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Anti-colonial nationalism in Puerto Rico, Latin America, and beyond: Lessons for the Greek left?

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In recent years, popular displays of national affirmation have been labeled as “nationalist” and cited as evidence of support for right wing politics, racism, or even fascism. For example, many Greek leftists attacked the massive popular protests of early 2018 against official recognition of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as an independent state named “Macedonia.” Not only were participants (including the star speaker of the massive Athens rally on February 4, renowned composer and leftist legend Mikis Theodorakis) characterized as supporting or being manipulated by fascists, but leftists who questioned such blanket condemnation were also subject to personal rejection.
Another recent example is the “Brexit” referendum in Great Britain in 2016. Mainstream media as well as prominent leftists (with a few notable exceptions) blamed the result in favor of leaving the European Union on “populist British nationalism,” which was seen as nearly synonymous with racism and anti-immigrant sentiments. Apparently, in Europe (and to some extent elsewhere) “nationalism” is incompatible with leftist politics.
However, nationalism hasn’t always been so narrowly confined to right-wing politics. Anti-colonial movements throughout the world, including those firmly on the left, have often referred to their struggles for national independence and sovereignty as “nationalist.” Some point to Marx’ position on the “Irish national question” as the basis for a Marxist concept of “anti-imperialist nationalism” that later would be developed by Lenin’s theory of “national self-determination.” Lenin’s assertion that “it is impossible to fight for the socialist international revolution against imperialism unless the right of nations to self-determination is recognized” helped inspire many Marxist-influenced struggles for national liberation, for example in Vietnam.

Augusto Sandino


In Latin America, anti-colonial movements predated Marx and called for winning national sovereignty as well as Latin American and Caribbean unity. While it is true that oligarchical rulers in nominally independent 19th century Latin America often pursued exploitative and militaristic policies while espousing nationalist sentiments (which would categorize them as “right wing”), in practice they surrendered national sovereignty to imperialist interests as the price for remaining in power. By contrast, even non-Marxist anti-imperialist leaders, such as Nicaragua’s Augusto Sandino, made clear that their nationalism meant commitment to democracy and justice for the poor majority, which placed them firmly on the left. Interestingly, one of the young leaders of the non-Marxist, nationalist and anti-imperialist Cuban Orthodox Party would later embrace Marxism while remaining committed to anti-imperialist nationalism. His name was Fidel Castro.

Νationalism hasn’t always been so narrowly confined to right-wing politics. Anti-colonial movements throughout the world, including those firmly on the left, have often referred to their struggles for national independence and sovereignty as “nationalist.”

One of the most striking histories of Latin American nationalism is that of the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico. Like much of Latin America and the Caribbean, Puerto Rico saw various pro-independence struggles against colonizer Spain during the nineteenth century. The United States invaded Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War of 1898; as part of the change of colonial rulers Puerto Rico lost what autonomy it had gained through years of struggle and once again became a colonial possession without any sovereignty, a political status which continues today. U.S. colonial rule was characterized by political and cultural repression, combined with divisive alliances with local elites, which weakened resistance to U.S. capitalist exploitation.
After Puerto Rico’s Unionist Party dropped national independence as a political status option, dissident members left and formed the Nationalist Party in 1922.The new party advocated for independence as the only solution to Puerto Rico’s colonial problem. While it participated in elections until 1932, the party forbade its members from accepting positions in the colonial government’s agencies. As was generally true among similar parties and movements, Puerto Rico’s Nationalist Party was not only anti-colonial and anti-imperialist but also supported economic and political alliances throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The party’s economic platform was less well defined, although generally favored small local businesses and landholders more than the oligarchy. However, its numerically small membership was generally whiter and more affluent than the poor workers and peasants who comprised the majority of Puerto Ricans. The Nationalist Party’s low-key profile would change radically after 1930, when Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was elected as its president.
Called “Latin America’s last liberator” by Gabriela Mistral, and the symbol of “Latin America unredeemed but untamed” by Ché Guevara, Albizu was a Black Puerto Rican, born into poverty, whose charisma and brilliance were recognized early in life. He was a distinguished student who earned advanced degrees with honors in chemical engineering and law from Harvard. As a student activist, he became involved in solidarity work in favor of Irish decolonization and independence. Albizu was befriended by Irish Republican leader Eamon de Valera, who later asked him to help draft Ireland’s constitution. He also pinpointed the root of conflicts in many countries as being the unjust concentration of wealth in the hands of an elite few.

Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos


>Albizu returned to Puerto Rico in 1922 and opened a law practice. While he had identified as nationalist and pro-independence since student days, he initially belonged to the Unionist Party until 1924, after the Unionists formed an alliance with the elitist, pro-colonial Republican Party of Puerto Rico (unrelated to the U.S. party). Albizu proposed an economic, cultural, and political program to the alliance which included return of lands to Puerto Rican ownership and improving workers’ wages and benefits; reversal of education policies that imposed U.S. history and culture and eliminated Puerto Rico’s own; removal of the U.S. territorial court and creation of a Puerto Rican court with full jurisdiction except in matters involving U.S. and international law; and a formal request for the U.S. Congress to make resolution of Puerto Rico’s political status an urgent priority. When the alliance rejected his proposals, Albizu understood that there was no room for an anti-colonial position, nor even a sense of urgency regarding the status issue. Consequently, he joined the Nationalist Party.
Albizu involved himself in all phases of party activity, including writing for the newspaper, speaking in small and large gatherings, and running for office in the colonial elections of 1924 in order to have a pro-independence party represented. In 1925 Albizu was elected vice-president of the Nationalist Party. Convinced of the need to promote Latin American solidarity in the struggle for independence, Albizu offered to undertake an alliance-building tour. During Albizu’s solidarity tour, which lasted from 1927 until 1930, he visited the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. In every country he met with political, economic, cultural, and student organizations, wrote articles, and gave large public lectures. Albizu called attention to Puerto Rico’s colonial oppression, U.S. efforts to dominate Latin America economically and politically, and the need to rekindle the Bolivarian dream of a Latin American and Caribbean alliance based on respect for national sovereignty as well as social and economic justice. He also attracted the attention of Washington, which exerted diplomatic pressure to limit his movement and sent spies to his public events. In the case of Haiti – which was under U.S. military occupation – Albizu was forced to illegally enter for only two days, and activists met him at a clandestine activity.
Albizu’s insistence on the necessity of Puerto Rico’s independence to achieve a free and united Latin American and Caribbean not only continued the work of nineteenth century liberation movements, but also sowed the seeds of active Latin American solidarity with Puerto Rican political prisoners that continues today. In each country, nationalist and other anti-colonial groups enthusiastically supported him. Moreover, while Albizu never embraced Marxism, he enjoyed mutually supportive relationships with many Communists; for example, the Communist student organization of Cuba publicly declared Albizu to be a mentor. He also supported workers’ unions, while warning that the (U.S.-sponsored) Pan American Labor Federation’s organizing efforts in the region were not meant to promote labor rights but to weaken resistance to U.S. economic colonialism.
Soon after returning to Puerto Rico, Albizu was elected President of the Nationalist Party. After the 1932 colonial elections, where once again a coalition of pro-colonial parties won amid widespread evidence of fraud, Albizu announced that the Nationalist Party would from then on boycott elections, condemning them as anti-democratic charades that pitted “Puerto Rican against Puerto Rican” and promoted “the death of the homeland.” Albizu helped revitalize the Party’s activities, giving many speeches and interviews, adding women’s and youth organizations, and supporting strikes by consumers and public car drivers against high monopoly prices of bread and gasoline.
Then in 1934, when the U.S.-affiliated sugar cane workers’ union sided with the growers, the workers called a wildcat strike and invited Albizu to lead it – and he accepted. The move sent shock waves from San Juan to Washington, as it appeared to signal a possible convergence between organized labor “class” struggles and the anti-colonial “nationalist” movement for Puerto Rican independence. The U.S. colonial rulers responded, first by directing the growers to agree to workers’ demands and terminate the strike. Second, they began a campaign of demonization and repression of the Nationalist Party, which would within a few years lead to assassinations, reprisals, and the incarceration in the U.S. of the Party’s leadership for a decade on charges of “seditious conspiracy” despite international outcry. In particular, US officials began to characterize Albizu’s denunciation of US colonial policies as “fascistic” – a charge that would later resurface during the Cold War repression of Puerto Rican independence and other left groups. The colonizers and their local supporters had no problem labeling the Nationalist Party as fascist despite the fact that its membership and leadership also included Communists; what mattered was that Washington’s self-image that it brought enlightened, democratic rule to Puerto Rico would not tolerate challenges.
