Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Stop this bigoted bill/Maryland Legislators Will Introduce Anti-BDS Bill


As the settlements continue to grow, in violation to international law, we must stop this pro-apartheid legislation. 


Baltimore Jewish Times
Maryland Legislators Will Introduce Anti-BDS Bill
JANUARY 18, 2017
antiBDSMaryland lawmakers and Jewish advocacy groups are in the process of putting the final touches on a bill that would ban companies that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel from doing business with the state.
The bill, which is expected to be introduced in the next few weeks, would prevent the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System from investing in any companies that participate in the BDS movement and also prohibits companies that support BDS from securing state procurement contracts. The bill would amend the 2008 Divestiture from Iran and Sudan Act, which prevented companies that do business with Iran and Sudan from doing business with the state, to include these measures.
Lawmakers are working with the Baltimore Jewish Council and Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) on the legislation.
Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-District 11), the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, said the push to get Maryland on the record against BDS is part of an effort for the state to stand in solidarity with Israel.
“I just want to ensure that this ridiculous messenger movement against Israel never sees the light of day in our state,” Zirkin said.
The bill will use language similar to that of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin’s anti-BDS bill, which defined BDS as “actions … intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations” with Israel, said Sarah Mersky, director of government relations at the BJC.
This past September, in response to a request from Dels. Sandy Rosenberg (D-District 41) and Shelly Hettleman (D-District 11), a Maryland State Retirement and Pension System staff review found two companies, Denmark-based Danske Bank and Nordea Bank, would potentially be banned from participating in ongoing services. Danske Bank is the only one of those two companies held directly within the pension system with less than $3.5 million, or 0.08 percent, of the market value of the system’s $46-plus million in assets.
In addition to identifying companies that support the BDS movement, the state’s pension system is also evaluating the risk to the system’s beneficiaries and how to address that issue.
On its surface, many feel the goal of the BDS movement is to delegitimize Israel and end the Jewish state.
As a result, Rosenberg said it is critical for Maryland to have a firm approach when it comes to combatting companies tied to BDS.
“In a state like Maryland, where we have an ongoing relationship with Israel economically and culturally, it’s important to send a message to businesses saying that if they support BDS, they can’t do business here,” Rosenberg said.
Maryland, which has one of the largest Jewish populations in the United States, was Israel’s 43rd-largest trading partner in 2015 with $145.1 million in product exports, according to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s office.
Del. Benjamin Kramer, a Democrat who represents District 19 in Montgomery County and is the bill’s lead sponsor in the House of Delegates, said he is confident the legislation can pass because of Maryland’s longstanding cultural and economic relationship with Israel.
“It would be ludicrous to have an entity receiving state tax dollars that would seek to undermine a declaration of cooperation that we have with Israel,” Kramer said, referring to the 1988 Maryland-Israel Exchange. “So I think we have a very valid reason to ensure that Maryland’s best interests with Israel are protected and that we don’t allow our decades-long efforts with Israel to be undermined.”
Three years ago, Kramer and Baltimore City Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-District 43) introduced a bill in the House and Senate that would have reduced state aid to universities that fund organizations that support BDS. Those bills were tied to the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israel and pitted those in favor of academic freedom against the anti-BDS crowd.
But those bills were amended, removing the threat of financial sanctions.
Instead, Kramer was able to successfully get language passed in the state budget that condemned BDS, making Maryland the first state to pass such a resolution.
Now, Kramer believes this precedent in part has laid the foundation to incorporate similar measures into state law on a larger scale.
“I would not be introducing this legislation if I did not feel that it’s meritorious,” Kramer said. “All I can say is that I’m hopeful, and that I’m working hard and putting forth my best effort to get this passed.”
Meredith Weisel, director of Maryland government and community relations at the JCRC, said all parties are in agreement with the current proposal and that she expects no amendments to be added.
“We feel the structure of the bill is one of the best models anywhere and that it benefits the state of Maryland,” Weisel said. “Everybody is on board with it, and we feel we will be able to generate enough support for this bill.”
Opponents of the anti-BDS effort, however, argue that such bills violate free speech.
“As long as our government sanctions foreign governments for engaging in behavior that we decide we do not like for some reason, the residents of this country have a right to organize and press the government to sanction particular countries and conduct that they find troubling,” American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland spokeswoman Meredith Curtis Goode said via email. “Those who oppose such sanctions have an equal right to express their opposition. But neither side has a right to muzzle the other, or to prevent their view from being expressed or acted on.”
During last year’s session, the BJC and JCRC had discussed pursuing similar anti-BDS legislation before ultimately deciding to put those plans on hold. At the time, BJC officials said, they didn’t feel the BDS movement garnered enough attention to pursue legislation.
BJC executive director Howard Libit said the timing now couldn’t be better, especially with Hogan having just completed a fruitful weeklong trade mission to Israel in late September.
Libit said while he doesn’t give predictions on pending legislation, he said “there is a strong case that the legislature will be supportive” of the bill.
“I don’t want to sound overconfident, but I believe the state’s strong record of support [of Israel] will demonstrate to lawmakers the importance of passing this legislation,” Libit said.
Anti-BDS resolutions have already been passed in 17 states, including Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Del. Dana Stein (D-District 11) said the decision for Maryland to move forward in its continued backing of Israel has “both symbolic and practical impacts.”
“I’m very happy to hear that this is going to be moving forward this session,” Stein said. “The BDS movement is pernicious in its attempt to delegitimize Israel and making the false claim that Israel is an apartheid state.”

