December 27, 2014 - No. 47

Out with the Old, In with the New

All Out for People's Empowerment!

 Demonstration in Montreal, November 9, 2014, as the mobilization against the neo-liberal
agenda being imposed by the Couillard government gathers momentum.

A New Direction for the Economy
Social Inequality and the Necessity to Restrict Monopoly Right

North American Energy Ministers Meet in Washington
Further Integration of "Continental Energy Market"
- Louis Lang -

Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program
Harper Government in Contempt of a Modern Definition of Citizenship
- Peggy Morton -

Celebrations to Salute the Freedom of the Cuban Five
and the Anniversary of the Triumph of the
Cuban Revolution - Calendar of Events

Message to Parties and Political and Social Movements
and Forces in the World

- Central Committee, Communist Party of Cuba -

The Unwavering Confidence in Victory which Fidel Instilled in Us
Will Continue to Guide Our People

- Speech by Raúl Castro Ruz to Current Session of
National Assembly of People's Power -

Anti-Communist Manipulation of Human Rights in the DPRK
Dirty Tricks to Justify U.S. Imperialist Aggression
and Regime Change

U.S. Imperialism Stands Condemned
Why the Human Rights Issue Is So Serious
Realistic and Reasonable Proposal for Korea's Reunification 

Reasons Why 2014 Was a Game Changer in Palestine
- Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle -

Year-end Interview with President Bashar al-Assad

Out with the Old, In with the New

All Out for People's Empowerment!

As every New Year is ushered in, it is common to hear the expression "Out with the Old, In with the New." Now, as we end 2014 and usher in the New Year 2015, a lesson can be drawn from the developments within the country and internationally. The time is now to step up the work to organize in defence of the rights of all, for people's empowerment and an anti-war government! Defeat Harper in 2015!

The people are resisting the anti-social austerity agenda of the ruling class and its neo-liberal restructuring of the state machine. The ruling elite are reorganizing the state to facilitate monopoly capital's exploitation of workers and to crush the people's movement for political empowerment and an anti-war government. The people's resistance exposes the anti-social nature of the attacks on the rights of all and the necessity for a pro-social agenda and new direction for the economy. TML's photo review of the year's events summarizes the resistance of the people in defence of their rights on all fronts and shows its tremendous potential to change the world.

Resistance is mounting to the Harper dictatorship's fashioning of the state to facilitate the needs of monopoly capital at home and abroad. The public authority has become a private monopoly of the privileged few to enrich themselves with public money and use state organs to suppress the working class and the rights of all. Calls are mounting for Public Right Yes! Monopoly Right No! Stop Paying the Rich! Increase Investments in Social Programs! All Out for People's Empowerment and an Anti-War Government! Organize and Fight for a New Pro-social Direction for the Economy!

Harper has sent the Canadian military to fight U.S.-led wars of aggression in West Asia and North Africa and to surround and threaten Russia with nuclear war. U.S. imperialism continues to engage in dirty wars to promote regime change in Syria, the DPRK and elsewhere, and to speak of human rights and democracy in a manner that supports its aggression and war. The use of force to settle conflicts amongst nations and overt pro-war propaganda pervade the monopoly-controlled media and Parliament with jingoistic fervour. History demands that the people organize themselves for an anti-war government that removes Canada from the integrated Northern Command, NATO, NORAD and any other participation with the aggressive U.S. military forces and perfidious spy agencies of torture and interference in the sovereign affairs of the world's peoples.

Oppose the Integration of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico into a New State Structure that the U.S. imperialists Are Using to Dominate the World

Canada's armed forces are merging with those of the U.S. under its command to enforce U.S. dictate and control throughout the world. 2015 presents the danger of larger and more destructive wars. Through free trade and other international arrangements, the big monopolies have seized control of the local economies of the peoples of North America, crushing the right of the people to decide and control the direction of their economy and how work, machines and resources can best be mobilized to serve their economy and meet their needs. Without the consent of the people, gigantic monopolies dictate where and when investments are made or not. The life and death of entire sectors such as steel, auto, energy and even agriculture rest in the hands of finance capital far removed from the local people and their control, demands and needs. Transportation, energy and security corridors covering vast territories are planned or are being built at the expense of the well-being of the peoples of the three countries and without their approval.

All this economic integration is very self-serving on the part of the owners of the monopolies who promise prosperity eventually. But reality reveals only greater concentration of social wealth, power and control in the hands of a privileged few and recurring economic crises that wreck the dreams and hopes of the people and leave more often than not their social and natural environment in ruins.

The neo-liberal direction of the economy with its striving to make the most powerful monopolies and financial groups competitive is accompanied by an unprecedented concentration of political power directly in the hands of these same monopolies and financial interests. Accompanied with the continental integration under U.S. control this has accelerated the destruction of Canada's parliamentary equilibrium based on a party in power and a party in opposition. A mafia-like cartel party system which stages electoral coups has usurped power and imposed neo-liberal arrangements that can only be challenged through a mass movement for democratic renewal.

The ruling circles are desperate to push the illusion of a saviour from within the cartel party system to deny the reality the people face, and block them from attaining their empowerment and a new equilibrium through democratic renewal.

The old equilibrium cannot be re-established with either one or a coalition of the established parties of the ruling elite which have formed a cartel party system to keep the people disempowered. The desperation of the ruling class to make it look like Canada's democracy is making the choice of government in the coming year will support a replacement to the Harper government if a champion emerges capable of defeating his corrupt electoral machine, or make it appear that Harper is "popular" and unassailable, all to divert from the need for the democratic renewal of the political process. As it stands, nearly half of the electorate is not participating in the electoral frauds and the other half is split into three camps with the people reduced to a spectator role.

The alternative lies in the work for democratic renewal. On the basis of pushing the independent politics of the working class, the people can intervene in the upcoming elections in a manner that achieves a more favourable outcome. This begins with work to ensure a minority government and to demand a new pro-social direction for the economy and for Canada to get out of NATO and NORAD and to bring Canada's armed forces home.

The degenerate politics of today controlled by a small elite demand the renewal of the political process and the adoption of political arrangements that eliminate privilege and recognize the rights of all by virtue of being human, that re-establish nation-to-nation relations with the indigenous peoples, and recognize the right of Quebec to self-determination, and citizenship rights for all residents on an equal basis.

Committees for People's Empowerment

Now is the time to develop the resistance movement and overcome the organizational and theoretical weakness of the people's movement by addressing the necessity to strengthen its independent politics and voice. The prevailing ideas and theory of the ruling monopoly capitalist class creep into the people's movement to lead it astray if not fiercely opposed on a consistent and organized basis. This is why in 2015, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) is going all out to strengthen the work of the Committees for People's Empowerment by strengthening their links with the people. At this time, this work is the greatest act capable of blocking the attempt of the ruling class to reduce the people to a disarticulated mass incapable of mounting an effective resistance. These Committees also meet the people's need to analyze the concrete conditions, the reality as it presents itself.

CPC(M-L) is convinced 2015 is the year to toughen the resistance, its direction, growth and ability to flow from one action and level to another through strengthening the work of the Committees for People's Empowerment.

Renewal Update

The pervasive suffocating presence of the monopoly-controlled media and their experts, theories and opinions must be fiercely opposed. To contribute to this work, CPC(M-L) will continue to publish TML Weekly Information Project; and the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, the name under which CPC(M-L) is registered for electoral purposes, will publish Renewal Update. Renewal Update will publicize the views, thinking, analyses, outlook and actions of the people to block the backward influence of the ruling elite. The success of this project is crucial to making headway in the people's striving for empowerment.

CPC(M-L) calls on Party activists, friends and all Canadians who recognize the need for renewal to support Renewal Update by reading, distributing and writing for it, and mobilizing people to subscribe and provide financial support for this important work.

CPC(M-L) also calls on its members and activists to oppose strongly any relaxation or retreat of the working class and its allies from organizing their own mass media. The dissemination of the independent politics of the working class by all sections of the people is what will promote their own concrete analysis of the political, economic and social conditions and what is needed to move the country forward to the new.

By strengthening its own independent organizational social forms and voice, the resistance cannot fall prey to the manipulation and neo-liberal thinking and views of the ruling elite. The new exists in the form of independent organizational forms and media that present a human-centred viewpoint and actions with analysis that consistently summarize the struggles of the people, analyze the concrete conditions and engage people in a way forward. The forms and media created are built right in the midst of the political work and are connected with the fight for the new as flesh is to bone.

On the occasion of the New Year, CPC(M-L) salutes all those who are making great efforts to move forward the working class movement and people's striving for empowerment, the activists who are engaged in work which has an organized mass revolutionary character with its own voice. In this regard, the publication of the online newspaper Renewal Update and its appearance as a printed tabloid from time to time will play a crucial role in developing and strengthening the resistance and its independent organizational form and voice. By writing and reporting for Renewal Update the Committees for People's Empowerment are sure to assist the working class movement and the people's struggle for empowerment, which must rely on their own thinking, analysis, effort and work. In 2015, CPC(M-L) will continue to develop this crucial role in opening a way forward to the new.

In 2015, let us build the organizations and voice of the working class movement and people's striving for empowerment and an anti-war government! All out to make the Committees for People's Empowerment and Renewal Update a success! Defeat Harper in 2015!

