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Posted on on March 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

Professor Timmons Roberts and I would like to share with you our new policy paper published by Brookings Institution on Chinese-Latin American relations in a carbon constrained world.

The paper can be downloaded here:


Best wishes,
Guy Edwards
Below we include the executive summary: 
China’s rapidly increasing investment, trade and loans in Latin America may be entrenching high-carbon development pathways in the region, a trend scarcely mentioned in policy circles. High-carbon activities include the extraction of fossil fuels and other natural resources, expansion of large-scale agriculture and the energy-intensive stages of processing natural resources into intermediate goods. 


This paper addresses three examples, including Chinese investments in Venezuela’s oil sector and a Costa Rican oil refinery, and Chinese investment in and purchases of Brazilian soybeans. We pose the question of whether there is a tie between China’s role in opening up vast resources in Latin America and the way those nations make national climate policy and how they behave at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. 


China and Latin America have a critical role to play to ensure progress is made before the 2015 deadline, since they together account for approximately 40 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Several Latin American nations are world leaders in having reached high levels of human development while emitting very low levels of greenhouse gases. Several have publicly committed to ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Staying on or moving to low-carbon pathways is critical for these countries, but substantial Chinese investments in natural resources and commodities—when combined with those of other nations and firms—run the risk of taking the region in an unsustainable direction.


Chinese investments and imports of Latin American commodities may be strengthening the relative power of political and commercial domestic constituencies and of “dirty” ministries (e.g. ministries of mining, agriculture or energy) vis-à-vis environmental and climate change ministries and departments. These “cleaner” ministries are traditionally weak and marginalized actors in the region. China may thus be inadvertently undermining Latin American countries’ attempts to promote climate change policies by reinforcing and strengthening actors within those countries and governments that do not prioritize climate change and who have often seen environmental efforts as an impediment to economic growth.


China has stated that it is interested in cooperating with Latin America on combating climate change, but official bilateral or multilateral exchanges on the issue outside of the UNFCCC negotiations have been limited. Both China and Latin America could benefit substantially by refocusing on opportunities for low-carbon growth such as renewable energy. China’s growing influence in global renewable energy markets presents excellent opportunities to invest in clean energy in Latin America.


China and Latin American countries could launch a climate change initiative through the newly created China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum, focused on financing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, energy and transport, as well as sharing technology and strategies for adapting to climate impacts. Chinese-Latin American relations should also mainstream environmental protection and low-carbon sustainable growth into their partnership, to avoid pushing countries in the region towards high-carbon pathways.

Research FellowCenter for Environmental Studies
Co-Director of the Climate and Development Lab

Brown University
Box 1943
135 Angell Street
Providence, RI 02912



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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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



Posted on on February 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.


by Op-Ed Columnist of The New York Times

With Russia growling over the downfall of its ally running Ukraine and still protecting its murderous ally running Syria, there is much talk that we’re returning to the Cold War — and that the Obama team is not up to defending our interests or friends. I beg to differ. I don’t think the Cold War is back; today’s geopolitics are actually so much more interesting than that. And I also don’t think President Obama’s caution is entirely misplaced.

The Cold War was a unique event that pitted two global ideologies, two global superpowers, each with globe-spanning nuclear arsenals and broad alliances behind them. Indeed, the world was divided into a chessboard of red and black, and who controlled each square mattered to each side’s sense of security, well-being and power. It was also a zero-sum game, in which every gain for the Soviet Union and its allies was a loss for the West and NATO, and vice versa.

That game is over. We won. What we have today is the combination of an older game and a newer game. The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today “is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins.

The first category would be countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea, whose leaders are focused on building their authority, dignity and influence through powerful states. And because the first two have oil and the last has nukes that it can trade for food, their leaders can defy the global system and survive, if not thrive — all while playing an old, traditional game of power politics to dominate their respective regions.

The second category, countries focused on building their dignity and influence through prosperous people, includes all the countries in Nafta, the European Union, and the Mercosur trade bloc in Latin America and Asean in Asia. These countries understand that the biggest trend in the world today is not a new Cold War but the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution. They are focused on putting in place the right schools, infrastructure, bandwidth, trade regimes, investment openings and economic management so more of their people can thrive in a world in which every middle-class job will require more skill and the ability to constantly innovate will determine their standard of living. (The true source of sustainable power.)

But there is also now a third and growing category of countries, which can’t project power or build prosperity. They constitute the world of “disorder.” They are actually power and prosperity sinks because they are consumed in internal fights over primal questions like: Who are we? What are our boundaries? Who owns which olive tree? These countries include Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and other hot spots. While those nations focused on state power do play in some of these countries — Russia and Iran both play in Syria — the states that are more focused on building prosperity are trying to avoid getting too involved in the world of disorder. Though ready to help mitigate humanitarian tragedies there, they know that when you “win” one of these countries in today’s geopolitical game, all you win is a bill.

Ukraine actually straddles all three of these trends. The revolution there happened because the government was induced by Russia, which wants to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence, into pulling out of a trade agreement with the European Union — an agreement favored by the many Ukrainians focused on building a prosperous people. This split has also triggered talk of separatism by the more Russian-speaking and Russian-oriented eastern part of Ukraine.


So what do we do? The world is learning that the bar for U.S. intervention abroad is being set much higher. This is due to a confluence of the end of the Soviet Union’s existential threat, the experience of investing too many lives and $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan to little lasting impact, America’s rising energy independence, our intelligence successes in preventing another 9/11 and the realization that to fix what ails the most troubled countries in the world of disorder is often beyond our skill set, resources or patience.

In the Cold War, policy-making was straightforward. We had “containment.” It told us what to do and at almost any price. Today, Obama’s critics say he must do “something” about Syria. I get it. Chaos there can come around to bite us. If there is a policy that would fix Syria, or even just stop the killing there, in a way that was self-sustaining, at a cost we could tolerate and not detract from all the things we need to do at home to secure our own future, I’m for it.

But we should have learned some lessons from our recent experience in the Middle East: First, how little we understand about the social and political complexities of the countries there; second, that we can — at considerable cost — stop bad things from happening in these countries but cannot, by ourselves, make good things happen; and third, that when we try to make good things happen we run the risk of assuming the responsibility for solving their problems, a responsibility that truly belongs to them.




Posted on on February 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


COHA Statement on the Ongoing Stress in Venezuela

By: Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), Washington DC.
Contributor: Lauren Foiles, Research Associate at COHA.


The general position of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) on the ongoing developments in Venezuela is that Washington has a misguided policy toward the South American country.


Moreover, Washington’s Venezuelan policy directly conflicts with the rest of Latin America’s thinking on the subject. This gap may cost the already diplomatically embattled U.S. in the near future when it comes to improving its already damaged image in the Americas as well as its diplomatic ties with Venezuela’s allies, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba and Ecuador.


Who Creates Washington’s Policy Towards Caracas?


In the current extremely tense atmosphere, it would seem that the White House is much more likely to respond with favor to a growing Venezuelan exile group in Florida than to a growing Latino community who want the Obama administration to bring about real and progressive change to the inter-American system.


