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Issue 329

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Teenagers in Grenada
solve body-bag mystery

When a gravedigger unearthed several green body bags marked ‘US Army’, the funeral home contacted a bunch of schoolchildren that attempted to solve one of Grenada’s biggest mysteries – the location of the remains of murdered Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. The boys, aged between 14 and 16 years old from Presentation College, have embarked on the investigation in an effort towards ‘nurturing a culture of peace’.

On 19 October 1983, 19 people, including PM Bishop, were executed and dumped in a mass grave at Fort Rupert in Grenada. After the Americans invaded and took control of the island, they exhumed five bodies. The remains were burnt and badly decomposed but were believed to be those of Bishop, Jacqueline Creft and three other ministers.

Several days after the autopsy report was completed under US supervision, the bags were secretly buried in unmarked graves by the now-deceased funeral director, Leslie Bailey. Sixteen-year-old Andre Bierzynski explains that since then, ‘several attempts had been made to locate the bags’.

Word corner

Apartheid
Apartheid in Afrikaans means separateness (‘apart’ + ‘hood’). First used in Afrikaans in 1929, apartheid was not used in English until 1947 and came to be associated with the policies of the National Party which achieved power in 1948 and intensified racial segregation in South Africa. The prefix se- means ‘apart’, and the Latin grex means ‘flock’, so someone who is segregated is removed from the flock. Integrate is from the Latin integrare, to make whole.

Susan Watkin

The boys interviewed possible witnesses to what happened in the funeral home where the bodies were found. Clinton Bailey, son of Leslie, says: ‘I was so impressed, I felt compelled to help them if I could.’

The first official report on the bodies aroused suspicion for a number of reasons: it stated that the body parts were commingled, which would suggest injuries sustained from an explosion. Also, no skulls (the easiest way of identifying bodies as DNA testing was not available at the time) were present which suggests tampering. And Bishop’s body was never recovered.

Many Grenadians believe that US forces found Bishop’s remains and deliberately obscured their disposal to avoid a massive state funeral and a burial site that could serve as an anti-American rallying point for supporters of the leftist leader, an ally of Cuba and Russia.

This year, when word of the school’s investigation reached the US and Britain they sent forensic teams out to Grenada to examine the recent discoveries. The US Embassy stated briefly: ‘The US has no information concerning the whereabouts of those remains nor any reason to conceal such information.’ And the High Commission advised the British forensic team not to comment.

The boys’ new-found skills in investigation and interviewing have sparked their interest in following careers in the police force, forensics or even the FBI. They also want to pitch their research to a popular US TV show: ‘Unsolved Mysteries’.

Alex Smailes

Book battle
South Korea has threatened to cut off all cultural and educational exchanges with France unless it hands back 293 ancient Korean manuscripts housed in Paris’s National Library. Dating from the eighth to the nineteenth centuries, the documents were seized by French forces that looted and burned the Korean royal archive in 1866. The works taken include what scholars claim was the world’s first printed book – a collection of Buddhist texts printed in 1377, 80 years before the Gutenberg Bible.

Far Eastern Economic Review Vol 163 No 23

Liqueur’s losers seek a better deal
The producers of Grand Marnier, the liqueur with the distinctive tang of oranges, are fending off allegations that conditions on their orange plantation in Haiti are little better than those on the French-owned plantations worked by slave labourers in the eighteenth century. In the hills around Cap-Haitien, hundreds of people are employed to pick and peel the oranges. They must work 12 hours a day and earn only 20 cents a crate. And the women in the orange cutting-and-grating room are no better off. ‘They are always losing fingers,’ says Yannick Etienne of Batay Ouvriye, the workers’ union. ‘We are not even threatening a boycott of Marnier products,’ points out Etienne. ‘But we hope this company – which recorded a net income of around $16 million in 1998 – will feel the negative publicity is more costly than a meagre pay increase for Haitian workers.’

The Independent on Sunday: www.independent.co.uk

Bags behind bars
The Government of the Indian state of Kerala has decided to impose a ban on the use of plastic bags in the capital Thiruvananthapuram because they are non-biodegradable. The bags will pose a problem for a new garbage-treatment plant being set up to produce biofertilizers, says mayor V Sivankutty, so the best solution is to ban them. The mayor also points out that the ban will generate employment for poor women involved in making paper, jute and straw bags.

Down to Earth Vol 9 No 5

Photo: Tina Bird
The top of this minaret at Hasankeyf, Turkey, will barely be visible above dam waters. These herders must move to a town 30 kilometres away.

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Credit agencies support
Turkey’s undesirable dams

Plans to build a controversial dam in southeast Turkey have exposed the mercenary activities of national export credit agencies (ECAs). Attached to Western governments, ECAs provide loans for high-risk investment projects undertaken by companies overseas.

An international consortium of construction companies sub-contracted to build the Ilisu dam have approached ECAs in nine countries, including Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the US, for loans to the sum of $850 million.

The Ilisu dam will displace 25,000 people in the Kurdish heartland of southeast Turkey. No compensation or resettlement package has been offered to the affected population and those who oppose it face intimidation by Turkish security forces.

Already, overpopulated cities have had to accommodate a further 100,000 people, displaced by dams in the southeast. Collapsing infrastructures cause endless energy and water shortages.

