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Greek metro workers defy court order to return to work

Press TV – January 22, 2013

Greek metro workers have defied a court order to return to work and have staged the sixth day of strikes over the government’s spending cuts.

Athens was without a metro service on Tuesday for four to five hours, which comes in continuation to the protest started on Thursday over the planned cuts to metro workers’ salaries.

A Greek court ruled against Athens Metro Workers’ Union’s planned strikes and permitted the government to use force to make personnel return to work.

Union officials call on the government to abolish the planned changes to the public sector’s pay scales, which comes as Athens implements measures to satisfy its eurozone creditors.

Reductions in public sector workers’ incomes have made it harder for Greeks to make ends meet.

“With these latest cuts, someone like me who earned 1,300 euros per month will end up clearing something like 700 euros,” Metro Workers’ Union Head Antonis Stamatopoulos said.

“We cannot live on what we earn,” he added.

Stamatopoulos said that apart from stopping the changes to the pay cuts, the only way the government could make them return to work would be through force.

“Civil mobilization? They can enforce it if they want. Maybe they should come here with tanks to force us back to work,” Stamatopoulos said.

Parliament introduced new austerity measures in December 2012, which eurozone finance ministers approved for bailout packages of 9.2 billion euros on Monday and 34.3 billion euros last month.

Europe plunged into financial crisis in early 2008. The worsening debt crisis has forced the EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered massive protests in many European countries.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Mayoral Candidates Take Sides over St. Louis Veolia Contract

Saint Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee | January 22, 2013

On January 16, 2013 at City Hall in St. Louis, Missouri, a diverse group of 60 Palestinian rights organizers; environmental activists; workers; civil rights leaders; veterans; local business owners; students; members of the local Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities; and other concerned citizens packed a meeting of the St. Louis Board of Estimate & Apportionment (E&A) to show opposition to a proposed city contract with Veolia Water.  Two mayoral candidates on the 3-person board, which considers public contracts, took opposite sides over the contract, prompting the third member to call for a public hearing for testimonies from local citizens regarding Veolia.

Contract opponents lined the halls leading to the mayor’s office, citing Veolia’s abysmal record of poor environmental standards, labor abuses and involvement in human rights abuses in Palestine.  Each held a sign stating “Say No to Veolia” followed by their personal reasons, which included: “I can’t ride their buses because I am Palestinian,” “I think all people deserve equal treatment,” “My tax dollars are not for corporate profit,” “They don’t have to drink our water,” “I love coffee.” The mayor’s office had to change the meeting venue at the last minute to accommodate the large public turnout.

The St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) learned of the proposed $250,000 Veolia contract for a four-month consultation for the St. Louis Water Division in December 2012 after the story was leaked to the Riverfront Times.  When the contract came up for approval, PSC organized in less than 24 hours a grassroots effort to tell the E&A Board, which is comprised of St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green and President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed (running for mayor against Slay), not to approve the contract without investigating Veolia’s record.  At the December 19, 2012 meeting of the Board, the Board agreed they could not in good conscience vote to approve a contract with so many allegations outstanding.

Immediately, the PSC reached out to diverse communities to join the fight against Veolia, all under the coalition St. Louis Dump Veolia.

The contract was reintroduced last-minute to the January agenda by Mayor Slay, the contract’s chief proponent.  Slay had received a trophy and award check for $15,000 from the President of Veolia Water in 2007, on behalf of the City.  Following mass mobilization by the coalition, Mayor Slay decided one day before the January meeting to remove the contract from the agenda, delaying the vote for a second month.

In the presence of an uncharacteristically large audience and media presence, the two mayoral candidates Slay and Reed came head-to-head in tense disputes regarding agenda items, transforming the meeting into what some coined an “ad-hoc mayoral debate.”  President Reed ended by praising the public showing and affirming his opposition to the Veolia contract, while Slay stressed that the public had misconceptions about the company.

Comptroller Green, who holds the deciding vote, said she hoped the public’s voices could be heard and asked for a public hearing.  The PSC delivered and posted letters to Comptroller Green asking her to reject Veolia from the Palestinian Freedom RidersBoycott from Within and the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem.

Veolia has been a major focus of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian freedom and equality.  The St. Louis campaign against Veolia may be the first time that a BDS campaign has entered mainstream political discourse and, perhaps, a mayoral race.  Media coverage in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Riverfront Times and St. Louis Public Radio acknowledge that Veolia’s contracts in Israel/Palestine have been instrumental in bringing the controversy out in the open.

The nationwide We Divest campaign targets Veolia for divestment from the holdings of financial services giant, TIAA-CREF.  St. Louis-area resident and PSC member, Steve Tamari, is the lead filer for a nationwide, broad-based shareholders’ resolution calling for divestment from Veolia and other companies that profit from Israel’s human rights abuses. Individuals holding a CREF account are encouraged to sign on to the shareholders’ resolution and to vote in support of the resolution before or at the July 2013 annual meeting.

St. Louis Dump Veolia is committed to keeping up the pressure on City Hall until the Veolia contract is rejected once and for all. The PSC will be mobilizing residents to testify at the hearing, putting the Israeli occupation, and its corporate enablers, on trial for all to see.

The next E&A meeting will occur on Wednesday, February 20 at 2pm in St. Louis City Hall.

To follow developments and action items on the campaign, join the St. Louis Dump Veolia and Palestine Solidarity Committee Facebook pages, and follow@stlpsc on Twitter


Veolia Fact Sheet

December 18th, 2012  |  Published in Latest News and Action Alerts, STL-PSC Blog

What is Veolia?

According to a story broken by the Riverfront Times, St. Louis city lawyers have been negotiating a contract with Veolia Water North America to guide cost-cutting. Veolia Water is a major subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, a Paris-based multinational corporation and the largest water privatization business in the world. Veolia is infamous for:

  • Failure to make good on promised improvements
  • Anti-labor practices
  • Privatizing public resources
  • Irresponsible to disastrous environmental practices
  • Mismanagement
  • Corruption, bribery, embezzlement, and fraud
  • Supporting and profiting from segregation and discrimination in Palestine

Worldwide, consumers report that Veolia consistently charges high rates, provides poor service, causes staff turnover, discourages water conservation, and fails to implement promised improvements. Its history reveals consistent prioritization of private profit at the expense of the environment and public welfare.

