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Shining a Light on Nauru's Detention Center; Venezuela Facing Food, Health and Energy Crises; Pesticides Causing Bee Numbers to Drop. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired August 3, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:00:10] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Tonight on the program, a damning report alleging abuse of refugees in an Australian island detention center.

Human rights groups getting rare access to Nauru and told me what is happening is outrageous.


ANNA NEISTAT, SENIOR RESEARCH DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: The rate of self harm and attempted suicide is just shocking. We are talking several

incidents each week. Men, women and even children who repeatedly try to kill themselves.


HOLMES: Also ahead on the program, Venezuela from an oil-rich powerhouse to a country where flour and milk can cost a month's pay.

What on earth happened?

And a story creating quite a bit of buzz. They say you can thank the humble bee for one in every three bites of food that you eat. But the bee

is under increasing threat. Its survival is vital to all of us.

And good evening, everyone. Welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes in for Christiane Amanpour.

Well, tonight, a peek inside a world rarely seen. Human rights activists go inside Australia's secretive detention camps in Nauru and deliver a

horrifying picture of life there.

Amnesty International and Human Rights watch say Australia-bound refugees are picked up and kept indefinitely in the camps where they don't have

access to proper medical care, and are subject to violence, and drained of all hope. An alarming number of people contemplate suicide.

This girl describes her agony.


UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: They are killing us daily here. I would much rather die in the ocean than staying here and die daily by seeing my mom breaking

down and see how she is trying to hold up together. I mean it's hard.


HOLMES: The psychological toll of living in those camps, enormous, as this woman describes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are watching our children melt away mentally and emotionally. We are watching with our own eyes the

government dig graves in groups for them. They are burying them underground one by one. They have been brought to a place where there is

no hope. I want the world to know maybe many of them are mothers and fathers, to understand my feelings and emotions.


HOLMES: The human rights groups say Australia may be deliberately abusing the refugees in order to deter others from trying to come by sea.

Australia says it wasn't contacted about the allegations and strongly denies many of them.

Well, Anna Neistat is the senior director for research at Amnesty International. She legally entered Nauru with another top human rights

advocate, but didn't say what they were there to do, secretly examine the offshore migration system -- immigration system, rather, for 12 days last


She says she was shocked by the violence and people's poor health is what Anna told me when I spoke to her earlier.


HOLMES: Anna Neistat, thanks for being with us.

You know, it's one thing for Australia to be accused, as it has been, of off-shoring refugees, outsourcing, if you like, refugees, but it's another

one to say, as you do in the report here, I mean, you're talking about treatment that isn't incidental. You're saying that this appears to be a

deliberate policy of mistreating refugees so others don't come.

NEISTAT: Indeed. I don't think it can be described in any other way. I do think it's deliberate and it is a system. We're not talking about

separate incidents, we're talking about patterns.

We've talked to so many people and we talked to service providers, and they think we can really reach some conclusions. And there can be only one

conclusion, that of course both the government of Nauru is responsible as well, but it is -- the system has been set by the government of Australia.

It is being paid by the government of Australia, by Australian taxpayers essentially, hundreds of millions of dollars.

All of the service providers are being hired by Australia, so I don't think Australia's responsibility is any question anymore.

HOLMES: Yes, I was going to ask you about that. In fact, we did an interview here earlier in the year with the Australian Medical Association

and they made that very point that they basically legislated a gag order against medical professionals who had worked at Nauru so they couldn't

speak about things that they had seen that they're almost obligated to speak about as medical professionals, is that right?

[14:05:05] NEISTAT: You're absolutely right. Two years in prison. People who speak out about the conditions on Nauru face two years in prison. And

it's not just doctors, it's other service providers as well. And that's a very efficient way of keeping this situation secret.

HOLMES: I want to play some sound here from a refugee that you spoke with, who sort of sums up how they see life there.

Let's play that sound.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a murderous system which kills people ever so slowly. Nauru is a real-life hell. There's another holocaust which is

taking place in our world, which is Nauru.


HOLMES: And it sounds dramatic and we're talking about Australia here. We're not talking about a war zone, as you said.

Your report quite literally seems to indicate lives are at risk.

NEISTAT: I've documented plenty of situations where people, for example, were attacked by local Naurus. They were hit with metal bars on the head,

attacked with machetes, hit by rocks and, you know, in all of these situations, police completely failed to prevent these attacks or to bring

the perpetrators to justice.