Back in November, Secretary of State John Kerry famously declared in a speech at the Organization of American States that: “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” The situation in Venezuela is a real-life test for Washington to demonstrate that Secretary Kerry’s historical declaration will be followed through, unlike the December 1933 Montevideo Convention.


Three Expelled U.S. Diplomats


Right now a question revolves around whether the Venezuelan government had sufficient grounds to issue the recall instructions against three U.S. officials to be ejected from Caracas.


On Sunday evening, February 16, President Maduro announced the expulsion of three U.S. Embassy officials from Venezuela. Maduro’s decision was followed by a statement released on Monday from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Elías Jaua, who declared that the consular officials had 48 hours to vacate the country. The announcement comes after the U.S. State Department voiced concerns over the growing violence in Caracas with the department spokeswoman, Marie Harf stating on Saturday, “We are deeply concerned by rising tensions, by the violence surrounding this February 12 protest and by the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.”


Jaua stated that the Embassy officials had been visiting universities under the false pretenses of granting students with visas, however he charged that “at bottom that is a cover to establish contacts with leaders who they recruit for training, for financing and the creation of youth organizations through which violence is promoted in Venezuela.” This most recent expulsion mirrors those of September 2013 when Maduro announced on state-run VTV that he was expelling three U.S. Diplomats, similarly charging that, “They have 48 hours to leave the country…Get out of Venezuela…Yankee go home. Enough abuses already.” This marks the third time in less than a year that President Maduro has expelled American diplomats under the allegations of supporting opposition factions to insight a coup. While the names of the three-expelled diplomats have yet to be released, the U.S. State Department has publicly and adamantly denied the accusations. Meanwhile, the Twitter account of the U.S. embassy in Venezuela continues to be active and has tweeted that it will continue to operate normally and has no plans to suspend operations.


The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, like much of the international community, awaits the release of factual evidence to support the consular officials’ expulsion. Until such time, only speculations can be made about the validity of the administrations’ statements and whether or not the expulsions are justifiable. Even without evidence, it is far from outlandish to speculate that American institutions are using their chartered mandates as a guise to intervene in internal politics.


 In Alan McPherson’s “The Encyclopedia of U.S. Military Interventions in Latin America” the author goes into detail about the prevalence of, most notably, extending U.S. power militarily through local actors, citing the CIA-led coup against Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, the response to Cuba from 1956 on, the intervention in the Dominican Republic of 1965-1966, the support for Pinochet’s coup against Allende in Chile in 1973, and the invasion of Grenada in 1983 among others. In a historical context, Maduro’s charges do in fact follow a pattern of U.S intervention in Latin American politics.


Furthermore, no one can easily deny that consular officials (from the U.S. or other powers) repeatedly have been used to transmit intelligence material to both sides for spying and liaison missions.  COHA’s Director Larry Birns recollects visiting the U.S. embassy in Venezuela in the 1970s. “There would be this wall with photos of embassy personnel and their diplomatic titles, like ‘agricultural attaché.’ I can assure you none of the so-called attaches I met had ever seen a plow in their lives.”


This historical record and suspicions notwithstanding, COHA still urges the Venezuelan government to conduct an impartial investigation into the expulsions, however utopian a request that may be. Impartial investigation aside, one thing is certain: the expulsions will serve as political fire for both the opposition and Chavista, pro-government factions alike. Critics of the government have often pointed to Maduro’s efforts to provoke crises with the U.S. as a “diversionary conflict” method to distract citizens from the dismal realities of the state’s economic shortcomings, as they are certain to continue to do with this instance. Likewise, pro-government supporters and the Maduro administration will use the expulsion as evidence that they are willing to take action against the U.S. for again meddling in the politics of a sovereign Latin American nation. 


A Conspiracy Theory?


At the time of this writing, there  is bizarre, and apparently false, news floating around the internet regarding a potential U.S. military operation in Venezuela.  Arizona Senator John McCain is being quoted as stating that the U.S. could (or rather should) prepare a military operation in Venezuela and that it can ask U.S. allies in the region, namely Colombia and Peru, to create some kind of multinational coalition a la Iraq or Afghanistan. A report apparently accredited to the Agence France Presse and Xinhua (a Chinese news agency),  allegedly quotes Senator McCain making these declarations in an interview with NBC.


COHA has tried to independently verify these alleged statements and they appear to be false. A recent interview with Senator McCain  on  CNN’s  The Jake Tapper Show, focuses  primarily on the situation in Ukraine. There is a brief 30-second segment in which Senator McCain discusses Venezuela, but at no point does he talk about military intervention.


Moreover, the articles and blog posts where these alleged statements by the Arizona congressman appear are all in Spanish. COHA has not found any major news media outlet, be it in English or Spanish which confirm these statements.


COHA has contacted Senator McCain’s office in Washington D.C. to confirm the veracity of these allegations. Upon calling the senator’s office, we were asked by Press Secretary Rachael Dean to email links to the articles in Spanish that COHA’s research team found. The response to our email stated that “the quote is not accurate” and directed us to Senator McCain’s interview on CNN.


Given the gravity of these alleged statements, COHA calls for caution. Articles and blog posts quoting or paraphrasing the quotes are spreading throughout the internet,  most prominently on Twitter, despite the lack of verification on the matter.




The Council on Hemispheric Affairs urges the State Department to declare its respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty and respect the results of the 2013 elections which, while certainly polarizing, were democratic.


Certainly, taking this diplomatic stance does not equate to neutrality, as the anti-Chavista factions would like to see regime change. Hopefully, President Maduro’s pledge that he is open to dialogue with the opposition is not a hollow one. COHA eagerly encourages all sides (the government as well as opposition groups) to refrain from further violence.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


NSA Official Offers Amnesty Deal to Edward Snowden

By Agence France-Presse, 15 December 2013

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

Related Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted on on July 28th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

The reports say that at the final event on Copacabana beach there were THREE MILLION PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE.…

With pope in Rio, sin-city revelry yields to piety.

By Juan Forero, Published: July 27, 2013 for The Americas in The Washington Post

IN RIO DE JANEIRO — Temptation is obvious everywhere — there are the beaches and the bikinis, the sultry samba beat and, as even the visiting Pope Francis cautioned in a memorable quip, the local sugar-cane-based liquor, cachaca, which packs a wallop.

Rio’s enthralling attributes weren’t lost on Carlos Carrillo, a 37-year-old American pilgrim who said he was well aware of the place’s ribald reputation before he arrived here for the pope’s first overseas journey. “This is sin city,” said Carrillo, a cargo screener who traveled with seven other Catholics from his California parish.

But during the pontiff’s visit, which ends Sunday with a final Mass on the usually hedonistic Copacabana beach, the bawdy Rio of samba nightclubs and Carnival gave way to a different kind of festival. That would be the week-long annual World Youth Day, a gathering of young Catholics from around the globe who this year came to Brazil to renew their faith with Francis at the dawn of his papacy.

