22 January 2017

U.S. and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Special Representatives Transmit 902 Consultations Report to Congress


WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 17, 2017) – U.S. Special Representative Esther Kia’aina and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Special Representative, Governor Ralph Torres, transmitted the 902 Consultations Report to Congressional leaders today. The report is the culmination of eight months of official consultations, informal discussions, and site visits to locations in the CNMI, a U.S. territory in the Western Pacific region.

The 902 Consultations process began on May 19, 2016, when President Obama designated Esther Kia’aina, the Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, as the U.S. Special Representative for 902 Consultations. These discussions are authorized by Section 902 of the Covenant to Establish the CNMI in Political Union with the United States of America. The U.S. and CNMI Special Representatives agreed to focus on two critical issues raised by the CNMI: (1) the expiration in 2019 of the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW) program; and (2) proposed military activities in the CNMI.

The first meeting occurred at the White House on June 6, 2016, and was followed by mid-June site visits to the CNMI islands of Saipan and Tinian to see businesses and construction sites impacted by the limited number of foreign workers, facilities working to train and grow the U.S. worker population, and areas impacted by the expansion of military training. Meetings with elected officials and affected members of the community as well as the site visits, provided first-hand knowledge to the Special Representatives and their teams of the economic challenges facing the CNMI people, government, and private industry. This was followed by official 902 Consultations in August, September, October, and December, and an historic trip to the remote northern island of Pagan on September 30.

The consultations and site visits were the basis for this report which reflects the views of both the U.S. and the CNMI and concludes with recommendations that both sides agreed would help the CNMI transition to a U.S. workforce and help advance the national security concerns of the U.S. in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region. 

On the issues of immigration and labor, the Special Representatives agreed to several recommendations for action to address the need for workers and a stable economy in the CNMI. 

This included:

- Extending the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW) Program Beyond 2019,

- Restoring the Executive Branch’s Authority to Extend the CW program with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the lead department,

- Raising the CW Cap to 18,000 Increasing Foreign Workers allowed in the CNMI,

- Providing a Permanent Immigration Status for Long-Term Guest Workers,

- Considering Immigration Policies to Address Regional Labor Shortages in the CNMI and Guam,

- Extending Eligibility to the CNMI for federal Workforce Development Programs,

- Urging DHS to solicit information from stakeholders and interested parties in the CNMI on what regulatory changes should be made to the CW program in order to improve and better address the workforce needs of the CNMI, and

- Endorsing a Cooperative Working Relationship between DHS and the CNMI.

On the issue of proposed military activities in the CNMI, the Special Representatives and their teams reviewed the history of military activities in the CNMI, the original military plans for Tinian, and significant DoD projects in recent years (the Guam and CNMI Military Relocation Project, the Mariana Islands Training and Testing Project, the Air Force’s Divert Activities and Exercise Project, and the CNMI Joint Military Training Project (CJMT).

CNMI concerns focused on the: 

(1) Potential Inconsistences between the CJMT and the CNMI Covenant, the Technical Agreement, and the 1983 Lease Agreement; 

(2) Potential Impacts of the CJMT on the CNMI’s Economic Self-Sufficiency; 

(3) The Need to Ensure Meaningful Opportunities for the CNMI to Participate in the Decision-Making Affecting the Commonwealth; and 

(4) Appropriate Compensation for Military Activity on Farallon de Medinilla.

The Special Representatives, who credited the 902 Consultations process for strengthening relations between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the CNMI Government, recommended the creation of a CNMI/DoD Coordinating Council, which will institutionalize a process and improve communications and relations between DoD and the Commonwealth. This Coordinating Council addresses concerns by the CNMI that conversations with DoD should take place outside and beyond the required environmental analysis processes and gives territorial leaders a forum to engage in open communication to bridge disagreements and resolve issues.

The Special Representatives also agreed:

- To Identify Instances where Military Infrastructure Planning can be Coordinated with and Support Civilian Infrastructure Needs;

- That DoD will share the Framework for the Revised Economic Analysis as part of the CJMT Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), and confer with the CNMI on the Draft Economic Analysis before the Revised DEIS is released;

- To make Economic Impacts an Agenda Item for future CNMI/DoD Coordinating Council discussions.

