Ecuador: Selling it to China

December 19th, 2014

This is a photograph of a 420,000-gallon oil spill in Ecuador’s Amazonian region in June 2013:

Andrew Ross, writing at The Nation, asks,
Why Is Ecuador Selling Its Economic and Environmental Future to China?
The slick, oily underside of Correa’s “citizens’ revolution.”
(emphasis added)

While large swaths of the Amazon Basin remain uncharted, the most telling maps depict the region carved into numbered oil blocks, some of them hundreds of square miles in area. The Pañacocha field, for example, sits in Block 12; the ITT oil reserve is located in Block 43; and Block 57 is where Suárez took me. The blocks are periodically auctioned off as concessions to oil companies, and more and more of them are marked as a Chinese claim or interest. The Chinese extraction sites are remote, but anyone traversing the Amazon waterways, as I did this past summer, will routinely pass boatfuls of Chinese oil workers. At this point, China exercises a near monopoly on Ecuador’s oil—up to 90 percent this year alone—and is fast becoming the dominant player in mining and mineral extraction.

Of course, Ecuador is hardly alone in its growing dependence on Beijing. China committed almost $100 billion in loans to Latin America between 2005 and 2013—$15 billion last year alone, while the World Bank lent a mere $5.2 billion. But many believe that the erosion of sovereignty has been sharper in Ecuador than elsewhere in the region. The terms of its loans from Beijing are not fully transparent, giving rise to the worst suspicions. A March 2014 Amazon Watch report alleged that Petrochina has the contractual right to seize assets from any oil companies operating in Ecuador if the nation does not pay back China in full. A more extreme version of this claim is that the terms of loans include a “sovereignty immunity waiver,” that permits China to seize Ecuador’s own assets if it defaults. One of the administration’s chief critics, Acción Ecológica director Alexandra Almeida, told me that “the agreements with the Chinese are unlike any other. Even with Chevron we knew what we were getting. No one knows that much about the Chinese loans.”

Ross views the situation from the left, saying things such as “On the face of it, Beijing is not as easy to demonize as the infamous Paris Club, which represents the interests of Northern creditors,” and “has no history of ecological debt to Latin America.” But Ross is not blind to the fact that

environmentalists, like the YASunidos, have become Correa’s number-one enemy, labeled by some of his ministers as “enemies of the state.” Recent shifts in the interpretation of the penal code have made it possible to criminalize dissidents as “terrorists,” and domestic repression is growing.

Read the whole thing.

Cuba: Whose “outdated Cold War perspective”?

December 19th, 2014

“Cold War perspective”? Hell yeah.

Outdated? You decide.

Read my article at Da Tech Guy Blog.

Cuba: What is the regime going to do?

December 18th, 2014

Well, we all heard Obama’s speech yesterday. Some of us also listened to Raul Castro’s speech, which took place at the same time as Obama’s.

It was a study in contrasts.

As The Diplomad puts it (emphasis added),

It [Obama’s speech] was a clever speech designed for people who don’t know the full history of Cuba since 1959 or the nature of US-Cuban relations. The speech gave away the leftist bias of its drafters with the nonsense equating “colonialism” and “Communism.” What colonialism was Castro Communism fighting? Cuba had been independent for sixty years when they took over, and one of their first acts was to turn the country into a colony of the Soviets. Communism and colonialism went hand-in-hand, no opposition, no clash. Obama’s speech sought “balance” by blaming both Cuba and the US for the state of relations. Nonsense. The Castros were and are murdering thugs who have never hesitated to kill anybody in their way whether at home or abroad. Castroite firing squads were operating at full speed even during the honeymoon period with the USA, when the NY Times was writing fawning pieces about Fidel Castro.

My first thought on hearing Obama talk about the need to get past colonialism and Communism was that he was channeling his father’s anti-British obsessions. Cuba as Kenya. Much like Obama’s immigration speech, it is not at all clear what we are getting. Alan Gross, who should never have been detained has been released as has a long-imprisioned intel asset. In exchange we freed the Cuban agents who helped set up the murder of American citizens. There is a further loosening of currency and travel restrictions. The speech, of course, will upend years of established American positions and lead, for example, to the entry of Cuba into the OAS without meeting any of the requirements laboriously worked out, e.g., a functioning democracy with full respect for human rights.

Raul Castro’s speech was very short and to the point. None of the flowery phrases that his older brother would have used. Very business-like. No discussions of colonialism and Communism, and no promises to do anything in particular except to keep talking to the US.

