Washington-Latin America rift on Cuba, Malvinas, drugs

This video is called Latin America v. Obama: U.S. Policy Under Fire at Colombian Summit.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Americas Summit ends in fiasco for Obama

17 April 2012

The Americas Summit held in Cartagena, Colombia over the weekend limped to a close Sunday with the 30-some participating heads of state unable to reach agreement on a joint statement. Preventing any consensus were sharp disagreements between Washington and virtually all the countries to its south over Cuba, the Malvinas and the “war on drugs.”

For Obama, the two-day summit was an unmitigated fiasco, with the positions of his government opposed by every other participating nation outside of Canada, and news reports of the gathering in the United States overshadowed by a prostitution scandal at a Cartagena hotel involving 11 members of the US president’s Secret Service detail and five American military personnel.

This was the second Americas Summit to end with no closing statement for the participants to sign. Obama attended the last one, held in Trinidad in 2009, after barely three months in office, and Washington made a concerted attempt to present the young African-American president as a sea change from the policies of the Bush administration, which were wildly unpopular in the hemisphere.

For all Obama’s rhetoric about having come to Trinidad to inaugurate a new era of “mutual respect and equality,” three years later it has become abundantly clear that his Democratic administration has pursued a Latin American policy that is essentially unchanged from that of its predecessor. This has centered on a continuation of the half-century economic blockade against Cuba, the promotion of Free Trade Agreements crafted to further the interests of US-based banks and transnational corporations and the prosecution of a militarized “war on drugs” designed to further US military hegemony in the region.

Aspects of this policy came under direct attack at the Cartagena summit. Unlike the gathering three years ago, Washington was unable this time to prevent Cuba being placed on the agenda.

At the 2009 summit, Obama deflected criticism by announcing minimal changes to the US ban on travel and restrictions on remittances to Cuba, vowing a “new beginning” in US-Cuban relations. Since then, Washington has taken no steps to ease, much less end, the trade embargo against Cuba.

In Cartagena, Obama insisted that Cuba could not be allowed to attend the summits because it “has not yet moved to democracy.” Latin American critics of Washington’s policy have pointed to a wide range of dictatorships, from the Middle East to Central Asia, with which the US maintains the closest ties.

A meeting of foreign ministers held to draft a statement for the heads of state to sign voted 32 to two (the US and Canada) to end the exclusion of Cuba from the summits, a policy that dates back some 50 years, to when Washington dictated to the Organization of American States a quarantine policy against the Caribbean island nation in the wake of the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. As the summit statements are based on consensus, this veto precluded the issuing of a closing document.

In response, a number of countries indicated that they would adopt the policy pursued by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who this year refused to participate in a summit that excluded Cuba. The ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) countries, which include Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, as well as Cuba and four Caribbean nations, issued a statement vowing that they would not attend another summit without Cuba’s participation and demanding an end to the US economic and financial embargo against the island nation.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff expressed a similar view, declaring that the Cartagena summit “must be the last one without Cuba.”

On the issue of the Malvinas (Falklands) the countries of Latin America similarly took a unanimous position of support for Argentina’s claims to sovereignty over the islands and of opposition to British rule as a remnant of colonialism. The US, however, opposed any statement of support, insisting that it was neutral in the conflict.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner took a car to the airport as soon as the group photograph was snapped, skipping the second day of the conference. This early departure spared her listening to Obama’s remarks spelling out US neutrality in which he referred to the South Atlantic islands as the “the Maldives [sic] or the Falklands, whatever your preferred term.”

On the issue of drugs, Obama also found himself largely isolated in his defense of the US-led strategy of a militarized war on drugs. Washington backed this strategy over the course of two decades through Plan Colombia, which saw billions of dollars in military aid, equipment and advisors sent to the South American country. It is now prosecuting a similar bloody struggle in Mexico through Plan Merida and is spreading it to Central America through the Central American Regional Initiative.

Though sidelined by the Secret Service scandal, last month’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, was an event of considerable significance. There are three major reasons: Cuba, the drug war, and the isolation of the United States: here.

Secret Service Agents Out Following Colombia Prostitution Scandal: here. And here.

Secret Service Prostitute Scandal: 12th Military Member Implicated: here.

US and Colombian unions fight Free Trade deal: here.

U.S.’s Post-Afghanistan Counterinsurgency War: Colombia: here.

The Organisation of American States has backed Argentina’s claim to the Falklands Islands and called on London and Buenos Aires to begin talks towards a peaceful resolution of the dispute: here.

