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Global conservation communities pinning their hopes on new agreement to save nature – Independent Online

Posted: March 5, 2020 at 6:44 pm

By Sheree Bega Mar 3, 2020

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Humanity is driving at full speed towards the abyss of ecosystem collapse, from local freshwater systems to the global climate, but is blindly ignoring the warning lights and crash barriers continuing to ramp up business as usual, says environmental futurist Professor Nick King.

As the web of life unravels across the planet, many in the global conservation community are pinning their hopes on a new agreement to save nature - and humanity itself.

Touted as a Paris-style accord to halt the collapse of nature, the draft UN Global Biodiversity Framework sets out a global plan to safeguard nature through 2030, under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

But King, a global change analyst and strategist, is sceptical.

We keep setting non-binding goals and targets, change little by way of policies and incentives to meet them, miss them widely and then spend extraordinary amounts of time and efforts setting new ones, all to no avail as they dont address the underlying causes of loss.

The decline of nature is driven by other sectors, such as the extractives sector, as evidenced in the 2019 Global Resources Outlook reportof the UNEP's Integrated Resources Panel, thus the biodiversity sector cannot address them without a fundamental shift in governance structure and authority within governments and globally.

King served as co-chairperson on the science and policy advisory panel of the report, which shows how over 90% of biodiversity loss and freshwater stress, as well as more than 50% of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, are from the extractives sector, including agriculture

Since the 1970s, the global population has doubled, the use of natural resources has tripled and global GDP has grown fourfold, the report shows.

These trends, says King, have gobbled large amounts of natural resources to fuel economic development and improvements in human well-being.

But they have come at a tremendous cost to our natural environment, ultimately impacting human well-being and exacerbating inequalities within and between countries.

In May, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned how one million assessed plant and animal species face extinction, perhaps within decades, more than ever before in human history.

All our recent global assessments such as from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPBES and GEO6 talk of the need for transformative change. This is recorded in the zero draft (of the Global Biodiversity Framework), says King. Without this transformative change in our values, consumptive way of life, economic growth at all costs idiocy, unlimited population growth, etc, we will not address the causes.

It is physically impossible for the Earths natural resource base to maintain itself - and meet humanitys demands. So, frankly, another set of targets, couched yet again in all the same wonderful rhetoric of how much we depend on natures bounty etc, is, at best, simply meaningless in terms of actual change, and at worst, it allows politicians and others to believe everything is fine, under our control and no further actions are needed.

This very dangerous complacency is exacerbated by the fact that, globally, almost no politicians have any sort of qualifications in environmental science and are incapable of actually understanding the dire straits were in, let alone setting policies to address this. As humanity, we have and are incurring enormous ecological debt and very soon, nature is going to invoice us for repayment.

In 2010, parties to the CBD adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets but experts say these have failed to halt nature's precipitous decline.

This week, over 190 nations met in Rome to continue negotiations on the zero draft of the post-2020 framework, which will eventually be agreed at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, in October.

The draft global plan is hopelessly weak and inadequate, believes Friends of the Earth International, noting how it fails to address the root causes of the collapse of nature - the over-consumption of resources by wealthier countries, industrial agriculture and an economic system that drives further destruction and greater inequality.

The draft will not halt damaging practices such as mining, commodity crops or pesticide use. The main failure of the existing plan was that governments mostly ignored it without repercussions It allows for nature to be destroyed as long as it is saved elsewhere, which would lead to corporations putting a price on nature and offsetting their damage by paying to save it in another place. This will inevitably lead to a financial market in saving and destroying biodiversity.

The draft, it says, ignores the vital role of indigenous peoples and local communities in defending ecosystems.

Professor Belinda Reyers, of the Future Africa unit at the University of Pretoria, points out the zero draft is a very early draft, with a fair way to go before it is negotiated by the worlds governments and finalised in Kunming.

The previous biodiversity framework was "not what one would call a resounding success as we have largely not made progress to most of the targets it set.

"There is a lot of concern, that just like that 2020 framework, this post-2020 framework seems tofocus more on what we are losing, than why we are losing it.By focusing on things like extinction rates, or areas of ecosystems lost we are reallyjust documenting the decline of the natural world.

"Goals a, b, and c in the draft framework fall into this basket of targets whichfocus our attention on the decline, but not on the causes of the decline.Even under these goals in their action targets the focus appears to be on pollution or invasive alien species, which while important, recent research has shown are reallynot the major culprits of biodiversity loss."

The main causes at a global scale are land use and sea use change through agriculture and aquaculture expansion and intensification, for example, climate change and over-exploitation of species for food, trade or other uses, Reyers points out.

"If we focus attention on these only we will really only be 'managing the decline of the natural world', rather than the ambitious plan that is needed to halt biodiversity loss and restore it to some of its former glory.This is what was meant bytransformative change: fundamental changes or reconfigurations in the economic, political, social and value systems and structures that have caused the high rates of biodiversity loss we are witnessing.

"So, a framework that focuses on ecosystems, extinction rates and protected areas,is really not ambitious enoughto counteract and influence the larger drivers of biodiversity lossincluding large scale drivers of change on the planet from agriculture, energy, trade, urbanisation, climate change, inequality."

While there are small hints of this in the draft framework, "calls right now are to make these hints more central and ambitious in the framework".

A key challenge, as always, she says, is that so many of these drivers of biodiversity loss and levers or areas of transformative change lie outside the biodiversity and environment sector.

"Hence the limited focus on protected areas and use of wild species which fall more within the remit of the biodiversity sector. Setting targets that lie far outside the sector, will prove challenging for the environmental sector to actually implement and make progress on. This is a core tension at the heart of the framework: targets you have some say over as a sector vs. targets that will make a difference."

Reyers points to theunsophisticated way that biodiversity is linked to outcomes for people in the draft framework."There is so much evidence of the critical role that biodiversity plays in almost all aspects of social and economic development from food production, sources of income, protection from natural hazards, mitigation of climate change, and a myriad of spiritual, cultural, aesthetic, health and recreational benefits that South Africans are very familiar with from our mountains, beaches, game reserves, forest and rivers.

"And yet this framework which sets itself up as a having a 'mission to put biodiversity on a path to recovery for the benefit ofplanet and people' only lists nutrition, water and disaster resilience as benefits to people."

This has two major implications. "First, this narrow focus will miss out on changes in biodiversity that have real consequences for people. Second, at a time when we need all the support we can get to put biodiversity on this 'path to recovery' from across all sectors of society and the economy, failing to make clear why this mission is important to these other sectors from health, to education to rural development is a misstep."

Morn du Plessis, the chief executive of World Wide Fund for Nature-SA, says 2020 is being punted as a Super Year for nature.

This presents the opportunity to adapt and renew international targets for three interdependent issues: the Sustainable Development Goals, nature (with three major international gatherings on biodiversity coming up) and climate, in particular the resilience that needs to be built into the system.

We are looking at a planetary level emergency when it comes to nature loss, with major economic and social costs. This includes fragmentation and under-delivery of nature-related conventions and the need to connect nature with the economy and climate. Among the many challenges we are facing are the need to provide food and water for 9 billion people by 2030, in the face of biodiversity loss and a rapidly changing climate.

A new narrative that positions healthy, diverse and functional natural systems as the foundation for social and economic development, stability and security, as well as individual well-being is needed.

Were looking for an agreement that is in the same league as the Paris climate agreement and are pushing for heads of state to buy into a concept of setting nationally determined contributions similar to the climate agreement.

Individual governments must develop and implement their own ambitious national action plans to contribute to these targets, and then report back to the CBD on their progress regularly.

This then enables all governments to work together to identify global implementation gaps and increase their ambition where necessary until the collective effort is aligned to the ambitious targets.

A movement of non-state actors working with governments, in particular the private sector, will be critical.

Globally, South Africa is recognised as a biodiversity superpower, says Du Plessis. By the majority of measures we fall within the top 10 most biologically diverse countries. With this statistic comes not only pride, but the obligation of care through legally binding global commitments that we have signed up to.

Ambitious plan to stabilise loss of nature by 2030

Biodiversity, and the benefits it provides, are fundamental to human well-being and a healthy planet, says the zero draft of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, but it is deteriorating worldwide.

The framework sets out an ambitious plan to implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in societys relationship with biodiversity and to ensure that by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled.

It is built around a theory of change, which recognises that urgent policy action globally, regionally and nationally is required to transform economic, social and financial models so the trends that have exacerbated biodiversity loss will stabilise in the next 10 years and allow for the recovery of natural ecosystems in the following 20 years.

It presents five long-term goals for 2050, with 20 targets for 2030 meant to contribute towards achieving these goals.

The draft plan proposes, among others, placing around a third of land and oceans under some form of protection, and cutting pollution from plastic waste and excess nutrients and biocides by 50% by 2030, and restoring freshwater and marine ecosystems.

I know that the world is eagerly waiting out there for demonstrable progress towards a clear, actionable and transformative global framework on biodiversity,"Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executivesecretary of the CBD, said in a statement.

"They want a framework that can be implemented at all levels, namely, at global, regional levels, national and subnational levels. They want a framework that builds upon the existing Biodiversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and its accompanying Aichi Biodiversity Targets and a framework that aligns with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

This initial zero draft was based on extensive consultations, advice from governments, scientists, indigenous peoples, NGOs and others, gathered through dozens of meetings and hundreds of written submissions.

It was developed in response to the 2019 IPBES assessment.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, in a position paper, says that while it welcomes the draft framework, the proposed draft action targets will not deliver the goals outlined, and will not therefore halt the net loss of biodiversity by 2030. It follows that the framework will not deliver the required transformative change.

Avoiding extinction:

If 30% of the land area is conserved in tropical regions in Latin America, Africa and southeast Asia, the extinction risk facing vascular plants, birds and mammals could be halved.

A new study published this week in the journal Ecography, authored by 21 global biodiversity and climate change scientists, finds that increased conservation efforts together with efforts to limit global warming to 2C offers the best chance to slow species loss.

Avoiding extinctions results in healthy ecosystems that provide many services critical to people, including maintaining key carbon stores that prevent runaway climate change.

Do your bit:

What is biodiversity?

The variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is considered to be important and desirable.

SAs rich biodiversity:

The number of South African animal species is estimated at 67000 and more than 20400 plant species have been described.

Approximately 7% of the worlds vascular plant species, 5% of mammal, 7% of bird, 4% of reptile, 2% of amphibian, 1% of freshwater fish and 16% of shark, skate and ray species are found in the country.

It is home to nearly 10% of the world coral species and almost a quarter of the global cephalopod species such as octopus, squid, cuttlefish.

Some terrestrial invertebrate groups have high richness relative to global statistics - 13% of the worlds sun spiders and nearly 5% of butterflies occur in the country.

Around half of the countrys species of reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and freshwater fish are endemic. Almost two-thirds of plant species are endemic - mostly linked to the unique Cape Floristic Region.

Approximately 40% of South Africas estimated 10 000 marine animal species are endemic, the vast majority invertebrates.

Did you know?

South Africa is ranked in the top three countries globally when it comes to plant and marine species endemism (species found nowhere else on earth).

The diversity and uniqueness of its species and ecosystems makes the country one of the worlds 17 mega diverse nations - countries that together contain more than two-thirds of the worlds biodiversity.

The economy is highly dependent on this biodiversity. For example, biodiversity tourism demand generates a direct spend of about R31 billion in the economy annually, and its 2 000 medicinal plant species contribute to the African traditional medicine sector worth around R18bn a year.

How biodiversity benefits people:

- Nearly invisible insect pollinators are essential for the production of nutritious fruits and vegetables.

- SAs plant and animal species are used for food and medicine; Aloe ferox, for example, is 95% wild-harvested and used in over 140 cosmetic and complementary medicine products.

- Healthy estuarine and marine ecosystems supports 22 commercial fisheries sectors, about 29 000 small-scale fishers and 700 000 recreational fishers.

- Interacting with nature brings measurable emotional, mental and physical benefits, influences our cultural and spiritual development, and provides R31bn per year to the tourism economy.

To help protect biodiversity:

- Consider what you eat: consume foods from local sources that are sustainably produced.

- Think before you buy: minimise purchasing of items that have only a single use (plastic straws, food in single-use packaging), and buy locally-made items to reduce your carbon footprint.

- Reduce your waste: recycle all packaging, reduce your energy and water consumption, and make sure you dont waste them, dispose of any other waste appropriately.

- Become involved: support local initiatives that protect, restore and study nature - like coastal clean-ups, biodiversity citizen science projects, alien plant hacking, and more. Source: SA National Biodiversity Institute

SAs role in Rome

Albi Modise, the spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Affairs, says South Africa took part in the discussions in Rome this week and was engaging through the Africa regional group.

Modise says: The African priorities that SA is advancing as chair of the AU are related to ecosystem protection and restoration, management and enhancement of freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, thus supporting associated socio-economic activities; management of invasive alien species; access and benefit-sharing with associated traditional knowledge, impact assessment aligned to Article 14 of the Convention on Biological Diversity; mainstreaming biodiversity into relevant sectors; natural capital accounting; biosafety; climate change and biodiversity and poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

These elements would need to be supported by means of implementation focusing specifically on financial resources, scientific co-operation and technology transfer as well as capacity building.

The zero draft of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework has been drafted by the co-chairs on the basis of the extensive consultations that have been undertaken and the inputs that have been received.

It provides a basis on which the key elements can now be developed for further negotiations. The focus of the meeting is to identify areas where further preparatory work or consultation is required

Future meetings will then focus on addressing the levels of ambition and setting targets. It seems too early and unjustifiable to judge the current draft as hopelessly weak for parties to commence with focused and structured engagements.

The Saturday Star

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Snap election may be the best way out of political impasse V Thomas – Malaysiakini

Posted: February 29, 2020 at 11:36 pm

LETTER | The best way to clear the political mess is by having a snap election to get a fresh mandate from the people. An interim, minority or unity government, despite looking attractive, will show signs of weakness as some of the political parties are radically opposed to one another.

BN and PAS want snap polls to solve the political conundrum but Pakatan Harapan is totally opposed to this idea. The Agong has interviewed the 222 MPs to know their views. If the result turns out to be positive in resolving the crisis then the King will have set a political precedent - a convention- which in the future can be followed. This could enhance the monarchs role.

There are various reasons for some parties to avert a snap election right now. Any election is dicey especially after the present collapse of the government.

BN and Pas could possibly emerge stronger, despite the corruption cases against Umno leaders, if one looks at the past 20 months, when they have been able to marshal support for various racial and religious issues and others like Icerd. The Malay community may want to shore up its strength after losing power in the last election.

For Harapan, it could mean losing a big chunk of the votes. There will be no 1MDB to harp on like before as it has become a stale issue. What will be more important will be Harapan's records for the last 20 months, which is at best more of a disappointment rather than encouragement.

Harapan has backtracked on numerous issues and reforms. The euphoria of May 9, 2018 has been replaced by u-turns on promises of legislative reforms such as on Sosma, IPCMC, local government elections and others.

Political tensions have been rising for months and the next election could be fought more on communal/religious lines rather than on political and governance issues. This could be dangerous for the country.

The release of the 12 Indians purportedly for supporting the LTTE has taken the lid off Indian anger and the Indian communitys support will be crucial for both Harapan and BN.

The Chinese community too has shown its displeasure with Harapan in the Tanjung Piai by-election and also because of the DAPs handling of the TAR college issue. There has also been no headway on the UEC recognition by the government.

The East Malaysian political parties are also fed up as the Malaysia Agreement 1963 failed to make a legislative breakthrough, which would have given the two states equal partnership status with West Malaysia, due to a lack of a two-thirds majority in Parliament, and the oil royalty issues have not been amicably or fully settled.

The Sarawakians and Sabahans will also note that under the previous BN government there were major infrastructure and development plans. As usual, they will find themselves thrust into the role as kingmakers in choosing between the two centres of power in the next election but will find it hard to wrest anything substantial from the West Malaysian government.

The biggest problem for the BN/PAS coalition will be choosing a good leader. Possibly the leader will be one from Umno and the deputy from PAS, which could be a good arrangement. BN and PAS will be coming as one as never before for the next election, and it could prove to be a powerful combination that could be a threat to Malay-based Harapan parties such as PKR, Bersatu and Amanah.

