International News
Is Nestle Involved in Murder Of Colombian Union Leader?
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 , Written by « James Bargent »   

May 17, 2013
 
Luciano Romero's homicide is now taking center stage in a legal battle to define corporate responsibility in conflict zones.
 
On the night of September 5, 2005, two paramilitaries from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia hijacked Luciano Romero’s taxi as he drove through his home city of Valledupar. They took him to a nearby farm, where they tortured then murdered him. His body was found the next day, dumped behind an army garrison, with a handkerchief stuffed in his mouth and 50 stab wounds; one more victim in Colombia’s dirty war against trade unionists.

However, seven years on, and while Romero may only be one of approximately 3,000 victims of that war, his murder is now taking center stage in a legal battle to define corporate responsibility in conflict zones. This battle is taking place not in Colombia, but in Switzerland, home to one of the world’s biggest multi-nationals and Romero’s former employers – Nestle.

The struggle to hold Nestle accountable for its alleged role in Romero’s death began with the 2007 conviction of Romero’s killers – itself a rarity in a country with a 95% impunity rate in unionist murders. When passing sentence, Judge José Nirio Sánchez ordered an investigation into the intellectual authors of the crime that would scrutinize the role of not only the paramilitary warlord who commanded Romero’s killers, but also the management at the Nestle subsidiary where Romero worked.

While that investigation has yet to show any sign of progress, the case has been taken up by Romero’s union, SINALTRAINAL, and human rights group the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). In 2012, the organizations filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland demanding the prosecution of Nestle for Romero’s murder.

The powdered milk factory where Romero worked, CICOLAC, was Nestlé’s first investment in Colombia, when it opened the site in 1944. The multi-national sold CICOLAC in 1982, only to buy it back again in 1998. At the time of Nestlé’s return to Valledupar, the northern state of Cesar, where the city is located, was under the control of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary army.

According to the testimonies of demobilized AUC leaders, the paramilitaries had been invited into the region by members of the region’s economic elite, who were tired of the campaign of constant harassment, kidnappings and extortion waged by leftist guerilla groups. Cesar became a fiefdom of Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias ‘Jorge 40,’ a member of Valledupar high society whose paramilitary empire stretched across north east Colombia. 

The Cesar paramilitary block commanded by Jorge 40 was financed by the region’s cattle ranchers, dairy farmers and other land owners and economic interests. Among them was CICOLAC – according to AUC Leader Salvatore Mancuso, who named the company in the hearings that followed the demobilization of the AUC in 2006.

The paramilitaries in Cesar employed their favored terror tactics in the battle against the guerrillas, and launched a dirty war against anyone they deemed a guerrilla “collaborator” – community leaders, leftist activists, educators and, above all, unionists.

In 1993, Harry Triana became the first CICOLAC unionist in Valledupar to fall victim to that war when killed in front of his children and work colleagues. The next came in 1996, when José Manuel Becerra Pacheco was beheaded and Alejandro Matias Vanstrahlen was shot. The following year, Toribio De La Hoz was shot while celebrating his 42nd birthday in his home and in 1999 Victor Mieles and his wife were abducted in front of one of Nestlé’s Cesar factories and later murdered.

Despite the violence, Luciano Romero emerged as a leading figure in the local union movement. “He was a person who had really absorbed the union’s values,” said Alfonso Baron, a friend of Romero’s and a local SINALTRAINAL leader who has worked at CICOLAC since 1986. “He was a good friend, a good companion, he showed solidarity and fraternity, he was respectful, a hard worker and he looked out for others.”

However, Romero’s activities soon attracted unwanted attentions. In 1988, the Colombian judicial police abducted Romero and tortured him in a secret prison for a week, according to a legal statement submitted by the unionist. By the late nineties, Romero’s work at the union and social activism had attracted the attentions of the paramilitaries, and he started receiving death threats.

The relationship between Romero and CICOLAC was strained. In 1999, a bomb went off at the factory, injuring one person – Luciano Romero. The company CEO, Carlos Fajardo, accused Romero of planting the bomb. The implication – that Romero was working with guerrillas – did not go unnoticed. It was a slur the union heard time and again from the company management, and especially from Fajardo.

“When someone says we are guerrillas it is dangerous,” said Baron. “In this country saying these things publically is risky because you don’t know who is there, who is listening, who is talking.”

The smear persisted even after Romero’s death but was finally laid to rest by the judge in the trial of Romero’s killers, who dismissed attempts to link Romero to the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) as unfounded.

As well as the accusations the union worked with the guerrillas, Fajardo also hinted at his own connections to the paramilitaries. “To ingratiate himself with the union he would ring us up and warn us to be careful because we’re going to ‘see some things’” said Baron. Fajardo warned union members several times that Romero was on a death list, once saying he could protect the unionist as long as he remained at the company, according to witnesses.

The relationship between Romero and the company began to break down terminally in 2002, when Romero led taut negotiations over an expiring labor agreement. What should have been standard negotiations quickly descended into a crisis. “It was a very tense situation,” said Baron. “The company launched an attack to strip away all our social and economic rights.”

The union began to prepare for a strike. Within days, the paramilitaries began running night patrols and distributing threatening leaflets, and word reached the unionists that if they went on strike they would be killed. Rumors of a death list with Luciano Romero’s name on it began to circulate.

According to witnesses, notorious paramilitaries appeared at the factory when the union was holding protest meetings. Among them was Hughes Rodriguez Fuentes, also known as “Comandante Barbie.”

Rodriguez was a finance chief for the AUC’s Martierres War Front of Cesar – the paramilitary unit that Romero’s assassins belonged to. The authorities in both Colombia and the United States believe he was a trusted ally of Jorge 40, and one of the warlord’s principal money launderers and fund raisers. He was also one of CICOLAC’s milk suppliers, and, according to witnesses, a personal friend of Carlos Fajardo.

During the labor dispute, the CICOLAC management told Rodriguez and the other milk suppliers that the union’s labor demands would push down milk prices while a strike would lead to the closure of the plant.

Also among those CICOLAC milk suppliers was Hernando Molina Araujo, a future Governor of Cesar, whose term was cut short after he conspired with the AUC to assassinate a local university professor. Another was Gustavo Gnecco, member of an infamous family of local power brokers who moved easily between the worlds of legitimate business and the drug trade, politics and paramilitarism.

With tensions building and violence looking likely, the union cancelled the strike. Not long after, Romero was one of nine workers, six of them union leaders, fired by CICOLAC – illegally according to the union. Ten months later, the company fired 99% of the workforce, and sold CICOLAC to DPA – a company jointly owned by Nestle and New Zealand based Fonterra. The workforce for the renamed DPA-CICOLAC was forced to accept reduced terms, and for many of them, temporary contracts. According to Baron, ten years and two rounds of labor negotiations later, workers still earn less than they did in 2002.

Despite the end of the dispute and Romero’s sacking, the threats against the union continued. In 2004, he went into exile through a protection program. However, he returned to Valledupar in 2005. “I would imagine his return was influenced by the emptiness of not being with his family, of not seeing his wife and children,” said Baron. “Being away from your home country is a form of slow death.”

By September, Romero was preparing to denounce Nestle as witness at the Permanent Peoples Tribunal in Switzerland. He was also working on the complaint he had filed against the company for unfair dismissal, and organizing a protest to commemorate the second anniversary of the mass lay off of the CICOLAC workers.

Just days before the protest was scheduled to take place, Jose Ustariz Acuña and Jhonatan David Contrera received orders from their AUC commanders to abduct, interrogate and murder an ELN guerrilla pretending to be a taxi driver by the name of Luciano Romero.

Neither the union nor ECCHR accuse Nestle of ordering Romero’s murder. However, they insist the company is responsible for his death. “The paramilitaries punished us precisely because we made demands of the company,” said Edgar Paez, a member of the union’s national leadership. “They have a very close relationship that does not permit us to exercise our right to organize, to unionize.”

Responsibility not only lies with the CICOLAC management but also with the Nestle parent company, according to Claudia Mueller-Hoff from ECCHR. “They are culpable because of omission, they had a duty to act, they had a duty to protect,” she said. “This risky behavior of the subsidiary is something where the Nestle parent company should have intervened because it was brought to their attention on several occasions.”

Nestle is far from the first multinational to be linked to anti-union violence and paramilitarism in Colombia and there have been investigations into subsidiaries of Chiquita, Drummond and Coca Cola. Mueller-Hoff though, is hoping this case will be different as it has the potential to help define what a company’s obligations are in conflict zones. “Parent companies need to look into their impact worldwide even if it’s an impact that is generated through their subsidiaries,” she said.

Nestle firmly denied it shares responsibility for Romero’s death. In a written statement for AlterNet, the company said: “We have never used violence, nor have we associated with criminals. We have no responsibility whatsoever, directly or indirectly, neither by action nor omission for the murder of Luciano Romero.”

However, Nestle declined to comment on the relationship between the CICOLAC management, the milk suppliers and paramilitaries, or on the accusations of reckless slander against the management, and the events of the labor dispute. It also declined to comment on Salvatore Mancuso’s testimony that CICOLAC had funded the AUC.

Progress in the case has so far been hampered by legal wrangling. In early May, the five Nestle executives named in the complaint avoided the possibility of prosecution when the statute of limitations for the crime expired after the Swiss courts had argued over jurisdiction for a year. “It seems to be an attempt to avoid dealing with the important legal questions at stake,” said Mueller-Hoff. “The Swiss public prosecutor has even fallen behind our relatively modest expectations.”

However, the ECCHR, SINALTRAINAL and Romero’s family are still optimistic the second target of the complaint – Nestle as a company – can still be prosecuted. Under Swiss law, the statute of limitations only begins for a company when it ends the practices it is accused of. According to SINALTRAINAL, this has yet to happen.

While Jorge 40 and the AUC have now demobilized, paramilitary successor groups, often led by former mid-level commanders, continue to terrorize unionists working at Nestle today.

In 2011, Roberto Gonzalez became the 13th Nestle unionist to be murdered when he was shot in the back in Valledupar. In 2012, 23 SINALTRAINAL members who are current or former Nestle workers received death threats.

“Every time there is a labor dispute, there is a leap in paramilitarism,” said Paez. “The threats come, people are followed, there are some really difficult security situations.”

Some of the threats received last year directly referenced protests SINALTRAINAL had led against Nestle, including one promising to “exterminate” the union for their campaign at Nestlé’s Bugalagrande factory. The tone of the threats has changed little since the paramilitary heyday and recipients remain, as in one threat sent by neo-paramilitary group the Urabeños, “guerrilla sons of bitches disguised as unionists.”

Paez believes the links between paramilitarism and the landowning elite who supply DPA-CICOLAC with milk have also changed little. “DPA is still buying milk and they buy this milk from these men, who in some way have connections to paramilitarism,” he said.

While the struggle to hold corporations accountable for their role in Colombia’s dirty war continues, those on the front lines of that war have little doubt as to who it has benefited from the violence. “In Luciano’s case who won?” said Baron. “The state won because there is one man less in the struggle, the company won because they benefited directly and above all, the bosses won because they managed to show that with violence you can bring an end to unionism.”

James Bargent is a freelance journalist based in Colombia.

 
The Next Level of Diplomacy: Youth and Global Engagement
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 , Written by « By Paul Stephens »   

May 17, 2013

At a recent event hosted by the U.S. State Department titled “The Next Level of Diplomacy: Youth and Global Engagement,” the discussion revolved around the promise and peril of the world’s burgeoning youth population. In particular, the panel of Farah Pandith, the department’s special representative to Muslim communities, Zeenat Rahman, special adviser on global youth issues, and Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, focused on the urgent need to engage young people in global affairs.

A roomful of enthusiastic young people peppered the panel with questions about how to harness the energy of their peers, make certain that the voices of young people are heard in the halls of power, and ensure that the potential and power of young people is not ignored.

Sayed K., a commenter from Afghanistan submitted a question on the department’s DipNote blog: “For some people in Afghanistan, youths are the only hopes for social justice and peace.” He asked the panel, “How [do we] create a paradigm shift for the developing nations to trust in youth’s engagement?”

The panel members agreed that the current generation of young people around the world represents a remarkably global, connected and technologically savvy cohort that has already proven its power and ability to reshape societies and issues. But they acknowledged the tendency of many governments to undervalue the input of young people and the issues they face in decision-making processes.

“These are the populations that will change the world, but young people are still being left out,” said Calvin. She pointed out that one in five girls is still not in school around the world, and young people are not traditionally part of policy-making.

Still, the practice of leaving young people out of the conversation is becoming obsolete. During the Arab Spring, young people across the Middle East—driven by dissatisfaction with their respective governments and connected to each other like never before—catalyzed uprisings that have reshaped the region. Whether the underlying causes of their dissatisfaction will be addressed, of course, remains to be seen.
The Youth Employment Crisis

For many young people, the issues that concern them are the same as those for society at large, but amplified and made more urgent by concerns for their own future. “We sometimes think there are these issues over here—youth and education—and then we forget it’s those underlying development issues that actually make as much difference,” said Calvin.

** Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities; Zeenat Rahman, Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues; and Kathy Calvin, President and CEO, UN Foundation participated in a panel event to encourage youth involvement in foreign affairs at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on April 18, 2013.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sIQs-4HkpXQ

One critical issue facing young people today is unemployment. A recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN body, estimated that 73 million young people around the world are unemployed, and that number is growing.  “The long-term impact of the youth employment crisis could be felt for decades,” the report warned, noting that the situation is particularly bad across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in developed economies of the European Union.
 
“We have never before seen a crisis like the one facing young people today and it’s a crisis that requires everyone to act together,” said Gianni Rosas, coordinator of the ILO Youth Employment Programme and co-author of the report.

The UN has recognized the importance of incorporating young people into its policies and planning, starting with economic growth. “Today, we have the largest generation of young people the world has ever known,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last year.  “We need to pull the United Nations system together like never before to support a new social contract of job-rich economic growth.  Let us start with young people.”

It has become increasingly clear that governments and institutions that don’t listen to the concerns of the burgeoning youth population—economic, environmental, and social—are likely to be left in the dust.

“In both the short and the long term, it is essential that we understand the ideas that are happening on the ground,” Pandith said during the panel discussion. Pandith explained that two-thirds of Muslims worldwide are under the age of 30. “The work that I have done for the last four years in partnership with our embassies all over the world is to listen.”

Pakistan’s Example

Last week, as voters in Pakistan went to the polls for nationwide parliamentary elections, a group of young women in Peshawar set out on a brave mission born of youthful optimism. Calling themselves the “Aware Girls” and guided by a belief in the power of democracy, they fanned out across the city. Despite threats of violence and scorn from some locals in Pakistan’s conservative northwest province, the Aware Girls monitored polling stations and helped ensure that women were able to exercise their right to vote.

“We are happy and very hopeful because democracy is evolving in Pakistan, and people are building allegiance to their country,” Saba Ismail, the 23-year-old founder of the group, told The Washington Post.

In Pakistan, 63 percent of the population is under the age of 25. The Aware Girls represented one example of the promise of a demographic youth boom: young people coming of age in a more democratic Pakistan, working to build a brighter, more inclusive future.

The elections were historic. For the first time, Pakistan was able to transition from one democratically elected administration to another without the intervention of the military. An unprecedented number of young people, who make up about 30 percent of the electorate, participated. In addition, candidates actually began to address the concerns of young people, as disparate as those concerns might be.

But the youth boom in Pakistan also creates challenges that the country is ill-equipped to face. A recent survey by the British Council found that while the young and growing population could pay economic dividends for Pakistan, the current generation of young people is inadequately educated, starved of opportunity and pessimistic about the prospects for democracy. Examples like Ismail notwithstanding, 90 percent of young people say the country is headed in the wrong direction, and less than 30 percent favor democracy as the best political system, according to the survey.

Governments, leaders, institutions and multilateral organizations are struggling to address the demographic realities that the world’s young population represents. If the State Department panel was any indication, they are working to ensure that young people—the opportunities they represent and the challenges they face—are incorporated into policy-making. Because as the events of the past few years have illustrated, young people like Ismail and the Aware Girls are not going to wait to be heard.

 
Exclusive-Brazil's Rousseff sides with farmers in Indian land fight
Thursday, 16 May 2013 , Written by « By Brian Winter and Caroline Stauffer »   

 

Tue May 14, 2013

(Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has ordered her government to stop confiscating farmland to create new Indian reservations, government officials say, a policy reversal with major implications for one of the world's top agricultural producers.

Brazil has in recent decades set aside about 13 percent of its territory for indigenous tribes. Vast additional areas, including prime territory for the production of soy, beef, sugar and other commodities, are under consideration for possible transfer.

That policy has been hailed as one of the world's most progressive but had caused mounting clashes in recent months as thousands of farmers were evicted from land they had been cultivating, in some cases for decades.

Rousseff, a pragmatic leftist facing re-election next year, has often favored pro-development interests over more humanitarian concerns and now believes the Indian affairs agency that determines which lands to set aside has gone too far, according to two senior government officials.

Following a technical change to land management rules last week, Rousseff has told her government to refrain from approving new applications for Indian lands for the foreseeable future, the two officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Applications already under study will also be examined with greater rigor than before, which will have the effect of slowing the land-grant process down dramatically, they said.

"She has decided to do whatever is possible to shield the farmers," one official said. "It's a total shift."

That shift diminishes a major threat to the continued expansion of the farm belt, a driver of Brazil's prosperity in recent years and a critical source of commodities to China, the Middle East and elsewhere.

The chain of events that led to the surprise shift began on April 29, when Rousseff was due to make a seemingly routine speech in the farming state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

As she stepped to the podium in the city of Campo Grande, many in the crowd of some 2,000 farmers began to jeer and whistle at her. The leftist leader looked surprised for a moment, then managed a smile.

"People, I think it's fine for you to scream, really, because that's what democracy is about," Rousseff said, as many continued to roar in disapproval. "There's no problem at all."

Privately, though, Rousseff was disturbed - and caught off-guard. "What was that about?" she asked upon leaving the stage, according to an aide who was present.

She demanded a report on what had angered the crowd by the next morning. Within a week, the government's policy changed.

RISK OF DEATHS

Tensions between farmers and Indians have simmered for years, but boiled over in recent months as both groups, for different reasons, sought more territory for themselves.

About 0.4 percent of the population is officially considered indigenous, although many more have at least some Indian blood. Brazil's liberal 1988 constitution gives Indians the right to "lands they traditionally occupy," and says the state is responsible for setting them aside.

Successive governments have obliged, and the allocations have been far more generous in terms of area than in the United States or most other Latin American countries.

However, until recently, most of the land set aside was in relatively sparsely populated jungle areas, often deep in the Amazon. Some tribes complained they were being shut out of prime acreage where they had just as strong a historical claim.

Meanwhile, Brazilian agriculture has boomed in recent years, thanks largely to rising appetite for its commodities in Asia. The area for soy planting alone has grown about 40 percent in the last decade.

The two competing agendas have led to clashes in places like Marãiwatsédé, a soy-producing region in central Brazil that Reuters profiled last month.

Violence erupted there in December and January after the government evicted some 7,000 people. Officials bulldozed schools and other buildings so the land could be given back to the Xavante Indians in its natural state, in a case that went all the way to Brazil's Supreme Court.

Scared by such events, which have been repeated under varying circumstances throughout Brazil, some farmers began postponing or canceling investments.

Hundreds of Indians, many wearing face paint and shaking maracas, stormed Congress on April 16, hoping to stop it from changing the rules for how reservations are set aside. Farmers responded with their own protest last week.

TAKING BACK LAND, 150 YEARS LATER

Rousseff was aware of the disputes but the strength of last month's protest in Mato Grosso do Sul convinced her they had reached a new level of urgency. The subsequent report from her advisers painted a clear picture of overreach by Brazil's Indian affairs agency, called Funai, the government officials said.

One of the officials said Rousseff was "outraged" to find anthropologists at Funai had been given almost free rein to determine which land to confiscate, without consideration for whether the land was used for productive purposes.

In the grains-producing state of Rio Grande do Sul, Funai is studying the confiscation of some 30 plots of land, including one that European-descended settlers have controlled since 1872, according to Irineu Orth, director of the state chapter of Brazilian soy lobby group Aprosoja.

"I assure you that in 1988, when the state was told it had to set aside Indian lands, there wasn't a single Indian in most of these areas," Orth said.

In Mato Grosso, which is rich in soy, corn and cattle ranches, the government has set aside 14 million hectares of reservations for 52,000 indigenous people - 269 hectares per person, according to Funai data. An additional eight new reserves are currently under study, the agency said.

Seeking to halt the process, Rousseff last week stripped Funai of the ability to make such decisions by itself.

The agriculture and environment ministries as well as the agricultural research agency Embrapa will now have input on which Indian lands to set aside. "We need to listen to other voices," Rousseff's chief of staff, Gleisi Hoffmann, told a contentious session of Congress in announcing the change on May 8.

'A HUGE STEP BACK'

Funai's central office in Brasilia declined repeated requests for comment but its employees' association issued a statement on Friday "repudiating" Rousseff and accusing her of usurping Funai's right to delineate Indian lands.

Uilton Tuxá, chief of the Tuxá tribe in northern Bahia state who participated in last month's protest in Congress, said by telephone that Rousseff's decision on Funai was "a huge step back for the indigenous peoples of Brazil."

He said he would meet with local leaders of her Workers' Party to try to get the change overturned.

Some non-profit groups say Rousseff has consistently favored business interests over "softer" considerations such as the environment. The pace of deforestation, for example, accelerated toward the end of last year after years of declines, according to preliminary official data.

The rate at which Rousseff's government was handing over land to Indians was already slower than her two predecessors, even before she ordered the policy shift, government data show.

The implication "is that only unproductive lands should be left for the Indians," said Marcio Santilli, founder of the Brazilian environmental group Socio Ambiental and a former president of Funai. He said Embrapa and other parties are "not qualified" to be making decisions on the issue.

Others, however, argue that what started as a noble effort to address historic wrongs veered out of control in recent years. "I am standing and applauding" at the policy change, said Eliana Calmon, a high-profile federal judge. She said the previous system left judges with little room to challenge Funai's rulings, even when they resulted in obvious injustices.

"When it arrives here, what can we say? We aren't anthropologists. It left our hands totally tied," she said.

It's unclear whether Rousseff's decision on Funai - which was highly technical, and not widely publicized - will be enough to convince all sides to stand down.

Just two weeks ago, some 70 farmers in Marãiwatsédé tried to forcefully take back their land, said Paulo Roberto de Azevedo Junior, coordinator for Funai's regional office.

"Some of the invaders tried for a return," said Azevedo Junior, without providing details. "They were stopped."

Calmon said she sympathized with the challenge that policymakers face.

"You're dealing with five centuries of history," she said. "Really, you could say that everything in Brazil belongs to the Indians - so where do you stop?"

(Editing by Todd Benson, Kieran Murray and Claudia Parsons)

 

An Indian woman cradles her child while holding a banner in front of police, as Amazon Indians from different tribes hold a meeting with a government envoy to discuss a proposal to end their occupation of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam construction site, in Vitoria do Xingu, near Altamira in Para State, May 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lunae Parracho

 
International Community Must Help Cambodian Democracy, Opposition Leader Says
Friday, 10 May 2013 , Written by « Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer »   
10 May 2013

WASHINGTON DC - Opposition leader Sam Rainsy joined a panel of experts in Washington on Wednesday to discuss further promotion of democracy in Cambodia.

The talk, joined by about 100 participants at the Wilson Center, a think tank in the capital, was aimed at finding ways to create free and fair elections in Cambodia in national polls July 28.

Sam Rainsy told the group that democracy in Cambodia has been “derailed,” and the international community must help put it back on track.

“If the whole world continues to turn a blind eye and does not react, I think the credibility of the whole world, the international community, would come down to zero, [hurting] the possibility to find political solutions for other countries,” he said.

Sam Rainsy said US Congress can play a role, by putting more pressure on the Cambodian government to reform its election process.

“The prospect of a strong reaction from the US will contribute to push Mr. Hun Sen to accept the international demands now and not after the election,” he said.

Sam Rainsy on Tuesday met with Congressman Ed Royce, a Republican from California, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

But George Gorman, a political analyst at Cascade Asia, said Wednesday that the international community can’t do much if it only makes empty threats.

“There hasn’t been any constructive steps taken by the international community to actually enforce these threats that they levy on the Cambodian government,” he said.

Shihoko Goto, Asia Program Associate at Wilson Center and an organizer of the event, said Cambodia today “does not allow meaningful dialogues.” And so the center had invited Sam Rainsy to talk.

Cambodia, she said, “is a desert when it comes to free speech, and we wanted to provide a platform for him to be with us and show his opinions, because those opportunities are not available for him in his home country.”

http://www.voacambodia.com/content/international-community-must-help-cambodian-democracy-opposition-leader-says/1657933.html
 
Corruption Shaves 5% Off Austria's Economy, Greens Say
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 , Written by « Jonathan Tirone »   

Corruption shaved about 5 percent, or 17 billion euros ($22 billion), from Austria’s economy in 2012, according to a study by the opposition Green Party.

Read more...
 
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