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Trump's Tough-Guy Talk on Torture Risks Real Lives

Trump says
Trump says "I always felt that I was in the military," but real officers are drilled in the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. (photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Redux)

Trump's Tough-Guy Talk on Torture Risks Real Lives

By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
January 25, 2017

 In an interview with his biographer Michael D’Antonio, Donald Trump explained that although he received a medical deferment rather than serving in the war in Vietnam, “I always felt that I was in the military.” This was, as D’Antonio reported in “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success,” because he spent his high-school years at a military-themed boarding school, not far from West Point.

   Last Saturday, President Trump trumpeted his military expertise during a visit to the C.I.A.’s headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, where he praised his nominee to direct the C.I.A., Michael Pompeo, for being first in his class at West Point. Then he digressed, noting, “I know a lot about West Point. . . . Trust me, I’m, like, a smart person.”

    One difference between serving in the military and being a pretend soldier at the New York Military Academy, where Trump proudly led mock drills in snappy faux military uniforms, is that, in the real thing, officers are drilled not just in marching formations but also in the laws of war. These include the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, which impose absolute, unconditional bans on torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment of enemy combatants, categorizing such conduct, under any and all circumstances, as a war crime.

   In an interview with ABC’s David Muir, made available on Wednesday, Trump gave a cursory nod to those laws. Asked if he wanted U.S. forces to use waterboarding, the President said that he would listen to his advisers, but that he wanted to do everything “within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally” to “fight fire with fire.” He told Muir, “I have spoken, as recently as twenty-four hours ago, with people at the highest level of intelligence, and I asked them the question: Does it work? Does torture work? And the answer was yes, absolutely.” He added, with emphasis, “Do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works.”

   The interview came on the same day that several news organizations published a draft executive order that, if signed, would command the Trump Administration to review the possibility of reintroducing C.I.A.-run “black site” detention camps for terror suspects and the use of brutal interrogation techniques. These practices were used during the early years of the War on Terror, but were shut down after the Supreme Court declared them subject to prosecution. At the daily White House press briefing on Wednesday, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, described the draft as “not a White House document.” Still, it was circulating through high levels of the government, and President Trump’s sentiments were clear.

   As any military expert could tell Trump, torture only increases the danger that soldiers face. It produces false intelligence, increases the risk that captured soldiers will themselves be tortured, and undermines discipline and moral authority. This is a lesson that George Washington knew well. As a general in the Revolutionary War, he vowed that, unlike the British, who tortured their captives, this new country would distinguish itself by its humanity toward enemy combatants. Washington’s order proved not just moral but also practical. As David Hackett Fischer wrote in “Washington’s Crossing,” his Pulitzer Prize-winning history, Washington’s superior treatment of enemy captives fomented desertion among British and Hessian soldiers, and bolstered the American soldiers’ morale.

   Washington’s enlightened orders formed the backbone of U.S. military policy until the War on Terror. America didn’t always live up to these ideals, but it nonetheless valued them, and enshrined them in law. The original copies of the Geneva Conventions are kept in a safe at the State Department, signed by, among others, Winston Churchill, whose bust Trump reportedly has chosen to give a place of honor in his Oval Office.

   The horrifying consequences of abandoning the high road are catalogued in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s 2014 report on the C.I.A.’s use of torture during the Bush era. Daniel J. Jones, the congressional staff member who was the lead author of the Senate report, told me that, should Trump choose to read it, he would see that “it clearly details how the C.I.A. internally came to the conclusion that their interrogation program was ineffective—and that the C.I.A. should not be operating detention sites.”

   As Trump readily admits, he doesn’t feel he has time to read anything lengthy, which would seem to preclude his absorption of the five-hundred-page declassified summary of the Senate report, not to mention the six-thousand-seven-hundred-page classified original. It doesn’t help, either, that the Obama Administration, in deference to the wishes of the C.I.A., declined to hold anyone in the intelligence community accountable for the Bush-era torture program. Obama instead chose to, as he put it, “turn the page.” Unfortunately, that has made it all too easy for a new Administration to look to the old playbook. These missteps, Jones said, “are just dumbfounding.”

   Luckily, if Trump were to sign the draft executive order, the decision on whether to return to the brutal detention and interrogation techniques that former Vice-President Cheney called “the dark side” would not be made by the President alone. According to the draft, it would be made in consultation with the Defense Secretary, the Attorney General, and various leaders of the intelligence community. Congress and the courts have major roles to play as well. And, while Trump may have missed the lessons of recent history, several of his top appointees are not just well informed but also have personal experience in this area.

   As the Times reported, James Mattis, Trump’s Defense Secretary, like virtually every American military leader, is deeply opposed to the use of torture and the mistreatment of enemy combatants. As a Major General in Iraq, Mattis oversaw the swift court martial of U.S. marines under his command who had killed a captured suspect during a brutal interrogation. Trump seemed amazed to learn of Mattis’s opposition to torture, telling the Times, during a meeting with editors and reporters, that Mattis had told him that a beer and a pack of cigarettes work better. Trump’s surprise was itself a surprise to anyone with a modicum of understanding of American military history.

   Daniel Coats, Trump’s choice for National Intelligence director, has also had a first-hand look at the costs of the C.I.A.’s former detention and interrogation program. He served as George W. Bush’s Ambassador to Germany, and had to explain to Germany’s Interior Minister, Otto Schily, that the C.I.A. had made an embarrassing mistake: it had “renditioned”—meaning kidnapped—the wrong German, whisking him to a secret black-prison site and physically tormenting him for five months. Coats convinced Schily not to press charges, and to keep the intelligence fiasco secret, but, after being freed, the mistaken suspect, Khalid El-Masri, won a suit in the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg. The court found that he had been tortured, publicly shaming the C.I.A., and condemned the countries that had assisted in the secret program.

