Around 2,000 people are reported to have demonstrated against USL and the Ponta government for trying to subvert justice through their amendments to the Penal Code adopted last Tuesday. The event, entitled "Protest against crooks in Parliament", was scheduled for 16h at Piata Universitatii by the symbolic fountain which has borne witness to so many other protests in Romania's modern history, and is deeply representative of both loss and hope.
At the appropriate hour, 200 or so demonstrators were au rendezvous waving banners of "Shame!" "Super immunity? No shit!" "Democracy Error 404 Not Found", "Down with Basescu, Ponta and Antonescu!" and "All parties, the same misery!", say Hotnews. Impossible to argue with a single slogan. Jandarmi used tear gas to disperse protesters in front of the Government building later on, where they had gathered to call for Ponta's resignation and the violence that we have become so used to seeing perpetrated by so-called 'law enforcements' did not fail to rear its ugly head once again.
16h50: Chants of "All parties, same mess!", "Down with Ponta, you are a liar!", "Down with Basescu, Ponta and Antonescu!", "United, we'll save Romania!".
17h: Around 1,000 people, now. Chants anti-USL, anti-Basescu, on shale gas and RMP are heard.
17h20: "Romania, police state!" While more protesters arrive at Pta Universitatii, others leave due to the cold.
17h40: From megaphones, one can hear "Romanian press, full of lies."
17h55: Crowds start moving towards Blvd. Magheru. The jandarmi try to cordon them off. Scuffles between protesters and police opposite the Intercontinental break out.
(Photo source: 'Se inainteaza printre masini pe Calea Victoriei in drum spre Guvern' - Cristian Vasile)
18h05: Following violent confrontations with jandarmi, protesters block traffic on Blvd. Elisabeta at the junction with calea Victoriei. They start marching towards the Government buildings, are stopped by a huge police barrage and remain on Bd Elisabeta.
18h17: Violent clashes at the intersection with calea Victoriei. A wall of jandarmi block the roundabout and intersection. Violence ensues along the entire street.
18h45: More violent clashes. Protesters break jandarmi lines after repeated scurmishes in which many are trampled underfoot, and continue along calea Victoriei towards the Government buildings.
19h08: Protesters arrive in Pta Victoriei, in front of the Government building. Chants of "Resign!". Some demonstrators block traffic in front of the Antipa museum.
19h32: Jandarmi use tear gas to disperse a group of protesters trying to break police lines to reach the Government buildings. One protester is arrested. A separate group of protesters who seem to be football fans, push demonstrators directly against police lines causing further tension. Jandarmi respond with tear gas, after more scuffles.
19h46: Some protesters light flares and throw them into police lines. More violence.
20h: Chants of "The plagiarist lied to the people!" and "Down with Iliescu!"
20h17: The number of protesters begins to decline. Anti-Ponta chanting continues.
20h20: Georgian Enache, spokesman for Bucharest Gendarmerie tells Digi24 that the initial group of protesters had been infiltrated by football fans who provoked the police, throwing objects at them. According to Enache, among the protesters were members of Steaua Bucharest.
20h25: Piata Victoriei: Jandarmi surround the crowd of a remaining 200-300 protesters.
20h30: Protest leaders say that their megaphones were confiscated, and some of the demonstrators were hauled off to the police station in sector 2 where they were apparently beaten. In front of the Antipa Museum, protesters try to break police lines.
Almost all chants and slogans were directed against USL and Ponta. But of course. What the hell did they expect? Christmas cards?!? By 20h45 it was all over, says Hotnews. But not quite.
(Photo source) What this article doesn't mention is the story of Willy Schuster, a PEACEFUL protester in Floreasca hospital tonight with a broken finger and a head injury after being beaten up by fist-wielding jandarmi .... I'd like to yell 'RUSINE!!' but it's gone way past that point. See THIS video. Mr. Schuster said he was just standing there talking peacefully with a 'negociator' (we all know about them) and at some point, was pushed from behind by jandarmi who isolated him and then beat him.
Mr Schuster, a farmer from Mosna in Sibiu and president of the Eco Ruralis Association, is one of many activists opposing the exploration for shale gas in his region. He was beaten with truncheons and punched in the stomach. He was then arrested by police and taken away covered in blood.
Willy Schuster is not a nobody. Far from it. He is a much respected man. He has become a symbol of the fight for citizens' rights in Romania and was beaten up tonight by those meant to UPHOLD and PROTECT those rights - but DO NOT.
(Photo source) The Hotnews article DOES report on scuffles, scurmishes, violence, but it doesn't mention names. So here's one: Willy Schuster. And then there's also the independent Euro-Parliament candidate for 2014, anti-Rosia and anti-fracking activist Erwin Albu from Brasov, who was hit in the face and has a shiner to show for it along with a probable broken nose. He and Mr Schuster were at the protest together. There are others. Many, many others, and they all have names. You'll find them in Bucharest, and you'll find them in Pungesti.
(Photo source) On FaceBook tonight, a photograph is doing the rounds entitled 'The principle problem of the Romanian people', taken by Doru Oprisan. As you can see, it shows two halves of a situation: on the left, you have a warm and cosy café where young people sit around laughing and joking. On the right, there is the street directly outside full of protesters and jandarmi. We are asked not to judge those on the left too harshly, for perhaps they do not know what's going on, or perhaps they have been part of the protests but simply aren't tonight. The image is real, the interpretation subjective, but the title speaks volumes.
(Photo source: Vlad Petri) But when the state authorities of Romania start to lie (and not for the first time by a long chalk), you can be sure that the truth will end up out there in the streets. It may take a while, but when the mamaliga explodes, it does so in dramatic proportions. You'll hear that truth in the voices of the protesters. You'll see it on their banners and posters, and you'll see it in their eyes. You'll feel it in their bruises, broken bones and spilled blood. And you'll smell it. You'll smell it everywhere you go.
