

Philippines: Facebook blocks pro-Duterte websites suspected of spreading fake news

April 14, 2018
Facebook blocks pro-Duterte websites suspected of spreading fake news
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (philstar.com) – April 14, 2018 – 5:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — Facebook has started blocking some pro-Duterte websites that are suspected of peddling fake news, as the world’s largest social network intensifies fact-checking efforts to weed out misleading content and false information.

According to Facebook, users are prevented from sharing content from the websites for not following the social network’s “community standards” and for being “unsafe.”

Facebook has been battling widespread alarm amid issues on the company’s efforts to protect users’ data, as well as accusations that the platform was used as a tool to influence elections and imperil democracies through the spread of false and divisive news.

The proliferation of fake news in the Philippines has prompted lawmakers to hold congressional probes into the matter.

Bloomberg last year reported that the social media giant’s “political team” allegedly trained the camp of President Rodrigo Duterte on how to maximize the platform for campaign.

Among the first and the notable fake new propagated during Duterte’s campaign was the supposed badge of support given by Pope Francis to the firebrand leader, whose almost two decade mayoral stint in Davao City was marred by alleged human rights abuses.

But Malacañang had maintained that it would have been “foolhardy” for any political candidate not to tap Facebook as a campaign tool.

Despite conducting public hearings in aid of legislation on fake news, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media had said Congress “cannot legislate thought control.”

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, who runs a pro-Duterte Facebook page with more than five million followers, is being accused of spreading fake news. — with a report from Janvic Mateo

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/04/14/1805919/facebook-blocks-pro-duterte-websites-suspected-spreading-fake-news#T1RoqrD3fcTLekee.99

Philippine lawyers Blast President for Constantly Threatening Martial Law — “What is with the insatiable appetite for martial law powers?” — “Martial law has a chilling effect…”

January 24, 2018
 / 06:57 PM January 24, 2018

Martial law in Mindanao is nothing but a tactic being used by President Rodrigo Duterte to scare his administration’s detractors, according to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

In a 38-page memorandum filed with the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday, the NUPL said that the Duterte administration had only been taking advantage of the declaration’s “partly psychological” effect on the populace.

“Clearly, another extension – this time for a much longer period – would result in an increase in human rights abuses. But why the uncontrollable desire for the extension? What is with the insatiable appetite for martial law powers?” the group stressed.

Image may contain: 1 person, hat and closeup

“Martial law is the President’s ultimate scare tactic,” the NUPL said. “Martial law has a chilling effect and as Respondent AFP Chief admitted during the oral arguments, the declaration is ‘partly psychological’ as it pictures and embeds in the minds of the populace that a ‘strong authority is in charge’.”

Gen. Rey Guerrero, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), had recommended to Congress the extension of martial law for its “psychological impact” on law enforcement in the region.

READ: Drilon: Martial law for ‘psychological impact’ invalid basis for extension

According to the NUPL, the impact the AFP wants to sustain unequivocally frustrates and circumvents the constitutional safeguards against human rights abuses an the unbridled exercise of presidential powers.

“These safeguards were borne out of the lessons and experience as a nation and a people under the Marcos dictatorship,” the NUPL said.

“Historical and contemporary experiences indubitably prove that the monster of martial law has targeted and will target civilians who have no participation at all in any armed uprising or struggle,” the group said.

The petitioners said the inclusion of alleged “coddlers,” “supporters,” and “financiers” in quelling the reported rebellion would open the floodgates to further attacks against anyone.

“The vagueness and ambiguity of said pronouncement sends a chilling effect that violates the people’s right to exercise vital freedoms and liberties,” the NUPL said.

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people standing

Moreover, the NUPL asserted that martial law was not intended for armed groups but for those opposing the government.

The petitioners noted how Duterte showed a lack of tolerance against those who openly criticized him such as the Church, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission of Human Rights, the media and the courts.

“It is this factual context and concrete situation that the constitutional and bounden duty, not only of the whole Court as an institution but also for each and every individual honorable member of this Court, to exercise judicial review to check on abuse of power, protect and defend freedoms and liberties, and breathe life, guidance and inspiration to its role as a supposed last bastion of democracy instead of allowing it to be an empty shibboleth to the delight and pleasure of fleeting tyrants of any time,” the NUPL said. /atm

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/963307/nupl-martial-law-is-dutertes-ultimate-scare-tactic#ixzz556ISEGhc
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Image may contain: text

Related:

Related: Junta, Martial Law

 (with links to related reports)

Related: South China Sea

.
.

