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



Kerala bags an United Nations award for sustainable tourism initiatives.

Published on : Friday, January 24, 2014

Kerala Backwaters      Kerala, God’s own country is recognized for its sustainable tourism policies by the United Nations. Kerala tourism is awarded by the United Nations for creating innovative initiatives in sustainable tourism.

This is the first ever UN award for any state in India.

The coveted award from the United Nations was mostly influenced by the sustainable  development initiative in the world famous backwater resort of Kumarakom. According to a press release from the Kerala tourism, they received the award at the UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism held in Madrid, Spain.



Kerala won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance, the highest honour given to the government bodies for shaping global tourism policies through innovative initiatives.

Kerala Tourism was chosen for the honour for its path-breaking ‘Responsible Tourism’ project in Kumarakom, which has successfully linked the local community with the Hospitality industry and government departments, thereby creating a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area while sustaining eco-friendly tourism.

The Kumarakom initiative had earlier won the National Award for Best Rural Tourism Project in March last year and also the PATA Grand Award for Environment.


Dr. Tej Vir Singh awarded the UNWTO Ulysses Prize for the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge.

Dr. Tej Vir Singh, professor and Founding Director of the Centre for Tourism Research & Development (CTRD) in India, has been named winner of the 2013 UNWTO Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge. The Award honors outstanding members of the academia for their significant contribution to the development of tourism education and research.

Dr. Singh, the Founding Editor of Tourism Recreation Research, the oldest and highly respected, international tourism journal in Asia, is a pioneer in introducing extensive tourism research in the region. A specialist in Himalayan tourism, Dr. Singh has produced several books on tourism and many papers on tourism development and its impacts.

“I would like to commend Dr. Singh´s lifelong dedication to tourism research and his pioneering the concept and practice of sustainability in the field of tourism. His work has inspired many other academicians to develop their own research in the field, contributing greatly to the advancement of tourism education and of the tourism sector as a whole,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

As the Founding Director of the Institute of Himalayan Studies and Regional Development at the University of Garhwal, Dr. Singh started the first Himalayan tourism training course. In 1976, he established the CTRD, a non-government organization devoted to the cause of tourism academics and research, with a special focus on India. Under his leadership, the Centre started an outreach programme that included education, training, research guidance, consultancy, curriculum design, and tourism programme initiation to several Indian universities, management institutions and colleges. Today, the CTRD is recognized for the generation and publication of valuable research on recreation and tourism, and is well-known as a leading organization for developing and disseminating scholarships in tourism in India.

The UNWTO Ulysses Prize for Excellence in the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge will be presented during the UNWTO Awards Ceremony to be held on 22 January 2014, within the framework of the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) in Madrid, Spain.


Volatile Bangkok turns out positive for Indian tourism.

Published on : Thursday, January 23, 2014

bangkok-shutdown        While Bangkok faces a tourism fall due to the ongoing political crisis, Indian tourism reaps the dividends. Thailand government’s decision to impose emergency in Bangkok is supposed to cause a loss of almost B10 billion for the Thailand tourism industry. On the contrary, foreign tourists are preferring to book a holiday in India.
According to the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), the volatile political condition in Bangkok has spurred a huge interest of international travelers seeking holiday escapades in Indian. Political volatility has been on the rise in Bangkok, especially in the past few days. A couple of bomb blasts took place in the capital amidst wide protests. Protesters have been trying for more than two months to bring down the government. The Indian embassy in Thailand too is continuously tracking the situation and coming up with updates.
The global tourism industry has seen such shift of choices due to political and violent condition in a particular destination. To site an example, Spain tourism had a major share of international travelers last year owing to the political strife in Egypt. While Bangkok is one of the most popular destinations in Asia, India enjoys the advantage of volatile currency and a plethora of destination choices. In fact, domestic tourism also got a boost as many Indians are also going for home holidays rather than opting for Bangkok as every year about 500,000 Indians visit Bangkok.




Tourism can foster sustainable development in Central America – UN General Assembly.


Published on : Friday, January 24, 2014


unwto GNSustainable tourism is an ally of poverty eradication in Central America and the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – as reflected in the UN resolution on “Sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America”.

The 193-member UN General Assembly adopted the resolution unanimously during its 68th session. This represents an important step towards mainstreaming sustainable tourism in the international development agenda and the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (New York, USA, 22 December 2013).


Emphasizing that sustainable tourism in Central America is a cross-cutting activity with close linkages to other sectors and thus generating trade opportunities, the UN General Assembly recognizes tourism as a fundamental pillar of regional integration and an engine of social and economic development, income, investment and hard currency in the region. The resolution further “encourages giving appropriate consideration to the issue of sustainable tourism in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda”, which will follow the deadline of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Against this backdrop, the UN General Assembly invites States and other stakeholders, as well as the World Tourism Organization, to continue to support the activities undertaken by the Central American countries for the promotion of responsible and sustainable tourism and extend the benefits of tourism to all sectors of society, in particular the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of the population.


International tourism in Central America grew significantly in recent years. In 2012, Central America received almost 9 million international tourists who generated US$ 8 billion in revenues, up from, respectively, 4.3 million arrivals and US$ 3 billion in 2000. Today, international tourism accounts for as much as 17% of all Central American exports.


The UN resolution was sponsored by 51 Member States: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Cape Vert, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, United States of America, Ukraine and Uruguay.


Central America poised for tourism growth: SITCA

Published on : Sunday, September 15, 2013

centeral America          The Secretariat of Central American Tourism Integration (SITCA), along with the tourism authorities of the seven Central American countries – Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvado r, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama – have conducted a study on the evolution of the tourism sector in the region over the past 12 years and found a positive forecast of expected 6.1 per cent growth for this year.

       In the period between 2000 and 2012, tourism to Central America has grown by 122.8 per cent from 4.23 million visitors in 2000 to 9.39 visitors in 2012, an annual increase of seven per cent on average stated the study.

Domestic tourism from within the region accounts for 40 per cent while North America accounts for between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of visitors.
Costa Rica and Guatemala received the highest number of visitors, but Nicaragua and Panama have registered the biggest growth in the period covered by the study, moving from fifth and sixth position (in terms of the total number of visitors received) to fourth and third respectively.

The average spend by tourists has also grown considerably over the last 12 years, thanks to an increase in the amount of products consumed, moving from an average spend per person of US$700 in 2000 to US$1,016 in 2012.
Based on the results of the study, it is expected that the number of visitors will increase by 6.1 per cent this year compared to last year, with an expected total of 9.96 million visitors.

For 2013, the average spend per tourist is expected to reach US$1,016.63, compared to US$1,016.18 in 2012. Revenue from tourism revenue is expected to be highest in Panama and lowest in Nicaragua.
The data presented by SITCA shows that the tourism sector in Central America is becoming the main source of revenue for all seven countries and a true driver for the economic growth of the region.




International tourism exceeds expectations with arrivals up by 52 million in 2013.


International tourist arrivals grew by 5% in 2013, reaching a record 1,087 million arrivals, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Despite global economic challenges, international tourism results were well above expectations, with an additional 52 million international tourists travelling the world in 2013. For 2014, UNWTO forecasts 4% to 4.5% growth – again, above the long term projections.

Demand for international tourism was strongest for destinations in Asia and the Pacific (+6%), Africa (+6%) and Europe (+5%). The leading sub-regions were South-East Asia (+10%), Central and Eastern Europe (+7%), Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+6%) and North Africa (+6%).

“2013 was an excellent year for international tourism” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “The tourism sector has shown a remarkable capacity to adjust to the changing market conditions, fuelling growth and job creation around the world, despite the lingering economic and geopolitical challenges. Indeed, tourism has been among the few sectors generating positive news for many economies”, he added.

UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to increase by 4% to 4.5% in 2014, again above its long-term forecast of +3.8% per year between 2010 and 2020. The UNWTO Confidence Index, based on the feedback from over 300 experts worldwide, confirms this outlook with prospects for 2014 higher than in previous years

“The positive results of 2013, and the expected global economic improvement in 2014, set the scene for another positive year for international tourism. Against this backdrop, UNWTO calls upon national governments to increasingly set up national strategies that support the sector and to deliver on their commitment to fair and sustainable growth”, added Mr Rifai.

2014 regional prospects are strongest for Asia and the Pacific (+5% to +6%) and Africa (+4% to +6%), followed by Europe and the Americas (both +3% to +4%). In the Middle East (0% to +5%) prospects are positive yet volatile.


Europe welcomes most of the new arrivals

Europe led growth in absolute terms, welcoming an additional 29 million international tourist arrivals in 2013, raising the total to 563 million. Growth (+5%) exceeded the forecast for 2013 and is double the region’s average for the period 2005-2012 (+2.5% a year). This is particularly remarkable in view of the regional economic situation and as it follows an already robust 2011 and 2012. By sub-region, Central and Eastern Europe (+7%) and Southern Mediterranean Europe (+6%) experienced the best results.

In relative terms, growth was strongest in Asia and the Pacific (+6%), where the number of international tourists grew by 14 million to reach 248 million. South-East Asia (+10%) was the best performing sub-region, while growth was comparatively more moderate in South Asia (+5%), Oceania and North-East Asia (+4% each).

The Americas (+4%) saw an increase of six million arrivals, reaching a total of 169 million. Leading growth were destinations in North and Central America (+4% each), while South America (+2%) and the Caribbean (+1%) showed some slowdown as compared to 2012.

Africa (+6%) attracted three million additional arrivals, reaching a new record of 56 million, reflecting the on-going rebound in North Africa (+6%) and the sustained growth of Sub-Saharan destinations (+5%). Results in the Middle East (+0% at 52 million) were rather mixed and volatile.


Russia and China – leading in growth in 2013

Among the ten most important source markets in the world, Russia and China clearly stand out. China, which became the largest outbound market in 2012 with an expenditure of US$ 102 billion, saw an increase in expenditure of 28% in the first three quarters of 2013. The Russian Federation, the 5th largest outbound market, reported 26% growth through September.

The performance of key advanced economy source markets was comparatively more modest. France (+6%) recovered from a weak 2012 and the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia all grew at 3%. In contrast, Germany, Japan and Italy reported declines in outbound expenditure.

Emerging markets with substantial growth in outbound expenditure were Turkey (+24%), Qatar (+18%), Philippines (+18%), Kuwait (+15%), Indonesia (+15%), Ukraine (+15%) and Brazil (+14%).


Source: PATA


Posted on on July 5th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Venezuela’s Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 3, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Venezuela as you commemorate the day that Venezuela declared its independence 202 years ago.

Venezuela and the United States have much in common. For example, revolutionary leader General Francisco de Miranda also played a part in our own struggle for independence, participating in the Battle of Pensacola in 1781. His contribution is forever memorialized in a monument that stands in the heart of Philadelphia, the original capital of the United States. When a devastating earthquake struck Venezuela in 1812 the United States sent the Venezuelan people the first humanitarian assistance it ever provided to a foreign country. These two examples demonstrate that Venezuela and the United States have shared ties of friendship and common values since the birth of our two nations, and the ties between our people endure.

I wish Venezuelans everywhere health, happiness, and hope on the anniversary of your independence.


The Washington Post of July 5, 2013 tells us:

““As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live in the homeland” of independence leader Simon Bolivar and the late President Hugo Chavez without “persecution from the empire,” Maduro said, referring to the United States.

He made the offer during a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. It was not immediately clear if there were any conditions to Venezuela’s offer.

Maduro added that several other Latin American governments have also expressed their intention of taking a similar stance by offering asylum for the cause of “dignity.”

In Nicaragua, Ortega said he was willing to make the same offer “if circumstances allow it.” Ortega didn’t say what the right circumstances would be when he spoke during a speech in Managua.

He said the Nicaraguan embassy in Moscow received Snowden’s application for asylum and that it is studying the request.

“We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies,” Ortega said.

The offers came following a flap about the rerouting of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Europe earlier this week amid reports that Snowden might have been aboard.

Spain on Friday said it had been warned along with other European countries that Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence worker, was aboard the Bolivian presidential plane, an acknowledgement that the manhunt for the fugitive leaker had something to do with the plane’s unexpected diversion to Austria.

It is unclear whether the United States, which has told its European allies that it wants Snowden back, warned Madrid about the Bolivian president’s plane. U.S. officials will not detail their conversations with European countries, except to say that they have stated the U.S.’s general position that it wants Snowden back.

Maduro joined other leftist South American presidents Thursday in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to rally behind Morales and denounce the rerouting incident.

President Barack Obama has publicly displayed a relaxed attitude toward Snowden’s movements, saying last month that he wouldn’t be “scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”

But the drama surrounding the flight of Morales, whose plane was abruptly rerouted to Vienna after apparently being denied permission to fly over France, suggests that pressure is being applied behind the scenes.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish National Television that “they told us that the information was clear, that he was inside.”

He did not identify who “they” were and declined to say whether he had been in contact with the U.S. But he said that European countries’ decisions were based on the tip. France has since sent a letter of apology to the Bolivian government.”


The bottom line is as reported by the Guardian:

“We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America.”

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday he and other leaders were offering full support to Morales and called the rerouting of the plane an aggression against the Americas.