So on one hand, there is a huge risk to their safety. And every single woman I spoke to said that she would not dare to leave her house or her

room alone.

HOLMES: Are they also at risk by the system that exists, medical, for example?

NEISTAT: Exactly. And that's the other thing. People suffer very serious medical conditions.

I'm not a doctor, but I have seen some of their medical documents, although very few are actually being issued medical documents. I could see people

who were barely mobile because of their disabilities.

I spoke to people with heart attacks, with major complications from diabetes, women who had lumps in their breast, and all of them have

essentially been denied adequate treatment.

In order to be transferred to Australia for treatment, you essentially need to be dying. And the moment you stop dying, you'll be brought back.

HOLMES: You know, it's interesting, the government -- and this has been an issue for a long time, but the government has said that the Nauru Detention

Center has been significantly upgraded. I mean, it's now fairly open. People can come and go.

Can it be as bad as this? That lives are at risk. People are being attacked in the street, having their things stolen as they walk down the


Can it be this bad?

NEISTAT: It can. The living conditions indeed have improved at least for those who are outside of the camps. Still, we're not talking about normal

housing, we're talking about shipping container style accommodations, but compared to the camps in which people spend many months, it is better.

But what's killing people is the uncertainties. Complete lack of understanding as to what's going to happen to them. They all suffer from

horrendous mental trauma. And the rate of self-harm and attempted suicides is just shocking. We are talking several incidents each week. Men, women

and even children who repeatedly try to kill themselves.

HOLMES: It's important to say the Australian government has refuted -- and it was interesting the language they used. They refuted many of the

allegations, not all of them, and say Amnesty didn't speak to the government about them before issuing the report.

Should the government not have been given the right to reply?

NEISTAT: We did try six times to have an official visit and that all failed. We're either refused or ignored. But we did reach out and we did

speak or receive written replies from Broad Spectrum, the main corporation who runs -- who is the main contractor on Nauru and from IHMS, the main

medical service provider, and we did reflect their answers in our press release.

HOLMES: There is a lot of, I know, a lot of opposition to Nauru and also Manus, another detention center, among the Australian public. But it's

important to say the Australian government says and there is a sizeable portion of the Australian public who agrees that this has worked.

The number of boats coming to Australia with refugees has dropped off dramatically. They say because of this. But obviously your position would

be it's not worth it.

NEISTAT: This is exactly an example of where the means cannot possibly justify the goal. You know, it's understandable. The efforts of the

Australian government to control the entry, to encourage legal -- people to seek asylum legally, to discourage or combat smuggling, all of that is

fine. But at what cost?

You cannot make these -- basically, that's exactly what's happening. These people who are stuck on Nauru are being held hostage to this policy and

this is simply not acceptable.

HOLMES: And I support quite apart from the conditions on Nauru, there's also this factor of the time kept there.

A lot of these people are there for up to three years.

How does that rank as a processing time in your view?

NEISTAT: Every single person I spoke to, every single family, told me that as they were sent to Nauru, they were told that they were going to be

processed for six months.

And at this point there is -- it's not just three years, there is no end to this process. As one man told me, it's worse than a prison because in

prison at least, A, you know what you're in for and you know how long you're in for, and you have a chance of getting out.

[14:10:00] HOLMES: So what is it Amnesty wants? I mean, the Australian government obviously is determined to stop the boats coming because they

say this is saving lives. People aren't drowning at sea. But you have these conditions that you've outlined in the report.

What then is the answer?

NEISTAT: Well, the answer -- there's only one answer. These offshore operations need to be closed. We have seen it on Manus Island. We're

seeing it now in Nauru. It's absolutely outrageous. It's again Australia's human rights obligations. It's again, it's the basic

principles of humanity. There are many ways of combating smuggling that do not involve horrendous human rights violations.

HOLMES: Anna Neistat, thanks so much.

NEISTAT: Thank you.


HOLMES: And when we come back on the program, poverty and hunger in one of the most oil-rich nations on earth. Venezuela continues its downward

spiral. We'll discuss just how dire the situation is on the ground. That's coming up next.


HOLMES: Welcome back to the program.

Life in Venezuela is getting tougher by the day. Inflation is raging, salaries are being squeezed, and violent crime is becoming rampant. Many

people no longer have access to basic health care, medicine and the like, and they're hungry as well.