Socio-economic factors will also weigh in politically in the election. The cost of living, unemployment, the reduction in government hand-outs such as BSH, the present economic slowdown due to the US-China trade war and the Covid-19 epidemic have affected the country much. It is for fear of these reasons that Harapan wants to avoid a snap election.

Interim Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamads record for the last 20 months has dented his image and he is now a spent force. His support for any party is not going to count much. PKR leader Anwar Ibrahims image is also affected by this crisis and he will not be a big vote-getter as before as enthusiasm towards him has ebbed.

Harapan cannot be making the same promises as before and expect the people to support their manifesto. Former PKR members Azmin Ali and Zuraidah Kamaruddin and the others who left the party may have to join Bersatu as there is no better choice for them than from fading away. They do not stand any chance if they form a party of their own especially after the present crisis.

Whether the 18-21 age group that numbers in the millions will be able to vote is not known. This group, unpredictable at best, is more focused on employment, PTPTN loans, education, affordable housing and other issues affecting the young.

Another important aspect of any snap election is that it may result in a hung Parliament, a situation no better than the present. Both sides will then have to depend on the smaller parties - the tyranny of the minority so to speak.

Let us hope that the politicians and parties will put the interest of the people as their priority in the formation of a stable and progressive government.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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Promoting good traditions, enhancing Party’s revolutionary and vanguard nature – Nhan Dan Online

Posted: at 11:36 pm

Distinguished participants,

Dear comrades and compatriots,

In the jubilant atmosphere of the whole nation rejoicing at the momentous achievements recorded in 2019 and welcoming the Year of the Rat 2020, today in Hanoi - A-Thousand-Year Cultured and Heroic Capital City and The City for Peace we are solemnly celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of the glorious Communist Party of Vietnam (February 3, 1930 - February 3, 2020).

On behalf of the Party Central Committee, I would like to extend my warmest greetings, most heartfelt regards and best wishes to incumbent and former Party, State and Vietnam Fatherland Front leaders, veteran revolutionaries, Vietnam Hero mothers, distinguished guests, all comrades and compatriots across the country, and overseas compatriots.

Dear comrades and compatriots,

The many-thousand-year-long history of our nation has proved that the love for the country, the preservation of the country, the resolute fight against foreign invasion, and the defense of national independence, sovereignty and unification constitute an extremely precious tradition of our people.

Building on this tradition, since the mid-19th century when our country was invaded by the French colonialists, never subjugated to slavery, our people had kept rising up in continual and forceful patriotic movements characterized by multiple paths and tendencies, ranging from national salvation paths chosen by scholars to rebellions by peasants and bourgeois-styled revolutionary paths, etc.

However, despite their staunchness, wholeheartedness and immense sufferings, all those movements ended in failure due to historical limitations, most notably the lack of a judicious line. A new path was dictated by history.

In 1911, the young patriot Nguyen Tat Thanh (our greatly beloved Uncle Ho) set out for a new path to save the country and fight for national independence.

Driven by eminent and ardent aspirations, He came to Marxism-Leninism and found in this revolutionary doctrine the right path for national salvation - that of proletarian revolution.

Throughout the many years of intensive travels and activities overseas, He persisted in studying, learning and creatively applying Marxism-Leninism and incrementally disseminated it to Vietnam, while strenuously preparing conditions necessary for the establishment of a genuine revolutionary party. Convened in Kowloon, Hong Kong (China) on February 3, 1930 and chaired by Him (alias leader Nguyen Ai Quoc), the communist merger Conference made a decision to merge the then Vietnamese communist organizations into a single political party which was named Communist Party of Vietnam. That was a monumental historic turning-point, putting an end to the protracted crisis in the organization and guidelines of the Vietnamese revolution.

That the Communist Party of Vietnam was born resulted from the convergence of Marxism-Leninism on the one hand and the workers and patriotic movements on the other, attesting to the Vietnamese working classs maturity and capacity to shoulder the historic mission of leadership over the revolution.

The Partys first Political Platform adopted at this founding Conference identified the fundamental path for the Vietnamese revolution that met the urgent demand of the nation and the impassioned aspiration of the population.

Within a mere 15 years since its founding, in flesh-and-blood bond with the population, and enjoying their full support and trust, our Party led the national liberation movement and conducted three revolutionary high-tides: the 1930-1931 high-tide that culminated in the Nghe-Tinh Soviet movement, the 1936-1939 high-tide demanding social welfare and democracy, and the 1939-1945 national liberation revolutionary high- tide, so that in 1945, when the time for the revolution was ripe, the Communist Party of Vietnam led the entire Vietnamese nation to the landslide victory of the August 1945 Revolution and the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945 (whose 75th anniversary we are celebrating this year).

Hardly had the Democratic Republic of Vietnam been born when the revolution was to face numerous difficulties and challenges, among them simultaneous confrontation with a three-fold enemy, namely hunger, illiteracy and foreign invasions.

In such a time of great peril, the Party led our people through the situation which was hung by a hair, unyieldingly safeguarding and building the infantile government, while proactively making all-round preparations to embark upon the war of resistance against the French colonialists.

In keeping with the line of an all-people, all-sided, long-term and essentially self-reliant war of resistance, and building on the promoted tradition of all-nation unity and patriotism, our Party led the people to successively defeat all of the enemys aggressive schemes and plans. Of special significance was the triumphant 1953-1954 Winter-Spring Operation, with its culmination being the historic Dien Bien Phu victory that resounded over the five continents and shook the globe, and that drove the French colonialists into signing the Geneva Accords in 1954, thus ending their war of aggression against Vietnam.

From 1954 to 1975, our country was divided into two parts. Under the leadership of the Party, the North exerted great efforts to build socialism while devoting all of its energy to fulfilling the duty of a great rear to the great frontline. The people of the South continued their undaunted struggle for national independence and reunification.

Imbued with the spirit We would rather sacrifice all than surrendering our country and being enslaved and Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom, following the Partys sound and creative guidelines, and thanks to the entire nations aggregate strength, our armed forces and people successively defeated the American imperialists war strategies, completely liberated the South, and reunified the country on April 30, 1975.

This victory will be written in the history of our nation eternally as a most glorious page and an illuminating symbol of an all-winning victory of revolutionary heroism and human wisdom, and go down in world history as a great feat of the 20th century and an event of pivotal international importance and profound epoch-making magnitude (whose 45th anniversary we are celebrating this year).

While having to work to urgently address extremely grave war aftermaths, the Vietnamese people continued to confront newly staged wars. Under the Partys leadership, our armed forces and people focused on socio-economic restoration while fighting to defend our borderlines and safeguarding our sacred national independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. All the while, we succeeded in fulfilling internationalist obligations of helping the Cambodian people escape from genocide and revive their nation.

In the face of the emerging needs of national development and in a bid to redress the shortcomings caused by the centrally-planned subsidy-based bureaucratic mechanism which resulted in post-war socio-economic crises, and basing itself on reviews of the populations initiatives and innovations in reality, the Party embarked upon phasing in Doi Moi (Renewal) of agriculture and industry, first and foremost of theoretical thinking about socialism, and came to gradually shape the National Doi Moi policy.

Having deeply analyzed the countrys situation, and after a practical exploratory and testing process, in the spirit of looking straight into the truth, evaluating correctly the truth, and telling the truth in a black-and-white manner, the 6th National Party Congress in December 1986 charted out the policy of Comprehensive National Doi Moi, marking an important watershed in the transition to socialism in Vietnam.

The Doi Moi policys enactment met the demand of historical realities, demonstrating the Partys firm willpower and innovative thinking, and opening up a new period of development for the country.

Following the 6th National Congress, the Party step by step improved and concretized the Doi Moi policy the basic and core substance of which was expressed in the Political Platform on National Construction in the Period of Transition to Socialism (the 1991 Platform and the amended 2011 Platform) and other important Party documents adopted by subsequent successive Party Congresses.

The 1990s witnessed the Communist Party and people of Vietnam surmounting the challenges arising from the collapse of the real socialism model in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, remaining unswerving and taking steady and creative steps on the path to socialism in a way suitable to Vietnams specific conditions and characteristics.

The Party Central Committee has between the 6th and 12th Tenures adopted a great many resolutions on the fundamental and crucial issues of the Party as well as on the development of the country. These documents have been then institutionalized by the National Assembly into the legal system and laws, hence an increasingly synchronized and appropriate legal foundation for the Doi Moi process. They have been further concretized by the Government into specific mechanisms, policies and solutions in service of the management, governance and administration over national construction and development.

In defining and determining the Doi Moi policy, our Party has always firmly grasped and innovatively applied the basic tenets, viewpoints and dialectical materialist methodologies of Marxism-Leninism, Ho Chi Minh Thought and practical local and foreign experiences, properly tackled such basic relations as those in the development of a socialist-oriented market economy; the building of a socialist law-governed State of the people, by the people and for the people; the close-knit combination between Doi Moi in the economic sphere and Doi Moi in the political sphere, as well as between economic growth and the realization of social progress and equity; the effective combination between socio-economic development and national defense and security, between national construction and national defense, between national independence and autonomy on the one hand and proactive and active international integration on the other, as well as between the Partys leadership, the States governance and the peoples ownership, etc.

And all this has been done in a manner free from lopsidedness, extremism, wishfulness or switching from one extreme to another.

As reality has shown, Vietnam has after nearly 35 years of Doi Moi transformed itself from being an underdeveloped country with an outdated material-technological base, backward socio-economic infrastructures, and a low level of development into a middle-income developing country, with its culture and society continuously developed, its populations material and spiritual living standards improved, breakthroughs in Party building and the building of political system achieved, its all-nation unity unceasingly consolidated, its political and social situation stabilized, its national defense, security, independence and sovereignty firmly maintained, and its status and prestige in the international arena increasingly elevated.

Todays home to a nearly-100 million-strong population with a per capita income of US$2,800, Vietnam has acceded to virtually all international organizations and become an active and responsible participant in the activity of the international community.

Elected in a recent United Nations General Assembly session with a record high number of votes, almost unanimously, Vietnam has now been serving for the second time as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

In view of the great achievements attained, we are well-grounded to confirm that never has our country enjoyed such fortunes, potential, status and prestige as they are today.Comrades and compatriots,

The rich and vivid reality of the Vietnamese revolution over the past 90 years has demonstrated that the judicious and clear-sighted leadership of the Party is the primary determinant of all victories of the revolution and a great number of extraordinary achievements in Vietnam.

In parallel with that, in exercising its leadership over the revolution, our Party has become tempered and increasingly mature, worthy of its role and mission as the leader of the revolution as well as of the peoples trust and expectation.

Such a reality affirms this one truth: In Vietnam, there is no other political force than the Communist Party of Vietnam that has adequate mettle, wisdom, experience, prestige and capability to lead the country through all hardships and trials, and bring our nations revolutionary cause from one victory to the other.

Also in this process, our Party has accumulated and synthesized many invaluable lessons, and forged the glorious traditions which we are now responsible for preserving and bringing into full play. It is the tradition of infinite loyalty to the national and class interest, and persistence in the goal and ideal of national independence closely linked with socialism based on Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh Thought.

It is the tradition of solid maintenance of independence and autonomy in guidelines; firm grasp, creative application and development of Marxism-Leninism, and due reference to international experience with a view to working out sound policies and organizing the effective execution of revolutionary tasks.

It is the tradition of flesh-and-blood bond between the Party and the people, and consistent idea of serving the people as both raison detre and goal in life and work. It is the tradition of unity and unanimity, close-knit organization and discipline, and strictness and transparency based on democratic centralism, self-criticism, criticism and comradeship. It is the tradition of faithful and crystal-clear internationalist solidarity built on lofty principles and goals.

Looking back on the 90-year journey of building, combat, and growth of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and at this sacred moment, we express our boundless gratitude to the heavenly merits of President Ho Chi Minh, the genius Leader of our Party and people, the great Teacher of the Vietnamese revolution, Hero of National Liberation, and Man of Culture.

He devoted his entire life to our people and country, led our Party and people to resounding victories, and brought glory to our nation, our people, and our Homeland.

The more developed our country becomes and the greater our peoples affluence and happiness are, the more evident it demonstrates that President Ho Chi Minhs thought, lifes work, morality and style constitute an invaluable treasure and the guiding torch for our nation to steadily step towards the future.

We will forever remain grateful to the tremendous contributions of past leaders and millions of heroes and fallen soldiers, those outstanding men and women who bravely gave their life for the Homelands independence, freedom, sovereignty, unification, and territorial integrity, for socialism and in the name of lofty internationalist obligations.

We express our deep gratitude to veteran revolutionaries, families of fallen soldiers, Vietnam Hero Mothers, wounded and ill veterans, families with meritorious service to the nation, and all compatriots and male and female combatants for their valiant fight and sacrifice, creative work and colossal contributions to our nations glorious revolutionary cause.

With all modesty of revolutionaries, we can still say, How great our Party is! How heroic our people are!

We will forever engrave in our hearts and be deeply grateful for the valuable support and help that the people of the fraternal socialist countries, progressive forces, and friends all over the world have extended to our past struggle for national liberation and reunification as well as our present cause of national construction and defense.

Dear comrades and compatriots,

At the moment, our entire Party, people and armed forces are making all-out efforts to implement the Party Platform and State Constitution; push forward in a comprehensive and concerted manner the Doi Moi undertaking, and national industrialization and modernization; develop a socialist-oriented market economy; effectuate openness and international integration; and put into practice the dual strategic task of building and firmly safeguarding the Homeland, for the goal of a prosperous people, a strong, democratic, equitable, and advanced nation.

This is an enormous revolutionary undertaking, or in Uncle Hos words, a gigantic struggle, yet full of difficulties and complexities. The international and domestic context has presented us with numerous difficulties and challenges, apart from advantages and opportunities. We are encountering a host of emerging issues and extremely complicated developments to be addressed.

All this requires our entire Party, people and armed forces, more than ever, to maximize our patriotic and revolutionary traditions, the sense of unity and responsibility, and endeavor to overcome all difficulties and challenges in order to build ours an ever more prosperous and beautiful Homeland.

The resilient and innovative efforts by the entire population as well as by each and every industry, locality and economic sector are of critical importance to our national development.It is imperative for our Party to exert utmost efforts to bolster Party building and rectification, for the Party to be increasingly clean and strong, and to successfully fulfill its responsibility as the vanguard exercising leadership over the revolutionary cause in the new period.

Since its 12th National Congress, our Party has devoted significant time and effort to Party building, considering this a key task. More recently, the entire Party has involved in Party building and rectification in line with the Resolutions of the 4th Central Committee Plena (the 11th and 12th Tenures), scoring initial crucial outcome and experience, contributing to preventing and repelling to a certain extent negative practices, while enhancing the Partys leadership capacity and combat capability.

However, much remains to be done in Party building, particularly in fighting against the degradation of political ideology, morality, and lifestyle; manifestations of self-evolution and self-transformation; and corruption, wastefulness, red tape, and detachment from the population, etc.

Hostile forces are still seeking all means to undermine the revolutionary cause of our people; try to distort and slander our Party and State; directly strike at our Partys ideology, Platform and political guidelines; and incite and sow division within the Party as well as between the Party and State on the one hand and the people on the other, aiming at disintegrating our Party and system from the root and from within. This is extremely insidious and dangerous.

Todays general direction in Party building and rectification is to continue to promote the good traditions; firmly preserve and enhance the Partys revolutionary and vanguard nature; build ours a truly clean and strong Party in terms of politics, ideology, morality, organization, and personnel; innovate its leadership mode; and strengthen the flesh-and-blood bond between the Party and the people to ensure that our Party is adequately capable of leading our country along the line of uninterrupted development.

With ours being the party in power, operating in an environment of market economy development, openness and international integration, in which Party cadres and members hold many high responsibility positions and consequently in constant contact with the inducible temptation of money, wealth, power and personal interests, it is all the more necessary for US to attend to firmly upholding the Partys revolutionary and vanguard nature.

Without profound awareness of this, and without active and tenacious self-training and learning efforts, Party cadres and members would easily fall victim to degeneration and denaturation. The preservation of the essence of our Party - a Communist Party, a genuine revolutionary party working for the cause of the working class and the nation, in the interest of the people is a basic issue of paramount importance.

President Ho Chi Minh once warned, A nation, a party, and an individual with greatness and huge charisma yesterday may not surely enjoy the same affection and commendation from the people today and tomorrow, if their minds and hearts are no longer pure, and if they fall into individualism.