Cristina Fernandez of Argentina said Latin Americans treasured freedom after fighting for independence from Europe in the 19th century and then surviving Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas. She demanded an apology for the plane ordeal.

“I’m asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made, it’s the least they can do,” Fernandez said. “To apologize for once in their life, to say they’re sorry for what they’ve done.”

Morales has said that while the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

“Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?” Maduro asked. Spanish prime minister Mariano “Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales’ plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law.”


It seems like time has come for a US face-saving diplomacy before true craters open up at US borders – East, West, and South.

We have previously outlined a draft that we did not publish – but think now that the airplane flap justifies a US Presidential pardon to Snowden – just to get the issue of the World table – the damage was done and no sense for the US to dig itself deeper into the hole it created.


US senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told little Ecuadoran that he would block the import of vegetables and flowers from Ecuador if Ecuador gives asylum to Edward Snowden. The cost to Ecuador would be one billion dollars in lost revenues. Will he also forbid trips from the US to the Galapagos?

Will he be consistent and close US imports of Venezuela oil? Of Latin oil in general?
Ecuador and Venezuela happen to be also members of OPEC which Bolivia is not. A policy of threats presents many interesting angles and possibilities.
Will there be ways to enlarge this with some reaction to what happens in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, some more grand-standing anyone?


Thursday the leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay joined Bolivia’s President Morales in Cochabamba, for a special meeting to address the diplomatic row.

At the end of the summit a statement was issued demanding answers from France, Portugal, Italy and Spain. The United States was not mentioned in the statement.

“Europe broke all the rules of the game,” Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said shortly after arriving at Cochabamba airport. “We’re here to tell president Evo Morales that he can count on us. Whoever picks a fight with Bolivia, picks a fight with Venezuela.”

Maduro said an unnamed European government minister had told Venezuela the CIA was behind the incident.

“We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America.”

Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, said on Thursday he and other leaders were offering full support to Morales and called the rerouting of the plane an aggression against the Americas.

Cristina Fernandez of Argentina said Latin Americans treasured freedom after fighting for independence from Europe in the 19th century and then surviving Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas. She demanded an apology for the plane ordeal.

“I’m asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made, it’s the least they can do,” Fernandez said. “To apologise for once in their life, to say they’re sorry for what they’ve done.”

Morales has said that while the plane was parked in Vienna, the Spanish ambassador to Austria arrived with two embassy personnel and they asked to search the plane. He said he denied them permission.

“Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?” Maduro asked. Spanish prime minister Mariano “Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales’ plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law.”

Before the meeting, Morales said his ordeal was part of a US plot to intimidate him and other Latin American leaders.

He urged European nations to “free themselves” from the United States. “The United States is using its agent [Snowden] and the president [of Bolivia] to intimidate the whole region,” he said.

France sent an apology to the Bolivian government. But Morales said “apologies are not enough because the stance is that international treaties must be respected”.

Spain’s foreign affairs minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, said his country did not bar Morales from landing in its territory.

Amid the tensions, the US embassy in La Paz cancelled Independence Day celebrations scheduled for Thursday. In the eastern city of Santa Cruz, Bolivian government sympathisers painted protest slogans on the doors of the American consulate.

Bolivia has said it will summon the French and Italian ambassadors and the Portuguese consul to demand explanations.

Brazil was represented by Marco Aurelio Garcia, President Dilma Rousseff’s top international adviser. The presidents of Colombia, Chile and Peru, who have strong ties to the US, were not attending.

Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, said earlier on Thursday he supported Morales, but asked other leaders to remain cool and avoid an escalating dispute between Latin America and the European Union.

“We’re in solidarity with Evo Morales because what they did to him is unheard-of, but let’s not let this turn into a diplomatic crisis for Latin America and the EU,” Santos tweeted on Thursday.


Our draft started: Thanks to the Egyptian military – their intervention got off the media front line the Snowden, Assage, Manning, WikiLeaks Warning Lighthouses – and replaced them with a renewed attention to the Islamic potential for acts of terror.

Furthermore – Latin America seems split between the go it alone States of the ALBA group – Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, their new friends – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and now Nicaragua – and their opponents – the strong US connected, Chile, Colombia, Peru and the Southern European States Italy, France, Spain, Portugal that acted out on unsightly pressure from the White House, and perhaps even Austria – if it turns out to be true that they searched the Bolivian President’s plane. What about Mexico? Will they want to be seen as residing in the US vest-pocket?

Today it seems that just the Greens, the so called Pirates, and some other non-political fringe parties, are left in Europe to stand up for Democracy – The Reds, Blacks, Blues, Yellow, Orange, and Purple – all established political parties – have abandoned the Democracy ship because of the Transatlantic breeze from the Potomac. Europe seems anew like the Europe of the thirties with governments worried about their business-ties. Any infringements of democratic inalienable rights are not noted now, like they were not noted then. But this is totally misleading – just read the Guardian where all these stories started. This at a time the voters in quite a few European States do take position on this – and we would not be surprised if Austria as well took back its “Neutral Mantle” to declare that they too are ready to give refuge to Snowden. The coming days will tell.


And as if nothing happened – a US hand to the people of Argentina as if they have now no elected government?:

Western Hemisphere: Argentina’s Independence Day

07/05/2013 02:31 PM EDT

Argentina’s Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 5, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Argentina as they celebrate their Independence Day this July 9.

The citizens of our two nations have a long history of productive and friendly relations, highlighted by educational and cultural exchanges and fruitful collaboration in the fields of science, technology, health, space, and energy.

The determination expressed by the patriots gathered at the Casa de Tucuman, to forge a free and independent nation, is a fundamental human longing, and one we share.

On this day, the United States wishes Argentina a happy celebration.

We look forward to working together to cultivate a strong bilateral relationship in the years to come.


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

One of the two last side events on the last Friday of  the second Informal-Informal reading of the draft to Rio 2012 (RIO+20) was about the place of Mother Nature as seen by indigenous cultures that still respect the holiness of the Earth and by intellectuals that are ready to stop a minute and contemplate about the superiority of earth oriented cultures.

Moderated by Lisinka Ulatowska, Coordinator, Major Group Cluster on the Commons, this side event discussed a number of initiatives to create commons-based economies, and how these can be expanded and built upon.

Mario Ruales, Advisor to the Ecuadorian Minister of Coordination of Heritage, highlighted the adoption of a new constitution in 2008, which recognized the rights of Mother Earth. He emphasized the role of natural and indigenous peoples to respect and protect the ecosystem, saying that the constitution has a lot of processes that would allow this to be pursued. He noted Ecuador’s call for a new development architecture, saying that this has been proposed for Rio+20.

Leon Siu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hawaiian Kingdom, outlined his work for reinstating the independent nation state of Hawai’i, saying that should this occur, many of the traditional practices for land management, agriculture and conservation of natural resources will return. He lamented the marginalization of the indigenous peoples, saying that reinstating the independent nation state of Hawai’i would rectify this problem.

Rob Wheeler, Global Ecovillage Network, outlined that the commons-based approach is one where the land and its resources are cooperatively owned, managed and shared among those living on the commons. He noted that ecovillages, which are based on such a model, are among the most sustainable communities in existence. He noted that many lessons on sustainability can be learnt from ecovillages, underscoring their ability to minimize waste, promote clean, renewable energy and ensure the sustainable consumption of natural resources.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates addressed the different financing systems that could be used for implementing a commons-based model. They also discussed referencing the rights of nature in the Rio+20 outcome document.

Ecuador is a member of the ALBA group of Latin and Caribbean Nations like Bolivia. Both countries were left with strong lodes of indigenous people and the governments attempt to speak for them. The Kingdom of Hawaii does still exist even though Hawaii has become a US State and thus does not recognize a King. Nevertheless, You can still see a functioning royal House on the main Hawaii Island.


As it happened, on the following day, Saturday May 5th, 2012, I had to be in Washington DC and made it also my business to go to visit the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian at 4th Street & Independence Avenue S,W. At the door I saw the announcement that the next weekend Saturday, May 12 – Sunday May 13, 2012, 10 am – 5:30 pm they will celebrate the BOLIVIAN SUMA QAMANA FESTIVAL – sponsored by the Embassy of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

“Discover Bolivia’s Magic, culture, Heritage, Joy of Living Well.”

The Museum doors are etched with sun symbols and open to the east to greet the rising sun as do many traditional Native houses. Native people honor the sun as a life-giver and calendar – instructing when to plant, harvest, conduct ceremonies. The American Indian is responding to Environmental Challenges and the Museum has established a special website for this –

At present the museum has two special exhibits. One is very appropriate to present American Indian culture as it evolved in the last 250 years – the interaction with horses and the way they viewed these large and friendly animals. The show is dedicated to “A SONG FOR THE HORSE NATION” and here this Nation are the horses themselves taken as if they were like humans.

The other show includes just one item and I stood there in state of shock. The title is HUICHOL ART ON WHEELS.” Its exhibition is planned from March 20 to May 6th 2012 – so let me say without any hesitation – good ridance before the Bolivian event next week.

Why am I quite angry at this exhibit covered with Huichol Art? Let me make sure that there should be no misunderstanding – it is not because of the Huichols. These are people from the West-Central Mexico who are known for their beadwork. Sometimes they take an object and cover it with colorful beads. The Huichol call themselves in their own language the Wixaritari people and I bought items from them years ago in a store they managed in Porto Vallarta, Jalisco.

The problem with this exhibition of one single item is that it is what they call – a VOCHOL – now that is a common Beetle Volkswagen that was completely covered in beads. Again – not that this car is bad looking – but why in this world in which the indigenous people do every possible effort to tell us that they understand the environment and suffer from climate change, and then bring into this interesting museum a common motor-vehicle that when operated uses gasoline?

WHY BEAD A BUG? asks the museum brochure and proceeds to answer:
The Vochol demonstrates the complex intersections of traditional and modern cultures. It serves as opportunity to bring attention to contemporary indigenous art while also highlighting Wixaritari culture and talent. The project is a collaboration between the Association of Friends of the Museo de Arte Popular, the Museo de Arte Popular, and the state governments of Nayarit and Jalisco, home to the Wixatari people. And let me add here that it must be also home of the assembly plants of Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico. Further – it must be friends of the US Oil industry and the US Auto Manufacturers that convinced that this big piece of art covering the auto-monster vehicle got into the American Indian Museum in order to soften our resistance to fossil fuels transportation – albeit by a reasonably small vehicle.

The Wixatari artist Francisco Bautista used 2,277,000 glass seed beads to cover this beetle, and he finished the work in 2010 according to the license plate attached to the car. Then, let me never forget what my friend Professor Jad Neeman from the Tel Aviv University told me when we went to see a particular exhibition of what looked to me as unused canvases – the main role of modern art is to make us angry so we are moved from our position of not caring. If that is what the exhibitors had in mind – so this was very great art, because it made me care very much – when I concluded that this did not belong into this particular museum.

In above context let me also write here what I found in the permanent exhibit on the 4-th floor – a stoty about another beetle:

This comes from the Cherokee Nation. They tell that “Long ago – all things existed above the sky, from horizon to horizon. The bird and animal people (you remember the horse people I mentioned earlier?) wondered about the water-covered world below and sent Water-Beetle to explore. He descended and returned with a small piece of mud that spread over the water.”

This obviously was another beetle – the one we like for itself.

Further, in a story from the Campo Indians North of San Diego. They ended up being the address where the San Diego garbage was sent for landfill that gave them the Golden Acorn Casino not far from the Mexico border. The local Amerindians did not agree but got it anyway.

The Environmentalists tell them that they show  who they are with appropriate ways of viewing their land as one of their greatest assets.

Their lands are being decimated under them, but the indigenous people make serious attempts to survive.

The IOWA say – Our Songs and Our Ceremonies Enable Us To Survive.

The Nahua state – Our Laws and way of thinking shall continue.

The Cherokees state simply – WE ARE STILL HERE!


Posted on on September 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

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.


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.


Posted on on July 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Climate Extremes Fuel Hunger in Guatemala.
By Danilo Valladares

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).

But in Mancilla’s view, adaptation to climate change must be broader in scope than just dealing with the food crisis, because inappropriate location of human settlements and the construction methods used compound the risks.

In addition to its economic vulnerability, Guatemala has unstable geology, with a high risk of disasters from volcanic activity, geological faults and its many mountains and rivers.

For example, the Pacaya volcano, 30 kilometres from the capital, erupted May 27 and rained ash over Guatemala City, killing one person and affecting thousands of others.

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.


Posted on on July 15th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

CENTRAL AMERICA:  Doors Wide Open for Renewable Energy.
By Danilo Valladares

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.

This year, Honduras plans to have one of the largest wind energy farms in Latin America up and running, with an output of 100 megawatts of electricity.

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.

Nicaragua, meanwhile, through its Ministry of Energy and Mines, announced in May that all of the energy generated in 2016 would come from renewable sources through the implementation of the National Programme for Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energies.

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.

About 10 million people in Central America, of a total population of 40 million in the region, do not have electricity in their homes.

In El Salvador, which is already producing biofuels and has tapped into solar and geothermal energy, the Japan International Cooperation Agency will finance 1.5 million dollars for drafting a master plan for developing renewable energies, to begin at year’s end.

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.

Costa Rica is the region’s leading producer of clean energy, with 80 percent coming from hydroelectric sources, according to the governmental Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE).

