Monday, December 10, 2007

COHA's response to commentary on the FTAs piece

COHA would like to thank its readers for their contribution to the debate on Free Trade Agreements.

(See COHA press release Peru, Yes; Colombia? Free Trade Agreements: Lessons from Latin America’s Recent Past)


Regarding Hugo Fitch’s comments:

“LatAm is better educated than you think. It’s not just economists like Rafael Correa, but the Argentinian government, and the bitter experience of the poor of the whole continent that can demonstrate what these deals really mean - more inequality. Please don’t be so dismissive of those who oppose FTAs. If the US wants favourable deals it must concede rights to nations who cannot afford to subsidise their own markets on the US/EU models, namely the chance to protect them with specific tariffs. But such deals are never put on the table, because FTAs are not about fairness but profit and buying influence to stop LatAm working together for itself.”

Of course Mr. Fitch is correct.

COHA was not trying to be dismissive of those who oppose FTAs with the U.S. Actually, the piece describes the viewpoints of those who oppose U.S.-backed FTAs: the "TLC: Así No" movement in Peru, the opposition by Colombian leaders, the comments by an economist in Chile who opposes the current U.S.-Chile FTA, among others.

There are many well-prepared economists in the region who deserve credit. Unfortunately, those Latin American economists and leaders who disagree with the conditions of U.S.-backed FTAs usually do not get to sit at the negotiation table.


Regarding Richard Vizor’s comments:

“But to categorically state that there were massive human rights violations during Garcia’s first term is nonsense and totally incorrect. If they want to find massive, tell them to look up Fujimorii’s tenure and, the actions of Montesino. In fact, this is what Fujimori’s is most favorably known for in Peru … he stopped the Sendero. It certainly was not Garcia who had already vacated power BEFORE the most gruesome of the Sendero’s actions (and, the Government’s reactions to them). Get your facts straightened out, Messrs. COHA!!!”

Of course, he is right in saying that Fujimori was far more guilty than Garcia in sanctioning the murder of thousands of members of Sendero and those thought to be their sympathizers. But here are some facts that suggest that Garcia was guilty of rights violations during his first term in office and never had to answer them.

-According to the U.N., in 1987 there were 559 forced disappearances worldwide, of which 133 (nearly one fourth), occurred in Peru. During Garcia’s term, Peru had the highest number of forced disappearances in the world.

-Human Rights Watch says in a report: “García first served as president from 1985 to 1990, at the height of a bloody civil conflict in which an estimated 69,000 people lost their lives, many of them victims of atrocities committed by irregular armed groups and by government forces.”

-Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that the armed forces were responsible for 28 percent of the 69,280 who were killed or disappeared.

-Salomon Lerner, president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said “We have reconstructed history and we have reached the conclusion that it would not have been so grave if it were not for the indifference, passivity, and simple ineptness of those who held the highest political office at the time.”

For all of his bluster, President Garcia’s record deserves close examination and not plaudits.


Regarding jb’s comments:

“This FTA request was initiated by the Toledo administration. Had Congress not played politics and delayed this approval (only to rub it in Bush’s nose) it would have been approved while Alejandro Toledo was still in office. Toledo was never a part of any dirty war.”

Toledo was never a part of any dirty war and he did initiate the FTA request. But Toledo introduced the FTA with the U.S. to the legislature during his final months in office. Peru’s push for the deal has taken place mostly during Garcia’s second term. Therefore, Garcia will be willing to interpret the approval of the trade deal as his own political success.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Regarding COHA's coverage of Haiti

Dear Larry Birns,

Greetings from South Africa, my name is Thabo Sanyane formerly [2003-2006] with the center for latin american at the university of south africa[ where Aristide currently works] as a research fellow in the faculty of religious studies.

It was during this time that i was introduced to COHA I have never missed any issue ever since , your coverage on Haiti does not need one to have decades of knowledge about the politics of this country to know what is going on and make informed analysis, I continue to discuss and interact with Aristide from time to time and my conclusion of the man is that he is a 'Nelson Mandela" to his people and hope that one day he will be treated as part of the solution in Haiti not as a problem. I was moved by your last sentence on the -Preval goes it alone, but what about Aristide, " Preval and the national assembly will be respectful as they try to repair the nation and its basic institutions, as well as honor Aristide for his undeniable contribution helping build a good society, as Haiti moves on to better days.

As a non Zulu speaking South African every time I meet Aristide I become proud of him in the manner he is mastered to learn to speak Zulu, he has recently finished his Doctoral studies comparing Haitian cultures and African cultures making a contribution towards knowledge production in my country. may the ancestors protect and guide him on his ways.


Thabo Sanyane

Friday, November 30, 2007

Venezuela: some cautionary words from Prof. Thomas Walker

Thomas Walker is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Director Emeritus of Latin American Studies at Ohio University.

As a grizzly, grumpy old professor who has watched the behavior of the United States in Latin America for a number of years, I am increasingly worried nowadays about the real possibility that the US may be about to foment a coup in Venezuela. We've done it a number of times in other countries and unsuccessfully once in Venezuela itself in 2002.

I would ask you all to be very suspicious if our media and government start beating their breast over the killing of peaceful opposition marchers in the planned demonstration protesting the constitutional referendum this Sunday. As a Nicaraguanist I remember the CIA's lengthy terror manual, Psychological Operations in Guerrila Warfare (by "Tayacan") instructing the Nicaraguan opposition in a variety of very dirty tricks to be employed in overthrowing the Sandinista government. This document was published in English in 1985 and is easily available in hard copy or on the line in English, Spanish or Portuguese.

Of interest to us in particular should be pages 84 and 85. On p.85 "Tayacan" instructs us that "If possible, professional criminals will be hired to carry out specific selected 'jobs'." Then, on the very next page, he tells us that "Specific tasks will be assigned to others, in order to create a 'martyr' for the cause, taking the demonstrators to a confrontation with the authorities, in order to bring about uprisings or shootings, which will cause the death of one or more persons who will become martyrs..."

The clear implication is that, if the government does not oblige in creating the requisite "martyr" or "martyrs" this should be done by the aforementioned "professional criminals hired to carry out selected 'jobs'" - i.e. sniper assassins.

You may or may not remember, that in the failed coup attempt of 2002, the "brutal murder of unarmed demonstrators" was served up to us by the US and Venezuelan opposition media as a "last straw" justifying the overthrow of the evil Chavez. A number of demonstrators had, indeed, been shot dead. The perfect touch! And the anti-Chavez media showed red-shirted Chavez supporter firing off a bridge and anti-Chavez demonstrators in a crowd of marchers falling from fatal gun wounds. The only problem with this juxtaposition of images is that the Chavistas were actually firing down a largely empty avenue in the direction of a unit of rebel Caracas police, while the "marters" were being killed very professionally by gunmen firing from a completely different direction and obviously using extremely accurate weapons which could inflict one fatal wound after another. For more on that see La Revolucion no Sera Transmitida, a documentary shot during the coup attempt.

Not that Chavistas have not shot people. However, I would urge us all to be skeptical if in a few days we are treated to yet another "perfect storm" of coup-justifying propaganda a la "Tayacan" and Venezuela 2002.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Regarding "Nearly All-White Argentina Confronts Its Troubled Racist and Religious Past"

COHA would like to thank Hugh Schwartz for his insight into this important topic. Dr. Schwartz was a Fulbright Lecturer and held visiting professorships in finance and economics in Uruguay, Brazil, and Mexico.

I think that this article is quite admirable. Even so, there are a few items that might be noted.

During the first Peron administrations, there was a substantial immigration into the country from Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru, and a substantial flow of persons from Northern Argentina to Greater Buenos Aires and Rosario of "cabezas negras" --both groups of which were almost entirely mestizo, mixed Indian and white (though largely of Indian background). These darker skinned inhabitants continue as part of Argentina's population and are probably of the order of 10-12% of the population.

A small but significant portion of Jewish immigration during the 1890s and early 1900s went to Entre Rios and Santa Fe, particularly to agricultural settlements, aided by a prominent Jewish philanthropist from France. While much of that group eventually migrated to Greater Buenos Aires, some still remain active in agriculture and pursuits related to agriculture. In the past, several of the provincial Ministers of Agriculture in that part of Argentina have been Jewish. Argentina's Jewish population probably was of the order of 350,000 - 500,000 during the period from the 1940s through the 1960s and may have been 2-3% of the population, comparable to the proportion in the U.S. Many emigrated to Israel and the U.S. The percentage of the population that is Jewish these days is probably between 1 and 2%, higher than the 1% in Uruguay (which was once about 1 1/2 %), and much higher than in all other Latin American countries, in none of which is it even as high as a quarter of one percent.

Hugh Schwartz

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Haiti: Revisiting the Aristide debate - To Our Readers

There has been an intense dispute on the part of outside critics regarding COHA's piece on Haiti - which was issued on September 14, 2007. Its author, Michael Glenwick stands behind his article and the sharp criticism of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which has now been moved from COHA's website and can be found in COHA's Forum. After closely reviewing the Glenwick piece, COHA's senior officials regretfully concluded that much of the criticism of it – notably the September 21, 2007 critique of COHA's Haiti piece by Joe Emersberger for the Narco News Bulletin – was well-founded. It should also be noted that most of the contributions we received on the subject were opposed to our point of view; this is why we decided to submit the Glenwick article to a protracted review. Today we are replacing the Glenwick piece with a substantially revised version which was authored by COHA Director Larry Birns. This is now COHA's official position on the relative roles of Presidents Aristide and Préval and contains some glimpses of the former president's strengths and weaknesses, including his invaluable contribution to Haitian democracy.