The Resolutions on Party building adopted by the 4th Party Central Committee Plena (the 11th and 12th Tenures) affirm the necessity to actively, resolutely and vigorously build and rectify the Party in order to bring about an ever more visible change across the board, prevent and repel ideological degradation, and consolidate the steadfastness in the revolutionary aims and ideals; to strengthen unanimity in willpower and action; to fortify party organization; to forge an ever closer attachment to the people; and to promote the Partys leadership capacity and combat capability. These are considered matters of life and death to our Party and our system.

A genuine revolutionary party with sound guidelines, a close-knit organization, and a contingent of party cadres and members, who are clean, exemplary, dedicated, and attached to and supported by the population, enjoys power invincible and uncheckable by any force as it leads the nation forward.

Dear comrades and compatriots,

This year, we are celebrating the Founding of our Party at a time of great significance: The year 2020 is the concluding year of the 12th Tenure, when party congresses at different levels are held in the run-up to the 13th National Party Congress, anniversaries of various political events of extraordinary importance celebrated, and Vietnams roles as the ASEAN Chair and a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council performed.

The international and domestic landscape brings about many opportunities and advantages as well as hardships and challenges, requiring utmost efforts and strong determination from our entire Party, people and armed forces with a view to successfully accomplishing the tasks set for 2020, the core of which includes the fulfillment to the greatest extent of socio-economic development tasks, the betterment of macroeconomic stability, the furtherance of the strategic breakthroughs, the restructuring of the economy in conjunction with the innovation of the growth model, the ensuring of social security and welfare, and the improvement of the people's living standard.

National independence, sovereignty and the peaceful and stable environment for national development must be firmly maintained and foreign relations energetically bolstered. Efforts must be focused on successfully organizing Party congresses at various levels in the run-up to the 13th National Party Congress, in association with the continued implementation of the Resolutions of the 4th Party Central Committee Plena (the 11th and 12th Tenures) on Party building; Instructive No. 05 of the Politburo on pressing ahead with the studying and following of Ho Chi Minh Thought, morality and lifestyle so as to foster ever more vigorous development in Party building and rectification.

Filled with joy and pride, we strongly believe that the Communist Party of Vietnam will fulfill outstandingly its heavy tasks. Our entire Party, people and armed forces will endeavor with joint efforts and single-mindedness for a peaceful, unified, independent, democratic, prosperous, and strong Vietnam, marching steadily toward socialism.

Eternal glory to the cultured and heroic Vietnamese nation!

Long live the glorious Communist Party of Vietnam!

Long live the Socialist Republic of Vietnam!

Great President Ho Chi Minh lives forever in our cause!

Thank you sincerely.

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Cuban emigrants and the political culture of exile (II) – OnCubaNews

Posted: February 27, 2020 at 2:01 am

Read the first part of this article.

The sensation that people under 40 have, that a great many of their friends have left, was that of those who are in their 50s when the rafters crisis suddenly reopened the exodus, at the apex of the Special Period; and even earlier, when those in their 60s, in the upsurge in prosperity in 1980, saw their friends unexpectedly cross to the other side; not to mention those who, on the way or already in their 80s, saw their classmates or playmates leave in the wave of the epic and not always prodigious 1960s.

The Mariel thunderstorm, whose round anniversary is approaching, rumbled under a seemingly clear sky. Its cause cannot be attributed to a formidable political conflict with a civil war and international isolation included (as in the 1960s), or to a collapse of the economy (like 14 years later). It took place in the midst of economic growth, stability and the international thaw of the 1970s, although at a juncture of worsening tensions with the United States.

It is often said that it was the expectations that were opened by the dialogue with the emigration, and the consumerism incited by the 130,000 community members who visited the island with the opening, which led to Mariel. Certainly, that change made the possibility of leaving palpable, with a return that had remained closed until then, and doing so loaded with videocassette players and jars of M&Ms for the family. So, why not do it?

Although this hypothesis is consistent with the circumstances, visits were only one factor, and perhaps only a trigger. Other variables concurred in Mariel.

The first was that, by terminating the immigration agreement in 1973, the U.S. government had closed the door, leaving many Cubans without a direct exit route. Whenever something similar happened, in 1962, in 1973 and in 1984 (when a bad agreement was reached, later implemented by drops), the result would cause a migratory accumulation.

The second variable was the unexpected, vertiginous and emotional situation, triggered by the events of the Peruvian embassy, and its rapid escalation. Many who had never thought, or had not seriously considered leaving, suddenly faced the option of doing so: your cousin tells says that if you want to leave, you have a seat in a boat that is waiting for you right now; you have three hours to decide. The emotional contagion that sociologists study had triggered the massive entry into the Peruvian embassy and accelerated the Mariel spiral, which facilitated equally intense adverse reactions.

As a whole, those who left through Mariel looked more like Cuban society than any previous emigration. Among them there were no longer large land or property owners or upper middle class, and although the proportion of professionals and farmers was much lower than that of the country, and that of the unemployed reached almost a quarter of the total flow, 3 out of 5 were workers. The proportion of blacks and mestizos and single men was much higher than all previous flows; almost half had no relatives in the United States; and the vast majority did not speak English. Naturally, their socio-economic and cultural profile, and their education and appearance were not those of the historical exile, the one which rejected them because they didnt look like Cubans, and disparagingly called them Marielitos. Although only 15% of them had a criminal record, in Cuba they were simply called scum. [1]

For the issue at hand, this double rejection suffered by Mariel migrants left an indelible mark. The acrimony of the acts of repudiation, later multiplied in the mirror of literature, theater and cinema, prevails in memory, beyond other dimensions of that intense episode. On this side, however, for many young revolutionary Cubans, the marches in front of the Peruvian embassy, prologue of Mariel, were then lived as their first real political experience.

The government of Peru had lent itself to an operation managed from Washington, by those who in the Carter administration had struggled from the beginning against the rapprochement.

The trauma of Mariel would contradictorily feed the culture of exile. I met a couple of humble workers who left through the Peruvian embassy, and still live in a working-class neighborhood in Lima. He told me that he would never return to Cuba again. She visits frequently, organizes groups of Cuban emigrants and even collaborates with the Cuban embassy. The two have their reasons.

In the end, research shows that, with Mariel, a new stage of Cuban emigration began, characterized by the permanent link with Cuban society. It is they, who left since 1980, who fueled most of the flights and remittances in later years, especially since the crisis of the 1990s.

The Special Period rafters would not be bid farewell with acts of repudiation, but with gestures of solidarity and fraternity, hugs and prayers. Cuban society had changed; and so had politics. Henceforth, emigration was going to increasingly mean part of a family survival strategy. Following that logic, they would never stop looking back or break away from their previous lifeeven when they still didnt have the help of Facebook or WhatsApp, or commercial airlines regular flights.

However, those who emigrated until January 2013, no matter if it was because of the economic situation or family reunification, continued to fall into the black hole of exile, because they lost their permanent residence in Cuba, along with their other citizenship rights. This was the prevailing condition, even if they had not really started off as exiles.

For example, most of the intellectuals and artists who left in the 1990s, and decided to stay definitively, instead of opting for the privilege granted to the guild and other professionals (through the institutions where they worked or those they were linked to), to acquire a PRE (residence permit abroad), they chose to let the door close behind them. Almost none could have documented that their departure responded to fear of repression for political or religious reasons which, according to the UN, endorses the category of refugee.

Most of them processed their exit permit: for a scholarship; for a work stay; for a stay for personal reasons (visiting relatives, marriage with a foreigner). Even those who applied for an immigrant visa for the United States or Europe or any other place, or received it unexpectedly, because their spouse or family member had suddenly won the bombo (an American immigrant visa obtained by lottery) were not considered political refugees in those countries, under no circumstances. So how the hell did they become exiles?

The self-perception of Cubans and their true national pride are no strangers to this attitude. To the extent that the condition of exile circumvents economic or family reasons, identifying themselves as a simple immigrant brings them closer to Mexicans, Central Americans, Dominicans, Jamaicans, Peruvians, Ecuadoriansoften rabble. On the other hand, it also implies having a neutral position with respect to Cuban politics. Both attitudes are strange to a predominant cultural code in Cuban emigration, which reneges being Hispanic or Latino in the United States; Sudaca in Spain; or Caribbean in the rest of Europe. None of that responds to anti-Castroism, ideological or cultural, but to feeling different. The other Latin American and Caribbean people realize this.

On the other hand, under the apparently coherent umbrella of a predominant anti-Castro culture there exists a very varied whole. This heterogeneity does not respond only to the successive waves and their very different social groups, values and political interests; but to the nature of the glue that binds them.

In a strictly ideological and intellectual sense, the culture of anti-Castroism lacks an organic management center. The exile organizations have always been diverse, from former Batista followers and Rebel Army guerrillas, to Communist Party members and Rapid Response Brigade leaders turned opponents.

None of them are usually headed by organic intellectuals. Those who in emigration adopted the condition of exiles and work as academicians, writers or journalists, usually dont direct any of them. The years in which professors Enrique Baloyra and Jos Ignacio Rasco, and journalist and editorial businessman Carlos Alberto Montaner, represented that Democratic Platform, where three of the many organizations in exile joined, are a thing of the past.

After this quick overview of such an intricate problem, what is the nature of classical anti-Castroism? Is it an ideology, that of historical exile? Or rather a psychological charge made up of resentment, cystic fury, catharsis in the face of helplessness and grief over what is left behind and lostas a friend of mine saysfor the shame of having been and the pain of no longer being?

Whatever the answer to these questions, there is still the question of how that feeling is reproduced today within a very mixed population due to the successive migration waves, whose majority did not lose property, nor a privileged way of life, since more than half arrived after the crisis of the 1990s.

Could it be because that way they find the key to their assimilation of the environment? Or does it also respond, as others suggest, to their personal frustrations regarding the dynamics on the island, to another grudge against a past that is still there, without change or visible solution, as they continue seeing on the networks, through the eyes of their friends on Facebook who remain here?

Paraphrasing Marial Iglesias, will it be a pattern that reproduces the metaphors of no change, there and here?

It is not possible to fully address these issues without delving into the nature of the real changes, including behaviors and ways of thinking, on both sides.


[1] Rafael Hernndez and Redi Gmis. Retrato del Mariel: el ngulo socioeconmico (Cuadernos de Nuestra Amrica, # 5, January-July 1986.)

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Social justice and economic inclusion: Where to South Africa? – Daily Maverick

Posted: at 2:01 am

The concept of social justice is hardly free of contestation. In the massive literature which the concept of social justice has spawned, there is scarcely any agreement about whether liberty, equality, solidarity or the common good is the central feature on which the concept of social justice must be predicated.

Some argue that social justice is promoted to the extent that society can enhance the collective good without infringing upon basic individual freedoms. Others stress that social justice reflects a concept of fairness in the assignment of fundamental rights and duties, economic opportunities and social conditions. In turn, the debate then shifts to three different ideas: legal justice which is concerned with what people owe society, commutative justice which concerns the extent of obligations that the citizenry owe to each other and distributive justice, that is what society may owe to each citizen.

The topic for tonight has been made somewhat easier for me in that the issue of social justice is coupled to that of economic exclusion. I need to deal with the distributive component if I am to show fidelity to the advertised topic of this lecture. In this connection, the South African reality at present stands in sharp contrast to our constitutional ambition as is evidenced in the text. The preamble refers to a Constitution designed to heal the divisions of the past and, establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights. Section 9, the equality clause, provides that equality includes a full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To this end, a series of social and economic rights are included in the Constitution, including the right to housing, healthcare, food, water, social security and education. In addition, powerful rights are given to employees including the right to form and join a trade union, to participate in the activities and programmes of trade unions and to strike.

The current reality is depressingly different. While there is evidence that money metric poverty declined in South Africa during the democratic period of our history, a 2019 report by Statistics South Africa shows that, despite a decline in poverty between 2006 and 2011, poverty levels have again risen; from a low of 53.2% in 2011 to 55.5% in 2015. At that time 30.4 million people were living in poverty. Inequality in South Africa, measured in terms of the Gini coefficient of income, has consistently been above 0.6 from 1993 to 2015 which easily places South Africa in the top five most unequal countries on the global scale.

Regrettably, there has been no significant reduction in overall inequality or poverty in post-apartheid South Africa.

Even my short but stark description reveals the imperative of embracing social justice, without which economic inclusion, by which I mean the ability of all South Africans to live a dignified life through fair and reasonable participation in the economic intercourse of the country, cannot be achieved.

The Constitution insists that basic social provisioning for those most in need must be progressively realised. Its true that many budgets have devolved much money on social grants and education. However, the country waits in vain for a coherent economic policy that gives priority to the vindication of these promises. We search for an economic policy that radically reduces unemployment and increases life chances for the dignified life for all. However, social justice dictates that we raise our gaze beyond distribution, its importance notwithstanding.

What then is social justice within the South African context?

In attempting to engage with this complex topic, I borrow from the work of Nancy Fraser, an American critical theorist (in particular Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition? (2003). Fraser contends that there are two paradigms of justice based on redistribution and recognition. According to the former, social justice focuses on socio-economic issues, for the absence of access to a fair distribution of resources reflects an unjust political economy. The remedy requires redistributive economic measures. By contrast, the recognition paradigm is primarily a matter of cultural evaluation of a status groups culture and the arbitrary prioritisation of hegemonic culture. The remedy here focuses on cultural or symbolic change.

Fraser argues that an antithesis between the two is a false one in that no society which is saturated by social injustice is but two-dimensional. Subordinated groups suffer both maldistribution and misrecognition in forms where neither of these injustices was an indirect effect of the other, but here both primary and co-ordinals. (p.19) She argues that one should roundly reject the construction of redistribution and recognition as mutually exclusive alternatives. The goal should rather be, to develop an integrated approach that can encompass and harmonise both dimensions of social justice. (p.26)

I have already dealt at some length with South Africa and the challenge of redistribution. I turn now to recognition.

Recognition is a matter of social justice for the status of full partners, and social interaction simply is a consequence of institutionalised patterns of cultural value in whose construction they have not equally participated. It is a denial of justice to those affected thereby. We can embrace all within our society as social peers with reciprocal relations of equality or we can continue to ensure that some will suffer from a state of subordination by way of misrecognition.

In this connection, Fraser refers to racial profiling in which policing practices treat young black males as dangerous because of racialised conceptions of criminality. In these cases, the institutional perception of blackness considered as a danger inhibits the targeted group from achieving the status of being a full partner social life.

Recognition and distribution are thus both dimensions of justice for the normative core of my conception is a notion of parity of participation. According to this norm, justice requires social arrangements that permit all (adult) members of society to interact with one anothers peers. For participatory parity to be possible, I claim at least two conditions to be satisfied: [an] objective condition [which] precludes forms and levels of economic dependence and inequality that impede parity of participation [and an] intersubjective condition [which] precludes institutional norms that systematically depreciate some categories of people and the qualities associated with them. (p. 36)

The principle of parity of participation (See Nancy Fraser Social Exclusion, Global Poverty and Scales of (In) Justice: rethinking law and poverty in a globalising world 2011 (22) Stellenbosch Law Review 452) requires the construction of social arrangements that permit all members of society to interact with one anothers peers. For this to happen, at least three conditions have to be met: the distribution of material resources must be such as to ensure that participants enjoy an equal capacity for social interaction. Thus, economic structures may reproduce deprivation, exploitation and promote gross disparities and wealth, income, labour and leisure time. In turn, this prevents people from participating on an equal basis with others in social life.

These structures must be eradicated if social justice is to be attained. The legal and social system must express equal respect for all participants and ensure equal opportunity for achieving social esteem. Here institutionalised patterns of cultural values systematically undermine various categories of people and the qualities associated with them, thereby denying them the status of full partners and a fair opportunity for social interaction.

The third consideration concerns the political constitution of society which must be designed to accord roughly an equal political voice to all social actors. This rules out electoral systems and media structures that systematically deprive categories of persons of a fair chance to influence decisions that affect them in the public domain. Fraser insists that all these conditions are necessary for participatory parity. None alone is sufficient.

