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Posted on on December 19th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

Obama Finally Acts Like a Nobel Laureate.

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News

18 December 2014

Normalizing relations with Cuba was an act worthy of consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The diplomatic thaw can lead to more peace and justice if it is the first step. The most important move that can be made would be to lift the cruel and unjust embargo against Cuba. For over 50 years the embargo has made a poor country poorer.

The failed policy has not weakened the Castro Government, instead it has exacerbated poverty in what was one of the most vibrant economies prior to the Cuban Revolution.

According to the Smithsonian: “By the late ’50s, U.S. financial interests included 90 percent of Cuban mines, 80 percent of its public utilities, 50 percent of its railways, 40 percent of its sugar production and 25 percent of its bank deposits – some $1 billion in total. American influence extended into the cultural realm, as well. Cubans grew accustomed to the luxuries of American life. They drove American cars, owned TVs, watched Hollywood movies and shopped at Woolworth’s department store. The youth listened to rock and roll, learned English in school, adopted American baseball and sported American fashions.”

For the Cuban elite and American investors all was great. But for many in Cuba, the resources were concentrated in the hands of an elite class that was enjoying life with their partners, the American Robber Barons. The inequality led to the Cuban Revolution. When the Batista regime fell and American-owned resources were nationalized by Castro, the capitalists in Washington decided that they would do all they could to make sure the revolution failed.

The Cuba policy reminds me of the Republican strategy for dealing with Barack Obama’s presidency. They did everything they could to make sure more Americans would suffer and blame the President for their pain.

The US embargo on Cuba was designed to inflict pain on the Cuban people and force them into regime change.

Regime change never came. Some would argue that the embargo helped Fidel Castro unite the Cuban people against the “real” boogeyman in Washington.

President Obama, while not fully lifting the embargo, did make some moves that will increase commerce between the two nations. While these actions should be applauded, we must be vigilant. A return to the day when Cuba’s economy is dominated by US corporations is not what the Cuban people need. Exploitation is not the answer, but if you listen to Obama’s cabinet it may be exactly what they seek.

In a statement released by the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry said: “This new course will not be without challenges, but it is based not on a leap of faith but on a conviction that it’s the best way to help bring freedom and opportunity to the Cuban people, and to promote America’s national security interests in the Americas, including greater regional stability and economic opportunities for American businesses.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said: “These historic actions by the President chart a new course for our country’s relationship with Cuba and its people. It will improve the lives of millions and will help spur long overdue economic and political reform across the country. Expanding economic engagement between the Cuban people and the American business community will be a powerful catalyst that will strengthen human rights and the rule of law.”

So buyer beware, while increased economic activity between the United States and Cuba could be a good thing, we must make sure it does’t lead to more exploitation by Cuba’s powerful neighbor.

President Obama said in Cuba yesterday: “There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 – just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.”

Those differences have hardened for many Cuban Americans, but at the same time younger Cubans living in the United States support the president’s actions. They are the future, voices of hope and reconciliation. Let’s not listen to the voices of the past, being amplified by politicians like Marco Rubio who I am convinced express the view of an ideological fraction of the Cuban American community that will soon become the minority.

If we follow the direction the Obama administration is taking on Cuba, one day liberal Cuban politicians will start prevailing in South Florida and extremists like Marco Rubio will be out of office.

In a statement on Cuban television, Raul Castro called on President Obama to lift the embargo through executive action. Many are saying it will require an act of Congress. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait on the “just say no” Congress – since this policy was initiated by Obama, we know they will do everything they can to reverse it.

The Cuban and American people are pawns in the GOP’s political strategy. They will continue to do everything they can to make sure the Cuban and American people suffer, in hopes that they will blame the Castros and Obama. Let’s instead support the president’s Cuban policy and point the finger at the cruel politics of the Republican Party.

Scott Galindez was formerly the co-founder of Truthout.


Republicans were quick on Wednesday to accuse President Obama of appeasing our nation’s adversaries and showing weakness.

“First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba: One More Very Bad Deal Brokered by the Obama Administration,” blared the subject line of a release from Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) office.

“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of this administration continuing to show the rest of the world and dangerous leaders like those in Iran and North Korea that the United States is willing to appease them,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said.

“It is par for the course with an administration that is constantly giving away unilateral concessions, whether it’s Iran or in this case Cuba, in exchange for nothing, and that’s what’s happening here,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Fox News.

But there’s one very important way in which Cuba differs from all of these other bad actors on the world stage. And it’s this: Americans aren’t scared of Cuba — like barely even a little bit.

Despite Cuba’s proximity to the United States (about 90 miles from Florida) and its alliance with other antagonistic countries like North Korea and Russia, Americans have grown progressively less and less concerned that the island country actually poses a threat to the United States.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this year, in fact, showed that just 5 percent of people viewed Cuba as a “very serious threat” and 21 percent said it was a “moderately serious threat.” Another 72 percent said it wasn’t a threat at all or “just a slight threat.”

Back in 1983, two-thirds of Americans viewed Cuba as at least a “moderately serious threat,” but that numbers has fallen steadily since then.

In addition, Cuba today simply can’t be compared to the likes of Iran, Russia, North Korea and the others as far as the threat it poses. Seven in 10 Americans say each of those countries poses at a least a “moderately serious threat,” compared to 26 percent for Cuba.

As President Obama makes his case that normalizing relations with Cuba is a good idea, this is a major factor working in his favor. As long as Americans aren’t afraid of Cuba, they will likely be more accepting of a diplomatic relationship.

It’s no coincidence, after all, that the sharp decrease in fear of Cuba has coincided with a sharp rise in support for diplomacy.


Obama secures Latin legacy

World leaders have welcomed a historic move by the US to end more than 50 years of hostility towards Cuba and restore diplomatic relations.

Pope Francis joined leaders from Latin America and Europe in praising the “historic” deal which saw the release of prisoners from both countries.

US-Cuba relations: Global praise for normalization of ties.

The BBC News, December 18, 2014…


Op-Ed Columnist – The New York Times, December 18, 2014
Welcome Back, Cuba!

Sending in gunmen to liberate the Bay of Pigs failed, but perhaps we’ll do better with diplomats, tourists and investors.

Op-Ed Contributor – The New York Times, December 18, 2014
Hectoring Venezuela on Human Rights

Instead of punishing my country, the U.S. should check its own record.



Posted on on March 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

FROM COHA – The Washington DC based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Photo Source: AP. Photo Source: AP.


By: Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs; Frederick B. Mills, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University.

At a time when Washington ought to seize upon overtures from Caracas for the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations and direct talks, the champions of the antiquated embargo against Cuba in the Senate are calling for sanctions against Venezuela. Such an approach to diplomacy with Venezuela would be detrimental to the development of a more constructive and mutually respectful US policy towards the region. Now is the time for a Washington—Caracas dialog, not sanctions.


Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have introduced a proposed resolution in the Senate that would call on the Obama administration to study sanctions against Venezuela. The sanctions would be aimed at punishing “the violent repression suffered by pacific protesters” by targeting individual Venezuelan government officials. Of course, any state actors responsible for the repression of pacific demonstrations ought to be held accountable not only in Venezuela, but anywhere in the world. Indeed, the Venezuelan government is already taking steps to address this. The problem with the resolution is that it reflects a very myopic view of political violence in that nation. It also reflects an unproductive approach to diplomacy towards Venezuela as well as the region.


Not all demonstrations have been pacific. A significant amount of the violent demonstrations are ostensively anti- government.  The “exit” strategy being sought after by the ultra-right in Venezuela has generated violent anti-government demonstrations that have called for regime change through extra constitutional means. In other words, through a coup or by creating the escalating violence on the ground that might provoke a coup or an international intervention.


No doubt opposition demonstrators are not a homogeneous group and many prescribe to non-violent means of protesting. Yet it is indisputable that elements of anti-government protests, using the slogans of “exit,” have deployed incendiary bombs, rocks, guns, barricades, wire, and other instruments of violence against government and public property as well as people, resulting in injuries and death. But those who have resorted to violence are most often portrayed in the press as responding to repression, as if the government has no legitimate recourse in response to violent attacks on persons and property. To be sure, violence is generally condemned by the State Department, but accountability is selectively applied predominantly to government actors.


The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has been calling for a change of course in US policy towards Venezuela and the rest of the region based on mutual respect and dialog, not imperial intervention and subordination.

It was Caracas that instigated the tit for tat after the expulsion of consular officials, and COHA called the expulsion of US consular officials into question at the time. But now President Maduro has proposed a new ambassador to the US and direct talks with the Obama administration. The State Department has also, on occasion, expressed an openness to rapprochement, so now is the time to seize the moment, not wait to see which way the political winds will blow in Venezuela.


There is obviously a great ideological divide between nations that prescribe to some version of neoliberalism and those engaging in various experiments in 21st century socialism. Yet such differences need not translate into either hard or soft wars. At the January CELAC meeting in Cuba, the member states, despite their political differences, figured out a way to declare all of Latin America a region of peace and mutual respect. Meanwhile, there is a national peace conference underway in Caracas, called by the government, that commenced two days ago and includes an increasingly broad spectrum of opinion in the opposition, and seeks to overcome the boycott of the MUD.  This will take a pull back against war and for political competition through the ballot box.


Surely, in this context, there is room for Washington-Caracas diplomacy. Rather than impose sanctions on Venezuela, Washington ought to accept the proposed Venezuelan ambassador and enter into a dialog with Caracas based on mutual respect and the common goal of regional peace and human development.

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution.



Posted on on February 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


“A Mutable Feast”- Batch of Hemingway Ephemera From Cuba Is Digitized.



A passport is part of a new digitized collection of some 2,500 items from Hemingway’s onetime home near Havana. Ernest Hemingway Papers Collection, Museum Ernest Hemingway, Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba


BOSTON — Ernest Hemingway was a hoarder. His own prose style may have been spare and economical, but he was unable to part with the words, printed or written, of just about anyone else. According to his fourth wife, Mary, he was incapable of throwing away “anything but magazine wrappers and three-year old newspapers.” A trove of some 2,500 documents collected and preserved at Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s farm outside Havana, and now digitized and newly available at the Hemingway Collection in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum here, includes diaries, letters, lists, telegrams, insurance policies, bank statements, passports, tickets to bullfights and the Longchamp racecourse in Paris, a brochure from a swimming pool filter company, a page of his son Patrick’s homework and seemingly every Christmas card Hemingway ever received.

“Was he a pack rat? Absolutely, absolutely,” Susan Wrynn, the curator of the Hemingway Collection, said last week. “We can only be grateful. But if you had to live with it, it would drive you crazy.”

The digitized copies, which arrived last year, are the second big delivery of Hemingway material to the collection. An earlier batch in 2008 contained many more letters and some important manuscripts, including an alternate ending for “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

“There’s no real bombshell in the new material,” said Sandra Spanier, an English professor at Pennsylvania State University and the general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project. “The value is in the texture of dailiness, the way it rounds out our picture of Hemingway.” She added: “Hemingway didn’t know when he left Cuba that he was never coming back. His shoes are still there. It’s as if he just stepped out for a moment.”

Hemingway lived at Finca Vigía, or Lookout Farm, from 1939 until 1960 — the longest he lived anywhere — and its 15 acres were probably the place where he felt most at home. He left in July 1960, traveled to Spain and then, in very poor health, returned to America. After a brief stay in New York, he moved to Ketchum, Idaho, where in July 1961, suffering from alcoholism, writer’s block and the aftereffects of two African plane crashes in 1954, he took his own life.

A ticket and telegram from the collection. Ernest Hemingway Papers Collection, Museum Ernest Hemingway, Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba


After the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, when relations between the United States and Cuba couldn’t have been worse, President John F. Kennedy quietly arranged for Mary Hemingway to travel to Havana and meet with Fidel Castro. The two struck a deal whereby Mrs. Hemingway was allowed to take papers and paintings out of the country and, in return, gave Finca Vigía and its remaining contents to the Cuban people.

The Cuban government had little money for restoration, however, and for decades left the house more or less as it was, a tropical Miss Havisham’s, with a Glenn Miller record on the phonograph, the labels on the half-full Cinzano bottles fading in the sun, the roof leaking, the floors buckling. The remaining papers were moved to the basement, accompanied by a single overworked dehumidifier.

This decline was arrested, starting in 2005, thanks largely to the efforts of the Finca Vigía Foundation, started by Jenny Phillips, the granddaughter of Maxwell Perkins, Hemingway’s longtime editor. The foundation also helped arrange for the scanning and preservation of the documents. The preservationists are all American-trained Cubans, and they have gone about their work with more zeal than discernment: The new material includes, for example, dozens of blank sheets of airmail stationery printed with the Hemingway address.

Stamps on one of Hemingway’s passports. Ernest Hemingway Papers Collection, Museum Ernest Hemingway, Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba


Letters and telegrams are sometimes filed under the sender’s first name, sometimes the last, and apparently no effort has been made to single out important papers from lesser ones. In the middle of a folder mostly dedicated to Christmas cards is a 1952 letter from the critic Malcolm Cowley in which, flouting the usual conventions of reviewer confidentiality, he tells Hemingway that he has been asked by The Herald Tribune to write about “The Old Man and the Sea,” and leaves little doubt about what he is going to say: “ ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is pretty marvelous — the old man is marvelous, the sea is, too, and so is the fish.”

But the very randomness of this material — a telegram from Archibald MacLeish congratulating Hemingway on “For Whom the Bell Tolls” turns up with Mary Hemingway’s carefully typed hamburger recipes — turns out to be part of its appeal, its reminder that this is how lives are lived, haphazardly.

That Hemingway loved being famous is amply demonstrated here by the scrapbook he kept of congratulatory telegrams he received in October 1954 after winning the Nobel Prize. From Ingrid Bergman: “THE SWEDES ARENT SO DUMB AFTER ALL.” From Toots Shor: “WE LIFTED A FEW TO YOU ALL DAY KEEP DRINKING.”

The several Hemingway passports, besides providing a photographic timeline of him as his hair and mustache go white, attest to his restlessness and wanderlust. So does extensive correspondence with an automobile association about how to ship his Buick Roadmaster from Europe to Havana to the United States.

A gun license granted by the Cuban authorities in 1950. Ernest Hemingway Papers Collection, Museum Ernest Hemingway, Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba


There are logs he kept aboard the Pilar, his beloved fishing yacht, and a 1943 note from the American naval attaché in Cuba authorizing him to use some experimental radio apparatus, a reminder that during the war, when he wasn’t chasing after marlin and tarpon, Hemingway was supposed to be on the lookout for German subs.

Some of the most interesting papers, however, belonged to Hemingway’s wife. There is extensive correspondence with Maison Glass, an exporter of luxury foods on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, from which she ordered things like fancy olives, turtle soup and French snails, and with the Conard-Pyle Company, a Pennsylvania nursery from which she ordered plants and got advice about how to grow roses in the Cuban climate.

The impression you get is of someone extremely disciplined and well organized. It’s reinforced by a notebook, probably from before the war, when she was a Paris correspondent for The London Daily Express, listing page after page after page of French vocabulary and nuances of French expression.