Ever since he came into prominence in 1989, COHA has devoted much of its effort to spotlighting the life and times of President Aristide, stressing Washington's persistently radical and hostile rightwing attitude towards him under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. From 2002-2004, COHA issued scores of analytical pieces on U.S.-Haitian relations written by Larry Birns, often in conjunction with COHA Research Fellow Jessica Leight. This included a co-authored contribution to Dr. Paul Farmer's "The Uses of Haiti" written in 2003: Mr. Emersberger was good enough to take note and praise this long association.

Please feel free to to read Glenwick's original article, and Emersberger's hard-hitting analysis of Glenwick's piece.

Préval of Haiti—A Provisional Report Card: Grade B+

More than 18 months have passed since René Préval was overwhelmingly elected president of Haiti in what many regional analysts considered one of the country’s most crucial elections in decades. Within a period of only six years, Haitians had experienced a number of tumultuous events. It started with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s chaotic second term, in which international aid was suspended mainly due to accusations of election fraud surrounding his 2000 victory. Shortly thereafter, the 2004 coup d’état designed to oust Aristide and his government led to two wasted years under the unstable government of Interim-Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre, whose accomplishments were meager at best. In short, Haiti was in desperate need of an effective and democratically elected leader who would govern fairly and help inch the poverty-stricken state out of its traditional despair. Expectations were large, and it was Préval, in his second stint as president, who was expected to deliver on some, if not all, of those expectations beginning in February 2006.

Eight days after the 2006 election, international observers almost unanimously validated Préval as president and the elections as free and fair. It was hoped that the unblemished manner in which Préval won—through an entirely monitored democratic process that upheld the Haitian constitution—would establish a mindset for his rule. Whether that democratic process would be the hallmark of Préval’s time in office or just an early and later erasable blip on the screen would be essential to know in evaluating the effectiveness of his presidency. Now, more than a year and a half following what must have been Haiti’s fairest election in decades, it is time to take a look at what has transpired on the island in the intervening period. Was democracy as practiced by Préval to be just a calling card for international respectability, or was it intended as a constant thread of President Préval’s time in office? Following the period under Aristide defined by its endemic corruption and the equally rocky interim period under Alexandre when hundreds—if not thousands—of opposition party members were murdered, only a true, stable democracy, it was believed, would be able to start a long and difficult healing process.

Past and Present
Six years ago, President Aristide appeared to have given up hope of ruling the country with intense energy, constitutional devotion, or a tireless commitment to building democratic institutions. Perhaps due to the attempted coup in late 2001—or, just as likely, his own insensitivity to inclusive rule—Aristide seemed to manifest a show of lassitude to the rule of law as well as indifference to democratic institution building. He encouraged citizens to use violence when needed to fight the nation’s armed opposition, and civil liberties and political/human rights were in short supply. For all intents and purposes, there was a constitution in name only, something which newly elected President Préval, whom, it should be noted, was a close friend and political comrade of Aristide, promised to change.

At the time of Préval’s inauguration, the situation on the ground did not look entirely different than it did in 2001. But within a few months, some significant steps were taken in order to implement a series of necessary changes geared toward getting closer to the ideal of creating a democratic, law-abiding society and a fair-minded administration. The most important step taken was the first one—the implementation of free and open balloting, whose results no one contested. As much as that might be scoffed at due to Préval’s overwhelming popularity—he won with 51% of the vote, while runner-up Leslie Manigat obtained only 12% of the vote—it was an important signature that put Haiti back on track to democracy. Most importantly for average Haitians, this meant the reestablishment of much of the international aid that had been cut off during Aristide’s time in office; Préval’s government was earmarked to receive an additional $750 million in assistance from donor nations to be dispensed to Haiti’s population, indicating a major vote of confidence in his government by the world community.

Baby Steps for Democracy
With Préval’s decisive victory in the election, many analysts expected his Lespwa (Front of Hope) Party to also carry the day in the two legislative bodies, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies (or lower house). Lespwa’s opponents shocked Préval and his backers, as his party was able to win only 13 out of 30 Senate seats and elect 23 out of 99 representatives in the Chamber of Deputies. Thus, Préval was thrown a curveball at the outset of his administration. Whereas the margin of his personal victory in the presidential race might have been enough to give him a mandate to rule as a strong leader, the disappointing results of the parliamentary elections were a stark reminder to him that, even if he wanted to introduce dramatic reforms, he would face major obstacles and likely would have to reach a variety of compromises with the Haitian parliamentary opposition. In addition, while Préval has gone some length to shape the legislature to cooperate with his agenda, he was unable to generate a working majority on day-to-day voting.

Préval’s Powers Are Less Than Monarchic
As a result of this early check on Préval’s power, few major pieces of legislation have been passed as of yet. In addition, since no other party held more seats than Lespwa, coalition building was, during much of the period following the election, a slow and laborious process, as in each instance Lespwa’s elected members tried, with little success, to achieve a working majority coalition. To a large extent, this was another important sign that, although legislative accomplishments might be slow in coming due to the lack of a working majority, the process would, at least, be democratic.

In 2000, Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party had “won” 26 of 27 senate seats and 73 of 83 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, leading to distrust of both the president and his agenda inside and outside the country. On the other hand, in 2006 and early 2007, individual Haitian political thinkers and international observers alike expressed their confidence that Préval, after he was elected, would have no choice but to govern democratically. While political developments and the policies that he wanted to push through the National Assembly have been slow in coming, the respect that he attracted and his acknowledgement of constitutional guarantees, which he freely offered to respect (unlike both authoritarian and professed democratic chief executives), were attributes that had been ignored for decades.

A closer look at how the National Assembly has functioned will help shed a little light on the status of democracy in the country. Its first—and, in many ways, most important—function was to approve Préval’s cabinet choices. Due to the nature of the competing political factions, this became a somewhat complex process. In the end, however, a cabinet that included members of six political parties was approved in a near unanimous vote; this was considered by both Préval’s supporters and opponents alike to be a vote of confidence for Préval’s rule. This process protected Haiti from the one-sided rule that had dominated the country for so long, and, most importantly, it demonstrated Préval’s willingness to strive for consensus and govern in a democratic fashion.

Soon after the cabinet was formed, the Assembly began taking a few of the necessary baby steps to effect political changes of its own. Many of the elected officials in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies have begun to craft pieces of legislation that would help curb corruption in the courts. Although the National Assembly has been far from entirely successful, it is still trying to push legislation through in a democratic manner is an encouraging sign. This is something for which, in a recent visit to Port-au-Prince, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was moved to praise the National Assembly, as he encouraged lawmakers to adopt legislation reinforcing—if not establishing for the first time—the rule of law in the country. In previous years, the combination of corrupt, strongman presidents and the powerful influence of neighborhood gangs and association of elites has made doing so all but impossible. However, as the UN secretary general’s confidence in the National Assembly suggests, Haiti has a unique opportunity to change course. This is an opportunity that cannot be squandered, a fact which is recognized by both Préval and the opposition members of the legislative branch. When, in 2008, one-third of the Senate seats will be contested, the continued strengthening of the legislative process likely will be at the forefront of many candidates’ platforms.

Many Problems Remain on the Road to Democracy
Although the current state of president-assembly relations might suggest that all is well with democracy in Haiti, there are still significant problems that remain, suggesting that the island’s political process has traveled only a few miles on the long road to democracy. With the lack of a standing military force and the systemically problematic Haitian National Police, Haitians who oppose the government or voice thoroughly popular opinions defaming the police force often find that the law has not always been there to protect them.

Even when the law does come into play, its inefficiencies and unreliability usually don’t allow it to do much public good. The court system is weak, outdated, and, just like the tainted police and other fouled Haitian organizations, corrupt. Prisons themselves are old and unspeakably bleak. Prisoners live in overcrowded jails with only scraps of food; according to an Amnesty International report, more than 2000 prisoners are being held in Haitian jails without ever having been charged. At least 100 of those detained are said to be political prisoners. Furthermore, because there is a lack of resources to properly train personnel and provide decent conditions for the inmates, a significant turn of events would be necessary to allow for a truly democratic judicial and penal system to emerge.

The old-fashioned, poorly managed, and chronically corrupt judicial system is not the only aspect of Haitian society that suggests that Préval and his legislative associates have a long way to go if they are intent on ensuring the establishment of a long-lasting, genuinely democratic state. Labor conditions in Haiti continue to reflect a disdain for human rights and general democratic principles. For example, Haitian authorities have done little to change the old Haitian tradition of restavec, in which young Haitian children are sent away from their parents to work, for all intents and purposes, as domestic slaves for wealthier families in often far-off communities.

Although one can very well make the case that cultural traditions and values should be upheld whenever they can, such archaic practices do little to boost Haiti’s quest for a genuine democracy or a caring society. Meanwhile, along Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic, little has been done to reinforce border security, with the illegal trafficking of Haitian laborers continuing to be a chronic problem with which the Port-au-Prince government has ineffectively dealt. To date, Haiti has done little to project its demands to implement border reforms with its neighbor. This may prove to be a significant challenge in the next few years, given the troubled history that the Haitians have had with the Dominicans, as well as the array of problems that Haitian refugees have brought upon their neighbors, including fighting for access to the resources that can be found there.