Albizu returned to Puerto Rico at the end of 1947 and was re-elected as president of the Nationalist Party. At this time, the U.S. military machine was expanding in Puerto Rico – including occupation of almost three-fourths of Vieques Island – citing the “Cold War” as additional justification for its half-century colonial occupation. At the same time, Washington had found a charismatic politician named Luís Muñoz Marín to lead Puerto Rico’s transition to a “free associated state.” This would allow Washington to proclaim to the world that its colony had exercised self-determination, while not actually conceding any sovereignty.
Muñoz enthusiastically carried out repression of all pro-independence groups as well as Communists and Socialists, including signing a “gag law” that went far beyond the anti-subversive U.S. Smith Act on which it was based. For example, mere possession of a Puerto Rican flag was grounds for arrest and even incarceration. Muñoz publicly attacked the Nationalist Party as “fascist,” claiming that its rejection of colonial elections was “anti-democratic,” while its decade-long resistance to Puerto Rico’s inclusion in the U.S. military draft and denunciation of U.S. military base land expropriations were somehow evidences of Nazi and Communist sympathies. Armed actions in both 1950 and 1954 were Nationalist Party attempts to warn the world of the fraudulent “autonomous” government that the U.S. would install in Puerto Rico, but were used to justify repression while reducing international attention.
Today, the Nationalist Party is a small organization dedicated to keeping alive its legacy as an important movement for Puerto Rican independence. Despite attempts by some revisionist historians to portray it as fascistic, the record proves that it was well within the tradition of Latin American anti-colonial and anti-imperialist nationalism: pro-democratic, internationalist, and leftist even if not specifically Marxist.
Albizu defined Puerto Rican nationalism as “the homeland organized to rescue its sovereignty.” This tradition of nationalism still exists, for example in socialist Cuba, where it is common to identify as nationalist while rejecting the racism and imperialism of capitalist colonizers. This author has heard comments in Cuba that the “nationalism” of right wing groups, parties and governments in Europe and in the U.S is contemptuous of the sovereignty of other countries, thus not truly internationalist. Moreover, they note how the elites profit from the cynical manipulation of “populist” and “patriotic” symbols, while their people grow poorer.
What can Latin American anti-colonial nationalism – “the homeland rescuing its sovereignty” – offer to leftists in Europe who recoil from national flags and other popular symbols of sovereignty, but who in doing so allow their appropriation by fascist groups and their elite partners? Might it help Greece – whose experience since the nineteenth century of “dependent independence” has more in common with Latin America than with imperialist England or Germany – to recover its leftist tradition of combining resistance against foreign occupation with economic justice for the majority?
Sources:
Acosta, I. La Mordaza: Puerto Rico 1948-1957. Río Piedras: Editorial Edil, 1998.
Ali, T. “Why we need a left exit from Fortress Europe Dangerous Times 2016.” Video presentation, 28 May 2016. http://www.politicalirish.com/threads/tariq-ali-on-why-the-left-should-support-brexit.13004/
Blaut, J.M. The National Question: Decolonizing the Theory of Nationalism. London: Zed Books (1987) http://www.freedomarchives.org/Documents/Finder/Black%20Liberation%20Disk/Black%Power!/SugahData/Books/Blaut.S.pdf
Carrion, JM. “Albizu Campos y el fascismo.” 80 Grados, 11 November 2016. http://www.80grados.net/albizu-campos-y-el-fascismo
Ciappina, C. “Fidel Castro y la cuestión nacional en América Latina.” Diario Contexto (2016) http://www.diariocontexto.com.ar/2016/12/02/fidel-castro-y-la-cuestion-nacional-en-america-latina/
La Voz del Sandinismo. “Augusto Sandino” http://lavozdelsandinismo.com/sandino/
Lenin, V.I. (1915) “Socialism and war, Chapter 1, the attitude of socialists towards wars.” http://www.marxists.org/archive/lerin/works/1915/s+w/ch01.htm
Lenin, V.I. (1914) “The right of nations to self-determination.” Lenin’s Collected Works. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972, Volume 20, pp.393-454. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/self-det/index.htm
Lim, JH, “Marx’s theory of imperialism and the Irish national question.” Science and Society, vol. 56, no.2 Summer 1992, pp. 163-178. https://www.jstor.org.stable/404046
Mathur, C., and D. Dix, The Irish Question in Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engel’s writings on capitalism and empire” (2009) in Social Thought on Ireland in the Nineteenth Century, edited by S. O’Síocháin, pp. 97-107. Dublin: UCD Press. eprints.maynoothuniversity.ie/2994/
Pérez Cruz, F. deJ. “Comunismo, socialismo y nacionalismo en Cuba (1920-1058)” (2014) http://www.rebelion.org/noticias.php?id=181972
Rosado, M. Pedro Albizu Campos, Las llamas de la aurora: un acercamiento a su biografía. (Segunda edición) San Juan: Ediciones Puerto, 2001.
Opinions are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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After Embarrassing Defeat, NATO, EU and the West Try to Alter Reality in Macedonia

