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Resurrection / Resurrección

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hate
A hateful young man set this and two other Louisiana churches on fire, but the congregations and friends that they never met are pitching in for these houses of worship to be rebuilt. Photo by the Louisiana Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Happy Easter! ~ ¡Felices Pascuas!

 









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Peter Bolton, The Monroe Doctrine (again)

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md
As the latest US attack on Cuba shows, its purpose is to serve the neoliberal order.  Image courtesy of Cornell University/Wikimedia Commons.

It’s official: the Monroe Doctrine is back

by Peter Bolton — Council on Hemispheric Affairs


In November 2013, then-Secretary of State John Kerry declared: “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.”1 The reality of Obama administration policy did not entirely support this assertion; there was the executive order against Venezuela in 2015, support for the coup in Honduras in 2009, and ominously close ties with right-wing governments across the region. But with other more encouraging steps such as the normalization of relations with Cuba and the (belated) show of support for the Colombian Peace Process, there were at least some modest steps towards greater mutual respect for national sovereignty in the Hemisphere. Then came the unexpected election of Donald Trump. Though throughout his election campaign he expressed a preference for US isolationism and opposition to senseless war, once in office he appointed the very neoconservative war hawks he had earlier criticized for engineering such foreign debacles as the disastrous invasion of Iraq. His appointments to hemispheric policy posts have been the least encouraging, with figures such as the convicted criminal Elliot Abrams reemerging from obscurity to saber-rattle against traditional Latin American foes. Ever since Trump entered the White House, there has been a growing sense that the Monroe Doctrine is back. Now, that suspicion has been confirmed. On April 17, National Security Advisor John Bolton said: “Today, we proudly proclaim for all to hear: the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.”2

Latest move in ‘Troika of Tyranny’ Strategy

Bolton made the announcement during a speech in Miami to veterans of the CIA-orchestrated3 invasion of Cuba in 1961 – known in Cuban-American exile folklore as the “Bay of Pigs.” But the main purpose of the speech was to make public the latest addition to his so-called “Troika of Tyranny” strategy: a new punitive measure against Cuba to add to the already crippling array of sanctions, isolation tactics, and trade prohibitions that make up the decades-long economic blockade.4 Having severely, though not entirely,5 rolled back the Obama-era normalization process, the Trump administration now considers property in Cuba that was seized by the Cuban government from “Americans”  to be open game for lawsuits.6 It was unclear whether he was referring to US citizens generally, Cuban exiles specifically or any US resident, but he indicated that foreign companies with any business dealings relating to expropriated property will be subject to possible lawsuits. He stated: “Americans who have had their private and hard-earned property stolen in Cuba will finally be allowed to sue.”7

The measure will be implemented by reactivating a provision of the notorious Helms-Burton Act that up until now had been suspended since the Clinton administration.8 Known as “Title III,” the clause allows lawsuits against foreign companies that have “trafficked” or otherwise benefited from the use of property seized since the beginning of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.9 Such property is believed to include a wide range of real estate including residential houses and investments in the tourism industry such as hotels and ports used by cruise companies.10 Bolton also indicated that those who “traffic” in this “stolen” property will be denied visas to enter the United States.11

International condemnation

The move has been widely condemned across the world including by Canada and multiple US allies in Europe who have warned of potential counter-lawsuits in response and pledged to challenge the move through the World Trade Organization.12 In anticipation of Wednesday’s announcement, European Commission foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a joint letter sent on April 10 that “the issue of outstanding US claims should not be conflated with the cause of furthering democracy and human rights in Cuba.”13 Similarly, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland released a statement on Wednesday saying that “Canada is deeply disappointed with today’s announcement.”14

The new sanctions  come as the US has become ever more isolated on its policy toward Cuba. Last November, all but four of the 193 nations of the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution condemning the blockade.15 The two “No” votes, unsurprisingly, came from the US and Israel (with two other nations casting abstentions). Similar resolutions have been passed by the General Assembly with a majority in favor every year since 1992 on the basis that the blockade is a violation of international law and the UN Charter.16 This adds to decades-long condemnation from a wide array of international NGOs who have voiced their criticism. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, for instance, has stated that “the economic sanctions [that make up the blockade] have an impact on the Cuban people’s human rights, and therefore [we urge] that the embargo be lifted.”17 The Center for International Policy, meanwhile, has stated that the blockade has “created a situation of scarcity and uncertainty that has affected all aspects of Cuban society, including its healthcare system.”18