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A New Direction for the Economy

Social Inequality and the Necessity to
Restrict Monopoly Right

As 2014 comes to a close, one of the greatest concerns facing Canadians is the growing social inequality which is a result of the neo-liberal anti-social offensive. To divert from the problem of social inequality and the need to change the direction of the economy, the phenomenon is sometimes referred to as a problem of "rising income inequality." There is a discourse which suggests it is only the policies of the Harper government which are bad because they are impoverishing what is called the middle class. In fact, social inequality is an issue for society to solve for the collectivity of all its members not just a privileged few.

To separate the issue of social inequality from social class privilege and monopoly right denies its meaning and reality, and emasculates the response of the working class. Professor Miles Corak from the University of Ottawa quotes the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as saying, "[Rising income inequality] can stifle upward social mobility, making it harder for talented and hard-working people to get the rewards they deserve. Intergenerational earnings mobility is low in countries with high inequality such as Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and much higher in the Nordic countries, where income is distributed more evenly."

Corak writes, "This suggestion that higher inequality skews opportunity and lowers intergenerational mobility is the starting point of this paper (Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility). In particular, my focus is on the degree to which increasing inequality in the high-income countries, particularly in the United States, is likely to limit economic mobility for the next generation of young adults. The paper offers a descriptive, yet structured, discussion of the underlying drivers of opportunity that generate the relationship between inequality and intergenerational mobility."

The political, economic and intellectual elite are fearful that increasing class differences, and the rigid structures and privilege that prevent class mobility will ignite the working class to organize political action. They are doing everything to confine the discussion and actions over inequality to one of ensuring certain measures are taken to increase opportunities for talented individuals from the working class to rise to become well-paid members of the middle strata or successful entrepreneurs and thereby taste the elixir of class privilege and turn their backs politically on their former social class.

Part of the campaign of the ruling elite is to focus the issue of inequality on income. This diverts the working class from understanding that the kernel of the problem is control over the socialized economy and the necessity to restrict monopoly right. Who controls the economy, and its concentrated expression in politics, and who decides those matters that affect the people directly are the principal issues and problems confronting the working class.

Class privilege in today's world is directly connected with monopoly right and the suppression of public right. Monopoly right controls and decides everything. This includes the distribution of the social product, both as income and in the form of social programs and public services, and where and when to invest the accumulated social wealth the working people produce.

By organizing itself to restrict monopoly right, the working class can increase both its collective claim on the social product it produces, and its control over the socialized economy. This entails depriving the monopolies and their ownership groups and individuals and political representatives of the power to deprive the people of their political and economic rights. This struggle centres on the fight for democratic renewal, people's empowerment and the rights of all.

The people must gain and wield the political power necessary to restrict monopoly right and uphold public right. Engaging in practical politics and mobilizing the people to fight for democratic renewal, the working class can make headway in guaranteeing that the rights and needs of the people are met and their claim on the collective social product and control over the economy are assured at all times and under all circumstances.

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North American Energy Ministers Meet in Washington

Further Integration of "Continental Energy Market"

The energy ministers of the U.S., Mexico and Canada met in Washington, DC on December 15, to discuss the further integration of the "continental energy market."

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Mexican Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell and Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford issued a joint statement. In it, they confirmed their commitment to implement the agreement to address the issue of energy as a "trilateral priority" arrived at in February 2014 at the North American leaders' summit in Toluca, Mexico.

Natural Resources Minister Rickford said that the goal of the discussion was "to lay out options for our leaders as they look to how a fully integrated North American market for economic, environmental and security reasons should and could proceed."

The Joint Statement by the Energy Ministers called for trilateral cooperation in three strategic areas: 1) North American energy public data, statistics and mapping; 2) responsible and sustainable best practices for the development of unconventional oil and natural gas; and 3) modern and resilient energy infrastructure for North America in all aspects -- physical as well as institutional infrastructure, such as policies, regulations, workforce, innovation, practices to promote energy-efficient goods and services and sustainable technologies.

The Joint Statement also praised the recent legislation passed by the Mexican government loosening state control of the energy sector. Exploration and development of oil and gas is being opened to private industry. Mexico has already opened bidding for exploration in 14 locations on the Gulf of Mexico. A Canadian company, Toronto-based Pacific Rubiales recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mexico's PEMEX to look at possibilities of offshore exploration. The Energy Ministers' joint statement said that this will "revolutionize" Mexico's energy sector, and called it a "historic opportunity for trilateral cooperation" to reinforce North America's energy potential goals and enhance "business-to-business engagement in the energy sector."

The meeting of the Energy Ministers concluded with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on "Cooperation on Energy Information," and an announcement that "Action Plans," will be developed in the coming weeks to implement this cooperation. A progress report to the leaders will be issued by December 2015.

These latest meetings of the Energy Ministers follow the meeting of the leaders of the U.S., Mexico and Canada. They are part of the plans of multinational corporations for full continental integration so as to build the United States of North American Monopolies as a bulwark of the U.S. imperialist striving for world domination and facilitate the exploitation of the land, resources and labour of the three countries in a manner which smashes any resistance or opposition. The Security Prosperity Partnership of Bush, Fox and Martin which gave rise to some continental bodies like the North American Energy Working Group is being abandoned in favour of a much more comprehensive plan for deepening North American integration.

A task force report issued by the Council on Foreign Relations in October 2014 outlines the agenda for such a plan. Entitled "North America: Time for a New Focus," the report asserts that "elevating and prioritizing the U.S.-Canada-Mexico relationship offers the best opportunity for strengthening the United States and its place in the world."

The Task Force was co-chaired by David H. Petraeus -- retired U.S. Army general, ex-Director of the CIA and now chairman of the KKR Global Institute, and Robert B. Zoellick -- former president of the World Bank Group and chairman of Goldman Sachs' international advisors.

The report points out that the Security Prosperity Partnership initiative "fell far short of what is urgently needed -- a true North American transformation." The transformation required is described in great detail: "The task force believes that today's challenge is to envisage a North American vision, frame a concept of North American policy aims and cooperation, and make this policy agenda a priority. A stronger North America will enhance U.S. competitiveness, security and well-being and bolster U.S. influence globally. The U.S. should invest in its home region to forge a stronger continental base for the twenty-first century."

The Task Force regarded 'energy' as one of the four key areas for full North American integration. "The Task Force proposes a comprehensive set of recommendations for deepening North American integration, concentrating on four pivotal areas -- energy, economic competitiveness, security and community."

The energy section of the Task Force's report presents almost word-for-word the agenda and tasks adopted at the Energy Ministers' Summit. For example, in assessing the present situation of rising "unconventional oil and gas production in the U.S." and "landmark reforms in Mexico's energy sector," as well as "increasing exploration and development in Canada's oil sands," the report concludes that there is a potential for North American self-sufficiency and even a surplus. Faced with growing levels of production, the report states that "energy security would be strengthened by continental integration."

Seeking to maximize profits and benefits for the oil monopolies, the report recommends "the North American countries should clarify the uncertainties that are limiting downstream investment, which is usually capital intensive and long lived. The U.S., Canada and Mexico should establish credible, stable, clearly defined regulatory and policy frameworks for integration and cooperation on energy issues across national borders."

The report raises the lack of adequate infrastructure to keep up with increasing oil and gas development. The energy monopolies need changes to the government approval process and increased investment to build more pipelines and upgrade old ones in order to move oil and gas from wells to refineries to consumers in the cheapest and most efficient way possible, according to the report. This requires various regulatory agencies and "harmonized laws in all three countries." The report concludes that "without a trilateral framework, the region's energy sectors do not share best practices and lessons; this leads to inefficiencies, errors and delays."

The fact that the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations and the political and business elites that it represents are setting the agenda for the governments of the U.S., Mexico and Canada should surprise no one. In Canada, the Harper Conservatives are enthusiastic supporters of North American integration, especially in terms of doing the bidding of the oil monopolies. Harper has refused to introduce any regulations to limit their activities in any way. On the contrary, over $70 billion in public funds have been made available for the National Framework of Gateways and Trade Corridors, including the New Building Canada Plan, to build the infrastructure needed to create a fully integrated North American economy in the service of monopoly interests.

Harper has been pursuing this plan since at least 2007 when he stated, "The emergence of global chains as a pre-eminent business model is a key factor in global economic change. Prosperity and Canadian living standards cannot be maintained unless Canada becomes a logistical hub for the international trade of goods between North America, Asia and Europe."

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Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program

Harper Government in Contempt of a Modern
Definition of Citizenship

The Harper government announced a new immigrant investor program on December 16 which it states is aimed at attracting "high-net-worth" immigrant investors. The previous scandal-ridden program was only scrapped in February 2014, although no new applications had been accepted since 2012.

The Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program is the latest of the "business investor" programs first introduced by the Mulroney government in the 1980s. They are, in essence, a way for wealthy individuals and criminals to purchase permanent residency in Canada with citizenship following.

Under the new program, at least fifty "high-net-worth" immigrant investors and their families will receive permanent residency, beginning in late January 2015. The "new" program raises the bar on the net worth of individuals accepted as well as the amount they must invest. It also contains requirements not contained in the previous programs. These include post-secondary education and proficiency in English and/or French.

Eligible candidates must demonstrate a "legally obtained net worth of at least CAD $10 million derived from lawful, profit-making business activities" and "make a $2 million non-guaranteed investment for 15 years into the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital fund." The money is to be invested in "innovative Canadian-based start-ups with high growth potential."

