Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The New York Times – Op-Ed Contributor
God Is an Argentine.
By MARTÍN CAPARRÓS
Now under the first pope from Latin America, what can the Catholic Church do to compete with the appeal of evangelicalism there?
WE Argentines are a credulous people. Perhaps 9 out of 10 of us believe in some God; most of us certainly believe that that God is Argentine.
True, most of the evidence we have used to support this suspicion has come from soccer: our most famous player, Diego Armando Maradona, once won a World Cup game thanks in part to an illegal handball that went down in history as the “Hand of God” goal. And today’s biggest soccer hero, Lionel Messi, is also an Argentine. But now we have even better confirmation, in the form of an announcement from the Vatican.
On Wednesday, the Roman Catholic Church chose as pope a non-European for the first time in the modern era, the first from the Americas and an Argentine to boot: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. God may not play dice with the universe, but he certainly laughs a lot.
A 76-year-old Jesuit, Cardinal Bergoglio became the archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998. But early in his career, in the 1970s, he was the national boss of the Society of Jesus — a time that overlapped with the most violent years of military dictatorship in Argentina.
The hierarchy of Argentina’s Catholic Church was complicit with the military genocide. Some researchers, like the journalist Horacio Verbitsky, have linked Cardinal Bergoglio with the “desaparición” — the disappearance, in May 1976, of two Jesuit priests, Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio, who worked in the slums of Buenos Aires. Both were kidnapped and tortured. The cardinal has always denied involvement, but many Argentines remain convinced that he “withdrew protection” from the priests, allowing the military to prey on them.
Leading up to the conclave, the Catholic Church was busy worrying about the appalling issue of the sexual abuse of children by so many of its priests. Cardinal Bergoglio did not awaken any such suspicion. But one could perhaps compare his record with that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was a teenage member of the Hitler Youth. It seems the church does not follow the precept of that Roman Julius Caesar, who upon divorcing his wife said she not only had to be innocent, but had to appear it, too.
The new pope, who has taken the name Francis, after Francis of Assisi, has done much to leave those accusations behind him. Everyone who knows him says he is serene, kind, modest, austere and — apparently — devoid of personal ambition. They point to his attitude during the previous conclave, eight years ago, when he reportedly rejected the possibility of being anointed. It seems the Holy Spirit was more adamant this time.
They highlight as well his words and deeds in service of the poor. These social stances often led to clashes with Néstor Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the back-to-back presidents of Argentina since 2003. Several times he publicly denounced their policies on poverty and inequality, and accused them of enriching themselves while pretending to serve the needy.
Another battle emerged in 2010, when, after opposing it for many years, Mrs. Kirchner endorsed the gay-marriage law that made Argentina the first country in Latin America with marriage equality. Cardinal Bergoglio called it a devil’s move and demanded a godly war. Mrs. Kirchner later accused him of attempting to re-enact the Inquisition.
So she was relieved when, in 2011, his term as head of the Argentine Catholic Church expired. She probably would never have guessed — did anyone? — that he would be made the master of the kingdom, God’s representative on earth. It is a paradox that Mrs. Kirchner’s administration, so fond of nationalist exploits, is now unable to showcase what could have been presented as a major national triumph: the election of Our Pope, the Argentine who made it abroad, the final confirmation that, yes, God is Argentine.
This week, Habemus papam — we have a pope — became an Argentine idiom. His election underlines the assumption that the center of Catholicism is shifting to the world’s poorer regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America. And yet in his own country, the poor are migrating en masse to Pentecostal and other Christian churches that are more charismatic and less institutionally compromised than the Old Lady from Rome.
Perhaps Pope Francis’ election will reverse that shift. In fact, I dread the effect that this unexpected divine favor will have on my country. We are a society that turned to tennis once Guillermo Vilas won a Grand Slam in France; grew obsessed with basketball when Manu Ginobili made his mark in the American N.B.A.; started raving about monarchy when an Argentine-born princess married the crown prince of the Netherlands; and has persisted in doubting Jorge Luis Borges’s value because he never won the international honor of a Nobel Prize. The fact that “one of us” is now sitting on St. Peter’s throne may have a huge effect on the weight of Catholicism on our lives.
Catholicism has never excelled at letting nonbelievers live as they believe they should. The right to legal abortion, for one, will be a ruthless field of that battle: “our” pope will surely never allow his own country, where legal abortion remains severely limited, to set a bad example. Here, as everywhere, the Vatican is a main lobbying force for conservative, even reactionary, issues. An Argentine pope can bring this power to uncharted heights.
Or perhaps not. I hope I am wrong: it has often been my lot. For infallibility, please ask for el Papa Francisco.
Martín Caparrós is the author of the novel “The Vanishing of the Mona Lisa.”
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 15, 2013, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: God Is an Argentine.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Fareed Zakaria, the anchor of the CNN/GPS Global Public Square Program – a journalist and much more – whose program we credited many times as the only program we recommend watching as a religious commitment to the tube, has a very clear view of the world.
He knows that the dependence on Middle Eastern oil is at the base of all US problems – economical, social, and political – internal and external. From the gauging at the pump – to the political antics of the Brothers Koch.
He knows that the world is changing and US attention must switch to Asia from Europe, and secure its backyard by finding more ways to cooperate with Latin America. To be able to do that, the US must start by cutting its umbilical cord to the Middle East. Yes, he knows this raises a lot of howls – from the Arabs who think they do a great favor to the US by selling their oil, and eventually from pro-Israel friends in the US that think Israel is still the baby that must be spoon fed rather then credited that it has matured and can be counted upon as a grown up ally. All this even before global warming/climate change is mentioned.
So far so good – and this seems completely correct. But Fareed may tend to forget the advice scientists – his friends and my friends – give him.
They say – keep away from all fossil fuels, not just the Arab oil – and develop an infrastructure that is based first on energy that was not spent – the cheapest way to enlarge the resource base – and then do everything possible to introduce renewable sources of energy that are long term sustainable.
You will find – we say – that you do not have to wait for the long range, the so called externalities by the fossil fuels industry, when taken into account as expenditures, as they should be, assure us that the alternatives to burning oil and coal make already for sound economics in the medium range.
This weekend Fareed Zakaria backed the Keystone pipeline and the Canada tar-sand oil extraction in Alberta – which will supply that pipeline – this without taking into consideration that this simply plays into the hands of the US oil industry but is a total NO-NO to the seekers for a true alternative. If the idea is simply jobs – it might be reasonable perhaps just to give money to the unemployed without causing the environmental destruction that goes with that pipeline and with the extraction of the Canadian oil.
The moment he leaves the Keystone topic – Fareed returns to his best – the analysis of the evolving China, and of the new opportunities that opened up in Latin America with thr death of Hugo Chavez. Without Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, the US can attempt now a total reconfiguration of its strategy for its own hemisphere-base. Then, with its back more secure – it can extend a friendly hand to a changing China – a continental size, 1.3 billion people large State that is building with maximum speed the largest middle-class the world has ever seen. This new Chinese want quality of life and that they can achieve only by working in tandem with a secure United States. Everybody knows now that there is only one G-2 situation – disturbed now by the US in-fighting – but evident nevertheless to the incoming new Chinese leader.
The days that China had a tremendous labor cost advantage over the US seem to be over, instead they feel water and energy shortages that they must handle in ordr not to slip from their path of growth. They do a lot to phase in renewable energy at a pace that is reasonable to them and would appreciate the breezing space that the US leaves behind when the US decreases imports of oil from Western Asia.Chavez as a devil figure but judges him in context of his country and the region and is able to see the positive aspects of Chavez having taken over leadership in a continent that US governments totally neglected and US business helped destroy. Each Latin country has its own US business excesses to tell about, as coincidentally Iran does. That does not mean that anyone North of the Border will have anything good to say about Chavez or Ahmadi-Nejad, but here we talk needed policy and not sentiments – and Fareed always was ahead of the Washington decision-makers in this non-technical areas.
March 9th, 2013
11:41 PM ET
By Fareed Zakaria
Watch the video for the full Take.
Later this year, the Obama administration will have to make a decision on whether to green light the Keystone pipeline – the 2,000-mile pipeline that would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure you’ve heard all the dire warnings about it. But another way to look at it is to ask what would happen if the project does not go forward.
The U.S. Department of State released an extremely thorough report that tries to answer this question. It concludes, basically, that the oil derived from Canadian tar sands will be developed at about the same pace whether or not there is a pipeline. In other words, stopping Keystone might make us feel good, but it wouldn’t really do anything about climate change.
Why? Well, given the need for oil in the U.S., Canadian producers would still get Alberta’s oil to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. There are other pipeline possibilities, but the most likely method of transfer is by train. The report estimates that it would take daily runs of 15 trains with about 100 tanker cars each to carry the amount planned by TransCanada…And remember, moving oil by train produces much higher emissions of CO2 (from diesel locomotives) than flowing it through a pipeline.
For more on this, read the TIME column here.
Topics: GPS Show
March 9th, 2013
12:47 PM ET
“Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this week, should the Keystone pipeline be allowed to go ahead? Fareed presents his take on the proposed oil pipeline, and then invites a dissenter onto debate the issue: Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.
What does the future hold for Venezuela and the region with the passing of President Hugo Chávez? And what does it mean for U.S.-Venezuela relations? Fareed convenes a panel of thinkers including Moises Naim, a former minister of trade and industry in Venezuela, Rory Carroll, author of the new book Comandante, and Nikolas Kozloff, author of Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the United States.
“In the next few months and perhaps years, they would need to find international external scapegoats and scapegoats at home,” Naim says. “Someone will have to explain to the people that are now addressing President Chavez why the situation, their standard of living, has declined so dramatically. Someone will have to explain why, without Chavez, life is not as good as it used to be.”
And, China’s new president: How Xi Jinping will manage the world’s most important relationship – that with the United States? Fareed speaks with China watcher Evan Osnos.
Topics: GPS Show
March 8th, 2013
11:12 AM ET
By François Godement, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: François Godement is a senior policy fellow and head of the China program at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.
This week’s National People’s Congress will complete China’s once-in-a decade leadership change, with Xi Jinping becoming the country’s new head of state. China’s partners, and above all Americans, want a China that is a predictable and reliable. After all, huge business interests require stable relations with China. And there is no doubt, China is becoming more powerful – it is not only present in most parts of the world, but has also become a determining factor in the international arena. We would all therefore love to see Mr Xi as a Chinese Gorbachev. But getting to know Xi’s real personality, and his likely style of governing, feels like Kremlinology. And what is emerging is worrying.
Xi is reputedly a charmer with an engaging and easygoing style. His wife is a famous singer, his daughter is quietly studying at Harvard. It is reported that he is even reluctant to embrace a luxurious lifestyle (although this does not appear to prevent some of his relatives from doing so). In public, Xi refrains from making controversial statements – an exception of course being the 2009 remark about the “full stomach” and the “constant finger pointing of Westerners” during a trip to Mexico.
March 8th, 2013
10:42 AM ET
By Mark P. Jones, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Mark P. Jones is the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and the Chair of the Department of Political Science at Rice University in Houston. The views expressed are his own.
Hugo Chávez was a great unifier. Not of all Venezuelans, as even the most casual observer of Venezuela realizes, but rather of the two polar political camps into which Venezuela divided during Chávez’s 14 year reign.
Within the Bolivarian movement he created, Chávez was the unquestioned leader, bringing together the disparate factions that together made up the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Cliques, distinct ideological groups, varied regional-based interests, and a new wealthy business class (the Boliburguesía, whose members experienced a rise from rags to riches due to their ties to the government) were all united by their support – both principled and self-interested – for Chávez.
On the opposition side, the one common thread that tied together a heterogeneous opposition alliance (the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD) was the goal of removing Hugo Chávez from power. This vibrant and often passionate opposition to Chávez provided the glue that held together such diverse actors as socialists, conservatives, state-based parties, recently established parties, and parties linked to the country’s discredited pre-Chávez political system.
March 7th, 2013
09:34 PM ET
By Fareed Zakaria
U.S. wages have fallen from 53 percent of GDP in 1970 to less than 44 percent last year, notes Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.
“The most succinct way to measure how corporate earnings have fared vs. workers’ wages is to examine their share of the U.S. economy — that is, gross domestic product. From 1950 through the 1970s, corporate profits hovered in the range of 5 percent to 7 percent of GDP. They dipped as low as 3 percent in 1986, but since then have staged a long-term ascent that has brought them to 11 percent today, their highest level since World War II. (That’s as far back as Federal Reserve figures go.)”
“China’s large pool of surplus labor has fueled its rapid industrial growth. Now this demographic dividend may be almost exhausted,” argue Yukon Huang and Clare Lynch in Bloomberg.
“College graduates are four times as likely to be unemployed as urban residents of the same age with only basic education, even as factories go begging for semi-skilled workers. Given the underdeveloped service sector and still-large roles of manufacturing and construction, China has created a serious mismatch between skills of the labor force and available jobs.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We remembered the Wikipedia posting en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_tide that first came to our attention when we discovered that we were listed a reference to it. Today we decided to bring it up because of the twin events – all of Latin America mourning the passing of Hugo Chavez, and the Heritage Foundation asking that the Obama Administration back the British claim to the Falkland Islands, because it is British colonialists that live now there, but under the “Las Malvinas” name are considered Argentinian territory by the States of Central and South America..
As such the following article by the Heritage Foundation does not make life of the United States any easier in its location at the Northern half of the Western Hemisphere. We are talking about the back of a United States being torn between Asia and Europe, and made insecure because of wrong moves in its own backyard. Hugo Chavez was a product of wrong US handling of its Southern neighbors, . and the Heritage Foundation posting does not try to make it easier for the US. Oh Well – we know – it is again about oil and the grabbing of resources as if they are there for the taking.