They'll often queue all night for food only to find the shelves almost empty. The opposition wants the president, Nicolas Maduro, out accusing

him of mismanagement and failing to modernize the country's oil industry. He says he's not going anywhere.

Well, joining me now from the capital Caracas is Margarita Lopez Maya, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela.


HOLMES: And let's start with the situation on the ground. We have seen supermarkets looted, street protests, people queuing for days for food,

even fleeing across the border for supplies they can't get at home.

How bad is it for Venezuelans?


It is pretty bad. The lootings, we have an average of about two or three daily in the last month. And the shortages of all kinds, but basically are

the most important ones are -- have to do with the basic foods. Corn, flour, milk, flour in general to do bread, medicines.

According to the pharmaceutical federation, there could be more or less a 70 percent scarcity on medicine. So the situation is very bad.


HOLMES: We've been talking about things like -- yes, and like chemotherapy as well, which is just a terrible situation.

The opposition says it has the numbers to get the process going for a recall process against President Maduro.

Now, how likely, though, are we to see delaying tactics when it comes to that? I think the president already said this week that it is absolutely

impossible, his words, to conduct a recall referendum this year.

What are you expecting in that process?

MAYA: Well, it is a very uncertain possibility because even though he's a very unpopular president, right now more than 80 percent of the people want

him out, the truth is that he controls still a lot of power and of course the oil company.

[14:15:15] And he is clinging to power and the other powers of the state are subordinated to the national executive to President Maduro, which makes

it very difficult for the recall referendum that is legally in the most Democratic way to try to get him out of power or to oblige him in some way

to go to an economic change to get him out.

But since he has control over the Natural Electoral Council, he has control over the judicial, if they keep on bringing obstacles to that presidential

recall, they keep on postponing the dates, they keep on bringing up new obstacles, new regulations, and so right now, last two days ago, it became

clear officially that the process has begun.

And according to what common sense says, according to the laws, a presidential recall could take place at the end of this month or next month

on September.

But as I say --


HOLMES: But you say, you say that -- professor, you say that he has this control over these arms of government, which is true. But how much control

does he have over the street these days?

When are the seams of the fabric of society going to reach a bursting point? Has he got the support he used to have on the street, or are we

going to see groups emerging that are actually going to directly confront his power?

MAYA: Well, most of the people on the queues trying to get food and medicines, but also there is another reality that you have to put under


This is a very militarized country at the moment because of the circumstances that we are living. So in the cities, we have the military

in the streets that are trying to control that no outburst happens that could extend, they isolate these lootings that happen every day and so they

have control over these things.

But also people are pretty afraid because it is not only that the military are on the streets, it is also all -- there's a lot of arms on the streets,

there's a lot of what they call collective armed groups that are practically free to move during the day and during the night. And so

people are afraid that if they go out to protest, (INAUDIBLE), and they would be the first victims.

So the presidential recall keeps on being their hope to try to get out of this situation in a peaceful way.

HOLMES: You know, the people on the outside looking in are probably stunned that the situation could exist in a place like Venezuela, one of

the biggest oil reserves in the world. The country should be rich.

And even with oil prices low, the accusation is that Venezuela didn't save for a rainy day.

When prices were high, investment hasn't been made in infrastructure for the industry and basically it's been mismanaged.

Is that all fair criticism?

MAYA: Yes, that is true. I mean, we wake up every day and can't believe what we're living. I mean, we couldn't believed this if they would have

told us three years ago, we wouldn't have believed that this could have gone to this situation.

But it is a combination of mismanagement, it's a combination with corruption but also with an ideological orientation that has no economic

common sense.

I think you can't even say that this is socialism. It's just that there has no idea of how to manage an economy and they don't care. They are in

this kind of magical thought that we are heading towards some kind of idealistic socialism where you have to first destroy the social fabric and

you have to destroy the economic basis of the country. And then from that, from those ashes, some kind of socialism, idealistic socialism will emerge.

The problem with Maduro and why everybody wants him out is that he has not recognized any of these economic errors he has made and he keeps on in the

same trend, he keeps on his same orientation.

There's no way that he would change all these regulations on the market, on the prices of the goods, on the intimidation on the producers, et cetera,

et cetera.

[14:20:16] HOLMES: And it would appear, too, trying to put off the Democratic process of a recall going ahead. We have to leave it there,


Professor Margarita Lopez Maya, thanks so much for being with us.


HOLMES: Coming up here on the program, something you may not believe. Can you imagine a world in black and yellow? The crisis hitting the bees that

help keep us fed. That's coming up next.


