Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Politics of Ganja/Hashish in Belize and Antigua & Barbuda

Suddenly ganja is now a frontline political issue in English speaking states of the Caribbean. In St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines the issue is in the news headlines on a regular basis but not in T&T. In 2017 Belize decriminalised possession of ten grams of ganja for personal use and Antigua & Barbuda followed in 2018 with the decriminalisation of fifteen grams of ganja for personal use. But there is no commonality in the legislation of Belize and Antigua & Barbuda to decriminalisation and the expansion of decriminalisation into legalisation and a ganja industry.

The legislation of Belize illustrates the political imperative driving decriminalisation for personal use of small amounts of ganja which hits the steel wall that is erected to allay any fears of the slippery slope to legalisation made flesh via the tiny leak in the dyke that is decriminalisation of tiny amounts for personal use. The politicians of the ruling party of Belize must then assure internal and external political forces that can impact negatively their obsession/fixation with re-election by any means necessary. Act No. 47 of 2017 amends the Misuse of Drugs Act Chapter 103 of Belize. This act redefines cannabis as any part of the plant of the genus cannabis sativa including its resin or hashish. Industrial hemp is now no longer classified as cannabis and permitted medicinal preparations from cannabis sativa are not classified as cannabis. Section 7 of the original act is amended to make lawful possession of ten grams or less of ganja. Persons found in possession of ten grams or less of ganja on the premises of an educational institution will be liable to a ticket of B$ 100 or whatever fine established. A person under the age of eighteen years old found in possession of ten grams or less of ganja will be required to attend a drug treatment programme. The amendment act of 2017 does not amend Section 8 of the original act which means that persons are not allowed to cultivate a specified number of ganja trees from which to reap their ten grams. As the cultivation of ganja remains illegal. They are then forced to deal in the illicit supply side of the market to acquire their legal ten grams of ganja because all ganja production remains illegal. The amendment act then has to amend Section 10 of the original act in order to create a space where persons can acquire their legal ten grams legally for Section 10 criminalises ganja blocks. The amendment act therefore legalises the sale, preparation and use of ganja/hashish in a space as long as the quantity is ten grams or less. Which necessitated amending Section 11 of the original act by now making it legal for ganja/hashish users to frequent a space without it being illegal. This entire approach could have been evaded by allowing registered persons eighteen years and over to plant and reap the product of a specified number of ganja plants strictly for personal use. But to legalise production for personal use is viewed as grave political risk as it is the foundation of the slippery slope to legalisation. For with legal supply feeding into legal use of a small amount of ganja/hashish the basis of a licit production and consumption unit is laid which can be readily expanded to facilitate legalisation. The political imperative behind the Belizean amendment has then proven to be a valuable gift to organised crime in Belize. The amended act adds to Section 28 of the original act the new sections of 28 A and 28 B. Section 28 B makes the provision that a person convicted under Section 7 of the act fined for possession of ganja/hashish in a sum not exceeding B$ 1,000 or an amount defined by the Minister before or after the proclamation of this new section can apply for the criminal record to be expunged.

The 2017 amendment act has impacted the Belizean ganja market fundamentally. The act revealed for the first time the market dynamics of the ganja market in Belize where demand outstrips supply with the level of demand for the first time being displayed in public with the decriminalisation of possession of 10 grams or less.  This revealed demand reality is driving an escalating ganja war in Belize that has now expanded outwards from the urban areas.

The act has ensured that demand expresses itself publicly and aggressively since November 2017 at ten grams or less per person at any given time which can be multiple times in a single time span. The continued aggressive stance towards home grown ganja plantations seen in their eradication which involve international actors has resulted in a tsunami of imports from Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia etc. as imported supply floods the market. The salient grave mistake of the amendment act is the creation of a phenomenon on the supply side of the ganja block that now straddles illicit production and illicit supply (illicit drug trafficking) and licit supply of ganja/hashish in quantities of ten grams or less. This Frankenstein monster created by the act is the product of the political fear in Belize of the political price to be exacted for allowing persons to grow their own ganja for personal use. These ganja/hashish blocks will be dominated by transnational organised crime where the stash will never be housed on the block, every sales person on the block will be an adult eighteen years and over and in possession of ten grammes or less of ganja for personal use. And clients will make multiple purchases/visits to the block always in possession of ten grams or less of ganja. As these blocks rake in the money the ganja wars will escalate into wars of extermination and seizure of turf. The rate at which the administrative regulations are formulated and ratified as molasses flowing up a hill will also deeply frustrate those intent on utilising the provisions of the amended act. This will in no way frustrate the drive to buy and use ganja but it will increase the tension within the ganja structure which will impact the social order. The grave lesson from Belize is don’t play with ganja possession in conjunction with decriminalisation and hope to mute the momentum that arises towards legalisation. As the political games played with small amount decriminalisation and the blowback that ensues illustrate the need for legalisation to ensure the protection of the integrity of the social order. Legalise it!