My friend Jazz Shaw mentions my objections to easing up on Cuba, countering with,

I could take the above paragraph and substitute the word China for Cuba and it would remain precisely as true. The major differences between the two are that China is vastly more powerful, more dangerous and more influential. Their human rights record is, if anything, worse than Cuba’s. They can threaten the entire globe with a single move, where the Castros are generally limited to smaller evils and mischief in South America. And yet somehow we have established relations with China. This doesn’t excuse either country for their evil, but only serves to point out some of the harsh realities of foreign policy in the modern era.

But comparisons with China policy fall short on a vital aspect:
I have friends who have operated profitable businesses in China in the past 20 years. Their corporations paid their Chinese employees directly. However, anyone employing Cuban citizens does not pay the employee; they pay the Cuban government a stipulated (by the government) amount per person. The communist regime then pays the employee an amount no higher than the maximum salary (yes, Cuba has maximum salary laws), which is approximately 10% of the amount the communist regime received from the business.

That is the case with any of the hundreds of multinationals that have done business with Cuba in the country, and with the thousands of “doctors” Cuba sends to places like Venezuela and Brazil.

Cuba has defaulted on its obligations to multinationals time and time again.

Additionally, foreign businessmen who have tried to collect monies due by Cuba have been thrown in jail, most recently Alejandro Abood, Cy Tokmakjian, Krikor Bayassalian, Nessin Abadi, Sarkis Yacoubian, and Stephen Purvis.

N-O-T-H-I-N-G, not a thing the USA does is going to change that.

However, as things stand right now, the odds have vastly improved for Cuba to “transition” into a profitable Communist regime, like China’s. Or perhaps, even more likely, the Viet Nam outcome,

The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely.

As I said yesterday, Obama is trying to cement his legacy. Human rights (and true democracy) be damned.

As an added bonus, OBAMA’S MOVE TO STRENGTHEN CUBA WILL ALSO HELP RUSSIA, IRAN, NORTH KOREA AND VENEZUELA by

providing them with a more economically robust trading partner, a better source of illicit arms, and, most important, naval bases and intelligence outposts just miles from our shores.

What could possibly go wrong?

[Post redacted to include missing paragraphs]

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UPDATE

Cuba: #AlanGross released – is Obama ending the embargo in exchange? UPDATED THROUGH THE DAY

December 17th, 2014

Alan Gross, the American political prisoner held by the Communist Cuban regime for five years, has been released.

As I have written before,

In December 2009, Alan P. Gross was arrested while in Cuba working as a U.S. government subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s small Jewish community. He was held in jail, and, in March, 2011 was convicted for “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”.

What does “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state” means? It means that, in Cuba, attempting to provide access to the internet is a crime.

American Alan Gross Released From Cuba After 5 Years in Prison
Gross Is Headed to U.S. on Government Plane, Obama Administration Official Says

Administration officials have said that his captivity has precluded any modification in U.S.-Cuban relations, so his release could clear the way for discussions about a broader deal. President Barack Obama is expected to make a statement about Cuba from the White House at noon on Wednesday.

I fully expect Obama to declare an end to the embargo before year’s end. Will that be his “statement about Cuba from the White House at noon”?

UPDATE 10AM:
The remaining three of the Cuban Five were released in exchange: The Miami Herald (emphasis added),

The Cuban government had linked Gross’s release to the imprisonment of five Cubans convicted in 2001 of infiltrating South Florida military installations and spying on the exile community. The men, considered heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S.

The administration had repeatedly ruled out a swap, saying the USAID subcontractor wasn’t a spy and can’t be part of a spy-for-spy swap. But news reports Wednesday indicate that three Cubans were released in exchange for Gross. The other two of the so-called Cuban Five were previously released after completing their sentences.

Val Prieto:

This is a major setback for the opposition and dissident movements in Cuba. The Obama administration, by making this “deal”, has confirmed that they are OK with the repression, brutality, incarceration, and murder the castro regime foists upon the opposition. And I will once again say what I have been saying since day one of this farce of a presidential administration, for the record: faced with the fact that he is, by far, the worst President this nation has ever seen, and with no true positive legacy, Obama is relying on the low hanging fruit of the Cuban embargo to placate the left. Look for President Executive Action to undermine codified US Cuba policy.

Get ready. This is going to be one hell of a day.

Read also my post at Da Tech Guy Blog.

UPDATE 11AM:
“Normalizing” U.S.-Cuba relations means giving the Communist Cuban government a lifeline, at a particularly critical time, now that its sugar daddy Venezuela nears economic collapse as oil prices drop. Marco Rubio:

“This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba,” Rubio said in an interview. “But it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.”

UPDATE 11:19

Guardian Washington bureau chief Dan Roberts,

UPDATE 11:25AM
CBS News affiliate in Miami stated Gross will not be with Obama at the WH press conference.