To quote Fraser again:

Encompassing economic, cultural and political considerations, (parity of participation) treats redistribution, recognition and representation as three analytically distinct facets of justice none of which can be reduced to the other although they all practically intertwined. (p.455)

In Frasers work, the norm of parity of participation extends to family and personal life, employment and market relations, formal and informal politics and voluntary associations in civil society. The mechanism of exclusion takes on a plurality of different forms: many women have lacked the standing and resources to participate in official politics while enjoying the cultural and material prerequisites for meaningful (if not equal) participation in family life. Lesbian and gay people, until recently, have lacked the standing to participate openly in sexual relations and in family life, even if they had access to decently remunerated work. For Fraser, this shows that exclusion may well not spill from one sphere into another. In South Africa, however, apartheid raised the possibility of total radical exclusion. The vast majority of South Africans were systematically stripped of participation rights in all spheres of society and were treated as no more than a vast reservoir of labour at the service of white capital.

Exclusion goes further, for it reproduces itself in more subtle ways. It is often rooted in the institutionalisation of hierarchical patterns of cultural value which deny some the chance, even modest, of participation in vast areas of society, particularly where their own lives are affected thereby. A white male norm permeates society and is then used to assess competence and merit. At a cruder level, undocumented immigrants are denied any chance of participation in the political space of the country in which they reside.

The application of the parity of participation principle

The Constitution boldly sets out a vision of what can only be described as a form of social-democratic governance for South Africa. The pursuit of substantive equality, the critical role of the state in providing social goods and services, particularly to the poor and those most in need as well as strong labour rights for workers to organise are core components of the system of governance set out in the Constitution. These provisions form component parts of the governance model which the drafters of the Constitution considered to be most appropriate if South Africa was to transcend the very high levels of inequality which were deeply embedded in South African history.

There can be little doubt that the burden of history weighed heavily on those who were charged with constructing a democratic society. Colonial dispossession refashioned by the mining and industrial revolutions and, after 1910 the advent of Union, brought more stringent forms of exclusion and marginalisation which were incorporated into law. This lasted until 1948 when the legislation and social control took on an even more pernicious form which characterised South African society until 1994. In this way, the history of capitalist development and inequality in South Africa were inextricably linked. (See Colin Bundy Post-Apartheid Inequality and the Long Shadow of History in Crane Soudien, Vasu Reddy and Ingrid Woolard: Poverty and Inequality: Diagnosis Prognosis Responses (2019))

Twenty-six years later, it is fair to say that not only are poverty, unemployment and inequality with us today but the key indicators outlined above may well have worsened during this period.

This reflects an abysmal failure to chart a new growth path, one which was in keeping with the social-democratic commitments of the Constitution. While it would be churlish not to acknowledge the introduction of the social grant system and the determined efforts by successive governments to address poverty levels, almost three decades of economic policy have not transformed the economic landscape. There has been a significant failure to provide high-quality education and healthcare to the poor, no real expansion of incentives for peasant farmers, an omission to focus upon labour-intensive industrialisation, to take but a few of the key elements of policy implementation which required urgent attention.

In addition, little has been done to alter the spatial geography of apartheid. Let us acknowledge the mass housing construction programme after 1994. But it mainly took place on the peripheries of existing townships, far from the workplace and, often, on land bought for zoned township development under apartheid. Twenty-six years into democracy South African urban areas look very similar to those inherited from the apartheid regime.

In summary, the kind of structural challenge to deal with inequality and reboot South Africa from its deeply imbedded patterns inherited from some 300 years of colonial and apartheid rule have simply not taken place despite much political rhetoric.

It is not surprising that the constitutional arrangements, born of the 1994 settlement have been seen by some as nothing more than a messy compromise which primarily advantaged Afrikaner and black capital at the expense of more than 50 million South Africans. The underlying assumptions upon which the Constitution are based have thus come under sustained attack. Take for example the following comment from Tshepo Madlingozi:

Language and praxis of human rights collapse when they come up against the demands of those who are considered non-humans. The discourse of human rights has nothing to say to those who suffer dehumanisation and social death because it is predicted on the humanity of those already inside the wall of political society.

These criticisms target the absence of the concrete steps needed to conduct the principle of recognition. The white male norm remains dominant within our society. We continue to assess excellence through this particular prism. As an anecdotal illustration, many of my black students have informed me that if they speak with a model C accent they find less of a barrier at university than if they come from the townships. This example can be multiplied through various experiences throughout society.

The Constitution envisaged the construction of a new South African identity which would embrace the dignity of difference and ensure the construction of a new appropriate norm for a democratic non-racial, non-sexist society. That, sadly, has not happened and, accordingly, levels of alienation, deeply embedded in South African history, have not been addressed. Unsurprisingly, this has given rise to various forms of populist rhetoric which, in turn, promotes new forms of exclusion, all of which are also at war with the constitutional commitment to the construction of a new non-racial and non-sexist society. None of this is surprising because if what you have depends upon how you look, then apartheid has renamed relatively intact.

The constitutional project will continue to play little of a meaningful role in the lives of millions of South Africans. That a Nobel prize winner and another senior member of a foundation that claims to promote the Constitution can claim publicly that apartheid was not a crime against humanity is a truly disturbing illustration of how far the country needs to travel to embracing a new identity. At the same time, the disadvantage still encountered by millions has promoted a populism that resembles fascism far more than it does democracy. With it emerges a discourse which is utterly incongruent with a non-racial, non-sexist democracy.

The lack of participation to which Fraser refers is equally true with regard to our electoral system. The 10 years of rule under President Zuma showed that Parliament did not regard itself as accountable to the citizenry and thus failed regrettably to execute its responsibilities of oversight over the executive. From this failure, the constitutional design of separation of powers was placed in jeopardy. This failure ensured that rent-seeking rather than employment creation and an inclusive economy became the order of the economic day as did the hollowing out of key constitutional institutions and the concomitant rise in corruption. The country still awaits decisions by the NPA to enforce the principle of legal accountability, no matter the political position of an alleged offender.

Frasers concern about how electoral systems can shape political participation and erode the parity of participation principle are manifestly applicable to present-day South Africa. This should dictate that a serious debate be conducted about an electoral system which can enhance rather than impede a fundamental principle which promotes social justice, political and economic inclusion.

It is the argument of this paper that the three-dimensional framework advocated by Fraser, namely redistribution, recognition and representation, adequately captures the normative framework which makes the best sense of the Constitution. The Constitution was drafted within the context of a unique pattern of inequality for a country which had been subjected to settler colonialism, a dual economy of enrichment and impoverishment, spatial geography which promoted human development for a few and human confinement for the majority. It exalted the principle of stable nuclear families for a few and the disruption of family life for the many in the name of a cheap labour reserve.

There can be little doubt that existing patterns of poverty and inequality threaten the possibility of continued democracy and the stability of the South African state. It is simply not sufficient to limp along at a growth rate of less than 1% of GDP annually with little vision as to how economic policy can be rendered congruent with the fundamental constitutional promises. The poverty of policy to redress 300 years of history is of course compounded by the challenges posed by the global economy in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Simply put, labour can no longer be considered as playing social mediator in the conflict for the distribution of the fruits of the economy.

For this reason, some nostalgic attempt to return to the social-democratic model of the 1950s and early 1960s is now futile. A fresh set of ideas has to be implemented to ensure the vindication of the promise of redistribution. This, in turn, raises the challenge of a constitution of a politics that embraces new forms of countervailing power to resist the excesses of capital.

At the same time, we need to conduct a national debate about what it means to be South African and what standard we employ to evaluate successful participation within society. Simply put, the white male norm which continues to dominate and exclude millions from fair participation has to be eschewed and replaced with transformative content. This second challenge leads to a further consequence: what does the principle of non-racial and non-sexist accountability look like? Can we fashion some agreement that, to borrow from Martin Luther King, is based on the character of the human being rather than her colour? Can this become the decisive yardstick?

The third challenge is to ensure that our politics are rendered accountable to the citizenry. To this end we need to acknowledge the failure of our present electoral system. There is an inability of the present electoral system to promote a coherent and viable system of separation of powers, particularly between the executive and the legislature.

These are our challenges which cannot be postponed any longer or passed on to elaborate think tanks or satisfied with empty promises. If all three of these principles are not addressed urgently, there will be no social justice for millions and, in turn, there will be little left of the great ambition that we had in 1994 of developing a democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom for all who live in this land. MC

Dennis Davis is a Judge of the Western Cape Division of the High Court and Judge President of the Competition Appeals Court.

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A Glut of Arms: Curbing the Threat to Venezuela from Violent Groups – International Crisis Group

Posted: February 23, 2020 at 6:41 am

Whats new?Political turmoil, economic ruin and heightening tensions with neighbouring countries have furnished non-state armed groups, including guerrillas from Colombia, criminal syndicates, paramilitaries and pro-government vigilantes known as colectivos, with the means to expand their influence and presence across Venezuela.

Why does it matter?Armed groups filling the vacuum left by a government determined to resist domestic opposition, international pressure and mounting sanctions pose a threat of escalating violence in the absence of negotiations, while also entailing major risks of sabotage in the wake of any eventual political settlement.

What should be done?These groups threat to peace must be contained, and that imperative should feature prominently in future talks aimed at settling the crisis. Those negotiations should include Venezuelas military. Demobilising each armed group will require a tailored approach, but most should aim for deals securing acquiescence in a comprehensive political settlement.

As Venezuelas turmoil deepens with no end in sight, power is seeping out of formal state institutions and pooling in the hands of various armed irregulars. Behind this phenomenon are diverse causes. The ceaseless struggle for supremacy between President Nicols Maduros government and opposition forces has turned state organs into partisan bodies that either solicit support from armed groups or overlook them. Economic ruin brought about by government mismanagement now worsened by U.S. sanctions has pushed numerous Venezuelans into illicit livelihoods and the orbit of organised crime. Meanwhile, the countrys long, porous borders have allowed Colombian guerrillas to gain footholds deep inside the country. The armed groups are far from identical, but all are ready to use violence and territorial control to further their goals, and any might sabotage a settlement that Venezuelas competing political forces eventually agree to. Defanging them will require approaches tailored to each outfit, but the main goal should be to demobilise fighters and seek their buy-in to a deal that ends Venezuelas collective agony.

Guerrillas from Colombia, loyalist pro-government militias known as colectivos, paramilitaries and a catalogue of criminal gangs stand out as the main non-state armed groups now operating in Venezuela. Their methods, goals and affinities vary hugely. Some profess ideological motivations while others pursue naked criminal profit. Some work in alleged collusion with ruling elites, while others purportedly have ties to opposition elites. The opposition led by Juan Guaid and its international allies, now numbering close to 60 countries, accuse all but the right-wing paramilitaries of complicity with state security forces, or even with the high military command and political elites within chavismo, the movement named after the late president, Hugo Chvez. But the exact nature of the ties between these armed groups and the state, and the mutual benefits that arise from them, are not always easy to identify. Skirmishes between state and non-state actors acting in supposed coordination have exposed the high levels of mistrust that divide them.

Formal talks between the government and opposition are moribund, but if and when they restart, they should urgently address the questions of how to reduce the armed irregulars influence and how to stop them from scuttling agreements that the sparring Venezuelan sides may reach. As the types of armed groups present different problems, each will need its own remedy. Dealing with Colombian guerrillas will require intensive cooperation between Caracas and Bogot, ideally as part of efforts in the latter capital to end the insurgencies through negotiations aimed at general demobilisation. Some colectivos may be persuaded to reassume their historical role as mediators between state and society. As for criminal elements, several of them may also accept deals whereby they avoid prosecution or face reduced sentences in exchange for giving up arms. Experience in other Latin American countries shows that such tactics, while not always easy to swallow, are more likely to help the Venezuelan state reassert its writ with a minimum of additional bloodshed.

Caracas/Bogot/Brussels, 20 February 2020

President Nicols Maduros government is clinging to office in Venezuela, tightening its authoritarian grip on the countrys politics and society even as opposition to it has grown more uncompromising and received the support of a rising number of countries. It is doing so in the name of preserving the power of chavismo, the movement embracing the left-wing populist ideology propagated by Maduros predecessor Hugo Chvez, but at the cost of growing disarray in state institutions and national economic catastrophe.

The battle between the government and opposition intensified in January 2019, when the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaid, asserted his own claim to the presidency, saying Maduros re-election the year before was invalid. As a result, for over a year Venezuela has had two leaders claiming to be legitimate president, as well as two legislatures and two Supreme Courts.[fn]On 21 July 2017, amid mass protests against the Maduro government, the opposition-controlled National Assembly swore in an alternative Supreme Court as a response to the perceived bias of the official one, which was packed with judges supportive of the government in the last days of the previously chavista-controlled National Assembly in 2015. The National Assembly declared those appointments void in 2017 and proceeded to swear in a new Supreme Court. Maduros reaction was swift; he called the new judges criminals, ordering their arrest one by one. Three judges were detained, and the rest fled abroad. Maduros government has continuously used the Supreme Court to undermine parliaments authority through various rulings. Members of the new National Constituent Assembly, all of whom are government supporters, were elected in July 2017. Pedro Pablo Pealosa, 3 magistrados detenidos y 30 en la clandestinidad: as va la cacera de Nicols Maduro contra los jueces nombrados por el Parlamento, Univision, 25 July 2018; Jennifer McCoy, Venezuelas controversial new Constituent Assembly, explained, Washington Post, 1 August 2017. See also Crisis Group Latin America Briefing N36, Power without the People: Averting Venezuelas Breakdown, 19 June 2017.Hide Footnote The governments move in early January 2020 to seize control over the National Assembly has served only to splinter the countrys institutions further.[fn]On 5 January, Maduros government and state security forces prevented Guaid and other opposition legislators from entering the National Assembly precinct and participating in the vote on the Assemblys new one-year presidency. The chavista deputies, together with some former opposition deputies, took part in a sham vote that flouted established procedures and declared Luis Parra the new National Assembly president. Parra is a former opposition deputy who has been accused of corruption in relation to government food programs. Guaid and the majority of the Assemblys deputies held a parallel vote later that same day, in which Guaid was re-elected Assembly president. The Maduro government and some of its international allies (though not all) recognise Parra as Assembly leader. At the same time, 58 countries including the U.S. and most of South America continue to recognise Guaid as both Assembly leader and Venezuelas interim president. Ana Vanessa Herrero and Julie Turkewitz, Venezuelas National Assembly opens for business: scuffles, tear gas and doused lights, The New York Times, 7 January 2020.See also Crisis Group Statement, Seizure of Parliament Plunges Venezuela into Deeper Turmoil, 7 January 2020.Hide Footnote Meanwhile, the U.S. has imposed sweeping sanctions, including on oil sales, aggravating the Venezuelan economys sharp contraction since 2013 due to falling oil prices, government mismanagement and corruption. Despite recent efforts to scrap inefficient state controls and dollarise the economy, much of the population suffers regular interruptions to electricity and water supply, while hunger is rife and the public health system is in ruins.[fn]In March 2019, the country suffered a nationwide electrical blackout lasting 50 hours, which was followed by recurrent service cuts across the country. In various parts of the country, the government now applies an electricity rationing program that cuts off the supply for many hours. Phil Gunson, The Darkest Hours: Power Outages Raise the Temperature in Venezuela, Crisis Group Commentary, 15 March 2019. Regarding the problems in the health service as well as food insecurity, see UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock: Statement on the Humanitarian Situation in Venezuela, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 6 November 2019. Regarding the recent bonfire of economic policies and their impact, see Ryan Dube, Juan Forero and Kejal Vyas, Maduro gives economy a freer hand to keep his grip on Venezuela, Wall Street Journal, 30 January 2020.Hide Footnote Certain public services still operate, including the main offices of state bureaucracy, urban transport and waste collection and police and fire emergency response, albeit with numerous problems and shortfalls.

