Haiti: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Troubled Land

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Haiti

Introduction The native Taino Amerindians – who inhabited the island of Hispaniola when it was discovered by COLUMBUS in 1492 – were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island, which later became Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. In the late 18th century, Haiti’s nearly half million slaves revolted under Toussaint L’OUVERTURE. After a prolonged struggle, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. After an armed rebellion led to the departure of President Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE in February 2004, an interim government took office to organize new elections under the auspices of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Continued violence and technical delays prompted repeated postponement, but Haiti finally did inaugurate a democratically elected president and parliament in May of 2006.
History This island of the Greater Antilles was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus on December 5, 1492. He named it Hispaniola. A branch of the Arawaks, the Tainos occupied the island before the arrival of the Spaniards. Their number to the end of 15th century was estimated to be lower than 100,000. The Spaniards exploited the island for its gold, gold which was mined largely by the local Amerindians under the direction of the occupying Spanish. This was hardly voluntary labor and those refusing to work in the mines were slaughtered or forced into slavery. The few who evaded capture fled to the mountains and established independent settlements.

The Europeans also brought infectious diseases with them to the island which, along with ill-treatment, malnutrition and a drastic drop of the birthrate, effectively decimated the remaining indigenous population in just a few decades. Without any more workers for the mines, the Spanish governors began importing slaves from Africa. In 1517, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, authorized the draft of the slaves. Those African slaves who managed to escape the European rule also fled to the mountains where some encountered, befriended and intermarried with fugitive Amerindians, consequently forming a line of people referred to as the Marabou.

The western part of Hispaniola, in contrast was settled by French buccaneers. Among them, Bertrand d’Ogeron succeeded in growing tobacco, thus allowing the, by then, large number of settled buccaneers and freebooters to turn into a sedentary population; a population which didn’t submit to royal authority until the year 1660, causing a number of conflicts. Bertrand d’Orgeron also attracted many colonists of Martinique and Guadeloupe, like the Roy family (Jean Roy, 1625-1707), Hebert (Jean Hebert, 1624, with his family) and the Barre (Guillaume Barre, 1642, with his family) driven out by the land pressure which was generated by the extension of the sugar dwellings. However, in the time between 1670 and 1690, a huge tobacco crisis struck the island, significantly reducing the number of settlers. The rows of the free booting grew bigger, plundering, like those of Vera Cruz in 1683 or of Campêche in 1686, became increasingly commonplace and Jean-Baptist Colbert, Marquis de Seignelay, elder son of Jean-Baptiste Colbert and at the time Minister of the Navy, brought back some order by taking a great number of measures. Among those appeared the creation of plantations of indigo and of cane sugar. The first sugar windmill was created in 1685.

The Treaty of Ryswick of 1697 divided Hispaniola between France and Spain. France received the western third, and named it Saint Domingue. Many French colonists came and worked in plantations. From 1713 to 1787, 30,000 colonists, among them Pierre Nezat, left Bordeaux, France, came to enlarge the number of the colonists present in the western part of the island. The wars burst in Europe and were prolonged on the seas to the Antilles and the Caribbean. In 1756, trade was paralyzed. A great number of colonists and their families left Saint Domingue for Louisiana, where they settled in Post established by France and managed by soldiers. Thus the families Barre, Roy, Hebert and Nezat met again in the territories of Attakapas and Opelousas (Indian tribes), where they also met other French colonists from Paris or from Nova Scotia (Alex Charles Barre, descendant of Guillaume Barre, founded in 1820 Port Barre). By about 1790, Santo Domingo had become the richest French colony in all of America thanks to the immense profits of the sugar and indigo industries and the thousands of Africans who had been brought as slaves to make these industries function. Their fate was under the jurisdiction framed by the black code, prepared by Colbert and enacted by Louis XIV. But the French Revolution involved serious social upheavals in the French West Indies and in Saint Domingue too. Most important was the revolt of the slaves which lead in 1793 to the abolition of slavery by the commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel, (decision endorsed and generalized to the whole of the French colonies by the Convention six months later). The Black Toussaint Louverture, appointed Governor by France, after having restored peace, having driven out the Spaniards and the English who threatened the colony, restored prosperity by daring measures. He went however too far promulgating a separatist constitution and Napoleon Bonaparte, under the influence of the Creoles (French – and Spaniards born on one of the islands of the Antilles, later also in Louisiana) and of the traders, sent an expedition of 30,000 men under the command of his brother-in-law the General Charles Leclerc. He had the mission of ousting Louverture and of restoring slavery. But, after some victories, the arrest and the deportation of Toussaint Louverture, the French troops ordered by Donatien Marie Joseph de Rochambeau finished by being beaten at the Battle of Vertières per Jean-Jacques Dessalines. At the end of a double battle for freedom and for independence won by former slaves over the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte, the independence of the country was proclaimed on 1 January 1804, under the name of Haiti. Haiti had become the first country in the world to make effective the abolition of slavery.

Dessalines was proclaimed governor for life by his troops. He exiled the remaining whites and ruled as a despot. He was assassinated on October 17, 1806. The country was divided then between a kingdom in the north, directed by Henri Christophe and a republic in the south, directed by Alexandre Pétion. Then president Jean Pierre Boyer reunified these two parts and conquered the east part of the island. July 11, 1825, the king of France Charles X threatened to reconquer the island and sent a fleet of 14 vessels. Boyer had to sign a treaty in which France recognized the independence of the country in exchange for an allowance of 150 million francs-or (the sum would be reduced in 1838 to 90 million francs).

A long succession of coups followed the departure of Jean Pierre Boyer. His authority did not cease being disputed by factions of the army, the mulatto and black elites, and the commercial class, now made up of great number from abroad – Germans, Americans, French and English). The country was impoverished, with few State Heads taking care of its development. As his authority weakened, armed revolts started, maintained by candidates to the succession. At the beginning of the 20th century, the country was in a state of quasi-permanent insurrection.

The United States occupied the island from 1915 to 1934. Thereafter, from 1957 to 1986, the Duvaliers reigned as dictators. They created the system of denouncement and death squads known as Tonton Macoute. Many Haitians exiled themselves, in particular to the United States and Quebec. The former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide won the elections of December 1990. His mandate began on February 7, 1991, but a coup d’etat carried out by Raoul Cédras supported by the middle-class of businesses deposed him in September. In 1994, he was restored to authority under the pressure of the Clinton administration (which threatened with military intervention) on the condition that he gave up recovering the years lost at the time of the military interlude. He left the presidency in 1995 then and was re-elected in 2000. After several months of popular demonstrations and pressures exerted by the international community, especially by France, the USA and Canada, Aristide went into exile, being taken out of the country by US soldiers on February 29, 2004, when armed forces consisting of opponents and former soldiers who controlled the North of the country threatened to go on the capital Port-au-Prince.

Boniface Alexandre, president of the Supreme Court of appeal, assumed interim authority. In February 2006, following elections marked by uncertainties on the calculation of the ballot papers, and thanks to the support of popular demonstrations, René Préval, near to Aristide and former president of the Republic of Haiti between 1995 and 2000, was elected.

Geography Location: Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic
Geographic coordinates: 19 00 N, 72 25 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 27,750 sq km
land: 27,560 sq km
water: 190 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries: total: 360 km
border countries: Dominican Republic 360 km
Coastline: 1,771 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
Climate: tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds
Terrain: mostly rough and mountainous
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Chaine de la Selle 2,680 m
Natural resources: bauxite, copper, calcium carbonate, gold, marble, hydro-power
Land use: arable land: 28.11%
permanent crops: 11.53%
other: 60.36% (2005)
Irrigated land: 920 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 14 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.99 cu km/yr (5%/1%/94%)
per capita: 116 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: lies in the middle of the hurricane belt and subject to severe storms from June to October; occasional flooding and earthquakes; periodic droughts
Environment – current issues: extensive deforestation (much of the remaining forested land is being cleared for agriculture and used as fuel); soil erosion; inadequate supplies of potable water
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Hazardous Wastes
Geography – note: shares the island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)
People Population: 8,706,497
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.1% (male 1,846,175/female 1,817,082)
15-64 years: 54.4% (male 2,313,542/female 2,426,326)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 134,580/female 168,792) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 18.4 years
male: 17.9 years
female: 18.8 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.453% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 35.87 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 10.4 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.94 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.016 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.954 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.797 male(s)/female
total population: 0.973 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 63.83 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 68.45 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 59.07 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 57.03 years
male: 55.35 years
female: 58.75 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.86 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 5.6% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 280,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 24,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoa diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vector-borne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: osteoporosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Haitian(s)
adjective: Haitian
Ethnic groups: black 95%, mulatto and white 5%
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3%
note: roughly half of the population practices voodoo
Languages: French (official), Creole (official)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 52.9%
male: 54.8%
female: 51.2%

Nicaragua: Truth Knowledge And History Of This Troubled Central American Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Nicaragua

Introduction The Pacific coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001, saw the Sandinistas defeated, but voting in 2006 announced the return of former Sandinista President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra. Nicaragua’s infrastructure and economy – hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 – are slowly being rebuilt.
History Pre-Columbian history

In Pre-Columbian times the Indigenous people, in what is now known as Nicaragua, were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been updated to include the influence of the Isthmo-Colombian area. It was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met.

