Category Archives: Economic Justice

Sudan detains nine opposition leaders ahead of planned protest

Sudan photoSudan has been rocked by more than a week of protests sparked by rise in bread prices [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Arrests came after a coalition of opposition groups called for more protests after weekly noon prayers on Friday.

Authorities in Sudan have arrested at least nine opposition leaders and activists, according to a civil society group, in the face of fresh anti-government protests expected after the weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service denied any knowledge of the arrests.

Sudan has been rocked by more than a week of anti-government protests sparked by rising prices, shortages of basic commodities and a cash crisis.

At least 19 people have died during the protests, including two military personnel, according to official figures. However, rights group Amnesty International put the death toll at 37.

The arrests of opposition leaders occurred late on Thursday after security forces raided their meeting in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, according to a statement by a committee of professional organisations involved in the protests.

The nine arrested included Siddiq Youssef, a senior leader of Sudan’s Communist Party, as well as leaders from the pan-Arab Ba’ath and Nasserist parties, the statement said.

The raid came after opposition groups called for more protests after the weekly noon prayers on Friday.

Fourteen leaders of one of Sudan’s two main opposition groupings were briefly held last Saturday.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the protests were getting increased backing from political and civil society groups.

“It is not clear if the government would allow the protests to go, we have seen on Tuesday how they responded with tear gas and live ammunition,” she said, adding: “And this is basically what might be happening today again that more live ammunition and tear gas will be used and that the death toll will rise.”

Economic crisis

Protests initially started in towns and villages more than a week ago and later spread to Khartoum, as people rallied against the government tripling the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three ($0.02 to $0.06).

Demonstrators have also been marching against Sudan’s dire economic situation and some have called for President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation.

Doctors and journalists have launched a strike in support of the protests.

Sudan has been gripped by a deep financial crisis since 2011 when the southern half of the country voted to secede, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output.

The crisis was further aggravated by years of overspending and mismanagement.

Opposition groups blame Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 coup, for the mismanagement.

A series of economic measures, including a sharp devaluation of the Sudanese pound in October, have failed to shore up the economy.

In January 2018, Sudan was shaken by rare nationwide protests triggered by high bread prices.

But the recent protests that began on December 19 appear to be more serious.

Since the demonstrations began, police have used tear gas and sometimes live ammunition against demonstrators, according to residents.

The authorities have shuttered schools and declared curfews and a state of emergency in several regions.

Journalists at the daily Al-Sudani said one of their colleagues was beaten by security forces after protesters passed next to the independent newspaper’s offices.
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/sudan-detains-opposition-leaders-planned-protest-181228102006637.html

Donald Trump’s troubled charity foundation to shut down

Trump photoMr Trump and his three eldest children are accused of using it for private and political gain; AFP

US President Donald Trump’s troubled charity foundation has agreed to close down amid allegations that he and others illegally misused its funds.

The move was announced by the Attorney General of New York State, Barbara Underwood, who will supervise the distribution of its remaining monies.

She has accused Mr Trump and his three eldest children of using it for private and political gain.

The foundation’s lawyer accused her of attempting to politicise the matter.

This is just one of several legal cases currently swirling around Mr Trump and his family. Others include a wide-ranging special counsel investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia headed by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

What do prosecutors say?

Ms Underwood said the case against Mr Trump and his children Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric would continue.

In a statement, she said there had been “a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation – including unlawful co-ordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and wilful self-dealing, and much more”.

She continued: “This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a chequebook to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests.”
Under the terms of the deal to shut down the foundation, Ms Underwood said, it could only be dissolved under judicial supervision and could only distribute its assets “to reputable organisations approved by my office”.

She added: “This is an important victory for the rule of law, making clear that there is one set of rules for everyone.

“We’ll continue to move our suit forward to ensure that the Trump Foundation and its directors are held to account for their clear and repeated violations of state and federal law.”

And the Trumps?

In a statement to the BBC, Trump Foundation lawyer Alan Futerfas – signatory to the deal closing the foundation – said: “Contrary to the NYAG’s [New York Attorney General] misleading statement… the foundation has been seeking to dissolve and distribute its remaining assets to worthwhile charitable causes since Donald J Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.

“Unfortunately, the NYAG sought to prevent dissolution for almost two years, thereby depriving those most in need of nearly $1.7m.

“Over the past decade, the foundation is proud to have distributed approximately $19m, including $8.25m of the president’s personal money, to over 700 different charitable organisations with virtually zero expenses.