“It has been an honor to represent the United States for this process,” said U.S. Special Representative Esther Kia’aina. “This joint report reflects the strength of the U.S.-CNMI relationship and will provide federal policymakers in the Executive Branch and the Congress with a roadmap on how to best address important issues that have a tremendous impact on the economy and overall well-being of the CNMI people.”

“It was truly an honor to work alongside my federal government counterpart, Assistant Secretary Esther Kia'aina, in this significant endeavor for the people of the CNMI,” said CNMI Special Representative Ralph Torres. “I thank President Barack Obama for allowing the CNMI an opportunity to voice our concerns and have those concerns be incorporated into the Report's final recommendations. This is an important and historic event in our relationship with the Federal Government and is one that will continue to provide for greater understanding of the critical issues facing the CNMI going forward.”

Since the Covenant was fully implemented in 1986, several 902 Consultations have been initiated. This is the first known 902 Consultations to result in a report to the President that has been transmitted to Congress.

20 January 2017

Marianas Senate President wants reversal of support for U.S. marine sanctuary

Palacios wants Torres to rescind support of marine sanctuary

By Mark Rabago  

Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), who is currently the acting governor of the CNMI, opposes a proposal to overlay the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument with another protected designation—this time as a marine sanctuary—and wants Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to rescind his letter supporting the move.

“I’ve avoided talking publicly about it because after talking with the governor I found out late that he’s supporting this. But I have a totally different perspective…I want the governor to rescind his letter supporting the designation of the Marianas Trench Marine Monument into a marine sanctuary,” he said yesterday on Capital Hill.

“So what is that going to improve? Why is the marine monument, with supposedly all its restriction for conservation, can transpose to a better situation by making it and calling it now a marine sanctuary? What’s the difference?” he asked.

Palacios, who used to be a Lands and Natural Resources secretary and worked for years at the Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the Marianas Trench’s marine sanctuary designation would only build on what the marine monument designation successfully did to the people of the Marianas, which further restricted their rights to fish in the area, among others.

“What’s going to happen is the new proposal expands the boundary of the original monument. The island units will supposedly go all the way up to the 200-mile zone boundary instead of 50 miles. Right now, with the monument in the open oceanic areas you can still fish for pelagic fishes—migratory species like tuna in the water column. If the sanctuary kicks in, it proposes that we will no longer be able fish within the water column. So what is it are we trying to do here other than put restrictions and boundaries and expand these boundaries and call it now a marine sanctuary.”

Torres and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) wrote to President Barrack Obama in September 2016 requesting that the government start the sanctuaries process for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument through the Sanctuaries Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy project, becoming a national marine sanctuary would provide the monument with a more robust conservation and management profile as well as bring more resources for education and community engagement in the Northern Mariana Islands.

It said the CNMI Legislature has written to the President in support of the governor and the delegate’s request, as has nearly every other elected official in the Commonwealth.

Last month, Marianas Conservation member John Gourley wrote to Obama to dissuade the outgoing president from designating the Mariana Trench as a marine sanctuary on top of being a national monument.

In his letter Gourley said once the Mariana Trench is declared a marine sanctuary on top of being a marine national monument, it will require those who wish to fish or mine in the area to obtain permission from the federal government twice—one for the trench being a national monument and another for the trench being a marine sanctuary.

La Estrategia Estatal por Puerto Rico

La estrategia del siglo XVIII que Puerto Rico quiere usar para ser admitido por Washington como el estado 51 de EE.UU.

Puerto RicoDerechos de autor de la imagenREUTERS
Image captionRosselló anunció que buscará que Washington admita a la isla como el estado número 51 de la Unión.

El nuevo gobernador del territorio estadounidense de Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, lleva apenas unas cuantas horas en su cargo.
Pero ya ha anunciado que buscará que Washington admita a la isla como el estado número 51 de la Unión.
Para lograrlo, asegura que el camino es seguir es el llamado Plan Tennessee: una estrategia de presión como la que empleó el estado del mismo nombre a finales del siglo XVIII para lograr que Estados Unidos le dejara entrar a la federación, aún cuando Washington no estaba muy convencido de ello.
El plan contempla nombrar a representantes que irán al Congreso federal a defender la aspiración de Puerto Rico de integrarse definitivamente a esa nación.
Y eventualmente pasa por llevar a cabo un referéndum en el que los puertorriqueños expresen de una vez por todas si quieren ser parte plena del gigante norteamericano.

