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Spanish 'Anti-Austerity' Protesters "Sick Of This System They Call Democracy" | Zero Hedge

Spanish ‘Anti-Austerity’ Protesters “Sick Of This System They Call Democracy” | Zero Hedge.

logo

“I’m here to fight for my children’s future,” exclaims one father as Spaniards rallied in Madrid against poverty and EU-imposed austerity. As Reuters reports, the largely peaceful protest latermarred by violent clashes in which police fired rubber bullets. The so-called “Dignity Marches” brought hundreds of thousands to the capital with banners making it clear what their feelings about record 26% unemployment were – “Bread, jobs and housing for everyone” and “Corruption and robbery, Spain’s trademark.” One protester summed up the people’s views of the government,“I’m sick of this system they call democracy… I want things to change.”

 

 

 

Via Reuters,

The so-called “Dignity Marches” brought hundreds of thousands to the capital, according to estimates of Reuters witnesses. Travelling from all over Spain, they were protesting in support of more than 160 different causes, including jobs, housing, health, education and an end to poverty.

 

 

…Spaniards rallied in Madrid on Saturday against poverty and EU-imposed austerity in a largely peaceful protest later marred by violent clashes in which police fired rubber bullets.

 

 

Some protesters started to throw stones and bottles at the large numbers of riot police present and attacked cashpoints and hoardings. The police fired rubber bullets to disperse them, according to video footage seen by Reuters.

Central government representative Cristina Cifuentes said 19 protesters had been arrested and 50 police officers had been injured, one of them very badly, in the clashes.

Once again the issue is government corruption combined with austerity (or at least slowing growth in spending to be perfectly clear) – a combination that we have discussed numerous times tends to end in social unrest…

A housing bubble burst more than five years ago, forcing a 41-billion euro ($56 billion) bailout of Spain’s banks, squeezing homeowners and throwing millions out of work.

 

 

The government introduced public sector austerity to whittle down the deficit, provoking widespread anger amongst middle- and low-income families as dozens of cases of corruption in the ruling class are investigated by judges.

The people’s feelings were clear as the OECD says the economic crisis has hit Spain’s poor harder than in any other country in the euro region.

Banners urged the conservative government not to pay its international debts and to tackle Spain’s chronically high unemployment of 26 percent.

 

Bread, jobs and housing for everyone“, read one banner, “Corruption and robbery, Spain’s trademark,” said another.

 

I’m here to fight for my children’s future,” said Michael Nadeau, a 44-year-old entrepreneur.

 

For those who are in power we’re just numbers. They value money more than they value people,” he said, shouting to be heard above the din of chanting, whistling and drumming.

 

“(I’m here because) I’m sick of this system they call democracy,” said Jose Luis Arteaga, a 58-year-old teacher whose wage has been cut 20 percent. “I want things to change.”

It seems that almost record low bond yields and high stock market levels did not appease the people of Spain either…Time for that IMG income inequality equalizing wealth redsitriburion it would seem…

Spanish ‘Anti-Austerity’ Protesters “Sick Of This System They Call Democracy” | Zero Hedge

Spanish ‘Anti-Austerity’ Protesters “Sick Of This System They Call Democracy” | Zero Hedge.

logo

“I’m here to fight for my children’s future,” exclaims one father as Spaniards rallied in Madrid against poverty and EU-imposed austerity. As Reuters reports, the largely peaceful protest latermarred by violent clashes in which police fired rubber bullets. The so-called “Dignity Marches” brought hundreds of thousands to the capital with banners making it clear what their feelings about record 26% unemployment were – “Bread, jobs and housing for everyone” and “Corruption and robbery, Spain’s trademark.” One protester summed up the people’s views of the government,“I’m sick of this system they call democracy… I want things to change.”

 

 

 

Via Reuters,

The so-called “Dignity Marches” brought hundreds of thousands to the capital, according to estimates of Reuters witnesses. Travelling from all over Spain, they were protesting in support of more than 160 different causes, including jobs, housing, health, education and an end to poverty.

 

 

…Spaniards rallied in Madrid on Saturday against poverty and EU-imposed austerity in a largely peaceful protest later marred by violent clashes in which police fired rubber bullets.

 

 

Some protesters started to throw stones and bottles at the large numbers of riot police present and attacked cashpoints and hoardings. The police fired rubber bullets to disperse them, according to video footage seen by Reuters.

Central government representative Cristina Cifuentes said 19 protesters had been arrested and 50 police officers had been injured, one of them very badly, in the clashes.

Once again the issue is government corruption combined with austerity (or at least slowing growth in spending to be perfectly clear) – a combination that we have discussed numerous times tends to end in social unrest…

A housing bubble burst more than five years ago, forcing a 41-billion euro ($56 billion) bailout of Spain’s banks, squeezing homeowners and throwing millions out of work.

 

 

The government introduced public sector austerity to whittle down the deficit, provoking widespread anger amongst middle- and low-income families as dozens of cases of corruption in the ruling class are investigated by judges.

The people’s feelings were clear as the OECD says the economic crisis has hit Spain’s poor harder than in any other country in the euro region.

Banners urged the conservative government not to pay its international debts and to tackle Spain’s chronically high unemployment of 26 percent.

 

Bread, jobs and housing for everyone“, read one banner, “Corruption and robbery, Spain’s trademark,” said another.

 

I’m here to fight for my children’s future,” said Michael Nadeau, a 44-year-old entrepreneur.

 

For those who are in power we’re just numbers. They value money more than they value people,” he said, shouting to be heard above the din of chanting, whistling and drumming.

 

“(I’m here because) I’m sick of this system they call democracy,” said Jose Luis Arteaga, a 58-year-old teacher whose wage has been cut 20 percent. “I want things to change.”

It seems that almost record low bond yields and high stock market levels did not appease the people of Spain either…Time for that IMG income inequality equalizing wealth redsitriburion it would seem…

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan | Lauryn Oates

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan | Lauryn Oates.