Apparently from the same period are a couple of mash notes. In one, addressed to “Hepsibah” or “Hepsey,” the writer has apparently been shopping and noticed a new display of sweaters: “And they are sumptuous, Hepsey. … To remember your sweaters and how they suit you … Your bosom under sweaters, blessed bosom, blessed haven.” Ms. Spanier believes that both messages were written not by Hemingway but by a newspaperman named Herb Clark, an old flame of Mary’s in the Paris days.

According to Ms. Wrynn, Mrs. Hemingway, while packing up papers to take back to America, also burned many. Were these Paris notes ones she overlooked, or ones she couldn’t bear to part with? We’ll probably never know.

We may also never know for sure the reason for some numbered notes Hemingway penciled to himself, probably in 1958. Ms. Spanier thinks they are arguments for why he should be allowed to rework some stories from the ‘30s that Esquire wanted to republish 25 years later in an anniversary anthology. They also read like all-purpose writing advice.

“You can phrase things clearer and better,” one note says. The next: “You can remove words which are unnecessary and tighten up your prose.”


Posted on on January 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

 Questions for the European Left   by Pilar Rahola in The Guardian.
brought to our attention by a Canadian cousin who is very proud of Canada’s position on the Middle East – as expressed by its Prime Minister Harper’s recent visit to Jerusalem.


Dr. Pilar Rahola i Martínez is a Spanish journalist, writer (writes also for the Guardian – the paper we honor most) a former politician and Member of Parliament. 

Rahola studied Spanish and Catalan Philology at the Universitad de Barcelona. A Spanish Catholic leftist that denounces the anti Israel wave for its antisemitism – which is not socially acceptable  correct diplomacy anymore, but says anti Israel is the same – but seemingly the more accepted course to go.

Quite a lady.  What she writes is more impressive because she is NOT Jewish.  Her articles are published in Spain and in some of the most important newspapers in Latin America.

 Questions for the European Left   by Pilar Rahola

Why don’t we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris , Barcelona ? 

Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship? 

Why aren’t there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection? 

Why aren’t there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs where there is conflict with Islam? 

Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan ? 

Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel ? 

Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism? 

Why don’t they defend Israel’s right to exist? 

Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism? 

And finally, the million dollar question: Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, who have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn’t care. 

And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro-Palestinian European forum I hear the left yelling with fervor: “We want freedom for the people!” 

Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria or Yemen or Iran or Sudan, or other such nations. And they are never  preoccupied when Hamas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press. 

The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don’t inform, they propagandize. 

When reporting about Israel, the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so, any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel that there aren’t any accusations left to level against her. 

At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel, the indoctrination of children, and the corruption of the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain. 

And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: “Our friends are the people of Iran, Libya and Venezuela, oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel .” 

In another example, the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nabka Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust. 

Or in my native city of Barcelona, the city council decided to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, by having a Week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70’s and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel . 

This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of President Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the lunatic left, and onissues of the Middle East, he is unequivocally pro-Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East , and the policies of Foreign Minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it’s a symbol. 

Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they
Kill us with cell phones hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages. And yet the Spanish left is the most anti-Israeli in the world. 

And then it says it is anti-Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.


I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not anti-Israeli like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the Historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel .

To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews. 
As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated to defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles. 
Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say, that as a non-Jew, journalist and lefty, I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too. 
The struggle of Israel, even if the world doesn’t want to accept it, is the struggle of the world.


Posted on on December 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Yes – a most important outside reason for going to the Memorial for Mandela in Johannesburg was to make a public display out of the US effort to do right to its Southern Subcontinent starting with its largest democracy – Brazil.

Then, as I doubt it was mere coincidence, Obama also shook the hand of Brother Raul Castro. Fareed Zakaria observed these public happenings on his CNN/Global Public Square today.

Both events could have real consequences if followed up by the Administration. It was insane to tape Dilma Rousseff’s phone – now she is Prime Minister of Brazil but once was a Member of a National  Communist Party – like every dissent person was in those days  – including Nelson Mandela. But those days are gone – all what is left is a National reluctance to submit to US CIA-enhanced Capitalism that fights democracies world-wide.

The Castro’s are a different matter. What has been is passe – but what is now is a possible opening to Cuba with an honest effort to brig the Island-State to the fold of democracies, and as shown on TV in Johannesburg Raul is hoping for Dilma’s help. The US is closer by so it could actually be a tripartite cause that proves to Dilma that the US President is not just an occasional kisser.

And further – you convince Dilma and Angela Merkel of Germany as well, that a post-Bush era is started in Washington by giving full AMNESTY to Mr. Snowden who was the first to give them evidence that the bosses in Washington do not trust them – something that is not done among friends. And if it is done so these are clearly not regarded as  friends and Raul gets vindicated if he might insist on making his island into a future Chinese base – just an idea.

We just found that another swallow showed up in Washington – or was this a trained pigeon-carrier? We continue by re-posting it and hope it was not just a trial balloon to be shot down by right-wing Republicans with old-time Sugar-planting and cigar smoking Cubans of Miami friends.


NSA Official Offers Amnesty Deal to Edward Snowden

By Agence France-Presse, 15 December 2013

National Security Agency official said in an interview released Friday that he would be open to cutting an amnesty deal with intelligence leaker Edward Snowden if he agreed to stop divulging secret documents.

Related Stories

Rick Ledgett, who heads the NSA’s task force investigating the damage from the Snowden leaks, told CBS television’s “60 Minutes” program that some but not all of his colleagues share his view.

“My personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about” a possible deal, said Ledgett, according to excerpts of the interview due to air Sunday.

But Snowden would have to provide firm assurances that the remaining documents would be secured.

“My bar for those assurances would be very high… more than just an assertion on his part,” said Ledgett.

Snowden, a former intelligence contractor for the NSA, has been charged with espionage by US authorities for divulging reams of secret files.

He has secured asylum in Russia and insisted he spilled secrets to spark public debate and expose the NSA’s far-reaching surveillance.

But NSA chief General Keith Alexander rejects the idea of any amnesty for Snowden.

“This is analogous to a hostage-taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10 and then say ‘You give me full amnesty and I’ll let the other 40 go,'” Alexander told “60 Minutes.”

Alexander said an amnesty deal would set a dangerous precedent for any future leakers.

The four-star general, who is due to retire next year, also said he offered his resignation after the leak but that it was not accepted by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Snowden reportedly stole 1.7 million classified documents and Ledgett said he “wouldn’t dispute” that figure.

About 58,000 of the documents taken by Snowden have been passed to news media outlets, according to the editor of Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

The CBS report also said an NSA analyst had discovered malware designed in China that could “destroy” infected computers.

NSA Information Assurance Director Debora Plunkett said the weapon was called the “Bios Plot,” after the key component in computers that performs basic steps such as turning on the operating system.

The malware was supposed to be disguised as an update for software, and after the user clicked on it, a virus would turn their computer into “a brick,” Plunkett said.

If launched, “Think about the impact of that across the entire globe,” she said. “It could literally take down the US economy.”

The NSA spoke with computer manufacturers to preempt the possible effect of the malware.


Posted on on July 17th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

From The US Department of State.

Migration Talks with Cuba.

Press Statement
Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 17, 2013

On Wednesday, July 17, U.S. and Cuban officials met in Washington to discuss the implementation of the 1994 and 1995 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords. This marks the first time since January 2011 that these periodic talks have been held.

Under the Accords, both governments pledge to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States. The agenda for the talks reflected longstanding U.S. priorities on Cuba migration issues.

The U.S. delegation highlighted areas of successful cooperation in migration, including advances in aviation safety and visa processing, while also identifying actions needed to ensure that the goals of the Accords are fully met, especially those having to do with safeguarding the lives of intending immigrants.

The U.S. delegation reiterated its call for the immediate release of Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Cuba since December 3, 2009, solely for trying to facilitate communications between Cuba’s citizens and the rest of the world.

The U.S. delegation was led by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Alex Lee and the Cuban delegation was led by the Foreign Ministry’s Director General for U.S. Affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro.


Posted on on December 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Oscar Niemeyer – the architect who signed off the UN Headquarter building that is now in the process of its first renovation – died in Rio de Janeiro December 5, 2012 at 10 days short of 105 years of age.

He gave Brasílian Architecture Its Flair – tall buildings and curves. Earlier this year, Niemeyer supervised the renovation of the iconic Sambadrome, the “temple of Samba” which he designed 30 years ago, and where the raucous parades of Rio’s Carnival are held each year. He also had worked on building Brasilia – the capital of Brazil while standing up for the communist party of Brazil.

The Brazilian Congress in Brasilia, designed by Oscar Niemeyer (AFP/File, Evaristo Sa)

Major news today – in all media – is the passing away of Master Builder Niemeyer of Brazil. It first came to my attention in a great  article in the New York Times written by a past architectural critic of his.

Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho –  known as Oscar Niemeyer – lived in his beloved Rio de Janeiro  (December 15, 1907 – December 5, 2012)  was one of six children of a typographer and his wife.  His father owned a graphic arts business, and a grandfather was a judge on the country’s supreme court.  A precocious talent, Mr. Niemeyer was trained at the National School of Fine Arts, where he soon drew the attention of its dean, Lucio Costa. Costa was at the center of a small group of architects working to bring the message of Modernist architecture to Brazil.

The timing was ideal. Costa was then designing the Ministry of Education and Health’s headquarters in Rio, and he invited Mr. Niemeyer to join his firm as a draftsman. In 1936, the ministry hired the Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier to contribute ideas for the design. Le Corbusier was already a legend in architecture, and the building would become the first major public project by a Modernist architect in Latin America.

Mr. Niemeyer, one of several draftsmen assigned to the project, absorbed Le Corbusier’s vision of a modern world shaped by the myth of the machine, and drew on the master’s belief in an architecture of abstract forms enlivened by a sensitive use of light and air.

But Mr. Niemeyer was also a self-confident apprentice with a vision of his own; under Costa’s supervision, he made significant changes to Le Corbusier’s scheme. The columns supporting the building’s main office block were more than doubled in height, giving the structure a more slender profile. An auditorium that Le Corbusier had envisioned as a separate structure was tucked under the office block, creating a more compact urban composition.

Shielded from the sun behind rows of elegant baffles, the building had a clean, stripped-down style that made it a sparkling example of classical Modernism while heralding Brazil’s emergence as a vibrant center of experimentation.

Mr. Niemeyer’s name soon became synonymous with the new Brazilian architecture. In 1939, he collaborated with Costa on the Brazilian Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair. Three years later, he completed his first house, a simple modern box resting on slender columns on a mountainside overlooking the magnificent Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon. In these and other early projects, Mr. Niemeyer was beginning to develop a distinctive architecture of flowing lines, structural lightness and an open relationship to natural surroundings.

At the same time, he was becoming politically outspoken. Reared in a quiet upper-middle-class Rio neighborhood by his maternal grandparents, Mr. Niemeyer joined the Communist Party.

When the Brazilian government released hundreds of political prisoners, including Communists, as a gesture of good will in the 1940s, Mr. Niemeyer turned over the first floor of his Rio office to the party for use as a headquarters. To him, architecture’s social impact had its limits. “Architecture will always express the technical and social progress of the country in which it is carried out,” he once said. “If we wish to give it the human content that it lacks, we must participate in the political struggle.”

Yet the project that established him as a major architectural force was essentially a playground for the nouveaux riches in a wealthy suburb on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, an industrial city. Commissioned in 1940 by a local mayor, Juscelino Kubitschek, who later, as president of Brazil, would hire Mr. Niemeyer to design Brasília’s major buildings, the project included a casino, a yacht club, a dance hall and a church arrayed around an artificial lake.

The casino was particularly striking. A concrete-and-glass shell, it was conceived as part of an architectural promenade that fused the complex with the natural landscape. The dance hall was distinguished by its free-form canopy made of cast concrete, its contours meant to suggest the flowing movements of the samba.

That project never functioned as planned. The casino was transformed into an art museum soon after gambling was outlawed by the Brazilian government in 1946. And the Roman Catholic authorities were offended by the church’s unusual curved concrete form and refused to consecrate it until 1959.

The complex’s bold, sweeping lines and snaking walkways, gently echoing the surrounding hills, suggested a subliminal hedonism that was at odds with the public’s image of mainstream Modernism as determinedly functional and emotionally cool. The design also heralded Mr. Niemeyer’s war against the straight line, whose rigidity he saw as a kind of authoritarian constraint.



Mr. Niemeyer’s international status was confirmed by the Brazil Builds exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1943, a show that also introduced his work to an American audience. Four years later, he joined Le Corbusier again, this time as an equal, when the two were selected to take part in designing the United Nations complex in Manhattan.

Supervised by Wallace K. Harrison, the United Nations design was a collaboration that also included international luminaries like the Soviet architect Nikolai D. Bassov and Max Abramovitz of New York. The final design was a compromise of sorts between Mr. Niemeyer’s concepts and those of his aging idol Le Corbusier and its final signature was by Oscar Niemeyer.

Set amid gardens and plazas, the slim, glass-clad Secretariat tower and the sculptural concrete General Assembly building remain testaments to the belief in rationalism as a means to resolve international disputes and disparities.

The United Nations Headquarters complex was constructed in New York City in 1949–1950 beside the East River, on 17 acres (69,000 m2) of land purchased from the foremost New York real estate developer of the time, William ZeckendorfNelson Rockefeller arranged this purchase, after an initial offer to locate it on the Rockefeller family estate of Kykuit was rejected as being too isolated from Manhattan. The US$8.5 million purchase was then funded by his father,  John D. Rockefeller, Jr.,  who donated it to the city. The lead architect for the building was the real estate firm of Wallace Harrison, the personal architectural adviser for the Rockefeller family.
and a board of design consultants was nominated by member governments. The board consisted of N. D. Bassov of the Soviet UnionGaston Brunfaut (Belgium),  Ernest Cormier (Canada),  Le Corbusier (France),  Liang Seu-cheng (China),  Sven Markelius (Sweden),  Oscar Niemeyer (Brazil),  Howard Robertson (United Kingdom),  G. A. Soilleux (Australia),  and Julio Vilamajó (Uruguay). Le Corbusier and Niemeyer together submitted the scheme which was built and is what can be seen brfore the remodeling that goes on now. The building was occupied in 1952.

The – History of the Le Corbusier – Niemeyer cooperation:  Right after his arrival in New York, Niemeyer met Corbusier on his demands. He requested Niemeyer not to submit a scheme, but rather to collaborate with him on a project, on the basis that he could ‘create a commotion’. It was Wallace Harrison who tried to convince Niemeyer to move on his own.

50 designs were evaluated by the team, and Niemeyer’s project 32 was finally chosen. As opposed to Corbusier’s project 23, which consisted of one building containing both the Assembly Hall and the councils in the centre of the site (as it was hierarchically the most important building), Niemeyer’s plan split the councils from the Assembly Hall, locating the first alongside the river, and the second on the right side of the secretariat. This would not split the site, but on the contrary, would create a large civic square. George Dudley latter stated:

It literally took our breath away to see the simple plane of the site kept open from First Avenue to the River, only three structures on it, standing free, a fourth lying low behind them along the river’s edge. …He [Niemeyer] also said, ‘beauty will come from the buildings being in the right space!’. The comparison between Le Corbusier’s heavy block and Niemeyer’s startling, elegantly articulated composition seem to me to be in everyone’s mind…

Latter on the day, Corbusier came once again to Niemeyer, and asked him to reposition the Assembly Hall back to the centre of the site. Such modification would destroy Niemeyer’s plans for a large civic square. However, he finally decided to accept the modification:

I felt he [Corbusier] would like to do his project, and he was the master. I do not regret my decision.