Amidst all the faux cheer and public displays of confidence of the pro-NATO/EU crowd, a palpable sense of unease hangs in the air.

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Authored by Aleksandar Pavic via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Although the September 30, 2018 name-change referendum in Macedonia, which was supposed to set that ex-Yugoslav federal republic on a path to (certain) NATO and (blithely promised but much less certain) EU membership, failed miserably, with only 36.91% of the voters turning out, well short of the 50% + 1 necessary for it to be valid – one would never know it from the reactions of its Western proponents and impatient beneficiaries. Indeed, a new term may be needed to adequately describe the reactions of the key pillars representing the reliquiae reliquiarum of the Western-led post-Cold War unipolar moment. Fake news simply doesn’t do them justice. Fake reality anyone?

The US State Department was firmly in denial, releasing the following statement“The United States welcomes the results of the Republic of Macedonia’s September 30 referendum, in which citizens expressed their support for NATO and European Union (EU) membership by accepting the Prespa Agreement between Macedonia and Greece. The United States strongly supports the Agreement’s full implementation, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU, contributing to regional stability, security, and prosperity. As Macedonia’s parliament now begins deliberation on constitutional changes, we urge leaders to rise above partisan politics and seize this historic opportunity to secure a brighter future for the country as a full participant in Western institutions.”

EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn wasn’t to be outdone in his contempt for the 63% of the Macedonian “deplorables” who stayed home in order to voice their disagreement with renouncing their perceived national identity and country name (it was to become “Northern Macedonia”) in exchange for the double joy of a) becoming NATO’s cannon-fodder in its increasingly hazardous game of chicken with Russia and b) the EU’s newest debt-serfs: “Referendum in Macedonia: I congratulate those citizens who voted in today’s consultative referendum and made use of their democratic freedoms. With the very significant “yes” vote, there is broad support to the #Prespa Agreement + to the country’s #Euroatlantic path. I now expect all political leaders to respect this decision and take it forward with utmost responsibility and unity across party lines, in the interest of the country.” He was seconded the following day, in a joint statement, by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission.