“The NYAG’s inaccurate statement of this morning is a further attempt to politicize this matter.”

Mr Trump and his eldest children have yet to comment.

Last June, Mr Trump indicated on Twitter that he was not willing to settle the case, insisting the foundation had done nothing wrong.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46611178

Calling Promotion Betrayal of Planet, Groups Denounce Schumer for Giving ‘Fossil Fuel Servant’ Joe Manchin Top Spot on Energy Committee.

“Appointing Senator Manchin as ranking member of the Energy Committee is completely at odds with any plan for real climate action.”

Energy photo“This is the wrong choice at the wrong time for the Democrats,” said David Turnbull, strategic communications director with Oil Change USA. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

By Jake Johnson, staff writer

At a time when people throughout the U.S. and around the world are rallying behind bold solutions to the climate crisis and urgently warning that there is no time to waste, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) decided late Tuesday to betray his constituents and the planet, groups warned, by promoting “fossil fuel servant” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to the top Democratic spot on the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Schumer is out of touch with the progressive voters who will continue to push for a Green New Deal in the next Congress.”
—Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth

“Appointing Senator Manchin as ranking member of the Energy Committee is completely at odds with any plan for real climate action,” May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said in a statement. “Manchin has taken every opportunity to put Big Oil before the health and safety of communities and our climate.”

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, argued that the appointment of the pro-coal West Virginia senator to a top Energy Committee slot is a “stark failure of Chuck Schumer’s leadership” in the midst of dire scientific warnings that the world must cut carbon emissions in half by 2040 to avert planetary catastrophe.

“Schumer is out of touch with the progressive voters who will continue to push for a Green New Deal in the next Congress,” Pica declared, alluding to the demonstrators who have flooded the halls of Congress and faced mass arrests in recent weeks to pressure lawmakers to support ambitious climate solutions.
The West Virginia senator’s promotion—which was ratified Tuesday evening by members of the Senate Democratic caucus—came amid a wave of opposition from environmental groups, who adopted an “anyone but Manchin” stance in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s announcement.

“Not even this foolish decision can stop the groundswell of momentum that’s building for a Green New Deal.”
—May Boeve, 350.org

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—who is pushing for the formation of a Green New Deal Select Committee in the House—joined progressive advocacy groups in warning against the appointment of Manchin, who has raked in over $156,000 in campaign cash from the fossil fuel industry in 2018, and is reportedly still profiting from a coal brokerage company he helped run before entering politics.

“I have concerns over the senator’s chairmanship just because I do not believe that we should be financed by the industries that we are supposed to be legislating and regulating and touching with our legislation,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a press conference on the Green New Deal last month.

While corporate media outlets worked hard to blame Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—currently the ranking member on the powerful Senate Budget Committee—for not abandoning his post to block Manchin, commentators were quick to note that Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) all have seniority over Manchin and could have taken the seat, but chose not to.

Ultimately, progressives placed the blame squarely on Schumer for refusing to heed grassroots demands to appoint a climate leader over a fossil fuel puppet.

“This is the wrong choice at the wrong time for the Democrats,” said David Turnbull, strategic communications director with Oil Change USA. “Senator Schumer has failed in finding a ranking member for this committee that truly understands that the climate crisis requires us to take on the fossil fuel industry, not cater to its demands.”

While dismayed by Manchin’s promotion, Boeve of 350.org expressed confidence that “not even this foolish decision can stop the groundswell of momentum that’s building for a Green New Deal.”

“With the leadership of communities and support from truly progressive members of Congress,” she concluded, “we’ll fight tooth and nail for climate policy that transitions us off fossil fuels to a 100 percent renewable energy economy.”

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/12/12/calling-promotion-betrayal-planet-groups-denounce-schumer-giving-fossil-fuel-servant

 

IMF warns storm clouds are gathering for next financial crisis

Deputy head David Lipton says global banking system is not prepared for another downturn

IMF photoCrisis prevention is incomplete more than a decade on from the financial crisis, the IMF’s deputy head, David Lipton, said. Photograph: Eddie Mulholland/Rex

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

The storm clouds of the next global financial crisis are gathering despite the world financial system being unprepared for another downturn, the deputy head of the International Monetary Fund has warned.

David Lipton, the first deputy managing director of the IMF, said that “crisis prevention is incomplete” more than a decade on from the last meltdown in the global banking system.

“As we have put it, ‘fix the roof while the sun shines’. But, like many of you, I see storm clouds building and fear the work on crisis prevention is incomplete.”