Together, they submitted the scheme 23–32, which was built and is what can be seen today.

Oscar Niemeyer in the 1950s

UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in front of the General Assembly building (1950s)



In his designs for Brasília, the capital city built in the vast undeveloped lands of the Brazil’s central region, Mr. Niemeyer got the opportunity to create his own poetic vision of the future on a monumental scale.

The city’s cross-shaped master plan, with repetitive rows of housing set around a formal administrative center, was designed by Costa, Mr. Niemeyer’s old mentor. But it was Mr. Niemeyer who gave Brasília its sculptural identity.

Slide Show – A Legendary Modernist

The speed with which the city was created, between 1956 and 1960, reinforced its image as a utopian dream that had sprouted magically out of a primitive landscape. Its crisp, abstract forms seemed to sum up the aspirations of much of the developing world: the belief that modern architecture and the faith in technological progress that it embodied could help create a more egalitarian society.

Arranged along a vast, grassy esplanade, Mr. Niemeyer’s buildings acquire a certain grandeur in their isolation. The most spectacular is the Metropolitan Cathedral, a circular, crownlike structure that splays open at the top to let light spill into the main sanctuary.

Yet much of Brasília’s beauty lay in an architectural balancing act. The simple twin towers of its secretariat, for example, play off the geometric bowl-like forms of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. The entire complex suggests a world in perfect harmony, even if the politicians and bureaucrats who work there are not. The languorous sensuality of Mr. Niemeyer’s designs are underscored in early sketches for Brasília. They often depict naked young women sunbathing on a vast empty plaza as his buildings recede in the background. It’s an image of romantic alienation that has more in common with the films of Michelangelo Antonioni than with the utopian aspirations of early Modernism.

“For me,” Mr. Niemeyer said years later, “beauty is valued more than anything — the beauty that is manifest in a curved line or in an act of creativity.”

Brasília was considered his greatest triumph, but he had little time to glory in it. In 1964, after a coup put the country in the hands of a military dictatorship, he was repeatedly questioned by the military police about his Communist associations. Although he was never imprisoned, commissions dried up.



With the generals in charge of Brazil and the anti-communism rampant in the US, he could work by proxy or limit himself to communism in Western Europe. He was chosen to design a business center on Claughton Island near Miami. But the United States, still in the grip of the cold war, denied him a visa. (Around the same time, he also designed a house in Santa Monica, Calif., one he never saw.)

Unable to find work in Brazil, Mr. Niemeyer fled to Europe, where he received commissions to design the Communist Party headquarters in Paris, completed in 1980, and the House of Culture in Le Havre, France (1982), with its low conical dome and a spectacular concrete ramp corkscrewing into the earth.

Modernism was by then falling out of favor with the architectural establishment. Brasília soon became a symbol of Modernism’s failure to deliver on its utopian promises. The vast empty plazas seemed to sum up the social alienation of modern society; surrounded by slums, the monumental government buildings of its center exemplified Brazil’s deeply rooted social inequalities.

Mr. Niemeyer addressed the criticism in a profile by the critic Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times Magazine in 2005. “You may not like Brasília,” he told Mr. Kimmelman, “but you can’t say you have seen anything like it — you maybe saw something better, but not the same. I prefer Rio, even with the robberies. What can you do?” He added: “But people who live in Brasília, to my surprise, don’t want to leave it. Brasília works. There are problems. But it works. And from my perspective, the ultimate task of the architect is to dream. Otherwise nothing happens.”

In 1965 Niemeyer  traveled to France for an exhibition in the Louvre museum.In 1966, at 59, he moved to Paris – he travelled to the city of Tripoli, Lebanon, to design the International Permanent Exhibition Centre. Despite completing construction, the start of the civil war in Lebanon prevented it from achieving its utility.

He opened an office on the Champs-Élysées, and had customers in diverse countries, especially in Algeria where he designed the University of Science and Technology-Houari Boumediene. In Paris he created the headquarters of the French Communist Party, Place du Colonel Fabien, and in Italy that of the Mondadori publishing company.
In Funchal on Madeira, a 19th-century hotel was removed to build a casino by Niemeyer.

The Brazilian dictatorship lasted until 1985. Under João Figueiredo‘s rule it softened and gradually turned into a democracy.  At this time Niemeyer decided to return to his country. During that decade he made the Memorial Juscelino Kubitschek (1980), the Pantheon (Panteão da Pátria e da Liberdade Tancredo Neves Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom, 1985) and the Latin America Memorial (1987) (dubbed by The Independent of London to be “…an incoherent and vulgar construction”). The memorial sculpture represents the wounded hand of Jesus, whose wound bleeds in the shape of Central and South America.

In 1988, at 81, Niemeyer was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award in architecture. From 1992 to 1996, Niemeyer was the president of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). As a lifelong activist, Niemeyer was chosen as a powerful public figure that could be linked to the party at a time when it appeared to be in its death throes after the demise of the USSR. Although not active as a political leader, his image helped the party to survive through its crisis, after the 1992 split and to remain as a political force in the national scene, which eventually led to its reconstruction. He was replaced by Zuleide Faria de Mello in 1996.



In 1964 – thus before he settled in Paris – Niemeyer spent six months in Israel where he was brought by developer Yekutiel Federman and as per HAARETZ of today –… – he  left behind at least two executed projects – the Kikar Hamedina  – the large round-about in what was then North-Tel Aviv, and  and the Haifa University, but the most interesting proposal was the planned city that was never built.

Niemeyer, who as a declared communist, was excited about the socialist settlements in Israel, and described the Negev city of his planning, undoubtedly with a certain amount of naivete, as “a new type of metropolitan kibbutz that grew, became broader and more up-to-date, without losing its human values – enthusiasm, solidarity and idealism.”

Niemeyer’s work in Israel is the subject of historical research conducted by the architect Zvi Elhayani for his master’s degree in architecture at the Technion. Among the central issues in the study, which Elhayani concluded last year, is an analysis of Niemeyer’s critical assessment of planning concepts in Israel. In Niemeyer’s proposal for the Negev city, Elhayani sees a clear expression of this critical outlook. According to the study, Niemeyer already identified the low and sparse construction in new cities, and multitude of small communities, as a mistake that Israel would pay for in the future with a loss of open spaces.

During his stay in Israel, which is described in detail in Elhayani’s study, Niemeyer toured the newly constructed cities in the Negev: Yeruham, Dimona, Kiryat Gat, Eilat and the new neighborhoods of Be’er Sheva. According to Elhayani, Niemeyer was impressed by the desert vistas and construction boom, but expressed his disappointment “from the spatial spread and wastefulness that characterized the new cities, and he began to formulate a completely different urban concept.”

The sketches for the new Negev city, as presented in Elhayani’s study, show that the city was planned as a compact and crowded community, where the residents could take a short walk of no more than 500 meters to get from their homes to their jobs, schools and places of entertainment. Covered and shaded walkways were planned along the roadways, with pedestrian traffic separated from vehicular traffic. Niemeyer declared that he was seeking “to create optimal conditions for people to communicate and appropriate environments for work, culture and recreation, with the help of technological advances.”

From the outset, Niemeyer was aware of the radical nature of his concept of the Negev city and the controversy it would stir in Israel. Still, he hoped that his plan would not be summarily rejected, “but rather would be stored for a time on the shelf and reexamined after a number of years … then I’m sure that the reasons we cite today will be accepted and it will be proven that this city is the inevitable result of progress, of technology and of the life force itself.”

Niemeyer’s plan envisioned a new city somewhere in the heart of the Negev, but no specific site was selected. A model of the plan, as presented at the time, was photographed on the Tel Aviv beach opposite the Dan Hotel, where Niemeyer stayed. Like most of his work in Israel, the Negev city was never built. Elhayani believes that its construction was unfeasible at the time for technological, cultural, social and economic reasons, and that even today it can only serve as an idea for critical review.

Nonetheless, Elhayani writes, the issues Niemeyer raised nearly 40 years ago are at the center of the debate on national planning in Israel today. The question of whether the Negev missed out on – or was saved from – Niemeyer’s ideas remains open.

The proposal by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in the 1960s to build a Negev city with 40 skyscrapers of 30 to 40 stories for tens of thousands of residents is the complete opposite of the settlement project for the Halutza dunes. While Nitzanit, Shlomit and other Halutza communities are planned to be built close to the ground, with low density and spread over a relatively large area per number of residents, Niemeyer’s utopian city was to be vertical, tall, crowded and succinct.

File:PikiWiki Israel 10862 Cities in Israel.jpg Haifa University

aerial view of kikar hamedina, tel aviv Kikar Hamedina, Tel Aviv



Mr. Niemeyer is survived by his wife, Vera Lúcia Cabreira, whom he married in 2006; four grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and six great-great-grandchildren, according to the newspaper O Globo. A daughter, Anna Maria, died this year at age 82, and his first wife, Annita Baldo, died in 2004, after 76 years of marriage.

Mr. Niemeyer lived long enough to see his international reputation recover and flourish.

After his return to Brazil in the early 1980s, his office was soon overflowing with new commissions.

At 89, his Museum of Contemporary Art in Niterói, near Rio, which opened in 1996, was celebrated for its bold saucer-shaped form. The building is cantilevered out from sheer rock hovered on a cliffside overlooking Guanabara Bay and the city of Rio de Janeiro.

A decade later, on his 99th birthday, he celebrated the opening of his National Museum and National Library along the Monumental Axis in Brasília, near his cathedral.

In his last years he e designed at least two more buildings in Brasilia, the Memorial dos Povos Indigenas (“Memorial for the Indigenous People”) and the Catedral Militar, Igreja de N.S. da Paz.

A growing number of people had begun to re-examine the legacy of postwar Modernism and appreciate his purist vision as a throwback to a more optimistic time.

In celebrating both the formal elements and social aims of architecture, his work became a symbolic reminder that the body and the mind, the sensual and the rational, are not necessarily in opposition. Yet he also saw sensuality and the brightness of dreams against a darker backdrop. “Humanity needs dreams to be able to survive the miseries of daily existence,” he once said, “even if only for an instant.”

MASTER BUILDER Mr. Niemeyer was among the last of Modernist true believers. More Photos »

Oscar Niemeyer in seinem Büro an der Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. Bauten des Architekten in einer Ansichtssache gibt es hier zu sehen. foto: reuters/moraes

A recent photo of Niemeyer looking out from a window in his office in Rio.

“Brazil lost today one of its geniuses,” Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, said in a statement issued Wednesday night.
“Few dreamed so intensely, and accomplished so much, as he did.”

Allied with the far left for most of his life, he suffered career setbacks during the rule of Brazil’s right-wing military dictatorships of the 1960s and ’70s, and he was barred from working in the United States during much of the cold war. As Modernism later came under attack for its sometimes dogmatic approach to history, his works were marginalized.

Still, Mr. Niemeyer never stopped working; he churned out major new projects through his 80s and 90s. And as the cold-war divide and architecture’s old ideological battles faded from memory in recent years, a younger generation began embracing his work, intrigued by the consistency of his vision and his ability to achieve voluptuous effects on a heroic scale.


Niemeyer was a close friend of Fidel Castro, who often visited his apartment and studio whilst in Brazil. Castro was once quoted as saying “Niemeyer and I are the last communists on this planet.” Niemeyer was also regularly visited by Hugo Chavez.  Niemeyer was an  atheist  throughout his life, basing his beliefs both on the “injustices of this world” and on cosmological principles: “It’s a fantastic Universe which humiliates us, and we can’t make any use of it. But we are amazed by the power of the human mind … in the end, that’s it—you are born, you die, that’s it!”. Such views never stopped him from designing religious buildings, which span from small Catholic chapels, through to huge Orthodox churches and large mosques. He also catered to the spiritual beliefs of the public who facilitated his religious buildings. In the Cathedral of Brasília, he intended for the large glass windows “To connect the people to the sky, where their Lord’s paradise is.”

21st century and death

Oscar Niemeyer, December 2010

Oscar Niemeyer Museum (NovoMuseu), Curitiba, Brazil

Brazilian National Museum, Brasilia, D.F.

Municipal Library in city center Rio de Janeiro –  Duque de Caxias, RJ, Brasil

Niemeyer maintained his studio in Rio de Janeiro well into the 21st century. In 2002, the Oscar Niemeyer Museum complex was inaugurated in the city of Curitiba, Paraná.

In 2003, at the age 96, Niemeyer was called to design the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion in Hyde Park London, a gallery that each year invites a famous architect, who has never previously built in the UK, to design this temporary structure. He was still involved in diverse projects at the age of 100, mainly sculptures and readjustments of previous works.

On Niemeyer’s 100th birthday, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship. Grateful for the Prince of Asturias Award of Arts received in 1989, he collaborated on the 25th anniversary of these awards with the donation to Asturias of the design of a cultural centre. The Óscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre (also known in Spain as Centro Niemeyer), is located in Avilés and was inaugurated in 2011.

In January 2010, the Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer Ravello was officially opened in Ravello, Italy, on the Amalfi Coast. The Auditorium’s concept design, drawings, model, sketches and text were made by Niemeyer in 2000 and completed under the guidance of his friend, Italian sociologist Domenico de Masi. The project was delayed for several years due to objections arising from its design, siting and clear difference from the local architecture; since its inauguration the project has experienced problems and, after one year was still closed.

After reaching the age of 100, Niemeyer spent several periods of time in hospital. In 2009, after a four-week period of hospitalisation for the treatment of gallstones and an intestinal tumour, he was quoted as saying that hospitalization is a “very lonely thing; I needed to keep busy, keep in touch with friends, maintain my rhythm of life.”
His daughter and only child, Ana Maria, died of emphysema in June 2012, aged 82.

Niemeyer died of cardiorespiratory arrest on December 5, 2012 at the Hospital Samaritano in Rio de Janeiro, ten days before his 105th birthday. He had been hospitalised with a respiratory infection prior to his death. The BBC‘s obituary of Niemeyer noted that he “built some of the world’s most striking buildings – monumental, curving concrete and glass structures which almost defy description”, also acclaiming him as “one of the most innovative and daring architects of the last 60 years”.
The Washington Post described him as “widely regarded as the foremost Latin American architect of the last century”.


Posted on on December 2nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

We have watched with astonishment the following happen actually some seven years ago. I say with astonishment because I did eat in what was recommended to me as a private restaurant – in an apartment of private people that did not call it a business. They made me feel of being a guest, and the menu had no marked prices. Instead I was expected to leave money as a present. I thought of it as a ploy that gave returns to the proprietor that were higher then what he could have noted on the menu. On the other hand, the private driver, that would take you in his sputtering 50s long Chevy, was overpricing it and left me with the feeling that he was government connected – sort of the Cuban version of FBI surveillance. Was it a private thing to make sure you did not miss the official highlights, and you did not go out of town to places not on the tourism list?

News Analysis

How Capitalist Are the Cubans?

Greg Kahn/Getty ImagesA market sells dresses and other items in Havana.