US base fracas exposes Argentine vulnerability. The recently shelved deal over a military facility hints at the potential US manipulation of domestic politics: here.

12 thoughts on “Washington-Latin America rift on Cuba, Malvinas, drugs

  1. U.S. Military, Defense Chiefs Build Anti-ALBA Bloc In South America


    U.S. Department of Defense
    April 22, 2012

    Panetta Visit to Expand South American Defense Ties
    By Cheryl Pellerin

    -Beyond the Western Hemisphere, the Defense Department is looking to Colombia and Brazil, both of which already have deep ties to Africa and now provide assistance there, to help U.S. Africa Command with peacekeeping and other efforts there.
    -Panetta will…seek to expand the range of defense collaborations, including traditional military efforts such as training, exchanges and joint exercises.

    WASHINGTON: During his first visit to South America as defense secretary, which starts today, Leon E. Panetta will meet over the next week with military officials in Brazil, Colombia and Chile, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

    The secretary “is looking to expand defense and security cooperation with three important countries in the region and, increasingly, in the world,” Little added.

    Panetta will travel to Brasilia and Rio de Janiero in Brazil, Bogota in Colombia, and Santiago in Chile.

    This trip follows a late-March visit by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Fla., and then to Brazil and Colombia.

    In Brazil Dempsey met with Defense Minister Antonio Celoso Amorim and top-ranking military official Gen. Jose Carlos de Nardi in Brasilia, and in Bogota with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno and Gen. Alejandro Navas, commander of the Colombian Armed Forces.

    For Panetta, one set of discussions in South America will focus on partnering with Brazil, Chile and Colombia to help build capacity for the military to assist civil authorities in such Central American nations as Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize, a senior defense official told reporters in a background briefing on Friday.

    “The challenges these countries face are towering compared to their own capacity to deal with them,” he said, adding that Brazil, Chile and Colombia already are significant contributors to building partner capacity.

    Colombia, for example, offers capacity-building assistance in 16 countries inside and outside the region, including Africa.

    Colombian service members have trained more than two dozen Mexican helicopter pilots and now train police in Honduras and Guatemala. The nation also provides assistance in nondefense areas like justice reform, the official said.

    “By collaborating with [all three countries],” he added, “the United States can get down to specifics about which country will be conducting specific initiatives and what kinds of initiatives, so together we can ensure the investment we’re making … is as efficient and effective as possible.”
    During an April 9 meeting in Washington, President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff established the U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation Dialogue and announced that Panetta and Amorim would hold the first meeting this week in Brazil.

    The DCD will help bolster cooperation between DOD and Brazil’s Ministry of National Defense, and between the nations’ militaries, the White House said in a statement.

    Beyond the Western Hemisphere, the Defense Department is looking to Colombia and Brazil, both of which already have deep ties to Africa and now provide assistance there, to help U.S. Africa Command with peacekeeping and other efforts there.

    “Africa typifies the situation we’re in, where the United States has limited capacity to help build partner capabilities,” the defense official said.

    “Brazil and Colombia … are stepping up to the plate. Let’s collaborate with them, establish a dialogue between their militaries and Africom so we’re working in mutual support in an informed, cooperative way,” he added.

    Panetta will also seek to expand the range of defense collaborations, including traditional military efforts such as training, exchanges and joint exercises.

    “Clearly we still have plenty to talk about in continuing to support the Colombians in their efforts against [the narcoterrorist group FARC, for Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia]to talk about counternarcotics,” the official said.

    Panetta also will discuss new challenges like cyber security and defense support to civil authorities that offer opportunities for collaboration.

    He added, “In the context of limited resources of the United States for defense … we have an opportunity to partner together with other nations so they become security exporters.”

    Panetta, Little said, sees Brazil, Chile and Colombia “as increasingly important players on the regional stage and also in terms of their leadership roles internationally.”


  2. Colombia: Panetta Intensifies U.S. Counterinsurgency Support


    U.S. Department of Defense
    April 23, 2012

    Panetta Promises Continued Support to Colombia
    By Cheryl Pellerin

    – “I affirmed that the United States stands in solidarity with Colombia and its campaign against [FARC], and that we will continue to provide training, equipment and assistance that Colombia has requested in order to defeat this common enemy.”

    BOGOTA, Colombia: After a meeting today with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta promised the U.S. military partner of 60 years continued commitment and assistance.

    On the first day of a weeklong visit to South America, Panetta said it is appropriate that Colombia was his first stop.

    “This country is one of our closest partners in the hemisphere,” the secretary said, “and an emerging regional and global leader.”