Lipton said individual nation states alone would lack the firepower to combat the next recession, while calling on governments to work together to tackle the issues that could spark another crash.

“We ought to be concerned about the potency of monetary policy,” he said of the ability of the US Federal Reserve and other central banks to cut interest rates to boost the economy in the event of another downturn, while also warning that high levels of borrowing by governments constrained their scope for cutting taxes and raising spending.

Lipton said the IMF went into the last crash under-resourced before it was handed a war chest worth $1tn (£790bn) from governments around the world, while adding that it was important that national leaders had agreed to complete a review of the fund’s financial firepower next year.

“One lesson from that crisis was the IMF went into it under-resourced; we should try to avoid that next time.”

Speaking to an audience at Bloomberg in London, Christine Lagarde’s deputy called on China to take urgent steps to open up its economy to global competition.

Against a backdrop of Donald Trump engaging in a bitter trade dispute with Beijing, he said China needed to lower trade barriers, while also impose tougher rules to protect intellectual property – a key complaint of the US president.

Lipton suggested that Chinese trade policies that were once considered acceptable when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 as a $1tn economy may now be inappropriate as it had become a $16tn international superpower.

However, he did warn that the US should not take an overly heavy-handed approach to reform, adding: “China has many reforms that it could carry out that would be in its own interest and in the interest of countries around the globe. But China feels they can’t take those steps, as they put it, with a gun to their head, in the midst of trade tensions.”

The warning from the IMF marked the latest intervention from the Washington-based fund as the outlook for the global economy deteriorates, with particular flashpoints being the US-China trade dispute and central banks raising interest rates.

Global growth is forecast to slow as a result of the trade war, while financial markets have also been rattled in recent weeks. The FTSE 100 recorded its worst day since the Brexit vote last week, prompted by fears over the dispute, wiping more than £56bn off the value of the UK’s leading companies.

After almost a decade of low interest rates, the total value of global debt, both public and private, has risen by 60% to hit a record high of $182tn, so if central banks raise borrowing costs that would create difficulties for businesses and governments.

Lipton warned that sustained trade conflict between the US and China would be likely to trigger “far-reaching and long-lasting consequences” for the global economy, with a risk that Trump’s rhetoric could encourage China to shift its economy away from the rest of the world.

“Trade barriers if they are sustained could lead to a fragmentation of the global economy.”

“If this [trade dispute] leads to stalemate, China may decide to reorientate its economy not to trade with the US. To accept sustained trade barriers … could lead to a slowdown [for the global economy],” he said.
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/11/imf-financial-crisis-david-lipton

Nicaragua abandons social security changes after dozens killed in riots

with Nicaragua
A security guard outside a supermarket after protests against the Nicaraguan government’s social security reforms, which have now been dropped. Photograph: Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian
Source: Associated Press
22 April 2018

 

President Daniel Ortega says changes implemented on 16 April have been cancelled.

Nicaragua’s president has withdrawn changes to the social security system that triggered deadly protests and looting.

President Daniel Ortega said in a message to the nation that the social security board of directors had cancelled the changes implemented on 16 April. The overhaul was intended to shore up Nicaragua’s troubled social security system by both reducing benefits and increasing taxes.

The changes touched off protests across the Central American nation that escalated into clashes with police as well as looting. The demonstrations appeared to expand to include broader anti-government grievances.

Human rights groups said at least 26 people were killed in several days of clashes. Dozens of shops in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua were looted during unrest that extended into Sunday.

Unlike his appearance on Saturday with the police chief, Ortega announced the cancellation of the overhaul accompanied by business executives who account for about 130,000 jobs and millions of dollars in exports.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis said at the Vatican that he was “very worried” about the situation in Nicaragua and echoed the call of local bishops for an end to all violence.

Images broadcast by local news media showed looted shops in the capital’s sprawling Oriental Market district and at least one Walmart.

Police apparently did not intervene on Sunday, in contrast to what had been a strong response to earlier demonstrations in which dozens were injured or arrested.

“We are seeing social chaos in Nicaragua provoked by the absence of government leadership, and the crisis has been combined with poverty, and that in any society is a time bomb,” sociologist and analyst Cirilo Otero said.

Ortega had said on Saturday he was willing to negotiate on the social security overhaul, but said the talks would be only with business leaders.

He seemed to try to justify the tough response against protesters by the government and allied groups, accusing demonstrators, most of them university students, of being manipulated by unspecified “minority” political interests and of being infiltrated by gangsters.

