Sunday, July 15, 2007

Now about that quote…

Alexander Lukashenko attending the launching ceremony of the hot-rolling complex at the BSW
Got out new BEING HAD Times today. At the top, I have a quote from the president of the Republic of Belarus concerning money sent to NGO's or opposition parties:

    "US President George Bush had better deal with the problems of his country: Iraq, other hot spots which they (the USA) have created and pay less attention to those countries where they try to support the opposition. These are investments in the country but they should be legal. In case of illegal actions these organizations will be closed down."
This quote came from the press conference that the president had at the Belarusian Steel Work at Zhlobin.

The Moscow Times posting from the AP wire added in a few more words, quoting the president as saying:

    "Those who bring money into Belarus illegally, they are destroying themselves with this money.

    "Bush has significantly more problems then we do. Here's one place where money can be sent: the inflation of the dollar has taken on horrifying sizes,"
The comment basically follows President Bush's signing into law in January the Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act tightening sanctions against Belarus, and reauthorizing funding for independent media and democratic groups opposed to the authoritarian government in the former Soviet republic.

According to Ria Novosti,:

    The document authorizes over $27 million in assistance for each fiscal year, 2007 and 2008, for democracy-building operations, such as support for non-governmental organizations, including youth groups, independent trade unions, entrepreneurs, human rights defenders, independent media, democratic political parties, and international exchanges.
Robert Amsterdam however reports:

    The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the U.S. State Department has opened up an invitation for civil society organizations in Russia to apply for up to $4 million in grants to promote "programs that will (1) bolster media freedom; priority areas include journalist training, media monitoring, supporting networks of journalists covering high-risk topics, and objective information dissemination, and (2) and programs to support the advocacy, transparency, networking, and professionalism of the NGO sector in order to promote themes that advance democratic development and the promotion of human rights."

    The varying levels of funding dedicated to different regions of the world in this invitation reveal to some extent just how concerned the U.S. government is about press freedom in the respective countries. Four million dollars is rather paltry amount to spread across a territory as vast as Russia, Belarus, the Balkans, and Kosovo, especially compared to what is being dedicated to other areas (however Africa is virtually ignored). The big money ($6.4 million) obviously goes to Iran and Syria, and a totally disproportionate $3.65 million for programs in Cuba.
So perhaps this is the specific action that got the president's ire.

However, the real point may not be that any money which is being planned to be sent will only lead to an NGO's ruin, but that stripping licenses and disallowing money to opposition organizations is not anything new to Belarus.

I had a conversation about five year's ago with a very good friend of mine who has been working for a NGO group whose purpose was to monitor human rights abuses in Belarus. They also offered help for people who felt they had been mistreated by the system.

I remember his trying to describe to me what sorts of troubles his organization has had to endure just to receive some funding now and again:

    "First of all the organization needs to have a permit to exist. If you do not have a permit, you cannot have an organization and trying to continue any activities without being registered is a crime. However, if the government does not agree that what you do should be a part of Belarus, then they will not allow you to have a permit.

    "However, let's suppose that you do your paperwork correctly, and you receive your permit. There are rules about money as to what you can and cannot do in a legal organization. One of the rules says that you cannot officially accept any money nor can you have a bank account specifically to hold funds for your organization. Of course you can just do what you can do, but because you cannot have a bank account, you of course cannot cash checks, receive credit card payments or bank transfers; so basically, it is very difficult to receive money.

    "The question which usually follows is: Without money, how can we function? The answer is very simple: We can't. That’s the problem.”
He also added that he personally had received several very sharp punishments for his activities. He told me had had his personal bank account removed from the bank and had been fined several thousand “minimum salaries”.

    "How are you able to pay this?” I asked.

    “You can’t. If I was fined 10 or twenty minimum salaries, I would feel pain. But a thousand is such a ridiculous number, that there is simply nothing to think about.”

    “Why don’t you protest?”

    "I am protesting."

    "I mean publicly."

    “It is illegal to speak out publicly against the government.”
I asked a few local friends what they thought of the president's comments. I also E-mailed some friends from Europe and the states and asked them as well. I have posted the letters they sent me below in the comments section and I think some of the answers might be a little surprising. All of course are welcome to add in to the conversation. What do you think of this situation?

More soon…


Anonymous Igor said...

This is normal. It's nothing.

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Victoria said...

This is what (the president) wants. He doesn't want money. He is the president. If there are such laws then this is the way it is. Or maybe he made these laws. Either way, this is the law.

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Moishe said...

I have seen this article in the Herald Tribune. I agree all the way with it. Every country needs to have laws that are there to be kept to.