UPDATE 11:30
Betrayal: Vatican Brokered Secret U.S.-Cuba Talks

Pope Francis and the Vatican played a significant role in reopening diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. The Vatican not only hosted in-person meetings between Cuban and U.S. officials, but actively played a role in the discussions, according to senior Obama administration officials. The meeting to finalize the reopening of relations was also held at the Vatican this past fall. The Vatican sent a personal letter to President Obama regarding Cuban relations. “We haven’t received communications from the Pope of this nature,” said a senior adminstration official. “That gave us greater impetus and momentum.”

Rep. Ron de Santis:

This prisoner swap sends a signal to rogue regimes and actors that taking an American hostage can be leveraged into scoring policy concessions. This makes America less safe and emboldens the dictatorship in Cuba.

UPDATE 11:53
The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast.

Congress need not be consulted?

UPDATE 11:59AM
Is Cuba easing its embargo on American products and American travel?

12 noon:

Cuba no longer listed as state sponsor of terrorism.

UPDATE 12:16
Obama claims “Todos somos Americanos” – “we’re all Americans”. Not at all.

UPDATE 12:30PM
I was wondering, is Cuba easing Cuba’s embargo on American products and American travel? Will they not continue to shelter FARC & other known terrorists? Nothing on that in O’s speech.

Not in Raul Castro’s speech, either,

Castro said that he had spoken to Secretary Kerry about normalizing relations between the two country, adding that President Obama’s decision deserved “respect and gratitude.” He also thanked the Vatican, Pope Francis and Canada for their support in the process.

But he stressed there was still much work to be done: the US economic blockade remains in place, he said, causing “enormous damage to our people. It must end.”

Acknowledging that the blockade is established in law, Castro said that president Obama could modify its application, and he called on the US government to adopt measures which will benefit both countries.

“Recognizing that we have many fundamental differences on the subjects of national soveignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy, we reaffirm our willingness discuss all of these subjects.”

Castro called on the US government to remove the obstacles between the countries, dividing families – specifically he called for the re-establishment of direct flights, postal deliveries and telecommunications.

“The progress we have already made shows that it is possible to find solutions to our problems,” he said.

Another question:
How is Obama going to prevent Cuba’s possible role in bypassing sanctions on Venezuela, Russia and Iran?

UPDATE 2PM
Alan Gross on TV thanking all who helped in the effort to release him.

CODA:
As Val Prieto put it, “and from the here’s a swift kick in the nuts department….”

Alan Gross returns to the United States, is greeted by an image of Che Guevara

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Argentina: Cristina aims for The People’s Cube

December 16th, 2014

Oleg Atbashian, the brilliant graphic artist of The People’s Cube, might call it prog porn; Carlos Eire titles it Sieg Heil, Cristina! Hitler, Stalin, and the dark sources of Latrine American inspiration instead.

You choose, comrade:

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner,

Joseph Stalin,

In case you wonder, “wasn’t Cristina’s idol, Eva Perón, sheltering Nazis in Argentina?“,

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the country’s first female president, said women of her generation owed a huge debt to Peron for her ‘example of passion and combativeness.’

Carlos has the artwork on that, too.

After all, in case you need a reminder, The Nazis were socialists…

Puerto Rico: NY Yankees’ Jorge Posada scammed out of $11million

December 16th, 2014

New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is scammed out of $11 MILLION in ‘jaw-dropping’ money-management scam


Posada did not discover the conspiracy until after he fired Collar and Fernandez, who operated under their own company Quantum Family Office Group, for unrelated reasons in 2010.

Posada should have run all documents by his lawyer (not his wife), but I hope the perps do time.

And,
Never have only one financial advisor.



Elsewhere

December 16th, 2014

‘Revenge’ for Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize…

126 killed, mostly children…

‘Burn teacher alive in front of pupils and behead children’…

————————————-

‘Lone Wolf,’ or ‘Known Wolf’? The Ongoing Counter-Terrorism Failure
An extensive report shows how U.S. law enforcement missteps and dangerous policies keep getting people killed.

Uruguay: Send more Gitmo alumni!

December 15th, 2014

While the world looks at the terrorist holding people hostage in Sydney,

Uruguay Tries to SetPattern on Guantanamo Detainees
President José Mujica’s Government Expressed Hope That His Nation’s Gesture Would Lead Other Countries to Resettle Prisoners From at the U.S.-Run Facility
.

Mujica didn’t say “send Uruguay more Giltmo alumni,” though.

Last week I was asking under what country’s passports would the six terrorists travel. It looks like there’s an answer (emphasis added):

Approved for release from a military hospital and given Uruguayan identity documents, the men moved into a small-three bedroom house in Montevideo provided by a labor confederation. “These men have gone through an extremely difficult situation,” said Fernando Pereira, a union official, “so we’re going to give them psychological support and care.”

