A new investigation by the Associated Press into a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project to create a Twitter-style social media network in Cuba has received a lot of attention this week, with the news trending on the actual Twitter for much of the day yesterday when the story broke, and eliciting comment from various members of Congress and other policy makers. The “ZunZuneo” project, which AP reports was “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was overseen by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). AP describes OTI as “a division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape.” Its efforts to undermine the Cuban government are not unusual, however, considering the organization’s track record in other countries in the region.
As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot described in an interview with radio station KPFA’s “Letters and Politics” yesterday, USAID and OTI in particular have engaged in various efforts to undermine the democratically-elected governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Haiti, among others, and such “open societies” could be more likely to be impacted by such activities than Cuba. Declassified U.S. government documents show that USAID’s OTI in Venezuela played a central role in funding and working with groups and individuals following the short-lived 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chávez. A key contractor for USAID/OTI in that effort has been Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI).
More recent State Department cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that USAID/OTI subversion in Venezuela extended into the Obama administration era (until 2010, when funded for OTI in Venezuela appears to have ended), and DAI continued to play an important role. A State Department cable from November 2006 explains the U.S. embassy’s strategy in Venezuela and how USAID/OTI “activities support [the] strategy”:
(S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in Venezuela for the period 2004) 2006 (specifically, from the referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.
Among the ways in which USAID/OTI have supported the strategy is through the funding and training of protest groups. This August 2009 cable cites the head of USAID/OTI contractor DAI’s Venezuela office Eduardo Fernandez as saying, during 2009 protests, that all the protest organizers are DAI grantees:
¶5. (S) Fernandez told DCM Caulfield that he believed the [the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps'] dual objective is to obtain information regarding DAI’s grantees and to cut off their funding. Fernandez said that “the streets are hot,” referring to growing protests against Chavez’s efforts to consolidate power, and “all these people (organizing the protests) are our grantees.” Fernandez has been leading non-partisan training and grant programs since 2004 for DAI in Venezuela.”
The November 2006 cable describes an example of USAID/OTI partners in Venezuela “shut[ting] down [a] city”:
11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them negotiate with city government to provide better working conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in another area of Venezuela.
The implications for the current situation in Venezuela are obvious, unless we are to assume that such activities have ended despite the tens of millions of dollars in USAID funds designated for Venezuela, some of it going through organizations such as Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute, some of which also funded groups involved in the 2002 coup (which prominent IRI staff publicly applauded at the time).
The same November 2006 cable notes that one OTI program goal is to bolster international support for the opposition:
…DAI has brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela, university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan opposition.
Many of the thousands of cables originating from the U.S. embassy in Caracas that have been made available by Wikileaks describe regular communication and coordination with prominent opposition leaders and groups. One particular favorite has been the NGO Súmate and its leader Maria Corina Machado, who has made headlines over the past two months for her role in the protest movement. The cables show that Machado historically has taken more extreme positions than some other opposition leaders, and the embassy has at least privately questioned Súmate’s strategy of discrediting Venezuela’s electoral system which in turn has contributed to opposition defeats at the polls (most notably in 2005 when an opposition boycott led to complete Chavista domination of the National Assembly). The current protests are no different; Machado and Leopoldo López launched “La Salida” campaign at the end of January with its stated goal of forcing president Nicolás Maduro from office, and vowing to “create chaos in the streets.”
USAID support for destabilization is no secret to the targeted governments. In September 2008, in the midst of a violent, racist and pro-secessionist campaign against the democratically-elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador, and Venezuela followed suit “in solidarity.” Bolivia would later end all USAID involvement in Bolivia after the agency refused to disclose whom it was funding in the country (Freedom of Information Act requests had been independently filed but were not answered). The U.S. embassy in Bolivia had previously been caught asking Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars in the country to engage in espionage.
Commenting on the failed USAID/OTI ZunZuneo program in Cuba, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) commented that, “That is not what USAID should be doing[.] USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”
But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.
For two years, starting in 2010, the United States Agency for International Development ran a social networking service — similar to Twitter — for the Cuban people. Its long-term objective was to foment popular revolt against the government and destabilize the country.
They called it “ZunZuneo” (Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s “tweet”) and launched it under absolute secrecy about who was really running it. “There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from one of the companies supposedly running the service. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the mission.”
The “mission” was to reach a critical mass of Cuban users by offering tweets on sports, entertainment and light news over the service and signing recipients up through word of mouth — you call a phone number and your phone is hooked up. With that critical mass in place, the tweets would start getting more political: inspiring Cuban citizens to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice to spark a kind of a “Cuban Spring” or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”
At one point there were 40,000 Cubans getting ZunZuneo tweets but the project was abandoned in 2012 when the initial funding ran out and the people who own the real Twitter refused to take it on.