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Mary Ellen said...

Hi Adam,

I don't know if I'm feeling particularly dense this morning (no coffee yet) or what, but the quote isn't making much sense to me, so if my answer makes no sense, maybe you can simplify what Lukashenko said.

Ok...he's absolutely correct that Bush ignores the problems of our own country. Since he has become President we are dealing with high unemployment (regardless of what the figures say, many people are without full time jobs and are working two and three part time jobs-without health insurance- in order to sustain themselves), with the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, we lost many of our high paying tech jobs, our health care system is a disaster, especially since he gave so much control on pricing to the pharmaceutical companies, and we still have people who are homeless in Louisiana since Katrina. The government, under Bush and his Republican cronies have mucked up the whole Katrina situation and those people who didn't have homes and rented were left without any government assistance. The only people who received trailers to live in were home owners (who are still trying to rebuild, but can't because of government red tape). Those who rented couldn't even get into an apartment after it was built because the apartment owners raised the rents so high so the poor wouldn't come back. That's just a few of the things going on in the home front.

On the international front, well...President Bush's record shows that he has no clue as to the workings of the world. He has rarely traveled and before he became President he had only been out of the country one time on a trip with his dad. His obvious ignorance about the Middle East is what got us into the mess we are in. He didn't even know that there were Sunni's and Shiites and it had to be explained to him who they were. His stupidity has caused him to look for guidance from the likes of Dick Cheney, who's only concern is how he can line his pockets with profits from Halliburton and the big oil companies that he's invested in. Neither one of them could care less about the rest of the world, only the parts where they can invade. They have total lack of respect for the UN and the EU and make little effort to work with them.

Bush knows only one thing regarding foreign policy...if he doesn't get what he wants, he either ignores them or he bombs them.

I doubt if that is what you wanted, and if it isn't, maybe you can decipher for me what Lukashenko said. Sorry.

If I don't get right back to you, it's not because I'm ignoring you, my server is running very slow today for some reason. It took me 25 minutes to get my e-mail to come up. Computers...I hate them.

Have a good day,

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous John Q Law said...

Lukashenka banning American funding is exactly the same as Europe or America putting trade sanctions and economic barriers against Belarus. Obviously this is prid pro quo: If the west is going to play with Belarus' ability to do business, than Belarus can play with America's ability to do what it wants with its money inside the country. If honest working people have to accept less money for their work and there are fewer opportunities for Belarusian firms to make money because foreign markets are closed, why should the political opposition get rich just for sitting there and bitching.

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Steve R said...

So apparently the situation is this: Extreme governmental control is the way it is in Belarus today and basically, this is no difference from what it has been for a long time and the rules are the rules, no mater how unfair (or shocking) you might like to say that they are. Additionally, though the Americans do the most screaming at the "Last Dictator", Americans seem to want to lay the blame on George Bush for a failed foreign and domestic policy which seems to have as many human right's flaws as the country it so often attacks.

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Yuri said...

We all work for money. This always been the truth. Even in communist times we work for the money. Maybe in USSR times we had enough money. We ate, we lived. Now it is much different. Many have nothing. This is a good example why this is so.

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Jenna said...

What you said was the real truth:

the real point may not be that any money which is being planned to be sent will only lead to an NGO's ruin, but that stripping licenses and disallowing money to opposition organizations is not anything new to Belarus.

The real situation is that following the will of one man is the way it is in Belarus. I thought that the Russian revolution was to do away with royalty and make a country based upon the will of the common man instead. If this is where Belarus comes from, at least culturally, why does it allow itself to be led without any public say as to which direction it wishes to go?

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Pete said...

Lukashenko appears to be trying to get Moscow back on side after they put the price of oil up. He knows that without Putin the Belarusian economy is in ruins. So the missile shield is one way he can show that he is with Putin against the US. The row over the shield in Poland is one way he can show he is loyal and hopes Putin will reward him with better oil deals. Lukashenko really has no friends left at all except Chavez.

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

The dollar is the only money in the world that finances these so-called "revolutions" (orange revolution for example), terrorism, weapon smuggling and drug trafficking. Too many NGOs are politicized, they want us to play by their rules when they don't like our own rules in the name of national sovereignity.

The Bush administration finances in Iran a sunni political group that is considered as a terrorist group by the iranian government. He wants Shias in Iraq and Sunnis in Iran as political leaders, all of that in the name of "democracy". His actions have nothing to do with freedom, it is unsane. Only things can be changed by the will of the people.

Monday, July 16, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I think I start sweating.

Thursday, July 19, 2007  

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