Territorio asociado

Bandera de Puerto Rico y Estados UnidosDerechos de autor de la imagenGETTY IMAGES
Image captionEl gobierno puertorriqueño busca la unión con Washington

Puerto Rico lleva más de un siglo siendo un territorio estadounidense, sin independencia pero tampoco con las ventajas y el estatus que tienen los demás estados.
En su discurso de posesión en San Juan, el gobernador Rosselló dijo que el estatus "colonial" actual de Puerto Rico no es conveniente.
Algunos incluso culpan a ese estatus legal de la crisis económica que experimenta la isla, la peor en décadas.
Puerto Rico no tiene acceso a toda la ayuda federal de la que disponen los otros estados de EE.UU.
Por lo que muchos creen que la solución es la admisión plena a Estados Unidos.
Pero no hay claridad en que Washington esté dispuesto a recibir a la isla como el estado 51.
Hay consideraciones políticas. En el Partido Republicano algunos temen que admitir a Puerto Rico sería otorgarle una ventaja al Partido Demócrata.
Los puertorriqueños que viven en el territorio continental de Estados Unidos tienden a votar demócrata.
Y si la isla se convirtiese en estado, automáticamente tendría derecho a dos senadores federales, que podrían desequilibrar la reñida competencia que se da en la legislatura de Washington entre los dos partidos principales de Estados Unidos.

Puerto RicoDerechos de autor de la imagenREUTERS

El plan Tennessee

El gobernador Rosselló prometió en su campaña que de llegar al poder, implementaría el Plan Tennessee al comienzo de su mandato.
El mandatario, cuyo Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) defiende la opción de unirse a Washington como un estado con derechos plenos, asegura que esa alternativa es la que goza de simpatía mayoritaria en Puerto Rico
"Pero el Congreso federal es el que decide si un nuevo estado es admitido a la Unión", le dice a BBC Mundo Carlos Colón de Armas, catedrático de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, quien hizo parte de la "Comisión Estadista", un panel que asesoró durante la campaña al entonces candidato Rosselló en la elaboración del plan a favor de la estadidad.
Colón de Armas asegura a BBC Mundo que ya ha habido una expresión de la voluntad de Puerto Rico, en un referendo no vinculante llevado a cabo en 2012. En su primera pregunta, la consulta preguntaba si estaban de acuerdo con el estatus actual. La mayoría votó en contra.
Pero hay controversia sobre los resultados de la segunda pregunta de esa consulta, que preguntaba específicamente si los electores apoyaban la opción de volverse estado o prefería la independencia u otros escenarios.

Bandera de Puerto RicoDerechos de autor de la imagenGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLa mayoría de los puertorriqueños no votaron por la independencia.

Un elevado número de votos en blanco y otros factores han llevado a dudas sobre la solidez del resultado a favor de la estadidad.
El Congreso estadounidense no se manifestado en torno al referendo de 2012.
Por lo que, según le dice Colón de Armas a BBC Mundo, se espera que el nuevo gobierno de la isla anuncie en los próximos días un mecanismo por el cual se designen varios voceros de Puerto Rico que presionarían a las autoridades federales en Washington. Así hizo Tennessee en el siglo XVIII, cuando eligió a sus representantes al Congreso antes que esa región hubiera sido admitida como estado.
Colón de Armas asegura que la actual representante oficial de Puerto Rico ante el Congreso en Washington, quien tiene voz pero no voto en esa entidad, también presentará un proyecto de ley pidiendo el fin al estatus "colonial" de Puerto Rico.
Todo esto debería plasmarse eventualmente, alega el experto, en un "acta de admisión", mediante el cual el Congreso federal expresaría en detalle cuales son las condiciones exactas en las que Puerto Rico entraría a la Unión, y presentaría a los votantes de la isla la oportunidad de aceptarlas o rechazarlas en un referendo definitivo.

No hay consenso

No todos en Puerto Rico están de acuerdo en la validez o viabilidad de esta estrategia.
Durante la campaña por la gobernación, Ángel Rosa, otro legislador puertorriqueño, calificó de "embeleco" el plan Tennessee y en declaraciones a medios locales pronosticó que el Congreso estadounidense haría caso omiso a la presión por expresarse sobre el estatus de Puerto Rico y negó que existiese un apoyo mayoritario en la isla a la opción de volverse un estado.
"El resultado de la consulta de 2012 no es una clara victoria para la estadidad... Los números confunden", dice también a BBC Mundo el abogado y experto analista en política puertorriqueña Phillip Escoriaza.