If Ponta and his bunch of corrupt, shameless crooks believe they can get away with empocketing an entire country for their own ends, playing with laws to protect their sorry interests, infiltrate and discredit protesters in ways reminiscent of pre-89 and have unarmed citizens beaten up by their bully-boys in uniform whether it is in the capital or in Pungesti, they can damn well think again. The more blood that is shed and the more justice gets shafted, the more insensed the people will justifiably be. The louder they will shout and the harder Ponta and his rabble of manipulative imposters in comfy chairs will fall. Their days are numbered and the clock is ticking. They will not win.
(Photo source) This'll be fairly short as there's not much to be said, frankly. The probable new minister of culture formally proposed by PNL is Gigel Sorinel Ştirbu (no - not Ştirbei), currently head of the committee for culture, arts and media in the Chamber of Deputies. Him? Seriously? Aoleu...
Citeste mai mult: adev.ro/mxpl5. Seriously? Him? Aoleu. From a rotten apple to a rotten pear.
Andrei Pleşu said this morning that he had never heard of Ştirbu. "What was the name again?" he asked. His spot-on remark that one more Gigel wouldn't make any difference in a country full of Gigis at all levels and in all institutions, lead the potential culture minister to respond with an answer that embarrassingly included a grammatical error. Marvellous. Excellent start. An incult culture minister.
See an open letter HERE from PSD MP Radu Popa asking Antonescu to reconsider his choice. It's excellently worded.
Mr Plesu is not alone. NO ONE has ever heard of this ex-State Secretary to the Culture Ministry, subprefect of Olt county, present-day head of the culture committee and member of the Rosia Montana special commission. Odd, huh? As if he'd been dropped into Bucharest from a spaceship on a foggy night!
Perhaps there weren't any Ninels available and this is the best they could do. Gigel... And, incidentally, 'stirb' means toothless...
(Photo source) Gigel has had several brushes with controversy as one would expect for a potential minister. There's one story about counterfeit booze and cigarettes which dates back to when this former priest was State Secretary, and another which was linked to his legislative work when he filed various proposals for the Law no. 8/1996 on copyright. One which sparked criticism stated that 'accidental' plagiarism was excusable... I'm still trying to work out how you can 'accidentally' nick someone else's work and claim it as your own. Well, little wonder he's being welcomed with open arms, then. Welcome to the Copy/Paste Club! What a perfect mindset for a culture minister. Once it had been decided that Stirbu would be put forward to replace Barbu, he retracted the proposed initiative. Too late!
One more controversy concerned how his career took off and landed him in the position of State Secretary to the Culture Ministry in the first place - largely thanks to a close friendship with Tariceanu (who appointed him) - godfather to his second child. He is now said to be bosom pals with Crin Antonescu, which must help one's ambitions enormously.
(Photo source) Incidentally, you may be interested to learn that Gigel's name is on the list of politicians who voted IN FAVOUR of the new legal amendments to the Penal Code passed on Tuesday that exempts the president as well as members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate from corruption charges whilst in office. And Gigel once a priest at that. Shame on him. The vote, which prompted media to label it "The Black Tuesday" of Romanian democracy, sparked angered reactions from Western embassies and international institutions. "This move by the Parliament is a step away from transparency and rule-of-law and is a discouraging sign for investors", the US Embassy told Bucharest in one of its harshest stances on Romanian events for years.
Such a choice for Barbu's replacement is really nothing more than a reflection on those who have nominated him. The 'oglinda' effect strikes again.
Romania and her people could have done without this latest guffaw to add to the list of reasons to be sniggered at.
To quote a friend, "Rosetti, Sturdza, Brătianu, Kretzulescu, Maiorescu, Iorga and Spiru Haret must be turning in their graves..."
(Photo source) The revolving door is spinning again, and no one will weep. The sinister minister of culture Daniel Barbu has resigned - the best news of the week since the mining law was rejected by parliament on Monday. All other news has so far been groaznic so we could do with another cause for cheer.
Barbu's recent outrageous statement on Sunday (following an event at Teatrul National in Craiova) in which he said he would have preferred money used to fund HIV-AIDS patients to be spent on cultural events instead was "likely to trigger his resignation as minister," Crin Antonescu said yesterday. Apparently, Barbu was "shocked" when he realised the number of Shakespeare festivals that could be organised with the same amount of money. What a nice chap. And as ugly inside and he is out. He should have got the boot long ago in relation to his scandalous stance on Rosia Montana, the anti-RMGC protesters themselves whom he labelled neo-nazis, and a whole lot of other blunders besides.
UNOPA, an association supporting people affected by HIV/AIDS, condemned Barbu's remarks as giving "major offence to patients and to the experts fighting to save their lives".
Why he was ever given the job in the first place is beyond me, but the same goes for most of those fat behinds in the plush seats up there on Mount Olympescu - 28 of them, according to the DNA, with either criminal cases pending or currently serving time.
Last night, President Basescu urged PM Ponta, in S. Africa for Nelson Mandela's funeral, to sack Barbu immediately since the sinistru' culturii's 'spiritual handicap' meant that he could not assume full responsibility for his own actions by resigning.
This morning, the Ministry issued a statement that Barbu, 'culture' minister since December 2012, "deeply regrets the unfortunate comparison" between the HIV prevention programme budget and that of the ministry he leads. He apologised to "all those who have been offended by the inappropriate statement." Too little too late, mate.
At 1pm Bucharest time, Ponta confirmed Barbu's resignation, but said he would only be sending Basescu the resignation document after talks with the aforementioned and Antonescu on the nomination for Barbu's replacement. Basescu must sign the decree for the vacancy. So far, three names from PNL are in circulation. The first and most likely candidate is Gigel Stirbu (oh no!), priest by profession, sub-prefect of Olt and state secretary to the Ministry of Culture. Another is Vlad Nistor, professor of history, president of the University of Bucharest Senate, state advisor to the Constantinescu team and director of Institutului de Studii Diplomatice. The third name is Ben-Oni Ardelean who was Pastor of Romania's Union of Baptists and a university professor at the Baptist Institute.
Romania has been blighted with a long list of appalling ministers of culture, almost all of them profoundly detrimental to the country's patrimony. Sadly, until things REALLY change, this bespectacled imbecile (whether political scientist, publisher, essayist, journalist, and professor at the University of Bucharest’s Faculty of Political Science or not, and regardless of how prolific he may have been in terms of publications) will probably be replaced by another of the same calibre. Today's government does not hold culture as a priority on any level.