Think of it as Woodstock for Catholics, minus Jimi Hendrix, the free love and the marijuana.

“Show your love for Christ,” Francis exhorted, and they have, coming from nearly 180 countries to atone for sins and strengthen their bond with the Church. That they are doing it in Rio — a city world-famous for its wild and often drunken revelry, which has earned it the church’s censure over the years — at first might seem to be a contradiction.

But while Rio may be known for luring partygoers, it also has long attracted missionaries, preachers and all manner of Christian soldiers who know they’ll find folks in need of spiritual cleansing here — sinners of every stripe. The proof is in the elaborate evangelical churches in the city, among the world’s biggest, the myriad soapbox preachers and the strong presence of the Catholic Church.

“Biblically speaking, Christ always goes to the darkest places,” Carrillo said. “The way I see it, he’s reeling in people, in that sense.”

Many young Catholics said they came to focus on their faith, not Rio’s enticements. Camila Lara, 18, from Parana state in Brazil’s south, said she was especially drawn by the chance to show contrition, made easy here by the Catholic Church’s “we’ll come to you” strategy.

She asked for forgiveness, like many others, at Rio’s Quinta da Boa Vista Park, where priests and the pope listened to penitents in makeshift confessionals (Francis heard from three Brazilians, a Venezuelan and an Italian).

“Sincerely, for me, it was the best confession I ever had,” Lara said.

For the Rev. Antoine d’Eudeville, a priest from Paris who heard confessions in the park, it was an unusually gratifying experience. He had just heard the pope speak Friday night from an elaborate stage on the beach at Copacabana and was reflecting on a spirited week packed with religious events.

“For us priests, it’s a special time, because it’s not usual to have young people come to us asking for forgiveness,” d’Eudeville said. “Some people don’t go for years.”

Indeed, a recent poll on religious trends in Brazil showed that, among Catholics, 48 percent had not been to church even once in the last month, another blow for a church that once had a virtual lock on the Brazilian soul. Also sobering was the revelation that fewer than 45 percent of Brazilians between the ages of 16 and 24 identify themselves as Catholics.

But with Francis here, the Catholic Church reigns supreme — at least for now — with organizers estimating that 2 million people flooded the beach at Copacabana on Saturday night to see the pope, the Associated Press reported. That is twice as many as were on hand during the last world youth day, in Madrid two years ago.

D’Eudeville, in fact, commented on how Catholicism in Brazil seems to be so much “more a part of people’s lives, more so than in France.”

He was especially moved, he said, by the young Catholics seeking absolution. “Young people here are strengthened in their faith, in their trust in God,” he said. “They dare go to confession and go to a priest and say heavy things, unload heavy burdens.”

Young Catholics interviewed in the streets of Copacabana, their countries’ flags draped across their shoulders, said they were heeding the pontiff’s message. And Francis, who has been lauded for his plain-spoken ways, told his followers: “Jesus never tires of forgiving us.”

“Everyone’s a sinner,” said Denise Ramos, 22, a university student from Brasilia, the capital. “It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You can always confess. You can always come closer to God.”

Ramos did, and she said it made her feel “relief.”

“I feel very pure,” she said, standing on a street corner, surrounded by friends nodding in agreement. “I feel almost lighter.”

Ramos, like other college-age visitors to one of the world’s great cities, said she’s well aware of Rio’s secular offerings.

“I’ve been already to Lapa and bars there,” she said, referring to the famous downtown district and its samba clubs. “But going to samba concerts doesn’t mean that I’m a sinner.”

Young Catholics, she said, need to find an equilibrium between religion and the pleasures of youth. “We need to know how to do this, know how to live in the world of today without abandoning being Catholics,” she said.

The organizers seem to have recognized that. So people who went to Copacabana to see an elaborate reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion presided over by Francis could also hear Catholic rock bands jam on the sand.

The faithful also took in the sights. Carrillo, the cargo screener from California, recounted a tour to the Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio’s white-sand beaches and its eclectic neighborhoods.

A friend of his from California, Miguel Galindo, 19, nodded in agreement.

“The way I see it,” he said, “Rio has the right balance. You have your fun, and you have your spirituality.”


Posted on on July 19th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Future of U.S. Surveillance

NSA Revelations an Opportunity for United States and Brazil.

Julia E. Sweig

Although revelations of NSA spying provoked an angry reaction last week in Brazil, the United States and Brazil should treat the crisis as an opportunity. Read the Op-Ed…

Meekly – the CFR said:

We are now three months away from President Dilma’s state visit to Washington. For the last few years, the big unfinished items on the bilateral agenda have been trade and the Security Council. Not so defense.

A defense cooperation agreement signed in 2010, even as tension over Iran might well have thwarted it, has created some profitable long term opportunities for Brazilian and American defense firms to enter one another’s markets. Progress in this space is remarkable, if for some uncomfortable, given the history of mutual suspicion when it comes to security affairs.

Now the arena of cyber security and internet governance—sovereign and global—also has the potential to create some very interesting presidential conversations about the tensions these two leaders face between privacy, human rights, civil liberties and security, and about the differences and potential synergies in our cultures of innovation and industrial policy. The topic also opens a door into the global personalities of the two countries, in this case regarding the merits and demerits of multilateral institutions for governing the internet.

Finally, are there any lessons to be learned regarding South America and regional security? Brazil’s experience with SIVAM is an example not only of extensive cooperation and technology sharing between Brazil and the United States—in this case via the defense giant Raytheon—but also an instance wherein Brazil seems to have avoided provoking its neighbors with a sovereign surveillance system, the potential impact of which need not be limited to Brazil’s territorial borders. Although the parallels are imperfect, it might be instructive for the presidents of the two biggest democracies in the Americas to recall the positive SIVAM experience when having the inevitable heart to heart about the NSA disclosures.”

The issue is what will be said behind closed doors and how the US will explain that massive surveillance that clearly had nothing to do with security?


Will Snowden Come Between United States and Latin America?

Christopher Sabatini

Recent revelations about U.S. surveillance activities in Latin America have provoked a range of negative responses from regional leaders, but the practical consequences will be marginal. Read the Interview…

Recent leaks reveal that U.S. surveillance programs extended into Latin America, going beyond security and military affairs into commercial enterprises as well. How surprising is this?

It’s surprising that in most of the cases, the United States was spying on some of its closest allies in the region. Mexico, Colombia, Brazil—these weren’t places that were hotbeds of terrorism or where we were even spying or gathering information on matters of terrorism. If proven true, [the allegations] reveal that we were gathering information that extended beyond the supposed justification for the NSA program.

Second, while all countries spy on each other, what’s different is the type of spying. We were massively collecting information, potentially even on their citizens communicating with each other. That has triggered an understandable reaction from these governments for the United States to explain what it was doing. This isn’t government-to-government spying, or even government spying on people they suspect could place our national interests at risk. This is casting a very wide net both in terms of the people whose information is being collected and also the topics around which it’s being collected. If proven to be true, this surveillance may very much violate the U.S. congressional justification under which a lot of this had occurred. A third surprising element, if proven true, is that the United States was doing this with the complicity of telecom companies in Brazil—though the U.S. ambassador to Brazil denies these reports.