Nicaragua was inhabited by Paleo-Indians as far back as 6000 years ago.[2] This is confirmed by the ancient footprints of Acahualinca, along with other archaeological evidence, mainly in the form of ceramics and statues made of volcanic stone like the ones found on the island of Zapatera and petroglyphs found in Ometepe island. At the end of the 15th century, western Nicaragua was inhabited by several indigenous peoples related by culture and language to the Mayans.[3] They were primarily farmers who lived in towns, organized into small kingdoms. Meanwhile, the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous peoples, mostly chibcha related groups, that had migrated from what is now Colombia. They lived a less sedentary life based on hunting and gathering.

The people of eastern Nicaragua appear to have traded with and been influenced by the native peoples of the Caribbean, as round thatched huts and canoes, both typical of the Caribbean, were common in eastern Nicaragua. In the west and highland areas, occupying the territory between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Coast, the Niquirano were governed by chief Nicarao, or Nicaragua, a rich ruler who lived in Nicaraocali, now the city of Rivas. The Chorotega lived in the central region of Nicaragua. These two groups had intimate contact with the Spanish conquerors, paving the way for the racial mix of native and European stock now known as mestizos. However, within three decades an estimated Indian population of one million plummeted to a few tens of thousands, as approximately half of the indigenous people in western Nicaragua died from the rapid spread of new diseases brought by the Spaniards, something the indigenous people of the Caribbean coast managed to escape due to the remoteness of the area.

The Spanish conquest

In 1502, Christopher Columbus was the first European known to have reached what is now Nicaragua as he sailed south along the Central America isthmus. On his fourth voyage Columbus sailed alongside and explored the Mosquito Coast on the east of Nicaragua.[5] The first attempt to conquer what is now known as Nicaragua was by Spanish conquistador Gil González Dávila,[6] whose Central American exploits began with his arrival in Panama in January 1520. González claimed to have converted some 30,000 indigenous peoples and discovered a possible transisthmian water link. After exploring and gathering gold in the fertile western valleys González was attacked by the indigenous people, some of whom were commanded by Nicarao and an estimated 3,000 led by chief Diriangén.[7] González later returned to Panama where governor Pedrarias Dávila attempted to arrest him and confiscate his treasure, some 90,000 pesos of gold. This resulted in González fleeing to Santo Domingo.

It was not until 1524 that the first Spanish permanent settlements were founded.[6] Conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded two of Nicaragua’s principal towns in 1524: Granada on Lake Nicaragua was the first settlement and León east of Lake Managua came after. Córdoba soon found it necessary to prepare defenses for the cities and go on the offensive against incursions by the other conquistadores. Córdoba was later publicly beheaded following a power struggle with Pedrarias Dávila, his tomb and remains were discovered some 500 years later in the Ruins of León Viejo.[8]

The inevitable clash between the Spanish forces did not impede their devastation of the indigenous population. The Indian civilization was destroyed. The series of battles came to be known as The War of the Captains.[9] By 1529, the conquest of Nicaragua was complete. Several conquistadores came out winners, and some were executed or murdered. Pedrarias Dávila was a winner; although he had lost control of Panama, he had moved to Nicaragua and established his base in León. Through adroit diplomatic machinations, he became the first governor of the colony.[8] The land was parceled out to the conquistadores. The area of most interest was the western portion. Many indigenous people were soon enslaved to develop and maintain “estates” there. Others were put to work in mines in northern Nicaragua, few were killed in warfare, and the great majority were sent as slaves to other New World Spanish colonies, for significant profit to the new landed aristocracy. Many of the indigenous people died as a result of disease and neglect by the Spaniards who controlled everything necessary for their subsistence.[6]

From colony to nation

In 1538, the Viceroyalty of New Spain was established. By 1570, the southern part of New Spain was designated the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The area of Nicaragua was divided into administrative “parties” with León as the capital. In 1610, the Momotombo erupted, destroying the capital. It was rebuilt northwest of what is now known as the Ruins of Old León. Nicaragua became a part of the Mexican Empire and then gained its independence as a part of the United Provinces of Central America in 1821 and as an independent republic in its own right in 1838. The Mosquito Coast based on the Caribbean coast was claimed by the United Kingdom and its predecessors as a protectorate from 1655 to 1850; this was delegated to Honduras in 1859 and transferred to Nicaragua in 1860, though it remained autonomous until 1894. Jose Santos Zelaya, president of Nicaragua from 1893-1909, managed to negotiate for the annexation of this region to the rest of Nicaragua. In his honour the entire region was named Zelaya.

Much of Nicaragua’s politics since independence has been characterized by the rivalry between the liberal elite of León and the conservative elite of Granada. The rivalry often degenerated into civil war, particularly during the 1840s and 1850s. Initially invited by the Liberals in 1855 to join their struggle against the Conservatives, a United States adventurer named William Walker (later executed in Honduras) set himself up as president of Nicaragua, after conducting a farcical election in 1856. Honduras and other Central American countries united to drive him out of Nicaragua in 1857, after which a period of three decades of Conservative rule ensued.[10]

In the 1800s Nicaragua experienced a wave of immigration, primarily from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium generally moved to Nicaragua to set up businesses with money they brought from Europe. They established many agricultural businesses such as coffee and sugar cane plantations, and also newspapers, hotels and banks.

United States involvement (1909 – 1933)

In 1909, the United States provided political support to conservative-led forces rebelling against President Zelaya. U.S. motives included differences over the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Nicaragua’s potential as a destabilizing influence in the region, and Zelaya’s attempts to regulate foreign access to Nicaraguan natural resources. On November 18, 1909, U.S. warships were sent to the area after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) were executed by order of Zelaya. The U.S. justified the intervention by claiming to protect U.S. lives and property. Zelaya resigned later that year. U.S. Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933,[11] except for a nine month period beginning in 1925. From 1910 to 1926, the conservative party ruled Nicaragua. The Chamorro family, which had long dominated the party, effectively controlled the government during that period. In 1914, the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty was signed, giving the U.S. control over the proposed canal, as well as leases for potential canal defenses.[12] Following the evacuation of U.S. marines, another violent conflict between liberals and conservatives took place in 1926, known as the Constitutionalist War, which resulted in a coalition government and the return of U.S. Marines.[13]

From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, who withdrew upon the establishment of a new Liberal government. Sandino was the only Nicaraguan general to refuse to sign the el tratado del Espino Negro agreement and then headed up to the northern mountains of Las Segovias, where he fought the US Marines for over five years.[14] The revolt finally forced the United States to compromise and leave the country. When the Americans left in 1933, they set up the Guardia Nacional (National Guard),[15] a combined military and police force trained and equipped by the Americans and designed to be loyal to U.S. interests. Anastasio Somoza García, a close friend of the American government, was put in charge. He was one of the three rulers of the country, the others being Sandino and the mostly figurehead President Juan Bautista Sacasa.

After the US Marines withdrew from Nicaragua in January 1933, Sandino and the newly-elected Sacasa government reached an agreement by which he would cease his guerrilla activities in return for amnesty, a grant of land for an agricultural colony, and retention of an armed band of 100 men for a year.[16] But a growing hostility between Sandino and Somoza led Somoza to order the assassination of Sandino.[17][18][15] Fearing future armed opposition from Sandino, Somoza invited him to a meeting in Managua, where Sandino was assassinated on February 21 of 1934 by the National Guard. Hundreds of men, women, and children were executed later.[19]

The Somoza Dynasty (1936 – 1979)

Nicaragua has seen many interventions by the United States. It has also experienced long military dictatorships, the longest one being the rule of the Somoza family for much of the 20th century. The Somoza family came to power as part of a US-engineered pact in 1927 that stipulated the formation of the National Guard to replace the small individual armies that had long reigned in the country.[20] Somoza deposed Sacasa and became president on Jan. 1, 1937 in a rigged election.