The story, an investigative report by the Associated Press, is probably not surprising to most people in this country. After the NSA revelations, what could possibly surprise us? And besides, it would not be the first time that USAID was found doing the nefarious work of the CIA at undermining governments. But it is an embarrassing revelation about how our government is using the Internet and about how “hot” the Cold War remains.
There are also some serious legal issues.
One of the main organizers of the project — Joe McSpedon of the USAID — met with officials from a variety of fronting “sponsor companies” to launch the project in 2009-2010.
From the start, the program’s objective was clear: to de-stablize the government of Cuba, and destabilizing governments is something the United States is proficient at. There are few areas of the world whose history doesn’t include an attempt, often successful, by United States to overthrow a government. In fact, in Venezuela, Ukraine and various parts of Africa, South America and the “Middle East”, such efforts are currently ongoing. In most of these cases, the propaganda-preparing and deceit-dispensing USAID plays a central role.
But some U.S. Congressional officials seemed to think this went further. Vermont Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Appropriations Committee’s State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, called the program “dumb, dumb, dumb” today on MSNBC. He denied knowing anything of the program but said that, if he had, “I would have said, ‘What in heaven’s name are you thinking?’”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that the government was only thinking of improving Cuban’s lives and had done everything “by the law”.
But that’s questionable. The program’s initial recruitment drive was based on a list of a half million Cuban cellphone users apparently stolen from Cuba’s most prominent cellphone company. An employee of that company apparently gave up the information to USAID. Those are stolen phone numbers and also involved an invasion of privacy, which is illegal under any law.
The USAID staffers also set up a series of “front” companies in Spain, Mexico and possibly other countries, to act as the new service’s sponsors. The service, with those companies displaying phony ads and messages on its website, then texted the half million stolen numbers with an offer to join up. That goes way beyond “false advertising” and is absolutely illegal in most countries, including the United States.
Finally, there is the intent of the program (the real reason that USAID wanted to hide its role). You can insult other leaders and even threaten them under international law, but you can not, ever, intervene to overthrow another country’s government. That the United States does this all the time only means that it’s breaking the law all the time.
The exposure of the Zunzuneo story is likely to lead to a new look at the role of USAID in other parts of the world where there are seemingly “popular” risings against elected governments, such as Ukraine and Venezuela.
The truth is that this Zunzuneo program actually addressed a real need, or at least took advantage of one. Cuban communications officials have been reluctant to open Internet access to the country. Then there are the problems of a still developing infrastructure (electricity and phone wires are still in scarce supply). Plus there is the lack of home computers, which only exacerbates the problem. With cell phones now available to many Cubans, the thirst for an information source over the Internet is increasingly being felt.
Which is one good reason many other Latin American leaders, some of them friends of Cuba, are advising the Cuban government to make connectivity a priority in their country. Without an on-line connection to the rest of the world, exploitative criminals like those at the USAID can make their moves.
- ‘Cease illegal activity against Cuba’: Havana slams Washington for ‘Twitter’ program (rt.com)
- US Secretly Created ‘Cuban Twitter’ To Stir Unrest (mintpressnews.com)
A new investigation reveals that the US government has secretly funded a social media network program to instigate political unrest in Cuba.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has been secretly financing the project, dubbed “Cuban Twitter,” for more than two years to undermine the Caribbean country’s government, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.
The program has reportedly been able to evade Cuba’s Internet restrictions by creating a text-messaging service that could be used to organize political rallies.
The service drew in tens of thousands of subscribers who were unaware of Washington’s scheme. The investigation showed that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has gone to extensive lengths to conceal its involvement in the program.
It also added that USAID set up front-companies overseas and routed money through a Cayman Islands bank to hide the funding it supplied to support the Cuban Twitter project.
Havana and Washington have been at odds since the Cuban revolution, led by Fidel Castro, toppled Fulgencio Batista’s regime in 1959. The US started imposing measures on the same year and placed an official embargo against Cuba in 1962.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said that after the 2008 US presidential election, Obama had promised a new beginning with Cuba but “the reality of the last four years has been characterized by a persistent tightening of the economic, commercial, and financial blockade.”
“Cuba is already ours. I feel it in my finger’s ends.”
– James Buchanan, 1849
Historian Walter Johnson’s highly recommended book, “River of Dark Dreams,” centers on cotton production and slave ownership in the Mississippi River Valley prior to the U.S. Civil War. Planters, it seems, believed their fate was linked to imperatives imposed through an internationalized system of sales, manufacture, and re-supply. Johnson’s spirited, enthralling narrative casts slave ownership and cotton growing as precarious undertakings. Planters on the edge of disaster strategized and improvised in order to retain both land and slaves.