The United States Should Recognize British Sovereignty Over the Falkland Islands.
By Luke Coffey, Theodore R. Bromund, Ph.D. and Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
The Heritage Foundation, March 7, 2013.
In order to assert their inherent right to choose their own form of government, the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on March 10–11, 2013, to decide whether they wish to maintain their allegiance to Great Britain. Britain has administered the Islands peacefully and continuously since 1833, with the exception of the two months in 1982 when the Islands were invaded and illegally occupied by Argentine forces. The Obama Administration has backed Argentina’s calls for a U.N.-brokered settlement for the Islands and so far has refused to recognize the outcome of the referendum. This policy poses serious risks to U.S. interests and is an insult both to Britain—the U.S.’s closest ally—and to the rights of the Islanders.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pink tide (a derogatory phrase coined by US press used less commonly than the more clear Turn to the Left) is a term being used in contemporary 21st century political analysis in the media and elsewhere to describe the perception that Leftist ideology in general, and Left-wing politics in particular, are increasingly influential in Latin America.
In 2005, the BBC reported that out of 350 million people in South America, three out of four of them lived in countries ruled by “left-leaning presidents” elected during the preceding six years. According to the BBC, “another common element of the ‘pink tide’ is a clean break with what was known at the outset of the 1990s as the ‘Washington consensus‘, the mixture of open markets and privatisation pushed by the United States”.
The Latin American countries viewed as part of this ideological trend have been referred to as “Pink Tide nations”.
Use of the term
While being a relatively new coinage, the term “pink tide” has become prominent in contemporary discussion of Latin American politics. Origins of the term may be linked to a statement by Larry Rohter, a New York Times reporter in Montevideo who characterized the election of Tabaré Vázquez as leader of Uruguay as “not so much a red tide…as a pink one.” The term seems to be a play on words based on “red tide” (a biological phenomenon rather than a political one) with “red” – a color long associated with communism – being replaced with the lighter tone of “pink” to indicate the more moderate communist and socialist ideas gaining strength.
According to a 2006 press release from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization:
||…the Washington rumbles with suppressed outrage over Latin America’s latest professions of its sovereignty – Bolivia‘s nationalization of its oil and natural gas reserves, and Ecuador and Venezuela‘s voiding of their energy contracts. At the same time, Bolivia’s newly inaugurated president, Evo Morales, is a prime candidate to join Washington’s pantheon of Latin American bad boys, presently represented by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. Meanwhile, the region’s new populist leadership, also known as the “Pink Tide”, extends its colors across South America and is poised to leap to much of the rest of Latin America. Ostensibly, the “pink tide”, consists of left-leaning South American governments seeking a third way to register their political legitimation to their citizens, as well as their autonomy regarding such foreign policy issues as Iraq.
According to Diana Raby from Red Pepper Blog:
||…with left-wing victories in Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, social and economic recovery in Cuba and popular advances elsewhere in the region, journalists are talking about “Latin America’s pink tide” and the region itself has become the forum for passionate debates on “Socialism of the 21st Century”.
More recently one observer wrote that as “the so-called ‘Pink Tide’ sweeps through South America”, 2009 will probably see the election of Mauricio Funes in El Salvador. However, despite the presence of a number of Latin American governments which profess to embracing a leftist ideology, it is difficult to categorize Latin American states “according to dominant political tendencies, like a red-blue post-electoral map of the United States.” According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal non-profit think-tank based in Washington, D.C.:
||…a deeper analysis of elections in Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Mexico indicates that the “pink tide” interpretation—that a diluted trend leftward is sweeping the continent—may be insufficient to understand the complexity of what’s really taking place in each country and the region as a whole.
While this political shift is difficult to quantify, its effects are widely noticed. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, 2006 meetings of the South American Summit of Nations and the Social Forum for the Integration of Peoples demonstrated that certain discussions that “used to take place on the margins of the dominant discourse of neoliberalism, (have) now moved to the center of public debate.”
The perception of the rising pink tide is heralded as welcome change by those sympathetic to the views its represents while those near the opposite end of the political spectrum identify it as a malignant influence. According to the latter:
According to a report from the Inter Press Service news agency:
||…elections results in Latin America appear to have confirmed a left-wing populist and anti-U.S. trend – the so-called “pink tide” – which, along with the recent disclosures regarding ties between right-wing paramilitaries and the government of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, poses serious threats to Washington’s multi-billion-dollar anti-drug effort in the Andes.
Left-wing presidents elected since 1998
- ^  Boston Globe: The many stripes of anti-Americanism
- ^ a b c  BBC News: South America’s leftward sweep
- ^ a b  Pittsburg Tribune-Herald: Latin America’s ‘pragmatic’ pink tide
- ^  SustainabiliTank: Guatemala
- ^ a b c d  Institute for Policy Studies: Latin America’s Pink Tide?
- ^ a b  Council on Hemispheric Affairs: Latin America – The Path Away from U.S. Domination
- ^  The Bolivarian Project: Latin America’s Pink Tide
- ^  Yet Another Feather in the Cap of Hugo Chavez? El Salvador 2009 NIKOLAS KOZLOFF May 10-12, 2008
- ^  Inter Press Service: Challenges 2006–2007: A Bad Year for Empire
This page was last modified on 7 March 2013 at 00:05.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Argentina’s About-Face on Terror.
By FABIÁN BOSOER and FEDERICO FINCHELSTEIN
Published by New York Times on-line: March 1, 2013
ON July 18, 1994, a van filled with explosives blew up outside the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. It was the worst terrorist attack ever in Argentina, which has Latin America’s largest Jewish population, and one of the deadliest anti-Semitic attacks since the Holocaust.
In 2007, after more than a decade of investigations, Argentine prosecutors obtained Interpol arrest warrants for six suspects and formally blamed Hezbollah for staging the attack and Iran for financing it.
But bizarrely, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, abruptly switched course last month and reached an agreement with the Iranian government that would set up a “truth commission” of international legal experts to analyze evidence from the bombings. The agreement, which the Congress approved early Thursday, would allow Argentine officials to travel to Tehran and interview Iranians suspected of involvement in the attack.
The problem is that any recommendations by the commission would be nonbinding; moreover, some of the suspects in the attack are now high-ranking Iranian officials — including the sitting defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi — and therefore untouchable. Indeed, Iran has repeatedly refused to cooperate with Argentine investigators and ignored international warrants for the arrest of senior Iranian officials believed to have taken part in planning the bombing.
Mrs. Kirchner’s decision to abandon Argentina’s longstanding grievances against Iran is particularly galling because it comes just weeks after Bulgaria, another country victimized by Iranian-sponsored terrorism, accused Hezbollah of staging a suicide attack on Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian town of Burgas last year. That attack, like the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, was part of a shadow war against Jewish civilians across the world. Bulgaria’s government, unlike Argentina’s current administration, decided to stand up to Hezbollah and forthrightly accuse it of the crime.
Argentina’s president is undermining her own country’s prosecutors, who have for several years tried to pursue the suspected perpetrators. Many observers have denounced Mrs. Kirchner for giving Iran a free pass. As Laura Ginsberg, whose husband was killed in the 1994 attack, has put it, the Argentine government has terminated the possibility of justice.
Mrs. Kirchner’s decision could open the gates to a major foreign policy realignment in the near future. Her populist government is moving toward the pro-Iranian positions of Venezuela’s ailing president, Hugo Chávez, and further away from those of Brazil, the United States and Europe. According to the Argentine newspaper La Nación, Argentina has started to collaborate on arms deals, including the development of missile technology, with Venezuela and indirectly with Iran.
Mrs. Kirchner’s move is also at odds with Argentina’s own history of holding human rights violators accountable. Argentina was plagued by political violence in the 1970s. It was one of the first countries in the world to create a truth commission to investigate the crimes of the military dictatorship that ruled between 1976 and 1983, including the killings and “disappearances” of more than 10,000 citizens deemed to be enemies of the state. That commission was formed after democracy was re-established in 1983 and eventually led to trial and punishment of the generals who led the junta, as well as other human rights violators.
To now create a so-called truth commission to investigate Iran’s and Hezbollah’s role in the 1994 attack and review the well-established findings of Argentina’s own courts is an insult to the memory of those murdered in 1994 and to all of those killed by Argentina’s dictatorship.
Argentina has made grave foreign policy errors before. It is still coping with the fallout from its short 1982 war with Britain over the islands that Britain calls the Falklands and that Argentines call Las Malvinas. That conflict was an ill-advised move by a nationalist dictatorship. In contrast, the current treaty with Iran is being backed by a democratically elected president.
While the 1982 war initially had widespread support, the agreement with Iran, which passed with a narrow congressional majority, has been rejected by all of Argentina’s opposition parties, which vehemently denounced it in congressional debates this week. Moreover, all major Argentine Jewish organizations have opposed the treaty, and there is no indication that Mrs. Kirchner’s conciliatory gesture to Iran is supported by a majority of citizens.
Mrs. Kirchner has vigorously defended the treaty. It is possible that she believes taking a controversial step toward resolving a longstanding dispute will raise Argentina’s international profile. She may also think that the treaty will increase her party’s popularity in an election year.
But it will do neither. Like the 1982 war with Britain, Mrs. Kirchner’s misguided rapprochement with Iran will only compromise Argentina’s long-term national interests while doing nothing to satisfy the survivors’ yearning for justice.
Fabián Bosoer is an opinion editor at the newspaper Clarín. Federico Finchelstein, an associate professor of history at the New School, worked as a researcher at the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires before the 1994 bombing.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 21st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
NEW – Rabbi Schneier’s weekly column in the Huffington Post.
The Making of Modern-Day Miracles: Hanukkah With the Chief Rabbi, Imams and Barack Obama.
Hanukkah, the eight day holiday which the Jewish people just observed, is first and foremost, about miracles. Hanukkah commemorates both the miracle of the victory of the Jewish people led by Judah Maccabee in their uprising against their Greek oppressors in 165 B.C.E. and the miracle that the menorah in the reconsecrated Temple in Jerusalem burned for eight days, even though there was only enough oil to light it for one day.
To be sure, miracles have always played a major role in Jewish history; indeed, the very survival of the Jews as a people, despite nearly 2,000 years of exile and persecution, is the greatest miracle of all. Yet, in the Talmud, our sages remind us that one must not rely on miracles. Yes, miracles can happen, but one has to work terribly hard for them.
There is an enormous human component that goes into the making of a miracle.
Over the past six years, I have been privileged to take part in a modern-day miracle: the establishment of a global movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation. Two weeks ago, as I wrote in my last column, I was one of several rabbis invited to take part in the opening of the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith Dialogue in Vienna, an institution created by the King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to strengthen dialogue between world religions — very much including Islam and Judaism. On Dec. 10, the second day of Hanukkah, together with my friend and esteemed colleague, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, the largest mosque in New York City, I organized a festive Hanukkah meal at the SOLO kosher restaurant in midtown Manhattan featuring the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and eight prominent New York area imams and Muslim leaders.
As I noted in my remarks at the luncheon, such an event would have been unthinkable a few years ago; and many people might assume, should have been all but impossible in the wake of the exchange of missile fire between Israel and Gaza last month. However, thanks to the ongoing step-by-step work in which I have been engaged with Imam Shamsi Ali and other visionary Muslim and Jewish leaders around the world; arranging hundreds of mosque-synagogue exchanges every November during our annual International Muslim-Jewish Weekend of Twinning and bringing together European, North American and Latin American Muslim and Jewish leaders to stand together against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, we have managed to build a framework that allows us to celebrate each others’ holidays together, and to work productively in concert with each other, even at a time of conflict in the Middle East.
That willingness to build ties of cooperation and understanding very much includes Chief Rabbi Metzger, who has made it a point to reach out to imams and Muslim leaders, both within Israel and the Palestinian territories and around the world. Pointing out that through the greater part of the past 1,300 years, Jews and Muslims lived and worked closely together, the Chief Rabbi invoked the miracle of the long burning menorah of Hanukkah to appeal to the New York imams to join with him and like-minded Jews in “spreading the light of Jewish-Muslim understanding.” Responding on behalf of his fellow imams, Shamsi Ali emphasized that “the Middle East conflict is not a Jewish-Muslim conflict but a human one and we have a shared human responsibility to intervene. We don’t have the luxury to become discouraged and give up on the situation; rather we must remain optimistic and keep building our network of contacts.”
Presiding over this historic gathering, the first time a chief rabbi of Israel has sat down together with American Muslim leaders, I reflected that its very occurrence showed about how far Muslims and Jews have come together in six short years and the great opportunity we now have to work together for the betterment of both communities — including helping to bring peace to the Middle East. Indeed, thanks to the efforts in which we have been engaged, there is greater reason for optimism about Muslim-Jewish relations than has existed in a long time.
Several days later, on the evening of Dec. 13, I was privileged to participate in the menorah lighting ceremony at the White House. Listening to President Obama’s eloquent words at that event, I reflected that he is a man of conviction and principle whom I deeply admire.
Yet, as someone who has been in the vanguard of strengthening black-Jewish relations in America for a quarter of a century, being in Barack Obama’s presence at a Hanukkah celebration at the White House also evoked another miracle that continues to amaze and inspire me: the first-ever African-American President of the United States.
