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.