Some critics have accused some of these countries of hypocrisy for denouncing the United States, because they have their own domestic wiretapping programs. So to what extent is this about privacy, or are the reactions more about sovereignty?

First, there was a lot of heated rhetoric from some leaders even before the allegations came out—about the asylum-seeking, about the unfortunate grounding of President Morales’s plane—that goes far beyond the legitimate concerns of what the spying actually entailed. That rhetoric spilled over in ways that are not very constructive, to the point where you even had Mercosur, a trade association, promise to pull its ambassadors out of Europe—a move that goes far beyond the actual functions of a supposed customs union.

Additionally, two presidential summits have been dedicated to this in Latin America—the Unasur summit that brought together [Rafael] Correa, [Nicolas] Maduro, and [Cristina] Kirchner to denounce the grounding of Evo Morales’s plane, and then Mercosur. It seems disproportionate that so much of these presidents’ time, especially in countries that are facing very severe economic news, would be dedicated to this at a summit level. That’s unprecedented when compared to other regions.

Second, it is largely a sovereignty issue. For a number of these countries, the memories of authoritarian regimes spying on citizens, rounding up activists and opposition, are still very fresh. [Brazilian president] Dilma Rousseff was tortured and detained during the military regime. Mexico dissidents and leaders were also spied on by the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] before 2001. The reactions need to be understood in that sense.

The other thing is, yes, the United States has helped some of these countries set up surveillance programs. Washington was instrumental in helping Colombia set up the programs it uses to monitor FARC [paramilitary group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], but the United States has always tried to separate those efforts from spying on citizens for political reasons. But once the equipment and know-how has been turned over, anything can happen. That’s what we’ve seen in the case of Panama, for example, where it became known fairly early on that the government has a tendency to eavesdrop on perceived political opponents. That’s where we do need to understand that the alleged NSA revelations are a different kettle of fish. In some ways, it’s “they’re our citizens; we get to spy on them, but you don’t.”

Are there clear distinctions in the ways that Latin American countries have reacted?

There is a range of differences: some reactions are serious, some are performative, and some are simply taking advantage of this. In countries that have taken this as a serious matter—Mexico, Colombia, and Chile—there has been that level of “let’s get to the bottom of it,” couched within a legitimate sense of national sovereignty and protecting their citizens. And the responses have been delivered [to the United States] through diplomatic channels.

In between, you have countries like Brazil, which, for reasons perhaps very much tied to recent history, has made moves outside the realm of typical diplomatic activity, and has called the U.S. ambassador to testify before the Brazilian congress.

Countries on the other end of this spectrum [Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua] were already trying to make hay even before the revelations, by offering asylum to Snowden, which, in some ways, has become somewhat of a red herring. Oddly enough, with the exception of Venezuela, those are not the countries where most of the alleged spying occurred. So it’s completely out of proportion to their level of legitimate victimization—with the exception of Morales’s plane getting grounded.

“[P]olitical leaders may use this for domestic political advantage, [but] it certainly doesn’t play as well as many think.”

Having said that, most citizens of these countries—and we see this in surveys—retain very positive views of the United States. As much as political leaders may use this for domestic political advantage, it certainly doesn’t play as well as many think. Popular opinions hinge much more on domestic issues. A classic example right now is that Rousseff’s popularity went from 57 percent to about 30 percent—that has to do with protests and unmet economic demands; that has nothing to do with spying. These reactions make for good political theater, but I’m not sure they make for good political campaigns.

Are there any concrete consequences for U.S.-Latin American relations? Rousseff recently said the leaks would not affect her planned October trip to Washington.

The practical implications will be minimal, in part because the United States has such a multifaceted relationship with these countries on everything from immigration to education, cultural exchanges, and economic ties. Those things reflect a very diverse relationship that goes far beyond the diplomatic government-to-government activities.

But there are two implications for U.S. relations in the region that are important. One is that the U.S. is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Latin America that will bring together economies from most of the Asia-Pacific region with Latin America, except for Colombia and Central America. When telecommunications comes down as one of the areas they are talking about, a lot of those negotiating parties are going to take a very close look at what’s in there and that there are safeguards that protect potential intervention and the flow of communication.

“The United States’ moral standing on being able to talk about issues like freedom of expression has taken a serious hit.”

The second is that the United States’ moral standing on being able to talk about issues like freedom of expression and access to information has taken a serious hit at a time when a number of countries are challenging domestic laws and regional norms concerning these very issues. That’s clearly why we see leaders like Correa, Maduro, Morales, [Nicaragua’s Daniel] Ortega—none of whom are paragons of freedom of expression—suddenly become these champions of transparency. It’s ironic, and it also means that the ability of the United States, and in some cases U.S.-based organizations, to speak out in some of these cases is going to be a little more difficult.

On the asylum requests from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, it does appear Snowden is trying to get to Latin America. What are realistic possibilities for him as far as ending up there?

I may be proven wrong on this, but I still find it to be a very difficult practical matter that he can find his way to these countries. As much as these leaders have been saying out loud that he is welcome if he can get there, none of them are actually offering to lend their presidential jets to fly him down. For now, it just remains an empty gesture.

[Furthermore,] these governments are elected, however imperfectly. Let’s imagine Snowden has a good, healthy lifespan. I find it hard to believe that a chavista government is going to stay in power in Venezuela for fifty years—the same goes for the Morales and Ortega governments. So [asylum in these countries] may provide him a temporary respite, but it’s no permanent guarantee. Sadly, he is being manipulated for international public opinion by these leaders, and who knows when he himself could become a bargaining chip?

What can the United States can do to ease tensions in the coming weeks?

This is going to be resolved quietly and diplomatically, as a couple of leaders have said—[Colombian president Juan Manuel] Santos has said this; [Mexican president Enrique] Pena Nieto implied the same. Explanations and sharing of details as to the extent of the [surveillance] program and the like hopefully will be addressed. Rather than engage in megaphone diplomacy with the generally aggrieved countries, the United States is handling this quietly. On the other matters of asylum and other things, I think the United States is just letting these countries engage in their own megaphone diplomacy, and when the dust settles, their rantings will probably not have amounted to much.


The Ongoing Domestic Debate.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought to justify controversial domestic surveillance programs amid pointed criticism from Congress and civil rights activists. Read the Backgrounder.…



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 June 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Report: Russia Offers Iran Alternative to S-300 Missile System

June 23, 2013 2:18 pm 0 comments

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his then-Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in 2011. Photo: FPM.

  Russia is attempting to avoid a multi-billion dollar lawsuit from Iran over a failed deal to supply S-300 missile systems by offering an alternative defense system, the Russian Kommersant daily reported Saturday.

The newspaper, citing unnamed sources in the Russian arms trade industry,  said the new offer on the table is for the Antei-2500, aka S-300VM. The missile defense system can simultaneously destroy up to 24 aircraft within a range of 200 kilometers or intercept up to 16 ballistic missiles.