A maximum of 500 applicants will be accepted for review. Applications will then be randomly selected for processing until 50 applicants are finalized.

Quebec has also established a Quebec Investor Program with a cap of 1,750 files accepted or 1,200 from any one country for the first draw. Potential candidates must have a net worth of $1.6 million and sign an agreement to invest $800,000 with an approved financial intermediary, demonstrate their intention to reside in Quebec and fulfill business experience criteria.

In the 1980s, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney amended the Immigration Act to include a business class as a new immigration category and "business class" programs began in 1986. It was claimed it would be a benefit to Canada because it would attract people who would bring significant capital to start a business or make investments in Canada. It became the main route for wealthy individuals from Hong Kong in particular to immigrate to Canada in the years leading up to the end of British rule in Hong Kong in 1997.

The original investment required was a $400,000 interest-free loan to the province where they resided, returned after five years. With the full knowledge of the Canadian government, Canadian banks established a scheme whereby a potential immigrant would only have to put up $120,000, with the banks providing the rest, a scheme which turned out to be very profitable not only for the banks, but also for the lawyers and immigration consultants involved. In 2010 the amount required for investment was increased to $800,000. The schemes, known for corruption and allegations of fraud, were frozen in 2012.

The Harper government froze applications and then cancelled the schemes in February 2014 on the basis that there was not in fact a "net benefit" to Canada. Former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stated in the 2014 federal budget, "There is also little evidence that immigrant investors as a class are maintaining ties to Canada or making a positive economic contribution to the country."

Both current federal immigration minister, Chris Alexander, and his predecessor, Jason Kenney called the programs ineffective in luring foreign investment.

"Overall, immigrant investors report employment and investment income below Canadian averages and pay significantly lower taxes over a lifetime than other categories of economic immigrants," the budget document said.

In fact over a 20-year period, live-in caregivers who became permanent residents paid more taxes on average than did immigrant investors. This is attributed to many investors not remaining in Canada, or continuing to conduct their business elsewhere.

The Harper government has not provided any serious argument as to why the new programs are being put in place. (Two other business programs remain in the form of the Start Up Visa and the Self-Employed streams which allow certain professionals and innovators to come to Canada. Quebec also maintains a similar program.)

Increasing the amount of wealth individuals must have as a criteria for obtaining permanent residency does not make them a "benefit to Canada." These programs are in contempt of a modern definition of citizenship which cannot be based on wealth or class privilege and their existence underlines the need for a new citizenship act which lays down the rights and duties of all citizens as the fundamental law of the land. This is all the more needed when such programs exist side by side with worker trafficking and the creation of a strata of vulnerable workers deprived of rights and status. Other changes to the immigration system place decisions about who can immigrate to Canada directly in the hands of the monopolies, sidelining the public authority and considerations of the public interest and nation-building in favour of narrow private monopoly interests.

In the absence of a citizenship act which applies to all, and lays down the rights and responsibilities of citizenship as the fundamental law of the land, arbitrary considerations are used to determine what makes a "desirable Canadian." A modern definition of citizenship would eliminate all arbitrariness and enshrine rights and duties applicable to all on the basis of their membership in the body politic, irrespective of whether they acquire citizenship by birth or through naturalization. A democratic body politic must enshrine a modern definition of citizenship according to which membership in the body politic is based solely on objective rights and duties, irrespective of any consideration based on national origin, race, language, religion, political affiliation, gender, wealth or ability. Under no circumstances must freedom of conscience be impinged. It cannot tolerate a system based on class privilege, worker trafficking and modern day slavery, or the dictate of the monopolies over who can immigrate to Canada and apply for citizenship.

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Celebrations to Salute the Freedom of the
Cuban Five and the Anniversary of the
Triumph of the Cuban Revolution

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Message to Parties and Political and Social
Movements and Forces in the World

With great joy, compared only to that of the historic triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1st, 1959, our people celebrate the return to the homeland of the five anti-terrorist heroes, unjustly incarcerated in U.S. jails for more than 16 years and the decision of the Cuban and U.S. governments to re-establish diplomatic relations and to work for their normalization. The only thing left is the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed upon Cuba.

The United States finally acknowledged, in the words of its own President Barack Obama, that the policy of hostility and blockade for more than half a century had failed and that, instead of isolating Cuba, it contributed to the international isolation of that country.

This historic victory was possible, in the first place, thanks to the long struggle of our revolutionary people under the leadership of our top leaders Fidel and Raúl, and also to the solidarian encouragement that we have received from our friends all over the world throughout these five decades.

Therefore, we would like to convey to all parties and political, social and mass forces and organizations, as well as to personalities and to all friends of Cuba who have accompanied us, our most sincere gratitude for their confidence in the Cuban Revolution. We are convinced that we can continue counting on your support for the new challenges ahead of us under the new circumstances of today. We can assure you that Cuba will continue to defend the ideals of independence, national sovereignty and socialism.

Department of International Relations
Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba

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The Unwavering Confidence in Victory which Fidel Instilled in Us Will Continue to Guide Our People

Speech by President Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, at the close of the Fourth Ordinary Session of the Eighth Legislature of the National Assembly of People's Power, in the Havana Convention Center, December 20, 2014, "Year 56 of the Revolution."


Compañeras and compañeros:

We have experienced intense and moving moments in recent days. This December we successfully hosted the Fifth Caricom-Cuba Summit and the XIII Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America last Sunday [December 14], an occasion on which we paid tribute to its creators: the dear Bolivarian President Hugo Chávez Frías and Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, compañero Fidel Castro Ruz (Applause).

Left: Presidents of the founding members of ALBA, Cuba and Venzuela, at XIII Summit;
Right: Delegates to the 5th Caricom-Cuba Summit.

We are joined in this session by Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, a cause for genuine joy and happiness for all our people -- I will expand on this important issue in the final part of my speech.

Also present are Fernando and René, and the relatives of the Five heroes, together with the young Elián González, his father Juan Miguel and Colonel Orlando Cardoso Villavicencio, Hero of the Republic of Cuba, who suffered severe imprisonment for over 10 years in Somalia.

As has been customary in sessions of our Parliament, it is my responsibility to review the performance of the economy during the year which is ending and the Plan and Budget for 2015, issues which have been thoroughly debated by deputies in the 10 commissions and also in the plenary session yesterday.

The Ninth Plenary of the Central Committee of the Party, held last Thursday [December 18], was also devoted to analysis of these issues. Therefore, I will make only brief reference to these matters. It was explained that the Gross Domestic Product, known as GDP, grew by 1.3%, lower than initially planned, influenced by poor performance in the first half of the year, during which major financial constraints were faced due to the lack of foreign income, adverse weather conditions and internal weaknesses in economic management.

In fact during the second half of the year, a modest reverse in that trend and a superior outcome were achieved. The Plan for next year consolidates and reinforces the direction of stronger growth in the Cuban economy, based on the enhancement of internal reserves of efficiency, the revival of productive sectors, particularly manufacturing, more efficient use of energy sources and greater investment in infrastructure and material production, while social services such as health and education for our population were preserved.

For 2015, planned GDP growth is just over 4%, an achievable goal considering that we have, well in advance, a better financial situation in comparison with the beginning of 2014. This does not mean that it will be easy, far from it. We will continue to face the effects of the global economic crisis and the U.S. blockade which is still in place, generating undeniable obstacles to the development of our economy.

At the same time, we will continue to strictly honor the commitments made in the restructuring of debts with our main creditors and thus contribute to the gradual recovery of the Cuban economy's international credibility. Yesterday afternoon, the National Assembly adopted the State Budget Law for 2015, which projects a deficit of 6.2% of GDP, and is considered acceptable under the current circumstances. It incorporates new taxes and reduces the tax burden on enterprises in line with the gradual implementation of the Tax Law.

At the same time, various measures have been adopted to strengthen fiscal control in response to indiscipline and tax evasion by enterprises and individuals. In this area, not only should those who fail to comply be punished, as impunity would be tantamount to encouraging the violation of existing legal norms, but we also believe that it is necessary to foment a culture of tax compliance within institutions, enterprises, cooperatives and among the self-employed, so that it is understood that taxes are the main method of redistributing national income in the interest of all citizens.

Furthermore, the process of implementing the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, approved by the 6th Party Congress has continued to advance. As reported, we are at a qualitatively higher stage in this area, in which extremely complex tasks are being addressed, whose solution will impact all facets of national life. I am referring, in the first place, to the process of monetary unification, which, from the conceptual point of view, has progressed strongly in the second half of this year and we have managed to outline a comprehensive program of measures in the interest of avoiding damages to the economy and the population.

The decision to extend sales in [Cuban pesos] CUP across hard currency stores has been well received by the population and will continue to expand gradually. The time is right to reaffirm two concepts which we should not ignore. The first is that monetary unification is no universal or immediate solution to all the problems facing our economy.

This important decision should be complemented by a set of macroeconomic policies favoring the monetary order of the country through instruments which ensure the equilibrium of national finances, which will in turn contribute decisively to improving the functioning of the economy and the construction of a prosperous and sustainable socialism in Cuba.

The second and no less important concept is that bank deposits in foreign currencies, Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) and Cuban pesos (CUP) shall be guaranteed, as well as cash held by the public and national and foreign incorporated entities. We know that different opinions, both well and not so well intentioned, have continued to manifest themselves both within and outside of the country, regarding the pace of the process of updating our economic model.

