Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Regarding March 14 Presss Release: "Bush’s Latin America Trip: Understanding the Protests and Criticisms"

President Bush is scheduled to return today from his seven-day trip to Latin America. Hoping to dispel growing criticisms that the U.S. has neglected its southern neighbors since the beginning of Bush’s first term, the president traveled to five carefully selected “friendly” nations in the region—Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico—that administration officials say have demonstrated an ability to “make good decisions.” Bush’s hope was to highlight Washington’s involvement in poverty alleviation efforts through U.S. investments in rural hospitals and farmers’ cooperatives, the administration’s long-standing support of free trade, and through emulating open-market neo-liberalism. Despite these aspirations, the overwhelming expressions of local discontent and cool responses by several of the leaders plagued Bush’s trip at every turn.

full article...

March 15, 2007

RE: Bush’s Latin America Trip: Understanding
the Protests and Criticisms

"In every nation, neglected Latin Americans voiced their disapproval of the visiting

"Be it neglect, indifference, or an inability to either focus on critical issues or appoint
seasoned professionals rather than shrill ideologues to head the
Departments Latin America bureau..."

Dear COHA:

Please don't use that paternalistic cliché about Latin Americans feeling "neglected" by the US. The US does not neglect us. Its voracious corporations are always on the move, seeking resources, markets, and cheap labor. Its State Department is always planning ways to bring what it calls the "power elite" into its orbit, when it is not plotting regime change (last tried in 2002) or how to crank up the blockade or assorted sanctions. Its Pentagon is busy selling arms, imposing military bases, and training future torturers. Very few Latin Americans think back with nostalgia to the Washington Consensus and ALCA, or to the days of military dictatorships allied with the ever-attentive Good Neighbor.

It is not some "Latin America bureau" at State, lacking seasoned professionals, that defines US policy for what it still considers a backyard somehow subject to a unilaterally-declared Monroe Doctrine of 1823. It is big business, transnational capital, and expanisonist interests that call the shots.

Latin America does not want to be rescued or patted on the back by, or win some condescending attention from, the US. We want to get out from under its violent, larcenous, Big Brotherly thumb. Latin America is busy making a new future for itself free of US imperialist control, not begging for attention.

Luis Rumbaut
Washington, DC

Dear friends,
The article on President Bush's trip to Latin America was quite good, even to the extent of bringing on some laughs in the second paragraph. It accurately conveyed regional sentiment in most respects.

However, a couple of points are worth making. The first, President Chavez began his trip in February. As we all know, the region is a priority to him and he visits frequently. Also, I would agree with those news sources reflecting the regional opinion that
Bush's visit was in response to that of President Chavez (and his focus
on the region), not the other way around. In fact, one cannot help but wonder if Bush would have paid a visit at all if Chavez did not exist.

Sincerely yours,
Karen Crump
Director, Information Services Latin America

March 16. 2007

Dear Mr. Birns,
While otherwise commending you fro at least trying to present a more balanced picture of US-Latin American relations, I must react negatively to two particular statements.

1) “bitter fruits of the massive neglect of Latin America…”
It is odd that precisely when the US foreign policy “neglects” Latin America the latter begins to rise up. We prefer Bush’s neglect to Clinton’s loving attention which resulted in, amongst other things, the collapse of many economies including Argentina’s. Poor
Iraq who must bear the brunt of US fury and attention but, believe me, Latin America is better off with this type of neglect.
NOTE: On top of the substantive issue, your statement is condescending in the highest degree: the US is nobody’s nanny nor jailer!

2) “If Venezuela gives up its arms race..”
Excuse me, say that again? Starting with Clinton, the US has beefed up a murderous regime in Colombia to the tune of several billion dollars, then Bush attempted to overthrow a democratically elected Chavez and nearly destroyed the country’s oil industry and armed forced…So Venezuela is supposed to lie prone and give up defending itself? Which country escalates aggression FIRST, Mr Birns? It ain’t the poor one, I guarantee.

Your mission and vision may be commendable, Mr. Birns, but I notice that your staff sorely lacks a weightier Latin presence. No sweat. Your information is discounted in an inverse proportion…at least by those who have a bit more background and sensitivity than your own staff.

Truly yours,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Regarding COHA's March 15 Report: "A Constructive Plot to Return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba in the Near Future"

“The grant of the foregoing Article [regarding the leasing of Guantanamo] shall include the right to use and occupy the waters adjacent to said areas of land and water, and to improve and deepen the entrances thereto and the anchorages therein, and generally to do any and all things necessary to fit the premises for use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose.” Article II of the Agreement Between the United States and Cuba for the Lease of Lands for Coaling and Naval stations; February 23, 1903.

Washington may be Losing its Right, let Alone its Political Ability to Maintain its Control over Guantanamo
The Bush administration has made several declarations expressing its willingness to help Cuba make a smooth transition to a Washington-approved “democracy,” achieved through a “soft landing.” This transition would take effect upon Fidel Castro’s death or complete incapacitation (taking note of the Cuba leader’s botched operation and subsequent reports of his fragile health). However, one complex issue that is only now being raised is the judicial basis for the U.S.-occupied naval base at Guantanamo.

The facility, which fell under a U.S. leasehold for more than a century has again returned to the headlines with the confession made by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that he was the Al-Qaeda operative in command of the September 11 2001 operations. He admitted to the 9/11 terror attacks during a U.S. military hearing on Saturday, according to an edited transcript of the hearing released by the Pentagon on Wednesday. But even more ominous is the concern being voiced by at least one analyst close to the Bush White House that as result of several statements by relatively pro-U.S. Latin American leaders who stressed to President Bush their insistence that the U.S. should recognize the full sovereignty of Latin America nations, Washington could be faced with mounting demands throughout the hemisphere that Guantanamo – the symbol of 19th century gunboat diplomacy practiced by the Washington during the period– be returned to Cuba.

Full article...

~To the COHA Research Staff who prepared the excellent article on return of Guantanamo Bay to Cuba:

The Article is well written and well researched. I enjoyed reading it, and agree with most of your conclusions. I would loved to have had it available ten years ago when I was researching background for my novel on post Castro Cuba published last year [Havana Passage].

China is not mentioned in your Article. Yet China now has operational control of the Panama Canal as well as our old military bases there, and is busy staking it's claim to a vast supply of raw materials in Latin America, materials it knows will be needed as the Chinese economy expands.

China needs eventually to establish a military presence in the Atlantic, for logistic and political purposes. What better place than Guantanamo Bay?

When we gave up control of the Panama Canal we should have persuaded Panama to place operation of the Canal under an international trust. We were not so careful.

I would hope in the case of Guantanamo, when the time comes, we'll at least retain an internationally recognized right of first refusal should Cuba decide to cede control over the port to any foreign power at any time in the future.