The central state continues to oversee territorial control, law enforcement and maintenance of public order. It funds, supervises and appoints the heads of the armed forces and other security services, and takes the militarys loyalty extremely seriously.[fn]Crisis Group Latin America Briefing N39, Venezuelas Military Enigma, 16 September 2019.Hide Footnote But the ability of the government in Caracas to carry out these functions is also slipping. Security forces have failed to contain Venezuelas extremely high levels of criminal violence and have themselves been charged with numerous human rights violations.[fn]The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported in July last year that Venezuelas security apparatus is responsible for a series of political and other crimes. Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of Human Rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, OHCHR, July 2019.Hide Footnote At the same time, the political and economic crisis has both weakened the security forces which must get by with depleted resources while grappling with desertions and internal tensions and empowered non-state armed groups, which have grown in size or scaled up their operations in the country thanks to the boom in illicit business coinciding with the formal economys collapse.[fn]An estimated 1,500 Venezuelan military officers deserted for Colombia and Brazil during and immediately after the efforts backed by Guaid and international allies on 23 February 2019 to get humanitarian aid into the country. Recent reports suggest that the military high command is alarmed at the high ongoing rate of desertion. Militares desertores en Colombia, entre el olvido y el engao, France 24, 5 June 2019. Antes la alarmante desercin, el ministro de Defensa de Venezuela orden convencer a los soldados de regresar como sea, Infobae, 20 January 2020.Hide Footnote

The result is a realignment in the countrys internal security as irregular armed outfits have partly replaced the state security apparatus in the southern states of Bolvar and Amazonas, as well as in certain other rural and urban settings, particularly along borders. Venezuelas state forces are not obsolete or irrelevant. Their support for Maduro makes them the backbone of the status quo and will make them critical in any transition.[fn]Crisis Group Briefing,Venezuelas Military Enigma, op. cit.Hide Footnote But as their operational power and territorial presence fades, they are forming unstable alliances with, or tolerating the rise of, non-state armed groups, which provide crude versions of state services and assure locals some form of livelihood.

This report examines the main non-state armed groups in Venezuela, assesses their relations with government officials and political elites, and explores how their activities and alliances could affect the outcome of Venezuelas turmoil.[fn]This report does not consider the case of Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia whose alleged presence in Venezuela has become a leading concern of the U.S., Colombia and the Venezuelan opposition, as reflected in the January ministerial conference on terrorism in Bogot. Duque denunci presencia de clulas de Hezbol en Venezuela, El Tiempo, 20 January 2020. Although evidence linking the group to Latin Americas worst-ever terrorist attack, the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994, remains very strong, the supposed presence of Hizbollah in and around Venezuela appears to be based largely on sightings of individuals reportedly connected to the organisation. See La evidencia que se llev Pompeo de los nexos de Maduro y Hezbol, El Tiempo, 26 January 2020. Crisis Group has until now encountered no evidence that the group has an organised, armed presence in Venezuela.Hide Footnote It also points to how negotiators from both sides in future talks could seek to manage the threat posed by these groups in any eventual transition. The report builds on Crisis Groups continuous coverage of Venezuelas socio-economic and political crises over the last five years.[fn]See, in addition to previously cited publications, Crisis Group Latin America Briefings N33, Venezuela: Unnatural Disaster, 30 July 2015; N35, Venezuela: Edge of the Precipice, 24 June 2016; and N37, Venezuela: Hunger by Default, 23 November 2017; as well as Crisis Group Latin America Reports N65, Containing the Shock Waves from Venezuela, 21 March 2018; and N73, Gold and Grief in Venezuelas Violent South, 28 February 2019.Hide Footnote

Irregular armed groups have a long history in Venezuela.[fn]Guerrilla movements under the influence of Cuba operated in Venezuela throughout the 1960s, attempting to overthrow the countrys democratically elected governments. For a favourable account of the guerrillas in Venezuela, see Pedro Pablo Linrez, Lucha Armada en Venezuela, Bolivarian University of Venezuela, 2006. Venezuelas 2,200km border with Colombia is porous, enabling Colombian guerrillas to cross back and forth at least since the 1980s. Conflict between Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries also spread into Venezuela starting in the 1990s. Socorro Ramrez, Colombia y sus vecinos, Nueva Sociedad, no. 192, July-August 2004.Hide Footnote But in recent years their presence has taken on a qualitatively different character. In theory, non-state armed groups, while not direct enemies of the state like insurgencies, nevertheless seek a degree of autonomy from state institutions and formal politics. Yet in Venezuela, as in other Latin American countries, the relationship between armed groups and the public sector is far from clear-cut. Many irregular outfits have direct relations and common interests with parts of the state, which support or influence them either secretly or openly.[fn]Certain vigilante, militia and paramilitary groups, notably in Colombia, urban areas of Brazil and in the Northern Triangle of Central America, have been tied to the state. Ulrich Schneckener, Fragile Statehood, Armed Non-State Actors and Security Governance, in Alan Bryden and Marina Caparini (eds.), Private Actors and Security Governance (Geneva, 2006). Some scholars argue that for some governments the existence of non-state armed groups is a convenient scapegoat that serves to distract the public from other problems and entrench the social status quo. Dennis Rodgers and Robert Muggah, Gangs as Non-State Armed Groups: The Central American Case,Contemporary Security Policy,vol. 30, no. 2 (2019); pp. 301-317. Regarding definitions of non-state armed groups in Venezuela, see Colectivo, Paramilitar, Parapolicial, PROVEA.Hide Footnote For some state officials or politicians, these shadowy groups prove attractive because they can generate income via their illicit activities while also serving political ends, for example by intimidating people in order to secure votes. Growing evidence and eyewitness testimony indicate that such relations are becoming more commonplace in Venezuela, although the countrys highly polarised political landscape has given rise to mutual accusations of complicity in criminal conduct that are not always grounded in reality.[fn]Maduros government has made unsubstantiated claims that Colombian paramilitaries funded by the Venezuelan opposition have planned to assassinate him dozens of times. See, for instance, Venezuela arrests Colombians over Maduro assassination plot, BBC, 10 June 2013. Meanwhile, evidence presented to the UN by the Colombian government showing alleged Venezuelan support for Colombian guerrillas came into question when several photos were proved to have been taken outside Venezuela. Gobierno enviar a ONU versin actualizada del dossier contra Maduro, El Tiempo, 1 October 2019.Hide Footnote

The guerrillas in Venezuela today are largely transplants from neighbouring Colombia, although they do also recruit local members who in certain areas outnumber the Colombians.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) and the disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) maintained a limited presence in Venezuela well before Chvez assumed the presidency in 1999.[fn]For instance, in 1995 eight Venezuelan soldiers died after a guerrilla attack on the border with Colombia. At this time, the Colombian guerrillas had bases inside Venezuela and were involved in kidnappings and other illegal activities on Venezuelan soil. Ludmila Vinogradoff, Mueren ocho marines venezolanos en un ataque de la guerrilla colombiana, El Pas, 27 February 1995.Hide Footnote Chvez was generally tolerant of their activities, declaring as early as 1999 that his government would be neutral in relation to the armed conflict in Colombia. On occasion, he expressed active support for the guerrillas hard left political stances.[fn]Miguel Goncalves, Conditional Convenience: Venezuelan Support for FARC since Hugo Chvez, The Yale Review of International Studies, January 2014. See also The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of Raul Reyes, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2011.Hide Footnote Ties between Chvez and the guerrillas deteriorated, however, during the last years of his presidency as relations with the Colombian government of former president Juan Manuel Santos improved. Venezuela played an active role in peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government that began in 2012. For at least its first four years, the Maduro administration continued the line espoused by Chvez, supporting the conclusion of peace negotiations and refraining from open support for the guerrillas.[fn]For an overview of the role of the Venezuelan government in the Colombian peace process, see David Smilde and Dimitris Pantoulas, The Venezuelan Crisis, Regional Dynamics and the Colombian Peace Process, Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution, 2016.Hide Footnote

Since 2017, however, Venezuelas heightened political instability and deepening economic crisis, combined with the spread of new or expansionary armed groups in Colombia following the FARC insurgencys end, have boosted the guerrilla presence in Venezuela.[fn]On these changing conditions in Venezuela and Colombia in 2017, see Crisis Group Latin America Report N63, Colombias Armed Groups Battle for the Spoils of Peace, 19 October 2017; and Crisis Group Briefing, Power without the People: Averting Venezuelas Breakdown, op. cit.Hide Footnote Colombian guerrillas from the ELN and dissidents from the FARC who reject the peace process use Venezuela as a safe haven and a source of revenue through illicit activities. Their presence has extended far into the interior, with reports suggesting that they operate in at least thirteen of Venezuelas 24 states, although the heartlands of their activity remain the states of Bolvar and Amazonas in southern Venezuela and the regions of Apure and Tchira, adjacent to the Colombian border.[fn]On Bolvar and Amazonas, see Crisis Group Report, Gold and Grief in Venezuelas Violent South, op. cit. A recent report indicates that FARC dissidents control municipalities in Apure state and are assisting with health and school services there. Sebastiana Barrez, Elorza, el pueblo venezolano controlado por las FARC: El comandante Lucas es el amo del lugar, Infobae, 13 April 2019. See also The Guerrillas Are the Police: Social Control and Abuses by Armed Groups in Colombias Arauca Province and Venezuelas Apure State, Human Rights Watch, January 2020.Hide Footnote In addition to these groups traditional activities of drug trafficking, extortion and smuggling, they are now heavily involved in illegal mining of gold and other minerals, from which they are believed to obtain most of their revenue. According to sources close to these groups, both FARC dissidents and the ELN make more than half of their income from mining inside Venezuela and Colombia.[fn]Crisis Group Report, Gold and Grief in Venezuelas Violent South, op. cit., p. 6.Hide Footnote

The presence of these groups on Venezuelan soil, often operating with the connivance of corrupt authorities, has sparked escalating tensions between Venezuela and Colombia, replete with threats of military reprisal. Bogot insists that Caracas and the guerrillas are acting in concert, a claim that has assumed far greater urgency since a number of FARC commanders announced they were taking up arms again at the end of August 2019, from a location that senior Colombian officials claimed was in Venezuela.[fn]Crisis Group Latin America Briefing N40, Containing the Border Fallout of Colombias New Guerrilla Schism, 20 September 2019.Hide Footnote Colombian President Ivn Duque told the UN General Assembly that he had irrefutable and conclusive proof that corroborates the support of the dictatorship for criminal and narco-terrorist groups that operate in Venezuela, although some of the photographs in the file he handed over were later found to have been taken in Colombia, not Venezuela.[fn]Colombias Duque tells U.N. that dossier proves Maduro supports terrorists, Reuters, 25 September 2019. Following the declaration of the new FARC schism on 29 August and in response to perceived Venezuelan aggression, the Colombian government pushed hard for the activation on 23 September of the Rio Treaty, also known as the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, a mutual defence pact.Hide Footnote Venezuelan opposition leaders have used similar language, calling the guerrilla groups terrorists who work hand in glove with the Maduro government.[fn]Acuerdo en rechazo a la presencia y expansin de grupos narcoterroristas en el territorio nacional, Venezuela National Assembly, 3 September 2019.Hide Footnote But no one has presented incontrovertible proof of close ties between senior officials in Caracas and the guerrillas.

The activities of guerrilla and dissident groups across Venezuela bring them into close contact with state officials and local residents, while also triggering violent clashes with other groups coveting illicit revenues. In their mining operations, guerrilla groups subcontract other armed outfits to control the miners and the impoverished local population, sometimes through coercion, but sometimes by offering them job opportunities and staple goods.[fn]According to media reports, in some parts of the country the ELN is helping distribute government food parcels, known as CLAP. Las evidencias de la alianza del Eln con Maduro, El Tiempo, 20 May 2019.Hide Footnote To transport and export the gold, the guerrillas rely on cooperation with state security forces and trafficking networks, both of which take sizeable cuts of the revenues.[fn]Crisis Group Report, Gold and Grief in Venezuelas Violent South, op. cit.Hide Footnote Evidence also suggests, however,that the relationship between Venezuelas military and Colombian guerrillas can rapidly turn sour: Venezuelan troops reportedly killed two FARC dissidents on the border next to Zulia state in July 2019, while ELN guerrillas clashed with Venezuelan National Guard in Bolvar state in late November 2018, killing three guardsmen.[fn]On the killing of the FARC dissidents, see Caleb Zuleta, El Ejrcito de Maduro tambin mata a guerrilleros ex-FARC, Alnavo, 31 July 2019. On the clashes between the ELN and the National Guard, see Bram Ebus, A Rising Tide of Murder in Venezuelas Mineral-Rich South, Crisis Group Commentary, 12 November 2018. The ELN commander involved in those clashes was reportedly detained with numerous privileges in the Fuerte Tiuna barracks in Caracas. Sebastiana Barrez, Oficiales venezolanos toman caf y oyen vallenatos con un jefe de la ELN que mat a tres sargentos de la Guardia Nacional, Infobae, 1 September 2019. Venezuelan security forces reportedly killed another ELN commander in Zulia state early in November. Sebastiana Barrez, Muerte en una discoteca del Zulia: cmo cay un comandante del ELN por el disparo de un polica venezolano, Infobae, 6 November 2019.Hide Footnote

So-called colectivos are civil associations that in some cases function as para-police groups and that have gained prominence as Venezuelas political conflict has intensified. Both colectivos opponents and their defenders tend to attribute almost mythical dimensions to their importance, yet they have without doubt become chavismos backbone through coercive control over street protests and influence in low-income communities.[fn]One writer says the colectivos are revolutionary grassroots organizations [that] represent the backbone of the Bolivarian process and are at the forefront of the struggle for a new kind of state. George Ciccariello-Maher, Collective Panic in Venezuela, Jacobin, June 2014. Conversely, others say the colectivos have a green light to kill any person who is against Maduros regime. Pachi Valencia, Licencia para matar: Los colectivos armados en Venezuela siembran terror en el pas, La Gran poca, 25 June 2019.Hide Footnote Their relationship with central government and state institutions, however, is far from harmonious.

In Venezuela, the term colectivo has traditionally referred to a local organisation with a left-wing ideology that seeks, in theory, to serve the common good of its members and the general public. In practice, opinions as to what these groups now represent differ markedly. Supporters of chavismo emphasise their community roots and commitment to locals well-being as defining features. They argue that these bodies function as social auditors monitoring the progress of what Chvez called the Bolivarian revolution, supporting and helping execute government policies at the neighbourhood level.[fn]For a description of the colectivos, see Daniel Garca Marco, Qu son los colectivos y cmo operan para defender la revolucin bolivariana en Venezuela, BBC, 7 July 2017.Hide Footnote

From their opponents viewpoint, on the other hand, colectivos constitute shadowy paramilitary units, linked to organised crime, which follow government orders and use guns and fear to exercise social control, mainly in the poorest neighbourhoods of Caracas and other big cities.[fn]Ludmila Vinogradoff, Brazo armado Venezuela: as son y operan los colectivos chavistas, la cara ms oscura del rgimen, Clarn, 5 April 2019. Thomas Dangel, Colectivos en Venezuela: de civiles a delincuentes, PanAm Post, 17 May 2019. Ronny Rodrguez Rosas, Represin y colectivos para aplacar protestas en Caracas y el interior del pas, Efecto Cocuyo, 31 March 2019.Hide Footnote Members of the colectivos engaged in acts of political harassment under Chvez when they attacked TV stations, business organisations, diplomatic missions or figures opposed to the government.[fn]Fabiola Snchez, Detienen a Lina Ron por ataque a Globovisin, El Nuevo Herald, 4 August, 2009. Atacan misin del Vaticano en Venezuela, VOA, 4 February 2009.Hide Footnote Venezuelas extremely polarised politics have led many in the opposition camp to scorn any public expression of support for chavismo as the fruit of coercive colectivos, prompting violent reprisals against people with no links to these bodies.[fn]Crisis Group interview, social scientist, 4 April 2019.Hide Footnote

Under the Maduro government the colectivos have taken a more active role in the defence of the revolution, and during opposition demonstrations of 2014 and 2017 engaged in violent and criminal acts against protesters.[fn]Daniel Wallis, Venezuela violence puts focus on militant colectivo groups, Reuters, 13 February 2014. Patricia Torres and Nicholas Casey, Los colectivos venezolanos, las bandas de civiles armados que atacan a los manifestantes y defienden a Maduro, The New York Times, 22 April 2017.Hide Footnote Colectivos reputation as brutal para-police enforcers has been reinforced over the past year following opposition attempts led by Guaid to overthrow the Maduro government, which has responded by relying on the colectivos power to intimidate opponents and mobilise supporters.[fn]As pressure mounted on Maduro at the start of the year, colectivos staged various public events where they swore to defend the Bolivarian revolution and Maduro. Colectivos armados llaman a defender revolucin, ANSA, 7 January 2019.Hide Footnote Both on 23 February, when Maduros opponents attempted to force humanitarian aid into Venezuela from neighbouring Colombia and Brazil, and during the oppositions failed civil-military uprising on 30 April, the colectivos played a leading role in street clashes. Witnesses to the February events on the Colombian border report that the colectivos were more effective in deterring the efforts of Guaids supporters than the security forces proper.[fn]Lucia Newman, Venezuela: Who are the colectivos?, Al Jazeera, 9 May 2019.Hide Footnote

