Many Filipinos are wondering, why is it that the signing of a very important pact as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which is actually the centerpiece of US President Barack Obama’s visit was not signed by the US and PH presidents? Instead was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg hours before the arrival of Pres. Barack Obama. To think, the signing was not even witnessed by the two presidents.
Some pundits believe that the EDCA was not signed by the two heads of state, because US does not want to hurt China in the process. So it is quite obvious that every time the issue of how far Uncle Sam will help the country in times of trouble with China (and/or other aggressor) the safe answer of the big brother – “We are not doing this because of China. We are doing this because we have a longstanding alliance partner [the Philippines]. They are interested in stepping up our military-to-military,” and “we (US) just want a peaceful and safe navigation in the South China Sea”. All rhetoric, but can we fault them in protecting their interests!
We really never learned from the past agreements that we had with the US, always lopsided, favoring the US more and in the end we are shortchanged (again). So the doublespeak of PNoy’s people of not allowing the Filipinos to be shortchanged in the latest pact are all double talk.
Like what the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and other organizations observed – they have been unimpressed, seeing the EDCA as an open invitation to a molester to offer protection against a touted bully. “The oft repeated rationale,” explained Bayan’s secretary Renato M. Reyes, Jr. is that we need this agreement with the US to protect ourselves from Chinese incursions. So what Aquino is basically saying is, to protect Filipinos from the neighborhood bully, we’re inviting a rapist inside our house to do as he pleases.” (by Binoy Kampmark)
Just like what I have been saying for so long now in my writings and daily radio program – this is rape with consent. Again, no thanks to our leaders.
Furthermore, in this EDCA, the so-called camp sharing operation will make the whole country as Uncle Sam’s military base. So the ‘chubibo’ of not going to build new US military bases here is true because through camp sharing scheme, US will not pay any rent and all the AFP’s camps from north to south of the archipelago will be the US ‘military base’, free of charge, translation – ‘rape with consent’. Need we say more?
And remember, back in August 2009, in her affidavit, Navy officer Nancy Gadian accused the US military of building permanent structures in different military camps in the country. She said US forces have established “permanent” and “continuous” presence in Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the south.
She added that the Philippine military has no access to the camps built by the US soldiers in these areas since they are “fenced off by barbed wires and guarded by US Marines.”
Gadian likewise said these structures are indications the US troops had no intention of leaving the country, which is a violation of the Philippine Constitution.
For over a decade now, we are actually being ‘screwed’ with the willingness of past and present administrations in the guise of being part of the coalition of the willing to fight the global war on terror of then President George ‘Dubya” Bush Jr.
And like what former senator Joker Arroyo said “What did the Philippines get out of the Obama visit? Zero.”
Especially on the part of our Filipino war veterans that was tackled by a former ambassador Jose Zaide, a pro- American historian turned patriot in his article (April 28 at the Manila Bulletin) “the more than 250,000 Filipinos who fought for USA in WW2 and shared the same foxholes with US troops were promised equal treatment. But the US Congress 1946 Rescission Act denied Filipino war vets, making a dishonest man of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The Filipino WW2 vets were only collateral damage (add-on) to the Recission Act, which was passed principally for the purpose of controlling excessive claims of US war supplies providers.
In 2009, US Congress threw small bones granting one-time payments of $15,000 to Filipino vets in the USA and $9,000 to those in PH. More crumbs promised to Filipino vets helped swing trusting Pinoys in USA to vote for re-election of Barack Obama.
Our problem is that the GPH representing the Filipino WW2 vets has one eye cocked at its own shopping list (for hand-me-down armaments and surplus and other USAID).
US Congress, which passed the Recission law, would not reverse itself. (No constituency in support of granting monies to historical allies.)
On hindsight, Filipino WW2 vets should do their own pleading, i.e., sue the US government at the US Supreme Court, which will be no less noble than the French Court de Cessation and the British High Court.”
As a whole, all the excitement and fanfare that the Obama visit has created in the country are all ‘chubibo’ and sadly, the current administration welcomed the EDCA with open legs. Carol P. Araullo of Businessworld said the EDCA is a negotiated surrender of our sovereignty.