Unless otherwise indicated, the following is based on extensive research and documentation on Veolia’s practices by Water for All, Polaris Institute, Global Exchange, Novato Friends of Locally Operated Wastewater, Public Citizen, Public Water Works, and Food & Water Watch (here, here, here, here, here).

What happened in Indianapolis?

In its proposal to the St. Louis Water Division, Veolia extensively references its work in Indianapolis as a successful model that could inform Veolia’s guidance in St. Louis. If Indianapolis is any indication of Veolia’s practices, then our city would do well to steer clear. Veolia claims that the contract was completed and “focused on building a collaborative environment with all of the project stakeholders (union, government and the community).” In fact the company’s 20-year contract with Indianapolis was terminated by the city less than halfway through, by which time the following had ensued:

  • Non-union employees claimed that the company cut retirement plans, health care and other benefits, costing the workers more than $50 million over 25 years. Hundreds of employees, many organized under a strong union, found themselves in a pitched battle with the company to preserve benefits and hold Veolia to its promises.
  • Veolia was sued for breaking state contract law, and for overcharging 250,000 residents.
  • Because the company lacked proper safeguards, a typo by an employee caused a boil-water alert for more than a million people, closing local businesses and canceling school for 40,000 students.
  • An independent review uncovered lax oversight of the city’s contract with Veolia.
  • Consumer complaints more than doubled in the first 10 months of the contract.
  • In a study of 100 large U.S. cities, Environmental Working Group ranked Indianapolis drinking water quality #90 (i.e. 11th-worst overall). St. Louis ranks #9 — among the best in the country.

In 2005, a federal grand jury subpoenaed four Veolia Indianapolis employees as part of an investigation into allegations that the utility falsified water quality reports. The probe began amid accusations by Indianapolis council members that the company had cut back on staffing, water testing, treatment chemicals and maintenance. Though Veolia was never charged, the corporation sustained multimillion-dollar losses and dug its way out of this hole by finagling concessions, including a 2007 contract amendment shifting at least $144 million in costs from Veolia to the city. Ignoring public outcry from consumers and state officials, the city then tried to raise rates by 35% to pay for these additional expenses and more expensive capital improvement projects.

In 2010, with infrastructure needs mounting and Veolia demanding more than the city could afford, Indianapolis canceled the contract more than 10 years early, for which they were forced to pay Veolia an additional $29 million. The nonprofit Citizens Energy Group took over, positioned to save the city more money than multinational Veolia was ever able to.

If Veolia gives Indianapolis as an example of a success story, what could a failure possibly look like?

New Orleans — an Environmental Disaster, and Other Cities

In 2001 in New Orleans, an electrical fire at a sewer treatment plant operated by Veolia caused operators to divert raw sewage into the Mississippi River for two hours. In 2001 and 2002, the plant released sewage into the river a total of 50 times, often violating water quality standards and resulting in more than $107,000 in fines. The city’s Sewerage and Water Board Director and staff made numerous, repeated and documented complaints about Veolia reducing staff to inadequate levels, neglecting preventive maintenance, failing to notify city officials of environmental violations, and other problems. Veolia has a long track record of failing to communicate with New Orleans in connection with the contract. In 2002, the board rejected Veolia’s bid for a new water/wastewater contract following public outrage.

In Richmond, CA in 2006, the city and Veolia were sued for dumping more than 17 million gallons of sewage into tributaries that empty into the San Francisco Bay. The Baykeeper watchdog group said Richmond had one of the highest spill rates in the state. The city had given a 20-year, $70 million contract to Veolia, which promised to cut costs and develop and implement an improvement plan for the sewer and storm water systems. By the time of the lawsuit four years later, the company had not even finished designing the plan, much less begun the renovations. Richmond settled the lawsuit out of court by agreeing to pay for multimillion-dollar improvements to reduce sewer spills. In addition, Richmond taxpayers had to shell out $500,000 annually for years to compensate residents and businesses for property damaged. Even after the lawsuits, the problem continues: Veolia’s Richmond plant had 22 spills dumping more than 2 million gallons of sewage during the first two months of 2008.

Lynn, MA ended a wastewater overflow plant contract with Veolia because the company failed to stay adequately bonded for the project. While company officials lauded the continuing contracts with water and wastewater treatment plants in the community, the town rapped the company for cutting costs by refusing to properly treat wastewater with chemicals. As a result, the town was blanketed in a stench.

Angleton, TX terminated a Veolia contract for non-performance and took the company to court, charging that it breached its contract by failing to maintain adequate staffing levels, not submitting capital project reports and charging improper expenses to the maintenance and repair tab picked up by the city.

In Atlanta, Veolia tried to maximize revenue simply by slashing the work force in half, contributing to boil-water orders, maintenance backlogs and other issue that ultimately led to dissolution of the contract.

In Sauget, IL, right across the river, a related Veolia subsidiary operated a hazardous waste incinerator for over 10 years without a clean air permit. In 2005, “the owners agreed to pay $150,000 for alleged air pollution violations.” As of 2008, the facility had been fined more than $3 million,” mostly related to small explosions and releasing toxic chemicals, including carcinogenic dioxins, into the air.

For more examples, see: Burlingame, CA; Wilmington, DE; Port Arthur, TX; Cranston, RI; and others.

Bribery, Corruption, Embezzlement, Fraud

Corruption, bribery, embezzlement, and fraud appear to part of Veolia’s corporate culture. The president of a Veolia subsidiary was convicted of bribing a New Orleans sewer board member to support renewal of its contract (see background above) in 2002. The same year, the mayor of Bridgeport, CT was convicted on 16 counts including taking kickbacks, bribes and extortion along with 8 other defendants a contract proposal from Veolia (then called Vivendi). A forensic audit in Rockland, MA led to contract termination amid embezzlement charges involving a sewer department official and a local company executive charged with embezzling more than US$300,000. Veolia disclosed accounting fraud in the U.S. from 2007-2010 amounting to $120 million. The scandal took place in their Gulf of Mexico Marine Services unit. These are small examples of a pattern of Veolia replicated around the country and world.

Would this contract privatize the city’s water? No — not yet. But the contract would position Veolia — which specializes in water privatization — as a “brain-trust” of management expertise in reducing costs. Many view Veolia and focusing on privatizing services through long-term monopoly contracts rather than through outright ownership. These types of “advisory” roles can serve as a backdoor avenue toward eventually privatizing municipal operations.