   Scott Horton, a human-rights lawyer and advocate, predicts that reopening the C.I.A.’s program would present huge legal issues. “I think they would do whatever they can to keep it out of the federal courts, but it’s likely they’d face troubles trying to do this anywhere in Europe. North Africa and the Middle East are another question. Where would Trump put these black sites? Morocco, Egypt, and Israel would be the logical candidates,” he said. He also noted that “NATO is already under heavy pressure by Trump, but the black-site regime will again test NATO’s relationship with the U.S. Previously, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and Romania were among the nations providing cover for C.I.A. torture and ‘disappeared’ imprisonment. Will they be challenged to do this again?”

   The answer is no, if John McCain, the Senate’s best-known military hero, has anything to say about it. Trump belittled McCain during the campaign for having been captured during the Vietnam War, but McCain now is in position to teach the President a thing or two about how real soldiers think. Using Trump’s favorite weapon—Twitter—McCain fired back, “@potus can sign whatever executive orders he likes, but the law is the law – we’re not bringing back torture.”

C 2015 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, January 30, 2017

State of Resistance: Ten Californians Who Will Take on Trump

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

State of Resistance: Ten Californians Who Will Take on Trump

By Danny Feingold [1] / Capital and Main [2]

January 19, 2017

Jerry Brown

   At 78, Governor Brown remains a pugnacious yet mercurial politician whose career path is unlike any other in California history. He has already put Donald Trump on notice that there will be no retreat from his crowning achievements, including far-reaching climate change policies, and in the last two years of his final term, Brown has nothing to lose and a legacy to burnish.

Maria Elena Durazo

  The longtime labor leader, raised in a family of migrant farm workers, will be a formidable opponent of Trump’s immigration policies. A chief architect of the 2003 Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, Durazo brings passion, authority and personal experience to the immigrant-rights movement, along with a track record of taking on and defeating powerful adversaries.

Kamala Harris

   The charismatic successor to Barbara Boxer may be a junior U.S. Senator of a minority party, but she will command national media attention, and use it to fight the Trump agenda at every turn. Some believe Harris could be a future Democratic presidential standard-bearer, and her ability to eloquently yet forcefully convey progressive values could pave the way for a White House run – perhaps sooner rather than later.

Julie Su

   California’s labor commissioner is known for her principled and unrelenting defense of exploited workers. Su will serve as a dramatic counterpoint to Trump’s labor secretary, Andy Puzder (should he be confirmed), underscoring the vast chasm between vigorous labor law enforcement and the new administration’s corporate approach to workers’ rights.

Xavier Becerra

   Appointed by Brown to replace Harris as state attorney general after her election to the Senate, the veteran congressman is widely expected to do unto Trump what Texas’ attorney general did to President Obama – use the power of law to obstruct. As the top law enforcement official of the nation’s most populous state, Becerra will wield substantial influence and, if his past is any indication, will not shy away from even the most controversial battles.

Kevin de León and Anthony Rendon

  The state Senate President Pro Tem and Assembly Speaker, respectively, drew a line in the sand with their defiant post-election statement, which went viral with its vow to oppose Trump on everything from immigrant rights to inequality. Products of the state’s remarkable political transformation, which has seen young leaders of color rise quickly to power, de León and Rendon are both highly skilled legislative strategists who will use their clout to push back hard against the White House.

Anthony Thigpenn

  A legendary community organizer, Thigpenn is the founder of California Calls, perhaps the most effective low-income voter mobilization operation in the country. He is regarded as a visionary in the field of voter engagement and expanding the electorate, and his skills will be in heavy demand both inside and beyond California.

Tom Steyer

   Billionaire activist and political donor Steyer has both the resources and the appetite to take on Trump – not only on his signature issue of climate change but also on economic inequality. Look for him to invest heavily in efforts to expand the Democratic electorate, as well as challenge every Trump effort to thwart California’s climate-change policy.

   Laphonza Butler

   Head of the powerful Service Employees International Union’s California State Council, Butler is a force to be reckoned with in one of the few states in the country where unions are growing rather than contracting. She and SEIU California have racked up a string of impressive victories, and played a key role in the passage last year of a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage law, and though far from doctrinaire in her views on labor and business, she will be a thorn in the side of Trump for as long as he is in office.

Danny Feingold is publisher of Capital & Main.



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Trump’s Muslim Ban Triggers Chaos, Heartbreak, and Resistance

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Trump’s Muslim Ban Triggers Chaos, Heartbreak, and Resistance

Ryan Devereaux, Murtaza Hussain, Alice Speri

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Intercept

   Following an executive order signed late Friday, President Donald Trump on Saturday launched a sweeping attack on the travel rights of individuals from more than a half-dozen Muslim-majority countries, turning away travelers at multiple U.S. airports and leaving others stranded without answers — and without hope — across the world.

   Trump’s order triggered waves of outrage and condemnation at home and abroad, prompting thousands of protesters to flood several American airports and ultimately culminating in a stay issued by a federal district judge in New York City on the deportation of people who were being detained by immigration officials. Similar stays were issued by judges in Washington state, Massachusetts, and Virginia.

   The administration’s assault on civil liberties explicitly targeted the world’s most vulnerable populations — refugees and asylum seekers fleeing devastating wars — as well as young people with student visas pursuing an education in the United States, green card holders with deep roots in the country, and a number of citizens of countries not included in the ban. It also impacted American children traveling with, or waiting to meet, their non-citizen parents.