Understandably, as the most direct public stakeholder, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was particularly (hyper)active. As the disappointing results began to roll in, Stoltenberg went into immediate damage control, tweeting“I welcome the yes vote in Macedonia referendum. I urge all political leaders & parties to engage constructively & responsibly to seize this historic opportunity. #NATO’s door is open, but all national procedures have to be completed.” He reinforced his delusional missive the next day, releasing a similar statement co-signed by EU President Donald Tusk. And the day after, during a news conference, Stoltenberg even offered lightning-quick NATO accession to the unwilling Macedonians – January 2019, to be exact – if they would just be so kind as to urgently implement the very agreement that they had just so emphatically rejected. When NATO says it promotes democratic values – it means it!

But that wasn’t the end of the “democracy mongering” surrounding what may well prove to be NATO’s, the EU’s and the rest of the end-of-history West’s Balkan Waterloo. For example, the EU Parliament’s Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, although “regretting that the turnout was less than 50%,” nevertheless hailed the referendum’s results and “call(ed) on the opposition to respect the expressed will of the majority [sic] of voters.” The Group’s leader, Udo Bullmann, while also maintaining that, somehow, a voter turnout of under 37% still represented a “majority,” additionally used the occasion to chastise Macedonia’s President for having the nerve to call for a boycott of the referendum (he committed the crimethink of referring to it as “historical suicide” during his UN General Assembly address), as well as to decry – what else? – “reports about Russian interference in the electoral process.” It goes without saying that Bullmann offered absolutely zero proof for his assertion. On the other hand, according to numerous media reports, as September 30 approached, while no high Russian official was to be seen anywhere in the vicinity, a veritable procession of Western political bigwigs made the pilgrimage to Skopje in order to reveal to the natives their “true” best interests: Sebastian Kurz“Mad Dog” Mattis, the indefatigable StoltenbergFederica MogheriniJohannes HahnAngela Merkel. No meddling there, obviously…

Speaking of Angela Merkel, she also joined her fellow Western democrats’ show of unanimous disdain for the Macedonian voters’ majority opinion, urging the country to “push ahead” with the implementation of the majority-rejected accord, citing voters’ “overwhelming support” [sic], and arguing through the mouth of her spokesman that the required 50% + 1 turnout was actually “very high,” as voter registers purportedly included many people who had long since left the country.

Coincidentally (?), the same argument was used by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who opined that the “yes” votes cast in the referendum do, in fact, “represent the majority despite the low turnout because Macedonia does not have the 1.8 million voters entered into its electoral rolls but just 1.2 million since 300,000 people have left the country since the voter lists were last updated 20 years ago.” The fallacy of his reality-challenged claim is easily exposed if we just take a glance at the results of Macedonia’s last parliamentary elections (December 2016), in which voter turnout was just under 1.2 million (1,191,832 to be exact) or, officially, 66.79%. If we were to believe Kotzias and Merkel (who lodged no objections at the time), that would have meant that the turnout for the 2016 elections had been 99% – a figure that would make any totalitarian dictator blush with envy. On the other hand, since those elections did produce the “desired result,” enabling the current heavily pro-NATO/EU government led by Zoran Zaev to be formed, that automatically made them “valid” in the eyes of the high priests of democracy in Brussels, Berlin, London and Washington.

Needless to say, Zaev joined his Western patrons’ charade, hailing the referendum as a “democratic success,” and announcing that he would seek the Macedonian Parliament’s support to amend the constitution and get the agreement with Greece ratified (according to the so-called Prespa Agreement, the Macedonian Parliament must adopt the necessary constitutional amendments by the end of 2018) so that the Greek Parliament can do the same, which would seal the deal. However, Zaev and his Albanian political partners are currently well short of the necessary two-thirds majority (reportedly, they can count on 71 deputies, or 9 short of the needed 80), and will have to call early elections if they don’t soon succeed in securing it.