President Laura Chinchilla announced that she wants to make Costa Rica the first country in the world to run 100 percent on renewable energy.

But it is no easy task. Guatemala’s renewable energy coordinator at its Ministry of Energy, Otto Ruiz Balcárcel, told IPS that there is a great deal of misinformation about renewable energy, which limits investment in the sector.

“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.


Posted on on May 24th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

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?

from: James Sniffen <>


Panama City, 24th May, 2010:

Over 50 pollution control experts from 27 countries of the Wider Caribbean
gather today (Monday 24th May) in Panama City at the invitation of the
United Nations Environment Programme’s Caribbean Environment Programme
(UNEP CEP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The gathering of experts for the 5th Meeting of the Interim Scientific, Technical and Advisory Committee (ISTAC) to the Protocol concerning pollution from land-based sources, commonly known as the LBS Protocol, will last for five days.  The CEP is the Secretariat for this Protocol and is based in Kingston, Jamaica.

The LBS Protocol is one of three agreements under the Convention for the
Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean
Region (the Cartagena Convention).  It establishes regional guidelines and
standards for reducing the impact of pollution on the coastal and marine
environment, and on human health.   Over 80% of the pollution of the marine
environment of the Wider Caribbean is estimated to originate from land
based sources and activities.

Panama, the host country, is one of only six countries to have ratified the LBS Protocol.  The others are Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Saint Lucia, France and the United States.  Discussions during the meeting will focus on measures to increase the region’s commitment to ratify the Protocol, and have it enter into force and become international law as soon as possible.

In support of regional cooperation, UNEP CEP is partnering with the IMO and their joint Regional Activity Centre for Oil Spills (RAC REMPEITC) to bring together experts from environmental agencies, maritime authorities and port administrations for this 5th LBS ISTAC.

Delegates are expected to identify practical measures to improve the implementation of marine environmental agreements including the IMO London Convention on the control of pollution from dumping of wastes at sea and the MARPOL Convention on the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships.

According to Nelson Andrade, Coordinator of UNEP CEP”   “It is vital that
Governments adopt a more integrated approach to reducing pollution from
land and marine based sources”.  He noted that the continued partnership
between UNEP and IMO will help to effectively implement the Cartagena
Convention and its three Protocols and to reduce marine contamination.

Meeting Participants are also expected to review recent achievements of the
UNEP CEP to reduce and control marine pollution and to endorse a new work
plan and budget for 2010-2011.

For additional information, please contact:

Christopher Corbin,Programme Officer,
Assessment and Management of Environment Pollution (AMEP),
Regional Co-ordinating Unit, UNEP CEP
Kingston, Jamaica
Telephone: (876) 922-9267 — Fax: (876) 922-9292;;

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,

A Caribbean Action Plan was adopted by the Caribbean countries and led to the adoption, in 1983, of the only current regional, legally-binding agreement for the protection of the marine environment, the Cartagena Convention.  The Convention and its first Protocol (Oil Spill) entered into force in 1986.

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 SPAW Protocol entered into force in 2000, whereas three ratifying countries are still needed for the LBS Protocol.

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
based in the Netherlands Antilles (Regional Marine Pollution Emergency
Information and Training Center for the Wider Caribbean, RAC/REMPEITC) for
the Oil Spills Protocol, Guadeloupe (RAC/SPAW) for the SPAW Protocol, Cuba
(Centre of Engineering and Environmental Management of Coasts and Bays) and
Trinidad & Tobago (Institute of Marine Affairs) for the LBS Protocol.

Jim Sniffen
Programme Officer
UN Environment Programme
New York
tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210


Posted on on January 30th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

On November 1, 2005, SIXTY YEARS SINCE THE END OF WORLD WAR II, THE LIBERATION OF THE AUSCHWITZ EXTERMINATION CAMP BY THE SOVIET ARMY, AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UN, finally, the UN that in major part came about because of the fact that the world realized that walking in the ashes caused by anti-Semitism and other isms, is not the will of the human race; the UN was created to learn from that experience – but did it? It took 60 years, the creation of the State of Israel, the travails of Zionism is Racism abomination, and one strong Ambassador of humanity to the organization – US Professor/ Senator/Ambassador Moynihan, to start to beat the anti-Semitic UN steel into compliance.


UN Designates International Holocaust day
November 1, 2005, release:

The UN General Assembly has decided by acclaim to designate January 27 as international Holocaust Day.

This is the first time ever that a resolution introduced by Israel has been adopted by the UN General Assembly. Some not inconsiderable distance has been traveled from the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution to this resolution. At least, the world can be united in condemning genocide, even if “Zionists” propose the initiative. The vision of Austria and Germany co-sponsoring and approving of such a resolution is certainly heartening to the surviving victims of Nazi persecution, to the Jews, gypsies and others whose families died in the Holocaust and to the state of Israel.

Unfortunately, it is not at all certain how some countries will mark this day. Some of the rhetoric of the UN discussion is ominous: Several Muslim and Arab governments expressed “reservations.” Some countries believe that the Holocaust, in which a state turned against noncombatant civilians, was the same as bombing the cities of enemy countries at war. In many of the countries that approved of this resolution and even among those whose representatives spoke kind words about humanitarianism, Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are best sellers. Some of those countries have been accessories after the fact to genocide, or committed it themselves. In those countries, every day is Holocaust day. From the remarks of the Ukrainian representative, you would not know that the Jews of the Ukraine were rounded up by Ukrainian SS, or that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were run by a Ukrainian nicknamed “Ivan the terrible.”

What public activities will mark Holocaust day in Iran, where President Ahmedinejad has called for a world without Zionism and America? In Syria, a book about the Blood Libel (the accusation that Jews kill Christian children in order to use their blood for baking Matzot) was written by the former minister of Defense. Syria also made notable contributions to the history of racial persecution in its treatment of the Kurds. Will Syria mark this day in sympathy with the victims, or will they celebrate it by showing, perhaps, a screening of Lenni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will? Will this day become an occasion for so-called “anti-Zionists” to trot out Holocaust denial and accusations that Israel is committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians, or that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis?

Will the world again stand aside at the next genocide, as it did in Rwanda, and as it did for a very long time in Darfur, and as it continues to do in Tibet? In the discussion, each state was quick to accuse others of genocide, but unwilling to accept responsibility for crimes of their own states and governments. The Venezuelans spoke about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Chinese alluded to Japanese crimes. The Ukrainians alluded to Soviet crimes. The discussion would have more meaning if the Americans had spoken about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Chinese had spoken about their activities in Tibet, the Japanese had spoken the rape of Mongolia and the Turks had spoken of the Armenian genocide.

The implementation of the resolution will be of more consequence than the paper or the words themselves,  and the reality of the actions of states will be more important than either.

The proliferation of vile Web sites and articles about the “Holocaust Myth,” claiming the Holocaust never happened and is yet another Jewish plot, points up the urgent need for this day of remembrance.

Alert readers of what was said that say will note some bitter ironies in the remarks of representatives of some states, whose people and governments were active collaborators or passive accessories in the crime of the Holocaust.

The date – January 27 – was picked as that was the date the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination machine was closed by the Soviet army.

The first commemoration was held at the UN in 2006 and this year we have thus the fifth such event – or actually a series of events, that traditionally start on the Saturday before the actual date with a ceremony at the Park East Synagogue located on Manhattan’s East Side – Midtown.

The list of this year’s events at the UN, as provided to parties outside the UN – and published on our website is:…

But besides the UN itself, the fact that the UN has thrown the light upon the Holocaust atrocities, and the world’s need to remember these atrocities by having an International day of Remembrance, it is now that even in unexpected places in the civilized world, we find events being organized for the purpose of remembering and of learning from that experience. We thought thus to mention here one such event in a place we hardly expected to find it – the main Carnival city of the North-East of Brazil – Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.…

We will be reporting on this year’s week-long series in several postings that will involve also other related events – for now we will put up the clear Jewish angle to the comemoration – as it reflected in the Park East Sybagogue events and in the political official presentation at the UN main event of January 27, 2010


by H.E. Srgjan Kerim President of the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Park East Synagogue
New York, 26 January 2008

Rabbi Schneier,
Members of Park East Synagogue,
Dear Friends,

I am very grateful to Rabbi Schneier for inviting me to the Park East
Synagogue – a historic architectural treasure in the heart of

I am sure that you are all very proud of Rabbi Schneier for his
commitment and spiritual leadership that has brought this synagogue
international recognition.

It was only five years ago that I had my first opportunity to attend
and participate in a Jewish ceremony, here at the Park East Synagogue.
The experience inspired me to write a poem entitled ‘Temple’. I would
like to share a short extract with you today. I hope you will
appreciate it;

Nowhere in the world is it possible
To find such a grandiose temple
That would keep for ages
The layers of human sin
And all our shame.

I’ve always believed
There’s nothing greater in a temple
Than the final sounds melting
In the concluding Amin
Until I heard the word
Of a great friend of mine
Who walked in the steps of Moses
And is called a Rabbin.

Park East Beit Knesset,

I wish there would not have been such an occasion for me to address
you today. However, as we all know the Holocaust happened. It is
definitely one of the darkest pages in the history of mankind.

Unfortunately, we are still facing some lonely, desperate attempts to
blur the horrifying dimensions of the Holocaust.

We gather here today to remember and pay homage to those who lost
their lives in the Holocaust; the atrocities that they were subjected
to can never be forgotten.
The perpetrators of the Holocaust fed man’s ego with delusions of
supremacy and tried to erase the bonds that all human beings share.

The liberation of the Nazi concentration camps over 60 years ago
revealed one of the most evil crimes against humanity. The
consequences still reverberate in the present.

Elie Wiesel – Nobel Laureate, a Holocaust survivor and champion of
moral responsibility – has best put this into perspective:

“Let us remember, let us remember the heroes of Warsaw, the martyrs of
Treblinka, the children of Auschwitz. They fought alone, they suffered
alone, they lived alone, but they did not die alone, for something in
all of us died with them.”

We must also remember to pay tribute to those who survived and bravely
carried on with their lives – and in doing so inspired others. I would
like to salute the strength and perseverance of all Holocaust
survivors and their families.

I know that some of you are with us today.

Not only have you survived, but you have rebuilt communities all over
the world, become stronger, and enabled future generations to thrive.
You just have to look around at all the people gathered here today to
recognize this fact.

The recognition of this day of Holocaust remembrance by the
international community heralded a change of tide at the United
Nations; and, a step forward in the collective memory and conscience
of our world.

Dear Friends,
Remembrance of the Holocaust is more than the recognition of a tragic
past – or the darker side of human nature.

Remembering is an ethical act; it has ethical value in itself.

Remembrance is also a means through which we can understand ourselves:
an engine for change that should enable us to create and sustain a
better, more just future.

I am reminded of my father and his family. During the Second World War
he bravely helped to save and protect the family of Isac Sion – his
school friend – amidst the terror of occupation.

At the age of twenty my father and Isac subsequently joined the
National Liberation Movement of Macedonia to fight for freedom,
against the Nazi dictatorship, alongside the Allies.

Isac Sion subsequently went on to become Vice-governor of the Central
Bank of the Former Yugoslavia and following this was appointed as
Yugoslavia’s trade representative to the United Kingdom.

My father and many others like him served the Jewish people in their
hour of need. Their actions epitomize the practical meaning of
something profound that the famous Irish politician and philosopher
Edmund Burke once said, and I quote;

“All that is needed for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

When I had my first opportunity, in some small way, to redress the
atrocities committed during the Holocaust – as foreign Minister of
Macedonia – in 2000, I appointed Elie Wiesel as our first Special
Envoy and Goodwill Ambassador. He then became the United Nations
Messenger of Peace for Human Rights and the Holocaust.

And, in honour of the Jewish community, my country will soon complete
the construction of a Holocaust Memorial Centre. This is a symbolic
gesture to bring back the memory of the victims from Treblinka to

Looking back at the turbulent history of the Balkan region there are
some bitter lessons that we must learn: war begins when the perception
of the pain of others ends. We can also turn this around to say that
when the perception of the pain of others begins there is no room for

We must remember that every religion and culture must be tolerant of
the legitimate right for others to assert their difference in freedom.

Furthermore, intolerance of other religions or cultures is often a
sign of the degree of intolerance within a particular religion or

Dear Friends and members of Park East Beit Knesset,

The United Nations was founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, when the
world was in need of hope for a better future.
It was created to embody that hope as a promise to humanity. However,
most disturbingly, since the Holocaust there have been genocides and
serious crimes against humanity in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Yugoslavia.

That these atrocities occurred is not necessarily the failure of the
United Nations as an organization; but rather, represents the lack of
collective will of its Member States to take the decision to act or

Even while we gather here, there are places – like Darfur – where
people suffer from the very crimes, which, time and time again, we
have vowed would never again happen.

For the dignity of all humanity, we must strengthen our ability – our
collective resolve – to prevent such atrocities, whenever and wherever
they might occur.

Indeed, terrorism, violence, rape, murder, poverty and discrimination
on the grounds of race or religion continue to be part of the everyday
lives of many people. This fact alone should jar us with indignation.

Despite the tragic failures of the international community to prevent
crimes against humanity since the founding of the United Nations,
there is hope – failure is not an option.