Published: December 1, 2012 – The New York Times online. In print December 2, 2012.

Greg Kahn/Getty Images/Havana

A man in his shoe repair shop in the doorway of his home. New business regulations have allowed thousands of citizens to make money for themselves for the first time since 1959.

IT was just a small sign, red, round and electrified, advertising homemade pizza — the kind of thing no one would notice in New York or Rome. But in Havana? It was mildly amazing.

Cuba, after all, has been dominated for decades by an all-consuming anticapitalist ideology, in which there were only three things promoted on billboards, radio or TV: socialism, nationalism, and Fidel and Raúl Castro. The pizza sign hanging from a decaying colonial building here represented the exact opposite — marketing, the public search for private profit.

And it wasn’t just tossed out there. Unlike the cardboard efforts I’d seen in the same poor neighborhood on a visit to Cuba last year, the sign cost money. It was an investment. It was a clear signal that some of Cuba’s new entrepreneurs — legalized by the government two years ago in a desperate attempt to save the island’s economy — were adapting to the logic of competition and capitalism.

But just how capitalist are Cubans these days? Are they embracing what Friedrich Hayek described as the “self-organizing system of voluntary cooperation,” or resisting?

“It’s a combination,” says Arturo López Levy, a former analyst with the Cuban government now a lecturer at the University of Denver. “When more people get more proactive and more assertive, then other people — whether they like it or not — have to do the same. They have to compete. I think that’s the dynamic.”

Indeed, like Iraq, Russia, Mexico or other countries that experienced decades of dictatorial rule that eventually ended, Cuba today is a society marked by years of abuse, divided and uncertain about its future. The changes of the past few years — allowing for self-employment, freer travel, and the buying and selling of homes and cars — have been both remarkable and extremely limited. The reasons small things like signs matter so much here is because everyone is concerned with momentum, and no one seems to know whether Cuba is really on the road to capitalism, as The Economist asserted in March, or if the island is destined to simply sputter along, with restrained capitalism for a few and socialist subsistence for the rest.

The debate is all the more complicated because the same leaders who rejected capitalism for so long are now the ones trying to encourage people to try it out. Raúl Castro was notoriously the revolution’s most loyal Communist; now, as the country’s president, he is the main booster for free market reforms. On one hand, a recent gathering of Cuba’s Communist Party earlier this year included a session on overcoming prejudices against entrepreneurs; on the other, Raúl Castro has said he would “never permit the return of the capitalist system.”

“They are kind of schizophrenic,” says Ted Henken, a Cuba expert at Baruch College. “They are saying they are changing, but they treat these things as gifts and not as rights.”

And yet, there is no longer any denying that pockets of controlled capitalism are emerging in Cuba. In Havana, in particular, small businesses are everywhere. Entire urban industries, including taxis and restaurants, are being transformed through a rush of new entrants, who are increasing competition for customers, labor and materials. Even the most elemental tasks that used to be managed by the state — such as buying food — are increasingly in the hands of a private system that sets its own prices based on supply and demand.

Though the initial burst of activity has slowed, some experts say the explosion in commerce showed just how capitalist Cubans were all along. Of the roughly 350,000 people licensed to be self-employed under the new laws by the end of 2011, 67 percent had no prior job affiliation listed — which most likely means they were running underground businesses that then became legitimate.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are optimistic about Cuba’s becoming more open to free market ideas. Héctor Higuera Martínez, 39, the owner of Le Chansonnier, one of Havana’s finest restaurants (the duck is practically Parisian), says that officials are “starting to realize there is a reason to support private businesses.” He has given people work, for example, and he brings in hard currency from foreigners, including Americans.

“Before, we had nothing,” he said. “Now we have an opportunity.”

He is doing everything he can to make the most of it. When we met one night at the restaurant, he had already written up several pages of notes and charts explaining what his industry needed to grow — from wholesale markets to improved transportation for farmers to an end to the American trade embargo to changes in the Cuban tax code. In an ingeniously cobbled-together kitchen, in which only one of three ovens worked, he mostly seemed to salivate at the thought of vacuum packing so his meals could be delivered more efficiently.

He was about as capitalist as it gets. But will his ideas ever be adopted? Like everyone else, he faces severe limits. He can hire no more than 20 employees, for example. He does not have access to private bank loans, and the government has shown little inclination to let people like Mr. Higuera succeed on a grand scale.

Instead, when success arrives, the government seems to get nervous. This past summer, officials shut down a thriving restaurant and cabaret featuring opera and dance in what had been a vacant lot, charging the owner with “personal enrichment” because he charged a $2 cover at the door.  A news article from Reuters had described it as Cuba’s largest private business. A few days later, it was gone, along with 130 jobs.

The Castro government has tried to keep a lid on innovation in other ways, too. It has not allowed professionals like lawyers and architects to work for themselves. And its efforts at political repression have focused over the past few years on innovative young people seeking space for civil discourse in public and online — the blogger Yoani Sánchez, or Antonio Rodiles, director of an independent project called Estado de Sats, who was arrested in early November and released last week after 18 days in jail.

So for now, what Cuba has ended up with is handcuffed capitalism: highly regulated competitive markets for low-skilled, small family businesses. What economic freedom there is has mostly accrued to those whose main ambition is making and selling pizza.

Which again raises the question: is Cuba really heading toward capitalism or not? Skeptics are easy to find. “Every place in the world that has had real change, it has changed because the regime itself has allowed some significant openings and the door has been pushed wide open,” says Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. “That’s not what’s happening here.”

Many Cubans say they are hesitant to let go of a reliable system summed up by a common joke: “We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us.” Taxi drivers told Mr. López Levy that they were working harder for less money because of increased competition. A farmer I met at the wholesale market outside Havana equated capitalism with higher prices, and said that the government needed to intervene.

But mostly, this is an aging crowd and Mr. López Levy — who still has friends and relatives in government — says that even among Cuban bureaucrats, the mentality is changing. If so, more capitalism may be inevitable. Because with every new entrepreneur it licenses, Cuba becomes less socialist, less exceptional, less of a bearded rebel raising its fist against the horrors of Yankee capitalism. In the eyes of some Cubans, the jig is already up.

“The government has lost the ideological battle,” said Óscar Espinosa Chepe, a state-trained economist who was sent to jail in 2003 for criticizing the government. “The battle for ideas was the most important battle, and they’ve lost.”

Damien Cave is a New York Times correspondent based in Mexico City.


Posted on on October 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Venezuela Votes…and Latin America Catches a Cold.

By Estrella Gutiérrez

CARACAS, Oct 4 2012 (IPS) – Sunday’s elections in Venezuela will determine whether the era of President Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution will continue or come to an end. The result will have an impact not only on this country but on the rest of Latin America.

In the first decade of this century, Latin America saw “a nontraumatic epochal change, sometimes manifested as constituent assemblies (to rewrite a constitution), which sought to respond to the demands of the majority and bring about political change. Chávez is its most radical expression,” said Manuel Felipe Sierra, an analyst from the traditional left and a critic of the Venezuelan president.

“This trend, which Chávez claims to have authored although it has roots and leadership in each country, has already passed, and most governments have taken a more conventional democratic route with left-wing overtones,” he told IPS.

In the campaign, Capriles said that if elected, he would maintain membership of all the blocs, including ALBA.

However, he declared that there would be an end to the “freebies” and not a single barrel of oil would leave Venezuela for free, in a country where oil now represents 93 percent of exports, compared to 70 percent in 1998. He was referring to the agreements with countries in the region for oil and gas sales at preferential prices and on easy payment terms.

Asked who would lose the most in the region if Chávez lost, the analysts who spoke to IPS agreed that the Cuban and Nicaraguan governments would be most affected, because they are the most dependent on Venezuelan oil and other resources. “Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador would not be happy, either,” said Shifter.

Capriles promised to maintain good relations with Cuba, and said he would seek a meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro after he meets with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, his priority, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

But he said the current agreements, under which Havana receives between three billion and four billion dollars a year, must be revised.

Chávez, for his part, insists that if he is ousted from the presidency, “darkness will return to Latin American society” and “the empire (the U.S.) will win.”

In Sierra’s view, “Venezuela has a specific weight in the region, as the only country that is structurally a Latin American oil power, even though others also have oil, and it must recover that role and restore it to normal, whatever happens on Sunday.”

Bolivia and Ecuador are other examples of this current, which has as its political integration mechanism the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), led by Venezuela and made up of eight Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Cuba and Nicaragua.

But the regional reform movement has another major reference point, less ideological and radical: the process led by former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), whose programme was based on economic growth with social inclusion and a strengthening of democracy.

Both self-described left-wing and right-wing governments have expressed their support for the Brazilian model, including Venezuela’s opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who declares himself an “admirer and imitator” of Lula.

Capriles, supported by a variegated mix of 29 groups ranging from right to left, points as proof to the Zero Hunger plan he implemented as governor of the northwestern state of Miranda, modelled on Brazil’s anti-hunger strategy.

Most of the latest polls tip Chávez as the favourite to be re-elected for a third time. But growing support for his rival has made the election result uncertain.

Chávez’s style of diplomacy in Latin America has been one of confrontation with right-wing presidents, which polarised countries, governments and summits ever since he took power in February 1999, said experts consulted by IPS, including several close to the president.

“The export of the Bolivarian model, supported by the abusive use of Venezuela’s oil wealth, as well as Chávez´s style, are in decline, whatever happens on Sunday,” said Sierra.

“Furthermore, there is ‘Chávez fatigue’ in the region because of the behaviours and manners that stress even his allies, and that ceased to be useful for the collective interest,” he said.

But Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), said that if Chávez exits the stage, “it would threaten Latin American independence,” especially from the United States, which Chávez refers to as “the empire.”

Chaderton said Venezuela had created in the region “a diversity of dependences, that make us more independent of others and more interdependent among ourselves.”

“In Latin America we created oxygen valves that help us breathe more freely, and that would close off” if Chávez loses, he said.

“These are not just any elections, for Venezuela or for the continent, because of the ideological primacy and polarisation promoted by Chávez, and because if he loses the elections it would confirm the demise of the left-wing neo-populist experiment he was trying to export,” said Teresa Romero, an expert in international relations.

In Romero’s view, even if Chávez is re-elected, “the regional climate has shifted towards the centre,” and within it “Brazil has won the leadership role, with progressive positions that are less strident and more efficient.”

Michael Shifter, the head of the Inter-American Dialogue, a U.S. think tank, said if Chávez left the government it would have “an enormous effect on the regional political scenario, because he has been the most aggressive and polarising voice in the hemisphere over the last decade.”

If change comes to Venezuela, “ideological conflicts will not disappear, but they will be less acute and better channeled,” he told IPS. In his view, Capriles would maintain normal relations with left-wing governments like those of Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua, “but not, as the phrase went in the 1990s, such carnal relationships.”

In addition to ALBA, the Chávez government promoted the foundation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), made up of the region’s 12 countries, and the oil aid organisation Petrocaribe. It also helped create the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as an alternative to the OAS, which it considers to be dominated by Washington.

In August the government began a process of withdrawal from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which hands down binding rulings on human rights violations committed by states. The only precedent for withdrawal from the OAS human rights court was that of Peru, 20 years ago, during the regime of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000).

Capriles announced that, if he were elected, one of his first steps would be to reverse the process of withdrawal from the Inter-American Court. He also said Venezuela would rejoin the Andean Community, the regional bloc that this country belonged to since the 1960s, which the Chávez administration pulled out of in 2011. It is currently made up of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Chávez’s efforts in the past six years were directed towards Venezuela becoming a full member of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) trade bloc, which he finally achieved in June, after Paraguay’s temporary suspension from the group, made up also of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

“These are changes of alliances based on political and ideological foundations, not on economic reasoning or geographical location,” Sierra said.


And from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) backgrounder:

Stakes Are High for Venezuelan Presidential Elections

The October 7 presidential election between Hugo Chavez and Henrique Capriles Radonski holds significant implications for the direction of the country’s “socialist revolution,” its economy, and foreign policy.       Read the Backgrounder »


Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times

How Hugo Chávez Became Irrelevant

Published: October 5, 2012

Caracas, Venezuela

Jonathan Bartlett

AS Hugo Chávez, the icon of Latin America’s left, struggles to hang on to his job, it’s tempting to read tomorrow’s closely contested election in Venezuela as a possible signal of the region’s return to the right. That would be a mistake, because the question that’s been roiling Latin America for a dozen years isn’t “left or right?” but “which left?”

Outsiders have often interpreted Latin America’s swing to the left over the last dozen years as a movement of leaders marching in ideological lock step. But within the region, the fault lines have always been clear.

Radical revolutionary regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua joined Cuba, the granddaddy of the far left, in a bloc determined to confront the capitalist world, even if that meant increasingly authoritarian government.

A more moderate set of leaders in Brazil, Uruguay and Guatemala put forth an alternative: reducing poverty through major social reforms without turning their backs on democratic institutions or private property rights.

As Fidel Castro’s favorite son, Mr. Chávez has always been the leader of the radical wing. And Brazil’s size and economic power made it the natural leader of the reformist wing.

Outwardly, the two camps have been at pains to deny that any divisions exist. There have been many pious words of solidarity and lots of regional integration accords. But behind closed doors, each side is often viciously dismissive of the other, with Chávez supporters seeing the Brazilians as weak-kneed appeasers of the bourgeoisie while the Brazilians sneer at Mr. Chávez’s outdated radicalism and chronic incompetence.

As recently as five or six years ago, there was a real ideological contest. A wildly unpopular American president prone to military adventurism helped Mr. Chávez rally the continent against Washington. One country after the next joined the radical axis. First Bolivia, then Nicaragua, Honduras and Ecuador, joined a growing roll call of radicals in 2005 and 2006.

Now the political landscape is almost entirely transformed. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory badly undermined the radicals’ ability to rally opposition to gringo imperialism. Meanwhile, the alternative was becoming increasingly attractive.

Brazil’s remarkable success in reducing poverty speaks for itself. Building on a foundation of macroeconomic stability and stable democratic institutions, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, oversaw the most remarkable period of social mobility in Latin America’s living memory.

As millions of Brazilians rose into the middle class, Mr. Chávez’s autocratic excesses came to look unnecessary and inexcusable to Venezuelans. Mr. da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, have shown that a country does not need to stack the courts, purge the army and politicize the central bank to fight poverty. Brazil proves that point, quietly, day in and day out.

It isn’t just democratic institutions that have suffered from Mr. Chávez’s radicalism; it’s the economy, too. Venezuela’s traditional dependence on oil exports has deepened, with 96 percent of export revenue now coming from the oil industry, up from 67 percent just before Mr. Chávez took office. Nationalized steel mills produce a fraction of the steel they’re designed for, forcing the state to import the difference. And nationalized electric utilities plunge most of the country into darkness several times a week. The contrast with Brazil’s high-tech, entrepreneurial, export-oriented economy couldn’t be more stark.

For all of Mr. Chávez’s talk of radical transformation, Venezuela’s child mortality and adult literacy statistics have not improved any faster under his government than they did over the several decades before he rose to power.