More recently, government supporters carrying firearms, rocks and sticks violently prevented opposition deputies from entering the National Assembly while also harassing journalists.[fn]Venezuela opposition says govt. loyalists fired at them, AFP, 15 January 2020. Colectivo chavista neg haber agredido a periodistas cerca del Palacio Federal Legislativo, El Nacional, 13 January 2020.Hide Footnote The press and the opposition called the mob colectivos, but bona fide members of these groups who were around the National Assembly at the time said they had nothing to do with the violence. Representatives of the colectivos nevertheless recognise that they carry out joint actions with state security forces to preserve peace, and many colectivo members are also part of the official Venezuelan civilian militia, an adjunct of the armed forces said by the government to be 3.3 million strong.[fn]On the reported size of the state militia, which has not been independently verified, see Maduro despliega milicias en las calles de Venezuela para garantizar la paz, EFE, 13 November 2019. Also on state militia, see Crisis Group Briefing,Venezuelas Military Enigma, op. cit.Hide Footnote

A direct relationship connects some colectivos and the government. But not all are the same, and some have stayed relatively independent of central government and remain wary of falling under top-down political control. One group of colectivos, for example, has maintained a continuous presence in Venezuelan politics since the 1970s and 1980s, years before the emergence of Chvez. Members of this group, such as the Coordinadora Simn Bolvar in the working-class 23 de Enero neighbourhood of Caracas, display clear left-wing leanings and are committed to improving community life through better public policies, cultural activities and campaigning against police repression and abuse.[fn]Juan Contreras, Nacimiento de la Coordinadora Cultural Simn Bolvar en la Parroquia 23 de Enero, Rebelin, 8 February 2008.Hide Footnote However, even these groups are increasingly aligned with Maduros government, arguing that Venezuela is under attack from imperialist forces across the region.[fn]Crisis Group interview, colectivo member, Caracas, 18 August 2018.Hide Footnote

Two other categories, which also are branded colectivos, display far less interest in grassroots mobilisation. One is made up of opportunists and criminals who use their supposed affiliation with chavismo to gain legitimacy and act with impunity. The Frente 5 de Marzo, for example, is a colectivo with professed links to security forces and the chavista political elite.[fn]Ronna Risquez, Lder del Frente 5 de Marzo: Los colectivos somos un mal necesario, Runrunes, 24 October 2014.Hide Footnote Nonetheless, its leader, together with four other colectivo members, was killed in a skirmish with the police in 2014, an event that sent shock waves through the Maduro government and led to the dismissal of General Miguel Rodrguez Torres, then the interior minister.[fn]Vanesa Moreno, Lucha de poder caus la muerte de dos integrantes del Frente 5 de Marzo, Efecto ,4 October 2014.a political class- as their members stated- and forces is better. egion. aranty the country'nt (otherwise we wiCocuyo, 15 December 2015. For a political analysis of the event, see also David Smilde and Hugo Prez Herniz, Removal of minister reveals tenuous state monopoly on violence, Venezuelablog, 27 October 2014.Hide Footnote Groups of this sort are mainly dedicated to illegal activities such as extortion, but also do some community work in the areas where they operate in order to win local support and a degree of public complicity.[fn]Colectivos se fortalecen con la anuencia del Estado, PROVEA, 2 April 2019.Hide Footnote On many occasions, these outfits are at loggerheads with the more politically oriented colectivos, although in moments of crisis they rally to defend the revolution and follow government dictates.

A last category consists of paramilitary or para-police outfits. These are directly related to the state, and are often the creations of politicians or senior government officials, which use them as private shock forces. State institutions or specific politicians fund them, and they spend their time working on behalf of their beneficiaries. Chavista strongman Diosdado Cabello, for example, had known ties with one colectivo leader, the late Lina Ron, while the links to the colectivos of the former mayor of Libertador Municipality in Caracas and current protector of the border state of Tchira, Freddy Bernal, are also overt.[fn]Ud. lo vio Lina Ron orgullosa de ser amiga de Diosdado Cabello, Globovisin video excerpt, 6 September 20o9. For an obituary of Lina Ron detailing her activities and the controversies around them, see Muere Lina Ron: el chavismo llora a la ms polmica de sus revolucionarias, BBC Mundo, 5 March 2011. Freddy Bernal confirma intervencin de colectivos en operativo contra Oscar Prez, El Impulso, 15 January 2018. Freddy Bernal se reuni con colectivos en el puente Simn Bolvar, El Nacional, 14 April 2019.Hide Footnote These colectivos do not always have a territorial base and usually coexist with the other two types at state-organised events and initiatives. One colectivo that has direct links with public officials and has allegedly participated in police operations is Tres Races, which operates in the 23 de Enero neighbourhood. Its members took part in a joint operation with the special police unit FAES against the renegade police officer scar Prez in 2018, as a result of which both Prez and the leader of Tres Races died.[fn]Lorena Melndez, Colectivo Tres Races: Ha muerto el len ms feroz del 23 de Enero, Runrunes, 18 January 2018.Hide Footnote

Central state officials have attempted to co-opt community-based colectivos in recent years with some success, turning a number of them into increasingly mercenary paramilitary outfits.[fn]Taylor Luke, Maduro turns to violent mercenary colectivos to maintain order, PRI, April 25, 2019.Hide Footnote In a series of interviews between 2013 and 2018 with prominent colectivo members in Caracas, Crisis Group noticed that the relative autonomy enjoyed by some of the colectivos had waned over the years. In 2013 the main aim of these groups was to fight for the communal state that they regarded as Chvezs main legacy, while in 2015 the members indicated that their overriding objective was to guarantee food and staples to their community in alliance with the state, and prevent any private sector speculation. In 2018, many were working as bodyguards for state officials, and instead of discussing community power spoke far more about imperialism and their hostility toward the opposition.[fn]Crisis Group interviews, different colectivo leaders in Caracas, April and May 2013, November 2015 and September 2018.Hide Footnote

As a result, all three sorts of colectivos have developed common characteristics. All are to some extent armed and opposed previous disarmament policies promoted by the government to reduce gun crime.[fn]In 2013, the National Assembly, then controlled by chavistas, passed a gun control and disarmament law. The colectivos were loath to hand over their weapons to the state, however, arguing that as the armed vigilantes behind the chavista revolution they need the guns since the opposition could destabilise the government at any time. Crisis Group interviews, two colectivo leaders, 23 de Enero, Caracas, 15 August 2013. The law eventually proved a failure, and official disarmament efforts have since been discarded. James Bargent, Disarmament Law in Venezuela Yields Near Zero Results, InSight Crime, 18 August 2014.Hide Footnote In addition, they all derive local power by exhibiting connections with the state; they usually operate under strict vertical command systems; and they all defend the revolution and are willing to resort to violence to this end. Even so, it is not unusual for fights to occur between different colectivos operating in the same area. In one of the most recent incidents, five members died in a clash between two groups in the 23 de Enero neighbourhood.[fn]Colectivos del 23 de Enero matan al hermano de Heyker Vsquez, El Pitazo, 13 January 2020.Hide Footnote

That said, colectivos are not necessarily passive recipients of government orders. Different factions within the Venezuelan government control separate colectivos, and as a result the groups interests do not always coincide. On several occasions security forces have openly clashed with the colectivos, forcing the government into hard choices as to which side to favour. In 2014, as mentioned above, former interior minister Miguel Rodrguez Torres was sacked after police and members of the 5 de Marzo colectivo fought, with five group leaders killed after the authorities accused them of criminal activities.[fn]One of those killed, Jos Odreman, offered declarations to the press before the clashes with the police in which he held Rodrguez Torres responsible for their possible fate. Maduro reemplaza a controversial ministro del Interior y le da 15 das de descanso, EFE, 24 October 2014.Hide Footnote Members of the group and other organisations demanded that Rodrguez Torres be dismissed, a request with which Maduro complied.[fn]Sale Rodrguez Torres y lo sustituye Carmen Melndez, EFE, 24 October 2014. The relation between Torres and Maduro deteriorated further, and in 2018 Torres was arrested on charges of espionage, conspiracy and instigating a military rebellion. He sits in prison to this day.Hide Footnote

Four years later, frictions between the military high command and colectivos resurfaced when Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lpez voiced indignation following the release of a video showing colectivo members with guns announcing their willingness to use violence in defence of the government. The state and the Venezuelan people have the armed forces constitutionally fulfilling their tasks, he stated, arguing that there was no need for armed groups to rally to the governments side.[fn]Padrino Lpez: Rechazamos grupos armados que se hacen llamar colectivos, Aporrea, 2 March 2018.Hide Footnote Spokespeople for the colectivos retaliated by accusing Padrino Lpez of failing to understand the civic-military bond at the heart of chavismo, and insisting that they had become part of the Venezuelan state and would continue defending the Bolivarian revolution.[fn]Colectivos: Padrino Lpez no aguant la presin de la derecha, Noticiero Digital, 3 March 2018.Hide Footnote

The relation between Padrino Lpez and the colectivos does not seem to have improved greatly since then, with the minister recently stating that the armed forces are obliged to combat all armed groups present in the country.[fn]Sebastiana Barrez, Padrino Lpez pretende desligarse de los colectivos chavistas y pidi a la Fuerza Armada actuar contra cualquier grupo violento, Infobae, 6 April 2019.Hide Footnote Nonetheless, Maduros explicit backing for colectivos and their central role in seeking to quash pro-Guaid protests restrains the armed forces in any action against them.[fn]Daniel Lozano, Nicols Maduro: El primer defensor de los colectivos soy yo, El Mundo, 4 April 2019.Hide Footnote

Right-wing paramilitaries, to use the Maduro governments terminology, are illegal combat units usually acting on behalf of foreign governments and in collaboration with the Venezuelan opposition. As with the guerrillas, the paramilitaries are supposedly imported from Colombia, where they were involved for years in both extreme counter-insurgent violence and organised crime, including drug trafficking. Under former president lvaro Uribe, the government began negotiating their demobilisation in 2003, concluding an agreement in 2006. But some of the paramilitaries were only loosely committed to this peace process, giving rise to a second rash of criminality.[fn]Regarding the paramilitaries in Colombia and their dismantling as a result of the 2003-2006 peace process under Uribe, see Crisis Group Latin America Report N8, Demobilising the Paramilitaries in Colombia: An Achievable Goal?, 5 August 2004; Douglas Porch and Mara Jos Rasmussen, Demobilization of Paramilitaries in Colombia: Transformation or Transition?, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol. 31, no. 6 (2008), pp. 520-540.Hide Footnote Their activities in Venezuela allegedly include crimes such as harassment, extortion and kidnapping of peasants and landowners, as well as intimidation of chavista loyalists and leaders.[fn]Eligio Rojas, Denuncian asesinato de seis militantes chavistas, ltimas Noticias, 28 July 2019.Hide Footnote Although core members of these outfits are Colombian, recent reports indicate that they have tried to recruit new members from among Venezuelan migrants.[fn]Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta, Exclusive: Colombian armed groups recruiting desperate Venezuelans, army says, Reuters, 20 June 2019.Hide Footnote

The Maduro government has placed great emphasis on the role played by right-wing Colombian paramilitary units in the country, saying there are five that participate in various illegal activities and are tolerated by Colombian armed forces along the border.[fn]En la frontera con Venezuela existen 5 grupos paramilitares: Bernal, Panorama, 13 August 2019.Hide Footnote The Venezuelan military report, not always truthfully, that they have suffered casualties in paramilitary attacks on their posts near the border.[fn]For example, the November 2018 attack attributed by the Venezuelan military to Colombian paramilitaries was in fact the work of the ELN. Mueren 3 militares venezolanos tras ataque de grupo irregular, Telesur, 4 November 2018.Hide Footnote They have repeatedly announced the arrest of paramilitary members allegedly seeking to destabilise Venezuela.[fn]In 2015, the Maduro government closed the border with Colombia after gunmen wounded three Venezuelan military officers. Maduro said Colombian paramilitaries were behind the attack. David Smilde, Venezuelan government blames Colombian paramilitaries for violence, contraband and protests, Venezuelablog, 24 August 2015. The Maduro government said it had captured 83 paramilitaries in 2019 alone in Tchira, a state bordering Colombia. Gobierno venezolano asesta otro golpe a la banda paramilitar La Lnea, VTV, 8 November 2019. See also Venezuela: six farmers killed by Colombian paramilitary, Telesur, 30 July 2019.Hide Footnote

The Venezuelan opposition denies any connection with right-wing paramilitary groups, but these disclaimers are in doubt after the publication of compromising photographs showing Juan Guaid with two Colombian paramilitaries. The photograph was taken as he travelled into Colombia via an illegal crossing, known as a trocha, in order to attend a humanitarian aid concert on 22 February and support efforts to get relief supplies into Venezuela the next day.[fn]Venezuelas Guaid pictured with members of Colombian gang, The Guardian, 14 September 2019.Hide Footnote Guaid claimed not to have known the paramilitaries identity, saying many people had their picture taken with him that day.[fn]Guaid niega que grupo criminal Los Rastrojos lo ayudara a cruzar la frontera con Colombia, CNN, 13 September 2019.Hide Footnote

Venezuela is one of the most dangerous countries in the world if judged by its homicide rate, one of Latin Americas highest.[fn]Venezuela for many years had one of the highest murder rates in the world, with official data putting Venezuela constantly among the five most dangerous countries. Officially, in 2016 the murder rate was 56 per 100,000 inhabitants, and in 2015, 58. Extra-official data have reported significantly higher rates, with murder rates of over 80 per 100,000 inhabitants. Since 2017, however, murder rates have decreased, with 2019 being the least violent for years. Extra-officially, in 2019 the murder rate was 60 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the Maduro government claims it stood at 20 (the government does not include murders caused by state security forces). See Mayela Armas, Venezuela murder rate dips, partly due to migration: monitoring group, Reuters, 27 December 2018. Ludmila Vinogradoff, Informe 2019: con ms de 16.000 asesinatos, Venezuela se mantiene como uno de los pases ms violentos del mundo, Clarn, 27 December 2019. Venezuela reduce 36,3% tasa de criminalidad en ocho principales delitos durante 2019, Xinhua, 29 December 2019. For a global study showing Venezuelas exposure to high levels of homicidal violence, see Global Study on Homicide, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2019.Hide Footnote A range of criminal groups of varying size and structure engage in robbery, kidnapping, fraud, blackmail, contract killing or illegal trade, notably in weapons, drugs, children and women.[fn]For a comprehensive overview of criminal dynamics and activities in Venezuela, see Roberto Briceo-Len and Alberto Camardiel (eds.), Delito organizado, mercados ilegales y democracia en Venezuela (Caracas, 2015).Hide Footnote Police report that a total of over 100 Venezuelan criminal groups operate across the country, with the three most important categories of illicit organisation being the pranes (criminal bosses in Venezuelas prison system), megabandas (mega-gangs) and sindicatos (literally, the unions).[fn]The Venezuelan police in 2019 reported that 110 criminal groups operate in eighteen of the countrys 24 states. Rosibel Cristina Gonzlez, 110 bandas criminales tienen secuestrada a Venezuela, El Nacional, 7 September 2019.Hide Footnote Despite their criminal activities, in some areas these groups have replaced the state by providing rudimentary law and order.[fn]In a recent protest against police operations in a poor, densely populated suburb of Caracas, Petare, residents claimed that the police are killing us, and the gangs are protecting us. Carlos dHoy, Excesos del FAES provocan protesta en Petare, El Universal, 10 June 2019.Hide Footnote