In 2005, the General Assembly passed a resolution that included the
‘Responsibility to Protect’. In doing so, all nations signaled their
commitment to take action – to hold themselves accountable – to
recognize that with sovereign rights come responsibilities to their

In fact all of us here today can add our voice, with the United
Nations, to ensure that this new paradigm within international
relations comes to life.

Rabbi Schneier offers us an example of what we can do. He has been a
great advocate for human rights, and the promotion of religious and
ethnic tolerance. He has worked tirelessly to strengthen ties with
communities from different faiths and backgrounds through his good
works and publications.

In 2003 we jointly organized the first ever South East European
regional conference on ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’, at Lake Ohrid
in Macedonia.

In this spirit, and as we have just celebrated the life of the great
Martin Luther King Jr., I think it is fitting that I should recount
something he once said. It captures the same call to action that needs
to be instilled in the world today if we are to prevent a repeat of
the Holocaust;

“injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere….. Whatever
affects one directly, affects all directly.”

Dear Friends,

On the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of
the victims of the Holocaust, as well as of the 60th Anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us embrace our
diversity, and honor our interdependence, as the only path to peace
and justice.

Together, it is our common challenge to eliminate all distorted
notions that deepen barriers and widen divides: for they all originate
in the discriminatory practices of the mind.

We can achieve this by promoting intercultural dialogue and
cooperation for peace as a means to replace misunderstanding with
mutual respect and acceptance.

But we must also move from words to action, from principled intentions
to deeds that promote human security, human rights, the responsibility
to protect and sustainable development. For herein lies the hope of a
new culture of international relations with the United Nations as its

Members of Park East Beit Knesset,
And, all those gathered here today,

Let me wish all of you and the wider community peace, health and prosperity.

Let all our thoughts honour the victims of the Holocaust, and let us
spare no effort to ensure that we never again witness such evil. We
may not be able to change the past, but we must have the courage and
vision to change the future.

In order to do so, it is not enough to reiterate solemn gestures; we
must do everything possible to transform our attitudes to have full
regard for the dignity of all individuals, communities and nations.

Thank you. Shalom.


But that was the last President of the UN General Assembly to be welcome

to speak before a Jewish Audience – in those 5 years. Before him were: Mr. Jan Eliasson of Sweden #60,

and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of  Bahrain #61.

Now it is UNGA’s 64th session: On 10 June 2009, Ali Abdussalam Treki

of Libya was elected by acclamation at a plenary meeting of the

192-member body of the United Nations General Assembly.

Treki assumed office as president of the 64th session on 15 September 2009,
succeeding General Assembly president, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of
Nicaragua who was 63rd President of the UNGA. Both these gentlemen
have made anti-Israeli statements and were also mentioned in this
context as plain anti-Semites, thus making it impossible to listen to
their linguistic expressions when it comes to the commemoration of the
liberation of Auschwitz. Thus, these last two years, the presentations
at the UN, it was Vice Presidents of the UNGA that spoke in their
place, and the UN General Assembly as such was not represented at the
Saturday pre-commemoration service at the Park East Synagogue.

But in 2009, The Park East Congregation had the honor to host the UN
Secretary General.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
24 January 2009

Remarks at Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Park East Synagogue:

Thank you very much, Rabbi [Arthur] Schneier, for that kind introduction.

I especially appreciate you for calling me a mensch. With apologies to
those of you who do not speak Yiddish, I have to say: thank goodness
he didn’t call me meshugenah.

To all, I wish you Shabat Shalom.

Excellencies, distinguished Ambassadors to the United Nations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we mark the International Day of Commemoration honoring victims
of the Holocaust. This is a most important and solemn occasion.

As you know, my friend, the late Tom Lantos, died shortly after last
year’s observance. Some of you may have met him when he came to this
Synagogue. He was dear to me, as he was to you. He made an
extraordinary journey from a Nazi labor camp to the halls of Congress.
He became a leading champion of truth and justice. Like those of you
who also lived through the Holocaust, he was never defeated by the
unspeakable horrors that he survived.

I can only imagine what he endured. Yet I, too, have witnessed man’s
inhumanity to man. I have seen it as Secretary-General, traveling in
places torn by war. And I saw it as a six-year old boy fleeing to the
mountains to escape fighting in my own country.

The UN helped South Korea to recover. Like Tom Lantos, like many of
you, I came to believe in the transformative power of the United

Today, the UN is on the cusp of a great transition. Never have global
challenges been so large. Climate change, terrorism, the global
financial crisis – these troubles transcend borders. They affect all
countries, rich and poor. They will be overcome only when all
countries come together in response. That’s why we have a United

Yes, the UN has its imperfections. It’s not perfect. Because of this,
from day one since I took office, I have pushed to change it. I have
insisted on a new culture of transparency and accountability. I have
worked to make the UN more efficient, effective, modern. In short, we
have tried to make it a better instrument to serve mankind.

We are here to mark the Holocaust. Like you, the United Nations is
determined to tell its timeless lessons.

Precisely two years ago, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution
condemning, without reservation, any denial of the Holocaust. I quote:
“Ignoring the historical fact of those terrible events increases the
risk they will be repeated.”

With you, I stand in saying: never again. Never. When I paid tribute
to Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem, I wrote in the book there, “Never
again. Never.”

Memory speaks. That is why it must be preserved and passed to future

Our Holocaust Outreach Program sponsors exhibits, workshops and panel
discussions. The aim: to confront deniers, or those who would minimize
the importance of the Holocaust.

When President Ahmadinejad of Iran declared that Israel should
“disappear,” or be “wiped off the map,” I strongly condemned his
remarks – twice.

We at the United Nations stand for human rights.

We stand for democracy and the rule of law. By working for economic
and social development, we build the foundations for peace.

We have a new instrument in our hands. It is called the Responsibility
to Protect – the idea that every nation has a legal obligation to
protect its people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and
crimes against humanity. Where nations fall short, the international
community has the right to take collective action.

Yes, it is difficult in practice. But I assure you. This is a major
advance in safeguarding mankind from crimes against humanity.

My friends,

Today is not simply a time for remembering. The Holocaust has lessons
for us, here and now. Let us heed them.

My job can sometimes be terribly painful. I see unbelievable hardship,
the worst human suffering. You are familiar with the grim catalogue of
names and places: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur,
Somalia and, of course, the Middle East.

I am just back from the region. I went to push for a cease-fire. More,
I went in search of a lasting peace.

The recurring violence between Palestinians and Israelis is a mark of
collective political failure – by both sides and by the international

I saw first-hand what most people saw on television. I met a child and
his parents in Sderot, southern Israel, traumatized by falling
rockets. Never for one moment have I forgotten that a million people
in southern Israel live in a daily state of terror and fear.

In Gaza, I saw the most appalling devastation. I saw the UN compound,
still burning.

I said to all I met, on both sides: This must stop.

I left the region more determined than ever to work toward a world
where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace and
security. War can never be an answer. We need to strengthen the forces
of peaceful coexistence and dialogue.

No one sees this more clearly than your own Rabbi Schneier. He has
devoted his life to overcoming hatred and intolerance.

You all know him as the founder and president of the Appeal for
Conscience Foundation. What you may not know, and what I am very
grateful to him for, is his pioneering work for the UN’s Alliance of

He knows first-hand that no one man or nation has all the answers. He
knows the sacred value of tolerance. He has survived the greatest
trials that life can hurl at a man or a woman and emerged not only
with his humanity and spirit intact but stronger. He survived the
Holocaust. Like others among you, he never lost sight of man’s
essential humanity, our capacity for good, our inherent dignity.

So, let us be frank. We must recognize the limits of power and
goodwill. We here know that we can never entirely rid the world of its
tyrants and its intolerance. We cannot turn all extremists to the path
of reason and light. We can only stand against them and raise our
voices in the name of our common humanity.

Tom Lantos was fond of saying that even the littlest actions, the
smallest of our daily deeds, can do much to leave this earth better,
less evil, less selfish, less monstrous than we found it. And he
stressed that doing these things, even in a modest way, gives you the
energy to keep moving forward. On this day of days, that seems to me
to be good advice.

As we remember the victims of the Holocaust, let us reaffirm our faith
in the dignity of humankind and our extraordinary resilience – our
moral strength – even amid history’s darkest chapters.

Thank you very much.


On January 23, 2010, before a full house at Park East Synagogue, the
main speaker for Saturday Pre-Commemoration of the International
Holocaust Remembrance Day was  Ambassador Susan Rice of the USA, and
at the actual ceremony at the UN General Assembly Hall was German
Ambassador to the UN H.E. Peter Wittig.

The remarks were:……

At the Park East Service this year, a further Honored Guest was Rabbi Ricardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, who has been visited at his Synagogue by the Pope, also as part of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance.

Also present were Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria, Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, Ambassador Anastassis Mitsialis of Greece, Ambassador Marta Horvathne Fekzi of Hungary, H.E. Most Reverend Celestino Migliore the Permanent Representative of the Vatican, Ambassador Yukio Takasu of Japan, Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini of Italy, Ambassador Mohamed Loulichki of Morocco, Ambassador Jim McLay of New Zealand, Ambassador Andrzey Towpik of Poland, Ambassador Juan Antonio Yanez-Barnuevo of Spain, Ambassador Rayko S. Raytchev of Bulgaria, Ambassador Kim Won-soo, from the UN Secretary General’s Office, and about further twenty top Diplomatic Representatives. But I must remark that from all the Islamic and African Countries only Morocco was present – and from the newly emerging States only Brazil and China were present.


Posted on on January 1st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

As we wrote about Copenhagen, ALBA crystallized there as the clearest US opposing group of countries in the international arena. ALBA is led by four Latin American and two Caribbean Islands Heads of State. As expressed by Presidents Morales of Bolivia and Chavez of Venezuela, the Obama intervention on that final Friday the 18th was clearly not a UN consensus building move. Obama did not play democracy to non-Democratic States, but then there was something in his behavior that could also be likened to the battleship diplomacy of old empire building colonialism – you find your allies and you set the rules of the game for others to follow. We said it many times that we agreed with Obama’s moves, but we also had an ear to the Morales and Chavez statements, and we believe that the ALBA attack will continue until the day the US is ready to sit down with the individual countries of that group and effectively co-opt them into a new Western Hemisphere alliance that pays respect also to countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. In effect we believe that these countries do have also helpful ideas and not just the rhetoric for which they are famous. Further, Nicaragua and Honduras used to belong to this group and Brazil is also close to its leaders.

OK, so how is this related to our 2009/2010 New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City?

This story starts with my having picked up a Financial Times on the flight back from Copenhagen and in the Guide – Arts around the World section I saw mentioned – “New York – Noche Flamenca” and it said that from Christmas Eve until January 16, Noche Flamenca will be performed at the Lucille Lortel Theater in Greenwich Village and that judging by the reviews the company, with its stars dancers Ms. Soledad Barrio and Juan Ogalla, the star singer Manuel Gago and guitarist Eugenio Iglesias are the most authentic flamenco touring company.

Further, already with the above in mind, I saw the December 26th Alaistair Macaulay Dance Review in the New York Times “Drama Whose Subject Is Both Nothing and Everything.” He writes – “Ms. Barrio’s intensity is striking, even when she’s standing still or walking slowly around the stage… she seemed to be brooding on the darkest spiritual concerns … the attention of her face and upper body riveted on the floor. She might have been mourning the death of a child or contemplating the augury that announced the overthrow of her nation… Her face tends to be wonderfully bleak.”

I decided that I want to experience this Latin intensity, but then the clincher came when I read that the program includes a piece called “ALBA” choreographed by Ms. Marrio’s husband and partner in Noche Flamenca, Mr Martin Santangelo. Alba is about “some extremely unspecific aspect of the Spanish Civil War.” I sensed that I may find here some explanation to the Hugo Chavez anger and his ALBA.

Every other year me and my wife, we use to travel somewhere for the Christmas – New Year time span, as in her work she alternates with another person in her office, who will take of during those days. This year was actually her time to go away, but she chose to spend her vacation in New York and the difficulties with transport and flights were an important part of this decision. So I had to decide where we will be part of a community when slipping into twenty-ten. Going to see Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca was thus our decision – I had the further goal also to get some understanding about ALBA.

Having decided on the show, I went down to the Theater at 121 Christopher Street in the Village, and looked at the neighborhood restaurants and settled fortunately for HAVANA – ALMA DE CUBA at 94 Christopher Street, that promised excellent mojitos, great food, a bottle of CAVA Champagne, New Year eve paraphernalia, Cuban music and cigars. And that is important – Cuba is the first ALBA!

Looking now more closely at Noche Flamenca, which obviously has its home in Spain, I found that they see flamenco as a form of art that is based on song (cante), music (toque), and dance born of “ancestral cultural repression and racial expulsion.” and that 2009-2010 they launch an arts education program in New York City public schools that embodies the three flamenco disciplines: dance, guitar, and song. Their target are the culturally diverse communities of New York City, and they have already lined up a very impressive list of backers to this experiment.