Lauryn Oates

Human Rights Activist and Development Worker

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan

Posted: 02/28/2014 9:10 am

Foreign policy towards Afghanistan has never been known for its farsightedness. From the Soviet Union’s decision to invade the country in 1979 or America’s response in covertly arming the Islamist mujahedin, to Pakistan’s assistance incubating the Taliban, the policies of stakeholder countries towards Afghanistan have often been characterized by negligence, and the consequences have been dire for Afghanistan and these same countries.

The past decade of the international community’s efforts to bring security and development to Afghanistan has also had its share of shortsightedness. But where there has been dogged, long-term investment that accounts for lessons learned and that aims to build systems from the ground up, recognizing that this takes time, there have been successes. These successes are such that the country has propelled forward despite an ongoing insurgency, a government mired in corruption, and much uncertainty over future security arrangements beyond this year.

The change can be seen in skyrocketing human development indicators, the visibility of women in public life, the thriving media sector, and Afghans’ ambitious pursuit of education, from the spike in primary enrolment to the rapid spread of post-secondary institutions throughout the country. And despite a highly centralized government still liable to patronage under an increasingly unstable leader, there are still understated processes of democratization underway. One such process is the professionalization and strengthening of Afghan-led security.

Professionalizing the security sector is not only about security, but is also critical to democratic development. The Afghan police and army, together known as the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), represent government at the ground level, where the state interfaces with citizens.

These institutions serve as a kind of barometer for public confidence in government. That’s why it’s a hopeful sign that 88% of Afghans report having confidence in the Afghan National Army (ANA) while 91% say that the ANA is helping to improve security in the country, according to the 2013 Survey of the Afghan People. These confidence levels have remained consistent since 2007, and are assessed to be because the presence of the ANSF “has brought at least some sense of law and order to the country.”

That has been no small feat. These institutions have been largely built from scratch, with little to draw from the pre-2002 Taliban Government’s style of security, which consisted of ragtag bands of illiterate religious police, menacingly dangling off the backs of pick-up trucks, on the prowl for those committing “moral crimes.” With no uniforms aside from their black turbans and kohl-smudged eyes, yielding whips and Kalashnikovs, they gave the local population every reason to fear them, and little sense of being served or protected by professionals enforcing the law.

Besides attempting to change the very purpose and spirit of the police force and army in the aftermath of the Taliban, the current effort has required a heavy infusion of equipping, supplying, and training a force now numbering some 350,000 Afghans, including a growing number of women police and soldiers.

Canada has been part of the team of 37 nations undertaking NATO’s training mission of the ANSF, providing 950 Canadian trainers and support personnel who have delivered training in core skills for the forces, as well as leadership and other areas, in Kabul and at satellite sites in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif.

In 2011, literacy became part of the required training for Afghan forces, and the successes in this area have been among the most remarkable. Consider that prior to the start of the training mission only 13,000 ANSF had even the most rudimentary literacy, while nearly all ANSF have now either completed literacy training or are currently enrolled (according to ISAF, as at January 2014, 233,643 have completed Level 1, 98,648 completed Level 2, and 76,834 completed Level 3, the level for functional literacy).

In 2012, the Darulaman Literacy Centre opened at the Regional Military Training Centre in Kabul. The literacy component of training is crucial because literate police and soldiers take themselves seriously: they think of themselves as educated professionals, serving their people, as opposed to preying on them. Further, literacy is the steppingstone to learning trades like signals or artillery, allowing the further professionalizing of the ANSF.

All of this is akin to a transformation of some consequence in terms of state building. Yet to be durable, this work must continue, for at least another two years, according to NATO. But at the end of March, Canadian military personnel will leave Afghanistan. That is too soon. As the second largest contributing nation to the training mission after the US, Canada’s contributions to this capacity development are too valuable to withdraw this close to the finish line. Canada should renew its training mission for another term, and continue contributing to the Afghan mission in an area in which it clearly excels.

NATO civilian leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called the “zero option”, of having no international forces left in Afghanistan simply “not an option”, stressing the need for continued capacity and training support in particular, to get the ANSF to a point where it can reliably and independently provide security for the citizens of Afghanistan.

I recently asked Canadian Major-General Dean Milner, Commander of the NATO training mission, how far the Afghan security forces have come in their development, and how far they have left to go. “They are well past the half-way point” Milner told me, “with just a few more years of financial and practical assistance from the international community they should be capable of sustaining themselves. They defeat the Taliban in every tactical engagement, but now they need assistance with more complex skills such as building their Air Force and their logistical and maintenance systems.”

With President Karzai delaying the signing of a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) there is fevered speculation that NATO troops will leave the country by 2015 and Afghanistan will once again return to chaos. When asked for his view, Major-General Milner was optimistic the BSA would be signed. “The Loya Jirga overwhelmingly supported the immediate signing and every serious contender in the presidential election has committed to signing the BSA if elected,” said Milner. “It would be unfortunate if the support of the international community were to come to an end after the Afghans have progressed so far.” Milner likened it to a swimmer making it 60% of the way across the channel when he gets tired and turns back.

It’s often said that Canada has expended blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Some say this to argue that we’ve given enough to a troubled country on the other side of the world that we had little to do with prior to 2003. But many who know Afghanistan well, and who, like me, have seen how close we are to reaching some enduring stability there, would say this is exactly why we have to see this through. Cutting short the goal of building a professional armed forces after years of investment, when valuable gains need to be protected, when the state’s institutions are within sight of being fully functional, and when the Taliban arerunning out of money to continue their insurgency would continue the pattern of shortsightedness that has too long afflicted the international community’s efforts in Afghanistan. Canada should stay, and continue to add value to the effort of training and educating Afghan soldiers and police. We have given too much and come too far to walk out this close to the finish line, and with so much progress at stake.