In recent years, Haiti’s gangs have posed serious problems for the country’s political leadership, and Préval, too, has not escaped from this problem. However, instead of choosing to let them dominate various street corners of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti, Préval recently decided that he would take the matter into his own hands, something that Aristide (who chose to negotiate with the gang leaders) never did. Due to the lack of an efficient police force, Préval has had to rely on the current contingent of 7500 U.N. troops stationed in Haiti to do his bidding. Although this has brought about some success, the impaired state of the country’s judicial system means that many of the gangsters who have been arrested might not ever face justice. This series of recent actions concerning gangs raises a number of important questions that are likely to be resolved only after significant time has elapsed. Certainly, negotiating with the heads of brutal and power-hungry gangs has not advanced a society hoping to be orderly, exemplified by the ineffective results in Aristide’s dealings with the Cite Solei gangs. However, with corruption abounding in the courts, with the gang leaders’ pockets running deep, and with the jails already overflowing with citizens who haven’t even faced a trial, Préval’s does not have a wide range of choices.

A Long Road Ahead
Faced with the aforementioned gang problems, the acceleration of drug-related issues, and the ongoing practice of media self-censorship, Préval and the National Assembly have much work to do in shaping how the first elected government following Aristide’s ouster will ultimately be perceived by the public. However, if the recent is any indication, there is some ground for hope. Certainly, the government has quite a bit on its plate—passing legislation that might lead to an improvement next year of the country’s last-place finish in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index might not be a bad place to start. But at least the Préval government is doing things democratically. In both the executive and legislative branches, the signs are there: there is a growing respect for the law and the democratic process that were first spelled out in the country’s nearly 20-year-old constitution but never really honored until now. Democracy is not a word that should ever be toyed with, and we should not expect Haiti to turn into a shining model of democracy overnight. What we can expect, however, is that the country’s modernization and humanization will continue and that Préval and the Assembly will be respected as they try to repair the nation.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Michael Glenwick

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs Deserves an F for Article on Haiti

Originally posted at

By Joe Emersberger
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
September 21, 2007

COHA, The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, recently published a piece by one of its research associates, Michael Glenwick, entitled “Préval of Haiti — A Provisional Report Card: Grade B+.” In it, Glenwick recycles the smears that contributed to Haitian President Aristide’s ouster in 2004 and, subsequently, to the worst human rights disaster in the Western Hemisphere. There can be no serious dispute about the scale of the bloodbath under Gerard Latortue’s coup installed government — one that was backed (quite predictably) by the US, Canada, France and the UN Security Council. Less predictable, and in some ways more important, was the backing Latortue received from progressive and “independent” institutions. Glenwick’s article moves COHA decisively into the camp of NGOs and media outlets that have served Haiti’s neo-Duvalierists so effectively in recent years. This represents a significant loss. Shortly before and after the coup, COHA stood admirably apart from the corporate media herd in its analysis of events in Haiti.

The opening paragraph of Glenwick’s article says that Latortue’s “accomplishments were meager at best” and that those years were “unstable” and “wasted.” In the next paragraph Glenwick says that “hundreds — if not thousands — of opposition party members were murdered” under Latortue. One is left wondering how many Haitians would have to die before Glenwick would condemn Latortue rather than offer modest praise and mild rebukes. In contrast, COHA’s Jeesica Leigh wrote a piece in 2004, coauthored by COHA director Larry Birns, about Latortue’s government entitled “A brutal regime shows its true colors.”

Citing no evidence, Glenwick equates Aristide to Latortue by writing that Aristide’s time in office was an “equally rocky period” but then goes on to assess Aristide much more harshly than Latortue by writing “Perhaps due to the attempted coup in late 2001 — or, just as likely, his own insensitivity to inclusive rule — Aristide seemed to manifest a show of lassitude to the rule of law as well as indifference to democratic institution building. He encouraged citizens to use violence when needed to fight the nation’s armed opposition, and civil liberties and political/human rights were in short supply.”

People who care to look for evidence to evaluate Aristide’s human rights record, especially compared to Latortue, Cedras, Duvalier, would come to quite a different conclusion.

A scientific survey by Athena Kolbe and Royce Hudson found that at least 4000 political murders were perpetrated during Latortue’s time in office – overwhelmingly by government security forces and their proxies. In contrast, after scouring Amnesty International reports, Perter Hallward, a UK based researcher, wrote “Amnesty International’s reports covering the years 2000-03 attribute a total of around 20 to 30 killings to the police and supporters of the FL [Aristide’s party] — a far cry from the 5,000 committed by the junta and its supporters in 1991-94, let alone the 50,000 usually attributed to the Duvalier dictatorships.”

Pierre Esperance, one of Aristide’s most vehement, and dishonest, critics claimed in a (successful) funding request to the Canadian government that 100 people had been killed (not all Aristide opponents) during the “last several months” before the coup which he described as the worst period under Aristide.*

These numbers do not only reveal that Aristide’s track record was vastly superior to his opponents, they also show why it was inevitable that some of his partisans would conclude that violence was justified. Even during most of his second term Aristide’s supporters were more likely to be killed than his opponents’ supporters.[6] Glenwick completely disregards the massive amount of violence Haiti’s poor have been subjected to, and the threats they continually faced, to join the chorus of pious Western intellectuals who condemn Aristide for having said that the poor have the right to defend themselves. Many of those intellectuals also argue that the U.S. has the right to bomb defenseless countries thousands of miles away in “self defense.” The hypocrisy is as breathtaking as it is unnoticed by countless writers who have condemned Aristide for “incendiary” speeches.

Astonishingly, Glenwick refers to the presidential election that Preval won as “Haiti’s fairest election in decades.” In reality, as COHA accurately reported at the time, the election was a “caricature of the real thing.” Preval won, not because the election was fair, but because his opponents were so despised that they couldn’t win an election they had rigged.

Prominent Aristide allies such as the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, So Ann, and Yvon Neptune were in jail on trumped up charges. Thousands of other Aristide supporters were also in prison, exiled or in hiding. Aristide strongholds were subjected to state sanctioned terrorism by the Haitian National Police (fully supported by UN troops). Again, much of this was documented by COHA (for example, in a piece entitled “Haiti – And you call this an election?” among other articles.)

Another barrier placed in the way of participation by Haiti’s poor was the number of polling stations. About ten times more stations were available when Aristide was elected in 2000. COHA reported “many Haitians will have to walk more than two hours just to reach a voting center.” Haitians endured huge lineups and travel time in order to vote. When it was clear Preval was headed for victory in the first round a last ditch attempt at fraud was attempted. A truckload of ballots marked for Preval was found in the trash. Huge, non-violent demonstrations pressured Latortue’s regime to honor the results.

Glenwick noted that Preval was “a close friend and political comrade of Aristide” but did not explain the significance of Preval’s victory. Preval was untarnished by participation in the coup or association with Aristide’s opponents. Haiti’s ambassador to the US, in a letter to the New York Times, used Preval’s candidacy to imply that Aristide’s Lavalas movement was not being persecuted.[10] Preval received the endorsement of the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, who was not allowed to register from prison as a candidate in the election. If Glenwick’s characterization of Aristide’s government had been accurate then Preval would never had stood a chance in a fair election, never mind one designed to disenfranchise most of the people who would vote for him.

The Herculean efforts required to elect Preval were not replicated during the legislative elections. The turnout was much lower than in the presidential election. Unpopular parties heavily backed by foreign democratization agencies obtained disproportionate power, but Glewnwick approvingly refers to this outcome as a necessary check on Preval. Glenwick’s fear is that, like Aristide, Preval might demonstrate “insensitivity to inclusive rule” (i.e. be reluctant to capitulate to politicians unable to win in fair elections).

Much of the material required to refute Glenwick is on COHA’s website. Did Glenwick read any of it? Did COHA’s editors? Should we expect a retraction of the articles COHA published in the past that refute Glenwick? Without engaging in Orwellian “doublethink” COHA must choose to either stand behind Glenwick’s analysis or their past work on Haiti. I hope people contact COHA director Larry Birns ( and respectfully ask him which COHA articles he stands behind.

*Documents obtained under Freedom of Information act by Anthony Fenton, a Canadian independent journalist

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Regarding "Colombian Free Trade Pact Shot Down: One Step Forward for the U.S., One Back for Canada"

Letter received 7/19/2007

I read very carefully your “analysis” called Colombian Free Trade Pact Shot Down: One Step Forward for the U.S., One Back for Canada. Sincerely this opinion article, coming from a reputed organization such as yours that says it’s a non partisan, independent NGO or think tank, has so many tilted statements that it leaves much to be desired to be even called an analysis.

Let’s start with the title. It already has an opinion in it which, if you read carefully, is supported with phrases that also only can be called political statements. Let me pinpoint some:

“This is merely the latest devastating blow to the standing of Colombia’s hard-line right-wing president, Àlvaro Uribe, whose disapproval rating hit a high of 27 percent in a Gallup Poll published on July 14”. Sure any president in its fifth year with an approval of 65 % must be having “devastating” political problems.
“As well his imperious removal of Washington’s long-favored policy of being able to extradite Colombian felons upon request”. More than 500 extraditions in 5 years, ‘Rasguño’ one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world sent today, can disclaim this political statement.
“President Uribe, when he was not squandering money on U.S. public relations firms…”. It leaves me with no words.
“…appalling number of more than three million displaced Colombian civilians has kept Bogotá in the crossfire of criticism for its daily derelictions of such internally displaced persons, Uribe’s indifference to issues of social injustice and Colombian’s incredibly unequal distribution of wealth”. Whenever your analysts want to see the amount of money Colombia spends on attending displacement or the reduction in unemployment, or the growth in the number of people with state health coverage or access to education, to just give you some examples, they are welcome to get them so their analysis can be a little more informed.
“Harper clearly feels more at home with vending Canadian products to the region rather than Canadian ideals and has staunchly supported his decision to trade with Bogotá despite calls that he should refuse to do so due to that country’s appalling human rights record.” Wow! This really is an analytical phrase that needs to be recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records for its depth in intellectual achievement.