Their intransigence vis-à-vis northern compatriots derived, Johnson suggests, from immersion in a labyrinth-like alternative universe that set conditions for their economic survival. Planters were alienated enough from pretensions of their own government to seek deliverance through privatized military interventions in countries seen as hospitable to plantations and slavery.
Johnson focuses on actualities and people’s lives rather than on well-trodden slavery-era themes like abolitionism, or northern industrialization, or states rights . Social and economic history in his hands tells of ledger books; cotton “pickability;” slaves starving, stolen, rebelling, and running away; search dogs; slave babies dying, slave prices, soil fertility, droughts, sandbars, and Haiti. Steamboats feature prominently, along with their explosions, gamblers, races, high-pressure engines, and dining room etiquette. They were technological marvels of their era and absolutely crucial for marketing cotton.
During the period under study, Valley cotton production increased fortyfold, the slave population, 17 times. “The greatest economic boom in the history of the United States” was in progress. Cotton was “the largest single sector of the global economy.” Planters were part of “a network of material connections that stretched from Mississippi and Louisiana to Manhattan and Lowell to Manchester and Liverpool.” Indeed, the “rate of exploitation of slaves in a field in Mississippi … was keyed to the exchange in Liverpool (port of entry for 85 percent of U.S. planters’ cotton) and the labor of mill hands in Manchester.”
In New York southern cotton was re-sold, re-graded, and re-loaded onto other ships for the Atlantic crossing. That city consumed 40 percent of all income generated through cotton sales. Cotton made up two thirds of all U.S. exports. Yet only 10 percent of U.S. imports ended up in cotton-producing states. Southern manufacturers lacked essential equipment manufactured abroad. Cotton producers endured shortages of imported plantations supplies.
Johnson characterizes “the conceptual reach of the global economy in the first half of the nineteenth century” as “lashes into labor into bales into dollars into pounds sterling.” Cotton moved from plantations, to factors in New Orleans, to bankers and shippers in New York, to bankers, buyers, and manufacturers in England, all on a flood of promissory notes, loans, credit, and deductions.
Planters’ wealth took the form of slaves and land. Although land served as collateral for loans, “without slaves, land itself was worthless.” In effect, planters “buy Negroes to plant cotton and raise cotton to buy Negroes.” Facing hard times, slaveholders as a class could not simply transfer their investment from one form of capital to another… Their capital would not simply rust or lie fallow. It would starve. It would steal. It would revolt.”
Influential trade representatives and publicists determined upon a “spatial fix.” They envisioned the Mississippi River as conduit to southern venues favorable to cotton production and other investment possibilities. “In order to survive, slaveholders had to expand,” the author points out: “Proslavery globalism increasingly took the form of imperialist military action.”
“[F]or many in the Mississippi Valley … the most important issue in the early 1850s was Cuba.” Pursing annexation, former Spanish soldier Narciso López in 1851 invaded the island with troops drawn from “the margins of the cotton economy.” Slaveholders had donated supplies. The expedition failed, and López’ execution in Havana attracted 20,000 spectators. Former Mississippi governor and co-conspirator John Quitman raised 1000 men in 1855 for another invasion, which never materialized.
Johnson reviews the career also of slaveholder proxy William Walker whose small army in 1855 subdued Nicaraguan defenders and set him up as the country’s president. Mississippi Valley supporters provided supplies, arms, troops, and ample publicity.
Were slave-owners capitalist? Johnson rejects the notion of slavery as an “archaic” pre-capitalist mode of exploitation. He settles on “a materialist and historical analysis [that] begins from the premise that there was no nineteenth century capitalism without slavery.” [...]
Johnson documents early stirrings of U.S. imperialism. The take among many leftists is that capitalism by its very nature entails recurring crises in accumulation. They assume too that for solutions capitalists look to overseas extension of their operations, even to war making. Thus slave owner longings for exploitative possibilities in the Caribbean and in Central America fueled military adventurism. “River of Dark Dreams” serves in this regard to have documented the beginnings of a U.S. turn toward a global fix for close-to-home economic incongruities. – Full review
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.
The New York-based nonprofit Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) announced on Jan. 6 that the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has recommended ending the group’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Founded in 1967 by the late Rev. Lucius Walker [see Update #1048], IFCO is the first national foundation in the US controlled by people of color. It is probably best known as the sponsor of Pastors for Peace, which for the past 22 years has organized the US-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan, an annual shipment of humanitarian aid to Cuba; Pastors for Peace has also provided humanitarian aid for Nicaragua, Haiti and other countries.