“Na-EDCA-han na naman tayo”
By Nicole Ann M. Aguila
All people might not know how important sharks are on our planet, thus raising awareness is the key to finally educate the whole world reasons why we must protect them.
Who would have thought that an airline company will put an effort to save marine life? Yes, Philippine Airlines or PAL just announced the ban of shipping of sharks’ fins.
This is after Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Earth Island Institute – Philippines and other concerned organization started a petition that protests against their freight policy.
“The announcement of PAL is also a victory for all sharks species who are brutally murdered for their fins,” said Anna Oposa, cofounder of Save Philippine Seas and founder of the Shark Shelter Project in Malapascua Island.
The airline was previously reported tohave shipped 136 x 50 kg bags accumulating 6,800 kg of dried shark fins at a Hong Kong storeroom run by Global Marine.
Shark fins are hailed as an important ingredient on soups and traditional cures in China. But animal welfare groups toughly disagree with the trade, which usually comprises of taking only the fins and leaving the main body dead in the ocean.
“Sharks help in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem. Their dwindling numbers due to the growing demand for shark’s fin soup and other shark products, already upset the problematic status of our seas and oceans,” said Greenpeace Philippines oceans campaigner Vince Cinches.
“We are asking everyone to remain vigilant and make sure that PAL will honor its commitment and advise other airlines to adopt a similar shark ban to help save our marine ecosystem,” he said.
Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonizing death.
Globally, tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup; at least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.
Sharks are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food. The ocean produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), and controls our planet’s temperature and weather.
Sharks play a vital role at the top of the food chain by maintaining balance in the oceans. Destroying shark populations could destroy our oceans and our life support system.
(Ms. Aguila is currently an intern for OpinYon. She is an incoming fourth year student in AB Communication Arts in Malayan College in Cabuyao, Laguna.)
VENICE, ITALY- I had no plans of visiting this city. The only images that I had seen so far of the place, aside from sticky lovers on gondolas, were secret agents and fiends blasting at each other on the city canals and rooftops, blowing up old buildings in the process. Venice seems to be both beautiful and sinister. The creepy “Don’t Look Now” with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie is still etched in my mind. This was also the locale where Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” led James Bond into an era of being real and human, thereby obliterating the need for arsenal gimmickries.
In addition, I have read about a famous Venetian named Marco Polo, explorer and writer, and from him I could adopt a stronger spirit of adventure. There is also the painter Tintoretto, with his portrayal of disrobed voluptuous women. And Antonio Vivaldi, composer of “Four Seasons” that has been overused for commercials and graduation walks. Then there are the famous Venetian glass and the theatrical masks, some inspired by the Bubonic plague that almost annihilated its populace centuries before. Those are just about what I know about Venice.
Tourist brochures indicate that Venice is a city in northeastern Italy with a total of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges, mostly pedestrian bridges. As movie productions suggest, Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its art. The entire city is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon.
It took the wife and me some 24 grueling hours to reach Venice from Manila, with nine hours flight to Qatar, eight hours lay over at the Doha International Airport, and a seven hour flight to Italy. Thank God for lovely in-flight movies like “The Book Thief”, “The Invisible Woman” and “Iloilo”, flying time became easy to bear.
Getting Lost in Fun
For the first day, we were booked at the Carlton Hotel, an old but charming place but with front desk people having the brusko attitude of New Yorkers before 9/11. The hotel is along the busy Grand Canal and faces the hideous looking train station on the other side. The Olimpia, our second hotel, is more elegant, with beauteous, gracious and helpful front desk employees giving that expected Italian warmth. Our room was much more spacious, and it let some sunshine in.
Venice could be brutal for senior citizens with heavy luggage to move from their bus to the hotels. You have to cross up and down several bridges that are hostile to PWDs and geriatric folks. It becomes obvious why the city government has deployed porters along the routes. For a fee, of course.