Nicaragua was the first country to ratify the UN Charter,[21] and declared war on Germany during World War II. No troops were sent to the war but Somoza did seize the occasion to confiscate attractive properties held by German-Nicaraguans, the best-known of which was the Montelimar estate which today operates as a privately-owned luxury resort and casino.

Somoza used the National Guard to force Sacasa to resign, and took control of the country in 1937, destroying any potential armed resistance.[23] Somoza was in turn assassinated by Rigoberto López Pérez, a liberal Nicaraguan poet, in 1956. After his father’s death, Luis Somoza Debayle, the eldest son of the late dictator, was appointed President by the congress and officially took charge of the country.[15] He is remembered by some for being moderate, but was in power only for a few years and then died of a heart attack. Then came president Rene Schick whom most Nicaraguans viewed “as nothing more than a puppet of the Somozas”.[24] Somoza’s brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who succeeded his father in charge of the National Guard, controlled the country, and officially took the presidency after Schick.

Nicaragua experienced high economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s largely as a result of industrialization,[25] and became one of Central America’s most developed nations despite its political instability. Due to its stable and high growth economy, foreign investments grew, primarily from U.S. companies such as Citigroup, Sears, Westinghouse and Coca Cola. However, the capital city of Managua suffered a major earthquake in 1972 which destroyed nearly 90% of the city creating major losses.[26] Some Nicaraguan historians see the 1972 earthquake that devastated Managua as the final ‘nail in the coffin’ for Somoza. The mishandling of relief money also prompted Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente to personally fly to Managua on December 31, 1972, but he died enroute in an airplane accident.[27] Even the economic elite were reluctant to support Somoza, as he had acquired monopolies in industries that were key to rebuilding the nation,[28] and did not allow the elite to share the profits that would result. In 1973 (the year of reconstruction) many new buildings were built, but the level of corruption in the government prevented further growth, and the ever increasing tensions and anti-government uprisings slowed growth in the last two years of the Somoza dynasty.

The Nicaraguan revolution

In 1961, a young student, Carlos Fonseca, turned back to the historical figure of Sandino, and along with 2 others founded the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).[15] The FSLN was a tiny party throughout most of the 1960s, but Somoza’s utter hatred of it and his heavy-handed treatment of anyone he suspected to be a Sandinista sympathizer gave many ordinary Nicaraguans the idea that the Sandinistas were much stronger.

After the 1972 earthquake and Somoza’s brazen corruption, mishandling of relief, and refusal to rebuild Managua, the ranks of the Sandinistas were flooded with young disaffected Nicaraguans who no longer had anything to lose.[29] These economic problems propelled the Sandinistas in their struggle against Somoza by leading many middle- and upper-class Nicaraguans to see the Sandinistas as the only hope for removing the brutal Somoza regime. On January 1978, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the editor of the national newspaper La Prensa and ardent opponent of Somoza, was assassinated.[30] This is believed to have led to the extreme general disappointment with Somoza. The planners and perpetrators of the murder were at the highest echelons of the Somoza regime and included the dictator’s son, “El Chiguin”, the President of Housing, Cornelio Hueck, the Attorney General, and Pedro Ramos, a close Cuban ally who commercialized blood plasma.

The Sandinistas, supported by much of the populace, elements of the Catholic Church, and regional and international governments, took power in July of 1979. Somoza fled the country and eventually ended up in Paraguay, where he was assassinated in September 1980, allegedly by members of the Argentinian Revolutionary Workers Party.[31] The Sandinistas inherited a country in ruins with a debt of U.S.$1.6 billion dollars, an estimated 50,000 war dead, 600,000 homeless, and a devastated economic infrastructure.[32] To begin the task of establishing a new government, they created a Council (or junta) of National Reconstruction, made up of five members – Sandinista militants Daniel Ortega and Moises Hassan, novelist Sergio Ramírez Mercado (a member of Los Doce “the Twelve”), businessman Alfonso Robelo Callejas, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro). The preponderance of power, however, remained with the Sandinistas and their mass organizations, including the Sandinista Workers’ Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores), the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Nicaraguan Women’s Association (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza), and the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos).

Sandinistas and the Contras

Upon assuming office in 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan condemned the FSLN for joining with Cuba in supporting Marxist revolutionary movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador. His administration authorized the CIA to begin financing, arming and training rebels, some of whom were the remnants of Somoza’s National Guard, as anti-Sandinista guerrillas that were branded “counter-revolutionary” by leftists (contrarrevolucionarios in Spanish).[33] This was shortened to Contras, a label the anti-Communist forces chose to embrace. Eden Pastora and many of the indigenous guerrilla forces, who were not associated with the “Somozistas,” also resisted the Sandinistas. The Contras operated out of camps in the neighboring countries of Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south.[33] As was typical in guerrilla warfare, they were engaged in a campaign of economic sabotage in an attempt to combat the Sandinista government and disrupted shipping by planting underwater mines in Nicaragua’s Corinto harbour,[34] an action condemned by the World Court as illegal.[35][36] The U.S. also sought to place economic pressure on the Sandinistas, and the Reagan administration imposed a full trade embargo.

U.S. support for this Nicaraguan insurgency continued in spite of the fact that impartial observers from international groupings such as the European Union, religious groups sent to monitor the election, and observers from democratic nations such as Canada and the Republic of Ireland concluded that the Nicaraguan general elections of 1984 were completely free and fair. The Reagan administration disputed these results however, despite the fact that the government of the United States never had any observers in Nicaragua at the time.

After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran and channeling the proceeds to the Contras (The Iran-Contra Affair).[40] When this scheme was revealed, Reagan admitted that he knew about the Iranian “arms for hostages” dealings but professed ignorance about the proceeds funding the Contras; for this, National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver North took much of the blame. Senator John Kerry’s 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra-drug links concluded that “senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras’ funding problems.” According to the National Security Archive, Oliver North had been in contact with Manuel Noriega, a Panamanian general and the de facto military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989 when he was overthrown and captured by a U.S. invading force. He was taken to the United States, tried for drug trafficking, and imprisoned in 1992.

The Reagan administration’s support for the Contras continued to stir controversy well into the 1990s. In August 1996, San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a series titled Dark Alliance, linking the origins of crack cocaine in California to the Contras.[44] Freedom of Information Act inquiries by the National Security Archive and other investigators unearthed a number of documents showing that White House officials, including Oliver North, knew about and supported using money raised via drug trafficking to fund the Contras. Sen. John Kerry’s report in 1988 led to the same conclusions; however, major media outlets, the Justice Department, and Reagan denied the allegations.[45]

1990s and the post-Sandinista era

Multi-party democratic elections were held in 1990, which saw the defeat of the Sandinistas by a coalition of anti-Sandinista (from the left and right of the political spectrum) parties led by Violeta Chamorro, the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. The defeat shocked the Sandinistas as numerous pre-election polls had indicated a sure Sandinista victory and their pre-election rallies had attracted crowds of several hundred thousand people.[46] The unexpected result was subject to a great deal of analysis and comment, and was attributed by commentators such as Noam Chomsky and S. Brian Willson to the U.S./Contra threats to continue the war if the Sandinistas retained power, the general war-weariness of the Nicaraguan population, and the abysmal Nicaraguan economic situation.

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in 1990 became the first female president democratically elected in the Americas.

On the other hand, P. J. O’Rourke wrote in “Return of the Death of Communism”, “the unfair advantages of using state resources for party ends, about how Sandinista control of the transit system prevented UNO supporters from attending rallies, how Sandinista domination of the army forced soldiers to vote for Ortega and how Sandinista bureaucracy kept $3.3 million of U.S. campaign aid from getting to UNO while Daniel Ortega spent millions donated by overseas people and millions and millions more from the Nicaraguan treasury . . .”

Exit polls of Nicaraguans reported Chamorro’s victory over Ortega was achieved with only 55%. Violeta Chamorro was the first woman to be popularly elected as President of a Latin American nation and first woman president of Nicaragua. Exit polling convinced Daniel Ortega that the election results were legitimate, and were instrumental in his decision to accept the vote of the people and step down rather than void the election. Nonetheless Ortega vowed that he would govern “desde abajo” (from below),[49] in other words due to his widespread control of institutions and Sandinista individuals in all government agencies, he would still be able to maintain control and govern even without being president.