Turkey’s Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP), a giant hydro-electric scheme of 22 dams being built on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, has been declared the solution to Turkey’s energy crisis. Situated on the Tigris, 65 kilometres north of the Syrian border, the Ilisu dam will allow Turkey to control a major source of shared water crossing into Syrian and Iraqi territory. Both of these countries have protested vigorously against the GAP project, but Turkey has refused to negotiate with its neighbours. Turkey was one of the three countries that in 1997 refused to sign a UN convention aimed at preventing border disputes between countries that share water.

The World Bank has not funded GAP since 1984 because of the political, environmental and humanitarian implications. This has led private banks to consider the Ilisu dam an unacceptably risky investment. The only moneylenders left to approach have been the unregulated ECAs.

Tina Bird

Tragedy ignored
Fighting between Christians and Muslim groups in the Indonesian islands of Maluku is a worse tragedy than East Timor and Kosovo, yet it has been virtually ignored by the international community, says Australian Uniting Church leader Reverend Professor James Haire. Returning from the Malukus, he said more people were dying from starvation, disease and exposure in the jungle than from gunshot wounds in the ongoing violence. Since the conflict flared in January last year, 4,000 people have been killed and more than 500,000 have become refugees. Haire is calling for peacekeepers to enter the islands and end the fighting. As a former missionary to the Malukus, Haire believes the conflict is less to do with religion than with old social and economic conflicts. Remembering the Malukus as ‘a place of incredible beauty’, Haire adds: ‘Christians would contribute toward the building of mosques and Muslims would contribute toward the building of churches. All that has now gone.’

Sydney Morning Herald: www.smh.com.au

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Women bear brunt of illegal drug trade

‘Just call me No-Name,’ says the young Colombian prisoner from her cell in a British jail. ‘I don’t want my children harmed.’

No-Name is one of a growing number of Latin American women sentenced to long jail terms in Britain after being caught acting as ‘mules’ – couriers for drug barons running cocaine into Europe. The drug ‘mules’ tend to be female and the two dozen or so Latin American women held in British prisons for trafficking are all from poor backgrounds.

With cocaine concealed in their clothing or in swallowed condoms, most of the women had never left their villages prior to boarding the plane to Britain. No-Name was one of them. Not yet 30, she was a single mother, desperately short of money. She flew to Britain, ostensibly as a tourist, with about half a kilogram of cocaine. ‘When I was caught at the airport, I felt terrified, paralyzed,’ she recalls.

She was sentenced to seven years for trafficking and is now alone in a foreign country she knows little about. She draws some consolation from the fact that she is able to study English. Once she has finished her sentence, the skill may help her to find a job back home. But in the meantime she fears for the safety of her children.

Another ‘mule’, Lucille Torres Susanna, illustrates how many women get into smuggling. The 51-year-old Colombian was arrested for carrying half a kilo of cocaine. She had agreed to smuggle the drug to meet a ransom demand after her grandson Brandon was kidnapped in Colombia. During her trial, she refused to reveal the names of the cartel members who had given her the cocaine. She was sentenced to seven years. A few days later, her grandson was released. When the boy was freed, Susanna sought a review of her case, with a view to pleading in mitigation that the kidnapping lay behind her actions. An Ecuadorian newspaper picked up the story and revealed that drug barons were kidnapping many other children in order to force their relatives to smuggle drugs. When news of this reached Colombia, Brandon was kidnapped again last August – and this time murdered.

Many point out that women such as No-Name and Susanna have little choice and are scapegoats for law enforcers. Deborah Bowker, a British lawyer who defends women ‘mules’, says: ‘The drug traffickers have begun to diversify. They send small quantities – up to six kilos – through many people.’ To boost the chance of safe passage for the majority, the traffickers even leak the names of one or two ‘mules’ to the police. The women who are caught receive little or no assistance from their embassies. Bowker points out: ‘They come from the poorest sectors of society. The embassy staff do not seem to care what happens to them.’

Rafael Drinot Silva / Gemini News Service

Driven by hunger
Lack of food may drive displaced Angolans into conflict-ridden areas, says medical aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). There are currently 2.5 million displaced people inside Angola. Drastic cuts in the number of people receiving food from the World Food Programme meant that in Lucna, for example, the number of people benefiting from food distribution dropped from 67,000 to 17,000. ‘People should not have to decide whether or not to relocate based on an empty stomach,’ says Felicitas Ibanez-Llado, head of the MSF team in Angola. ‘People are fleeing rural areas to seek safety in the town centres and should not be forced to move back to an insecure area because they are not receiving enough food.’

Médecins Sans Frontières

DNA & African roots
African Americans will soon be offered the chance to take a DNA test that will help them to track down where they came from. The test could uncover links between the genes of African Americans and a database of 2,000 samples taken from 40 separate ethnic groups in West Africa, from where the overwhelming majority of slaves were taken to the US. Richard Newman, a researcher at Harvard University, says: ‘It doesn’t mean anything to know that some of my people came from Africa. But if I can pinpoint a culture, a religion and language, then it can strengthen my sense of identity and relationship with Africa.’

Guardian Weekly Vol 162 No 20

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Big Bad World by Polyp
Big Bad World cartoon.

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