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2018 came into force in March 2018 in Antigua & Barbuda. This amendment act takes and entirely different approach to the decriminalisation of a small amount of ganja/resin/hashish from that adopted by Belize. In this case the small amount of ganja is 15 grams and the adult in control of a space is allowed to plant and reap the product of four ganja trees for personal use. Licit production of supply is then linked to licit consumption for personal use thereby creating a multiplicity of small production units supplying consumption. A platform for eventual legalisation of ganja was laid in Antigua & Barbuda by this 2018 act.  Because of the provision of licit production, the act unlike Belize was not forced to create the Frankenstein ganja block model of Belize. The Antigua & Barbuda act replicates provisions as in the Belize act as the expunging of criminal record of persons convicted for possession of ganja/hashish in a quantity of 15 grams or less. In the Antigua & Barbuda act persons who smoke ganja in a public space are liable to fines but not a criminal conviction.

The amended act of March 2018 has now afforded glimpses of the demand side of the ganja market in Antigua & Barbuda as one can possess 15 grams and less without criminal liability thereby facilitating licit usage within the boundaries set by the law. Ganja trafficking into Antigua has markedly increased with product being imported from as far as Canada and the US. The creation of household licit production units means that cannabis drug blocks are still prohibited under the law but the fifteen grams threshold now affords these blocks operational space where the stash is never on the block and those on the block are in possession of 15 grams or less of ganja reputedly for personal use. The police will now have to up their game but it is now apparent as in Belize that the emphasis is now on traffickers.

What is apparent in both Belize and Antigua & Barbuda is that transnational organised crime responds to decriminalisation of small amounts of ganja/hashish by investing increased resources in the ganja trade if they were previously active or become active if they were not. The intent is to exploit the new nature of demand created by decriminalisation of small amounts and to expand the ganja product range, both in product types, quality and potency, available on the market. There is then a push in all ganja markets of the Caribbean to expand the demand for resin/hashish and especially so in the decriminalised markets. The Belize model will in fact aid the drive of transnational crime to dominate the Belizean ganja market whilst the Antigua & Barbuda model will form an adequate platform towards legalisation but will create a mixed supply side of the market model. The Belizean model is expected to generate violence and instability much more than that of Antigua & Barbuda but the only way to mitigate the violence is to legalise it. Decriminalisation must then be one stop on the way to legalisation as decriminalisation of small amounts does not contain/restrict the factors that drive the violence. Decriminalisation is a gift to transnational organised crime whilst the ban on ganja is their gangsta paradise. As the Belize model illustrates a poorly constructed decriminalisation regime is gangsta paradise on steroids. Legalise it!


Haiti, Venezuela: Commonality of Revolution and Response

On January 1, 1804 the state of Haiti was proclaimed as free, liberated space from north Atlantic racist, colonial domination. From January 1, 1804 to the present the masses of Haiti have paid a steep price for their liberation by their own hands. From 1804 to the present Haiti has suffered at the hands of a series of comprador house slaves intent on erasing the alternate discourse and its attendant worldview that has guided the actions of the masses from the revolutionary war for liberation to the present. This is a discourse rooted in memories of West Africa wrapped in a syncretic amalgam that defines the world and action in the world of the Haitian masses. This is a discourse of survival as successive regimes have oppressed the masses, plundered the treasury and facilitated the growth of a non-African oligarchy and transnational corporations that strangle the alternate economy of the masses. This is a country where so called aid rice ends up being sold on the streets at prices that destroy indigenous Haitian rice growers escalating the massive migration from the rural to the primary urban centre Port au Prince. And the inability of Haiti to feed itself despite having the farmers willing to do so. The fear of the alternate discourse grinds down the base of the alternate discourse: the land and its tillers.

Daniel Gerard Rouzier a Haitian businessman resident in Haiti on May 16, 2018 addressed the American Chamber of Commerce of Haiti. In his address Rouzier gave a description of what is daily reality in Haiti in 2018. Rouzier stated that the issue with the cover of polystyrene waste that covers Haiti especially in the rainy season is not the waste that covers the land but who imports it, how is it distributed and disposed of and therefore the identity of those who are benefitting from the trade. The Haitian State has stated publicly that it loses some USD 400 million annually in evaded duties and taxes at the ports and land borders of Haiti. Who are these smugglers of goods and fuel, what is the nature of this organised crime and who benefits from it? Yet the state fails to take action against the smugglers. There is an outcry against land grabbers who steal land from their owners especially the poor. But who are the judges, the police and the clerks that enable the reality of land insecurity? What are the prospects for change in Haiti when some 83% of Haitians with tertiary education have migrated from Haiti? Rouzier stated that the answers are in the questions and the solutions are in the nature of the reality. Rouzier presented the statistics of the reality which point to the solutions.

Haitian agriculture accounts for 25% of GNP and employs 66% of the national population but is only allocated 5% of the national budget. But since 1950 Haiti has a food deficit where it has to import increasing amounts of the food it consumes.

4 million tons of trees are cut each year but only 500,000 tons are replanted which results in de-forestation where Haiti only has left 1.5% of forest cover.

13 households out of 14 have no pipe borne water yet annual rainfall provides 560 times the total water needs of the population.

Haiti produces the least waste per capita in the western hemisphere but it only collects 11% of its total garbage.

8 million Haitians sleep without electricity every night.

5 million Haitians cannot read or write.

8 out of 10 Haitians live on less than USD 2 per day with 9 out of 10 in the rural areas.

2 in 10 Haitians control 70% of the wealth of the country. If all wealth generated by Haiti was evenly divided Haiti will still be classified as a least developed country.

More than 4 children out of 10 are deprived of basic health services and live in dwellings without toilets.

About 30% of Haitian children have never been vaccinated against an illness.

At the end of his presentation of the realities Rouzier resorts to well-worn platitudes as proffered solutions to this morass. His presentations depict stark reality but the power relations that drive the reality presented are absent from the presentation which is the reason for his platitudes proffered as solutions.

What is obvious is that in Haiti domination and exploitation are formulated and expressed via power relations as grave punishment that on a daily basis amounts to the quest for genocide. The Haitian oligarchy of minority non-African races and the transnational corporations served by the comprador political elite and the state public servants are actively applying a form of punishment as domination and exploitation designed to destroy the African masses the overwhelming majority. Haiti’s power relations are then driven by political issues defined by the discourse of fear of a black planet not the drive for sustainable wealth production and accumulation. Haiti’s social order in 2018 is an evolved plantation where massa’s primary concern is the immanent and grave threat posed by the African masses to the non-African minority oligarchy that owns and controls the plantation. The politicians and the public servants are then charged with utilising the repressive arms of the state to keep the masses in line, subservient and docile. Democracy is then a grave threat to massa which must be managed. Haiti is then saddled with a lumpen oligarchy which amounts to very little on the world stage of neoliberal capitalism and it has done all in its power to ensure that Haiti amounts to only misery for the majority of its citizens.

How then do you generate wealth under racist plantation punishment capitalism where you have progressively pauperised your market by infecting the masses and the state with arrested development? What is this wealth accumulation built on that drives such public, ostentatious and garish displays of wealth in the midst of mind numbing poverty and deprivation? How can this mind numbing poverty be the basis for such obscene, public displays of wealth and privilege? What business are you all really in? Questions that are never posed thus there is no need to answer. But some answers to this reality was forthcoming with the case of Clifford Brandt scion of one of the families of the oligarchy. Click the link and enjoy.

The most potent and largest wealth generation enterprise in Haiti is the illicit drug trade and its ancillary illicit trades. Under the hegemony of the MTTOs this illicit trade has presented the gravest threat to the agenda of the oligarchs and their comprador house slaves. This is the premier wealth generation business that does not exclude entry by the African masses as local and transnational Haitian gangs are now affiliates of the MTTOs. Those Haitian affiliates of the MTTOs are now traffickers in their own right and are now living symbols of the new, alternate order challenging the hegemony of the order of punishment capitalism. Hence the need for international intervention to protect the plantation order of massa. Plantation, punishment capitalism in Haiti which borders with the Dominican Republic and is located in a geographical space in proximity to Puerto Rico, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Jamaica and The Bahamas is the greatest gift to the MTTOs in the entire Caribbean. And they have embraced the gift with glee. Transnational organised crime now controls vast swaths of the economy of survival of the poor of Haiti. Charcoal is produced in the protected forests and parks of the DR and shipped to Haiti as the majority simply cannot afford LPG. Pregnant Haitian women pay organised crime to transport them to specific maternity clinics in the DR to give birth as they cannot afford this service in Haiti if it is available. Organised crime controls the border crossing at Dajabon with the DR and the movement of goods via a two-way pipeline. Whatever the Haitian government prohibits, expects to collect taxes and duties on are all unenforceable. Garlic is imported into Haiti by the multi tonnes, all duties and taxes are evaded, exported to the DR evading duty and taxation and sold on the DR market with the cash proceeds returned to Haiti. Now that is organised crime and there is no state in Haiti for the state only exists to be plundered and to suppress and oppress the African masses. This then the Haitian model which must be understood for it is now being applied to Venezuela.

Venezuela and Venezuelans have paid and are paying a grave price for the Chavez experiment/the Bolivarian Revolution. The mistakes made by Chavez have not been allowed to be resolved via the power relations of Venezuela as the agenda of mounting intervention by international agents of neoliberal north Atlantic capitalism overdetermined these mistakes by putting them on steroids. The power of the resistance of the old blanco oligarchy of Venezuela has also been enhanced by the strategic interventions of international neoliberal capitalism granting them impact which is NO reflection of the political support they command on the ground. But the gravest mistake made by Chavez that has worked in the interest of the agenda to pauperise Venezuelans with the intent of precipitating a military golpe is the selection of Maduro as the replacement for Chavez.

Maduro and the clique have done everything in their power to put the strategy of neoliberal capitalism on steroids. The application of harsh neoliberal austerity/the Maduro diet without calling it so, the criminal negligence to allow the currency to be ripped apart by runaway inflation and in the face of the mounting poverty and deprivation to continue to suppress and assault the movement to establish counter strategies as the communal movement, the people’s production units and workers control. The collapse of PDVSA, the militarisation of civil power and the continued control of foreign exchange by the Bolivarian bourgeoisie are all indicators of a political agenda to hold on to political power at all costs to the detriment of the welfare of the masses and the Revolution. Venezuela under Maduro is now in the grips of plantation, punishment state capitalism. These instances of the level of punishment are all indictments of Maduro. According to Cendas the price of the family food basket of Venezuela rose by 310% in the period January to April 2018 from Bs 24, 402, 767 to Bs 100, 174, 980. To purchase this food basket in April required 100 minimum wages or 64 food vouchers. A single food basket required 100 minimum wages which meant that you if you are working for minimum wage you simply cannot afford to eat every day and what about those dependent of the worker: the children, the aged and the infirm. Punishment state capitalism. What of those who can’t or don’t work? The world of indigence, homelessness and vagrancy beckons but there is an alternative crime and migration both under the control of organised crime. Of the 60 items that make up the food basket some 20 items or 33.3% of them are in short supply namely: milk powder, chicken, beef, beef liver, canned tuna, margarine, oats, sugar, corn oil, peas, lentils, rice wheat flour, pasta, tomato sauce, corn flour, coffee, mayonnaise, bread and yellow cheese. The basis of the diet of the working people, the poor and marginalised are in short supply. Products excluded from the family food basket also in short supply are: personal hygiene products, medicines, anti allergic drugs, contraceptive pills and syringes. The grim reality of daily life under the Maduro diet is the cost of cassava and plantains in Caracas. In May a kilo of cassava cost Bs 125,000 compared to Bs 28,000 in January an increase of 346%. In May a kilo of plantains cost Bs 335,000 whilst in April they cost Bs 230,000. The lunacy has now evolved to schizophrenia. A shopping exercise in the market for vegetables and staples will at minimum cost Bs 5.5 million or six minimum wages or four food vouchers. The other strategy is to join the long lines for a CLAP food parcel where you suffer the indignation of having to suck up and solicit favours from the military establishment that owns the process as it is a law unto themselves. Or one can enter the shadow world of the illicit structures and organised crime.

The most potent indicator of the strategy of Maduro and his clique is the overcrowded prisons, the clogged judicial system and the brutality unleashed on the poor and marginalised. The brutality already exceeds that unleashed by the compradors of international neoliberal capitalism, the spawn of Punto Fijo. This is brutality state capitalism style not of a Bolivarian Revolution. In a socialism of the 21st century revolution it is unacceptable for your labour to be worthless and you are brutalised by the state security apparatus. This is neoliberal state punishment capitalism Maduro styling.

Those who are striving for a military golpe to erase the Bolivarian Revolution primarily because the opposition is frighteningly incompetent, imprisoned in a racist time warp and cannot garner the trust of the masses. Please understand that the day you get your golpe the Mexican model will be replicated in Venezuela with a particularly violent methodology surpassing that of Mexico today with the capacity to destabilise Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, French Guyana and the Caribbean island chain. Be careful what you wish for!