Chamorro received an economy entirely in ruins. The per capita income of Nicaragua had been reduced by over 80% during the 1980s, and a huge government debt which ascended to US$12 billion primarily due to financial and social costs of the Contra war with the Sandinista-led government.[50] Much to the surprise of the U.S. and the contra forces, Chamorro did not dismantle the Sandinista People’s Army, though the name was changed to the Nicaraguan Army. Chamorro’s main contribution to Nicaragua was the disarmament of groups in the northern and central areas of the country. This provided stability that the country had lacked for over ten years.

In subsequent elections in 1996 Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas of the FSLN were again defeated, this time by Arnoldo Alemán of the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC).

In the 2001 elections the PLC again defeated the FSLN, with Enrique Bolaños winning the Presidency. However, President Bolaños subsequently charged and brought forward allegations of money laundering, theft and corruption against former President Alemán. The ex-president was sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement, money laundering, and corruption.[51] The Liberal members who were loyal to Alemán and also members of congress reacted angrily, and along with Sandinista parliament members stripped the presidential powers of President Bolaños and his ministers, calling for his resignation and threatening impeachment.

President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, Celebrating May 1, 2005, in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. President Ortega is currently serving his second term.

The Sandinistas alleged that their support for Bolaños was lost when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Bolaños to keep his distance from the FSLN.[52] This “slow motion coup” was averted partially due to pressure from the Central American presidents who would fail to recognize any movement that removed Bolaños; The U.S., the OAS, and the European Union also opposed the “slow motion coup”.[53] The proposed constitutional changes that were going to be introduced in 2005 against the Bolaños administration were delayed until January 2007 after the entrance of the new government. Though 1 day before they were enforced the National Assembly postponed their enforcement until January 2008.

Before the general elections on 5 November 2006, the National Assembly passed a bill further restricting abortion in Nicaragua 52-0 (9 abstaining, 29 absent). President Enrique Bolaños supported this measure, but signed the bill into law on 17 November 2006,[54] as a result Nicaragua is one of three countries in the world where abortion is illegal with no exceptions, along with El Salvador and Chile.

Legislative and presidential elections took place on November 5, 2006. Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency with 37.99% of the vote. This percentage was enough to win the presidency outright, due to a change in electoral law which lowered the percentage requiring a runoff election from 45% to 35% (with a 5% margin of victory).

Geography Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras
Geographic coordinates: 13 00 N, 85 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 129,494 sq km
land: 120,254 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than the state of New York
Land boundaries: total: 1,231 km
border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km
Coastline: 910 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: natural prolongation
Climate: tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands
Terrain: extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m
Natural resources: gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish
Land use: arable land: 14.81%
permanent crops: 1.82%
other: 83.37% (2005)
Irrigated land: 610 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 196.7 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.3 cu km/yr (15%/2%/83%)
per capita: 237 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography – note: largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua
Politics Politics of Nicaragua takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Nicaragua is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
People Population: 5,785,846 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 34.6% (male 1,019,281/female 981,903)
15-64 years: 62.1% (male 1,792,398/female 1,803,133)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 82,840/female 106,291) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21.7 years
male: 21.3 years
female: 22.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.825% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 23.7 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.33 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 25.91 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 29.06 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 22.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.21 years
male: 69.08 years
female: 73.44 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.63 children born/woman (2008 est.)

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

A student who had taken refuge at the Church of the Divine Mercy amid a barrage of armed attacks is embraced by a relative on Saturday after he was transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

Nicaragua saw another weekend of deadly violence, as forces in support of President Daniel Ortega besieged student protesters in a church and attempted to assert control over several areas outside the capital.

Students have been at the center of anti-government demonstrations since they began April 18. What started as a “protest against now-rescinded changes in public pensions” became “a full-fledged call to end the authoritarian rule,” reporter Maria Martin tells NPR. The government has responded with brutal force.

Overnight Friday, protests at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in the capital took a dramatic turn, ultimately leaving at least two people dead and several others injured.

For two months, students at the university in Managua have set up barricades during protests that have drawn the wrath of pro-government forces. On Friday, about 200 students on the sprawling campus were pinned down by police and paramilitaries into a nearby Catholic church that they had been using as a field hospital.

The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow, reporting on the protests, was trapped in the Church of the Divine Mercy along with the students. He described what he saw:

“Not long after 6 p.m., with several high-pitched cracks, the mood took a dark turn. The faraway shooting was suddenly nearby. The paramilitaries had appeared, cutting off the only exit from Divine Mercy and firing at the remaining barricade just outside the church.

“It became clear that everyone inside — dozens of students, at least two priests and two doctors, neighbors, volunteers and journalists, including me — would not be going anywhere.

“Most of the students accepted this realization with stoicism and remarkable calm. Many had been taking sporadic fire on and off for the past two months, and they seemed accustomed to it. They carried the wounded into the Rev. Raul Zamora’s rectory and put them on chairs or on the blood-spattered tile floor. Outside, at the barricade, other students shouted and fired their mortars against the unseen ­assailants.

“Over the next hours, the fighting ebbed and flowed. A flurry of gunfire would force everyone indoors, then people would drift into the courtyard. At times, they chanted ‘Viva, Nicaragua,’ shot their mortars in the air and vowed to never leave their posts. Around sunset, dozens of them knelt in a circle, held each other and prayed.”

The siege stretched on for some 15 hours, ending when members of the clergy negotiated for the students to be allowed to leave. They were transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral, according to the Post.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said two students were killed during the confrontation, according to The Associated Press.

Mourners attend the wake of Nicaraguan university student Gerald Vasquez who was killed over the weekend when police forced students out of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

“It was a really hard night. They discharged their entire heavy arsenal against stones and mortars,” a sobbing young man who was afraid to given his name told the AP. “They wanted to kill us all.”

Sunday saw more violence, just outside Managua, Reuters reported. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed when security forces and paramilitary groups loyal to Ortega attacked people in the city of Masaya and communities of Monimbo.

In Masaya, pro-government forces were trying to take down barricades and reassert control over the area in what the government was calling “Operation Clean-up,” according to the BBC. The government says the “blockades are harming businesses and disrupting the lives of Nicaraguans,” the broadcaster reports.

The weekend violence is part of a brutal crackdown that human rights groups say has resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people.

Human rights groups have criticized the Nicaraguan government for its tactics. For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has accused the government of “excessive and arbitrary use of police force,” as well as using paramilitary groups called “shock groups” to put down protests. It has called for the groups to be dismantled.

The BBC described “hooded and masked men opening fire on protesters” during recent protests, and says that “the government says the protesters are trying to stage a coup d’etat against Mr Ortega.”

Panama: The Truth, Knowledge And The History Of The Nation/People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Panama

Introduction Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela – named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of the century. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the subsequent decades. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan to expand the Canal. The project, which began in 2007 and could double the Canal’s capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
History Christopher Columbus arrives in Panama on his fourth travel, which started in Nicaragua and ended in Panama. It is in this trip he discovers the Chagres river, which in the XX Century it would be the main resource to build the Panama Canal. He arrived to the Caribbean coast where he baptized the area with the name of Portobelo (in English, Beautiful Port). Columbus then explored Veraguas and founded Santa Maria de Belen, which would be the first Spanish settlement on the continent, leaving Bartolome, his brother, in charge.

Eventually, this settlement was destroyed by the local native population and the few surviving members returned to Spain.

Founding of Panama La Vieja

It wasn´t until 1519 when the Spanish decided to settle the new city. This time they chose a site in the Pacific ocean, which was discovered six years before by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. The new city, today known as Panama La Vieja, was founded in August 15th, 1519 by orders of governor Pedrarias Davila and became an important port during the Spanish gold trade from Peru to the Caribbean islands and finally to Europe. The merchandise from all over South America would come into Panama and travel to Portobelo using the Camino de Cruces (old stone road) crossing the jungle and navigating the Chagres river. From Portobelo it would distribute to the islands and then to Spain.

Because of its importance and its location the city was an easy target for pirates. However, protection from pirates was only one of its many problems, as it was settled in a site composed mainly by mangrove land, diseases and fires weakened their position, until it was finally destroyed by pirate Henry Morgan in 1671.