There has also been no lack of open exhortations abroad to expedite privatization, including of the main production and service sectors, which would amount to laying down the flags of socialism in Cuba.

It seems that the latter have not bothered to read the Guidelines, which clearly express and I quote, "The economic system which will prevail in Cuba will continue to be based on the people's socialist ownership of the fundamental means of production, governed by the socialist principle of distribution, from each according to his/her capacity to each according to his/her contribution", end of quote.

We will continue to fulfill the agreements of the Communist Party of Cuba 6th Congress with responsibility and resolve, at the pace which we sovereignly choose here, without jeopardizing the unity of Cubans, without abandoning anyone to his/her fate, without applying shock therapy and without ever surrendering the ideals of social justice of this Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble.

Next year we will begin preparatory activities for the celebration in April 2016 of the 7th Party Congress, prior to which a broad and democratic debate with members of the Communist Party and the entire people, on the progress of implementation of the Guidelines, will be carried out. Closely associated with the model update is the process of gradual, I repeat, gradual decentralization of authority from the ministries to enterprises.

This is not something which can be done overnight, if we hope to succeed. It requires a reasonable time to prepare and train cadres at all levels, change archaic mentalities and discard old habits and develop and implement the legal framework and precise procedures to allow each other to ensure that decisions are implemented properly, that errors are rectified promptly and thereby avoid unnecessary setbacks, as we have been doing. In favor of the greater autonomy of socialist state enterprises, among other measures, their social objective was expanded and made more flexible, government contracts were defined and authority was granted for the marketing of surplus production. In addition, the elimination of administrative limitations on the payment of salaries linked to production was mandated.

These changes should be implemented gradually, without haste, with order, discipline and thoroughness. The just aspiration to earn higher wages is a very sensitive issue, about which we are not allowed to make mistakes, nor be led by desire or improvisation. We are delighted that wages will gradually increase for those workers employed in activities producing more efficient results and benefits of particular economic and social impact.

However, it should be clear that we can not distribute wealth which we have not been able to create, doing so would entail serious consequences for the national economy, and each and every citizen. Releasing money onto the streets without a corresponding increase in the supply of goods and services would generate inflation, a phenomenon among many other harmful effects which would reduce the purchasing power of wages and pensions, hitting those with fewer resources first.

And that we can not allow. During the first year of the new salary policy's implementation, more than a few enterprises have violated the standards set for salaries per peso of gross value added, in other words, greater salaries have been paid without a corresponding increase in production. I have warned on several occasions that this must be considered a serious indiscipline, very serious, one which must be confronted with resolve by administrative leaders, and also by the trade unions.

It is no secret to anyone that, in our social system, unions defend the rights of workers, and to do so effectively must be the first in safeguarding not only the interests of a given collective of workers, but also the interests of the entire working class, which are, in essence, those of the entire nation. We cannot leave any opening for the development or strengthening of self-interest or greed among our workers.

We all want and need better salaries, but first wealth must be created, to later be distributed, in accordance with one's contribution. Of course, I have not mentioned many other questions linked to the updating of our economic model, several of which involve missteps which we are obliged to rectify promptly, in an effort to avoid having to backtrack, but, in order to do so, tasks must be completed very seriously and responsibly.

No one in the world can deny Cuba's outstanding international record during the year drawing to a close. The challenge we Cubans have before us is great. The economy must achieve the high level of political prestige conquered by this small Caribbean island thanks to the Revolution, the heroism and resistance of our people.

The economy is the principal assignment pending, and we have the responsibility to definitively chart the course toward sustainable development and the irreversibility of socialism in Cuba. As I said earlier, deputies and our entire people are enormously moved and joyful to have Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René present in the homeland, fulfilling the promise compañero Fidel made 13 years ago.

The extraordinary example of determination, sacrifice and dignity of the Five fills with pride the nation which has struggled untiringly for their freedom, and now welcomes them as true heroes. (Applause) I must reiterate our profound, sincere gratitude to all the solidarity movements and committees which struggled to obtain their freedom, and innumerable governments, parliaments, organizations, institutions and figures who made a valuable contribution.

The Cuban people thank the President of the United States, Barack Obama, for this just decision, which has eliminated an obstacle to relations between our countries. The entire world has reacted positively to the announcements made this past Wednesday [December 17], recognizing their importance in international relations and, especially, in the United States' relationship with the region, which has generated favorable statements by governments, presidents and recognized figures -- for which we are sincerely grateful.

This is the product of conversations at the highest level, held with utmost discretion, to which Pope Francis made a contribution, and the government of Canada offered facilitation. This outcome was possible, as well, thanks to the profound changes which have occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, where governments and peoples share our demands for a new U.S. policy toward Cuba. We salute President Obama's proposal to open a new chapter in the relationship between the two countries, and to initiate the most significant changes in U.S. policy in the last 50 years.

We appreciate, as well, the disposition he expressed to hold a debate on lifting the blockade in the U.S. Congress, as well as his desire to assure a better future for our two peoples, our hemisphere and the world. We share the idea that a new stage can begin between the United States and Cuba, that the reestablishment of diplomatic relations can be initiated, based on the Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, which regulates the conduct of diplomatic and consular missions and functionaries. We will approach the high level contacts between the two governments in a constructive spirit, one of respect and reciprocity, with the purpose of advancing toward the normalization of bilateral relations.

As I said this past December 17, an important step has been taken, but the essential remains to be resolved: an end to the economic, commercial, financial blockade of Cuba, aggravated over the last few years, in particular regarding financial transactions, with the levying of enormous, illegitimate fines on banks in several countries.

Cuban President Castro greets the three Cuban heroes, December 17, 2014.

Our people must understand that, given the conditions announced, this will be a long, difficult struggle which will require an international mobilization, and that U.S. society continues to demand an end to the blockade. All the data indicates that a majority of U.S. citizens, an even greater majority of Cuban émigrés, favor the normalization of bilateral relations. Within the U.S. Congress, which encoded as law the blockade's regulations, opposition to this policy is also growing. We hope the President of the United States decisively employs his executive prerogatives to substantially modify implementation of the blockade, in those aspects which do not require Congressional approval.

At the same time, we will study the scope and methods used in implementation of the positive executive measures announced by President Obama. His decision to review the unjustifiable inclusion of Cuba on the list of state sponsors of international terrorism is encouraging. The facts demonstrate that Cuba has been the victim of multiple terrorist attacks. Those responsible for many of these today enjoy absolute impunity, as we all know, costing us thousands of dead and injured.

The pretexts put forward lack any basis in reality whatsoever, as the entire planet knows. They only serve political interests as false arguments to justify the tightening of the blockade, especially in the financial sector. No terrorist act on the people, property or territory of the United States has ever been organized, financed or executed from Cuba, nor would it be allowed. Every time we have become aware of any information about terrorist plans to attack the United States, we have reported it to the country's government, to which we proposed, years ago, the establishment of a cooperation agreement on this subject.

We have always been willing to dialogue respectfully, on the basis of equality, to address the most diverse topics in a reciprocal manner, without compromising our national independence or self-determination, and, as Fidel has indicated, without renouncing a single one of our principles. I reiterate that it is only possible to advance on the basis of mutual respect, which implies observing the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter -- among these, the sovereign equality of all states; the equality of rights; and the free exercise of self-determination by peoples; the resolution of international disagreements via peaceful means, without resorting to threats or the use of force against the territorial integrity or independence of any state; and the obligation to refrain from intervention in internal affairs which are the domain of states, which implies that any form of interference or threat to political, economic or cultural elements constitutes a violation of international law. In accordance with the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by heads of state and government during the CELAC Summit this past January 29 in Havana, every state has the inalienable right to choose its own political, economic, social and cultural system, without interference of any kind on the part of another state, which constitutes a principle of international law. This document was signed here in Havana by all heads of state and government on the continent, with the exception of the United States and Canada, who were not invited.

Between the governments of the United States and Cuba there are profound differences which include, among others, different conceptions on the exercise of national sovereignty, democracy, political models and international relations. We reiterate our openness to respectful, reciprocal dialogue about our differences.

We have firm convictions and many concerns about what occurs in the United States in terms of democracy and human rights, and we agree to converse, on the basis of the aforementioned principles, about any topic whatsoever, anything they would like to discuss, about Cuba, but also about the United States.

It must not be expected that, in order to improve relations with the United States, Cuba will renounce the ideas for which it has struggled for more than a century, for which its people have shed much blood and faced great dangers. It must be understood that Cuba is a sovereign state whose people, in a free referendum vote, approved the Constitution, chose the socialist path and our political, economic, social system. (Applause) Just as we have never proposed that the United States change its political system, we demand respect for ours. (Applause)

Both governments must adopt reciprocal measures to prevent and avoid acts which could affect progress in the bilateral relationship, based on respect for the laws and constitutional order of the parties.