Andalucia in southern Spain absorbed throughout the centuries Romans, Jews and Moors. As far as flamenco is concerned, the most significant arrival was in the 15th century when tribes of nomadic Gypsies settled her. Their arrival coincided with Ferdinand and Isabella’s conquest of Granada, the last bastion of the Moors, and the subsequent expulsion of Jews and Arabs, from Spain – the Jews were massacred, the Gypsies humiliated and persecuted, the Arabs exterminated, the Moriscos (converted Arabs) expelled, and the Andalucians generally exploited – if we do not relate the music to brutality, repression, hunger, fear, menace, inferiority, resistance, and secrecy, then we shall not find the reality of cante flamenco – it is a storm of exasperation and grief. This is the background of the evolution of flamenco as per historian Felix Grande’s review of the 15th-17th centuries.

In the 19th century there were two types of singing in Andalucia – the cante gitano and the cante andaluz, then an Andaluz of Italian orifin, Silverio Franconetti, at first a singer of cante gitano, proceeded in combining the two shaping what became the cante flamenco.

The “deep song” or the cante jondo, resembles the mournful wail of the chant of the exiled Sephardic Jews and its poetry is that of existential angst and philosophical questioning common in Arabic poetry. The dance that evolved and fully blossomed by 1840s combines the repetitive key symbol prevalent in Islam, the trance-inducing rhythms of Africa and the stubborn search of Jewish music as mentioned above.

With the above in mind, let us see now what the Noche Flamenca say about their creation called ALBA:

Choreographer Martin Santangelo says that the piece was inspired by the archives of The Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Now let us remember that the Spanish Civil War 1936 – 1939 was the training ground for what became WWII.

45,000 people from over 50 different countries, ignoring their own governments’ failure to respond to the threats of fascism, volunteered to support democratic Spain. The US volunteers came to be known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, but Franco, backed by Hitler and Mussolini defeated the democrats – eventually fascism was defeated by 1945 but Franco was left to rule over Spain.

The program notes that many of the Abraham Lincoln Brigaders that survived remained lifelong activists and have continued to support progressive causes, including the Civil Rights Movement in the US and protests against the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Spain of today feels a profound gratitude for these heroic individuals.

The song used by the choreographer in setting ALBA is a poem by Miguel Hernandez To the International Soldier Fallen in Spain:

If there are men who contain a soul without frontiers
a brow scattered with universal hair
covered with horizons, ships, and mountain chains,
with sand and snow, then you are one of those.

Fatherlands called to you with all their banners,
so that your breath filled with beautiful movements.
You wanted to quench the thirst of panthers
and fluttered full against their abuses.

With a taste of suns and seas,
Spain beckons you because in her you realize
your majesty like a tree that embraces a continent.

Around your bones, the olive groves will grow,
unfolding their iron roots in the ground,
embracing men universally, faithfully.

What the choreographer Martin Santangelo tried to convey with the members of his troupe – all male – singers, guitarists and dancers, and a bunch of walking sticks as props, was sort of a Greek corus telling about the travel of those that came from afar and the fact that their spirits were not broken. They did not give up even when beaten and continued a life of walking and fighting.

That is what I saw in that piece and I wonder how dance reviewer Alastair Macaulay saw nothing of this with his own eyes. All what he says is that it “is about some extremely unspecific aspect of the Spanish Civil War. Flamenco isn’t enriched by tackling any one particular drama; it’s diminished.” Then he adds later – “No. ‘Alba’ is not a disaster; it’s just nebulous, unclear, earnest. Obviously, though, it’s small fry compared with the greater meat of the evening.”

Sorry Mr. Macaulay, you did not understand the sonnet or you did not read it. You also did not notice those walking sticks or just did not ask yourself why walking sticks? You may think that art is only technique, but some of your readers are also capable of relating to content and to this readership the Spanish Civil War has meaning beyond plain dance. Granted that you are a dance critic and not a political pages reporter, nevertheless, you just saw an honest attempt, as you say yourself, of tackling content, so you should have given the credit these artists deserve for trying to use their art form in order to inspire the public of their theater in ways that are no different from what they will be attempting to do in our public schools with children that can be helped by art to become better citizens. In the ALBA case, I feel that understanding the Lincoln brigade volunteers could actually help in formulating opinions about issues of these days when we continue to see injustice in the world and dictators encroaching upon democracy and human rights. Yes, I am aware that there was also a Stalin involvement in Spain, and I read “The God That Failed” but all of that is secondary to my disagreement with this part of your review – the issue is really the meaning and purpose of art – I believe that there can be a purpose and you clearly disagree.

Further, in the second half of the program there was a second topical choreography by Martin Santongelo titled “Refugiados” that included the whole company. It was inspired by literature and poetry of refugee children from Somalia and Zimbabwe identified by UN agencies and receiving emergency assistance. You did not mention this piece and I wonder if your choice for criticism was rather dependent on content as this latter piece may be dealing with a subject that is less open for criticism – you do not kick children but politics are made for kicking. Sorry, and please forgive if I am here on the wrong track.

But then back to our declared real interest in Noche Flamenca as said was the title ALBA of that particular dance about the Spanish Civil War – why was it called ALBA?

Aha – I found!

Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives
A non-profit organization devoted to the preservation and dissemination of the history of the North American role in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

So ALBA means ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE ARCHIVES and ALBA is the name of the group of countries in Latin America that have a bone with the US of America.

Could one say that Hugo Chavez sees himself as a continuation of the progressive Americans that went to Spain to fight fascism? This is an intriguing idea! Is it not?

But then there is also a second meaning for ALBA

Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas – Wikipedia, the free … – 12/19/09
The meeting in congress for the removal of Honduras from the ALBA is still … ” ALBA pasa a ser Alianza Bolivariana de los Pueblos de América” (in es). …

So here we talk of Alianza Bolivariana or in short ALBA – this based on the Spanish form of the Bolivarian Alliance.

and even –

ALBA: Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean …
Teresa ArreazaA summary of the basic ideas behind Venezuela’s alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas. › Documents

So, let us attach here what we gleaned from the web about the group of ALBA:

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or ALBA) is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of social, political, and economic integration between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is associated with socialist andsocial democratic governments and is an attempt at regional economic integration based on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid, rather than trade liberalization as with free trade agreements. ALBA nations are in the process of introducing a new regional currency, the SUCRE. It is intended to be the common virtual currency by 2010 and eventually a hard currency.
The name initially contained “Alternative” instead of “Alliance”, but was changed on June 24, 2009. ALBA also means “dawn” in Spanish.

Member states

Common name
Official name Date joined
Area (km²)
GDP PPP (US$ bn)
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda 24 June 2009 85,632 442 1.546 St. John’s
Bolivia Plurinational State of Bolivia 29 April 2006 9,119,152 1,098,581 43.424 Sucre
Cuba Republic of Cuba 14 December 2004 11,451,652 110,861 108.2 Havana
Dominica Commonwealth of Dominica 20 January 2008 72,660 754 .72 Roseau
Ecuador Republic of Ecuador 24 June 2009 14,573,101 256,370 106.993 Quito
Honduras Republic of Honduras 9 October 2008 7,483,763 112,492 32.725 Tegucigalpa
Nicaragua Republic of Nicaragua 23 February 2007 5,891,199 129,495 15.89 Managua
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 24 June 2009 120,000 389 1.085 Kingstown
Venezuela Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 14 December 2004 28,199,825 916,445 358.623
ALBA Totals 9 Countries 73,453,238 2,625,829 669.206
Observer states of the organisation include Haiti, Iran and Uruguay

main page

November 27, 2008


CARACAS.Dmitry Medvedev took part in a meeting of the leaders of the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America.

The organisation was set up at the end of 2004 on the initiative of Cuba and Venezuela. This association also includes Bolivia, Honduras, Dominica and Nicaragua; Haiti, Iran, Uruguay and Ecuador are among its observers.

During the meeting Mr Medvedev raised the question of developing cooperation between Russia and Latin American countries.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, President Evo Morales of Bolivia, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit, and Vice President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba Ricardo Cabrisas took part in the meeting.


Posted on on January 1st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

This amazing article was penned by Fidel Castro himself, then later we watched how Presidents Morales of Bolivia and Chavez of Venezuela spoke in the Copenhagen plenary similar words to these, in the name of the ALBA group of Latin and Caribbean States, on that very important Friday-the eighteenth.

Today, when finally writing about this, I also wonder if besides Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti, Chavez is not ready to accept also Abraham Lincoln as a third member of a historic triumvirate intended to set the Western Hemisphere apart from global machinations, provided President Obama does indeed stretch out a friendly hand to Cuba? I believe that this is within the realm of possibilities, and perhaps the easiest way for the US to free itself of the tyranny of oil and the influence of the oil lobby of Washington. I believe that our times start looking more and more like the pre-WWII days. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade that went to Spain had among its people some of the best the US had to offer. They were not stupid and recognized the Stalinist stealth-riders, as well as the fascist opponents, and remained true to democracy ideals that brought them there. Climate change provides the world the same opportunity as fighting for democracy did in those years. If Obama is ready to rein in the US extremists when it comes to economic relations with the countries of the Southern part of the Western Hemisphere, new line-ups are possible based on new agreed common goals of helping in the sustainable development of these countries, rather then continuing to regard them only as source of raw materials. Had the US done so earlier the world might have been a friendlier place to America – at least in that part that fell into the geopolitical Western Hemisphere Monrovian design.

Clearly, Castro and Chavez will criticize the US when being held at bay by the stick of US corporations, but when approached as partners for change they might actually be ready for political compromise. The reality is that even though they do not apply democracy to their States, the did eradicate analphabetism, hunger, and established health care systems, ahead of the US. Venezuela can help fund such positive activities thanks to its income from oil, but they seem ready to help fund also other positive activities if offered a place at the American table. The way they show pride in their baseball culture that derived from the US via Cuba, shows to me that I am not dreaming about pie in the sky.


Reflections of Fidel: The ALBA and Copenhagen.

The festivities associated with the 7th ALBA Summit, held in the historic Bolivian region of Cochabamba, showed the rich culture of the Latin American peoples and the joy elicited in children, young people and adults in general by the singing, the dancing, the costumes and rich expressions of the human beings of all ethnic groups, colors and shades: aborigine, black, white and mixed people. We could see there thousands of years of human history and precious culture that explain the determination with which the leaders of various Caribbean, Central and South American peoples convened that summit.

The meeting was a great success. Bolivia was the venue. I recently wrote on the excellent prospects of that country, an heir to the Aymara-Quechua culture. A small group of peoples from that area are bent on proving that a better world is possible. The ALBA – created by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Cuba, inspired by Bolivar’s and Marti’s ideas, as an unprecedented example of revolutionary solidarity- has showed how much could be done in barely five years of peaceful cooperation. This started shortly after Hugo Chavez’s political and democratic victory. Imperialism underestimated him, and deliberately tried to oust him and remove him. The fact that for a good part of the 20th century Venezuela had been the world’s largest oil-producer, practically owned by the Yankee transnationals, made the chosen path particularly rough to pursue.

The powerful adversary had neoliberalism and the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas]; two instruments of domination always used after the Cuban Revolution to crush resistance in the hemisphere.

It is irritating to think of the shameless and disrespectful way in which the US administration imposed the government of millionaire Pedro Carmona and tried to have elected President Hugo Chavez removed, at a time when the USSR had disappeared and the People’s Republic of China was a few years away from becoming the economic and commercial power it is today, after two decades of over 10 percent growth. The Venezuelan people, like that of Cuba, resisted the brutal thrust. The Sandinistas recovered, and the struggle for sovereignty, independence and socialism gained ground in Bolivia and Ecuador. Honduras, which had joined the ALBA, was the target of a brutal coup d’etat inspired by the Yankee ambassador and propelled from the US military base in Palmerola.

Today, there are four Latin American countries that have completely eradicated illiteracy: Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. A fifth country, Ecuador, is quickly advancing towards that goal. The comprehensive healthcare programs are underway in the five countries at an unprecedented pace in the Third World. The programs of economic development with social justice have become projects of these five states, which already enjoy great prestige in the world for their brave position in the face of the empire’s economic, military and media power. Three English speaking Caribbean countries of black ancestry, determined to fight for their development, have also joined the ALBA.

This alone would be a great political merit if in today’s world that were the only big problem of man’s history.

The economic and political system that in a short historical period has led to the existence of more than one billion hungry people, and many more hundreds of millions whose lives are hardly longer than half the average of those in the wealthy and privileged countries, was until now the main problem for mankind. But, a new and extremely serious problem was strongly discussed at the ALBA Summit: climate change. A danger of such magnitude had never been known in human history.

As Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega waved the people goodbye in the streets of Cochabamba yesterday, Sunday, that same day, according to news spread by BBC World, Gordon Brown was chairing in London a session of the Major Economies Forum mostly made up by the highest developed capitalist countries, the main culprits for the carbon dioxide emissions, that is, the gas causing the greenhouse effect.

The significance of Brown’s remarks is that they have not been made by a representative of ALBA or one of the 150 emerging or underdeveloped countries on the planet but of Great Britain, the country where industrial development started and one of those which have released most carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The British Prime Minister warned that if an agreement is not reached at the UN Summit in Copenhagen, the consequences will be ‘devastating.’

Some of the ‘catastrophic’ consequences would be floods, droughts and lethal heat waves claimed the environmental group Nature World Fund referring to Brown’s assertion. “The climate change will be out of control within the next five to ten years if the CO2 emissions are not drastically cut down. There will not be a plan B if Copenhagen fails.”