I don’t want to go further in the analysis of your political commentary that does a disservice to your organization. A couple of editors, that with the crisis in the newspaper industry shouldn’t be to difficult to get, could seriously improve your document in terms of making them real analysis that have truthful elements into it and therefore improve the debate about Colombia and the US which, I think, is the main purpose of your organization.

Sincerely yours,

Francisco Santos Calderón
Vicepresidente de Colombia

Regarding "Préval of Haiti—A Provisional Report Card: Grade B+"

Dear Coha,

While Mr. Glenwick's article on Haiti and the Preval government appeared accurate in the description of the current state of affairs in Haiti, he erred in stating that it was up to the government to replace the "restavec" system. This system of sending children that one cannot support to live with more affluent families is the result of poverty. I cannot imagine what Mr. Glenwick thinks that the government can do about it.

By all first hand reports that I have had from Haitians traveling back and forth between Santo Domingo, where I live, and Port au Prince, the Capital city is transformed with a sense of peace since last January. People are out on the streets at night. The University is open late in the evening. People are hopeful and optimistic.

Please continue to monitor and report the situation there, perhaps with a bit more depth of understanding.

Thank you.

Elizabeth Eames Roebling

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Regarding "CAFTA’s October Referendum: A Death Sentence for Costa Rican Trade & Foreign Investment?"

Letter received 08/14/2007

The article seems generally well balanced (particularly by COHA standards) in presenting both the risks of CAFTA non-ratification by Costa Rica. However, I'm curious as to how you came up with the conclusion that "Without CAFTA, goods exported by the country to the U.S. can look forward to being subject to 35 percent tariffs." There is certainly a good possiblilty that Costa Rica will lose CBERA benefits in 2008 (as well as those under CAFTA-DR) if Costa Rica doesn't approve the agreement. However, that would mean that Costa Rica would be subject to U.S. MFN tariffs which average 3-4 percent ad valorem, since Costa Rica is a WTO member. (Some textile and apparel and footwear U.S. tariffs are much higher, but my impression is that Costa Rica isn't really interested in exports in either of those areas.)

If I am missing something please let me know.

Best Regards,

David A. Gantz
Samuel M. Fegtly Professor of Law and
Director, International Trade & Business Law Program
University of Arizona, Rogers College of Law

Regarding "Lightning Mustn’t Strike Twice: Alan García Determined To Avoid Another Failure Which Could be Staring Him in the Face"

Letter received 07/02/2007

Dear Larry,

Yes, I think you are right about Garcia magnifying the importance of Chávez for campaign purposes, but I don't think he "mainly invented" the relationship. The relationship existed, and of course Chavez himself weighed in repeatedly to publicly attack Garcia, creating an even stronger image of Chavez's support for Humala. Garcia didn't have to invent anything.

Thanks for your good work,

Charles Kenney

Regarding COHA's articles on India's growing role in Latin America

I read the article with interest and must compliment Alex Sánchez for both his articles recently on India’s emergence as a growing economic power and the relationship with Latin America.

May I point out that as a professional in the water sector that there is much to share between Brazil and India on how to manage urban waters and water in semi-arid area. I have seen the 1 million cisternas programme in northeast Brazil, which harvest rainwater.

This is absolutely akin to many such programmes in China and India. So there is much sharing of experiences to build on there too. It is good that the Asian giants and the Latin American people are increasingly sharing close ties. May this continue to increase.

Regards and complements once again,

Vishwanath S.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Regarding "Brazilian Aviation Crisis – Mechanical Error Or Governmental Failure? Or a Metaphor for Brazil Under Lula’s Rule?"

The Truth Finally Gets Its Socks On by Joe Sharkey

Given that the two American pilots of the Legacy 600 are now on trial, in absentia, on criminal charges that carry prison time in Brazil, it’s interesting to see how conventional wisdom has finally evolved in Brazil to accommodate realities that were violently in dispute for many months after the Sept. 29 crash.

Take this article by Concetta Kim Martens of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a think-tank whose interests include “the formulation of rational and constructive U.S. policies towards Latin America.” The article was published on the organization’s Web site,, and republished by Brazil Magazine (, where it drew lively reader comment.

Obviously, I have no quarrel with the essence of the article.

That’s because nearly every assertion in it was first made a long time ago on this blog. But that was way back when no one else in the media was even raising the issues of the soundness of Brazil’s air-traffic control system, or criticizing the reckless rush by the Brazilian government, military and Federal Police to criminalize the Sept. 29 accident and scapegoat the American pilots.

Now that accuracy is winning the battle, we need to encourage perspective to march forward. So I need to point out that the COHA article, while essentially correct in its points, shades history a bit. And as I sense we are nearing the point where journalism must tip its fedora to history, I am sure Ms. Martens will forgive my nit-picking.

For one thing, she muddies the facts a bit on the demeanor of air-traffic controllers after the accident. “Since the September 29 Gol crash over the Amazon, controllers felt unfairly targeted for splenetic criticism [my italics] they were receiving from the public, and reacted by staging several work stoppages …” she writes.

Didn't happen quite that way.

Here is what did happen:

First the American pilots were recklessly and, it seemed to me universally, scapegoated. It took a while for the public in Brazil to become aware of, or concede, the role of air-traffic control in the accident.

Remember how long the ex-defense minister, Wonderful Waldir Pires, loudly insisted that the pilots caused the crash by performing reckless aerial loop d loops over the Amazon? Nobody in power told him to put a lid on that nonsense, including his boss, the President, who won a runoff election amid the passions of the disaster, which had occurred two days before the polls opened.

Only in time did the general public, but not the authorities, acknowledge that the Sept. 29 crash had been set in motion by a series of egregious errors by air traffic controllers, who themselves were working in deplorable conditions with faulty equipment within a system beset with major technological deficiencies in radar and radio communications, especially over the Amazon.

Initially, as I argued last October, November and afterward, the air-traffic controllers' protests were basically a warning shot across the bow of government and military to not implicate air -traffic control in the blame.

What actually happened was that low-ranking controllers – fearing that they, too, might become scapegoats along with the pilots (which in fact ultimately happened) – clammed up while the American pilots remained in custody in Brazil.

While the pilots twisted in the wind, the core group of controllers who were on duty during the accident -- the people who knew, for example, that air-traffic control was aware of the transponder malfunction on the Legacy for 50 minutes before the crash and failed to raise the alarm -- remained silent, went to ground and refused to answer any questions, citing psychological trauma.

As the protests continued for months, air traffic in Brazil was thrown into chaos.

For months after the Sept. 29 accident, public sentiment, whipped up by xenophobic Brazilian media, had focused sharply and exclusively on the Americans as culprits. There was no “splenetic criticism” in Brazil of the air traffic controllers that I am aware of. Of course, I was raising criticism of air traffic control on this little blog. It wasn't splenetic -- though the outraged and verbally violent reaction to it certainly was.

Ms. Martens does zero-in effectively on some of the official nitwits who continually brayed that all was well in Brazil’s skies; that the Sept. 29 disaster was caused strictly by reckless, arrogant Americans; that Brazil’s skies and airports were under world-class supervision and that to say otherwise was a base calumny and an insult to the honor of the nation.

Of course, the official indignation all rang a bit hollow again in July, when another airplane crash killed 199 people at overcrowded, unsafe Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s busiest.

Wonderful Waldir Pires, the obstinate Defense Minister responsible for air-traffic control, was finally out the door. So was Jose Carlos “Sunshine” Pereira, who ran the airports authority and suggested that it was slander to suggest that anything, anything might be wrong with Brazil’s aviation system.

Sunshine Pereira ranks right up there near Wonderful Waldir as a classic character in this story. Pereira steadfastly insisted after the Sept. 29 crash, even as the evidence became manifestly clear that both aircraft had been put on a collision course at 37,000 feet by air traffic control, that “it is not the best moment to carry out changes” including addressing the inept military control of civilian aviation.

Later, as international aviation groups expressed outrage at the way Brazil had clumsily politicized and criminalized the Sept. 29 accident, and even after the second horrible accident in July, with 350 now dead in two disasters in 10 months, Sunshine Pereira stood by his rusty guns.

“Brazil does not need international help,” he proclaimed, inanely. “The crisis is ours. The dead are ours.”

Shortly after, he was ducked-walked off the deck.

But as Ms. Martens writes, the President remained in a defensive crouch. “The security of our aviation system is compatible with all other international standards,” Lucky Lula proclaimed. As recently as three weeks ago, Lucky Lula was still scoffing at the fact, otherwise widely accepted all over the world, that there are black holes and blind spots in air-traffic control radar and radio communications over the Amazon.

I assume Ms. Martens’ small deficiencies in context and nuance are a consequence of the demands of concise summary. She writes: “President da Silva’s government has come under a great deal of fire for failing to properly address the nation’s air-travel safety, an act that according to several aviation experts, and the adamant belief of a good deal of the public sentiment, led to the air disaster” [s]

Well, I'm here to repeat, for the record, that this "public sentiment" took a long time getting its socks on, and even longer to reach the level of being "adamant."