We are not unaware of the virulent criticism which President Obama has been obliged to endure, as a result of the aforementioned announcements, on the part of forces which oppose normalization of relations with Cuba, and by legislators of Cuban origin and leaders of counterrevolutionary groups, who resist losing the sustenance which decades of confrontation between our countries have given them. They will do everything they can to sabotage this process, provocative actions of all kinds are not to be ruled out. For our part, prudent, measured and reflective -- but firm -- conduct will prevail. (Applause)

In Cuba, numerous, diverse mass organizations of workers, campesinos, women, students, writers and artists and members of society exist, and are represented on the Council of State and non-governmental organizations, many of which are represented by deputies in this Assembly, ... whom I would offend if I confused them with a few hundred individuals who receive money, instructions and oxygen from abroad. In multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, we will continue our defense of peace, international law and just causes, as well as our condemnation of threats to the survival of humanity, which include climate change and nuclear arsenals.

We will continue to promote the exercise of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights for all persons, and peoples' rights to peace and development. The Cuban Revolution owes profound gratitude to the peoples, parties, governments from whom we have received ongoing, unwavering solidarity, and I will continue to direct our foreign policy based on absolute fidelity to our principles. (Applause) Symbolic of this are the special relations we maintain with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to which we will continue to offer support in the face of attempts to destabilize the legitimate government headed by compañero President Nicolás Maduro Moros, and oppose pretensions to impose sanctions on this sister country. (Applause)

As I indicated a few days ago, our willingness to cooperate with the United States on the bilateral and multilateral plane, to confront dangers which require effective collective humanitarian responses, must never be politicized. This is the case with the battle against Ebola in West Africa, and its prevention in the Americas, just as was proclaimed by the Alba Special Summit on Ebola, which we held in Havana on the issue, this past October.

Delegates to the ALBA Summit in Havana on Ebola meet with Cuban doctors preparing to leave for Africa, October 20, 2014.

As I stated during the recent Caricom and Alba Summits, I thank the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, for the invitation to participate in the 7th Summit of the Americas, and reconfirm that I will attend to express our positions, with sincerity and respect for all heads of state and government, without exception.

The participation of Cuba comes as a result of the solid, unanimous consensus of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is living in a new era and has united, within our diversity, in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which Cuba was honored to serve as president pro tempore last year. We have not forgotten that Alba, with its constant demands and ongoing support to all countries of the region, achieved the elimination of those old, ignominious sanctions imposed on Cuba in 1962 by the Organization of American States, in the Republic of Honduras, where only a month later, the President of the country, compañero Zelaya, was overthrown by a coup d'etat.

Compañeras y compañeros:

Within a few days, we will be celebrating the New Year and the 56th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution, and just two days ago, December 18, the 58th anniversary of the reunion with Fidel in Cinco Palmas de Vicana in the Sierra Maestra mountains (Applause), in the heart of the Sierra Maestra, and his historic exclamation upon learning that we had seven rifles with which to reinitiate the struggle, "Now, yes, we have won the war!" (Applause)

The unwavering confidence in victory which Fidel instilled in us will continue to guide our entire people in the defense and perfection of the work of their Revolution.

All the best in the New Year! We salute the new Year 57 of the Cuban Revolution! Thank you very much. (Ovation.)

(Council of State transcript)

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Anti-Communist Manipulation of Human Rights in the DPRK

Dirty Tricks to Justify U.S. Imperialist Aggression
and Regime Change

The year 2014 concludes with the crisis in world politics deepening. The crisis is reflected in the issue of human rights with the politicization, selectivity and double standards practised by the United States, the European Union and various Commonwealth and NATO countries such as Canada. These countries are using the United Nations to push their so-called human rights agenda. For the peoples of the world this is not only worrisome but also reveals to them the urgent need for the renewal of the international arrangements to create a world order where such things cannot take place. The coming year is sure to see the demand of humanity for such a new world order as an expression of the striving of humanity to guarantee peace.

In this issue, TML Weekly raises profound concerns over how a member state of the UN, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is being demonized by the U.S. and big powers of Old Europe. These imperialist powers are politicizing the issue of human rights to criminalize the DPRK and to replace much needed dialogue and a peace treaty between the DPRK and the U.S. with confrontation and warmongering.

On December 18, with many member states under threat and pressure from the U.S., the European Union and their allies, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution against the DPRK for its alleged human rights violations and so-called crimes against humanity, calling for the matter to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Of the 193 members of the UNGA, the non-binding resolution was passed by a vote of 116 votes to 20 with 52 abstentions. The imperialist politicizing of human rights was evident in the enormous pressure put on those countries that voted against the resolution at the Third Committee stage in November to change their vote, such as El Salvador, Grenada and South Sudan.

The DPRK's Deputy UN Ambassador An Myong Hun told the UNGA that his delegation rejected the resolution. He pointed out that it is based on a fabricated report by authors who have never visited his country and who blocked all possibility for dialogue and cooperation. He further noted that the DPRK delegation rejected the use of human rights as a political weapon to justify regime change.

Additionally, and again as a result of U.S. maneuvering, the UN Security Council on a procedural vote on December 22 introduced for the first time the "human rights issue in the DPRK" as an agenda item of the 15-member Security Council. This was opposed by China and Russia while Chad and Nigeria abstained. The DPRK condemned the vote and rejected it, pointing out that the Security Council has no mandate to discuss human rights, only matters pertaining to security. Before the vote, China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said "the Security Council is not the forum to get involved in human rights issues" and urged the Council to "refrain from doing anything that might cause an escalation."

Ambassador Liu said denuclearization, encouraging dialogue and maintaining stability on the Korean peninsula are the shared priorities of the global community and that "getting involved in the human rights situation will go against the above goals and can only bring harm instead of benefits."

In concert with the manipulations in the UN, Sony Pictures and the U.S. government are orchestrating a fraud to promote a racist pro-war film full of hatred towards the DPRK, its leadership and people. From the get-go, the disinformation and accusations levelled against the DPRK for its alleged cyber attack on Sony Pictures were baseless. No evidence to justify these accusations has been presented by the U.S. state agencies or anyone else. The Foreign Ministry of the DPRK in a statement December 20 rejected these accusations as groundless attacks on the dignity of the country and its leadership, and proposed that the U.S. conduct a joint investigation with the DPRK.

The affair is all very murky. It can be seen that Sony Pictures stands to gain much publicity and revenue from these false accusations while the U.S. government is using them to increase its threats of war and regime change against the DPRK. It raises the possibility that the entire dirty business may have been engineered by the U.S. government and Sony itself to promote racist hatred of Koreans and war against the DPRK, and in passing boost sales of the movie. All this is a serious war crime.

TML Weekly calls on all peace-loving people in Canada and around the world to stand with the people of the DPRK and their leadership with a clear conscience by supporting the right to self-determination of all countries in the world and the right of the peoples to be and to determine their way of life. The politics of regime change in the name of high ideals are thoroughly exposed as imperialist takeover and have nothing to do with promoting freedom, democracy or human rights. This is the essence of the matter.

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U.S. Imperialism Stands Condemned

The U.S. attacks against the DPRK are a continuation of the Korean War in another form. The U.S. has never accepted its defeat in the Korean War -- an unjust war that began when the U.S. manipulated the UN Security Council in June 1950 to interfere in a civil war in Korea, which had erupted in the course of bringing to account those who had colluded with the cruel decades-long Japanese colonization of Korea. The U.S. war against Korea resulted in the deaths of over 4 million Koreans and the total destruction of the infrastructure of the DPRK. Far from making amends for these crimes, the U.S. continues to use its positions of power to demonize the DPRK and organize for regime change.

By confounding the issues on the Korean Peninsula using the so-called human rights agenda, and making a mockery of serious matters with constant propaganda and anti-Korean racist pro-war films, the U.S. wants to sow doubt about the DPRK and generate support for an agenda of U.S. aggression, war and regime change. It seeks to ensure nobody rises in defence of the just cause of the Korean people.

In opposition, the people should defend the principle that no power has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, and all nations should uphold the principles of peaceful coexistence, equality of nations, non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations and prohibition of the use of force to sort out conflicts between nations. On the Korean peninsula, the demand is that the U.S. sign a permanent peace treaty and remove all its troops and weapons. Also, the situation underlines the need for the renewal of the UN and the UN Security Council to guarantee the equality of nations and peoples, non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, and the right of all nations and people to independence, self-determination and peace.

The recent example of the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States as a result of dialogue and diplomacy and the non-use of force is proof positive that conflicts between nations and peoples can be resolved peacefully. No matter what differences exist over matters that concern political, social, economic and other affairs, problems can be resolved through high level-talks and diplomacy, which the DPRK has consistently invited the U.S. to do.

TML Weekly calls on peace- and justice-loving people from Canada and around the world to defeat the blatant maneuvering within the UN by the U.S. -- the biggest violator of human rights in the world, and its allies. This can be done by condemning this diversionary warmongering campaign targeting the DPRK. In 2015, the demand that the U.S. stop its criminal activity against the DPRK and sign a peace treaty with that country must be escalated. This is what will end the Korean War and favour the interests of all peoples.

Within this situation, the Canadian people must mobilize for an anti-war government that promotes peaceful relations amongst nations and peoples, and will not permit another war of aggression against the Korean people.

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Why the Human Rights Issue Is So Serious

Today the U.S. and other Western countries are increasingly cracking down on the human rights of the peoples of their countries, including on their socio-economic and cultural rights as well as on political freedom and rights.

In the U.S., whose population accounts for 5% of the world's population, prisoners there account for 25% of the total number of prisoners in the world. Today, when the world is rushing to scale a new peak of human civilization, medieval torture and other kinds of human rights violations are being committed in the prison camps of the U.S.