Related: War on Drugs and Human Rights

Image result for Nora Acielo, still clutching the school bag, philippines, photos

In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, people and a policeman looking at the body of a woman, later identified by her husband as that of Nora Acielo, still clutching the school bag of her child, are reflected in a pool of water after she was shot by still unidentified men while walking with her two children to school at a poor neighborhood in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Police said the killing of Acielo was the 13th recorded drug-related case in the past 24 hours in President Rodrigo Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
.

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

Tillerson, in Myanmar, calls for credible probe of atrocities

November 16, 2017

Reuters

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi during a joint press conference in Naypyidaw on Nov 15, 2017. Photo: AFP

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Wednesday for a credible investigation into reports of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims committed by Myanmar’s security forces after a meeting with its civilian and military leaders.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a military counter-insurgency clearance operation in Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

A top U.N. official has described the military’s actions as a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing”.

“We’re deeply concerned by credible reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces and by vigilantes who were unrestrained by the security forces during the recent violence in Rakhine State,” Tillerson told a joint news conference with Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of a civilian administration that is less than two years old and shares power with the military.

Tillerson had earlier held separate talks with Myanmar’s military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, whose forces have been accused of atrocities.

A senior U.N. official on Sunday leveled allegations of mass rape, killings and torture against the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, after a tour of refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar region of neighboring Bangladesh.

Tillerson called for the Myanmar government to lead a credible and impartial investigation and said those who committed abuses should be held responsible.

“The recent serious allegations of abuses in Rakhine state demand a credible and impartial investigation and those who commit human rights abuses or violations must be held accountable,” he said.

“In all my meetings, I have called on the Myanmar civilian government to lead a full and effective independent investigation and for the military to facilitate full access and cooperation.”

He also said it was the duty of the military to help the government to meet commitments to ensure the safety and security of all people in Rakhine state.

A posting on Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page said Myanmar’s military supremo had explained to Tillerson the “true situation in Rakhine”, the reasons why Muslims fled, how the military was working with the government to deliver aid and the progress made for a repatriation process to be agreed with Bangladesh.

The military launched its clearance operation after an army base and 30 police posts were attacked on Aug. 25 by Rohingya militants, killing about a dozen members of the security forces.

CONSEQUENCES

Tillerson condemned the militant attacks, but said any response by the security forces needed to avoid to the “maximum extent possible harming innocent civilians”.

Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attend a press conference at Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Aye Win Myint

An internal investigation by the military into the allegations of atrocities that was released this week was branded a “whitewash” by human rights groups.

Back in Washington, U.S. senators are pressing for economic sanctions and travel restrictions targeting the Myanmar military and its business interests.

Tillerson said he would advise against any broad-based sanctions against Myanmar, as the United States wanted to see it succeed.

Image result for Min Aung Hlaing, photos

Min Aung Hlaing defends military campaign in Rakhine

But he said if there was credible and reliable information on abuses by individuals they could be targeted by sanctions.

 

Tillerson said the United States would work with partners so that those responsible for any atrocities would face consequences, “using all available mechanisms, including those available under U.S. law”.

Myanmar is undergoing a transition to democracy after decades of rule by the military, but the generals retain extensive powers over security and a veto over reform of a constitution that has barred Suu Kyi from the presidency.

“Myanmar’s response to this crisis is critical to determining the success of its transition to a more democratic society,” Tillerson said.

”It’s a responsibility of the government and its security forces to protect and respect the human rights of all persons within its borders and to hold accountable those who fail to do so.”

He said the United States would provide an additional $47 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees bringing the total to $87 million since the crisis erupted in August.

“The humanitarian scale of this crisis is staggering,” Tillerson said.

But he said he was encouraged by talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh to agree on a refugee repatriation process.

During the news conference, Suu Kyi was asked to explain why she had not spoken out more strongly over the plight of the Rohingya, as the Nobel peace prize winner’s perceived failure to speak up has damaged her international reputation as a stateswoman.

“What I say is not supposed to be exciting,” Suu Kyi said, adding that she had aimed to keep the public informed without setting different ethnic, religious communities against each other.

“It’s important to bring peace and stability to this country and that can only be done on the basis of rule of law and everybody should understand that the role of theirs is to protect peace and stability, not to punish people.”

Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel

See also:

https://www.todayonline.com/world/asia/tillerson-myanmar-calls-probe-atrocities-against-rohingya

and

It’s Time To Talk About Min Aung Hlaing

http://www.arakanmedia.com/opinions/its-time-to-talk-about-min-aung-hlaing.html

Related:

Donald Trump’s Asia trip shows that he is being played

November 14, 2017

By Will Gore
The Independent

The Chinese have rolled out the red carpet and thus avoided both tricky questions of the sort usually asked by Western leaders and any sort of confrontation over trade

Such is the paradoxical nature of Donald Trump’s Presidency that it should perhaps have come as no surprise that the man who swept to power on the promise of putting “America First” should undertake a lengthier tour of Asia than any of his three most recent predecessors.

Perhaps he decided that it is more pleasant to be feted as a foreign dignitary than hated as a divisive head of state. Certainly he enjoyed many warm words of welcome from those he visited during his trip – and he repaid the compliments by the bucketload. Yet it remains unclear whether Trump actually achieved a great deal during his 11 days away.

At the outset, he was said to have three objectives, according to General HR McMaster, the US National Security Adviser. First was the promotion of democratic freedom and openness; second was to press for ‘fair’ trade to boost America’s prosperity; third was to deal with North Korea.

In relation to the first aim, it might have been thought that the President would raise concerns over human rights abuses by China, or the large-scale killing of drug pushers in the Philippines, or the lack of media freedom in Vietnam. When it came to it, though, he evidently felt it was a little impertinent to be so rude. He is, after all, always wary of causing offence.

As for the second, he has regularly railed against Chinese trade policies, which he argues amount to an assault on America’s economy. Yet when he was actually in Beijing, he simply told President Xi what a “special man” he was (Xi, not Trump, though he probably feels the same about himself).

 Image result for Protesters burn Donald Trump effigy in the Philippines, photos
Protesters burn Donald Trump effigy in the Philippines

When it came to North Korea, Trump’s attempts to rally a co-ordinated regional response were undermined by his inability to resist a childish Twitter spat with Kim Jong-un.

Of course, Trump can point to a few macho statements – mostly made about China when he wasn’t in the country – which might convince his fans at home that he’s still fighting the good fight on behalf of US workers. But the evidence that he has come anywhere near achieving something concrete in the last week and a half is slim to say the least.

What’s more, he also gave a good impression of furthering his cosy relationship with Vladimir Putin, infuriating America’s intelligence community by explaining that he’d – yet again – asked the Russian President whether he had interfered in the US election and had been reassured by his answer in the negative. Not only that, complained Trump, but poor old Vlad felt insulted by the constant impugning of his reputation by suggestions to the contrary.

As ever with Trump, it is hard to know whether his apparent missteps are intentional – an extension simply of his dismissal of the US establishment and the way things have been done by his predecessors – or whether he is acting on the hoof, pulling punches when flattered and throwing them when riled.

Increasingly however it feels as if Trump – the great entertainer-President – is being played. The Chinese roll out the red carpet and thus avoid both tricky questions of the sort usually asked by Western leaders and any sort of confrontation over trade. Putin, meanwhile, appeals to Trump’s own inflated notion of ego by complaining that claims of Russian meddling in America’s democratic process amount to a personal slight. Trump responds by defending his fellow strongman leader and attacking the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies.

In the South Korean leg of his tour, Trump gloried in being introduced to the National Assembly as the “leader of the world”. But the truth is almost the diametric opposite: Trump is being led, quite often in ways that appear at odds with American national interests, which is a remarkable state of affairs.

The counter-argument deployed by the President is that America’s foreign policy in many arenas has been a failure over many years and his approach will, at some stage, pay dividends. Yet, such an argument pre-supposes that different policies in the past – towards Chinese trade for instance, or Russian diplomacy, or the Middle East – would have had alternative outcomes. It also relies on Trump’s bluster turning into something demonstrable. That is a dangerous game indeed.

But maybe that is the central problem – that to Trump, the Presidency is simply a game, in which beating losers and vying for personal glory are the key aspects. Worse still, while Trump thinks it’s a game for single players, Russia, China and others understand that it’s all about teams. And in the last few days they have benefitted from a series of Trump own goals. 

Much more of this and America will find that it is very far from being first in the modern world order.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-asia-china-north-korea-putin-being-played-a8052261.html

Philippine President Duterte Makes Hero of Late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos — Post Office Follows Lead With Commemorative Stamp

October 28, 2017
 
The commemorative stamps, which bore the portrait and signature of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, were issued last September 11, 2017—the day of the ex-leader’s 100th birthday anniversary. Image of the stamp lifted from Philpost website

MANILA, Philippines — In case you haven’t heard about it, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos has been honored with a national stamp by the Philippine Postal Corp. to commemorate the dictator whose regime was marred by human rights abuses and corruption.