Iran signed a contract with Russia in 2007 for five S-300 missile defense systems but the deal was scrapped in 2010 by then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was unilaterally expanding on sanctions against Iran imposed by the UN Security Council.




Iran filed a $4-billion lawsuit against Russia in the international arbitration court in Geneva, which is currently pending review.

Russia has been unable to have the lawsuit dismissed.

The country is already exporting the Antei-2500, having delivered two missile systems to Venezuela earlier this year, and sees the system as a good replacement for the S-300 system.


Posted on on March 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Fareed Zakaria, the anchor of the CNN/GPS Global Public Square Program – a journalist and much more – whose program we credited many times as the only program we recommend watching as  a religious commitment to the tube, has a very clear view of the world.

He knows that the dependence on Middle Eastern oil is at the base of all US problems – economical, social, and political – internal and external. From the gauging at the pump – to the political antics of the Brothers Koch.

He knows that the world is changing and US attention must switch to Asia from Europe, and secure its backyard by finding more ways to cooperate with Latin America. To be able to do that,  the US must start by cutting its umbilical cord to the Middle East. Yes, he knows this raises a lot of howls – from the Arabs who think they do a great favor to the US by selling their oil, and eventually from pro-Israel friends in the US that think Israel is still the baby that must be spoon fed rather then credited that it has matured and can be counted upon as a grown up ally. All this even before global warming/climate change is mentioned.

So far so good – and this seems completely correct.  But Fareed may tend to forget the advice scientists – his friends and my friends – give him.

They say – keep away from all fossil fuels, not just the Arab oil – and develop an infrastructure that is based first on energy that was not spent – the cheapest way to enlarge the resource base – and then do everything possible to introduce renewable sources of energy that are long term sustainable.
You will find – we say – that you do not have to wait for the long range, the so called externalities by the fossil fuels industry, when taken into account as expenditures, as they should be, assure us that the alternatives to burning oil and coal make already for sound economics in the medium range.

This weekend Fareed Zakaria backed the Keystone pipeline and the Canada tar-sand oil extraction in Alberta – which will supply that pipeline – this without taking into consideration that this simply plays into the hands of the US oil industry but is a total NO-NO to the seekers for a true alternative. If the idea is simply jobs – it might be reasonable perhaps just to give money to the unemployed without causing the environmental destruction that goes with that pipeline and with the extraction of the Canadian oil.

The moment he leaves the Keystone topic – Fareed returns to his best – the analysis of the evolving China, and of the new opportunities that opened up in Latin America with thr death of Hugo Chavez. Without Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, the US can attempt now a total reconfiguration of its strategy for its own hemisphere-base. Then, with its back more secure – it can extend a friendly hand to a changing China – a continental size, 1.3 billion people large State that is building with maximum speed the largest middle-class the world has ever seen. This new Chinese want quality of life and that they can achieve only by working in tandem with a secure United States. Everybody knows now that there is only one G-2 situation – disturbed now by the US in-fighting – but evident nevertheless to the incoming new Chinese leader.

The days that China had a tremendous labor cost advantage over the US seem to be over, instead they feel water and energy shortages that they must handle in ordr not to slip from their path of growth. They do a lot to phase in renewable energy at a pace that is reasonable to them and would appreciate the breezing space that the US leaves behind when the US decreases imports of oil from Western Asia.Chavez as a devil figure but judges him in context of his country and the region and is able to see the positive aspects of Chavez having taken over leadership in a continent that US governments totally neglected and US business helped destroy. Each Latin country has its own US business excesses to tell about, as coincidentally Iran does. That does not mean that anyone North of the Border will have anything good to say about Chavez or Ahmadi-Nejad, but here we talk needed policy and not sentiments – and Fareed always was ahead of the Washington decision-makers in this non-technical areas.
March 9th, 2013
11:41 PM ET

Why U.S. should back Keystone

By Fareed Zakaria

Watch the video for the full Take.

Later this year, the Obama administration will have to make a decision on whether to green light the Keystone pipeline – the 2,000-mile pipeline that would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure you’ve heard all the dire warnings about it. But another way to look at it is to ask what would happen if the project does not go forward.

The U.S. Department of State released an extremely thorough report that tries to answer this question. It concludes, basically, that the oil derived from Canadian tar sands will be developed at about the same pace whether or not there is a pipeline. In other words, stopping Keystone might make us feel good, but it wouldn’t really do anything about climate change.

Why? Well, given the need for oil in the U.S., Canadian producers would still get Alberta’s oil to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. There are other pipeline possibilities, but the most likely method of transfer is by train. The report estimates that it would take daily runs of 15 trains with about 100 tanker cars each to carry the amount planned by TransCanada…And remember, moving oil by train produces much higher emissions of CO2 (from diesel locomotives) than flowing it through a pipeline.

For more on this, read the TIME column here.

Post by:

Topics: GPS Show

March 9th, 2013
12:47 PM ET

On GPS Sunday: Debating Keystone, and what comes after Chavez?

“Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

On GPS this week, should the Keystone pipeline be allowed to go ahead? Fareed presents his take on the proposed oil pipeline, and then invites a dissenter onto debate the issue: Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

What does the future hold for Venezuela and the region with the passing of President Hugo Chávez? And what does it mean for U.S.-Venezuela relations? Fareed convenes a panel of thinkers including Moises Naim, a former minister of trade and industry in Venezuela, Rory Carroll, author of the new book Comandante, and Nikolas Kozloff, author of Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the United States.

“In the next few months and perhaps years, they would need to find international external scapegoats and scapegoats at home,” Naim says. “Someone will have to explain to the people that are now addressing President Chavez why the situation, their standard of living, has declined so dramatically. Someone will have to explain why, without Chavez, life is not as good as it used to be.”

And, China’s new president: How Xi Jinping will manage the world’s most important relationship – that with the United States? Fareed speaks with China watcher Evan Osnos.

Post by:

Topics: GPS Show

March 8th, 2013
11:12 AM ET

Meet China’s hardline new president

By François Godement, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: François Godement is a senior policy fellow and head of the China program at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.

This week’s National People’s Congress will complete China’s once-in-a decade leadership change, with Xi Jinping becoming the country’s new head of state. China’s partners, and above all Americans, want a China that is a predictable and reliable. After all, huge business interests require stable relations with China. And there is no doubt, China is becoming more powerful – it is not only present in most parts of the world, but has also become a determining factor in the international arena. We would all therefore love to see Mr Xi as a Chinese Gorbachev. But getting to know Xi’s real personality, and his likely style of governing, feels like Kremlinology. And what is emerging is worrying.

Xi is reputedly a charmer with an engaging and easygoing style. His wife is a famous singer, his daughter is quietly studying at Harvard. It is reported that he is even reluctant to embrace a luxurious lifestyle (although this does not appear to prevent some of his relatives from doing so). In public, Xi refrains from making controversial statements – an exception of course being the 2009 remark about the “full stomach” and the “constant finger pointing of Westerners” during a trip to Mexico.