Challenging the absolutist stance on private property

An exhaustive list of such statements would be far too long to enumerate here. But there is something more significant still that lies behind this latest punitive measure. It illustrates how the Monroe Doctrine has evolved to become intricately linked with the imposition and maintenance of the global neoliberal order. This is because it shines a light on the most fundamental factor that has motivated US hostility against Cuba since 1959. As the late Saul Landau pointed out, this hostility was never predicated on human rights concerns;19 how could it be when the US has held lasting alliances with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Colombia and Honduras, which, if anything, have much worse human rights records than Cuba? Rather, it was the nationalization of US-owned assets by the revolutionary government – such as the agro-industrial corporations that controlled much of Cuba’s agricultural sector – that to this day represents the cardinal sin. Threatening US economic interests is the one thing that Washington never forgives. For those countries that do serve Washington’s economic interests, on the other hand, there is practically nothing it won’t overlook. Indeed, President Trump all but spelled this out when he stated recently that the US’s relationship with the brutal Saudi dictatorship will continue since it’s good for business.20

This latest move also strikes at the heart of the absolutist stance that Washington takes toward the concept of private property, which to a large extent underpins its entire neoliberal and imperialist value system. For Washington, the legitimacy of its own vision of private property is beyond question, an unassailable moral absolute without caveat. So long, that is, as such property relations are to the benefit of corporate power. The fact that multinational corporations routinely violate the property rights of others21 – not to mention environmental, labor and consumer rights – is obfuscated under the twisted logic of neoliberal capitalism. Indeed, this fundamentally hypocritical vision of property relations forms a large part of prevailing neoliberal assumptions. Private ownership and so-called “competition” amongst private actors are deified, while concepts such as “the commons” or “the public square” are demeaned and denigrated at every turn.22 The role of the state is whittled down to enforcing the contractual relations of capitalism and social control, while beneficial state functions such as instituting social protections, providing access to public services, protecting the biosphere, and ensuring responsible regulation of the economy are dispensed with.

Putting things in context

The historical context in Cuba provides the perfect illustration of this tendency. As the 1950s drew to a close, the Batista dictatorship had tightened its grip on power and was ruling with an iron fist. And in addition to the suffering caused by many of the pathologies typical to Latin American countries of the time (and in many cases continuing to this day) – the rampant poverty and inequality,23 the tragic rates of illiteracy,24 and the widespread lack of access to even basic public services25 – Cuba had the added pathology of mob infiltration into myriad spheres of the island’s economy and wider society.26 As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote at the time: “The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the government’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice… is an open invitation to revolution.”27 Naturally, none of this mattered to Washington, which strenuously backed the Batista dictatorship since it was obediently obeying orders and creating a favorable business environment for powerful US multinational corporations.28

Though such a reality does not necessarily justify the nature or the extent of the expropriation process that took place in the early days of the revolution, it does highlight the fact that the distribution of wealth and resources in Cuban society was far from beyond moral reevaluation before the revolution either. Indeed, such political and philosophical questions surrounding the concepts of property ownership and wealth distribution are – and ought to be – constantly subjected to debate and readjustment in all societies. The 20th Century saw a huge divergence in the paths that different countries took on these matters – on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Obviously the Eastern Bloc countries moved toward the highly state-led “command economies” that came to characterize the Soviet system. And as much as post-Cold War propaganda says otherwise, this system did have some benefits,29 especially when contrasted with the disastrous consequences of the transition to neoliberalism that has taken place in post-Soviet Eastern Europe.30 But even within the borders of many US Western European allies there has been considerable diversity. Social democratic governments experimented with differing configurations of state and private ownership for the various sectors of the economy. Even the trenchant US ally, Great Britain, brought sectors such as transport, electricity, water, telecommunications, mining and even some heavy industry into public ownership in the post-war period.31 And of course, like every other Western European country,32 Britain also established a publicly administered universal healthcare system33 and brought a significant proportion of its housing stock into public ownership too.34

The so-called “free” market neoliberal path taken by the United States, especially since the late 1970s, and subsequently adopted across large swaths of the world, hardly compares favorably to either Western European countries under social democracy or even to post-1959 Cuba. Whereas in the United States (the wealthiest country in the world, lest we forget) empty homes outnumber homeless people by six to one,35 in Cuba homelessness is virtually nonexistent.36 Similarly, whereas in the United States several tens of thousands of people die every year due to a lack of access to healthcare,37 Cuba’s universal system is free-at-the-point-of-service and leaves no one without care.38 Remember that on both counts Cuba has a superior record despite being a much poorer country, which furthermore has suffered for decades under an economic blockade from the world’s superpower that, according to the UN, has cost its economy over $100 billion dollars throughout the decades.39 Such comparisons again expose the inherent contradictions and inhumanity of neoliberal ideology.

