Caribbean News Round-up

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Venezuelan president asks Cabinet to resign after Opposition win

Nicolas Maduro
Nicolas Maduro

CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) – President Nicolas Maduro has shifted into damage control mode, asking his Cabinet to resign in oil-rich but troubled Venezuela after the Opposition won a majority in the legislature in a landmark challenge to his grip on power.

“I have asked the council of ministers to present their resignation in order to carry out a process of restructuring, renovation and deep reform in the Government,” Maduro said on TV late Tuesday.

Analysts warn a tough political struggle lies ahead after Maduro’s rivals broke his side’s 16-year control of the National Assembly in elections Sunday.

Supporters of the Opposition coalition MUD set off fireworks and danced in the street as the latest results of the vote came out late Monday. The national election commission confirmed that MUD won 112 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly. The other 55 went to the socialist party that ruled until now.

The Opposition in the legislature will now be able to call a referendum, launch constitutional reforms, replace senior judges and even take measures to try to depose Maduro.

“That is not our priority,” MUD leader Jesus Torrealba told reporters.

“Our priority is national reconciliation and secondly dealing with the economic and social emergency in this country.”

The new lawmakers take up their seats on January 5. Sunday’s election was a dramatic blow for Maduro and the socialist “revolution” launched in 1999 by his late predecessor Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, which Chavez and Maduro used to fund social welfare programmes. But plunging oil prices have crippled the country since Maduro was elected in 2013.

Voters punished him for an economic crisis that has families suffering shortages of basic foods and goods. Maduro said “a new stage has begun” and it was time for “constructive self-criticism” in his party.

“I have called for a full debate to look for a solution to the country’s problems… and to build a new revolutionary majority,” he said late Monday after meeting leaders of his party.

Analysts said there were signs of division in Maduro’s camp. Political scientist Maria Teresa Romero in an online article foresaw “a deepening of the divisions within Chavism, particularly between the military group… and the civil group commanded by the president”.

Maduro called on his allies to “close ranks in civil-military union”. Maduro blamed the election result on an “economic war” which he says shadowy capitalist forces are waging against him.

But now he is under pressure to come up with a new economic strategy. “He must be the only person who has invented a war and then lost it,” said Luis Vicente Leon, head of the pollster Datanalisis.

Voters said they were sick of standing in line for hours to buy cooking oil or sugar and finding no eggs or toilet paper in the shops. “Now the Opposition must correctly interpret what the people want, which is not just to go and get rid of Maduro, but to solve their problems” said Leon.

“If the government is to recover, it must work out where it went wrong.” Emergency fiscal reforms such as spending cuts, lifting exchange rate controls or raising the price of fuel would set Maduro at odds with many defenders of the “revolution”.

“He does not have the political capital to make unpopular economic decisions,” said Diego Moya-Ocampos, a Venezuelan analyst with financial research group IHS in London. He forecast the Opposition would eventually try to get rid of Maduro via a referendum or constitutional reforms.

“President Maduro’s ability to stay in power will depend on preventing widespread unrest and keeping support of the military and the Supreme Court.”

A defensive Maduro also Tuesday issued a decree aimed at stopping anyone from desecrating Chavez’s remains and tomb.

 

Gay rights activist brings legal challenge to Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law

Maurice Tomlinson
Maurice Tomlinson

[Jamaica Observer] – Maurice Tomlinson, a Jamaican gay rights activist and attorney, has filed a claim in the Supreme Court of Judicature, challenging the constitutionality of Jamaica’s laws criminalising consensual sex between men.

The legal challenge — which will be announced at a press conference tomorrow in Kingston, Jamaica according to a news release issued by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network — is being supported by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and AIDS-Free World.

The release said in its arguments, the legal challenge outlines the ways in which the law violates the constitutional rights of Jamaicans.

The current law, Offences Against the Person Act of 1864, criminalises consensual sexual conduct between men. This includes not only a prohibition on “gross indecency” between men, but also a provision that outlaws the “abominable crime of buggery”, ie anal sex, including between any people of any sex,the release explained. As a result of recent legislative developments, Jamaican law now also mandates registration, monitoring and potential additional penalties as a “sex offender” of any person convicted of such an offence, it continued.

“The law is a gross violation of my human rights and those of all LGBTI people in my country,” says Tomlinson, who is represented by his legal counsel, Anika Gray. “It directly infringes numerous rights guaranteed by Jamaica’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and also fuels horrific violence.”