Racial discrimination in the U.S., a self-proclaimed model country in the field of human rights, is cutting a wide swath with official and open sanction.

The chain of murders of innocent young black people committed by white policemen recently threw the whole world into a state of consternation.

Many working people, denied the rights to an existence and work, are wandering the streets as unemployed in the U.S. and other Western countries.

Extreme selfishness, misanthropy and such crimes as murder, robbery, rape, prostitution, racial discrimination, and discrimination and maltreatment of American Indians and immigrants are prevalent in American society, and people live in constant fear and misery.

Under the signboard of "defending human rights" the U.S. launches aggressive wars, enslaving peoples of other countries and openly interfering in their internal affairs, and thus violates their human rights. These aggressive wars not only trample upon their sovereignty but also claim the lives of their peoples, threaten their right to existence and restrict their socio-economic and cultural progress. Typical examples are the armed aggression against Grenada, the air campaign against the former Yugoslavia and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. has set up secret prison camps in various parts of the world, abducting people and torturing them in these camps. In the prison camp at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay 160 persons still languish.

The drone attacks committed by the U.S. are claiming many lives in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries.

The indiscriminate phone tapping and e-mail theft by the U.S. which have been exposed recently are illegal acts of espionage and, at the same time, a brazen-faced violation of human rights. Up to now the U.S. has set up phone-tapping facilities in over 80 places across the world, and wiretapped the telephone conversations of not only presidents and other high-ranking officials of their allies but also ordinary citizens by enlisting the National Security Agency and other intelligence organs.

Picking a quarrel using the "human rights issue" with the countries that are following the road of independence, the U.S. and other Western countries are interfering in their internal affairs, toppling their legitimate governments and suppressing human rights in these countries. These days the U.S. and other Western countries are egging on international organizations to kick up a fuss about the "human rights issue" in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. This, in essence, is a serious act of aggression aimed at overthrowing its system and government. This is aggravating the situation on the Korean peninsula and the region surrounding it.

Many countries in the world still suffer from internal conflict and unrest, their peoples' right to life is seriously threatened. One of the major reasons for this is that the U.S. and other Western countries are aggravating the situation and attempting to fish in troubled waters capitalizing on the conflict and unrest. Many countries are experiencing economic difficulties and their peoples' right to existence is being seriously threatened because of the economic sanctions and blockade imposed by the U.S. and other Western countries.

The human rights issue is becoming more serious and complicated as the days go by owing to the U.S.'s high-handedness, arbitrariness and double standards. These days dialogue and collaboration for the promotion of genuine human rights on an international scale have disappeared, and high-handedness, arbitrariness and double standards produced by the political interests of some countries are cutting a wide swath. Disregarding the principles of mutual respect, trust and benefit and noninterference in the internal affairs of others, they are unilaterally demanding "cooperation" and "collaboration" in the field of human rights so as to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

It is a matter of course that cooperation and collaboration among countries are needed to resolve the human rights issue. However, this cooperation and collaboration must be subject to the commonly recognized principles of international law and must not be used as a precondition for interference in others' internal affairs.

The U.S. and other Western countries are making this issue more complicated by bringing it not only to the UN and other international political organizations but to international economic and trade organizations. International economic and trade organizations are discussing the human rights issue, which is irrelevant to economic and trade issues, and this causes sharp antagonism among countries. This is a stark reality today.

The fact that the U.S. releases a "human rights report" every year and adopts federal laws against other sovereign states shows how far its high-handedness, arbitrariness and double standards have gone. It has made public such a report again this year, in which it claimed that China, Russia, Cuba, Iran and some other countries violated the human rights of their people and that no other country now makes efforts to defend human rights as the U.S. does.

The international community laments the present reality in which the greatest human rights violator itself behaves as  the "human rights judge."

(Edited slightly for grammar by TML)

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Realistic and Reasonable Proposal for
Korea's Reunification

Banner in reunification demonstration in Seoul, June 9, 2011.

Nearly 70 years have passed since Korea's division. Korea's division is a misfortune beyond words for the Korean people, who had lived as a homogeneous nation on the same territory for 5,000 years, and its division is a constant threat to global peace and stability.

Then, how should Korea be reunified?

So far many proposals have been made with regard to it. Proposals for "unification of systems" and "unification through absorption" are not worthy of discussion. As the north and the south will not give up their respective ideologies and systems, reunification through absorption of one by the other will inevitably bring calamity to the Korean nation and tragedy to the region.

The best way is to reunify the country through federation.

President Kim Il Sung (1912-1994) who devoted his whole life to the reunification of Korea made a proposal for founding the Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo (DFRK) as a plan for reunifying the country.

The gist of this plan is to leave the ideologies and systems of the north and the south of Korea intact and, on this basis, realize the reunification of the country and nation by coalescing the two sides to form a federal state.

The plan for founding the DFRK defines the principle of the formation of the unified government of the federal state and the scope of its activities. In this reunified state of a federal type, a supreme national federal assembly will be formed with an equal number of representatives from the north and the south and an appropriate number of representatives of overseas nationals. This assembly should also organize a federal standing committee to guide the regional governments of the north and the south and to administer all the affairs of the federal state. As a reunified state with different ideologies and systems left intact and based on one nation and regional autonomy, the DFRK will represent the whole territory of Korea and embrace the entire Korean nation.

The plan also defines the functions and roles of the federal government and regional governments. As the reunified government of the federal state, the supreme national federal assembly and its permanent organ, the federal standing committee, will discuss and decide on the issues of politics, national defence and external relations and other matters of common concern related to the interests of the country and nation as a whole on the principle of impartiality and in line with the nation's desire for unity, collaboration and reunification, promote the coordinated development of the country and nation, and encourage unity and cooperation between the north and the south in all fields. The reunified government will also respect the social systems and administrative organizations, political parties and groups and people from all walks of life in the north and the south, and prevent one side from imposing its will on the other. Under the leadership of the federal government, the regional governments in the north and the south should follow an independent policy within limits that are consistent with the fundamental interests and demands of the whole nation and strive to narrow the gap between the two sides in all fields and achieve coordinated development of the country and nation.

In referring to the nomenclature of the reunified state, President Kim Il Sung proposed the name Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo, after the first unified state of the Korean nation, Koryo, which existed from 918 to 1392 and which is well known around the world. This proposed name reflects the political ideal common to the north and south aspiring for democracy. The name Korea originated from Koryo.

The President stressed that the DFRK should be a neutral state that does not join any political or military alliance or bloc.

He also set out the following ten-point policy to be pursued by the federal state.

The DFRK should:
- first, adhere to independence in all state activities and pursue an independent policy;
- second, effect democracy throughout the country and in all areas of society and promote great national unity;
- third, effect economic cooperation and exchange between the north and the south and ensure the development of an independent national economy;
- fourth, realize north-south exchange and cooperation in the spheres of science, culture and education and ensure the uniform progress of the country's science and technology, national culture and arts, and national education;
- fifth, reopen transport and communications links between the north and the south and ensure the free use of the means of transport and communications all across the country;
- sixth, ensure a stable livelihood for the entire people including the workers, peasants and other working masses and promote their welfare systematically;
- seventh, remove the state of military confrontation between the north and the south and form a combined national army to defend the nation against invasion;
- eighth, defend and protect the national rights and interests of all overseas Koreans;
- ninth, deal properly with the foreign relations established by the north and the south prior to reunification, and coordinate the foreign activities of the two regional governments in a unified manner; and
- tenth, as a unified state representing the whole nation, develop friendly relations with all the countries of the world and pursue a peaceful foreign policy.

The plan for establishing the DFRK reflects the longstanding unanimous aspiration of the Korean people for reunification of their country and the specific reality of the Korean peninsula in which different ideologies and systems exist in its north and south.

Now not a few federal or confederal states do exist in the world. The typical examples are the United States, Switzerland, Malaysia and Tanzania.

However, the DFRK has characteristics different from the existing federal states.

Unlike other federal states, the DFRK is formed by a homogeneous nation, based on different social systems and composed of one nation and two autonomous regional governments within the framework of a unified state. For this reason, the DFRK has characteristics unique to it in the principle of formation and distribution of power between the unified government and autonomous regional governments.

As advanced in President Kim Il Sung's plan for the DFRK, a new phase could be opened for building a federal state in the same nation despite the difference in socio-political system.

The DFRK is the most reasonable form of unified state, in that it prioritizes the common demands and interests of the nation and realizes national unity, transcending the difference of ideology and system.

The international community sincerely wishes that the Korean nation will achieve the independent and peaceful reunification of their country through federation.

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Reasons Why 2014 Was a Game Changer in Palestine

In terms of losses in human lives, 2014 has been a horrific year for Palestinians, surpassing the horrors of both 2008 and 2009, when an Israeli war against the Gaza Strip killed and wounded thousands.

While some aspects of the conflict are stagnating between a corrupt, ineffectual Palestinian Authority (PA), and the criminality of Israeli wars and occupation, it would also be fair to argue that 2014 was a game changer to some degree -- and it is not all bad news.

To an extent, 2014 has been a year of clarity for those keen to understand the reality of the 'Palestinian-Israeli conflict' but were sincerely confused by the contrasting narratives.

Here are some reasons that support the argument that things are changing.