Supporting Apartheid and Segregation in Israel/Palestine

Veolia is involved in Israel’s systematic ethnic discrimination against the Palestinians in many ways:

An Israeli subsidiary, Veolia Water – Israel, operates a wastewater treatment plant located in an illegal Jewish-only settlement called Modiin Ilit, built on Palestinian land in the West Bank. The owners of the land on which this settlement was built have been violently driven out. Two unarmed Palestinians from the Palestinian village on which Modiin Ilit was built, have been killed as they protested nonviolently against the ongoing confiscation of their land and resources. Veolia continues to service the settlement.

An Israeli subsidiary of Veolia Transdev, Connex – Israel, operates buses on segregated roads through the occupied West Bank, including two bus lines that use road 443, which is built partially on confiscated land with portions closed entirely to Palestinians. A separate but unequal Palestinian road system is made up of low grade roads cut by checkpoints and physical barriers restricting Palestinian freedom of movement. Last year, Palestinian Freedom Riders attempted to board buses operating on their own land and were violently removed and arrested. Veolia is profiting from segregation and discrimination.

Another Israeli subsidiary, Veolia Environmental Services – Israel, supervises, consults for, and operates the Tovlan Landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley, collecting refuse from illegal settlements. Israel renders it almost impossible for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley to gain permits to build homes, toilets, wells, animal pens, or other vital infrastructure for local communities, which has forced almost all Palestinian families out, with those remaining living in dire conditions. Some are left with no alternative but to work on settlements that have taken their families’ land, for pay far below the minimum wage, unable to take bathroom breaks, and denied any rights to unionize. Veolia takes captured Palestinian land and natural resources to service the settlements exploiting or driving out Palestinians.

UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk recently recommended that Veolia “should be boycotted, until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards.” Veolia’s extensive profiting from Israel’s illegal practices have provoked global outcry, costing Veolia more than $12.5 billion in lost contracts to date. Recently, the Friends Fiduciary Corporation, which handles investments for hundreds of U.S. Quaker institutions, also divested from Veolia.

Veolia already in Financial Trouble

With public opinion shifting negatively around the world, Veolia is paying a price. After a 25-year contract, Veolia’s home city of Paris declined to renew its contract in 2009. Cities around the world have done the same. Veolia’s profit margin has plummeted since 2008 and the company lost more than half its market value in 2011. Veolia’s CEO pledged to sell $1.8 billion of assets and to stop operations in at least 37 countries. In September 2012, Veolia’s debt stood at more than $19.7 billion.

Now, Veolia is trying to bring its risky and immoral business to our backyard.

Related articles

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

‘Unalienable’ right to life in Obama’s parlance

By David Swanson | Press TV | January 22, 2013

Meet the new boss who, upon his inauguration, declared that the right to life is unalienable. Let me be clear, that does not mean he cannot take yours.

In fact, he runs through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, hung over from inaugurations or not, and picks whom to murder and murders them.

We are not supposed to call it murder, of course, because it is properly assassination. Except that no public figures are being assassinated; 98% of those killed are not targeted at all; some are targeted for suspicious behavior without knowing their names; one type of suspicious behavior is the act of retrieving the dead and wounded from a previous strike; and those targeted are not targeted for politics but for resisting illegal occupations. Moreover, an assassination is a type of murder.

We’re not supposed to call it murder, nonetheless, because it sounds more objective to call it killing. But murder is a type of killing, specifically unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought. Killing by accident is not murder and not what the president is doing. Killing legally is not murder and not what the president is doing – at least not as far as anyone knows or according to any interpretation of law put forward. Killing indirectly by encouraging poverty or environmental destruction or denial of healthcare may be things the president is doing, but they are not murder and not drone wars.

Imagine if a non-president went through a list of everyone in your local elementary school, picked out whom to kill, and ordered them killed. You would call it murder. You would call it mass-murder. You would call it conspiracy to commit mass murder. Why would electing that mass murderer president change anything? Why would moving the victims abroad change anything?

KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES

Kill Anything That Moves is the title of an important new book from Nick Turse, covering the mass-murdering enterprise known in Vietnam as the American War, and in the United States as the Vietnam War. Turse documents that policy decisions handed down from the top led consistently, over a period of years, to the ongoing slaughter of millions of civilians in Vietnam.

Much of the killing was done by hand or with guns or artillery, but the lion’s share came in the form of 3.4 million combat sorties flown by US and South Vietnamese aircraft between 1965 and 1972. Air strikes are President Obama’s primary instrument of foreign relations as well; he ordered 20,000 air strikes in his first term.

The well-known My Lai massacre in Vietnam was not an aberration, but an almost typical incident and by no means the worst of them. Turse documents a pattern of ongoing atrocities so pervasive that one is compelled to begin viewing the war itself as one large atrocity. Something similar could be done for the endless war on everywhere that we are currently living through. Scattered atrocities and scandals in Afghanistan and Iraq are interpreted as freak occurrences having nothing to do with the general thrust of the war. And yet they are its essence.

Kill anything that moves, was an order given to US troops in Vietnam indoctrinated with racist hatred for the Vietnamese. “360 degree rotational fire” was a command on the streets of Iraq given to US troops similarly conditioned to hate, and similarly worn down with physical exhaustion.

Dead children in Vietnam resulted in comments like “Tough …, they grow up to be VC.” One of the US helicopter killers in Iraq heard in the Collateral Murder video says of dead children, “Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”

In Vietnam anyone dead was the enemy, and sometimes weapons would be planted on them. In drone wars, any dead males are militants, and in Iraq and Afghanistan weapons have often been planted on victims.

The US military during the Vietnam War shifted from keeping prisoners toward murdering prisoners, just as the Endless War on Everywhere has shifted from incarceration toward murder with the change in president from Bush to Obama.

In Vietnam, as in Iraq, rules of engagement were broadened until the rules allowed shooting at anything that moved. In Vietnam, as in Iraq, the US military sought to win people over by terrorizing them. In Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, whole villages were eliminated.

In Vietnam, refugees suffered in horrible camps, while in Afghanistan children are rapidly freezing to death in a refugee camp near Kabul.

Torture was common in Vietnam, including water-boarding. But it wasn’t at that time yet depicted in a Hollywood movie as a positive occurrence.

Napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and other widely despised and banned weapons were used in Vietnam as in the current war.

Vast environmental destruction was part of both wars.

Gang rape was a part of both wars.

The mutilation of corpses was common in both wars.

Bulldozers flattened people’s villages in Vietnam, not unlike what US-made bulldozers do now to Palestine.