A senior policy analyst at the Legal Network, Tomlinson highlights the deadly consequences of such laws in terms of delivering an effective response to the HIV epidemic.

“The criminalisation and marginalisation of consensual sex drives gay men and other men who have sex with men underground, away from desperately needed HIV prevention, treatment and testing services,” he said.

According to the statement, the Caribbean has the second-highest HIV prevalence in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa. UNAIDS, regional organisations and national agencies have reportedly identified homophobia as a factor contributing to the statistics, and have urged the removal of national laws that criminalise gay men and contribute to the stigma, discrimination and violence faced by LGBTI people.

“We hope that this landmark case will have positive implications across the region,” said Veronica Cenac, a St Lucia-based lawyer, international legal advisor, and board member of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition. “Jamaica is not the only Caribbean country where the human rights of LGBTI people are being violated, or where violence and homophobia are contributing to escalating rates of HIV. For these reasons, Mr Tomlinson’s case has the support of many human rights advocates and is an opportunity for the courts to take action in advancing both universal human rights and public health.”

 

Doctors make history in Trinidad; remove 8 pound tumor

Dr_0[Trinidad Newsday] – THE largest kidney tumor in the Western Hemisphere and second largest tumor in the world, was removed by doctors at the Southern Medical Clinic in San Fernando last Wednesday. The tumor weighed eight pounds.

The largest kidney tumor ever successfully removed in the world was from a patient in a New Delhi Hospital at The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in India. That tumor weighed 11 pounds.

The eight pound tumor was removed from the kidney of a 52-year-old man of Sangre Grande.

The procedure, which lasted four hours, was performed by Dr Lall Sawh, urologist and lead surgeon and Dr Steve Budhooram, vascular surgeon. Anesthesist and Intensivist Dr Peng Ewe, supported the team for a successful outcome, by providing excellent and safe anesthesia.

The team was supported by scrub nurse and head operating theatre nurse, Susan Maharaj and her team comprising Moncy Mathew and the staff of the theatre.

Speaking to Newsday, Sawh said before the surgery, the man did not have many symptoms. “He had pain in his back due to the size of the tumor and lost weight, he also looked like how a pregnant woman would look,” Sawh said. He said there were many challenges in performing the procedure as the massive tumor was pushing against the man’s organs to facilitate its growth, and it was close to a major blood vessel.

“Usually when a tumor grows, it pushes the heart and lungs to one side and the intestines as well.

There was a major blood vessel next to the tumor from which it fed and it was extremely tense…with one little nick, he could have died,” Sawh said. The doctor disclosed that this was the first time in his 35-year career that he asked a patient to sign a form indicating he may die on the operating table.

medical team: Anaesthetist Dr Peng Ewe, from left, urologist Dr Lall Sawh and lead surgeon Dr Steve Budhooram show an image of the world’s second-largest kidney tumour.
medical team: Anaesthetist Dr Peng Ewe, from left, urologist Dr Lall Sawh and lead surgeon Dr Steve Budhooram show an image of the world’s second-largest kidney tumour.

“He was very brave and he had a very supportive wife, who never left his side,” Dr Sawh said. The man spent one day in the Intensive Care Unit, was transferred to the regular ward and then discharged from hospital on Saturday, three days after the tumor was removed. He is now at home recovering.

Sawh said there has been so much bad press about those in the local medical field that he felt it imperative to highlight that doctors were successful in removing a tumor of that size from a patient. He said it was important for the population to know that doctors, surgeons and medical support staff remain committed to service the nation.

Sawh said the tumor was more than likely cancerous but it was sent for testing to make sure. “We have to wait for the results from the lab, to determine whether it would have spread or not. He would have to have additional therapy, or chemotherapy, or radiation and after that, he would be fully cured,” he said. He advised people over 45 to visit their doctor annually for tests to ensure they are healthy and if people see blood in their urine they should immediately go to the doctor.

Sawh said kidney cancer was not like other cancers, such as prostate and colon, which are brought on by a person’s lifestyle.

He said there was nothing that a person can do to avoid getting kidney cancer. In May of this year, doctors at the New Delhi hospital removed the world’s biggest tumor.

The previous record was a 5.5 pound tumor removed by doctors at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, in Delhi.

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