San JuanDerechos de autor de la imagenGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLa isla experimenta una fuerte crisis económica.

El analista cree, sin embargo, que claramente hay una mayoría de personas que no están de acuerdo con el arreglo actual entre Washington y San Juan, y que hay un impulso creciente a favor de la opción de volverse estado.
Pero incluso si ese apoyo se concretara en Puerto Rico, asegura Escoriaza a BBC Mundo, el proceso de conseguir ser admitido en la Unión podría tomar muchos años, si se examinan otros antecedentes históricos de ingreso de territorios a Estados Unidos.


Carlos Colón de Armas aseguró a BBC Mundo que, en caso de no funcionar la estrategia "Tennessee" para convencer al Congreso en Washington, también se ha planteado la posibilidad de que Puerto Rico convoque por iniciativa propia a un nuevo referendo en donde la gente escogería entre las opciones de volverse estado y buscar la independencia total.
En referendos pasados, una porción muy pequeña de los votantes, inferior al 10%, se han inclinado por la independencia.
La mayoría se debaten entre mantener el estatus actual y pedir convertirse en el estado 51.
El experto no cree que las traumáticas sorpresas que se dieron en varios referendos y elecciones en 2016 sean una razón para temer a hacer un referendo en Puerto Rico, incluso si resultara en un voto por la separación total de Estados Unidos.
"A lo único que se le puede temer es al estatus actual, que es una violación de los derechos de los puertorriqueños", le dice Carlos Colón de Armas a a BBC Mundo.

19 January 2017

European Union ignores its own Court of Justice on Western Sahara

First ship to challenge EU Court ruling on occupied Western Sahara
On the evening of 5 January 2017, the vessel Key Bay entered the waters of Western Sahara. After waiting for green light outside of El Aaiun port the whole day of today, the vessel moved in to the port around 6PM this evening, European time. 

The vessel is well known to Western Sahara Resource Watch. Key Bay, and its sister vessels have for many years transported fish oil from Western Sahara into Europe. It is the first known vessel to challenge the EU and its member states on how to relate to the imports of goods from Western Sahara, following a landmark decision by the Court of Justice of the EU on 21 December 2016

The judgement ruled, pointing to the International Court of Justice and to UN resolutions,  that Western Sahara is not part of Morocco, and that the EU-Morocco trade deal cannot apply to Western Sahara. 

The vessel earlier this week did a stop-over in the Southern Moroccan town of Tan Tan, possibly to pick up a fish oil cargo there on the way to El Aaiun, where it would load more of the same product. The last time Key Bay did a shipment from Western Sahara to Europe was in September 2016. 

The importer of the product from the occupied territory is most likely Olvea, a French company which refuses to answer questions regarding the trade. 

The vessel in question is chartered by Sea Tank Chartering and owned by Gezina AS, both companies from Norway. The involvement of the two companies caused headlines in Scandinavian media in the past. At that time, the vessel picked up the Moroccan certificates of origin in Tan Tan, and the cargo itself in El Aaiun. 

WSRW earlier today, while the vessel was still anchored outside of El Aaiun port, WSRW sent a letter to the charterer of the vessel asking it to not enter the port itself. See that letter here. 

A letter had already on 31 December been sent from the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara to Sea Tank, requesting them not to take part in the trade (in Norwegian). The vessel was already then heading southwards along the coast of Morocco. 

In 2010, the transports of fish oil in the same vessels to Norway created a long award-winning documentary on Swedish broadcaster SVT. In the political debate that followed, the Norwegian government stated that such products cannot enter Norway under the EFTA-Morocco free trade pact, as Western Sahara is not Morocco. 

Then, most of the export shifted from Scandinavia to France. But what happens when the Court stated the same as Norway - that Western Sahara is not part of the EU trade agreement either? 

WSRW has not received confirmation about where the vessel now is heading, but statistically speaking, this vessel will now transport the oil to Fécamp in Normandy, France.

18 January 2017

Puerto Rico's independence leader and longest held political prisoner in the U.S. from Latin America will be free

The United States government announced Tuesday the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who has been imprisoned in the U.S. for 36 years for his struggle to free Puerto Rico from U.S. colonial rule.

Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama commuted Lopez' sentence, which will expire on May 17, according to a list of commutations announced by the White House.
Celebrations started almost immediately, while Clarissa Lopez, daughter of Lopez, will hold a press conference Wednesday at 10 a.m. in reaction to his release at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Lopez was born in Puerto Rico in 1943 and upon returning to Chicago after serving in the Vietnam War, he joined the struggle for Puerto Rican rights and participated in acts of civil disobedience and other actions.
In 1976, he joined the clandestine fight for the independence of Puerto Rico as a member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation. In 1981, he was captured by the FBI and accused of "conspiracy" for his militancy in the FALN.
At the time of his capture, he proclaimed himself a prisoner of war, protected in the first protocol of the Geneva Convention of 1949. The protocol protects Lopez from prosecution for having been arrested in a conflict against colonial occupation.
The U.S. did not recognize Lopez' demand and sentenced him to 55 years in prison and after an alleged attempt to escape, the sentence was increased to 70 years in prison, 12 of which he spent in solitary confinement.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999 offered him a pardon, along with 13 FALN members who accepted, but Lopez rejected it because it included completing 10 more years in jail. Leaders from around the world, as well as human rights organizations, have demanded Lopez' release for many years.
On June 18, 2012, the U.N. Decolonization Committee approved a resolution, promoted by Cuba, which called for the recognition of Puerto Rico's right to independence and self-determination and urged the release of all pro-independence prisoners in the United States.

17 January 2017


The reparations movement in the United States and around the world took a significant step forward last week when Congressman John Conyers, the longest serving member of the US Congress, introduced a revised version of HR40, his long-standing reparations bill, at the start of the 115th Congress.

The new bill, entitled, The Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, will focus on reparations remedies.

“The revised bill reflects the advances in the legal and societal discussion of the transatlantic slave trade and reparations,” said Cong. Conyers. “The call for reparations represents a commitment to entering a constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present-day conditions both in our community and in American society as a whole. Slavery is a blemish on this nation’s history, and until it is formally addressed, our country’s story will remain marked by this blight.”

The revised bill has received enthusiastic support from advocates for reparatory justice in the United States and across the globe. To date, some 20 members of the US Congress along with dozens of national associations and civil society organizations are supporting the bill and Cong. Conyers hopes to garner up to 100 co-sponsors in the weeks ahead.

Dr. Ron Daniels, convenor and chairman of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) and President of the Institute of the Black World (IBW) applauded the new version of HR40.

“Once again, Congressman John Conyers is to be commended for his vision and courage for introducing this vital measure,” said Daniels. “Updating HR-40 to examine reparations remedies is a significant step forward in addressing the devastating inter-generational harms inflicted by centuries of enslavement and structural racism on African Americans. This assessment and action is especially important given the “state of emergency” in numerous Black communities across this country.”

Kamm Howard, chairman of the Legislative Committee of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) and a member of NAARC, played a leading role in mobilizing public support for the new bill.

In adding his commendations to the revised bill, Howard said: “NCOBRA is very pleased with the forward, progressive action of Congressman Conyers with the introduction of the revised HR40. The new legislation, in accord with international norms and standards of reparatory justice, seeks to truly address the multi-generational injury, mass inequalities and discrimination that plague, and will continue to plague African descendants in America, if left unaddressed.. This can be model legislation for African Descendants globally.”

The revised version of HR40 comes in the wake of other important developments in the global movement for reparatory justice in recent months. National reparations commissions are currently in formation in Canada, Britain, Brazil, Colombia and also in Central America. And, in 2016 the Illinois State Assembly passed a unanimous resolution supporting the establishment of a reparations study commission in that state and called on President Obama to establish a similar commission at the Federal level before he leaves office.

The National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) noted that in the past, the focus on the social effects of slavery, segregation and its continuing economic implications remained largely ignored by US mainstream analysis. Yet, these economic issues are the root cause of many critical issues in the African-American community today, such as education, healthcare and criminal justice policy, including policing practices.