Calatorie sprancenata, Daniel Barbu! Preferably into a wall at high speed.
(Photo source) And so... it's happened at last! After the long and heated debates within the closed doors of parliament and three months of widespread protests throughout the country and abroad, the amended mining law which would have enabled Gabriel Resources to proceed with plans to build Europe's largest open-cast gold mine was rejected this morning by the Romanian parliament with 160 votes in favour, 105 against and 22 abstaining. Under Romanian law, in order for it to have been adopted it would have needed at least half plus one of all MPs' votes, ie. 204. So, lack of quorum - it's a NU!!
Gabriel, who has been waiting for more than 14 years to get its grubby mitts on 314 tons of gold and 1,500 tons of silver at Rosia Montana must be spitting feathers. Good. I hope they choke on them. This latest news from Romania is just one of many hitches concerning the project that have been mud in the eye of the multinational giant (I'd prefer a skewer, but hey). Only last week, RMGC hit the headlines due to investigations by Romania into alleged money laundering and tax evasion. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch.
At the end of last week, a group of environmentalists sent an open letter to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister and members of parliament demanding the immediate introduction of legislation to make local firms, especially mining industry corporations, accountable for proposed projects and current operations abroad. The group has also requested that Ottawa withdraw its support for Gabriel Resources' projects.
Huge crowds demonstrated outside the Parliament building in Bucharest this morning, chanting "Save Rosia Montana!" and demanding that MPs reject the mining changes giving way to a bill even more awful than the last, before occupying the Ombudsman's office. Several hundreds also protested in Cluj blocking access to the local HQ of political parties. For once, their demands were heard.
Gabriel, which is backed by American billionaire John Paulson and the Israeli Benny Steinmetz Group, is yet to comment as far as I know. I expect they're gobsmacked that Romania, a poor little country filled with ignorant peasants, would DARE cock up their plans.
"For over 16 years, we have been telling the shareholders of Gabriel Resources that their mine is both illegal and unwanted. Today's decision confirms this once again, and it also underlines the united determination of the Romanian people. Together, we will continue to ensure that law and order becomes the norm so that we may build a future for Romania. We may seem poor and irrelevant to Gabriel Resources, but there are some people and some things that are not for sale. Rosia Montana is, was, and never will be for sale," said Eugen David, the president of Alburnus Maior.
As a result, Gabriel's share prices started to fall on the Toronto Stock Exchange after news broke this afternoon (hee! hee!). At 17h49 (22h35 Canada), shares were going for $0.91, down 21% from the closing price last night ($1.15). This is not the most dramatic drop Gabriel's shares have seen. Remember early September, when they dropped 70% after the Rosia Montana bill failed in Parliament? May they keep falling - nothing like a little smug schadenfreude at times like this.
"The government could choose to approve a new bill for the gold mine, or parliament could draft new legislation at a later date, but for now the proposed gold mine is on hold," reports Reuters.
Excellent news for the people of Romania, and for all of us beyond her borders! BRAVOOOOOO!!!!! WHAT a sigh of immense and marvellous relief.
(Photo source) It hasn't all been good news and cries of 'hurrah!' when it comes to MPs' voting choices today. A series of changes to the Penal Code have been adopted that will boost parliamentarians immunity in cases of corruption charges from all DNA prosecutors' investigations. Was that the price one had to pay for the mining law to be rejected, I wonder? We must pay for clean air, water, mountains and beauty by turning a blind eye to the underhanded and low-life dirty dealings of those on Mount Olympescu? If the Constitutional Court accepts this bill in its present form, then Adrian Năstase (currently serving 3 years for corruption), Dan Voiculescu (5 years for the 'ICA' affair), Cătălin Voicu (7 years for bribery, intimidation and extortion), Decebal Traian Remeş (3 years for the 'Caltaboşul' affair and influence peddling), Relu Fenechiu (serving 5 years for his part in the 'Transformator' affair and 46 corruption-related offenses), Codruţ Şereş (indicted to 6 years for treason and organised crime), Liviu Dragnea (referendum fraud), Adrian Severin (a Europarliamentarian due 6 years for taking bribes) and Ioan Avram Mureşan (condemned to 7 years for money laundering and abuse of office) will all be pardonned. Justice? Where? The impact on pending corruption cases is truly overwhelming. What a banana republic...
The bill passed with 240 votes (PSD: 122; PNL: 73; UDMR: 15; independents: 15; PC: 11; unaffiliated: 4 - see the named and shamed 'yes' voters HERE). Only 57 MPs had the bijoux de famille and the conscience to vote "against" (32 PDL, 22 PPDD, one PC and two unaffiliated) - a VERY popular measure, it would appear. Go figure, seeing the percentage of 'cases pending' for Romanian politicians. Unbelievable. But not very. This will have a devastating effect on the functioning of the DNA. In short, so-called 'lawmakers' will be protected from any investigation by the DNA for crimes of abuse of office, nepotism, or bribery committed in connection with their duties. Read the DNA's reaction HERE (in Romanian).
The vote, which prompted media to label it "The Black Tuesday" of Romanian democracy, sparked strong reactions from Western embassies and international institutions. "This move by the Parliament is a step away from transparency and rule-of-law and is a discouraging sign for investors", the US Embassy told Bucharest in one of its harshest stances on Romanian events for years.
Only two hurdles remain until the changes to the Penal Code can take effect: the Presidency and the Constitutional Court. President Basescu has said that what happened on 'Black Tuesday' is reason to dissolve Parliament, and if the amendments pass, the sanctions Romania would likely risk for breach of Copenhagen criteria would be suspension of voting rights in the European Commission, European Council and European Parliament. Yup. That, and more. Investments would rapidly plunge to a nice fat zero as the country would be seen as utterly untrustworthy, and EU funds would be no more. That last possibility, I'm sure, would hurt the most.