Nicaragua has been one of the more stable countries in Central America, largely avoiding the turmoil caused by gang violence or political upheaval that has at times plagued Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in recent years.

But top Nicaraguan business lobby COSEP has backed peaceful protests against the government, and said it would not enter talks with Ortega to review the social security plan until he had ended police repression and restored freedom of expression.

A former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War antagonist of the United States, Ortega has presided over a period of stable growth with a blend of socialist policies and capitalism.

But critics accuse Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, of trying to establish a family dictatorship. The country remains one of the poorest in the Americas.

Behind the violent upheavals in the Congo Democratic Republic

Posted by Chika Onyejiuwa | Mar 26, 2018 | Africa |
Africa-Europe Faith & Justice Network

DRC-04-Nov-2017-300x175 -REUTERS-Thomas Mukoya
REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

As the year 2017 wound to a close, the world received ‘’the announcement’’ that the Democratic Republic of Congo was on the verge of entering a new phase of arms conflicts. It was more of a news report than a prediction. In no distant time, the news had assumed a distressing tone; the UN reported that the DR Congo was reaching a ‘breaking point’, violence had once again enveloped the resource-rich nation, and another humanitarian crisis was looming.Like many other African countries, the huge natural resources of this beautiful country have become a curse for her citizens. Their political elites have squandered their post-independence years, looting their resources instead of creating structures for nation-building. The perennial arms conflicts in Congo DR is a systematic struggle of her political elites to sustain their control the country’s vast natural resources and continue with the looting spree. Fortunately, there is a time when even the weakest rise in defence of life, even at the cost of life itself. Could it now be the time for the Congo DR?

The present impasse in Congo arose from the refusal of Joseph Kabila to keep to the ethos of democracy at the end of his mandate in 2016 and the decision of the Catholic Church to stand with the people to demand accountability from him. Indeed, the decision of the Church to stand with the voiceless people of Congo is truly encouraging. It is not only prophetic for the people of Congo; it is also an encouragement to the other Episcopal Conferences in Africa who remain silent in the face of injustices, exploitation and oppression of the people by their leaders. Probably, if the Church in Africa had embraced the Holy People of God as she has embraced the Holy Altar of God through the years, Africa would currently be singing sweet melodies.

Meanwhile, recall that the Congolese constitution was created only in 2006; thirty-two years after Mobutu Sese Seko had plundered the resources of the country. Joseph Kabila accidentally ascended to the throne, but he and his coterie appear ready to use all available means to crush, silence and eliminate any opposition to their effort to stay in power to protect their corrupt and ill-gotten wealth. It is on record that the Kabila family business empire alone includes 80 companies and businesses, 71,000 hectares of farmland, the largest diamond permits along 450 miles of Congo’s border with Angola and a 4.8% stake in one of the country’s largest mobile phone networks. Of course, unjustified acquisition of wealth makes such acquisitions vulnerable to the imperatives of democracy; it is therefore not surprising that Kabila is willing to mortgage the lives of the Congolese in defence of his loot.

While we stand aghast at the corruption, lack of vision and the desperation of the African leaders for ill-gotten wealth, we must point out the complicity of the global north in the crime of the African political elites against their people in providing the safe havens for their loot. It is not possible to speak about the looting of the Africa resources by their political elites without the shadow interest of the global north.

In April 2015, Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Director of the UN Environment program, stated that the estimated annual earnings from exploitation of natural resources in Congo by far exceeded USD1 billion. He noted with regret that about 98% of that earning ended up in the coffers of international concerns while the remaining 2% went into the funding of armed groups in Congo DR.

It is known that the link between the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources; and the proliferation of arms is one of the major factors fueling and exacerbating the conflicts in the Great Lakes. One then wonders why it is that the global north is reluctant to bring its gains in democratic principles to bear on their relations with Africa. In 2016, the European Union shied away from complete regulation of the supply chain of the 3TG (Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and Gold) even in the presence of compelling evidence to the contrary. It is evident that the failure of Syria is not so much the corruption of President Assad as the shadow interests of some countries of the global north. Unfortunately, those picking up the pieces are not the champions of the interests. If the Congo DR fails, the European Union would surely have enormous challenges with which to grapple.