15 January 2017




Saipan, MP – (T)he Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands received a patent to submerged lands extending three geographical miles seaward from the mean high tide of the islands of Farallon de Pajaros (Uracas), Maug and Asuncion within the Marinas Trench Marine National Monument. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signed the patent on November 30, 2016, to convey the submerged lands from the United States to CNMI. Governor Ralph DLG. Torres also signed the patent in Capital Hill, Saipan, officially accepting the conveyance of the submerged lands to the CNMI Government.
“Today is a great day for the people of the Northern Mariana Islands. Years of close collaboration between the CNMI, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA have resulted in the return of an integral part of our cultural heritage. This transfer strengthens our shared dedication to sustain our unique natural resources for years to come and for our children and grandchildren to benefit. I want to thank the great people at the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries for their hard work, and I look forward to continuing this strong relationship together as we move forward on managing our submerged lands, ” said Governor Torres.
The conveyance of submerged lands to CNMI provides the local government authority over the seabed, subsoil, water column and surface water resources in the three-mile coastal zone, including mineral rights, subject to the recently signed memorandum of agreement and terms of the patent.
In September 2016, CNMI, the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior formally established a memorandum of agreement, defining the terms and conditions for the coordination of management of the Northern Islands Submerged Lands. The MOA also lays out roles and responsibilities of the CNMI Government, NOAA Fisheries and USFWS for the preservation and protection of the natural resources of the Monument.
“The submerged lands that ring the islands of Farallon de Pajaros (Uracas), Maug, and Asuncion protect a flourishing, healthy, and diverse ecosystem, said USFWS Director Dan Ashe. “The Service is committed to continuing to work with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and NOAA Fisheries to manage the biological resources of the Monument.”
Farallon de Pajaros (Uracas), Maug, and Asuncion are among the most biologically diverse in the Western Pacific, with relatively pristine coral reef ecosystems that have been proclaimed objects of scientific interest and reserved for their protection as the Islands Unit of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, established by Presidential Proclamation No. 8335 on Jan. 6, 2009. That proclamation assigned management responsibility for the Monument to the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce.
“This land transfer is a tangible example of collaboration among federal agencies and territorial governments to protect precious natural resources of scientific interest for future generations,” said Eileen Sobeck, Assistant NOAA Administrator for NOAA Fisheries.
The Territorial Submerged Lands Act (Public Law 93-435), which became law in 1974, two years before CNMI became a U.S. Commonwealth, did not include CNMI. Until Congress amended that statute (Public Law 113-34 (Sept. 17, 2013), CNMI was the only populated U.S. territory that did not have title to the submerged lands in that portion of the United States territorial sea. The law also provided the President of the United States the authority to withhold the transfer of some or all of these submerged lands for reasons of national interest, including defense preparedness and environmental protection.

12 January 2017

African Heritage Remembered at Colombia’s Black and White Carnival

PASTO, Colombia – Typical rhythms from Colombia’s Pacific region can be heard on Thursday in the streets of the southwestern city of Pasto to celebrate the Day of the Blacks, a tribute to the portion of the population descended from African slaves during the traditional Carnival celebration in this zone bordering on Ecuador.

“This day is celebrated (to commemorate) the free day our ancestors who arrived from Africa as slaves received to hold their festivals and rituals and at the same time to calm the anxieties the blacks felt at being bound and imprisoned,” the director of the Los Alegres de Telembi folkloric group, Liloy Ortiz, told EFE.

At the Black and White Carnival “what we want is to show people the cultural legacy our ancestors left us that we still experience in African music, dance, poetry and theater,” said Ortiz, who has been part of the musical group for the past 10 years.

To the rhythms of the marimba, an instrument with African origins, residents and tourists in Pasto, the capital of Nariño province, smudge their bodies black to begin a game of exchanging identities where mixed-race people take on the appearance of blacks.

“This event is the chance to leave to the side those racial differences and social prejudices that exist in the country among the black and white races, and to see that we’re all humans and brothers,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz added that the music at the Carnival is also designed to denounce the problems that currently exist in the Pacific region.

“The Pacific (region) is a zone with great biodiversity. However, we’re ignored by the state and there’s very generalized corruption that results in the region not prospering economically, and so it’s one of the poorest in Colombia,” the musician added.

Meanwhile, Lisenia Gallo, the executive director of the Cueros y Chonta Musical Foundation, a musical group participating in the Carnival, said that “through rhythms such as the ‘currulao,’ the ‘bunde’ and the ‘juga,’ among others” the performers sing about corruption “but also about peace, love and life.”