And I should also point out that, while public sentiment may well have finally come around to the truth, as Ms. Martens asserts, two American pilots remain on trial on spurious criminal charges that public sentiment realizes were trumped-up.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Regarding "Brazil: A Scandal a Day..."

Hello COHA staffers,

I write because I have just read the simplistic and bombastic "Brazil: A Scandal a Day...". This analysis is an embarrassment to COHA. I do not make this claim because I am a huge Lula supporter. I am not. Yet I am an academic with decades of experience in Brazil and I am shocked at the tone and quality of the writing you have put out.

Yes, Brazil is corrupt. But Brazilian politics is not equal to Lula. And the explanations for the increase in corruption cases regarding the PT's own transparency makes a certain amount of sense. As does the claim that the PT's dismantling of customary ways of doing business has resulted in an increase in corruption cases. But I am not writing to contest 'facts.' Your author poo-poohs this to the detriment of the quality of her writing.

But I am not here to take issue with specific facts. Rather, I would like to register my horror at the extent to which your supposedly progressive analysts mimic quite perfectly the words published in the conservative VEJA. This is sad. The situation, including the airport issue, is much more complex than your analyst is able to make out. No wonder I increasingly skip your reports.


John Collins
Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Regarding "Chile's Aggressive Military Arms Purchases Are Ruffling the Region, Alarming in Particular Bolivia, Peru and Argentina"

Dear COHA,

The article is obsolescent and badly informed. Long gone are the days when military purchases through the copper fund were "autonomous", and the "military establishment" has long been "confronted" and has to negotiate for months with Hacienda to buy an extra box of ammunition if it is not already in the budget.

It is amazing that an institution of the prestige of COHA can come up with such utter rubbish, unless it is inspired by one of Chile's neighbours, or more likely, the ineptitude of its "research fellow".

As readers of my own reports would know, and those who are not that lucky could easily have found out if they read anything else than 15-year old papers by academics who do not know one end of a barrel from another, the military have not just lost political power (including the 4 designated senators inherited from the Pinochet constitution), and had their right to call the National Security Council and immunity of the commanders in chief from dismissal revoked, but their personal incomes are now one third of their civilian life equivalents (they were on par in 1990), their ordinary budgetary resources have not increased in real terms for years (contrary to expenditure in general which has been going up at up to double inflation), and several hundred of them have been prosecuted for human rights violations. The "bonanza" from the Copper Fund may be real on paper, but in practice the decision to spend it has been formally taken away from them by the Comtroller-General's office and de facto handed to Hacienda, which is sitting on decisions to the point of catching hemorrhoids. All this under the wrongly described "Socialist".

The only correct thing in the analysis is the existence of shortfalls in other areas and the risk of social unrest, but this has nothing to do with the Chilean military. There is no "guns or butter" debate or dilemam in Chile. There is money to spare for both.


Armen Kouyoumdjian
Country Risk Strategist
Chile Member, SIPRI Defence Expenditure Network

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Regarding "Immigration Compromise too Little too Late"

Dear Mr. Birns,

Racheotes's piece on immigration to the USA is prologued by a caution paragraph tating that it "does not have the official imprimatur of either COHA or a number of the author's colleagues who feel that its thesis will be considered to be too controversial." (

Although it is not mentioned in the text, the article best epitomizes an attitude that many COHA readers would like to share with others. Mr. Racheotes's article makes us think of a world without frontiers, borders, passports, custom officers and migration restrictions. What would happen in such a world with arms and drugs trades, nationalist policies, and global trade? This is perhaps a too idealistic vision for diplomats, political leaders and bureaucrats who would be jobless in a borderless world (not to mention arms and drugs dealers). Therefore, the "real war on terror" proposed by the author would not only have an enemy on the fear strategists but also, and more important, an ideological goal.

Congratulations to Mr. Racheotes and your team for an excellent publication.

Kindest regards,

Edmundo Murray

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Regarding Immigration Compromise too little too late

Dear Alex,

You have offered an interesting thesis, and I would like to comment. I believe that your opinion – that the borders of this country should be totally open and immigration be legalized is shared by a certain segment of the American populace. However, the fact that this issue has remained in limbo is not related to any lack of intelligence or attention on Washington’s part. With American foreign policy going the way it is, perhaps less may be more with regard to the immigration issue. Clinton has been the latest and best example of this kind of diplomacy. He did not aggressively push NAFTA through congress, he asked the leaders of Latin America to come to Washington to address their new integration. He did not force Chile into NAFTA’s accords, he was respectful of the entire process as well as the interests of the American people. As we have seen here, America does not need another forceful policy endeavor, instead it would be more sensible to coordinate slower and more measured diplomacy to take the heat of Washington’s back and show the rest of the region that this is not an issue confined to Washington’s interests.

I do agree that opening the borders would be a positive move for the American market. America could soon see our economy stagnate given our dependence on foreign oil and the fact that our exports are not on par with Asia and the EU. If we could use immigration to help boost productivity we could move toward a more effective export model, which will probably be very important in the near future. Immigration therefore has the potential to keep us competitive in the case of devaluation while simultaneously helping to mend relations with Latin America.

Kai Smith

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Regarding "Is Paraguay Set to be the Next Latin American Country to Lean to the Left?"

Dear COHA People,

Here are some comments on the Paraguay article (attached), written in the heat of the moment so please don't get offended!

It is a pity that COHA did not have the chance to interview Lugo during his recent visit to the US. This would have helped to avoid some of the clangers in the piece, notably the incorrect assertion that Duarte continues to be close to the Bush administration because of US troop deployment in the country. In fact he has ended the agreement.


Andrew Nickson

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Regarding COHA's Series on Illicit Drug Trade

Dear COHA, Can I point you to two publications of mine on the illicit drug trade in the Caribbean. They are: “Cocaine and Heroin Trafficking in the Caribbean The case of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana.” and “Cocaine and Heroin Trafficking in the Caribbean Volume 2 The case of Haiti, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.” Thanking You,

Daurius Figueira.

Regarding "School of the Americas: A Black Eye to Democracy"

In response to Eliana Monteforte's recently published piece on the School of the America's, Lee Rials of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, engages in a "point-by-point refutation" of the artilce and challenges COHA to prove him wrong.

Mr. Birns,

You should have known I couldn't resist commenting on this magnificent work of fiction, but I am truly surprised that you can call it 'analysis.'

I'll just do a tedious point-by-point refutation, and challenge you to prove me wrong on any point. This kind of absurdity reminds me of the Flat Earth Society, clinging to beliefs long proven wrong.

The institute was established in law, which means the Congress had to pass the bill and President Clinton had to sign it to make it the law of the land. You can call it a public relations stunt, but that belittles the Congress, not the military, and I could characterize it just as validly as a determination by a majority in Congress to see similar military education, training, and cooperation continue when it might have been lost altogether if the SOA had been allowed to remain in operation. The opponents were just as dishonest then as now, completely disregarding what the school actually did in favor of blaming it for the acts of a few who had attended some course there.

Note that while the Army started courses in Panama in 1946, only US soldiers attended until 1948, which indicates the original purpose was simply part of the normal continuing education our soldiers enjoy. If you look at the titles of courses throughout, you will see a great variety of professional education, very little of it 'counterinsurgency techniques, etc., and absolutely none of it 'interrogation tactics.' It is not surprising that in recent years most of the students in most courses have been from Colombia, because Plan Colombia gives them more resources to buy training.

I would like to know where it has been 'revealed' that torture techniques and coup procedures had 'become part of the curriculum.' That is a flat falsehood with no basis. And please tell me just one person who can be shown to have used what he learned from the school to commit a crime. No one else has, you can be the first. And tell me what Roberto D'Aubisson's planning of the murder of the archbishop had to do with his learning how to use military radios and telephones in 1972? Have you ever read that 93 UN Truth Commission Report? It points out crimes and makes determination of individual responsibilities in a number of incidents. Not once does it refer to any previous schooling or experience of the individuals. It
follows our own standards and holds individuals responsible for their own acts. If you follow that logic, then you can blame instructors at the school--if you can show that they taught anything illegal, immoral or unethical. Good luck.

Maybe your writer would like to inform me how an Engineer Operations Course in 1949 when Leopoldo Galtieri was a 23-year-old lieutenant in the Argentine Army led him to be a junta leader 30+ years later? And that UN report talks about the murder of the Jesuit priests and mentions about 29 people involved, although only seven were directly part of the act, the rest either knew about it and did nothing, or helped cover it up later. Several had attended some course or courses at SOA, at different times and different courses, apparently totally irrelevant to the crime. SOAW is not a 'human rights initiative,' but a political action group with a fraudulent agenda, and the primary fraud is against those sincere people who want to do good in the world, yet are diverted from any worthwhile activity to protest. Perhaps most egregious is getting people to trespass onto Fort Benning for no purpose except to garner publicity for the organization.

I will offer a challenge to this ridiculous contention that 'students undoubtedly will continue to march away from the institution having learned the wrong kind of skills.' Just name one of those 'wrong kind of skills.' Is it perhaps the counterdrug techniques taught to military and police? or maybe the medical assistance course that gives medics the ability to save lives and even deliver babies? or are you referring to the Peace Operations classes that give students the ability to function in the multinational forces in UN peacekeeping missions? (I don't think it a coincidence that Latin American countries are contributing almost 6500 soldiers and police to all 15 of the current UN missions around the world.)