   With an estimated 500,000 people in the crosshairs, Trump’s order was carried out swiftly and sowed confusion among the nation’s immigration and homeland security agencies — which were excluded from the drafting process and were scrambling to understand how to implement it, according to media reports and two government officials who spoke to The Intercept.

   “We are violating international law.”

  Days before the executive order was signed, reports began to emerge that valid visa holders were suddenly being prevented from re-entering the country after taking trips abroad. A senior U.S. immigration official, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, confirmed to The Intercept that the rash of unusual student visa revocations began roughly a week before the official order was signed.

   Many of the stories the official heard about were anecdotal. Others, however, the official was able to review via internal Department of Homeland Security monitoring systems. While visas are revoked every day with little explanation afforded to those affected, the backgrounds of the individuals in these cases raised no red flags, the official said. On the contrary, the impacted individuals whose files the official reviewed included a young mother of a U.S. citizen child and students at some of the nation’s top universities who had been publicly recognized for their outstanding achievement. These students had already undergone rigorous U.S. government vetting before being admitted to the country, and had only traveled abroad briefly over their winter break.

   The Intercept has independently verified two of these stories by speaking to those denied entry, who asked that their names not be used because they are attempting to appeal the decisions.

   “The visa terminations struck me as unusual given that in the cases that I observed, nearly all of them had significant presence in the United States before the ban,” the official told The Intercept. “More disturbing, in some cases the individuals were allowed to board flights for the United States not knowing their visas had been terminated. They were only informed when they attempted to use their visas to seek admission and were denied. Even though they were ignorant of the termination, they were still charged with violating U.S. immigration law and given a five-year ban to future admission.”

   By the time Trump traveled to the Department of Homeland Security to trumpet the signing of his first anti-immigrant executive order Wednesday, the immigration official had personally reviewed four visa revocation cases that seemed to be out of the ordinary. In addition to young people with passports belonging to countries later targeted in Trump’s executive order, at least two were traveling on Jordanian passports. All were denied entry to the United States. In one case, the visa of an Ivy League medical student was revoked by Customs and Border Protection while he was in the air from a European layover to the U.S.

  It’s unclear whether the visa revocations last week were related to the subsequent ban. “But the timing of the revocations indicates that CBP supervisors felt sufficiently empowered to use their discretion to deny admission and cancel the visas in these cases,” the immigration official said.

   The students repatriated earlier this week were also charged with violating U.S. immigration law — despite their valid visas — much in the same manner as some of those who were denied entry on Saturday, after the ban kicked in.

   In another case the immigration official reviewed, a Syrian woman traveling to the U.S. from a third country on Saturday was denied entry and told she had to return to her port of origin. After consulting immigration attorneys volunteering at the airport, the woman — along with several other students, tourists, and business visitors — formally requested “humanitarian parole,” which allows temporary entry in emergency situations. When they were all denied that, she requested asylum, explaining that she did not have residency in the third country she had flown from and feared returning to Syria.

   She was told she was not eligible to request asylum and that she had no choice but to return to her airport of origin, and then was walked to her gate. A lawyer she had briefly been able to communicate with told the immigration official that the woman was later made to sign a paper stating that she understood she had violated immigration law.

   “A bedrock of refugee and asylum law is the concept of non-refoulement — not returning an individual to a place where they will be harmed,” the immigration official told The Intercept. Under international law, the United States is required to screen applicants to ensure they will not face persecution if returned to their countries, a process known as “credible fear screening.”

   “Asylum law requires CBP officers to affirmatively ask if an applicant fears return when placing them into expedited removal,” the immigration official said. “By pressuring them to simply get on a plane without going into formal removal proceedings, they are violating our obligations under the refugee convention.”

  “We are violating international law.”

    “We really are still learning the impact of the order.”

   Questions, fear, and confusion ran deep on Saturday — not only among those directly impacted by the ban but also by those trying to help them. “We are in the same boat as everyone else trying to determine and understand the meaning of the provisions in the executive order,” said Steve Letourneau, CEO of the Catholic Charities Maine Refugee and Immigration Services, the primary provider of refugee resettlement services in the state. “We really are still learning the impact of the order.”

   Refugee and immigrant advocates were not the only ones scrambling to cope with the impact of the order — many immigration officials tasked with enforcing it were also at a loss. On Saturday, reports emerged [1] that the Trump administration denied the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice [2] input on the drafting of the order. While the visa revocations described by the immigration official we interviewed suggest that some CBP officials had indications of what was coming, there were also reports that even among career immigration and State Department officials, “nobody has any idea what is going on,” NBC News reported [3].

  A State Department official confirmed this account to The Intercept. “De facto, we were not consulted, not how we’d normally be consulted. We had less than a day to review vague details,” said the official, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “This normally takes weeks of conversation. This EO took hours, and we never, never saw the final draft.”

  “The ban took everyone by surprise,” the official added. “We’ve known things were in the works all week, but have basically been in the dark.”

   “We honestly don’t know what is going to happen,” said the immigration official. “The EOs are extremely vague and some of our talk is based upon worst case scenarios. We have heard rumors coming from upper DHS echelons, but nothing concrete.”

   The enormity of the executive order — slated to affect hundreds of thousands of people as well as severely impact the United States’ relationships with several countries — seemed to indicate it was written with little appreciation of the workings of the system it sought to undo.