With oversight institutions neutered, the president now runs the country as a personal fief: expropriating businesses on a whim and deciding who goes to jail. Judges who rule against the government’s wishes are routinely fired, and one has even been jailed. Chávez-style socialism looks like the worst of both worlds: both more authoritarian and less effective at reducing poverty than the Brazilian alternative.

And the region has noticed. The key moment came in April 2011, when Ollanta Humala won the Peruvian presidency. Long seen as the most radical of Latin America’s new breed of leaders, Mr. Humala had run on a Chávez-style platform in 2006 and lost. By last year, he’d seen the way the wind was blowing and remade himself into a Brazilian-style moderate, won and proceeded to govern — so far, successfully — in the Brazilian mold.

Now, in a final indignity, Mr. Chávez is facing a tight re-election race against Henrique Capriles Radonski, a 40-year-old progressive state governor who extols the virtues of the Brazilian model.

Although Mr. Chávez’s government has done its best to paint a caricature of Mr. Capriles as an old-style right-wing oligarch, he is unmistakably within the Brazilian center-left mold: Mr. Capriles pitches himself as an ambitious but pragmatic social reformer committed to ending the Chávez era’s authoritarian excesses.

The rest of Latin America has already been through the ideological battle in which Venezuela remains mired. By and large, other nations have made their choices. The real question in this election is whether Venezuela will join the hemispheric consensus now, or later.

Francisco Toro is a journalist, political scientist and blogger.


Posted on on July 13th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was established December 2011 in Caracas, as all three pre-existing organizations of Latin America prove to be behind the times – this mainly because of the US push to keep still Cuba outside the international system.

The Organization of American States does not include Cuba and similar problems are facing the Caribbean CARICOM and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

With China becoming more important in the Western Hemisphere – now CELAC – that includes all States except the US and Canada – becomes a more appropriate conversation partner to China – replacing ECLAC which is viewed as a tol of the US.

We have here a series of articles from THE GUYANA TIMES that show this evolution in changing inter-Western Hemisphere States around the time of the RIO+20 meeting, June 2012.

Chile is the linchpin to this Latin American reorganization – hosting both ECLAC and CELAC. The latter brought along also the members of CARICOM. How long will it take to the US to realize that its economic relations in the region are at stake?

Chinese premier proposes high-level cooperation forum with Latin America, Caribbean

July 4, 2012, THE GUYANA TIMES.
ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao enter the ECLAC building in Santiago, Chile

In order to deepen strategic relations with the region, today the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao proposed the creation of a China-Latin America cooperation forum and the establishment of a regular dialogue mechanism with the troika of foreign ministers from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – with a first meeting due to be held during 2012.
The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, welcomed Wen Jiabao on behalf of the commission.  From ECLAC, he then sent out a message to the Latin American and Caribbean region on the occasion of his official visit to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.
In his ECLAC speech, the Chinese Premier put forward concrete proposals for cooperation in areas such as food security, innovation, science and technology and sustainable development.
Wen Jiabao announced the creation of a cooperation fund for the region with an initial input of US$5.0 billion to promote, inter alia, the development of the manufacturing industry, as well as a credit line of US$10 billion dollars to boost infrastructure cooperation through the Bank of China. He proposed creating various forms of intergovernmental consultation mechanisms, broadening contacts among legislative institutions, political parties and territorial governments and strengthening the exchange of experiences in terms of state governance and the handling of administrative matters. He also suggested the creation of a forum for agriculture ministers and another forum for Scientific and Technological Innovation.
He mentioned that his country will give active consideration to ECLAC’s proposal to hold periodic meetings with the region’s heads of state and government. In the context of the visit by Wen Jiabao, today ECLAC launched the document The People’s Republic of China and Latin America and the Caribbean: Dialogue and cooperation for the new challenges of the global economy, which examines recent trade and investment trends.
According to the report, trade between China and the region is strikingly interindustrial, which means that China exports manufactured goods to the region, while Latin America and the Caribbean exports mainly raw materials. The document states that this reduces the potential for possible Chinese-Latin American business partnerships, and hampers a more effective integration of the region’s countries into the production chains of Asia-Pacific. Only four of the region’s countries (all in South America) posted surpluses in their trade with China in 2011: Brazil, Chile, Venezuela and Peru. In all cases, this was due to sales of a smaller number of commodities.
At the other extreme there is Mexico’s trade deficit with China: while less than two per cent of Mexican exports in 2011 went to China, 15 per cent of Mexico’s imports that year came from China. With this in mind, Wen Jiabao stated that China does not seek to have a trade surplus, but rather that it wishes to have balanced trade with the region by increasing future imports of products with greater added value from Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the country’s premier, China expects the volume of trade with the region to be worth more than US$400 billion in the next five years.
According to Bárcena, “Latin America and the Caribbean’s growing economic and trade ties with China raise opportunities and concerns”, and it was therefore essential to set up an agenda for dialogue and cooperation between the two parties. The opportunities of the relationship with China mentioned by Bárcena included improved terms of trade, higher growth rates and additional resources to invest in education, infrastructure and innovation. The concerns related to the reprimarisation of exports, deindustrialisation, Dutch disease, land access and immigration.
Wen Jiabao proposed deepening the friendship between the peoples of China and Latin America, while promoting mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. He said that, although China had experienced dramatic changes, it was still a developing country and its cooperation policy and feelings of solidarity with Latin American and Caribbean countries remained unchanged. China will definitely continue its path of peaceful development.  Quoting a Chilean saying, he stated that “friends are like stars: they are far away but you know they are there”.

Final Declaration of Caracas unanimously approved by CELAC.

December 5, 2011, THE GUYANA TIMES.

The summit to establish the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) wound up on Saturday in Venezuela with the unanimous approval of the Final Declaration of Caracas, and the handing over of the chairmanship to Chile.
The presidents, prime ministers and heads of delegations of the 33 countries making up the new regional organisation expressed a common stance, while ratifying their agreement with the 18 documents discussed during the two-day historic meeting. Likewise, the plan of action of the CELAC was agreed, which, specified Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, should be honored by all member nations, particularly by the members of the so-called troika (Venezuela, Chile and Cuba: outgoing country, new pro tempore chairman, and the next venue, respectively).
Two communiqués can be found among the 22 documents signed, one on the need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade of the United States against Cuba, and another on the recognition of Argentina’s right over the Falklands.
In addition, participants approved a special declaration on the defense of democracy and constitutional order of the countries composing the CELAC. Political texts referred to commitment to social inclusion, food and nutritional safety, the situation of the human rights of immigrants, and the sustainable development of the Community of Caribbean States (CARICOM), were also agreed.
Other documents signed include texts supporting the Yasuni-ITT-CALC-CELAC ecological initiative in Ecuador; and the Central American emergency situation due to tropical depressions. Participants also agreed to declare 2013 as the international year of the quinoa (edible grain from Bolivia).
Also, documents reflecting support for Central American security strategy, and the total elimination of nuclear weapons were signed.  Support for the struggle against terrorism in all forms and expressions, and the struggle against the world problem of drugs and drug trafficking were also among resolutions agreed.

Ramotar reminds developed nations about climate change commitments

May 22, 2012, THE GUYANA TIMES.

President Donald Ramotar on Monday reiterated the need for developed countries to honour their commitment to support developing countries in their bid to improve their capacities for natural resources and environmental management.
The president made this call at the 11th Caricom- Mexico Summit held in Barbados.  In sharing the views of the Caricom bloc on the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20, President Ramotar said it is imperative that the issues surrounding small islands and low lying coastal states be reflected within the CELAC agenda so as to be mirrored in the Rio+20 Outcome Document.
He said too that issues of  non-communicable diseases; ecosystem services – especially pertaining to REDD+, marine ecosystem services and emerging blue carbon frameworks,  food and energy insecurity –should be addressed at the Rio+20 Conference.
“We are concerned that the negotiations over the Zero Draft document reveal a high level of disagreement on issues which are at the core of the objectives of the conference.” According to the president, it was recognised from the Rio meeting of 1992 that developing countries needed a great deal of assistance financially, materially, and through human resources in order to progress.
“The developed countries did make clear commitments to provide a significant level of assistance and to create a more equitable global environment for the developing countries. In the 20 years since then, developing countries have been able to significantly improve their capacities for natural resources and environmental management. Despite the fact that they have been helped through programmes and projects financed through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Rio Conventions and bilateral arrangements with some developed countries, the sum total of assistance received is just a small part of what was promised in Rio in 1992,” President Ramotar said.

Unfulfilled promises
He added that as a result of unfulfilled promises, “developing countries are still badly in need of the promised support to meet the ever-increasing challenges” facing them. Ramotar said small island and low-lying coastal developing states, in particular, continue to face increasing pressures from more frequent and more intense attacks from natural disasters and need to develop appropriate and effective response mechanisms.
The president stated too that the preparation of the Zero Document should now focus on ensuring that the main hurdles to the implementation of Agenda 21 and related action plans are “honestly identified and appropriate measures be considered for a renewed effort to remove these hurdles and fulfil the expectations generated 20 years ago”.
Ramotar said there are several priority issues that should be addressed with Caricom in mind within the context of negotiation of the Outcome Document. He pointed specifically to tourism, health, oceans, climate change and energy. The president said too that Caricom is supportive of the call by other developing countries for there to be additional negotiation sessions to ensure a successful and mutually satisfactory outcome for Rio+20.
He said there are “two critical themes” that must be focused on during the upcoming conference in Brazil: the green economy in the context of sustainable development, and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.
Under the first theme, President Ramotar said the concept of a “green economy framework” has a critical role to play in rehabilitating the economies of Caricom member states that are continually affected by the 2008-2009 global and financial economic crises.
“Caricom is committed to the green economy approach.  Member states have been and are interpreting the green economy concept according to their national sustainable development priorities and national economic and social conditions.  In fact, several of our member states have developed, or are in the process of developing, sectoral policies, sustainable development strategies, strategic and medium-term planning programmes, and natural resource management frameworks that serve as the basis for a greener, low-carbon economic transition and, at the same time, address the issue of poverty eradication and the broader goal of sustainable development,” he stated.

Green economy
He added that it is important that an enabling environment is created for entrepreneurship and innovation in the context of a green economy for Caricom as this is critical. “In the long term, the private sector should drive green growth in collaboration with government and using relevant technology as an enabler.”
He said a green economy should not be treated as the totality of the sustainable development agenda, as “it is one component among other vital aspects of that agenda”.
On that note, President Ramotar said the Rio+20 Conference must address fundamental sustainable development challenges crucial to achieving a green economy that should: ensure greater integration between the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development; be applied by each country based on its specific national circumstances and priorities; be consistent with Agenda 21 and the Rio principles; ensure greater equity and inclusion within and between countries; and provide greater opportunities and  benefits for all citizens and countries; provide appropriate policy space for developing countries; and involve all relevant stakeholders – big and small.
“Caricom is also of the view that developing countries will require significantly enhanced support from the international community, including new and additional finance, technology transfer, and capacity building, in order to develop a green economy,” the president reiterated.
Under the second theme, the institutional framework for sustainable development, Guyana’s president said new bodies for Caricom such as a sustainable development council should not be created without a clear understanding of how they will improve on the deficiencies of existing entities such as the Commission on Sustainable Development. He added that it is Caricom’s view that there must be clarity on their relationship with existing UN organs.
“Caricom does not support the creation of a World Environment Organisation or UNEP’s conversion into a new treaty body, due in part to the complexity implicit in this proposal. However, strengthening UNEP in some form might be desirable.”
President Ramotar added that Caricom is open to the proposal on sustainable development goals and considers that a “limited set of time-bound sustainable development goals might be useful in translating the international community’s vision into tangible objectives”.
He added that the sustainable development goals should not be seen as a competing agenda with the Millennium Development Goals.

Filed Under: NEWS

Progress and Poverty

May 17, 2012 THE GUYANA TIMES.

President Ramotar’s recent address to the Organisation of American States (OAS) Permanent Council was interesting for several reasons. The OAS, formed in the wake of the post WWII Cold War climate, has long been seen as a proxy for U.S. interests. Of recent, it has been challenged by newer regional groupings such as CELAC, which has all the members of the OAS with the notable exceptions of the U.S. and Canada. And as significantly, it includes, Cuba which is still barred from the OAS at the insistence of the U.S.
President Ramotar emphasised the importance of reducing poverty and inequality in the region and noted “the critical importance of development to democracy”. While the president did not expand too much on these themes, it is significant that they are at the base of the contending visions that are driving the newer groupings. The OAS has attempted to broaden its initial focus on regional security, but its equivocation on the coup in Honduras and the ouster of the democratically elected government of Aristide in Haiti, for instance, have fuelled accusations that nothing fundamentally has changed.
The movers and shakers in CELAC, notably Chavez of Venezuela have insisted that ‘democracy’ must go beyond issues surrounding the franchise. They emphasise the substantive concerns of economic and social justice, grounded in their socialist orientation and origins. The accusation that ‘bourgeoisie’ democracy of the ballot is hollow was the dominant message by both the PPP and the PNC up to the 1980’s. They insisted that the fulfilment of economic and social rights must take centre stage.
However, while the OAS still emphasises the importance of ‘representative democracy’ and spends much of its time ensuring that electoral systems are not subverted, it has found it difficult to effectively challenge the competing ‘development and participatory’ democratic model. The reason is that unlike the confrontation from the ‘left’ in the sixties, the present champions of the latter vision are willing to go to the poll. This might be for the simple reason that their mobilisation of the downtrodden, who benefit from their approach, consistently deliver overwhelming majorities to them.
Their ‘participatory and development’ democracy is therefore simultaneously ‘representative”. It is not too hard to find the reason of their success: President Ramotar pointed it out. He warned that there cannot be debate on democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean “outside the context of our intolerable levels of poverty, when 57 million people, or 11 per cent of our population live on less than one dollar a day, and 23 per cent exist daily on less than two dollars”.  Latin America has one of the starkest disparities in income disparity between their top and bottom strata.
It should be noted that the president did not ignore the traditional concerns of the OAS for ‘security’ issues, but he took a more expansive perspective on the concept. In addition to poverty and inequality, he emphasised the challenges posed by climate change, crime, drugs and violence. It is important that these issues – including the pertinent model of democracy for our country – be on the agenda of our politicians in our country.
Without a broad vision of the development path that is appropriate for our stage and level of development it is clear that there is a great danger of the contending politicians pulling so vigorously in opposite directions, the entire country might be brought to its knees. From this perspective we have to ask once again, as to what exactly are the opposition’s objections to the LCDS? One gets very contradictory and conflicting messages.
One other matter that needs urgent agreement is whether business is still ‘the engine of growth’ for the economy. If this is so, there should be a clear statement by the opposition as to whether they oppose the notion that businesses – appropriately regulated, of course – can only survive if they earn profits.

Filed Under: EDITORIAL


Posted on on May 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Center of gravity in oil world shifts to Americas.

By , Published The Washington Post: May 25, 2012.

LOMA LA LATA, Argentina — In a desertlike stretch of scrub grass and red buttes, oil companies are punching holes in the ground in search of what might be one of the biggest recent discoveries in the Americas: enough gas and oil to make a country known for beef and the tango an important energy player.