Post by:

Topics: Asia • China • Foreign Policy

What comes after the ‘Great Unifier?’
March 8th, 2013
10:42 AM ET

What comes after the ‘Great Unifier?’

By Mark P. Jones, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mark P. Jones is the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and the Chair of the Department of Political Science at Rice University in Houston. The views expressed are his own.

Hugo Chávez was a great unifier.  Not of all Venezuelans, as even the most casual observer of Venezuela realizes, but rather of the two polar political camps into which Venezuela divided during Chávez’s 14 year reign.

Within the Bolivarian movement he created, Chávez was the unquestioned leader, bringing together the disparate factions that together made up the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).  Cliques, distinct ideological groups, varied regional-based interests, and a new wealthy business class (the Boliburguesía, whose members experienced a rise from rags to riches due to their ties to the government) were all united by their support – both principled and self-interested – for Chávez.

On the opposition side, the one common thread that tied together a heterogeneous opposition alliance (the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD) was the goal of removing Hugo Chávez from power.  This vibrant and often passionate opposition to Chávez provided the glue that held together such diverse actors as socialists, conservatives, state-based parties, recently established parties, and parties linked to the country’s discredited pre-Chávez political system.


Topics: Elections • Venezuela
March 7th, 2013
09:34 PM ET

What we’re reading

By Fareed Zakaria

U.S. wages have fallen from 53 percent of GDP in 1970 to less than 44 percent last year, notes Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.

“The most succinct way to measure how corporate earnings have fared vs. workers’ wages is to examine their share of the U.S. economy — that is, gross domestic product. From 1950 through the 1970s, corporate profits hovered in the range of 5 percent to 7 percent of GDP. They dipped as low as 3 percent in 1986, but since then have staged a long-term ascent that has brought them to 11 percent today, their highest level since World War II. (That’s as far back as Federal Reserve figures go.)”

“China’s large pool of surplus labor has fueled its rapid industrial growth. Now this demographic dividend may be almost exhausted,” argue Yukon Huang and Clare Lynch in Bloomberg.

“College graduates are four times as likely to be unemployed as urban residents of the same age with only basic education, even as factories go begging for semi-skilled workers. Given the underdeveloped service sector and still-large roles of manufacturing and construction, China has created a serious mismatch between skills of the labor force and available jobs.”



Posted on on March 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

We remembered the Wikipedia posting that first came to our attention when we discovered that we were listed a reference to it. Today we decided to bring it up because of the twin events – all of Latin America mourning the passing of Hugo Chavez, and the Heritage Foundation asking that the Obama Administration back the British claim to the Falkland Islands, because it is British colonialists that live now there, but under the “Las Malvinas” name are considered Argentinian territory by the States of Central and South America..

As such the following article by the Heritage Foundation does not make life of the United States any easier in its location at the Northern half of the Western Hemisphere. We are talking about the back of a United States being torn between Asia and Europe, and made insecure because of wrong moves in its own backyard. Hugo Chavez was a product of wrong US handling of its Southern neighbors, . and the Heritage Foundation posting does not try to make it easier for the US. Oh Well – we know – it is again about oil and the grabbing of resources as if they are there for the taking.


The United States Should Recognize British Sovereignty Over the Falkland Islands.
By Luke Coffey, Theodore R. Bromund, Ph.D. and Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
The Heritage Foundation, March 7, 2013.

In order to assert their inherent right to choose their own form of government, the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on March 10–11, 2013, to decide whether they wish to maintain their allegiance to Great Britain. Britain has administered the Islands peacefully and continuously since 1833, with the exception of the two months in 1982 when the Islands were invaded and illegally occupied by Argentine forces. The Obama Administration has backed Argentina’s calls for a U.N.-brokered settlement for the Islands and so far has refused to recognize the outcome of the referendum. This policy poses serious risks to U.S. interests and is an insult both to Britain—the U.S.’s closest ally—and to the rights of the Islanders.
To read more, the entire paper can be found here.


Pink tide

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pink tide (a derogatory phrase coined by US press used less commonly than the more clear Turn to the Left) is a term being used in contemporary 21st century political analysis in the media and elsewhere to describe the perception that Leftist ideology in general, and Left-wing politics in particular, are increasingly influential in Latin America.[1][2][3]

In 2005, the BBC reported that out of 350 million people in South America, three out of four of them lived in countries ruled by “left-leaning presidents” elected during the preceding six years.[2] According to the BBC, “another common element of the ‘pink tide’ is a clean break with what was known at the outset of the 1990s as the ‘Washington consensus‘, the mixture of open markets and privatisation pushed by the United States”.[2]

The Latin American countries viewed as part of this ideological trend have been referred to as “Pink Tide nations”.[4]


Use of the term

While being a relatively new coinage, the term “pink tide” has become prominent in contemporary discussion of Latin American politics. Origins of the term may be linked to a statement by Larry Rohter, a New York Times reporter in Montevideo who characterized the election of Tabaré Vázquez as leader of Uruguay as “not so much a red tide…as a pink one.”[3] The term seems to be a play on words based on “red tide” (a biological phenomenon rather than a political one) with “red” – a color long associated with communism – being replaced with the lighter tone of “pink” to indicate the more moderate communist and socialist ideas gaining strength.[5]

According to a 2006 press release from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization:

…the Washington rumbles with suppressed outrage over Latin America’s latest professions of its sovereignty – Bolivia‘s nationalization of its oil and natural gas reserves, and Ecuador and Venezuela‘s voiding of their energy contracts. At the same time, Bolivia’s newly inaugurated president, Evo Morales, is a prime candidate to join Washington’s pantheon of Latin American bad boys, presently represented by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. Meanwhile, the region’s new populist leadership, also known as the “Pink Tide”, extends its colors across South America and is poised to leap to much of the rest of Latin America. Ostensibly, the “pink tide”, consists of left-leaning South American governments seeking a third way to register their political legitimation to their citizens, as well as their autonomy regarding such foreign policy issues as Iraq.[6]

According to Diana Raby from Red Pepper Blog:

…with left-wing victories in Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, social and economic recovery in Cuba and popular advances elsewhere in the region, journalists are talking about “Latin America’s pink tide” and the region itself has become the forum for passionate debates on “Socialism of the 21st Century”.[7]

More recently one observer wrote that as “the so-called ‘Pink Tide’ sweeps through South America”, 2009 will probably see the election of Mauricio Funes in El Salvador.[8] However, despite the presence of a number of Latin American governments which profess to embracing a leftist ideology, it is difficult to categorize Latin American states “according to dominant political tendencies, like a red-blue post-electoral map of the United States.”[5] According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal non-profit think-tank based in Washington, D.C.:

…a deeper analysis of elections in Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Mexico indicates that the “pink tide” interpretation—that a diluted trend leftward is sweeping the continent—may be insufficient to understand the complexity of what’s really taking place in each country and the region as a whole.[5]