(Photo source) Do you think that means Gigi will be home to hang up his Christmas stocking, then? He is serving time for something he shouldn't be and isn't serving time for something he should. Does that make sense? Clear as mud. Asta este. Long live Romanian justice.
Tomorrow the decentralisation bill will be debated in the Constitutional Courts. If that ever passes, patrimony is stuffed (for want of a better word).
And so, a day of good news and bad news. A day of justice and the complete opposite. A 'Romanian' sort of day, all things considered. But tonight, I shall pop a cork for Rosia Montana, and grieve for the injustice part tomorrow...
(Photo source) Fifty Greenpeace activists from ten countries (including Romania) armed with picks and shovels were arrested in Bucharest today after taking to the front lawn of the Casa Nebunului, setting up a 'mining area' and 'digging for gold' in symbolic opposition to the Rosia Montana gold-mining project. Banners displayed the messages "Gold Mining Operations" and "Gold mining area". What a fantastic initiative!! BRAVO!! A shame they didn't have a couple of tons of cyanide to throw in, too!
"In the last couple of months, the Government has issued special laws allowing any private company, not just Roșia Montană Gold Corporation, to exploit any kind of resource, wherever it is. It just needs to be labelled ‘national interest project’ or ‘public interest project’ and that is enough. The destruction of communities, the environment, national patrimony, historic or cultural.... This is as abnormal as digging for gold in the yard of an institution. Today’s protest shows exactly what a company interested in exploring and exploiting the country’s underground resources can do. We are here to send a message to the members of parliament on the consequences their decisions and their votes might have," says a statement by Greenpeace Romania on their FB page.
(Photo source) TOTB explains that the police confiscated their tools at first, but the unperturbed protesters just dug the hard and icy ground with their hands instead. Hardly surprisingly, they were finally arrested along with a journalist and a couple of photographers and hauled off to various cop shops to give statements - not before images and reports had hit the social networks though, saturating Twitter and FB. Message superbly delivered!
A Canadian activist is reported to have been roughed up by police, and hospitalised as a result. I'll update when there's more news.
It is supposed that the activists will be fined between 500-1500 lei each for scaling the fences and unauthorised protesting.
"I understand that the Romanian government gives special laws allowing the exploration and development of resources anywhere in the country by anyone, especially Canadians. So I came from Canada to look for gold here in the courtyard of the Palace of Parliament," said activist Mia Jessica Steinbach. LOL!!!
(Photo source) Of course, Romanian national media coverage on this morning's 'dig' has been unremarkably slow so far apart from Adevarul and ProTV, but you can catch up on Greenpeace Romania's FB page for more and check out the social networks where info continues to flood in.
Bravo, Greenpeace! Absolutely bloody brilliant! Jos palaria!!!!
(Photo source) Greenpeace's demonstration this morning comes 24h before THE most crucial day for Rosia Montana to date. The Mining Bill will be put to the final vote in the Chamber of Deputies tomorrow, 10th December, at 10h. This new and amended bill is even more dangerous than its predecessor, for it will legalise cyanide use, expropriation and other such unconstitutional horrors. Deputies of the Commission for Industry gave the newly amended draft a thumbs up this evening... In addition, USL is desperate to pass three highly controversial laws: one on lobbying, an amnesty law and another that gives major powers to the Chamber of Commerce. Why not legalise bribery too, and go the whole hog...
Mass demonstrations will take place from 9h30 tomorrow morning in front of Parliament in Bucharest, across the entire country and abroad demanding that deputies vote NU to the mining bill. Wherever you may be tomorrow morning, whether it be in Romania or beyond her boundaries, and if you're not at work, PLEASE GET OUT THERE!!!! Tomorrow is the day we could lose Rosia Montana...
(Photo source: AFP Photo / Daniel Mihailescu) Protests turned violent once again in Pungesti yesterday when clashes broke out between armed police and demonstrators. Journalist Lucy Kafanov reporting for RT in Moscow (?!!) was there on site and reported that protesters broke down perimetre fences and briefly entered the Chevron area. Riot police arrived and the violence that has become so familiar to us lately then ensued. The conflict has been ever-increasing this past week after the government imposed a military-style blockade against the town. Roads were blocked isolating residents and stopping children from getting to school.
According to THIS article, dozens were arrested and detained yesterday while 14 were charged with damaging property and possession of knives. Activist Brianna Caradja told THIS site that weapons had been planted on protesters to discredit them: "they are trying to “plant” evidence of weapons. We will know later, seems they claim to have found molotov cocktails, and other BS." Private riot police were supported by the private security company hired by Chevron. This video shows the private security agents attacking villagers with stones.
Injured demonstrators were taken away in ambulances. Please see THIS video of Kafanov's report for RT and all that was going on around her at the time.
(Photo source: AFP Photo / Daniel Mihailescu) As Kafanov reported from the other side of the road, the riot police closed in. "We're not quite sure why," she told the camera. Obviously, it was in an effort to clear the area. And yet, she and the protesters were standing on private property - their OWN land. Hardly surprising people were furious at being manhandled on land that actually belonged to them. Had the rough treatment taken place on the Chevron site, that would at least have made sense, for they were trespassing. But there, on the other side of the road, it was the riot police who were trespassing, not the journalist nor the demonstrators.
George Barda, a social and environmental justice campaigner had this to say (see RT video):
"In Romania, we have seen a leader who says no to fracking because the people don't want it and then when he's in power, he starts dancing to the tune of these major players like Chevron." He goes on to explain the risk for those living in the area and the long-term problems the project would bring.
[It really comes to something when one is forced to get information from the Russian Times because the Romanian press is not there doing its job...]
What a lousy, unfair fight it is. On one side there is profit, greed and military power. On the other, there are people with nothing much at all, trying to protect their land and livelihood. Hardly equal by any stretches of the imagination.