Founding of Casco Antiguo

In 1673 a new city of Panama was founded. This time, a rocky peninsula was chosen, still on the Pacific side. A healthier site with crossed winds and easier to defend from both land and ocean attacks. Called interchangeably Casco Viejo, San Felipe, Catedral or Casco Antiguo, it is from here where Panama would declare independece from Spain and later join and separate from Colombia. It will see the boom and bust of the Gold Rush, the French attempt to build a Canal and later its completion by the United States.

Independence

After about 320 years under the rule of the Spanish Empire, on 10 November 1821, independence from Spain was declared in the small town of La Villa, today known as La Heroica. On 28 November, presided by Colonel Jose de Fabrega, a National Assembly was convened and it officially declared the independence of the isthmus of Panama from Spain and its decision to join New Granada, Ecuador and Venezuela in Bolivar’s recently founded Republic of Colombia.

In 1830, Venezuela, Ecuador and other territories left the Gran Colombia, but Panama remained as a province of this country, until July 1831 when the isthmus reiterated its independence, now under General Juan Eligio Alzuru as supreme military commander. In August, military forces under the command of Colonel Tomás Herrera defeated and executed Alzuru and reestablished ties with New Granada.

Ten years later, on November 1840, during a civil war that had begun as a religious conflict, the isthmus declared its independence under the leadership of the now General Tomás Herrera and became the ‘Estado Libre del Istmo’, or the Free State of the Isthmus. The new state established external political and economic ties and drew up a constitution which included the possibility for Panama to rejoin New Granada, but only as a federal district. On June 1841 Tomás Herrera became the President of the Estado Libre del Istmo. But the civil conflict ended and the government of New Granada and the government of the Isthmus negotiated the reincorporation of Panamá to Colombia on December 31, 1841.

In the end, the union between Panama and the Republic of Colombia was made possible by the active participation of the US under the 1846 Bidlack Mallarino Treaty, which lasted until 1903. The treaty granted the US rights to build railroads through Panama and to intervene militarily against revolt to guarantee New Granadine control of Panama. There were at least three attempts by Panamanian Liberals to seize control of Panama and potentially achieve full autonomy, including one led by Liberal guerrillas like Belisario Porras and Victoriano Lorenzo, each of which was suppressed by a collaboration of Conservative Colombian and US forces under the Bidlack Mallarino Treaty.

In 1902 US President Theodore Roosevelt decided to take on the abandoned works of the Panama Canal by the French but the Colombian government in Bogotá balked at the prospect of a US controlled canal under the terms that Roosevelt’s administration was offering. Roosevelt was unwilling to alter its terms and quickly changed tactics, encouraging a minority of Conservative Panamanian landholding families to demand independence, offering military support. On November 3, 1903 Panama finally separated and Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero, a prominent member of the Conservative political party, became the first constitutional President of the Republic of Panama.

In November 1903, Phillipe Bunau-Varilla—a French citizen who was not authorized to sign any treaties on behalf of Panama without the review of the Panamanians—unilaterally signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty which granted rights to the US to build and administer indefinitely the Panama Canal, which was opened in 1914. This treaty became a contentious diplomatic issue between the two countries, reaching a boiling point on Martyr’s Day (9 January 1964). The issues were resolved with the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties in 1977 returning the former Canal Zone territories to Panama.

Military dictators

The second intent of the founding fathers was to bring peace and harmony between the two major political parties (Conservatives and Liberals). The Panamanian government went through periods of political instability and corruption, however, and at various times in its history, the mandate of an elected president terminated prematurely. In 1968, a coup toppled the government of the recently elected President Arnulfo Arias Madrid.

While never holding the position of President himself, General Omar Torrijos eventually became the de facto leader of Panama. As a military dictator, he was the leading power in the governing military junta and later became an autocratic strong man. Torrijos maintained his position of power until his death in an airplane accident in 1981.

After Torrijos’s death, several military strong men followed him as Panama’s leader. Commander Florencio Flores Aguilar followed Torrijos. Colonel Rubén Darío Paredes followed Aguilar. Eventually, by 1983, power was concentrated in the hands of General Manuel Antonio Noriega.

Manuel Noriega came up through the ranks after serving in the Chiriquí province and in the city of Puerto Armuelles for a time. He was a former head of Panama’s secret police and was an ex-informant of the CIA. But Noriega’s implication in drug trafficking by the United States resulted in difficult relations by the end of the 1980s.

United States invasion of Panama

On 20 December 1989, 27,000 U.S. personnel invaded Panama in order to remove Manuel Noriega.[2] A few hours before the invasion, in a ceremony that took place inside a U.S. military base in the former Panama Canal Zone, Guillermo Endara was sworn in as the new President of Panama. The invasion occurred ten years before the Panama Canal administration was to be turned over to Panamanian authorities, according to the timetable set up by the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. During the fighting, between two hundred [3] [4] and four thousand Panamanians,[5][6] mostly civilians, were killed.

Noriega surrendered to the American military shortly after, and was taken to Florida to be formally extradited and charged by U.S. federal authorities on drug and racketeering charges. He became eligible for parole on September 9, 2007, but remained in custody while his lawyers fought an extradition request from France. Critics have pointed out that many of Noriega’s former allies remain in power in Panama.

Post-invasion

Under the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, the United States turned over all canal-related lands to Panama on 31 December 1999. Panama also gained control of canal-related buildings and infrastructure as well as full administration of the canal.

The people of Panama have already approved the widening of the canal which, after completion, will allow for post-Panamax vessels to travel through it, increasing the number of ships that currently use the canal.

Geography Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica
Geographic coordinates: 9 00 N, 80 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 78,200 sq km
land: 75,990 sq km
water: 2,210 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 555 km
border countries: Colombia 225 km, Costa Rica 330 km
Coastline: 2,490 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm or edge of continental margin
Climate: tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)
Terrain: interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan Baru 3,475 m
Natural resources: copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 7.26%
permanent crops: 1.95%
other: 90.79% (2005)
Irrigated land: 430 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 148 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.82 cu km/yr (67%/5%/28%)
per capita: 254 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area
Environment – current issues: water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean
Politics Politics of Panama takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The branches are according to Panama’s Political Constitution of 1972, reformed by the Actos Reformatorios of 1978, and by the Acto Constitucional in 1983, united in cooperation and limited through the classic system of checks and balances. Three independent organizations with clearly defined responsibilities are found in the Political Constitution. Thus, the Comptroller General of the Republic has the responsibility to manage public funds. There also exists the Electoral Tribunal, which has the responsibility to guarantee liberty, transparency, and the efficacy of the popular vote; and, finally, the Ministry of the Public exists to oversee interests of State and of the municipalities.
People Population: 3,309,679 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.6% (male 499,254/female 479,242)
15-64 years: 63.8% (male 1,066,915/female 1,043,499)
65 years and over: 6.7% (male 102,937/female 117,832) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 26.7 years
male: 26.3 years
female: 27.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.544% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 20.68 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.71 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.53 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 13.4 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.35 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.88 years
male: 74.08 years
female: 79.81 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.57 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.9% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 16,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Panamanian(s)
adjective: Panamanian
Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%; note – many Panamanians bilingual
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 91.9%
male: 92.5%
female: 91.2% (2000 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 3.8% of GDP (2004)

Should North And South America Copy EU Border Policies?

Should N. & S. America Copy EU Border Policies?

 

If you are from the Americas, simply meaning North of South America there is a good chance that you are aware of the border issues between the U.S. and Mexico. If you are aware of the U.S. President, Donald Trump then you are probably aware of his feelings about wanting a very high border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It is my personal belief that there are good things and bad things about open, and about closed Borders between Nations. This should be obvious from the simple fact that there are good and bad people in every Nation, Religion and Ethnicity. I wish that I had the answers for everything concerning this issue, but I simply don’t. My goal with this article, just like almost all of the articles that I write, is to get the kind folks who read my articles to think deeper about the issues.