Separating fact from fiction

It must also be remembered that the realities of the process of expropriation in Cuba have been heavily distorted by the historical fictions that make up Cuban-American exile mythology. According to this belief system, the tyrannical Fidel Castro seized for himself everything from everyone so that all but he might be equal. The reality is far more nuanced than this picture suggests. For one thing, the Cuban exiles who left in the early days of the revolution abandoned their properties as they fled for Yankee shores. (And many of them did so long before the country officially embraced communism in late 1965 – almost six years after Castro seized power from Batista.) So they could not have reasonably expected to have them returned to them no matter what political and economic system Cuba eventually adopted. Furthermore, Fidel Castro made clear that expropriation would apply to everyone, including him and his cadre of revolutionaries themselves. Indeed, one of the very first things that his government nationalized after the revolution was his own family farm in the island’s Oriente province.40

But there is deeper nuance still to the expropriation process. For instance, some of the private property that the revolutionary government seized after 1959 had itself been unjustly seized from rural peasants during the Batista dictatorship for the benefit of multinational corporations such as the United Fruit Company.41 Redressing this kind of injustice that for decades had been done to Cuba’s campesinos was a central pillar of Fidel Castro’s political program since long before 1959. He initially indicated support for some kind of land reform and nationalization program in his famous 1953 speech “History Will Absolve Me.”42 The debate surrounding land reform and campesino struggles in its support continue to this day across Latin America. And some features of the Cuban experience have served as a model for land reform efforts ever since, whether it be in Honduras, Venezuela or Colombia. To be sure, reasonable people can certainly disagree about whether or not this process of expropriation went too far. But the process of expropriation was not the wanton, indiscriminate theft portrayed by the hardliner Cuban-American exile faction and nor did the situation in Cuba before the revolution represent an ideal model of property relations and resource distribution either.

The indigenous genocide and US hypocrisy

Finally, this entire episode raises serious issues of hypocrisy in light of historical realities and a flagrant lack of even-handedness. And this also ought to be put in context. To give just one example, in a cruel irony the US has violated Cuba’s land sovereignty rights for years through its illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay,43 where it houses both a Naval Base and a detention center where people have been continually subjected to torture, rendition and indefinite detention without trial (all of which is illegal under international law).44 But there is a historical context that stretches back much further. Undoubtedly one of the most egregious thefts of all history has been the stealing of lands from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Note that on John Bolton’s own system of values, in which stolen property must be returned to its rightful owners, the whole North American continent would have to be returned to its Native American tribes – which exposes its inherent absurdity. But leaving this aside, the Trump administration (like all US administrations before it) is not even willing to respect existing Native American treaties.45 And far from representing some kind of historical relic, the legacy of land theft and ethnic cleansing continues in the United States46 and throughout the Hemisphere to this day47 – as does the struggle of Indigenous peoples in defense of their lands. Indeed, the Trump administration has been accelerating the sale of leases to oil and gas companies on both Native American48 and public federal land.49 So while on the one hand it is demanding compensation for property seized in a foreign sovereign state where the United States has no jurisdiction, the administration is simultaneously accelerating a centuries-long process of dispossession within its own borders. If the Trump administration wishes to get serious about making restitution for past injustices and returning to injured parties what is rightfully theirs, this travesty taking place within the United States would be a better place to start than playing into the Cuban-American exile hardliner narrative for political gain.

But, of course, since this violation runs contrary to neoliberal imperatives it is conveniently ignored. The grievance of the hardline Cuban exiles, meanwhile, has the double benefit reinforcing the ideological narratives of both the Monroe Doctrine and the neoliberal agenda that it has come to serve. Sadly, under this latest reality TV-inspired form of manufacturing consent for neoliberalism and imperialism created by Trumpism, we are moving into an era of the Monroe Doctrine on steroids. And that creates an even greater imperative for progressive voices to oppose it.