The pranes are the heads of criminal groups usually dedicated to drug trafficking and extortion operating out of Venezuelas squalid and extremely violent prison system.[fn]In a recent incident in a western Venezuelan jail, 29 prisoners were killed and 19 police wounded in clashes. Venezuelan prison clashes leave 29 inmates dead, BBC, 25 May 2019. Prisons in Venezuela are overpopulated; estimates say the country has 46,675 prisoners while jail capacity stands at 20,776. See Claudia Smolansky, En 20 aos de chavismo ms de 7000 personas murieron en crceles venezolanas, Crnica Uno, 2 April 2019. Venezuela prisons beyond monstrous, UN warns, highlighting plight of Colombian detainees, UN News, 9 October 2018. Simon Romero, Where prisoners can do anything, except leave, The New York Times, 3 June 2011.Hide Footnote In many cases, the pranes control the prisons where they are held, and tend to feel safer behind bars.[fn]Quin era el Conejo, el homenajeado con disparos al aire en una crcel en Venezuela?, BBC Mundo, 29 January 2016.Hide Footnote Ill-advised prison policies made during the Chvez and Maduro governments, including toleration of overcrowding and informal arrangements as to who exercises control over inmates, strengthened the role of the pranes in prisons, giving them exceptional power inside these institutions.[fn]Andrs Antillano, Cuando los presos mandan: control informal dentro de la crcel venezolana, Espacio Abierto,vol. 24, no. 4 (2015). La delegacin del poder estatal: Los pranes, InSight Crime, 20 May 2018.Hide Footnote

Mega-bandas are hierarchical organisations that are a relatively new arrival to the Venezuelan underworld. They engage in drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping throughout the country, and have great sway on their own turf. Many of these groups leaders have spent time in jail, as a result of which it is not uncommon for them to work together with the prison-based pranes.[fn]Antonio Mara Delgado, Grandes bandas delictivas siembran terror en Venezuela, El Nuevo Herald, 23 July 2015.Hide Footnote

Criminal experts have detected the existence of between twelve and sixteen mega-bandas, some with over 300 members.[fn]Megabandas en Venezuela, El Nacional, 13 May 2016.Hide Footnote They are heavily armed and, as a result of the threat they pose through territorial control, the government has tried to combat them through fierce police crackdowns, most notoriously the Operation to Liberate and Protect the People between 2015 and 2017.[fn]The name given to these police operations was later changed to Humanistic Operation to Liberate the People.Hide Footnote While these massive police raids failed to reduce the gangs power, they perpetrated widespread human rights violations wherever carried out.[fn]According to a police officer questioned by researchers, prison overcrowding persuaded government officials that a crime policy based on killing suspected criminals was preferable to mass incarceration. So we started to eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. So as to clean up the population, above all the poorer classes. Vernica Zubillaga and Rebecca Hanson, Los operativos militarizados en la era post-Chvez, Nueva Sociedad, November-December 2018. See also OLP: The mask of official terror in Venezuela,, 6 October 2017.Hide Footnote At the same time, the government has also selectively favoured the creation of peace zones in Caracas, entailing informal non-aggressionpacts between state security forces and criminal groups in an attempt to pacify and eventually demobilise the latter. Opposition critics have vilified these zones for allegedly offering impunity to criminal groups, despite evidence of security benefits of neighbourhood ceasefires among competing criminal groups, in certain cases brokered by local women.[fn]On local peace movements in Caracas, see Vernica Zubillaga, Manuel Llorens and John Souto, Micropolitics in a Caracas Barrio: The Political Survival Strategies of Mothers in a Context of Armed Violence, Latin America Research Review, vol. 54, no. 2 (2019), pp. 429-443. For opposition criticism of peace zones, see Parlamento venezolano investigar enfrentamientos en la Cota 905, NT24, 31 July 2019.Hide Footnote

The sindicatos, meanwhile, are criminal groups operating primarily in southern Venezuela, and largely based in the Orinoco Mining Arc, a vast area in Bolvar state that is home to a government mining initiative created in 2016. Their origins lie in the construction industry, but since the economic crisis began they have focused on illegal mining and other illicit activities. They are able to deploy significant armed force, have alleged links to state officials, and compete with other non-state armed groups, notably the ELN guerrillas.[fn]Crisis Group Report, Gold and Grief in Venezuelas Violent South, op. cit.Hide Footnote The sindicatos have grown more autonomous from the state as they have become richer and better able to draw on their own support networks.[fn]Edgar Lpez, Una mafia disfrazada de sindicato est al mando del yacimiento de oro ms grande de Venezuela,, 19 September 2017.Hide Footnote But to a greater extent than the guerrillas, their relations with locals are marked by disrespect, looting and atrocities, provoking indigenous communities to create, or consider creating, security brigades or self-defence groups.[fn]The indigenous self-defence groups have arisen in response to efforts by various groups (including the military) to control gold mines in the south of the country. Mara Antonieta Segovia, Indigenous self-defense groups rise in southern Venezuela,, 10 October 2015.Hide Footnote The sindicatos and their conflict with other armed groups are visible in one of Venezuelas most dangerous places, the south-eastern mining town of El Callao, where civil society groups calculate a murder rate of over 600 per 100,000 inhabitants roughly a hundred times the rate in the U.S.[fn]Bladimir Martnez Ladera, Sindicatos convirtieron en un Pueblo Vaquero El Callao, Nueva Prensa, 30 May 2019. In one of the most recent crimes in El Callo, political activist Rosalba Mara Valdez was shot dead after denouncing the relations between state and non-state armed groups in the area. De varios disparos asesinaron a exconcejal Rosalba Valdez en El Callao, Tal Cual, 22 December 2019.Hide Footnote

Judicial investigations, generally carried out by U.S. prosecutors, as well as media reports, suggest that a number of senior government officials have direct, profit-sharing links to organised crime.[fn]The most notorious case suggesting links between the high echelons of chavismo and organised crime is the case of the narco-nephews. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested two nephews of Cilia Flores, President Maduros wife, on drug trafficking charges in Haiti. A U.S. court found them guilty and sentenced them to eighteen years in prison. Brendan Pierson, Nephews of Venezuelas first lady sentenced to 18 years in U.S. drug case, Reuters, 14 December 2017. An InSight Crime investigation reports that 123 government officials are involved in criminal activity. 7 Reasons for Describing Venezuela as a Mafia State, InSight Crime, 16 May 2019.Hide Footnote At the same time, weak and poorly supervised state institutions, economic crisis and discretionary public policies have created a permissive environment for criminal activity to prosper by coexisting with and supplanting state institutions, without necessarily depending on full-scale collusion between the two.[fn]El Estado y el delito organizado: exceso y vaco normagtivo, in Briceo-Len and Camardiel, op. cit.; John Polga-Hecimovich, Organized Crime and the State in Venezuela under Chavismo, in Bruce Bagley, Jorge Chabat and Jonathan Rosen (eds.), The Criminalization of States: The Relationship between States and Organized Crime (London, 2018).Hide Footnote Recent reports from Venezuelas rural areas indicate that local people have been reduced to living in preindustrial conditions, providing armed groups with the opportunity to supplant an increasingly absent state. These groups have often taken charge of enforcing business contracts, punishing common crimes and even settling divorces, witnesses report.[fn]Anatoly Kurmanaev, Rural Venezuela crumbles as president shores up the capital and his power, The New York Times, 13 January 2020.Hide Footnote

Armed groups operating in Venezuela have distinct objectives, modus operandi, political loyalties and relations with the state. As political conflict has intensified, they have increasingly preyed on the states absence, fissures or weakness, providing them with the sort of power and economic stakes that they will not easily forsake and which directly threaten the countrys long-term stability. At the same time, engaging with these groups as part of a political settlement or eventual government transition raises profound moral concerns and practical challenges.

Although there is at present no formal negotiation between the government and opposition, previous rounds of talks among the countrys political forces have focused almost exclusively on political and institutional arrangements, with little or no discussion of how to deal with armed groups and criminal actors. Venezuelas competing forces may be avoiding mention of these groups due to the political cost of addressing the issue or because they do not consider it urgent. But even if these armed factions do not arouse the greatest concern, their growth in a climate of economic collapse and political deadlock, and the consequences for the countrys future security, should help motivate both sides, and their respective allies, to resume the quest for a negotiated outcome. The threat posed by these groups also underlines the importance of ensuring that the top brass is involved in any forthcoming negotiations. Military participation in future talks is essential to ensuring that no faction of the armed forces sabotages an eventual political transition, as well as to designing and later enforcing a long-term policy toward non-state armed outfits.[fn]See Crisis Group Briefing, Venezuelas Military Enigma, op. cit.Hide Footnote

The approach chosen will have to be tailored to each set of groups. Dealing with the Colombian guerrillas or rebel offshoots operating in Venezuela requires flexibility and regional cooperation. The Venezuelan state alone cannot bargain with these forces without risking entrenching them in the country and creating tensions with Colombia. Optimally, both countries governments and armed forces would embark on fresh negotiations with the ELN aimed at its permanent demobilisation, while also working to persuade FARC dissidents to lay down their arms in exchange for judicial benefits and reintegration. Venezuela showed in the talks between Colombia and the FARC that it can help end decades of insurgency if it wishes. While such cooperation now seems improbable given the parlous state of bilateral relations, the countries shared interest in reducing violence along lengthy borders could help sway both governments. For now, the two countries could build confidence by calling for an independent, multilateral border monitoring mechanism, possibly under UN auspices, so as to prevent and contain flare-ups.

As for colectivos, negotiations may also be an option. Not all the colectivos are the same, and a future political settlement aiming to pacify the country, respect the integrity of the chavista movement and prevent future political persecution could attract the support of these groups, especially if it includes provisions that emphasise their historical identity and mission as social movements auditing the effects of government policy at the local level. Such an approach might appeal to the more community-oriented and politically active colectivos. The ambitions of some colectivo leaders may also facilitate their incorporation into formal political life so long as the state and judicial system can provide guarantees that they will not be subject to criminal investigation or violent retaliation.

Dealing with purely criminal groups, including certain colectivos as well as major gangs and cartels, will require recognition of the states limited resources as well a prudent use of sticks and carrots. Whereas civilian authorities should assume the responsibility of gauging the main security threats, it will be up to Venezuelas armed forces and police to combat and weaken these groups in a range of ways. Purely coercive law enforcement and iron fist policies targeted at the largest and most violent criminal outfits will in all likelihood not achieve this goal, and could in fact do the reverse, judging by previous experience in Venezuela and Latin America.[fn]See, for example, Crisis Group Latin America Report N64, El Salvadors Politics of Perpetual Violence, 19 December 2017; Ivan Briscoe and David Keseberg, Only Connect: The Survival and Spread of Organized Crime in Latin America, PRISM, vol. 8, no. 1 (February 2019); Ulrich Schneckener, Dealing with Armed Non-State Actors in Peace-and State-Building, Types and Strategies, in Transnational Terrorism, Organized Crime and Peace-Building (London, 2010).Hide Footnote Mindful of norms against extending amnesties to perpetrators of certain serious crimes as well as possible domestic resistance to any such moves, civil and military authorities should explore the prospect of leniency for those willing to surrender their weapons, including reduced jail sentences for those who have committed serious crimes on condition that they give an honest account of their acts and do not return to crime.[fn]A model for such transitional justice albeit applied to an armed insurgency and not a purely criminal enterprise can be found in the 2016 Colombian peace accord, which allowed for reduced (non-prison) sentences for serious crimes such as murder, extrajudicial executions and kidnapping so long as the former combatants undertook to tell the truth, make reparations to victims and do not return to crime. Acuerdo final para la terminacin del conflicto & la construccin de una paz estable y duradera, 2016. See also Crisis Group Latin America Report N67, Risky Business: The Duque Governments Approach to Peace in Colombia, 21 June 2018.Hide Footnote Profit-driven actors may be receptive to offers that allow them to retain some of their resources in exchange for a peaceful life and reduced sentences.[fn]According to one peacebuilding scholar, when exploring the potential of engaging armed groups through economic issues, it is essential to consider that those benefiting from economic opportunities in times of war may not want to lose these sources of revenue and power just for the sake of peace. Achim Wennmann, Getting Armed Groups to the Table: Peace Processes, the Political Economy of Conflict and the Mediated State,Third World Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 6 (2009); Alex De Waal, No money, no peace, Foreign Policy, 2 December 2015.Hide Footnote

Armed groups have extended their reach across Venezuela as the countrys political convulsions and economic debacle have afforded them the complicity or tolerance of state officials and illicit profit-making opportunities. Colombian guerrillas and rebel offshoots have also taken advantage of these inviting conditions by crossing long, largely unmonitored borders in and out of the country. Although the two sparring sides in Venezuelas dispute focus on the fight for the commanding heights in Caracas, the spread of irregular armed units that are in effect ruling impoverished populations in urban, rural and border areas highlights the acute danger that a continuing political standoff will lead to the fragmentation of territory into numerous enclaves run by local warlords. Both sides in Venezuela and their international allies should acknowledge that such outcome is to the benefit of neither, and offers a powerful reason to return to the negotiating table.

That said, the challenges posed by these groups to the countrys stability during and after any future political agreement will be considerable. Any effort to tame the threats posed by armed groups after a settlement is reached will most likely coincide with a period in which the state is fragile, violence is rife and reconciliation embryonic. Negotiations or deals with these groups could incur a high cost to the government, give armed actors legitimacy and political prominence, and need considerable effort, time and resources at a moment when all three will be in short supply. But treating these groups as little more than the criminal debris of the central political struggle to be either ignored or relentlessly fought could result in a stretch of violence that far outlasts the countrys current turmoil.

Caracas/Bogot/Brussels, 20 February 2020

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A Glut of Arms: Curbing the Threat to Venezuela from Violent Groups - International Crisis Group

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Space and Sound: Berlin’s Abandoned Spaces – Palatinate

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By Will Entwistle

Most of us, when listening to music, are unaware of the meaning of the sounds and what they represent. Fewer of us appreciate the origins of the sounds. Knowing how and why music is made is not a prerequisite for our enjoyment. However, it helps. Contextualising music offers insight into the uniqueness of certain genres and the places that inspired them. Both the consumption and practice of music forms the narrativisation of a place. In this sense, music is more than sound; it is a translation or articulation of subcultural experiences. Where, then, can we see spaces influence on sound? Moreover, is space indispensable to musics existence?

Contextualising music offers insight into the uniqueness of certain genres and the places that inspired them

Industrial decline marked a socio-economic shift that left workers and buildings behind. Despite this, post-industrialism was, paradoxically, responsible for the industrialisation of electronic music. Technos association with warehouses embodies the impression of place on sound. For instance, industrial technos routinized thumping in 4/4 time resembled working factory machines. In this sense, the beating heart of industry was immortalised in music.

Berlins abandoned buildings exchanged socialism with sound

Berlins techno scene derived from the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Tobias Rapp claimed that 30% of buildings in East Berlin after the collapse were left empty. Techno accepted the opportunity to re-identify these abandoned socialist relics. For instance, Tresor nightclub was founded within a year of the Berlin Walls collapse and was originally the vault of a bank in a department store located in the central district of East Berlin, Mitte. Elsewhere, Planet nightclub was an abandoned warehouse. The Vaults low ceilings and untreated, fortress-like concrete walls offer listeners with security yet vulnerability.

Techno sounds reflect these structures with firm beats providing listeners with rhythmic certainty alongside distorted and unpredictable synths counteracting the rigid bassline the DJ prescribes. Yet, space is also capable of enhancing sounds. Tresors 1-meter-thick concrete walls, encasing the Vault, help improve the depth of the bass while retaining the clarity of accompanying sounds. In this sense, space furthers our interaction with sounds both atmospherically and acoustically.

Abandoned spaces gave techno an identity beyond sound. Uniquely, the socialism previously attached to these spaces made techno both a form of liberation and rebellion. Felix Denk and Sven von Thlen, in their book, interviewed DJ Robert Hood on Berlins influence on techno. Hood says that the dark and murkyclubs, like Tresor, changed techno because the brutal socialist structures transformed techno from fantasy-based electronic sounds to a reality-basedsounds. Techno industrialised making beats faster and heavier while retaining the freedom of unpredictable synthesisers. Importantly, Hoods emphasis on technos reality demonstrates that space defined the musics change. Comparably, DJs performing in these Cold-War era structures soon after 1990 personified freedom from, but also and rebellion against the GDRs restriction on the arts. Berlins abandoned buildings exchanged socialism with sound.

Image: MichaelBrossmann via Wikimedia and Creative Commons

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Space and Sound: Berlin's Abandoned Spaces - Palatinate

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Crestwood defies odds to celebrate 50 years as the first ‘perfect’ Radburn neighbourhood in the world – ABC News

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Updated February 23, 2020 11:11:20

A "catastrophe", "total disaster", a "crazy, ludicrous living hell" that's how politicians described some of Australia's most radically designed neighbourhoods.

The design of the nation's capital itself was based in part on the US town of Radburn, New Jersey, where back-to-front homes have front doors opening on public parks rather than the street.