The IRS’s two-year investigation started with a letter to the service from two members of Congress—Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC)—suggesting that IFCO was tied to terrorist organizations because of some $1.2 million in aid it sent to the people of Gaza through the Viva Palestina group in 2009. In its report, the IRS cites a “comprehensive report” by Steve Emerson’s notoriously inaccurate Investigative Project on Terrorism to suggest that some of the aid may have gone to the Hamas organization, which the US lists as a terrorist group. The IRS also charges that the Friendshipments and some aid for US medical students in Cuba may violate the 50-year US embargo against Cuba. In an appeal by New York attorney Martin Stolar, IFCO denies sending aid to Hamas; notes that the relevant US agency, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), has never penalized it for the Friendshipments; and states that OFAC has licensed the medical students to spend money in Cuba.
IFCO has asked supporters to contact US Congress members “and let them know that we need their support. Ask them to contact the Treasury Department to ask them to stop this political persecution and harassment against IFCO.” Treasure can also be contacted directly by fax at 202-622-6415 or via internet at http://www.treasury.gov/connect/Pages/contact-us.aspx. (IFCO letter 1/6/14; Vice (Montreal) 1/8/14; Ahora (Cuba) 1/10/14 from Radio Havana)
On Monday, the Obama administration called for the immediate release of Jewish-American Alan Phillip Gross from Cuban imprisonment, saying his continued captivity for anti-state activities was “gravely disappointing”.
“Tomorrow, development worker Alan Gross will begin a fifth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. It’s gravely disappointing, especially in light of its professed goal of providing Cubans with internet access,” a US State Department said in a statement.
Allan Gross, earlier, asked President Barack Obama to get involved personally to get him released from Cuban jail. “Havana even agreed to meet US government officials, without any pre-conditions, to discuss possible terms leading to Gross’ release and his return home. But the State Department has rejected any negotiated settlement of Gross case out of hand,” claims Scott Gilbert, Alan Gross’ lawyer.
R.M. Schneiderman, editor and writer for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, wrote in the Foreign Affairs Magazine (December 21, 2012) that the single biggest reason Barack Obama cannot make peace with Cuba – is Alan Gross, a Jewish US citizen serving out a 15-year prison sentence in Havana. Cuban officials claim that Alan Gross was working for the US government and trying to subvert the state while working as a contractor in Cuba.
Tracey Eaton, a Cuban blogger, has claimed that Alan Gross was no contractor but a soldier serving the US government to bring regime change in Havana.
“Gross was a soldier, albeit of a different sort. Instead of the usual M9 pistol, he carried a Samsonite briefcase, plenty of cash and 15 credit cards. In place of a combat uniform and boots, he wore beige Land’s End pants and brown Rockport shoes. He spoke no Spanish, but was an experienced international development worker and had worked in such hotspots as Afghanistan and the Middle East. His weapon was technology. He traveled to Havana in 2009 with satellite communication gear, wireless transmitters, routers, cables and switches – enough to set up Internet connections and Wi-Fi hotspots that the socialist government would not be able to detect or control. He worked for Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland contractor that USAID had hired to carry out a democracy-promotion program,” wrote Eaton.
The so-called Cuba-America Jewish Mission (CAJM) is the main source of information at the US State Department.
The Office of Foreign Assests Control (OFAC) within the US Treasury Department put Cuba on its list of countries allegedly sponsoring terrorism against the United States or Israel (incidently, America’s terrorist allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, etc. are not on the list) in 1982. Adam J. Szubin, a Zionist Jew, is the current director of OFAC. He is son of Rabbi Zvi Henry Szubin.
In September 2013, the UN General Assembly condemned the embargo against Cuba with 188 in favor and the US and Israel against it. Israel is the main culprit in using OFAC to starve countries which it doesn’t like, such as, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Pakistan, etc. Israel fears that lifting of sanctions would trigger an international rush back into some these countries especially Iran and Sudan.
Cuba is home to 15,000 Jews. Before Fidel Castro established communist rule in Cuba in 1959, Cuba was considered very friendly to Jews and Israel under former dictator Fulgencio Batista (died 1973). Batista helped the World Zionist Movement in the airlift of 150,000 Jews from Iraq, Iran, Yemen and India to help European Jewish terrorist groups set-up Jewish settlements on Arab land during 1951-52. Cuban businessman Narciso V. Roselló Otero with Israeli connections sponsored those flights. Later he became President of the new Cuban airline Aerea de Cuba.
The Associated Press ran an alarming news piece on 9/6/13: Climate Change Threatens Caribbean’s Water Supply
It was picked up and echoed around the world, from Time Magazine’s Space and Science section in the US to CBC Canada to ABC Australia to ZeeNews India. The headline was everywhere, repeated at the Huffington Post as ‘Caribbean water supplies severely threatened by climate change.” The AP story reported on contemporary expert warnings at an August 2013 UN conference in St. Lucia. The lead AP paragraph is quite clear:
“Experts are sounding a new alarm about the effects of climate change for parts of the Caribbean—the depletion of already strained drinking water throughout much of the region.”