 

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Zavis & Lerner: Passover, Easter, and Ramadan

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red sea
“Crossing of the Red Sea” by Nicolas Poussin, 1634.

Reflections for Passover, Easter, and Ramadan

by Cat Zavis and Rabbi Michael Lerner

During this week of Passover and Easter, and soon-to-be Ramadan (beginning May 5th), may we all look deeply within to see the changes we need to make and heal within ourselves so we can overcome our personal constrictions that make it difficult for us to work daily for the collective liberation of all divine beings with whom we share this planet.

We are taught in a Midrash (a story elaborating on the stories in the Torah) that the mass multitudes left Egypt with us. I understand this to teach us that in the present time those of us who are not enslaved, who have freedom, agency, capacity for action, and varying degrees of privilege have an obligation to join those most oppressed and most suffering from the plagues of our day:

* Capitalism (and its ethos of materialism and selfishness)* Patriarchy
* Classism
* Racism
* Sexism
* Islamophobia
* Anti-Semitism
* Colonialism
* Indifference
* Hardened hearts
* Environmental destruction (in all its manifestations)

and uplift, struggle and stand in solidarity with them and their efforts, joining with our voices, our votes, our dollars, and our bodies. Because no one is free until everyone is free. No one lives with justice, until all live with justice. No one lives in peace, until all live in peace. No one is secure and safe, until all are secure and safe.

Blessings to all (of all faiths, traditions, and all who do not identify with religious or spiritual practices) during this season of renewal, healing, and transformation. May we transform individually so we can truly transform collectively.

 

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¿Wappin? Viernes Santo / Good Friday

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JC
El Nazareno de Portobelo / The Black Christ of Portobelo

… for they know not what they’ve done.
… porque no saben lo que han hecho.

 











 
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Don’t get greenwashed on Earth Day

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greenwash
Greenwash Guerrillas remind you that big polluters may not care much about the environment, but they’ll still try to fool customers who do. Photo by Devon Buchanan.

This Earth Day, beware of greenwashing

By Mallika KhannaOtherWords

This Earth Day, I’d like to warn you about “greenwashing.” That’s the practice of corporations branding their products “eco-friendly,” even when they actually pollute, to deceive environmentally concerned customers.

Even if you’ve heard nothing about greenwashing, you’ve probably read about the Volkswagen emissions scandal, “Dieselgate.”

A few years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many Volkswagen cars being sold in America had been outfitted with software that enabled their diesel engines to detect when they were being tested. This allowed the engines to improve emissions performance under controlled laboratory conditions.

But out on the road, the engines were emitting 40 times above the nitrogen oxide pollutant levels allowed in the United States. The software was simply covering that up.

Volkswagen apologized for the scandal and recalled its cars. But for customers who bought from the company thinking they were having a positive impact on the environment, the damage was already done. Volkswagen had successfully duped them — while also doing enormous environmental destruction.

Unfortunately, Volkswagen is nowhere close to alone. Greenwashing has a deep history dating back to the start of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s. Since then, no industry has been immune to greenwashing.

In 2019, you can find this unethical business practice flourishing in the fashion, electronics, fuel, food and agriculture, and plastics industries (among others).

Take hugely popular fashion brand H&M’s Sustainable Fashion line. On the face of it, H&M’s commitment to creating a sustainable fast fashion business model is commendable. The brand has “pledged to become “100 percent climate positive” by 2040 by using renewable energy and sustainable materials.

The problem is that using this language of environmental concern numbs H&M’s customers to the utter unsustainability of fast fashion as a concept.

For all of H&M’s recycling endeavors, it’s still producing far more clothing than can be used, most of which ends up in landfills after losing its appeal within a season or two. By all metrics, fast fashion is one of the most polluting industries globally.

As a consequence, even if H&M were to fulfill all its promises by 2040, it would still be doing more harm than good by encouraging consumers to buy and discard low quality products seasonally, contributing to a never-ending cycle of waste creation.

On the surface, many brands actually do implement policies that are better for the environment in their attempt to bring in ecologically conscious customers. But doing the bare minimum doesn’t entitle them to take advantage of consumers — or to keep polluting.

So, what can you do?

On an individual level, always look past packaging and actually read labels, since ingredients are far more indicative of a company’s relationship to the environment than their branding. Read up about a brand before buying from it to make sure it doesn’t have any environmental skeletons in its closet.

Whenever possible, try to find local alternatives to products created by multinational corporations, since these tend to be the largest polluters.