Local Police Train With Special Forces To Raid Farm Houses, Conduct Domestic Raids | The Daily Sheeple

Local Police Train With Special Forces To Raid Farm Houses, Conduct Domestic Raids | The Daily Sheeple.

Activist Post
February 17th, 2014

 dees fusion center

By Brandon Turbeville

On January 20, I wrote an article entitled “Upcoming Military Drill Off Limits To Reporters,” in which I reported on the announcement that South Carolina’s Richland County Sheriff’s Office would be engaged in joint training exercises with unidentified units from Ft. Bragg.

The official Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s press release statedthat “Citizens may see military and departmental vehicles traveling in and around rural and metropolitan areas and may hear ordinance being set off or fired which will be simulated/ blanks and controlled by trained personnel.”

The release also stated that the exercise was being held “Due to Sheriff Leon Lott’s longstanding commitment to making sure that deputies are trained and prepared for every event and potential threat and his desire to assist the military to ensure their preparations.”

It is worth noting that Ft. Bragg hosts some of the U.S. Army’s more elite units such as Special Forces as well as more elite airborne and aviation support units. Ft. Bragg is also home to the elite Delta Force.

Beyond this information, however, very little was known about the drills. That is, until now.

According to independent sources, Special Forces were indeed involved in the drills in concert with local civilian police forces.

Civilian police and military units worked together in practice for setting up and maintaining checkpoints as well as other checkpoint-related drills. Both police and military also worked together to practice chopper insertion – the deployment of troops/operatives by way of helicopters.

What is most disturbing, however, is that, according to sources, both the civilian police and U.S. military forces were also training to raid farm houses and engage in domestic raids.

No wonder the Richland County Sheriff’s Department was so tight-lipped about the operations they were taking part in during the process of these joint drills.

The fact that the police and military are engaging in joint drill exercises in violation of Posse Comitatus and a long-standing American tradition of separation between domestic policing and military activity is concerning enough. However, the fact that they are training for domestic operations such as raiding American farm houses, setting up domestic checkpoints, and conducting other related raids on the home-front should be terrifying to every single American that desires to keep what little shred of freedom they have left.

If the reports of these sources are accurate, the American military and indeed the Richland County Sheriff’s Department clearly see the American people and the people of South Carolina as the enemy.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 275 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

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Staged Opposition Violence in Venezuela. Towards a “Colored Revolution”? | Global Research

Staged Opposition Violence in Venezuela. Towards a “Colored Revolution”? | Global Research.

Opposition Violence, Two Deaths Mark Day of Youth in Venezuela

Global Research, February 14, 2014
Venezuelanalysis.com 12 February 2014
venezuela

Violent opposition groups attacked government buildings and civilians, and clashed with police and government supporters following peaceful marches commemorating the Day of Youth.

The violence has claimed two deaths and left 23 injured across the country. Thirty arrests have been made according to government sources.

Venezuela commemorates the day of the youth on 12 February each year in memory of the role of young people in the decisive independence battle in La Victoria in 1814. Today marked the bicentenary of the historic battle.

Caracas

In mid afternoon President Nicolas Maduro delivered a speech in Caracas, praising the morning’s marches as peaceful. However, shortly later one Chavista was reported to have been killed amid clashes involving opposition activists. Juan Montoya, also known as Juancho was shot. He was a community leader in the Chavista stronghold, Barrio 23 de Enero. This afternoon National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello condemned the shooting, and accused armed right-wing groups of “hunting down” Montoya.

“They are fascists, murderers, and then they talk about dialogue,” Cabello stated, referring to armed right-wing activists. The AN head called for calm, and urged against reprisals.

Juan Montoya, on the right, talking to El Universal in August last year

Violent opposition groups also attacked the attorney general’s office in Carabobo Park, Caracas. Photographs of the scene indicate the building’s exterior was damaged.

A building belonging to the government owned Fundacaracas organisation was also attacked by opposition groups. A few hours later the mayor of Caracas’s Libertador municipality, the PSUV’s Jorge Rodriguez also reported that the judicial offices in Chacao, Miranda, were also attacked. Later in the night the National Guard were deployed to the state owned VTV offices in Los Ruices. Disturbances had been reported in the area, though no further details were available at the time of writing.

In the evening, President Nicolas Maduro stated that violent opposition groups had also set fire to five police patrol vehicles. He also stated that a group of around two hundred violent activists had attempted to attack Miraflores Palace after the attorney general’s office.

Merida

After weeks of small, violent protests in Merida, there was a large march by government supporters in one part of the Andean city, and a larger march by opposition supporters elsewhere. Both were observed to be peaceful by Venezuelanalysis. However, violence began shortly after the opposition march finished. Clashes took place in Merida’s streets after individuals began burning garbage in intersections and erecting barricades.

A larger confrontation took place at a major intersection in the city’s north. Witnesses told Venezuelanalys.com that they saw men in balaclavas occupy a number of apartments, and fire live ammunition into the streets below. Riot police blocked the intersection. Hundreds of government supporters gathered a few hundred metres behind the police lines.

“We’re defending the city centre,” one supporter told Venezuelanalysis.

The Pro-Government March

At the pro-government march in the morning, Roger Zurita told Venezuelanalysis.com, “I’m worried about confrontations but I’m marching because today is the day of the youth, to celebrate the battle of La Victoria, not because of the opposition march. We have to organise ourselves around our values. We’re celebrating with happiness and peace the youth who struggle, our independence, the struggle for political power. Today we have an anti-imperialist youth and people are waking up, we’re not going to fall for the right wing’s games.”

“I’m marching for various reasons, mainly because I still believe in the project of our country, which still hasn’t been fully realised, but if we work just a bit harder we can do it, we have a lot to do. Also because it’s important to show that we are many, there are a lot of people who believe in this. What’s been happening in Merida is sad, regrettable. It’s a shame that they [violent sectors of the opposition] can’t propose anything without violence. We shouldn’t respond with violence. But the only proposal they seem to have is to get people into power who have never cared about the people, they just want to sell our country to the [US] empire,” Raquel Barrios told Venezuelanalysis, referring to the last four days of violence in Merida.