While this political shift is difficult to quantify, its effects are widely noticed. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, 2006 meetings of the South American Summit of Nations and the Social Forum for the Integration of Peoples demonstrated that certain discussions that “used to take place on the margins of the dominant discourse of neoliberalism, (have) now moved to the center of public debate.”[5]


The perception of the rising pink tide is heralded as welcome change by those sympathetic to the views its represents while those near the opposite end of the political spectrum identify it as a malignant influence. According to the latter:

The Bush administration, now led by the State Department’s Secretary Rice, and the Pentagon, by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, had no problem accusing these left leaning governments, led by Hugo Chávez, of being threats to the U.S. national interest and of being destabilizing factors to other Latin American countries, even though they could never quite identify the source of that threat.[6]

According to a report from the Inter Press Service news agency:

…elections results in Latin America appear to have confirmed a left-wing populist and anti-U.S. trend – the so-called “pink tide” – which, along with the recent disclosures regarding ties between right-wing paramilitaries and the government of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, poses serious threats to Washington’s multi-billion-dollar anti-drug effort in the Andes.[9]

Left-wing presidents elected since 1998

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ [1] Boston Globe: The many stripes of anti-Americanism
  2. ^ a b c [2] BBC News: South America’s leftward sweep
  3. ^ a b [3] Pittsburg Tribune-Herald: Latin America’s ‘pragmatic’ pink tide
  4. ^ [4] SustainabiliTank: Guatemala
  5. ^ a b c d [5] Institute for Policy Studies: Latin America’s Pink Tide?
  6. ^ a b [6] Council on Hemispheric Affairs: Latin America – The Path Away from U.S. Domination
  7. ^ [7] The Bolivarian Project: Latin America’s Pink Tide
  8. ^ [8] Yet Another Feather in the Cap of Hugo Chavez? El Salvador 2009 NIKOLAS KOZLOFF May 10-12, 2008
  9. ^ [9] Inter Press Service: Challenges 2006–2007: A Bad Year for Empire

This page was last modified on 7 March 2013 at 00:05.


Posted on on December 27th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Assad (L) and Chavez (archives) AFP
Assad (L) and Chavez (archives) AFP

Turkey: Assad sought asylum in Venezuela.

According to report, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry informed Turkish diplomats in Caracas that Syrian president asked Chavez for protection


Published: 12.26.12, 


Turkey has confirmed that Syria’s beleaguered president Bashar Assad has asked Venezuela for asylum for his family as opposition forces continue to make military gains on the ground, Turkish daily Zaman reported Wednesday.

According to the report, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry informed Turkish diplomats that claims that Assad sent a letter requesting asylum to the leader of the Latin American country, Hugo Chavez, are true.

Turkey’s Ak?am daily reported Wednesday that Turkish officials in Caracas visited the Foreign Ministry and inquired about the letter. The Venezuelan officials confirmed the letter but declined to give details on its content.

Earlier this month, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Al-Mokdad visited several Latin American countries, including Venezuela. According to Zaman, he received mostly “symbolic backing” for his government’s 21-month battle against the armed opposition.

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‘Who should I support?’ Assad (L) and Chavez (Archive photo: Reuters)

According to the report, Chavez has gone even further than his neighbors to support Assad, sending at least three shipments of diesel oil to the Syrian government, which is straining under economic embargos imposed by the United States and the European Union.

Two months ago Chavez said he would continue to support the “legitimate government” in Damascus. The Venezuelan leader added: “How can I not support the government of President Bashar Assad if it is the legitimate government of Syria? Who should I support? Terrorists who want a transitional government and kill people on all sides?”

Chavez blamed the United States for the war that has raged on for nearly 19 months. “The government of the United States is one of the parties most to blame for this disaster” in Syria, he added. “Now, Mr Obama, if you are re-elected, sit back and reflect, and the governments of Europe should do the same.”

More than 45,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak in March 2011 of an anti-regime revolt that became a bloody insurgency after a brutal crackdown on dissent, activists said Wednesday.

“In all, we have documented the deaths of 45,048 people,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that more than 1,000 people were killed in the last week itself.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oscar Niemeyer in the 1950s

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



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

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

Slide Show – A Legendary Modernist

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

21st century and death

Oscar Niemeyer, December 2010

Oscar Niemeyer Museum (NovoMuseu), Curitiba, Brazil

Brazilian National Museum, Brasilia, D.F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Venezuela Votes…and Latin America Catches a Cold.

By Estrella Gutiérrez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Stakes Are High for Venezuelan Presidential Elections

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


Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times

How Hugo Chávez Became Irrelevant

Published: October 5, 2012

Caracas, Venezuela

Jonathan Bartlett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Francisco Toro is a journalist, political scientist and blogger.


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

Capriles, 40, began his political career as the youngest congressman in Venezuela’s history [Reuters]

Henrique Capriles Radonski, the main candidate running against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, views himself as a young David battling the Goliath in the oil-rich country’s October 7 presidential election.

“I have to confront the use of public resources, the whole state apparatus, and even the resources of the state oil company that the president uses for his campaign.” Capriles told Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman.

A lawyer by training and former governor of Miranda state, Capriles, 40, began his political career as the youngest congressman in Venezuela’s history.

Early years

“I come from a working family. My grandparents arrived in Venezuela with nothing. … I worked since I was 11 years old.”

– Henrique Capriles

The descendant of immigrants from Europe, Capriles’ father had Dutch roots while the family on his mother’s side fled Poland after the Holocaust. Capriles’ upper-class family owns major stakes in newspapers, movie theatres and other businesses.

But like political candidates the world over, Capriles tries to focus on his “humble” roots, making promises about reducing poverty and “social inclusion”.

“I come from a working family. My grandparents arrived in Venezuela with nothing. I come from a family that worked hard, and were dedicated to give the best to this country,” Capriles told a local newspaper. “As a child, I learned to push myself to get things. I worked since I was 11 years old.”

Campaigning as a youthful alternative to Chavez, who has been battling cancer, Capriles’ supporters tout his motivation. “He is a person that works 24 hours, 365 days a year,” Adriana D’Elia, the current governor of Miranda state, told Al Jazeera. “It is difficult to keep up with him.”

His detractors consider him a fresh face for Venezuela’s old elite, a politician who acts like a champion of democracy but who is happy to subvert the will of the people when it fits his own ends.

Capriles is accused of participating in a 2002 coup attempt against the country’s elected government. Critics say he was complicit with violent protesters at the Cuban consulate in Baruta, where opposition attackers thought members of Chavez’s inner circle were hiding.

After Chavez foiled the coup with the help of loyal army officers, Capriles was detained for 119 days, but was later released after being absolved in court.

“Unfair jail sentences are twice the burden,” Capriles said on his website.

Prison has had a lasting impact on the candidate, former colleagues said. “I am sure that the experience made him tougher,” said D’Elia, who has known Capriles for more than a decade.

After overcoming his legal problems, Capriles ran for governor of Miranda state in 2008. He unseated governor Diosdado Cabello, who some analysts see as the president’s right-hand man.