Again, the institute is a separate organization from the SOA by law, and thus has no responsibility for acts by its predecessor or any other organization. And the reason we talk about the democracy and human rights component of every course is that the Congress mandated that education. You might be interested to know that Amnesty International, in the publication, "Unmatched Power, Unmet Principles," called our human rights program a 'model' for other military education facilities. Ten percent of the content of every course is devoted to due process, the rule of law, human rights law, the role of the military in a democratic society, and civilian control
of the military. And take a look around; every country in the OAS has a democratically elected government.

There has been no money allocated to 'tracking' former students, and no institution private or government has the ability to 'track' former students. Can you imagine the uproar in this country if you told people they had to report to their schools whereever they went and whatever they did after they left that school? This is a ruse to attack the institute. Our responsibility is to provide legal, moral, ethical education and training. You can read the six DoD reports on the institute, and the five Board of Visitors reports that are on the federal committee database to see
that we are doing exactly that.

This paragraph headed "The Terrorism Factor" is an almost-unreadable incoherency. This is the least militarized and most peaceful hemisphere in the world today; and now you want to blame the institute if people in Latin America terrorize their own people?

The final paragraph is the exact reverse of the truth. One of the central themes of our democracy and human rights instruction, and one of the specific requirements from Congress for every course, is civilian control of the military.

I can't say any more. This is the most blatant ideological rant masquerading as 'research' I have ever seen. The last time we exchanged emails, you said I won that time. Well, this doesn't feel like winning, because I don't see an honest effort to get at the truth.

Why don't you, or one of your researchers, come down to the institute and stay for a few days. You will be free to see all our facilities, talk with students and faculty, look at our instructional materials and methods. It is easy; all Fort Benning requires is a photo ID. A couple of years ago, a British doctoral candidate stayed in Columbus for a month, and came out here at least 20 days during that time. I won't have time to 'escort' you all the time, but you probably wouldn't want that anyway.


Lee A. Rials
Public Affairs Officer
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

Regarding Laura Wayne's "Rethinking Cuba - Taking Off Those Miami Sunglasses May Help Clear up the Picture"

I just wanted to say that it is so refreshing to read an article like this one. I have also read a piece on the OAS, and on Chavez.

I honestly never thought I would be able to find such insightful and truthful information coming from INSIDE the United States of America. How do you folks get away with it? Do you have to be escorted by security to your offices in the morning?

If there is a email list, could I please get on it? I would appreciate it.

Also, do you have the article on Cuba in Spanish? I know people in Cuba who would love to read this. [My Spanish isn't good enought, but I'm working on it!!]

Lastly, I thank you for your work. I love the writing style, and the level of detail of analysis. Keep up the good work....

Richard Lambie

Dear Mr. Richard Lambie,

Thank you very much for your kind words about our recent Cuba article. We greatly appreciate your readership and welcome any other comments you have on past or future COHA pieces. We have added you to our mailing list and you will be notified immediately via email when we release our latest articles.


Larry Birns, Director

Monday, June 04, 2007

Regarding "Rethinking Cuba - Taking Off Those Miami Sunglasses May Help Clear Up the Picture"

The latest response in the ongoing dialogue between Laura Wayne and critics of her recent article on Cuba. The discussion leading up to this can be viewed by scrolling further down the page to the post from May 28.

Dear Laura:

After I read your e-mail, I started wondering if you have been propelled with mis-information during your stay in Cuba. It's logic that you received this kind of information since the people that you visited stayed in Cuba while you came, learned from them, and left. I hope and I believe that you are an open minded person, and that you know that there are always two sides to a story. Therefore if you allow me your time for a rebuttal what these people have said.

First, You mentioned "Batista" in your e-mail. I'm not a "Batistiano" or have sympathized with him. However, you have to give to the Cesar what it belongs to the Cesar. If you search on Batista's past you will see that the man came from a humble beginning. He was a "mulatto" or mixed blood. He was not as Castro and his propaganda machine painted him. He established many reforms in Cuba during the time he controlled the government. I was swooped away too with the euphoria about Batista’s sins when I lived in Cuba. Later in years, I found out that Batista brought a lot of changes to Cuba making it more socialistic and an equalitarian society than you can imagine. He and the 1940 Cuban Constitution implanted reforms needed for a better Cuba. These reforms have been trashed with the outcome of the Revolutions. When you have some time, please read about him in Wikepedia and understand what he did for Cuba. Yes he was tyrant, but also provided a conduit for many reforms in Cuba while Castro has stayed fast on his beliefs. Batista was a man of the people, and while Castro was the son of a “hacendado”. Cuba shined like the Sun while Batista was in power while it has remained dull and a lack of imagination with Castro. Would you agree with me that before you pass judgment, you should investigate all avenues and not be carried away with the fervor of the people that have some political gain to disseminate miss-information? Here is a good web page to start. Batista .

The work of the "privileged way of life that was earned on the backs of the poor" that's another myth implanted by the Regime to contradict the work of so many people that were not privileged but improve their way of life. My uncles and aunts, all worked in Cuba as you said “backs of poor” but they bettered themselves to in free University of Havana and became professionals. In Cuba, we had three classes of people like always there are privileged people, but now they are all poor except for the ones chosen to be privileged. What rights does a regime have to stifle any motivation or decrease the standard of living to it's people? Why they stifle the ambition of an individual? It was tried in China, and it didn't work, and look at it now. I will talk to you later on this about China.

Secondly, you mentioned about the demonstration in Cuba. This is naive on your part. You know that all the work force is controlled by the Regime. If you oppose going to a demonstration, you’ll be punished and banned from work along with the lost of any wages. After that, any place that you apply, your name is part of a list of "antisocial", and you are banned from the work force. What are you going to do? When you see a force of demonstrators in Cuba it’s more or less people that need their jobs to subside, so that they can continue making a living. Is that their true beliefs? I see most of them with sleepy and boring faces and with lack of ambition. Keep in mind, Cubans have two faces, one for the government and another for their true beliefs.

Third, the five Cubans that you portrait as detained in the US Prisons were convicted by a US Jury and found guilty of their crimes. Their crimes were “aiding the enemy”. Do you know that they took part in providing information to the shot down of the two unarmed planes flying on international waters by "Brothers to the Rescue" team? They provided the flight plan and where they were going to be. Do you know that the Cuban pilots rejoiced after they dropped the missiles that brought them down. I heard their radio conversations. How abusive and bullies can they be to shoot down two poor unarmed aircrafts with four souls trying to save the life of the raft people. The least they could do is keep their thought to themselves and pay some respect while those pilots died. huh? What crimes did these pilots commit that yield this kind of punishment and the use of this excess of power against two unarmed airplanes? This was a cowardly act and the one that did this is a coward starting with Raul Castro who OKed the order to shoot them down. Why couldn't they have escorted them back to Cuba as humanitarian nations do? Do you believe in the Jury system? Then if that is the case these people should stay in jail for a long time. This is a myth concocted by the Regime to bring these people back, but really do they want them back or is it just a smoke screen? They are now used to the American way and not to living in a precarious society.

Fourth, you mentioned China. "China, which was under communist rule and is reputed for its far worse record of human rights violations." China is still under communist rule; however, this is the crux of why China is not treated the same as Cuba. In an interview with Chairman Deng in 1986 by Mike Wallace he explains the reason. This is what was said:

September 2, 1986

Deng: We went through the ``cultural revolution''. During the ``cultural revolution'' there was a view that poor communism was preferable to rich capitalism. After I resumed office in the central leadership in 1974 and 1975, I criticized that view. Because I did so, I was brought down again. Of course, there were other reasons too. I said to them that there was no such thing as poor communism. According to Marxism, communist society is based on material abundance. Only when there is material abundance can the principle of a communist society -- that is, ``from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs'' -- be applied. Socialism is the first stage of communism. Of course, it covers a very long historical period. The main task in the socialist stage is to develop the productive forces, keep increasing the material wealth of society, steadily improve the life of the people and create material conditions for the advent of a communist society.

There can be no communism with pauperism, or socialism with pauperism. So to get rich is no sin. However, what we mean by getting rich is different from what you mean. Wealth in a socialist society belongs to the people. To get rich in a socialist society means prosperity for the entire people. The principles of socialism are: first, development of production and second, common prosperity. We permit some people and some regions to become prosperous first, for the purpose of achieving common prosperity faster. That is why our policy will not lead to polarization, to a situation where the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. To be frank, we shall not permit the emergence of a new bourgeoisie.

As you see, China has a different approach but in Cuba all illusions to be a prosperous society is stifled by the regime. They are under a notion that Cubans don't want any source of income except what the Government gives them. So why be prosperous? You mentioned this has to be the embargo. The embargo is only with one country, USA. Cuba has traded with 100 other nations including Canada. However, why do they continue to be poor and their citizens maintain a low standard of living? Could it be that the Government wants it this way? Look at what’s happening in Venezuela. Your generation is witnessing the same as mine did. Then they play the ogre card by blaming the USA. They are the ones that foster communism, but in a pauper way not as Chairman Deng said, in China the government foments the growth of economics why can they do the same in Cuba? Could it be that Cuba wants their citizens to worry about where they are going to find their next meal, and do not worry about a way to get rid of this oppressive system? Richness is power and in the Cuban’s system only wants that the Government to have the power, but Governments are to serve the people not people serving the Government. Who are the privilege that you speak of the ones running the system now? These are totally two different ways of thinking. Which one do you want for Cuba? The Chinese model or the Cuban model? Cuban model has not worked for the last 48 years why it would work now? How long can they blame the USA for it? Are we the cause of all evil?