(Photo source) The unbelievable sweeping-under-the-rug as to how Chevron got hold of the land in the first place is hallucinating. It was leased by the mayor of Pungesti, Mircia C. Vlasă, to Chevron although he had had absolutely NO right to do so. According to TOTB, the land fell into his hands through an illegal exchange between Pungesti and another town, where Vlasă’s wife just happens to own land too. This mayor is said not only to have bullied and pressurised the citizens of his town, but also to have leased the land to Chevron without taking opinions of local residents into account. The locals themselves say that the exchange was made without proper regulations and if you saw the mug of this guy, you'd not doubt that for a second. See HERE for the DNA inquiry into the property rights Vlasă has over the land he rented out to Chevron. As far as legality is concerned, surely until it can be proven that Chevron obtained the land through the legal channels, they should get the hell off it? Right? Yes? No? At least a decision from the DNA should be heard before Chevron polishes another shovel or screws on another bolt.
Last month, Chevron filed a civil lawsuit against protesters in Poland who prevented the company from reaching one of its designated fracking sites, states RT. The company declared that the protesters had been violating its lawful right to access one of its four shale gas exploration areas in the country. If they have behaved in Poland as they are in Romania, then the 'lawful right' is certainly NOT on the side of Chevron.
(Photo source) Following yesterday's violent clashes, Chevron announced it was temporarily suspending activities in the area "as a result of unsafe conditions generated by unlawful and violent protest activities". Rather a short-lived pause however, for this morning it was business as usual at 8am...
When Chevron suspended plans to drill there back in October, withdrawing after protests turned nasty then too, some naïve souls hoped that would be an end to it - that Chevron would pack up and go home. The majority, however, knew that wouldn't be the case. Yesterday, the opinion was much the same. Pungesti is believed to be sitting upon vast gas reserves hugely coveted by both Chevron and the Romanian authorities. The country itself may hold 51 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and Chevron is NOT going to just give up what it has begun in Pungesti, and neither are the corrupt officials and politicians for whom greed is the faith.
(Photo source) The protesters show no signs of backing down either, however. As they stand brave and determined against the bullying tactics of a giant multinational and their own government, they also demand the resignation of PM Victor Ponta. What a disappointment he turned out to be for all those who were hailing him not so long ago.
Abuse by authorities is two-fold in today's Romania: first, there is the passing of unconstitutional laws which go against citizens' basic rights and then there is the more visible direct abuse via riot police exercising force way above and beyond the call of duty, leading to the outrageous brutalising of unarmed citizens. It is impossible for ANYONE to turn a blind eye to either anymore. Pre-'89, such abuse was appalling, but post-'89 it is truly shocking and shows the terrible fragility of a young Romanian democracy.
Activist Brianna told PR, "Riot police (military in Romania) have been used in vast numbers, always extremely disproportionate to the number of protesters. We are calling for a stepdown (zic 'Ponta's'). Personally I would "step down" not only the government, but the whole parliament who sits fat and idle, passes crazy laws, and generally is only there to get richer (bribery is a proven fact)." I couldn't have put it better myself. They're nothing more than a bunch of shameless imposters and have one objective in mind - to enrich themselves on the backs of the people.
(Photo source) Protests continue tonight, whilst several hundred people are gathered in solidarity in Bucharest too. The atmosphere is tense. Hoards of police encircle the zone around Universitate, Academiei and the Facultatea de Arhitectura ready to intervene. Rezistenta Urbana says they are stopping anyone who steps off the pavement, asking whether they are there to protest or not.
The Chief of the Secret Service (SRI) has labeled the protesters at Pungesti eco-anarchists. If the definition of an eco-anarchist is one who fights for freedom, respect, dignity and integrity, then long live eco-anarchy.
UPDATE 17h50: Reports are coming in that locals have been arrested at random in Pungesti. Hotnews report that residents can't leave their homes without being questioned by police as to where they're going. Police have been posted in front of every single house. The road between Pungesti and Vaslui remains blocked and the entire area declared a 'special security zone'. A couvre-feu. In peace time...
22h:Bucharest: The number of police hugely outweighs the number of protesters. There have been serious skirmishes between jandarmi and demonstrators (as the absurdly named 'negociatori' stand idly by either watching or helping with the roughings up) - one in which a 16-year old was beaten up by police. There have been numerous arrests. Examples of police brutality can be seen all over FB via photos and articles by those who were there. FOR SHAME!!
Pungesti: Things haven't been much better there tonight either. Just one of many stories this evening is of Costel who went to his local shop in Armasoaia, and came nose to nose with police. As a result, he needed treatment at Vaslui hospital for head injuries...
Silent night, Holy night. Not.
If you haven't signed THIS petition by AVAAZ, please do so.
Gata for tonight. More news tomorrow.
(Photo source) You may remember back in October when Chevron suspended plans to drill an exploration well for shale gas in the north-eastern town of Pungesti after thousands demonstrated against the project both there and in Bucharest. Finally, Chevron was seen to back off, at least for a while. Some naïve souls hoped that would be an end to it - that Chevron would give up and go home. The majority, however, knew that wouldn't be the case. Well, six weeks later, Chevron have returned....
At around 4am on Monday morning, Romanian riot police, jandarmi and firemen joined forces in an attempt to break resistance lines. Police and Chevron vehicles blocked the road linking the town with Vaslui, and surrounded the protesters' camp in a privately-owned field right next to where the company giant plans to install its well.
The Nine O'Clock website reported that 40 people were beaten, detained and then taken to the nearest town for further questioning. That link seems to be broken, but I'll add it when it's working again. Romanian-Insider reported on the arrestation of thirty “for hostile behaviour” while the jandarmi blocked access so that Chevron could get on with the job in hand.
(Photo source) Activists claim that around 1,000 law enforcers took part in the operation. The police, however, put the number at three hundred. Journalists were reportedly permitted to 30 minutes at the scene under police escort, and all this in a country that considers itself civilised and democratic... See THIS video for a pretty good idea of what unfolded at 4am and THIS one a little later on in the morning.
"You would not believe what is happening here," said one of the activists during a phone call. "A chain of jandarmi is surrounding the entire area, private security forces all over, guarding Chevron trucks and workers. It's like a battlefield," reports TOTB.