Empathy, indeed.

Mr. Mujica’s government has signaled that it wants to help the Obama administration in its goal of closing the detention center, which cannot take place until countries take in prisoners the U.S. have cleared for transfers.

So far in Latin America and the Caribbean, 12 former inmates have been resettled, including two in El Salvador in 2012 and four in Bermuda in 2009. The six who came to Montevideo—four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian—are the first detainees to be resettled in South America.

What could possibly go wrong?

The criminal #Greenpeace Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

December 15th, 2014

Before Greenpeace:

After Greenpeace:

It’s time to put the Greenpeace vandals out of business

ARGENTINA
Why Argentina Must Learn the Virtues of Economic Orthodoxy
Ignore Basic Economic Lessons, Bring on More Crises

BOLIVIA
Bolivia’s YPFB Hit by Corruption, Sexual-Harassment Scandal

BRAZIL
Survivors Recall Genocide of Amazon Tribe in Brazil, the Waimiri-Atroari.

Brazil killer alleges 42 victims
Brazilian police arrest a man who says he killed 42 people in the last decade, which would make him one of the country’s most prolific serial killers

CHILE
Chile Not Facing an Economic Crisis, Bachelet Says

Construction in Chile of world’s largest telescope approved

COLOMBIA
Colombian Government, Rebels Resume Peace Talks

COSTA RICA
Take a Ride on Costa Rica’s Fiscal Train Wreck
Executive Ignores Credit Risk, Overrules Congress for 19 Percent Spending Increase

CUBA
Cuban Regime Arrests Over 100 Activists on Human Rights Day
Police Target Dissident Ladies in White, Independent Journalists

‘Al Capone’ Justice for Fidel Castro

The AP’s Latest Attack: On Cuba’s Independent Rappers

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Abortion stalls Dominican Republic Penal Code vote

ECUADOR
Ecuador Moves to Block Disclosure of U.S. Propaganda Activities
Government attempts to prevent court discovery of documents at its U.S.-based PR firm

EL SALVADOR
El Salvador President to Cuba for Checkup after Falling Ill in Mexico, since that worked so well for Hugo Chávez.

GUATEMALA
Guatemala: Breaking the silence
How do a country and its people come to terms with the atrocities committed during a decades-long, bloody civil war? Dialogue is key here, and that’s a focus of DW Akademie projects in Guatemala.

HAITI
Haitian President May Drop His Premier
To end an impasse and allow for elections, President Michel Martelly said that he would accept the recommendations of a commission that has called for the prime minister to resign.

IMMIGRATION
Adding Insult to Injury: Obama Paying for Illegal Amnesty with Fees Paid by Legal Immigrants

Sheriffs: Obama’s Amnesty Creates ‘Insurgence of Heroin,’ ‘Saloon-Door’ Border Mentality

JAMAICA
Jamaica Approached To Sell PetroCaribe Debt

LATIN AMERICA
Neocolonialism update: Iran expanding its presence in Latrine America

MEXICO
Mexico minister denies home scandal
Mexico’s finance minister defends his purchase of a luxury home, amid reports he bought it from a firm whose parent company won public contracts.

PANAMA
Panama: Cuba to Attend First-ever Americas Summit

PERU
Frantic efforts to save Lima climate change talks
Main talks suspended as delegates from 190 countries admit there is ‘no consensus’, while frantic efforts have begun to reach some token agreement, but few are optimistic of a quick resolution, if any

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rico tops list of 25 best Caribbean islands list

URUGUAY
Former Guantanamo Prisoners Leave Hospital in Uruguay

VENEZUELA
The Precise Instant Everything Went to Hell

The Phantom of Miraflores

UK: Journalist’s flat burgled, family threatened

VenEconomy: Drug Trafficking – The Other Pest of the Venezuelan Revolution

Mother of slain beauty queen seeks asylum in the US
María Eugenia Tovar, mother of beauty queen Génesis Carmona, killed during an anti-government protest in February, would not explain the reasons for her decision

US Congress passes sanctions against Venezuelan human rights abusers

The week’s posts:
White privilege, indeed

Mexico: Gulf Cartel run from Texas

Venezuela: Default by September 2015?

Peru: Greenpeace vandalism

Colombia: FARC using al-Qaeda for European drug trade

Uruguay: Gitmo alumni go free

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
U.S. releases 6 al-Qaeda detainees to Uruguay

Time to put Greenpeace vandals out of business



Time to put #Greenpeace vandals out of business UPDATED

December 12th, 2014

Greenpeace willfully engaged in inflicting irreparable damage. In their blindness to say “the future is renewable”, they can’t see that the past is not.

Read my post at Da Tech Guy Blog.

UPDATE:
Before Greenpeace:

After f**king Greenpeace: