Refraining from intervention in Venezuela is even more important to the US then Hands-off in Syria. Venezuela is in the US immediate backyard and available are negative memories like Guatemala, Chile, The Dominican Republic.
COHA Statement on the Ongoing Stress in Venezuela
By: Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), Washington DC.
The general position of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) on the ongoing developments in Venezuela is that Washington has a misguided policy toward the South American country.
Moreover, Washington’s Venezuelan policy directly conflicts with the rest of Latin America’s thinking on the subject. This gap may cost the already diplomatically embattled U.S. in the near future when it comes to improving its already damaged image in the Americas as well as its diplomatic ties with Venezuela’s allies, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba and Ecuador.
Who Creates Washington’s Policy Towards Caracas?
In the current extremely tense atmosphere, it would seem that the White House is much more likely to respond with favor to a growing Venezuelan exile group in Florida than to a growing Latino community who want the Obama administration to bring about real and progressive change to the inter-American system.
Back in November, Secretary of State John Kerry famously declared in a speech at the Organization of American States that: “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” The situation in Venezuela is a real-life test for Washington to demonstrate that Secretary Kerry’s historical declaration will be followed through, unlike the December 1933 Montevideo Convention.
Three Expelled U.S. Diplomats
Right now a question revolves around whether the Venezuelan government had sufficient grounds to issue the recall instructions against three U.S. officials to be ejected from Caracas.
On Sunday evening, February 16, President Maduro announced the expulsion of three U.S. Embassy officials from Venezuela. Maduro’s decision was followed by a statement released on Monday from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Elías Jaua, who declared that the consular officials had 48 hours to vacate the country. The announcement comes after the U.S. State Department voiced concerns over the growing violence in Caracas with the department spokeswoman, Marie Harf stating on Saturday, “We are deeply concerned by rising tensions, by the violence surrounding this February 12 protest and by the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.”
Jaua stated that the Embassy officials had been visiting universities under the false pretenses of granting students with visas, however he charged that “at bottom that is a cover to establish contacts with leaders who they recruit for training, for financing and the creation of youth organizations through which violence is promoted in Venezuela.” This most recent expulsion mirrors those of September 2013 when Maduro announced on state-run VTV that he was expelling three U.S. Diplomats, similarly charging that, “They have 48 hours to leave the country…Get out of Venezuela…Yankee go home. Enough abuses already.” This marks the third time in less than a year that President Maduro has expelled American diplomats under the allegations of supporting opposition factions to insight a coup. While the names of the three-expelled diplomats have yet to be released, the U.S. State Department has publicly and adamantly denied the accusations. Meanwhile, the Twitter account of the U.S. embassy in Venezuela continues to be active and has tweeted that it will continue to operate normally and has no plans to suspend operations.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, like much of the international community, awaits the release of factual evidence to support the consular officials’ expulsion. Until such time, only speculations can be made about the validity of the administrations’ statements and whether or not the expulsions are justifiable. Even without evidence, it is far from outlandish to speculate that American institutions are using their chartered mandates as a guise to intervene in internal politics.
In Alan McPherson’s “The Encyclopedia of U.S. Military Interventions in Latin America” the author goes into detail about the prevalence of, most notably, extending U.S. power militarily through local actors, citing the CIA-led coup against Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, the response to Cuba from 1956 on, the intervention in the Dominican Republic of 1965-1966, the support for Pinochet’s coup against Allende in Chile in 1973, and the invasion of Grenada in 1983 among others. In a historical context, Maduro’s charges do in fact follow a pattern of U.S intervention in Latin American politics.
Furthermore, no one can easily deny that consular officials (from the U.S. or other powers) repeatedly have been used to transmit intelligence material to both sides for spying and liaison missions. COHA’s Director Larry Birns recollects visiting the U.S. embassy in Venezuela in the 1970s. “There would be this wall with photos of embassy personnel and their diplomatic titles, like ‘agricultural attaché.’ I can assure you none of the so-called attaches I met had ever seen a plow in their lives.”
This historical record and suspicions notwithstanding, COHA still urges the Venezuelan government to conduct an impartial investigation into the expulsions, however utopian a request that may be. Impartial investigation aside, one thing is certain: the expulsions will serve as political fire for both the opposition and Chavista, pro-government factions alike. Critics of the government have often pointed to Maduro’s efforts to provoke crises with the U.S. as a “diversionary conflict” method to distract citizens from the dismal realities of the state’s economic shortcomings, as they are certain to continue to do with this instance. Likewise, pro-government supporters and the Maduro administration will use the expulsion as evidence that they are willing to take action against the U.S. for again meddling in the politics of a sovereign Latin American nation.
A Conspiracy Theory?
At the time of this writing, there is bizarre, and apparently false, news floating around the internet regarding a potential U.S. military operation in Venezuela. Arizona Senator John McCain is being quoted as stating that the U.S. could (or rather should) prepare a military operation in Venezuela and that it can ask U.S. allies in the region, namely Colombia and Peru, to create some kind of multinational coalition a la Iraq or Afghanistan. A report apparently accredited to the Agence France Presse and Xinhua (a Chinese news agency), allegedly quotes Senator McCain making these declarations in an interview with NBC.
COHA has tried to independently verify these alleged statements and they appear to be false. A recent interview with Senator McCain on CNN’s The Jake Tapper Show, focuses primarily on the situation in Ukraine. There is a brief 30-second segment in which Senator McCain discusses Venezuela, but at no point does he talk about military intervention.
Moreover, the articles and blog posts where these alleged statements by the Arizona congressman appear are all in Spanish. COHA has not found any major news media outlet, be it in English or Spanish which confirm these statements.
COHA has contacted Senator McCain’s office in Washington D.C. to confirm the veracity of these allegations. Upon calling the senator’s office, we were asked by Press Secretary Rachael Dean to email links to the articles in Spanish that COHA’s research team found. The response to our email stated that “the quote is not accurate” and directed us to Senator McCain’s interview on CNN.
Given the gravity of these alleged statements, COHA calls for caution. Articles and blog posts quoting or paraphrasing the quotes are spreading throughout the internet, most prominently on Twitter, despite the lack of verification on the matter.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs urges the State Department to declare its respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty and respect the results of the 2013 elections which, while certainly polarizing, were democratic.
Certainly, taking this diplomatic stance does not equate to neutrality, as the anti-Chavista factions would like to see regime change. Hopefully, President Maduro’s pledge that he is open to dialogue with the opposition is not a hollow one. COHA eagerly encourages all sides (the government as well as opposition groups) to refrain from further violence.
Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution.
With the passing of Hugo Chavez, time has come to re-evaluate the reasertment of a Latin American identity that he helped create. It went well beyond being a “Pink Tide” and ought to remind Washington that when the issue was the Malvinas, the Latins were united against the Anglos.
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.
To read more, the entire paper can be found here.
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 Diana Raby from Red Pepper Blog:
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.:
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:
Left-wing presidents elected since 1998
This page was last modified on 7 March 2013 at 00:05.
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.
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.
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.
Based On A Book By Dan Koeppel – “Banana: The Fate Of The Fruit That Changed The World” – Johann Hari Explains Why bananas are a parable for our times. He Points Out that Across the World Politicians Are Telling Us The Regulation of Corporations is “a Menace” to be “Rolled Back”; They Even Say We Should Leave the Planet’s Climate In Their Hands. Now That’s Bananas. We first posted this May 22, 2008 and repost it for the benefit of President Obama.
It came to our attention that this posting is used as reference in Wikipedia’s title “Pink Tide” – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_tide and we feel this is required reading when thinking of the place of the US in the world – going into the 21st century. The US back-yard is Latin America and President Obama in rewriting US economic policy ought to pay attention to needs of the democratizing Latins. We decided thus to repost this from May 28, 2008.