Experts like Avril Alexander, Caribbean coordinator of Global Water Partnership:
“When you look at the projected impact of climate change, a lot of the impact is going to be felt through water.”
Experts like Lystra Fletcher-Paul, Caribbean land/water officer for the UN FAO:
“Inaction is not an option. The water resources will not be available.”
Yet another anthropogenic global warming alarm, and just in time for IPCC AR5, whose newly released WG1 chapters 7 and 11 say there is high confidence that dry regions will get drier, wet regions will get wetter, and storms will get stormier. “But there is only low confidence in the magnitude.” These Caribbean experts are much more certain—Caribbean water resources will not be available.
Little in this MSM AP news is what it seems. Paragraph 2 starts out saying rising sea levels could contaminate Caribbean fresh water supplies. What a curious assertion. Less dense fresh water floats on top of salt water no matter the sea level. Excessive groundwater draw-down can cause saltwater intrusion from below. That is already a problem in urbanized Broward County, Florida despite proximity to the Everglades. And on the Tuvalu atolls in the Pacific, where government owned tourist hotels have strained its very limited groundwater capacity. Tuvalu is another urban development problem, not AGW. It was caused by Tuvalu’s government itself, eager to develop ecotourism (diving) after their new Funafuti runway was built with World Bank financing.
Saltwater intrusion doesn’t apply much to Caribbean island groundwater. The islands are mountainous. Pico Duarte in the DR is 3098m. Pic la Selle in Haiti is 2680m. Jamaica’s Blue Mountain is 2256m. Cuba’s Pico Turquina is 1974m. Antigua’s ‘Boggy Peak’ is 402m. St. Croix’ ‘Mount Eagle’ is 355m. Barbados is only hilly, with a maximum elevation of ‘just’ 343m. Barbados:
Rising sea levels will not contaminate Caribbean fresh water supplies.
The AP reported that Jason Johnson, head of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association, said the real issue is groundwater replenishment.
“Many Caribbean nations rely exclusively on underground water for their needs, a vulnerable source that would be hit hard by climate change effects. That’s the greatest concern. Those weather patterns may change, and there may not necessarily be the means for those water supplies to be replenished at the pace that they have historically been replenished.”
The AP noted some of the islands experienced an unusual dry spell in 2012. That’s weather. But Cedric Van Meerbeck, climatologist with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology, made the inevitable AGW connection:
“There are a number of indications that the total amount of rainfall in much of the Caribbean would be decreasing by the end of the century.”
Since 2012 was dry, and AR5 WG1 Chapter 7 executive summary says dry will get dryer, perhaps IPCC pronouncements are the indications. But regionally down-scaled GCMs cannot make such predictions on multi-decadal time scales. 
Intense rains fully ameliorated the unusual 2012 dry spell early in the usual 2013 Caribbean tropical storm season. AR5 WG1 7.6.2 also says wet will get wetter and storms stormier. That worries Barnard Ettinoffe, President of the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association:
“Heavy rains mean there’s not enough time for water to soak into the ground as it quickly runs off.”
Climate change causes dry to get drier and wet to get wetter according to AR5 WG1 126.96.36.199.1. It threatens Caribbean island water supply both ways!
What is actually going on was clued in the lead AP paragraph above—depletion of already strained water supplies throughout much of the region.
Much of the region is not correct. The AP story cites a 2012 study from British investment risk firm Maplecroft  saying Barbados is most at risk, but Cuba and the Dominican Republic also have high water security risk. On the large island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic has 2069m3 of renewable water per capita according the World Bank. Cuba has 3381m3. The UK (another island for comparison sake) has 2311m3 but is not a water risk. The only way Cuba and the Dominican Republic could have a high water security risk rating (when the UK doesn’t) is through some illogic unrelated to water.
Barbados (although verdant, as the above picture proves) does have the least per capita renewable water in the Caribbean, only 284m3. That is because Barbados water consumption has doubled over the past 50 years  as its population has grown from ≈232K to ≈280K while its per capita GDP tripled from ≈$4k to ≈$12k. Water has become a major problem, and Barbados doesn’t have the oil wealth to import food (virtual water) or desalinate seawater like Saudi Arabia (86m3). Barbados’ water problem is anthropogenic, but not AGW. It is about unsustainable population growth and economic development on a smallish dryish island–just like on Tuvalu.
Another Caribbean country with current water problems is Antigua/Barbuda, at 590m3. Neither indigenous Caribbean tribes nor Spanish conquistadors settled those islands because of insufficient fresh water. The British did later. The country’s population has almost doubled from ≈54k in 1960 to ≈90k today. That always eventually causes finite resource problems. And now has in naturally dry Antigua/Barbuda.