Mass murders of civilians in Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, tended to be driven by a desire for revenge.

New weaponry allowed US troops in Vietnam to shoot long distances, resulting in a habit of shooting first and investigating later, a habit now developed for drone strikes.

Self-appointed teams on the ground and in helicopters went “hunting” for natives to kill in Vietnam as in Afghanistan.

And of course, Vietnamese leaders were targeted for assassination.

Then, as now, the atrocities and “war crimes” were committed with impunity as part of the crime that was the war itself. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say: because there was impunity then, it remains today.

Turse discovered that the military investigated numerous accusations, documented incidents, and then buried the reports. So did others in the government. So did the media, including Newsweek which buried a major investigation. Those who engaged in that cover-up don’t have on their hands the blood that had already been spilled, but do have on their hands the blood that has been spilled since in similar wars that might have been prevented. … Full article

January 22, 2013 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does Guatemala Include “Extrajudicial Executions” in its Calculation of National Murder Rates?

By Sara Kozameh | CEPR The Americas Blog | January 18, 2013

On January 14th, a day marking the one-year anniversary of his administration, Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina presented his first annual report on the state of the country. In his speech, Pérez Molina, a former general, graduate of the School of the Americas and accused of being  a war criminal implicated in the systematic use of torture and acts of genocide, hailed a “historic 10 percent reduction in violent crime” and “an almost five point drop in the homicide rate per every 100,000 inhabitants” from the previous year. Guatemala currently has one of the highest murder rates in the world (41 murders per every 100,000 inhabitants); it had a total of 5,122 murders in 2012. Ironically, while President Pérez Molina was reporting back to the nation on crime statistics and murder rates that morning, the mayor of the town of Jutiapa had just been shot down, dying almost immediately of sixteen bullet wounds.

In the 1980s, the “scorched-earth” campaign of the Guatemalan military tortured, slaughtered and massacred entire villages, resulting in the deaths of over 200,000 people. Under the dictatorship of General Efraín Ríos Montt from 1982-83 state violence in Guatemala has been said to have been the most brutal. A year ago, after years of attempts by human rights defenders to put him on trial, Ríos Montt was charged with genocide in Guatemalan courts. He has since filed two petitions to acquire amnesty from the law, the second of which is still awaiting a ruling. Last month Pérez Molina, who himself served under General Ríos Montt during the 1980s, issued and then suspended a decree stating that it would stop adhering to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on cases of crimes against humanity and genocide that occurred before 1987,  which human rights defenders say could be an attempt to prevent legal challenges from taking place.

In 2011, when presidential elections were held, Guatemalan and international human rights organizations warned of the danger in electing a former general implicated in “scorched earth” campaigns and extrajudicial executions, pointing out that militarization and repression would likely escalate if Pérez Molina were to win.

On October 4th 2012, those fears were realized as military forces once again attacked, shooting indiscriminately into a crowd of peaceful protesters in the Mayan K’iché community of Totonicapán, and effectively carrying out a massacre. When the ordeal was over, at least six protestors had been killed and another 34 wounded in the first military massacre since the 1996 peace accords were signed. The 3,000 unarmed indigenous protestors had blocked a section of the Inter-American Highway in order to protest rising energy prices, a new educational reform and to negotiate a constitutional reform.

Seven days later, an investigation by the Public Ministry and the National Institute of Forensic Sciences confirmed that the 5.56 caliber bullets that killed and wounded protestors had come from the Galil rifles used by the military. Until then, Pérez Molina had steadfastly denied that his soldiers had been armed or had fired, and attempted to misrepresent details of the incident, finally insisting that soldiers had only fired into the air, and attributing the first shot fired at protestors to a private security guard.

After Pérez Molina was forced to retract his denials about the incident, the officer in charge, Coronel Chiroy, and eight of his soldiers were arrested and charged with “extrajudicial execution”.

In response to international criticism about the incident days after its occurrence, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros dismissed the murder of the indigenous protestors, stating that: “With sadness, I recognize that in some parts of the world eight deaths is a very big deal, but, although it sounds bad to say this, … every day we have double that number of deaths [from violence]. So, it’s not something that we should make a big deal about.”

At a time when militarization in the region is on the rise and violent repression of dissent has returned, a president accused of war crimes who denies that genocide ever took place in his country, and who has attempted to cover up an obvious massacre, it is difficult to take with much optimism the news that 526 less homicides were reported in 2012 than in 2011. And it begs the question; does the Guatemalan government include its own murders in that calculation? Or does the massacre at Totonicapán actually put the 2012 total at 5,128?

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alan Gross and his descent into hell

Along the Malecon | January 21, 2013

This isn’t “Everything You Wanted to Know About Alan Gross, But Were Afraid to Ask.” Unanswered questions about Gross abound more than three years after Cuban authorities nabbed him in Havana.

The Agency for International Development dispatched the American development worker to Cuba on a highly sensitive mission in 2009. Cuban authorities followed his movements at first, then arrested him and deposited him in jail. Discovering how he got there, ever so far from his home in Maryland, is a winding trail of money, bureaucracy and barely intelligible acronyms.

Below is a post aimed at answering some basic questions in the case and adding context to new details that emerged this month in court records, confidential memos and other documents (see links to source material at end of post).

Who hired Alan Gross?

A global development company, Development Alternatives Inc., or DAI, based in Bethesda, Md., and with offices in London, Islamabad and other cities. The company had revenue of nearly $300 million in 2012.

What’s DAI’s connection to USAID?

DAI is one of USAID’s top contractors. USAID has awarded more than $4 billion in contracts to DAI since 2000.

On Sept. 27, 2005, USAID signed a $25,000 contract with DAI as part of the agency’s “Instability, Crisis and Recovery Programs.”

The contract description shown in federal records is cryptic: CMM IQC.

What does that stand for?

CMM refers to the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance. The office works with USAID and its partners, along with the State Department and the Pentagon. “These new partnerships,” USAID says, have boosted the U.S. government’s ability to fight the “Global War on Terror.”

IQC is Indefinite Quantity Contract, an agreement that delivers an unspecified quantity of products or services.

What was DAI supposed to do?

USAID hired DAI to conduct “conflict and fragility” assessments, which involved:

  • A review of risk factors in specific countries or regions
  • The development of work plans
  • Research
  • Fieldwork and reports
  • Planning and implementation of meetings and other duties.

What does that have to do with Cuba?