A press release from Chevron representatives officially confirmed the recommencement of exploration procedures for shale gas. The Romanian Jandarmeria also issued a statement in which they said all measures were to protect the community and to establish proper conditions for Chevron to pursue its activity. 'All measures' meaning the beating of protesters with truncheons? Really? On their OWN LAND?!? And how does that protect the community when these people ARE the community...
Representatives for the Jandarmeria stated that protesters had illegally blocked the main road which, according to George Epurescu, a researcher at the National Institute for Laser, Plasma and Radiation Physics in Bucharest and supporter of the protesters, is pure fabrication. The protesters were on the side of the road and traffic was not hindered in any way. It was a peaceful protest against the usage of the land leased by the mayor of Pungesti, Mircia C. Vlasă, to Chevron although he had had absolutely NO right to do so. According to TOTB, the land fell into his hands through an illegal exchange between Pungesti and another town, where Vlasă’s wife just happens to own land too. Nu mai spune... This mayor is said not only to have bullied and pressurised the citizens of his town, but also to have leased the land to Chevron without taking opinions of local residents into account. The locals themselves say that the exchange was made without proper regulations and if you saw the mug of this guy, you'd not doubt that for a second. See HERE for a DNA inquiry into the property rights Vlasă has over the land he rented out to Chevron.
(Photo source) The people of Pungesti have been protesting against shale gas drilling in their region since at least early spring. Once again, the jandarmi showed up to intimidate them, refusing access to anyone who wasn't from the town.
This article says that Chevron was there in September handing out t-shirts, caps, kites and beer at the fair held weekly in Silistea, the village where the first drilling equipment is set to be placed. Moreover, one of the local counselors served sarmale to the locals to appease them. Les douceurs...
The exploration for shale gas in a community clearly rejecting the opinions of its residents goes against Chevron’s officially stated commitment to protect the people and the environment and to consult communities regarding local needs. Chevron faces not only opposition from Pungesti, but a very loud NU from the majority of the Romanian population. As for 'protecting the people', that's an overwhelming fail - those who were hospitalised as a result of police brutality on Monday bear witness to that. No need to even mention the 'environment' bit.
What happened on Monday must have seemed like something out of a Hollywood film: Local children were stopped on their way to school as the road connecting the town to others was blocked by police; any gatherings of more than three people were dissolved by authorities; some villagers were chased into the woods by police, who are said to have beaten them up; protesters who were taken to the Central Police Station in Vaslui were refused the right to contact press or lawyers.
Just like a film indeed - except it wasn't. For shame. It really happened. And why? Because corruption is the law, greed is the faith and if you don't bend the knee to both, then you get beaten up, thrown into a police van and taken away for questioning. Clearly, this was planned by the local authorities, police and Chevron in great detail so equipment could be installed and work could begin.
Greenpeace slammed the police 'intervention' yesterday as "a serious abuse against freedom of expression", underlining that the permits given to Chevron are currently being challenged in court. Challenged or not, Chevron has said its exploration work began on Monday as planned, despite the mayhem going on around them.
During a TV debate today broadcast on Romanian public television, Chevron Romania's CEO Tom Holst appeared supremely defiant and unbelievably arrogant, promising that the energy giant had absolutely NO intention of leaving Romania. His words have been seen by many as 'a declaration of war'.
This irresponsible attack on human and civil rights, a force deployment not seen in Romania during times of peace, comes just ONE DAY after Romania's National Day and a backdrop of national AND international protests against fracking and cyanide usage in Romania that have encompassed three long months. Who is listening? Chevron? Gabriel? RMGC? Ponta? Certainly not the latter. The Guardian reports: 'Prime minister, Victor Ponta, has responded to anti-fracking protests around the country, saying that "the actions of the gendarmes were 100% according to the law and I congratulate them for this." He can deny anything untoward happened all he likes, but victims (both locals and activists) have medical certificates attesting to broken ribs and other injuries. Such abuse, termed 'legitimate' by Romanian authorities, merit nothing short of MASSIVE international indignance. Over 28,000 people have signed a petition pubished by AVAAZ - see HERE - over the last 48h calling for a firm position by European and international human rights decision-makers to condemn the abuse undertaken by Romanian armed forces who behaved like a hoard of mercenaries against unarmed civilians.
It's as if the last twenty-four years never happened and the communist regime is alive and well after all. But then, we knew that, didn't we.
(Photo source) This is a happy update for anyone following the story of Cleo's Angels!
Last Sunday, Claudia left Bucharest via special animal transport to take nine sponsored cats to safety. If you haven't been following the story of Cleo's Angels, please see HERE, HERE and HERE. Bound for the one and only cat shelter in the whole country, SOS Animale Abandonate Resita in the Banat, it was a long eight hour trip by road, but I understand the cats were extremely well-behaved.
Surya, Hermes (recovering well from his close encounter with canine jaws and subsequent surgery), Jackie, Dolo, Porto, Sonto, Dupli, Lunienka and Ariadna have settled into their new home pretty fast judging by the photos posted on FB, see HERE. The shelter itself is great - places to run, hide, climb and snuggle, whilst the director Ilie and his cat-shelter team are dedicated and, frankly, wonderful. Take a look at THIS lovely video of the day the cats arrived. Hee! Hee!!!! Marvellous!
(Photo source) Since last Sunday, sponsorships for two six-month old kittens, Lunienka and Ariadna, have fallen through so if anyone reading could help via paypal or bank transfer (easier if you are Romanian than living elsewhere as the transfer charges are nothing short of extortion), you'll find the details further down on this post. To keep a cat at Resita, the charge is 12 euros a month which covers food, vet bills, etc.
There is a contract between Claudia and Ilie, stipulating that all money received via sponsorship will be used for the sponsors' particular cats, and photos and news will be sent regarding 'their' cat at regular intervals.
Meanwhile in Bucharest, there are another 15 or so cats that need your help. Most of them are semi-wild or completely feral if I'm not wrong, and catching them is an issue as is homing them. Claudia has managed to neuter/spay and vaccinate several of them, however, and I'm in no doubt that she will continue down that rather exhausting though very responsible and admirable path.