The Black and White Carnival, in 2010 designated as part of the World Heritage by Unesco, will conclude on Jan. 6, the Day of the Whites, with a parade of floats the main aim of which is to present the myths and legends of the region through the talent of Nariño’s artisans.

11 January 2017


Trump-Pence Asian Pacific American committees to host ‘APA Presidential Inaugural Gala’



WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump-Pence Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee (APAAC) and the National Committee of Asian American Republicans (Asian.GOP) on Wednesday announced that they will be hosting an Asian Pacific American Presidential Inaugural Gala in honor of President-Elect Donald J. Trump as well as for the Asian Pacific Americans who have been nominated to serve in the new Trump Administration.

The inaugural celebration will take place a few blocks from the White House at the historic and beautiful Mayflower Hotel, located at 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC. The hotel is home to many presidential inaugurations since 1925. The Gala will be held on Thursday, January 19, 2017, from 6 to 11 PM in the Grand Ballroom and Chinese Room of this elegant hotel.

The program will include:

• Celebration with prominent dignitaries and Presidential appointees (Donald J. Trump, Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Reince Priebus, Elaine Lan Chao, Nikki Haley, and many others are invited

• Networking opportunities with key Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders

• Networking interactions with business elites in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community

• Performances from Asian Pacific American communities proudly sharing their rich cultures

“This will be an excellent event that features our national Asian Pacific American leaders who have worked so hard to elect and represent Mr. Trump,” said Eddie Baza Calvo, Governor of Guam and APAAC co-chair. “Our Inaugural Gala will provide a wonderful opportunity to engage with public and private sector leaders to work closer together with our growing Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities.”

“We are excited that Donald J. Trump has won the Presidency,” said Ralph DLG Torres, Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands and APAAC co-chair. “The Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are celebrating his victory with this Inaugural Gala. We look forward to a prosperous future working with the Trump Administration in Making America Great Again.”

“Asian Pacific Americans share many of the same values as the Republican Party. We are confident that Asian Pacific American Republicans will play a significant vital role in the new Trump Administration. Together, we look forward to making an America filled with jobs, hope, opportunity, security, and freedom,” said Mr. Cliff Zhonggang Li, Executive Director of the National Committee of Asian American Republicans.

To purchase tickets to the APA Presidential Inaugural Gala, inquire about corporate sponsorship opportunities, volunteer, or to make a charitable donation, please visit http://apainaugural.asian.gop. Tickets and corporate sponsorship tables are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Asian Pacific American Advisory Committee (APAAC) is co-chaired by the Eddie Baza Calvo, Governor of Guam and the Honorable Ralph DLG Torres, Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). It is a group that will continue to promote policies and programs dedicated to the specific needs of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country. It is the official Trump campaign advisory council representing Asian Pacific Americans. The National Committee of Asian American Republicans (Asian.GOP) is a nationwide organization of Asian American Republicans headquartered in Washington, DC dedicated to raising the awareness in Asian American communities about the importance of participating in the political process, which has a great impact on everyone’s life, for future generations, and for the destiny of this great nation.

Air Force veteran, 72, alleges Agent Orange use on Andersen Air Force Base (on Guam)

Kyla P Mora 


(Photo: PDN file foto)

Air Force veteran Gerard Laitres, 72, was stationed at Andersen Air Force Base from September 1963 to March 1965. During that time, he worked as a liquid fuels system maintenance specialist, cleaning and monitoring above-ground pipelines for chipped paint and damage.

He was always surprised, he said, that there was never any brush around the pipeline that needed chopping or clearing.

“We worked around the Tumon Tank Farm, and around the immediate storage areas along the flight line. There were 10 pump houses,” Laitres said. “We had no problem getting into anything we had to get to. I always wondered what happened, how they cleared that out. Now I know it.”

Laitres believes the Air Force used Agent Orange as a defoliant on Guam, particularly along the path of the pipeline he worked to maintain.

“They did that, on the pipeline, and that’s a lot of mileage of defoliation,” Laitres said. “And so, are they going to admit it?”


09 January 2017



ST. EUSTATIUS- In carrying out the Island Council’s motion of November 30, 2016, the Executive Council on Wednesday presented the Dutch Government with a formal petition against the process of embedding the public entities of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in the Dutch Constitution.