Climate change does not threaten Caribbean water supplies. Population growth and economic development already do on some of the smaller islands. And they are using climate change to ‘extort’ financial aid (e.g. for desalination) from the usual rich ‘guilty’ AGW culprits.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change organized this regional conference (at St. Lucia’s luxurious Bay Gardens Hotel/Resort) for Caribbean environment ministers and politicians. The UN organizer’s locally televised purpose was to give “these less developed country ministers and politicians the information and tools to know what to ask for in the negotiations leading up to the new world agreements of 2015”. That starts at COP19 in Warsaw in November 2013.
It is no coincidence the conference was held on St. Lucia. Its minister presently heads the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). AOSIS says its 44 member states comprise 30% of developing countries, 20% of UN member states, and 5% of world population. The AOSIS agenda for COP19 is clear from its PR after being disappointed at June 2013 Bonn meetings:
At the closing of the latest round of U.N. climate talks, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group of 44 low-lying and coastal countries that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, released the following statement:
“After losing two weeks to needless procedural wrangling, it is worth recalling the scale of the challenge we face and the precious little time remaining to meet it… Therefore an international mechanism to address the permanent injury our islands are experiencing [emphasis added] must be established this year at the Warsaw conference.”
Tuvalu is the AOSIS member most aggressively agitating for UN ‘climate change aid’, having experienced saltwater intrusion caused by government tourist hotel development. Hence the AP story’s odd second paragraph, which is unrelated to the Caribbean but right in the AOSIS (Tuvalu) lobbying sweet spot.
Hey mon, its Babylon politricks. (H/T to Bob Marley and Jamaica, a Caribbean island of 2.7 million people enjoying 2473m3 renewable water per capita and fantastic reggae music.)
 Pielke Sr., Regional Climate Downscaling: What’s the Point, EOS 93: 52-53 (2012)
 Maplecroft Global Risk Analytics, firstname.lastname@example.org
 Available at data.worldbank.org/indicator/ER.H2O.INTR.PC
 Barbados Free Press editorial on water rationing 2/28/10
Brazil’s Health Minister, Alexander Padilha, yesterday declared that the country will receive 4,000 doctors from Cuba.
The decision is part of the “More Doctors” government programme, which was set out in June to increase the number of health workers in the country, currently lacking 15,460 doctors. The move has come after only 15% of the demand was satisfied during the first month of the initiative.
Padilha stated that Brazil will hire “doctors with standards that the Ministry of Health established”. In that sense, he said that doctors “with international experience, especially in Portuguese-speaking countries” would be sought.
A first group of 400 doctors will arrive in the country next weekend and will have to pass a three weeks evaluation. The other groups will come before the end of the year, to work in 701 municipalities in Northern and North-Eastern Brazil.
They will receive a US$4,200 monthly wage. In total, Brazil government will pay over US$212m to receive required Cuban doctors. This investment has been made possible by next week approval of the law to fund public services with oil revenue – 25% of these incomes is now dedicated to the health sector.
Brazil is not the only nation to enjoy Cuban doctors experience. In last may, Cuba had 38,868 health workers abroad. In total, 40 countries receive these services for free.
The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) denounced today the United States has hardened the blockade on the island over the last weeks, using for this action the Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department.
According to the information from the Ministry, on June 28, the OFAC fined one of the most important Italian banks, Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A., compelling it to pay $2,949,030 dollars.
According to the probe carried out by OFAC, the bank handled 53 transfers in favor of Cuba, from 2004 to 2008.
The Cuban government says the extraterritorial application of this sanction is evidence of the impudence with which the United States treats its European partners and sets a negative precedent for other institutions that do business with Cuba.
Besides this, adds the official note, on July 22nd, the OFAC fined once again another company for violating blockade regulations against Cuba, this time with $5,226,120 dollars, the largest sum yet this year.
The victim this time was one of the main tour operator agencies in the US, American Express Travel Related Services Company. This is the second fine in less than one month and the fifth this year, stresses Minrex in an official note published in its digital website.
The OFAC announced this last sanction after concluding a detailed investigation consisting in the US obsession with preventing at all cost that US citizens travel freely to Cuba.
The fine was set off by the alleged sale of 14,487 air tickets to travel to Cuba from third countries, outside from the license given to American Express Travel for the groups of “people to people” travel.
At the same time, the Minrex note says the fines reinforce the extraterritorial application of the blockade on companies for their operations in third countries.
The fundamental objective of this criminal and inhumane policy is to keep on harming and bearing suffering on the Cuban people, concludes the communique.