There is something important that I would like to mention here: Claudia has been taking care of over 20 cats (although the numbers come and go) by herself for several years. She has neutered, spayed, vaccinated, fed and paid for vet treatment when necessary entirely alone. She has NEVER asked a penny from anyone and is mortified that she has been forced, now, to do so. She is afraid of being seen by foreigners as 'just another Romanian with an open hand', scared we will think badly of her for needing help after so long. Of course, those who have rushed to her aid do not think these things at all and admire her very much for managing alone all this time. Now, though, Claudia need not cope by herself. Let us show her that we can do a better job than the local townhall in sector 6 (who falsely declares it's a dog-free zone) by helping her find sponsors and/or forever homes for those tame enough to adapt.
(Photo source: the new arrivals explore their new surroundings) To everyone who helped with the transportation to Resita, all the sponsors so far, and for showing her she is no longer alone, Claudia thanks all who have helped, donated and contributed.
In the meantime, if you would like to sponsor Lunienka and Ariadna or send a donation to the cat-shelter in Resita:
PayPal account: SOSAnimaleAbandonateResita@gmail.com
Bank details: Asociatia pentru protectia animalelor RESITA ,,SOS ANIMALE ABANDONATE''
BANK: BCR, Bulevardul Regina Elisabeta Nr 5, sector 3, Bucuresti, ROMANIA
Registered Charity Number: 24989989
(Photo source - safe at last) If you would like to visit Claudia to meet her cats in view of offering one of the tamer furrballs a forever home, you can reach her on 0748.992.440 or via FaceBook. You can also adopt a pussycat from Resita, too, of course.
Thanks once again to Claudia, Ruxandra, the kind-hearted vet who vaccinated for a very low price at such short notice, Ilie and his team, and all sponsors and donators both present and future!
All photos by SOS Animale Abandonate Resita
(Photo source) The Romanian Senate rejected the bill on gold exploitation at Rosia Montana submitted by the government today, thus adopting the Special Commission's report (see yesterday's blogpost HERE). The Senate ruled on the rejection with 119 votes to 3, and six abstentions. A second and final vote is now awaited from the Chamber of Deputies on 27th November, or thereabouts.
PSD leader of the Senate, Ilie Sarbu, said during the preceding debate that the project and all those involved in approving it will be investigated by the Justice department. Not much peace of mind over the next couple of months, then, for those who acted illegally and made nice tidy profits on the side. I wonder if anyone will end up in the clink for their just desserts? See HERE for a list (by no means exhaustive) of potential porridge-tasters courtesy of the Romanian prison service...
Sarbu added that all documents pertaining to Rosia Montana need to be declassified for there is a Romanian tendancy, he said, to hide prostii... Nicely put. There must be loads of it.
The Rosia Montana Commission stated, according to the report, that the bill did not satisfy complex requirements needed for the business of mineral extraction in Romania, hence why they proposed the rejection.
"Given the deficiencies of the current law which does not take into account the specifically large mining project in question, the Commission recommends completing the legislative framework with measures to stimulate the implementation of projects of this magnitude. The Commission deems it necessary to establish conditions of fair partnership between majority shareholders and the company of the Romanian State, in compliance with community requirements and the principles of sustainable development in the regions of the project", said their report.
The Commission also drew attention to possible (possible?!) breaches of legislation during the development of project licensing for Rosia Montana and equally recommended the declassification of so far classified documents relating to it.
So, what does that mean? Are we done here? There has been much jubilance at the news - on FB at least. Personally, I believe this to be just a temporary breather and so cannot be as joyous. Although this is a step forward in the right direction, it is not a great victory in any other way than symbolic, showing that, with civil unity, se poate. However, perhaps today's result has been designed specifically to lull everyone into a false sense of security, encouraging the belief that the danger has passed. Any supposition that a victory has been achieved here, though, is dillusional. The Commission's conclusions mean there is still a long way to go. A MASSIVE win is required in order that real transformation can ever truly take place in Romania - and this isn't it.
Unconstitutional shenanigans full of irregularities and abuse of power have been rejected - great! But that is NOT a victory. It is NORMAL in a democratic country. It would be a HUGE error to think that because the bill has been thrown out (in its current state), the abominable threat against which hundreds of thousands have been opposed no longer exists. The report does NOT say that the RMGC project was bad for Romania, nor that it was unconstitutional. The conclusions relate to an expansion of the legislative framework for the mining of gold and silver, and that could very well disguise the interests of RMGC.
Please see HERE for what Eugen David had to say.
The Commission also endorses the point of view of Barbu, the Minister of the Uncultured, who believes that Rosia Montana has no unique features meriting a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list, contrary to studies by both Romanian and foreign experts. In short, the whole thing results in clear evidence that the Romanian government has not laid down its gauntlets. To be sure, pressure from RMGC will increase - and there will be a whole load of nervousness regarding potential press leaks telling of cosy relationships between the Gold Corporation and certain members of the 'elite'... Who can blame them?! They have an awful lot to lose!
We are in mid-November. Winter is just around the corner leading to a very plausible drop in protesters out there on the streets, which would only be to the government's advantage. The current politicians have truly learned nothing from the lessons of Rosia Montana. They are far too arrogant. The greed of the barons along with personal political interests still lord it over what is best for the Romanian people. Watch this space for the decentralisation law that Ponta's bunch of cronies want to see pass through Parliament without debate, which would permit a transferring of power to local authorities (all 'bought', of course). It would be the beginning of the end, and is a horror of a bill that MUST NEVER PASS. Many professionals and NGOs warn that it will seriously threaten cultural heritage (no kidding), but since when did that matter?
What has been gained by the rejection of the Rosia Montana project, then? Nothing, really. Just one abusive law to be followed by another, resulting in the same ends: the destruction of patrimony and the environment.
Unless we refuse to allow it.
When a general bill for mining has been put forward that outlaws misappropriation, bribery, corruption, illegal expulsion, lying, selling one's country down the river to foreign investors, hiding documents, infiltrating protests, purposely misinforming the public via media channels, poisoning the eco-system with cyanide and blowing up mountains and cultural heritage (with punishment clearly stipulated for those who dabble in any of the aforementioned), THEN we'll have won. THEN we'll have our victory.