1. A Different Kind of Palestinian Unity

Although the two leading Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah agreed to a unity government in April, little has changed on the ground. Yes, a government was officially established in June, and held its first meeting in October. But Gaza is effectively still managed by Hamas, which has been largely left alone managing the affairs of the Strip after the Israeli war in July-August. Perhaps Mahmoud Abbas's authority is hoping that the massive destruction would weaken Hamas into political submission, especially as Egypt continues to seal shut the Rafah border.

But while the factions are failing to unite, the Israeli war on Gaza has inspired a new impetus of struggle in the West Bank. Israeli plans of targeting holy sites in Jerusalem, particularly the al-Aqsa Mosque, coupled with the deep anguish felt by most Palestinians over the massacres carried out by Israel in Gaza, are slowly reverberating into a wave of mini-uprisings. Some speculate the situation will eventually lead to a massive Intifada that will engulf all of the territories. Whether a third intifada takes place in 2015 or not, is a different question. What matters is that the long-orchestrated plot to divide Palestinians is breaking apart and a new collective narrative of a common struggle against occupation is finally forming.

2. A New Resistance Paradigm

Demonstration in Nablus August 29, 2014

The debate regarding what form of resistance Palestinians should or should not adopt is being sidelined and settled, not by international do-gooders, but by Palestinians themselves. They are opting to use whatever effective form of resistance they can that could deter Israeli military advances, as resistance groups have actively done in Gaza. Although Israel's latest war killed nearly 2,200 and wounded over 11,000 Palestinians that were mostly civilians, nevertheless, it has still failed to achieve any of its declared or implied objectives. It was another reminder that sheer military strength is no longer the only overriding factor in Israel's conduct towards Palestinians.

While Israel brutalized civilians, the resistance killed 70 Israelis, over 60 of whom were soldiers; this was also an important step testifying to the maturity of Palestinian resistance, which had previously targeted civilians during the second intifada and reflected more desperation rather than a winning strategy. The legitimization of the resistance was, to a degree, reflected in the recent decision by the European court to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations.

Resistance in the West Bank is taking on other forms. Although it is yet to mature into a steady campaign of anti-occupation activities, it seems to be forming an identity of its own that takes into account what is possible and what is practical. The fact is that the 'one size fits all' modes of resistance debate is becoming less relevant, giving way to an organic approach to resistance devised by Palestinians themselves.

3. BDS Normalizes Debate on Israeli Crimes

Another form of resistance is crystallizing in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) which continues to grow, gathering steam, supporters and constant achievements. Not only was 2014 a year in which BDS managed to win the support of numerous civil society organizations, academicians, scientists, celebrities and to reach out to people from all walks of life, it did something else that is equally important: It normalized the debate on Israel in many circles around the world. While any criticism of Israel was considered a taboo in yesteryear, it has been forever broken. Questioning the morality and practicality of boycotting Israel is no longer a frightening subject, but is open for debate in numerous media outlets, universities and other platforms.

2014 has been a year that made the discussion of boycotting Israel more mainstream than ever before. While a critical mass is yet to be achieved in the US, the momentum is constantly building up being led by students, clergy men and women, celebrities and ordinary people. In Europe, the movement has been hugely successful.

4. Parliaments are Feeling the Heat

While, traditionally, much of the southern hemisphere offered unconditional support for Palestinians, the West conceitedly stood with Israel. Following the Oslo accords, a bewildering European position evolved, where they flirted with finding the 'balance' between an occupied nation and the occupier. At times, the European Union (EU) timidly criticizes the Israeli occupation, while continuing to be one of Israel's largest trade partners, providing weapons to the Israeli army, who then use them to carry out war crimes in Gaza and sustain its military occupation in the West Bank.

This debauched policy is being challenged by citizens of various European countries. The Israeli summer war on Gaza exposed Israel's human rights violations and war crimes like never before, revealing along the way EU hypocrisy. To relieve some of the pressure, some EU countries appear to be taking stronger stances against Israel, reviewing their military cooperation, and more boldly questioning the right wing policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A spate of parliamentary votes followed, overwhelmingly voting to recognize Palestine as a state. While these decisions remain largely symbolic, they represent an unmistakable shift in EU attitude towards Israel. Netanyahu continues to rail against European 'hypocrisy', assured, perhaps, by Washington's unconditional support. But with the U.S. losing control over the tumultuous Middle East, the Israeli prime minister might soon be forced to rethink his obstinate attitude.

5. Israel's Democracy Exposed

Demonstration in Tel Aviv, July 27, 2014

For decades, Israel defined itself as both a democratic and Jewish state. The objective was clear: to maintain Jewish superiority over Palestinian Arabs, while continuing to present itself as a modern 'western' democracy -- in fact, the 'only democracy in the Middle East.' While Palestinians and many others were never sold on the democracy charade, many accepted the dichotomy with little questioning.

While Israel doesn't have a constitution, it has a 'code', called the Basic Law. Since there is no Israeli equivalent to a 'constitutional amendment' -- the Netanyahu government is pushing for a new law at the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. This will basically put forth new principles under which Israel will define itself. One of these principles will define Israel as 'the national state of the Jewish people', thus casting all non-Jewish citizens of Israel as lesser citizens. While, for all intents and purposes, Palestinian citizens of Israel have been treated as outcasts, and discriminated against in many ways, the new Basic Law will be a constitutional confirmation of their state-enforced inferiority. The Jewish and democratic paradigm is dying for good, exposing Israel's reality the way it is.

The Year Ahead

Certainly 2015 will bring much of the same: The PA will fight for its own existence, and try to maintain its privileges, bestowed by Israel, the U.S. and others by using every tool available; Israel will also remain emboldened by American funds and unconditional support and military backing. Yes, the next year will also prove frustratingly familiar in that regard. But the new, real and opposing momentum will unlikely cease, challenging and exposing the Israeli occupation on one hand, and sidestepping the ineffectual, self-serving Palestinian Authority on the other.

2014 was a very painful year for Palestine, but also a year in which the collective resistance of the Palestinian people, and their supporters, proved too strong to bend or break. And in that, there can be much solace.

(Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).)

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Year-end Interview with President Bashar al-Assad

Paris Match: Mr. President, three years into this war, and considering how things have turned out, do you regret that you [didn't manage] things differently at the beginning, with the appearance of the first signs of the revolution in March 2011? Do you feel that you are responsible for what happened?

Bashar el Assad: Even in the first days of the events, there were martyrs from the army and the police; so, since the first days of this crisis we have been facing terrorism. It is true that there were demonstrations, but they were not large in number. In such a case, there is no choice but to defend your people against terrorists. There's no other choice. We cannot say that we regret fighting terrorism since the early days of this crisis. However, this doesn't mean that there weren't mistakes made in practice. There are always mistakes. Let's be honest: had Qatar not paid money to those terrorists at that time, and had Turkey not supported them logistically, and had not the West supported them politically, things would have been different. If we in Syria had problems and mistakes before the crisis, which is normal, this doesn't necessarily mean that the events had internal causes.

Paris Match: Your army is blamed for its excessive use of force during this war. Why are civilians shelled?

Bashar el Assad: When a terrorist attacks you with weapons, how do you defend yourself and your people, with dialogue?! The army uses weapons when the other side uses them. For us in Syria, it is impossible to have our objective as shelling civilians. There's no reason to shell civilians. If we are killing civilians, in other words killing our people, fighting terrorists at the same time, and fighting the states which stand against us and which support terrorists, like the Gulf countries, Turkey, and the West, how could we stand for four years? If we haven't been defending the people, we wouldn't have been able to stand all this pressure. Consequently, saying that we are shelling civilians doesn't make any sense.

Paris Match: Satellite imagery of the cities of Homs and Hama show completely destroyed neighborhoods; and the United Nations, of which your country is a member, talks about 190,000 people having been killed in this war. Were all the people in those neighborhoods terrorists?

Bashar el Assad: First of all, you need to verify the figures provided by the United Nations. What are the sources of these figures? The figures being circulated in the world, particularly in the media, are exaggerated and inaccurate. Second, images of destruction are not only obtained through satellite images, they are there actually on the ground, and they are accurate. When terrorists enter a certain region and occupy it, the army has to liberate it, and there is a battle. So, naturally, there is destruction. But in most cases, when terrorists enter a certain area, civilians flee from it. In fact, the largest number of victims in Syria is among the supporters of the state, not the other way round; and a large number of those were killed in terrorist attacks. Of course, when you have war and terrorism innocent people die. This happens everywhere in the world. But it is impossible for a state to target civilians.

Paris Match: According to the United Nations too, there are three million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, what amounts to one eighth of Syria's population. Are all those allied with terrorists?

Bashar el Assad: No, no. Those who left Syria are generally people who left because of terrorism. There are those who support terrorism, and there are those who support the state but left because of the security situation. There is also a significant number of those who do not support any side.

Paris Match: From a military perspective, do you have the means which enable you to win this war?

Bashar el Assad: Now we are fighting states, not only gangs. Billions of dollars are spent on those gangs. They receive arms from different countries, including Turkey. So, it is not an easy war from a military perspective. Nevertheless, the Syrian Army is winning in many places. On the other hand, no one can say how this war will end or when. But the major war for them in the beginning was how to win the hearts of the Syrians; and they have lost this war. The communities which embraced terrorists have become very small, and that is the reason why the army is winning. So, we have to look at this war militarily, socially, and politically.