Johann Hari: Why bananas are a parable for our times.
Below the headlines about rocketing food prices and rocking governments, there lays a largely unnoticed fact: bananas are dying. The foodstuff, more heavily consumed even than rice or potatoes, has its own form of cancer. It is a fungus called Panama Disease, and it turns bananas brick-red and inedible.
There is no cure. They all die as it spreads, and it spreads quickly. Soon â€“ in five, 10 or 30 years â€“ the yellow creamy fruit as we know it will not exist. The story of how the banana rose and fell can be seen a strange parable about the corporations that increasingly dominate the world â€“ and where they are leading us.
A corporation called United Fruit took one particular type â€“ the Gros Michael â€“ out of the jungle and decided to mass produce it on vast plantations, shipping it on refrigerated boats across the globe. The banana was standardised into one friendly model: yellow and creamy and handy for your lunchbox.
There was an entrepreneurial spark of genius there â€“ but United Fruit developed a cruel business model to deliver it. As the writer Dan Koeppel explains in his brilliant history Banana: “The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World,” it worked like this. Find a poor, weak country. Make sure the government will serve your interests. If it won’t, topple it and replace it with one that will.
Burn down its rainforests and build banana plantations. Make the locals dependent on you. Crush any flicker of trade unionism. Then, alas, you may have to watch as the banana fields die from the strange disease that stalks bananas across the globe. If this happens, dump tonnes of chemicals on them to see if it makes a difference. If that doesn’t work, move on to the next country. Begin again.
This sounds like hyperbole until you study what actually happened. In 1911, the banana magnate Samuel Zemurray decided to seize the country of Honduras as a private plantation. He gathered together some international gangsters like Guy “Machine Gun” Maloney, drummed up a private army, and invaded, installing an amigo as president.
The term “banana republic” was invented to describe the servile dictatorships that were created to please the banana companies. In the early 1950s, the Guatemalan people elected a science teacher named Jacobo Arbenz, because he promised to redistribute some of the banana companies’ land among the millions of landless peasants.
President Eisenhower and the CIA (headed by a former United Fruit employee) issued instructions that these “communists” should be killed, and noted that good methods were “a hammer, axe, wrench, screw driver, fire poker or kitchen knife”. The tyranny they replaced it with went on to kill more than 200,000 people.
Not long after Panama Disease first began to kill bananas in the early 20th century, United Fruit’s scientists warned the corporation was making two errors. They were building a gigantic monoculture. If every banana is from one homogenous species, a disease entering the chain anywhere on earth will soon spread. The solution? Diversify into a broad range of banana types.
The company’s quarantine standards were also dire. Even the people who were supposed to prevent infection were trudging into healthy fields with disease-carrying soil on their boots. But both of these solutions cost money â€“ and United Front didn’t want to pay. They decided to maximise their profit today, reckoning they would get out of the banana business if it all went wrong.
But like in a horror movie sequel, the killer came back. In the 1980s, the Cavendish too became sick. Now it too is dying, its immunity a myth. In many parts of Africa, the crop is down 60 percent. There is a consensus among scientists that the fungus will eventually infect all Cavendish bananas everywhere. There are bananas we could adopt as Banana 3.0 â€“ but they are so different to the bananas that we know now that they feel like a totally different and far less appetising fruit. The most likely contender is the Goldfinger, which is crunchier and tangier: it is know as “the acid banana”.
Thanks to bad corporate behaviour and physical limits, we seem to be at a dead end. The only possible glimmer of hope is a genetically modified banana that can resist Panama Disease. But that is a distant prospect, and it is resisted by many people: would you like a banana split made from a banana split with fish genes?
Is there a parable for our times in this odd milkshake of banana, blood and fungus? For a hundred years, a handful of corporations were given a gorgeous fruit, set free from regulation, and allowed to do what they wanted with it. What happened? They had one good entrepreneurial idea â€“ and to squeeze every tiny drop of profit from it, they destroyed democracies, burned down rainforests, and ended up killing the fruit itself.
Israeli-owned Ormat Technologies Inc. harnesses energy from water heated by chambers filled with molten rock deep beneath the ground. They put volcanoes or potential volcanoes to work.
The company has been operating two plants in Guatemala for three years and wants to expand but is weighing the risks of drilling more costly exploratory wells.
Reuters writes from Guatemala – “There’s a phase where you just have to drill and see,” Ormat’s representative in Guatemala, Yossi Shilon, said – The problem is that you risk a very expensive investment and are not always satisfied with the results.”
Ormat’s project is only a 20 MW station but Guatemala says the country has the potential to produce up to 1000 MW of geothermal energy, a third of projected energy needs in 2022.
Other Central American countries are already forging ahead in this emerging technology.
More than a fifth of El Salvador’s energy needs come from two geothermal plants with installed capacity of 160 MW and investigations are being carried out to build a third.
Costa Rica, which has 152 megawatts of capacity in four geothermal plants, is due to bring a fifth plant online in January 2011 and is looking into building two more.
Nicaragua generates 66 MW from geothermal energy and in the next five years plans an increase to 166 MW.
Guatemala only produces a tiny amount of its own oil and spends about $2 billion a year on imports. The aim is to save money on energy costs and join international efforts to cut green house gas emissions, issues that will be on the table at global climate change talks this November in Cancun, Mexico.
Dotted with active volcanoes, Central America is seeking to tap its unique geography to produce green energy and cut dependence on oil imports as demand for electricity outstrips supply.
Sitting above shifting tectonic plates in the Pacific basin known to cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the region has huge potential for geothermal power generated by heat stored deep in the earth.
Geothermal power plants, while expensive to build, can provide a long-term, reliable source of electricity and are considered more environmentally friendly than large hydroelectric dams that can alter a country’s topography.
Guatemala, Central America’s biggest country, aims to produces 60 percent of its energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power by 2022.
The government is offering tax breaks on equipment to set up geothermal plants and electricity regulators are requiring distributors buy greater proportions of clean energy.
Some 1,640 feet below the summit of Guatemala’s active Pacaya volcano, which exploded in May, pipes carrying steam and water at 347 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) snake across the mountainside to one of two geothermal plants currently operating in the country.
BETTER THAN DAMS
Central America, heavily dependent on agriculture, is feeling the effects of extreme weather. Tropical Storm Agatha killed nearly 200 people in the region earlier this year.
The largely poor countries are highly reliant on hydroelectricity, the number two source of energy after oil, but environmental activists and energy experts say harnessing geothermal energy has distinct advantages over dams.
Hydroelectricity depends on rainfall and is vulnerable to hurricanes that can wash mud and debris into rivers and clog dams. Such storms are expected to increase in the frequency and intensity as the planet warms.
“With climate change there’s uncertainty over the future behavior of water resources,” said Eduardo Noboa, a renewables expert at the Latin American Energy Organization, or OLADE. “We’re going to see a vulnerability in hydroelectric systems.”
Dams, which can flood vast areas of land during their construction, are unpopular in rural areas where families rely on farming and have trouble finding arable land.
In Guatemala, hydroelectric projects have a haunted past after hundreds of Mayan villagers protesting the building of a dam on the Chixoy river were massacred by security forces in 1978 at the height of the country’s civil war.
The dam and its reservoir, which now generates around 15 percent of Guatemala’s electricity, displaced thousands of people in the country’s central highlands.
Geothermal plants by contrast are compact and companies, learning from the mistakes of the past, say they are making an effort to provide nearby towns with easy power access.
Climate Change caused Hunger in Guatemala is not in the News – It Should Be. Tropical Storm Agatha departed May 30, 2010, the fields are still flooded – the main problem is increasing drought. What shall they do? Global Warming was not started by these peasants.