The environment is challenging, with resources trapped deep in shale rock. But technological breakthroughs coupled with a feverish quest for the next major find are unlocking the door to oil and natural gas riches here and in several other countries in the Americas not traditionally known as energy producers


A tectonic shift in oil supply

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A tectonic shift in oil supply

That is quickly changing the dynamics of energy geopolitics in a way that had been unforeseen just a few years ago.

From Canada to Colombia to Brazil, oil and gas production in the Western Hemisphere is booming, with the United States emerging less dependent on supplies from an unstable Middle East. Central to the new energy equation is the United States itself, which has ramped up production and is now churning out 1.7 million more barrels of oil and liquid fuel per day than in 2005.

“There are new players and drivers in the world,” said Ruben Etcheverry, chief executive of Gas and Oil of Neuquen, a state-owned energy firm that is positioning itself to develop oil and gas fields here in Patagonia. “There is a new geopolitical shift, and those countries that never provided oil and gas can now do so. For the United States, there is a glimmer of the possibility of self-sufficiency.”

Oil produced in Persian Gulf countries — notably Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq — will remain vital to the world’s energy picture. But what was once a seemingly unalterable truth — that American oil production would steadily fall while the United States remained heavily reliant on Middle Eastern supplies — is being turned on its head.

Since 2006, exports to the United States have fallen from all but one major member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the net decline adding up to nearly 1.8 million barrels a day. Canada, Brazil and Colombia have increased exports to the United States by 700,000 barrels daily in that time and now provide nearly 3.4 million barrels a day.

Six Persian Gulf suppliers provide just 22 percent of all U.S. imports, the nonpartisan U.S. Energy Information Administration said this month. The United States’ neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, meanwhile, provide more than half — a figure that has held steady for years because, as production has fallen in the oil powers of Venezuela and Mexico, it has gone up elsewhere.

Production has risen strikingly fast in places such as the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and the “tight” rock formations of North Dakota and Texas — basins with resources so hard to refine or reach that they were not considered economically viable until recently. Oil is gushing in once-dangerous regions of Colombia and far off the coast of Brazil, under thick salt beds thousands of feet below the surface.

A host of new discoveries or rosy prospects for large deposits also has energy companies drilling in the Chukchi Sea inside the Arctic Circle, deep in the Amazon, along a potentially huge field off South America’s northeast shoulder, and in the roiling waters around the Falkland Islands.

“A range of big possibilities for oil are opening up,” said Juan Carlos Montiel, as he directed a team from the state-controlled company YPF to drill while a whipping wind brought an autumn chill to the potentially lucrative fields here outside Añelo. “With the exploration that is being carried out, I think we will really increase the production of gas and oil.”

Because oil is a widely traded commodity, analysts say the upsurge in production in the Americas does not mean the United States will be immune to price shocks. If Iran were to close off the Strait of Hormuz, stopping tanker traffic from Middle East suppliers, a price shock wave would be felt worldwide.

But the new dynamics for the United States — an increasingly intertwined energy relationship with Canada and more reliance on Brazil — mean U.S. energy supplies are more assured than before, even if oil from an important Persian Gulf supplier is temporarily halted.

The fracking ‘revolution’

Perhaps the biggest development in the worldwide realignment is how the United States went from importing 60 percent of its liquid fuels in 2005 to 45 percent last year. The economic downturn in the United States, improvements in automobile efficiency and an increasing reliance on biofuels all played a role.

But a major driver has been the use of hydraulic fracturing. By blasting water, chemicals and tiny artificial beads at high pressure into tight rock formations to make them porous, workers have increased oil production in North Dakota from a few thousand barrels a day a decade ago to nearly half a million barrels today.

Conservative estimates are that oil and natural gas produced through “fracking,” as the process is better known, could amount to 3 million barrels a day by 2020.

“We have a revolution here,” said Larry Goldstein, director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation in New York. “In 47 years in this business, I’ve never seen anything like this. This is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.”

All of this has happened as exports from Mexico and Venezuela have fallen in recent years, a trend analysts attribute to mismanagement and lack of investment at the state-owned oil industries in those countries. Even so, there is a possibility that new governments in Mexico and Venezuela — Mexico elects a new president July 1, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has cancer — could open the energy industry to the private investment and expertise needed to boost production, analysts say.

“There’s a lot of upside potential in Latin America that will boost the oil supply over the medium term,” said RoseAnne Franco, who analyzes exploration and production prospects in the region for the energy consultant Wood Mackenzie. “So it’s very positive.”

Political elements

Much of the exploration, though, will not be easy, cheap or, as in Argentina’s case, free of political pitfalls. Price controls on natural gas and import restrictions have made doing business in Argentina hard for energy companies. And last month, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s populist government stunned oil markets by expropriating YPF, the biggest energy company here, from Spain’s Repsol.

But the prize for energy companies is potentially huge. Repsol estimated this year that a cross section of the vast Dead Cow formation here in Neuquen province could hold nearly 23 billion barrels of gas and oil. That followed a U.S. Energy Information Administration report that said Argentina possibly has the third-largest shale gas resources after China and the United States.

“All the top-of-the-line companies are here,” said Guillermo Coco, energy minister of Neuquen province, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell. Although only about 200 wells have been drilled, Coco said companies here talk of drilling 10,000 or more in the next 15 years.

Wells on the horizon

On a recent day here in a dusty spot called Loma La Lata, German Perez oversaw a team of 30 technicians from the Houston-based oil- services giant Schlumberger as they prepared to frack a well.

The operation was huge: Trucks lined up with revving generators. Giant containers brimmed with water. Hoses used for firing chemicals into wells littered the ground. Cranes hoisted huge bags of artificial sand into mixers. Then, 1,200-horsepower pumps blasted water, chemicals and sand nearly 9,000 feet into the earth. “This is a hard rock, so we create countless cracks and fissures, for the gas and oil to flow,” Perez said.

Staring at the stark landscape, broken up here and there by oil rigs, Perez said he thought many companies would one day arrive in search of oil and gas. “The projections are pretty good,” he said. “In our case, we have been here a year and a half and we have tripled the equipment we have. And we think we will double that in another year.”


Posted on on May 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Inline image 1

This analysis was prepared by Elena Maffei, Research Associate at the Washington DC based Council on Hemispheric Affairs. We received the study on May 26, 2012.

The recent discovery of offshore oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico has given Havana new hopes of establishing rich deposits of its own, thereby decreasing Cuba’s present dependence on foreign energy sources.

Fidel Castro began to look for new energy suppliers immediately upon coming to power in 1959, and he soon found one. The Soviet Union was Cuba’s largest supplier of energy resources during the Cold War, but Moscow’s collapse in the early 1990s, coupled with the longstanding American embargo, drove the Cuban economy into a deep depression. Havana, in response, has begun implementing market-based reforms, including intensifying efforts to open the country to tourism,[1] as well as encourage strategic partnerships with other Latin American countries, most notably Venezuela.[2]

In 2011, Cuba produced about 55,000 onshore barrels of oil per day, mostly from the northern province of Matanzas, refining it at the island’s four refineries (in Cabaiguán, Cienfuegos, La Habana, and Santiago de Cuba).

Consumer needs, however, call for over 170,000 barrels per day, making the island a net importer of oil.[3] Currently, the bulk of these imports come from Venezuela, which meets two-thirds of Cuba’s daily requirements thanks to an energy agreement the two countries signed in October 2000. Cuba has become a crucial partner for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as reflected in both countries’ membership in the rising   “Alianza Bolivariana para Amèrica Latina (ALBA)” trade bloc.

In early 2012, a deepwater drilling rig was built in China by an Italian company, Saipem, which is owned by the oil and gas multinational Eni, and then leased to Spain’s Repsol. The Spanish company began offshore oil exploration 22 miles north of Havana, in the Jaguey block of the Cuban Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as early as 2004, and is hoping to find between 5 and 9 billion barrels in that area.[4]

Yet Repsol will hardly be the only foreign company operating in Cuban territory, as it will be working in just six blocks within the EEZ, and will be doing so in cooperation with Norway’s Statoil-Hydro and India’s Ongc.

22 other blocks, meanwhile, have been awarded to other foreign companies, including Petronas (Malaysia), PetroVietnam (Vietnam), Gazprom (Russia), Sonagol (Angola), PDVSA (Venezuela), and CNOOC (China).[5] While each is eager to hit black gold in the region, it would take three to five years of drilling before real production could begin even if the deposits live up to expectations.[6]

The United States, which is not taking part in the drilling because of its embargo against Cuba, could nevertheless not be more interested.

Washington, alarmed by the drilling site’s location just 60 miles from Florida’s coast, has been expressing its concerns about the potential environmental risks posed by the explorations, and has commissioned a panel of environmental and energy experts to discuss possible solutions to any potential disaster in the region. According to William K. Reilly, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under George H.W. Bush, “the Cuban approach to this is responsible and appropriate to the risk they are undertaking.”[7] But should an accident similar to the BP disaster of 2010 occur, the absence of a bilateral oil spill agreement between the U.S. and Cuba, in conjunction with strict American regulations freezing the transfer of technology between the two countries, would threaten American interests in the region, as well as pose a real environmental danger to the entire Gulf of Mexico. The matter is further complicated by the fact that offshore explorations are not taking place in U.S. territorial waters, within Washington’s legal reach, and are therefore not governed by the Clean Water and Oil Pollution Acts. Thus, any U.S. effort to take control of the situation in the event of an oil spill would be much more difficult, and would be bound to cause a diplomatic incident. Clearly, Washington must begin to consider a possible adjustment or elimination of the restrictions imposed upon the Caribbean country, and ask itself whether the embargo truly still represents American interests.

Economically, it must not be forgotten that if the investigations of Repsol and others reveal that there is a considerable amount of oil in the Cuban EEZ, Cuba could be transformed from an oil-importing country to one of Latin America’s largest oil producers almost overnight. Such a stark transition would undoubtedly affect relations between Havana, Caracas, and Washington, as well as completely change the geopolitical equilibrium of the region, possibly producing explosive results.

Another crucial issue is the conflict between the Argentine and Spanish governments over Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s nationalization of YPF, a now-former Repsol subsidiary.

On April 19th, the Castro administration announced its support for the takeover, stating that Argentina has the right to exercise permanent sovereignty over its natural resources. Such a controversial declaration, even if coherent once one takes into account Argentina’s alliance with Havana, could end up being a risky and counterproductive step for Cuba.

A potential geopolitical turning point for the region, the discovery of oilfields in the Cuban EEZ could represent Havana’s ticket to the further liberalization of Cuban institutions, an escape from poverty and underdevelopment, and the end of Washington’s disdain for their Caribbean neighbor. Still, the Cuban position on the Argentinian YPF seizure could prove problematic, and Havana would do well to reformulate its position in order to ease tensions with the Spanish oil company. At the same time, however, if the United States is interested in benefiting from this discovery and in staving off a potential ecological disaster mere miles from its southern coast, then it, too, must work to ease tension and adapt to the post-Cold War world.

The sources:



Posted on on April 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Jorge Castaneda Gutman, in short Jorge Castaneda, is a Mexican intellectual, an author and politician. He was Mexico’s Foreign Minister 2000-2003 and fought to become a candidate for the presidency in 2006.

Castañeda’s political career began as a member of the Mexican Communist Party but he has since moved to the political center. He served as an advisor to Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas during his failed presidential campaign in 1988, and advised Vicente Fox during his successful presidential campaign in 2000. After winning the election, Fox appointed Castañeda as his Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Following a number of disagreements with other cabinet members he left the post in January 2003 and began traveling around the country, giving lectures and promoting his ideas.

On March 25, 2004, Castañeda officially announced his presidential campaign by means of a prime-time campaign advertisement carried in all major Mexican television stations. Castañeda presented himself as an independent “citizens’ candidate,”  a move contrary to Mexico’s electoral law – that gives registered parties alone the right to nominate candidates for election.

In 2004 Castañeda started to seek Court authorization to run in the country’s 2006 presidential election without the endorsement of any of the registered political parties. In August 2005 the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled against Castañeda’s appeal. The ruling essentially put an end to Castañeda’s bid to run as an independent candidate, however soon after this ruling he took his case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in order to defend his political rights; as of 2008, the case is pending before the IACHR.

He graduated from the Lycée Franco-Mexicain in Mexico City. Then after receiving his B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Economic History from the University of Paris (Panthéon-La Sorbonne) he worked as a professor at several universities, including the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, New York University, and the University of Cambridge. He was a Bernard Schwartz fellow at The New America Foundation. Castaneda feels comfortable in the company of young intelligent students and seems to enjoy the life in the academe more then anything else. Seeing him and listening to his words he reminds us of the way intellectuals used to debate the world in the glory days of Paris.

Castaneda wrote a highly readable assessment of leftist politics, Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left After the Cold War (Vintage Books, 1993). The book has had a wide readership in Latin America and elsewhere for its intelligent, sometimes controversial, overview of leftist politics in Latin America, after the fall of the Soviet Union; see History of the Soviet Union (1982–1991). The book provides a reliable historical account of leftist movements in Latin America, often spiked with lively anecdotes. The main theme is a shift from politics based on the Cuban Revolution to broad-based new social movements, from armed revolutions to elections. Another well known work of his is Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara, which offers a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the Argentine Marxist revolutionary.

It is remarkable that  this highly unusual politician was the choice of the Marian B. and Jacob K. Javits Foundation for being the 2012 Visiting Professor at the NYU School of Arts and Sciences, and Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University.

New York Senator Jacob Koppel Javits was himself a great Liberal-Republican politician. The man with vision in whose days the party was, thanks to him and his wing of the party, in the center of American politics beholden to all of America’s citizens, and kept the United States open to the world at large. Mr. Javits was Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the 21-st District, 1947 – 1954; New York State Attorney General 1955-1957 under Governor W. Averell Harriman – his opponent was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. running as a Democrat; United States Senator from New York, 1957-1981 –  His  opponent was the popular Mayor of New York, Robert F. Wagner.

Javits liked to think of himself as a political descendant of  Theodore Roosevelt‘s  Progressive Republicanism. As attorney general, Javits promoted a liberal agenda, supporting such measures as antibias employment legislation and a health insurance program for state employees. In the Senate Javits was in effect the most outspoken Republican liberal in Congress.  Increasingly concerned about the erosion of congressional authority in foreign affairs, Javits is best remembered for his sponsoring the 1973 War Powers Act, which limited to sixty days a president’s ability to send American armed forces into combat without congressional approval.

Mrs. Javits and two of her three  children, Joshua and Carla (Joy was not there), were present at NYU, along with a room-full of students and candidates for higher degrees, listening to Jorge Castaneda speaking of “BRICs, HUMAN RIGHTS, and the INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ORDER.” The program note that I received from the Foreign Press Club of the US Department of State noted that Jorge Castaneda will deliver the 2012 Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professorship Lecture – and that “Castaneda contends that a retooled international order would be far more representative of the distribution of power in the world today, but it is not clear whether it would be better.”

The lecture started by Professor Castaneda introducing the term BRICs  – big letters for Brazil, Russia, India and China, and a small “s” for the fact that this was a plural group. He told us that this was an invention in April 2002 – or about exactly ten years ago, by a Golman-Sachs economist who was saying that those four States will become good places for investment.           At start this was thus not a political grouping at all. The economics factor starts with the observation that two of these states hold 2.5 billion people out of the global population of 7 billion, another State, Russia, is a previous well organized State that enters now the global economy anew, and the fourth member, Brazil, is a newly organizes State after the departure of the generals. Urbanization, literacy campaign etc. are fast moving Brazil to its potential in the global economy – this was the new kid on the bloc – as he put it in terms of trade, internal consumption, growing clout etc.