“I’m marching to commemorate the battle of La Victoria, but they [the opposition leadership] are manipulating the youth of Merida and parts of the opposition, they want to put an end to everything we’ve achieved, but they won’t be able to, because we’re peaceful people but ready for any necessary battle,” said Douglas Vasquez told  Venezuelanalysis.

“Basically I’m marching to rescue Merida. We can’t let Merida be in the hands of violent people. I’m a teacher at the University of Los Andes (ULA), and I feel very ashamed that the recent violent incidents are mostly promoted by people from the ULA, who hope to create discomfort in the people in order to overthrow a consolidated and democratically elected government,” Katania Felisola said to Venezuelanalysis.

The Opposition March

The opposition march started at the ULA and went down the Americas Avenue after a last minute redirection.

Fernando Peña, a chemical engineering student at the ULA told Venezuelanalysis’s Ewan Robertson, “The students have felt the need to show themselves against [the goverment], because they have taken students prisoner in Mérida and Táchira just for expressing their right to protest. Right now feelings are very tense, because the people are tired of the government, [and] the students are the centre of the mobilisation throughout the country. The people now deeply disagree with the decisions that the government makes…living in Venezuela has become ever more difficult”.

Jan Carlos Lopez, worker in the Medical Faculty of the ULA told VA, “Some of the main reasons [for the march] are the shortages that are being experienced in the country, criminality, and insecurity. There isn’t an organisation that can protect us at night time so that we can go out. That’s what we’re asking for, security so that all Venezuelans can live in peace.”

Other opposition marchers told Robertson that they blamed the government for the violence, for “sending out motorbikes to attack students”.

In the violence after the marches, two people have been reported as injured, both shot in the legs. One of those was Jilfredo Barradas, a state government photographer.

“It’s a show, everyone knew it would turn out like this, it was planned,” one Merida activist told Venezuelanalysis, referring to the violence both in the Americas intersection as well as on Avenue 3.

Further, Gustavo Bazan told Venezuelanalysis, “On Friday they [violent opposition sectors] wanted to store Molotov cocktails [in the apartment where Bazan lives] and break up bricks in order to have rocks. I stepped out of line a bit and I told them that here they weren’t protesting against the government but rather against their own neighbours. I challenged them to take off their balaclavas and said to them they weren’t capable of coming over and having a conversation. They jumped over the fence and three of them started to beat me up. A friend and a building security guard saved me. I filmed them while they prepared the Molotov cocktails”. 

Other cities

Electricity minister Jesse Chacon informed through his Twitter account that “violent groups” surrounded an electric substation in San Cristobal and threw Molotov cocktails at it.

According to AVN there was also violence in Aragua and Carabobo states “which left material damage”.

The governor of Carabobo state, Francisco Ameliach said that “violent groups burnt a truck with liquid asphalt”. Ameliach alleged that the head of the MUD in the state, Vicencio Scarano had financed the crimes.

The minister for internal affairs, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, said that violent groups had tried to set the Aragua state government building on fire.

Official response

Tonight Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz informed the public that so far there have been a total of two deaths, 23 injured, and thirty arrests. Along with Montoya, student Basil Da Costa died after suffering a gunshot.  She added though that public lawyers were investigating and visiting hospitals to determine the exact number. According to Maduro the two men were both shot in the head, “like the sharp shooters who murdered [people] on 11 April [2002]”.

Ortega also said that four CICPC (Scientific Crime Investigation Body) vehicles were set on fire, as well as other private vehicles.

Regarding the march in Caracas, she said “they were guaranteed security from Plaza Venezuela to the Attorney General’s Office, there was nothing to impede them”.

Maduro also warned tonight that “whoever protests or marches without permission will be detained”.

“These are trained groups who… are prepared to overthrow the government in a violent way, and I’m not going to allow this, so I call on Venezuela to be peaceful,” Maduro said.

Foreign minister Elias Jaua alleged that Leopoldo Lopez was the “intellectual author of the deaths and injuries in Caracas”.

The Ecuadorian government emitted a statement today condemning the “acts of violence and vandalism by irresponsible members of the opposition”.

“We hope for the prompt reestablishment of social peace in our brother country and because respect for the government and its legitimately constituted institutions has precedence”.

Opposition statements and response

“This a call put out by the students and supported by the Democratic Unity [MUD opposition coalition], this march on the day of the youth is taking place when the government is repressing, with jail, with torture,” Leopoldo Lopez told CNN yesterday, in anticipation of today’s events.

“The government has an agenda of violence and as they control the monopoly [sic] over communication in Venezuela they hide it…the call that has been made is to be in the street,” he said, blaming the violence over the last week in Merida and Tachira on the government.

Speaking tonight on Noticias 24, Lopez blamed the national government for today’s violence and deaths. “Who is generating the violence? The government… repression by the national guard, the police,” he said.

Some of the top tweets by the opposition at the moment also blamed the Tupamaros groups. The Tupamaros are now quite small, but are often blamed for any violence that takes place. They support the national government.

“They (Tupamaros) are animals and they should all die,” wrote Daniel Garcia.

“Hitler, come back and put all the Tupamaros in gas chambers” wrote Andreina Leonett.

“When the first student dies all the streets of Venezuela will burn,” wrote Jose Gamboa.

Over the last week far right opposition leaders such as Leopoldo Lopez have been calling for people to “go out into the street” in order to achieve an “exit” of the national government.

Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

From North America to Europe, the ‘national security’ apparatus is being bought off by Big Oil to rout peaceful activism
Climate and anti-fracking activists blocade site

Are the hundreds of peaceful protesters who blockaded the Cuadrilla oil drilling site outside Balcombe, West Sussex, dangerous “extremists”? Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Over the last year, a mass of shocking evidence has emerged on the close ties between Western government spy agencies and giant energycompanies, and their mutual interests in criminalising anti-fracking activists.