    After a meeting in Bogota, Pinzon took Panetta on a tour of some of the Colombian Army’s best Special Forces troops at Tolemaida Air Base, 47 miles southwest of the capital city. For an hour, paratroopers and other service members performed technical demonstrations against a backdrop of green mountains and dark clouds.

    Later, in a nearby hangar, the two defense leaders positioned themselves at twin podiums and spoke with a crowd of journalists and broadcasters. Behind them in the hangar was a much-used Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

    “In our discussions today,” Panetta announced, “I affirmed that the United States stands in solidarity with Colombia and its campaign against [the narcoterrorist group FARC, for Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia], and that we will continue to provide training, equipment and assistance that Colombia has requested in order to defeat this common enemy.”

    As one example, he added, “the United States is prepared to facilitate the sale of 10 helicopters – five U.S. Army Black Hawks and five commercial helicopters to help Colombia’s efforts against the FARC.”

    After having been a “receiver of grants over the course of the last few years,” Pinzon said through a translator, “Colombia is now exporting knowledge and capacity in terms of regional security.”

    What Colombian soldiers on land, sea and air do is appreciated worldwide, Pinzon said, adding, “We don’t forget that many of those capacities were developed thanks to the effective cooperation of the U.S. government.”

    Panetta said the progress Colombia has made in resolving its internal security challenges has helped strengthen the U.S.-Colombian relationship and cooperation on regional security challenges, especially those emanating from Central America.

    “Our two nations both understand that our security depends on stability not just within our borders but beyond our borders,” the secretary said.

    From that cooperation arises the potential for the two military forces to work closely to help build the capacity of other nations in this region to address the same kinds of security challenges.

    Earlier this month, during President Barack Obama’s visit to Colombia, he and President Juan Manuel Santos signed a new U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Regional Security.

    As part of the plan, the White House said in a statement, discussions between technical experts and policy officials will focus on four key areas that align with hemispheric citizen security goals and priorities.

    These include fighting narcotics trafficking, combating crime, strengthening institutions, and fostering resilient communities.

    Both countries, the White House said, will develop complementary security assistance programs and operational efforts to support hemispheric and international partner nations afflicted by effects of transnational organized crime.

    “Minister Pinzon and I had a very productive discussion today,” Panetta said, “about the next steps we can take within the framework of this plan to achieve our shared desire for a secure, stable and prosperous Western Hemisphere.”

    A specific step includes establishing a State Partnership Program between Columbia and the U.S. National Guard.

    The program links U.S. states with partner countries to support security cooperation objectives of the region’s combatant commander.

    “This program has helped deepen our defense cooperation with other partners in the region,” the secretary said, “including Chile, Peru and Uruguay.

    State partnership programs, he added, “have helped us share lessons learned and expertise for disaster response and other missions where the armed forces can provide critical support to our civil authorities.”

    Establishing such a program represents an opportunity to further enhance our capabilities in this area, and an important new avenue for defense cooperation, the secretary said.


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  6. Brothel trips ‘a threat to Obama’

    UNITED STATES: Several small groups of Secret Service employees endangered the safety of Barack Obama last month as they visited Colombian brothels prior to his visit, a US senator charged on Wednesday.

    Senator Susan Collins, the senior Republican on the Senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee, said the employees’ actions could have provided a foreign intelligence service, drug cartels or other criminals with opportunities for blackmail or coercion.



  7. Nefarious details in the Cuban Five case

    Wednesday, 16 May 2012 10:05 By Saul Landau

    I sit on a gray plastic chair, facing a tiny, gray, plastic table and
    another empty, gray, plastic chair, waiting for Gerardo Hernandez in the
    visiting room of the maximum-security federal pen in Victorville,
    California. Next to me, in similar seating arrangements, a middle-aged black
    man speaks to a woman, presumably his wife; other black men talk to their
    spouses. Two kids run from the “children’s room” to their Dad to get a

    Four guards chatter and observe the visitors and inmates. No contraband must
    be exchanged and no “excess touching.”

    Gerardo emerges, reports to the guards. We hug. Gerardo talks about ideas to
    force the National Security Agency to release its vectored map of the Feb
    24, 1996, shoot down of two Brothers to he Rescue planes by Cuban MIGs. The
    government charged Gerardo with conspiring to commit murder because he
    allegedly – the government offered no evidence – passed the flight
    information to Cuban authorities knowing they would shoot the planes down
    (how would a Miami-based agent know of high level decisions in Havana?).