And remember, buying better quality, more expensive products once in a while is always better than buying and throwing out low quality products seasonally. But to truly abolish this harmful practice, we must acknowledge that it’s a structural issue.

While you can help in small ways through individual action, the biggest impact you can have is by supporting policies like the Green New Deal. When our tax dollars support sustainability on a massive scale, we’ll see a much bigger impact than what we can achieve in a store aisle.

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What Republicans are saying

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it came on a UFO

The GOP reality show

 

 














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What Democrats are saying

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jb
Joe Biden mingling at a restaurant in Virginia. He has yet to declare if he will run, but recent polls have him in third place, behind Sanders and Buttigieg. It’s a crowded field. Photo by Christopher Dilts.

Democratic presidential hopefuls on the campaign trail

 



















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Editorials: Electing a prisoner? and The basic divide for Democrats

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bobby
Bobby Sands was the commander of the IRA prisoners at the Long Kesh prison complex. On a hunger strike, he was elected to the British parliament and died soon thereafter. His election was a rebuke to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her policies of war and cruelty. By electing Bobby Sands the voters spelled an end to Thatcher’s political career and paved the way for the Good Friday Peace Agreement. There was a compelling reason in that time and place to elect a prison inmate to a public office.

Better to defeat the crooks at the polls

We shall see if Ricardo Martinelli stays on the ballot for mayor and legislator, or not. But people are sick of his antics, to the point that he had to bus in rent-a-protesters for his latest hearing before an electoral judge. Meanwhile, however, a weak PRD candidate is pulling ahead of a weak field and is on a trajectory to make any question about whether Martinelli can run for mayor moot.

It’s insulting when, as a maneuver to avoid facing the full gamut of well founded criminal charges against himself, Ricky Martinelli claims to be a Miami resident, while at the same time before the election authorities he claims to be a Panama City resident. He’ll have an army of lawyers to argue that it’s all proper. Convincing the court of public opinion to accept anything that someone who plays that game says is a more difficult task.

Do we really want our choices of public officials to be fought out in courtrooms where adverse parties try to remove candidates? Wouldn’t it be better to let people run for office from prison if they meet all the requirements and wish to do so? From time to time it would serve a nation or community well to elect a political prisoner, but under ordinary circumstances people would turn away from the man or woman who is not only suspected of being a crook but is convicted and serving time.

Martinelli’s problem, or one of them, is that he’s no Bobby Sands. However, it would be better for Panama City voters to take charge of drawing that distinction.

 

 

US Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota.

Democrats’ basic divide

Democrats are eternally divided. It was so in the times of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson and it’s that way today. But through all of the evolution of the oldest US political party, the ones who win and accomplish things are those who know when to set aside arguments and unite in a general election, or for a key vote of a legislative body.

We now have Donald Trump playing to anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-immigrant xenophobia and the usual thing, white racism, to bash Representative Ilhan Omar. So now comes the basic divide — wimps who abandon Omar in the face of that, and on the other hand those who stand by their colleague no matter how many bigots, nativists and racists there are in their districts. What we find is that most Democrats stand by their colleague and that those few who don’t are going to have trouble with Democrats back in their districts because of this. The basic divide isn’t ideology or race or where districts fall on the red to blue scale. It’s about having the courage to do the right thing, or not.

There are hard-fought primaries to come, but by November of 2020 Mr. Trump will find a solid opposition and an electorate that he can’t bully.

 

 

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Bear in mind…

The people have spoken – the bastards!

Dick Tuck

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

Frederick Douglass

If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.

Erica Jong

 

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Panama, Abraaj and a dream that rich people wanted to believe

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Naqvi
“We have taken the risk out of investing in what the West mistakenly calls ’emerging markets,’ ” he says in elegant, Pakistani-accented English from a Madison Avenue outpost. “They’re growth markets….” Arif M. Naqvi, quoted in a gushy 2015 Forbes profile. The WikiMedia photo is from 2008, when he was a superstar at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East.

The Panama connections are but footnotes — the real story is the health care fraud in which the high and mighty wanted to believe

Death of a neoliberal dream

by Eric Jackson

If you are a billionaire concerned about populists of one sort or another who might tax your fortune, you would be in line with your peers if you stashed it away in various havens with banking and/or corporate secrecy. Panama, like the British Channel Islands, the US State of Delaware, the Cayman Islands, Dubai and various specks of Micronesia, is one of those sorts of jurisdictions. There are others.