The same news source claims that: “BBC specialist James Landale has explained that not everything is happening as expected.”

Newsweek reported that “it seems more unlikely every day that the states will commit to something in Copenhagen.”

According to reports from the major American press outlet, the chairman of the session, Gordon Brown, said that “if no agreement is reached, there is no doubt that the damage of the uncontrolled emissions will not be repaired with a future agreement.” He then went on to mention such conflicts as “unchecked migration and 1.8 billion people afflicted by water shortage.”

Actually, as the Cuban delegation claimed in Bangkok, the United States led the highest industrialized countries most opposed to the necessary reduction of emissions.

At the Cochabamba meeting, a new ALBA Summit was convened. The timetable will be: December 6, elections in Bolivia; December 13, ALBA summit in Havana; December 16, participation in the UN Copenhagen Summit. The small group of ALBA nations will be there. The issue is no longer “Homeland or Death”; it is truly and without exaggeration a matter of “Life or Death” for the human race.

The capitalist system is not only oppressing and plundering our countries; the wealthiest industrial nations wish to impose to the rest of the world the bulk of the burden in the struggle on climate change. Who are they trying to fool with that? In Copenhagen, the ALBA and the Third World countries will be struggling for the survival of the species.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 19, 2009
6:05 PM


Posted on on January 28th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

 The UN May Have Made The Holocaust Symbol of Man’s Inhumanity To Man – But Then The Stands Nicaraguan Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, the current UN General Assembly President, and Some At The UN Security Council Take Against Israel, Negate All Those Nice Words That The UN Proclaimed in 2005 – Its 60th Anniversary Year.

When we got to the UN Trusteeship Council Chamber, the third name plate from the left, on the dais table, next to the chairman of the event,   UNUSG Mr. Kiyo Akasaka, said Father Brockmann, President of the UNGA, but ten minutes before the start, the place name was changed to ACTING PGA – no name. The person to take over that chair was then the Ambassador from Rwanda, who was   present, like Mr. Akasaka, at the Holocaust memorial last Saturday at the Park East Synagogue.

The anti-Israeli fire that is burning at the UNGA has provided for fires in other places also – the like of the briefing room for the UN accreditted press. Last night I was told that even the UN decided that enough is enough – and that the spokesperson for the UNSG had to tell the Arab and Pakistani journalists that her briefing room is not place for propaganda. This smelled like a first shot of a try to change of the atmosphere in that room. This must be seen as an effort on the part of Egyptian Ahmad Fawzi, from Mr. Akaaka’s Department, to go back to the year long lower level slant.



Gaza Tensions Shadow U.N. Holocaust Ceremony.
Daniel Luban

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 27 (IPS) – The president of the United Nations General Assembly was a last-minute no-show at the U.N.’s annual ceremony commemorating the Holocaust, following an intense lobbying campaign by pro-Israel organisations to have him removed from the programme.

Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann had come under fire for his harsh criticisms of Israeli policies, leading to suspicions that his failure to deliver a scheduled speech at the event was due to political considerations. The incident comes at a delicate time in the U.N.-Israel relationship, which has always been rocky but has been further frayed by the recent war in Gaza.

At Tuesday’s International Day of Commemoration ceremony, d’Escoto was replaced by General Assembly Vice-President Joseph Nsengimana of Rwanda, who delivered a statement on d’Escoto’s behalf. However, d’Escoto’s name was still on the official programme, indicating that the replacement likely came at the last moment. According to a spokesperson, d’Escoto had been traveling as of Monday and was not able to make it back in time for the event.

However, d’Escoto’s absence also averted what was likely to be an awkward scene at the ceremony. In recent days, several strongly pro-Israel Jewish organisations had called for him to step aside, citing his attacks on Israeli policies and his embrace of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following Ahmadinejad’s speech at the U.N. in September 2008.

Abraham H. Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said Friday that D’Escoto’s “presence would be an insult to the memory of the millions of victims slaughtered at the hands of the Nazis and a slap in the face to the survivors of those atrocities, to the families of those lost, and to the Jewish people”.

The ADL’s call was echoed by groups including the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations, B’nai B’rith International, and the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors.

One elderly attendee at Monday’s event said that there were plans for audience members to turn their backs to the stage in protest if d’Escoto spoke.

The attendee did not know whether any group was behind the planned protest, saying that he had heard of it by word of mouth. Although he admitted that he was not sure exactly who d’Escoto was or what he had said, he planned to participate in it.

Since d’Escoto became General Assembly president in September 2008, the Nicaraguan priest has frequently attacked Israeli policies in ways that have drawn outcries from critics.

In November, he accused Israel of “crucifying our Palestinian brothers and sisters” and referred to it as an “apartheid state”. In December, he decried Israel’s refusal to allow U.N. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk into the country and announced that he had received death threats as a result of his political views.

And on Jan. 14, he labeled Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip as “genocide” – a remark that may have been the immediate impetus for the recent calls for his removal.

In the original event programme, d’Escoto was to have been followed by Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Gabriela Shalev, who has been one of d’Escoto’s fiercest critics and cancelled a planned meeting with him in December.

Instead, Nsengimana read a statement on d’Escoto’s behalf calling on listeners to “go beyond remembrance” to prevent genocide “today and in the future” – seemingly anodyne remarks that gained bite given d’Escoto’s previously stated belief that the Gaza war was an act of genocide.

In response, Shalev stressed that “the Jewish tragedy of the Holocaust was unique” and denounced Hamas and Iran to applause from the audience.

D’Escoto, a U.S.-born priest of the Maryknoll Missionaries, served as Nicaragua’s foreign minister from 1979 to 1990 under the Sandinista government, and remains an advisor to President Daniel Ortega.

The uproar over d’Escoto comes at a low point in the always-tumultuous relationship beween Israel and the U.N.

For months, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had been calling attention to the humanitarian crisis resulting from Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. On Dec. 14, Israel detained and ultimately deported Falk, who had been appointed by the U.N. to report on the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

These tensions increased enormously once Israel began its attack on Hamas on Dec. 27. During the three-week war, Israel struck the UNRWA headquarters and two of its schools. The worst of these attacks, a Jan. 6 mortar strike on a UNRWA-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp, killed over 40 civilians, according to U.N officials. Israeli Defence Forces officials initially claimed that militants had been firing from the school, but later backed off these claims.

UNRWA officials repeatedly called for Israel to cease its offensive to alleviate the urgent humanitarian situation in Gaza, while supporters of Israel accused the UNRWA of helping to nurture Hamas terrorism.

Israel and Hamas both ignored a Jan. 8 Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

D’Escoto’s absence from Monday’s ceremony may have been intended to avoid any incident that would do further damage to the U.N.-Israel relationship.

However, the next hurdle may be only months away. In late April, the U.N.-sponsored Durban Review Conference is scheduled to be held in Geneva.

It will revisit ground covered by the 2001 World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa. That summit featured fierce criticism of Israel, and both Israel and the U.S. ultimately pulled their delegations from it.

Fears that April’s so-called “Durban II” conference will be a repeat of the first have led Israel and Canada to preemptively announce that they will not participate in it. And pro-Israel lobbying groups have already begun to campaign against the conference. On Monday, the ADL issued a statement calling “for responsible nations to get up and walk out” on it.


Posted on on November 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

 From The washington Center on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA):

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Embark on a Highly Revealing Latin American Journey Sure to Give Washington Heartburn –
•       After attending the APEC Summit in Peru, Russian leader to visit Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba

•       Could a new order for Russian military equipment be placed in Caracas?

•       Russia continues to secure a position as a growing ally of rising-star Brazil

•       First visit of a Russian leader to Cuba in 8 years; $355 million loan to be extended to Havana

•       Medvedev will not visit Cold War-era ally Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and snubs Buenos Aires

•       Russia’s visit should communicate a message to President-elect Barack Obama: do not forget Latin America, because Russia has not

•       Will the Obama administration back up Bush’s decision to re-constitute Fourth Fleet?

After attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima on November 21-22, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev will embark on a short regional tour, where he will meet the leaders of Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba, for which Moscow is intensely motivated for different reasons.

The selection of the countries that the Russian leader will visit is not as surprising as those not included in his itinerary. Nevertheless, each country – even host nation Peru – is to some degree an ally of Russia, and a visit by Medvedev will keep the Russian flag flying high in the region. All countries that will be visited by the Russian leader, with the exception of Peru, are currently experiencing somewhat strained relations with Washington, and are advocates of a less dominant American role in the integration of the Western Hemisphere.

Even if no particular agreement is reached with the countries Medvedev is to visit the tour should serve as a reminder to the Bush White House, as well as incoming President Barack Obama, that Russia has not forgotten Latin America, and is now beginning to consider it Moscow’s backyard, just as Washington has regarded the Caucasus as its own fiefdom. The meeting could also result in a new Venezuelan weapons purchase as Medvedev is scheduled to extend the $355 million credit to Havana. Both the U.S. and Russia know that Washington is a wounded regional player and could be surpassed by the Kremlin, unless the former is proposed to constructively engage in a respectful and well-meaning policy to the rest of the hemisphere.
APEC: What Can Be Expected?

The APEC summit follows upon last week’s G-20 meeting, where the major point of discussion was the ongoing world financial crisis. In a telegram sent to Peruvian President Alan Garcia to confirm his attendance, Medvedev wrote that he hoped that the APEC participants “will have a constructive dialogue on the wide range of measures aimed at sustained development of the Asia-Pacific region.” The Russian leader went on to say that “one of the key aspects in this respect is the search for best solutions for such urgent problems as the prices for food and energy resources, the climate change.”

Apart from his APEC meeting commitments, Medvedev will look forward to personal meetings with fellow leaders in attendance. For example, Kyodo reported that a bilateral meeting will take place between Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Medvedev during the summit. RIA Novosti has mentioned that Medvedev will also meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The Kremlin leader may also decide to indicate that Moscow is soliciting Russian membership in the World Trade Organization as well as push for greater Russian integration into the APEC economic region. This could be interpreted as part of a continuing initiative in which Moscow will invite the economies of Latin America and the Pacific toward closer ties with Russia as a possible major trading partner. According to a report by RIA Novosti, trade between Russia and Latin America has exhibited an annual growth rate of 25-30% over the past few years, and is expected to hit a record of $15 billion in 2008.

Brazil: A Rising Star
After the APEC meeting, Medvedev will go on to visit Brazil, which is in itself hardly startling. During the Vladimir Putin years, Russia courted Brazil and attempted to strengthen ties with the South American giant by dispatching Russian cabinet ministers to visit the country. For example, Russian Security Council secretary, Nikolai Patruchev, has been quoted by the Russian news agency Pravda as observing that “Brazil is the leader of Latin America and because of that we are interested in creating a strategic relationship.”

Agreements between both countries range from commerce to education, military, and space cooperation. Nevertheless, Russia is seeking greater influence in Brazil along with a number of other countries such as France, China, South Africa, as well as India.


Venezuela: Petrodollars-r-Us
Meetings between high level Russian officials and representatives in Venezuela are nothing new. Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has visited Russia over half a dozen times since taking power. Meetings by the leaders of both countries often result in a purchase of Russian military equipment in exchange for Venezuelan petro-dollars.

The Russian visit comes on the heels of the visit of two Russian Tu-16 medium-range bombers to Venezuela this past summer. The Russians have also dispatched elements of its fleet led by the guided-missile cruiser Peter the Great to do a port visit as well as carry out war games with their Venezuelan counterparts in the Caribbean. This has raised some Cold War-era alarms in Washington, as it is the first time since the end of the Cold War that the Russian military enters the Western Hemisphere. In mid-October, the Russian news agency Kommersant mentioned that Russian and Venezuelan officials were discussing the Venezuelan purchase of Russian BMP-3 armored vehicles; Medvedev and Chavez are expected to sign the contract during the Russian leader’s upcoming visit. In addition Russia is building a Kalishnikov-assault rifle factory on Venezuelan soil, as well a complimentary one nearby to manufacture the rifles’ ammunition. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has declared that “the weaponry we supply [to Latin America] is not offensive […] these are purely defensive means in their technical specifications.”

Lavrov is scheduled to meet today with conservative Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and foreign minister Jaime Bermudez to discuss possible Russian investment in Colombia. In an attempt to offset Venezuela’s ties to Russia, Colombia has increased its high-level contacts with Moscow this past year. Colombian vice president Francisco Santos traveled to Russia in June to attend the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, and defense minister Juan Manuel Santos attended an Interpol summit held in Moscow in October. Though Colombia is not an APEC member, Uribe’s government has displayed an increasing interest in generating closer economic links with Russia, fearing that it is courting political isolation by having the outgoing Bush administration being one of its few close friends.

Cuba: The Forgotten Ally
Russian-Cuban relations will always be compared to their standing during the height of the Cold War, when the Caribbean island was the Soviet Union’s strongest ally in the Western Hemisphere. The relationship decayed after the dissolution of the USSR. Even after Putin met with Fidel Castro in Cuba in 2000, the resulting rapport did not come close to what it once was.