 

First I guess we would need to consider what we think about the EU example if we are going to possibly consider doing the same here in the Americas. Chancellor Merkel of Germany has been a huge driving force concerning open Borders though out all of Europe. The stats have shown that for many years the overall population of Western Europe has been declining. This would mean that, for example, you live in Germany and your economy is doing great, wages are up because companies are having to compete for quality workers, even untrained laborers. When the concept of Open Borders began in the Halls in Brussels it was pre-Arab Spring and pre-Syria melt down. The original idea would have made it much easier for a citizen of Spain or Italy to move to France if France’s job market and quality of life were better than the jobs and quality of life in Spain. This concept of Open Borders was not counting on their being several million refugees flooding into Europe because of turmoil outside of Europe’s Borders. With the large influx of Arab and Persian refugees flooding into Europe things like jobs, housing and the cost of food has become a big problem not only for the original residents but also for those migrating in. Even if there were no elevation in crime, petty or violent, you still have the makings for conflict.

 

Lets look at the ‘why’s’ for these migration issues for a moment please. Somethings come down to ‘animal’ instincts. Some may not like that statement but if you will think about it for a moment most of you will understand what I mean by that. For thousands of years, millions of years, animals have migrated with the seasons, with the food supplies, this is true of birds, big lizards and humans. Sometimes all of these creatures have migrated because of violence in their traditional homeland. With humans this usually means enslavement, death, or escape. For a moment lets look at the reality of Islamic Refugees flooding Europe. First we need to look at the why’s, why are these people risking their lives to migrate from Northern Africa and the Middle-East to Europe? Here are a few issues I would like you to think about for a moment. First lets start with unstable governments, horrible or no economies, not enough food, clean water or shelter and their biggest issue is violence/wars. My question to you is, under these realities wouldn’t you try to move, to get yourself and your family out of these conditions? Even under brutal Dictators these people mostly stayed in their home countries, in their own lands. You may well wonder why people would stay living under someone like al-Assad of Syria and I believe that the answer was simple, he made sure there was an efficient economy, he made sure that the lights were on and that there was food to eat and the trash got picked up off of the streets. Are there some very evil people like Jihadist mixing in with the masses? Of course there are and yes it is difficult to screen them out, but does Europe, does Christianity, throw out the starving, hungry and cold because of the one or two percent?

 

Now, lets talk about North and South American Countries for a moment please. When I Googled for the information I came up with a total of 55 ‘American’ Nations between the North, South, Caribbean and Central America. The Census from 2015 says that within these 55 Nations there are approximately 994 Million people living in these countries. China on the other hand has one Billion Three Hundred and Eighty Million residents, India has One Billion Three Hundred and Twenty Five Million people. The largest physical Nation on Earth is Russia and they have One Hundred and Forty-Five Million People. The U.S. it is said has Three Hundred and Twenty-Three Million residents.

 

To me it seems that President Trump only has a problem with our Southern Border with Mexico, not the much larger Border we share with Canada. I have never once heard him talk about building even a little short wall to divide our two Nations, have you? Do you ever consider if part of the issue here is skin color, or the reality that almost all of the people at our Southern Border are poor? Truth is that there are some violent gang members like members of the MS-13 folks mingled in with the families who are starving and have nothing who are only hoping for a safe place to live and to raise their children. Throughout the years I have spoken with quite a few people who were here working in the U.S. who were here illegally concerning the why question, why are they here instead of their homeland. The answers were always economic. I know that I never came across a person who told me that fear of gangs was a reason though I know that this is an issue for many and that many are too afraid to talk about that. All of the folks who would talk to me about why they are here instead of their homeland told me that they would much rather be home but that there are no jobs at home. These people were here working so that they could send money home to their families so that their families could survive. If here in the States, if there were no jobs, no money for food or housing but we found out that there were jobs in Mexico or Brazil, would you stay here and let your family starve to death? Some will say that they would wait here until they could get in legally and that sounds like a great idea, reality though is, how long, how many years can you and your family go without food or any housing while you wait on a list?

 

Since Mr. Trump has become President he has canceled several trade agreements with our allies and friendly Nation as well as putting higher tariffs on some of their imported products. One of the agreements that Mr. Trump hates is called ‘NAFTA’ this stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Free non-tariff trade between all Countries in North and South America was the goal of President Bill Clinton when he was President back in the 1990’s. Should all Nations open their Borders like Chancellor Merkel envisioned for the EU? Maybe we should build Mr. Trumps Wall (with him paying for it being the Mexican Government sure isn’t going too) and shoot anyone who tries to come into our Country any way other that through a designated doorway. Maybe instead of having an allowed immigration total of 50,000 people total each year maybe we should revise this number to about 350,000 with 250,000 of that total reserved for our ‘Sister’ Nations. These are just ideas, concepts of thought, what are your ideas? I know that I don’t have all the answers to this issue but it is an important issue that isn’t ever going to totally go away until there is a true workable solution. Personally I believe that the solution is going to have to be attacked with a multinational approach. Until every government quits selling out to the huge multi-national companies and creates quality employment and living standards for their own people these human waves of disparate people will only continue, and they will only grow in numbers. Friends, what other choice do these people really have?

 

 

U.S. Government Separating Children From Parents At Border: And One Big Lie/Lyers

U.S. Government Separating Children From Parents At Border: And One Big Lie/Lyers

 

Today most of the news on the Google News site that I use is loaded with different articles about the child separation from parents at the U.S. Southern Border. One of the things I wonder about is why is this policy not being followed that same way at our Northern Border with Canada? Is this because most Canadians are white folks and most folks at our Southern Border are not white folks? Even though this is an issue that seems to be a non issue at this time maybe one of the major News Agencies will decide to look at the ‘why’ of this issue at some point. Even though this is an important issue it is not the issue that my article today is about. My article today is about what is going on at our Nations Southern Border with Mexico right now.

 

Like most all things in life, there are at least two sides to every issue, this disaster at our Southern Border is no exception. Technically any person crossing into our country at a non designated entry point is breaking the law and should be arrested. People wanting to live in a country should enter that country legally so that they do not have to always be worried about being deported. The last I heard the U.S. only allows about 55,000 people to legally migrate through the legal system so that they can become legal citizens.  That policy, that kind of a number, in my opinion should be raised to about 250,000 for all Americans, North Americans and South Americans. If the legal number was a more realistic number hopefully most people coming to the U.S Borders would choose to try to come in legally so that they could truly feel free once they started working and living here without having worry about ICE arresting them everyday.

 

I have spoken with many people from Mexico who are here illegally during my decades as a long haul truck driver (1981-2013). Constantly I heard the same thing from them, that they would rather be at home but there was no way to survive there, meaning that the Mexican economy was/is lousy. They were here trying to find a way to send money back home so that their families could afford to pay rent and to buy groceries. Some U.S. people make fun of the reality of having 10-15 Mexican people living in a two bedroom apartment, it is cruel and ignorant to make such comments even though in many cases it is true. Yet the reason you may have 10 working men living in a two bedroom living quarters is because they are pooling their money together so that they can send more money home to their wife and children. I have just been speaking of Mexican folks so far but the reality reaches to the southern end of the South American Continent. People in Central America and South America face the same issues as the poor people from Mexico face. Example, you don’t see Mexican billionaires trying to sneak across the borders do you? This issue in countries south of the U.S. is not going to change until these southern nations are able to get a good strong working economy so that their people can have livable wage jobs.  If you are living in (for example) Guatemala and you have a good paying job to where you have a nice home, good food, vehicles, clothes and the such are you really going to give it all up to try to sneak into the U.S. so that you can be a criminal under constant threat of arrest and deportation?

 

Now let us get to the point of the children being separated from their parents at the U.S. Southern Border. If you break the laws of a Nation that Nations law enforcement agencies are going to consider you to be a criminal whom they will arrest if they possibly can. Lets get away from the Border for a moment and let us look at another angle. If I am a person who lives in Chicago or New York and I commit a crime to where I am arrested and sent to a prison the law does not allow my minor children to be put into prison with me. If I don’t have someone else here in the States the government will give my children to the (DCS) Department of Children’s Services who are going to take my children and house them until they can find someone to give custody to while I am in prison. Would you want your minor children to be thrown into an adult prison with you? This policy that Donald Trump has put into place is cruel, but, what should our government, any government do in these cases?

 

Do not fall for the Trump Administration lies, this is a Presidential Policy, it is not a Law, and it is not a Law that was instituted during the Obama Administration, this one is all on the habitual liar, Donald Trump. This morning the Chief of the Department of Homeland Security Kristen Nielsen angerally told reporters that the Trump Administration has no policy in place to separate the children form their parents at the Border. Yet many documents from the DOJ and Jeff Sessions state very clearly for the security personal at the Mexican Border to do exactly that. That I know of there is no good answer for the Trump Administration to follow on this issue. They can either do what they are doing which is angering many people and is a death dart for Republicans this November in the Mid Term Elections or they can just say the heck with it and just open up the Borders to anyone who wishes to cross it. Folks, I don’t know how to be the most humane here on this issue unless North and South American Countries all totally open up their borders sort of like what the EU has done. Here is my single biggest issue with Donald Trump and his flunkies who work for him, just be honest, quit lying all the time, quit trying to blame everyone else for what you yourself are doing.