   “I think the government hasn’t had a full chance to think about this,” said Judge Ann Donnelly, who issued an emergency stay[4] in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and other organizations and ordered the government to provide a list of names of the people affected. That stay — the first win in what will inevitably be many legal battles to come — only applies to people currently in the United States or in transit to the country.

   “She has her visa, she has everything. We even paid for her green card to come here.”

   While reports multiplied of airport detentions and forced repatriations, so too did stories of panic and heartbreak among families who found themselves suddenly separated and desperate for information on when they’d be able to see their loved ones again.

   Anfal Hussain was among the worried and the waiting pacing the terminals at JFK airport in New York City as the implications of Trump’s order became increasingly clear. “It’s my mom,” Hussain told The Intercept, explaining that her mother had flown from Iraq to join her daughters in the U.S. that morning. “She was in the air when Trump was like, ‘No one is allowed to visit the United States,’” Hussain said. “She has her visa, she has everything. We even paid for her green card to come here. And we’re both citizens, me and my sister.”

   Hussain said her sister was able to speak to their mother briefly after she landed Saturday morning. She was crying and scared, Hussain said. “She doesn’t really speak English,” she added, and it was her first time traveling to the U.S. Hussain explained that her mother’s husband had passed away recently and she had no one left in Baghdad, a city increasingly riven by violence nearly a decade and a half after the U.S. invasion.

   “She wanted to be with us,” Hussain said. “She wanted to be with her daughters.”
As the wide-ranging scope of the executive order became clear, immigration attorneys and advocates, as well as universities, issued warnings to citizens of the banned countries not to leave the United States. CLEAR, a New York-based group that is offering free legal advice to those impacted by the ban, circulated a fact sheet explaining how people in the country on different immigration statuses would be impacted if they left. It also warned green card holders denied entry not to sign any forms at the border abandoning their permanent residency.

   But even as protesters in airports across the country broke into jubilation at the news of the stay, some people at those airports continued to be denied entry and, in some cases, were still threatened with forcible removal.

   Although DHS issued a statement saying it would comply with the court orders, at Los Angeles International Airport, Sara Yarjani, an Iranian citizen, was told by CBP officials she had to board a flight to Copenhagen, despite the nationwide stay and against the protests of lawyers and two U.S. congresswomen who were present. The representatives, Rep. Judy Chu and Rep. Nanette Barragan, asked over the phone to meet with CBP officials, who refused. When asked who they were reporting to, the officials said “Donald J. Trump,” then hung up on them.
The Intercept was not able to confirm whether Yarjani was on the flight when it took off or whether she remained detained at the airport.

  While nationals of seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — have been targeted for exclusion so far, lawyers say that number could soon increase. Trump’s order calls for a 30-day review period in which the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence will compile “information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information.”

   “The executive order is drafted in a manner that anticipates the extension of the ban. It’s clear that the White House expects that this is going to affect more people and more countries going forward,” Gadeir Abbas, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights attorney, told The Intercept. “There is a lot of ambiguity in the language used in the order — and executive power thrives on ambiguity.”
A section of the order also calls for the suspension of visas and “other immigration benefits” to nationals of targeted countries. Abbas said this reference to non-visa immigration benefits indicates a likely intention on the part of the Trump administration to target green card holders already in the United States.
“The changes in this order are not limited to border crossings. The text indicates that restrictions can also apply to immigration benefits such as green card renewal for those who are already inside the country,” Abbas said. “You could be a green card holder for 20 years and be prevented from renewing your documents — this is something that would impact a huge number of people.”

   On Saturday, the State Department also confirmed [5] that dual nationals of other countries would be subject to the ban on entry. A number of dual Iranian-Canadian citizens have already been prevented from boarding flights into the United States or were sent back after landing there, The Intercept has learned.
But while there are no official accounts on the number of people impacted who were traveling when the ban took effect, the impact on those temporarily outside the country is likely exponentially larger. The stay does not apply to them, and it’s unclear how many people were stranded outside the country after their visas and green cards were suddenly revoked.

  A Texas resident named Stephanie Felten who contacted The Intercept said that her sister-in-law, an Iranian green card holder who has lived in Chicago for over a decade, was stranded in Iran after traveling there last week to visit family. With her in Iran is her 3-year-old daughter, an American citizen, who now has no way to return to the United States with her mother. Iran has promised a reciprocal ban on American citizens traveling there, effectively making it impossible for the child to see her father or the rest of her family.

   “Nobody is providing any answers right now,” said Felten. “We’re just trying to confirm what we’re hearing. You can read the executive order and try to make determinations, but then news breaks that even people that are dual citizens are being turned away. Everyone is unsure where to turn.”

    “My family have become refugees from my country.”

   Have you been affected by President Trump’s travel ban? Do you know someone who has been turned away while attempting to return to the United States? The Intercept wants to hear your story. Please write to our reporters.
If you are a federal employee working in immigration you can contact us anonymously via SecureDrop. Instructions here: https://theintercept.com/leak/ [6]

Lynn Dombek, Spencer Woodman, and Leighton Woodhouse contributed reporting to this article.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Chiquita Made a Killing From Colombia's Civil War. Will Their Victims Finally See Justice?

A Colombian policeman stands guard in front of workers. (photo: Jose Gomez/Reuters)
A Colombian policeman stands guard in front of workers. (photo: Jose Gomez/Reuters)

Chiquita Made a Killing From Colombia's Civil War. Will Their Victims Finally See Justice?

By Matt Kennard and Nick MacWilliam, In These Times
28 January 17

A long-running case against the banana giant is moving forward in U.S. court.