Activists tarred with the same brush

In late 2013, official documents obtained under freedom of information showed that Canada‘s domestic spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), had ramped up its surveillance of activists opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project on ‘national security’ grounds. The CSIS also routinely passed information about such groups to the project’s corporate architect, Calgary-based energy company, Enbridge.

The Northern Gateway is an $8 billion project to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast, where it can be shipped to global markets. According to the documents a Canadian federal agency, the National Energy Board, worked with CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to coordinate with Enbridge, TransCanada, and other energy corporations in gathering intelligence on anti-fracking activists – despite senior police privately admitting they “could not detect a direct or specific criminal threat.”

Now it has emerged that former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl – the man appointed by Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to head up the CSIS’ civilian oversight panel, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) – has been lobbying for Enbridge since 2011.

But that’s not all. According to CBC News, only one member of Strahl’s spy watchdog committee “has no ties to either the current government or the oil industry.” For instance, SIRC member Denis Losier sits on the board of directors of Enbridge-subsidiary, Enbridge NB, while Yves Fortier, is a former board member of TransCanada, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Counter-insurgency in the homeland

Investigative journalist Steve Horn reports that TransCanada has also worked closely with American law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in attempting to criminalise US citizens opposed to the pipeline. Files obtained under freedom of information last summer showed that in training documents for the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), TransCanada suggested that non-violent Keystone XL protestors could be deterred using criminal and anti-terror statutes:

“… the language in some of the documents is so vague that it could also ensnare journalists, researchers and academics, as well.”

According to the Earth Island Journal, official documents show that TransCanada “has established close ties with state and federal law enforcement agencies along the proposed pipeline route.” But TransCanada is only one example of “the revolving door between state law enforcement agencies and the private sector, especially in areas where fracking and pipeline construction have become big business.”

This has had a tangible impact. In March last year, US law enforcement officials had infiltrated and spied on environmentalists attending a tar sands resistance camp in Oklahoma, leading to the successful pre-emptive disruption of their protest action.

Just last December, other activists in Oklahoma faced terror charges for draping an anti-fracking banner in the lobby of the offices housing US oil and gas company, Devon Energy. The two protestors were charged with carrying out a “terrorism hoax” for using gold glitter on their banner, some of which happened to scatter to the floor of the building – depicted by a police spokesman as a potentially “dangerous or toxic” substance in the form of a “black powder,” causing a panic.

But Suzanne Goldenberg reports a different account:

“After a few uneventful minutes, [the activists] Stephenson and Warner took down the banner and left the building – apologising to the janitor who came hurrying over with a broom. A few people, clutching coffee cups, wandered around in the lobby below, according to Stephenson. But she did not detect much of a response to the banner. There wasn’t even that much mess, she said. The pair had used just four small tubes of glitter on their two banners.”

The criminalisation of peaceful activism under the rubric of ‘anti-terrorism’ is an escalating trend linked directly to corporate co-optationof the national security apparatus. In one egregious example, thousands of pages of government records confirm how local US police departments, the FBI and the DHS monitored Occupy activists nationwide as part of public-private intelligence sharing with banks and corporations.

Anti-fracking activists in particular have come under increased FBI surveillance in recent years under an expanded definition of ‘eco-terrorism‘, although the FBI concedes that eco-terrorism is on the decline. This is consistent with US defence planning documents over the last decade which increasingly highlight the danger of domestic “insurgencies” due to the potential collapse of public order under various environmental, energy or economic crises.

Manufacturing “consensus”

In the UK, Scotland Yard’s National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (which started life as the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit and later became the National Domestic Extremism Unit), has had a long record of equating the spectre of “domestic extremism” with “single-issue protests, such as animal rights, anti-war, anti-globalisation and anti-GM crops.” Apart from animal rights, these movements have been “overwhelmingly peaceful” points out George Monbiot.

This has not prevented the police unit from monitoring almost 9,000 Britons deemed to hold “radical political views,” ranging from “anti-capitalists” to “anti-war demonstrators.” Increasingly though, according to a Guardian investigation, the unit “is known to have focused its resources on spying on environmental campaigners, particularly those engaged in direct action and civil disobedience to protest against climate change.”

Most recently, British police have gone so far as to conduct surveillance of Cambridge University students involved in social campaigns like anti-fracking, education, anti-fascism, and opposition to austerity, despite a lack of reason to suspect criminal activity.

This is no accident. Yesterday, senior Tory and ex-Cabinet minister Lord Deben, chairman of the UK government-sponsored Committee on Climate Change, characterised anyone suggesting that fracking is “devastatingly damaging” as a far-left “extremist,” holding “nonsensical” views associated with “Trotskyite” dogma. In contrast, he described “moderate” environmentalists as situated safely in the legitimate spectrum of a “broad range of consensus” across “all political parties.”

In other words, if you are disillusioned with the existing party political system and its approach to environmental issues, you are an extremist.

Deben’s comments demonstrate the regressive mindset behind the British government’s private collaboration with shale gas industry executives to “manage the British public’s hostility to fracking,” as revealed in official emails analysed by Damien Carrington.

The emails exposed the alarming extent to which government is “acting as an arm of the gas industry,” compounding earlier revelations that Department of Energy and Climate Change employees involved in drafting UK energy policy have been seconded from UK gas corporations.

Public opinion is the enemy

The latest polling data shows that some 47% of Britons “would not be happy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home,” with just 14% saying they would be happy. By implication, the government views nearly half of the British public as potential extremists merely for being sceptical of shale gas.

This illustrates precisely why the trend-line of mass surveillance exemplified in the Snowden disclosures has escalated across the Western world. From North America to Europe, the twin spectres of “terrorism” and “extremism” are being disingenuously deployed by an ever more centralised nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power, to suppress widening public opposition to that very process of unaccountable centralisation.