Trump administration could be holding 30,000 border kids by August

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Trump administration could be holding 30,000 border kids by August, officials say

The Trump administration could be holding 30,000 illegal immigrant children by the end of August as a result of its push to enforce federal immigration laws, which has led to the separation of children from their parents and guardians as those adults are prosecuted.

A senior administration official who asked not to be identified said the Department of Health and Human Services has been taking in about 250 children per day in recent weeks. HHS is the agency that is taking in children when they are separated from their families.

An HHS official added that the agency expects to be taking about 250 kids each day at least for the next two months. If that estimate holds, HHS could be caring for 18,500 more children by the end of August.

The HHS official said as of Friday, HHS was already holding 11,500 children, which means the total could hit 30,000 by August.

The practice of separating children from illegal immigrant adults has become highly controversial in the last few weeks, and is something Democrats have highlighted as a practice that needs to stop.

The Trump administration has defended the policy by saying illegal immigrants need to know that if they try entering the U.S., they will be prosecuted, which could lead to separation from their children. Officials have said U.S. citizens face the same risk when they commit crimes.

But administration officials have also said they support a change to the federal law that requires prosecution and family separation, and have blamed Democrats for current law.

Illegal immigration along the southwestern U.S. border has spiked in the last few months, even though administration officials have said they expect Trump’s zero-tolerance policy to eventually dissuade more from coming. A Justice Department spokesman told the Washington Examiner last week the zero-tolerance policy is not expected to lead to a decline in the number of illegal immigrants attempting to make the trek to the U.S. from primarily Central American countries until early fall.

Under current practice, HHS takes care of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children as well as now those under the age of 18 who must be cared for while the adults they were apprehended with are prosecuted for illegal entry. This spring, Sessions directed federal prosecutors stationed at the border to bring charges against all migrants that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers took into custody.

However, family units that arrive at ports of entry and request asylum will not be prosecuted because they have not attempted to enter the country illegally, several DHS officials confirmed to the Washington Examiner. They will also be kept together as they go through the asylum process. These groups are detained in DHS facilities while minors are directed to HHS.

In an attempt to secure housing for the coming flood of children, HHS selected the Tornillo Land Port of Entry near El Paso, Texas, last week as the first back-up site to temporarily house around 360 minors.

The Trump administration is also advancing a plan to tentatively house unaccompanied minors in tent cities located on three Texas military bases due to increasing border apprehensions and a shortage of beds for the underage immigrants.

“[Health and Human Services] is running out of space because of the implications of the zero tolerance policy, but also because we continue to see this uptick in numbers,” an official confirmed to the Washington Examiner last week.

HHS officials are looking at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, and Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, the official confirmed.

Virgin Islands

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CIA FACT BOOK’)

 

Virgin Islands

Introduction During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands’ economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.
History Christopher Columbus named the islands Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vírgenes, shortened to Las Vírgenes, after Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. They were inhabited by Arawak, Carib and Cermic Indians, all of whom died out during the colonial period from disease, harsh labor conditions, and murder.

Later, the islands were re-populated by European plantation owners, and enslaved Africans who worked on sugar plantations, and at least one tobacco plantation. The sugar plantations are gone, but the descendants of the enslaved Africans remain the bulk of the population, sharing a common Afro-Caribbean heritage with the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean.

Geography Location: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
Geographic coordinates: 18 20 N, 64 50 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 1,910 sq km
land: 346 sq km
water: 1,564 sq km
Area – comparative: twice the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 188 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: subtropical, tempered by easterly trade winds, relatively low humidity, little seasonal temperature variation; rainy season September to November
Terrain: mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little level land
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Crown Mountain 475 m
Natural resources: sun, sand, sea, surf
Land use: arable land: 5.71%
permanent crops: 2.86%
other: 91.43% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: several hurricanes in recent years; frequent and severe droughts and floods; occasional earthquakes
Environment – current issues: lack of natural freshwater resources
Geography – note: important location along the Anegada Passage – a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the Caribbean
People Population: 109,825 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.4% (male 11,394/female 11,048)
15-64 years: 65.9% (male 33,843/female 38,574)
65 years and over: 13.6% (male 6,747/female 8,219) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 39.1 years
male: 38.6 years
female: 39.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.029% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 12.29 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.55 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -5.49 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.88 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 0.9 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 7.56 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 8.28 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6.79 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.05 years
male: 76.02 years
female: 82.26 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.85 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Virgin Islander(s) (US citizens)
adjective: Virgin Islander
Ethnic groups: black 76.2%, white 13.1%, Asian 1.1%, other 6.1%, mixed 3.5% (2000 census)
Religions: Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%
Languages: English 74.7%, Spanish or Spanish Creole 16.8%, French or French Creole 6.6%, other 1.9% (2000 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90-95% est.
male: NA%
female: NA% (2005 est.)
Education expenditures: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: United States Virgin Islands
conventional short form: Virgin Islands
former: Danish West Indies
abbreviation: USVI
Dependency status: organized, unincorporated territory of the US with policy relations between the Virgin Islands and the US under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior
Government type: NA
Capital: name: Charlotte Amalie
geographic coordinates: 18 21 N, 64 56 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: none (territory of the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are three islands at the second order; Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas
Independence: none (territory of the US)
National holiday: Transfer Day (from Denmark to the US), 31 March (1917)
Constitution: Revised Organic Act of 22 July 1954
Legal system: based on US laws
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal; island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections
Executive branch: chief of state: President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009)
head of government: Governor John DeJONGH (since 1 January 2007)
cabinet: NA
elections: under the US Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as the Virgin Islands, do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in the Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections; governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term); election last held 7 and 21 November 2006 (next to be held November 2010)
election results: John DeJONGH elected governor; percent of vote – John DeJONGH 57.3%, Kenneth MAPP 42.7%
Legislative branch: unicameral Senate (15 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
elections: last held 7 November 2006 (next to be held November 2008)
election results: percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – Democratic Party 8, ICM 4, independent 3
note: the Virgin Islands elects one non-voting representative to the US House of Representatives; election last held 7 November 2006 (next to be held November 2008)
Judicial branch: US District Court of the Virgin Islands (under Third Circuit jurisdiction); Superior Court of the Virgin Islands (judges appointed by the governor for 10-year terms)
Political parties and leaders: Democratic Party [Arturo WATLINGTON]; Independent Citizens’ Movement or ICM [Usie RICHARDS]; Republican Party [Gary SPRAUVE]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: IOC, UPU, WFTU
Diplomatic representation in the US: none (territory of the US)
Diplomatic representation from the US: none (territory of the US)
Flag description: white field with a modified US coat of arms in the center between the large blue initials V and I; the coat of arms shows a yellow eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and three arrows in the other with a superimposed shield of vertical red and white stripes below a blue panel
Culture Virgin Islander culture represents the various peoples that have inhabited the present-day U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands throughout history. Although both territories are politically separate, they maintain close cultural ties.

Like much of the English speaking Caribbean, Virgin Islander culture is syncretic, deriving chiefly from West African, European and American influences. Though the Danish controlled the present-day U.S. Virgin Islands for many years, the dominant language has been an English-based Creole since the 19th century, and the islands remain much more receptive to English language popular culture than any other. The Dutch, the French and the Danish also contributed elements to the island’s culture, as have immigrants from the Arab world, India and other Caribbean islands. The single largest influence on modern Virgin Islander culture, however, comes from the Africans enslaved to work in canefields from the 17th to the mid-19th century. These African slaves brought with them traditions from across a wide swathe of Africa, including what is now Nigeria, Senegal, both Congos, Gambia and Ghana.

Virgin Islands culture continues to undergo creolization, the result of inter-Caribbean migration and cultural contact with other islands in the region, as well as the United States. Migration has altered the social landscape of both countries to the extent that in the British Virgin Islands, half of the population is of foreign (mostly Caribbean) origin and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, most native-born residents can trace their ancestry to other Caribbean islands.