On the first night, the wife and I went out of the hotel to look for a trattoria or a snack bar. I am not exactly a fan of Italian food, pasta, pizza, ‘paghetti, or whatever, but this trip is wife’s time so she gets to have first crack at everything. In stead, we got lured by the sights of rushing people, the dark winding streets, the shops, and the edifices, until we got lost in the maze of narrow passageways, archs, alleys, and piers.
I marveled at the textures and more textures, of centuries old layers of brick walls, some proud and some disintegrating with their plasters falling off with them; at the multi-faced buildings that seem to grow organically with tiny-leafed shrubs and vines, at the variety of window grill works; at the character of doors and the worn-out knobs oftentimes positioned at the center of the panels. The whole city it seems – with walls, the gates, and the roofs having distressed look -has been described as one elegant decay.
Glimpses of Day In A Life
My friend Chito Irigo says that the knobs carry the identity of families living within, and are supposed to distinguish them from the others. Even the mailboxes and the knockers could speak volumes. We saw lone men and families with prams going in and out of dimly lit doors and we wondered how life could be in this rich tourist town with a long history of heritage.
I learned that Venice was, one time or another, a major maritime power, the fulcrum of commerce and trade in the world, the fashion capital rivaling Paris, and the center of arts and literature. New York Times has called it “the most beautiful city built by man”. Give me a few days more, and I might agree.
The wife and I stopped by an unmarked small pizza and ice-cream shop where we halved a focaccia stuffed generously with prosciutto ham, mushrooms, and Mozzarella cheese. We finished this off with green tea while standing and so, for an equivalent of 350 pesos, we had our first fine dinner in Venice. We would have wanted some of the tempting gelato, but we were full.
We walked and walked, observing the surroundings, the steeples, the various faces of homes, and the people. I am wont to lug my camera whenever I go but, this time, I purposely left it to be able to take all the images in with my naked eyes. Then it suddenly rained; we had no umbrella. The temperature was probably 16 degrees Celsius, meaning cold, and we got wet. After probably six kilometers and three hours of being lost, without panicking, giggling like children even, we got back to our hotel like drenched cats.
The wife and her dozen or so high school buddies, most of whom have retired from their successful careers, have promised to themselves that, as a gang, they will see parts of the world in the next few years. And whenever they do, they promised that they will bring no husbands, no boyfriends, and no significant others. But this time, I am the designated photographer.
These dragon women have conceived of a calendar spread of golden ladies – them in white beach ensemble at Santorini and in little black dresses in another exotic location. They needed someone with Sports Illustrated or Vogue ambitions to do the camera works. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse. May the Santo Papa help me.
National Cancer Institute researchers have discovered a new class of protein found in sea coral that appears able to prevent HIV from entering T cells. If the proteins can be adapted for use in sexual lubricants and gels, they could offer a new form of barrier against HIV infection.
The study findings featured at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego on 29 April.
Senior investigator Dr. Barry O’Keefe, deputy chief of the Molecular Targets Laboratory at the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), says:
“It’s always thrilling when you find a brand-new protein that nobody else has ever seen before. And the fact that this protein appears to block HIV infection – and to do it in a completely new way – makes this truly exciting.”
The team discovered the proteins while screening thousands of natural product extracts in an NCI biological repository. Belonging to a class called cnidarins, the proteins were found in feathery corals collected from the sea off the north coast of Australia.
Co-investigator Dr. Koreen Ramessar, an NCI research fellow, says the cnidarins can block HIV without making the virus resistant to other HIV drugs, making them ideal for inclusion in anti-HIV microbicides, for which there is a pressing need. Women can use anti-HIV gels and lubricants without having to rely on a man being willing to use a condom.
Dr. O’Keefe says, “even if the virus became resistant to these proteins, it would likely still be sensitive to all of the therapeutic options that are currently available.”
After purifying the proteins, the team tested them on lab strains of HIV. They found them to be remarkably potent. Even at concentrations as low as a billionth of a gram, the proteins could block HIV and prevent the first step in the virus’ transmission where it penetrates T cells in the immune system.
The cnidarins appear to bind to the virus and stop it fusing with the membrane of the T cell. Dr. Ramessar says this is “completely different from what we’ve seen with other proteins, so we think the cnidarin proteins have a unique mechanism of action.”