Climate Extremes Fuel Hunger in Guatemala.
GUATEMALA CITY, Jul 28, 2010 (IPS) – “Three-quarters of the fields are still under water. Maize, plantains, okra and pasture are all lost,” José Asencio told IPS at the village of Santa Ana Mixtán in southern Guatemala, the area worst affected by tropical storm Agatha.
The villagers have been working for food in order to survive. “We’ve been shoring up the banks of the Coyolate and Mascalate rivers, and the mayor has been giving us food rations, although we haven’t received any for the past two weeks because supplies have run out,” he said.
Asencio said that food shortages and unemployment, caused by the extreme weather and the floods, have worsened the plight of the 373 families in the village, which is part of the municipality of Nueva Concepción in the department (province) of Escuintla, in the far south of the country.
The same dramatic situation is seen in Madronales, a village in the coastal municipality of Ocós in the southwestern province of San Marcos. “The fields sown with maize and plantain are flooded; we need food aid,” community leader Amparo Barrios told IPS.
Tropical storm Agatha flooded the crops that are the mainstay of 210 families, and “the little that was spared was destroyed by Atlantic storm Alex,” which hit the country a month later, she complained.
Agatha departed from Guatemala May 30, leaving behind 165 people dead and over 100,000 affected by destruction of their homes, crops or livelihoods. One month later, Alex added two more to the death toll and 2,000 to the number of material victims, according to the National Disaster Reduction Coordination agency (CONRED).
The storms also hit El Salvador and Honduras, where at least 29 people died and thousands were left homeless, according to disaster relief agencies.
But the worst hit by the double whammy of the storms was Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, where half the population live on incomes below the poverty line and 17 percent are extremely poor, according to United Nations statistics.
“Climate change is exacerbating the conditions of poverty and extreme poverty in the country, and above all is complicating the lives of the most vulnerable,” Carlos Mancilla, head of the Climate Change Unit at the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (MARN), told IPS.
Flooding is not the only concern. Paradoxically, one of the main chronic problems in Guatemala is drought, in the “dry corridor” in the north and east of the country.
“Adapting to drought is not as easy as coping with floods. How can the social fabric destroyed by a drought be repaired? What happens when the head of a family has to migrate? In contrast, if a bridge is washed away by the rains, it can simply be rebuilt,” Mancilla said.
The General Directorate of Epidemiology reported that at least 54 children died of hunger in 2009 because of the drought, which was described as the worst in 30 years. Meanwhile, 2.5 million people went hungry due to the food crisis, the U.N. reported.
Just under 50 percent of children in Guatemala are malnourished, the highest rate in Latin America and one of the highest in the world, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Among the government measures taken to adapt to the climate emergencies, Mancilla mentioned the creation of an inter-institutional Climate Change Commission, made up of 17 secretariats and ministries, that is “assessing the impact, including on food production, within the different sectors.” In this way “we examine how each one can contribute” to overcoming the challenge, he said.
Sucely Girón, coordinator of the non-governmental Observatory on the Right to Food Security (ODSAN), told IPS that the country “is not investing in prevention,” in spite of having passed a law on food and nutrition security.
“The main thrust of the reconstruction budget is replacing infrastructure. They forget that Agatha and Alex left people with no crops and no jobs that would enable them to buy food,” she said, referring to the announcement by the government of social democratic President Álvaro Colom that it needs one billion dollars to reconstruct the country.
Girón said that crop diversification and alternative economic activities need to be promoted, in order to reduce Guatemala’s dependence on agriculture.
She mentioned tourism, fish farming and craft making as possible ways of earning incomes for families whose crops have suffered from climate change impacts.
The programme on Strengthening Environmental Governance in the face of Climate Change Risks in Guatemala, an initiative of government and non-governmental organisations, community organisations and international aid agencies, aims at sustainable agriculture.
Leonel Jacinto, coordinator within the project for the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told IPS that food security for the population is being sought through agricultural best practices.
In the central province of Baja Verapaz, affected by drought, the programme encourages avoidance of slash-and-burn techniques, and promotes agroforestry (combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock) and preserving and making use of stubble, in order to improve water retention in the soil.
The project, which is to benefit 791 families directly and another 100,000 families indirectly, promotes the recycling of water used for washing clothes to irrigate vegetable plots. It also encourages energy generation in biodigesters, which produce biogas from organic waste materials.
Jacinto said programmes like this one can change the face of agriculture in Guatemala and make it more resistant to climate change. But it needs to be extended across the country and to be sustained over time, he stressed.
CENTRAL AMERICA: Doors Wide Open for Renewable Energy.
GUATEMALA CITY, Jul 15, 2010 (IPS) – Heavy reliance on petroleum imports, the need for electricity in rural areas, and the ongoing effort towards sustainable development have focused Central America’s attention on renewable energy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t opposition.
Located in the municipality of Santa Ana, 24 kilometres from the Honduran capital, it cost 250 million dollars, according to owner Energía Eólica Honduras (Wind Energy Honduras), subsidiary of Mesoamerica Energy, made up of 15 business groups from the region.
In addition, Honduras will invest 2.1 billion dollars in 52 hydroelectric projects between 2010 and 2016, each with the capacity to generate five megawatts, announced the Honduran Association of Small Producers of Renewable Energy in early June.
“We based our efforts on three aspects: energy security by avoiding dependence on international petroleum prices, improving access to energy in rural zones, and sustainable development,” Association president Elsia Paz told IPS.
According to Paz, promotion of renewable energy has been important for achieving a balanced diversification of the Honduran energy matrix, as 70 percent comes from fossil fuels, “a resource that is imported and leads to capital flight.”
Honduras is typical of Central America’s high reliance on oil for generating electricity.
In the 1980s, about 75 percent of the region’s electricity came from renewable sources — primarily hydroelectric dams. That portion has now dropped to 50 percent, according to the non-governmental Energy Network Foundation BUN-CA, based in Costa Rica. The rest comes from hydrocarbon- based sources.
Similar to Honduras, 70 percent of Nicaragua’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, and 30 percent from renewable resources, according to official figures.
To improve that ratio, construction is under way of the Tumarín hydroelectric dam, the largest in the country, in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region. Behind the project, which will produce 220 megawatts, is the Brazilian consortium Quieroz Galvão-Electrobras.
But Tumarín has come under fire from the surrounding communities, which say they were not consulted about the project and it will have negative consequences for the entire Río Grande de Matagalpa watershed. The dam, which requires an investment of more than 600 million dollars, will change hands to be administered by the Nicaraguan government in 30 years.
Meanwhile, the Amayo I and II wind park, with U.S., Guatemalan and Nicaraguan capital, is so far the largest operating in Central America.
Located along the shore of Lake Nicaragua, in the southern province of Rivas, it generates 63 megawatts of electricity.
Luis Molina, of the environmental control unit of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, told IPS that his country aims to implement renewable energy projects in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse-effect gases, which cause global warming, and to decrease the portion of the national budget going to the purchase of fossil fuels.
He said that at the “macro” level, the main objective is to achieve 100 percent energy from renewable sources, while at the “micro” level the goal is to extend the electrical network in rural areas.
Approximately 60 percent of the region’s energy potential lies in possible hydroelectric dams.
Of the 22,000 megawatts of potentially exploitable hydro-energy, the Central American isthmus has developed just 17 percent, according to the Central American Electrification Council.
President Laura Chinchilla announced that she wants to make Costa Rica the first country in the world to run 100 percent on renewable energy.
“There are towns that think water gets contaminated from the hydroelectric turbines, and investors have not been able to communicate how it works,” he cited as one example.
However, he believes Guatemala is on the road to expanding clean energy, primarily through more hydroelectric dams.
Of a different opinion is Oscar Conde, activist with the group Madreselva de Guatemala, who told IPS that renewable energy projects like hydroelectric dams alter ecosystems and affect rural communities, who are not taken into account when the dams are built.
“They are transnational or national businesses that use the water for their own benefit, and the communities just watch it go by,” he said.
UNEP leads 27 countries of the Wider Caribbean on “land-based pollution” at an International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting in Panama City based on the ISTAC of Kingston, Jamaica (Interim Scientific, Technical and Advisory Committee) to the Cartagena Convention. Will they touch nevertheless the menacing Deep-Water Oil-Well Blow-Out?
UNEP leads 27 countries of the Wider Caribbean on “land-based pollution” at an International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting in Panama City based on the ISTAC of Kingston, Jamaica (Interim Scientific, Technical and Advisory Committee to the Cartagena Convention. Will they touch nevertheless the menacing Deep-Water Oil-Well Blow-Out?
UNEP/CEP PRESS RELEASE: REGIONAL GOVERNMENT POLLUTION EXPERTS MEET IN PANAMA.
Panama City, 24th May, 2010:
Over 50 pollution control experts from 27 countries of the Wider Caribbean
The LBS Protocol is one of three agreements under the Convention for the
According to Nelson Andrade, Coordinator of UNEP CEP” “It is vital that
Meeting Participants are also expected to review recent achievements of the
For additional information, please contact:
Christopher Corbin,Programme Officer,
About UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) in 1976 under the framework of its Regional Seas Programme. It was based on the importance and value of the Wider Caribbean Region’s fragile and vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems including an abundant and mainly endemic flora and fauna,
Two other protocols were developed by the region – the Protocols on Special Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) and the Control of Pollution from Land Based Sources (LBS) in 1990 and 1999 respectively.
The Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP-CAR/RCU) serves as the Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention and is based in Kingston, Jamaica.
Each Protocol is served by a Regional Activity Centre. These Centres are
The Latin American Indigenous Forum on Climate Change concluded in Costa Rica that market mechanisms involving Transnational Corporations passing money to the Governments end up victimizing Native People of the land. The request to make the mechanism measurable does not make for long term strategy either.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Native Peoples Reject Market Mechanisms.
SAN JOSÉ, Apr 1, 2010 (IPS) – Solutions to global warming based on the logic of the market are a threat to the rights and way of life of indigenous peoples, the Latin American Indigenous Forum on Climate Change concluded this week in Costa Rica.
Proposals from governments and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as the Clean Development Mechanism and the UN-REDD Programme (United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), “are new forms of economic geopolitics” that endanger indigenous rights enshrined in treaties, says the final declaration of the forum, which ended Wednesday.
These proposals allow states and transnational corporations to promote dams, agrofuels, oil exploration, tree plantations and monoculture crops, that cause expropriation and destruction of indigenous peoples’ territories and the criminalisation, prosecution and even murder of native people, the document says.
“We discussed indigenous peoples’ strategies and positions with respect to climate change,” the general coordinator of the Guatemala-based Sotz’il – Centre for Maya Research and Development, Ramiro Batzin, told IPS. Governments talk to each other without taking civil society into account, but indigenous people must be listened to, because they are the most affected by global warming, he said.
The worst harm they are suffering is lack of food, because of drought and floods, and the loss of their cultural identity.
The native peoples say that the great majority of places being proposed by governments and some NGOs to participate in the REDD programme are located in indigenous territories.
This shows that these territories are well preserved, but it is urgent to defend guarantees contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly territorial rights and the right to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent, the forum declaration says.
“States do not want to acknowledge this; their approach is based purely on the bottom line,” said Batzin.
People here pinned their hopes on the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, to be hosted this month by the Bolivian government. The meeting is conceived as an alternative approach to the solutions explored to date by the international community.
“The failure was to expect an outcome from such a meeting. In the midst of an economic crisis, industrialised countries do not want to sacrifice production,” Pascal Girot, Mesoamerica and Caribbean coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), told IPS.
Costa Rica, for instance, is planning to be a carbon neutral country by 2021, and to sell greenhouse gas emissions mitigation mechanisms to industrialised countries.
“It’s a licence to pollute. It may be a solution for Costa Rica, taking a very utilitarian view. But it’s the principle that the polluter pays, and that is all we have at the moment,” said Girot.
Mechanisms like the REDD programme must guarantee the long term survival of the world’s large forests. But to achieve that in Central America is very difficult, because of the pressures on forested areas, and because “investors want guarantees that the mechanisms will be measurable,” Girot said.
Edmond Mulet of Guatemala, the acting head of the UN mission in Haiti, warned that starting from “Bellow Zero” even before the earthquake, it will take generations to rebuild the country. Who is to blame? Can the UN help?
Haiti revival after quake could take generations says UN chief: Bleak outlook for decades to come and fears of health calamity when rainy season starts in May.
Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent, and Tom Phillips in Port-au-Prince
Rebuilding Haiti will take generations because the earthquake-shattered country was starting from “below zero” and logistics remained a “nightmare”, the United Nations warned today.
The bleak long-term assessment came as basic medical supplies in Port-au-Prince ran dangerously low and concerns grew of a public health calamity with the onset of the rainy season.
Several hospitals and clinics reported shortages of painkillers and antibiotics for patients with fractures, amputated limbs and infections. Relief agencies said there was also an urgent need for tents.
Edmond Mulet, acting head of the UN mission in Haiti, warned that emergency relief efforts were the start of a commitment that would be much longer than the international community might realise. “I think this is going to take many more decades … this is an enormous backwards step in Haiti’s development,” he told the BBC. “We will not have to start from zero but from below zero.”
Foreign governments this week pledged to back a decade-long rebuilding effort but that timescale could need revising at a donor conference in the coming months.
The US military signalled plans to start transferring authority to the state and aid agencies within three to six months.
The magnitude-seven quake on 12 January caused the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people, left 1.5 million homeless and 3 million in need of aid. It destroyed much of Haiti’s infrastructure.
Some 200,000 heavy-duty tents have been ordered to cope with the rainy season, which typically begins in May, and the hurricane season soon after. Only about a 10th of that number of tents has reached Haiti. Salvage crews have started clearing rubble in Port-au-Prince but with three-quarters of the buildings mostly demolished the task is immense. There are plans for “tent cities” outside the capital and suggestions the city could be moved to a site less vulnerable to quakes.
Some relatively unscathed neighbourhoods show a semblance of normality: markets, shops and banks were working today and schools were due to open on Monday. Water, food and medicine is reaching more of the improvised camps.
Mullet, who is also the UN’s assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, said coordination between Haitian police and UN troops was improving aid delivery but relief logistics remained a “nightmare”.
That was apparent in hospitals where doctors and nurses complained of scarce medical supplies as they struggled to treat 200,000 survivors in need of post-surgery medical care as well as an unaccounted number with untreated injuries.
Nancy Fleurancois, a volunteer doctor at Jacmel, told a visiting UN official her team desperately needed antibiotics and surgical supplies. “You see people come here and they are at death’s door,” she said. “More help is needed.”
Kathleen Sejour, a hospital administrator, told AP: “Malaria is becoming a big problem and we don’t have enough anti-malaria drugs. Most of the kids right now have it. We had a good supply but we can’t keep up.”
Large amounts of aid have reached Haiti but the need is so vast, and the infrastructure so ruined, many survivors have been left to cope on their own. The maternal mortality rate was expected to jump.
Unicef said the disaster was likely to have separated thousands of children from their parents or guardians, and the agency repeated warnings about the threat of child traffickers.
Bo Viktor Nylund, Unicef’s senior children protection adviser, said hospitals had been alerted. “We are informing all hospitals that they should not discharge unaccompanied children without getting in touch with us or the government.”
In Port-a-Prince, Solveig Routier, a Canadian child protection specialist from Plan International, said that her group had received reliable reports of at least 15 cases of children being snatched from hospitals.
Aid groups estimate that there were 300,000 orphaned children here even before the recent disaster, and the devastation of Port-au-Prince means things have now become much worse.
Following the earthquake dozens of children were taken to the Sunshine House, a cramped concrete social centre in Pétionville which is home to 44 orphaned or abandoned children.
Sultane Ganthier, the orphanage’s 77-year-old director, said she had had to turn away children for lack of space. “Many people have asked us to take children [since the quake]. But we can’t do it. I can’t handle it,” she said.
U.S. agrees to debt-for-nature swap to preserve Peru rainforests.
In a bid to preserve some of Peru’s biologically diverse rainforests, the United States agreed this week to a $25 million debt-for-nature swap with the country, Peru’s second since 2002. Over the next seven years, in exchange for erasing millions of their debt, Peru will fund local non-governmental organizations dedicated to protecting tropical rain forests of the southwestern Amazon Basin and dry forests of the central Andes.
“This agreement will build on the success of previous U.S. government debt swaps with Peru and will further the cause of environmental conservation in a country with one of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet,” said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
Other debt-for-nature agreements have already been brokered with Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, and the Philippines.
Washington Revives the Fourth Fleet. Ecuador’s Corea Does Not Want It Housed at Manta, Peru’s Garcia Does Not Offer an Alternative – So Will it Be at Colombia’s Guajira Port on the Border With Venezuela, or in Panama? Are We Seeing an Attempt at a Return to US Gun Boat Diplomacy in Latin America?
Washington Revives the Fourth Fleet: The Return of U.S. Gun Boat Diplomacy to Latin America.
What does Ecuador’s President Correa know that Colombia’s President Uribe also knows?
This is What The Council On Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) Asks In an e-mail of June 2, 2008.
Relations between the two countries, already strained by the longtime issue of toxic herbicide spraying of Ecuadorian territory along the Colombian border, have been further exacerbated by the bitter mistrust between the Colombian and Ecuadorian leaders regarding the FARC files. Correa claims that the only contact that Ecuador has had with the FARC was of a humanitarian nature, and that guerrilla infiltration across the borders is impossible to totally control by either side. Uribe has countered that Ecuador was harboring terrorists, thus implying that Quito was explicitly protecting the FARC.
Therefore, Correa ´s committed campaign against Colombia and his unwillingness to yield in his insistence in obtaining President Uribe’s public acknowledgement of Colombia’s culpability, which would exonerate Ecuador’s good name, raises a specific question. Why would Correa so relentlessly stick with the issue if he were not convinced that he possessed a strong hand in arguing that Ecuador had no compromising relationship with the FARC, that the laptop revealed no embarrassing information regarding that relationship (at least from Quito’s perspective), and that, at best, Colombia’s case against Ecuador is weak and deserves little sympathy either from the region or the international community. Or could it be that the FARC computer scandal has been largely contrived by Colombia to discredit any number of South American left-leaning administrations as part of a larger conservative campaign to isolate these governments and reinforce Washington’s assessment of the situation and the way in which it would like to have the script read?
â€¢ After ignoring Latin America for most of his Presidency, Bush dispatches the Navy
â€¢ The steady remilitarization of Panama may provide a safe haven for the revitalized fleet
â€¢ FTA with Panama could grant U.S. access to canal zone military facility for Fourth Fleet
â€¢ Correa facetiously suggests that Manta be moved to Colombia
The dearth of diplomatic content in the April 24 Pentagon announcement left little mystery regarding the purpose behind Washington’s decision to reestablish the Fourth Fleet to patrol Latin American and Caribbean waters. As Washington shifts its attention back to the Western Hemisphere, it will have to grapple with issues that have been on the back burner for more than a decade. The return of the Fourth Fleet, largely unnoticed by the U.S. press, appears to represent a policy shift that projects an image of Washington once again asserting its military authority on the region, coincidentally coinciding with the announcement that Brazil has just launched a military initiative, the Conselho Sul-Americano de Defesa, embracing two of its neighbors with whom Washington has chilly relations.
The most significant legacy for Washington arising from its recent absence from American policy is the rise of ideologically left-leaning governments. This group of often like-minded leaders, sometimes referenced as the Pink Tide nations, is now considered a threat to Washington’s regional supremacy. At the forefront leftward shift are Venezuela’s Chavez, Bolivia’s Morales, Ecuador’s Correa, Cuba’s Castro, and Nicaragua’s Ortega. Comprising a more moderate left are Uruguay’s Vasquez and Paraguay’s Lugo. Brazil and Argentina, generally considered charter members of the Pink Tide countries, continue to deal with matters pragmatically, usually influenced by their status as regional heavyweights.
The U.S. only has two reliable allies in South America, Colombia’s Uribe and Peru’s Garcia. As these two leaders see it, it is in their best interest to not join the Pink Tide. Uribe, whose high domestic approval ratings reflect successes in his combating of the FARC, is receiving financial support from the U.S. Garcia, who tends to engage in “chameleon” politics, has made domestic policy rather than foreign policy his priority. This is in his best interest as he faces waning approval ratings that reflect the divisions within his ruling APRA party and the complex fall out from the trial of former dictator Alberto Fujimori.
The White House Does Not Get It When it Comes to Latin America:
Recent U.S. policy initiatives in Latin America include the debut of the Central American Free Trade Agreement-Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR). Gaining the backing of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, CAFTA-DR will expose signatory countries economies to an influx of cheap U.S. subsidized agricultural produce and the domination by multi-national corporations that may stamp out local competition. Also, the shadowy, coerced ousting of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti in February 2004 had several members of the Caribbean Community upset with the U.S. and France of helping bring about the de-facto coup against the Haitian president.
Navy Prepares for the Fourth Fleet:
This past April, vessels from the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina participated in UNITAS Atlantic “a SOUTHCOM-sponsored multi-national naval exercise to enhance security cooperation.” Part of the series of international exercises that are emerging in the region, participating Latin American militaries saw UNITAS Atlantic as a way to train their personnel and gain access to greater military technologies The USS George Washington was among the participating U.S. warships. In March-April of 2008, another military exercise, TRADEWINDS 2008, took place off the coast of the Dominican Republic and involved a number of Caribbean countries, the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Some Latin American and Caribbean military personnel may be excited by the arrival of the units of the Fourth Fleet at their docks with the possibility of obtaining valuable instruction from their U.S. and British counterparts while others will uncomfortably recall the days of the era of U.S. Naval supremacy.
The emerging geopolitical situation in the Western Hemisphere calls into question where the friendly ports will be available for the Fourth Fleet to harbor.
Ecuador’s Correa adamantly insists that he will not tolerate any renewal of the U.S. lease of Manta, a multipurpose facility located on Ecuador’s Pacific coastline, which expires in 2009.
Rumors have been circulating that Peru is the next candidate for the U.S. to negotiate moorage rights, but President Alan Garcia repeatedly denies such speculations.
With the loss of Manta, what other friendly harbors will exist in the region? A close ally of the U.S., President Uribe of Colombia, could invite the Manta base operation to relocate to Guajira, near the border with Venezuela. Although the rumor received some validation by U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield, who previously served as ambassador to Venezuela, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos emphatically has denied the possible move.
Panama instead has emerged as one of the U.S.’s most plausible candidates. Recently, there have been steps taken which indicate that the country is cautiously militarizing.