Yet, let it not go unsaid that Zaev was singing a rather different tune prior to the referendum, assuring that “citizens will make the decision,” and that Parliament would vote on the necessary constitutional changes only if the referendum is successful. But that was then, when confidence was still high that the usual combination of Western pressure, money and overwhelming domination of the media spectrum would get the job done. And then reality struck on September 30…

Still, amidst all the faux cheer and public displays of confidence of the pro-NATO/EU crowd, a palpable sense of unease hangs in the air. As a Deutsche Welle opinion piece put it, the “low voter turnout for Macedonia’s referendum is a bad starting point for the country’s future development.” And, according to DW in Serbian, a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commentary warned that “politicians who otherwise ceaselessly talk of democracy as a ‘special value’ should not call on the parliament in Skopje to accept the voting results.” In other words, Macedonia’s people (read – a large majority of the majority Slavic population) have “voted with their feet” and rejected the agreement, and no new parliamentary election, no matter the results, can change that unpleasant-but-immutable fact. That alone will delegitimize any Western-led effort to “manufacture consent” by ramming the agreement through the present or future Parliament – although, as we know, NATO doesn’t put too much stock in referenda anyway, while the EU is not averse to making citizens vote as many times as needed to obtain the “right” result.

But the West has lost more than just legitimacy in Macedonia – it has damaged its reputation, perhaps irretrievably. In the words of former presidential advisor Cvetin Chilimanov, “The West has humiliated us… Macedonians have rejected this media, psychological, political and propaganda aggression against the people, and that’s the tragedy of these days, that a large percentage of a people that had been genuinely oriented towards the West has changed its mind and stopped looking at the West as something democratic, something progressive and successful… That is the reason for the boycott. Pressure was applied against Macedonia, a country that had always been open to ties with the West, but which did not want to make this disgusting compromise and humiliate itself before the neighboring countries, before Western countries. We did not understand why that humiliation was needed so that we might become a member of Europe. What’s worst, perhaps that is now the thinking of a silent majority of the people, that they won’t forget this insult and this attack on Macedonia.”

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Greeks Owe A Stunning €182 Billion In Tax Arrears To The State

Greece repeatedly raised taxes during its international bailouts between 2010 and August 2018.

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Via Zerohedge


Data from the Independent Authority for Public Revenue show tax arrears totaled 182.5 billion euros ($214 billion) on Aug. 10, according to a note sent from the agency to parliament last week and seen by The Associated Press Wednesday.

“The Greek government is owed so much in tax arrears from households and companies that it could pay off more than half its massive public debts if it collected it all,” writes AP, adding “unfortunately for the government, that’s unlikely to ever happen.”

However, as KeepTalkingGreece.com reports, more than 80 billion euros of that represents interest and fines on delayed payments from debtors that include companies that have been out of business for decades.

The arrears come close to Greece’s total economic output, estimated at 184.7 billion euros ($217 billion) this year, and Greece’s total public debt is worth about 180% of these arrears.

Eurozone-member Greece repeatedly raised taxes during its international bailouts between 2010 and August 2018.

Some 3.7 million Greeks – about 60 percent of the total – are behind on tax payments, and while the EU governments have attempted to crack down on the so-called shadow economy, black market activity still thrives in Greece.

As Statista’s Niall McCarthy notesexamples of black market activity are pretty common, whether it’s a warehouse worker driving an unlicensed taxi between shifts, an electrician accepting cash payments without declaring his earnings or a simple drug deal in a shady alleyway.

However, the level of black market activity, also defined as the shadow economy, depends highly on your country of residence. Generally defined as businesses and individuals engaging in inappropriate practices without complying with certain legal obligations such as paying tax or maintaining acceptable standards of employment, the shadow economy costs governments around the world trillions of dollars every year.

According to the IMF, heavily regulated economies with weaker administration tend to have well-established shadow economies. It’s far smaller in natons with strong, well-regulated and efficient government institutions. Back in the late 1990s, this was readily apparent in former Soviet states like Georgia where the shadow economy was estimated at 64 percent of GDP.

Today, the shadow economy is booming across southern Europe, though the scale of underground activity can only be measured indirectly.

You will find more infographics at Statista.

According to a new study published by the Institute for Applied Economic Research at the University of Tübingen in Germany (IAW), Greece’s shadow economy is estimated to average 21.5 percent of GDP. In the United States, undeclared cash transactions seem to be rarer with IAW’s study placing U.S. shadow economic activity at 5.4 percent of the country’s GDP.

 

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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