Belonging to a class called cnidarins, the proteins were found in corals collected off the north coast of Australia.
The team now plans to improve ways to produce the proteins in larger quantities so they can be tested more extensively, for instance to find any side effects or if they might work against other viruses.
Dr. O’Keefe says this will be an important step, commenting that “you can’t strip the Earth of this coral trying to harvest this protein.”
The team found the proteins in the NCI’s large repository of natural product extracts, which collects natural specimens from around the world with the consent of their countries of origin. The repository is available to scientists across the US.
Dr. O’Keefe describes the NCI repository as a “national treasure,” where “you never know what you might find.”
He says he hopes news of discoveries like this one will encourage more scientists to use the repository.
In November 2013, Medical News Today learned how another study led by Swansea University in the UK and reported in the journal Nature Materials suggested bone grafts may be better with new sea coral material. The small trial in 16 patients found refining sea coral into coralline hydroxyapatite/calcium carbonate made it more compatible and degradable for use in bone grafts than a currently used derivative.
(Catharine Paddock, PhD/Medical News Today)
If you believe you have been abducted by aliens – don’t worry, you are not alone.
The UK’s first support group for people who believe they have experienced alien abduction or other associated anomalous phenomena is holding its annual conference next month.
The Anomalous Mind Management, Abductee, Contactee Helpline (Ammach) is arranging the “Exposure Through Disclosure” event to provide a platform for people to share their extra-terrestrial experiences without the fear of being judged or ridiculed.
“It is not uncommon for people to report being taken onto a craft and given a medical examination”
The helpline has received approximately 1,500 calls since it began three years ago, from people who claim to be an “abductee” or “contactee”, also known as “experiencers”. Contactees are those who have made conscious contact with extra-terrestrials and abductees are those who are taken to an alien craft.
Founder and director Joanne Summerscales, told IBTimes UK: “It is not uncommon for people to report being taken onto a craft and given a medical examination, when on occasion sperm or ovum are taken, or implants inserted.
“Abductees are generally aware something is happening. Sometimes they remember being taken and have reported symptoms like being unable to move. Clearly, our space friends have full control over time and matter, as some people also not only feel, but are aware that they have been taken and returned through solid objects such as walls, doors, windscreens and windows.
“One of the experiencers told me they had interaction with a being who looked like the praying mantis insect, except this being was seven to nine feet tall, bipedal, and of high intelligence.”
She said some experiencers have said there are around 60 different types of species interacting with humanity and the earth, with one group of extra-terrestrials known as “Nordics” because of their Scandinavian looks, with blond hair.
Summerscales believes that as more people develop confidence to come forward to share their experiences the more people will learn about the greater, wider truth of the “our true history”, and “what our place is in this galaxy”.
“The main drive behind Ammach is to widen the knowledge base, to explore and research it, and bring it into the public domain to inspire dialogue,” she added.
“We are in a state our planet, and If any of this is true, once it is accepted as such, it will be revolutionary for humanity, and our development.”
The conference at the White Rock Theatre in Hastings, East Sussex on May 31 from 9.30am to 6.30pm will be featuring six speakers who have been in touch with aliens including ex-soldier Mike Smith, and other researchers specialising in the field. (ibtimes.co.uk)
Nothing much can be expected from US President Barack Obama in his April 28-29 official visit in Manila.While he is likely to reassure the Philippines of Americans’ commitment to defend the Philippines in its raging territorial dispute with China, it will not make a difference, given how the US has been badly treating its Asia-Pacific ally over the past decades.
Since both countries forged their so-called Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in 1951, the US hardly cared about the poor state of the Philippines’ military capability.
Calls by Manila for increase in American military aid usually fell on deaf ears among policy makers in Washington. Whatever the Americans gave were nothing more than second-hand hardware – either of World War II vintage or their leftovers in the Vietnam war era.
Now that the geo-political situation has vastly changed, it’s time for both strategic allies to redraw their treaty or risk overtaken by new and bold challenges.