   Vetting an interview with Anabel (not her real name) is not easy. In Colombia, witnessing paramilitary violence against your family generally means you keep quiet about it—it’s too dangerous to speak about what you’ve seen. Anabel tells us, after an extended period of negotiation, to meet her at her place of work near the trendy El Poblado district of downtown Medellín. We are told we cannot name her: What she saw and the powerful people who are implicated mean her own life is still not safe.
Anabel is part of a class action lawsuit brought by the Washington, D.C.-based NGO EarthRights International against the food company Chiquita for alleged human rights abuses in Colombia. According to EarthRights, Anabel’s interview with In These Times is the first media done by any of the suit’s plaintiffs.

   Anabel’s trauma began in 1997, when she was around 10 years old, an Afro-Colombian child living with her parents in the town of Apartadó in Antioquia, not far from the border with Panama. Even at a young age she felt the weight of the violence happening all around her. “There were a lot of massacres, too many deaths,” she tells In These Times. “You could see the manner in which they left them as well. Often dismembered. It was a horrible war.”

   Her family, she says, had long been receiving threats from local paramilitaries who wanted the land occupied by her stepfather’s banana farm. Land-grabbing by paramilitaries in this region—and much of the country—was and still is rampant. Land judged to be valuable to corporations would be bought or forcibly seized by paramilitaries and sold to rich individuals or corporations.  When someone refused to buckle under the weight of threats, the paramilitaries resorted to violence.

   Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary groups initially developed during the Colombian civil war as private militias to defend landed interests. They proliferated in the 1970s, often backed covertly by the political class, which was intent on defeating the left-wing insurrection. And in 1997, these paramilitaries were intimidating enough that Anabel’s stepfather, aware of the dangers, eventually agreed to sell his land.

   When Anabel and her family met with the buyer, he said he had to go to another town, and they all got in a waiting taxi. But the taxi soon pulled to an unexpected stop. The buyer exited and another man came in, pulled a gun and started driving. Accompanied by other men on motorbikes, they continued on until reaching the end of a dirt road, where Anabel’s mother and stepfather were ordered to leave the car. The men beat and then shot her stepfather, killing him. Her mother tried to run; she was shot and killed, too. The men took the papers they needed for ownership of the land, then had the taxi driver bring Anabel into town.

   Anabel’s life never got easy. “As I didn’t have parents, it was very hard to confront the world,” she tells In These Times. “People made fun of me, I had to see psychologists. I couldn’t go out in the street because I’d see a taxi and run off.”

   Anabel reported the murders to the police and they were able to identify the taxi driver, who she believes was involved. But as far as she knows, no case against him or the murderers was ever made, and she has still not been able to recover her stepfather’s land.
“There is a lot of distrust,” Anabel says. “I still have nightmares. I cannot say that the issue doesn’t dominate. You cannot imagine the effort I’m making to not cry now. It’s extremely hard.” She then breaks down and cries. In each of four interviews In These Times conducted with survivors of paramilitary violence in Colombia, the survivors did the same.

   On our way out of the offices, another woman stops us and asks we interview her about her family killed by paramilitaries. Like Anabel, she claims the police—and Colombia’s labyrinthine judicial system—have done nothing to help her. No one in the community of un-people in Colombia—the poor, the peasants, the indigenous, the black—has escaped the terrible toll of war.

  But there may be hope on the horizon. In November 2016, after nine years of litigation, federal judge Kenneth Marra ruled that EarthRights’ case against Chiquita would continue in U.S. court. Chiquita, which has admitted to funding the ultra right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), had argued the case should be heard in Colombia, where the banana company would be unlikely to be found guilty. But Marra’s decision means that Anabel and the other victims of paramilitary violence will go to trial in the somewhat more favorable U.S. court system.

  These legal developments occurred as the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos and the country’s oldest guerrilla insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), negotiated a historic peace deal to end over half a century of conflict. Following the original deal’s shock rejection in a national referendum, the two sides swiftly redrafted an agreement that in November was unanimously passed in the Colombian congress (with many anti-peace politicians boycotting the vote). Under its terms, thousands of guerrillas will voluntarily demobilize in designated zones before integrating into civil society. Opponents of the deal, chiefly the conservative Democratic Center party of former president Álvaro Uribe, complain that it allows human rights violators to go free. But while Uribe tends to focus on the crimes of the FARC, right-wing paramilitaries leave a violent legacy of their own—a legacy inextricably tied to U.S. multinationals.

Taking Chiquita to Court

    Urabá, in the northwest part of Colombia, is the major banana-growing region of the country. Multinational companies have long coveted its land and resources. One of the most prominent of the companies working there is Chiquita—a corporation with a long history in Latin America.

   In Colombia, on Dec. 6, 1928, Chiquita—then the United Fruit Company (UFC)—got the police and army to massacre hundreds of banana workers striking for better conditions. Colombians still refer to the so-called “masacre de las bananeras.”
UFC is infamous throughout the region for its intense lobbying effort in Washington, which eventually helped lead to a CIA-instigated military coup d’état in Guatemala in 1954, overthrowing the democratically elected reformist social democratic president Jacobo Arbenz and installing military dictator Carlos Castillo Armas. This helped unleash a civil war that ended with a quarter of a million dead, and what the United Nations has termed “genocide” against the indigenous Maya population.

    By the 1990s Chiquita had significant operations in Urabá, the subregion where Anabel was living with her mother and stepfather. They were giving millions of dollars to mass-murdering paramilitaries, who had been emboldened by political protection during the civil war, to help protect their assets from dissidents and their operations from unionists. The major paramilitary group in Colombia, the AUC, has a long history of violence against peasants, trade unionists, Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities. Chiquita has admitted that it made at least 100 payments to the AUC in the period from 1997 to 2004, a total of $1.7 million.