Publication of What Lies Across the Water, Stephen Kimber’s book about Cuban anti-terrorists serving wildly extravagant terms in U.S. jails, is a remarkable event. Previously appearing as an e-book, this is the first full – length book published in English on the so-called Cuban Five. They were arrested in Miami on September 12, 1998, and a worldwide movement on their behalf is demanding their freedom. Many view them as political prisoners.
In comprehensive and convincing fashion the book explains how Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González came to be arrested, tried, and imprisoned. Its coverage of bias and legal failings that marred their prosecution and trial is adequate, but less detailed. Kimber devotes more attention to events and personalities directly affecting the Five than to early anti-Cuban terror attacks and the Cuban revolution.
Journalism professor Kimber (at Canada’s University of King’s College, in Halifax, Nova Scotia) drew upon news stories in the Florida, Central American, and Cuban media and read 20,000 pages of court transcripts. He interviewed officials and contacts in Florida, Cuba, and elsewhere, also family members of the Five and the prisoners themselves, via correspondence. The author’s clear, flowing, and often seat-gripping, even entertaining, narrative is an added plus. The book is highly recommended.
Kimber starts out by confessing he was no expert on the case initially. He was about to write a novel that touched upon Cuba. Then a Cuban friend with political and intelligence experience told him that, “nothing can really be resolved between Washington and Havana until they (the Five) are returned to Cuba.” So instead of writing a novel, Kimber began work on a story he realized was important and that “needed to be told by someone who didn’t already know which versions of which stories were true.”
The way Kimber’s report unfolds serves to highlight convoluted linkages of the prisoners’ experiences and their case to the many-faceted U.S. apparatus set up to undo the Cuban revolution. Implacable, non-stop U.S. enmity sets the stage for obfuscations, contradictions, intrigue, ambiguities, and strange twists. For Kimber, the resulting atmosphere was one where “Nothing, it seems, is ever as it seems.”
For example, Cuba’s “Wasp Network” included at least 22 agents, not just the Cuban Five, as is often assumed. Agents were posted throughout the United States, away from Florida. Some of those arrested in 1998 pled guilty and served only short sentences. Cuban agents served as FBI informants. Far from exclusively monitoring private paramilitary groups, as many assume, one Cuban Five agent did gather non – classified intelligence from a U.S. military installation. For years, the FBI monitored movements, contacts, and communications of the Five and other agents. The Cuban American Nation Foundation (CANF), darling of U.S. presidents, professed non-violence, yet operated a paramilitary wing. Even the Miami Herald, reviled by Cuba solidarity activists, gains points through its reporter Juan Tamayo, who linked Havana hotel bombings to the Cuban exile terrorist Luis Posada.
The book attests to difficulties attending intelligence gathering in the midst of all but open U.S. war against Cuba. Cuban agents were well prepared, and superior officers in Havana supervised them closely. “Compartmentalized,” they were unable usually to identify fellow agents in the United States. They relied on advanced technical skills, support from loved ones, fearlessness, their own resourcefulness, their sensitive understanding of hazardous situations, and very hard work.
Kimber’s “What Lies across the Water” has the potential for stimulating new thinking on the case of the Five. Information it provides and the book’s fact-based style of presentation ought to persuade readers, it seems, to move beyond viewing the prisoners’ fate as a sort of morality tale, one with U.S. over-reaction, prisoners’ revolutionary virtue, and suffering. The book would encourage them instead to develop a response built on considering the larger context of generalized U.S. bullying of Cuba. The book may or may not succeed in this, but in all respects it is essential reading for those either new or old to the case of the Five.
The book exerts an appeal through effective portrayals of characters so far out of the ordinary, with such bizarre purposes, as almost to defy belief. They include: Cuban agent Percy Alvarado Godoy, CANF infiltrator for years; terrorist honchos Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada; the opportunistic Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto; and even Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, message carrier to the Clinton White House. There is the flamboyant Wasp agent, pilot, unfaithful husband, and FBI informant Juan Pablo Roque, who returned to Cuba; CANF founder and Miami titan Jorge Mas Canosa; and not least, Francisco Avila Azcuy. That FBI informant, Cuban spy for 13 years, and chief of Miami’s Alpha 66 private military formation was unusual, even in a setting where double agents were, and undoubtedly are, routine.
This book tells the tragic story of the Cuban Five. But here’s hoping it also helps re-orient energies of justice-seeking activists toward joining or rejoining a necessary fight. Their task is to take on the century – long U.S. campaign to impose domination over a Caribbean island. The agenda presently is to end the U.S. economic blockade, end campaigns of internal subversion and international isolation, and, surely, free the Cuban Five.
W. T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.
- Cuban Film Day @ Progressive Film Club, Sat 27th of July, the New Theatre, Temple Bar (irishleftreview.org)
- Cuban, US diplomats increasingly allowed to travel (miamiherald.com)
In doubling the bounty on former Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur’s head, the Obama administration is announcing that Black radicals are candidates for his Kill List. The message is as unmistakable and dramatic as the billboards that have been erected in Newark, New Jersey, and elsewhere screaming for the exiled freedom fighter’s blood.
One does not wind up on the FBI’s Most Wanted list based on the number of murders committed or millions of dollars stolen. The Most Wanted list is among the nation’s most political documents, in which individuals are meant to personify the scope and type of offenses that the U.S. government considers most in need of stamping out. The list is a kind of propaganda, a symbolic display of what the state considers dangerous behavior.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the two Black men who are most responsible for making Assata Shakur the face of domestic terror in the United States, are fully conversant in the language of symbolism. They are publicly defining the Black liberation movement – or what’s left of it, or those who might attempt to revive it – as a priority domestic target for repression. Shakur, a 65-year old grandmother who has not left Cuba for the past 29 years, poses no physical danger to the American state. She represents a political threat, through her “ideology,” as brazenly stated by the FBI. The Bureau has marked Shakur for priority assassination on the basis of, in the FBI’s words, her “anti-U.S. government speeches espousing the Black Liberation Army message.” “Terrorism” is somehow inherent in the message of Black liberation. Advocacy of Black liberation, is the threat. The reward of $2 million is meant to silence Assata Shakur’s political speech, and remove her as a symbol of resistance to the U.S government.
For the National Security State, “terror” is a powerful word, with vast legal ramifications. The Obama administration is informing Americans and Cubans that Assata is as much fair game for assassination by drone as the late Anwar al-Awlaki. Barack Obama and Eric Holder are serving notice that those who share Assata’s ideology – as understood by the FBI – are subject to eradication as well, because it is an ideology of terror. And they are telling those who give “substantial support” to Assata that they are subject to detention by the U.S. military without trial or charge, for the duration of the war against “terror.”
The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations will hold a demonstration on Thursday, May 9, from 5 to 7pm, in front of the Harlem State Office Building in New York City, to give substantial and unwavering support to the safety and freedom of Assata Shakur; Freedom for Sundiata Acoli and Sekou Odinga, Black Liberation Army members held in U.S. prisons; and Freedom for All Political Prisoners.
They tried to kill Assata in 1973, and their still trying. They tried to kill the Black liberation movement, but its not dead yet. Join the Black is Back Coalition and a host of other concerned organizations at the Harlem State Office Building, on 125th Street, at 5pm, on Thursday. Tell the real terrorists what you think about them, their austerity, their mass incarceration, and their wars.
Glen Ford can be contacted at GlenFord@BlackAgendaReport.com.
For more information, go to Black Is Back Coalition event Facebook page:
Mérida – Venezuela and Cuba signed 51 bilateral agreements related to energy management and social programmes in areas including healthcare, education and recreation this past weekend and pledged to spend $2 billion on bilateral social development projects this year.
The agreements were signed during Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s visit to Cuba over the weekend.
“We came to ratify a strategic…[and] historical alliance,” Maduro told Cuban press.
Details of the bilateral agreements are yet to be released, though Maduro described the deals as focusing on “social development”.
After meeting with Maduro, Castro told the press that the agreements reaffirm Cuba’s “unyielding will to continue co-operation in solidarity with Venezuela, determined to share our fate with the heroic Venezuelan people”.
The agreements represent Cuba’s largest source of foreign capital, according to AFP.
In his first trip abroad since being sworn in as Venezuela’s new president, Nicolas Maduro also met with former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
“I spent over five hours with Fidel, talking, sharing memories of Comandante Chavez, remembering how he and Chavez had built this alliance, which is more than a strategic partnership,” Maduro stated, according to the Havana Times.
The visit was criticised by Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who during his recent election bid advocated for cutting most ties with Cuba.
“Our great lackey is travelling to Havana to get instructions from his boss,” he tweeted on Saturday.
Venezuela is Cuba’s largest trade partner, currently providing the island nation with more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day. In exchange, over 30,000 Cuban medical personnel work in Venezuela.
During his election campaign, Capriles maintained his long standing policy that if elected, “not another drop of oil” would be sent to Cuba.
However, his views on the doctors are less consistent; alternating between offering them citizenship and accusing them of being spies involved in a “Castro-communist” plot and threatening them with deportation.
Maduro indicated that his administration would maintain continuity with former president Hugo Chavez’s Cuba policy, stating that the two countries “will continue working together”.
According to the Uruguayan newspaper La Republica, Maduro’s next international trip will be to Uruguay, where he is expected to meet with the country’s leftist president Jose Mujica.
The newspaper cites diplomatic sources as stating that the trip will take place around May 7, and will be part of a regional tour.
However, La Republica’s report on Maduro’s travel plans have not been officially confirmed by the Venezuelan government.