In addition, fences are non-existent and circular streets twist around the neighbourhood, never intersecting with a winding network of footpaths.

The Radburn concept was visionary when it was used in Canberra and dozens of other neighbourhoods across the country in the 1960s and 70s.

But things didn't quite work as planned, and many areas were transformed into crime-infested slums.

Many of those neighbourhoods were later bulldozed and rebuilt, but one shining example of a Radburn success story remains in the unpretentious southern Perth suburb of Thornlie and its residents are proud to have bucked the trend.

Original Radburn architect Clarence Stein reportedly described the community of Crestwood, 18 kilometres south-east of Perth's CBD, as the "first perfect Radburn scheme in the world".

"The people, the residents, the atmosphere there's no threats, you're safe no matter what, I was happy here all the time," said Rita Bernadette Fisher, one of the community's first homeowners.

The residents of Crestwood who this month celebrated 50 years as a village said their strong community spirit spared them from the crime and privacy issues typical of shared living.

"I will come home from work and there will be either two, three or four of our neighbours they'll end up on someone's driveway and they're having a good old yack," said resident of 38 years Maria van der Linden.

"When we go on holiday, they'll look after our garden. We do that for each other, that's really nice."

"We just loved the layout of the place," added Ms van der Linden's husband, Emile.

"The kids can get to school without crossing any roads, you just go [through] underpasses all the way to school.

"After work you'd go and play with your kids out in the park it's just a marvellous place to bring kids up in."

A 1978 resident survey found 60 per cent of homeowners were attracted to Crestwood by its aesthetics and 88 per cent were happier having moved there.

Most agreed there was more social interaction in Crestwood than standard suburban estates and said coming home at the end of the day was like entering a separate world.

There were also some negatives to the shared spaces.

Some remarked living in Crestwood was "a bit like having to dress for dinner and always be watching your manners", while several people commented on the implied social pretence in the area and the "existence of petty squabbles amongst residents".

Dan McDonald and his family moved from rural Queensland to a home in Crestwood late last year.

"Something that has been surprising or not expected, and we really enjoy it, is that everyone knows each other," he said.

"Because we both came from rural backgrounds, well that's a given for me that people talk to each other and that neighbours work together.

"But in the city, that's unheard of or it seems strange, it seems unusual.

"It seems so far that people here have mastered the art of living together, helping each other out without being too close."

There was also an unexpected, deeper benefit Mr McDonald and his family discovered.

"I felt lost in the city I felt very detached and lonely even though I was surrounded by people," he said.

"It doesn't seem to be like that here obviously it's not a beer over the back of a ute, but people will stop and have a chat over the back fence, look at the dog, have a yarn about the garden.

"Our oldest has some learning difficulties and she has very bad anxiety. The surroundings almost fixed that.

"She's a different child."

As for living back to front: "No one can figure out how to get in our house and we really like that!"

The innovative Radburn design underpinning Crestwood was enthusiastically received by the governments of the day, which saw it as a progressive solution to public housing issues.

WA suburbs with high concentrations of state housing, such as Withers, Bentley, Karawara and South Hedland, were constructed using the Radburn blueprint, but this triggered huge social problems including burglaries, drug use and assaults.

Some of those suburbs were completely bulldozed and rebuilt in a more conventional style, while others are still pressing ahead with a so-called "de-Radburnisation" effort.

Planning Institute of Australia WA committee member Vicki Lummer said Karawara was an excellent case study in the flaws of the concept.

"There was a high percentage of state housing properties which then set the tone for the socio-economic mix in that area and I think from the start that was the problem for Karawara," she said.

"As time went by all the design provisions were slowly eroded, so people weren't doing low fences, and then the crime rates started to escalate because [the parks] then became unsafe areas to walk through."

Peter Ciemitis, principal at urban planning specialists RobertsDay, said passive surveillance proved effective in reducing crime rates.

"With the inclusion of the high fences that people were starting to put in at Karawara, it actually made it a golden opportunity for crime because the worst crimes happen behind a high fence."

The neighbourhood watch mentality is something Crestwood does well.

"When we moved in here hardly anyone had a back fence, but times change and gradually fences went up, but to me it just spoils the whole concept of it," resident of 44 years Wendy Curtis said.

"We like to keep our fence open. I don't care if everyone looks in at us, I like looking out at everyone else."

Liz Griggs grew up in Crestwood and moved back as an adult with her own children.

"It wasn't until I got older that I really appreciated what I had as a child," she said.

"There was children everywhere we would have games and there would be 30, 40, 50 kids all participating from different parks, different age groups.

"The beauty of here is you look through your fence and out into the parks. It defeats the purpose, I think, having the big fence.

"I understand from a security point of view that that's how some people feel, but then you may as well live anywhere."

Crestwood was intended to be five times bigger than it is, with the addition of high-density apartment buildings and larger community facilities.

But the collapse of land values in the late 1970s and a drop in demand for lots meant that never eventuated and the surrounding land was developed in a more conventional style.

Crestwood Homeowners Association secretary Kathrina Oakland said she wondered if expansion would have seen Crestwood implode.

"It would have just got out of hand," she said.

"Whereas there's only 295 of us and we all live here because we want to live here."

Crestwood was initially marketed towards higher income earners, with royalty-themed brochures bragging about blocks chosen by doctors, chemists, dentists, school principals and "a host of other discerning people".

It was also the first suburb in Perth to have underground power.

Mr Ciemitis suggested that niche appeal was why Crestwood never took off as a concept elsewhere.

"It's not for everybody. They always seem to work as little gems, but it's hard to just shift the whole marketplace into accepting that as a new living model," he said.

Some urban planners still believe the Radburn concept has its best days ahead.

"I think we have to learn from the successful parts of the Radburn design," Ms Lummer said.

"All of the factors of climate change and people wanting to be more sustainable and having more green space, more tree cover all of those things are coming together."

Julian Bolleter, co-director of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre, said he believed Radburn neighbourhoods would come back in style in Australia.

"We need to be able to design suburbs that can funnel biodiversity," he said.

"Radburn planning is very good in that front because you have uninterrupted spines of open space.

"I think our suburbs will have to get denser and they are getting denser, so we do need public open space and I think Radburn is a model that still remains valid in the right context."

Mr Ciemitis said inner city suburbs that incorporated Radburn principles, such as the Perth suburb of Menora, would prove valuable in the future.

"It might have in 50 years' time a completely different life. That might be its golden year when it really works well," he said.

"Just to get rid of these ideas sometimes is not the right approach we might have the bones of something really quite spectacular."


First posted February 23, 2020 06:59:30


Crestwood defies odds to celebrate 50 years as the first 'perfect' Radburn neighbourhood in the world - ABC News

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Thrust on durable rural housing – The Financial Express BD

Posted: at 6:41 am

Shahiduzzaman Khan | Published: February 22, 2020 22:08:06

Unplanned housing is a major problem facing Bangladesh's rural people. A few government-initiated rural housing projects, namely cluster and ideal village projects are implemented, but those are very small in number compared to the needs of the vast majority of people. These cluster villages have failed to meet expectations of the concerned people.

Authorities have very recently begun to lay thrust on developing liveable towns and villages for next generations. They think development of a standard and planned habitat would ensure people in both rural and urban areas to get their own house.

On many occasions, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the housing projects -- under both public and private sectors -- should be equipped with all civic facilities and services, and they should be developed under a master plan.

The Prime Minister has emphasised that lakes, water bodies and open spaces should be kept reserved for a development plan while a planned low-cost housing system should be developed for the poor living in slums scattered across cities.

The government has reportedly approved a law that would make official clearance mandatory for building houses in rural areas as well as use of land across the country. The proposed law, many say, would bring discipline in land management and prevent misuse of land.

The new law is expected to facilitate framing up of strategic plans for forest land, hilly areas and coastal belt. If the law is executed, nobody will be able to develop land at his or her whim. The country will have a national land use policy where there will be pragmatic policies for both urban and rural areas.

Bangladesh is one of the most land-scarce countries in the world. Though the National Land Utilisation Policy has focused on family-based land ceiling for rural housing and rural model house building, there is virtually no land-use plan for the rural areas that comprises about 85 per cent of the total land area.

Existing facilities in respect of physical infrastructure, housing, water supply, sanitation, etc., are inadequate in rural areas. A study suggests that housing shortage in the country would stand at around 3.1 million units, out of which 2.15 million units would be in rural areas.

Even though space availability for horizontal expansion is limited, people are forced to go for it considering high cost associated with vertical expansion. On the contrary, people in urban areas usually expand their house vertically since vertical expansion is more cost-effective in view of high price and scarcity of land in urban centres.

Indeed, a high growth rate of population has created enormous pressure on land. When the number of family members increases, people need to expand their houses. Since space is not adequately available, villagers expand their houses horizontally, encroaching on the farmland. Thus, cultivable land is gradually shrinking and numerous socio-economic problems are being created.

For the past several years, the Grameen Bank and a few non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are providing loans for rural house building that has opened a new area in the field of rural housing. Nevertheless, such organisations cater to the needs of a limited number of rural people.

The government has recently started implementing a compact township project involving a fund of Tk 4.24 billion for rural people of seven divisions. It is a new concept of compact housing that includes residential facilities alongside agriculture and forestation.

In fact, the idea was derived from the concept of cluster villages, which was supposed to provide urban facilities to villagers and save agriculture land. Analysts say such projects need to be implemented in participatory process -- in consultation with local people. Presumably, the poor and low-income group will definitely welcome such initiative, while the richer section might oppose it.

Each of the model villages is set to save about 13.05 acres of land needed for traditional housing. Besides, 16.26 acres of agricultural land will be saved, as the families will be provided with civic facilities through a single approach road.

It is found that many poorly-built rural houses collapse every year. However, the government, international agencies and private bodies can work in unison to address such problems.

Meanwhile, land use patterns are radically changing and adversely impacting the country's agricultural land, forest, water bodies and wildlife habitat. Needless to say, making new homes on cultivable land is limiting the use of land for farm production.

Furthermore, corruption remains a major problem that hampers streamlining of the country's land management. A World Bank survey reveals that most crimes and corruption in Bangladesh take place in land-related services. There are almost 3.5 million land-related cases pending.

Now, with the passage of new law for getting approval of rural housing, analysts believe, the country's housing and land administration system is set to be stronger and transparent. The government expects that discipline would be restored in land management and that misuse of land would be prevented.

In the national housing policy, due emphasis has been given on 'low cost housing', which means housing at affordable cost for all sections of the population. Apart from its thrust on housing at lower cost as compared to prevailing cost levels, a prime objective of the policy is to reduce cost and make housing an eco-friendly one.

As natural calamities like flood and cyclone are common in Bangladesh, low cost housing should also be made durable and must have good living conditions for the dwellers.


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Thrust on durable rural housing - The Financial Express BD

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As Andrey Zhdanov became the informal ruler of Finland – The Global Domains News

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History 23/02/20 As Andrey Zhdanov became the informal ruler of Finland

not everywhere, where the Soviet Union wanted to establish political influence, he began to alter the socio-economic and political system in his own image and likeness. Stalin, then Malenkov and Khrushchev obviously wanted to ensure that between the Pro-Soviet countries of peoples democracy and a hostile West, there was the buffer of the bourgeois-democratic state, friendly to the USSR. One of the best incarnations of this of course was after the Second world war, Finland. She had a close foreign-policy dependence on the USSR, almost the same as the countries of the organization of the Warsaw contract (OVD). Thanks to this submission in the foreign policy of Finland managed to preserve the sanctity of their way of life.

Stalin, who sought in 1939-1941 the accession of Finland to the USSR as well as he did with three other Baltic States, to the end of the war changed his plans. Priorities were the final defeat of Nazi Germany and building relationships with the great Western powers, which did not like the annexation of Finland. Also, importantly, Stalin would have feared the decay of moral spirit of the Soviet people under the influence of new citizens, accustomed to the freedom and private property. Here still it was necessary to reforge for socialism Balts, Moldovans and Western Ukrainians and Western Belarusians. Even if you include the Soviet Union almost four million Finns, it is not known who reforged would in the end.

for its part, the elite of Finland knew that the time when it was possible to hope for a military revenge against the Soviet Union, with the defeat of Germany is gone forever. How did they understand and what Stalin if he wanted to, not too difficult to occupy the whole of Finland. They are now it was necessary to ensure that maximum loyalty to the Soviet Union to keep what we have.

Therefore, no matter how difficult were the conditions exhibited by the Soviet Union in the negotiations on a truce in September 1944, Finland was forced to sign them. When the head of the Finnish delegation at the negotiations held in Moscow, Prime Minister A. Hackzell, got acquainted with the Soviet terms, he was stricken by a stroke. Conditions dictate Finlands domestic politics were the issue of the Soviet Union, its citizens (as of 21.06.1941) Karelians, Estonians and Izhora had found refuge in Finland; the dissolution of the nationalist organizations and the legalization of the Communist party; the trial of war criminals. To comply with Finlands truce (basically surrender) was established the allied control Commission, headed by Politburo member of the CPSU(b) A. A. Zhdanov.

Zhdanov in the sense of its powers and activities it is possible to liken the Royal the Governor-General of Finland N. And. Bobrikovo, eliminate the autonomy of Finland in 1898-1904 gg. 22 September 1944, Zhdanov arrived in Helsinki and from there three years, according to the instructions of Stalin, actually rules Finland (participation of British representatives in the Commission was nominal). At the request of Zhdanov, was banned organizations that the Soviet Union was considered fascist. On Control Commission, consisting of the Soviet NKVD, enjoyed the right of extraterritoriality, and had the opportunity for unlimited travel in Finland and control over the activities of state institutions. At the direction of Zhdanov, in March 1945, after the election, which victory was given to left parties, Prime Minister of Finland was approved by J. Paasikivi (Hellsten), whom Stalin considered ours after he signed the Treaty of Moscow 1940, ended the Winter war.

In November 1945 in Helsinki began the trial of the Finnish military and political leaders, Finland has drawn aggressive the war against the Soviet Union. In February 1946 he was sentenced. Former President R. ryti received 10 years in prison, the remaining seven defendants (two former Prime Minister, two Ministers of foreign Affairs, Ministers of Finance and education and the Ambassador in Berlin) from two to six years. In all these activities contributed to Zhdanov, the President of Finland K. Mannerheim. His authority helped the Soviet Union without conflict to establish control over the policy of Finland. In turn, Mannerheim avoided prosecution, but, resigning from the post of President in March 1946, just in case went to Switzerland.

February 10, 1947 the victorious powers signed the Paris peace Treaty with Finland, and in September of the same year, ceased operations of the allied control Commission in Helsinki. In 1947-1949, he was gradually released and pardoned former leaders of Finland. Stalin was outraged by this gesture obviously believed the loyalty of the Finns quite wealthy. April 6, 1948 in Moscow was signed a Treaty of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance between the USSR and Finland, which operated until 1992. Mostly it was the commitment of Finland to cooperate with the USSR in the case of aggression by Germany or allied state. Considering that in 1955 the FRG became a member of NATO, the Treaty was a form of military Alliance of the USSR with capitalist countries outside the ATS.

the Line PaasikiviKekkonen (the presidents of Finland in 1946-1956 and 1956-1981) was from a disguised form of vassal relationships, something reminiscent of the situation of the Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire. Leaders of the USSR and Finland (e.g. Kekkonen and predsovmina the USSR A. N. Kosygin) had a close personal relationship. Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee had a virtual veto on the appointment of the Finnish Ministers. Finnish anti-Soviet policies during this period it was impossible to occupy high positions.

For their loyalty to the Paasikivi received in 1954the order of Lenin. Even more rich collection of Soviet awards gathered Kekkonen: the order of Lenin, order of Friendship of peoples and the international Lenin prize For strengthening peace among peoples. This is especially interesting in comparison with the facts of the biography of Kekkonen before 1945: in 1918, fought as a volunteer in the Finnish white guard; in the 20-30-ies he was a member of the far-right academic Karelian society, preaching the capture of Soviet Karelia; in 1940, the only one of the parliamentarians voted for the continuation of the war with the Soviet Union.

the Dependence of Finnish economy on the Soviet market led to the fact that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Finnish economy experienced a severe crisis. How to write modern Finnish historians R. McCauley and J. Kokkonen, EU membership was a good thing for the economy, but still there are those who lost in this game the distance between the haves and have-nots has increased.

Source: Russian Seven

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