Curtain Raiser

I Am Because You Are, Colltalers

As Haiti is set to bury assassinated President Jovenel Moïse while First Lady Martine, wounded in the attack, greets Haitians, the first 500K Covid shots arrived in the 11 million-plus nation. In Cuba, the westward island next door, dueling pro and anti-government rallies all call for a lift of U.S. sanctions.
The dream of a post-apartheid South Africa’s at risk for widespread unrest, looting, and killing of civilians, triggered by ex-President Zuma’s refusal to testify at a corruption probe. And in the front of new threats, humanity has just acquired a newer one: the Amazon Rainforest now emits more CO2 than it absorbs.
We begin with the virus that came to dine on us, Covid, and the one crucial reason for Haiti and other developing nations to have had almost no access to vaccines: Big Pharma’s monopoly over drug patents, many acquired after the drugs had been developed with taxpayer money. Activists did manage to sway President Biden to temporarily suspend patents so poor nations could develop their own therapies. But he couldn’t convince Angela Merkel.
The outgoing German Chancellor’s refusal “delivers a punishing blow to efforts to end the pandemic,” said Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach, as just one percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one jab. “Tens of millions of lives and livelihoods worldwide are left in peril.”
Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho are three exceptional football players who just helped England reach its first major final in years. They were also the target of a disgustingly racist campaign in social media after Italy beat them at the final of the Euro 2020. Yes, the year is set that way but the abuse comes from even farther in the past. Along with censorship of LGBQ+ themes, this tournament had more than its share of bad calls.
“Impulsive, mentally unstable, and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex.” That was the Russian intel’s assessment of Donald Trump as he became the Republican nominee for the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The No 32-04\vd report recommended that President Putin use “all possible force” to ensure a Trump win. Weeks later, hackers raided Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Democratic National Committee’s servers.
The world may be particularly busy now, what with Covid, armed conflicts, hunger, unemployment, bondage. But the junta that seized power in Burma/Myanmar on Feb. 1 is busy tending to its own favorite nightmares: to oppress the Burmese. Now human rights activists are calling for a global investigation into its possible war crimes as the tortured bodies of over a dozen people were found around Sagaing. The horror continues.
Back in the U.S., another George W. Bush-nominated federal judge, Houston’s Andrew S. Hanen, has ruled against the wishes of a considerable majority. He declared “unlawful” DACA recipients, almost a million American kids born or brought here as babies by their foreign-born parents, and prohibited new applications. With that, this lover of “statutorily mandated process” threw the so-called Dreamers once again in limbo.
As the investigation into Moïse‘s murder proceeds, Haitians ponder whether the masterminds of the attempted coup will ever be trialed. Short of that, questions about the crime, if it was a well-heeled international conspiracy or just the lunacy of irresponsible self-appointed saviors whose actions led to the murder may be irrelevant. It’s what it exposed, the legacy of colonialism and predatory capitalism tearing up the country that’s what’s at stake now.
In Cuba, that window of exposure may close soon as the media tries to restrict the narrative to public dissatisfaction with the regime, barely citing the 60-year-plus sanctions inflicted by the U.S. And yet, protest is fueled by a lack of consumer goods, food shortages, and trade limits, which with the pandemic, became critical; Cuba’s developed a number of Covid vaccines but can no longer offer them to other countries for lack of supplies.
These are direct consequences of the embargo every U.S. president has enforced since the Bay of Pigs invasion. That a nation that’s threatened the world’s most powerful army and lived to tell the story is now on the verge of collapsing has less to do with public sentiment than with wear and tear. Fidel Castro no longer speaks to these children of the Internet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll simply align with his tormentors.
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” When an ex-con who’d have been 103 Sunday said that, many thought that he was speaking in self-defense. But as South Africa’s greatest president, he showed how leaders can change history. In these trying times, many a compatriot of his must have thought of the great late Nelson Mandela and whether he still speaks to them.
Jacob Zuma is also one of his country’s liberators but his refusal to testify at an official corruption probe of his administration and his failure to curb his angry supporters only invited negative comparisons with Mandela. He’ll be spending the next 15 months in jail for contempt of court.
The Amazon Rainforest may as well have existed forever, having nurtured countless species, extinct or still evolving, including our own, exhaling the oxygen that fuels life on Earth. But it’s in fact “only” 55 million years old and it’s now likely terminal, suffering the biggest deforestation of its history. Even worst, with record man-made fires, it’s also now emitting more CO2 than it can keep in the ground. President Bolsonaro is universally appointed as the biggest threat to the forest. But Brazilians are also aware of their shared responsibility tending to or neglecting their country’s marvelous nature.
“I can’t breathe.” Remember that? Saturday marked the seventh anniversary of Eric Garner’s death at the hands of an N.Y. police officer who ignored his pleas and choked him to death while other cops watched. None has faced any rebuke for their actions which were caught on tape. The Garner family is again demanding justice for the 43-year old whom neighbors called a “peacemaker.” By the way, he was Black. Doesn’t it all sound a little familiar?
Danish Siddiqui, an Indian Pulitzer Prize photo-journalist winner, was killed covering Afghan forces fighting the Taliban near the Pakistani border. The  Reuters photographer is now among 53 journalists killed in Afghanistan since 2001, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. R.I.P., Danish.
“It would be wrong and unrealistic for leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force.” Madiba‘s country is now a far cry from the dream he and other freedom fighters once envisioned and the South-African society has just shown how fractured it remains. But not devoid of hope. Like in Haiti, Cuba, and elsewhere all that’s needed is good people ready to fight. Ubuntu. WC


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