    Court depositions like that of former AUC commander Jesús Ignacio Roldán Pérez (also known as “Monoleche”) in August 2015 as part of the EarthRights case, along with Freedom of Information Act requests made by EarthRights and others, have revealed even more evidence of the involvement of a long list of U.S.-based individuals in the atrocities carried out by Chiquita-funded paramilitaries.

    Several of the AUC commanders in the period are now in U.S. prisons, including Salvatore Mancuso, who, according to Monoleche’s deposition, has more extensive knowledge about the funding Chiquita provided to the AUC, which is needed if the case is to be heard in its entirety. Mancuso was sentenced on drugs trafficking charges in June 2015.

    Hebert Veloza, alias “H.H.,” was in the mid-1990s the commander of the AUC’s Bloque Bananero, which worked in Urabá and was implicated in many grisly murders. He was extradited to the United States in 2009 on drug trafficking charges. Anabel now believes Veloza to be one of the paramilitary leaders behind her parents’ death.

    A diplomatic cable sent from the U.S. embassy in Bogotá back to Washington on May 18, 2007, titled “Mancuso alleges paramilitary ties to politicians, retired generals and businesses,” gives further insight into the role multinationals play in the paramilitary violence in Colombia. According to the cable, “Among the multinational organizations that Mancuso said made regular payments to the paramilitaries were Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, and Hyundai.”

   John Ordman, who currently lives free in the United States, is another with questions to answer. He was, according to a March 2016 court document filed by EarthRights, a high-ranking executive at Chiquita responsible for much of the company’s Colombia operations. He “was involved in the approval of ‘sensitive’ payments to the convivirslegal “self-defense” groups created ostensibly to protect private estates from guerrilla incursion. Convivirs deploy civilians under military command, and critics have argued they are essentially legalized paramilitaries, and that they have committed massacres and other human rights abuses. The document goes on: “[Ordman] testified that he had extensive conversations with Chiquita personnel in Colombia about the different violent groups Chiquita was paying.”

    In March 2000, internal Chiquita communications noted the connection between the convivirs and the AUC, revealing that Chiquita chose to “continue making the payments [because they] can’t get the same level of support from the military.” At the time these paramilitaries were regularly killing and dismembering people all over Colombia. Often the people they killed were opponents of big resource projects. Chiquita claims it didn't know what its money was being used for.

    In the fanfare around the peace deal signed by the Colombian state and the FARC guerillas, the role of multinational corporations in the violence was largely ignored. The unstated truth in Washington, D.C., is that many people have become incredibly rich by instrumentalizing the violence of the Colombia civil war to fight their own wars against opponents of their projects or company policy.

    “Some multinationals have directly collaborated with illegal paramilitary groups, but many others have turned a blind eye to human rights abuses,” says Grace Livingstone, the author of Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy and War and America’s Backyard: The United States and Latin America From the Monroe Doctrine to the War on Terror.

   “Multinational companies have benefited as paramilitaries have violently evicted thousands of people from their land, clearing the way for large-scale mining, oil or agro-industrial projects. These companies are knowingly operating in a country where death squads suppress dissent by targeting community activists and trade unionists.”
She adds, “There is almost total impunity for the security forces and their paramilitary allies who target land activists and community leaders and those who have protested against large-scale mining, oil and agro-industrial projects.”

   In fact, according to Gimena Sánchez, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, “The impunity rate is over 95 percent for [killings of] trade unionists and for the others probably close to that. Colombian authorities, when pressured by [Colombian civil society and international NGOs], may begin investigations but very few of the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

   In 2003, under then-President Uribe, the AUC initiated a demobilization process, which saw tens of thousands of men reintegrate into Colombian society, where many regrouped in armed gangs and continued to coordinate terror networks. In 2006 and 2007, Colombia’s Supreme Court unearthed the “parapolitics” scandal, which by 2012 had placed 139 elected politicians under investigation for links to paramilitary organisations, including payments. Former Senator Mario Uribe Escobar—Álvaro Uribe’s cousin—was among those convicted and sent to prison.

    Following the supposed AUC demobilisation, former commanders were provided special treatment, receiving little to no punitive action for their crimes. But then they started admitting what they’d done—and with whom. In 2008, Uribe had thirteen senior paramilitary commanders, including Salvatore Mancuso and others named in the Chiquita lawsuit, extradited to the U.S. where they are now in prison on drugs charges. Many suspect Uribe did this for his own protection, as several of the commanders claim to have directly collaborated with the former president.

   No one at Chiquita has paid for this with a prison spell, and no relatives of victims have received compensation. But in 2007, EarthRights filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Chiquita on behalf of Colombian families who had lost loved ones killed by paramilitaries in the pay of the company. Portions of the case were brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows human rights claims to be brought from victims of U.S. multinational companies within the U.S. court system, even if the crimes were committed in another country.

    But this potentially progressive piece of legislation often fails the people it is meant to serve, especially in the case of Colombia. In recent decades, a number of suits brought by Colombian plaintiffs against U.S. corporations such as Dole and Coca-Cola have been dismissed from the U.S. courts due to lack of jurisdiction.