From what was once dubbed the “sleeping giant,” China has suddenly awaken, emerging as the biggest threat to the Philippines’ security interests as both have interlocking claims to the oil-rich Spratlys islands.
With superior naval assets patrolling the disputed chain of islands, China has bullied the Philippines, long perceived as militarily weak.
In the face of China’s aggressiveness in asserting its sovereign claims to the Sprawls, also referred to as the west Philippine sea, Manila in not a few times wanted to invoke the MDT which many politicians label as a mere paper tiger.
But thanks to cooler heads, the MDT remains as a last resort mechanism to avoid what’s likely to be a bigger problem – war.
Hopefully, Obama will use his two-day visit to assess the Philippines’ defense needs, especially in light that the two countries will enter into a new security alliance under the banner of the so-called enhanced defense security agreement.
An offshoot of months of hard bargaining, Filipino negotiators were hard put as they had to reckon with the Constitutional ban on the presence of foreign bases on Philippine soil.
In the end, they had to compromise as Manila agreed to allow US forces the use of Philippines-builtmilitary installations.
For both countries, it’s a win-win situation as they usher in a paradigm shift in their strategic ties, given China’s surging aggression in the hotly contested Spratlys.For the US, Manila’s nod to a new pact gives the Americans the leeway needed as they reposition their defense forces from theMiddle East to Asia.
Under Barack’s pivot policy, the Philippines plays a crucial role because of its strategic location in keeping peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
But more than the much-needed military materiel, the Philippines badly requires America’s political succor as its row with China has assumed complex dimensions.Neither has China eased up in its flexing its military muscle in the high seas nor has it showed signs of flexibility in its diplomatic rapport with the Philippines.
As the world’s policeman, the US is in the best position to cool the tensions between Manila and Beijing for the sake of regional peace and stability.
A Cambrian embryo fossil exposed by acid etching on rock. The polygonal pattern suggests that the embryo was in the multicellular blastula stage of development. Tiny, spherical fossils found in southern China appear to be the embryos of a previously unknown animal.
The fossils come from the Cambrian, a period dating from 540 million to 485 million years ago and known for an explosion of diversity. Some of the organisms that appeared during the Cambrian, such as the bug-like trilobite, had exoskeletons and other hard parts that fossilized nicely. Others, including sponges and worms, were made of soft tissue that rarely preserves.
Researchers Jesse Broce of Virginia Tech, James Schiffbauer of the University of Missouri and their colleagues were searching for these rare soft-tissue fossils in limestone from the Hubei province of southern China when they found something even more rare: tiny spheres, including some with polygonal patterns on their surfaces. These itsy-bitsy fossils are most likely fossilized embryos, the researchers report in the March issue of the Journal of Paleontology. The fossils come from the third stage of the Cambrian, dating back to around 521 million to 541 million years ago. [See Images of a Giant Cambrian Creature]
“We found over 140 spherically shaped fossils, some of which include features that are reminiscent of division-stage embryos, essentially frozen in time,” Schiffbauer said in a statement.
The researchers began their investigation by attempting to dissolve fossils out of the limestone from China’s Shuijingtuo formation with acid, but that method seriously damaged or destroyed the spherical fossils. Researchers then hand-chiseled the rock into millimeter- or centimeter-sized chunks, exposing the fossil surfaces manually.
From there, the researchers investigated the spheres with a variety of techniques, including slicing them into thin sections, which can be viewed under a microscope. The scientists also imaged the fossils with X-ray and scanning electron microscopy and X-ray techniques.
The results showed specimens with a phosphate-rich envelope surrounding a ball of calcite. (The organic compounds that once made up the embryos have long since mineralized.) Some of the spheres had polygonal patterns that look very similar to those seen on fossilized embryos from Markuelia, a Cambrian worm-like creature. The researchers believe that these specimens are blastulas, which are an early, multicellular stage of embryonic development.
It remains a mystery what these embryos would have grown up to become. Fossilized embryos from a variety of species pop up occasionally in the fossil record, from a 380-million-year old fish with an embryo still in her belly to dinosaur embryos still curled up inside their eggs.
(Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer/ LiveScience.com)
In a statement released by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP),the insurgent group condemns both the US and Chinese governments for “acting like bullies in their effort to fortify their military foothold in the South China Sea to the detriment of the Filipino people’s sovereignty claims over the islands and land formations and territorial waters within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.”
The CPP denounced both the Chinese and US governments for carrying out maneuvers and counter-maneuvers last March 29, while a Philippine boat delivered supplies to the Philippine outpost ship BRP Sierra Madre, stationed at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999. News reports indicate that the Chinese Coast Guard attempted to prevent the Philippine supply boat from reaching the Ayungin shoal.The group also criticized the US military for reportedly carrying out fly-bys to project and assert its power and control of the area.
The CPP further denounced the Aquino regime for playing to the US hegemonist plan to establish its permanent presence in the South China Sea by invoking US military support, seeking increased US military financing and protection. The group says that the fly-by of US jets over the Ayungin shoals last March 29 was carried out with the permission of the Philippine armed forces, although AFP officials feigned ignorance. Malacañang also pretended to be unaware of the US fly-bys when it declared that the Philippine supply boat just “somehow managed” to reach the outpost ship despite the presence of the Chinese Coast Guard ship.
The CPP claims that it has long supported the demand of the Filipino people to assert Philippine sovereignty over the small islands and land formations in the South China Sea within the country’s 200-mile economic zone. It also asserted that the group has long called for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts through diplomatic negotiations and international arbitration.
“The US imperialists have long been the biggest violators of Philippine sovereignty,” the group insists in their public statement. They said that the United States’ historical record of aggression and colonization of the Philippines is “incomparable to that of China, which has never deployed its military in the Philippines, prior to sailing its coast guard boats in Philippine territorial waters.”
The CPP notes, “The US has further entrenched itself in the Philippines. It has further strengthened its foothold by maintaining a permanent military presence in the Philippines.”
The CPP contends that further strengthening the US’ military foothold in the Philippines does not help the Philippine cause to advance sovereign claims over the South China Sea islands, formations and territorial waters. Heightening US military presence, according to them, counters the Philippines’ efforts to strengthen its sovereignty claims as it puts the Philippines under the dominance of the US military.
The group further adds, “In asserting Philippine claims while invoking US military support, the Aquino regime is actually seeking to become a protectorate of the US government, subjecting the entire country, including the international trade routes in the South China Sea, to US control. To be ‘protected’ by a bigger bully who claims to be a friend to fend off another bully is to forever be under the sway of that bigger bully.”
By Dong Maraya
On April 4 the National Peace Day of Angola is celebrated. We take this opportunity to greet all Angolans for this momentous day.
The Republic of Angola is a country in Southern Africa. Luanda is its capital city. Angola as a Portuguese colony encompassing the present territory was not established before the end of the 19th century. Independence was achieved in 1975, after a protracted liberation war. After independence, Angola was the scene of an intense civil war from 1975 to 2002. The executive branch of the government is composed of the President, the Vice-Presidents and the Council of Ministers. For decades, political power has been concentrated in the Presidency.
José Eduardo dos Santos is an Angolan politician who has been President of Angola since 1979. As President, José Eduardo dos Santos is also the commander in chief of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) and president of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the party that has ruled Angola since it gained independence in 1975. He was born on 28 August 1942. At the age of 19 he joined the MPLA’s guerrilla army fighting for independence from Portugal.
After the death of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto on 10 September 1979, José Eduardo dos Santos was elected as President of the MPLA on 20 September 1979, and he took office as President of Angola, President of the MPLA, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on 21 September. He was also elected as President of the People’s Assembly on 9 November 1980.
In power for 33 years, despite having never been formally elected, Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is Africa’s second-longest serving head of state – trailing Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo by just one month.
On 29 and 30 September 1992, elections were held in Angola. José Eduardo dos Santos won the election. In 2001, dos Santos announced that he would step down at the next presidential election. However, in December 2003 he was reelected as head of the MPLA and no further presidential election took place, despite these being announced for 2006, then 2007 and finally announced that the next presidential election would be held in 2009. After legislative election in 2008 in which the ruling MPLA won a landslide victory, the party started working on a new constitution that was introduced early in 2010. In terms of the new constitution, the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament automatically becomes the president of the country.