But then, what’s new? Back in 1975, the Trilateral Commission – a network of some 300 American, European and Japanese elites drawn from business, banking, government, academia and media founded by Chase Manhattan Bank chairman David Rockerfeller – published an influential study called The Crisis of Democracy.

The report concluded that the problems of governance “stem from an excess of democracy” which makes government “less powerful and more active” due to being “overloaded with participants and demands.” This democratic excess at the time consisted of:

“… a marked upswing in other forms of citizen participation, in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ’cause’ organizations… [including] markedly higher levels of self-consciousness on the part of blacks, Indians, Chicanos, white ethnic groups, students, and women… [and] a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private… People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.”

The solution, therefore, is “to restore the prestige and authority of central government institutions,” including “hegemonic power” in the world. This requires the government to somehow “reinforce tendencies towards political passivity” and to instill “a greater degree of moderation in democracy.” This is because:

“… the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups… In itself, this marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic, but it has also been one of the factors which has enabled democracy to function effectively.”

Today, such official sentiments live on in the form of covert psychological operations targeted against Western publics by the CIAPentagon andMI6, invariably designed to exaggerate threats to manipulate public opinion in favour of government policy.

As the global economy continues to suffocate itself, and as publics increasingly lose faith in prevailing institutions, the spectre of ‘terror’ is an increasingly convenient tool to attempt to restore authority by whipping populations into panic-induced subordination.

Evidently, however, what the nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power fears the most is simply an “excess of democracy”: the unpalatable prospect of citizens rising up and taking power back.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Thailand declares Bangkok state of emergency – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Thailand declares Bangkok state of emergency – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Protesters have occupied several government buildings in the capital, Bangkok [Reuters]
The Thai government has declared a state of emergency in the capital Bangkok and surrounding areas to cope with protests aimed at forcing the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, from power.Chalerm Yubumrung, Thailand’s labour minister, announced on Tuesday that the restrictions would come into force after midnight and last 60 days.

“We need it because the protesters have closed government buildings, banks and escalated the situation, which has caused injuries and deaths. The government sees the need to announce the emergency decree to keep the situation under control,” Yubumrung said.

The decree will allow security agencies to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of more than five people and declare areas off-limits.

Yingluck said police, not the military, would mainly be used and her government had no intention of confronting the protesters.

“We will use peaceful negotiations with the protesters in line with international standards … We have told the police to stick with international standards, to be patient with the protesters,” she said on Tuesday.

Recent violence

The state of emergency follows increasing attacks at protest sites for which the government and the protesters blame each other. These include grenade attacks and drive-by shootings.

On Sunday, 28 people were wounded when two grenades were thrown at one of several protest sites set up in Bangkok.

Another grenade attack on a protest march last Friday killed one man and wounded dozens. No arrests have been made in either attack.

The protesters have been demanding Yingluck’s resignation to make way for an appointed government to implement reforms to fight corruption.

The protesters say that Yingluck’s government is carrying on the practices of Thaksin Shinawatra, her billionaire brother who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, by using the family fortune and state funds to influence voters and cement its power.

Yingluck called elections for February 2, but the protesters want them postponed. The opposition Democrat Party, closely aligned with the protesters, is boycotting the polls.

The announcement of the emergency decree said the elections would proceed as planned.

Activist Post: Government of the Rich, by the Rich and for the Rich: It’s Time for ‘Militant Nonviolent Resistance’

Activist Post: Government of the Rich, by the Rich and for the Rich: It’s Time for ‘Militant Nonviolent Resistance’.

John W. Whitehead
Activist Post

“[E]verywhere, “time is winding up,” in the words of one of our spirituals, “corruption in the land, people take a stand, time is winding up.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

We now live in a two-tiered system of governance. There are two sets of laws: one set for the government and its corporate allies, and another set for you and me.

The laws which apply to the majority of the population allow the government to do things like sending SWAT teams crashing through your door in the middle of the night, rectally probing you during a roadside stop, or listening in on your phone calls and reading all of your email messages, confiscating your property, or indefinitely detaining you in a military holding cell. These are the laws which are executed every single day against a population which has up until now been blissfully ignorant of the radical shift taking place in American government.

Then there are the laws constructed for the elite, which allow bankers who crash the economy to walk free. They’re the laws which allow police officers to avoid prosecution when they shoot unarmed citizens, strip search non-violent criminals, or taser pregnant women on the side of the road, or pepper spray peaceful protestors. These are the laws of the new age we are entering, an age of neo-feudalism, in which corporate-state rulers dominate the rest of us, where the elite create the laws which can result in a person being jailed for possessing a small amount of marijuana while bankers that launder money for drug cartels walk free. In other words, we have moved into an age where we are the slaves and they are the rulers.

Unfortunately, this two-tiered system of government has been a long time coming. As I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the march toward an imperial presidency, to congressional intransigence and impotence, to a corporate takeover of the mechanisms of government, and the division of America into haves and have nots has been building for years.

Thus we now find ourselves at a point where, for the first time in history, Congress is dominated by a majority of millionaires who are, on average, 14 times wealthier than the average American. Making matters worse, as the Center for Responsive Politics reports, “at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code,” our so-called representatives are completely out of touch with the daily struggles of most Americans–those who live from paycheck to paycheck and are caught in the exhausting struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis.

Indeed, although America is supposed to be a representative republic, these people– who earn six-figure salaries and inhabit a world exempt from parking tickets, where gym membership is free and health care is second-to-none, where you only have to work two, maybe three days a week and get 32 fully reimbursed road trips home a year, travel to foreign lands, discounts in Capitol Hill tax-free shops and restaurants, free reserved parking at Washington National Airport, free fresh-cut flowers from the Botanic Gardens, and free assistance in the preparation of income taxes–neither represent nor serve the American people. They have instead appointed themselves our masters.

