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Most Americans have only heard of the island of Fiji through a label on their water bottle, or as a tourist destination for honeymooners. Little is known about the military junta ruling the country and their brutal repression of the Fijian people. Following the recent arrests of Fijian trade union representatives Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai by the Fijian police, trade unions in neighboring New Zealand and Australia are promoting sanctions against the country. Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama the head of the ruling military junta gained power through a 2006 military coup. Five years of his despotic rule have seen Fijian citizens being summarily arrested and assaulted for stating any kind of opposition to the regime. There have been arson attacks on the homes of government dissenters and rape and murder at the hands of the military police have become commonplace. Surveillance of landlines, cell phones and internet connections is widespread. But, lately there appears to be an uprising brewing among the Fijian people inspired by the events of the Arab Spring in the Middle East. Senior officials are defecting from the government, labor unions are issuing complaints and street protests are being organized, despite a constant state of martial law. The Fiji Water Company, owned by LA-based billionaires Lynda and Stewart Resnick, continues to provide massive economic support to Bainimarama’s repressive regime by funneling millions of dollars to the junta. The Fiji Water Company, using security forces with strong ties to the military, has been exporting potable water off the island despite the fact that a majority of Fjiians have no access to clean drinking water. In addition to the revenue generated by the Fiji Water company, the Fijian Government also earns an income off the backs of mercenary soldiers who they train for companies such as Blackwater/Xe, and groups like the UN. A man named Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara, formerly a supporter of Bainimarama, is now calling for people to stand up to the junta using non-violence. One of Mara’s main messages to Americans is to weaken the dictatorship by boycotting tourism and brands from Fiji.
GUEST: Anna Lenzer investigative journalist who broke the Fiji Water story in Mother Jones Magazine in 2009.