Panamanian President MartÃn Torrijos appointed military man Jaime Ruiz to the head of the police force on May 13 even though the country’s constitution states that it should be a civilian post. The Panamanian Minister of Government and Justice, Daniel Delgado Diamante, in reference to Merida Initiative (passed by the U.S. House of Foreign Affairs on May 14th and currently awaiting senate action, its goal is to combat crime and narco-trafficking in Mexico and Central America), has stated that Panama deserves a greater quantity of U.S. monetary aid since it previously seized 70 tons of cocaine, as opposed to Mexico’s 46 tons.
If Panama is militarizing under the cover of its anti-drug efforts, then the government is likely to welcome U.S. economic aid, technology, equipment, and expertise. There is potential for the perfect swap; military aid for a naval haven for the Fourth Fleet.
If U.S. anti-drug and anti-terrorism operations are moved from Manta, the next step could very well be relocating to La Gaujira or the Panama Canal among other possibilities.
The Fourth Fleet from a Geopolitical Point of View:
The revival of the Fourth Fleet may do little more than attempt to introduce a quick fix to Bush’s failed U.S. policy towards Latin America. The Fleet’s rebirth implies that Washington’s gun boat diplomacy represents a new call to arms.
The U.S. may again be prepared to use the prospect of military force if it is found necessary to protect U.S. national interests in Latin America. In particular, the possibility of using the Fourth Fleet already seems to be involved in a calculated and provocative move against Washington’s current bete noir, Hugo ChÃ¡vez. As Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, stated, “this change increases our emphasis in the region on employing naval forces to build confidence and trust [â€¦] through collective maritime security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests.” The senior naval commander’s ominous words evoke sentiments akin to the collective security provisions of the Rio Pact of 1947, rather than a civic action template that stresses the use of military assistance mainly to provide humanitarian aid and relief. Traditionally organized along other lines, requires a different type of explanation than the rationale given for the revival of the Fourth Fleet.
Left-leaning Latin America has good reason to question the motives behind over the renewal of the U.S. notion that the Caribbean Sea is virtually mar Americanus.
The Pentagon’s aspirations – particularly during the tenure of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, to improve ties with militaries throughout the Americas by regular “ministerials,” could inadvertently encourage its Latin American counterparts to initiate similar scenarios of expansion, modernization, and the revival of their dangerous central roles plagued by past military juntas in their respective societies.
This analysis was prepared by COHA Director Larry Birns and Research Associate Aviva Elzufon
The Commission on Sustainable Development Is It A Moribund UN Body Or Will It Be Revived Because It Is Needed After The Re-Engagement Hoopla That Happens Now At Bali?
We had experience starting from before the Brundtland Commission of 1987, we were engaged at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, and we wrote the “Promptbook on Sustainable Development for The World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg 2002. In short we are strong believers that if the UN CSD were not created in 1994, we would have had to create it now.
Why that? Simply, because as it is crystal clear now that the development of tomorrow cannot go on by rules of the development of yesterday – and this was given, right today, full global recognition in Oslo, when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the scientists of the IPCC, and to Al Gore – whatever will come out from the Bali-Poznan-Copenhagen process will be clearly a final global landing on the runway that was built in Rio for Agenda 21. And as we keep saying – this will be a joint Sustainable Development for North and South, East and West. It will be a world were those that have the needed technologies will share them with those that are only trying out for their own National development. This will not be done because of altruism – it will be rather because of self interest that comes from the simple fact that we are all residents of planet earth, and we understand that we have caused the planet to be on a path of destruction that harms the continuation of life as nature or god created.
After UNCED, The UN created a Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development and Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Gali appointed Mr. Nitin Desai, at the Under-Secretary-General level to head the Department. 1994-1998 Joke Waller-Hunter from the Netherlands was the first Director of the Division for Sustainable Development and the head of the Commission on Sustainable Development – so the Commission itself dates back, for all practical purpose, to 1994 – even though it officially was started in 1992. In May 2007 we witnessed the CSD 15 (that is counting back to 1992!).
In 1997, Secretary-General Kofi, in an effort to reduce the number of UN Under-Secretary-Generals, consolidated three economic and social departments and created UN DESA (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs) and eventually put Mr. Desai as head of DESA where he was until he was replaced in 2003 with Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo, the former Finance Minister of Colombia; the new Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, brought in, July 2007, Mr. Sha Zukang, the previous China Ambassador in Geneva. In 1998 Ms. JoAnne DiSano, with a background of having worked for the Canadian Government, and then for 11 years with the Australian Government, became the Director of the new Division of Sustainable Development within DESA. She held this position until September of 2007 and since then the position is VACANT, and it looks as if the UN does not care.
Ms. Joke Waller-Hunter, left her position with the CSD in 1998 in order to become the Executive Secretary of the of Bonn based UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where she remained untill her death in 2006. She was replaced there in 2007, by Mr. Yvo de Boer, appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Yvo de Boer is also from the Netherlands, where he was Director for International Affairs of the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment. He was in the Past Vice-Chair of the Commision on SD and Vice-Chair of the COP of the UNFCCC. Both, the CSD and the UNFCCC are outcomes of the 1992 UNCED. Ms. Joke Waller-Hunter’s departure from New York may have had something to do with the 1997 UN reorganization that replaced the Department of SD with a Division of SD within DESA. She may have sensed that her presence at UNFCCC will further SD goals easier then at the new Division of SD – that its creation caused in effect a demotion in her position.
The present vacancy at the nerve-center of the CSD, at a time the CSD is needed indeed, following the latest push at the UNFCCC, on matters of climate change, that causes our renewed interest in the UN CSD and in the UN Division that was established specifically in order to run the CSD. We are afraid that it will be difficult to see progress on the UN level, in matters of climate change, without a functioning office that deals with sustainable development.
Now to be honest, our interest is not just because of curiosity – but rather because of the worry that we understand very well the reasons for the slow demise of the CSD – the factors that got it to start on what may be a path to extinction.
At CSD 9 it was decided that the CSD will discuss specific topics in cycles of two years. So the first cycle was Water for CSD11-CSD12, the second cycle Energy for CSD14-CSD15, the third cycle Land Use for CSD16-CSD17.
So 2006-2007 was the Energy cycle, and as in UN fashion it was supposed to be the turn to have a chair from Asia, it was the Asians that suggested Qatar to chair the energy subject. Now Qatar is a producer of gas rather then oil.
Above was nothing yet when compared with what happened in the last day of CSD 15. As always, there are elections for the next CSD membership – the membership is held at 53 countries elected according to a regional key – and then there is the election of the “bureau” and the new chair. The turn according to UN habit was that next chair will be from Africa, and as said, the topic for CSD16 in 2008, and for CSD17 in 2009, will be Land Use. The Africans decided to put forward Zimbabwe as their choice and campaigned with the G77 that this is their wish. The UK did not want any part of this, and specially since the land policies of the Mugabe Government have run Zimbabwe agriculture from being a large agricultural exporter to becoming a starving nation, with an economy that was totally destroyed, a monetary situation that shows astronomic inflation rate, and human rights problems that clearly make it ineligible for a UN leadership position, it is this obstinacy that reduced the CSD to plain irrelevancy. We were there that night of Friday May 11, 2007, in room 4 in the UN basement, and watched in disbelief how the distinguished, low-key German Ambassador, head in New York of the EU presidency, with the German Minister of the Environment next to him, simply told the CSD Chair from Qatar that the EU cannot work with this sort of CSD.