While Congress should be America’s representative body, too many of its members bear little resemblance to those they have been elected to represent. As Dan Eggen reports for The Washington Post: “The new figures underscore a long-standing trend of wealth accumulation in Congress, which is populated overwhelmingly with millionaires and near-millionaires who often own multiple homes and other assets out of reach for most of the voters they represent.”

Many of our politicians live like kings. Chauffeured around in limousines, flying in private jets and eating gourmet meals, all paid for by the American taxpayer, they are far removed from those they are supposed to represent. Such a luxurious lifestyle makes it difficult to identify with the “little guy”–the roofers, plumbers and blue-collar workers who live from paycheck to paycheck and keep the country running with their hard-earned dollars and the sweat of their brows.

The unfortunate but simple fact is that the rich sit perched at the top of the government. As Joseph Stiglitz writes for Vanity Fair:

Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift–through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price–it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.

Sadly, electoral politics have been so thoroughly corrupted by corporate money that there is little chance, even for a well-meaning person, to affect any real change through Congress. Whether it be the Oval Office or the halls of Congress, the road to the ballot box is an expensive one, and only the wealthy, or those supported by the wealthy, are even able to get to the starting line.

Just consider the 2012 presidential election cycle. Both parties spent $1 billion each attempting to get their candidate elected to the presidency. This money came from rich donors and corporate sponsors, intent on getting their candidate in office. Once in office, these already privileged wealthy bureaucrats enter into a life of even greater privilege, unfortunately at the expense of the American taxpayer. It doesn’t even seem to matter whether they’re Democrats or Republicans–they all take full advantage of what one news report described as “a mountain of perks that most Fortune 500 companies couldn’t begin to rival.”

Even President Obama’s closest advisers are millionaires, including those on his 15-member cabinet. It is not unusual for some of them to own vacation homes, such as Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, who owns a “summer home worth more than a million dollars.”

And then there are the lobbyists, the source of much corruption and exchanging of money in Washington. With an estimated 26 lobbyists per congressman, it should come as no surprise that once elected, even those with the best of intentions seem to find it hard to resist the lure of lobbyist dollars, of which there are plenty to go around.

This lobbying is in turn buoyed by a congressional lifestyle which demands that our representatives spend the majority of their time fund raising for campaigns, rather than responding to the needs of their constituents. In November 2012, the Democratic House leadership offered a model daily schedule to newly elected Democrats which suggests a ten-hour day, five hours of which are dominated by “call time” and “strategic outreach,” including fund raisers and correspondence with potential donors. Three or four hours are for actually doing the job they were elected to do, such as attending committee meetings, voting on legislation, and interacting with constituents.

When half of one’s time is devoted to asking for money from rich individuals and special interests, there is no way that he can respond to the problems which pervade the country. Even well-meaning Congressmen face a Catch-22 where they are pushed to fundraise to secure their seats, but then once in office, it is basically impossible for them to do their jobs. The full ramifications of this are laid out by Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC):

Any member who follows that schedule will be completely controlled by their staff, handed statements that their staff prepared, speaking from talking points they get emailed from leadership… It really does affect how members of Congress behave if the most important thing they think about is fundraising. You end up being nice to people that probably somebody needs to be questioning skeptically… You won’t ask tough questions in hearings that might displease potential contributors, won’t support amendments that might anger them, will tend to vote the way contributors want you to vote.

What we are faced with is a government by oligarchy–in other words, one that is of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. Yet the Constitution’s Preamble states that it is “we the people” who are supposed to be running things. If our so-called “representative government” is to survive, we must first wrest control of our government from the wealthy elite who run it. That is a problem with no easy solutions, and voting is the least of what we should be doing.

“What they don’t want,” noted comedian George Carlin, is “a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.”

A population of citizens capable of critical thinking? That’s a good place to start, and it’s a sure-fire way to jumpstart a revolution. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Wise men established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity should look up again at the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began.”

Inspiring words, but what do they really mean for those of us laboring under the weight of an overreaching, militarized, corrupt government that grows increasingly so with each passing day?

How can we change this state of affairs? The government is too big, too powerful, and its overlords too entrenched to willingly give up any of its power or wealth. The wisest option is to employ the tactics of past protest movements such as the Bonus Army, the Civil Rights Movement, and the 1960s anti-war movement, all of which used sleep-ins, sit-ins and marches to oppose government policies, counter injustice and bring about meaningful change.

For example, in May of 1932, more than 43,000 people, dubbed the Bonus Army—World War I veterans and their families—marched on Washington. Out of work, destitute and with families to feed, more than 10,000 veterans set up tent cities in the nation’s capital and refused to leave until the government agreed to pay the bonuses they had been promised as a reward for their services. The Senate voted against paying them immediately, but the protesters didn’t budge. Congress adjourned for the summer, and still the protesters remained encamped. Finally, on July 28, under orders from President Herbert Hoover, the military descended with tanks and cavalry, beating some protesters senseless and setting their makeshift camps on fire. Still, the protesters returned the following year, and eventually their efforts not only succeeded in securing payment of the bonuses but contributed to the passage of the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Similarly, the Civil Rights Movement mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to strike at the core of an unjust and discriminatory society. Likewise, while the 1960s anti-war movement began with a few thousand perceived radicals, it ended with hundreds of thousands of protesters, spanning all walks of life, demanding the end of American military aggression abroad.

What these movements had was a coherent message, the mass mobilization of a large cross section of American society, what Martin Luther King Jr. called a philosophy of “militant nonviolent resistance” and an eventual convergence on the nation’s seat of power—Washington, DC—the staging ground for the corporate coup, where the shady deals are cut, where lobbyists and politicians meet, and where corporate interests are considered above all else.

It is no coincidence that just prior to his assassination in April 1968, King was plotting “to build a shantytown in Washington, patterned after the bonus marches of the thirties, to dramatize how many people have to live in slums in our nation.”