Paris Match: But they haven't lost yet, since half your territories are out of your control.

Bashar el Assad: The Syrian Army doesn't have a presence everywhere, and it's impossible for it to be everywhere. Consequently, in any place that the Syrian Army doesn't have a presence, terrorists cross the borders and enter that region. But the Syrian Army has been able to regain control over any region it decided to enter. This is not a war between two armies where you can say that they took a certain part and we took another part. The war now is not like that. We are talking about terrorist groups which suddenly infiltrate a city or a village. That's why it's going to be a long and difficult war.

Paris Match: Many people say that the solution lies in your departure. Do you believe that your departure is the solution?

Bashar el Assad: The president of any state in the world takes office through constitutional measures and leaves office through constitutional measures as well. No president can be installed or deposed through chaos. The tangible evidence for this is the outcome of the French policy when they attacked Gaddafi. What was the result? Chaos ensued after Gaddafi's departure. So, was his departure the solution? Have things improved, and has Libya become a democracy? The state is like a ship; and when there is a storm, the captain doesn't run away and leave his ship to sink. If passengers on that ship decided to leave, the captain should be the last one to leave, not the first.

Paris Match: This means that the captain is prepared to die. You talked about Gaddafi. Do you fear facing the same fate and to meet your death like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi?

Bashar el Assad: A captain doesn't think of life and death, he thinks of saving his ship. If the ship sinks, everybody will die, so we would rather save the country. But I want to stress an important point here. Remaining president had never been my objective, before, during, or after the crisis. But we as Syrians will never accept that Syria become a western puppet state. This is one of our most important objectives and principles.

Paris Match: Let's talk about ISIS. Some people say that the Syrian regime encouraged the rise of Islamic extremists in order to divide the opposition. How do you respond to that?

Bashar el Assad: In Syria we have a state, not a regime. Let's agree on the terms first. Second, assuming that what you are saying is true, that we supported ISIS, this means that we have asked this organization to attack us, attack military airports, kill hundreds of soldiers, and occupy cities and villages. Where is the logic in that? What do we gain from it? Dividing and weakening the opposition, as you are saying? We do not need to undermine those elements of the opposition. The West itself is saying that it was a fake opposition. This is what Obama himself said. So, this supposition is wrong, but what is the truth? The truth is that ISIS was created in Iraq in 2006. It was the United States which occupied Iraq, not Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in American prisons, not in Syrian prisons. So, who created ISIS, Syria or the United States?

Paris Match: The Syrians we meet in Damascus talk about sleeping Jihadi cells in the West more than they talk about the war against ISIS. Isn't that strange?

Bashar el Assad: Terrorism is an ideology, not an organization or a structure; and ideology doesn't acknowledge any borders. 20 years ago, terrorism used to be exported from our region, particularly from Gulf countries, like Saudi Arabia. Now, it is coming to our region from Europe, especially from France. The largest percentage of the European terrorists coming to Syria are French; and you had a number of incidents in France. There was also an attack in Belgium against a Jewish museum. So, terrorism in Europe is no longer asleep, it is being awakened.

Paris Match: The Americans, in their war against ISIS, are tactical allies. Do you still think that their intervention constitutes a violation of national sovereignty?

Bashar el Assad: First, you said that it is tactical, and this is an important point. You know that tactics without a strategy do not produce results, so it will not defeat terrorism. It is an illegal intervention, first because it is not authorized by a Security Council resolution, and second because it did not respect the sovereignty of a state, Syria, in this case. So, it is an illegal intervention, and consequently constitutes a violation of sovereignty.

Paris Match: According to Agence France Presse, your air forces made at least 2,000 sorties in 40 days, and this is a huge number. When your aircraft cross the alliance's aircraft, for instance on their way to shell Raqqa, do you coordinate or do you have a non-aggression agreement?

Bashar el Assad: There is no direct coordination. We attack terrorism everywhere, regardless of what the United States, or the alliance it leads, is doing. You might find it strange that the number of daily Syrian air strikes against terrorists is larger than that launched by the alliance. There's no coordination; and at the same time you need to realize that the alliance's airstrikes are merely cosmetic.

Paris Match: But these airstrikes are helping you, and one reason why U.S. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel resigned is that he believed that they support your government and your positions.

Bashar el Assad: Don't you see that this question contradicts the earlier question, in which you said that we support ISIS? This means that we are ISIS's enemies.

Paris Match: I said that some people say, sometimes, that you have supported ISIS to divide the opposition.

Bashar el Assad: And I didn't mean "you" by my remark, I meant "those" people.

Paris Match: Since one result of the alliance's airstrikes, from an American perspective, was Chuck Hagel's resignation, do you think that the alliance's airstrikes are helping you?

Bashar el Assad: Terrorism cannot be destroyed from the air, and you cannot achieve results on the ground without land forces who know the geographical details of the regions and move in tandem with the airstrikes. That's why, and after two months of the alliance's airstrikes, there are no tangible results on the ground in that direction. And that's why saying that the alliance's airstrikes are helping us is not true. Had these airstrikes been serious and effective, I would have said that they would be certainly useful to us. But we are the ones fighting the battles against ISIS on the ground, and we haven't felt any change, particularly that Turkey is still extending direct support to ISIS in those regions.

Paris Match: On July 14th, 2008, you stood on the presidential podium in the Champs Elysees on the sidelines of the Mediterranean summit. Today, the French government considers you an outcast. How do you feel about that?

Bashar el Assad: The good relationship which extended from 2008 to 2011 was not based on a French initiative. It had two sides: the first was an American effort to make the French government influence the Syrian role, particularly in relation to Iran. The second side was a result of Qatar urging France to improve relations with Syria. So, the good relations with France had American and Qatari motives and were not the product of an independent will. Today, there is no difference since both administrations, I mean those of Sarkozy and Hollande, are not independent.

Paris Match: Francois Hollande still considers you an opponent. Do you believe that you can revive relations with him some time in the future?

Bashar el Assad: The issue has nothing to do with personal relations, for I don't know him to start with. It has to do with relations between states and institutions, relations based on the interests of two nations. When there is any French official, or French government, seeking mutual interests, we will deal with them. But this administration is acting equally against the interests of our people and against the interests of the French people. As for him considering me a personal enemy, I don't see the logic of that. I'm not competing with Hollande for anything. I believe that Hollande's competitor in France now is ISIS, because his popularity is close to that of ISIS.

Paris Match: Are there chemical weapons in Syria today, yes or no?

Bashar el Assad: No. When we announced this, it was a clear announcement, and when we decided to abandon chemical weapons, our decision was final.

Paris Match: But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accuses you of violating the agreement because you used chlorine. Is that true?

Bashar el Assad: You can find chlorine in any house in Syria. Everyone has chlorine, and any group can use it. But we haven't used it because we have traditional weapons which are more effective than chlorine, and we do not need to use it. We are fighting terrorists, and using traditional weapons without concealing that or being shy about it. So, we don't need chlorine. These accusations do not surprise us; for when did the Americans say anything true about the crisis in Syria?

Paris Match: Have you used chemical weapons?

Bashar el Assad: We haven't used this kind of weapon; and had we used it anywhere, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people would have died. It's impossible for these weapons to kill, as it was claimed last year, only one hundred people or two hundred people, particularly in areas where hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions, of Syrians live.

Paris Match: In your latest visit to Paris in November 2010, I conducted an interview with your wife, Mrs. Asmaa al-Assad. Do you miss traveling outside the borders of your country?

Bashar el Assad: Traveling is not one of my hobbies anyway; and my visits were not for tourism, but for work. What I truly miss is Syria as it was. This is what we miss. And of course we miss the existence of a different world, a world which has logical and moral relations. At that time, we used to have great expectations for the development of our region, for more intellectual openness. We used to believe that France, with its cultural heritage, is the country which is most capable of playing this role with Syria in the Middle East.

Paris Match: Your wife used to consider herself an ambassador of modernity. How does she live in Syria, and how does she feel about what is happening in Syria, particularly that she hasn't left the country?

Bashar el Assad: Like all Syrians, she feels pain. Both of us feel pain for the destruction and the blood we see in Syria, to see Syria going backwards decades and not [just] years. It's painful to see the country which used to be one of the top five countries in the world in terms of security become a safe haven for terrorists. It is also painful for both my wife and I to see our belief that the West will help us in our bid for development and openness go in the opposite direction, and what is even worse, to see the West having allies among these medieval states in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Paris Match: People describe you as being very close to your children. How do you explain to them what is happening to your country when you return home in the evening?

Bashar el Assad: Of course, this discussion goes on in every Syrian house now; and the most difficult thing in this discussion is when you deal with children whose social consciousness has developed during this crisis. There are two basic questions asked, not only in our family but in many families. The first question: how can people who believe or say they are defending God and Islam kill and murder? This is a case which is not easy to explain, and children ask whether these people know that they are wrong. And the answer here is that there are those who know but make use of religion for private purposes, and there are ignorant people who do not know that religion is good. They think, instead, that religion means killing.

The second question: why does the West launch an aggression against us, and why does it support terrorists and destruction? Of course, they do not say the West in general, they specify certain countries, including the United States, France, and Britain. Why do they do that? Have we done anything to hurt them? We also explain to them that people are something, and states are something else.


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