Thus it was not a total shock when Pakistani businessman Arif Naqvi, a former accountant with the now late and scandal-tainted Arthur Andersen firm, was mentioned in The Panama Papers. Mossack Fonseca set up a pipeline via which things would flow from a British Virgin Islands company, through its officer entity Abraaj Club Holdings Ltd, to an apartment in Dubai. Naqvi was already by then the owner of Saint Honoré, a Panamanian company that was founded as a Colon Free Zone perfume wholesaler but which he turned to other unspecified purposes after he acquired it.

Abraaj? An Arabic male name that means “gift of God” or “beautiful-eyed,” now common in various languages in various renditions throughout the Muslim world. But in the corporate world that’s a group of entities centering around Arif Naqvi and based in Dubai. The Abraaj Group began in 2002 and became the Middle East’s largest private equity firm.

The Abraaj group’s rise coincided with the peak and fall of the oil economy, the transformation of the United Arab Emirates from a gritty but very rich oil patch to a gleaming financial center and most of the Gulf oil sheikhdoms from peaceful collectors of the world’s energy rent to jihadi firebrands. It’s a downside of the “monetization” of economies that produce things into systems where abstract financial transactions that often have little to do with anything tangible are the name of the game.

But billionaires will be billionaires. They congregate. They have done well for themselves in a world of deregulation, subtle transfers of fortunes across international boundaries, privatization, “market solution” political dogma and bottom lines seeming to have little to do with anything real. In short, they have been the beneficiaries and proponents of neoliberal economics.

Socialized medicine? Can’t have THAT. Need a MARKET solution, lest someone like a boricua bartender from the Bronx become the symbol of the future. So when Mr. Naqvi went into the health care business, there were people who wanted to believe. They wanted to believe in Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund, which would bring high-quality private health care to South Asia, Africa and eventually Latin America.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation bought in. Kuwait’s social security system bought in. The World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation bought in. Uncle Sam’s OPIC bought in. The health fund raised a billion dollars. And it was all a swindle, a combination ponzi scheme and shell game with the many pieces of the Abraaj group. As in grossly overvalued assets. As in new investment used to pay debts to older investors. As in no such thing as a Third World private health care boom, or even any start on one.

In the middle of last year the Kuwaitis and the Gates Foundation demanded an accounting, with Kuwait leading the line of creditors at the courthouse in the Cayman Islands, where Abraaj is for the most part registered. Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were appointed as receivers, with the former moving to pull out unless given more money some guarantees about they themselves not being prosecuted over decisions made in the restructuring and selloff. Arif Naqvi was forced out as CEO and managing partner Mustafa Abdel-Wadood was obliged to resign late last year. Then, on April 11, the US warrants came unsealed. Abdel-Wadood was busted at a hotel in New York, where he was staying on a trip for his son to look at upscale US universities. Naqvi was arrested a few hours later in London with US authorities seeking extradition. The indictment was about wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit these offenses. It’s likely that there will be a superseding indictment, as plans to make arrests were moved up when Abdel-Wadood suddenly showed up in the United States without the US Justice Department expecting it.

Are there businesses for outraged Panama residents to boycott? Apparently not. At the end of January Abraaj’s Latin American assets were sold. Although the Abraaj Latin America Fund II, LP business hype — published on the Inter-American Development Bank’s website, of all places — talked about investments in Panama, it appears that there were indirect at the time of the collapse. For example, Abraaj bought the Selina hotel group from its Mexican owners and that chain operates four mid-range hotels or hostels catering to tourists in Panama. It also bought Colombia’s biggest private label food processor, QBCo, which does export to Panama but is a minor player on the market here. Now all of these assets are owned by Colony Capital, a hedge fund based in Santa Monica, California.

So quality private health care systems in the Third World go the way of ENRON, the dot.com bubble, mortgage-based securities, Willow Bay’s gushy talk about a new economy and, looking back a bit, the Dutch tulip bubble. But the Davos crowd thought it was so very important to believe.

 

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Beluche, El filibusterismo y Panamá

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yellow stuff
Un precursor del periodismo amarillo.

El Incidente de la Tajada de Sandía y el filibusterismo

por Olmedo Beluche

Desde la debacle del imperio colonial español, con las guerras de independencia, a inicios del siglo XIX, Centroamérica, y en particular Nicaragua y Panamá, eran vistas con codicia tanto por Inglaterra como por la emergente potencia norteamericana. Ambas naciones eran conscientes que el control del Istmo catapultaría sus intereses comerciales.