If by any way I exaggerate now, 7 months later, please forgive my memory, but see what I, Pincas Jawetz, Inner City Press journalist Matthew Rusell Lee, and the EUobserver from Brussels, wrote about this – the references on the www.SustainabiliTank.info web are:
– EUobserver on the 5/11 Crash of CSD15 (May 14th, 2007)
– A First Analysis: From The Ashes of the CSD, Will We See A Rising Phoenix? A Brundtland II, To be Called – “OUR COMMON GROUND” ? (May 13th, 2007)
– The UN General Assembly Resolution of September 30, 1974 against South Africa was not Premised On Apartheid’s Threat To Security, But On Its Serious Violation Of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. WHY DOES
– 9/11 and 3/11 Have Become Symbols of what Oil Money Can Cause To Those Who Insist On Buying The Oil, Will 5/11 Become The Symbol of Awakening at the UN? This Because Of May 11, 2007 Late Evening Happenings At
– At the UN, Zimbabwe Elected 26-21 to Sustainable Development Chair for CSD16, As EU and Others Reject Final Text of The Chairman from Qatar of CSD15. (May 12th, 2007)
I took then the 5/11 date and in ways of exaggeration tried to compare this with 9/11 in New York and 3/11 in Madrid. Was it really an exaggeration? Could we say that the backing Zimbabwe got from States with unresolved problems from colonial days, and oil states that think, completely wrong, that they have anything to gain from derailing the concept of sustainable development, sustainable energy, global warming, climate change…, from efforts to improve the life of billions of people?
Further, the UN recognizes three groups of States with greater needs – these are the Least Developed States (LDCs), the Small Island Independent States (SIDS), and the Landlocked States. These are the States within the UN system that are most in need of help via sustainable development. Why did the UN take them out from being under the Under-Secretary-General who heads DESA, and put them under a separate Under-Secretary-General? Does this not cause waste and decreased efficiency? Would they not be served better within a well functioning unified economic organization that takes, for instance, in account the interests of Island States when it comes to the subject of the effects of global warming/climate change?
Now, I was not going to allow myself to lose my hope for a functioning CSD. The articles I refer to above are actually articles of hope – that is I hope that from the ashes the CSD will rise, as a Phoenix, under the leadership of Brundtland II.
The CSD expects Germany to fund the bringing to New York of youth representatives from the developing countries. A main topic will be “Drought and Desertification and Africa” – this means effects of climate change that helped cause warfare in Africa. Will the world allow Africa to commit suicide through obstinacy, or is the world obliged to look into the mirror and say we cannot continue on this path? Mr. Baroso bit his lip and made an effort. We assume the EU will continue to try to find a way to keep the Commission in business, if at least the UN Secretariat helps reestablish a CSD Secretariat – and at the minimum there must be a functioning Director of the CSD Secretariat. That is the closing of the three month old vacancy that was created with the departure of Ms. JoAnne DiSano.
African States: 12 besides Zimbabwe. They are – Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo/Kinshasa, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, Tanzania, Zambia.
Asian States: 11 – Bahrain, China, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kuwait, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Thailand.
Eastern Europe: 6 – Belarus, Croatia, Czech Rep., Poland, Russia, Serbia.
Latin America and Caribbean: 10 – Antigua and Barbuda (the incoming head of G-77), Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Haiti, Peru.
Western European and Others: 13 – Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Monaco, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, UK, US.
Thinking of the Meeting in Bali, A Timely Case Of Hair-Splitting About The Nature Of The Indonesian Archipelago – Is It The Largest Muslim Nation On Earth? Is It A Nation At All? Does It Want To Be Part Of The New Caliphate? This Was Written For Japan Times By A Guatemalan Scholar, living In India.
Monday, Dec. 3, 2007
Setting the record straight on Indonesia
By CHRISTOPHER LINGLE
Unfortunately, the news media has contributed to confusion about the nature of the Indonesian state that clouds interpretations of events unfolding there.
Recent examples of misleading remarks were made by Tom Plate on this page in his Nov. 18 article “Stoking democracy in a Muslim giant” when he described Indonesia as the “largest Islamic country on Earth,” and in his Nov. 26 article “Upbeat band of moderates keep the faith” when he referred to Indonesia as “the most populous Muslim state.”
Such uninformed remarks are all the more egregious violations of reality given the Bali dateline. Anyone visiting the Indonesian Republic should be better informed about political realities there.
In all events, credibility in journalism demands that readers be provided an authoritative and accurate assessment or description of a given topic. Words matter because they influence the way that people form their ideas about the state of the world that is being described.
Unfortunately, when it comes to describing Indonesia, reporters and commentators tend to commit an egregious blunder. Indonesia is often depicted as “the world’s largest Muslim nation” or “the world’s largest Muslim country.” These statements are both wrong and misleading.
Any author penning such statements or editors letting them pass are either uninformed or lazy or both. On various grounds, Indonesia should not be characterized either as a Muslim nation or as an Islamic state.
It is true that Indonesia has the world’s fourth-largest population and the largest Muslim population of any country (170 million out of more than 200 million). It is also true that approximately 88 percent of Indonesia’s population identify themselves as Muslims. But while Indonesia has an overwhelming Muslim majority, it is constitutionally a republic and is not an Islamic state.
As such, it is simply wrong to portray Indonesia as a “Muslim nation” or an Islamic country. The numerical dominance in some category within a country does not necessarily identify it as a “nation.” A rich diversity of language, customs, religion and ethnicity means that Indonesia cannot be considered a Muslim nation in the strict sense of the term.
Some would say the strongest indication of nationhood is a common language. But even this test fails in Indonesia. While Bahasa Indonesia was imposed as a de facto and de jure lingua franca across the archipelago, it is the second language for most citizens.
As it is, Indonesia’s Constitution states that the country is a secular republic. Indonesia’s Constitution specifies that all persons have the right to worship according to their own religion or belief.
And so it is that religious groups other than Islam constitute a majority on many islands. The most obvious is Bali, where most inhabitants are Hindu. Some smaller islands have Christian-majority populations.
Despite attempts by Islamic groups to establish an Islamic state, the mainstream Muslim community has rejected the idea. Aceh is the only part of the country where the central government specifically has authorized Shariah (Islamic law) and where Shariah courts are established.
On many islands, other religious groups constitute a majority. The most obvious is Bali, where most inhabitants are Hindu. And some of the smaller islands have Christian-majority populations.
Erroneous characterizations about Indonesia are counterproductive to a country where multicultural forces seek to have their voices heard and to protect or promote their own interests. Such errors also play into the hands of radical Islamic elements within Indonesia and their allies elsewhere that seek to establish a new “
” from Spain through North Africa and the Middle East across Indonesia and the Philippines.
This incorrect depiction also legitimizes attempts to introduce conservative Muslim morality into Indonesia’s civil code as a stealth movement toward countrywide application of Shariah law. In turn, this works against pluralist forces that are struggling to maintain balance within the state.
Economy in the use of words is imposed by the strictures of space on editorial pages, but this should not lead to qualitative lapses.
It may seem more cumbersome, but a more accurate statement is that Indonesia is the “most populous Muslim-majority country in the world.”
Christopher Lingle is a research scholar at the Center for Civil Society, New Delhi, and professor of economics at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2007
Dr. Tom Shannon, participated for the US at the UN launching of the Ethanol Forum. He is the head of the US activities in Latin America/ The Western Hemisphere.
Welcome to “Ask the White House” — an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the “Ask the White House” archives to read other discussions with White House officials.
March 7, 2007
cantiflas, from guatamala, mexico writes:
Joshua, from Chicago, Illinois writes:
Erik, from Oregon writes:
Ana, from So Paulo,Brazil writes:
Both the United States and Brazil recognize that the world needs to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels. At present we are discussing ways in which we might cooperate to encourage local biofuels production for local consumption in some our hemisphere’s most vulnerable economies. Diminishing dependence on imported oil by substituting biofuels for hydrocarbon imports has the potential to relieve financial pressure on fragile developing countries, increase investment and boost jobs. In short, it will contribute to hemispheric energy security. President Bush has established ambitious goals for biofuels production in the United States but our discussions with Brazil have focused on international cooperation and information exchange. We are not discussing trade or tariff issues with respect to the U.S. market.
Meninos de Morumbi is a great group. I have visited the Meninos twice, once with Secretary Powell and again with Under Secretary Karen Hughes. I hope the President has an opportunity to visit Meninos.
Martin, from Ohio writes:
Oh, what about the NAFTA SPP, is NAFTA moving towards increased integration? I am all for it, I believe this increased integration will only make the U.S.A. stronger and be a counterbalance to the EU and China.
As important as we view our relations with South and Central America, we are also working to deepen our cooperation in North America with Mexico and Canada. The establishment of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) is evidence of our commitment. The SPP is aimed at making North American economies more competitive in world markets, and to protect our prosperity and democratic institutions from terrorist attacks. Together, the three countries of North America are building resilient societies that protect and promote our democratic values.
Federico, from Montevideo, Uruguay writes:
Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
At SustainabiliTank.info we are watching with fascination the various new minuets at the UN and in Latin America. The launching of a purported one year life span – INTERNATIONAL BIOFUELS FORUM – that will try to pick up subjects like the commoditization of ethanol-for-fuel that were started 30 years ago, but got burried by US Congress, is now the latest mantra sounding from Washington.
The subject lies dead for 30 years and no prince in sight yet who will say that it is insane to punish imports of ethanol to the US by slaming on them a high tariff, while imports of oil get no tariff, and are in effect susidized with military expenditures, and waste in human life to mercenary US armed forces.
Has the US woken up because of the forays that Chavez makes distributing money he gets from the US for seling it oil? Chavez even distributed money to the US poor – right here in New York City! He is now going to visit a thankfull Argentina that he helped save from financial debacles that came about in part because US banks lent money in situations that did not warant credit.
Latin America is not yet the Middle East – so an honest effort by the US might yet win the day. Will we see such an honest effort? We are eager and watching.
In the meantime, and before coming out with our own informed opinions, let us see what others think of the President’s trip to Latin countries of the hemisphere. The trip starts this coming Thursday, March 8, 2007.
The Washington Post of today – March 7, 2007, carried the following cartoon:
The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times carried an article by Larry Rohter from Sao Paulo, Thom Shanker and Jim Rutenberg from Washington, but did not include any reporting from their UN correspondent – this is proof to us that they really did not give any credibility to the launching of the Forum that we witnessed at the UN. We believe that they are wrong, and that when President Bush gets to talk to President Lula of Brazil, and then to talk to President Tabare of Uruguay, with Chavez tripsing across the bay in Buenos Aires, there will be a change of heart by someone. We believe it will be the US President’s heart to change, and upon his return he may indeed be advised to fight Congress for change – and this time, on these topics, for change in a positive direction.
Bush Faces Clash of Agendas in Latin America
By JIM RUTENBERG from Sao Paulo and LARRY ROHTER from Buenos Aires – for The New York Times – March 8, 2007.
President Bush arrived here tonight for the start of what he has portrayed as a “We Care” tour aimed at dispelling perceptions that he has neglected his southern neighbors.
But the fresh graffiti on streets here in South America’s largest city calls Mr. Bush a murderer. And the smattering of protests and the placement of antiaircraft guns around town that have preceded his arrival present an alternate interpretation of his visit: as a clash between the United States-style capitalism he espouses and the socialist approach pushed by leftist leaders who have grown in power and popularity.
And as the Bush administration prepares to use the president’s five-nation tour to highlight a new ethanol development deal with Brazil, the world leader in that technology, and American health care and education programs elsewhere, much of the pre-tour attention is focusing on what may best be called “The Rumble on the River.”
President Hugo ChÃ¡vez of Venezuela, Mr. Bush’s chief nemesis in Latin America, will be leading a protest against him in Buenos Aires as Mr. Bush arrives across the Rio de la Plata in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Friday night. “Our planes will almost cross paths,” Mr. ChÃ¡vez said this week, although he denied any intention to sabotage Mr. Bush’s visit.
Mr. Bush played down Mr. ChÃ¡vez’s planned rally in interviews with South American reporters this week, telling a group of them on Tuesday: “I go a lot of places and there are street rallies. And my attitude is, I love freedom and the right for people to express themselves.”
Whether inadvertently or not, though, Mr. Bush irritated Mr. ChÃ¡vez with a speech he gave in Washington on Monday. In it, he said SimÃ³n Bolivar, the hero of South America’s independence struggle and Mr. ChÃ¡vez’s idol, “belongs to all of us who love liberty.” That remark brought a sharp and sarcastic rejoinder from Mr. ChÃ¡vez the next day during his weekly radio program.
But in spite of administration attempts to minimize the shadow cast on the visit by Mr. ChÃ¡vez — who has called Mr. Bush “the devil” and has pushed an aggressively anti-American agenda throughout the region — the tour itself seems at least in part geared to counter his influence. Mr. ChÃ¡vez has built that influence in part by showering poor communities in Latin America with money for housing and health care and freely dispensing oil at cut-rate prices.
Mr. Bush’s new agreement with Brazil to increase ethanol production in the region represents a way to cut back on the influence Mr. Chavez’s oil supply gives him while at the same time encouraging employment and economic development. And before arriving here, Mr. Bush announced a number of new initiatives to help the poor in Latin America, whom he referred to, in a venture into Spanish, as “workers and peasants.”
He promised hundreds of millions of dollars to help families buy homes and said he would dispatch a Navy hospital ship to the region to provide free health services.
In his interviews this week, Mr. Bush has repeated that the United States’ aid to Latin America has doubled during his tenure to roughly $1.6 billion a year. “When you total all up the money that is spent, because of the generosity of our taxpayers, that’s $8.5 billion to programs that promote social justice,” including education and health, he told reporters on Tuesday.
But the view from here could scarcely be more different. In an editorial headlined “Uncle Scrooge’s paltry package,” the conservative daily newspaper O Estado de SÃ£o Paulo on Wednesday noted that Mr. Bush’s offering amounts to “the equivalent of five days’ cost of the war in Iraq, and a drop of water compared with the ocean of petrodollars in which ChÃ¡vezism is navigating at full speed, from Argentina to Nicaragua.”
Some of Mr. Bush’s aides this week said they were worried that perceptions in the region that the United States had neglected its southern neighbors, and that frustration in lower classes that had not reaped the benefits of free trade, were helping to fuel the region’s leftist movements.
Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, said, “It’s something we have not done well enough — getting out the full scope of the president’s message.”
Mr. Bush told reporters that he hoped to counter Mr. ChÃ¡vez’s message by espousing the benefits of free trade.
Asked by a reporter about Mr. ChÃ¡vez’s “so-called alternative development model” calling for nationalization of industry, Mr. Bush said: “I strongly believe that government-run industry is inefficient and will lead to more poverty. I believe if the state tries to run the economy, it will enhance poverty and reduce opportunity.”
He added, “So the United States brings a message of open markets and open government to the region.”
But even Mr. Bush’s Brazilian hosts seemed divided in their reaction to that message. Although President Luiz InÃ¡cio Lula da Silva will be meeting with Mr. Bush on Friday to sign the ethanol accord and is scheduled to visit him at Camp David on March 31, the party he leads has chosen to support and participate in the anti-Bush demonstrations.
The party, the Leftist Workers’ Party, warned on its Web site that Mr. Bush “shouldn’t count on Brazil for imperialist actions in the region.” One essay called him “the big boss of international terrorism,” while another declared that Mr. Bush was “persona non grata” in Brazil.
“The United States in general and the Bush government in particular are brutally violent,” wrote Valter Pomar, the party’s head of international affairs. “We will only be free of this threat when the North American people constitute a government on the left.”