My Fifth and last point, you mentioned the UN in your discussion. Please, this is the most corrupt system of politicians. During the late 90’s, they opposed any intervention by any country to Iraq. They had this food for oil thing going on. It has been proven that these politicians were taking kickbacks and bribes from this oil for food program. While these people were getting rich, the poor people of Iraq were suffering from the lack of resources. This is a corrupt organization with corrupt politicians. These politicians have taken kick backs from Cuban government for many years. For that, they voice neutrality, but who could stand neutral when a country maintains their people in poverty just to keep themselves in power?

That's all I can say for this time, my hopes is that you read and come up with an open mind to understand what I've written to you. Do not kill me since I’m just the messenger. Find out for yourself. Investigate, search, research, and find the truth and do not pass judgment on us that only want the betterment and the returned of the Republic of Cuba.


Tony Urbizu

Friday, June 01, 2007

Regarding "Washington's Quest for Allies in its Battle Against Chavez's Influence in the Americas and Beyond"

"Yet, when it comes to indicting Chavez with hard felonies, in most of the cases the evidence is wanting, with his critics often confusing his always harmless bark with his rarely exhibited bite. That is why many think that although scores of the region's leaders in the past abused the powers Chavez now holds, he should not be convicted before he commits the crime. The fact is that up to now, he has run one of Latin America's more robust democracies."

Jean Fournier responds to the preceding passage from COHA's May 31st piece.

Coha - How long is he in power? How much has the price of oil risen in that time? How much sustainable improvement has he made in social indicators in that time as opposed to an oil giveaway that will disappear if the price falls or Venezuelan production hits bottlenecks? What price has civil society paid for this improvement?

The undermining of civil society in Venezuela and the concentration of all power in Chavez's hands is not a harmless bark. Please stop along with the European media always going on about his democratic mandate. No-one doubts it. The question is 'does democratic mandate give a leader the right to undermine the basic pillars of civil society?' Is this to the long term benefit of a country? Peron won democratic
mandates but ran a populist authoritarian regime that had many of the characteristics of a dictatorship and his undermining of civil society had negative consequences that affected Argentina for several generations.

And the question about the Venezuelan elites. They are very reactionary and bad for the country but there comes a point when serious analysts of a country make the point that the awful elites, no matter how unsympathetic, can not be allowed to provide cover for a power grab. Why instead of lauding his attempted destruction of the
old elite focus on the fact that he is creating a new elite centred on his family, intimates, friendly military officers and native big business willing to cut deals with him. Why does no-one demand that the best way to prevent Venezuela being held back by the kind of cronyism and corruption that epitomised the old elites is to create a strong plural civil society, something he is manifestly failing or not
interested in doing despite having the opportunity to do so?

Dear Sir,
The Venezuela article made a number of good points,but the fact remains that the U.S. and its G8 buddies have yet to explain their rather clumsy complicity in
the botched coup against Hugo Chavez. It was widely reported, when it looked like he might be safely out of the way, that he had "resigned."

No one asked how it was, in a democracy, that he was not succeeded by the Vice President; the takeover by Carmona was greeted with a wink and a nod. When it
comes to grinding the faces of the poor, such as themiserable Chechens, George Bush thought it was funny when Putin promised to "chase them right into the
sh*thouse and wipe them out." He said he had looked deep into the Russian President's eyes and liked what he saw. Not much comment, either, when it came to Mr.
Putin's most undemocratic decision in 2004 to personally appoint regional governors (apparently he considered it nothing special- just his version of
"Presidential Orders."). The list goes on.
Lest anyone think these objections come from some rabid left-winger, I am enough of a free-market proponent to have lost rather a good bit on certain of my investments, due in no small part to some of Mr.Chavez' more extravagant decrees, and very much oppose the idea that people may elect a dicatator, even for 18 months, but if the example we would hold up to the rest of the world consists of a system of corrupt, cronyish capitalism, with growing economic distress,widening disparity between the elite and everyone else, perpetual war and massive deficits - then the Great Bolivarian (who if rumor can be believed at least wants to turn the Presidential Palace into a university,) deserves a chance to demonstrate whether he is able to improve the lot of his people.

Sincerely, Robert Tartell

Regarding "Rethinking Cuba - Taking Off Those Miami Sunglasses May Help Clear Up the Picture"

In respone to Laura Wayne's recently published piece on Cuba, Gary Cunningham writes that "Cuba is a beautiful island with beautiful heritage and people surrounded by a fence of socialism making it the largest prison in the world and people like Laura Wayne help perpetuate this condition." The full text of that response and Laura Wayne's rebutal is printed below:

The article "Rethinking Cuba" written by Laura Wayne was certainly inspirational. It has caused me to ponder the question: What is worse?,Miami sunglasses or the myopia of an ideological agenda. She certainly debunked the claim by C.O.H.A as being nonpartisan.

I'm sure this article is already in print in Gramma for distribution to all Cubans as further proof that the "Great Satan of The North" is the cause of all the ills of the Cuban populace. Therein lies a somewhat amusing irony. Had Laura Wayne written an article critical of the government of Cuba while living there, she would now be facing 15 to 20 years in prison. The utopian socialist system she painted does not tolorate any independent thought outside the circle of approved ideology. I do agree with her, however, on one point that the embargo has been counter-productive. It has been used as a crutch by the dictatorship to remain in power by deflecting any criticisim of it's failed policies, political and economic oppression. Other than that, the embargo is ineffective. I have bought Coca-Cola and several other American products there, seen new Ford trucks, a bus made in Georgia, and can rent the latest released American movies. These products are funneled through other countries. Concerning medicines, Laura Wayne is factualy wrong. Food and medicines are exempt from embargo controls and as far as Cuba having to pay higher prices for medicines in Europe and Asia, wrong again! Being connected to the medical industry, I know medicines can be purchased 40% to 60% cheaper in Europe and Asia than in the United States. ie:Americans purchase billions of dollars in medicines from Canada yearly. Canada by the way, is the largest trading partner of Cuba. She was also correct that the Cuban universities do produce a large crop of good medical doctors. I say crop because Castro uses the doctors as a commodity to loan to other countries in exchange for political equity and further proof that his communist dictatorship is a social success. There is a high defection rate among these doctors because after their two year sabatical they return to a system that guarantees them $ 40 a month in pay. I know several doctors there who moonlight as auto mechanics and musicians in order to feed their families.

Hundreds of millions of American dollars are sent to Cuba each year to friends and families and has been instrumental in keeping many families from starving in this so called social paradise. Outside of Haiti, Cuba has the lowest caloric intake in this hemisphere. Also, a recently implemented policy now forbids the use U.S. currency. The money now has to be taken to a Cuban government bank and exchanged for a newly printed Cuban currency at a loss of 20% as an exchange fee.
Outside of citing several incorrect facts, her omissions of reality are the telling story here. She was so intent on pushing the social progressive agenda she forgot to tell us about the things she can do in an open society that a Cuban cannot do in theirs.
1. Write an aticle critical of the government 2. Enter a hotel or tourist location without working there 3. Use the worldwide internet 4. Own or pocess a book or any written or recored material that is not approved by the communist party.5. Complain publicly about any grievence. 6.Travel freely at any time in country. 7. Travel internationally. 8.Own title to any property . 9. Engage in a personal business of any kind (to name a few).
Cuba is a beautiful island with beautiful heritage and people surrounded by the fence of socialism making it the largest prision in the world and people like Laura Wayne help perpetuate this condition.

Sincerely ,

Gary Cunningham


Dear Gary,

I would like to thank you for pointing out that medical supplies, in fact, have been exempt from the embargo as of 2000 and have revised my article for clarity and accuracy. However, the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of that year has not satisfactorily resolved access to medical supplies. Currently, bureaucratic restrictions continue to lead to delays, cost increases and limited access to certain medications. Are you aware that it can take up to a year (sufficient time for the patient to die) for an American citizen to be granted a license from the U.S. government to ship medical supplies to Cuba? Do not forget that Cuba is forbidden from using its own merchant fleet for such shipments and must pay to make use of vessels from foreign countries. As for importing medicines from Europe or Asia, when you factor in the cost of shipping medicines from these more distant locations, they are far from “40% to 60% cheaper” as you suggest.

I am surprised you would call the embargo ineffective; surely this is not based on the fact that you were able to find American movies and Coke products while you were there. Since I (as a Canadian scholar) have been there as well, let us both agree that these are not exactly the essentials that the international community wishes to see reach the island shores. Of real concern is the fact that spare parts to run farm machines, as well as computer equipment essential to technological innovation and efficiency in hospitals, are still prohibited for sale to Cuba under the “ineffective” embargo. Where it has been futile is in changing the Cuban political system or bettering life on the island. The policies of the U.S. government may be incredibly embarrassing to you, but denying their negative consequences is certainly of no benefit to Cubans for whom the penalties are a daily burdensome reality.

I am not sure why you are so indignant that Cuba now has its own currency. Imagine having to go to a “government bank” to exchange your money while traveling in another country! That certainly is an inconvenience, but it is not one unique to Cuba. Your continued denigration of all things Cuban reveals a shortcoming in objectively evaluating the situation. This is apparent in your denouncement of medical cooperation between Cuba and other nations. The “crop” of Cuban doctors is credited for restoring the eyesight of over 400,000 Venezuelans in return for much needed oil in Cuba. I fail to see the evil side to this operation; doctors who work abroad are allowed to keep a portion of the funds they earn and will be in a position of advantage upon returning to the island.