The EU must now rise above their shadow interests to mobilise the international community and pressurise Kabila to step down from power because Africa is her next-door neighbour. Botswana has shown that the African national governments will flow with the tide of international leadership. Not only that, the EU will need to go beyond mere words to reconsider her unproductive paternalistic economic relations with Africa. There are insinuations out there that the presence of Europe in Africa is the best thing that has happened to Africa irrespective of its shortcomings, pointing to the presence of the Chinese who have infested Africa with their ubiquitous presence. One wonders whether this is the theory of a messiah or a vampire. Although the Chinese – who are pushing on all fronts of the African economy – may not be the perfect economic collaborators, at least it is a wake-up call for the former colony owners that a new economic interest has entered the ‘market place’ that was originally their monopoly. What then is the take of the average African on the current multiple economic interests in the continent? In the interim, it provides alternatives; what it would be in the long run is a matter of speculation. While hoping for the best, the continent awaits the later outcomes with mixed feelings and a prayer that it may not become another veiled plundering that leaves the land and its people poorer.

For now, the Congo DR boils, and the poor people are dying in their hundreds. The international media carry the news of killings, maiming, incarcerations and other gory inhuman acts. Immediate and long-term responses are needed. There are also other pockets of state unrest in Africa. Dare we say that the input of the international community towards crisis resolution in Africa is one of the strongest differentiating coefficients between economic partners and plunderers?

Chika Onyejiuwa

 

 

End of an Era

Thank you to Sr. Marie André Mitchell, SNDdeN (from the Zimbabwe-South Africa Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur) for sending this article and site.

Please continue to keep Zimbabwe in your prayers.


The Jesuit Institute is passionate about building bridges between faith and the broader society. Each week we offer a reflection on something topical. Feel free to reproduce or distribute but please credit the Jesuit Institute and the writer.

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The End of an Era
by Anthony Egan SJ

Robert Mugabe’s resignation on 21 November 2017 after 37 years as President of Zimbabwe is the end of an era. It is also a relief for many – perhaps most – Zimbabweans, whose country has undergone political, economic and social turmoil for so long. For many the events of the last week or so culminating in Mugabe’s peaceful deposition is a sign of hope. It will almost certainly have consequences wider afield.

The last twenty years have been tragic for Zimbabwe. Instead of improving the people’s lot, chaotic land reform, whatever it’s symbolic and social necessity, damaged the nation’s economy and reduced its agricultural output. The once-strong Zim Dollar collapsed and its replacement by the U.S. Dollar and the Bond Notes has crippled the economy and reduced the majority of citizens to poverty. Beyond that, there have been constant claims of corruption, electoral irregularities, political intimidation and increasingly authoritarian state power. As one who has visited Zimbabwe regularly since the 1980s, I have noticed over the years how behind the warmth of the Zimbabweans I met there has been an increasing sense of fear, uncertainty and even pessimism about the country’s future.

This week that changed. This is all to the good. One can only hope and pray that things will improve.

There are questions, of course, about Mugabe’s successor. Emmerson Mnangagwa has a reputation among political observers as a ‘hard man’. He was minister of State Security during the Gukurahundi massacres in the south during the 1980s. Combatting guerrilla dissidents led to well-documented atrocities. Similarly, he was implicated later by the United Nations in mineral trafficking and using the Zimbabwe Defence Force for personal gain during the country’s intervention in the civil war in the Congo. To deliver on the hope this week has generated, Mnangagwa will have to restore national confidence in democracy and introduce policies to revive the economy.

Is this possible? While cynical political observers may doubt it, the Christian vision says it is possible. At the heart of faith is metanoia – conversion of heart. But there must be the will to do it.

Looking beyond Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s deposition may have wider, perhaps unexpected, consequences. The sense that a seemingly untouchable figure can be forced to resign could have a ripple effect in countries across Africa, where once-popular leaders have overstayed their welcome.

While the blunt instruments of mass protest and ‘coups’ are not the ideal way to change governments, particularly in constitutional democracies, they may occasionally be the only way to remove folks in power past their sell-by date. The events this week may be an impetus and inspiration in some countries to encourage unpopular leaders to consider other gainful employment.

I would not be surprised, too, that, in South Africa, Mugabe’s resignation has not been watched with unease. Though there is no exact correlation (yet) between the Zimbabwean and South African situations, widespread discontent with Jacob Zuma’s government grows. This should be particularly apparent to the ruling party as its party congress approaches. Could events in Zimbabwe be the catalyst for the end of yet another era…?

[ http://www.jesuitinstitute.org.za/index.php/2017/11/23/end-of-an-era/ ]