“I am visiting our Venezuela, introducing plans for education, health, security, and [Chavez] cannot deal with those proposals. He appeals to a dirty war, to fear.

– Henrique Capriles

He compares his political approach to that of former Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, who promoted pro-business policies, while also developing and funding social programmes.

“Capriles’ campaign has been very concrete: he has emphasised the problems of job opportunities, assistance to older people, assistance to those who live in extreme poverty. Education has been also a recurrent topic,” Maria Ponce, a  researcher at Andres Bello Catholic University, told Al Jazeera.

‘El paquetazo’

But critics say Capriles will reverse the gains in poverty reduction seen under Chavez. On August 23, Chavez leaked a document that he alleged came from the opposition. The document, labelled as “el paquetazo (the package)”, supposedly revealed a hidden agenda that consisted of privatising key industries, decreasing state subsidies for social programmes, and a series of other “neoliberal” measures.

Capriles’ campaign said the documents were forgeries.

In his attempt to distance himself from the traditional opposition, Capriles has consistently said that he wanted to expand social programmes as part of plan to create economic growth with social inclusion.

“As I am visiting our Venezuela, introducing plans for education, health, security, and [Chavez] cannot deal with those proposals. He appeals to a dirty war, to fear, and he is going around saying that there will come a paquetazo,” Capriles told supporters.

Capriles’ campaign slogan is “hay un camino” (there is a way) and he consistently slams Chavez for what he says is corruption and mismanagement.

The candidate has established a platform focusing on employment, education, security and better management of the oil sector. He has promised to train more than 20,000 new police officers and raise the minimum monthly salary to 2,500 bolivars ($581) from the current rate of 2,047 bolivars ($476).

Venezuela is facing one of its most critical moments. On October 7, the country will decide between two starkly different candidates: a charismatic leader who has ruled the country for more than a decade, and a young, energetic lawyer who has never lost an election before.

The above is from Al-Jazeera and is much less enthusiastic about this fighting candidate then much of the reporting in other foreign papers.


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

Latin America seemingly buckles under pressure from outside and inside the continent.

Seemingly – Mercosur is not growing larger as expected. It is made up by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. A reaction t this, under leadership of Brazil and Argentina, Mercosur will increase tariff on imports from non-Mercosur States.

Closer allies of the US – Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile, are eying the Pacific region, and tend to get closer business relations with the other side of the Pacific under a Pacific Alliance with US as main pivot. Chile seems to be interested to lead this group so there is less of a Brazil – Mexico competition in Latin America.

The left leaning ALBA States include Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and some of the Caribbean Islands, while the Caribbean Island States still have their CARICOM that looks to Mexico.

This posting comes about because of our expectation that June 2012 will prove to be an important month for Latin America, considering the Mexican hosts of the G-20, and the Brazilian hosts of RIO+20 – both meetings with potential high power influence  on global economic structure at least in these next few years. Will the US be helpful, or harmful, to the creation of a more united Latin America?


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

Center of gravity in oil world shifts to Americas.

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

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

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


A tectonic shift in oil supply

Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

A tectonic shift in oil supply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fracking ‘revolution’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political elements

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

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

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

Wells on the horizon

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

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

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


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

Inline image 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sources:



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

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

March 16, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted on on February 9th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

cumbre ALBA con Chavez

Hugo Chávez, anfitrión de la cumbre del Alba en Caracas.

Los presidentes de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez; de Cuba, Raúl Castro; de Bolivia, Evo Morales; de Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; de Haití, Michel Martelly; el primer ministro de Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit; de San Vicente y las Granadinas, Ralph Gonsalves; el premier de Antigua y Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer; y el canciller de Argentina, Héctor Timerman, acordaron celebrar dos reuniones al año, de carácter ordinario.

La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, creada hace 7 años por Cuba y Venezuela para fomentar la integración en la región bajo los principios de solidaridad, comercio justo, respeto estricto a la soberanía y complementariedad económica.

Los países que integran el ALBA son: Cuba, Venezuela, Dominica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua y Barbuda, y San Vicente y las Granadinas.


América Latina: Cumbre del Alba entre la economía y Las Malvinas.


Caracas, 5 enero 2012

Las claves

  • El Consejo Económico de la Alternativa propuso la creación de fondos de reservas del Banco del Alba, al tiempo que el presidente Chávez, aprobó la incorporación del 1% de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela (300 millones de dólares), a la entidad financiera del bloque
  • El presidente de Bolivia, Evo Morales, propuso este domingo la creación de un Consejo de Defensa de los países miembros de la Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Alba).
  • ALBA estudia sancionar a R.Unido y no asistir a Cumbre de las Américas si no asiste Cuba.


Integración desnuda

“Y aquí estamos entrando en la segunda década del milenio, sin visión estratégica de la integración, perdidos entre siglas que a nadie dicen nada ALBA, Unasur o CELAC por solo nombrar algunas. Mientras tanto, los países del continente disfrutan de una relativa bonanza económica, producto del aislamiento y la exportación de materias primas que finalizará en cuanto se cierre el ciclo económico”. (Tal Cual. Venezuela)


La Alianza Bolivariana  (Alba)  dedicó la jornada a las políticas económicas conjuntas y la posición de apoyo a Argentina, por el caso de las Islas Malvinas, y a Cuba, para presionar su presencia en la próxima Cumbre de las Américas, a la cual no ha sido invitada aún.  El Alba propuso la creación de fondos de reservas del Banco del Alba, al tiempo que el presidenteChávez, aprobó la incorporación del 1% de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela (300 millones de dólares), a la entidad financiera del bloque

Los gobernantes del ALBA acordaron en Caracas la creación de un “espacio económico” y de un fondo de reservas de su banco regional. También se comprometieron a redoblar su apoyo a Haití y a estudiar sanciones contra Londres por el conflicto por las Islas Malvinas que mantiene con Argentina.

Los presidentes de los países del ALBA debatirán esta jornada la entrada de nuevos miembros, con el fin de consolidar sus objetivos integracionistas. Haití, nación que desde 2007 participa en este mecanismo como observador, figura entre las solicitudes de ingreso pleno, interés que fue ratificado por su mandatario,Michel Martelly, para acceder a todos los beneficios que el bloque subregional ofrece.

El canciller de Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, detalló que para los próximos 2 y 3 de marzo se celebrará una Cumbre extraordinaria del ALBA en Haití, a fin de revisar el trabajo planificado en esta cita.

Los jefes de Estado también analizaron la posible incorporación de Suriname y Santa Lucía. De igual manera, debatirán los documentos de trabajo que se desprendieron de las reuniones realizadas por partidos políticos y medios de comunicación de los países que integran la Alianza.

La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas, creada hace 7 años por Cuba y Venezuela para fomentar la integración en la región bajo los principios de solidaridad, comercio justo, respeto estricto a la soberanía y complementariedad económica.

Los países que integran el ALBA son: Cuba, Venezuela, Dominica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Antigua y Barbuda, y San Vicente y las Granadinas.