You cite a few inaccuracies yourself. Cuba does not have the second lowest caloric intake in the hemisphere; in fact, obesity is on the rise in Cuba and is of great concern to health officials there. It is untrue that Cubans are forbidden from using the Internet, as is it false that they may not engage in a personal business. You should look into the casa particulares and private paladares that have helped many Cubans earn additional income. Those running them pay a fixed amount to the government every month to maintain a business permit. Profits earned on top of that are theirs to keep with no limit as to how much can be earned. Having lived in one such casa for three months, I can attest to the income potential that these private businesses introduce.

There are more than enough skeptics willing to bash Cuba from every angle. Is it too much to ask for you to merely tolerate, let alone consider another perspective? For offering constructive observations that differ from the typical exile’s political agenda, I have been labeled a communist, a racist pig, and now, accused by you of perpetuating a prison. I agree that there are human rights issues in Cuba that need to be addressed, but before we can tackle that, change needs to start at home. Until the U.S. can acknowledge the callousness of its Cuba strategy, they stand on shaky ground when pointing to malice across the Florida Straits.


Monday, May 28, 2007

In response to Laura Wayne's May 24 article on U.S.-Cuban relations, Mr. Tony Urbizu of Palm Bay, Florida, expressed that Cuba's healthcare and education systems do not compensate for the lack of personal freedoms on the island:


You may try to hide under the umbrella of free information, but your report is totally bias to the left. Your assumption that Cuba is a paradise because of healthcare and education is incorrect. You failed to mention that Castro has ruled Cuba with an Iron fist, he has robbed property from Cubans, the repression is impossible to tolerate. In addition, there is no civil freedom or human rights. For 40 some years, Cuba is under a ration card dictated by the government. The work force is controlled by a big union called the Government. If you decide to peacefully demonstrate and criticize the government, you are thrown in jail for several years by a kangaroo court. The lack of freedom and repression and basic human rights outweighs the other. If this was such a great paradise, why are there over 2 million Cubans in America and spread all over the world? If the healthcare was so great, why Castro asked for Spanish doctor to come to his rescue, and he didn’t use the local Cuban doctor? Do you think that we left because it was such a paradise? We were robbed of property, freedom, basic human rights, and the right to vote in a free society. In addition, the lack of ambition to be the best in this world. This does not outweigh the meager healthcare and free education that you so vehemently proclaim. Please do not insult my character with your left bias reports. This doesn’t make any sense.

COHA responds:

Dear Tony,

Let me clarify that I have in no way meant to portray Cuba as a paradise. In fact, if you would take the time to read my article in its entirety, you will see that I pay considerable attention to the hardships of life in Cuba. My point is that many of these difficulties are the direct result of an unproductive U.S. policy. There is no denying, for instance, that the trade embargo has made the acquisition of medical supplies considerably more difficult for Cuba, which might explain why Castro turned to a Spanish doctor when on the brink of death.

As for demonstrations, perhaps you should recall the hundreds of thousands of Cubans that took to the streets last November to celebrate Castro’s 80th birthday. As they marched through the streets, it was anti-Bush placards that they proudly paraded.

I disagree that Cubans were robbed of freedom, basic human rights and the right to vote etc. – under Batista, Cuba was a country of extraordinary inequalities. What indignant exiles were robbed of was a privileged way of life that was earned on the backs of the poor.

Let’s face it, the exile group in Miami has never been known for its deep concern for human rights in any other part of the world. Why have they not rallied behind the five Cubans being unjustly detained in U.S. prisons? China, which was under communist rule and is reputed for its far worse record of human rights violations, is now our second largest trading partner, soon to the first. Selective indignation in Washington demonstrates that there is much more to the picture where Cuba is involved than concern for human rights. The ugly secret is that for the White House, Cuba is not a foreign policy but a domestic one, which the exile community has long held hostage with its voting power and campaign donations.

The embargo has done nothing to alter the political system in Cuba but it continues to make life difficult for Cubans left behind on the island. As I mentioned in my article, the United Nations has called for an end to the embargo for the past 15 years. In its most recent vote, the U.S. had the support of only three other countries, all of whom are heavily dependant on U.S. economic assistance. The fact is that as we approach the end of the Castro regime, Cuba has never been more politically accepted by the rest of the world or economically stronger. The U.S. government denies the use of diplomacy to produce the goals it seeks – does it not strike you as problematic that we attempt to achieve democracy through completely undemocratic and unconstitutional means?

I am not hiding under the umbrella of free information – I am sharing my observations after having spent a considerable amount of time living with a Cuban family and studying at the University of Havana last fall. I believe that you and I share a common desire, which is to see the betterment of life on the island. Where we differ, perhaps, is in our strategies, but I hope we can both agree that increasingly draconian policies are not the answer.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Regarding "Soldiers versus Narco-Soldiers"

Alex Sanchez's recent piece on Mexico's rampant drug violence elicited a response from Mr. Ramon E. Dapena Vidal stating that COHA made no mention of "the most realistic fact present in the problem analyzed." The original text of Mr. Dapena Vidal's response is below:

In your article on the mexican drug tragedy I do not find any mention of the most realistic fact present in the problem analyzed. The problem is not a criminal problem, it's an economical one. There is a 200 billion a year market for illegal drug sales in the USA. The simplest rules of Economics say that where there is a market there will also be somebody to supply it. The solution? That the USA Congress legalize drugs, in which case the market will cease to exist and ll the money spent on anti-criminal activity could be spent in health and public education. The question is: Why does'nt Congress legalize it? In finding an answer you come before the fact that those "honest and anonymous" people who, in the shadows, finance the importers in exchange for millions in return, also finance and put pressure on Congressmen, while donating to the big Christian Fundamentalist churches. Without a market there would not be such an exhorbitant production of drugs and coca will go back to being the Andes' natives daily "coffee".

Responding to "Venezuela's Security Factors and Foreign Policy Goals"

In response to Alex Sanchez's May 2nd piece on Venezuelan security and foreign policy, Mr. Brian Souter of Canberra, Australia suggests that, "Alex Sanchez sounds as if he's working for the US State Department!" The text of Mr. Souter's correspondence regarding this piece is below:

1. 'His critics will argue that Chávez has committed some significant blunders regarding both foreign and security policy matters. One of these has been his comparison of Israel to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. He made this statement during the summer 2006 war between the Israeli Defense Forces and the terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon.'

Whats wrong with this piece? Well, Sanchez calls Hezbollah a 'terrorist organisation', when it is nothing of the sort. And he calls Israels army 'Defence Force'; which is not how the Lebanese would view it. Israel invaded Lebanon and commited acts of terrorism, which is defined as the use of violence and intimidation to procure a political end. So bombing cities towns, airports, hospitals was done to terrorise the lebanese to abandon Hezbollah. It had the opposite effect.

So why isnt that article calling Israel a terrorist?

But why is Chavez words a 'foreign policy blunder' and not and honest assessment?! Or is Sanchez going to use the 'anti-semite' card?

The comparison to Hitler is valid, as both Zionist Israel Nazi Germany engage/d in ethnic cleansing of unwanted inhabitants. And the war on Lebanon is now known to have been planned months before, the two captured soldiers being the excuse for Olmert toi put the invasion into action.

2.The article criticises Chavez for arming his country...Now, if Chavez can cause unrest in his neighbours by arming, what are we to think of US arming itself, and with new nuclear weapons? Shouldn’t its neighbiurs be worried? And when US arms israel, with the very real wart on lebanon, shouldnt Israels neighours be worried? What is so special about Chavez that gets him singled out?

3. 'Another issue that has hurt Chávez’s international standing is his declared sympathy for the Colombian rebel movement, the FARC'

What? This is the US govt talking. What about Columbias use of US weapons to arm the death squads?

4. 'Venezuela can formulate whatever foreign policy it wants as a sovereign state, which can include pursuing relations with renowned human right violators and despotic governments like Libya and Iran'

Singling out Libya and Iran again smacks of US state dept disinfo peddling. Coming from an american, which i assume he is, this is laughable. Iran has invaded noone in 200-300 years. The original democracy under Mossadegh was overturned by US/UK, and their puppet was eventually removed by the Iranian revolution. So any crimes committed but the current iranian govt are the fruit of that initial coup.

5. 'In order to satisfy this perceived necessity, he needs to upgrade Venezuela’s military even if there are no logical immediate enemies for an offensive war' anyone paying attention knows the US has war ships close to Venezuelan waters.

Why was this piece published at all? It offers nothing new, attacks various official enemies and brings into serious doubt COHAs indendence.

6. Then theres the use of that word 'pariah' a word used by th US and its allies for govts who do not do their bidding.

Calling Syria a 'pariah' is hypocritical, since the US itself does business with Syria, or have you forgotten the use US made of Syria in the Maha Arer 'Extraorinary Rendition' case?

Finally COHA shows its colours with the following:

'he also understands that in order to gain the petro-dollars he needs to update his country’s military, he needs a stable environment, which today will only come from major oil clients like the U.S not roiling the waters. '

That is, Chavez should serve the interests of a real pariah: the US. That last paragraph sounds weasley, the sort of advice a US client would take while licking its masters boot.