Noi de-aicea nu plecam, nu plecam acasa
Pana nu vom castiga libertatea noastra...
(Photo source) What is it going to take for RMGC to understand and accept that their gold-mining project at Rosia Montana is NOT wanted in Romania?
Last Monday, the joint parliamentary commission for Rosia Montana voted NO to a draft bill submitted by the government that would have given the go-ahead for Europe's largest (and most dangerous) open mine to move forward in Romania. The news sent the Canadian mining company’s stock down 10%, or 9.3¢ to close at 82.7¢ on the Toronto Stock Exchange. No sympathy whatsoever from this corner, and certainly none from the hundreds of thousands of protesters out in the streets either.
Jonathon Henry, the chief executive of Gabriel Resources (the parent company of Rosia Montana Gold Corp.), remains 'confident' however that all is not lost. Romania's parliament is considering a general gold and silver mining bill which could still leave the door open for Gabriel’s project - a point that gives hope to RMGC and stokes fury and indignance for the protesters and NGOs who have been demonstrating for the last 14 years, along with those out there across the globe week after week since 1st September.
“It doesn’t mean the plan is dead in the water. What they have said is that they believed that a project that was as complex as ours shouldn’t go through as a separate bill,” said Henry.
(Photo source) Yeah, right. The so-called promised 'scientific and technical' report presented was anything but scientific and technical - there was no mention whatsoever of a single constitutional flaw within the government's draft bill, eg. the infringements of private property laws or the grave violations of Romania's Constitution. And neither did it address opinions and arguments made by experts. It excels, however, at going around the houses to circumnavigate the law and is nothing more than a list of transcripts and calls for re-negotiation instead. It is, basically, killing time.
"We can already anticipate that the lobbying made by the Prime Minister for the mining industry will turn to new tactics, no less harmful for the entire region of the Apuseni Mountains. Our protests continue and we will insist on the resignation of all those who initiated the draft bill. Recent declarations from the political leaders show clear intentions to find new means to deceive public opinion. Their new ideas are even more graceless and dangerous, but I rest assured that people who have taken to the streets over the last months will shout down any of their plans, because they are much more intelligent and skilful than any of the cyanide addicts in Government", declared Eugen David.
Indeed, the largest public protests in post-communist Romania are not going to cease and the protesters themselves show absolutely NO sign of letting themselves be manipulated into violence, though efforts have been made through provocation and infiltration - an old communist tactic - for them to do so. 11 weeks of perseverant street protests have been solid proof of a powerful and intelligent civil society determined in its decision to oppose a corrupt political class that is completely detached from its peoples’ interests.
The Save Rosia Montana campaign has denounced the commission from the very beginning as being utterly useless - and this simply proves their point.
(Photo source) If Romania needs an eco-safe and profitable mining contract, THIS is NOT it. Until the people of Romania have proof of a responsible and competent political class that is not blinded by self-interest, such grandiose projects should not even be contemplated. Surely, Romania finds herself in an extremely strong position today, for Gabriel is not the ONLY mining company out there wanting to profit from her gold. In that case, Gabriel should be given the boot once and for all, and another eco-conscious, reliable company found (preferably not a Canadian one, see HERE for why) that could put forward a cyanide-free, law-abiding project that is beneficial for the Romanian people as a whole. Right?
Romania will NOT profit from RMGC's project. Not today, not in years to come, not ever. Gabriel MUST GO. 900 jobs over 16 years? Is that the best of the arguments in its favour, for it is no reason to string out these negotiations yet further still - and I would bet my bottom dollar that the majority of those jobs would be outsourced to lower labour-costing countries such as the Ukraine, in any case. In addition, the number of local jobs that would actually be LOST as a result of such a project are in their thousands.
As for the money to be made by Romania, frankly, everybody knows it's peanuts. For those still arguing on the tax the Romanian state would receive from RMGC, well, documents leaked have shown that the mining company is exempt and will only start paying up once their own debts are paid off. For all we know, the company may not generate any profit at all thanks to financial loopholes, and thus end up paying no taxes in the long run. The Romanian state itself is set to make a paltry 2-4 billion euros over the entire 16 years, whilst anything more is pure speculation. The biggest winner for the whole project is, and has always been, Gabriel. Is it really worth it?
(Photo source) It is certainly not worth the toxic water; a cyanide lake visible from the moon; a screwed up eco-system: four exploded mountains; mass expropriation (974 households and over 2000 people); the destruction of 10 churches, 12 cemeteries, 40 houses (listed historic monuments), 50 historic monuments (7 classified); the huge and invaluable loss of heritage and patrimony (Roman galleries unique in the world); the eradication of 250 hectares of forest and the total devastation of one of the country's most beautiful regions. But RMGC and its backers seem to think it is.
There is, in fact, NO amount of money that would justify such an environmental massacre.
RMGC has promised over and over again that the area would be 'cleaned up' after all gold has been extracted. 'You wouldn't even notice we'd been there,' Dragos Tanase declared on more than one occasion. Well, maybe those 4 blown-up mountains would give the game away for a start. How would they set about 'rebuilding' those, much less hiding them?
Gabriel has threatened to sue the Romanian government for over $4bn, should the project not go ahead. But on what grounds? Do they have a legal basis to do so? It is UNACCEPTABLE for a company to threaten a country - and the hundreds of thousands of protesters out there on the streets echo the sentiment. For that reason, and for that reason alone, RMGC should be shown the door. NEVER should they be permitted to extract a single ounce of gold from Romania's soil. Ever.
(Photo source) I am hoping Henry is wrong. I am hoping that, though I have no respect for the Romanian government whatsoever and trust them even less, they will NOT be prepared to take a final gamble with yet another mining bill that could mean losing their hold on power for the sake of Gabriel - a foreign company known world-wide for its disinformation, its unlawful PR campaigns, its bullying of journalists, and its employees heavingly spamming media outlets and blogs with propaganda using proxys when necessary. It is repugnant. Enough is enough.
Gabriel/RMGC, get out of Romania. Your time is up.
Romania will NOT be held to ransom. And it is NOT for sale.