The meeting will bring together Medvedev and Fidel’s brother, Raul Castro. It is unclear what the delegations will discuss, though they will probably focus on ways to promote greater cooperation. Early in November, Moscow approved a state loan to Cuba for $355 million. The loan’s provisions required that it had to be used to purchase Russian goods and services.

In an interview with COHA, Wayne Smith, former head of the U.S. interests section in Havana and the director of the Cuba Program at the Center for International Policy, explained “I don’t foresee anything major coming out of this meeting, Russia’s interest seems to be centered around Venezuela these days.” Smith went on to mention that “a Russian military delegation visited Havana some months ago, and there was speculation about growing military cooperation between both countries but nothing came out of it.”

The former U.S. diplomat mentioned that when military exercises between Russia and Venezuela take place Cuba is invited to participate, “that would be extremely interesting.” Indeed, such a scenario may add more fuel to the fire of Bush administration officials who promoted the restoration of the Fourth Fleet which had been dismantled in 1950, for the purpose of patrolling Latin American waters when it came to providing medical and humanitarian services, as well as project U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere.


The Other Side of the Coin:
The countries Medvedev chose to visit provide some indication of Russian foreign policy priorities when it comes to the Western Hemisphere. For example, Argentina, which at one point was considered an important regional power and to this day has strong commercial ties with Russia, has been largely ignored. In 2006, there were reports that Russia was attempting to sell military equipment to Argentina; however, nothing materialized. Such rumors have resurfaced again in early November 2008, when a report in the ITAR-TASS Russian state news agency quoted the director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Mikhail Dmitriyev, as saying that there is a growing trend of military technical cooperation between Russia and Argentina. The article mentions concrete plans for cooperation, including radar stations and a “helicopter programme, including supplies and setting up of centres for servicing helicopter hardware, possibly, not only in Argentina but also at a regional scale.” However, even this possibility for greater cooperation with Argentina is not enough to compel the Russian leader stop over even briefly in the Argentine capital.

Likewise Nicaragua, under the leadership of Daniel Ortega, Moscow’s ally during the Cold War, is being overlooked. Ortega could use some international support, particularly after the controversial results of recent municipal elections, in which the ruling Sandinista party was judged the winner in a close vote. The elections were held almost without international observers and there have been widespread accusations of electoral fraud. The civic group Ethics and Transparency said it had recorded irregularities in 32 percent of the polling places it monitored. An AP report quotes State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood as saying “unfortunately, the [Nicaraguan] Supreme Electoral Council’s decision to not accredit credible domestic and international election observers has made it difficult to […] properly assess the outcome of the elections.” Furthermore, Washington is not amused as Nicaragua has been, so far, the only country (besides Russia) to recognize the independence of Georgia’s breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This past summer, Russia made a military incursion into Georgia and subsequently, to Washington’s anger, recognized both breakaway regions as independent states.

Nevertheless, a RIA Novosti article briefly mentions that the leaders of both of the aforementioned countries, Argentina’s Cristina de Kirchner and Nicaragua’s Ortega, as well as Uruguay’s Tabare Vazquez, are expected to visit Moscow in the coming months.

One should note that Peru itself would not have been on Medvedev’s agenda if it had not been the organizer of the APEC 2008 summit. Lima and Moscow maintained good defense relations during the Soviet era, including major purchases of Soviet warplanes and tanks during that period. In mid-October, Mercopress published a report that Chile is continuing with its aggressive acquisition policy by purchasing F-16 warplanes from Holland, as well as from the U.S. The report explains that “when all [plans] are delivered Chile’s Air Force will have 44 F16, probably the strongest and most modern in the continent [with the probable exception of Venezuela].”

When one contemplates Chilean modernization initiatives, its historically antagonistic relations with Peru come to mind. Peru’s largely hardware is mostly Russian or Soviet-made, including Sukhoi and MiG warplanes, as well as Mi-type helicopters. President Garcia may attempt to arrange a personal meeting with Medvedev to discuss bilateral defense issues and the possible agreements for upgrades of Russian military equipment. Interviewed by COHA, a senior Peruvian army official explained that “Russia may not see Peru as a critical ally, but the Peruvian military certainly regards Russian military equipment as critical to its national defense […] the Garcia administration must safeguard this strategic relationship.”

Medvedev’s abbreviated Latin America tour provides an idea of the key countries that Russian strategic policy sees as being key to its national interests. Since a number of Latin American governments in power are determined to withdraw from any form of dependence on Washington, the Russian leader is likely to seize the opportunity and further develop alliances with nations in the region, other than Brazil and Venezuela.

The incoming Obama administration soon will have to begin assessing its ties to various Latin American nations and the nature of its ties with the region. Policy decisions such as the ongoing and largely ineffective Cuban embargo, and a confrontational stance toward Venezuela (illustrated by the re-establishment of the Fourth Fleet) are likely to be revisited by the new administration and could be rejected. Medvedev’s present round of calls, as well as a growing presence by extra-hemispheric actors like the European Union, China, India and Iran, demonstrate that the region is open to new relationships outside of the hemisphere and is getting noticed.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Fellow Alex Sánchez
November 19th, 2008


Posted on on October 24th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Padre Miguel or Nicaraguan diplomat, politician, liberation theologian and Maryknoll Catholic priest, H.E. Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, is indeed a breath of fresh air at the UN.

The Maryknoll Catholic priests from the US helped the poor of Nicaragua at the time of the US imposed dictatorship – we remember pictures of kidnaped and killed Maryknoll sisters and we remember the difficulties Latin American liberation theologians had, and still have, with the Vatican. Padre Miguel was born in the US, and was active in Nicaragua, and was bleeding for all Latin poor. Having him, a Ghandian, as President of the UN General Assembly, the nominally highest international position in the world, is indeed amazing. Nominally, the President of the General Assembly is the highest ranking UN personality, though he does not have the decision making power of a Security Council member, neither the practical, administrative power of the Secretary General. but he has at least, for one or two years, the power to decide what should be talked about at the General Assembly talking club.

To be clear about what this man stands for – openly in public – we attached his June 4, 2008, acceptance speech at the UN. We proceeded and marked with yellow the lines where he mentions the anthropogenic nature of so called natural phenomena and his attention to hunger, poverty, climate change, energy crisis, terrorism, human rights, disarmament, nuclear control, rights of women and children, preservation of biodiversity and cultural diversity. We clearly expect him not to treat those issues as individually separate issues but to make the connection and integrate the approach to the bundle of crises – exactly how they popped up to our attention in the last couple of months. We were excited back in November when a Catholic blog enthusiastically proposed Padre Miguel as Obama’s new Pastor. Who knows, there might have been a premonition here – but then let us not forget that the position of President of UNGA is for one year only – though it might be eventually extended for a second year. Nevertheless, if Obama becomes US President, he will have a good partner at the UNGA.

OK, so now Padre Miguel looked at all the crises and decided that the UN has to step in and asked Professor Joe Stiglitz to be his economist adviser and establish a panel to look at these crises. This panel is still in the making.

Then, looking at the upcoming November 29 – December 2, 2008 Doha Review Conference of the non-implementation of the so called Monterrey Consensus, that had in September 2008 already an introductory meeting here at the UN headquarters, he decided to use the “we go to Doha” idea in order to review the present bundle of crises that because of the Global Financial Crisis endangers all dealings with the other crises.

The Sarcozy suggestion to hold a global summit of the G-20 in New York on November 20, 2008, after the US Presidential elections, got deflected by President Bush to Washington DC – so it is a last hurrah for the present Administration – but this should not deter the UN to deal with the problems – if nothing else – it will UN material for the Washington meeting.

So, appointing Professor Joe Stiglitz, an adviser to Senator Obama, is also a good step in the direction of the future. To make this really inclusive he added further three known personalities: from Belgium the seat of the EU, from India – the second largest developing power of Asia, and from Ecuador – an OPEC member but fairly independent when it comes to Latin America issues.   Though nominally intent to deal with Financing for Development, it seems clear that global finances, hunger and the MDGs, and climate change will be topics of this day-long symposium and we look forward to the event.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Priest & President of the U.N.?


Rev. Miguel d’Escoto-Brockmann, born in Los Angeles on February 5, 1933, is a Nicaraguan diplomat, politician, liberation theologian and Maryknoll Catholic priest.

He was just elected President of the United Nations General Assembly; his one year term at that post will begin in September 2008. He will preside over the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Quotes from Brockmann:

“They elected a priest. And I hope no one is offended if I say that love is what is most needed in this world. And that selfishness is what has gotten us into the terrible quagmire in which the world is sinking, almost irreversibly, unless something big happens. This may sound like a sermon. Well, OK.”

Ronald Reagan is “the butcher of my (Nicaraguan) people”

“Because of Reagan and his spiritual heir George W. Bush, the world today is far less safe and secure than it has ever been.”

Perhaps Obama has found his new pastor?

O tempora, O mores!





The General Assembly, in its resolution 62/187 of 19 December 2007, decided that the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus will be held in Doha, Qatar, from 29 November to 2 December 2008.
In preparation for the Doha Review Conference, the General Assembly held, from February to June 2008, review sessions on the six thematic areas of the Monterrey Consensus and interactive hearings with representatives of civil society and the business sector. The President of the General Assembly issued informal summaries of the review sessions and circulated, on 28 July 2008, a draft outcome document of the Conference.
The General Assembly held, on 8 – 10 September and 19 September 2008, the first round of informal consultations on the draft outcome document of the Doha Conference. The Assembly will continue consultations on the Doha outcome document in October – November 2008.






Posted on on June 2nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

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.…
President Correa’s persistence in terms of pursuing the validity of the data found on the laptops seized by Colombian forces during their March 1, 2008 raid on the FARC camp located just inside the Ecuadorian border, raises questions on the motivation for his stand. Is it that Correa feels that he has little to lose if the whole story comes out because the facts will vindicate him? If he felt that Ecuador would be in any way be compromised as a result of full disclosure, why would he drill away at the incident?

Both Colombia’s President Uribe and Venezuela’s President Chávez have exhibited conflicting attitudes over downgrading the exposure being given to the present confrontation between Bogotá and Caracas. At times, they throw gasoline at the fire, while at other times, they seemingly attempt to snuff out the flame. President Correa, however, has never relented on his insistence that Colombia not only make restitutions for the cross border incursion, but also apologize for Bogotá’s current media campaign and allegations against his country.

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?
Prepared by COHA Research Associate Erina Uozumi
• Administration not bothering to conceal implicit threat to the region

• After ignoring Latin America for most of his Presidency, Bush dispatches the Navy

• The steady remilitarization of Panama may provide a safe haven for the revitalized fleet

• FTA with Panama could grant U.S. access to canal zone military facility for Fourth Fleet

• 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 Rise of an Autonomous Latin America During a Period of U.S. Neglect:

While Washington has been involved in the Middle East, a number of Latin American governments have been enjoying a degree of de facto freedom from the State Department’s traditionally pervasive influence. This has given regional policymakers the opportunity to implement economic models, trade patterns and ideological commitments contrary to the liking of the U.S. Certainly, Venezuela’s Chavez stands out as the most energized and driven anti-U.S. regional leader, easily outranking Castro’s Cuba in regards to their contemporary influence. Not without his critics, the boldness of Chavez’s challenge to U.S. hemispheric supremacy and his willingness to duke it out mano-a-mano with the most powerful country in the world has aided his ascent to becoming a pivotal hemispheric leader. The surge in crude oil prices worldwide that began soon after Chávez took office, vaulting from $8 in 1998 to over $130 a barrel has today allowed him to implement an aggressive and foreseeing foreign trade and aid policy. Chávez single-handedly upgraded Venezuela’s military by using surplus petro-dollars to purchase large quantities of sophisticated Russian and Spanish military hardware.

In an apparent victory for Washington diplomacy, the socialist Chilean diplomat José Manuel Insulza was elected in 2005 to head the Organization of American States. Initially supporting the State Department’s perspective on trade strategy, he, in practice, asserted himself as a fairly reliable defender of Latin American autonomy. In 2006, Venezuela had fought a determined campaign against Washington favorite, Guatemala, to gain a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. To the dismay of both countries, a relatively “neutral” Panama eventually won the seat. While Washington campaigned to prevent Caracas from being seated, countries with compromised international standing such as Libya and Iran were chosen by their regional caucuses to the Security’s Council’s 2007-2009 term, without concerted U.S. opposition, indicating a lack of consistency in U.S. policy.

The Region’s Array of Ideologies and Balance of Forces:

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:
The inattention to Latin America by the Bush Administration has created a debacle in recent years. The White House and the State Department did not place seasoned Latin Americanists at the top of the policymaking ladder. In spite of his Jamaican descent, for example, Colin Powell never demonstrated a strong interest in the region as Secretary of State. During Powell’s term, policy initiatives regarding Cuba were left almost exclusively to Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich, U.S. Diplomat Roger Noriega, and United States Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte. These Cold War-era hawks continued to center regional policy on a decidedly anti-Cuban bias, while focusing a comparably hostile posture toward Hugo Chavez. Visits to the Latin America by U.S. leaders including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice from April 25-30, 2005 to Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and El Salvador; President Bush in March 2007 to Brazil; and by then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to Paraguay in April 2005, tended to be photo opportunities that did little to improve relations in any significant manner..