King’s advice still rings true: “We need to put pressure on Congress to get things done. We will do this with First Amendment activity. If Congress is unresponsive, we’ll have to escalate in order to keep the issue alive and before it. This action may take on disruptive dimensions, but not violent in the sense of destroying life or property: it will be militant nonviolence.”

The balance of power that was once a hallmark of our republic no longer exists. James Madison’s warning that “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elected, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” has, regrettably come to pass.

Clearly, it’s time for a mass movement dedicated to change through “militant nonviolence.” If not, the shadow of tyranny that now hangs over us will eventually destroy every last semblance of freedom.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor,” Martin Luther King Jr. warned in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” “It must be demanded by the oppressed.”

John W. Whitehead is a civil liberties and human rights attorney and founder of the Rutherford Institute where this article first appeared. He is also the author of several books.

Activist Post: Florida Police Have a New Toy: A U.S. Military Surplus Battle Wagon

Activist Post: Florida Police Have a New Toy: A U.S. Military Surplus Battle Wagon.

“If you see my SWAT team roll up in this, it’s over, so just give up” 

Lily Dane
Activist Post

A Florida police department has a new toy – a U.S. military surplus battle wagon.

The six wheel, 30-ton armored Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (or MRAP) is in “lightly used condition” and only has 5,000 miles on it. It is worth $700,000, but the department got it for $2,000. What a deal!

Fort Pierce Police Chief Sean Baldwin told WPTV that he hopes the vehicle remains parked:

Hopefully, we’ll never need the MRAP, but knowing that it is ready to roll is comforting.

Fort Pierce Police posted an ominous warning to citizens on their Facebook page:

Chief Baldwin has some advice for anyone that may find themselves facing the MRAP on the wrong side of the law. ‘If you see my SWAT team roll up in this thing… it’s over, so just give up.’

Yes, how comforting.

 

Guess how the department got the vehicle?

Officer Keith Holmes got it through the generosity of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the military to transfer excess military vehicles to law enforcement agencies (among all of theother wonderful things the NDAA allows the government to do).

Over $4.2 billion worth of property has been transferred to law enforcement since the program began, in the ongoing effort to militarize US police.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office helped get the vehicle painted for free, so the sides say “Police” and “Fort Pierce.”

Violence mars controversial Bangladesh polls – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

Violence mars controversial Bangladesh polls – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English.

Violence has marred controversial general elections in Bangladesh, leaving at least 18 people dead in clashes between opposition supporters and police.

Thousands of protesters firebombed polling stations and stole ballot papers as deadly violence flared across the South Asian nation during Sunday’s elections, which was boycotted by the BNP, the main opposition party, and its allies.

Polls closed at 4pm (1000 GMT) after eight hours of voting and final results were expected in the early hours of Monday morning.

Police said more than 200 polling stations were set on fire or trashed by mobs in a bid by the opposition activists to wreck the contest.

AFP correspondents said there were no queues to vote, while local television reported that only a single person voted in the first three hours at one station.

The BNP is protesting against the decision by Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s government to scrap the practice of having a neutral caretaker government oversee elections.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Dhaka, said: “The government did everything it could to bring the opposition on board, and blames the opposition entirely for the violence. The opposition, on the other hand, says it will accept nothing less than a neutral caretaker body and this government to step aside.”

Low turnout

With the opposition trying to enforce a general strike as part of a strategy to wreck the polls, government officials acknowledged the turnout was significantly lower than usual.

“The turnout was low, partly due to the boycott by many parties,” Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, the election commission head, said without immediately giving a figure.

Two of those killed on Sunday were beaten to death while guarding polling stations in northern districts which bore the brunt of the violence.

“We’ve seen thousands of protesters attack polling booths and our personnel at a number of locations with Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs,” Syed Abu Sayem, police chief of the northern Bogra district, told AFP news agency.

“The situation is extremely volatile.”
He described how thousands of ballot papers had been ceremoniously set on fire.

Most of the other victims were opposition activists who were shot by police, while a driver died of his injuries from a Molotov cocktail attack on his lorry.

“We were forced to open fire after thousands of them attacked us with guns and small bombs,” Mokbul Hossain, police chief in the northern Parbatipur town, said

“It was a coordinated attack. They managed to seize some ballot papers and they tried to steal our weapons.”

In Dhaka, police confirmed at least two petrol bomb attacks on polling stations.

Tens of thousands of troops were deployed across the country after around 150 people had been killed in the build-up, but they failed to halt the bloodshed.

The Awami League-led government has accused the BNP of orchestrating the violence and kept its leader, Khaleda Zia, confined to her home for a week.

Outcome not in doubt

The outcome of the contest is not in doubt as voting is taking place in only 147 of the 300 parliamentary constituencies.

Awami League candidates or allies have a clear run in the remaining 153.

The government said it had to hold the vote after parliament’s five-year term expired, but the BNP said it was a joke.

“Yes, the festive mood is missing but this election is essential to ensure constitutional continuity,” Quamrul Islam, deputy law minister, said.

Hasina’s government amended the constitution in 2010 and decided to hold elections under an all-party government.

However, Zia argued that such a government would in effect be headed by the governing party which would undermine the fairness of the process.

More violence feared

Many fear that the election is likely to stoke violence after the bloodiest year of unrest since Bangladesh broke free from Pakistan in 1971.

The former East Pakistan is the world’s eighth most populous nation but also one of the poorest in Asia, and more turmoil will undermine efforts to improve the lot of its population of 154 million – a third of whom live below the poverty line.

A local rights group says more than 500 people have been killed since January 2013, including victims of clashes that erupted after the conviction of Islamists for crimes dating back to the 1971 liberation war.

The main Islamist party was banned by judges from taking part in the election, and its leaders are either in detention or in hiding.

Alarmed by the violence, the US, EU and Commonwealth all declined to send observers.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Amena Mohsin, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, said: “The election has not been democratic. It was an in-house election. The government could have held a more inclusive election and the election commission could have delayed the vote further.”

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