    Chiquita filed a motion to dismiss the EarthRights case in 2008, on the grounds that the ATS claims lacked sufficient connection to the United States to be heard in U.S. courts. After a number of back and forths, this motion was granted in 2014. A petition to the Supreme Court filed by EarthRights, asking to reconsider, was also dismissed.
D.C.-based lawyer Terry Collingsworth, who has been lead counsel on many cases involving the ATS, filed some of the earlier motions on behalf of Colombian communities in the Chiquita case. “The Chiquita and Drummond [a coal company also in a court battle over dealings in Colombia] cases both have great facts that should have been perfect vehicles for bringing successful claims under the Alien Tort Statute,” Collingsworth tells In These Times

    But the ATS remains difficult to implement, largely due to the conservative U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (2013) held that the ATS could only apply extraterritorially if there are allegations that “touch and concern the territory of the United States.” This 2013 decision is flexible enough to make it easy for corporations with their significant war chests to argue to dismiss every time.

    The argument made by Royal Dutch (and many in the international business community) in that case was that it had no connection to the United States because it involved foreign plaintiffs and a foreign national business as defendant (even though the business has operations in the U.S), and all relevant decisions took place outside the U.S. The five right-wing justices on the Supreme Court jumped at the chance to limit the ATS, and left a fuzzy “touch and concern” test that provided more than enough discretion to lower courts to essentially gut the ATS.

   “The ATS needs to be redefined,” Collingsworth says. But “Congress … is very unlikely to champion a law that will be strongly opposed by the major business organizations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Council for International Business.” And with the ascension of Trump to power, it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will become more progressive.

    Colombia’s domestic system holds little hope either. Several legal professionals tell In These Times that the Colombian judicial setup is so corrupt that justice can’t be served through it. 57 companies, including Chiquita, were recently charged with supporting the AUC—but the lawyers In These Times spoke to suspect the government won’t take any action to prosecute or otherwise hold these companies accountable.

   “The corruption is not just normal bribery. Colombian corruption is relationships,” says Collingsworth. For example, Jaime Bernal Cuéllar, a lawyer on retainer for Drummond in Colombia, was a law partner for years with former Colombia Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre Lynett. They have written books together and, Collingsworth tells In These Times, Bernal is the godfather to at least one of Montealegre’s kids. It's hard to see Montealegre launching a case against Drummond.

    Despite the barriers to successful prosecution, the November 2016 decision ensures that non-ATS claims against Chiquita (as well as claims against certain Chiquita executives under the Torture Victim Protection Act) will move forward in the United States. “Chiquita profited from its relationship with the AUC,” says Marco Simons of EarthRights. While Chiquita paid a $25 million fine in 2007 for funding a terror group, he adds, “the victims of their conduct have received nothing. It is past time Chiquita compensates the families in Colombia.”

   Chiquita has not yet replied to a request for comment.

Contemporary Struggles

  The most militant struggles against corporations in Colombia right now are around mining, and its effects on local communities and the environment. In 2014, Dutch NGO PAX published a report on the collusion of mining multinationals Drummond and Glencore with paramilitaries in Colombia’s Cesar region between 1996 and 2006. Paramilitaries killed over 2,000 people in Cesar during those ten years, with the companies alleged to be providing financial and logistical support.

    In an office of campesino (peasant) organization The Humanitarian Action Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in Northeast Antioqueño (Cahucopana) in Medellín, we meet Yoladis Cerpa, a 26-year-old from El Bagre, one of the more violent municipalities in Colombia.  “My family lives in Bagre but because of my work in social organizations I can’t go there,” she tells In These Times. “Two days ago they killed my brother. In fact, my mother is calling me right now, they’re in the cemetery as we speak.”

   As we speak, Cerpa shows us her phone. WhatsApp messages with pictures of her brother’s coffin pop up as relatives send her pictures of the funeral she can’t attend. She tells us of the huge culture of fear that runs through the area because of paramilitary violence. “We are threatened daily by email, by telephone, by any means. The problem now is they killed one of the social leaders on March 7, and there’s displacement in the villages. They dismembered one of them totally, the others were forced to leave. They threatened them. There are deaths every day.”

   Cerpa thinks the organizers are being targeted due to the social work they do. “They are defending the campesinos, defending human rights and making it harder for the multinationals to enter campesino regions.”

   El Bagre has large deposits of gold and has been subject to intense resource extraction. This has made the human rights situation worse. “Uribe is one of the owners of a company called Municipio de El Bagre Minero,” says Cerpa.  “It’s working in a … very rich region for mining for gold. Uribe is fighting to sell these lands to multinationals. And the campesinos, coordinated by social organisations, are fighting to defend their rights.”
She continues, “Another multinational tried to enter the region but the campesinos, we didn’t allow it. It was amazing. So the threats are mainly due to the organizational work we’re doing as social organizations. Paramilitarism is eradicating these social organizations.”

   As an example, she says, “They murdered Comrade William Castillo … on March 7.” Castillo worked for Association of Agroecological and Mining Fraternities of Guamocó (Aheramigua), the same group as Cerpa.

   “They shot him. He was meeting with the presidents of some local communities. He was training them about their rights, that they organize committees, for motorbike taxis, for miners, and all that. When … the meeting finished … they killed him.”

   Proving that multinationals work alongside paramilitaries to achieve their aims “is impossible,” she says. (Chiquita is unusual for admitting it.) But still she feels confident that this is in fact what is happening. “We are living the conflict,” she says. “And the threats we receive from paramilitaries are always for this, that they’re going to kill us because we’re working with campesinos, because we’re training them [to defend their land], for these kinds of things.”

   But while the problem continues, the Chiquita case offers a chance for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of loved ones of those killed in the Urabá region—people like Anabel—to attain justice.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs