A cry for Freedom and Justice

Sugar Subsidies: A Bitter Reality on its Influence in American Politics

clinton-vs-trumpWritten by Teresa De Jesus

Many Americans find themselves conflicted on who to vote for in an internal debate on who will get more done for the country this election. It seems like the decision is a life or death choice between two polar opposites. Meanwhile, others watching around the world are flabbergasted as to how the options have turned so gloomy. Regardless of the outcome, it is important to remember that politics, no matter in what country, has its own agenda. Many times, this agenda is not for the benefit of the country, but rather the individual politician. One has to wonder that with all this talk of improving America, global warming, and the fight for human rights, how much will actually improve and if a new president will really be the platter of hope that they promise. One of the most obvious examples that should enlighten every voter is the subsidy the government provides on sugar and why it hasn’t been changed.

The Sugar Subsidy and its Consequences

In 1934, in an effort to lower sugar production and raise prices, the U.S. imposed import quotas and tariffs to keep sugar prices artificially high. For American taxpayers, this has led to billions of dollars lost in taxpayer money to build up the sugar industry at no additional benefit to the country. As a result, the price of domestically produced sugar in the U.S. is more than twice the average world price of sugar. This has encouraged manufacturers who produce sugar-related products to move their businesses outside of the US, which has cost Americans about 10,000 jobs each year. The Department of Commerce estimates that for every sugar-growing job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, approximately three manufacturing jobs are lost. This is crony capitalism at its worst, with the Palm-Beach based Fanjul brothers leading the sugar industry in injecting money on both sides of the political spectrum to influence not only politics, but also the health of Americans.

It was recently discovered in an article by The New York Times, that the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists in the 1960’s to downplay the correlation between sugar and heart disease. They Fanjuls and the sugar industry have spared no costs in protecting their interests and will stop at nothing to continue to benefit from the American subsidies. This recent revelation also sets the stage for the industry´s political activity.

Protecting Their Interests Through Politicians

With the 2016 presidentialpollutionevergladesl elections just days away, the competition has never been tougher and the stakes have never been higher. Tensions have peaked at an all time high with both candidates claiming to have nothing in common with each other, except, despite such fierce competition, both candidates have found an ally with the Fanjul brothers. Their donations and support come in perfect timing, as environmentalists are blaming the sugar industry for pollution, especially toxic green algae that appeared off of Florida’s Treasure Coast back in July. In addition, the brothers have been accused of bribing Dominican politicians to vote against a treaty that would create a free-trade zone in central America during Geroge W. Bush’s presidency. This was not in their interest, since the family imports sugar from the Dominican Republic, and it was seen as an intent to guard their interests as importers.

The Fanjuls have used political donations on both sides to further their business interests. Back in August, Clinton attended a $50,000 per plate fundraiser held by Alfy Fanjul. In the past, Alfy has also been a big supporter of Bill Clinton and a contributor to the Clinton Foundation. Meanwhile, Pepe Fanjul has hosted a number of fundraisers for Trump, including one in the Hamptons last July. Before Trump was set to be the Republican nominee, Pepe backed Marco Rubio and in the past has supported George W. Bush’s campaign. According to the Center of Responsive Politics, between 1990 and 2016, the sugar industry has spent over $40 million in contributions to politicians. Their strategy is simple: they donate to both sides in fundraising events, direct donations, and currently spend about $10 million a year on lobbying.

What Does This Mean for 2017?

While the everglades slowly wreaks havoc on Florida’s ecosystem, cane cutters are deprived of their human rights, and the American taxpayer continues to lose billions, American brands such as Domino, Florida Crystals, Redpath, Tate & Lyle, and C&H continue to enjoy billions of dollars in subsidies. Moreover, after the media has shed light on the sugar industry influencing academic studies, it is unlikely that sugar and beverage companies will be willing to work together to produce new research.

Regardless of whether you believe Clinton should be tried in court or that Trump will ruin U.S. relations in other countries, both candidates will be indebted to the Fanjuls and the their interests come 2017. This is something that is not likely to soon change, with Americans, the environment, and sugar cane workers left to burden the consequences.

A New Member of Bonsucro

Mr. Eduardo Brunet, executive director of Clarkson Montesinos, has been officially accepted as a member of the Board of Directors of Bonsucro. Mr. Brunet is now responsible for the governance and appointments of the Administrative Council.

Bonsucro is an international, non-profit organization established to promote sustainable and fair sugar cane practices. A certification by Bonsucro supports fair labor and environmental protection in communities that produce sugar.

While this appointment will be a challenge, Mr. Brunet looks forward to the opportunity to participate in the decision making of Bonsucro. His presence as a board member will provide additional credibility to Clarkson -Montesinos and will be fundamental in the battle for fair sugar practices.

Cuban Artist Who Spent 22 Years in Prison for Defying Castro Regime Receives Religious Freedom Award

armando-valladares-canterbury-medal-dinner-martha

Armando Valladares and his wife, Martha

By Leonardo Blair May 13, 2016

NEW YORK — Cuban artist and poet Armando Valladares who spent 22 years in Fidel Castro’s gulags for refusing to put a placard on his desk at work that said: “I am with Fidel,” was awarded the Canterbury Medal Thursday night in New York City. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Valladares painted and wrote poetry during his time in prison using any materials available to him, such as medicines, burnt nylon, and even his own blood.

On Thursday night at The Canterbury Medal Dinner some of Valladares’ original paintings were on display at The Pierre Hotel where he was honored.

The paintings, along with some of Valladares’ writings, were smuggled out of prison and later out of Cuba by his wife, Martha, who published them to critical acclaim. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 78-year-old’s New York Times best-selling memoir, Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag.

In eight of the 22 years he spent in prison, Valadares was left naked in solitary confinement. He was also tortured with relentless beatings and endured 16 hunger strikes, one of which left him wheelchair bound for years. He also lived in constant fear of being shot.

His wife led an international campaign for his release, and Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. He was released in 1982.

In accepting the award Thursday, he said he believed God chose him to make the extraordinary move of defiance.

“I’m not an extraordinary man. In fact, I’m quite ordinary, but God chose me to be something quite extraordinary,” Valladares said through an interpreter.

“When I was 23 years old, I refused to do something that seemed at the time very small. I refused to say the words: ‘I am with Fidel Castro.’ First, I rejected that they wanted to put a sign on my desk. … After years of torture and watching many of my cellmates die, I still refused to say those words,” he said.

“Had I said those three words, torture would have ended and I would have been released from prison. My story has proved that a small act of defiance can mean everything for the friends of liberty. They did not keep me in jail for 22 years because of my refusal to say those three words that apparently meant nothing. In reality those three words meant everything. For me to say those words would have constituted a type of spiritual suicide. Even though my body was in prison and it was being tortured my soul was free and it flourished,” he continued.

Valladares called on the group of influential religious liberty advocates to stand up for their conscience at all times.

“Even when we have nothing, each person and only that person possesses the key to his or her own conscience, his or her own sacred castle. In this respect, each of us though we may not have an earthly castle or even a house, each of us is richer than a king or queen. The Little Sisters of the Poor know this,” he said, pointing to the nuns who are fighting an Obamacare mandate because of their religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives.

“They may be called the Little Sisters of the Poor, but they are rich in that they live according to their conscience which no government bureaucrat can [erase]. They know what my body knows after 22 years of cruel torture, [if] they signed that form that the government demands, they will be violating their own conscience and commit spiritual suicide,” he continued.

“If they did this they would forfeit the true and only wealth they have by abandoning the castle of their conscience. And so I salute the sisters of the poor for their seemingly small act of defiance,” Valladares said to applause.

“I am here to tell you that every little act counts. No man or woman is too small or too simple to be called to bear witness to the truth. I’m here to remind you that each of you possesses great wealth in the sacred domain of your own conscience. And I am here to tell you that each and every one of you is called to stay true to that conscience,” he said.

“I’m also here to tell you, when you make that choice, even if you spend like I did eight years in solitary confinement. Eight years having buckets of excrement and urine thrown at me. I am here to tell you, you will never be alone because God will be with you,” he added to more applause.

Valladares warned the younger members of the audience to pay close attention to what is happening around them with religious freedom and not be afraid to oppose threats to that freedom.

“For many of you, particularly for you young people, it may seem like I come from a faraway land from a long, long time ago. Young friends, you may never be taken away at gunpoint as I was for staying true to your conscience, but there are many other ways to take you away and to imprison your body and your mind.

“There are many ways you can be silenced in schools, universities, your work place. I warn you, just as there is a very short distance between the United States and Cuba, there is a very short distance between a democracy and a dictatorship when the government tells you what to do,” he said.

“Sometimes your freedom is not taken away at that point but instead is done one piece of paper at a time, one seemingly meaningless rule at a time, one small silencing at a time,” he continued. “Never allow the government or anyone else to tell you what you can and cannot believe, what you can and cannot say or what your conscience is telling you to do or not to do.”

In thanking the Becket Fund for the award, Valladares said he accepted it on behalf of the religious community suffering persecution in Cuba, as well as his wife who campaigned diligently for his release.

“Thank you for this award. I accept it in the name of the thousands of Cubans that used their last breath to express their religious belief and shouted out ‘long live Christ the King’ just before they were executed,” he said to cheers.

“I accept it in the name of those Cubans who still suffer religious persecution. In the last two years alone, the government has destroyed over 300 houses of worship. In the last two years alone, thousands of Baptists, Methodists and Anglicans have been tortured, persecuted, their Bibles having been taken away, their crosses having taken away,” he said.

Turning to his wife, he said, “Finally, I accept this award in the name of my wife, it is really her who deserves it, not me.”

He then took a moment to recognize her patience.

“All of you have heard the story of Penelope who waited 20 years for Ulysses. Martha is a real-life Penelope. She waited longer than Penelope, two more years and she didn’t stay at home knitting. She campaigned for me, all over the world for my release and she was able to obtain my release,” he said.

“She always hoped while she was waiting because she knew and she trusted God that we will be reunited again against all hope,” he said to cheers.

 

Come schiavi in libertà

 

presentazione-come-schiavimercoledì 13 aprile, ore 17:00

 

Franco Angeli Bookshop

vi invita alla presentazione del libro

 

COME SCHIAVI IN LIBERTA’

di

Raùl Zecca Castel

 

Durante l’incontro verrà mostrato il documentario che
racconta le condizioni di vita e di lavoro dei braccianti haitiani

impiegati nelle piantagioni di canna da zucchero della Repubblica Dominicana.

Introduce Alice Bellagamba, docente di

Antropologia Politica e di Culture e Società dell’Africa

presso l’Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca.

 

 

mercoledì 13 aprile 2016 ore 17.00

Bookshop Franco Angeli – Bicocca

Viale Dell’Innovazione 11

(di fronte al Teatro degli Arcimboldi)

Milano

 

In allegato l’invito

Fray Antonio Montesinos’ Christmas Sermon

Fray Antonio Montesinos – The Christmas Sermon (21st December 1511)

Today, on the anniversary of Fray Antonio Montesinos sermon, we pay homage to a brave man, a human rights champion, a priest that put his believes before the mundane interest of commerce as well as his own safety, a man that influenced the one who later would become the beacon of freedom and justice for enslaved workers … we also pay homage to all the brave, isolated, persecuted, tortured, menaced, men and women of this world, who rebel against the injustice and oppression of any kind. Those who stand up, to speak the truth and contribute to make this world a better place to live!

Criticisms of Spanish actions in the New World emerged early in the colonial experience. Through much of the sixteenth century, Dominican priests charged that settlers, particularly encomenderos, abused natives with unremorseful regularity. Antonio Montesinos’ sermon, as recalled by the Defender of the Indies–Bartolomé de Las Casas–used the pulpit to question the eternal repercussions of settler actions. Las Casas cites this sermon as the pivotal moment in his life. After taking Montesinos warnings to heart, Las Casas relinquished his encomienda and entered the Dominican order. His characterization of natives, undoubtedly served as inspiration for Las Casas own work.

Las Casas documented Montesinos as saying …

Fray Antonio Montesinos Sermon

We have changed “Indians” for “Haitians”, “gold” for “sugar”, and you could change“Encomenderos” for “sugar barons the likes of the few families who control the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry” and unfortunately, Fray Antonio’s Sermon would be history repeating itself.

Source: Antonio de Montesions, quoted in Latin American Civilization: History and Society, 1492 to the Present, edited by Benjamin Keen, 63 (Bolder: Westview Press, 1986).

Human Rights Day 2013

It is with pride that we launch in this meaningful day our website and campaign to stop human rights abuses in the Dominican Republic sugarcane fields.

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Human Rights Day continues the celebration of the 20th anniversary with 20 YEARS: WORKING FOR YOUR RIGHTS as its theme but with the emphasis on the future and identifying the challenges that lie ahead.

Human Rights Day is held on 10 December every year, the date the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaiming its principles as the “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

Human Rights Day is celebrated globally, at the headquarters of the High Commissioner’s office in Geneva, in New York and in more than 50 other countries.

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