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:
The revived Fourth Fleet will be headquartered at the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) base at Mayport Naval Station in Florida. Rear Admiral Joseph Kernan, current commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, will direct it when it becomes operational on July 1, 2008. The degree of integration among the Fourth Fleet, SOUTHCOM, the U.S. Coast Guard and other Homeland Security agencies in carrying out discreet operations in the area of anti-terrorism remains to be seen. The precise size of the fleet is also unclear. An April 24 Bloomberg report mentions that the fleet will be lead by the nuclear aircraft carrier, USS George Washington. SOUTHCOM presently has eleven vessels that could potentially be placed under the authority of the Fourth Fleet. The head of SOUTHCOM, Admiral James G. Stavridis, is also a ranking naval officer. The working relationship among fleet commanders in terms of coordinating forces and missions could prove to be problematic.

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.

Friendly Ports:

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 Martín 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 Chávez. 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 […] 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.

The Dispatch of the Fourth Fleet: A Turn to Style, not Substance – Washington’s Fourth Fleet initiative is mainly not a welcomed development in U.S. Latin American policy relations. While raising apprehensions of covert U.S. military and intelligence ranks to the armed forces of hemispheric leftist regimes, as voiced by Correa of Ecuador in April 2008, the Fleet’s presence could also lead to the diminishment local funding for broad social and humanitarian needs as Latin America’s defense establishments will seek to bolster their budgets in response to the growing threat posed by neighboring militaries which are building up their armed forces.

The return of gun boat diplomacy is only a confirmation to Latin America that the U.S. is unaware of some of the new realities as the region seeks out its destiny without the White House at its helm.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Director Larry Birns and Research Associate Aviva Elzufon
June 2nd, 2008


Posted on on December 25th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Subject: Christmas Eve we saw at The Metropolitan Opera “UN BALLO IN MASCHERA” then on Christmas Day we saw the new movie “CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR” and believe it or not – we saw in those two masterpieces echoes of the day.

First The UN BALLO – we saw there a United Nations on stage. Oscar – the king’s page – was a small but great lady from Korea; the king himself – King Gustavo III of Sweden – was an Italian-Swiss from neutral Bern, Switzerland – very good choices. The Viking looking Fortune Teller, Ulrica, was from unheard of Mongaup, New York State – some local caves seemingly; the honest Amelia was an American of color with a French name, was from Quincy, Illinois on the Mississippi: her husband, Captain Renato Anckarstroem, was obviously from Krasnoyarsk, Mid-Siberia, Russia; and her servant remained a secret in the “Program Notes” – so were the Chief Justice, and the two main rebel-Counts (Samuel and Tom) – all four of whom had tantalizing names seeming to originate from further corners of the world. We decided that the unknown might be more interesting then the known – so – as we are not going to be kept in the dark by lack of official information on four of the ten listed soloists, we looked up Google and found that:

Charles Anthony, playing Amelia’s servant, is a honorary member of Theatrical Stage Employees IATSE Local One in New York City, and is a Metropolitan Opera singer since 1954. Anthony has performed at the Met for 55 consecutive seasons, a record unparalleled in the annals of the company. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, as Charles Anthony Caruso, the child of immigrants from Sicily. Sir Rudolf Bing convinced him to drop his surname, saying that it would invite comparisons with Enrico Caruso.

The Judge is American on the Metropolitan Opera’s Roster – so you could say Mark Schowalter was sort of a host here, but additional two Baso counts are a Chinese, Hao Jiang Tian – at the Met, he was General Wang in Tan Dun’s world premiere of The First Emperor, opposite Placido Domingo in the title role, and Andrew Gangestad, born in South Korea, he was orphaned as a young child. “I was told that I was found in a city south of Seoul, then put in an orphanage,” he recalls. After stints in foster homes, Andrew was adopted at two years of age by an American couple living in Two Harbors, Minnesota, and given his name. The adoption was complicated by the fact that Andrew had tuberculosis. “I was taking medications for a year before I was allowed into the U.S.” Being Asian-born in a small Minnesota town “was extraordinary,” Gange-stad admits. But he quickly made friends and found his niche.

The BALLO plays out in Sweden and is based on a historical event – the king Gustavus III (the correct Swedish name) met his death at the hands of a political enemy during a masked ball at the Stockholm Opera House in 1792 – and even today, when visiting Stockholm, you are shown the location of the crime – it was not forgotten or forgiven. In 1833, the French dramatist Eugene Scribe wrote it up as a basis for a French Opera by Francois Auber, and then Giuseppe Verdi picked up the libretto and had Italian Antonio Somma adjust it so that it includes a love triangle. It had then its 1859 premiere at the Teatro Apollo in Rome.

The point of the opera as we saw it is that a best friend of the king is the one who kills the king because he believes that the king mislead his wife, Amelia, then to find out too late, that the king and Amelia were actually not guilty of deeds, but only harbored love in their hearts. in effect the king was just about to try to make good on the whole misunderstanding – but it did not work out.

Now, the king was not really bright and did not even learn from the predictions of the good witch Ulrica. He also did not remove from his court the two scheming counts that held grudges against him. The king thought he understands everything – so does he make you think of a today’s king that gets entangled with witches and the wrong courtiers, then ends up being perhaps a wrong victim?

Simply put – his affront was that he was too late understanding that perceptions become reality if you do not pursue an open course. Then, on Christmas eve it sounds like dispensing late love – though it was love nevertheless.

On Christmas Day we went to see CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR that is no less then the US covert involvement in Afghanistan that eased out the Soviets, and helped build the Taliban, that will then try to ease out the Americans from wherever they are. Now, this seems complicated, but like the BALLO – it is not all fiction – and it has its own reflection on the meaning of love and peace.

Congressman Charles Wilson, a Democrat, was representing in US Congress the 2nd District of Texas, 1973-1997, during the Reagan Republican years. That was the time of the Cold War, and the US was very careful not to turn it into a “Hot War.” Wilson first entered politics as a teenager by running for office in his home town of Trinity. He lived next door to city official Charles Hazard. When Charlie Wilson was thirteen, his dog, Teddy, got into his neighbor’s yard. Hazard retaliated by mixing crushed glass into the dog’s food, causing fatal internal bleeding. This led Wilson to decide to run for office against his neighbor in the next election. Being a farmer’s son, he was able to get a driving permit at thirteen, which enabled him to drive 96 voters from poor neighborhoods to the polls. That included black voters that never voted before. As they left the car, he told each of them that incumbent Hazard killed his dog. After winning by a margin of sixteen votes, Charlie went to his neighbor’s house to inform him of his victory and to tell him he shouldn’t poison any more dogs.

As an adult he joined the navy, and stayed out of politics until he was moved to volunteer for the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign. In 1960 he took a 30 days’ leave from the Navy, and entered his name into the race for Texas state representative from his home district. This action was against the regulations of the Navy, as service members are prohibited from holding a public office while on active duty. While back on duty, his family and friends went door to door campaigning. In 1961, at age 27, he was sworn into office in Austin, Texas.

For the next 12 years, Wilson made his reputation in the Texas legislature as the “liberal from Lufkin,” viewed with suspicion by business interests. He battled for the regulation of utilities, fought for Medicaid, tax exemptions for the elderly, the Equal Rights Amendment and a minimum wage bill. He was also one of the few prominent Texas politicians to be pro-choice on abortion. Wilson was also notorious for his personal life, particularly drinking, picking up the nickname “Good Time Charlie.”

In 1972, Wilson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Second District of Texas, taking office the following January. He was re-elected 11 times, but was not a candidate for reelection to the 105th Congress, and resigned October 8, 1996 – that is before the election that made George Bush, the father, the 41st US President.

Charlie Wilson was a playboy, and lots of spicy stories were hanging around his neck – some had to do with corruption, and one strange topic was derived from his backing of the Somoza government in Nicaragua. One such chain of events included Wilson arranging a meeting between Somoza and Ed Wilson of the CIA. Ed Wilson offered to form a 1000-man force of ex-CIA operatives to fight on Somoza’s behalf. The meeting broke down when Somoza fondled Tina Simons, Charlie Wilson’s girlfriend at the time. The deal also proved impossible because Ed Wilson asked Somoza for $100 million to pay for the force.

But Charlie had also the reputation of being a straight shooter, and of keeping his promises – so unleashing bright and pretty females against him could lead to action on the two very important committees he chaired in the Democratic Congress, at the time of a Republican President, on foreign relations and on military affairs. This clearly included his in with the CIA. This kind of reality makes for good cinematic background – but today I prefer to remember that it also can lead to a soft and kind heart when having to take decisions after seeing real misery.

On an official US Government site we found the following: “In the early summer of 1980, Wilson read an Associated Press dispatch on the congressional wires that described hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Afghanistan. Few, however, were paying attention, even in the American government. According to his biographer, George Crile, Wilson placed a call to a member of the US Congressional Appropriations Committee who dealt with ‘black appropriations’ (CIA funds) and ordered a twofold increase in the appropriation for Afghanistan. {we found that this was the peanuts contribution of $10 million increased from $5 million} Wilson had just been named to the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, part of a small group of 12 people in the House responsible for funding CIA operations, and thus had the authority to make such an order.

This would not be the last time for Wilson to greatly increase the CIA budget for its Afghan operation. In 1983, he won the approval of $40 million more, with $17 million especially earmarked for anti-aircraft weapons that could take down Soviet Mil Mi-24 helicopters, known as the “Hind,” that caused heavy damage and casualties to the Afghan Mujahideen. The following year, Wilson was approached directly by CIA officer Gust Avrakotos, who, breaking the CIA’s rule against lobbying Congress for money, asked Wilson for $50 million more. Wilson agreed to the increase and convinced his colleagues in Congress by saying that “The U.S. had nothing whatsoever to do with these people’s decision to fight … But we’ll be damned by history if we let them fight with stones.” Wilson later succeeded in moving $300 million of unused Pentagon funds into the Afghan operation right before the end of the fiscal year. In this way, Wilson had a significant influence on the level of support the Afghan Mujahideen received from the United States.”

In the movie, it is the involvement of a rich and pretty Houston Billionaire Socialite and Republican powerhouse, Joanne Herring, later a sharp talk show hostess in real life, who brought to Houston President Zia of Pakistan and arranged for Charlie to go by himself to Pakistan and with the help of President Zia, he was then exposed to the misery of Afghan refugee streaming into the Northwest Tribal areas of Pakistan – this while the Republican Presidency had no interest whatsoever in recognizing this human misery. As we said – see not, hear not, talk not was the norm. Keep the Cold War cold by not having any US involvement was the key. The movie wants us to believe that it was nothing else but human compassion that drove Charlie to action – Ok, but this is really irrelevant – also the women around him had feelings of compassion and he had interest in them.

Now appears Gust Avrokotos who was twenty years earlier CIA station chief in Greece and vanquished the communist uprising there. Since then he was kept on ice in Virginia – he wanted relevance again. He was a rough guy and they did not put him into the diplomatic service. He and Wilson managed together to engineer the covert activities in Afghanistan – run by the CIA and out of Wilson’s committees. The Afghans were ready to fight the Soviets, what they needed were the weapons. Those weapons could not be American by White House rules, so the best would be Russian weapons that can be obtained if a covert alliance between the CIA, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan can be concocted. So, with all sides holding their noses and hiding the actions from becoming public, the Russian tanks and helicopters were blown up with Russian stingers. And you guessed it – that was all organized and funded with Charlie’s help.

Now why does this make a Christmas story?

(1) First, there was in it at the beginning a line of humanity – don’t let the Cold War kill! Just think of Darfur of today – nothing was learned – we again see a US that refuses to get involved and we see no indication that there is an embedded Charlie at work there. The US Presidential envoy in charge of Darfur has just resigned this week and was replaced by a political insider.

(2) There is a story in the movie towards the end – Avrakotos tells Charlie about an Afghan village that was given a beautiful horse. One good looking lad gets the horse. One man says – look what a nice horse and see that nice lad. The other says – We shall see! Then, days later the lad falls of the horse and breaks a leg. The first man says – what a pity! The Second and seemingly wiser man says – we shall see!

Next there is warfare in the area and all healthy men go to fight and get killed – the first man says what a pity! The second man says – we shall see! The lesson is that like it – the Afghan story has not ended there.

(3) Avrokotos predicts – Afghanistan was left full with young people – when they get back to the destroyed villages they are full with hatred. They know now how to fight – they do not know that the US tried to help them – they turn their anger on the US.

(4) Charlie may have been a lout – but he had heart – he played no games. So what if he was a women’s man?

How do we try now to extricate the US from a miserable situation?

What is the meaning of morality?

What is the real love for country and humanity?

How do you channel energy to come to some results?

What did you do for the holiday?

What did the UN do lately?


tagged as: UN, US, Ban Ki-moon, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Billary, Reagan.


Posted on on July 10th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Chavez: Iranian Penetration of Latin America Spreading – Amir Mahdi Kazemi (VHeadline-Venezuela)
In an interview with Iran’s Press TV, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said:
“Iranian technology and industries are now being used in Venezuela, Venezuelan technicians are trained in Iran       and                                                                                                                                     Iranian experts are training them in Venezuela.”
“Iran and Bolivia are talking over having the same relations with Bolivia. The same happened in the case of Nicaragua.”
“The relations between Iran and Venezuela have an impact on the whole world.”