In the petition, which was signed by Acting Island Governor of Statia Julian Woodley and Island Secretary Koert Kerkhoff and sent to the Kingdom Council of Ministers and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, it was stated that the Dutch Government has “unilaterally” started the process of embedding the public entity of Statia in the Dutch Constitution.

“Such action, as was the establishment of Statia as a public entity on October 10, 2010, is in violation of Dutch law, which by virtue of its inclusion of and relation with the international legal order protects the people of Statia’s right to freely express their right to self-determination and choose their political status,” it is stated in the petition.

The petitioners urgently call on the Dutch and Kingdom Governments to “immediately” cease the “unilateral” process of embedding the public entity Statia in the Dutch Constitution and commence consultations with the local Government aimed at the public entity achieving full internal self-governance by means of free association with the Netherlands, “in accordance with the expressed wishes of the people of Statia and the international legal order, also aware of reports of irregularities surrounding the December 2014 constitutional referendum in Statia, and strongly urges the release of the UN [United Nations Ed.] report on the 2014 referendum results to the Government of Statia.

According to the Executive Council, the majority of the world community represented in the UN in 1954 was not convinced that the former Dutch colonies Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles had achieved a full-measure of self-government with the enactment of the Kingdom Charter in 1954 and the Netherlands was unjustly relieved of its obligation to report on its overseas territories by means of a UN resolution.

“Resolution 945 does not affirm that the former Netherlands Antilles had received a full measure of self-government under Article 73 (b). It merely removed the requirement of the Netherlands to regularly submit information regarding its colonies to the UN under Article 73 (e). It preserved the UN authority to decide whether a non-self-governing territory, – such as the Netherlands Antilles then and Statia now – has attained a full measure of self-government.

“It is clear that the committee looking into this matter was of the view that decolonisation of the Netherlands Antilles remained incomplete and the UN remained authorised to review the situation under Article 73,” the petition reads.

“Resolution 945 clearly establishes the competence of the [UN – Ed.] General Assembly in the matter of deciding if a non-self-governing territory, which includes Statia, has attained full measure of self-government. Constitutional and other developments, as well as statements by public and academic authorities within and without the Dutch Kingdom since 1954, have convincingly established that the Kingdom Charter did not result in a full measure of self-government for the current Dutch overseas territories and needs to be structurally revamped if such objective is to be achieved.”

The Executive Council claims that the “peoples” of the overseas territories Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Statia and St. Maarten have all expressed their “inalienable right to self-determination” during referenda held in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2015, “thus prior to and after the new constitutional order within the Kingdom of the Netherlands which took effect on 10-10-10.”

Signatories claim that the new constitutional order has led to (more) discontent among the peoples of the Dutch overseas territories, as confirmed in the evaluation report of the Spies Committee, and further exposed the democratic deficit within the Kingdom.

“The results of the UN-observed referenda on Bonaire in 2004, 2010 and 2015, and on Statia in 2005 and 2014, clearly indicated that the populations of the islands did not freely choose their current constitutional relationship with the Kingdom in accordance with the UN Charter and General Assembly resolutions,” the petition reads.

In light of the UN-observed referendum of December 17, 2014, in Statia there were reports of irregularities, despite the overwhelming choice for the status of “Autonomy within the Dutch Kingdom,” it is stated in the petition, which claims that the current status of the Dutch overseas territories is not in compliance with the UN Charter and resolutions and international constitutional law and conventions.

The official position of the Dutch Government on the Spies report is a further violation of the right to self-determination of the people of Statia, the Executive Council said.

Considering all these facts, the Executive Council has been tasked with preparing a “detailed and concrete” plan of action for achieving full autonomy in free association with the Netherlands, in accordance with the relevant Island Council decrees and with the support of civil-society organisations Brighter Path Foundation, Pro Statia and Nos Ke Boneiru Bek.

Copies of the petition were sent to the Dutch Parliament’s First and Second Chambers; the Executive and Island Councils of Saba and Bonaire; the Councils of Ministers and Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten; the Council of State in The Hague; the governments and Parliaments of Caribbean Community Caricom member states; Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); Association of Caribbean States (ACS); Latin American Parliament Parlatino; UN Special Committee on Decolonisation; UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Alliance of Small Island States; andThe Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (College voor de Rechten van de Mens).