HOLMES: And, finally, tonight, Albert Einstein is widely quoted as saying, "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have

only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Well, he may or may not have actually said that, it's under debate. But the importance of the humble bee in our food chain is not to be


Much of our food requires pollination and the champion pollinator is the bee. But for years now, there's been a problem, a big and a growing one.

Bee colonies have been dying off.

And a recent study has confirmed they are struggling also to reproduce. Why?

Well, a little earlier I spoke to a leading expert.


HOLMES: Dr. Christopher Connolly joins us now to discuss this.

Doctor, how great is the threat to the bees of the world? I think it's called colony collapse or something.

How bad is it?

DR. CHRIS CONNOLLY, RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF DUNDEE: Well, currently it's very bad. In the U.S., they currently lose between 30 percent and 70

percent of all honeybee colonies every single year. And when it comes to wild bees, we just don't know. The only measure we really have for wild

pollinating insect is the windscreen bug test.

This is when in the old days when you drove your car, long distances, you had to keep stopping to scrape the bugs off your windscreen. That's not a

problem we really have nowadays so all these insects have disappeared.

HOLMES: And it's extremely worrying, isn't it, because I think most people when they think of bees, they think of maybe bee stings or they think of

honey. They don't think of how important they are to the food chain.

Tell us about that.

CONNOLLY: Well, they're vitally important. The bees, the wild bees as well as managed bees together are responsible for pollinating about 80

percent of all of our food crops, but it's more important really than just our food supply because we have to think about the ecosystem.

The bees are probably the number one most important species or range of species on the planet because they also pollinate the ecosystem. All the

plants and trees that feeds all the other animals that live on the planet. So our ecosystem is really dependent on the ability to be pollinated.

[14:25:00] HOLMES: Well, that sounds all very dire.

Were the bees to die out or their populations be significantly reduced further, what's the worst case scenario?

CONNOLLY: We have a desperate need to balance the food production with the number of people. And if we lose pollinators, which are fundamental to

many crops and play a major role in improving the quality and quantity of others, we're going to be in trouble. We're going to find it difficult.

HOLMES: And that brings us, of course, to the why.

I mean, I saw a study that said of male honeybees that showed the two particular insecticides were basically acting as a contraceptive if you

like, but that's not the only reason. It's habitat. Its other things.

Do we even know what the reasons are?

CONNOLLY: It's two things: it's habitat and pesticides.

For many honeybees, there's also an issue of disease. But for most wild pollinators that we really depend on, it's habitat. In the UK, we've lost

97 percent of all our wild flower meadows.

And these are places where the wild pollinators live, nest. And if we destroy these, then we've reduced the food available for them. The very

diet they need and also places to nest whenever winter.

And if we lose the wild pollinators, if anything happens to our honeybees, we'll be in a very serious position.

HOLMES: I was reading that biologists found more than 150 different chemical residues in bee pollen in the U.S., which must be worrying. That

was from a University of California study.

What about pesticides and their role?

CONNOLLY: Well, pesticides are clearly playing a significant role. Neonicotinoid in particular. Because we know that they affect the brains

of bees and affect their ability to do higher cognitive things like learning, navigation, communication.

These are all things that are essential for social insects. But also we know that the other pesticides -- worldwide we have about 700 pesticides.

These could be used and not actually recorded.

So were you to have a combination of pesticides that were actually more toxic than the individual components, we wouldn't be able to detect that.

It's a complete unknown and it seems a stupid unknown.

HOLMES: Yes. Well, it does and brings me to the final question, which is, is enough being done about it? Is it being taken seriously enough? Is it

urgent? What can we do?

CONNOLLY: The problem is there isn't enough funding to funds the research into pesticides and insects. The only people who really could afford to do

it big time on the industries are the ones who have produced and defend the compounds. But it's very hard for us independent academics to get

sufficient funding to, you know, to do the fairly easy science to prove it.

And when we do prove it, of course, governments quite often say that a laboratory study is not valid. We only are going to accept field studies

done by industry as evidence against or for the safety of a particular compound.

So there's many things that have to change from the very basic level of funding the research and also the governments taking this funded research

conclusions seriously.

HOLMES: Dr. Christopher Connolly, a worrying scenario.

Thanks for being on the program.

CONNOLLY: Thank you.


HOLMES: And that is our program for tonight. Thanks for watching. And good-bye from London.