The big “S” in BRICS came in later when the subject became political That is when under UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan, an effort was started first with the Millennium Development Goals, followed fast with efforts to restructure the UN and specifically the UN Security Council.

Theoretically the 5 winners of World War II formed the group of 5 Permanent Members of the SC which granted to themselves the powers of being able to Veto what they do not like.

Castaneda said that the US and the Soviet Union were the winners indeed, and to some extent also the UK, but even then France and China were questionable members of the small list of so called winners in the war itself. Then, to make things worse, China had its internal war and the UN recognized till 1972 the China of Chiang Kai Shek.

As new economic post-war powers evolved, take Japan and Germany, then demands by an India, as large as China, became more vociferous, and we like to add something that Mr. Castaneda did not say – the fact that the original Permanent 5 were the only original nuclear power States was broken by India and Pakistan – led to demands to let in to that club of leaders also India, Germany, Japan and Brazil – that is a group of four pretenders – the new P4. Looking around, that left Africa still out – so, going not just by size of population, as that would have favored Nigeria, but by sympathy for a State that evolved well under global solid attention – here came in the “S” for South Africa.

The only changes in the Security Council were the enlargement from 12 to 15 in order to make place for newly decolonized Nations in Asia and Africa, and the switch of the China seat from Taiwan to Mainland China (With the brake-up of the USSR – similarly the seat at the UNSC was given to Russia – but these are not real changes). Besides of this – the only change that really happened to our BRICs narrative in economic terms – now also political terms – is that the BRICs become BRICS out of which China and Russia are already part of the Permanent five, so that this requires further consideration only for Brazil and  India, the obvious Germany and Japan, and the new addition of South Africa.

Professor Castaneda did not touch the subject of the EU and the open question of three of its members as part of the now – leading ten. But the lecture’s direction was now moving to the inclusion of concepts of Human Rights that go beyond the question of economics.

The questions of equity move from the Security Council to the World Bank and the IMF and considering that the money is with China, India, Brazil,  and hardly with Belgium, here you must consider how it is  that Belgium had higher clout in those institutions then the real money States?

Now – thinking of BRICS also in political and Human Rights terms – will the larger inclusion of these States help the Human Rights / Democracy issues in a fairer global strategy? But besides the Western Definition of Human Rights, we find that Russia, China, even Brazil and others, have their own definition of Human Rights. Yes, India, South Africa, and Brazil are democracies, but will their understanding of Human Rights help in the global context? True enough – nobody has a perfect record on Human Rights, not even the US when you think about Guantanamo – and the President of Brazil Ms. Dilma Rouseff  just mentioned this particular view in her presentation at Harvard.

Latin America and others, are against interventionism. There was experience they had – specially with the United States. Brazil is an exponent of this point of view. South Africa has fought apartheid for 30 years with the help of public opinion abroad and with their own struggle at home.

Other issues with global importance – such as Climate change and Global Warming have to be solved  in a multilateral approach. These new potential members of the global leadership are also not well positioned for cooperation – and Professor Castaneda said that at Copenhagen they were not really cooperative. The same is true for Nuclear non-Proliferation.  The obvious question he put before us was – why is it OK for India and Pakistan to have such weapons and not for Iran? And he told us of Turkey and Brazil having tried to tone down the fears of allowing for a nuclear Iran – this with the obvious conclusion that allowing for more power to these important States is no guarantee that these important global problems will be easier to deal with.

The Indians are easy on Iran because they want the gas that comes through a newly constructed pipe-line.  Then the Responsibility-to-Protect – the R2P – is something that they accept – but only if it is not an excuse for interventionism. The Libyan experience now holds them back from cooperation on Syria. President Rousett said at Harvard that she has respect for Hugo Chavez and does not like intervention. What if military deposes the Chavez faction in Venezuela?

Rousett said that – “yes, I will protect Human Rights but I cannot stop police violence in my country,” quoted Mr. Castaneda. She continued “I cannot defend Guantanamo – but I know that there is something of it in every country.”

But then, in the 1970’s her predecessor and mentor – Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – was in prison and was being tortured – it was all over the world and there were demonstrations that put pressure on the Brazilian generals. It is the international civil society that can influence governments. Yes, Brazil used to say that it owns the Amazonas and can do with them as they please, but now they have to level of with the outside world. Brazil may want to have a missile like other States – this to prove a point that they can do as they please – this will not help non-proliferation – but it is my hope – and that it is this writer saying so – Brazil may find then that there are other areas that they can relent from going overboard in insistence of sovereign rights. India has changed her position in relation to Sri Lanka for example.


Posted on on March 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

President Correa Faces a Challenge from ‘El Hermano Mayor’.

March 16, 2012

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Ekow Bartels-Kodwo

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador recently emerged as victor in a libel suit that he brought against two journalists from the Ecuadorian paper El Universo at the National Court of Justice in Quito.

He sued the journalists for USD 5 million apiece, and was awarded USD 1 million from each of the defendants, although he later pardoned both editors.  His litigious victory is among the few positive developments for Correa of late, as he faces a number of newly-emerging challenges as Ecuador’s president. In one such instance, he is being forced to defend his decision to award mining contracts in Ecuador’s jungle without first conferring with the directly-affected communities that live on the land. His hasty decision has incited massive protests among Amazonian indigenous communities.

To make matters worse, President Correa is also facing a challenge for his job from none other than his very own brother.

In an interview published on March 13, 2012 in the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais, Fabricio Correa, President Rafael Correa’s older brother, explained his motivations for trying to unseat his own brother.

Speaking from Montevideo, Fabricio Correa lamented the rampant corruption and increasing insecurity due to the activities of drug cartels, while also accusing his brother of clamping down too hard on press freedoms. “We are constantly living in fear [in Ecuador],” he maintained.

Fabricio Correa, is controversial in his own right, he has been in the national spotlight since his relationship with the younger Correa went sour in 2009 following the termination of government contracts awarded to his companies.

More recently, Fabricio came to the attention of the Ecuadorian national media after the president sued the two El Universo journalists. Rafael Correa levied legal action against the two after they in part based new revelations on accounts given by Fabricio.

Certain investigative chapters, later revealed in their book El Gran Hermano, unearthed corrupt deals made by Fabricio’s companies. The piece reiterated Fabricio’s claims that his brother, the president, was well-aware of the corrupt bidding process used in awarding government contracts.

The court case, which was tried before the Ecuadorian National Court of Justice (CNJ) in Quito, led to the brothers accusing and counter-accusing each other of corruption. This cat-and-mouse game of claim and counterclaim culminated in Fabricio Correa submitting the necessary 158,000 signatures and requisite paperwork to make official his candidacy for the presidential election, which is set to take place in 2013.

Unlike the Miliband brothers in the United Kingdom, who are both running for the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K. with each other’s blessings, the relationship between these two brothers is quite fierce. They are constantly engaged in a highly-publicized war of words with each other; Rafael called his big brother a greedy “big shot,” while Fabricio retorted by accusing his brother of “lacking manliness.”

Until now, the political opposition in Ecuador has been largely disorganized. A number of discussions aiming to unify the country’s biggest opposition factions have proven to be futile, as the deep-seeded ideological divisions continue to thwart attempts at temporary alliances and mergers to run against President Correa. This has created a unique opportunity for Fabricio Correa and his new EQUIPO Party to mount what looks like the only viable challenge to the president, who has governed the country since 2007.

For now, Fabricio Correa has submitted the requisite documents to run for the country’s highest office, but it remains to be seen whether the National Electoral Council can act independent of the president’s influence and confirm the elder Correa’s candidacy for the presidency. Regardless of how things turn out, one thing is clear: the next meeting of the two brothers may not be the pleasant.


Posted on on October 26th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

This is one thing a UN vote comes out on the right side of truth – after all – there are at least 30 UN Member States run worse then Cuba is today.
The Florida and New Jersey ex-Cubans are to the US what American and French Settlers in the West Bank are to Israel – outsiders that highjacked their new homeland.

The General Assembly today renewed its call, for the 20th consecutive year, for an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba for the past half century.
In a resolution adopted by 186 votes in favour to two against (Israel and the US) and three abstentions (Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau), the Assembly reiterated its call to all States to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures not conforming with their obligations to reaffirm freedom of trade and navigation.
It also urged them to repeal or invalidate such laws and requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the resolution at the Assembly’s next session, which begins in September 2012.
Introducing the text, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Foreign Minister of Cuba, stated that the US has never hidden the fact that the objective of the embargo – which he said has caused more than $975 billion in damage to the Cuban people – is to overthrow his country’s Government.
“What the US Government wants to see changed will not change,” he stated, declaring that the Cuban Government will continue to be “the government of the people, by the people and for the people.
“Our elections shall not be auction sales. There shall not be $4 billion electoral campaigns nor a parliament supported by 13 per cent of voters,” he added.
The US representative, Ronald Godard, said that for yet another year, the Assembly is taking up a resolution designed to confuse and obscure.
“But let there be no confusion about this: the United States, like most Member States, reaffirms its strong commitment to supporting the right and the heartfelt desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future.
“And let there be no obscuring that the Cuban regime has deprived them of this right for more than half a century,” he stated.
Mr. Godard added that the economic relationship between the US and Cuba is a bilateral issue and is not appropriately a concern of the Assembly.
“The embargo represents just one aspect of US policy towards Cuba whose overarching goal is to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, principles to which this Organization is also dedicated,” he said.


Posted on on September 21st, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

to open the UN General Assembly. “It is with personal humility, but with my justified pride as a woman, that I meet this historic moment,” said Rousseff as she opened the general debate. “I share this feeling with over half of the human beings on this planet who, like myself, were born women and who, with tenacity, are occupying the place they deserve in the world. I am certain that this will be the century of women.”   —-    Rousseff can also be found on the cover of this week’s Newsweek, with a profile by Mac Margolis.


l aunched the Open Government Partnership (OGP) while in New York on Tuesday. The OGP’s goal is to give citizens tools to monitor   elected leaders and achieve more transparent governance. Mexico is one of the additional six founding members and other Latin American countries that have pledged to sign on to the partnership are: Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Uruguay.
This is a smart program for U.S. policy in the hemisphere and a great leadership role for Brazil to play,” reports Bloggings by Boz, who links to commitments and plans from Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.


Colombia, a member of the Security Council, is very important in this because an attempt is being made to negate to the Palestinians a simple majority in the SEcurity Council in order to avoid a US veto.
This attempt revolves around three Member States and Colombia is one of them.  Rather then attending President Obama’s speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Netanyahu  was at that time in a meeting with the President of Colombia promoting such a move.


drilling for oil in the Florida Straits between the Florida Keys and Cuba as early as mid-December. It is estimated Cuba may hold anywhere from 5 billion to 20 billion barrels of oil in offshore reserves.

In a piece for CNN’s Global Public Square program and blog, Fareed Zakaria warns: “Our trade embargo on Cuba not only prevents us from doing business with our neighbor but it also bars us from sending equipment and expertise to help even in a crisis. So, if there is an explosion, we will watch while the waters of the Gulf Coast get polluted.”

We watched that program on Sunday, September 18th and it is crystal clear that the US has now to end the embargo on Cuba. We know that election season in the US has just started – but it seems that moves by President Obama on this issue would be right in place and would improve relations within the Western Hemisphere where all countries now side with Cuba.


Posted on on April 17th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

 The prime minister of Turkey –  Recep Tayyip Erdo?an – accepted the “Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rightsin Tripoli, Libya, on Dec. 1, 2010, for his “distinguished service to humanity.”   … OK – this is the service of Mr. Edogan as judged by Mr. Gaddafi.

In his acceptance speech, Erdo?an said that the award will further encourage him to fight for human rights and that “Islamophobia” is a crime against humanity.

After receiving the award, Erdo?an reported on his meeting with Qaddafi, indicating that ties between the two countries are growing.

The slogan of the “Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights” is “As the sun shines for everyone, freedom is a right for everyone.” Lovely, no, especially at a moment when Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi’s war planes are raining down death and destruction on his own subject people, and when foreign mercenaries are brutalizing the population?

The prize description  of the Al-Gaddafi Prize includes:

The prize is awarded every year to one of the international personalities, bodies or organizations that have distinctively contributed to rendering an outstanding human service and has achieved great actions in defending Human rights, protecting the causes of freedom and supporting peace everywhere in the world. …

The Prize categorically believes that freedom is an indivisible natural right for Man – it is not a gift or grace from anybody, and that safeguarding it is a general human responsibility.

Past recipients of the prize have also included Nelson Mandela (1989), “The Red Indians” (1991), Louis Farrakhan (1996), Fidel Castro (1998), and Hugo Chavez (2004). Will at least Nelson Mandela declare now that the acceptance of that prize was based on misconceptions about the man who funded it?


Posted on on December 2nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Is above really incomprehensible if remembering that quite a few countries used to overload the UN with personnel as a convenient way to put their intelligence operatives within the borders of the US? In the days of the cold war these were mainly East-bloc operatives, today they can be various Middle Easterners and even plants from business interests.

The imagination can let you run wild and the host country may love to get more information of what some individuals with UN appointments do in their vastly available extra-time.

The US text we picked up says:

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 24 STATE 080163

NOFORN, SIPDIS, E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/31/2034




1. (S/NF) This cable provides the full text of the new National HUMINT Collection Directive (NHCD) on the United Nations (paragraph 3-end) as well as a request for continued DOS reporting of biographic information relating to the United Nations (paragraph 2).

…Reporting officers should include as much of the following information as possible when they have information relating to… credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information.

…Information about current and future use of communications systems and technologies by officials or organizations, including cellular phone networks, mobile satellite phones, very small aperture terminals (VSAT), trunked and mobile radios, pagers, prepaid calling cards, firewalls, encryption, international connectivity, use of electronic data interchange, Voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP), Worldwide interoperability for microwave access (Wi-Max), and cable and fiber networks.


Foreign Policy wrote about this:

WikiLeaks reveals vast U.S. information-gathering operation at the U.N.
Posted By Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy,  Sunday, November 28, 2010

The United States and other big powers have spied on the United
Nations as long as it has existed. But WikiLeaks’ disclosure Sunday of
the first batch of a massive trove of internal U.S. diplomatic cables
and directives gives a sense of how voracious America’s appetite for
information at the U.N. has grown.

A sweeping State Department directive — the 2009 National HUMINT
Collection Directive — instructs U.S. diplomats to collect
information on everything from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s
views on the Middle East to the frequent-flyer account numbers of
foreign delegates to the personal relationships between the U.N.
representatives in Iran and North Korea and top officials in those
governments. (HUMINT is shorthand for Human Intelligence Collection).

The directive, which was signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
identifies five top near-term intelligence priorities: Sudan, the
conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Somalia, Iran, and North Korea.
But the State Department also expressed interest in a wide spread of
other issues, from U.N. bureaucratic turf battles and revelations of
U.N. corruption to possible financial links between U.N. staff,
foreign governments, and terrorist organizations to voting practices
of third-world countries in the U.N.’s myriad committees.

Most of the directive’s information requests involve standard
diplomatic reporting about foreign governments’ positions. For
instance, it places a high priority on obtaining information about the
positions of the four other permanent members of the Security Council
— Britain, China, France, and Russia — toward Iran, North Korea, and
the Middle East. The directive urges American diplomats to discern the
“views of members states on the next SYG [Secretary General] race, to
include preferred candidates and candidates lacking U.N. member
support.” That phrase provided the first indication that the United
States is at least considering the possibility that Ban may not be
assured a second term when his first 5-year term expires at the end of

In most cases, the directive simply seeks to use American diplomats to
gauge international attitudes towards a broad spectrum of U.S. and
U.N. policies. For instance, how does the U.N. community view the role
of the U.S. military in resolving conflicts in Africa? What are the
prospects of China and Russia taking a tougher stance on human rights
in Burma or Zimbabwe? How is international sentiment toward the
International Criminal Court evolving?

But it also flags U.S. suspicions about the intentions of its foreign
counterparts, citing concern that countries like China, France, and
India may seek to “gain influence in Africa via U.N. peace
(China, for instance, now provides more U.N. peacekeepers
than any other major power). It also voices concern about efforts by
the European Union to secure additional voting rights in the U.N. and
its various agencies, a move that could potentially dilute American

Carne Ross,  a former British diplomat, said that it’s hardly news
that countries spy on one another at the U.N. “More harmful is the
reality that U.S. cables can be publicized in this devastating
manner,” he told Turtle Bay. “Diplomats may think twice before sharing
confidences with U.S. diplomats — at least until WikiLeaks is

Perhaps the most surprising detail to emerge so far from the leaks is
the extent to which U.S. diplomats in New York and abroad have been
tasked with activities traditionally associated with intelligence
gathering; i.e., collecting personal or financial information from
their sources.

According to the directive, American diplomats are instructed to
collect detailed biographical information, including business cards,
cell-phone numbers, pagers, faxes, email listings, Internet or
Intranet handles, credit-card and frequent flyer account numbers, and
work schedules. It also calls on U.S. diplomats to collect “biographic
and biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats,” as well
as on diplomats from China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, South
Africa, Sudan, and Syria.

The new revelations were first divulged Sunday as part of a
coordinated disclosure by WikiLeaks of nearly a quarter of a million
sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables by several international news
organizations, including the New York Times, the Guardian, Der
Spiegel, and Le Monde. WikiLeaks released a selection of the actual
documents on its website Sunday afternoon EST.

The State Department cables are suspected of having been passed on to
WikiLeaks by a 22-year-old intelligence analyst named Bradley Manning,
according to the Guardian. Last spring, Manning was charged with
leaking sensitive materials to WikiLeaks, including a video of an
Apache helicopter killing two Reuters employees in 2007. He is facing
court martial.

In a statement, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denied
American diplomats had been instructed to conduct espionage: “Our
diplomats are just that, diplomats. They represent our country around
the world and engage openly and transparently with representatives of
foreign governments and civil society. Through this process, they
collect information that shapes our policies and actions. This is what
diplomats, from our country and other countries, have done for
hundreds of years.”

A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations did not respond
to a request for comment. Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the U.N.
secretary-general, said the U.N. was “not in a position to comment on
the authenticity of the document” but noted that the U.N. is “by its
very nature a transparent organization that makes a great deal of
information about its activities available to the public and member
states.” One U.N. official said that the organization had requested an
explanation from the U.S. government on the allegations, but has not
received an answer.

International treaties prohibit spying at the United Nations, but it
is widely practiced by many states. A British intelligence analyst
once revealed that U.S. and British spies listened in on the
conversations of then Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the eve of U.S.
led invasion of Iraq.

“The UN has previously asserted that bugging the secretary general is
illegal,” the Guardian reported, “citing the 1946 UN convention on
privileges and immunities which states: ‘The premises of the United
Nations shall be inviolable. The property and assets of the United
Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from
search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of
interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or
legislative action.'”

Other U.S. intelligence targets identified in the State Department directive:

*The U.S. solicits information on “plans and intentions” of U.N.
Security Council members, especially the permanent members, in
considering additional sanctions against North Korea. Also calls on
U.S. diplomats to determine North Korea’s position on “WMD-related
issues” at the United Nations.

*The U.S. seeks information on Ban’s “plans and intentions” regarding
Iran, and wants to known whether the secretary-general or any member
states intend to “pressure” the U.S. to take a particular course in
the Middle East peace process.

*The U.S. solicits information on Iranian efforts to develop or
promote spread of nuclear weapons and build diplomat support for its
activities. Calls for monitoring Tehran’s activities as the chair of
the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), and its membership on the board
of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, an agency that has long touted
Tehran’s counternarcotics efforts. The U.S. is also seeking
information on “development and democratization activities of the UNDP
in Iran; details about the UNDP Resident Coordinator’s relationship
with Iranian officials.”

*Foreign NGOs with influence on a range of issues, including human
rights, globalization, justice and reproductive health. The U.S.
directive voices concern at the capacity of some NGOs to “undermine
U.S. policy initiatives” at the U.N. or to share “confidential”
information with U.N. staff.

*The U.S. seeks information on any possible U.N. plans to expand,
reinforce, or replace the U.N.-backed peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

*The U.S. directive also seeks the views of all key parties, including
Hamas, in influencing the debate on the Middle East at the United
Nations. For instance, it highlights the importance of deciphering the
“views, plans and tactics of Hamas to gain support in the UNSC [U.N.
Security Council] or UNGA [U.N. General Assembly] for its strategies
and positions.”

*The U.S. intelligence community is not only out for itself. The
directive seeks information about possible threats against U.N.
personnel and humanitarian aid workers in Iraq. It also seeks
information on possible financial irregularities in a variety of U.N.
agencies and international funds, including the World Health
Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and

*Solicits information on the views of the Security Council and other
U.N. members toward Cuban, Iranian, and Syrian bids for U.N.
leadership position, presumably in an effort to block them from


Posted on on November 8th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

We are extremely gratified by the following article I just received as this is about one of the tenets we put forward many years ago: It is Israel’s self interest to be a leader in efforts to decrease the WORLD’S dependence on oil – not just because it improves air quality and helps combating climate change – but it also decreases the funds that are made available to its enemies. In past years, because of US politics being driven by Washington lobbyists for Big Oil, the Israelis kept very low on these topics – seemingly now – because of open disagreements on Middle East policy with the United States – they seemingly feel free to do the right thing and step closer to the leadership position in energy technologies that they are so capable of.

Back in 1959 – then again in 1974 – we suggested Israel develop its oil-shale resource for supply reasons. We got off that track when we moved our interest to biofuels – which we suggested  the Israel Refinery become the global example and start using ethanol as an octane enhancer to replace lead compounds – that would have created an 8 – 15% replacement of the gasoline used in the global market. Some in Israel understood the argument, but others looked to the non-forthcoming US leadership.

Then we trumpeted on technologies being developed by Israeli academic institutions – advances in electric batteries, algae, cellulosics, solar energy, geothermal installations, mini-turbines, the “Better Place” management concept. We spoke with some Israeli politicians and found an echo with the budding Green Party representatives in the Tel Aviv municipality, and some of Israel’s representatives at the UN. Our argument was – “Yes you can” – you can innovate and make technologies available free to the global market – free in the sense that you do not charge patent fees – as the country will get repaid by the decrease in military expenditures. The world’s attention to climate change allows you a leadership position because of your high level of scientific research. The following article shows that things-are-changing and Centers of Diplomacy and Communication – not just Science – are being created in Israel in order to promote these ideas. Would it not be nice to see other countries, i.e. India, Germany, Denmark, Brazil, New Zealand,  join with Israel in promoting these ideas and push as well the UN institutions that deal with sustainable development and climate change?

Ending Oil’s Monopoly: The Role of Israel

by Dr. Emmanuel Navon

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 118, November 7, 2010

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The emergence of China as a major oil importer is feeding geopolitical tensions with the United States over the securing of oil supplies. Russia’s oil resources – a significant source of that country’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy – are also of concern to the US, as is the expected depletion of oil resources over the coming decades. The solution to this problem lies in the ending of oil’s monopolistic status by promoting the use of biofuels and electricity for transportation, something in which Israel can assist thanks to its technological lead in electric cars and second-generation biofuels.

More than any other source of energy, oil is at the core of global geopolitical tensions because of its monopoly as an energy source for transportation (land, sea and air). US dependence on oil is not related to power generation. Only 1-2 percent of the electricity used in the US is generated by oil. Similarly, only 4% of the EU’s electricity is produced from oil. Since industrialized economies no longer generate electricity from oil, promoting nuclear power or renewable energy would have no effect on reducing oil dependency. Building more nuclear plants, solar panels and wind farms would only reduce the use of coal and gas in power production. This would have a positive impact on the environment, but virtually no impact on oil consumption. The US is nearly self-reliant for power generation but entirely dependent on imported oil for transportation. In fact, America is more dependent on oil imports today than it was 40 years ago, because of declining domestic production. In 1973, the US imported 35% of its oil consumption, in contrast to 60% in 2007.

The only way to really reduce oil dependency in a country like the United States is to change the energy consumption of engines. There are two realistic alternatives: electricity and biofuels. While hydrogen appears on paper to be a third alternative, it is too impractical and too expensive. Hydrogen is not available in nature in a usable form and must therefore be separated from the materials of which it is an element (such as water, natural gas or coal) in order to be used as a fuel.

Incidentally, Israeli technology is revolutionizing the use of electric transportation and biofuels. Israeli scientist Yitzhak Barzin founded GreenFuel, a company that produces biological fuel from seaweed, in 2002. Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi founded Better Place in 2007, with the purpose of spreading the use of electric cars worldwide.

In January 2008 Better Place signed a partnership agreement with Renault-Nissan to launch a new electric car project. Renault-Nissan is building the vehicles while Better Place is building the electric recharge grid, which will enable its customers to recharge their cars wherever they park. More significantly, battery switching stations will enable drivers to switch their car battery in less time than it would take to fill a gas tank. These stations will be spread out just like gas stations, and switching batteries will not involve any extra cost for the customer since the customer is charged only for kilometrage.

While Israel is among Better Place’s first and leading “trial countries” (the company is also implementing its model in Denmark and Hawaii), the Israeli government has done too little to promote biofuels. By contrast, the EU and US have adopted policies that make the use of biofuels mandatory. The European Commission’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) requires 10% of fuels in the EU to be composed of biofuels by 2020. Many of the light planes manufactured in Europe now use bio-diesel, both for cost and air quality reasons. The US Air Force is introducing the use of synthetic fuels made from gas derived from coal or biomass. Its target is to use a 50:50 blend of synthetic and traditional jet fuel for half of its aviation requirements by 2016. As for the US Navy, it is testing biofuels in ship turbines. It also recently launched an amphibious assault ship that runs on an electric motor at low speed. The Navy’s ambition is to ultimately develop all-electric ships.

Israel is certainly aware of the need to dethrone the monopolistic status of oil, and it has recently taken initiatives in that regard (such as the launching of the yearly international renewable energy conference in 2007, the establishment of the Institute for Renewable Energy Policy at the IDC in 2008 and the setting-up of a national commission for the replacement of fossil fuels in 2009). In September 2010, the Israeli government decided to invest nearly NIS 200 million over the next ten years in R&D projects aimed at creating alternatives to oil. (The plan also calls for government money to be supplemented by donations from the private sector to the tune of NIS 180 million a year).

To avoid the risky dependency on electric cars exclusively (an electric blackout caused by natural disasters could cripple transportation for entire regions), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), which run on electricity and automatically keep running on liquid fuel (including biofuel) when the electrical charge is used up, are most likely to become the most widespread vehicles in the future. Moreover, replacing gasoline cars with electric cars would only partially reduce the world’s dependency on oil because of the massive use of petroleum by ships and airplanes (both civil and military). Hence, the importance of biofuels.

The controversy over biofuels is too wide and complex to be discussed here. One important remark though is that biofuels do not need to be produced from crops. “Second generation” biofuels are produced from waste, algae and non-food vegetation. One example is cellulosic ethanol. Another example is algae. Algae double their mass in a few hours and produce 30 times as much oil per acre as sunflowers. Most significantly, algae devour carbon dioxide, the primary culprit in global warming. Growing algae like a crop enables the production of biofuel.

It remains an intriguing fact, however, that biofuels are virtually nonexistent in Israel’s transportation landscape. The Israeli government must be more proactive in that regard. By contributing to the breaking of oil’s monopoly over transportation, Israel will not only strengthen its strategic value vis-à-vis the United States and Europe, it might also provide its oil-producing neighbors with a good reason to be more pragmatic.

Dr. Emmanuel Navon is a lecturer at Tel Aviv University’s Abba Eban Graduate Program for Diplomacy Studies and a senior fellow at the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University.


Posted on on September 16th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.S. And Cuba Discuss Alliance To Save Sharks

A team of U.S. scientists and environmentalists met with Cuban officials this week to discuss a proposed alliance, including Mexico, to protect the Gulf of Mexico’s declining shark population.

The meetings were a product of both improved U.S.- Cuba relations and concern that only a joint effort by the three nations that share the gulf can protect sharks, whose numbers are said to be down as much as 50 percent for some species.

“The Gulf of Mexico is one ecosystem, it’s not just the U.S. gulf. The shark is a highly migratory fish that moves between the countries and it is troubled,” said Pamela Baker, gulf policy advisor for the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, which is spearheading the effort along with the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.

Shark populations have fallen worldwide, primarily due to overfishing to satisfy China’s demand for shark fin soup, which is rising as China becomes more prosperous, scientists say.

An estimated 73 million sharks are being killed annually mostly for their fins, the EDF said in a recent publication.

Still unknown, said shark expert Robert Hueter at the Mote Marine Laboratory, is the effect of the massive BP oil spill this summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sharks were able to swim away from the spill, but it drifted into estuaries and coastal areas where juvenile sharks spend their early lives, so damage to the population may not be obvious for a while, he told Reuters on Friday.


They said officials in all three countries have been receptive to the idea of a gulf alliance, but there are practical and political obstacles to overcome.

In Cuba’s case, it needs a system to collect information on the number and species of sharks caught, and once it has that, a catch share program that fits Cuba’s communist economy will have to be developed, Baker said.

Baker, Hueter and fellow Mote biologist John Tyminski took University of Havana students to several ports to show them how to identify and record fish data, which they will now do for a four-month pilot project.

One fisherman with 35 years experience in Cuban waters said they were catching fewer and smaller sharks, a typical sign of overfishing, Hueter said.

As they dried dozens of shark fins in the sun, the fishermen said the fins were all for export. A kilo sold for 50 convertible pesos, which is equivalent to $54 or three times the average Cuban monthly salary.

The program will also have to navigate the minefield of U.S.- Cuba relations, which have warmed modestly under U.S. President Barack Obama but remain complicated.

The Obama administration is encouraging more “people-to-people” programs to increase contact, so it has become easier to get licenses and visas for scientists to travel between the two countries, Whittle said.

But U.S. regulations prevent such things as the hiring of Cuban scientists or the purchase of a boat, he added.