The commemorative stamps, which bore the portrait and signature of Marcos, were issued last Sept. 11, 2017—the day of the ex-leader’s 100th birthday anniversary.

Sold for P12 each, the stamps, which were designed by Victorino Serevo, will be available until Sept. 10, 2018, Philpost said on its website.

According to assistant post master Luis Carlos, the release of the national stamps had no political implication, adding that the postal agency had also issued stamps in the past to commemorate the birth centenary of previous presidents.

“We are just following the guidelines. The presidents who have birth centenaries have stamps issued,” Carlos was quoted as saying in a report by Agence France-Presse.

Accused of committing massive human rights abuses and stealing billions of dollars from state coffers, Marcos was ousted by a bloodless “People Power Revolution” in 1986.

Despite the death of the strongman in exile in Hawaii in 1989, his family has been making a political comeback with his widow, Imelda, and their children getting elected to office.

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte, an ally of the political clan, granted the longstanding wish of the Marcos family to bury the Marcos patriarch at the Libingan in a surprise ceremony.

READ: Marcos buried at Libingan in ‘surprise’ ceremony l Hero’s burial for Marcos: How did we get here?

He also declared September 11 a special non-working day in Ilocos Norte upon the family’s request.

READ: Duterte defends declaring Marcos’ birthday a holiday

See more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Marcos

Many Filipinos say the Marcos government was know for human rights abuses including rule of law violations, murder, police abuse of the people and torture.

Catalan Commission to Investigate Claims of Abuse During Banned Referendum

October 2, 2017

MADRID — Catalonia will create a special commission to investigate claims of abuse by Spanish police during a banned referendum on independence on Sunday after more than 800 people were left injured, leader of region Carles Puigdemont said on Monday.

Thousands of Spanish police were shipped in to the region to prevent the vote on secession though scenes of violence due to heavy-handed tactics by armoured, baton-carrying riot units have received international condemnation.

The vote which the constitutional court banned and Madrid said was illegal, yet still attracted millions of defiant voters, was valid and binding, Puigdemont said during a conference.

The Catalan leader said he had had no contact with Spain’s central government and called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say whether he was in favour of mediation in talks over the region’s future, which should be overseen by the European Union.

(Reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Sonya Dowsett)

Fighting Breaks Out at Turkish President’s Speech in New York

September 22, 2017

Violence broke out at a New York hotel Thursday afternoon when protesters disrupted a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

In the middle of Mr. Erdogan’s speech, delivered in Turkish, a man — one of a handful of protesters — screamed in English: “You’re a terrorist. Get out of my country!” The ballroom at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square instantly erupted, with many attendees chanting Mr. Erdogan’s name to drown out the protesters.

Videos showed the protesters — one of them wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Michael Israel, an American who was killed in a Turkish airstrike while volunteering with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G. — being punched and slapped by several attendees as security personnel removed them from the room. Security also removed at least one person who had assaulted the protesters.

Image result for news for erdogan, new york, fighting, photos

Anti-Erdogan demonstrators are punched as they are removed from a New York hotel, Thursday, September 21, 2017. From a VOA video

Meghan Bodette, who identified herself as one of six protesters (one of whom was filming), said their goal was “to call attention to the Turkish state’s war crimes and human rights abuses against the Kurdish people,” both in Turkey and in Syria.

“Erdogan should not be able to speak here unchallenged, and we challenged him because the American people need to know that a state that claims to be our ally is hindering the fight against ISIS in Syria and destroying civilian lives,” Ms. Bodette said in a Twitter message

Halil Demir, a Turkish-American who works for a humanitarian organization, said he had been standing near the back of the room when three protesters stood up in rapid succession: a young man, a young woman and a middle-aged man. The woman held a green banner, Mr. Demir said. Ms. Bodette identified it as the flag of the Women’s Protection Units, or Y.P.J., the female counterpart to the Y.P.G.

The young man was pulled out of the room, Mr. Demir said, and the woman left on her own after being told to do so. But Mr. Demir said he saw security guards push the middle-aged man, who fell to the ground. He did not know whether the guards were part of Mr. Erdogan’s detail, the United States Secret Service or the hotel’s security team.

“The third man screamed, and people were screaming at him,” he said. “It didn’t take long. Seconds, really.”

Mr. Demir said he later saw the man on the floor, handcuffed, outside the ballroom where Mr. Erdogan was speaking at the invitation of the Turkish American National Steering Committee.

Read the rest:

Related:

Members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail clashed with protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington on May 16. Credit Voice of America, via Associated Press