    The Cubans maintain the MIGs fired their rockets at the intruding planes
    over Cuban air space. U.S. authorities insist it happened over international
    airspace. If the NSA map sustains Cuba’s claim then Gerardo, who purportedly
    delivered the date and time of the fatal flights to Cuban authorities,
    committed no crime. The prosecutors offered no proof that Gerardo delivered
    this information. Hollywood would portray the Miami courtroom scene with the
    prosecutor telling the jury: “I don’t got to show you no stinkin’ proof.”

    Indeed, Gerardo’s defense lawyer showed that Basulto, the head of Brothers
    to the Rescue, had already announced the date of the flights, and several
    U.S. officials also knew of his plan. The FAA had even advised Cuban
    authorities of the impending flights. Facts don’t matter when a jury and
    judge understand that a “wrong” decision could result in their houses
    getting burned down.

    The NSA refused defense attorneys’ subpoenas to deliver their vectored maps
    during the trial and appeals: “National Security,” the two deadly words not
    found in the Constitution or the Bible, constituted their reason (excuse)
    for not delivering the documents. What could force the NSA to comply? We had
    no answers, but the question will linger.

    Other questions still bothered me. What had motivated the FBI to arrest him
    and his fellow Cuban agents? After all the Cuban agents had fed the Bureau
    juicy morsels related to terrorist activities, including the location of a
    boat on the Miami River loaded with explosives. The FBI commandeered the
    boat before it sailed for Cuba – or blew up in Miami.

    “Hector Pesquera,” replied Gerardo. He became the Agent in Charge of the
    Miami Bureau and immediately focused his attention away from the terrorists
    and onto the anti-terrorists. After the jury handed down guilty verdicts at
    the trial of the Cuban Five, Pesquera proudly boasted to a Miami radio
    station that “he was the one who switched his agents’ focus from spying on
    the spies to filing charges against them.” (See, Stephen Kimber, “What Lies
    Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five”, an e-book from Amazon)

    Indeed, Pesquera persuaded Justice officials to refocus attention from exile
    terrorists in South Florida and onto the Cuban intelligence agents who had
    penetrated the terrorist groups. The case `never would have made it to
    court’ if he hadn’t lobbied FBI Director Louis Freeh directly.” (Kimber, p.

    Ann Bardach reinforced the view of Pesquera’s key role in turning the FBI
    from investigating terrorists to investigating anti-terrorists. Bardach and
    Larry Rohter wrote two stories in the New York Times in July 1998, in which
    Posada Carriles, a notorious Cuban-American terrorist admits his mastermind
    role in a series of bombings in Cuba to discourage foreign tourism. One of
    these bombing killed a young Italian tourist whose father is suing the
    United States for sponsoring terrorism.

    Bardach told me about her surprise when Pesquera answered her question on
    Posada by saying “lots of folks around here think Posada is a freedom
    fighter.” Pesquera, friendly with ultra right exiles, terminated the
    investigation of Posada, and shredded his file. Even as Pesquera focused the
    FBI on destroying the Cuban agents web, thus reducing the Bureau’s
    information supply on terrorism, 14 of the 19 participants in the 9/11
    attacks trained in the area without FBI scrutiny. Pesquera seemingly escaped
    scrutiny for his apparent lapse. (“Trabajadores,” May 22, 2005)

    Gerardo and I switched subjects to Alan Gross’ interview with CNN’s Wolf
    Blitzer. Gross, convicted in Cuba of activities designed to undermine the
    government, which AP reporter Desmond Butler documented, whined about his
    life in prison, the food, his window had bars on it and he had only been
    able to receive visits from U.S. Senators, Members of the House, Foreign
    Presidents, religious groups and a day with his wife. He complained
    conditions in the Havana military hospital were downright prison-like.

    Worse, ignoring Desmond Butler’s reporting and former National Security
    Council official Fulton Armstrong’s devastating op ed in the Miami Herald
    (Dec. 25, 2011), he proclaimed his innocence, insisting he only wanted to
    help the Jewish community get better internet access. For this he smuggled
    in equipment (documented by Butler) and got paid almost $600,000 from a
    company contracted by USAID. And Blitzer, who should win the journalism
    award for best stenographer, didn’t ask him about any of the facts Butler
    and Armstrong had raised.

    We hugged goodbye. Gerardo raised a triumphant fist before returning to his
    cell. I walked into the dry desert wind, to the car and the road, down 5,000
    feet and 40 miles to the Ontario, California airport with a chance to think
    about justice and injustice, again.

    Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. His WILL THE REAL
    TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP and FIDEL are available from cinemalibrestudio.com


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