Hacia la década de 1840, Inglaterra parecía el principal peligro pues había iniciado un proceso de influencia y colonización sobre todo el Caribe centroamericano, desde Belice, pasando por Nicaragua, hasta lo que hoy es la provincia de Bocas del Toro en Panamá.

Aquí inclusive habían movido sus fichas con algunos capitalistas que oficiaban de agentes comerciales de los ingleses para proponer en diversos momentos la creación de una ciudad “hanseática”, es decir, separarla de la soberanía neogranadina para, en nombre de una falsa autonomía, sujetarla a Inglaterra cuya cabeza de playa se hallaba en Jamaica.

Diversos incidentes con los ingleses, por entonces la principal potencia naval del mundo, llevaron a la diplomacia neogranadina a firmar, en 1846, el Tratado Mallarino-Bidlack, por el cual la Nueva Granada ofrecía a Estados Unidos paso libre de impuestos a cambio de que sirviera de garante a su soberanía sobre el Istmo de Panamá. La intención inicial era que el tratado sirviera de contención a los intereses expansionistas de los ingleses, los cuales se verían confrontados con los norteamericanos. Pero a la larga fue una mala jugada que dio pie al intervencionismo norteamericano.

Una década después de firmado ese pacto, el expansionismo que se había tornado concreto y peligroso era el norteamericano. Uno de los subproductos de la guerra contra México fue el surgimiento de bandas paramilitares norteamericanas que empezaron a actuar en la región para imponer por la fuerza sus intereses. Eran bandas privadas, parecidas a lo que hoy serían las empresas de “seguridad”, al estilo de Blackwater. Se les llamó filibusteros.

El más conocido filibustero fue William Walker, contratado por empresarios norteamericanos para imponer su control en Nicaragua, y que terminó autoproclamándose presidente de ese país, justamente en 1855. Walker pretendió que Nicaragua fuera anexionada a Estados Unidos como un estado más. Lo cual no logró, siendo derrocado en 1856 y posteriormente ejecutado hacia 1860 en Honduras.

La lucha contra Walker había revivido los sentimientos de unidad latinoamericanos y, de hecho, es la lucha unificada de los centroamericanos la que le expulsa de Nicaragua. El historiador Aims McGuinness afirma que de esta época data el concepto “latinoamericano” por oposición al “anglosajón”, y un renovado sentimiento de unidad hispana contra la dominación norteamericana, que había quedado dormido tras el fracaso de Simón Bolívar. El panameño Justo Arosemena sería uno de los primeros en apelar a esta idea a mediados del XIX.

Un elemento poco conocido en Panamá es que los filibusteros tuvieron un papel relevante en el Incidente de la Tajada de Sandía. Según Aims, el 15 de abril de 1856, se encontraban en Panamá unos 40 filibusteros que se dirigían a Nicaragua para reforzar el ilegítimo gobierno de Walker. La prensa panameña había alertado de su presencia, prevaleciendo el temor de que podrían intentar aquí una aventura semejante a la de Nicaragua.

Y no estaban errados quienes así creían, pues las indagaciones judiciales posteriores informan que los filibusteros jugaron un papel central en el enfrentamiento. Uno de ellos, Joseph Stokes, muerto en la estación del ferrocarril, liderizó la resistencia armada contra las autoridades panameñas. Lo cual fue reconocido por Horace Bell, otro de los filibusteros, quien llegaría a ser cronista en la ciudad de Los Ángeles, California.

La fuerza demostrada por el pueblo panameño durante el “incidente”, no constituyó simplemente una respuesta frente a la marginación y el racismo yanquis, sino que fue una lucha consciente contra cualquier intento anexionista de los norteamericanos, un acto de solidaridad con el hermano pueblo de Nicaragua, y un gesto hacia la unidad latinoamericana.

Pocos meses después, en septiembre de 1856, el gobernador conservador, Francisco de Fábrega, solicitó la primera intervención armada del ejército norteamericano en Panamá, apelando al Tratado Mallarino/Bidlack, para que le asegurara las elecciones que temía perder a manos de los liberales radicales del arrabal.

 

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Uno de los últimos restos del muro que solía mantener a los negros fuera del Casco Viejo.

 

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