Under the 2005 contract, DAI became one of USAID’s go-to contractors for a range of tasks. So when USAID wanted to assign a sensitive Cuba project in August 2008, it turned to DAI.

What was that project called?

The Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program, or CDCPP.

How did Alan Gross get involved?

By 2008, Gross was in debt and had evidently been trying to land a Cuba-related contract for at least a year. He had been to the island before and knew key people who were handling U.S. government-financed projects in Cuba.

Key people? Any names?

Gross was in contact with Marc Wachtenheim, then director and founder of the Cuba Development Initiative at the Pan American Development Foundation, or PADF, another big USAID contractor.


José Manuel Collera

In 2004, Wachtenheim had asked Gross to deliver a video camera and other items to José Manuel Collera, former head of the Freemasons fraternal organization in Cuba. Gross delivered the package and the PADF paid him $400.

What was Gross doing in Cuba in 2004?

At his 2011 trial, Gross testified that he went to the island as a tourist in 2004. He stayed at the four-star Hotel Raquel in Havana. It’s unclear if he traveled to Cuba again before 2009. His 2006 company tax records cited ongoing humanitarian work in Cuba.

Anything special about Collera?

Collera was an important contact for Wachtenheim, but turned out to be a spy. In 2011, Collera revealed that he was a state security agent known as “Agent Gerardo.”


Wachtenheim, left, and Collera in surveillance video.

What became of Wachtenheim?

Cuban state security agents secretly caught Wachtenheim on surveillance video while he met with Collera and others. Presumably, agents could have detained Wachtenheim, but they did not interfere with his travels to the island.

Wachtenheim reached out to Gross again in 2007. He gave him $5,500 and asked him to buy a Hughes model 9201 satellite terminal that was to be taken to Cuba. The equipment allows users to send information over the Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network, or BGAN, satellite network. It’s not clear who delivered it and how it was used. The equipment may have been tied to an unrelated PADF program. Raúl Capote, a Cuban professor who worked for Cuban state security, said James Benson, a U.S. official in Havana, delivered a portable BGAN terminal to him and said, “Marc Wachtenheim sends you this.”

That same year, Gross pitched a Cuba proposal to Wachtenheim. He called it “Information and Communications Technology for Cuba: A Pilot Project.”

Wachtenheim didn’t bite. Cuban authorities found out about the project because information about it was on a flash drive Gross had when he was arrested in December 2009.


Marc Wachtenheim

How did Gross finally get the DAI subcontract?

In 2008, Gross learned that DAI had received a Cuba-related contract, described as a “Washington, DC-based project focused on promoting democratic governance in Cuba.”

One version of the story is that Gross then contacted John McCarthy, chief of party for the Cuba project at DAI, and told him he wanted in. Gross told a different story at his trial, saying DAI had asked him to submit a proposal for an upcoming project that he “knew nothing about.”

Whatever the case, Gross got the job even though he didn’t speak Spanish, was not a Cuba specialist and didn’t appear to have extensive experience on the island.

What happened to McCarthy?

He was promoted. He is now DAI’s Global Practice Leader.

So why did DAI hire Gross?

Gross’s connections certainly didn’t hurt. A DAI official who recommended him to USAID on Oct. 21, 2008, wrote:

I can comment on Alan Gross as a former colleague (we overlapped at Nathan from the late 1980s to the early 1990s) and general acquaintance (we stayed in touch over the years) with whom I have exchanged insights about economic development and new business opportunities in this arena every few months.

Alan is a very conscientious and trustworthy individual. He is particularly strong in situational and issues analysis, brokering of technologies and programmatic concepts, and the identification of business opportunities (and this last is a reference to business start-ups, pilots, and innovative ways of overcoming constraints to business growth). I cannot comment on JBDC, as I have never contracted services directly from his company.

Back up. What’s the reference to Nathan?

Gross was a senior partner at Robert R. Nathan Associates from 1987 to 1991.

What about JBDC?

Joint Business Development Center, Inc., was a business and economic development group that Gross founded and ran.

Who designed DAI’s Cuba project?

The project was “based entirely” on Gross’s Dec. 29, 2008, proposal. Gross called it the “ICTs Para La Isla Project.”


From an Alan Gross memo

How long was the project supposed to last?

The initial phase was set for 15 weeks: Feb. 10, 2009, to June 10, 2009.

How much was Gross paid?

The original subcontract amount was $258,274. Gross asked DAI for a project extension and $332,334 in additional funds. USAID agreed and Gross signed the deal on Oct. 26, 2009, bringing the subcontract amount to $590,608.

How much did Gross actually receive?

DAI paid the original $258,274. Neither USAID nor DAI has revealed how much more he received. The contractor has said Gross was paid for the “deliverables” he completed.

Under the contract terms, Gross would have gotten $65,132.80 before departing on his last Cuba trip.

Then he would have received $21,168 after returning to the U.S. and filing a trip report with DAI, but he was arrested before he could do that. So it is quite possible he received just $65,132.80, not the full $332,334.

Did Gross have to pay his own expenses out of that budget?

Yes. His proposed $332,334 budget, for instance, included at least $167,445 in expenses. That means Gross would have taken home only $164,889 if he had completed the contract.

What were some of big costs that Gross expected to pay?

  • Airfare and lodging in Havana and Miami, $40,112
  • Satellite modem user charges for just four months, $68,640


What was his salary?

Gross charged DAI $620 per day. That came in just under USAID’s limit of $626.54, which was the agency’s maximum allowable salary without a waiver in 2009. Gross figured he’d collect that amount for 102 days under the contract extension, giving him $63,240.

So how could Gross have taken home $164,889?

Ah, therein lies the beauty of a federal contract. He threw in company overhead, $21,854; fringe benefits, $21,528; administrative costs, $35,081; and an expense that was simply described as his “fee,” a tidy $35,081, which may have been added to compensate for any cost overruns and other unexpected expenses.

What did Gross accomplish under the subcontract?

He installed three BGAN broadband Internet connections as part of a pilot project. The satellite modems were evidently placed at Jewish synagogues or offices in Havana, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. Gross wrote in a memo:

A wireless network where none previously existed was developed and made operational at 3 target group communities….The target group is now capable of receiving, transmitting, storing and conveying mass information through multi-modal means not previously available.

Gross said “activities initially developed” in Havana and the two other cities now “can be expanded to other identified target groups.”

He added:

Although not part of the Contractor’s initial scope of work, basic content was provided to each of the three communities. This includes three encyclopedias, pictures and video of each other’s communities (developed during three field visits), a significant array of music, and more than a terabyte of storage capacity at each site.

How many trips did Gross make to Cuba under the DAI subcontract?

Four during the initial phase, and one after the contract extension. He was arrested during the fifth trip.

How many trips did he plan under the contract extension, in addition to the five?

Seven, which would have brought the total to 12. His goals were to:

  • Beef up security at the three Internet sites he had already established because he feared they’d be detected.
  • Study and monitor usage at the sites.
  • Supply “up to three new beneficiaries” with telecommunications kits he called “Telco-in-a-Bag.” They were each to include a satellite modem, laptop and other equipment that would fit in a backpack.

When was Gross arrested?

Dec. 3, 2009.

Was anyone else jailed?

None of Gross’s Cuba contacts were reported jailed, but Wachtenheim was reportedly in Cuba around that time and was forced to leave the country in a hurry.
Capote, the professor who was also known as Agent Daniel, said Wachtenheim had traveled to Havana in December 2009 and had called him to arrange a meeting, but he didn’t show up.

Later he called to apologize. Capote recalled the conversation.

Wachtenheim: I had to urgently leave Cuba. Do you have your equipment with you? Do you have it?

Capote: I have it.

Wachtenheim: Make it disappear. Get rid of it quickly.

Cuban authorities had arrested an American who was “very awkward and naive,” Wachtenheim explained. He said Capote needed to get rid of his BGAN because having it would be “very dangerous” for Capote and for the American.

What were the charges against Gross?

In February 2011, Cuban authorities charged Gross with “actions against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” Prosecutors also accused him of taking part in a “subversive project aiming at bringing down the revolution.”

How did Gross explain his work?

In a statement given to the court, Gross said he saw the Cuba project as a way to help support his family and “pay off accumulated debts,” and improve Internet access for members of the Jewish community in Cuba.

Gross said:

Let me be absolutely clear and unambiguous: I have never, would never, and will never purposely or knowingly do anything personally or professionally to subvert a government or political system, or bring harm to anyone…I do deeply regret that my actions have been misinterpreted as harmful and a threat against the security and independence of Cuba. Surely, this runs counter to what I had intended.

How did the arrest impact DAI?

On Sept. 14, 2010, USAID modified its contract with DAI. The agency made changes to the scope of work, cut the funding amount from $28,310,630 to $6,857,817, and scheduled early termination of its agreement with the contractor.

Did USAID or DAI say how the contractor spent $6,857,817? Was there any accountability to taxpayers?

No and no. USAID has not made public any reports on the outcome of the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program. The agency said “due to the sensitive nature of content,” no reports on the program would be submitted to USAID’s huge online database, the Development Experience Clearinghouse.

Have auditors examined USAID’s Cuba programs?

Yes. USAID paid the DMP Group at least $1.47 million to audit the agency’s Cuba programs in 2009 and 2010.

However, USAID has refused disclose any meaningful audit results. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, USAID in 2011 released a 10-page heavily redacted report that contained few details.

Who used the Internet connections that Gross set up?

Neither DAI nor USAID has reported usage details. Trusted Cubans who were vetted in some way evidently managed the sites, so access was limited. Gross’s subcontract required a usage analysis, but no documents on that have been make public.

Where are the BGAN modems, laptops and other equipment now?

Cuban authorities seized the gear.

How did the project advance the democratization of Cuba?

It is not clear the project had any impact in Cuba, despite its cost and the jailing of Our Man in Havana.

Sources:

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mexico: US Plans to Train Commandos for “Drug War”

Weekly News Update on the Americas | January 20, 2013

Citing documents and interviews with several US officials, Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press wire service reported on Jan. 17 that the US military’s Northern Command (Northcom) has a new special operations headquarters in Colorado, to be used “to teach Mexican security forces how to hunt drug cartels the same way special operations teams hunt al-Qaida.” A Dec. 31 memo signed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta transformed the Northcom special operations group into the new command headquarters, which will be led by a general rather than a colonel. The staff will increase from 30 to 150.

According to Dozier, this is the latest effort by US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) head Adm. Bill McRaven “to migrate special operators from their decade of service in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to new missions.” SOCOM “has already helped Mexican officials set up their own intelligence center in Mexico City to target criminal networks, patterned after similar centers in war zones built to target al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Dozier wrote. Mexican military, intelligence and law enforcement officers have reportedly visited SOCOM facilities at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Mexican officials also visited a SOCOM targeting center at the Balad air base in Iraq before the US troop withdrawal in 2011, according to a former US official.

The Mexican government hasn’t expressed an opinion on Northcom’s plan to help with its “war on drugs,” but Agnes Gereben Schaefer of the California-based Rand Corporation intelligence group told Dozier that Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto would probably support the plan. “He has talked about setting up a paramilitary force…made up of former military and police forces, which he has described as more surgical” than the current effort, Schaefer said. At least 50,000 Mexicans have died in the wave of violence that followed the militarization of anti-narcotics efforts that former president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa started at the beginning of his 2006-2012 administration. (Miami Herald 1/17/13 from AP)

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

NPR Examines One Side of Honduran “Model Cities” Debate

By Dan Beeton | CEPR The Americas Blog | January 15, 2013

Honduran newspaper El Heraldo reports that a plan for the creation of “model cities” was reintroduced in the Honduran congress yesterday, months after the Supreme Court declared earlier such plans to be unconstitutional. Congress President Juan Orlando Hernández said that he did not expect the plan to run into the same legal problems as last year because he had taken into account the Supreme Court’s arguments for its decision.

According to El Heraldo, the bill proposes the creation of the 12 special regimes of various kinds which “shall enjoy operational and administrative autonomy.” Among these are “ciudades autónomas.”

Earlier this month, NPR’s This American Life profiled the “model cities” or “charter cities” concept for Honduras in a report that only presented one side of the debate. The report follows reporters Chana Joffe-Walt and Jacob Goldstein’s previous account of the Honduran “model cities” concept for NPR’s Planet Money, and an early examination of the plans in The New York Times Magazine by Planet Money co-creator Adam Davidson.

There is much important context that the This American Life “model cities” profile left out. First, the proposed “model cities” could impact the land rights of Garifuna (Afro-indigenous) communities in the area.  There was little mention of opposition to the “charter cities” idea inside Honduras, outside of lawyers and the Supreme Court decision. And crucially, Honduras has been in a state of relative chaos since the coup, with a breakdown of institutions and the rule of law leading to, among other things, Honduras having the highest murder rate in the world (now at 91 per 100,000 people, according to the UN) (a fact that the This American Life report does note).

As The Americas Blog readers know well, there is a strong political dimension to this violence. As human rights organizations from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International to the International Federation for Human Rights have described, there has been political repression since the coup, targeting opponents of the coup and of the current Lobo government with assassination, forced disappearance, torture, rape, kidnapping, and other abuses. Journalists, lawyers, opposition party candidates, the LGBT community, and women have also been targets, with attacks against each of these groups spiking since the coup. The Garifuna communities are another targeted group, with, e.g., land barons in the Zacate Grande region attacking community groups and radio stations. Honduras is now widely recognized as one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist, with some 23 journalists murdered since President Lobo took office in January 2010 according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

A prominent attorney, Antonio Trejo Cabrera, who opposed the “model cities” plan and who represented campesino groups in another conflict area – the Aguan Valley – was assassinated in September in a case that received international media attention and was widely denounced.

NPR listeners might also be interested to know that Honduras had made economic progress under the Zelaya government prior to the 2009 military coup d’etat (the This American Life report does not mention the coup). As we described in a November 2009 report, poverty and inequality decreased significantly during the Zelaya administration, with economic growth of more than 6 percent during the first two years. The Zelaya government also used expansionary monetary policy to counter-act the global downturn in 2008. It did not need to construct libertarian utopias in order to do these things; indeed, they would not have had this progress had they tried.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Documents Describe US “Transition Plans” for Cuba

Secrecy, politics at heart of Cuba project

Along the Malecon | January 17, 2013

U.S. officials stressed the importance of secrecy during a 2008 meeting with a Maryland contractor that had been chosen to carry out a new democracy project in Cuba, according to a confidential memo (download 8-page document).

The project wasn’t considered classified, however, because the U.S. Agency for International Development wanted to create the illusion of transparency.

Development Alternatives Inc., of Bethesda, Md., won the USAID contract on Aug. 14, 2008, and quickly hired Alan Gross, who was later arrested in Cuba while working on the project.

DAI – not USAID, as some websites have reported – wrote the confidential memo to summarize what was said during a private Aug. 26, 2008, meeting with top USAID officials.

During the meeting, DAI learned that the U.S. government had “five to seven different transition plans” for Cuba. DAI would “not be asked to write a new one.”

Instead, the contractor would carry out a daring plan to set up satellite Internet connections under the nose of Cuban state security agents.

USAID promised to protect the identities of contractors and their associates in and out of Cuba. “The program is not pressing (and will not press) them to disclose networks,” said the memo, which DAI filed in federal court on Jan. 15 as part of its reply to a $60 million lawsuit filed by the Gross family in November 2012 (See Spanish-language translation of this post here, h/t Letras Afiladas).

The memo stressed the unusual nature of the Cuba program:

The project was not classified because USAID wanted to send the message that this is a transparent process. Also, a classified project imposes significant security, documentation burdens and delays on all its stakeholders.

USAID wanted no delays and was eager to move ahead. The memo said:

This Administration expects immediate results from this program, definitely before mid-January.

That deadline likely had something to do with the departure of George W. Bush, a strong supporter of USAID’s programs in Cuba, and the arrival of Barack Obama, who was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009.
The DAI memo summed up a top USAID official’s view of the political undercurrents:

  • This project has received and will continue to warrant intense political scrutiny and pressure for results and fiscal integrity.
  • Target populations for grants are those NGO reaching out to pro-democracy and human rights change agents and those Cubans with a different vision for their country.
  • USAID is not telling Cubans how or why they need a democratic transition, but rather, the Agency wants to provide the technology and means for communicating the spark which could benefit the population.
  • This project will be difficult to implement because an ‘ossified’ Cuban government prevents change, and because most government resources go to its police and control machinery.
  • The Cuba program attracts significant attention and scrutiny by US Congress, where some support and others question existing activities.
  • There is, of course, skepticism on this project, influential political and civic leaders have the perception that this program is paying too much for work that could be significantly less expensive through other contract or award options.

The challenge, the memo said, would be finding “creativity to implement this project in the face of opposition from the Cuban State…while protecting the security of participants and change agents.”

The project was entitled “Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program,” or CDCPP. The memo gave explicit instructions on how the initiative should be described if any lawmakers should ask about it.

Explanation to the Hill regarding CDCPP: to empower pro-democracy, pro-human rights and those looking for alternative visions for the island. The program seeks to expand the reach of their ideas and activities, to build and fortify networks and their capacity to act, and to increase the flow of communication to and around the island.

That vague description gave no clues to the project’s clandestine nature, but the DAI memo was clear:

CDCPP is not an analytical project; it’s an operational activity. USAID approval is needed for everything. We cannot freelance.

The memo said USAID picked DAI in part because of its international reach.

USAID would like to tap into the global network of contacts that DAI has in terms of democracy promotion…

Planes flying in to Cuba from Europe, Central America and the Caribbean look “less conspicuous.”
Grant limits to non-U.S. NGOs “have no funding ceiling,” the memo added. But:

Cuban security apparatus is very strong so non-US NGOs should be vetted.

The DAI memo spelled out what the contractor should say in response to any inquiries from the public or the media:

Yes, we have been awarded CDCPP and we are working with USAID on discussions, but the project is not fully operational yet. Please refer other questions to (redacted) of USAID.

The memo said USAID stressed:

Nothing anywhere.

DAI said that meant:

We must not post anything on our website or issue a press release on the awarded contract.

DAI wound up picking Gross to handle “new media” – the satellite Internet connections – described as the “most sensitive component in a very sensitive project.”

And during four trips to Cuba, Gross established three Internet connections – one in Havana, two outside the capital.

DAI paid him $258,274. He requested more money to continue the project and was promised $332,334, which would have brought his subcontract total to $590,608, an October 2009 memo shows (download 6-page document).

In late November 2009, Gross returned to Cuba a fifth time. Cuban authorities arrested him on Dec. 3, 2009, and accused him of crimes against the socialist state.

DAI said it paid Gross “the full amount owed under the Subcontract for completed deliverables.”

That evidently means Gross would have been entitled to just $65,132.80. That would bring his total payments to $323,406.80, not the full $590,608 he could have collected if he were not arrested.

Gross called his effort “Para La Isla” – For The Island. According to a proposal (download 13-page document) he wrote after his first four trips to Cuba:

Efforts to date under the Para-La-Isla (PLI) Pilot have been focused on establishing and operationalizing 3 sites on the Island through which target group members now have greater access to information than they had previously.

Activities in support of these efforts included the selection, configuration, logistics and training on the use of specific information and communication technologies (ICTs). Primary objectives of the Pilot dealt with the efficacy of the technologies deployed and the contractor’s demonstration that these technologies work.

In the Sept. 17, 2009, memo, Gross proposed six eight additional trips to Cuba that his company would carry out from Nov. 1, 2009, to Oct. 31, 2010.

The memo stated:

Activities initially developed under this pilot at the first site in the capital city have been replicated and expanded to two other target group member communities in the provinces. These activities can be expanded to other identified target groups.

That likely means that Gross and DAI had envisioned taking the program beyond the Jewish community where Gross installed his first Internet connection.
Gross had supplied his Cuban collaborators with Broadband Global Area Network equipment, BGAN for short. The equipment, which fits into a backpack, can be used to establish a broadband Internet connection from anywhere in the world. Users can also make phone calls, send e-mail messages and set up a WiFi network.

During follow-up visits, Gross wanted to learn how Cubans were using the BGAN equipment, increase the number of users at each site and boost security so they wouldn’t be caught.

He considered it “highly probable” that state security agents would detect the satellite connections in the provinces. He wrote:

Radio Frequency activity in the Capitol City is more difficult to monitor than in the provinces because of an already existing level of RF congestion (e.g., from government, commercial sites, embassies, etc.). Therefore, monitoring and detection in the use of ICTs is less likely to occur in the Capitol City. Conversely and because there is little RF congestion in the provinces, monitoring and detection of ICT devices is highly probable.

Even limited use of BGANs and wireless networks will be monitored and detected because Island government technicians routinely “sniff” neighborhoods with their handheld devices in search of ham-radio and satellite dishes. While wireless computer networks (intranet) are not likely to cause any problem if detected, discovery of BGAN usage for Internet access would be catastrophic.

Gross planned to install special SIM cards in the three BGAN systems that would disable their GPS tracking feature and make them more difficult to detect. He wrote:

In order to improve and supplement security tactics and protocols already in place, the contractor will use an alternative SIM card, called “discreet” SIM card, that will increase the level of technical security with each of the 3 BGANs deployed. Discreet SIM cards impede the ability to track or detect specific aspects of non-terrestrial transmitted signals, regarding location and IP identification of transmission. This is accomplished by:

  • Masking the IP address of the BGAN, in case some entity is able to “hack” into the transmission at either end, and
  • Masking the signal so that its GPS location cannot be pinpointed within 400 km.

During the last three of the six trips that Gross planned, he had hoped to supply “up to an additional three prospective new target group sites” with what he described as “Telco-in-a-Bag.” He wrote:

Beneficiaries will utilize this equipment to support activities that are consistent with CDP program. A standard configuration will include:

  • Hardware and software (e.g., computers, modems)
  • Content sharing devices (e.g. iPods, flash drives, smartphones)
  • Activation and Service (BGAN and mobile)
  • Installation
  • Training on the use of this equipment will be similar to the first 3 sites (excluding training on Ruckus Wireless equipment)
  • Local Technical Support to be provided by local contractor staff for trouble-shooting, technical assistance, maintenance, etc.
  • Accessories
  • Schematic

Gross said each ‘Telco-In-A-Bag” would include:

  • Unlocked SmartPhones
  • Sim Card
  • 2GB miniSD Expansion Memory Card
  • iPod 120 GB
  • Composite AV Cable for use with iPod & TV
  • RF Modulator for TVs, Coaxial Cable
  • BGAN satellite modem (1 T&T, 2 Nera)
  • Discreet BGAN Sim card
  • Wireless Router
  • Switch
  • MacBook
  • Backpack
  • Surge Protector (3-outlet) & Adapters
  • Polycom Communicator for Notebook
  • WD External Hard Drive, 500 GB
  • USB Memory Stick (4 GB Flash Drive)”

The memo said that Gross and DAI would reach “an amicable agreement on how to resolve or settle” any differences if forces beyond their control prevented the project’s completion.

But there was no amicable agreement after Gross was arrested and Gross and his wife, Judy, sued DAI and USAID.

On Jan. 15, DAI asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit. Lawyers for DAI wrote (download 57-page document):

The Cuban government, reprehensibly, has sought to manipulate its detention of Mr. Gross to strengthen its hand in dealings with the United States. This has included seeking to exchange Mr. Gross’s release for the U.S. Government’s release of five Cuban spies. As Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen observed, “[t]he Cuban dictatorship is clearly using Mr. Gross to strengthen its grip on power and gain leverage with the United States.”
Against this backdrop, Plaintiffs have filed the present tort suit seeking monetary damages from the Defendants. The fundamental premise of the Complaint is that Plaintiffs may bring tort claims against the Defendants based on the tragic harm that has befallen Mr. Gross.
This premise is wrong. Plaintiffs’ allegations are inextricably intertwined with Federal laws and policies that bar Plaintiffs’ claims, and also fail to state a claim on which the Court can grant relief. Plaintiffs’ claims must be dismissed for eight distinct reasons, any one of which would justify dismissal.

The DAI lawyers – Steven J. Weber, Sarah M. Graves and Matthew J. Gaziano – also said that the company did not have duty to protect Gross. They said he was an independent contractor who should have done more to avoid arrest.
They wrote:

…the Subcontract explicitly states “[t]he Subcontractor shall take all reasonable precautions to prevent damage, injury, or loss to all persons performing services hereunder, the Work, all materials and equipment utilized therein, and all other property at the site of the Work and adjacent thereto.” § 7.3. Thus, § 410 is inapplicable on its face, and the general rule restricting liability to independent contractor employees should prevail.
In sum, DAI had no duty to protect Mr. Gross from the type of injury he suffered, and no exception to this rule is applicable given his admitted status as an employee of an independent contractor. Whether his injury was foreseeable is a factual question that does not change this analysis.

The Cuban government – not DAI – are ultimately to blame for any harm done to Gross and his wife, the contractor’s lawyers said.

DAI deeply regrets that Mr. and Mrs. Gross have suffered harm due to the actions of the Cuban government while Mr. Gross was undertaking activities in Cuba to further the U.S.Government’s foreign policy. For the reasons stated above, however, the Complaint against DAI must be dismissed in its entirety and with prejudice.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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