Like the remarkable progress we have achieved in Muslim-Jewish relations, the triumph of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the election of President Obama 40 years later, are also examples of miracles that good people worked terribly hard to make happen. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other milestones of that movement would never have occurred without the tireless efforts of Americans of diverse backgrounds who came together in support of the struggle of African-Americans for freedom and equality. In fact, as I have noted in my book “Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King and the Jewish Community,” there was no segment of American society which provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as did the Jewish community.
Among the modern day Maccabees who sacrificed their lives were Jewish civil rights activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who together with their African-American co-worker James Chaney, were brutally murdered in the swamps of Mississippi.
Other brave Jews who joined that struggle included Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, and countless other rabbis who were arrested and beaten during the Freedom Rides of 1961.
As I stood in the White House and witnessed the first African-American President light the Hanukkah menorah, I felt that the President’s solidarity with the Jewish community that evening was so very fitting given the seeds of the black-Jewish alliance that were planted in the Civil Rights struggle of half a century ago.
As I left the White House that evening, I reflected on the miraculous accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement, confident that we can achieve the miracle of Muslim-Jewish reconciliation as well. Both of these movements remind us of the enormous human effort that goes into the making of a miracle.
Rabbi Marc Schneier is President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. Schneier is co-authoring a book on Muslim-Jewish relations entitled Sons of Abraham, with Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center, New York City’s largest mosque, to be published by Beacon Press in the Fall of 2013.
Click Here to read Rabbi Schneier’s new column in the Huffington Post
But lest we are accused of not considering all evidence, I must bring up also the OpenDemocracy column we read today:
Turkey, the end of Islamism with a human face.
Turkey’s AKP government has over a decade promised a new model of governance: progressive and reformist, Islamist and democratic. But a series of developments, including the expanding power of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, is now exposing the party and its policies to ever-deeper scrutiny, says Kerem Oktem.
For eight decades after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the dominant ideology and political model was one of authoritarian secularism. In November 2002, the election victory of the Justice & Development Party (AKP) brought with it a double promise: to accommodate growing demands for inclusion (from both Turkey’s majority Muslim population and the country’s subordinated ethno-religious minorities), and to marry Turkey’s mainstream Islamist tradition and conservative political right with a programme of modernisation geared towards accession to the European Union.
The prospect of historic change struck a chord far beyond Turkey, especially among liberals in Europe and the United States but also across the middle east. The culture wars unleashed by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida and George W Bush’s administration had both polarised world opinion and created longing for a new reconciliation between “Islam” and “democracy” (or more accurately, between Islamism and popular sovereignty). Many read in the Turkish result a sign of hope.
The AKP’s ambition could hardly be exaggerated: to reconcile conservative religious values and modern politics in a way that resembled the achievement of Christian Democrat parties in late-19th century Europe when they carried Catholic voters and Christian values into democratic politics. The party, after several false starts and legal sanctions from a still confident and intimidatory state, had built a broad coalition of old Islamists, moderate nationalists and new liberals. It seemed a strong foundation for a change-making project inspired by the notion of “Islamism with a human face”.
The AKP’s election breakthrough of November 2002 was the prelude to an exciting decade-long political roller-coaster ride where impressive economic growth, progressive legal reforms, empowerment of civil society and modernisation of infrastructure was counterbalanced by growing nationalism and chauvinism, spreading machismo and untamed neo-liberal restructuring. Amid many setbacks and frustrations, the ride more often than not seemed to lean towards the former. Now, however, Turkey’s politics appear to have come full circle. The country’s Kurds are even more antagonised than during the highpoint of the Kurdish war of the 1990; the non-orthodox Alevi community (which numbers at least 10 million) feels more disenfranchised even than under Kemalist dictatorship; and virtually all societal groups that diverge from the AKP’s notion of the “Islamic middle-class family” experience a sense of exclusion as a result of state attitudes.
It is a good time to take stock, and re-evaluate the actors and dynamics which have reshaped Turkey over these ten years. In particular, to ask: why has the human face of Islamism appears to have gone missing; why has the country’s political realm experienced a puzzling a loss of decency; what do these developments mean for the people of Turkey and the country’s overlapping neighbourhoods; and what are the available alternatives?
A discredited legacy
Turkey shares with other middle-east regimes a tradition of secular authoritarianism whose combination of rigorously controlled institutions, populist nationalism and repressive security systems enabled it to remain in power for decades. Turkey differed from countries such as Egypt, Syria or Tunisia not in the underpinnings of power, but in its state legacy and geostrategic environment. The Republic of Turkey, which had its foundations in the Ottoman empire’s modernisation of the late 19th century, was able to avoid the colonial domination that was to shape the experience of modern Arab statehood. Moreover, at the onset of the cold war, Turkey’s political elites were able to secure a place for the country in the western security alliance, thanks above all to its geographical proximity to western Europe and its status as a frontline state vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, this place facilitated the maintenance in Turkey of a semi-democratic hybrid regime which kept a balance between some socio-economic and ethno-religious groups while repressing and/or denying the existence of others (especially the Kurds, a middle-eastern nation with a long history of local statehood and a distinct literary tradition). The reality of the Armenian genocide, on which the relative religious homogeneity of modern Turkey as a Muslim majority state was built, was also denied.
At heart, Turkey over these decades was a deeply unjust society marked by profound ideological and ethno-religious divisions, which came to the fore particularly in the years of near civil war (as in the 1970s) and was then controlled by the extreme security state established after the coup d’etat of September 1980. By the early 2000s, however, the version of modernity projected by the Kemalist regime – so-called after the state’s founder, Kemal Atatürk – was looking anachronistic, reminiscent as it was of the leader-worship, mass events and orchestrated nationalist fervour of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany; while political and social developments in Turkey had massively undermined its claim to represent the country.
The Islamist movement, partly supported by the generals of the 1980 coup as a prophylactic against socialist infiltration, had matured significantly. The leading cadres within Turkey’s Milli Görü? (National View) movement, the mainstream Islamist tradition from whom the AKP’s leading cadres hail, had come to embrace non-statist, globalised economic thinking and to accept the need to work within the parameters of the secular state. Islamic networks such as Fethullah Gülen’s HIzmet, which combined conservative social values with successful educational enterprises and trust-based business networks, facilitated the emergence of internationally successful industrial establishments in medium-sized towns and cities in the Anatolian heartlands. These flourishing “Anatolian tigers” in central Turkey – led by a new “Islamic bourgeoisie” whose hard work and focused business ambition even attracted the sobriquet “Islamic Calvinists” – created what Cihan Tugal calls a “passive revolution” which integrated Islamists into capitalism and municipal politics, thereby keeping radicalisation at bay.
The Kemalist model was also exposed by the dirty war against the Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish civilian population, which by the 2000s had left more than 30,000 dead and up to 2 million Kurds internally displaced. The loss of legitimacy was shared: among a series of weak coalition governments, among the “deep state” that effectively co-opted them, and among the Kemalist modernisation project as a whole.
Thus, by the time the AKP came to power in 2002, Turkey was over-ready for a change – and change it did. In a relatively short period, and at breakneck speed, the government embarked on an ambitious programme of legal and institutional reform. The prospect of accession negotiations with the European Union unleashed a frenzy of liberal initiatives: the enacting of a progressive civil code, the opening to scrutiny of the repressive institutions of the post-1980 era (including the Higher Education Council, devised to keep unruly universities under control, and the National Security Council, which did the same for the country’s politics).
All vestiges of the ancien regime were open to consideration. The media brimmed with public debates about hitherto unspeakable taboos: from the repression of the Kurds and the marginalisation of Alevis to the denial of the many crimes against humanity which the Turkish nationalist modernisers committed in the dying days of the Ottoman empire and the early ones of the Turkish republic. This liberal moment was framed by high levels of economic growth and a tripling of GDP per capita, which allowed the government to reorganise public services and infrastructure. Significant portions of the public gained unprecedented access to healthcare, with visible results on public health (particularly in underprivileged areas like the Kurdish provinces). This aspect of neo-liberal adjustment came with better services and a more courteous public administration.
A new balance
True, even at the time, there were signs of an undercurrent of religious chauvinism, and an element of Islamist “revenge” for the reprisals inflicted upon them throughout the republic (and particularly after the “mini-coup” of 1997). From 2005, the country witnessed an almost inexplicable nationalist backlash in which prominent liberal public intellectuals such as Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak were publicly assaulted and subject to a barrage of court cases. These campaigns of psychological warfare against Turkey’s faint but vital liberal voice were supplemented by targeted violence whose victims included the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (murdered in January 2007) and several Christian priests and missionaries.
The operations of the deep state, a remnant of Nato’s “stay behind” forces that went viral during the Kurdish war, had been supported (unknowingly or cynically) by parts of the secular establishment and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The latter’s efforts extended at times into a form of brinkmanship aimed at deposing the AKP government, preventing the AKP foreign minister Abdullah Gül from competing for the presidency, or even (via the constitutional court) attempting to shut down the governing party. All of these manoeuvres failed; though they did succeed in polarising the political space and galvanising support for the AKP government, which could rightfully accuse the Kemalist establishment of undemocratic conduct. They also opened the door to a direct popular election of the president.
There were other worrying signs. An amended anti-terror law in 2006 significantly expanded the definition of terrorism to make the expression of ideas that happen to be shared by terrorist organisations a punishable offence. At a stroke, demands for education in the Kurdish language or for regional autonomy became a security matter. In tactics reminiscent of Israel’s tactics in the occupied Palestinian territories, Turkish security officers abused demonstrating children in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish cities and imprisoned them for minor offences like hurling stones or carrying placards with the insignia of the PKK. The legal attacks against pro-Kurdish parties and politicians – established tools of governance since their emergence in the 1990s – continued. In the late 2000s, a legal battle was unleashed upon the whole domain of Kurdish politics, with hundreds (and soon thousands) of Kurdish politicians, activists and employees of municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) taken into detention, sometimes under humiliating circumstances.
A successful referendum initiative in September 2010 then broke the hegemony of Kemalist judges in the high courts and made possible the prosecution of the hitherto protected leaders of the 1980 coup. This fuelled the zeal of prosecutors close to the government in their undeclared war on the old establishment, which involved bringing charges against former and serving chiefs of the general staff and leading figures in the media and politics for alleged involvement in a series of (averted) coup attempts. Turkey’s history of military interventions made the accusations not unreasonable, and they helped the government to scare the military into full cooperation. Yet if the court cases against the BDP were aimed at marginalising the AKP’s main rival in the Kurdish provinces, those against the military and secularist figures were directed against the Kemalist establishment as such, not necessarily at any actual acts individuals might have engaged in. The ever-growing number of those detained, and the mounting incidents of half-baked evidence, secret witnesses, and (in line with Turkish judicial tradition) fantastic indictments, gradually eroded the legitimacy of the prosecutorial assault.
But prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and his government had been able – at least until the 2010 elections – to counterbalance such highhanded moves with more benign ones in other policy domains. TV and radio broadcasts in Kurdish were legalised, and Kurdish education gradually phased in. This led to multiple contradictions: as the first university degree programmes for Kurdish teachers began, for example, detained Kurdish politicians were charged for insisting on defending themselves in their mother tongue. This doesn’t diminish the importance of the fact that Kurdish, denied its very existence throughout the entire history of the republic, is now a recognised subject in state schools and universities.
The court proceedings cannot be defined as anything but “exceptional justice”. There is little doubt, though, that the Kemalist establishment (including the CHP) had been deeply implicated in dodgy dealings with the deep state to overthrow or at least weaken the ruling AKP. Turkey’s visibility in its neighbourhood, and its seemingly successful foreign-policy activism, also helped to convince a global audience that the AKP government was still engaging in a struggle to defend the popular will against the machinations of the authoritarian Kemalist establishment and the deep state.
An authoritarian shift
So, what changed after the 2010 elections, which returned the AKP to government for a third time and with almost half of the popular vote? Many secularists argue there was no such change: rather, that the cadres of this Islamist party had artfully manipulated the public in Turkey, the European Union and pretty much everybody in the world in order to subvert the military and then rule supreme. They now had the strength to fulfil their “real” motive, to create a sort of theocracy. Some liberals, and even more reflective Islamist actors, would make a different case, based on Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Indeed, ten years in government is a long time.
Both explanations have a grain of truth, though the proponents of the first might recall that the secular establishment has played a major role in cornering the AKP elites and socialising them into the very exceptional use of force which the government and its supporters in the judiciary and bureaucracy is now engaged in. The flipside of the secularist explanation hence suggests that the Kemalist state has managed to shape the Islamists in its own image, turning them into the same kind of authoritarian modernisers and social engineers; the difference being that the core reference-points are now Islam, Ottomanism and neo-liberalism rather than Turkish ethno-nationalism. In the government’s defence, its apologists proclaim that Erdo?an wants to attract the nationalist vote with hawkish policies in order to ensure his election as president, insinuating that he might become more moderate when that is achieved.
Geostrategy has also helped. Turkey happens to share borders with states that are vilified by the western security establishment. In the past, it was the Soviet Union; then Iran, followed by Iraq, and lately Syria. The United States needs Turkey as an ally in its middle-eastern policy, no matter what shape this policy may eventually take. It is not a good time to criticise Turkey – and thanks to geostrategy, the time never seems to be just right. The rebranding of Turkey as an economic powerhouse and model of Muslim democracy, professionally and aggressively conducted globally by civil-society organisations and pro-business Islamic networks, also remains potent. Turkey is still able to depict itself, albeit in a far less convincing way than before, as a model for the democratic transitions in the Arab world.
A political faultine
If the AKP government is now in more or less full control of the Turkish state, unconstrained by foreign-policy pressures, and able to benefit from a relatively well-performing economy, what exactly is it doing? The answer is that it is concentrating extreme power in the hands of the prime minister, and conducting remorseless policies without a modicum of balance. There are thousands of Kurdish activists and hundreds of university students in jail, who are by any definition political prisoners; they are joined by critical journalists who are often held on terrorism charges. The judiciary is cracking down on pretty much any individual who dares to question the legitimacy of “Islamism with a human face” and of Turkey’s neo-liberal restructuring. Critical academics such as Bü?ra Ersanl? and P?nar Selek have been imprisoned or face charges. Some campuses, like that of the Aegean University in Izmir and now that of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, are subjected to a state of emergency, where police snatch away protesting students and intimidate intervening faculty members.
The balancing-act between neo-liberal adjustment and redistribution was one of the great success stories of earlier AKP governments. Now that the economy is slowing, redistribution has become harder and industrial action more pronounced. Turkish Airlines is a showcase for intelligent management, brand consolidation and growth thanks to high levels of productivity. Yet working conditions are harsh, and when a few hundred employees staged a short strike earlier in 2012, all of them were dismissed (via SMS) after an angry intervention by Erdo?an. Istanbul’s skyline is slowly being destroyed by what will soon be called the Turkish property bubble; the prime minister himself, usually not responsible for urban planning, is pushing through plans for the largest mosque in Turkey on a hilltop overlooking Istanbul, and for an ill-advised plan to “beautify” the city’s heart around Taksim Square. All of these projects have been finalised behind closed doors, with no regard to public consultation.
Erdo?an’s is a sad story, especially in relation to the promise he represented as a child of poor immigrants to Istanbul who rose to the top echelons of power via the municipality of greater Istanbul, along the way defying the Kemalist establishment and enduring a jail term. Now, he has become a choleric figure who lectures the world about all and sundry; plays down the Armenian genocide (while accusing China of the same crime against the Uyghur people and maintaining cordial relations with Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, whose regime is accused of genocide in Darfur); lambasts Israel (rightly) for its brutal occupation regime, while failing to apologise for the killing of thirty-four Kurdish civilians in an airstrike near the village of Roboski; tells Turkish women how many children to have (three) and threatens to rescind relatively liberal abortion laws.
That socially conservative politics would eventually close in on the female body and, as Deniz Kandiyoti suggests, attempt a “masculinist restoration”, is probably not so surprising. That Erdo?an now even seeks to have a popular TV series on Suleiman the Magnificent banned, because it depicts the Ottoman Sultan as a man concerned more with his harem than with conquest, however, is. Could Erdo?an be approaching the threshold to ludicrousness?
A contested hegemony
The hegemonic aspect of Turkey’s new governing system is a case of the phenomenon different from Egypt’s, where Andrea Teti and colleagues view Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as non-hegemonic actors that consequently face widespread protests that contest their power-base. The foundations of post-Kemalist hegemony run deeper, as they have been built gradually and in a more deliberate manner. In ten years, the AKP and sympathetic Islamic networks have succeeded in educating a new generation of administrators, judges and foreign-policy experts in private schools and new universities, who approximate in mindset and persuasion to what Erdo?an calls a “pious youth”. The part of the population which has benefited from the AKP’s economic growth and redistribution policies is incomparably larger than in Egypt; and Turkey is much richer now than it was in 2002-03.
The infinitely self-confident Erdo?an is not without possible challenge, however – though not from the main opposition party, which is failing to unite its two main factions into a progressive social-democrat coalition (the division is between a nationalist and anti-Kurdish Kemalist establishment, and a more liberal left-wing faction with a strong Alevi component). The challenge, rather, comes from two other sources. The first could emerge from within the Islamist movement and the Islamic networks, which have played a key role in mobilising their constituencies for the AKP in the preceding elections. Many people here regard “decency” as not (or not exclusively) a matter of piety and modest dress. Some wonder whether their longstanding struggle really was for a Turkey with more mosques, shopping-malls and high-speed trains, ruled by an autocratic dictator who gasps for even more power than he already holds. The extent to which they will be able to revoke the implicit agreement between Islamists not to compromise a fellow brother, and to find a voice in the AKP (or beyond) will be decisive for the future of Turkey’s politics and of Erdo?an himself.
The second challenge may come from Turkey’s current president, the much less divisive Abdullah Gül, who enjoys considerably more approval for a second term in office than Erdo?an does in his bid for the presidency. The two are now in open conflict over a wide range of policy issues. This struggle will unfold over the next year.
In the meantime, Turkey veers ever closer to an abyss of multiple crises on different geographical scales: in its neighbourhood, in Syria, in its own Kurdish regions, in its higher-education system, its courtrooms, and in its inner cities. If there is anything like “path dependence”, the possibility of Erdo?an returning to the politics of decency, with which he initially captured the hearts and minds of the electorate in Turkey, can be precluded. For now, Turkey’s experiment of “Islamism with a human face” seems to have come to a tentative end.
That this is happening at the same time as the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt seems to be slipping, and unrest is mounting in Tunisia, might offer some hints about the future of this ideology. Olivier Roy’s repeated insistence that Islamism is nearing its end might still be unfounded. The Turkish experience, however, suggests that its neo-liberal, pro-American version cannot provide credible or sustainable answers to the needs of complex modern societies, and certainly not to the demands for social justice and inclusive governance.
Similar difficulties exist in Israel and they will not be resolved by the January 2013 elections.
The up-shot is thus that lot of hard work is needed to make the needed miracles of civil co-existence happen.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
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
By FRANCISCO TORO
Published: October 5, 2012
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 Sustainabilitank.info on August 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Tancredo de Almeida Neves, Commonly called Tancredo Neves (March 4, 1910 – April 21, 1985) – was born in São João del Rey, in the state of Minas Gerais, of mostly Portuguese, but also Austrian descent. 
Neves was the opposition candidate to replace President João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo – the last general-President of Brazil.
The campaign for direct elections failed. There was no popular public vote. Neves was elected President by a majority of the Electoral College on January 15, 1985, where he received 480 votes.
USING WIKIPEDIA LANGUAGE THE FOLLOWING IS THE OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION OF A CHAIN OF EVENTS:
On March 14, on the last day of his predecessor’s term, and on the eve of his own inauguration, Neves became severely ill, requiring immediate surgery. He thus was not able to attend his own inauguration on March 15.
The Constitution required the President and Vice-President elect to take oaths of office before the assembled National Congress.
The inauguration was accordingly held for the Vice-President only, the Vice-President immediately assumed the powers of the presidency as Acting President. At that time, there was still hope that Neves would recover and appear before Congress to take the oath of office.
However, Neves suffered from abdominal complications and developed generalized infections. After seven operations, Neves died on April 21, more than one month after the beginning of his term of office, without ever having taken the oath of office as President. He was succeeded by José Sarney who was the Vice President. Neves’s ordeal was intensively covered by the Brazilian media and followed with anxiety by the whole nation, who had seen in him the way out of the authoritarian regime into what he had called a “New Republic” (Nova República).
His death caused an outpouring of national grief.
Tancredo Neves is counted among the official list of presidents of Brazil as a matter of homage and honour, since, not having taken the oath of office, he technically never became President. An Act of Congress was thus necessary to make this homage official. Accordingly on the first anniversary of his death, a statute was signed into law declaring that he should be counted among the Presidents of Brazil.
BUT NOBODY I TALKED TO IN BRAZIL BELIEVED THAT TANCREDO NEVES DIED OF NATURAL CAUSES. THE BELIEF IS RATHER THAT THE GENERALS WERE NOT READY YET TO TRANSFER POWER TO AN ELECTED PRESIDENT AND THIS INCLUDED NEVES, EVEN THOUGH HIS OWN ELECTION WAS NOT YET THE STATE OF THE ART OF PURE DEMOCRACY.
During the period that he was President Elect I had the great honor to be invited to Hotel Pierre in New York to a Presentation he made as guest of the Americas Society and Mr. David Rockefeller. Shortly after that the Organization of American States was involved in a conference on ethanol fuels that was held in Bello Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Neves was the opening speaker and Aureliano Chaves, who later became the Energy Minister, and at that time was Governor of Minas Gerais, was the opening presenter. Here was a Brazil in motion that was talking independence of oil imports and local production of fuels. Was this something that ruffled feathers?
Above is my addition to the following article that does not mention Tancredo Neves. Nevertheless, if Brazil is ready to look under the rugs of dictatorship, even that an amnesty for the sake of internal peace has been declared, the Tancredo Neves case will eventually be touched upon as well. All what we can say nevertheless, the search for the truth of past dictatorships in the Southern Latin Cone, has in it the makings of unravelling as well US business involvement and CIA operatives that taught methodology of torture in the region.
Leader’s Torture in the ’70s Stirs Ghosts in Brazil.
Published by the New York Times: August 4, 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO — Her nom de guerre was Estela. Part of a shadowy urban guerrilla group at the time of her capture in 1970, she spent three years behind bars, where interrogators repeatedly tortured her with electric shocks to her feet and ears, and forced her into the pau de arara, or parrot’s perch, in which victims are suspended upside down naked, from a stick, with bound wrists and ankles.
The Lady President of Brazil by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
Ms. Rousseff, now president of Brazil, says little these days about the cruelty she endured.
And years ago by Adir Mera/Public Archive of the State of Sao Paulo
Dilma Rousseff at 22 as a captured guerrilla at a military hearing in 1970. Today, a panel is investigating the torture she and others endured under Brazil’s military dictatorship.
That former guerrilla is now Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff. As a truth commission begins examining the military’s crackdown on the population during a dictatorship that lasted two decades, Brazilians are riveted by chilling details emerging about the painful pasts of both their country and their president.
The schisms of that era, which stretched from 1964 to 1985, live on here. Retired military officials, including Maurício Lopes Lima, 76, a former lieutenant colonel accused of torturing Ms. Rousseff, have questioned the evidence linking the military to abuses. Rights groups, meanwhile, are hounding Mr. Lopes Lima and others accused of torture, encircling their residences in cities across Brazil. “A torturer of the dictatorship lives here,” they recently wrote in red paint on the entrance to Mr. Lopes Lima’s apartment building in the seaside resort city of Guarujá, part of a street-theater protest.
While a 1979 amnesty still shields military officials from prosecution for abuses, the commission, which began in May and has a two-year mandate, is nevertheless stirring up ghosts. The dictatorship killed an estimated 400 people; torture victims are thought to number in the thousands.
The torture endured by Ms. Rousseff, who was 22 when the abuse began and is now 64, is among the most prominent of hundreds of decades-old cases that the commission is examining. The president is not the region’s only political leader to rise to power after being imprisoned and tortured, a sign of the tumultuous pasts of other Latin American countries.
As a young medical student, Chile’s former president,Michelle Bachelet, survived a harrowing stretch of detention and torture after a 1973 military coup. And Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, a former leader of the Tupamaro guerrilla organization, underwent torture during nearly a decade and half of imprisonment.
Since Ms. Rousseff took office, she has refused to play the part of a victim while subtly pushing for more transparency into the years of Brazil’s military dictatorship. She rarely refers in public to the cruelty she endured; aside from ceremonial appearances, she has spoken sparingly about the truth commission itself. She declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the commission or the time she spent in prison.
Ms. Rousseff has evolved considerably since her days in the underground resistance, when she used several aliases, a trajectory similar to that of other leftists who ascended into Brazil’s political elite. The daughter of a Bulgarian émigré businessman and his Brazilian schoolteacher wife, she grew up in relative privilege, only to abandon that upbringing to join a fledgling guerrilla group, the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard.
After her release from prison, she moved to the southern city of Porto Alegre, where her husband at the time, Carlos Franklin Paixão de Araújo, was completing his own prison sentence for subversion. She resumed her studies in economics, gave birth to a daughter, Paula, in 1976, and entered local politics. Moderating her political views, she slowly rose to national prominence as a results-oriented technocrat. She served as chief of staff and energy minister for Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He prevailed on her to run in the 2010 election.
She governs with a markedly different style from that of Mr. da Silva, a gregarious former union leader. Even as Brazil’s economy slows, her approval rating stands around 77 percent, as the government expands antipoverty spending and stimulus projects. She won plaudits from some in the opposition by acknowledging the economic achievements ofFernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil’s president from 1995 to 2002.
She keeps a low profile in Brasília, where she lives in the Alvorada Palace, the modernist presidential residence, with her mother and an aunt (she is divorced from Mr. Araújo, though the two remain close). News media pore over her interests, which range from René Magritte’s surrealist paintings to the HBO fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”
At the same time, her hard-charging governing style — she has been said to berate senior officials until they cry — has been enshrined in Brazilian popular culture, with Gustavo Mendes, a cross-dressing comedian, attaining fame by imitating her on the raunchy national television program “Casseta and Planeta Go Deep.”
Such satirical derision on television of a Brazilian leader would have been almost unthinkable at the time of Ms. Rousseff’s incarceration, when Brazilians faced censorship, prison sentences — or worse — for criticizing military rulers. Her experiences in the dictatorship’s torture chambers remained unknown to the public for decades.
Some details emerged in 2005, after she was serving in Mr. da Silva’s cabinet, when testimony she provided to the author of a book on women who resisted the military dictatorship was published in Brazilian newspapers.
She described the progression from palmatória, a torture method in which a paddle or stick is used to strike the knuckles and palms of the hand, to the next, when she was stripped naked, bound upside down and submitted to electric shocks on different parts of her body, including her breasts, inner thighs and head.
It was generally thought that Ms. Rousseff’s torture sessions were limited to prisons in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, until an investigative report published in June described more torture interrogations, including sessions during a two-month stretch at a military prison in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. When she was still an obscure provincial official, she gave testimony in 2001 to an investigator from Minas Gerais, describing how interrogators there beat her in the face, distorting her dental ridge. One tooth came loose and became rotten from the pummeling, she said, and was later dislodged by a blow from another interrogator in São Paulo.
Robson Sávio, the scholar who interviewed her then, said she had no obligation to respond to the request for testimony, since the Minas Gerais commission had already collected proof that she had been tortured. But she did so anyway; by the end of the encounter, after recalling interrogations resulting in other injuries, including the hemorrhaging of her uterus, she was in tears, he said.
“I remember the fear when my skin trembled,” she said back in 2001. “Something like that marks us for the rest of our lives.”
Mr. Lima Lopes, identified as one of Ms. Rousseff’s torturers in São Paulo and still living in seaside Guarujá, has denied torturing her, while defiantly calling her a “good guerrilla.” Other retired military figures, meanwhile, have adopted a similar stance.
Luiz Eduardo Rocha Paiva, a former secretary general of Brazil’s Army, called into question in a newspaper interview this year whether Ms. Rousseff had been tortured. But he also claimed she belonged to an armed militant group seeking to install a Soviet-inspired dictatorship. Both insurgents and counterinsurgency agents committed abuses, he said. “Was there torture during the military regime? Yes,” he said. “Is there torture in Brazil today? Yes,” he added, referring to the deplorable conditions in some Brazilian prisons.
Ms. Rousseff, who has insisted she never took part in an armed act against the government, has opted not to publicly clash with the former officers. Meanwhile, the commission continues without interference from the president. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, a noted legal scholar who is one of its seven members, said the only time he met Ms. Rousseff was when he and his colleagues were convened this year in Brasília.
Here in Rio, the search for knowledge of the past has moved state authorities to pay reparations to nearly 900 people tortured in the state during the dictatorship. Among them is Ms. Rousseff, who said in May that she would donate her check of about $10,000 to Torture Never Again, a group that seeks to raise awareness of the military’s abuses.
Still, despite such moves, closure remains evasive. Rights activists here were stunned in July after the office of Torture Never Again was burglarized, and archives describing the psychological treatment undertaken by torture victims were stolen.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Latin America seemingly buckles under pressure from outside and inside the continent.
Seemingly – Mercosur is not growing larger as expected. It is made up by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. A reaction t this, under leadership of Brazil and Argentina, Mercosur will increase tariff on imports from non-Mercosur States.
Closer allies of the US – Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, are eying the Pacific region, and tend to get closer business relations with the other side of the Pacific under a Pacific Alliance with US as main pivot. Chile seems to be interested to lead this group so there is less of a Brazil – Mexico competition in Latin America.
The left leaning ALBA States include Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and some of the Caribbean Islands, while the Caribbean Island States still have their CARICOM that looks to Mexico.
This posting comes about because of our expectation that June 2012 will prove to be an important month for Latin America, considering the Mexican hosts of the G-20, and the Brazilian hosts of RIO+20 – both meetings with potential high power influence on global economic structure at least in these next few years. Will the US be helpful, or harmful, to the creation of a more united Latin America?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Center of gravity in oil world shifts to Americas.
By Juan Forero, 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
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.”
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 Sustainabilitank.info on February 9th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Hugo Chávez, anfitrión de la cumbre del Alba en Caracas.
Los presidentes de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez; de Cuba, Raúl Castro; de Bolivia, Evo Morales; de Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; de Haití, Michel Martelly; el primer ministro de Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit; de San Vicente y las Granadinas, Ralph Gonsalves; el premier de Antigua y Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer; y el canciller de Argentina, Héctor Timerman, acordaron celebrar dos reuniones al año, de carácter ordinario.
La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, creada hace 7 años por Cuba y Venezuela para fomentar la integración en la región bajo los principios de solidaridad, comercio justo, respeto estricto a la soberanía y complementariedad económica.
Los países que integran el ALBA son: Cuba, Venezuela, Dominica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua y Barbuda, y San Vicente y las Granadinas.
América Latina: Cumbre del Alba entre la economía y Las Malvinas.
Caracas, 5 enero 2012
- El Consejo Económico de la Alternativa propuso la creación de fondos de reservas del Banco del Alba, al tiempo que el presidente Chávez, aprobó la incorporación del 1% de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela (300 millones de dólares), a la entidad financiera del bloque
- El presidente de Bolivia, Evo Morales, propuso este domingo la creación de un Consejo de Defensa de los países miembros de la Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Alba).
- ALBA estudia sancionar a R.Unido y no asistir a Cumbre de las Américas si no asiste Cuba.
“Y aquí estamos entrando en la segunda década del milenio, sin visión estratégica de la integración, perdidos entre siglas que a nadie dicen nada ALBA, Unasur o CELAC por solo nombrar algunas. Mientras tanto, los países del continente disfrutan de una relativa bonanza económica, producto del aislamiento y la exportación de materias primas que finalizará en cuanto se cierre el ciclo económico”. (Tal Cual. Venezuela)
La Alianza Bolivariana (Alba) dedicó la jornada a las políticas económicas conjuntas y la posición de apoyo a Argentina, por el caso de las Islas Malvinas, y a Cuba, para presionar su presencia en la próxima Cumbre de las Américas, a la cual no ha sido invitada aún. El Alba propuso la creación de fondos de reservas del Banco del Alba, al tiempo que el presidenteChávez, aprobó la incorporación del 1% de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela (300 millones de dólares), a la entidad financiera del bloque
Los gobernantes del ALBA acordaron en Caracas la creación de un “espacio económico” y de un fondo de reservas de su banco regional. También se comprometieron a redoblar su apoyo a Haití y a estudiar sanciones contra Londres por el conflicto por las Islas Malvinas que mantiene con Argentina.
Los presidentes de los países del ALBA debatirán esta jornada la entrada de nuevos miembros, con el fin de consolidar sus objetivos integracionistas. Haití, nación que desde 2007 participa en este mecanismo como observador, figura entre las solicitudes de ingreso pleno, interés que fue ratificado por su mandatario,Michel Martelly, para acceder a todos los beneficios que el bloque subregional ofrece.
El canciller de Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, detalló que para los próximos 2 y 3 de marzo se celebrará una Cumbre extraordinaria del ALBA en Haití, a fin de revisar el trabajo planificado en esta cita.
Los jefes de Estado también analizaron la posible incorporación de Suriname y Santa Lucía. De igual manera, debatirán los documentos de trabajo que se desprendieron de las reuniones realizadas por partidos políticos y medios de comunicación de los países que integran la Alianza.
La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, creada hace 7 años por Cuba y Venezuela para fomentar la integración en la región bajo los principios de solidaridad, comercio justo, respeto estricto a la soberanía y complementariedad económica.
Los países que integran el ALBA son: Cuba, Venezuela, Dominica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua y Barbuda, y San Vicente y las Granadinas.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
UK Press Release: Wednesday 18 January 2012
UK Press Release: Wednesday 18 January 2012
Foreign Secretary William Hague Press Conference in Brazil
Foreign Secretary William Hague has given a press conference this afternoon with his counterpart Antonio Patriota in Brasilia. The full text of his opening remarks is below:
“It is a great pleasure to be here in Brazil at what I think is an optimistic and exciting time in the relations between our countries; and a dramatic period in world affairs. We have had extremely good talks. Of course we are used to speaking together regularly, but it has been very good to have the opportunity to spend some hours talking.
From nuclear proliferation to climate change, global economic governance to security issues, Brazil is a partner of growing and lasting importance to the United Kingdom.
I am here to send a strong signal of British commitment to our relationship with Brazil as well as of warm friendship towards your country and its people;
To pay tribute, as I will do in a speech tomorrow, to your remarkable achievements as a nation, and to explore the many opportunities for closer economic and social ties between our peoples;
And to discuss the pressing range of crises, challenges and opportunities in foreign policy where the Brazil’s distinctive voice and contribution matter greatly.
We know that Brazil’s role in world affairs is set to grow, alongside other emerging economies including others here in Latin America.
We strongly welcome this, and I was pleased to express again Britain’s support for an expanded and more representative UN Security Council including permanent membership for Brazil.
We wish to forge a closer understanding between us on foreign policy as fellow democracies with so many shared values. This will lead we hope to greater practical cooperation across all the issues that matter to both our countries; respecting the fact that we approach some matters from a different perspective, but we should always be able to discuss them in a spirit of friendship and respect as we have today.
So Foreign Minister Patriota and I have had comprehensive, searching and productive discussions across a range of these subjects. I am very grateful to him for his time and his hospitality today.
We discussed the moment of opportunity in the Middle East, where we are seeing the greatest hope for the advancement of human freedom since the end of the Cold War, but also many problems and difficulties.
Both our countries are working bilaterally and through international organisations to support those countries in transition in the region such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, where we are in strong agreement about the importance of long term international support while respecting the wishes of the people of those countries.
We agreed that events in the region make progress towards a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more urgent than I ever, and I welcome the talks taking place in Jordan.
We share deep concern about the situation in Syria and welcome the essential role being played by the Arab League.
We spoke about Iran, where of course our countries agree that the consequences of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East would be highly dangerous. We are engaged in intensifying peaceful, legitimate pressure on Iran while being ready at any time to return to serious, meaningful negotiations.
And we discussed the importance of peace and security in the South Atlantic, to which Britain remains committed.
In Britain we are convinced that the best days in our relationship with your country lie ahead of us.
Our back-to-back hosting of the Olympics; our innovative and important cooperation in the fields of sustainable development and the environment – an important subject to address at the Rio 20+ meeting – ; the 10,000 Brazilian students who will study in the UK over the next four years under our ‘Science without borders agreement’; our extensive commercial ties and increasing trade that are benefiting all our citizens; and above all our shared democratic values, give me and our government every hope and confidence in even better times ahead for the relationship with Brazil.
That is why I am here, and that is why we are increasing our diplomatic presence in Brazil, and we have recently opened a new consulate in Recife.
So in that spirit I thank Antonio Patriota, your Foreign Minister, and I look forward to continuing to work with him, and indeed to welcoming him in London whenever he is able to visit.”
At the UN, the UK Mission highlighted the above speech as follows:
Foreign Secretary: The days of Britain’s retreat from Latin America are over
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has given a speech on UK foreign policy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Selected extracts that may be of most interest to UN correspondents are highlighted in italics below:
“The days of our diplomatic retreat from your region are over. We have begun Britain’s most ambitious effort to strengthen ties with Latin America in 200 years, since the days of Canning.”
“The world has changed profoundly since the end of the Cold War. International relations are no longer dominated by a handful of powerful states that can dictate terms for the rest, and never will be again. That era is over.”
“We are in a new phase in the concert of nations, in which states that have not traditionally dominated or sought dominance have an equal role to play in world affairs.”
“This is change that Britain does not fear, but that we welcome and embrace.”
“In this new global environment our British government is looking further afield for opportunities for our citizens and new ways of working in foreign policy – not replacing our role in Europe and indispensable alliance with the United States, but running alongside them and indeed reinforcing them. Our aim is that the United Kingdom should be at the centre of the networks of the 21st century, including in Latin America.”
“We welcome a stronger role in world affairs for Latin American countries, although where we have our own views over issues such as the Falkland Islands we will always be frank about them. We will always uphold UK sovereignty and the rights of the Islanders to self-determination, while valuing the ability to discuss these issues with Brazil in a framework that respects international law and human rights.”
“We also strongly believe that the institutions of global governance must become more representative, which is why we support reform of the United Nations Security Council including a permanent seat for Brazil.”
“We see it as very much in both our countries’ interests that we develop a strong and equal working relationship in foreign policy; one that reflects today’s world and our many shared values as fellow democracies.”
“We need to develop a better understanding of how to act together when our stable environment is threatened, and how we translate our democratic values into action.”
“As we see it, in Libya limited military force was used to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack and to implement a no-fly zone, only after Colonel Qadhafi had refused to end the violence and when called for by all the countries of the region through the Arab League. It was action that was necessary, legal and right. It was carried on the legal basis of a UN Security Council mandate; it involved working directly with Libya’s neighbours, and it was done without NATO forces on the ground. These conditions – a legal mandate, regional participation and limited objectives – enabled us to be successful. They were consciously based on the lessons learnt not only from Iraq but also from Bosnia, where inaction led to the worst violence in Europe since the Second World War.”
“Military action is always a last resort and can never be without risk. Each country is different and each case must be judged on its merits. But when human life is threatened and peaceful avenues fail, we argue that we must be prepared to intervene in the way best suited to the circumstances and to be able to do so quickly and decisively. “
“So while we do not always draw the same conclusions about the best way to act when human rights at threatened at decisive moments, we have a strong common interest in building a better understanding for the future. Your President recently put forward the concept of ‘responsibility while protecting’ alongside the UN concept of the Responsibility to Protect. We welcome this contribution to the international debate and as I said to Foreign Minister Patriota yesterday, we look forward to discussing it and to finding common ground between our different perspectives.”
“In Syria, we are confronted with an appalling threat to human life and regional stability. Protests by people seeking to claim their human rights and choose democracy and freedom have been met with tanks, snipers, torture and over 5,000 deaths. The deterioration of the system risks not only further casualties but a civil war in the most combustible conflict zone in the world. It is regrettable that the UN Security Council has been unable to speak out and we urge it to do so now. We welcome the leadership shown by the Arab League and it is vital that efforts are redoubled to support their mission and to achieve a political transition in Syria.”
“2012 could also be a year of crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme. Like Brazil, our objective is to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, which could start an arms race in the region and call into question the very survival of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Britain is seeking a negotiated solution with Iran and is not advocating confrontation. The best chance of averting either a nuclear armed Iran or the potentially devastating consequences of military action is to intensify the legitimate, peaceful pressure on Iran to return to negotiations.”
In the US business relations with Brazil seem to move on more conventional and Conservative rails.
a special breakfast on:
Brazil: Economic and Political Outlook
Thursday, January 19, 2012
8:00 – 8:30 AM Registration, Breakfast and Networking
8:30 – 10:00 AM Panel discussion, Question & Answer
919 Third Avenue (at 55th Street)
New York City
Paulo Vieira da Cunha, Partner and Head of Research – Emerging Markets, Tandem Global Partners
Murillo de Aragão, Founder, Arko Advice
Monica Baumgarten de Bolle, Economist, Galanto Consultoria
Mauro Léos, VP Senior Credit Officer- Latin America, Sovereign Risk Unit, Moody’s Investors Service
Eduardo Loyo, Managing Partner and Chief Economist, BTG Pactual
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 19th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The Race for the White House: A Call for a Regionally-based Enlightened Foreign Policy toward Latin America.
November 18, 2011
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Fellow and Fulbright Scholar Robert Works.
COHA is based at the Americas Society on Park Avenue, New York City and provides information to business interests in the US – Latin America and Canada region.
As such there is no surprise that as an organization they favor Republicans over Democrats – but are critical of Republicans as well when they do not do enough to promote US business interests in the region.
This article seems to favor Governor Romney from among the names tossed around in the 2012 race for the US Presidency.
With a little under a year remaining until the next U.S. presidential election, a coherent and sustainable area policy toward Latin America remains absent from the campaign literature and both presidential parties’ electoral strategies. In fact, a true U.S.-Latin American foreign policy—one that involves succinct initiatives rather than populist rants or ideological outbursts—has yet to be developed in the 21st century. If one is left to assess the future of U.S.-Latin American foreign policy simply by relying on the last three years of the Obama administration, or the empty rhetoric from the entire Republican field, the future appears rather bleak. Nonetheless, one candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has detailed a slightly weightier, yet basically ill-informed vision that promotes regional integration and the strengthening of economic ties. His plan is almost entirely dominated by commercial interests and remains in large part focused on securitization. Barely moving beyond a fallow bilateral approach harnessed during the post-World War II years, Romney’s Latin American policy does manage to squeeze out some relatively non-bombastic verbiage.
For his part, President Obama has yet to outline a detailed vision on Latin American issues for his reelection, but the short blurb on the White House policy page indicates a usefully backseat nature that Latin America has held for the current administration. In a few words, U.S. foreign policy toward the region is described by the Democrats as being committed to “a new era of partnership with countries throughout the hemisphere, working on key shared challenges of economic growth and equality, energy and climate futures, and regional and citizen security.” The Obama administration can point to the recent passage of the free trade agreements, negotiated during the Bush administration, to complement this short, rhetorical ‘vision,’ but other than that, the administration’s foreign policy toward Latin America has been frail, if not exiguous.
In defense of President Obama, the Bush Doctrine ignored Latin America as well, but far-right figures in the region were relatively successful in attracting U.S. resources as well as favorable treatment by constructing their foreign policies beneath the umbrella of a specious war on terrorism. While Colombia (through Plan Colombia) and to a lesser degree Mexico (through the Merida Initiative) successively gained U.S. attention and resources, the newly achieved backing only sought to strengthen the overall security capacity of these anti-drug forces in return for supporting the U.S. global securitization policy. A definitive conclusion regarding the success of this policy has not yet been reached, but the need for a regional vision that would promote strong ties to the U.S. and create regional integration has always been in process.
Thus far, there has been only one plan worthy of a conceptualization being offered to the region that even considers such an approach to Latin American policymaking. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is generally considered intermittently to be Republican frontrunner, and who is running close with President Obama in national polls, has recently laid out a 43-page document detailing his vision for U.S. foreign policy. In a formidable feat for Republican regional policymakers, he actually presents (if nothing more) to address a vision for Latin America, promoting regional integration, over the current bilateral approach directed primarily toward Washington’s allies in the War on Terrorism.
Romney, advised by a committee professedly oriented toward Latin America and headed by a series of pro forma old hands with tired notions, as well as some academics and respectable diplomats, details the creation of a regional institution called the Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America (CEOLA), in order to promote “a vigorous public diplomacy and trade promotion effort in the region.” If this program’s goals remain the same, its specific details will remain vague and uninspiring; that said, the mere offer of such a new template contrasts sharply with the approaches currently being proposed by other candidates and the Obama administration, which has hardly done better in offering much and delivering little. In any case, Romney unsurprisingly presents a heavily business-tilted regional approach to integration that claims to promote a more democratic and economically responsive Latin America. His plan appears to follow the neo-liberal model based on institutionalism, which asserts that U.S. interests are better served through multilateralism and regionalism rather than through bilateralism.
If CEOLA seeks to achieve the creation of a new regional forum integrating South America with Central and North America, a bona fide U.S.-Latin American relationship could be developed in the process. The Romney formula provides a meager platform to discuss a wide array of issues from securitization to economic policy, as well as a methodology that could allow states to develop their own regional approaches for improving records on human rights, alleviating poverty, and other issues plaguing Latin America. The region, once consolidated and integrated, could also pursue a universal approach toward justice, utilizing transnational courts that adhere to cultural and legal traditions while also addressing the shortcomings of fledgling criminal justice systems that characterize the region. If it is unsuccessful however, such a system could add to the region’s woes brought on by endemic corruption.
Obviously, the ultimate success of Romney’s regional policy would rely on a variety of factors, including the level of activism on the part of the U.S. in the development of hemispheric initiatives. Washington must only be involved in the initial creation of big policy and have no greater power than carrying out a formal advisory role. CEOLA would symbolically represent a comprehensive, if not a bold approach for a new path forward in the 21st century, but not an interventionist one. At this point the Romney plan is sufficiently multifaceted to provide him with significant wiggle room, if this is what is really sought. This is not to argue that the post-9/11 policies of securitization are not in need of being replaced by a more developed, regional vision for Latin America. Only the development of a new institution would provide the possibility for new directions with specific goals that are widely accepted.
To his supporters, Romney is the only candidate that has offered a regional vision for Latin America, albeit one at risk of being more of pap and treacle than of sounder stuff. Ironically, it may be more suitable for regimes that are not likely to easily tolerate U.S. intervention of any sort, and have an increasing demand for Latin American sovereignty, to pick and choose their own policies. President Obama should embrace such a move in order to establish a more integrated, equal, and just Western hemisphere. Until a new plan that moves beyond securitization is realized, Latin America will remain in the backwaters of policymaking and under the canopy of an overreaching U.S. foreign policy.
In any case, the time for a renewed U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America is not only long overdue, but is also being demanded by the region here and now. Mitt Romney has at least presented a starting point for a 21st century foreign policy that will likely go nowhere. As wobbly as it is, the other candidates, including the president, could do far more, but will at least have a modest road to build upon with this model.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 21st, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
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 Sustainabilitank.info on October 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Climate Action has been produced in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) from its launch in 2007, to encourage businesses and organisations – both large and small – to reduce their carbon footprint, highlighting that environmentally responsible operations can also be profitable.
Produced to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) held in December of each year, the launch edition was distributed in Bali in 2007, the second edition in Poznan in 2008, and the third edition of Climate Action was released at COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 7-18 2009. Now there will be the Fourth edition for Cancun.
“This publication sets out a number of actions that organizations and governments can take… backed up by clear examples of how reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved.”
Ban Ki-moon , UN Secretary General
By going to the following website you get all published four books – since the 2007 launch – including the just-in-time 2010 book.
As we have already said earlier at www.SustainabiliTank.info – we believe that the future of Climate Change is in the hands of Global Business, we are not cynic about these cocktail events, but we know that without clear Washington and Beijing signals really very little will be achieved in practice – so the World after the November 2, 2010 US elections may be under sand-clouds even more then it was until now.
So, in practice, these cocktails might be the only justification for holding the Cancun party – and we recommend – please go to the Cocktail event – if you happen to be in Cancun.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme said of Climate Action at its launch;
“I am pleased to confirm that the United Nations Environment Programme is working in partnership with Sustainable Development International to produce Climate Action.
This book and accompanying website will encourage and assist governments and business to lower greenhouse gas emissions, while also informing them how they can adapt to the impacts of climate change. With articles and features by authoritative authors from governments, intergovernmental organisations, civil society and the private sector, the book will include practical ‘Actions’ – steps that companies and governments can take to reduce their carbon footprint.
Climate Action will promote stakeholder dialogue between government and industry, and highlight the sharing of best practice, and new technologies and initiatives. It will also raise awareness of the latest market trends, threats and opportunities in response to climate change.
Distributed widely to governments, think-tanks, environmental organisations, businesses, fund managers and business associations, Climate Action will be particularly valuable in highlighting the widespread benefits to society which will derive from reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
I encourage you to support this most timely and important initiative.”
The groups of Business participants that will circle UNEP at Cancun are:
Climate Action is proud to be supported by select organisations concerned with the successful mitigation of climate change.
Supporting partners are:
Bright Green showcases the business response to the climate challenge – not only as traditional trade fair but also as a live statement from the world’s most innovative and climate-friendly enterprises.
Ceres is a US-based network of investors, environmental organisations and other public interest groups working with companies and investors to address environmental and social challenges such as global climate change.
dcarbon8 provides carbon management consultancy for businesses, services, products and even cities, including carbon offsetting and carbon project development.
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is the voice of world business, championing international trade as a force for economic growth, peace and prosperity.
The Investor Network on Climate Risk is a network of institutional investors and financial institutions that promotes better understanding of the financial risks and investment opportunities posed by climate change.
Planet Positive’s vision is for a world where every individual and business takes responsibility for their own carbon and where we are working together towards one common aim: to protect the Earth’s fragile ecosystems.
Sustainable Asset Management (SAM) was founded in 1995 as the world’s first asset management company for sustainability investments.
The Climate Group’s goal is to help government and business set the world economy on the path to a low-carbon, prosperous future.
The Global Compact is the world’s largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative offering a framework for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles.
WBCSD is a CEO-led, global association of some 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 12th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Nick Hodge talks of resurgence of nuclear power.
Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Part of the “Energy and Capital” Weekend Edition.
He writes – I can’t start this Weekend Edition without mentioning one of the hottest investment videos of the year…
It’s about a 75-cent company making big waves in the nuclear industry — importing Korean reactors, selling nuclear desalination units, and more.
As it happens, nuclear is actually a very relevant topic this week, illustrating the fierce dichotomy of the current energy market.
In South America, Argentina was once a pioneer in the nuclear industry, opening the first plant there in 1974. But the country’s ambitious plans stalled — as did most — after the Chernobyl disaster.
Now, with a new generation of reactors ready for deployment worldwide, Argentina is once again turning to nuclear…
The country just finished a long-stalled third plant and will build two more by 2025, when it aims to get 15% of its power from nuclear.
Argentina will also resume domestic uranium mining and start a program to enrich it, making it only one of five countries that has access to soup-to-nuts nuclear energy production. So keep an eye out for plays from that area.
Even in Germany — home to the world’s largest solar market and third-largest wind market — nuclear is making a comeback.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition has agreed to extend the operating life of the country’s 17 nuclear plants by an average of 12 years.
It was good new for utilities, since they won’t have to spend capital to build new capacity. And the three largest in Germany — E.ON (XETRA: EOAN), RWE (XETRA: RWEA), and EnBW (XETRA: EBK) — were each up sharply on the news.
Opponents of the plan say it will take away from the country’s expansion of renewable energy…
But in a time of fiscal uncertainty, decisions boil down to cost. And right now, nuclear is still cheaper in Germany.
For a variety of analyst opinions on the matter, check out this report from Reuters.
Also in Europe, Lithuania has invited bids to build a nuclear plant to reduce its dependence on Russian energy imports. The contract is estimated at around $6 billion, and will be open to bidding from five shortlisted companies.
And the last nuclear news this week comes to us from Kuwait — a country I’ve already covered this week. OPEC’s fifth-biggest producer, it’s announced plans to build four nuclear reactors by 2022.
This should be viewed as another step Middle Eastern countries are taking to protect their dwindling oil reserves.
Saudi Arabia has already announced nuclear plans, and the UAE bought 4 of the very same reactors discussed in this video from the Koreans for $20 billion.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 12th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The week before Labor Day we were traveling along the coast of Upper New England along the stretch from Lynn and Marblehead North of Boston in Massachusetts, through Cape Ann, Plum Island, the shores of New Hampshire and up to Kennebunkport in Maine. That was the route that Hurricane Earl was expected to take – but Earl the Good did us no harm.
I intend to write about stops on that trip, and the rather good conditions in the States we visited, but this posting deals instead with global issues – what I found going over the papers upon return to New York.
What surprised me was the fact that though mentioned as details in the papers, the underlying reality that struck me seemed to be an issue with a common link that no paper mentioned – something we feel is the start of the demise of the WTO construct – that colossus of World Trade Organization that is being hailed as the epitome of global international structure that everyone was supposed to strive to get in through its doors – an achievement that was going to reward States for good behavior. But first what struck me was The Financial Times note that gave away the reality - seemingly Russia has decided that it just makes no sense to them to allow the outside world to dictate to them rules of behavior.
Russia has suffered because of the climate change effects from severe drought and decreased yield of wheat – so Russia simply closed its doors to those that want to buy its wheat as Mr. Putin does not want riots because of shortages of buckwheat. He knows that we will call this interference with free trade, but he decided that the chaff of free trade is rubbish if it causes foreseeable difficulties yo his leadership.
But that was just the beginning. Russia also closed the door to imports of cars by way of tariffs – a clear no-no with WTO. And why did they do that? Simple enough – they want investments in Russia for manufacturing cars inside Russia and eventually they will get their way.
China is even more important – it clearly does what it wants with impunity and the WTO label is plainly superfluous. Yes or no – Hugo Boss – the German fashion house has announced that it will open 100 stores in China to add to the 450 stores it owns globally now, and the further 150 stores it will open by 2015 outside China. This is a neat increase and clear vote of confidence in the growing Chinese middle class.
The US talks tough to China in public but sent high level delegations to China to reach all sorts of agreements so it will not be outplayed in business terms by others. Lawrence Summers, the Director of the National Economic Council and Thomas Donilon the Deputy National Security Adviser came to Beijing to fashion “new pacts” – a nice combination of the tough and the economic. We will clearly not know exactly what they talked about, but we assume that it finally doomed on Washington that wage increases in China so the Middle Class becomes faster a buying class – is more of a win-win situation then pushing the Chinese to increase the exchange rate in order to become less competitive with their exports. In the end, we trust that the Chinese, like the Russians, will do what is best for them according to their own internal calculations. WTO is not part of these calculations and it will be the US that will have to adjust when talking to the Chinese bankers – China having become the lender that allows the US to live above its means while still keeping some control over the money-printing presses. To top this – Bill Gates and Warren Buffet also went to China – this seemingly to suggest to the Chinese tycoons to recycle some of their gains as philanthropies and this then becomes a second route on the same road to help the earning power of the lower classes in China.
Similarly, India has restricted its exports of cotton and other raw materials, provided incentives for inflow of investments and watched its stockmarkets out perform those of the other fast developing markets.
Proof to this booming – non WTO related Asian growth – Julius Baer, the Swiss private bank, has moved to double its Asian assets to 20-25% of its total in the next 5 years as it recruits new staff and opens more offices in the region. The bank has identified Asia as its second “home market” after Europe. They will have offices in Hong Konk, Shanghai, and Singapore – the latter with a new office space for 700 people.
And if all of the above is not enough – here comes Brazil – the champion of them all that used to fight the US at WTO on ethanol fuel issues and agricultural produce. Now they do not bother with this way of time waste. They have it too good to need it.
Petrobras, the Brazilian energy champion is making a global offering of shares in the $32 Billion range with investment plans of $224 Billion. The Wall Street Journal’s BUZZ mentions even Share Sales of $65 Billion! – The above is the highest issue of shares ever – period. This week I participated at two events of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce, one of them a Day of Independence reception, and the other an evaluation of the capital markets and Brazilian tax laws for US investments in Brazil – and both events were gang-ho.
Further, a trio of Brazilian billionaires, the folks that took the Brahma beer company and built InBev that eventually bought Anheuser-Busch to become a global beverage Brazilian-run power house – they just announced that they are buying the Burger King US corporation to get a taste of the US fast-food business. And what does this mean to Brazilian beef imports to the US?
In any case – later this year, Brazilian-born Bernardo Hees, a railroad executive, will go from managing shippments of grain to bringing burgers to new markets around the world as the new CEO of Burger King Holdings Inc. once 3G Capital Management Inc. completes the $3.3 Billion leveraged buyout of the chain.
Let us see – with the WTO Brazil achieved nothing because the US cattlemen were able to hide behind sanitary issues, and I understand that only specialty meets like corn beef were allowed into the US. Not like the ethanol case where doors were closed with tariffs. You go to a Brazilian Churrascaria, or an Argentinian place in New York, and you get Australian grass-fed beef because the Latin variety is not allowed. What will the new Burger King owners say to this? Watch out – we predict some interesting protracted new actions and eventual political give and take!
OK, so will there be any loss if the WTO is allowed to disintegrate? After all – it was established as a tool by the industrialized countries to control commerce with the commodity countries – to the detriment of the latter and the net result that it interfered with the industrialization process as well as with the development of indigenous agriculture to feed the developing country.
What kind of “Free Trade” was it anyway – when banana producers were not free to export to the banana consumers they would have loved to reach?
Now, with such powerhouses like China, Brazil, India, and still reluctance to allow for their full participation in the system of preferences in mutual trade, more of these countries will return to write their own laws, and those that did not become members of the club will simply lose interest in it.
I think this was the real Earl I felt following last week.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 12th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We had posted the following on September 6, 2010 and the UPDATE is a result of our having listened to the September 10 presentation. Besides this update we expect to follow up further as we see high potential in the ideas presented here.
venue: 8:00am (presentation begins at 8:30am) at Dickstein Shapiro, LP, 1633 Broadway, 32nd floor, btwn 50th & 51st streets
date; Friday, September 10, 2010 New York City.
An exciting company that is generating revenues today, and has a prototype fuel cell car that can operate with our current refueling infrastructure.
The Metha Energy Solution’s fuel cell car, which was unveiled at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, will be able to fill up your tank with methanol at your local service station and get the kind of driving performance you have today—in driving range, acceleration, average speed and “refill time”—but with 70% fewer CO2 emissions.
Metha Energy Solutions Inc. (soon to become Metha Serenergy Inc.) is a publicly-listed US company, stock symbol: MGYS.OB. Its fuel cell technology is currently generating revenues in the backup power and remote power generation markets.
Metha Energy’s fuel cell technology improves over hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles because they don’t carry heavy batteries and refill with fuel rapidly. Also, they avoid the on-board hydrogen storage problem that plagued earlier hydrogen vehicles by integrating the reformer into the fuel cell modules.
All this is based on a breakthrough for the future energy-supply chain. These are high-temperature proton-exchange membrane air-cooled fuel cells, which deliver energy efficiency up to 50%, a figure more than double that of a traditional combustion engine. Metha Serenergy has already received initial orders from European vehicle and US non-vehicle customers. And their fuel cells have been proven to operate for more than 5,000 hours according to the vehicle industry standards.
Metha Serenergy Inc.’s current revenues come from the sale of its fuel cells to the military for transportable light for air strips and telecom backup. Immediate target markets include IT back-up, data centers, servers, cell phone antenna backup, remote monitoring, traffic control signaling and off-road transportation.
Metha Serenergy is currently raising US $ 2 million.
Call-ins are available. Specify call-in in your email to Donna and send her a check or request a credit card form for the $25 fee.
Gelvin Stevenson, Ph.D.
Center for Economic and Environmental Partnership, Inc.
David J. P. Meachin, a Director of Metha Energy Solutions Inc. www.methaenergy.com (MGYS – OTC), a US company deploying Danish technology focused on commercializing innovative fuel cell technology for the transportation and off-grid markets. He is Vice Chairman of the University of Cape Town Fund in New York and a Director and past Chairman of the British American Educational Foundation. He is an Advisory Board Member of Structured Credit International Corp. (SCIC) and an Advisory Board Member of the South African Chamber of Commerce America (SACCA). Prior to his founding Cross Border Enterprises in 1991, he was Managing Director, Investment Banking Division, Merrill Lynch & Company in New York. He is based in New York and is in the process of birthing the Metha Serenergy Inc. that will be marketing the Danish product – the Metha patented Fuel Cells that can be used in stationary situations as well as a source for mobile energy needs – such as motor vehicles.
Jasper Toft of Denmark, CEO and founder of Metha Energy Solutions Inc., made the power-point presentation at the breakfast.
Fuel cells operate best on pure hydrogen. But fuels like natural gas, methanol, or even gasoline can be reformed to produce the hydrogen required for fuel cells. Some fuel cells even can be fueled directly with methanol, without using a reformer.
Considering that all that talk of using directly hydrogen as energy fuel has really not led to much as practical results, the idea of using a known liquid fuel in conjunction with a stack of fuel cells instead is very attractive. From all the hydrogen containing liquids – methanol is the most attractive. We know many ways to produce methanol – some of the feed-stocks for methanol are cellulosics and the needed energy can come from wind or solar. In effect the production of methanol can be the way to store excess renewable energy obtained at times of lowest demand for electricity. Methanol produced this way has no fossil CO2 liabilities – it sounds like the ideal 21st century fuel. Furthermore, ethanol – the carbohydrates turned to fuel via fermentation – has the inherent problem as being tackled for using edibles as feedstock. The search for ways of breaking down cellulosics like agricultural wastes and wood chips to fermentable sugars has not yielded yet an industry – again – using these materials to make methanol instead would seem a natural outcome.
In the future, hydrogen could also join electricity as an important energy carrier. An energy carrier moves and delivers energy in a usable form to consumers. Renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind, can’t produce energy all the time. But they could, for example, produce electric energy and methanol, which can be stored until it’s needed. This also can avoid the talk of storing the energy as hydrogen.
As said – this is just an appetizer or a post talk UPDATE and we expect to get further information that we will share on www.SustainabiliTank.info As of now – let me say that hearing the presentation – we suggested to the hosts that the SER they intend to use in their name should stand for:
SIMPLICITY of their technical product,
EFFICIENCY as they claim a three times higher efficiency then the internal combustion engine,
and RELIABILITY – this because of the potential of using various liquid fuels – the aspect that already caught the eye of the US D.O.D. that already 25 years ago, well ahead of US D.O.E., has looked into alternative fuels – ethanol, methanol and CNG as fuels to the military internal combustion engines. Moving to fuel cells as means to use electric engines requires a change of structure, but opens the way to a variety of inputs. In effect, captive fleets such as in the military or taxi and bus industries are natural first clients for these new mechanisms.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
China Wants Business with Latin America.
By Mitch Moxley
BEIJING, Aug 18, 2010 (IPS) – China, now the world’s second largest economy with a ferocious appetite for resources, is aggressively strengthening relations with Latin American countries, but this has not been without roadblocks.
According to a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), released in May, China will displace the European Union as the region’s second largest trading partner by the middle of 2011. Latin American countries are actively exploring cooperative arrangements with China in the fields of mining, energy, agriculture, infrastructure and science and technology, the report said.
China has in recent years diversified its investment in Latin America, from natural resources to manufacturing and the services industry, according to a July report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Latin American Studies. China’s interest in Latin America ranges from oil from Venezuela to timber from Guyana and soybeans from Brazil.
Zhang Sengen, executive director of the Institute of Chinese International Economic Relations, said Latin America has dual appeal for China: It has abundant resources, which are needed to fuel China’s future growth, and it is a huge market for Chinese products – with 560 million consumers and a combined Gross Domestic Product of 4 trillion U.S. dollars.
“Latin America is a very attractive spot for Chinese investment,” Zhang said.
China’s foreign direct investment in Latin America reached 24.8 billion dollars in 2008, making up 14.6 percent of China’s total foreign direct investment, according to figures from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Meanwhile, Latin American investment in China hit 112.6 billion dollars, roughly 14 percent of the total foreign capital China absorbed.
Exports from Latin American countries to China are expected to reach 19.3 percent of the total by 2020, up from 7.6 percent in 2009, according to the ECLAC report.
China has prided itself on what it calls a “win-win” relationship with Latin America, in which the region sells China raw materials, such as copper, iron and oil, while Latin American countries receive goods from China, including mobile phones and cars.
But relations have not been altogether smooth. Across the region, a growing wariness about trade with China has also been emerging.
In Brazil and Argentina, manufacturers have accused China of dumping products in their markets, prompting new tariffs on some Chinese importers. Other countries worry about China’s aggressive efforts to win access to energy reserves.
In Peru, a state-owned Chinese company has faced a nearly two-decade long revolt from mine workers, featuring repeated strikes, clashes with police and arson attacks, ‘The New York Times’ reported earlier in August. Disputes at the mine, founded in 1992 by steelmaker Shougang Corp, focus on wages, environmental damage and the company’s treatment of local residents.
Wang Peng, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Latin American Studies, said Chinese companies in Latin America need to do proper risk assessment and better protect the local environment. “There are more NGOs in other countries than in China, and many of them focus on environmental protection,” Wang told IPS. “If our companies violate local environmental laws, no wonder tension happens.”
Despite the problems, relations continue to develop. In April, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Brazil, a move that was heralded in China’s state media as a significant step in cementing relations with Latin America.
“China and Latin American countries, all as developing countries, share extensive common interest. China has always attached great importance to its relations with these countries,” Vice Foreign Minister Li Jinzhang said at a press conference in April, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency.
During the meetings, Brazil and China inked a joint action plan for 2010 to 2014 and reached agreements in the fields of culture, energy, finance, science and technology and product quality inspection, according to Xinhua.
China is Brazil’s largest trading partner and biggest export market. Trade with Chile, China’s second largest trading partner in the region, reached a record 17.7 billion dollars in 2009.
Oil-rich Venezuela is China’s fifth largest trading partner in Latin America with a trade volume of 7.15 billion dollars in 2009. In March that year, Su Zhenxing, director of the CAAS’s Institute of Latin American Studies, told ‘Beijing Business Today’ that Latin America will become a leading strategic provider of crude oil.
Jiang Shixue, vice president of the Chinese Association of Latin American Studies and deputy director-general of the Chinese Centre for the Third World Studies, said China’s interest in Latin America is not just economic, but also political.
Of the 23 countries in the world that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, 12 are in Latin America. China can gain leverage over these countries through investment incentives, Jiang said.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
New data shows Brazil is now the world’s fourth largest consumer of automobiles, reports AméricaEconomia. Brazil trails only China, the United States, and Japan in cars bought. Along with growing demand, Brazil expects greater investment in the industry. Volkswagen has announced plans to invest $3.4 million in 2014, Ford $2.5 million between 2011 and 2015, and General Motors $1.6 million between 2010 and 2012. Brazil’s Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento (BNDES) also announced $17 million to construct new plants for Toyota and Hyundai in São Paulo.
Hotels Help Brazil’s Boom
Financial Times’ Beyond BRICs blog reports that, despite a modest drop in hotel occupancy at Brazilian hotels, guests are spending more money and generating greater revenue for the industry. “I don’t know if this is international or in Latin America in general,” said Ricardo Mader, executive vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels. “But it has everything to do with the growth of the [Brazilian] economy and the growth of buying power.” In 2009, guests at Brazilian hotels spent an average of $63 for a room, up 7.7 percent from the previous year.
Brazilian and Chilean Airlines Merge into Biggest LatAm Carrier
LAN Chile and Brazil’s TAM Linhas Aereas agreed on a $3.7 billion merger to become Latin America’s biggest carrier by market value, with a combined 115 destinations in 23 countries. The new company, called LATAM Airlines Group SA, will be headed by former LAN CEO Enrique Cueto.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 30th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Be’chol Lashon is the Hebrew for “In Every Tongue” and it advocates for the Growth & Diversity of the Jewish People. Today Jews come indeed in every color and every stripes and some leaders do the outreach to embrace them all. Just look at Dr. Lewis Gordon of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Mr. Romiel Daniel of Queens, New York, The head of Jews of India in our region, Dr. Ephraim Isaac, of the institute for Semitic Studies. They do not look like your stereotype Jew. I met them and was impressed – the latter actually for the first time as we both visited Addis Ababa at the time of the delayed Ethiopian Millennium. Then Rabbi Hailu Paris with his communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx, Ethiopian born and graduae of Yeshiva University, and his Assistant Monica Wiggan (www.blackjews.org/Essays/RabbiParisEthiopianTrip.html), and Rabbi Gershom Sizomu of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda from whom I got a very distinctive kippah with the menorah – of the old temple worked in. Then Dr. Rabson Wuriga of the Hamisi Lemba clan in South Africa and Zimbabwe and so on – in Nigeria, in Peru, in India, in China.
And who has not heard by now of the present White House Rabbi – Cappers Funnye – the cousin of Michelle Obama – and associate director of Bechol Lashon and spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nei Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of Chicago?
The New York regional director of DiverseJews.org is Lacey Schwartz who is also National Outreach Director of BecholLashon.org, assisted by Collier Meyerson and to top it all Davi Cheng, Director of the Los Angeles region is Jewish, Chinese, and Lesbian. As I said it is all a new image of the Jew.
Last night, at the Gallery Bar, 120 Orchard St., NYC there was a Shemspeed Summer Music Festival event.
The two further upcoming events in New York will be on:
Monday, August 2nd – the Shemspeed Hip Hop Fest at Le Poisson Rouge – 158 Bleeker Street NYC Featuring Tes Uno, Ted King & guest Geng Grizlee and others with CD Release parties for “A Tribe Called Tes” and “Move On.”
Thursday, August 5th – Shemspeed Jewish Punk Fest at Pianos, 158 Ludlow Street, NYC Featuring Moshiach Oil & The Groggers.
info on each event above and at shemspeed.com/fest
A Jewish Woman Living in Ethiopia
Rethinking How U.S. Jews Fund Communities Around the World.
Published: May 27, 2010
For more than half a century, North America’s Jewish federation system has divided its overseas allocations between the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Joint Distribution Committee. The Jewish Agency has been dedicated to building up Israel and encouraging aliyah, while the Joint has focused on aiding Jewish communities in need around the globe.
Today, both agencies are working to assert their continued relevance in a changing Jewish world. With aliyah slowing, the Jewish Agency is moving toward embracing a new agenda: promoting the concept of Jewish peoplehood. The JDC, meanwhile, has sought to claim a larger share of the communal pie, which had long been split 75%-25% in the Jewish Agency’s favor.
After a recent round of sniping over the funding issue, the two sides are now stepping back from their public confrontation and recommitting to negotiations over the future of the collective funding arrangement. Underlying this fight, however, is a more fundamental tension over communal funding priorities: Should overseas aid be focused on helping needy Jews and assisting communities that have few resources of their own, or should it be used to bolster Jewish identity?
With this debate raging, the Forward asked a diverse group of Jewish thinkers and communal activists from around the world to weigh in and address the following question: How should North America’s Jewish community be thinking about its priorities and purposes in funding Jewish needs abroad?
New Century, New Priorities
By Yossi Beilin
During the 20th century, the challenges facing world Jewry were the following: rescue of Jews who encountered existential danger, assistance to Israel, helping with the absorption of those who immigrated to new countries and opening the gates for those who were denied the right to emigrate. In the 21st century, ensuring Jewish continuity is the greatest challenge facing the Jewish people.
Yet too often Jewish organizations in the United States and elsewhere remain focused on the challenges of the previous century. (Indeed, Jewish groups were not very receptive when I first proposed the idea for Birthright Israel 17 years ago.)
Ensuring the existence of Jewish life (religious and secular) throughout the world via Jewish education, encounters between young Israeli and Diaspora Jews, creating a virtual Jewish community using new technologies — these must be at the top of the global Jewish agenda. This requires American Jewish philanthropy and leadership, which in turn requires discerning between past and present priorities.
Yossi Beilin, a former justice minister of Israel, is president of the international consulting firm Beilink.
Reviving Polish Jewry
By Konstanty Gebert
The rebirth of Central European Jewish communities after 1989, though numerically not very impressive, remains significant for moral and historical reasons. It is also crucial for Jewish self-understanding. An enormous proportion of American Jews can trace their origins to what used to be Poland alone. This is where much of Diaspora history happened.
Alongside the courage and determination of local Jews, the far-sighted support of several American Jewish organizations and philanthropies made this rebirth possible. In Poland the Joint Distribution Committee, the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and the Taube Foundation played key roles. Their support has translated not only into Jewish schools and festivals in places once believed to be Jewish-ly dead, but also in most cases into changed relations between local Jewish communities and their fellow citizens as well as clear support for Israel on the part of these countries’ governments.
Yet for all this progress, Central European Jewish communities might never become self-financing. The support given them by American Jewry remains a vital Jewish interest. It must be strengthened.
Konstanty Gebert, a former underground journalist, is a columnist at the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza and founder of the Polish-language Jewish monthly Midrasz.
What We Give Ourselves
By Lisa Leff
More than any Jewish community in history, postwar American Jews have used our prosperity to help Jewish communities around the world. On one level, the greatest beneficiaries of this support have been Jews abroad. But we should also recognize that these philanthropic efforts have shaped our communal values and identity.
Through our international aid, we have dedicated ourselves to universalist and cosmopolitan ideas like tikkun olam and solidarity across borders. In helping disadvantaged and oppressed Jews abroad, we have also deepened our community’s commitments to democracy, human rights and economic justice for all. It’s only natural that Jewish groups pitch in on Haitian earthquake relief and advocate on behalf of oppressed people of all backgrounds.
Whatever the outcome of the federations’ deliberations over how to divide allocations between the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee, it is imperative that American Jewry maintain its commitment to our values through supporting international philanthropy.
Lisa Leff is an associate professor of history at American University and the author of “Sacred Bonds of Solidarity: The Rise of Jewish Internationalism in Nineteenth-Century France” (Stanford University Press, 2006).
Putting Identity First
By Jonathan S. Tobin
The choices we face are not between good causes and bad or even indifferent ones but between vital Jewish obligations. But since the decline in giving to Jewish causes means that we must make tough decisions, programs that reinforce Jewish identity and support Zionism both in the Diaspora and in Israel must be accorded a higher priority.
At this point in our history, with assimilation thinning the ranks of Diaspora Jewry and with continuity problems arising even in Israel, the need to instill a sense of membership in the Jewish people is an imperative that cannot be pushed aside. Under the current circumstances, absent an effort that will make Jewish and Zionist education the keynote of our communal life, the notion that Jewish philanthropies or support for Israel can be adequately sustained in the future is simply a fantasy.
Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of Commentary magazine.
By Richard Wexler
One cannot have a meaningful discussion about framing the national Jewish community’s priorities and purposes in funding Jewish needs abroad without first asking the question: Is there actually a collective “North American Jewish community” today?
Collective responsibility has been and remains the foundation upon which the federation system and, therefore, the national Jewish community are built. It is what distinguishes the federations from all other charities. It is embodied in our participation in the adventure of building Israel and in meeting overseas needs through the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee, in the dues that federations pay to the Jewish Federations of North America and so much more. But today, federations “bowl alone.”
Collective responsibility gives meaning to kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh — all Jews are responsible for one another. Until federations understand once again that Jewish needs extend beyond the borders of any one community, we cannot have a meaningful priority-setting process for funding Jewish needs abroad.
Richard Wexler is a former chairman of the United Israel Appeal.
Originally published here: www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/rethinking-how-u-s-jews-fund-communities-around-the-world-1.292527
Rabbi Gershom Sizomu and Be’chol Lashon director Diane Tobin at the opening of the Health Center.
By Amanda Pazornik
The J Weekly
Published: July 22, 2010
On the day of the grand opening of the Tobin Health Center in Mbale, Uganda, health professionals were already hard at work treating patients inside.
The center was open for business, but that didn’t slow down the lively June 18 celebration, which featured song and dance performances and speakers. About 3,000 people gathered at the center’s grounds to mark the occasion.
Seated under colorful tents was Diane Tobin, director of S.F.-based Be’chol Lashon and wife of the late Gary Tobin, for whom the center is named, along with three of their children, Aryeh, Mia and Jonah.
“Everyone was amazing, friendly and so generous of spirit,” said Tobin, who was visiting Uganda and its Abayudaya Jewish community for the first time. “They were so appreciative of having the center and demonstrated a tremendous willingness to work together. It’s a great model for the rest of the world.”
Andrew Esensten, Be’chol Lashon program coordinator, and Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, spiritual leader of the Abayudaya Jews and the first chief rabbi of Uganda, joined them, in addition to government and medical officials, and representatives from Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities.
The Tobin Health Center is named for Gary Tobin, the founder of the S.F.-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research, of which Be’chol Lashon (“In Every Tongue”) is an initiative. Tobin died one year ago after a long battle with cancer. He was 59.
“He really has left a legacy,” said Debra Weinberg of Baltimore, who attended the opening with her husband, Joe, and their 14-year-old son, Ben. The couple also helped fund the project. “I think he would feel deeply comforted to know it’s improving the lives of people.”
The 4,000-square-foot facility is a major component of the ongoing Abayudaya Community Health and Development Project undertaken by the Abayudaya Executive Council and Be’chol Lashon, a nonprofit that reaches out to Jews of color and helps educate the mainstream community about Jewish diversity.
It cost approximately $250,000 to erect the two-story center, using donations collected over five years. While patients pay for their services, continuous fundraising is a necessity, Tobin said.
Construction began in July 2009, enabling more than 50 Africans from diverse ethnic backgrounds to earn a living.
Stars of David are featured in the window grids, ceilings and floors of the health center, a “lovely expression of their Judaism,” Tobin said. Private rooms make up most of the top floor, with patient wards on the ground floor. A mezuzah is affixed to every door.
A large portrait of Gary Tobin hangs in the lobby.
“It’s so heartwarming,” Diane Tobin said of the visual tribute. “Gary would be so honored to have this health center in the middle of Africa named after him.”
Prior to the opening of the Tobin Health Center, the nearest medical facility to the Abayudaya Jews was Mbale Hospital, an overcrowded and understaffed institution not accessible to all the residents of the region. Tobin said there are other clinics in the area, but they lack the preventive health care measures necessary to respond to the community’s needs.
The Tobin Health Center is licensed by the Ministry of Health and is certified to operate a pharmacy and laboratory. It serves all who seek basic medical care in the region, providing life-saving health services and simultaneously creating jobs.
“The goal is to raise the standard of medical care,” Tobin said.
In addition, rental units on the bottom and top floors of the center will provide more job opportunities for locals. The first business recently opened — a hardware store that sells bags of cement, plumbing equipment and sheet metal — with a beauty salon and video rental outlet in the works.
The center “is rewarding on a number of levels,” said Steven Edwards of Laguna Beach, who, along with his wife, Jill, has been involved with the Abayudaya for six years. “The most obvious is to see this beautiful, clean building. On top of that, local dignitaries noted how lucky Mbale is to have the Jewish community and how much they contribute to the larger community by bringing jobs.”
The Abayudaya Jews comprise a growing, 100-year-old community of more than 1,000 Jews living among 10,000 Christians and Muslims. They live in scattered villages in the rolling, green hills of eastern Uganda. The largest Abayudaya village, Nabagoye, is near Mbale, the seventh-largest city in Uganda and the location of the center.
Research conducted by Be’chol Lashon in 2006 showed that contaminated water and malaria-carrying mosquitoes pose the biggest health risks to the community. A year later, the organization launched the Abayudaya Community Health and Development Project with the drilling of the first well in Nabagoye.
Since then, nearly 1,000 mosquito nets have been purchased and distributed throughout the community.
“Our goal is to respond to the needs of communities,” Tobin said. “If there are other communities that need health centers, we will be there.”
Originally published here: www.jweekly.com/article/full/58727/s.f.-researchers-legacy-lives-on-in-new-ugandan-health-center/