In the 2012 general election, his party, the MPLA, won more than 2/3 of the votes. As dos Santos had been the top candidate of the party, he automatically became the President of the Republic, in line with the constitution adopted in 2010, and therefore found himself for the first time in the position of a legally elected President.
The 70 year old is never criticized by the country’s state media organs, and the remaining few private newspapers that have not been bought up by government ministers and which dare challenge his actions are hit with lawsuits.
He is now hoping to win a new five-year mandate when his country holds parliamentary elections under a new constitution that elects the president from the top of the winning party list. Analysts say, the election is as much a referendum on Mr. dos Santos, who celebrated his birthday on the campaign trail, and his record as president as it is about appointing a new National Assembly.
Under his leadership Angola has risen from the ashes of war to become sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy, after South Africa and Nigeria, and a magnet for foreign investment.
Mr. dos Santos’s long stay in office represents stability to his trading partners, one of the largest of which is now China. Against all odds, he has remained in power since 1979, overcoming challenges of war, elections and at the same time displaying a highly refined political craftsmanship. Analysts say Mr dos Santos’ avoidance of the limelight is key to his success because he has been able to keep his enemies guessing and he has carefully kept internal rivals at bay. While criticism of Mr. dos Santos is growing among small sections of urban Angolans, who are increasingly turning to the internet and social media as an alternative to the heavily censored mainstream media, he still has plenty of support.
After the end of the Civil War, the regime came under pressure from within as well as from the international environment, to become more democratic and less authoritarian. Its reaction was to operate a number of changes without substantially changing its character. The new constitution, adopted in 2010, further sharpened the authoritarian character of the regime. In the future, there will be no presidential elections: the president and the vice-president of the political party which comes out strongest in the parliamentary elections become automatically president and vice-president of Angola.
Angola has a rich subsoil heritage, from diamonds, oil, gold, copper, and a rich wildlife, forest, and fossils. Since independence, oil and diamonds have been the most important economic resource. Smallholder and plantation agriculture have dramatically dropped because of the Angolan Civil War, but have begun to recover after 2002. The transformation industry that had come into existence in the late colonial period collapsed at independence, because of the exodus of most of the ethnic Portuguese population, but has begun to reemerge, partly because of the influx of new Portuguese entrepreneurs.
Angola’s economy has undergone a period of transformation in recent years, moving from the disarray caused by a quarter century of civil war to being the fastest growing economy in Africa and one of the fastest in the world. In 2004, China’s Eximbank approved a $2 billion line of credit to Angola. The loan is being used to rebuild Angola’s infrastructure, and has also limited the influence of the International Monetary Fund in the country.
The country has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, and its economy has on average grown at a double-digit pace since the 1990s, especially since the end of the civil war. In spite of this, standards of living remain low for the majority of the population, and life expectancy and infant mortality rates in Angola are among the worst in the world. Angola is considered to be economically disparate, with the majority of the nation’s wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small sector of the population.
In 2002, the country’s economy has developed significantly since achieving political stability, but still Angola faces huge social and economic problems. These are in part a result of the almost continual state of conflict from 1961 onwards, although the highest level of destruction and socio-economic damage took place after the 1975 independence, during the long years of civil war.
Although by law education in Angola is compulsory and free for eight years, the government reports that a percentage of students are not attending due to a lack of school buildings and teachers. Students are often responsible for paying additional school-related expenses, including fees for books and supplies. The Ministry of Education hired 20,000 new teachers in 2005 and continued to implement teacher trainings. Teachers tend to be underpaid, inadequately trained, and overworked. Although budgetary allocations for education were increased in 2004, the education system in Angola continues to be extremely under-funded.
Angola is gradually rebuilding its infrastructure, retrieving weapons from its heavily-armed civilian population and resettling tens of thousands of refugees who fled the fighting. Landmines and impassable roads have cut off large parts of the country. But oil exports and foreign loans have spurred economic growth and have fuelled a reconstruction boom.