Economy Economy – overview: Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for 80% of GDP and employment. The islands hosted 2.6 million visitors in 2005. The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, rum distilling, textiles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. One of the world’s largest petroleum refineries is at Saint Croix. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are small but growing components of the economy. The islands are vulnerable to substantial damage from storms. The government is working to improve fiscal discipline, to support construction projects in the private sector, to expand tourist facilities, to reduce crime, and to protect the environment.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1.577 billion (2004 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $NA
GDP – real growth rate: 2% (2002 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $14,500 (2004 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 1%
industry: 19%
services: 80% (2003 est.)
Labor force: 43,980 (2004 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 1%
industry: 19%
services: 80% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate: 6.2% (2004)
Population below poverty line: 28.9% (2002)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $NA
expenditures: $NA
Fiscal year: 1 October – 30 September
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.2% (2003)
Agriculture – products: fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle
Industries: tourism, petroleum refining, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity – production: 960 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 892.8 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 17,620 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 91,680 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – exports: 398,500 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – imports: 492,300 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: NA
Natural gas – production: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports: $4.234 billion (2001)
Exports – commodities: refined petroleum products
Imports: $4.609 billion (2001)
Imports – commodities: crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials
Economic aid – recipient: $NA
Debt – external: $NA
Currency (code): US dollar (USD)
Currency code: USD
Exchange rates: the US dollar is used
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 71,700 (2005)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 80,300 (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern system with total digital switching, uses fiber-optic cable and microwave radio relay
domestic: full range of services available
international: country code – 1-340; submarine cable connections to US, the Caribbean, Central and South America; satellite earth stations – NA
Radio broadcast stations: AM 6, FM 16, shortwave 0 (2005)
Radios: 107,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 5 (2006)
Televisions: 68,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .vi
Internet hosts: 4,610 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 50 (2000)
Internet users: 30,000 (2007)
Transportation Airports: 2 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 2
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 1,257 km (2007)
Ports and terminals: Charlotte Amalie, Limetree Bay
Military Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 17,820
females age 16-49: 21,193 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 831
female: 873 (2009 est.)
Military – note: defense is the responsibility of the US
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: none

He promised people paradise — and sent them to their deaths

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

He promised people paradise — and sent them to their deaths

In September 1822, about 250 largely impoverished Scots uprooted their lives to embark on what appeared to be the journey of a lifetime, sailing to a prosperous Central American country called Poyais to start anew.

But rather than finding a land overflowing with vegetation, livestock, workable soil and opportunities galore as they were promised, “Poyais” was a barren nightmare of unfarmable land and hostile natives. Expecting to build new and better lives, they had instead fallen victim to one of the most audacious and deadly swindles in history, one that most didn’t survive.

The new book “Hoax: A History of Deception” by Ian Tattersall and Peter Nevraumont (Black Dog & Leventhal), out now, features 50 tales of frauds and cons from throughout history. Perhaps none, though, was more brazen than Gregor MacGregor’s Poyais scam.

MacGregor, a descendant of famed Scottish hero Rob Roy, was a warrior who had fought on Venezuela’s behalf during their war for independence.

“He had a very high public profile,” Tattersall says. “He had great military credentials stemming from his time as a mercenary in South America. He was a person of impeccable credentials . . . with an aura of authority about him.”

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Gregor MacGregorGetty Images

In the early 1820s, upon returning from battle, MacGregor claimed he had been made prince of a territory called Poyais, near the Honduran coast, and that it was perfect for new settlers. He began selling bonds to help develop the area, as well as plots of Poyaisian land and packages that included promises of employment there. While he had been there and did own the land in question, “Poyais” and his title were fictions he invented.

Between hard economic times in Scotland and MacGregor’s sterling reputation, Poyais could not have sounded more inviting to impoverished Scots.

“He told them it was a land of milk and honey where you could get several harvests of crops a year, and there were gold nuggets in the river and game abounding on the landscape,” says Tattersall. “He really made it sound like a nirvana.”

MacGregor convinced seven shiploads of Scots to tear up their lives and relocate, raising around 200,000 pounds in the process, the equivalent of around $25 million in current US dollars.

The first two ships departed for Poyais in September 1822, carrying around 250 passengers total on a two-month journey. The Guardian newspaper reported the following in October 1823: “When the emigrants arrived at [Honduras], nothing could exceed their anguish at finding, where they expected a fine flourishing town with nearly 2,000 inhabitants, only two or three ruined huts.”

Despondent but trapped, the settlers tried to build a town and plant crops, but they had no resources. The soil was unsuitable and there was scant livestock, leaving them little access to food.

Over the next two years, most of the 250 residents died.

“[One of the] particularly heart-wrenching things was an account in the newspaper of a shoemaker called Hellie who shot himself, having been promised the position of shoemaker to the Princess of Poyais, and then finding nothing when he got there,” Tattersall says. “That sort of experience was repeated over and over again with, like, 200 people.”

Why he took these people’s lives and transported them to this insect-infested hell, nobody really understands

A small group of survivors (there is no record of how many — Tattersall guesses “a couple dozen at most”) were eventually rescued by a passing timber trading boat and brought to Belize. By this point, five more Scottish ships filled with people had embarked toward Poyais. Word of the catastrophe got back to Scotland, and the Royal Navy was sent to recall the ships.

Making the tragedy especially senseless was that MacGregor sold his scam bonds and plots in several stages, and had already brought in a fortune before the first ships sailed. He could have easily absconded with his ill-gotten gains and not destroyed all those lives.

“He did this bond scam, then organized the expedition. Why he took these people’s lives and transported them to this insect-infested hell, nobody really understands,” Tattersall says.

When word of the hoax spread throughout Scotland, MacGregor fled to France, where he immediately attempted a similar scam. He was arrested but eventually acquitted. He tried other cons over the next decade, then relocated to Venezuela, where he was regarded a returning hero. He lived there until his death in 1845 at age 58.

Even after profiling 50 fraudsters in his book, Tattersall says he can’t begin to comprehend what might have driven MacGregor to such behavior, especially given that the Scot could have become extremely wealthy from his crime without causing so much tragedy.

“The only suggestion that makes any sense is that he came to believe his own propaganda [about Poyais],” Tattersall says. “It seems unbelievable that [he] could do something so cynical, heartless and unfeeling. It is not a dynamic I could possibly understand.”

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Immigrant ‘caravan’ heading to US-Mexico

( THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(Trump has never cared about facts, laws, or reality, he has spent a lifetime making up his own.)

Immigrant ‘caravan’ heading to US-Mexico border sparks Trump’s concern

Washington (CNN)On Sunday morning, President Donald Trump referenced an impending series of immigrant ‘caravans’ moving through Mexico to spark his call for Congress to pass strict border laws.

“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
Trump appears to be referring to a migrant caravan assembled by the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People without Borders), which was discussed on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” shortly before he published his tweet. It’s not known if the President watched the specific segment, but he indirectly referenced claims mentioned in an on-air interview with a Border Patrol union representative.
While Trump said “no deal” for the DACA program, it is still operational. Federal courts have issued restraining orders keeping it active despite the expiration of the administration’s six-month deadline for Congress to push through a DACA deal.
It is not clear what the President was referring to when tweeting about “big flows” of individuals taking advantage of DACA, since the program is not accepting new applications right now.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The ‘caravan’

Alex Mensing, one of the US collaborators who works for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a caravan of 1,100 people, started in the city of Tapachula, which is located in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, and borders Guatemala. The caravan is currently in Oaxaca, Mexico, about 420 miles from their starting point. Mensing said the migrants would turn themselves in and request asylum.
Pueblo Sin Fronteras said they would not respond to Trump’s tweet, but stated that the refugee caravan “is a movement made of people who were forced to flee their countries of origin due to persecution and violence.”
Mensing said the caravan’s primary goal is to “flee Central America” and seek asylum either within Mexico or the United States. About four or five different immigration rights groups are working with the asylum seekers, informing and preparing them on their journey to seek refuge.
This is the fifth year the group has done the caravan.
Two caravans were mobilized in 2017 with fewer people and many of their cases have yet to be resolved. Out of the 200 people who marched with the caravan, only 3 were successfully given asylum in the US.
Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, tweeted a response to today’s statements by President Trump.
“Every day Mexico and the US work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this,” he said. “An inaccurate news report should not serve to this question cooperation. Upholding human dignity and rights is not at odds with the rule of law. Happy Easter.”